Brunch, anyone?

Wikipedia says: “Brunch is a combination of breakfast and lunch, and regularly has some form of alcoholic drink served with it. It is usually served anytime before 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The word is a portmanteau of breakfast and lunch.”

I’ll just say that a weekend brunch is one of my favorite things to do. It’s fun to mix it up a bit and get family and friends together to enjoy a meal during the day, rather than a later dinner.

This recipe is my version of a pretty basic breakfast casserole that my Mom used to make. It’s eggy, bready, cheesy and the best part is, you can pretty much throw as many add-ins as you want and it still turns out delicious!

Breakfast Casserole | Serves 6

Start to finish: about an hour

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf white bread, chopped
  • 9 large eggs
  • 6 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • 3 Cups milk (I used 1%)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 package frozen Brown & Serve breakfast sausages
  • Additional add-ins (if desired): frozen chopped spinach (defrosted and squeezed dry), cooked sliced mushrooms, chopped tomatoes, or cooked chopped bacon or ham.
  • Serve with maple syrup or ketchup.

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Mix up eggs, milk, salt, pepper and melted butter in a bowl.
  3. Place a layer of chopped bread into your baking dish. Top with meat and cheese, repeat until your ingredients are used up and your casserole is piled high.
  4. Gently pour egg mixture over bread/cheese/meat. Let sit 15 mins to soak in.
  5. Bake for 45-55 mins or until casserole is golden brown and puffed.
  6. Top with maple syrup or ketchup and serve.

Air Fryer Banana Bread

Yes, you read that right! Moist and delicious banana bread IS possible in an air fryer. I’ll include links below to the exact air fryer and pan I used, but this should work with any air fryer, and any round cake pan that fits into yours!

My banana bread mix is the same I use if I were to bake it in the oven – filled with ripe, sweet, bananas, chocolate chips, vanilla and a touch of cinnamon – except in the air fryer, it takes 35 minutes instead of an hour!

Air Fryer Banana Bread
Makes one 7″ Cake Pan (or small loaf pan)

• 3 TBS Unsalted Butter, softened
• 1/2 C White Sugar
• 3 Ripe Bananas
• 2 Large Eggs
• 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
• 1 C Flour
• 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
• 1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp Salt
• 1/2 C Chocolate Chips (optional, but recommended!)

How To:

  1. Preheat air fryer to 300 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together eggs, bananas, butter, sugar and vanilla (by hand, stand mixer or electric mixer).
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and gently blend until combined.
  5. If using, fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Spray cake pan with nonstick spray and pour batter into pan. Place in air fryer basket, close and cook at 300 degrees F for 35 minutes.
  7. Remove from fryer and flip to release from pan. Let cool completely before serving.

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Links to products I used (I have no affiliation with these, just passing on items I have had success with!):

Tomatoes from… tomatoes!

One of the easiest ways to grow tomatoes is, well, with tomatoes! This fun hack gets started right in a paper or plastic cup, and once your seedlings are nice and tall, transfer them to a pot outside to continue growing!

I did this trick last spring and we got a nice bunch of tomatoes by the end of the summer. Give it a shot and let me know how yours grow!

Step 1: Pick your favorite tomatoes and slice into 1/2 inch thick slices; prepare a cup filled half way with garden soil (I use organic Miracle Grow).
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Step 2: Place tomato slices into soil and press down about 1/4 inch. Cover with about a 1/2 inch of soil and pierce hole in the base of cup to allow for drainage.

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Step 3: Water lightly and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a sunny spot inside or outdoors.
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Photo #1 was taken FOUR DAYS LATER! Photo #2 was taken 8 days after planting!
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Happy Growing! I’ll update as my plants keep growing 🙂

Burrito Casserole

If you’re tired of taco Tuesdays and want to mix it up a bit, this Burrito Casserole gives you the same flavor – and it’s great for feeding a crowd (think that big Football Party…). What I love most is that you can sneak lots of veggies in for some extra nutrition and they’re disguised by that great taco flavor (the kids won’t suspect a thing!).

Basically this recipe contains all the same elements of a burrito, without the mess of wrapping and rolling. I served mine with tortilla chips, sour cream and avocado and everyone loved it!


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Burrito Casserole
Serves 4-6
Start to finish: about 30 mins

What you’ll need:

  • 1lb ground turkey (or beef, or chicken)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 3/4 Cup water
  • 1 Can Rotel (8oz, or 1 Cup of your favorite pre-made salsa)
  • 1 Cup frozen corn
  • 1 Can (8oz) Black Beans
  • 4 Cups of cooked white or brown rice
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Sour Cream, Avocado, and Tortilla Chips for serving (optional, but YUMMY!)

How To:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with nonstick spray.
  2. Prepare rice as directed on package. While rice is cooking, brown your ground meat with the chopped onion.
  3. Once meat is browned, add in: taco seasoning, water, Rotel, black beans, and corn.
  4. Stir all together until combined.
  5. Layer in baking dish: rice, then meat mixture, top with shredded cheese.
  6. Bake in oven for about 15 mins or until cheese is melted.
  7. Serve with sour cream, avocado, chips, etc.

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Crispy Air Fried Chicken Drumsticks

Getting right to the recipe with this one because you need to add these drumsticks to your meal rotation stat! Super easy, and all done in about 30 mins. Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside!

Crispy Air Fried Chicken Drumsticks

Serves: 3-4

Start to finish: 35 mins

What you’ll need:

  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • Seasoning of choice (I use Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning on everything)
  • Nonstick spray

How to:

  1. Spray fryer basket with nonstick spray.
  2. Place chicken in basket, season, and cook at 400°F for 15 minutes (I also hit the chicken button on my Cosori air fryer).
  3. Flip and cook another 15 minutes or until crispy and internal temp reaches 165°F.
  4. Remove at coat with with your favorite sauce – we did buffalo and bbq!

Easy Slow Cooker Beef Stew

This is literally a “set it and forget it” meal! What’s better than cooking an entire meal all at once and having it ready before you even get home??

The best part about beef stew in the slow cooker is that it’s very forgiving. You can add more or less of the meat and veggies, and even throw in some extras like mushrooms or celery. Follow my steps below for a great beef stew.

This little packet is my go-to secret when I make beef stew or pot roast. I use the same flavor pack for both because the pot roast version just has a great meaty, savory flavor that I haven’t been able to replicate with my own blend of herbs and broth, so don’t judge! 

Prep veggies and place into the pot. Add the meat and mix together. Then, pour seasoning mix over the top – that’s seriously it!

Easy Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Serves 4-6 (more if you serve a side like egg noodles or bread. To make less, just cut down on the quantity of ingredients, same cooking time).

Start to Finish: 8.5 hours

What you’ll need:

  • 2-3 lbs stew beef
  • 2 large russet potatoes (or 3-4 red potatoes), chopped into even chunks
  • 3-4 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 cup water
  • Crock Pot seasoning (or herbs/spices of choice)

How to:

  1. Clean and prep veggies, place in empty slow cooker.
  2. Add stew meat to the slow cooker.
  3. Pour water/herb/spice mixture over meat and veggies, stir well.
  4. Set slow cooker to 8 hours on low and give it a good stir when done. Enjoy!

Air Fried French Fries!

“They won’t be the same!”, they said.
“They won’t be as crunchy!”, they said.

Well “they’ were wrong! French Fries are a favorite in our house and I’m always looking for healthier ways to cook them. While I never truly “fried” them in a vat of oil, I did bake my fries in the past and they always came out not quite right – either overcooked or undercooked and I never got that crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside like a good, satisfying fry should be.

When I got my air fryer, I really didn’t expect anything spectacular, but I gave it a shot and was pleasantly surprised! One of the most common misconceptions about air frying is that there’s no oil involved. Lies! Some recipes do call for oil, but the quantity is so minute, especially in this recipe, that it’s truly just there for crisping purposes and a bit of flavor.

Follow my tips below and comment if you try my recipe!

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The most important step! Do not skip soaking your fries – it makes all the difference!

Perfect Air-Fried French Fries
Serves 2-3
Start to Finish: about 45 minutes

• 2-3 large russet (baking) potatoes
• Cold water for soaking potatoes
• 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
• 1 Teaspoon garlic powder
• Salt and pepper to taste

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How To:

• Clean and dry potatoes; cut into 1/2 inch strips
• Place potato strips into a bowl and soak in cold water for 10 minutes (NOTE: this is possibly the most important part of the how-to! Soaking will make the potatoes “less slimy” and aids in the crisping process, don’t skip this step!)
• After 15 minutes, rinse potatoes and pat dry with a paper towel
• Preheat air fryer to 380 degrees F
• Place potatoes in a bowl and toss with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper until evenly coated
• When fryer is ready, place potatoes in basket gently piling but not packing them in and cook* at 380 degrees for about 28 minutes, shaking the basket half way through cooking.
• For crispier fries, cook a little longer!

*If you’re using the Cosori Air Fryer 5.8qt (my fryer!) – once preheated, add potatoes to basket and hit the “french fry” button and set for 28 minutes. It will automatically pause and remind you to shake half way through.

 

 

Burn Baby Burn!

Ah, the Instant Pot. Love it or hate it, it seems it’s here to stay and I honestly love cooking with mine all the time. But… there are those frustrating BURN moments that I just can’t get past!

Imagine this: You read through all of the recipe steps in advance – it’s got great reviews and you get all excited for your meal at the end of the day. You follow your recipe precisely. And then this happens:

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Thankfully, a BURN error isn’t a regular occurrence for me, but when it happens, I feel as if I’ve failed, because I know that my meal is just never going to be right after that. It’s actually become a joke in our house that if the Instant Pot burns, we order take out! In fact, one night, my daughter wasn’t happy about what was for dinner, so she printed out the BURN warning and stuck it to my pot!

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Don’t be afraid of the burn. The Instant Pot is just protecting itself! 

According to Instant Pot, “The temperature sensor will trigger the Overheat Protection if the inner pot reaches too high a temperature, shut off the heat, and the cooker will display the warning message. Once things cool down enough, the heating element will turn back on and the Instant Pot will try to complete its cooking program. If the temperature gets too hot again, it will trigger the Overheat Protection again.”

I tried making a Pot Roast the other night and the burn came on about 10 minutes into the warm-up. I think my issue was that I added the liquid last instead of first (I still can’t get Instant Pot and Slow Cooker rules straight!). I opened my pot, gave everything a good stir and it functioned normally after that, however my post roast turned out more like overcooked roast beef. The meat was tough and waiting more than an hour just got me out of the mood, but we ate it and it was ok. Not great, but ok. See some tips from Instant Pot below to avoid the burn.

Ways to avoid the burn:

  • Ensure there is enough liquid. The single best way to prevent overheating is to have enough water-based liquid. Without water, the cooker cannot pressurize properly and may overheat. 
  • Ensure the steam release is sealed. Your Instant Pot cannot reach pressure if the steam release is not sealed, but it will continue to heat as the steam escapes. This could lead to overheating. 
  • Ensure the sealing ring is working properly. If the sealing ring is damaged or placed incorrectly steam will escape and prevent pressurization, potentially leading to overheating. 
  • Ensure the float valve is clean and moves freely. Food residue can cause the float valve to stick, which can also allow steam to escape. 
  • Layer ingredients. (THIS WAS MY MISTAKE!) Put liquids into the inner pot first, then add the other ingredients. Do not stir or mix. This helps keep things that might scorch from touching the bottom.

For complete burn details and more tips, visit https://instantpot.com/instant-pots-overheat-burn-protection/.

Copycat PF Chang’s Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps!

Inspired by a recipe I found online by Damn Delicious, these copycat PF Chang’s Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps were a huge hit with my family! I tweaked the recipe a bit based on what I had on hand and was super-impressed with the results. PS: Don’t let the 1lb of chicken fool you, this recipe will definitely serve 4 hungry people. We ate ours with roasted veggies and they were perfect as a main dish, not to mention the one-pan convenience made for an easy clean-up!

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

These wraps are great if you’re trying to mix it up a bit with your dinner routine. I mean, how can you keep everyone happy with the same rotation of chicken, beef and pork? I added extra ginger to my recipe, that hot sweetness is so satisfying! I also chose to serve in Romaine lettuce for its crunch; alternately, butter lettuce works great if you prefer to wrap up your wraps more than me (I’m an open-faced everything fan). Comment below if you make this, I would love to know what you think!

Copycat Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Serves: 4
Start to finish: about 25 minutes

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tablespoon of minced garlic in a jar)
1 yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger + 1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 8oz can whole water chestnuts, drained and diced
1-2 heads Romaine Lettuce, washed and dried
How to:
1. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add ground chicken and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the chicken as it cooks.
2. Stir in garlic, onion, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, fresh and ground ginger, and saute until onions have become translucent, about 1-2 minutes.
3. Stir in water chestnuts and cook until until tender, about 1-2 minutes.
4. To serve, spoon several tablespoons of the chicken mixture into the center of a lettuce leaf. Roll up and enjoy!

Roasted Veggies (for those interested): Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Take your favorite FROZEN veggies and fill up a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with your favorite seasoning. I use Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning on everything! Roast 35-40 minutes until veggies get brown, crispy edges.