General

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 🙂

Recipes

Oven (or grill!) Potato Pouches 🥔

This is one of those throw-it-in-and-forget-about-it kind of sides! The end result is a creamy/crispy/flavorful side dish that goes with just about anything (we had ours with steaks). Feel free to experiment with the spices and pouch contents! Some ideas using the same process:

  • Sweet Potatoes with cinnamon & brown sugar
  • Yukon gold potatoes with parsley
  • Russets with bacon in the pouch!

Potato Pouches – serves 4

  • 4-5 Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and dried
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves freshly crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp each dried herbs – rosemary, thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Aluminum foil
  • How to:
    1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
    2. Slice potatoes about 1/4″ thick.
    3. Line a sheet pan with a full sheet of foil, spray with cooking spray.
    4. Place potatoes and garlic in the center of the foil and sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper.
    5. Cut up butter and place on top of potatoes.
    6. Tear a second piece of foil and place on top of potatoes. Bring up sides and cinch together to make a sealed pouch.
    7. Bake for 35 minutes (or 20-30 mins, flipping every 15 mins, on a hot grill).

    Recipes

    Mom’s Meatloaf

    Fun fact: when I was growing up, I really didn’t care for meatloaf. The texture was weird to me, like a spongy burger? I think I remember bites of crunchy onions and some “green stuff” in there (parsley, ugh), but as a kid, I forced it down (because that’s what we were supposed to do!) and didn’t really think much more about it.

    It seems though, as you get older and start cooking for yourself and others, old family recipes creep up on you and you put your own twist on them – maybe to make them more ‘likeable’ or how I would have wanted them to be at the time, so I guess we’ll just call this ‘My Version’ of my Mom’s Meatloaf!

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    What you’ll Need (Meatloaf serves 4-6):
    • 2lbs ground beef
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 carrot, finely grated – adds moisture to the meatloaf!
    • 3/4 Cup seasoned bread crumbs
    • 1 Tablespoon onion powder
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon parsley
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 1 package Pillsbury Crescent Rolls

    Meatloaf Glaze:
    • 1/2 Cup ketchup
    • 1/4 Cup dijon or yellow mustard
    • 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

    How To:
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

    1. In a large bowl, combine beef, spices, eggs, breadcrumbs and carrot. Get dirty and mix with your hands! I find it always comes out best this way. If mixture feels a bit dry, add milk a little at a time. Mixture should be dense but soft and shape-able.
    2. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray and form meat mixture into a loaf shape and place into baking dish.
    3. Mix meatloaf glaze in a small bowl with a whisk until combined, brush over top of meatloaf.
    4. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and lay crescent roll dough over top, overlapping slightly to cover the top of the loaf.
    5. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes until crescents are browned. If you’re using a meat thermometer, beef should come to at least 160 degrees F. Slice and serve.

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    Recipes

    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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    Recipes

    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!

    Recipes

    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!

    General

    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/.

    General

    I’m back!

    Hello everyone!

    I’ve resurrected my blog! I even bought the domain to make it legit.

    I’ve been gathering inspiration from my new cooking gadgets for some time now, so I thought, why not? I cook all the time and have a lot of great recipes, reviews and tips to share, so I hope you’ll stick around and follow along. Comments are welcome and encouraged!

    Hit the About Me tab to learn more about who I am and what I do, and stay tuned for some great posts!

    Recipes

    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.

     

    Recipes

    And now for something completely different…

    Who says crock pot cookery has to be savory all the time? Not me! I found this sweet treat on Pinterest and thought I would give it a shot. While you’re there, be sure to follow my crock pot board for even more recipes I’m finding and trying out.

    Introducing… Warm Chocolate Chip Brownie Cake

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    Woo hoo! Only 4 ingredients:

    1 box of Betty Crocker Fudge Brownie Mix
    ½ C unsalted melted butter
    4 eggs
    1 pouch of Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

    Note: This recipe is adapted from BettyCrocker.com, and is intended for a 4.5qt cooker. I made it in my 6qt cooker and checked it occasionally after about an hour and a half. Total cook time was approximately 2hrs 15 mins. Photo courtesy of MyFavoriteThings-Miranda.blogspot.com.

    How To:

    1. Spray inside of slow cooker with baking spray with flour.
    2. In large bowl, mix brownie mix with 1/4 cup of the melted butter and 2 of the eggs.
    3. In another large bowl, mix chocolate chip cookie mix, remaining 1/4 cup melted butter and remaining 2 eggs.
    4. Drop alternate spoonfuls of the brownie and chocolate chip cookie batters into slow cooker.
    5. Cover and cook on High heat setting 2 to 3 hours or until cake is set in center.

    To serve, spoon cake from slow cooker and top with ice cream.