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5 Simple Things To Make Cooking A Breeze

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Cooking, especially on a busy workday can be stressful. By no stretch am I an expert cook, but I have been dealing with busy work nights and a husband with a busy schedule for years.

1.) Use A Cookbook

Seriously, unless you are a professional chef or have been cooking for years and years, use a cookbook. It is extremely helpful as you learn proportions, foods and spices that mix well together and just gets you comfortable in the kitchen. I rely heavily on cookbooks and do a ton of recipe reviews because its the best way to learn! Just like being in school, cooking by recipe is a great way to learn. If you don’t have a cookbook to learn off of, Pinterest is a great resource. Find food boards that either have reviews of the recipe or are by a reputable chef and use those recipes to enhance your cooking skills! But don’t do the same thing over and over again. Branch out to new recipes and slowly try to enhance your skills. You won’t get better if you continue to make sheet pan dinners.

2.) Necessary Tools

Okay this is going to be an ongoing topic for me. Let’s start with the absolute basics. When you are cooking you don’t need all the expensive culinary tools. You just need the basics and then you can work up from there. So basics I found that I just can’t replicate without.

  • Grater – A grater is so important so you don’t accidentally cut yourself (like I did) and saves you endless time and frustration. Trust me trying to ‘grate’ a lemon with a knife is not the same and it hurts when you miss the lemon.
  • Hand Mixer- The standing kitchen aid mixers are beautiful, but they are expensive. So if you are just starting out, I think getting a hand mixer will be your best friend. I have been hand mixing all the recipes I have tried and the time and effort it takes to get to the consistency you want is astounding. Save yourself the time and buy a hand mixer, this way you won’t be frustrated with recipes you are trying. My husband just got me one for our anniversary and I was thrilled! My cookies and recipes turned out 10 times better than if I had mixed them by hand.
  • Ladle, Spatula, Whisks, Wooden Spoon and a Spatula – For most of the meals you will be cooking these utensils should cover the basics! But my biggest recommendation is to buy good quality! You will be hardest on these utensils so make sure they will last! My spatulas are falling apart so I’m planning to get a better quality version!

3.) Use Salt Lightly

You can’t take salt back once its on your food. Start light and add more when necessary. So when they say sprinkle salt, sprinkle lightly and add as you see fit. But be careful not to add too much or you will ruin the food you spent so hard working on. You may already know this but it is always worth mentioning. Instead of excess salt, use other spices to bring flavor. I love red pepper flakes, oregano, basil and black pepper. Salt is an essential spice, but it should be used sparingly.

4.) When In Doubt – Stir Fry

This may not be the correct way to ‘Stir Fry’, but it’s what I call these super easy and healthy meals. For nights where I want to eat healthy or have a home cooked meal I make this. There are so many ways you can vary this and its done within 20 minutes!

  1. Take a large skillet and heat with about 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Chop up a meat(or meat substitute) of your choice and add to the pan.
  3. While your meat cooks, chop up a variety of veggies. I personally go for zucchini squash, bell peppers, onions, and jalapenos. Throw those into your 70-80% cooked mixture and combine.
  4. Season with salt, and pepper.
  5. Let cook for 7-10 minutes until veggies are tender.
  6. Serve warm with sides of fruit or rice.

5.) Cook Foods You Like

I feel like people forget this, cook the foods you like. Don’t cook foods that are healthy or popular if you don’t like them. Find healthy ways to serve the foods you like. Cook the tacos, the burgers, the chicken wings, etc. Life is short, cook the foods you enjoy and just look for new ways to help make those meals a bit healthier. But to cook at home more often, you need to like doing it. And that starts with cooking the foods you actually like eating!

Overall, just make cooking fun! The more fun it is the easier it will get. And the easier it gets the more frequently you will do so! Have fun cooking everyone!

How to Make After School Banana Bread – Magnolia Table

By Food No Comments

I have NEVER topped my banana bread with sugar and seriously it is a game changer! It added the perfect crunch to the top of the banana bread and made it taste so much better! I couldn’t have loved that addition to this recipe more! Overall, I really liked this banana bread. The recipe really isn’t much different than other recipes but nonetheless, it had the crunch and sweetness that you want so I will chalk it up to a success! This banana bread took no time at all to make and is perfect for rainy cold days or days of quarantine boredom.

Overall Rating 4.5/5

After-School Banana Bread

From Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines

Ingredients
  

  • Nonstick Cooking Spray
  • 8 tbsp Salted Butter (melted and cooled) — Plus more for serving
  • 1 cup Packed Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 4-5 Very Ripe Bananas -Mashed
  • 1 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Pecans I used Walnuts
  • 1-2 tbsp Granulated Sugar

Instructions
 

  • Preheat to 350 degrees. She recommends an 8×8 pan but I think a bread pan works just as well! Make sure to grease the pan.
  • In a medium bowl beat (with a mixer) the butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla until blended.
  • Add bananas and combine.
  • In another medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • Add the dry ingredients to your wet ingredients and combine. Add pecans and combine.
  • Pour batter into greased pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle granulated sugar on top.
  • Bake for about 40-45 minutes until cooked. Use a knife or toothpick to test that its cooked.
  • Slice and serve with butter.

Bow Tie Pasta with Baby Kale & Sun-Dried Tomatoes – Magnolia Table

By Food No Comments

This pasta is AMAZING! It’s definitely a heavier dish, but the flavors that you get are astounding. Don’t skimp adding in the kale, tomatoes and artichokes. They are all necessary to the flavor profile and worth the cost! So this dish does take a bit of time, so be patient with it. None of the steps are difficult, its just that it takes some time to get everything together. I highly suggest buying canned artichokes too because artichokes are a huge pain to cut from the whole artichoke, plus you need quite a lot of them. But finding canned versions are super easy! This recipe was a huge hit with me and my husband! I was so surprised he liked it too, because there were a lot of veggies and no meat. But like I mentioned earlier, the flavors make this pasta what it is. You definitely only need one bowl at a time so this will last several days if it’s just two people eating. I’d highly recommend making this one night, especially for these coming chilly fall nights!

Overall Review: 5/5

Bow Tie Pasta with Baby Kale & Sun-Dried Toamtoes

From Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines

Ingredients
  

  • Salt
  • 1 pd Bow Tie Pasta
  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 8-oz block cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 12-oz marinated quartered artichoke hearts – drained and halved lengthwise
  • 1 8.5 oz jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 5 oz baby kale or spinach
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Walnuts
  • 1/4 cup Chives — For Garnish
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duU8n_ptrv4

Four of My Favorite Easy & Healthy Snacks

By Food No Comments

Y’all, I am terrible about eating too many snacks! It’s definitely where most of my calorie intake comes from. Over the last few years, I have tended to get things like Oreo’s, chips, Jalapeno Cheetos or ice cream to munch on. The first year that we moved to Arizona, I downed so much ice cream as a coping mechanism for being so far away from family. It’s very very easy to get lost in eating sugary foods, especially if your upset or stuck in a pandemic like we are now. But I’ve been wanting to be better, to make better decisions, and that starts with thinking about how I’m snacking. So today, here are five of my favorite healthy snacks to munch on!

1.) Sliced Tomatoes

Here me out on this one! Slice some tomatoes into medium thickness and arrange them evenly on a plate. Sprinkle salt and pepper onto each slice of tomato. I would do equal portions of each as I think both are needed for this snack. Then I sprinkle goat cheese on top of each tomato slice. I try to arrange it so I will have goat cheese in every single bite. Absolutely worth the extra time to sprinkle them on carefully! Without doubt one of my favorite snacks and definitely a healthy option!

2.) Pre-Cut Vegetables

When I’m feeling motivated and really want to be healthy this is a go to option! I have done this a few times and have been so grateful for it. I get veggies like bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers and celery at the store. Cut them into bite size pieces and place them into separate containers. I’d personally go for getting one container that can hold all the veggies in separate sections, but any container will work. Then when I’m feeling hungry I grab the containers, throw some on a plate and dip them in some ranch dressing. Now I know that ranch isn’t the healthiest thing for you, but compared to eating chips or cookies I count it as a win! Plus its a good avenue to start getting your daily veggies in.

3.) Berries & Yogurt Covered Pretzels

I like to think of this as a version of a parfait. Yogurt covered pretzels have less calories than chocolate covered pretzels and when combined with some good flavored berries it hits all the taste buds. You can set these out as a cute berry board and go munch on items when you get that craving for something sweet or sweet and salty. I was thrilled with this berry board and think it was a great snack idea for the week!

4.) Pepperoni and Cheese

This one came directly from my dad! He has always been drawn to snacking on meats and cheeses. Especially when you wrap some cheese in the meat, it’s been a staple among cooks for years and its definitely a great snack. I like to get pepper jack squares (thick square cuts of cheese) and pepperoni or sausage for this snack. Wrap the pepperoni around the cheese and eat. No artificial colors, sugars, etc; just good old fashioned meat and cheese. If you are feeling on top of it, pre-wrap the meat around the cheese and hold it together with a toothpick. I swear this helps curb your appetite twice as fast as well. It’s more hearty that the other snacks and has always been a go to for me!

What are you favorite healthy snacks? Or just your favorite snacks in general! Let me know in the comments below!

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread – Magnolia Table

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I was craving this Lemon Poppy Seed Bread ever since I saw it in the Magnolia Table cookbook! Seriously give me any bread with lemon in it and I am good to go! This recipe was so simple and easy to make. The hardest part was getting the lemon zest since I STILL haven’t bought a grater. Why it is taking me so long to go buy one is beyond me. The bread was a bit dry for my taste and I’m thinking either I should have made more lemon drizzle or I should have added more lemon juice to the inside. Regardless, it’s an amazing loaf and totally worth your time! This paired great with coffee or an after dinner snack, I also think it would be a great bread to share with friends coming over!

Overall Review: 4.5/5

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

From Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines

Ingredients
  

Bread

  • Vegetable Oil Spray
  • 2 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tbsp Poppy Seeds
  • 1 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
  • 3/4 Tsp Salt
  • 1 2/3 Cup Sugar
  • 2/3 Cup Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 Tsp Grated Lemon Zest
  • 2 Tbps Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

Lemon Drizzle

  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Zest
  • 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I'd also spray or butter your bread pan here just so you don't forget later.
  • In a medium bowl mix the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. I'd whisk this together to make sure its combined well.
  • In a seperate larger bowl mix the sugar, milk, vegetable oil (I subsititued for olive oil), eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix well.
  • Pour the dry ingredients into the larger bowl with the liquid and mix. Mix well but don't mix too well. Somewhere in the middle is what you are looking for.
  • Pour into your bread pan and sit in the oven for 1 hour. 1 hour was perfect for me, came out nice and done in the center.
  • While the bread is cooking, take your powdered sugar and dump into a medium bowl. Then add a good helping of the lemon zest. Add the recommended lemon juice to the mixture, if its not to the consistency you'd like add more. I like the drizzle pretty runny so that it covers more ground.
  • Once the bread is out of the oven, drizzle the lemon mixture on the top, cut and serve. For some reason my bread didn't rise as well in the center so a lot of the lemon mixture ran down there. But it still was good!

Flatbread Pizza with Prosciutto & New Potatoes- Magnolia Table

By Food No Comments

Ya’ll this flatbread pizza turned out so good! The flavors complimented each other perfectly, it was easy to make and even my husband loved it! This is one of those recipes that will continue to be in my rotation.

A few tips from my experience. The amount of cheese mixture that is called for is pretty thick and for those who aren’t huge cheese lovers it’s a bit too much. For the non cheese lovers in your family, only put half the cheese mixture on the flatbread and save the other half for another flatbread. That amount of cheese was perfect for my husband. Brought all the flavors that you needed to pull together the meal without the overwhelming cheese taste. But for those who love cheese, I suggest lathering the whole mixture on there as it really has an amazing taste to it! Additionally, I would error on the side of more prosciutto and potatoes than less. It adds to the quality of the flatbread and the thinner your potatoes the better your pizza will be.

This definitely is more of an appetizer or light lunch. I would highly recommend making at least two flatbread pizzas if you are cooking for two. That or pair it with another food item so you get filled up. Overall, I would highly recommend this flatbread pizza as it is easy to make and the taste is well worth your time! If you cook this recipe let me know how it goes below! You can get this recipe and more in Joanna Gaines book Magnolia table by clicking here.

Overall Review: 5/5

Flatbread Pizza

From Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines

Ingredients
  

  • Red Potatoes
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Garlic Clove
  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Heavy Cream
  • Gorgonzola Cheese
  • Black Pepper
  • Flatbread Crust
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Prosciutto
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Basil Leaves

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Heat a medium pot with salted water until it boils
  • Add in the potatoes for 6-8 minutes. Then drain and let cool. Once cool, cut into thin slices.
  • In a small saucepan, heat a tablespoon of butter until melted.
  • Add garlic and let brown.
  • Add two tablespoons of flour and whisk with the butter and garlic
  • Once combined, add a cup of heavy cream and whisk together.
  • Once combined, add a cup of gorgonzola cheese and whisk until melted and combined.
  • Take off heat and sit aside
  • On a baking sheet lay parchment or foil down. Then place your flatbread down and add a small amount of oil and spread on the flatbread
  • Take the cheese mixture you set aside and spread across the flatbread. Make as even as possible.
  • Lay 4-6 pieces of prosciutto onto the flatbread.
  • Add the sliced tomatoes, some under the prosciutto and on top of the prosciutto.
  • Top with parmesan cheese and cook for 15 minutes
  • Add five basil leaves to the top of the flatbread.
  • Cut into four slices and serve immediately!

Mina’s Lemon Bars Review – Magnolia Table

By Food No Comments

Y’all, my husband LOVES lemon bars. He’d rather have lemon bars over cookies, cake, any other dessert. And to be honest, he loves the kind that comes out of a box. but I wanted a good homemade recipe instead. Today, we tested out the Magnolia Table Lemon Bar Recipe and oh my word was it amazing! The crust is, in a word, so flaky and crumbly that it melts in your mouth. And to be honest, I did not use fresh lemon juice. Mainly because I didn’t have it, but I did have the lemon juice that’s in a bottle and the lemon middle was so good I didn’t even notice it wasn’t fresh lemon juice.

This recipe is by the one, the only, Joanna Gaines. Which means I was expecting the best lemon bars I’ve ever had. I can tell you with confidence that these lived up to that standard. I highly highly recommend that you get her book and start making these recipes! So far I’m very impressed with how easy the recipes are and how good they taste.

Overall Review: 5/5

Mina’s Lemon Bar Recipe

From Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines

Equipment

  • Glass Pan
  • Hand Mixer

Ingredients
  

  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1/2 Pound Butter ie. 2 sticks
  • 1/4 Cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 4 Eggs Slightly Beaten
  • 5 tbsp Lemon Juice

Instructions
 

  • Oven Preheated to 350 degrees
  • I only have one set of glass bakeware, so technically I probably was not using the right size. But considering she was very clear in her recipe that we need glass to bake lemon bars–glass it was!
  • Melted the butter and added it to the flour, powdered sugar and salt. Combine
  • Once combined it pretty much fell right out of the bowl and into the glass bakeware making it easy to spread to the bottom of the pan. Stick in oven for 20 minutes
  • In a new bowl, combine sugar, eggs and lemon. Whisk and add to crust you just baked
  • Bake this for 15 minutes. Then cover with foil and bake for 15 more.
  • Sprinkle (I heavily sprinkle) and then let cool. I swear cooling takes forever but worth it to get the good taste and easier cutting.
  • I stick the lemon bars in the fridge for a bit so that way the center and crust are nice and cool. Serve cool.

Granny’s Monkey Bread Review

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Monkey see — Monkey do! I have always always always loved monkey bread. I remember having this as a special treat on Christmas morning and it was always the perfect breakfast. So for our 5-year anniversary this year I decided to make this breakfast for my husband and I! I thought this Granny’s Monkey Bread from Self Proclaimed Foodie sounded amazing! So today is my review of this recipe. Please note the original recipe is linked below for your reference.

Overall Review: 3/5

Before I get to the ingredients and instructions based on my experience, I did want to go over my review of this recipe. I personally think this turns out a bit more ‘buttery’ than I would like. It was still really good and tasty, especially right out of the oven. But the butter taste is pretty overwhelming. I did post all the pictures from my experience so you can see the steps and how everything turned out. I definitely will try another monkey bread recipe in the future! If you have a good Monkey Bread recipe I should try let me know if the comments!

Granny’s Monkey Bread Review

My review of Granny's Monkey Bread from Self Proclaimed Foodie

Ingredients
  

  • 24 ounces Buttermilk Biscuits
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 tsps Cinnamon
  • 1 cup Butter
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Cut the biscuits into sections of 4. Kitchen scissors are easier to cut if you have them!
  • Combine one cup of sugar and 2 tsps cinnamon in a bowl
  • Toss the cut biscuits in the sugar/cinnamon mixture — I had to do them in small groups to make sure they all got an even coating.
  • Once you have the pieces coated in the sugar/cinnamon mixture– carefully place them in the bundt pan
  • In a small saucepan place the remaining sugar/cinnamon mixture. Its supposed to be about a cup, if it doesn't fill a full cup I would personally add more to make sure you have a full cup
  • Add 1 cup(2 sticks) of butter to the saucepan
  • Let the ingredients melt together — I whisked them to get it to the right consistency
  • Pour this on top of the biscuits in the bundt pan. Try to make it as even as possible
  • Place in the oven for about 12-14 minutes until golden brown and no doughy butter comes out when you put a knife in it.
  • Flip the bundt pan on a plate and serve!

Notes

To see the full recipe from Self Proclaimed Foodie go to https://selfproclaimedfoodie.com/grannys-monkey-bread/.
 
 

Back to the Kitchen – Thai Chicken Curry Soup

By Food No Comments

Apparently, I was in a soup mood this week as Thai Chicken Curry Soup was also on the menu! I went to a different cookbook today, one that I’ve used for other recipes in the past and has always been good. This recipe comes from Freddie Prince Jr.’s Back to the Kitchen cookbook. There are several recipes I LOVE from this cookbook and highly recommend you buy it! Click here for the Back to the Kitchen Cookbook.

Ingredients you will need:

  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion, Halved, Thinly sliced
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, Thinly sliced
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2-4 Tablespoons Thai Red Curry Paste
  • 1 Pound Boneless chicken chicken breast (thinly sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 4 ounces pad Thai-style rice vermicelli noodles
  • 1/4 cup green onions
  • 1 jalapeno chile slivered

Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe – Cravings Review

By Food 4 Comments

Hi y’all! Hope you all are staying safe and healthy during this crazy pandemic!

Today we are going to be testing this recipe from Chrissy Teigens Cravings cookbook. I particularly like this recipe because most of the ingredients are items that you would have in your kitchen. I personally have to go out and get a few items but that is because we just moved and the fridge is basically empty. So, if you don’t know this already, my husband is a huge meat eater. It’s just what he does, so I added some meat to the side of this pasta for him. But to keep my review honest we will keep the pasta on par with the recipe!

But if you ever feel like a recipe is light, adding chicken or salmon to the meal will help you feel fuller afterwards. I will do a post on how I cook chicken and salmon soon!

So let’s get into it.

Recipe Ingredients:

  • Salt
  • 12 oz dried spaghetti
  • 1/4 pound pancetta or bacon finely diced(about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 cups baby arugula

Start off by boiling the water and getting the spaghetti going. Then chop up the bacon or pancetta and get that into a skillet. Let me just say that the bacon taste is very prominent in this dish, so make sure its a flavor and brand of bacon that you LOVE. Trust me, you will be glad you did. Once you get the bacon nice and crispy you will add the olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Let that season for 1 minute.

At this point, your pasta should be done and you can strain that while you finish your sauce. (Oh you need to keep one cup of the pasta water before you strain it.) Once the spices have blended(about a minute), add the lemon juice and pasta. Stir that in, add the parmiginao cheese and the pasta water and stir until combined. Once this is all combined as well as you can get it. Finally, add 3 cups of arugula and let that wilt and combine.

Overall, my husband loved the pasta and went back twice to get more! For us that is the sign of a good meal! If you try out this meal let me know your thoughts below!