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  • Easy Cheesy Chili Mac

The Grapevine: Why Perfect is Overrated

So I have been doing a bit of thinking lately.

Be Real

There has been this little thing irking me, and I just need to get it off my chest. We live in this fast paced, crazy, technology filled world where you have access to pretty much anything just by hopping online and searching for it. I think that is great and all… it is that same technology that allows me to have this little corner here on the web where I get to talk to you and share ideas. I am so very thankful for that.

But it has also created this “Pinterest Generation,” if you will. You know what I mean. An entire group of people who are constantly flooded with these images of perfectness. A perfectly plated dinner, perfect makeup, perfect clothes, a perfect home, perfect garden…the list goes on and on. The photos of food and place settings could even make Martha Stewart look pitiful!

Don’t get me wrong, I am guilty, too. I pin the pictures. I admire them. I even get the idea stuck in my head that if my house doesn’t look EXACTLY like my Dream Home pinterest board I am a complete and utter failure. I make food to share with you. Then I wait until the lighting is just so.  I take about 50 shots using different garnishes, place mats, and napkins just so it looks perfect.

Can we just stop and take a moment here.

You are not a failure if the food you cook isn’t pretty.
You are not a failure if you can’t apply your eye shadow correctly, and you don’t know how to french braid your hair.
You are not a failure if you can’t build your own furniture out of pallets.

That world, that oh-i-was-born-an-expert-at-this-i-have-never-failed-at-anything-ever attitude that is creeping up on us. Let’s stop. Let’s just be real. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.

Embrace both. Embrace them whole heartily.

Both of those… your good days, your bad, your wins, your losses, your successes, and your failures. They built you.

They made you.

And you, yes you, sitting right there reading this are totally unique. Nobody else in this world has what you have to offer.

Embrace it my friend!

So, in honor of taking the good and the bad, in honor of being real. I am sharing some of my failures with you. Some of these were good ideas with poor execution, some were just terrible ideas all together. But they are mine, and I am owning them.

Here we go!

roast chicken

So, this one time I was going to show you how to roast a chicken. Except I roasted it wrong side up which made for some fairly unflattering photos.

roast chicken

Speaking of photos, aren’t these terrible? Yes, that is black poster board I was using as a background. What was I thinking? Fail!

For the record, the chicken actually tasted great!

lemon cake

Lemon cake…oh lemon cake. I love it, yet I butchered this one. Sometimes you just need to leave things alone. I had a great cake but I tried to be fancy and add a healthy(?) strudel topping and sliced almonds. Okay, so in order to create a nice crumb like topping you need butter…and sugar. Without it you are just kind of sprinkling flour on top, which is basically what I did.

And these pictures….oh dear. Yellow lemon cake doesn’t belong on a greenish cake stand. Again, Fail!

lemon cake

This was going to be so great! A Pancetta and Pepper strata, I saved the last couple slices of my precious gluten free bread for this dish, but only had like 4 eggs. Instead of going to the store and buying more or just changing my plan I said, “oh I will just wing it!” The result? Very dry, eggy croutons with even drier peppers and pancetta stuck to them. We ate cereal that day. Fail!

strata

strata

You know that lovely Sausage and Spinach Quiche I shared with you? Well this was my first attempt at photos. Sheesh! Fail!

sausage and spinach quiche

This is just the tip of the iceberg my friends. For every tasty, nicely photographed recipe I share with you, there are two or three that failed. Behind this blog there is a messy kitchen, an expensive grocery bill, a full refrigerator, a faithful taste tester, a lot of determination, and a stockpile of Chocolate Chex for our inevitable failures. But that is okay, because it’s this beautiful mess that keeps life so interesting.

Perfection is so very boring. What would I have to write about?

 

Italian Baked Mushrooms

Okay, so I try really hard to eat a healthy, well balanced diet.
Most mornings I have a smoothie for breakfast, for lunch I usually have a salad, and I try to keep our dinners in check but sometimes…sometimes I want something greasy, breaded, and fried.

I know it is gross, but admit it, sometimes that is what you want too!

I came home from work this week with a i-need-something-crunchy-salty-breaded-bad-for-me hankering that I couldn’t ignore.

Jalapeno chips didn’t do it, crackers were a no go, but I did have a package of baby bellas in the fridge so I decided they would have to do. Fried mushrooms it is!

Baked Italian Mushrooms

However, that isn’t what happened. My conscious got the best of me so I decided to bake them. I had absolutely zero expectations of this being good, but it was a pleasant surprise!

I double breaded them for good measure. First, I dunked them in a beaten egg then a good coating of flour, egg again, and then rolled them in gluten free bread crumbs. I worked in some Italian seasoning and garlic salt into the breading so they were full of flavor and have a great crunch. I served these with warm marinara sauce.

Italian Baked Mushrooms

These hit the spot. They’re crunchy, a little salty, and a bit indulgent while still being healthy. I highly recommend giving these a try the next time your looking for a quick, easy appetizer!

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounce package of whole mushrooms
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs (I used Ians GF)
  • 1/4 cup flour (I used GF Bisquick)
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Grab three small bowls, put the beaten egg, flour, and bread crumbs separately in each bowl. In the breadcrumb bowl add Italian seasoning and garlic salt and give it a stir.
  3. Rinse your mushrooms off and wipe clean with a paper towel.
  4. Roll or dip each mushroom in the flour, then egg, then in the breadcrumbs.
  5. Place mushrooms on a greased baking sheet.
  6. Melt butter and mix with garlic, brush each mushroom with a little garlic butter
  7. Bake for 13-15 minutes until golden.

Cheddar Baked Eggs for One

Last week, I had a friend ask if I could add some “Just for One” recipes. You know, recipes just for you, meals using regular, common ingredients to make simple, healthy meals for just one person.

Well I absolutely can!

Actually, I cook a good bit for just myself. Mr. Maebell and I don’t always work the same schedule so sometimes it is just me for dinner. So, I was brainstorming ideas and I kept coming back to an egg dish. If there is one thing that is the epitome of cheap, quick, and healthy eggs fit the bill.

Baked Eggs for One

After I made this I asked myself why haven’t I been baking eggs my whole life? Has everyone else been doing it? Is it a new thing? I am loving it!

Just throw some fixings in a dish, crack some eggs over the top and bake for a couple minutes. Grab a slice of toast and you have a meal fit for a king! Or a queen. :)

I used shredded sharp cheddar cheese, chopped green onions, and bacon, but you could use absolutely anything. For a vegetarian version you could try peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Or if you wanted to cut out the extra step of cooking the bacon you could use deli ham and swiss cheese. Whatever works for you, or more importantly, whatever you already have on hand.

Just in case you need to whip up something quick and easy this is a great one to keep in  mind!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 1 slice bacon, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cheddar cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350
  2. Place butter in a small five inch skillet or baking dish, place in your oven while preheating, just until the butter melts.
  3. Sprinkle green onions, cheddar, and bacon over melted butter.
  4. Carefully crack two eggs into skillet, be careful not to break the yolk.
  5. Bake until eggs reach desired firmness*
  6. Garnish with tomato and cilantro if desired.

*In my oven 8 minutes gives you a runny yolk, 10 for soft, and 13 for a firm yolk. But I recommend keeping an eye on it since every oven cooks a bit differently.

 

 

 

 

 

Spicy Kung Pao Chicken

Do you remember anything from the speeches said at your graduation? Probably not. Most people don’t. However, Mr. Maebell and I remember one thing very clearly from our high school graduation. Chinese food makes you smarter.

Our class Valedictorian was the daughter of the couple that ran the very best Chinese restaurant in town. When speaking to her success, she said it was actually very simple. Chinese food makes you smarter so everyone should go eat at Hong Kong Chinese Buffet.

Of course, this got a big laugh from the crowd and years later it still proves to be one of the most memorable moments of the night. However, now anytime I make anything even remotely Asian inspired, we always joke we are getting smarter by the bite.

So make this and see what happens!

Kung Pao Chicken

This has become the most requested meal in our house. I absolutely crave it! It has a bit of spice to it and a rich flavor from the sesame oil. It is really a guest worthy dinner. The flavor is spot on to Pei Wei’s Kung Pao chicken, and it is gluten free!

Don’t shutter when you see the ingredient list. It does call for a couple things you may not keep in your pantry, however if you like Asian food I highly recommend taking the plunge and keeping these around. They aren’t expensive and you only need a couple tablespoons so they last forever. You can use this sauce for anything!

Kung Pao Chicken

For this dish I cut up a couple chicken breasts, tossed them in corn starch, and fried them in a little oil. I find that by breading them you get that crunch and the sauce tends to stick to it a bit better. However, if you want to lighten it up you can definitely do grilled or baked chicken or shrimp. The possibilities are endless!

The sauce is really simple. You just mix your main ingredients together in a small bowl, then in another bowl mix one tablespoon of cornstarch with one tablespoon of water. When you’re ready to coat your chicken with the spicy sauce you just mix the two together and it thickens up beautifully! Just like what you find in a restaurant.

Kung Pao Chicken

So, the next time you have a hankering for Kung Pao skip the take out and try this version!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound chicken breast, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup corn starch + 1 tablespoon
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha (you can half this amount if you don’t like spicy things)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

  1. Cut up your chicken breast into bite sized pieces, place in a large plastic bag with 3/4 cup of corn starch, lightly shake until all of the chicken is coated well.
  2. Heat a large 12 inch skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat, pour in just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.
  3. Cook chicken in batches, take care not to over crowd your skillet. I cooked about 4 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from pan and place on a paper towel lined baking sheet in order to drain off as much oil as possible. Continue until all chicken is cooked.
  4. Combine the next 6 ingredients in a small bowl or measuring up to make your sauce. Set aside.
  5. Combine one tablespoon of water with one tablespoon of corn starch and mix well.
  6. Drain off any oil that is in your pan and wipe clean, heat to medium, add in soy sauce mixture and corn starch mixture, add in chicken and stir until mixture is evenly coated and heated through.
  7. Garnish with green onions, sesame seeds, and crushed red pepper if desired.

 

Just a Tip: Normally you can find sesame seed oil in the ethnic food section and in the baking section next to the regular oils, check both places. Chances are one is much cheaper than the other! 

 

Banana Pudding Bites with Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt

I know, the title is a mouthful, but I couldn’t think of a cute, short clever name that did this one justice!
Banana Pudding Bites
We don’t do really indulgent sweets around here. I mean don’t get me wrong, I definitely have a sweet tooth but I don’t bake cake, or pies, or keep ice cream in the freezer. Sweets, real sweets are generally reserved for special occasions. Actually, I am pretty sure I only baked two cakes last year, one for Mr. Maebell’s birthday and one for mine. The problem is there are two of us, just two! So if I bake a cake just two us will eat the whole darn thing! So, I have learned to get kind of creative with ways to satisfy our sweet tooth. It has to be something small, sweet, snackable, and semi healthy. Today’s Banana Pudding Bites with Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt are a product of that creativity.
Banana Pudding Bites

Holy Moses. This is a good one.

Think Rice Krispie bar meets granola and banana pudding, sounds interesting right? Well then I took it one step further by dunking these beauties in dark chocolate and sprinkling sea salt over them.

A-mazing!

Banana Pudding Bites

The idea came to me after I made the Toasted Coconut Granola Clusters, which uses a small box of pudding mix. I started wondering what else you could use pudding mix with so I surveyed my cabinets and started experimenting. The ingredient list here is simple, oats, Rice Krispies (I used gluten free), coconut oil, honey, peanut butter, and pudding mix. I actually topped half with sea salt and the rest with  chopped pecans. I was sure the pecans would be the preferred flavor, but the sea salt was a clear winner!

Banana Pudding Bites

The flavor combination is awesome. A strong banana pudding flavor with a subtle hint of peanut butter in a chewy, kind of crunchy ball smothered in bitter dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt to achieve the perfect sweet and salty combo. These little guys have me swooning for more!
Banana Pudding Bites
So without further ado I give you the ultimate salty sweet snack, you’re going to love it!
I’m off to make more!
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 small 3 ounce package banana pudding mix
  • 1 1/2 cup Rice Krispies Cereal (I used gluten free)
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • sea salt for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Combine peanut butter, honey, and coconut oil in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat until coconut oil is melted. Stir in the pudding mix until well incorporated.
  2. Turn off burner and remove pan from heat, add in cereal and oats, stir until mixture is coated evenly.
  3. Shape mixture into balls, the mixture will not be as sticky or thick as rice krispies. You will need to squeeze the mixture tightly for the shape to hold.
  4. Microwave chocolate chips in a small glass bowl for about 45 seconds at 50% power until chocolate is melted. Stirring in between cooking times as needed.
  5. Dip each ball into chocolate, set on wax paper and sprinkle with sea salt.
  6. Keep balls in an airtight container in the fridge.