Baked Oatmeal With Apples, Bacon + Maple Syrup

Baked Oatmeal With Apples, Bacon, & Maple Syrup

Nothing can totally prepare you for motherhood. We know this.

When I was pregnant, I did everything I could to learn about breastfeeding. I read books, took a class, sought advice from other twin mamas, and got the best pump I could afford. But it was still a completely unknown world to me, and I was nervous. Would I be able to produce enough milk? Would they be able to latch correctly? Would I ever sleep again? Would they gain enough weight?

I tried to hold on to the idea of nursing lightly. Like much of motherhood, the things you hold onto most tightly are often the same things that get painfully ripped out of your hands. As I anticipated, feeding turned out to be a huge challenge during those early months. My son took weeks to latch, and I remember at an outpatient appointment, the lactation consultant kindly looked at me and said, “How are you doing with this? Do you want to keep going?” She offered support and encouragement, but I was also relieved that she offered me permission to quit. As we talked, I choked back tears of exhaustion and frustration. I was about one feeding away from giving up completely

Continue reading and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs!

Baked Oatmeal With Apples, Bacon, & Maple Syrup
Baked Oatmeal With Apples, Bacon, & Maple Syrup
Baked Oatmeal With Apples, Bacon, & Maple Syrup
Baked Oatmeal With Apples, Bacon, & Maple Syrup

Full recipe and instructions can be found at Coffee + Crumbs!

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel + Grapes

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel + Grapes

Before kids, "30-minute-meals" were my thing. If I could come home from work and put together a good dinner from start to finish in less than a half hour, that recipe was a keeper. I thought I'd stick with a lot of those dishes once I had kids, but I've realized that as a stay-at-home mom, 30-minute-meals just don't work for me. You know why? 

They require uninterrupted time. I'm still a fan of quick recipes, but most of the time, they involve standing in the kitchen without little hands clawing at your legs or wanting to touch the knobs on the stove. Or, while one dish is in the oven, you need to be prepping a sauce or side to go with it. Sometimes it feels like a recipe uses 47 different bowls and utensils - and who wants more dishes to wash? Uninterrupted time, especially in the evening "witching hour" doesn't happen quite as often as it used to. 

Instead, my obsession lately has been marinades. At least once, if not 2-3 times a week, we eat a meal that involves a meat soaked in a simple marinade. (And, full disclosure, I use store-bought marinades at least once a week! I like Tessemae's since they have quite a few that are Whole30 approved.) While it does take a little planning, I can make the marinade during nap-time rather than scrambling at 5pm. I usually end up cutting vegetables or doing other prep work early in the day, too, so come evening, it's just a matter of throwing a pan in the oven. 

This recipe works perfectly with our family schedule. Make the marinade in advance (even the day before), and then let the chicken soak up all that flavor for at least a half hour. Toss everything together on a baking sheet and roast. You can even use a zip-top bag for marinating and discard it right in the trash when your done. Fewer dishes for the win!

Of course, if making everything all in one shot still works best for your schedule, you can still cook this meal in less than an hour, most of that being inactive time (marinating and roasting time). I served this with a simple arugula salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette for a healthy (Whole30 approved!), flavorful weeknight dinner.  

Do you like to cook everything all at once? Or do you prefer meals that can be partially (or completely) prepped in advance? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel + Grapes
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel + Grapes
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel + Grapes
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel + Grapes
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel + Grapes

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel + Grapes
Yields 4 servings

¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard (try Tessemae's for a W30 approved version)
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 fennel bulb, stalks and fronds removed
1 pound seedless red grapes
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

In a small bowl*, make the marinade by whisking together ¼ cup olive oil, apple cider vinegar, mustard, thyme, garlic, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. 

Add the chicken to a gallon-sized zip-top bag, and pour the marinade over the chicken. Seal the bag, and shake it a few times so the chicken gets thoroughly coated. Marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the fennel bulb in half from top to bottom, and then cut out the core of the bulb. Slice the fennel crosswise into ¼-½ inch thick slices. (For tips on how to cut fennel, check out this helpful video from Martha Stewart.)

Add the fennel slices and grapes to a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Give everything a quick toss. Remove the chicken from the marinade and add to the baking sheet. Discard the used marinade. 

Place the baking sheet on a middle rack in the oven, and roast for 22-25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. The chicken should have an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Remove from the oven, cover and let rest for a couple minutes. Transfer to a serving platter or plates. Serve with additional fresh thyme and the pan juices. Enjoy! 

*Quick Tip: To use fewer dishes, make the marinade directly in the zip-top bag. Add the marinade ingredients to the bag, seal and shake well. Then, add the chicken, seal the bag, give it another shake, and marinate as directed above.

Fig, Vanilla Bean + Gin Cocktail

Fig, Vanilla Bean + Gin Cocktail

I made a to-do list at the beginning of the year that included 31 projects to complete by the end of January. They were simple tasks; I wasn’t trying to redo the kitchen or even paint a room. The so-called “projects” involved hanging up one picture or cleaning out one drawer. That was it. Many tasks could be done in less than ten minutes, and some could be done even while my kids were awake.

I just finished that task list a few weeks ago.

Fig, Vanilla Bean + Gin Cocktail

I may have been over eight months late on my accomplishment, but I’m still calling it a victory. After all, I finished! Of course, in those eight months, about 253 other projects have come up, most of which I’ve barely started at best.

But I’m learning to be more realistic. I want to set goals and accomplish them. I’m a list maker, and I love checking things off. Sometimes, though, I find too much satisfaction in the check marks.

Fig, Vanilla Bean + Gin Cocktail

Today I tried to get laundry done, and while I folded clean laundry, my kids decided the rest of the clean clothes needed to get stuffed down the laundry chute (by the way, why don’t all houses have laundry chutes anymore? Best idea EVER!). Other days, I’ll have a few minutes to throw dinner on the table, and they’ll unroll the toilet paper in the bathroom. One task gets done while toddlers are in the next room adding more to the list.

Often, I lose sight of what’s most important, and I end up believing my value is wrapped up in what I got done in a day. But the reality is, my family is not a box to check off, and my worth doesn’t depend on my lists. 

So today, I’ll make a to-do list like I usually do and work towards getting it done. But if it doesn’t happen? That’s perfectly OK.

Fig, Vanilla Bean + Gin Cocktail

This week, if you're working on a to-do list, celebrating accomplishments or just putting your feet up to relax, make one (or two) of these Fig + Vanilla Bean Gin Cocktails! This recipe combines fresh figs with smooth, rich vanilla for a cocktail that bridges the gap between summer and fall. It’s refreshing and comforting all at the same time. Cheers!


Fig, Vanilla Bean + Gin Cocktail
Yields 1 cocktail

Cocktail
1 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce Fig + Vanilla Bean Simple Syrup (recipe below)
2 dashes orange bitters
2-4 ounces tonic
Ice

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the gin, simple syrup and bitters. Stir well. Strain into a glass with an ice cube and top with tonic to taste. Garnish with a fresh fig slice. Enjoy!

Fig + Vanilla Bean Simple Syrup
6 fresh figs, stems removed and halved
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or scrape the seeds from 1 vanilla bean)

Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5-7 minutes or until figs break down. Allow to cool, and strain using a fine mesh strainer.

Store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week. Yields about 5-6 ounces of syrup (enough for 10-12 cocktails).*

*Note: This syrup doesn't have to be used only for this drink! Add it to iced tea or drizzle on top of pancakes. You can also make a pitcher's worth of the Fig, Vanilla Bean + Gin Cocktail if you want to serve a crowd!

Foil-Baked Cod with Oranges, Scallions + Ginger

Foil-Baked Cod with Oranges, Scallions + Ginger

Two more days! I'm on Day 28 of my Whole30! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm excited to share a couple non-scale victories I've had this month. 

The first time I did Whole30, I hardly left the house around mealtimes. I was so afraid of caving while out to dinner or at a potluck. I managed to hold to my eating plan, but avoiding social gatherings was hardly a habit I wanted to start. This time around, I worked on eating better while out and about, choosing foods that would nourish my body rather than consuming everything in sight simply because it was there. I enjoyed a girls' night out, church picnic (with a spread of mac and cheese and fried chicken I successfully resisted), baby shower and date night. A few years ago, I would have either given in completely during one or all of those events, or I just would have stayed home. Learning to be thoughtful and intentional about my food choices when I'm not in my own kitchen has always been a challenge for me, but I'm happy to say there's been progress.

I've also seen my clean-eating recipe repertoire increase. There are a handful of meals I end up making only while I'm doing an official Whole30, but this month, I tried to find more recipes I enjoyed enough to make regularly (and were husband approved). Among the winners were Korean Beef Noodle Bowls (recipe note: I cut down the red pepper flakes) and Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos from Against All Grain. My husband and I also enjoyed Banger Sausage Patties with Sweet Potato Mash and Caramelized Onions from the Whole30 bookCinnamon Beef Stew from Well Fed, and a handful of my own creations, including this recipe for Foil-Baked Cod with Oranges, Scallions + Ginger. 

This dish was inspired by Against All Grain's Lemon-Basil Sea Bass en Papillote (another recipe that will be repeated in my kitchen). My variation uses cod, a mild-tasting fish with a delicate texture. Oranges provide a hint of sweetness, complemented by sharp, bright flavors of scallions and ginger. And the best part? When you're done, toss the foil in the trash for easy cleanup!

What are some of your favorite clean-eating recipes? I'd love to hear your suggestions!

Foil-Baked Cod with Oranges, Scallions + Ginger
Foil-Baked Cod with Oranges, Scallions + Ginger
Foil-Baked Cod with Oranges, Scallions + Ginger
Foil-Baked Cod with Oranges, Scallions + Ginger
Foil-Baked Cod with Oranges, Scallions + Ginger
Foil-Baked Cod with Oranges, Scallions + Ginger

Foil-Baked Cod with Oranges, Scallions + Ginger
Yields 4 servings

4 (6 ounce) cod fillets (I recommend checking out the fish from Sitka Salmon Shares)
1 cup chopped scallions, plus more for garnish
2 Tablespoons coconut aminos (or low-sodium soy sauce)
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil*
1 Tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
Zest and juice of 1 orange
4 oranges, peeled and sliced
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lay out 4 large sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place one cod fillet on each of the sheets of foil. Season with salt and pepper. 

In a medium bowl, mix together the scallions, coconut aminos, sesame oil, ginger, and the zest and juice of 1 orange. Pour on top of the cod fillets, distributing the dressing evenly between the four pieces of fish. 

Top each fillet with a 3-4 orange slices. Fold the ends of the foil together tightly, making sure the packets are completely sealed. Place them on a baking sheet. 

Bake the cod until for 12-14 minutes, or until the fish is opaque and easily flakes apart. Remove the packets from the oven, and let them rest for about 5 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a few fresh scallion pieces. Serve and enjoy! 

*If you want to avoid seed oils as per Whole30 recommendations, use olive oil instead of toasted sesame oil. 

Lemon-Basil Shea Butter Soap

Lemon-Basil Shea Butter Soap

I'm taking a break from food recipes today to share my most recent batch of soap! Soap-making is one of those random hobbies I've actually kept up with. I have a tendency to start a hobby for a few months, buy all the gear and supplies needed, and then abandon it a few months later. Soap-making, though, has been one that's stuck.

Lemon-Basil Shea Butter Soap

Homemade cold-process soap is gentle on my skin and doesn't dry me out like many commercially made alternatives. And, if you decide to get into soap-making, you'll find you can make a batch for a fraction of the price of what's for sale at Whole Foods or other stores selling natural body products.

Lemon-Basil Shea Butter Soap
Lemon-Basil Shea Butter Soap

If you haven't ever made a batch of cold-process soap before, make sure to read this tutorial over at Offbeat + Inspired. You'll find everything you need to know, and it may even bring you back to your high school chemistry days (although if you were like me and wasn't a huge fan of chemistry class, don't let that scare you away!). Happy soap-making! 

Lemon-Basil Shea Butter Soap

Lemon-Basil Shea Butter Soap
Makes about 16 (4 ounce) bars of soap

*If you are new to soap making, visit this post from Offbeat + Inspired for the full instructions. 

Base Oils
14 ounces Shea butter
13 ounces coconut oil
8 ounces olive oil
3 ounces jojoba oil
2.5 ounces avocado oil
1 ounce beeswax

Lye Solution
14 ounces water
5.5 ounces lye

Additives
Add 2 ounces lemon essential oil and 1 ounce basil essential oil right before the mixture reaches trace. (Note: With this recipe, the lemon-basil scent was very strong at first, but it mellowed out perfectly after a month of curing.)

Remember to let your soaps cure for 4-6 weeks before using or gifting

Grilled Corn + Bell Pepper Salad

Grilled Corn + Bell Pepper Salad

A friend dropped his phone in the crevices of our couch a few weeks ago. He started reaching between the cushions and my internal alarms sounded. Fear and panic washed over me like a tidal wave, and I immediately issued a warning: “Be careful! I have no idea what you’ll find down there!”

Would he reach for his phone only to discover stale popcorn and animal cracker crumbs? Or worse yet, would he unearth a scary, sticky, mysterious substance whose only home should be a laboratory? Would he ever sit on that sofa again or return to our home without a hazmat suit? We laughed at the thought of what he might find, and despite my fear of the creatures beneath the cushions, I found the situation amusing rather than stressful. That would not have been the case a couple years ago.

Continue reading and get the recipe over at Coffee + Crumbs!

Grilled Corn + Bell Pepper Salad
Grilled Corn + Bell Pepper Salad
Grilled Corn + Bell Pepper Salad
Grilled Corn + Bell Pepper Salad

Full recipe and instructions can be found at Coffee + Crumbs!

Baked Salmon with Mango-Avocado Salsa

Baked Salmon with Mango-Avocado Salsa

I'm currently halfway through my third Whole30, which is starting to become a once a year challenge for me. I'm not a paleo eater 100% of the time, and unless I develop any debilitating food allergies, I don't plan on giving up wine or doughnuts forever. Yet every time I participate in a Whole30, it forces me to think through what I'm eating. I learn better what my body likes and dislikes, and my clean eating recipe repertoire expands. When the 30 days are over, sure, I'll add back rice and chickpeas and whiskey cocktails. But after having said no to various foods for a month, I'm able to discern better when it's worth saying yes. 

Baked Salmon with Mango-Avocado Salsa

I still have a lot to work on when it comes to my lifestyle choices. In no way have I "arrived." I'm learning and growing, and as I look back on what I ate a few years ago, I'm encouraged that my eating has drastically improved. I've also realized that my cooking has become much simpler, which is a change I didn't expect. I used to think clean eating had to be complicated. As it turns out, salt and pepper can work wonders on almost anything, and a few really good ingredients can do more for a dish than 20 mediocre ones.

Baked Salmon with Mango-Avocado Salsa
Baked Salmon with Mango-Avocado Salsa

This Baked Salmon with Mango-Avocado Salsa is an exercise in simplicity. Good quality salmon requires just a bit of seasoning. Perfectly ripe avocados and mangoes add sweetness and a buttery texture that's balanced out by a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Few ingredients, simple preparation, and a whole lot of flavor. 

Baked Salmon with Mango-Avocado Salsa

Baked Salmon with Mango-Avocado Salsa
Yields 3-4 servings

12 ounce salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
1 ripe mango, diced (I prefer Ataulfo mangoes for their sweetness and buttery texture.)
1 avocado, diced
1 shallot, minced
1 lime, juiced (plus additional sliced for serving)
1-2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Lay the salmon pieces on the prepared baking sheet, skin side down. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 12-14 minutes, or until the salmon is opaque and easily flakes apart. 

While the salmon is baking, add the mango, avocado, shallot, lime juice, and cilantro to a medium bowl. Mix until everything is fully incorporated. Spoon on top of the cooked salmon. Garnish with additional cilantro and serve with lime wedges. Enjoy!

Quick Tip: Instead of salmon, try this salsa on top of white fish, shredded chicken or pork!

Cold Brew + Brandy Cocktail

Cold Brew + Brandy Cocktail

Iced coffee was invented for days like this. Days when the heat brings beads of sweat the moment you walk out the door, and the humidity increases the volume of your hair ten-fold (a la Monica Geller). Days when a glass of iced water just won’t cut it. You need the afternoon pick-me-up that only coffee can provide...and some days, that iced coffee begs for a shot of brandy and a splash of milk. 

I posted this Cold Brew + Brandy Cocktail a couple months ago on Instagram, but it bears repeating on the blog. It’s the perfect way to cap off a hot summer day. Cheers!

Cold Brew + Brandy Cocktail
Cold Brew + Brandy Cocktail

Cold Brew + Brandy Cocktail
Yields 1 cocktail

2 ounces cold brew coffee (such as FreshGround's Black Ice Brew)
2 ounces brandy
2 ounces whole milk (or cream)
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Ice
Cocoa powder, nutmeg, cinnamon or cardamom for topping

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker along with a handful of ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a glass.

Sprinkle the top with cocoa powder, nutmeg, cinnamon or cardamom. Enjoy!