Happy New Year!

It’s hard to believe another year has come and gone. 2018 was both challenging and extremely fulfilling. As a family we experienced many new firsts- most notably buying a new home which we have partially remodeled- and have big plans for the future with. Healthwise, I personally, along with those in my family, had quite a tough year. However, the last few weeks have brought wonderful news and positive health for the times ahead. Professionally….well…..I certainly did not focus on this blog and make time for it as I thought I would. I apologize to those reading this. I know it’s been quite a while since my last post. BUT…. ISN’T THAT WHAT THE NEW YEAR IS ALL ABOUT? New chapters, new beginnings. A blank slate to start anew. And that’s what I plan to do here. Instead of running from myself (and this blog), I’m vowing right now to share my struggles, my good days and bad, the times when being a mom is the best feeling in the world, and those days where my 3 girls make me want to catch the next train to anywhere lol. I promise it’ll be worth the read….I have so many new and exciting recipes, ideas, stories, and anecdotes to share. So come along for the ride. Let’s start with what no one would dare put as a New Years Day recipe. Nope it’s not a detox soup or skinny smoothie. It’s carbs, and fat, and comfort food. It won’t help you lose that extra 10 lbs you say you want to (or in my case the 5 that I gained this holiday lol) but it’s a comforting meal to share with those we love on a cold day at home, relishing in this new year before us (or nursing you hang over at 4pm in the afternoon lol).

Wishing you and yours a Happy, Healthy, Peaceful, and Prosperous 2019!!

xo Robin

Note: Many people don’t heat heartily on New Years Day, for various reasons….some of my past reasons have been too full from the night before, too hung over, or the infamous “I’m starting my new diet TODAY”. Newsflash: Since having kids, I noticed that none of these reasons were good ones, so I eat what I want. That doesn’t mean I pig out, it just means that I view this day as another holiday, one to be thankful for and enjoy a beautiful homemade meal with those around me. Shown below are 3 recipes for a starter, main dish, and desert I love. They may not exactly all fit together….fin fact….it’s a bit of a global tour….but when the main dish is one which includes carbs, a cream like sauce, and veggies, it’s hard to pick a light starter that isn’t a duplicate. As for dessert, well, I don’t typically indulge in dessert so when I make it, I make what I like lol.

Note 2: If you are a wine drinker like me, I like to pair the chicken pot pie with the same wine I cook with- typically a dry white such as a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. Stay away from sweets such as reisling or chardonnay if you can- I find they don’t make the Pot Pie dough as enjoyable. If you are like my husband and loathe whites, try aerating your red. I’m a picky red drinker and like mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, which I feel goes with everything.

Starter: Mediterranean Platter

Want to know the best part about this recipe? It’s almost all (gasp!!) store-bought! The only thing I personally prefer to store made items, is my hummus, upon which I faithfully use Ina Garten’s hummus recipe (with an extra dash or two of hot sauce). For this particular starter, I’ll stick with plain hummus, although I usually mix it up by adding roasted red peppers or artichokes (separately NOT together lol)

Ingredients:

Homemade hummus (store-bought is totally fine too)

Stuffed grape leaves

Fresh, warm, pita bread cut into triangles

Feta cheese ( whole or crumbled. I’ll leave that up to you- based on how you want to serve it)

Sliced cucumbers

Baby Carrots

Cherry tomatoes (these are optional- if they’re out of season or too acidic, don’t worry about it)

Mixed salted nuts ( I typically use a mixture of almonds & cashews)

Pitted Kalamata Olives

Tabbouleh Salad ( although this is a simple one to make, I usually opt for the quicker store-bought one…shhhhhh don’t tell my husband lol)

Freshly sliced lemon, whole oregano & rosemary (for garnish)

Directions:

Using whatever piece of serveware you like best, [I love either a large rustic wooden cheese board or white porcelain square one] gently arrange the ingredients and simply place out for eating.

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Main: Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients:

For the pie dough:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting the work surface)

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup (aka 2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

6 tablespoons ice water (you may need more to reach the proper consistency)

2 tablespoons shredded [mild] cheddar cheese

For the filling:

1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 cups low sodium organic chicken broth

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil (can be subsituted with another oil such as avocado)

1  white onion, diced

3 carrots, peeled and diced

3 celery ribs, diced

3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups milk

3 tablespoons dry white wine

A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce

3 tablespoons dry sherry

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

Directions:

  1. Make the pie dough: Using a food processor, mix the flour, salt, and sugar until combined. Add the butter and pulse, until just combined (do not over mix). Pulse in the cheddar and then the ice water. Go slowly when adding the water, as to not make the dough too dry or watery. Ideally, you want the dough to be wet to the touch, but clear the sides of the bowl. Form dough into a ball, split in 2, and flatten into 2 disks. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour.
  2. Cook the bottom part of your pie: Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and adjust the oven rack to a lower-middle position. Next, take out 1 disk of the pie dough, flour your work surface, and roll out the dough with a rolling pin until you have enough to cover a 9″ pie plate. Place fitted dough in pan, and trim excess if necessary. (You can also crimp the edges to make a neat presentation) Next, lightly prick the dough using a fork, and blind bake* the crust until just beginning to brown, about 20-25 minutes.
  3. Place the boneless, skinless chicken breasts and all of the broth in a medium size dutch oven (a stockpot would work just fine too), cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 10 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a bowl, and when cooled, shred. Reserve the chicken broth in a measuring cup.
  4. Increase the heat to high and heat the vegetable oil in the now empty pot. Once warmed and shimmering, add the onion, carrots, & celery, season with salt & pepper, and saute for until tender, about 5 minutes. Next, add the white wine and cook another minute or two until alcohol cooks off. Then transfer the vegetables to the same bowl as the chicken.
  5.  Using the same pan, heat the butter on medium-high heat. Once melted and foam subsides, add the flour, whisking constantly until incorporated for about 1 minute. Be careful and do not burn the roux.
  6. Whisk in the reserved chicken broth, followed by the milk, and minced thyme. Steadily whisk until fully incorporated and not lumpy. Bring this mixture to a simmer, and continue to simmer until thickening, about 1 minute. Once completed, season with salt, pepper, and stir in the sherry.
  7. Pour the sauce over the chicken & vegetables, add in the peas and parsley, and stir to mix. Season again if necessary with salt and pepper. Add a few dashes of hot sauce until the taste is to your liking (for me it’s usually about 4-6 dashes).
  8. Pour mixture into the pie crust and top with remaining dough. Don’t forget to cut slits in the top to allow air to escape. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Serve hot.

*If you aren’t familiar with the term “blind bake” this refers to cooking a pie crust before filling it. Typically the crust is covered with foil or parchment paper and filled about 2/3 of the way with pie weights ( I don’t own pie weights, so I use either dried beans or rice). For more info about this cooking technique, check out this brief article from King Arthur Flour: https://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2015/11/23/blind-bake-pie-crust/  

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Dessert: Mini Tiramisu Trifles

Delicious dessert: check! Cute individual trifle glasses: check!

Not gonna lie though: this recipe is not mine. I have tried my hand multiple times at tiramisu, and have gotten pretty decent at it, but right now I just wanted an easy recipe to follow myself. Here’s one  I LOVE  from a fellow blogger: https://www.lifeloveandsugar.com/2017/01/13/mini-tiramisu-trifles/

 

Mommies are Humans Too

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“Mom I need you”

“Mommy I’m hungry”

“Mom can you help me with my shoes?”

Mommy, MOMMY, MOMMMMMYYYYYY

I hear that about 30 trillion times a day. If you’re a fellow mom, I bet you do too.

Now let’s switch gears. When talking to others, instead of introducing myself as “Robin”, I tend to say, “Hi, I’m _______’s mom”.

AND 9 times out of 10, whether I’m with my children or not, they become the sole focus of my conversation.

With that said, I believe it’s safe to assume that my children take up 99.9999% of my time both physically and mentally. But, is .000009% enough energy to allocate to myself? Probably not.

Make that Definitely not.

And…..that’s where we as moms need to make a change. No, we shouldn’t slack off as parents, or spend less time or energy on our children. We love them more than anything and want to make these years memorable. But in all honesty, we can’t forget who we are as people. Our roles are not singular.

This brings me to the main point of my post. When do we as moms (or dads!!!) stop remembering who we are, what we enjoy, what our hopes and dreams are……and put all of that aside to be known only as “so and so’s mom/dad”?

This topic is a difficult one and a sensitive one, but nonetheless, important. It’s something I have been truly struggling with over the last year.

HOWEVER, you and I alike, do not need to wallow or give in and think, “well, being a mom is the only important job in my life”, because IT’S NOT. So, I challenge you (as I challenge myself) to start by making a list of all your hopes and dreams. Sounds corny, I know. But it really isn’t. These dreams, or goals, could be as small as making time to eat breakfast in the morning or as large as a big career change. Then, after making this list, get together with a friend, family member, colleague, professional, or anyone else you feel comfortable with, and map out how you can get started working towards these goals. It doesn’t matter if you only make one ounce of progress, as long as it’s forward progression, it will help you. Good luck friend, I know we can do it!

xo Robin

PS- I’d love to hear from some of you as to what your ideas

and dreams are & what your plans look like. I’ll be sure to post mine too!

 

Judgy-ness

 

 

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I recently read a quote that resonated deep in my heart and mind. it was, “People are hard to hate up close”.

I have always believed that “hate” is a strong word. I try to avoid it at all costs. However, it has taken up space in my vocabulary more than a few times in my three decades of life. Just the other day I was dealing with a particularly difficult person and dropped the “H” word when discussing the ordeal with my husband. Later that night, after reading the quote, I thought, “hmmmm……that’s so true”…..but didn’t think much more of it. The next day, while standing in line at Starbucks, I encountered a sour looking person who happened to be rude to everyone around her. My immediate reaction was to think, “WTF?!”. But instead, I remembered the quote and thought about all of the things that person could possibly have going on to make her so disagreeable.

I’m not saying everyone has to allow others to walk all over them, or that you can’t get pissed off. If you’re faced with a pain in the ass client, or a rude sales clerk, or get cut off while driving down the highway…by all means….feel free to get mad. But if you see that one mom in your kid’s class who always has a scowl on her face or walks by without saying hello- try not to judge. We may not know that she recently lost her job, or is struggling with weight loss, or got divorced. Or even if its’ none of those things, perhaps she has social anxiety and doesn’t know what to say to others.

I might sound like I’m preaching here, and if so, I apologize. I’m 100% guilty of being “judgy”. I honestly can’t even count on two hands how many times I’ve said that “so & so’s mom is such a bitch” or “I can’t stand the cashier at ‘x’ restaurant because she’s not perky enough and always has an attitude.” I’ve even said it to my kids when they’re in an argument with a friend…..yes I was that mom who told my 8-year-old, “don’t worry about so and so – she’s just being mean because she’s jealous that you’re smarter and prettier than her”. Sooooo yeah, I’m not perfect. At all.

But, I have made a conscious decision to try my best. Going forward I will no longer hold that air of “judgy-ness”. No one truly knows the challenges I face daily, and I don’t know what others are facing either. Therefore, let’s really really try to be mindful. Be mindful of others’ feelings and respect that sometimes they may not be pleasant. After all, we’d have a lot more room for positive energy when we remove the negative from our lives.

Summer is Here! And So Are Some Warm Weather Recipes

Can you believe Memorial Day was this past weekend? I can’t. As the unofficial start of Summer, I was hoping for a bit nicer weather, since the Hudson Valley had only one of the three days without cloud cover. Regardless, I’ll take the heat we’re going to have this week, and share with you some of my favorite “intro to Summer” recipes. Hope you enjoy!

Avocado Fries with Chipotle Lime Sour Cream

(this is not my recipe so click the link please) 

I love this as an appetizer for any meal, especially a BBQ because it has some crunch but without the guilt of eating potato chips.

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Italian Tortellini Salad

Ingredients:

For the salad:

  • 1 package tri-colored tortellini
  • 1 1/4 cup yellow & red cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red onion
  • 4 oz pepperoni
  • 1 can (drained) marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1/2  jar (drained) roasted red peppers
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley

For the dressing:

  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, boil water and cook tortellini until done (about 8-10 minutes). Drain in a strainer, rinse with cold water, and set pasta aside in a bowl with a little bit of olive oil to cool (just enough to coat the tortellini, as the olive oil will keep them from sticking together)
  2. While the pasta is cooking (or cooling) slice the cherry tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and pepperoni. Dice the red onion,  parsley, & basil too.
  3. For the Dressing: In a small mason jar, combine balsamic vinegar, remaining olive oil, diced garlic, parsley, basil, and dried oregano. Put the top on the mason jar and shake vigorously until combined.
  4. In a large serving bowl, add tortellini, tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, pepperoni, red onion, roasted red peppers, shredded mozzarella, and balsamic vinegar dressing. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. NOTE: If the balsamic vinegar is a bit strong for your liking, feel free to add more olive oil (one teaspoon at a time) or even a dash of  Dijon mustard or maple syrup (sounds gross I know, but I promise that the sweetness will add just enough contrast to counteract the vinegar. Remember to add SLOWLY and only a 1/2 teaspoon at a time until reaching your desired taste)
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Grilled Chicken: Citrus Style

There are a million different ways to marinade and / or season chicken and grill it. This past weekend, I came up with a rather tasty and light version of grilled chicken breasts that I’d like to share with you. I would definitely use this recipe on seafood as well.

Ingredients:

  • 4 organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup of your favorite Italian salad dressing (I use the oil based, not creamy one)
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lemon chopped into quarters
  • 1/2 orange, chopped into quarters
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. 24 hours before cooking, rinse the chicken breasts and pat dry. Season lightly with salt & pepper. Place chicken in a  1 gallon freezer bag with the remaining ingredients. Place the chicken in the refrigerator and allow to marinate. Periodically massage the chicken inside the bag.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat your grill to 400 degrees. Once at desired temperature, cook the breasts, turning once  half way for about 10 minutes per side, or until internal meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees. (NOTE: cooking time will depend on thickness of the chicken. It’s always a good idea to check “doneness” with a meat thermometer) You can also grill the lemon & orange slices for a few minutes as well.
  3. Let chicken rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving with a delicious side dish or on top of your favorite salad.

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Enjoy!

 

Robin xo

Self-Care

Why is it that as mothers, or simply as women, do many of us feel guilty about self-care? I use this term generally, as it can mean everything from getting a massage, to attending a spin class, or simply taking time to read a book or have a glass of wine. As a mother of three, I know 100% that my self-care takes a backseat to everything else. And when I can set aside a few hours (or even minutes), the mom guilt kicks in…..strong….

What’s interesting is that I recently read an article that talked about parent self-care not being an indulgence, but a necessity. It’s so true. In order for us to function properly as care givers to our loved ones, we must first take care of ourselves. If only it was that easy.

With that said, I’d like to “challenge” every mom, dad, grandmother, grandfather, whoever you are, to take 5 minutes out of today to think of how you can better your self-care. Then, I “challenge” you again…to do it. Let me know how you make out. I’ll chronicle my journey too.

xo Robin

 

 

The Dinner Dash

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Today I came back from my lunch break smelling of garlic, olive oil, and sizzling chicken cutlets. Why? Because I live 7 minutes from my job and thought it would be a good idea to make tonight’s dinner on my break. Logistically, it was marvelous. While the chicken cutlets were cooking, I even got to put in a load of laundry. It also allows me more time to spend with my children tonight, rather than spending an hour preparing a home cooked meal. Win / Win, right?

For me, today: yes.

But, most people don’t have the same luxury. Hell, some days I don’t either. I typically take my 60 minutes to run errands (and occasionally shove some food down my throat while driving.) This is why I decided to share some of my favorite easy meals with you. Here’s a few reliable one’s that will hopefully make weeknight cooking for your family a little simpler.

  1. Chicken Enchiladas : this first recipe from Skinny Taste is delicious. I love how the chef, Gina, makes her dishes both healthy and delectable. 
  2. Beef Stirfry : Love this fellow mom blogger’s site & you can’t get much simpler than this. Frozen veggies & meat with an easy sauce. I sometimes swap out the beef for chicken too. 
  3. Slow Cooker Sweet Potato and Chickpea Chili **note: this is a vegetarian recipe. to make it non-vegetarian, swap out the chickpeas for a pound of ground turkey or beef.** This one may sound like a lot of prep, but I try to do that the night before, then throw everything in the crockpot in the morning before leaving the house.
  4. Lasagna Grilled Cheese: yes I know, I know, this is a carb-loaded recipe. But it’s delicious, easy, and kid friendly. Live a little and enjoy it 🙂
  5. Chicken Pesto Kebabs : this is a favorite of mine, as the kids get to help me in the kitchen and feel involved. That way we are getting in family time and being productive. Even my hubby likes these!
  6. Crockpot Pulled Pork : I swear I make mine a little different every time. This particular recipe is one from the Pioneer Woman, because if someone knows how to season a piece of meat, it’s Ree Drummond lol. 
  7. Cheesy Chicken Casserole : you can’t go wrong with a casserole. Especially one with chicken & cheese in it. What’s great is that you can add veggies, swap out noodles for rice, and make any dietary changes you want. The above recipe does say it takes “40 minutes” so I typically prep this a little in advance and just pop it in the oven when I get home. 
  8. Cookie Cutter French Toast with Strawberries: This one is probably the most basic, but kids love breakfast for dinner (I do too!) Take your favorite French Toast Recipe, but use cookie cutters to make fun shapes prior to soaking the bread. Once the french toast is cooked, serve with your favorite fruit (I typically use strawberries) and a local, good maple syrup (my go-to’s are Crown Maple or Soukup Farms). 
  9. Honey Garlic Salmon : this is more adult-friendly than kid-friendly in my home, but it’s very tasty. I usually serve it over a bed of instant quinoa.
  10. Lemon Pepper Flounder : this is a super simple, tasty seafood recipe, which usually appeals to kids too. If you prefer grilled fish you can make it on your BBQ as well. I typically serve my flounder with quinoa and asparagus. (The kids have it with french fries and either carrots or apple slices)  

Wishing everyone a great rest of the week…..oh and good news…..I just realized it’s WINE WEDNESDAY! Enjoy!

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xo Robin

Italian Chicken Soup

The past week or so I’ve been dealing with a slight head cold that just won’t go away. Today was a chilly, windy day, and I decided what better to cook than chicken soup. Normally I go old school with making the broth from scratch, using buttery egg noodles, and cooking a whole chicken, then ripping off the excess meat for a hearty soup. Not today though. Today I opted for something a little out of the ordinary.

All this really means is I wanted to use up the spices, veggies, and meat I was running low on so I can restock next time I go grocery shopping. The end result: Italian Chicken Soup. Here’s the recipe 🙂

ITALIAN CHICKEN SOUP

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sliced carrot
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups dry orzo (or any other small pasta you have. Ditalini or pastina works great too)
  • 1 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes with basil and oregano (a more favorable subsitue would be a 14 oz can of fire roasted petite diced tomatoes. The reason I used crushed is because that’s what was in my pantry :/ )
  • 4 cups organic baby spinach
  • 1 parmesan cheese rind (this is optional)
  • 8 cups organic low-sodium chicken or veggie stock (I used chicken)
  • 2 organic boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions:

  1. Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil and butter in a soup pot over high heat. Once the butter begins to foam, add the diced onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add zucchini, carrots, & celery, and cook for 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook one additional minute.
  2. While the veggies are cooking, put the 2 chicken breasts in a smaller pot and cover completely with water. Bring the water to a boil (this poaches the meat) and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. (The amount of time to cook these through really depends on the thickness. I used 2 huge thick breasts, but smaller ones will take less time. Just take them out and cut in half or pierce with a fork to check doneness) Once finished cooking, let the chicken cool slightly and then shred.
  3. Place the shredded chicken, can of crushed tomatoes, thyme, oregano, parsley, basil, rosemary, & parmesan rind into the soup pot. Cook for 5 minutes to combine the flavors.
  4. Add 8 cups of stock and orzo. Cook for about another  15 minutes or until orzo appears done.
  5. Once the orzo has softened, add the 4 cups spinach. Using a spoon push down the leaves so they are incorporated into the soup. Taste and add salt & pepper as necessary.
  6. Remove cheese rind from pot before serving. Make sure to save some grated cheese and a crusty roll to have alongside the soup.

 

Enjoy!

 

xo Robin