Eight years ago, my husband and I traveled to L.A. to watch the Horns play for the national title. Alabama came away victorious, which didn’t necessarily hurt my Aggie feelings (which were still fully Big 12-rivalry envious at the time…I might feel differently these days!), but the trip was worth it because of a fun side trip to Malibu and Santa Barbara and all of the fabulous meals we had in SoCal that weekend. The standout for me, hands down, was Madeo. With its low ceilings and nondescript appearance, this West Hollywood Italian joint absolutely relies on consistent, authentic, delicious food to keep its doors rotating. It’s been around forever, and the celebs flock there as a place to see and be seen without really seeing and being seen. I didn’t spot anyone famous, but I did find the holy grail of pasta bolognese! The sauce was rich and meaty, and I’ve contemplated planning trips back west just to order this dish. I supposed it was probably my first real deal bolognese, and I’ve since been on a mission to find something even remotely comparable. This recipe is just about as good as it gets! It evokes that same richness, and the all-day simmering is one of my favorite things to do on a chilly rainy day like today. This is solidly on my list of go-to recipes that will easily please any crowd!
Like everyone else, January for me has been a month of getting back on track after a VERY gluttonous holiday season! I started the Whole 30 program on January 8, and have been about 90% faithful to it for almost three weeks now. I like the Whole 30 because it’s not really a diet. It’s just about eating real foods. Proteins, vegetables, and fruits. If you’re like me, eating clean is not necessarily the challenging part; it’s the planning and executing! When you’re cutting out dairy, grains, soy, alcohol, and sugar, you can still make delicious meals, but you have to be a bit more intentional about it. You can’t hide an overcooked piece of chicken under a pile of cheese and call it a day! (I wouldn’t know anything about that, just heard that’s what some people might do…😳) I really like spice and complexity, so I always look at it a bit as a cooking challenge as well. I’ve put together a dinner meal plan below with some of my favorites. Each of these meals uses a loose “recipe” that can be customized according to what you like and what you have. I would gladly eat any of these dinners on any given night, not just during a Whole 30!
Just before Thanksgiving, my sister traveled to NYC for a few days on a work trip, and I decided to join her for a little girl time. Our sister trips to the Big Apple usually consist of staying Uptown and schlepping all over to our favorite spots. What we’ve realized, though, is that many of our fave haunts are in Lower Manhattan, far away from much of the hustle and bustle, so we switched it up this time. At the risk of sounding like SNL’s Stefan, I’ve put together a guide of our go-to places to eat, stay, shop, and play in lower Manhattan. I have no clue about “New York’s hottest nightclub,” but I’m well-versed in shopping and eating!
The kids are off to school, and we’re having the first cool(ish) front of the season…I feel like there’s no better time to get motivated than now! Summer is hard for most moms. The kids are home ALL DAY LONG for three months, and that means less time to get to the gym, more snack foods filling the pantry, and, if you live in Texas, less physical activity because it’s just too hot to do anything. I always feel drained and lethargic at the end of the summer, and I’ve decided to nip it in the bud this time, starting today!
I am not a dieter. I really don’t believe in them. There is no magic cabbage soup that will change your life, and clearly eating Subway sandwiches exclusively was a poor trend. I am, however, a fan of the Whole 30 program. It is not meant to be a diet but rather a lifestyle, a way of eating whole, healthy, non-processed foods. You may not have heard of Whole 30, but I’m sure you’ve heard of Paleo. (How do you know when someone is practicing a Paleo diet? They will tell you! 😉 ) Whole 30 is based on the same premise as Paleo but takes it a few steps further.
In a nutshell, Whole 30 prohibits all grains (including quinoa, corn, and rice), dairy, legumes (including peanuts, soy, and chickpeas, which sadly eliminates hummus), added sugars, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, carrageenan, MSG, and sulfites. So, what’s left to eat, right??? The answer is REAL FOOD! Chicken, beef, fish, shellfish, and pork, if you dig swine, plus any and all veggies (yes, even potatoes) and fruits are fine. This is really how we should have been eating all along, no?
I have completed two Whole 30s in the past 14 months. I was the most committed with the first round, and for one whole month, I ate only real, fresh, non-processed foods. During the second half of the Whole 30, I felt amazing! My energy was significantly up, I did not feel bloated even a tiny bit, my skin was clear, and I slept like a baby. I lost a few pounds to boot, but losing weight wasn’t really my primary goal. I just wanted to feel better, and I did!
It’s easy to fall off the wagon though, and I wasn’t sure I even wanted to keep up the regime. Like everyone else, I wanted to enjoy the occasional slice of birthday cake and glass(es) of red wine. In an ideal world, I would practice this clean eating program 80% of the time and enjoy a few indulgences during the remaining meals. For now, though, I want to kickstart my health, so I’m going full throttle! I promise not be annoying and post pictures of my meals every single day, and I won’t shove Whole 30 down your throat. I’m not really even promoting it. But if there’s anyone who needs just a little nudge in the right direction, I hope this motivates you to get on the ball. There is no time like now to start feeling better!
As a bonus, here is a recipe for one of my favorite Whole 30 approved snacks:
Baked Plantain Chips
4 Plantains, thinly sliced
1/4 c. coconut oil
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1. Spoon coconut oil into a large mixing bowl. Add next four ingredients, and stir to combine.
2. Toss sliced plantains with oil and spice mixture.
3. Arrange the plantains on two parchment-line baking sheets in an even layer.
4. Bake for 15 minutes. Flip the plantains and bake for 4 more minutes or until golden brown.
5. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the sea salt.
We hope you all had a wonderful Easter and Passover weekend! For us, Easter is always such a special time to come together and reflect on the ultimate sacrifice of our Savior, and rejoice in the dawning of a new spring season. It is such a joy to see everyone in their most beautiful pastel frocks at church and to watch the children’s sweet faces as they eagerly learn about Christ’s resurrection. Of course it would be remiss not to mention their excitement over the Easter Bunny and the delicious fruits of their egg hunting labors!
This year, we decided to celebrate Easter by having a brunch and egg hunt at home after morning church services. Brunch is one of our favorite meals to serve when we are hosting parties. After all, it is rare you find anyone, adults and kids alike, who doesn’t love bacon, pastries, and juice (with or without Prosecco)!
Brown sugar bacon crackers are always a hit, no matter whether you serve them for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner! They are deliciously addicting and one of the easiest things you’ll ever create in the kitchen. To make these yummy treats, simply line a baking sheet with foil or parchment and arrange club crackers on the sheet. Cut bacon into fourths and place a slice of bacon on top of each cracker. Sprinkle a little brown sugar over each cracker, and bake at 300 for about 45 minutes. Some recipes will tell you to drain them on paper towels. I did this once, and it made a huge mess because the paper towels stuck to the bottom of the crackers. It’s not necessary to drain them; the crackers soak everything up, which is part of why they are so yummy! You really won’t believe how incredible these little treats are!
In my opinion, breakfast casseroles are a no-brainer for brunch parties. Most all of them can be (and should be) made the night before, so you can pop them into the oven to cook while everyone arrives. The basic blueprint for most of these dishes is the same: torn bread placed in a casserole dish, topped with cooked crumbled sausage or bacon, and covered with a mixture of beaten eggs, milk, and cheese. My most recent discovery is this combination of croissants, sausage, parmesan cheese, Gruyere cheese, and green onions. I think the nutty cheeses and buttery croissants in this casserole send it over the top and make it taste extra special!
To make this super easy and DELISH casserole, you will need:
24 mini croissants, torn into small pieces
1 lb hot ground breakfast sausage
1 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
6 green onions, thinly sliced and divided
5 large eggs, beaten
4 c. milk
2 c. shredded Gruyere cheese
Spray a 9X13 baking dish with nonstick spray and arrange torn croissants in the bottom. Cook the sausage in a skillet over medium, stirring to crumble, until no longer pink. Toss with Parmesan and 5 sliced green onions, and spread mixture over the croissants. Whisk eggs together with milk, and pour over the sausage mixture. Cover and chill at least 8 hours. Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle the Gruyere over the top of the casserole, and top with remaining sliced green onion. Bake 45 minutes or until set and golden.
We always have a good time setting the tables, and the kids’ table is no exception! These precious melamine Easter egg plates with Peter Rabbit quotes and white plates serving as chargers were a big hit. We used stuffed rabbits from my daughter’s room, and the kids were thrilled to have a dessert centerpiece. That made decorating super easy! We also had a platter of Rice Krispie Treat nests filled with Cadbury mini eggs (the absolute best candies in the whole world!). I browned the butter and added a pinch of sea salt when making these, and it quickly turned them into a dessert fit for the most sophisticated of palates!
No great bash is complete without a party foul or two, and I can take all of the credit for this one. I love making blueberry muffins, and they are usually pretty foolproof. This weekend, however, I just wasn’t on my game and completely forgot to spray the muffin pan with nonstick spray. I also overfilled them, so the whole thing was a big mess. Not to be defeated, though, I decided to just go with it, and instead we had blueberry muffin parfaits with Greek yogurt and fresh blueberries on top!
A fun time was had by all — as you can see, the kids didn’t even mind being in their “fancy clothes,” at least for a short while anyway! It was the perfect way to celebrate this holiest of days!
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” — John 11:25-26
Smocked Pink Dress: Luli & Me, purchased at Bering’s and not available online (here for similar) | Metallic Jacquard Dress: Zoe, Ltd., sold out (here for similar) | Chastiti’s Dress: Nordstrom | Necklace: here for similar | Seersucker Suit: Janie & Jack, sold out (here for similar jacket, here for similar pants) | Blue Shirt: Janie & Jack (here for similar) | Blue Bow Tie: Janie & Jack | Navy Jacket: Zara Kids | Purple Gingham Shirt: Ralph Lauren | Blue Seersucker Pants: Ralph Lauren | Pink Bow Tie: Nordstrom | Chandra’s Dress: Zara, sold out (here, here, and gorgeous splurge here for similar) | Tan Seersucker Suit: Janie & Jack, sold out (here for similar jacket, here for similar pants) | White Shirt: Janie & Jack | Navy Bow Tie: Janie & Jack (here for similar)