Baked Fish Tacos with Chipotle Lime Sauce

Skip the calories of fried fish for the fresh flavors and healthy ingredients of these baked fish tacos. Another simple, healthy weeknight meal brought to you by yours truly!

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If you’re in the mood to have a beer out on the patio, then fire up your grill and throw the fish on there instead of baking it in the oven.

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But if you’ve got some tidying up to do, or a dishwasher that needs emptying, or dogs that need feeding, then pop the seasoned fillets in the oven and walk away!

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Whatever you do, just don’t skip the chipotle lime sauce–it’s so good you’ll probably be licking the bowl clean!

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Baked Fish Tacos with Chipotle Lime Cream Sauce

  • Servings: 8 tacos
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Ingredients

Tacos:

  • 2 lbs. white fish fillets (tilapia, halibut, cod, grouper, snapper, mahi mahi, etc.)
  • olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • pico de gallo for serving

Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons diced chiles in adobo
  • juice of 1 lime
  • splash of water
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

In a small bowl combine cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and a pinch of salt and pepper. Drizzle both sides of each fillet with about a teaspoon of oil. Divide spice mixture evenly between the fillets, gently rubbing it in. Place fillets on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

In a small bowl combine sauce ingredients, adding just enough water to loosen it up into a creamy sauce. Set aside until ready to serve.

When the fish is almost done, start warming those tortillas. Heat a saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Heat tortillas one at a time for about 30-60 seconds. Once the first side has some golden brown spots and smells toasty, flip it over and cook the other side.

This is where it might be nice to have some extra hands in the kitchen to start an assembly line, building the tacos as the warm tortillas come off the skillet.

Flake fish into bite size pieces and divide evenly between tortillas. Top with a drizzle of chipotle lime cream sauce and pico de gallo and enjoy!

Lemon and Dill Goat Cheese Bites (4)

 

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{Vegetarian} Brunch Tostadas

You guyyyyyys. I know, I’m always like, oh this is the best recipe ever and you just have to try it. But seriously, it is the best freakin’ recipe ever!!!!!!! I am obsessed with Mexican flavors¬†in case you haven’t noticed by now. (Click on every word in the previous sentence to find my favorite Mexican inspired dishes!)

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I am always trying to come up with different ways to use my favorite ingredients in new recipes and this one is a blue ribbon winner dear friends!

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Also, it could NOT be any easier. Warm the tostada shells in the oven while you saute onion and garlic with your beans and some spices. Fry a couple eggs and garnish with cotija cheese and pico de gallo and you’re brunching like a rockstar!

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It’s easy enough that you could actually probably swing it on a weekday morning too. But it might be best enjoyed on a sunny, slow Saturday morning out on the deck with a big cold brew decaf caramel latte. Keep your eyes peeled for that latte recipe coming soon!

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It’s time to brunch bishes.

{Vegetarian} Brunch Tostadas

  • Servings: 6
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Ingredients

  • 6 tostada shells
  • 8 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz.) can red beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon diced chiles in adobo
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese
  • 1/2 cup pico de gallo
  • fresh chopped cilantro
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread tostada shells out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake them for about 2-3 minutes just to warm them through.

While the oven is preheating, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add black beans, red beans, cumin, chili powder, chiles in adobo and a large pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Turn heat to low and use a potato masher to mash beans. Mash until about half are mashed and half are still whole. Turn heat off, but leave pan on the burner to stay warm while you prepare the other components of the dish.

Fry eggs in batches by heating olive oil a large saute pan over medium heat. Use 1 teaspoon of oil for each egg. Crack them into the oil, season with salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute, uncovered. Turn heat to low and cover pan with a tight fitting lid. Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny. Cook remaining eggs in the same fashion.

To assemble tostadads, divide bean mixture between shells, spreading it in an even layer. Then add fried egg, a heaping tablespoon of cotija, a heaping tablespoon of pico and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro. Serve immediately!

Lemon and Dill Goat Cheese Bites (3)

Quick Veggie Lo Mein

Looking for a quick weeknight meal? Want a dinner filled with fresh veggies and tons of flavor? Yeah, me too. That’s all I ever want. Isn’t that all anyone ever wants? A healthy meal that’s substantially satisfying but doesn’t require oodles of time or energy. That, and a million dollars. That’s what I want.

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I try to prep all my food for the week over the weekend, but sometimes I’m too busy, or too lazy, or it just doesn’t happen. So every once in awhile I find myself scrambling on a Wednesday night trying to figure out what to make for dinner. That’s when I reach for recipes like this one.

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Just like her momma, my toddler loves anything with noodles! And she really seems to dig soy sauce and other Asian flavors too. I think they are mild enough for her palette but flavorful enough to keep her interested.

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So, if you find yourself scrambling on a Wednesday night and you not sure what to make for dinner, make this! It is toddler tested and approved. And you’ll have dinner on the table in about 15 minutes!

Quick Veggie Lo Mein

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

For the noodles and veggies:

  • 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 cups bite size pieces of broccoli
  • 1 cup sliced red pepper
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 12 oz. lo mein noodles, cooked according to package directions
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • optional garnish: thinly sliced green onion

For the sauce:

  • 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce

Directions

Heat olive and sesame oils in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add veggies and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3-4 minutes. Combine soy sauce, sesame oil and hoisin sauce in a small bowl. Add noodles and sauce mixture to the pan and turn heat to low. Toss to coat everything in the sauce and cook for one minute. Garnish with sliced green onion and enjoy!

Lemon and Dill Goat Cheese Bites

5 Minute {Vegan} Rawnola

I’m always so curious about those people who don’t eat breakfast. Like, aren’t you hungry when you wake up?? Didn’t you dream about food? Didn’t you wake up thinking about food?

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Is it just me that dreams about food? Probably. My entire life revolves around food. Personally, I have to eat within a half hour of waking up or I get reeeeal hangry. I don’t need a big lavish spread every morning–usually I just have maple yogurt with strawberries, blueberries and this super delish rawnola.

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Maybe some of you don’t eat breakfast because you don’t have time? Trust me you have time for this! If you use your food processor, this rawnola might actually take less than 5 minutes. Like 3 and a half minutes. AND it makes a big mason jar full so you’ve got enough for at least a week’s worth of breakfasts depending on how many people you’re feeding.¬†It will stay fresh in your fridge for a couple weeks too, but your kids are sure to gobble this up so chances are good it won’t last that long.

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This recipe is a great way to use up any nuts, seeds or other add ins that you might have taking up valuable real estate in your cupboards. Chocolate chips would be a welcomed addition or maybe even some dried fruit!

5 Minute {Vegan} Rawnola

  • Servings: 32
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Ingredients

  • 1.5 cup pitted dates
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup dried coconut flakes
  • 1/4 chopped pecan
  • 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • pinch of Kosher salt

Directions

Add dates to a food processor and process until they are chopped. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until everything is well chopped and mixed. The texture should be clumpy yet soft. Serve with your favorite yogurt or sliced fruit and enjoy!

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One Bowl Fudgey Pecan Brownies

Holy moly guys. These brownies are wildly delicious and oh SO easy to make. The best part is that you will likely have all of these ingredients in your kitchen already.

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Are you the queen of making a piping hot cup of coffee only to let it sit on the counter while you do the 75 million things that are on your mile long list?

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Then maybe you put it in the microwave to heat it up and forget about it. And then maybe it’s 5pm before you find it again?

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Save two tablespoons of that cold coffee for this recipe because it’s the secret ingredient!! Although, not so secret anymore I suppose.

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One Bowl Fudgey Pecan Brownies

  • Servings: 9 brownies
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Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons strong coffee, room temp
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine butter, sugar, eggs, coffee and vanilla until well combined. Then add flour, cocoa powder and salt and mix until just combined.

Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper and pour batter into the pan. Use a spatula to spread it in an even layer. Sprinkle with pecans and push them into the batter ever so slightly.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the edges start to pull away from pan and the center is set. Let cool for 20 minutes before slicing.

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{Vegan} Orange Ginger Asian Quinoa Salad

This is my favorite time of the year. Summer has arrived but it’s not quite in full swing yet so the air is warm, but not yet humid. The evenings and nights get nice and cool but you can still sleep with the windows open. If ever there was a perfect time to live in Wisconsin, it is now!

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This surge of warm weather and endless sunlight always gets me craving big bowls of fresh veggies for lunch. If you feel like you’re in a lunch rut or you’re sick of your usual salad routine, this quinoa salad is for you!

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You can make a big batch that will last all week, and like a fine wine it only get better with time. You could easily switch out the quinoa for pasta in this recipe too.

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Fresh squeezed orange juice sets this dressing apart from all others. Fresh ginger and garlic along with rice vinegar and soy sauce give it that classic Asian flavor that you’re looking for, but the orange zest is what really gives it a big burst of freshness.

{Vegan} Orange Ginger Asian Quinoa Salad

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, cooked and cooled
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • optional: sesame seeds for garnish

For the dressing:

  • zest of half an orange
  • juice of one orange
  • 1/2 inch cube ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

In a small saucepan combine quinoa, water and sesame oil. Bring to a boil, cover and turn heat to low. Simmer on low for 12-15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Season with salt and pepper, fluff with a fork and place in fridge to cool.

Combine all dressing ingredients in a mason jar and shake vigorously until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large serving bowl combine cooled quinoa, carrots, cabbage, edamame, red pepper and dressing. Garnish with sesame seeds if desired and serve!

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Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese Salad

This is my faaaaaavvvoorrrrittteee summer salad.  I actually eat it all year round, but especially love it in the early summer for some reason. There is nothing better than crispy pecans and warm, creamy goat cheese paired with a simple white balsamic vinaigrette and roasted beets.

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Normally I roast my own beets, but this time as I was ordering our groceries, these Love Beets popped up as an option when I searched. And I was very intrigued. Normally I don’t go for many precooked convenience foods but when I saw that the only ingredients listed were organic beets, I thought they might be worth a try.

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And now, I may never roast another beet again. They are delicious! Perfectly roasted and very flavorful.

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I think it was $3-$4 for 4 medium sized roasted and peeled beets. You are paying for the convenience, but sometimes after a long day I like things to be a little convenient. Especially when they are so healthy and good for you.

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Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese Salad

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 10.5 oz. log plain goat cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans (a food processor works well)
  • 16 oz. spring greens or your fave lettuce combo
  • 4 medium beets, roasted and peeled
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • olive or grapeseed oil for frying
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

For the dressing:

  • 2/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Slice goat cheese into 8 equal pieces. I like to cut the log in half, then cut each half in half, and so on until I have 8 slices. Place goat cheese in the freezer for 5 minutes which will make it easier to work with.

Beat egg in a shallow bowl. Place pecans in a shallow bowl. Use hands to form slices of goat cheese into uniformly round pucks. Dip each puck into the egg mixture, allowing the excess to drip off and then dip it into the pecan mixture, covering the entire surface with pecans. Use your palms to smash the pecans into the goat cheese, forming it into a flat round patty about half an inch thick.

Heat a 1/4-1/2 an inch of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. You will know the oil is hot when you can dip the handle of a wooden spoon into it and the oil begins to bubble around the spoon handle. Working in batches depending on the size of your pan, fry goat cheese rounds for 30 seconds to 1 minute per side. If you find the rounds are cooking faster than that, turn the heat down. Transfer to paper towel lined plate to soak up excess grease.

In a mason jar combine all dressing ingredients and shake vigorously until emulsified. Assemble each salad with a bed of lettuce, a handful of roasted beets, a sprinkle of diced onion. Then pour dressing over the salad and place the goat cheese round right in the center.

Directions

I made these as a meal prep recipe for the week and reheated the goat cheese rounds just before eating in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds and they were delish! Not quite as good as freshly fried, but the flavor and texture was still very tasty.

Lemon and Dill Goat Cheese Bites

One Pot Chipotle Fettuccine Alfredo

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve got a real thing for pasta. And sauce. And cheese. In no particular order.

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I’ve also got a thing for using the least amount of dishes possible to prepare a meal. Because there’s nothing I dislike more than loading and unloading the dishwasher.

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In this recipe the pasta cooks right along with the sauce saving you precious time and energy. No extra pot, no strainer. You can even go right from the stovetop to the dinner table, no serving dish necessary.

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The chipotle level can be adjusted to fit your family’s taste buds. My husband loves all things spicy so we like to add the entire teaspoon of chipotle powder (and sometimes we add even more)!

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Pico de gallo might seem like an odd garnish, but the fresh flavors really balance the rich, creamy, slightly spicy alfredo sauce.

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I’ve found that 6 cups of liquid for one pound of pasta seems to be the sweet spot for one pot pastas. So you can use that ratio for whatever one pot pasta combination your pretty little heart desires!

One Pot Chipotle Fettuccine Alfredo

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. uncooked fettuccine noodles
  • 32 oz. chicken stock
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan
  • fresh pico de gallo for garnish
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring frequently for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently for 1 minute. Add pasta, chicken stock, half and half, chipotle and parsley to the pot and stir to combine. I broke my fettuccine noodles in half so that they fit in my pot a bit more easily. Bring it a boil, then turn heat down to medium or medium low and simmer for 15-18 minutes, stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook until pasta is al dente, then remove from heat and stir in Parmesan. Garnish with pico de gallo and enjoy!

The sauce will thicken as it sits. If it gets too thick, loosen it up with a bit of milk, half and half or chicken stock.

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Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef with Cilantro Lime Sour Cream

Did anyone else’s meal prep totally fall off once the warm weather hit? I’m not exactly sure what it was… The¬†special dinner for my birthday, a couple extra days off work for the Memorial Day holiday, a few too many trips to Ramone’s for ice cream. I can’t pin point it exactly, but when Memorial Day rolled around we had no food in our fridge and no meals prepped to get us through the coming week. We improvised and made these delicious tarts which were thankfully very satisfying and helped use up a bunch of random leftovers.

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However, by Tuesday evening the leftovers had been exhausted and our situation was getting more dire. I was still feeling that lag you experience after having too many consecutive days off in a row and needed something super simple to bring to work for lunch this week. My brain was screaming SLOW COOKER.

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I wanted a recipe that was ridiculously easy to make but also made my mouth water. My first thought was Beer Braised Pork Carnitas, but since I’ve made that about 37 times so far this year I let my mind wander a bit more.

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And it wandered all the way over to these tasty barbacoa beef tacos. A simple spice rub followed by a quick sear on the roast and it’s off to the crock pot along with some onion, garlic, chiles in adobo, limes, cilantro and beef broth.¬†4-5 hours later, you have shredded barbacoa fit for a king. Or a queen!

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I know it’s saying A LOT, but this barbacoa beef rivals that of Chipotle! There I said it so I can’t take it back.

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Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef with Cilantro Lime Sour Cream

  • Servings: 8-10
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Ingredients

For the tacos:

  • 2 lbs. beef chuck roast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 32 oz. beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons diced chiles in adobo
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 2 limes

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • juice of 3 limes
  • zest of 1 lime
  • pinch of cayenne
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. In a small bowl combine chili powder, cumin, salt, garlic powder, black pepper and cayenne. Rub spice mixture all over the surface of the roast. Sear all sides of the roast, cooking each side for about 2-3 minutes or until the entire outside of the roast is seared nice and dark golden brown. Add roast to the slow cooker.

Without wiping out the pan, turn heat down to the medium and add onion to the pan. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add onion and garlic to the slow cooker. Then add beef broth, chiles in adobo and cilantro to the slow cooker. Cut limes in half widthwise and squeeze juice into the slow cooker, then add the rinds of the limes in as well. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or until beef is fall apart tender.

While the roast is working it’s magic, add the sauce ingredients to a food processor. Pulse until cilantro is well minced and ingredients are combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Remove beef from crock pot and shred using two forks. Serve with flour tortillas, Cilantro Lime Sour Cream, fresh pico de gallo, diced onion and fresh cilantro.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (14)

Proscuitto, Parmesan and Asparagus Bundles

You asked and I answered. In a recent Instagram poll, you guys told me you wanted to see more appetizer recipes, and I am delivering another super simple appetizer recipe that is perfect for your next party, baby shower or backyard BBQ.

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These little bundles take less than 30 minutes from start to finish and if you’re kids are itching for a project, this might be the perfect way for them to help out in the kitchen!

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You could totally serve these as a main course as well. They’d pair perfectly with my¬†Orange Fennel Salad for a super fresh dinner combo.

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If you’re looking for some other puff pastry recipes to try, check out my Fig Jam, Pear and Gorgonzola Tartlets, Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Tart or Swiss Chard, Leek and Potato Tartlets. Puff pastry is definitely the way to go if you’re looking for a simple, yet elegant appetizer.

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Proscuitto, Parmesan and Asparagus Bundles

  • Servings: 18 bundles
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Ingredients

  • 2 sheets¬† puff pastry, thawed
  • 4 oz. proscuitto
  • 18 spears of asparagus, woody ends removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • a couple large pinches Kosher salt
  • large pinch fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Unfold both sheets of puff pastry and cut along seams to create three large rectangles. Cut each rectangle into 3 equal size rectangles. This will give you 18 rectangles total from the two sheets of puff pastry.

Divide proscuitto evenly, placing it in a single layer across each rectangle. I used a little less than half a slice per rectangle. Chop asparagus spears in half widthwise and transfer to a medium bowl. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place 2 pieces of asparagus in the center of each tart, along with about a tablespoon of grated Parmesan. Wrap corners of puff pastry around the fillings and press the outside corner into the bundle a bit to make sure it’s sealed.

Place bundles about an inch apart on the lined baking sheets. Brush each bundle with egg wash and bake for 12-15 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown and cooked through. Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

These tarts are delicious at room temperature as well, so feel free to make a few hours ahead of time. If you are going to transport, I would recommend not covering them at all if possible as the puff pastry will lose some of it’s crisp flakiness when sealed in an airtight container.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (4)

Tomato Basil Linguine with Burrata

This is seriously the simplest and most delicious recipe ever. It’s the perfect thing to make when it’s 96 degrees and insanely humid outside and you want to spend about 4 seconds in the kitchen.

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The garlic works it’s magic in some melted butter, then throw in the cherry tomatoes and simmer them in some white wine until they burst.¬† The addition of a little heavy cream and fresh basil gives you the lightest, yet creamiest sauce you’ll ever taste.

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And then, as if it couldn’t get any better, you add a dollop of burrata on top! Never had burrata? Go directly to the store right now and buy some. Burrata is a ball of fresh mozzarella filled with shredded fresh mozzarella mixed with heavy cream. It’s the most decadent and and amazing thing ever. And I only buy it once every few months because I can barely control myself around it!

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Not only is this a great weeknight dinner, it’s also a wonderful meal prep recipe! It reheats beautifully–just add some fresh basil before serving!

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Tomato Basil Linguine with Burrata

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil + more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 8 oz. linguine, cooked according to package directions, tossed in olive oil (so it doesn’t stick together)
  • 8 oz. Burrata cheese
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Heat butter and olive oil in a large saute pan over medium low heat until butter melts. Add garlic and cook for about one minute, stirring frequently. Then add cherry tomatoes and white wine along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Turn heat to mediumhigh and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until cherry tomatoes begin to burst. You can use the back of a wooden spoon to gently press them and help them along if they are not bursting. Remove pan from heat and stir in basil and heavy cream. Season to taste, then toss with pasta. Garnish with fresh basil and burrata.

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Chippewa Valley Food Tours

Steak, cocktails, wine, coffee and ice cream along with a little history and a stroll through downtown–can you think of a better way to spend a Saturday? Yeah, me neither. This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend Eau Claire’s premiere food and history tour presented by Chippewa Valley Tours. And let me tell you, this weekly escapade is not something you want to miss. With tours scheduled every Saturday from 1:30-4:30pm throughout the summer, there’s sure to be one that will jive with your schedule. And if you’re hosting any out of town guests this is definitely the number one way to show them what this great city has to offer. $65 gets you a three hour guided historical walking tour through downtown Eau Claire with leisurely stops at 6 local businesses where you’ll sample their signature dishes and drinks and talk with the head chefs and owners. This tour really showcases all of the amazing cuisine that Eau Claire has to offer and is a great preview of the city for out of town guests but equally as exciting for locals as well.

I should begin by giving a huge thanks to Chippewa Valley Tours for hosting Midwest Foodie on their tour. Obviously as a born and raised Eau Clairian and self-proclaimed foodie, I have been dying to go on this tour since I first heard about it. I was thoroughly impressed with the amount of work and coordination they have put into this comprehensive tour. Even after living here all my life I learned things about the city I had never known. I also enjoyed meeting the chefs and owners of these businesses; getting to see the passion they have for their craft and for this city was very inspiring.

Tour Kick Off – The Local Store

We kicked off the tour by meeting at The Local Store (and Volume One Headquarters). I’d recommend arriving at least a half hour before your departure time so you can peruse the store and take in all of the local art they’ve got hanging in the gallery.

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First Stop – The Lakely

After a quick history of the Volume One building and surrounding areas, we were off! The first stop on our tour was The Lakely¬†which is housed inside the iconic Oxbow Hotel. We stopped in for a cold cocktail and a koldtboard presented by Chef Nathan Berg. To say that he is a favorite chef among locals would be understatement. To say that he is an amazingly humble culinary legend in this region would be more accurate. If it weren’t for the recording setting heat, I can only imagine we would have shared the bountiful koltboards on the cedar patio and pergola located just outside the main dining area. For locals and out-of-towners alike, The Lakely is a must see location in Eau Claire.

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Second Stop – Northbound Supply Company

The second stop on our tour was Northbound Supply Company. With everything from specialty coffee drinks to hiking gear this spot has become a fast favorite among locals. I could not have been more delighted to see a big lineup of iced beverages waiting for us on the counter as we walked in to seek refuge from the 93 degree heat. We chose the Double Bogey (cold brew, tonic water, mint simple syrup–very inventive and delicious) and the Kombucha. We had enough time to look around, chat with one of the owners, Matt, who is also the mastermind behind all of their extremely unique caffeinated beverages, and then it was off to Phoenix Park with a bit of historical background sprinkled along the way.

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A few more tidbits of history as we relaxed in Phoenix Park and lots of interesting info about the current remodel of the riverfront area.

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Third Stop – The Informalist

Then we ventured into the heart of downtown, walking on the shady side of the street to avoid overheating to our third stop of the day, The Informalist.¬†Head Chef Joey Sieg gave us the run down of what we’d be sampling–spicy beef with bok choy and a carrot and red pepper salad with citrus dressing–while Alex, the Food and Beverage Manager answered questions and chatted with us as well. As with all the stops on our tour, the cocktails were on point and the food was outrageously delicious.

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Fourth Stop – The Rev

The fourth, and easily my favorite stop on the tour, was the wine tasting at The Rev. With much anticipation from local wine drinkers, The Rev (short for The Revolutionary) is set to open this summer and is a relaxed wine bar serving beer and liquor as well. They will also have house-made charcuterie boards and alcohol available off sale until midnight. Owned by Ben and Kate Haas, The Rev is aiming to take the snootiness out of wine drinking and allow it’s guests to sample wines in a comfortable, non-judgemental environment. I am already planning to stop by every Thursday night for a bottle of wine and a cheeseboard before Music in the Park!

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Fifth Stop – Houligan’s

Another hometown favorite, the fifth stop on our tour was Houligan’s. Their classic steak and seafood menu has gained quite a following over the years which has made them a popular place among locals. Owner, John presented us with one of their signature dishes–steak bites with Gorgonzola and balsamic drizzle. Just the right amount of food before we were back hitting the pavement on the way to our last destination.

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Sixth Stop – Ramone’s Ice Cream Parlor

The sixth and final stop on our tour was a local favorite, Ramone’s. If you’ve driven downtown on a warm summer day, you’ve no doubt seen the line of people out the door and around the corner waiting to get a homemade waffle cone, with a malted milk ball in the bottom, piled high with The Chocolate Shoppe ice cream from Madison, Wisconsin. As soon as we arrived we were each greeted by not one, not two, but three dishes of ice cream. Exhausted Parent (chocolate chunks in coffee ice cream) was easily my favorite, and not just because I am one. As we finished our ice cream each guest received an envelope filled with coupons to tons of local downtown businesses as well.

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Be sure to check out Chippewa Valley Tours Facebook and Instagram pages for more tours being added. Future tours include a Chippewa Falls food tour (coming in August), as well as a tour of local farms in the area, ending at Autumn Harvest Winery with food provided by Amy of Locavore Mobile Kitchen, made with ingredients from all the local farms. They’ve also got an overnight family tour in the works that includes 3 different children’s museums and water parks in the area. Chippewa Valley Tours is going to do great things for the Eau Claire area and local businesses; this is definitely one business you want to keep an eye on.

Fig Jam, Pear & Gorgonzola Tartlets

It’s that time of year again–picnic season! What’s your favorite picnic food? I’ve totally got a thing for tarts. Maybe it’s the flaky, buttery crust? Maybe it’s the way they puff up into little pillows? Maybe it’s the way they look super fancy and elegant but they’re actually the easiest thing ever? Most likely, it’s the latter.

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Frozen puff pastry makes these tarts easy enough for even a novice home cook, so don’t be intimidated if you haven’t worked with it before. I like to thaw mine in the fridge overnight before baking. In this recipe I use the natural seams of the dough to create the shapes of these tarts so there’s no complex dough rolling or measuring involved. Skill level required: none!

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You may remember these Leek & Potato Tartlets from last year or this Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Tart? These Pear & Gorgonzola Tartlets are just as tasty as their blog brothers. They are picnic perfect and a sure fire brunch brightener. Am I writing a blog post or a poem here? Either way, they are a welcomed addition to whatever spread you’ve got.

IMG_5935-03And they pair well with a chilled white wine or rosé. So grab a bottle of your favorite vino and head for the park with a picnic basket full of these tasty tartlets.

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Fig Jam, Pear & Gorgonzola Tarts

  • Servings: 9 tarts
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry (thawed)
  • heaping 1/2 cup fig jam
  • 1 slightly under ripe pear, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • optional: a drizzle of honey on each tart

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unfold puff pastry and cut along the seams, creating three long rectangles. Cut each rectangle into 3 equal size rectangles. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange tarts about an inch apart. Score a crust about a half inch from the edge of each tart. Spread a tablespoon of fig jam across the center of each tart, keeping it within the scored lines. Place 4-5 slices of pear in the center of the tart, overlapping them. Divide Gorgonzola between the tarts, sprinkling it on top of the pear slices. Use pastry brush to paint the beaten egg across the crust of each tart. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until edges are a dark golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then drizzle with honey and serve!

Lemon and Dill Goat Cheese Bites (1)

Lemon & Dill Goat Cheese Bites

Seriously how much do you love nap time? I mean, don’t get me wrong I love spending time with my girl–belting out every song from Moana, drawing with chalk, blowing bubbles, her sitting on the counter watching me make dinner and tasting everything along the way. But, man do I love nap time! It’s quite possibly the fastest hour and a half of the day.

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If I’m lucky, nap time comes after I get home from work. Not always, but sometimes it does. And if I’m really lucky I’ve planned ahead and can whip something up in the kitchen, style it just right and snap some quick pictures of it too.

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Today, nap time did not come until after dinner. Luckily, this appetizer is SO easy that I was able to make it, style it and photograph it even with a toddler in tow.

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But now, as I write this post, nap time has arrived. Time to put my feet up, edit some photos and sip on a glass of wine. Cheers to a long holiday weekend. And nap time! Big cheers to nap time.

Lemon and Dill Goat Cheese Bites

  • Servings: 14 bites
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk or heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly chopped dill
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • large pinch of Kosher salt
  • crackers for serving

Directions

In a small bowl combine goat cheese and milk/cream. Use a teaspoon cookie scoop to scoop balls of goat cheese onto a parchment lined baking sheet or tray. Place them in the freezer for 5 minutes. This will make them easier to handle.

Chop dill and lemon zest until they are minced and place in a shallow bowl. Roll scoops of goat cheese in the lemon and dill mixture and then use your palms to roll them into balls.

That’s it! Serve with your favorite crackers and enjoy.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (5)

Pan Fried Pork Dumplings

I am way too guilty of trying to capture every moment (and meal) in the perfect photo. Rarely do we take a trip to the park or go out to eat that I don’t have my phone in my hand ready to snap the latest and greatest photo of our beautiful daughter or a ‚Äúgram worthy‚ÄĚ picture of whatever drinks and appetizers we‚Äôre enjoying.

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Obviously since I’m trying to launch my food blog, the best way to gain traction is to give my followers frequent, high quality content which means Instastories of all the food truck meals, wine glass cheers with friends and¬†whatever local things we’re doing that day. And of course, and probably most importantly, new recipe posts as often as possible.

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But since summer has arrived (with a vengeance I might add, record highs in the 90s this weekend?! WTF??) I’ve started to really evaluate the amount of time that I’m spending on social media and perfecting this lovely blog.

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I decided it was time for Midwest Foodie to get an upgrade. Work smarter, not harder right? I purchased my first tripod and tripod arm and finally started editing my photos with actual photo editing software. Well, okay, maybe it’s just a free app on my phone… But still! I know, I know…it’s about time, right?¬†So the good news is that I’m starting to find what works and what doesn’t.

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Which means¬†I’m spending more time setting up my shots, but less time actually taking photos because instead of hating them and taking 700, I am loving them and only take 20. And then I’m able to make them even better with some very light editing. It’s quite an elating feeling to spend only 20-30 minutes shooting my dishes when I’m used to spending 2 hours or more. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying my photos are the best thing you’ll ever see, but they are leaps and bounds ahead of where I was last year at this time. And I’m pretty dang proud of that! It’s about progress, not perfection!

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What does this all mean for you? Well it means that less stress for me will hopefully translate into more high quality photos and recipe posts for you guys to gobble up! So keep replying to my Instastories, hitting that like button and giving me feedback on recipes. Midwest Foodie is going to do big things and I want you to be a part of it!!

Pan Fried Pork Dumplings

  • Servings: 30 dumplings
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 cup diced mushroom
  • 1/2 inch cube ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk green onion, thinly sliced + more for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 30 dumpling/potsticker wrappers
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • soy sauce for serving

Directions

Add pork, cabbage, carrot, mushroom, ginger, garlic, green onion, hoisin, sesame oil and a large pinch of salt and pepper to a large bowl. Mix until well combined. It’s easiest to mix using your hands. Fill a small dish with water which you will use to seal the dumplings. Use a teaspoon cookie scoop to scoop a heaping teaspoon of filling into the center of one wrapper. Wet around the edge of half the dumpling wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half to and press the edges together to seal the dumpling into a half moon shape. Repeat the above steps with remaining dumplings.

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Working in batches of about 6-8 (depending on the size of your pan) add two teaspoons oil to the pan. Add dumplings and cook each side for about 2-3 minutes or until each side is dark golden brown. Pour 1/3 cup of water into the pan and cover immediately. Cook, covered for a few minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove lid and cook for another 30 seconds or so, until the both sides are crisp again. Repeat with remaining dumplings.

Serve with soy sauce and garnish with sliced green onion.

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Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes

If you’re looking for the accompaniment to my¬† Bourbon Braised Beef, here it is! These mashed sweet potatoes are rich, garlicky and oh so creamy. They will pair perfectly with fall apart tender beef and a big glass of red wine!

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Truth be told, I am not a huge sweet potato fan. I know, can you believe it?! I love literally every other kind of spud, but I’ve never been too keen on the sweet tater. Not sure why, I know it’s a lot of people’s jam. However, these mashed sweet potatoes are making me re-think my alliances with the other spuds.

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I’m not sure that I’m ready to admit it quite yet, but I might like mashed sweet potatoes more than regular mashed potatoes. There’s something about the slight sweetness mixed with the garlic and salt that really does it for me. Kinda like my Salted, Brown Butter Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies–the perfect marriage of salty and sweet. Life is all about balance, right?

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Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Add diced potatoes to a large pot. Fill pot with water until it covers the potatoes by about 2 inches. Turn heat to high and bring water to a boil. Add a few large pinches of salt and boil potatoes for 10-12 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and set aside.

Return the large pot to the stove and add butter. Heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add garlic and saute, stirring frequently for about 1 minute. Remove pot from heat. Add potatoes back into the pot along with heavy cream, sour cream and a couple large pinches of salt and a large pinch of pepper. Use a potato masher to mash potatoes as you combine them with the other ingredients. Mash until well combined and well mashed. Season to taste and garnish with fresh chopped parsley and Bourbon Braised Beef.

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Salted, Brown Butter Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I can hardly contain my excitement about these cookies!!!! I made them less than 24 hours ago and there are 4 left. Out of a batch of 30. And we are a family of three. And one of the three is a toddler.

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Although my toddler did manage to steal a few cookies off the edge of the counter while they were cooling. You’d think I would have moved them back even farther after she got the first two…I’m a slow learner. So, my husband and I ate a total of 23 cookies. Oh wait, my brother had one cookie. So we actually each only had about 11ish cookies cookies each in the last 24 hours. When did this turn into a math problem? Good thing calories don’t count when it’s homemade, right?

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All kidding aside, you can just throw away any of your other chocolate chip cookie recipes right now. These are that good.

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You won’t be able to go back to regular chocolate chip cookies without brown butter and salt and dark chocolate chunks. Once you find out what you’ve been missing you’ll wonder how you ever lived without these.

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Salted, Brown Butter Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

  • Servings: 30 cookies
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt + more for sprinkling
  • 1 cup chopped chocolate chunks or chips

Directions

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted and starts to spit and sputter, swirl the pan over the burner. If the butter sits too long at this temperature it will burn so the idea is to keep it moving. The browning process takes about 3-5 minutes so watch it closely during this time. You can remove the butter from heat once it’s turned a dark brown color and has a nutty aroma. Transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. This is a good time to chop your chocolate if you’re using a bar. I found that a chopped up Giant Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Bar (6.8 oz) was the perfect amount of chocolate chunks for this recipe.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once the butter has cooled slightly, stir in both sugars until well combined. Then stir in the egg and vanilla until well combined. Next add flour, baking powder and salt and stir until just combined. Then add chocolate chunks and stir until evenly distributed.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop cookies and place about an inch apart on the pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and garnish each cookie with a sprinkle of salt. Try not to eat them all in 24 hours. Maybe it’s best to make a double batch…

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Slow Cooker Asian Braised Beef

I love my crock pots. I literally have 9 of them (no joke). And I actually had more until our recent move forced me to reevaluate necessary kitchen equipment. They are all different sizes, shapes and colors. It might seem like overkill. Until I host a New Year’s party and I have one crock for the spinach and artichoke dip, one for the jalapeno poppers, one for the meatballs, one for the queso, one for sliders, one for pulled pork and one for corn dogs. Then I don’t look like such a crazy crock pot lady! Or maybe I look like more of a crazy crock pot lady…

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Who cares! I am one of those people who uses their crock pots year round. I use them in the winter for my¬†Secret Family Recipe Chili and Peach Whiskey Meatballs, and in the summer for things like this braised beef. It’s perfect for those hot, sticky Wisconsin summer days when it’s SO humid the last thing you want to do is turn your oven on. And it’s an easy weeknight meal to throw in the crock pot before you leave for work so you have a hot dinner ready to go when you walk through the door after a long day of meetings or momming or school or whatever it is that you do all day.

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I like to serve my braised beef over rice and crisp, sauteed summer veggies. A few years ago my husband bought me a rice cooker for my birthday and I bet I’ve used it a hundred times since then.¬†For all the delicious meals I whip up in the kitchen, rice has always been the bain of my culinary existence. I don’t know what it is, but I cannot cook rice to save my life. Now I mix it with some chicken broth in the rice maker and walk away.

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Sometimes you just have to accept your flaws–cooking rice well is definitely one of mine. We all have our faults and that’s what makes this world such a beautiful place. Well, that and delicious food.

Asian Braised Beef

  • Servings: 8
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs.¬†beef chuck roast, cut into large cubes
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch cube ginger, minced
  • 4 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 cup tamari or low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons oil a large saute pan over medium high heat. Season beef with a liberal amount of salt and pepper. Working in two batches, sear all sides of each piece of beef until dark brown. A good rule of thumb is that the meat is done searing when it can easily be removed from the surface of the pan; if it’s sticking it’s not done yet. You are not trying to cook the meat through at this point, just adding a layer of flavor. Transfer seared beef to a large crock pot. Add 2 more tablespoons olive oil to the pan and sear remaining batch of beef, then transfer to crock pot.

Add remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil to the same pan and turn heat to medium. Add onion and ginger along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute, stirring frequently for 4 minutes. Then add garlic and saute for another minute, stirring frequently. Transfer onion, ginger and garlic to the crock pot. Then add beef broth, tamari, rice vinegar, ground ginger, sesame oil and a liberal amount of salt and pepper. Stir to combine, cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or until the beef is fork tender and pulls apart easily. Serve with rice and sauteed veggies. Enjoy!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (17)

Slow Cooker Bourbon Braised Beef

Sometimes the meal prep juices are flowing and the recipes just come to me. I know exactly what I’m craving and roll with it when it comes time to grocery shop (or in my case when it comes time to order my groceries online) and other times I spend a couple hours pouring over recipes on Pinterest and can’t find inspiration from anything. This weekend it was the latter.

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But in the back of my head I was still thinking about the epic meal that I had mentioned in my latest post with that summery orange fennel salad and I just kept coming back to that tender lamb on a bed of creamy polenta.

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I couldn’t get it out of my head.

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And so it became my inspiration for this dish. Tender, rich, bourbon braised beef nestled into a pillow of garlicky, creamy, sweet potato mash. The prep time is minimal and the beef does all the work in 4-5 hours in the crock while you get on with your day!

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Bourbon Braised Beef

  • Servings: 8
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. beef chuck roast, cut into large cubes
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons¬†olive oil
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons oil a large saute pan over medium high heat. Season beef with a liberal amount of salt and pepper. Working in two batches, sear all sides of each piece of beef until dark brown. A good rule of thumb is that the meat is done searing when it can easily be removed from the surface of the pan; if it’s sticking it’s not done yet. You are not trying to cook the meat through at this point, just adding a layer of flavor. Transfer seared beef to a large crock pot. Add 2 more tablespoons olive oil to the pan and sear remaining batch of beef, then transfer to crock pot.

Add remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil to the same pan and turn heat to medium. Add onion and a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute, stirring frequently for 4 minutes. Then add garlic and saute for another minute, stirring frequently. Transfer onion and garlic to the crock pot. Then add beef broth, bourbon, Worcestershire, Dijon, thyme and a liberal amount of salt and pepper. Stir to combine, cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or until the beef is fork tender and pulls apart easily. Serve with my favorite garlic mashed sweet potatoes. Enjoy!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (6)

Orange Fennel Salad with Mint Vinaigrette

Do you ever have one of those meals where your taste buds are just firing off like crazy and you can’t believe all the crazy flavors happening in your mouth and how have you never tasted something like this before and when can you get more?

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The¬†Fontinalis pop up at Northbound Supply this past February was that meal for me. We ordered braised lamb with polenta, roasted carrot soup and a divine citrus fennel salad. I can’t even describe how delicious it was. Okay, well maybe I can. Let me at least try.

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The braised lamb was rich, fall apart tender, and oh so juicy. It was topped with tons of fresh chopped cilantro and the nestled into a bed of soft, thick, creamy polenta. The soup was deep with the slightly sweet roasted carrot flavor and a hint of ginger and topped with chopped pecans. And the citrus salad…WOW. Thinly sliced fennel, orange and grapefruit segments along with fresh mint, all tossed in a mint vinaigrette topped with toasted chopped peanuts. The citrus salad perfectly balanced the richness of the lamb and polenta and the creaminess of the carrot soup.

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It was one of those meals I will never forget. Like my mouth is literally watering right now just thinking about it and I can remember exactly how everything tasted.

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So this week I had some mint simple syrup taking up valuable real estate in the fridge. And a bag full of juicy oranges. And my daughter took a long nap. All of the stars aligned and it was time to make an orange fennel salad.

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Orange Fennel Salad with Mint Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 3 oranges, peel removed, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 small bulb fennel, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup micro greens of your choice

For the dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons avocado or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mint simple syrup*
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint
  • 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Arrange oranges and fennel on a serving platter in a couple layers, overlapping here and there. Arrange micro greens across the platter as well.

In a small mason jar add all dressing ingredients and shake vigorously until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over the salad and serve!

*MINT SIMPLE SYRUP: To make the mint simple syrup, add equal parts water and sugar to a small saucepan along with a handful of mint. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Transfer to mason jar and store in the fridge. You can make as much or as little of this stuff as you want. And I’m telling you, this is the perfect addition to nearly any summer cocktail you can think of, so probably make a lot of it.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (18)

The Best Southwest Dressing Ever

I am so guilty of buying those bagged salads in the produce section at the super market. I LOVE THEM. Whenever I am feeling unmotivated to meal prep for the week, my go-to is any kind of southwest or chipotle cheddar salad. But at $4-$5 a pop those bagged salads are not a very economical solution to my mid-day meal hunt. So this week, feeling quite motivated and also a little strapped for cash, I decided to create my own southwest style dressing.

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To be honest, I’ve tried repeatedly just to buy a southwest dressing and I cannot find one to save my life. I’ve seen a couple southwest ranch dressings out there but they’re not even close to the same. Too much ranch (is there such a thing?!) and not enough southwest.

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I’ve had the southwest salad a Mickey D’s a few times (see, I told you, I really am a southwest salad connoisseur) and it comes with the most glorious Newman’s Own Southwest dressing. After a little research I discovered that Newman’s Own makes it exclusively for McDonald’s and you cannot find it anywhere else. So Mickey D’s has the monopoly on the only delicious southwest dressing ever.

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Until now! I would venture to say that this dressing might even be better than Newman’s Own. But I’ll let you be the judge!

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The Best Southwest Dressing Ever

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Print

Ingredients

For the dressing:

  • 16 oz. light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Add all dressing ingredients to a large mason jar and shake vigorously until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper and enjoy!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (1)

 

 

30 Minute Creamy Horseradish Potato Salad

Grilling season has finally arrived! And this zingy potato salad is sure to make you the talk of the town; or at least the backyard barbecue. If you’re looking for something a little different to bring to the block party this summer, here you go. The subtle flavor of the horseradish is sure to tantalize everyone’s taste buds–even those horseradish haters!

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And chances are good if you’re a horseradish lover like myself, you might already have all the necessary ingredients to whip this bad boy up. Be sure to note that in this recipe I used a horseradish sauce which means the horseradish is cut with mayo or cream (I like Silver Springs brand best). So the flavor is much more mellow compared to that of a prepared horseradish, which is just straight horseradish.

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Instead of parsley you can also garnish with green onions, chives or better yet, crumbled bacon!!!

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30 Minute Creamy Horseradish Potato Salad

  • Servings: 8
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. potatoes, diced
  • 3/4 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons horseradish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • splash of heavy cream
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, diced
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes and a large pinch of salt to the boiling water. Boil for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender but still have just the slightest bite to them. Strain potatoes and rinse with cold water. Place into a serving bowl and put them in the fridge to cool for about 20 minutes.

While the taters are cooling, in a small bowl combine mayo, sour cream, horseradish, vinegar, cream, hard boiled eggs, a large pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Pour dressing over the potatoes and stir until potatoes are well coated. Garnish with parsley and serve!

If you are not planning to serve the potato salad the same day, you may need to add another splash of cream or milk to the potato salad just to loosen it up again.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (16)

Better Than Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

I know it’s quite a statement to say that these are better than Reese’s. But they are. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good ol’ commercially produced peanut butter cup as much as the next gal. But when you make your own, they just taste way better! I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. But I would take these over a mini Reese’s cup in a heartbeat.

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Personally, I am always reaching for a sweet treat after I finish lunch. And dinner. And then usually before bed too. It needs to have chocolate and it needs to be tasty. The cups fit the bill on both accounts. And the best part is they are healthy(ish)!

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Filled with peanut butter, old fashioned rolled oats, honey, a pinch of salt, chocolate and coconut oil you can feel good about serving these treats to your kiddos (and indulging in a couple yourself). They also couldn’t be easier to makes; no baking or fancy equipment required.

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Better Than Reese's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

  • Servings: 24
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup smooth or chunky peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • pinch Kosher salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (dark, milk, whatever you want)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

Directions

In a bowl combine peanut butter, oats, honey and salt. Place mixture in the fridge to harden.

Add chocolate chips and coconut oil to a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second increments, stirring until it’s melted and smooth. Line mini cupcake pans with 24 mini cupcake liners. Scoop about half a teaspoon of chocolate into the bottom of each liner and use the back of the spoon to spread chocolate across the bottom and slightly up the sides a well.

Using a teaspoon cookie scoop, scoop balls of the peanut butter mixture then use your palm to flatten them into discs. Press the discs into the chocolate coated cupcake liners and top them about a teaspoon or so of chocolate. Use the back of the spoon to smooth out the chocolate on top and make sure it meets the chocolate from the bottom, sealing the peanut butter inside.

Refrigerate for about 20 minutes or until set. Keep them in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

I have tried this with regular Jif peanut butter and natural peanut butter. I find that the Jif works better as the natural seems to be a little too stiff and doesn’t give you that same creamy texture.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (3)

Charcuterie Board Making 101

If you don’t feel confident in the kitchen, the charcuterie board might become your best friend. No cooking skills required whatsoever and even the least creative person can put together an artful masterpiece of meat and cheese. You can make them large enough to feed an army or small enough for a date night with your other half.

Charcuterie boards are hands down the easiest and most elegant appetizer for any group. But they are often overlooked as many think they are too difficult or complicated to make, or that there are certain rules you have to follow. In my humble opinion, the only rule for making a charcturie board is that there are no rules. It’s typically comprised of a few kinds of cheeses, a few kinds of meats, a nice crusty sliced baguette and some crispy crackers along with a few other accompaniments–think pickles, potato salad, roasted nuts, fresh or dried fruit, jams, spreads, etc. Actually, I do always follow one rule when making my boards–variety and randomness are paramount. I like to cut all the cheeses in different shapes and arrange my meats in different shapes also. I put some in neat rows, others in piles, some are fanned around dishes and others are rolled into little cones. I never plan where I’m going to put anything; I just let it happen organically.

But if you’re into following rules you can use a simple blueprint of different cheese textures that takes the guesswork out of what to include. Try one creamy cheese (like Brie), one firm cheese (like manchego), one crumbly or blue cheese (like goat cheese or gorgonzola) and one aged cheese (like aged cheddar). Also try to include a variety of textures with the meats–soppressata or hard salami, proscuitto,¬† and sliced deli meats work well. But don’t get hung up following these blueprints exactly. I usually think about the tastes of my guests and try to include things that I know they will like, and also things that they maybe haven’t tried before.

The best part is it’s a great way to use up those odds and ends you have in your fridge or cupboard. You know, the ten green olives at the bottom of the jar, the last of the Dijon mustard, the handful of roasted pecans you didn’t end up using in your favorite cookie recipe. The wider the variety, the more beautiful the cheese plate.

 

 

Charcuterie Board Making 101

  • Servings: unlimited
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Ingredients

  • soft cheese
  • firm cheese
  • aged cheese
  • crumbly/blue cheese
  • salami
  • proscuitto
  • deli sliced ham
  • crackers
  • sliced French baguette
  • pickles
  • sliced apples
  • Dijon mustard
  • roasted pecans
  • pitted olives
  • literally whatever you want

Directions

Find a large cutting board or serving platter. Place your accompaniments (pickles, fruit, nuts) in small serving dishes. Start by arranging those on your platter. Slice cheese and meats into bite size pieces and arrange them randomly on your platter. Add sliced bread and crackers to the platter. Pour yourself and your guests a glass of wine and head for the patio to enjoy this delicious appetizer!

When selecting your meats and cheeses, plan on about 3-5 ounces of meat/cheese per person, depending on whether this is an appetizer or main course.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (4)

 

 

 

Spinach Manicotti with Creamy Tomato Sauce

Let’s talk about the five main food groups. Carbs, cheese, sauce, wine and dessert. Pair this delicious manicotti with a big glass of wine and you’ve got 4 out of the 5 covered! My husband always jokes that the only thing I ever want to eat is bread, sauce and cheese. And he’s not wrong. Pizza is my one true love and melted brie with fig jam and sliced French baguette is a close second. I mean I do eat plenty of fruits and veggies and I love a nice big salad loaded with all kinds of toppings, but if I’m going to indulge, I’m having some kinda of carb topped with lots of sauce and lots of cheese. And this is my indulgence for the week.

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I can guarantee this will quickly become one of your family’s favorite meals. My toddler gobbled this stuff up. Like I think she ate two whole manicotti by herself. With a fork ya’ll. She’s getting so big.

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Have you tried baking uncooked noodles in sauce before? I remember the first time I ever heard of such a thing. It was a few years ago now. I was diving head first into a pan of my mother-in-law’s lasagna and when I came up for air she told me she did not boil the noodles before she baked the lasagna. Whaaaaa?????? I could NOT believe it. It was definitely an “aha” moment for me and I’ve never boiled a lasagna noodle since.

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I find that the lasagna (and manicotti in this case) holds together better when the noodles are not boiled before baking. I’m sure it has something to do with the starches being released during the cooking process or something. But I’m not into all that science stuff. That’s what I’m not much of a baker. Too much science and exact measurements.

Spinach Manicotti with Sausage and Creamy Tomato Sauce

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

  • 5 cups of my Secret Family Recipe Spaghetti Sauce¬†(or your favorite brand)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1 (16 oz.) box of uncooked manicotti noodles
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 (16 oz.) container park skim ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley + more for garnish
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl combine chopped spinach, ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, 2 cups mozzarella, parsley, egg yolks, a large pinch of pepper and a couple large pinches of salt. Transfer to a piping bag (a gallon Ziploc baggy works well too).

Spread 1 cup of spaghetti sauce evenly in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Cut the tip off your piping bag about the width of the mancotti noodles. You’ll want a large opening so you can easily pipe the filling into the noodles. No need to cook them before you bake. They will do their magic in the oven and hold together much better. Pipe the filling into one end of the noodle, then flip the noodle and fill the other side. This technique will ensure that the entire inside of the noodle is filled. I was able to fill all 14 noodles.

Place filled manicotti in the baking dish so they are touching but not too smooshed together as they will expand during the cooking process. Pour remaining sauce in an even layer on top of the noodles. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for 50 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over top of the noodles and bake for another 5 minutes uncovered. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and enjoy!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (7)

Garlic and Ginger Foil Baked Salmon with Pickled Veggies

What a difference a year makes! This time last summer we were dealing with a newly walking nearly one year old. We pretty much went wherever and did whatever and she was along for the ride. She sat in a high chair when we went out to dinner and she was just starting to say things like “mama” and “dada”. We went to the playground and she could pretty much only swing in the baby swings. Everything else was out of reach. Towards the end of summer, music in the park became a game of toddler tag with my husband and I taking turns following her around as she waddled from one group to the next, saying “hi” to everyone she met and stopping to pet each and every dog.

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This year it’s a whole new ball game! Our nearly two year old is cray, for real. Summer has barely begun and I’m already anticipating having the endurance similar to that of a marathon runner by the time it’s over. She has three speeds; running full bore, sleeping and watching Moana. She is very boisterous and quick to let you know if she does not approve of something, usually with a loud shrill cry or scream. She talks constantly, mostly words we can understand, some that we can’t. She’s started to string phrases together which blows my mind every time.¬†She repeats every single thing you say, especially when you swear quietly under your breath. Which let’s face it, is hilarious. She gives giant bear hugs and has gotten a little stingy with the smooches as of late.

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The other day I found my husband in the living room with tears streaming down his face; he was sitting next to her on the ottoman and he had bent down to tie his shoes when she laid her hand and head on his back and said “I love daddy”. If that doesn’t make you cry, I don’t know what will.

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Nowadays, a trip to the playground could tire even the most seasoned and in shape parents. And we are neither seasoned, nor in shape so we often hope beyond hope that she wants to nap when we get home so we have a moment to recharge too. But I would not have it any other way. It’s so amazing to watch this tiny baby grow in a little person with thoughts and ideas and a personality. It’s crazy to think that 2 years ago we didn’t even know her. I feel so lucky everyday to be this girl’s momma. Even the days that are filled with grumpy, teething, crying and sassing. Because when I look back on these last two years all I think about is the good stuff. The groggy morning snuggles, the eskimo kisses, those big dimples every time she smiles, the way she grabs my hand when we are walking, when her eyes meet mine looking for approval when she knows she’s doing something good, her adorable little chubby legged run. For me, that’s what this life is about. Those moments that make you want to cry you’re so happy. And my beautiful baby girl gives me those moments every single day.

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So, how am I going to tie this delicious salmon recipe into my sappy blog post? Well, if you want to spend more time making those moments where you’re so happy you could cry, this super simple recipe is for you! With very little active prep/cook time, this recipe is a healthy meal you can feel proud to feed your family, but you won’t have to miss out on all the little moments to get it done!

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Garlic & Ginger Foil Baked Salmon with Pickled Veggies

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

For the salmon:

  • 1 pound salmon, cut into 4 fillets
  • 1/4 cup tamari
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • For garnish: 2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro

For the pickled veggies:

  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1 small cucumber, very thinly sliced
  • 5 radishes, very thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, very thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

Directions

Gotta get those veggies pickled first! Add thinly sliced veggies to a 32 oz. mason jar. The veggies should nearly fill the entire jar and be packed in tightly (but not smashed). Add garlic and ginger on top of the veggies in the jar. In a small saucepan, bring vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt, then pour hot pickling liquid into the jar. Fill nearly to the top. Screw the lid on and let come to room temp on the counter. Then refrigerate for about 24 hours.

*If you are in hurry, you could just let the veggies pickle for at least 4 hours, but the longer they pickle the more flavorful they will be. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk tamari, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and agave. Place salmon (skin side down) onto a large piece of foil, big enough to make a sealed packet around the salmon. Pour sauce slowly over the salmon. Seal the foil packet. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with a fork. You could also cook this over medium high heat on a grill. Be sure to check the fish around the 10 minute mark though as all grills cook a little differently.

Serve salmon alongside a heaping pile of pickled veggies. Garnish with cilantro. Rice or noodles go well with this meal also.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (6)

Bacon & Leek Pizza with Dill Pesto

Do you have a Woodman’s where you live? Have you tried ordering your groceries online? You literally pick out exactly what you want (including back ups in case they are out of something) and pick the date/time you want to pick them up. They text you a reminder when your groceries are ready and you text them back when you have arrived. They wheel the groceries right out to your car and even help you load it up. It literally could not be easier! It¬†has saved us so much time it’s ridiculous! There is a $4.95 charge if your order is $50-$99.99 but get your order over $100 and it’s free! In the long run I’m convinced it’s also saved us money too, because there’s no impulse purchases as you’re navigating the aisles.

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The biggest plus for me is the not having to deal with the anxiety and annoyance of grocery shopping. I hate dealing with the aisle blockers, slow walkers, dilly dalliers, loud talkers, yelling parents, screaming children (mostly my own) and worst of all those shoppers who act like they are literally the only people in the entire store. You know the ones, blocking the entire dairy aisle with their perpendicular cart only to leave it in the middle of the aisle and wander down 10 feet to look at the sour cream. Meanwhile a line of 8 people is waiting to get around her. I may have lost my temper a bit and after politely saying, “Excuse me” also muttered under my breath, “Not like there’s a line of 10 people behind you.” This lady got super pissed and started yelling at me. Admittedly, I was being a bit snippy and I probably deserved the words she said to me. But damn lady, get outta the freakin’ way! We all have places to go and no one wants to stand here and watch you spend 20 minutes debating sour cream brands.

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So now it’s click, click, click, pick up my groceries and I’m done. No more starting shit at the grocery store for me!

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I do have one complaint though…I hate all the plastic bags! I have tried writing “paper bags only, no plastic bags please” in the notes section of every single order, and I still get everything in plastic bags. I could probably bring my own canvas grocery bags and switch them out, but you know they are just going to throw away those plastic bags and no reuse them, so what’s the point? At least when I get them home, I can recycle them. But, come on Eau Claire, let’s get on this “plastic bag ban” bandwagon please!

Rant over. This pizza is delicious and you need to make it now. It easy, it tastes great and your family will love you for putting this delicious creation on the dinner table.

Bacon and Leek Pizza with Dill Pesto

  • Servings: 2-3
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Ingredients

  • 1 (12-14 inch) pizza crust (1/4 of my no knead pizza dough recipe)
  • 1/2 recipe of my homemade dill pesto (or 1/2 cup of your fave pesto)
  • 1 medium leek, thinly sliced
  • 4 strips crispy bacon, crumbled
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Garnish: fresh chopped dill

Directions

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. If you’re using my no knead pizza dough recipe, line a pizza pan or baking sheet with foil and and sprinkle a thin layer of corn meal to prevent the crust from sticking. Turn the dough ball out onto a floured work surface. Gently shape it into a disc, then carefully working in a clockwise motion, gently press and stretch the dough into a 12 inch circle. Don‚Äôt overwork the dough; the less you touch it the better. If you’re using a pre-baked store bought crust you can skip these steps and just place your crust on a foil lined pan.

Spread pesto in an even layer across the pizza, leaving about a half inch of crust. Then add, leeks, bacon, mozzarella and Parmesan, spreading everything in an even layer across the crust. Bake for 15 minute or until the edges are dark golden brown and the cheese starts to brown as well. Garnish with fresh dill and serve!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (7)

The Best Ever Crispy Baked Fries

Spoiler Alert: If you just want the recipe keep scrolling because Olivia’s about to get real. I can’t say for sure what it is, but there’s a certain quiet loneliness about the late winter months that I just can’t seem to shake. The warmth of the holidays has worn off, the sun is out for like 3 hours and I’m not much of a cold weather person so I don’t really get anytime quality time with mother nature. Did anyone else feel the seasonal anxiety and depression that comes along with winters in Wisconsin this year? I honestly have never realized it before. But looking back, the last few years I’ve been buried pretty deep in those mid-winter blues. As the sun starts shining, the temps warm up and I come out on the other side now, I noticed that I have quite a distinctive pattern around the same time every year.¬†Usually it’s late January or early February, but sometimes it even rolls into March. I start to feel really out of it and melancholy and start contemplating life and how crazy it all is. Which prompts me to schedule a visit with a doctor, who of course tells me everything is fine and then spring comes and I forget all about it. One year it was a few trips to the ER, a few EKGs and finally an echo-cardiogram because I was having palpitations and chest pains (which I later realized were actually panic attacks). A couple years in a row it’s just triggered me to schedule my annual exam and have some labs drawn; I can’t tell you the number of times they’ve tested my thyroid levels. This year it was some delightful rectal bleeding and lower abdominal CT, followed by a colonoscopy. Oh, and there’s usually a drastic hair cut or color thrown in there somewhere.¬†How have I never noticed this about myself before? But with this realization comes the ability to do something about it!

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Move to a warmer climate, right?! JUST KIDDING. I do love Wisconsin; mostly because it’s where my family lives, but I also appreciate the seasons. Even if I go a little crazy for half the year. Every season has it’s pros and cons, but I like living somewhere where you get to experience each season so distinctly. Plus I hate big spiders, snakes and scorpions. So climates where it’s warm all year are out of the question for me. I need that deep freeze to make sure the spiders only get pretty big and not gigantic.

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This past winter my anxiety actually got so bad and constant that I considered adding some sort of prescription pharmaceutical to my daily routine. Which if you know me at all, is quite a surprising thing to hear (see my latest post regarding a sedation free colonoscopy) because I am someone who hates to even take Excedrin when I have a raging migraine with aura. But, almost like clockwork, the seasons have begun to change and I am feeling good again. Certainly not anxiety free, but leaps and bounds better than I had been feeling even just a month ago.

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*Just to clarify: I am in no way putting down those who take prescriptions for anything. I realize it is very necessary for many and might even be for me some day. I just really hate to put any medication of any kind into my body so when I started to consider it, it was a sign that my anxiety was really starting to take a toll on me.¬†It’s so important to listen to your body and take it’s queues.

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The Best Crispy Baked Fries

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. russet potatoes
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice each potato into 1/2 inch slices, then cut each slice into 1/2 inch wide sticks. So basically, cut the potatoes into french fries. Then add potatoes, oil, garlic powder, thyme and paprika to a large bowl. Add a couple generous pinches of salt and large pinch of pepper. Stir until seasoning is well distributed and fries are well coated.

Spread fries in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the fries so all sides get nice and crispy. Bake for another 15 minutes.

Then crank the heat to 500 and bake for 15 minutes. Flip fries and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until desired crispiness is reached. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. I’m not going to pretend like mine isn’t Heinz ketchup, because it is.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (8)

{Vegan} Quinoa and Lentil Tacos

You may have noticed that I’ve been pretty silent on the blog and my social media pages this past week. Well, that’s because I’ve been eating the blandest of bland food in preparation to be the lucky recipient of a colonoscopy! *insert shudder and disgusted face here* A colonoscopy at 30?? Yes, my friends. A couple months back I experienced some rectal bleeding that lasted about a week.¬†To be honest, it scared the shit out of me. Pun intended… I can only attribute it too a few too many take out pizza nights accompanied by a couple too many glasses of wine. Other than that there was no change to my diet, exercise or sleep habits. I experienced no pain, no cramping, nothing out of the ordinary other than some very bright red blood in the toilet bowl and streaked through my stool. I know, too much information, but after doing some research, colorectal cancer is the 3rd leading cause of cancer related death is this country. So it’s time to start talking about your poop people!

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Even with the introduction of fiber supplements and ridiculous amounts of fruits and veggies, the bleeding continued every morning like clock work all week. By Friday morning I was feeling light headed and dizzy (most likely related to the unsettling feeling of now knowing what the hell is going on with my body). I could only get an appointment with the GI doctor if I had a referral from my primary care doctor or an urgent care doctor. I didn’t have a primary care doctor (although you can bet your bottom dollar that I do now and you should too!) and after a quick trip to urgent care I was told they don’t treat issues like mine and that I needed to go the ER. So, after an abdominal CT and some labs they said everything looked normal and I finally got that referral to the GI department!

Of course, the GI provider told me that while the CT didn’t show any masses or abnormalities, they really wouldn’t be able to rule everything out until they did a colonoscopy. Now I am one of those people who likes to really do my research and know exactly what I can expect before something happens. I told the provider I needed to think on it and mentally prepare for the colonoscopy before scheduling one. A little background info on the topic: My grandma is almost two years cancer free after her own battle with colon cancer, so this really hit close to home for me. She had a large mass removed from her colon along with chemotherapy treatments and to be honest, she handled it like a champ. Although they say your risk only increases if you have a first degree relative who had colon cancer, I have to imagine that my risk is still somewhat increased if I have a second degree relative who had it. In my mind, I knew that I had to have the colonoscopy but I needed some time to learn more about the process and what I could expect. The provider I had the consult with assured me that the risks were minimal and rarely occur, but there was the possibility of perforation of the colon (when removing a large polyp) and there’s always risks with sedating a patient (issues related to heart rate, blood pressure, etc.).

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Armed with my limited knowledge of the procedure, I started doing some research using the good old Google. I discovered that in most cases the patient is sedated for the procedure and has no memory of it at all. They wake up and hang out in the recovery area for about a half hour and then head home to sleep and relax for the rest of the day. Obviously sedation affects everyone differently, but many people feel foggy and out of it for the rest of the day. You aren’t permitted to sign legal documents and are considered legally impaired for the rest of the day. While having no memory of the procedure sounded great, being sedated and out of it for the rest of the day just did not sit well with me. The more research I did, the more articles I found about sedation free colonoscopies. I was surprised to find out that most health care providers, health care staff and those who are “highly educated” opt for sedation free colonoscopies because it’s just not necessary to be sedated. Now, I don’t have a college degree but I can tell you that I if I don’t have to put sedatives in my body, I don’t want to.¬†I hate to put any anything in my body if I don’t have to (unless it’s wine or pizza…now you see how I got in this predicament). I don’t even like to take Excedrin when I have a throbbing migraine with aura so the thought of a sedation free colonoscopy appealed to me.

Contrary to popular belief, colonoscopies are not painful. Your colon actually does not have nerve endings that sense pain, temperature or touch. Most people who experience extreme pain or discomfort during the procedure are those with inflammation, digestive issues or obstructed bowels.

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Post Procedure Update:

WOW. Glad that’s over. But seriously, it was no where near as bad as I was expecting! Like I mentioned above, I started eating a low fiber, very bland diet about 4 days before the procedure and also reduced my overall intake of food. The day before the procedure I only drank clear liquids, ate gummy bears and lemon popsicles. While the lack of food for over 24 hours was not as hard as I thought it was going to be, I did have a lot of difficulty focusing at work and only lasted for about half the day before I had to go home and be foggy in the comfort of my own home.

I made sure to pump myself full of water in anticipation of the dehydrating prep that I had to drink the night before the procedure. In most articles I read, the prep portion was the hardest for patients to complete. It requires you to drink 16 (8 oz.) glasses of this nasty, salty liquid. You drink 12 glasses the night before and 4 glasses the morning of. I channeled my younger partying days and poured myself shots of the prep liquid which I threw back and then chased with white Gatorade. This made it a lot easier for me, but seriously drinking 72 oz. of liquid in 3 hours is quite a feat! The actual evacuation of my bowels really wasn’t too bad. I hadn’t eaten much over the last few days, so there wasn’t much left to come out! I heeded all the warnings and was sure to use baby wipes instead of toilet paper during the process which made things a lot less painful. Overall, while unpleasant, the prep was not awful. The worst part was just the sore bottom afterwards. Thank you Desitin!

Although by the time the first round of prep was completed things were coming out clear, I drank the second round of prep in the morning as instructed. I read many stories of people’s colons being too dirty to undergo procedure and having to reschedule and start the whole cycle over–no thank you! So I choked it down and then rested for a few hours before my appointment. My appointment was in the afternoon because they were able to squeeze me in on short notice with my doctor of choice, Dr. Jaime Zighelboim. He was a clear choice for me after reading this article about how he performed sedation free colonoscopies. I found my experience to be very similar to the lady in the article.

I do have to note that I was overwhelmingly impressed with the nursing staff and their ability to keep me feeling very calm, comfortable and relaxed during my entire visit. My admitting nurse had me laughing and was very encouraging when I relayed my plan to forgo sedation. He described the procedure in great detail so I knew exactly what to expect. He explained that the first part of the procedure they are just working on getting the scope all the way to the end of your colon, then the remainder of the procedure they are cleaning the colon with water and suction while they inspect every inch. Once you make it through the full insertion of the scope, the removal process is a piece of cake. He also explained that they would still place an IV in my arm in the event that I did choose to have sedation mid-procedure; they would be able to hook me up and get those going right away. It was comforting to know that if it was painful or uncomfortable, there was always the option of sedation.

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It seems like such a small thing but it also really helped to have the procedure nurse hold my hand during the entire procedure. She kept asking how I was doing and reminded me to breath during the times where I felt some pressure as the doctor guided the scope around the 90 degree angles of my colon. At first, I closed my eyes and didn’t want to watch the TV screen projecting the view of the scope. But as I relaxed, I opened my eyes and started watching as he steered the scope skillfully shooting water at little particles that were stuck to the walls of my colon. His movements were calculated and confident. I truly felt like I was in good hands.

For the most part, it really was an uneventful procedure. It lasted maybe 10-12 minutes. I felt some little wiggles from inside and I could feel the presence of the scope just at the opening of my rectum but it was well lubricated and was not painful during insertion or during the procedure. I did feel some poking and pressure once and it lasted for maybe 8 seconds. It was on my left side and it was just as the scope rounded a sharp corner. On a scale from 1-10 I’d give the pain maybe a 3-4. It was not a pain like when you cut your finger or even when you hit your shin on something. It was more just a poking pressure. I took a few deep breaths and closed my eyes again and it was pretty much over as quickly as it as it began. During this time the doctor explained that while the colon itself cannot feel pain, the pressure that I was experiencing¬† was the ligaments that hold the colon in place stretching and moving as scope navigated the corners. In the end, I was given a clean bill of health and sent on my way!

I realize this is like WAY TOO MUCH detail for some people. But honestly, it’s something we need to talk about. I wonder if my grandma would have had a colonoscopy earlier in her life if she’d known what to expect and known the consequences of not having regular exams after age 50 or before if you are having issues. It’s amazing that colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer related deaths in this country despite it being extremely preventable and treatable in many cases with early detection and regular screenings. So that’s why I chose to write about it. Because colonoscopies have a bad rap and they really don’t need to.

Personally, I would 100% do it again without sedation. Being awake and aware of what was happening to my body felt empowering.¬†Being able to get up and walk out of the hospital after the procedure felt great. If you are contemplating a colonoscopy without sedation, I would strongly urge you to try it. You can also opt for the drugs if it’s not your cup of tea. It’s important to remember that you have options, and to find a health care provider you trust who is willing to discuss alternatives to traditional medicine.

{Vegan} Quinoa and Lentil Tacos

  • Servings: 8 tacos
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Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 cups cooked red lentils
  • 1.5 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium tamari
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

Start by heating oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently for about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently for about 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with tamari and water. Then add lentils, quinoa, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika and a liberal pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook until just heated through.

Serve with your favorite taco toppings! I chose my favorite Chipotle Lime Slaw, sauteed veggies and fresh made guacamole.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (9)

Spicy Sausage, Lentil and Kale Soup

Do you ever feel like you overthink things? Like maybe you put way too much time and energy into something that really would be better off if you’d just let it be? Or sometimes you try to make something more complex or intricate than it needs to be? Of course not, me neither.

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Hah, yeah right. For me it’s my recipes and food photos. Sometimes I think they need to have 20 ingredients or they’ll be too boring and simple. I will make something, taste it 1000 times and even though it’s delicious, I will stress over whether it could be better. More salt, some acidity, a hint of heat? Let it go already! Sometimes I think I miss out on the good looking for the perfect. Have you heard that saying before? It’s really been resonating with me lately. Don’t miss out on the good looking for the perfect.¬†And honestly, when I see a recipe with too many ingredients or something that seems too difficult or time consuming, I generally scroll on past. So why, you might ask, would I think that my recipes need to be complex and over the top? Because, I tend to overthink things!

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My other obsession is getting the perfect shot. I hate to even admit it but I will sometimes spend 1-2 hours staging the scene and taking 389 shots of the same dish. Even though I know I really love the first 5 and probably don’t need to spend any more time fussing. And as you can see 4-5 is usually the sweet spot for blog pictures, so any more than that is really just overkill.

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So, here’s to not overthinking things. Appreciating whole foods prepared in simple recipes that taste delicious. I think I might have stumbled across my new catchphrase…

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Also, do you remember last week when I was all, “Oh, I’ve gotta get one more soup recipe in before spring arrives!” Well, spring is still here. Along with 12 inches of snow. Although I really shouldn’t complain because one year we got this much snow during the first week of May. So this is at least a couple weeks earlier. And this is a great excuse to hunker down and snuggle in with a hearty bowl of soup while the flakes fall and binge watch Netflix.

Spicy Sausage, Lentil and Kale Soup

  • Servings: 6
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Ingredients

  • 12 oz. ground hot Italian (or mild) sausage
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (12 oz.) can of your favorite beer
  • 1 cup red lentils, uncooked
  • 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 32 oz. chicken stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 heaping cups chopped kale
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • optional: 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

In a large pot over medium heat, brown sausage, using a spatula crumble until cooked through. Add onion and saute about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and saute 1 minute, stirring frequently. Deglaze pot with beer, then add lentils, tomatoes, chicken stock and water. Stir to combine. Cover pot, turn heat up just to bring things to a simmer, then simmer on low for 15 minutes. Stir in kale and simmer, covered, for another 5 minutes.

At this point remove from heat, stir in cream if desired and serve!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets