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Food & Recipes

Desk Lunch // Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad

August 19, 2018

If you’re signed up to receive my weekly meal-planning and behind-the-scenes newsletter, then chances are you’ve already heard that I’m on a mission to make Joe’s lunches a little healthier, with more variety and interest each week. I realized that I had been phoning in her lunches for a long time now that life has been busy with littles, and when I don’t prepare lunches in advance, he really doesn’t get the most well-rounded lunches. So each Sunday, I prep and assemble five lunches for Joe’s week to keep things easy for me but healthy, tasty and well-rounded for him.

I’m hoping to share a few more “desk lunch” ideas as we approach the back-to-school season. Some of these ideas will probably transfer into school lunch ideas, while others may be catered toward more adult tastes. My kiddos don’t love pesto all that much, so if I were making this for the girls I would keep most of the ingredients in the recipe but swap the pesto for olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese. The rest of the ingredients in this dish my kiddos love!

This recipe also gets my stamp of approval because it can be made in advance for the entire week, doesn’t require heating in the microwave and is well-rounded and flavorful. I will serve this meal with a side of carrot sticks for Joe as well as a piece of fruit or a Lara Bar for mid-afternoon hunger on those long days that he’s going to HS football practice after work this fall!

Desk Lunch // Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad
Author: 
Serves: 5 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. (16 oz.) corkscrew pasta, cooked according to package directions, then drained and rinsed in cold water
  • 2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped (I used a rotisserie chicken and chopped it up)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 8 oz. fresh mini mozzarella balls
  • ½ cup pitted and halved kalamata olives
  • 1 jar (8 oz.) pesto
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, chicken breasts, halved cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, olives and pesto. Stir until well-combined. Spoon into lunch containers and refrigerate until ready to eat.
  2. Note: It's best to slightly under-cook the pasta to prevent it from becoming too soft as it sits in the refrigerator.

 

Family, Food & Recipes

Meal Planning Resource // Seasonal Meal Planner

August 8, 2018

For those of you following along the last month, you’re well aware that we are on a journey to be more intentional with our meal planning and prepping this fall in hopes of creating a more intentional and less stressful meal time each day. Other benefits include having healthier options on hand for the whole family and saving money at the grocery store. So! When my friend Natasha reached out asking if I would be interested in giving her Seasonal Meal Planner a little test drive and sharing it with you, I said YES.

I’ve been jotting down grocery lists and meal plans on scraps of paper for the last, well, as long as I can remember. My grocery lists can be found on scraps of paper and envelopes and whatever is around at the time, notebooks scribbled with meal plans, etc. Basically our entire meal planning process was a little frazzled.

When Natasha sent me an early-access download of her Fall Seasonal Meal Planner (which launches TODAY for everyone!) I was immediately hooked. The planner houses everything in one place. There is a page each week to jot down dinners and a spot at the bottom of each day for noting any recipes you might use. There is another page for breakfast and lunch plans for the week and, what I find most helpful, a page that encourages you to take inventory of what you already have in your pantry as well as what commitments you have on that week’s calendar. It’s so smartly designed for meal planning – as formal or as relaxed as you want to be with the whole process. I have plans in the coming weeks to 3-hole-punch all the pages for an entire season’s worth of meal planning and put it in a binder to store in our kitchen so it looks as pretty as Natasha’s does! Isn’t it cute?

Natasha also has free crash courses on planning meals that you can sign up for HERE. Over the last couple weeks I’ve found her meal planner to be an incredible compliment to the semi-casual way that I like to plan my meals throughout the week and a great resource as I’ve tried to utilize what is in-season and in my pantry when planning meals throughout the week. Seriously, for $29 you get a lot of bang for your buck. Pair that with signing up for my weekly meal planning newsletter and you should be set with everything you need to get on the meal-planning and prepping bandwagon for the fall.

Madison

Family, Food & Recipes

Easy Homemade Meatballs

August 5, 2018


This week I shared our weekly meal plan for everyone signed up to receive my weekly newsletter. If you’re interested in getting our meal plan in your inbox each week you can sign up HERE. A part of the plan? These meatballs! Truth be told, I usually just wing my meatball recipe each time I make meatballs, but I took the time to measure and jot down amounts this week so you could create something similar at home.

These meatballs are easy to make, taste delicious re-heated and are always a big hit with my family. They’re ultra tender and assuming you select gluten-free quick-cooking oats, they are gluten-free, too. I’m using them this week served over veggie pasta with steamed broccoli and marinara for Joe’s lunches. I’ve also saved a few extra for the girls to eat for their lunches this week since they are such a hit with Ainsley and Collins!

Easy Homemade Meatballs
Author: 
Serves: 16 meatballs
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup quick-cooking oats
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray lightly with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, milk, Parmesan cheese, egg, garlic, Italian seasoning and salt. Stir until well-combined.
  3. Add in the ground beef and work together with a spatula or your hands until evenly combined. Gently form mixture into 16 round balls and place on prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake 22 to 24 minutes or until cooked through and no pink remains.
  5. Serve over pasta with marinara, if desired.

 

Family, Fashion, Food & Recipes

Espresso and Cream Behind the Scenes // The Newsletter!

July 25, 2018

At the beginning of the year I had a LONG bucket list of items that I wanted to complete. Half way (over half way) through the year I’m afraid to say that I have a lot of work left to do in order to check those items off said list, but I’m working on it. One of the things that is LONG overdue for the blog is creating an e-newsletter to share behind-the-scenes content for you all. Basically, if you’re a reader of E&C and like the content that goes up on the site, then you’ll find the newsletter to be even better.

I’ve been trying to do a better job of meal planning and prepping each week, and, spoiler alert, it’s been SAVING my life over the last month. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. The dinnertime hour had become SO stressful for our family (okay, for me) and doing a little weekly meal plan, some simple prep for the week on Sundays, and the amount of stress it’s saved me at dinnertime has been unreal.

Let me be clear, I am NOT cooking from a recipe each night of the week. In fact, I’m hardly ever cooking from a recipe. I’ve just been sketching out general plans with easy-to-make proteins, vegetables and some sort of whole grain/carb to round out the meal. While our meals aren’t fancy on any given week, it’s been so great to have a healthy and balanced meal planned out and shopped for, with a few things prepared in advance to toss on the plate.

I’m hoping to share more of our meal planning and prepping process along the way. I can’t promise it will be polished and pretty, but it will be useful, honest and hopefully make your life easier like it’s made mine! I’ll be share some beauty tips and tricks, recipes, and other behind-the-scenes content along the way as well.

You can sign up HERE.

Madison

Family, Food & Recipes

Grilling Pizza + Rosé Wine

July 23, 2018

This post is sponsored by Olema Wines. Well, they didn’t pay me to write the post, but they did send me some yummy wine in hopes that I would love it enough to talk about it and guess what? It was awesome, so I’m sharing it with you today! Thanks for supporting the brands that support Espresso and Cream! 

Summer has gone so quickly this year! Anyone else? I think it’s due in large part to the fact that we have been working on our patio project ALL summer long and this weekend we finally got it finished! I guess saying “finished” is a little misleading because now our yard looks like a hot mess filled with dirt and piles of rock and we haven’t even started the landscaping around the patio, but the actual patio is finished and I am SO proud of Joe for all the hard work he put into making this possible. He worked alongside a friend who had some landscaping experience and helped with the technical parts of the patio, but the amount of dirt-moving and manual labor that Joe put into this patio is crazy. It also helped us save a LOT of money doing so much work ourselves. A full patio project recap is now in the works, but in the meantime., I’m going to talk about pizza and wine, mmmkay?

We christened our new patio by having a few friends over for grilled pizza + wine and every time I make grilled pizzas for a group I’m reminded why we need to do so more often. We’ve been grilling pizzas for years, and while it’s a little more hands-on than, say, grilling meat, it’s definitely fun to do something different outside of the typical burgers + brats + chicken, etc on the grill. By the end of the summer, we are ready for something fresh. Sitting under our patio table umbrella, drinking some really great rosé wine from Olema Wines, and eating grilled pizza, salad, fresh green beans and mixed berries felt almost like we were transported somewhere much fancier than our house, minus the giant dirt piles and general disarray of our yard. Ha!

While I’m typically a red wine drinker, the hottest months of the summer really do make chilled white and rosé wine my go-to when entertaining. Actually, I tend to think a rosé on the drier side, like this 2017 Olema Rosé, really are the perfect wines to serve at a party since they tend to be crowd-pleasing and ultra refreshing. Plus, the price point ($16/bottle) is about what Joe and I tend to spend on a bottle of wine – bridging the gap between price consciousness and the quality that we expect when drinking wine. I’m not the most knowledgable wine drinker but I do know what I like! 🙂

I will say that I have *no* idea if rosé wine is a good pairing with grilled pizza from an expert’s perspective, but I thought the entire meal was delicious! So let’s talk a bit about grilling pizza, shall we?

A few tips I’ve learned to help make grilling pizzas better + easier + tastier:

  1. Make sure your grill is HOT. Like 450°F – 500°F hot and that your grill grates are clean. Sometimes I’ll get the grill really hot first and then give the grates one more cleaning with a grill brush to make sure they are super clean. Dirty grill grates will stick to the pizza dough and leave you with a mess.
  2. Put together a “toppings tray” ahead of time. We’re talking everything you need to top your pizzas, including olive oil + pastry brush, pizza sauce, cheese + fresh basil and whatever else you want to use for pizza toppings. Grilling pizza at a high temp on the grill goes FAST so you need to be ready to top the pizzas quickly.
  3. Don’t top the pizzas too heavily. The thin dough doesn’t need a lot of sauce and toppings. In fact, it’s better if you use a light hand when topping with sauce, cheese and toppings as to not overwhelm the dough.
  4. Be sure to stretch the dough thin enough. You want to stretch it out as thin as you comfortably can without ripping holes in the dough. The grill is HOT meaning you can’t leave the dough on too long before it burns. A little char is good, too much isn’t, so you want the dough thin enough that it cooks through before you need to remove the pizza from the grill.

Perfect Grilled Pizza Dough
Serves: 4 personal pizzas
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ½ teaspoon instant dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
Instructions
  1. Place warm water in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with the yeast and allow the yeast to dissolve for a minute. Whisk together to combine. (Important Note: You should see some bubbles in the water, which means that the yeast is active, if you don't see any bubbles you may have old yeast or the water was too warm and it killed the yeast.)
  2. Add the salt and 2½ cups of the all-purpose flour to the water mixture and use a rubber spatula to combine. Transfer mixture to a lightly-floured surface and gradually kneed in the remaining ½ cup flour over the course of a couple minutes, adding a little at a time. The dough should be smooth and elastic, and just the tiniest bit sticky but not so sticky that it easily sticks to your hands. Add additional flour if necessary, a tiny bit at a time.
  3. Transfer dough to a lightly greased mixing bowl and cover with a towel. Allow to sit in a draft-free location to rise for 2 to 3 hours, until dough is doubled in size.
  4. Punch down dough and cut into four pieces. Form each piece into a round. Stretch each round into a thin disc (see note above in the tips) using extra flour if you need to prevent sticking.
  5. To Grill:
  6. Heat grill to the hottest it will go - around 450°F to 500°F. Once grill grates are good and hot, brush dough lightly with olive oil. Place the oiled side on grill grates. Cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes until dough is charred and bubbly. Brush uncooked side of dough with olive oil and flip. Quickly top with sauce, cheese and desired toppings. Cover and cook 2 to 4 minutes more until cheese is melted and dough is cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board and top with fresh basil, grated Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper, if desired. Cut into strips to serve.

Madison