Sunday, March 18, 2018

Bacon and Balsamic Brussel Sprouts

Can I make a confession? I never tried Brussel Sprouts until I was about 35 years old. I guess I always heard them mentioned with a negative connotation and never wanted to try them.  However, it turns out I was wrong. I’ve drizzled them with oil and roasted them with garlic and salt and pepper. I’ve shredded them and sauteed them in bacon drippings. Both of those methods are pretty amazing, but I think I’ve found my favorite method. One of our favorite local restaurants, Flipside Cafe, has the most amazing Brussel Sprouts. I can’t go there and not order them. They’re all crispy and salty and they have this amazing balsamic glaze. Ryan and I went to eat there a few weeks ago and I mentioned them to him. He gave me a look like, “Seriously?” when I mentioned I wanted to get them as an appetizer. But once he tried them, he was converted.

Since we can’t very well eat at Flipside every single night (although I would be okay with that)… I decided to try and recreate them the best I could. I used bagged bacon bits and a pre-made balsamic glaze to make this super simple. You could certainly make your own bacon bits and your own balsamic glaze by simmering/reducing balsamic vinegar, but this is a good shortcut.



Yield: 2 large servings

Bacon and Balsamic Brussel Sprouts

prep time: 10 MINScook time: 20 MINStotal time: 30 mins

This Brussel Sprout recipe is anything but boring!

ingredients:

  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp. Balsamic Glaze-- homemade by reducing balsamic vinegar or storebought such as Giusto (found near the vinegars)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Garlic Powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. bacon pieces/bits (You can cook your own and crumble them, but I use the bagged pieces to save time.)
  • 1 lb. Brussel Sprouts (about 20 heads)

instructions:

  1. Rinse Brussel Sprouts with water and pat dry with paper towel.  Trip the ends of the stems and remove any wilted or spotted leaves.  Cut the heads into halves or quarters.  
  2. Drizzle with olive oil and toss.  (Don't worry if leaves loosen.  Some of them will fall apart a little.  Thats ok.)
  3. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  I added about 1/4 tsp Garlic powder, about 1/4 tsp. salt, and just added some freshly ground pepper.  
  4. Spread sprouts out on a baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees until crispy.  (I baked about 15 minutes, gave them a toss, and then popped them back in for 5-10 more minutes.)  I like them extra crispy, so you decide how brown you want them.
  5. Remove the sprouts and mix in the bacon pieces white the sprouts are still hot.
  6. Add glaze and mix.  I use about 2 Tbsp. of glaze and mix well.  If you would like more, go for it!
Created using The Recipes Generator
Hope you enjoy!

-Liz

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Meet Piper {Photo Overload}

We had a very exciting weekend here at the Confessions house. We welcomed a new family member! Meet Piper!

You may know that our pup Baylee passed away back in August. We missed her dearly and for a little while, we just weren’t ready for a new puppy. But Sadie has asked, begged, and written letters to us, pleading for a puppy. We didn’t tell her for a while, but Ryan and I were already preparing. My college roommate, Melissa, breeds Miniature Schnauzers and for years, I have seen pictures and videos of her sweet puppies. I also love knowing the breeder and knowing it’s not a puppy mill, that the puppies are raised in her home with her family. On December 26, a new litter was born and a few days later, I heard from Melissa, asking us which puppy we would like. Man, that’s a hard decision! However, we knew it didn’t matter the color or type of puppy; we knew it would be love at first sight.

Which it was.

Over the past 8 weeks, we’ve been getting sweet photo and video updates, and every day we grew more and more excited to bring her home.

On Valentine’s Day, we decided to tell Sadie. We took her to a restaurant and gave her the news. She was overcome with emotion, she was so happy!

On Friday, we drove to Lancaster, SC to get our little pup. Of course, we loved her right away. She was a little reserved at first, a little hesitant… but once we got her home, her personality began to emerge. Over the weekend, we had a chance to get to know her and see how sweet and loving she is, and how playful and energetic she is! It’s amazing how quickly a puppy just climbs inside your heart and melts it!

Little Piper got an A+ at the vet this morning- just what we expected!

So… this is our first time having a puppy in about 17 years, so we are pretty much newbies. I mean, I’ve had puppies growing up and we did this with Baylee…but we are learning again. I found two books that I have been reading simultaneously and both are great: Lucky Dog Lessons by Brandon McMillan and Training the Best Dog Ever by Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz.

Maybe I’ll share a little of what we’ve learned once we are a little farther in the training process. Right now, we are working on going potty outside, which is going well so far, and sitting on command. The latter is harder because it means she has to be still. We are also working on adjusting to the crate…it’s not her favorite thing…yet.

If you’ve got great puppy tips and tricks, be sure to send them my way! We’ll keep you posted!

By the way, as I type this… here is Piper.

She is sleeping and barking in her sleep! What a funny pup!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Recipe: Chicken and Veggie Brown Rice Casserole for Instant Pot

This year, I got myself a Christmas Present. An Instant Pot. I've been hearing about them for a while now and the people who have them absolutely love them. To be honest, I was skeptical. Could an Instant Pot really be THAT great?



Turns out, it is. I've actually started calling it my Magic Pot. So far, I really have not had any major fails, and it is saving me a lot of time on both the cooking and the clean-up. It's actually helped us to cut down on ordering out because I can go work out and still get dinner ready in a reasonable amount of time. Mostly I have tried other people's recipes, but once I got comfortable I started trying to create some of my own, like this one.



This recipe came about because I was trying to find a good chicken, veggie, and brown rice casserole, and everything I found had white rice. The first time I made this, I loved how it came out! I couldn't believe it worked! I thought maybe it was a fluke, so I have now made it 3 more times and also had a friend make it with a different brand of pressure cooker. It turned out great for her, too!

The true test... will the rest of the family eat it? My kiddo loves it!



I love that she is getting a protein, a healthier carb, and three veggies (onion, carrots, and broccoli)! The rice in this casserole really has a great texture-- it's very creamy, almost like a risotto.






I've posted the recipe below, but I wanted to give a few notes.

First, I'm sure you could adapt this to use white rice. You'd probably need to really adjust the cook time since white rice cooks a lot faster. However, I use mostly brown, so I haven't tried white rice.
Second, I'm sure you could add the broccoli to the Instant Pot before starting the cooking. However, I think after 25 minutes, it would become mush. So I use this handy pot from Pampered Chef to steam mine in about 4 minutes in the microwave. I use frozen baby broccoli florets. I steam them the last 3 minutes of the cooking and after I release the steam, I add the broccoli. (Side note... that little steamer pot is a STAPLE in this house. I bought it on a whim and it is something I use at least 3-4 times a week.)

Hope you guys enjoy the recipe! Man, it's been a long since I posted a recipe, and I'm trying a new plug-in to add the recipe card here. Let me know what you think!

Yield: 6 Servings

Chicken and Veggie Brown Rice Casserole for Instant Pot

prep time: 10 MINScook time: 25 MINStotal time: 35 mins
This super-easy casserole combines brown rice, veggies, chicken breasts, and cheddar cheese to create a meal that is both filling and healthy!

ingredients:


  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of chopped carrots
  • 2 2/3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 2 large chicken breasts (fresh or frozen)
  • a few splashes of Worcestershire Sauce
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, steamed
  • handful (about 2/3 cup) of shredded cheddar cheese 

instructions:


  1. Select the saute button on your Instant Pot.  When the pot is hot, add the oil and butter. Wait about 30 seconds for oil/butter to heat up.
  2. Add diced onion to pot and cook for about 2 minutes.  
  3. Add garlic and carrots and cook until garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add chicken broth and stir to release any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. 
  5. Add the rice and stir.  
  6. Add the chicken breasts.
  7. Add salt, pepper, and Worcestershire Sauce.
  8. Press "Cancel" to end the saute feature.  Manually select the High Pressure button and set the timer for 25 minutes. Make sure to set the vent to "Sealing."
  9. While the casserole is cooking, steam the rice in the microwave.
  10. Once the time is up, Quick-Release the steam and then open the pot.  Stir to combine all the ingredients.  The chicken should fall apart easily, but you can use forks to shred.  
  11. Add steamed broccoli and shredded cheese.  Stir once more to combine.
  12. Enjoy!
Created using The Recipes Generator


-Liz

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Disney Post # 2: Disney Eats

What do you think of when you think about Disney? Rides, right? Space Mountain, Seven Dwarves Mine Train... Characters? Mickey, Donald, the Muppets, Princesses... Well of course, those things are all amazing. And if you know me, then you know I'm all about a good ride. I'm planning to highlight a few favorites in Disney Post # 3. But if you didn't know, the food at Disney is pretty epic as well. In our past trips to Disney, we spent more time doing character experiences. This time we decided to do the International thing! Since our daughter isn't quite as into the princess thing now, we made reservations each night (except our last night) at a different country in Epcot. For those unfamiliar with Epcot, one of the best features of Epcot is the World Showcase. Eleven countries have a "land" or Pavillion, featuring restaurants, food carts, shops, and entertainment. The cast members to work in those "lands" are from the countries represented. Disney really tries to make this an authentic-feeling experience.

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Each of the restaurants featured accepts the Disney Dining Plan, but they don't all provide the same options. At some places, appetizers are included. At others they are not. Dessert was always included, though.

Les Chefs de France (France)

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This was our favorite restaurant of the trip-- both the food and service were amazing. The dining plan gave us each an appetizer, entree, and dessert. Our waiter, Kevin, was phenomenal and went above and beyond to make our experience wonderful. The french onion soup here was amazing, as was everything else, especially dessert!

Akershus (Norway)

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We actually did a Princess Storybook Dinner here. This wasn't my favorite food, but it did have the best appetizer selection. There was actually an appetizer buffet with lots of meats, cheeses, salads, veggies, and more. If you've got kiddos, this food isn't going to be that appealing to them, but the princess experience is fun.

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Little girls will enjoy being part of the princess parade and having the princesses stop by the table to meet and greet.

Nine Dragons (China)

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We really enjoyed Nine Dragons. Appetizers aren't included in the dining plan here. We ended up trying several different dishes and sharing them, but we didn't get photos of our food, except for the dessert. (Are you noticing a trend here?)

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Via Napoli (Italy)

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Italian... my favorite! I looked forward to this all week. The second we arrived, we knew we were in a good place. The atmosphere was very alive and it smelled soooo delicious. We got to watch the chefs preparing desserts as we waited. We probably should have gotten pizza, since they're kind of known for that, but we all opted for pasta: Spaghetti, Lasagna, and Alfredo Pasta. All were delicious, and so were the desserts! (Again...the only thing photographed!) Like Nine Dragons, no appetizer was included. However, we decided to order the Calamari- Ryan's favorite!

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La Cantina de San Angel (Mexico)

This one is a quick service, and it's definitely worth stopping in! La Cantina is located right on the water. It was sunny but breezy the day we visited- just perfect weather!

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We tried the tacos- both steak and chicken-- and both were delicious! We were so tired after spending a morning at Animal Kingdom that we really enjoyed the rest and the atmosphere here. After we ate, we did a little shopping in the San Angel Inn, which is a little plaza of shops located inside a pyramid.

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Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom)

On our last evening, we had reservations at Be Our Guest. We had eaten there previously for breakfast and lunch, but never dinner. Be Our Guest is MASSIVE, as compared to Cinderella's Royal Table and other Disney restaurants. It's a little chaotic. However, our food here was amazing also. Of course, you must try The Gray Stuff if you visit!

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Other Quick Signature Disney Eats

You must eat Mickey-Shaped food while at Disney. I think it's a rule.

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I also highly recommend the Dole Whip at Magic Kingdom- get the float!

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If you're a fan of hot dogs, you shoudl visit Casey's at Magic Kingdom for great hot dogs! Ryan had the Bacon Mac and Cheese Dog and it was enormous!

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We even brought home a few treats with our unused snack credits... like this Mickey Rice Krispie Treat!

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So... those are just a few of our favorite Disney eats from this trip. Do you have favorite Disney foods? Drop a comment below and let me know!

In other news... Wow, I sure do need to do some updating... my header photos are way old. That's not my hair color anymore. I'm also playing with some different Blogging Software for the Mac. I fell in love with Blogsy for iPads and I loved Live Writer for the PC platform but Mac didn't have as many options. I'm trying Mars Edit now...but if you have suggestions...I'm open!