Welcome back to my Food Journal, where I share the more memorable things we’ve been eating, what we liked, and what we didn’t. Let’s get started…
2/7 Sweet Potato Chickpea Buddha Bowl
This recipe was a mixed bag. My husband loved it (as usual), but I was frustrated by how long it took to make and how the sweet potatoes ended up super crunchy. My #1 pet peeve with recipes is probably when the actual cooking time does not match up with how long the recipe says it will take. In the case of these Buddha bowls, the recipe states (many times) that this will take 30 minutes, and it ended up taking me about an hour. I often wonder if I am just a slow cook, and that may still be the case, however my prep speed would not affect the cooking times once food is in the oven. I did side-eye the recipe saying that a sweet potato half would cook through in like 25 minutes (because I usually dice mine and they take about 40 minutes to cook through), but I tried it anyway; as I have already said, the results were not good.
I would be open to trying this again with diced sweet potatoes – it would be a little bit more prep work but at least they would cook through before everything else burned. I would also line the baking sheet with aluminum foil to make cleanup a bit easier. Overall the flavors were really good; I love the variety of vegetables this recipe incorporated, the chickpeas were outstanding, and the tahini sauce was something new for me. By the way, if you have never used tahini before (I hadn’t!), it is super runny when you open it, kind of similar to natural peanut butter in its consistency. I wish that I paid the extra dollar for the jar with a twist-on lid instead of one that needed to be opened with a can opener – that was a mess!
2/13 Brunch at Founding Farmers
For our wedding anniversary we decided to celebrate with our favorite meal of the day and took the kids out for brunch at Founding Farmers. This restaurant has a few locations and all of them are owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union. From what I understand, a lot of the ingredients they use are sourced from North Dakota farms – neat! We went at about 9 AM on a weekday morning, so it was not crowded – most of the other patrons looked like they were having working breakfasts.
We were hungry when we arrived, so we ordered a Jefferson Donut, coffee, and a New York Egg Cream while we looked at the rest of the menu. Our waiter explained that the Jefferson Donut is Founding Farmers’s take on a cronut. It was fairly light and filled with a pastry cream. We all really liked the donut – if I could get a box of these instead of whatever Dunkin’ Donuts is offering, I would.
I would not say I’m a coffee snob, but I don’t drink bad coffee anymore. If I order a coffee and it tastes old and watery, I throw it out. This happens more often than I like, so I didn’t have high hopes for Founding Farmers. I was pleasantly surprised, though, because the coffee was really good. I just got regular drip coffee; it was very smooth and delicious and when the waiter offered me a refill I gladly accepted. And how cute is that little milk carton?
The egg cream was the most interesting item we ordered – I know that this is not unique to Founding Farmers, but it is the only time I have seen one on a restaurant menu. The best way I can describe it is watery, fizzy chocolate milk. We probably would not order it again – personally I would prefer regular chocolate milk – but it was fun to try it!
There is no children’s menu here, so for our kids we ordered the Vanilla Cream Filled French Toast to share. This was a huge dish! My husband ended up eating some too because it was just so much (this was his favorite item we ordered, by the way). It was more like french toast sticks than french toast you would make at home, which is fine because my 3-year-old was all about dunking them in the syrup.
I ordered the Roasted Vegetable Pan Scramble which comes with a biscuit (and butter & blueberry compote) and one side – I chose fruit. The sweet offerings on the menu were very tempting but we were going to have waffles for dinner so I went savory. This is an egg white scramble with a ton of veggies. Like most restaurant offerings, it was a large, filling dish. I found it a bit too salty, but overall still pretty good. I liked that I didn’t feel gross after eating it. The fruit was nice and fresh, and a good size for sharing with my kids. I really enjoyed the biscuit; if there was still room in my belly after eating everything else, I would have ordered more of them.
My husband ordered the Traditional Ham Eggs Benedict with a side of Leek Hash Browns. If you are a fan of eggs benedict, this one was a well-executed classic that you may enjoy.
We really liked Founding Farmers and are hoping to go back before we leave the area. The time that we went was pretty low-key, and we even saw some other people with kids towards the end of our meal.
2/15 Dijon-Pecan 2-Step Chicken
This is one of those rare recipes that is fast and easy to prep, inexpensive, and tasty. It took me about 5 minutes to put this together in the baking dish:
I used Harris Teeter’s fresh chicken breasts (from the meat counter) – they are the best price in the store and they are massive. I used 4 of them since the recipe calls for 4 chicken breasts, but really 2 of these cut in half is probably the portion size the author had in mind. Mine took a little longer in the oven because the chicken breasts were so enormous.
The fastest way to crush the pecans is to toss them in a plastic bag and roll a rolling pin over them a few times. If you want to be a bit greener, chopping them with a knife would probably not take that much longer.
I served them with egg noodles (quick and in my pantry) and roasted broccoli and cauliflower. I took the lazy way out and used a bag of the already-prepped veggies from the produce section.
2/20 Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup
This soup is pure comfort. It is buttery and rich but not too heavy. If you are craving soup and don’t want to do a lot of work, then this is a recipe to try. I use Better than Bouillon to make my chicken broth; it has a great flavor that adds a lot to the depth of this soup. For recipes like this, I used to boil water and prepare the broth before adding it to the recipe, but lately I have just been adding water and the Better than Bouillon to the pot at the same time. I’m about to bring the water to a boil anyway, so why dirty another dish? Using the immersion blender to puree the soup cuts down on dishes too.
I’ve heard that cream-based soups don’t freeze well, but I have frozen this one with a lot of success. Just give it a stir after reheating and it is as good as fresh. This is an easy recipe to double, it just takes a little longer to bring the soup to a simmer. I actually made a double batch this time because both of my kids slurp it up and I love the leftovers.
We had company over this night and I completely forgot to take any pictures! These fajitas are great; all the deliciousness of Tex-Mex but without the heaviness of something loaded down with cheese. Now I am not always a mushroom person – I think it is a texture issue – but the mushrooms really shrivel up in the oven. Once they get mixed in with the other veggies I cannot usually tell that they are there. My kids have not eaten these yet because they do not really like spicy food, so I set aside some of the cut up veggies for them to eat raw with tortillas.
The cornbread was interesting. The “basic” cornbread that I usually make is a lot denser and more savory. This recipe was very light and fluffy. It was also a lot sweeter (to be expected with that much added sugar). Honestly it kind of reminded me of cake… not that that is a bad thing! It was definitely more “dressed up” and I could see myself making this again if I find myself with some extra sour cream lying around, especially since it was not a big undertaking.
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In case you missed the recipe for my rosemary chicken thighs, you can find that here. This is one of my family’s favorite recipes. It is so flavorful, tender, and easy. My 1-year-old gobbles it up!
I took advantage of this super easy main dish to experiment with a new side: butternut squash gratin with onions from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. While it was time-consuming to make, it was not labor intensive. I cut down on my prep work by using pre-diced butternut squash. I did a cost comparison a few months ago and found that a whole fresh butternut squash cost about the same as the package of cubed squash – really I think my dollar goes further with more squash from the package because I am not paying for the seeds and skin. Plus it just takes way less time. My food processor made the rest of the prep very fast. I used it to slice onions, shred cheese, and make bread crumbs. Like I said though, it is a time-consuming dish – 15 minutes to cook onions, then 8 minutes to brown the squash, and 50 minutes total in the oven. I like the idea of this dish, and it has piqued my interest in other gratins. My one complaint with it is that I
found it too thyme-heavy. I decided to use dried thyme instead of fresh because I already had it on hand, and I think I miscalculated the conversion between fresh and dried thyme, so the thyme ended up overpowering the other flavors.