Ranch Chicken Burgers

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I always say I have 3 criteria for a weeknight meal. It has to be delicious, nutritious and easy to make. But recently, I realized there really is a 4th must-have. It has to be easy enough to make to talk on the phone with at least one of my family members at the same time. I talk to my mom, dad, and brother pretty much every day. But whenever I have a tough day, I call Sean first. Yesterday was a rough day. I feel like I’m in Kindergarten writing this but..yesterday someone was mean to me. And just like I did when I actually was in Kindergarten, I went straight to Sean. Back then Sean would take care of things pretty directly. I remember mentioning to Sean that one of the boys in my class was making fun of my height. The very next day, he gave the kid a good firm talking to, and that boy never bothered me again. Just last year, one of my best friends from grade school admitted to still being a little afraid of my brother thanks to that incident. Nowadays, he can’t exactly yell at anyone who hurts my feelings. So instead, he gives me great advice. He told me not to let things that happen during the work day bother me so much. Because at the end of the day, I get to come home to a wonderful husband, great friends, and the best family on earth. And in the end, people can only make you feel bad if you let them. And just like that, I was back to my happy, perky self. Every girl should have a brother like mine.

And now back to dinner. These chicken burgers have already become a favorite in our household. All you need is ground chicken and a few seasonings and you have an incredibly delicious dinner. The use of dry Ranch seasoning adds a great kick to the chicken, and pairs really well with the barbeque sauce of your choice

Ingredients: Makes 4 burgers

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons dry Ranch dressing (unprepared)
  • 1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoning salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • barbeque sauce to taste
  1. Place first 5 ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly until well combined. (I found it was easiest to use my hands to mix everything together)
  2. Form 4 even patties
  3. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat and cook each patty for 1 minute per side, just until the patty has slightly browned
  4. Take the browned patties out of the pan and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, or until done
  5. Place on a bun, adding barbeque sauce or any topping you’d like

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Orange Soda Cupcakes

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Every year, I am very thankful for today. Because today is my brother’s birthday! Growing up, nearly all of my friends had sisters, but I was never jealous. Although I didn’t have a sister to share clothes and makeup with, I had something much better. I had Sean. We’ve gone through many phases in our sibling-hood. When we were children, he was my constant protector and guide, screaming “COLLEENIE!” whenever I would run away in the grocery store. Which was often, by the way. As teenagers he was there to force me into listening to good music and berate me when I was talking to a boy he didn’t like. Which was all of them, by the way. And now, he’s one of my best friends. But the great thing about having a best friend that is also your sibling is that they see you as clearly as possible. They know your strengths and weaknesses, your faults and your greatest attributes. They can recognize these things a bit clearer than so many other people in your lives, and they can definitely see you a bit clearer than you see yourself. To me, Sean is one of the strongest, smartest, kindest people I know. I’ve always been in awe of the way he can command the attention of any room he walks into, and the way he drops everything to help others…be it a complete stranger or his little sister. Happy Birthday Seanie!

I brought these cupcakes along to a birthday barbeque we had for Sean, and since he’s not really into sweets I brought him some beef jerky and beer. But all the cupcake lovers in our family gave rave reviews. The cupcakes are incredibly moist and decadent and truly taste like an Orange Creamsicle. The recipe and the picture are from one of my favorite blogs Sweet Tooth Sweet Life. Enjoy!

Orange Cream Soda Cupcakes: Recipe from Sweet Tooth Sweet Life, Makes 24 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1 3-oz package sugar-free orange jell-o
  • 1 4-serving size package sugar-free cheesecake instant pudding & pie filling mix
  • 1-1/4 cup orange juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the frosting:

  • 1 8oz package of low fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon orange jello

Preparation:

  1. For the cupcakes, set aside 1- 1/2 teaspoons jello mix. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, instant pudding mix and remaining orange jello mix
  2. Add orange juice, eggs, applesauce and vanilla into dry ingredients and mix until well combined
  3. Line two muffin pans with muffin liners, and fill each 2/3 full with batter
  4. Bake cupcakes at 350 for 16-18 minutes
  5. To prepare frosting, place cream cheese and butter in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy
  6. Add vanilla extract  & remaining jello mixture until well combined
  7. Beat in sugar, one cup at a time until well combined
  8. After cupcakes have cooled, frost cupcakes

Chinese Cabbage Salad

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A little over four years ago, Eric brought me along to a family party. We had only been dating a few months at that point, and it was my first big event with the Jones clan. I remember being a little nervous, but it didn’t take long to realize I had no reason to be. Eric’s family was so welcoming and wonderful and I felt at home right away. Plus, Eric’s Aunt Nancy is one of the best cooks I’ve ever met. She has about a million recipes that are to die for. Baked Beans, Apple Crisp, and this very delicious Chinese Cabbage Salad that she served at my bridal shower. It is crisp, full of flavor and a perfect side dish for your next barbeque or tailgate. She was sweet enough to share the recipe with me and I brought it along to a barbeque a few weeks ago. It didn’t take long for the whole bowl to disappear. Enjoy!
Ingredients:
1package precut cole slaw (1 pound size)
5 green onions, sliced
1 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1 cup toasted sliced or slivered almonds
1 3-oz package Ramen Noodles, oriental flavor
1-2 cups cooked, cubed chicken or shrimp. (Optional)
Dressing
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup vinegar ( any kind you like)
1/4 cup sugar
Dry seasoning packet from ramen noodles
1.  Break up the ramen noodles into small pieces.
2.  Mix up the dressing.  Shake all ingredients together.
3.  Combine cole slaw, onions, seeds and nuts.
4.  Just before serving, add noodles, dressing and chicken or shrimp and combine.
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Breakfast Cookies

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I’ve never been particularly good with change. I was that delightful child who cried at the beginning and the end of every school year. My poor parents. I have always been someone who has thrived on a set routine, so any major life change typically throws me for a loop. When most of my peers looked forward to high school and college with excited anticipation, I was busy mourning the loss of the  current state of life that I’d just gotten used. And though I looked forward to the new chapters in my life, I still dreaded the changes that those looming graduation days brought. I hated the thought of saying good bye to precious parts of my life that encapsulated the current season of life- be it a hobby, a job, or a friendship, I was always scared of what would happen if that goodbye turned out to be permanent. Even when unhappy phases of life came to a close, I still feared what would happen next. When I left my first full time job, a job that was marked by stress and anxiety, I still left with a slight sense of regret. Because I didn’t know what would happen next. Yet here I am, only a a week away from the biggest life change I’ve ever experienced, and there isn’t a trace of sadness or dread in my temperament. I can’t wait to begin my married life with Eric. I can’t wait to experience the ups and downs and the changing tides of our life together. I’m excited to make plans for the future, but change them as we go. Because we’ll be partners in it all, and that is pretty fantastic.

But luckily, the best parts of my current phase of life, get to come with me in my next chapter as a “Mrs.”One of which is going over to my Mom’s house and spending the afternoon chatting and baking. We made these breakfast cookies last weekend as a nice little break from wedding planning, and I realized that baking with my mom has been something I’ve carried with me through each phase of life. From the time I was a 1st grader standing on a stool to help her make cookies, to the times I came home for weekends in college to cook dinner, time in the kitchen with my mom is ever present. And though I’m excited for changes to come, this is one thing I am so happy will never change.

These “cookies” are so healthy you could easily eat them for breakfast, but they are definitely sweet enough for dessert. They include entirely wholesome ingredients and are incredibly addicting.

Ingredients: Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction, Makes 24 cookies

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 fig butter (The original recipe calls for apple butter, but since we couldn’t find any apple butter, we substituted with fig butter found at Trader Joe’s and it was delicious)
  • 1 large banana, mashed
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dried raisins

Preparation:

  1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until just combined
  2. Place tablespoons of batter onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 325 for 15 minutes

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Hasselback Potatoes

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At the end of December my mom’s very best friends threw me a beautiful bridal shower. My “aunts”, as I call them, put so much thought and detail into the special day. From the green and white “Michigan State” color scheme to the perfectly festive Christmas centerpieces, everything about it was perfect. They even gave every guest a jar filled with cookie ingredients with an attached recipe.

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Our festive table

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My beautiful bridesmaids and best friends

But one of my favorite details had to be the Recipe Box that they gave me, filled with recipes from all the guests who were able to attend. It was such a sweet and thoughtful gift and will serve as a wonderful memory of such a great day. So now, well after the holiday season has calmed down, I am finally getting around to sampling the recipes that were carefully stuffed into my recipe box. The first recipe I tried was a recipe for Hasselback Potatoes from my Aunt Renee. You slice russet potatoes and sprinkle with herbs and cheese for a delicious and decadent side dish. Make sure you fan the slices out well, or the potato will not bake through all the way. I served these potatoes with a simple pork loin and it was an incredibly delicious dinner.

Ingredients: Makes 4 servings

  • 4 medium russet potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh herbs ( I used a combination of chopped thyme & sage)
  • 4 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Preparation:

  1. Scrub and rinse potatoes
  2. Cut potatoes into thin slices but not all the way through
  3. Put potatoes in a baking dish, fan them slightly
  4. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with melted butter. sprinkle with dried herbs
  5. Bake potatoes at 425 for 50 minutes
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheeses
  7. Bake potatoes for another 10-15 minutes until lightly browned, cheeses are melted and potatoes are soft inside

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Thanksgiving Weekend 2013

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I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! Mine was filled with my four favorite things: family, friends, food and running. My cousins and I kicked off the long weekend by making our Thanksgiving themed costumes for Detroit’s Turkey Trot. The Turkey Trot is held every Thanksgiving morning before the Thanksgiving Day Parade and many of the runners run the 5k or 10k decked out in a holiday costume. I’ve run it several times before but had not yet joined the costume club. But this year, I ran the race decked out in a Thanksgiving tutu and turkey headband.

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We had a huge group running different races on Thursday morning. Kristen and I ran the 10k “Turkey Trot”, Lauren and her boyfriend Alex ran the 5K Stuffing Strut” and my aunt, uncle, Meghan and Eric walked the “Mashed Potato Mile.”

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In true Michigan fashion, we found ourselves running smack dab in the middle of a blizzard. And though it was a bit slippery, it was SO much fun. I even managed to somehow run my fastest 10k yet! I think that had a lot to do with how speedy my cousin Kristen is!

Later on, Eric and I went to his family’s Thanksgiving lunch where we enjoyed honeybaked ham and turkey, corn casserole, fruit, stuffing and mashed potatoes. And we of course enjoyed the company of his hilarious family. They are such a fun group and I am so excited that I get to officially join the Jones clan in less than 5 months! Around 4 oclock we made our way to my parents house for the Berendt Thanksgiving dinner. I usually eat pretty light at Eric’s party to save room for my family celebration, while he goes all out at his family’s, and eats a bit lighter at my family party. It’s all about prior planning, folks. At the Berendt festivities, we enjoyed turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Needless to say, by the end of the day I was completely stuffed. But hey, that is what Thanksgiving is for. We then continued our family tradition of watching Home Alone after dinner. And with that, the Christmas season officially began! The next morning I was up early once again to run the Jingle Bell 5k with my friend Annie and our favorite grade school teacher, Mrs. Leblanc.

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It was another chilly, snowy race, but we had a great time catching up. Later on, Eric and I visited Griffin Claw Brewery in Birmingham for a fun date night sampling some delicious brews. My favorite was their Screamin Pumpkin. So so good.

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The next day was my 25th birthday and we kicked off the day with a delicious brunch at the Dearborn Inn, a beautiful hotel right down the road from Greenfield Village. It was all decorated for Christmas, which obviously made me incredibly excited. The breakfast and the company were pretty great too.

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Later that night my family and LT’s family went out for dinner to celebrate mine and Lauren’s birthday. And to cap off an incredibly fun and busy weekend, Eric and I attended the Festival of Trees at the Ford Performing Arts Center.

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Different companies contribute beautiful Christmas trees, all decorated with a unique theme and much of the proceeds from the event go to charity. I loved the classic red and green trees, while Eric was a fan of the Detroit Tigers themed tree.

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All in all it was a fantastic weekend, and I was left feeling incredibly blessed and pretty darn pooped. I think tonight will include a viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life and an early bedtime. What are you all up to?

Coffee Date

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If we were having coffee today I would tell you I am beyond excited for Thanksgiving. It will be a weekend filled to the brim with family, friends, food & holiday themed races. That’s right. I will be running the Turkey Trot with my cousins on Thursday morning (in costume, of course) and I’ll be running the Jingle Bell Run with my friend Annie on Friday. It is mighty chilly here in Michigan, but perhaps the promise of hot chocolate will get me through all those frigid miles.

If we were having coffee today I would tell you I am not-so-patiently awaiting the return of my best friend Leona from Paris. Leona has been studying at Le Cordon Bleu Paris and we haven’t seen each other in over a year. Seeing as we lived together through most of college and were practically attached at the hip for 3 years, the separation anxiety has been extreme. She will be back in the States over the holidays and I am pumped!

If we were having coffee today I would tell you I’m really thankful for my job. I was really unhappy at my first job out of college so when I finally found my way to my current position, I was delighted to find that it felt like home from day one. Not only do I get to do what I love, but my coworkers aren’t just “the people I work with.” They have truly become some of my closest friends over the last 2 years. Monday mornings are actually something I’ve come to look forward to because I can’t wait to hear everyone’s stories from the weekend.

If we were having coffee today I would tell you that you should visit Peet’s Coffee. The California based coffee chain just opened 7 stores in Michigan and they were kind enough to send me some coffee to sample. I’ll have to admit, I was a little hesitant to try the coffee shop that took over our beloved Caribou Coffee, but I was not disappointed. I tried a Vanilla Latte when I visited the store and loved how it was just subtly sweet. And the Holiday Blend coffee is smooth and delicious. I’m certain  it will even make my coffee snob fiance happy. I’m looking forward to trying one of their freshly baked muffins or scones that are brought in by Michigan’s own Zingerman’s Bakery. Their partnership with Zingerman’s is part of their ongoing commitment to support the local economy. Plus, as any Michigander would know, every item made by Zingerman’s is pretty fantastic.

So grab yourself some Peet’s, and enjoy your holiday week!

Mediterranean Baked Salmon

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Eric and I officially have a place to live when we get married! We found the cutest little condo that I have affectionately dubbed our “Snow Cottage.” And though I am so excited to start this new chapter, I will definitely be sad to leave my current roommates. And by roommates, I mean my parents. I have been living at home since I graduated college and I can honestly say I have loved every minute of it. Ok scratch that. I loved every minute except the time they woke me up at midnight to scream, yell, and sing because the Tigers made it to the playoffs. But other than that, living with mom and dad has been great. I’ll miss watching the Colbert Report with my dad every night and “Pinterest-ing” with my mom. And I will really miss cooking dinner with them. A few nights ago I made this delicious salmon recipe from Eat, Live, Run and it was a big hit. Not only is it incredibly delicious, but it is also very easy to whip up. The prep time is short but the result is a flavorful and impressive looking meal. I think it would definitely be a great meal to serve at a dinner party. But for now, since I only have few more months living at home with these two, I might just serve it a few more times at our nightly dinner party for 3.

Ingredients: Serves 3, Recipe from Eat Live Run

  • 3 pieces of salmon, skin removed
  • 3 tablespoons pesto
  • 3 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 10 pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped

Preparation:

  1. Place 3 pieces of salmon on a greased cookie sheet
  2. Spread salmon with pesto
  3. Top each piece of salmon with 1 tablespoon sundried tomatoes, chopped red onion, feta and chopped olives
  4. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes

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Banana Split Cupcakes


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A few weeks ago, my best friend LT asked me to make her a few dozen cupcakes to bring to work. And rather than whip up a batch of standard chocolate or vanilla, I wracked my brain for a new flavor combination to try out. I skimmed through a few of my favorite cookbooks and stumbled upon this recipe for Banana Split Cupcakes. And just like that, I was hit with a flash of childhood memories spent at my Grandparents house. Because anytime I think about banana splits, I am instantly transported back to one of our many sleepovers at their little house on Littlestone. My brother, cousins and I looked forward to sleepovers on Littlestone more than anything else. Sleepovers meant later bedtimes, an endless array of board games and, because it was Grandma’s house, a night full of sweets.  And no sleepover was complete without homemade banana splits. I can still remember the pretty pink glass dishes that were perfectly shaped for those special ice cream sundaes. Grandpa would slice a banana right down the middle and place it in the dish. He would then plop three whole scoops of Neopolitan Ice Cream over the banana and cover it with chocolate syrup and sprinkles. How we ever fell asleep after all that sugar, I will never know. My cousins and I bragged about the banana splits to our friends so much that LT asked if she could come for a sleepover too. We were actually in high school by that time, but my grandparents didn’t mind. And Grandpa happily made LT the famous banana split she had always heard about. So it seemed fitting that I made LT a batch of cupcakes inspired by the dessert she so wanted to enjoy all those years. These cupcakes have a light banana flavor that pair wonderfully with the rich chocolate of Sander’s hot fudge. The perfect “throwback” dessert.

Ingredients: From the Cupcake Diaries, Makes 48 mini cupcakes

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (2-3 mashed bananas)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/3 cup water

Frosting:

  • 4 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 6 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sander’s Chocolate Fudge Topping

Preparation:

  1. For the cupcakes: Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour through nutmeg)
  2. In a separate bowl, beat softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  3. Add eggs to butter mixture, one at a time
  4. Add the bananas and honey to the butter mixture and mix until just combined
  5. Alternate adding flour mixture and water to the butter mixture, beating after each addition
  6. Scoop batter into cupcake pans lined with cupcake liners
  7. Bake at 350 for 15-17 minutes
  8. For the frosting: Combine butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and beat until light and fluffy
  9. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition
  10. Beat in vanilla extract
  11. To assemble the cupcakes: Use a piping bag to pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes. Drizzle with Sanders Hot Fudge, or chocolate syrup of your choice. Finish with sprinkles

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