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I'm super excited to share this Grilled Mexican Street Corn Soup recipe! It's a fun take on the classic Mexican street food, elotes. I love ordering this dish as one of the many delicious tapas at Toro, a great Boston restaurant that first introduced us to the wonders of Spanish tapas before our trip to Barcelona (no Mexican street food in Barca, though). While I definitely envision corn on the cob as the ultimate summer food, May counts as basically summer, right? This soup doesn't get too far ahead of itself, though, and will still keep you cozy on these still-chilly spring nights.

Elotes features a creamy coating on fire roasted corn, finished with bright flavors like chile powder, cotija cheese, and lime juice. There are so many layers of flavor when you take your first (very messy) bite that I wondered how I could ever re-create that in soup form. I'd been inspired seeing different elotes soup recipes on the internet, but the flavors just weren't the same when I tried to make it the first few times. UNTIL NOW.  It's all thanks to a few secret ingredients...courtesy of one of my favorite places on this planet, Trader Joe's. 

This soup wouldn't be the same without that charred, deep roasted corn flavor that comes from a fiery grilling. Thankfully, Trader Joe's freezer section has got you covered on this one: you'll need one bag of Trader Joe's Mexican Style Roasted Corn with Cotija Cheese and one bag of Trader Joe's Roasted Corn. Both bags have roasted corn, which will add that depth of flavor. I like the Mexican Style because there is some creamy sauce included in the bag, which acts as a nice base for the soup by adding that extra burst of flavor for you to build onto. I went with a more "plain" second bag because my recipe adds my own seasonings and flavorings, but this is really flexible -  Note: If you can only find one of these kinds of corn at TJ's, it is not a huge deal at all - just make sure you have two bags of corn total. You can also make this with regular frozen corn as well as canned corn - while the roasted flavor won't be as intense, the bright, flavorful toppings like the cotija cheese and lime juice will still guarantee this dish is a hit.

Grilled Mexican Street Corn Soup

Makes approximately 4 servings
Other recipes with these ingredients: Cilantro: all my recipes here, including my Chicken Enchiladas Recipe // Sour Cream: add it atop Turkey Chili or my Five Minute Fish Taco Bowls.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients
 




Dietary Substitutions:
Vegetarian Friendly
Gluten Free Friendly
Dairy-free or Vegan: Top with dairy free cheese, skip sour cream

Directions


1. Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium head. Add 1 small yellow onion, diced, to the pot and stir 2-3 minutes, until transluscent. 
2. Add the two bags of corn and stir for 3-4 minutes, until starting to defrost. IMPORTANT: Set aside 1 cup of the corn mixture, for topping the soup later.
3. Add 4 cups vegetable broth and 1/2 cup sour cream to the soup and let simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Slowly and carefully, in batches if needed, transfer the majority of the soup into a blender and blend until desired texture.
5. Transfer back into your soup pot and add salt, pepper, and chili powder to taste. Let simmer on medium-low heat while you finish preparing the topping.
6. Meanwhile, while the soup is simmering, chop about 1/4 cup cilantro and toss it with the corn mixture that you said aside earlier in step 2.
7. Plate the soup and top with the corn and cilantro mixture, cotjia cheese and a squeeze of the lime wedges and enjoy!

Yum.Storing & Extra Ingredients

STORING - Store in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container. I love making a big batch of soup and keeping it in the fridge for a quick meal. I wouldn't recommend freezing this due to the added dairy (sour cream) but if you leave that out it would be very freezer friendly - just top with cheese once defrosted!

LUNCH TOMORROW - Keep the toppings separate and add once you've heated up your soup. It will help it tasting just as fresh as the night you made it! Especially the lime - squeezing a fresh lime wedge over the top while sitting at your desk will make those desk lunches slightly less sad.

EXTRA INGREDIENTS - You'll likely have extra cilantro, which is also a favorite garnish in my Easy Chicken Enchiladas recipe. Check out all my cilantro recipes here by scrolling down the page). Use any extra sour cream atop a cozy bowl of Turkey Chili with some of that cilantro as well.

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I am a HUGE fan of take out. Not just because I think the food is good (I do), but because I just love the convenience of it. Don't get me wrong, I love to cook - clearly. But there's something about food showing up at your door that can't be beat. Until now.

This Beef & Broccoli recipe is better-than-takeout good - the marinated flank steak is extra flavorful, the sesame seeds add the perfect crunch, it's got a little bit of a kick...what more could you want? I love/hate to admit that it also just tastes and feels healthier than takeout, meaning I should probably hold back on ordering takeout. Also - that's a great excuse to use this Beef & Broccoli recipe as a meal prep and have it for lunch all week.

Flank steak, which is what you'll need for this recipe, often comes in larger (read: more than single serving) portions, so it's great that this recipe is ideal for meal prepping and having multiple nights in a row or for lunch for the week. Since it's made in the Instant Pot/crock pot (stove top directions included too), it's also such an easy recipe to come home to. It only takes about 10 minutes to finish up.

My favorite way to cook this recipe is to use the slow cooker function on my Instant Pot, because it allows me to cook the food before I get home from work, but also takes advantage of the Instant Pot technology keeps it warm all day after the few hours of cooking are over. Perfect when you work in a school building for 11 hours a day.  

Wondering how you could ever possibly put something in your Instant Pot/slow cooker in the morning AND shower before work AND down some coffee??? First, do it once and you'll realize it's SO worth it. Second, this recipe is GREAT for dump and go - I mix the sauce the night before and keep it in a tupperware, slice my meat ahead of time and store in the fridge in a gallon zip lock bag, and dump it all together in the morning and hit "ON". You can definitely, definitely do that and come home to better-than-takeout Beef & Broccoli ready and waiting (well, for 10 more minutes of simmering, but close enough).

Beef & Broccoli Recipe

Makes 6 servings
Other recipes with these ingredients: Beef Broth: French Onion Soup // Flank Steak: Slow Cooker Beef Ragu
Prep time: 10 minutes before + 10 minutes after
Cook time: Slow cooker: Low, 4 hours // Instant Pot: High, 10 minutes NPR // Stove top: 30 minutes
Total Time: Depending on cooking method, add prep time + cook time

Ingredients
  • 1 pound flank steak Substitute: skirt steak
  • 3/4 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch + 4 tablespoons cold water
  • Pinch of red chili flakes Optional, to taste
  • Sesame seeds, for topping
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • Serving suggestion: Serve over white rice




Dietary Substitutions:
Dairy-free Friendly
Gluten Free As long as you confirm all of your ingredients are gluten free, this recipe is gluten-free friendly. Double check your soy sauce.
Not Vegetarian or Vegan Friendly

Directions
(see non-Instant Pot directions in italics below)

PREP THE BEEF
1. Make the sauce by combining 3/4 cup beef broth, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil and whisking to combine. If you like heat, add a pinch of red chili flakes to the sauce now.
2. Slice 1 pound of flank steak thinly, against the grain. Add to your pot (for whatever cooking method you're using).
3. Pour the sauce over the meat and stir to coat. Cook based on your cooking method: Instant Pot: 10 minutes high pressure NPR // Slow cooker: 4 hours on low // Stove top: simmer on medium heat for 20-30 minutes, until meat reaches desired doneness.

PREP THE BROCCOLI & RICE
4. If you'd like to serve this dish over white rice, start cooking that now.
5. Get 1-2 inches of water boiling in your steamer. Once boiling, add the 3 cups broccoli florets and steam for 5-7 minutes.
6. Break down your 3 cups broccoli into florets (which really just means break it into individual broccolis!)

AS THE STEAK IS FINISHING...
7. Whisk 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 4 tablespoons COLD water (cold matters here!)
8. Once the meat is "done" cooking, add this slurry to the steak and sauce pot.
9. Continue to cook 10-15 additional minutes on low (stovetop & slow cooker - for Instant Pot, turn Sauté feature on low), allowing the sauce to thicken. 
10. Serve beef over rice with broccoli, topped with sesame seeds for garnish. 

Yum.Storing & Extra Ingredients

STORING - Store in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container. This has been my recent go-to meal prep recipe, so I've eaten it all week for lunch and found it to taste just as good on day 1 as day 5. The flavors really infuse into the meat so it tastes better than takeout.

LUNCH TOMORROW - As I said, this is the perfect lunch. The bowls look perfect with the beef and broccoli spooned over some nice white rice and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Your coworkers will be jealous.

EXTRA INGREDIENTS - If you end up with extra flank steak (especially if it's on sale and you buy extra!) I recommend Pinch of Yum's Slow Cooker Beef Ragu. I ate this for 5 meals straight one week in January and had 0 complaints. If you end up having extra broth, try using it up in a cozy French Onion Soup recipe. Hang on to that soy sauce, brown sugar, and sesame oil for some other Millennial Menu favorites coming at you in the future. 

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the view of the castle of the moors in sintra, Portugal, from pena palace

My favorite way to get to know a new city is through the food, and we recently did just that in Barcelona, as well as with a few stops in Lisbon & Sintra on either end. I feel so lucky to have been able to take this vacation just a year after coming back from Rome (and after studying abroad in Spring 2014 as well as traveling in Europe in Summer 2012). I never thought that traveling would be something that could potentially become a part of my life, and the past few years have helped me realize that it might be - if I budget!

This trip was so worth every home-cooked meal and homemade cocktail over a night out. When we were on vacation, I said so many times, "This is so worth being on a budget at home." Don't get me wrong - I'm on a budget for many other reasons, including student loans and simply just being a teacher, but prioritizing my spending and babysitting on the weekend paid off as we sipped creative cocktails at a speakeasy or splurged on last minute FC Barcelona tickets. Plus, being travel-savvy doesn't hurt.

How did we find such a great deal? As a teacher in Boston, we have school vacation in both February and April, so we used Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights to go somewhere for one of those weeks. We found a flight to Barcelona for cheaper than some destinations in the United States, including flights to Florida or San Francisco. When you consider the cost of hotels or even AirBnB in the U.S. vs. Europe, I thought we might be able to pull off this Barcelona trip for a shockingly reasonable price - and we did! The secret to the cheap flight was that it was through TAP Air Portugal, and included a 15 hour layover on the way there (we headed to Sintra, which we loved!) and a 24 hour layover on the way back (when we explored beautiful Lisbon). We had never been to Portugal, so we saw this as a huge perk rather than an issue.

Overall, I fell in love with Barcelona. It is a cosmopolitan, modern city that is a total foodie destination and the perfect place for a fun, whimsical vacation. Our day trip for hiking in Montserrat was breathtaking and well worth the breath of fresh air from the city. Exploring Sintra was the best way to spend a 15 hour layover, and 24 hours in Lisbon enticed me to go back some day. I came home feeling both exhausted and energized, satisfied and more curious to explore the world.

In terms of travel recommendations, we loved our hotel, Hotel Ciutat Barcelona, in El Born district of Barcelona. We booked it on Black Friday for 30% off (!) and loved that they provided fridges full of water bottles on every floor, had a perfect location near almost every top restaurant and cocktail bar we wanted to try, and that it was across the street from a cinnamon bun bakery. Because duh. There's also a rooftop pool that looked amazing, but sadly it was a little chilly to utilize in February. Next time! Another must is an FC Barcelona game, if they're playing, as well as a day trip to Montserrat for some hiking. We did a fun cooking class with Barcelona Cooking and semi-successfully recreated the paella recipe at home last weekend. If you're looking for more info on trip logistics and other recommendations, please feel free to reach out via the "Contact" page. Planning trips is a weird, obsessive passion of mine, and I spent hours and hours researching to maximize our time and tummy space and stretch every dollar. I'm happy to share!

Now on to the real reason why you're here - THE FOOD. I'll share a few highlights of what we ate during our six day trip, although if you look at the photos you might think we were gone for three weeks. I thought about apologizing for how many photos there are, but isn't that the purpose of a food blog? Note: this is a small percentage of what/where we ate. I still aim to create a Europe guide e-book but being a first year teacher has put a damper on my plans to have a side project. It's coming, eventually, I promise. The more traveling I do before then, the more I have to add to it, right?

after an overnight international flight, our first stop (once we got to sintra, 2 hours from lisbon airport) was casa piriquita. We picked up travesseiro, a traditional pastry of Sintra, meaning pillow in portuguese. They are puff pastry filled with almond cream. The bakery has been open since 1862 and provided the perfect fuel for our exploration of the pena palace and moor castle.

Once we made it to our barcelona hotel and got a good night's sleep, our first "meal" in barcelona was demasie, a cinnamon bun bakery, literally a dream come true right outside our hotel door. We went here many times over our few short days in Barcelona. our favorite cinnamon buns (served warm) were classic cinnamon, dulce de leche, and tiramisu. Huge shoutout to ali over at gimme some oven for this rec.

we dove into spanish cuisine pretty deeply - in a cooking class! We learned how to make paella (along with crema Catalana and much more) and semi-successfully re-created this recipe at home last weekend. We truly enjoyed our experience at barcelona cooking and felt it was a great value for the money!

crema catalana in action at barcelona cooking.

I could eat Chocolate con churros from Churreria Laietana every morning. we watched the elderly man fry the churros fresh and they were just perfect.

We stopped at BAR pinotxo in La Boqueria market for breakfast on our last day in barcelona. It gets mobbed for lunchtime, so we totally accepted eating a savory breakfast. I had a version of this chickpea dish twice in barcelona and am looking forward to re-creating it at home. This version included blood sausage - which I was not aware of when I ordered, but it was delicious.

the highlight of our meal at BAR pinotxo ended up being this pastry that was gently forced upon us despite the fact that we were stuffed. It's called xuixo, and it's a deep-fried, sugar-coated pastry filled with crema catalana. It is even better than it sounds.

5 miles and 4,000 ft into the air above the region of barcelona, we had carried a selection of meats and cheeses for our picnic lunch (in 20 degree weather). All thanks to Vila Viniteca! This included the famous Jamón ibérico, which yes, we ate after a long hike in 20 degree weather at the top of a mountain. It's fine. At the shop, We spent about 20 minutes sampling cheeses and meats, and the wonderful staff there were so helpful and friendly. We got a little nervous as we were tasting that this would be a $60 picnic, but it came to just 12.50 euro! 

our best bang for our buck meal was the "menu del dia" at la pubilla. the Menu del dia is a great way to try a more high end restaurant at a reasonable price, and I had researched a lot on what our one menu del dia would be - and I made a good choice. for 16 euro, we had a glass of wine, an appetizer, a main dish, and a dessert. Every...single....dish....was....amazing. my main dish, above, was a perfectly delicate and garlicky fish. That is all I could translate from the catalan menu and it was delicious and that is all that matters. 

one of the many dishes we had at our very authentic barcelona lunch stop, el xampanyet. these are Padrón peppers   (1 in 10 are spicy and I've had about 50 of these on our trip and none have been - am I just lucky?) served with cooked (rather than cured) jamon, a specialty spanish ham. It was salty and juicy and amazing. Also, they have 1 euro cava (Spain's version of prosecco, or sparkling wine) Where can you go wrong?



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I don't think any cocktail bar will ever top Paradiso for me. I'm planning to do a whole post on it, but for now, these artisinal cocktails speak for themselves. Tucked behind a secret door in a pastrami bar, we stayed for hours.





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The Millennial Menu by Maggie Finn - 4M ago
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One of my favorite winter comfort foods is chili. It's so great to cozy up with a bowl of steaming chili topped with cheese, sour cream, and of course, with a buttery, crumbling corn muffin. I've perfected this Instant Pot Turkey Chili recipe that is super simple to make (p.s. even if you don't have an Instant Pot - which you totally should - I've included slow cooker and stove top directions, too). 

Chili is super simple to make, so if you're looking for an easy first-time recipe, go for this one. It is also very flexible - you can adjust the types of beans, the amount of spice, add additional vegetables, change up the toppings, etc. As long as you've got some ground turkey (or beef, if you want!), beans, veggies, spices, and broth, you're basically good. It's easy to double the recipe and make a large batch for a crowd or to have leftovers either for lunches for the week or to keep in your freezer when you need a quick weeknight meal. Either way, you now have an easy go-to recipe for winter comfort food on a cold night!

Turkey Chili Recipe

Makes 6 servings
Other recipes with these ingredients: Chicken or vegetable broth: Butternut Squash & Apple Soup or Instant Pot Risotto // Cheese: Five Minute Fish Taco Bowls
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes (includes pressure cooking wait time)

Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground turkey Substitute: ground beef
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Cheese, sour cream, cilantro, for topping




Dietary Substitutions:
Gluten Free
Dairy-free: Skip the cheese on top or choose a dairy free cheese.
Vegetarian Friendly: Use vegetable broth and substitute the ground turkey for an extra can of beans - I like to add pinto beans sometimes, but you can also add an extra can of black or kidney depending on your preferences.
Vegan-Friendly Follow dairy-free and vegetarian recommendations.

Directions
(see non-Instant Pot directions in italics below)

SAUTÉ THE TURKEY
1. Turn on the Instant Pot "sauté" setting, normal heat. Add 1 pound ground turkey to the Instant Pot along with 1 full taco spice seasoning packet. Sauté the ground turkey until it is completely brown fully cooked.

  • If you're making this without an Instant Pot, just brown the ground turkey on the stove and add it to your slow cooker or, for stove top, a large soup pot.

ADD EVERYTHING TO THE POT
2. Drain 1 can black beans, 1 can kidney beans, and 1 can corn in a strainer. Add to the Instant Pot.
3. Add 1 can diced tomatoes to the Instant Pot along with 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth.
4.  Stir in 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 2 teaspoons paprika, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Add salt & pepper to taste.

COOK, THEN ENJOY!
5. Once everything is in the pot, close the lid and turn the Instant Pot on Manual for 10 minutes (high pressure). When the timer is done, let the pot NPR (natural pressure release - basically, just don't touch it) for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, slowly release the seal valve until the pressure pin drops, and open up the pot!

  • If you're making this in a slow cooker: Cook on low 3 hours. 
  • If you're making this on the stove top: Cook at a low simmer for 30 minutes.

6. Stir and taste the chili. Add salt & pepper as needed. 
7. Serve topped with cheese, sour cream, cilantro, and whatever else you like! I love mine with cornbread muffins on the side, too. Enjoy!

Yum. Storing & Extra Ingredients

STORING - Store in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container. This is one of my favorite big batch recipes to freeze because it tastes just as good defrosted during a busy week! I often make a double batch just to keep some leftovers in the freezer. Pull my favorite trick, "soup in a bag" and load up freezer-friendly ziplock bags with chili. Freeze them laying down flat and then stand them stacked up in your fridge to grab whenever you need a quick meal.

LUNCH TOMORROW - This has been my meal prep lunch recipe for the week at school so many times. It seems to get tastier after the first day anyway, and I love packing corn muffins on the side to enjoy with it. Make sure to store any sour cream in a separate container so you don't end up heating that up as well.

EXTRA INGREDIENTS - This recipe does a pretty good job of using up almost everything in it! You'll use all the turkey and add ins. If you have to buy the spices they'll last forever in your spice cabinet. If you end up having extra broth, try using it up in my recipes for Butternut Squash & Apple Soup or Instant Pot Risotto.

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Football is big in my family. My dad played through college and my younger brother currently plays in college. Shockingly, this doesn't mean I understand the game. What I do understand, however, is the importance of Super Bowl Sunday.  Every year growing up we would go to my neighbor's house for a different theme...build your own tacos, loaded baked potato bar, etc. I associate Super Bowl Sunday with good food, good friends & family, good commercials, and good football (at least I think good football). 

Last year, we did a bunch of appetizers on Super Bowl Sunday and I love that it's an excuse to make things loaded with melty cheese. This year we're doing the same (and I'm excited to test out a few new recipes you all might be seeing on the blog soon) and wanted to highlight two of my favorite, easiest, and quickest appetizers: Warm Cheddar Ale Dip and my Three Ingredient Baked Brie.

The Warm Cheddar Ale Dip is more famously known as simply "beer cheese" among our friends, because these are the 2 key ingredients. With a nice loaf of fresh bread, it's an indulgent treat. My Three-Ingredient Baked Brie is as simple as it sounds, and the flaky, buttery crust of the phyllo dough makes the perfect crunching noise as you cut into the gooey cheese beneath. Both of these are extremely simple to make and big crowd-pleasers. They take minimal prep and can be done before everyone arrives and kept warm, so you can focus on the game (or the commercials). 

Looking for the recipes?Click each photo below to take you to the recipe page for each dish!
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People go crazy for my mom's Homemade Baileys Irish Cream recipe, and I've recently started making it for people and they can't get enough. Around the holidays, we've always got a bottle in our fridge. It's perfect for a nice cold glass cozied up on the couch catching up on your favorite show, for entertaining friends at a holiday party, or as a delicious gift.

When people ask what's in it, I basically just answer "sugar + whiskey" which is basically true. And cream. Three things that are all pretty amazing separately, and are even better when whisked together into a bottle of this creamy, sweet, indulgent treat. It's a really flexible recipe that you can't mess up - while the ingredients are all important to bring the flavor together, a little bit more or less instant coffee or hot chocolate powder won't make or break the thing...and a little bit MORE (or less, I guess) whiskey definitely isn't a problem, either. I hate to say this but - I don't use the nicest whiskey for this. I think if you did, it wouldn't be a bad thing, you just don't have to. I like nice whiskey in my cocktails, but since this drink is paired with indulgent cream and sweetened condensed milk, the alcohol itself isn't even the star of the show - it's the combination of the flavors that makes the drink. That means it's okay to get a cheaper option - no one will know, or care, especially when the whiskey does start to hit them!

I love that this recipe takes 10 minutes or less to come together, and it's a great treat to bring to holiday parties or to give as a gift to really impress people. My mom has found some beautiful recloseable bottles at the dollar store to serve hers in, but I've used Acqua Panna bottles that I've cleaned the labels off of. They look nice tied up with red ribbon and a recipe label. Or, like me, you can just make a few batches to keep in your fridge for those cold December nights.

Homemade Baileys Irish Cream

Makes about 2 liters (or 8 cups)
Prep time: 7 minutes
Cook time: 3 minutes (to boil water - microwave is probably fastest!)
Total Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee
  • 2 teaspoons hot chocolate mix
  • 2 tablespoons boiling hot water
  • 2 cups half & half (or non-dairy creamer)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 shots whiskey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract




Dietary Substitutions:
Gluten Free
Vegetarian Friendly
Dairy-free/vegan: Use non-dairy creamer and sweetened condensed coconut milk. Make sure to choose a vegan hot chocolate mix.

Directions

1. Dissolve 2 teaspoons hot chocolate mix and 2 teaspoons instant coffee in 2 tablespoons boiling hot water.
2. Mix in 2 cups half & half, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 6 shots of whiskey, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Whisk well to combine. Store in the fridge to cool before serving.

Yum.Storing & Extra Ingredients

STORING - Homemade Baileys should be stored in the fridge. If stored properly, the Baileys can probably last up to a month (although I doubt you'll wait that long to finish the bottle!) - it might need to be shaken before serving again.

EXTRA INGREDIENTS - You'll likely have some extra half & half, which can be used in just about any recipe that calls for milk or cream with slightly different results. I used my extra half & half in a homemade mac & cheese recipe (coming soon!) and it came out great. Hopefully you can come up with some ideas for that extra whiskey, my favorite is a Classic Whiskey Sour (with an egg white!) I save up any extra hot chocolate mix or instant coffee for another batch of Baileys, because once you try this, you'll definitely want more!

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Thanksgiving is my favorite meal of the year, and one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is the side dishes. I think I would be okay if there was no turkey, but I couldn't live without the mashed potatoes or stuffing (or my super easy homemade cranberry sauce recipe!). My mom's homemade mashed potatoes are almost exclusively served on holidays, so I knew I needed to honor her when making my own Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes for Friendsgiving this year. 

Enter: my beloved Instant Pot. I have adjusted to using my Instant Pot for so many staple things in my kitchen over the past year or two, from steel cut oats to hard boiled eggs to risotto to mac and cheese. I knew it could stand the test of mashed potatoes, and I was right.

The best thing about this recipe is it's all in one pot for easy cleanup. I steamed the potatoes in the pot (in ONLY 12 minutes!), mashed them back in there, and added all of the extras (um, hello butter) to stir together. The Instant Pot even keeps them warm for me until ready to serve - another perk of the all-in-one-pot method is the Instant Pot will keep your mashed potatoes at a consistent temperature, so you can make them early in the morning and have one less thing to worry about once the big day prep really gets into full swing.

There is one thing you need to know before making this recipe - you can't try to make mashed potatoes healthy. You just can't. They're best with A LOT of butter, with milk (or hey - even heavy cream), a good amount of salt, and finally, my mom's secret ingredient - cream cheese. It adds just the right of smooth, creamy tang to the potatoes. Thanksgiving is not the day to cut back on any of this goodness.

The other thing you need to know is your options for the mashing step. You have three options: a potato ricer, a potato masher, or your biceps + a wooden spoon. Here's how they differ:

1. A potato ricer is my mashed potato method of choice. I own this mostly for making homemade gnocchi (yum) but it also results in the absolute fluffiest mashed potatoes ever - with very little effort. The potatoes go into the ricer and it's super easy to squeeze them through the ricer easily. This method will lead to the smoothest mashed potatoes.

2. A potato masher is probably the most traditional method that most people use. This result is probably medium difficulty to achieve - the masher makes it easier than using a spoon and your arm, but isn't quite as easy as the potato ricer. This method will lead to potatoes that are slightly lumpy but still overall smooth.

3. Your biceps and a spoon - for the toughest among us. If you've got a sturdy spoon and some muscle power, you can make mashed potatoes by hand. This step requires the most effort and will lead to the most lumpy mashed potatoes - but some people absolutely love this texture, and if you're willing to put in the work, the taste is phenomenal with any method.

If you don't have an Instant Pot yet: The Instant Pot is always one of the best (and most popular) Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals - so if you're feeling like you absolutely need one of these in your life (you're right, you do) - keep your eye out for those deals coming up soon! In the meantime, you can boil your potatoes on the stove (which will take longer) and follow the same recipe. Keep them warm in a crock pot or in an oven-safe dish on low in the oven.

 

Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes

Makes about 10-15 servings
Other recipes with these ingredients: Cream cheese: Tortellini Soup with Spinach & Mushroom
Prep time: 15 minutes (10 minutes before, 5 minutes after)
Cook time: 20 minutes (12 in the Instant Pot + coming to pressure)
Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients
  • 5 lbs Russet potatoes
  • 1/2 block cream cheese, cubed
  • 1 stick butter (yes, you read that right)
  • 1-2 cups milk, to taste
  • Salt, to taste




Dietary Substitutions:
Gluten Free
Vegetarian Friendly
Dairy-free/Vegan: Substitute dairy-free milk or use chicken broth instead.

Directions

PEEL & BOIL THE POTATOES
1. Peel 5 lbs. of russet potatoes and add them to the Instant Pot. 
2. Add 8 cups water on top of the potatoes in the Instant Pot and cook for 10 minutes on the "Steam" function.
3. When the potatoes are done, release the steam immediately and drain the water from the pot. 

MAKE THEM MASHED!
4. Time to mash the potatoes! Your options for this are a potato masher, a potato ricer (my personal choice) or a wooden spoon + a really strong arm. See descriptions of each method above.
5. Add 1 stick's worth of butter tabs, 1-2 cups milk (depending on your preference), 1/2 cup cream cheese cubes, and salt to taste.
6. Stir well to incorporate. Add any extra of the above ingredients - you can't ever have too much, and it's all about what your taste is! If making ahead of time, keep warm in the Instant Pot using the "warming" feature.

Storing & Extra Ingredients

STORING - The best thing about mashed potatoes is that they're the perfect thing to make ahead early in the morning and leave in your Instant Pot (or crock pot) all day to keep warm before dinner. Leftovers will last up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge. I've also read about freezing mashed potatoes - which I've never done but I trust it and think you should try it and let me know! 

EXTRA INGREDIENTS - This recipe will leave you with extra milk and cream cheese, which I'm sure you can find something to do with - if you need ideas, use up that cream cheese by making my Tortellini Soup with Spinach & Mushroom (it's the secret ingredient!).

Note: This post contains affiliate links for products I recommend. That means if you click on a product link in this post and choose to purchase the product on Amazon, I earn a commission. I only recommend products I use and love organically. This means that if you are going to purchase a product that I recommend, I encourage you to do it through the direct link from the blog so that I (and the blog) benefit. Read my full affiliate disclosure.

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This recipe is my go-to twenty minute meal. We often eat it for weekend lunches because it's easy to make just 2 servings, doesn't require a lot of effort, tastes great, and keeps us full. It's also one of those recipes where it might be impossible to mess up: the chicken sausage is already cooked (thank you Al Fresco) and the biggest culinary feat is cooking up some pasta. The chicken sausage is already cooked (hallelujah!). It really takes just twenty minutes - boil the water for the pasta first, chop some things up, and heat things. That's it.

What I love about this recipe is it's so basic - you can add in substitutions for virtually everything based on what you like or what you have on hand. The basic formula is pasta + cheese + greens + chicken sausage. My favorite variation is roasted garlic chicken sausage, swiss chard, cheese tortellini, and asiago, but you can really take this in any direction. I saw pesto tortellini at Trader Joe's this weekend, and I can imagine that would be delicious with sundried tomato chicken sausage, spinach, and parmesan cheese. Whatever type of pasta, greens, or flavor chicken sausage you choose, the flavors will be brought together with a pat of butter and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Chicken Sausage Skillet Recipe

Makes 4 servings
Other recipes with these ingredients: Tortellini: Tortellini Soup
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients
  • 1 package chicken sausage (see Grocery Guide for more info)
  • 2-4 cups of greens (like spinach, swiss chard, or kale)
  • 1 package tortellini (or any other pasta you like, such as ravioli)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2-4 tablespoons milk
  • Shredded asiago or parmesan cheese, to taste
  • Salt & pepper, to taste




Dietary Substitutions:
Gluten Free: Choose a gluten free pasta, whether it's tortellini, ravioli, or something elese
Dairy-free: Substitute dairy-free milk or omit the milk.
Vegetarian Friendly: Leave out the chicken sausage or add meatless sausage or tofu
Vegan-Friendly Follow dairy-free and vegetarian recommendations, plus leave off the butter and use olive oil.

Directions

BOIL & CHOP
1. Boil a pot of water and add 1 package of tortellini, cook 6-8 minutes until desired doneness.
2. Chop up 2-4 cups of greens (depending on how many vegetables you want in there) and slice up the chicken sausage.

MAKE THE SKILLET
3. Add 1 tablespoon butter to a sauce pan and add the slices of chicken sausage, stirring until both sides of the chicken sausage are browned slightly.
4. Add the 2-4 cups of greens to the chicken sausage, stirring to soften.
5. Once the tortellini is done, drain the pot and add the pasta back into the pot. Add the veggies and chicken sausage into the pasta pot and stir to combine.
6. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and 2-4 tablespoons milk, depending on how saucy you want your dish to be. 
7. Toss in the shredded cheese, stir, and enjoy.

Yum.Storing & Extra Ingredients

STORING - Store in the fridge for about 3 days, or until the greens start getting funky.

LUNCH TOMORROW - We eat some version of this recipe all the time for weekend lunches. It's easy to make enough for just 2 servings, doesn't require a lot of effort, and still tastes good and keeps us full. So - I can confirm it's a great lunch, and easy to bring along to work. I've also brought it in a thermos and it's stayed hot

EXTRA INGREDIENTS - This recipe does a pretty good job of using up a whole package of chicken sausage and a whole package of tortellini. If you only make a half batch, you can freeze both the tortellini and chicken sausage for use to make the same recipe another day. I hope you don't have too much trouble using up the extra cheese, but if you do, use up the rest of some asiago cheese in my Creamy Asiago Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes.

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My favorite thing about fall is definitely orchard apples. Macintosh and macoun straight from the orchard just taste so much better than buying a regular old apple at the store in the middle of winter. They're crunchier, sweeter, and just all around better. So, when fall rolls around, I take advantage of the abundance of orchard apples to do a little baking, including homemade applesauce - this time in my instant Pot (or your slow cooker!)

I grew up enjoying homemade applesauce in the fall, made on the stovetop and finished with a food mill. I realized that I could re-create this recipe using my beloved Instant Pot (in just 8 minutes!) and my Vitamix. The recipe came out perfectly and was so easy to make - and much easier than hand cranking the food mill for half an hour. 

The other great thing about applesauce is that it really doesn't matter what apples you use. It's actually better to not use all of the same kind. For this recipe, I used apples from my CSA, which came with a bunch of different varieties of apples. Macintosh or macoun are a good base, but adding in a few granny smiths or your other favorite varieties will give the applesauce a good range of sweet and tart flavors. For sweeteners, I love sweeter things, so I used refined white sugar (mmm!) You can also use maple syrup or honey, if you prefer, and add it after the cooking process to your own personal taste.

Sadly, I ate all of my applesauce within a few days, enjoying it as a snack at work whenever I wanted a little bit of sweetness to fuel me through lesson planning or grading papers. If you can resist, applesauce freezes well, meaning you can enjoy fall all year round.

Instant Pot Applesauce

Makes 6-8 servings
Other recipes with these ingredients: Apples: the perfect snack!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 8 minutes (Instant Pot) or 4 hours on low (Slow Cooker)
Total Time: Depends on cooking method

Ingredients
  • 8-10 medium apples (Orchard apples are the best. My favorite are Macintosh, but a variety, including a granny smith or too, will yield the best results)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup white sugar Substitute: maple syrup, honey

Dietary Substitutions:
Gluten Free, Dairy-free, Vegetarian, & Vegan

Directions

1.  Peel all of your apples and cut into relatively thin slices.
2. Add the apples, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 cup white sugar (or sweetener of your choice) to the Instant Pot. You don't even have to stir.
3. Turn the Instant Pot on high pressure for 8 minutes, or turn your slow cooker on low for 4 hours. Walk away!
4. Once the apples are done cooking, you'll likely want to puree your applesauce so it's smooth. I found that adding about half the applesauce to my beloved Vitamix, blending it for a second or two on high, and stirring it back into the rest of the more chunky applesauce led to a good consistency. You can do the same in a regular blender or with a handheld immersion blender, if you have one, until the applesauce is your desired consistency. Enjoy!

Yum.Storing & Extra Ingredients

STORING - Store in the fridge for up to 5 days, or a few months in the freezer. Applesauce freezes really well since it's just fruit, and there's nothing better than tasting like you're at the orchard in the dead of winter.

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The best part about living in New England might be the fall, and therefore, the opportunity to make homemade soups with farm fresh harvest ingredients, like this Butternut Squash & Apple Soup recipe. Not only is this hearty vegetarian soup a delicious way to celebrate the season, it's also shockingly easy to make. I spent about 15 minutes total actually making the soup, and my Instant Pot did all the rest. This recipe is the ideal pressure cooker or slow cooker recipe for a cool fall day.

If you can chop and press a button or two, you can make this soup. It's full of butternut squash, apples, potatoes, and onions that simmer down into a delicious soup in your slow cooker or pressure cooker while you're out enjoying the cooler weather. One of my favorite parts about this soup is that it freezes so well - I made a double batch and now I know I have some last minute dinners or lunches on hand for when things get busy this October. 

Speaking of busy, that word has defined my past few months. After a non-stop summer, I transitioned into a amazing but crazy new job as a high school history teacher and also moved apartments. While we kept eating good food (most of the time), I struggled to find the time to post about it. I usually found time to snap a picture before digging in, so I'm looking forward to sharing some new recipes with you this season. As I settle into a rhythm of things after some big changes, I look forward to posting more regularly and hopefully sitting down to get that Rome travel guide done.

Even though I've been getting my life in order, it's been so exciting to see the blog really take off over the summer. I love hearing from new readers - who aren't my mom! - when they've made a recipe. I am also honored to have earned some recognition from Feedspot as one of the Top 100 Millennial Blogs - coming in at #50. Thank you! As I start my new job and get settled in my new apartment, I'm excited for new beginnings and milestones with not just my life, but also this blog. Please continue to share with me when you make my recipes - it makes me so happy - and continue to reach out about travel recommendations, questions about cooking and grocery shopping, and more. And stay tuned for more recipes coming at you soon!

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

Makes 6 servings
Other recipes with these ingredients: Butternut Squash: Butternut Squash and Sage Tortellini  //  Potatoes, carrots, and/or onions: Chicken Pot Pie
Prep time: 5 minutes + 10 minutes at the end
Cook time: 30 minutes (Instant Pot) or 5-8 hours (Slow Cooker)
Total Time: Depends on cooking method - but minimal "hands on" time!

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, diced (See the Grocery Guide for tips on what/how to buy)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red potato, diced
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (chicken would work too, for non-vegetarians)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt, pepper




Dietary Substitutions:
Gluten Free & Vegetarian Friendly
Dairy-free & Vegan: Substitute dairy-free milk (coconut milk would be good) or omit the milk.

Directions

PREP WORK
1.  Dice the butternut squash, onion, potato, and carrots.
2. Add the vegetables to your pot (whether Instant Pot or slow cooker) with 4 cloves minced garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper, a pinch of cinnamon, and 2 cups vegetable broth. 
3. Turn the Instant Pot on high pressure for 30 minutes, or turn your slow cooker on low for 7-8 hours or high for 5-6 hours. Walk away!

LAST STEPS AFTER COOKING
4.  Once the soup is done cooking, you need to puree it. The best way to do this is with a blender. I hate immersion blenders, or I'm just really bad at using them, it's unclear, so I pour my soup into my beloved Vitamix and be really, really careful not to burn myself. Do the soup in two batches, pouring the pureed soup into a new pot (because you can't mix it with the un-pureed soup, obviously) and starting over adding new soup to the blender. This sounds complicated but I promise it's not. It's just pouring liquid back and forth. You can do it!
5. Once the soup is pureed, stir about a cup of milk into the soup. You might need to heat the new pot up on the stove for a bit if the milk brings down the temperature, but my soup was so hot that the milk brought it to a perfect serving temp.
6. Add any additional salt & pepper to taste. Serve with fresh bread and enjoy!

Yum.Storing & Extra Ingredients

STORING - Store in the fridge for up to 5 days, or a few months in the freezer. I LOVE popping single-serving bags of soup into the freezer (freeze them flat first for quicker thawing later, then stand them up to save space once they're frozen). I store my soups in freezer quart bags and label them clearly with a Sharpie before freezing. Enjoying "soup in a bag" (that has since been defrosted) is now a culinary delight in our apartment.

LUNCH TOMORROW - There's nothing like a hearty bowl of soup to warm up your day at work. Pack with a slice of crusty bread to scoop up the last spoonful.

EXTRA INGREDIENTS - Since this soup freezes so well, I would just use your ingredients to make an extra-big batch and keep portions in the freezer for quick weeknight meals or last minute lunches. If you do have extra ingredients, like butternut squash, the sauce from my Butternut Squash and Sage Tortellini recipe is delicious on any and all types of pasta. Potatoes, carrots, and onions are extremely versatile ingredients and they're a great base for my favorite hearty Chicken Pot Pie recipe.

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