One day last week, I got a text from Mike, telling me he’d just eaten the best pizza he’d ever had in Austin. I knew this must be pretty important because while Mike does like all pizza, he is particular about what constitutes as “the best.” I was a little concerned that this pizza would be someplace downtown or have some other difficulty. However, Mike found that there was a location of I. Fratelli about 15-20 minutes from our house. The only downside was that it was delivery or carry out only and we had to go pick it up. Mike ordered pizza, salad, and breadsticks and the scent was amazing as we drove it back home. We opened it up right away and I was amazed to taste a little bit of home. The pizza was St. Louis style with a thin crust, not over sauced, gooey cheese, and plenty of toppings. It was cut in strips, while not quite St. Louis squares, it was close. The salad dressing tasted very much like the dressing at Pasta House, red wine vinegar, oil and a whole lot of parmesan cheese. We ate until we were stuffed. I’m glad that Mike discovered a new place, I just wish it were a little closer or atleast had tables for a dine in option. I am sure that we will be back, but it may be a special treat.
With my current busy lifestyle, Mike has been doing a great job stepping up and making dinner. Dream Dinners has been a big help, too, saving Mike a lot of prep work. One day last week, he got to make the super simple meal of Cucina Chicken Gnocchi. All he had to do was preheat the oven, place the pan on a baking sheet, and cover with foil. This pan meal cooked covered for 30 minutes and then uncovered for an additional 10-15 minutes. This meal combined gnocchi, diced chicken, marinara sauce, seasonings, and cheese. It was really tasty and paired nicely with a green salad. I also love that the pan meals can cook from frozen for a lasagna minute meal or a forgetful chef. At this point, I can’t imagine my life without the help of Dream Dinners.
Another busy day and week make me thankful to have Dream Dinners in my life! I had work events 3 nights last week, in addition to regular life events that keep me busy. On Thursday, I made Pizza Burgers. The original recipe called for making these into sliders, but I got some regular sized buns because I didn’t feel like making sliders this time. In addition to sliders, I made a salad and some waffle fries. I started by putting the beef in a mixing bowl with burger seasoning and some herbed marinara. I mixed it well and split the beef into 3 burgers, which I shaped into patties. I cooked the patties about 6-8 minutes per side. I heated up the marinara sauce and set the oven to broiler. Next, I put the buns on a baking sheet, adding a burger, marinara sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. I broiled the burgers until the cheese melted. We added the top bun and dinner was served. These burgers were great! I loved the flavor of the burger seasoned with marinara and the pretzel bun. Mike loved all the great pizza flavors. I love that Dream Dinners constantly comes up with new ways to jazz up burgers!
This past week, I have been busy hosting events at work, so Mike has been making our Dream Dinners meals. One night, he made Kentucky Pork Chops, Bacon Broccoli with Cranberries and he added a side of rice. Mike did tell me that the pork chops were a bit of work, as it had several steps. He started by coating the pork chops with some of the season rub. He heated up olive oil in a skillet and added the pork chops, browning for 2 minutes on each side. He brushed the top with sauce, turned and cooked for 1 minute. He repeated this again and put them on a plate to stay warm. The remaining sauce went in the pan and cooked about 2 minutes. The sauce was delicious, but definitely made a mess of our kitchen. Meanwhile, Mike was also making rice and the broccoli. To cook the broccoli, Mike heated up a sauté pan, added broccoli, covered with a lid and steamed for 5 minutes. He plated the rice, pork, and broccoli, covering them with sauce. The meal was really tasty and the pork was cooked perfectly. The broccoli paired nicely with the pork and Mike was able to have a tasty meal instead of leftovers or take out. Once again, Dream Dinners helped a busy family!
I have been super busy lately and definitely glad that I have Dream Dinners in my life to keep us fed in a quick and healthy manner. I started by preheating my oven and preparing the pan for the potatoes. I cooked the potato wedges about 25 minutes at 425. While the potatoes were cooking, I worked on the rest of the meal. I cooked the chicken for about 4 minutes on each side over medium high heat. Next, I added the tarragon sauce over the chicken and brought it to a boil. I covered it and simmered on low for about 10 minutes. We plated the potatoes, added a chicken breast, and poured sauce over the top. With the addition of a side salad, dinner was complete. This was a really tasty meal and very different from anything else I’ve made. The sauce was full of flavor and paired nicely with the crispy potatoes and tender chicken. I also enjoyed leftovers the next day when the potatoes really had the chance to soak up all the delicious sauce. Once again, Dream Dinners helped me answer the age old question of “What’s for dinner?”
I’ve recently started a new role at Dream Dinners as the Business Development Coordinator. Yesterday marked my first official day and I was working hard to learn my role, communicate with contacts, brainstorm ideas, and make sure I could log in to all the necessary tools. I am still working to figure out the best work system and work/life balance for me, so it was really good that I had a Dream Dinners meal defrosting. I decided to make Lemon Villa Chicken with sides of broccoli and rice. I started by preheating the oven and preparing an 8x8 baking dish. I added the chicken and sauce to the dish, making sure to top each chicken breast with a slice of lemon. I cooked the chicken for 40 minutes. While the chicken was cooking, I made rice and steamed broccoli. We placed the cooked chicken on a bed of rice and added a side of broccoli. I really enjoyed this meal. The chicken was tender and flavorful. The sauce was especially tasty with lots of citrus flavor. Once again, Dream Dinners came to my rescue on a busy Monday.
Yesterday was a productive day. I got organized for my new job and armed myself with ideas and questions for my boss. I also weeded through and organized my closet, which is now ready for me to start filling with new spring clothes! In addition, Lola got to take 2 walks and I rode my exercise bike. A busy Sunday calls for help in the kitchen and I was thrilled that I had a Dream Dinners meal defrosted and ready to cook. I was even more excited to find out that it would take less than 20 minutes to make everything! I started by bringing my au jus to boil in a large sauté pan. I added the roast beef slices into the sauce and simmered them about 3 minutes. While the meat was cooking, I preheated the broiler to low and toasted the buns. After toasting the buns, I added the cheese and popped it back into the oven to melt the cheese. In a separate pan, I had my bacon and green beans cooking. Once the cheese had melted, it was assembly time. I squeezed a line of horseradish mayo on each bun and added a generous portion of meat. We scooped up a side of green beans, portioned out some au jus, and dinner was ready. This meal honestly took 20 minutes to prepare and it was delicious! The Bacon Ranch Green Beans are my favorite-I love bacon and green beans and the seasoning is awesome. We also loved the sandwiches. I take after my mom and I always love a good french dip, but I never take the time to make them at home. This was a restaurant quality sandwich made at home. The beef, cheese and mayo combined with the toasted bun just melted in my mouth. Add in the au jus and Mike and I were ready to fight over who got the leftover sandwich. This was definitely a favorite meal in our house and amongst other staff and customers in our store. I can’t wait for this meal to show up on the menu again!
Not only does Dream Dinners make my life easier, but it also makes life easier for Mike. On nights when I have to work, I know that I can pull out a meal that is easy for him to cook. The other night he made Steak Salsa Verde, which we turned into steak tacos. He preheated the grill pan on the stove top and grilled the steaks for 3-4 minutes on each side. After massaging the bag of salsa verde, Mike put some on each steak and cooked it a little bit longer. He let them set for a few minutes and cut them into strips. Combined with rice and cheese, the steak tasted fantastic on our favorite HEB tortillas. We really enjoyed these tacos. Good quality, well seasoned steak combined with some of our favorite household staples made for a delicious dinner. I am so glad that we have Dream Dinners in our life and that we have the option to alter some of the recipes to make them perfect for our family.
If you are from Austin, you’ve probably heard of Franklin’s BBQ. It is one of the most famous and sought after BBQ places in the Austin area with an owner that has been featured in many food tv shows and bbq competitions. Franklin’s is known for its long lines and the reality that it will likely sell out early with people leaving disappointed. Recently, they’ve started taking large order slots. So, you can sign up ahead of time to get a spot. Mike’s office put in a big order and I got to try some of the leftovers. Mike just ordered meats so I had the chance to try brisket, sausage, and turkey. I really liked the brisket and sausage. They had great texture and flavor. They tasted great plain or with my favorite St. Louis bbq sauce. I was a little disappointed by the turkey. I almost felt like it was a little dry and wasn’t as well seasoned. Overall it was good, but I think I’ll be sticking to my Big Cat BBQ for my BBQ needs.
It’s blog catch up time, so expect to hear a lot from me in the next few days. I also have a busy March coming up so I may get behind in the next few weeks. As the Olympics are wrapping up, I am still finishing up my January meals at a rapid pace to help make sure I have time to eat and enjoy the games. One day last week, I made this delicious chili. I must admit I was skeptical, as I feel like my chili is pretty yummy. However, Dream Dinners does not disappoint. I wanted to make this in my crockpot, but I ran out of time that day, so I made it on the stovetop. I browned the ground beef in a large pot for about 7 minutes. To that, I added the chili mixture and beans. I let the chili simmer for about 40 minutes until it was ready.
While the chili was cooking, I had time to work on the cheddar corn cakes. I put the corn cake mixture in a bowl and added the milk mixture, stirring until well blended. Next, I folded in the cheese and corn mixture. I heated up a skillet and sprayed it with cooking spray. I spooned the batter into the skillet and cooked about 2-3 minutes per side.
I lucked out and the chili and corn cakes finished at about the same time. We topped the chili with a bit of cheeese, grabbed a corn cake and dinner was served. The chili had a bit of a sweet flavor, but everything was also well seasoned. I liked the texture and thickness. The corn cakes were amazing and I definitely plan on figuring out how to make them myself. The sweet and cheesy flavor of the corn cakes was a great compliment to the chili. I was definitely pleased with the outcome of this meal and it happened to be served on a rare, cool day in Austin, so it was the perfect meal on that day.
Monday was another busy night for our family-Mike and Lola both needed to be picked up from various locations, I was busy getting stuff done, and I really wanted to watch the Olympics. It would have been really easy to grab dinner somewhere or call out for pizza, but fortunately, I had a Dream Dinners meal defrosting in the fridge. To start the meal, I filled a pot with water and brought it to a boil. I added in my linguine and cooked it about 10 minutes before draining it. I added a little bit of olive oil to the pasta, stirred it, and set it aside. Next, I removed the chicken breasts from their bag and cooked them in a frying pan with a little olive oil. Normally, I would cook them about 4 minutes on each side, but they were still a little frosty, so I cooked them about 6 minutes on each side. After the chicken had cooked, I poured the sauce ingredients in the pan and brought it to a boil. I let the chicken and sauce simmer for 15 minutes. We served the chicken and sauce over the linguine, added a salad, and dinner was ready. This meal definitely tasted like I had worked on it a lot longer than I did. I loved the bright, citrusy flavor of the lemon sauce, which paired nicely with the tender chicken and linguine. I did feel like there was probably more pasta than I needed, but that can definitely be used as a side for another meal. Once again, Dream Dinners saved the day and gave me plenty of time to watch my beloved Olympics.
This weekend we had some friends over to play, so obviously, I had to bake a little bit. I like to try new recipes and I am working on training my friends to be brutally honest so I know if the recipe is a keeper or not. I was definitely intrigued by this recipe for Skinny Funfetti Cupcakes. It was an easy recipe with only 4 ingredients total! I started by preheating the oven and lining 24 muffin cups with muffin liners (I ended up only having enough batter for 22 cupcakes). I mixed together Funfetti cake mix and a can of sprite until it was fluffy. I used portion scoops to fill the muffin liners and baked them about 20-22 minutes. I allowed the cupcakes to cool completely before mixing the frosting. To make the frosting, I mixed together a box of vanilla pudding mix and a container of fat free Cool Whip. I didn’t love the consistency of the frosting so I added some skim milk to thin it out a little bit. I frosted the cupcakes and the frosting still seemed a bit runny so I put them in the fridge overnight. We tried them the next day and they were a hit. The cupcakes were fluffy and moist with the delicious Funfetti flavor. The frosting was very vanilla and was almost more of a thick glaze, but it worked well with the fluffy cupcakes. Mike is not typically a frosting guy and he liked it. This was a quick, easy, and slightly healthier version of a Funfetti cupcake, so it was an overall win in my book. Obviously, this could be altered depending on the flavor of cake and pudding that you might decide to use.
The Olympics are one of my favorite sporting events to watch on tv, so I am really excited that they’ve finally started. We are often busy so dinner doesn’t get started until later most nights. Fortunately, many of my Dream Dinners meals cook pretty quickly so I can go straight from evening walk to cooking and eating to Olympic Prime Time. On Friday, I was eager to watch the Opening Ceremonies and try the turkey burgers with sidewinders. I started by preheating the oven and preparing my pan. I cooked the sidewinders for 30 minutes to start and then an additional 10 minutes to really get crispy. While the sidewinders were cooking, I got started on the burgers. I decided to pan fry my burgers so I heated up a skillet while I mixed together the turkey and seasoning mix. I shaped the mixture into 3 patties and cooked them for 6 minutes on each side. I put the mozzarella cheese on the burgers and let it melt while I lightly toasted the buns in the oven. Everything was ready to go at the same time. I put a little bit of the garlic chive mayo on the buns, added burgers, grabbed some sidewinders and dinner was served. We really liked this meal. The sidewinders were crispy and well seasoned. They tasted great dipped in ranch or bbq sauce. The burgers had great flavors melded together and topped on toasty, tasty pretzel buns. The leftover burger was great for lunch the next day and I definitely had plenty of time to eat before the Olympics started.
Dream Dinners makes hectic nights much easier for our family. Mike has been going to the office more frequently lately and by the time we get home after sitting in traffic, I am not always inspired to start a meal from scratch. While I love to eat out, there are only so many nights a week I can do that. We have gotten into a bit of a routine lately, where Mike and Lola will go for a walk while I get dinner going. On Tuesday, our dinner was the Cheese Lovers Manicotti. I preheated the oven and prepared the pan. It cooked for 40 minutes with foil covering it. Then, it cooked another 10 minutes without the foil. I got ingredients ready for a side salad and decided to make an “after-tizer” of toasted raviolis. This was a yummy meal. It definitely would have taken longer for me to make this from scratch. It was very simple, but tasty. The pan meals are also nice because they can cook from frozen if needed. This would also be a great meal to have a husband or older kiddo throw in the oven with great ease. We are looking forward to finishing up our January meals this next week or so and finally getting to try out the February meals.
After a weekend of eating out, its good to get back on track Mondays with Dream Dinners meals. I’m still working my way through my January meals. This month and February, I’ve finally started having some duplicate meals, which means less blogging, but more familiarity with the meals. The last time I made the sweet potato puffs, I felt like they weren’t crispy enough, so I opted to cook at a higher temperature. I preheated the oven to 425 and prepared a pan for the puffs and a separate pan for the tenders. I also sprayed the tops of the puffs with cooking spray to try to help crisp them up a bit. To make the tenders, I started by slicing the chicken breasts in thirds. Next, I put the tenders into the crumb mixture bag and shook them up, coating them with the crumbs. I placed tenders on the baking sheet and sprinkled them with some of the leftover crumbs. I cooked the tenders and puffs for 20 minutes. I plated them, grabbed some ranch, bbq sauce, and some fresh strawberries and dinner was served. The chicken tenders were good-I really liked the crumb mixture and they tasted great with ranch or bbq sauce. The puffs were better than the last time we had them, but still not as great as traditional tater tots. They probably could have cooked even longer to get extra crispy. I would definitely order the chicken tenders again and I plan on enjoying the leftovers for lunch. However, I wouldn’t go out of my way for the puffs. They definitely need different cooking instructions to get the crisp that I prefer.
If you were to ask me my favorite food, I’d have 2 answers, one sweet and the other savory. My two favorite foods are ice cream and sandwiches. Each month, when I make my Dream Dinners selections, there is always 1-2 meals that I haven’t tried yet that I am really excited about. This month that meal was the Meatball Marinara Stuffed French Bread. Last night, I made the sandwich and it lived up to my high expectations. Upon assembly day, I realized that it did take a bit longer to make in store. But as I spread the cream cheese mixture, meatballs, marinara, and cheese on the bread, I knew that I should be looking forward to a delicious meal. It was super easy to make at home. I preheated the oven to 350 and put my foil wrapped sandwich on a baking sheet. I cooked it for 35 minutes and opened the foil to let it brown a bit for 10 minutes. We pulled out stuff to make a side salad and dinner was ready. Our meal was so yummy! The bread was perfectly browned and crusty with the well seasoned marinara sauce and meatballs. The cream cheese and mozzarella rounded out the flavors. We had to show some restraint and save the 3rd portion for leftovers for lunch today and Mike won the rights to those. We loved this meal and can’t wait for it to show up on the menu for another month.
Last night, I used my Instant Pot for the second time. This recipe promised to only take about 40 minutes and I knew what I was doing, so I had high hopes for the meal. Also, making a a stew in 40 minutes sounded like a great goal. Unfortunately, the time it takes to chop was not included in that time. First, I gathered all my ingredients and then cut the onion, celery, carrots, and potatoes. I prepared the garlic and beans. I preheated the Instant Pot by selecting Sauté. I added the oil, onions, carrots, and celery, cooking for about 5 minutes. Next, I added the garlic and cooked it for about 1 more minute. I added in the potatoes, crushed tomatoes, beans, chicken broth, chicken legs, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. I mixed these together and set my cooker to cook on the high pressure setting. It takes a little bit of time for the cooker to get started. I set it to cook for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, I allowed it to naturally release steam for about 10-15 minutes, then I did the quick release method. I removed the chicken legs from the stew and pulled the meat from the bones. Finally, I added the chicken meat, parsley, and balsamic vinegar back into the pot. I gave it a quick stir and dinner was ready to go. Everything was perfectly cooked and was a great consistency. However, I felt like it was a little bit bland. If I were to make this again, I would consider adding more spice and I plan on adding more spices to the leftovers as well. This recipe turned out great, but could use some alterations to be a perfect meal for us.
After a few days of indulgent eating and drinking, I decided we needed to go for a healthier option on Saturday evening for dinner. Someone posted that there was a new fast healthy eatery by the Grove, Freshii, so we thought we’d give it a try. The concept was fresh, fast, and healthy with the idea of making healthy food convenient and affordable. We went in and were the only customers, despite a full parking lot, which were likely headed to the Grove. The staff was super friendly and eager to help us, giving recommendations along the way. We were advised that salads and wraps were a little bit lighter, while bowls and burritos were heavier. It took me a while to decide and I finally selected a buffalo chicken wrap. Mike had prescreened the menu and knew immediately that he wanted to try the Buddha Satay Bowl with Chicken. Unfortunately, their frozen yogurt machine was broken, so I was unable to try a smoothie this time.
It took the team a little bit to make our food, but it was worth the wait. My wrap was full of flavors with chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, buffalo sauce, blue cheese, ranch Greek yogurt, and carrots. It was tasty and yet healthy. It was also the perfect portion for me. Mike’s bowl had a lot of great ingredients, including: chicken, noodles, broccoli, carrots, onions, and a peanut sauce. His dish needed a bit more flavor, so he kicked it up a notch with sriracha. We both agreed that my dinner was a little bit tastier than Mike’s. I had a better meal and a better outlook of Freshii. Mike felt like it tasted like healthy food. I have a feeling that we will return, but I am not sure that it will be a place that we frequent too often.
Last night was another delicious Dream Dinners night. We made Lucky Dragon Pork Tenderloin. I have been very impressed by all the pork dishes and this was no different. I got started by preheating the oven and preparing a dish. I removed the pork from the marinade and placed it in the baking dish. I put half of the Lucky Dragon sauce on the pork tenderloin and baked it for 15 minutes. I flipped the tenderloin in the dish, covered it with the remainder of the sauce, and baked it for 20 minutes. While the pork was cooking, I made rice and broccoli. We let the pork rest for a few minutes before slicing it. We plated the pork with the rice and broccoli and dinner was ready. Once again, the food was tasty. The pork was cooked to perfection and was quite flavorful. I loved the sweet and garlicky flavor of the sauce on the pork. I was a bit sad that there was a misunderstanding and I threw out the honey garlic green beans. I am sure they were delightful, too, and I hope to try them at some point. I was definitely glad that I had a meal defrosted and ready to cook after a long day of work and running around. I can’t wait to try the rest of my January meals.
This week, I finally started cooking my January meals. I have several meals this month that I’ve tried and loved before, which is a nice change. The meal I made this Monday was the Maple Bourbon BBQ Chicken with Bacon. I was really excited about that because the flavors sounded great and I almost always love chicken. I decided to pair my chicken with rice, so I started on that before working on the chicken. I also cut up some strawberries and added a salad. To make the chicken, I started by cooking the bacon in a skillet about 2-3 minutes until crisp. I set the bacon aside and heated up some olive oil. I added the chicken and browned it for 3 minutes on each side. I lowered the heat on the skillet, added the sauce, and simmered the covered skillet for about 10 minutes. When the chicken was done, I served it on a bed of rice with plenty of sauce and topped with bacon. This meal was so tasty. The chicken was tender and had so much flavor. The sauce was a perfect blend of smoky and sweet. You can’t go wrong with bacon, so this dish was a winner on many levels. January meals got to a great start and I can’t wait to try the rest of the meals.