A Squared: June 2017

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Buffalo Chicken Burgers with Ranch Slaw

Looking for an alternative to your standard cheeseburger this summer? Try these flavorful Buffalo chicken burgers with ranch slaw for a spicy alternative at your next barbecue!


We love to grill in the summertime. If it's Saturday night and it isn't raining, you can usually find my husband manning the grill while I prep the rest of the meal in the kitchen-- or if I'm really smart and it's a meal that can be mostly prepped ahead of time (like this one), then you'll find me seated on the deck next to my husband with a chilled glass of wine in hand. We do our best to come up with new and exciting grilled dinners to make, but burgers are always in heavy rotation. They're easy to make and they just taste like summer. We usually make a standard beef cheeseburger when we're grilling, but when Moore's Marinades & Sauces sent me a sample of their spicy tangy Original Buffalo Wing Sauce to try out I was inspired to make something a little different.


Alex loves anything Buffalo flavored and truthfully, so do I-- except for wings. It's weird, I know, but I hate Buffalo wings. But since I love that bold recognizable flavor, I will often make grilled Buffalo chicken breasts, pulled Buffalo chicken wraps, slow cooker Buffalo chicken baked potatoes... you get the picture. This time, I put together a burger that takes the flavors of a basket of Buffalo wings and stacks them right up on a bun. It starts with a chicken burger patty with some simple flavors and a shot of Buffalo sauce mixed in. It's all grilled up and topped with a slice of melty sharp cheddar or Swiss cheese, which mimics that strong blue cheese flavor but melts more smoothly. The burger is drizzled with some additional Buffalo sauce and topped with a creamy cool ranch coleslaw-- because we prefer ranch or blue cheese dressing with our Buffalo chicken in this house. This burger is fun and delicious and a great way to get your Buffalo wing fix between two buns!


Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground chicken *I used a combination of 1/2 lb. ground chicken thigh and 1/2 lb. ground chicken breast
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 Tbs. Buffalo sauce
  • 1/2 Tbs. parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • Vegetable or olive oil
  • 4 brioche buns
  • 4 slices of Swiss or cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup Buffalo sauce
For the slaw--
  • 3 Tbs. ranch dressing
  • 1 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups shredded coleslaw mix
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, whisk together ranch dressing and vinegar. Stir in coleslaw mix and onion, tossing to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill to medium.

In a large bowl, mix the ground chicken and next 8 ingredients through paprika until just combined. Don't over-mix.

Using your hands, form the mixture into four 1/2-inch thick patties. Grill burgers over medium heat for 5 - 6 minutes per side, or until insides are hot and no longer pink. Top each burger with a slice of cheese and remove from grill. Allow to rest for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Lightly brush the insides of each bun with oil. Toast the buns cut-side down on the griddle until golden brown.

Remove buns from the griddle and top the bottom half of each with a cheeseburger patty. Spoon prepared slaw over the top of the burger and then drizzle with desired amount of Buffalo sauce. Place top half of the bun on top and enjoy.


Editor's Note: A complimentary sample of Moore's Marinades & Sauces was provided in order to facilitate this post. All opinions expressed herein are my own.





Thursday, June 15, 2017

My 10 Favorite Things for Toddler Mealtime

Feeding a toddler is certainly an adventure! For me, it's been fun. Hannah is a fantastic eater whose favorite foods include blueberries, peas, meatballs, roasted salmon (I know!), pasta, spinach tots (recipe coming soon), scrambled eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, yogurt, and pretty much anything flavored with cinnamon or covered in marinara sauce. She does have her preferences though and there are a few things I just can't get her to eat: broccoli, cubed avocado or sweet potato (she only likes them mashed), and pizza, much to our dismay. On balance though, she does a great job and I have had a ton of fun giving her new foods because she is willing to try almost anything-- and I know that other moms aren't always that lucky!


And while she is an adventurous eater, mealtime at our house is now an adventure in itself. With the exception of oatmeal, yogurt, or a few purees that still require our help, Hannah is pretty much feeding herself these days. And watching her become an independent eater has been a proud moment for me as much as it has also been funny, terrifying, and extremely messy! We have some portion control issues (i.e. you don't need to put ALL of the food in your mouth at once) and some communication roadblocks (like signaling that she is done eating by dropping her food on the floor and/or feeding it to the dog) and then there's the general messiness: marinara facials and mac and cheese hair treatments, to name a few instances. Now that we are deep into toddler mealtime and there's no looking back, we've got a whole new box of tools for handling Hannah's eating and drinking these days. Here's a roundup of the items that we're loving lately:



1. OXO Tot Transition Straw Cup with Handles - This cup is great and has helped us seamlessly transition from formula to cow's milk and away from bottles and nippled sippy cups too. We packed all of Hannah's bottles up this past weekend and she hasn't missed them. The flexible straw is easy for her to use and the cup is spill-proof too so even when she tips it all the way up or drops it on the floor, we don't end up with a puddle situation. The lid flips closed, making is easy to cart along when we're out and about and the handles are also removable so this can easily transition to a bigger kid's cup too.
2. Calphalon Nonstick Mini Muffin Tin - These muffin tins have been put to serious use now that Hannah is a toddler. Since they are small and nonstick it is an easy way to make appropriately portioned food for her. I make big batches of corn muffins, healthy banana muffins, and homemade veggie tots in these pans and then freeze them so that I always have them on hand when making her meals.
3. Munchkin Snack Catcher - These snack catchers are great for packing up cereal, puffs, and small crackers for Hannah to feed to herself-- without grabbing a handful of 10 at a time like she normally does. We have the regular plastic version, but then I just discovered these stainless steel snack catchers which would be great for housing her favorite peas, blueberries, cheese or other snacks that need to be kept cool!
4. OXO Tot Baby Blocks Storage Containers - I mentioned these in a previous roundup, but they are worth mentioning again because we seriously use them every day. I portion out Hannah's breakfast, lunch, and snacks into these containers for her nanny every night and I also frequently fill them up and pack them in her diaper bag when we are on the go. They seal nicely and are freezer, dishwasher, and microwave safe.
5. Bumkins 3-Pack SuperBib - I finally upgraded Hannah's bibs after the velcro started to go on her old ones and have loved these so far. They cover much more of her, so messes are at a minimum and they're made of a durable washable fabric with a front pocket to catch all the food she's dropping everywhere. Oh, and they come in cute patterns too!
6. Burt's Bees Baby Organic Washcloths - I LOVE any of the Burt's Bees Baby cotton products, but these washcloths are especially handy now that my messy girl is feeding herself. I hate to be wasteful and use paper towels or disposable wipes to clean her up after every meal, so these soft machine washable cloths are a great environmentally friendly option.
7. Annie's Homegrown products - Annie's is my go to brand for snacks and pantry staples for Hannah. While I prefer to give her homemade food, I love Annie's healthier options for crackers, cookies, and boxed mac and cheese when I need something quick for Hannah that I can also feed good about her eating. Also, they're tasty for adults too. #guilty
8. Cheeky Baby Self Feeding Utensils - Hannah can't really feed herself with utensils yet, but she tries-- so I give her a spoon or fork with every meal that she usually just holds in one hand while using her fingers to pick up food. Or she uses the wrong end of the fork to try and pick up her pasta. It's precious. These adorable utensils are lightweight and easy to hold, durable, BPA-free, and for every Cheeky Baby or Kid product purchased they'll donate a meal to a child in need.
9. Baby Jogger Single Stroller Tray - If you've got a Baby Jogger stroller and a toddler, you may need this add-on tray! It snaps right on to your stroller seat and is the perfect little tray for snacks, along with a cup holder for a sippy cup. It opens on one side so that you can easily put your child in or take her out. Hannah loves having her water cup readily available and I love having a place to drop a few crackers or Cheerios for her to feed herself while we are out on adventures.
10. Foodie Babies Wear Bibs - This cute book by Michelle Sinclair Colman is all about the cool things that "foodie babies" like eating small plates and visiting farmers markets. It's a short and sweet board book, so it's a perfect way for this foodie mommy to share my other great love (food) with my little one!


Did you find this list helpful? Here are a few more you might like:

My 10 Favorite Items from Month One of Motherhood
Month Three of Motherhood: My 10 Favorite Items
At 7 Months: 10 Baby Things We're Loving Lately
10 Recipes for the Whole Family to Enjoy [Adapted for Babies!]

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Pasta with Asparagus, Bacon & Herbed Goat Cheese

I feel like it's been a long time since I shared a recipe here and for that, I apologize. This is still a food blog and I know I've been sharing a lot of mom and baby content over the past several months... In the past few weeks though, I have felt a shift in our cooking/eating here at home. And while Hannah was a little baby we were basically eating and cooking to survive, recently I've been cooking for the love of cooking a lot more. And I've missed that! So, if you're here for the recipes then rest assured-- I have a lot more coming your way this summer! And a few mom posts too, of course.


While I am cooking because I love to cook a bit more again, my cooking strategy has changed a bit. Gone are the days of using every pot and spending over an hour preparing a meal. My recipe M.O. these days is big flavor, relatively healthy, and quick/low maintenance. And this pasta recipe totally fits the bill! For cooking, you'll need a pasta pot and a skillet and that's it for this one-bowl dinner.


You can use any short cut pasta that you like and one of the easiest ways to add fresh veggies to it is to toss them into the boiling pasta pot when there are just a few minutes of cook time left. I did that here with asparagus, but it also works really well with broccoli or green beans too. Meanwhile, I cook a little bacon in a skillet, remove it, and cook some red onions in sweet balsamic vinegar and the remaining bacon fat. It's all tossed together with the bacon, asparagus, and the pasta and topped with some herbed goat cheese for a little tangy creaminess. The flavor combination is wonderful and this makes a really satisfying complete dinner in a bowl. Perfect for a summer weeknight!


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. shortcut pasta
  • 1/2 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 slices center cut bacon
  • 1/3 cup red onion, sliced
  • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 oz. herbed goat cheese, crumbled


Bring a large pot of water to boil and add pasta. Cook according to package directions, adding the asparagus to the pot when there are 3 minutes of cooking time left. Drain well and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add bacon to the pan and cook on both sides until crisp. Remove from the skillet and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Once cooled, chop bacon into 1/2-inch pieces.

Carefully drain the bacon grease from the skillet, leaving 1/2 Tbs. in it. Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium and add the sliced onion to the skillet. Sauté for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Increase the heat to medium-high and pour in the balsamic vinegar. Continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

In a large bowl (or in the pasta pot), combine pasta, asparagus, bacon, onions and any liquid from the skillet. Drizzle with olive oil, season with pepper, and toss to coat. Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese over the top and serve.



Friday, June 9, 2017

Our 10 Favorite Books for Story Time

My Hannah has a lot of amazing qualities (I'm not biased or anything), but one of the things I love most about her is how much she adores books! For about as long as she's been able to sit up and use her hands, we could give her a book and she'd examine it, flip through the pages, turn it over, and start again. And thank goodness she loves them because as the daughter of two avid readers and the granddaughter of a preschool teacher, this kid has what seems like a never-ending supply of books. In the living room, I keep the lowest shelves of one of our bookcases stocked with her learning board books-- the ones that are more about learning words, numbers, and colors than about stories. In her room, however, we have a good sized bookshelf filled with story books.


 Ever since she was just a few weeks old and couldn't even hold her head up or really pay attention, we have read a story with Hannah before bedtime every night. Sometimes we pick a short one if she's super tired or wiggly, sometimes we'll pick a seasonal one depending on which holiday is approaching, but mostly we gravitate toward the same handful. We have a lot of favorites-- and here are ten of them:



1. Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker - This adorable book about construction equipment going to sleep was one of the first books in Hannah's collection. Of course the daughter of an architect would need this one!
2. Olivia by Ian Falconer - My 5-year old niece is a longtime Olivia fan and after reading her books, I understand why. This precocious little piglet is so much fun and her big dreams and cute antics will make you laugh as you read along.
3. Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson - My mom got this one for Hannah recently and it has quickly become a favorite. This book asks you to play along in the seed planting process: Clap to make the rain fall, tap the seeds to help them grow, and count the flowers as they sprout. It's a fun way to keep a wiggly one year-old engaged.
4. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats - This book is a classic and one I remember reading with my mom as a kid. It's a simple story about a boy in the big city experiencing a big snowfall-- totally relatable for my little urban toddler!
5. Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton - Hannah is a really musical kid so any book with rhyming and rhythmic writing is guaranteed to be a favorite of hers. Barnyard Dance teaches farm animal names and noises via a cute little square dance-inspired rhyme.
6. The Sneetches & Other Stories by Dr. Seuss - This collection of Dr. Seuss stories is not one of his most famous, but it is one of my favorites.  I never tired of reading "What Was I Scared Of?" (a.k.a. the story of the pale green pants with nobody inside them) over and over again as a kid and love reading it to Hannah now.
7. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. & John Archambault - This was one of my mom's go to preschool books and it is in heavy rotation at story time at our house too. Hannah loves the rhyming and bright simple graphics. And it's a fun way to learn the ABC's.
8. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. & Eric Carle - Another rhyming book c/o Bill Martin along with the recognizable illustrations of Eric Carle, another one of our children's book favorites. Hannah is totally captivated by this book (and the 3 companion Bear, Bear books too). The pictures are big and simple, the writing is short and rhythmic and she kicks her feet to the beat!
9. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney - This is one of mommy's favorites and especially in those early weeks of motherhood, would have me all weepy at story time. If you want to see where every mom learned and fell in love with the phrase "love you to the moon and back," read this book about the love between parent and child with a few tissues in hand.
10. Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin - This book is a new classic. In fact, there's a sequel that just came out and it's on our wish list! It's a silly story that is literally about why dragons like to eat tacos, but not spicy salsa. If Guess How Much I Love You is mommy's favorite book, then this one is definitely a favorite of daddy's!


Did you find this list helpful? Here are a few others that you may like as well: My One Year-Old's Favorite Birthday Gifts, Our Favorite Things at 11 Months, Post-Christmas: Our Favorite Things at 8 Months, At 7 Months: 10 Baby Things We're Loving Lately

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Shortcut Orzo Salad

Looking for a fresh and healthy summer side dish that won't have you slaving away in the kitchen on a gorgeous sunny day? Try my shortcut orzo pasta salad recipe!


You know I love a good orzo salad; See here, here, oh and here, for example. I actually prefer an orzo salad to a traditional pasta salad. The small rice-like shape doesn't get mushy or broken when tossed in a dressing and because its size it really lets the other ingredients take a starring role in the salad. It's my favorite side dish for grilled protein in the summer, a great light entree, and a perfect option for potlucks too!

And speaking of potlucks, my office recently hosted one and I volunteered to bring an orzo salad as my contribution. I was out of the office to spend some time with Hannah on the day before the potluck, so I had some time to get it together. Not wanting to waste my whole day off peeling, chopping and roasting vegetables though, I enlisted one of my favorite shortcut ingredients: Whole Foods grilled vegetables. The prepared foods section of Whole Foods always has a perfectly sliced, lightly seasoned, and grilled selection of vegetables at the ready and they are great on their own or in this case, chopped and added to a bowl with cooked orzo and a simple vinaigrette. A little fresh parsley and crumbled feta rounds out this potluck-perfect salad!


Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb. dry orzo
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice *This equals the juice of approximately 5 lemons
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 fresh parsley, chopped 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 lb. assorted grilled or roasted vegetables, chopped *I like the ones available in the Whole Foods prepared food section. I got a combination of red peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, and asparagus this time. 
  • 6 oz. crumbled feta

Cook orzo according to package directions, minus 1-2 minutes of cooking time (to keep the pasta bit chewier). 

Meanwhile, in a large bowl or food storage container, whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, oil, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add drained orzo and vegetables to the mixture and toss well to coat.

Fold in the crumbled feta and serve cold or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

My One-Year-Old's 10 Favorite Birthday Gifts

I'm not really sure when my tiny baby became an independent toddler, but it happened... and all you mommies were right: I blinked my eyes and it happened before I even knew it! While I don't miss the sleepless nights, nursing round the clock, or the gas pains, I do miss cuddling that tiny little toothless munchkin-- especially right now. I had a weird lower back spasm yesterday when I picked her up (she was climbing into the dishwasher while Alex was filling it) and I have been semi-handicapped since. I have seriously never felt this kind of pain before, but it is awful to have a fast crawling and almost walking toddler when you can barely move!


Back to my toddler, though... Hannah was totally spoiled for her first birthday! Friends and family far and wide gave her a ton of fun and adorable gifts. In the interest of helping you shop for any upcoming first birthday parties you may be attending, here are a few of Hannah's favorite things:




1. VTech Chomp and Count Dino - This toy has so much going on-- he can be pushed and pulled, has tons of buttons and dials, helps baby learn counting, shapes, and foods, and sings some of the catchiest melodies you'll find yourself singing all day... "Blueberries are sweet... and yummy to eat!"
2. Fisher-Price 3-in-1 Bounce, Stride & Ride Elephant - Hannah isn't walking yet, but this elephant is getting her darn close. She pushes it up and down our hallway all day. And when her nanny share friend is here, they ride around on it together or take turns pushing each other. It is too cute!
3. chewbeads Jane necklace - Hannah has reignited her love of teething necklaces, but not for teething. Hannah is all about accessorizing these days and she wears the chewbeads herself! At any given time she is wearing at least one necklace... or four.
4. Fisher-Price BeatBowWow - This dog is hysterical! Press a button and she sings, dances, and lights up. Hannah loves pressing the buttons followed immediately by a dance party complete with spinning around on her butt and throwing her hands up in the air.
5. Old Navy Cross-Front Tutu Dress - I have never been a mom that likes putting my baby in tutus. It's just not my thing. However, I did make a recent exception when I spotted this one and thought it would be adorable for Hannah to wear to her first birthday party. It was cute, comfy, and machine washable... a perfect cake smash ensemble!
6. Green Toys Watering Can Set - First, let me say I love Green Toys as a brand for their earth-friendly recycled products. But this set is especially cute: a watering can, shovel, and garden hoe. It's exactly what Hannah needs when we are "gardening" on the deck or when she's playing in her sand and water table.
7. pediped Katelyn Originals - These shoes are perfect for my little pre-walker. They're well-made leather shoes that are super flexible and great for Hannah as she gets to used to wearing shoes on a regular basis. She actually loves these shoes (she has them in pink, by the way) and tries her best to put them on her feet too, which is super cute.
8. Bright Baby books - Hannah is a little bookworm and we own tons of books (I'm planning a follow up post featuring just our favorite books) and I keep all of the hardcovers and the storybooks in her room. We have one bottom shelf in our living room devoted to her board books though-- and the Bright Baby books are her favorites. There are a variety of them all about colors, animals, first words, and she loves flipping through them all. The big picture and simple word/photo combos are perfect for early learning.
9. Manhattan Toy Classic Baby Beads - This is a super simple toy, but was probably Hannah's favorite thing that she opened at her birthday party. These beads are all intertwined on an elastic cord so they can be pulled and manipulated and keep a one-year old surprisingly entertained. We even took them on a recent plane trip with Hannah too and it was a great distraction!
10. Tomy Lil' Chirpers Sorting Eggs Game - This one was a big surprise! The Easter Bunny put these in Hannah's Easter basket (because she can't eat chocolate yet, so an egg-themed toy just made sense) and it has been her favorite toy for the past month. She loves everything about this toy: opening and closing the carton, pulling the eggs apart, squeaking the colored chicks, and attempting to plug them back into the matching negative shape.

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