Breakfast Casserole & Hostess Tips

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Hostessing is one of my favorite things to do. I love to make people feel welcome and comfortable when they come to my house, whether it’s just for an evening or an overnight visit. I have to admit, however, that at times I do let myself get stressed out about it when things are going the way I expected. Recently when my husband told me that some guests were coming in town an hour earlier than expected, I starting completely freaking out cried a little and he looked at me with just a tad bit of concern. So my number one rule of hosting is: you aren’t perfect, you can’t be perfect, so just get over it. Chances are, the person coming to your house isn’t perfect either, so calm down. No amount of pristine cleanliness and perfect decore can equal your expression of genuine care for the person who walks in your door. That’s what they’ll remember most. That being said, here are a couple of my go-to tips for hosting anyone who stays the night.

1. Make sure your guest room is clean and welcoming. Fresh sheets, all surfaces newly dusted, the floor vacuumed and mopped, and a candle lit. Put some interesting books on the nightstand for reading options, a notepad and pen, and if you have room, a chair of some sort so they can relax. If possible, make some space in the closet for luggage.

2. Provide fresh towels, wash cloths and toiletries. I like to include a little container full of: toothpaste, a toothbrush, floss, melatonin, Tylenol, cough drops, mints, body wash, lotion, soap, deodorant, tissues, mouthwash, almonds & chocolate. I basically just raid the little one dollar travel-size toiletry section at the grocery store! Most people won’t use all or even any of this stuff (except the chocolate is always gone!) so you don’t have to buy more of all of these things every time.

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3. A clean bathroom! When people use the bathroom, they want it to be clean. I include more fresh towels, good hand soap, and a cute hand towel. A hair dryer is a great thing to have as well as good body lotion and extra toilet paper. Plus I’ve deep cleaned it, making sure there is hopefully not one single dog hair to be seen. Again, nothing fancy for me, just clean and simple.

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4. A good, hearty breakfast with coffee (and the fixings), tea and orange juice available. Find out what time your guest normally wakes up and wants their coffee. I’m the type that hopes for it first thing. Again, it doesn’t have to be something crazy like homemade hollandaise sauce over shrimp and eggs Benedict. Just go with something easy and flavorful. And something you’ve made before to insure success. I recently served house guests some failed homemade pumpkin cinnamon rolls that didn’t rise, not my best moment, but thankfully they were good friends and very gracious. Plus I had bacon so that saved the day.

For a great and simple breakfast option, this variation of a breakfast casserole is really delicious. This week we are hosting some guests unexpectedly. I was able to throw this casserole together simply and inexpensively.

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I would love to hear some of your tips about hosting! Send them my way!

Happy hosting!

Breakfast Casserole:

Ingredients:

7 eggs
1/2 cup half and half
2 large red potatoes, julienned
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Sliced avocado for topping

To Make

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the julienned potatoes on a cookie sheet and drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix potatoes together with olive oil so they are evenly coated. Roast potatoes in oven for 20 minutes.

Spray a 9X13 inch glass pan with cooking spray.

Sauté diced onions and bell peppers in 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add minced garlic and sauté one minute. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, and chives.

In the baking dish put roasted potatoes and sautéed onions and peppers, combine together. Pour egg mixture over the veggies. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Top with sliced tomatoes, spaced over the casserole.

Bake casserole for 30-35 minutes until eggs are cooked through.

Top with sliced avocado and enjoy!

**the eggs and potatoes make this a hearty dish, but some cooked, crumbled bacon or breakfast sausage would be delicious added to the mix. Just combine with the veggies before pouring in the egg mixture.

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Cous Cous, Corn & Black Bean Salad with Chipotle Dressing

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As much as I absolutely love the fall months, I’m not quite ready for summer to end. I’m holding on to every fresh berry and ripe tomato I can get my hands on and I’m especially not ready for Hobby Lobby to be filled with scarecrows and pumpkins. Don’t get me wrong, fall is probably my favorite time of year, but I don’t want to skip the end of summer. Given the fact that it won’t get even slightly chilly here in Louisiana until maybe mid-October, I guess I have a bit more time.

For me, salads are the best thing to eat in the summer. And even though I could certainly make this salad in the fall or winter, there’s something summery about it. The tangy feta and spicy chipotle make this easy dish flavor packed.

This recipe comes from one of my all time favorite cookbooks, Power Foods. I’ve shared the quinoa salad here before, it’s incredible!

For a heartier salad, add some chopped rotisserie chicken or mixed greens and avocado. But without any of those things, this is still a hearty and delicious salad.

Happy end of summer!

For the salad:

2 cups of plain cous cous
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 can (15oz) black beans, drained & rinsed
1 cup crumbled feta
Chopped cilantro
A handful of blue corn tortilla chips

optional: chopped rotisserie chicken, sliced avocado, a handful of mixed greens

Dressing:

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 Tablespoon chopped chipotle chile in adobo (found in a small can on the Mexican foods aisle)
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup of water

To make:

Cook cous cous according to package directions, fluff and scoop 2 cups into a large bowl. Add drained & rinsed black beans, corn. Add chicken if using.

In a blender combine dressing ingredients. Add to cous cous mixture and stir to combine.

Place salad ingredients in a bowl on top of a handful of mixed greens if using. Top with a sprinkling of feta, cilantro and avocado. Serve with tortilla chips.
Enjoy!

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Eating with the Armstrongs

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Summer has provided some good eats for us with out-of-town guests, birthday celebrations, and the use of my favorite cooking method: the grill. We have greatly enjoyed all of the following recipes and will be making them again!

Key Lime Meringue Pie

Summer in a dessert. The airy meringue topping made this pie an over-the-top treat! My only change is that I made a graham cracker crust rather than the shortbread crust the recipe calls for. I just can’t get away from the fact that graham cracker crumbs + sugar + butter is the best thing on earth. Find the recipe for it on the back of any graham cracker box.

Dark Chocolate Pie with Almond Crust and Raspberry Compote (Vegan & Gluten Free)

In all honesty, when I hear “vegan and gluten free” for a dessert, the I think: “dry and tasteless” because it’s just hard to believe that the omission of flour, butter, and cream can be a good thing. But much to my delight (and health to my body) that’s actually not true and I’m happy to say that I’ve enjoyed several gluten free desserts lately. This pie is absolutely incredibly rich, smooth, and perfect. I made it for a birthday party and everyone raved. The recipe calls for strawberries, but I used raspberries because they are my favorite thing to pair with dark chocolate. Also, I didn’t have any vanilla, and really didn’t miss it, however, I will include it next time as I know it would only add another layer of flavor. The dark chocolate chips are melted with coconut milk and maple syrup for a creamy pie filling and the toasted almond pie crust is divine. My one other note is that I used the whole can of coconut milk rather than just the cream as the recipe calls for because I didn’t have time to chill it overnight, but the consistency was perfectly creamy. Please make this!

Zesty Lime, Shrimp & Avocado Salad

We made this for the Fourth of July and it is truly all things summery, flavor packed, and tasty. How can you go wrong with lime and avocado? I grilled my shrimp to add an extra note and also added black beans which made the salad less pretty but more filling.

Pineapple Cashew Fried Rice

Definitely a different flavor profile from the typical fried rice and one I gladly welcomed. Cooking the rice in pineapple juice and coconut milk provided a scrumptious sweetness that paired wonderfully with salty soy sauce sprinkled on top.

Greek Meatballs

We really enjoyed this version of meatballs. Rather than using lamb like the recipe calls for, I substituted ground beef. The inclusion of Bulgar wheat adds a nice crunch. I served this with my homemade hummus and a little salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh basil & feta topped with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper. Yum!

Yukon Gold & Sweet Mashed Potatoes

My friend Abigail introduced us to these a few months ago, and I’ve made them a couple times since as they are absolutely incredible! The sweet potatoes add a whole new element to the traditional mashed potatoes. They are great as the original recipe goes but I have also substituted sour cream instead of cream cheese with great success as well.

Happy July and Happy Eating!


Green Thumb: Gardening 101!

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Gardening is my summer hobby. Thanks to my new puppy I get up pretty early these days and I enjoy watering my herbs, veggies and flowers while the sun comes up. It’s good to water in the morning so that the sun doesn’t burn the plants which can happen if you water in the afternoon. Gardening takes devotion and patience if you’re growing more than a pot of basil. But it’s a blast to see life growing and to eat something you grew on your own!

Above is my garden that I planted the week of May 18th. My parents helped me churn up the dirt in the raised beds, which were built by the previous owners of the house, as well as mix in a good compost and fresh soil. We put in some plant food and fertilizer to help encourage growth. All of my plants were transplants, rather than seeds. In just over a month, we’ve enjoyed: lots of basil, chives, dill, mint, parsley, rosemary, oregano, and lemon thyme.

It’s overflowing!

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We got to eat one squash before my entire squash plant ended up rotting. I was disappointed, but it’s all part of the learning process. Apparently this is a common problem. I did not know that mulching is very important for a squash plants as is pruning the large branches so they don’t crowd each other.
My arugula also did not survive due to an infestation of tiny white worms. Next time I’ll be more proactive about getting an organic pest killer, and I plan to attempt arugula again in the fall.

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I picked my first jalapeño yesterday and quite a few tomatoes are almost ripe! My one bell pepper so far is huge but not yet red. We’ve had a ton of spinach, which grows rapidly. My eggplant, cantaloupe and cucumber plants all have flowers but no signs of fruit yet. Apparently cucumber takes a little longer to bare fruit even though it is rapidly overtaking everything else (it thrives in heat and humidity).

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Pictured above: heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, spinach, eggplant, jalapeño, bell pepper, cucumber, and cantaloupe!

I’ll post some garden fresh recipes soon! My favorites have been Minty Green Tea Limeade, basil pesto, and various salad dressings with lots of herbs.

Do you garden? What are you growing? Any tips?


Eating with the Armstrongs

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First of all, Happy Father’s Day to my amazing dad, father-in-law, my Grandpa & my Papau! We are so thankful for these men who love us, generously support us, and have consistently cared for us for so many years.

When I was little my dad’s specialty was splatter: a combination of fried spam, onions and potatoes. And I have to tell you, it was delicious. He has since learned how to make gourmet omelets and is a grill master, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he brought out his splatter recipe again.  There are so many things I love about my dad. He is the funniest man I know, extremely creative, hard working, and generous. He definitely set the bar high in my mind of the kind of man I wanted to marry. I’m thankful that my husband fits the bill in every way. I love you, Daddy, and am happy to celebrate you today! I wish I could give you a head rub while you watch golf. Love from Baton Rouge!

Here’s what we’ve enjoyed lately!

Creamy Polenta w/ Chicken Sausage & Peppers

Definitely a recent favorite! Polenta is so easy to whip up and makes a delicious base for the sausage and peppers. I actually used a Cajun Sausage that I got from our Farmer’s Market, which added the perfect spice. This meal came together quickly and easily and was thoroughly enjoyed by both of us!

Spring Vegetable Potstickers

Well, I really only made the vegetable filling as I could not find wonton or dumpling wrappers at our local Whole Foods. But the filling was absolutely delicious served atop noodles. I did not use tofu but I did add ground turkey for some protein. The flavors in this recipe are fresh and bright.

Pepper Chicken Nachos

We love nachos, so the substitution of bell peppers for chips was excited to try. The recipe calls for mini peppers, but I just used regular bell peppers. This is another simple and flavor packed meal.

Tropical Chewy Granola Bars

These gluten free granola bars are packed with power-food ingredients and wholesome sweetness. I made quite a few recipe swaps: dried cherries for the dried mango, chocolate chips for the dried banana, pecans for the macadamia nuts, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract for the vanilla bean seeds. Tasty and good-for-you!

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

In the attempt to succeed at a gluten free summer diet, I have made this “pizza crust” twice! The flavor is delicious but I’m still working on getting a crunchier consistency throughout. A major adjustment I made to the recipe was to cook the crust at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes (periodically checking), instead of the 450 degrees the recipe called for. This created a much better crust, but I am going to try an even longer cooking time at a lower temperature. We topped ours with a simple tomato sauce, sausage, basil, spinach (from my garden!) and just a tiny bit of Parmesan. Try it!


Eating with the Armstrongs

Summer life promises to be a little bit slower for us, and we’ll welcome that wholeheartedly! But with settling into our new home and adding a puppy to the fam (pictures coming soon!) who knows what the pace will really look like.
In the coming weeks, look for a post on gardening! My parents helped us plant flower beds this weekend as well as an herb and vegetable garden. Here’s to hoping everything will remain alive throughout the summer. Taking on a green thumb promises to be a good workout and a chance to get some intense tan lines.

Recently we have enjoyed the following recipes:

Cilantro Garlic Chicken

This grilled chicken is ideal for summertime and FULL of flavor. I served it alongside of some roasted broccoli.

Pop Rock Truffles

A friend made these whimsical treats for a baby shower recently, and they are truly phenomenal! Pretty simple and a really creative idea for the plethora of summer showers and parties.

Springtime Portobello & Asparagus Pizza

Another recipe from one of my favorite blogs, this pizza is incredible. I substituted bacon as a cheaper alternative to prosciutto.

Raspberry Sorbet

Raspberries & sugar, how can you go wrong? This cold, tart summer sweet is delicious. Instead of fresh raspberries, I actually used thawed frozen ones and the flavor was still full and bright!

Crock Pot Short Rib Tacos

The flavor in this recipe is unbelievable! And I definitely love crock pot recipes on busy days.

Hope you try and enjoy these!


Eating with the Armstrongs

Hey y’all! Besides the recipes we’ve enjoyed lately, here’s what’s on my mind today:

The weather. Cold, sunny, perfect. Turns out March in Louisiana is pretty great. Although I hear this isn’t the norm.

Almond Milk Lattes. Have you had one? It’s my new thing. If you live in Baton Rouge, you must stop by Magpie Cafe to enjoy one of these tasteful treats.

My friend Claire makes a killer Carrot Cake. If you’re in need of an Easter dessert recipe, please look no further. Divine.

Y’all, jean jackets are in style. My sweetest ever mother-in-law bought me one and you should get one too. Check out the Levi selection and embrace the 90’s.

Right now I’m finishing up the book Love Does by Bob Goff. It is phenomenal. Creative writing meets funny stories meets short chapters meets inspiration. It’s like taking a bath for your soul. (weird? but true)

Alright, so here’s what we’ve been eating lately.

The Most Divine Carrot Cake In The Whole World

The Pioneer Woman’s Fajitas. Totally delicious! Totally worth the chopping.

Thai Chicken Quinoa Bowls. Healthy & flavorful. A home-run for sure!

A little snacky snack of Sharp Cheddar Cheese Crackers. Ok, maybe don’t make these. They’re so good that you won’t be able to stop eating them. Ever. Ok, so make them and then plan a few good exercise routines for before, during, and after.

Black Bean Quesadillas with Avocado Ranch. Wow!