4 Fun Conversation Pieces for Your Kitchen

Life is too short for a boring kitchen. Check out these 4 conversation starter pieces that will make cooking more fun. Each kitchen item is both functional, fun, and a bit unique.

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A gift guide to spice up anyone’s kitchen

1. For the Cosmic Kid

Check out this fun knife set that is out of this world. 6 kitchen knives with scenes from stars for the space case aficionado who would like nothing more than to go to Mars.

2. For the Crime Show Junkie

Everyone has a crime show junkie friend. This is the person who binges all the murder mystery documentaries on Netflix and cannot get enough crime podcasts into their day. This trivet will ensure that no crime takes place on their countertops.

3. For the Music Enthusiast Who Drinks Too Much Coffee

This is the perfect gift for friend who is always rocking out on their headphones, spends their free time looking up guitar tabs and may also be also be a bit of a coffee snob. This spoon will ensure they have the perfect scoop of freshly ground coffee every morning as they make Pumpkin Cheesecake Foam Top Coffee as well as look super cool. This is sure to be a high note of their morning.

4. For the Person who Wants to Save the Ocean

There are two unique items you can get this person to make a splash of fun to their home dining. First is a toothpick holder that looks like a Narwhale. Imagine how delightful he would look between the napkins and the salt shaker.

The next is a whale shaped butter dish designed to look like a swimming whale. Open the top and the fishbone design doubles as a measurement tool. There is no such thing as too much butter.

These curated conversation pieces for your kitchen are sure to bring a bit of personality and fun to what is usually a very functional space.

Check Out More Monthly Musings where I discuss random topics each month.

Pot Pie Bread Bowl Bites

Seasonings Greetings! I cannot believe it is finally December 1st. It’s starting to get cold in the midwest, and all I am craving is good homestyle comfort food. 

This post is a fun twist on your traditional pot pie that you can serve as appetizers or a fun snack. They can be made in advance assembled right before your party guest arrives. These also go well as a snack to eat while watching your favorite Christmas movies.  

I have an easy pot pie recipe and pair it with store-bought biscuits. My recipe does not add any additional milk, which differs from most recipes. However, it still has a creamy soup-like consistency without the extra fat and calories. 

This bite-sized presentation is also helpful if you want to enjoy some of Winter’s more decadent food but want to watch calories. Two of these will satisfy any craving. 

These treats are also kid friendly from preparation to finished product. There is an opportunity to show kids how to use measuring spoons for the spices. Measure everything else in advance and have your kids place all the ingredients in the crockpot. They will be amazed to see the before and after. You can have them help scoop out the bread and put the bites together. This is holiday fun for the entire family. 

Vegetarian Modification: If you are vegetarian, you can modify this recipe by omitting the cream of chicken soup and chicken and replacing it with cream of mushroom soup. You may also want to mix in half a cup of your favorite rice. Wild would pair nicely. 

Ingredients:

  • Two cans of cream of chicken soup
  • Frozen vegetables (peas, green beans, and carrots)
  • 2 tablespoons of thyme
  •  1 tablespoon of garlic
  • 1 lb of chicken cut up into small bites
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
  • pinch of salt
  • store-bought biscuits (I used Pillsbury) 
  1. Add all ingredients to a crockpot. 
  2. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. Low for 4-6. 
  3. Follow cooking instructions on your store-bought biscuits. 
  4. Once biscuits have cooled slightly, use a teaspoon scoop out the biscuit creating a small hole. 
  5. Spoon in your pot pie mixture. 

Cheers from my house to yours!

Arugula Pepper Side Salad

This is a fabulously simple and fresh side salad that pairs well with my Lemon Pepper Chicken. Arugula and a lemon wedge make this simple salad feel quite fancy. The red pepper gives it a sweet flavor. Breadcrumbs sprinkles with lemon pepper give it a crunch. This salad is so refreshing you truly do not need to add an oily dressing if your watching your fat intake.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups Arugula
  • 1 thinly sliced red pepper
  • 4 lemon slices
  • 1/2 white onion thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon breadcrumbs
  1. Mix all ingredients together and divide among 4 plates.
  2. Add a lemon slice to each plate and serve.

This is what your Arugula Pepper Side Salad should look like

Bring it Back like Vinyl

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Every day things from past decades are enjoying a revival today. One such example is vinyl records. From my childhood, records were only something my parents and grandparents owned. I had no idea how to play them. Fast forward to today, and you can find record stores scattered throughout downtown. Famous musicians are releasing new music on albums as well as streaming services.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

These things from the past are still great because of the experience they create. Music enthusiasts enjoy the hunt of finding a gem among thousands of records in crates. When they finally hear the first song’s crackle, the sound quality is just a little richer. Maybe your that person who enjoys quoting your favorite movie. It brought a sense of happiness then, and it still endures today.

Now, more than ever, with the world rapidly evolving due to COVID-19, we should be focusing on creating those experiences as were socially distanced at home. For centuries friends, loved ones, and family would hand write to one another to keep in touch. Yes, it took time and effort, but those are things we all have available as we watch our best-made plans for 2020 canceled. Take a minute to slow down, but reconnect.

I am someone who has kept every card that I have ever received. No joke, I have shoeboxes full of them dating back to my childhood. Most of these cards memorialize milestones such as birthdays, graduations, or holidays. While I have a few “just because” letters, it is not the majority of my shoebox.

Resilience to these unprecedented times can spark the need to connect in meaningful ways. Be thankful for Fall and spread the love with a hand-painted card for your family. Have Zoom meetings been weighing you down at work? Thank your coworkers for their focus and dedication with a professional handwritten letter. You could also write long handwritten notes to your friends across the country. You will bring each person the experience of human connection, thoughtfulness, and hope.

For the person who is eager to write and does not want to spend time making cards check out 40 Blank Note Cards with Envelopes & Stickers | 4” x 6” Bulk Boxed Set of all Occasions Greeting Notecards | Assortment of Colored Stationary Plain Greeting Cards.. All the cards are blank so the can be personalized to each person.

And for the artist who looks forward to creating something beautiful to share check out these Heavyweight White Blank Cards With White Envelopes 5″x 7″ Greeting Cards Blank Cards And Envelopes Printable. You can use colored pencils, to paints to printing out your own digital creations.




Paprika Honey Chicken Grilled Chicken Sandwich

My number one fast-food guilty pleasure, the McChicken, inspired this recipe. How glorious and simple that sandwich is and coming in at only a dollar! It is a great excuse to get 2!

I have made my health a priority, so my McChicken indulgences are less frequent than they were in my earlier twenties. I do not know if I could 100% give them up, but everything in moderation right.

After having a deep craving for one of these sandwiches one evening, I came up with a healthier spicy-sweet version of my favorite fatty meal. At home, my boyfriend will refer to these as McJens! I kept it simple, grilled the chicken, and added my spin with spices and honey. And while these would go awesome with a side of sweet potato fries, I usually whip up a good side salad to keep it fresh.

This sandwich would also go great with provolone, grilled onion, peppers, or even a bacon strip if you are less concerned with fat content. Let your favorite cravings mix and match

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • paprika
  • garlic salt
  • pepper
  • cumin
  • cayenne
  • 2 Kaiser rolls
  • onion slices
  • light mayonnaise
  • honey
  • tomato
  • iceberg lettuce
  1. Heat your grill. I use an indoor grill/griddle at medium,m/high heat.
  2. Season your chicken breasts with paprika, garlic salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne.
  3. Grill chicken until it is white throughout. Remove and set aside to rest.
  4. While the grill is still hot, toast your kaiser roll buns until light brown.
  5. Remove the buns and add light mayo, and honey to each bun.
  6. Stack the onion, lettuce, and tomato, and chicken.

Enjoy! Fast food at home!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Foam Top Coffee

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Fall is when I feel most alive. I also get that feel after a great cup of coffee. This is the perfect morning treat to savor while watching the sunrise over your garden of mums. Who wants to wait in the drive through line for coffee when you can have this quiet moment to enjoy each morning

This is also a great drink you can make with decaf coffee to serve after a large meal.

This recipe is relatively simple, and can be modified if your dairy-free or vegan so it is one everyone can enjoy. The first part of this recipe is the foam that I make in my steamer/frother. I experimented with almond milk, but it turned into a thin runny bubbly mess. Not great foam. Regular milk may result in a better foam since it is a bit more dense, but we are a no milk household 99% of the time. I personally make this with SO Dariy Free Caramel Coffee Creamer. Very similar to the thickness of foam you would get at a local coffee shop.

The next piece is the syrup. I use Jordan Skinny Mixes Sugar Free Pumpkin Cheesecake Syrup. A little of this goes a LONG way so make sure to add in small amounts. I usually keep it to half a teaspoon.

I use a dark roast drip coffee with freshly ground beans. I keep it in an airtight container to keep it fresh. If your enjoy espresso, you can definitely substitute that as well. For fun I added some fall festive sprinkles. You will want to choose small granular sprinkles since heavier pieces will fall right to the bottom of your coffee. This also pairs well with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Ingredients:

  1. Brew your coffee.
  2. Froth and steam your regular coffee creamer. It should be thick and resemble foam.
  3. Add your coffee syrup and give it a stir.
  4. Add a layer of foam on top of your coffee until it is all white.
  5. Sprinkle your Autumn festive sprinkles on top. I’ve linked a similar Thanksgiving Sprinkle Mix .

-Enjoy!

Summer Season Green Juice

Over the summer my boyfriend and I found a new healthy treat : Green Juice. This is a refreshing and nutrient packed treat that we plan to keep making year round.

Some people food prep, but we juice prep. We’ll make a large batch of juice that will last for up to two days before making another batch. Its more efficient to clean 3 times a week rather than every day. We also always have a fresh batch on hand.

Excitedly, we experimented and made a lot of foul tasting juice. Watermelon does not mix with Kale whatsoever. There is also such as thing as too much ginger. We also found that there really ins’t much juice from a banana. Throughout the summer we did find a main go to that is pretty sweet. Our juicing journey has only begun.

Below is our bulk recipe to create 6 cups of juice. We store them in mason jars that are easy to clean.

Ingredients:

-1/2 lb of Kale

3-4 English cucumbers

6 apples

  1. Cut Apples and cucumber so that they fit in the juicer opening.
  2. Add cucumbers to the juicer and wait until there is no more juice coming out. Transfer even amounts to each glass bottle.
  3. Repeat step 2 with the kale and apples transferring the juice to the jars as needed.
  4. Add lids and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Do you have a go to juicing recipe we should try? Comment below!

-Adios J. Marie

Hatch Chili Everything Sauce

I was walking into the grocery store and I found this giant stand full of bundles of Hatch Chili. Wondering what made these so special from the rest of the chilis I grabbed a bundle and started to google. I found out that Hatch Chili come from a part of New Mexico and come in season around august each year. THey even have an entire festival honoring these little guys.

My goal was to find something to cook using these seasonal chili. I browsed several recopies, but they all had one thing in common-you had to char the peppers for the best taste. I decided to make an enchillada sauce and picked up a few tomatillos and onions.

My goal was a nice pretty verde sauce for my enchiladas. This IS NOT the final result. This is what happens when everytime you cook its a kitchen experiment.

After charring and blending I realized how delectably spicy the sauce really was. While I am all for knock your socks off sizzling hot spiciness, my boyfriend may have starved. I had already been working on this sauce for more than an hour and was not going to surrender to take out after. I add two roma tomatoes and squeezed lemon juice to the sauce. After blending it and tasting it once more, it was a lot less spicy but still had a kick.

I ended up using this over chicken enchiladas that night. I also had some the next morning in an egg burrito. This recipie really made a good amount that you can freeze or use all week long. For that reason alone I give it the name the everything sauce. Too good just for a single meal

Ingredients:

  • 4 Hatch chilis
  • 5 tomatillos
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon of cayanne
  • 2 roma tomato (optional-if you need to make it less spicy)
  • lemon (optional if you need to make it less spicy)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 white onion diced
  1. Roast the hatch chilis and tomatoillos on a baking sheet set to broil. Pull out when you notice the skins looking charred.
  2. While the chillis and tomatillos are cooling down, dice one onion and add it to the blender along with garlic and cayenne.
  3. Cut off the stems and peel the charred skins off of the tomatillos and chili. Place it in the blender.
  4. Blend until everything is well mixed together and give it a taste test. If two spicy add tomatoes and lemon.
  5. Enjoy as an enchiladas sauce , salsa, or even dipping sauce for your eggs. You can use it on just about anything.

Lemon Pepper Chicken

This is hands down my number one go to recipe anytime of the year. Its a simple, one pan and full of flavor. Pop it in and forget about it for 20 minutes and you have a delightfully savory meal.

This pairs really well with a house salad and rice and a Riesling. In the summers, I like to add a bunch of asparagus to the bottom of the pan and cook the chicken over top. Nothing like a one pan dinner!

My mom would make lemon pepper chicken growing up This recipe is an homage to family dinners growing up.

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs of chicken breasts

Lemon pepper seasoning*

1 pressed garlic clove

1 lemon

olive oil

*lemon pepper seasoning can be found at your grocery store (if you would prefer to make your own combine zest of a lemon, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt)

  1. Season chicken with lemon pepper seasoning until fully coated.
  2. You will want to use a deep baking dish over a sheet pan because there will be a lot of juicy sauce. Place the chicken on top. Add a light layer of olive oil to the chicken.
  3. Press a clove of garlic and it on top. Drizzle freshly squeezed lemon juice and add a lemon slice to each chicken.
  4. Cover with a aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees.

Enjoy

-J. Marie

Sriracha Ranch Black Bean and Quinoa Tacos

I’ve been stuck at home during COVID-19 quarantine and like most people, been stuffing my face full of comfort food. Pizza rolls….haven’t had them since high school but here I am heating them up for dinner. Enough is enough I told myself. I need to get back to real food and start living healthy again. With a bunch of random items I found in the pantry this is what I came up with.

This is southwest meets the Midwest. Mostly healthy but still has the comfort of good ole ranch. Baby steps

Ingredients:

  • Quinoa
  • black beans
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 onion
  • arugula
  • ranch
  • sriracha
  • Mexican cheese
  • tortillas
  1. Cook a cup of quinoa.
  2. Drain a can of black beans and add to the cooked quinoa mixture and set aside.
  3. Dice your red pepper and onions.
  4. Mix 3 tablespoons of ranch with a 1/4 teaspoon of Sriracha. Add more if you like the spice. Spread over tortilla
  5. Add a spoonful of black bean and quinoa mixture.
  6. Add arugula, onion, peppers and cheese.
  7. Optional-Add additional specs of sriracha for a kick

Enjoy!

-J. Marie

Grandmas San Antonio Guacamole

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My grandma grew up in San Antonio Texas. While she did not spend her entire life in Texas, you could not take the Texas out of her. I never got to meet her, but this is a recipe my mom passed down to me long before everyone was on the avocado craze. My mom and I will judge a restaurant by how well their guacamole is. There IS a difference!

This recipe is classic and easy. I guarantee you will never want to buy another tub of the store bought stuff ever again.

Mini bowls are the best way to serve guacamole! Come on how cute!

Ingredients:

  • 3 avocados
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • your goto hot sauce
  • sea salt

San Antonio Guacamole

  1. Slice the avocado in half . Pul out the core and discard.
  2. Scoop out the green avocado into a bowl. Discard the black outer skins.
  3. Add one teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and a pinch of salt.
  4. Using a potatoes masher (yes you read that right) mash the mixture until combined. I usually do a taste test and will continue to add salt and lemon juice until its just right. Remember you can always add, but you can never take away.
  5. Serve in a bowl immediately. If you have any leftovers you will want to eat within 4 days. Since this is fresh you will see the top layer of guacamole oxidize. You can still eat it, but may want to mix it up first.

From this classic recipe you can add your own twist on it. Mix in some diced tomatoes or jalapenos. Maybe some fresh cilantro. I’ve even seen some restaurants in Scottsdale add pomegranate seeds for a sweet taste and a bold pop of color.

If your entertaining safe and social distanced through the pandemic, these Terracotta Pinch Bowls work wonderful to give everyone their own bowl of guacamole. Even when he pandemic is over, no one wants to share their guacamole!

Guacamole is always a must. Hope you enjoyed this recipe. Until next time!

-J. Marie

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Quinoa Bowls

Currently my days are spent working from home and sheltering in place. I am trying to minimize the trips to the grocery store, so I am being more creative in the kitchen with everything I currently have on hand. This was a complete science experiment that turned out awesome!

I was inspired to create a Chipotle style rice bowl, but without your usual southwest ingredients, lime, or even many fresh veggies on hand. Its a little sweet and a little spicy. I hope everyone is staying in and spending their time cooking during the pandemic and I challenge you to create your own recipe experiment.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and cook something good!

-J.Marie

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of chicken tenders
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • paprika
  • basil
  • oregano
  • honey
  • Chili seasoning packet
  • garlic powder
  • 1 cut up onion
  • quinoa or rice
  • romaine lettuce
  1. Heat you cast iron skillet on Medium and add a teaspoon of olive oil
  2. While your skillet is heating up season your chicken generously with chili seasoning, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, paprika and garlic powder.
  3. Place the seasoned chicken into the pan. Stir occasionally to make sure all sides are cooked.
  4. Midway through cooking drizzle a small amount of honey over top to add a bit of sweetness.
  5. When the chicken is thoroughly cooked, add the cut up onions. Place a lid over top and reduce heat for 15 minutes or until onions are sweating.
  6. Add quinoa and shredded lettuce to a bowl.

Southwest Chicken Avocado Toast

I LOVE brunch. Its a big deal if you live in the KC area. With this recipe I was able to make filling tasty home brunch.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Breast
  • cumin
  • Cayenne
  • Chipotle
  • oregano
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • avocado
  • cut green pepper
  • cut yellow onion
  • whole wheat bread
  1. Season your chicken breast with cumin, cayenne, chipotle, oregano, and salt and pepper.
  2. Grill chicken on an indoor grill (or outdoor if you have access) until done.
  3. Using two forks, shred the chicken.
  4. Add olive oil, peppers, onions to the pan and let simmer. Add eggs and stir until nicely scrambled.
  5. While the eggs are cooking place your whole wheat bread ontop of your indoor grill for nice grill lines.
  6. Take the toasted bread off the grill and add some avocado.
  7. Combine the chicken, eggs, veggies ontop of the toast and serve!

Fall Apple Chickpea Salad

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love it all : scarves, boots, coats, cider, apple picking and cider.

I created this salad while craving chickpeas and apples. Its crisp, crunchy and a little sweet. I dont know if anyone actually reads the long intro to recipies. I wont bore ya’ll. Here it is!

Ingredients:

  • Paprika
  • Olive Oil
  • Favorite Apple (i used honey crisp)
  • red onion
  • cucumber
  • Chickpeas
  • Panera “Bread Co” Fiji Apple Salad Dressing
  • Spring Mix
  • Walnuts or pecans
  • chia and flax (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 375. Drain chickpeas and spread out over a sheet pan. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle paprika. Bake for 15 minutes
  2. Take spring mix and add to a plate
  3. Chop apples, cucumber, and red onion into small bits.
  4. sprinkle some nuts and chia/flax
  5. Take chickpeas out of the oven. Spoon out hot roasted chickpeas onto the salad.
  6. Top with Panera Fiji Apple Salad Dressing
  7. Enjoy

Going Vegetarian

Hi ya’ll. I’ve been experimenting with a vegetarin diet for the last few months, and now want to commit to it 100%. I’ve already noticed a difference in my weight, joint health, and energy and really want to take it to the next level to make my body the healthiest it possibly can be.

I did not grow up vegetarian. If you had told me years ago that I would eat a primarly plant based diet, I would of laughed and chowed down a whole hambuger in your face. I could not fathom where I would get my protien from and why I would want to give up the foods I enjoyed most.

The number one motivator for my new eating habits is my health. I’ve always been interested in diet and nutrition. What I found was this way of eating could be beneficial for heart health, automimmunity, and even to help control pre-diabetes.

I  did my own mini experiment for 2 weeks. This is what I found:

  1. Vegetables and fruit taste better!
  2. I’m not starving
  3. I wake up with no joint pain and have extra energy
  4. Best I have felt in a long long time
  5. Gym Recovery time isnt as bad

I will be chronicling my journy for anyone else who is interested or doesnt know where to start. I’m still trying to find my goto recipies, resturants I can enjoy, and how to eat for exercise recovery.

Stay Tuned

-J.Marie

4 Tips for Healthy Travels

January is often the month when everyone becomes focused on health. One of my biggest challanges has been learning healthier way to travels. If your on the road a few times a month for work or pleasure check out my tips below to ensure you clothes still fit by the time you return.


1. BYOWB (Bring you own water Bottle)

Drinking water en route to your destination will keep you away from fancy coffees, mixed drinks, and soda both in the airport and on the plane. There are so many cute styles that will fit in your purse. Just remember to keep it emty until you pass through security.

2. Cut it In Half

One of the best parts about travel is trying new food.  To balance health and travel try cutting your meals in half. This means Clam Chowder in Boston,  Ciopinno in San Fransisco, and Shrimp Au Gratin with a view of the gulf in Mobile.

20171208_125913[11]
My first poke bowl somewhere near Burbank CA

3. Two Drink Limit per Week

This is epecially true for  frequent business travlers. Instead of grabbing a generic  beer or wine at every dinner, try and limit your drinks to something extra special. Maybe this is a fancy meal to pair it with or discovering a local brewery/winery.  Find yourself in upstate New York, go find a winery with ice wine. Maybe your in New York City and going to have a damn good Manhatten in Manhatten!

4. Grocery Shop

If time allows, grocery shopping for snacks and small meals will keep you full without calorie rich food of resturants. My gotos usually include precut veggies fruit and pre-made salads lunches.  This helps to keep me from feeling extra bloated on the road.

Heres to happy healthy travels this year!

Hugs

-J.Marie