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Easy Italian Chicken and Rice



Let me tell y'all about one of my favorite meals... ever.

This incredibly easy, quick, and delicious Italian Chicken and Rice dish is perfect for busy families.

To start, put 2 tbsp of your favorite butter in a deep pan, over medium-low heat. As it's melting, add about 2 tbsp of your favorite Italian dressing, too. (Stay tuned and I'll share my recipe for homemade Italian dressing.)

Once the butter is melted and the dressing is warm, add 3 chicken breasts, cubed.




While your chicken is cooking, dice up 2 large bell peppers and 3-4 tomatoes.

(This is perfect if you're trying to find uses for your freshly grown veggies like me!)


 




Once your chicken is just cooked through, add 2 cups water and 2 1/2 cups of instant brown rice. It may require more water, so just pay attention and add about 2 tbsp at a time, if you feel the rice isn't submerged enough.

Once I get it all mixed up, I usually add another 2-4 tbsp of Italian dressing. 
(Be prepared, you're going to pretty much use the whole bottle.)

I usually add in about 3/4 cup of my favorite chicken stock now, too.




I usually let this cook uncovered for about 5-7 minutes before adding in my bell peppers. 




Once you've dropped them in, add in another 2-3 tbsp of Italian dressing and then cover!




I usually let this simmer for about 7 minutes before removing the lid. (Make sure there's enough liquid left in the pan, although your rice should be absorbing quite a bit now and softening up.) 

Your peppers' color should change to a deep olive green when they're cooked through. 




Once the lid is removed, add in your diced tomatoes and (you guessed it!) at least 2-3 more tbsp of Italian dressing. Stir the mixture up and let it simmer uncovered for another 5-10 minutes. 




Once your rice is fluffy and fully cooked through, your dish is ready for the final addition of Italian dressing and some shredded cheese. 




Once your cheese melts, this lovely dish is ready to serve!

I love this meal for its taste, simplicity, and for the fact that I can easily calculate macros. It's a perfect combo of carbs, proteins, and fats... as long as you can control the portions. And that, my friends, is a little hard to do. 

This recipe serves 6 easily or allows for leftovers... which is an absolute favorite of mine. 




Would you just look at that creamy, colorful goodness?! 

Try it out and let me know what you think. 


 

How Gardening Changed My Life



My garden is my happy place. 

Is it ginormous and beautiful? Only the latter. I live in the city, so a container garden on my back porch is what I get. But it's enough for me and Aaron... and still brings so much joy into my days!

And every year I find myself adding more and more to my container collection. 

Gardening has also taught me a lot about life, too, you know. I find myself noticing analogies that are useful on the regular. Truly. It's caused me to look at my life and understand a few things a little more clearly. 

For example, in order to have a successful garden, you have to put time and energy into it. There's no way out of that. It takes daily effort. Focused attention. Good judgment. The ability to foresee possible issues and handle them before they occur. 

Sounds like just about everything else in life, huh? 

If you want a job to work out, you have to work at it. In order to lose weight or tone up, you have to put time into your health every day. If you want a relationship to be healthy and strong, you have to give it energy and notice beforehand things that could cause issues and make moves to avoid running into them. 

That's pretty basic information that we already know, I'm sure. But when you're working on your plants every single morning and night, it helps that elementary truth remain at the forefront of your mind. 




And sometimes, your plants need support. They may start out just fine, sure. But during that daily check-up, pay close attention to any leaning or evidence of stress. The weight of the fruit or vegetables they're developing can become too heavy for them if left alone to bear the load.

Same goes for you, friend! No matter how much goodness you're carrying, it can become too much on your own over time. You have to know within yourself when you're getting worn down or you're about to break. What would help hold you up? 
A friend? Therapist? Day off work? A break from responsibilities? Setting a boundary with someone adding too much stress to your life? 

It doesn't take anything fancy or complicated. Just like my tomato plant only needed a recycled stake from last year, you just need something to help center you again. 




Know what else I've learned from gardening? 

Even if you do break, that doesn't mean you're done! 

Nope, you just have to set yourself up in a comfortable place for a while. Get some rest, a little TLC, and -in essence- propagate a bit. 

The little guy above, suffered from a fall. Completely snapped off from the rest of the family. I almost threw it out, but Aaron had a great idea. 

"Why don't you see if you can propagate that like you do your houseplants? Then replant it when the roots start growing."

Gah, I love that man.

That's exactly what I did, and it's working! Look at those roots! I don't think I need to explain the analogy that goes with this story. But hey! I still want to. 

You're not done yet, friend! If you're broken, that's okay. You are still full of the same potential that was there before. You may have a scar that won't go away. Maybe you feel the need to move away or start over in some capacity. You might feel alone for a little bit... but you're still capable of great things. And one day soon, you'll see the fruits of your labor if you continue to keep moving. 

Look at that picture above again... In a day or two, the little guy that was once broken and about to be cast out, will be the base of another amazing source of goodness. How cool is that?




One of my favorite parts about gardening is the variety you see. Just about everything you plant does better with a companion! Seriously! Radishes provide nitrogen to the soil that tomatoes love. Carrots loosen the soil which make peppers very happy. Oregano attracts pollinators and the insects you actually want around your plants. See where I'm going with this?

Just like our gardens, we need the right companions in our lives! Place the right people around you, and you'll only thrive! But, if you pair yourself up with individuals that don't have the right "nutrients," the outcome will be much different. 

 If you pair cauliflower, instead of carrots, with peppers you won't be seeing benefits... you'll literally starve your peppers! Cauliflowers are heavy feeders and will consume all the nutrients in the soil, leaving your peppers with nothing they need. 

The wrong people in your life could do the same to you! You have to look at the bigger picture and learn what is good for you and what leaves you starving for the love and support you need. 

And did you know that you have to prune your plants, too? 

That's right. If you don't, all the non-fruit/vegetable-bearing limbs will take some of the nutrients that your growing foods have to have to fully meet their potential. 

Just because it's connected, doesn't mean it should be. 

Use good judgment and determine if and when you should make a cut... on your plant and in your life!




When you put the work in, look at the beautiful growth you'll experience. I've already harvested 4 tomatoes, 2 yellow squash, and 2 bell peppers... but I have more than 85 more tomatoes already coming along, 5-10 more peppers, and 2 more squash. My basil and oregano are still going strong, too! 
It's definitely worth the work you put into it. 

Another fun thing about gardens?




All the unique concrete statues that just look too cool sitting in them!

When I say it's a place of peace and happiness, I mean every bit of that. It gives me something to nurture and a pretty place to enjoy every day. 

I never understood all the fuss until I started doing it myself... and now, I can't get enough! There's something so fulfilling about the whole process. And it absolutely comes with some delicious rewards. 

Little did I know it would also teach me things about my own life and how I should take care of myself. I never want to stop growing. (Well, the thighs could take a hike, but you get what I'm saying!) And in order for me to continue to be healthy and reach my potential, I have to put in effort. 

Hydrate! Enjoy some sunshine. Find support. Be intentional about my companions. Check my life and remove things/people/or my own weaknesses when needed. Surround myself with pretty things that make me smile. 

And if I break... realize I'm still useful and just need a safe place to rest until I'm rooted and grounded exactly where I need to be again. 


Making Homemade Biscuits and Bacon Gravy




Today, I'm going to give out my best biscuit recipe, and share a video on how to get the perfect gravy to pair with it. I've had so many people tell me that gravy is such a struggle for them. 

"It's too clumpy." 
"It's way too thick."
"It's always too runny."

I've never had too much of an issue, because I've learned a couple little tips along the way. They've led me to perfect gravy every time. 


Before we get into the video, let's talk about these biscuits!

Prep time only 15 minutes.

2 3/4 cup unbleached flour
3 tbsp raw sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup almond milk
3/4 cup COLD butter
1 egg

Mix the dry ingredients. 
Add the butter into the mixture by cutting; use a pastry blender or butter knife to cut in. 
(You want pea size lumps throughout your batter.)
Add the milk and the egg and stir only until combined. 




Flour your surface and put on your sticky dough. 
Add some flour to the dough as you roll out into 1 inch thickness. 






I use a glass cup to cut out my biscuits. 
You can get 12, but I usually end up with 10.

I stack one “cut” on top of another, before putting in the oven. This gives me that rustic look I want. 
(Also helps when separating for jams, eggs and bacon, etc.)





Bake on 450 for 10-12 minutes. 
Don’t over bake!

This is key- check your biscuits after 8 minutes; and begin checking every 2 minutes. A biscuit can overbake so quickly. To get them fully cooked, and perfectly soft every time, follow this tip. 
They should just barely be golden... no brown! Pull them out and let them finish "baking" on the counter. This will keep them soft and flaky, without crisp edges and dry centers. 




Aren't they just lovely? 

Wait until you try one of them! They're absolutely delicious. 

Takes you back to a 1901 farm breakfast kinda' nostalgia. Seriously- grandmas everywhere would be proud of these beauties!
Ok, now let's move on to the country bacon gravy -- with oat milk. Dairy doesn't treat Aaron too well, so we substitute wherever we can. You don't have to, though. 
If you prefer cow milk, you can still rock this recipe out, along with all techniques followed. 

Just don't overthink it. It's very simple. Go by what feels right, one step at a time. You'll be a gravy expert in no time!





Kristi B's Perfect Pan-Cakes



We all know there are about a million and one amazing pancake recipes out there, but this one is mine! It's so good and almost completely dairy free. I'll keep searching for the best egg substitute to make it completely vegan, but until then... try these out!

They're fluffy and have that perfect denseness. They're just sweet enough to not be too much with the added syrup. 

This morning, I just wanted some good old-fashioned pancakes. I've been branching out and creating my own recipes lately, cause... #goals, so I grabbed a bowl or two and got after it. 




Aaron just had his wisdom teeth removed yesterday, so I figured they'd be good for him to eat, too. Thankfully, they were, and he loved them. 

He knows and loves good food, so when he compliments my recipes, it tickles me pink!

All you need is:

2 heaping spoonsful of butter
1 egg
3/4 tsp pure vanilla
1 1/2 cups oat milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup sugar



Start off with two heaping spoonsful of salted vegan butter. (You can use regular salted butter if you're not trying to cut the dairy.) If you don't have salted butter, just add a 1/2 tsp of salt as instructed below.

Put in a bowl and warm it up for about 15 seconds. (You don't want it to fully melt.) 

Once removed, take your spoon and beat the butter until it's liquified. This will keep the butter cool, though, which is much better for setting the pancakes.

Next, add one egg and beat in with the butter. 

Pour in about 3/4 tsp of pure vanilla and 1/2 cup of oat milk.

In a separate bowl, combine your flour, baking powder, and baking soda. 
(If you only have unsalted butter, add in 1/2 tsp of salt to this mixture.)

Once combined, pour your dry ingredients in with your wet ingredients. Mix well. You will then add more oat milk, 1/2 cup at a time, as needed. (You shouldn't need more than another cup.)

Stir the batter well. 

Warm up a non-stick frying pan on the stove over med-high heat. Pour in about 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil and let it heat up. (You can test by adding a drop of water into the pan. If it sizzles, you're good to go!)

Using a 1/4 cup measuring scoop, pour the batter into the pan and let cook about 1-2 minutes each side. Don't flip until the cakes begin to bubble up in the middle. They should be just golden brown.

This recipe makes about 5 pancakes.

It only takes about 5 minutes to prep and 10 minutes to cook. Perfect for that quick back-to-school breakfast... it'll be approaching before you know it!

Top with butter, fruit, whipped cream, peanut butter, or syrup... or all the above if your little heart so desires!

We loved them and will definitely use this recipe again and again!




Try them out and let me know what you think!