Comfort Food

Cowboy Burgers

Cowboy Burgers

Maid-rites…Sloppy Joes…Taverns…it’s one classic Midwest favorite that has many names. I feel like the name you’re most familiar with depends on where you grew up (Taverns were something I hadn’t even heard of until about high school or college) and the consistency of the sandwich. While it’s essentially a simple base of ground hamburger with a ketchup sauce mixed in, for a sandwich with many names, there are even more recipes for it out there. How is one to decide?!

To make it easy for you, I’m declaring this version of the beloved Midwest sandwich the one you need from here on out. :) Don’t you love it when somebody makes a hard decision for you? I guarantee you won’t regret it and you’ll no longer be searching for that perfect go-to recipe that needs to be on the table in 30 minutes. (psst! it’s this one!)

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Now, I grew up having maid-rites all the time. My mom’s were simple, no fuss sandwiches with just 2 ingredients — ground beef and ketchup. My friend, Karen’s, mom made maid-rites, too, but were completely different and I absolutely loved those as well…as in, I’d probably have at least 2 sandwiches when I went to visit (which was often). Not to mention, we had baked French fries at Karen’s house to go with the maid-rites, something my mom never made. So, I devoured those, too. I think it’s safe to say I had a big appetite.

But Philip, on the other hand, didn’t have as fond of memories of maid-rites as I did growing up. When I put maid-rites on our menu board, he wasn’t all that thrilled. As always, he gave it a loving try and he instantly knew these were much different than what he remembered as maid-rites (in a good way). With the negative connotation still in his head, I declared them Cowboy Burgers — my version of a maid-rite with a revamped name. Problem solved. The sandwich has so many names anyway, why not add one more to the list?

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Orange Tapioca Jell-O Salad

Orange Tapioca Jell-O Salad

Happy Monday, everyone! After a fun trip to Illinois to see family this past weekend, it’s back to the normal workweek grind in Madison for me today.

But this past weekend was anything but a normal weekend. And it was definitely anything but boring. My sister-in-law’s three kids were turning 5, 3 and 1 (over the course of 3 months) and this weekend she threw a big circus-themed joint birthday party for all of them — bounce house and all. Let’s just say, my sister-in-law knows how to throw a party! She single-handedly made our wedding look 10x better than if it had been solely up to me. I think it’s safe to say her motto is “Go big or go home.”

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Although the rain put a damper on things, it was still a glowing success and gave Philip and I a chance to connect with family and for me to see his old stomping grounds again — including some of his favorite restaurants he grew up going to as a kid. Every time we go back home, it’s safe to say we’ll either be having “Gondolas” (a ham and salami sub sandwich) from Avanti’s Restaurant or pizza from Monical’s, a family-favorite pizza place in town. I love seeing how food can bring so much joy to people and bring back fond memories; especially for Philip since he gets so excited when he knows a childhood favorite is coming, like the grilled steak dinner I made for him last weekend.

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Another childhood favorite of his that happens to also be a favorite in my family as well is a Midwest classic: Orange Tapioca Jell-O Salad. Only in the Midwest can something containing Jell-O and Cool Whip be considered a “salad.” By no means am I promoting this as a healthy alternative to a green-tossed salad, but in light of recognizing the joy food can bring and the memories certain foods can hold, this is one that I keep in my back pocket for nostalgic purposes (oh, and okay, because it tastes so gosh darn good).

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Mom’s Homemade Banana Bread

Mom's Homemade Banana Bread

Happy Monday! Are you staying warm out there?! I hope the cold weather didn’t stop you from having a fun and relaxing weekend. My husband left me for the slopes in Colorado this past weekend (no hint of jealousy there at all), so I was left to fend for myself for a few days while he skied with his brother and dad. I was productive and got things crossed off my list, but it was so nice having him come back on Sunday afternoon.

Being the great wife that I am, I made some homemade bread yesterday so he could come home to a warm house filled with the smell of fresh bread (and maybe, partly because I really just wanted to make some bread and I finally had the time to do it — but that’s neither here nor there). While I didn’t make Mom’s Homemade Banana Bread yesterday, it’s just as comforting, warm and inviting for a cold day (which is today!) — plus, it’s even easier than the bread I just made since there’s no yeast involved! This quick bread couldn’t be quicker — literally, just dump and mix everything together.

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Cauliflower & Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese

Cauliflower & Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese

I’m celebrating today with a big, warm bowl of Cauliflower & Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese today. You know why? Well, for one, it’s cold outside, but I’m celebrating because this little corner of mine on the web, called RD in the Midwest, is exactly one year old today! One year! I don’t know if I’m more excited about making it a year of blogging or when I reached a year working at my “real job”.

What a year! I honestly can’t believe I’ve been navigating my way through blogging for already a year now, sharing with you little glimpses into my Midwest life as an RD, runner, and wife.

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My platform has remained the same (sharing with you mostly healthy recipes, but also sharing some of my favorite sweets — since everything is okay in moderation…famous last words of a dietitian) over the year and I don’t plan on changing it anytime soon. It’s been so encouraging hearing from readers when they’ve tried a recipe, maybe that they normally wouldn’t have tried before, and enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed making, eating, and writing about it. You guys are the reason I keep with it each and every week! There are days when I feel like my posts are going out into space somewhere, unread and under appreciated for the work that goes into them, but then I get a comment from a reader and I realize once again why it’s all worth it.

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We’re First Time Homeowners! + Chicken Vegetable Chowder with Lemon-Basil Dumplings

Chicken Vegetable Chowder with Lemon-Basil Dumplings

How was everybody’s weekend? Nothing too special here except, ohh you know…

We bought a house!!

I know. I’ve been impatiently waiting to share this exciting news with you once we finally closed on the house and we had the keys in our hands to make it official. Well, it finally happened this past Friday after putting an offer in back in October. Whew, it’s quite the process!

We couldn’t be any happier with our very first home as homeowners (well, besides the fact that our hands are raw with all the cleaning we’re doing). Why do we love it? Well, for one, the kitchen is pretty great (that was high on the “must have” list in our house search). It’s close (as in I can see it from our driveway close) to the running trail I run on almost everyday during the summer. It’s in a great neighborhood (which has awesome Christmas lights, by the way! I was so impressed. I didn’t think people decorated like this anymore. Turns out my drive home from work is not where all the great lights are). And most of all, we love this house because it’s ours. Nuff said.

Friday night we celebrated our new ownership by relaxing in front of the fire, eating pizza, and making a list of short-term and long-term projects and purchases. It’s always fun to dream.

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But Saturday is when the real fun started… We’re knee deep in boxes, cleaning has ensued in full force, and a trip to Menards with a long list in hand has already happened.

Since we’re still in between apartment and house for the week, I quick made Chicken Vegetable Chowder with Lemon-Basil Dumplings on Saturday before we packed up everything in the kitchen that evening. It’ll last us for most of the week and that means no need for the kitchen amongst all of the craziness! Great planning, huh? :)

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Cheesy Sausage Quiche

Cheesy Sausage Quiche  rdinthemidwest.com

How was everybody’s weekend?! Mine was great. You know why? Because I had no plans! Gasp! I can’t even remember the last time that has happened. Since I work on the weekends on a regular basis, it leaves fewer free weekends — meaning those free weekends fill up quickly with trips and events. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all super fun things, but once in awhile it’s nice to just be free (maybe a little too dramatic?).

Not only was it a free weekend, but it was a free weekend with Philip. It had been a few weekends too many since it was just us…with no agenda but to stay warm. Because I was so giddy about this weekend, I even made a last minute decision on Saturday to call and cancel my eye appointment. It was a big deal for me (Philip can attest to this). I don’t just cancel an appointment for no reason other than I want to have a day with no interruptions. I felt like such a rebel. Yes, I realize that’s pretty pathetic.

But you know what? It was the best decision I could have made. Philip and I had such a fun Saturday and we didn’t look at the clock once all afternoon. To make our day even sweeter (pun intended), we hit up some pretty, darn good chocolate shops in the area that I had been wanting to try out. We had lunch at Chocolaterian Cafe (you know a cafe is good when there’s chocolate in the name) and enjoyed some very rich and wonderful hot chocolate.

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Smoked Gouda & Roasted Red Pepper Tomato-Basil Bisque {Crock-Pot Recipe}

Smoked Gouda & Roasted Red Pepper Tomato-Basil Bisque

Umm, can we just talk for a minute about how gorgeous the weather was this weekend?! Sun shining, warm weather with a cool fall breeze, and all the fall colors to match. All. Weekend. Long. I wanted to be out enjoying it as much as I could. Unfortunately, I spent the day on Saturday at work, helping around 300 kids in costume make trail mix. Hmph. Oh well, at least I saw a lot of variations of Elsa from Frozen. :)

And, since Sunday was just as beautiful, Philip and I could enjoy the day outside for a bit instead. I’ve totally embraced that summer is over and am loving all the fall colors. I just can’t get enough! Madison is by far the prettiest place in the fall that I’ve lived (granted, this is only the fourth city I’ve lived in, but still, it’s the prettiest!).

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Well, no matter what the weather, to me, fall means soup. Even if it is almost 70 degrees out. That’s because I know that no matter how warm it is, it will most likely be soup weather again in two to three short days (at least that’s how things roll in the Midwest). I figure I might as well be prepared for when it’s “soup weather” by everybody else’s standards. So today, I bring you Smoked Gouda and Roasted Red Pepper Tomato-Basil Bisque. Whew, that’s a long one!  Don’t worry, the title itself lists about all the main ingredients in the soup; you don’t have too many more ingredients to add.

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I actually made this soup way back in May by my friend Alex’s request (she said it was the best ever — she was right). But you know, May and “soup weather” aren’t usually said in the same sentence…even for me. It was cool(er) temps when I made it (although, it’s highly likely I only convinced myself of this when I made it) and the temperatures rose so quickly, I knew it was too late for me to post it on here. Basically, long story short, I’m tired of waiting and I’m just going to share this super tasty and comforting soup with you today, gosh darn-it!

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(Crock-Pot) Fall Harvest Chicken & Barley Stew

Crock-Pot Fall Harvest Chicken & Barley Stew

Woah, talk about a weather change! Compared to last weekend, I think we’ve dropped about 40+ degrees in less than five days. Yep, that’s the Midwest for ya. For once, my plans coincided with the weather patterns—all my fall-outdoorsy adventures happened last weekend when it was so nice out and this past weekend I had full intentions of staying indoors, making use of the apples we picked last weekend.

I had this past Friday off from work, so I spent a brief part of my day dumping the ingredients of this Fall Harvest Chicken & Barley Stew into my Crock Pot and used the rest of my day canning homemade applesauce and making our biweekly batches of granola (let’s just say, our home spelled aaa-maaz-ing). In the eyes of a dietitian who loves to be in the kitchen, this was pretty much a perfect day.

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And the best part about finishing up a day in the kitchen? Having time to relax, put up my feet, and enjoy my first mug of something hot for the cold months upon us. It’s the small things in life. (Don’t mind the puzzle in the background of the picture below; a few weeks ago I had the strong desire to put together a puzzle…we’re still working on it—slowly).

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Homemade Rustic Apple Crisp

Homemade Rustic Apple Crisp

Who else loved the gorgeous weekend we just had?! And maybe got a little rosy in the face (and shoulders, and legs, and…) like me? No? Must be my fair skin qualities coming out.

If you’re livin’ in the Midwest, then it was the perfect time to get outside and enjoy some fall activities because it was EIGHTY degrees out! I love fall, but it’s just so unpredictable, isn’t it? I’m glad the weather decided to pretend it was the middle of August, because it was apple orchard time for us this weekend!

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I had Heather, a best friend from high school, come up to visit me for the weekend, which was so much fun! It’s always nice to see an “old” familiar face. Since she loves to bake and cook as much as I do, I knew that making my favorite Homemade Rustic Apple Crisp together would be a delicious way to use up some of our many (er, 20+ pounds) hand picked apples.

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Homemade Beefaroni

Homemade Beefaroni

Hello again! I hope you all had a great Labor Day and were able to spend time not…laboring? We’ll go with it. :)

Philip and I had a very low key weekend with no set plans, which was so nice! Things got done, relaxation happened, and I still wasn’t ready to go to work this morning. Sigh. Nevertheless, we had a great time spending quality time together and I even got a little bit of baking in, which seems to happen far less than I’d like it to these days.

But now that it’s back to the normal grind of work, it seems like life instantly picks itself right up again and awaaaaay we go! Life is such a ride, isn’t it?

What I mean is, although I plan out my meals on a weekly basis (I still have hopes to write about this in one of my upcoming posts), I always consider and plan in the fact that, more than likely, I have about 30 minutes to prep a meal after coming home from work before I feel the “hangry” side of me taking over. You know, becoming very unpleasant angry because of your hunger. Please tell me I’m not the only one who gets like this.

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Being the foodie that I am, if I could, I would gladly spend hours preparing an elaborate meal that includes several involved steps, one of which would be a half hour alone of chopping and dicing ingredients, and uses every bowl and utensil in the kitchen (as long as Philip is doing dishes). Not to mention, the table would be set with freshly made bread with homemade jam and a salad full of produce, picked just that morning from our garden.

That’s not real life. Sure, I plan out (and look forward to) “more involved” meals when I have the day off or it’s the weekend, but on week nights, meals that are fast yet still nutritious, fresh, and homemade is what’s on my menu plan. Recently, Homemade Beefaroni made it to our midweek menu that fit just that description.

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