Weeknight Dinners

Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos

Busy families, this one is for you! I highly suggest making it on a Sunday night so it’s ready for your busy week ahead. This is easy 2 or 3 meals for a family of 4.

It was too sunny in our kitchen when I took this quick photo, but you get the idea of how YUMMY it was!!! We also sliced up some watermelon to eat with it, too.

For a short cut, I picked up pre-made pico de gallo from Metcalfes produce section, but canned salsa works, too! I like quick toppings with little to no prep time.


I griped a little on IG live about this recipe since it’s a two-step (make marinade night before) type of recipe. Having to “mess up the kitchen” twice for one meal really seems pointless to me and I hate doing it. However, this overnight marinade is so simple and you don’t have to dirty ANY dishes if you don’t want to. Just dump a few ingredients into a bag. SUPER EASY, even I could do it, which says a lot.

Clean plate club all around two nights in a row with this meal. Love it since there is a lot of juicy, flavor in the meat, very filling and not spicy for the kids.Β  Good for all!

Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos


  • 1 3/4 boneless pork shoulder, trimmed (I had to ask for this from the butcher counter)
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (I just used one lime)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice, divided
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 dried ancho chile
  • 4 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 oregano sprigs
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 12 corn tortillas warmed
  • 6 tbsp onion for garnish
  • cilantro for garnish
  • lime for garnish
  • avocado for garnis
  • cotija cheese for garnish


  1. The night before, cut the pork into 3 inch pieces / chunks / cubes however you see fit. I just made three giant strips and place into a large zip top bag.
    1. Add brown sugar
    2. Add 1/2 tsp salt
    3. Add 1/2 tsp pepper
    4. Add 2 tbsp lime juice
    5. Add 2 tbsp orange juice
    6. Zip the bag up and remove as much air as possible. Set on a plate / bowl and place in the fridge (I do this in case the bag has a hole in it, last thing you want is to clean out the fridge!)
  2. Place 2 cups hot water and ancho chile into bowl and let stand 10 minutes.
    1. Drain and reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid
  3. Transfer the pork from the zip top bag to the slow cooker + discard the remaining marinade.
    1. Add garlic, onion, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, oregano, ancho chile, 1/4 cup reserved liquid, 2 tbsp lime juice, 2 tbsp orange juice
    2. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours uninterrupted.
    3. 4.Β  Remove the meat and shred. The recipe says you can pan fry it in cast iron skillet to give it some crunch, but you don’t have to, especially if you’re short on time, just build out those tacos and eat!!!

Enjoy! We did!

Weeknight Dinners

Spring Carbonara

If you saw me on IG live cooking, you certainly got a nice preview of this dish, Spring Carbonara, inspired by Cooking Light Magazine! Also, that was Neuskes Bacon in my mouth while I was talking, sorry about that. Sometimes you need to sample as you cook! Actually, I encourage it!


This recipe sets up really quick, perfect for weeknight cooking. There are no short-cuts on this one, just super fast and easy. It’s almost asparagus season, and that makes me so happy because it’s a flavorful vegetable! Asparagus season reminds of when I was in Stuttgart, Germany, for work a few years ago. EVERYTHING had asparagus in it, and it was so fresh and tasty.

Spring Carbonara

  • 8 oz uncooked whole-wheat linguine (half of a regular box of pasta)
  • 4 center-cut bacon slices, chopped (Neuskes)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped asparagus
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced (or 1 tbsp powdered)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated (use your microplane), divided
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup Kim Crawford to deglaze the pan


  1. Β Cook pasta according to package omitting fat and salt. Drain in a colander, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid (to use later on in your frying pan)
  2. while you’re cooking the pasta, add bacon to a large skillet over low; 6-8 minutes or until crispy. Transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towel to rest. Add the asparagus to the pan full of bacon fat. Yes. Sautee the asparagus in bacon fat, it’s amazing.
  3. I added a little Kim Crawford at this point. It’ was 5:10, and it seemed right. Mostly, my pan was getting sticky and dirty and I needed to get the crunchy bits off the bottom. White wine goes well with this dish, so why not?! Just a splash, no more than 1/4 cup and use your scraper to get the bacon off the bottom of your pan. If you are using a non-stick, this probably wont be an issue, and you should use bamboo utensils if you’re scraping the bottom of your pan πŸ™‚
  4. Add garlic; cook, stirring often. About 3 minutes then transfer to the same plate as the bacon to rest.
  5. Whisk together three egg yolks, salt, pepper and 2 tbsp parmesan in a medium bowl.
  6. Add oil, drained pasta, 1/4 cup mixture to skillet and toss to coat. Heat skillet over medium and cook, stirring constantly until sauce has thickened, about 1 minute.Β  Add bacon, asparagus, garlic, peas and 1/4 reserved cooking liquid (pasta water, from pasta). Cook until heated through, about 1 more minute. Stir in more cooking liquid if your mixture looks too dry.

ANNNNDDD!!Β  Something happened to my photo of my meal, so here’s what it looks like in the magazine! Enjoy! We loved it!


Holiday Favorites, How to be Nutfree

Nut-Free Easter Candy at Target

Here’s a little sneak peepster into Easter! Last week, I stopped at our local Target in Madison/Fitchburg. Here’s what they have in the seasonal section that is nut-free:


  • Fun Dip
  • Nerds Ropes
  • Skittles
  • Cheese-Its
  • Trolli
  • War Heads
  • Pez
  • Peeps in original packaging
  • Whoppers / Robbins Eggs
  • Smarties
  • Charms cotton candy / bunny tails
  • Hershey Kisses in the classic bag, not bulk bag (this is located in the non-seasonal section, near the regular candy / junk food aisle)

Be careful with the peeps. Easter Bunny majorly missed the labels last year and brought us the Peeps on the stick, those are not safe. They are made in a facility with tree nuts and peanuts. But some of the other Peeps ARE safe. I thought the cute stuffed animal peep with the marshmallow peeps below was super cute. But honestly, if we get one more stuffed animal…….

Easter Bunny tries not to give too much candy. Peeps are a big thing in our house though because Grandpa Joe REALLY likes them, and everyone knows it. So we have to have peeps. The kids LOVE peeps. Who doesn’t love a good stale marshmallow?! We may save some of our extra peeps this year for campfire season – how funny would that be?! Peep S’mores?! Delish.

Lastly, Easter Bunny typically stops at Vermont Nut Free since they have the most adorable chocolates for Easter. How good does this assorted chocolate egg look?! All of their chocolates are so amazing. We typically order from Vermont Nut Free for almost every holiday. Their shipping is very quick and the quality of their product is above and beyond. Their chocolate is very, very good.

Easter Egg Grand Assortment

Jelly beans can be challenging this time of year, we are just going to go with Vermont Nut Free on this one, too, since many are made in a facility with nuts. And after talking with the Jelly Belly Factory, Jelly Belly is peanut free, but not tree nut free. Their facility in Pleasant Prairie processes pistachios.


Dot Box Jelly Beans

Once we have a sample basket put together, I’ll post it to my Instagram for you to see πŸ™‚ Happy Hunting!


Organic Goldfish

Image result for Goldfish Organic Wheat

Organic Fish are chasing after Organic Bunnies. No, this is not part of a riddle about the movie Peter Rabbit, although it could be…..

Do you know what I’m talking about? Both of these items are nut-free and a very popular snack in our household, at school and in lunch boxes. They are also littered all over the back of my Honda Odyssey!

Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfish and Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies! These two items are in FIERCE competition at the grocery store and I had no idea until I read this New York Time’s article titled, “Why These Goldfish are 70 Percent Organic.”

Danny Hakim wrote a wonderful piece this past weekend on his trip to the grocery store to buy some Goldfish when he discovered over 30 different Goldfish varieties!

***Most goldfish are safe, but do know that the graham goldfish are made in a facility with nuts. Always check your labels***

This blew my mind. Thirty varieties?! Did you know there were so many to choose from?!

In short, the organic movement is strong. Goldfish brand is trying to stay competitive by not using artificial flavors or preservatives. They use 100% real cheese and source their products from real plants. Pepperidge Farm’sΒ  goal was to create a MOSTLY organic product while not sacrificing flavor.Β  Goldfish come up a little short in the organic race however, since they are only 70% organic compared to Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies at 100%.

Research has shown that when we eat organically, we reduce our pesticide exposure. When we reduce pesticide exposure, we benefit, particularly pregnant women.

Will you be buying the new 70% organic goldfish?

I’m going to give them a try.

Weeknight Dinners

Chicken Breast & Pancetta Cream & Peas


On Sunday mornings, after reading a bit of the New York Times, I start to think about the week ahead, how busy it might be, and what we will have for dinner. Lately we’ve been so busy that I haven’t had much time to think about food, nor do I want to.

I don’t day-dream about food, I just like eating it.

Coming up with recipes is challenging sometimes, I get in ruts, and making sure we’re eating a diverse menu is important. Eating the same old stuff is boring, and we like to try new things all the time.

For meal inspiration this week, I found some old Cooking Light Magazines in my pantry and pulled all of the March issues I could find. March 2014 had some pretty yummy stuff, including this recipe, Chicken Breast + Pancetta [PAN-CHETTA] Cream with Peas.

Everything is nut-free, you don’t have to worry about name brands with this dish. I’ll include links in case you’re curious as to what we used.


Chicken Breast & Pancetta Cream & Peas



  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. It does not have to be non-stick.
  2. Add oil, swirl to coat your pan.
  3. Add garlic, cook 2 minutes or until fragrant. DO NOT BURN. If you do, start over.
  4. Remove garlic with slotted spoon and set aside.
  5. Increase the heat to med-hi and add the bacon / pancetta.
  6. saute for 4 minutes or until crisp.
  7. Remove and set aside.
  8. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper on each side and saute for 4 minutes on each side.
    1. I sauteed longer to get a little more flavor and crunchy bits on the bottom of my pan.
  9. Remove chicken and set aside.
  10. Add wine to pan and bring to a boil, scraping the bits off the bottom of pan (de-glazing). Cook until almost all liquid is evaporated
    1. Also, make sure you’re drinking some Kim, too :).
  11. Return the chicken to the pan. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook the chicken for about 6 minutes or until chicken is all the way done.
  12. Remove the chicken from the pan (is the chicken playing the hokey-pokey? This recipe sure does take stuff in and out of the pan a lot!)
  13. Add the mascarpone cheese stirring with a whisk until smooth
    1. Mascarpone is lower in fat than making a traditional cream sauce, like butter, but still gives it the rich, creamy texture we all love.
  14. Combine water and flour, stirring with a whisk.
  15. Add flour + water mix to the hot pan, bring to a boil and cook two minutes, stir in pancetta / bacon, garlic and peas.
  16. Cook this all for about 1 minutes and serve over the chicken.


If your kids are in the kitchen, have them make some appetizer art, you’ll probably have a TON of peas left since you’ll only be using about 1 cup for the recipe, so let the kids have the rest. And tell them you “peed” on their plate. ROFL.

If you want to cut this recipe time in half, do this…..

  1. Buy a rotisserie chicken.
  2. Make the sauce as directed above, omitting the meat instructions.
  3. Serve this over your rotisserie chicken or mix in your shredded rotisserie chicken into the pan and warm through. It would look more like a casserole then.

We also made some pasta to serve this over, it just needed a little something on the side.

Yield on this is 4. No leftovers. Everyone loved it. Flavor was good!


Homemade Shamrock Shakes

It’s that time of year! Shamrock shakes! While the McDonalds shakes ARE safe for PN / TN allergies, most other restaurants are NOT due to cross contact risks. We prefer to make them at home anyway. They taste too good!

After lunch today, we tested out our recipe.


1 cup vanilla breyers gluten free home style vanilla (nut free ice cream)

1/2 cup Sassy Cow organic milk

2 drops of mint extract

6 drops green McCormick food coloring

Whip cream

Mini Enjoy Life Chocolate chips


  1. Using a blender / nutribullet, mix all ingredients except for the whip topping and Chocolate chips.
  2. Top with whipped cream and chocolate. To be fancy, you could grate Andes candes on a microplane over the top for more mint flavor.

Great Wolf Lodge Resort Review

What is the most family fun + allergy friendly hotel we have ever been to?

Great Wolf Lodge in the Wisconsin Dells.Β 

The Great Wolf LodgeΒ located in the Wisconsin Dells has been around since the mid-1990’s. As a kid, we visited the then named “Black Wolf Lodge” as a family over summer breaks. This amazing, family-friendly resort was developed by the Watermans, a well-known Wisconsin Dells family.Β  The Watermans have roots that date back into the late 1800’s of developing successful service industry related businesses.

This past Friday, Chloe had off of school, so she got to pick what to do for the day. She choose a water park. It was cloudy, cold and sleety, a perfect day to escape the Wisconsin elements in a warm water park.

It only took us 45 minutes to get to, which is a nice get-away, not to far, but far enough with kids asking, “Are we there yet?”

Upon arrival, the kids (yes, we pulled Carter from school early to come, too) were greeted with these adorable wolf ears (headbands) as we were checking into our room. Our wrist bands were also our rooms keys, so that was an added bonus of not having to constantly wonder where the keys were! The wrist bands also gave us access to the water park for our stay.


Our room wasn’t quite ready, but we had access to the water park + amenities. An email would be sent to my phone once it was ready.

We went to the car to get our swim gear. As soon as we did, I got the email that our room was ready! We could get settled in our room a bit and change in our own space. The kids found the room first, which was located on the first floor, close to the arcade, locker rooms and stairs to go up to the lobby. This was a PERFECT location for little legs. Not too much walking around, like some other water park resorts we have been to.

The kids opened the door to the room and were BLOWN AWAY!


To hear their little voices squeal with excitement over their hotel stay was heart-warming. They were excited so we were excited.

We had a wolf den suite that included this adorable bunk bed area. It’s semi-private so we could still watch TV while the kids slept. The kids also had their own TV in their wolf den πŸ™‚

The rest of the room was standard, not fancy, but well-kept and nice. Usually at water park hotels that see high volumes of guests, things can get run down easily, especially the bathroom area. I’m a picky when it comes to a nice bathroom. It has to have a decent shower and vanity/sink.

We very quickly changed and headed to the water park.


After some fun, we decided it was dinner time. The restaurant near the lobby, Lodge Wood Fired Grill, was completely nut-free, and I almost lost my mind. An entire layer of stress gone. So grateful. Chloe could order anything she wanted on the menu, a rare occurrence for us dining out! The kids menu was large, and the adult menu was wonderful, we had a hard time choosing!


Carter was fading fast…..


The water park really tired out both kids! We saw a cute little shop called Bear Paw Sweets and Treats. We fell in love instantly with their Enjoy Life stand of “safe” snacks for Chloe. Carter is a supportive brother, and also chose to have Enjoy Life cookies for dessert so Chloe would not feel left out. But I think they just genuinely like the way Enjoy Life brand desserts taste! I mean, I do!


On the Great Wolf website, they make this statement:

Allergy Awareness

Great Wolf Lodge dining facilities do not serve peanut or tree nut products, but some of our products may be manufactured in facilities that also process nuts.

Carter was exhausted and went to bed, but Chloe wanted to stay up and hear story time and play trivia and have her face painted like a wolf!


The young woman who led the child-based activities did a WONDERFUL job relating to the kids and keeping them engaged.


Trivia night was a success! The kids enjoyed guessing the correct answers while raising their flags. The winning teams won small prizes.Β  Trivia was right before story time and the lobby was PACKED. I highly recommend getting to story time about 15 minutes prior to it’s start time near the clock tower. You definitely want a good seat to see the pages!


Chloe and I snuggled during story time, then she got to meet the character! Too cute. She loved it so much and told me several times how much fun she was having. All of the extra activities added so much to our trip. Other hotels do not offer this. These personal experiences make Great Wolf feel like a boutique hotel, and not just some generic water park hotel.

The next day, we had breakfast again upstairs at the Lodge which was great. We even had the same waitress who remembered the kids, she was sweet. In fact, everyone we met was wonderful and helpful.

We are so grateful for the Great Wolf Lodge, and their allergy awareness. It takes a level of stress off that us allergy families really appreciate. When we were waiting for story time to start, I met several families with food allergies, one with our exact allergies, which was nice, in a way? We shared our stories, our struggles, our epi pen advice, etc. It’s a connection that happens instantly when you meet another allergy family, and you feel so much empathy for these people because you know exactly what they are going through and you relate to so much. We saw so many moms and dads with epi pens tucked in back pockets, purses, diaper bags. Epi pens were literally EVERYWHERE!

We will be back, Great Wolf! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Awesome memories made.


P.S. Buffalo Phil’s across the parking lot is also allergy friendly. They had an entire peanut and tree nut free menu, where Chloe FINALLY got to order an actual dessert at a restaurant!!! She had the fried ice cream and it was incredible! It was also as big as her head, and the four of us demolished TWO of them! Well, that’s what mini-vacations are for!