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Fried Chicken and Waffles with Maple Butter Syrup

Fried Chicken and Waffles with Maple Butter Syrup

Chicken + waffles = the best breakfast food ever. Need I say more? Didn’t think so. On to the recipe!

Just kidding. I’m not going to leave you guys with that, but I’m not sure what to say that isn’t something like “OMG, go make these now,” even though that’s pretty much how I feel. I try to reserve my gushing for times when a recipe is truly gush-worthy, and well, this one is.

When we knew for sure Clara’s birthday party would be during brunch, I immediately suggested chicken and waffles. Eric was totally with me, despite the fact that we had no idea how we would fry a bunch of chicken in advance of the party. As usual, America’s Test Kitchen came to our rescue with a recipe for chicken nuggets that could be frozen and reheated. Score!

Let me tell you about these chicken nuggets. They’re double battered, moist and juicy on the inside, and perfectly crunchy on the outside. Yes, they are deep fried and totally worth the work/calories. We combined the fried chicken with our favorite waffle recipe and a syrup recipe from our friend Rebecca to create the ultimate chicken and waffle recipe. It’s fantastic in every way, and I’m still thinking about these tasty little bites more than three weeks after Clara’s party.

Fried Chicken and Waffles with Maple Butter Syrup

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Garlic, Cheddar and Chive Scones

Cheddar Chive Scones

Scones are one of my favorite breakfast foods. They’re endlessly adaptable, easy to whip up, and they freeze wonderfully, which means I can make them for a weekend breakfast and have plenty for the upcoming week. Their ability to so easily be made ahead of time is one of the main reasons I knew I wanted scones on the menu for Clara’s birthday party.

My first draft of the party menu had our much loved bacon jalapeño scones on it, but I ultimately decided against them since I wasn’t sure how popular they’d be with the little ones. These cheddar ones were a huge hit with everyone, so I think I made the right call.

Almost biscuit-like, these scones are tender and flaky, with pockets of cheddar cheese. The garlic flavor is mild but still noticeable. These were great for brunch but would be equally as wonderful with a bowl of your favorite soup. Make a batch and freeze what you don’t need. Then you’ll have some ready whenever you want. And that’s always a good thing.

Cheddar Chive Scones

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Let’s do Brunch: Clara’s Second Birthday

Geometric Themed Birthday Party drink table

Our sweet Clara turned two a few weeks ago. It’s hard to believe another year has gone by, but we are definitely enjoying this new stage of toddlerhood. She’s grown into such a fun little person – talkative and affectionate, with the most precious little giggle. I love celebrating her birthday, and unlike last year, I didn’t have a hard time deciding what type of party to have this year. Clara loves breakfast food; it’s usually the biggest meal she eats. It just made sense to host a brunch party, and it worked out well since the party was over before her nap time. That’s definitely a win in our book.

Before Clara was born, I read a piece about the etiquette of dining out with children that Andrew Knowlton wrote for Bon Appétit. In it, he talked about how brunch was the perfect meal for dining out with children because you get “smiley face pancakes for the kids and alcohol for mom and dad.” It’s probably been five years since I read that article, but I still think about it now that we are parents. If we’re going to eat out with Clara, breakfast or brunch is way easier than trying to grab dinner somewhere nice. I wanted to capture that laid back brunch feeling for the party, providing foods (and drinks!) everyone could enjoy.

Since the party was from 10:30-12:30, I knew the menu wouldn’t need to be very heavy. Still, I wanted to make sure there were plenty of items to choose from. I tried to include foods I thought people could easily snack on while chatting (or chasing kiddos around). As usual, I chose foods that could be made in advance so that I could simply set them up the morning of the party. This makes for a stress-free (or, at least much less stressful) day of. We also had a few extra sets of hands here to help us set up before the party started.

Brunch Party Food Table I didn’t get a great shot of the food setup, but this at least gives you an idea of how it looked. The geometric fabric was a last minute find, and I really like how it looked as a tablecloth.

Our menu for the party included:
Chicken and Waffles with Maple Butter Syrup
Cheddar and Chive Scones
Candied Bacon
Yogurt Parfait Bar (with vanilla yogurt, almond granola, strawberries and blackberries)

Blueberry Pancake Cupcakes with Maple Caramel
Mini Doughnuts for dipping

Cold Brew Coffee (with vanilla bean simple syrup and milk available)
Water, orange juice and juice boxes

brunch party invitation Like last year, I designed the invitations and food tents in Photoshop and had them printed locally. I love, love, love the way they turned out.

Chicken and Waffles I didn’t plan on having a theme, but I took the triangles from the invitations and just ran with it on the food labels, and suddenly I had a geometric theme.

Cold Brew Coffee Station The cold brew coffee station was a huge hit at the party, and I loved the way the coffee looked in this container I picked up from Home Goods. I used the extra triangles I cut out to scatter across the table as confetti.

drink table bottles My collection of random bottles came in handy for the drink table. I didn’t need fancy labels and just made these with scrapbook paper and washi tape.

geometric origami garland I made this garland and the one hanging over the drink table with scrapbook paper I already had on hand. I hot glued the shapes to twine and simply taped the strands on the window frame. I made the garland behind the drink table with the same paper and actually used the leftover strips to make this one.

brunch kid's books Clara loves these books, and I set them up in the play area so that the little ones could easily grab them if they wanted to. They doubled as a cute decoration when they weren’t being read.

Doughnut Dipping Station The doughnut dipping station was probably my favorite part of the whole party. The kids loved this, and it was so much fun watching them play. I had goodie bags so that they could take home their doughnuts when the party ended.

doughnut dipping I cut a paper tablecloth for the table and also put a bigger piece of it on the floor under the table. This made cleanup super easy. I found the bowls at Target, and they were the perfect size for little hands.

DIY pull-string piñata I made this piñata from a cardboard box and decorated it with crepe paper. Instead of making the usual beat it with a stick version, I made this a pull string piñata. I filled it with stickers, bubbles and some coloring packs and kid jewelry from the dollar spot at Target. I didn’t want to know which string was *the* string, so I blended it in with all the others. The kids took turns pulling the ribbons until the loot fell out.

Apron with Painted Initial I bought aprons and used a paint pen to make a personalized one for each child. I didn’t know how messy the doughnut dipping would be and wanted them to have something to cover up their clothes. Bonus: they doubled as cute party favors.

Abby Abby was never far from the (cupcake eating) action.

The birthday girl loved her “burble” cupcakes, and we had so much fun celebrating our little munchkin with our neighbors and friends (and Eric’s sister who flew all the way from Alabama to be here for the party).

I can’t wait to share the party recipes with all of you. They’re headed to the blog soon!

Fabric for tablecloth: Hawthorne Threads
Clara’s dress: Tea Collection
Printables: Designed by me, printed at Print 1
Drink Dispenser: Here it is on Amazon, but I got it for half this price at Home Goods.
Piñata: Made by me, following this tutorial. I figured out how to make it a pull-string version mostly on my own and am happy to share a tutorial if you guys are interested.

Kitchen Renovation: The Big Reveal

You’ve likely seen pictures of our kitchen renovation on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. I thought I’d share some of our progress and experiences along the way. To follow along with us, just check out the hashtag #diylikeachampion on Instagram. This is Part 4 of our renovation series. You can find Part 1, the timeline and demo process, here; Part 2, painting and prepping the cabinets, here; and Part 3, the countertops, here.

DIY Kitchen Renovation Before & After

This is a little late, but surprise! The kitchen renovation is (mostly) done! Hopefully you guys didn’t think we decided not to finish; it just hasn’t been high on my priority list to write about with the other things we had going on (like getting ready for Clara’s party, renovating our half bath, installing new floor upstairs and painting the rest of the downstairs). It’s actually been practically done for a while now, other than painting, which we finished a few weeks ago. I say the kitchen is mostly done because we have a few more minor things to do: paint the laundry room doors and frame out the area around them and paint the toe kicks and baseboards.

Choosing the paint proved to be more difficult than I anticipated. After going through three paint samples, we finally decided on one we liked. I had my heart set on a sea glass color, but we ultimately decided against it after putting the sample up because we knew whatever color we put in the kitchen would also be in the living room, entryway, stairway and upstairs hallway. That’s basically every common area in our house, hence my indecisiveness on choosing a color. And really, with all the big stuff done, we weren’t in a huge hurry to paint.

We ended up choosing Sherwin-Williams Sea Salt, even though I was convinced I wanted Fleeting Green. Sea Salt ended up being a more neutral color, which I think was needed given the amount of walls that would be covered in it. It’s basically a gray with green undertones, but it looks cooler or warmer depending on the light. (You can see all of the colors I liked on this Pinterest board.)

Sorry for the picture heavy post, but I am so excited to share these photos with all of you and couldn’t resist sharing them all.

The details:

Since my last post, we’ve installed the cabinet hardware and toe kicks and replaced two light fixtures. The hardware and lighting made such a huge difference in really pulling the kitchen together. I’ve had this Whitney Pendant from Pottery Barn since late last summer, and I was so excited to finally get it installed. Our previous sink light looked like a UFO, so you can guess how happy I was to get rid of it.

Whitney Pendant from Pottery Barn | Cook Like a Champion Kitchen Renovation

Whitney Pendant from Pottery Barn

The dining area light wasn’t as bad as the sink light but still didn’t match the look we were going for. I found a hammered pendant light that I loved, but I wasn’t ready to fork out the $100 for it knowing that it came with a plastic cord. Really? A fancy pendant with a cheap looking cord? No thanks. So I decided to make my own, and we randomly happened upon this hammered bowl at Target. It was $20 for exactly what we wanted. Score! Since it would be near the other pendant, I decided to spring for the matching pendant kit from Pottery Barn but ended up finding it cheaper on Ebay. Double score! We bought a hole saw for our drill and used that to drill the hole into the bowl to have an opening to attach the cord kit. I kind of can’t believe we made this ourselves, and I love love love it.

DIY Bowl Pendant Light | Cook Like a Champion Kitchen Renovation

We went from having no hardware at all to having really nice hardware, which has made such an incredible difference. When I first saw this hardware from Pottery Barn, I was determined to find a cheaper alternative. I couldn’t find any other hammered hardware I liked that cost less than this, so we ended up splurging on this set. Really, given the money we saved by painting rather than replacing the cabinets, we felt we could get away with buying the hardware we wanted (though I waited until I had a 15% off coupon before buying). The color we got is called Vintage Pewter, and it’s the perfect brushed look that we like – not too shiny and not too dull.

Pottery Barn Ella Hardware | Cook Like a Champion Kitchen Renovation

The kitchen as a whole:

The changes happened so gradually that it was hard to get the full effect of all of them, but I can totally see it looking at the kitchen now. It came together so beautifully, and we did almost all of it ourselves. I’m insanely proud of us, and I’m totally smitten with the kitchen.

DIY Kitchen Renovation This is our main prep area. You can see that there are some spots where the drywall came off when our old countertops were removed, but these will eventually be covered up with subway tile.

DIY Kitchen Renovation Another view of our prep area. Hopefully we can replace this not-so-great dishwasher with a better, stainless front one soon. We are still loving our LG Hausys countertops, and I love the way they brighten up the kitchen, especially in combination with the white cabinets.

DIY Kitchen Renovation You may remember that this was the area with the cabinet that had mildew under and behind it. Eric built this cabinet and used the existing door to replace the water-damaged one.

DIY Kitchen Renovation This is the view from the dining area into the kitchen and office/playroom, with a bonus shot of Abby resting in a sunny spot.

Dining Area with DIY Bowl Light and Painted Curtains | Cook Like a Champion Kitchen Renovation This is the dining area, complete with IKEA curtains I painted. The wall here is the same color as our office, Sherwin-Williams Hazel.

Kitchen Panoramic This is an iPhone pano shot. Not the best quality, but it helps give you an idea of what the kitchen looks like with all the changes.


Lighting: Whitney Pendant from Pottery Barn
Hardware: Ella in Vintage Pewter from Pottery Barn
Wall Paint: Sherwin-Williams Sea Salt on main walls and Sherwin-Williams Hazel on accent wall
Cabinet Paint: Benjamin Moore Advance in Cloud Cover
Flooring: Pergo Max in Vera Mahogany from Lowe’s
Countertops: LG Hausys HI-MACS in White Quartz

Spatchcocked Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Thyme

Spatchcocked Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Thyme

Roasted chicken is one of those things that, when done well, is insanely good. It doesn’t seem possible to not do roast chicken well, but I’ve had my fair share of recipe flops – flavorful skin but bland meat, skin that’s not crispy enough, a chicken that is cooked through in some parts and not in others. I made a roasted chicken a couple years ago that I love, but that one has since been dethroned by this one. Enter spatchcocked roasted chicken, aka the only roasted chicken I’ll ever make.

This meal is the epitome of what I always imagined Sunday dinners would be like. Those weren’t something I had growing up, but I remember knowing people that did and lusting after what I assumed to be an idyllic meal. The foods I remember most from my teenage years range from Totino’s pizzas and Bagel Bites to those boxed meals that you just add chicken to and bake in one dish. Not exactly Sunday dinner worthy. While we may not ever have those perfect Sunday dinners I longed for when I was younger, I hope that Clara will still be able to look back on her childhood with lots of good memories of us cooking and eating together. And hey, I did make this on a Sunday, so I guess we’re on the right track.

Let’s talk about this chicken. It’s got crispy skin, juicy and flavorful meat, and it cooks in 45 minutes or less. How’s that for a perfect roast chicken? Even better, the potatoes cook while the chicken does (and with chicken fat dripping on them, they’re especially awesome), so you’ve got an instant side dish. Roast some broccoli or toss together a quick salad, and you’re set. One thing to note: don’t skimp on the salt. There’s very little seasoning on the chicken, so make sure to salt it generously. The same goes for freshly ground black pepper. You can do a ton with your leftover chicken – taquitos, chicken pizza, chicken salad, etc. – so this meal will go even further.

Spatchcocked Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Thyme

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