Savory Breakfast Cups

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I am sad to admit that I am not a planner.  I don’t usually have my meals planned a week in advance, I don’t keep a list of to-do’s on my bedside table.  I pretty much fly by the seat of my pants, starting a million tasks but finishing none because, well, that’s just how my mommy brain rolls.

Usually, when I wake up in the mornings, I stumble downstairs to the kitchen, make a coffee and a breakfast sandwich or some other quick breakfast for my hubby (occasionally, if I press snooze enough, this might entail ripping a banana from the bunch and serving it next to his coffee 🙂 ). Now, time to wake my little monsters (10 year old Wyatt and an 8 year old Henry).  There is usually a fair amount of scrambling to find this or that (i.e. searching for matching socks, because among the things I rock at as a mother, sock matching is definitely not one of them).  Couple all of this with some brotherly banter before the boys settle down with something that suites their simple tastes for breakfast that morning – usually a bowl full of mom-guilt (you know the kind, cold cereal, oatmeal packets, etc).

BUT, every once in a while, the stars align and I actually PLAN – pre-making our breakfasts BEFORE our week begins.  Such a novel idea.  SERIOUSLY!!! PURE BLISS! I am almost excited (I said almost) to wake up and pop something in the microwave for 30 seconds and have a delicious, protein filled breakfast for my family.

These breakfast cups are so delicious.  I created this recipe while my husband and I were on the Whole 30 diet. They tasted so naughty when we were accustomed to eating so healthy, but they aren’t, at all! They are packed with vitamins and protein. My husband always gets so excited when I make them and if I happen to make them on a day he is home from work, he will eat one or two for every meal.  He can not stay out of them.  I also made them for a catered brunch at our church for the community youth pastors and got RAVE reviews.   They are savory with a tiny touch of sweetness from the potatoes (which might seem a little odd, but its pretty fabulous).  I would highly suggest making a double batch of these if you have any big eaters in your family and are planning to have some leftovers for the week.

 

Ingredients:

3 medium-sized sweet potatoes (the kind with light brown skin and white flesh)

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 package prosciutto (If you are wanting to stay Whole 30 compliant, be sure to check your ingredients -we found ours at Costco and Trader Joe’s with just pork and salt).

8-12 eggs (one egg per cup – most packs come with 8-12 slices of prosciutto)

1/4 cup milk (omit for Whole 30/Paleo)

Salt

Black Pepper

Garlic Salt

 

Directions:

 

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Preheat oven to 350F degrees.  Peel sweet potatoes.  Using a food processor, shred potatoes.  If you don’t have a food processor, chop the potatoes into small pieces.  Heat 2 tbsp. your favorite cooking oil (I LOVE avocado oil) in a large heavy-bottomed pan on Medium-high heat.

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Do a sizzle test to make sure that the oil is hot enough.  Add potatoes, peppers, garlic onions and seasonings. Wait for several minutes before checking the bottom of the potatoes to see if they are golden brown.  Once they are crisp and brown, go ahead and turn them.  The potatoes will not take too long to cook thoroughly.  You don’t want them to get mushy.  Be sure to taste them at this point. Season them until you feel like they would taste great alone.  Continue to stir the potatoes every few minutes until they have a good brown color mixed throughout.

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Next you will want to pull the prosciutto apart.  It is pretty hard to separate without tearing but if it does tear, now worries.  Lay one piece of prosciutto in each cup of your cupcake pan (I could not live without my Demarle silicone cupcake pan.  NOTHING will stick to it.  If you are using a regular metal pan, be sure to use  non-stick cooking spray or cupcake liners or those babies will never come out.)

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Place your cooked hashbrowns inside the cups on top of the prosciutto.  Fill the cup but don’t pack it down.

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Beat an egg for each cup you are planning to fill.  Add about 1/4 cup of milk (again omit for Whoke 30/Paleo) and a little salt and pepper.  Whisk together.  Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, fill each cup almost to the top with egg.  The egg will sink down under the hashbrowns so you may have to come back and top them off.

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Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.  Check to see if the centers of the egg cups are firm and not still runny .  If they are still runny, cook for 2 minutes at a time until they are firm (unless they are considerably runny, then add several minutes.)  Mine took 26 minutes total this last time but it will vary based on slight differences in oven temps and pan material so just keep your eye on it toward the end.

Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes until they are cool enough to handle.  Remove from pan and serve warm.  I usually put the leftovers in a big gallon Ziploc and then reheat them in the microwave for a fast, delicious breakfast.

 

Savory Breakfast Cups (Whole 30 Friendly)

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

3 medium-sized sweet potatoes (the kind with light brown skin and white flesh)

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 package prosciutto (If you are wanting to stay Whole 30 compliant, be sure to check your ingredients -we found ours at Costco and Trader Joe’s with just pork and salt).

8-12 eggs (one egg per cup – most packs come with 8-12 slices of prosciutto)

1/4 cup milk (omit for Whole 30/Paleo)

Salt

Black Pepper

Garlic Salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Peel sweet potatoes.  Using a food processor, shred potatoes.  If you don’t have a food processor, chop the potatoes into small pieces.  Heat 2 tbsp. your favorite cooking oil (I LOVE avocado oil) in a large heavy-bottomed pan on Medium-high heat.
  2. Do a sizzle test to make sure that the oil is hot enough.  Add potatoes, peppers, garlic onions and seasonings. Wait for several minutes before checking the bottom of the potatoes to see if they are golden brown.  Once they are crisp and brown, go ahead and turn them.  The potatoes will not take too long to cook thoroughly.  You don’t want them to get mushy.  You will want to taste them at this point. Season them until you feel like they would taste great alone.  Continue to stir the potatoes every few minutes until they have a good brown color mixed throughout.
  3. Next you will want to pull the prosciutto apart.  It is pretty hard to separate without tearing but if it does tear, now worries.  Lay one piece of prosciutto in each cup of your cupcake pan (I could not live without my Demarle silicone cupcake pan.  NOTHING will stick to it.  If you are using a regular metal pan, be sure to use a good amount of non-stick cooking spray or cupcake liners or those babies will never come out.)
  4. Place your cooked hashbrowns inside the cups on top of the prosciutto.  Fill the cup but don’t pack it down.
  5. Beat an egg for each cup you are planning to fill.  Add about 1/4 cup of milk and a little salt and pepper.  Whisk together.  Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, fill each cup almost to the top with egg.  The egg will sink down under the hashbrowns so you may have to come back and top them off.
  6. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.  Check to see if the centers of the egg cups are firm and not still runny .  If they are still runny, cook for 2 minutes at a time until they are firm (unless they are considerably runny, then add several minutes.)  Mine took 26 minutes total this last time but it will vary based on slight differences in oven temps and pan material so just keep your eye on it toward the end.
  7. Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes until they are cool enough to handle.  Remove from pan and serve warm.  I usually put the leftovers in a big gallon Ziploc and then reheat them in the microwave for a fast, delicious, hot breakfast.

 

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Drippin’ Delicious Chicken Tacos

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My husband and I recently completed 30 days of eating all whole, non-processed foods (on the Whole 30 plan).  I have never eaten so many vegetables, eggs and meat in my life, but surprisingly, we loved every single meal I made from the” Whole 30″ cookbook, the “Paleo Nom Nom” cookbook and the one that this recipe originated from “Against All Grain”.

I wanted to highlight one of my very favorite recipes that has now become a staple in our family – originally named “Crock Pot Chicken Tacos” in the cookbook, now named Drippin’ Delicious Chicken Tacos” by myself :).  I like to keep with the healthy theme and eat the tacos in a “lettuce tortilla” but my boys and husband now (post Whole 30) opt for the street taco feel with the little corn tortillas.  Either way, it will be one of those meals that you savor every single bite as the juice literally runs down your arm.

One of the reasons this recipe ranks at the top of my favorites list is because it is SO SO EASY! You literally throw the frozen chicken, salsa and spices in a crock-pot, turn it on, go about your day. BOOM! You have a meal.  I know we all appreciate being able to eat healthy and not have to slave in the kitchen all day.

The recipe calls for 1 lb of boneless, skinless chicken breasts as well as one pound of boneless, skinless thighs (which have become one of my favorite meats to cook with in the crock pot).  I had gotten a crazy deal on organic vacuum sealed BS thighs at one of our natural grocers so I bought about 20 lbs of it.  After using the first pack for stir fry one night, I was a little put off by the amount of fat that I had to cut through so the rest sat in my freezer for a couple of months until I tried this recipe.  Crock pot is the way to go for this inexpensive cut of meat! It just melts the fat away and makes really tender juicy chicken.  If you cannot find the thighs, feel free to just use all breast.

 

Ingredients:

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (these can be difficult to find so use all breasts if you need to)

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 14-oz container of fresh salsa (For Whole 30 purposes, check the ingredients to ensure there is no sugar or preservatives)

1 Tbsp cumin

1 Tbsp chili powder

2 1/2 tsp coriander

2 tsp sea salt (I absolutely love the Pure Himalayan Sea Salt – the pink stuff)

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp black pepper

*note – the original recipe called for 3 cups diced tomatoes in juices, 1 small yellow onion, diced, 4 garlic cloves, minced, 2 Serrano chilies, seeded and chopped and 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro but since almost all of these things are in a good fresh salsa, I just subbed the container of salsa with fantastic results*

 

 

Directions:

Place the frozen (or defrosted) chicken in the crock pot.  I did not trim any of the fat because most of it will melt away anyways, then I find it much easier to pull off the larger chunks while I am shredding it.

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Now dump a container of your favorite fresh salsa over the top of the chicken.

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I know, pretty difficult, huh?

Now, add all of your spices right on top. You still with me?

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So many spices!!! Soooo much flavor!

Okay, plug in your crock pot if you haven’t already (I only put this little reminder in here because mine sat out on the counter for about 45 minutes today before I realized it was unplugged – HA!) Crank that baby up to high heat and walk away.  About 2 hrs into the cooking process, I usually break up the chicken from the giant frozen clumps as it will be mostly defrosted by now. Is your mouth watering yet? FullSizeRender (8)

Let that baby sit for another 3-4 hours then shred. If you are using defrosted meat, obviously your cooking time will diminish significantly (I would lessen the cooking time by 1.5 hrs). If you are throwing this on before work, and plan to be gone for longer than 5 hours, place on low and cook for 8-9 hours.

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Once the chicken is tender enough to shred, pull out the thighs (if you are using them), and shred, removing any small bits of fat remaining.  Shred the breasts and place it all  back into the pot of juices.  Use tongs to squeeze the chicken out before placing in your lettuce boat or tortilla.  Top with avocado, salsa, cilantro.  If you are not interested in keeping it Whole 30, add some shredded cheese and sour cream.  Be sure to eat this over a plate as you will have a little pool of savory juices when you are through.  Makes great leftovers!  Also, try it on some greens as a salad. So good!

Drippin' Delicious Chicken Tacos

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

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Ingredients:

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 14-oz container of fresh salsa

1 Tbsp cumin

1 Tbsp chili powder

2 1/2 tsp coriander

2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place frozen chicken in the crockpot.
  2. Add salsa and spices.
  3. Cook on high for 1 hour then separate chicken breasts and thighs.  Cook for an additional 5-6 hours until chicken is tender enough to be shredded easily.  (You can also just place the chicken in the crockpot and cook on low for 8-9 hours if you are going to be gone).
  4. Remove chicken from crockpot and shred.  Remove any fat pieces from chicken thighs.  Add back to juices in crock pot.
  5. Squeeze chicken with tongs to drain some of the juice before placing it in lettuce leaves (for Whole 30/Paleo/GF) or tortillas.
  6. Top with avocado, salsa, and cilantro (and cheese and sour cream if your not trying to stay Whole 30 compliant).

Delicious 5-Minute Ranch Dip/Dressing

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Confession… I am not a veggie lover, especially cooked veggies.  I have PTSD from my parents making me sit at the dinner table until all of my veggies were eaten.  I would gag several times while trying to swallow them and would eventually have to wash them down with milk.  As an adult, I have learned to eat them, but have never really enjoyed them much. That being said – I LOVE raw veggies dipped in Ranch! Not just any ranch… It has to be the ranch dip in the little packets mixed with sour cream.  I can eat raw broccoli all day long as long as it’s dipped in ranch.  Our youngest son unfortunately has not yet acquired a taste for veggies either, so I always have a baggie of fresh, cut up veggies in the fridge.  I make him take at least one bite of whatever vegetable we are having with dinner and if he doesn’t like it, he is allowed to grab a handful of raw veggies out of the fridge to eat them.  And he does.  He really likes them raw, dipped in ranch, just like me. And as long as he is getting the vitamins, I really am not too concerned with him gagging down the ones I have prepared for dinner.

So, after years of paying the “Hidden Valley” prices ($2-3/pack), I stumbled upon this recipe from http://www.thedailyblarg.com/2013/01/simple-homemade-ranch-dip-recipe.html  and now I make my own!  This recipe is even better than the little ranch packets and probably costs less than $.25 to make.  I always have all of these spices on hand, so, as long as I have some sour cream, I’m in business! I use the low-fat sour cream too so I can feel better about eating an entire tub of dip :).

Ingredients:

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup mayo (I leave this out and add 1/2 cup extra sour cream and it is still wonderful, your choice)

1 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dill weed (Some of you may not have this in your pantry.  Get some because you are going to be making this a lot! And it’s wonderful on fish too!!!)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp ground pepper

1 tsp salt (I find that 1/2 tsp is plenty salty  so start off with 1/2 tsp and add more if needed)

Directions:

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If you have time to let the dip rest in the fridge for an hour or more, you can just combine all of the ingredients and you’re done.

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If you are wanting to have it right away, mix the dill, salt and parsley with two teaspoons of hot water.  This will allow the flavors of those herbs to bloom.

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Let stand for one minute and then mix with the rest of the spices and sour cream (and mayo of you prefer it).    That’s it! Way too easy, right? Enjoy with your favorite fresh veggies!

Pumpkin Week!!! Homemade Pumpkin Puree

I can’t wait for each and every recipe I have coming up for you this week.  I am a huge fan of pumpkin everything so I have more than enough FABULOUS recipes to give you a full week’s worth of pumpkin heaven.

With my hubby gone hunting and the rainy season started, the boys and I decided we would head down to our local farm stand and pick up some sugar pie pumpkins for a day full of baking.    They had so much fun getting all of the “guts” out of the pumpkins and separating all of the seeds so we could roast them.

Now, I can honestly say, I cannot taste a HUGE difference in flavor between canned pumpkin and fresh pumpkin puree, but if you are looking for a really fun, cheap fall activity to stock up on puree (which is generally pretty expensive otherwise) for the season, this is definitely worth it the effort.

Ingredients:

1-2 sugar pie (or baking) pumpkins – your local farmer or grocer will be able to point you in the right direction.  They are generally small, round, pretty smooth pumpkins with little speckles on them.
I roasted 2 pumpkins and got 10 cups of puree (which is equivalent to 5 cans of puree) and at $2/pumpkin, it is much cheaper.

Directions:

Cut pumpkin in half, vertically.  These pumpkins are generally pretty firm so be careful.  I find that a bread knife or serrated steak knife work better than my big sharp chef knives.  Cut right up to the stem on both sides then break apart with your hands.  You should then just be able to grab the stem and break it off pretty easily.

Remove the “guts” as my boys would call it.  Be sure to scrap the inside well with a spoon to remove any of the stringy pulp.  Separate the seeds into a bowl and rinse. If you fill the bowl with water, the seeds will float and the pulp will generally sink to the bottom.  Lay on a paper towel to dry.  We will be roasting them later this week 🙂

Line large cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Place pumpkin halves face down on cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for approximately 90 minutes or until pumpkins are soft.  As you can see in my pictures, one of my pumpkins cooked much faster than the other so it was extra soft after it was baked.

Cool until you can handle them safely.  The skin of the pumpkin should peel off very easily.  After you have them peeled, cut into chunks and place into a food processor or blender.

Puree until very smooth.  Using a fine mesh strainer, strain excess liquid from puree.  It seems like the puree will just run right through but it won’t.  Don’t force it through the strainer, just let it drain naturally.  Let each batch drain for several minutes. *One of my blog followers recommends in the comments below to let the puree sit in the fridge overnight.  The liquid will all come to the top while the puree sinks to the bottom so if you are not planning on using it right away, this would be a really easy option. *

If you aren’t planning on using all of your puree now, divide it into freezer bags in 2 cup portions.  I like to fold the top of the bag over before I start measuring.  This will keep the top of the bag where you need a good seal from getting all gunky.  Press the excess air from the bag, label bag and refrigerate for 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

THE BEST Granola

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I really love granola but always have trouble finding a store-bought granola that I love, which means I generally end up making my own. I ran across this recipe on CDKitchen.com recently and am so in love with it. It has everything I love about granola, the perfect sweetness, a hint of cinnamon and a wonderful crunch.  If I could think of one negative thing, it would be that it doesn’t clump together which makes my impulsive handfuls a bit hard to shove into transfer to my mouth but if you are eating it with a spoon (or in yogurt), it is perfect! I guess it didn’t really stop me from eating it all day long yesterday but IF I had to think of something to complain about, that would be it.

Ingredients:

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 and 1/2 cups nuts, I used 1/2 slivered almonds, 1/2 sunflower seeds
1 and 1/2 cups dried fruit, I used Craisins and golden raisins but dried cherries, strawberries, cherries, apples, or mangoes would all be wonderful
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

In a bowl, mix together the oats, nuts, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. In a small saucepan, warm the oil and honey (measure your oil first so the measuring cup will have a nice non-stick coating for the honey.) Whisk in vanilla. It will separate easily but will all get mixed together when added to dry ingredients.


Carefully pour oil mixture over the oat mixture. Stir until all of the liquid is incorporated.

Spread granola in a 15×10 inch baking sheet (cookie sheet).

Bake for 35-40 minutes at 225 degrees, stirring carefully every 10 minutes. This is very important or your oats will burn, especially toward the end. Keep a close watch on it for the last 5 minutes. Mine only baked for 35 minutes and it was perfect.

Stir in dried fruit. When cooled completely, add chocolate chips. Seal in an airtight container. This freezes well too.

The Easiest Way To Cut A Watermelon

Watermelons can be such a pain to cut.  Most of the time you either end up scooping all of the fruit out in big uneven chunks or you use a melon-baller which leaves you with a lot of wasted melon and seems to take forever.  This way is super fast and easy and takes all of the hassle out of cutting up that big juicy melon.

 

First of all, when picking  a melon you want to always look for a melon that has a big yellow spot on one side.  This will tell you that the melon ripened on the vine (the yellow spot is where it sat on the ground).  If it is all green, chances are, it ripened off of the vine and won’t be nearly as sweet.  The next thing I do is look for a melon with “bee stings”.  These are brown lines on the melon that cause small indentions (see picture).  Evidentially bees like the sweet melons… AND if there happens to be sugar balls (looks kind of like sap) coming from these bee stings, that is said to be sugar leaking out of the melon.  I will usually find a few like these and see which is the heaviest which shows that it is extra juicy.  A lot of people knock on the melon to see if it sounds hollow which I know works but for some reason they always sound the same to me so I generally don’t use this technique.  I don’t know if this is all scientifically correct with the bees and all but I generally pick good ones using this method.

Always wash the melon.  Even though you don’t eat the rind, it usually ends up touching the same parts of the cutting board that the juicy little squares touch, plus many are imported from Mexico so I always give them a good scrub with a tiny drop of dish soap.

Alright, on to the cutting.  Using a large sharp knife, cut the melon in half.  Move one half off of the board and cut the other half in half again.

 

Now make 1″ incisions down through the whole watermelon quarter being careful not to cut too far into the rind.  Turn the watermelon 90 degrees.  Turn your knife on its side and make incisions 1″ apart through one side then turn and make the same incisions down through the other side.

Now, run your knife just inside the rind and dump the squares into your bowl.  Repeat with the rest of the quarters.

 

Simply Delicious Vegetable Barley Soup

A few weeks ago, I was at one of my favorite restaurants, dying to have a bowl of their always-amazing soup and a few slices of their homemade bread.  I asked what their “Soup of the Day” was and as she said “Cream of Broccoli and Vegetable Barley,” I felt the wind quickly escape my sales.   Neither of them sounded good to me since I have never been a big broccoli fan and though I had never had it, the barley soup just didn’t sound appealing.  I was really hoping for German Potato or Clam Chowder… something hearty, but I reluctantly ordered the vegetable barley soup because I like their homemade bread and real butter so much.  I was so glad I ordered it because I LOVED it!  I attempted to replicate it tonight and was so excited when I took my first bite.  I actually liked it even more than the soup I was served at the restaurant.  It is really savory and  surprisingly hearty, but really healthy at the same time.  This was a quick soup to throw together, however, it does have to cook for 90 minutes so it takes a little while to get to the end product.  I’m sure this would be great in the crock pot too.

Ingredients:

8 cups water

2 Tbsp chicken base (or use 8 cups chicken broth)

1 cup uncooked barley

1 onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

1 tsp garlic powder

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 tsp paprika

3 bay leaves

Directions:

Prepare all vegetables.  In a large pot, combine hot water and chicken base (or broth).  Add barley, chopped vegetables and spices.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then cover and reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer for 90 minutes.  Feel free to add more veggies if you please (stewed tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, green beans, etc.)  Also, beans and/or some pre-cooked beef would be great additions as well.