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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cornmeal Cranberry Muffins

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I'm slowly but surely trying to clear out the random ingredients that have accumulated in my freezer. I have a bad habit of "stocking up" on things and sticking them in the freezer. It's a good idea, in theory, until suddenly I'm having trouble opening the freezer door and I don't have room for my ice cream maker...which is obviously a problem (Yes I make ice cream all winter long!).

Friday, March 30, 2012

Black and White Cookies

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Rumor has it, black and white cookies are famous in the delis of New York. On my trip to New York last October, I was too busy gorging on Levain Bakery cookies to seek out any black and white cookies, so I have yet to experience the real version. Therefore, I can’t really vouch for the authenticity of these. Based on votes from Ryan and me, I can assure you that we would gladly pay money for these in a deli or bakery!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells

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Stuffed shells will always hold a special place in my foodie heart. Five Februarys ago I decided to surprise (and hopefully impress) my then-boyfriend by cooking him a meal for Valentine's Day. The menu I decided on was stuffed shells, salad (I think this one!), and breadsticks (from a can, that I definitely shaped into hearts ha). I have no idea how I settled on this meal, probably because I think it was simple enough for even me, the girl with literally no kitchen skills.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mini Peanut Butter and Jelly Ice Cream Cheesecakes

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It should come as no surprise that when Christina and Cindy invited me to participate in Project PB&J in celebration of National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day (coming up on April 2nd), my mind immediately went to ice cream.
I love peanut butter and jelly, and I love ice cream, so combining the two was a no brainer! My creation started with strawberry cheesecake ice cream, a recipe adapted from Epicurious, which I discovered was perfectly amazing on its own. However, I then filled mini peanut butter graham cracker crusts (inspired by the crust on my no-bake Nutella pie!) with the ice cream. To finish it off, I topped the mini ice cream cheesecakes with a mini pb&j sandwich: strawberry jam and cream cheese sandwiched between peanut butter cookies.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Carrot Cake Bundt

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Two days ago it was carrots in salad and today it's carrots in cake. Gotta love turning vegetables into dessert! I made this bundt cake because Easter's just around the corner and this would be a gorgeous addition to your meal. I also made this bundt cake because I love carrot cake and don't think I've ever made it myself. Most importantly, however, I made this bundt cake in celebration of Joy the Baker.

Monday, March 26, 2012

(Slow Cooker) Penne with Eggplant-Tomato Sauce

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Two weeks ago, I ran a trail half marathon. This was the first race I'd done since the Chicago Marathon in 2010 (not counting my favorite RAGNAR relays). Much as I love to run, I don't race very often. My reluctance to race stems from a few different reasons. I don't like to pay to run when I can do it for free as much as I want (though I do like the "free" tshirt!). I don't like anyone to tell me how fast or how far to run on any given day. It's why I never ran cross country in high school despite being asked to year after year. Honestly though, another reason I don't race is my own dang fear. I'm a bit of an overachiever and races intimidate me because I put so much pressure on myself to perform well....which leads to running not being fun...and my number one reason for running is because I find it fun.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Carrot-Ginger Salad

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I went in search of a quick and easy side dish using ingredients I already had on hand. All You Magazine more than delivered with this Carrot-Ginger salad recipe, because I think I've found my new favorite side dish. Recipes like this make me so thankful for recipe developers at magazines (talk about a fun job!), because this isn't a combination I would have immediately thought to put together and yet it worked so perfectly!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sourdough Pancakes

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As much as I like homemade bread, the thought of sourdough scared me. I hadn't done much research, but I wasn't sure I could handle caring for a starter...Ryan will tell you that the only reason our herbs stay alive all summer is because he heads out to water them daily! Then we had a wonderful meal at my brother-in-law and his lovely wife's house where I had the chance to sample their fresh sourdough. With a little convincing, I was sent home with my very own sourdough starter.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ghirardelli Brownies with Chocolate Ganache

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This is another one of those recipes from the early days of The Sweets Life that demanded to be resurrected. Honestly, these brownies probably deserve to be blogged about once a month or so until every single one of my readers had made them. Make them exactly as written--I truly believe the recipe has been perfected. The cake flour, the Ghirardelli chocolate, the ganache...all necessary!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Enlightened Greek Salad with Chicken

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I do a lot of magazine reading. Not only do I subscribe to several, but my friend Juli also shares a bunch with me each month. Needless to say, I typically have a stack of magazines ready to be read at all times. There are some that I flip through, and others that I read word for word, cover to cover. Cooking Light definitely falls in the 'read every word' category. They offer fabulous recipes each month in addition to tons of interesting articles about cooking techniques and trends.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mini Quiche Lorraine

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My friend Katie is an incredibly special person. She’s one of the best people I know, and I’d be hard-pressed to find someone to disagree with that statement. We recently celebrated her and her upcoming marriage at a bridal shower I helped host. The other bridesmaids and I were excited to shower her with love and gifts and (my favorite!) food. Because she’s a travel lover, I planned a menu that represented a variety of cuisines from around the world. The girl has had some amazing travel adventures, but some of her best stories come from the country of France, where she studied and visited a few different times. Obviously something “French” belonged on the shower menu, and because I haven’t yet tried my hand in homemade croissants, quiche it was!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Crispy Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Eggs

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Let's just address the elephant in the room, shall we?!

My crispy chocolate-covered peanut butter eggs look like turds. I had this grand idea to make these adorable Easter egg-shaped treats. They'd taste like a crunchy version of the Reese's eggs found in stores this time of year but they'd have the cute factor going for them too, thanks to my decorating.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Seven Layer Greek Dip

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Next time you’re asked to provide an appetizer, might I suggest this one? Super simple to put together, it was the hit of a bridal shower I recently hosted. The greatest sign of a successful dish is an empty dish and this one was practically licked clean, no spare cucumber chunk or olive left behind! A few different people commented that despite their general dislike of olives, they found them perfectly suited and even necessary for this dip…so don’t omit them olive haters!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Thai Glazed Cashews

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I have another story of my ridiculousness in college, bear with me. This time it doesn't involve sleeping outside in the middle of winter. Nope, today it's about a little run-in I had with cashews. It was the end of my freshmen year and I had a ton of extra meals left on my meal plan. Not wanting them to go to waste, I headed to the student union building, where we could "buy" food with our leftover meals. Most people stocked up on those bottled frappacinos or freshly baked brownies that they could take home to their families.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday Randoms Via Instagram

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(live Irish music from last year's St. Patty's Day!)

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Are you celebrating? The last two years we've been on vacation over St. Patrick's Day...two years ago in Arizona and then last year in Charleston. We don't intentionally travel for the holiday, it's just worked out that way :) This year we opted to skip a big March trip to save up for our September vacation (NAPA!). Since we still had the itch to get away, we're spending the weekend with friends Mike & Maggie in Branson, MO...just a quick weekend getaway filled with whatever adventures we can find in 48 hours!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Best Blueberry Muffins

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Ryan and I get really excited when fresh berries return to the grocery store. I get even more excited when watermelon returns to the grocery store, but we're still aways away from that...so for now, I'll settle for the slow return of blueberries and strawberries! I wouldn't say blueberries and strawberries are completely in season yet, but you always know it's starting to happen when the price of them starts to drop at the grocery store. When I saw blueberries on sale recently for $2/pint, I quickly picked some up.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bailey's Dark Chocolate Pudding

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Right now, I'm sitting in a coffee shop, after work on a Monday afternoon, trying to catch up on some blog work. The thing is, I'd rather be home, stuffing my face with this pudding. Lucky for me, I do have one serving of this awaiting my arrival. In fact, I picked up a giant rice krispie treat at the coffee shop with the intent to purchase it, but then decided I'd much rather wait and finish off the pudding tonight, with an extra serving of whipped cream!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cranberries with Barley

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After we ate this for dinner one night, there were a few people at our house for a meeting. My pastor was there and shortly after arriving he casually asked what we'd eaten for dinner that night. I briefly described this dish and we moved on. It wasn't until later that I realized he probably wasn't asking in a 'curious because she's a food blogger' way, but in a 'your house reeks, what were you cooking?' way. I've talked before about how our house has the tendency to retain cooking smells. That night I'm sure the smell of previously roasted brussels sprouts was permeating the area.

Aren't you just dying to come to my house now?!
I don't care what the effect is when you roast brussels sprouts (or kale or broccoli, for that matter, two other notoriously stinky foods)--I love them! They were perfect in this barley dish which had all sorts of good stuff happening in it--fresh cranberries, broiled until they pop, toasty almonds, and big hunks of goat cheese, all tossed in barley with splashes of maple syrup and barley. This is one of those healthy dishes that doesn't taste healthy, it doesn't leave you hungry an hour later but you won't feel heavy after digging into a big bowl of it. Just don't make it before you're planning to have company...

One Year Ago: Banana Cream Cheese Muffins
Two Years Ago: Tabbouleh

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spicy Roasted Chickpea Fajitas

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These aren't your typical fajitas. In fact, you'd probably be hard-pressed to find these on any Mexican restaurant menu. That's actually a shame, because these were really good! After making chicken quesadillas a few weekends ago, I found us left with a bunch of leftover ingredients...pretty much everything but the chicken! I was planning on picking up more when Maria posted a link to this fajita recipe that featured all of the traditional ingredients and then used roasted chickpeas in place of beef, shrimp, or chicken.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sesame Soy Spaghetti Squash with Chicken, Veggies, and Edamame

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Have you read The Hunger Games trilogy? I have to say, I resisted it for a long time...I didn't think it was my "type" of book. Finally, I gave in and decided to give them a shot. Two weeks later, I'd read all three! Although I wouldn't say they are the best books ever, they definitely engage the reader. They're brutal but addicting stories with fascinating characters. Without giving anything away, I will say I was satisfied with the ending of the series...something I'd been worrying about throughout all three books after hearing several people say they were disappointed with the ending.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

2012 Eat and Repeat: Home Wine Kitchen

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Home Wine Kitchen has been on my radar ever since it's opened last year. In June, we tried to get a reservation when my grandparents were in town visiting, but found it impossible to do so. I then vowed to return, and soon! It took me a good eight months or so, and Ryan's actually the one who surprised me with the reservation, but return we did!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Caramelized Onion Hummus

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I continue to be on a bit of a hummus kick lately. It all started with a tub of Trader Joe's hummus that I picked up recently. I don't even remember the flavor...garlic? sun-dried tomato? Whatever it was got hummus stuck on the brain and I've been whipping up a batch in the food processor every weekend and then eating it throughout the week. Most recently it was the buffalo wing hummus, which I loved, but because it's so intensely flavored I was ready to change it up. This time, I found myself with an extra-large red onion on hand. There are few things I love more than caramelized onions, and they frequently show up in dishes I make (Exhibits A, B, C, D, and E).

Friday, March 9, 2012

Black Bean & Corn Burgers

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Can we stop for a moment to admire the pictures in today's post? Normally I would never do this--my photography is decent but I have plenty of improving to do. These pictures, however, are Ryan's work, not mine. Yesterday, I woke up at 4:50, as I do on every weekday morning to get an hour of exercise in before heading to work. Within seconds of waking, I heard loud gusts of wind shaking the windows and splatting large raindrops on the skylights in our bedroom.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dried Berry Wheat Germ Muffins

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I've had two brief stints with musical instruments. The first was a year or two of the piano in elementary school. The piano fizzled out after awhile because we didn't have actually have a piano. I'm pretty sure my teacher could tell my "practicing" on our borrowed keyboard wasn't doing me any favors.

A few years later, as a freshman in high school, I signed up for a guitar class to be held in the three weeks over our Winterim session. This time around, my parents realized that the toy ukelele they'd brought back from Hawaii wasn't going to cut it. Christmas morning I opened a giant box holding my very own guitar. I diligently strummed my guitar every day for three weeks, plucking out the notes to a few random songs. Within a few weeks of the class ending, the guitar began collecting dust in the corner of my bedroom. It still sits at my parents house in some closet, just waiting for me to pick it up again someday. Third time's a charm?!
Playing a musical instrument was one hobby I couldn't keep up with. Cooking has proven to be quite different! I've come a long way in three years. My various baking sheets and muffin tins and kitchen tools are far from gathering dust (streaks of flour and sugar are another story though!). What's kept me interesting in cooking and baking is the fact that I feel like I'll never run out of recipes to try. I've already made nearly twenty different kinds of muffins and yet I'm nowhere near running out of new types to try. 
These dried berry wheat germ muffins turned out fantastic. Ryan told me several times how much he liked them. The original Cooking Light recipe called for dried cherries, but I picked up a bag of mixed dried fruit that included cherries, blueberries, plums, and cranberries. These weren't a super sweet muffin, making them a good option for breakfast with a piece of fruit. The wheat germ in them gives them an extra dose of fiber!

Readers, tell me about one of hobbies you didn't follow through on? Surely I'm not the only one to ditch a musical instrument...!

One Year Ago: Cake Batter Ice Cream
Two Years Ago: Coconut Chicken Chili