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Monday, April 30, 2012

Citrus Almond Salad

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There is no end to salad recipes on The Sweets Life. The beauty of salads is that you can toss most varieties of nuts, cheeses, fruits, or vegetables together with a vinaigrette to match and you find yourself with a new creation! This particular salad recipe came from Always Superb, a cookbook I'm frequently finding great recipes in.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Recipe Ideas for Cinco de Mayo

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Do you plan to celebrate Cinco de Mayo? It's a "holiday" I never gave a 2nd thought to, until a few years ago when my brother-in-law started throwing a Cuatro de Mayo party. It's become somewhat of an annual tradition, so we'll be heading to Justin and Erin's house in a few days for margaritas and Mexican eats.

In case you DO celebrate Cinco (or Cuatro) de Mayo, or you're just looking for some new Mexican recipes to try, here are a few of my favorites...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Thin Mint Brownies

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A few weeks ago, Ryan and I hosted a small group of college students from Saint Louis University at our house for dinner. Our church meets near SLU and we have a few students who attend regularly, so we thought it'd be fun to have them and a few of their friends over for a meal. Ryan and I aren't so far out of college that we've forgotten how awesome it is to get a (free!) meal that isn't from a dining hall or a fast food restaurant.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Slow Cooker Whiskey Pulled Pork

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One of my biggest frustrations with slow cooker meals is that many of them require cooking in the slow cooker for somewhere between 4 and 6 hours. This is pretty much impossible when I'm away at work and out of the house for anywhere from 9-10 hours every day. I know I've mentioned this before, because I had a kind reader email me and give me instructions on how to set up a timing device on my crockpot. While I intend to eventually get around to this, in the meantime I've tried to stick to recipes with longer cooking times.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Salty Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

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At the end of last month we had a "Meet the Parents" weekend. Thankfully, there were no Ben Stiller talking about cat nipples antics or family sports games leading to bloody noses (my apologies if you've never seen the movie Meet the Parents and have no idea what I'm talking about!). And instead of a man meeting his future in-laws, it was two sets of in-laws meeting each other.

Remember last November, when my sister got engaged and I threw them a pizza party? It was finally time for both Nate's parents and Julia's parents (aka my parents) to meet each other. Since we're also in St. Louis and spend quite a bit of time with both Nate and Julia, it only made sense that Ryan and I were included in the weekend festivities!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2012 Eat and Repeat: Arugula Salad with Browned Butter Vinaigrette

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A delicious explosion. That's what we'll call the near-disaster that took place in my kitchen the evening I decided to recreate Home Wine Kitchen's arugula salad tossed in brown butter. In case you're a new reader, I've taken on a challenge for 2012 that I've dubbed Eat and Repeat. The premise is simple, visit 6 new restaurants in St. Louis (taken from STL Mag's list of 25 Best New Restaurants). On the months I'm not trying a restaurant, I attempt to recreate something in The Sweets Life kitchen that we enjoyed out.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Turkey Burger Sliders

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My "real" job, as in the one I spend 40+ hours a week out of the house at, and my blog job don't overlap very often. I love both and work very hard at both, but I typically keep them in their separate spheres, with a few exceptions (such as wooing Ryan's coworkers with leftover baked goods--we work at the same company, and chatting with a few close work friends about blog happenings). A few months ago my manager discovered my blog, via another co-worker, and put me in touch with his wife, who was in the beginning stages of starting her own food-themed blog.

Karen and her brother Kevin have started Extraordinary BBQ, a blog featuring all things BBQ, from recipes to grilling tips to information about BBQ competitions. A frequent competitor himself, Kevin is a wealth of BBQ knowledge to share and Karen mans all of the 'behind the scenes' blog work (can we talk about how sweet of a deal this is?! As a blogger, I can appreciate the fact that someone's doing all of those little things!).
Anyway, long story short is that it's been a blast getting to know my manager's wife (who actually isn't my manager anymore, given a recent job change I made at work) and bouncing blog ideas back and forth. I was eager to give one of their recipes a try, especially after drooling over post after post of smoked meat fresh off the grill! Although I have every intention of giving some of their true "BBQ" recipes a try, I started with something a little more familiar: turkey burgers. We love turkey burgers and I'm always looking for new ways to flavor them. I was particularly intrigued by the use of maple syrup in this one, something I'd never seen before!

These did not disappoint one bit! I loved the slightly sweet undertone that the maple syrup gave the burgers and the added moisture it provided made these anything but dry or flavorless. We topped ours with muenster cheese and roasted red pepper relish from these goat-cheese stuffed burgers (another favorite!) and had teriyaki pasta salad (without the chicken) on the side. The perfect spring/summer meal! Next time you're planning to grill out turkey burgers, remember the tip from Extraordinary BBQ and get out your maple syrup!

Looking for other turkey burger recipes? Try Apple Cheddar Turkey Burgers, Asian Turkey Sliders, Greek Turkey Burgers, or Thai Turkey Burgers!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Brownie Macadamia White Chocolate Cookies

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I've been hoarding some macadamia nuts in my pantry for awhile now. Last year I made White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies (to die for!) and discovered just how pricey they were. Since then, I've been veeeeery selective about how I use the nuts, wanting to save them for only the very best recipes!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

National Pecan Month

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Did you know April is National Pecan Month?! I didn't, until I stumbled across this piece of information on a 'food holidays' website. In light of this, I decided to take today to share some of my favorite uses for pecans!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Banana Nut Bread Waffles

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I'm good at a lot of things, but relaxing is not one of them. I like the idea of relaxing and I spend many of my days wishing I had more time to relax, but the fact of the matter is, my extremely type-A, scheduled, achievement-driven personality tends to get in the way. I am who I am and most of the time I relish at the opportunities I have to be busy and involved in so many different things. Sometimes, however, I need to put aside all responsibilities for a few hours, forget the to-do lists, and just be.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Orange Sour Cream Muffins with Poppy Seed Streusel

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One of my all-time favorite breads (errr cakes?!)--simply named Poppyseed Bread--features both poppyseeds and citrus, so when I saw this recipe for muffins in my Cooking Light cookbook, I knew I had to try it. With orange zest and a poppyseed streusel, PLUS buttermilk and sour cream, this had all the makings of a magic muffin.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Braided Cherry Danish

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After my braided garlic herb bread, I couldn’t resist trying a sweeter braid. I’ve long had Julie’s raspberry almond breakfast bread bookmarked, but since I had some extra cherry pie filling on hand (from the mini cheesecakes), I switched up the filling a bit.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cheddar, Bacon and Spinach Egg Casserole

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Just when I thought I couldn't possibly find another egg dish to add to the collection on The Sweets Life, this one came along. Egg casseroles are the perfect main dish when you're serving a crowd for breakfast and brunch--they can be made ahead of time, they're relatively inexpensive to make, and you can find an adaptation for whatever picky eaters you might be feeding. Chicken sausage and apple? Kale and potato? Asparagus, mushroom, and goat cheese? Sausage, sundried tomatoes, and mozzarella?

And now this one, which features cheddar, bacon, and spinach. This one is breadless, creamless, and heavy on the cottage cheese and spinach, making it a bit lighter than many egg dishes out there. The bacon was my addition to the original, and though I thought it was the perfect touch, it'd be just as satisfying meat-free.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Greens, Beans, and Chicken Panini

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Now that I'm trying to regularly make sourdough from scratch, I can't get enough of the stuff! I've been on the hunt for new panini recipes, as this seems to be my favorite way to use the sourdough. Not only do paninis make for a quick and easy lunch or dinner, but there's something about warm sandwiches that feels fancier...or is that just me? The only downside to a panini hot off the press is that I always manage to scrape the roof of my mouth...toasty bread tends to get a little scratchy. Clearly I'm willing to suffer through, because my rate of panini-making has only increased lately!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

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If I don't plan out our meals for the week, things tend to go haywire. Although I leave some flexibility in our meal plan each week, it's crucial that I have an idea of what we'll eat each night. Otherwise I find myself getting hungry, with no plan for dinner in mind. Then I start getting crabby, which isn't fun for anyone (namely Ryan). At this point I usually resort to a giant bowl of popcorn or cheese and crackers, which isn't necessarily the most satisfying dinner.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tiramisu Ice Cream

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Ice cream season is back in full swing in The Sweets Life kitchen.

Okay, in all honesty, there is no ice cream season…it’s more of a staple. When I found myself with leftover mascarpone from the tiramisu cupcakes, I had a brilliant idea: tiramisu ice cream! David Lebowitz’s recipe, as I found on Tracey’s blog, called for mascarpone blended with sugar. Since the leftover cupcake filling was already mixed with powdered sugar, I modified the recipe slightly. My version is below, and it ended up working out just fine (although it didn’t yield as big of a batch as my normal ice cream recipes, so if you’re wanting a lot of it, check out Tracey’s variation).

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Favorite Spring Dishes

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I thought I'd take today to pull a few of my favorite Spring recipes from the archives to share with those of you who maybe weren't reading last year. It's easy for recipes to get lost in the hundreds on The Sweets Life, but those listed below deserve a second mention!

Curried Sweet Potato Chickpea Burgers--'Tis the season of grilling, but for those of you craving a meatless burger, these are just the thing!
Raisin and Pine Nut Asparagus--I love asparagus and find myself buying it weekly when it's in season...this is one of my all-time favorite ways to prepare it!
No Bake Banana Split Pie--As temperatures rise, you might try to cut back on using the oven...no worries, this bright and colorful dessert is no bake!
Honey Mint Glazed Chicken--This chicken is the perfect weeknight or weekend meal when you're wanting to grill and enjoy dinner on the patio!
Blueberry Streusel Bars with Lemon Cream Filling--Berries are back! These dessert bars feature blueberries and lemon and scream Spring!

One Year Ago: Chocolate Bird's Nest Cookies (Easter has passed, but these are still a fun "Spring-like" treat!)
Two Years Ago: Lucky Charms Treats

Friday, April 13, 2012

BBQ Chicken Pizza

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For years, I couldn't stomach the thought of BBQ chicken pizza. After an unfortunate incident on a trip to Washington D.C. about ten years ago, BBQ chicken pizza and Krispy Kreme donuts were added to the (rather short) list of "Foods Natalie Refuses to Eat". Although I'm still avoiding Krispy Kreme donuts, I finally gave the pizza another try recently. The last time I went to book club, Dewey's, one of my favorite places in St. Louis to get pizza, was on the menu and the Southwest BBQ Chicken pizza looked too good to resist!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tiramisu Cupcakes

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Once again, I found myself with a desire to make cupcakes. And once again I was reminded that I cannot pipe frosting for the life of me. Seriously, who is going to come teach me how to make beautifully iced cupcakes? I’ll feel like a failure of a food blogger until I master this!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans

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Are you as skeptical of cooking dried beans as I am, or used to be? For a long time I refused to do so. I knew making dried beans instead of using canned would be cheaper, but I preferred the convenience of breaking out my can opener. That is, until I finally gave it a go with these Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans and I've since changed my mind!

These seriously couldn't have been any easier. I started by soaking the dried beans overnight in a large stockpot. The next morning, I drained them and poured them into my crockpot with the remaining ingredients (all 5 of them!) and left them to cook all day when I was at work. We came home to perfectly cooked beans that were already flavored and ready to be used.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chocolate Marshmallow Butterscotch Bars

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The original name for these bars is marshmallow brownies. They actually appear on the very, very early days of The Sweets Life in a post I'm embarrassed to link to. Everything about it, terrible photography first and foremost, screams "NEWBIE!". Thankfully, I've come a long way and I don't mind occasionally heading deep into the archives to appreciate just how much I've improved.