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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Pudding Mix Blondies

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I used to buy pudding mix (chocolate, usually), mix it with milk, and eat it straight from the mixing bowl. Now I buy it to use in fruit dip or chocolate chip cookies. Knowing that it is so magical in the cookies, I was curious to see if it had the same effect on blondies. I had a few nearly empty bags of baking chips (white chocolate, chocolate, and butterscotch) and decided to throw them all in.

 The consensus? These were good, but not my favorite blondies ever (that spot obviously belongs to the cake batter blondies). I left them in the oven a few minutes too long, due to some multi-tasking that left my hands covered in raw meat. It didn’t keep us from polishing off the batch in three days. What’s nice about these is that you can throw virtually anything in there—nuts, coconut, dried fruit, whatever you have on hand!

Any other unique uses for pudding mix out there?

One Year Ago: Best of 2011-Pappy's Smokehouse
Two Years Ago: Parmesan Baked Artichokes

Pudding Mix Blondies
adapted from my Secret Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookies

-2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
-3/4 cup brown sugar
-1/4 cup granulated sugar
-2 eggs
-1 tsp vanilla
-2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
-1 packet instant vanilla pudding (the small package)
-1 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp salt
-2 cups mix-ins (I used a combo of butterscotch, white, and chocolate chips, plus toasted coconut)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan and set aside.
2. Cream butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the eggs, beating to combine. Mix in the pudding mix.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, beating until combined. Stir in the mix-ins.
4. Spread dough in prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until edges are set but middle is still slightly gooey (you don't want to overbake!)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Pineapple Spread

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When you’re hosting a party, it’s all about balancing the food options…particularly when it comes to appetizers. You have to balance the number of hot and cold options, the number of dips, the number that can be made ahead of time…you get the picture. Are my mom and I the only ones like this? When planning my little sister’s graduation party, this was something we talked through, like the party planning / food lover crazies we are!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cabbage and Corn Slaw with Cilantro and Orange Dressing

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Have you noticed that cole slaw is hit or miss? I’ve had some downright delicious slaws (most recently at the Cardinals game, actually) and then some that I find completely gross. This one—featuring a dressing made from orange juice concentrate, rice vinegar, and oil—falls on the delicious end of the spectrum.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Saucy Onion Meatball Subs with Pepperjack

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I think I’m starting to understand the desire grandparents have to spoil their children. My brother Quinn is living in St. Louis for the summer while he does an internship and I feel compelled to spoil him. Suddenly I’m buying cans of Dr. Pepper and extra junk food on my weekly grocery trip. I’m afraid I’m setting him up for future (wrong) expectations about dinner (and a can of Dr. Pepper) magically appearing anytime you walk in the house and your dishes being taken care of without you even having to lift a finger. I can’t help it, I love the boy. In his defense, he never ever fails to say thank you! 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with Sea Salt

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My sister made these cookies for the Cookies & Milk Shower that we threw a few months ago. I stuck the leftovers in the freezer with all of my other leftover cookies, with plans to serve them at church the following week. The thin mints made it to church, the chocolate chip cookies made it to church, even the peanut butter butterscotch cookies lasted the week. These? These didn’t stand a chance.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Parmesan, Pea Pesto, and Fresh Herb Pizza

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Have you noticed that community tables are all the rage in restaurants lately? A nosy, people-watcher like myself loves this. Ryan’s always embarrassed because I’m always engrossed in the conversations around me and am sometimes less than subtle about my eavesdropping ways. Such was the case recently on a business trip to Seattle, when my friend Juli and I stopped in for dinner at Serious Pie, home of some of my all-time favorite pizza.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sourdough Pizza Crust

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I’m an equal opportunist when it comes to pizza crust. Thick, thin, whole wheat, cornmeal, I’ll take it all. I’ve even used polenta before! Sourdough is one I don’t think I’d yet tried…until I once again found myself needing to use my sourdough starter. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Beet Hummus

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My beet love is still going strong. I still had one fully cooked beet from Melissa’s Produce hanging out in my fridge when I stumbled upon a recipe for Beet Hummus in Prevention Magazine. Weird, maybe, but I’ve had good success with other strange flavors (edamame hummus and buffalo hummus, for starters).

Friday, June 22, 2012

Southwestern Turkey Burgers

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Much as I love the thin buns for burgers, they do make a sad looking burger picture. There’s just something more appetizing about a picture of a burger sitting atop a fluffy bun. Am I right? Don’t be fooled, though, these burgers don’t need a giant bun and a drool-worthy picture to prove their worth.

Although I love a good beef burger, I like that you can so easily mix up the flavor of turkey burgers by using different spice mixture. These Southwestern burgers pack a little bit of heat, between the cumin, chili powder, and pepperjack cheese (you could also use cheddar for a more mild flavor).  We topped these with a chipotle ketchup—just ketchup mixed with chopped chipotle peppers and a bit of cumin. Eaten on our patio with my brother, sister, and (almost) brother-in-law, these were a great summer meal!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Blueberry Salsa

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This isn't the first time I've dappled in a salsa featuring fruit. There's the ever-popular fruit salsa served with cinnamon pita chips and that time I topped salmon with a tomato peach salsa. In both cases, the salsa was more sweet than savory. This blueberry salsa broke the mold a little bit. You think blueberries, you think sweet, right? Add an entire jalapeno and suddenly you've got spicy blueberry salsa! Amazingly, the original recipe called for TWO whole jalapenos. I mistakenly only picked up one from the store, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise...our mouths were fiery enough with the addition of one!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Cups

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Make a buffalo chicken themed appetizer and I guarantee it'll be the first to go. Well, I take that back, if you have this spinach and artichoke dip with bacon around, it might be a toss up. Point is, people tend to go crazy for anything buffalo chicken! I made these buffalo chicken cups for my sister Renatta's graduation party a few weeks ago and sure enough, these were the first to disappear from the spread of appetizers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream

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This ice cream is the color of red wine and at first glance, Chocolate Raspberry probably isn’t the flavor combination you’d assume. Grape, maybe, which might have been what Ryan was anticipating when I walked into the study and stuck a spoonful of it in his mouth before he had a chance to protest (a common occurrence in our household). His initial reaction was one of great surprise because, like I said, he clearly wasn’t expecting chocolate OR raspberry. Confusion quickly turned to satisfaction when he recognized the two flavors, which already have a history of pairing together wonderfully.
Unlike most ice creams that hail from my kitchen, this one wasn’t overwhelming sweet. It tastes like dessert, no doubt, but the flavor is a little richer than you might expect. This is one flavor I couldn’t eat a giant bowlful of, but is perfectly delightful in small servings (a blessing in disguise?!).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Creamy Mushroom Fettucine Florentine

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This is the type of meal that you serve when you invite friends over for dinner when you don't have a ton of time to prep and cook, but ordering from the local pizza joint just won't suffice. In other words, this pasta looks and tastes fancier than it actually is...always a good thing! Last time I was home, my mom and I spent most of the day prepping for my baby sister's high school graduation party. Dinner was the last thing on our minds, but we knew come seven o'clock the rest of the family would start lingering in the kitchen, questioning what was for dinner (Six years ago, this would have been me...entering the kitchen in time for eating only, no cooking!).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

University City Patch Reviews

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On this Father's Day, I hope you have the chance to celebrate the men in your lives who are fathers (and grandfathers and father-like figures and etc, etc!). I'm lucky enough to be spending time with my own dad, my grandpa, and later today, my father-in-law. My dad is one of my very favorite people and I couldn't be more proud to call myself his daughter. Dad, thank you for living a life of faith, of generosity, and of humor. I love you so very much!

Instead of sharing a new recipe with you today, I'm highlighting some of my restaurant reviews I've done for the University City Patch. I typically visit one new to me U City restaurant a month and write a review for the Patch. (Disclaimer, I'm no expert restaurant reviewer...I simply share my thoughts and experiences based on one visit! Take or leave my opinion!) This post is geared more toward my St. Louis readers, in the hopes that you'll check out some of the great restaurants St. Louis (University City in particular) has to offer. As for those of you who plan to visit St. Louis...and you should, we have much more to offer in addition to great food!, hopefully this post and my collection of restaurant reviews all around St. Louis will be helpful!

Nico, where I tried beignets for the first time and fell in love with their brunch menu!

Gokul Indian Food, where I stuffed my face with their naan!

Winslow's Home, where the atmosphere is just as amazing as the food!

One Year Ago: Asian Broccoli Salad with Sesame Ginger Salad (this makes a ton and is great with some chicken thrown in!)

Two Years Ago: Coconut Lime Snowballs

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Oatmeal Pancakes

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I hear from a tiny fraction of the people reading The Sweets Life on a daily basis. Thanks to things like Google Analytics and Feedburner, I have a pretty good idea of how many people are visiting each day or receiving my daily email...and very very few of those people leave comments or contact me via Twitter/Facebook/Email, etc. I don't mind--I don't often comment on blogs that I read simply because I'm too busy and if I were to comment on every blog post I enjoyed, I wouldn't ever have time to do my own blogging! That being said, it's always a treat to hear from readers...and so it was recently, when I finally met my mom's friend Chris.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sourdough Bread Bouquet

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My gardener (aka Ryan) has successfully kept our herbs alive despite frequent travels and high temperatures. This would probably be a good moment to interject with an aside about how blessed I’ve been to marry Ryan. Despite my complete refusal to do any and all yard work (hopefully my dad isn’t reading this because he did not raise me this way! I’ll blame the fact that I was basically mowing the lawn from the womb and am therefore burnt out on yard work), he loves me anyway. Oh, AND he spends hours working on our yard every week, which includes watering and maintaining the fresh herbs I insist on having. I’m spoiled, I know.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Green Beans with Tomatoes, Almonds, Feta, and Balsamic

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There’s nothing like watching your husband eat a salad called The Thin Man while you chow down on a two scoop sundae completely with hot fudge and whipped cream to make you feel a little gluttonous. Such was the case a few weeks ago, when we spent the evening at The Fountain on Locust with our church community group. To be fair, Ryan helped eat my sundae after he polished off The Thin Man and I promise I ate a healthyish dinner before I arrived, not just the ice cream!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Baked Lemon Buttermilk Donuts

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One year after buying my donut pan, I finally used it! Granted, I pulled it out to make these muffin tops, but for the better part of the year, it’s been clogging up space in my cupboard. The thing is, I’m not a huge donut fan. I think the occasional donut is enjoyable, but I find muffins and coffee cakes much more appealing when it comes to breakfast sweets. Donuts were all the rage around the blogosphere, which is what convinced me to buy the pan last summer. After finally using the pan, I’m starting to see why!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Feta, Mustard Greens, and Tomato Chutney Pizza

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Sometimes our pizza combinations, like that awesome BLT pizza, are the result of recreating something I had in a restaurant. Sometimes it’s a matter of taking whatever ingredients we can find in the fridge and throwing it on a pizza that we then stick in the grill. This pizza went a little something like this:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lemony Grilled Potato Salad

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Every time I plan to get on an airplane, I’m forced with a choice: do I refrain from all liquids before and during the flight, resulting in dehydration, or do I come to terms with being “that girl” that gets up every hour to use the airplane restroom? More often than not, I do my best to secure an aisle seat, make those frequent trips to the restroom, and try not to think about how gross airplane bathrooms are.

This has absolutely nothing to do with this potato salad, except that I’m writing this while on a flight from Seattle to Chicago. One and a half hours down, two bathroom trips in, and two and a half hours to go. As you can see, I’ve been cursed with a miniature bladder.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

2012 Eat and Repeat: Spicy Squash Pickles

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I don’t remember the first time I ate a pickle, but I know it was in the last two or three years. Year after year after year I had asked for them to be removed from hamburgers or sandwiches. You would never find a jar of pickles in my refrigerator, and if one was served to me, I immediately handed it off to Ryan or my sister. Again, I don’t know what prompted me to give one a try, but I’ve been hooked ever since one passed my lips. I’m now the obnoxious person asking for extra pickles or sneaking it off of your plate when you aren’t looking.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sweet Potato and Kale Bites

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I struggled to photograph these little guys, but don't judge a food by how photogenic it is! In this case, let's blame the photographer, and trust me when I say these one-bite morsels are a new favorite side dish! My coworker passed the recipe along to me in an email, mentioning that she reads the blog daily and has come to pick up on two of my favorite foods (sweet potatoes and kale) and that she thought of me when she came across the recipe.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Grilled Corn and Avocado Salad

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As I've mentioned recently, Ryan's been out of town for a number of reasons over the past couple of months. Typically when he's gone I don't mind a day or two to myself. I watch marathons of Glee on Hulu while baking for hours in the kitchen. I sprawl across our bed, and don't worry about stealing the covers. I eat ice cream for dinner. After so many hours with me, myself, and I, there comes a point where I start to get tired of talking to myself. Last time Ryan was gone, our friends Mike and Maggie took pity on me and invited me over for dinner.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

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I love what buttermilk does to muffins, breads, even cookies (!), so I was very intrigued when I was flipping through the pages of my Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home book and saw that this ice cream included buttermilk. I had already made strawberry cheesecake ice cream, as part of my peanut butter and jelly ice cream cheesecakes, but this was a completely different version, and with strawberries begging to be purchased every time I visit the grocery store, I couldn't resist!