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Friday, August 31, 2012

2012: Eat and Repeat--Buttermilk Pancakes with Mascarpone, Berries, and Granola (Homemade Clara Cakes)

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After our mind-blowing brunch at Half & Half for our 2012: Eat and Repeat challenge, it was a toss-up as to which of the two entrees I was going to recreate—the Clara Cakes or the Veggie Hash with Eggs. In the end, I settled on the Clara Cakes, only because it was so different (and indulgent!) than any pancake recipe I’d ever had—at a restaurant or in my home. The Veggie Hash is still on its way, and is probably necessary after cleaning my plate of a large stack of these!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Peach Yogurt Bundt Cake and Chobani Giveaway

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Three years ago today, I decided to try my hand at blogging. Long-time readers know this was an experiment of sorts. I was looking for a distraction from my running injuries and I’d only recently begun finding my way around a kitchen. I knew nothing about blogging or photography. I wasn’t on Twitter. Pinterest wasn’t even invented.

Today, I’m still a part of the blogosphere. I’ve gotten a little better at photography and like to think I’ve at least somewhat navigated my way through blogging. I tweet, but not nearly as regularly or (dare I say) obsessively as many. Same goes for Pinterest

It’s really easy to get caught up in the comparison game in any world, the blog world included. You click on someone’s blog and wonder why their pictures are always accepted on Foodgawker, or why they got offered that free trip, or why their readers leave dozens—even hundreds—of comments. 
I’m not the best food blogger out there, and to be honest, I don’t aspire to be. I love The Sweets Life, and this space I’ve carved out for myself on the internet, and I will stay true to who I am and who this blog is. Three years in, I have a pretty good idea of what that encompasses. The truth is, I don’t have endless hours to play around in the kitchen simply for the sake of creating content. What you see on this blog is reality—it’s the food I am making, eating, and sharing—but only as it fits within the bounds of my real life. 
The food I share with you on The Sweets Life hopefully sets realistic expectations for you. That you can have a job and a social life and a long to-do list and still avoid the temptation of the drive through. That you don’t have to be an expert chef or baker, but can still throw a dinner party with confidence. That you can try a new ingredient or cooking method, simply by following directions. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

White Chocolate, Cranberry, Oatmeal Bars

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Last year after our trip to Asheville, North Carolina, I made oatmeal raisin bars, using the recipe from the bed and breakfast we had stayed at. In the post, I mentioned wanting to take the base recipe and change up some of the mix-ins, perhaps trying a white chocolate cranberry version. It took me over a year, but I finally got around to it!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Very Special Birthday

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“Wow! Ryan is so lucky!” That’s one of the first things people always say when they discover The Sweets Life and see the sheer amounts of and diversity of food coming out of our kitchen on a regular basis. I never really know what to say to that. "Yes, yes he is." (?!) "Thank you." (?!) I mean, yes, I suppose by comparison to some, he is pretty lucky. That is, if you’re okay with rarely eating the same meal twice (no matter how much you liked it the first time!) and always waiting an extra five minutes for your food while your wife takes it outside to snap a photo of it. 

The truth, however, is that I am so lucky, although I prefer to use the word blessed. Blessed to have a husband who does not complain when I need him to rush out to the grocery store mid-recipe. Blessed to have a husband who supports my hobbies enough to let me buy a brand new computer when his is the older Mac. Blessed to have a husband who steps up to do the dishes and wipe down the kitchen counters after Hurricane Sweets Life has swept through. Blessed to have a husband who will pitch in and cook on that night when I just. can’t. step foot in the kitchen. 

He might be lucky, but I am blessed! 

Today we’re celebrating that blessing, all twenty-six years of him! Unfortunately, he’s in Boston for business. No worries-there will be plenty of celebrating to come!

In Ryan’s honor, a few of his favorite recipes from The Sweets Life (accompanied by some of my favorite [awkward] pictures of the guy)…

(He hasn't turned down any ice cream I've offered thus far, but this one was a particular favorite!)

(I never expected him to like this as much as he did!)

(I've made a few versions since this verrrry old recipe, but he still claims these are his favorite!)

(He'll pick seafood over steak or chicken any day!)

(Last year's birthday dessert! Probably one of the prettiest recipes on here!)

(Ryan asks for these year round!)

(The boy eats more salsa than anyone I know...and if he had his pick, it'd always be this version!)

Happy Birthday to my most precious blessing! Here's to many more years of celebrating your life, preferably with good food!

One Year Ago: Snickerdoodle Scones

Monday, August 27, 2012

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

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A few weeks ago, two of my mom’s best girlfriends threw a couples shower for my sister Julia and her fiancĂ© Nate (13 days until the wedding!). The event was a backyard BBQ bash, and they asked that biscuits to contribute to their food spread. As I sat down to breakfast with my family the morning of the shower, we were chatting about everyone’s plans for the day when I mentioned that I needed to make some biscuits. This spurred a debate around the ins and outs of serving biscuits. Were they a breakfast food? A BBQ food? A Southern staple? Ryan strictly saw biscuits as a breakfast food, to be served with gravy, and could not get over the fact that I was bringing them for an evening meal (I guess he forgot about those goat cheese biscuits we've eaten before!).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lemon Basil Hummus

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It’s funny to think about life before my food processor. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t think a food processor is a “must have” for all kitchens; there are certainly work arounds if you don’t have the space or the budget for one. That being said, I’ve found it to be a pretty indispensable tool in my kitchen! Nearly four years ago when Ryan and I were registering for wedding gifts, I didn’t think to include it on our registry. Keep in mind, I wasn’t planning on doing a whole lot of cooking at that time. To be honest, I probably didn’t even really know what a food processor was used for! I’ve come a long way!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Odds & Ends

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1. My cousin, the uber talented Ben of My Red & Blue just recorded a music video as part of a children's ministry he helps out with. Watch it and try not to dance along...guarantee you'll be singing it all day long! Gummy All Around....Do The Bear...Do The Bear!

2. Although it's tempting to always be on the hunt for new recipes, I do dig into my archives to repeat some of our favorites. Recently, I made the Cranberry Nectarine Salad as part of our dinner with friends and I will not be waiting so long next time to remake it. I was picking at the salad leftovers long after I was full!

3. August is always full of celebration for us [see below for a classic picture from the 80's Birthday Party my sister threw us last year!], but this has really been the summer of celebration. Since May we've celebrated Mother's Day, my sister-in-law Katelyn's wedding, my sister Renatta's high school graduation, my dad's birthday, my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary, Father's Day, three wedding showers for my sister, my friend Katie's wedding, my friend Stephanie's bachelorette party, and now my birthday. In the next few weeks we have Ryan's birthday, my mom's birthday, Stephanie's wedding, and finally the grand event: my sister Julia's wedding! See why we're busy? It's been crazy but I wouldn't trade it for anything! Party. On.

4. Speaking of my friend Katie...after marrying Matt in June, he whisked her off to New York where they're now living. Ryan and I are there TODAY hanging out in the Bronx and Manhattan with them for the weekend. I couldn't be more thrilled to be spending time with one of my dearest friends! You can bet you'll be hearing about our NYC eats in an upcoming post (check out some highlights from last time we were in New York)

Two Years Ago: Banana Caramel Cake

Friday, August 24, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bars

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Does your stomach start growling between 2:30 and 3:30 every day? I find it’s around that time each day at work that I need a little ‘pick-me-up’ to power me through the final hours of the workday. I usually have an apple or another piece of fruit, but lately I found I was still hungry. You can only raid your co-workers stash of peanut butter filled pretzels so many times, and so I decided it was time to find a new afternoon snack.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bourbon BBQ Chicken

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In May I picked up a bottle of spicy BBQ sauce while eating at Rendezvous in Memphis. I couldn’t wait to come home and use it on some pulled pork. Instead, I came home and made this pulled pork with bourbon. The sauce just sat in the cabinet. Here I am, making BBQ sauce again, this time for chicken, and again with bourbon. Maybe if I add bourbon to the Rendezvous sauce I’ll be prompted to use it? In the meantime, it still patiently waits in my cabinet.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Greek Tomato Tart

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I had an extra pie crust to use up after making the tomato pie and I was tempted to make the tomato pie again, but I was out of mozzarella. We did have some feta hanging out in our fridge and I typed “pie crust, tomato, feta” into Google and it spit out this recipe from Real Simple magazine. Thanks to the thyme growing like crazy in my backyard herb garden all I needed were the olives!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Guest Post - PB Cup Cheesecake Chocolate Layer Cake

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This is more of a hijacking than a true guest post. You see, this is Natalie's husband, Ryan, and on her birthday I felt it would only be appropriate to gush about the love of my life the way she writes about others on their birthdays. Although 26 isn't necessarily a "special" birthday, Natalie is a special person (in case you haven't already figured that out from reading this blog) and deserves a few quick words.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Green Bean and Prosciutto Salad Bundles

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These green bean and prosciutto salad bundles are so fancy looking! You know when you find gorgeous pictures of food on Pinterest and no matter how hard you try, it just doesn’t look the same in your own kitchen? This isn’t one of those. These really are very easy to assemble and are sure to impress the folks at your next dinner party or gathering with friends. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hot Caprese Dip

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The problem with appetizers is that you often are so excited about the spicy stuffed mushrooms or the blue cheese stuffed bacon-wrapped dates that you find yourself totally full before dinner is served. I’ve found the best way to remedy this is to just skip dinner altogether and spend the evening feasting on appetizers! Once every couple of weeks, usually with friends, we hang out at home with appetizers, cocktails, and board games….totally my kind of Friday night! 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Odds & Ends

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1. I'm thankful for friends that make recipes off of The Sweets Life and invite me over to enjoy them. I don't remake recipes all that often, even my favorites, so I was thrilled to go over to my friend Maggie's recently and chow down on Buffalo Chicken Cheese Bites and Southwest Potato Nachos. Ultimate party foods, both of them!

2. A month or two ago, Champion sent me two sports bras. They've done enough reading of The Sweets Life to notice I have a thing for fitness and offered to send the Sweetheart and the Custom Criss-Cross (below). I was already a huge fan of Champion's sports bras...I have a hard time resisting a new one each time I'm at Target! They're the most comfortable I've encountered and I love that they come in neon colors! Champion has recently rolled out a new website that includes a bra finder to help you find which one of their many sports bras is best for you...check it out! Also--stay tuned for an upcoming Champion giveaway!

3. We've been to Taste for Happy Hour a few times in the past several weeks. This is THE place for cocktails in St. Louis and while we occasionally fork over the $10 / drink, it's nice to go on Mondays for their $6 classic cocktails. My obsession as of late? El Diablo: Milagro Blanco Tequila, Briottet Cassis Liqueur, Lime, Ginger Beer. Perfect summer cocktail! St. Louisans (or those in town for a visit)--don't miss out on this place! (I reviewed some of their food in this post)

4. I was recently introduced to the magic that is Schwarzkopf Dust It. I hate my hair, pretty much always have, but this magic dust has allowed me to at least tolerate it lately. It's a dream for those who have fine, flat hair (aka ME). Best $10 I've spent lately! Thank you Heidi for the recommendation!
image from Amazon

Friday, August 17, 2012

Peach, Avocado, and Arugula Panzanella

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I absolutely hate losing things. I am still plagued by the Lion King watch I lost in the girl’s locker room in fourth grade. Similarly, I lost a black skirt that my mom bought me freshman year of high school to wear to my choir concerts. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes replay those instances over and over in my head, trying to figure out how these items disappeared. More recently, it was a stack of recipes I’d ripped out from magazines along with some handwritten pages of recipes I’d copied down while home at my parents’ house. I used them to meal plan on the trip back to St. Louis, remember sticking them in something, and unpacking that evening, only to find them nowhere to be found. I have searched every pocket and every bag but they have yet to appear.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chicken Zucchini Pasta

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In December, Ryan will finally finish school and receive his MBA. It’s been a long journey and we are SO excited to get our lives back. Much as this degree is a good thing and a great benefit of our employer, school has been a major time suck, stealing Ryan away for class two nights a week and multiple other hours throughout the week for homework, group projects, and studying. December will be here before we know it though, and I’m sure we’ll then find other ways to be crazy busy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Buffalo Sloppy Joes

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Before my brother moved to St. Louis for the summer, he mentioned that he’d like my sister and I to teach him how to cook. He’ll be living off-campus in a house next year and won’t be able to take advantage of the dining hall anymore. I had dreams of Quinn as my sous chef for the summer, chopping and stirring and learning in the process. Major. Sister. Fail. I did plenty of cooking this summer. He did plenty of eating this summer. There was a disconnect somewhere between the two!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Amaretto Blondies

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I cherish time with my college girlfriends. These are the girls who were with me as I awkwardly and naively navigated my first year at Truman State University. They cheered me up when I got my heart broken, took me to the doctor when my face was swollen from a root canal, and made sure I got home safely on my twenty-first birthday. When you spend four years in such close proximity, you form somewhat of an unbreakable bond, no matter how busy you get or what direction your life takes!