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Sunday, June 30, 2013

10 Meals to Bring New Moms!

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I'm at the stage of life where it seems a lot of my girlfriends are starting to have kids. As a result, I feel like every month I'm making a meal and dropping it off at a new mom's house. The following meals are those that I've actually brought families, all of which have been well-received. Thanks to websites like Take Them a Meal, you can often see what others are bringing, which helps ensure that the new family receives a variety and isn't stuck eating baked pasta for three weeks in a row! Even better, some of these can be frozen, meaning the family can freeze them until they're ready to eat them!

Without further ado...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Odds & Ends

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1. If you live in St. Louis, near St. Louis, or are visiting St. Louis, check out STL Mag's favorite patios! I am all about outdoor dining and while it listed a few of my favorite patios in the area (Vin de Set, Winslow's Home), it also listed a ton that I need to try!

2. A random Google search recently led me to this Seasonal Produce Guide on Martha Stewart's website, and I'm kind of loving it. Not only does it tell you what's available by season, but it also gives you loads of recipes for each of those ingredients (i.e. 44 blueberry recipes or 76 zucchini recipes). I'm kind of excited to use this as another meal-planning tool!

3. I'm getting better about going back and re-making old favorites from The Sweets Life. One dish I'm dying to remake? This caprese tart with basil-garlic crust. It's one of our summer staples, especially with our crazy large basil plants, and it's begging to be re-photographed!

4. By now you've probably heard that Google Reader is going away TOMORROW. I'm still kind of surprised and will forever miss the ease and simplicity of the reader, but thankfully there are other options. Based on tons of feedback I've read, I'd recommend following The Sweets Life via feedly or bloglovin. Of course, if you haven't been using a reader and instead come straight to the site, please continue doing so, or feel free to subscribe to the daily emails!

One Year Ago: Pineapple Cracker Spread
Two Years Ago: Blueberry Streusel Bars with Lemon Cream Filling
Three Years Ago: Sour Cream Pancakes

Friday, June 28, 2013

Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad with Orange Avocado Dressing

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With the Fourth of July just around the corner, you're likely starting to make plans with friends and family and I'm willing to bet they revolve around food. Whether you're grilling chicken or hamburgers, or going to a picnic or a pool party, this is one salad you want on our menu. 
This salad is unique in that the dressing is creamy, but without any mayo or oil or any of the other usual suspects. Instead, a simple combination of avocado, orange juice, and green onions makes for a smooth, creamy dressing with loads of flavor and healthy fats! 

Slicing the asparagus is a bit tedious, but the thin slices of the raw vegetable provide a nice contrast to the other elements of the salad. I mistakenly picked up honey goat cheese instead of regular but we all agreed honey was the way to go. The cheese started to coat the greens in such a way that the dressing almost wasn't necessary...except that it was too good to exclude! Adding some chopped nuts would be another great addition to this perfect summer salad! Enjoy! 

One Year Ago: Cabbage and Corn Slaw with Cilantro Orange Dressing
Two Years Ago: Greek Cucumber Salad
Three Years Ago: Twelve in Ten Challenge - Local Harvest

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Curried Egg Salad

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A few years ago I couldn’t have even stomached the thought of egg salad. All I could picture when someone mentioned the words were globs of mayo and hard-boiled egg yolks, which, to me, were one of the nastiest foods ever. I pride myself on not being a picky eater, however, so it was high time I challenge some of these previous dislikes.
There was the avocado egg salad, in which I discovered that I actually do like hard-boiled eggs, especially when combined with creamy avocados. Then there was Ina Garten’s chicken salad, which completely changed my mind when it comes to mayonnaise (I’ve already made this a few times since—still love it!). It only seemed natural to combine the two. I threw some curry powder in for good measure and to win Ryan over, who is still a little skeptical of mayo. The finished product was a little untraditional, including both raisins and chopped cucumbers, but I think I can say I like egg salad…at least this version of it!

Much like the chicken salad, the mayo is light enough to be flavor enhancing but not chunky or gloppy (ew). You could serve this open faced on toasted bread or atop salad greens, but we preferred it stuffed in whole-wheat pita pockets. Hey egg salad, you’re alright!

One Year Ago: Saucy Onion Meatball Subs with Pepperjack
Two Years Ago: Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Strawberry Syrup
Three Years Ago: Strawberry Cream Puff Cake

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cranberry Apple Butter Bars

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It wasn’t until after I made these that I realized I’d already made something fairly similar fairly recently. I suppose they have their differences. Shortbread vs. an oat crust, raspberry jam vs. a homemade cranberry jam (mixed with apple butter!). The end result is the same, though. In other words, a fruity, buttery bar that is, to put it simply, quite irresistible. Much as I love a dense chocolate brownie, sometimes you can’t beat a bar dessert like these!

I realize that these might seem a little out of season, using fresh cranberries and apple butter. Much as they’d be perfect come September or October, no one seemed to have any problem enjoying them in June! Those frozen cranberries finally came in handy (and you need apple butter to make these flatbreads anyway). In other words, find yourself these two (semi-unseasonal) ingredients pronto—these are a must make!
Two Years Ago: Amaretto Fruit Dip
Three Years Ago: Cheesecake Cookies

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Spinach Bacon Cheese Calzones

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 If you're anything like me, you never, ever get sick of pizza. If you are under the unfortunate circumstance of having a child or a spouse or a roommate who isn't quite as pizza obsessed, maybe you can sneakily get away with yet another night of pizza for dinner by making them calzones instead!
These have all the right elements of pizza, just a little mixed up. While you can stuff them with any of your favorite pizza toppings, I kept things simple--spinach and bacon in a ricotta/mozzarella mixture. Sauce was served on the side for dipping, which is perfect if you know someone who hates tomato sauce (ahem. my sister Renatta!).
Make them. Freeze them. And pull them out when that pizza craving strikes!
And if you haven't already, you've gotta try grilling them!!

One Year Ago: Parmesan, Pea Pesto, and Fresh Herb Pizza
Two Years Ago: Asparagus Goat Cheese Gratin
Three Years Ago: No Bake Peanut Butter Balls

Monday, June 24, 2013

Baby Potatoes with Tomato Corn Saute

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In our house, we buy way more sweet potatoes than any other variety. I never run out of ways to use them, in part because we're always turning to sweet potato hash when we need a quick meal. When I buy other potatoes, I find myself having to search for ways to finish the bag. It's not that we don't like them, and I know there are a million ways to prepare them, I just struggle to use them before they go back.
Lucky for me, the June issue of Cooking Light featured 4 different potato side dishes, meaning I won't have this problem for a little while now! This is the first of the four that I tried and if all else fails we can make this again and again. This side dish is quintessentially summer to me, as is anything with corn and tomatoes. It's simple, and oh so tasty, with just about any grilled entree!  
One Year Ago: Sourdough Pizza Crust
Two Years Ago: Pineapple Brown Sugar Frozen Yogurt
Three Years Ago: Corn and Black Bean Salsa

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Where the Wild Things Are Shower (Finding Time in 2013: Fondant)

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 I’m going to be an aunt! My sister-in-law Erin is due with her first baby, Eoin (pronounced Owen) Wayne in a little less than two months. Depending on when baby Eoin decides to make his appearance, we just might share a birthday!
To celebrate the new member of the family, we recently threw Erin a Where the Wild Things Are shower, to coincide with hers and Justin’s favorite children’s book and their nursery theme. When I say “threw a shower”, I really mean that Erin’s family did all of the work and planning. My other sister-in-law and I just took on the one area we knew we could manage: dessert!
We did lots of scheming via text message and secret Pinterest boards before coming up with our plans. For the main event, we knew red velvet, Erin’s favorite, had to be involved. Thanks to Bridget's super helpful red velvet cake comparison, we ended up using Apple a Day’s red velvet cupcake recipe. Red  velvet cupcakes are gorgeous on their own, but Kate took things to a whole new level with the “Wild Things-esque” crowns she made for each of the cupcakes to sit in. Finished with a book-themed topper, they could not have looked more impressive on the cupcake tower!
Since Erin’s side of the family is huge, we knew we needed a second dessert. Both Kate and I prefer to make (and eat) cake over cupcakes, and decided to try our hand at something new to both of us: fondant. Kate made the fondant from scratch the day before we baked and we nervously set out to use it in our decorating. We used my dark chocolate cake with hot chocolate buttercream as the base and then used this blog post’s pictures to fashion a monster face out of the fondant. We ended up with dyed fingers and sticky hands, but the finished product was a huge success!
The desserts tasted as good as they looked and we were surprised to find ourselves with no leftovers—most people couldn’t resist trying both a cupcake and a piece of cake! Of course, the treats didn’t end there. For favors, we settled on monster cookies, figuring most people can’t resist chocolate, peanut butter, and M&Ms (spoiler: we were right!). Erin’s sister-in-law Jamie made us adorable labels to accompany the cookie bags and we sent each of the thirty plus guests on their way with a little something to help continue their sugar high.
Kate and I are so excited about our newfound cake decorating skills (disclaimer: I never could have done that without Kate!) and even more excited about the arrival of our nephew!
Edited to Add: I'm counting this as my "Finding Time in 2013" post for the month of June....in part because this was a new kitchen endeavor (fondant, anyway) and also because the month slipped away from me...and at the end of the day, this challenge was all about allowing ME to make the rules :)

One Year Ago: Beet Hummus
Two Years Ago: Tropical Salad with Pineapple Vinaigrette
Three Years Ago: Cilantro Lime Grilled Vegetables

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Odds & Ends

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1. I'm not cereal obsessed by any means, but I recently won a box of Barbara's Shredded Oats in a giveaway and might be changing my tune when it comes to cereal. I ate them both with and without milk and might have preferred them plain, eaten alongside a green smoothie for breakfast. Has anyone seen these in stores? I know they can be bought online but the temptation to buy like 6 boxes is too great...I probably just need one at a time ;)

(San Francisco last September)
2. Three Reasons to Travel When You're Young. I love this. I love traveling. Trips to Charleston, Nashville, and (hopefully!) New York currently on the docket. All places we've been before, but new adventures in store this time! 

(photo courtesy of my sister Renatta)
3. And while travel is great, there's also something to be said about the fantastic place we live. A lot of my Facebook friends have been posting the link to this New York Times article, Loving the Midwest (and specifically St. Louis!) and it completely resonated with me. Ask me why I love where we live and you're probably get bored long before I finish my answer!

4. A few weekends ago at a family party, my aunt brought the corn and black bean salsa from The Sweets Life. I don't think I'd had it since I posted it three years ago but I could not step away from the chip and dip bowl! So simple, so good. Make it!!

One Year Ago: Southwestern Turkey Burgers
Two Years Ago: Slow Cooker Hawaiian Chicken
Three Years Ago: Reese's Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars

Friday, June 21, 2013

Chocolate Vanilla Oreo Reese's Ice Cream Cake

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 There are some not so great things about being a grown-up, like working all summer long or paying taxes. Today I’m choosing to focus on the upside of being an adult, things like a glass of wine after a long day at work or staying out as late as you want. Okay, let’s be honest, I stayed out later when I did have a curfew! Another plus of adulthood? Recreating nostalgia whenever you want!
 This ice cream cake was a birthday staple in our house growing up. Each year on our birthdays, the kids got to decide what meal they wanted, the most important part of course being the dessert! The first time my mom made this ice cream cake full of chocolate AND vanilla ice cream, Oreo cookie crumbs, and chopped Reese’s, I fell hard. All other birthday dessert requests were pushed aside in favor of this one year after year.
Now that I’m a grown-up, I can make this cake whenever I want! No waiting to turn another year older. When you’re adults, you also get to eat as many pieces as you want, which my sisters demonstrated when they immediately went back for seconds. Whether you’re a kid, an adult, or an adult reminiscing your childhood, you’ll love this ice cream cake!

One Year Ago: Blueberry Salsa
Two Years Ago: Pink Lemonade Crumb Bars
Three Years Ago: Asian Inspired Salmon Burgers with Lime Cilantro Yogurt Sauce