#header-inner {background-position: center !important; width: 100% !important;}

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monster Cereal Marshmallow Treats

monster cereal
Monster Cereal Marshmallow Treats
Pin It
Remember how cereal snack bars (i.e. rice krispy treats) had been around forever and ever, and then suddenly cereal brands starting making prepackaged versions of them that just paled in comparison? Ugh, I’m not a fan at all!

The real cereal bars, mixed in a big bowl and pressed into a baking dish, are where it’s at…always and forever. Clearly I’m a fan, if you consider that you can find Lucky Charms Treats, CerealSnack Bars, Scotcheroos, and Golden Grahams Smores Bars all within the archives of The Sweets Life!

You can now add Monster Cereal Bars to that list, as that was obviously where my mind went when faced with a few boxes of General MillsMonster Cereal. You can obviously use whatever combination of monster cereals that you’d like for this—I opted to mix the Fruity Yummy Mummy and the Franken Berry for fruity, colorful bars, but these would be equally good with Count Chocula cereal as well!

Halloween treats don’t get much easier or more classic than these 10-minute monster cereal snack bars!

Disclosure:  The product, giveaway samples and information have been provided by General Mills. All opinions are my own.

One Year Ago: Lentil Quesadillas and French Apple Galette
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Filling and Buttercream Frosting and Candy Corn Sugar Cookie Cupcakes
Three Years Ago: Cranberry Bliss Bars 
Four Years Ago: Spinach Apple Salad and Spinach and Artichoke Calzones

Monday, October 28, 2013

Thai Cobb Salad

cobb salad
Thai Cobb Salad
I know everyone goes crazy for comfort foods at this time of year, but there are only so many heavy meals I can take before I need to break it up a little bit. Although this Thai Cobb salad looks like it belongs on the table sometime in July, you won’t be disappointed to eat it between a night of soup and chicken pot pie.

Pin ItCobb Salad
Vegetarians can swap sliced hardboiled eggs for the chicken and throw some extra peanuts on top. The rainbow of colors in this salad makes it almost too pretty to eat, but you’ll be sold after one bite! A coconut milk dressing is just the creamy touch this bright, crunchy salad needs. Take a break from the typical seasonal foods and change things up with this!
Cobb Salad

One Year Ago: 8 Easy Snack Mixes 
Two Years Ago: Snickerdoodle Ice Cream 
Three Years Ago: Pumpkin Pancakes 
Four Years Ago: Pumpkin Bran Date Bread 

On another note...Happy Birthday to my brother!!! Love you Q!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Finding Time in 2013: Grandma's Apple Pie

apple pie
Grandma's Apple Pie
Popping in on a Sunday this week to share with you this month's "Finding Time in 2013" challenge. I had planned on attempting homemade pasta this month (December! For sure!!), but then we went apple picking and Ryan kept (not so subtly) hinting that I should try making my grandma's apple pie, which is one of his all-time favorite desserts.
Pin Itapple pie
I was really hesitant to give it a try, even though she gave my sister Julia and I lessons a few years ago, in part because I know that my attempt will never live up to hers. Plus, part of the beauty of her pie is the nostalgia that comes with it every time with enjoy it as a family together. Ryan's argument was that I need to start practicing now so that some day when I'm a grandma I can evoke the same feelings amongst my grandchildren. I think really he just wanted apple pie...!
apple pie
With the few garbled notes I had jotted down during our lesson and a few last minute texts to my grandma, I set out to make my pie. I'm actually not sharing the recipe...while there isn't any top-secret method or ingredient, it's still our family's and one I'm not sure I'm allowed to post on the internet ;) I will say that the finished product was close to my grandma's, although not identical. I suppose that's the beauty of the pie, however, and motivation to keep practicing! I think this has been my favorite, and most rewarding!, challenge thus far!
apple pie

One Year Ago: Odds & Ends
Two Years Ago: Apple Ricotta Coffee Cake
Three Years Ago: Chicken, Black Bean, and Goat Cheese Tostadas
Four Years Ago: Creamy Sweet Potato and Kale Soup

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Odds & Ends

Pin It

FYI....read on for a CHOCOLATE giveaway...found in #4!
1. We don't eat a lot of fast food in our house, but we recently had the chance to try Sonic's Super Crunch Chicken Strips and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The few times I've been to Sonic, it's been for ice cream or a Cherry Limeade, so it was a change of pace to dip into the savory side of the menu. The chicken strips were indeed very crunchy, and not the slightest bit greasy! If I find myself in a situation where fast food is the only option, I definitely won't be opposed to getting these again! They're only available for a limited period of time, so try them while you can! Note--I was not compensated for this review, although I was sent a giftcard to try the chicken strips.

plantar fasciitis splint
(image source)
2. This atrocious looking thing has been my best friend for the past month and a half. After dealing with some pretty severe (self-diagnosed) plantar fasciitis that put me completely out of commission for running and left me with a limp I feared would term permanent, I was desperate to try something...anything! I forked over $26 to purchase this night splint on Amazon and have been sleeping in it religiously ever since. It surprisingly hasn't disturbed my sleep (the pregnancy bladder is another story!) and I've had a significant decrease in pain since beginning to wear it. I've been able to resume running and stepping out of bed in the morning is no longer excruciatingly painful. If you're struggling with plantar fasciitis, I highly recommend giving this a try!
(image source)
3. Speaking of things I love, Marcus Samuelson's memoir Yes, Chef is a must read if you love memoirs, are curious about the life of a chef, or have a particular interest in Samuelson. I fell in love with his story that took him around the world: born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, and finally acquiring well-deserved fame in New York City. Mark my words--I will be visiting his restaurant Red Rooster on next year's NYC trip! We actually tried to go this year, prior to me even reading the book, but couldn't get reservations in time. It's a top priority from here on out!

bar and bean
Bar & Bean Chocolate Baker's Set
4. Any other chocolate lovers out there? I was recently sent some craft chocolate, courtesy of Bar & Bean that we've been loving. The company is all about offering small batch chocolate, which they market and sell in tasting sets such as the Baker's Set I received. I originally thought I'd use them in baking, but once the chocolate bars arrived, so beautifully packaged, I realized I was more interested in savoring them, especially after learning how much time, effort, and money goes into producing these unique chocolate bars. The flavors are far and above better than any chocolate bar you'll buy in the store...much as I love a good Hershey's dark chocolate bar, it can't even compare to the quality of any that I received! Want to try it yourself? I received an extra Baker's Set to send to one of you...leave a comment telling me your FAVORITE kind (brand or flavor) of chocolate. I'll pick a winner Monday (National Chocolate Day!) at 10 pm Central and email the winner so I can ship out your chocolate. The winner, picked by random number generator, was Commenter #13 Tracey, who has been contacted!

One Year Ago: Caramel Apple Dip 
Two Years Ago: Autumn Snack Mix
Three Years Ago: Vanilla Spiced Butternut Squash Ice Cream with Salted Ginger Caramel Sauce
Four Years Ago: Crockpot Pork Chops

Friday, October 25, 2013

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chips

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chips
 I'm kind of shocked, but it's been five years since that sunny, chilly October Saturday when Ryan and I married. Rather than get all sentimental today, I'll leave it at this: these five years have been challenging, to be sure. We've encountered things we didn't necessarily plan on when we naively said "I do" as babies at age 22. But they've also been the five best years I could've asked for. Five years full of laughter, tears, travel, bickering, exploring, learning, and loving! I wouldn't change a thing, and I can't wait to venture into this next year which will include parenthood and is sure to rock our world more than anything we've done yet! Ryan, I continue to have no doubts that God knew exactly what He was doing when he brought us together. I'm so thankful for the last five years and so excited to continue walking this path with you!
Pin Itpeanut butter cookies
And onto a completely different note, albeit, still a sweet one....!
oatmeal cookies
These cookies are based on another recipe I've made before, which features peanut butter oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips and sea salt. While they were definitely good, I knew they could be better. And so I went, changing a little of this and a little of that until they'd morphed into something I was satisfied with. The finished product was a cookie much more to my liking--thicker, chewier, and even a little healthier, since I used whole wheat flour this time around. 
peanut butter cookies
I made these before heading out on business travel one week, wanting to make sure Ryan had something to snack on while I was gone. I couldn't help but sneak a few before I left and I was mildly disappointed when I returned home to an empty cookie jar. Make these and share them with someone you love!

One Year Ago: Spicy Asian Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Ginger Cookies
Two Years Ago: Greek Stuffed Spaghetti Squash and Pumpkin Roll 
Three Years Ago: Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip and Twelve in Ten Challenge: The King & I 
Four Years Ago: Apple Puff Pancake and First Wedding Anniversary!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chicken Salad with Avocado Dressing

chicken avocado salad
I told you I recently went on a streak of buying lots of avocados and this was another one of the recipes that resulted. This recipe comes from Everyday Food magazine, which I am still so sad they stopped producing. Thankfully I tore a lot of recipes from pages of old issues that I now have waiting in my recipe files to be made!
Pin It

chicken avocado salad
This is the ultimate avocado chicken salad, with chunks of avocado mixed in with the chicken and then the entire mixture tossed in a creamy avocado dressing. If you make a full batch of the dressing, you’ll have plenty leftover, which can be used for more avocado chicken salad or as a salad dressing or even a sandwich spread.
chicken avocado salad
If you make the dressing ahead of time and then use rotisserie chicken (or bake and shred chicken ahead of time), this meal comes together in minutes! Enjoy it open-faced on toasted bread, squished between a soft roll, or eaten atop salad greens.

Chicken not your thing? Try this avocado egg salad instead!

One Year Ago: Nacho Black Bean Burgers and Pumpkin Spice Granola 
Two Years Ago: Pepperoni Polenta Pizza and Salty Caramel Ice Cream
Three Years Ago: Shaksuka and Amaretto Chunk Cookies 
Four Years Ago: Tropical Bran Bread and Cereal Dessert Bars 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Freekeh with Thyme-Roasted Grapes, Chickpeas, and Spinach

roasted grapes
Freekeh with Thyme-Roasted Grapes, Chickpeas, and Spinach
 Warning: first world problem complaint. I absolutely hate making my lunch for work every day. The hate isn’t so great that I’m willing to shell out $7 to buy it on a regular basis, but for whatever reason, I dread the five minute chore of getting out my lunch bag and filling it with both my breakfast and lunch for the day. I long for Friday afternoons when I get home from work and can hide away my pink lunch bag until Sunday night. Ridiculous, I know.
Pin Itroasted grapes
Grain salads like these make packing lunch at least a little bit more enjoyable. Not only does it cut my lunch packing time down by a few…well, seconds…but it’s far more exciting than a lot of the lunches I pack! The nice thing about this salad is that you can use any grain. I had freekeh on hand, but quinoa (not a grain but close enough), wheat berries, brown rice, or anything else similar would work.

I usually ate this salad cold, but probably preferred it warm, so you may want to experiment with reheating. The roasted chickpeas were my addition from the original recipe and one I recommend you include, especially if you’re eating for lunch and not as a side dish!

Any other lunch packing haters out there??

One Year Ago: Sautéed Cabbage with Red Onions and Bacon
Two Years Ago: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Capers, Walnuts, and Anchovies and Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
Three Years Ago: Easy Turkey Chili and M&M Cookies
Four Years Ago: Black Bean Burgers and Pumpkin Cake 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Odds & Ends

Pin It
1. I have to share my latest blog crush with you guys: Grace of Camp Patton. Mom of three (under three, I might add!), wife of an OB-GYN Resident, she captures their day to day life in such a real and hilarious way. On top of that, she's insanely cute and fashionable and so are her kids. I get so excited every time she has a new post and since they're living in St. Louis, I'm (not-so) secretly hoping I run into her sometime!
maternity jeans

2. If you're pregnant, planning to be pregnant, or know someone who is pregnant, listen up. These jeans from the Gap are a must-have!! My mom bought them for me for my birthday and I cannot get enough of them...they are honestly the most comfortable jeans I've ever worn, maternity or not. They're soft, with just the right amount of stretch, and perfectly flattering. I'm really picky about jeans, especially skinny ones that show off my "athletic" thighs, but at nearly 23 weeks pregnant, I'm feeling really good in these. Worth every penny!

ginger cats

3. ...And on to something that's sure to help me grow out of those jeans...Trader Joe's Cats and Ginger Cats Cookies! Like teddy grahams, but 100x better, I am seriously obsessed and regretting this discovery! My friend Maggie recently dropped off two containers of them and I'm working my way through them at record speed. They're the perfect afternoon snack when I need something a little sweet and crunchy! 

Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake
4. I'm not sure how I overlooked my Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake (with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting!) in last week's pumpkin recipe round-up, but this is without a doubt a must-make sometime between now and whenever you stop cooking with pumpkin. Dare I say this is the pumpkin recipe to top all others?! I'm tempted...

One Year Ago: Roasted Butternut Squash and Black Bean Salad
Two Years Ago: Spiced Pear Bundt Cake
Three Years Ago: Pumpkin Butterscotch Cookies
Four Years Ago: Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

Friday, October 18, 2013

Grandma Grump's Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

 chocolate peanut butter
Grandma Grump's Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

What can I say about the chocolate peanut butter combination that I haven't already with one of my many chocolate peanut butter recipes?! Yep, I think I've covered it. And if I had to guess, I'm probably preaching to the choir. 
Pin Itdessert
I'm just going to cut to the chase then. If you love the classic combination, you'll love these cookie bars. They won second place in a Chicago Tribune recipe contest a few years ago and while I completely understand that they're award-winning, I can't figure out what could have possibly taken the grand prize! 
chocolate peanut butter

These have a peanut butter oatmeal base which is then topped with a layer of melted chocolate chips and finally drizzled with a peanut butter icing. Need I say more?
chocolate peanut butter bars

One Year Ago: Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Sandwiches & Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Two Years Ago: Curried Cashew, Apple, and Grape Salad & Pepperoni Pizza Monkey Bread
Three Years Ago: Peanut Butter Banana Panini & Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal
Four Years Ago: Amish Baked Oatmeal & Caramel Corn

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans and Avocado

brussels sprouts
Pin ItRoasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans and Avocado
This recipe comes from Food and Wine Magazine, but today we might as well call it Food and Win Magazine. Cheesy? Maybe, but this recipe really is a winner! I regret waiting almost two years to make it after ripping it from the December 2011 issue. 
brussels sprouts
While I don't think I ever would have tossed these ingredients together (the pecans with brussels sprouts, yes...even the balsamic...but the thyme and avocado? no way!), they work together brilliantly. I realize we're more than a month out from Thanksgiving, but might I recommend you keep this in mind when you're ready to start menu-planning?! This would be a fantastic addition to just about any fall dinner and, like us, I think you'll instantly be wooed by the unique combination of ingredients!

brussels sprouts

One Year Ago: Crispy Ranch Zucchini Sticks & Pumpkin Apple Streusel Cake
Two Years Ago: Tiramisu & Chocolate Chow Mein Clusters
Three Years Ago: Paul's Pumpkin Bars (Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting) 
Four Years Ago: Mini Oreo Cheesecakes & Glazed Scallops with Spinach & Peppers

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mexican Calzones

Mexican Calzones
 My sister Renatta is living in an on-campus apartment this year, but she doesn't have a meal plan. Thinking back to my own college experience, it wasn't until my senior year that I was without a meal plan and my eating habits were less than stellar once I was on my own. Determined not to let Renatta fall into the trap of bumming meals off of friends or eating cereal for dinner every night (not that I'd know anything about either of those...), I've been trying to help her get her feet wet in the kitchen a bit.
Pin It

mexican calzones
Translation: I invite her over and cook for her while she keeps me company and washes a few dishes. To be fair, she's actually done remarkably well on her own, making dishes like sweet potato hash and my favorite salad (can you tell we have similar palates?!). In fact she's done so well that I think next time she can handle making calzones all on her own! 
One Sunday afternoon we set to work, whipping up a batch of spinach bacon cheese calzones (we swapped pepperoni for the bacon) as well as these Mexican calzones. I started with the base calzone filling (ricotta, egg, cheese), but added ground turkey, peppers, and spices to give them a Mexican flair. We wrapped both versions up individually in plastic wrap and then in freezer bags so she and her roommate are now stocked with an easy dinner that's far better than a frozen Hot Pocket!

I kept a few so I could sample the creation and was thrilled with the outcome. I'll be making a big batch for our freezer for busy nights. You can easily sub ground beef for the turkey or use beans instead of meat.

Two Years Ago: Foodie Finds-Connecticut & New York City and Coconut Rum Ice Cream with Toasted Coconut
Three Years Ago: Pumpkin Scones and Sautéed Cabbage, Apples, and Zucchini
Four Years Ago: White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies and Cranberry Apple Scones

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Odds & Ends

Pin It

1. How to Get Real, Honest Community. I think community is so important and I love the messages behind this article. We host a community group through our church weekly and it is one of the most rewarding things we do in terms of authentic fellowship with people who share our beliefs! Now to put the words from the article into genuine practice! 

(Image Source)

2. Here with another recent read: The Chaperone. I'm pretty sure I just read the book jacket in a bookstore and then borrowed it from the library, but since then I've seen it reviewed (and raved about!) in a few different places. I was for some reason hesitant to start this book, but once I got reading I really enjoyed the story of Cora Carlisle in 1920s New York City!

steve difillippo
(Image Source)
3. While we're on the topic of books, let's talk about It's All About the Guest: Exceeding Expectations in Business and in Life the Davio's Way. Prior to reading this, I'd never heard of Steve Difillippo or the restaurant Davio's. I was sent a review copy of this book (out in 3 days on October 15th!) and dove right in. I wasn't really sure how much I'd like it, especially given that while I love food and restaurants and eating out, I don't really have a desire to build my own restaurant empire. Although this book focuses on explaining the basics of what it takes to run a successful restaurant, I was drawn in by Steve's stories about life in the restaurant business and some of the challenges he faced along the way. You can watch a promo video from Steve himself that captures the essence of the book here! I didn't love everything about what he said--he was a little too cutthroat for me in a few segments--but I found his overall messages to be (seemingly) spot-on for his target audience and it was interesting for me, even if I didn't fit that demographic. One thing's for sure...I'll definitely stop in at Davio's if I'm ever in a city where there is one!

4. Let's talk PUMPKIN! If you search for pumpkin in the archives of The Sweets Life, you will find so many pumpkin recipes. Honestly I could probably create a collage of 20+ pictures. Pictured above are a few I wanted to call attention to today. From left to right, beginning in the first row:
Paul's Pumpkin Bars, Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Pumpkin Spice Granola, Pumpkin Roll, Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip, and Pumpkin Cake (boring name for something SOOO good!). I can guarantee I'll be making several of these this fall!

One Year Ago: Monster Munch [White Chocolate Popcorn with Candy Corn, Peanuts, and M&Ms]
Two Years Ago: Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins
Three Years Ago: Bombay Sloppy Joes
Four Years Ago: Slow Cooker Indonesian Chicken with Peanut Sauce