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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lemon, Feta, Parsley Egg Cups with Prosciutto

Pin It
 Oh man. I am so excited to share these with you. As part of my Alexia Tastemaker Partnership, I'm developing a few recipes using Alexia products. You guys helped inspire the first one: (black bean) chili (sweet potato) fries, which remains one of my favorite meals I've made in the last few months. Much as I loved the chili fries, I was ready for something lighter. I don't know about you guys, but I'm starting to crave that transition from heavy winter foods to lighter spring meals.
To me, lemon is a vibrant flavor, and just the thing to pull us out of the dark trenches of winter. I was inspired by a recipe I saw in Martha Stewart Living last year, in which a baguette lined with prosciutto served as the vehicle for a baked egg mixture. I swapped out the prosciutto for some of Alexia's whole grain rolls. They were easy to cut a "boat" into (and enjoy the warm insides as a pre-meal snack!), which I then filled with prosciutto and the egg mixture. My egg mixture contained parsley, lots of lemon zest, and crumbled feta cheese.
Not only did these taste light and fresh, but they were done in just over thirty minutes...perfect now that you'll be rushing kids to soccer practice or trying to squeeze in some time outside as the days get longer. Pair the egg cups with a salad and you haven't yourself a meal that screams spring. Don't be afraid of the lemon/egg combination--it seemed a little weird to me, but I couldn't get over how much it brightened the baked eggs!

P.S. I've created a Pinterest board "Spring Meals" to keep track of some other fresh ideas for Spring. Come check it out!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Moose Tracks Ice Cream Cake

Pin It
Is there anything more fun than creating birthday desserts for people? Even people who rarely eat dessert (clearly I am NOT one of them, ha) tend to splurge on their birthday...which usually means they choose their very favorite dessert and enjoy it then. I absolutely love making birthday desserts for friends and family. There's nothing better than taking requests and then fulfilling them for their day of celebration!
My sister Julia doesn't have a classic dessert that she requests for her birthday each year. Instead, she usually just asks for something with both peanut butter and chocolate, her favorite dessert combination. She's now lived in St. Louis for four years and I've managed to make a different chocolate peanut butter concoction each year. Year 1 was the Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte. Year 2 was a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. Year 3 was the Reese's Fudge Pie. All included excessive amounts of both peanut butter and chocolate. Needless to say, all were awesome.
I wasn't sure if I could top any of the previous desserts, until I realized I hadn't yet made her a chocolate and peanut butter ice cream cake. If you know our family, you know we love ice cream above ALL other desserts, so it only made sense to combine her chocolate peanut butter infatuation with the ice cream obsession. In a perfect world I would have made my own homemade hot fudge and ice cream, but I'm struggling to stay on top of work and school and everything else this month and honestly, using the store bought stuff was just as good (and way easier!).
This ice cream cake starts with a peanut butter cookie crust, followed by a layer of hot fudge, a whole lot of Moose Tracks ice cream, and then topped with more hot fudge and chopped Reese's peanut butter cups. You probably don't need me to explain just how good this was...it's possible I won't be looking for another chocolate peanut butter dessert next February because we might just be sticking with this combination from now on!

One Year Ago: Bacon and Egg Risotto
Two Years Ago: Split Pea Soup
Three Years Ago: White Chili

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Zesty White Bean Burgers

Pin It

 I’m not a huge moviegoer. I like movies, but I don’t necessary love them and if you want me to stay awake during one, you’re best off letting me multi-task during it! That being said, we’ve made more trips to the movies in the last few months than I did over the past year or two! There has been a sudden barrage of movies I’ve wanted to see and after the discovery that we can see movies for $5 on Wednesdays near us, we’ve been taking advantage of a midweek date night.

A few weeks ago, we went with my sister and her husband to see Zero Dark Thirty. The movie was powerful—my shoulders were clenched from start to finish—and long, over two and a half hours! By the time the four of us returned home, it was almost 9:00, and we were hungry.
Thankfully, I’d prepped these bean burgers the day before and all they needed was a quick stovetop cooking. My friend Paige had sent me the recipe—claiming they were the best bean burgers she’d ever had. Her high praises weren’t off base. All four of us loved these and I’d rank them right up there with the nacho black bean burgers.

They’re a little spicy, with green chilies throughout and melted pepperjack on top, and so hearty. They’re by far the “meatiest” bean burger I’ve ever made! Whether you’re in need of a quick post-movie meal or looking to try a new vegetarian recipe, this one’s for you! 

Three Years Ago: Schulz's Guacamole Salad

Monday, February 25, 2013

Peanut Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables

Pin It
Do you have big meals on Sunday evenings? If we're around on a Sunday without many plans, I do like to cook a nice dinner. Not only does it leave us with leftovers for Monday (nothing beats not having to cook on a Monday!), but it's kind of a nice way to end the weekend. On the other hand, when we're out of town for a weekend or if I've already spent a lot of time in the kitchen that weekend, it's not uncommon for Sunday night dinner to be popcorn or pancakes.
A few weeks ago we spent the weekend visiting my brother in Minnesota and landed in St. Louis on Sunday evening. Knowing our cabinets were pretty bare, we ran to the grocery store on the way home to pick up enough food to get us through the week. By the time we got home and started to unpack both our bags and our groceries, I was not in the mood to cook anymore.
The lure of popcorn was strong, but the lure of leftovers for Monday was stronger. Thankfully this dish came together quickly, especially since Ryan and I tag-teamed it...me chopping vegetables and he mixing together a sauce and cooking the pasta. I had recently cooked, shredded, and frozen a few chicken breasts so I thawed that and added it to the mixture. It was healthy and easy, and the peanut sauce was the perfect coating to the chicken, veggies, and pasta! 

One Year Ago: Buffalo Wing Hummus
Three Years Ago: Apple Cheddar Turkey Burgers

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Banana Coconut Mini Loaves

Pin It
Yes, more banana bread. This one was inspired by some leftover coconut milk I had, but I am still obsessed with how perfect the Banana Walnut Chocolate Chunk Loaf turned out and so I tried to replicate the recipe. As it turned out, I ended up making a few changes...added some whole wheat flour, used brown sugar instead of white, and of course added the coconut milk (along with a big handful of shredded coconut).
The result: wonderfully moist mini loaves! Honestly you could probably reduce some of the oil and still turn out with good results. I might experiment a bit more next time. The coconut flavor was prominent, which was just how we like it! Coconut purists should leave as is, but I think it would also be good with chopped macadamia nuts and a few white chocolate chips.

One Year Ago: Reese's Fudge Pie
Two Years Ago: Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Three Years Ago: Peanut Butter Chip Brownies

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Odds & Ends

Pin It

1. I know Valentine's Day was a week and a half ago, but you have to read this story in the St. Louis Riverfront Times Gut Check column....the columnist basically pranked a bunch of fast food restaurants, asking ridiculous questions about making a reservation for her boss and his Valentine. The responses from the poor workers were hilarious!

2. I'm glad my odds & ends posts are totally random because I need to geek out on you for a second and share Mint with you. Ryan and I have a pretty good financial system in that I track the day to day, month to month expenses and he takes care of our long term finances, investments, etc. A few years ago I created my own spreadsheet to capture all of this, but it was kind of a pain to have to enter all of the transactions and add up different areas of the budget. A friend told me about Mint and I finally decided to give it a try....SO MUCH BETTER! You automatically link your various accounts to it so there's no manual entry involved. It manages your budget, emails you when you're over, and has a ton of other super helpful features. I also downloaded the app which I actually prefer to the online interface. 

3. Looking for meatless meals for Lent? I have a huge list of them, but a few of my favorites are creamy vegetable and edamame risotto, grilled fattoush (salad...with bread!), mushrooms, caramelized onions, and spinach over goat cheese polenta, and pesto berry balsamic flatbread with goat cheese (pictured above).

4. Any guesses for tomorrow's Oscars? Normally I could care less, but this year I've seen several of the nominated movies (Les Mis, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Lincoln, and Argo) so I'm a bit more interested...especially since I liked all of those movies! I have a few guesses for some of the categories (Daniel Day Lewis for Best Actor, for example!), but I have no idea which movie will win Best Picture. Anyone have any thoughts?
One Year Ago: Almond & Coconut Macaroon Granola
Two Years Ago: Spicy Chicken Sausage and Vegetable Stew (in the crockpot)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Peanut Butter Oreo Blondies

Pin It

I’ve mentioned before that my husband, Ryan, and my sister’s husband, Nate, are two peas in a pod. Put the two of them together and they immediately enter their own little world. I don’t know what happens there, though I overhear a lot of talk about sports, stupid jokes, and their latest tennis match. I’m pretty sure they talk a lot about their awesome wives too!
The two are in agreement on most things, with one major exception: Oreos! Nate claims to be anti-sweets (claims being the key word), but he can’t resist anything with Oreos. Ryan, on the other hand, will eat any dessert I put in front of him, unless it has Oreos.

Thankfully, differing feelings on Oreos hasn’t hindered their relationship! And thankfully, Nate was around to finish these blondies off when our community group couldn’t, and Ryan wouldn’t! You can’t ever go wrong with peanut butter and Oreos (unless you’re Ryan of course!).

Two Years Ago: Southern Banana Pudding
Three Years Ago: Pesto Roasted Vegetables

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Banana Chocolate Chunk Walnut Loaf

 Pin It
I have a few different banana breads that are my favorite. And while this might seem silly, I think it's actually quite practical. After all, I make this banana bread when I have some buttermilk that I need to use up. I make this banana bread when I'm missing home, as this is a slight variation on my mom's famous recipe. Now I have the Dahlia Bakery banana bread, which is about about as perfect as it gets.
Made with canola oil and sour cream, it bakes up with an ideal texture. As much as I love a gooey, slightly undercooked banana bread, I was impressed by how perfectly moist this was, especially when I opened the oven to find it so dark brown. I followed the recipe exactly-not opening the oven the entire time it was baking-and it came out exactly as described. That beautiful crack you see running across the top of the bread in the picture above? Dahlia Bakery called it! I usually make banana bread with pecans, so the walnuts were a fun change. This stayed fresh for days--I baked it on Saturday and on Thursday it still tasted like it'd been made only a few hours earlier.
Do you have a favorite banana bread? Mix it up and give this one a try--it's perfection!

One Year Ago: Brown Buttermilk Bread
Two Years Ago: Thai Chicken Peanut Panini
Three Years Ago: Salsa Chicken and Black Bean Soup

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pineapple Pork Chops

Pin It
 My grandma had a gift subscription to give of Bon Appetit and I was the lucky recipient! I'm now two issues in and an official fan. I don't just read magazines for the recipes...I actually really love the food stories and restaurant reviews and cooking tips and Bon Appetit has all of the aforementioned!
However, I've discovered that their recipes are just as much a reason to read as all of the other features. The salty chocolate chunk cookies from the January issue were my first success and these pineapple pork chops in the February issue proved to be a winner as well. The double dose of jalapeños left our mouths burning, so if you're sensitive to heat you may want to reduce the number of them. At the very least from the marinade that you set aside to dip them in (since my slices were pretty big, it was easy to pick around them after the heat was too much for me to handle). The sweet and spicy contrast was just the thing to liven what can sometimes seem a very dull protein.

Stay tuned for more Bon Appetit recipes--I have many more on my list to try! (Thanks Grandma for the subscription!!)

One Year Ago: Sour Cream Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting
Two Years Ago: Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Mushroom Crepes with Cheese Sauce
Three Years Ago: Cranberry Almond Pancakes with Orange Zest

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chocolate Mint Cookie Sandwiches

Pin It 
 A few weekends ago, Ryan headed to our church’s men’s retreat. I took advantage of the husbandless night to invite my sisters and a few girlfriends over. While Ryan was away doing “guy stuff” (including winning a cornhole tournament—the first thing he told me upon his return!), we had our “retreat” of sorts.
What did our retreat consist of? Piña Coladas, BBQ beer chicken sandwiches, a viewing of the ever-popular Pitch Perfect, and these cookies! You can’t ever go wrong with Rebel Wilson, girl talk, or cookies!
Although Food & Wine dubbed these Christmas cookies, I wasn’t interested in waiting until next December to give them a try. These tasted like a thin mint cookie sandwich, and like all thin mints, they were best straight from the freezer! I’ve discovered the secret to dipping things in chocolate prettily: don’t dip the whole thing! These were even easier than the homemade thin mints because I only dipped half of each sandwich and then decorated them with sprinkles.
Sprinkles are a girl’s night requirement!
One Year Ago: Devil's Food Fudge Cookies
Two Years Ago: 3 Ingredient Fluffernutter Cookies 
Three Years Ago: Chipotle Stuffed Chicken

Monday, February 18, 2013

Chopped Winter Salad with Butternut Squash, Apple, and Feta

Pin It
salad with butternut squash, apples, feta
 We've had a few seventy degree days pop up this winter, which isn't at all unusual in St. Louis. When it occurs, we usually try to make the most of it, especially since we don't know when we'll find ourselves with another one.  A few Mondays ago we left work to find rather balmy temperatures outside, so when my sister-in-law Kate invited us to play tennis, we jumped on the opportunity.

We came in the door pretty famished after a few tennis matches and more than ready for dinner! Thankfully Ryan had roasted the butternut squash for us the day before so all this dinner required was a little bit of chopping ingredients and then assembly. We heated up a few of the frozen Alexia sweet potato rolls (love having those on hand!) and dinner was served!
winter salad
This salad is an explosion of flavor and textures. This isn't the first time we've had butternut squash on salad, but this was definitely one of my favorite combinations of ingredients! (Looking for other salads? Try roasted butternut squash black bean salad, roasted butternut squash with blue cheese vinaigrette, or warm butternut squash and chickpea salad with tahini dressing.) The leftovers made a perfect lunch to bring in to work and next time I might make this at the beginning of a week and bring it in for a few lunches.

No butternut squash? You could just as easily sub roasted sweet potato!

One Year Ago: Baked Pasta with Broccoli, Ham, and Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce
Two Years Ago: Homemade Samoa Bars
Three Years Ago: Sugar Cookie Bars

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Raspberry Shortbread Bars

Pin It

I’ve made raspberry jam squares before. Last time, it was my Grandma’s recipe, which included a nutty oatmeal crust. This time, the recipe came from Food & Wine and features a shortbread crust. I love either crust—it just depends on what you’re in the mood for!
It’s not as easy to top them, as it is with the other ones, but the end result is so pretty that it’s worth a little extra effort. You roll miniature balls of shortbread dough, flatten them with a glass, and then cover the jam with the dough pieces. The end result is a topping with enough of a window to let them maroon of the raspberry jam shine through.
These seem pretty basic, but they got rave reviews from everyone I shared them with. Store them in the fridge for up to five days, if they last that long!

One Year Ago: Carrot Ginger Soup
Two Years Ago: Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Chili

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Odds & Ends

Pin It

1. One of my readers, Beth, saw my Packers-inspired Football Snackadium and decided to recreate her own for the SuperBowl a few weeks ago. She snapped a photo and sent it to me, which you'll see below. Pretty awesome, huh? As always, I love hearing from readers when they've made recipes from The Sweets Life and it's even more fun to see a picture. Feel free to send me pictures so that I can feature them here, or you can always post them to The Sweets Life Facebook page!

2.    You've probably already seen this, but in case you haven't and are a child of the 90s (or raised a child in the 90s), this video is just classic. I have to give it to Internet Explorer, because they nailed it with this piece of marketing! (And boy did it bring back some memories...pogs were THE recess activity all through fourth and fifth grades!).

3. I know I'm a little (okay, a LOT) behind here, but I've recently become addicted to Friday Night Lights. I was looking for a show to fill the void that Parenthood left when its season ended, and my friend Kacey suggested FNL. I'm less than 10 episodes into Season 1 but I now understand why people praised this show for years. It's not as good as Parenthood, but it has enough drama and emotion to keep me occupied for now! Are you a FNL fan?

4. I'm feeling a little bit in a rut when it comes to cooking ideas right now. I'm kind of over soups, especially since it was in the 50s several days last week, and I feel like it's a little too early to start enjoying some of our favorite spring/summer favorites like the Kentucky Style Turkey Burgers and Asparagus Goat Cheese Gratin (cannot wait for asparagus season!!). Help me out...what are you cooking and loving these days?

One Year Ago: Chubby Hubby Rice Krispie Treats
Two Years Ago: Leek and Mushroom Tart
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte