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Friday, February 28, 2014

Chickpea Salad with Roasted Vegetables

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roasted vegetables
Chickpea Salad with Roasted Vegetables

Is there anything worse than forgetting to pick up a crucial ingredient at the grocery store? That's what happened the night I made this chickpea salad with roasted vegetables. I could've sworn I had grabbed a package of mushrooms and added them to my cart, but when I was unloading groceries at home the mushrooms were nowhere to be found. This was back in early January, so I can't even blame new-mom exhaustion!

It was a freezing cold night and we were hungry for dinner, so I pressed on with the recipe, despite the lack of mushrooms. I'm pleased to report that the absence of mushrooms did not ruin the recipe (good news for all you [weird] mushroom-haters)! Aside from the time needed to chop and then roast the vegetables, this meal comes together quickly...just toss your vegetables with chickpeas, parsley, and feta. There isn't dressing, save for the lemon juice, but there's enough flavor from the other ingredients that you don't need anything else!

Meals like this are proof that healthy eating can be cheap, easy, and satisfactory...even without the mushrooms!

One Year Ago: Lemon, Feta, Parsley Egg Cups with Prosciutto and Moose Tracks Ice Cream Cake
Two Years Ago: Bacon and Egg Risotto and Spinach, Pear, Pecan, and Cranberry Pinwheels
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Chip Reese's Pieces Cookies and Split Pea Soup
Four Years Ago: White Chicken Chili 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Butternut Squash Soup with Greens and Bacon

butternut squash and bacon soup
Butternut Squash Soup with Greens and Bacon

The relationship between weather and soup in our house is as follows: the colder the temperature, the more soup made in our kitchen. Given that this has been one of the worst winters I can remember, there has been a lot of soup eating here in recent months. We're enjoying a lot of our past favorites, but I've also had fun discovering new soups (maybe the only upside of this dreadful weather?!).
Pin Itbutternut squash soup
Butternut squash isn't a stranger to our soups. We love the curried butternut squash soup and butternut squash and kale minestrone, and now this one! The squash is actually cooked and pureed, serving as the brothy base which is then chunked up with beans, veggies, and chunks of bacon. The finished soup is full of texture, flavor, and, most importantly, warmth!
butternut squash

P.S. Did you win the Smart Balance giveaway? Winner announced here!
One Year Ago: Zesty White Bean Burgers and Peanut Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables
Two Years Ago: Buffalo Wing Hummus and Yellow Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Three Years Ago: Best of 2011-Five Bistro and Cranberry, Almond, Orange Biscotti
Four Years Ago: Apple Cheddar Turkey Burgers and Schulz's Guacamole Salad

Monday, February 24, 2014

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

cinnamon raisin bread
Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread
Oh goodness. Where do I even begin with this bread? It will forever be known as the McLaury family obsession of January 2014. Cinnamon raisin bread is one of my all-time favorites and yet I rarely buy it. To be honest, if I'm making toast at home, I'm toasting frozen waffles and slathering them with peanut butter & jelly. 
Pin Itwhole wheat bread
Still, I've been wanting to make homemade cinnamon raisin bread for forever and now that I've done it, I can't go back. The recipe makes two loaves. Loaf #1 was gone in less than forty-eight hours. I forced us to slow down our consumption and loaf #2 maaaaybe took seventy-two before it was nothing but a memory. 
homemade bread
At this point we were full on obsessed and before I knew it, Loaves #3 and #4 were in the oven. I wisely froze Loaf #4 to pull out on a day when the craving was particularly strong, but Loaf #3 was savored over breakfast for a few days! 

As far as homemade bread goes, this is certainly not as easy as a quickbread, but it isn't difficult at all. Most of the time is hands-off while the bread is rising and if you have a stand mixer, the kneading is done for you. The most difficult part is tightly rolling the bread up, but if you've ever made homemade cinnamon rolls you already have this skill mastered.
homemade bread
Toasted with butter, I'll definitely take this over my pb & j waffles! Even if you decide to skip the cinnamon raisin swirl, give the base bread recipe a try. It is the ideal bread in terms of taste and texture, and you'd never know it was whole wheat!

One Year Ago: Banana Coconut Mini Loaves
Two Years Ago: Reese's Fudge Pie and Almond & Coconut Macaroon Granola 
Three Years Ago: Slow Cooker Spicy Vegetable & Chicken Sausage Stew and Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake 
Four Years Ago: Peanut Butter Chip Brownies 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Odds & Ends

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odds and ends

1. Postpartum style tips. I realize this doesn't apply to many of my readers, but figure some of you might be interested! I'm amazed at how quickly the body can recover from such a huge, life-altering event, but that doesn't mean that your body is ever going to go back to what it was...which is totally and completely worth it. I appreciate these style tips which give great ideas for still looking cute even if you feel like a breast-milk covered, ab-less scrub ;)  All of the posts tagged "postpartum" on this blog are also great!

little girls
2. Happy birthday to my cousin Ashlyn (furthest on the right)! Blessed to call this girl a cousin by blood and a best friend by choice. Excited to stand up as co-matron of honor with my sister Julia in Ash's wedding in October! Enjoy the throwback pic of us three girls, taken at my aunt's wedding many, many years ago! 

3. My cousin, of the up and coming My Red and Blue (and Ashlyn's brother!), continues to make his name known amongst the music scene in Nashville and beyond. A few weeks ago, he opened for A Great Big World...to be honest, I didn't even realize I knew who that was until I checked out their music and noticed I do know them!! In other words, Ben's gonna be big...download his newest EP The Start so that you can say you knew him way back when!

smart balance
4. When Smart Balance offered to send me their Peanut Butter Popcorn Nuggets I said yes because...well, I love free food, peanut butter, AND popcorn. I didn't commit to posting about it (and they didn't ask me to) but after trying it, I immediately emailed them and asked if I could give away a bag. Guys, I am obsessed with this stuff. Let's not talk talk about how quickly I made my way through the bag and instead discuss what it is: peanut butter popcorn that's also rolled in oats and tossed with peanuts. It's not sickly sweet like caramel corn, but it is sweet enough to satisfy a dessert craving. According to Smart Balance, it's available at Costco in the Midwest (which means I'll be begging my father-in-law to pick it up for me often!), but I bet if enough people bug them on their website or via twitter, they might make it more widely available! To win a bag of your own and discover the goodness for yourself, leave a comment telling me what your favorite snack food is. I'll pick a random winner on Tuesday night at 8 pm Central and contact them shortly thereafter (make sure you leave your email address!). Commenter #13 was the lucky winner, picked by Random Number Generator. Liz said "Mm popcorn! I love, love, love popcorn to snack on, and also love veggie straws!"

One Year Ago: Peanut Butter Oreo Blondies
Three Years Ago: Southern Banana Pudding
Four Years Ago: Pesto Roasted Vegetables

Friday, February 21, 2014

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

chocolate pudding
Chocolate Avocado Pudding
Ryan and I have an ongoing "argument" about his inability to listen. Women, tell me I'm not alone in this! It's like Ryan's ears have a shield that sometimes (always?) goes up when his wife begins to speak. I have several examples that looking back, I can laugh about now, but it was a different story in the moment! Don't even ask us to recount the "three things from the grocery store" story...eek!
Pin Itchocolate pudding
A few weeks ago we had some extra avocados hanging around the kitchen and I told Ryan I had seen some recipes for avocado pudding that I planned to try. It was also the same week that I made French Silk Pie, which we brought over to my sister-in-law and brother-in-law's house. After cutting slices of pie for everyone and joining them in the basement, I walked into the conversation just in time to hear Ryan tell everyone there was avocado in their pie.
chocolate pudding
Now, it's not unlike me to try and sneak some healthy ingredient into a dessert recipe (this pudding is case in point!), but I hadn't done that with the pie and I certainly didn't want it to spoil everyone's perception of my first French Silk Pie! I quickly explained that there was no avocado in their indulgent dessert and shot Ryan the look he's now all too familiar with: the "ahem, thanks for listening...NOT!" look.
chocolate pudding
So yes, no avocado in the French Silk Pie, but I will definitely vouch for the avocado in this chocolate pudding! I was surprised to discover you really can't taste it, not even a little bit. The pudding was as smooth and creamy as my peanut butter pudding, except it had no milk (I used almond milk...though I'm sure regular would be fine) and was made in the blender! I kept the sugar to a minimum and so the pudding wasn't super sweet at all...if you want more of a dessert and especially if you aren't topping it with whipped cream, I recommend upping the sugar a bit!

P.S. Ryan--I love you, listening abilities and all ;)

One Year Ago: Pineapple Pork Chops and Banana Chocolate Chunk Walnut Loaf
Two Years Ago: Brown Buttermilk Bread and Sour Cream Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting
Three Years Ago: Butternut Squash, Mushroom, and Spinach Crepes with Cheese Sauce and Thai Chicken Peanut Panini
Four Years Ago: Salsa Chicken and Black Bean Soup and Cranberry Almond Pancakes with Orange Zest

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Jalapeño Popper Chicken Chili

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chicken chili
Jalapeño Popper Chicken Chili 
Okay, I know the pictures don't really do this chili justice. Honestly, some foods are just hard to photograph in general. Then when you throw in a terribly amateur (if even that) food photographer, you just kind of have to roll with the punches. Take my word for it though. Even though the photos depict a bowl of slop, it's really really good slop! I particularly liked this soup because it's a "dump it and forget it" recipe. There's maybe 10 minutes of chopping, but no sautéing or browning or anything stove-related before it all goes into the slow cooker.
chicken chili
Despite its title, I didn't find the jalapeño portion of the soup to be particularly strong. In fact, I would've liked more spice and will likely add an extra pepper or two (or at least the seeds) next time! Serve with a salad and bread (as you can see, we're fond of pretzel rolls!) and you have yourself a nearly stress-free dinner!

One Year Ago: Chopped Winter Squash with Butternut Squash, Apple, and Feta and Chocolate Mint Cookie Sandwiches
Two Years Ago: Devil's Food Fudge Cookies and Baked Pasta with Broccoli, Ham, and Cheesy Creamy Cauliflower Sauce
Three Years Ago: Homemade Samoa Bars and Fluffernutter Cookies
Four Years Ago: Chipotle Stuffed Chicken and Sugar Cookie Bars

Monday, February 17, 2014

Rosemary Cayenne Nuts

mixed nuts
Rosemary Cayenne Nuts

My mom's been making these nuts for years, but from here on out they will forever remind me of Christmas 2013. This year we introduced some of our family to the board game Settlers of Catan, and then proceeded to set a record for most games of Catan played in the shortest period of time. I actually sat out the initial game, when my brother and parents were first learning, and instead played the part of "consultant" and "bringer of snacks". When you're busy building roads and settlements, there is no time for breaks to run to the kitchen....hence where I came in!
Pin Itmixed nuts
These rosemary cayenne nuts were one of the snacks I brought to the table, leftover from Christmas Eve appetizers the night before. The bowl of nuts made its way around the table a heck of a lot more quickly than the dice did! And thankfully, the sweet and spicy nuts provided enough fuel to last everyone through a marathon game. I'm starting to think these might be a new requirement for all Settlers of Catan games!

Board game lover or not, you don't want to miss out on these nuts. They're the perfect party appetizer (and can be made ahead...in less than 15 minutes!), hostess gift (bring in a pretty dish!), or snack for you to hoard for yourself (I won't tell!). Enjoy!

One Year Ago: Raspberry Shortbread Bars
Two Years Ago: Carrot Ginger Soup and Chubby Hubby Rice Krispie Treats
Three Years Ago: Leek and Mushroom Tart and Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Chili
Four Years Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dating in 2014: Serendipity Ice Cream

When we went out for ice cream on February 1st, we didn't know that would be our last pre-baby "date", although we figured it was a possibility. After spending Saturday February 1st running (yes, I ran 4 miles the day before my daughter was born), shopping, and cooking. In other words, it had basically been my perfect day, and the only way to make it more perfect was to finish the evening with ice cream!
Pin Itserendipity st lous

Around 8:00 pm, we dragged ourselves up off the couch and I even changed out of the sweatpants I'd spent the last few hours in. We made the quick jaunt over to Serendipity Ice Cream (you might recognize the name from my January date post at Five Star Burgers!), despite the freezing rain and frigid temperatures. The weather might be inconveniencing a lot of things for me this winter, but I refuse to let it get in the way of my ice cream and me!
serendipity st louis
After sampling at least five different flavors and annoying the heck out of the poor worker who wanted to finish cleaning up and get the heck out of there, I finally settled on Cherry Bordeaux and Maple Pecan in a cake cone. It was kind of an unusual order for me; rarely do I gravitate to the fruity ice creams, and the maple pecan was just kind of random. I suppose it was fitting for the unusual next few days we were about to encounter!
Awkward selfie...totally clueless I was going into labor in a few minutes!
Ryan and I sat in the back room at Serendipity, eating our ice cream and chatting about an assortment of things. Despite the fact that baby's arrival was impending, we actually didn't talk about it that much, instead discussing the upcoming Olympics, our jobs, and other random topics. That is, until I was finishing up my cone and began to notice regular contractions! I'd felt crampy several times that week, but this was the first time I recognized a definite start and stop to them. 
Cautiously optimistic that this was the real thing, we finished up our final pre-baby date and less than twenty-four hours later, Brecken Marie had arrived!

Serendipity Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Odds & Ends

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odds & ends

1. 105 Slow Cooker Favorites from Cooking Light. I intend to let the slow cooker do a lot of my cooking for me while I adjust to life with Brecken, and I don't think I'll run out of options with this list. First up? Either Pork Carnitas or Vegetable Pot Pie with Parmesan Black Pepper Biscuits.   

(image source)
2. Let's talk Tervis Tumblers. I spent the last several months frustrated beyond belief over the cups I'd use to take my smoothies to work each morning. The caps never seemed to screw on right, pieces broke off whenever my clumsy self dropped them, and don't even get me started on the leaking. I've since discovered Tervis Tumblers (I got mine at Bed, Bath, and Beyond) and I'll never transport a smoothie in anything else. The one pictured above is the one I have (but with a pink M...they didn't have an N for Natalie so I went with M instead!) and I absolutely love it. It's secure, insulated, and unbreakable! These things are awesome (and can transport hot or cold beverages!)...definitely worth the $20!

(image source)
3. I know Valentine's Day was yesterday, but how cute is this sweetheart ring? It's officially on my wish list!

chocolate peanut butter ice cream
Chocolate Pudding Ice Cream with Peanut Butter Swirl
4. Every year for the past four or five, I'm made my sister Julia a chocolate peanut butter dessert for her birthday (February 13th). This year, I didn't have to spend hours hunting for the perfect dessert. She made it easy and requested chocolate peanut butter ice cream. Needless to say, I was more than thrilled to make a batch of Chocolate Pudding Ice Cream with Peanut Butter Swirl. It's never too cold for ice cream in our family, especially when it comes to birthdays! 

One Year Ago: Curried Cauliflower and Green Bean Salad with Lemon Yogurt
Two Years Ago: Mushroom and Wild Rice Casserole
Three Years Ago: Cashew Butterscotch Blondies
Four Years Ago: Best Ever Homemade Granola

Friday, February 14, 2014

Secret Ingredient Cranberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake

coffee cake
Secret Ingredient Cranberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake
I'm writing this nearly four weeks before it'll actually post, on Valentine's Day, when all of you will read it. I can't help but wonder what that day is going to look like for us. I know I have a doctor's appointment scheduled for that morning. I know it's the last doctor's appointment scheduled currently, since my due date is just two days later, on the 16th. Are there any signs of labor yet (note: Feb 14 IS a full moon this year!)? Has baby McLaury already arrived? (spoiler alert--she's HERE!!!)
Pin Itcoffee cake
Today as I write this, on January 19th, I'm not feeling overly anxious about it one way or another. Yes, we are so excited to meet this baby, and find out the gender once and for all! At the same time, I have been determined to enjoy every last day as a family of two. It's crazy to think it's been just Ryan and me in this little family for five and a half years, and now here we are, getting ready to change everything...forever. As a rather impatient person who feels the need to plan and schedule every last minute, I've been surprisingly relaxed about pregnancy. This baby will make its arrival exactly when its supposed to! I can't wait to read this post in a few weeks and see how and if the situation has changed at all ;)

Enough about babies, because I'm sure there's plenty more of that to come! Let's talk about this coffee cake. I made it for a brunch with friends in December, and wasn't planning on blogging it, especially since I have a similar coffee cake already on The Sweets Life. Then I took a bite of the cake as I was arranging pieces on a platter and I immediately went to grab my camera. This coffee cake needs to be shared--it's definitely something special! I credit the almond extract, which I'm convinced makes everything special (like these amazing cookies!). Here, it transforms a pretty basic coffee cake into something unforgettable! If you're having a hard time finding cranberry sauce this time of year, you should be able to substitute your favorite kind of jam with no problems!

One Year Ago: Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Pretzel Cookies and Vanilla Butternut Squash Soup
Two Years Ago: Homemade Whole Wheat English Muffins and Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake and Carrot Spice Muffins
Four Years Ago: Bran-Breaded Tilapia and Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Open-Faced Chicken Sandwiches with Green Pea Spread and Parmesan

open-faced chicken sandwiches
Open-Faced Chicken Sandwiches with Green Pea Spread and Parmesan

I know that peas are a spring vegetable, and that spring is nowhere near. Cooking Light knows that too. They included this recipe in their November issue, however, because it uses frozen peas. In fact, the editors of the magazine claim this recipe is ideal for giving you a taste of spring when you're deep in the throes of winter. While I abide in this dark, cold season that I love to hate, I welcome reminders of spring with open arms! Needless to say, these sandwiches were just the thing to help me out! 
Pin Itchicken sandwiches with green pea spread
The pea spread comes together in minutes in the food processor. I cooked a few chicken breasts in a skillet, but you could speed things up by using a rotisserie chicken or even the pre-baked chicken breast strips (note--I used more chicken than the original recipe called for because it didn't seem like enough! My adaptation below.). The lemony arugula further adds to the essence of spring that you're trying to create! We ate these as open-faced sandwiches for dinner, but you could use a French baguette for the bread and create a bite-sized appetizer with the same ingredients. Even if I'm huddled under a blanket in thick socks and sweatpants, at least I can remember that other seasons do exist! 

Monday, February 10, 2014

French Silk Pie

french silk pie
French Silk Pie
Hmm, a certain love-filled holiday is just around the corner, meaning many of you are probably looking for ways to impress the ones you love with copious amounts of chocolate. Before you call the neighborhood bakery or drop into the nearest grocery store for a store-bought pie or dessert, give this one a try. I'm convinced it's fool-proof, so long as you're willing to follow the instructions and beat the pie filling for long enough. 
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Your reward for patience? A rich chocolate pie that is sure to have the recipient singing your praises! This was my first time making (or eating!) French Silk Pie and I'll be honest, I always thought it was more like a chocolate pudding pie. Turn out, a French Silk Pie's filling is a light and fluffy mousse. The technique involves beating raw eggs into the batter for a long period of time (I used pasteurized eggs, which I recommend if you're wary of raw eggs). The different layers of the pie-crust, mousse, and whipped cream topping-make for a finished dessert that tastes as pretty as it looks!
french silk pie
My favorite part of this pie was actually the crust. It tasted a little bit like shortbread, and the inclusion of chopped nuts added a unique taste and crunch to the overall pie. I think it'll be my new go-to crust for a variety of pies, especially since it's made in the food processor and then pressed (not rolled!) into the pie plate.

Tell me, what Valentine's Day sweets are you making this year?

One Year Ago: Sweet Treats for Valentine's Day
Two Years Ago: Creme Brulee Cheesecake and Almond Joy Bread
Three Years Ago: Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette and Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage
Four Years Ago: Spaghetti Pie and Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies

French Silk Pie
adapted from Martha Stewart

for the crust-
-8 tbsp (1 stick) chilled butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
-1/3 cup pecan halves
-1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
-1/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
-1/4 tsp salt
-4 tsp water

for the filling-
-12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
-1 cup granulated sugar
-3 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
-1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
-3 large eggs (pasteurized if you're concerned with eating raw eggs)

for the topping-
-1 cup heavy whipping cream
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-3 tbsp granulated sugar
-shaved chocolate, for topping if desired

1. To make the crust, preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9-inch pie plate. Add all crust ingredients to the bowl of a food processor except the water. Pulse until mixture starts to clump together. Add 2 tsp water and pulse, then press dough to see if it'll stick together. If still too loose, add remaining 2 tsp water, pulse, and then press dough together. Press dough into the prepared pie plate, spreading evenly on the bottom and sides of the dish. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
2. To make the filling, cream the butter and sugar for 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Beat in melted chocolate (must be cooled!) and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed for 5 minutes after each addition.
3. Pour filling into pie crust, spreading evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
4. Just before serving, make the whipped cream. Beat heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Spread over pie and top with chocolate shavings. Cut into slices and serve.