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Monday, March 31, 2014

Pumpkin Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

pumpkin bars
Pumpkin Oatmeal Breakfast Bars
So my Whole Wheat Cinnamon Swirl Bread was the January obsession and this is what then replaced it. I know, I know, it's not pumpkin season. It's not anywhere near pumpkin season. And yet, I'm buying cans of pumpkin at the grocery store each week because I cannot get enough of these! Truth be told, they don't have a particularly strong pumpkin flavor to them, although it does add a bit of a moistness and a tint of orange! 
Pin Itpumpkin bars
I actually made a batch of these the day before I headed to the hospital, and it was a godsend to come home to a few days later! One of these bars, plus a smoothie, plus coffee has become my go to breakfast ever since Brecken was born and I spend a quick fifteen minutes once every ten days or so putting a pan of these together.
pumpkin bars
They're hearty, healthy, and far better than anything you can buy in a plastic wrapper, I promise! The sugar content is low, but the raisins and chocolate chips add just enough sweetness to fool you into thinking you're eating something indulgent for breakfast. Yes--I have no shame in incorporating chocolate into my breakfast!

Don't wait until pumpkin season to make these breakfast bars!

One Year Ago: In Christ Alone
Two Years Ago: Cornmeal Cranberry Muffins and Black and White Cookies
Three Years Ago: Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies and Sweet Onion Salad with Orange Vinaigrette 
Four Years Ago: Mixed Citrus Greens Salad and Black Bean Burgers with Mango Salsa

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Dozen Sunday Dinners for the Grill

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It's official, I'm declaring it grill season! Never mind that we woke up to a dusting of snow on the ground earlier this week. Never mind that there's no guarantee we'll ever get Spring this year. We're going to break out the grills and force ourselves to transition out of Winter, even if the weather refuses to cooperate wherever you're living!
Kentucky-Style Turkey Burgers with Red-Eye Bourbon Onions
Foodie by Glam, my advertising company, is featuring Sunday Supper Collections for the month of April, and my mind immediately went to the grill. One of our favorite ways to spend a weekend is on our patio with friends, grilling up something for dinner. I've rounded up a few of my favorites from The Sweets Life, such as our all time favorite turkey burgers (pictured above), and also found some fun new ones to try, like grilled tri-tip with tequila marinade

Check out my entire roundup and make one for tonight's Sunday Supper. We're actually having decent weather in St. Louis this weekend, so you better believe we'll be outside grilling!

Note-if you're viewing this in Google Chrome, you may not be able to see the slideshow at the top of this post...check the post out in Safari, Internet Explorer, or another internet browser! This post is sponsored by Foodie but all thoughts and opinions are my own!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Odds & Ends

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odds ends

1. Standing > Sitting. And this is why I take advantage of every opportunity to get in extra walking...I make walk dates with friends, park far away from the entrance (less so when I'm lugging the carseat, if I'm being honest though), and take care of nearby errands (Target, library, post office, etc.) by foot as much as possible!

2. I mentioned in January that my sister Renatta is studying abroad in Spain this semester. She and her two roommates started a blog, If You Give a Girl a Passport, sharing the good, bad, and ugly of their travels in and around Europe. To be honest, Renatta is the real writer of the family and her posts are hilarious...two of my favorites that she wrote include her Valentine's Day post and her post about the differences between living in Spain and living in America. Really the whole blog's a gem though. Give the girls some pageviews, you won't be disappointed!

3. Calling all moms out there! My friend Bobbi (who I had the pleasure of meeting a few years ago at the Foodbuzz Festival) is a personal trainer who created a Mama Shred program to virtually train moms from all over the place. The program comes complete with a weekly meal plan (complete with shopping list!), weekly workout schedule, and a private Facebook group where moms hold one another accountable and keep one another encouraged. I had the privilege of being a part of the March group (you sign up monthly) and while I didn't follow the meal plan, I loved having workouts spelled out for me. I didn't follow it religiously since I have been doing an assortment of all sorts of exercising, but for people looking for motivation or direction, this is perfect! Bobbi explains the exercises well (including videos or pictures for anything confusing) and answers any questions via Facebook. She's getting ready to sign people up for Mama Shred April, so be sure to shoot her an email (nhershoes@gmail.com) for more details!

Strawberry and Mandarin Orange Salad
4. Craving salad? It's the time of year for it! I've recently made this kale salad with apples, craisins, and feta as well as the strawberry and mandarin orange salad (pictured above). Both are great side salads for dinner, or can easily be made into a main dish salad with the addition of some grilled chicken. Goodbye soup, hello salad!

One Year Ago: Yogurt Oatmeal Date Muffins
Two Years Ago: Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells
Three Years Ago: Homemade Tagalongs
Four Years Ago: Cajun Tilapia with Polenta and Peppers

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sweet and Sour Brussels Sprouts Salad

brussels sprouts salad
Sweet and Sour Brussels Sprouts Salad
In the days after Brecken was born, my mom was in town and manned the kitchen for a few days, preparing fantastic homecooked meals while I literally sat on the couch not lifting a finger. There is nothing more special than having your mom take care of you while you figure out your first few days of being a mom!
Pin Itbrussels sprouts salad
By the time she left, my fridge was a state for sore eyes. It wasn't anything she'd done, simply the combination of leftover ingredients from meals she'd made combined with the miscellaneous things I'd bought at the grocery store the day before I headed to the hospital. As I started to feel a little more capable with each day that passed, I was itching to get back in the kitchen and finally decided to make something of some of the odds and ends remaining in our refrigerator.
sweet and sour brussels sprouts

As luck should have it, I had all the ingredients for this Sweet and Sour Brussels Sprouts Salad, a recipe I'd pulled from a recent issue of Cooking Light magazine. It was just the thing to ease me back into cooking, one week postpartum, because it took a total of ten minutes to prepare. A quick whirl of the vegetables in the food processor, tossed with a few other ingredients, and I had a simple side salad that Ryan and I enjoyed for lunches for the next few days. I think I'd been worried about how I'd ever find time to cook again and this recipe helped prove to me that so long as I choose the right kind of recipes, homemade food is absolutely still doable! You don't need long or fancy ingredient lists to make good food, as this simple but tasty salad demonstrated!

One Year Ago: Pork and Greens Stir Fry and Citrus Salad with Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing
Two Years Ago: Carrot Cake Bundt and Mini Peanut Butter and Jelly Ice Cream Sandwiches
Three Years Ago: Marbled Black and White Banana Loaf and Edamame Succotash
Four Years Ago: Chinese Chicken Salad and Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies with Golden Raisins

coconut oatmeal cookies
Coconut Oatmeal Cookies with Golden Raisins

These cookies will cause you to throw all self control out the window. I'd apologize, but I did cut the butter from the original recipe in half, reduce the amount of sugar, and add some whole wheat flour, so I don't feel the need to be too sorry! Heck, we can practically call these breakfast cookies, with the inclusion of oatmeal and golden raisins. 
Pin Itoatmeal raisin cookies
I wasn't actually the one with no power to resist the cookies, mostly because I didn't have the chance before they'd all disappeared! Ryan and our friend Mike cornered the market on these cookies at our weekly community group, both claiming to eat at least half a dozen each over the course of our hour and a half together. I'm not complaining...there's no greater compliment to a baker than to send her home without any leftovers!

The Back in the Day Bakery cookbook is one of my favorites (for another great recipe, check out the Drunken Blondies from the cookbook!), and it's easy to see why with recipes like this one. Like I said, I healthified the original recipe and made the cookies much smaller than what you'd find in the bakery, but only so you can eat six at once, which is probably the equivalent of one bakery cookie ;) If you're the type to scoff at raisins in cookies, throw some chocolate or white chocolate chips in there instead!

One Year Ago: Slow Cooker Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches and Banana Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
Two Years Ago: Carrot Ginger Salad and (Slow Cooker) Penne with Eggplant Tomato Sauce 
Three Years Ago: No Bake Banana Split Pie and Broiled Tilapia Gyros
Four Years Ago: Portabello Pita Pizzas and Moroccan Carrot Sandwiches

Monday, March 24, 2014

Southwestern Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

salad with avocado dressing
Southwestern Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing
 We ate this salad on my sister Julia's birthday last month. Funny, we seem to be in the habit of eating salad on her birthday, probably because we always know we're ending the evening with a mega-indulgent dessert! (Last year's birthday salad was Grilled Steak and Vegetable Salad with Chipotle Chimichurri Dressing, a huge hit!)
avocado dressing
My brother-in-law and I came to an agreement--I'd happily pick up the ingredients and prepare the dinner, so long as he promised to be on clean up duty. I will always make this deal, as cleaning up is my least favorite part of cooking!
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Needless to say, preparing this dinner was more fun than usual, since I didn't worry about cleaning as I went. I think Nate was a little overwhelmed when he entered the kitchen to find the stacks and piles of dishes awaiting him. (Don't tell Nate, but I was totally preparing a few things at once, hence the extra dishes...if you make this salad you need not worry about excessive amounts of dishes!)
avocado dressing

Even if this salad did require lots of dishes, it would be worth it. This is the type of salad you'd find on a restaurant menu, but it is totally doable (even easy!) in your own home. I couldn't resist making a rainbow presentation on the serving platter, but you could just as easily toss it all in a large bowl from the start. Get creative with what ingredients you include--corn, chopped bell peppers, and chickpeas would all be excellent additions or substitutions. I don't recommend going with another dressing--the creamy avocado dressing was our favorite part!

One Year Ago: Finding Time in 2013: Pastaria
Two Years Ago: Sourdough Pancakes and Ghirardelli Brownies with Chocolate Ganache
Three Years Ago: Vacation Eats-Nashville & Charleston Part I and Part II
Four Years Ago: Bulgur Salad with Citrus, Toasted Almonds, Feta, and Spinach and an Arizona Recap

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dating in 2014: Mission Taco Joint

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(image source)

We went a little unconventional for this month's "Dating in 2014" restaurant, turning it into a quadruple date and taking Brecken with us! Still, the challenge is all about spending time together and (usually) trying new restaurants, so the mission (no pun intended) was definitely still complete!
Our friends Paige and Zach were in town and they mentioned wanting to go to Mission Taco Joint, which coincided perfectly with the plans I had to try it out. I'd been holding off until post-pregnancy because I wanted to get a margarita!
As it turned out, I skipped the margarita and went instead for the Paloma (tequila, grapefruit & lemon juice, agave syrup, and soda water with a sugar rim). As pretty as it was, I actually preferred Ryan's cocktail, the Rudy Valentino (mezcal, hibiscus syrup, orange juice, and sweet vermouth). I sampled a few of our friends' drinks, and another favorite was the Pueblo Cafe (tequila, cinnamon syrup, and a condensed coffee roast...sounds weird, tastes amazing!). 
mission taco
Crab Taquitos 
We enjoyed a few appetizers with our cocktails. The chips and two salsas of the day were okay--most restaurant chips aren't salty enough for me, and these were no different. One salsa was spicier and smokier, which I liked, but the other tastes too much like marinara sauce to me. The crab taquitos more than made up for it, however, and I would've happily finished the plate of those myself! 

Although Mission Taco has a number of interesting sounding burritos and tortas, we were there for their namesake-the tacos! Ryan and I opted to sample five, four off of the menu and then the special of the day, a mahi-mahi mango taco. The others included the duck, grilled baha fish taco, the carne asada, and the sweet potato & chorizo. Our friends also ordered tacos, all of which arrived at the table family style in fun taco holders. How do I get one of these for taco nights at our house?!?
mission taco
Street Corn

Consensus across the board was that the sweet potato & chorizo was the best, and the duck was the most disappointing. I'm not a huge duck fan anyway, but the meat was unfortunately dry. The two fish tacos were excellent, and I was pleasantly surprised by the carne asada taco, which came topped with arugula, queso fresco, and an avocado serrano sauce. At only a few bucks apiece, it's affordable to essentially sample the entire taco menu. Next time I have my eye on the beef brisket and yucatan chicken tacos, both of which have come highly recommended! We also split a side of the street corn, which I dipped chips into and loved a whole lot more than either salsa. Don't skip it! My only regret was not saving room for dessert; the churros were calling my name! I'll be back...

If you find yourself in St. Louis, give Mission Taco a try. Be forewarned--they don't take reservations and the place was packed by 5:30 on a Friday night! There were a surprising number of kids there, so Brecken wasn't out of place at all, but those trying to avoid kids can just show up at a more respectable dinner hour ;)  Mission Taco Joint on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Odds & Ends

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odds & ends

1. There's no better time than Lent to think about grace, and this article "Grace, Period." really hits it home!

(image source)

2. Have you had Trader Joe's Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds? If you haven't, try at your own risk. If you have, you know what I'm talking about. These things are basically heaven in a bite. I cannot get enough! You best pick some up next time you're at Trader Joe's. (And if you aren't lucky enough to have a Trader Joe's in your city, I found a homemade copycat version when I was googling for an image of them...I think I'll be trying these soon!)

3. I have long read I Am Baker's blog needless to say, was psyched when I received a copy of her new book "surprise-inside cakes". As impressive as that heart cake on the cover is, my jaw literally dropped as I turned the pages; each cake is more beautiful than the last! I'm so excited (and simultaneously nervous!) to give one of her creations a try...I've already recruited my sisters-in-law to tackle the challenge with me (remember when Kate and I made the Where the Wild Things Are cake?). Are YOU up for the challenge? The publisher has offered to send one of my readers a copy of the book! To enter the giveaway to receive Amanda's cookbook, leave a comment on this post sharing the most challenge dessert you've ever made! I'll pick a winner on Tuesday the 25th, so be sure to enter before 8 pm central that day. Winner will be picked via Random Number Generator and contacted via email, so be sure to leave your email! Commenter #4, Stephanie, was picked via Random Number Generator!

roast beef

4. I'm on a big sandwich kick, and we've been getting a ton of use out of our panini press lately. It's a great lunch or dinner option when you're short on time, but somehow a warm, pressed sandwich is so much fancier than a standard pb&j (not that I EVER turn down a pb&j!). However, some of my favorite sandwiches don't need a panini press, in case you're without. Try these fancy roast beef and feta sandwiches, pictured above, or the spinach, pear, and cranberry pinwheels!

One Year Ago: Whole Wheat Oatmeal Yogurt Waffles
Two Years Ago: Enlightened Greek Salad with Chicken
Three Years Ago: Tuna and Vegetable Salad
Four Years Ago: Sweet Potato Bread

Friday, March 21, 2014

Maple Pecan Ice Cream

maple ice cream
Maple Pecan Ice Cream

Maple pecan ice cream will forever have a special place in my heart. After all, it was the last ice cream I had before Brecken was born. Thus when Tonewood Maple sent me some of their premium maple syrup as part of their ambassador program, I knew exactly how I wanted to use it. Is there anything better than chowing down on ice cream and reminiscing about those first days with our sweet baby girl? (No, no there is not!)
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maple ice cream
Ryan did not order maple pecan that fateful night at Serendipity Ice Cream, but he was quickly won over by my homemade recreation of it. In fact, I don't think I got more than a few bites before he'd finished off the batch!

Thankfully, when ice cream's this easy to make (no eggs! just mixing and chilling!), we can enjoy it again and again. Someday I'll make it for Brecken and tell her the story of the night I went into labor...

One Year Ago: Turkey Sausage and Spinach Lasagna and Chocolate Pudding Pie with Peanut Butter Cookie Crust
Two Years Ago: Crispy Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Eggs and Mini Quiche Lorraine
Three Years Ago: Sweet Potato Butter and Marshmallow Brownies
Four Years Ago: Veggie Tuna Pasta Bake and Carrot Soup 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Black Bean Burgers with Sriracha Aioli

vegetable burgers
Black Bean Burgers with Sriracha Aioli
I'm slowly but surely trying to compile a list of freezer/make ahead meals that will come in handy when I return to work in May. I stocked our freezer before Brecken arrived and it's been helpful to be able to pull something out of the freezer and stick it in the oven on days when we get busy or she needs extra attention and I don't have time to cook. Easy meals will be all the more important when Ryan and I are both working full time because we'll want to devote as much time as possible to hanging out with Brecken.
Pin Itblack bean burgers
These black bean burgers will definitely be going on the list. I've frozen bean burgers in the past and always had great success, and these were no different. I think they actually hold together better when you freeze them and then bake them, so even if you don't plan to freeze them for the longterm, you might consider making them a few hours or a day ahead of time so that they can spend a little time in the freezer! Once you're ready to eat, you pop these babies in the oven and then prep the sriracha aioli (definitely the highlight of the burgers!)...pair with your favorite (easy) sides and dinner is served!

One Year Ago: Cilantro Yogurt Marinated Chicken and Kale Salad with Roasted Squash, Red Onions, and Feta
Two Years Ago: Seven Layer Greek Dip and Thai Glazed Cashews
Three Years Ago: Cilantro Lime Black Bean and Sweet Potato Sandwiches and Chicken Sausage Apple Couscous
Four Years Ago: Butterhorns and Zucchini Artichoke Spinach Quiche with Bulgur Crust

Monday, March 17, 2014

Caesar-Style Kale Pesto Pasta

kale pesto
Caesar-Style Kale Pesto Pasta
So, motherhood. I knew it was going to change my life. After all, isn't that the first thing everyone tells you when you say you're going to be a parent? "It'll change your life forever." And yes, our lives were rocked on February 2nd when Brecken entered our world. But whoa, I had no idea what kind of emotion was going to be stirred up when she came along.
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I once had someone tell me that becoming a parent was the closest we get to understanding the unconditional love that Christ has for us. Now that I'm there, I couldn't agree more. This little girl has completely captured my heart, not to mention her daddy's. Don't get me wrong, there have been trying moments...but honestly, just like the pain I witnessed in labor and delivery, they're fleeting and more of a fuzzy memory than anything else. 
pesto pasta

Suffice to say, I'm completely enthralled by our sweet daughter and am literally soaking up every moment I have with her. I sincerely hope this is a sentiment that sticks around for the long haul, even if it has introduced great changes into our lives. What does all this have to do with caesar-style kale pesto pasta? Not much, except that when you have options for easy meals like this, your time is freed to spend kissing babies (or whatever your equivalent is ;)). The pesto can be prepared ahead of time (even a day or two in advance) and just needs to be tossed with cooked pasta when you're ready to eat. 

Leftover pesto would be great on a pizza or as a sandwich spread!

One Year Ago: St. Patty's Meal Idea
Two Years Ago: Best Blueberry Muffins
Three Years Ago: Guinness Beef Stew and Cake Batter Pancakes
Four Years Ago: Irish Soda Bread and Lamb with Mint Yogurt Dipping Sauce

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Odds & Ends

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odds & ends

1. 9 Books Every Runner Should Read. I'm currently 1/9, so it looks like I have some additions to make to my Goodreads account!

sea salt caramel gelato
(image source)
2. When my friend Katie was in town shortly after Brecken's birth, she brought by some food for us, including some Sea Salt Caramel Talenti Gelato. Now, I'd heard good things about Talenti's brand before, but oh. my. goodness. This stuff is for real. I may or may not have hid the container in the deep crevices of our freezer in hopes that Ryan would forget it was there! I'm now on a mission to try all of the flavors because I cannot get over how smooth, creamy, and flavorful this stuff was! Anyone out there a Talenti fan? Which do I try next?!

bobby flay food and wine
(Image Source)
3. Whether or not you're a Bobby Flay lover, you're sure to learn something in this article featuring his tips, from Food & Wine Magazine. I particularly loved his advice for dressing a salad, which is how I plan to do it from now on!

vegetable salad
Grilled Vegetable Salad with Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette
4.  Ready for some lighter fare, after month after month of heavier, comforting dishes? We are, and we're starting with one of our favorites: this grilled vegetable salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette! Serve with pita bread or rolls on the side and you've got yourself dinner!

One Year Ago: Cranberry Chocolate Buttermilk Bread
Two Years Ago: Bailey's Dark Chocolate Pudding
Three Years Ago: Pumpkin Granola
Four Years Ago: Whole Wheat Pita Bread