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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Slow Cooker Ratatouille over Goat Cheese Polenta

Slow Cooker Ratatouille over Goat Cheese Polenta
Slow Cooker Ratatouille over Goat Cheese Polenta
I’m not a ratatouille expert by any means. I’ve neither seen the Disney movie, nor made it before this. I don’t think I’d ever even eaten it before making it. Thus, I can’t compare this slow cooker version to one made on the stovetop, the more common preparation method. Still, I don’t know that I’ll ever make it any other way!
Pin ItSlow Cooker Ratatouille over Goat Cheese Polenta
This isn’t a “dump it and forget about it” slow cooker recipe, in that it requires a bit of prework (chopping and sautéing), but once you’ve finished that, you can set it and forget about it. This only needs to cook on low for 4-5 hours, making it ideal to throw together on a weekend and start cooking it around lunchtime. I got it all ready and then refrigerated until I was ready for it to start cooking.
Slow Cooker Ratatouille over Goat Cheese Polenta

I added chickpeas to the vegetable-heavy dish and served it over polenta (cornmeal) spiked with goat cheese. The recipe makes a ton and polenta doesn’t reheat the best, so if you plan to have leftovers, you might want to serve it atop quinoa, noodles, or even gnocchi. This will absolutely be made in our kitchen again, especially this summer when eggplant and basil are so abundant!

One Year Ago: Chicken Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese and Cream Puffs
Two Years Ago: Recipe Ideas for Cinco de Mayo and Citrus Almond Salad
Three Years Ago: Best of 2011-Bahn Mi So and Curried Sweet Potato Chickpea Burgers
Four Years Ago: Baked Eggs in Potato Skins and Peanut Butter Cup Blondies

Monday, April 28, 2014

Wheat Oat Flax Buns

wheat oat flax buns
Wheat Oat Flax Buns
We have a cherished group of friends from our church whom we get together with for our weekly community group (aka Bible study). Lately, we’ve been taking the opportunity to dine together fairly regularly, usually in potluck form. I’m of the belief that some of the best community happens around the dinner table, and it’s been a blast furthering our friendships while swapping stories over a meal.
Pin Itwheat oat flax buns
These rolls were my addition to one such meal. They were eaten alongside a pan of cheesy lasagna, a large green salad, and glasses of red wine, but they are versatile enough to pair with just about any meal. Turn them into sandwiches, slice them into croutons for panzanella, or serve them alongside grilled chicken and veggies.
Wheat Oat Flax Buns

I was impressed by how forgiving they were. Yeast recipes can be finicky, but this one was easy and didn’t suffer any ill effects even though I wasn’t exact about my rise times. I do recommend eating them within a day or so of baking them, or freezing uneaten rolls and thawing at a later date. For “healthy” rolls (containing both flaxseed and whole wheat flour), these aren’t heavy or bland, and I’ll turn to this recipe again and again!

One Year Ago: Austin Eats
Two Years Ago: Thin Mint Brownies and Slow Cooker Whiskey Pulled Pork
Three Years Ago: (Almost) No-Bake Nutella Pie with Peanut Butter Crust and Chicken Paninis with Pineapple Black Bean Salsa
Four Years Ago: Strawberry Banana Bread and Oven-Baked Potato Chips

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dating in 2014: A Run Date and Spring Salads

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Soooo at first glance, it might seem that Ryan and I failed dramatically on our date for the month of April, in an attempt to complete our Dating in 2014 challenge. And it's true, we didn't manage to make it out on a true "date" in the past four weeks. That being said, we had a really fun month and we did a lot of eating out! Ryan had two bachelor parties. I had a bachelorette party and spent a week at my parents' house in Illinois, where we ate out several times. Both Ryan and I enjoyed a fantastic meal with family at The Turf Room over Easter weekend. Needless to say, we did plenty of good eating over the course of the month, we just never made it out just the two of us.
Our little fam on Easter morning

We did, however, sneak in a non-food date this weekend! Friday we spent the night at Ryan's parents' house. While the grandparents soaked up some Brecken time, Ryan and I hit the roads running. Unconventional, yes, but running together is actually one of our favorite things to do, and something we haven't done much since Brecken has been born (we can't wait until she's big enough for the jogging stroller!). Some of our best conversations take place when running, and yesterday was a great chance to catch up and talk about something besides Brecken (although she still made her way into the conversation a few times!).
Barbacoa Beef Salad with Black Bean Avocado Salsa

Funnily enough, the Foodie contributor post for the month of May revolves around salads, which is perfect timing after all of the indulgent eating we did throughout April. I hastily put together a collection of 14 Sensational Spring Salads, including some of my favorites from The Sweets Life as well as some new ones I'd love to try over the next few months. When I'm menu planning this month, I plan to use this collection as inspiration. I'm guessing you, too, are looking for some lighter meals to enjoy amongst all of the celebrations of the season (between Mother's Day, Father's Day, graduations, weddings, etc. there is plenty of party foods headed each of our way!) and hopefully this collection will inspire you as well! 

Note: If you can't see the collection above, it's likely because you're viewing this in Google Chrome. Check the post out in another browser OR go directly to Foodie to check out the collection!

This post is sponsored by Foodie via Glam Media, but the collection of recipes and words are completely my own. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Odds & Ends

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1. Dear Moms of Littles, This Might Be The Most Important Thing That You Do Right Now. This is my season of life right now and I am 100% okay with it, but it's nice to be reminded of its importance and impact!

(image source)
2. Calling all St. Louis readers!! If you've ventured out to some of the Farmers Markets in the area, you may have heard of Piecraft STL. They're a local company making all sorts of unique pies and looking to expand (both physically, into a larger commercial kitchen, and creatively, into vegan pies!). They asked me to give a shoutout to their Kickstarter project, which ends in a few short days...if you have an interest in supporting local businesses, I highly recommend you check them out and consider donating to their project! Much as I love making my own pies, I'm excited to pick up one of their mini pies once we start hitting up Farmers Markets this summer!

Babybel Cheese

3. If you're a cheese lover, then surely you've heard of Babybel. In honor of Spring Break, they sent me a travel survival kit that included fun things like travel games, but also lots of CHEESE! An actual Spring Break trip wasn't in the cards for us this year, with having an infant and all, but considering that my maternity leave has been one giant staycation, I'm finding the cheeses to be the perfect thing to grab for a little protein-packed snack. My sister and I brought along a handful for our picnic in the park the other day, and I've served them to friends who stopped by for Happy Hour. I love that they're easy to pack and even easier to eat! Note: Mini Babybel® provided me with product for this review, but it is not sponsored. Thoughts and opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the brand.

Lemon Buttermilk Bundt Cake
Lemon Buttermilk Bundt Cake
4. Lately my Lemon Buttermilk Bundt Cake has been getting pinned and repinned like crazy on Pinterest. I'm guessing now's the time of year that people are hunting for lemon recipes...this is definitely one you can't go wrong with!

One Year Ago: Carrot Bread or Muffins
Two Years Ago: Salty Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
Three Years Ago: Chili Glazed Pork with Sweet Potato Hash
Four Years Ago: Caprese Sandwiches

Friday, April 25, 2014

BLT Salad with Sriracha Ranch Dressing

BLT Salad with Sriracha Ranch Dressing
BLT Salad with Sriracha Ranch Dressing
One of the best parts of maternity leave, besides hanging with Brecken of course, is being around during the day. Do you have any idea how much easier it is to run errands or go to the grocery store on a Wednesday at 10 am vs. after work?! Another bonus? Lunch dates! Lunch at work consists of scarfing down whatever I've packed in about fifteen minutes before getting back at it...a far cry from the leisurely lunches I've had at home or, better yet, out with friends.
Pin ItBLT Salad with Sriracha Ranch Dressing

Twice since I've been on leave, I've gone to Half & Half restaurant. I had previously been for breakfast (review here) and now it's one of my new favorite lunch spots. The first time my sister and I went and fell in love with a chicken salad that I still plan to recreate. More recently, my friend Maggie and I went and I ordered the arugula BLT with sriracha ranch. It won me over and not a week later I was making my own version at home!

I used mustard greens rather than arugula because I already had them on hand and I figured they were a decent substitute, but if you're making, I would go with the tender arugula (or whatever your favorite green is!). The salad is simple, much like a classic BLT, but the sriracha ranch dressing makes it something special. Even better, I made my dressing with a Greek yogurt, instead of mayonnaise, base to try and keep things on the healthier side. The only change I'd make next time would be to add some homemade croutons, like the ones in my panzanella caprese

Since my maternity leave is up in a few short days, I'll have to stick to recreations of my favorite lunch dates...and this salad will definitely make the list again!

One Year Ago: Green Salad with Honey Lemon Vinaigrette and Southwestern Lentil and Rice Stuffed Peppers
Two Years Ago: Arugula Salad with Browned Butter Vinaigrette and Turkey Burger Sliders
Three Years Ago: Breakfast Tortilla Strata 
Four Years Ago: Whole Wheat Baguettes and Pasta and Shrimp Primavera

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sweet Potato Asparagus Flatbread with Goat Cheese

Sweet Potato Asparagus Flatbread with Goat Cheese
Sweet Potato Asparagus Flatbread with Goat Cheese
It's been way too long since I've posted a new pizza or flatbread recipe on The Sweets Life. In fact, a quick dig through the archives showed that it's been almost a year...the last flatbread posted was this Bacon Apple Butter Flatbread with Caramelized Onions and Gouda. Pizza's on the menu at least once a month around here, but it's usually a "whatever's in the fridge and can be put on a pizza" type meal, which isn't usually blog-worthy.
Pin ItSweet Potato Asparagus Flatbread with Goat Cheese
This flatbread, on the other hand, is definitely blog-worthy! Inspiration came from Martha Stewart, but I opted to use sweet potato instead of a Yukon gold. The best part of this flatbread was how crispy the crust was. Usually when I make pizza at home, I pre-bake the crust, but only at a temperature of 400F. Little did I know, the secret for the best, crispiest crust lie in a 500F oven!! From here out on I'll bake my pizza at a much hotter temperature! 
Sweet Potato Asparagus Flatbread with Goat Cheese
The toppings were simple, but satisfying...and not to mention pretty! Skip the red pepper flakes if you have picky palates, but I liked the tiny bit of heat it added to the freshness that the asparagus and sweet potato contribute. Be sure and give this a try while asparagus is in its prime!
Sweet Potato Asparagus Flatbread with Goat Cheese

One Year Ago: Avocado Egg Salad and Monster Cookies
Two Years Ago: Brownie Macadamia White Chocolate Cookies 
Three Years Ago: Mini Truffle Tarts and Open-Faced Teriyaki Chicken Burgers
Four Years Ago: Lemon Bulgur Salad with Asparagus, Spinach, and Goat Cheese

Monday, April 21, 2014

Lemon Cornmeal Waffles with Berry Compote

lemon cornmeal waffles with berry compote
Lemon Cornmeal Waffles with Berry Compote
We’ve been fortunate to have a pretty good sleeper on our hands. By four weeks, Brecken had already slept through the night a handful of times and even when she didn’t, I was only up with her once a night for a brief wakeup and feed. However, one Friday evening we found ourselves in a bit of a baby sleep hell. For whatever reason, our sweet baby decided she’d rather spend the night screaming and there was nothing we could do to soothe her for more than a few minutes.
Pin Itlemon cornmeal waffles with berry compote
Our friends Paige and Zach were in town and I had planned to make breakfast for everyone, but by morning I could do nothing more than sit on the couch in a daze, cuddle Brecken (who was suddenly calm again), and chug coffee by the mugful. Thankfully Ryan got busy in the kitchen, whipping up these lemon cornmeal waffles. I don’t know if it was the extreme sleep deprivation or the fact that I was served breakfast and didn’t have to lift a finger, but these tasted like pure sunshine to me that morning. Breakfasts are typically pretty basic in our house, so it felt like a fun luxury to have something as fancy as these, which look, sound, and taste like they belong on a restaurant menu!

Skip the maple syrup and opt for making the fruit compote to top the waffles along with Greek yogurt. I think you’ll love this Spring breakfast as much as we did!

One Year Ago: Onion Focaccia
Two Years Ago: Banana Nut Bread Waffles and Orange Sour Cream Muffins with Poppy Seed Streusel
Three Years Ago: Peanut Butter Milky Way Blondie Cups and Mango Chicken
Four Years Ago: Broccoli Mushroom Almond Chicken and Panzanella Caprese

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Odds & Ends

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odds and ends

1. I love the majority of Allison's blog posts, but How I Learned a Mess Could Be Beautiful really spoke to me! Ryan and I are both pretty anal about keeping our house clean, but the reality is our house is messiest when it's full of people we love...our friends, our family, and now...our sweet Brecken. Instead of letting messes stress me out, I'm determined to find the beauty in the mess!

2. Ha, and speaking of messes, I went through a major desire to spring clean a few weeks ago. While I still have time on maternity leave, I decided to take advantage of the urge and do some serious purging and organizing. Over the course of a few days, I cleaned out closets, organized cabinets, and donated lots of clothing (pictured above!). It was pure coincidence that The Handmade Home posted "purging: 10 mantras to live by" that same week, and it totally guided me as I found myself amidst my projects!

Carter's chambray shorts
(image source)

3. I recently bought Brecken these Chambray Pull-On Shorts and I'm just dying until she can finally wear them! ...And, not going to lie, totally wish they came in my size so we could match!

Easter cookies

4. Need a last minute Easter treat? You can't go wrong with my very favorite Coconut Almond M&M Easter Nests or Crispy Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Eggs...both are easy enough to whip up today and will look so cute at the Easter brunch or dinner table!

One Year Ago: Barbacoa Beef Salads with Black Bean Avocado Salsa
Two Years Ago: Braided Cherry Danish
Three Years Ago: Oatmeal Raisin Bars
Four Years Ago: Pesto Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Spinach, Zucchini, and Goat Cheese

Friday, April 18, 2014

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache
When it comes to dessert in our house, we tend to stick to cookies or ice cream. There is always ice cream in our freezer (Ryan has a giant bowl every night before bed. Oh to have his metabolism!), and I find myself throwing together a batch of cookies once or twice a month. Cake, on the other hand, is more of a rarity. This is partially because with a few exceptions, Ryan doesn’t like cake. I know, I don’t understand either. Also, cake tends to be more of a commitment, both in baking and in eating.

Pin Itchocolate bundt cake with chocolate ganache
Every so often, however, I get the craving for cake…and when the craving strikes, things like this chocolate bundt cake happen! Thankfully I have friends willing to eat cake, since I can’t count on Ryan here. This cake has a deep chocolate flavor, enhanced by the coffee in the batter. It bakes up with a tight crumb, making pieces easy to slice. The chocolate frosting isn’t a necessity, but definitely enhances the finished product, as does a scoop of vanilla ice cream! When your cake craving strikes, pull out this recipe!
chocolate bundt cake with chocolate ganache
One Year Ago: Chocolate Mocha Almond Blondies and Pear, Pecan, and Blue Cheese Stuffed Chicken
Two Years Ago: Greens, Beans, and Chicken Panini and Cheddar, Bacon, and Spinach Egg Casserole
Three Years Ago: Breakfast Brownies and Coconut Pomegranate Scones
Four Years Ago: Lindsay's Chocolate Cafe Chocolate Chip Cookies and Crispy Tilapia Sandwiches

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Broccoli, Grape, and Pasta Salad

Broccoli, Grape, and Pasta Salad
Broccoli, Grape, and Pasta Salad
One month ago today Brecken was baptized at our church. It was an incredibly special day, and we celebrated the event with a luncheon at our house after the service. The menu included a variety of our favorite dishes, including Ryan’s smokedpork, his dad’s famous brisket, this salad, and several other things, but the highlight of the day for many was this pasta salad.
Pin ItBroccoli, Grape, and Pasta Salad

Some people, like my sister-in-law Erin, went so far as to say that it was the best pasta salad she’d ever had in her life! Considering how many pasta salads she’s likely tasted at church potlucks and picnics in the park, I believe this to be quite the compliment. If you like broccoli salad, you’ll love this, which is very similar but with the addition of farfalle pasta. Like most pasta salads, this is easily made ahead of time…just be sure to wait and add the bacon and pecans just before serving to ensure maximum crunch!
Broccoli, Grape, and Pasta Salad
One Year Ago: Banana Cream Pie and Spiced Lentil, Sweet Potato, and Kale Pockets
Two Years Ago: Tiramisu Ice Cream and Favorite Spring Dishes
Three Years Ago: Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas and White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
Four Years Ago: Make Ahead Lasagna and Breakfast Bulgur

Monday, April 14, 2014

Coffee Cake Muffins

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coffee cake muffins

The best part of maternity leave, besides hanging with Baby Brecks of course, has been spending so much time with family and friends. I'm fortunate enough to have a sister (two actually, but one's abroad right now!) and two sisters-in-law in St. Louis, all of whom have schedules that keep them around during the day. As a result, I've spent a ton of time with Julia, Erin, and Kate, and have cherished this chance to spend extra time with them before I go back to work. 
coffee cake muffins
One Thursday morning, Erin headed over with Eoin, my nephew, and Kate headed over with Huxley, her babysitting charge, and we had a playdate of sorts. Nevermind that the kids were all less than half a year old and didn't necessarily "play" together, doing more eating and sleeping than anything else. Us ladies took advantage of the chance to hang out and eat muffins! True to their name, these are basically individual portions of coffee cake. The tender muffins are sweet and cinnamon-packed and topped with a buttery, crumbly streusel, like all good coffee cakes are. They're good warm from the oven or at room temperature, and if you can't eat all of them at once, freeze them and pull them out on a day you're craving coffee cake but don't want to whip up a huge pan of it!
coffee cake muffins

One Year Ago: Sour Cream Pancakes
Two Years Ago: Favorite Spring Dishes and BBQ Chicken Pizza
Three Years Ago: Raisin and Pine Nut Asparagus and Chocolate Bird's Nest Cookies
Four Years Ago: Lucky Charms Treats and Cranberry Orange Sour Cream Loaf

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Odds & Ends

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odds & ends

1. Lent is nearing its conclusion and Easter is only a week away, but my pastor's blog post Be Broken is still a poignant reminder about this season of the church year. 

Open Faced Chicken Sandwiches with Green Pea Spread and Parmesan

2. A few weeks ago, Buzzfeed Food published a list of 29 Gorgeously Green Recipes to Get You Excited About Spring. It's an awesome roundup, and I was honored to have my Open Faced Chicken Sandwiches with Green Pea Spread and Parmesan included! Check out the list and get inspired for next week's meal plan!

(image source)
3. You've heard of Nutella, but what about Nocciolata? This was a new name to me, until a brand rep contacted me and offered to send me some of their product. Like Nutella, it's a cocoa hazelnut spread, and like Nutella, it's good used in alllll sorts of ways (my favorites include dipping pretzels in it or using it in a no bake pie with peanut butter crust!). I actually thought Nocciolata tasted more chocolaty than Nutella, something I didn't know was possible! It's also organic, which isn't a necessity for me, but for those who might want an organic option to Nutella, here you go! 

(image source)
4. I'm the queen of workout videos, and have amassed quite the collection over the years, especially ever since I quit my gym membership and work out solely at home. Recently I've further broadened my exercise horizons via youtube! There are tons of workouts on youtube and I like that you can find very short or very specific ones--useful when I don't know have a ton of time to workout during Brecken's naps! Some of my favorites include this Tracy Anderson 30 minute cardio workout and this 10 minute abs workout! I also really love all of the Fitness Blender workouts--try the 20 minute HIIT ladder workout or this strength training video. Send me links to your favorites, if you're a fan of YouTube workouts too! 

One Year Ago: Chocolate Guinness Cake with Whipped Cream and Berries
Two Years Ago: Tiramisu Cupcakes
Three Years Ago: Lemon Cranberry Coconut Bread
Four Years Ago: Strawberry Spinach Salad with Poppyseed Dressing