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Monday, June 30, 2014

Turkey Pesto Paninis with Pepperjack

Turkey Pesto Paninis with Pepperjack | The Sweets Life
Turkey Pesto Paninis with Pepperjack 

I definitely think a Panini press is a want, not a need when it comes to kitchen appliances, much like the waffle maker or the ice cream maker (unless you’re us, in which case the ice cream maker is very much a need). That being said, there’s just something about the way a Panini press transforms an ordinary sandwich into something special that I’m willing to argue it can err on the side of a needed appliance!
Pin ItTurkey Pesto Paninis with Pepperjack | The Sweets Life

Whether it’s the toasty bread or the melty cheese, the sandwich coming out of the Panini press is infinitely more exciting and doesn’t take but five extra minutes than the hastily assembled coldcut sandwich. The recipe below isn't anything earth-shattering, and I didn't even include quantities because you can make it according to your tastes, but I will say it was a dang good combination of ingredients and I highly recommend! That being said, take survey of the contents of your fridge and see what you can come up with. Tell me, what's your favorite sandwich?
Turkey Pesto Paninis with Pepperjack | The Sweets Life

One Year Ago: 10 Meals to Bring New Moms!
Two Years Ago: Pudding Mix Blondies and Pineapple Spread
Three Years Ago: Blueberry Streusel Bars with Lemon Cream Filling
Four Years Ago: Sour Cream Pancakes 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer DeLIGHTS...a dozen fresh recipes!

Check out Summer DeLIGHTS...a dozen fresh recipes!
by Natalie McLaury at Foodie.com
I know summer officially began last weekend, but for me it starts this weekend since we're on vacation! To be honest, summer doesn't hold quite the same excitement that it did for me as a kid, since I'm still cooped up in an office for 9ish hours a day. However, even if I can't spend my days hanging out at the pool or riding my bike through the neighborhood after the 4th sleepover in a row with my neighborhood friends, I can still enjoy summer through one of my favorite ways: food! 
Brecken, living the summer life!
Summer produce, summer eating style (aka lots of grilling), summer dining locations (outside!)...I love it all! Today I'm celebrating with a collection I made on Foodie, featuring a dozen recipes that scream summer to me. They're bright and fresh with summer's finest foods (think berries, squash, and a personal favorite, watermelon) but still light, which is what we're usually going for this time of year. 

The collection is a mish-mash of favorites from The Sweets Life (white pesto pizza with tomatoes and basil and healthified zucchini bread, to name a few) as well as recipes I discovered on other blogs that feature summer's finest. Check out the entire collection on Foodie and let me know what your favorite summer recipes are! 

Note--this post is sponsored by Foodie, but the collection was created by me and all thoughts & comments are my own!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Odds & Ends

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Odds & Ends | The Sweets Life

1. Woo hoo! I'm officially on vacation!! Blog posts are scheduled as normal, but I'm soaking up the week with Ryan's family in Michigan! You may have seen my question on my Facebook page, but we'll be in the Traverse City area (specifically Shanty Creek)...and I would love any suggestions on things to do / see / eat while we're there!
(image source--dress links in blog post)
2. I'm the first to admit it's ridiculous to spend a ton of money on baby clothing because they grow so stinkin' fast! Thus I've tried to be reasonable about what I buy Brecken and my fingers are crossed that her newest cousin, due in November, is a girl that she can pass things on to! Still, I just about died at some of the dresses on Bubbly and Bean's Summer Baby Dresses. I will not be spending $56 on that arrow dress, much as I love it, but a girl can dream!

(image source)
3. Why is it that flat pretzels taste so much better than regular pretzels? Don't get me wrong, I'll take the salty snack any way I can get it...but Pretzel Crisps are my jam, specifically the Everything flavor. I know Pretzel Crisps collaborates with a lot of bloggers and I am not one of them...this isn't sponsored...I just really love these snacks and can't seem to leave Target without a bag in my cart! I'm on the lookout for the Buffalo Wing and Jalapeño Jack flavors!

Lemon Basil Hummus
4. This Lemon Basil Hummus is posted twice on my blog, a sure sign it's a really good recipe! I recently heard from a reader who told me she makes it for every party she throws because she gets more compliments on it than anything else she makes! If that isn't a winning advertisement, I don't know what is! If your basil plant is anything like mine, you're in dire need of ways to use up basil...try this!

One Year Ago: Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad with Orange Avocado Dressing
Two Years Ago: Cabbage and Corn Slaw with Cilantro Orange Dressing
Three Years Ago: Greek Cucumber Salad
Four Years Ago: Twelve in Ten Challenge - Local Harvest

Friday, June 27, 2014

Red Velvet Cake

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Red Velvet Cake | The Sweets Life
Red Velvet Cake

I've talked about my sisters on the blog many times before, but today I want to focus on my sisters-in-law. Erin and Katelyn have been absolute rocks for me the past several months. Not only were they some of my constant companions during my maternity leave (and part of the reason it was so hard to go back!), but even though I'm not around to play with them all day, they're taking care of Brecken. Kate's on official Brecken duty most days, but Erin has filled in numerous times and makes sure that B gets plenty of quality time with her cousin Eoin. 

Red Velvet Cake | The Sweets Life

Long story short, they're fantastic aunts, whom I love to watch love Brecken, and they're some of my dearest friends...except sisters, which is even better! Among their many talents is also a major ability to make and decorate cakes...both of them! You might remember the Where the Wild Things Are Cake that Kate & I made for Erin's baby shower, or the Sprinkle Cake they made for mine. Those are just two of the many elaborate cakes I've seen these girls make, sometimes for no special occasion except that it's family dinner and we all love cake!

Red Velvet Cake | The Sweets Life

Believe it or not they didn't make this cake (theirs would be much prettier!). It was all me, which is why the frosting job isn't totally picture perfect! I couldn't resist trying a new recipe, however, and lucky for me, Bridget had already done the grunt work of finding the best red velvet cake ever. I went with her recommendation and was pleased to find that it was indeed the best red velvet cake I've ever had! This cake is perfect as is--I wouldn't do a thing to change it and I dare you to find a better red velvet recipe! Now quick, find something or someone (maybe YOUR sister-in-law!) to celebrate so you have an excuse to make this!
Red Velvet Cake | The Sweets Life

Two Years Ago: Saucy Onion Meatball Subs with Pepperjack 
Three Years Ago: Amaretto Fruit Dip and Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Strawberry Syrup
Four Years Ago: Strawberry Cream Puff Cake 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rosemary Roasted Beets and Carrots

Rosemary Roasted Beets and Carrots | The Sweets Life
Rosemary Roasted Beets and Carrots 
 I realize roasted vegetables are typically more of a fall or winter thing. If you ask Ryan, he'd prefer to keep it that way...not because he has anything against roasted vegetables, but he isn't crazy about me turning on the oven in the heat of summer.
Pin ItRosemary Roasted Beets and Carrots | The Sweets Life
Of course I see where he's coming from. It certainly doesn't make sense to heat up the house while simultaneously blasting the air conditioning, but I just can't quit roasted vegetables! We do our fair share of grilling veggies all summer long, and these could definitely be adapted to be made on the grill, but I couldn't resist going the roasting route. Roasted carrots are such a nice change from the raw baby carrots I eat most days, and as you've probably noticed by the number of beet recipes lately, I can't get enough of the vegetable! Rosemary is one of my favorite ways to season just about anything (bread. chicken. scones. nuts. you get the picture!), and this side dish was no different!
If you find yourself with a cooler summer evening, or you're willing to turn the oven on for a little while, you should definitely give these rosemary roasted beets and carrots a try.

One Year Ago: Baby Potatoes with Tomato Corn Saute and Spinach Bacon Cheese Calzones
Two Years Ago: Parmesan, Pea Pesto, and Fresh Herb Pizza and Sourdough Pizza Crust
Three Years Ago: Pineapple Brown Sugar Frozen Yogurt and Asparagus Goat Cheese Gratin
Four Years Ago: No Bake Peanut Butter Balls and Corn and Black Bean Salsa

Monday, June 23, 2014

Eggplant Caponata Sandwiches

Eggplant Caponata Sandwiches | The Sweets Life
Eggplant Caponata Sandwiches 
Even though I made these sandwiches over two months ago and they’re just now making their way to the blog, I still vividly remember the day I made them. The day itself isn’t all that memorable. I know I was on maternity leave, Brecken was napping, and I was soaking up the fact that I had TIME…in the MIDDLE OF THE DAY….to COOK (a luxury that is obviously no more!).
Pin ItEggplant Caponata Sandwiches | The Sweets Life

 It’s the smell, however, that stands out in my mind. This combination of tomatoes and eggplant and olives produced the most alluring scent in my kitchen that afternoon. When the caponata had finished cooking on the stovetop, I burnt my mouth numerous times because I couldn’t resist stealing bite after bite while I waited for it to cool so that I could let it sit for a day before turning it into the sandwiches you see pictured.
Eggplant Caponata Sandwiches | The Sweets Life

When you make this, you’ll understand what I mean. You, too, will find yourself transfixed on the smell and then returning to the pot for just one more spoonful. Although we loved the mixture atop a baguette cut into little sandwiches and topped with mozzarella and fresh basil, I won’t blame you if you skip all of that and eat this plain! A big batch of this (I doubled it!) could go so many different ways—serve it over polenta, with flatbread, or mixed in with your favorite pasta. The flavor only deepens after some time in the fridge, making it an excellent recipe to make ahead and eat different ways throughout the week!
Eggplant Caponata Sandwiches | The Sweets Life

One Year Ago: Where the Wild Things Are Baby Shower
Two Years Ago: Beet Hummus and Southwestern Turkey Burgers
Three Years Ago: Crockpot Hawaiian Chicken and Tropical Salad with Pineapple Vinaigrette
Four Years Ago: Cilantro Lime Grilled Vegetables and Reese's Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Odds & Ends

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1. Good Mothers. I'm fortunate to have a really strong support system in other moms. First in my sisters/sisters-in-law, and also in several of wonderful friends. That being said, I'm well aware of how prevalent 'mommy wars' are. This post is a great reminder that while we all make different choices, we're all good mothers!

Seche Vite Top Coat
(image source)
2. My bestie Paige recommended the Seche Vite Quick Dry Top Coat to me and dare I say it's life changing?! I don't have the patience to sit and let my nails dry completely, but I love painting them, so I'm often left with embarrassing smudges and ridges. Not anymore! This stuff literally dries within seconds! (side note--annoyed at how cheap it is on Amazon, considering I paid over double for it at Target!)

(image source)
3. I've never been all that interested in molecular gastronomy, but then my mom bought me Life on the Line by Grant Achatz, the famous chef behind Alinea in Chicago, and Nick Kokonas, his business partner. I ate (heh heh) this book up, finding it all so fascinating...from Achatz's culinary background to the process of starting a restaurant to his battle with tongue cancer. I'm now determined to pay a visit to Alinea sometime!

4. I have a really good idea for you. Make the artichoke goat cheese dip, but puree until completely smooth, and then use it as a salad dressing! (you may want / need to add a little water to get it to the thin consistency you're looking for) My mom brought leftover dip to my house when she came to town a few weeks ago and I threw it atop a salad a few days for lunches and it was awesome!...no need to add cheese to your salad, it's already right there in the dressing! 

One Year Ago: Chocolate Vanilla Oreo Reese's Ice Cream Cake
Two Years Ago: Blueberry Salsa
Three Years Ago: Pink Lemonade Crumb Bars

Four Years Ago: Asian Inspired Salmon Burgers with Lime Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Friday, June 20, 2014

Chocolate Pudding Shortbread Bars

Chocolate Pudding Shortbread Bars | The Sweets Life
Chocolate Pudding Shortbread Bars 
If you haven't figured it out by now, I really really love pudding. I make it homemade, I stick it in ice cream, and I'll never ever get sick of Southern Banana Pudding! Naturally, as soon as I saw this recipe for Chocolate Pudding Shortbread Bars, it went straight to the top of my list of desserts to make.
Pin ItChocolate Pudding Shortbread Bars | The Sweets Life
The recipe is exactly as it sounds: a shortbread bar topped with chocolate pudding. This isn't oozing snack pack pudding like you might be picturing. Instead, the pudding sets up nicely in the fridge so that the shortbread can be cut into perfect little squares. If you're really feeling daring, sprinkle a little sea salt atop the pudding before serving and watch people go mad for the sweet and salty combination! 

Even if you don't consider yourself a pudding lover, I'm willing to bet you'll have a hard time resisting these!

One Year Ago: Avocado Citrus Salad and Quinoa and Brown Rice Bowls with Vegetables and Tahini  
Two Years Ago: Buffalo Chicken Cups and Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream
Three Years Ago: Banana Pudding Ice Cream and Taco Pasta Salad
Four Years Ago: Banana Lime Coconut Cake and Jam & Prosciutto Panini with Walnuts, Apples, and Brie

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Blue Cheese Stuffed Burgers with Caramelized Onion Jam

Blue Cheese Stuffed Burgers with Caramelized Onion Jam | The Sweets Life
Blue Cheese Stuffed Burgers with Caramelized Onion Jam
On Brecken's two month birthday, I talked a little bit about how I felt our "success" as parents thus far (though I'm definitely not claiming to be a perfect parent!) can largely be attributed to the way Ryan and I tackle life as a team. This sentiment remains true, and those that know us well would vouch for it. I've most recently noticed it in our attempts to get out the door each Monday through Friday. We still carpool to work together, but now instead of getting just ourselves out the door, we're also trying to make sure Brecken is up, fed, and ready to go.
Pin ItBlue Cheese Stuffed Burgers with Caramelized Onion Jam | The Sweets Life
The only way this happens--and all before the seven o'clock hour--is via teamwork. Our mornings are carefully orchestrated. My alarm goes off and I'm up working out. Ryan's goes off and he starts getting ready. A flurry of showers and primping take place before we wake up Brecken and indulge ourselves with a few minutes of giant smiles and playtime, always the best part of our morning. While I feed B, Ryan brings me a smoothie that I slurp down as breakfast #1, and then cleans the blender, makes us coffees to go, and puts away any clean dishes drying on the rack or left in the dishwasher. 
Blue Cheese Stuffed Burgers with Caramelized Onion Jam | The Sweets Life
Yes, mornings are hectic, but we've found a way to make it work without leaving for the day in a panic and it's all because of teamwork. We bring that same teamwork to the kitchen, as is the case with these burgers. The concept itself was the result of us brainstorming together. Ryan mentioned a craving for blue cheese stuffed burgers, topped with something fancy...I suggested caramelized onion jam, and the rest is history! He stuffed the patties with cheese while I cooked onions low and slow on the stovetop. Together we liberally salted and peppered the burgers and Ryan worked his magic on the grill.

Magic really is the best way to describe these. With bacon mixed in with the ground beef, they're juicy and the stinky blue cheese melts into the patty. The jam topping is the icing on the cake! We've already made them twice (the second time with turkey, which also works well!), and I know we'll fire up the grill to make them again many more times this summer. Find yourself a teammate, and give these a try!

One Year Ago: Carrot Walnut Breakfast Cookies and Kale, Mushroom, and Tomato Saute with Polenta
Two Years Ago: Creamy Mushroom Fettucine Florentine
Three Years Ago: Bourbon Peach Chutney and Brie Crostini and Asian Broccoli Salad with Sesame Ginger Dressing
Four Years Ago: Coconut Lime Snowballs and Summery Salad with Chicken, Avocado, and Corn

Blue Cheese Stuffed Burgers with Caramelized Onion Jam
jam adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
*makes 9 burgers

for the burgers-
-3 lbs ground beef
-6 oz blue cheese
-salt and pepper
-1/3 cup cooked and crumbled bacon

for the jam-
-1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
-3 large sweet onions, diced
-2 bay leaves
-3 rosemary sprigs
-1 cup sugar
-3/4 cup balsamic vinegar

for the burger toppings-
-9 hamburger buns (we recommend pretzel buns!)
-spinach or arugula

1. To make the jam, heat the olive oil in a large pan until shimmering. Add the onions and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown (about 15 minutes).
2. Tie the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs together with kitchen twine. Add the herbs to the onions and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until fragrant. Top the onions with the sugar and cook, without stirring, until the sugar melts (5 minutes).
3. Increase the heat to high and cook, still without stirring, until an amber-brown caramel forms, about 6 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the jam has thickened (15-20 minutes). Discard the herb bundle, season the jam with salt, and allow to cool to warm.
*if makes ahead of time, cover and refrigerate. Reheat or bring to room temperature before serving
4. To make the burgers, mix the bacon with the ground beef. Form the beef into 9 equal pieces. Separate each piece into two equal sized pieces, which are slightly flattened into a patty shape. Create an indenture in one of the pieces and fill with a tablespoon or two of blue cheese. Top with other piece and press edges together to seal. Season the outside of each patty liberally with salt and pepper.
5. Grill burgers over high heat until desired doneness. Serve on buns topped with caramelized onion jam and arugula or spinach.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mushroom, Eggplant, Kale Lasagna

Mushroom, Eggplant, Kale Lasagna | The Sweets Life
Mushroom, Eggplant, Kale Lasagna

We were fortunate to have my mom in town for the first few days when I went back to work in May. It was a treat for all of us—Brecken got spoiled with grandma love and affection (and a few new outfits!) and I got spoiled with a calming presence for those first harried days and much needed help around the house! There’s nothing better than having an extra set of hands available to hold a baby, wash a few dishes, or tag-team the making of this lasagna!
Pin ItMushroom, Eggplant, Kale Lasagna | The Sweets Life

My mom and I prepped this the night before we ate it, taking turns slicing eggplant or sautéing mushrooms or assembling the layers (confession: she did most of it!). The next night we threw together a salad, sliced some Asiago cheese bread, and threw this in the oven. I’m as big a fan of meaty, cheesy lasagna as the next, but I liked this meatless, vegetable-heavy take on the traditional dish. My only change would be to use more sauce, which I’ve reflected in the recipe below. Even if you don’t have extra help prepping this, you’ll find it comes together pretty quickly and since leftovers reheat well, you’re best off doubling and enjoying for a few days!

One Year Ago: Smoked Baby Back Ribs
Four Years Ago: Cowboy Caviar and Marinated Cheese

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Odds & Ends

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odds & ends

1. Dating Your Husband. I talked the other day about how difficult it is for me to get out the door for date nights (nothing against Ryan of course!), but this article from Darling Magazine was an awesome reminder on the importance of taking time for one-on-one time with your spouse, particularly after kids are in the picture. This idea was exactly why we started the Dating in 2014 challenge, but the Darling Mag article solidified the reasons behind it all!

2. And moving from husbands to dads, I love love loved Shauna Niequest's blog post Dads Aren't Dumb. I just started reading her blog after I read her book Bread & Wine, and I'm so glad I didn't miss this post. Ryan is a truly amazing father, and watching him as Brecken's date is my absolute favorite. I could've written Shauna's closing sentence, my edits in place: "Aaron Ryan, I learn from you every day. Our boys are girl is so incredibly blessed to have a dad like you."

3. One week ago today my sweet nephew Carsten Thomas was born. I'm loving soaking up newborn cuddles, especially since Brecken seems so huge and AWAKE comparatively! You don't realize how fast it all goes until you see a four day old vs. a four month old! A million congrats to my sister Julia and her husband Nate...I am so excited that they get to witness the amazing ride of parenthood, and that Ryan and me get to do it alongside them! It's going to be way too fun watching this pair of cousins grow up together!

Carrot Cake Cheesecake Bars
4. A reader recently made my Carrot Cake Cheesecake Bars and had the following to say about them, "Thanks for this recipe! I made it last night and it turned out perfectly. It's a good thing the recipe makes so much because I took it to a grill-out and they disappeared FAST. I will definitely be making these again!" ....and now she has me craving them! What have YOU made from The Sweets Life recently? I love getting feedback on recipes you've tried!

One Year Ago: Eggplant Parmesan Rollatini
Two Years Ago: Green Beans with Tomatoes, Almonds, Feta, and Balsamic
Three Years Ago: Frozen Strawberry Squares

Friday, June 13, 2014

Bacon Parmesan Shortbread

Bacon Parmesan Shortbread | The Sweets Life
Bacon Parmesan Shortbread

We’ve entered this new era in many of our friendships where the days of 8 pm dinners or trying new cocktail bars before and after dinner just isn’t feasible. Many of us have kids, which has introduced not just a much earlier dinner and bath and bed routine, but also the desire to stick a little closer to home and soak up quality family time. So how are we maintaining a social life? Happy hour! More specifically, happy hour IN!
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Bacon Parmesan Shortbread | The Sweets Life
It’s the perfect solution for us. Ryan loves to play bartender, I’m always up for trying new appetizers, and it means we can hang with friends and still get Brecken in bed (and let’s be honest, us too) on time! These bacon parmesan shortbread were part of the spread at a recent happy hour with friends and they’ve definitely moved to the top of my list to include at future gatherings. You make the dough ahead of time (in a food processor) and then just slice and bake the day (or even the day before) you plan to serve them. They’re not health food, with plenty of butter and bacon and cheese, but happy hour is all about enjoyment and these are definitely enjoyable!
Bacon Parmesan Shortbread | The Sweets Life

One Year Ago: Pork Chops with Charred Vegetable Puree and Chocolate Brownie Cookies
Two Years Ago: Baked Lemon Buttermilk Donuts and Feta, Mustard Greens, and Tomato Chutney Pizza
Three Years Ago: White Bean and Spinach Bulgur Salad with Bacon, Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms, and Blue Cheese and Chocolate Ice Cream Cupcakes
Four Years Ago: Candy Bar Cookie Bars and Corn Dip