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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Strawberries and Fresh Mozzarella with Mint Pesto Drizzle

Strawberries and Fresh Mozzarella with Mint Pesto Drizzle | The Sweets Life
Strawberries and Fresh Mozzarella with Mint Pesto Drizzle 

The other day I mentioned our mint predicament, and how rampant it is in our herb “garden” right now. Although I’m still looking for more ways to use it up, I actually have a week full of mint recipes for you. Come back on Friday for an awesome appetizer that features mint and then starting next week I’ll cool it with the mint for at least a little while!
Pin ItStrawberries and Fresh Mozzarella with Mint Pesto Drizzle | The Sweets Life

I posted a picture of this salad on Instagram and said “Caprese goes rogue”. The fresh mozzarella is obviously the common denominator between the two, but the color scheme matches, which is good enough for me to draw a comparison. I’m hugely disappointed that I forgot the balsamic drizzle…I was caught up in getting the rest of the food on the table and that final step completely slipped my mind. A vinegary punch would have put this recipe over the top, but even as is it was a huge hit. Much as I love a true tomato – basil – mozzarella caprese, this version is a worthy competitor and a fun way to use up our excess of mint!

One Year Ago: Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Omelets and Chicken & Vegetable Pressed Sandwiches with Goat Cheese and Pesto
Two Years Ago: Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Butterscotch Cookies and Zucchini Quiche
Three Years Ago: Buffalo Blue Cheese Dip and Spinach Salad with Nectarine, Blueberries, and Lime Balsamic Vinaigrette
Four Years Ago: Blueberry Crumb Bars and Mexican Couscous Dinner

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

12 Fast & Fresh Freezer Meals

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Check out 12 Fast & Fresh Freezer Meals
by Natalie McLaury at Foodie.com

I'm straying from my normal weekly schedule and popping in on a Tuesday, but it's for a good reason (and I'll resume regular posting tomorrow with another MINT recipe!)! When Mode Media, my advertising company, started looking for contributors to talk this month about quick family meals, I knew I had to share. I tell you guys all the time that I'm always on the hunt for quick and easy meals, especially now since I prefer to spend my evenings with Brecken rather than in the kitchen. 
BBQ Beer Chicken is perfect to freeze and reheat!
My saving grace lately? Freezer Meals! I've always tried to have at least a few meals stockpiled in the freezer to pull out on busy weeknights, but they've become even more essential in the last few months. I did a marathon freezer meal prep session while I was pregnant and we're finally finishing up the last few of those. Now I'm in the midst of planning another giant session with my sister and two of my best friends. In two Sundays we're getting together to knock out 10 different recipes (plus each bringing a breakfast and dessert item for the freezer!), so I've been on the hunt for meals that are easy to prepare and then freeze. 
I love having Quinoa Granola Bars frozen and ready to grab fo

We're hoping if all goes well in a few weeks we can make this a semi-regular thing, thus eliminating a lot of the stress around cooking during the week. I realize that a long day in the kitchen doesn't exactly equate to "quick family meals", but it does if you're willing to work hard for one day and then reap the benefits many evenings to come. There is no better feeling than coming home from work and knowing you just need to pop dinner in the oven or reheat something on the stovetop. The collection above includes a few of my favorites (like Nacho Black Bean Burgers and BBQ Beer Chicken), as well as some new ones we plan to try, after researching how well they'll freeze, such as the Turkey Tetrazinni

Check out the entire collection of 10 Fast & Fresh Freezer Meals for some of your own freezer inspiration and leave a comment with your favorite freezer-friendly meals that we can add to our next marathon cook day!

This post is sponsored by Mode Media & Foodie, but all thoughts & opinions are my own!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Kale and Tomato Salad with Feta and Mint

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Kale and Tomato Salad with Feta and Mint | The Sweets Life
Kale and Tomato Salad with Feta and Mint

Ryan tends to get a little overzealous about anything that’s green and grows, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when he headed to the store for herbs and came home with not one, but two kinds of mint! I couldn’t tell you what the two varieties are or what the differences between them are, but I’m doing my darndest to find ways to use it.

We like mint in our cocktails and our ice cream, but in an effort to find a few healthier ways to use it I stumbled upon this kale and mint salad that was obviously right up my alley. It’s a relatively simple salad, but the mint adds enough flavor that you don’t need a ton beyond the tomatoes and feta. Kale haters can easily substitute their green of choice and I’m sure we’ll make all sorts of varieties of this…double the varieties for double the mint!

One Year Ago: Fozzie's Sandwich Emporium 
Two Years Ago: Eat & Repeat-Half & Half and Grapefruit Campari Sorbet
Three Years Ago: Double Cookie Dough Ice Cream and Blueberry Muffin Polenta Tops
Four Years Ago: Minty Cabbage Salad and Bean Curry

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Odds & Ends

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1. You're Not Giving Yourself Enough Credit. "In the end, our lives are not measured by the accomplishments. They are measured by the little steps and decisions we make every day." 
(image source)
2. Last summer I read and recommended the book The Fault in Our Stars, and this summer I'm recommending the movie! I think it's the best book to movie adaptation I've ever seen and I was impressed by how well the moviemakers captured the story exactly as I'd pictured it! Like in the book, be prepared with lots of tissues...I cried through most of the second half of the movie!

(image source)
3. Are you following me on Goodreads? I've been reading a bit more frequently lately and try to be good about rating my reads. I've read a few 'meh' books lately, but I did enjoy Delancey, Molly Wizenberg's latest memoir about opening their first restaurant in Seattle (if you haven't noticed, I like most books about the food / restaurant industry!). I go to Seattle quite a bit for work and get pizza almost every time (Serious Pie!), but after reading all about Delancey, I'm dying to try it next time I'm there! 
Extra Crumb Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake
4. At brunch a few weeks ago, I was reaching for my second large piece of coffee cake when I asked my friend Sara if I could have the recipe...turns out it was my very own Extra Crumb Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake! I guess I don't need the recipe...I just need to make it again, and you probably do too!

One Year Ago: Balsamic Roasted Beet Salad
Two Years Ago: White Gazpacho
Three Years Ago: Sesame Soy Green Beans
Four Years Ago: Peanut Butterscotch Bars

Friday, July 25, 2014

Blueberry Buckle Coffee Cake

Blueberry Buckle Coffee Cake | The Sweets Life
Blueberry Buckle Coffee Cake
Is it just me, or have blueberries been exceptionally good this year? I’ve been buying multiple pints at the store each week and week after week I’m impressed by how plump and juicy and sweet they are. We’re mostly enjoying them plain, or with Greek yogurt, but I recently had the urge to bake with them.
Pin ItBlueberry Buckle Coffee Cake | The Sweets Life

Baking with frozen berries is convenient and usually more inexpensive, but you can’t beat muffins (these are the best ever) or coffee cake made with fresh berries! This blueberry buckle coffee cake is no exception. With a full two cups of berries in the batter, every bite guarantees at least a blueberry or two! I’d argue this errs on the side of dessert with its crumbly topping, but I won’t judge you if you eat it for breakfast, like we did!
Blueberry Buckle Coffee Cake | The Sweets Life

One Year Ago: Chicken Tikka Pizzas and Lentil Loaf
Two Years Ago: Frozen Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Banana Loaf and Marinated Kale and Green Bean Salad
Three Years Ago: Cranberry, Orange, Sour Cream Muffins and Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream
Four Years Ago: Sour Cream Sugar Cookies and Tuna and White Bean Salad

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Oatmeal Brownie Bars

Pin ItOatmeal Brownie Bars | The Sweets Life
Oatmeal Brownie Bars 
I’m really really striving to live a bit more simply these days. We live in a world that constantly tells us we need more more more, but I’m making a sincere effort to ignore those voices and avoid a life of excess. I try to think twice before heading to the checkout with two shirts that are already similar to three I already own. I’m making a list before I go to Target and not allowing myself to stray from it (most of the time…). I’m only buying enough food to get us through the week and trying  not to let any of it go bad before we consume it.

I wish I could say I applied the same principle to these brownie oat bars. My intentions were pure. I made the pan of these and figured I’d keep a few and give the rest away. If there’s one thing I don’t need an excess of, it’s a pan full of butter and sugar! I made the recipe, cut them into small squares, and divided them into a few freezer bags, figuring I’d freeze them until it was time to give them away.

And then I tried one. And then another. And before I knew it, I had (admittedly, selfishly and excessively!) decided these weren’t leaving our house! The reason you only see one measly picture of them is because I was so smitten, I couldn’t be bothered to worry about capturing the perfect photograph. In my defense, I did share of few of them, but if I’m being honest, the majority of them were tucked away in my freezer where I enjoyed one or three as a guilty pleasure after putting Brecken to bed. I will absolutely be making these again, and I will absolutely (not?) be sharing them! They’re salty and sweet and absolutely perfect straight from the freezer!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Shaved Carrot Zucchini Salad

Shaved Carrot Zucchini Salad | The Sweets Life
Shaved Carrot Zucchini Salad 
 I really like efficiency. There are times when I want to linger and enjoy the scenic route, but 97% of the time, I’m looking for ways to be more efficient. It’s an innate personality trait (flaw?). Striving for efficiency means I iron and lay out my work outfits over the weekend, simply to save those 5 minutes each morning when I’d normally frantically pull something from my closet and run the iron over it a few times. Striving for efficiency means I often eat the same breakfast over and over again, simply because it’s one less thing to think about when I’m doing the dreaded chore of packing my lunch each day.
Pin ItShaved Carrot Zucchini Salad | The Sweets Life
Efficiency came into play in this recipe, when I read the instructions that ordered me to use a vegetable peeler to get a pile of carrot and zucchini ribbons. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Instead, I pulled the food processor from the cabinet and used one of the blades to shred thin discs of the two vegetables. It might not be as pretty as a ribbon salad would’ve been, but it was a heck of a lot faster, making me a heck of a lot happier!
Shaved Carrot Zucchini Salad | The Sweets Life

Despite how you choose to prepare and eat this salad, I think you’ll be pleased with the outcome. It’s an atypical side dish, a nice change of pace from a green salad or grilled vegetables or kale chips, our standbys. It can be made ahead of time and keeps well in the fridge. Best of all, it’s quick and easy!

One Year Ago: Sausage and Egg Casserole with Mushrooms, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Mozzarella
Two Years Ago: Banana Nut Granola Bars with Dried Cranberries and Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps
Three Years Ago: Loaded Baked Potato Dip and Asian Edamame Salad
Four Years Ago: Southwestern Chicken Salad and Whole Chicken on the Grill

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Odds & Ends

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1. 7 Ways to be More Content.

2. Did you know that even if you like The Sweets Life Facebook Page, my posts might not be showing up in your newsfeed? Make sure you click "Get Notifications" on the page to ensure you're seeing them!

Coconut Rum Ice Cream with Toasted Coconut
3. I loved this interview with Jeni Britton of Jeni's Ice Creams. I'm a huge fan of her first cookbook, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home, and plan to check out her second Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Desserts. Of course, the ultimate goal is to actually get myself to Nashville again so that I can check out her shop in person! Until then, I'll stick with making her ice creams, like the Coconut Rum Ice Cream with Toasted Coconut pictured above, at home!

Example of The Daily Skimm (source)
4. Wanting to stay well-informed but don't have the time or attention span to read the newspaper cover to cover or scan a dozen news websites? You're in luck!! I recently discovered The Skimm. It's a daily email sent to you that does just what it says...skims news headlines and gives you the 'need to know' info. It's easy to read, captivating enough to hold my attention, and leaves me feeling just a little bit smarter each day! I highly recommend signing up to receive the Skimm in your invox each morning!

One Year Ago: Morning Glory Apple Butter Muffins
Two Years Ago: Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette
Three Years Ago: Rocky Road Ice Cream
Four Years Ago: Strawberry Amaretto Shortcakes

Friday, July 18, 2014

Grilled Vegetable Caprese with Balsamic Pesto

Grilled Vegetable Caprese with Balsamic Pesto | The Sweets Life
Grilled Vegetable Caprese with Balsamic Pesto

The same thing happens every summer. Ryan starts getting excited about yard work and while I don’t even pretend to share that excitement, I do get excited about planting fresh herbs. And then, every summer without fail, I find myself overwhelmed by the bounty, particularly when it comes to basil! Our basil plant is suddenly larger than life and the faster I pick the leaves, the faster they grow back.
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Grilled Vegetable Caprese with Balsamic Pesto | The Sweets Life
Next thing I know, I’m frantically searching for recipes that use mass amounts of basil. More often than not, I make a huge batch of pesto and then start searching for ways to use that up. These picnic sandwiches are some of our favorites (and yours too—they’re pinned like crazy on Pinterest!), as well as this pizza and this quiche.
Grilled Vegetable Caprese with Balsamic Pesto | The Sweets Life
Now we can add this salad to the mix. It’s pretty basic, just a pile of grilled vegetables and mozzarella, but the balsamic pesto makes it truly something special. This time of year we typically gravitate to simpler meals anyhow, but I guarantee you’ll be perfectly satisfied by the time you’ve cleaned your plate. Add some grilled pita or grilled chicken alongside to bulk it up if you want, the pesto would be excellent on all of the above!

And now, please help me, favorite uses for basil or pesto?! Leave them in the comments!

One Year Ago: Rainbow Sugar Cookie Ice Cream and Mexican Black Bean Lasagna
Two Years Ago: White Pesto Pizza with Tomatoes and Basil  and S'mores Cookie Bites
Three Years Ago: Whole Grain Shells with Goat Cheese and Walnuts and Sweet Potato Kale Pizza
Four Years Ago: Peanut Butter Nutella Brownies and Chickpea Pasta with Spinach, Sundried Tomatoes, and Walnuts

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Lighter Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Lighter Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream | The Sweets Life
Lighter Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream 
There’s a running argument within my family about which member of our family loves ice cream the most. We recently took my dad out of the running when he confessed that he actually likes yogurt better than ice cream. Us four siblings all really love it (I recently impressed—or rather, shocked—my male coworkers when on a business trip I completely out-ate them all in ice cream one evening!), but at the end of the day, it’s my brother Quinn who wins for biggest ice cream aficionado. I’ve seen him put down quantities of ice cream that would make the average person absolutely sick (we won’t mention the time I did see him get sick from too much ice cream) and few people, aside from our family of course, have the same kind of glee and jubilation over the frozen concoction of milk and cream and sugar! I’ll never forget the year our family went on a cruise and Quinn literally hit up the soft serve machine for a cone at least six or seven times…a day!
Pin ItLighter Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream | The Sweets Life
All of us tend to prefer fancy flavors, as you probably realized from the array of ice creams I’ve made in the past. Cinnamon Ice Cream with French Toast Chunks? Maple Whiskey with Candied Bacon? Plain ‘ol vanilla is a far cry from these. Sometimes you just can’t beat pure vanilla ice cream, especially when you’re serving it atop a warm piece of pie, as we did with this batch of ice cream. I opted to use vanilla beans to get the purest vanilla flavor, and it amplified it enough to make it anything but boring!
Lighter Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream | The Sweets Life
Even if vanilla ice cream isn’t your thing, this “lighter” version from Cooking Light would make a great base for whatever mix-ins you fancy!

One Year Ago: Asian Turkey Burgers with Cucumber Cabbage Slaw and Reese's Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookie Bars
Two Years Ago: Grilled Asparagus Salad and No Bake Desserts for Summer
Three Years Ago: Raspberry Cream Sandwich Cookies and Homemade Cheez-its
Four Years Ago: Grilled Vegetables in a Foil Pack and Grilled Pork Chops with Fresh Nectarine Salsa

Monday, July 14, 2014

Grilled Chicken Flatbreads with Hummus and Feta

Grilled Chicken Flatbreads with Hummus and Feta | The Sweets Life
Grilled Chicken Flatbreads with Hummus and Feta 
Sweets Life readers, let me introduce you to my new favorite meal. When I saw the recipe in Better Homes and Gardens magazine, I knew it was right up my alley, but I had no idea how head over heels I’d fall for it! This will definitely be a regular occurrence on our table this summer!
Pin ItGrilled Chicken Flatbreads with Hummus and Feta | The Sweets Life
This is reminiscent of a chicken gyro, piled high with cucumbers, tomatoes, and feta, but the addition of the garlic hummus made it something truly special. You can make this as easy or as complicated as you wish. I didn’t make homemade hummus, but I did go the extra step and make our own flatbreads. That being said, you could easily pick up pitas or naan or a store-bought flatbread to keep things simple. I do recommend grilling whatever you use for maximum flavor.

The combination of tastes and textures here is spot-on. This is actually a great meal for entertaining…simply put out bowls of the various ingredients and let people create their own. You can also add roasted red peppers or olives to the mix!

One Year Ago: Shaved Zucchini Salad with Parmesan and Pine Nuts
Two Years Ago: No Bake Meals for Summer and Blueberry Jamboree
Three Years Ago: Pizza Puffs and Carrot Zucchini Muffins with Candied Ginger 
Four Years Ago: Chocolate Angel Food Cupcakes and Avocado Feta Salsa

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Odds & Ends

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1. 7 Things Money Can't Do.

(image source)
2. Totally and completely obsessed with these demin shorts from J. Crew Factory (the outlet). I borrowed my mom's pair on a whim and after wearing them four times in a week decided I could not live without them! You probably won't be able to find them in stores right now (I called and asked), so you better quick snatch them up online. I love the fit, the color, everything. Don't be surprised if you don't see me wearing much else once they arrive!

3. I've been ruminating on this quote that I stumbled upon...

"You will never have this day with your children again. Tomorrow, they'll be a little older than they were today. This day is a gift. Breathe and notice. Smell and touch them; study their faces and little feet and pay attention. Relish the charms of the present. Enjoy today. It will be over before you know it." 
                                          - Jen Hatmaker 

Mexican Salad with Pomegranate Lime Dressing
4. Make this Mexican Salad with Pomegranate Lime Dressing, but sub sliced strawberries for the pom seeds and pistachios for the pine nuts. That's the variation I made recently and we loved it!

One Year Ago: Skillet Home Fries
Two Years Ago: Grilled Sweet Potato and Green Onion Salad
Three Years Ago: White Bean and Sage Patties with Roasted Tomato Sauce
Four Years Ago: Italian Restaurant Salad

Friday, July 11, 2014

Chopped Mango Chicken Salad with Jalapeño Cilantro Vinaigrette

Chopped Mango Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Cilantro Vinaigrette | The Sweets Life
Chopped Mango Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Cilantro Vinaigrette 
Our ice cream consumption typically goes up in the summer, but to account for this, our consumption of salads also goes up. I love a good salad any time of year, but it’s particularly satisfying in the months of June, July, and August, when we’re craving fresh meals that don’t heat up the kitchen and taste best eaten at dusk on our back patio. This salad is all of those things—it does require a fair bit of chopping, but each of the elements come together quickly.
Pin ItChopped Mango Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Cilantro Vinaigrette | The Sweets Life
As simple as it is, it’s the perfect thing to serve dinner guests. You can’t beat the rainbow beauty here and paired with grilled flatbread or even some cheese and crackers, it’s just the thing to hit the spot…before the ice cream of course!
Chopped Mango Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Cilantro Vinaigrette | The Sweets Life
Like I often suggest, make this salad your own. Feel free to include strawberries, or pistachios, or bacon! That being said, I probably won’t change a thing next time I make this!
Chopped Mango Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Cilantro Vinaigrette | The Sweets Life
One Year Ago: Grape, Corn, and Black Bean Salsa and Ginger Ice Cream
Two Years Ago: Banana Coffee Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake and Rosemary Grilled Chicken with Mushroom Sauce
Three Years Ago: Southwestern Potato Salad and Butter Pecan Ice Cream
Four Years Ago: Banana Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins and Fruit Salsa

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Chocolate Brownie Cookies | The Sweets Life
Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Cookies meet brownies, what more do you need to know? Seriously, that description tells you everything, and hopefully prompts you to go make them immediately. But okay, if you need a little more convincing, know that I made these and gave 90% of them away and then found myself with a very disappointed husband on hand. He mentioned this several different times, and it's safe to say I've taken the hint...I'll be making these again soon!
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They're chewy and fudgy and rich. You'll think you should stop at one, but you won't be able to resist a second...or third! Make them, and maybe share some of them, but don't make my mistake!
Chocolate Brownie Cookies | The Sweets Life

One Year Ago: Blueberry, Feta, Walnut Salad with Lemon Basil Dressing and Chicken Sandwiches with Artichoke Pesto
Two Years Ago: Farro, Green Bean, and Tuna Salad 
Three Years Ago: Crazy Feta and Berry Coffee Cake with Cinnamon Streusel Topping
Four Years Ago: Blueberry Cream Cheese Danish Cake and Watermelon Salad with Feta, Balsamic, and Basil