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Monday, September 29, 2014

Chicken Chopped Salad with Avocado Dressing

Chicken Chopped Salad with Avocado Dressing | The Sweets Life
Chicken Chopped Salad with Avocado Dressing 
Now that we're bidding September adieu, my guess is that people are starting to crave warmer, comfort-style foods. I'm right there with you, but I'm not completely ready to stop making salads (although I'll definitely be making more fall-inspired salads, like this one).
Pin ItChicken Chopped Salad with Avocado Dressing | The Sweets Life
Before you completely swear off salads in favor of soups and stews, give this one a try! It comes together in about 20 minutes, perfect for a weeknight. Keep it vegetarian by omitting the chicken or skip the pita chips and stick it in a pita pocket instead. Our favorite part was definitely the avocado dressing and we used the leftover dressing on side salads the next few nights. It kept well for 3 or 4 days!
Chicken Chopped Salad with Avocado Dressing | The Sweets Life
Looking for another chopped salad with an equally awesome avocado dressing? Try my Southwestern Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing!

One Year Ago: Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant
Two Years Ago: Two Days in California Wine Country and Herbed Sundried Tomato Tapenade
Three Years Ago: Eggplant and Mushroom Veggie Balls and French Onion Soup
Four Years Ago: Basil Parmesan Crackers and POM Banana Blueberry Popsicles
Five Years Ago: Chocolate Marshmallow Bars and Tortilla Pinwheels

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Odds & Ends

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1. Grace and Potatoes. I'm friends with Annie and by friends I mean Facebook friends and friends by association because she's good friends with friends of mine. In other words, I admire her from afar and her aforementioned blog post is a poignant reminder of what grace is!

2. Something else that recently resonated with me? Thoughts on a Striped Baby Gap shirt. I mourn every time I have to pack away baby clothes that no longer fit and I'm always shocked when she fits in something that recently seemed like it would never fit her. I know kids have to grow up and there's so much fun and excitement in it, but boy do I cherish these days!
(image source)
3. I am beyond excited for the Into the Woods movie to come out. It's one of my favorite musicals and while I would normally be apprehensive about a movie adaptation, the cast looks fantastic and I have high hopes after loving the Les Mis movie so much. If all else fails, at least I know I'll love the music! Anyone want to babysit for me on Christmas Day so I can sneak off to the movies?! ;)

Thai Chicken Salad Pitas
4. Fellow blogger Kelli recently made my Thai Chicken Salad Pitas and my Salsa Verde Quinoa Bake and said she and her husband loved both! I already have salsa verde in my cabinet just asking to be used in that bake again, but I had totally forgotten about those pita sandwiches and they're officially on my to-make ASAP list!

One Year Ago: Odds & Ends
Two Years Ago: Herbed Sundried Tomato Tapenade
Three Years Ago: Eggplant and Mushroom Veggie Balls aka "Meatless Meatballs"
Four Years Ago: POM Banana Blueberry Popsicles

Fie Years Ago: Chocolate Marshmallow Bars

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Bars

Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Bars | The Sweets Life
Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Bars 
In the spirit of full disclosure, these weren’t my favorite dessert bars. WAIT—before you click out of the site, hear me out. They may not have been my favorite, but only because my expectations were in the wrong place. In my mind, dessert is always caloric and indulgent, full of (for better or worse) butter and sugar. These definitely err on the side of ‘healthy desserts’ in that they make use of whole wheat flour and slightly less butter than what you’ll usually find in a pan of blondies. If you’re expecting dense, gooey dessert bars, make these instead. However, if you want something a little heartier with a firmer texture, you’ll like these. They’re actually great dipped in milk or crumbled atop ice cream, but they’d also be a great healthy-ish dessert to throw into your kid’s lunchbox.
Pin ItDark Chocolate Oatmeal Bars | The Sweets Life
It’s like going to the movies expecting to see a comedy and finding out it’s a drama instead. It’s not bad, it’s just different than what you were going for so you were a little thrown off. In this case, I’m telling you ahead of time that you’re seeing the drama, not the comedy, so you know exactly what you’re getting and should be totally satisfied! Or, for a dramatic comedy, scrap the whole wheat flour in favor of white flour or toss in a few extra tablespoons of butter!
Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Bars | The Sweets Life

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mexican Kale Salad

Mexican Kale Salad | The Sweets Life
Mexican Kale Salad 
My youngest sister Renatta and her friends are living off-campus for the first time this semester. While they technically had a kitchen and a minimal meal plan last fall, any cooking skills they'd acquired were quickly forgotten during their semester in Spain where they were basically waited on hand and foot by their host mom. 
Pin ItMexican Kale Salad | The Sweets Life
They're slowly but surely getting used to the kitchen once again, but they leap at any opportunity to eat a meal that they don't have to cook. When my sister heard that pork carnitas were on the menu one night, she wasted no time dropping hints about herself and her two friends joining us. My college days are becoming more of a distant memory, but I still remember what a treat a home-cooked meal was and I love having the girls over. How else do I learn which songs are popular right now? (I wish I were kidding...!)
Mexican Kale Salad | The Sweets Life
I made this Mexican Kale Salad to serve alongside the tacos, and it won us all over. The jalapeño-lime dressing is just enough to soften the tough kale (you can even dress the kale up to a day ahead of time), and the black beans, corn, peppers, and cheese give it enough heft that it could pass as a main dish if you chose! By the end of the meal, the girls were asking me to recite the recipe and had determined this was simple enough for them to handle...although I'm sure they'd be just as happy to invite themselves over next time it's on the menu!
Mexican Kale Salad | The Sweets Life
One Year Ago: Flash Roasted Broccoli with Spicy Crumbs
Two Years Ago: Easy Crockpot Recipes for College Students and Cinnamon French Toast Ice Cream
Three Years Ago: Mexican Baked Eggs with Black Beans, Tomatoes, Green Chilies, and Cilantro and Peanut, Peanut Butter, Pretzel Bonbons
Four Years Ago: Sweet and Spicy Citrus Tilapia and Cooking Lobster & Shucking Oysters
Five Years Ago: Apricot Bran Bread and Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sweet Potato Zucchini Quick Bread

Sweet Potato Zucchini Quick Bread | The Sweets Life
Sweet Potato Zucchini Quick Bread 

We’ve had a lot of fun introducing Brecken to solid foods. Starting at six months, we started giving her bits of food…both mashed up pieces of things for her to gnaw on and also purees that she took from (her favorite part!) a spoon. Unsurprisingly, I’ve been making her food. From the day people heard I was pregnant, they’d be commenting on how the food blogger must be so excited to start making baby food for her (then future) baby. That actually wasn’t the case! We held off on solids in part because we didn’t see a nutritional need to begin before six months, but also because the thought of adding one more thing to my plate (pun intended) left me overwhelmed. Thankfully baby food is insanely easy and can be made and frozen in large batches, so the task hasn’t been nearly as daunting as I had originally worried.

Pin ItSweet Potato Zucchini Quick Bread | The Sweets Life
Sweet potatoes were one of the first purees I made, and a huge hit with Lady B. We have pictures of her covered in sweet potato and it’s not unheard of to find a bit of orange goop stuck in one of her neck or thigh rolls…even post-bath! Turns out as great as sweet potato puree is for chunky babies, it’s also good for moms and dads—especially in the form of this quick bread! Shredded zucchini and sweet potato puree make for an incredibly moist (sorry) bread that’s reminiscent of pumpkin bread but without the pumpkin flavor (for you—crazy!!!—pumpkin haters). Even better, it’s relatively healthy on the spectrum of baked goods. I loved all of the fall spices in this—nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon—normally I like to add chocolate chips to quick breads for a little extra pizzazz, but with all of the flavor from the spices and the crunch from the walnuts, this was perfect as is! Whether you’re baking sweet potatoes for baby food or your own food, make a few extra to puree and throw into this bread.

One Year Ago: Odds & Ends
Two Years Ago: Chicken Vegetable Black Bean Enchiladas with Avocado Cream Sauce 
Three Years Ago: Artichoke Stuffed Turkey Burgers and Pineapple Ginger Granola Bars
Four Years Ago: Greek Turkey Burgers and Fruited Bulgur Salad
Five Years Ago: Eggplant Lasagna and Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Odds & Ends

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1. Why It Doesn't Matter How You Feel About Your Friends. Inspiration to go be a good friend! 

2. For the third year in a row, we're in NYC for the weekend visiting our dear friends Katie and Matt. It's technically Brecken's second time to NYC (although last time she was a wee 15 weeks in gestation, pictured above), but her very first plane ride. Follow me on Instagram to check out some of our adventures, and read about past trips to NYC here and here

Travel-Themed Baby Shower | The Sweets Life

3. Speaking of Katie, this summer she's the one that's pregnant, and I had the privilege to throw her a travel-themed shower when she was in St. Louis last month. Much like the Pop, Fizz, Clink Kate Spade shower, I can't take much credit...my mom and sister made absolutely beautiful decorations & homemade mini-suitcases for favors (that I stuffed with cinnamon sugar pretzels) and Katie's sisters-in-law came up with creative (and non-cheesy) games! See #4, below, for my contribution...unsurprisingly, the food! All in all, it was a wonderful night celebrate Baby G whose arrival we are beyond excited for!

Tijuana Trash Mix
4. I'll be sharing the cake I made for Katie's shower in a future post, German Chocolate fans get excited! I also made the always-popular Tijuana Trash Mix and tried a new recipe for this Rustic Cheese Tomato Tart, which I will definitely be making again and again.

One Year Ago: Lemon Berry Parfaits
Two Years Ago: Extra Crumb Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake
Three Years Ago: Cream Cheese Fruit Tarts
Four Years Ago: Tilapia with Black Bean Banana Salsa
Five Years Ago: Mediterranean Skillet

Friday, September 19, 2014

Kale Waldorf Salad

Kale Waldorf Salad | The Sweets Life
Kale Waldorf Salad 
When I menu plan for the week ahead, I always try to incorporate a fair amount of variety into dinner each night. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge proponent of leftovers and they appear on our table at least once or twice a week. However, on the nights I’m cooking, I try to mix up the cuisine / genre, protein source, and even the texture or temperature of a dish (unless it’s January and then I’m okay eating soup every night for a week!).
Pin ItKale Waldorf Salad | The Sweets Life

Usually at least once a week I plan for a lighter entrée, typically in the form of a giant salad. We have a few of our favorites that we return to again and again (like this grilled vegetable salad, this sweet potato, kale, apple salad, and this shredded vegetable detox salad), but I’m always on the lookout for new ones to add to the list. This kale waldorf salad, from Whole Foods, is unique in that it relies on pureed walnuts and apple in the dressing instead of oil. I was skeptical, but didn’t miss the oil one bit, especially since you’re still getting healthy fats from the nuts. I did add a bit of water to thin the dressing to my liking, but I liked how the dressing clung to the kale leaves, softening the salad and helping to bulk up your usual kale salad. Because kale is so hardy, this is a great make-ahead salad…the leftovers I took for my lunch the next day weren’t soggy or unappetizing in the slightest! Next time you’re looking for a salad to round out your meal plan (just add some crusty bread to finish it off), give this one a try.
Kale Waldorf Salad | The Sweets Life

One Year Ago: Grilled Salmon with Avocado Tomato Salsa

Two Years Ago: Mixed Berries with Mascarpone Limoncello Cream and Kale Salad with Garlic Vinaigrette
Three Years Ago: Cake Batter Rice Krispy Treats and Sweet Potato Chorizo Empanadas with Avocado Cream
Four Years Ago: Chocolate Fudge Drops and Creamy Vegetable and Edamame Risotto
Five Years Ago: German Chocolate Cookies

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Amaretto Brownies

Amaretto Brownies | The Sweets Life
Amaretto Brownies 

I know, more brownies? I told you I’m surprising even myself with all these brownies coming out of my kitchen (first the oatmeal brownie bars, then the chilecinnamon brownies), but apparently it’s the dessert of the moment. What’s next? Time will tell, although I will say my ice cream maker has been far too neglected lately…
Pin ItAmaretto Brownies | The Sweets Life
I’m not disappointed in this brownie fixation, especially since I’m 3/3 now. These amaretto brownies are great when you’re craving a rich brownie, but want something a little different. With amaretto in both the brownie and the frosting, you definitely taste something special. Almond lovers won’t be able to resist these! For even more of an almond flavor, top them with slivered or sliced almonds. Like my other recent brownie recipes, these keep well for several days, but can also be frozen and saved for a brownie-craving day!
Five Years Ago: Homemade Kettle Corn

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sweet Bell Pepper and Onion Salad

Sweet Bell Pepper and Onion Salad | The Sweets Life
Sweet Bell Pepper and Onion Salad 

With a freezer full of main dishes, thanks to the marathon freezer cooking day I had with friends, I’m taking the time to get a little creative with our side dishes rather than just roasting some vegetables or steaming some broccoli. To be fair, Ryan made this bell pepper salad one evening to eat alongside some shredded Italian beef we pulled from the freezer. We returned home from work one evening to a happy baby who suddenly transformed into a lethargic, feverish baby with temperatures reaching 103F.
Pin ItSweet Bell Pepper and Onion Salad | The Sweets Life

We’d witnessed a few minor fevers with Brecken before, but nothing that high and I was too busy cuddling her and trying to keep her comfortable to even think about this salad I’d planned to make. Thankfully super dad/husband stepped in and started throwing this together. For as pretty as it looks arranged on the plate, you’d never guess how simple it is. Slice some peppers, chop some herbs, toss in the dressing, and after a little rest it’s ready for the table. Leftovers kept well, so I’d guess you could make this up to a day ahead of time to make getting dinner ready even easier!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Odds & Ends

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1. Friday Night Meatballs: How to Change Your Life with Pasta. I absolutely love this idea about creating community through regular, stress-free entertainment. We currently open up our home for a weekly community group through our church, but I love the idea of also doing something like this...maybe sometime in the near(ish) future?!?

2. If you follow me on Instagram then you've already seen this, but if not, let me introduce you to THE best baby giggle in the world! My SIL Kate captured Brecken's giggle on video last week and we have watched this probably 100 times already. B is generous with her smiles but makes us work for her laugh so it was all the more special to film this. We've fake sneezed over and over and over again since then and she apparently no longer finds it funny...little stinker! 

(image source)
3. If you're a working mom, or plan to someday be a working mom, do yourself a favor and read Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink. I liked it so much better than Lean In or any other similar book I've read. Part memoir, part research-based, it's a quick read and will hopefully inspire you to change America's culture as it relates to working moms. 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
4. Are you diving straight into pumpkin season? Whether you started yesterday or are holding off for a few more weeks, put these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies on your must-bake list. They're one of our favorite--if not our all-time favorites--cookies and when September hits at least a few cans of pumpkin go toward making these. I dare you to find a pumpkin cookie with a better texture!

One Year Ago: Sloppy Joes
Two Years Ago: Banana Mascarpone Muffins with Chocolate Chips
Three Years Ago: Baked Black Beans with Chorizo
Four Years Ago: Okra, Zucchini, and Tomato Saute
Five Years Ago: Pear and Blue Cheese Spinach Salad

Friday, September 12, 2014

No Bake Chocolate Layered Cheesecake with Strawberries

No Bake Chocolate Layered Cheesecake with Strawberries | The Sweets Life
No Bake Chocolate Layered Cheesecake with Strawberries 
I wasn’t kidding when I told you I had other versions of the lemon layered cheesecake up my sleeve! My mind immediately went to the chocolate strawberry combination…it’s essentially a perfect combination of the cheesecake-stuffed strawberries and the ever-famous chocolate-covered strawberries.
Pin ItNo Bake Chocolate Layered Cheesecake with Strawberries | The Sweets Life

Just like I said with the other version, this dessert is about as easy as it gets. I will admit that spreading the cheesecake mixture can be a little difficult, but once you get the first layer down, it’s smooth sailing!  I love how pretty this looks on a platter and I would argue that it’s much easier to slice than a traditional cheesecake (plus you get 3x the ‘crust’!!!). Next I’m dreaming up some sort of peanut butter version! You can expect that sometime in the future...
No Bake Chocolate Layered Cheesecake with Strawberries | The Sweets Life

One Year Ago: Marinated Summer Vegetables
Two Years Ago: Tomato Cucumber Feta Salad and Green Bean, Grape, and Bacon Pasta Salad
Three Years Ago: Pappardelle with Vegetables, Basil, and Asiago and Chocolate Liqueur Brownies
Four Years Ago: Banana Oatmeal Date Cookies and Blushing POM Holiday Cheesecake
Five Years Ago: Homemade Whole Wheat Bagels and Chocolate Chip Oreo Cookies

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cilantro Yogurt Chickpea Dip

Cilantro Yogurt Chickpea Dip 

Every night around 8:30 pm, a snack monster creeps into our house and invades my body! It's been a few hours since dinner and it's not quite bedtime and suddenly ALL.THE.SNACKS. sound good to me! It's often a battle between sweet vs. salty, and when savory wins out, the chips and crackers in our house disappear with alarming speed. I'm not really looking to curb the snacking...as an exercising, nursing mom, I figure I probably need the calories, but I am trying to have healthy options on hand to balance the less healthy options from time to time!
This cilantro chickpea dip is just what I need. I've packed it in my lunch to motivate me to eat my veggies (I find it's particularly good with bell peppers and broccoli!) and I've pulled it out in the evening to satiate the snack monster, usually eaten atop pita chips or Triscuits. It takes five minutes to toss the ingredients in the food processor and make a batch. I find the combo bright and refreshing and I actually have plans to double my batch next time so that I can use the leftovers in some sort of a Southwestern-style wrap or sandwich. Stay tuned!

One Year Ago: Lighter Broccoli Salad

Two Years Ago: NYC Eats Part II and Tomato Bacon Basil Pizza Rolls
Three Years Ago: Red Onion and Kalamata Olive Tuna Salad and Spiced Peach-Carrot Bread
Four Years Ago: Tandoori Grilled Vegetable Kabobs and Chicken & Artichokes in White Wine Sauce
Five Years Ago: Whole Wheat Banana Bread

Monday, September 8, 2014

Spicy Pasta with Zucchini and Leeks

Spicy Pasta with Zucchini and Leeks 

I’m sure many of you, like me, have a handful of grocery staples. You buy whatever you need for your meal plan or maybe grab a few impulse purchases each week, but more often than not you have your basics that are always in your cart. For us this includes Greek yogurt, kale, bananas, and zucchini. Okay, and chocolate chips.
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I like always having zucchini on hand because it’s easy to slice and eat with hummus, we absolutely love zucchini bread (with chocolate chips of course), and it’s a versatile vegetable that can be added to just about any meal. Take this pasta, for instance. Pasta often gets a bad reputation, especially in today’s age of “fear the carb” and “avoid gluten like the plague”, but this dish is fairly healthy and not oozing with cream or cheese. It only takes a few basic ingredients that you likely have on hand (especially if zucchini is one of your staples!) and you aren’t going to have to slave away in the kitchen for hours to get dinner on the table!