3 favorite recipes

I think I’ve mentioned before, my motivation to cook comes and goes. I’ll go along for a couple of weeks being Betty Crocker and then it will be takeout for a week. Everyone needs a break once in awhile, right? And a Kit Kat.

When I am on a cooking spree though, for some reason I always am wanting to find and make new recipes, when I have like a ton that I’ve made and know are good and that Joseph would really be happy if I’d make again. I should work on that.

Anyway, there are a few that make a regular rotation in our house. Here are three:

1. Spaghetti Bolognese
This is just solid comfort food. It’s pretty easy to make and is wonderful as leftovers. My only changes are to halve the amounts of cinnamon and nutmeg and to use spicy italian sausage where it calls for regular pork sausage.

2. Spicy Black Bean Burgers
Great meatless meal. I usually serve these with avocado, tomato, lettuce and spicy mayo.

3. Salty Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies (picture by Bon Appetit)
This is my current go-to cookie recipe. Excellent cookies. Now, there are tons and tons of recipes out there for ‘perfect’ chocolate chip cookies. I even have at least two other recipes that qualify as ‘really really good if not perfect’ cookies, but these are what I’m making these days in a pinch. And there are a lot of pinches.

pinterest in real life – no-bake granola bars

First of all, I realize that I should be taking pictures of my attempts in this endeavor, but I’ve been too lazy. So here’s to not being lazy. I took one picture!

This week I had to try these no-bake granola bars. They looked so healthy and easy. Turns out, they weren’t quite as easy as I’d hoped, because I had to toast oats and coconut, and soak and puree apricots and dates, and chop a whole buncha stuff. Is that a lot of work? Maybe not. Like I mentioned, I’m lazy.

The recipe is nicely modifiable, so I used peanut butter where I had no almond butter, and almonds where I had no brazil nuts. Otherwise, it was really nice to use up all these dried fruit sort of things that I happened to have sitting in my pantry, because I literally had all of the other ingredients on hand(minus hemp seeds, but who has those on hand?). Sometimes I have no idea how I collect these things.

These bars were pretty tasty. My favorite bites are when you can taste the dates and apricots, and because I had some trouble getting a nice smooth paste out of my apricots and dates, those flavors didn’t quite make it all way through the mixture. If you can get a good paste out of them though, I suspect it’d be pretty enjoyable.

I can’t say that I ate these with the fervor with which I demolished the coconut macaroons I made the other day, but they are good. (Maybe it’s not fair to compare macaroons to granola bars. Yeah, probably not.) And the nice thing is that I cut up and wrapped the remaining bars into individual sized portions and stuck them in the freezer, so we have snacks or breakfast in a pinch!

Verdict: Unsure
For some reason, I wish these were a tad easier to throw together. Maybe they would be better with a different nut butter or something, but I don’t see adding these to a regular rotation. I’ll keep the recipe for now, because it’s healthy and tasty.

first picture is mine, second picture is from the original recipe post

pinterest in real life – arugula steak salad

Here we are again. I may have missed a week…or two…

I’ve been eating a lot of sweets lately, or more accurately, I’ve been eating a lot lately. Of everything. It’s bad. I didn’t really do much cooking or grocery shopping for the past couple weeks and that has led to a lot of takeout and things like Chipotle and Portillo’s. There’s only so much convincing I can do to myself to believe that a hot dog has enough servings of vegetables on it or a burrito bowl somehow constitutes a salad. I haven’t gone so far as counting fries as a vegetable yet…but maybe I’m heading down that road.

I need to quit.

So yesterday I finally got to the store and we had this arugula steak salad for dinner. It felt a little healthier than what I’ve been having, and it was a nice low carb meal. The steak I got though…I don’t think it was the best. (What’s up with that, Whole Foods?) It seemed a little tough and chewy, and I didn’t overcook it. I don’t know if I did something else wrong, but for me, it wasn’t awesome. My husband ate it though, even though he agreed about it’s toughness.

The salad itself though, was great. I loved the caramelized pears and pecans, and naturally the gorgonzola took it over the top. Very yummy.

The verdict: Saved.
I’ll keep this one around, and hope for a better steak next time.

Recipe and photo found here

baked apple french toast

On Saturdays of the past, we used to roll out of bed sometime after the sun was well on it’s way overhead, then laze on the couch watching golf or a TV movie until our hunger took over and required us to either go to breakfast or make pancakes if we didn’t feel like looking presentable.

Now on Saturdays, Joseph will get up early with Simona (like the champ he is) and then after he puts her down for her first nap, I stumble out of bed and he usually falls back into it for a nap. When we are both finally functioning, we scrounge up some breakfast. So it’s kind of the same as before, but also totally not.

This past Saturday I was fortunate enough to have a day-old baguette sitting on my counter, and leftover apple mixture from making these hand pies, so I mean pretty much the choice was made for me. I threw together baked french toast using this recipe as my guide but substituting the apples for the berries. I also added some brown sugar to the apples. And man it was good. Joseph ate the leftovers later that day before I could even pull a fork out. Just kidding, I always have a fork. Like Joey.

If you don’t happen to make the hand pies and don’t want to follow the recipe there for the apple mixture, you can just peel and dice an apple and mix it together with a couple pinches of cinnamon, a tablespoon or two of brown sugar, a couple teaspoons of flour, and a splash of lemon juice. Add the candied ginger if you like, it gives an interesting dimension. Otherwise, just follow the recipe for the mixed berry french toast.

pinterest in real life – lentil soup and hand pies

Still going with this…we’ll see how long it lasts!

This week I tried two recipes in the same meal. This lentil soup was up first: I’d been eyeing it repeatedly but thinking it looked too complicated. I’m not sure why. Maybe the words ‘brown butter’ had something to do with it. Anyway, it was pretty easy!

The soup was tasty, but thinner than I expected, I guess. I was anticipating a heartier soup. Maybe I did something wrong. Anyway, it was nice and spicy with an interesting dimension from the curry. We really enjoyed it with some toasty baguette.

Verdict: Saved.

For dessert I made these apple ginger hand pies. It was my first hand-pie-making experience, and it wasn’t a bad one. The dough didn’t give me fits, for a change. I always have trouble with pie dough. This one came together beautifully for me, so bonus already.

The pies themselves were good, but I kind of wanted an ooey-gooey-er filling. It mostly felt like just apples and the ginger. I’m thinking if I make these again I will adjust by adding some brown sugar to the apple mixture or something. I just wanted a little more decadence in there. However, these were great with some vanilla ice cream. Then it becomes a spoon pie, but who cares?

Our favorite part about these though? The crust! It was perrrfect. Flaky with just the right amount of crispy-crunch when you bit into it. If I don’t make this particular filling again, I will probably still use the dough recipe.

Verdict: Saved, if not just for the dough recipe.
Like I said, if I make these again, I will be adjusting the filling to my tastes.

images are not mine, they are from the original recipe posts (soup) (pies)

magazine snippets

Every month, the magazines in my house gang up on me. Better Homes and Gardens, Chicago, Bon Appetit…they all just sit there and beckon at me to have a perfect house, an exciting social life, a meal in my crockpot every night. I tend to ignore their advances and just let them pile up. In fact, after I had Simona, I let them go so long that I had two giant (like a foot tall each) stacks to go through. That’s a lotta magazines.

I should have probably just thrown them out, but being kind of OCD about it, I had to go through them to make sure I didn’t miss anything good. Are you like that, or is it just me?

Anyway, I finally got through them but have since let a number of my subscriptions expire. There’s just no time. I do still get a couple though, not to mention catalogs, and I try to regularly go through the old ones to keep up with the clutter. Then I tear out and file the pages I like (told you I was OCD about this…tell me it’s not just me), and I’ve decided to share some of those here.

Planning to make this this week.

Totally a post-workout drink. Now I just have to workout.

You had me at lavender. Then at lemon. Then at cake.

White decor, always and forever.

Exposed brick – check.
Mid-century modern furniture – check.
Lots of light + white – check.
Industrial flair – check.

pinterest in real life – coconut hot chocolate

Let us continue on in this journey.

This week I couldn’t wait to try out this coconut hot chocolate because I had been eyeing/drooling about it for some time. It is fairly easy to make and it comes from one of my favorite bloggers so I don’t know what my holdup was. I mean just look at it.

Cutting to the chase, this stuff was so so rich. And coming from me, that means a lot. I can handle a fair amount of decadence, but I couldn’t even finish a small mug of this! It is very thick, so much so that I thinned mine with some milk. But it is delicious.

The thing is, I saved the leftovers in the fridge, and the next day it was like a pudding. And by jove I liked it better this way! I just enjoyed it plain with a spoon and actually preferred it to drinking it. I keep going back to the fridge and sneaking spoonfuls. You could probably add the whipped cream and coconut flakes to this new ‘pudding’ and have a pretty rad dessert.

Verdict: Unsure
I’m really waffling on this one. The ‘pudding’ of this is so dang good. But there are so many other desserts out there to make and I can’t decide if this should be part of the rotation. If you’re a fan of coconut though, definitely worth a shot. I just prefer it as not a beverage.

image is from original recipe post

two green drinks

I’ve had the pleasure of trying two new beverages this week. See below.

The alo APPEAL was an impulse purchase at Jewel, and it’s such a unique drink. It actually has little chunks of aloe in it, which was a little weird to get used to (I’m not one to usually order the tapioca balls in my bubble tea, for example), but once I did get used to drinking and chewing at the same time, it was good. The taste is nice and refreshing, and feels healthy. Pretty low in calories (120 for the bottle, but 60 per serving) too. The only thing is you have to drink it in small sips or else you’ll get a whole mouthful of aloe.

The evolution FRESH was bought at Starbucks. It’s probably only like my new favorite drink (I’m imagining that sentence being said in Kip’s voice). My husband likes it too and that is saying a whole lot because he doesn’t really like green juice unless it was made right in front of him, and even then he’s a little jumpy about it. He said it’s probably his favorite green juice he’s had. What I like about it (besides the taste and the fact that it’s just plain good for you) is that it is straight juice, no added sugars. The sugar content is like 10g per serving, 20g for the bottle. Also the whole bottle is 100 calories. I wish I could order a case of this. They also sell these at Whole Foods.

pinterest in real life – coconut nutmeg pudding and towel recharge

Ah, Pinterest. It somehow has the dual ability to be a time suck and an inspiration to do more. We pin and pin for hours with lofty dreams of the perfect baby shower, the cutest snack for the kiddos, and a kitchen filled with the smell of your perfect banana bread-stuffed cookie-brownie baking in the oven.

But how often do we actually take action on these pins? I have over a thousand pins and I know I won’t ever get to all of them. But I can at least start! I decided that I want to try at least one pinned item a week, whether it’s a baked good or a home improvement idea or a workout or a craft.

I know that not everything will turn out perfectly (there’s a whole blog dedicated to this – here’s one of my favorites), but I’ll share the good, the bad and the ugly. Here goes!

This week I tried this coconut nutmeg pudding. It looks so pretty and delicious, and since my husband is out of town and this is not his jam but it is totally my jam, I decided to give it a go.

So, this pudding is not very sweet. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t use full fat coconut milk or not, but I ended up adding honey to make it sweeter. You should know I have a pretty sick sweet tooth, but nonetheless I thought it needed it. And perhaps I let the pudding cook too long so it was too thick to strain, but by the time I strained it, I had one serving. ONE. (It’s supposed to make four.) It was fine because it hadn’t turned out how I’d hoped anyway, and I almost just decided it was a lost cause. But after it cooled off a bit and I added the toasted coconut on top, it really wasn’t bad at all. It says serve warm but I enjoyed it…a little less than warm. Not chilled, but almost like room temp. I polished off my one serving, to my surprise. The flavor of the nutmeg was nice and the honey gave it the right amount of sweet. If you try it, perhaps use full fat coconut milk. And perhaps don’t cook it as long, and perhaps add honey.

Verdict: Not saved.
A little more trouble than it was worth for me, since my results were the way they were.*

*This is to say nothing about the quality of the recipe. There are many variables that could have made my result the way it was, and the original pudding does look wonderful. I’m just sharing my imperfect personal experience.

I also tried this:

I don’t know that it made my towels particularly more fresh or fluffy. Kinda hard to tell. They were nice and absorbent but my towels usually are. I guess it’s nice to skip detergent and go with a more natural cleaning method.

Verdict: (probably) not saved.
If the next time I wash my towels with regular detergent I notice that they don’t seem as great as they did this time, I will let you know. Otherwise, it’s easier for me to just use detergent. I like to use my baking soda and vinegar for other things and this requires a fair amount of both.

images are not mine, they are from the original posts (pudding)

trader joe’s favorites – episode 1

Do you frequent Trader Joe’s like I frequent Trader Joe’s? It’s my #1 shopping spot now. This happened largely due to their ready-made meals that we practically lived on for awhile after I had Simona. I was not one of those people who had freezer meals made in advance before she was born, and I was (am?) also not one of those people who found the energy to cook a meal after a day of napping and eating (on Simona’s part). (Why does that take so much energy from mom?) We had the help of friends and family for some meals, but when that died down and I was on my own, Trader Joe’s came to the rescue.

Anyway, I digress.

Mr. Trader Joe is so solid for a ton of things – he keeps it fresh and interesting and pretty cheap. There’s always something new to try (which I try to do every trip), but there are quite a number of things I buy on the regular. See below for installment #1 of my favorites and stay tuned for more!

1. Minty Mallows – I don’t know if these are seasonal, but I’ve been buying them for a couple months. They are so tasty and refreshing. I’m sure they would be excellent in a cup of hot chocolate, but I’ve never gotten around to doing that because I eat them all up first.

2 & 3. Greek Style Chicken and Tzatziki Sauce – This chicken dinner (found in the refrigerated section) is really good on it’s own, but the tzatziki really amps up the awesome factor on this dish. We also add some extra crumbled feta and a couple squeezes of lemon juice. Okay so I guess we kind of doctor this one up. Like I said, it will be tasty alone, but it will be really tasty with those extras. Great meal.

4. French Vanilla Ice Cream – A staple. It’s rich and creamy and not airy like some other big brands. A nice substitute for Haagen-Dazs. I’m not saying it’s as good, but it’s pretty darn close and you get more for your money too.

5. Mushroom and Black Truffle Pizza – I am a non-truffle lover (I know I know), and I really enjoy this pizza. So I don’t really know if I need to say anything else about it.

6. Lacey’s Cookies in Milk Chocolate Macadamia - I am also not a big huge fan of macadamia nuts and these are awesome. It’s not like you’re eating whole nuts, they must be crushed in the caramel-y cookie part. And then there’s chocolate sandwiched in-between those wafer-thin cookies. Anyway, it tastes like toffee and chocolate and heaven.

7. Sparkling Raspberry Lime Spring Water – This is a great way to make drinking water a little extra special, and a nice halfway between water and soda. It has no sugar or calories and the flavor is really good. All the variations of this water (lime, lemon, etc) are good, but I think the raspberry lime is my most favorite. As you can see by the half-drunk bottle up there.


What are your favorites? What can’t I miss?