Sunday, December 9, 2012

Week 70: Warm December. . .

This warm weather is creeping me out!  Seriously, it should not be 70 degrees on December 9th in North Georgia!  I am enjoying the outside time for the kids (and for my hubby who is working on our deck), but it just feels strange to see people wearing flip-flops in December.  Ok, enough of my soap box and onto the menu. . .  ;)

Thai Basil Shrimp with red peppers and cabbage!  Sent this picture to Alain to lure him home last week!  

We finally bought our Christmas tree today and decorated it, so it was a sweet family night for all of us.  The kids proceeded to pay with legos as soon as the decorating was complete and I made some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for a special treat!  I've been using coconut oil in these cookies rather than butter and they are delicious!  It's really interesting that they seem to hold their shape better with the coconut oil rather than spreading out on the cookie sheet to be a bit thinner when I use butter.  Not sure if any of you have tried it, but I'd love to hear from you want to share your thoughts!

Week 70 Menu

Sunday - Rotisserie chicken, green beans, white rice
Monday - Leftovers
Tuesday - Pot roast, carrots, potatoes
Wednesday - Chicken Cacciatore, pasta, zucchini pasta, roasted cauliflower
Thursday - Shrimp tacos, white rice, black beans, cabbage slaw (romaine lettuce for Paleo taco shells)
Friday - Roasted salmon with normandy vegetables
Saturday - Out to dinner

Hope you all have a great week!


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Week 69: Playing Catch Up!

Well, I totally missed posting last week's menu with my post-Thanksgiving craziness.  My SIL came into town to visit her sister (who had pre-eclampsia and delivered a preemie a few weeks ago) with my niece, so we had a little time with my sweet niece, Josephine (Zach calls her 'JosePine' and I love it).  The 'no-menu' weeks are always a challenge, but we did almost totally Paleo meals all week despite the chaos.

Now this picture is not a Paleo meal, but I made these right before Thanksgiving and I was thrilled with this pita bread recipe!  It was the easiest bread I've made and the kids devoured this stuff as it came out of the oven.  I cooked it in the oven on a cookie sheet turned upside down and they only take a few minutes to puff up and cook!  Pita bread was a really fun recipe to make with the kids, so give it a try if you like pita bread.  They are SO much better than anything you get in the store!

Week 69 Menu

Sunday - Rotisserie chicken, broccoli (from our garden)
Monday - Mexican beef (or lettuce wraps), roasted cauliflower, guacamole
Tuesday - Spaghetti with meat sauce, green beans, zucchini noodles
Wednesday - Leftovers
Thursday - Thai basil shrimp, cabbage, red peppers, white rice
Friday - Grilled steaks, spring mix salad, grilled asparagus
Saturday - Roasted salmon with normandy vegetables

Happy cooking!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Easy Rustic Bread

This bread has been all over pinterest, so if you are all fans, then you've probably seen it before!  Truly, this bread is amazing and it's the easiest bread I've ever made!  You have to try it at least once and leave a comment to let me know how it works out!

Easy Rustic Bread
(original recipe: Simply So Good blog)

3 cups unbleached All-Purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. rapid rise yeast or bread machine yeast (same thing)
1 1/2 cups warm water

Find a very large mixing bowl and whisk together the flour, salt and yeast.  Add water and mix gently until the mixture starts to come together.  It will still be quite wet.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave on the counter for 12-15 hours (you can leave it up to 24 hours, but don't put it in the refrigerator).  After the allotted time, heat the oven to 450 degrees and place the pot with lid on inside the oven for 30 minutes.  A cast iron pot works really well for this, but you can use any pot that can go inside your oven safely.  I used a stainless steel pan and lid last time and it turned our fantastic!  So, while the oven is pre-heating, pour the dough onto a heavily floured surface and attempt to shape it into a ball.  It will still be soft.  Cover the dough with the plastic wrap while you wait for the pot to pre-heat.  After 30 minutes, remove lid and drop dough into the middle of the pot and return the lid.  Cook for 30 minutes.  When the timer goes off, take lid off of the pot and return to the oven to bake for 15 minutes.  Finally, remove the bread from the oven and place it on a cooling rack.  It will be hard to wait to dig into this bread and I'll be honest, I usually don't wait more than 10 minutes.  Just be careful because it is very hot!

The original recipe has a ton of FAQ's and they cover any question you could possibly imagine!  Check it out if you need some guidance.  You'll also find a great selection of mix-in options on the original site.  I have not yet experimented with mix-ins because the basic bread is just SO amazing!

Hope you enjoy!


Fudge Brownies

I know I have a few brownie recipes on this blog, but can you really have too many brownie recipes?  These are my go-to brownies right now because they are easy!  You an give or take the instant coffee powder, but I always prefer to use it if I have it on hand.

Fudge Brownies (adapted from King Arthur Flour)

4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups Special Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder or instant coffee powder (Starbucks VIA are yummy)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or White Whole Wheat Flour
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan.  Crack the 4 eggs into a large bowl, and beat them together.  Next, add cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla and mix untill the batter is velvety smooth.

In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter by slicing it into tablespoons and placing it in the bowl.  It should take about 1 minute to melt.  Next, add the sugar and stir to combine. Continue to  microwave briefly, just until the mixture is hot (about 110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling; it'll become shiny looking as you stir it. King Arthur Flour claims that heating the mixture to this point will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.  Add the hot butter/sugar mixture to the egg/cocoa mixture pouring slowly into the bowl, stirring until smooth.  Add the flour and chips.

Spoon the batter into a lightly greased 9" x 13" pan.  Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not uncooked. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Week 68: Birthday Boy Turns 4!

How is it that I have a 9-year-old, a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old?  Really, life is just flying by and I know that if I close my eyes for just a minute they'll all be graduating High School and having their own kids!  So, my youngest, Zachary, turned 4 last Wednesday and we celebrated his birthday 2 weekends ago with family and a few friends!  His birthday is so close to Halloween that we had a costume party and did a Spider theme and bought leftover Halloween decorations for the party! It was fun to have spider webs all over the house.  Zach loved to throw things into the webs to see what stuck and what fell down!  Sadly, I still have some spider webs hanging around my house. . .

Cinnamon rolls for Zach's 'real' birthday at home!

Time is slipping by, so along with the speed of my children growing, starting Cross Fit is kicking my butt (quite literally)!  I am so exhausted every night, but it's oddly addictive.  My husband has been going to Cross Fit for over a year and I have picked on him about the incredible pain he's in after every workout!  However, I am now able to see this pain from a 'personal' perspective and I'm finding that the pain is intense, but the fact that I completed the "mac-daddy' workout really makes me feel amazing!  So, I'm hooked, but my blogging is totally suffering (as is my menu-planning), so we've had some interesting meals lately that include chicken nuggets for the kids and eggs for Mommy and Daddy!  It's all good.  ;)

Week 68 Menu

Sunday - Rotisserie chicken, broccoli, potatoes
Monday - Roasted chicken legs with cauliflower, couscous
Tuesday - Spaghetti with meat sauce, green beans, zucchini noodles
Wednesday - Chicken tacos, black beans, rice, seared zucchini
Thursday - Thai basil shrimp, cabbage, red peppers, white rice
Friday - Out to dinner
Saturday - Out to dinner

I am not certain that I'll make any of these meals this week.  It's just been that crazy around here with homework and all of the neighbors begging to play outside in the afternoons.  We don't even do sports yet, and it's just busy all of the time.  I hope that some of you will share your attempts at menu planning too!  Just post your menus (or what you think you might cook) in the comments below, so that we can all get ideas from one another!

Happy cooking, everyone!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Week 67: Cul-de-Sac Dinner!

Well, we planted a winter garden for the first time ever in our Cul-de-Sac and it's now just starting to come together for us!  In celebration of our first harvest (collard greens), we got together and cooked some good, old fashioned southern collard greens with smoked turkey legs and cornbread!  We used Paula Deen's recipe for collard greens and they were really amazing!  I am from the Chicago suburbs originally, so we never ate collard greens growing up and I've never served them in my home!  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed them!

My daughter, Annabelle (9 years old), just got a new cookbook from some friends and she wanted to use it to make dessert Sunday.  She picked a recipe for cake truffles (aka cake pops) and we made the cake from scratch and I used leftover icing that was in my freezer to complete the recipe!  Then, we rolled them in powdered sugar!  Delicious!  I'm so proud of her because she made almost everything by herself.

Cake Truffles actually looked like chocolate donut holes to me!  

Week 67 Menu

Sunday - Turkey legs, collard greens, corn bread
Monday - Meatloaf, green beans
Tuesday - Mahi-mahi, roasted mixed veggies
Wednesday - Chicken tacos, black beans, rice, seared zucchini
Thursday - Spaghetti with meat sauce, broccoli, zucchini noodles (angel hair for kids)
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday - Out to dinner

Have a great week, everyone!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Week 66: How Sweet it Is!

It was definitely a sweet weekend in this house! Our friends from New York visited this weekend, so we had cinnamon rolls, brownies and carrot cupcakes scattered over the past 2 days. The kids are in heaven and most of the adults were pretty happy too. ;)

We did also have 'real' food, but I enjoy recalling the sweets so much more fondly! It was a fun weekend filled with my kids attacking my hubby's college roommate with crazy wrestling matches, some great hiking at Sope Creek and lots of good food.

Week 66 Menu

Sunday - Chicken salad sandwiches
Monday - Leftovers
Tuesday -  Beef tacos, black beans, white rice
Wednesday - Chicken stir fry, cabbage, red peppers, leftover rice (didn't get to this last week)
Thursday - Spaghetti with meat sauce, broccoli, zucchini noodles (angel hair for kids)
Friday - Roasted salmon with mixed roasted veggies
Saturday - Out to dinner

Have a great week, everyone!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

'Sort-of' Dragon's Breath Chili

You have to try this chili! I am always looking for a new chili recipe, but I'll be sticking with this one for awhile.  I guess I just get bored with making the same kind of chili every Fall and my kids were having trouble eating the previous recipe because I was making it 'too spicy' for them!  The original Guy Fieri recipe for this chili is probably very spicy, but I changed quite a few things based on what I had in my pantry and the heat factor.  

Dragon's Breath Chili (Adapted from Guy Fieri)

2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 red bell peppers, diced (about 2 cups)
4 jalapeños, minced
3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, chopped (optional)
2 yellow onions, diced (about 2 cups)
1 head garlic, minced (about 1/4 cup)
2 pounds ground beef, coarse grind
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup tomato paste (I used about 1/2 cup because it's all I had)
12 ounces lager beer or beef broth
1 cup chicken stock
2 (15.5-ounce) cans pinto beans, with juice
1 (15.5-ounce) can kidney beans, with juice

In large stock pot over medium-high heat, add butter and oil. Add bell pepper, jalapeno, chiles and onion and cook until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute a minute longer. Add ground beef and sausage to brown and stir gently, trying not to break up the ground beef too much. Cook until meat is nicely browned and cooked through, about 7 to10 minutes. Add in powdered onions and garlic, chili powder, paprika, cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add in tomato sauce and paste and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in beer(or beef stock) and chicken stock. Add beans, lower heat and simmer for 2 hours.

Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese and sliced green onion if desired!  For an extra special treat with leftovers, we are always game for chili dogs!  



Monday, October 8, 2012

Week 65: Welcome Fall!

Loving this cooler weather this week!  We went camping with some friends this past weekend to Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia and it was in the 40's when we woke up Sunday morning!  That was a bit colder that I was ready for during an already very rainy weekend!  My sleeping bag was calling to me on Sunday morning saying 'don't leave me yet!'  If you've never checked out Cloudland Canyon, you really need to take some time to visit it!  The canyon is not like you might imagine a canyon out West, but it's deep with waterfalls at the bottom and the hike down into the canyon is awesome!  The hike around the rim is beautiful as well!  There's great hiking, mountain biking and the camp sites are very spacious!

Annabelle enjoying a toasted marshmallow! 

I had my first day at our local Cross Fit Gym today!  I was totally wiped out this morning, but very excited that I made it through day 1!  I have 2 weeks of beginner's training and then I get to go to the 'big kid' classes with everyone else!  The owner of this gym is really a great leader and teacher, so I was fortunate to have a private lesson with him this morning because no one else wants to get up and be there at 6am.  Imagine that?

So, it's been a good 2 weeks since I posted a menu, but I'm back and ready to have a menu up.  It's been fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants with cooking here lately and that makes dinner time really stressful for all of us!  I spent a week helping coordinate the CCC MOPS Children's Consignment Sale in Smyrna, GA two weeks ago and then I spent last week recovering and dealing with a few sick kids.

Onto the menu. . .

Week 65 Menu

Sunday - Marinated salmon with roasted mixed veggies
Monday - Pork sirloin roast, cauliflower, potatoes and carrots
Tuesday -  Leftovers
Wednesday - Chicken stir fry, cabbage, red peppers, white rice
Thursday - Chili, steamed broccoli, salad
Friday - Pizza
Saturday - Out to dinner

Have a great week, everyone!


Argentine Chili with Chimichurri

I have been in a bit of a cooking rut, simply sticking to familiar recipes I know and love every week.  So, we tried a few new ones a few weeks ago and this one was truly delicious!  At first, I taste-tested the chili alone and it was just ok.  It needed a bit of time to blend the flavors.  After an hour or so, the chili was great.  However, with the addition of the chimichurri sauce, this recipe was out of this world!  

Argentine Chili with Chimichurri (Adapted from Rachael Ray's recipe)

Ingredients for Chili:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds lean ground sirloin
1/4 to 1/3 pound Spanish-style chorizo, casing removed and chopped or crumbled
1 onion, finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 small jalapeño peppers (red preferred, but green will be fine)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 rounded tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
1 rounded tablespoon ground ancho chili powder or basic chili powder
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups beef stock

Ingredients for Chimichurri:
1 cup packed fresh herbs, coarsely chopped, including any mixture of: parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil or cilantro leaves (I used parsley, oregano and cilantro)
2 large shallots or 1 small onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
About 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Chili Directions:
Heat a heavy pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and the meat and brown until crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chorizo for just a minute, then add the onions, garlic and chiles.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 5 to 6 minutes to soften the onions mixture.  Add the oregano, paprika, and chili powder. Once the seasonings have blended in the pot, add the tomato paste and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the beef stock, lower the heat, and simmer for a few minutes to combine the flavors. This chili can be cooled and refrigerated for a make-ahead meal and reheated over medium-low heat with a little extra broth or water to reconstitute. The chili also freezes well.

Chimichurri Directions:
Place the garlic and shallots in the food processor and pulse quickly to finely dice.  Add herbs, salt and pepper, to taste, vinegar and oil in food processor bowl. Process until finely chopped but still a loose sauce. The sauce can be made fresh or refrigerated for a few days in airtight container.  I promise that it won't last long!  You can put this stuff on so many things and it's amazing!

Transfer the hot chili to serving bowls and topped with Chimichurri sauce. Another way to enjoy this recipe is in tacos.  I found that the chili was quite thick and a bit too spicy for 2 of my 3 kids, so we put the meat in tacos and topped them with shredded cheese. Delicious!  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Week 64: Dairy is Not My Friend!

I've been browsing through pinterest over the last few days looking for interesting recipe ideas, but I'm literally blown away by the amount of recipes that have dairy as the main ingredient.  I know how most people feel about their milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream, but it was really causing both my hubby and I pain and suffering to ingest dairy!  I am not completely dairy-free, but my husband has an allergy to milk protein, so I steer clear from it as much as possible.  I would say that I am on a low-lactose diet and it definitely agrees with me.

Zach helping put the frozen broccoli in the steamer! Broccoli is an awesome source of calcium!

It's a shame she doesn't love her broccoli!  LOL!  This girl has been eating broccoli for dessert since she was a toddler!

In my case, I seem to have trouble with milk, yogurt, ice cream and sometimes cheese.  I had an issue with lactose as an infant, so my mom never really pushed me to drink milk as a child.  I found that when I did drink milk, a milk shake or ice cream, I would suffer with severe sinus headaches within an hour of my meal (I especially noticed this around the time when I stopped eating dairy with my husband for the Paleo diet)!  It was awful!  Milk products also made any cold symptoms I had so much worse (as far as nasal drainage and coughing), so it wasn't a big deal to minimize my dairy intake.  However, I still use milk in baking and I find that I don't have any issues when milk is baked into my food.

Love this stuff!  It's not high in protein, but it is a great milk substitute in our house!
I think that, for most people, the answer lies in moderation.  Most people would not even correlate a sinus headache with a dairy intolerance, but I can tell you that there was a huge connection in my world.  Here's an article about dairy allergies: link.  For those of you who don't struggle with any health issues as a result of heavily processed food, you are so lucky!  Check out this story of a couple changed by the Paleo diet:

Week 64 Menu

Sunday - Chili with Chimichurri, salad, broccoli
Monday - Grilled pizzas (red sauce & pesto with no cheese for paleo man)
Tuesday -  Leftovers
Wednesday - Mexican beef, rice, black beans, seared zucchini
Thursday - Baked chicken legs, green beans, asparagus
Friday - Pork sirloin roast, cauliflower, potatoes and carrots
Saturday - Out to dinner?

Thanks for letting me get that out!  Now, I would be so excited to see some menus this week!  Have a wonderful week, everyone!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Week 63: Grilled Chicken Legs

One of our favorite meals in the house is grilled chicken legs!  My kids flip for any food they can eat with their hands, so a favorite for them is chicken legs, corn on the cob and asparagus because they are all finger food!  We worked with what we had on hand tonight, so we couldn't do all finger food.  Emilie (our 6-year-old) was Daddy's big helper tonight, so she seasoned the chicken with Emeril seasoning, helped season the roasted potatoes and put the green beans in a steamer.  I can tell you she raved about her accomplishments all night and it was very sweet!

I'm getting a bit bored with my go-to menu items, so I'm trying to find some easy recipes that I can integrate into the weekly menu plans.  The picadillo is one my friend, Jeannie, made a few years ago.  It's great as-is on top of rice (or cauliflower for the Paleo man), but it's also delicious in tacos.  Picadillo has a much deeper, richer flavor than normal taco meat.  If you don't like all of the ingredients, it's easy enough to leave them out.  The other two just sound awesome.  I'm hopeful the slow-cooked pork will turn out great.  We can always use more crock pot meals!

Week 63 Menu

Sunday - Grilled chicken legs (pictured above), green beans, roasted potatoes
Monday - Picadillo, rice, roasted cauliflower
Tuesday -  Leftovers
Wednesday - Grilled mahi-mahi and some sides (not sure about them yet)
Thursday - Chinese slow-cooked pork shoulder, cabbage, bell peppers, rice (I'll post recipe if it's a good one)
Friday - Chili with Chimichurri, salad, broccoli
Saturday - Out to dinner?

Have a great week, everyone!

BTW - My blog post got featured on BlogHer Food page this week.  Check it out if you haven't already!


Monday, September 3, 2012

Week 62: Happy Labor Day!

Some weekends just don't turn out as you plan them, do they?  I was planning on traveling to visit my mom with the kiddos, sleep in and generally get a bit spoiled, but a stupid stomach bug had to invade my life and cancel all my awesome plans!  GRRRR!  Happy Labor Day!

Roasted asparagus with salt, pepper and olive oil!  Yummy! 
My husband and I are about to begin a fitness challenge this week!  I think he's participating in two separate challenges simultaneously.  The first is the just a general improve your endurance challenge using the Army Physical Fitness test at the beginning and the end of the 6 week challenge.  I had a total score of 201 (not great at all), but the idea is to improve over the next few weeks.  The test is a workout that included 2 minutes of push-ups, 2 minutes of sit-ups and a timed run for 2 miles.  The running totally did me in.  I barely passed on the sit-ups, but actually did fairly well 88/100 for the push-ups (that's my score, not how many push-ups I did, BTW).  ;)

The second challenge he's going is a CrossFit Challenge at his gym, so I'm on strict orders not to bake over the next month!  I absolutely hate being told 'not to bake.'  My first instinct is to run to my cookbook and bake something totally new and amazing!  I know that would be an 'Epic Fail' on my part as a supporting wife, so I will do my best to resist the sweets this month.  We have agreed, however, that I can bake as long as it does not linger in our house and I give it away immediately.  I know I can work around that rule!  So, I'll be doing lots of Paleo meals over the next month on the menu plans.  You will still see starches on my menu for the kids, but Alain and I will not be eating them.  Click on the paleo link if you are curious about the Paleo diet.

Week 62 Menu

Sunday - Rotisserie chicken (Costco), green beans, rice
Monday - Mexican Style pork, rice, black beans
Tuesday -  Leftovers
Wednesday - Thai basil shrimp, cabbage, red peppers, white rice
Thursday - Hamburgers, roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli
Friday - Grilled mahi-mahi, roasted carrots & cauliflower
Saturday - Out to dinner?

I'd love to see your menus!

Happy cooking,


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Week 61: Return to Normal?

It feels like August was gobbled up by the time goblin!  Seriously, we traveled for one week to Oregon, had a week home, and then were blessed with almost two weeks with visitors!  During all of the excitement, the kids started school and now I feel like things are slowly starting to come together!  I don't think we've encountered 'normal' yet, but we're enjoying each day!

We had a special treat this weekend by visiting with my best friend from high school, Stef, and her family!  Here's a picture of the girls with Stef's 2 kids!  We visited a barbecue festival up in Kennesaw and then ate dinner at our house!  It's been over 6 years since we've seen each other, so it was indeed a special treat for everyone!

I did not even attempt a menu plan last week while we still had family in town!  Now, I'm back and ready to get creative with some cooking. . .

Week 61 Menu

Sunday - Marinated salmon (Costco) and roasted frozen veggies
Monday - Sirloin pork roast, potatoes, broccoli
Tuesday -  Thai basil shrimp, cabbage, red peppers, white rice
Wednesday - Leftovers 
Thursday - Roast chicken, carrots, potatoes, couscous (just use whatever veggies you have on hand)
Friday - Out of town
Saturday - Out of town

Have a great week!  I'd love to see those menus!  Doesn't matter if it's fancy or simple!  We can all inspire one another!


Coconut Chocolate Jumbles

I was desperate for some cookies a few nights ago and I needed dessert for an evening MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting I was attending.  There were limited resources in my pantry and these cookies were the only quick cookies that I could make!  WOW!  So glad for that little incident because the cookies were delicious!  I found a recipe for coconut jumbles in an old cookbook titled 'Country Cooking' that is one of my favorite dessert cookbooks, but then searched for the recipe online and found one from Kraft.  Combined they were the perfect recipe!

Coconut Chocolate Jumbles

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose or white wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
6 oz. chocolate chips or chunks (dark chocolate preferred)
1 pkg. (7 oz.) shredded coconut (2-2/3 cups)
1 cup finely chopped walnuts (toasted if desired)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  In a large bowl, beat softened butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add egg and mix until just combined.  Add flour, baking soda and salt and mix well.  Now add all remaining ingredients and mix well.  

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly brown.  These definitely taste better a little under-cooked rather than over-cooked.  Cool a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.  Cool completely and store in air-tight container.

Yield: 3 dozen

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Week 60: Oregonians Invade! :)

Well, last week I mentioned that we were just getting over leaving the Pacific coast of Oregon and now my BIL, SIL and their 2-month old sweetie, Josephine are all staying with us for the next week and a half!  I'm so excited to see them again and my kids are thrilled that they finally get to meet their cousin!

First week of school starts tomorrow for my kids and it's always bittersweet!  They have a brand new school, so they are really excited, but a little nervous for a new school year.  

Week 60 Menu

Sunday - Spaghetti with meat sauce, zucchini noodles or rotini, steamed broccoli
Monday - Chicken tacos, black beans, white rice
Tuesday - Leftovers 
Wednesday - Grilled salmon, roasted mixed veggies
Thursday - Thai basil shrimp, cabbage, red peppers, white rice
Friday - Burgers, roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots
Saturday - Out to dinner

Happy menu planning!  Have a great week, everyone!  I'd love to see your menus!


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Apple Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream Frosting

I have been obsessed with these cupcakes since I saw them on Pinterest a few days ago, so tonight was the night for experimenting!  Please remind me never to try new recipes out on the day when we have 5  guests coming over for dinner!  The recipe is amazing, but the caramel frosting was very time intensive and I tried to substitute another frosting that turned out nasty.  So, I started over and made a new batch of buttercream, but added some of the caramel frosting into the buttercream and then it tasted really great!  Of course, I only used maybe 1 cup of the caramel frosting that I originally doubled so that I would have enough to generously frost 24 cupcakes, but I'm ok with it. . .  Lesson learned.

Typically, I like to practice my recipes before I try them out on guests.  I know not everyone has time for the trial, but it's really important in case you run into a bad recipe.  Speaking of time, I think I was frosting the cupcakes with the newly improved frosting only 5 minutes before the first guests arrived, but at least all of my cleaning was done!

Back to the matter at hand. . . these cupcakes turned out delicious!  Everyone ate one and I didn't even see any crumbs left afterwards!  Always a good sign at my house!  The frosting surprisingly turned our amazing and the cake was similar to an apple cake I make, so my kids devoured them!  I love baking with apples, zucchini, pumpkin, acorn squash, carrots or whatever we can sneak into dessert.  It seems like the desserts are always really moist when using those ingredients!

Apple Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream Frosting (Adapted from Baked Perfection)

3 cups white wheat (or all-purpose) flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
2 cups grated apples (I used 3 large Granny Smith apples, but the blog author recommends a mix of sweet and sour apples, so I'll have to try that next time)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Insert 24 cupcake liners into 2 muffin tins.

In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  In large bowl, add eggs and sugars and beat until creamy.  Add the orange juice, vanilla, oil and applesauce until well combined.  Slowly add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture until they are just combined (I like to use a wooden spoon for this type of recipe to ensure that I don't over mix the batter).  Add the grated apples and gently mix.   Use a greased 1/4 cup to dispense the batter into each of the 24 cupcake liners.  Use a spoon to help get all of the batter into the liner.  

Bake for 20-24 minutes (start checking at 20, but mine took exactly 22) or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.  

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Caramel Buttercream Frosting (Heavily adapted from The Betty Crocker Cookbook)

3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 tbsp. milk (I use coconut milk, so you can substitute anything here)
1-2 tbsp. caramel syrup (any kind will do)

Place powdered sugar, butter and milk into mixer (if you have a whip, that works best, but any mixer will do) and mix until it appears smooth and creamy.  Add more milk if frosting is too thick.  Add caramel syrup and continue to mix until frosting is creamy and spreadable.  

If you double this recipe, you'll get enough to generously frost cupcakes using an icing bag, but if you make one batch, you'll have enough to frost all 24 cupcakes exactly using a knife or spatula to spread the frosting.  A nice added touch would be a light drizzle of caramel over each cupcake.  


Almond Butter Bites

I hope I don't make any enemies, but I have to admit that I really can't stand peanut butter.  So, these almond butter bites made me so happy.  My neighbor has made this recipe with peanut butter multiple times and they have looked so delicious, so I had to give it a try my way!

It blew me away how easy these little bites were to make.  Literally, it took me 5 minutes to put them together and throw the batter in the fridge to cool for a few hours.  I LOVED them!  Of course, I couldn't resist rolling them in a little bit of cinnamon sugar to give them a finished look and taste!  ;)

The original recipe I found was on a great blog titled, Smashed Peas and Carrots.  These are just the right snack size, but it's hard to just eat one.  Give them a try and see. . .

No-Bake Almond Butter Bites

1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup almond butter (or any nut butter)
1/3 cup honey
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
Cinnamon-Sugar for the coating

In a medium mixing bowl, add all ingredients and mix until completely incorporated.  I actually threw this batter in my kitchenaid mixer because it's really thick and I was having trouble getting it to come together.  Allow mixture to chill in the fridge for at least an hour, but more time is fine.  Prepare cinnamon-sugar in a small bowl.  Use a rounded tablespoon full of the mixture and roll into balls.  After rolling into balls, drop the balls into the cinnamon-sugar mix and roll around until completely covered.

Store almond butter bites in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week!

Yield: 18-20 bites

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mango Salsa

Lately, I make this salsa and sit down to eat half of the bowl.  Seriously. . . this stuff amazes me!  How it is that I've gone so long without mango salsa in my life?

If you haven't yet attempted using mango in your kitchen, I have a few links for you to check out.  I used to be intimidated by the idea of cutting a mango, but it's really pretty easy.  I had to watch a youtube video many times while I attempted the procedure, but I now feel like I actually know what I'm doing.  ;)

Here's a few links to help you if you are in need of a mango choosing and cutting tutorial in your life:

Youtube Video:

I basically model this salsa after a tropical salsa recipe that I make from Emeril Lagassee.  I post it on this site at least once a month because the fish marinade in the recipe is so delicious on grilled Mahi-Mahi!

Mango Salsa

2 ripe mangoes, seeded, peeled and chopped (as described in tutorials above)
1/4 cup minced onion (recipe calls for red, but white/yellow are fine too)
1/4 cup minced red pepper
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
3 tbls. chopped cilantro
1 lime, juiced
dash of salt

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and gently mix together.  The mango can be delicate, so that's why you need to be careful when mixing.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.



Sunday, August 5, 2012

Week 59: Home from Oregon!

Well, we arrived home on Wednesday, but I felt that it was just too much to try to make a menu with only a few days left in the week, so we struggled along this week.  My hubby and I spent 3 days on the coast in Lincoln City, Oregon to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary and then we spent 4 days with my BIL and SIL (in Bend, Oregon) who just had their first baby, Josephine!  We left the kiddos home with my FIL and I don't think they missed us at all because they had so much fun with him.  It's the first time we've left our kids for more than one night in 9 years, so this was a big deal for us and it was amazing!  

We ate amazing food while in Oregon!  It was my second visit, but I just love the food there!  Everyone seems to be a foodie and they are SO focused on using locally grown ingredients!  It just makes everything taste amazing!  The picture above is grilled salmon with crab risotto and vodka sauce! OMG! It was so amazing! Thanks to Tidal Raves in Depoe Bay, Oregon!

One of the best breakfast sandwiches in the world is pictured above!  It's a bacon & egg sandwich with arugula aioli on a homemade croissant.  Thank goodness for Sparrow Bakery in Bend, Oregon!  I think that I will visit this place even if Josh & Mary move back to Atlanta one day!  ;)

This is the precious little bundle that inspired the whole trip!  This is Sarah Josephine and we had such a wonderful time with her last week!  That was one of the first smiles her Mommy was able to catch on camera!  Love that sweet girl!

Onto the menu. . . 

Week 59 Menu

Sunday - Rotisserie chicken, green beans, potatoes
Monday - Pho Ga (Vietnamese chicken noodle soup) - this recipe looks a little complicated to make the broth, but Annabelle has been begging for this since we went to a Pho restaurant a few months ago, so we'll see how energetic I feel Monday morning!
Tuesday - Leftovers
Wednesday - Roasted salmon with assorted frozen veggies roasted
Thursday - Ground beef tacos, black beans, rice and asparagus
Friday - Out to dinner
Saturday - Sirloin pork roast, roasted cauliflower, potatoes and carrots

Happy meal planning!  


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Week 58: Garden Goodies!

Check out this basket of goodies our garden yielded yesterday!  We stayed overnight near Augusta, GA on Friday because Alain ran a Tri the Parks triathlon on Saturday and came back to all of this yummy stuff ready to eat in our garden!  He ran a great race and the overcast day made it really pleasant to be an observer!  The storm came just as we were leaving, so that was great for us (not so great for the organizers of the race).  :(

We've been going non-stop in this house for a week and my hubby and I are about to take our first vacation away (alone) in 9 years!  We celebrated our 12th anniversary last week, so we are taking a trip to Oregon primarily to meet our new niece, but with a side trip to celebrate our anniversary on the Oregon coast!  We are really getting excited!

Since I won't be here for the week, I'm making a menu for my sweet FIL who will be watching my children.  I can't guarantee he's going to stick to it, but at least I'll provide everything he needs to make dinner while he's here.

Week 58 Menu

Sunday - Thai basil shrimp, cabbage, asparagus
Monday - Grilled chicken legs, yellow rice, steamed broccoli
Tuesday - Beef stroganoff, egg noodles, steamed green beans
Wednesday - Hamburgers or Italian sausage, baked potatoes & sweet potatoes
Thursday - Leftovers
Friday - Grilled salmon, pan seared asparagus
Saturday - Out to dinner

There are so many weekly menus that pass where I don't get to everything on my menu!  It happens more often than not, but I always feel better if I've made a menu.  It's not stressful at all if I choose to veer from the menu.  Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful week! 

Happy cooking and menu planning!


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Week 57: Grilled Pizza!

Grilled pizza has always been in the back of my mind since I saw a show on The Food Network years ago demonstrating how the whole thing works.  So, today was my sweet Emilie's 6th birthday and she adamantly begged to have homemade pizza for dinner.  I tried to explain to her that our oven is broken, but that really doesn't mean much to a 6-year-old birthday girl!

This is the photo before it went on the grill.  We ate it so fast that I didn't get any pictures after it came off the grill!  ;)

Wow!  I can't say enough amazing things about grilled pizza!  It tastes just like it does cooked in a stone oven!  It was just the perfect crispness on the crust and perfectly browned.  Each bite was heavenly!  Alain and both felt like we were tasting pizza perfection!  We're such food geeks!  We've made our own pizzas before, but only in the oven and they were always good, but this just really took it up a notch.  The kids made their own pizza and Alain and I made ours (side 1-pesto, pulled pork, artichokes mushrooms, and buffalo mozzarella; side 2-red sauce, sausage, mushrooms, buffalo mozzarella and basil).
Emilie's 6th Birthday!

Week 57 Menu

Sunday - Homemade pizzas
Monday - Mexican beef, black beans, white rice
Tuesday - Leftovers
Wednesday - Thai basil shrimp, cabbage, green beans
Thursday - Chicken stir-fry, broccoli, white rice
Friday - Grilled salmon, pan seared asparagus
Saturday - Out to dinner

I'm hopeful that the oven will be fixed this week!  I was cooking this weekend and I heard this awful "POP" sound come out of the oven and it looked like there was a fire inside!  I quickly turned off the oven and took out the food, but the heating coil on the bottom seems to be damaged.  So, I tried to keep our menu out of the oven this week!  

Happy cooking!