Friday, October 18, 2013

Drink: Pumpkin Cider Sangria

The fall-themed recipes continue this week with Pumpkin Cider Sangria! This is a fun twist on traditional sangria, which generally consists of wine, chopped fruit, sweetener, and brandy. I was inspired by this recipe for Apple Cider Sangria on How Sweet It Is, but wanted to tweak it a little bit. The combination of fall flavors and cool refreshment is a bit odd, but I think all of the elements come together quite nicely.

I should note that it is very, very rare that I am enticed enough by a drink recipe that I actually go about buying all of the ingredients to make it. Why? I don't know. I happily buy ingredients for food recipes. Whatever the reason, it apparently did not apply to this drink! I gathered the fixins within a few days and it was thoroughly enjoyed within a few days!

Pumpkin Cider Sangria
Serves 6-8

1 bottle of dry white wine
2-3 cups pumpkin cider (not hard cider)
1 cup club soda
1/2 cup brandy (traditional sangria calls for brandy but gin or rum can be substituted)
2 small apples, chopped
2 pears, chopped

Combine all of the ingredients in a large pitcher. Refrigerate for at least an hour before drinking, unless all of your ingredients were already cold. Give the pitcher a good stir before serving.

This will last in the fridge for 2-3 days before the fruit gets soggy.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Make: Ribbon Burp Cloths

"So...this is for a baby to throw up on?" was the question my husband asked while I made these adorable burp cloths for a pregnant friend. His inquiry was understandable. I suppose the only explanation is that babies are cute and (gosh darnit!) everything they have might as well be cute too. Have you seen cloth diapers lately? Positively darling yet they have a not-so-pleasant purpose! I made a batch of these ribbon burp cloths a while back (for the same pal that received these baby shoes and headband) and found them to be a breeze! Embellished burp cloths are a great DIY gift for your next baby shower, especially if you are short on time and/or a beginner sewer.

Ribbon Burp Cloths

Supplies Needed:
Prefold cloth diaper (or a plain burp cloth)
The usual gear: sewing machine, pins, sheers, coordinating thread, iron

Measure the length of your burp cloths and add 1-inch to that measurement. Cut two ribbon pieces by that length.

Simply fold the raw ends of the ribbon down 1/2-inch and iron to keep folded (I used my hair straightener because it is a bit easier to get the fold exactly where you want it).

Lay the ribbon down on the burp cloth and pin into place. Repeat for the other ribbon.

Using a straight seam, sew along all of the edges of the ribbons.

Optional: I had a bit of ribbon leftover so I tied some sweet little bows and sewed them onto the burp cloths too.

And that's it! I look forward to more of my friends having babies so I can make more of these adorable burp cloths! Even if they are for a less-than-cute purpose.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Eat: Sweet Potato Tarts

The first half of September featured a very unwelcome heat wave. How am I supposed to start decorating my house with fall leaves and wrap myself with a chunky cableknit sweater when it is ONE HUNDRED degrees outside?! Fortunately, cooler weather has moved in this week and I had just the right dish in mind to kick-off the autumn season! I received a beautiful mini tart pan for my birthday that was waiting patiently to be broken-in; I also had a handful of sweet potatoes in the pantry. This recipe was a product of both!

Tarts are a great option for bakers who hate to mess with normal full-size pie crusts. The dough for these four-inch pans was easily managed and maneuvered around my countertop. Aside from the ease, individual tarts have such a fancy quality to them! I think they would present quite nicely at the end of a dinner party with friends or family (Thanksgiving will be here before we know it!). One more point in favor of tarts over pies is that you can adjust the recipe to suit your crowd size. I actually made a smaller batch of three tarts by halving the ingredient list below.

I tend to shy away from creating my own recipes but I'm so pleased with how these beauties turned out! They are delicious but not overly sweet; I find sweet potatoes to be perfectly tasty without a single additive, but I did jazz these up with some cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. It is also a relatively healthy dessert since I kept the sugar and butter to a minimum. The streusel topping is a must for both flavor and texture. I loved the combination of smooth filling and crunchy topping!

Sweet Potato Tarts
Yields 6 four-inch tarts (1-inch deep)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1/2 cup of cold water (you may not use it all!)

Sweet Potato Filling:
4-6 small sweet potatoes, baked and mashed
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Dash of allspice

Pecan Streusal Topping:
1/4 - 1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup oats

Prepare the Dough
Stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Once well combined, cut in small chunks of cold butter. You want the butter to be COLD, so keep it in the fridge until you are ready to add it. You can cut in / incorporate the butter using an electric mixer, by hand with a pastry cutter (my preferred method), or a fork/knife (way too much work; buy a pastry cutter instead!). You need to integrate the butter and flour blend until the dough is crumbly and the butter chunks are no larger than a pea. Once done, slowly pour a few tablespoons of cold water into the dough. Don't add all of the water at once! Stir and repeat just until the dough mostly sticks together. Transfer dough onto a floured countertop or plastic wrap. Knead the dough a few times to form a ball. Divide in half, reform into two balls (or thick discs) and wrap completely in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Roll out the refrigerated dough (to about 1/4-inch thickness) and cut into 6-inch circles. Place these in greased tart pans.

Tip: measure your kitchen bowls or pot lids to see if any are the right size. I found one of mine to be 6.25 inches and it functioned like a giant cookie cutter. It made my job much easier!

Optional —  Pre-bake the empty tart shells for 3-5 minutes at 425°F. I did this and noticed the crusts did not keep their shape (the edges sort of slid down into the tart pans. Before I added the filling, I simply reformed the shells with a spatula and they turned out just fine.

Combine all of the filling ingredients and spoon into the tart shells. Smooth out the filling along the tops of the tarts.

Combine all of the streusal ingredients and sprinkle evenly over the tarts. Add a couple of pecan-halves to the centers.

Bake for 25-30 minutes at 375°F. After cooling for a few minutes, the tarts should remove easily from their pans with a little help from a fork or knife.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Picnic Ready!

St. Louisans know that we have very small windows in between our cold, slushy winters and our too-hot, too-humid summers. These small windows of spring and fall? Oh my, do I love them! Matthew resides in the same boat as me, so whenever the weather approaches mild we go into "picnic mode".

"Picnic Mode" is not some passing fancy of oh, let's try to have a picnic next weekend. It is a full on attack of every park within walking distance of our home. In doing so, we tend to race against the clock once we get home from work--especially in autumn when the sun starts setting early. Over the years, I've found a few easy ways to maximize our post-work-picnic-potential. The common thread throughout is to keep things easy and to keep things ready.

Food and Beverages:
  • Glass bottles of water in the fridge (when you get home, fill 'em back up and pop 'em back in the fridge)
  • If we know the weather report for the coming week is good, I’ll make a big batch of something that lasts for several days in the fridge. Think salad: pasta salad, chopped salad, chicken salad, chickpea salad, or bean salad/salsa (like this or this). If I am really on the ball, I will divide it into smaller portioned tupperware. Note: in the photo above, I was not on the ball but just grabbed the whole bowl and carried it to the park!
  • Generally speaking, our fridge is always stocked with chopped veggies, hummus, dressings, and cheese (don't forget to grab some crackers from the pantry). Throw any of these into your cooler and blammo! instant picnic fare. I'll pair some combination of these foods with a more substantial dish (see above) and call it done.
Getting Around:
I have a lightweight insulated tote bag that is perfect for quick picnics. You can find these almost everywhere (Target, Walmart, Amazon, BB&B, and the like). I keep it regularly stocked with the following.
  • Disposable forks, knives, and spoons
  • Bottle opener with cork screw (you never know when you might opt for some wine/beer!)
  • Paper plates and napkins
  • Bug Spray
  • Wet wipes/hand sanitizer
  • Little cutting board & knife (for cheese)
So when we get home from work, I grab the grub and toss everything into my bag. If there happens to be some extra room, I might throw in a freezer pack to keep everything chilled. And that's it. We sail out the door to enjoy some lovely scenery and each other's company. It's really one of my favorite things that to do with Matthew; I can't think of a better way to decompress from the workday! So as fall approaches (we are currently having a heatwave in St. Louis) get yourself ready to relish it with just a little bit of organization.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Make: Men's Shirt Refashion

My husband has quite the impressive dress shirt collection. Currently, 47 long-sleeved dress shirts hang in his closet. If you think that's a lot, try guessing the number of ties! This set of 47 excludes a few that were recently discarded for either donation or refashioning  and subsequent move to my closet which isn't so much saving us storage space as it is moving items around. Oh well. Here is one such refashion.

I'm not really one to stay on top of fashion trends, but lately I have noticed more women wearing loose-fitting tops with cuffed sleeves. Like this NY&Co shirt. I love the look and think it's perfect for summer. So I dug through Matt's pile of discarded shirts and found one in a gorgeous deep blue tone. With a pretty clear idea of what I wanted the end result to be, away I went with my scissors and sewing machine. I am so thrilled with how this refashion turned out that I am tempted to make more just like it!

As you scroll down, you will find additional instructions and photos to (hopefully!) make everything clear. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Begin by removing the collar and cutting the fabric to your desired neckline. In my case, I preferred a wide boatneck. Turn down and hem this newly-cut rough edge.

Cut off the sleeves at the spot right above your elbow. You want to make sure you have enough sleeve to roll. Now fold the sleeves up to your desired length and pin into place. I opted to sew the cuff into place (a 1/2-inch seam hidden along the interior of the sleeve) so that it wouldn't unroll willy nilly.

Now for the straps. Using the discarded fabric, cut a 1-inch wide strip (4-5 inches long) and fold it in half. Sew along the rough edge (making a narrow tube), then turn it inside out. Sew one end of the strip to the inside of the rolled sleeve  and pull it around to the outside of the sleeve, sewing this end into place too. Add a decorative button to this cover the outer seam. Repeat for the other sleeve. This is easier than it sounds; you want it to look like this:

Take in the sides as needed. I wanted my shirt to have a flowing shape, so I only took in a bit of fabric around my chest. Play around with different degrees of tightness and decide what you like. Keep in mind that dress shirts don't stretch, so make sure it is loose enough that you can easily put it on and take it off.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Make: $2 Mailbox Makeover

I've mentioned before how much my husband and I enjoy spending time on our front porch. With that in mind, this summer I resolved to upgrade the overall cuteness of the space. One such project included our sad little mailbox. We live in a very old neighborhood near the city, so all of the houses have mailboxes mounted near the front doors. I don't know how old ours is, but it was looking quite faded and lackluster. The cure? Paint!

After some research, I decided that our mailbox did not need any primer because it is generally protected from mother nature by our covered porch. However, I still had to to use a metal-friendly paint. I know everyone is in love with spray paints like Rustoleum or Krylon, but I really did not want to buy a large can when I knew I'd have 85% leftover. Instead, I opted for Martha Stewart's all-purpose paint (2 fl. oz.) applied with a 2-inch wide sponge brush. After using a 25% off coupon at Michael's, this entire project cost me $1.95! Including tax, I might add. I applied four coats and waited the prescribed hour in between each. So while it took all afternoon to finish, it really only required minutes of active crafting.

After recently finishing a front porch sewing project that was very time consuming, this quick and easy undertaking was a much-needed breath of fresh air. I'm so thrilled with the final result and feel like we have a brand-new mailbox!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Eat: Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

Missouri is not known for having the best weather. We seem to jump entirely too quickly from icy cold winters to sweltering humid summers. Lately, though, we have been blessed with strangely mild temperatures. This interim may be short, but it is quite lovely and very welcome. Matt and I try to take full advantage of nice weather with lots of picnics. I'm always keeping my eyes peeled for recipes that are "picnic-ready", meaning I can grab it from the fridge and off we go to a nearby park. You may think this criteria is limiting but not so when you're armed with the handy dandy internet.

I just recently tried this recipe for Mediterranean Chickpea Salad and loved it! I'm up for any dish with feta and this particular concoction displays an appealing variety of colors and textures. Chickpea (or garbanzo bean) salads are a healthier and heartier alternative to pasta salads. An excellent source of protein and fiber, chickpeas are proven to curb hunger and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. They can also give you an energy boost with their high iron levels -- something I definitely need!

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
Makes 4 (1-cup) servings

1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas*
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 cup bell peppers, diced
1/8 cup cup Kalamata olives, sliced
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/8 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup cucumber, diced

For the Dressing...
1/2 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon plain low fat yogurt
Salt and pepper (or to taste)

Drain and rinse chickpeas. Place in a large bowl. After you have washed and chopped all of the vegetables, add them to the bowl of chickpeas. Sprinkle with the feta and olives.

In a separate container or bowl, thoroughly mix the dressing ingredients for the dressing. Pour this over the salad and toss to coat. Chill in your fridge for about an hour prior to eating.

*Note: I actually prefer to cook large batches of chickpeas and freeze them in 2 cup bags. It is highly cost effective and takes no time at all -- especially if you have a slow cooker. Here is a helpful overview.


I encourage you to find easy recipes that let you get outside and enjoy the nice weather in your neck of the woods!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Eat: Berry Galette

The birthday of a grown-up can often be...underwhelming. The odds are that you're working that day, which most likely means that the majority of it will be hum drum. You go about your business, maybe treat yourself to a candy bar from the vending machine, and hope have a nice dinner that night. In an effort to combat this regular-day-syndrome, Matt and I have a lovely tradition of Birthday Breakfast. It is a relatively low key affair: the birthday boy or girl gets a special breakfast complete with candles and a solo serenade of "Happy Birthday". It makes for a surprisingly awesome morning and puts both of us in a great mood for the day.

This year, to mark Matthew's birthday I made a beautiful galette with strawberries and blueberries along with a side of greek yogurt. Galette is a generic French term for flat, round, and flaky pastries. As with many of my breakfast dishes, you can switch this up with whatever mix of fruit you prefer. On the 4th of July I made it with blueberries and raspberries. This dish is a quick snap to make, especially if you use a pre-made pie crust. It presents and tastes like a pie but is much healthier  because it doesn't have a syrup loaded with refined sugar. The fruit naturally creates a syrup when mixed with cornstarch. We were both crazy about this dish and I immediately added it to my regular-rotation-recipe stash.

Berry Galette

1 pie crust dough, homemade or store-bought (thaw ahead of time)
2-3 cups of mixed berries
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cornstarch
Egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 400 °F.

Roll out the pie crust flat onto a greased (or parchment paper-lined) baking sheet. In a large bowl, mix together the fruit, cinnamon, and cornstarch.

Spoon the mixture onto the center of the pie crust leaving about a 2-inch border of dough. Gently fold the edges of the dough over the filling.

Brush the top edges of the dough with a beaten egg. If desired, sprinkle with a bit cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Let it cool on the pan for a couple minutes before cutting.

If serving for breakfast, include a few scoops of yogurt on the side. For dessert, this pairs nicely with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Eat: Easy Eggless Chocolate Cake

A few weeks ago, I shared the delicious Peach Upside Down Cake I made for Father's Day. Knowing my family to be serious dessert-lovers, right beforehand I decided to add another cake to the day's menu. This Easy Eggless Chocolate Cake lives up to its name and was the perfect choice for a last minute dessert. It has a short list of ingredients all likely to be in pantry--thereby avoiding a trip to your grocery store. It is also quick snap to prepare; within 10 minutes of starting this cake, I had it baking in the oven.

Depending on the topping you use, this cake can go in several different directions. I've made it twice and both times I paired it with a batch of homemade chocolate sauce. A plated piece of chocolate cake drizzled with a simple sauce presents beautifully, saves you time, and cuts calories.

Easy Eggless Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, stir together the "dry" ingredients: all-purpose flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, and coarse salt.

Make a well in center of flour mixture and add the "wet" ingredients: vegetable oil, pure vanilla extract, white vinegar, and cold water.

Whisk until well combined and pour the batter into a greased 8-inch round baking pan. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack prior to flipping onto a serving platter.

recipe source: martha stewart

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Eat: Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad

This week, Matt and I have been gearing up for the 4th of July with a variety of barbecue dishes. Among them, we've enjoyed turkey burgers, pork ribs, and a surprisingly big hit: Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad. It has a decidedly southwestern theme and was inspired by one of my favorite restaurants, Crushed Red. They serve chopped salads which are delightful but often leave me wondering if I could whip up something just as tasty. The answer? Yes. Yes I can.

This was easy to throw together yet has a lovely presentation when plated. One could easily substitute ingredients or vary the proportions. It's a delicious summer-time meal that is filling but doesn't leave you feeling heavy or weighed down. I imagine it would be appealing to those who don't care for traditional barbecue fare and those who don't care for salads! Clearly, Matt and I both loved it; Matt mentioned the dinner a few times throughout the night--well after we had finished eating. A sure sign of success!

Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad
Serves 2

In a large bowl, mix together:
  • a few bunches of greens (spinach, lettuce, sprouts, etc.), chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup cooked corn
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
Toss everything together with your choice of barbecue sauce*. Start with a little bit, then add more to your liking. Remember, you can always add more but it's tough to get rid of too much. Divide the salad mix among two plates.

Using that same mixing bowl, toss 1-2 chicken breasts (cooked and cut into strips or bite-sized pieces) with some more barbecue sauce. Season with chili powder to taste. Divide the chicken evenly, sprinkling it over the plated salads.

Call your dining partner into the room and impress him/her. At least that's what I did.

*It's worth noting that the barbecue sauce you select goes a long way to shape the taste. You can also mix equal parts barbecue sauce with ranch dressing.

This homemade Balsamic Honey BBQ Sauce is an absolute favorite in our house!
In a medium saucepan, combine:
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

Hope you have wonderful 4th!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Eat: Peach Upside Down Cake

This Peach Upside Down Cake is one of the two desserts I made for Father's Day. My family tends to prefer chocolate confections, so I really did not expect this to go over well. That's also why I made a second cake with a homemade chocolate sauce (stay tuned for that one!). Much to my pleasant surprise, everyone devoured this beautiful peach cake with barely a leftover piece to spare!

Obviously, this cake is gorgeous and presents wonderfullythat's actually what first motivated me to make it. What you can't appreciate unless you try it is the unique texture. When I poured the batter into the pan, it was almost completely full. Worried it would surely spill over while baking, I repeatedly checked the oven. Fortunately, these efforts weren't necessary as there was zero overflow. Instead, the batter is meant to rise only a little, making the cake quite dense and moist. Also, the cake itself is not particularly sweet since it's topped with (amply sweet!) carmelized sugar and peaches. All in all, a very unusual but fantastic dessert.

Peach Upside Down Cake
Serves 8-10

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons butter (divided)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2-3 large peaches, sliced (around 1/2 - 3/4 inch thick)
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, aluminum-free
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to  350°F.

In a small sauce pan, combine 3 tablespoons of the butter and all of the brown sugar. Heat on medium-high until the sugar is melted, stirring continually. When it starts to bubble, remove the pan from heat and pour the carmelized sugar into a greased 8" or 9" round baking pan. Use a spatula to spread the caramelize sugar around the pan (essentially lining the bottom of the pan with sugar).

Arrange the peach slices in the pan, creating a visually appealing pattern (remember this will be the top of the cake).

In a large bowl, Beat the remaining stick butter and sugar together until they are combined and smooth. Add the vanilla, then beat in one egg at a time.

In a separate bowl, mix together the the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the batter. Now add the milk, then the remainder of the dry ingredients. Don't overmix the batter. Pour the batter over the peaches in the pan, spreading it around to fill in the spaces between the fruit.

Bake 45-50 minutes or until the edges of the cake pull from the sides and the center is not gooey. Take out of the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Flip the cake onto a serving platter. If able, serve warm.

Note: When flipping the cake out of the pan, wear your oven mitts! There may be small streams of caramelized sugar that can burn your hands.  

recipe source: use real butter

Monday, June 24, 2013

Birthday Weekend Whirlwind!

When it rains, it pours!

In this case, though, the rain is good. The rain happens to be fun celebrations for Matthew's birthday. Last Friday marked his 28th year and boy oh boy did we squeeze all the festive juice out of the occasion! It was a crazy few days but I managed enjoy each moment and not get stressed over just how many moments we were zipping to and from (something I've been known to do in the past).

Friday Morning
We kicked off Friday morning with our traditional Birthday Breakfast more on that in a later post!

Friday Night
After work, we finished out the day at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. They just so happened to be hosting a Members' Night (and yes, we are members) with live music. Lord knows we love a good picnic, so we took in the scenery and big band music while chomping on some curried chicken salad, cheese, and wine!

Saturday Morning
Bright and early Saturday morning, we  went out to breakfast thanks to an it's-your-birthday-have-breakfast-on-us coupon that was set to expire. We simply could not turn down a perfectly good buy-one-get-one breakfast opportunity; it was a nice way to start the day.

Frittata with spinach, roasted tomatoes, goat cheese, and sausage. Delicious!
So composed!
Saturday Afternoon
After breakfast we got preparations underway for a potluck barbecue with our friends. It was such a wonderful time that I wish we could host a big picnic every Saturday! We had some very strange weather (ranging from hot sunshine and humidity to dark clouds and rumbling thunder) but our friends are so laid back that not even the threat of rain could phase them!

Later this week, I'm excited to share some easy tips for planning an inexpensive party. As much as I love party-planning, I also love saving money!

The wind kept assisting Matt in blowing out the candles.
Saturday Night
So did we rest after this gathering? Of course not! Matt's sister (and her husband/children) happened to be in town this weekend, so we cleaned up everything and swiftly headed out to West County for a family dinner of Dewey's Pizza. I highly recommend their Socrates' Revenge. It ended up being a relaxing evening of chatting, grazing the kitchen, and watching the kids play monopoly. Man, are they crazy about that game! Couldn't get enough of it! Technically, the adults were "playing" with them, but we just rolled the dice passively while they ran the board. What can I say? It had been a long day.

This reads " If you want to play Monopoly, find Lucas!"
By late Saturday night, the past few days of busy-ness (coupled with multiple nights of poor sleep) had caught up with me. So as we were getting into bed, I announced that the odds of me getting up early the next morning for church were minuscule. I woke up on Sunday to Matthew making me breakfast as a sweet thank-you for my recent efforts. The rest of the morning was the usual practicalities and chores, then off I went spend the remainder of the day working an extra shift at the library. And yes, I regretted taking that shift!

So here we are on Monday morning, back at work and back to normalbut wait, there's more! Tonight we are driving out to my parents' house for our final birthday fête with my family.

The best part about all of this is Matthew. The entire weekend he wore a smile, sometimes small and subtle but often a full-out grin. Always being thoughtful, appreciative, and complimentary of everyone's attention and effort. It is so easy to celebrate such a great guy!

The end.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Eat: Father's Day Cilantro Lime Chicken

Yesterday, we hosted a casual Father's Day lunch at my house. Everyone pitched in, so we enjoyed a quite a large spread of Mexican-style fare. We are a clan of varied tastes, so I opted for two different entrees one for the picky eaters and another for the more adventurous. I also made not one but two cakes! Both desserts were big hits that I'm excited to share in upcoming posts. The day was filled with the usual hectic energy of bigger family gatherings. Fortunately, the weather was nice so we were able to burn some calories outside. My favorite part of the day was the entire group walking together to a nearby park where we played around until dessert time. Matt and I go there at least once a week during the warmer seasons, so we were glad to share it with the family.


Myself, my dad, and my sister!

For the traditional half of the crowd, we had regular ground beef tacos with homemade seasoning. I highly recommend making your own taco seasoning. Not only do you avoid the artificial and processed "extras" found in many of the store-bought mixes but you also get to experiment to find just the right seasoning blend for your family's preferences. You can find countless examples online. The other dish I made is one of my absolute favorite slow cooker recipes: Cilantro Lime Chicken with Black Beans and Corn. I have made this more often than any other dinner recipe in my arsenal. I originally got it from Mama & Baby Love, which offers tons of other healthy dishes worth trying. Aside from being flavorful, it is a simple recipe with quick and easy preparation. I also love that it has black beans and corn in it, adding a bit more substance to the dish.

Cilantro Lime Chicken with Black Beans and Corn
Serve 6

1.5 lbs chicken breasts
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup fresh cilantro OR several hearty dashes of dried
1 (15oz) can of corn, drained
2 tablespoons of garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can of black beans, rinsed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt/Pepper, to taste

Combine ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on LOW 8 hours or HIGH 4 hours. Prior to serving, remove the chicken, shred it, then stir it back into the slow cooker blend. Add some additional cumin, salt, pepper, and lime juice to taste.


I hope you all had a great Father's Day!