On Drinking Kale [peanut butter chocolate chip energy bites]

The other day I realized that I run on nothing but sugar from the minute I wake up, till whenever I eat lunch. And because I’m not willing to change my Starbucks order, I was hoping some healthier choices for later in the day would fall into my lap.

Cue Ali Cheaterbites

She posted a recipe for those energy bites you always see on Pinterest, made by those people who drink kale for breakfast. I am not those people (see above). But Ali Cheaterbites is a real person I’ve met in real life, and I don’t think she drinks kale for breakfast, at least not every day, so if she’s talking about them, I’m much more likely to trust her sage advice. 

I made these late one night, set them in the fridge, and scooped and rolled them the next morning. 


The state of my life right now is such that if these did give me a boost of energy, I didn’t notice. But I bet if I ran marathons and drank more kale, I’d feel the extra pep. What they did do was give me a good alternative to the handfuls of M&Ms I shove in my mouth around 3:00 every afternoon. And make me feel better that I don’t have to run on straight sugar throughout the whole entire day. 

To make about 2 dozen energy bites, you will need:

  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut, toasted
  • ½ cup ground flax meal
  • ¼ cup mini cinnamon chips (I didn’t have these, so I doubled up on chocolate chips)
  • ¼ cup mini chocolate chips
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg

In a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter, honey and vanilla extract. Add in the remaining ingredients and then mix everything together until well combined. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Once chilled, shape mixture into 1 inch balls. Store in the fridge for up to a week…if they last that long. 

Forever Summer

Besides being the name of one of Nigella’s cookbooks, it’s a state of mind I try to hang onto as long as possible.  As much as the heat and humidity get to me, summer is by far my favorite season, and this year, I’m primed to make it last a little longer.  Let’s try these recipes, and see if we can keep it going.

Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos with Summer Peach & Tomato Salsas

Slow cooker carnitas tacos with peach and tomato salsas

prosecco margaritas.:

Prosecco martinis

Cold Sesame Noodles are incredible versatile. Pair them with your favorite protein. Find the recipe on Shutterbean.com

Cold sesame noodles

pineapple peach agua fresca.:

Pineapple peach agua fresca

peach pie scones with vanilla glaze.:

Peach pie scones with vanilla glaze

Balsamic-Roasted Eggplant and Arugula Sandwiches

Balsamic roasted eggplant and arugula sandwiches

 

 

 

On Easy Dinners [baked risotto with peas]

I’ve long said that I’m wary of dinners that claim to be easy.  Easy they may be, but rarely are they any good.  But, leave it to Ina to discover some of the secrets to saving time and making dinner a tad less daunting on a busy weeknight.  Ina bakes her risotto.  Which I’ve done once before.  

I will tell you, dear readers, this risotto doesn’t have the same creaminess as one you stir for 45 minutes, but that’s not always an option when it comes to weeknight dinner, and this is pretty darn close.

 To make baked risotto, you will need:


1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
5 cups simmering chicken stock, preferably homemade, divided
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock in a Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente. Remove from the oven, add the remaining cup of chicken stock, the Parmesan, wine, butter, salt, and pepper, and stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy. Add the peas and stir until heated through. Serve hot.

I Want to Remember

*A quick note before we begin. I knew, long before Gooplet was born, that this was never going to become a mom blog. But I did become a mom. And Gooplet is a giant slice of my life. And this site is where I come to ramble about life. So, inspired by Ali Edwards‘ journaling prompts, here’s my first update (Goopdate?) on mom life. Don’t worry, we’ll soon be back to our regularly scheduled program. 

Summer 2016


I want to remember the beach this year. You stopped sleeping well, but when you woke up early and we watched the sunrise over the water it was magic. 

I want to remember visiting all our friends and hanging out on baby time this summer. 

I want to remember I found my way back into the kitchen this summer. Dinners aren’t quite as hands-on as they used to be, but I’m cooking. And even better, I’m baking again. Nothing makes me happier. 

I want to remember you started giggling this summer. Sometimes you giggle for no reason, but sometimes you laugh when we dance and sing, or when I tickle you. It’s always the highlight of my day. 

I want to remember that our nights are rough right now, but when you wake up, you smile so wide. 

I want to remember that every morning, before it gets too hot, we walk to Starbucks for (iced) coffee. Everyone there knows you, and when I go alone on the weekends, the baristas all ask where you are.

I want to remember our afternoons at the pool. I grew up going to the pool most afternoons, and then I took the kids I used to nanny for. And our pool has that vibe. I sit on the edge of the baby pool, hold your hands, and you lean all the way back so your hair gets wet. 

I want to remember how wiggly you are. I swear, you are going to be crawling tomorrow.

I want to remember your little personality right now. I think you’re a mix of your dad and me. You’re social, and like being around people, but you need some chill time at home after we’ve been out and about all day. As long as we manage to strike that balance, our days are pretty smooth. 

Years in the Making [boston cream cupcakes]

When Pinterest first became a thing, I pinned Boston Cream cupcakes.

I can pass on almost any donut unless you come at me with Boston Cream.

Please, come at me with Boston Cream.

So this was the perfect merger, my favorite donut flavor in one of my favorite dessert forms.

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But time passed, as it always does, and I never made them. I am slightly afraid of custard, or really, anything that requires precision in baking. I would always cycle back to the recipe when picking cupcakes to make, but never commit to the time it would take to make them.

And then I found a cheater version, and I adapted it even more, and here we are.

I’ve finally made Boston Cream cupcakes, and shared them with people I love.

To make 2 dozen, you will need:

  • Your favorite yellow cake mix, with the necessary ingredients (some eggs, some oil)
  • A small box of French vanilla pudding mix, and the necessary milk
  • Your favorite chocolate frosting (yep, I used store bought here…the horror)

Make the cupcakes according to the directions on the package.  Let them cool completely, and while doing so, make the pudding.  When the cupcakes are completely cool, unwrap them and slice the cupcakes in half cross-wise.  Spread frosting on the top half (it is so much easier to do it now, then once there’s a smushy layer of pudding in the middle).  Once the pudding is set, spread a layer of it in each cupcake, and sandwich the cupcake back together.

Store, wrapped, in the fridge, until you serve.

That Was So Easy! [mocha chocolate icebox cake]

The other day, The (Not So) New Girl and I spent the entire day together, walking the ‘hood, hanging out, and sharing food. She brought me a giant slice of The Barefoot Contessa’s mocha chocolate icebox cake* and I told her I really didn’t need to eat more than half of it. Then I paused for a half second, and proceeded to eat, um, all of it.

I love a good riff on an icebox cake.

Ina’s feels fancy and extra rich because it uses mascarpone in the whipped cream mixture and in place of boring, plain chocolate wafers, she uses chocolate chips. Ah, the genius of Ina!


A huge part of that genius, though, is in her calling for Tate’s chocolate chip cookies, which are thin and crisp (and widely available at the grocery store-look for them by Pepperidge Farm cookies). Because the cream softens the cookies over time, you don’t want to use a soft batch cookie here or things would be a crumbly mess.

Because she always asked for cakes with mocha frosting, I decided right away that this would be Wooden Nickels’ birthday cake this year. I will not be waiting till next year to make it again.

To make an 8 inch cake, you will need:

  • 2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 12 ounces italian mascarpone cheese
  • 12 cup sugar
  • 14 cup kahlua liqueur (I left this out, but I wish I hadn’t)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 (8 ounce) packages chocolate chip cookies (Tate’s Bakeshop recommended)
  • shaved semisweet chocolate, for garnish
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, coffee liqueur, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and vanilla. Mix on low speed to combine and then slowly raise the speed, until it forms firm peaks.

To assemble the cake, arrange chocolate chip cookies flat in an 8-inch springform pan, covering the bottom as much as possible. (I break some cookies to fill in the spaces.) Spread a fifth of the mocha whipped cream evenly over the cookies. Place another layer of cookies on top, lying flat and touching, followed by another fifth of the cream. Continue layering cookies and cream until there are 5 layers of each, ending with a layer of cream. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the top with the chocolate, cut in wedges, and serve cold.

*Isn’t mocha chocolate redundant?  I’ve been wondering that.  Isn’t mocha, coffee that’s flavored with chocolate?  Because this cake is so good, we’ll let it slide.

Homemaker

This post has been a long time in the making.  But this post goes back beyond the date I started writing it.  It goes back years.

As of right now (pressing publish, right now), I am a homemaker.  I left my job.  The job that was the only one I ever wanted since I was 5.  The job that I trained for for years.  The job that was the first one I interviewed for and exactly where I wanted it to be.  The job I got.  The job in which I worked so hard to grow.  The job that paid my first rent check.  The job that had its ups and downs, but for the most part, gave me energy and motivation and life for 10 years.  The job I believed in.  The job I loved.  Love?  I left it.

DEAR STELLA. Sketch, illustration, fashion.:

It was, to date, the hardest decision I’ve ever made about anything before in my life.

Pretty cushy life, huh?

Shiseido is committed to creating products that support holistic well-being and enhance natural beauty. After 20 years of research, we launched Ultimune, the first immunity-boosting concentrate that enriches a wellness routine, effortlessly! #LightMyStory  Like Shiseido on Facebook and share the moments that define you for a chance to win a Shiseido prize!  Illustration by Inslee by Design:

It wasn’t a decision I took lightly, nor was it one I made quickly.

But it was one, after several months of agonizing (no, seriously, ask my husband or Wooden Nickels, agonizing), I knew was right for me right now.

Unlike a lot of people who leave their jobs, I left mine without too much direction.  A wing and a prayer, and the words I read from Ina Garten that said something along the lines of, you can’t know what you want to do next when you’re still deeply rooted in what you’re doing now.

Huggies, Mom Trends and Inslee | The Sketch Book – Inslee Haynes:

And so right now, with nothing else on the horizon, I am a homemaker.  Remember how I said this post was years in the making?

This is how I picture myself.  Reality is a little bit different.- how true!:

I have always loved and been fascinated by the idea of home.

You’re not supposed to say you want to get married and stop working.  You’re not supposed to say you’re okay without bringing in a paycheck.  You’re not supposed to say that you’re perfectly happy to plan meals, go to the grocery store, and cook everything.  You’re not supposed to say that doing the laundry is satisfying.  That folding clothes and setting them in just the right place brings with it a sense of order.  That you manage to derive a bit of joy from making the bed each morning.  That these little routines you’ve carved into each day are comforting, and worthwhile.  You’re not supposed to be a woman who thinks these things in 2016.

Markette anne ve çocuk Huggies-Inslee-2:

I am.

I don’t wear aprons, though.  I do have some limits.

“This sketch was created for some pasta loving ladies and is a reminder that Christmas is coming and original art is the ultimate gift. Get your requests…”:

Stay with me on this next leg of the journey dear readers, I think it’s going to be a good one.

*All images by the insanely talented Inslee.  (I have no idea how to sew.)

Chicken McHelen [crock pot creamy italian chicken]

In our family we grew up eating Chicken McMom and Chicken McBarney. These were affectionately named for family members and meant to poke fun at McDonalds McEverythings. So it’s only fair that after getting this recipe from my Aunt Helen, it takes on her moniker.


And now I have to revoke my claim that all I’m looking for in life is a good slow cooker recipe without cream of mushroom because this is a good slow cooker recipe with cream of mushroom. It’s head and shoulders above the endless others I’ve tried. 

To make Chicken McHelen, you will need: 

  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 package Good Seasons Italian dressing mix
  • 1/2 stick (4T) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 cans golden mushroom soup (which I couldn’t find, so just used regular cream of mushroom)
  • 1, 8 oz. package cream cheese with chives

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add dressing mix and stir to coat. Add white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up brown bits. Stir in soup and cream cheese. Place chicken in slow cooker. Add sauce on top, and cook on low, 6-8 hours. 

Happy Birthday Hey Girl, Hey [chocolate chip cookie cupcakes]

Hey Girl Hey and I like to run away for the summer, finding various beaches where we can spend the better parts of 10-12 weeks. So imagine my surprise when the stars aligned and we were both in town for a piece of August. Better yet, the piece that included her birthday. When I asked her dessert preference, she divulged that she is, in fact, an equal opportunity dessert lover, and I could make whatever I pleased. Cupcakes.

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I used to be a cupcake machine, cranking out new flavors for friends’ birthdays left and right. But when #andthenweboughtahouse happened and I was ousted from my kitchen for a year, I got thrown way off my game. And cupcakes aren’t quite in the spotlight the way they once were. So I don’t remember the last time I made them. It was glorious fun to be back in the kitchen whipping these up, and even better that they were in celebration of the great, Hey Girl, Hey.

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I flipped through one of my favorite old cookbooks, and landed on chocolate chip cupcakes with chocolate glaze. And because I was feeling fancy, and because these are already insanely brown-sugary, I sprinkled the tops with toffee bits.

To make about 20 cupcakes you will need:

  • 2 C flour
  • 2 C brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 C butter, cold, and cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 C sour cream
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 2 C chocolate chips

In the bowl of a mixer, combine flour, brown sugar, and baking soda. Add butter, and continue mixing until butter is in smaller pieces (you may still have some chunks, that’s okay). Add egg and vanilla, mixing till incorporated. Add sour cream and milk, and beat the batter just till smooth. Fold in chocolate chips.

Using an ice cream scoop if you have it, scoop equal portions of batter into about 20 muffin tins, lined, or sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake 25-30 minutes.

For the glaze (this recipe came from a different cupcake cookbook because I didn’t have the right ingredients for the one called for):

  • 1 C powdered sugar
  • 1 heaping T cocoa powder
  • 2 T melted butter
  • 2 T milk, possibly a little more
  • Toffee bits, if you like, for garnish

Stir powdered sugar and cocoa powder together. Add melted butter and stir as much as possible. Add milk and stir till completely incorporated. If mixture is still too thick,  add milk, a tsp at a time, stirring to incorporate completely before