Peanut Butter & Jelly Ice Cream
I found a way to make something awesome EVEN BETTER.
I raved about the peanut butter, honey, & sea salt ice cream I made a few weeks ago. It is seriously the best. So naturally, peanut butter & jelly was the logical next step. Take sweet, peanut butter-y creamy goodness and cut strips of tangy strawberry jam through it, and you have the world’s best lunch update.READ THE POST
Moist Strawberry Shortcake (for a Large Group)
Does this picture not just epitomize summer?
I was back home in Kansas a couple weekends ago with my family for a memorial service, which involved a LOT of people and a LOT of cooking. Friday night we had a smaller get-together (maybe 15 people?), and we needed to figure out a dessert to feed the masses.
Strawberry shortcake is my go-to summer dessert when I have people over.
It’s basically perfect—juicy strawberries, just a hint of sugar, fluffy cake, pillowy whipped cream. Healthy(ish). And the easiest thing to throw together for an impromptu get-together.
While angel food cake will do in a pinch, usually I try to go the extra mile and make traditional homemade shortcakes, kind of scone- or biscuit-like (or like this oat & brown sugar version).
They’re not hard to make, but they’re not good for big groups and are not as great when you make them ahead of time—like biscuits, they’re great fresh but get tougher and stale once cool.
When I started thinking about dessert for a bunch of people (plus getting dinner on the table), I knew that individual shortcakes would be too much trouble. I knew I wanted something that made a lot, and something that would stay moist so we could make it several hours ahead.
After quite a bit of digging, I discovered this recipe, and was quite pleased with the results.
It literally took less than five minutes to mix the ingredients together and throw it in the oven, and it was super moist, not too sweet, and basically perfect for soaking up strawberry juices.
My brother-in-law gave it his stamp of approval, and finished off the leftovers the next day. While it’s not quite as pretty as the traditional shortcakes, it’s got great texture and is delicious!READ THE POST
Ricotta, Tomato & Spinach Frittata
Simplicity, man. As I mentioned last week, I just wanted the easiest dinner possible. Something healthy, but something that didn’t require a million steps or ingredients.
Also, I’ve been on a weird ricotta kick. Like, eat it straight out of the carton with a spoon, maybe with a drizzle of honey. It’s getting weird. I used to hate ricotta and now look at me.
So I made some delicious marinated grilled (well, sauteed) chicken, and this delightful frittata.
Frittatas are such a great go-to meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They’re full of veggies and protein, easy, and make awesome leftovers. Basically, they’re perfect.READ THE POST
Dynamite Grilled Chicken
Last Sunday I just wanted something SIMPLE. I’d had a super long, exhausting week at work and even after resting up over the weekend I just found the prospect of cooking daunting.
[Updated 6/2018 with some new photos]
I didn’t want to assemble 20 ingredients or spend an hour preparing different elements of a meal. I wanted quick and tasty and healthy.
Also, I wanted ricotta, which is a weird craving but I went with it and threw together a delicious spinach, tomato, and ricotta frittata (bonus breakfast leftovers), then I added some more protein with this “dynamite” chicken.
Honestly, the main reason I made the chicken was so I’d have some leftovers for lunch, and also because I wanted to use my grill for the first time this spring. Aaaaand, that was a total fail because when I went out to grill the chicken like half an hour after turning on the grill, it was totally cold. I went to plan B (the stovetop), but still need to figure out what’s going on with my grill. [Updated photos with grilled chicken]
Oh well…it was worth it in the end, because the flavors on this chicken will knock your socks off. It’s really got some tangy bite, which was a nice complement to the more soothing, mellow frittata. Also, it was super easy, which is always a win in my book.READ THE POST
Dreamy, Creamy Scones
OH MAN, are these cream scones good!!
A while back, I was really excited because I tried a cream biscuits recipe without butter that was amazing. I stand by that, and I loved that it didn’t require cutting the butter into the flour. Let’s face it, I’m super lazy.
These cream scones are in a similar vein, except they have both cream AND butter in them, which makes them double awesome. I think they’re the best scones, texture-wise, that I’ve ever made.
They were also shockingly good as leftovers the next few days, heated up with a little raw organic honey for breakfast at work.
And that is a victory, because it’s hard to justify making a whole batch of scones for myself when usually the leftovers are like trying to eat ceiling insulation. But these, these are magical.
Mac & Cheese with Kale, Roasted Butternut Squash, & Chicken Sausage
As the whole country knows, Atlanta has had some winter weather troubles lately. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough not to get stuck in the 24-hour city-wide traffic jam—only took me an hour and a half to get home (vs. 20 minutes usually).
I hadn’t had the foresight to check the weather ahead of time, so I ended up being stuck at home for a few days with only the food I had stocked up in my pantry and fridge. (I did have wine this time…a few years ago I got snowed/iced in for five days without wine. #neveragain)
I started poking around to see what I could make. I was craving comfort food but knew I needed to eat somewhat healthy. Unfortunately I hadn’t bought many fruits and veggies, but I found a butternut squash in the fridge and had some wilted kale, so I figured I could make something work.
This is a true McGyver meal, but I think it came out pretty darn good. It was creamy and warm, with the salty sausage and the kale adding different textures. It’s since become one of my go-to comfort food dishes.
So BEHOLD, I give you the best mac & cheese with kale, roasted butternut squash, and chicken sausage!
Can you tell I’ve been craving comfort food? Seriously, I could have chosen to make a quinoa casserole or something, but instead I ended up with a steamy, creamy mac & cheese.READ THE POST
The Healthy Train…Starting with Healthy Breakfast Recipes
I don’t know about you guys, but this has been a pretty brutal winter. (I mean, I do know, my mom gives me the weather report nationwide.) I won’t pretend Atlanta’s weather has been worse than, say, New York or the Midwest. It hasn’t.
But for us and our very poorly-insulated homes, it’s been tough. Not only has this affected moods and energy, I realized it has also caused a 10+ pound weight creep over the past two months.
Cold weather + travel + ice storms + need for comfort food means I haven’t been able to get as much exercise as usual and I’ve defaulted to less healthy (like 3 variations on mac & cheese) and more convenient (I seriously ate my body weight in Chinese like 5 times) options. Plus practically no fruits and veggies. It’s amazing I haven’t succumbed to scurvy.
But no more! There is sun and warmth on the horizon, fruits and veggies will be back in season before you know it, and the fresh air is calling our names! I’m really focusing more on consciously planning my meals and snacks—I’ve slipped into a bad habit of not really eating breakfast over the past few crazy months—and having things on hand to get all the right vitamins and minerals.
I thought I’d pull together a few of my most favoritest tried-and-true super healthy breakfast recipes to have top of mind while planning out my next few weeks, and am sharing here in case you’re in need of inspiration.
For breakfast, convenience is key, so it either needs to be made ahead in bulk, or a smoothie I can take to work with me. I rarely cook during the week since I work so much, so making a big meal on Sunday that becomes great leftovers is the focus. And not too expensive on all counts. I’ll post a dinner/lunch/leftovers one separately.
Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Mug Cake
Oh boy, I’ve been wanting to try this chocolate peanut butter mug cake for quite a while, but the universe kept conspiring against me.
Mostly by making me too full after my traditional Saturday night Thai food to even think about dessert. I know, life’s rough.
But after our eventful snow day in Atlanta yesterday, I decided it was time for a treat. Yet again, I didn’t prepare for the snowpocalypse. And by “snowpocalypse”, I mean 1-2 inches of snow that literally ruined Atlanta. People stranded in their cars for 20+ hours, having to abandon them on the highway and walk to safety and warmth.
Parts of it enforced my lack of faith in humanity (yes, I’m looking at you, asshat who knowingly ran the red light and blocked a major intersection for 20 minutes), while others were pretty amazing (thousands of people offering up spare rooms, couches, bringing food to stranded drivers).
My 90-minute drive home (vs. 20 usually) looked like a walk in the park by comparison, and while I don’t have much food at home, I do have wine and I can make this amazing mug cake.
Mug cake recipes are hit-and-miss, but this one was a winner for me. First, you can never miss with (double) chocolate and peanut butter, and the texture was fudgy and creamy and awesome. The fact that it doesn’t use eggs is handy as well.
It helps to start with a super cute mug. This is one of my favorites, it actually was the first mug in my somewhat-eclectic collection. Got it in Seattle at Pike’s Place Market back in college.READ THE POST
Most Popular Recipes in 2013
2013 was a pretty crazy year for me on several fronts…including major hip surgery, an insane year at work, and buying my first home, which was a huge learning experience and has been pretty amazing. (Also stressful…I mean, when my garbage disposal threatens to go out, I have to fix that nonsense myself. Ugh, being a grown-up.)
And then there’s this blog, which blew my mind this year by growing exponentially. Seriously, visits grew over 1200% in 2013 (that’s insane!), without me doing anything that different. What was surprising is that some of the most popular recipes in 2013 were some of the ones I posted back in 2012. So in case you missed some of these, here are the top 10 recipes everyone seemed obsessed with in 2013. Excited to see what delicious goodness 2014 has in store!
Baked Potato Soup (a.k.a. the best soup ever!)
I don’t accept soup as an actual meal, but this stuff is amazing and easy and healthy. Also, bacon garnish.
Crockpot Breakfast Casserole
Again, easy (check), fairly healthy (check), crockpot (check), bacon (check)…I’m sensing a theme here.
Mmmm, okra. Tastes just as good as fried, and okra’s surprisingly awesome for you.
No-Bake Cookies a.k.a. Haystacks
You can never go wrong with no-bake. Or a peanut butter-chocolate combo.
The Best Buttermilk Pancakes Ever
Paaaaaaancakes! Specifically, buttermilk pancakes. When they’re good (and not that terrible IHOP pre-fab stuff), they are one of my favorite foods. Hot and fluffy, a little gooey center, nutty whole grain taste, and slathered in peanut butter and syrup. It pretty much doesn’t get any better than that.
They’re also one of the easiest things in the world to whip up, and endlessly versatile.
I realized a while back that—while I had posted whole grain pancakes, healthy apple cinnamon pancakes, ricotta pancakes, gingerbread pancakes, cinnamon polenta pancakes, and bourbon banana pancakes—I had never posted the recipe that started it all, my awesome basic buttermilk pancakes.
Does anyone else put peanut butter on their pancakes and waffles? We always did it, and I assumed everyone else did.
But going to summer camp growing up, I found out that this was considered somewhat weird. It’s so good, you have to try it! It’s my goal to convert the entire Southeast to the gospel of peanut butter on pancakes.
In all my focus on trying and posting new recipes, I’ve neglected some of my tried and true favorite recipes, so I’m working on rectifying that. My mom’s lasagna, simple coffee cake, buttermilk Belgian waffles, chocolate chip cookies, and our family buttermilk pancake recipe.
It’s not an exaggeration to say we made these the majority of my sabbath mornings growing up. Occasionally we’d throw in some waffles, french toast, or biscuits, but mostly we made delicious, fluffy pancakes!READ THE POST
No-Bake Cookies…a.k.a. Haystacks
Sometimes I forget how much I love these chocolate haystacks. When I mentally flip through desserts I want to make, somehow I never think of these.
Maybe it’s because the first couple times I made them, they never set up. I had this delicious, totally liquid, gooey mess, but no actual cookies. I finally figured out that I wasn’t boiling the mixture for long enough, which meant it would never set up.
Gooey cookie mess is all in the past, and these chocolate no-bake cookies are glorious and delicious and chocolate-y and peanut buttery and awesome.
I made them last weekend because some friends had just bought a house and were moving, so I wanted to contribute to the “moving day lunch” but couldn’t actually help them move due to my bum hip.
It was gross and humid this weekend, so turning the oven on didn’t sound fun, and a few of the people were gluten-intolerant, so I needed something gluten-free.
After thumbing through and discarding a bunch of recipes, I all of the sudden thought of these. They were perfect for the occasion, and a great blast from the past as well.READ THE POST
Pasta With Roasted Peppers, Sausage, & Goat Cheese
I make up a LOT of pasta dishes. Like…a lot. But it’s only once in a blue moon I create one that becomes a life staple. This recipe is one of the all-timers, a hearty and indulgent pasta with roasted peppers and red onion, crisp chicken sausage, and a creamy goat cheese sauce. It’s my dreams in pasta form.
Specifically, I recommend sticking with yellow and orange bell (or sweet) peppers for this, because they have a mildness to them that really complements the tangy goat cheese. And similarly, the bite of red onion is definitely a winner over yellow or white. Then give them that delicious caramelization from roasting, and it’s sublime.
Giovanna’s Pasta con Pesto
I’ve long said that if I *had* to choose one scent and be able to smell only that for the rest of my life (who’s making me choose? why? don’t think about it that hard), I think it might be fresh basil. Fresh basil is one of the BEST smells in the world!
As I mentioned back in my tiramisu post a few months ago, I studied in Italy during college on a language immersion program, and I lived with this awesome couple named Pietro and Giovanna.
Giovanna was an amazing cook and made us three- and four-course dinners every night, and also imparted a few of her family’s recipes to me. This authentic Ligurian pesto pasta recipe and the tiramisu are the two that have become a permanent part of my recipe book.
I make this every week or two during the summer when fresh basil is plentiful and high-quality. It’s my #1 go-to recipe because it literally takes 15 minutes from start to finish and is AMAZEBALLS. Basically, as long as it takes to boil pasta, that’s how long this dish takes.
As you’ll notice in the pictures below, I’m actually showing you pictures from two different times I made this dish (don’t be confused!), because there are two ways you can do it—the real way, and a slightly modified way with fewer ingredients. Both are really easy, it just depends on if you want to go to the trouble of buying two extra things.
Try this next: How to Make Ligurian Trofie Pasta by Hand (with Fresh Pesto)
First, I’m going to show you the weird secret to the best pasta con pesto.READ THE POST
Healthy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
So, cookies. Cookies are the perfect fast, easy dessert, something you can just whip up if company comes over unexpectedly. And my mom’s chocolate chip cookie recipe is endlessly adaptable. One of our favorite versions over the years has been this healthy peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies version.
You can add any kind of chips, make the cookies regular or peanut butter or chocolate, add oatmeal or nuts, or pretty much tailor them to your exact specifications. We’ve also made a lot of small tweaks over the years to make it as healthy as possible. But this particular combo is a classic.
I am all for dessert, but if I have the opportunity to make it healthier, I’ll totally take that bet. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we have a fair amount of diabetes and such in my family, so we started making a lot of healthy swaps when I was a kid, like honey instead of sugar, whole wheat flour instead of regular, that kind of thing.
But interestingly, our cookie recipe stayed mostly the same until only five or so years back, when we started playing around with substituting oil for the butter-flavored Crisco it called for. It’s taken some experimentation, but it’s a lot better for us and I think we’ve got it down!
Bookmark this baby, because this recipe will be your new best friend.READ THE POST
Almond Apple-Cinnamon Breakfast Smoothie
So, we’re back to smoothies…
I’ve been doing my best, despite an insane work schedule and a house search, to eat just as healthy as I do when I have time and energy. I get to work quite early, and I’m a big believer in breakfast (plus my blood sugar can go wonky). But oatmeal at my desk can get kind of boring. So lately I’ve been jumping on the smoothie merry-go-round.
This almond apple smoothie caught my eye. The apple-cinnamon flavor combo is a winner for me, and I love how the nuts (and greek yogurt) really gave it some added protein. It’s also super easy!
The Pinterest hit known as “Man Pleasing” Chicken (a.k.a. Maple Dijon Chicken)
I am not a mustard person, which is why I had pinned this recipe quite some time ago but have been finding reasons to put off trying it. But I had company coming over and needed a quick, easy dinner I could throw together. And thus, I decided to tackle the ever-present “man-pleasing chicken” recipe from Pinterest.
I was really worried that the three main ingredients—dijon mustard, maple syrup, and a sweeter vinegar—would just make this way too intense, all the flavors fighting each other. But I was pleasantly surprised by how the flavors actually kind of balanced each other out, making the end result sweet, tangy, and with just enough bite to keep your interested.
The other nice flavor component was the rosemary. If you don’t have it the recipe is still great, but the fresh rosemary just adds another great layer of flavor with the mustard-maple sauce.
[June 2019: This is one of my most popular recipes, so I’ve updated the images to be better…though it’s hard to make this chicken look pretty 🙂 But it IS delicious]
READ THE POST
My Family’s Absolute Go-To: Mexican Meat & Beans
This is the #1 recipe in my family. Forever. Always.
In some families, if you say “we’re having Mexican”, they might mean tacos one day, enchiladas another, and quesadillas another. But in my family, we only mean one thing—meat and beans. Yes, we might make taco salad or soft tacos or nachos, but it’s always meat and beans.
This is the easiest meal ever, quite healthy, full of protein, fiber, and antioxidants. And it makes great leftovers that can be used in a myriad of ways.
Taco salad. Chili-cheese omelette. Nachos. These are just a few ways you can use the meat and beans. They’re delicious, and keep at least a week in the fridge.READ THE POST
Aunt Kristy’s Easy Oil & Whole Wheat Pie Crust
When I meet people who don’t love pie, I’m not quite sure how to relate to them. I mean, what’s not to love? Flaky pie crust? Check. Completely versatile filling that can change to your heart’s desire? Check. But here’s my secret…I actually love healthy pie crust the best. You can take your butter and lard crusts, your white, flaky layers. Because my Aunt Kristy’s oil and whole wheat pie crust is the bomb.
This is basically the only pie crust recipe I ever use. It’s a little finicky only because it’s crumbly, but ultimately it’s very forgiving so you can patch it easily when you have breakage. The whole wheat flour adds such a depth of flavor to all my pie recipes, kind of a nuttiness and a great texture.
The pictures below have very simple directions with them, but if you scroll down to the bottom I’ve provided VERY detailed instructions, including for different sizes of pie pan (or 9×13 if you’re making a pot pie) and topless or covered pies. I’ve also included a link to download a Word document you can easily download and print as well.READ THE POST
Orange Almond Biscotti
So, Smitten Kitchen claims that this is the best biscotti ever. And she may be right. This orange almond biscotti has a lovely light citrus flavor, a great bite from the almonds, and crisped up to the perfect crunchy consistency—something that’s been missing with the other biscotti I’d made.
I couldn’t stop eating them, and even brought a bunch home for Thanksgiving in a ziploc bag and they traveled quite impressively.
These were a great breakfast, awesome with coffee and herbal tea. These would make a great gift, hostess gift, or something to have on hand for company.
Baked Ziti with Summer Veggies & Chicken Sausage
I have a secret. I’ve never made a non-lasagna baked pasta dish (with the exception of the kale mac & cheese I made a few weeks ago). It’s weird, actually, given how much my diet has relied on pasta over the past decade.
I think it’s because that just seems like too much work—I mean, the reason I love pasta is because I can cook it quickly, toss it with any kind of sauce or veggies, and have a meal on the table in 15 minutes. Baking just seems unnecessary. I also haven’t loved much baked pasta at restaurants…they always seem so dry.
Needless to say, I approached this baked ziti recipe with some trepidation. But I was shocked by how GOOD it was! Delicious, great, bold flavors, a whole host of textures, and hearty enough to keep me feeling full for hours.
The original recipe was vegetarian, and didn’t call for the chicken sausage. But I had some on-hand and I’ve been crazily craving protein so I decided it couldn’t hurt. And it actually added an awesome flavor to everything.
It’s important to note, I doubled the recipe (or thereabouts) to make a 9×13 pan, because only cooking half the package of pasta didn’t make a lot of sense to me. That way I had lots of leftovers to feed me through the work week. It made possibly a bit too much pasta, but otherwise worked out just fine.
Kale, Bacon, & Egg Breakfast Casserole
I never understood the big deal about breakfast casseroles until recently. My co-workers love them—of course, that’s because they usually have pig products in them, which I don’t get as excited about. But to me, it always seemed like more work and time to do a casserole than to just make eggs, bacon, and pancakes.
But I was intrigued by this one, partly because it contains my vegetable du jour (mese? annno?), kale. Kale for breakfast? Count me in! Also, I had a crowd to feed last weekend with family in town, and we had made turkey bacon the day before so I swiped a few pieces for the next day’s breakfast. Bam, one step down. I’m that efficient…
From there, it was super easy to put together and put in the oven. I included one of my little tricks for getting egg dishes to cook evenly in the instructions, because it’s saved my life a few times. I live in perpetual fear of accidentally giving all my co-workers or family food poisoning by under-cooking eggs or chicken.
Quick 1-Hour French Bread
“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”
~ James Beard
When my family was in town last weekend, we cooked and baked our faces off. For dinner Friday night we made delicious chicken, sweet potato fries, and sauteed kale, plus some double-chocolate zucchini bread and awesome rosemary, lemon, & cheddar bread for munching on later. It was fairly prolific, if I do say so myself.
The problem with that is that—as previously mentioned—I have a very small kitchen. We started to run into trouble with number of burners in use, how many items could be in the oven and at what temperature. It got to be 2-3 hours from dinner time and I realized none of my bread possibilities would be ready for dinner.
And that wasn’t going to work, because my mom loves bread. Like…LOVES it. Has to have it with every meal.
So I dove back into my Pinterest board and came up with this gem—1-hour French bread. I was skeptical, because good things take time, particularly when they involve yeast.
But I decided to give it a try and it was great. Probably as good as the artisan bread I made a few weeks ago that had to rise several hours before baking.
Save for later: A Tool to Decide What Bread to Make Based On How Long You Have…
The recipe seriously took about an hour and a half start-to-finish, and that’s partly because I was making several other things at the same time. It was warm, yeasty, and delicious.
Note, I halved the recipe because we only needed one loaf for dinner, so that’s why the dough looks small.
Easy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Chicken
If you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been on a “chicken so easy I don’t actually have to do anything” kick for the past month or so. That’s mostly because I’ve been cooking for other people more often lately—when it’s just me, I am way too lazy to deal with raw meat. But this influx of company has been great for getting me to try a few of the most popular chicken recipes on Pinterest and see if they’re really as easy as they claim to be.
Spoiler: they are. First it was the garlic brown sugar chicken (which was phenomenal), then the white wine lemon chicken, which I made again last Friday night when my family was in town and it turned out even better than the first time.
So last Sunday, when I was going to be cooking another big meal, I looked at a few of my entree pins on Pinterest and this “melt-in-your-mouth chicken” jumped out at me. It took ingredients I already had on hand, and it looked really easy so that I could concentrate on the new lemon ricotta cheesecake and lemon asparagus goat cheese pasta recipes I was trying out the same night. Yeeeeahh…sometimes I get a little overambitious on trying new recipes all at once…
Anyway, long story short, this turned out awesome and everyone raved about it. It also made my ravenous post-run self a great dinner of leftovers on Monday night.
Also, you can use all Greek yogurt instead of the mayo if you prefer. The mayo gives it awesome tang, but obviously adds some calories and fat.
Oven-Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
One of the surprises in my CSA box this week was a couple of giant sweet potatoes. I thought the seasonality was a little weird (those are a fall/winter veggie, no?), but was excited to get a chance to make my awesome sweet potato fries.
Now the thing to note about these sweet potato fries is that they’re softer, not crispy/crunchy. I’m going to try a new recipe soon that claims to make them crispy. But these are still delicious, healthy, and super easy to make.
Finally, no oil slick on top (One-Step Homemade Peanut Butter)
I’ve been buying natural peanut butter for years, because it’s generally healthier, to avoid trans fats, and overall just tastes good. But I’ve always been frustrated by the whole “stir in the oil” aspect of it, because I am apparently not capable of doing that. I start trying to stir it, splash oil everywhere, get the entire knife messy, and finally give up and put it in the fridge—where the next time I pull it out, there’s a congealed oil slick on top. So I eat half a jar of really oily peanut butter and half a jar of dry-as-a-bone peanut butter.
Suffice to say, I’m not a fan of the oil slick component. But I’d never really considered making my own, because that sounded like too much work. Plus, my grandma makes her own and just puts peanuts in the grinder attachment on her mixer, but that just ends up being dry peanut crumblies.
But behold—amazing creamy homemade peanut butter!
Enter Pinterest. Someone had pinned instructions for making your own homemade peanut butter with just the peanuts and a food processor, no additives. They said that if you just kept the food processor running past the crumbly stage and past the “dry ball of peanut goop” stage, magically the oils break down and it becomes creamy and delicious all on its own. No added salt, sugar, oil, etc. I was skeptical, but decided to give it a try. And, miracle of miracles, it works! So now I’m hooked.
I bought roasted & salted peanuts. Considered using honey roasted, but wasn’t sure of the additional sugar. You can use any type you like, or use mixed nuts, another type of nut, whatever floats your boat.
Saturday Night Dessert: Dark Chocolate Lava Mug Cake
I know I did a post on mug cakes a while back, trying out a few different recipes. And I have some new ones to try too, which I’ll get to later. But I wanted to do a separate post on this particular lava mug cake because it is awesome. It’s the best I’ve found so far, and the thing I like most is that it doesn’t taste too sweet or rich. With the dark chocolate, it’s the perfect balance of sweet, bitter, and creamy.
As I’ve established in other posts, I don’t keep desserts in my apartment, because I have an insane sweet tooth and would weigh 300 pounds. That way if I’m craving something, I either have to go somewhere and get it (which, let’s face it, I’m way too lazy to do) or make something (which takes time and energy, so I have to REALLY want it). Mug cakes fall into a dangerous area, because they only take five minutes to make, which is practically like keeping something in my pantry. But I can’t quit them.
This here bad boy is my preferred Saturday night date.
Amazing that this many different ingredients can fit into a coffee mug.
Healthy Peach Crisp With Blueberries
It’s no secret I love desserts, always have. But most of the desserts I love aren’t all that rich or overly sweet. I’m weird that way—I’ll pass over fudge, red velvet cake, and store-bought brownies to get to lime cookies, peach ice cream, and dark chocolate cake. People think I’m weird, but that may be a function of how I grew up.
Due to a preponderance of diabetes and such in my extended family, my mom and aunts have tweaked a lot of our family recipes over the years, making them healthier. This includes things like using whole wheat flour (which—let’s face it—we were on a wheat farm, so that just made sense) and substituting honey for sugar and oil for butter or shortening. I have no idea exactly when this healthy fruit crisp recipe evolved to this point, but it’s been one of my summer go-to desserts for years. My mom tends to make it with apples, sometimes cherries, but I’m partial to peaches. Ripe, juicy, Southern peaches.
Today we talk healthy peach crisp 🙂
Isn’t this picture the perfect encapsulation of summer?!
The Best Healthy Chocolate Cornstarch Pudding
Like much of the country, Hotlanta has been living up to its name lately, with temperatures soaring over 100 every day and like 90%+ humidity. You feel like you’re being broiled every time you walk outside (get in the car, wake up and get out of bed, etc.). The humidity is especially killer, it steals your breath and your will to do anything.
Suffice to say, I have been trying to turn on the oven as little as possible, since it makes my little 600-square-foot apartment feel like a hot yoga studio. So I was racking my brain this past weekend for something easy and cold, and then had the perfect idea: chocolate cornstarch pudding.
[Note, I’ve updated this post with new photos as of January 2022]
I have no idea where the recipe originally came from, but it’s been a staple in my family since I can remember. Look at that awesome cold, creamy, sweet awesomeness.
What’s especially great about this healthy chocolate pudding is that 1) it’s super fast and easy, 2) it uses ingredients you already have on-hand, and 3) it feels indulgent without being too sweet.
Frittata with Summer Squash, Tomatoes, & Scallions
I’ve always kind of had an irrational fear of making frittatas (or frittate as the Italians would say). I think it probably stems from the time I made a quiche for my breakfast day at work, and realized once I got ready to serve it that the egg was still runny. So, panicked, I ran to the kitchen and threw the entire quiches (yes, there were two) in the microwave and started re-cooking them. Suffice to say, it was a bit stressful and I was terrified I’d make all my co-workers sick with partially-cooked egg.
But I’m realizing how silly it is to be scared of frittatas, because they’re about the best, easiest, most versatile food you can make. It’s basically an open-face omelette—in fact, “frittata” comes from the Italian word for “to fry”. What’s truly excellent about it is that it’s what I call a “kitchen sink” food—meaning you have a basic base (in this case eggs, a little milk, seasoning, & cheese) and then you can add whatever you happen to have on hand to finish it off.
In this case I am still trying to use up the gobs of summer squash and scallions that came in my CSA box a week and a half ago, and I had some lovely tomatoes sitting around as well. But you could put whatever you want in here…zucchini, peppers, any other veggie, different types of cheese, fresh herbs (yes please!). The biggest thing is determining which things need sauteed first. Good rule of thumb: if it won’t be cooked to the right consistency with about 10 minutes in an egg mixture in the oven (tomato, for instance), you should cook it up first. You can saute it, or roast the veggies to add some lovely flavor, or if you have leftover cooked veggies you can throw them in too.
Summer Staple: Corn & Black Bean Salsa
I originally got this corn & black bean salsa “recipe” (in quotes because the word implies consistency) from my awesome friend Casey, who brought it to a Mexican-themed summer get-together we had with friends. I was immediately smitten because it didn’t include 1) green bell pepper, 2) hot peppers, or 3) cilantro. I’m just not that fond of those ingredients, and finding a salsa without them is quite difficult.
However, that’s not to say this salsa CAN’T include them—its beauty is in its versatility. I’m pretty sure I’ve never made it the same way twice (let’s face it, mostly because I can never remember how).
So I’m just going to give you the guidelines and some other thoughts on how to adapt. You’ll have to play around with it to figure out how you like it best. People seriously scarf this, and rave about it every time I bring it somewhere.
Aunt Tina’s Chicken Salad (The Best In The World)
I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know chicken salad existed when I was growing up (now, TUNA salad I was familiar with…).
But when I moved to Atlanta and began having catered rep lunches, I fell in love with it. The best part is how many variations there are. There’s regular, Southern-style, with mustard, with curry, Waldorf, just about anything really.
We were in Texas visiting family four or five years ago, and my Aunt Tina (who has other amazing talents, like cake baking/decorating) made this chicken salad. It’s in the
(Blair) Waldorf family, and is the best chicken salad I have EVER had in my life. The combination of cider vinegar, honey, and white pepper in the dressing is the secret, I think.
It’s like crack. Sweet, tangy, mayo-covered crack.
Fancy twist on pancakes (Cinnamon Polenta Pancakes)
This morning when I got up, I went for a long run and was just craving something carb-y when I got home. Though I normally don’t do much besides coffee for weekend breakfasts, I decided to whip up some pancakes.
I’d found this cinnamon polenta pancakes recipe in a Food & Wine issue (I think) a long time ago and was intrigued by the cornmeal and cinnamon combination. I tried it once on a whim and was hooked. I probably make them more than regular pancakes now.
What’s even better? The recipe is super easy, takes the same amount of time as regular pancakes, and you should already have all the ingredients on hand.
Variation of a staple (Sauteed Kale & Scallions)
I’ve made no secret about my love for kale in its many forms—particularly sauteed. I make it basically every night. But tonight after work I stopped by a farmer’s market on Peachtree and (because I was dumb and didn’t bring my reusable grocery bag) grabbed all my arms can carry. Including scallions.
And then when I got home I had to do research on what exactly a scallion is, and how to prepare it. But since I was so tired after a long week, I decided to start by sauteing some with my nightly kale side dish.
Didn’t take any more time, and added a little something different to my nightly routine.
Kitchen Sink Pasta, the unendingly-versatile dinner (Pasta with Sausage, Cabbage, & Kale)
You know the feeling. Sunday night…standing in front of the fridge and pantry…wondering what on earth you can throw together for dinner. Preferably that makes leftovers, so you can actually eat lunch this week.
For me, the answer is almost always pasta. It’s possibly the best food ever—a versatile foundation, and there’s almost nothing you can’t pair it with. That’s where kitchen sink pasta comes in.
So a couple weeks ago I was in that exact situation and ended up making yet another version of kitchen sink pasta. And it was GOOD. And kind of unique.
Go-To Easy “Fancy” Breakfast (Basic Scones)
So, last August my parents and I spent a week in Ireland, which has been on my bucket list since I was like 14 (and read a Nora Roberts trilogy set in Ardmore with hot Irish guys and cool music…but I digress). And you know what I was probably most excited about? Scones.
Well, and good beer. But also scones.
I flipping LOVE scones, and was so excited to try them in their “birthplace” (or close enough). We went to Queen of Tarts in Dublin, I had them in Cashel, basically anywhere we went. Great excuse to have lots of cappuccino too. They came in all shapes and sizes, textures and flavors, moist or dry, etc.
Go-To Daily Vegetable—Literally (Sauteed Kale)
Most days, I don’t come close enough to my 5-7 servings of fruits & veggies. But I know for a fact that I get 2-3. And that’s through sauteed kale. I have a sickness, I love kale so much. I have literally had it 6 days a week for…months?
And the great thing is it’s literally a 5-10 minute dish. So buy yourself a big bag of chopped/torn kale (like $2.99 at the grocery store) or big leafy stems of kale (usually about $1.99 a bunch), and get started!
Melt-In-Your-Mouth Soft Ginger Molasses Cookies
In college, I was known as the Cookie Fairy. Seriously.
I would go on these baking rampages, making two or three batches of cookies and then packaging them up and randomly leaving them in people’s mailboxes (so as to not gain 800 pounds myself).
See, I’ve always loved baking but had really only tried simple recipes like my mom’s cookies or the occasional 9×13 cake, so I made those A LOT. Now I’ve branched out a lot, and somehow just never get around to cookie-making anymore, which is sad. Because I’m going to let you in on a secret—these soft ginger molasses cookies might be the best cookies EVER.
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts: Rethinking A Much-Reviled Veggie
Lots of people hate brussels sprouts. And I just don’t get it.
To be fair, I didn’t grow up eating them, so I don’t have any of the horror stories or ingrained hatred most people have—my mom still detests them from HER childhood and I still can’t get her to try them prepared well. I first had brussels sprouts at a swanky Atlanta restaurant, all roasted and fried up to perfection, and fell instantly in love.
Since then I’ve mostly roasted them (I’ll post that recipe another time), but I recently found this recipe using shredded brussels sprouts on Pinterest and just had to try it. It takes even less time than my regular roasted brussels sprouts recipe, and has quickly gone into my regular veggie side rotation. Scale it up or down to suit your needs.
Balsamic Strawberry Jam (No Pectin)
Jams and jellies are some of my favorite things. We made some when I was a kid, with whatever fruit we had—peach jam, apple butter, sandplum jelly. But I’ve never tried making it myself. Partly this is because I’m lazy, but also because I’m scared of things I don’t know, like pectin.