Best of Intentions…

Let’s just say that I picked out the next four or five recipes that I’d like to make…

And then our oven igniter broke.

(And of course, my choices are all baked goods.)

(And… it takes a week to get the replacement part since we have a ‘special’ oven.)

(The only good news is that this happened on Hubs’ cooking time, not mine.  So I cannot be blamed.)

But, I will be baking.

Soon.

Just not this week.

Hope your kitchen adventures are going better than mine.  🙂

(Oh, and if you need a pregnancy craving idea… chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream with potato chips sprinkled on top, yum!!)

Strawberry Macaroon Shortcake

Hi, my friends!

(Can I just say it’s great to be back?… Though no one told me how hard it was going to be to pull up ‘add new post’ and start writing again.  I think I’ve started this post about five times, already.  But I gotta finish it sometime, right?)

It has been a wonderful month off – with vacation trips, school prep, getting my oldest off to kindergarten (big deal!), and just enjoying my kids to the fullest.

Through this time, I realized how much time I was spending on the computer – and how much my boys appreciate having that time for themselves instead.  So I’m coming back with a new attitude and focus… you may see fewer posts and less commenting, but know I’m still around, reading about your fantastic food and experimenting with my own.

I’ve also decided to stick to what I love to do… bake.  So they’ll be a lot fewer ‘meal’ posts and hopefully more baked goods.

So let’s get back on track with a tasty dessert.

The Recipe:

Strawberry Macaroon Shortcake, adapted from Kraft recipes

1-1/3 c flake coconut

1/2 c slivered almonds, chopped

1/3 c sugar

2 T flour

1/8 t salt

2 egg whites

1/2 t coconut extract

1 c whipped cream

2 c strawberries, sliced

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Mix coconut, almonds, sugar, flour and salt in large bowl.  Beat egg whites and coconut extract lightly with fork.  Add to coconut mixture; mix well.

Line cookie sheet with foil  Spread coconut mixture evenly onto foil, forming a flat 8 inch circle.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool.  Remove from foil.  Cut into 8 wedges.  Top evenly with the whipped cream and strawberries just before serving.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I made this earlier in the summer to enjoy with our neighbors.  It was a perfect dessert to eat on the back porch while the sun set.

I especially enjoyed the strawberry coconut flavor combination.  And the shortcake tasted just like a regular macaroon; slightly crispy, toasted coconut on the outside – and soft and chewy in the middle.  Hubs contributed with a bourbon-infused whipped cream that was out-of-this-world.

And it was double-y good since it was one of the first ‘real’ desserts we’d had all summer.

(But more on that another time.)

All the bowls came back empty – always a good sign.

Hoping you’ve all had a wonderful month – and looking forward to catching up.

Easy Protein Breakfast Crepes

I am working on fooling myself.

I’m trying to convince myself that I can eat all my regular favorites… with just a little twist to make them healthy.

So far it’s kinda worked.

(I’m not going to lie when I say I still have a mad craving for chocolate.  And homemade white bread.)

Anyhow, when I saw this east recipe at Sweet Samsations for a 2-ingredient crepe, made with peanut butter, I had to give it a try.

(I love me some crepes.)

The Recipe:

Protein Breakfast Crepes, adapted very slightly from Sweet Samsations

2 eggs, well beaten

3 T peanut butter

3 T water

a pinch of salt

Preheat small skillet at medium low.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until smooth (this took quite a while, but be patient, it will happen.)

Lightly grease pan.  Pour batter in, twisting your pan in a circular motion to cover evenly.

Cover and let cook for about 2 minutes.  Loosen edges with spatula and flip.  Cover and cook for an additional minute.

Remove from pan and serve.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I have to admit, I was a little worried about this one… especially since I knew I wasn’t going to cover it up with a ton of delicious goodies.  But really, they’re pretty darn good.  I ate mine with fresh sliced banana (pb & banana are one of my (current) favorite flavor combinations).

I also had a small taste of the boys’ versions: one with 100% pure maple syrup – reminding me of a maple-bar flavor, and one with homemade strawberry jam – giving it a pb&j flavor.  All three were quite delicious.

(Also just think of how great they’d be slathered in Nutella!)

Simple, easy, and able to fool me into thinking I’m having something bad.

A perfect way to start the day.

Healthier Cookie Dough Balls

Hi.

My name is Courtney.

It’s been two weeks since I baked and/or ate a real dessert.

(No, these do not count – they are for breakfast.)

I think I might be slowly going insane.  Seriously, the last dessert I baked and ate was our pie on Fourth of July.  And I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed something chocolate-y.

I needed an intervention, stat… so I was very glad when I saw these healthy cookie dough balls.

I was excited to find a way to enjoy something sweet with chocolate, while still sticking (mostly) to our healthy eating (I refuse to call it a diet).

The Recipe:

Healthier Cookie Dough Balls, adapted from Bake Your Day

¼ c whole wheat flour

1-¼ c oats

1 t cinnamon

¼ t salt

1/2 scoop protein powder

½ c creamy peanut butter

¼ c applesauce, all natural/no sugar added

⅓ c all-natural maple syrup

1 T honey

2 t vanilla

¼ c dark chocolate chips

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, oats, cinnamon, salt, and protein powder; set aside.

Cream the peanut butter, applesauce, maple syrup, honey and vanilla in a large bowl until well-combined.  Add the flour and oats mixture and stir until combined.  Add dark chocolate chips and stir well.

Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough and roll into balls.  (I just used a small ice-cream scooper.) Recipe makes about 12-16 dough balls.

Refrigerate before serving.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Yep, this pretty much did the trick.

The dough tastes similar to most (peanut butter chocolate chip) cookie doughs I may have allegedly sampled in the past.  And it so filled my craving for something bad – without being that bad.

They are a little sticky, so be prepared to wash your hands afterwards.  But it’s a small price to pay for a little sanity happiness.

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We’ll be out-of-town camping this weekend and won’t return until Tuesday… so don’t expect to hear from me until Wednesday.  And wish us luck – a two-year old and five-year old… in a tent… for several days.  Oh, boy.

Fruity Yogurt Power Pops

Yeah, I’m cheating again.

This is not a real ‘cooking’ post.

But it’s just about all I’ve got in me now.

(Not in a bad way.  Just in a ‘it’s still gorgeously warm and sunny out, and I refuse to heat up my house with the oven, plus I’m too busy making sure the boys don’t drown or kill each other in the backyard’ way.)

When I saw this post at skinnytaste.com, I just knew I had to make my own version.

The Recipe:

Fruity Yogurt Power Pops, inspired by skinnytaste.com

(Makes about a dozen + pops.)

For the Blue:

1 c blueberries

1/2 c greek yogurt (plain or vanilla is fine)

1/3 scoop vanilla protein powder

1/4 c 100% juice (I used acai berry for color)

For the White:

1 banana

1 small can of crushed pineapple

1/2 c greek yogurt

1/3 scoop vanilla protein powder

1/4 c 100% juice (apple this time)

For the Pink:

1 c strawberries

1/2 c non-fat strawberry yogurt

1/3 scoop vanilla protein powder

1/4 c 100% juice (apple again)

Blend blue mix.  Fill popsicle molds 1/3 of the way up.  Freeze for half an hour.  Insert stick(s) and let freeze for another hour.

Blend white mix.  Add to molds, filling another 1/3 of the way up.  Freeze for an hour.

Blend pink mix.  Add to molds, filling to the top.  Freeze for another hour or until ready to serve.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Let’s just say my boys are obsessed with our small smoothie blender, so even making this recipe was super fun for all.  Even though it’s several steps, the overall time spent working is minimal, and you get several pops out of it.

(We also happened to have some extra, which I just poured into ice-cube trays.  These will be perfect to pop out and add to any regular smoothie any morning.)

Once complete, we were all excited to give them a try… and we weren’t disappointed.  They have a fresh, tangy flavor that was very refreshing while hanging out in the backyard in the sun.  And I knew they were pretty darn healthy, which always makes me feel good.

As you can see, I had no actual popsicle sticks, so lollipop ones had to do.

Refreshing, tasty, and healthy – a perfect combination, if you ask me.

Wishing you all a great end to your weeks.

Strawberry Freezer Jam, Year Two

I had to buy store jam last week.

This is the first time I’ve had to do this since last summer, and it made me sad.

And motivated.

We spent the sunny weekend at our good friends’ house and one of the bonus benefits was that they desperately needed someone to clear out their strawberry patch… we forced ourselves to help.

And, you all know what fresh-picked strawberries are good for… jam!

I’d only gotten one box of pectin, which made 6 cups… I have enough strawberries for about 4 more batches.

So check out last year’s simple recipe.  All it takes is some strawberries, a lot of sugar (which I choose to be in denial about), and quite a few dirty dishes – but it is so worth it.

~~~~

Since we were on the road, I didn’t do a darn bit of cooking… but we did have some fun.

So I’ll leave you with some happy summer thoughts, photography-wise.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups {My Way, Your Way, Any Way}

You all know I love chocolate.

And I kinda think peanut butter is amazing, too.

(Yes, I have been known to occasionally eat a spoonful on its own – and I admit that while I was pregnant with my both my boys, my favorite snack was dipping bananas in peanut butter.)

But together… together they are a match made in sweet/salty treat heaven.

I’ve always enjoyed those peanut butter cups you can buy in the store… but they’d never been exactly what I was looking for – the ratio always seemed off, you couldn’t get crunchy peanut butter, and dark chocolate was just a dream.  Of course, they’ve added those options, but they’re hard to find and still not exactly perfect.

So, when I was younger, my mom and I invented our own version – and it’s a super, super easy way to get the exact treat you are looking for.

The Recipe:

Peanut Butter Cups

chocolate chips

peanut butter

muffin liners

Line muffin tin (either mini or regular) with muffin liners.  (You may want to lightly grease liners if you want really easy removal.  Usually I don’t, and just have to carefully remove the liners.)

Melt chocolate in a double-boiler (or in a glass bowl in the microwave at 50% power in increments of 25 seconds, stirring after each, until the chocolate is melted).  Pour 1/2 your desired chocolate in each liner.  Add your desired amount of peanut butter.  Top with remaining chocolate.  Refrigerate or freeze until solid.  Remove liners and enjoy.

(Notice there are no actual amounts listed – basically because it’s all up to you.)

The Results:

I admit I’d almost forgotten about this recipe.  It wasn’t until a friend of mine solicited help for using up some leftover melted chocolate that I remember these awesome goodies.  And I’m so glad I did.

(This is a great recipe to use up those half/quarter bags of chocolate chips you may have lying around.  Which is exactly what I did.)

And the best part is that the possibilities are endless.  For the outer chocolate part you could use dark, semi sweet, milk, white, a mix; heck you could make an inside-out cup with peanut butter chips.  As for fillings, why not try crunchy, creamy, almond butter, nutella… and the lists and combinations could just go on and on.

My personal choices for this evening: bittersweet chocolate and creamy peanut butter (only because we’d used our crunchy on all those sandwiches the last couple weeks) in a regular-sized muffin liner.

Please ignore the fingerprints…I couldn’t resist taking them out before they were completely set.

You’ve got to see the inside, too…

Yes, I took this picture from my lap on the couch.

Notice the ratio of chocolate to peanut butter – a little more chocolate than you’d find in the store brand ones – and absolute perfection for me.

So start your weekend off right, use up those partial bags of chips you have in the cupboard, and make some of these personalized and decadent dessert snacks.

So worth it.

Maple Bacon Biscuits

I’m kind of late to all the cooking trends out there.

I only started eating quinoa about a year ago.

I still sometimes mix up macaroons and macarons.

And whenever I hear about chia seeds I still think of the, um, inappropriate Chia Pet we had growing in our dorm room.

So, it’s not surprising that it took me until Summer of 2012 to finally give in to the maple-bacon craze.  (Hey, I’m only about two years behind, right?)

I figured Hubs deserved a decadent breakfast for Father’s Day since his birthday meals were pretty much a bust.  Plus, we’d saved all those calories by throwing out the cheesecake… so ooey-gooey maple bacon it was.

(Plus it was one of my New Year’s Resolutions.  Who knew I’d be just as bad at remembering delicious foods to make, than if I’d resolved to work out?)

The Recipe:

Maple Bacon Biscuits, adapted slightly from Eat, Play, Love

Syrup

1/2 lb bacon, cooked until medium brown

1/3 c brown sugar

1/4 c all-purpose flour

1/4 c maple syrup

2 T melted butter

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9” round pan (a springform pan is helpful but not required).  Chop the cooked bacon into bite size pieces and then combine with the remaining syrup ingredients.  Stir until thoroughly combined and spread over the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

~~~~

Biscuits

2 c all-purpose flour

2 1/2 t baking powder

1/4 t baking soda

1 t salt

1/4 c shortening

2 T butter

3/4+ c low-fat buttermilk

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and sift together.  Cut in the shortening and butter with a pastry dough blender.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the buttermilk.  Gently blend the dry ingredients into the buttermilk forming a ball of dough.  Add additional buttermilk as needed – one teaspoon at a time.  Drop oversized tablespoons of the biscuit dough over the syrup in the pan until covered. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 475 degrees and then turn the oven off.  Leave the biscuits in the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove the biscuits from the oven and immediately turn the pan upside down onto a serving platter. Lift off the pan and scrape any remaining syrup over the biscuits.  Pull apart to serve.  Best served warm.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Okay, let’s just go over the main ingredients again… we have maple syrup, we have bacon, and we have homemade biscuits.  Is there anyone out there that thinks this is a bad idea?  I mean seriously – when you take several very tasty items and put them together, of course you are going to end up with something exponentially amazing.

You need a close up?

I thought so.

Anyways, I think I ended up using a little more bacon than called for, but really, not a bad thing.  The combination of the sweet maple-y sauce with the salty bacon and butter-y biscuits… wow!  It certainly perked us all up first thing in the morning.

(I also have to add the stand-out ingredient for me was the biscuits.  We all absolutely loved them – and the next time we have a down-home meal, they’re going on the menu for sure.)

Maybe there’s actually something to all these culinary trends… 😉

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Be sure to enter my giveaway for a Williams-Sonoma gift card – go to this post for more information.  🙂

Cuban Street Tacos

Now, don’t be getting your hopes up.

(Though I think if you follow my advice and do-nots, you probably would get an amazing dish.)

Anyways, we’re backtracking a little, and talking about Hubs’ birthday dinner.  Now, as I mentioned in the last post, I put together this dish the morning of Hubs’ day in the crock pot.  We were looking forward to sharing it with some very good friends for dinner.

Well, that was before.

Before I started not feeling well.

Before we made the mistake decision to have take-out Chinese for lunch.

Before our friends cancelled on us.

So, as dinner time rolled around, we were pretty much ambivalent about dinner.  Frankly, we were still fairly full from lunch – and were very overwhelmed by the complex aroma coming from the crock pot.  So, Hubs made an executive birthday decision: we’d save the tacos for the next night and have a light dinner instead.

Here was our exciting meal:

(No, you are not mistaken – peanut butter and jelly with Doritos.  What can I say, we were reliving our teenage youth.  And darn, it tasted good!)

Anyways, I’m telling you this because I’m thinking letting the meat stew in the juices overnight may not have been the best idea…

The Recipe:

Cuban Street Tacos, adapted slightly from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

4-lb boneless pork butt or boneless pork top loin roast, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 T kosher salt

1 T canola or vegetable oil

2 c chicken broth or stock

1/2 t pepper

1 t ground cumin

1 t chili powder

1 t dried oregano

2 bay leaves

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeño, minced

1 onion, peeled and halved

juice of 1 lime

1 medium orange, halved and juice, rinds reserved

Rub the pieces of pork all over with salt. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, until the oil is shimmering and hot.  Add the pork and sear each piece on all sides, working in batches, if needed.  Once browned, remove the pork to the slow cooker.  Into the same pot used to sear the pork, pour in the water and chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged spatula or wooden spoon to get up all the delicious brown bits from the bottom.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer.  Pour the mixture over the pork in the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until the pork is very tender.

Remove the bay leaves, onion and orange rinds from the pot and discard.  Remove the pork and place in a bowl and set aside.  Pour the liquid from the slow cooker into a pot on the stove and over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil.  Let the mixture boil until it reduces to about 1 cup and is thickened slightly, about 10 -15 minutes.

Shred the pork and place on a large patter.  Spoon the sauce over the pork.  Serve in tortillas garnished with onions, cilantro, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and additional lime wedges, if desired.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

So, after this cooked for about seven hours, I turned it off, let it cool, and placed it in the refrigerator.

The next day, about an hour before we were going to eat, I placed it back in the slow cooker and turned it on high – and then followed the rest of the directions given.

I shredded the fork-tender pork, tasting a bit to make sure it was warm.  And let me tell you – it was amazing!  The mix of orange, jalapeno, and all the spices made for a treat for the tongue.

As I was sampling shredding the pork, I had the sauce simmering away on the stove top.  Once it had reduced quite a bit, I spooned some all over the gorgeous pork.  (Big mistake.  Big.  Huge.)

(Oh, and 10 points if you can name that quote.)

See, what I forgot to do is the most important thing you can do when cooking: taste your food.

Thinking things were still all wonderful, I plated up some amazing looking tacos.

It wasn’t until I took a huge bite that I realized something was seriously wrong.

Apparently, as the sauce had simmered, and the liquid evaporated, it got salty.  And I mean salty; as in spit-out-your-bite, salty.  As in the whole batch was ruined, salty… all that mouth-watering pork I’d tasted, ruined.

Let’s just say I was not happy.

I also want to say that I have made several of Mel’s recipes and they have all turned out perfectly.  So, I’m betting I did something wrong: whether it was leaving it sit overnight, using too much salt, or I don’t know.  So, I’m thinking if this sounds good to you, you should definitely still try it.

Just be sure to taste everything before you add, mix, or serve it.

(And yes, we did have pb&j again.)

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Be sure to enter my giveaway for a $20 gift card to Williams-Sonoma… check out this post for more information.  🙂