Thursday, June 1, 2017

Cinnamon Sugar Pecans

Reduced sugar homemade cinnamon sugar pecans! Delicious, sweet and crunchy, they are the perfect snack or topper for salads, cakes, and cookies.

Hey, hey! It is salad season and what better way to top that amazing bed of greens than with some chopped cinnamon sugar pecans!

Actually, I have been toasting up these delicious pecans since Easter when I made that amazing Carrot Cake  and they have never made it onto a single salad. Hand snacking- yes, obviously. Chopped in an amazing chocolate chip cookie- surprisingly wonderful. Salad topper- great plan, yet to be executed.

The wonderful thing about these pecans is that they are really simple to whip up. You also don't need any special ingredients...except pecans. I bought the big bag at Costco thinking that would be waaay too many, but it turns out devouring these sweet, crunchy nuts is a quick and easy job, especially with little helpers.

Most importantly, all the recipes I found used so much sugar. I mean, I love sugar, but 1 1/2 cups for 2 cups of pecans? I'd rather save my sugar for something else. This recipe drastically reduces the amount of sugar to only 1/4 cup for 4 cups of pecans and they still taste awesome! Sweeeet.

Reduced sugar homemade cinnamon sugar pecans! Delicious, sweet and crunchy, they are the perfect snack or topper for salads, cakes, and cookies.

Cinnamon Sugar Pecans

  • 4 cups pecans
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tbs water
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbs sugar
  • 1/2 tbs cinnamon
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or tin foil.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together egg white and water until fluffy. Stir in cinnamon and 1/4 cup of sugar. It may take a minute to incorporate the cinnamon.
  3. Pour pecans onto the cookie sheet. Pour egg white mixture over the pecans and toss so nuts are evenly coated. Sprinkle additional tbs of sugar on top, if desired.
  4. Bake for 1 hour, stirring pecans every 15 minutes. Cool completely.
Reduced sugar homemade cinnamon sugar pecans! Delicious, sweet and crunchy, they are the perfect snack or topper for salads, cakes, and cookies.

Bake the bread. Share the slices. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Raspberry Cream Cheese Bars

Delicious and simple sweet crust with fluffy cream cheese and lemon filling, topped with fresh raspberries. Perfect for parties and BBQs!

I love fruit tarts. There is this great French bakery downtown that has a tart that I could eat every day, but I don't because the big one costs at least $30 and I would eat it all by myself, (as the Little Red Hen should!). I'm not exaggerating this time. One summer I bought an entire tart- not a little one but the one that is at least 10" in diameter and covered in strawberries, blueberries, apricots, and plums. It had a thin, sweet crust, which was divine, and an amazing, slightly almond-flavored cream filling that I now know is called a frangipane. I ate the whole thing while reading Anna Karenina over the course of 3 days. No sharing. And honestly, I didn't really feel bad because it isn't like a fruit tart is as rich as a chocolate cake! I don't want to spoil the book for you if you haven't read it, because you should, but I remember what struck me most was how much immediate remorse and internal conflict Anna had, and yet she didn't want to stop doing what she was doing. 

After eating that entire tart and binge reading a Russian novel in 3 days, I felt I could completely identify. 

But this raspberry cream cheese tart will not leave you feeling like that! The crust, if you want to be technical, is a pate sucree, (pat soo-kray), which is fancy talk for a sweet pie crust. Don't let the fancy name scare you off because it is incredibly easy to make and you'll feel like a rockstar after you do. Trust me in its perfection for this bar. Not as chewy or sweet as a sugar cookie crust, (which I have tried), and not as dry or savory as a traditional pie crust, a pate sucree is perfection. I made mine with powdered sugar, which I much preferred over granulated sugar, and a little bit of heavy cream. I am becoming a heavy cream convert! It lasts for like 2 weeks in the fridge and makes just about everything better. Keep some on hand!

Delicious and simple sweet crust with fluffy cream cheese and lemon filling, topped with fresh raspberries. Perfect for parties and BBQs!

The filling is just cream cheese whipped with some heavy cream to fluff it up, more powdered sugar to sweeten it just enough, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Top that loveliness with some fresh berries and you have something miraculous to serve at your baby shower/bridal shower/make up party/summer BBQ/afternoon of loneliness. 

The recipe for the crust can be divided into two parts to fill 2-9" tarts, or roll it all out to fill a cookie sheet. The dough also freezes really well for a month, so you can make it ahead and let it thaw in the fridge before using. 

Raspberry Cream Cheese Bars

  • 8 oz, (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup +2 1/2 tbs powdered sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp good vanilla, or 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1 egg
  • 1-3 tbs heavy cream, as needed to further bind dough
Cooking Directions
  1. In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, whip butter on medium-low speed until it is the consistency of mayonnaise and holds a peak. Sift in the powdered sugar and add vanilla, mixing on low at first (so you don't get powdered sugar everywhere), and then increase speed to medium, until mixture is light and fluffy.
  2. Add flour in 2 additions, mixing for about 30 seconds, until just combined. Add egg.
  3. Mix until just combined, and slowly add cream by degrees, as needed, to allow crust to come together. Be careful to add by tiny increments and avoid over mixing. You will knead it lightly after you remove it from the bowl.
  4. Once combined, transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Using your palms, gently work the dough together. Divide dough in half and form each half into a rectangle.
  5. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours before rolling out. If freezing, double wrap dough and freeze for up to 1 month.
  6. When ready to bake, roll out very thin on a lightly floured or powdered sugared surface. One crust for a 9" pie pan, or both crust fill a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 until sides are lightly golden. The middle may look under-cooked, but after the crust cools it'll be great.

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 -1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 lemon, freshly squeezed, to taste
Cooking Directions
  1. In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, whip cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add heavy cream and vanilla, adding powdered sugar by degrees until sweetened to taste. Whip until light and fluffy.
  2. Add lemon juice by degrees to taste and whip again.
  3. Spread onto cooled, baked crust and top with fresh berries.
Delicious and simple sweet crust with fluffy cream cheese and lemon filling, topped with fresh raspberries. Perfect for parties and BBQs!

Bake the bread. Share the slices. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Tangy Shredded Beef Sandwiches

This easy crock pot tangy shredded beef tastes amazing and only has 3 ingredients!

I love making these tangy shredded beef sandwiches so much! You just throw 3 ingredients into the crock pot and let them do their thing all day, and miraculously you end up with the most tasty meat you can imagine.

Of course, chicken is delicious, inexpensive, and easy. Pasta is a definite staple at our dinner table, and ground turkey is for tacos. But sometimes, you just need some beef, you know? So when I see a roast on sale, I know exactly what to do with it!

Juicy, hot, and flavorful, my favorite way to serve this tangy meat once it is shredded is on a toasted homemade hamburger bun, or fresh, crusty french bread, smothered in mayo and pepper jack cheese. Provolone is a very close second, and I have been pleased even with a sharp cheddar. That's it. Really simple. Really delicious. Like dripping off your chin delicious.

Don't let the pepperocinis scare you away. I make sure to buy mild pepperocinis and my kids don't even know or complain about it. They love this stuff. You don't end up with peppery-tasting meat. Instead, you get this great, tangy flavor from those pickled peppers, without the heat. And the beefy onion soup enhances all that meaty goodness. Seriously, the broth resulting from this simple combination makes a crazy wonderful dipping au jus. Most often I just shred the beef and put it back in the broth so that the meat stays flavorful and juicy. 

This easy crock pot tangy shredded beef tastes amazing and only has 3 ingredients!

Another wonderful perk is that unless you are making this for a party, you will have left overs, and you will want left overs! My favorite way to use this shredded beef, apart from the sandwiches, is to make an amazing homemade pizza with alfredo sauce, caramelized onions and peppers, mozzarella, topped with shredded beef and smoked provolone. Yummm... Plus tacos and quesadillas make a great, easy lunch option. Oh, and so do beefy grilled cheese sandwiches dipped in homemade tomato soup. Just make this tangy shredded beef and let your imagination run wild!

Tangy Shredded Beef

  • 1 package beefy onion soup
  • 1 16 oz jar pepperocini (banana peppers), mild
  • 3 pound chuck roast, or any beef roast
  • 1 tbs olive oil
Cooking Directions
  1. In a large frying pan, heat oil. Sear roast on all sides. Place into crock pot.
  2. Pour pepperocinis, including juice, and beefy onion soup mix over roast.
  3. Cover and cook on HIGH 4-5 hours or LOW 7-8 hours, or until meat is easily pulls or falls apart.
  4. Remove roast from crock pot, reserving juices. Shred with a fork and return meat to juices. Serve on a toasted cheesy bun, in grilled sandwiches or quesadillas, or on salads or pizzas. Leftovers freeze well.
Bake the bread. Share the slices. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Homemade hamburger buns that are delicious and perfect for a juicy burger or sandwich. SO much better than store bought buns.

Sometimes you just want hefty buns, am I right?

Okay, your middle-school sense of humor is probably giggling right now, but you know what I mean? You've got an amazingly juicy burger or flavorful sandwich planned out and those store-bought buns are not going to support all that flavor! Nobody likes it when their hamburger bun quits before the burger is gone. Like when the bun is flapping off the meat or sliding away altogether, and you are left with ketchup everywhere on your hands, your lettuce has slipped away into your fries, and don't get me started on where the tomato is! Moral of the story: Bad buns ruin good burgers.

A few weeks ago I needed a good hamburger bun. I was hesitant to make my own because I didn't want a bun that just tasted like bread. That's gross. So I tried this hamburger bun recipe from the baker upstairs and I really liked it. The resulting buns improved the quality of my pre-frozen turkey burgers by one million percent. No bread flavor, no buns falling off the burger. Plus, I could make them the same size as the burgers so that was awesome. No complaints and no trip to the store. 

With burger season ramping up, I highly recommend trying these out. They take a little bit of time, but they are worth it. Sorry store-bought buns, we're through. Its not me. Its you. 

Homemade hamburger buns that are delicious and perfect for a juicy burger or sandwich. SO much better than store bought buns.

Hamburger Buns

  • 3 tbs warm milk
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 2 1/2 tbs sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • 2 1/2 tbs butter, melted
  • 3 1/3 cups flour, (more or less as needed)
Cooking Directions
  1. In a stand mixer with a kneading hook, combine milk, water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit until frothy, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add 1 egg, salt, butter, and 2 cups of flour and knead on low speed. Continue to add flour until dough pulls away from side of bowl and is a little sticky and will form a ball when you roll it between your fingers.
  3. Cover dough loosely with a towel and let raise until doubled.
  4. After dough rises. gently form into 10-12 balls and flatten them slightly with your hand. Place on a large cookie sheet and let rise again for 1 hour, or until doubled.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a 9x13 pan of water in bottom of the oven.
  6. Whisk together 1 egg and 1 tsp of water. Brush egg wash over the buns and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Homemade hamburger buns that are delicious and perfect for a juicy burger or sandwich. SO much better than store bought buns.

Bake the bread. Share the slices. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Best Carrot Cake

This perfect carrot cake is moist and delicious! Filled with a fluffy cream cheese filling and topped with a light buttercream frosting. So easy to make and no raisins or nuts inside!

Around Easter I went searching for the perfect carrot cake. (I also wanted a chance to use the food processor attachment for my Kitchen Aid I received for my birthday back in December.) I kept going to events where I knew there would be carrot cake, only to be disappointed by a cake mix with Cool Whip. I know, some people love that kind of thing, but if I want carrot cake, I want a cake that is moist, slightly dense, not too sweet or overpowered by cream cheese, and I don't like nuts or raisins inside the cake itself. I guess I am kind of particular about my cake! 

The best carrot cake I ever had, hands down, was at a wedding reception I went to a few years ago. I can't even remember what made it so miraculous, but it forever changed my idea of what a carrot cake could be- namely I discovered it could be enjoyable!

This carrot cake, my carrot cake, is about as perfect as it gets. Super moist, not overly sweet, not overly spicy, and with no artificial aftertaste, it is a true winner. Plus, no special ingredients or flours are required. I love the combination of a whipped cream cheese filling with a buttercream frosting because then the cream cheese isn't too strong.Topping it with cinnamon-sugar toasted pecans was the perfect way to introduce just a little bit of texture so that the cake doesn't feel too rich. Even people that tell me they don't like carrot cake liked this cake. I'd call that success! 

I know carrot cake is typically an Easter or Mother's Day dessert, but I think this one could work all year round. It is perfect for a baby or bridal shower!  The spices lend itself perfectly for fall, and it really I'd make it for a summer BBQ, too. Yum. Honestly, I'd just make it for breakfast, but maybe you don't go in for cake for breakfast. (If you've never had cake for breakfast, I highly recommend it.)

This perfect carrot cake is moist and delicious! Filled with a fluffy cream cheese filling and topped with a light buttercream frosting. So easy to make and no raisins or nuts inside!

The Best Carrot Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • dash ground cloves
  • 1 pound grated carrots
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 9" round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray, or line with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, mix together the oil and sugars until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time until just mixed. Add the vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Slowly, add in the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just combined.
  4. Fold in carrots.
  5. Pour into prepared cake pans. The batter will fill the pans up, but they won't overflow while baking. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Then carefully remove cake from pans and cool completely on a cooling rack before frosting.

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 8 oz butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
Cooking Directions
  1. In a large bowl, whip cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add in powdered sugar and vanilla, adding more of each if desired, according to taste.
  2. Beat until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Spread between layers of cooled cake.

Fluffy Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1-3 tbs heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 4-8 cups powdered sugar
Cooking Directions
  1. In a large bowl with a hand mixer or in stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Slowly add in 4 cups powdered sugar and extracts.
  2. Add in heavy cream and additional powdered sugar by degrees until frosting reaches consistency and taste desired. If frosting a layered cake, you will want a slightly stiffer frosting so be careful when adding cream.
  3. Continue to whip for several minutes until light and fluffy. Use to frost 2- 9" cakes or the outside of a 9" layered cake.

Bake the bread. Share the slices. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

DIY Star Wars Marquee Sign

This Star Wars marquee sign is perfect for a Star Wars bedroom, and is so easy to make and costs less than $20! No special tools needed.

We moved last August and my boy, my only boy, got his own bedroom. There was no question that it would be a Star Wars room, and I started combing Pinterest for ideas. Most were amazing! And some of the most amazing were also, unfortunately, amazingly expensive.

So where does that leave the Little Red Hen? She looks it all over and decides she's got to do it herself...cheaper.

I am not super crafty, nor am I a natural decorator. I can't just see a room and know what to do with it. But, give me a theme, and I can come up with some good ideas. And so it was with this Star Wars Marquee sign.

The original inspiration came from Pottery Barn and is beautiful!

<em>Star Wars</em>™ Marquee Wall Art

All of their Star Wars decor, I needed. Like I spent weeks drooling over their Star Wars sheets, deciding I was just going to bite the bullet and buy them, only to chicken out every time I put them in my cart. So I went with the Target version which was less my favorite, but worked for 1/3 of the price. Done. Luckily, I found some of the awesome Pottery Barn pillow shams at a local outlet for only $1!!! So, that was a win.

But, you want to know about the marquee sign. The marquee sign I saw at Pottery Barn is made out of wood so it weighed more than 20 lbs, and it cost $299. Uh, that's a no for me.

I saw a great tutorial on Handmade with Ashley to make my own with a Cricket vinyl cutter and wood. It is awesome! I pinned it in good faith only to realize I would never, never take the time to build that thing. I wanted to, it looks just like the original one from Pottery Barn, but tools and time are not my forte. I'm impatient. I want it done now!

So, I had the brilliance to use a canvas from my craft store. Plus, I had a 50% off coupon! I don't have a vinyl cutter or Cricket machine, so what did I use for a stencil? That Target sheet set came with a pillowcase the size of my canvas with the Star Wars logo! Totally old-school, I traced the letters off the pillowcase to make a template and then traced my template onto contact paper. Sweet! (You can also find free online Star Wars fonts that you can download here and print the letters extra large, like 1-2 per page, and cut them out too.)

My sister came over and we got to work finishing the sign up. I had some black acrylic paint already, so I put my stencils on the canvas, painted the entire thing black, and let it dry. Once I removed the vinyl letters- VOILA! I had exactly what I wanted. Walmart had those great outdoor lights for less than $10, so I used an X-Acto knife to cut holes in my canvas, screwed the bulbs on, and holy Jedi mind tricks! It worked!

So, for less than $20 I made this! Oh man, Little Red. Yoda best.

DIY Star Wars Marquee Sign

- 1 18"x 24" canvas (I got the cheapest kind at Michael's.)
- contact paper (shelf paper- I got mine at Walmart for $.97.) 
- black acrylic paint
- foam paintbrush
- Star Wars letters  (You can find free online Star Wars fonts that you can download here and print the letters extra large, like 1-2 per page. Then cut them out to use as a template.) 
- pencil
- ruler
- 20 light strand out outdoor lights (I got mine at Walmart for $9.94)
- X-Acto knife or box cutter

  • Trace Star Wars letters on to contact paper. Cut them out. 

  • Center letters on canvas. You can use a ruler, or just eyeball it. If you use the 18"x 24" canvas, the letters will go all the way to the edges. Once placed, remove the backing of the contact paper so that the letters stick to the canvas. (That said, the contact paper doesn't stick super well. Don't worry. Just press the letters down as best as you can and paint lightly to avoid bleeding under the contact paper.

  • Using the foam paintbrush, cover the canvas with a light coat of black paint, going all around, and over the letters. The canvas under the letters will stay white. Apply a second coat if needed, being sure to be careful around the edges of the letters to avoid the paint bleeding through. 

  • Once the paint is dry, remove the contact paper letters. Isn't that awesome! Now, lightly mark where you want the lights to be with a pencil.

  • With the X-Acto knife, make a tiny X where the light should go. 

  • Unscrew the light bulb from the wire. Gently push the bulb through the X and screw the wire and bulb back together. So, from the front you only see light bulb.

  • Repeat for each bulb.
  • Plug in and be amazed! 
This Star Wars marquee sign is perfect for a Star Wars bedroom, and is so easy to make and costs less than $20! No special tools needed.

Bake the bread. Share the slices.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

British Scones

A few weeks ago I made this amazing lemon curd which was so good it took me 3 days to decide  the worthiest way to use it. My best buddy Alicia, the baker upstairs, suggested British scones and I decided to go with that suggestion. It was, as you can see, an unequivocal success.

delicious and easy homemade lemon curd for scones, cookies, cakes, ice creams,

First, I will admit I have never been to Great Britain, so I am hardly an expert on the perfect scone. That said, I did my research so I think this recipe is fairly legit.You have to realize a British scone is more like an American biscuit, but with fewer flaky layers. Instead of being sweet, the British scone is meant to be filled with sweet stuff- like jellies, jams, and lemon curd! Clotted cream is another staple filling, but I went with a homemade whipped cream instead. (I think Cool Whip is evil.) Throw in a handful of plump, juicy strawberries and I had the makings of something sophisticated. 

Homemade British scones are a simple a beautiful spring dessert or Mother's Day brunch.

Perhaps the most beautiful part about these scones is that they are quick to throw together, so in less than half an hour you can have a little bit of heaven in your kitchen!

So if you are planning Mother's Day Brunch, or just a well deserved mid-afternoon snack, these British scones are what you need. 

Homemade British scones are a simple a beautiful spring dessert or Mother's Day brunch.

British Scones

  • 2 cups self rising flour
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbs milk or cream
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Sift dry ingredients into a mid-sized bowl.
  3. Cut in the egg and 1/2 cup milk with a knife. The dough will be very loose.
  4. Turn onto a floured surface. Pat until about 1" thick.
  5. Using a biscuit cutter, cookie cutter, or small-mouthed cup, cut dough into 8 pieces. Brush top of scones with remaining tablespoon of milk and bake until golden brown.
  6. Serve cut in half and serve with cream, jam, or lemon curd.
Homemade British scones are a simple a beautiful spring dessert or Mother's Day brunch.

Bake the bread. Share the slices. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Breakfast Quinoa Stir-fry

gluten free, quinoa, breakfast, vegetables, healthy, easy, stir fry

I am ever on the quest for a healthy, high-protein breakfast that tastes good. If I can squeeze in a serving of vegetables too, that is a major bonus. Enter this quinoa breakfast stir-fry. 

But wait, don't let any of that "healthiness" scare you away! This breakfast doesn't really taste healthy, or like your typical breakfast. I created this to get out of cereal and pancake rut. And it worked! Seasoned with minced garlic and soy sauce, it just tastes yummy, and it will keep you full through the morning. Imagine eating fried rice for breakfast without any of the guilt or weird aftertaste. The quinoa is slightly nutty, and I love getting bites of egg, quinoa, and tender zucchini all together. Honestly, it reminds me of going to Benihana and getting that amazing fried rice that they cook right in front of you. But, what makes this breakfast stir-fry better is that you don't have to change out of your pajamas to get it!

This is a great way to use leftover quinoa or vegetables. I almost always have fresh spinach I need to use up, and I like using squash, zucchini, and peppers. There really are no rules. Use whatever you have on hand! But even if you are starting from scratch, the ingredients are relatively inexpensive, and you can cook quinoa up easily on the stove or in the rice cooker in about 20 minutes. So, while it cooks you can chop up veggies and whisk together your eggs so that you are ready to stir-fry!

Each 1 cup serving packs about 10 grams of protein and there is no sugar! (No sugar for breakfast is definitely a goal I am working on...some mornings!) But really, I eat this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner...or even as a quick snack sometimes to get me through the afternoon. There is really no downside to this recipe, unless you don't like quinoa, to which I would still say try it because it might just change your mind. 

**This recipe is large so you can either a) feed 6-8 people or b) put it in individual containers to it is ready for breakfast, lunch, or dinner all week. :) 

Breakfast Quinoa Stir-Fry

  • 2 small zucchinis, or italian squash, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 roma tomato, chopped
  • 3 cups fresh spinach
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa, (1 cup uncooked)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cooking Directions
  1.  In a large frying pan, melt butter and sautee garlic over medium-high heat, about 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook until spinach wilts.
  2.  Add remaining vegetables and sautee until slightly tender, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add cooked quinoa, soy sauce, and eggs. Stir and scramble until eggs are cooked through, adding additional butter if needed to prevent sticking to pan.
  4. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Eat immediately, or save servings of prepared stir-fry for later meals for up to one week.

Bake the bread. Share the slices. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Homemade Lemon Curd

Simple, quick, and delicious this homemade lemon curd is the perfect spring dessert.

I love lemons! I love how bright and fresh they are, I love their color, I love to squeeze them into plain carbonated water or ice water, and I especially love to smell freshly sliced lemons and the juice that rolls onto my hands. (I don't love when that juice finds the cracks in my dry skin, but I'm willing to overlook that part.)

The other day I had a couple lemons that I thought would become lemon bars. But I realized I was the only one at my house who would eat the lemon bars and the craving subsided so I was left searching for "lemon recipes." All the good ones called for lemon curd.

This was no problem because I've made homemade lemon curd before. When my little Georgia turned 1 I made the most spectacular birthday cake I've ever created and it had a lemon curd filling. I'd just forgotten how easy it is to make lemon curd! And, more importantly, how impressive you feel after you make lemon curd.

The only problem I had after I made this ridiculously simple and delicious lemon curd was deciding how to use this precious, golden substance! What was the worthiest way to use it? While there are infinite possibilities-cake filling, cookie topping, toast spread, ice cream topping, bars, trifles, parfaits, cupcakes, cheesecakes- I finally settled for the most straightforward conduit to my mouth: a simple spoon.

Make this and your taste buds will dance and sing!

Simple, quick, and delicious this homemade lemon curd is the perfect spring dessert.

Homemade Lemon Curd

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • zest of 2 lemons
Cooking Directions
  1. 1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
  2. 2. Add butter and mix together over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened.
  3. 3. Remove from heat. Strain lemon curd using a sieve or cheese cloth for an extra smooth curd. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

Simple, quick, and delicious this homemade lemon curd is the perfect spring dessert.

 Bake the bread. Share the slices.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sorry I Judged You and Your Minivan

So many ideas we have about motherhood get thrown out the window as we gain experience. So, I'm sorry I judged you and your minivan.

This morning I discovered a covey of gray/white hairs on my head. Not blonde. Definitely white. Growing in white- since some of the hairs were baby ones, only about an inch long.

I kind of laughed actually, and I'm not sure I'll do anything about them for now. Another rite of passage, I guess. As I reflected on this discovery, combined with being 34 and pregnant with my 5th baby (yup, not a typo), I realized how many ideas I had about motherhood and adult-life in my 20's I've completely forfeited. Or that I have reversed my position on. Frankly, there are so many things I just didn't get because I hadn't experienced enough. So I'd like to say:

I'm sorry I judged you and your minivan.

I think I've only met one person in my entire life who said that owning a minivan was a life goal. If you start a conversation with a person who owns a minivan, it is bound to start something like, "Oh, I NEVER wanted to own a van. We were only going to drive an SUV," and the conversation will end with a story about  price, utility, convenience, and ultimately selling out to minivan practicality.

And I get it now because I'm there! I signed the contract! I'm living the dream! We tried the SUV, and loading kids was a nightmare. Plus, there was no room for stuff on road trips. Now we take road trips. It was like we bought the van and immediately we were like, "Let's go on a road trip with our 4 kids and your parents!" And guess what? It was sweet! The minivan was everything we had hoped it wouldn't be. It was comfortable, practical, and awesome.

So, I'm sorry I judged you and your minivan not so long ago because now I realize you didn't buy it because you thought minivans were sexy. You bought it because your husband thought you  were sexy a couple of times and now you have this group of little people to transport. And, if you're like me, the Suburban was just way out of your price range, and it probably wouldn't fit in the garage. (Though secretly I am hoping to graduate to one someday.) So you bought the van, and you will drive it, for the rest of eternity. And that's totally fine. It is time I owned it.

I'd also like to say that I get why your kid is wearing that the grocery July.

I had this idea, (oh, young, naive thing that I was), that when I had kids they would be put together with hair done and clothes matching whenever we left the house. Definitely at school because my children would NOT be those kids at school with the crazy jeans and messy hair. I did pretty well with my first. Of course, school uniforms helped enormously, but we could pull off a sleek ponytail most days. Then I had my sweet Stella with her Rapunzel-like hair. Seriously, she had pigtails when she was 3 months old. And somewhere around mid-kindergarten I succumbed to the days old braid in exchange for her eating breakfast in the morning, or the messy bun when there was just no helping those tangles. To boot, she is very creative in her clothing choices and what "looks cute." Fancy dresses or jeans, a skirt, a My Little Pony shirt, 2 different socks and shoes that show them is her ensemble of choice. But it is fine. I'm fine with it, as long as she makes the bus. Which brings me to another point:

I'm sorry I judged you and your kids with the light-up Star Wars shoes and cartoon character shirts.

Because I get it now because I am here! The light-up Star Wars shoes just made your 4-year-old so freaking happy! So did that tacky My Little Pony shirt, or that Elsa dress that is 3 sizes too small and covered in stains, or the knight costume you bought at Costco complete with shirt, pants, and HELMET that your son wears in varying degrees of completion. Or the pirate outfit that has been just about everywhere. I get it now because you don't want to argue in the morning, or be late, or really because you realized it just doesn't matter! Why not let them wear what they want when they are young? Why not let them experiment and exercise independence in a harmless way?

I kind of love watching what my kids pick out now. True, I'll draw the line if we are going somewhere special, like church. But even then last week we got my son ready for church, but by the time we left the house he had lost his shoes, (so he wore his light-up Star Wars ones), he had ditched his tie, and was wearing one of my old belts slung across his shoulders like a pirate sword scabbard. Another week we won the presentable battle, but he had to bring his backpack to church, which was fine until in the the the middle of the sacrament he busted out his rocket launcher. I mean the kind that you stomp on and it shoots those foam darts up into the air. He brought the whole apparatus, tubes and all, and started whipping them out  across the pews during the quietest moment of the service. Now I figure God knows I got him dressed, God knows I'm trying, and God knows my Kells. I'm also counting on the fact that God has a sense of humor.

I'm sorry I judged your mom clothes, your mom hair at Chick-fil-a when I knew you were trying to look cute. I'm sorry for judging your mom lunch dates, never nursing your baby, nursing your baby until he was 5, for looking like you have it all together every day by 8 in the morning, or for never making it out of your pajama pants that day. I get why your house smells like maple syrup (holy cow, props to you for making pancakes or toasting Eggos!), why your windows have finger prints, why your kitchen chairs are always covered in spaghetti. I know the struggle of balancing expectations at work with expectations at home, and having to carefully budget your time. I get why you go to the free library activities and community days, and why you just spent 2 hours at Target  wandering the aisles like a woman in a trance.

I'm sorry for all those fleeting thoughts of judgement I had when I just didn't get it yet.

I'm not dismissing all the energy and enthusiasm that comes with ignorance. Sometimes, for me, it is best to just get an idea and jump in before you know any better. That was my approach to motherhood, and most things in my life, honestly.  For the most part that method works for me. But while I can't say I've done it all, man! If I could sit down and talk to my 21 year-old self, or my 27 year-old self,  I'd have a lot to say, if I was willing to listen.

Someone once told me that whether you have 1 kid or 9 kids you have to give 100%. I believe it. I cling to that. Because it is true, Everyday most of us are giving 100%. Sometimes it looks like a clean house, charming children, dinner in the oven, an excellent gym session, moments spent in meditation, and visiting a friend in need. Other days 100% is striving for mediocrity at best. And, as my sister loves to say, it gets to be okay.

You could read all of this as an insecure plea to not judge me. There could be a small bit of that in here, but mostly I think I'm finally to a point where I've accepted where I am at. I'm okay with being a mom. I've been so many versions of mom that I couldn't even count them. I've been the on-the-ball, I've-got-life-figured-out mom, the if-I-can-just-keep-us-all-alive-that-would-be-great mom, the there's-no-blood-so-stop-crying mom, the Valentine's-box-is-only-covered-with-coloring-book-pages mom. I've been the pajama-pants-and-messy-bun-at-Walmart mom. I've been the mom I swore I'd never be, and I've been the mom I never dreamed I could be. And I've finally realized that I haven't so much compromised my ideals as eliminated the battles that aren't essential. More importantly, I've realized that most of those battles had more to do with my own insecurities than with vans, clothes, and hair.

So many ideas we have about motherhood get thrown out the window as we gain experience. So, I'm sorry I judged you and your minivan.

I'm not advocating throwing out all expectations and ideals. I do advocate granting yourself and others an added measure of grace and allowing for flexibility. This mom-gig, this adulting thing, it isn't about stagnation. That's impossible. The crazy thing is that amid the mundane and tedium, there is joy, life and growth! What we do requires reflection and self-improvement, everyday- whether we realize it or not, however we do it. We can't spend every day on the couch waiting for things to be better. We, with help, are the ones who make things better. Not perfect, but better. And we should celebrate when we, and others, are getting things right.

I don't have that master's degree yet. My living room is currently a cushion fort, and I have on no make-up and my hair is in a wet bun. My life isn't what I planned. But, we made it to the park today. And my bathroom is clean. And I got kid number 1 to school early for an extra activity... in my minivan.

There's my 100% for today.

And it gets to be okay.

Bake the bread. Share the slices.

Monday, March 20, 2017

PBJ Protein Pancakes

These easy and healthy banana pancakes are covered with peanut butter and packed with extra protein forthe perfect way to start a busy day!

Protein for breakfast just makes for a better start to my day. I feel fuller longer, I have more energy to exercise, and, most importantly since I found out I was pregnant, a morning of protein doubles the possibility of me not throwing up before lunch.

Maybe that's not the intro you want to these pancakes, but it is where I am at now, my friends! While I am hoping the nausea subsides in the next few weeks, (I'm 15 weeks now, but who's counting?), I love these pancakes even when I am not pregnant. I think you will too.

This recipe is for those simple 3 ingredient pancakes you've seen all over Facebook and Pinterest: banana, eggs, and milk. But, I made them taste better. Adding Vanilla Quest Protein Powder really adds the fluffiness that a traditional pancake needs, and the extra dash of cinnamon makes them even tastier.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to tell you- don't be fooled by those people who say these healthy pancakes taste just like regular pancakes. They don't. I would compare them more to the texture of french toast. And don't think your kids will be totally fooled. Kids are smart. They'll know these pancakes are different. That being said, and I hope we are still friends because I was so honest with you, these peanut butter and jelly pancakes are AWESOME.

These easy and healthy banana pancakes are covered with peanut butter and packed with extra protein forthe perfect way to start a busy day!

I like that I can stack two hot pancakes, smother them with peanut butter and jelly, and know that they have fewer calories and more nutrition than most breakfast cereals. I also love that they are easy to make up, they are a great way to use those browning bananas, and did I mention they taste good?

Because this recipe makes four real-sized pancakes, I have discovered that they reheat very well and are still delicious the next day, smothered in natural crunchy peanut butter and fruit spread. As my kids eat breakfast, search for socks, and try to convince me that a Spiderman costume means that they are dressed (which, often times, is good enough for me), I can get in a satisfyingly healthy breakfast without much extra work.

Can I give you three more tips? Have you read this far?

  • Tip 1: Make sure you grease your pan very well. These pancakes like to stick, so use that non-stick spray liberally.
  • Tip 2: Really mash up those bananas. You don't want chunks of bananas. That'll be gross.
  • Tip 3: Don't heat your pan too high. I cook my pancakes just below medium heat and watch them carefully. If the pancakes look a little dark, no worries. It is nothing a little PBJ can't fix. 
These easy and healthy banana pancakes are covered with peanut butter and packed with extra protein forthe perfect way to start a busy day!

PBJ Protein Pancakes

These easy and healthy banana pancakes are covered with peanut butter and packed with extra protein for the perfect way to start a busy day!
Total time: 10 minutes
Yield: 4-5 pancakes
  • 1 banana- ripe and thoroughly mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbs almond milk, or milk
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 scoop Quest Vanilla Protein Powder
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat pan or skillet on medium low heat. In a small bowl whisk together mashed banana, eggs, milk, cinnamon, and protein powder until smooth. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, make 4-5 pancakes. Cook until they bubble slightly and can easily flip with a spatula. Continue cooking on other side until cooked through. Do not overcook.
Bake the bread. Share the slices.

These easy and healthy banana pancakes are covered with peanut butter and packed with extra protein forthe perfect way to start a busy day!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Little Red Hen's One-Hour Rolls

One Hour Rolls! Light, fluffy, buttery, and easy to make. A family favorite dinner roll recipe ready in one hour!

Hot, buttery, salty rolls in one hour? From scratch? That aren't as heavy as concrete? Surely you jest!

Nope, I jest not. The unbelievable is achievable and easier than you think. It takes an hour to make these rolls, but it only takes 13-15 minutes to bake the rolls. Most of the time is actually the dough raising- once in the mixing bowl and then again in the pan before baking. Plus, these one-hour rolls taste better than those frozen rolls that you bake and serve.

The idea of those bake and serve rolls is nice- rolls you can take out of the freezer, bake, and people will think they are homemade. Here's my problem with them: you have to let them thaw and raise ALL DAY. There's usually no way I'm remembering to take out the dinner roll dough to thaw at 8:30 in the morning. At that time, I'm trying to remember to put on deodorant before I take the kids to school. There is the fast raising alternative, but that still involves steaming the frozen dough in a warm oven for a couple hours. For me, those frozen bake and serve rolls are just not worth it.

It is amazing what homemade rolls can do to a meal. Soup turns into a meal with one-hour rolls. Salad turns into a meal with one-hour rolls. Left over chicken, roast or pork turns into a meal with one-hour rolls. I love making this recipe because in an hour I can combine these rolls with a fairly basic, (or potentially mediocre) mid-week meal, and VOILA! There is at least one thing on the table that I can guarantee my family will eat.

One Hour Rolls! Light, fluffy, buttery, and easy to make. A family favorite dinner roll recipe ready in one hour!

The recipe for Little Red Hen One-Hour Rolls makes about 2 dozen rolls. I usually make 20 rolls rather than 24 because the rolls end up just smaller than my fist, (which is the perfect size for rolls if you ask me), but you can do what you like. The rolls are best the day they are baked, though they continue to be addicting for another two days. For larger gatherings, the recipe is easily doubled and can still be done in about an hour, leaving you time to take a nap before dinner!

One slight digression- I used my Bosch mixer to make these rolls. I grew up watching my mom make bread and cookies in a Bosch, I learned how to do the same in a Bosch. I considered it a rite of passage when I received my own Bosch, up there with having my own Pyrex and the first time one of my kids threw up in the middle of the night and suddenly I was the mom who had to clean it up. One of those times when you realize you are a grown up. A defining moment in my life. I love my Bosch, so I have sometimes felt that KitchenAids are like the cool-kid-cheerleaders of the kitchen scene with their bright colors and that great clicking sound it makes when you raise that lever up and down. Darn cool kids. A KitchenAid will, I'm sure, work just as well when making these rolls. Still, they might just taste better when made in a Bosch. Maybe.

Bake the rolls. Share the rolls.

Little Red Hen One-Hour Rolls

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tbs instant yeast
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 2 tbs butter, softened
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 cups of flour, give or take a few tablespoons
  • 3 tbs melted butter- to spread on top before and after baking 
  • coarse sea salt- to sprinkle on the unbaked rolls

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine warm water, sugar and yeast. Let rest until frothy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the butter, salt and 2 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture. Begin mixing on low speed. Gradually add flour until the dough pulls away cleanly from the sides of the bowl, but is still soft to the touch. Increase mixer speed to medium as flour is added. 
  3. Knead the dough until it is smooth, about 5 minutes. 
  4. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let dough raise in a warm place for about 20 minutes, or until dough is almost doubled. 
  5. Remove dough from mixing bowl and put dough on a floured surface. Divide evenly into two parts. Grease or line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper.
  6. Take one half of dough and form a long "snake." Cut dough into 10-12 pieces.
     Roll each section of dough into a ball. Place in pan. Repeat with other half of dough making 5 rows of 4 (20 rolls) or 6 rows of 4 (24 rolls). 

  7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush the unbaked rolls with melted butter. Sprinkle coarse sea salt over each roll. Let rolls raise while oven is heating, or about 20 minutes. 
  8. Bake for 13-15 minutes until rolls are golden brown. Brush with remaining melted butter and ENJOY!

One Hour Rolls! Light, fluffy, buttery, and easy to make. A family favorite dinner roll recipe ready in one hour!