There are a lot of things about my life that have changed since I became a parent. I now consistently go to bed while it’s still light out. I do adult things like pay for life insurance. Each room of my house is littered with toys. And my diet has totally changed. I definitely didn’t foresee such a huge shift in what I ate back when I was prepping for parenthood.
There are a number of reasons why the change happened. First of all, obviously, my time is limited. And a lot of that limited time is spent holding a baby, which means I no longer have two free hands to cook and eat food with the wild abandon I once had. Secondly, we discovered a few months back that my JuneBug has a milk and soy protein intolerance, meaning I’ve cut out all soy and dairy from my diet. Thankfully, most kids grow out of the intolerance within the first year, and I’ll eventually be able to drown myself in cheese again, but for now, my diet is limited. The two things combined mean my diet is drastically different from what I was eating pre-baby.
And let me tell you, this combination isn’t very conducive to healthy eating. More of my diet than I like to admit is made up of granola bars (I have a specific brand and variety that I know is soy- and diary-free) and trail mix. There is absolutely nothing wrong with either, but when they make up a large portion of your daily calorie intake, it’s not a very balanced way of eating. And I’m feeling it. The sugar overload has me feeling completely run down (well, that and having a four-month old).
I decided this past week I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, and decided to (a) complain about it on the internet for the whole world to see and (b) do something to fix it. So I headed to the kitchen and powered through a bunch of cooking in order to whip myself up some new mom friendly foods. Healthy, fast, not packed with sugar, soy or daiy, and preferably easy to eat with one hand. The first of my Mommy munchies are these super tasty quinoa patties.
These are like little health food superstars wrapped up in an easy grab-and-go package. They are a source of complete, vegetarian protein (thanks to the quinoa), they are packed with nutrients because of the carrots and spinach. They are both filling and nourishing. And, if you think all of this sounds like a recipe for tastebud boredom, you’ll be happy to know that these patties are incredibly flavorful. I was so impressed with the explosive flavor of these guys.
I’ve been eating them straight out of the fridge (see previous note about lack of time), but you can also top them with sour cream, tzatziki, hummus to add a bit more punch. These patties are so versatile! Crumble them onto a salad. Eat them as a side dish for dinner. Form them into bigger patties for a veggie burger substitute. Pack them into a lunch. Freeze them up for later eating. It may seem like this recipe makes a ton, but I promise you’ll find a way to use them—and then wish you’d doubled the recipe.
I cooked these up by pan-frying them in a touch of avocado oil (it has a nice high smoke point), which made them crispy and crunchy, but if you want to be mega-healthy, you could also bake them in a medium oven for 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown. Personally, I feel like pan-frying quinoa and spinach is the picture of balance. Life is too short to eat your quinoa baked. Or something like that.
Showcase the power of two vegetarian superfoods in these spinach and quinoa patties. Perfect for snacks, lunches or dinner!
- 3 cups cooked quinoa (for extra flavor, cook in chicken or vegetable broth)
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
- 4 green onions, diced
- 1 cup frozen, chopped spinach, thawed, and squeezed dry
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
- 1-2 cups whole wheat panko breadcrumbs (I like these)
- 2 tablespoons avocado or olive oil
- Combine all ingredients, except the oil, in a medium mixing bowl until well mixed, adding in more breadcrumbs if necessary to achieve a mixture that will hold its shape when formed into patties. Let the mixture rest for 5-10 minutes to allow melding.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Form the mixture into small patties (about 2" wide) and, working in batches, cook patties in heated skillet for two minutes on one side, flip and cook for an additional two minutes, or until both sides are golden brown. Let patties cool on paper towels.
There is something about hosting houseguests that makes me want to go junk-food crazy. I guess I like to use other people kicking around my kitchen as an excuse to whip out all the foods I wouldn’t normally eat. I like to live by the 80/20 rule of nutrition—80% of the time, you’re eating healthy, fresh foods and 20% of the time, you can eat non-nutritive junk food like this. And it seems like that 20% always happens to fall when I have friends and family in my home. I swear I eat healthy most of the time, friends. It just doesn’t look like I do when you come visit my house.
We hosted my husband’s parents this past week, and there was a lot of delicious food (junky and not-so-junky). So much so that I actually totally forgot to bring out this party mix that I made for snacking on. I had put it all in a big zip-top bag and stashed it behind a bunch of other food, and by the time I remembered it was there, my in-laws were already on their way back to Canada. C’est la vie. Honestly, I kinda think Craig isn’t too sad that we have a whole bag of this stuff to ourselves. He called it “incredibly dangerous” as he shoveled handfuls in his mouth.
The inspiration for this mix comes from my favorite movie theatre treat. I like to mix together buttered movie theatre popcorn with Reese’s Pieces while taking in a flick. It is the absolute best combination of sweet and salty! So to make this Halloween snack mix, I took that flavor profile to the next level—mixing together popcorn, Reese’s Pieces, salted peanuts, pretzels, and everyone’s favorite Fall candy—candy corn. And then I slathered it all in a peanut butter caramel coating, and then topped it with an orange candy drizzle and sprinkles—just in case you didn’t quite get the idea that this wasn’t health food (well, it’s healthy for your soul—but probably not your body).
When it comes to the texture of the final mix, you have a bit of a flexibility with this recipe. If you want it to be crunchy and crispy like standard caramel corn, you can cook the peanut butter caramel coating a bit longer to the hard crack stage (about 300°, but I don’t have a candy thermometer, so I just use the ole water glass trick). If you want it a bit fudgier, just cook it until the soft crack stage (about 280°). I like it this way because a lot of the elements are still crunchy—the peanuts, pretzels, Reese’s pieces—but the whole mix is a bit creamier. It’s a bit like a candy bark that way. Both ways work (although, I would say the hard crack would be best for putting in cute little baggies and distributing as gifts). Whatever bakes your cookie. Or caramels your corn.
I went with the standard Halloween candy add-ins, but as I was browsing the candy displays, I saw so many fun additions that would work. You could throw in candy eyes for a really spooky treat. Or even those candy pumpkins (those were always a little bit too much for my tastes). You could also drizzle on some different candy melts—black and green would be fun and festive, too!
I promise I’ll post something with some vegetables later on. Now that my houseguests have left, it’s time for me to get back to my normal, kale-heavy diet.
Enjoy! Happy Halloween!
This fun and festive peanut butter Halloween party mix will satisfy you sweet tooth!
- 12 cups air-popped popcorn
- 3 cups mini-twist pretzels
- 1 cup roasted, salted peanuts
- 1 cup candy corn
- 1 cup Reese's Pieces
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/4 cup butter
- Orange candy melts and sprinkles for garnish
- In a very large bowl, mix together the popcorn, pretzels, peanuts, candy corn, and Reese's pieces. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the honey, sugar, salt, peanut butter and butter to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring for five minutes. Remove from heat, and drizzle caramel over popcorn mixture. Stir to coat.
- Spread the popcorn mixture onto two baking sheets covered in parchment. Drizzle with melted candy melts and top with holiday sprinkles. Let cool completely, then break apart to serve.
My husband and I met young. We were in our early twenties when he stumbled onto my blog one late night in February and left me a comment. We spent the entire next day talking online. We met in person six weeks later. Were engaged six weeks after that. We moved in together a year to-the-day after he first found my blog. And we were married at city hall a month after that.
It never occurred to me that I’d get married so young—let alone to a man from another country who I randomly met online. But it was one of the easiest decisions of my life. Within about an hour of talking to him online, I knew I was done. We were so young and naive when we first got together, but as of last week, both of us are now well-seasoned thirty-somethings, and I feel so fortunate that we’ve been able to grow up together. Intellectually, I understand that things could have gone so badly (I’ve seen Catfish…), but I’m so thankful I had that wild abandon as a 23 year-old to marry a man I’d barely spent any time with in person.
Craig turned 30 last week, and for some reason, it feels like a really important milestone in our relationship. We’re no longer impulsive kids. We (hopefully) still have a lot of life left to live, but we’ve lived enough—and a lot of it as a couple—to know what we want out of life and to try and tackle it together. Entering a new decade of life with my husband by my side is exciting. And, personally, I’m loving my thirties so far. I’m still young enough to have just enough immaturity to do some stupid stuff, but enough life experience to be confident in decisions. It’s a nice balance.
Watching my husband grow up has been an absolute joy. When I met him, he was…dare I say…a bit of a slacker. And now, he’s this hard-working, intelligent, thoughtful, caring man who willingly does my laundry and still tells me I’m beautiful even when I’m covered in spit-up and haven’t showered in three days. He’s also, quite possibly, the best father on the planet. Seeing the way he loves our daughter has brought me a whole new level of appreciation for him. I knew he was amazing before we had a child, but I now find myself in awe of him. Us girls are so fortunate to have him in our lives.
So what’s all this have to do with cake? Well, every year, Craig and I both try to go crazy over-the-top for each other’s birthday cakes. We spend hours and hours on them. Two years ago, he made me an eight (!) layer cake, and each layer was a different dessert—brownies, cheesecake, cookies, you get the point. This year, he made me a giant Samoa cookie cake. In years past, I’ve made him giant peanut butter chocolate cakes that are decorated to the nines and lots of fancy cheesecakes.
It’s interesting how your life changes when you have a kid. As much as I’d love to devote two straight days to crafting a crazy intense cake for my husband’s birthday, it just wasn’t in the cards for our new lives as parents. So I instead thought about what he’d want me to do. He’d want me to make him something that was delicious, but easy and quick, so I could get back to spending some quality time with him and June Bug. So this year, I decided to skip the complicated cake, and instead go with a simple, layered ice box cake using his favorite candy bar—Butterfingers.
Ice box cakes are incredibly delicious and simple. The idea with ice box cakes is that you layer graham crackers with pudding or whipped cream and then pop it in the fridge (or ice box, if you will). After a few hours, the graham crackers soften up and make a delicious layered cake that is yummy enough to serve to company!
Ice box cakes are just so amazingly easy, which is something that this new mom really appreciates. No worrying that the frosting is just right. Or needing to make sure the cake stand is clean. You layer them in an everyday casserole dish, and pop them in the fridge until it’s time to serve. Then you just cut and plate. Is it as Pinterest-worthy as a perfectly-frosted cake on a well-styled birthday shot? Nope. But it’s wonderful nonetheless.
And maybe one day, once June Bug is a little bit older, she can help me get back to the tradition of making crazy complicated cakes for her Daddy. But for now, we’re all okay with a little bit of simplicity.
This no-bake Butterfinger ice box cake is quick, easy, and so tasty that everyone will think you spent hours slaving away in the kitchen.
- 1-3.4 ounce package instant butterscotch pudding mix
- 1 3/4 cup milk
- 1-11 ounce package fun-size Butterfingers, unwrapped
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar, divided
- 8 ounces softened cream cheese
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 box chocolate graham crackers
- Whisk together the pudding mix and the milk in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Place in the fridge.
- Place the Butterfingers in a heavy zip-top bag, and mash with a mallet or drinking glass until crunched (or place in a food processor and pulse until crunched). Measure out 1-1/2 cups of the Butterfingers, and set aside.
- Beat together the heavy whipping cream, and 1/4 cup of the powdered sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed. Once the cream begins to thicken, increase to high speed and beat until you see stiff peaks. Set aside.
- In another mixing bowl, whip the cream cheese on high until light and fluffy. Add in the remaining powdered sugar, brown sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and the 1-1/2 cup of Butterfinger crumbs. Fold in half of the whipped cream.
- To assemble the cake, spread about 1/2 cup of the whipped cream on the bottom of a 9 x 17 baking dish. Place a layer of the chocolate graham crackers on top, fitting tightly and cutting to fit if necessary.
- Top graham crackers with 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture, followed by 1/2 of the pudding. Top with another layer of graham crackers, another 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture, and the remaining pudding. Finish with the remaining cream cheese mixture and the remaining whipped cream. Sprinkle top with remaining Butterfinger crumbs.
- Cover the dish with tightly-fitting plastic wrap, and place in fridge for at least four hours—preferably overnight. The cake can be eaten at anytime, but you know it's really good and ready when you can insert a knife in the middle and it glides through all the layers of breadcrumbs without issue.
Adapted lightly from Let’s Dish.
Growing up, on the rare occasion that my parents went out for the evening, my brother and I would always eat canned beef stew for dinner. We never had those kinds of processed foods growing up (I was very fortunate to grow up in a household that put a lot of value in high-quality, homecooked food), so opening up a can of beef stew for dinner felt very novel. I remember thinking it was pretty much the tastiest thing on the planet.
It’s weird how grass is always greener on the other side. As a kid, I was obsessed with processed food—because it was something I never had. So whenever I’d go over to a friend’s house and they’d have pizza rolls or chips or whatever other food that never made an appearance in my parents’ kitchen, I’d be all over it. Then, I moved away to college, and all I really ate was processed food, and all the novelty quickly wore off. I started to desperately miss the homecooking I grew up with. I think I even tried a can of stew in college and took one bite before throwing it in the trash—it definitely wasn’t the tasty treat I remembered from my childhood.
The first time I made beef stew at home as a newlywed, I realized, “Oh hey! This is what beef stew is supposed to taste like!” And I haven’t bought the canned stuff since. Beef stew sounds like one of those foods that would be complicated and difficult to make, but it’s actually incredibly easy. They key is slow-cooking—either in the actual slow-cooker or on the stove top. Low and slow cooking gives the stew a roasted flavor, and makes sure the meat and veggies are fall-apart tender. And it cooks the gravy up into a thick and smooth sauce that is what dreams are made of. Beefy, gravy dreams.
I tend to swap out the new potatoes that you’ll usually find in beef stew for sweet potato chunks, not only do I like the festive orange color (perfect for October), but I think the touch of sweetness is a really nice balance to the richness of the beef. Sweet potatoes and red meat work incredibly well together.
I personally think beef stew should be served with a slice of sandwich bread slathered in butter—it’s perfect for sopping up all that leftover dreamy gravy. My Canadian husband says the right way to serve stew is with biscuit-style dumplings plopped in it (which sounds delicious, although I’ve never tried it). Whatever you do, promise me you’ll have some sort of bread vessel to scoop up all that leftover deliciousness, okay? No gravy left behind.
Sweet potato beef stew is a healthy twist on a classic cold weather dish. Serve this up with bread to make sure you get all the delicious gravy!
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 pounds beef stew meat
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 medium onions, chopped into bite-sized chunks
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
- 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into coins
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Dredge the stew meat in the flour. Brown the stew meat, working in three batches, for just a few minutes until the sides of the meat are brown and crisp. Remove meat from pot and set aside.
- Add in the onions and garlic, and cook until just fragrant and tender, about five minutes.
- Add in the wine mixture, and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze. If cooking in a slow cooker, transfer the wine, beef, and all remaining ingredients in a slow cooker and cook for 4-6 hours on high or 6-8 on low. If cooking on the stove, add in the beef and all remaining ingredients to the Dutch oven, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 90 minutes to 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender and the gravy is thick and smooth.
I’m one of those bread people. The kind that thinks a meal isn’t a meal unless there is a basket of something carb-tastic on the table. The kind that fills up on yummy, warm bread before the entree ever comes at a restaurant. I tried to do the no-carb thing back when the craze was at it’s height (and when I was 19 and didn’t know any better), and I lasted about thirty seconds before I desperately needed some bread. Now-a-days, I mostly try to stick to whole grains, but there are two places where I give myself a pass and stick with good, ole white flour—pizza crust and breadsticks.
I can (and have) made breadsticks and pizza crust using whole grain flours, and they’re tasty, but they never compare to white flour ones. I love cooking and baking with whole grains, but I don’t care how much of a master you are in the kitchen, 100% whole grain foods taste different from refined grains. It’s not good or bad (tastewise—nutritionally, whole grains definitely win). It’s just different. I like some foods made with nutty, hearty whole grains. And I like others made with fluffy, all-purpose flour. And these breadsticks, I quite like them with a big ole heap of white flour.
This breadstick recipe is actually exactly the same as my pizza crust recipe, it just goes through a different process. This is such a good all-around Italian-flavored dough that it works for breadsticks, pizzas, and cheesy bread (yum). I’ve been tweaking and perfecting this recipe for years—and man, it’s good! We make it every single week in one form or another, and both Craig and I have the recipe memorized by heart. We make it in the mixer. We make it the bread machine (on the dough cycle). It’s pretty much fool-proof!
During the growing season, I flavor this with fresh basil, oregano and chives, but it works equally as well with dried herbs in the middle of winter. You could also leave them out all together and still have a delicious, delicious breadstick on your hands. I’ve even been known to leave out the garlic, too, and add a touch more sweetener and use the dough as a crust for a dessert pizza.
You can serve these breadsticks with marinara, ranch, or cheese sauce to dip in. You can also leave them naked (they’re that good). Or you can do what I do, and mix up a dippy seasoned olive oil. I just put about a teaspoon of Italian seasoning and a quarter teaspoon of garlic salt in a small bowl, and top it with a couple of tablespoons of really good olive oil. It’s the best breadstick dip on the planet!
Looking for a fool-proof breadstick recipe? This is it! These garlic and herb breadsticks are fluffy, buttery, and delicious!
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic (about one clove)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (one packet)
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil, oregano and chives (or 1 tablespoon each dried)
- Melted butter
- Garlic salt
- Combine all ingredients, in the order listed, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on medium-low until the dough comes together. Continue to mix on medium-low for five minutes to knead. Dough is ready when it is stretchy and smooth.
- Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for until doubled, about an hour.
- Preheat oven to 425°. Punch down dough, and divide into eight equal pieces. Roll into breadstick shape and place on an greased baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 7-10 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
- Brush hot breadsticks with melted butter and sprinkle on garlic salt, serve warm
I don’t believe people when they say, “I don’t like beer”. I 100% believe that if someone says that, they just haven’t tried enough different kinds of beer to find one they like. Laying down a blanket statement like that is like saying, “I don’t like music”. You may not have heard any music you like, but I promise you, there is music out there for you. There are so many different kinds of beer, and they all have so many different flavor profiles, that it’s so hard for me to believe there isn’t at least one single beer out there for everyone.
And even if maybe drinking a beer straight up isn’t your thing, I promise you, there is a beer cocktail out there that you’ll love.
Putting beer in a cocktail may sound strange, but there are a ton of great recipes for beer-based mixed drinks. Two of my favorites are beergaritas and shandys. Beergaritas are exactly what they sound like—the labradoodle of booze—mix half a margarita with half a light-flavored beer. It sounds strange, but it’s a really refreshing drink! And my personal favorite, a shandy, is half lemonade and half beer. You can buy shandys in the can at most grocery stores, but they’re really wonderful when made with homemade lemonade and your own personal favorite brew. And the great thing about shandys is that their premise works with so many flavors beyond just lemonade.
While a classic shandy is the absolute perfect drink for when it’s 95° outside in July, the flavors don’t really fit very well here in October. But what does fit? Apple cider, pumpkin beer, and cinnamon! It’s the perfect slightly-sweet cocktail for fall.
As far as the beer part of this shandy goes, you can really go any direction you like (although, I’d probably steer clear of darker beers—no stouts or porters—save those for a really good float). Personally, I like the addition of a really good pumpkin beer. There are no less than a billion pumpkin beers out there, so it might take some trial and error to find the one that works well for you. My favorite pumpkin beer is a local beer here in Indiana, and it tastes straight up like a carbonated pumpkin pie. It’s crazy good! But unfortunately, they don’t bottle or sell it in growlers, so I have go with my second favorite pumpkin beer for at-home drinking. We love this New Belgium Pumpkick. It is brewed with cranberries and has a really nice fruity tartness to it that somewhat mimics the tartness of lemonade—perfect for a shandy!
I plopped a whole cinnamon stick in each serving glass, not only because it’s absolutely adorable, but also because the cinnamon flavor really starts to develop in the drink after just a few minutes. I’m assuming there is something about the carbonation of the beer and the acidity of the apple cider that helps break down the cinnamon faster—it’s super tasty. And, it’s cute. Everyone likes cute things.
This super simple fall cocktail is perfect for those October gatherings!
- 6 ounces (3/4 cup) apple cider
- 6 ounces (3/4 cup) pumpkin beer
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Fill a glass with the apple cider, followed by the beer. Pop in a cinnamon stick. Enjoy!