Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Can I just say, infant sleep training is not for the faint of heart. I’m probably taking longer with each stage because once he masters one part, I just want to sleep at night so I am hesitant to move on to the next stage. We’ve only been working on it for a week and the first stage is getting baby comfortable with sleeping with his arms outside the swaddle. I may be starting a bit too early, we will see. Most blogs and experts recommend sleep training not begin until after 4 months old. I decided to start a little early because Landon kept waking up in the middle of the night fighting to get his arms out of the swaddle. Last week I started swaddling 1 arm outside and it took 2 days for him to be used to it and back to his regular sleeping pattern. Thursday, I started keeping both arms outside the swaddle. You would think going from zero to 1 would be much harder than 1 to 2, not the case. We are on day 3 and he seems to be getting more comfortable with it but even so, his naps are still short and he woke up 4 times last night. Let’s see how this goes…

Anyway, time for a tried and true classic! I have been searching for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I could find, and, after weeks and weeks of excruciating (sorry, not sorry) recipe testing, I think I finally nailed it. These cookies have tons of chocolate chips and are perfectly soft and chewy! Since perfecting this recipe, I think I’ve made about 6 dozen…oops.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 bag chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.
2. In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients – flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time and mix, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Mixture may look lumpy.
4. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the bowl of dry ingredients and until mixed. Lastly, mix in the chocolate chips.
5. Drop spoonfuls of batter onto the baking sheet. Mine were about 2 tablespoons each.
6. Bake for 8 minutes until edges are golden brown (baking time will depend on oven). Let cookies cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

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Slow Cooked Shredded Beef Ragu Pasta

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Any stay at home mom’s have trouble keeping track of what day it is? Everyday, literally, everyday, I have to double check what day of the week it is! I guess it doesn’t help that the little man and I don’t have a set agenda, like classes or school, to keep me on track. And, my husband started a new job so his regular schedule has changed as well.

None of this really bothers me, just makes me feel a bit crazy 🙂 I might start looking into Mommy & Me type classes. Is that a thing for babies this age? 3 months…it seems a little young to be in classes? I guess I need to do some research, any mamas with advice, comment away please!

So, I’m not a huge spaghetti fan. At least, not traditional spaghetti, basic noodles with some ground beef and a jar of red sauce. But this…this is not traditional spaghetti…this is INCREDIBLE spaghetti. Slow cooked beef brisket, a rich homemade red sauce made from the juices of the slow simmering beef and noodles soaked in sauce before serving. This is the ultimate comfort food, with hands on time of only 20 minutes, put it on the stove on a Sunday for an amazing Sunday supper and have plenty of leftovers for later in the week. And, by the way, this recipe is from a food blog that I have become OBSESSED with over the last few weeks, Recipe Tin Eats. I have made a few of her recipes and they have all been so delicious.

Slow Cooked Shredded Beef Ragu Pasta
For the Ragu:
2.5 lb beef brisket cut into 4 equal pieces
1 Tbsp salt
Fresh ground black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
28 oz crushed canned tomatoes
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 beef bouillon cubes
3 cups water
3 dried bay leaves
Extra salt and pepper to taste
To serve:
1 lb dried spaghetti
Fresh grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
Fresh parsley, finely chopped

1. Pat beef dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over high heat in heavy based pot (I used my Calphalon Stock Pot). Add beef and sear each piece on all sides until browned (around 3 minutes total), then remove onto a plate.
3. Turn stove down to medium low and add remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil.
4. Add garlic and onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Then add the carrots and celery and sauté slowly for 5 minutes.
5. Add remaining Ragu ingredients (except extra salt and pepper) and return the beef to the pot (add the juices too). Turn the stove up and bring it to a simmer, then turn it down to low. Cover the pot and let it cook for 1 hour 45 minutes. Then remove the lid and let it cook for a further 30 minutes until the beef is tender enough to pull apart with forks and the liquid has reduced to be a thick sauce.
6. Do a taste test and adjust the seasoning to your taste with salt and pepper. You can also add a bit of sugar (1/2 tsp at a time) if it is a bit sour for your taste.
7. Turn the stove off and remove the beef from the sauce into a large bowl. Shred it coarsely with 2 forks. Then return it to the sauce.
8. Cook pasta to package directions but cook for 2 minutes less than package directions and save 1 cup pasta water. While pasta is cooking, place 5 cups of Ragu in a very large fry pan (I used a Wok) and heat over high heat.
9. When the pasta is ready, transfer is directly from the pot into the fry pan using tongs. Add 1  cup pasta water to fry pan.
10. Gently toss the pasta for 1-2 minutes, until the sauce water evaporates and leaves you with a thick Ragu sauce that coats the pasta. Add pasta to the remaining Ragu, toss to combine and serve. Top each serving with parmesan and parsley and stuff your face!

 

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Lemon Pepper Flank Steak Tacos w/ Mango Cabbage Slaw

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Both my boys are sleeping at the same time so I finally have some time to post! And by both my boys, I mean my son and my husband. Hubby has been home the last few days; you would think it would be easier for me to get things done when he is home because there is someone else to help take care of the baby. Nope. Somehow, I get way less done. When the baby finally naps we end up watching a movie or making breakfast, just doing things that I wouldn’t normally do during my free time (a.k.a. naptime) when he is at work. I promise I’m not complaining though! Having him home means he gets more time with the baby and seeing and hearing him play with Landon is the sweetest, heart melting thing ever!

I made these tacos a while back and the flavor combo of the lemon pepper steak with the sweet & spicy mango cabbage slaw was perfection! And they were pretty easy to throw together too, great for an easy weeknight meal.

Lemon Pepper Flank Steak w/ Mango Cabbage Slaw
For the steak tacos:
1 1/4 lb flank steak
2 tsp grated lemon rind
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
cooking spray
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp salt
12 tortillas
1 ounce queso fresco, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
For the mango cabbage slaw:
3 cups thinly sliced Savoy cabbage
1 cup ripe, peeled, julienne-cut mango
1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 serrano chili, seeded and minced

1. Sprinkle steak with lemon rind and pepper, pressing to adhere.
2. While steak stands, combine all ingredients for mango cabbage slaw in a medium bowl, toss to coat. Set aside.
3. Heat grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add steak to pan; grill 6 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Place steak on cutting board, let stand 5 minutes.
4. Combine juice, oil, soy sauce and garlic in a small bowl. Cut steak diagonally across grain into thin slices. Drizzle steak with soy sauce mixture; sprinkle with salt.
5. Heat tortillas on grill pan coated with cooking spray 20 seconds on each side or until lightly charred. Divide steak among tortillas. Top each taco with about 1/3 cup mango cabbage slaw and 1 tsp queso fresco.

Original recipe from Cooking Light

Top Posts of 2016

Yesterday was the epitome of new motherhood. We spent Christmas weekend with family, traveling to and from different houses to celebrate. By the time Monday rolled around, I was exhausted and thought I was coming down with the flu. I think I was just very tired because it never turned into anything, thankfully. But I spent 2 days just resting, not doing much and not leaving the house. Then yesterday, I got up and got ready for the day. As I finished, I went to do what is always my last step of getting ready, putting on my wedding ring. Except, my ring wasn’t there. Since having Landon, I take it off regularly because I keep scratching him with it when he is feeding. It is always in 1 of 3 places, (so responsible, I know) next to my bathroom sink, on my nightstand or on the coffee table in the living room. I checked each of those spots…no ring. Then, I thought, I must have taken it off on our way home from Eastern Washington and put it in the diaper bag. Nope, no ring.

I spent the entire day searching the entire house, retracing my steps, panicking, being so hard on myself for how messy my house was (as if that was the reason I couldn’t find the ring), and all in between feeding and taking care of Landon. By the end of the day I was stressed, panicked and exhausted all over again. I had taken apart my bathroom sink after looking down the drain and convincing myself that I could see the ring down there. I called my mom panicking, thinking I had left it there when I put lotion on my hands. She even searched her entire house, including taking apart the bathroom and kitchen sink drains!

Then my husband came home from work and I burst into tears as I asked him not to be mad at me and told him what happened. Of course he wasn’t mad. He searched for a bit but found nothing.

All that was running through my head at this point was what a bad mom and wife I am. How disorganized my life had become. How I couldn’t get anything accomplished that I needed to on any given day. Obviously I was overreacting a bit, but I was so mad at myself for losing something so valuable. I decided to give up for the night and try again the next day, with a clear head, to search each room in the house very slowly and from top to bottom.

This morning, for some reason, I decided to search the diaper bag for at least the 4th or 5th time. Guess what I found. Yep. In the side pocket. That I checked each time before! WTH!?!? I was seriously ecstatic to find it. And then I started thinking about all the things that had run through my head the day before. Why am I so hard on myself? Why am I so critical of my shortcomings? I am not a bad mom or a bad wife because the dishes or laundry aren’t done.

Being a new mom has been quite an adjustment. The biggest being the lack of time I have to do all the things I used to do. I’m getting used to it and slowly adjusting but every once in a while, I need to stop and remind myself and I’m doing a good job as long as my little boy is safe, happy and healthy.

Anyway! On to the top posts of 2016! I love that these are the top 5 because I LOVE every single one of them! One thing I learned while looking into this post…I didn’t post a lot in 2016, I think baby prep took over most of my time 🙂

Click the links to check out the original posts and here’s to 2017, not being so hard on ourselves and enjoying the little things!

#5 Crispy Coconut Kale, Roasted Salmon & Coconut Rice

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#4 Breakfast Nook Table

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#3 Dressing the Bump

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#2 Inspired by…Joanna Gaines’ Laundry Room

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#1 Nursery Closet Makeover

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Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

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This will be my one Christmas themed post of the year. I think I failed on the holiday preparedness front. But in turn, I’ve had lots of baby snuggles instead.

These cookies are so yummy! The original recipe, from Liv for Cake, called for Black Cocoa which I couldn’t find so I just substituted more regular cocoa. The cookie batter also has peppermint extract which is tasty but you can leave it out if the candy cane pieces are enough peppermint for you.

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder or 1/4 Dutch-processed and 1/4 cup black cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs (room temperature)
1 tsp peppermint extract (optional)
1 bag white chocolate (melted)
crushed candy canes

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powders, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
    2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugars on med-high until light and fluffy (approx. 2-3 minutes). Reduce speed and add egg and peppermint extract. Beat until well combined. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.
    3. Chill dough for at least 1 hour or overnight.
    4. Preheat oven to 350°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
    5. Portion dough onto baking sheet, approximately 1 Tbsp each. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the middle is set. Cookies will deflate and crinkle a bit upon cooling.
    6. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
    7. While cookies cool, melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler (I don’t), bring a small sauce pan of water to a boil. Place white chocolate in a small mixing bowl that will rest atop the sauce pan without touching the water. Continuously stir white chocolate as it melts.
    8. Dip in melted white chocolate, place on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with crushed candy canes. Allow to set.

Enjoy!

 

Cranberry Almond Chocolate Cookies

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I had planned to sit down and write this post last Tuesday, as in a week and half ago, but…went into labor instead!!

Landon David Blackwood was born 11/02/16 at 6:30pm
It was an intense 25 hours but we made it through and couldn’t be happier after our first week at home. I will be sure to share Landon’s birth story as well as constant photo updates soon!

We have spent the last week getting comfortable and acquainted with our new little man, learning all his little nuances and just enjoying his already fun personality.

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I went into labor at 41 weeks pregnant. In that last week when I was past due, I did a lot of cleaning, organizing and cooking. These cookies are one of the things I made and they were SO delicious!! Perfect amount of sweet and savory!

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Cranberry Almond Chocolate Cookies
16 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks
1/2 cup chopped almonds
sea salt, for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In a large bowl (stand mixer if you have one) cream together the butter and sugars. Scrape down the side of the bowl, then add the egg and vanilla. Beat until combined.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Add to the butter mixture and stir just until combined. Add in the cranberries, chocolate and almonds and stir until they are mixed in.
4. Scoop cookies onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 14 minutes, or until golden brown  on the edges. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with sea salt Allow to cool a few minutes on the pan before transferring to a cooling rack.

*Original recipe from The Well Floured Kitchen

Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Bars

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I mean…I don’t really feel like I need to say much about these. The name kind of says all you need to know…Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Bars! We DEVOURED these! Just looking at the photo and remembering how delicious they were is making me want to whip up another batch. They were so easy too, no bake, just chill in the fridge for a bit and then eat to your hearts content. Ok, it’s settled, I’m making them again.

Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Bars
1/4 cup salted butter, melted
2 1/2 cups finely crushed cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (about 25 cookies)
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
7 ounces marshmallow crème
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely crumbled cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (about 7 cookies), plus more for garnish

1.Stir together the melted butter and crushed cookies in a medium bowl. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; lightly grease foil with cooking spray. Press the cookie mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
2. Beat the cream cheese, marshmallow cream, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Gently fold in the coarsely crumbled cookies. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pan, spreading it evenly over the cookie crust. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days. Lift mixture from the pan using the foil overhang as a handle, and cut into bars. Garnish with more coarsely crumbled cookies, if desired.

*Original recipe from Real Simple

Blueberry Coconut Popsicles

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Roller coaster really is the best way to describe this pregnancy. I envy the woman who have had pregnancies with little to no issues because this has been one of the most challenging times in my life thus far. Also, is it normal to feel like you are ALWAYS complaining about being pregnant? I guess this is just my place to vent and get things off my chest…

Just when I get past one seemingly “annoying” pregnancy symptom and am able to have a couple of good days, or dare I say, good weeks, something else tends to pop up in its place and I have struggled to live my normal day-to-day life, let alone get prepared for the arrival of this little peanut.

I found out I was pregnant at 4 weeks and was so excited when I had nearly no symptoms in the first trimester. I got to the 2nd trimester and thought…this is going to be a breeze! Mistake #1.
By week 14 I had developed intense daily headaches. I have always struggled with migraines triggered by hormones and my cycle and the pregnancy hormones magnified that 10X. These headaches were around when I woke up, would lessen just a bit when I ate breakfast but by the end of the day would ramp up and I’d be lucky to just get home from work and make it into a hot shower or bath than off to bed. I did my best to stay super hydrated, I took Tylenol a few times but that usually didn’t do much to lessen the pain. Looking back, had I done a better job of snacking consistently throughout the day, that may have made a difference in keeping my blood sugar consistent. Eventually, the headaches subsided and by week 19 I was feeling pretty good.
Almost immediately after, around week 21, I started to have bad Sciatic nerve pain as well as general pain in my hip joints. Well, this sure is magical. The Sciatic pain was tough to deal with and not much would alleviate it. I did a lot of stretching and yoga poses that lessened the hip joint pain and rolling on a tennis ball did help with some of the nerve pain but I couldn’t get it to go away completely, and there were a couple of days I could barely even walk. Being that I’m on my feet and moving around all day at work, this was a bit of an issue. Eventually the stretching began to have an effect and doing the stretches every night before bed was the key. If I missed 1 day, I could tell a difference the next. The pain finally subsided by week 26.
Enter my last blog post, at week 28, sitting in the waiting room of the hospital lab, having my glucose test done. First of all…gross! I HATE orange soda and the glucose drink is like chugging the most sugary version of orange soda in a matter of minutes. Wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep that down. Right after my glucose test, I had my 28 week check-up and because I have everything done at one hospital, my doctor was able to see my results right away. My glucose test was a 2-hr test, blood draw before the drink, then a blood draw 1 hour and then 2 hours after the drink to see how your body is processing the sugar. Apparently, mine was not. As the doctor is looking at her computer screen she says “Oh, we have some of your glucose results already. It looks like you DID NOT pass the fasting or 1 hour blood draw.” (She didn’t say ‘DID NOT’ in a way that warrants my putting it in all caps, that’s just how it sounds in my mind when I replay the scene).
I’m sorry…what? How did I not pass? What does that mean? Can I take another test? Am I diabetic? I had SO many things racing through my mind in that moment. The doctor seemed a bit shocked as well and mentioned we’d wait for the third blood draw result to come back and then talk again that afternoon. She left the room and I lost it. How could this be? I eat relatively healthy? Stay away from bad carbs for the most part. Sure I have dessert now and then but who doesn’t? This can’t be right. I felt like I had failed my first test of motherhood. And my poor husband, I don’t think he even know what to do with me, sitting on the exam table, wanting to let the tears flow but trying to hold it in because the nurse still had to come in to give me my Pertussis vaccine.
For the next couple of days, I just walked around in shock. I went from upset to embarrassed (how could I have let this happen? I grew up around diabetes, I know the affects it can have. I eat well. I haven’t changed my diet since being pregnant or if anything it’s gotten better! Have I been diabetic this whole time and just not known?) to angry (again, I eat well! no fast food, no soda, little to no starchy carbs). I just really didn’t understand. My doctor said she felt confident that I could control my gestational diabetes with diet but wanted me to go talk to a diabetes nutritionist…I reluctantly said ok (again, I was in the angry phase and didn’t think a nutritionist was going to tell me anything I didn’t already know).
Talking to the nutritionist was actually a great thing and I learned quite a bit, not only about gestational diabetes but about my diet in particular.
First of all, they had me write down what I eat on a daily basis. Because of this, the nutritionist said my gestational diabetes has little to do with what I’m eating and more to do with how the pregnancy hormones have affected my body and how it processes sugar. The hormones have caused my body to slow down in how it processes and on top of that, my metabolism has changed because I went from being highly active before pregnancy to little to no working out during pregnancy due to all the different sicknesses and pains I’ve experienced.
Next, she talked about the actual foods I was eating. My breakfast generally consisted of fruit, granola and yogurt. That’s healthy, right? Well, I was using yogurt with honey…sugar. And, for someone whose body doesn’t process sugar well, dairy and fruit are not the best options for your first meal when your metabolism hasn’t gotten it’s kick start for the day. Her suggestion was to eat eggs and veggies first thing in the morning and have my fruit/yogurt/granola as my morning snack. She also told me to make sure I had a veggie, a protein and a carb (good carb) in every meal or snack. Umm…you want me to have a carb with EVERY meal or snack? The carb is what is going to keep you full for more than an hour, just have to make a good carb choice and keep the portion limited to the correct size. Finally, she addressed my love of Jamba Juice…I work at a mall and am always busy. When I eat out, I try to make good food choices. Smoothies and energy bowls are good choices! Aren’t they? She asked what I usually ordered and looked them both up on the Jamba Juice menu 😦 Turns out, my daily smoothie and energy bowl of choice each had over 90 carbs!!!!! You’re kidding me?!?! The smoothie listed its ingredients as Kale, Lemon, Peaches and Pumpkin Seeds. Seems ok to me. Actually…they use lemonade and peach juice with sugar, not frozen lemons and peaches. (insert annoyed look here).
The last thing we talked about was portion control. She went through a chart with good carbs, and what portion size of each was acceptable. Above all, she said one of the biggest things that would help me would be eating 6 small snacks and meals throughout the day to keep my blood sugar consistent as opposed to eating 3 large meals which would create spikes and drops in my blood sugar.  This means making food at home and taking it to work with me, but if it means keeping me and baby healthy, I’m in. And, I don’t have to “stay away” from desserts, I just have to be smart about them and the sugar content. If it’s a traditional dessert with a lot of sugar, portion size needs to be about half of the usual portion.
By the end of the appointment, I felt much better about my diagnosis, what it meant for my pregnancy and my baby and how I was going to control it for the next 12 weeks.

It’s the middle of summer, it’s hot out, and more often than not, my only craving is dessert. Which is why I decided to make these 3 ingredient popsicles! These are easy and healthy and I have no fear of eating them every night…if I wanted to 🙂

Blueberry Coconut Popsicles
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup vanilla coconut milk

1. Put blueberries in a blender and blend until smooth, leave some chunks so they are not completely liquid
2. Mix yogurt and coconut milk in a bowl, stir well
3. Fold blueberries into the yogurt mixture
4. Pour mixture into popsicle molds
5. Freeze popsicles for 30 minutes, insert popsicle sticks, continue to freeze for 4 hours

Enjoy!

Green Goddess Sandwich

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I started painting my kitchen cabinets about 7 months ago, right when we got home from Hawaii. Also, around the time we found out I was pregnant. The problem, I went to continue painting after finding out a baby was on the way and was of course concerned with the chemicals I was using. I found that the paint de-glosser I was using was EXTREMELY harmful to pregnant women and children (and probably everyone else, but not on the same level as a child’s developing system) so I didn’t continue the project, thinking I was out of luck until after the pregnancy.

Fast forward 7 months, nothing gets you wanting to finish and complete projects around the house like a baby 12 weeks away! Not to mention, a baby shower at my house this weekend!! I did some research and found a safe, non-toxic paint stripper to finish the job. Mind you, I was not even half-way done with the project and now I’m trying to finish it in 4 days…we’ll see how this goes.

I made this sandwich at the beginning of summer and was OBSESSED! It is so fresh and so delicious!! I literally ate it for lunch for a week straight. I thought I’d finally share the recipe with you and you can enjoy it for the rest of summer with all the fresh veggies. The recipe is from www.jillianharris.com who I have a slight girl crush on. She is a Canadian fashion/food/home blogger with great style in all areas, and also one of the hosts of HGTVs Love It Or List It Too.

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Green Goddess Sandwich
whole grain bread (I used Dave’s Killer Bread Good Seed)
goat cheese, crumbled
white cheddar
fresh spinach
fresh basil, thinly sliced
zucchini, thinly sliced
avocado, sliced
margarine or butter
large handful of parsley
juice from 1/4 of a lemon
1 garlic clove
salt & pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Put parsley, lemon juice, garlic, salt & pepper and olive oil in a bullet or small food processor to make sauce

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2. Butter bread on both sides
3. Layer all ingredients on bread and grill in a panini press or grill pan until brown and crispy

Enjoy!

4th of July Menu

Happy 4th of July weekend!! With a 3 day weekend this year, I’m sure a lot of you are celebrating with friends and family and indulging in food and fun filled BBQs so I thought I’d compile a few of my favorite past recipes that we continue to go back to again and again, especially on the grill or when we have friends over! Have a safe and happy weekend and I hope I helped you find something to add to your holiday menu!!

Mini Caprese Salads
(Makes 25 salad appetizers)


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8 ozs Mozzarella pearls packed in water
25 basil leaves
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
25 toothpicks
2 cups balsamic vinegar

1. In a saucepan, over medium heat, simmer 2 cups of balsamic vinegar until it is reduced by half and begins to thicken, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before step 3.
2. Slide on a toothpick, 1 Mozzarella pearl, a basil leaf (cut smaller or folded), and cherry tomato cut crosswise.
3. Plate the “salads”, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with vinegar and serve.

Bacon-Wrapped Dates
(Makes 24 dates)

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24 large pitted dates
12 slices of bacon, halved crosswise
1/2 cup blue cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place 24 toothpicks in a small bowl of water and let soak for 15 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and fit with a wire rack, set aside.
2. Slice dates lengthwise, be careful not to cut all the way through, to make a small pocket for the cheese. Place a small amount of cheese in the center of each date. Wrap a piece of bacon around each date. Secure bacon with a toothpick.
3. Place dates on prepared baking sheet. Bake until bacon is cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.

Moscow Mules
(Makes 1 drink)

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Ice
1/4 cup chilled vodka
1 Tbsp lime juice
6 ozs ginger beer
1/4 of a lime, cut into a wedge
1 sprig of mint leaves

Fill copper mug with ice. Pour vodka, lime juice and ginger beer over ice, stir. Squeeze lime wedge into drink, drop squeezed wedge in, stir and garnish with mint leaves.

Slow Cooked BBQ Ribs
(Makes 12-13 ribs, depending on size of rack)

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1 rack pork spare ribs
1/2 cup pork rub
1 cup BBQ sauce

1. Rub entire rack of ribs with pork rub, front and back. Double wrap in foil and refrigerate for 5 hours to allow the flavors to blend.
2. Prep a grill and set heat to low. Place foil covered ribs on grill and allow them to slow-cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, turning once at the 40 minute mark.
3. Open foil, slather ribs with 2/3 cup BBQ sauce, close foil and continue to cook for an additional 15 minutes.
4. Remove ribs from the grill, place on a large cutting board and cut ribs apart between the bones.
5. Drizzle with remaining BBQ sauce and serve immediately.

Rib-Eye with Mustard Butter
(Makes 2 rib-eyes)

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Rib-eye
2 rib-eye steaks
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp finely chopped cilantro
Mustard Butter
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp dry mustard or mustard powder
1 heaping tsp Dijon mustard

1. Pat the steaks dry and rub them with the salt, chili powder, and cilantro. Refrigerate the steaks, uncovered for at least 1 hour, or up to 8 hours. (I think I did for 5 hours)
2. To make the mustard butter, in a small bowl, mash together the butter with the dry mustard and the Dijon. Form it into two mounds and chill on a plastic wrap-lined plate.
3. Heat a grill to medium heat and grill to desired temperature. For medium cooked steaks, mine were about 1″ thick and I cooked them for 8 minutes per side.
4. Remove the steaks from the grill and put on plates. Top each steak with half the mustard butter, allow it to melt a bit, and serve with a big pile of herb fries (recipe below).

Mexican Corn-on-the-cob
(Makes 4 ears of corn)

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1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 clove garlic minced (approx 1 tsp)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 ears of corn, shucked
1 lime, cut into wedges

1. Light a grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes, clean and oil grate before grilling corn
2. While grill preheats, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, cheese, chili powder, garlic and cilantro in a large bowl.
3. When grill is hot, place corn directly over heat to cook, turning occasionally, until cooked through and charred in spots on all side, about 10 minutes.
4. Once corn is cooked, transfer to a plate, coat each ear of corn evenly on all sides with cheese mixture. Sprinkle each ear with extra cheese and chili powder, drizzle with lime juice and serve.

Sweet Potato Fries w/Lime Mayo
(Makes 4 servings)

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2 large sweet potatoes cut into 1/2″ strips
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp finely grated lime zest
2 tsp fresh lime juice
chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss sweet potatoes and oil on a foil-lined large baking sheet; season with salt and pepper.
2. Roast, turning once, until golden brown and crisp, 25-30 minutes
3. While potatoes cook, whisk mayonnaise, lime zest and juice in a small bowl. Refrigerate until fries are ready to serve.
4. Season fries with salt, top with cilantro, and serve with lime mayo for dipping.

Red, White & Blueberry Popsicles
(Makes 6 popsicles)

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1 cup blueberries
1 1/2 cup raspberries
1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt

1. Use a food processor to puree the blueberries. If they come out a bit more purple than blue (like mine did) just add a spoonful or two of the Greek Yogurt and a few drops of blue food coloring until you get the desired shade of blue. When you achieve the right color, you want to make sure the fruit is pourable, if it is too thick, try adding a tablespoon of water. You can also puree your raspberries ahead of time, adding 1-2 tablespoons of water. Place pureed raspberries in a separate bowl and keep refrigerated until use.
2. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the  blueberry mixture into the bottom of each popsicle mold. After each pour you’ll need to do a little clean up, you don’t want too much extra on the sides of the mold as this will cause your stripes to look a little mangled. Don’t get too fussy because you want it to look a little rustic.
3. Put the mold in the freezer and freeze for 1 hour.
4. Remove molds from freezer and add a small stipe (about 1 tablespoon) of vanilla yogurt to each mold. After you’ve added the first layer of yogurt, insert your popsicle sticks, trying to push them into the layer of blueberry a bit. Hold the sticks in place by placing a piece of tin foil over each mold. Place back in the freezer for another hour.
5. Remove molds from freezer, remove foil and add a small stripe (about 1 tablespoon) of raspberry puree. The sticks should stand on their own at this point so you won’t need the foil any longer.
6. Continue alternating white and red stripes, freezing for 1 hour after each, until you have filled the mold (I had 1 large layer of blueberries, 2 layers of raspberries & 3 layers of yogurt).
7. When you are ready to serve, hold the mold under hot running water to loosen (be careful not to let water splash near the opening), after about 30 seconds you should be able to easily remove the popsicle from the mold.