Category Archives: Recipes

Easy, Delicious Sweet Potato Hash

Heads up, guys! We’re running a flash sale over at Paint and Prose.

Buy 2 Get 1 FREE (you receive a free item of up to the largest size you’ve already ordered, so if you order 1 5X7 and 1 8X10, you could receive up to another 8X10 for free). Simply leave a comment in the notes at checkout specifying WHICH print you want for free!

Valentine’s is only a little more than 3 weeks away, and here are 4 of our prints that would make great gifts–for the mamas in your life, the coffee-lovers, kiddos, or WHOEVER!

And don’t forget! Email subscribers get a never-expiring code for 10% off the top of every order!

valentines collage

Welp. I’m (mostly) back on the clean-eating wagon after puh-lenty of holiday indulgences over the last several months, and it feels so good (except when I get struck by a massive chocolate or carbonation craving; then it feels like the world is conspiring against my sanity #dramaqueen).

The only way I know how to be successful with clean-eating is to keep it very, very simple. If I don’t, I’ll throw it all out in a fit of hanger (yes, I meant to spell it like that) and devour a cupcake for breakfast instead of something decent.

Like what, you ask?

Like this.

hash

That would be what I eat with three fried eggs almost every single morning. And it’s HEAVENLY.

And I don’t even like sweet potatoes very much. Unless they’re done right. And this hash is juuuust right.

The “recipe” is crazy simple too.

hash1

(Another great way to eat sweet potato hash? With a turkey burger, homemade salsa, and guac! So. Dang. Good)

To make a big batch that will last me most of the week, I peel and grate 2-3 LARGE sweet potatoes and chop one small-medium onion.

I preheat that BEAST of a cast iron skillet above (Shaun got it for me for Christmas the year before last, and I have used it at least 4 times a week since), drizzle in some olive oil, and then saute my onions until they’re translucent (don’t overcook; they’ll get bitter) over medium heat.

Then, I add in the grated sweet potato and sprinkle the whole mixture with:

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp seasoned salt

…and then continue browning and stirring until the sweet potato is cooked all the way through, with some nice crispy bits throughout.

I’ll usually fry up my eggs in the same skillet the morning that I make my first batch, which makes them EVEN tastier as they soak up the juices of the hash, but the rest of the week, I’ll fry the eggs separately and simply toast a plate of hash from my stash (ha!) either on broil in the oven or in a small toaster oven.

hash2

The sweetness + crispiness of the potatoes, juxtaposed with the smokiness of the cumin, and the gooey egg yolk…MMM! It’s hard to beat.

And harder to believe that you’re eating something that’s completely good for you!

So, there you go. A healthy, easy, YUMMY breakfast to get you through your entire week.

And now my stomach is growling, and I want me some hash (that didn’t sound right).

Any great sweet potato recipes to share? I have discovered that I can eat sweet potatoes all day long as long as they have a bit of a spicy kick and some crispiness. Give me a baked sweet potato, all mushy and soft, and I gag a little. I do, however, have a killer sweet potato fry recipe to share. I’ll do that soon.

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

Mini Cookie Butter Cheesecakes

Hey guys! Just a quick heads-up that if you order by this afternoon, we’ll be shipping out our last round of Paint and Prose prints that will arrive (as far as it depends on us) by Christmas. We’re offering a free Priority shipping upgrade and a free 5X7 of your choice (just specify which in the notes) for any orders placed through today!

A couple of weeks back, Mandy brought over a dessert when our families got together, and she was a little apologetic about it, saying that it was a bit of an experiment, and she hoped it would taste okay.

Now, I wasn’t the least bit worried. Mandy is an awesome cook/baker, so I had absolute confidence that it would be delicious. I’m happy to say I was right.

It was the best cheesecake I’d had in ages. And I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur, having long claimed it as a favorite dessert (when done right).

So, what was this experimental recipe? Cookie butter cheesecake. I KNOW, right? Even the title sounds decadent. And, believe me, the real thing was even more so. Especially once Mandy drizzled some caramel sauce on top.

Mmmmm…

Well, guess what I had sitting around in my pantry languishing in a pathetically delicious state of disuse? Yup. Cookie butter.

And since everything is better in miniature, I decided to recreate Mandy’s recipe, using my trusty mini mason jars(one of my favorite kitchen purchases of all time).

Here’s what I started with:

cookie butter

You’ll need:

For the batter

  • 2 bricks of cream cheese (yes, I know only one is pictured); do yourself a favor and choose the full fat version
  • 1/3-1/2 cup of cookie butter
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg

For the crust

  • 1 – 1 1/2 packages of graham crackers
  • 1 tbs of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbs of sugar
  • 3-4 tbs of butter, melted

I used the Philadelphia Cream Cheese basic cheesecake recipe (that comes on the box) as my base and then altered it by HALVING IT (I didn’t have to do this, certainly, but we didn’t need massive amounts of cheesecake sitting around our house), omitting an egg and adding in 1/3 cup of cookie butter (I didn’t measure, honestly, but the batter is pretty forgiving, so you have some leeway).

Then, I added a TBS of unsweetened cocoa to my crushed graham cracker crust (chocolate cookies would be even better, but I didn’t have any).

Here’s the blow by blow:

::STEP 1:: Preheat oven to 325 F.

::STEP 2:: Place both bricks of (softened) cream cheese into the mixer bowl and whip them on medium/high until smooth. Add in sugar, vanilla, and one egg, mixing until just incorporated after each addition. Add in 1/3-1/2 cup of cookie butter and mix again.

::STEP 3:: Crush 1 – 1 1/2 packages of graham crackers (I put mine in the food processor), then mix in melted butter, cocoa powder, and sugar.

Note: You want your graham cracker mixture to be slightly moist and sticky, not sandy. If it’s not, then just add in a bit more melted butter.

::STEP 4::

Pat graham crackers crusts into the bottom of each jar. Mine are approximately 1/2″ deep.

::STEP 5::

Use an ice cream scoop to evenly distribute the cheesecake batter. (I got 15 mini cheesecakes out of my half batch of batter).

cookie butter1

 

 

::STEP 6::

Bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes. Definitely better to under-bake than to turn it into rubber.

cookie butter2

::STEP 7::

DEVOUR.

cookie butter3

Ahem.

Okay, okay. You might want to let it cool for a few minutes at least. These are actually pretty great straight out of the oven (ask me how I know), but they’re even better chilled and then loaded up with your choice of toppings (one of the main reasons I love minis? PERSONALIZATION!).

cookie butter4

If you’re just dying to know why flavor I liked best, my answer is: all of the above. I topped mine with bananas, walnuts, caramel sauce, dulce de leche, whipped cream, and chocolate bits…and it’s was DIVINE! (I also had one plain, and it was fabulous too…you really can’t go wrong here).

cookie butter5

This also works great as a full recipe/traditional cheesecake. Just omit an egg (to account for the extra moisture supplied by the cookie butter), use the full amount of ingredients in the recipe on the Philly Cream Cheese package, and follow the baking instructions.

If you have a holiday party to bake for (or, you know, just some kids and a husband who will think you’re extra awesome for making cheesecake just because), you need to make this. I made mine in 35 minutes flat (minus chilling, of course), so they take almost no time at all. Plus, they’re different and delicious!

cookie butter2watermark

Any fun Christmas baking ideas to share? I’m always open to suggestions.

 

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

Easy {Anything Goes!} Quiche

On Sunday, I posted this pic to IG and Facebook with the following caption:

zeroproductivity

There was an attempt made at crafting and cooking and cleaning this afternoon because, apparently, I was feeling very Martha Stewart.

Only one of these attempts was successful, and it was the one that is most likely to keep the natives from revolting.

In college, getting 1 out of 3 right would have meant a failing grade of 33%, and I would have been crushed.

But now, I’m all, “Yaaaay! We get to eat! Take that, Martha!” MOTHERHOOD: lowering expectations one constantly interrupted attempt at productivity at a time.
#somebodyputthatonacrosstitchplease #preferablysomeonewhoisnotamother #becausethenitwillgetfinished

But for real. Can any of y’all cross-stitch?

Thing is, I wasn’t too mad about my other failed attempts at productivity because this is what I got out of my one success. quiche7

If you’ve ever had any kind of misconception about quiche being fancy and finicky, dismiss it from your mind this very instant.

It may sound very ladies-who-lunch (or brunch, maybe?), but quiche is about as simple as it gets. And! Versatile. As in, you can throw just about anything in there, and it will still taste amazing.

Especially if you make it with my mom’s farm-fresh eggs. Oops. I guess that wasn’t exactly nice of me to say, since you can’t get your hands on any. But it’s true, and you know what they say: sometimes, the truth hurts.

ANYhoo, without further forays into mind-numbing chatter, I will share my oh-so-simple quiche recipe with you so that you too may feel successful even if you manage to completely avoid run out of time to do the laundry. Again.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • 7 eggs, the fresher the better (seriously, if a chicken has just pooped one into your hand, you’re golden)
  • 1/3 cup whole milk (or cream if you just love extra calories as much as I do)
  • 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar cheese (the sharper the better)
  • Link sausage, microwaved/chopped
  • 1 cup assorted chopped/sauteed veggies
  • 1/2 cup (thawed) frozen spinach
  • Store-bought pie crust (or homemade, if you’re an over-achiever…in which case, I don’t want to hear about it)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or butter

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place pie crust in the bottom of a pie plate.

Heat your fat (either oil or butter) in a skillet (preferably cast iron if you’ve got it), and then add your chopped veggies, sauteeing several minutes until they are softened but not mushy. You can use whatever you have on hand, which, in my case, was zucchini, onion, bell pepper, and tomatoes. (I can also see this being great with carrots [grated], mushrooms, squash, kale, asparagus…seriously. Just about anything yummy you can imagine).

quiche

{If you’re wondering what all of the orange peels in the background have to do with anything…I was hungry}

While the veggies cook, crack all 7 eggs into a bowl and add milk and seasonings. Beat mixture until well combined.

quiche1

Once the veggies are cooked, you can microwave your sausage (I like the Eckridge brand) and then, once it’s cooled, chop it into small chunks.

Likewise, you’ll need to microwave your frozen spinach to get it to a stir-able temperature.

And then, once everything is cool enough to combine, toss all of the remaining ingredients–the veggies, the sausage, the spinach, and the cheese–into your egg mixture and give it a good stir.

quiche8

And now, believe it or not, you’re all ready to pour your quiche filling into the crust.

quiche5Once you’ve done that, just pop that bad boy in the oven for approximately 25-30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is no longer the least bit jiggly (if you’re not sure, make a small cut in the middle; if it’s at all watery, it needs a few more minutes).

And bam! Serve it to a crowd of hungry humans (we just so happen to have those on hand pretty much 24/7, so this part is suuuuuper-simple).

quiche3

{Just one of the hungry horde…who was not nearly as hungry after she finished that pile of cheese}

I like to make double pies (see note above about hungry humans) because any leftovers usually get gobbled up within a day, but these also freeze really nicely (and make great  one-dish dinners for new mamas or neighbors or…whoever).

So, there you have it: one of my favorite super-simple, super-fast, and super-cheap ways to trick my children into eating lots of good veggies. And protein. Whoop!

Are you quiche-eaters too?  I reeeeally didn’t like them growing up, but I’ve since broadened my tastebuds’ horizons, and now I’m a fan. In case you can’t tell.

 

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

Stef’s Cupcakes: AKA–THEE Best Vanilla Cupcakes Evah!

I’ve loved almond extract ever since I bit into my first twisty red and white candy cane cookie that my childhood best friend’s mom used to make every Christmas. She was a crunchy granola type, and I don’t think she used any processed white sugar in the cookies, but they tasted plenty sweet to me…with a hint of something mysterious and special and just plain scrumptious.

When I got older and discovered that said scrumptiousness had a name, I was determined to use almond extract in any baking recipe in which it might possibly make sense. I’ve since simmered down a bit, but there’s one recipe that I won’t make unless I have almond extract in the house, and it’s the one I’m sharing today. Which is funny because the recipe doesn’t even call for it.

vanilla cupcakes

From scratch cake is hard, y’all. Done right, it’s way better than boxed cake, but getting the texture right is tricky, which is why I love how these cupcakes turn out–moist, fluffy, and yet dense and richly flavored.

To be honest, I don’t remember where I got the recipe. Online, I know, but where, I don’t. I copied and pasted it into a word document and printed it out 8 years ago when I made a “cake” in the shape of a flip-flop out of dozens of mini-cupcakes for my friend, Stef’s, going away party, and it got such raves that I made it for a baby shower next.

stefs cupcakes

And then on and on. For 8 years, any time there has been an occasion that require’s vanilla cupcakes, I’ve whipped out my “Stef’s Cupcakes” recipe. (In case you’re wondering, the most recent “occasion” was last Friday night at 10:30 PM, while Shaun and I were watching a movie, and I got an itch to bake that only these cupcakes would scratch).

vanilla cupcakes3

Which brings me to why I’m sharing it with you: a) because it’s really too good to keep to myself and b) because I’m afraid I might lose that ratty, stained sheet of paper, and then I’ll be up a major, vanilla cupcake-less creek without a spatula. Or…some other sort of mixed metaphor that not even I can follow.

A couple of notes:

1) In MY opinion, it’s the almond extract that makes these cupcakes, but if you have something against it, then we can’t be friends you can just replace that 1/2 tsp with vanilla, and the results will be fine. And only fine. Don’t judge me or this recipe based on a version of it without almond extract.

2) These are at their absolute best as mini-cupcakes. They make such decadent, addictive little moist mouthfuls, especially when smothered in the cream cheese frosting recipe I gave you here. They’re also good as full-sized cupcakes and even as a layer cake; they’re just a little dryer.

3) This is a husband-pleasing recipe. Shaun LOVES these cupcakes, even though he’s not really a big cake person and tends to swipe most of the best part (aforementioned cream cheese frosting) off of the top. So, yes. Husband-approved recipe, in case you, too, have a hubby who is particular about his cake.

vanilla cupcakes1

So, did you think I was going to make you scroll up and zoom in and squint at that snapshot of the recipe ’til you go blind? No such luck.

Here’s the full recipe (complete with my little almond extract addition, of course):

INGREDIENTS :

(Makes about 30 cupcakes)

1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 TBS baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes

4 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 325 (F). Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.

2. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, and almond extract. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down the sides of the bowl before each addition. Beat until ingredients are incorporated, but do not over-beat.

3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. About 17-20 minutes for full-sized cupcakes, and 9-12 minutes for minis.

4. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

Note: I’ve had these cupcakes with pretty much every kind of frosting under the sun, and they’re fabulous with all of them…but cream cheese will forever be my favorite.

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

It’s Fri-YAY! Let’s eat some carrot cake…

So, I had a #Mamalifehack all lined up to show you today, but after a week without Shaun here (not a bad week at all…just, you know, a WEEK), I thought that perhaps the best Mama-tip I could share today might be this one.

cake

And that would be…when you’ve had “a week,” allow yourself a slice of THEE best carrot cake you will ever taste.

{I know it looks like chocolate cake, but it isn’t; that’s just what happens when you take your pictures with the last slivers of the day’s light}

I have posted about it at least twice before (and every single time I’ve made it for any event, people have asked for the recipe). But I made it again yesterday as a bribe reward for the kids being suuuuper helpful with chores (oh, and because…cake), and it was so amazingly moist and melt-in-your-mouth-yummy that I just had to share again. I did.

A couple of tips:

1. Pay NO mind whatsoever to the bake time. I have no idea why it suggests 35 minutes for a three layer cake, but mine took 20 on the dot (and I’d say my oven cooks pretty accurately), and if I’d cooked it a couple of minutes longer, it would have been too dry.

2. If you like nuts at all, DO add some chopped up pecans to the batter. OH. MY. It adds so much depth to the flavor and texture.

3. This recipe calls for 1 cup and 1/2 of vegetable oil (!!!), so I like to make it a teeeensy bit healthier by turning 1/2 a cup of that into apple sauce. It makes everything even moister without adding unnecessary oil. (I’ve done it with a cup of apple sauce too, and it was still great).

4. If you don’t have an awesome cream cheese icing recipe, you can try mine (which is more of a “recipe” than a recipe, if you know what I’m sayin’):

  • 8 oz. (FULL FAT) cream cheese (slightly softened)
  • 1/2 stick of butter (slightly softened)
  • 2-3 tbs. of milk
  • 32 oz. of good quality powdered sugar (I don’t care about name brand stuff, but, trust me, in this case, it makes a difference)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Whip your softened cream cheese + butter until creamy, then add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until it begins to take on a frosting texture. When it gets too thick to spread, add the milk + vanilla. Keep adding powdered sugar until you have thick, creamy frosting that holds its shape but still spreads easily. It may not take the entire 32 oz. bag, but it’s better to err on the side of too much rather than too little powdered sugar because runny cream cheese frosting is just a bummer.

So, there you have it. Something to put even more YAY in your Friday. I’m off to have a piece of cake for breakfast. (I tell myself this is because I’m teaching BODYCOMBAT later, but let’s be real: I would have eaten it anyway).

Okay, so spill: what do you do to make “a week” better?

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

Fancy That {Valentine’s Food}

I had a reader ask me in response to Monday’s post for some suggestions for stay-home-and-cook fancy meals, so I thought it might be fun to scout out a few options and then share them with you guys.

I did a little poking around Pinterest (I may not be good at it, but–newsflash–it’s really useful! Who knew!) and this is what I came up with:

1.

Beef Stifado

stifado

{via}

Okay, truth be told, I didn’t need Pinterest for this (except to nab that gorgeous picture) because Shaun and I experienced the realdeal Greek version on our trip to Santorini last summer. This is one of those dishes that is so tender and flavorful that it’s universally appealing. Unless you’re a vegetarian. In which case, you have my sincerest condolences.

And truth be told (again), this dish isn’t really so very fancy or hard to make (although, you’ll want to start early since it needs to cook a while; in fact, if you want to cook ahead and only cook sides on the evening of, it tastes even better on the second day). But it’s still a little more involved and exotic than your average Tuesday night dinner (because who wants to make Turkey meatloaf–again–for Valentine’s Day?).

There are pretty much a bazillion different versions of this floating around the internets, so feel free to browse the ingredients and see which one sounds the most up your alley, but I would definitely go with one that has reviews rather than setting yourself up for the now ubiquitous #pinterestfail.

I made one I found when we were feeling a bit nostalgic after we got home from Greece, and it was delish, but I didn’t save it (told you I’m bad at Pinterest), so, apologies for being no help in the specific recipe department.

2.

Wildfire Crusted Filets

To make up for my lack of specific direction above, let me point you to two very detailed recipes for crusted filet–namely this one with a parmesan crust and this one with a kicky horseradish crust (my husband’s fave).

Parmesan-Crusted-Filet-Mignon-1

We’re kind of enamored with these steaks that are knock-offs of the filet medallions that a Chicago-area restaurant called Wildfire serves (that link goes to my Chi-town blog recap, not the restaurant website).  They’re our go-to special dinner choice, even though I’m not even a red meat kinda girl. (not that you would know it from my suggestions so far).

But–truth be told (man, I like that phrase today)–we love the buttery, crispy gorgeousness you put on top as much as the steaks, so we usually cut the meat in half horizontally, so that it’s only an inch thick or so (total money saver, too, since these bad boys are pricey). I realize this is practically sacrilege to a true steak-lover (believe me, the “&%$#??!” look I got from the bright-eyed, eager meat manager at Super 1 that one time he offered to custom cut my steaks, and I asked for thin ones, was enough to assure me that we.are.weird. As if I didn’t already know #sixkids #duh).

I’m pretty sure if you’re a thick (aka not-weird-like-us) steak lover, though, these would still turn out juuuuuuust fine.

3.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

And now, meandering back into the world I live in pretty much every day, let’s talk chicken.

Pretty much the antithesis of fancy, right?

Unless you stuff it. This is one of the few times when being full of it is a good thing.

But…full of what?

stuffed-chicken-breast-recipes-roundup

Um…whatever you can dream up pretty much. This is the internet at its finest, folks. I am sharing a compilation that someone else came up with to share yet more people’s ideas. It’s called meta-sharing, y’all. And it’s awesome.

I’m already planning on giving several of these versions a go, but not on Valentine’s Day.

Why?

Because this year, we’re going French and making…

4.

Crepes

????

Seriously, Abbie, you’re making breakfast for dinner on V-day? Tres lame, no?

NO.

crepe

That’s an actual picture of an actual crepe that I actually ate in an actual Parisian creperie. And it was actually as amazing as it looks. (Side note: there’s warm, gooey, fresh apple filling inside *drool*).

Call us optimistic fools, but we’re going to attempt to make authentic French crepes–both of the savory and the dessert variety–for Valentine’s.

And if you’re wondering why the big bad bolding of the word “authentic,” it’s because my experiences with crepes before Paris had heretofore been limited to sad, rubbery, limp, imitations of the real thing.

I didn’t think I liked crepes. And then Paris happened, and I discovered that I didn’t like crepes at all.

I adored them. Like… you-want-my-firstborn-okay-here-he-is-now-give-me-the-plate obsessed.

(There is probably more than one reason why I still have an, ahem, healthy chunk of baby-weight change to lose, but I’m going with that trip to Paris and crepes as being way up there at the top of the list).

I sincerely doubt our beginner attempts will even reach the same stratosphere as the ones we ate at that tiny creperie in Montmartre.

But I’m still looking forward to giving it the old college try. I haven’t landed on the perfect recipe yet, but if they actually turn out decent, I’ll be sure to share.

What about you guys? If you’re the cook-at-home types, do you have a go-to “fancy” meal for special occasions?

What about crepes? Ever had any that produced a chorus of angels singing?

 

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

That time we lost $50 worth of cookies…

Do y’all remember when Shaun took me to New York City for my birthday? I remember. It was amazing.

There was one less than amazing moment, though.

On our last morning there–indeed, in our last few minutes in the Big Apple–we managed to collectively lose our minds, 50 dollars, and some mighty tasty cookies…all in one fell swoop.

We had gotten up early and hustled to Levain bakery, where we proceeded to part with 50 hard-earned greenbacks to buy a dozen (only a dozen) of their famed chocolate chip cookies to take home as a special treat for our kids and the kind people who were watching them (my parents). Y’all know we’re frugal sorts. But every now and then, we like to splurge, especially on gifts. And, even though it was a little painful to spend that much money on cookies, we told ourselves it was worth it. After all, our chances of returning any time in the next decade (optimistically) were slim to none. And these are really big, really good cookies (okay, I’m done justifying now).

After the bakery, we hightailed it down to Rockefeller center, and I power-walked through Anthropologie, Free People, and J. Crew…just to say I’d been there.

Afterwards, I ducked into the Lego store while Shaun waited outside with our bags (we were those weirdos lugging our roller bags along the walkway through the Saturday morning crowds…Tourists).

After finding (and paying way too much for…how can plastic cost so much??) the perfect Lego set to take home for the boys, I hurried out the door, grabbed my bag, and we proceeded to annoy people with our, “Excuse us,” “Sorry,” “Coming through,” routine for about a block or so until I was suddenly overwhelmed by that sickening we’re-missing-something feeling. I took rapid stock of our various shopping bags and demanded, “WHERE are the cookies??”

Shaun just stared at me, startled.

“The cookies!” I repeated. The ridiculously expensive, can’t-believe-we-actually-bought-them cookies!!!

“I thought you had them,” he said.

“No! (pretty sure I sounded a little screechy) I set them down by you when I went inside the Lego store.”

“I never saw them,” he said. And then, he dropped his bags in a heap beside me and sprinted (or as close to it as you can get on congested Manhattan sidewalks) back the way we’d come.

It had been maaaaaaaybe five minutes since we left the Lego store. But by the time Shaun fought his way back…

The bag–containing half a Benjamin Franklin’s worth of cookie deliciousness–was gone.

levain

Honestly, I hadn’t thought about that little episode of brain-deadness practically since it happened (repression at its best, people) until I spotted this copycat recipe.

levain1

This is Shaun’s birthday week (he turns the big 3-5 on Saturday), and I knew the instant I saw the recipe that this was my big chance to at least partially redeem our bag of stolen cookies. (Side note: I sure do hope that it was someone who really needed them–as much as anyone can need a cookie, anyway).

levain2

ANYhoo, I whipped up a batch the night before last as a surprise for Shaun, and even though I managed to over-bake them slightly (despite the recipe-writer’s repeated warnings to TAKE THEM OUT EARLY…heed it, folks), they were still delicious and took a little bit of the sting out of the “batch that got away.” (I used Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips instead of dark).

I highly recommend that you give them a shot.

levain3

P.S. See my lovely painted nails? I used taking this picture as an excuse to paint them for the first time in forever. And then, when Della asked if I would paint hers, I promised her I would as soon as I finished this post. I gave her and the twins a piece of cookie to occupy them, then sat down on the couch to finish typing all of this. All was well until I heard the an ominous CLINK in the kitchen and looked up to see Della holding the top/brush of the nail polish bottle, with the bottle nowhere in sight. Yup, you guessed it. That “clink” was the sound of the glass bottle hitting the floor. A floor that is now spattered from one end to the other with the same lovely shade of deep, dark orange-red you see on my fingers.

So, I guess this post sort of has a theme: Moments that Make You Want to Put Your head Through a Wall.

Anybody want to cheer me up with a, “Oh man! Did I just do that??!” story of your own? I’ll be ever-so-grateful to come back and read them at naptime…assuming I’m not still scrubbing nail polish off of tile floors.

P.P.S. Speaking of recipes, I recently tried out these banana pancakes (twice), and these cheesecake bars. And they were both ah-mazing! You know, in case you needed any help breaking your New Year’s resolutions.

 

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

The Perfect Patio Snack: Black Bean Salsa (Recipe)

We’ve had the most incredible summer in terms of weather here in E. Texas. I’ve only been blogging for a little over three years, but during that time span, we’ve experienced both the worst and the best summers of my lifetime. Two years ago, it was the worst, with 100 straight days of 100+ temps (you would get in your car, and the thermostat would read: 117, and the skin on your thighs would fry against the leather seats). Things start to run together, but I think that was the same summer that we had a severe drought, complete with wildfires (or it could have been the year before; either way, it was a rough couple of summers).

But this year. Oh THIS year has been (relatively) cool and rainy (apparently, it rained practically every day we were in Europe in June). But other than the rain, the most brutal aspect of our summers has been noticeably reduced. And that would be the humidity. Typically, within five minutes of stepping outside from May to–oh, you know–November, you’re sweating. Profusely. No matter what you’re wearing.

But this summer has been surprisingly dry. We’ve only broken 100 degrees a handful of times, and let me tell you, 91 and mild humidity feels like the Swiss Alps compared to 103 with 386% humidity!

In fact, yesterday morning, it was in the 60′s, and some friends of mine had a good laugh at church as we noticed that we had all busted out the scarves, even though it was barely cool enough to warrant jeans.

So, why the weather rundown?

Well, it’s been so nice that we’ve been eating outside on our patio every chance we get (when normally, we would stay huddled around our kitchen table, on which the air conditioning vents conveniently blast).

Last night was no exception, and dinner was so yummy that it just felt selfish not to share the best part, so I thought I’d show you today how I make a super delish, super healthy, super easy black bean salsa that goes great with all things Tex Mex and beyond.

To get started, you’ll need:

  • 2 cans of black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can of corn (drained and rinsed)
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup purple onion, chopped (you could also substitute scallions or any other kind of onion)
  • 1-2 avocados, roughly chopped
  • 1 large lime
  • 1 handful of cilantro (I usually just shred mine with my fingers, but you could chop it)IMG_4628

Pretty bowls are optional, but I’ve been slowly collecting all of these specimens on super-clearance or from Ross, and I couldn’t resist the chance to line them all up for a picture.

IMG_4633

Apparently, they made everything look so especially appealing that our cat, Scout, had trouble keeping his nose out it.

IMG_4631

{Literally}

After everything is chopped up, dump it all together in a bowl…

IMG_4641

…and add the seasonings and “dressing” which basically consist of:

  • 1 – 1 1/2 tbs of olive oil (depending on the juiciness of your tomatoes, you may need more or less moisture)
  • 2 tsp of red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • the juice of one lime

IMG_4638

Give everything a good stir, add a bowl of tortilla chips, and–TADA!–you’ve got the perfect accompaniment to pretty much any casual dinner.

IMG_4649

I serve this at parties and family gatherings a lot, and it always gets gobbled up before any other dips.

We ate ours last night with brisket tacos.

IMG_4674

{I like it so much, I had it on the side and on top of my taco; also, did anybody else spot the floating piece of corn?)

I hope my kids remember these patio dinners with as much fondness as I know I will ten years from now (when, hopefully, they’ll still be going on).

IMG_4655 IMG_4659 IMG_4661

Talking with her hands…such a girl.IMG_4681

{This would be Nola trying to mesmerize me with her baby blues, all while looking innocent and stealing my phone}

IMG_4685

This kid has been losing teeth (literally) right and left. Pretty sure, he’s not going to have any left to chomp his tacos soon. IMG_4686

{Evy knows how to work those blue eyes too; all the better with a little hair swoop}

IMG_4677

And as much as Simon pretends to hate it when people comment on his dimples, I’m pretty sure he’s fully aware that they’re his secret weapon.

IMG_4694

Shaun absolutely loves it when his girls snuggle with him, so I don’t think he was too sad when Nola heard gunshots (we live in the country; this is normal), and made a beeline for him, wailing, “Daaaaaadddy!”

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what my boys’ latest obsession is and in case you had begun to believe that all things at our dinner table were either ridiculously cute or pretty to look at, here’s what was staring me in the face for practically the entire meal:

IMG_4701

I know, right?

Appetizing in the extreme. (Better yet, they’re in my kitchen right now, and Simon and Ezra informed me this morning that a grasshopper and a stick bug have gone AWOL. To which, I replied: “Better them than the spiders; now put another layer of plastic on that jar!!!“).

And just so I don’t leave you with a jar full of your bugs as your last image…

watermakrr

Do you have a version of this black bean salsa recipe? I can’t remember where I first had it, but I’ve encountered lots of different variations (sometimes, I hear it called Texas Caviar) over the years. This is just the version that our family loves best, but I’d love to hear what you do differently if you make it too.

What kind of summer weather did you have? I feel like I’ve been spoiled for life, and when it goes back to being ultra-sticky and sweltering next year, I’m not even going to know what to do with myself.

Is your house a glorified bug zoo too? It’s gotten so bad around here that I don’t even blink when I find some sort of critter hopping across my kitchen table. Ugh.

 

 

 

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

Easy Vegetarian (or not) Enchiladas

A few weeks back, when I was at the pool with my friend, Lindsay, and our 8 children, I mentioned how hungry I was. The morning had been hectic. I had just taught two fitness classes, and in all of the packing of the goggles and the sunscreen and the swim diapers plus the rush to get me and 5 kids out the door on time, I had forgotten to eat.

As you can imagine, between the forgetting to eat + the two hours of exercise + the whole pregnant thing, I was fast transitioning from hungry to ravenous.

As I sat poolside, I was shoveling in grapes and pretzel thins by the double fistful, but here’s the thing: when I get to a certain level of hunger, nothing but an honest-to-goodness meal will do. Snacks help, but they’re more of a band-aid than a full-on cure.

Maybe I was sounding hangrier than I thought or mentioning how hungry I was every two seconds, but whatever the reason, Lindsay pulled out a tupperware container of homemade vegetarian enchiladas and proceeded to insist that I eat them.

After some very weak resistance, I gave in and inhaled half of her lunch.

And I’m so glad I did! The enchiladas were delicious and healthy, and I knew I wanted to replicate them at home.

I gave it my best shot last week, and while my version turned a little different and quite likely a lot inferior to their inspiration, they were still a huge hit with my family, so I thought I’d share.

INGREDIENTS (the following will make two panfuls):

1-2 tbs olive oil

1 medium onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 1/2 cups uncooked rice (I used Basmati)

2 cans of black beans, undrained

4 oz. of cream cheese

12-16 corn tortillas

3 cans chicken broth

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp seasoned salt

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup salsa (your choice of heat)

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 1/2 – 2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese

1 lb taco meat (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Roughly chop the onion and saute in 1 tbsp of olive oil until translucent. Remove from pan and set aside in a bowl. If you want, add the rest of the olive oil, then briefly saute diced garlic cloves, making sure not to be brown them (they get bitter). Add 1 1/2 cups of rice and continuing sauteing 3-4 minutes on low-medium heat, makings sure not to burn the rice or garlic. Add two cans of chicken broth + 1/2 tsp cumin, chili powder, and seasoned salt and 1/4 tsp of garlic powder (granulated garlic). Simmer on low heat until the liquid has cooked off, and your rice is soft but not mushy. Remove rice from pan to a bowl and stir in most of your 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (reserve a little for sprinkling on top the finished enchiladas).

Set rice aside and add two cans of undrained black beans to the pan. Add the chopped, cooked onion back in, and the rest of the spices and remaining can of chicken broth. Add in 4 oz of cream cheese. Cook 5-10 minutes on low-medium heat until flavors have melded, cheese has melted, and some of the liquid has cooked off (the beans should still be a soupy consistency).

Note: I didn’t write down exact amounts of seasonings as I went, so these are approximations and should be considered baseline amounts. I would encourage you to taste your beans and rice as you go to see if they need more flavor.

At this point, you’ll have this…

IMG_3976

And you’ll be ready to start rolling your enchiladas.

Inside each tortilla, layer a heaping spoonful of rice, beans, and grated cheddar cheese. Roll up and place seam down inside a greased baking dish.

IMG_3971

You should have rice and beans leftover after making 12-16 enchiladas. Mix the two together and spoon the remaining rice/bean mixture over the top of your rolled up tortillas. Sprinkle with remaining cheese + cilantro.

IMG_3987

Mix together the can of diced tomatoes + 1/2 cup of salsa (I used medium heat), then spoon this mixture over the top of the enchiladas.

IMG_3986

At which point, you’ll have this:

IMG_3996

{MMmmmm…mouth. watering. yum}

Cover pans with aluminum foil and cook at 375°F for 25 minutes or until the cheese has melted and everything is completely cooked through.

Serve with fresh sliced avocado, sour cream, or any other yummy garnish you’d like to try (I wouldn’t necessarily recommend gummy bears).       IMG_4003

P.S. I had some leftover taco meat that I needed to use, so I added that to the filling in the second pan of enchiladas, which made the hubby and the boys happy (I liked the veggie version better).

enchiladas

And there you have it–an easy, quick, filling, healthy, and cheap family meal (that tastes even better as leftovers!).

Happy Monday! I’m off to make meatloaf (recipe coming soon :) ).

Do you get hangry too? I am continually amazed at how much my hunger affects my ability to cope with little annoyances. Seriously, if I am super-hungry, do. not. talk. to. me. I might eat you.

Any fast, yummy recipes you’ve discovered latelyThis one will definitely be making an appearance in the regular monthly rotation (especially considering that my firstborn who dislikes beans and rice, scarfed them down) 

 

 

 

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

Mini Mason Jar Strawberry Cheesecakes

It is my considered opinion that practically everything tastes better in individual servings. And this holds especially true for cheesecake. I’ve already supported this theory with these little guys (which would be an awesome/easy addition to a patriotic Memorial Day spread). But maybe my favorite version of cheesecake ever is this mini mason jar version.

IMG_1163

Honestly, I don’t love the clean-up afterwards, but I usually just scrub a little at the cooked on bits, and then throw them in the dishwasher, and they come out fine.

(In case you’re wondering, I got my jars at Wal-Mart, and they were really inexpensive).

I’ve made these several times for parties (including Hannah’s baby shower), and they’re always a huge hit and worth the extra effort for their cute presentation and just how satisfying and fun it is to spoon your dessert out of a tiny jar.

IMG_1175

Last night, I made these for our Sunday night patio dinner that is fast becoming a tradition (until the night we walk outside and realize that it’s still 102 degrees at 7 PM). Normally, these would be way  too much clean up for a regular family dinner, but the kids had spent over an hour weeding with me in the yard earlier that afternoon, and I thought they deserved a special treat.

The best part of all is that they’re pretty darn easy and almost impossible to mess up (I’ve both under and over-cooked them, and they still tasted great!).

Wanna make some of your own? (I used this basic recipe with a few of my own twists).

First up, preheat your oven to 350°F.

Here’s what you’ll need:

IMG_1126 

Cheesecake Batter

  • Two 8 ounce packages of cream cheese at room temperature (go ahead and splurge on the full fat version; they’re so much better)
  • 3 eggs (room temp too)
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 TBS lime juice (you can use lemon too, but I like the tartness of the lime)
  • 1 TBS pure vanilla extract

Beat together cream cheese and sugar until  smooth, then add eggs one at a time, beating until they are fully incorporated. Then add vanilla and lime juice, beating until they are just mixed. (Your batter will be pourable but not runny).

IMG_1130

Crust

  • 2-3 cups crushed vanilla wafers (I really prefer these to graham crackers in this recipe)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup of melted butter

Mix together crushed wafers and butter until the crumbs easily stick together when you press them down with a fork. The mixture should be moist but not very wet. Press a spoonful of the wafer mixture into the bottom of each mason jar, tamping them down until they are level (I just use my clean fingers since it’s hard to get anything else inside the small jars).

IMG_1139

Topping

  • Fresh strawberries
  • A sprinkle of sugar

Slice the strawberries thinly, then sprinkle with sugar and set them aside. The sugar will release the berries’ natural juices while adding just a hint of extra sweetness.

IMG_1146 

**I used about two TBS of batter per jar, and it made 16 cheesecakes.

Bake the jars (I place them all on a light-colored cookie sheet before putting them in the oven) for approximately 20 minutes. The cakes should form a film across the top and be ever-so-slightly jiggly but not runny when moved.

IMG_1171

I doubt I have to tell you that the kids gobbled them up, and there was much “Mmming,” and “Yumming,” and they shoveled them in.

Confession: I haven’t even washed all the dirty jars yet, but I’m writing it down on today’s to-do list, so I can enjoy crossing that mundane little task off as a great accomplishment here in a minute.

So, what about y’all? What’s your go-to special treat as a reward or just because?  I would say ice cream usually, but sometimes, it’s just fun to shake things up.

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):