Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mediterranean Turkey Stuffed Peppers


Hi guys! I'm back from trip to Disney for Food Blog Forum -- what a fantastic weekend! While I work on my recap post, I've got a great recipe for you over at The Cradle Coach's blog today!


Melissa's invitation to share my experiences with balancing blog and baby came at a time when I wasn't even sure how to get by from day to day! Three months later, I'm finally feeling like I'm getting the hang of things {whatever that means!}, and I'm sharing a little bit about my journey in hopes that it'll be helpful to other new moms, too.


Head over to the post to see my tips and to get the recipe for these easy Mediterranean Turkey Stuffed Peppers!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Whole Foods Market West Palm Beach!


Raise your hand if you get a little too excited about grocery shopping! ::: arm flails about over head :::

I'm not gonna lie, I am a bit of a shallow shopper. I am far more likely to make purchases when things are aesthetically pleasing and organized. Since a trip to the grocery store alone is like a mini-vacation these days, I appreciate a well-appointed store that also carries everything I need {and more!}.

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when I was invited to take sneak peek at the brand new Whole Foods that is opening TODAY in West Palm Beach. As it is, I can easily get lost in any Whole Foods wandering the aisles and discovering new products. But this store has really gone above and beyond with its fun features and offerings!

First of all, let's start with the obvious: The store is gorgeous. Inspired by Palm Beach's chic style, the store has pops of bright color {hello, pink espresso machine!} and modern patterns throughout its 42,000 square foot facility. Little hints of Lilly-esque motifs and clever designs, and cool, contemporary signage can be found around every corner.


 
But it's not just the look that impresses. Whole Foods West Palm Beach has its very own special touches to draw in crowds seeking everything from premium charcuterie to local brews.

Here are a few of my favorite unique features that make this store worth visiting:


1. The Coffee & Juice Bar. Whether you get your morning jolt from hot coffee, fresh squeezed juice or a vitamin-filled smoothie, the coffee and juice bar at this new location is well-stocked in whatever you sip. Buy a reusable coffee cup {or bring your own from home} and get coffee refills for just $1. Good deals for good deeds!


2. Palm Rotisserie. Need a tender, roasted chicken for an easy dinner? Want to impress company with a fancy board of sliced-to-order charcuterie? Looking for a quick bite to eat for lunch... like Moroccan lamb sausage with French fries? They've got you covered at Palm Rotisserie. Not sure what you want? No problem. The knowledgeable staff will lead you in the right direction whether that means recommending the Rotisserie Porchetta Sandwich or letting you sample the salami cotto.



3. La Creperie. Cue the concertina; we've got a little taste of France right here in Florida. Made-to-order crepes hot off the griddle will have you channeling your inner Parisian. Both sweet and savory crepes will be served up daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And, for Pierre's sake, try the chocolate hazelnut crepe. Mmm.....


4.  The Bakery. I mean, it's pretty clear that no one has to twist my arm to step foot in any bakery... but this one has some stand out features like scratch made desserts, bread baked fresh daily in their ceramic tile ovens and oodles of gluten-free & vegan options for special diets. My favorite feature? The bakery imports authentic Cuban desserts from Versailles Restaurant in Miami. Get yourself some Tres Leches, stat.


5. The Bulk Bins. Ok, so every store has one of these sections. But in this store, you can also stock up on grind-your-own nut butters and local honey. So worth the buzz. {Ha, see what I did there?}



6. Palm Beach Brews. If there was one feature that made my heart go pitter-pat, this would have to be it: The beer and grilled cheese bar. YOU HEARD ME RIGHT, FOLKS. Local brews on tap. Ooey, gooey gourmet sandwiches. It's a match made in heaven.




You guys, there is just so much good stuff at this new location that you have to go check it out yourself to fully appreciate it all. You won't want to miss out on all the grand opening deals and special events including a gift card giveaway for the first 500 customers in line {win anywhere from $5 to $50 or a grand prize of $500 for one lucky shopper!}.

I love Whole Foods' mission to promote eco-friendly, sustainable, healthy and philanthropic living. Getting to fill my fridge at this stunning location? It's the cherry on top! Welcome to the neighborhood, Whole Foods West Palm Beach!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Strawberry Vanilla Yogurt Scones


My child has apparently inherited one of my worst characteristics: An inability to nap in the daytime hours. Poor baby. But mostly, poor mama.

Most days I can squeeze a few 30 minute snoozes out of him, which is nice and all... but how many tasks can you complete in 30 minute spurts? Give it a try if you're looking for a delightful challenge.

It is seriously by the grace of God that I accomplish anything at all during the day, because 3 month olds aren't able to entertain themselves just yet. So, I've discovered a talent for what I'll call "singing narration" in which I musically narrate just about everything I'm doing so that I can get something done and entertain this baby at the same time.

"Mama is washing her haiiiiiiir with cheeeeeap shampooooo!"

"Let me shaaaaaaaaaave my left leg now, babyyyyyy! Otherwise I will be forced to wear paaaants!"

"We're maaaaaking daddy dinner so he doesn't staaaaarve!"

It's a whole lot of fun, really. If "fun" is defined by the urge to gouge your eardrums out at the sound of your own voice.

My life has turned into the worst musical you've ever seen.

When I'm not at home singing myself into a frenzy and I actually have a few minutes to get out and do something alone, I sometimes notice that I'm starving on my way out the door. And, because my time is limited, sometimes I just need to grab something to hold myself over so I can run a few errands and get back to Life with An Infant: The Musical.

These Stonyfield Organic Protein Smoothies have been lifesavers more times than I care to admit! I can grab one from the fridge, drink it in the car and save myself from having a hunger-fueled meltdown in the middle of the grocery store. Because you know what happens when you don't? You buy anything on an endcap, in the checkout line or on a well-placed display. Or you almost cry when the 16 year old cashier asks you for your ID for the wine you're buying and you realize you don't have it with you. {Not that that happened to me last week or anything.} I'm way less emotionally stable when my stomach is growling.

Anyway, these little protein smoothies are quite handy. And they also make the perfect liquid component for scones. Because buttermilk, shmuttermilk! Who has time to run out for silly ingredients that can be easily substituted?? Not this singing nitwit.


It was purely by chance that I discovered that the same protein smoothies I love for a quick boost can be used for these tender treats. It was a good discovery.


My husband, who generally tries to maintain a gluten-free diet and is normally not interested by baked goods, pretty much polished off the entire tray of these by himself. They're that tasty.


So maaaaake these todaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Oops, sorry. Force of habit. :P

Disclosure:  I have an ongoing partnership with Stonyfield as a member of their Clean Plate Club and received this product for review. As always, the opinions here are all my own!

Strawberry Vanilla Yogurt Scones

2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold butter, diced into small pieces
1/2 cup Stonyfield Vanilla Protein Smoothie, plus extra for brushing
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped strawberries

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment or a silicone baking mat.

2. In a medium bowl {or in the bowl of a stand mixer or a blender}, stir together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.

3. Add cold butter to dry ingredients. The goal is to incorporate the butter until the mixture resembles wet sand. There should be small pieces of butter distributed throughout the mixture. You can accomplish this by hand with a pastry cutter, by beating in the butter in your stand mixer, or by pulsing in the blender or food processor. It's up to you!

4. In a small bowl {or a measuring cup with a spout} stir together Vanilla Protein Smoothie and vanilla bean paste or extract. Pour into dry mixture and stir together just until a firm dough forms. Try not to overmix. Add strawberries and fold in gently.

5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently pat into a square, approximately 8 x 8 inches. {It doesn't have to be perfect!} Cut the square in half to form 2 long rectangles.

6. Beginning at the top of one rectangle, cut a diagonal slice to form a triangular scone. Continue to cut down the rectangle. You should be able to get about 8 scones from each rectangle. {16 total} You can also use a biscuit cutter or cut into whatever shape you'd like.

7. Place scones on prepared baking sheet and brush each one with yogurt, then sprinkle with granulated sugar or sanding sugar. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden on top.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Creamy Choco-Cashew Banana Smoothie | Silk Cashew Milk



I gained a grand total of 26 pounds during my pregnancy. That's not a whole lot, I know, but it's enough to make you freak out a little bit once you're holding a bundle of love in your arms and still have handles of love pouring out over the tops of your jeans. Sure, pudge is the least of one's concerns when you're caring for a newborn, but in moments of lucidity there are still daydreams of wearing pants without an elastic waist once again someday. {I'm not gonna lie, though. Maternity pants are comfy.}

Thirteen of those pounds were immediately lost after giving birth, and over the next few weeks, a few more pounds were shed here and there. But, as luck would have it, my son was born right around the holidays which meant that I basically subsisted on Christmas cookies for the first month of his life. I wish I were kidding.

Anyway, I imagine that a diet consisting of holiday foods and a goal to lose baby weight aren't exactly considered a perfect match. Rats.

I've only got about 7 {stubborn} pounds left to lose until I'm back to my pre-baby weight, but I'll tell you what else I've still got: A sweet tooth.

Luckily, I've found some sneaky ways to enjoy a sweet treat without sabotaging progress. Like luscious, creamy smoothies that taste like a milkshake.


Though I've used almond milk for quite a few years, I was intrigued when I discovered that Silk came out with their newest non-dairy milk -- Cashewmilk. I pink puffy heart cashews. Always have. I remember picking them out of mixed nut canisters as a kid and leaving a sad, cashew-less collection for the next unsuspecting snacker. So cashewmilk just sounded like a genius idea to me.

And I was right. It is super creamy and rich... a perfect addition to this Choco-Cashew Banana Smoothie. With 50% more calcium than dairy milk but only 60 calories per serving, it's a great option for smart sipping. It's the perfect match of smooth, silky taste and fewer calories.

 

Combined in this smoothie with Silk's Dark Chocolate Almond Milk {another favorite} and frozen bananas, it becomes a treat reminiscent of something you'd pick up at a drive-thru window. Paired with an untamable sweet tooth, it's everything you crave without the guilt factor. I'd say that makes a pretty good match, too.

Head over to Silk's website to sign up for their newsletter where you can get coupons, recipes and more!

Choco-Cashew Banana Smoothie

1 banana, cut into chunks and frozen
1/2 cup Silk Dark Chocolate Almond milk, frozen into ice cubes
1/2 cup Silk Cashewmilk*
Roasted cashews for garnish if desired

1. Combine all ingredients in a high speed blender. Blend until completely smooth.
2. Top with roasted cashews if desired. Enjoy!

*If your smoothie is too thick and you have trouble blending, add a bit more cashewmilk.

This conversation is sponsored by Silk. The opinions and text are all mine.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Girl Scout Cookie French Toast!


It's the most wonderful time of the year: Girl Scout Cookie season!

You may notice that those smiling, uniform-clad little ladies have taken up their posts in front of every grocery store, and you may have even been successful at politely declining when asked, "Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?"

But all bets are off today because I've got a recipe that's even more tempting than a sleeve of frozen Thin Mints.

Cookie-Crusted Strawberry Stuffed French Toast!


My friends at the Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida reached out to me to see if I'd help them spread the word about supporting the mission behind the Cookie Program -- teaching young girls about goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethic. And you thought it was all about the irresistible sweet snacks!

I love a program that supports the empowerment of young women {and we all know I love a cookie!}, so I jumped at the opportunity and got to work playing with creative cookie-infused recipes.

Though my initial reaction was to reach right for the Samoas and Thin Mints {I'm not even going to pretend that I don't have favorites}, I wanted to challenge myself with a flavor that may not always get a fair shot at the spotlight. So, I opened up a box of Savannah Smiles and headed to the kitchen.


Naturally, I ended up with a recipe that promotes cookies for breakfast. Sigh.

This Cookie-Crusted Strawberry Stuffed French Toast doesn't have to be served up in the morning if you'd rather not kick off the day with a sugar rush . In fact, it would make a great dessert if you're looking to impress with something original and, of course, delicious!

Filled with a creamy and flavorful cheesecake-like filling that has fresh strawberries, lemon zest and crumbled lemony cookie bits folded into the mix, this French toast is like no other. The crunchy outside of the slices are coated in cookie crumbs and cooked to golden perfection.


You know who else has been experimenting with Girl Scout cookie recipes? Our local Grimaldi's Coal Brick Oven Pizzeria! They're offering Girl Scout cookie inspired cheesecakes {Thin Mint and Samoa!} throughout the month of February. Best of all, the money from cheesecake sales will be donated to the Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida!

I have even better news for you: The Girl Scouts are extending their cookie sale until February 22, so that gives you some extra time to run out and grab a truckload few boxes. You'll want as many as you can get your hands on once you try out this recipe.

So, take advantage of the fact that today is Fat Tuesday and indulge a little for a good cause! ;)

Cookie-Crusted Strawberry Stuffed French Toast
Makes 2 servings

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk of choice
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
15 Savannah Smiles cookies, pulverized {divided}
4 oz softened cream cheese
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup finely diced strawberries
4 slices bread, preferably a thick, sturdy bread like challah

1. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat. Add butter to melt.

2. Prepare your dipping station: In a small pan or dish, whisk together milk, egg, and vanilla extract. On a plate or small pan, pour all but 2 tablespoons of pulverized cookie crumbs and pat into one layer. Set aside.

3. In a small bowl, beat together softened cream cheese with powdered sugar, lemon zest, 2 tablespoons of cookie crumbs. Gently fold in chopped strawberries.

4. Spread filling onto 2 slices of bread, dividing the mixture evenly. Top each piece with another piece of bread to make a "sandwich".

5. Quickly dunk the each sandwich into the egg mixture {make sure to flip so both sides are coated, allowing excess liquid to drip off. Immediately place onto cookie crumbs and dredge each side, pressing lightly to adhere the crumbs to the outside of the bread. Repeat with second sandwich.

6. Place each piece in skillet. Cook about 3-4 minutes on each side until they're golden and have a bit of a crunch.*

Serve warm with powdered sugar and extra strawberries if desired.

*If you are making several servings, preheat the oven to 300 degrees and place cooked French toast onto a baking sheet to keep warm while the other pieces cook. This also helps to achieve a crisp exterior!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Beer-Steamed Sesame Ginger Shrimp Dumplings | Simply Organic #WeeknightWin


Even though I have been swept up in a baby whirlwind, cooking dinner is still super important to me.
It's what makes me feel like I still have a non-mommy purpose. It lets me unwind and decompress.

But the truth is, I probably have about 45 seconds to figure out what I'm cooking, prep the ingredients, prepare the meal and get it on the table before I collapse into a heap of exhaustion at the end of the day. It's a real conundrum.

So, what's a girl to do? {Besides pour herself a generous gallon glass of wine.}

I'm fairly certain that Simply Organic tapped into my brainwaves and created their line of Steam Gourmet Parchment and Seasoning Kits as a solution to my problems. Because look:


A healthy meal. In, like, no time at all. With minimal cleanup.

Now I got your attention, didn't I?

These little kits are pretty fantastic because 1. It basically tells you what to cook and how to cook it,  2. It gives you most of the stuff you need to make it taste good, and 3. It's organic and healthy so you can feel good about what you're feeding your family.


Each kit comes with a cooking suggestion, 2 spice packets and 2 parchment bags for steam cooking. All you have to do is buy the protein or veggies you want to make, season them, toss them into the bag and -- voila -- dinner.


Except, you know me... I like to make things complicated. So I looked at the kit and I thought, "I wonder what else I could do with this besides the obvious?"

And these dumplings were the answer.


Instead of making Sesame Ginger Salmon with the kit, I whipped up a quick batch of dumplings with wonton wraps and shrimp, nestled them on a bed of prepackaged stir-fry veggie mix, and poured some beer over them {because, why not?}. The result was a really fun and flavorful dish that took almost no time at all but still made me feel successful at creating a "Weeknight Win".


Pretty awesome, right?! Simply Organic is hosting a "Weeknight Win" recipe contest and I'd love for you to vote for this tasty dish! Head over to the voting page to cast your vote!

Beer-Steamed Sesame Ginger Shrimp Dumplings

1 Simply Organic Sesame Ginger Salmon Parchment Seasoning Kit
1 bag pre-chopped stir-fry vegetables (broccoli, snow peas, carrots, cabbage, etc.)
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 scallions, chopped
Approximately 20 wonton wraps
1/4 cup Japanese beer (or vegetable, chicken or seafood broth, if preferred)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1. Place parchment bag on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Arrange vegetables in the bottom of parchment steam bag.  Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, drizzle sesame oil over chopped shrimp; toss to coat. Sprinkle seasoning packet over top and add chopped scallion; mix until all shrimp are well-coated with seasoning.

3. Arrange wonton wraps on a clean work surface for easy dumpling assembly. Fill a small bowl with water. (You'll use this to help seal each dumpling.)

4. Scoop about a teaspoon of shrimp filling onto each wonton wrapper. Wet the tip of your finger in the water and run it along the outer edge of each wonton wrap. Fold in half so that the corners meet and you have a sealed triangle.* Indent the flat side of the dumpling and bring the outer corners together to form a tortellini-like shape, if desired. Repeat until all the filling is used up.

5. Place dumplings on top of vegetables in the parchment bag. Pour about 1/4 cup of beer (or broth) over top, making sure to wet the dumplings.

6. Fold open end of bag under twice to seal the bag. Bake for about 15-17 minutes or until the dumplings are steamed and the vegetables are tender-crisp. (The shrimp should be pink and opaque.)

To serve, carefully open the parchment bag (there will be hot steam, so be careful!) and divide onto serving plates. Serve with soy sauce for dipping if desired.

*You may shape the dumplings any way you wish!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sweet & Salty Popcorn Bark Valentines


The highlight of your weekend may have been Buffalo Chicken Dip or Katy Perry & her dancing shark friends, but the best part of mine was working. No, I haven't lost {what's left of} my sleep-deprived mind these days. My "job" on Saturday was to attend an event where I was forced to watch an award-winning pastry chef prepare desserts while nibbling samples of various Valentine's Day themed treats. It's hard life, I know.

Speaking of Valentine's Day, I have a love related question for you: How do you show love to your spouse or significant other?

Is it by bringing home a bouquet of flowers? Taking out the trash without being asked {HINT, HINT!}? Showering him or her with hugs and kisses? Turning a blind eye to that second serving of ice cream at the end of a long day?

In our house a whole lot of stock is put in food... it's the way we celebrate, commiserate, and most importantly, show love. It's what gets us to sit around for more than 5 seconds without a phone or computer glued to our fingertips, and talk. It's what we both get excited about planning when we're inviting people into our home.

When Steve is being thoughtful, he'll pick up half & half if I'm running low to make sure I have some for my coffee in the morning. When he's being sweet, he'll bring home my favorite bottle of wine. When he's trying to get in my pants, he'll surprise me with a pint of my favorite ice cream. {Ha!}

Basically, our love language is food.

Steve gets to reap the benefits of my blogging pretty often when boxes of food arrive at our doorstep for me to work with or review. A few weeks ago I found him happily snacking on G.H. Cretors Popcorn that was sent to me...before I got to use it for a recipe. {Bad, Steve!} He is much more of a savory fan than a sweet tooth {think bread, pretzels, pasta... etc.}, so it made perfect sense that he was drawn to the popcorn like a moth to flame. Luckily, I stopped him before he could gobble it all up and had enough left for a homemade Valentine treat for both the salty and sweet lovers in your life!


Candy bark in general is a fun and easy way to make homemade gifts because you can add just about anything that you desire to make it tasty and festive. This bark gets it's a savory note from G.H. Cretors Organic Simply Salted Popcorn and some tart chewiness from dried cherries. Using heart shaped cookie cutters as molds, they turn out to be the perfect little goody to wrap up and give as a Valentine's treat.


Then again, if your sweetheart is anything like mine, the bag of popcorn alone would suffice! A big thanks to my friends at G.H. Cretors for sending over a yummy treat that we both enjoyed. :)

Disclosure: I was sent a box of G.H. Cretors Popcorn for review. All opinions here are my own. 

Sweet & Salty Popcorn Bark Valentines
Adapted from a G. H. Cretors recipe

Special tools: Heart shaped cookie cutters
1/2 lb. dark chocolate chips or bars, melted -- set some aside for drizzling
2 cups G.H. Cretors Organic Simply Salted Popcorn
1/4 cup dried cherries
{Optional} White chocolate or pink candy melts, Festive sprinkles

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

2. Place heart cookie cutters on parchment or silicone mat. Pour a few tablespoons of melted chocolate into each one, spreading with a spoon or spatula to evenly distribute.*

3. While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle with popcorn and dried cherries, pressing down lightly to ensure they stick. Place in the freezer for about 5 minutes to harden.

4. Remove from freezer and carefully pop the set chocolate hearts out of the cookie cutters. {You may need to wait a minute or two so they're easier to separate from the cookie cutters.} Repeat as needed with remaining chocolate and cookie cutters.

5. Once hearts are set, drizzle reserved melted chocolate on top. This would also be the time to apply any sprinkles or drizzle with melted colored candy melts, etc.

5. Return to the freezer until they're completely set. Once they're ready, you can wrap them up in cellophane bags and tie with ribbon or baker's twine to give as a sweet treat!

*I made mine about 1/8 inch thick, but you can make them as thick as you'd like -- simply add more chocolate to each cookie cutter mold. The yield will vary based on how big your heart cookie cutters are and how thick you make them.