Whew! It’s been a crazy couple months! Summer is normally a bit overloaded, but this summer is even crazier than usual. We went on a trip to Indonesia and that trip was bookended by weddings, friends in town, and several important meetings for Matthew. We’re off again this weekend to a wedding in Austin and are excited to see Texas family.
In the midst of the craziness, I’ve still been cooking and especially enjoying summer fruit! Have you had any peaches yet? They are to die for! I haven’t been able to get enough peaches or blueberries and I’m hoping to visit a blueberry farm to pick my own in the next couple weeks. Growing up, every summer we would drive to Tyler, Texas to pick blueberries. After picking pounds and pounds in the hot summer sun, we’d go to a nearby state park for a picnic and swimming. When we got home, my mom would make blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes, and freeze lots of the fresh blueberries for later use. I love those summer memories!
Today, I’m sharing an easy summer fruit salad that is refreshing and a little out of the ordinary. It’s great on it’s own or paired with Greek yogurt for breakfast or with ice cream for dessert. I definitely recommend eating this the day you make it as berries don’t like to be wet for long and this salad had a sweet dressing with a little extra zing.
Happy cooking and happy summer!
Summer Fruit Salad with Minty Lime Dressing
4 small, ripe peaches or 2 large, ripe peaches, slice
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup sliced raspberries
1 cup blueberries
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
2 Tablespoons water
1 Teaspoon honey
1 Teaspoon lime zest
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
12 mint leaves, finely chopped
Wash your fruit and slice peaches and strawberries. Place all fruit in a bowl.
In a small jar or bowl, combine water, honey, lime zest and juice, and finely chopped mint leaves. Pour over fruit and stir gently. The dressing will mostly fall to the bottom, but that’s ok. Allow fruit to refrigerate for 30 minutes to soak up the dressing. Before serving, give a stir and top with toasted walnuts. (Don’t add the walnuts too soon or they’ll get soggy)
I love coffee in the morning. In our home, my husband is the one who gets up first and goes straight into the kitchen to grind fresh coffee beans, boil some water, and brew coffee in our French press. I love the smell that slowly makes its way into our bedroom, coaxing me to get up and embrace the day. I love sitting in a comfy chair by the floor to ceiling window in our living room and taking some time to sip my coffee and set my heart on Heaven as the day begins.
I want to be a black coffee drinker, but I’m just not. Even after working at a high end coffee shop for almost a year, I could never give up the creaminess of coffee. I’m long past the days of hydrogenated soy bean oil creamer (yuck!) but I do still enjoy the “natural” versions that have lots of sugar. That’s why I’m excited about this homemade kind, and will never go back!
Sweetened with maple syrup and honey, this creamer is delicious, cheap and easy to make. I’m never going back!
Vanilla Coffee Creamer
*if this isn’t quite sweet enough for you, add more maple syrup
*if you’re looking for a dairy free version, this recipe was adapted from Against All Grain-her’s is dairy free!
2 cups half and half
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a low boil then turn heat to low immediately. Allow to simmer for ten minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Store in a jar in the refrigerator. Shake well before using each time.
Growing up, breakfast at Papau & Grammy’s house was always a comforting treat. The scent of Grammy’s flaky, buttery biscuits and her made-from-scratch, stick-to-your-ribs sausage gravy plus Papau’s famous scrambled eggs would fill the house and make our mouths water. And although the days of eating sausage gravy are now few and far between (or never), thankfully creamy, fluffy scrambled eggs are a delicacy deemed healthy and inexpensive.
Papau’s eggs are made with olive oil over low heat and lots of Papau love and really can’t be improved upon, so let’s just make sure that’s clear. But when I came about Shauna Niequist’s trick for the best scrambled eggs, I had to try them. With only eggs, a good non-stick pan and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, these are hard to beat. Something about adding the eggs, already whisked, to a cold pan, turning the heat to a medium low and slowly running your spatula through them creates the absolute creamiest eggs imaginable. The only thing better would be if Papau had made them.
If you’ve never enjoyed the simple luxury of avocado smashed onto a piece of toast, well, you’re missing out. It’s the best treat for breakfast, lunch or dinner and can even be made with gluten free bread, because while it’s not good eaten soft, gluten free bread can be turned into some darn good toast. My dad’s method of “oven toast” is the best: your choice of bread with a couple pats of butter, toasted in the oven at 350 for ten minutes. Can’t beat it.
So, I’m not really sharing a recipe, but just an idea and a method. Trust me and try it!
Avocado Toast with Scrambled Eggs
for one, easily multiplied
2 eggs, whisked in a bowl until the yolks and whites are combined
1 piece of bread
1/2 an avocado
a sprinkling of salt and pepper
Toast your bread. Smash avocado on top.
Make your eggs. Please make them with this method, you won’t regret it.
Put a small, non-stick pan on the stove top. Add whisked eggs. Turn heat to medium low. Slowly and gently use your spatula to move the eggs around the pan. Be patient as you won’t see much progress at first. Don’t leave the stove, keep stirring. Soon, the eggs will begin to pull together, continue stirring until the liquid has come together into light, fluffy scrambled eggs. Just before they seem completely done, remove from heat. (They’ll continue to cook).
Immediately scoop them onto your avocado toast and eat while warm!
Part of mine & Matthew’s love story (is that grammatically correct? Took me a couple tries) were weekly breakfast dates to a little cafe in Waco where we’d order hot mugs of coffee with flavored creamer, massive pancakes and the best migas around. We’d sit over breakfast enjoying our food and each other every single week for a good while. In an effort to get to know each other better while dating, I made a list of questions that’d we’d take turns asking, about our childhood and movies we like and places we’d been. It was such a sweet time to find out new things and laugh and share our hearts all over pancakes and coffee. Now that we’re married, I’m amazed to find that we can still ask each other lots of questions and find out plenty of new things. We love to take time to enjoy a meal and just talk. One of my favorite resources for good question asking is this blog.
My favorite pancake to order (they were massive, so you could only eat one) was a banana and mixed nut pancake. I’ve wanted to make my own, but who knew they’d be in this form! Y’all, I just have to confess that I’m usually hugely skeptical of bread like things made without wheat or sugar. They other day, I tried to make wheat and sugar free pumpkin pancakes which turned out just…bleh. Because of that setback, I’ve been determined to find a delicious wheat, dairy, and sugar free pancake recipe. Whelp, victory is mine, because here it is! I wondered if I only like these because I haven’t had sugar or wheat in a week due to my 21 day sugar detox, but Matthew approved these as well, especially topped with bourbon infused maple syrup (omg).
I hope you try them, by yourself or shared with a friend and lots of question asking.
Banana Nut Pancakes
Serves 2 (about 8 tiny pancakes)
2 bananas, well mashed
One egg, beaten
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup pecan halves
1 Tablespoon coconut oil or butter
Mash bananas in a bowl, add beaten egg and whisk to combine. Add cinnamon and vanilla. Chop pecans finely and combine all ingredients.
Heat 1/2 Tablespoon of coconut oil or butter in a non stick pan over medium heat. When the oil glistens, use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop the batter (only fill halfway) and pour into small pancake shapes in the pan. When the batter bubbles, flip cakes and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Keep a good eye on them as they can burn quickly. After you’ve cooked half the batter, add another 1/2 Tablespoon of coconut oil or butter to cook the rest.
These are delicious eaten plain, but for true decadence, top with maple syrup, fruit or bananas. It’s best to make them small so they are easy to flip. I recommend serving them with bacon or scrambled eggs for a filling breakfast.
Update: you can absolutely make these without the nuts, they will just a little thinner and you’ll have to be extra careful flipping them. I’m also going to try several other varieties like adding lemon zest and poppyseeds (excluding nuts, cinnamon & vanilla) or chocolate chips.
The New Year feels like a breath of fresh air and a choke hold at the same time. A fresh opportunity to start over, to make goals and plans but also a big lug of pressure to do do do and accomplish EVERYTHING. There are moments of brightness and there are moments when I just want to make the noise my puppy Boone makes when he can’t reach his tennis ball under the couch, a pathetic groan/moan/whimper. Sometimes I wish the New Year started in March when the weather warms up just a little bit, the sun is shiny enough for an afternoon walk, people start wearing jean cut off shorts and flowers peek through the dirt. In January I just want to snuggle in my bed. I don’t want to get up when it’s still dark outside to go to the gym. (I’m super thankful to live in the South where it might be 70 degrees in a couple of days).
But I AM so thankful that I get to take it day by day. I don’t know if tomorrow will even be here. It’s no guarantee. But I do know that right now I can play with my dog, I can try a new recipe, I can listen to a friend, I can drink a huge cup of water and take my vitamins. I can go on a
30 minute 10 minute jog and read a couple pages of a book, I can take food to a homeless person. Well maybe not all in one moment, but I can at least do two of those things today.
That’s what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for today. I’m thankful that as I choose to embrace this moment, then the next and then the one after that, all the moments will add up. They’ll add up to a day then a week, after that a month, and finally a year. And after a year, they’ll all be packaged up tidily or messily, but they’ll be packaged up nonetheless, to be reflected on, mourned over, laughed at, and proud of. In the meantime I may have a day where I don’t do much more than what I was supposed to do, but that’s OK. Because I can start again the day after that.
So today, in this simple recipe, I’m embracing a goal for the New Year. Maybe it’s yours to. By making a healthy (sugar free! wheat free! dairy free!) granola bar, I’m contributing to my goal of eating breakfast, which is contributing to my desire to be healthier, which is contributing to wanting to loose a couple pounds, which is contributing to having more energy and feeling better. Here’s to today!
Chewy, Crumbly Oat & Pecan Granola Bars
Makes 12-16 bars
2.5 cups oats
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cups chopped pecans
2 Tablespoons or so Sunflower seeds
4oz Medjool dates (pitted)
2 ripe bananas, peeled
1/3 cup + 1/4 cup olive oil (used separately)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine oats, chopped pecans, coconut flakes & sunflower seeds in a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle maple syrup and 1/3 cup olive oil over top and stir with a spatula to coat everything well.
Bake in oven for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
Combine honey, vanilla and remaining olive oil and pour into a large bowl. In a food processor, chop bananas and dates until smooth-ish. Scoop into the large bowl of liquid, add oat mixture to the bowl. Stir all the combine.
Pour/scrape mixture into an 8×8 baking pan. Line with parchment paper if you have it (I never do!) or just spray a little cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
Store in the refrigerator! Enjoy them for breakfast on the go or crumble them into almond milk or Greek yogurt. Also delicious as an afternoon snack with a cup of tea!
Hostessing is one of my favorite things to do. I love to make people feel welcome and comfortable when they come to my house, whether it’s just for an evening or an overnight visit. I have to admit, however, that at times I do let myself get stressed out about it when things are going the way I expected. Recently when my husband told me that some guests were coming in town an hour earlier than expected, I
starting completely freaking out cried a little and he looked at me with just a tad bit of concern. So my number one rule of hosting is: you aren’t perfect, you can’t be perfect, so just get over it. Chances are, the person coming to your house isn’t perfect either, so calm down. No amount of pristine cleanliness and perfect decore can equal your expression of genuine care for the person who walks in your door. That’s what they’ll remember most. That being said, here are a couple of my go-to tips for hosting anyone who stays the night.
1. Make sure your guest room is clean and welcoming. Fresh sheets, all surfaces newly dusted, the floor vacuumed and mopped, and a candle lit. Put some interesting books on the nightstand for reading options, a notepad and pen, and if you have room, a chair of some sort so they can relax. If possible, make some space in the closet for luggage.
2. Provide fresh towels, wash cloths and toiletries. I like to include a little container full of: toothpaste, a toothbrush, floss, melatonin, Tylenol, cough drops, mints, body wash, lotion, soap, deodorant, tissues, mouthwash, almonds & chocolate. I basically just raid the little one dollar travel-size toiletry section at the grocery store! Most people won’t use all or even any of this stuff (except the chocolate is always gone!) so you don’t have to buy more of all of these things every time.
3. A clean bathroom! When people use the bathroom, they want it to be clean. I include more fresh towels, good hand soap, and a cute hand towel. A hair dryer is a great thing to have as well as good body lotion and extra toilet paper. Plus I’ve deep cleaned it, making sure there is hopefully not one single dog hair to be seen. Again, nothing fancy for me, just clean and simple.
4. A good, hearty breakfast with coffee (and the fixings), tea and orange juice available. Find out what time your guest normally wakes up and wants their coffee. I’m the type that hopes for it first thing. Again, it doesn’t have to be something crazy like homemade hollandaise sauce over shrimp and eggs Benedict. Just go with something easy and flavorful. And something you’ve made before to insure success. I recently served house guests some failed homemade pumpkin cinnamon rolls that didn’t rise, not my best moment, but thankfully they were good friends and very gracious. Plus I had bacon so that saved the day.
For a great and simple breakfast option, this variation of a breakfast casserole is really delicious. This week we are hosting some guests unexpectedly. I was able to throw this casserole together simply and inexpensively.
1/2 cup half and half
2 large red potatoes, julienned
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Sliced avocado for topping
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the julienned potatoes on a cookie sheet and drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix potatoes together with olive oil so they are evenly coated. Roast potatoes in oven for 20 minutes.
Spray a 9X13 inch glass pan with cooking spray.
Sauté diced onions and bell peppers in 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add minced garlic and sauté one minute. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, and chives.
In the baking dish put roasted potatoes and sautéed onions and peppers, combine together. Pour egg mixture over the veggies. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Top with sliced tomatoes, spaced over the casserole.
Bake casserole for 30-35 minutes until eggs are cooked through.
Top with sliced avocado and enjoy!
**the eggs and potatoes make this a hearty dish, but some cooked, crumbled bacon or breakfast sausage would be delicious added to the mix. Just combine with the veggies before pouring in the egg mixture.
The coming of fall has been a dream! A few things I’ve enjoyed lately…
My birthday was really special this year. I felt so loved by friends and family and specifically enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner at Frankie Marcello’s with my husband (get the chicken piccata!), tea with my girl friends at the English Tea Room (the Earl Grey Supreme is divine) in Covington, dinner and drinks with Matthew and my parents at Galatoire’s Bistro (you’ve got to try the banana bread pudding!), and gifts galore!
The pumpkin latte with house-made maple whipped cream at Magpie Cafe. Need I say more?
The grand opening of Trader Joe’s. I won’t mention how many times I’ve been so far. But some of my TJ faves so far include: 21 Seasoning Salute (a salt-free blend of yes, 21 different spices, perfect for chicken, fish, burgers, eggs, etc..), Pumpkin Spice Rooibos Tea, Tuscan White Bean Hummus, Gorgonzola Crackers, and Coconut Bonbons, and my husband’s fave Cookie Butter (dangerous).
Rollerblading with my puppy, Boone. Maybe the most fun and scariest form of exercise ever. I’m bringing rollerblading back!
My fall herb garden. I transferred most of my herbs from my larger garden into pots so that in the unlikely chance that it freezes this winter I can bring them inside. I love having fresh herbs right outside of my house to use in my cooking. I’m growing: rosemary & thyme, arugula, cilantro, chives & dill, sage & parsley, and not pictured, basil, oregano, mint, lavender and patchouli.
Besides all these delights, lately we’ve enjoyed:
California Chicken Rice Bowls: this is a flavorful and delicious meal. I made it for a friend who recently had a baby, and they loved it! Also great with quinoa instead of rice. I topped it with feta cheese rather than blue cheese and skipped the walnuts.
Butternut Squash Pasta: husband approved! The sauce has a unique sweetness that changes things up a bit from your normal pasta sauce. I added a whole can of tomato paste as well as a de-seeded roasted red pepper to the blender when blending the sauce. I enjoyed the added savory and tomato flavor to offset the sweetness of the butternut squash. The recipe makes a ton, so I’m going to use the leftover sauce for pizza sauce later this week.
Lebanese Style Stuffed Eggplant: It may sound out of the box, but these stuffed eggplants are absolutely divine. The flavor profile is actually not as unusual as you might think. I used cous-cous instead of rice. Try it!
Balsamic Pot Roast: we enjoyed this out of the ordinary take on pot roast. Pot roast is a great dinner for a cold night after a busy day, as the slow cooker does all the work!
Homemade Granola: served as cereal with milk or a topping for Greek yogurt with maple syrup and fruit, this is one of our go to breakfasts. It is simple to make and much cheaper than buying from the grocery. Plus you can control the sugar content. I like to make a batch on Sunday afternoon and enjoy throughout the week.
Blueberry Upside Down Cake: an easy but impressive looking dessert. Perfect with vanilla bean ice cream or homemade whipped cream.
I love how fall just takes over. Pumpkins everywhere: cookies, muffins, drink flavors, even soups. Decor, carving, roasting seeds, flower planters. I love that the color orange in the shape of a large round vegetable is the center of fall. I love the weather, the cool days (well, one here and there), the sweaters, the s’mores. I love how when fall comes the holidays come soon after. There’s a sense of nostalgia and celebration that arrives with fall. My birthday is in October, and three years ago on my birthday, my husband proposed to me. That adds another level of lovely memories to my fall experience. I’ve always loved the fair with its rides and fried food. It’s just wonderful. Thank you, God, for fall.
Well, sooner or later, you’re bound to have a lazy fall morning probably on a Saturday or Sunday, so here’s what you should do. Sleep in. Brew a big pot of strong coffee. Light a fallish scented candle (pumpkin of course, or my new favorite: spiced orange & cinnamon). And whip up a big brunch that you can enjoy at a leisurely pace. Does anything sound better?
Last Saturday, I made a scrumptious and easy vegetable hash with a fried egg on top. Totally simple and totally delicious. You could add a side of buttered toast or top it with some crumbled bacon or add a Mexican flare with fried chorizo and salsa. However you try it, next time you have a lazy Saturday, enjoy the relaxation and coziness of a mid-morning brunch.
If you’re not a fan of peppers and spinach, make this with any assortment of veggies!
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 clove minced garlic
3 cups fresh spinach
1/2 of an avocado, sliced
a sprinkling of chopped green onion
a sprinkling of shredded cheese (I used mozzarella, but cheddar or feta, or really any cheese works great)
salt and pepper to taste
Saute onion and bell pepper in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. After a 5 minutes and veggies are becoming translucent and soft, add minced garlic. Saute garlic for about a minute then add spinach, 1 cup at a time. Stir in each cup of spinach, adding more when wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat to low, and allow to sit while you fry the eggs.
Add one tablespoon of olive oil and fry two of the eggs. There are lots of ways to do this depending on how you like them. I don’t like my eggs runny. Here’s how to fry an egg.
Put half the veggies on a plate, sprinkle cheese on top of veggies, top with two fried eggs, top with sliced avocado and chopped green onion. Repeat for second plate. Enjoy!
More brunch inspiration: (these aren’t quite in the healthy category)
Visiting our families in & around Dallas is always a treat! Last week, my parents planned a family “stay-cation” for us in Dallas. We spent the mornings enjoying good conversation, hot coffee & hearty brunch around the breakfast table while in the afternoons we enjoyed the city. My parents did a great job of planning and I hope you get some ideas for Dallas adventures.
My parents have a beautiful backyard and pool that feels like an oasis!
Afternoon on Lake Ray Hubard! We rented a pontoon for the afternoon and had a great time tubing, swimming and relaxing. We loved that Matthew’s parents joined us and we enjoyed dinner at The Flying Saucer , which has delicious and creative burgers. I didn’t get a pic, but my San Miguel burger with chorizo, avocado, pico de gallo, and queso fresco was flavor packed and delicious.
Visiting the George W. Bush Library was incredible! The museum portion is an in depth look into George W.’s presidency. The designers did a fabulous job making the museum highly educational and interactive.
After enjoying the best-ever chips, salsa, margaritas and fajitas at our all time favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, Mi Cocina, we ventured to the Bishops Art District for dessert at Emporium Pies. This gem of a pie shop was opened a year ago by our friend Megan and her business partner. The pies are phenomenal and the atmosphere is bright and cozy. We shared the French chocolate silk with pretzel crust, the deep dish apple with cinnamon streusel, and the coconut custard. Trust me, you don’t want to go through life without tasting these pies.
On our last full day, we went to Bowl and Barrel. This is absolutely the coolest bowling experience ever. Forget about carpeted walls and smokey air, this swanky uptown restaurant/bar/boutique bowling is hip, clean, and the food is incredible! We loved trying an assortment of appetizers.
House made fries with sweet ketchup and ranch, a hot pretzel with grainy mustard, mimosas, beer from the tap, bacon wrapped goat cheese stuffed figs, fried cayenne quail, and Texas cheese fondue. Divine!
The whole week was a blast, but my favorite part was taking a cooking class as a family at Central Market! We received excellent, hands on instruction as we cooked a three course western-inspired meal. Our instructor explained each step and we learned new skills as we chopped, diced, stirred and mixed. Our meal was delicious: avocado, grilled tomato, corn and red onion salad, stuffed flank steak with cheesy grits and roasted vegetables, and skillet blueberry cobbler.
I cannot express how much I love my family! I’m so thankful my parents invited us to this family “stay-cation” and worked so hard to make it fun and special. I highly recommend any and all of the things we did in Dallas and I hope you try them.
What are your favorite things about Dallas?