Shockingly Delicious Banana Nut Pancakes (sugar, wheat & dairy free)

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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.

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Banana Nut Pancakes
Serves 2 (about 8 tiny pancakes)

Ingredients:
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

To Make:
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.

Enjoy!

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Mixed Green Salad with Figs, Candied Pistachios, Red Onion, Feta Cheese & Lemony Dressing

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One of the books on my Book List for 2014 is Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. I’m not sure why I haven’t read it until now as it’s been recommended to me countless times and I gave it to both my mom and mom-in-law for Mother’s Day. But now I’m halfway through and totally in love. Her thoughts on food and community are rich and real, blanketed with recipes and with stories invoking laughter and tears. I’ve already tried her enchiladas, which are incredible, and I can’t wait to try everything else!

One of my favorite things she shares is her philosophy on feasting and fasting. The idea that in life there are times of feasting, indulging mostly around holidays and vacations, which can be followed by times of fasting, eating a stricter more careful diet, with some treats in moderation. I love this idea. We don’t have to feel guilty about eating that extra sugar cookie or drinking a huge mug of hot cocoa when we balance it with a season of grilled salmon and mixed greens and spinach upon spinach.

This really encouraged me as today I’ve started the 21 Day Sugar Detox. After a hearty time of holiday feasting, I’ve felt the need to freshen up our meals. Inspired by my friend Alexa who has a wonderful blog, aptly named, Kitchenspired, I’m jumping in! Find out more here or follow Alexa’s journey.

Today’s salad is a lovely combination of flavors that can be enjoyed in a season of feasting or fasting. (Although it’s off limits for the detox.) Over the holidays, we went to a delicious little restaurant in Rockwall, Texas called Zanatas. Upon fist bite of their house salad, I knew I’d want it again, so here’s my recreation, which I think is pretty similar. I hope you try it!

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Mixed Green Salad with Figs, Red Onion, Candied Pistachios, Feta Cheese & Lemony Dressing
serves 4

Ingredients:
4 handfuls of mixed greens
6 dried figs, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup of crumbled feta
1/4 cup pistachios, shelled
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/4 tablespoon salt

for the dressing
Adapted from Power Foods
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 large shallot, minced
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
(You’ll have extra, use on other salads or sandwiches!)

To make
:
For the candied pistachios: preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl, combine sugar, salt and water. Add pistachios, stir to combine. Place a piece of parchment paper on a small baking sheet. Spoon pistachios onto parchment paper. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Mix together lemon juice, Dijon, olive oil minced shallot, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

In a salad bowl, place mixed greens, diced red onions, feta, chopped figs and candied pistachios. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of dressing, combine and add more if needed.

Enjoy!


Chewy, Crumbly Oat & Pecan Granola Bars

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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

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ingredients:
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

to make:
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!

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Book list for 2014

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(Source: Pinterest)

Happy New Year’s Eve! I love making New Years resolutions. In all honesty, it doesn’t bother me if I do all, part or none of my resolutions, I just enjoy thinking up ideas for a productive new year. Drinking more water, exercising and getting in shape always make the list. This year I’m excited to start cooking more seasonly as my friend Lena and I signed up for a produce co-op from a local farm. Hopefully lots of fresh recipes will be shared here from that new venture! My other cooking goal is to cook one meal a week from a cookbook I own. I have a large library of cookbooks and am excited to get inspired by new recipes.
The resolution I always make and usually always accomplish is my book list. My list includes novels, spiritual growth, and historical nonfiction. So here’s what I’m planning to read this year:
1. Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll
2. Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly
3. Undaunted by Christine Caine
4. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
5. So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore
6. Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist
7. Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
8. Seven Great Men & the Secret to Their Greatness by Eric Metaxes
9. Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush
10. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
11. Powerful & Free by Danny Silk

Books to finish from last year:
Leading from Second Chair by Mike Bonem & Roger Patterson
City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell

I’ll let you know how these are! Happy resolution making and happy reading!

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(Source: Pinterest)


Classic Sugar Cookies

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My family has lots of traditions. We love traditions because they make things meaningful and special. Things like eating fondu on Christmas Eve, celebrating Advent, and sharing things we love about each other while opening gifts are treasures to our family. As we’ve become adults, these traditions have helped us enjoy the magic of the season. In a way, traditions link together memories year after year, adding new experiences, creating new traditions and cherishing the old ones.
My mom’s Christmas cookies are a must-have tradition in our family. They are absolutely fabulous and so fun to decorate! You may have noticed that I rarely post baked goods here because I’m not a huge baker, but these cookies are so simple and so delicious. They’re my mom’s classic recipe from her Betty Crocker recipe book. Tried and true. I hope you try them!

Merry Christmas, friends!

Classic Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Betty Crocker
makes about 4 dozen cookies, depending on size*

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

To Make:

Mix powdered sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla extract. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Preheat oven to 375. If you just want round cookies, as pictures, take a spoonful of dough, roll it then flatten it. If you want to make shapes with your cookies, refrigerate dough, covered, for at least one hour. Roll it out flat, then use cookie cutters to shape. *My husband likes them thick and fluffy, I like them thin and crisp. If you’re making them larger, add about 1 minute to baking time.

Place cookies in a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 7-8 minutes and until the edges are brown. Allow to cool. Decorate with icing and sprinkles.

Icing:

Mix one cup of powdered sugar with 1/4 cup milk. Add more milk until desired consistent is reached. Similar to the texture of honey. Ice cookies and immediately add sprinkles so they will stick.

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Pasta é Fagoli {Kale, Pasta & Red Bean Stew}

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One of the biggest blessings of this past year has been our puppy, Boone. He’s just the sweetest and has brought so much joy with his playful personality and all around adorableness. Recently, he has been begging for food. He doesn’t whine or anything, he just sits about 1 foot from the table and looks at us with his big brown puppy eyes and from time to time licks his lips. It’s really all my fault. It’s just that I want him to get to taste a little bread or bacon once in a while. I’ve never fed him directly from the table, I promise! I usually “accidentally” drop something on the ground while I’m cooking. I don’t think my trickery is working. He’s figured out that I’m a softy who can’t say no…to my dog. This does not bode well for one day when I have kids.
So of course, when making this stew, I may or may not have dropped a piece of Parmesan cheese on the ground. It’s my favorite food and I feel like in his little dog life, Boone should get to taste it.
Anyways, on to why you’re here: kale, beans, & pasta in a rich tomatoey stew seasoned by a Parmesan rind (don’t be scared!) and pancetta (again, don’t be scared). It’s Italian, it’s comfort food, it’s healthy, and it’s flavorful. With a big piece of crusty buttered bread for dipping, it’s the perfect winter meal. I like my soups and stews to have lots in them. I’m not a huge fan of creamy, evenly textured soups. I like to get different flavors and bites throughout. And this fits the bill!

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Pasta é Fagoli

adapted from My Favorite Things

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 2-ounce piece pancetta, minced
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
Kosher salt
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 Tbsp dried bay leaves
1 piece parmesan cheese rind, (buy a block of cheese, cut off the rind!)
2 cups small pasta, I used Orecchiette but shells would work great
1 bunch kale, stems and ribs discarded, leaves chopped
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese for topping
Freshly ground pepper

To Make:

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, rosemary and pancetta, if using, and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook 2 more minutes; season with salt. Add the beans, chicken stock, the bay leaves and parmesan rind. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender, 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Uncover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Add the kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 6 more minutes.

Remove the bay leaves, parmesan rind. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with parmesan cheese and parsley.

P.S. In real life I topped my with significantly more of the beloved freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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Mediterranean Meatballs with Brown Rice & Tahini Sauce

In the midst of the season’s hustle and bustle, it’s important for me to pause for moments of rest and refreshment. To soak in the treasure of this time of year, to enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend or to sit by the fire with a good book gives me perspective and room to breath. That’s why I loved the article over at Lark and Bloom on Breathing. Take a minute in your day to read and be refreshed.

This meal is a pause and a break for me. A tangy, flavor mix up from normal holiday foods. Don’t get me wrong, I love garlicky spiced crackers and hot chocolate and sugar cookies, but mid week between Christmas parties and dinners, I’m craving something fresh, healthy and bright. Plus I find that I feel a lot better about eating an extra dark chocolate truffle at a party if I’ve been eating healthy during the week.

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My favorite flavor profile is definitely Mediterranean. How can you go wrong with lemons and garlic and olive oil? After college and before marriage, I lived with some dear family friends. Every Thursday I cooked dinner for them and upon entering the kitchen their oldest, Hudson, would always ask: “Jill, is there garlic in this?” The answer was always yes. Hey, it’s heart healthy!

I used toasted pumpkin seeds in the meatballs instead of pine nuts as the original recipe called for. I love pumpkin seeds because they are inexpensive but pack the same deep, nutty flavor. The leftovers are great stuffed into pita bread or covered in hummus. I hope you try this and enjoy it; afterwards make a cup of Nutella Hot Chocolate to keep you in the Christmas spirit.

Mediterranean Meatballs with Brown Rice & Tahini Sauce

Serves 4

Adapted from the recipe for Kofta b’siniyah from “Jerusalem: a Cookbook”

Ingredients:

2 cups brown Basmati rice or regular brown rice, cooked according to package directions

2/3 cup tahini paste (found in most grocery stores, just ask!)

3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup of room temp water

1 medium clove of garlic, minced

2 Tbsp olive oil

finely chopped flat leaf parsley to garnish

1lb ground beef or lamb

1 small onion

2 large garlic cloves, minced

7 Tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds, finely chopped

2 teaspoons all-spice

1 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup feta cheese

3 Tbsp capers

1 Tbsp chopped green onion

To Make:

Cook brown rice according to package directions. This takes about 40 minutes, so make sure to plan ahead!

Using your hands mix together ground beef, chopped onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, pumpkin seeds, all spice, salt and pepper in a bowl. Shape meat into round balls, pressing together so it is compact and keeps its shape. Place on a plate and chill until you are ready to cook them.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the tahini paste, lemon juice, water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. The sauce should be a bit runnier than honey; if needed, add one to two tablespoons of water.

Heat olive oil in a large pan over high heat, sear the meatballs on each side to get a nice golden brown color, about 5 minutes. Do this in batches so the meatballs are cramped together. Place them on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 4 minutes.

Remove meatballs from oven. Serve over brown rice, drizzling tahini sauce over top and sprinkle with capers, feta cheese, chopped parsley and green onion. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Breakfast Casserole & Hostess Tips

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I would love to hear some of your tips about hosting! Send them my way!

Happy hosting!

Breakfast Casserole:

Ingredients:

7 eggs
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

To Make

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.

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Eating with the Armstrongs

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!

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The pumpkin latte with house-made maple whipped cream at Magpie Cafe. Need I say more?

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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).

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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.

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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.


Creamy Italian Chicken Soup

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My husband usually eats without saying much. When I ask him if what he’s eating is good, he says: “yes, that’s why I’m not speaking!” But I know something is truly above and beyond delicious when he makes comments while consuming his food. Hearing: “mmmmm, wow, this is amazing” coming from both my husband and our friend Daniel as they ate a bowl of this soup confirmed it as one of the most delicious things I’ve made in a while!

Paired with buttery toast and topped with nutty Parmesan cheese, it’s the ultimate cozy comfort meal, especially perfect as the evenings get colder.

I adapted this recipe from The Pioneer Woman to make it just a tad lighter (half the amount of cream!) and a little easier with one of my favorite tricks: the rotisserie chicken. It’s a wonderful way to cut down on cooking time when you’re in a hurry but still want lots of flavor. On Mondays, Whole Foods has their rotisserie chicken on sale for $5.99 and it is fabulous!

I also added two cloves of garlic, because I put garlic in everything. Why not?

Creamy Italian Chicken Soup

adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Serves 4-6

ingredients:

1/2 box Ditalini Pasta (very Short Macaroni-type Pasta Noodles)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 chopped rotisserie chicken (pick up at local grocery or whole foods)
4 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1/2 Medium Onion, Diced
1 Red Bell Peppers, Diced
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Stalk Celery, Diced
1 whole Fresh Jalapeño, Diced
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 can (28-ounce) Can Diced Tomatoes
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Oregano
Salt And Freshly Ground Pepper, To Taste
Parmesan Cheese Shavings, For Serving
Buttery Toast, For Serving

to make:

Cook pasta in a pot according to package directions, being sure not to overcook it. Drain and rinse in cold water to cool. Toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil and set aside.

Remove chicken meat from skin and bones of the rotisserie chicken. Chop and set aside.

Heat a small skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil and oregano and turn off heat, stirring over the next minute to keep oregano from burning. Set this aside.

Sauté onion, red pepper, celery, and jalapeño in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until tender and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add minced garlic cloves and stir for 1 minute. Add chicken broth, shredded chicken, and tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add cooked pasta, cream, and all the oregano and olive oil from the small skillet. Stir to combine. Turn off heat.

Serve with lots of Parmesan sprinkled on the top and toast for dipping!

Enjoy all the compliments and “mmmmms” you get!

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