Friday, January 31, 2014

Italian Quiche

Most evenings after I get home from work, the last thing I feel like doing it spending two hours in the kitchen putting dinner together. Crockpot recipes, leftovers, and simple recipes are my go-to on those nights, and that often includes quiche. This has been one of my favorite quiche recipes for years: the Italian flavors really come through with the mozzarella cheese and the herbs, and I love the subtle flavor of mustard. I hope you have a great weekend!

Italian Quiche
1 refrigerated pie crust
2 Tbsp prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cup salted butter
1 tsp minced garlic
1 cup onion, chopped
2 Tbsp parsley flakes
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
4 cups thinly sliced zucchini and yellow squash
2 eggs, well beaten
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9- or 10-inch quiche pan with pie crust. Spread the prepared mustard over the pie crust.

In a large saucepan, melt butter, and add garlic, onion, parsley, basil, and oregano. Cook until onion is slightly tender. Add sliced zucchini and squash. Cook until tender. Remove from heat and add beaten eggs and cheese. Pour mixture into prepared quiche pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until crust is brown on the edges and the egg mixture is set. Allow to stand 5 minutes before cutting and serving. Serves 8.

source: recipe slightly adapted from family friend Mary R.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Reading, Lately

Hearing Jesus Speak Into Your Sorrow // I've not shared a lot about losing my brother (this might be the only post), but 4 1/2 years later I'm still dealing with the effects of such a tragic loss, I'm still walking the long road of grieving, and I'm still missing him daily. This book was the most helpful book I've ever read about grief and sorrow. It was filled with God's truth which gave me much peace and perspective. If you've experienced a loss or are grieving in any way, I highly recommend this!

Kitchen Chinese // As I was reading Ann Mah's other book (see below), I ordered this one on a whim because I needed some books for our trip to France. It's an easy read about a woman who moves to Beijing to write restaurant reviews for a newspaper. Since I lived in China for several years, I loved reading a story with little glimpses into Chinese culture, food, and language.

The Envy of Eve // This was a really good read on the roots of covetousness and envy and how destructive they are to our relationships and lives. It helped me to get some perspective and really challenged me to find contentment in the Lord no matter in what season or situation in life I am.

Unspoken // I received this book from the publisher to review, and I really loved reading it. It's a mystery/suspense novel about a woman who is rescued after being kidnapped and held for several years. The story has some twists and turns that I thought were pretty good, and also has a sweet love story on the side. It was a good read and one I would recommend if you need an easy read.

Mastering the Art of French Eating // I heard about this book here, which was perfect timing to read before our trip to France. In each chapter Ann Mah explores a different traditional French dish, sharing her experience with discovering its origin and eating it. There's also a recipe at the end of each chapter. It's the perfect blend of a food + travel memoir. If you like eating or are interested in France at all, this is the book for you.

Elizabeth the Queen // This might have been the best book I read in 2013! I have always loved all things to do with the Queen and royal family, and this biography was so good I could not put it down! It is long (500+ pages), but I ended up reading it so quickly because I just soaked it up. Bonus: the book is pretty heavy so you get a little arm workout when you lay down and read it in bed:)

What good books have you read lately?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Baked French Toast

Many Sunday afternoons you can find Caleb and me having brunch at home after church. Most of the time we have omelettes or buttermilk pancakes, but recently I tried this baked French toast. I was able to put it all together and stick it in the fridge before church, so when we got home all I had to do was pop it in the oven for a little while. I'm a sucker for anything in individual servings, but this would also be perfect to serve weekend house guests, since you are able to do the work ahead of time. Happy Monday!

Baked French Toast
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 small French baguette (I used whole wheat), cut into 1-inch cubes (about 5-6 cups)

Add the eggs to a large mixing bowl. Whisk briefly. Add the milk, maple syrup, and vanilla extract to the bowl. Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean pod. Add in the cinnamon. Whisk well until the mixture is evenly combined. Stir in the cubes of bread until evenly coated.

Lightly grease four individual oven-safe serving dishes. Divide the bread-egg mixture evenly between the dishes. Cover dishes with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours or up to overnight.

When you are ready to bake, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap from the dishes. Place dishes on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until puffed up and lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Serve as desired with a dusting of confectioners' sugar, maple syrup, or fresh berries.

source: recipe from annie's eats

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cascadian Farm

Have you tried Cascadian Farm products? I've always seen them in the grocery store but had not tried them until recently when I was sent some to try and review here on the blog. The fruit & nut granola and the granola bars have been my go-to snacks lately. I've been throwing the granola bars in my purse for snacks while I'm at work or running errands around town, and I've been topping yogurt with the granola for breakfast or snacks while I'm at home. I'm pretty picky about my granola (I normally make it from scratch), but this Cascadian Farm granola is the best store-bought granola I've tried. Now through January 30th you can save on Cascadian Farm products in Publix, with extra savings with a coupon here.

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through Platefull Co-Op. All opinions are 100% my own.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Publix Breakfast Savings Event

Breakfast is the most rushed meal of the day for me, so it takes some planning to make sure I have what I need to start the day right. Instead of letting coffee or hot tea be my first meal of the day, I try to take the time to blend together a smoothie packed with fruits + veggies or to eat a bowl of cereal or granola. To celebrate American Heart Month in February, General Mills and Publix are partnering together to offer savings on heart smart cereals. Now through January 29th, you can shop great savings at Publix during their Breakfast Savings Event. You can also find extra coupons here to use on everything you need for a good breakfast.

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided to me by General Mills through Platefull Co-Op. All opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pretty Thank You Notes

I'm making more of a habit this year of writing + sending notes. I've always been one for sending handwritten notes, but I'd like to do it even more this year. That means getting organized with birthdays and holidays, and of course stocking up on pretty paper! In the last few weeks I've stumbled upon several cute thank you notes. Clearly I'm drawn to polka dots, kraft paper, and pretty script:) And the best part is I surprisingly found all of these either at Target, TJ Maxx, or Homegoods! Cute stationery for less than $5 a pop - I'd say that's a win.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Orange & Chocolate Buttermilk Scones

Weekends are lovely, aren't they? For me a perfect weekend blends relaxation and productivity together in a way that leaves me feeling refreshed by the time Sunday evening rolls around, but also not guilty for wasting two days of my life doing nothing. The ideal way for me to blend the two together is to bake something that I would otherwise not have time to bake during the week. This past weekend it was orange + chocolate buttermilk scones. I woke up Saturday morning and needed a delicious breakfast treat. These fresh-out-of-the-oven scones were my late breakfast/early lunch and started my weekend off just right. Hope yours was also wonderful!

Orange & Chocolate Buttermilk Scones
1 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp orange zest
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp cold buttermilk
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)

Place rack in the upper third of oven and heat to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, mix together sugar and orange zest until fragrant. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix together. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. In another bowl, combine egg yolk and buttermilk and beat lightly with a fork. Add to flour mixture all at once, stirring enough to make a soft dough. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Turn out onto floured board and knead about 15 times. Roll or pat into a 1-inch thickness. Cut into 4 large or 6 small wedges. Separate and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. Serve immediately.

source: recipe slightly adapted from joy the baker

Friday, January 17, 2014

Southern Biscuits

My favorite part about cooking is trying new recipes and learning to how to make different types of food. I'm focusing now on breads + pastries: scones, biscuits, rolls, etc. I made homemade cinnamon rolls for the first time over Christmas, and I made biscuits for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I figured Alton Brown's recipe wouldn't let me down, and it sure didn't. I served these right out of the oven with homemade strawberry jam. That is the way to go, for sure! I found that these lasted several days and just needed a brief warming before serving again. These would be perfect addition to brunch, if that's on your weekend calendar.

Southern Biscuits
2 1/4 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into slices
1 cup buttermilk, chilled

Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry blender, mix the cold butter pieces into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better; you don't want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky. (If dough is runny and doesn't come together, you can add a bit more flour.)

Turn dough onto floured surface. Dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch biscuit cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first.)

Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15-20 minutes. Serve warm. Store leftover biscuits in airtight container and warm briefly in microwave or oven before serving.

source: recipe adapted from food network

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2014 Goals

I know goals and New Year's resolutions are pooh-poohed by many, but I happen to love making goals. They don't have to be about bashing yourself and setting unrealistic goals to fix your shortcomings. Realistic, attainable goals can provide the motivation to tackle things you've been wanting to get done, provide the structure to create habits for the routine and lifestyle you want to have, and provide the accountability necessary for success by sharing your goals with others. Here is my list of goals for the year.

1 // Learn to crochet. Nothing fancy, just simple blankets for snuggling babies when our nieces and nephews come to visit. One day I will learn to sew, but for now this is a tiny baby step toward learning to be creative and make things with my hands.

2 // Eat more vegetables. We eat pretty healthily (i.e. few processed foods, rarely eating out, etc.), but I know I don't consume enough vegetables. I've been making more smoothies with spinach and have been adding more salads to our weekly menus (like this one!). I also want to roast more veggies in these remaining winter months.

3 // Read through the Bible chronologically. I did this once in college, and I absolutely loved it. I like having a structured plan for where I'm going to be reading in the Bible each day, and I really like getting the big picture of the entire Bible in one year.

4 // Clean out our bonus room. This room is a hot mess! Since we moved into this house almost 2 years ago, we have put anything and everything in our bonus room. It has its own staircase and is separate from the rest of the upstairs, so it's easy to throw junk up there and shut the door. We need to sort through everything, decide what to keep and what to toss, and organize what we're keeping.

5 // Start running again. I haven't consistently run since early last summer, and I hate that. As the days get a little longer, I want to start running again after work. It's a great stress reliever, and I always feel so good when I'm finished. I'm hoping to run a race with a few of my co-workers, so that will help hold me accountable.

Do you like making goals? What are some of your goals for 2014? 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Blackberry Chèvre Salad

As it's the second Monday of the new year, I thought I would share a delicious salad recipe that I recently made. If you're like me, I'm always trying to find new salads to throw together because I quickly tire of throwing some baby spinach and cut veggies together and calling it lunch. This salad uses fresh blackberries, honey goat cheese, and delicious spiced nuts, and is served with a homemade blackberry vinaigrette that brings the entire salad together.

Blackberry Chèvre Salad
for the dressing:
6 oz fresh blackberries, rinsed
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

for the spiced nuts:
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
dash of cayenne pepper
salt & pepper, to taste
3/4 cup chopped pecans

to assemble:
mixed salad greens
2 oz honey goat cheese
6 oz fresh blackberries
thinly sliced vidalia onion

To make the dressing, place the berries in a food processor and puree until smooth. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, pressing out as much fruit puree as possible while removing the seeds. In a liquid measuring cup or jar, combine the blackberry puree with the vinegar, honey, and olive oil. Whisk vigorously until the mixture is well blended and smooth. Season with salt and paper to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

To make the spiced nuts, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Allow the mixture to heat for about 1 minute, then stir in the chopped nuts. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

To serve, plate portions of salad greens on salad plates. Top with crumbled goat cheese, fresh blackberries, vidalia onion and the spiced nuts as desired. Drizzle lightly with the blackberry vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

source: recipe from annie's eats

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Healthier Choices in the New Year

I love fresh beginnings, especially the fresh start of a new year. I always have high expectations and goals at the beginning of each year, but I try to bring them down a notch and make them as realistic as possible. This includes healthy eating, exercising, etc. I never resolve to lose x-number of pounds at the beginning of the year, but I do make goals of choosing healthier snacks, eating more fruits + veggies, and trying to be more active. Publix has a number of Weight Watchers-endorsed products that help make this a reality in my pantry and fridge. Right now there are a number of great coupons that can help get your year started off on the right foot with good food choices at Publix.

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through MyBlockSpark.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Classic Cinnamon Rolls

I've taken a bit of a break from blogging over the holiday season, but I'm back and ready to (hopefully) be more consistent with my blogging in 2014! We had a wonderful Christmas and were thankful for the week we spent in Virginia with our families. We got to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with my parents (the first we've done that since we've been married!), and I made these cinnamon rolls for our Christmas morning breakfast. I put together the sweet-roll dough the night before and left it in the fridge overnight, so that in the morning I just had to prepare the cinnamon rolls. The recipe is surprisingly easy, so if you're craving some warm, gooey cinnamon rolls while we endure these frigid temps, these are just the thing :)

Classic Cinnamon Rolls
for the rolls:
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
flour, for dusting
1 batch sweet-roll dough (recipe below)

for the glaze:
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Make the rolls: Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish. Whisk the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a 10x18-inch rectangle. Spread the butter over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border on one of the long sides. Top with the cinnamon sugar. Brush the clean border with water. Tightly roll the dough into an 18-inch log, rolling toward the clean border; pinch the seam to seal.

Slip a long taut piece of thread or unflavored floss under the roll, about 1 1/2 inches from the end. Lift the ends of the thread and cross over the roll, pulling tightly to cut off a piece. Repeat, cutting every 1 1/2 inches, to make 12 rolls. Place the rolls in the prepared baking dish.

Cover the rolls loosely with plastic wrap and let rice in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour, 10 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the rolls and bake until they spring back when pressed, 25-30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes in the pan.

Make the glaze: Whisk the confectioners' sugar, melted butter, milk, vanilla and salt in a bowl until smooth. Drizzle over the warm rolls.

sweet-roll dough:
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/4-ounce packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 cup sugar
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus more for brushing
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 tsp salt

Warm 1/2 cup water and the milk in a saucepan over low heat until a thermometer registers 100-110 degrees F. Remove from the heat and sprinkle the yeast on top, then sprinkle with a pinch of the sugar; set aside, undisturbed, until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Whisk the melted butter, egg yolk and vanilla into the yeast mixture until combined. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, the remaining sugar, and the salt. Make a well in the center, then add the yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to make a thick and slightly sticky dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until soft and elastic, about 6 minutes. Shape into a ball.

Brush a large bowl with butter. Add the dough, turning to coat lightly with the butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the dough is doubled in size, about 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead briefly to release excess air; re-form into a ball and return to the bowl. Lightly butter a piece of plastic wrap and lay it directly on the surface of the dough. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

source: recipe from food network