quinoa tabbouleh

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Quinoa tabbouleh quinoa tabbouleh quinoa tabbouleh – yay!!

quinoa tabbouleh

I can’t believe I’m just now sharing this recipe with you. Friends, do you ever go through phases with your food? As in, you make the same thing on a weekly basis for 1235 weeks in a row, then stop for no apparent reason? Then after a little break you remake the thing you made for 1235 weeks in a row and remember that it is one of your favorite things and it is always so fresh and on point, so you resume with the never ending cycle? This is that food for me.

quinoa tabboulehquinoa tabbouleh

What we have here is essentially a salad without leafy greens. Unless you count fresh herbs as leafy greens? I don’t know – whatever – it’s up to you. We’ve got nutty quinoa mixed with bright tomatoes and cucumbers that give you that healthy veggie glow vibe, and then everyone gets cozy with a whole lotta parsley and a zippy lemon dressing. You guys, that cucumber crunch, tho. I wouldn’t be the least bit mad if you replaced the tomatoes with another cucumber because while they’re a really pretty pop of color (I mean, LOOK at those babies…just gorgeous) and nutrition they don’t add a really necessary flavor. Someone do that and report back, please.

quinoa tabbouleh

Another thing I want to mention is that we’re thiiiiiis close to having this vegan. I don’t know about you, but I’m in the camp that insists on cooking my quinoa in chicken broth. I’ve literally never ever cooked it any other way, so I guess I’m just an oldie set firmly in her comfort zone. I promise I will get on the sometimes vegan train soon because this would be the easiest swap possible (veggie broth or water for the chicken broth), but I just haven’t done it yet. Someone also do that and report back, please!

I had taken a little break from making this quinoa tabbouleh, but its revival couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m on a mission to do more lunches from home – remember when I talked about how awesome our cafeteria is at work? As awesome as it is, it is still much more affordable and healthy to eat from home, so brown-bagging it is. Enter this quinoa tabbouleh. I’ll make it on Sunday during naptime –> shocker <– and then portion it out for us to have for lunches during the week. Paired with whatever protein we have from the night before, along with our veggie bags, we have a perfect lunch.

quinoa tabbouleh

On another note, you guys, this is your new best friend when it comes to bringing sides for cookouts and parties. Some groups are more into these types of healthy sides than others, but no worry – as we’ve already established, any leftovers are great for days to come. Is it bad that I secretly wish that people won’t eat this dish when I bring it to a function, just so that I can have more to take home? That rarely happens, though, because by now errrryone knows it is de-lish.

quinoa tabbouleh

Go ahead and volunteer to bring this quinoa tabbouleh to your Memorial Day cookout (like oh my gosh how is it already almost Memorial Day), and be the star side-bringer we all know you are. And then just be prepared to make this every week forever and ever.

quinoa tabbouleh

Ingredients:

1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups chicken broth (use vegetable broth to make this vegan)
2 English cucumbers (also called hothouse cucumber)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil

Directions:

  1. Cook the quinoa in the chicken broth according to the package directions. Once done move it to a large bowl and place in the refrigerator to cool.
  2. While the quinoa cooks and cools, slice the tomatoes in half and dice the cucumbers. Remove the parsley stems and chop the leaves. Combine the salt and lemon juice in a small bowl then gradually whisk in the olive oil to emulsify.
  3. Once the quinoa is cooled stir in cucumber, tomatoes, parsley and the lemon dressing.
  4. Enjoy!
chimichurri

Chimichurri

Your weeknight dinners just got a major facelift…a green, cilantro-y, lime-y facelift. Weeknight meals, meet chimichurri. Chimichurri, meet weeknight meals.

Vegan √
Fresh herbs √
Loads of flavor √

chimichurri

(I’m going to put this into the “I’m still learning about photography” category. The pictures don’t do it justice.)

For us, the easiest weeknight meal generally involves one pan with protein and vegetables all roasted together with a little salt, pepper and olive oil (my current favorite is chicken, Brussels sprouts and cubed sweet potatoes). While that’s good as is, having a delicious sauce really brings it full circle. Chimichurri is so fresh and flavorful, and is the easiest way to make what would otherwise be a good meal feel a little more special.

chimichurri

We’ve been making chimichurri for years, and have just now written down the recipe. Guys, recipe writing has proven to be a little more difficult at times than we thought it would be. We’ve always just eye-balled stuff, so when we actually have to measure out what we’re using it can throw us off. When Andy first made this sauce actually measuring out ingredients, he put in a whole tablespoon of salt. I saw that he had written that down and nearly fainted. As you’ll see – the recipe only calls for half of a teaspoon, so this was way off (#bless). Needless to say I was in charge with the next batch. I really can’t blame him, though. When you go from pouring a little salt in the palm of your hand to pouring it into a measuring spoon it can be really deceiving. Regardless, we now have our fool proof recipe that we can use for years to come. Woot woot.

chimichurri

As you’ve probably come to expect from me this sauce is make-ahead and freezer friendly. As written, the recipe makes about a cup of sauce, so I freeze it in quarter cup portions and just pull it out at the beginning of the week to use in a few dinners and lunches. It’s also super easy. You just throw everything into a mini food processor and let it go. You can also use a regular food processor, blender or bullet, but I just prefer the mini. Once made you can enjoy this sauce with just about any meat or vegetable. I have yet to find something that doesn’t go well with it!

chimichurri

Ingredients:

1 bunch cilantro leaves and half of the stems
½ tsp salt
½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
¼ cup olive oil
3 tbsp lime juice

Directions:

Pulse all ingredients together in a mini food processor (regular size works fine, too). You may need to take the lid off a couple of times, and push the leaves down in between pulses. Use with poultry, pork, steak or roasted vegetables. Store in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for three months. Enjoy!

spinach ricotta stuffed eggplant parmesan

Ricotta Spinach Stuffed Eggplant Parmesan

Ricotta Spinach Stuffed Eggplant Parmesan. Do you need more words, or is that enough to get you in the kitchen stat? This dish is everything your veggie loving self needs every day for the rest of your veggie loving life. Remember Andy – my meatatarian husband that *tolerates* one meatless night a week? Well we had TWO meatless nights (and 2 meatless lunches) last week, and he was 1,000% okay with it. And it’s all thanks to this ↓ lightly breaded eggplant + spinach + ricotta + mozzarella + sauce all baked to perfection.

spinach ricotta stuffed eggplant parmesan

What we have here is traditional eggplant parmesan (except baked) meets eggplant lasagna meets stuffed shells (minus the pasta) meets gooey cheese heaven meets heaven heaven…like for real this is probably what vegetarians eat in heaven…too far? -> NOPE. This dish is huge, and could be cut in half, but then that would require more measuring, plus you would have fewer leftovers and put in just about the same amount of work, so I’m going with the “more leftovers = less cooking later on” side of the aisle. <– Lazy girl winning at life right there, friends.

spinach ricotta stuffed eggplant parmesan

And, you guys, this dish is suuuuper low-cal. I had to run the numbers three times because I just couldn’t believe it. Divided into 8 huge portions, each serving is only 313 calories – 313 calories FOR DINNER. That leaves room for a nice piece of crusty bread and glass of wine…two things that give me all the comfort food, treat yo self, keeping it healthy dinner feels. I mean look at the size of that serving…

spinach ricotta stuffed eggplant parmesan

For us this is a Sunday night dinner, Monday-Tuesday lunch and Wednesday night dinner type of situation. You need a good hour from the time you start slicing the eggplant until it’s totally assembled and ready for the oven, but that is definitely not all hands-on time. You have two 20-minute waiting times that you can get a ton of work done. For example: the last time I made this I dusted my house and set-up to clean the bathrooms while the eggplant soaked, then while the eggplant rounds were baking I cleaned the sinks and toilets. Then you still have an hour of cooking time when you can do anything: vacuum, exercise, relax with a glass of wine because your house is 75% clean – whatever, the choice is yours! It’s not practical for us to make during the week, but if I stayed home this would be something that could easily be made during naptime and cooked later on.

spinach ricotta stuffed eggplant parmesanspinach ricotta stuffed eggplant parmesanspinach ricotta stuffed eggplant parmesanspinach ricotta stuffed eggplant parmesanspinach ricotta stuffed eggplant parmesanspinach ricotta stuffed eggplant parmesan

This is also a great dish if you’re having guests, especially if you want to have a vegetarian option. You can have it assembled and ready for the oven, then just pop it in once they arrive and let it cook while you’re doing appetizers and drinks. It can easily serve as a side dish (smaller portions, obv), but it is really so good as an entrée and you don’t miss having meat.

spinach ricotta stuffed eggplant parmesan

8-10 servings (313 calories/8 servings or 250 calories/10 servings)

Ingredients:

2 large eggplants (mine equaled about 3 lbs)
2 cups milk
1 ½ tsp salt
1 cup breadcrumbs
½ cup flour
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 (10 oz) box frozen chopped spinach – thawed and squeezed of juices
½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 ½ cups marinara sauce (one jar)
2 cups shredded mozzarella

Directions:

  1. Combine milk and salt in a two-gallon zippered bag. Cut eggplant into ¼ inch rounds, then add to the bag. Soak for 20 minutes*.
  2. While the eggplant soaks preheat oven to 400 degrees and line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine breadcrumbs, flour and Italian seasoning in a bowl.
  3. Remove the eggplant, one piece at a time, and coat both sides in the breadcrumb mixture. Place on the baking sheet, and repeat until all of the slices are coated (some overlap is ok). Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes. The breading may still look a little “dusty,” but that’s fine.
  4. While the eggplant cooks, combine ricotta, egg, spinach and parmesan in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Prepare a 9X13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  5. Take the eggplant slices out of the oven.
  6. Assembly:
    • Spread ½ cup marinara sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.
    • Layer half of the eggplant in the dish.
    • Cover with 1 cup marinara sauce**.
    • Add the spinach-ricotta mixture, and spread evenly over the marinara.
    • Sprinkle ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese over mixture.
    • Layer the second half of the eggplant.
    • Cover with remaining cup of marinara sauce, spreading evenly.
    • Finish with remaining 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella.
  7. Cover loosely with foil, and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until the cheese is browned to your liking.
  8. Enjoy!

*Flip the bag a few times to make sure it soaks evenly.

**This won’t look perfect, but it all cooks together nicely. Just use a spatula and spread as evenly as you can, and make sure there is at least a little sauce covering each piece.

freezer breakfast burritos

Freezer Breakfast Burritos

Raise your hand if you love breakfast! Raise your hand if you find yourself with no time to make breakfast on busy weekday mornings! Keep that hand up if you are reallllly not into the whole “overnight oats” movement…well haaay there savory, hot breakfast loving friends!

Andy and I are major lovers of breakfast. More specifically –> savory breakfast. Sure we’ll make waffles or French toast every now and then, but given the choice we’d take a biscuit sandwich over just about anything else ever. While we rarely eat biscuits (why oh why do they have to be loaded with all the fat and calories?!?!?), we love a good savory hash. Saturday morning at the Peascoe house is MADE for hash.

Scrambled eggs + diced potatoes, onions, peppers + black beans + spicy sausage + a liiittle cheese = perfect way to start a Saturday.

freezer breakfast burritosfreezer breakfast burritos

While we don’t have time to make the “perfect way to start a Saturday” hash on busy weekday mornings, we can take the time to pull out one of our pre-made breakfast burritos filled with the exact same mixture and eat it on the go because that’s just how we roll.

freezer breakfast burritos

Y’all these breakfast burritos are so super simple and delicious. The best part is that once made, you have at least 12 days of breakfast ready to go when you need it. The second best part about these breakfast burritos is that they’re completely customizable. Want it vegetarian? Leave out the sausage. Want greens? Wilt some spinach into the eggs as you scramble them. Want to use a whole wheat tortilla? Go for it. Not a fan of veggies in the morning? Leave them out. You do you, my friend.

freezer breakfast burritos

The third best part about these breakfast burritos is that they’re GREAT to take to friends with new babies. I often have people ask me for ideas on what to take new parents, and these have moved to the top of that list. Dinner is always helpful and VERY appreciated, but I remember having so much dinner stuff that we ran out of fridge space. However, one thing that still sticks out and was extremely helpful was when someone would also bring muffins or some other breakfast food that could be eaten with one hand. There were so many days in those first few weeks after Andy went back to work where I would look at the clock and realize it was 2 p.m. and I hadn’t had a single bite of food all day. Taking these to a new mom means she has 12 hearty breakfasts that she can heat (and reheat and reheat) and eat with one hand while holding her newborn that refuses to be put down <– not exaggerating.

freezer breakfast burritos

I have to be honest, though, I very rarely actually have them for my breakfast. Here’s the thing. My office has a really reallllly good cafeteria. We have visitors from around the world that spend $$$$ to hang out with us, so they, therefore, expect great food to be part of that experience. Working there means I also get to eat great food…mmmmmm. With that, I prefer to save my calories and eat 1-2 servings of fruit in the morning and then have a heartier lunch. However, while I generally don’t eat heavy breakfasts on weekdays, Andy still does. Bud is 6’5” and stands up to teach all day, so it’s understandable he needs a little more fuel. Most mornings he’ll take time to make a power packed smoothie, but sometimes he just wants the convenience and warmth that comes with popping a frozen burrito in the microwave for a couple of minutes. Basically, I make these all for him and get major points because I know he has a happy belly everyday on the way to work. Happy belly = happy husband = happy wife = happy life. It’s the little things, y’all 🙂

freezer breakfast burritos

Wow – I realize this post has been all over the place. There was just so much to share about these awesome, simple, flavorful breakfast burritos that I couldn’t NOT share one bit of it with you because you’re like me and want to know alllll the deets and that’s why we get along so well. I’ll finally get to the recipe, so you too can enjoy the happiness that comes with the knowledge that you have a freezer full of delicious breakfast just waiting for you.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium potatoes (russet or Yukon gold work best) – small dice
1 red bell pepper – small dice
1 medium yellow onion – diced
1 (15 oz) can black beans – drained and rinsed
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper
1 lb sausage
18 eggs
12-14 burrito size flour tortillas*
Sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and cook until they start to soften (about 5 minutes). Add the bell pepper, onion, spices, salt and pepper (to taste), and cook until the potatoes are done. Stir in the black beans, then move the mixture to a bowl to cool.
  2. Wipe out the skillet and return it to the heat. Cook the sausage, then move to another bowl to cool. Drain the fat, leaving 1 tsp behind.
  3. Scramble the eggs, then cook over medium-low heat until done. Transfer to another bowl to cool.
  4. Assembly: lay one tortilla on a piece of plastic wrap. Add a heaping 1/3 cup eggs, 1/2 cup vegetable mixture, 1/4 cup sausage and 2 tbsp cheese. Roll one side over the filling, then fold in the two ends and finish rolling the burrito. Wrap tightly in the plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling. Once assembled, place into a freezer bag and freeze up to three months.
  5. To heat: remove from the freezer and take off plastic wrap. Wrap in a paper towel and microwave on high for 1.5-2.5 minutes depending on your microwave.

*I don’t always get the same number of burritos out of this (weird, right?). It’s usually in the 12-14 range, and there is generally at least one that ends up being all veggies and eggs.

veggie power bowls

Veggie Power Bowls

Happy New Year!

After what feels like an eternity, I’m finally back to the blog. As it is that I’m still recovering from such a long break, let’s get the year off by reviving one of the top/healthiest recipes that came out of Miss Foodie Two Shoes in 2016: the Veggie Power Bowl.

You may be wondering about the poached egg on top. Want to learn something? THEY SELL PASTEURIZED EGGS AT THE GROCERY STORE!!! I can deal with the food restrictions that come with pregnancy, but the hardest is not being able to eat runny eggs. I actually googled “is it okay to eat poached eggs while pregnant?” and found a forum that talked about pasteurized eggs. You guys – YOU GUYS!!! – they ARE a thing. They’re expensive, but if you’re in my boat then it’s worth it. I still don’t eat runny eggs more than a time or two a week, but having the option is giving me life as I’m nearing the end of the second trimester.

Original Post below, and I will be back starting next week with all new recipes for 2017!

It’s like this: I heart veggies. Period. The end. Byeeee.

veggie power bowls

If you’ve been following my little blog since it first started just a few months ago (wheee!), then you know I’m 1) obsessed with cramming in as many veggies as I can, and 2) obsessed with prepping veggies over the weekend for super easy meals during the week.  Exhibits A and B:

roasted butternut squashroasted cauliflower

These veggie power bowls are my absolute perfect idea of a quick breakfast, lunch or dinner (yes I really do eat this for breakfast). Remember how I roast butternut squash and cauliflower every Sunday? I do that 10% for us to have veggies ready for the week, and 90% so I can make this delicious meal while I’m working from home on Mondays.

veggie power bowls

Any other work from homers out there? I L-O-V-E the days I work from home. Instead of taking breaks to meet friends at the coffee bar, I take breaks to transfer loads of laundry. Instead of chatting for 10 minutes after a meeting, I Swiffer mop the bathrooms and kitchen. I get so much done, and I feel like I’m dominating the whole work-life balance thing. I definitely couldn’t do it full-time because I prefer seeing people in person most of the time, but a day every week or two really helps to take a load off of my night and weekend to-do list. Working from home also means I get to eat these veggie power bowls, and get an easy four servings of veggies in before I even have to change out of my pajamas. Winning!

veggie power bowls

Let’s break down these veggie power bowls. First up are the veggies that you’ve pre-roasted the weekend before. Don’t have veggies pre-roasted? No problem, just sauté them together in a frying pan until done. Don’t have butternut squash and/or cauliflower? Also not a problem. The beauty of these bowls is that you can really use any veggies you have on hand (see notes below). Next, you have the leafy greens. In my case it’s generally kale, but spinach works well, too. Last, we have a glorious fried egg on top. Any type of egg works, but I alllllways go for the fried option here. The whites are perfectly set and the yolk is golden and luxuriously runny. The runny yolk coats the veggies as it drips down into the bowl, and bumps up comfort food status to the max. You feel like you’re eating something totally decadent, but it’s really just veggies and protein. Veggie power! Finish off the bowl with a little Sriracha (or a lot – you’re the boss here), and dig in. The easiest and healthiest power meal is ready for your face in less than 10 minutes. Does it get any better?

veggie power bowls

Recipe is for one bowl.  306 calories (using olive oil)

Ingredients:

¾ cup roasted butternut squash
¾ cup roasted cauliflower
1 (packed) cup kale – leaves torn or chopped
1 tsp olive oil or butter
1 egg
Sriracha (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a small non-stick skillet, reheat the butternut squash and cauliflower. Move to a bowl.
  2. In same pan add kale and a couple tablespoons of water. Season with salt, pepper and (a little) garlic powder, and sauté until desired doneness. (I generally let it go 3-4 minutes so that it’s soft but not totally wilted.) Add kale to the bowl with the squash and cauliflower.
  3. Wipe out skillet with a paper towel, heat the pan over a nice low heat, then add butter or olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.
  4. Crack the egg into the skillet and let sit for 1-2 minutes, then cover for another 2-3 minutes to help the whites on top to cook through. Allow to cook as long as you prefer to reach your desired consistency for the yolk. Once done, transfer to your veggie bowl, top with sriracha and enjoy!

Notes: other good veggie options include carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, onion, bell pepper, black beans. If you want carbs, feel free to add rice, quinoa or a slice of crusty bread to sop up the egg yolk.

french onion soup

Lazy Girl French Onion Soup

This year April weather = drunk weather. It was hot and Spring-like for about five minutes and then boom back to the 40s. Hellooooooo, April, you are no March. Go home. Last week it got cold again. Like bring your newly potted plants inside so the frost doesn’t kill them cold. The silver lining? This lazy girl French onion soup. We’ve already established that I love soup with an undying passion, so when the high dipped below 60 degrees the Soupstress came back out for one last hurrah before it warms up for good.

french onion soup

Where are my French onion lovers? Anyone get super excited when you see it on a menu? Me me me!! The bread covered with melty cheese, sitting atop the most flavorful oniony broth mixture. Pure magic. But…

Sometimes you gotta stay iiiin…

…and you know where we liiiive…

Welcome to my house. We can’t even slow down. We don’t like to go-o out… (thumbs up)

Did you kind of sing that as you read it? If so then – congrats! – we’re bound to be besties. You know those songs that you only know about two lines? That’s it for me, and I drive Andy nutso singing it over and over and over and over. I mean, it’s a catchy little tune, amiright? This song basically describes our relationship with going out to eat. Why go out and spend $$$ when we can make it better and healthier at home for $? Sorry this was such an unnecessary tangent. I don’t even know what’s going on here. Back on track and in your face with 1-2-3 melty cheese strands…

french onion soup

While you know I’m into recipes that take a long time, I am NOT into recipes that take a lot of hands on time. Who is? Here’s what makes this “lazy” French onion soup: onions cook on the stove-top, then in the oven and, finally, it all simmers together with minimal stirring. We rarely made French onion soup before I found the method of cooking the onions in the oven. It takes out an hour of time that you would otherwise have to pretty consistently stir the onions to get them to brown. I mean – just look at that perfect golden goodness that was done completely in the oven. Genius!

french onion soupfrench onion soup

There are three “active” times: slicing eight onions, stirring while the flour and wine incorporate and assembly. The only “slaving over the stove” bit is one 10-minute stretch where you need to constantly stir the onions with the flour and wine. I actually really like this part – add the wine to the pot, pour a little for yourself and just slowly stir and watch the mixture thicken before adding the remaining ingredients. It’s actually really relaxing or Zen-like (?). I have no clue what constitutes “Zen” in cooking, but I imagine it’s something like this.

french onion soup

Assembly here is also a little different than you’re probably used to. My favorite part of this soup is the cheesy bread on top, but I’m always left a little unsatisfied when I run out of said goodness. My answer? Are you ready for this? We make a layer of cheesy bread on the bottom, melt it, add the soup and the final layer of bread and cheese and finish in the oven. The bottom layer of bread bumps standard French onion soup up to a whole new level. It’s almost like a French onion stuffed grilled cheese when it’s all said and done. Behold, the evolution of my lazy girl French onion soup in three, two…

french onion soupfrench onion soupfrench onion soupfrench onion soupfrench onion soupfrench onion soup

You may not have time to do this on a week night, but you can make the soup over the weekend and just reheat it when you’re ready to assemble during the week. Any leftovers (minus cheese and bread, obv) freeze really well, too. Go ahead and plan on making it this weekend, then – fine, twist my arm – I’ll come over and help you eat it 🙂 One more shot for drool factor, then the recipe. Enjoy!

french onion soup

Calories are based on the soup alone because the amount of bread and cheese is totally up to you! I generally use about 2 oz bread and 4 tbsp shredded cheese per bowl, bringing the calorie count up to 434. <—Perfect dinner.

Serves 8 – 190 calories

Ingredients:

4 tbsp butter
7-8 yellow onions – sliced thin
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup red wine (I use Merlot)
8 cups beef broth
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Sliced French baguette
Shredded mozzarella and/or Swiss

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-low heat and add the onions. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Place pot in the oven with the lid ajar and cook for one hour, stirring 3-4 times.
  4. Remove the pot from the oven and place back on the stove over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine and cook for another 10 minutes to reduce (it will become very thick).
  5. Add the broth, bay leaves and thyme and simmer for 30-45 more minutes.
  6. Set oven to broil.
  7. Cover the bottom of oven-safe bowls with sliced baguette, and top with 2-3 tbsp shredded cheese. Place in oven just until the cheese melts.
  8. Ladle the soup into the oven-safe bowls, top with another layer of baguette slices and shredded cheese, then broil until the cheese melts.
  9. Enjoy!

April 4, 2016

Disclaimer: This is a looong post, and I feel a little dramatic about that, but it was really therapeutic to write. I know you all come here for recipes, but I just feel the need to share parts of our story like this in order to feel like we really connect on a more human level than just this internet, no touch, no face-to-actual-face level. I really debated publishing this because my problems seem so small compared to what’s going on in the rest of the world, and I do not want pity. Ultimately, I decided to share in the hopes that if someone else is struggling that they know they’re not alone. 

April 4, 2016. This past Monday slowly crept up, and I’m still not sure I have the right words. Monday would have been my due date for our second baby had I not miscarried at nine weeks. Had it been anything like my last pregnancy, I would have had the baby yesterday and today’s post would be an adorable announcement. I’m not sure why I’ve been so fixated on the “due date,” but just chalk it up that it’s the absolute end date of this chapter. I know that some of you are reading this and thinking about that time within the last six months that you asked us when we would have another baby, and you’re probably feeling bad. PLEASE DON’T. We’ve all seen the blogs of the moms that get all bent out of shape and angry that other people are being nosy. That’s not us – if you’ve felt comfortable to ask us, then we just take it that 1) you care about what’s going on in our lives and 2) you think we’re awesome parents that should definitely have another tot ;). For most of you, I probably just gave an answer like “eventually,” but I spared you the awkwardness of saying “well, actually, we just had a miscarriage, so…” This is probably news to most people, so the rest of the post is about how Andy and I are doing, and is probably relatable to anyone that has been through miscarriage. Per my usual, I’m putting this in list form, so it won’t seem so crazy and all over the place.

  1. We’re still sad. I can honestly say this was the toughest thing we’ve been through. We didn’t intend on getting pregnant when we did, but once we got past the shock we were really excited! This due date was just a few weeks after my due date with Anna Ruth, and I was thrilled at the idea of having a similar pregnancy. AR was easy, and I felt good the whole time. I got pregnant mid-Summer, so the bulk of my pregnancy was in the cooler months —–> hello, no swelling! When I was pregnant with her, I didn’t fully appreciate the sweetness of that time. Sure, I gushed about how much I loved the kicks and the little life inside me, but I didn’t really *get* the feeling until I realized I would not be having it with this one. I didn’t find out the gender in mid-October, and I didn’t have the awesome 6-month baby bump during the holidays. It sounds pretty surface level, but these are some of the things I was looking forward to, and it made me re-appreciate a really special time I had with AR the first go-round. Andy is still sad, too, but it’s not still on his mind like it is mine; he’s sad because I’m sad. He has always been much better than me at taking things as they come, for better or worse, and I love that about him.
  2. We’re still waiting. At first we thought we would immediately try to get pregnant again, which made me think it would be like “okay, if I hadn’t had the miscarriage, then we wouldn’t have this new baby Pea, so THAT’s why it happened.” However, we looked at the calendar and realized that if I had gotten pregnant right away, we would have a due date in early August. August for Andy – aka beginning of a new year of teaching – aka beginning of a new year of grad school. August = bad timing for a new baby. Andy was the perfect new father when we had AR (and still is). He was super present, encouraging and, more than anything, helpful. Having a baby at the beginning of a new school year would be more stressful (for us) than having a baby later in the year. So we waited, and we’re still waiting. I’m not sharing details of our plans for trying again, but, don’t you worry, it will happen.
  3. We’re grateful for the Lord’s timing. Yes, we definitely questioned, “Why did this happen – we weren’t even trying yet?!” BUT we would have started trying soon after, so I have full faith that this was the Lord’s way of saying, “wait.” Honestly, we could make it work to have a second baby right now, but it would be really really hard. I know – people do it every day. If I were a stay at home mom it would be different. Since I work, though, the cost of play school is a major factor. I’m sure we could spend less on childcare by sending AR to a different place, but we LOVE our play school and I absolutely refuse to have my kids anywhere else. If I can’t be with her each day, then this is where she needs to be. Looking at the figures on paper, we are grateful that we’ll have one less year of having two kids in childcare at once. Please don’t take this as we’re grateful for the miscarriage, but financially we’ll be in a much better position for the next one. Other than finances, we’re also grateful for the Lord’s timing because we’re just not ready for Anna Ruth to not be an only child. She would be a great big sister, but I’m not done giving her the majority of my attention mornings, nights and weekends. There’s also this other little venture I took on in the beginning of the year that I can say with near certainty would not have happened if I was pregnant. The Lord had been nudging me to start a blog for a long, looong time, and around Christmas I really had an “it’s now or never” moment and went for it. This little blog has reminded me just how much I enjoy writing and sharing with others, and I honestly don’t think I would have ever taken the leap had I not started well before bringing another baby on board. Lastly, I’m grateful that I didn’t miscarry before taking a positive pregnancy test and confirming it at the doctor’s office. More on that below, but if I hadn’t known for sure that I was pregnant then it could have resulted in repeat miscarriages moving forward.
  4. We’re grateful for the healthy two-year old we do have. For her, and for the fact that I had a healthy, viable first pregnancy. I’m not sure what the medical term for it is, but I have O- blood and Andy has A+, which means that I have to have a rogam shot during and after each pregnancy so that my body does not attack the next developing baby thinking it’s a parasite. I’m sure the doctors would have eventually figured it out, but I sometimes think about what if my first pregnancy was a miscarriage, and then just had several after that because we didn’t know about the blood discrepancy. Modern medicine FTW.
  5. Life moves on. This has been one of the hardest parts about this. At times it seems like anyone that could possibly be pregnant is pregnant. I’m completely happy for every one of those moms and dads, but with every announcement came a twinge of pain reminding me that I was not pregnant, too. Nothing debilitating, but just little reminders that my baby was gone. Going to showers has been hard, but I go because I am genuinely excited for my friends. To be honest I’ve just had to make myself zone out a little. I went to one shower in the *most* amazing farm house I have ever been in in my life, and found myself fixated on all of the old character and charm. Later I was trying to figure out what my deal was (you guys, I fan-girled so hard it’s embarrassing) and realized it’s probably because there were like 10 pregnant women around me. I was there and present for my friend, but had to focus some of my attention elsewhere. I was hesitant to include this section because I know it sounds super selfish, but I decided to leave it because I want other moms going through this to know that it’s normal and okay to be really happy for others while still feeling a little sad for yourself. I will say, however, that if that feeling is so overwhelming that you can’t cope or feel happiness for others then you might need to talk to someone. Then again, I’m not a doctor, but that’s my two cents.
  6. One thing I learned. I will say the biggest thing I learned from this experience is the number one thing not to say to someone going through miscarriage: “it is so common.” Don’t get me wrong. I’m first in the guilty line on this one, and even still have to catch myself from saying it to people now. Yes, we know it happens to 1 in 5 pregnancies, however, for the mom that it’s happening to it is anything but common. It is heartbreaking and scary and lonely. It doesn’t matter that it happens a lot. I know it comes from a very well-meaning place, but just say what she really needs to hear: “I’m so sorry this is happening to you, it really sucks.” Then just let her know you’re there if she needs or wants to talk.

A huge ‘thank you’ if you’ve made it this far in reading. Basically, we’re ok, we’ve coped, we’re still coping. I only had a short time with this baby Pea, but I will never forget him/her. As much as I wish we didn’t have to go through the pain, we can’t discount that there is another little soul in Heaven praising Jesus, and for that we are thankful. We love you, little one.

pulled pork shoulder

Pulled Pork Shoulder

I’m absolutely giddy with excitement about today’s post. Giddy giddy giddy. Let the floodgates open because after today I will be coming to you regularly with recipes for how to use your pulled pork shoulder (or butt). Friends, once you break into the “I smoke/roast/whatever my own pork shoulder” club, the possibilities are endless. Pulled pork Cubans, pulled pork quesadillas, pulled pork burrito bowls, pulled pork sweet potato skins, pulled pork barbecue salad, pulled pork loaded potatoes, pulled pork nachos, pulled pork pizza and of course, duh, pulled pork sandwiches with barbecue sauce. Byeeee guyzz, Miss Foodie Two Shoes is gone, and pork freak has taken over.

pulled pork shoulder

I probably shouldn’t say this – being from NC and all – but I’m really not much of a “barbecue” kinda girl. I’m a “pulled pork” girl *winks*. Please don’t kick me out! Thankfully this is my blog, and I get to make the rules around here, so…this recipe isn’t for your standard barbecue with sauce. Sure, you can add sauce in any way, but this is the building block for so many other things you can do – plenty of which involve sauce – but this is just the base. The star here is the dry rub. It’s got just enough cayenne pepper to be able to call it spicy without it being so overwhelming that kids can’t eat it. You can cut the recipe in half for just one shoulder, but I usually just make the amount given and have one less step the next time we’re ready to make one (<–lazy girl life hack right there, friends).

pulled pork shoulder

Whether you cook this outside/inside or completely inside, pork shoulders (or butts) are great for feeding a crowd or for stocking your freezer. We probably make about 3-4 per year that we eat ourselves. I simply freeze it in heaping two-cup portions, and we’ll pull a bag out as the protein for a variety of dinners (see exhibit A above). I usually get 6-8 bags for the freezer, and each bag gives us dinner and lunch for Andy the next day. Yes, you need time for this one, but when you get that many meals out of it, I think it’s worth it. Most recently we made a pork shoulder for a family birthday party for Anna Ruth. We did sliders with traditional sauce and slaw, and had a few other sides. We fed 15 people and had plenty of left overs.

pulled pork shoulder

There are two main ways (in my book) that you can go about doing this:

  1. Start the pork on a charcoal grill with woodchips of your choice then finish in the oven.
  2. Sear the pork on the stove then cook completely in the oven.

pulled pork shoulder

Both options come out really good, and TBH if I’m the one cooking I’m 100% oven girl because I’m just not comfortable grilling. Andy, however, loves any opportunity to use charcoal and woodchips because the bulk of our grilling happens on our gas grill. The main difference is that cooking over woodchips gives you a smoky flavor, which is key for some people when they imagine pulled pork. Either way, you can’t go wrong, so just do what feels right. However you cook it, the shredding process is the same. I found these meat claws on Amazon last year, and bought them for Andy and my father-in-law as stocking stuffers for Christmas. At first I just thought they were hilarious, so obviously worth the $8.80, but they actually work really well! Forks get the job done, too, but then you miss out on shredding like a bear would. Need a guy to shred a ton of meat? Give him these claws and let him go to town.

pulled pork shoulderpulled pork shoulder

I need to comment on the “optional” apple juice mixture you’ll see below in the ingredient list and cooking instructions. My fil introduced us to the method of injecting the juice into the pork last summer, and we can’t go back. It’s more or less a brine from the inside out. If you don’t have an injector, don’t worry – this will still turn out really good. The juice just adds even more juiciness to the finished product.

pulled pork shoulder

One note on the cook time: it will vary depending on how big your cut is. The key here is to make sure the pork gets to 190-195 degrees. Yes, people generally say pork needs to get to 160, and while this is true, it will not shred the way you want it to until it has reached that 190-195 mark. Trust me on this. I did the research several years ago when we had a shoulder that was several pounds over what was called for in the recipe I was using.

pulled pork shoulder

I’m including cooking instructions for both starting on the grill (smoking) and starting on the stovetop, but the pictures are from the grilling method. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

5-7 lbs bone-in pork shoulder (or 4-6 lbs boneless)
Injection Mix (optional):

  • ¼ cup apple juice
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp EACH: soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce

Dry Rub*:

  • 2 tbsp EACH: cumin, brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, salt, pepper
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • 1 ½ tsp garlic powder

Directions:

  1. The night before you plan to make this, combine the dry rub ingredients, and rub all over the pork. Place in a baking dish, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours.
  2. Remove pork from the refrigerator and allow to rest at room temp for one hour.
  3. (Optional) using an injector, inject the apple juice all throughout the pork. You won’t use the entire amount. You’ll know you’ve done enough when the juice starts to run back out.
  4. Prepare the grill: soak the wood chips in water for 20-30 minutes. Heat charcoal.
  5. Grill over indirect heat (coals on one side, meat on the other) for 3 hours, turning every hour.
  6. Wrap the shoulder in foil and finish cooking in the oven at 250 degrees for 1.5-2 hours, or until it reaches 195 degrees.
  7. Once out of the oven, allow to rest for about an hour then use meat claws to shred the pork. Serve with barbeque sauce or use in any other way you choose! Enjoy!

**Indoor cooking instructions**

  1. Follow steps 1-2 and 4 above.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  3. In a large dutch oven* or frying pan heat two tbsp vegetable or canola oil and sear the pork on all sides over high heat. Turn the heat down if it starts to smoke a lot.
  4. Wrap the shoulder in foil and place in an oven safe dish.
  5. Bake for four hours, or until it reaches 195 degrees.
  6. Same as above – let rest then use meat claws to shred the pork and enjoy!

*I generally use about half of the dry rub, and keep the rest in a mason jar until we’re ready to make another shoulder.

salmon with mango lime salsa

Salmon with Mango Lime Salsa

Salmon with Mango Lime Salsa. Your life is about to get 10 times better. This is one of the easiest recipes I think I’ve ever made, yet also one of the tastiest. What we have here is five ingredients that come together in 15 minutes to create the most colorful, flavorful dinner you’ll want to eat every night. Not kidding even a little bit.

salmon with mango lime salsa

Let’s break this down. First you have the salmon – fresh, wild-caught salmon. Yes, it’s pricier than farm raised, but fresh is the sustainable choice and it also tastes way better. I just season it with salt, pepper and a little dried parsley and it’s ready for the oven. (TBH the parsley is totally optional, but it just looks pretty.) While the salmon is cooking, you’ll prep the salsa: peel and dice the mango, combine with chopped cilantro and lime juice and then wait for the salmon to finish. Once the salmon is done, place it on a platter on a bed of peppery arugula and top with sriracha and the mango lime salsa. Dinner is literally done in 15 minutes (well, 20 counting time for your oven to preheat). And doesn’t it just make such a pretty dish?! The picture below is the entire cut of salmon and salsa – I just love how it looks, and have fun serving from a platter on a random weeknight. It feels fancy, but really no extra work.

salmon with mango lime salsa

If you don’t have much experience with cutting/dicing mango, here’s a handy little video that can help you out. I use a combo of his second and third techniques: I use my mango splitter and then dice it right in the skin.

But wait – there’s more! You guys, I’m giving you a bonus recipe within a recipe this week. I mentioned putting the salmon on arugula. This part’s optional because the salmon with the salsa is great on its own and works really well with other veggies. However, the salmon with salsa on a bed of arugula with the dressing I’m about to give you is all you need in life. Simply mince (like really, really finely mince) half of a shallot, add 2-3 tablespoons each of olive oil and lime juice, season with salt and pepper to taste, then whisk (or shake in my case) until well blended. <– This dressing, friends, is so fresh and poppy that I want to eat salads all day every day just so I can have more. The BEST salad I’ve had lately was this dressing, arugula and oven roasted veggies – cauliflower and sweet potatoes to be exact. The hot veggies slightly wilt the arugula, which somehow brings out more of its peppery kick.

salmon with mango lime salsa

Go now and add this salmon with mango lime salsa to your meal plan for the week. At the same time, just go ahead and pencil it in for dinner every week forever and ever. The recipe below is the amount Andy, Anna Ruth and I eat (smaller portion of salmon and no sriracha for AR), so consider the number of servings to be 2-3.

Ingredients:

Wild-Caught Salmon (about 1/3 lb per person)
1 mango
1 small handful cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Sriracha

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the salmon skin side down. Season with salt, pepper and dried parsley flakes. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until it flakes easily with a fork.
  2. While the salmon bakes, peel and dice the mango. Rinse and chop the cilantro, and combine in a small bowl with the mango and lime juice.
  3. When the salmon is done, top with sriracha to taste and serve with the mango lime salsa. Enjoy!
tea for two birthday party

Tea for Two Birthday Party + Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Scones

This past weekend we celebrated Anna Ruth’s second birthday with a Tea for Two party. The original plan did not involve a theme, but then I saw the idea on Pinterest and knew I wanted to run with it. Being a small child’s birthday there wasn’t much emphasis on actual tea, but we made up for it with proper tea party food…mainly tea sandwiches and chocolate chip oatmeal scones, but more on the food later.

tea for two birthday partytea for two birthday party

Décor was easy. We started with a few banners and garlands, and decorated the food table with white doilies and flowers in gold tea pots and cups. I found the invitations and other personalized printables on Etsy, and printed them out myself on cardstock. I’m generally not into everything being so matchy matchy, but when spread out throughout the party, it really just made it feel cohesive and not over the top. We had little children’s tables scattered in the living room for eating and coloring, and covered those with white cloth. My favorite part of the décor, however, was a window frame with painted wood letters spelling “Tea for Two.” My mother-in-law made it, and it was exactly what I had in mind. If you ever need anything crafty, call her. She loves doing it and is really good at it.

tea for two birthday partytea for two birthday party

The only “activity” we had was coloring. My friend Katie from The Blissful Willow drew these pages for me, and they were perfect! We went with a tea pot, tea cup and bow tie. Check out her website – I love the custom family illustrations, but really everything she draws is beautiful.

tea for two birthday party

Now onto the best part – the food! Our menu was as follows:

Sandwiches

Ham and Swiss on Puff Pastry
Chicken Salad on Croissant
Cucumber with Lemon Dill Spread

Savory

Crackers and Cheese (sharp cheddar, Colby jack, pepper jack)
Mini Quiche

Sweet

Berry Cups (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Scones
Cupcakes (vanilla, chocolate)
Birthday Cake (chocolate)

Drinks

Citrus Infused Water
Sweet Iced Tea
Sweet Tea Sangria

tea for two birthday partytea for two birthday partytea for two birthday party

It seems like a lot of food, but it was just a bunch of small bite type things, and it was really easy to pull together. My favorite part, hands down, were the scones. I had never made scones before because I’m really not much of a baker. I always thought they would be really involved, but these were super easy. My friend Catherine came over two nights before the party, and we made three batches in just over an hour. The recipe below is based on an oatmeal raisin scone recipe by Nick Malgieri, but I tweaked it by adding cinnamon, vanilla and heavy cream, and swapping raisins for mini chocolate chips. (I can’t find a link to his recipe because it was from his cookbook, “How to Bake”.) Don’t get used to this. I don’t plan to do much in the way of creating recipes for baked goods. It’s too daunting to think that an extra tablespoon of an ingredient can totally throw the whole thing off. I prefer eyeballing too much for that 😉

I’ve said this about other parts of the party, but another favorite thing was the favors. I originally planned on not having favors, but then saw this cute idea on Pinterest, and I love how they turned out!

tea for two birthday party

I can’t believe my baby is already a two-year-old. The time has truly gone by in the blink of an eye…and now I need to go cry. I’ll leave you with the recipe for my Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Scones, but let me know if you have questions about anything else (food or décor).

tea for two birthday party

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup all purpose flour
1 ½ cup rolled oats
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk (I use 1%)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and set rack to middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine dry ingredients (flour through salt) in the bowl of a food processor and pulse at 1-second intervals until combined (make sure brown sugar isn’t in big clumps).
  3. Cut the stick of butter in half lengthwise, then into smaller chunks (about 16 total). Add to the food processor and pulse 12 times, until the mixture resembles a fine meal.
  4. Combine milk, heavy cream and vanilla in a small bowl. Add mixture to the food processor and pulse 3-4 times to form a soft dough.
  5. Transfer the dough into a bowl and gently stir in the mini chocolate chips, making sure not to overwork the dough.
  6. Generously flour your work surface, turn the dough out onto it and fold over itself 3-4 times until it is less sticky.
  7. Divide the dough into two equal parts and press each into a disk. Using a pizza cutter, cut each disk into six wedges.
  8. Arrange the scones on the prepared pan. Brush tops with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
  9. Bake for 15-18 minutes until just starting to brown on top.
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