Just popping in to give a quick recap of our holiday weekend! If you’re a longtime reader you know that we spend every Easter with Jason’s family up in New Jersey. That means this was my 8th year going to the annual party!
We haven’t seen Jason’s parents since Grandma’s funeral at the beginning of the year, so it was really nice to spend time with them on a happier occasion. We probably won’t see them again until my brother-in-law’s wedding at the end of August, sadly! Too many miles between us. But every year they host the Easter get together where the ENTIRE family comes over, which meant we got to see everybody this trip. Mom and Dad cooked the spread, and Jason and I helped with some of the smaller tasks. Like making the antipasto plates!
The annual feast includes ham, eggplant parmesan, pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe, meatballs, chicken in wine sauce, italian bread and more!
It was great to spend some time away! And we were lucky to have sunshine the entire time we were there.
We just got back to Atlanta last night so still settling in over here. I haven’t even looked at my suitcase yet.
I was looking forward to this past weekend because the weather was finally feeling like spring and one of the biggest and oldest festivals in Atlanta was happening!
As you can see from that picture, there were so many beautiful dogwoods blooming! Dogwood flowers are like the iconic symbol of springtime in Atlanta. DC gets cherry blossoms, Washington gets apple blossoms, Texas gets blue bonnets, and we get DOGWOODS! The festival lasted three days but Jason, Ashley and I headed out for the fun festivities on Saturday.
Did you know that Atlanta has the most tree cover of any major city in the US? That is on my list of top five reasons why I love it here. Even in the most urban of areas, you never feel like you’re in a concrete jungle.
This festival is located in Piedmont Park every year, which is pretty much our version of Central Park. I hadn’t been to this festival in years and couldn’t believe how much there was to do!
As you can see, there was a ton of rides and fun things for kids to do. Ashley picked the GIANT slide to ride on! (Can you see her up there on the right?)
In the main meadow next to the rides the Disc Dog Southern Nationals tournament was being hosted!
I’ve never seen a frisbee dog competition before and it was SO cool! So many of the dogs were incredibly talented, and you could tell how strong the bond was between them and their trainers. Makes me want to try and get Cynewulf into frisbee!
In a separate area of the park there was a Kid’s Village that had face painting and a bunch of arts and crafts kids could do. We told Ashley she could pick out one craft and she decided on this cool sand art station.
She did such a great job, it looked beautiful at the end!
There was also a LOT of food to choose from! I think we made a mistake by going to the “food court” section of the festival instead of the “food truck” section of the festival. We all got food and drinks but most of it was greasy and only mediocre tasting. Jason ordered a sweet tea that tasted nothing like tea and everything like pool water. Yeah. BUT we did find a delicious funnel cake that the three of us shared. That was definitely the food highlight!
After a long day of walking and having fun in the sun (too much sun), we headed back to the subway station and went home. We got hungry again in the meantime so we broke into some new snacks. I finally gave in and ordered a Nature Box! I have to admit, the snacks are darn good and I love that the ingredients are so simple.
My parents had to come to our place to pick up Ashley anyways, so I thought it would be fun to have them over for dinner. Funemployment is coming to an end, and so I wanted to invite them while I still have the free time to shop and cook leisurely. I made Ashley’s favorite dinner of mine: sushi bowls! Seared ahi tuna for my family and tofu for me.
The next morning Jason and I slept in and then headed to an AWESOME 12:30 church service. After church we went by Trader Joe’s and Kroger to do our weekly shopping. I was starving when we got home so I quickly got to making myself a big lunch/dinner.
That’s a HUGH JASS salad of chopped raw cauliflower, cucumbers, jicama, celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, green onions and herbs. On top is a raw vegetable dressing (that’s why there’s so much of it!) made with zucchini, avocado, cumin, and more herbs. It was my first time trying a recipe from Fully Raw Kristina and I loved it! It makes a HUGE quantity so I had plenty for leftovers.
Yesterday I had a BIG INTERVIEW (YAY!) and so it was a pretty special day. I had leftovers of the chopped salad for lunch (I ate after I got home from the interview…didn’t want to go in with onion breath!), and for dinner I made one of my favorite plant-based meals. A big green salad, plantains, brown rice and cuban black beans! This salad is loaded with romaine, heirloom tomatoes, baby bell peppers, cucumber, and basil.
In case you didn’t already know, I’m a plantain fiend. Ever since I was a kid I’ve always had a separate compartment in my stomach for plantains. There’s no such thing as too many.
I have to wait about a week to hear back about the interview! But I am already praising God for the phone call with GOOD NEWS! And thankfully I’ll be distracted because we are going to New Jersey in a couple days to spend the Easter holiday with Jason’s family. Prayers for my new job are greatly appreciated! See you soon with another “best of Trader Joe’s” post (for the vegans in the house–woot woot!).
You would think that after being married to me for four years Jason would be completely accustomed to eating whole grains by now. Not so, my friends! I’ve won some small battles here and there (we only eat brown or black rice at home) but Jason still loves and prefers his white flour products. Instead of shoving things down his throat, I’m constantly on the quest to find new ways of using whole grains that taste even better. I picked up a package of spelt flour for the first time and was thrilled at the results when I made dinner rolls with them! I had to share it with you!
I immediately noticed that the rolls were more tender than they are when I made them with whole wheat, and Jason concurred that they were definitely “softer” than my whole wheat breads usually are. And for what you gain in texture and taste, you aren’t missing out on any nutrition by using spelt flour. In fact, spelt is an ancient grain that’s packed with nutrients and higher in protein and B complex vitamins than wheat! #winning
Pour all ingredients (except for the oats and egg) into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix on medium-low speed for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture forms a smooth and elastic dough. The dough should be sticky, that’s how you want it!
Form the dough into a ball (use a spatula to help you if the dough is really sticky) and coat it in oil. Cover and let rest in a draft-free place until it doubles in bulk, about 90 minutes.
Gently knead the air out of the dough and cut it into 16 even pieces.
Roll each piece into a ball and place onto a greased cookie sheet or round pie pan, spacing the rolls about 1 inch apart.
Cover and let rest again at room temperature until the rolls have almost doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350.
If you want to garnish your rolls, whisk together the egg with a splash of cold water and brush the egg wash over the rolls with a pastry brush. Sprinkle oats over top of the rolls.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, covering loosely with aluminum foil if the tops of the rolls start to brown too quickly.
Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving.
It’s been years since I tasted it for the first time, and I’m still head over heels with greek yogurt. I’m waiting for the honeymoon phase to end. Every time I think to myself “I’ll add yogurt to this, but it probably won’t work the same…”–BAM! It proves me wrong. I’m okay with being proved wrong when it leads to delicious results.
What makes this recipe magical is that the yogurt replaces the high calorie white sauce that would typically fill the mac and cheese. I went ahead and included nutrition facts for this recipe just so that you can see what a difference using the greek yogurt makes. For frame of reference I always use my family’s favorite traditional recipe (Patti LaBelle’s Over the Rainbow Mac and Cheese), which has 631 calories, 38 grams of total fat, 23 grams of saturated fat, and 153 mg of cholesterol per serving. Let’s cut those numbers in half with our giant sword of awesomeness, shall we?
I want to share a quote that I read online recently that really struck me. The author wrote that “Southerners savor their comfort food– they seem like they refuse to fret about the impact it’ll have on their physique or their health. This philosophy, of course, may have its downsides. But it’s also a comforting reminder to the quinoa-munching, juice-cleansing, yuppie rest of the nation that it’s okay to follow our taste buds.” The article is definitely supposed to be comedic, but I took it a little more seriously when I read it. It’s SAD that the rest of the country assumes we don’t care about our health, and it’s even more sad that people equate comfort food with food that will make you obese and kill you. I could write a novel in response to that quote (if you think the south has no yuppies then you haven’t been to Atlanta), but instead I will just say that you can have your cake mac and cheese and eat it too. I may refuse to “fret” but I also refuse to stop enjoying my favorite foods just because I value my health! A dish doesn’t have to contain a week’s worth of saturated fat in order to be delicious. *steps off soapbox*
Most importantly, this tastes incredible. I don’t know how the yogurt transforms itself so well into a sauce, but it just works. Jason loved it and said that it tasted so rich, which is ironic considering it’s so much lighter than our traditional version. In terms of taste, this is my FAVORITE of all the mac and cheese recipes I’ve made.
I’ve been staring at these pictures for so long that now I’m dying to have it again for lunch! I’m headed straight for the fridge after I press that ‘publish’ button.
We woke up this morning to some serious spring rain. Good thing we enjoyed the sun this weekend while we could. We even got to have a meal al fresco! Saturday Jason and I went to a new-to-us location of Noche, which is well known for their delicious margaritas.
We had a lot of other errands to do over the weekend, so I pushed my grocery trip to today. It’s so much easier going on Mondays because the stores are empty! Even more empty today because of the crazy rain. Which made it a great trip! I managed to come in at just $65 for the whole week, which is better than I’ve done in a really long time. I’ve learned that not everything is cheapest at my farmers market, but it is still by far the best place for produce. It’s also the only place I can fine certified humane eggs for a good price.
I sure do miss that employee discount at Trader Joe’s, but I still love to go for certain deals and for unique items. And for flowers. The spring bouquets are out now!
Our rainy day dinner tonight was awesome. I’m sharing both the spelt rolls and the mac and cheese in future posts. Here’s a closer sneak peek of the greek yogurt mac and cheese, which came out even better than I expected!
The upside of all this rain is that it’s washing away all the piled up pollen. So I may be wet, but at least I’m not sneezing!
Hope you’re having a beautiful start to your week!
The cure to trying to eat your vegetables when you’re really not a vegetable person is making everything into either fries or chips. Am I right? It’s all the rage right now. And for good reason.
Somehow a nutritious vegetable becomes less “nutritious” and more “mmmm, I’ll have another” when it’s baked to crispy perfection. It just works. Embrace it.
These parsnip fries are coated with savory seasonings and then baked at a high temp until the seasonings cook into a crisp crust and the parsnips turn deep brown. I paired these with a creamy, smoky, tahini sauce that is probably my new favorite condiment everrrr.
Pour oil, nutritional yeast, salt, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and pepper into a large ziploc bag.
Add parsnips to the ziploc bag and toss thoroughly until all of the seasoning mixture is coating the parsnips.
Empty parsnips onto a cookie sheet and spread out into a single layer.
Bake in preheated oven until brown, turning every 5 minutes. (Should take about 20 minutes total).
Remove fries to serving platter and top with parsley if desired.
While the fries are baking, stir all ingredients together in a small bowl.
Taste and add more smoked salt and lemon juice if desired.
Serve alongside fries and enjoy!
These fries are a great healthy side dish that happen to be vegan (that’s why they are “cheezy” and not “cheesy”)! Even the sauce is totally guilt-free (aka, not just dressed up mayo), so you can dip to your heart’s content. I certainly did. Edited to add: I haven’t tried this yet but you can make the sauce vegan too by using a soy yogurt or even vegan mayo if you like!
It’s a PERFECT 75 degrees outside! I’m gonna go enjoy the sunshine! Happy weekend everyone!
Not me! Ha! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Happy April Fools Day! But I’ll tell you what isn’t a joke…this delicious and super healthy smoothie that I had for breakfast this morning. I’ve been loving sweet persimmons lately (also known as Japanese persimmons or sharon fruit) and they pair so nicely with fresh, juicy mango.
Blend together the mangoes, persimmons, and banana until completely smooth.
Pour in the coconut water and ice (if using), blend for 10 seconds to incorporate.
I recently starting adding coconut water to smoothies! Not only does it add sweetness, but you’re getting those extra electrolytes to make the smoothie ultra hydrating. The persimmons and mangoes together are a powerhouse of vitamins and antioxidants, which makes this smoothie a great way to start the day off healthy. And the generous serving will give you plenty of fiber to stay full!
It’s a BEAUTIFUL sunny day out today! I’m going to make the most of it and get some playtime in with Cynewulf!
This is another one to mark off the culinary bucket list for me!
I admit that I let the internet get the best of me and was really nervous to make macarons after reading about how it takes a million tries to get it right and how only the best of Parisian pastry chefs can make a true macaron. Let me tell you a secret. There are very few things in this world that are too hard for us home cooks to make. We underestimate ourselves far too often! Most of the time, things that are hyped up as being too difficult or “complicated” really just require following recipe instructions. You don’t need no stinkin’ chef’s hat to follow a recipe. Sing it with me now, “I am woman–hear me roar!”
Whip the egg whites until they get foamy (either in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or in a large bowl with a hand whisk).
Add in the white sugar and continue to whip until the egg whites form stiff peaks.
Sift together the almond flour and powdered sugar. Discard any larger pieces of almond left in the sifter.
Pour the almond flour mixture into the beaten egg whites and fold just until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is thick and tacky.
Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper (silicone is best).
Pour the batter into a large ziploc bag and cut a small hole in one of the bottom corners.
Use the bag of batter to pipe out little circles of batter, 24 on each pan.
Once the batter is piped on, lift one cookie sheet a few inches from the counter and release it to let the pan fall back onto the counter. Repeat this a few times with each pan to release any air bubbles.
Let the cookies sit on the counter for about an hour to dry before baking.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees and bake the cookies (one pan at a time) for 20 minutes.
Remove cookies from oven and let them cool on the pan before using a spatula to transfer them to a cooling rack.
Pour the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and melt in the microwave in 10 second increments, stirring well after each increment. When the chocolate is melted, set it aside to cool to room temp.
Vigorously stir the whipped cream cheese into the chocolate. (Don’t worry if it looks like it’s seizing at this point, it will smooth out)
Pour in the milk and continue to stir vigorously until the mixture is silky smooth.
Add in the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add in additional powdered sugar by the tablespoon if your icing is too soft to pipe.
Pour the icing into a small plastic bag and cut a hole in one of the bottom corners.
Pipe a couple teaspoons of the chocolate filling onto half of the cooled cookies.
Top each iced cookie with a blank cookie and press gently together until the filling squeezes to the edge of the cookie.
You can be creative and fill these cookies with whatever you please, but here I like the flavor and visual contrast of a rich chocolate cream filling. They are quite sweet, so one cookie is definitely a satisfying serving on its own. That being said…they are hard to resist. Every last one of these has been devoured since I took these photos!
What should be next on my bucket list (remember, I’ve got homemade pasta and challah bread checked off)? I’m thinking maybe some homemade nut milks…or maybe doughnuts….or croissants….or fresh mozzarella cheese….
We got lucky with another warm and sunny weekend! On Saturday my parents invited us over for dinner, and we decided to take Cynewulf with us since it would probably be a long visit. We’ve had him for 10 months now and he’s generally well behaved at home, but he’s a MANIAC when we go anywhere else. He runs around my parents’ house like it’s an amusement park, looking for any random object/furniture/fixture to eat or destroy. I think perhaps he just gets overstimulated? Anyway, this time we decided we would WEAR HIM OUT before going so that we could get some better behavior later on.
First we drove to a public dog park a few minutes from my house for some playtime. We probably won’t go back to this park (even though we used to go frequently) because there are a lot of poorly trained and unpredictable large dogs there that just don’t mix well with our little guy. The big dogs came and stole his toy and then got all possessive over it…no fun for us or for Cynewulf. So we left and went back home to the dog park in our complex.
Look at that adorably doofy little face! He LOVES being outside, it’s where he’s most comfortable for sure. I look forward to when we can afford a house that has a nice, big backyard for him to play in.
Fetch is his life’s greatest joy, but he’s also really into tug-of-war so a couple days ago I got him this toy that can be used for both. He’s obsessed with it.
Once we’d accomplished our mission of exhausting him, we got cleaned up and headed to my parents. Mom had such a delicious dinner planned!
Sweet potato fries, rice and peas, curried chicken (and Quorn “chik’n” for me and David), and cabbage.
Cynewulf slept through dinner (Hallelujah!) so we ate our meal in peace. Everything was delicious as always! My mom is the best cook.
After dinner we hung out together to let our food digest before dessert!
Then it was time to make room for my mom’s world famous peach cobbler! My mom froze a whole case of Georgia peaches when they were in season last year, so she still has delicious peak season peaches to use for things like this. Way better than canned! I had two helpings.
Sunday involved a lot of laundry and lounging around the house. I was in the kitchen once, to make Jason a spicy thai soup that I found online and thought he would like. I’m not into spicy foods at all but he’s obsessed, so this was right up his alley. Just look at those flaming chili oil drops!
This morning after taking Jason to work (we share a car) I made myself a big smoothie for breakfast. Inside this one is 2 bananas, 1 cup of frozen blueberries, some whole roasted peanuts, and a splash of almond milk. Delicious!
Then it was bread time! Our loaf for this week is CHALLAH!
Not bad for my first try making it! I used the King Arthur recipe since their formulas never let me down. The only thing I did differently from the recipe is use 1 cup of whole wheat flour because I ran out of all-purpose. And based on the reviews there’s a couple other things I would change (like the oven temp, which the recipe has too high). Will definitely be making this again!
Now the trick is not eating the whole loaf in a day.
If you’re anything like me, you enjoy a glass of wine but don’t want to spend much on it. I usually pick whichever one is around 7 bucks and has a pretty label. Anyone else out there have a similar strategy? It’s definitely possible to find great wine on the cheap, but sometimes a bargain buy can be a little less than stellar. Welllll turning your wine into sangria can transform even the cheapest bottle into something irresistible! And the steps are so easy that it’s hardly a recipe!
1 bottle white wine (I suggest sauvignon blanc but chardonnay or pinot grigio would work too)
1 fresh orange, thinly sliced
1 fresh white grapefruit, thinly sliced
1 fresh lemon, sliced
¼ c. sugar
8 oz. sparkling water
Cut your slices of citrus into either halves or quarters (you can leave some whole for visual variety if you want) and place them into the bottom of a clear pitcher.
Add the sugar and wine to the pitcher and stir for a couple minutes until the sugar is mostly dissolved.
Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
When you’re ready to serve, remove it from the refrigerator and stir it together to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved.
In each glass, add a few cubes of ice, then an ounce or so of sparkling water, then the sangria. Enjoy the lusciousness!
I drank the sangria after letting it sit for a couple hours and it was PERFECT! Just the right amount of fruity flavor and sweetness. I tried it after chilling overnight too, and the flavors were overwhelming (I think because of the citrus rinds), so 1-4 hours seems like the sweet spot for this drink. The fruit inside looks so beautiful–this would be perfect for a party!
Make a pitcher! Celebrating spring can be our excuse (as if we need an excuse).