Meyer Lemon Bliss Cake + 5 year blogiversary

Meyer Lemon Bliss Cake

Five years ago, I started writing a food/recipe blog. It was really meant to be an online space for me to keep my favorite recipes, and for me to challenge myself more in the kitchen, since my kitchen skills = a mean scrambled egg or boxed macaroni and cheese. I never really thought anyone would read it, besides me.

Five years later, I feel like I’m a part of a wonderful blogging community. I’m so thankful for every comment, email and pin from y’all. I’ve made some amazing friends through blogging, and I’ve learned to become a lot more comfortable in my cooking and baking. So, from the bottom of my heart–thank you for everything.

I thought I would make an elaborate cake for this post, but sometimes simple is best. I made this cake on a whim when my husband’s coworkers offered him some meyer lemons from their tree. I figured I should bake his coworker (and the office) something as a “thank you” featuring the lemons, and I came across this recipe on Food Librarian’s blog. In case you didn’t know, Mary’s blog is THE blog for bundt cakes (at least in my opinion). Her “I like Big Bundts” feature is truly awesome, and I always find myself going to her blog first to find a bundt cake recipe. :-)

Now personally, I do not like lemon desserts. I love lemonade, love lemons in savory dishes, but for some reason, lemon desserts just aren’t appetizing to me. However, my husband’s fruit preference in desserts is lemon (along with pineapple…it’s probably a tie between the two actually). After putting the glaze on this cake, my husband was definitely eager to give this cake a taste for me. He told me this was probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever made, in his opinion. He loved how moist and flavorful it was…there’s no shortage of lemon flavor in this cake! He absolutely loved it, as did his coworkers.

Meyer Lemon Bliss Cake
Source: originally from King Arthur Flour, found on Food Librarian

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • finely grated rind of 2 meyer lemons

For the glaze:

  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare your bundt pan by spraying the inside with baking spray, making sure to get the spray in every nook and cranny (I use a pastry brush for this).
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, sugar and salt together for about 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl, and add the eggs in one at a time, thoroughly mixing the batter well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl once again, and add the baking powder.
  3. With the mixer on low, alternatively add the flour and milk to the mixer, starting and ending with an addition of flour. Using a spatula, stir in the lemon rind.
  4. Add the batter to the prepared bundt pan, and spread the batter around the pan, until even and smooth.
  5. Bake the cake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. While the cake is baking, make your glaze by mixing together the lemon juice and sugar. Set this aside.
  6. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, and then place a cooling rack over the cake pan and invert the cake into the cooling rack. Using a toothpick, gently poke the hot cake to prepare it for the glaze. Stir the glaze again to combine, and using a pastry brush, just brush the glaze all over the cake. Allow the glaze to sink in a bit, and brush it once again. Repeat this method until all of the glaze is used. Allow the cake to fully cool before slicing. Enjoy!

 

 

Top 10 Recipes of 2012

Man, what a year it has been! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season with their friends and family. :-)

Most years, I feel like time has flown by, but for some reason, it feels like last January was truly a year ago. So many great things have happened to us this year (as well as some really crappy events).  

Some highlights and not so highlights:

  • It was our first full year in our new house, which has been such a blessing. It’s just awesome to finally have friendly neighbors, who don’t throw their trash in our backyard or play loud music at 2am (side-eye to the neighbors at the old house).
  • My husband and I have both decided to live healthier. Between us, we’ve lost over 150 lbs. this year. (I’m sure my husband is rolling his eyes at me sharing this, but seriously..I’m gonna brag here!) That’s just amazing to me. I’m so proud of us.
  • Another weight loss highlight. I fit into a clothes size that I haven’t been able to wear since 10th grade. That was 12 years ago. OMG!
  • A not so highlight. Hurricane Isaac…don’t want to go into too much detail with that one, but yeah, hurricanes suck. Oh, and for the record, labradors don’t care if the winds are 50 mph outside. If there’s rain/water, it’s playtime! (ugh)
  • I think I’m making some good progress on my 101 Goals in 1001 Days list.

And of course, it’s been another fun year blogging. I really appreciate all of y’all taking the time to read my tiny corner of the Internet. Thank you for your sweet comments, emails and tweets. In January, it’s gonna be this blog’s 5th anniversary, and I’m just amazed by all of the friends I’ve made and people I’ve “met”  through this blog. You guys are the best!

Just to round up the year, I wanted to share with y’all your top 10 most read posts from 2012.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies w/ Salted Caramel Buttercream

10. Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Salted Caramel Buttercream – These whoopie pies were made for a work fundraiser, and they were a huge success. Great pumpkin/spicy flavor, and the salted caramel buttercream just makes them super indulgent. Pumpkin + caramel is a wonderful combination!

Red Velvet Bundt Cake

9. Red Velvet Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting – I love anything red velvet. This bundt cake is a fun change from a regular cake, and it was pretty easy to throw together and bake!

Baked Oatmeal

8. Baked Oatmeal – My breakfast has been forever changed by this. This oatmeal is not soggy at all (which I hate about cooked oats), and it’s very sweet with the addition of bananas.

Peanut Butter Cookies

7. Peanut Butter Cookies – Just simple, classic peanut butter cookies. :-) Very good!

Candy Corn Oreo Truffles

6. Candy Corn Oreo Truffles – Oreo truffles are insanely good, and it was fun to make these with seasonal flavors. Always a favorite when I bring these truffles to work!

Fresh Strawberry Pie

5. Fresh Strawberry Pie – I’m SO glad strawberry season is back. I need to make this pie again…it’s not rich at all, and since it involves no cooking (except for the crust), it tastes so fresh!

Snickers Cupcakes

4. Snickers Cupcakes – Oh, I totally need to make these again. If you love Snickers, you will LOVE these!

Homemade Strawberry Lemonade

3. Homemade Strawberry Lemonade – Meyer lemon season + strawberry season? Um…guess I need to make this too and ASAP!

Red Velvet Swirl Brownies

2. Red Velvet Swirl Brownies – These were just delicious, and so pretty too! Perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Spinach Strawberry Salad with Feta

1. Spinach, Strawberry, Pecan and Feta Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette – This is a huge favorite of y’alls. I think Pinterest made this a popular one, and it is VERY easy to throw together! This is a salad you want to make for your next party…it’s an awesome combination!

Thanks so much for reading this blog, and I hope everyone has a Happy New Year! Time to get used to writing/typing “2013”. :-)

Caramel Apple Pie

Caramel Apple Pie

I find that I don’t make pie nearly enough. For some reason, I find it to be much more time-consuming than cupcakes or cookies, but in all seriousness, pie is very simple. Your food processor basically does all of the work to make the crust, and heck, sometimes I’ve even made pie crust in the stand mixer…still works great. The secret to an easier pie crust for me is frozen butter. I like to cut the butter in small cubes, then throw them in the freezer to make them extra cold. This is one of the few desserts where you want your butter as cold as possible, because as you work with the dough, it warms up and is just miserable to work with when it’s no longer cold (at least in my very beginner pie-making experience).

I have been having a killer craving for some apple pie, and since I had a batch of caramel sauce handy (Why do I do that to myself?), I figured there HAD to be a recipe out there for caramel apple pie. I got to googling and found this one. Since I already had the caramel sauce, I just used that in this recipe instead of the caramel recipe that Williams-Sonoma had. This pie came out so good, y’all. The filling just melts in your mouth, and their recipe for pie crust has such a wonderful, buttery flavor, as well as a bit of a flaky texture. Just SO good. If you want to bring something a little different to your Thanksgiving dinner, this is a tasty twist on the American classic.

Now, if this caramel apple pie isn’t your thing, you can definitely find other ideas this week. Come join Love the Pie with TidyMom  sponsored by Whirlpool and enter to win a new Whirlpool Range! Be sure to check out TidyMom’s website for other great pie ideas and recipes! The party is going on all week!

Caramel Apple Pie
Source: adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients:

For the pie crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. sugar, divided
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 6 to 8 tbsp. ice water
  • 1 egg + 1 tbsp. water, lightly beaten in a small bowl

For the filling:

  • 4 lb. Granny Smith apples, peeled/cored & cut into 8 slices
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 batch salted butter caramel sauce

Directions:

  1. To make the pie crust, combine the flour, 2 tbsp. of the sugar and salt in a large food processor and pulse the mixture to combine. Add the cold cubes of butter and pulse the mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Add 6 tbsp. of the ice water and pulse the mixture twice. Check the dough for consistency by squeezing it with your fingers. If the dough holds together well, the dough is fine. You don’t want the dough to be crumbly (too little water), but not sticky either (too much water). If you need to add water, add it 1 tsp. at a time and pulse twice after each addition. Once the dough is at the consistency you need, place the dough on a work surface and divide the mixture in half.  Shape each half into a dish and wrap each with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days).
  2. To roll the dough, remove it from the refrigerator and let the dough stand for 5 minutes. Place 1 dough between 2 sheets of lightly floured wax paper & roll it out into a 12-inch round, to about 3/16″ thickness. Repeat for the other disk of dough. Take one of the doughs out from between the wax paper sheets and gently press it into a 9 inch deep-dish pie dish. Refrigerate both doughs for another 30 minutes.
  3. To make the apple filling, place the apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg & lemon juice in a large dutch oven. Cover and cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, until the apples are just tender (you can easily check by sticking a fork in an apple slice). Once the mixture is done, uncover the pot and allow the filling to cool to room temperature. Stir in the cornstarch.
  4. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Once the filling is cool, take out your pie crusts and allow those to sit for 5 minutes. In the meantime, stir the apple filling and 3/4 cup of the caramel sauce together (the rest of the caramel will be for serving).  Pour the apple filling into your pie dish, and then place the top crust over the pie. Cut off any remaining dough hanging over the edge of the pie dish, and then press the top and bottom crusts together. Brush the top crust with the egg wash, and sprinkle the top crust with the remaining 2 tsp. of sugar.
  5. Place the pie dish in a jelly roll/baking sheet. Bake the pie until the crust is golden brown, about 1 hour. Be sure to check the pie after 30 minutes, to make sure the crust isn’t too dark—whatever part of the crust on too dark, just simply cover it with foil. When the pie is done baking, allow the pie to cool on a wire rack for at least 2 1/2 hours before serving. Serve with leftover caramel sauce (warmed) for drizzling (it’s also equally great with ice cream). Enjoy!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

This past weekend, Hocus Pocus was on cable. Twice. So I watched it twice, of course. Thank goodness LSU’s game was a morning game or I would have been a little torn. Growing up in the 90s, Hocus Pocus just screams Halloween to me. I actually remember my parents not letting us watch the movie at first, because it was rated PG. Yes, I know how sheltered this makes me sound, but I understand. I probably would have had nightmares about my life being sucked out by a witch or something.

I love my parents, but as a kid, they were very strict about what my siblings and I could have. For example, when I got my first CD player, “Santa” included a copy of “Jagged Little Pill” with it, and the minute my mom heard “da*n” from the CD, I had to return it and ended up with Spice Girls. No offense to Spice Girls, but I really wanted Alanis Morissette’s CD. Also, when I had braces, most of the kids in class were rule breakers. They ate sticky candy and chewed gum, but I didn’t dare try that in front of my parents. One of the biggest candies I missed was caramel. Caramel is in so many things I love, like Snickers or a good ice cream sundae. So yeah, the braces phase of life REALLY stunk.

Now that I’m an adult, of course I don’t have anyone to tell me no PG movie or gum for you. I don’t necessarily junk up my life, but it’s cool to have that freedom, especially in the kitchen. A few weeks ago, I noticed these caramel bits in the grocery store and immediately thought of throwing them in cookies. Since it’s fall, of course I had to involve pumpkin, and I found this recipe. The original recipe involved butterscotch chips, but I added caramel bits and dried cranberries instead. Fantastic, right? Oh heck yes. :-) You can’t go wrong with these cookies…in fact, the pumpkin oatmeal base makes it too tempting to add all sorts of fun ingredients to them.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies
Source: adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup caramel bits (or you could use chocolate chips)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Prepare two cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set those aside.
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients in a small bowl. (flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and salt) Set the dry mixture to the side while you prepare your wet ingredients
  3. In the bowl of a mixer, mix the butter and sugars for a couple minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and mix until well-blended. Add in the pumpkin puree and mix until well-blended.
  4. Slowly add in the dry mixture, and mix until just combined. With a spatula or spoon, stir in the oats, dried cranberries and caramel bits (or chocolate chips).
  5. Using a tablespoon sized scoop, scoop the dough and drop each dollop onto your cookie sheets (giving about 2 inches in between). Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies appear to be set and are golden along the edges. When they are done, allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes, and then transfer the cookies to a regular cooling rack until they are completely cool!

Blackberry Basil Popsicles

 

Blackberry Basil Popsicles

A few weeks ago, our basil was absolutely booming. I ended up making a huge batch of pesto, but I also wanted to try something sweet with the basil. I know that strawberry basil is a popular combination, so I figured why not try something with blackberries?

When I was a kid, I remember going to my grandma’s house, and picking a bowl full of these near the ditch by her house. They grew like crazy out there, and as kids, it was the coolest thing to pick your own food and bring it back for everyone to enjoy for dessert. Every time I eat blackberries, I’m always reminded of grandma’s house. :-)

These popsicles are simple to throw together, and they are insanely good. You only need your blender or a food processor, and you’re good to go. I made these in those tiny bathroom cups (I think they’re 3 oz) and stuck a paper straw in there, since I couldn’t find popsicle sticks at the store. I think it makes them look more fun anyway. :-)

Blackberry Basil Popsicles
Source: an original

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups fresh blackberries, rinsed
  • one heaping handful of fresh basil, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • juice of one lemon

Directions:

  1. Add the berries, basil, honey and lemon to your food processor or blender and puree the ingredients until well combined. (Optional: strain out the seeds, if you’d like.)
  2. Add the mixture to popsicle molds or 3 oz. cups. If you’re using cups, allow the popsicles to freeze for about 30 minutes before putting the popsicle sticks in, so they stay put.
  3. Freeze for about 8 hours or overnight. Enjoy!

Bing Cherry Sorbet

Bing Cherry Sorbet

Back in high school, I worked at a Winn-Dixie as a cashier. I learned a lot of important life lessons while I was a cashier. When hosting a crawfish boil, one must buy at least 2 cases of beer with the vegetables you are about to boil. When one has a baby, a bottle of wine is a necessity when you have a cart full of baby food. Then, there were people who brought new foods to my attention, especially produce. I learned about prices of produce too…bananas were dirt cheap and cherries were ridiculously expensive. I often wondered what was SO special about fresh cherries when you could buy a jar of maraschinos for $2 or something.

Now, don’t judge me. When I was younger, cherries to me were simply the top of a sundae. :-) Sure, I enjoyed plenty of fresh fruits, but cherries weren’t one of those when I was a kid. And I completely understand why…being 1 of 4 kids, I’m sure buying cherries for a family of 6 would be ridiculously expensive.

I didn’t get to try fresh cherries until a few years ago. I happened upon them in the grocery store, and when I saw that they were $2.99/lb., I figured it was definitely time to try these. I bit into one and immediately hurt my tooth. Wait a second…these things have PITS?? (Remember…my experience with cherries were jarred maraschinos. :-P) No worries though…there was no dentist needed after that mistake. I’m glad I tried them, though, because I was completely in love with these little treats. Whenever they’re in season now, I easily go through a bag of these in a couple of days. With the weather being so crazy hot lately though, I wanted to make a frozen dessert with these. I thought about ice cream, but if I made something like Cherry Garcia, my diet would be fairly screwed. There’s no portion control when it comes to Cherry Garcia ice cream, y’all. I just can’t do it, so I don’t even buy it. So, I searched for a sorbet and found this recipe. What I love about sorbets is that they’re very quick. When you want a frozen dessert in a pinch, go for a sorbet! It tastes absolutely refreshing and light, which is really perfect when you have 100 degree heat outside. :-)

Bing Cherry Sorbet
Source: mildly adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 cups pitted fresh Bing cherries (about 1 1/3 pounds)
  • 3 tablespoons brandy
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Directions:

  1. Mix 1 cup of sugar and 2/3 cup of water in a 2-cup measuring glass. Microwave the mixture for 2 minutes, and allow the syrup to completely cool before continuing with the recipe.
  2. Then, add the sugar syrup, cherries, brandy and lime juice to a blender and puree for about 1 minute, until the mixture is smooth. Churn the sorbet in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the sorbet to a freezer-safe container, cover and freeze for 4 hours (or overnight), until firm. Enjoy!

 

Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Strawberry Coulis

Cream Cheese Pound Cake w/ Strawberry Coulis

Last week, my whole body got confused. For the first time since last fall, I felt the urge to bake something with pumpkin. The reason? I went out of town to San Diego for a work conference. The minute I stepped off the plane, I had to ask someone if this was real. I mean, c’mon. 70 degrees at 1pm? IN JULY??! No way. Down here, we get maybe 2 days like that, and they’re in the middle of October. I’m completely jealous of y’all who call San Diego home. When I came home, I was instantly reminded with the 105 degree heat index that it is definitely still the summer.

I guess I should embrace it, since it’s here for another month or so. When it comes to baking in the summer, I try to make things that aren’t super rich. I like to stick to using fruit and simple flavors, like this pound cake. While pound cake contains an unreal amount of butter, for some reason, it just works really well with fruits. This pound cake is perfectly moist on the inside, but on the outside, the cake bakes up to a nice, sort of crunchy crust (hard to describe, but I swear…it’s great). And the strawberry coulis (pretty much a fancy name for sauce) that accompanies this cake is just perfectly refreshing and light.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Strawberry Coulis
Source: Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 package (8 ounces) Philadelphia brand cream cheese, at room temperature (the brand is recommended in SK’s post)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract plus 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt

For the coulis:

  • 2 cups quartered hulled strawberries (about 12 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Directions:

  1. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a bundt pan very well to prepare it for the cake batter
  2. Place the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is smooth. Add the sugar and beat the mixture on high for at least five minutes, until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well after each egg and scraping down the bowl with a spatula regularly. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, as well as the flour and salt. Beat the mixture on low until the mixture is just mixed (be careful not to overbeat).
  3. Add the batter to the bundt pan and tap the pan to ensure that the top is even. Bake the cake for 75 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out cleanly.
  4. Take the pan out of the oven and allow the cake to cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 20 minutes, then flip the cake out onto a cooling rack, allowing it to completely cool there.
  5. To make the coulis (which can be made one day ahead), combine the coulis ingredients in a blender, and puree the mixture until it is very smooth. Optional: press the mixture through a strainer to remove the seeds. Chill the coulis until cold.

Strawberry Buttermilk Sherbet

Strawberry Sherbet

I’m always the gal looking for a deal. It makes me cringe to go shopping and pay full price for something. While you won’t find me on Extreme Couponers, I do tend to stalk the deal sites, like Slick Deals and Fat Wallet. It’s a good day when I find an item at Target for 75% off or 90% off, too. Even for my weight loss rewards, I fully intend on getting the most out of those rewards, like finding that ::99 lbs. lost:: designer handbag on sale.

When it was strawberry season here, there were trucks lined up all along a major highway every weekend selling flats of strawberries. In my opinion they were asking way too much since the season was in its prime, so I tried to talk them down a couple of dollars. (Always after a deal…ha!) I was surprised to see that it worked, but they explained since it was the end of the weekend, they were more than happy to give a deal just to get rid of them. :-)

So, I happily took those strawberries home and made multiple recipes using them. This was the last recipe from that flat (boo…). I usually make a sorbet, but this year, I wanted to give sherbet a try. Like sorbet, this is a great refreshing dessert. Oh, and best of all, this is an extremely simple recipe to throw together!

Strawberry Buttermilk Sherbet
Source: Southern Living

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Puree the strawberries in a blender or food processor, for about 30 seconds until the berry puree looks smooth. If you don’t prefer seeds, pour the puree through a strainer into a large bowl, pressing down the puree to make sure you’re just straining the seeds out.
  2. Add the buttermilk, sugar and extract to the bowl and mix everything (you can just use a spoon or a whisk) until everything is well-mixed. Then, cover the sherbet mixture and chill in the fridge for an hour.
  3. After the mixture has chilled, pour the mixture into your ice cream maker (at least 1 1/2 quart capacity) and freeze according to the ice cream maker’s directions. You can enjoy this right out of the ice cream maker (for more of a soft serve consistency) or freeze the sherbet in the freezer for a few hours to enjoy at a scoop-able consistency.

Spinach, Strawberry, Pecan and Feta Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette

Spinach Strawberry Salad with Feta

I started really getting into spinach salads a couple of years ago. I actually prefer to purchase baby spinach at the store vs. lettuce, because I know if I don’t feel like eating a spinach salad, I can cook or bake with it as well to avoid wasting it/letting it go bad. Cooked lettuce isn’t quite so appealing. :-)

A while back, I was invited to Hotel Indigo with a few other local bloggers to sample their restaurant’s menu, and they brought out this salad that had me absolutely smitten. It had spinach, local strawberries, feta cheese and pecans tossed in a strawberry vinaigrette. It was DIVINE. I knew one day I’d have to remake this for when we had company, and I actually made this a while ago. Like…Easter. I took pictures of this salad back in April and completely forgot about it. Oops!

Easter is smack dab in the middle of our strawberry season here, so I knew that this would be the perfect occasion to make this salad. It was ridiculously easy to throw together, and the salad was a hit. It tasted pretty darn close to the salad I enjoyed at the hotel, and I was thrilled about that. In fact, since I made this salad in April, I’ve made this vinaigrette multiple times. It’s just that good, y’all. I haven’t made the salad in quite a while, though, since I’m a strawberry snob and the season is long gone. :( I envy those of you who still have fresh strawberries at your local fruit stands!

Just to note: I realize that the pecans weren’t pictured here. I served them on the side though, since quite a few people in my family aren’t fans of pecans. :-)

Spinach, Strawberry, Pecan and Feta Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette
Source: salad inspired by King Bar & Bistro, dressing from Rachael Ray

Salad Ingredients:

  • 5 cups baby spinach
  • 1 pint sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup pecans

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. strawberry jam (I used this freezer jam)
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. To make the vinaigrette, place the strawberry jam in a large bowl and whisk in the vinegar until everything is well-mixed. Keep whisking the mixture and slowly add in the olive oil. Whisk until the dressing doesn’t look like it’s separating. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the spinach, strawberries, feta cheese and pecans to the bowl and toss the ingredients together until everything is coated with the dressing. Serve immediately, or if you’re serving at a later time, just make the dressing separately and serve it on the side (make some extra dressing, just in case you have some dressing lovers) instead of tossing it with the salad ingredients.

 

Baked Oatmeal

Baked Oatmeal

I started calorie counting again a few weeks ago, and I quickly realized that the scrambled egg sandwiches at the cafeteria probably weren’t the healthiest things to start the day off with. Given how much oil they spray on the griddle, and the fact that their eggs look orangey out of the carton, I knew I could do better. My only obstacle was that I don’t have time to cook in the morning.

Yes, I know. I could wake up earlier and that would give me time but honestly, I’m not a morning person. I press snooze 5-6 times every morning. It drives my husband batty, I’m sure. So yeah…I definitely want something that I could grab out of the fridge and eat at work.

I’ve been curious about the baked oatmeal that has gotten popular on the blogs in the past year. My only issue of concern was that I HATE hot standard oatmeal. It’s way too mushy to me. However, in pictures, this recipe looked a little more dry and possibly something I could like. So, I decided to give it a try this weekend. If it worked out, I could scoop out a piece for work every day. At 180 calories a serving (since I omitted nuts), this would be the perfect foundation for breakfast. :-)

The verdict? This baked oatmeal is awesome, y’all. It’s even better the next day, in my opinion, because it dries up a good bit, almost to a cake or bread pudding-like consistency. (I’m not saying it tastes like bread pudding…that would be a lie.) I think for this particular recipe, the cinnamon and bananas really make this dish. :-) If you hate mushy oatmeal like me, but WANT to like oatmeal (really, you do), give this baked oatmeal a try. It comes together super quickly, contains no refined sugar and it’s calorie friendly!

Baked Oatmeal
Source: Skinny Taste

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium ripe bananas, sliced into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup honey (or agave…I used honey)
  • 1 cup uncooked quick oats
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray an 8×8 inch ceramic baking dish with baking spray.
  2. Arrange the bananas in one layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Add half of the blueberries on top. Then, sprinkle 1/4 tsp. of the cinnamon and drizzle 1 tbsp. of honey on the fruit. Cover the baking pan with foil and bake for 15 minutes.
  3. While the fruit is baking, in a medium sized bowl, combine the oats, baking powder, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and salt. Stir the dry ingredients together until well-mixed. In another bowl, add the honey, milk, egg and vanilla extract and whisk together until the mixture well-combined.
  4. Take the fruit out of the oven. Pour the dry oat mixture over the fruit and spread it to an even layer. Then, add the milk mixture over the oats, making sure to distribute the liquid evenly.
  5. Bake the oatmeal for 30 minutes (uncovered), or until the oats on top are a golden brown color and the oatmeal is set. Let the oatmeal cool for a few minutes before serving. If you are eating leftover baked oatmeal, just heat it in the microwave for about a minute. Add a splash of skim milk if desired.