Saturday, October 18, 2014

Autumn Apple & Almond Breakfast Parfait

Have an abundance of apples on hand? Have you made this? Or this? Or even my most recent yummy apple recipe? One can never have too many apples around the house. Trust me. Mr. B and I are known to devour about two each a day. He likes them one way and one way only: fresh, raw, and in its original form. He even likes to put salt on them....? (Ick.)  I, on the other hand, will eat them raw, cooked, sauteed, chopped up in stew, shredded in muffins, sliced and slathered with almond butter <--- my personal favorite. However, I have yet to try them sprinkled with salt. I think I'll leave that one to Mr. B.

McIntosh are his favorite. I can handle those as long as they're cooked or in something. Granny Smith's are mine, but I really haven't met an apple I wouldn't eat except for those nasty Red Delicious ones. Who first said those were delicious?! Not even close. I also really, really enjoy Pink Lady, Paula, Molly, Cortland, Honeycrisp, Jonathan....Oh, hi. Brindi here and I love apples.

Apples are versatile and cheap, making them easy targets for a variety of recipes, and because of this I happen to feature them a lot here on Sweet B's. Oh, and they're healthy, too. BONUS. (<--- read in a sing-songy voice.) And they're an excellent breakfast option. I love chopping them up and throwing them in my oatmeal or on yogurt. In fact, just combine any leftover oatmeal, yogurt, and apples and you have one FANCY breakfast parfait. One fancy FALL breakfast parfait. One fancy fall breakfast parfait which seems ALMOST too indulgent for a simple brisk morning.

Autumn Apple & Almond Breakfast Parfait

Serves 1

Spiced Apple Stir-Fry <--- find this recipe here
cooked oatmeal
plain Greek yogurt
almond butter
homemade apple butter <--- find this recipe here
Optional: sliced almonds, unsweetened almond milk (I like to re-heat my oatmeal with some milk to soften it up a bit.)

In a bowl, fancy glass, or whatever you desire, start with a layer of Greek yogurt. Next add a spoonful of oatmeal (I like mine warmed) with a drizzle of almond milk, a spoonful of almond butter, and a sprinkle of sliced almonds. Add a few stir-fried apples, another spoonful of oatmeal with a drizzle of almond milk, a spoonful of almond butter, and a spoonful of yogurt. Top with a dollop of apple butter, a couple stir-fried apples slices, and a sprinkle of sliced almonds. Admire your beautiful parfait that looks almost too good to eat, and a little extravagant for your weekday. Then devour...slowly...with your morning coffee.

The perfect FANCY leftover fall breakfast.

With Love and God Bless,

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Grandma's Green Beans

When I think about my daddy's mother, Grandma Bays, and I think about the food I remember her for, I think about her homemade southern green beans probably the most. About how she had a huge pot going on the stove almost every day during green bean season. The whole house smelling of fresh, bacon-y goodness. I think about her sitting out on the back deck, surrounded by family, while she snapped off the ends of each bean, employing us grandkids to help. Gospel music coming from the stereo beside the back room's open window, her bare feet tapping along to the music, and a cigarette hanging out of her mouth while she was singing the Lord's praises or telling us hilarious stories involving our parents or her childhood in Kentucky.

Over seven years ago, breast cancer took my grandmother away from my family all too early. With October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, I think about her even more than I normally do. Instead of a couple of times a day, it's with every TV ad hoping for a cure, with every pink shirt I spot, with every little ribbon pinned to a shirt collar, with every heart-wrenching survivor's story, with every commercial reminding women to get annual mammograms. Seeing all this pink gives me hope and enrages me all at once.

Oh, Grandma, how I miss you more than I can find the words. More than words can explain the emptiness in my broken heart.

There are no words, so I'm just going to fix a big ol' pot of green beans and wrap up in the blanket you made me, while I seek out comfort in Jesus.

Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in suffering. --Isaiah 49:13 (NLT)

Grandma's Green Beans

Adjust to serve however many mouths you need to feed

1 lb fresh green beans, ends snapped off and washed
water (sometimes I add some chicken broth to give it added flavor)
1/2 c uncooked bacon, cut into chunks (lately, I've been using pre-cooked bacon so there's not as much grease)
salt and pepper, to taste
[Note: for every 1 lb of green beans, I use 1/2 c chopped bacon]

Grab whatever size pot you need, and toss in the washed green beans and bacon chunks (if using uncooked). Add in a couple dashes of salt and pepper, then add enough water to cover the beans and bacon by about 2-3" and place on the stove over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding more water if needed, until beans are tender, about 1 hour. After this hour mark, check the green beans until desired texture is reached. (If using pre-cooked bacon, add in with about 10-15 minutes left, and cook until heated through.) Add more salt and pepper, if needed. ---> I like mine with quite a bit of pepper.

Grandma's green beans are that simple. Made with love, they're the best thing you'll ever eat.

With Love and God Bless,

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Re-Visited: Cooking Club #11

[Original post date Nov. 2011. --Updated 10/14/14: original, but separate, content, with updated photos and/or more details, if available.]

---> Cooking Club is coming up soon, and now that I'm blogging, I want to share these moments but I thought I should play catch-up first. So without further ado, here (and in more posts to come) is what we've been up to. Enjoy!

#11 May: Pizza

The Menu:
Cheddar-Apple Dessert Pizza
Berry Batch Brownie Pizza
Fruit Pizza

I apologize.

I failed.

I completely forgot to charge my camera, and it died during my first attempt at taking pictures during this month's Cooking Club.

But that won't stop me from telling you how ah-mazing this pizza is!

It's definitely my kind of dessert pizza...not too sweet, but just right. Apples and cheese always go together perfectly to create the most mouth-watering bite. (One of my go-to lunches is an apple and Munster grilled cheese....yum.) So this pizza did not disappoint. The cheddar made a delightful crust, and paired with the apple-sugar-and-spice topping.... Let's just say I love nutmeg.

You must make this ASAP!

I think this would be great for a brunch, or even more perfect as another the-day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast.

Update: With all of the above being said, I have made this dessert pizza quite a few times since that cooking club and have made many changes since, making it my own recipe. The biggest adaptation is turning the pizza into a rustic galette. For some reason I can't seem to get the pizza crust as sturdy as that first day, and have now just enjoyed making this dessert a tad rustic and crumbly. I changed up the cheese, replaced the butter with coconut oil, and have omitted half of the sugar.

Rustic Munster-Apple Galette

*adapted from Taste of Homes recipe

Serves 8

1 1/4 c flour + 1/3 c (mixture of all-purpose and whole wheat pastry flours)
1 tsp salt +1/4 tsp
1/2 c shortening
1 c shredded Munster cheese (I think any cheese would work here, so choose to your liking)
1/4 c ice water
1/4 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 c coconut oil
4 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven 375 degrees. In a bowl, combine 1 1/4 c flour with 1 tsp salt. Cut in shortening until crumbly. Add cheese and toss lightly. Sprinkle ice water gradually over mixture, then shape into a ball with lightly floured hands. Place dough in center of large baking sheet (or round pizza pan) and roll outward from center to cover pan (or until big enough to your liking).

In a bowl, mix sugars with 1/3 c flour, spices and 1/4 tsp salt. Sprinkle half of sugar mixture over crust. Cut coconut oil into remaining sugar mix until crumbly and set aside. Arrange apple slices in overlapping rings on crust, leaving a 2" edge. Sprinkle with lemon juice, then with sugar-butter mix. Fold over the 2" edge of dough onto the galette topping, creating an overlap of crust along the edges of the galette and sealing in the apples.

Bake 35-40 minutes, or until apples are tender and crust is browned around edges. Serve warm cut into squares, slices, or whatever your heart desires. But be ready to eat more than one piece!

Add a steaming cup of Joe and this is brunch perfection, sweet friends.

*I hope you enjoyed these Cooking Club snippets. There are more to come as I try to play catch-up before this month's meeting. I hope these themes, and even Cooking Club itself, inspire you to gather with your friends and family in the kitchen, and make sweet moments (and delicious food) of your own.

**I've only included the recipes to the dishes I made. Only because I'm unsure of where everyone got theirs...and hey, we gotta give credit where credit is due. If you have any questions about the other dishes, I'll ask the other members where they got their recipes and pass it along!

Check out our previous meetings!
Cooking Club #1-4
Cooking Club #5-8
Cooking Club #9
Cooking Club #10

[Update: Recipe adaptations, along with mouth-watering pictures, and previous cooking club links.]

With Love and God Bless,

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Photo an Hour

8 AM

9 AM

10 AM

11 AM

12 PM

1 PM

2 PM

3 PM

4 PM

5 PM

6 PM

7 PM

8 PM

9 PM

10 PM

Yesterday was my first (and last for awhile) day off without plans in quite some time, and I spent it at home with Mr. Darcy. I was busy cleaning, organizing, and packing for our upcoming vacation to Maine. I was supposed to have book club later that evening, but it was pushed back a week, so Mr. B and I enjoyed a dinner of Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken and a movie. The chicken was tasty, the movie, Noah, was awful. Love me some lazy, me-time days, which are few and far between but readily welcomed.

With Love and God Bless,

Thursday, October 9, 2014

What I'm Reading

Finally, I have put aside the yoga research and the cookbook oogling in order to bring you a good reads review post sans postures and recipes. However, on that note, Daphne Oz's recent book Relish was a decent read. It's definitely NOT a cookbook, but includes a few recipes throughout which is not quite what I expected. The book includes fashion style tips, health and beauty solutions, ideas for throwing a great party, and suggestions on arranging your living space. It's kind of a hodgepodge. I did feel it was targeted to a wealthier population...not quite my cup of tea. I'm definitely more of a down-home-back-woods-simple-is-better kind of girl. But some tips I'll hold onto, especially some DIY beauty remedies.

This past month's book club read was Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger. This was my first experience with the Steampunk genre. I discovered I'm not very fond of it. While, I found it sort of interesting, I was put-off by the somewhat silliness of the plot of Etiquette and Espionage. I thought this book, if not for the Steampunk genre which could prove to be quite confusing to tweens, would be better suited for a juvenile audience rather than YA. Often, I was confused about all the "mechanics" going on and the terms.... I'm sure this is because I'm unfamiliar with this genre. I found myself not wanting to put it down for fear I'd never pick it up again. It's any easy read, and a weekend will have it finished. However, I did a lot of skimming the last half of the book. I was still interested enough to want to know how it ended. But I know I won't pick up the other books in the series. Not sure if I'll give the Steampunk genre another go; if so, possibly with an adult title.

I've been flying through audio books over here as of late. Some good, some bad, some awful, some worth mentioning. One of John Green's earlier books I've been meaning to read for quite sometime was An Abundance of Katherines. I pulled it off the shelf a few weeks ago when I was leaving work and needed an audio book right.this.minute. because there was no way I was turning on the radio. Ugh...I loathe public radio at five o'clock. The audio I requested hadn't come in yet, so I quickly grabbed a title I knew was on my TBR list and rushed out the door. It wasn't bad, per say. It was definitely boring. This Green book is about a child prodigy, Colin Singleton, who has been dumped by every Katherine he knows. His most recent break-up leaves him numb, and high-school graduation finds him with nothing left to do but analyze his short brilliant, but dramatic life. I was thoroughly annoyed with everything Colin before I was even half way through this audio book. (I'm thinking the audio, when the main character is a whiny, woe-is-me teenager, is not the way to go.) The only thing I enjoyed was the audio book was tracked by the minute, which led to easy skipping and still an understanding of what was going on. My least favorite John Green book to date.

And another one. Although Max Lucado's God Will Carry You Through is a short (only three hours) listen, it packs a heavy load. This Lucado book breaks down the story of Joseph, the biggest Biblical story in which you can easily see God carrying someone through his troubles, a few verses at a time and modernizes it while incorporating other people's testimonies. Yes, I cried. Yes, I became emotional. And quite often, too. It was one where I found myself nodding my head, and wishing I could stop the car and jot down that scripture and passage for future reference/reflection. So much so, when I finished the audio I placed the actual book on hold to peruse later. (Maybe not the best book to listen to on my way to work, where co-workers began to question my red and puffy eyes...but just an opening to tell them about Jesus, I guess!) This beautiful story is a great gift for someone going through a rough season, or stuck in God's waiting room.

Last but not least, here's an audio bonus that I have been meaning to share with you. Roald Dahl's Matilda, read by Kate Winslet is fan-freaking-tastic, I tell you! The listening experience was right up there with classics like The BFG and The Phantom Tollbooth. A spectacular audio book! (My only complaint, with the various voices, some were so low I had to crank up the volume and then hurry and turn it down when the booming, loud voices came on.) I wish Winslet would do more children's/Ya audio books. It's definitely a perfect title for a day trip with the kids. Or sans kids. A perfect throwback to when you were a kid, maybe? I read the book years ago as a little girl, and my cousins and I wore out the VCR with this movie.

Have you come across any good reads lately?

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, October 6, 2014

Re-Visited: Cooking Club #10

[Original post date Nov. 2011. --Updated 10/6/14: original, but separate, content, with updated photos and/or more details, if available.]

---> Cooking Club is coming up soon, and now that I'm blogging, I want to share these moments but I thought I should play catch-up first. So without further ado, here (and in more posts to come) is what we've been up to. Enjoy!

#10 April: Secret Ingredient

The Menu:
        Main Course
Oven-Lime Pork Fajitas (Lime)
Green Tea Couscous (Tea)
Blondies with Maple Syrup (Maple)

Jenny and Jessica decided it would be fun to do secret ingredients this month, sort of Iron Chef style.

So we all chose an ingredient, wrote it on a piece of paper and threw it in a hat.

Enter mass confusion.

After everyone drew, they started sharing what ingredient they had. Hello? I thought it was a secret!

Apparently the "secret" part already happened. The "secret" was we didn't know what ingredients were in the hat. Huh? Everyone was confused, there were questions if we should come up with new ingredients and yi yi. We finally decided on just finding a recipe to go with our assigned ingredients.

I put in maple and drew tea. (Actually, I put both maple and espresso on my slip, allowing the receiver to decide. I thought I'd be sneaky like that.) So I went home and skimmed through my cookbooks. When nothing caught my eye, I headed online and found two recipes, a dessert and a side. I was craving couscous, and decided to go with the side, Rachael Ray's Green Tea Couscous.

Tea is definitely a favorite. As I was steeping my green tea, I was sooooo excited for my dish. After adding in honey and a hint of fresh mint (not a huge mint fan), I couldn't wait to taste this couscous! And then there were pieces of cucumber and lemon and lime.....and

Giada's is still my favorite. But this was light, refreshing, and delicious. I realized I do actually like mint, but fresh mint only.

The nutritional information, via My Fitness Pal, per serving (this recipe, I feel, makes a good 6 side dish servings): 101 calories, 2 fat, 2 protein, 1 fiber, 8 sugar

Actually, this was a fantastic Cooking Club meal (even though we were quite small this month). Everything was perfect and just the right amount. Jenny's Oven-Lime Pork Fajitas were mouth-watering, and I have made them for Mr. B multiple times since. So good. I'm not a blondie fan, but Jessica's maple dessert was pretty tasty as well.

Definitely a success!

[Oh, and it seems that if you can make it to Cooking Club, great. If not, we'll see you next month. So we never know how many people are going to be there!]

*I hope you enjoyed these Cooking Club snippets. There are more to come as I try to play catch-up before this month's meeting. I hope these themes, and even Cooking Club itself, inspire you to gather with your friends and family in the kitchen, and make sweet moments (and delicious food) of your own.

**I've only included the recipes to the dishes I made. Only because I'm unsure of where everyone got theirs...and hey, we gotta give credit where credit is due. If you have any questions about the other dishes, I'll ask the other members where they got their recipes and pass it along!

Check out our previous meetings!
Cooking Club #1-4
Cooking Club #5-8
Cooking Club #9

[Update: Just previous Cooking Club links!]

With Love and God Bless,

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Beautiful Month

In case you aren't on Instagram, or don't follow me, here's a peek at my Insta-Life lately.
[*All photos are taken from my Instagram account.]

Some of my favorite things: Target, Starbucks, Vera Bradley, and plaid.

Breakfast parfait. So good I almost feel guilty!

First batch of apple butter of the season.

Mr. B let his birthday balloon go...into a beautiful sky.

With Love and God Bless,

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Zucchini and Corn Rice Soup

I love finding recipes and making them my own. It's pretty much what I do 100% of the time. Oh, how far I've come. There was a time when I followed a recipe to the tee, back when I was first learning to cook on my own. At that time, I think it's important to follow recipes until you learn how to cook, what you like, and how to substitute. After that, then it's game on. Use the recipe as a guideline or suggestion, not the rule. Use what you like and replace items with similar stuff on hand. No need to run out and spend a fortune on some ingredient you have no idea how to use/or when you'll use it next. If you're still leery about making a recipe your own, make it through once the way it states, but next time switch it up.

Just like I switched up this mouth-watering soup from Jenna over at Eat, Live, Run. I'm sure her original recipe is mouth-watering, which is why I planned to make it in the first place. But as I was rummaging the zucchini out of the fridge I noticed the large bag of fresh corn that needed to be cooked soon. Very soon. So, I put on a pot to boil. I had leftover rice in the fridge, which would cut down the cooking time, and I usually replace any cream called for with evaporated milk when the recipe allows. And, of course, coconut oil ALWAYS.

However, as I was pulling out the partially-cooked corn with plans to freeze the dozen ears in preparation for winter, I realized some corn would be perfect in this soup. I love mixing zucchini and corn. (Sauteed up with some gnocchi makes for one quick summer night meal.) And then I looked in my freezer and saw I already had a bunch of corn stock freezing, and there was no way Mr. B was going to let me take up that much freezer space for stock (we really need to get another smaller freezer for the basement STAT). So, instead of pouring it out, I replaced the vegetable broth called for with my homemade corn well as placing some in the fridge for sauteing up veggies later on in the week.

OH.MY.GOODNESS. Honestly, I think I found my new favorite soup. Move over Broccoli and Cheese.

This DELICIOUS soup combines summer and fall into one nice bowl of comfort, and is the perfect way to use up the last abundances of corn and zucchini that might be overflowing the garden and fridge. Plus, with my healthy substitutions, you're looking at only 200 calories per serving. Eat up, eat up!

Did you know September is National Rice Month?

Zucchini and Corn Rice Soup
*recipe inspired by Eat, Live, Run

Serves 4

2 lbs zucchini, sliced 1/2" thick
2-3 ears of corn, cooked and cut off cob
1 yellow onion, chopped
1-2 T coconut oil
1/2 c brown rice, cooked (I usually have leftover rice on hand)
1/4 c evaporated milk (or unsweetened almond milk)
4 c  corn stock (the leftover water from boiled corn ears) <--- if don't have on hand, use chicken or vegetable broth
1 t each salt and pepper
lemon wedges for serving (this is a must!)

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. When hot add onion and saute until golden. Add the zucchini slices and corn stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, 10-15 minutes, until zucchini is tender. Remove pan from heat. Using an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. (If you don't have an immersion blender, transfer soup in batches to a blender and puree.) Place back on heat, bringing soup to a simmer. Add in cooked rice, corn, and salt and pepper. Cover and cook until heated through, 10-15 minutes. Before serving, add in milk and stir through soup. Serve in bowls garnished with a lemon wedge. Sprinkle that juice all over. It's soooooo good!

With Love and God Bless,