#52NewEats :: Week 31 :: Watermelon Margaritas

Watermelon Margarita

We had a big BBQ over the 4th of July weekend and of course, abiding by American standards, I bought a big watermelon.  Well actually, I thought I bought a small watermelon, or at least a smallER watermelon, but it was still entirely too much for our party.  So, I served half of it in cut wedges, and cubed the other half and froze them on a baking sheet.  Once they were frozen, I stored them in plastic bags.

Figuring, surely, someday, I would find a use for frozen watermelon… right?  🙄

Well, magically, then I did!  Sometimes I swear it’s like Pinterest reads my mind.  Scrolling through just after our party, BOOM, up pops this recipe for //Watermelon Margaritas//.  The good news is, I had all the ingredients on hand, except for the simple syrup, which I could whip up real quick anyway (in case you don’t know: equal parts sugar + water simmered over low heat until the sugar has evaporated).  So, as soon as the opportunity presented itself, I made these margaritas…. and then, I made more…. and then I made some more….

They were SO good.  SO.  GOOD.  And I still have frozen watermelon in my freezer, so I reckon I may go home and have another one tonight.  #drinkydrinkyfuntime  With a little bit of prep, you will have a bar-worthy drink to serve to your guests.  Or, to just yourself, if you’re like me.  And there ain’t nothing wrong with that.

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#52NewEats :: Week 30 :: Apple Almond Muffins

Apple Almond Muffins

I met an adorable fellow food blogger, Daniela, in the food bloggers group on Facebook, and immediately fell in love with her work because….. well, because the very first post I read of hers had the F word in it, and I knew she was my kind of girl!

Ok, ok, ok… also, because, she focuses primarily on sweets?  But uh, not just any sweets, vegan sweets!  If you have not dabbled in vegetarianism or veganism, you might be sitting there wondering just how possible it is to create vegan sweets recipes that actually taste good, and Daniela is here to tell you, and I am here to echo her, that it is ENTIRELY possible, and ENTIRELY delicious.

I have made two of Daniela’s recipes now – the second will be up very soon – and I just went to her page to grab the link to her blog, //Dulce y Natural//, and noticed now she’s got a carrot cake recipe up.  And lord help me, because if I have major weaknesses, carrot cake is definitely one of many…  But anyway, yes, I have made two of her recipes so far, and these muffins promptly disappeared, and I made the mistake of sharing the second recipe with my vegan BFFs instead of keeping them all to myself, so I guess I need to make those again too (stay tuned!!)…

These //apple almond muffins// were the PERFECT little vegan companion to my vegan smoothie for breakfast every morning.  Um, actually, I guess mine weren’t so vegan since I did slather some Kerrygold butter on them, but, ok, vegetarian muffin with vegan smoothie, good enough.  #plantbased #imgettingthere

I have to admit, I have not done much vegetarian or vegan baking, and I was not sure how these would turn out or come together.  But they totally surprised me, and now I am a believer.  When you are raised to believe that “you need an egg to bind it”, then you read a recipe for something like a muffin and of course feel doubt that it would come together.  These muffins were delicious though, and so easy to make, considering I pretty much always have all of these ingredients in my house anyway.  The only thing I will say though is, I am not sure how accurate conversion measurements would be.  I have a kitchen scale, so I set it to grams, and measured everything out that way.  I attempted to google conversions but they were so precise, I didn’t even bother going that way.

Go check out Daniela’s blog, and make these muffins!

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#12NewTreats :: July :: Blackout Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Blackout Cake

//Pinch of Yum// is one of my biggest food blog inspirations.  Sometimes I feel like Lindsay has my voice, like she writes in the exact way I think and talk (but have yet to figured out how to get into printed word).  The very first recipe I posted on this blog was a nachos recipe (of course) inspired by one of her delicious casserole recipes.  POY is the blog that convinced me to take the plunge and start my own blog.  And here I am, 2 1/2 years later, still making her recipes, still admiring her from afar, still wishing I could work for her in some way…. #dreams

Lindsay posts a lot of vegetarian recipes that I have really loved, but she doesn’t always post dessert recipes, so when she posts something like a friggin’ THREE LAYER CHOCOLATE CAKE COVERED IN CHOCOLATE CHIPS, you sit up and take notice.  Her //Blackout Chocolate Cake// caught my attention immediately.  I’m on the mailing list, and I’m pretty sure I opened the email for this post and immediately sat up in my chair, drawing closer to the computer screen so I didn’t miss a single slutty detail.  I showed it to my daughter that night and said, “THAT, kiddo, THAT is what we are making for 12 New Treats in July.”  She spoke no argument.

So, yeah.  This chocolate cake was just RIDICULOUS.  But I did mess up a little.  It’s supposed to be three layers, and I swore I had three cake pans, but only found two, so I made a two-layer cake and used the rest of the batter for cupcakes (that I brought into work and subsequently disappeared pretty quickly).  (Oh, yeah, and then after I did the dishes I found my third cake pan.  D’oh.)  Not a terrible mess-up, but still.  I also skipped the chocolate drizzle, only because, yes, there is a limit to the amount of chocolate I can stomach, and I felt it would be too much.  So we did cover the chocolate frosting with chocolate chips, and trust me, it was plenty.  But if you have a mega sweet tooth, go for it and make that drizzle yo.  I’m sure it’s delicious.

If you have ever been to The Cheesecake Factory and had the “Linda’s Fudge Cake” dessert, this chocolate cake reminded me so much of that.  It’s my favorite dessert there (no I do not get cheesecake), and anyway, who doesn’t love a big, fat, thick chocolate cake??  I’ll probably have to make my husband make this for me for my birthday every year.

This chocolate cake was very easy to make, and my daughter loved all the whisking and stirring and beating.  She practically made the whole thing by herself, I was very proud.  🙂  If SHE can make it, so can you.  So go make it!

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#52NewEats :: Week 29 :: Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon

Earlier this year, I mentioned in a post that I joined a really inspiring food blogging group on Facebook.  This group is full of so much fun and positivity.  And, duh, photographic inspiration!  Seeing everyone else’s work cuts both ways for me – on the one hand, I feel like I have so much work left to do; on the other, it is so inspiring to see how others photograph food!

I met Anyonita through this group, and asked if I could make one of her recipes for my blog.  She has a vast selection of delicious recipes on her site, //Anyonita Nibbles//, where she focuses primarily on gluten-free eats.  It was really difficult to choose just one recipe, but this //beef bourguignon// was the winner!

Beef bourguignon is probably one of my husband’s favorite dishes, so I knew I had to make this.  Also, bonus?  It’s a crock pot recipe!  I have made a couple different beef bourguignon recipes over the years that require hours of simmering and watching a pot, with tons of different ingredients, and granted, they were all tasty, but oh so much effort.  This recipe was practically effortless, and I LOVE simple crock pot recipes that I can throw together on a Sunday and have leftovers for lunch at work the next day!

The only thing I did different here was, Anyonita recommends serving with carrots and mashed potatoes, but I decided to put sliced carrots into the stew itself.  I added these to the bacon fat in the skillet just prior to adding the shallots, as they would need some more time to cook down a bit.  Then everything went into the crock pot with some delicious red wine, and oh, what a rich, hearty, delicious beef stew!

This was so easy, and so quick, that it will definitely make my fall rotation of soups and stews.  (I know, I know, it’s the middle of summer and I’m already counting down to fall… it’s my favorite season!)

Y’all go make this recipe, it gets two thumbs up from me!

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#12NewTreats :: June :: The Worst Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Worst Chocolate Chip Cookies

I had a massive craving for chocolate chip cookies recently, and went off to my Pinterest to see if I could find a recipe for one that wouldn’t necessarily require me to go out and buy anything special.  With chocolate chip cookies, I am partial to soft cookies – I am not much a fan of the crispy cookies.  I love a thick, soft, chewy cookie so, so much, and this is what I was craving.

So imagine my curiosity being piqued when I found a recipe for – not THE BEST!, but – //The Worst Chocolate Chip Cookies//.  Girlfriend starts her post by telling you that these cookies will ruin your life.  SAY NO MORE MY QUEEN, THAT SOUNDS LIKE MY KIND OF DANGER, I SHALL KEEP READING.

Here’s what I have to say about these chocolate chip cookies:

🍴  I love that I could make them without a stand mixer.

🍴  The cookie dough was, um, how do you say?  Oh yes.  EFFING AMAZING.

🍴  I was barely able to control myself once they came out of the oven.

🍴  My daughter was barely able to control herself once they came out of the oven.

🍴  Neither of us were able to control ourselves when trying to photograph them the following day.

I had her hold the plate for me while I photographed, and she lasted a whole 5.8 seconds before begging me to eat one, and I said sure, go ahead, only if I can take your picture.

I think my daughter’s face says it all, don’t you?

The Worst Chocolate Chip Cookies

That would be actual footage of happiness caused by The Worst Chocolate Chip Cookies EVARRR.

The Worst Chocolate Chip Cookies

Can’t let a single crumb slip through those fingers!

Listen.  They’re chocolate chip cookies.  You probably already have all the ingredients.  Make them.  And put extra chocolate chips on top before baking, like she says.  I wish I did.  It’s the only thing that could have possibly made them WORSE than they already were.  Next time.  😉

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#52NewEats :: Week 28 :: Broccoli Cheddar Wild Rice Casserole

Broccoli Cheddar Wild Rice Casserole

It is no secret that I looooove //smitten kitchen//.  Love her.  LOVE.  HER.  She was probably one of the first blogs I’ve ever followed, and I found so much inspiration in her photography.  She has taken some really mouthwatering pictures, famously, with only a single window in her NYC apartment kitchen to light the food.  I am quite confident that had I never seen smitten kitchen’s work, I would never have thought I could do something like a food blog myself.

I have a deep love for many of her dishes…  //Red Wine Chocolate Cake//, once recommended to me by a dear friend; //Homemade Ricotta//, I submit that there is no easier, no tastier, no creamier homemade ricotta recipe out there; I could go on and on.  I also absolutely love her site, because it it minimalist, and there are maybe 1-2 ads on her pages, and none of them get in your face, no annoying popups, no splash screens.  Nothing ever gets in the way of the content you are there to see!

Quite frankly, she is my ultimate food blogging idol.  #skwannabe

Now, folks, I can add this delicious casserole to my list of favorites.  There are a couple reasons I LOVED this //broccoli cheddar wild rice casserole//:

🍴  It tastes decidedly “grown-up”.  The cheese sauce doesn’t taste like a run of the mill cheese sauce.  I am attributing this to the dijon mustard, though I could be wrong.  My kid’s 7yo tongue would definitely NOT like this dish.  😂  Not right now anyway.

🍴  Broccoli!  I mentioned recently that I like dishes like this casserole because they help me get more broccoli into my belly.  Broccoli isn’t so bad when it’s covered with cheese sauce.  😉

🍴  It was REALLY good leftover.  I ate it for lunch for the next two days.

I already have this casserole on my menu again for next week – we will be pairing it with a salad, following our new primarily vegetarian diet.  Maybe I can get my kid to try it.  🙏  But YOU should DEFINITELY try it.  Go forth, and eat the broccoli!

Please share!

Favorite Banana Oatmeal Smoothie

Banana Oatmeal Smoothie

So it’s sort of time for me to come clean about something, and that something has directly lead to the development of this smoothie recipe, so here goes.

Back in May I woke up in the middle of the night one night with incredibly severe knee pain in my right knee.  I was laying in bed and thought maybe I was sleeping in a funny position and tried to roll over, but I couldn’t lift my leg.  I had to lift my leg with my hands to move it at all.  Pain shot from my knee up my thigh to my hip, blinding me, it was so bad.  I was near tears, and tried getting out of bed to walk it off.  I walked back and forth in my bedroom, kicking my foot out randomly, attempting to pop my kneecap back in place (I thought maybe it had popped out), but nothing helped.  Eventually, I got back into bed and didn’t sleep for the rest of the night because the pain was so terrible.

The next morning, I called my doctor first thing and got an appointment around lunchtime.  I went to work, my knee bothering me on the drive in, on the trek up the stairs, etc.  I really thought something bad had happened to my knee.  So I go to the doctor, and she’s doing her doctor thing, checking for swelling in my knee (there was), checking movement (she made me squat and was impressed with my form 💁), etc.  Then she moves on to the normal stuff, checking my blood pressure, listening to my heart…

She heard something through the stethoscope that sent her into a panic.  She began asking me all kinds of questions – do I ever have heart palpitations?  I don’t think so?  Do I take birth control?  Yes…  Have I ever fainted?  No…  Have I ever had a blood clot?

….a blood clot??

She says she is hearing “too many beats” with my heart, and they aren’t registering on that finger clip thing (pulse ox?), she can only hear them through the stethoscope.  So she sends me to another room where they quickly slap some electrodes on me and take an EKG where they find all these extra heart beats.  The whole time she’s asking me how I feel and I’m just like, “I feel fine, but uh, my knee hurts…?”

She essentially freaks out and sends me to the hospital for blood tests (one to rule out a blood clot, another standard round of bloodwork minus cholesterol as I hadn’t fasted) and an x-ray (for my knee).  All the symptoms presented “could” point to a blood clot, and though it’s the worst case scenario and maybe the two events aren’t even related, she must do her due diligence and rule it out.  She left the room for a minute and I started crying.  A blood clot?  I am 37.  Stop it.  Old people get blood clots.  And wtf is going on with my heart?

So I pulled myself together, contacted my friend at work and tell her to please tell some people I wouldn’t be making a meeting I’d had scheduled for 1pm and that they should proceed without me, and contacted my manager to let him know I wouldn’t be back for the afternoon.  And off to the hospital I went.

The whole time this is going on, of course I can’t stop my brain from buzzing.  This is it, it’s finally caught up to me.  If I don’t have a blood clot, then something is wrong with my heart and I’m gonna have to eat buckets of lettuce for the rest of my life.  But that will totally be okay, because I will kick ass harder in the gym, and I will make myself healthy, and I will have more time with my family.

Later that day, I was sitting on my couch when I received the phone call that I did NOT have a blood clot (THANK YOU JESUS 🙏).  A little while after that, I received the phone call that said my x-ray revealed “arthritic damage” in my knee.  I was ordered to be seen by a cardiologist the next day (for a formal EKG and determination of whatever was going on with my heart), and to follow-up with an orthopedist for my knee problem.

When I woke up the next morning, magically, somehow, my knee pain was completely gone.  It was like it had never happened.  I mean, I couldn’t even make it happen again.  It had disappeared as quickly as it had shown up.

Suspecting my cardiologist may want to do a blood test for cholesterol, I made sure I didn’t eat before my appointment.  They hooked me up for another EKG and determined that what they were finding were PVC heartbeats – premature ventricular contractions.  PVCs are like little pre-heartbeats, kind of like a flutter.  If a normal heartbeat goes ba-BUM ba-BUM ba-BUM, my heart beats like baba-ba-BUM baba-ba-BUM baba-ba-BUM.  Some people say they feel them, but I don’t.  My cardiologist assured me that most of the time, PVCs are benign; but that sometimes, they can point to something else going on with the heart.  So, he ordered several more tests for the coming weeks, as well as a cholesterol blood test to be done that day.

Later that day, I was once again sitting on my couch when I received the phone call with my cholesterol blood test results.

(As a side note, I will just tell you that I almost feel like this is what I was dreading the most.  I have always had “perfect” blood pressure, but I have wondered about my cholesterol levels.  It can be a silent killer!, according to the interwebz and various documentaries I’ve seen.  I had actually scheduled a physical for the day after my birthday this year, with the specific intention of getting bloodwork to see what my cholesterol levels were, figuring it was probably high time that I change my diet (RIP SFB?), but I came down with strep throat and ended up cancelling it.)

So the nurse calls me and says, “The doctor says your cholesterol results are acceptable.”  And I went, “Oh!  Whew!  Oh my gosh, great news, thank you!!!”  And we hung up.

And then…. doubt.

Acceptable?  Why “acceptable”, why not “good”?

So I called her back and asked her for the specific numbers.   The breakdown:

  • Overall cholesterol:  205
  • Triglycerides:  104
  • HDL (“good” cholesterol):  64
  • LDL (“bad” cholesterol):  119

According to a chart I found published by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, my overall cholesterol should be under 200, so I fell into the “borderline high” category.  Triglycerides should be under 150, so I was good.  HDL should be higher than 60, so I was good (yay!).  And LDL should really be less than 100, but okay to be less than 129, so I was good there too.

Even though those results were “acceptable”, and by all means, I should feel blessed, considering my love for cheese and red meat, I felt like I had some work to do.  I wanted to focus on raising my “good” cholesterol and lowering my “bad” cholesterol, because even though they were good enough that I don’t need medicine, I don’t ever want to get to the point where I do need medicine.  So let’s nip this shit in the bud RIGHT NOW.

The number one factor in your cholesterol levels is your diet, closely followed by the amount of exercise you do.  Now listen.  You’re talking to the girl that has a blog and an Instagram account focused on food.  And not just any food, SLUTTY food.  Food that is not good for you!  Food that is bad for you.  On the one hand, I am eternally grateful that my eating habits so far have not lead to an early heart attack, BUT, I AM getting older, and I believe it is time for me to start being more mindful of the food I’m putting into my mouth.

So, off to the interwebz I go, looking for foods that raise your good cholesterol and lower your bad cholesterol. The number one food that lowers bad cholesterol is: OATS!  Ok, I like oats.  We can figure out how to incorporate these into my diet.  It means I need to shuck the grain free thing, or at least count it in the 20 of my 80/20 grain free rule.  Also: whole grains!  Beans!  And some of my favorite fruits!  Awesome, I’ve got this.  One of the top foods that raise your good cholesterol is: AVOCADOS!  Sweet!  I love avocados.  If I put half an avocado on a slice of Ezekiel toast every morning for breakfast, then I will be simultaneously raising my good cholesterol AND lowering my bad cholesterol!

So naturally the NEXT place I go to is Pinterest, looking for oatmeal recipes.  I actually kind of hate oatmeal itself, but don’t hate oats.  Oatmeal is mushy and sticky and sooo filling, so I thought about finding oatmeal smoothie recipes that I could drink with my cholesterol-kicking powerhouse avocado toast.  I found several banana oatmeal smoothie recipes with similar ingredients, that were all very delicious, but somehow over the last two months, in the fog and rush of early morning sleepiness, I ended up combining my favorite things from each smoothie recipe into its very own SFB version.  And now, voila, we have my favorite banana oatmeal smoothie recipe.

And so, over the last two months, I have:

  • Been eating avocado toast + banana oatmeal smoothie almost every morning;
  • Passed my ECG with flying colors;
  • Passed my stress test with flying colors;
  • Found out, as a result of wearing a heart monitor for 24 hours, that the reason I sometimes feel faint, dizzy, or nauseous during the day is because my PVCs are occurring at a higher frequency (NOT low blood sugar or dehydration like I always attributed it to);
  • Found out that there actually wasn’t “arthritic damage” in my knee; but that I AM predisposed to knee problems due to a history playing basketball in my youth, and therefore am forbidden from running (especially on a treadmill), jumping, and lunging (aw, shucks!).

Last week I had a checkup with my cardiologist to go over the results of all the tests, and he says if anything popped up in any of the other tests, that he would be concerned and look deeper into what could be going on.  He assured me that one of the top indicators of these PVCs being benign is the fact that they literally disappeared during the stress test (exercise).  If they were still present or got worse during the stress test, it would be a high indicator of a deeper problem.  But he feels confident in saying to me that these are benign and currently nothing to worry about.  HOWEVER.  I will see him again in 6 months for a follow-up, and probably get another ECG after that, just to make sure something isn’t developing.  It’s something we keep an eye on, even though right now they are benign.  What a relief!!

If you’ve read this far, I reckon you deserve a treat.  So here it is, my favorite, very filling, very nutritious, banana oatmeal smoothie.  🙂  Stay healthy, y’all.

Banana Oatmeal Smoothie
Serves: 1

Ingredients
1 cup vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup rolled / old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice (or pumpkin pie spice), optional
1 tablespoon syrup (you can use maple, or I use coconut palm syrup)
1-2 tablespoons nut butter (I like almond butter or cashew butter)
1 banana, sliced and frozen

Directions
1. Pour almond milk into the blender and add the rest of the ingredients. Let the oats soak in the almond milk for a little bit to soften them up and make them easier to blend. I usually let them sit for about 10-15 minutes while I’m doing other stuff in the kitchen. Then, flip your blender onto “puree” and blend until nice and smooth. Pro tip: freeze your smoothie cup for 10-15 minutes and it will keep your smoothie extra cold for your ride to work.  😉

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#52NewEatsFail :: Homemade Mozzarella Sticks

Well… these didn’t turn out quite as expected.  🙅🏻

Who doesn’t love mozzarella sticks?  I love them.  I love them with the crumbly breading, not the batter-type breading.  And of course I would love to try them by baking them instead of hauling out my deep fryer and frying them.

And they looked just fine in the blog pictures!  But did not turn out well when we made them.  We even freezed them for longer than the instructions suggested.  Oh well.  Another fail for the books!

As I did for the last fail, I will not include the blog here.  But, maybe frying is the way to go for homemade mozzarella sticks…

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Mexican Street Corn Dip

Mexican Street Corn DIp

I mentioned in my post for Mexican Street Corn Tostadas a couple weeks back that I was pretty inspired by that recipe and made a corn dip….thing.

Is it weird that I think the words “corn dip” just don’t jive together?  I don’t know why.  It sounds pretty redneck.  Y’ALL COME FETCH YA SOME CORN DIP!  But I’m quite the country bumpkin these days and I s’pose I don’t mind it.

So yeah – I LOVE this corn dip, and I was reminded to write this post because I’m making it TONIGHT for dinner!  You can spread this onto some tostadas, maybe even use it as a topping for tacos, or – I might try this – as a filling for quesadillas or burritos or enchiladas.  Just put this stuff on everything, it’s THAT good.

Mexican Street Corn Dip

Ingredients
1 15oz can of yellow corn, drained
1/2 can of black beans, drained (or use the whole can – I only had a half can sitting in my fridge)
1/4 cup chipotle mayonnaise (or to your preference)
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup minced cilantro
Juice of half a lime
Salt & pepper to taste
Queso fresco, crumbled, to taste
Tortilla chips

Directions
1. Add the drained yellow corn to a dry nonstick skillet and warm over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn starts to dry off. Add the drained black beans. Continue cooking until the corn and the beans lose some of their moisture and are warmed through, and the corn is slightly browned and toasty.

2. Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl. Set the bowl into the fridge to cool down the corn and black beans faster to room temperature, or a little cooler.

3. Once the corn and black beans are cooled, add the rest of the ingredients and stir together to combine. Serve with tortilla chips as a dip, or as a topping for tacos or tostadas.

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