PB-Cinna-Choco Energy Bites

I have a massive sweet tooth. I think its genetic, so I blame my dad. But seriously, I can’t make it through the day without some sort of dessert. I’ve made a few different types of these no-bake energy bite cookies before and they can do the trick for me from time to time. Now that I have my dairy issue, these have made it back to the top of the quick dessert list.

These are yummy and easy to whip together. Plus, in a non air conditioned house, I never want to turn on my oven to make real cookies in the summer, so these are a great substitute. I even excuse eating them as a snack because, I mean, they are healthy…right?!
energy bitesyou will need:
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/3 cup shredded coconut, toasted
½ cup ground flax meal
¼ cup mini cinnamon chips
¼ cup mini chocolate chips (I use vegan, dark chocolate chips)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch nutmeg

In a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter, honey and vanilla extract. Add in the remaining ingredients and then mix everything together until well combined. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Once chilled, shape mixture into 1 inch balls. Store in the fridge for up to a week…if they last that long 😉

makes: about 20
time: 10 minutes prep + 20 minutes chilling + 5 minutes to roll the dough into balls
adapted from: Cooking Classy

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Sun Dried Tomato & Kale Quinoa

Quinoa is a stand by in this house. Whether for a dinner side or making a big batch for a week of lunches, I’m always whipping up a new version of this protein packed and filling grain. I usually just start throwing in whatever I have in my fridge or pantry or try to use what is fresh in my garden.
Sun Dried Tomato & Kale Quinoa

you will need:
1 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ medium sweet onion, chopped
½ bunch tuscan kale, destemmed and roughly chopped
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
¾ cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
3 ounces crumbled goat cheese
handful fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch of smoked hot paprika
salt & pepper to taste

Cook the quinoa according to package directions and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 4 minutes. Add the kale and cook until kale begins to wilt a bit, another 5 minutes or so. Add to the cooked quinoa.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and consistency and add more spices and/or olive oil as necessary. Serve slightly warm, room temperature or chilled. Great as a side or even solo as a lunch.

What’s your favorite way to prepare quinoa?! Please share!

serves: 4
time: 30 minutes

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Cabbage & Collard Slaw with Tahini Dressing

Last year I got collards in my farmshare and wasn’t sure what to do with them. I didn’t want to do the traditional southern style preparation, so I tried this cole slaw instead. I liked it a lot and it was a nice departure from the usual cabbage slaws I make in the summer. This time, I tried one with a bit more crunch, adding other fruits and veggies to the mix. The tahini-dijon dressing has a great flavor.
Collard Slaw

What’s your favorite summer slaw recipe? Please share!

for the slaw, you will need:
1 bunch collard greens, de-stemmed and thinly sliced
2 cups shredded cabbage, shredded
2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
1 apple, cored and julienned
1 large or 3 small radishes (I used a black radish), julienned
4 green onions, sliced
½ cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup sesame seeds (white and/or black), toasted
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large salad bowl and set aside until ready to toss with dressing.

for the dressing, you will need:
¼ cup tahini
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
pinch of kosher salt
1-3 tablespoons water, depending on desired consistency

Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl and whisk vigorously until well combined and smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of water and whisk until combined. Adjust to desired consistency by adding more water 1 tablespoon at a time.

If serving immediately, dress the slaw and toss well. If waiting to serve, store the dressing separately and toss just before serving.

serves: 6-8
time: 20 minutes
adapted from: The Kitchn

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Herby Kale Pesto

Pesto is a summer staple around these parts. As soon as the basil blows up, I’m out there cutting it and whipping up a batch of pesto for pasta, chicken, toast, to spread on sandwiches…you name it, I’ll try to put pesto on it.
kale pesto

Since we became farmshare subscribers, I’ve never have had so much kale in my house. I mean, I like kale as much as the next wanna-be-hipster-30-something gal, but I don’t know what to do with a new bunch of it each week. I’ve started making pesto with kale as the staple, and I really like it. This batch is mixed with chives and parsley, too, which adds nice balance. Not too kale-y, if ya know what I mean.
kale pesto pasta w/ chicken

One of my favorite pesto uses, as pictured here, is to boil some pasta, toss with the pesto and add sliced tomatoes, parmesan and basil. I also added some chicken breast tenders on top for protein, otherwise Matt would be hungry again an hour after dinner.

for the pesto, you will need:
1 bunch kale, destemmed, torn into pieces & blanched
1 cup parsley
1 large handful chives, roughly chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and cooled
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup cold water
lemon juice
salt & pepper

Start by boiling a pot of salted water and tossing in the kale for 1 minute. Immediately remove and place in a large bowl of ice water to cool.

Combine kale, parsley and chives in a food processor. Pulse until roughly chopped and combined. Add in walnuts, garlic and parmesan and pulse until coarsely chopped. Turn on the processor and slowly drizzle in the oil and process to a coarse puree. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and process again for another 10 seconds. Add in the water as you did the oil. Season with salt and pepper and add in the lemon juice. Process to combine, about 10 seconds more. Store in a jar or container with a layer of oil on top in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze in small batches (I use ice cube trays!) for up to 6 months.

for the chicken, you will need:
1 chicken breast, cut into
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup pesto
salt & pepper

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add olive oil. While pan is heating, season chicken with salt and pepper and slather with the pesto. When the pan is hot, place the chicken in the pan and cook for 4 minutes, until browned. Flip chicken over and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until both sides are browned and chicken is cooked through. Serve atop or next to pasta tossed in the pesto.

Such an easy weeknight dinner, particularly if the pesto is already made!

What is your favorite pesto?! Do share!

serves: 2
time: 15 for the pesto + 20 for the chicken & pasta

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Tropical Berry Coconut Smoothie

I love smoothies in the morning. I wish I made them more. Problem is, I am not a morning person and neither is my toddler, so our mornings are usually mayhem and there is just no flipping way I have my act together enough to whip up a smoothie before work… #lifegoals
Tropical Berry Coconut Smoothie
But on the weekends or a day off, smoothies are an easy luxury. Connor loves to drink them, too, so its a win-win. I love using whatever I have in my freezer so I literally just throw things in a blender and press a button. That is the definition of low maintenance breakfast right there.

you will need:
1 banana frozen
½ cup mango chunks, frozen
¾ cup strawberries, frozen
½ cup orange juice blend (I use orange, peach, mango)
½ cup coconut almond milk (I love Califia Farms Toasted Coconut variety)
½ cup water, plus a bit more on reserve
berries for garnish, optional (I used blueberries

Add all ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth. If necessary, add a bit more water to reach desired consistency. Divide between 2 cups, add fruit and a straw and enjoy!

serves: 2
time: 5 minutes

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{Where to Shop Wednesday} Califia Farms Toasted Coconut Almond Milk

So I recently found out that I am lactose intolerant and likely have been for quite some time If that wasn’t a slap in the face…basically all of my favorite foods fit into the dairy category. Yogurt, butter, cheese, ice cream, whipped cream, half & half in my coffee…I’m telling you, its almost not worth drinking coffee without half & half in it!

I am in the process of researching and experimenting like a madwoman about how to eliminate diary from my diet without crying daily, and I have purchased a fairly large pack of Lactaid…because what is summer without ICE CREAM?!?

Anyway, I’ve been buying all sorts of different milks and creamers to try in my coffee, use in baked goods and to eat with cereal. I really liked Califia Farms Toasted Coconut Coconut Almond Milk Blend.
Califia Farms
It was a nice flavor combo and was a bit thicker than just plain almond milk, which I found to be a welcome change. I like it in baked goods and with my cereal. Its okay in my coffee, but I’m not holding it against them…half & half has huge shoes to fill. I’m looking forward to trying more of their products soon.

To any of my diary free readers, what are some of your favorite milk and creamer replacements? Help a sister out

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Red, White & Blue Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Happy 4th of July! Even though the weather is a bit gloomy in Pittsburgh this year, this is still one of my favorite holidays. All of the picnic foods and themed drinks and desserts just make me happy. Not to mention all of the pretty fire works and fires and marshmallow roasting that happens after spending time by the pool.
Red, White, Blue Cupcakes

No better way to celebrate the land that we love than eating all of the red white and blue things, like these yummy and festive cupcakes!
Red, White, Blue Cupcakes 2

for the cupcakes, you will need:
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large egg whites
¼ cup sour cream
¾ cup coconut-almond milk blend
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
seeds from ½ a vanilla bean
blue gel food coloring, optional

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a cupcake tin with liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside. Melt the butter and let cool a bit. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and butter until combined. Add the egg whites, sour cream, coconut-almond milk and vanilla extract and whip until combined. Stir in the seeds from half of the vanilla bean and mix until well dispersed. Add blue food coloring until desired color is reached, making sure the color is evenly distributed.

Divide batter evenly in cupcake liners and bake for 20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool complete until topping with buttercream.

for the buttercream, you will need:
2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
seeds from ½ a vanilla bean
2 tablespoons half & half
pinch of salt

Cream the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar, vanilla extract and bean, half & half and salt and whip on high speed for 3 minutes more. If too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar.

Frost your cupcakes with a generous amount of the buttercream, garnish with berries and/or sprinkles and enjoy! If not eat that day, store extras in the fridge and just let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to soften before eating.

makes: 12 cupcakes
time: 20 minutes prep + 20 minutes baking + 15 minutes frosting/decorating
recipe from: Sally’s Baking Addiction

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Vanilla Layer Cake with Raspberry Filling & White Chocolate Buttercream

So this one time, I made a wedding cake…
cake 1

…and turned out really great! Last June (a year ago yesterday!) I made this lovely cake for one of the loveliest ladies I know, my sister-in-law Lauren. Her wedding was so glam and clean and feminine. I was honored to make this cake and was totally nervous about making sure it was level and just the right shade of pink.
cake 2

We spent months trying different recipes and finally settled on this fluffy vanilla cake with white chocolate buttercream icing and a layer of raspberry jam in the middle. The cake was a great consistency, stayed moist, which was key since I had to make it the day before the wedding, and the flavor of the raspberry and white chocolate was so decadent.

Looking at these pictures makes me want to eat this cake again! Maybe I should make it for their anniversary…

for the cake, you will need:
5 large egg whites, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1 cup whole milk, divided, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 24 equal pieces

Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare your 8 inch cake pans. Grease pans with butter, line with parchment paper, put another layer of butter on top of the parchment and then dust with flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg whites, egg, ¼ cup of milk and vanilla and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, gently mix the flour, baking powder and salt until combined.

With the mixer on low speed, add the butter to the flour mixture, one piece at a time about every 10 seconds. The mixture should be a fine and crumbly texture once all of the butter is added. Add the remaining milk and mix on low speed for 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

On low speed, add the egg mixture in 3 separate additions, scraping down the bowl after each addition. After the third addition of the egg mixture, turn up the speed of the mixer to 3 or 4 and mix for 4 minutes, until batter is light and fluffy.

Divide mixture evenly in the two cake pans (you can weigh the pans for exactness if desired) and then pick up and drop the pans a couple of times to get out the air bubbles and level out the batter.

Bake until cake tester comes out with only a few crumbs on it, about 28-30 minutes. Start checking the cake at 20 minutes and every 5 minutes after. Let cakes cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans. Let them cool completely on wire racks before handling.

You can wrap the cakes tightly in plastic wrap and store for a couple days before using, but it is best prepared the day it was baked.

for the raspberry filling, you will need:
1 cup fresh raspberries
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir frequently until berries break down. If mixture comes to a boil, turn down to only a simmer. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes or so. Let cool completely before using in cake. You can store in a jar in the fridge for

Or you could just use Sarabeth’s Raspberry Key Lime preserves and call it a day. Her preserves are magical and it saves you a step 🙂

for the buttercream, you will need:
2½ cups (5 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
6-7 cups powdered sugar (depending on consistency)
pinch of salt
8 oz. good quality white chocolate, chopped
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup heavy cream

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 6 cups of the powdered sugar in 2 cup batches and mix slowly until combined. Mix in the salt, cooled white chocolate and vanilla extract and beat until combined.

Add the cream and whip until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes more. At this point the consistency should be fluffy but not runny at all. You should be able to hold it upside down on a spoon without it dripping off. Add more powdered sugar if necessary to reach a good consistency for icing the cake.

To assemble everything:
Level each of the cake layers and then cut each cake in as close to equal halves as possible. You will have 4 layers of cake to work with.

Place one cake layer, flat side down, on an 8″ cake board. Top with a few big, heaping tablespoons of buttercream. Spread icing with an offset spatula, covering all of the cake except for a small border around the edges.

Place another cake layer on top (use one of the top layers, saving the other bottom layer for the very top), lining it up with the bottom layer as much as possible. Use the raspberry filling for this layer, layering it on nice and thick.

Place another top cake layer on top of the raspberry filling, lining up the sides as much as possible. Repeat the same routine with the buttercream as the first layer. Top the cake with the final layer of cake, which should be your second bottom flat layer.

Try your best to keep the icing layers even so you don’t have a leaning cake, but not to fear if you do. That is why you have so much buttercream frosting. You can really lather that stuff on there and then can make the cake look even by using the spatula and turning the cake on rotating cake stand.

Now its time for the crumb coat of buttercream. Once your layers are completed and your cake is assembled, start covering the top and the sides with a thin layer of icing. Use a big offset spatula and make it as smooth as possible, scraping off excess and wiping it into a separate bowl. It is important to not get crumbs in the final icing layer, so be mindful of where you wipe the excess. Place the cake in your fridge for an hour or so for the icing to firm up. This makes it much easier to put on the top, fancy layer.

For the final layer of buttercream, start with the top. Place heaping dallops of icing on the top of the cake and start swirling the spatula around to flatten in out in a messy fashion. When the icing moves to the edges, wrap it down onto the sides. Keep adding icing and swirling around the spatula to get the desired look you want. You will have a lot of icing to work with so just keep adding the icing if necessary.

I am a big fan of messy looking cakes, but this cake would be lovely with a smooth coat of buttercream as well.

**Notes:
I used this tutorial to help me get the messy icing look on the buttercream…it is very helpful and much more descriptive than my explanation above. Some tools that will be helpful for making a cake like this are: large offset spatula, small offset spatula, scraper, and a rotating cake stand.

I did not decorate the cake with flowers, Lauren’s awesome florist did. She got her flowers from The Farmer’s Daughter and they were fabulous!

yields: one 2 layer, 8 inch round cake with thick frosting
serves: 10-12
cake recipe adapted slightly from: Sweetapolita

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{Feelings Friday} A little bit of my heart and soul…

This year, as we celebrated 3 years with our sweet Connor, I also felt like something was missing. Last summer, we decided to try adding a new little one to the family and after a few months, found out I was pregnant and my due date was the same as Connor’s, May 21st. But after only a week of reeling in the joy of this news, I had a miscarriage.
I hate that word: miscarriage. It’s so impersonal, so cold, so unrepresentative of what really happens. I lost a baby…and nothing, I mean nothing, prepares you for that kind of sadness. I felt like I was underwater and just couldn’t get up for air. It was so hard to talk about without crying. I wanted to tell people, to share, to help them understand why I wasn’t quite myself. But it was just so hard to put it into words, to not fall apart and ugly cry. Maybe this is why so many women don’t talk about it.
What did help was to just let myself be a mess, and feel all the big feelings. I took time to be quiet, to be sad, to be angry, to cry and yell. I took time off of work. I spent time alone. I spent time with my husband. I let myself be a mess on Thanksgiving because I would have been in my second trimester and talking about my pregnancy with our family. I let myself grieve. It also helped to talk to friends who have been through the same loss, and connecting with women through social media, like Jessica Zucker, and reading pieces on sites like Scary Mommy or other blogs like Cup of Jo. But at the end of the day, there is nothing you can really do other than feel the big feelings, sit with them, breathe, and wait for the heartache to ease. I am glad I had people around me that encouraged me and allowed me to do that for myself.
IMG_1229
So to help me process and allow myself to feel the big feelings on the baby’s due date, I picked up a pen and started writing…and it helped. It allowed me to do something, to say something. To put the feelings I’ve had, but had so much trouble explaining to anyone else, into words. Then I started blogging again…maybe because writing feeds my soul. I kept coming back to my writing and thought I’d like to put my words out there into the universe for another grieving mama to read. So here it is, a very personal piece of my heart and soul. To any mama who may read this that is experiencing the gut wrenching sadness of pregnancy loss, I am so sorry. I am sending you love and light during this soul-crushing time; and some seriously big hugs.

To my baby that I’ll never meet:
Today might have been your birthday. Or maybe it could have been yesterday, your big brother’s 3rd birthday. He came a day before his due date, so maybe you would have, too. What a gift you would have been! I always feel sad that I won’t meet you, but today the hurt is especially raw. This week my belly should be full and my feet swollen. I’d be waddling around and my body would be preparing to bring you earth-side. I should be holding you and kissing your little nose. But instead, I appear to be going about life as usual. Except, I’m not. A lot has changed since the day you left me. 
I wonder so many things about you. Would I labor the same? Would I have been calmer than last time? Would you be a boy or a girl? Would you look like your brother? What would your personality be? What beautiful gifts would you bring to this world?
I know a lot of things, too. You would have been so loved. You would have made this family bigger and stronger. Your big brother would have loved you fiercely. You would have added a beautiful, chaotic layer of mess to this house.
When you left me, I knew I would grieve you. I knew it would it would be hard, some days impossibly hard, to move on without you. Although nothing quite prepares you for that type of sadness; the kind of isolation you feel when something was taken from you that you never fully got to have. Just thinking about losing you makes my stomach drop and my eyes watery.
What I wasn’t expecting was to learn from you. You have taught me so much about life and about myself. I learned that sometimes life deals you crap and that I don’t have to handle it gracefully; that I don’t need to smile and fake my way through sadness. You taught me to lean on your dad because he is strong and loving and capable of holding me up. You taught me that my heart has the capacity to expand by light years in an instant. But most of all, you taught me to stop planning my life and just to live it; to be present in the messy, beautiful chaos that life is; to celebrate the good, and lean in to the bad and the ugly.
While I will always be sad I won’t hold you or see you, kiss you or hug you, I will know you. I will know you in the way I have grown as a woman and a mother since I lost you. I will know you from how much stronger you have made me. So on your almost-birthday, little love, I want to celebrate you; because you were real, you were mine, if only for a short while.
 
Love Always, 
Mama
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{Where to Shop Wednesday} Piebox

For Christmas this year, my mother-in-law gave me a Piebox. Obviously I was thrilled because who doesn’t need something like this to tote around homemade pies all summer?! I mean, maybe not everyone, but I definitely do. It sure beats make-shifting a carrier out of a cardboard box and towels. I’ve done that far too many times.
Piebox

That’s my Piebox, carrying my favorite strawberry rhubarb pie for our Father’s Day celebration last week.

Piebox also has other awesome products to carry around cakes, cookie and other treats. Go check them out! And keep this on your list for a gift for the baker in your life, they’ll love it!

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