orange chocolate chunk cookies

orange choco chunk

For the first time since I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, it feels like winter. This morning when our darling child woke us up at 5:30 in the morning it was a crisp 28 degrees outside. That is pretty uncommon for the Silicon Valley where the wardrobe consists of light terry Google hoodies and flip flops year round. The day after Thanksgiving, we went to chop down a Christmas tree up in the nearby mountains and expecting it to be chilly (since it was the last day of November), we bundled up in coats and scarves and went along our merry way. By the time we actually reached the tree farm we had stripped down to our last layer and were happy we had remembered deodorant. I was roasting, and felt like I should be taking a dip in the pool instead of kicking off the Christmas season. Thankfully, this week it really feels like Christmas is only two weeks away (yea, I’m not ready either!), so I’ve joyfully jumped into cookie baking mode, and this time, I won’t be dreaming of having an icy cocktail by the pool!

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Cookies are the perfect gift for someone who isn’t particularly on your Christmas list but you’d still like to let them know you appreciate them. I mean, who doesn’t love an assortment of home baked cookies around the holidays? The best part is they are easy to prep ahead of time, allowing you to focus on the things that really matter like keeping grandma from giving your son a swig of egg nog and your husband from knocking over that freshly poured glass of red wine with his new nerf gun. So, if you make the dough in advance, freeze it in pre-portioned sizes, all that’s left is some oven time and a little sprinkling of salt and voila! you have a fast and thoughtful gift for the carpet guy when he comes to get that red wine stain out of your dining room floor.

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These cookies would be excellent with toasted pecans or walnuts. You could even sub the dark chocolate for good quality white chocolate and add cranberries, that would be delicious. (more…)

December 9, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . baking, chocolate, cookie, dessert, quick and easy. 6 comments.

cranberry hand pies

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I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year, filled with gratefulness and delicious food. We had a great time with friends and family, reflecting on the last year of our lives and all the incredible blessings we have been given. Not only did we add an amazing little human to our home, but I’ve come to realize that the Lord didn’t just give me a wonderful husband, he gave me an incredible father for my son. Seriously, you should see those two together. There is not a moment when they aren’t absolutely cracking each other up. On top of all of that, our family and close friends have been such a huge support to us in the last 8 months, guiding us through the biggest adventure of our lives. Our hearts are overflowing with gratefulness.

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We were lucky enough to enjoy three (three!) meals with the ones we love, which means we ate, a lot. Somehow, even with spreading what we made over three meals, we still have a bunch of left overs. Now, everyone knows that the best thing about Thanksgiving is actually the left overs. None of the individual components of the big meal are jaw dropping on their own, but when you put them all together in the days following, magic happens. While there is no substitution for turkey, cranberry sauce and cream cheese smooshed between two slices of pillowy soft bread, there is another way I like to drag out the most delicious holiday of the year, with more pie. The great thing here is, you could go savory, sweet, or do a savory-sweet combo. I envision throwing some roasted squash, goat cheese and turkey (maybe some caramelized onion, too!) into the middle of one of these mini pies and take this whole pie thing in a completely different direction. (more…)

November 30, 2013. baking, fall, fruit. 2 comments.

your thanksgiving butternut squash soup

butternut squash soup

People have certain rules about what should be on the Thanksgiving table. I, for one, am pretty loosey goosey about the whole thing. This is not surprising to anyone who knows me well because ‘loosey goosey’ pretty much sums up my approach to the culinary world. I like to adjust as I go, add a pinch of something if it feels right and go with what I have on hand. When I sat down to plan what I would bring to the three dinners we will be attending, I knew I wanted to stray a little from tradition but still stay within the lines of the season. Dressing, green bean casserole and pie all made the cut and will maintain their traditional integrity, but I still felt like we could shake things up just a little tiny bit, but don’t worry, I didn’t nix the mashed potatoes.

I understand that no one really needs to have an appetizer right before they consume a weeks worth of food, and most people think the idea is absurd, but sometimes you want dinner to be a little fancy and I don’t know any better time to be fancy than on Thanksgiving. Break out the cloth napkins, the candlesticks and the good china, even make seating cards if you’d like and enjoy the one meal a year where you can pull out all the stops.

Thankfully, this starter won’t take up much of your time (which I know is utterly precious on the big day), and most of the ingredients are likely in your kitchen anyway, so no large additions to the shopping list either. Make the soup and remove the seeds from the pomegranate the day before and throw them in the fridge. Take a few leaves off of the brussels sprouts you’re probably already making and all thats left to do is just throw it all together. We ate it at room temperature and it was delightful, but you can warm it up in a pot if you can stand one more minute at the stove. (more…)

November 24, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . gluten free, quick and easy, sides, soup, vegetarian. 7 comments.

vegetable chicken wrap

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It becomes difficult to make healthy decisions when you don’t have adequate time to cook. The cheez its in the pantry and the left over mashed potatoes in the fridge are often the only food quick enough to keep you from passing out.

The past few weeks have been a little crazy while preparing for my first job since having our son which was promptly followed by a long weekend trip to Tahoe. I have needed to be quite efficient with my time while juggling an infant and a never ending to-do list, always doing my best to keep my body fueled with real, honest food. So, now that O is napping in his crib, I have been using some of that time to prepare some fast, healthy meals for times when I need to just grab something and I don’t have more than 5-10 minutes to spend in the kitchen.

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If you have some time in the evening (or during nap time), prepping the veggies ahead of time would make this wrap a two minute meal. Just warm the tortilla, slice an avocado, sprinkle on some feta, salt and pepper and you’re set. I tossed the julienned vegetables in a bit of spicy pesto, and added some roasted chicken for a square meal.  A variation of this wrap has become a staple for lunch time around here. Usually, it’s filled with whatever protein we have left over from the night before as well as the remaining bits of veggies that didn’t make it into our dinner salad.

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September 10, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . chicken, quick and easy, salads, summer, Whole Wheat. Leave a comment.

parsley and pecan pesto

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Last week I thought I was at the end of my rope. Our little guy just turned four months and had decided that he wouldn’t nap anywhere else but on me or in the car. Being a stay at home mom, I don’t get breaks like normal people do, so the break I get at nap time is highly coveted. That is the time where I get to do normal human things like take a shower, eat a quick meal and maybe squeeze in some dish washing. However, when nap time didn’t happen or it would only happen in my arms, I slowly turned into a zombie and it was all I could do to not guzzle the nearest bottle of wine and call it a night. I told my husband that I was nearing the edge and just one more day of no breaks could shove me right over, so he graciously took the weekend to train our son how to nap in the pack n play. Now, after this glorious Monday filled with three long naps, a fantastic lunch and some time in the pool, I feel like Wonder Woman. In fact, as soon as the babe was down for the night, I danced into the kitchen and I cooked up a very tasty pasta dish using this pesto. This my friends, has been an excellent Monday, one I’d like to repeat many times over. Good thing for wonderful husbands and their freakish ability to power through all the crying.

This pesto is a great way to finish off the herbs in the fridge. I have wasted so much money buying herbs and then leaving most of them to turn into brown sludge in the crisper. It’s the perfect sauce to have on hand since it goes well with just about anything and makes quick work of weekday meals. Spread some on a slice of bread and plop a runny egg on top, toss with some freshly cooked pasta and top with a scoop of lemony ricotta or stir it into a pile of sautéed vegetables. This was my first time making pesto and I’m completely hooked. I just hope you have better luck not eating it straight out of the jar with a large spoon.  (more…)

August 19, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , . condiment, quick and easy, sauces, vegetarian. 2 comments.

bi-rite gazpacho

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I’m a worrier, an over thinker, and I find it extremely difficult to say no. Satisfaction is fleeting, only remaining until the next model comes out or a prettier option pops up on Pinterest and if there is a phobia stemming from the fear of being left out, I’m pegged. While these personality traits may have been learned and deeply engrained into who I am, now more than ever, I’m trying to recognize when they inflict and adjust according to what is (I think) a simpler and far more pleasant way to live.

There are a million ways I could spend my free time and Pinterest and Instagram hold a significant corner on that market. For way more time than I am willing to admit, I troll through the newest products, recipes and drool worthy kitchen remodels that adorn the pages of Pinterest while flipping over to see what all my fabulously beautiful and ridiculously interesting ‘friends’ are doing in their perfectly normal lives. As you can imagine, filling my head with this type of stimulation day after day can cause this already anxiety filled girl with a serious case of ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’.

Mr. Roosevelt cut to the heart of it by declaring, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” This is an incredible truth that speaks to my heart so completely. While I won’t be able to attend every party and I will never have the body of a super model (especially after that child I grew in there!), I can rest in and be thankful for all of the immensely beautiful and tangible blessings in my life now. I have the privilege of talking to my mom every day, waking up to the most precious boy every made and I get to sleep next to my best friend each night, even if he does steal the covers. Although my life doesn’t look like the carefully curated boards on Pinterest or the beautifully filtered feeds on Instagram, it’s okay because no one’s really does. We all have dirty dishes, unkempt hair and bad breath in the morning. Most of us have extra weight we would like to lose (so we only post pictures from the shoulders up) and that kitchen remodel just keeps getting pushed back because it’s more important to take the kids to Disneyland then to have that perfect reclaimed barn wood floor you pinned last year. If you really think about it those moments that can not be pinned or instagrammed are the ones that really matter. If I were ever (God-forbid) to lose my husband, I would hate the fact that the blankets never move at night or that I would have no reason, other than good oral hygiene, to brush my teeth in the morning.

So, in an effort to live life simply, enjoying those moments only shared with those partaking in that joy face to face, I will be content there knowing that even if the grass is brown, it’s that grass that means the most and it has the most power experienced in real life, with the real souls around me. This week, cook with your loved ones, make a delicious soup and enjoy it together in that dingy old kitchen and be satisfied.

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August 18, 2013. gluten free, quick and easy, summer, vegan, vegetarian. 2 comments.

vegetable frittata

vegetable frittata

A friend of mine, shortly after high school, asked me if it ever bothered me that I was fat. The thought had never really occurred to me, I had been overweight nearly my entire life. I like to tease that I simply don’t have a metabolism, but between lifestyle choices and a genetic propensity to pack on and keep the pounds, I found myself nearly 70 pounds overweight by the end of high school, so the question my friend asked was not entirely out of left field. I don’t ever remember actually feeling fat or different than anyone else during my adolescent years. This could of course be selective memory, but I remember feeling well liked by everyone. I had friends in every circle and was never once taunted because of my weight.

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Being overweight looks like a physical battle from the outside, but in reality it is an emotional battle most of the time. Every day, my least favorite thing to do is get dressed. I used to work in a hospital, so I would wear scrubs every day. They are baggy and shapeless, which for me, was perfect. It seems counter intuitive to want to wear clothes that make you look bigger but the more I can cover up, the better. Two of my closest friends point out every summer that I have a serious deficit of summer clothes in my closet. That’s because I hate to wear clothes that show my arms or legs. I much prefer the seasons which allow me to bundle up with bulky sweaters, scarves and long pants.

I was married to my best friend in the spring of 2009. A couple years before I met my husband I lost about 40 pounds with the help of Weight Watchers. When we got engaged in December of 2008, I knew I had a very limited time to get to a weight where I was comfortable enough to be photographed. These pictures would be something we would look back on for the rest of our lives and I wanted to really enjoy looking at them.  During our short four month engagement, I went back to Weight Watchers and started biking a lot. I lost another 20 pounds and was 142 pounds on the day of my wedding. Although I don’t think the number is as important as the way I felt, it’s a place I now look back on as a goal for myself. On the day of my wedding, I felt beautiful and I was even showing my arms.

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As most women do, I gained weight over the course of our marriage as I became comfortable and happy in my new life. I started to learn to cook and bake and realized I really enjoyed both. I wanted to learn as much as I could, so without regard to the healthfulness of what I was making, I cooked and baked my heart out. (I’m pretty sure I am responsible for several close friends gaining weight during this time as well, so if that’s you, I’m sorry!) All in all I gained back 30 pounds while I ate my way through every good thing. That sure was easy and delicious.

Last summer I found out I was pregnant with our son. I was no where near the weight I hoped I would be when I became pregnant but at that point there wasn’t much I could do. During the course of my pregnancy I gained about 50 pounds and at full term, I weighed more than I have ever weighed in my life. I’m just glad I had a fairly good reason for the weight gain besides far too many croissants.

Currently, I am 40 pounds heavier than my wedding day and I still hate getting dressed in the morning. I wear leggings and nursing tanks most of time and even when it’s warm, I prefer to have on long sleeves. I am learning what it means to have a balanced and healthy lifestyle without compromising my love for food. I refuse to eat ‘diet’ food because who wants to eat poached chicken breasts and steamed vegetables? If I am to live a healthy lifestyle it has to be sustainable. It can not be a crash diet or something I’m going to struggle through until I meet my goal weight. It has to be a lifestyle change, for life. 

I returned to Weight Watchers last week with renewed resolve and already my efforts are paying off. I lost nearly four pounds my first week and I look forward to stepping on the scale next time. My hope is that I will find myself at a point where I can enjoy going into my closet in the morning and that I can again, feel like the best version of myself, inside and out.  (more…)

August 1, 2013. breakfast, eggs, quick and easy. 3 comments.

grilled sweet potato and green bean salad

grilled sweet potato and green bean salad

When we were first married, we moved to San Francisco. We fell madly in love with the city, even all the quirks like the fog and the naked men. Within the first year we started attending a church we really felt at home in and found ourselves immersed in a glorious community. Once a week we hosted a community group (part bible study, part hang out) that quickly became our favorite day of the week. We made friends that turned into family, we felt so at home. After living in SF for two years, we made the difficult decision to move to the south bay, about a 45 minute drive out of the city. Leaving (what felt like) our beating heart in San Francisco, we felt being closer to our jobs and my husband’s family would be the best thing for us as we planned to start a family. Even now, if you ask me if it was the right choice to leave the city, I don’t know that I could give you an honest answer. I want to believe moving was the right thing to do but that beating heart aches for those steep streets.

Life in the south bay is different. It’s slow and calm. Rarely do I ever hear our neighbors and there are few people who look like they are in need. Everyone is an engineer and has 2.5 kids. There are pools and backyards and strip malls. KFC, Burger King and Taco Bell are within walking distance as well as Big Lots and Lucky.  Starbucks is the closest thing to coffee and mediocre deep dish pizza fills in the gap on a desperately lazy evening. Our condo complex is like a silent secret garden with new and interesting people popping up all around us. There are four different couples in our immediate block who have children under the age of one year old. The neighbors across the way have a very friendly cat and a dog who will reluctantly warm up to you. The couple a few doors down has a little girl who will melt your heart. Less than two miles away, O has his grandpa, grandma, nana and papa. We have a group of friends we meet with on Wednesdays that have committed to navigate through life together as we all start to grow our families and learn what it means to follow Jesus within the craziness of this life.  Our condo is large with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. We even have a dishwasher.

As I watch Oliver grow and learn, smile and giggle, I realize that being close to family is important. There are all these people around who love him (and us) and want to share that with him. While San Francisco has it’s own charm (including one of my sisters), I can say I’m starting to warm up to life in the slow lane. I don’t know that my whole heart will ever be here, because I’m not convinced I can completely shake the adoration I hold for the city, but most of it feels very blessed to live where we do. To be able to make a quick dinner for nana and papa with little notice because we are lucky enough that they were literally ‘in the neighborhood’, makes me so happy. I hope that our son can grow up appreciating community like we have been fortunate enough to experience. Whether that’s in the city or the suburbs, it is integral to the satisfaction of our souls and fulfills in us something we were meant to long for. (more…)

July 26, 2013. salads, sides, summer, vegetarian. 4 comments.

shortbread cookie sandwiches with basil cream cheese

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Well, it’s been quite a year so far. As you may have noticed, I went radio silent for a good chunk of the last year. The last time we spoke, I was newly pregnant and just the thought of food made me ill. I had to un-follow a whole bunch of my favorite instagram feeds because I couldn’t bear to look at photos of food every time I scrolled through. Eventually, I returned to a somewhat normal diet, but by that time our little one was nearly here and I was just too pregnant to cook, photograph and write. Let’s just say I was on a sort of vacation where swollen feet, massive weight gain and hot pepper cravings were the selling points.

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On April 10th, we welcomed our own little prince, Oliver Elliot into the world. The past three and a half months have been an incredible adventure. He is the sole object of our affection, and I tell you, it’s hard to get stuff done while he is around. All I really want to do is snuggle and giggle all day long. Luckily, I resigned from my job two months before Oliver was born, so now I actually CAN stare at him for as long as I can keep my eyes open. I have wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember, so having Oliver has made me feel more like myself than ever before. It’s quite strange actually, to feel more like myself now than at any other time in my life.

As any new parent can empathize, until now, we have been in a bit of a newborn fog. We have been blessed with meals from friends from time to time and have managed to make several complete meals together as a family, but for the most part, our eating has devolved into a sort of hunter gatherer type method. Whatever we have on hand is what we have generally subsisted on up to now. I have been learning what cooking looks like while taking care of a newborn who occasionally has melt downs that require me to step away from what I’m doing for unknown amounts of time. I have yet to return to meals that take several hours to prepare and require close attention. Instead, I find myself turning to simply grilled skewers, fresh salads and many bowls of plump berries consumed hurriedly in between feedings.

Slowly, I have started to bake again for special occasions and this past Monday was one of those. A very good friend of mine, who is an incredible chef, had us over for dinner. Undoubtedly we would be served a wonderfully delicious meal so I wanted to be sure to bring her a treat as a thank you. I had some cream cheese frosting in the fridge from the previous special occasion (my husbands 30th birthday) and I wanted to use it up. So, with that in mind I decided to make a sandwich cookie. It couldn’t be just any cookie though, I wanted it to fit her palate and feel like it was meant just for her. She is a savory person. She cooks, she loves salt and acidity and I’m certain her middle name is ‘seasonal’. I believe this recipe is her in a cookie.

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July 24, 2013. baking, cookie, summer. 2 comments.

going bananas

I still have not returned to the land of the living. It has been 15 weeks today, with at least 12 of those consisting of a very simple routine. Get up for work, go to work, come home from work, put on yoga pants, hit the couch, go to bed, repeat. Last night, I did force myself to cook dinner, particularly because I could not even consider having cereal for dinner even just one more time. I’ve been told that the sicker you are when you’re pregnant, the better. Well, I am certainly glad for that! If this is what I need to get through to have a healthy baby, I am in this 100%. I just hope you’ll bear with me as I share with you the few things I have the energy to make. Let’s just all hope I get my second wind real soon. 

Simple, comforting and quick has become my mantra these days. There have been no marathon cooking events happening in our kitchen, only short and precise dishes that fill our (growing) bellies. This baked banana dish meets all the criteria. Easy, quick, comforting and completely un-fussy, this breakfast treat will satisfy everyone in your family. Pair it with pancakes or waffles or even over ice cream for dessert after a family dinner to add the feeling of fancy.

This post is part of a series cooked from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham. AimeeClaudieEmily and Natasha have posted their picks from the fruit chapter so be sure to pay them a visit.

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October 17, 2012. breakfast, fruit, quick and easy. 4 comments.

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