A Squared: 2017

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Almond Butter Banana Pancakes (Toddler Friendly)

These almond butter banana pancakes are a filling, healthy, and delicious way to start the day-- for the whole family!

Feeding a toddler has been a fun adventure full of surprises. I have loved trying new foods with her and seeing what her tastes are and how she reacts to different flavors and textures. And it's been a challenge for me trying to find ways to introduce her to new healthy foods with her limited number of teeth.


We were in a pretty good groove for a while when it came to breakfast: Every morning for the first few months that she was eating solid foods Hannah would have some diced fruit along with a bowl of oatmeal mixed with pureed fruit and a spoonful of nut butter. It was a great way to hit all the food groups and was easy for her to eat. Then one day a couple of weeks ago, she refused it. I thought she was being picky because she was teething but then she refused that same breakfast (or rather, just the oatmeal) all week long. So, I needed to come up with an alternative for whole grain and protein that wasn't just cheesy scrambled eggs and dry cereal-- which she does LOVE-- and these pancakes are just that!


These pancakes are a complete breakfast in themselves: whole grains from whole wheat flour, protein from almond butter, whole milk, and eggs, and the nutritional benefits of fresh bananas. They get some nice sweetness from the bananas and also from the addition of real maple syrup. These pancakes are hearty, but they have a nice fluffy texture and great flavor on their own-- which is how I feed them to Hannah-- slightly warmed with fresh fruit on the side. They're also great with a drizzle of maple syrup or melted almond butter too.

This recipe makes a huge batch of small pancakes, so it is perfect for making ahead and freezing. I have a huge bag of these stored in my freezer and will just take two out the night before and thaw them for Hannah to have for breakfast the next day. It's so nice to have an easy already prepared breakfast on hand for her-- and she loves them, which is the most important thing!


Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon 
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup almond butter

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla and oil. Fold in the mashed bananas. 

In a small microwave safe bowl, melt the almond butter in the microwave until it becomes runny and smooth, about 20 to 30 seconds. Stir into the wet ingredient mixture and whisk until fully combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredient mixture and stir just until combined, without over-mixing.

Lightly grease a large nonstick pan and heat over medium heat. Drop a little less than 1/4 cup pancake batter and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the batter begins to bubble and the bottom is golden brown. Flip the pancakes and continue to cook until the edges are dry and the second side is golden brown as well.

Serve warm with maple syrup, almond butter, and/or sliced fruit. If preparing pancakes for freezing, transfer to a cooling rack until completely cooled. Store in an airtight large zip locking freezer bag and thaw as needed.


*Editor's Note: Recipe adapted from original recipe by Two Peas & Their Pod.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Summer Wine & Food Pairings

I haven't shared my favorite wines in quite some time, so I figured that summer is the perfect time to do so! I'm a big fan of a cold glass of rose on the deck in the summertime, but my love for wine does not end there. A crisp white or even a bold red are also more than acceptable wines at this time of year-- as long as they're paired with the right food, of course!

Here's a roundup of a few of the wines I have been enjoying this summer-- and the recipes that you should enjoy with them too.

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Hogwash Rose - This is officially my favorite rose. That's sort of like picking a favorite child (in a kind of alcoholic way), but after sampling many this is the one that I love best. I discovered it a few years ago at a tiny (now closed) beer & wine shop in my neighborhood. The guys there recommended that I bring it along to a summer party I was headed to and they were right-- it was a hit! Fast forward to this spring when my picked up a bottle that we enjoyed by the beach in St. Simons Island, GA and I was reminded of how much I loved it so I found it at my local Whole Foods and have been enjoying it all summer long. It's a medium-bodied rose with fruity aromas and the perfect companion for barbecued food!
Pair it with: Balsamic Fig Grilled Lamb Chops
Lemon Marinated Grilled Chicken & Vegetables
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Frescobaldi Pomino Bianco DOC - The first thing that I noticed about this wine was how gorgeous the bottle and label were... I'm a sucker for good packaging and would say that if you believe that you "eat with your eyes first," then the same might be true for drinking as well. Beyond that though, this is a great summer white wine. Grown in Tuscany, it's a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco so it's dry, but not as harsh as some Chardonnays can be with some great fruity notes.
Pair it with: Watermelon Feta Bites
Kalamata & Lemon Roasted Salmon



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Château Saransot-Dupré Cru Bourgeois - I know embarrassingly little about French wine. I'm a big fan of Italian wines, love a good wine or sparkler from the Pacific Northwest... but French, I'm clueless! I may not know much about it, but what I can tell you about this Cru Bourgeois is that I like it... a lot! It's a gorgeous deep dark red blend including Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It's a full-bodied wine with notes of balsamic and espresso that feels decadent to drink in the summertime, but because of that it is a great one to sip and savor on a summer night.
Pair it with: 
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Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva - This Chianti Rufina Riserva is a good one! After spending several months living in the Tuscany region and being a lifelong lover of Italian food, Chianti is definitely one of my standby reds. That said, sometimes the same old ones can get boring. This Tuscan Nipozzano Riserva is a little different: A nicely balanced red with big fruity notes (they cite cherry, plum, raspberry) with hints of spice like nutmeg and pepper.

Anne Aimee Cuvee A Midnight Saignee Rose Pinot Noir - You have my mom to thank for this rose too! After sampling it at a favorite wine shop she gifted me a bottle as an early birthday gift knowing how much I love rose-- and because I share a name with the vineyard! This rose is nice and dry with fruity notes like strawberry and cherry and spicy ones like chai spice and white pepper. If you like a dry rose, this is a great find!
Pair it with: Grilled Shrimp & Spaghetti with Spicy Breadcrumbs
Chicken, Peach & Goat Cheese Salad with Chive Vinaigrette





Editor's Note: Complimentary samples of Frescobaldi and Château Saransot-Dupré were provided in order to facilitate this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Weeknight Chicken Pasta Salad with Lemon Tea Vinaigrette

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC. and The Coca-Cola Company, all opinions are mine alone. #ServeWithACoke #Jewel #CollectiveBias

A lot has changed in my household since becoming a mom a little over a year ago. There is one thing that hasn't though: Putting delicious and healthy dinners on the table for my family every night is still one of my top priorities. What has changed is that after a long day at the office and an evening of tending to family matters, spending a ton of time making dinner in a hot kitchen on a steamy July night is about the last thing I feel like doing. And that's where my friends at Jewel-Osco and Gold Peak® have come to my rescue this summer!


I live just a few blocks away from a Jewel-Osco grocery store, so I find myself there often: Doing a big weekly shopping trip and then stopping in between for last minute items -- like dinner essentials, when I don't feel like cooking! And with that in mind, Jewel's Signature Meal Deals are a weeknight go to. I love the versatility of rotisserie chicken-- this chicken has the best flavor, it's super moist, and you can turn it into a sandwich, tacos, chicken salad, add it to pasta salad (scroll on down for my recipe!), or serve it as is, of course!


Rotisserie chicken is also part of the Jewel-Osco signature meal deal, so you can pick up a whole roasted chicken, 2 side dishes (like classic cole slaw!), and Hawaiian rolls and dinner is ready! It's a great value, but even better when you add a refreshing beverage to the mix. I'm partial to an iced Gold Peak tea in the summertime, while my husband is a Coca-Cola™ man all the way. The great news is that you can add a Gold Peak tea or a Coca-Cola to your signature meal for just $0.99. It's an easy way for us to get dinner on the table and have some time together without cooking or cleaning the kitchen. It's nice to have a few extra minutes to linger over a cool beverage together during a summer night!


And speaking of summer nights, one of my favorite dishes to make for dinner at this time of year is a pasta salad. It's a one-dish dinner that is totally customizable, can feed a crowd (or yield leftovers for lunch later in the week), and because I use a fully cooked rotisserie chicken, it requires very minimal cooking! This recipe starts with whole grain pasta and then I add season vegetables (in this case, green beans, carrots, and green onions), and cubed rosemary garlic rotisserie chicken. It's all tossed in a delicious homemade lemon tea vinaigrette made with fresh lemon juice and Gold Peak tea. The Gold Peak tea adds a little unexpected earthy flavor to the tangy lemony vinaigrette. And everyone knows that Gold Peak iced tea pairs perfectly with chicken, so the idea of a cold glass of iced tea plus bowl of roasted chicken pasta salad just tastes like summertime to me.


Gold Peak tea and this chicken pasta salad definitely make for a perfect dinner match... but let's be real, Gold Peak tea and Coca-Cola products go well with just about any meal! In case you're looking for more summer mealtime pairings though, Coca-Cola has shared some other great ideas for dishes to pair with your favorite Coca-Cola brand beverages.


Get a delicious and refreshing dinner on the table fast this summer with Gold Peak tea and Jewel-Osco signature meals. Summer is too short to spend standing over a stove when you should be enjoying it with friends, family, and a great meal instead!


Recipe:
  • 8 oz. dry short cut whole grain pasta *I used farfalle (bow ties)
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup Jewel-Osco Rosemary Garlic rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 1/3 cup carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/4 cup green onions, diced
  • 1/4 cup Gold Peak unsweetened tea
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dry chives
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. 

With 3 minutes left of pasta cook time, add the cut green beans to the boiling pasta pot. Cook and drain well, rinsing well with cold water to prevent further cooking.

Add the pasta, green beans, chicken, carrots, and green onion to a large bowl. Set aside.

In a small bowl or cruet, whisk tea, honey, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, chives, salt and pepper together until fully combined. Slowly stream in the oil, whisking constantly to incorporate.

Pour 1/2 cup of dressing over the pasta mixture and toss to combine. Serve or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Taste the pasta before serving and dress with reserved vinaigrette, if needed.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cooking with Toddlers + An Invitation to a Virtual Book Party!

As a lover of food and cooking, one of the things I have looked forward to most in becoming a mom is spending time in the kitchen with my daughter. Granted, right now she's more of a mess in the kitchen than a helper... but the kid loves food and I love that about her!

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Recently, I met up with fellow (newish) working mom Katie for coffee sans babies (delightful) and she told me a little bit about Usborne Books & More, a publisher of some of the cutest and most unique children's books I have seen in a long time. Katie is a consultant for UBAM and she started this side gig because as a mom herself, she fell in love with these books and wanted to fill her own son's shelves with them-- while sharing them with other book lovers along the way! And when we met up, she brought along a bag of some of her favorites as well as some great food-focused children's books that I am so looking forward to reading with Hannah.

She also shared with me a copy of Start to Cook by Abigail Wheatley, a first cookbook for kids. It's such a great book with tons of healthy recipes that are kid-friendly, but not basic or boring. I couldn't wait to take it home and try making something with Hannah and decided that since she had recently mastered drinking from a straw (hurray!) we'd try making a  strawberry & pineapple smoothie. The recipe was so simple: Only 3 ingredients (strawberries, banana, and pineapple juice) and the instructions were easy enough that a child (a little older than Hannah) could safely prepare it themselves. For instance, instead of using a blender to combine ingredients, the recipe called for using a masher in a pitcher instead.


I am sure that Hannah and I will be referring to this book a lot over the next few years as she claims her rightful place as my sous chef! And I'm excited to check out more Usborne Books as well and would like to invite you to do the same at my virtual Usborne Books & More party tomorrow night! Katie will be hosting an interactive Facebook party (nobody will see you so you can attend in your pajamas, like I will be!) to share more about these great books for children and grown ups alike, along with fun food-themed content that Katie created with you guys in mind, questions and some book giveaways too!

Interested in attending? The party starts at 8:30 PM Central Time on Thursday, July 20. It's a private party, so send me an email at aasquaredblog@gmail.com letting me know you'd like to attend and we can invite you too. And even if you can't make it, shop the party here!

Looking forward to "seeing" you all there!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Homemade Veggie Tots [Toddler Friendly!]

On balance, my 14-month old is a really good eater. Oranges, peas, salmon, meatballs, yogurt, and anything covered in marinara sauce are among her favorite foods. It's been really fun watching her try new foods and decide what she likes and what she doesn't. And as a mom that loves food, this can be both rewarding and frustrating at the same time.


I have found that vegetables are some of the most challenging new foods to introduce to Hannah-- especially now that we are moving beyond purees and into finger foods. She's still not an adept enough eater for raw vegetables, but she also is a bit selective about the cooked ones she'll eat. Hannah loves peas and she'll also eat cooked carrots, corn, green beans, and asparagus. She only enjoys sweet potatoes or avocado when mashed and under no circumstances does she enjoy broccoli, cauliflower, or spinach... until recently.


On a whim at Whole Foods, I picked up a box of Dr. Praeger's Spinach Littles just to see if Hannah would eat them. And not only did she eat them, she LOVED them. I took a quick bite and quickly understood why: These little tots were super flavorful and you could really taste the onion and garlic in them, which was a nice surprise from a food made for kids because they're normally so bland. I loved that this was a different way to for Hannah to get some more vegetables in her diet and since she liked them, I decided to take a stab at making my own at home.


These homemade veggie tots are super easy. The active prep time is pretty minimal and this makes a big batch of 24 mini muffin-sized tots. The recipe begins with the leafy greens of your choice: I have used spinach and Swiss chard and both worked nicely. Fresh carrots, onions, and garlic (sautéed to mellow the flavor a bit), are added to the greens and pulsed together until the form a crumbly mixture. It all comes together with the addition of eggs, whole wheat flour, and a bit of shredded cheese. In addition to the flavor from the vegetables, I like to add a few dry seasonings to pump up the flavor in these tots. Hannah enjoys foods that are more seasoned and the combination of garlic powder, onion powder, and dry thyme is a nice way to incorporate a little flavor into your little one's meals.

These tots are perfectly portioned. Just add one or two to your toddler's meal for a big boost of vegetables (along with a little whole grain, dairy, and protein too!). They are also very freezer friendly. Once they're fully cooled, just store them in a freezer safe container and thaw as needed.


Ingredients:

  • 3 cups packed fresh greens *I have used Swiss chard and spinach
  • 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup mild shredded cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. dry ground thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Coat a mini muffin tin with cooking spray or olive oil.

Put the greens in a medium microwave-safe mixing bowl, cover, and microwave for 1-3 minutes or until wilted. If you're using spinach, you'll need to use a clean towel to squeeze out the excess moisture once it has cooled.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic to the pan and saute for another 2 minutes, continuing to stir often.

Combine the cooked greens, onions, garlic, and carrots in a food processor, cover, and pulse until finely minced.Transfer the mixture back into the bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Stir until fully combined.

Scoop this mixture evenly into the mini muffin tins.

Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before attempting to remove them. You may use a knife around the edges and to gently lift them from the muffin tin. Refrigerate or freeze until you're ready to serve.

Editor's Note: Inspired by recipe by Sumptuous Spoonfuls.




Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Dining on St. Simons Island: Georgia Sea Grill


I'm back with a follow up post about dining on St. Simons Island-- and I saved the best for last! 

One of the highlights of vacationing with your parents is that you have built-in free (and more than willing) babysitters. So when mom and dad suggested that Alex and I get out for a date night, we jumped at the chance-- and I knew exactly where I wanted to go! A few months before our trip I had watched an episode of Beach Bites with Katie Lee where she visited the Georgia Sea Grill on our little St. Simons Island. We had passed the restaurant several times on prior trips, but had never gone so this was our opportunity. The restaurant is a little higher end than the standard beach cafes you'll see on the island, but still had a great laidback and comfortable vibe. And the food was a wonderful combination of southern coastal classics with upscale flair.


After a glass of rose (a vacation necessity), Alex and I began our meal with the appetizer that Katie Lee highlighted on her show: Crab stuffed hushpuppies. Hushpuppies can be really bland if they're just balls of fried cornmeal, but these were pretty special. They were moist and had great texture, with chunks of corn, jalapeno pepper, and crab throughout. The outsides were fried crispy and they were served with a pickle spear and a creamy chive aioli for dipping.



We also split a baby iceberg wedge salad before our entrees arrived. It's a small thing, but I love when a restaurant splits and separately plates a dish that you have said you'll share. Our wedge salad arrived as two lovely and separately plated salads of crisp iceberg lettuce, grape tomatoes, and crispy bacon topped with crunchy fried onions, smoked gouda cheese and a pink-peppercorn vinaigrette. I loved the smokiness of the bacon and the cheese along with that creamy pepper dressing, which was a fun way to dress up a classic salad.


As the name might suggest, Georgia Sea Grill's menu offers a wonderful selection of seafood dishes. I had a hard time deciding what to order, but finally settled on ordering from the Fresh Catch section of the menu. Georgia Sea Grill features a handful of 'catch of the day' fish specials every day, which can each be prepared in one of three ways. I decided on the tripletail, which is a mild white fish local to coastal Georgia. And I ordered in pan roasted, which left the inside moist and the outside of the fish nice a crispy. It was served alongside the most delicious gnocchi, sauteed leeks, fresh baby arugula, drizzled with a sweet and tangy citrus sauce. I absolutely loved this dish-- it was just the right combination of comfort food and light seafood fare.


Alex got a little adventurous with his order and went with one of that evening's specials: A mahi mahi filet glazed with a Coca-Cola barbecue sauce. It was served over southern-style local collard greens and one of the most interesting side dishes I have ever tried: bourbon baked peanuts. YES, they prepared peanuts like baked beans... and they were really tasty! They tasted very much liked traditional baked beans, but with a bit more chew. The dish was topped off with a corn relish and a little bit of the citrus vinaigrette that I enjoyed on my fish. This was such a fun dish and a great way to give local seafood a little southern barbecue treatment. Alex would have preferred to have a little more heat in the dish (he always wants more heat), but I thought the balance of flavors was really nice here and actually enjoyed the sweetness of the barbecue sauce.


The "local vegetable" of the day was roasted rainbow carrots, which our server mentioned were sourced from a local farmstand. The rotating specials and vegetables of the day at Georgia Sea Grill are typically dictated by what's in season in the area, so I was excited to try these carrots. They were buttery and very simply roasted, which brought out their naturally sweet flavor.


And for a little something sweet, we shared a key lime pie for dessert. Key lime pie is one of Alex's alltime favorites (and I can't disagree), so we order it almost anytime we see it on a menu-- but especially when we're visiting the southeastern US. This one didn't disappoint. It was tangy and creamy and got a great touch of sweetness from a drizzle of raspberry coulis.

As a thank you to my parents for babysitting, we also brought a slice of pecan pie back to the house for them. It's a Georgia staple and this one was housemade with local honey and of course, delicious.

Georgia Sea Grill is located at 407 Mallery St., St. Simons Island, GA 31522. (912) 638-1197. They also accept reservations via OpenTable!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Dining on St. Simons Island: Part I

For almost every spring over the last 15 years, my parents have packed up and headed down to St. Simons Island for a little R&R by the ocean. I have joined them a handful of times on these trips, but until this year it had been a few years since I had been back. It was so fun to go back and for the first time, bring my husband and daughter along to this place that has been so special to my family. My parents rented a house and we spent a lot of time there hanging out on the decks or walking down to the beach or the pool to play. When we did venture out though, we had some great food too. Here are a few great casual dining spots to consider when you're visiting St. Simons Island. I'll be back with a second post about a more upscale dinner that Alex and I enjoyed on a date night there too!


Shortly after we arrived on the island to start our vacation, a huge thunderstorm blew into the area and for the next day or two the weather was a bit too windy for us to enjoy the beach with a toddler. We took that opportunity to stay off the beach and took a trip over to nearby Jekyll Island, specifically to see the amazing Driftwood Beach, which is basically a graveyard of uprooted trees that create sort of a natural jungle gym (or an easy place to hand a hammock) for tourists.

Tortuga Jack's
Jekyll Island


While on Jekyll Island, we headed over to Tortuga Jack's, a fun waterfront Mexican restaurant with a great patio and live music. If you want to kick back, listen to music, and sip on a mojito or a margarita by the ocean then this is the place for you! It's super laidback and the food is solid. We really enjoyed the white queso and guacamole along with endless baskets of warm tortilla chips.


And I tried the grilled Baja fish tacos for my lunch. The fish was a little greasy, but the fillets were super generous and the seasoning was great. They were served with lettuce and a spicy "Bangin'" sauce, which added a great kick of flavor to the tacos.


Palmer's Village Cafe

Since we have been vacationing on Saint Simons Island forever, we typically dine at the same handful of restaurants every time we visit (see Southern Soul Barbeque below for reference). On a trip into town during this visit, though, we stopped in to a new (to us) spot and were delighted to discover a new favorite! Palmer's Village Cafe is a small quaint restaurant right in the middle of downtown Saint Simons Island. The staff is fun and the menu is full of comfort food classics with a southern twist-- plus breakfast all day. The dinner menu changes as Palmer's is only open Thursday - Saturday for dinner.


I order The Pimiento Cheese sandwich for lunch, which came on thick slices of buttered toasty bread with sliced tomato, lettuce, and lots of crispy bacon. The pimiento cheese was slathered on thick and melty, the perfect glue to keep this sandwich together. It was served with a simple kale and cucumber salad on the side, a nice cool complement to this decadent sandwich. We had a great lunch here and I'm confident that we will be visiting Palmer's on our next visit... hopefully to try that amazing breakfast menu!


St. Simons Sweets

One place that we visit frequently when we're on the island is St. Simons Sweets. It's the perfect stop for satisfying a sweet tooth after a meal (like lunch at Palmer's) or to stock up on a few goodies to keep back at the house. St. Simons Sweets offers an amazing array of housemade candies, baked goods, fudge, and chocolates, along with traditional boxed candy too. But, we went with ice cream in mind!


St. Simons Sweets has a great selection of ice cream: from the traditional to the more unique. I immediately decided on the banana pudding ice cream. When in the South, am I right? It was delicious: Creamy vanilla ice cream with generous chunks of ripe banana and vanilla wafers. I loved it!


Southern Soul Barbeque

We love to eat at Southern Soul Barbeque, but the restaurant is small so you usually end up waiting for a table during peak times. With Hannah in tow, we knew waiting wasn't a great idea so we ordered takeout from here and enjoyed it back at the house. I didn't take any photos, but this is some delicious barbecue-- and it never disappoints! See my previous post here about dining on Southern Soul BBQ during my last visit to the Island. This time around, we managed to score one of their smoked half chickens which sell out quickly. It's one of the best items on the menu, so be sure to try one if it's available!


Smallcakes Cupcakery

Smallcakes is a franchise and I have told you about the ice cream they serve at the location just a few blocks away from my house, but when we were on St. Simons Island we made a stop there too. This time, we stopped in for cupcakes-- specifically, to pick one up for a belated first birthday celebration for Hannah. Look at that sweet little face trying her first chocolate cupcake!


On the right is the Lemon Drop cupcake: it starts with vanilla cake filled with lemon curd filling, topped with lemon buttercream frosting. It was tangy, moist, and a pretty solid cupcake!


I'll be back soon with a follow up post all about a great date night dinner on St. Simons Island too!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Buffalo Chicken Burgers with Ranch Slaw

Looking for an alternative to your standard cheeseburger this summer? Try these flavorful Buffalo chicken burgers with ranch slaw for a spicy alternative at your next barbecue!


We love to grill in the summertime. If it's Saturday night and it isn't raining, you can usually find my husband manning the grill while I prep the rest of the meal in the kitchen-- or if I'm really smart and it's a meal that can be mostly prepped ahead of time (like this one), then you'll find me seated on the deck next to my husband with a chilled glass of wine in hand. We do our best to come up with new and exciting grilled dinners to make, but burgers are always in heavy rotation. They're easy to make and they just taste like summer. We usually make a standard beef cheeseburger when we're grilling, but when Moore's Marinades & Sauces sent me a sample of their spicy tangy Original Buffalo Wing Sauce to try out I was inspired to make something a little different.


Alex loves anything Buffalo flavored and truthfully, so do I-- except for wings. It's weird, I know, but I hate Buffalo wings. But since I love that bold recognizable flavor, I will often make grilled Buffalo chicken breasts, pulled Buffalo chicken wraps, slow cooker Buffalo chicken baked potatoes... you get the picture. This time, I put together a burger that takes the flavors of a basket of Buffalo wings and stacks them right up on a bun. It starts with a chicken burger patty with some simple flavors and a shot of Buffalo sauce mixed in. It's all grilled up and topped with a slice of melty sharp cheddar or Swiss cheese, which mimics that strong blue cheese flavor but melts more smoothly. The burger is drizzled with some additional Buffalo sauce and topped with a creamy cool ranch coleslaw-- because we prefer ranch or blue cheese dressing with our Buffalo chicken in this house. This burger is fun and delicious and a great way to get your Buffalo wing fix between two buns!


Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground chicken *I used a combination of 1/2 lb. ground chicken thigh and 1/2 lb. ground chicken breast
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 Tbs. Buffalo sauce
  • 1/2 Tbs. parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • Vegetable or olive oil
  • 4 brioche buns
  • 4 slices of Swiss or cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup Buffalo sauce
For the slaw--
  • 3 Tbs. ranch dressing
  • 1 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups shredded coleslaw mix
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, whisk together ranch dressing and vinegar. Stir in coleslaw mix and onion, tossing to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill to medium.

In a large bowl, mix the ground chicken and next 8 ingredients through paprika until just combined. Don't over-mix.

Using your hands, form the mixture into four 1/2-inch thick patties. Grill burgers over medium heat for 5 - 6 minutes per side, or until insides are hot and no longer pink. Top each burger with a slice of cheese and remove from grill. Allow to rest for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Lightly brush the insides of each bun with oil. Toast the buns cut-side down on the griddle until golden brown.

Remove buns from the griddle and top the bottom half of each with a cheeseburger patty. Spoon prepared slaw over the top of the burger and then drizzle with desired amount of Buffalo sauce. Place top half of the bun on top and enjoy.


Editor's Note: A complimentary sample of Moore's Marinades & Sauces was provided in order to facilitate this post. All opinions expressed herein are my own.





Thursday, June 15, 2017

My 10 Favorite Things for Toddler Mealtime

Feeding a toddler is certainly an adventure! For me, it's been fun. Hannah is a fantastic eater whose favorite foods include blueberries, peas, meatballs, roasted salmon (I know!), pasta, spinach tots (recipe coming soon), scrambled eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, yogurt, and pretty much anything flavored with cinnamon or covered in marinara sauce. She does have her preferences though and there are a few things I just can't get her to eat: broccoli, cubed avocado or sweet potato (she only likes them mashed), and pizza, much to our dismay. On balance though, she does a great job and I have had a ton of fun giving her new foods because she is willing to try almost anything-- and I know that other moms aren't always that lucky!


And while she is an adventurous eater, mealtime at our house is now an adventure in itself. With the exception of oatmeal, yogurt, or a few purees that still require our help, Hannah is pretty much feeding herself these days. And watching her become an independent eater has been a proud moment for me as much as it has also been funny, terrifying, and extremely messy! We have some portion control issues (i.e. you don't need to put ALL of the food in your mouth at once) and some communication roadblocks (like signaling that she is done eating by dropping her food on the floor and/or feeding it to the dog) and then there's the general messiness: marinara facials and mac and cheese hair treatments, to name a few instances. Now that we are deep into toddler mealtime and there's no looking back, we've got a whole new box of tools for handling Hannah's eating and drinking these days. Here's a roundup of the items that we're loving lately:



1. OXO Tot Transition Straw Cup with Handles - This cup is great and has helped us seamlessly transition from formula to cow's milk and away from bottles and nippled sippy cups too. We packed all of Hannah's bottles up this past weekend and she hasn't missed them. The flexible straw is easy for her to use and the cup is spill-proof too so even when she tips it all the way up or drops it on the floor, we don't end up with a puddle situation. The lid flips closed, making is easy to cart along when we're out and about and the handles are also removable so this can easily transition to a bigger kid's cup too.
2. Calphalon Nonstick Mini Muffin Tin - These muffin tins have been put to serious use now that Hannah is a toddler. Since they are small and nonstick it is an easy way to make appropriately portioned food for her. I make big batches of corn muffins, healthy banana muffins, and homemade veggie tots in these pans and then freeze them so that I always have them on hand when making her meals.
3. Munchkin Snack Catcher - These snack catchers are great for packing up cereal, puffs, and small crackers for Hannah to feed to herself-- without grabbing a handful of 10 at a time like she normally does. We have the regular plastic version, but then I just discovered these stainless steel snack catchers which would be great for housing her favorite peas, blueberries, cheese or other snacks that need to be kept cool!
4. OXO Tot Baby Blocks Storage Containers - I mentioned these in a previous roundup, but they are worth mentioning again because we seriously use them every day. I portion out Hannah's breakfast, lunch, and snacks into these containers for her nanny every night and I also frequently fill them up and pack them in her diaper bag when we are on the go. They seal nicely and are freezer, dishwasher, and microwave safe.
5. Bumkins 3-Pack SuperBib - I finally upgraded Hannah's bibs after the velcro started to go on her old ones and have loved these so far. They cover much more of her, so messes are at a minimum and they're made of a durable washable fabric with a front pocket to catch all the food she's dropping everywhere. Oh, and they come in cute patterns too!
6. Burt's Bees Baby Organic Washcloths - I LOVE any of the Burt's Bees Baby cotton products, but these washcloths are especially handy now that my messy girl is feeding herself. I hate to be wasteful and use paper towels or disposable wipes to clean her up after every meal, so these soft machine washable cloths are a great environmentally friendly option.
7. Annie's Homegrown products - Annie's is my go to brand for snacks and pantry staples for Hannah. While I prefer to give her homemade food, I love Annie's healthier options for crackers, cookies, and boxed mac and cheese when I need something quick for Hannah that I can also feed good about her eating. Also, they're tasty for adults too. #guilty
8. Cheeky Baby Self Feeding Utensils - Hannah can't really feed herself with utensils yet, but she tries-- so I give her a spoon or fork with every meal that she usually just holds in one hand while using her fingers to pick up food. Or she uses the wrong end of the fork to try and pick up her pasta. It's precious. These adorable utensils are lightweight and easy to hold, durable, BPA-free, and for every Cheeky Baby or Kid product purchased they'll donate a meal to a child in need.
9. Baby Jogger Single Stroller Tray - If you've got a Baby Jogger stroller and a toddler, you may need this add-on tray! It snaps right on to your stroller seat and is the perfect little tray for snacks, along with a cup holder for a sippy cup. It opens on one side so that you can easily put your child in or take her out. Hannah loves having her water cup readily available and I love having a place to drop a few crackers or Cheerios for her to feed herself while we are out on adventures.
10. Foodie Babies Wear Bibs - This cute book by Michelle Sinclair Colman is all about the cool things that "foodie babies" like eating small plates and visiting farmers markets. It's a short and sweet board book, so it's a perfect way for this foodie mommy to share my other great love (food) with my little one!


Did you find this list helpful? Here are a few more you might like:

My 10 Favorite Items from Month One of Motherhood
Month Three of Motherhood: My 10 Favorite Items
At 7 Months: 10 Baby Things We're Loving Lately
10 Recipes for the Whole Family to Enjoy [Adapted for Babies!]

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Pasta with Asparagus, Bacon & Herbed Goat Cheese

I feel like it's been a long time since I shared a recipe here and for that, I apologize. This is still a food blog and I know I've been sharing a lot of mom and baby content over the past several months... In the past few weeks though, I have felt a shift in our cooking/eating here at home. And while Hannah was a little baby we were basically eating and cooking to survive, recently I've been cooking for the love of cooking a lot more. And I've missed that! So, if you're here for the recipes then rest assured-- I have a lot more coming your way this summer! And a few mom posts too, of course.


While I am cooking because I love to cook a bit more again, my cooking strategy has changed a bit. Gone are the days of using every pot and spending over an hour preparing a meal. My recipe M.O. these days is big flavor, relatively healthy, and quick/low maintenance. And this pasta recipe totally fits the bill! For cooking, you'll need a pasta pot and a skillet and that's it for this one-bowl dinner.


You can use any short cut pasta that you like and one of the easiest ways to add fresh veggies to it is to toss them into the boiling pasta pot when there are just a few minutes of cook time left. I did that here with asparagus, but it also works really well with broccoli or green beans too. Meanwhile, I cook a little bacon in a skillet, remove it, and cook some red onions in sweet balsamic vinegar and the remaining bacon fat. It's all tossed together with the bacon, asparagus, and the pasta and topped with some herbed goat cheese for a little tangy creaminess. The flavor combination is wonderful and this makes a really satisfying complete dinner in a bowl. Perfect for a summer weeknight!


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. shortcut pasta
  • 1/2 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 slices center cut bacon
  • 1/3 cup red onion, sliced
  • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 oz. herbed goat cheese, crumbled


Bring a large pot of water to boil and add pasta. Cook according to package directions, adding the asparagus to the pot when there are 3 minutes of cooking time left. Drain well and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add bacon to the pan and cook on both sides until crisp. Remove from the skillet and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Once cooled, chop bacon into 1/2-inch pieces.

Carefully drain the bacon grease from the skillet, leaving 1/2 Tbs. in it. Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium and add the sliced onion to the skillet. Sauté for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Increase the heat to medium-high and pour in the balsamic vinegar. Continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

In a large bowl (or in the pasta pot), combine pasta, asparagus, bacon, onions and any liquid from the skillet. Drizzle with olive oil, season with pepper, and toss to coat. Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese over the top and serve.



Friday, June 9, 2017

Our 10 Favorite Books for Story Time

My Hannah has a lot of amazing qualities (I'm not biased or anything), but one of the things I love most about her is how much she adores books! For about as long as she's been able to sit up and use her hands, we could give her a book and she'd examine it, flip through the pages, turn it over, and start again. And thank goodness she loves them because as the daughter of two avid readers and the granddaughter of a preschool teacher, this kid has what seems like a never-ending supply of books. In the living room, I keep the lowest shelves of one of our bookcases stocked with her learning board books-- the ones that are more about learning words, numbers, and colors than about stories. In her room, however, we have a good sized bookshelf filled with story books.


 Ever since she was just a few weeks old and couldn't even hold her head up or really pay attention, we have read a story with Hannah before bedtime every night. Sometimes we pick a short one if she's super tired or wiggly, sometimes we'll pick a seasonal one depending on which holiday is approaching, but mostly we gravitate toward the same handful. We have a lot of favorites-- and here are ten of them:



1. Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker - This adorable book about construction equipment going to sleep was one of the first books in Hannah's collection. Of course the daughter of an architect would need this one!
2. Olivia by Ian Falconer - My 5-year old niece is a longtime Olivia fan and after reading her books, I understand why. This precocious little piglet is so much fun and her big dreams and cute antics will make you laugh as you read along.
3. Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson - My mom got this one for Hannah recently and it has quickly become a favorite. This book asks you to play along in the seed planting process: Clap to make the rain fall, tap the seeds to help them grow, and count the flowers as they sprout. It's a fun way to keep a wiggly one year-old engaged.
4. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats - This book is a classic and one I remember reading with my mom as a kid. It's a simple story about a boy in the big city experiencing a big snowfall-- totally relatable for my little urban toddler!
5. Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton - Hannah is a really musical kid so any book with rhyming and rhythmic writing is guaranteed to be a favorite of hers. Barnyard Dance teaches farm animal names and noises via a cute little square dance-inspired rhyme.
6. The Sneetches & Other Stories by Dr. Seuss - This collection of Dr. Seuss stories is not one of his most famous, but it is one of my favorites.  I never tired of reading "What Was I Scared Of?" (a.k.a. the story of the pale green pants with nobody inside them) over and over again as a kid and love reading it to Hannah now.
7. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. & John Archambault - This was one of my mom's go to preschool books and it is in heavy rotation at story time at our house too. Hannah loves the rhyming and bright simple graphics. And it's a fun way to learn the ABC's.
8. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. & Eric Carle - Another rhyming book c/o Bill Martin along with the recognizable illustrations of Eric Carle, another one of our children's book favorites. Hannah is totally captivated by this book (and the 3 companion Bear, Bear books too). The pictures are big and simple, the writing is short and rhythmic and she kicks her feet to the beat!
9. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney - This is one of mommy's favorites and especially in those early weeks of motherhood, would have me all weepy at story time. If you want to see where every mom learned and fell in love with the phrase "love you to the moon and back," read this book about the love between parent and child with a few tissues in hand.
10. Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin - This book is a new classic. In fact, there's a sequel that just came out and it's on our wish list! It's a silly story that is literally about why dragons like to eat tacos, but not spicy salsa. If Guess How Much I Love You is mommy's favorite book, then this one is definitely a favorite of daddy's!


Did you find this list helpful? Here are a few others that you may like as well: My One Year-Old's Favorite Birthday Gifts, Our Favorite Things at 11 Months, Post-Christmas: Our Favorite Things at 8 Months, At 7 Months: 10 Baby Things We're Loving Lately

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Shortcut Orzo Salad

Looking for a fresh and healthy summer side dish that won't have you slaving away in the kitchen on a gorgeous sunny day? Try my shortcut orzo pasta salad recipe!


You know I love a good orzo salad; See here, here, oh and here, for example. I actually prefer an orzo salad to a traditional pasta salad. The small rice-like shape doesn't get mushy or broken when tossed in a dressing and because its size it really lets the other ingredients take a starring role in the salad. It's my favorite side dish for grilled protein in the summer, a great light entree, and a perfect option for potlucks too!

And speaking of potlucks, my office recently hosted one and I volunteered to bring an orzo salad as my contribution. I was out of the office to spend some time with Hannah on the day before the potluck, so I had some time to get it together. Not wanting to waste my whole day off peeling, chopping and roasting vegetables though, I enlisted one of my favorite shortcut ingredients: Whole Foods grilled vegetables. The prepared foods section of Whole Foods always has a perfectly sliced, lightly seasoned, and grilled selection of vegetables at the ready and they are great on their own or in this case, chopped and added to a bowl with cooked orzo and a simple vinaigrette. A little fresh parsley and crumbled feta rounds out this potluck-perfect salad!


Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb. dry orzo
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice *This equals the juice of approximately 5 lemons
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 fresh parsley, chopped 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 lb. assorted grilled or roasted vegetables, chopped *I like the ones available in the Whole Foods prepared food section. I got a combination of red peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, and asparagus this time. 
  • 6 oz. crumbled feta

Cook orzo according to package directions, minus 1-2 minutes of cooking time (to keep the pasta bit chewier). 

Meanwhile, in a large bowl or food storage container, whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, oil, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add drained orzo and vegetables to the mixture and toss well to coat.

Fold in the crumbled feta and serve cold or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

My One-Year-Old's 10 Favorite Birthday Gifts

I'm not really sure when my tiny baby became an independent toddler, but it happened... and all you mommies were right: I blinked my eyes and it happened before I even knew it! While I don't miss the sleepless nights, nursing round the clock, or the gas pains, I do miss cuddling that tiny little toothless munchkin-- especially right now. I had a weird lower back spasm yesterday when I picked her up (she was climbing into the dishwasher while Alex was filling it) and I have been semi-handicapped since. I have seriously never felt this kind of pain before, but it is awful to have a fast crawling and almost walking toddler when you can barely move!


Back to my toddler, though... Hannah was totally spoiled for her first birthday! Friends and family far and wide gave her a ton of fun and adorable gifts. In the interest of helping you shop for any upcoming first birthday parties you may be attending, here are a few of Hannah's favorite things:




1. VTech Chomp and Count Dino - This toy has so much going on-- he can be pushed and pulled, has tons of buttons and dials, helps baby learn counting, shapes, and foods, and sings some of the catchiest melodies you'll find yourself singing all day... "Blueberries are sweet... and yummy to eat!"
2. Fisher-Price 3-in-1 Bounce, Stride & Ride Elephant - Hannah isn't walking yet, but this elephant is getting her darn close. She pushes it up and down our hallway all day. And when her nanny share friend is here, they ride around on it together or take turns pushing each other. It is too cute!
3. chewbeads Jane necklace - Hannah has reignited her love of teething necklaces, but not for teething. Hannah is all about accessorizing these days and she wears the chewbeads herself! At any given time she is wearing at least one necklace... or four.
4. Fisher-Price BeatBowWow - This dog is hysterical! Press a button and she sings, dances, and lights up. Hannah loves pressing the buttons followed immediately by a dance party complete with spinning around on her butt and throwing her hands up in the air.
5. Old Navy Cross-Front Tutu Dress - I have never been a mom that likes putting my baby in tutus. It's just not my thing. However, I did make a recent exception when I spotted this one and thought it would be adorable for Hannah to wear to her first birthday party. It was cute, comfy, and machine washable... a perfect cake smash ensemble!
6. Green Toys Watering Can Set - First, let me say I love Green Toys as a brand for their earth-friendly recycled products. But this set is especially cute: a watering can, shovel, and garden hoe. It's exactly what Hannah needs when we are "gardening" on the deck or when she's playing in her sand and water table.
7. pediped Katelyn Originals - These shoes are perfect for my little pre-walker. They're well-made leather shoes that are super flexible and great for Hannah as she gets to used to wearing shoes on a regular basis. She actually loves these shoes (she has them in pink, by the way) and tries her best to put them on her feet too, which is super cute.
8. Bright Baby books - Hannah is a little bookworm and we own tons of books (I'm planning a follow up post featuring just our favorite books) and I keep all of the hardcovers and the storybooks in her room. We have one bottom shelf in our living room devoted to her board books though-- and the Bright Baby books are her favorites. There are a variety of them all about colors, animals, first words, and she loves flipping through them all. The big picture and simple word/photo combos are perfect for early learning.
9. Manhattan Toy Classic Baby Beads - This is a super simple toy, but was probably Hannah's favorite thing that she opened at her birthday party. These beads are all intertwined on an elastic cord so they can be pulled and manipulated and keep a one-year old surprisingly entertained. We even took them on a recent plane trip with Hannah too and it was a great distraction!
10. Tomy Lil' Chirpers Sorting Eggs Game - This one was a big surprise! The Easter Bunny put these in Hannah's Easter basket (because she can't eat chocolate yet, so an egg-themed toy just made sense) and it has been her favorite toy for the past month. She loves everything about this toy: opening and closing the carton, pulling the eggs apart, squeaking the colored chicks, and attempting to plug them back into the matching negative shape.

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