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PB & Oat Finn-Cakes (Dog-friendly Cupcakes)

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GraphicSpoonCMYK-01A year ago today, as I was driving home from dropping my daughter off at school, I noticed a tiny little puffball weaving in and out of morning rush hour traffic on a busy road. I felt so bad for the little guy so as soon as he trotted off onto a side road I pulled in and thought to myself “I’m going to make someone’s day by rescuing this little sweetie and getting him back to his family! He’ll be home before lunchtime!” Little did I know I was scooping up the next member of our family. Throughout the next several weeks of posting signs, calling vets, posting on every animal-related Facebook page I could think of, placing an ad in the paper, and only one visit from a lady realizing that this wasn’t the dog that was stolen from her weeks before, we were falling in love with the 4 pound cotton ball. Without having to say a word, my husband finally agreed to what the kids’ and my eyes were begging for. “So what are you going to name him?” was all it took to bring tears to my eyes and grateful shrieks from the kids. Violet was working her way through a few different name options… “Sparkle Apple Rainbow!” “Elsa!” “Wait, I’ve got it. Elsa Dolphin!” When she said that I was picturing my husband introducing our male Pomeranian as Elsa Dolphin, and I couldn’t help but giggle. “What about a compromise, since you know, he’s a boy and all… how about instead of Dolphin, we call him “‘Finn?'” And with that, Finn was officially adopted as our third baby, who’ll never be too big for me to hold and snuggle (but barks at a pitch that shakes every window in the house). I got my husband a sweet chocolate lab puppy for his birthday when we were dating, and we had her for almost 10 years. She was our first kid (I would get so mad when people would tell me I’d love my kids more than her). She passed away the night after coming home from the hospital with Archer. We never felt ready again to get another dog after her, so it was a happy accident that he found us instead! It was surprisingly emotional to hear the pitter patter of paws in the house again. It felt good.

When I took him to check for a chip the day I found him, the vet guessed his age to be between 12 and 18 months, and the groomer assumed the same, so we’ve decided to celebrate his adoption day and his birthday today. So Happy Birthday Finn! You’re two(ish)!

When researching recipes for pup-friendly cupcakes to celebrate, I couldn’t find one that made less than 2 dozen cupcakes. I don’t need to serve them to several humans- I just needed one- so I developed this recipe to make just 3 cupcakes (since I hate trying to use “half of an egg” in a recipe). If you don’t need all 3 you can freeze the other two to get out as you need them. In my case, the kids demanded the remaining two, and with a drizzle of honey they were plenty sweet enough for them to gobble up for breakfast. They’re not soft and sweet and decadent like you’d want to serve at a human’s birthday party, but the ingredients are simple, safe, and dogs will love them!

Happy 1 year at home Finn! We love you! (But seriously, tone down the barking).

Click the link under the photos to view and print the recipe!

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Uncategorized

Candied Nuts with Smoked Chile + Rosemary

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GraphicSpoonCMYK-01I absolutely adored Violet’s teacher last year. She got married just a week before school started, so at the end of the year a few moms and I were joking around about how if she wanted to get pregnant, she’d better do it in between that year and the year some of our younger siblings would be in her class. Well, I’m so glad she listened to us, because she’s due next month, just in time to be back to school in August when Archer starts her class! Okay, her timing may not have been completely on my behalf, but that’s the beside the point. Some fellow moms and I are excited to host a shower for her this weekend to celebrate her wonderful growing family, and I decided to add a sweet & salty nut mix to the goodies I’m bringing. I’ve been meaning to have an excuse to try out a few different combos I’ve been imagining, and all I can say is the test batch I made is too big, because I can’t keep my hands out of the bowl! Someone come get some! They’re caramelly, crunchy, sweet, salty, and the smoked chile heat lasts long after you’ve taken a bite. The recipe is so simple I almost just posted it as the caption on Instagram, but I didn’t want it to get lost in the sea of other photos, and I certainly don’t want to lose this recipe! It’s a keeper!

I found my smoked, dried chiles whole at the farmers market a while ago (I would’ve paid the guy just to stand there and smell them! I couldn’t wait to bring them home and find uses for them), and coarsely ground them up myself. You can find several different kinds on Amazon if you can’t find them locally. I like a good amount of heat, but the tricky part is finding your own balance of sweet, salty and spicy.  Try my guidelines and tweak them to your tastes. Swap out the nuts for any of your favorites, and if you don’t like rosemary, try sage, or skip the herbs altogether. Click the link under the photos to steal my recipe!

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Uncategorized

Mango Champagne Sorbet with Key Lime and Honey

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GraphicSpoonCMYK-01 It’s atoulfo mango season! I look forward to this all year. These mangoes are something special. Buttery and sweet with a thin pit, so you don’t feel like you’re only getting to eat a fraction of the fruit like most mangoes you’ll find year round at the grocery store. You know that sound when you start slicing through the typical mango- that crunch that tells you you’ve started to cut too close to the pit. It’s discouraging! But the atoulfo mango (or champagne mango) is different. They’re admittedly not as pretty, but the lovely taste makes up for that.

A few years ago I asked for (and got) all things summer for my birthday- an ice cream maker, popsicle molds, a sno-cone machine… I’d say I was ready for the Arkansas heat! I found a case of these gorgeous mangoes and decided to give my new ice cream maker a go with some sorbet. I found a recipe that called for water, sugar and rum. I know that when making a sorbet, the sugar and alcohol keeps it from freezing into an impenetrable rock. I really didn’t feel like getting out with a newborn Archer and a tiny Violet, so I searched my kitchen and found some of those adorable pink Sofia mini cans of Blanc de Blancs! “Hey!” I thought, “Sparkling wine has plenty of sugar and alcohol!” And how perfect does mango and champagne sound together? I played around with the measurements, and I’ve since come up with my absolute favorite recipe for sorbet on the planet. What I love most about it is the simplicity of the ingredients and the fact that you can literally taste every single ingredient in each bite, because there are only four of them. The mango comes first, then the fizzy champagne on the tip of your tongue, then the sweet tang of key lime juice + zest, and then it’s almost as if you smell the honey before you realize you taste it. So good. Truly. Summer in a bite! I like to store this in 1 cup freezer friendly containers so I can prevent myself from eating it all in one sitting, and it seems like it softens “just so” a little faster that way.

This is a recipe that I hold dear. I feel proud to have “found it.” One of my favorite things about cooking is that there is a limitless combination of edibles in this world, and we have the ability to share and experiment and find a combination that just stops you in your tracks and begs you to take note. I hope you’ll try this soon, and that you’ll enjoy it with your loved ones. It’s what makes the “sharing” part of this blog so rewarding!

Remember to tag #stoleyourrecipe on Instagram so I can see and share what you’ve made!

Click on the link below the photos to Steal My Recipe.1 plus signs 12 8 9 7 14

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breakfast, snacks

Honeycomb Granola

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GraphicSpoonCMYK-01Do you ever have a grand idea that in your mind makes you so proud of yourself? Where you pat yourself on the back before you even see if your idea would even work? And then when you test the idea, and it fails miserably, you realize how absolutely, embarrassingly ridiculous it was to even think for a second that the idea would work? No? Oh… Well I do, and that’s me today. I was making granola last night and as I poured the honey out of my local honey jar that still held a big chunk of honeycomb in it, and I thought “Hmmm! I wonder if little chunks of honeycomb would taste good in the granola?!” The honey inside the hexes of the comb is the most condensed, most raw form of honey. Once taken from the comb, it tends to attract water from the air, diluting itself. So I chopped about half of it up into bits and mixed it in. When the granola came out of the oven, I couldn’t see a speck of honeycomb anywhere! I thought that I must’ve just chopped them too small. So I went and bought another jar of (not cheap!) honey with honeycomb this morning and brought it home to perfect this genius idea I had of oat covered, toasty-crunchy-chewy honeycomb chunks to snack on and top my yogurt with! I heated my knife up and painstakingly sliced the honeycomb into perfect little cubes and ever-so-gently mixed them into the granola mixture like tiny newborn babies were inside. When I took the pan out of the oven after 10 minutes to stir the granola around, the honeycomb had disappeared again! And when I saw the puddles of thick, shiny, gooey sticky-sweet mixture surrounding where they were, my expression changed immediately, as the delayed light bulb finally went off. Honeycomb is beeswax… Wax… Wax melts. Okay. I knew that. I was fully aware of these facts, yet in my head I just knew I’d just invented the best thing ever- toasted honeycomb. Please don’t give up all hope on me. I have these moments sometimes, and we should all just shake our heads and move on. Deal? It’s Friday, apparently my brain is done for the week.

But wait! After what I thought was the stupidest thing I’d ever done, I tasted the granola, and it is freaking fantastic. It’s almost “praline-ish.” Like a mix of granola and honey brittle. Because I used honey and the comb, it ended up being a lot of honey in that pan! Let’s get one thing straight though- this isn’t the kind of granola you can sprinkle with abandon on your yogurt and claim you’re watching your waistline. It’s all but dessert. It clumps beautifully and is shiny and delicious, and the honey flavor knocks your socks off! It’s really worth it to use the honeycomb, you just don’t need to be as delicate with it as I was. Glad no one was watching! What a goof I am, but hey, it was a happy ending. Click on the link under these photos to view and print the recipe!

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Uncategorized

“Skinny Joes”

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GraphicSpoonCMYK-01 Around when the snow sleds are put away and the flowers start to bloom, I realize that I’m not quite ready to put away the cardigans, scarves and other forgiving layers to show off my post-holiday body yet! Cold weather baking always gets me. I’m not into a whole lot of processed foods- particularly processed sweets- but we make our share of sweets at home for sure, and the holidays are always an excuse for a baking free-for-all.  So now that it’s already been in the 80’s here in Arkansas, I’ve got to get ready for summer! Time to back off on the sugar and starchy carbs for a while. But that’s not so easy for me! I love a good hearty meal, so I try to find ways to trick myself into thinking I’ve not cut back on anything in my cooking.

I don’t usually crave sloppy joes, but I was trying to figure out what I could do with the 9% fat ground beef I thawed from the night before and I was craving something hearty. I had canned tomatoes and some portabello mushrooms, so I thought I’d try to make a sloppy joe using the mushrooms as the bun. Great success! I really didn’t miss the bun. Using kale chips in place of chips was another story though… they were good, but I did miss the chips! All in the name of bathing suit weather though, right?

Traditional sloppy joes are made with ground beef mixed into a sweetened tomato sauce that’s usually made with ketchup, brown sugar, barbecue sauce, or a mix of these. To sweeten this sauce naturally I used apple cider vinegar to cook down the shallot and garlic, fresh squeezed carrot juice along with the tomatoes, and a handful of dates that both sweetened and thickened the sauce. It turned out good enough to pass as the real deal in my opinion! But you may not be able to trust me on that one, I haven’t had anything sweet in a while… Regardless, it was really tasty.

To counter the lack of richness and depth that low-fat cooking can have, I used sun-dried tomatoes and smoked paprika. Anything sun-dried or smoked adds that hearty flavor that I crave when I’m hangry and watching what I eat.

I have slight OCD when using only part of a can of something in a recipe (can’t do it!), so I used the whole can of diced, roasted tomatoes, which ended up making quite a bit of sauce. I’d say this batch would be enough to stir into about 2 lbs. of ground beef.  I poured what I needed into my 8 ounces of browned meat (for 2 servings) and then bagged the rest up in a few portions to keep in the freezer for quick lunches whenever I want. I can even see the kids loving this as pasta sauce with that extra sweetness!

For the portabello “buns,” I wiped them off with a wet paper towel, then hollowed them out carefully with a spoon (plucked the stem out with my hand), then sprayed them on both sides with coconut oil spray, then put them on a pan, top side up, under the broiler for a few minutes until browned and tender. Then turn one upside down on the plate, fill with the meat and sauce, then top with the other. By the way, It’s way too sloppy to pick up and eat this “skinny joe,” so you’ll need a knife and fork!

I hope you give this recipe a try- if you do, post it on Instagram with the hashtag #stoleyourrecipe so I can see it and hear any feedback you have about it! Link to view and print recipe is below photos.


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breads

Honey Maple Banana Bread

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GraphicSpoonCMYK-01One of my all time favorite movies (as is common for someone born in the early 80’s) is Fried Green Tomatoes. One of my favorite scenes is when Idgy gets the honeycomb out of the tree with no bee gear on. I remember being memorized by how wonderfully raw and beautiful honey is: I don’t think I ever knew where it came from before watching that scene. If honey is the sweetest gift, honeycomb is the prettiest! Bananas and honey are a heavenly combination, and when you include equally pure and golden maple syrup, well, you’ve got the perfect Sunday treat!

My ideal banana bread is sturdy, moist and sweet. I want to be able to spread my butter or cream cheese on without it falling apart, but I want it sweet enough to eat alone, and I absolutely want it to be as far from dry as possible!

My son can eat his weight in bananas, but I buy more than we need on purpose sometimes to be able to make banana bread at the end of the week. This week was one of those weeks.

This bread calls for whole wheat flour and uses a mix of honey + maple syrup in place of some of the sugar, and I use brown sugar rather than white. It’s not because I want to try to pass this bread off as “healthy,” but because I think bananas lend themselves to these raw, hearty flavors. This loaf turned out how I imagined the best loaf would. It was a success!

While not much can beat a warm slice of sweet banana bread with salted butter slathered on, and I’m usually a fan of “the simpler the better,” I have to admit my favorite way to enjoy banana bread is with cream cheese, a spoon of strawberry jam, and slices of ripe kiwifruit. A drizzle of honey on top of all of that is just for indulgent’s sake. It makes it worthy of a fork dessert for guests rather than a simple sweet snack to use up old bananas. Although both situations are worthy of making this bread!

Click on the link below the photos to view and steal the full recipe!

The darker the spots, the better.

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Break the bananas into bite size pieces in a large bowl.

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Melt butter halfway in a mug, then add the brown sugar, syrup and honey, and melt altogether (about 30 seconds).
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Pour hot honey maple caramel over bananas, and mash with potato masher until mostly smooth (there will be lumps; Let there be lumps). _MG_0241-1 _MG_0246-1

Add the rest of the ingredients (wet, then dry), and pour into greased loaf pan. I drizzled about 2 teaspoons of maple syrup over the top of the batter in the pan before going into the oven, because it was left in the measuring cup and who lets pure maple syrup go to waste?!

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When it comes out of the oven, take a few deep breathes in and enjoy the way your entire kitchen smells. Then very carefully remove the loaf from the pan and cool on a rack.

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Slice and serve however you want. You can’t go wrong. Although warm is always better.
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My favorite way to eat banana bread:_MG_0030-2 ig blog photo 2 IG blog shot banana breadCLICK HERE TO VIEW AND PRINT RECIPE!

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dinner, lunch, party food, pizza

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

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Pizza! It’s my family’s most requested meal. For special occasions, for when company is coming over, and for both-kids-have-afternoon-activities-and-I-haven’t-thought-about-dinner-yet nights, pizza reigns supreme. I spend an afternoon making a boatload of dough, and then I cut them into individual balls and put them in bags in the freezer for later. It’s a rare moment when I don’t have pizza dough for an army in my freezer! Did you know pizza dough freezes well? As a matter of fact, I almost prefer it frozen first! I think it’s that slow thaw that does something to the yeast… I don’t know the science behind it, but it’s always tasty.

The pizza pictured above is one of about 31 gagillion different variations I’ve made with pizza dough. I’ll blog about my favorite white flour dough later, but right now the one I’m digging is this whole wheat version. Winter makes a good case for craving all things hearty and earthy. This dough is perfect for layering strong cheeses and sweet fruits to counteract salty meats. I made this pizza with a creamy brie spread thinly on the base (no sauce), then layers of manchego, gouda and blue cheeses with thinly sliced pear, julienne spinach, local thinly sliced ham, candied walnuts, dried cranberries, a drizzle of honey and a few cracks of pepper (the cranberries and walnuts were sprinkled after cooking). It was a big hit with our friends from out of town. I always like to serve several different types of pizza when friends come over. A typical pizza you’d find on any menu, a kid-friendly version, and one for the adventurous spirit (or to prove to a non-adventurous person that it’s worth it to try new things once in a while).

On the other end of the spectrum is the “I have nothing else for dinner but a fridge full of less-than-two-servings of random veggies.” That’s when I make a kitchen sink pizza. No one complains, and I get to feel good about not wasting all those things in the fridge! What’s your favorite pizza combination? Are you a red sauce fan or do you like to change it up?

For this whole wheat recipe, first I “bloom” the yeast in a mixing bowl with warm water and a good pinch of sugar. When other recipes say “warm water” when yeast is involved, keep in mind that it’s referring to a temperature of 105-110 degrees F. Yeast cells die at 130F so if you keep a candy thermometer in your kitchen, do a quick check. To me it feels like in between a bath I’d give my littles and a bath I’d give myself with a magazine and a glass of red (warmer than “lukewarm” but not “hot”). There’s debate on whether sugar helps yeast bloom in a recipe like this, but I throw in a good pinch for the sake of “just in case.” It works for me this way, so I’ll continue! This is what it looks like when you leave the yeast, sugar and warm water for 5-10 minutes. It “blooms,” and if you’re standing right above it, you’ll smell it right away as it starts to bubble and foam. That typical yeast/bread smell is intoxicating!

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After you’ve seen the yeast bloom, add a little olive oil and a good spoon of salt, then add your whole wheat flour. Use the dough hook on your mixer (or be prepared for an arm workout if you don’t have a mixer). Let it knead until it’s pretty safe to say it’s all come together.
IMG_0027-1 The dough should be moist and tacky, but shouldn’t stick to your finger when you press it. If you it does stick, add just a few tablespoons of flour at a time in the mixer until it’s right.IMG_0028-1 When it’s the way you want it, take the ball out of the mixing bowl, and holding it in one hand, drizzle a few teaspoons of olive oil in the mixing bowl. Pat the dough into a ball and place it back in the bowl, and swirl it all around until the inside of the bowl and the dough ball are both lightly coated with the oil. Cover with a *lightly* damp dish cloth (I have a water spray bottle I use to tame my son’s fantastic bed head in the mornings and I use this to spray the cloth a few times after I cover the bowl). Set aside for a 2 hour rise. (TIP! If you don’t have 2 hours, you can set the covered bowl in your oven, set it on any temperature and let it start to heat up for a few minutes, then turn it back off- you just want the oven to warm up, not cook the dough. Keep the dough in there for an hour with the door shut, and it should be close to doubled in size. The rule with yeast is the longer the rise, the more flavorful the dough, but when you’re in a crunch for time and you’re going to top the dough with plenty of flavor, go with this faster method!)IMG_0031-1 This is what it should look like after 2 hours. Bubbled and doubled…IMG_0041-1At this point, punch it down, knead it out a minute or two and press it into your pan, throw it in the bottom rack of your oven on a super hot temperature, and watch that pizza bubble and brown into a masterpiece! I’ve found whole wheat dough doesn’t really give you enough elasticity to throw it in the air like a pro, so skip that fun step with this recipe, and just press it out. I’ve even been known to use a rolling pin sometimes (but don’t tell my Italian BFF). Click the link below this photo to steal the recipe!
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