Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad


Let me preface this post by saying I am honestly not much of a salad person. Don’t get me wrong, I will eat them, order them at restaurants, but I rarely make them myself. This is for a few reasons: 1. I always seem to forget about the greens in my fridge and they turn to black sludge. 2. There are millions of others types of foods I would rather try making. 3. Salads never fill me up. 4. I’d rather make salad from during fresh from the garden season, not the grocery store.

I recently went to the Des Moines Art Center’s cafe – Baru at the Art Center – for lunch with family and a salad on the menu piqued my interest.  I liked it so much that I actually thought about it a few times since then, and decided to make my own version of it, tweaking it slightly.  I made it last week for a dinner with friends and was pleasantly surprised at the outcome.  It is one I will make again once the farm-fresh home-grown produce comes in.

This recipe can be done in stages.  I roasted the beets the previous day, so they could chill in the fridge before combining them with the rest of the salad makings. I did not specify exact amounts with the goat cheese, lettuce, and pecans, as I figured these are a matter of taste.  I did use a standard-sized box of mixed greens from the grocery store, for my recipe.

Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Peel and dice 2-3 medium beets into 1-inch chunks. Spread into a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once.

2. Once beets are cooked, remove from pan and chill.

3. To prepare salad, combine in a large bowl: mixed greens, 1/4 – 1/2 of small red onion, thinly sliced, and roasted beets.

4. Top with crumbled goat cheesepecan halves, and honey balsamic vinegar dressing (see below).

Honey Balsamic Vinegar Dressing 

1. Combine in a jar: 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, 1-2 teaspoons honey, ground black pepper.  Place lid on jar, shake thoroughly.

Bourbon Apple Pie looming due date creates all sorts of projects for me – cleaning, organizing, packing hospital bags, readying the baby room, and even baking pies.  Actually, it was not a looming due date that caused me to bake these two pies, but the return of family from out of town.  Eric’s sister and her family just arrived in town to become residents of the Des Moines area, so these were welcome back pies.

pie I did try something slightly different with my tried and true apple pie recipe though – the addition of bourbon and brown sugar in the filling.  See below for the recipe.  strawberry.rhubarbThe second pie was a strawberry rhubarb pie – one of my all time favorite flavor combinations.    The strawberries do an excellent job mellowing out the tart rhubarb.  I am ever so grateful to be able to buy reasonably priced and high quality fresh rhubarb now that we are back in Iowa.  The only way to actually get decent rhubarb in North Carolina was to buy it frozen.


Dad’s Pie Crust – makes a double crust for a pie

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
3 tablespoons ice cold water
3 tablespoons cold vodka

1.  Preheat oven to 400°.  In a medium mixing bowl, use a pastry blender to cut in cold butter until pieces are coarse crumb size.

2.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon ice cold liquid at a time; gently toss with fork.  Push moistened dough to side of bowl.  Repeat using rest of liquid.  Dough will be dry, do NOT give into temptation to make dough moister by adding more liquid.  This will make your dough tough.  Divide dough in half; form into a ball.

3.  On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to flatten ball of dough.  Roll dough from center to edges into a circle 12 inches in diameter.  Do not overwork the dough and do not allow dough to warm up.  Refrigerate while preparing filling.
4.  Carefully transfer dough to pie pan, by wrapping around a rolling pin, not allowing it to stretch.
5.  Transfer filling into pie pan.  Repeat step 3 and 4 for second ball of dough.  Gently drape second circle of dough over the filling.  Use your fingers to seal the edges of the dough.
6.  Optional: brush dough with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  Cover edges in foil.  Place piece of foil on bottom rack of oven.  Place pie in preheated oven, on middle shelf.  Bake for 20-25 minutes at 400°. Reduce oven to 350°, remove foil, and bake another 35-45 minutes longer or till crust is golden and filling is bubbling.
7. Let cool on wire rack.


Bourbon Apple Pie Filling

3 lbs of tart apples, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/8 cup flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons of bourbon
1. Peel and slice 3 lbs of tart apples.  Place in large mixing bowl.  Add lemon juice, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and bourbon.  Mix well and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

Egg, Hash-brown & Sausage Breakfast Casserole

This simple 4 ingredient breakfast casserole is perfect for serving a large group or saving for leftovers.  My mother in law brought a similar one for our Christmas brunch and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  Since I didn’t have her recipe, I winged it and was quite pleased with the results.  We had this delicious meal this morning with my side of the family for Easter brunch.  My mom even mentioned how great it would be to give as a food gift for new babies, illness, or deaths in the family.  She’s right – how nice to have something other than a lasagna!
I started off using the Lodge Cast Iron Wok I got for Eric’s birthday as the method of cooking the hash browns.  Thankfully, Eric quickly stepped in and took over.  I don’t know why I am so impatient when it comes to hash browns, but I always want to over stir them, flip them too soon, and just plain ruin them.  The wok was perfect for the job of browning hash browns – the heat stayed high enough and you could spread out the potatoes enough.

The cooked hash browns got dumped into a glass casserole dish.

I added eggs, almond milk, salt, pepper and cut up vegetarian sausage patties to the prepared hash browns.  One could easily swap our the vegetarian sausage for real sausage and the almond milk for regular dairy milk.  I used Alexia hash browns – they are fantastic and come pre-seasoned with garlic and onion.

I cooked this casserole last night, let it cool, refrigerated it, and then simply reheated in the oven while covered in foil, at 275° for about an hour.  We served this with my mom’s hot cross buns, fresh fruit, and coffee.  It was the perfect Easter morning family brunch.  Stay tuned for more on our Easter crafts, Easter eggs, and Greta’s Easter experiences.

Egg, Hash-browns & Sausage Breakfast Casserole

1. Prepare 2 bags of frozen hash browns (2 lbs), according to package.  Transfer to greased 9 x 13″ baking dish.

2.  In a large mixing bowl beat: 9 large eggs.  Combine with the eggs: 1 cup almond milk (or dairy milk), salt and pepper to taste, and 8 oz. crumbled veggie sausage (or real sausage).

3. Pour egg mixture over the hash browns and mix to combine.  Cover in foil, bake in a 350° oven for 50 – 60 minutes or until browned and egg fully cooked.  Serve warm.

S’mores Cupcakes

I dreamed up these bad boys in celebration of Eric’s birthday celebration with our families.  I made them late Saturday evening after a day-long celebration of kids’ birthdays at a friend’s house and then later at Chuck E. Cheese.  This was Greta’s first time at Chuck E. Cheese and she was not at all disappointed.  I, on the other hand, was a little anxious as she crawled around in the tunnels far above my head on her own.  I kept having nervous thoughts about what would happen if she decided she was claustrophobic or panicked – how on earth would I get her down?  Luckily, a friend of hers from school had an older sister there who helped her down when she did decide that she was not going to take the tunnel slide down.  Anyways, we both survived and after she finally tumbled into bed, I stayed up making these delicious cupcakes.  It was late and I was tired, hence the cell phone images.
To make the graham cracker base, I crushed graham crackers in a large bowl with a spoon.  I then layered them in the base of the cupcake liners.  Next time I am going to create layers of graham crackers within the cupcakes for more of the graham flavor and add chocolate chips of pieces of chocolate for an even better s’mores experience.
I poured the batter on top of the crushed graham crackers.  Even adding a layer of grahams on top of the batter could be very tasty.

After the cupcakes were finished baking, I added the marshmallows on top and returned them to the oven to soften.

For the large cupcakes, I used 2 marshmallows.

Once the marshmallows are soft, simply flatten them with a spoon.

Once they are flat, allow to cool or place them under the broiler to brown them.

We celebrated Eric’s birthday Saturday with our two families with a nice lunch and then these tasty treats.  It was a cold and down-pouring kind of day, though the two previous days were warm enough to wear tank tops and enjoy time outdoors.  Today we awoke to a snowy landscape – not the first time Eric has had a snowy birthday!  Such is spring in Iowa.

S’mores Cupcakes – makes about 2 dozen standard cupcakes, cake recipe adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

1. Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare cupcake pan with parchment cup liners.  Add crushed graham crackers to the bottom of each cupcake liner.  In a medium bowl combine: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoons baking powder.

2. In a large mixing bowl or mixing stand beat: 3/4 cup butter on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Gradually add 2 cups sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed until well combined (3 to 4 minutes).  Scrape sides of bowl; continue beating on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Add 3 eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition (about 1 minute total).  Beat in 2 teaspoons of vanilla. 

3. Alternately add flour mixture and 1-1/2 cups milk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.  Beat on medium to high speed for 20 seconds more.  Drop batter into prepared cupcake liners.

4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Place large marshmallows on the tops of each cupcake and return to oven for 1-2 more minutes or until marshmallows are soft enough to flatten with a spoon.  To brown the tops of marshmallows, place under broiler for 30 seconds.  Allow cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes, remove from pan and allow to cool on wire racks.

Quinoa, Roasted Veggies & Sardine Toast

As I head into the third trimester, I can’t say that I have boundless energy for much aside from the essentials.  However, I have been trying to avoid simply eating the first thing I happen come across and instead, eat well-rounded meals that include lots of veggies. I know how important it is to eat a variety if healthy foods while baby boy is still in the womb. I have to start developing that palate now!

This simple veggie, grain, and fish meal was one I made earlier this week. For the veggies, I simply tossed yellow onion, carrots, and asparagus in olive oil and then roasted them in the oven at 425 for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, I cooked some multi colored quinoa on the stove while the veggies were roasting. Side note: I’m really excited for gardening this year – my mom is going to try growing quinoa this year and I am looking forward to seeing this experiment through.

Lastly, I spread some sardines on sliced pumpernickel bread and sprinkled Parmesan cheese on top. I toasted these savory delights in the toaster oven for about 5 minutes. There you have it – an easy, quick and healthy weeknight meal.

Iowa update: my first Iowa daffodils started blooming today. It’s been getting into the high 60s with a sprinkling of days in the 70s.  I was driving the other day and kept wondering what was so different. Finally I realized the grass was relatively green!  I felt giddy with the simple thought of green grass. After the winter we’ve had, who wouldn’t be thrilled by this simple revelation?

The weather also just makes Greta so happy.  It’s impossible to get her to eat dinner or get ready for bed – she just wants to be outside all the time now. Here she’s doing her yoga in the grass because, “Mommy, it’s warm out! No coat!”
In other news, we finally made our Ikea run for Greta’s big girl bed. We successfully moved her into a new room, in preparation for baby boy. More on those two rooms at a later date.

Black Bean & Carrot Veggie Burgers

I first made these vegetarian and gluten-free burgers back in January when we had some friends over for dinner, and forgot about them until now.  I decided to make them again, according to my scribbled notes, I was pleasantly surprised at their end result.  It is a recipe I originally made up as I went – not always the best idea when company is coming over.  However, I did have some frozen veggie burgers on hand, as a back-up plan.
The second time I made these burgers, I mixed everything the night before and popped it all in the fridge overnight before cooking them.  This recipe is so easy to whip up – it will no doubt become my go-to veggie burger recipe this summer.  I can’t wait to try it on the grill!  

I used the trusty Baby Bullet to puree half the beans, half the carrot mixture, the scallions, and eggs.  If you wanted to make this recipe egg-free, you could replace the 3 eggs with 3 tablespoons ground flax seed mixed with 6 tablespoons of water, or just simply increase the amount of panko as a binder.

Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes per side, or till done.

They should be a nice golden-brown and firm all the way through.

This photo shows a buried veggie burger – just the way I like them – covered in mustard, spinach, and on a big crusty bun.  This just so happened to by a lunch at work one noon hour.  The orange dotted thing is one of those nifty reusable sandwich bags.

Black Bean & Carrot Veggie Burgers

1. In a small bowl combine: 2 grated carrots, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

2. In a food processor or blender puree: 1/2 can of black beans, 4 tablespoons chopped scallions, 1/2 the carrot mixture, and 3 eggs.

3.  Transfer puree to a medium mixing bowl.  Combine with puree: remaining 1/2 can of black beans, 1 tablespoon chia seeds1 cup gluten-free or regular panko, and remaining carrot mixture.

4. Fry on griddle or pan over medium heat, 3-5 minutes per side or till done.  Serve with toppings and bun of choice.

Coconut Red Curry & Veggies

This simple and pleasing curried vegetable classic comes from a spurt of energy due to an Iowa warn-up.  Last week we actually had a a couple balmy, sunny days.  It was enough to give me hope for spring!

It actually warmed up enough to melt almost all of the snow and go without jackets a few times.

It was even nice enough to sit on the porch while we had dinner!  I can’t wait to get my summer-cabin themed porch done just right this summer.  I know we will be using it daily.  Anyway, after happy hour or chips & salsa and NA beer, I decided to make something fresh and springy to fit the mood of the afternoon.

I started by throwing a bunch of veggies into a glass 8″ baking dish – 1/2 a red onion, sliced, 3 medium carrots peeled and sliced, 1 – 2 cups of corn, and a bunch of asparagus stalks, sliced.  I tossed these veggies with sesame oil and then baked these in the oven at 425º for 15 – 20 minutes, or till softened.  If you wanted to make things faster and not use your oven, pop ’em in the microwave for 5 to 6 minutes.

While the veggies are cooking, prepare the curry sauce.  Combine 1-1/2 cups coconut milk, 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or honey, and 2 tablespoons red curry paste in a saucepan.  Stir and cook over medium heat until bubbly and thickened, about 15 minutes.

Pour cooked sauce over tops of cooked veggies.  Stir. Serve over warm cooked rice.

I was feeling so in the mood to cook on this warm spring evening that I even whipped up a batch of cherry crisp from canned cherries from last summer‘s crop.  I will share this classic recipe at a later date, because usually when I make this, I just throw it together without measuring – that’s what happens when you make a certain recipe often enough.

Coconut Red Curry & Veggies –
makes about 4 servings

1. In a glass 8″ baking dish combine: 1/2 a red onion, sliced3 medium carrots peeled and sliced, 1 – 2 cups of corn, and a bunch of asparagus stalks, sliced.  Toss veggies with sesame oil and then baked in a 425º oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or till softened.  (If you wanted to make things faster and not use your oven, pop ’em in the microwave for 5 to 6 minutes, or till softened.)

2.  While the veggies are cooking, prepare the curry sauce.  In a small saucepan combine: 1-1/2 cups coconut milk, 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or honey, and 2 tablespoons red curry paste.  Stir until well combined and cook over medium heat until bubbly and thickened, about 15 minutes.

3. Pour cooked sauce over tops of cooked veggies and stir. Serve over warm, cooked rice.

Baby Shower + Gluten Free Dairy Free Waffles

Last weekend I hosted a baby shower for my sister, Caroline, and another childhood friend, Hannah.  Sadly, the few photos I took of guests turned out a hot blurry mess (trying to juggle too many tasks, methinks) and I don’t have one of Hannah.  So, Hannah, or the moms, if you have one of the three of us, I’d love to see it!  I don’t even have a photo of my sister, mom, and myself.  I failed miserably on photographing once people arrived.  😦

Due to my undying, pregnancy love of waffles, I opted for a waffle bar at this brunch.  This is a naked waffle, however for this brunch, a wide array of toppings were available.  These waffles are gluten-free due to the use of Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose baking flour and dairy-free due to my dairy-free buttermilk recipe.  

The first batch I made, the weekend before, had 1/4 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut thrown in.  I personally really liked the subtle coconut flavor and think that perhaps baby boy likes coconut, as I am not usually a coconut fanatic, but seem to be leaning that way these past few months.  I left the coconut out for the baby shower, instead using it as a topping.

The topping bar consisted of: sliced strawberries, sliced bananas, mixed berries, jam, honey, maple syrup, almond butter, Nutella, sliced almonds, sliced pecans, cinnamon, unsweetened shredded coconut, chocolate chips, and whipped cream.  I had every intention of making this topping bar look prettier, but alas better judgement of overdoing things outweighed my nagging sense of Pinterest style.

We set up a couple of extra tables and chairs to accommodate 12 guests.  Each table was dressed with vintage linens, china, silverware, and a floral centerpiece.
I made a delicious punch from juice and coconut ice cream – more on that later.  The glasses were a mismatched set – a thrift store find.

I sewed simple garlands of strips of paper and hung them from the chandelier as decor.

One grandmother-to-be, Katie, created these fun and funky paper flowers as decor.  They are so bright and cheery!  The cupcakes were gluten-free spice cake and oh so tasty!

This grandmother and grandmother-to-be enjoyed nabbing my on the go child for a quick and blurred photo.  Greta enjoyed the guests giving her gift to her future cousin.

Caroline and two of her childhood friends, Sami and Hailey, are pictured here.

I ate my fair share of topping drenched waffles at this brunch before we retired to the living room for a couple of shower games

This game I prepared for the shower.  One thing I forgot to specify before beginning this game, and we ended up flipping a coin for: highest or lowest points win?  As Eric pointed out, have a trash can ready for the people like me who carry their entire life in their bags!  You buy a digital download of in my Etsy shop.

 Our friend, Hailey had a nursery rhyme trivia game and an old wives tale trivia game prepared with cute children’s picture books as prizes.

Greta slept through the gifts, but ended up enjoying the wrapping and filling of the gifts upon awakening.  We are still finding these lovely bits of crimped paper all over the house.

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Buttermilk Waffles – makes 6 – 8 waffles, adapted from The Joy of Cooking, 1975

1. Sift: 2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour1/4 teaspoon baking soda1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder1 tablespoon honey1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon gluten-free xantham gum. Add 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, if desired.  

2. Beat in a separate bowl until light: 2 egg yolks.  Add and beat 1-3/4 cup buttermilk replacement6 tablespoons melted margarine

3. Combine the liquid and dry ingredients with a few swift strokes.  Allow to sit while preparing egg whites.  Beat until stiff peaks form, but not dry: 2 egg whites.  Fold egg whites into batter.  Cook according to waffle iron and preferences. 

Banana Coconut Muffins

Oh my goodness, are these muffins ever delicious!  They have the flavor of banana, a slight crunch of chia seeds, and yet none of the gluten, dairy, refined sugar, or vegetable oils that most muffin recipes have.  I guess this recipe might be what the pinners are calling these days a clean eating recipe.  Well, you have to try them for yourself to believe how tasty they are.

There are only 7 ingredients (8 plus a couple tablespoons of water, not pictured here).  We ate them for breakfast one morning this week after I woke up at 4 AM, cleaned, ate breakfast, read the paper, and couldn’t get back to sleep and then decided to make muffins.  They are great served warm or room temperature as a snack the following day.

I’ve been busy, even though this blog has been quiet.  The new windows are installed and a breeze to use, make our views more beautiful, and keep the house warmer.  We’ve been working on painting trim and general cleaning up after construction.

I’ve also been busy hanging up more artwork.  It always takes me a while to figure out where I want artworks in a new space.  This wall space above the kitchen area is perfect for smaller artworks.  Now I am dreaming of colors and ways to give this space a face lift.  The previous owners painted latex paint over oil paint on the cabinets, which creates the wear without the charm look.

Ok, I’m off to do some prep work while Greta naps – I am hosting a triple baby shower brunch tomorrow morning.  Look for some more yummy recipes after this weekend.

Banana Coconut Muffins – makes 10 – 11 standard muffins
1. Preheat oven to 350°, prepare standard muffin pan with liners or grease with dairy-free shortening and set aside.  In a medium mixing bowl combine: 1-1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose baking flour, 1/2 cup coconut sugar, and 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda.
2. In another medium mixing bowl combine: 1/2 cup melted coconut oil, 2 ripe mashed bananas, 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, 1 beaten egg, and 3 tablespoons water.
3.  Make a well in the dry ingredients, add liquid ingredients and combine with a few swift strokes.  Pour batter into prepared muffin pan.  Place water in any empty muffin cups to prevent warping.
4. Bake in 350° oven for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes and then remove muffins to cool on wire rack, or serve warm.