Wisdom for a happy life: Celebrate each day like a birthday. 🎉
Just like Christmas or Thanksgiving - birthdays are an opportunity to celebrate. To gather together. To eat dessert. To party. 🥳 But unlike holidays, birthdays are the one day a year that we can celebrate a someone's uniqueness. A day to reflect on what is it about them that makes them special. Celebrating the birthdays of the significant and impactful people in my life brings me so much joy and happiness. And today I'm extra happy to be celebrating the birthday of my husband.
I met this human when we were just 10 years old. I went on my first date with him at the awkward age of fifteen and we've shared a last name now for almost 28 years! 👰🏻 I guess I kind of like this guy. 😂 And today, on his birthday, I get to celebrate everything that makes him unique and wonderful.
How a person chooses to celebrate a birthday is very personal. Some prefer a quiet, introspective afternoon of solitary reflection while others want to be surrounded by family and friends at an over the top celebration with food and gifts. As for me, I like to spend birthdays, looking back on my accomplishments and setting goals for the future. I remind myself to live in the moment and be fully present - something that I forget to do, a lot. 😂 I also feel like everyone deserves to feel special and valued on their birthday. And the baker in me believes that everyone deserves a special treat on their birthday. (Even if that means that they treat themselves to something out of the ordinary.)
It should come as no surprise to anyone that I bake to honor my favorite people on their birthdays. 💁🏻♀️(#foodismylovelanguage) And since my husband might be the only other person on the planet with a bigger sweet tooth than me - I'm starting off his special day with a cinnamon roll cupcake. I hope that his day is even sweeter than this vanilla frosted, sprinkle filled, pillowy soft cinnamon roll. 😅
Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes
2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast or 1 packet
1/2 cup granulated sugar divided
1 cup warm milk
2 large eggs room temperature
1/3 cup butter melted
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups bread flour
1 cup rainbows sprinkles
1 cup brown sugar packed
2 1/2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 Tablespoons milk
Drizzle over warm cinnamon rolls. Add additional sprinkles.
Birthday celebrations start early in this house. There will still be cake and ice cream after dinner but why wait for the evening to honor the birthday boy when we can start the day with cinnamon roll cupcakes?
My 10 year blogaversary is quickly approaching. July 20th is the fateful day that I published my very first blog post - in 2011!!! 🙌🏻 For those of you who have followed the blog from the beginning (aka. my mom) - THANK YOU!!! I know those initial years of blog posts were not very engaging. I'd go as far as to say that my first attempts at writing a food blog were downright cringeworthy. Safe to say that it took some time (years, maybe) for me to navigate the world of blogging and find my writing "voice".
No matter how awkward and agonizing the first few years of blog posts might have been, I can never delete the posts because I still reference those recipes. The quality of the recipes makes up for my poor articulation.😅 Those posts are also the place where I go when I'm feeling nostalgic and I want to see pictures of my kids from ten years ago. 😭
My very first blog post was a recipe for Shrimp Salad. The post was a total of 11 sentences and exactly 1 picture of the aforementioned salad. 🍤 I still go back to that post every summer though, because we love that recipe for Shrimp Salad. I recommend that you check it out if you're looking for a great summer salad recipe.
I feel like I should have titled this recipe - the evolution of a salad. It's hard to believe that I started out attaching a single photograph to a recipe. Now I feel like I've progressed to the opposite end of the spectrum. I include pictures of every single ingredient, pictures of the process and multiple angles of the finished product. 📸(There has to be a happy medium.😅) As you scroll through this post - you can literally watch the salad come together from beginning to end in pictures. 🥗 This wasn't necessarily planned - but when I have beautiful ingredients like ripe, red strawberries and crisp, green lettuce - I can't help but photograph them. 💁🏻♀️
Strawberry Avocado Salad
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 cup strawberries, quartered
1 head butter lettuce, torn into pieces
1 cup alfalfa sprouts
2 ripe avocados, sliced thin
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Drizzle with dressing just before serving.
In my very first blog post, I promised to be honest with my readers. Being completely transparent isn't always easy - it's hard to admit a failure. Sometimes it's not a complete disaster either. Some recipes just needs some tweaking to make them better. For example, this salad, in my opinion, would be better without the garlic in the dressing. A minor change to the dressing would really take this from good to great.
We've officially made it to day 5 of our plant based meal challenge! 🙌🏻 For the most part - our meatless dinners have been delicious - according to me. 😉 (There was really only one that kind of missed the mark.) I've gone out of my comfort zone and made some new recipes that I wouldn't normally have tried if I hadn't been specifically looking for plant based recipes.
What I have come to realize though is that there is one unfortunate consequence to eating plant based meals every single day - eating a lot of beans tends to backfire. (literally) 😂😯🤣 (I can't believe that I'm talking about flatulence on my food blog - just trying to keep it real, folks.) My go-to move when I prepare meatless meals is to just replace meat with beans in my favorite recipes like lasagna, tacos and salads. My new goal is going to be to find meat alternatives that won't have the adverse effects of beans.😅
Although I don't recommend that you consume a ridiculous amount of beans every single day for an entire week - I do suggest that you use them as a meat replacement - on occasion. Swap out the traditional chicken or beef filling to create something new like these Black Bean Quesadillas. They're so flavorful and delicious - you'll never even miss the meat.
Black Bean Quesadillas
1 can black beans
1/2 onion, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons taco seasoning
1 roasted red pepper, finely sliced
1/2 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup Colby Jack cheese
Cut tortillas in wedges and serve with avocado slices.
The definition of a quesadilla is a tortilla filled with cheese and heated. (I had to look it up. 🤣) I always thought a quesadilla had to be fold like a crepe - not stacked, grilled cheese style. I was wrong. By definition - a quesadilla can be either folded or prepared flat and sliced like a pizza, into wedges. As long as it contains warm cheese and a tortilla - it's a quesadilla and I'm a fan.
Kitchen Remodel Update:
Two nights in a row last month, I laid awake in my bed, long past when I should have been asleep, thinking about which new kitchen cabinet was going to be the best place to store my rolling pins. 🤦🏻♀️ I think I have a problem. 😅 It's the seemingly obvious and simple decisions about our kitchen remodel that have caused me the most anxiety. The custom cabinets, the custom built island and the new flooring were all fairly easy choices for me to make. Rolling pin storage - threw me for a loop.🤷🏻♀️
Choosing lighting for our new space was another decision that really caught me off guard. As of today, I've ordered and returned 3 set of lights for our new space. 😬(Please help a girl out and and send me your kitchen light suggestions - clearly, I need some assistance with this decision.) 😅 In the greater scope of our entire kitchen remodel, this is not a major decision but for some reason, I feel completely incompetent when it comes to choosing lights.
Before I started this remodel process - I had no idea what a monster undertaking this was going to be. (You see where I'm going with this. Don't you?) 🤣 Seriously though - so many decisions to make. My fear is that once I choose light fixtures, the decisions have just begun. There are heights to be determined, switches, lightbulbs, dimmers and wattage choices to make. 😬 It might be time to bring in a professional. 💡
When I start to feel overwhelmed with kitchen decisions - I bake. It seems counterproductive, but it works for me. 🤷🏻♀️ Baking cookies are my favorite way to forget about the stresses of our remodeling project and Monster Cookies are the perfect choice because there are fewer decisions to make. I just add everything that I have in my pantry at the time.
I don't have any idea how these cookies ever became known as "Monster Cookies" but if I were to venture a guess, I suspect that it has something to do with the beloved blue Sesame Street character affectionately known as cookie monster. Everyone's favorite, googgly eyed, blue character that enthusiastically consumes anything and everything within his reach. That's how I feel when I was gathering up the ingredients for these cookies. 😂Peanut butter, oats, M&M's, chocolate chips - all the sweets that are in my house. And together - they are delicious!!!
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup quick oats
3/4 cup M&Ms (any size or variety)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Bake 11-13 minutes at 350.
These Monster cookies were a hit with everyone who managed to pry one out of my hands. 😂 Seriously though - I recommend that you gather up whatever yummy goodness in your house right now and turn it into your own version of a "Monster Cookie."
Here it is the very first day of my meatless, plant based meal challenge and I'm already having to make adjustments to my menu. 🤦🏻♀️ I didn't want to bail on my plant based diet but we ended up having a dinner guest tonight. 🤷🏻♀️ I mean, how can I serve a black bean and lentil filled tortilla to a guest who would prefer a spicy beef taco loaded with cheese, guacamole and sour cream? 🌮 You can see my dilemma. 😬
Hesitant to serve a plant based taco to our dinner guest, I considered ditching the meatless nachos that I had planned to make and prepare more traditional ("company worthy") beef tacos instead. Even though I hated to ditch my meatless meal challenge on day one - I also didn't want to risk making a brand new vegetarian recipe which may or may not be a complete failure. 😬
I found the answer to my meat vs. meatless taco dinner dilemma in a book that I received from a friend on my birthday called "Beautiful Boards." Think charcuterie boards taken to a whole new level.🤣 The one that caught my eye was a "build your own" taco board. Why not pull together all of our favorite taco ingredients and arrange them all on one beautiful board with both meat and vegetarian options?
What started out as a build your own taco board turned into a tacho board. (A taco/nacho combination for those of you who don't speak "Amy.") I won't take the time to list all of the things that were on my board - I think that most of the ingredients are pretty obvious from the pictures. 🥑The only thing that you probably don't recognize is the bean and tomato mixture in the center. That, my friend, is the black bean, tomato and lentil mixture that I added as the plant based option for our meal.
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/3 cup red wine
1 can brown lentils, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 (14.4 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh cilantro, chopped
Season with salt to taste.
Soon bean mixture over a bed of tortilla chips,
spoon into a tortilla and serve with fresh avocado slices
or add to a build your own tacho board. 😋
Here's the good news about this recipe: It's easy enough to put together that I felt like I could make this AND make some meat options for our tacos as well.
Here's the bad news: I didn't LOVE the spice combination in this mixture. It wasn't terrible - just not my favorite. Don't take my word for it though - try it for yourself.
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