I hardly ever get up in the morning and make a pot of coffee. I am the only coffee drinker in the house and it hardly seems worth all the trouble just to make it for myself. The other reason that I'm not a morning coffee drinker is that I hit the ground running as soon as I get out of bed in the morning. Fixing breakfast, posting my blog, packing lunches and getting everyone out the door by is about all I can handle before 7 AM. There really isn't time to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee and getting out of bed any earlier just isn't an option.
As soon everyone is out the door, I lace up my tennis shoes and either head outside to walk or downstairs to the basement for a workout. By the time I finish exercising and take a shower, I'm wide awake and I'd much rather sip on a glass of ice cold fruit water than a cup of hot coffee. It's not that I don't enjoy coffee, it's just low on my priority list in the morning.
I'm actually much more likely to make myself a cup of coffee before I sit down on the couch in the evening. My favorite coffee is probably Dunkin Donuts.
I know I'm going to take some heat for this but I'm not a fan of Starbucks coffee. Their coffee beans taste over-roasted and acidic. I've tried all different Starbucks varieties and they all seem to cause me some form of stomach discomfort. That doesn't stop me however, from taking in all the fabulous smells that come lofting out of a Starbucks store. (There is a small Starbucks counter in my grocery store and it makes walking through the supermarket doors oh so inviting.)
I haven't tried many of the desserts at Starbucks but I found this recipe for copycat Starbucks Oatmeal Fudge Bars on jumboempanadas.blogspot.com and it looked simply divine. I decided to give this one a try at home. Who knows, maybe I'll make a pot of coffee to enjoy while I eat my Oatmeal Fudge Bar.
Oatmeal Fudge Bars
(Makes 36 bars)
1 cup butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons real vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 14-ounce can (1-1/4 cups) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Add brown sugar and beat until well mixed.
Beat in eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
In another large bowl stir together flour and baking soda then stir in oats.
Cool on a wire rack. Cut into 2×2 inch inch bars.
Since this recipe made so many bars, I tucked quite a few of them away into my freezer. They will make great lunch box treats and after school snacks.
When I go to the produce stand, I'm overwhelmed by all of the fresh vegetables that are available... tomatoes, beans, corn, squash, zucchini, peas, onions, potatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, the list goes on and on.
So why is it that I can be so inspired at the market to buy all of these fresh-from-the-farm veggies and so uninspired to cook them when I get home? Anybody else have the same problem? Maybe it's because I don't make it a habit of cooking vegetables in new ways. I cook them the same old way all the time because it's quick and easy but not necessarily because it's the best way to highlight my summer vegetables.
While I leafed through my food magazines last month, I made a conscious effort to choose recipes that would highlight my summer produce in a whole new way. This recipe for summer bean salad in my Cooking Light magazine was exactly what I was looking for. Summer produce in a quick and easy vinaigrette with fresh herbs and a bright burst of lemon. I didn't have a lot of hope that the kids would be big fans but I decided to go ahead and make it anyway.
Summer Bean Salad
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
3/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces fresh yellow-wax beans (I used green instead)
2 cups shelled edamame
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
15 ounce can chick peas, rinsed and drained
Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add beans and cook 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Add remaining ingredients to the dressing and toss to coat.
I served my bean salad with hamburgers. As a I suspected, the kids didn't want to have much to do with the bean salad. Oh well. I thought it was really tasty and the fresh, crisp vegetables were a really nice compliment to the burgers.
What inspires you at the produce stand? Send me your veggie side dish recipes. I'd love to try them.
I have to admit that with all of our traveling this summer, I haven't been very attentive to my garden this year. Our unusually wet summer has done all of my watering for me so I don't really have an excuse to go and check on it very often. The last time that I looked at it though, it was looking pretty waterlogged. My carrots tops are turning black (which I am assuming is a result of too much water) and even my watermelon vines are rotting. (Is it really possible to overwater a watermelon? Sounds impossible.) Anyway, my pumpkin seems to be coming along nicely. I have a few flowers so I'm hoping to see some tiny pumpkins soon. (I feel like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive.)
Since I only have carrots and watermelon and pumpkins in my garden, I've had to rely on the farmers markets (and some generous neighbors) for my fresh tomatoes this summer. Despite our wet conditions wreaking havoc on the crops, the tomatoes that I've gotten from the supermarket this summer have been delicious.
I had some fresh roma tomatoes from Fresh Market sitting on my counter on night when I was making pizza for the kids and inspiration struck. (Every once in a while, it does happen.) I decided to put all of my favorite summer flavors together into one fantastic pizza - for me!
Tomato and Corn Pizza
3 plum tomatoes, sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup pesto
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon sugar
3 Tablespoons fresh basil leaves
I love it when my daughter is my guest photographer. It makes cooking so much easier when I don't have to stop after every step and take pictures.
I have only one word for this pizza - YUM!
One of the very first jobs that I had when I was a teenager a waitress at an Italian restaurant. It was a tiny little place near my hometown and it was owned by a man from Thailand - yes, Thailand. (That's a story for another day.) I started as a waitress but over the three years that I worked at the restaurant, I also served as the hostess, bartender and even the cook. There were days when I held all of those roles on the same day! (Did I mention that it was a SMALL restaurant?) One of my favorite things to do at the restaurant was to work in the kitchen. I took a special interest in preparing desserts for the evening dinner service. The dessert specialty at the restaurant was cheesecake and I learned a lot about how to (and not to) make a really great cheesecake at the restaurant. I used to love to experiment with all sorts of different flavor combinations. Snickers, turtle, raspberry white chocolate swirl, chocolate chip, amaretto - I baked them all. I started with a basic cheesecake recipe and added flavors based on the cheesecake that I wanted to create.
Today, I want to share my basic, plain cheesecake recipe with all of you. It is super easy. You don't need a springform pan and you don't need to bake it in a water bath. It's simple and easy but it's really delicious.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs ½ cup sugar ¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup melted butter 2 eggs
16 ounces cream cheese ½ teaspoon vanilla
Press into a greased 9” square pan.
Feel free to get creative with this cheesecake recipe. Use your imagination and create something fabulous. My family likes these tiny cheesecake squares dipped in chocolate.
I feel like I'm on a never ending quest to find healthy, crunchy, whole grain snack snacks that will satisfy my sweet tooth AND give me some extra protein. Is that too much to ask?
Since school is back in session, I'm also getting back into the habit of packing lunches for the kids. I think the kids are getting a little tires of granola bars so I'm looking for new, healthy snacks that I can tuck into their lunch boxes that will help keep them full during the school day. If you have some healthy snack ideas that you like to give to your kids - I'd love for you to share them with me - please.
I ran across a recipe for these Chewy Oat Squares in my Cooking Light magazine and I modified it quite a bit so I'm going to give you my version instead of the original.
Chewy Oat Squares
1/4 cup apple juice
6 whole pitted dates
5 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup honey
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325. Line a 9" square pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
Place pan in refrigerator for 20 minutes before slicing into squares.
I had the kids in mind when I started this recipe for oat squares but at the end of the day, it was me who couldn't seem to resist them. I LOVED these. They were the perfect crunchy, chocolatey, whole grain snack that I craved every afternoon. This recipe is going to be dangerous.
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