Taking {cheesy} Photos

Cheese!

I made this ecard because earlier today I was trying to snap a quick photo with my phone of my daughter doing something super cute.

I said her name to get her to look in my direction, but she never did.  Never took her eyes off what she was doing, BUT every time I called her name, she responded, “cheese!” and put on a fake smile.

I believe my two-year-old may have been mocking me…

Either way, it made me laugh.

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Mint Chocolate Croissants

Mint Chocolate Croissants Recipe

Once, when I was exploring heart of Metz, France, I came upon a little bakery.  I was entranced.  There in the bakery case were row upon row of sweet sugary goodness, and there was a particular chocolate croissant loudly calling my name.

And, since I suddenly lost every French word I knew, I clumsily, and with much waving of hands and pointing, ordered said croissant in a strange mumble of English, Spanish, and German (three more languages I can barely manage…)

But what can I say?  Chocolate pastries do strange things to me.

Anyway, enjoying the flaky delicacy in the shadow of an ancient (by American standards) limestone church is a happy memory for me.  It was a beautiful city.

And a damned good croissant.

Mint Chocolate Croissants Recipe

What you see here is a shadow of that memory, with a mint twist:  a super, super easy-to-make mint chocolate croissant.

If you live in North America, then you’re probably familiar with Pillsbury crescent dough.  The only change I made to the basic procedure was adding in some mint chocolate candy.  I just rolled the candy up inside the crescent before baking it according to the package directions, which I tried to demonstrate in this photo:

Mint Chocolate Croissants Recipe

Make sure you tuck in the ends to keep any melted chocolate from escaping.

Also, I melted an additional 10 candies so that I would have something to drizzle over the top.  I didn’t want to scald the chocolate in the microwave or bother with a double boiler, so I put them in a tiny glass dish and stuck the bowl of candy into the oven with the croissants while they baked:

Mint Chocolate Croissants Recipe

I left the candies in the oven the whole time the pastries baked, then stirred the melted chocolate with a spoon to smooth it out before drizzling it over the croissants in a criss-cross pattern.

I didn’t even wait for them to cool – just drizzled it on straight out of the oven.

I may have waited a minute or two before eating one. And another minute before eating a second.

Maybe.

Or maybe I just shoved them right into my drooling face as soon as I was finished snapping pictures.

Mint Chocolate Croissants Recipe

Either way, I suggest you eat them warm.

And, IF there are leftovers, I suggest you warm them a little because the chocolate inside will harden once completely cooled.

Mint Chocolate Croissants Recipe

Since this recipe really only had two ingredients, I tried to tell the story mainly with pictures instead of a list of instructions.  BUT, I still wrote up a recipe (including extra pictures), in PDF form which you can get here:  Mint Chocolate Croissants.

Also, I made a little graphic with the instructions right on top of a *yummy* photo, so it’s perfect for your Pinterest recipe album:

Mint Chocolate Croissants Recipe

Enjoy!

And Happy Baking!  :)

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Today’s Playlist: Forever Mine Nevermind by The Band Perry

I’ve been listening to a lot of different songs this morning, as I often do when getting work done on my computer, but this one stuck out for me today.

First of all, I really like The Band Perry.  I like their style, the songs they write and the songs they cover, their voices, and their music.  They’re Country, technically, but with a really heavy rock/pop influence.  Which I love.

And this song – Forever Mine Nevermind – is one of those song I feel was kinda written with me in mind.  Not exactly, not word-for-word, but in a way that struck a chord somewhere very deep down in my core.

Since the words were really clinging to my subconscious, and since I felt like there had to be plenty of people out there who would relate to the song like I did, I also made a graphic with some of the lyrics:

Forever Mine Nevermind  |  The Band Perry

Enjoy.

And if you really love it, go here to Pin it!

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Still I Rise

Still I Rise

“Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

Just a few lines from a favorite poem.  I could read it over and over again.  Does it come as a surprise?

And I liked how these powerful words looked when paired with this image.

A dancing spirit.  Light.  Laughing.

Rising.

I will rise through pain.  I will smile.  I will see goodness in the world.

No matter how many times you shoot me with your words or cut me with your eyes or kill me with your hatefulness:  I rise.

You do your best to hurt me.  To bring me down, to drown me.

But still, like air, I rise.

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Easy Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

This is one of my go-to recipes when I want something easy to make that my kids will eat.

I know it may seem strange, but my girls have always eaten this, ever since they started on solid foods, and even though it has spinach in it.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always served spinach, but my kids like it.  Of course, they like it best smothered in Alfredo sauce.

So I’m advocating this recipe as not only “easy,” but also “kid-friendly.”

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

Anyway, the recipe can be altered to your tastes.  For example, I tend to change up which Alfredo sauce I buy.  Depends on what’s on sale.  :)

And I always make this after I’ve made chicken of some kind.  The chicken seen here is shredded chicken thighs that were “grilled” on the stove top the night before.  You can use white or dark meat, or both. Just make sure it’s seasoned.  Plain chicken is sooooo boring.  To me, at least.  So make your chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, or whatever you normally use.

I like to shred it by pulling it apart with my fingers (which is the fastest method I’ve found) the night that it’s cooked.  That way I can just pull the shredded meat out of the fridge when I’m ready to make this.

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

And when it comes to the spinach, I have no idea how much you would use if you’re using fresh.  I’ve always used frozen for this, because I always have frozen spinach on hand.

Here I used the steam-in-the-bag spinach from Target, because that’s what was the cheapest when I went shopping, but I usually stock up on the boxes (that are the same size:  10 oz.) when they’re on sale.

Either way, make sure you drain the spinach really, really well.  Spinach holds a lot of water and that water will make your dish far too soggy and keep the sauce from sticking to the pasta.

To drain the spinach, I usually press it into a mesh colander with a fork until no more water drips out.

And I suggest mixing in the spinach before stirring in the chicken or noodles, to make sure there are no dense clumps of spinach hiding in your finished meal.

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

And that photo is just a close up to show you what I used this time:  Roasted Garlic Parmesan Alfredo.  But any type of Alfredo will work.  Could even make your own Parmesan white sauce instead.

Also, taste it before serving, because, if you’re like me, you may want to mix in a little extra pepper or garlic powder if your chicken wasn’t seasoned enough.  I like my spices to be noticeable.  :)

Easy Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

Easy Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

Ingredients:

3 cups penne pasta
2 cups shredded chicken
10 oz. chopped frozen spinach
2 jars (16 oz. each) Alfredo Sauce (I used Roasted Garlic Parmesan Alfredo)

Cook the pasta and the spinach (separately) according to the directions on the package.

Drain all water from the spinach, through a mesh colander or towel, or your sauce will be too wet.

Pour the sauce into a very large saucepan.  Stir in spinach, combining well.  Then stir in chicken and cooked pasta.

Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

*****

And here is the FREE printable PDF:  Easy Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

Or, you can Pin this photo:

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken Recipe

Enjoy!

And I’m curious:  do your kids like spinach?

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Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

When I was five years old my favorite food was macaroni and cheese.

Nothing’s changed.

Seriously, I could eat this stuff every day.  But it IS nice to change up the elbows and cheddar routine.  And one of my favorite ways to do that is with Gouda.

As you’ll see, I also incorporated sausage into this.  You could do that in a variety of ways, but I chose to fry the sausage and cut it into half-slices.  You could also remove the casing and crumble it into the pan to cook, if you think you’d prefer that.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

I also added half a sweet onion for flavor.  As you can tell from the photos, I removed most of the onion before adding the sausage pieces to the macaroni because they’d become a little too dark for my taste.  I didn’t want the taste of the burnt onion pieces in my final dish, but cooking the sausage with the onions gave it a nice depth of flavor.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

This recipe also calls for a basic roux.  Butter, flour, milk, cheese:  voila.

And pepper.  Gotta have my spice.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Also, I used Corkscrew pasta.  I like to change up the shapes of pasta sometimes, but keep in mind that when using a different shape of pasta than what the recipe calls for, you may need to adjust the amount.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

You could easily use regular breadcrumbs, but I like using Panko sometimes.  I used it here.

If you’re not going to bake it right away, wait to add the breadcrumbs until just before baking.  Sometimes I put a little bit of my mac mixture into a small ramekin or two to keep in the fridge to bake another day.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

And, if your breadcrumbs don’t brown as much as you’d like by the time the sauce is bubbling nicely, then just broil it for a couple minutes.

As you can see from my photo, the Panko don’t brown as quickly or evenly as regular breadcrumbs.  But they’re still toasty, even the parts still light in color, so it still adds a nice crunch to the dish.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac & Cheese

So, here’s the path to yumminess:

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

2 cups corkscrew pasta
2 to 4 sausage links
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 Tbs olive oil
5 Tbs butter, separated
3 Tbs flour
2 tsp pepper
3 cups whole milk
2 cups (8 oz.) apple smoked Gouda, shredded
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Heat olive oil in a pan. Add onion and sausage and cook until onions are translucent and sausage is at least mostly cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove sausage from pan and slice into 1/4 or 1/2 inch slices, and cut the slices in half. Return sausage to pan, adding extra olive oil if the pan is too dry, and cook until the pieces are well-browned on all sides. Drain on paper towels, removing any onions that have become too dark (or all of them if you only want the flavor of them in the meat).

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions. Also, in a small dish, melt the 2 Tbs butter and mix the panko into it. Set panko aside.

Melt 3 Tbs butter in a saucepot. Sprinkle flour over it and stir well to create a roux. Add pepper and stir for a minute to lessen the taste of the flour. Remove from heat and whisk in milk. Return to heat and cook at medium high, stirring frequently, until just starting to boil. As soon as it starts to bubble, turn heat to low and stir in cheese. Stir until cheese is fully incorporated.

Stir the cooked pasta and sausage into the cheese sauce. Pour into a baking dish and sprinkle the panko over the top.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 minutes more, or until sauce begins to bubble. If desired, you can broil it for 2 minutes to achieve a well-browned crust on the breadcrumb topping.

(Note: Dish can be stored in the fridge or freezer before baking. Let sit at room temp at least 30 mins from fridge before baking and add 10 mins to baking time. Do not add panko until ready to bake.)

*****

Print the FREE PDF of the recipe:  Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Enjoy!

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Cinnamon Sweet Potato Slices

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Slices

These are the most foodgasm-worthy potatoes I’ve ever tried.

No, really:  These.  Are.  The.  Best.  Potatoes.  EVER.

And they were sooooooooo easy to make!  I’d make them more often except that my kids are going through a sudden I-don’t-like-sweet-potato phase (sigh), so I’ll probably make them more for guests.  Although it does make me want to shout, “How can you NOT like something covered in sugar???” but my 3-year-old isn’t really into philosophical discussions unless they involve Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

But I digress.

The main point here is this:  you gotta try these!

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Slices

And I didn’t come up with the idea all on my own.  I received a sample of something similar while shopping at Publix, but I decided that I wanted to change up their Sweet Potato Scoops a little.

Granted, I did like their idea of making them spicy, but I wanted to taste more of the sweetness.  Which means, not only did I cut out the curry powder they called for, I also cooked them longer, and with oil, to caramelize the bottoms.

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Slices

Part of the genius behind these is the scoop.  Taking the center out of the potato allows the butter and seasoning to melt into the potato and stay contained within it.

(Oh – and you can save those little scoops to make yourself a small bowl of mashed sweet potatoes.  Even throw a little butter and sugar and cinnamon into that.)

Once on your plate, you’ll need to slice it into pieces with a knife, but I feel the crunchiness of the skins is such a nice balance to the creamy centers.  Plus you get to soak up all the extra cinnamon-y, buttery goodness that seeps out.  Um… yes, please!

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Slices

And even if you scoop out a little too much from the slices, don’t worry.  You can see from the above photo that I accidentally went too deep on some of them, but that darkness you see at the bottom of the hole isn’t the pan – it’s the caramelization.  The thick, dark, softly crispy, naturally sugary, utterly addicting caramelized greatness.

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Slices

You can see the butter melting so delectably in these photos.

And in case you were considering going easy on the sugar:  don’t.  Abandon your reserve:  coat those babies with flavor!

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Slices

It’s only been a few days, but I can no longer remember what I ate these with.  I think it was steak.  All I know is that these potato slices were the indisputable star of the meal.

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Slices

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Slices

Ingredients:

2 sweet potatoes
6 Tbs butter, cubed
Olive oil
Cinnamon and Sugar Mix

Preheat oven to 475 F (240 C).

Slice sweet potatoes about 1 inch thick.

On a microwave-safe plate, microwave the slices on high for 5 minutes.

Cut a circle about halfway deep into the center of the slices with a melon baller or sharp spoon.  (If one side of the slice feels tough, try the other side, as the side touching the plate may be softer.)

Drizzle olive oil lightly over a baking sheet.  Lay potato slices indent-side up over olive oil.  Cover pan with foil.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until very tender.

When potatoes are done baking, immediately place butter pieces into indents on potato slices and generously sprinkle with the Cinnamon and Sugar Mix.  Serve warm.

*****

And here is the FREE printable PDF:  Cinnamon Sweet Potato Slices

Enjoy!  And please let me know if you try these!!

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