for this, my last and final secret recipe club choice, i first chose this upside down peach cake from amanda at dancing veggies. amanda's blog is full of vegetarian recipes and i had never made a cake without eggs before. but i had a different, major problem. the last few cakes i've made, i've thought they were done, taken them out of the oven, just to cut into them later to find them gooey inside. this time, my cake wasn't even close to being done. and just like the other times, i didn't know until after i had turned it out, let it cool, and took out the first slice. what a bummer. the two inches around the outside edge were cooked & delicious. my advice to those of you want to make it: make sure it's really done. and if you aren't sure, bake it another five minutes. oh, and let it cool in the pan about 15 minutes before turning it out.
we are total carboholics in our house, especially the boys, who have never met a bread product they didn't like. bread, monkey bread, stuffed bread, bagels, croissants, biscuits, english muffins, buns, cornbread, pancakes, fried donuts, baked donuts, muffins, waffles and too many scones to count, they love them all, both sweet and savory. sometimes, we have to hide loaves of bread or packages of rolls out of our youngest's view, or else he won't eat his dinner.
before the kids were born, i had time to putz around and make a yeasty loaf of bread. now, not so much. as soon as i saw this recipe promising fresh baked bread at home in an hour(!!!) from lori at lori's culinary creations, i was set. the one thing it needed: a heavy dose of cinnamon and sugar.
for this month's secret recipe club pick from cindy at hun...what's for dinner?, i started my search looking for two things: a great weeknight dinner and a new cookie. as a result, these bbq cola beef sandwiches almost made in into our rotation last week (i love using my slow cooker in the summer, and these sandwiches look perfect), along with these peanut butter, chocolate chip & pretzel bars until i just so happened to stumble upon these frozen peanut butter cups and the sandwiches and bars flew out the window! my initial thought was that the only thing these were missing was chocolate ice cream. i remedied that and made one of my favorite combos.
for this month's secret recipe club pick at my hobbie lobbie, i had a couple recipes picked out: baked fish in mushroom sauce [i'm always on the lookout for simple, delicious ways to prepare fish, and mushrooms are always a hit in this house], savory french toast [think baked french toast casserole with peppers, onions, and cheese], monster cookies [chocolate chips + peanut butter + oats + M&Ms] and these totally chocolate chocolate chip cookies [melted chocolate & cocoa in the batter with dark chocolate chips mixed in]. i woke up one saturday morning all ready to make the savory french toast, when i realized i was missing one - arguably the - key ingredient: bread. so i settled - if i can even call it settling, when so much chocolate is involved - on the totally chocolate chocolate chip cookies. the only change i made was to convert the ingredients from metric to US measurements using my kitchen scale & i added a sprinkle of sea salt to the top of half the cookies. i loved the salt, jason didn't care for it, but we all agreed the cookies are delicious.
i had already made my grocery list and planned my meals for this week when i realized two things: i totally forgot that it's time for the secret recipe club again and this week is cinco de mayo! i had browsed rachel cotterill's blog and bookmarked a few recipes right when i got my assignment, not even thinking about mexican food. once i realized my blunder, i read through the list i had bookmarked and easily chose this mexican mac and cheese! while not spicy, it went over really well in our house with a toddler and preschooler. for dessert, i made one of my favorite combinations: almond and raspberry in this bakewell tart. i knew the tart would taste great, but both jason and i were surprised at how light it is. i assumed the almonds would make a heavy, dense cake, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. and while rachel and i don't have much in common besides food - she's a computational linguistics PhD student, declares she's "someone who collects skills the way other people collect stamps", and she has written two fantasy novels - there's no doubt that we both share a love of food.
the weather today was perfect - warm, sunny, and too early in the season for bugs or humidity. we packed up our dinner and headed to the playground for dinner. after gobbling up eggs baked with bacon, potatoes, and a ton of cheese, we walked about a mile along the canal for opening day at the ice cream shop. we marked the occasion with winn's very own ice cream. i wasn't surprised in the least at his choice of chocolate.
since first making this for dinner a couple months ago, it was quickly added to our regular rotation, most recently showing up last month. it has everything i love about pork tenderloin: salty bacon, sweet brown sugar & apricot preserves, zesty whole grain and dijon mustard, and perfectly juicy pork. did i mention the salty bacon?! it's killer.
ever since this recipe first showed up in food & wine over a year ago, it's been on heavy rotation in our house. the first couple times we enjoyed it as is - sweet & sour pork lettuce cups, the mixture rolled in butter lettuce - and we quickly learned that although delicious, it simply wasn't enough food to sustain all of us. so i started making variations - first lettuce cups topped with rice and then this, our favorite - sweet & sour pork with rice on top of baby spinach.
the top layer sliding ever so slightly, this is a total mom cake. i'm pretty sure the first time i celebrated my birthday with a store bought cake was when i turned 19. it was the first year i spent my birthday away from my mother and her homemade cakes. my mom recently reminded me how much my sister and i begged for a store bought cake as kids - which while i don't remember this specifically, i'm not all that surprised that it happened - and then thanked her as adults for always making our cakes. to this day, my mom's layer cakes never look the best - always a little lopsided, one layer sliding off another - but no bakery cake can compare to the flavor of a homemade cake.
last summer, virtually every friday, i would pack up dinner for the then three of us and winn, roo, and i would visit a local playground for the afternoon. jason would meet us after he got out of work around 5:30. we'd play for a bit more and when we finally decided we're hungry, spread out our picnic dinner. we spent the summer visiting a dozen or so playgrounds, getting to know our favorites and a few we won't be visiting again, and finding dinners suitable for adults and toddlers that are also easily packable, delicious, and not repetitive. it was a challenge. so this summer, i'm going to track those dinners, along with their toddler and preschool friendly versions, since i know from experience the challenge it can be to find a picnic meal to satisfy young ones and adults.
i've spent the last five days and nights alone with the baby while jason and winn were out of town, visiting grandma. like most parents, i had visions of all the things i would get done with only one child under my feet - and one that cannot yet talk! or run! or break things! visions of clothes shopping. visions of painting the now guest room in our house as a surprise to my husband when he comes home today (surprise! i didn't do it). visions of putting a sizable dent in my stack of magazines, some of which date back to 2013. visions of cooking - oh the cooking! you don't even want to see my wish list for the last two days. and i was going to do all of this plus get back on track with my half marathon training by running for an hour or so each day.
with daylight savings time now in full force and the sun setting later and later, we're making a conscious effort to get the boys to sleep earlier. which means i am on the lookout for simple meals appropriate for adults, a toddler, and a finger-foods-eating baby that can be on the table from start to finish in a max of 30 minutes. most one pot pasta recipes i've tried fit these requirements, but don't always taste great or usually, don't have enough liquid and i end up with too hard pasta and burnt sauce. not good. this one pot tortellini is not one of those meals. while the three of us gobbled it up with our forks, the finger-foods-eating baby was the clear winner: we had to cut him off after three bowls.
i mentioned early this week that we hosted some friends with little ones for an easter egg hunt and brunch last saturday morning. this carrot cake was the first dish i knew would be on the menu as my mom has made it a handful of times for various birthdays, holidays, and saturdays. it's the perfect cake for a party - it's easy, coming together in basically one bowl and no fussy layers, delicious, fitting for easter and springtime, and i felt a little less guilty letting my toddler have a piece knowing there are carrots tucked inside. oh and i've yet to meet a person that doesn't like carrot cake.
i was so so so happy this month when i opened up my secret recipe club assignment and found la cocina de leslie and six years (!!!) of homemade mexican food. why oh why has it taken me this long to find you?!
while the recipe i chose goes back more than five years, it was a pretty easy choice. we have a few good mexican restaurants near us and while i usually get tacos when we go out, whenever we get to salena's, jason and i always get the mexican flag - three enchiladas, one red, one white, one green. i stopped dead in my tracks when i spied leslie's red and green chicken enchiladas and decided that since i had made red enchiladas a couple years ago, that it was time to try green.
we were not disappointed even a tiny bit. these are so good, my almost one year old son stuffed a whole enchilada down before i could even serve myself. and then repeated it with leftovers two days later.
it's no surprise that i love meyer lemons. they're sweet and tart, a perfect mix of lemon and orange. i've always used them for sweet treats - meyer lemon tart, meyer lemon cupcakes with meyer lemon buttercream, and a runaway hit, meyer lemon iced raspberry yogurt cake - but they're equally as delicious in this simple pasta. if you're looking for a vegetarian option, omit the bacon. can't find meyer lemons? use a regular lemon instead. the flavor will be a bit more tart and pronouncedly lemon and definitely delicious.