Some Life Stuff & The Best Pickles

So what have you been up to? We’re just living life over here. The days run into weeks and the weeks into months. Funny how that happens. I heard a quote on parenting once and I just love it so. I’m pretty sure I’ve shared it before. And I don’t know where the quote came from so I could give credit where it’s due, but I just don’t remember.

“The days are long but the months are short”

It seems that time passes in the blink of an eye sometimes so I’ve just been enjoying my kids and hibernating because the weather is unbearable.

BUT Guess what? We’re finally moving back to Florida! I have tickets booked and suitcases packed! Well, nothing packed actually, but we have our flights scheduled! I absolutely cannot wait to never experience a Michigan winter ever again. And to be close to family again, of course. 42 days to go but who’s counting? ME! So more on that stuff later and I’ll even bore you with a recap of what we’ve been eating, too. But first.

The pickles I’ll be eating until I turn green blue in the face. I’m not sure why what’s an expression and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t go in this instance but I’m sticking to it. Anyway. They’re garlicky, they’re salty, they’re refreshing. Um, did I mention they’re perfect? Yes.

I’m not a cucumber fan. I just find them kind of boring. I’ll eat them but I don’t go out of my way to buy them or cook with them. They just seem… meh. So over the summer one of Pierre’s co-workers sent him home with a ton of cucumbers from his garden. I wasn’t going to turn them away so I decided to make pickles! So happy I did that. Now I go out of my way to buy cucumbers and make pickles 3-4 times a month. My 2 (almost 3 WAAAHHHH) year old will eat the whole jar in one sitting if I let her. No utensils necessary. So here are the step by step photos of how we make them! So easy that Eva could probably make them with minimal help.

Add 20-30 black peppercorns at the bottom of a quart-sized mason jar. Don’t count mine.

untitled-14 Cut up a cucumber in the size and shape you like your pickles. This is just one medium pickle but the jar can hold up to two. I’ve crammed a ton of cucumbers in the jar and it works just fine. I toss the ends.untitled-15 Next, let your toddler SLOWLY add the cucumbers one by one to the jar while you take deep breaths and try not to cut in because you have no patience. untitled-17 untitled-18 untitled-19 Chop up a garlic clove in the meantime. Anyway you want.untitled-20 Add 1 tbsp kosher salt.untitled-22 Add 1/3 cup of white vinegar.untitled-23 Fill the rest of the jar up with plain water, give it a quick shake and place it upside down for 24 hours. I put mine in a bowl just in case the jar leaks but mason jars have a nice tight seal so it hasn’t happened yet.untitled-25 untitled-26

 

After 24 hours turn the jar right side up and place in the fridge for another 12 hours before you dig in. True be told you can probably eat these after the first 24 hours.

THAT’S IT. Please tell me you’ll make these.

The Best Pickles

1-2 medium cucumbers, sliced to your desire
20-30 whole black peppercorns
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/3 cup white vinegar

Add all the ingredients to a quart-sized mason jar, shake and leave upside down for 24 hours. After 24 hours return the jar to right side up and store in the fridge.

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Whiskey & Pineapple Cranberry Sauce

Let’s make boozy cranberry sauce! Whiskey & Pineapple Cranberry Sauce // Pancake Saturday

I’ve mentioned that turkey isn’t really my thing. When it comes to Thanksgiving I eat it but always drown it in cranberry sauce. I didn’t grown up with it as a regular side to my family’s Thanksgiving meal and when I discovered it was in love. The first time I tried it was when I met my mother-in-law just after mine and Mr. HC’s engagement. She made this recipe that called for the stuff from the can and let me tell you, I LOVED IT. I’ve asked her to make it every year we’ve been together for Thanksgiving. I know, crazy considering it’s the canned stuff.

Whiskey & Pineapple Cranberry Sauce // Pancake SaturdayLast year we ventured away from it and I made cranberry sauce from scratch and you can imagine what happened when I tried the real stuff. I was over the moon obvi. The tartness and texture is perfect and it really goes with everything. Can we make cranberries an all year thing? Why do I have to wait for Thanksgiving to cook with them? I’m not sure what possessed me to add whiskey to my cranberries this year but I’m glad I did. It adds a really nice depth of flavor that’s unexpected but in a good way. And the pineapple! So good. If you close your eyes you can pretend you’re in the tropics. That’s what I’ll be doing.

Whiskey & Pineapple Cranberry Sauce
Yields 3-4 cups

12 oz fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups whiskey, I used Jack Daniel’s
1/2 cup brown sugar*
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups chopped pineapple**

Add all the ingredients to a pot over medium heat. Mix everything together and cover. When it starts to boil remove the lid (being very careful not to inhale!) and reduce the heat to a low simmer.

Whiskey & Pineapple Cranberry Sauce // Pancake Saturday

Stir occasionally as the cranberries and pineapple begin to break down. Whiskey & Pineapple Cranberry Sauce // Pancake Saturday

The sauce will look like this about 45 minutes in.
Whiskey & Pineapple Cranberry Sauce // Pancake Saturday Throw it in a large mason jar and serve warm. Whiskey & Pineapple Cranberry Sauce // Pancake Saturday

Just like the pilgrims did it.

*This recipe makes a tart, savory cranberry sauce. If you prefer a sauce add 3/4  – 1 cup of sugar. You could also leave the sugar at 1/2 cup and add 1/4 cup of maple syrup.

**I don’t live anywhere near the tropics so I used pineapple slices from a can. About 6 rings cut into medium chunks. You could skip the cutting part and just buy pineapple chunks, drained.

Spinach & Feta Smashed Potatoes

Say hello to your new favorite Thanksgiving side dish.

Spinach & Feta Smashed Potatoes // Pancake Saturday

Or your main dish. Hey, I won’t judge you for eating just this on Thanksgiving. I love potatoes. I could eat them in any shape or form. If there’s a potato involved – I’m eating it. French fries are probably my favorite because hello! They’re fried. Now that we’re almost to Thanksgiving I’ve asked Mr. HC about a thousand times what he wanted for dinner that night. We’re spending the holiday just the 5 of us and since there are only 2 adults consuming the majority of the meal I thought I’d just let him pick our menu. And while his answer is almost always “whatever you want”, the absolute worst answer you could give someone who loves to cook for others, I know he loves mashed potatoes on special occasions. I definitely won’t turn them away but I know I’m in the minority when I say I like them chunky. Yes, I said it. I like chunky mashed potatoes.

Spinach & Feta Smashed Potatoes // Pancake Saturday

These are a nice balance smooth and chunky. A great compromise for us. Red potatoes naturally have a lot of water in them so they tend to be pretty smooth to begin with. Add butter and some fat-free half and half, spinach (for health reasons of course – see, I’m looking out for you!) and some salty delicious feta cheese and you’ve got yourself a winning dish.

Spinach & Feta Smashed Potatoes
Serves 2-4

6-8 small red potatoes (I like them with the skin on but you can peel them if you prefer it that way)
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp fat-free half & half
2 cups chopped baby spinach
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
salt & pepper to taste (remember the feta cheese is salty so you may want to go easy on the salt or skip it all together)

Add the potatoes to a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid and cover the potatoes with cold water and cover with the lid. Bring the water to a boil. When the potatoes are done you will be able to stick the tip of a knife in them and it will slide easily off.

Drain the potatoes and place back in the same pot and put them on the same range, making sure the heat is off. The additional heat trapped in the potatoes and pot will evaporate any of the water left on the potatoes. After you notice all the water has evaporated, give each potato one or two smashes with a fork. The idea here is to break the potato open but not mashing it completely. You’ll have big and small pieces.

Add all the remaining ingredients and gently stir, being careful not break them. Serve hot.

Spinach & Feta Smashed Potatoes // Pancake Saturday

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Stuffing Sliders with Spicy BBQ Sauce

I know, this sounds insane. But don’t worry – that’s because it is.Black Bean & Sweet Potato Sliders // Pancake Saturday

Black Bean & Sweet Potatoes Sliders // Pancake Saturday Black Bean & Sweet Potatoes Sliders // Pancake Saturday

My cousin came to visit over the weekend and we thought it would be fun to have a mini Thanksgiving since we won’t have any family around for the actual day. Stay tuned for a What We Ate coming later this week. Anyway, my cousin loves stuffing but I ended up buying way too much stuffing mix so I’m adding it to everything.

The sliders themselves are delicious and filling but the sauce! Spicy and sweet and delicious. Its totally out of the ordinary to mix stuffing with barbecue sauce, I know, but this is a winning combination. You could be traditional and top these with cranberry sauce or even gravy! but promise me you’ll at least make these once with the barbecue sauce. The sauce doesn’t end at these burgers though, you could put it on anything that requires BBQ sauce.

Black Bean & Sweet Potatoes Sliders // Pancake Saturday

Oh! And I made homemade slider buns for the occasion! I’ve never made bread before and it was kind of fun to know I made almost everything on that burger. I definitely recommend making your own burger buns some time if you haven’t yet.

Black Bean & Sweet Potatoes Sliders // Pancake Saturday

Black Bean & Sweet Potatoes Sliders // Pancake Saturday

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Sliders

Makes 6 sliders 

1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 medium sweet potato, peeled & cubed, about 1 cup
1 garlic clove, grated
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1 egg
3/4 cup Pepperidge Farm Seasoned Stuffing Mix (not the cubes, the kind that looks like breadcrumbs)
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup Spicy BBQ sauce, recipe below
salt & pepper, to taste
Toppers – Optional
lettuce
tomato
onion
avocado
bacon(!!)

Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss the sweet potato with salt, pepper and 1 tsp of olive oil and bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until tender.

Add the slightly cooled sweet potatoes to a food processor and puree. Add the black beans and pulse, leaving some texture. Add the mixture to a bowl and add the garlic and spices, egg and stuffing mix. Mix everything together until it’s fully incorporated. Form the patties into six sliders depending on the size of the buns you’re using.

Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium hight heat. Heat the sliders through, crisping each side. Top the sliders with your desired toppings and a dollop of the spicy bbq sauce.

Black Bean & Sweet Potatoes Sliders // Pancake Saturday

Spicy BBQ Sauce
Yields approx. 1 cup

1 cup your favorite BBQ sauce
2 tbsp grape jelly
1 1/2 sriracha chili sauce

Add all the ingredients to a small sauce pan over low heat. Whisk until combined and heated through. Keeps in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Black Bean & Sweet Potatoes Sliders // Pancake Saturday

Kale Pesto

I are you sick of kale yet? I sure hope not.

Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday

I get it. Kale is everywhere, in everything, you don’t even want to look at it anymore. But hear me out. You know how I have a bunch of kids and a husband that travels a lot for work? I love recipes that I can use in everything, for any meal at any time of the day, and this is just that. Let’s take a minute and read over some of the things you could use this kale pesto in. And I’m positive I’m missing some.

Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday

  • Over eggs in the morning or on a breakfast sandwich
  • Mixed into breakfast hash
  • Salad dressing
  • Grilled cheese (!!!)
  • Dipper for roasted veggies/fries
  • Sub for regular tomato pizza sauce
  • Spoon over chicken or fish
  • As a marinade for chicken, seafood or even tofu
  • Tossed with any pasta
  • Pesto lasagna – um, hello?

I could keep listing things. And the health benefits! I know you’ve heard all about them but just in case you haven’t here’s the rundown: tons of iron, vitamin A, calcium and fiber. Eat your kale.

Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday

I know some of you will say that it’s bitter or that you don’t like the way it tastes. But there’s cheese in this so that kind of makes everything better, right? Also, the lemon juice and zest helps cut the bitter undertones kale has sometimes and brightens up the whole thing. Works perfectly.

Kale Pesto
Yields approx. 1 cup

4 cups chopped kale, about 1 medium bunch, ribs removed
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese (I used the kind out of the green shaker – don’t judge me)
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Add all the ingredients, except for the oil, to a food processor. Turn it on a slowly stream in the oil. DONE. This will keep in the freezer for up to 4 weeks.

Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday
Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday

Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday

Seven-Spice Sweet Potato Fries with Curry Garlic Sauce

Today we’re talking about spiced sweet potatoes. Who doesn’t love sweet potatoes? For one they’re delicious, they’re versatile (my favorite quality in food) and so good for you! Now you have no excuse to not eat these. 7-Spice Sweet Potato Fries w/ Curry Garlic Sauce

Let’s talk spices for a minute. I never knew there was a 7-spice mix until my mom came to visit when Eva was born. We were buying groceries to stock up on food just a few days before she was due and my mom turned to me and asked if I had 7-spice at home. The look on my face probably told her everything she needed to know because she promptly picked up a jar to buy. Turns out that it’s a Lebanese spice mix I had savored many times while enjoying my grandmother’s cooking. Thankfully I live close to Dearborn, Michigan which has a large Middle Eastern demographic and makes for good eats. But don’t worry if you can’t find a Middle Eastern market near you, you can make your own, and you should because the stuff is delicious and goes with just about everything. I went a totally different way with the dipping sauce, but trust me on this one – it just goes. Greek yogurt makes is healthy, right?
7-Spice Sweet Potato Fries w/ Curry Garlic Sauce

7-Spice Sweet Potatoes
Serves 2

1-2 large sweet potato, cut into matchsticks
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp 7-spice mix
salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425F. In a large bowl add the ingredients for the sweet potatoes and toss. Arrange on a baking rack over a foil-lined baking sheet. I actually just use a cookie cooling rack and it works great but you can put them directly on the baking sheet if you don’t have one. Bake the potatoes for 20 – 25 minutes or until they are cooked through and to your desired crispness. While the potatoes are cooking make the dipping sauce by mixing all the ingredients in a small bowl. Serve the potatoes warm with the sauce on the side! 7-Spice Sweet Potato Fries w/ Curry Garlic Sauce

Curry Garlic Yogurt
yields 1/2 cup

1/2 Greek yogurt, I used non-fat
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp curry powder
1 small garlic clove, grated (for a milder garlic flavor add 1/4 tsp of garlic powder)

7-Spice Sweet Potato Fries w/ Curry Garlic Sauce

Sweet & Salty Cookie Dream Bars

I’m sorry but not really.

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These are so good I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I should start by telling you that this recipe is the reason I made you a tuna wrap last week. You’re going to want to bust that lunch out on the day you make these bars because you’ll find it very hard to not eat the whole pan in one sitting. Trust me.

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I started with my very favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, tweaked it a bit and then piled a whole bunch of marshmallows (impulse buy) and pretzels on top. If you follow me on Instagram then you know that I bought these amazing Toll House peanut butter filled milk chocolate chips (also an impulse buy) and I just had to put them in these bars. They are really delicious and I would have used just those but I like the slightly bitter taste of the semi-sweet chocolate chips in combination with the sweetness of the milk chocolate ones. So I used both, problem solved. untitled-11One of the things I love about this recipe is that almost every bite has different flavors, it’s impossible to get bored while eating these. Some bites taste like a delicious chocolate chip cookie, some bites you taste all the peanut butter, some bites are all about the toasted marshmallow and just when you think these might be too sweet you’re surprised by a salty, crunchy bite from the pretzel. You really need to make these.

Sweet & Salty Cookie Dream Bars
12 bars, (cookie layer adapted from this recipe)

2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup organic coconut oil, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup Nestle Toll House Peanut Butter Filled DelightFulls
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup crushed pretzels

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with enough foil so there is some overhang on the sides and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt and set aside. In a stand mixer, beat the coconut oil and sugars until light and fluffy, then add the egg and vanilla extract. Slowly add the flour mixture, mixing until completely combined. Gently stir in both chocolate chips until evenly distributed making sure not to break the filled chips, you can do this by hand.

Put the dough into the baking pan and with your hands gently press the dough into a single layer.untitled-12Bake for 10 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned. Remove the pan from the oven and set to broil. Add the marshmallows to the cookie and place it under the broiler for 1 -2 minutes or until they’re toasted to your liking – be careful because they will brown very quickly!

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Remove from oven and immediately press the pretzels into the marshmallows, you can do this with a spatula or your hands but be careful not to burn yourself. untitled-20

Allow the cookie to cool and rest for 30 minutes. Once it’s cooled, gently lift it out of the pan using the foil overhang. Cut into 12 squares and enjoy!

untitled-31Really, though? Come on.