Monday, May 27, 2013

fast and decadent {butter rum} caramel corn

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getting real here - there's not much i've found to satisfy the craving for caramel corn but, well... caramel corn. this recipe from - my australian fellow home cooks - fit the bill for a saturday afternoon splurge. indulging in this and a little pioneer woman, quickly followed by a swim to make myself feel more productive burn off some sugar high, and my weekend's been off to the sweetest start.

so i did tweak it a bit (don't i always?!)  by swapping half the vanilla for rum extract.  except the rum extract (read the label, silly girl!!!) turned out to be mint.  so we called it "buttermint caramel corn."  and made another batch.  :)

you're feeling crave-ish, no?  find the recipe here.  you're welcome.  :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

nourish and delight

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"You're not really the athletic type." The voice of a parent whose own insecurities led to the unintended insecurities of her oldest daughter rang in my head often enough that it was eventually replaced by my own head-voice. I believed the voice, convinced that I could sing, write, entertain, yes, but I wasn't really "built" for the training of muscle, the straining of lungs. 

Over time, the belief-seeming-truth caused fear in public situations. Can't join the youth group after church; volleyball "isn't my thing." Must dress in shower stall after gym class; I don't have a body that should be seen. Won't dare try on the two-piece swimsuit; my curves aren't the muscled, beautiful type earned by runners and ball players. 

Social gatherings in the grown-up world center on food or sports. I stay in kitchen, fearful my lack of coordination will deem me awkward. I chatter, fluent in lighthearted banter and polished at deep and meaningful conversation, avoiding beach, pool, court, race. I master knife, mixer, measure, and stove, using flavor to feed the need for interaction, herbs and spices to mask the inner taste of discontent. But inside, I long to flex and stretch, to push muscle and lung beyond their comfort zone. I dare myself to be brave and urge myself to push. 

Still, over years, the self-dislike means trying to feed the hunger for approval, and baking and shopping often means choosing temporary "pleasure" that leads to long-term regret. Some foods that soothe temporarily bring dissatisfaction and harm to this body I can't believe beautiful. But over years, I bear five babies, each time, my body crying out, "I can! I'm strong!" 

 Inside, a cocoon begins to crack, with each child unraveling a bit more, daring the critter inside to break forth. Those babies grow, and without the voice to tell them "no," they run and climb, breathless with joy for all their bodies can do. 

And one day, one tells me I can, too. I am not bound by past nor fear, but freed by youthful innocence and well-loved and loving courageous hearts. And one day, with trembling legs, I draw a breath and take a step, and I run. Not far, but enough that breath burns and muscles ache and the silken strands of inner doubt shatter and in heart and mind and body I am FREE. 

At thirty-nine years old, I joined two of my children in my first 5K. It wasn't dramatic for the bystanders on the course, but for me, it was a step toward discovering that I am beautiful, and my body was created for more. An Olympian, I am not. But I am a strong woman who is capable of "keeping up" with my amazing children (almost!). I am well able to push beyond what is comfortable and find joy in what isn't. The food I create can be an expression of joy and freedom and at the same time nourish palate and body, and it is my goal to share that nourishment with the ones I love... part of our journey to embrace the amazing bodies we've been given and push them to do all they can!

This year, Sargento dared me to create a recipe and tell a story of personal accomplishment.  I take credit only in accepting the call to more. My Papa made me, and He made me beautiful.  This story is my dare to go higher up and further in.  This recipe is one of many I hope to share to nourish the body and delight the palate!

The protein muffins are a power-packed nod to comfort food, and spinach salad a sweet memory of meals with my mom, whom I gained by marriage, and who poured her love and encouragement into me every second she got!

Cheesy Grain-Free Protein Muffins

4 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup almond flour
1/4 cup ground flax meal
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup Sargento Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar shredded cheese, plus a little extra to sprinkle on top
2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in middle of oven.

In a medium bowl combine the eggs, butter, water and salt and using a whisk, combine well.  Stir in the almond flour, flax meal, and baking soda and keep mixing.  Then add in the cheese and dried herbs until all ingredients are well incorporated.

Spoon batter evenly into muffin pan.  Sprinkle each muffin with extra cheese.  Bake for 13-14 minutes until just golden on top (watch closely: nut flours burn easily).  Let cool and devour with fresh butter!

Serve with Mom's Strawberry Spinach Salad.

Mom's Spinach Salad

1 shallot, finely chopped
1 bag fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup bacon, cooked and crumbled (reserve 1/2 tsp fat)
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup Sargento Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 Tbsp real maple syrup
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Saute shallot in bacon fat and 1/2 tsp olive oil.  In a large serving bowl, layer spinach, and strawberries.  Whisk together vinegar, oil, maple syrup, rosemary, thyme salt, and pepper and let flavors meld for five minutes.  Toss salad with dressing, then top with walnuts and cheese.  Finish with fresh cracked pepper.

{special note: sargento provided the allrecipes allstars with samples of their product to use in creating our recipes.  though their gift was gracious, all opinions are my own.  You can view my recipe at in sargento's online cookbook here and at here.}

Saturday, May 11, 2013

strawberry season {tampa family photographer}

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strawberry picking is an annual tradition, and it makes me long ever more for getting our hands in the dirt on a more regular basis. i MUST start that herb-garden-in-a-pot soon... i must

dang, girl, i want those arms.  you are beautiful, angel-girl.

for the first time after many years of want-to, we finally tried our hand at blueberry picking.  unsure of how much we were actually getting and a little nervous about having a thirty dollar bucket, we were conservative in our picking.  next year we're going in with guns blazing.  alas, i took only the iPhone for pics.  next time, the big camera.  it's worth hauling.  so we'll settle for more strawberry shots.  :)

we were headed home from regionals track meet, and tho i've whined and complained about this vehicle, my kids constantly remind me that it's comfortable and it gets us where we need to go.  so i'm embracing it.  it's my homeschool-mom-mobile.  also known as the BRG 
(big. rolling. turd.  ever seen RV?)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

"winter" green salad {tampa food photographer}

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i'm smitten with this salad. i've gotta admit, i thought collard greens for a salad was odd (not to mention kale, cabbage, and so on...), but the combination of the variety of greens and vegetables and this amazing dressing adds up to delightful. it's called "winter salad," but i'm thinking spring and summer are calling for this as well. (mmm... gonna go make us some...) 

 did i intrigue your taste buds?  tempt your appetite?  find the recipe here.
you're welcome.  :)