Coconut Carrot Cake Muffins

Good morning!  I know I disappeared for over a week but I’m back.  The past week has been amazing having spent Easter at Ocean Isle and then I stayed until I met Big Guy in Charleston on Thursday.  After a long, rainy drive yesterday, I finally made it home around 8pm.  Whew.  I’ve already done four loads of laundry but I have to admit there are still a few things in the car that need to be unloaded.  This week will be spent getting our life back in order.  I promise I’ll dedicate an entire post (or two) to Charleston but today I’m sharing a bright muffin recipe that will be the sunshine on this dreary day.

coconutcarrot

Carrot cake is Big Guy’s absolute favorite.  However, the last thing we need is a huge cake sitting on the counter that’s loaded with sugar and calories.  These muffins are healthier yet still delicious and satisfying.  Big Guy enjoyed these for breakfast the week before we went off the map.  The muffins are full of produce – banana plus shredded apple and carrot (use your food processor to shred to save LOTS of time!) as well as good-for-you ingredients like coconut oil, ground flax seed (instead of hemp seed), oats and cinnamon (plus some other spices).

And instead of frosting, though I do love cream cheese frosting (!), the muffins get a sprinkle of unsweetened coconut before baking.

I hope you’re having a lovely week and I promise there’s some sunshine coming.

Grilled Flank Steak with Salsa Verde

It’s grilling season, y’all!  The weather has been absolute perfection here in NC the past few days and it looks as if it’s going to stay gorgeous for awhile.  I savor these few weeks of Spring before the humidity hits and the bugs come out of hiding.  So between now and whenever that happens (before Memorial Day, if I had to guess), I’ll be enjoying as many meals al fresco as possible.

Warmer weather also brings about the desire to fill my plates with salads and fresh flavors from the garden.  Last night we enjoyed grilled flank steak served over homegrown greens with a salsa verde on the side that was packed with herbaceous flavors.

The flank steak is marinated in a EVOO, red wine vinegar, garlic, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes and pepper.

After grilled to perfection (medium-rare, please), serve it with salsa verde that is a mix of fresh herbs (I used parsley, basil, chives and cilantro), garlic, a splash of red wine vinegar, capers, EVOO plus some salt and pepper.

flanksteak

So simple yet so incredibly delicious.  Especially with a side of fresh air and the end of a beautiful Spring day.

 

Thai Beef and Basil Noodles with Shiitake Gravy

Well, hello.  I had no intention of disappearing after Thursday but it happened.  And then yesterday Chris hijacked my computer for work after his had to take an emergency overnight trip to California.  We did, however, take full advantage of him not having his work computer and went on an epic walk and planted our herbs.  I even had to breakout the SPF for the first time of 2017 after my shoulders started showing signs of a little sunburn.  All that to say – I’m here and thriving.  I also have an awesome dinner recipe for you that can replace the takeout noodles you picked up last night.

Thai Beef and Basil Noodles with Shiitake Gravy comes together super fast so like any stir-fry, prep all your ingredients before you ever turn on the stove.  Make sure to cook the ground beef over a medium-high heat so that it gets a little crispy on the outside.  Thankfully rice noodles are hard to overcook – simply pour boiling water over them and allow them to soak until tender.  If they get sticky, simply run more hot water over them. Easy peasy.  Bok choy and shiitake mushrooms fill your bowl to the brim with vegetables and if you’re like me and love ‘shrooms, fill free to go a little heavy.  In fact, we doubled the amount of mushrooms because we love them so much.  The fantastic flavor comes from lots of fresh garlic and ginger along with oyster sauce, soy sauce (or tamari) and crushed red pepper flakes.  Finally before serving and after you’ve taken the pot off the heat, add in lots and lots of fresh torn basil.  I adored the freshness that the herb gave the whole bowl of noodles.

thaibeefandbasilnoodles

Chopsticks are totally optionally but they totally made eating much more fun.  Seriously scrumptious and we felt as though we had been “transported to a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant in Manhattan” (direct quote from Big Guy).

One-Pan Broccoli-Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese

I’m balancing out the pound of kale I’ve eaten this week with pasta and cheese and bacon.  In all honesty, this mac ‘n cheese is a little sneaky because there’s not only broccoli in this dish but there’s another veggie hidden amongst all that cheese.

Can you guess?

PUMPKIN!

Yes, pumpkin.  But you honestly can’t taste it at all.  The original recipe called for butternut squash but canned pumpkin is way more readily available (you could even use mashed sweet potatoes).

And not only is this mac ‘n cheese full of good for you stuff, you only need one pan to make this dinner.  And you don’t have to wait for water to boil.  So good.

Here’s how fast it all comes together:  Cook your bacon and then reserve for later.  Sauté the garlic in the bacon fat then add in the chicken stock, milk and pumpkin.  Bring to a boil.  Add in the pasta and cook, covered, for 5 minutes.  Add in the broccoli.  Cover and cook for 3-5 more minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add in the bacon and cheese.  Cover and cook for 1 minute or until the pasta is cooked to perfection.  DIG IN.

macncheese

I love mac ‘n cheese.

Marinated Kale Salad

Just like avocado toast, kale had it’s moment of being the “it” food.  And while I enjoy kale, it’s not necessarily my first choice of greens.  However, over the weekend my Momma prepared a “killer kale” salad and I couldn’t help but want more kale this week.

While I was putting together my menu for the week yesterday, I came across a recipe in my Cooking Light binder and decided it was the perfect dinner for meatless Monday.  Marinated Kale Salad is made my first massaging the kale with EVOO and a little salt and allowing it to “rest” at room temperature for up to an hour.  The kale is then seasoned with a mixture of lemon juice, mustard and garlic.  I sliced a red onion and soaked it quickly in hot water before tossing it with lemon zest (instead of sumac) and sesame seeds.  The kale is finished by tossing in a can of chickpeas and some pepper.

I topped my salad with an egg for a little extra protein.

kalesalad

This salad was hearty yet light, a little zippy from the lemon and full of flavor from the garlic and the red onion.  By massaging the kale with EVOO and allowing it to marinate, the kale softens just a bit but stays crunchy.

And while this salad might not be quite as incredibly as the one my Momma made (walnuts, sautéed mushrooms, bacon and goat cheese took hers over the top) I sure did feel healthy eating it.  And since kale is so hearty, the leftovers will make perfect lunches this week.

Kale yeah!

Pear and Gruyère Strata

Visits with your grandparents should always end with a something sweet.  When we made plans with Mawmaw and Pawpaw a couple of months ago for them to visit, I immediately started planning our short but sweet visit.  I knew that I wanted to send them home with a full belly on Sunday morning so that they wouldn’t have to worry about stopping to grab lunch on the way (because, well, there’s nothing in between here and there worth stopping for until you get the Wilmington).  Also knowing that our Saturday was pretty full, I decided to pick a breakfast that could be prepped before they ever arrived.

The Pear and Gruyere Strata is incredibly easy to prep and involves no cooking before the strata actually cooks the morning you plan to eat.  Cinnamon bread (I used a gluten free cinnamon raisin bread) is layered on the bottom of a baking dish and then topped with a mixture of sliced pears (I left the skin on), butter and sugar.  On top of the pear mixture goes shredded gruyere and then a final layer of cinnamon bread.  In a bowl, combine milk (I used 2%), eggs (I used 1/2 cup eggs that were whisked instead of egg substitute), sugar and cinnamon.  This all mixture gets poured over everything.  Cover and place in the fridge for at least eight hours (mine sat in the fridge for almost 24 and it worked perfectly).

The next morning, simply uncover, sprinkle with sugar and bake for about 50 minutes.

Breakfast is ready!

strata

Serve with copious amounts of coffee!  And bacon if you really love your grandparents.

 

 

Weekend Review {plus Banana Nut Bundt Cake}

Another beautiful weekend has come and gone.  I swear, this one flew by faster than the one before.  On Friday night I had dinner date plans with one of my best gal pals.  We attended a French wine dinner where we enjoyed four courses.  My favorite wine of them all was a sparkling wine.  I would imagine you’re not surprised by that.

winedinner

I was up fairly early on Saturday and was quite busy getting things in order before my grandparents arrived early morning.  Between assembling a breakfast casserole and getting myself ready, I managed to squeeze in a quick walk.  My grandparents arrived a little after 11am and after letting them stretch their legs a bit, we headed to lunch.  After lunch, we spent the afternoon enjoying the amazing weather on our back porch.  I loved having some one-on-one time with my grandparents – I share them with seven other grandchildren and three great grandchildren.  While we were enjoying each others company, Big Guy was hard at work on the ribs.  I had planned a menu I knew Mawmaw and Pawpaw would love including Big Guy’s “famous” ribs.  I refuse to give that recipe away but we also enjoyed a Green Goddess Potato Salad, Dill Pickle Slaw (SO GOOD) and a banana nut bundt cake.  We enjoyed dinner in between the two basketball games on Saturday evening.  The banana cake was incredibly moist and I loved the addition of walnuts (I typically go for pecans in my banana baked goods).  The frosting was sweet but so creamy and rich.  We were all stuffed to the brim after dinner.

grandparents

The meal was incredible but the company was even better.  My grandparents are seriously two of the most hospitable folks around.  Their beach house is a revolving door of grandkids and their friends during the summer.  It was a treat to be able to spoil them – even if it was for less than 24 hours.

On Sunday morning we enjoyed one last meal together before they packed up and headed out. Mawmaw is a huge college basketball fan so she wanted to make sure she was home in time for the games.  Big Guy and I straightened up the house and then headed out on a long walk at a new spot in town.  The weather couldn’t have been better.

The rest of Sunday was spent relaxing and watching basketball (Go Gamecocks!) and making pizza.  We also finally caught up on some DVR:  This Is Us and Criminal Minds (crazy storyline right now).

And now it’s Monday.

Thankfully I have a fun surprise visitor tomorrow which will be a fun break in the week.