Winter Fruit Salad

I was looking for a new recipe to cook for our company Thanksgiving gathering. This recipe was especially appealing because it required nothing more than pulling out of the fridge at meal time. Since I was working the front desk, this sold me. Additionally, this dish is very visual appealing and vegetarian friendly.

Winter Fruit Salad with Maple Lime Dressing by Julias Album
FullSizeRender (15).jpg2 red apples, cored and diced
2 pears, cored and diced
4 clementine oranges, peeled and separated
3 kiwi fruits, peeled and sliced
½ c. dried cranberries
1 c. pomegranate seeds (one pomegranate)

Dressing
2 T. maple syrup
1 T. fresh lime juice (half lime)

Mix and serve.

Notes:

  • Cut open pomegranate and place in a bowl of water. Poke with fork to loosen seeds. Let it sit for a little bit. Then, peel back pomegranate peel and pull out seeds with fork or fingers. Pour bowl of seeds through strainer to remove water.
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Cookies with a Twist

One of my first friends in Kansas City was Megan. Like me, she was an old soul in a young body. We met while working on our Masters degrees at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. We also had a lot of fun exploring the city – dinners, plays, and concerts. Megan is so talented and has taught me so many things. I also owe the start of my nonprofit career to this lady. She helped me make a resume that visually popped. Her networking skills also helped me find my first nonprofit job as a grant writer. That job was one of the best teams I’ve ever worked on and a few of those fantastic women are still dear friends.

Megan is Martha Stewart. Not only is she an amazing cook but she and her husband are also master gardeners. They have turned their passion for gardening into a full-scale Kansas agri-business. If you are close, visit their Next to Nature booth on a Saturday morning at the Bonner Springs Farmers Market. They have everything from fresh seasonal produce to products made from honey. I love watching their business adventures on Facebook.

Megan_weddingI was lucky enough to be a bridesmaid for Megan and Chad’s wedding. Like all weddings, they had a hiccup right before their big day. Less than a week before their big day, the building where they were going to have their wedding reception was hit by a car. The good news is that structural engineers determined it was still safe to remain open. Their wedding end up going off without a hitch. And nine years later, they are still happily married.

For our wedding, Megan shared this recipe. I wasn’t sure what to think at first. Orange and chocolate chips? Sure, I’ve seen chocolate covered orange slices but I’ve never eaten them. But I trusted Megan. She’s Martha Stewart, right. I have to tell you, these cookies were so good I wish I had made a larger batch. I hope you love these super soft cookies as much as I did.

Orange Chocolate Chippers by Megan Gilliland
IMG_01601 c. shortening
1 – 3 oz. package of cream cheese
2 T. grated orange peel
2 c. flour
1 (6 oz.) package of chocolate chips
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt

Cream together shortening, sugar, and cream cheese. Add eggs, orange peel, and vanilla. Shift together salt and flour. Then, add to mixture. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoons onto lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool and remove. Makes 4 dozen.

S’more Brownies

Who doesn’t love the flavor of s’mores. How do you like your marshmallows – lightly toasted or charred? On our honeymoon, our resort had complimentary s’mores one night. I told Jeremiah we had to go. He probably could have cared less but indulged my request. We got their shortly after it began and the line was pretty long. We stood in line for probably like 20 minutes to get our s’mores. You would not believe the amount of mosquito bites I got just to eat a s’more.

For our 1st anniversary, I made this recipe to take to my in-laws for July 4th. We ended up not going because of crazy rain. They are pretty tasty but not very healthy so I shared this recipe with my coworkers. Delicious when eaten warm.

Fudgy S’mores Brownies by Mandy’s Recipe Box Blog (via Pinterest)
Smores1 1/3 cup butter, softened
2 2/3 c. sugar
4 large eggs
1 T. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 c. baking cocoa
½ tsp. salt
1 c. Golden Grahams
1 ¾ c. mini marshmallows
4 oz. chocolate chips

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add flour, cocoa, and salt. Pour into greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. When finished, preheat broiler. Sprinkle with marshmallows and cereal. Broil for 1-3 minutes. Remove and top with chips. Cover with foil and let it stand for 5-10 minutes until chocolate begins to melt.

The Dress

I’m sure you all saw the story on the news last week about Alfred Angelo bridal stores closing last week amid bankruptcy. Probably tens of thousands of brides who have shelled out thousands of dollars for dress are now left hanging. As a somewhat resent bride, my heart just sank for these women. I remember the anxiety of dress shopping. First, there is the fear that nothing will fit when you go to try on dresses. I’ve never been a size 5 and bridal dresses are ever smaller than normal stuff you buy in the store. Then, there is the budget. I just go into shock when I see young women setting budgets for dress on “Say Yes to the Dress” at $3,500-$6,000+. For a dress you will wear only once? How much are you spending on the rest of the wedding?

I was very lucky my mom offered to pay for my wedding dress. Jeremiah and I paid for the wedding ourselves. I tell you what, every couple should have to do that. It really makes you think twice about what you are spending your money on and how many people you invite. Even small weddings aren’t cheap. There is food, a DJ, photographer, hair/make-up, favors, and the list goes on and on. I think we had a nice wedding and were we able to pay for it 100% without taking on debt. (We are both Dave Ramsey grads.) It also taught us some very important lessons in saving for a house. Just a little over a year after our big day, we will have the down payment for our dream home.

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Pictures of dresses that didn’t become “The dress”.

Back to the dress. My mom and I went three stores. The first store was Belle Vogue. Going here first was like when we decided to spend the first two days of our honeymoon at the JW San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa before staying at a HomeAway rental. The service at Belle Vogue was amazing, the lighting was great, and the dresses actually came in sizes that I could try on. Our second stop was Natalie M’s. In this store, the service was still good, lighting wasn’t as good, brides had to share the big mirror, and the dresses weren’t quite as nice material. I did really like an Alfredo Angelo dress in this store. Our final stop was David’s Bridal. Anyone who loves anyone should never let a bride go to this store. The service was terrible, the dressing room was too small, and the dresses are very plain.

IMG_28891

Mom, my sister Stephanie, and I when I picked “The Dress”.

At first, I just couldn’t get past the cost of the dress. I work at a nonprofit and this was the first wedding expense we were figuring out. I only showed pictures of me in the dresses to just a couple of people. Everyone awed when they saw me in the dress I ended up picking. I returned to my first two stores to try on my top three favorite picks. The moment I put back on my Stella York, I knew it was the dress.

I know this sounds a little crazy but one of the reasons I liked it was because this dress was handmade in Australia. I knew how well they paid their workers and that my dress was less likely to get caught up in customs. Even then, I nervously waited for a phone call throughout the month of March to tell me my dress was here. Patience isn’t my best virtue so I asked while picking up my bridesmaid dresses. The good news is that it had just arrived in the shipment that day. Since Jeremiah was with me, I scheduled a time to come back later that week and asked a dear friend to join me as my mom lives so far away.

Almost a year and half later, Alfredo Angelo files bankruptcy. I think about all those women who don’t have dresses and are out the tons of money they spent on the dresses. You know best case scenario is that they will get back pennies on the dollar. But it also made me think back to my friend Jen’s wedding.

Jenny and I are friends from college. Roommates by Residence Hall chance, we have lived together in three different places and remained friends (miraculously) for 20 years. God, I feel old as I realize this. Jen officiated my wedding. I was lucky enough to stand up for her 12? years ago. But Jen’s wedding also had a dress fiasco.

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Bridesmaid bonded forever

Jen hired a small local businesswoman to make her dress. This same woman was also making articles of clothing for her mother, bridesmaids, flower girl, ring bearers, and candle lighters. The day before Jen’s wedding, I arrived in small town Nebraska. I went to pick up my dress and my jacket still wasn’t done. I thought this was odd but the seamstress said she’s have everything ready the next morning. The morning of Jen’s wedding, Jen got a call while we were at the hair studio. It was the seamstress. The dresses weren’t ready yet but they would be ready at Noon. Jen left us bridesmaids to go get her hair done at another salon. All five bridesmaids started talking and figured out that three of our dresses weren’t done. When the dresses weren’t at the auditorium at 12:45PM, we deciphered a plan to get and finish them. We are so lucky that Jen has a cousin who owns a sewing machine store. (Thank you small town Nebraska). Two bridesmaids went to get the clothes. The rest of us hopped in a van heading over to her cousin’s house. Luckily, she has three sewing machines in her basement. We also took Jen’s mom and another bridesmaid’s mother as none of us bridesmaids had sewing skills. When the other bridesmaids arrived with the items, we discovered the problem was bigger than we through. The only things that were done was Jen’s dress, the flower girl’s dress, and two bridesmaids’ dresses. My dress was almost completely done. We decided to scrap the jackets and focus on finishing the dresses. One bridesmaid’s dress was literally still in pieces. But first, we had to finish Jen’s mom’s dress so we could send her back to the house to help Jen get ready. The next few hours were a whirlwind in which the boys’ vest became just bow ties. You’d be amazed how good the bridesmaids became with scissors and hand stitching. The bottom of dresses were sergered instead of properly hemmed. But we got it done. And thank goodness because the nicest thing I had packed was a black cardigan and the nearest major city to find something had a home football game so traffic would have been crazy.

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Photo by Joseph Sands Images

I am happy to report, Jen and Brad had a great Muppet themed wedding. In fact, their Muppet character Pez dispensers for kids are the reason Jeremiah and I had Minion Pez dispensers for kids at our wedding. My nephew Brock still talks about those Pez dispensers from Jen’s wedding. The cake was delicious and who could forget every possible flavor of pie. Although I wish I could have been there to help Jen get ready, I hope she had as much as fun as I did at the reception.

Here’s hoping all those brides currently in distress look back on this moment as just a little hiccup in planning the biggest day of their lives. The years of marriage is what’s most important, right?

Today, I share recipe from our wedding cookbook from these dear friends. Since Jen and the kids have allergies, I think you will enjoy this spin on Rice Crispy Treats. It’s corn syrup free.

Brad’s Rice Krispie Bars
1 c. sugar
1 c. peanut butter or Sunbutter
1 c. cane sugar syrup (Lyle’s Golden Syrup)
6 c. Rice Krispies
6 oz. chocolate chips
6 oz. butterscotch chips (optional)

Combine sugar and syrup over a medium heat to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and add peanut butter. Stir until blended. Pour sugar mixture over Rice Krispies. Mix until well coated. Then, spread into a greased 8 x 8 pan. Microwave chips until melted and spread over bars. Refrigerate until set.

Carmelitas

Over the years, I have worked with a lot of amazing young people. This has included paid and unpaid interns as well as barely paid AmeriCorps members. These bright young minds bring energy to our work force and help us get stuff done that we want to do but just can’t do by ourselves because there aren’t enough hours in the day to do it alone.

Last summer, Maria was one of our interns. She worked in Community Engagement helping my co-workers prepare for a week-long youth leadership academy. This recipe is one of Maria’s favorite recipes her mother makes. I hope you enjoy this tasty but very rich dessert.

Carmelitas by Maria Sanchez
IMG_01041 ½ sticks of butter
¾ c. brown sugar
a pinch of salt
1 T. vanilla
1 c. old fashioned oats
1 c. flour
1 c. chocolate chips
1 jar of caramel topping
3 T. flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, butter, brown sugar, salt, vanilla, and oats together. Add half to the bottom of a greased 8 x 8 pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Mix caramel and flour together. Pour over chocolate chips. Crumble remaining oatmeal over caramel and return to oven for 15-18 minutes.

Coffee Cake

My aunt Linda made this tasty dish for my wedding shower as well as for the hospitality suite the weekend of my wedding. It kind of reminds me of a recipe my mom made when I was a kid. I’m not a nut person this recipe can be made with or without them.

I’m making it for my Volunteer Appreciation Celebration this week. I hope they enjoy it as much as I do.

Coffee Cake by Linda Vogel

Cinnamon-Crumb-Coffee-Cake

Photo from Pinterest

Topping
1 ½ c. brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. chopped walnuts

Cake
1 c. sugar
1 c. butter
2 eggs
3 c. flour
1 c. milk
½ tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla

Sift dry ingredients. Add milk, ½ c. melted butter, vanilla, and eggs. Mix well. Pour half into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle with half of topping. Pour the rest of the batter on top. Sprinkle with remaining topping. Top with ½ c. melted butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Kid-friendly, Mom Approved Pizza

This recipe actually came from Harvesters Nutrition Department. We made it with volunteers during our New Year’s Eve Family Volunteer Day. I told my team, “We should try this recipe before we serve it.” It got a thumbs-up from my entire team.

My husband was a little apprehensive about trying it. He was surprise how much he enjoyed it. In fact, it’s become our go to snack.

Here’s hoping your little ones enjoy making this healthy snack.

FullSizeRender (14)Fruit Pizza by Harvesters Nutrition Service Department
1 flavored rice cake
Greek yogurt
Fruit

Spread yogurt on rice cake and top with fruit.

Notes:

  • We used chocolate and caramel with the volunteers. I like the caramel best.
  • We used vanilla Greek but you can use another flavor to match your fruit. You can also just use regular yogurt.
  • I’ve used bananas, berries (raspberries/strawberries/blueberries), and mangos. Fresh or thawed frozen fruit both work.

An Amber Original

Cheesecake has sort of become a tradition on Valentine’s Day for us. This year, I decided I wanted a Monster Cookie Cheesecake. When I couldn’t find a recipe that matched what I was looking for, I modified this Mr. Food’s Tasty Toffee Cheesecake. The first time I made this recipe, I prepared it for my sister’s birthday. I’m pretty sure I made it for a Friday night dinner at my friends Kassie and Joe’s house too. It’s delicious!

I hope you enjoy a small slice of this cheesecake spin on one of my favorite cookies – my mom’s monster cookies. I just can’t make the cookies as good as she does.

fullsizerender-13Monster Cookie Cheesecake by Amber Bourek Slater
2 – 8 oz. packages of cream cheese
½ c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. of vanilla
1 package of refrigerated peanut butter cookie dough
quick oats
M&Ms
chocolate chips

In a sprayed pie pan, spread out peanut butter cookie mix. Top with quick oats and press into crust. In a bowl, mix together cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in M&Ms and chocolate chips. Pour into crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Notes:

  • I used one package of fat free and one reduced fat cream cheese. I did that because the fat free bricks were on sale for $.39. I think it turned out ok.
  • I’m thinking mini M&Ms and chocolate chips would work great. I used regular size through because that’s what I had on hand.

No Bake Monster Cookies

A few weeks ago, a friend posted a picture on Facebook of some cookies her daughter had created for 4-H. One of the cookies was a no bake monster cookie. I asked her for the recipe and she said they had found it on Pinterest. Since I follow her on Pinterest, I checked out her pins. This recipe is super easy and protein packed. It’s quick and easy but not as good as my mom’s original monster cookie recipe. My husband agreed. However, I did get a chance to use my my new cookie scoop I got as a wedding gift.

No Bake Monster Cookies by The Baker Mama
FullSizeRender (7)2 1/2 c. oatmeal
1 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
1/2 c. mini M&Ms

Mix together oatmeal, peanut butter, honey, and extract. Then, stir in chocolate chips and M&Ms. Scoop into round balls on parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before eating. Once solid, you can transfer to an airtight container so they don’t dry out.

Notes:

  • I used reduced fat creamy peanut butter but the original recipe says you can also use crunchy peanut butter.
  • I used regular sized chocolate chips and M&Ms. They worked but the might have stayed together better if I had used the mini sizes.

Espresso Bread

I usually work on Sundays at a hotel front desk. The nice thing about working in the hospitality industry is that some many people in the biz love to cook. That means if you can catch the TV in break room when no one is watching sports, no one complains about watching The Food Network. Since I got to lunch at 11:30ish, Brunch at Bobby’s is usually on. I saw this recipe and I just knew I needed to cook it up for my sweetheart – Jeremiah.

In case you don’t know, we love going on coffee dates. In fact, our second date and first kiss was at a Starbucks. As hard earned Gold Reward Members, we often go for evening walks to Starbucks. The funniest past is that our barista always calls Jeremiah by name but can never remember mine. Did I mention I normally pay? (Don’t worry ladies – Jeremiah usually pays for our dinner dates.)

This recipe is for all of you who enjoy coffee as much as we do.

IMG_0067Espresso-Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with Espresso-Cinnamon Butter by Bobby Flay
Bread:
5 T. butter
1 T. instant espresso powder
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
4 ripe bananas
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. brown sugar
1 large egg
3 oz. chocolate chips

Espresso-Cinnamon Butter
1 1/2 sticks room temperature butter
2 T. confectioners sugar
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt

Spray bread pan with nonstick spray. On the stove top, melt butter in a sauce pan. Then, stir in espresso powder. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt.

Using a potato masher, mash bananas in a large bowl. Add sugar, butter mixture, and eggs. Mix in flour. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into bread pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes. Let it cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

Mix ingredients for butter. Smear on bread and serve.

Notes:
Since I didn’t have instant espresso powder in my pantry, I made a little coffee and added it to the batter. I used coffee grounds in the butter.