1. SunButter cups

    September 26, 2016 by Angie

    I’ve never known the joy of a Reese’s peanut butter cup on account of my severe allergy. I hear they’re delicious but I ran a cost-benefit analysis and decided to steer clear. Until NOW! Kind of.
    Sunbutter cups

    I saw a video recipe for three ingredient peanut butter cups. I made the recipe with SunButter, which is very tasty sunflower seed butter, instead. The jar says you can substitute it one for one for peanut butter in recipes.

    Yield: about 12 mini muffin cups

    Ingredients

    1 and a 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
    1/2 cup SunButter
    3 tablespoons powdered sugar

    Directions

    1. Place liners in a muffin tin. I used a mini muffin tin and mini liners. It made 11 cups.

    2. Melt the chocolate chips in a bowl in the microwave. I cooked for 30 seconds, stirred, and repeated that two more times.

    3. Pour the SunButter into another bowl. Stir the powdered sugar into the SunButter until it’s mixed in.

    4. Fill the muffin liners a little over a third of the way with melted chocolate. Top with a small spoonful of the SunButter mixture. Top that with enough melted chocolate to cover the SunButter and fill the liner almost to the top.

    5. Refrigerate overnight.

    6. Peel the liner off and experience anaphylaxis-free, chocolatey, nutty yumminess. Store them in the refrigerator.

    Sookie asks please

    Verdict: rich and delicious! I’ve been missing out!

    Robbie says these are much better than the real thing, but he also says SunButter doesn’t taste like peanut butter. He hates peanut butter and likes SunButter so there’s a definite bias here. I’m going to seek out more taste testers and report back.

    I started with a cup of milk chocolate chips based on the video recipe and needed to melt more. I upped it to 1 and a 1/4 cups but still had some of the SunButter mixture left over. I think 1 and a 1/2 cups would work best and would probably be enough to yield an even dozen cups.


  2. strawberry mojito

    August 23, 2016 by Angie

    Life gave me mint so I made mojitos. Robbie got me an AeroGarden for my birthday. We finally set it up in June and in a few weeks I had so much mint growing in my kitchen! I love fancy drinks with muddled fruit in them, particularly strawberries, so I made a strawberry mojito in addition to a standard one.

    strawberry mojito

    Strawberry Mojito

    Ingredients

    white rum (I used Bacardi Superior.)
    fresh mint leaves
    strawberries
    fresh lime juice
    simple syrup (Make your own! There’s a recipe below.)
    club soda
    ice cubes

    Instructions

    I don’t own a shaker, strainer, or muddling gear. This is how I made a mojito in my kitchen without real barware.

    1. Make the simple syrup by boiling 1 cup of water and 1 cup sugar in a small pot. Stir and cook until the sugar is no longer visible. Set aside to cool. Once it’s cooled down a bit, put it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
    2. Wash and chop a handful of strawberries.
    3. Wash mint sprigs. You’ll want some individual mint leaves for muddling and one giant, intact sprig for garnishing.
    4. Muddle the strawberries and the individual mint leaves together. I did this in a rocks glass with a spoon.
    5. Fill a glass about 3/4 with ice cubes. Add a generous shot of rum, a half shot of simple syrup, a half shot of club soda, and the juice of half of a lime. Stir.
    6. Add in the muddled strawberries and mint. Stir to combine.
    7. Garnish with the big mint sprig (and a lime wedge).

     

    traditional mojito

    Standard Mojito

    For the standard mojito, I did everything the same except for leaving out the strawberries. Pretty straight forward!

    I kept the simple syrup in a travel coffee mug with a tight lid for about two weeks in the refrigerator. I was able to make a lot of Old Fashioneds for Robbie and our guests using that. I definitely recommend taking the time to make simple syrup if you’re going to be making several mojitos or other drinks that call for it.


  3. crunchy tofu tacos

    July 28, 2016 by Angie

    I feel like a fancy chef, y’all! This recipe is easy and so delicious but it looks like something from a cooking show. At least it did in person – I hope the photos do the tacos justice. It’s a flour tortilla topped with a sweetened carrot slaw, pan-fried tofu, toasted cashews, vegan sriracha mayo, and green onions.

    crunchy tofu taco!

    Mmm, sriracha mayo.

    I was looking through the Cooking Light website for new recipes and found this one for supercrunch tacos. I followed it pretty closely except for cheating a bit with the carrot slaw. I used a bag of pre-cut julienned carrots, broccoli stalks, and cabbage instead. I also used flour tortillas and skipped heating them. I will do the two damp paper towels in the microwave trick the next time I make this because warm tortillas would make everything nicer.

    an aerial view

    Two thumbs up from both halves of Robgeleen!


  4. blueberry pie

    July 10, 2016 by Angie

    My parents and my niece came over for an early Independence Day hang on Saturday. I made mozzarella, cherry tomato, and balsamic vinegar appetizer and BBQ tofu and vegetables, black beans, and grilled corn on the cob for the main dinner. Dessert was this blueberry cream cheese pie I kinda invented.

    a blueberry pie


    Ingredients

    9″ prepared graham cracker pie crust
    12 oz light soft cream cheese
    1 cup confectioner’s sugar
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 pint fresh blueberries

    Sookie investigates the blueberry pie

    Sookie has blueberry and cheese interests.

    Instructions

    1. Put the cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla in a bowl. Stir it around so that the confectioner’s sugar doesn’t explode on you when you start to use the mixer.

    2. Use a mixer to beat the mixture until fully combined and a little fluffy.

    3. Spoon the cream cheese mixture into the prepared pie crust. Use a spoon to level off the top.

    4. Wash the pint of blueberries and remove any stems.

    5. Arrange the blueberries over the cream cheese mixture.

    6. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve it.

    Blueberry pie sliced

    The easy to delicious ratio is in your favor.


  5. sphere charm pack baby quilt

    June 12, 2016 by Angie

    I finished my seventh quilt for my friend’s adorable, new baby boy. She’s a quilter too!

    Robbie holds up the completed quilt

    Robbie held the finished quilt up for this photo. Thanks, Robbie!

    I’d been holding on to the charm pack I used for a while. It’s Sphere by Moda. The fabrics are really modern and I thought they would be great for a gender neutral or boy baby quilt. I’ve been following Elizabeth Hartman’s quilting blog, Oh Fransson, since before I started quilting. I used her free charm pack quilt pattern I saw there.

    Quilt Stats

    Finished size: Approximately 33″ x 40″
    Quilt top fabrics: Moda Sphere charm pack and solid gray fabric (either Kona or Moda – I have tons of both)
    Quilt backing: Solid blue fabric from Keep Me in Stitches quilt shop in Tampa
    Binding fabric: Solid white fabric leftover from another project
    Batting: Warm & White
    Quilting: Dense, horizontal straight line quilting with the walking foot
    Label: Forthcoming!

    sewn into strips

     25 whole squares and 13 half squares sewn together to make the charm square strips

    Sookie hangs out

    Sookie likes to hang out with me in the new sewing room.

    completed top

     The charm strips sewn to the solid gray strips

    squared up quilt top

     Completed quilt top after squaring it up

    about to baste the quilt sandwich

    The backing fabric for this one was extra difficult. I finally got it taped down to the tile without wrinkles.

    peek at the back

    The completed quilt with a look at the back!

    I tried a new machine binding method. I sewed the binding to the front first, rolled the binding over to the back, clipped it down so that it extended past the sewing on the front side, then sewed from the front right at the inside edge of the binding. I’m happy with how it turned out and I think it will be sturdier than hand sewing the back, which is a really important consideration for a baby quilt. Next time I think I will cut the binding strips at 2″ instead of 2 1/2″ because the binding is longer than necessary on the back.

    with the baby beanie

    The finished quilt next to a crocheted baby beanie I also made.


  6. SunButter bites

    June 12, 2016 by Angie

    I was very intrigued by these no-bake peanut butter oat “protein” bites I saw on Buzzfeed. You can watch the video and get their recipe here. I’m allergic to peanut butter so I substituted SunButter, which is sunflower seed butter. You can use it just like peanut butter in recipes.

    Caution: somebody in the BuzzFeed comments put the ingredients into MyFitnessPal. These should really be called “fat” bites, hence why they taste so darn good.

    SunButter Bites

     

    These are going fast in our house. Only 8 SunButter bites were remaining at the time of this photograph.

    Ingredients

    2/3 cup SunButter (I believe any nut butter would work.)
    1 cup old fashioned oats
    1 1/2 tablespoons honey
    1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
    1/4 cup flax seeds (The original recipe says the flax seeds are optional. The original recipe is incorrect. To take the no flax seed option is to make a poor life choice.)

    Directions

    1. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl.

    2. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

    3. In your hands, roll and press the mixture into balls. You should get about 16 balls. Try to press some extra oats onto them. I didn’t have much luck with this – still delicious, doesn’t matter.

    4. Eat now or store in the refrigerator.


  7. eggplant parmesan

    May 28, 2016 by Angie

    My mother-in-law makes the best eggplant parmesan. The best. I tried to make eggplant parmesan a couple of times using other recipes and I didn’t like what I made. The recipes called for salting then frying the eggplant slices leading directly to disaster. Even Italian restaurants seriously mess up eggplant parmesan so making delicious eggplant parmesan has been a culinary goal of mine for years.

    Blanky's eggplant parmesan

    Blanky’s stellar eggplant parmesan

    My mother-in-law shared her recipe with me along with some tips and the brand of sauce she uses – Ragu Chunky in a giant plastic container. Can you believe that? That sauce is key!

    The recipe is this baked, not fried, version from Martha Stewart. Baking is lower fat, less messy, and a lot easier than frying. I followed the recipe pretty closely because I really wanted it to succeed this time! My small changes included the addition of a quarter teaspoon of garlic powder to the bread crumb and cheese mixture and decreasing the initial baking time as advised by my mother-in-law.

    I don’t buy eggs, but I do keep Eggology egg whites in the house. Robbie looked up the conversion for me. Two tablespoons of egg whites are equivalent to one egg without the yolk. He poured four tablespoons of Eggology into a bowl and added 1 tablespoon of Smart Balance oil to try to make up for the fat missing from the two egg yolks he omitted. From there he added the two tablespoons of water and whisked.

    I ran out of the bread crumbs and cheese mixture halfway through and had to make another one. I will double it from the start in the future.

    I had to bake the casserole longer than the recipe said to achieve the coveted bubbly, golden brown status. I think my oven is wonky so YMMV.

    I’m happy to report that my eggplant parmesan was amazing! It was not exactly like my mother-in-law’s but it was really, really delicious. Way better than what I’ve had at many restaurants and I’ve eaten more than my fair share of restaurant eggplant parmesan.

    eggplant parmesan

    Next time I will do everything the same except I’ll also slice the eggplant more carefully to get consistently thin slices and I’ll be prepared to bake the final casserole longer, maybe even using the broiler for a couple of minutes at the end.

    unphotogenic serving

    Lifetime culinary goal achieved!


  8. bruschetta

    May 21, 2016 by Angie

    The jar of pesto in my pantry was in danger of expiring, therefore, bruschetta. Eating bruschetta is much more enjoyable than throwing pesto away. I made a good life choice.

    pretty bruschetta

    Ingredients:

    loaf of fresh French bread
    jar of basil pesto (I would guess I used about 3 tablespoons – the jar is still quite full.)
    1 cup of cherry tomatoes
    reduced fat feta cheese (I used almost the entire container.)
    balsamic vinegar

    Preparation:

    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil.

    2. Slice the French bread into small discs. Arrange the bread slices on the cookie sheet and spritz them with olive oil.

    3. Bake the bread slices until slightly toasty. You have to keep a close eye on them – they want to burn.

    4. Quarter the cherry tomatoes. Combine the tomatoes and feta in a bowl.

    5. Spread pesto on the toasted bread slices. Top with the tomato feta mixture. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the bruschetta, if you’re into that. Enjoy!

    plate of bruschetta


  9. no sugar added sangria

    May 21, 2016 by Angie

    I wanted to drink sangria so I made some. I perused a lot of recipes first. All of them called for sugar, artificial sweetener, soda with high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweetener, or simple syrup. I think that’s overkill. It’s wine with fruit and fruit juice in it. Isn’t that sweet enough? So here it is: my no sugar added sangria. I didn’t miss the sugar at all.

    cold and tasty sangria

    A glass of cold sangria

    Ingredients:

    750 mL Cabernet Sauvignon
    1/2 cup brandy
    1/3 cup orange liqueur
    1 cup club soda
    juice of 1 lime
    1 navel orange, halved and sliced
    1 green apple, cut into wedges
    1 red apple, cut into wedges
    1/2 lemon, cut into rounds
    Ice

    sangria ingredients

    Directions:

    Combine the wine, brandy, orange liqueur, and club soda in a large pitcher. Squeeze in the juice of one lime. Squeeze in the juice of half of the orange. Stir well. Add the other half of the orange slices, the green and red apple wedges, and lemon rounds. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Pour over ice and enjoy!


  10. st. augustine, fl

    May 1, 2016 by Angie

    St. Augustine is one of our favorite places to visit. We booked a two night trip for spring break this year. I got the flu. I figured I could have the flu at home and waste our B&B deposit or have the flu in St. Augustine while potentially having more fun, so we went. Spring Break forever, y’all!

    Bayfront Marin House

    Outside our bed and breakfast, the Bayfront Marin House

    We like to stay at bed and breakfasts in the historic district. This was our first time staying at the Bayfront Marin House which we chose mostly because they allow Sookie. She loves going on vacation with us. I think she had a great time.

    Sookie investigates the bathtub

    Sookie investigates the giant bathtub

    our room at the B&B

    Entrance area

    our bed at the B&B

    Very tall bed

    The Bayfront Marin House is fine – great location, relatively clean, nice enough rooms, free happy hour – but I would not stay there if I wasn’t limited by the 68 pound dog factor. The food wasn’t great and things could have been cleaner. We’ve stayed at nicer B&B’s serving amazing breakfasts in the historic district.

    My favorite restaurant in St. Augustine is The Floridian, by a landslide. I think about their tofu all the time. The patio is adorable and dog-friendly.

    Robbie eats soup at the Floridian

    Robbie enjoying some vegetarian soup

    Tofu Cornbread Stack

    <3Tofu cornbread stack<3

    A major reason we love St. Augustine is the walkability. We park the car at the hotel and don’t touch it until it’s time to leave. All the sights, bars, and restaurants are within comfortable walking distance. Here is a photo of Sookie and Robbie enjoying the Plaza de la Constitución.

    Robbie and Sookie in the park

    A park!

    If you have any appreciation for a fine cocktail, the Ice Plant Bar is not to be missed. We made multiple trips there on a previous visit and thoroughly enjoyed it again this time. It’s a classy cocktail bar inside in a renovated, well…ice plant. They take the ice very seriously. They appear to make the majority of their mixers and things in house.

    Old Fashioned

    An Old Fashioned served with a giant ice cube

    Ice Plant Bar is in the same building as the St. Augustine Distillery, where they make craft spirits (vodka, gin, rum, and, soon to be ready, bourbon) from local ingredients. Our friends recommended the free distillery tour which is surely worth doing.

    barrels at the St. Augustine Distillery

    Barrels of rum

    St. Augustine Distillery tour

    On the distillery tour

    We learned a lot and we got to try the liquors in fancy drinks made by our tour guide. I’m still getting emails with new drink recipes from them.

    Pizza Time is on a particularly crowded, touristy street. They were voted best pizza ever in the universe or something. I wouldn’t go that far, but the slices are very good. We ate a couple on a bench outside.

    cool tile wall

    Cool tile wall we saw while walking around

    Castillo de San Marcos is a 17th century Spanish fortress/castle. We’ve never been for a tour or any of the presentations offered, but we do enjoy walking around the property. It’s right on the water and made of coquina making it a very rare building.

    outside Castillo de San Marcos

    Looking out at the Matanzas River

    Castillo de San Marcos

    Castillo de San Marcos

    standing on part of Castillo de San Marcos

    View of the river from inside the fort property

    There are two more places we will never miss when in St. Augustine: Stogies Cigar Bar and Pizzalley’s Chianti Room. Both have dog-friendly patios. Stogies offers a great beer selection and there’s always at least one wine I really enjoy. Once there was a man with a brick oven built into his truck making coal-fired pizzas on the patio. Pizzalley’s Chianti Room has the most insane happy hour I’ve ever heard of. It’s two for one drinks – even expensive liquor drinks – AND a free slice of pizza. There is always a guy singing and playing guitar on the patio. We usually can’t stand that sort of thing but he plays at a reasonable volume and has good taste in the songs he covers.

    We had a stellar cheese plate and some drinks at Cellar 6. It was our first time visiting this establishment. It is not dog friendly so Sookie took a nap in her crate. They also offer an impressive happy hour. I had an espresso martini followed by a less dessert-like martini. Robbie liked his Old Fashioneds. There were people on a date sitting next us. The man was clearly a psychopath. I hope this became evident to his date over the course of their time there because it was evident to everyone else.

    It was St. Patrick’s Day while we were there. I like St. Patrick’s Day, but we usually don’t celebrate on account of all the drunk people driving around. Because we were on foot (as was everyone else really) we went to Meehan’s Irish Pub. It was packed, of course. We realized we’d been there previously during a ghost hunting pub crawl a few years earlier. It has a nice balcony with a view of the river.

    Sookie wants to night swim

    Speaking of the river, Sookie wants to go for a swim! “What’s over there? I know there’s something over this wall.”

    Relaxing

    Sookie being happy in our room

    Sookie cares about a short list of things. Somewhere after popcorn, cheese, and dog park is cuddling. The dog loves to cuddle, but we do all the cuddling on the couch. The only time Sookie gets to lay on the bed is on vacation. Look at how happy she is. She is pure bliss in dog form.

    Pure bed bliss

    Pure bliss