Fun Combos I’m loving

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So this time last week, I was heading to Myrtle Beach for a few days with my man. Best. Trip. Ever. Sunny skies, 70 degree weather, no to-do lists, not a ton of people…. Bliss. Now that spring break is over I’m counting down until summer break!

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Good grief it was wonderful!

So I don’t have any pictures of what I wanted to share with you but I do have some combinations of food that I think you might enjoy….

1. Oatmeal: I’ve started having oatmeal a lot for breakfast recently, because it is relatively quick and portable. I use old-fashioned oats, and heat up 3/4 cup with just enough water/milk to have the oats covered (I like my oatmeal on the drier side) for 3 minutes. There are two variations I have for you. My standard go-to combo is to add a spoon of brown sugar, a splash of maple extract, and a handful of raisins. A new one I just discovered was to add a spoonful of strawberry jelly and a few chopped basil leaves – YUM!

2. Chia Pudding – If you’re not a fan of tapioca consistencies, you probably won’t be into this, but it’s super good for you and pretty dang tasty. My recipe consists of 1/4 cup black chia seeds, 1/2-3/4 cup almond milk, a splash of vanilla extract, and a pinch of lavender buds that I grind a bit with my mortar & pestle. Mix them all up in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. And I love adding in a handful of chocolate chips just before devouring it!

3. When I discussed breakfast foods recently I mentioned a few breakfasts I wanted to try, including these broken yolk sandwiches with garlicky kale. Well I tried them, and they are WONDERFUL! I made some modifications that really make my tastebuds happy. I used pumpernickel bread and threw in some charred red pepper slices and bacon… Divine.

Well that’s all I have for now! Enjoy mixing things up and trying new things!

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Plated: a review

Hey there blogosphere, it’s been awhile!

The past two months have been an interesting sort. It’s been a blend of long days at work, regrouping, and dreaming. And true confessions, there have many days that I haven’t felt captivated by cooking at all and take-out would be our go-to dinners. But, here I am, back and ready to post some fun things that have been going on!

At the end of February, I entered a contest to win a pretty hefty gift card to Williams-Sonoma and a year supply of Plated meals. Although I didn’t win, Plated made me an offer I couldn’t refuse – a chance to try their service for free and a free 3-month membership! All I had to do was pay for shipping and handling of the goods. It was too good of a deal to pass up!

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For those of you who don’t know about Plated, it’s a meal delivery website. The beautiful thing about it though is that they believe in the importance and significance of one preparing and plating one’s own food. So, after selecting from a weekly menu which meals you would like to prepare, they ship you just about every little ingredient you need to prepare it, complete with an illustrated recipe card for each meal. Fun, right?!? Since my free order came with 4 portions, I ordered 2 meals, 2 servings each.

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The first meal I tried was Berbere Salmon with a side of kale, red onion, and new potatoes. Berbere is a red-orange spice mixture found in many Ethiopian and Eritrean dishes. I had never had the combo before, and I really enjoyed the flavorful kick it gave to the salmon. The red onions were marinated in red wine vinegar as the new potatoes cooked. Then both veggies were tossed into a kale salad with fresh mustard and olive oil. Oh. my. goodness. I have been terrified to try kale – it has looked so menacing to me and I didn’t think I’d ever try it. But WOW – I loved it so much! It was a terrific meal and was served with lemon slices for adding a little citrusy flavor to everything.

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Meal number two was a vegetarian dish: mushroom and leek udon with tofu and spinach. I have been craving a soup like this for a while, and I have also been wanting to incorporate tofu into a meal. It was my first time using shiitake mushrooms and leeks, and I really enjoyed them. I also really liked the thick udon noodles, which were tossed in sesame oil before being served with the soup.

Earlier I had mentioned that Plated gives you almost all of the ingredients to make each meal. They are all labeled and pretty portioned out for the amount you’ll need. Aside from the fact that for this meal they gave me exactly one garlic clove and an inch of ginger root in a tiny baggie, the soy sauce was my favorite tiny portion:

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Aren’t they the cutest little soy sauce packets you’ve ever seen?!? I couldn’t get over it.

Okay, so now that you’ve seen all of this gorgeous food, it’s time to pull out the yellow legal pad and have a good ol’ pros and cons list:

Pros:
– The meals are flavorful and delicious!
– The recipes are easy to follow with step-by-step illustrations. They also provide additional little hints that may be helpful in preparing the dish.
– The things that you need to provide yourself for the meal are simple things like olive oil and kosher salt. The recipe card also specifies what types of pots and pans you’ll need to use.
– All of these important pieces of information are also available on their website before you even order, so you know in advance what you’re getting into.
– Ingredients are shipped in a box that is equipped with adequate ice packs to keep your food fresh.

Cons:
– The price (at least for me anyways!). Plates are $15 each, $12 each if you are a member. Membership is $10 a month, and there is a shipping and handling fee as well. Since I used this promotion to try things out, I just had to pay $20 for the shipping/handling. But if I hadn’t had any special deals, my total would be $98 for those two meals with two servings each. It’s a bit too steep for me.
– The lemon for the Berbere salmon was a bit bruised when I opened everything up. And although everything else was fresh, some ingredients were leaning towards the end of their freshness.

Really there was not much to complain about at all! I honestly wish this was more feasible for me, because I love the concept and the incredible combinations they create! Check out Plated.com for more information and lots more great recipes!

Note: Captivated by Cooking is not affiliated with Plated in any way and received no incentives to create this review.

Birthday Fun

So it seems as if Mondays and I are not getting along recently with respect to blog posts! Thanks for hanging in with me despite my blunders.

So I was one of those metro-Atlanta folks caught in the crazy ice-filled debacle. Skids, slippery roads, hours in the car, the works. I’m definitely thankful to be past all of it.

On a positive note, it did mean that I got to spend January 30th, my 25th birthday, with my husband! It was the perfect treat. And I have to tell you about what we did for lunch, because it was so. much. fun!

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We headed to the grocery store and picked up some awesome cheeses (gouda, garlic & herb cheddar, and tomato basil goat cheese), summer sausage, and some entertainment crackers. Combined with some pecan halves, green and kalamata olives, and hot pepper jelly we already had at home, we had ourselves a feast!

I went to spend some time with my parents and siblings on Friday and vast greeted with this beauty…

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It’s a Whopper cake! Aka a triple malt chocolate cake: cocoa and malt cake, malted buttercream icing, and crushed malted milk balls all over the outside. I’m not sure exactly what recipe my mom used, but this looks about how she described it to me. It’s very rich but oh so wonderful!

It’s weird to think that I’m not smack dab in my mid-twenties, but I plan to fill this 25th year with much more exciting cooking ventures to share with you!

Wrapping up 2013: gifts given, food consumed, and a hearty thank you!

It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing this blog for seven months now. Sometimes it seems like I started yesterday. A lot of times it seems as if this has been something I’ve been doing all along. But through it all I am so thankful for all of my lovely followers and those who stop and pay this little blog a visit! 

ImageI didn’t want to spoil any surprises before Christmas, but my gifts were homemade this year. After I submitted grades during the last week of school, I was able to whip up some homemade gift tags during nap time, of which I’m very proud of! If you’re in need of a crafty gift or two, some of the gifts I made included: marshmallows, chocolate stirring spoons, and hot cocoa mix; barbecue sauce and brown sugar rub; candied citrus peel, homemade soap; and a felted Adventure Time iPod case!

The Mr. and I decided to get a head start on our New Year’s resolutions this year. At the top of our list is more exercise and healthy eating. So for my delayed post on what I’ve been eating this week, it’s got a more good-for-you theme to jump start your new year! 

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1. Tilapia and Quinoa with Feta and Cucumber: This dish looks much more elegant on Martha’s page, but after I had made the tilapia, I wanted to mix it in with the quinoa. This is our first experience with quinoa, and Brandon and I both really enjoyed it! I love the combination of flavors created when you mix feta, cucumber, dill, and lemon juice. Delicious!

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2. Green Smoothie: I’ve been wanting to make one of these for a while, and I’m glad I finally did! I based this recipe off of a green smoothie recipe from Lauren Conrad. My version includes: 1 cup almond milk. 1 cup raw spinach, a little over 1 cup frozen peaches, 1 ripe banana, 1 teaspoon flax seed, and 1 tablespoon honey. This stuff is really good! My goal is to pick up some kale and use it next week. True confessions: kale has always been a bit intimidating to me so I’ll be going out on a limb for sure!

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3. These omelet muffins are from the same post of Lauren Conrad’s. They are great little bite-sized eggs that are great for being on the go and can be baked and reheated throughout the week. I used sliced ham, spinach, and cheddar cheese in mine. One word of caution: really grease your muffin tins well – eggs stick to these very easily. 

 

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4. Banana Crepes: For two people who both have a pretty big sweet tooth, I knew I needed to find something to appease our palettes during our push for healthier eating. I was delightfully surprised by these banana crepes. It’s just a mixture of banana, egg, water, flax seed, cinnamon, baking powder, and vanilla. I added a little dollop of peanut butter in ours to make it a bit more filling. We each had two crepes with Cool Whip in the middle and some honey on top. Yummo! 

 

Finally, before I get too rambly, I wanted to thank you all again for your support. I’m so glad I was encouraged by my husband and friends to start this blog because it has been so much fun sharing it all with you! In the past seven months we have had over 2,000 views from all over the world! My heart is so full to think that we’ve been able to share kitchen adventures together. Here’s a look at the top five recipes from Captivated by Cooking in 2013:

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1. Spinach, Ham, & Cheese Quiche: You guys like your quiche, and I have to wholeheartedly support you there. They’re just so good!

2. Sweet Bruschetta Chicken: A delightful combo of grilled chicken, chopped caprese salad, and a sweet balsamic marinade. 

3. Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownie Bars: Pretty much what it sounds like – brownie batter topped with cookie dough and baked together – yum! 

4. Butternut Squash Ravioli: This is a time consuming recipe, but so much fun! I was able to roll this pasta by hand, but you can use a pasta machine if you have one. And the butternut squash filling is so sweet, it’s almost like having dessert for dinner!

5. Bacon Apple Cheddar Quiche: Again, you can’t go wrong with quiche. And when you are talking about bacon and apples together, you know it’s bound to be something incredibly savory!

 

Johnny Appleseed Day! [and Apple Crisp]

Hello dear friends and happy Johnny Appleseed Day! I realize that being a Pre-K teacher I am part of the remnant that celebrates this holiday, and I love it! The start of the school day brought friends decked in kitchen pots and bearing apples in hand. As we’ve slowed down for a bit (naptime), I figured I’d give you a peek into my shenanigans at school, particularly because I was able to include a recipe in our lesson plans today! YAY!

We started our day by graphing how many of each color apple we had and recording it on our SmartBoard (for those of you not in education world these days, do some research on these! There are endless ways you can integrate it into lessons, and it can be a powerful learning tool! I only wish my teachers had these when I was in school…). Afterwards, I brought everyone to our large table and we worked together to make the easiest apple crisp ever.

You see, I needed a recipe that could meet some very specific needs:
1. It had to be kid-friendly. I needed simple instructions for my four-year-olds to follow. I wanted a simple introduction to using measuring tools as well as a chance for kids to stir and dump things in.
2. I needed to be able to cook it without access to an oven, and I wanted the kids to be able to use their senses throughout the cooking process. The use of a crockpot fit the bill perfectly – easy to put out of reach of kids while cooking, delivers a sweet smell throughout the room, and we could mix everything together in the pot we cooked in.
3. I have several allergies and preferences in my class that ruled out the use of anything with eggs, milk, or oatmeal. The substitution of a yellow cake mix topping was perfect, economical, and everyone could eat it!

As I cut the apples with an apple slicer, the kids shouted “MAGIC!!!” I’m still not quite sure how that got started, but they were fascinated by the way you could get slices with it. We talked about the core and saw the seeds inside.

And at lunch time…..

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I strongly suggest this recipe for a quick and easy apple crisp alternative. It only took a few hours in the crockpot and the kids loved it! (I did too!)

Other apple activities we have done today included:
1. Taking our apple seeds outside and planting them like Johnny Appleseed.
2. Finding the star in the apple and making apple prints

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3. Reading about the way an apple tree grows and changes throughout the seasons and then making our own apple sequencing books
4. Using paper plates to make munched-on apples and labeling the apple parts

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So. Much. Fun!

And for those of you looking for more apple treats, I give you my go-to apple pie recipe. And for a little twist thanks to my husband’s unique pairing cravings, try this strawberry apple pie – very good!

Thanks for letting me share one of my other biggest passions with you guys today! Grab an apple and have a very happy Johnny Appleseed Day!

Let’s Get Cooking!

I guess I should start things by being completely honest: this is a frightening endeavor. 

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My push to start this food blog was from my dear friend Laney, who after liking so many of my food-related Instagram posts (which let’s be honest, I really only Instagram food and plants), finally told me to blog about it. This prompted me to be a bit more daring and creative in the kitchen, moving from merely following recipes to modifying and creating them. But as I have been putting this WordPress together and looking back at the dozens of food blogs I already follow, I got a little overwhelmed. There are some fantastic writers, cooks, and recipe creators out there! And I’m trying to join in. Yikes!

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I’ve let my schedule get in the way. I’ve rationalized the need for time to apply for elementary jobs, or to clean the mess I’ve built up in the kitchen, etc etc. But when I received a message on Facebook from a high school mentor, Cindy, asking if I was still blogging, I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. I started this blog because I knew I haven’t been dreaming as big as I’ve wanted to. To delay it any longer is to be apathetic – and the majority of that word is pathetic, which is how apathy feels! So here I am, excited and ready to get a few yummy recipes out to you, fresh from the Whitlock kitchen!

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Bon appetit!