Five Favorite Things

Awhile back, in the pre-baby era, I used to write monthly update posts. Ain’t nobody got time for that no more! Ha. But I do miss having a space to share randomness, so I’m going to try to share (regularly) my favorite things. I thought about implementing a schedule and/or categories… but nahh… I’ll just keep it simple!

Chewy Peanut Butter Brownies | The Pajama Chef

ONE: I haven’t done tons of baking lately, but we hosted our church community group on Sunday so I decided to make dessert to go along with our simple dinner (baked sliders–half ham & provolone, half turkey & swiss, a big salad, and chips). I made these Chewy Peanut Butter Brownies and everybody went crazy for them. Well, almost everyone. Apparently someone doesn’t like peanut butter and chocolate together, but likes them separately? Weird! Oh well, more for me! There were only a few left and now I’m contemplating making another batch just for us.

TWO: Before our baby was born, Ben and I had lots of free time, especially on the weekends (obviously). Now we don’t have very much unstructured time (obviously), and the time we do have on the weekends is filled with all the minutiae that we didn’t get to do during the week. In an effort to incorporate more rest into our weekends, we’ve been considering what it looks like in our life right now to treat Sunday as more of a Sabbath and less of an extra day to get things done. It’s definitely a mindshift, and one we aren’t perfect at… but this article has been something I’ve been considering lately.

THREE: Running has been my thing for 19 years now (eeek I feel old). I started running in the spring of my 7th grade year, in 1998, and never really stopped. Though I’ve run many a race before, I loved running in the Rock ‘n Roll Nashville Half Marathon on Saturday. It was quite hot and humid, but I finished and I only walked at water stops. I was quite proud of myself and am anxious to sign up for more races now!

FOUR: I don’t watch much TV but lately I’ve been catching up on DVR’d episodes of Victoria, on Masterpiece. I am in love!! Anyone else??

FIVE: I’m psyched to read Becky Wade’s newest book, True to You. My copy came in the mail yesterday and it was hard to leave it at home when I went to work today! I’ve reviewed Becky’s other books on my blog so I was excited to be part of the blog tour for Becky Wade’s True to You. She’s having a Facebook party tomorrow, and everyone’s invited! Read on for more information.

Raise your hand if you’re ready for Becky Wade’s new series! Celebrate the release of book one, True to You, with Becky and other readers on Facebook on May 4th during a fun author chat party at 8:00 PM EDT (that’s 7:00 Central, 6:00 Mountain, & 5:00 Pacific)! Becky will be chatting about the book and answering your questions about the new series, and of course, there will be plenty of fun giveaways too!

Pre-order your copy of True to You so you’re ready for a fun book discussion. Find out more about the book here.

Hope to see you on May 4 for Becky’s True to You Facebook Party!

What are your favorite things lately?

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Menu Plan: BBQ Style

It’s almost May! And with that, the beginning of grilling season and eating as many meals as you can outdoors. Or is that just me? 🙂

May Menu Plan: BBQ Style

Be sure to check out all the yummy recipes in the post–they all sound GREAT to me! And just in time for Father’s Day, we cooked up a fabulous giveaway for you… a Shinola Leather Card Case. So neat! Click here to enter. Good luck!

May Menu Plan: BBQ Style

Beverages

May Menu Plan: BBQ Style

Entrees

May Menu Plan: BBQ Style

Sides

May Menu Plan: BBQ Style

May Menu Plan: BBQ Style

Desserts

May Menu Plan: BBQ Style

May Menu Plan: BBQ Style

May Menu Plan: BBQ Style

This month’s recipe round up was brought to you by:

The Cooking Actress | Pies and Plots | The Spiffy Cookie | Foodtastic Mom | Kelly Lynn’s Sweets & Treats | Savory Moments | The Pajama Chef

Pin this to your meal planning board for easy access all month long!

May Menu Plan: BBQ Style May Menu Plan: BBQ Style

Deconstructed Falafel Bowls

Welcome spring with a light and flavorful deconstructed falafel bowl! This vegetarian dinner is so fresh and delicious, perfect for busy weeknights. 

Welcome spring with a light and flavorful deconstructed falafel bowl! This vegetarian dinner is so fresh and delicious, perfect for busy weeknights.

Spring is here! My birthday was yesterday, and #BabyVolde’s is next week. He’ll be ONE on Friday. I can hardly believe it. Last weekend we celebrated his birthday and his baptism. Almost our entire family came down for the occasion. It was a whirlwind weekend (and unfortunately it rained the whole time) but it was so fun.

Our little family

One of the best parts of spring (aside from the great running weather) is all the fresh produce at the grocery store! It’s almost farmer’s market season too. I can’t wait. I foresee quite a few lighter meals in our future, like these deconstructed falafel bowls. Regular falafel, while delicious, are a little too intense for weeknight dinners at my house. All that shaping and frying/baking. Noooo thanks! BUT if you just roast the chickpeas in the oven and layer them up with some grains, a tasty Mediterranean salsa bursting with fresh tomatoes, cucumber, and herbs, and drizzle a tangy tzatziki yogurt sauce over top, suddenly falafels on a random Wednesday night is doable. Even if you have a baby crawling all over the kitchen, getting into evvvvvvverything.

Welcome spring with a light and flavorful deconstructed falafel bowl! This vegetarian dinner is so fresh and delicious, perfect for busy weeknights.

Though they take about 45 minutes to put together, most of that time is hands-off, waiting for the chickpeas to get all crispy in the oven. To make this meal faster, you can prepare the grain base (I used bulgur but anything goes–couscous, quinoa, rice, etc.) and tzatziki yogurt sauce ahead of time. Then, when the chickpeas are cooking you can throw the Mediterranean salsa together in a hurry… and presto! Dinner is served. 🙂 We loved all the textures/flavors in this dish, as well as the temperature contrast between the hot, smoky chickpeas and the cool, creamy tzatziki sauce. This is a great one dish meal that has definitely earned a spot on my spring/summer dinner rotation. Next time, I’ll be sure to pick up some pita bread and hummus to enjoy on the side. Happy Friday!

one year ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Oreo Dream
two years ago: Spicy Chickpea Bacon Burgers
three years ago: Easy Homemade New York Bagels
four years ago: Kale Fried Rice
five years ago: Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup
six years ago: Mexican Pizza

Deconstructed Falafel Bowls

  • Servings: 3
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Print

adapted from Delish Knowledge; Tzatziki from my blog

  • 1 – 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted very dry with towel
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3/4 cup uncooked bulgur, couscous or other grain/grain susbtitute of choice

for the Tzatziki

  • 2 cups plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cucumber, seeded and grated, pressed dry with a clean dish towel
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill (or 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped])
  • 1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • salt, to taste

for the Mediterranean salsa

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Begin by making the chickpeas. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the chickpeas–they should be very dry–with olive oil, then spread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Cook for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through. Remove from oven and season with cayenne, cumin, and paprika.

While chickpeas are cooking, prepare grain according to package directions. I made bulgur but couscous, quinoa, farro, or even rice would be great choices! Basically, anything goes here.

Next, make tzatziki. In a small bowl, stir together greek yogurt with grated cucumber, then fold in dill. Season with pepper and salt to taste. If desired, add mayonnaise. It adds a little extra tang that I love, but it can be omitted. Cover and refrigerate to let flavors blend. Tzatziki can be made the day before if desired.

Finally, make the Mediterranean salsa. Stir together tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion in a medium bowl. Gently fold in parsley and mint, then season with a bit of pepper. Let rest while chickpeas finish cooking.

 

When ready to serve, place bulgur in individual bowls. Top with chickpeas, Medterranean salsa, and a drizzle of tzatziki. Enjoy!

S’mores Oatmeal

Creamy oats topped with your favorite campfire dessert… S’mores! What could be a better way to wake up?

Creamy oats topped with your favorite campfire dessert... S'mores! What could be a better way to wake up?

looove oatmeal for breakfast. No matter the weather, I could eat oatmeal almost everyday (and sometimes I do!). Sometimes I like them cold (yay overnight oats!), and sometimes I like them hot (made with milk and topped with berries and almonds)… and sometimes I like them baked (but not in the pot nine days old #thankyouverymuch).

Creamy oats topped with your favorite campfire dessert... S'mores! What could be a better way to wake up?

Flahavan’s recently sent me a fun little oat-licious care package that included a box of their famed Irish Oatmeal and some packets of quick-cooking steel cut oats. Both were DELICIOUS! There’s something to be said about enjoying oats from Ireland made by a family who has been in the oat business for over 200 years. I think these people know oats! And what Flahavan’s is known for is their flaked oats that cook up fast (only three minutes on the stovetop!) and creamy as can be. Thank you, Flahavan’s, for letting me try your amazing oatmeal! Now I know what all the hype with Irish oats is… and I’ll be seeking them out. If you’re curious, you can find out where to buy them yourself here.

Creamy oats topped with your favorite campfire dessert... S'mores! What could be a better way to wake up?

Naturally, I had to fancy up my first bowl of Flahavan’s oats. Since Ben was out when I made my morning oatmeal, I decided to top my oats with a combo that only I would enjoy… S’MORES! Ben does like s’mores, but s’morifying other recipes isn’t really his jam… oh well, more for me! So I wasn’t basically eating dessert for breakfast, I chose to be intentional about the amounts of marshmallows and chocolate chips I added to my oatmeal. That way I didn’t go overboard! Is this is a bowl of oatmeal I’d eat everyday? No, probably not. But it’s a fun treat! The best part is that these oats cook up in just a few minutes and are the absolute creamiest oats I’ve ever tasted! I think some of that is the marshmallows stirred into the hot oats, but it is also the Irish oats doing their thing. 🙂 Hope you enjoy!!

one year ago: Bacon, Potato, and Egg Casserole
two years ago: Cheesy Taco Muffins
three years ago: Coconut Curry Popcorn
four years ago: Guacamole Salsa
five years ago: Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Icing
six years ago: Sausage Egg Apple Strata

S'mores Oatmeal

  • Servings: 1 but can be easily scaled up
  • Time: 7 minutes
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Flahavan’s Irish Oatmeal (or other old-fashioned oatmeal)
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of vanilla
  • 15 mini marshmallows, divided
  • 1 tablespoon graham cracker crumbs, divided
  • 1 tablespoon sliced, toasted almonds
  • 1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips

Directions:

Combine milk, water, Flahavan’s Oats, and cinnamon in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until liquid has absorbed, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and half of the marshmallows and half of the graham cracker crumbs. Stir until melted, then transfer to a serving bowl. Top with remaining marshmallows, graham cracker crumbs, almonds, and chocolate chips. Enjoy immediately!

Disclosure: I received samples of Flahavan’s Irish Oatmeal to try. However, I was not required to blog about them or provide positive feedback. I was not compensated in any other way. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Flahavan’s for some great oats! 

Book Review: The Mark of the King

Read on to learn more about The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green. I hope you’ll read this book soon–it is amazing!

Read on to learn more about The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green.

A description of the book from the publisher:

After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne’s brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king’s mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

As usual, my five point review:

  • The characters in this book were stunning. No one was uni-dimensional, and no matter whether you loved or hated someone, their character and role in the story truly made a difference to the plot and outcome of the story. I am still torn as to whether Julianne or Marc-Paul was my favorite character, but no matter… their (surprising) romance was the highlight of this book.
  • Even though I do consider the highlight of this book to be the romance between Julianne and Marc-Paul, it was not overbearing, lovey-dovey, or predictable. Lots of twists and turns influenced their relationship at many different points… and they almost didn’t make it (in more ways than one). I love that sort of romance. It’s so real! But it would not have been possible without the grace both show towards the other, and to the people around them dealing with very hard circumstances.
  • Though the characters are influenced by Christianity, this book absolutely does not “feel” like a Christian romance novel AT. ALL. No lightly disguised evangelism here, and that’s not a criticism at all. The discussion of faith was very natural and at times, ambiguous. Real characters, real faith.
  • The writing was excellent. The novel was divided into three parts, each with a shocking twist. I managed to read this (a print copy) in less than two weeks, which is a recent record since it’s hard to read a print book with a baby in tow most days. I do most reading on my phone or Kindle these days, so you know that this must have been good!
  • 1720s Louisiana truly came alive in Jocelyn Green’s The Mark of the King. This is an often-forgotten time period of American history, something Green mentions in her readers’ notes. As such, I imagine researching this era took a great deal of grit and determination. Reading about everything from the abysmal living conditions to the devastating hurricane that ended up shaping the French Quarter of New Orleans was heartbreaking… and fascinating. I’ve said it before, but reading fiction is the best way to turn someone into a history lover, and this book is no different. I highly recommend it!

What are you reading lately?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Bethany House for the chance to read this great book!