Bites of My Life

I was scrolling back through my Instagram the other day and noticed how my feed changes with the seasons. My images felt warm and comforting in the winter months, but have become brighter and more vibrant as spring has arrived. It's a visual reminder of how life has been more colorful recently. Figuratively and literally. 

I have a yummy recipe post coming tomorrow and a very special birthday to celebrate on Saturday! But for now, let's take a bite of a very colorful week. 

-Loving my new Blogging For Books cookbook. Pictured here: Salt and Pepper Pork with Cucumber Salad from "Dinner, Changing the Game."
-Now that it's warm out, I've been guzzling Le Croix like it's my job.
-The J Burger, coming soon to The Jones Assembly
-My review for the revamped Iguana went live last week!
-This coffee speaks to me.
-We are testing out the lunch menu at work for our new concept The Jones Assembly, mentioned above. And let me just tell you it is the hardest part of my job ;)
-Celebrated one year of my favorite foodie podcast, OKC Over Easy. I love the fun people and experiences I've had because of my friend Mal starting OOE. You can hear my 5 minutes of fame in the birthday episode here
-In a sea of all things diamonds and glittery in prep for the 10th annual Cleats & Cocktails
-Loved getting to work with old friends and new friends to make Cleats & Cocktails a success!
-The only nutritious thing I ate on Saturday.
-Really getting good at this whole homemade matcha thing.
-Avocado sweet potato toast is all kinds of amazing.


Bacon Wrapped Dates

I couldn't let this perfect party appetizer pass without sharing the recipe! I made these bacon wrapped dates with almonds and goat cheese for my good friends wedding shower a couple of weeks ago. I ate about half the platter, but they were still a hit! The creamy cheese or salty almond stuffed in a sweet date then wrapped in bacon, it's just the most sinful little bite. Great for parties of all kinds; dinner party, wedding shower, birthday or football watch party!

The recipe comes from my new favorite book Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. The book is chalk full of cozy family recipes. I plan on cooking through the book and sharing more of Shauna's insight on daily life and daily bites, so stay tuned!

Bacon Wrapped Dates adapted from Bread & Wine

8 oz package of dates, pitted if you can find them
4 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup almonds, roasted and salted (optional)
16 oz pkg. bacon

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a roasting sheet (with sides is best) with foil and set aside. 

If your dates are not already pitted, you will need to pit them. Make a slice lengthwise along the date. Open it up like a little book and remove the pit. Stuff half the dates with almonds and half with a little shmear of goat cheese. Shauna informs you to steer clear of any nut, she says it reminds her too much of the pit, which it does. But I love the crunch! Maybe next time I'll do a little combo of the cheese and almond stuffed inside!

Cut your bacon in half or thirds depending on how long your strips are. Wrap a piece of bacon around the filled date and place it seam side down on your foil lined baking sheet. 

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until brown. Drain on a paper towel and serve at room temp!

I urge you to go pick up a copy of Bread & Wine. It's the perfect read as fall is arriving! But in the meantime, you can just make batches of bacon wrapped dates to tide you over!


Better For You Brownies + Giada's Happy Cooking

For me, I'm happiest when I'm cooking. For Giada De Laurentiis it's the same. It's also the mantra behind her new cookbook, Happy Cooking. I chose her book for this round of my Blogging For Books.  I have grown up watching Giada on Food Network, but in her past few seasons she has really focused on healthy and nourishing recipes. Something you don't always see on Food Network. I love ya PW but a stick of butter can't go in everything...

Happy Cooking is stock full of happy healthy recipes. And nothing that is too difficult. GDL quotes "make every meal count...without stressing out!" Between her lightened up pasta dishes, gorgeous vegetable sides, Sunday dinner comfort food, I not surprisingly leaned toward her sensible sweet treats for this recipe post. 

Black bean brownies. Don't be scared of them. If Giada is doing it, you know it's no fluke. They are satisfying without being too sweet, the perfect thing to end a meal with. She includes peanut butter chips in her recipe which I obviously omitted. Check the recipe below for some alternate additions!

Better For You Brownies adapted from Happy Cooking
yields 9

1 (15-oz) can black beans, rinsed well and drained
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. espresso powder or coffee granules
1 large egg, plus 1 yolk
1/4 cup coconut oil, warmed so it is a liquid

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray and 8x8-inch pan with cooking spray. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and adhere it with the cooking spray, then set aside. 

In a food processor, place the drained black beans, cocoa powder, oats, salt, brown sugar, vanilla, baking powder, coffee, egg and yolk. Puree to combine. With the motor running, drizzle in the melted coconut oil until everything is pureed and smooth. Spread the batter in the pan. Bake fro 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the brownies to cool and enjoy!

*Would be great with chocolate chips sprinkled over the top, a coffee glaze made from coffee and powdered sugar, or a big slathering of almond butter over each piece. Or, you can take these somewhat healthy brownies and serve them with a big scoop of ice cream like I did. Balance ya know?


I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. Read more about my thoughts on Happy Cooking here.


Let's Jam

Bring on the soup, stew, chili and now, jambalayaaaa! My favorite kind of foods. I tried to convince my family to let me make this jambalaya back when it was still hitting 100, they didn't go for it.  Now that it's relatively chilly most days, I jumped on my chance again. 

Alana from Eating From The Ground Up is the mind behind my new cookbook, The Homemade Kitchen. The book is stocked with recipes using fresh and delicious ingredients. This is one of my favorite Blogging for Books cookbooks I have received. I love how real the recipes are. No crazy ingredients, nothing too fussy. Alana has specific mantras she lives by while in the kitchen. Feed yourself, eat outside, start where you are, be a beginner, and more. My favorite is "do your best and then let go."

Jambalaya from The Homemade Kitchen
serves 6-8

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
6 oz. chopped bacon
2-3 leeks, cut in half and thinly sliced
3/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion (1 small onion)
2 large red bell peppers, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic
3 cups hot chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cup uncooked rice
12 oz cooked, andouille sausage, cut and cooked into 1/2-inch rounds
1 lb. fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Toss the chicken with the paprika and salt and set aside. heat a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stiffing often until crispy about 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a medium bowl, leaving the bacon fat in the pot. Cook the chicken in the fat, stirring occasionally until brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and add to the bacon bowl. 

If you don't have enough bacon grease leftover, add oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the leeks and onion to the pot and cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add the red peppers, jalapeno, garlic and cook over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the whole mixture is cooked down, slightly brown and smells delicious.

Heat your stock in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the bay leaves, rice and sausage and continue to cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes.  Add the hot stock as well as the reserved bacon and chicken, bring to a boil, lower the heat and cover the pot. Cook undisturbed until the rice is tinder and the stock is mostly absorbed, about 30 to 45 minutes. It may take longer depending on your rice. If you are using shrimp, add it during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Once the shrimp is pink, remove the bay leaves, top with scallions and parsley and serve immediately. Best with with a little hot sauce and some cornbread!

I got a little frustrated while I was cooking this dish because the rice wasn't cooking, and it was taking much longer. I tend to get flustered when I'm cooking for others. With a little patience I finally got it finished. I wish I had Alana with me saying, "do your best and then let go." Once the dish got to the table everyone loved it. 

You can purchase The Homemade Kitchen here and make sure to check out Alana's blog for more of her recipes!


I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. If you are a also a blogger make sure to check out their site on how you too can start Blogging for Books!

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

Uh huh hunni. Say hi to these little fluffy summery cookies packaged up to perfection! I whipped these bad boys out few Sundays ago when I was on my baking spree.  After consoling with my roommates if I should make lemon bars or these strawberry shortcake cookies, we all decided on the cookies. I turned to one of my favorite cookbooks for the recipe. Joy is my go to girl when it comes to desserts and her book, Homemade Decadence is chalk full of her best recipes. Exhibit A.

These cookies are described as a hybrid between a cookie and biscuit. They are light and fluffy like a biscuit, but also slightly crispy around the edge like a cookie. My favorite part is the fresh nutmeg that is grated in. Nutmeg adds an outrageously good edge to everything. You get the perfect little hint of nutmeg in the cookies, so don't skip this ingredient!

I'd normally use this part to gab on some more about who great these cookies are and why you should make them, but let's be honest, if it's a recipe post then no one reads the text. People (highly including myself) skip straight to the visuals. You probably aren't event reading this rant right now anyway. 

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies adapted from Joy The Baker's Homemade Decadence
yields about 20 cookies

1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped small
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsps. sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 stick cold, unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
2 tsps. vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk plus
2 tsps. buttermilk
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsps. milk or water
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookies sheets with parchment paper and set to the side. 

In a small bowl, toss the cut strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, and corn starch. The smaller you cut the strawberries the more evenly distributed they will be. 

In a medium bowl,whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Then, using a pastry cutter, two dinner knives, or my favorite-your hands, cut in the butter until you get pieces the size of peas. 

In another small bowl, whisk the egg yolk, buttermilk and vanilla. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients. Using a fork, stir until combined and the batter is moistened. Gently fold in the strawberries and juice with a spatula. 

Scoop the batter onto your prepared sheets. Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes or until slightly brown. Let the cookies cool completely before you try to ice them. 

For the glaze-whisk the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract. Add a little more milk if it's too thick. Using a fork, drizzle over the tops of the cookies. Serve slightly warm or wait until the glaze has hardened a bit. They will stay fresh for about 3 to 4 days!