Thursday, October 23, 2014

Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars

The new neighbors just moved in.

As I learned in my time spent in The South, the best way to meet new neighbors is to bring them food.  Food gives you a reason to drop by unannounced.  Food prevents that awkward moment of silence when the new neighbors are not sure whether or not to invite you in. I mean, you can't blame them. They don't know you and haven't had time to assess if you hold the potential to be their new best friend or if you will become to them the mysterious Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird, dominating their imagination of the unknown.  

These Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars were the brainchild of my oldest daughter, Anna.  She made them for the new neighbors as a gesture of friendship and a reason to find out if they have any kids her age.

Here's a pictures those beauties.
A double stuffed Oreo encased in chocolate chip cookie dough.
Have you ever seen anything so divine?

On Friday the girls brought them over.  Nobody was home. 
On Sunday they tried again. Still no luck. 
On Monday we decided to try one to see if they were still fresh.  They tasted delicious with milk.
Tonight, Anna brought the beautifully packaged box to church. 
She definitely made points with her friends.

The new neighbors never have to know!

Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
by Anna @ Simple Girl

2/3 cups Earth Balance, room temperature
(Butter tastes good, but creates a different texture)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 eggs
1 teaspoons pure vanilla
1/1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whip Earth Balance and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Continue to beat until smooth and creamy.

Gradually add flour, soda and salt. Beat until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Line an 8 x 8 cake pan with parchment.  Spray parchment and sides.  Press 1/2 of the dough in the bottom of the pan.  Top with 16 Oreos lined up in a 4 x 4 pattern.  Top with remaining dough, pressing it until it is flat and covers the Oreos.  Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until dough becomes lightly golden.  When cool, remove the entire square from the pan.  Place on a cutting board and slice into 16 squares.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ella's Woodland Fairy Party

I believe.
In small parties. 

Now, don't get me wrong. I've had sleepovers for 15 girls and chaotic, thunderous celebrations at Chuck E. Cheese's. I have. Which is why I can tell you that a small, intimate soiree is a lovely way to celebrate the birthday of a whimsical girl. 

Four girls. Three hours. It's a beautiful thing.

Because October in Minnesota can be a bit unpredictable, we brought our garden party indoors.

A look around the house was all we needed for a beautifully set table.

Candy-coated sunflower seeds are perfectly miniature in scale.

Caprese "Mushrooms" grow from a moss-covered pot.

Berries look beautiful in flower cups.

Ella made the "Acorns" with kisses, mini vanilla wafers and chocolate chips.

Beautiful little bites.

Petit Fours with fanciful mushrooms and ferns (Grandma's Bakery).

Exquisite flower cookies (Grandma's Bakery).

A well-crafted Miniature Fairy Garden. 

And handmade tutus (Assembled by slip-knotting tulle over elastic.)

I'm so glad these girls - still want the be girls!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

KitKat Cake

When your 10-year old daughter tells you she wants to make her own birthday cake, here's what you do.  You let her. Your little mini-me might just prove to you that the apple does not fall far from the tree!  And, really, if you can't have death-by-chcolate on your birthday, when can you?

Start with your favorite chocolate cake recipe and pour the batter in two 8-inch rounds.
Lined with parchment, of course.

Use more parchment to line your cake pedestal in an attempt to keep it clean. 
Spread frosting on the first layer.

Top with the second layer and finish the outside of the cake with more chocolate frosting.

Next comes to the fun part.  Break apart 10 KitKat bars and line them up like a little fence around the cake. Make sure all the lettering goes in the same direction. If you suffer from OCD, that is.

OK, one more fun part.  Pour in an entire large bag of M&M's. 
This fills in the top and looks very cheery and colorful.

Ice cream, anyone?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pumpkin Chicken Spaghetti (Slow Cooker)

School has started and fall has arrived (did I mention that we might actually drop into the 30's tonight?) This combination means one thing.  I'm officially pulling out the Slow Cooker. The after school activity shuttle leaves no time for doing any actual cooking during the dinner hour. This is why I love my slow cooker. My husband bought me an All-Clad stainless steel beauty a few years back. Ahhh… flutter my heart. He loves me. Yes, while some girls call diamonds their best friends, it appears that I can be won over by small kitchen appliances. He knows me.

I make this family favorite spaghetti recipe at least once a month during the school year. It's about time I shared it! It's perfect for hectic days and its ease of preparation will keep you from the Taco Bell Drive-Thru!

Simply start with 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  You can use chicken breast if you want, but the thighs stay moist through the slow cooking process.  Once you try them, you won't go back.  Top the chicken with 2 - 24 ounce jars of your favorite pasta sauce.

Next, dump in a 15-ounce can of pumpkin.  I know, it sounds strange, but it helps thicken the sauce when the chicken lets go of its juices and, as a bonus, your kids are now eating a whole lot of Vitamin A!

Add some brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and oregano.  That's it.  Put the top on and walk away.

When you return from Yoga, Target, the bus stop, piano lessons, football and tennis, shred the chicken in the sauce.
Boil some noodles and you are good to go.

This sauce is deliciously thick, well rounded and loaded with lean protein. 
Perfect for a weeknight family dinner!

Pumpkin Chicken Spaghetti
by Rachel @ Simple Girl


3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 - 24 ounce jars of spaghetti sauce
1 - 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic glaze (or vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Combine ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 - 10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours.  Shred chicken in the sauce. Adjust seasonings, if necessary, and serve over pasta.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Butter Bean And Tomato Salad

I've had moderate success with my two tomato plants this year and by moderate I mean that I have actually been able to gather enough tomatoes at one time to make something.

Look at these beauties. The wave of feelings is swelling within me. Pride. Resourcefulness. Thriftiness. Domestic Bliss. My grandma would have been proud.

While these sweet, cherry tomatoes are delicious straight off the vine, I decided to marry them with my other love: Butter Beans. Unlike their smaller cousin, the Northern Bean, Butter Beans are big and meaty and beg to be eaten with a fork. Your mouth won't even know that you just slipped it a vegetarian meal!

To begin the salad, heat 1/3 cup olive oil and 1 teaspoon minced garlic for one minute in the microwave. Let sit. Sure, you could heat it on the stove and let that sweet, garlicky aroma fill the room, but this method is quick and easy.

Next, cut 4 cups of cherry tomatoes in half and place them in a bowl.

Realizing that your initial bowl was too small, switch to a bigger bowl and add two cans of Butter Beans, drained and rinsed.

Drizzle the garlicky olive oil on top of the beans and tomatoes.

Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of Montreal Steak Seasoning (or coarsely ground black pepper, if that's all you've got.)

Add a generous 1/2 cup of of green onions, whites and greens, chopped.

Add a dash of rice wine vinegar and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

This salad has sweet, savory, salty, meaty, chewy and crunch. 
It's the total package. Enjoy!

Butter Bean & Tomato Salad
by Rachel @ Simple Girl


4 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2-15 ounce cans Butter Beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup green onions, whites and greens, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 tablespoon Red or Rice Wine vinegar.
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Heat olive oil and garlic in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute.  Let stand.  Combine tomatoes and butter beans in a bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil mixture.  Season with salt and Montreal Steak Seasoning.  Add green onions and vinegar.  Toss.  Just before serving, top with toasted pine nuts.

Serves 6

Friday, August 22, 2014

Chalkboard Tags - at Target!

School started yesterday. I'm somewhere in-between Yipee! and Sigh. Where did the summer go? One thing the girls and I love about back-to-school is school supply shopping!  A new school year. A fresh start. Sharp pencils. Crisp, coordinated folders. Who knew office supplies could create so much bliss?

While we were shopping at Target, I spotted these adorable little tags:  Chalkboard!  Of course, the permanent chalkboard pens were right by their side.

Arielle dressed to impress on her first day of middle school. She handed out apples to her teachers that were tied with green raffia and labeled with these cute chalkboard tags.

Ella celebrated her 10th Birthday on the first day of school and attached the chalkboard tags to the ultimate first-day-of-school-birthday-goody-bags:  Clear pencil cases with some super fun (also from Target) school supplies! The possibilities are endless!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Cream of Kohlrabi Soup

One of the things I like best about summer is our local farmer's market. I love gathering the kids on Tuesdays and driving them to the community center parking lot filled with white canopies where they are required allowed to pick one item. That grows from the ground. I'm not saying that we never indulge in chocolate bread and peppermint bath bombs, but a fruit or vegetable is a must.  It's fun to find unusual varieties of carrots and tomatoes and even more fun to find foods that we don't even recognize (i.e. that they don't sell at Costco.)

This was my pick for the week: kohlrabi. Kohlrabi has been described by culinary experts as a cross between a spaceship and an octopus. Can you see the resemblance? The name kohlrabi is of German origin and translates to "Cabbage Turnip".  Webster defines kohlrabi this way:
Form of cabbage (Brassica oleracea, Gongylodes group) of the mustard family, which originated in Europe. Its most distinctive feature is the greatly enlarged, globular to slightly flattened stem that grows just above the soil. Its flesh resembles that of a turnip but is sweeter and milder. Low in calories, kohlrabi is an excellent source of vitamin C, minerals, and dietary bulk. The young tender leaves may be eaten as greens; the thickened stem is served raw or cooked. Though not widely grown commercially, it is popular in some regions.

I asked the man under the white canopy how he usually cooked kohlrabi and he said that he he cooked it with chicken or put it in soup.  He said it was starchy like a potato, but not as heavy.

I decided to take his advice.
I made soup.

Start by peeling the outer skin of the kohlrabi and trimming off the ends.

Dice the kohlrabi into 1" pieces, along with one large diced sweet Vidalia onion.
Spread the veggies on a parchment lined baking tray.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.

NOTE A:  I probably should have used two pans, but I really, really, really don't like washing dishes.
NOTE B:  Thanks to my 13-year old daughter, the hand model, who has very lovely hands and is currently obsessed with nail polish.

Roast the veggies at 400 degrees F. for 30 - 40 minutes until the kohlrabi is soft and edges are golden.

Bring out your friend, Mr. Vitamix.
Prove to your husband that it really was worth spending almost $400 on a blender because now you can go to the farmer's market and make soup.

Blend the roasted veggies with 2 cups of chicken stock until it is creamy and lump free.  Pour the blender mixture into a larger pan and reheat, adding two more cups of chicken stock (1 quart in all.)

Add 1/4 cup of cream or buttermilk or coconut milk and adjust seasonings if needed.

 Ladle into bowls and garnish with more cream and green onion tops.

If you like the flavor of cream of asparagus soup or cream of broccoli soup or cream of cauliflower soup, you will LOVE the fresh and milder flavor of this one.

The ingredients are few and simple.
Just like good food should be.

Cream of Kohlrabi Soup
Serves 6

By Rachel @ Simple Girl


3 bulbs kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 large sweet Vidalia onion, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
olive oil
kosher salt
1 quart chicken stock
cream, buttermilk or coconut milk, optional


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place kohlrabi and onion on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with  olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Place in oven and roast for 30 - 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender and starting to brown.

Remove vegetables from oven and place in a high speed blender.  Add 2 cups chicken stock and blend until smooth and creamy.  Pour puree into a heavy stockpot and add 2 more cups of chicken stock.  Gently reheat.  Add cream if desired and adjust seasonings if needed.

Ladle into 6 bowls and garnish with a drizzle of cream and green onions.