Mediterranean Quinoa Kale Salad

Sturdy and fresh, this crunchy salad pairs perfectly with grilled meats or stands alone for a simple meal.

Mediterranean Quinoa Kale salad

It finally happened. And it happened with a vengeance. James got sick and we all went down with him. There have been snot-suckers and piles of tissues and lots of lying around this week. My one shining moment of was this salad, prepared before our pestilence required Dominos, Vitamin Water, and Lofthouse cookies.

The name – Mediterranean Quinoa Kale Salad – makes it sound fancy. It’s not, really. I’m not even sure it should be deemed Mediterranean, but it had olives in it and I thought Mediterranean Quinoa Kale salad sounded a bit better (at least a lot easier to say) than Quinoa-Kale-Olive-Carrot-Cucumber-Feta-Balsamic salad.

And there you have it – the ingredients that make up this tasty salad:

I wanted a salad with quinoa but not a quinoa salad, if you know what I mean. I cooked up a 1/2 cup quinoa and made sure to evaporate all the extra moisture so the cooked quinoa wouldn’t clump in the salad.

It’s been too hot to roast the 5lb bag of carrots we have, and they’ve been taunting me in the fridge. Two of them were silenced with the grater. Now I’m left with 4.7lbs of heckling vegetables.

We had feta leftover from a quinoa salad I made last week. (Too pea-laden for Tim’s taste but I loved it!) Let’s pause for a moment and acknowledge my maturing cheese taste – I had FETA-formerlyknownasbarfcheese- in my fridge.

I was overcome with pride at having feta in my fridge, so the cheese dictated my other salad ingredients. Olives and feta always get paired in Greeky salads. I can’t always get down with the Kalamatas, but I love black olives. Aren’t cucumbers also a Greek (hey, I thought this was a Mediterranean salad…) salad staple? I assumed so…

To fulfill my non-quinoa salad desires, I added a couple handfuls of chopped baby kale. It would have been a couple handfuls of the power greens mix from Costco, but most of the bags looked a little wilty. (I could smell the gross seaweed aroma just looking at the moist leaves at the bottom of the bag.)

We are never without balsamic vinaigrette.

And that makes a delicious, hearty salad! None of the flavors are overpowering. Everything stays crunchy even after several days dressed in the fridge (don’t ask me how I know that…)

Mediterranean Quinoa Kale salad

Mediterranean Quinoa Kale Salad
Author: Emily C. Gardner
Serves: 6
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 large handfuls (approx 3 cups) baby kale
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1/2 cup feta crumbles
  • 1 (6oz) can black olives
  • balsamic vinaigrette
  1. Rinse quinoa thoroughly in a mesh sieve. In a saucepan, bring 1 cup water and quinoa to a boil. Take off heat and cover with tight fitting lid. Let sit for 20 minutes. Uncover and place over medium-high heat. Cook until no moisture remains on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Chop baby kale.
  3. Peel and grate carrots.
  4. Peel and de-seed cucumber. Cut into strips and dice.
  5. Drain olives. Put a few on your fingers and eat them. Roughly chop remaining olives.
  6. Mix quinoa, kale, carrots, cucumber, olives, and feta in a large bowl.
  7. Toss with balsamic vinaigrette to taste. I used about 1/3 cup.
The tossed salad can be kept for up to three days without getting hinky.


Microwave Hot Fudge Sauce

Simple ingredients are transformed into a rich, thick fudge sauce using the convenience of a microwave. This is my comfort topping for anything ice cream related.

Microwave Hot Fudge Sauce

Please excuse the lack of food photography for this recipe post, but some things get consumed too quickly for me to style and shoot even just a few pics. This hot fudge sauce would definitely be one of those recipes.

Hot fudge sauce is classic. Like this particular sauce, the best kind is thick, deeply chocolatey, and simple. A good hot fudge sauce can turn any kind of ice cream or cake or pie (or spoon) into a decadent dessert worthy of company.

What makes this hot fudge sauce over the top is the method you use to make it. A microwave provides the hot in the hot fudge. It’s unfussy and quick – all good things when you’re bowl of ice cream is sitting out, waiting to be bathed in a fudgy pool of liquid chocolate.

Not convinced yet? Read my post over on Be. Mama. Be to find out why delicious simplicity isn’t the only reason I flip to this microwave hot fudge sauce recipe so often.

Microwave Hot Fudge Sauce
Author: Emily C. Gardner
A simple, classic hot fudge sauce made easy using the microwave. Your ice cream won’t know what hit it!
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. Melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl.
  2. Add evaporated milk and sugar to the chocolate.
  3. Stir until combined.
  4. Microwave for 2 1/2 minutes. (Keep your eye on the mixture. Depending on your microwave and bowl, it could boil over.)
  5. Remove from microwave and add butter, vanilla, and salt. Beat with a hand mixer until slightly thickened and smooth. Fudge sauce will thicken as it cools.
  6. Store in refrigerator if there are leftovers.

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Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes

Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes

Pinterest is my favorite social media network. By far. In an effort to legitimize the time I spend on Pinterest, I’ve committed to be a doer, not just a pinner. I want to be crafty, save moneyhave fun with my kiddo, and make delicious food, not just pin those things.

Since I need (and love) to feed my family, making that delicious food I’ve been pinning has been an easy way for me to do, not just pin. I have quite the cookbook collection, but when I meal plan at the beginning of the week, I purposefully choose a recipe or two from one of my food boards to include. My favorite is when our small group needs dessert and I have an excuse to scour my cookies and sweets boards.

Though you can control the visual quality of your Pinterest boards, you can’t always control the quality of the finished product. Not everything I’ve pinned has been as good as it’s looked. I recently pinned a boxed cake cheat (how to make a boxed cake taste like a bakery cake) and made a mental note to test the claim ASAP. I got the chance a week or so later when Tim needed treats for a co-worker’s birthday celebration.

Pinterest testedI made the suggested additions and substitutions – with a few tweaks of my own – and was super pleased with the results.

  • I buy cake mix when it’s on sale and usually have one or two in my pantry. I had one left – a Pillsbury Moist Supreme Classic White Premium Cake Mix.
  • I used 4 whole eggs instead of 3.
  • I didn’t double the amount of oil, but substituted 1/3 cup melted butter.
  • I used unsweetened almond milk instead of water. (Don’t be weirded out by the brown spots in my milk in the photo below. I dipped my teaspoon in the milk to get the excess vanilla off.)
  • Amen to the vanilla extract addition.
  • I had frozen strawberries on hand so I chopped up a few, tossed them in flour, and added them to the batter.
  • My oven is a bit unreliable, but I made an effort to preheat then reduce. Not sure if that actually happened.

boxed mix - bakery cake

There was still a hint of cake mix flavor (which doesn’t bother me), but the crumb was tighter and the cake itself was sturdier. Overall, this was a great way to amp up a pantry staple in a hurry. Pinterest success!

Beyond the method, these cupcakes were a flavor success, too. I’m a rule follower when it comes to baking, but I’m glad I threw in the strawberries on a whim. The butter makes these cakes quite moist and the fruit just adds a little burst of sweetness. I made a simple vanilla buttercream to top the cupcakes (not pictured), but they look so pretty unfrosted and taste delicious plain.

Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes 2

Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes
Author: Emily C. Gardner
A simple way to amp up boxed cake mix transforms classic white into strawberries and cream perfection.
  • 1 White Cake mix (Yellow or Devils Food would be delicious, too)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup milk (whatever kind you have on hand)
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries, diced
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place contents of cake mix in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, milk, and melted butter. Whisk until no (or very few) lumps remain.
  3. Sprinkle diced strawberries with a tablespoon of flour. Mix until all berries are lightly coated.
  4. Add coated berries and fold into cake batter.
  5. Scoop batter into muffin pan. Fill 3/4 of the way full.
  6. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Allow cupcakes to cool in pan before removing.
  8. Serve plain or with vanilla buttercream frosting.

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Homemade Cinnamon Golden-Raisin Clif Bars

Homemade Cinnamon Golden-Raisin Clif Bars.jpg

The first time I ate a Clif Bar was at the top of Vernal Falls in Yosemite. I was camping with my boyfriend’s (now husband) family. We had begun our hike with no goal in mind, but after a quick poll, we all determined it would be worth reaching the top. The Mist Trail offers the gamot of experiences – slippery rocks, skinny pathways, and sweeping vistas – and reaching the top was a physical, as well as mental, accomplishment.

We navigated those last rock stairs, pressing to the inside of the mountain to let others pass who were headed back down, and stepped onto a sunshine soaked plateau. I was in awe of the powerful surge of water flinging itself from such a height. I was also hungry! Tim had had the presence of mind to bring a couple snacks, so it was at the top of that rushing waterfall that I bit into my first Clif Bar. Maybe it was the endorphins from our climb speaking, but that Chocolate Chip Clif Bar was so ding dang delicious.

I’ve been a Clif Bar fan every since that mountain-top experience. We buy them in bulk from Costco (I was sad to see Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter disappear from the variety pack.) and I eat one almost every day. My favorite flavor rotates, but White Chocolate Macadamia and Coconut Chocolate Chip compete for the top spot often.

Homemade Clif BarsEven in the Costco pack, Clif Bars aren’t always practical for our tight budget and I’ve always wondered if I could replicate them at home to save some pennies. I’ve searched Pinterest multiple times but haven’t found what I was looking for, until last week.

Most copycat Clif Bar recipes didn’t have crispy rice cereal as an ingredient, despite that being a listed ingredient in the real thing. I wanted a recipe that had oats, crispy rice cereal, and didn’t rely on date paste as a sweetener. In walks Liv Lives Life with just what I was looking for, and a calorie count to boot.

The method is simple and relies on pantry staples. Oats and crispy rice cereal make up the bulk of the bars with flax meal for added nutrition. Honey and nut butter (I use crunchy peanut butter) act as the binder. There’s infinite possibilities for add-in customization, so you can recreate your favorite Clif Bar flavor or make up your own.

Homemade Cinnamon Raisin Clif Bars 1Now, these don’t quite have the Clif Bar texture, but the delicious factor makes up for any nuance lacking in the texture department. You could also try quick cookie oats, instead of old fashioned, to get a more dense crumb.

I adapted Liv’s basic Clif Bar method to create these Cinnamon Golden-Raisin beauties. I used a dram of Vanilla Butternut extract instead of vanilla which added a hint of butterscotch to these bars. Any type of raisin would work in this recipe, but I like the sweetness of golden raisins.

These Cinnamon Golden-Raisin Clif Bars are a great supplement to the pre-packaged variety. Plus, they taste like cookies…

Homemade Cinnamon Golen Raisin Clif Bars

Homemade Cinnamon Golden-Raisin Clif Bars
Author: Emily C. Gardner
Prep time: 10 mins
Total time: 10 mins
Serves: 8
Oatmeal raisin cookies in a simple, homemade Clif Bar form.
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 dram (3/4 teaspoon) vanilla butternut extract or 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups crisp rice cereal
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 2 tablespoons flax meal
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  1. Line an 8 x 8 inch pan with waxed paper (cut one strip that fits the bottom of the pan and allow some extra to stick up above the rim of the pan to use as handles). Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, heat peanut butter and honey over medium heat until melted. Take off heat and add vanilla butternut flavoring. Stir to combine. Allow to cool while you mix together the other ingredients.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the rice cereal, oats, flax meal, cinnamon, and golden raisins. Mix well – the flax meal has a tendency to stay clumped together. Add the peanut butter mixture to the oat mixture and stir until all the ingredients are well coated.
  4. Pour batter into the prepared pan and press down firmly with a spatula until the top is even. You want to press down as firmly as you can so the bars are dense and hold together when cut.
  5. Let the bars cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before cutting. To cut, lift the mixture out of the pan with wax paper handles. Cut into desired size bars – I liked what 8 pieces produced.
  6. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator. (You don’t need to eat them cold, they just stay better in the fridge.)
Serving size: 8 bars Calories: 231

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Rosemary Lemonade

Rosemary Lemonade

Rosemary Lemonade 4

One of the houses I grew up in had a massive lemon tree in the backyard. It wasn’t until we moved that I realized it wasn’t normal to have freshly squeezed lemon juice at the ready whenever we wanted. My sister now has the same citrusy fortune at her own house. She sent me a little care package the other day with granola (she makes the best granola!), homemade jam, and lemons. After a cold, snowy winter, the lemons put an instant smile on my face. The cheery color and fresh scent of lemons always reminds me of sunshine and long summer days.

Normally when I receive a lemon windfall I zest and juice every last one and freeze the spoils. This time around I left the lemons in a bowl on our coffee table as a reminder that Spring is coming.

While reading a post on Modern Mrs. Darcy, I saw mention of rosemary lemonade which immediately piqued my interest. We happened to have fresh rosemary AND a bowl full of those beautiful lemons. The weekend fates of good eats were with us! The post didn’t have a recipe, so I Googled it to get some how-to inspiration. I ended up combining two methods (this and this) to create a refreshing, festive drink perfect for warm afternoons in the sun.

Rosemary Lemonade 3

Rosemary Lemonade 2

Rosemary Lemonade

THE drink for sipping in the afternoon sun on the back porch. A great compliment to grilled meats. I think, though I haven’t tested my theory, that a little splash of limoncello would make this a wonderful lemonade cocktail.

  • 1 large rosemary sprig
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine rosemary sprig, sugar, and water in a large sauce pot. Bring to boil. Remove pot from heat and let steep for 30 minutes.

Add lemon juice to taste. My lemon juice sweet spot was 1 3/4 cups, but I like my lemonade a little on the tart side. Keep in mind the lemonade will dilute a bit when you add ice.

Chill lemonade for at least four hours before serving.

Serve over ice with rosemary sprig and lemon slices for garnish.