How I Plan Dinner for the Week.

August 17, 2017
Dinner Menu planning that works
Menu-planning is one of those elusive domestic tools that so many people swear by and that I never could really figure out. Last fall, though, something clicked.
I’m the primary planner and preparer of meals around here. In an ideal world, I love cooking and browsing through cookbooks and food magazines and plating and serving. In reality, with two little ones under 3 last fall, the late afternoon and early evening became a sort of nightmarish part of the day. For whatever reason, it was the most stressful, the most chaotic, the least pleasant. Anyone else? 
Easy Menu dinner planning  
 I began to realize that if I didn’t come up with a clear plan, dinner time was going to be stressful and chaotic and no fun ever again, or at least for another three years. Our grocery budget was out of control, we were wasting a lot of food, I was wasting a lot of time (see “wasting perfectly delicious food because we forgot it was in the fridge”), and nobody was having a good time.
Well, my toddler probably was. Possibly my 4-month-old who has loved to eat since she first saw daylight. But nobody else.
My meal-planning process, as most of my plans, began too elaborately and optimistically. The last year or so has seen serious edits to the process, but I can confidently say this: IT IS WORKING.
We still can’t figure out where exactly our grocery budget goes. But we now waste SO much less food. Dinner time is not UN-stressful, but it is far less stressful. Mostly, I never ever ever find myself wondering “What the heck should I make for dinner?” at 5:23 p.m. 
I never do this anymore because I already did it at a different time that week, one more filled with convenient brain-space and pretty food inspiration and a sense of the week’s flow and less full of the hangry stressful grumpings of harried adults and the frantic shrieks and sobs of the hungry heathen zombies that replace my cute children around 4:30.
Normally, menu-planning happens at naptime on Sunday afternoon these days – it used to happen on Tuesday evenings. IT DOESN’T MATTER WHEN IT HAPPENS. My menu-planning session normally takes a grand total of about 15 minutes MAX. It has taken as few as 5.
Easy Menu dinner planning 2
I am not planning a wedding or a fundraiser. I am planning 7 (and really, closer to 6 or 5) reasonably nutritious and not-completely-boring dinners for two adults and two tiny humans. My greatest pitfall in this process has been over-planning and over-thinking.
I sit down with one or two cookbooks (The Kinfolk Table is one of my favorites) and some food magazines, our schedule for the week, my computer, and my grocery/menu notebook. Also, I always make sure that I have a a good pen because there is nothing less inspiring than a terrible pen.
I always try to build in the following:
  • At least one meal that can serve two nights in some way. [link to recipe]
  • One night of eating out  or takeout (not necessarily fancy – just not me cooking or cleaning.)
  • Any groceries we already have. 
  • The assumption that at least one night we will be spending with another family or some friends – sometimes this includes an actual prepared meal that I have to plan for and sometimes this includes four adults throwing grapes at children and hoping it counts as dinner, so this might be accommodated in different ways.)
  • Only one new recipe.
  • A couple of meat-less meals like this hearty salad.
  • A few really familiar meals that I know I can prepare quickly while managing a multitude of distractions and serve without a lot of hassle or stress. 
My pile of cookbooks, my recent magazines, and my Pinterest board for “Food & Drink”  are my muses during this process. 
This sounds really complicated, but once I found my rhythm, it became pretty effortless and definitely fun. Here are my steps for planning out our meals:
Easy Menu dinner planning 3
  1. Write down all of the days of the week.
  2. Check the refrigerator and pantry so that you can build the menu around food you already have.
  3. Plan your grocery list as you go – so for each recipe/day/meal that you assign, check to see what you have and what you need and write it down immediately.
  4. Figure out the one big new meal or recipe that you plan to make.
  5. Decide which night makes the most sense for the most involved cooking.
  6. If the one big meal or recipe can serve two evenings, then make a note for the next night as well. If the one big meal can’t, then pick which two nights in a row it makes the most sense to have “grouped”.
  7. Decide which nights are “easy” dinners (normally for us, several of these are meatless or familiar routine recipes). 
  8. Fill in the remaining nights with familiar recipes. Mark one night as “eat out!” or “takeout!”. If we don’t eat out on exactly that night, then I just shuffle. The numbers matter – the exact night doesn’t, necessarily.  
Don’t get too caught up in the process. I’ve learned that as long as I make sure I have 4-5 meals planned for the week, my dinner woes tend to be solved. 
So here’s what a week might look like if I meal-plan on Sunday:
  • Monday: Some kind of marinade or spice rub on chicken and quinoa.
  • Tuesday: Quesadillas (using the leftover chicken from the night before) [This would qualify as an easy night]
  • Wednesday: Homemade pizza [Not meatless for us this week, but it could be]
  • Thursday: Mexican Quinoa [This is my EASIEST go-to one-pan meal. It’s also meatless.]
  • Thursday: This butternut squash and quinoa salad.
  • Friday: A frittata along with leftovers from night before. 
  • Saturday: Plans to eat out.
  • Sunday: Pasta with pesto, Parmesan cheese, veggies (whatever I can find to throw into a pan).
That’s it! In reality, I end up planning and making fewer meals than this every week – we’d probably eat the leftover pizza from Wednesday on Thursday. Also, depending on the season, Mark or I might have a recurring church commitment on one of the evenings which means that the other parent just throws fruit, nuts, and maybe some hummus and pita bread at the children and calls it dinner. 
If you plan a meal that doesn’t happen, make that meal the first meal for the next week’s plan. In the example above, Sunday night’s meal would be Monday night’s meal for the following week. This minimizes grocery waste and mental energy.
I order my groceries online based on this menu (another post about this coming soon!) and voila. All done. So much time and headache saved with just a tiny bit of planning.
What are your tips for getting dinner on the table with a little bit more celebration and a little less headache?
Curious about how simplicity and celebration can be part of your home? Send me an email or sign up for my newsletter by inserting your email into that box in the upper right corner. There are few things I love talking about more!

Continue Reading


A Late Summer Egg and Potato Salad

August 3, 2017

   Egg and Potato Salad Recipe

Egg and Potato Salad Recipe 2

The title of this post could be “It’s just too dang hot” or “Eating without Cooking: A Summer Campaign”

It’s HOT now. That’s 85-90 temperature range where we were hovering last month? Psh. For amateurs. Our heat index is hovering near 110 every day. It’s above 90 by 10:30 a.m. IT’S HOT, FOLKS.

Did I mention that our AC completely died at 10:00 a.m. a few weeks ago, on one of the hottest days yet, as Mark lay trapped on the couch with a broken ankle waiting for surgery and I stared at two toddlers, innocently waiting for me to serve their every need and entertain their every whim.

Now I know EXACTLY how the pioneers felt. All we needed was a bear scratching at the window to complete the picture.

Egg and Potato Salad Recipe 3

My point is, I feel like turning on the oven, at this point, is simply tempting fate. It’s just too hot. I don’t want to add extra heat, or touch anything hot, or eat anything hot (grill excepted). Also, did I mention that Mark has a broken ankle? He’s recovering from surgery nicely, but he’s supposed to keep all weight off of his foot which means that dinner time finds me – solo. Very solo. Not the eating part, just the cooking and cleaning part, which can be tricky.

SO. Bring on all of the Pinterest boards and Instagram feeds with pretty food that looks like it doesn’t require cooking and makes me feel cool and is easy to clean up. Bonus points for leftovers.

The Kinfolk cookbook and the July editions of Bon Appetit and Real Simple have been great resources for low-fuss, low-indoor-heat recipes over the past couple of weeks.

Also? BRING ON ALL OF THE SALADS. We are basically subsisting on protein-packed salads at this point. This one was a total winner. Healthy? Check. Easy? Check. Possible to re-create for leftovers without too much hassle? Check. Instagrammable? Check Check. Miles and Violet even ate bits of it (although hard-boiled eggs are not their favorites, but adding pesto has helped encourage them over this hump in the past. As has making something completely different, like a hot dog. #lazymomdontcare)

Here’s the only salad you may ever need again during these dog-day months. Dinner will be extra simple if this is eaten outside. 

  Egg and Potato Salad Recipe 1

Egg and Potato Salad Recipe 4


3 hard-boiled eggs

2 cups leafy greens (kale, at least by itself, is going to be too hefty. Mix in some spinach, arugula, butter lettuce – you get the picture).

1/2 lb little pretty potatoes (steakhouse will work)

Generous handful of cilantro

2 tbl chopped dill (ish)

3 stalks of chives

This dressing


Coarsely ground sea salt


Bring a pot of water to a boil. Boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes (depending on their size – mine were steakhouse and 20 worked well). Let the potatoes cool. (This is a good time to peel your hard-boiled eggs). Wash all of the produce and pat dry. Distribute the leafy greens between two plates. Slice the potatoes thinly in half, quarters, rounds, thirds – whatever makes sense visually for the size and shape of your potatoes and distribute over the greens. The point is to spread out the “potato-y-ness” and expose the texture inside.

Slice the peeled hard-boiled eggs and arrange over the potatoes.. Toss chives, cilantro, and dill generously over the plate. Add a small sprinkle of coarse sea salt (one or two quick twists of the grinder should do the trick) and a bit of pepper. 

The salads can chill like this for a bit if you’re not ready to eat. When you’re ready to eat, add the dressing – don’t be stingy. Enjoy!


Continue Reading


The Only Frittata Receipe You May Ever Need.

June 6, 2017



Breakfast has always been taken seriously in our home. We have always used slow mornings to make a big breakfast or to saunter over to one of our favorite breakfast spots. Because of this spring’s weird work schedules  (and mostly because of Mark’s travel schedule), big breakfasts and slow mornings on Friday have recently become a dependable, comforting routine around here. 

Normally I will mix up some waffles (with Miles’ eager assistance). We’ll add fruit and yogurt and pour-over coffee and then we’ll bask in the coziness of our almost-weekend, almost-another-week-in-the-books morning before the day begins to roll. Mark and I will linger over the table and sip our coffee. Miles and Violet will wreak havoc in the living room, wandering back occassionally for another bite of something. 




This past Friday, I added a frittata to the spread. The frittata was perfect. Other things that morning? Not so much. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I burned my hand in an idiotic move trying to style the table for a shot before we sliced in it. Next, the syrup bottle shattered in the microwave. 

Meanwhile, we’ve been painting our kitchen cabinets and so our kitchen around the styled Instagram shots actually looks like a construction zone, with every cabinet at a different stage of priming or painting. 

BUT. After attending to the burn and cleaning up the glass, we sat down to THE MOST DELICIOUS FRITTATA. Seriously, add this one to your arsenal. The salami adds just the right touch of salty crunch to it and the potatoes edge it just a little closer to a satisfying hash. 



The Only Frittata Recipe You’ll Ever Need


4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 a red onion, chopped finely

1 cup frozen chopped potatoes

3 tbs. olive oil (I normally use this kind)

7 eggs

1/2 whole milk

1/2 grated parmesan cheese + a bit of reserve to sprinkle on top.

1 tsp. pepper

5-7 slices of hard salami, chopped

1 tbs. oregano (I use fresh, but 1 tsp. dried can substitute)



Heat up the olive oil in a large oven-proof saucepan . Make sure the pan is coated thoroughly. Add the onions, garlic, and frozen potatoes. Pre-heat the oven to 400. Saute until the potatoes are browning and the onions are transparent.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs, milk, 1/2 of cheese, and pepper together. Add the chopped salami and oregano to the pan. Allow it to saute for 1-2 more minutes.

Add the eggs, stir the mixture gently, and let it cook on medium heat until the eggs begin to set at the eggs. Sprinkle the remaining reserved cheese on top and move the pan to the oven.

Cook for 11-13 minutesin the pre-heated oven or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. After removing the frittata from the oven, allow it to sit for 3-4 minutes before serving. 



Potato-Onion Frittata (via Martha Stewart)

This Vegetable Frittata (via Bona Vita)

Greens, Eggs, and Ham Frittata (via this issue of BHG)



Continue Reading


Easy Weeknight Lentil Stew.

March 4, 2017

 Easy Weeknight Lentil stew

Soup and weeknight cooking are two things that get an unfair rap. This is entirely unnecessary when something as wonderful as The Kinfolk Table’s Four Corners Lentil Stew exists. This is a recipe that boasts three particularly positive qualities:

  • 12 minutes of hands-on time.
  • 40 minutes from cupboard to dish. 
  • Scrumptious.
  • Healthy.
  • Did I mention that it takes 40 minutes?

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • 1 onion
  • 3 tbls. olive oil
  • 3-4 cups of water
  • A few cubes of chicken bouillion or chicken broth
  • About 1/2 a cup, or a splash, of whatever white wine is open
  • A lemon
  • 15 oz of crushed tomatoes (or, in my case this week, some whole tomatoes that need to be used up and a little bit of paste)
  • 1 tbl. cumin
  • 1 tbl. garlic
  • 1 tbl. ginger
  • Cilantro (or not, again, as in my case this week*)
  • Flatbread

Mince the onion. Toss it into a pot with the olive oil on medium heat and allow the onions to cook until transparent. Slice the lemon into medium-thin disks. At this point, if you’re using these cubes, unwrap four and heat in two cups of water (about 3 minutes in the microwave) until the cubes are mostly dissolved. If you’re using chicken broth, skip this step and drink some wine while you wait for the onions to cook.

After the onions have cooked for a few minutes and are transparent, toss in the cumin, garlic, and ginger. Wait about 3 minutes or until the spices start to become really fragrant. Then add the crushed tomatoes (or about two cups worthof whatever tomatoes you have lying around.) If you use whole tomatoes instead of canned, be sure and add a few tablespoons of tomato paste or sauce as well. Add the broth, about 1/2 cup of wine, and additional water, totaling 4 cups of liquid. The ratio of broth-wine-water does not need to be exact. Toss in about 4 of the lemon disks.

lentil stew 2

Cover the pot. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a medium simmer. Chop about 1/2 cup of cilantro. After about 30 minutes, or once the liquid is mostly absorbed, turn off the heat. It can sit for about 45 minutes before being served or you can serve it immediately. Serve with a generous toppig of cilantro and some warm flatbread.

This soup freezes well, can be doubled easily, and makes a great lunch the next day. The portions above make about 3 generous meal-size servings and could probably serve 5 adults if not served as the main course.

*In these photos, there’s a dollop of pesto on the soup rather than cilantro because it was all I had on hand. It was fine, but cilantro would have been better. 

Continue Reading


Grain Bowl: The Summer Grilling Version.

June 29, 2015

Summer Grain Bowl Title

   Summer Grain Bowl 1

Summer Grain Bowl 2

One of my favorite rituals, and one that I want to make sure I teach Miles to treasure, is that of eating together.

What better way to spend time with your toddler or small child, to instill healthy habits, and to introduce them to new delicious “real” food than to eat alongside them?

Now that we are starting to introduce Miles to more adult food, one of my favorite things to do with him during the day is to make something that we both like, sit down on the floor with him, and share.

Miles is a little obsessed with avocados and with pesto, so this is a pretty easy game to play. I make toast with avocado, sea salt, and lime juice or slice up some bread to dip in pesto and voila! Miles gets to experience new foods that he loves, I get to eat, and we spend quality time together.

This alternative to me frantically trying to find something to eat while he’s entertaining himself for 30 seconds has made our late mornings/early afternoon routines much richer and far less frantic and it gives me an excuse to introduce Miles to foods that I otherwise forget about.

A few mornings ago, I pulled out the leftovers from our grain bowl/grilled vegetable dinner the night before. (I’m a little obsessed with the grain bowl concept featured several times in my favorite magazine, Bon Appetit. If the idea of cooking bores you, try a subscription. I promise you won’t be disappointed and your life will change forever. Or something.)

I sat down by Miles and started to eat lunch with him while we played. He was SO excited to taste the savory quinoa and grilled butternut squash and I was thrilled to find yet another delicious nutritious adult dish that he would eat.

Whether you’re looking for a healthful summer dish for yourself or trying to find creative ways to introduce your baby to new, wonderful foods, this twist on the grain bowl will definitely be a summer favorite!

Summer Grain Bowl 3


1 cup quinoa

1 butternut squash

1 yellow squash

1 onion

A generous assortment of other fresh vegetables. We used 1/2 purple cabbage, a couple of bell peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower.

1/4 cup butter

2 garlic cloves

2 bouillon cubes

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup white wine

1 tsp. lemon juice


Olive oil

Chop the vegetables into large pieces, at least 1 x 2 inches. Toss everything in a few tablespoons of olive oil and a few dashes of pepper. Place in a foil baking pan and set aside.

Summer Grain Bowl | The Orange Slate

Prepare the quinoa as follows:

Saute the quinoa in 1/2 a cube of butter and 2 garlic cloves. Dissolve two bouillon cubes in 1 1/2 cups of water and add. Add 1/2 cup of wine. Add fresh herbs, 1 tsp. of pepper, and 1 tsp. lemon juice. Cover and cook on medium heat until the liquid is dissolved.

Grill the vegetables in the foil pan until the squash is soft and the vegetables are well-seared. Combine with the quinoa on a plate. I like to drizzle some creamy balsamic dressing over the whole dish.

*This post contains some affiliate links. Thanks for supporting The Orange Slate!

Continue Reading


DIY Baby Food – Butternut Squash

March 25, 2015

Blog Title DIY Butternut Squash

DIY Baby Food 2

Food is a serious pursuit in this house. I do most of the cooking right now, but Mark can hold his own over the stove. Much of our dating happened in the kitchen. We approach food from different perspectives. I’m sort of an ALL THE CARBS ALL THE TIME girl. When I first met Mark, he was a recovering vegan and subsisted on (what seemed to me like) a diet of salmon, kale, beans, and sweet potatoes.

This was completely baffling to me, especially because I didn’t even really know that kale was an actual option for humans to eat, except that one of my roommates at the time also lived on (what seemed like) only kale and sweet potatoes with some olive oil (budget-friendly, but still baffling to me).

So, surrounded, I began to be a little more daring and started to try foods like kale, sweet potatoes, and quinoa while, subjected to one too many lectures about how fat is good for brain cells, Mark agreed to expand his diet to include things like cinnamon rolls and all of the cheese.

DIY Baby Food 1

This is not a post about how Whole30 changed our life (it didn’t because we haven’t tried it) or how we don’t eat bread and pasta (we eat lots) or how I can make a wedding cake, frosting and all, without using gluten (I can’t and I wouldn’t want to anyway). We take our milk and our Greek yogurt with all of the fat and our grains with all of the butter.

This IS a post about eating intentionally and passing that on to little ones. We don’t eat legalistically, but we do try to eat mindfully. We don’t make rules about what not to eat, but we have some guidelines about where to start eating. We don’t label foods as “bad,” or “poison,” or guilt-trip ourselves, but we do try to focus the majority of our appetites and efforts on food that nourishes us most efficiently.

And so we try use lots of vegetables and fruits in our meals, lots of fresh foods, very little that is pre-packaged or prepared before it gets to our house.

This grand theory of eating doesn’t always work. I basically quit cooking altogether for three months after Miles was born and we ate tacos every other day, trying out every single taco chain in College Station (there are quite a few). But now that we are back into a normal rhythm, I am cooking a lot more and really savoring my time in the kitchen again.

Next to holding Miles for the first time, one of the most exciting things as a mother has been introducing Miles to food. Introducing Miles to those cute tiny containers of baby food was like Christmas. Applesauce! Sweet potatoes! Blueberries! It didn’t take long for me to get a little bored of the containers though and try to branch out into actual vegetables.

I want Miles to love not only good food, but the process of good food too. The labor of planting and growing and harvesting and making and serving is something that should be savored and appreciated, even if we aren’t always the ones doing the planting and growing and harvesting.

And so last weekend, as an early step to help Miles eat well and intentionally, I made my first batch of baby food from fresh vegetables.

It was weirdly thrilling. And weirdly easy. And when Miles downed a bowl of the food that I had made with my own hands with no packaging, my heart hit the ceiling.

Ok. So. This is silly easy and you don’t need directions. But in case you want a little guidance, here are the steps I used to make this first batch of butternut squash:

Purchase a medium-size butternut squash. Wash well. Slice down the middle lengthwise (top to bottom).

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Roast the squash face down for about 50 minutes or until a knife slides in and out easily and the inside is soft.

Scoop into the food processor in tablespoon-size chunks. (Avoid including any of the skin.) Puree until very smooth.

Drop spoonfuls of pureed mixture into muffin tins and freeze immediately.

To store, once the squash puree has frozen, remove the squash from the tins by running hot water over the back of the pan. Store the squash “cups” in Pyrex containers. Defrost individuals “cups” as needed.

What baby food have you made from scratch? Did you enjoy it? Was it a pain? Share with me!

Continue Reading


My Grandfather’s Pinto Beans

September 9, 2013

Grandfather's Pinto Bean Title

Grandfather's Pinto Beans 1


My grandfather was a man who believed in food. A product of the Great Depression, he firmly believed in living simply, in saving things, in reusing. But he never scrimped on food.

My grandparents’ family home was just a short drive or a long walk away from the local market and I remember my grandfather going to the grocery store every day, just for fun, just to see if there was something new that day. He was man who didn’t believe in food budgets or calorie counting. He thought there should be good food, always, and lots of it.

A native of Texas transplanted to California early in his law career, he brought the tastes of Texas to the beach with him. There are a few foods firmly associated in my senses with my memories of Grandpa –  among them, silver-dollar potatoes, bacon and pinto beans.


Grandfather's Pinto Beans 2


I remember waking up in the morning to the smell of the salty San Diego air, the shrieks of siblings and cousins and the smell of bacon, fried in a cast-iron pan long before hipsters thought cast-iron was cool.

On sunny California afternoons, Grandpa would deep-fry his dollar-potatoes. He would slice them thinly so they fried to a crunchy perfection and then salt them generously. My siblings, cousins, and I would demolish them as we sat outside on the concrete covered in chalk and bikes.


Grandfather's Pinto Beans 3


To this day, I can’t pick up a pack of pinto beans without thinking of my grandfather, his kindness, his generous spirit, and his warm kitchen. For years, I thought pinto beans involved some kind of complicated culinary magic that I might someday be fortunate enough to graduate to.

Apparently my grandfather knew another lesson that I would later learn – cooking doesn’t need to be complicated to be wonderful. His savory, wonderful beans that I have so much reverence for were perhaps the simplest recipe around – one of the original just-add-water recipes.

Beans are so easy, so straightforward, so hard to mess up. You can make them sweet or spicy; you can add vegetables and meat; you can just make a very simple pot with some pepper and salt. Leave them alone on the stove for a few hours and a delightful meal awaits you.

Fall is in the air and the heat in D.C. is (finally) beginning to relent, so try a pot of these this weekend.


 Grandfather's Pinto Beans 4

Pinto Beans

1 lb. pinto beans

8 cups water (Beans should be thoroughly covered by an inch or two of water.

2 cups chopped ham

1 bell pepper

1 onion

2 tbl. garlic

2 tbl pepper

1 tbl chili powder

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/2 white wine

Fresh basil leaves

Fresh cilantro

Wash the beans thoroughly. Cover them with water. Add the ham pieces. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower heat and allow the beans to simmer for an hour and a half or two hours. Chop the bell pepper and onion into quarter-size pieces. Add the bell pepper, onion, garlic, pepper, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, wine, basil, and cilantro. Allow the beans to simmer gently for another two to three hours. Add water if beans become too thick or begin to stick to the pan. Serve with a sprig of cilantro. 

Serve the beans straight from a pot like this one and save on the fussy dishes- this recipe is perfect for camping, outdoor family-style meals, or cozy chilly fall evenings.

Continue Reading


A Weekend on the Chesapeake (And a Magical Coffee-Cinnamon Frosting Recipe)

September 6, 2013

coffee buttercream title

coffee buttercream 17coffee cinnamon buttercream frosting

Way back in June, our dear friend Brooke urged a group of friends to block out a certain early August weekend, protect it from  the mad summer rush and spend it at a storybook cottage tucked away in a quiet little inlet on the Chesapeake Bay to celebrate another year of her life.

coffee buttercream 9

The weekend was magical. Brooke, who is my almost birthday twin, is basically a super-woman. She’s classy, hilarious, bubbly, and from Texas (Mark would here interject that that fact alone is enough evidence of certain greatness).

coffee buttercream 5

The foosball and air-hockey tables discovered at the house provided us with hours of entertainment. We dragged the foosball table out onto an upstairs deck and had an outdoor tournament that will live into history.


coffee buttercream 4

We walked and talked and read on the sand. Brooke even somehow managed to convince Mark, for the first time in his life, to read a magazine on the beach. Although our plans for swimming were halted by the abundance of jellyfish, the hike along the driftwood-and-dead-jellyfish-laden beach was lovely and provided lots of material for vacay photo-shoots.

coffee buttercream 8

coffee buttercream 3

coffee buttercream 6

Brooke also knows the importance of delicious food on a weekend retreat. Brooke showed up on Friday afternoon with enough groceries to feed an entire Texas brigade. She brought tea cookies (made from a secret family recipe) that were the color of the ocean on a bright summer day (I think I ate 50).

coffee buttercream 1

She made a sweet tea/lemonade mixture that tasted like Southern sunshine.


coffee buttercream 2

coffee buttercream 15

coffee buttercream 6

She taught me how to perfect an omelet by putting it under the broiler for 30 seconds. The sangria was worthy of its own blog post. The crab dip was out of this world.

coffee buttercream 7

coffee buttercream 12

coffee buttercream 11

And then there was the shrimp boil. The whole nine yards. Snowy white potatoes and crunchy corn on the cob and spicy sausage and bright shrimp all covered the table that had been carefully covered in newspaper by the cooperative guys in our group. We ate and laughed for hours as the sun set over the bay.

coffee buttercream 10


coffee buttercream 13

Of course, no birthday weekend is complete without a birthday cake.Although the actual cake recipe is a family favorite, the frosting was my own. It was a mad success. The coffee added just the right touch of bittersweet to a decadent buttery frosting.

coffee buttercream 14

The weekend was one of those memorable treasures that you savor as the summer light begins to fade into fall. We won’t be able to re-live the weekend (at least not outside of pictures), but you can definitely enjoy this coffee-cinnamon frosting while I go try to pry Brooke’s secret family tea cookie recipe out of her (and maybe even the recipe for the sangria). Stay tuned.

coffee buttercream 16

Coffee Cinnamon Frosting

1 cup softened salted butter (2 cubes)

4 cups powdered sugar

1 tbl. Crisco

8 tbl. milk

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp fresh coffee grounds

1 tsp almond flavoring

1 tsp vanilla flavoring

Gently whip softened butter and powdered sugar together until smooth. Slowly add milk and additional powdered sugar until desirable consistency is reached. (Remember that the frosting will soften a bit as the butter warms, so stop adding liquid before it is quite soft enough). Add cinnamon, coffee grounds, and flavoring, whipping occasionally. Add more milk or powdered sugar if necessary.

Continue Reading


Amazing Peanut Butter Cookies

July 29, 2013

Amazing peanut Butter Cookies Title

Amazing Peanut Butter Cookies 2

I think it’s safe to say that peanut butter cookies are my favorite cookies. I love that they are not too sweet, a little bitter even. The neat-freak part of me also loves that they are such neat, simple cookies.

When I was little, my mom would make criss-cross marks on hers with a fork. One day though, I forgot to press a fork into some of my cookies and they came out much fluffier. I’m not one to argue with accidental success and so now I never make criss-cross marks in mine.

This recipe balances the salt, baking soda, and baking powder perfectly, as I use the proportions suggested and the cookies invariably come out fluffy and hold their shape without sliding into that sad flatland that cooling cookies so often enter.

I ran out of white flour one day and used wheat instead. The wheat flour added a wonderful, grainy, rugged texture to the cookies. Few peanut-butter cookie recipes that I could find included flavoring but mine include a touch of vanilla and I’m convinced that it’s the difference between decent cookies and great cookies.

Mark also convinced me to add chocolate chips to a batch and the chocolate added a gooey richness. Next time, I am going to try making them with chunky peanut butter.

Need some more cookie inspiration? Bon Appetit’s dessert recipes never fail to tempt me into the kitchen.

Amazing Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup salted butter (softened)

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup peanut butter

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups wheat flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 365 degrees. Mix the sugar, butter, and peanut butter. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly. Blend the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the batter slowly, mixing well. Add the vanilla and mix lightly. Add the chocolate chips and mix gently. Rolls the dough by hand into 1″ droplets. Bake for 7 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool for 1 minute and then move the cookies to the cooling rack. Allow the cookies to cool completely before storing.

Continue Reading