mango bread from the backyard tree that keeps on giving. and giving. and giving.

fa1658cf-68c1-4f77-936c-a4877f726f2bI’ll be honest with you. Mango season has gotten a little bit away from me this year. We have a mango tree in our backyard which made me feel all kinds of romantic love for our house when we were looking to buy. The mango tree and the white brick built-ins scattered around made me have newly-wed visions straight out of a 1960’s romance. Call me Audrey Hepburn, but I imagined Mike and I picnicking under the mango tree on a red checkered blanket, sipping wine and munching on frozen mango bits all summer long.1876169f-88df-47c7-a2b6-c0ea326263c1Naive, Hoosier-born, first time Florida home-buyer that I was, I had no idea that 1. I’m allergic to mangoes, 2. no one goes outside to picnic in the summer in Florida (ha!), 3. how annoying and messy it is to cut up a mango because of the massive pit in the middle, and 4. if I did or did not like mangoes – I had never tasted one before! I was pretty sure I was going to like them though. Luckily, I do like mangoes. And after I broke out in hives all over my body during our first mango season, I discovered that I either had to thoroughly wash my hands after handling the skin, or wear rubber gloves. I also watched a very helpful video on how to properly cut mangoes to get the most fruit from around that giant pit. Click here to watch a similar one if you have lived that struggle too.dba643e8-dc83-4291-ac6a-e5dacb744420I still do love having a mango tree in the backyard and can’t help but dream every now and then of picnics under the shade of the tree in the summer. It also turns out that Charlie loves mango which is an amazing plus, but mango trees, like any fruit tree or  plant, take dedication if you want to actually eat the fruit. When one ripens – they’re all about ready to ripen. Last week we had a total of 36 mangoes waiting patiently on the windowsill, the kitchen island and the grill outside. That’s on top of the 19 mangoes I cut up and froze last weekend! Seriously.  The storms we’ve had rolling through lately have had them dropping like juicy grenades from the sky.ca148d4c-126f-4637-9191-9549f2d9d0fc

I’m running out of room in the freezer! You all know my love of carbs, so I hunted down the best looking recipe for mango bread that I could find, and it’s a winner! I love that this one uses pureed mango rather than chunks as I don’t love that chunks of fruit tend to sink to the bottom of breads. It also put a dent in the mangoes lined up on the windowsill while giving us the yummiest bread to munch on inside our lovely, air conditioned house with white brick built-ins, not on a picnic blanket under the mango tree where your very life is at risk of being taken out by a  mango grenade from above, swarms of mosquitoes, or hyperventilation due to Florida humidity. All jokes aside – try the bread. It’s delish.

I adapted the recipe slightly from this one – less sugar in my recipe (our mangoes are super sweet!), and canola oil instead of the avocado suggested. I also left out the rum for my little 7 month old man (who woke up from his nap during the baking of this bread) who has happily been gobbling this bread up.8686ebbe-37e7-4199-a713-391f8534df37The recipe calls for 3 cups of mango puree, which used about 5 of our medium-sized mangoes. You may have to adjust slightly up or down!c9388a7d-d4f1-4e0b-acc9-2554b6baabe3Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup canola or any neutral oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups mango

Here’s what to do: 

Set oven to 350. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl (flour, salt, baking soda, & ground cinnamon). In another bowl – I used a kitchenaid mixer – mix the rest of the ingredients (sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla, and mango). Add dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Pour into greased and floured loaf pans and bake for 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Freezes well if you don’t want to eat both loaves right away!

 

easiest cookie recipe in the world.

cf794850-3de6-438b-b8f3-762a45108a69I have six days left of school, and I am dragging myself through them by the skin of my teeth. The end of the year is my biggest time of the year other than the beginning of it. With 40+ teachers and 800+ students, there are thousands of materials that need to be returned before teachers or students can be “cleared” to leave school. Computers, textbooks, headphones, library books, etc are all in my school’s library system. And as you can imagine, teachers that were given these materials back in August have a hard time tracking them all down come May! And then you have the kids who checked books out a week ago – they have a hard time tracking those books down too. 🙂 I’ve been the nagging bad guy all this and will be next week too. But it’s okay! I can do it! Summer is almost here!

f73eeec5-c423-41cc-84f0-02b527e918ea

But in the meantime, cookies, nightly happy hour, my happy baby, and copious venting to my husband are the only thing that are getting me there. Not just cookies, but the easiest cookies that I have ever made. Three ingredients! three! Have you ever heard of such a thing? I hadn’t! I was browsing Pinterest the other day for after school snacks, and stumbled upon this recipe that fit the bill for after, before and in-between school snacking. Follow the instructions for Peanut Butter Cookies all done in about 15 minutes!

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 egg

Here’s What To Do:

Set oven to 350. Mix ingredients together until creamy (with an electric mixer is easiest). Roll into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Use a fork to put impressions on cookies both ways, and to smush them down. Bake for 10 minutes! Recipe makes about a dozen cookies.

Enjoy!

an adaptable recipe for muesli.

567296ba-4125-465d-a075-19fdfdadb081I’m one of those people who wakes up in the morning and immediately needs something to eat. I’m the person to whom ‘brunch’ really means ‘second breakfast’ because I couldn’t possibly wait until 10am to eat for the first time. I’m married to a non-breakfast lover (other than hearty breakfast potatoes topped with an egg and the occasional french toast on weekend mornings), so I’m left to my own devices during the week. Cereal and oatmeal are all fine and good, but they’re a little uninspiring, right? And while oatmeal fills me up for the morning, it takes a little bit of time to make it when I’m in a rush in the morning. If I have cereal, on the other hand, I find myself snacking by 9am.0e77466b-90f4-48fc-9ce5-df53ec7ff3f4 Muesli is hearty, healthy, filling-me-up-for-the-long-haul goodness. If you haven’t had it before, muesli is very similar to granola, sans sweetener, oil and oven. Essentially, you just throw a bunch of oats, nuts, and dried fruits into a jar, mix it up and leave it on the counter to last for weeks. Did you hear me say that there’s no oven required? With the heat of summer coming our way, you just may find yourself reaching for this recipe as well. I mixed up a giant 12 cup batch in one of my gallon sized jars the other day that will probably last until the end of the school year. All ingredients are dried pantry goods, so there’s nothing that will go bad before then as long as I keep the lid screwed tight to keep staleness at bay. When you’re ready for your bowl of morning muesli, just scoop some out into a bowl, pour over your desired amount of milk, add a dollop of yogurt if you feel like it, and add any sweetener. I like a sprinkle of brown sugar best, but maple syrup or honey are yummy options too.

c142cc68-2c52-44e4-a609-f0d5737188a3

Like I said in the title, this is easily adaptable. Don’t like nuts? Add more oats or seeds. Put whichever dried fruits you like best in. I’ll give my recipe for a gallon, but you can easily adjust up or (more likely) down.

Here’s What You’ll Need: 

  • 8 cups old fashioned oats
  • 2 cups mixed nuts and seeds roughly chopped (I used pistachios, pecans, almonds and pepitas)
  • 2 cups dried fruits (I used cherries, cranberries, and blueberries)

Or the formula to remember is: 4 parts grain + one part nuts + one part dried fruits

Here’s What To Do: 

Are you ready? This is ridiculous…Mix it together, put it in a jar. That’s it! And when you’re ready to eat it, just scoop however much you’d like into a bowl, pour over a little milk, a scoop of yogurt and sprinkle some sweetener over. Mix and enjoy!

a recipe: crunchy fridge pickles

IMG_1956.jpg

On Saturday afternoons we don’t even have to think about what we’re having for dinner. Just like we eat pizza on Fridays, on Saturdays – we have burgers on the grill. There are few things more satisfying than burgers on Saturday. It makes the weekend feel like a holiday, even if it isn’t. Especially if we’ve spent the afternoon at the beach. We always pick up a big, juicy red tomato (it’s always tomato season in Florida) from the market on Saturday morning along with the rest of our veggie haul for the week. If there’s corn, then we’ll pick that up too to throw on the grill. If there isn’t any corn (unlike tomato season – it’s actually not always corn season) then we’ll slice up a couple potatoes to throw in the oven coated with olive oil, garlic salt, and generous grind of black pepper. Grabbing our plates with our burgers ready to dress, I pull out the holy grail of toppings. The fridge pickles. Burgers, in my opinion, are made by their toppings, and one topping that we can’t go without – are pickles.

It’s a not-so-secret love in my life. Pickling things. I’ve pickled most things that people are in the habit of pickling – onions, cucumbers, radishes, green beans, even asparagus. We eat them piled on sandwiches, burgers, tacos (pickled red onion or radishes- yum), and straight from the jar (pickled green beans or asparagus with a cold beer –  yum). Pickles just taste like summer to me, and when you live somewhere that actually is summer year round – you eat a lot of pickles. I grew up loving Claussen’s pickles, and while I spent a few years using a heated pickle recipe, around last year, I found an even easier way – no heating required. This recipe reminds me so much of Claussen’s. It’s a riff on Deb’s for Refrigerator Pickles, and by far the best and easiest I’ve found.

IMG_1941

A note about my pickling habits: I don’t pickle in bulk. I like to do small, one jar at a time, 10 minute sessions. This means that I avoid processing jars for hours over a boiling pot of water, and I’m not spending hours slaving over the cutting board. We only make what we’re going to eat within the next couple of weeks (or days).

IMG_1946

Fridge Pickles

Makes 1 pint sized mason jar.

What you need:

  • 2-3 small cucumbers (we prefer Persian cucumbers, but many like Kirby the best!)
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • pinch crushed red pepper

What to do:

Slice cucumbers to desired size. Add vinegar, salt, and other seasonings to mason jar. Add cucumbers. Fill to the top of the “Freeze Line” with water. Screw on lid, and shake vigorously.

Put in the front of the fridge, and shake again over the next few hours whenever you open the fridge. You can eat after an hour, but they’re best after 6-8 hours.

*Will keep for 3 weeks, but if you’re anything like us, they won’t last that long.

** We’ll use the brine for two batches of pickles. Once you eat the first batch, just slice up a couple more cucumbers, put them in the same jar, and refrigerate. Enjoy!

a recipe: anything granola bars

I’m staring down the tunnel of testing season at school. Which means tomorrow I’ll either be quietly locked away in my office finishing up my collection development plan for the end of the year or I’ll be suddenly called to do my duty and proctor a test for third grade should some teacher call out sick (I did hear that one third grade teacher has hand foot mouth disease so I’m fearing the latter). Testing season in the elementary school brings with it both stress and anxiety for both teachers and students in the morning and then the extreme, almost delirious relief of the afternoon when the tests are over for the day (only to know that section two comes the next day). A combination of both celebration and the camaraderie of doing something no one wants to be doing for the day. I have a hard time mustering up any real emotion about it either way. All I’ll be thinking about (in addition to the spending of my library budget – Fiction? Nonfiction? Graphic novels? Dare I throw it all at picture books?) is Charlie giggling hysterically over toes tonight before bed. I mean hysterically. Toes!

On to the real topic for today. I discovered the best recipe for granola bars a few weeks ago. I loved them so much I’ve made them twice for us, once for the neighbors across the street who just welcomed a new baby and I’m planning another batch to be whipped up this week. They’re quite possibly the easiest thing because they are an “anything” recipe. Whatever you happen to have on hand you can throw in. Those are my favorite kinds of recipes. Flexible and forgiving. I’ve been playing around with an “anything” bread (or maybe some would call it cake 😂) that I’ll share when I get it just right. But today I wanted to put his here for my own future reference and yours when the mood may strike.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup nuts
  • 1/4 maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup mix-ins of your choice (I used dried tropical trail mix here)

Here’s what to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 inch square baking dish with parchment paper or foil.

Place oats and nuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Place them in a large bowl.

Combine syrup, butter, and brown sugar in a small saucepan on medium heat until butter and sugar are melted.

Remove from heat and stir in salt and vanilla. Pour over the oat and nut mixture.

Mix in any of your extras, saving chocolate.

If adding chocolate, let mixture cool for about fifteen minutes then add.

Use a rubber spatula to press into your pan. Chill for about two hours then remove from pan and cut!

I hope you try them! So yummy.

a recipe: caramel corn with a kick

b2a843d7-e759-403d-993a-eb065b1ad7f6Nights these days are ruled by routine. Doing the same thing every night makes Charlie a happy baby, and it makes me feel like a more put together human. Every night this week, after Charlie is all snug in his bassinet with his sweet breaths going in and out as even as a metronome, I make my way to the kitchen to do my final nightly ritual of bottle washing, getting bottles ready for the next day, putting together my own lunch, snacks, and filling the coffee for the morning. But first, before all these very necessary duties, I unscrew the giant jar of this caramel corn sitting on the counter for a sweet victory snack. Victory because we’ve made it through another day. And you guys. This caramel corn. It seriously does have a kick! It’s so unbelievably good. It’s like a sigh of relaxation at the end of a long day. I still have things to do, but my most important task is slumbering like an angel in the next room.

c11842ea-9e1b-4402-871c-a7aca17b3ef5Mike snatched a great big taste test of this caramel corn when it was freshly coated, still warm and malleable from the melted caramel and he almost died. I kid you not. Both of us are lovers of spice, but the cayenne in this may knock your socks off if you’re not careful. The rest of the batch was pretty tame having just a bit of warmth at the back end, so he must have gotten a little non-mixed in cayenne bite. That’s what happens when you sneak a bite before it’s ready. I only die of happiness every time I take a bite. I discovered this Smitten Kitchen recipe when Deb shared it on her Instagram the other day. She can do no wrong in my book. I want to make every single thing that comes out of her kitchen. I’ve never been disappointed by yet, but I don’t know how anything that involves sugar and butter can be a bad thing.

98a11843-a5c9-4db1-8192-2f5de35a4e1aI haven’t been keeping myself to only nightly nibbles of this stuff. It turns out that half a cup of kernels makes a lot of popcorn. I put bits in little jars to take to school as a bright snack at my very unglamorous desk. I put Mike’s in a large jar to have for the whole week at his more glamorous desk. He has the self control to make it last all week. I need portion control. Also, anything in tiny jars just makes me happy to eat. All about the eating experience here.

d8ddf025-5dd2-4581-8c75-09011dc48fb6

**A note about the cayenne: just leave it out if you’re not sure about some warmth! I used only 1/4 teaspoon which really isn’t much.

Here’s what you’ll need: From Smitten Kitchen’s archives.

  • vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like spice!)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Here’s what to do:

Lightly coat two large, heatproof rubber spatulas and two large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or a thin slick of oil.

In a large pot with a lid, coat the bottom of the pot with a thin layer of oil over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn kernels, cover and keep the saucepan moving until all of the kernels have popped.

In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda and cayenne pepper.

Have the two large baking sheets ready. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, salt and 1/2 cup water. Cook over high heat until the mixture becomes a light golden-yellow caramel, 10 to 14 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the baking-soda mixture if using (the mixture will really bubble up).

Quickly pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn. Use your spatulas to toss the caramel and popcorn together (Deb says as if you were tossing a salad) until the popcorn is coated.

Spread the popcorn onto the baking sheets and quickly separate them into small pieces while still warm if you can. Cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Once cool, store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

monthly resolution: low carb january

da7e9c94-e6c5-4750-8ba2-408b7b142eee

Mike and I decided to do a fun thing this year. Instead of making a few big, sweeping resolution for the year, we’re doing a different resolution or challenge each month. I love making resolutions at the beginning of each year, but my big plans (lose weight! drink more water! run a marathon!) are normally forgotten within weeks of making them. So I got Mike involved this year. He is the king of sticking to things, so I knew we’d be a success if we did it together. We have all of our resolutions planned for each month, but I wanted to share what we did for January and how it went…

237569d2-0703-4080-9ed6-c841f5a8d0fa

Enter Low Carb January! This one was so hard on me you guys. I love carbs. Breads, pasta, desserts, cereal, grains – the more the better. But listen, I had about ten pounds of baby weight to lose, and I was really hoping that this would get me a few pounds lighter by the end. It worked! Kind of. I mean, let’s be honest, the last couple lbs were most likely from the flu that swept through our house earlier this week. I still have about five more pounds to get back to pre-baby weight, but I’m feeling so good about my progress!

2d77bde5-f050-44dc-ab48-b7e60c305fda

We did have a few ground rules for ourselves and didn’t completely cut all carbs from our diet. I am nursing after all, and didn’t want to kill my milk supply by under-eating. So we kept oatmeal (my breakfast every morning), beans, quinoa and hashbrowns for weekend brunch on the menu.

940a56ad-2d06-445d-a15e-aa716921e92f

I’ll be honest, and Mike will tell you, I was pretty resentful of the whole thing by the end (mostly on Friday Pizza Night). We did a cleanse one year when we were in grad school, and I was such a BEAST by the end that I’m surprised Mike agreed to do low carb January. But we did it! Again – Mike is the king of sticking to things. Our normal cooking involves a lot of pasta, burgers, tacos at least once a week, and we religiously make pizza on Fridays. So many carbs. We had to make a lot of adjustments. A lot of meals in bowls (quinoa or cauliflower rice, protein, veggie, and sauce) and chicken with roasted vegetables and a side salad were involved. I also focused on making sure to have lots of fresh fruits and veggies on hand for snacks. One thing I can say with certainty, I could never cut carbs forever and I will never be tricked into thinking that quinoa crust or cauliflower crust is real pizza crust.

afca2c18-069b-41ee-b5af-dc10141e3aa6

I just wanted to share a few of our favorite low carb meals that we may carry over to carb-loving months to come, and just for memory-keeping’s sake. I went ahead and linked to recipes, but we tend to cook without recipes, so they are just examples, not the exact ones we used:

b99630ef-d521-4031-8acc-73820ff9850d

And now, in February carbs are happily back in my life! Mike had a much easier time with this than I did. He said to me multiple times a week, “I mean, I don’t even need the {insert carb}. I could eat this for the rest of my life.” {Insert my groan and eye roll in response} I think February’s challenge is going to be the hardest one of the year – $25 a week on groceries. EEK! I’ll let you guys know how it goes!

what do you eat when you’re sick?

We’re in the midst of flu season, and Mike and I were apparently not immune this year. We were down for the count all through Sunday night and through Monday – Charlie’s first time sleeping through the night! I told Mike I think it’s because he knew we couldn’t care for him as he hasn’t done it since. It seems to have been a 24 hour thing although I feel like I’m still in that stage of weak recovery where you’re back to your normal daily duties, but only at half speed.

Mike and I can officially say that we’ve been together for over a decade (eek!), so we’ve seen each other through a fair number of illnesses (and one broken bone!) through the years. Nothing serious, thank goodness. Just colds, flus, and the bad cough here and there. On those occasions though, when we’re to that point of not wanting real food yet, but needing some kind of nourishment we have what seems to have become a sickness tradition – a McDonald’s milkshake. Why? I don’t know! If I can stomach them, there are usually fries on the side, and Mike will throw in a burger too. Isn’t that weird? No chicken soup over here! Just fast food burgers, fries and milkshakes.

What do you eat when you’re sick? Are you a starve the sickness out kind of person? Saltines? Plain rice? Bone broth? Hot tea? I always do love a good toast with butter and cinnamon sugar when sick too, a carry-over from childhood.

Happy hump day, readers! We’re already over halfway to the weekend. I wish you all a healthy and hydrated rest of the week. xx

a recipe: pasta e fagioli

It’s soup season, people, even in Florida. The proof is that I’m home with a cold-ridden baby today. Charlie slept terribly last night. He usually wakes up once at night, nurses, and goes right back down. But last night he woke up repeatedly and wouldn’t go back to sleep until I finally pulled him out of his bassinet and held him for half the night. He has a snuffly little nose and cough (daycare baby!) which breaks my heart. So we took a rain check on school and daycare to make sure he could take lots of long, snuggly mama naps. It just seemed like the kind of gloomy January day for a big vat of soup to bubble on the stove until dinner. It’s been raining off and on, baby has a cold and the only time I’m leaving the house is if I get ambitious enough for a jog around the neighborhood after Mike gets home (unlikely). Soup weather.

I threw this together this morning while Charlie was napping which tells you how easy it is. Cozy, hearty soups like this one are just better if you let the flavors meld together as long as you can before digging in. It would be a great Sunday soup with a big loaf of crusty bread on the side. We started making this soup a couple years ago after taking a cooking class that Mike’s parents got us for Christmas. It’s sooo good and the leftovers are amazing for lunches.

Our favorite thing that we learned in that class was the power of Mirepoix. Have you ever tried it? We make ours by blending rough chopped onions, celery and carrots in a food processor. We make a big batch and freeze it in ice cube trays to pop out and throw into soups, gravy, and sauces. You can use it as a thickener and just to add another layer of flavor to your dish. Some people just chop it up really fine, but I think the food processor is more effective. Another option is to cook it down in olive oil before freezing, but we freeze it raw and cook it into whatever we’re making.

Another thing about this soup though before we dive in. I left the pasta out because we’ve gone low carb for January (worst decision ever). More on that later. This is one recipe that I actually think is just as good without the pasta, but it’s chef’s choice here.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup mirepoix (recipe here)
  • 3 15oz cans cannellini beans – don’t drain!
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomato
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  • Small Pasta – Ditalini or orzo are good options (optional)

Here’s what to do

Sauté garlic in butter and olive oil until golden. Add beans (including their sauce), tomato, stock, mirepoix and all remaining ingredients except for pasta. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and let simmer for as long as you can, but at the very least for 35 minutes. Place the cooked al dente pasta (if using) in serving bowls and ladle hot soup on top. Garnish with flakes of parmesan cheese if you have it laying around.

Let me know if you try it! It’s a favorite at the Metroka house!