Almost Easter, an Almost Fast, and A New Camera

We’re two days away from Easter.

About a week and a half ago, two things happened:

1. I started this post, and

2. I GOT A NEW CAMERA!!! (lots of jumping and clapping here and squeaking like a tickled monkey)

Numero dos is the reason for the severe lapse in posting.

“New Camera” also means the clearing of memory space on my computer for new programs and new photos. Which means I have spent all last week trying to figure out how to get my precious HP Mini to recognize space-age mass storage devices from 2014, when this little baby was in its prime in 2002.

HP Mini? I love you. Don’t ever think otherwise. We just got you a little Pod to store all your stuff in, is all.

And now we’re ready to boogie.

So here we are, friends – that post I started last week:


I’m on a diet, of sorts.

A self-prescribed sort-of fast until Easter.

Spiritual preparation by way of cookie denial.

I’m weeding out sweets and grains, because, well, I love them. And if they’re gone, then I’m thinking about them a lot. And my own personal deal with me is that when I start to think about them, I will shift from my shallow cravings and enter into prayerful presence instead.

I don’t really know what topics will invade that presence, but I’m expecting that God will fill the gap.

He’ll fill the space in my heart that usually feels like it needs a cupcake, and something much more substantial will rise to my attention.

I’m not sure yet what’s going to bubble to the surface. Maybe I won’t be praying at all, just feeling and being.

I’m in dire need of restructuring, because the whole world right now seems like that’s all there is. . . the world. I feel too connected to it and the hamster wheel, and I want a path off.

On Wednesday, I ordered Jen Hatmaker’s 7, An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.

Friday it arrived.

I’m eyeballing you, Jen – because it seems we’re on the same page and I didn’t even know we would be.

That’s not serendipity, it’s holy timing.

I was craving movement, and it’s arrived via sugar deprivation and Amazon Prime.

Forced and pre-meditated mindfulness every time I put (or don’t put) food in my mouth. No autopilot during breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

I’ve already failed twice.

Did I tell you this is only day three?

I collapsed on Thursday night when my husband and the two littlests presented me with dessert (I had to eat if of course, or their feelings would have been hurt), and Friday night because it’s pizza night (bread), and I couldn’t force the effort to prepare something solely for me.


Uh. . .  we might have something here.

Please God, don’t show me I’m lazy. If I am, it certainly would be easier and more fun to stay that way. Do I need to work harder at life?

Obvs, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

On another note?

Check this out:

Daisy, and an urban-chic vase made from recycled materialspebbles and chalkManchego and Chorizo Egg Tarte

Photos taken with the new cam. (We’ll be discussing pics one and three (Manchego and Chorizo Egg Tart, anyone?) sometime in the very near future. . . .)

I haven’t decoded much of it yet, but it was a Bday surprise from several of my Lovelies. Endless ♥’s to you.

All I can say is, WOW.

It’s pretty much rocket science. (Kiddning.Notkidding.  NOT.  KIDDING.)

I’m not sure how long it will take me to move off auto/no flash mode and the original lens. That’s how far I made it yesterday in 97 minutes: Auto, no flash, original lens. (Actually – that last one with the flaky crust? Taken off of auto-mode thankyouverymuch.)

Maybe I’ll be praying for camera intelligence too, especially of the rocket scientist variety.

(Oh, Amazon. You are the vehicle for answered prayer again: There is a DSLR For Dummies book. Hallelujah.)

Weeknight Meaty Marinara

Weeknight Meaty Marinara - a quick, healthy, and hearty meat sauce. (Paleo and Whole 30 compliant)

No! Don’t do it.

Don’t call it Bolognese.

We can’t, you see, because of these six things:

  • No wine
  • No dairy.
  • No itsy bitsy chopped up celery or carrots.
  • Too much tomato sauce.
  • Only one meat variety.
  • And we’re cooking it comparatively faster.

So there are plenty of reasons why we are forbidden from labeling this hearty meat sauce, “Bolognese”.

Also? I’m aware that finally in northern climates the temperatures are starting to break the 50 degree mark.

Most of you in that sort of spring would probably rather be shaving asparagus, or baking lemon meringue pie, or dusting off your outdoor grill.

I get it, but hang with me here for a minute – we can still break out the margaritas and Jimmy Buffett album this weekend.

Here I am, practically in the tropics, and I’m tossing things like meaty marinara at you.

It doesn’t make any sort of seasonal cooking sense except for this one little bit: school is still in session, and what we have here is a giant batch of hearty, filling sauce, which means dinner tonight → leftovers a few days later (Think hoagie rolls, piles of meat sauce, and lots of melty mozzarella cheese, hmmmm?).

Leftovers = one night of freebie weeknight sanity.

Meaty marinara might be a staple in houses everywhere (is it?), but the tweaks that make this one different?

No wine, no diary (forget that mountain of Parmesan on top), no sugar, and we’re building it from scratch instead of a jar in the grocery isle.

And for this reason – this is a very clean sauce. Even a paleo sauce. Or a Whole30 sauce. And it tastes just as homey and satisfying as a thick, simmery Bolognese – even though it’s not.

In fact, it originated around the time of our life altering 30 days of major diet overhaul, (and we’d eat it with slices of roasted eggplant, or cubes of sautéed zucchini and onion) and I’ve gone back to it over and over again since then, even though we’re not torturing ourselves anymore.

There are ways to make this into an all-day sauce. An annoyingly intricate sauce. A sauce that requires three meats, more diced veggies, and minced, fresh herbs. I have an inkling you and I both might be pretty good at overcomplicating things that are just fine the way they already are.

But this is how we do it when we need dinner now. When we don’t have time to puree veggies (to smooth things out for picky palates). When I don’t want to have to clean the blender AND the sauce pot. When I want to buy the cute little squares of organic Weeknight Meaty Marinara - a hearty and flavorful meat sauce with the satisfaction of Bolognese. Just simpler and faster. Paleo and Whole30 friendly.ground beef from Costco and not fret over whether or not I have some sort of pork to add as well. We could use fresh herbs, but not tonight. Tonight we need to brown some meat, open a carton of pure tomatoes, saute some onions and dump in some dry spices that are always around to help us when we need them. Tonight is not about being complicated.

Tonight is about resting in something that’s good and easy and makes our house smell like home, and we’ll be happy about that – the good and easy weeknight meal that wraps us up in the cozy blanket of home.

Weeknight Meaty Marinara

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: about 10 servings, (give or take)

This is a hearty, flavorful sauce perfect for a weeknight meal. Depending on the size of crew you are feeding, you'll most likely end up with enough left over for another meal. It freezes well too, so you can save some for later in the month!


  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 heaping cup)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled, and roughly chopped
  • 2.5-3 lbs ground beef
  • 2 (26.46 oz.) cartons Pomi finely chopped tomatoes
  • 4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons marjoram (basil works here too!)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • Parmesan cheese (optional) for topping
  • Fresh chopped Basil (for garnish)


Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large pan over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add in onion and saute until almost translucent (3-5 minutes). Add in garlic and cook till fragrant, but not browned (only about a minute). Remove onions and garlic from pan to another dish, and set aside. Add ground beef to dutch oven or pan, and cook till almost browned ( a little bit of pink left is ok). Drain fat off the meat. Add chopped tomatoes, onions and garlic, dry spices, and vinegar to the meat. Stir to mix well. Bring sauce to a simmer and then turn down low enough to maintain a low, gentle simmer. Cover partially and allow to cook for twenty minutes or so. (You can let it simmer longer if you like - I do, if I have time). Serve over pasta or try it over cooked diced veggies or spaghetti squash. If desired and tolerated, sprinkle with generous amounts of shredded Parmesan cheese and some chopped fresh basil.


Sara| Home is Where The Cookies Are

Homemade Microwave Popcorn in Two Minutes (Maybe Three)

Homemade Microwave Popcorn: 1 minute, 37 seconds to clean popcorn| Home is Where The Cookies Are

Before we talk about this, let’s do this:

Let’s set up some ground rules.

Namely, one ground rule.

Let’s be civil.

I know some people out there think the microwave is the devil incarnate, or the devil in-kitchenappliance-ate.

That’s ok.

I respect you.

I’ve got no beef with you if you choose to live your life sans microwave.

I applaud you for your ability to ditch the tempting convenience of it. I admire your willpower and follow through.

I also know there are those out there who are totes okay with their microwave. You use it occasionally for some things or often for many things.


There are bigger fish to fry, er, zap/nuke.

We can all love each other regardless of our differing microwave oven opinions.

If you are a microwave user, then stick around and check this out.

If you’re not, come back for the next post (or check out some former ones), and we’ll talk about things not heated in a freaky space-age box.

Are we ready?

Let’s do it.

Popcorn → ♥.

Yes ma’am/sir.

I heart me some popcorn.

I don’t so much heart me messes, or digging out the air popper, or the noise of said air popper at 10pm, or giant hand-wash only popcorn bowls, or the questionable health value/detriment of commercial brand microwave popcorn and their unnecessary ingredients (Again – peace not war. We need not fight, friends). 

If I’m going to go the route of microwave popcorn, I’m going to go as clean and convenient as possible.

DIY microwave popcorn was floating around the web a while back. Maybe it still is?

I tried it then – with oil, and failed. It burned and seemed to be a pointless venture.

I gave up on it at that point and stuck with the air popper.

Then, the other day, coincidence visited me as I flipped through Cooking Light Magazine and saw a letter to the editor that suggested this cooking method. At the same moment, my little guy asked for popcorn (a request that caused a secret inner cringe because, you know – digging out the air popper, annoying gargantuan hand-wash popcorn bowls, etc., and I was having such a lovely, slow, coffee-sipping morning).

The letter suggested this: popcorn kernels, a paper bag, and a quick trip through the microwave.

Serendipity, Little Guy. It’s a real thing.

So we tried it.

And, our reaction was much like that of the two-minute scrambled eggs:

“No. Way. It actually works?!”

After we slathered our mid-morning popcorn (don’t judge) with deliciously real butter and salt, my next thought was whether or not I should share it here.

Surely everyone must know this already, or enough people know it that it’s not interesting anymore. . . right?

But then I told my husband – who hadn’t heard of it, and he told a co-worker (who hadn’t heard of it), who told seven other people ((she kept track)- who also who had not heard of it) and texted me later, “Put it on the blog!”

So here it is.

Super convenient, cleaner than commercial brand, DIY microwave popcorn.

And yes, it’s just buttered popcorn. No fancy spices, no caramel topping. Just salt and butter.

But the basics are where we all must start. As in: how to boil pasta, how to scramble an egg, how to make a roux, and: how to microwave popcorn. . . . Amiright?

I love you.

Thanks for not fighting with me.

Homemade Microwave Popcorn in Two Minutes (Maybe Three)

Total Time: 3 minutes

Yield: 1-2 servings

This portion should serve two people. We like butter on our popcorn, but of course, you can play with this and try another kind of oil, or if you are avoiding fats, you can eat it dry - with or without salt. I found 2 tablespoons of butter to be a satisfactory amount, but, you know - ;) You can always add more (*sigh*, or less. . . ).


  • 1 paper lunch bag
  • 1/3 cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • table salt


Pour popcorn kernels into paper lunch bag. Fold top over two or three times.

Microwave for 1 1/2- 2 minutes, stopping when kernels slow down their popping and there is a "one thousand one" second lag between pops.

Melt butter in microwave.

Shake popcorn in bag while drizzling with melted butter, then shake salt over top and shake popcorn well. (be careful when pouring the hot butter, that you do not pour it where you are holding the bag - ouch!)

Serve imediately.


Sara|Home is Where the Cookies Are, adapted from Cooking Light Magazine (Letters to the Editor, April 2014 edition).


Chicken Andouille Soup with Beans and Kale

Chicken Andouille Soup with Beans and Kale - a quick, hearty, healthy soup

Sometimes fashion does a girl a favor.

Like Palazzo pants.

Sometimes fashion does a girl a favor. Like fancy pajama pants you can wear out for cockatails. . . .

Thank you, fashion people, for dubbing it glamorous to cocktail (cocktail is a verb too, yes.) in high-end psychedelic pajama pants.

And torn blue jeans.

Easy fit black blazor & top pair well with torn jean pants. Savor Home: Lust List,cute blog, great looks.  Denim & black street wear, casual fashion & classic outfit ideas. Teeshirt & Jeans.

Just. . . yes.

If they’re old enough to be torn, they’re old enough to feel like sweatpants, even though they’re not sweatpants. 

Sweet mother of pearl. Whoever fashion-policed that trend is a genius.

And this season? Talking t-shirts.

Yes ma’am. Shirts with slogans plastered across the front.

I’d like this one ↓ please.

And I’ll wear it with leggings and a mini-skirt, even though Michael Kors says no more hideous leggings – a statement with which I agree almost completely, except for when I don’t.

Like when I wear them under a mini. Or under a t-shirt dress. Or with a thigh length sweater and buckle-y boots. Or with a t-shirt that proclaims my dedication to life-threatening proportions of chocolate.

I get it MK. I do. I refuse to wear leggings if my fanny is not covered. And I love your new flowy spring line. That actually, is right up my alley. I’m a Boho kind of gal.

One day, I’ll have some money, and I might actually buy fashionable clothes.

Rory Beca Orian Dress

Until then, I’ll keep making up my own rules and carrying on with a five-year lag between my own personal fashion and the fashion world’s fashion.

I’m a big fan of the wacky mismatched look too.

My little gal knows where it’s at. Tie dye, stripes, and florals all thrown into one outfit. I dig it.

mismatch fashion

The girl knows how to throw things together.

Just like this recipe I heard her dictating to herself as she stood tip-toed on top of her stool at the kitchen counter the other day:

  • 18 pieces of butter
  • bread
  • watermelon.

I’m not sure what this recipe was supposed to make. But it sounds. . . creative?

As for me, I went with this andouille and bean soup instead, starting from a vegan recipe from the March issue of Cooking Light Magazine, and adding chicken – because, well, I’m not vegan, and I like chicken sausage.

So there you have it.

Super spicy bean and sausage soup with some kale thrown in to make healthy people feel better.

I do feel as though a boho dress would accompany this soup well.

It’s sort of hippie food – with a carnivore twist.

Chicken Andouille Soup with Beans and Kale

Prep Time: 30 minutes

This soup is hearty, healthy and filling. It's also ear-burning spicy! If spice is not your thing, try a different variety of chicken sausage other than andouille, or perhaps ground chicken, and then up the other spices - maybe adding a few dashes of smoky chipotle.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 (12 oz) package Aidell's Andouille Chicken Sausage, thinly sliced, then chopped
  • 1 (26 oz) carton chopped tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried, rubbed sage
  • Dash crushed red pepper
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 3 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans - rinsed, drained, divided
  • 2 (15 oz) cans low sodium kidney beans - rinsed, drained, divided
  • 2 cups finely chopped kale (reserve some for garnish)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • splash of sherry vinegar (to taste)


Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and next 3 ingredients (through sausage); saute 4 minutes. Add tomato and next 5 ingredients (through crushed red pepper). Bring to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced by half. About 1 minute. Stir in stock. Combine 2 cans cannellini beans and 1 can kidney beans in a medium bowl; mash with a potato masher. Add bean mixture and remaining beans to pan. Bring to a simmer; cook 5 minutes. Add kale, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Sprinkle with oregano and fresh kale.


Adapted by Sara|Home Is Where The Cookies Are, from the March 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine

Photo credits from top to bottom: palazzo pants from seller, misty490 on Ebay; torn jeans from Savor Home; Chocolate T-shirt from Zazzle; Boho dress from Shopbop.

Gimme Some Messy

Guys – I feel like I’m all jammed up inside. Like there’s all kinds of stuff circulating around in the soul part of me, and I can’t quite identify what it is that’s trying to bust free.

Desires tease me by staying just out of reach and not making much sense.

Dreams thump me between my shoulder blades, sort of rap-tapping to remind me they’re still there, but when I look them square in the face, some part of me tells me now is not the time.

That dream has to wait.

I’m knee-deep in gimmies right now, and my heart is tied to a little boy in Africa, a young mama in Indiana, and a tweenager outside the grocery store (story to be told another day).

Part of me aches to get myself all mixed up in their messy, and if I can’t make it any better, then just to be there doing it with them.

To hold a hand or offer a carpool or bring warm cookies to a corner meeting spot where they might be able to scarf a few down before someone steals them away.

I daydream about this.

It’s something imbedded deep down in the core of who I was made me to be.

Yet I do nothing that puts me right there smack in the middle of them for reasons that are legit and true but maybe shouldn’t be heeded all the way all the time.

This life that is right here and real is mine too.

Urban Flowers

These little peeps and my big peeps need me full-strength, and I continually remind myself that this is my right now – even though I crave to expand  my right now to include them plus the others.

I’m needing to remind myself that God plopped us all right here together and put me in charge of tenderness for them first and foremost.

That they each have a cup to be filled and my role as Mama is to coordinate the running water that drips headlong into each one.

So when I think about Vincent in Africa, or Young Mama in Indiana, or the Nameless Boy at Publix, I love them. For no accountable reason, my heart beats for them too and I pine to take a place in their lives, to offer them an upturned palm that says, “Give me your garbage. Let it all out and I’ll just be here to walk to the dumpster and toss it away with you. And if more muck slings your way, then we’ll do it all over again and I’ll sit in friendship with you while you endure the toughness of life.” Because that’s what I think I can offer. Is just to be there when no one else might be.

So what’s keeping me from moving into action? This is a question that eats away at me, because action, I believe, there should be from me.

This desire is unrelenting in my innermost places. It never dies down or goes away.

I want to wrap up with some kind of solution, but I don’t have one.

My family is young. They need me. I’m the one that keeps this life a ‘tickin.

I can’t just give myself away to others leaving nothing but tired scraps for my guys and little gal in this nucleus that’s been wrapped up together in the real, right-now gift called, my family. My bubble needs me too. First and foremost, they are my responsibility and my love. One day the world and the people in it will be theirs to be tender with too.

So where do I go from here?

I’ve started in bits and pieces by dedicating time from my couch. I click away at the computer in the dark of wee morning hours, but bits and pieces of online volunteer time don’t feel like they fit quite right  for me. It feels like I am walking the bunged-up path alongside the freeway. I’m separated by safety barricades as I watch the fast lane rip by on the other side.

Am I wrong? I have this notion that once I find the place meant for me, that it will slip on like a well-worn sweatshirt, that my right now world and my hunger to serve will merge, and I’ll feel like I’ve come home – like that’s the place that was meant for me all along and all my pieces have finally settled into the great jig-saw of life.

I know enough to know that maybe the Divine plan for me in this moment might not be what I most want to do. So I stay in this place and do my best to do what needs to be done, but it doesn’t stop this dream from whisping in and out of my conscience, and I hope I can stay and just be right here with grace and wisdom and patience.

Sunburst Trees

I hope I’ll know when it’s time for me to make a shift, when it’s time for me to make a move. That when that door opens, I’ll be willing and able to walk through.

Until then, I’ll keep plugging away, doing my best to do what’s best with my very own right now.

I’ll strive to honor each moment of it, because even if it’s not made up of sparkly dream fabric, it is the cloth of a magnificent gift that was crafted lovingly and specifically for me, and I can’t deny the beauty of it, just as it is, right in this very moment.

And while I do that, while I intentionally value this right-now life, I will search for ways to dip my toes into strange and unknown crisp-cold waters – to touch the messy of those around me, ones I know and ones I don ‘t.

I’ll keep my eyes wide open, venture into other parts of the city, look for those who might need the little bits I can give, and I’ll trust that this is right where I’m supposed to be.

Shaved Broccoli and Parmesan Crostini

Shaved Broccoli and Parmesan Crostini

I feel like my food tastes are a little bit messy. A little indefinite. A little. . .  uncommitted.

I am seemingly fully committed though, to traipsing all over the food map, to trying a little of this and a little of that, to one day be a vegetarian then another day be a meatatarian, to then another day eat nothing but banana cake and pepperoni slices straight from the package.

Paleo? Sure, I’ll try it. Vegetarian? Yup, that too. Vegan? Eh, I guess – I’m sure it can be delicious, but really, could I ever give up dairy forever?? I think not.

I’m willing to give almost anything a shot, but fully commit to it? I’m learning I just don’t know who I want to food-be.

These are the things I do know:

I probably cannot live without cheese, sugar, or garlic, and baking is a life-style choice for me. Please don’t ever take it away.

They say if you look in a woman’s purse, you’ll learn a lot about who she is.

A good dump of handbag items on the floor the other day revealed a giant marble, a butter knife, a ninja doodle pad, heart candies, wintergreen Lifesavers, Advil, an heirloom hankie, three miniature fairies, sugar-free lollipops, my wallet, a matchbox car, sparkle lip gloss, peppermint chap-stick, 3×5 notecards, 3 pens, a Mardi Gra necklace, and umpteen grocery store receipts. 

Can you divine who I am from that?

What if you look in a cook’s pantry? What would that tell you?

I’ve got four types of flour – plus gluten-free, almond meal, curry powder, hoisin sauce, sriracha, garam masala, palm shortening, palm oil, olive oil, canola oil, Crisco, yeast, white sugar, agave, honey, maple syrup, molasses, rice noodles, pasta, quinoa, peanut butter, sunflower butter, almond butter, salted butter, unsalted butter, european butter, ghee . . . . See?

My cooking/baking self just can. not. decide.

It’s obvious I can’t decide on a permanent food path.

And the breads – I forgot the pile of breads.

Hamburger buns, whole wheat bread, tortillas, rice crackers, sourdough baguette. . . .

Which brings me to toast.

I love toast. Put that with the things I probably never want to give up.

More specifically, I’veShaved Broccoli and Parmesan Crostini got a weakness for mini baguette toasts – i.e. crostini – especially buttered or oiled and salted before toasting.

I’m dreamily immersed in An Everlasting Meal right now. It’s part cookbook and part (food)love story.

I can’t even describe it. It’s like reading a romance novel about the art and process of cooking and eating.

Every time I turn the page I want to eat something new. Adler even tempts me with foods I don’t even like – like soft-boiled eggs and mayonnaise. She makes me want to try them all over again, done the way she is doing them – because then I imagine there will be sparkles and magical, mystical swirls around me as I go about the preparations, and it’ll be a totally otherworldly experience all anew when the food meets my mouth.

And Tamar Adler – she loves bread too. Crusty baguette is mentioned over and over again to accompany everything from roasted veggies and cheese to soups, to soppy eggs.

Somewhere, she mentions broccoli stalks and shaving them down to make a salad. I don’t remember the details, but I remember sparks igniting in my imagination, my stomach rumbling, and my taste buds anticipating.

It’s something a bit like thisShaved Broccoli crostini right here.

The shaved broccoli concoction on its own is nothing particularly noteworthy.

It’s fine.

But when you toast baguette slices with a little oil, then rub them with raw garlic, top them with the shaved broccoli and paper-thin slices of parmesan, then drizzle on high-quality extra virgin olive oil with an extra sprinkle of coarse salt and a little fresh ground pepper?

There. There is your dream come true.

May I venture to say, that I have learned this about myself:

I almost never will take veggies over cake, but – I’ll take this shaved broccoli crostini every time.

It’s just  a plain delight in a million different ways.

So who do I really want to food-be?

Eh. I don’t know.

Does it matter?

I’ll be who I am, and I’m ok with that.

I guess this is my food-style: mostly healthy(ish), sometimes indulgent, large part classic and leaning towards traditional, always willing to try something new, and (most of the time) simple.

How do you sum that up into one or two words?

What about you? Who do you want to food-be?

Shaved Broccoli and Parmesan Crostini

Prep Time: 15 minutes

This shaved broccoli topping is the perfect way to use up the stalks of broccoli after you've used the florets for something else. These toasts, with a glass of sparkling white wine, hit the spot for everything from brunch to cocktail appetizers. Dont' be shy with the olive oil! This recipe is very loose - you make it in your own proportions and to your own liking. It's really just a guide to get you there in your own way.


  • broccoli stalks and leaves
  • olive oil
  • fresh lemon juice
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • baguette slices
  • garlic cloves
  • parmesan cheese
  • coarse salt
  • fresh ground black pepper


Remove leaves from stalks and finely chop. Shave stalks with a vegeatble peeler. Place the shavings in a bowl. Top the shavings with a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of coarse salt and fresh ground pepper, and chopped leaves. Toss lightly to dress all the shavings.

Oil or butter baguette slices. Toast them lightly ( use a toaster oven for this if you will be oiling first. . . . A traditional upright toaster might not do well with dripping oil or butter). After toasting, rub each slice with a raw garlic clove (to you taste). Top with shaved broccoli, thing parmesan slices, more olive oil and anothe light sprinkling of coarse salt and pepper.

Work fast, so you can enjoy them warm!


Sara|Home is Where The Cookies Are

Almond Poppy Seed Muffins with Brown Butter Glaze

Almond Poppy Seed Muffins with Brown Butter Glaze

Let me tell you a few things:

1. I’m sitting here in my black (velour? maybe fake velvet. . . ) sweat pants circa 2001 aka, pregnancy numero tres. What can I say? I have a hard time letting go of faves.

2. Oreos now makes MEGA STUF cookies. What?!

(I. KNOW!!!

3. When eating Oreos (no matter what their stuf capacity) I adopt the Lay’s potato chip slogan → ”No one can eat just one.”

Or two. Or three. Maybe four. Or five.

For sure I can eat just five.

4. Why did someone invent Mega Stuf?!

I want to both hug and slap that person at the same time.

They’re basically two Double Stufs smooshed together, minus two cookie sides.

It’s simultaneously awesome and horrifying. It’s like a train wreck.

I can’t help but look. And eat.

Times five.

5. I cannot believe, nor do I have an elaborate excuse for it having been 18 days ago that I last posted. WHAT???

What was I doing all that time???

I. don’t. Know.

6. I hate this question: “So, what are you up to these days?”

Cricket. Cricket.

I never have a good answer.

Hmmm. Lemme think. . . .

Folding clothes, doing dishes, playing hopscotch, having unicorn tea parties, listening to new music, reading, baking ridiculously chocolatey cakes, making chili, baking cupcakes for a bake sale, doing dishes, folding clothes, dancing in circles, changing sheets, nebulizing kiddos 3 times a day, going to the doctor, going to the pharmacy, force-feeding medicine, getting sick, getting healthy, baking apple muffins, hosting a birthday party, pony riding, park playing, picture-taking, writing, journaling, going to the doctor, going to the pharmacy, doing dishes, folding clothes, volunteering, Bible study, making new friends, doing homework, shuttling kids around, doing dishes, folding clothes, picking up, breathing, surviving, going to the doctor, going to the pharmacy, sleeping, not sleeping, cooking dinner, hosting an overnight guest, coloring stars and rainbows in sidewalk chalk, cutting hair, grocery shopping, baking miniature red birthday cakes, doing dishes, folding clothes, baking almond poppy seed muffins and topping them with brown butter glaze aaaaaaaaaand, doing dishes, and folding clothes, and maybe another trip to the doctor and pharmacy.

But I’d feel weird saying that.

It’s much easier to say, “Oh, you know. Same old thing.”

What I wouldn’t feel weird about saying though, would be, “Hey, you should try these Almond Poppy Seed Muffins”.

My newest little 5-year-old buddy? He sunk his teeth into one of these and said he wants me to be his mom because I “make the best stuff”.


I’m not sure he totally thought that one through – his mom is pretty darn spiffy.

Me however – I caught myself yelling at my kids to stop yelling at each other this afternoon.

It’s called ironic parenting. It’s a new thing.

I just invented it this afternoon.

Right then.

Because my brain is working top-notch right now on sleep deprivation and Mega Stuf Oreos.Almond Poppy Seed Muffins with Brown Butter Glaze

So, anyway, Little Five Year Old Buddy, you might want to keep on keepin’ on with your very own Mamacita, lest I bust out the irony on you and yell at you for yelling.


Let’s just eat muffins instead.

Because they ARE good.


Almond Poppy Seed Muffins with Brown Butter Glaze

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 12 muffins

These muffins are delicious even without the glaze, so if you're in a hurry, skip it and they'll still be super yum! Also - I used almond meal in this recipe because, even thought muffins are really just cake, I wanted to cram some protein into the mix for a healthier kick. You could sub in finely chopped or ground almonds (by way of food processor), or skip the almonds and just use a full cup of whole wheat flour instead. I also had every intention of using full fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream - again - for the healthy/protein factor, but when it came down to baking time, I was missing the Greek yogurt. I'm sure these muffins would still be just as tasty subbing Greek yogurt for the sour cream.


  • For the muffins:
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 3/4 cup wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (or ground almonds, or super finely chopped almonds)
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup full fat sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • For the glaze:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (give or take) heavy cream (half and half or milk would work too)
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • pinch of salt


Line a 12 muffin tin with paper baking cups, or grease with butter.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine white flour, wheat flour, almond meal, poppy seeds, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Whisk to mix.

In a small bowl, add eggs. Whisk lightly. Add in almond and vanilla extracts and sour cream. Stir together thoroughly with a fork. Slowly pour in the melted/cooled butter, whisking with the fork at the same time, until combined.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour wet ingredients in the well, and stir together with the fork, mixing until just combined (make sure to mix all the way down to the bottom of the bowl, pulling up all of the dry ingredients off the bottom).

Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups. (I used my ice cream scoop to do this and it worked like a charm!)

Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees, and continue to bake for 15-18 mninutes, until the edges of the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow muffins to cool on a wire rack for 2 minutes. Then carefully remove them from the muffin tin and allow to cool completely.

For the glaze:

Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat.

Melt the butter, and allow it to continue cooking. It will sizzle and sputter and then become quiet. Continue to cook (swirling occasionally to avoid burning), watching it carefully, until the solids become brown and you smell a nutty aroma. Immediately remove from heat and pour into a small bowl. Whisk in the powdered sugar with a fork. Add in the almond extract and the pinch of salt. Slowly add in the heavy cream, one teaspoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. I wanted mine thick enough to pipe through the corner of a sandwich baggie so I used only 2 teaspoons, but you could do it a little thinner and just dip each muffin top for a smooth layer of glaze.

Muffins stay delicious, tightly covered, for at least 3 days - maybe more, but we didn't have them around long enough to find out!


Sara| Home is Where The Cookies Are


Vaca Frita (and a recipe for traditional crock pot roast)

Vaca Frita - a traditional Cuban dish of shredded beef, garlic, onions, and lime.

From last Wednesday (When I originally started this post. Yes. It’s taken me that long. Don’t ask, and I won’t bother telling. I know the world keeps turning):


I just:

- ate three mini-boxes of candy hearts

- glanced at the supplies for a Valentine’s craft that I’ve had for a week and I’m wondering if I can squeeze it out and share it with you before, um, Valentine’s Day.

- started thinking it needs to be an Springtime craft. . . . (CONFIRMED).

- put away 3.5 lbs of slow cooked pot roast, and I’m ok with that, because it means tomorrow or the day after, we get VACA FRITA, rice and beans, and roasted plantains. We will all now commence in a family wide happy-dance. (If you don’t know what Vaca Frita is, well, I feel a little sad for you. But no worries. I’ll show you. Then you too, can know the bliss of: fried cow. I know, right?? Vaca Frita sounds so much better.)

- licked chocolate off my three-year-old’s arm.

- Finished day two of this study.

- disciplined double kiddos earlier today at the park with the patience of a saint

- disciplined the kiddos at home hours ago with the patience of a rabid gorilla

- cooled off and orchestrated a round of apologies similar to a Brady Bunch goodnight routine: you say sorry to him and her and Mom,  you say sorry to her and Mom and him, you say sorry to Mom and him and him, Mom say sorry to her and him and him.

Are we good?

Yep, good.


Hugs all around.

Now let’s all not eat dinner so we can have Vaca Frita tomorrow instead.


Depending on how long you’ve been reading here, you may or may not know I’m part Cuban by osmosis.

Vaca Frita, my friends, is many things.

It is crispy, decadent, fried Cuban deliciousness.

Let me be honest though, too –  I’m pretty sure it’s not the healthiest way to prepare your beef, but you know. . . who cares.

It’s a treat.

This is one of those dishes every member of our family fights over. We hide leftovers from one another, and sometimes, like when my honorary Cuban Mima makes me a dish for my birthday – I guard it, all crazed-like, with wild, shifty eyes and sharp knives. Sorry kids. This is Mama’s vaca frita. Keep your grimy paws off.

Just sayin’.

That’s why I figured it was time for me to learn how to make it on my own.

And if I can make it result as a way to spruce up some leftovers? Bonus.

So this is the dealeo:

You’re getting the recipe for the traditional pot roast I slow cook in the Crock Pot for our dinner meal on day one.

Then you get the recipe for Vaca Frita – shredded beef, fried with onions and garlic and squeezes of fresh lime, then broiled for crispy, perfect edges.

Today’s post is both a virtual and a literal twofer, (two for one.)

Traditional Crock Pot Roast

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours, 20 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours, 35 minutes

Yield: 5-7 servings

This the recipe I use for a single chuck roast ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 lbs. Sometimes I will double the meat in this recipe, so I have more left over. If I do that, I stick with two roasts closer to 2.5 lbs. When you double the meat, it's not really necessary to double the other liquids because the roasts will produce their own moisture as well.


  • 1 (2.5 - 3.5 lb) chuck roast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • About 1 teaspoon coarse salt (for searing)
  • 1 can low sodium beef broth
  • 1 cup red wine ( or one 6 oz mini bottle, or just fill your beef broth can a little more than half way)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • A couple handfulls baby carrots or roughly chopped carrots
  • A couple celery ribs,cut into chunks, leaves included
  • 3 roughly chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 medium/small yellow onions cut into quarters
  • About a teaspoon of coarse salt
  • About a teaspoon of whole peppercorns


Heat a large skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat.

Melt butter with olive oil in the pan.

Sprinkle salt on both sides of roast and rub it in (about a half teaspoon per side).

When the pan is hot and the butter has melted, place the salted roast in the pan and sear it on all sides, until it is deep brown in color. ( this can take up to 10 mins per side).

While meat is browning, add carrots, celery, garlic, and bay leaves to crock pot.

Sprinkle with salt and peppercorns.

When meat is finished browning, remove it from the pan and set it aside on a platter.

Add onion quarters to pan and brown them on their cut sides. Add them to the crock pot.

Turn off the heat for the pan.

Add broth to the pan and scrape browned bits up with a rubber spatula. Add in wine and tomato paste and stir till combined.

Place meat in crockpot, over the veggies, along with any juices that have collected on the plate

Pour broth mixture over the top of the meat and veggies.

Cover with lid and cook on high 4 hour, or low for 6.

If you remove the lid (resist!) add on another 15 minutes to make up cooking time.

Also, if you test your meat and it does not shred, it probably needs another hour or so to cook.

Oh! And if you like stewed potatoes, you can add those in with the veggies too.


Sara|Home is Where The Cookies Are

Vaca Frita

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes


  • 2 medium-small yellow onions, peeled, halved, and sliced in 1/4" slices
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • juice of one lime, divided
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 7 cups shredded beef (I think this was from about 3.5 - 4 lbs of chuck roast)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin


Heat an oven-proof pan or skillet over medium-high heat. (No worries if you don't have an oven-proof skillet - just cover a cookie sheet with tin foil to prepare for the broiling step)

Melt butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in pan.

Add in onions and saute until translucent and just beginning to brown. Add in chopped garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 of the lime juice. Cook till garlic is fragrant - only about 1 or 2 minutes. Add in 1 tablespoon olive oil, shredded beef, coriander, cumin, remaining lime juice, and 1 teaspoon salt.Cook and stir, turning meat, until most of the liquid is absorbed from the bottom of the pan and edges of meat begin to crisp (probably 9-12 minutes). Remove pan from heat, turn off stove top. Place oven rack on the top setting in the oven, and place the pan under the broiler for 3 minutes (if you are using the cookie sheet, pour the meat onto the cookie sheet and arrange in a thin layer, then broil). Stir, and broil for 3 more minutes. Repeat if you want even more crispiness. Remove from oven and turn off broiler.

Taste for salt and lime juice, and add more if necessary.

Serve immediately.


Sara | Home is Where the Cookies Are

One Dough, Twelve Ways

One Dough, Twelve Ways: A versatile drop sugar cookie dough. Make one recipe and dress it a dozen different ways!

What happens when you discover a cookie dough that works as both chocolate chip cookie dough and the best sugar cookie dough ever? (Sugar cookie lovers, Pin this one!)

You make it about once a week, that’s what happens.

Then you start sticking all kinds of accessories on top of the naked dough balls – candied orange bits, salted nuts, white chocolate chunks, leftover peppermints from Christmas (Hey – don’t judge – I bet you have some too. . . .), purple and pink star sprinkles. . . .

And on top of all that kooky fiddling, you realize the dough chills perfectly well rolled up into a nifty little log that can be sliced, topped, and baked any time you darn well please.

Super convenient, versatile dough + custom toppings of choice = awesome & easy cookie making, the products of which can be tailored for just about anyone.

Even your Valentine. . . . hint, hint.

Just imagine all the red and pink things that could find their home atop these babies.

Cherry chips, dried raspberries, cranberries, red hots, heart sprinkles, pink sugar, red and pink M&M’s, strawberry frosting . . . must I go on?

And then when the whole Valentine’s shindig is over, well, the situation is still peachy keen – because you have that loyal and true, unfailingly delicious, (and undecorated!) dough log in the fridge, just waiting to play dress up.

This is cookie decorating on a whole other (as in way less messy and less time-consuming) level.

Twelve bare cookie slices. A whole slew One Dough, Twelve Ways - one versatile sugar cookie dough, dressed a dozen different waysof toppings. Each set of fingers gets to do their own personal thing.


Everyone is happy.

And as far as a home-baked gift goes?

No one ever said we could go wrong with a personalized cookie selection.

This time around our varieties included:

  • Sugar and Chai Spice
  • Toffee Bits and Chocolate Chips
  • Candied Orange and Vanilla Chip
  • Colored Sugar Crystals
  • Dark Chocolate, Salted Pistachio, & Candied Orange
  • Pearled Sprinkles
  • Toffee Pecan
  • Star Sprinkles and Sugar
  • Good Ol’ Chocolate Chip
  • Peppermint Bits and White Chocolate Chunk
  • Traditional Sugar
  • Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips

And just sayin’ – as far as the “untraditional” route goes – Peppermint and White Chocolate, and Candied Orange and Vanilla Chip were superstar frontrunners.

Not that you’ll need my help picking a fave.

I’ll leave that up to you.

One Dough, Twelve Ways

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 9 minutes

Total Time: 24 minutes

Yield: 2-4 dozen, depending on size

This dough is a fabulous sugar cookie dough recipe prepared as just that - sugar cookies, but it's surprisingly versatile and lends itself exceptionally well to all sorts of toppings. One thing to remember during the preparation of the dough is that the method of measuring flour is critical. To get the thin cookies like in the picture, use the method and measurements that I included here. If you like yours a little thicker and fluffier, add a couple more tablespoons.


  • 2 1/4 cups flour (stir, spoon, level method)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare a baking sheet by covering with parchment paper.

Measure the flour into a medium bowl by first stirring the flour in the storage container, spooning it into a measuring cup, then leveling the flour by dragging the flat side of a butter knife across the top of the measuring cup.

Add the baking soda, baking powder, and salt to the flour and stir together.

To the bowl of a mixer, add the room temperature butter and the sugar. Cream together. Add the egg and vanilla. Cream again. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three parts, mixing well after each.

Onto the parchment covered baking sheet, drop heaping teaspoons of dough spaced about 2" apart. Top each with desired "garnish", or roll in sugar and/or spices.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until bottom edges are just turning golden.


Sara| Home Is Where The Cookies Are

Caramel Frosted Banana Walnut Cake

Banana Walnut Cake with Caramel Frosting 550b

 Banana bread. Banana cake. Banana muffins. Freezing bananas.


Obviously I have a banana thing going on here.

Mostly, I buy too many bananas.

And when you buy too many bananas, you end up with brown bananas.

And then you have to find things to do with bananas.

And sometimes you need to switch it up.

So we’ve gone there, a few times, Caramel Frosted Banana Walnut Cakeyou and me.

And we’re going again.

With this cake.

Because, you know.

Too many bananas.


My sister and I had a mini-debate one morning, about whether it’s better to have a little sweet treat in the morning or later in the day.

She was a morning proponent, I was a later in the day proponent.

Let me just tell you – this cake refuses to abide by time regulations.

It pretty much has a voice and says things to you like, “Oh, I would be sooo good with your morning coffee,” and “Just have a little bite as you walk through the kitchen,” and “I’m made with bananas and whole wheat flour, for cripes sake – take two bites, and just park your fork right here on the cake plate for when you come back in five minutes. Why dirty more dishes??”

And you’ll realize, that unless you get it out of the house, you are going to be sneaking bites all day long, rationalizing that it’s just as easy to walk through the kitchen as it is to go through the living room, that laundry would be so much more peaceful if you had a slice as you folded, that what would really feel relaxing is to sit and read and have tea and banana cake, and that you’ve been eating so healthy lately, that what’s a little banana cake between friends – and by friends, I mean you and the couch.

So back to the debate. My in-depth studies have demonstrated this:

A piece of this cake in the morning will hurtle you down a wicked spiral all day long. The spiral may or may not be limited to banana cake.

But say you’ve been avoiding grains and sugar, and then you indulge in a modest square of Caramel Frosted Banana Walnut Cake.

All of a sudden you’re eating Goldfish Crackers and pre-packaged cookies for lunch and following it up with a late afternoon snack of french fries and coffee.

I know. Caramel Frosted Banana Walnut Cake


But it happens.

But let us not condemn the cake.

It is, in fact, an amazing little confection.

A single layer of walnut-studded banana goodness, topped with approximately a half-inch layer of rich caramel frosting.

In my personal opinion, the frosting to cake ratio is perfection. If you’re not a frosting person, then I would venture to say . . . don’t be stupid it’s probably not then, I guess. (But really??)

My advice would be:

Make this cake.

And carefully divide it into portions for friends to whom you can hand it off immediately.

Then they can do things like text you from their car moments after you’ve given it to them and tell you that they are eating it as they sit in the parking lot, sans fork, and oh – they hope they weren’t supposed to take any home to their family because, well – it’s gone.

It’s ok, friend. That was for you and only you. And sometimes I don’t use a fork either. I just face-plant in the cake plate and start chewing.

Caramel Frosted Banana Walnut Cake

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 16-20 small servings

This is a delightful single layer cake - which by nature of not stacking makes it easier. It's impressively delicious, and decidedly homey, which makes it perfect for company or simple after school snacking. It could potentially serve 20 people very modestly sized squares, however, it's probably best shared with no more than 16 - and you may want it just for you and three friends!


    For the Cake:
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted, room temp butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup well-mashed over-ripe banana pulp (about 2 bananas)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • For the Frosting:
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3+ cups powdered sugar (depending on preference for thickness)


Preheat oven to 350F.

Line a 9"x9" square baking pan with parchment paper.

Sift flours, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, add butter and brown sugar. Beat until well combined and fluffy(ish).

Beat in the sour cream and egg until thoroughly combined.

Add in banana pulp and vanilla. Mix well.

Add in flour mixture and beat until combined.

Fold in walnuts.

Pour batter into prepared pan and place in oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean.

Place on cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

When cake is cool, prepare the frosting:

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar. Heat until it comes to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook at boiling for two minutes. Remove from heat and beat in the heavy cream, vanilla and salt. Beat in one cup of powdered sugar. Mix thoroughly. Add in another cup and mix well. Evaluate thickness. Add in more powdered sugar, one half cup at a time until you reach your desired consistency. (I like mine thicker, so I went with about 3.5 cups).

Pour frosting over the top of the cake, working quickly to smooth over the top. The thicker it is, the faster it will develop a dry outer layer.


Adapted by Sara| Home is Where the Cookies Are from The View From Great Island