DIY Mascarpone

Homemade mascarpone is only a few steps away.

DIY Mascarpone

Cheese-making might be my new obsession. I’m loading up on cheesecloth. Errands have been scheduled around trips to the store that sells the best rennet selection. I might be trying to convince my husband that we need to move to an acreage so I can have goats for milking. This is all normal, right?

It’s not like I’m going to drop everything to have my own cheese business. But maybe I could.

I first got hooked on making cheese at home with this simple ricotta-style cheese, getting totally mesmerized watching the curds form after pouring in the vinegar. Food science and poetry, mingling together right there in my pot.

Mascarpone is even easier. Considering how much mascarpone costs at the store, it’s like a dirty little secret that all you need is good, quality cream and some citric acid. And time, but, well, most of that is the cheese just doing its thing in your fridge.

This revelation might actually be a dangerous thing for me, because now I’m obsessing over finding new ways to use mascarpone. Dessert, obviously. Breakfast dishes, sure. Stuffed in pasta or stirred into risotto? Now we’re talking.

I let this sit for about 16 hours, but it really doesn’t need that long. The longer it sits, the more whey is drained out, so you might find yourself needing to stir some whey back in to achieve that creamy texture mascarpone is known for. Definitely do not throw away the whey, because it’s a great addition to a variety of things. I like to use it in pancake batter or use in place of yogurt in a smoothie for a protein boost that isn’t thick.

If you have 15 minutes of time tonight you can have fresh mascarpone ready by morning. What’s stopping you?

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Fit Foodie 5k Recap

FitFoodie 5k image

On Saturday I ran my first-ever 5k. It wasn’t pretty (in fact, I checked out the official race photos and I look like an ugly boy) but I finished feeling pretty great. It had been hard to leave my bed that morning. It was cold and wet outside, and I had an extremely snuggly baby, but what would have been the point of the weeks prior if I didn’t show up?

Buffalo meatballs

The night before we had been treated to some savory bites from Seersucker, plus cocktails, beer, and wine. I love the idea of a pre-event cocktail party, but it was pretty hard to get to thanks to traffic created by the rain, especially for those of us coming right after picking up our bibs. I missed most of my FitFoodie Ambassador friends that night, but it was great to meet representatives from Cooking Light and Health magazines.

Saturday morning was a rush of getting ready after I forced myself from bed. I arrived much later than I had planned, getting to the Mueller Hangar just as the group warm-up was finishing. There was a throng of people and I didn’t see anyone I knew, and I started to panic a little — as an introvert, I needed a friendly face around!

Luckily I caught sight of Kristin and Chris just before the second wave went off. Chris, being a seasoned runner, shot off, and Kristin and I gave it our all with a run-walk combo. Eventually I went off on my own (sorry Kristin!) and found the other runners around me to be good motivation to do each running section just a little bit more than I would have if I were alone.

I use MapMyFitness on my phone when I run, and it cheerfully told me my pace at each mile marker. I was slightly stunned to hear that I was beating all my training paces, and I think that helped propel me to the finish.

FitFoodie Food

Now, I don’t know what other finishers’ villages are like, but let me just say I was glad I worked up an appetite! There were bites to eat from a variety of local restaurants, like a pretty kale salad from Congress and refreshing marinated watermelon from Diesel Foods. Plus more food from Cooking Light, Zilks, Way Better Snacks, and Sahale, and drinks like Zico coconut water, Daily Greens juices, Lifeway Kefir, and my favorite spicy chai from Bhakti Chai. Everything was fresh, flavorful, and of course, healthy. My only wish was that the nitro Cuvee had actually been a hot coffee, because after I recovered from sweating out the run, I was freezing!

FitFoodie mimosas

I’m always surprised at events when I don’t see the people I know — maybe I was too focused during my run to notice the others, and then afterward too focused on grabbing a snack. My friend Maggie was actually a few steps behind me in the finish line photos, but we didn’t see each other until we were both grabbing a post-race coconut water!

FitFoodie 5k picture

After heading home it took me a long time to warm up. That shower might have been the best in ages! Am I good at running? Nope. But I did it, and I’m already looking for another opportunity to get my feet moving!

Disclaimer: As a Fit Foodie Blog Ambassador, I received free entry to all weekend events as well as pre-race swag. I was not otherwise paid to participate, and my jiggly butt appreciates the encouragement to get out and run.

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Saving Time with Instacart (Weekly Meal Plan, September 15)

Is it October yet? I’ve had so many things going on lately that I’m surprised I remembering to sleep and eat. It feels like I am doing nonstop from the moment I wake up, whether it’s cooking or writing or going for a run or helping with homework. It’s gotten to the point that I almost feel guilty taking a real lunch break, and I’ve been trying to time all my errands to the most-efficient zone, which means after rush hour but before lunch hour — a very slim window in Austin.

Friday morning came and I was groaning, knowing that I needed to get to the grocery store and finish some recipe testing before heading off to the pre-race event for the Fit Foodie. Instacart to the rescue! Rachel over at Whole Foods Market Austin had asked me if I wanted to try out the service, and I was so excited to be able to have someone else take care of my shopping (note: I do freelance with the Global offices at Whole Foods Market, but I participated in this trial because of my blog).


The Instacart interface is pretty simple: you put in your zip, it gives you a list of grocery stores to choose from, and then you search for whatever products you want. I only had two issues with the whole process — first, I wanted Bibb lettuce, but the search function got hung up and wouldn’t return results. Second, not all of the products have images, so when I went to select a 2-pound bag of carrots, I thought I was selecting whole carrots, but I ended up with baby carrots in my order. Not a huge deal, but a little bit annoying.

One of the best things about it is that your shopper calls from the store to verify certain items for you. I had added kiwi and butternut squash to my cart because both were on sale, but when she arrived at the store, only non-sale organic was available. I’m thankful she called, because I definitely didn’t want to be paying organic per-pound prices on huge winter squashes!

They also send you a text when your order is on its way to your house, and then again later to rate the service. I have to admit I’m smitten. For food bloggers who are constantly running to the store or parents who are just too busy, Instacart is amazing.

Right now through October 11, Whole Foods Market and Instacart are doing a giveaway of free groceries for a year. Read more about it here.

Instacart is available in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Sign up here and get $10 off your first order (referral link).

Since I already had my grocery shopping taken care of, it was really easy to do our meal plan. Here’s what we’re eating this week!

Monday: Aloo Chole (basically, chana masala with potatoes)

Tuesday: Club sandwich wraps

Wednesday: Slow cooker meatloaf

Thursday: Vegetable stir-fry

Friday: Homemade fish sticks

Saturday: Butternut squash and black bean tacos

Sunday: Tuna pasta salad

Snacks & Such: English muffins, chicken stock, chocolate chip cookies

What are you making this week?



Disclaimer: Whole Foods Market and Instacart provided me with groceries and delivery for the purpose of review for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

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It’s Here: Where Slow Food and Whole Food Meet

A few months ago, I was asked to participate in a slow cooker cookbook project. I’m pleased to announce that the cookbook is ready for purchase, and it’s full of great recipes and beautiful photos. Called Where Slow Food and Whole Food Meet, this cookbook was created with busy families without a lot of resources in mind.

Where Slow Food and Whole Food Meet cover image

The book release coincides with Hunger Action Month, a nationwide campaign mobilizing the public to take action on the issue of hunger. All proceeds from the sale of this book go toward the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, which will be able to provide more meals for needy families. You can buy the book on Amazon right here.

In addition, Feeding America food banks from across the country are giving the ebook version as a free gift to their donors. If you make a donation you will be given the ebook as a free gift! How great is that? Donate right now and get your free ebook by clicking here.

Some great sponsors have decided to help out as well! San Miguel Produce, Grimmway Farms, and Old Oak Farms by RPE Produce  are making some big contributions to help end hunger. They are each contributing food to their local food banks AND they are giving $5 for every print copy of the book sold. They’re also donating two print copies of each book for us contributors to give away. Plus, Hamilton Beach has provided slow cookers that many of the participating bloggers (including me!) are giving away!

Want even more?

The co-editors of the book, Christine and Jennifer, are also giving away one prize of free carrots for a year from Grimmway Farms, one prize of free greens for a year from San Miguel and a potato prize pack from Old Oak Farms by RPE Produce including 40 pounds of potatoes and 1 Bamboo Bowl, 1 cutting board, 1 pepper mill, 1 measuring spoon set, 1 recipe booklet, 1 about potatoes booklet. Visit their blogs to enter to win those very special prizes.

Hamilton Beach Slow CookerSo, want to win a Hamilton Beach Set & Forget® Programmable 6 Quart Slow Cooker?

  • Leave a comment telling me about your favorite slow cooker recipe.
  • I’ll choose one winner to get the slow cooker and a copy of the cookbook, and an additional cookbook winner!
  • US participants only!
  • Open through September 30

Don’t forget to join us for our Twitter party on September 18, 9pm Eastern! Follow #slowNwholeCookbook to participate.

To see all the amazing bloggers who participated in this cookbook  and to see where you can go to enter for more chances to to win all of these prizes, visit Christine and Jennifer’s blogs.

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Weekly Meal Plan, September 1

Ahhh, September. The crisp air, the colorful leaves, the chilly nights… or not, since I live in Texas. Still, I can’t keep those seasonal memories from my bones, and I automatically crave hard squash and soups once school starts.

Last week I hit Costco and of course couldn’t resist picking up a few cookbooks, A Forest Feast and Against All Grain. I’m looking forward to cooking from both. I can never ignore the cookbook section at Costco; they have a ton of grain-free books right now if you’re needing some fresh inspiration to take you into the typically heavy cooler months.

a forest feast

I don’t know how I had never checked out A Forest Feast before, because it checks off all my aesthetic taste buds. Vibrant photos, cute watercolor illustrations, recipes written with personality. I love the handwritten aspect combined with images and drawings. If I could draw it’s exactly what I’d want my own cookbook to be like.

Last week I had a hard time adjusting to the new schedule, probably harder than my son had! Last year we did aftercare but the baby was home with me; this year the baby is in daycare but I’m picking up the first grader directly from school. I’m surprised what a shift that 1.5 hours has created for my work flow.

Here’s what we’re eating this week. I’ve included the breakfast and snack items I’m making. These should last us for the whole week, but you never know!

Monday: Butternut squash, kale, and beans*

Tuesday: Chicken tortilla casserole*

Wednesday: Beef tacos

Thursday: Happy birthday to my husband! The kids will have spaghetti and go to bed, then the adults will have a nice cut from Salt & Time.

Friday: Oven-fried fish

Saturday: Homemade pizza

Sunday: Vegetable stir-fry

Breakfasts: Belgian waffles (make-and-freeze batch), Chocolate avocado doughnuts*

Snacks: Wheat Thins (Simple Bites), Chocolate Marshmallow Crispy Squares

Post coming soon

What are you eating this week?

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Snickerdoodle Muffins

Snickerdoodle Muffins

Now that school is back in session, I’m back to all the muffins, all the time mode. By which I mean, making all sorts of different muffins to have on hand for breakfasts, lunches, and snacking.

The main issue with muffins in my house is that they’re hard to keep in stock. Whenever I make a batch, I (and whoever else is home at the time) can’t resist eating one or two right out of the oven. I made blueberry muffins with fresh berries from the market when we were in Minnesota a few weeks ago, and I ate three in a flash. I  just can’t help myself.

It’s hard for me to get tired of muffins because there’s so many things you can do with them. Now, I know some people think muffins are just glorified cake, and I suppose that’s true, but I don’t care for cake the way I do muffins. It’s so much easier to snack on muffins, especially when it comes to these snickerdoodle muffins.

Are you a fan of snickerdoodle cookies? They’re a step above sugar cookies, with a nice crunchy exterior but a soft interior. These muffins are just like that! With a layer of cinnamon-sugar sprinkled onto the batter just before baking, these muffins rise with a crinkly top, making them more than a vanilla muffin.

I highly recommend eating these while they are still warm from the oven. You can store them in an airtight container once cooled, just pop them into the microwave for a few seconds to warm them up and get them ready for a pat of butter. Because all muffins are better with butter, right?

And if you want to be a person after my heart, toss some fresh blueberries into these muffins. You’ll be glad you did.

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