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Food Favorites: January 2016

One word: s’mores. Nothing beats them. We had such a fun time roasting marshmallows over our fire pit while my family was visiting earlier this month. I think these gluten-free graham crackers taste better than regular graham crackers!

S'mores Over the Fire Pit | Trés Belle

Taza’s Pan de Jengibre chocolate bar. Holy moly. I bought some on sale at Thrive Market after Christmas and am so in love, I wish I had bought more. Don’t care one bit that it is after Christmas and gingerbread is “out.” This stuff is pure T amazing.

1915 cold-pressed organic juice. I posted a couple of months ago about the Suja juices we’ve been loving. The 1915 juices are pretty similar, though the flavors vary somewhat. We rotate between the 1915 juices and the Suja juices just depending on which brand is on sale. Paying full price for these juices gets expensive! We love the extra dose of organic fruits and veggies, though.

Lots and lots of guac. We have always been guacamole lovers, but Wes has really been killing it in the guac department ever since I got him this nifty avocado tool for Christmas. I wish I could say that we have a homemade recipe, but since we are often pushed for time (especially right now while I’m studying for my licensure exam), we usually use this mix.

Five-Spice Sangria | Trés Belle

For local readers in the Raleigh area: This month was fabulous for my taste buds on account of Five-Spice Sangria at Trophy Brewing, Pumpkin Gingerbread Spoon Cake at Irregardless Cafe, Dirty Shirleys with Covington vodka (local and gluten-free!) at buku, and Succotash Farro Risotto/Chocolate Ganache Tart with Salted Caramel/Moscow Mules at Fiction Kitchen. Now you have dinner and/or drinking plans for next weekend. You’re welcome!

That’s all for this month, y’all…not much cooking going on around here with me studying my tail off for this exam. February 19th needs to come and go, stat!

xoxo Laura

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Food Favorites: December

This month has been all about holiday sweets. Here’s what we’ve been nom-ing on:

These Hello Dollies, which I shared the recipe for just a few days ago! You’re welcome 🙂

Gluten-Free Hello Dollies | Trés Belle

I made these gluten-free gingerbread bars for my work holiday party and topped them off with this easy peasy 2-ingredient white chocolate buttercream. Unfortunately I grossly under-baked them and they did not look presentable enough to take to the party, so I enjoyed more than my fair share at home. They are amazing and oh-so-festive. Just be sure to check with a toothpick before deeming them done.

These snicker-chip-doodles. Yum yum yum so much sugary, cinnamon-y flavor. Y’all know I love trashing things up, so I was all about throwing extra goodies into the snickerdoodle batter. I used a gluten-free all purpose flour mix in lieu of the regular white flour. I also subbed cinnamon chips for the toffee chips because I couldn’t find toffee flavored chips at the store.

Christmas Trash (aka homemade snack mix). Sorry, can’t share the recipe….it’s a family secret that has been entrusted to my husband from his father. The original recipe is sadly not gluten-free, but hubs made a GF version all for me. Love that man.

And in non-junk food news, I have been loving Dr. Praeger’s Sweet Potato Cakes, Spinach Cakes, and Root Vegetable Cakes. ‘Cause ain’t nobody got extra time to cook this month, but we’re still trying to get our veggies and occasionally eat healthy. Also, my acupuncturist recommended I eat sweet potatoes regularly to help with some of my digestive issues, and I am pleased to report that they do seem to be making a difference! Who knew?

What have y’all been loving lately? Any amazing gluten-free sweets recipes to share with another GF sistah?

xoxo Laura

Gluten-Free Hello Dollies

Yesterday was my first gluten-free Christmas, and my sweet mama made it special for me by adapting my favorite Christmas cookie recipe. Isn’t she the best?? So here’s my Christmas present to y’all: the recipe! Even if you don’t need to be gluten-free, you will ADORE these Hello Dollies. Warning: non-professional iPhone photos ahead.

Gluten-Free Hello Dollies |  Trés Belle

This recipe has been in the family for multiple generations. Others make similar variations called seven layer bars, but I think “Hello Dollies” is much more festive, don’t you? When I think of Christmas, I taste the buttery, chocolatey, butterscoth-y flavor of these Dollies melting in my mouth. So. Darn. Good.

Gluten-Free Hello Dollies

Gluten-Free Hello Dollies

Ingredients:

1/2 stick butter
1 cup gluten-free graham cracker crumbs
1 cup shredded coconut
6 oz chocolate chips (make sure they are gluten-free…some chocolate chips contain barley malt)
6 oz butterscotch chips (make sure they are gluten-free…some chips have “artificial flavoring” that is not GF)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups pecans, finely chopped

Spray an 8×8″ or 9×9″ pan with nonstick cooking spray. Melt the butter in the pan. Sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs evenly over the butter, then the coconut over the graham cracker crumbs, then the chocolate chips, then the butterscotch chips. Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top, then sprinkle on the pecans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cover with foil and bake another 5-1o minutes.

Let cool completely, then cut into small squares and enjoy!

Gluten-Free Hello Dollies

Merry Christmas, belles!

xoxo Laura

Food Favorites (November)

Time for monthly food favorites again!! It’s been a great month for food. We’ve had some ah-mazing meals out, both in our own city as well as on vacation. Hello, gluten-free burgers  and pizzas and blood orange olive oil truffles and waffles and hush puppies…

Gluten-free burger | Trés Belle

Gluten-free burger at Farm Burger

 

French Broad Chocolates | Trés Belle

Chocolates and French macaron at French Broad

But back to my own less-than-gourmet kitchen. Here are all of the food goodies and recipes I’ve been loving this month:

Baked Apple Pumpkin Oatmeal Breakfast Pie. I love all of the great nutrients in this baked oatmeal (chia seeds, flax, hemp seeds, oh my!), and it’s downright easy to make, too. I baked it at the beginning of the week and had a delicious and nutritious breakfast just waiting for me in the fridge each morning. I also froze some to pull out later on (it made more than I could eat on my own before I went out of town four days later), and that worked well also. I veganized it by using soy milk and Ener-G Egg Replacer.

Roots Lima Bean Hummus. Oh my gahhhhh so good. It has a whipped texture and is just so fluffy and flavorful. Wes likes the Mango Sriracha flavor as well. And it’s made in NC!

Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers. These have so much flavor and are relatively easy to make. The nutritional yeast is key! A keeper recipe for sure.

Mi-Del Gingerbread Men Cookies. My sweet MIL bought some of these for me to have while we were vacationing for Thanksgiving. So good! And festive. But y’all already knew that I adore ginger anything.

Crockpot Chicken Teriyaki. The very first of the month, I went crazy one Sunday afternoon/evening and made a bunch of freezer meals to have on hand. It actually took me a little longer than I had hoped to get everything purchased, prepped, and in the freezer, but it’s still something I’d do again given how convenient it made dinner prep after work. This crockpot chicken teriyaki was beyond easy and quite tasty (and healthy!). My lazy tail used ginger powder instead of fresh ginger root.

Crockpot Chicken Teriyaki | Trés Belle

The Best Chili on Earth. This was one of the other aforementioned freezer meals. Hubs had been talking about chili for weeks, so it was time to bite the bullet. I omitted the jalapenos, green pepper, and sugar, on account of I want none of those things in my chili. I loved how easy it was…no slaving over the stove for hours on end. Really good topped with avocado, too. If I make it again, I will halve the amount of beef, though. It was a bit too meaty for this vegetarian wannabe.

And of course, we’re still loving homemade pizzas like crazy.

What are y’all eating lately? Tell me so I can steal your ideas!

xoxo Laura

Food Favorites (October)

October has been an absolute whirlwind, and I can’t believe it’s almost over! As I mentioned in my last post, Wes and I kicked off the month by buying a house. It’s taking us awhile to get unpacked and organized! Because of all this craziness, food has had to be two things for us this month: easy and fast. Yes, this sometimes means cereal for dinner. Here are the products and recipes I’ve been loving in my kitchen this month:

Tofu Chickpea Stir Fry with Tahini Sauce. On one of the rare evenings when we actually had 10-20 minutes to devote to cooking, this recipe was a winner. So easy and healthy! The key is baking the tofu ahead of time (I did it the night before). This is the only way I will eat tofu from now on. The only “weird” ingredient is the tahini, but thankfully we already had some in the fridge from when Wes attempted to make homemade hummus a few months back. In typical lazy form, I omitted the onion and pepper because I didn’t want to take the time to go buy them. I threw in some garlic to make up for it.

Art of Oil balsamic vinegars. My entire family has a love affair with Art of Oil in Boone, NC. I could probably spend hours in the store sampling all of the different flavors of olive oil and vinegar. I am a huge balsamic lover, and by that I mean that I enjoy drinking it straight from the bottle (yes, I’m a freak). Mixing the vinegars with a little EVOO makes for a perfect homemade salad dressing without all the nasty preservatives and other scary ingredients. Lately, I’ve been dabbling with the vinegars in my cooking as well. This week, I used the Pumpkin Spice White Balsamic Vinegar in a green bean and pumpkin seed pasta that I took to work for lunch. Perfect fall flavor!

Green Bean and Pumpkin Seed Pasta | Trés Belle

Raw Honey. I’ve been reading a lot lately about the health benefits of raw honey, so this month I bought some and started taking a small spoonful with my breakfast each morning. I stopped taking my allergy medication about 6 days ago and while I haven’t been dying, I’m still a little itchy and sneezy. I just bought some local raw honey from the neighborhood farmer’s market today and can’t wait to try it out! Hoping it will help ease some of my allergy symptoms.

Enjoy Life Gingerbread Spice Cookies. I’m jumping the gun a little bit on Christmas cookie season, but these are too good for me to care. I was already in love with the Enjoy Life Snickerdoodle version, so these were an easy sell for me.

Homemade Pizzas. Easy and yummy. We make separate pizzas since I need gluten-free crust (and because Wes likes his pizza SPICY). He buys ready-to-bake dough at the local Kroger or Whole Foods deli counter, and I typically use a pre-made gluten free crust sold by our local farmer’s market food truck. My mom just gave me a GF pizza crust mix that I’m dying to try out next time, though! I like to top my homemade pizzas with lots of spinach to up the health factor. Don’t mind the lopsided shape of our pizza crust in the photo below…we aren’t professional dough stretchers just yet.

Homemade Spinach and Jalapeno Pizza | Trés Belle

What recipes are y’all loving lately? Send me some easy peasy ones!

xoxo Laura

 

Food Favorites (September)

Do y’all like to talk about food? I do, so I’m hoping you’ll enjoy this food favorites post! I’m hoping to do one at the end of every month with my favorite foodie products and/or dishes from the month. I am not a gourmet chef and find myself very pressed for time when it comes to food, so for the most part you’ll find that these posts include quick meal ideas and favorite healthy snacks. Without further ado, here are my September favorites:

Suja Cold-Pressed Juice. This stuff makes me feel amazing. I have so much more energy, and it’s a great option for those like me and Wes who are too busy/lazy to actually cook vegetables. This is the most reasonably priced cold-pressed raw juice we’ve found. Local juicers sell similar products for up to $12/bottle, and the least expensive grocery store alternative is twice as expensive. It’s still pricey, though, so hubs and I usually split one when we buy it (he has his half for breakfast, I have my half with lunch).

September Food Favorites: Suja Cold-Pressed Juice | Trés Belle Blog

Daily Chef Wild Alaskan Salmon Burgers from Sam’s Club. Easy and delicious week night meal. Just heat for eight minutes and you’re done. My kind of dinner! The only problem: Wes and I just let our Sam’s Club membership expire, so I have no clue how we’ll buy more! Anyone know if other grocery stores carry this brand (or a comparable one?). We just didn’t use our Sam’s membership enough to make it worth our while to renew.

Larabars. These are hardly a new obsession for me, but I have especially been loving them this month. They’re such an easy snack to keep in my purse and are nutrient-dense with short, healthy ingredient lists. My favorite flavors are Blueberry Muffin, Lemon Bar, Apple Pie, and Key Lime Pie. I also enjoyed the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Peanut Butter Cookie back when I could eat chocolate and peanuts. (Brief side note gripe: Why is it that there are several Larabar flavors that NO stores carry? Like, has anyone actually seen a Banana Bread or Peanut Butter & Jelly Larabar in a store?)

This Chickpea and Edamame Salad with Lemon and Mint. Mmmm. I made this to take as my lunch one week this month, and it was delicious! And so easy. I’m lazy, so I used bottled lemon juice, freeze dried chives instead of fresh scallions, and dried mint instead of fresh. And, on a side note…do y’all know the trick for taking the rather gaseous properties out of canned beans? One of my mother-in-love’s friends taught me a few weeks ago. After you open the can, soak the beans several times (as in, change the water they’re soaking in several times). The best way is to put the beans in a bowl while you soak so they can spread out some, but I do the soaking right in the can (again, lazy). It really helps to make them more easily digestible!

Build-Your-Own Taco Night. Supa easy but feels like a “real” meal. Wes likes to buy fresh tortillas and corn chips from the Latino market down the street. We usually have black beans, shredded cheese, tomatoes, guacamole, corn, salsa, and sometimes lettuce as filling options. This has been on regular rotation lately. After all, it’s a crime not to take advantage of the 88 cent avocados currently gracing the produce aisle of our local Kroger.

Nutiva Organic Cold-Pressed Hemp Oil. I use it in place of EVOO on my cold salads. Apparently this is one of the latest super foods (it has an ideal omega-3 to omega-6 ratio), so I had to try it. It’s tasty. And no, it does not make you high. While it’s true that hemp oil is derived from the same plant as everyone’s favorite cannabinoid (that’s marijuana for all you non-health care providers out there), it contains no THC (the chemical in marijuana that makes you high). (Is everyone annoyed yet by my excessive use of parentheses?)

So tell me, friends…what dishes/foods are y’all loving lately?

xoxo Laura

Cupcake Bars: The Latest Innovation in Wedding Cakes!

What is more fun than eating a delicious slice of wedding cake? Getting to decorate your cake and eat it, too!

I think cupcake bars are going to be all the rage in weddings this year because they are pure fun. If you’re looking for an entertainment option for your guests other than dancing, this is perfect, because it allows guests to customize their cake with the flavors, frostings, and toppings they love best!

I first learned about this concept when I stumbled across Iced Cupcakes in Raleigh, NC. Couples who use Iced Cupcakes’ cupcake bar option choose three cupcake flavors, five icing flavors, and 10 toppings to have displayed for guests to choose from. Iced Cupcakes has two staff members on hand at the reception to craft the cupcakes to guest specifications so that things don’t get too messy at the bar. Topping choices range from traditional ingredients like chocolate chips to “wacky” options such as cotton candy, pop rocks, and circus peanuts. Iced Cupcakes also provides cutting cakes for the bride and groom for those traditional cake cutting photos.

You can seriously get so creative with these. How fun would it be to have a “signature” cupcake, where you suggest a certain flavor/topping combination for your guests to try?

What do you think, belles? Would you opt for a cupcake bar at your wedding? I think they would also be perfect at a bridal shower or engagement party!

xoxo Laura

p.s. – As always, not a sponsored post!

On Trend: Hand-Painted and Watercolor Wedding Cakes

To be honest, I’m not one to love things that are “trendy” when it comes to weddings. I love a classic feel…details you can look back on 30 years later and still love. However, I have to admit I am smitten with the latest trend in wedding cakes: gorgeous watercolor designs and hand-painted details. Here are some of my favorite hand-painted and watercolor wedding cakes that I’ve spotted lately:

1. How cute is this bright floral cake with the personalized bride and groom motifs? I’m also loving the shape of the bottom tier. So modern and unique!

Personalized, Hand-Painted Floral Wedding Cake Featuring Bride and Groom Motifs - Wedding Belles Blog

via Brides

2. This very classic gold and white cake…proof that you can be on trend and classic at the same time!

3. This watercolor cake in sherbert tones. So dreamy!

Watercolor Wedding Cake in Sherbert Tones - Wedding Belles Blog

via Brides

4. I adore this pink and gold watercolor cake…so elegant!

5. This bold, bright, and beautiful hand-painted floral cake. Those colors!! In love!

6. Seriously swooning over this ornate cake with the hand-painted gold floral designs.

7. This peach and aqua watercolor goodness.

Peach and Aqua Watercolor Wedding Cake - Wedding Belles Blog

via Brides

8. Loving the pretty hand-painted floral designs on this moody blues wedding cake.

Hand-Painted Moody Blues Floral Wedding Cake - Wedding Belles Blog

via flickr

Aren’t these all true works of art? There are so many hand-painted and watercolor possibilities, from bright and cheerful to dark and elegant. What do you think, belles? Are you loving any of these?

xoxo Laura

Classically Carolina: Cheerwine

Try talking to someone outside of the Carolinas about Cheerwine and you’re likely to get some blank stares. This fizzy red beverage, which originated in Salisbury, North Carolina (not too far from Charlotte), is truly a Carolina classic. If Cheerwine is one of your favorites, or if you want to create a signature drink that reflects the local beverage scene, include this soda in the mix!

For a cost-effective signature drink option, ask your caterer or bar tending service to mix Cheerwine and vodka (about 1 oz of vodka to every 6 oz of Cheerwine should do the trick…experiment at home until you get the ratio the way you like it) to serve up to guests. Be sure to give the beverage a clever name. I am partial to “Southern Cheer” or “Carolina Cheer” for this one. If you really want to kick it up a notch, garnish the drink with cute straws or lime wedges. You could even serve it up in glass Cheerwine bottles for a vintage feel.

If you’re a cocktail connoisseur or have a larger bar budget, you can get more creative in the mixology. Take for example this creative “Cheershine” cocktail, which includes Cheerwine, moonshine, and Campari:

What do you think, belles and beaus? Any Cheerwine lovers out there?

xoxo Laura

Internet Roundup: Wedding Disaster Edition

Sometimes, the best thing you can do when something goes wrong is to have a laugh about it. That’s what we’re going to do today…over other people’s disasters, that is! Here’s what I’ve been loving on the Interwebs lately:

1. 13 Big Day DIY Disasters That Will Convince You to Hire a Pro.

13 Big Day DIY Disasters That Will Convince You to Hire a Pro via Loverly - Wedding Belles Blog

via Loverly

2. 5 Insane Things Brides Have Asked Their Bridesmaids to Do. Ohhhh, the drama.

5 Insane Things Brides Have Asked Their Bridesmaids to Do, via Brides - Wedding Belles Blog

via Brides

3. 15 Disastrous Wedding Cakes That Brought Brides to Tears. I’m crying too…because I’m laughing so hard. Cake disasters are my faveeeeee. Give me Cake Wrecks all day long.

15 Disastrous Wedding Cakes That Brought Brides to Tears, via Likes - Wedding Belles Blog

via Likes

Did any readers experience similar wedding day disasters…either at your own wedding or a friend’s? Share with me!!

xoxo Laura