Fig Bruschetta 

When I used to think of August only hot, sticky days with a longing for a Pumpkin Spice Latte would come to mind. Until I discovered a love of fresh figs. My co-worker had a fig tree and would bring them in for me at work. The first time she brought them I had no idea what to do with them. She suggested I make a version of this delicious bruschetta. I fell in love after that. It is sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy all at the same time. Truly just one of the most decadent but simple appetizers you can make.

Sadly, her tree did not make it through a harsh winter a few years ago and now every August I am left searching for decently priced figs.  Luckily, I have been able to find good deals at our farmer’s markets and Trader Joe’s. I am also patiently awaiting for my own little fig tree to grow from a cutting that same co-worker was able to grow from her old tree. (I work with some of the best people!)

If you have never had a fig before, give this bruschetta a try and see what you think!

  • 1 French baguette
  • One container of either blue, goat or feta cheese
  • Fresh figs
  • Honey
  • Coarse sea salt

Set oven to 350 degrees and slice baguette on a bias. Cover with cheese of your choice (my favorite is blue). Remove stems and halve your figs, slice them so they will fan out. Place bread in oven for about 5 minutes, just long enough for cheese to begin to melt.


Remove bread from the oven and switch oven to high broiler. Place one half of a fig on each slice of bread. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with sea salt. Place under broiler for 1-2 minutes, keeping your eye on them to prevent burning. Remove and try not to eat an entire baguette of bread. 

 

I hope you enjoy this delicious treat! What is your favorite way to eat figs??

-Holly (@hollyamethyst)

Finding My Self Confidence

Today, we have our very FIRST guest blogger,Teri, from The Last Dish. She and Stacy are good photographer friends! Stacy contacted her to write a post for us and I have to say that I am BEYOND impressed with Teri’s talent, in both photography and writing! We have had the chance to chat recently and I believe she does not realize how great of a talent she does have! Everyone, please give Teri a warm welcome! To find this recipe and other great recipes, head over to her blog and see what your heart is hungry for:  www.thelastdish.com

I was 11 years old. It was summer, I have no idea which month. I was surrounded by

friends at a church ice cream social and we were eating more than our share. My

mother had submitted her famous banana ice cream, and I’ll admit, I ate more of

that kind than any other. Banana has always been my favorite and I wasn’t afraid to

say so. Apparently, other people weren’t afraid to say so either. She brought home

the first prize ribbon.

At 11 years old, I was completely at home in my body and in my personality. I knew

who I was, where I was going, and what I was capable of…and I worked it! Heavens

above, did I ever work it. I was anything but shy. I would sing in front of perfect

strangers. I loved being on stage dancing. I made a list at that age of the “20 Reasons

My Future Husband Would Be The Luckiest Guy To Marry Me”. No joke. Granted, I

could be loud and obnoxious about my talents sometimes. I definitely could have

used a little more tact. But, I didn’t lack confidence. I was full of it to overflowing.

Then something happened. I entered middle and high school and I began to question

myself. I remember singing in choir in a brand new school and hearing a girl behind

me say “Off pitch much?”. To this day, I still don’t know if she really was talking

about me or not…but I have sung more cautiously ever since. At a church dance, one

of my friends joked that I “danced like a spaz” and suddenly, I couldn’t dance freely

anymore. It paralyzed me. Every time I got up to dance, I would critique myself and

ask, “Am I dancing like a spaz right now?” Probably the hardest blow of all was

hearing a friend in a hallway tell someone else that I was “far too confident” and it

“made them feel inferior”. Really? I didn’t want my friends to be uncomfortable

around me. And so I started playing smaller than I was…you know…to help them feel

somehow bigger.

Worrying so much about what everyone thought of me led to a quiet death of many

of my talents and my self-confidence. Before long, I found myself in the downward

spiral of depression. The depression chased away the people that surrounded me.

By trying to “tone down” my confidence to make everyone more comfortable around

me to hopefully gain more friends, I lost myself. When I no longer felt comfortable in

my skin, I began a cycle of negative thoughts and self-talk that made me unpleasant

to be around. And in the end, my existing friends began to pull away.

No matter how hard I tried to fit in. No matter how much I tried to jam my

personality and my body into the mold presented in pop culture, it just wouldn’t fit

right. Before long, I began to feel that something must be wrong with me.

I was right. Something WAS wrong with me.

I had forgotten who I was. I had forgotten that I came to earth with a special

personality and a special mission. A mission that no one else could accomplish. My

gifts, my talents, my quirks…even my weaknesses…they were all needed to help

others, lift others, and bring a ray of sunshine to this earth. When I tried to be

someone else…or even just a different version of me…my light dimmed.

As I have embraced my crazy, fun-loving, fast-paced, creative, loud, sometimes

thoughtless and scatter-brained self I have come to see the truth. Being who I am,

the very best version of who I really am, gives others license to do the same. As I

spread my wings to see how high I can soar, I inspire others to take flight too. And

those flaws? Well, they keep me approachable. No one likes a perfect friend.

I am no longer that innocent 11 year old brimming with confidence, sitting with a

gaggle of friends eating ice cream with delight.

No, I am now a 35-year-old woman who finds joy in my perfectly average body, full

of stretch marks and cellulite that bear witness that I am a mother. I have confidence

that I am capable of accomplishing whatever I choose to work hard at. I have a deep

understanding of my talents as well as my weaknesses. I have confidence that the

right friends will choose to see the good in me and will be patient with my flaws. I

have a husband that tells me almost daily that he is “The Luckiest Guy” because he

married me. And I finally know that I am loveable, exactly the way I am.

I used to think that to be “perfect” meant to be just like everyone else. Now I

understand that humanity is a recipe…full of different ingredients that together

make something more than the sum of its parts. I may not be the sexiest

ingredient…nor the most organized, but I am needed and valued and the recipe

wouldn’t be the same without me. I am “perfect” for the life I have been given. And

there is joy in knowing that.

Today as I sat on the porch with my kiddos watching them eat my updated version

of my Mom’s banana ice cream, I realized this is what I want most for them. I want

them to know who they really are, what they are capable of, and that they are

loveable and important…just the way they are.

banana ice cream 1 (1)                                      Banana IceCreamIMG_3518                                                                              Banana IceCreamIMG_3545 (2)                                                                         Banana IceCreamIMG_3575                                                                            Banana IceCreamIMG_3635                                                                                                  Banana IceCreamIMG_3678

BANANA ICE-CREAM

Rating: 9
Serves: 8-12
INGREDIENTS:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups milk (I used 2 percent)
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 “freckled” bananas (You want completely ripe bananas which are yellow with little black “freckles”. The bananas in the pictures are underripe for this recipe…but are prettier for pictures.)
INSTRUCTIONS:
In a medium saucepan, heat heavy cream and milk over medium heat until hot and steaming, but not boiling. (Do not let it boil! I’m serious.)
Place egg yolks in a heat-resistant bowl. (I prefer metal, glass or ceramic so your eggs and cream don’t pick up any funky tastes from a plastic bowl). Temper the eggs by adding 1 ladle of hot milk to the bowl while stirring constantly. Add 1 more ladle of milk and continue to stir. Then add the milk/egg mixture to the rest of the milk in the saucepan. Continue to stir over medium-low heat until mixture thickens. (Never let it come to a boil or the eggs will curdle). The mixture is ready when it thickly coats the back of a metal spoon (about 6-8 minutes). Remove from heat and pour mixture into a heat-proof bowl.
Add sugar, salt and vanilla to the milk mixture and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved.
Chill the custard in the refrigerator until cold.
Mash bananas and fold into the custard.
Place the custard into the canister of your ice-cream maker and follow the directions for your machine.
You can either eat the ice-cream soft-serve straight from the ice-cream maker or scoop into a metal or glass loaf pan. Place plastic wrap over the ice-cream mixture and press down gently over the ice-cream to close off all air exposure to the mixture. Place pan in the freezer for 4 hours or overnight. Scoop and serve.
Store any leftovers in the freezer in a sealed freezer-safe container.

Gardening With Kids

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My husband, friends and I love our huge vegetable garden that we spend many hours tending to each summer. So it was only natural that my daughter has become involved in the garden as she has gotten bigger. Here are my top 5 reasons to start your own garden and get your kids involved!

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1. Exercise: If anyone thinks that gardening doesn’t burn calories, I dare you to haul a few wheelbarrows of dirt and shovel it out! Gardening is that kind of exercise that you don’t really realize you are doing until you work up a sweat and can barely walk for the next two days. My daughter really enjoyed shoveling dirt while we got the garden prepped this spring for planting and as she gets older she will help more and more with weeding (I’m anxiously awaiting those days!)

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2. Learning about nature: We love going out and looking at our garden to learn more about nature. Grace has found different kinds of worms, lady bugs, spiders and some other pests that we had to remove. She is learning what bugs are good for our garden and what bugs are not. She loves to go search for lady bugs.

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3. It’s good for the earth: In case you have somehow missed the last few years of news, California is in a huge drought. They grow a lot of our food, make that most of our food. Not only that, but when you are purchasing food from somewhere else there are economic and ecological costs to get that food to you. Help mother nature by eating food from right outside your back door! This is a great opportunity to have discussions with your children about taking care of our planet.

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4. Sensory Input: If you have ever spent a single minute on Pinterest, I am sure you have seen lots of ideas for “sensory activities”. It’s true- kids and adults alike really benefit from sensory activities. Gardening can hit all of your senses at once! You can smell the different plants, taste the herbs or the fruits, feel the prickly leaves of a squash or the dirt between your fingers, listen to the birds or bees around your garden. All of that sensory input means that you and your kiddo will likely come inside just a little bit more relaxed.

5. YOU GET FOOD! Hands down, the best reason to have vegetable garden is that you get to grow your own food! One of the best feelings is to walk outside and pick the literal fruits of your own labor and eat them for dinner. Your kids will be much more likely to at least TRY new fruits and vegetables if they have planted them, tended to them and watched them grow. Don’t get me wrong, I still can’t get Grace to eat a cucumber to save my life but she was pretty darn happy about picking green beans!
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Now what do we do with all of those veggies?? Here is my kid friendly (and healthy!) garden fritter recipe!

For this recipe I used:

1 medium carrot*

1 medium summer squash (crookneck, straightneck, zucchini, etc) *

About 1 cup of panko bread crumbs

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp granulated garlic

1 tbsp parmesean cheese

1 egg

*you can easily substitute these for other vegetables

Pre-heat oven to 375. Grate vegetables and squeeze out excess water. Add 1TBSP of panko and reserve remaining, add all other ingredients to bowl and mix.

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Put remaining panko in a shallow bowl or dish. Form mixture into patties. Bread patties in panko and place on baking sheet.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes. I like to switch to the broiler for just a minute or two at the end to get a nice brown crust on top.

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Kiddos in the Kitchen

24 HOURS in a DAY, 168 HOURS in a WEEK… 8,760 HOURS in A YEAR…..TIME, TIME , TIME! Life is centered around deadlines, time frames and schedules! Tons must be done  in the 24 hours we are given from the guy upstairs!

My typical day looks like this as a WAHM (work at home mom)…

Alarm goes off at 5:30AM—– Snooze. Snooze…..Snoooooooooooze….. 6:45AM RUSH to get ready for the day— drive 45 minutes to school—- head to the office to fill orders, order product, work on blog posts, coordinate collaborations, organize local events (if it’s Monday or Wednesday) —-OR back home, work on tax returns, do a little bookkeepoing, research, consult…whatever my client’s needs are.  All BEFORE 2:30… oh wait, I forgot lunch is squished in at some point—-okay… NOW we can head across town, pick up the munchkin (he’ll hate me for this one day), an hour of homework, soccer practice/baseball practice, karate, swimming lessons…you get the picture! Get home 7PM and NOW it’s time for DINNER…. wheewww I have not once in my day thought about dinner time and here we are ready to eat an entire horse and there is NOTHING prepared…… 

If I make it through the day and look semi-decent, I am lucky! Often, this is what you will find….

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——-so here’s where my quick-prep, kid friendly meals find their place:

As a single mom, I often found myself in a situation where dinner needed to be prepped, but I also had a whiney toddler that wanted attention and laundry that needed to be done. So oneday I decided to let this whiney toddler help prepare dinner…..ahhhhhhaaaaaaa BRILLIANT!

We started with him pulling ingredients from cabinets,  then we added the responsibility of mixing ingredients…. no matter how messy he got, I was always grateful for those two (very tiny) hands helping in the kitchen.

I relate to those mommas who have 8 things going on at once and have become creative out of necessity…. so here’s my insight on getting a child in the kitchen to help prepare a meal:

1.) FUN—- must be fun and entertaining–attention spans are short— let them grate the cheese and shake it up a bit— a mess you say? sure, but now you have cheese for tacos, fajitas, eggs— anything your heart desires!

2.)MESSY-thing will get messy-let it go! The above grated cheese, once was ALL OVER the kitchen cabinets, floors and stove. We laughed, cleaned up the mess and continued on with dinner.  The best part of it all is we have an awesome story to share with others!

3.)EASY-meals do not have to be elaborate every night, make it quick and easy! 3 ingredients and GO!

4.)PLAN-you must know what your child is capable of doing safely. Make sure to have prepared the meal (or the like) once so that you are aware of what he can or cannot assist you with. Prep work is always fun for littles—prep veggies ahead of time and freeze–my son loves to help with this–our weekly dates are often spent in the kitchen prepping for the upcoming week’s meals, YES—I am SERIOUS!

5.)ENJOY-ENJOY with your family! Jon and I enjoy grocery shopping for new ingredients to try…the latest…. BUFFALO, GOAT CHEESE and PROSCIUTTO…. and it was FANTABULOUS…!

Here’s one of our FAVORITE recipes to prep together

1/2 Cup Ketchup

1/5 Cup Brown Sugar

Soy Sauce (low sodium) to taste

Mix the three above and you have yourself a TERIYAKI sauce! Is it restaurant quality? Nope! BUT my son loves it, it tastes great on chicken and it literally takes 5 minutes to prep. As far as the chicken, just put a few pieces in the oven and bake until cooked. This can be prepped ahead of time and the sauce added to the chicken (and those prep-ahead veggies— add that to the mix and now it’s a GOURMET meal)….genius, I know! 

We have consistently been in the kitchen together and Jon now says he wants to be a chef. He’s proud to say that he has upgraded from BUTTER KNIVES to SHARP KNIVES, as seen in the picture below:

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And just last weekend, he cooked scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast for the two of us #hubbyinthemaking!

Unfortunately, I have not figured out the laundry situation just quite, but when I do, I’ll make sure to let you in on the little secret!

Bon Appetit,

Brandi & Jon