June Foodie Penpals Exchange!

This month was super exciting for me with the Foodie Penpals Exchange. Not only did I have two new people to interact with, but they both actually were like penpals. It was fun sending emails back and forth and learning about their parts of the country. The person I sent to also goes by Aly, and we joked that we both spell it the “right” way! She has a Tumblr page here you can check out. She likes to be healthy, but not crazily so. I had a good time picking out food for her since I couldn’t go my standard “sweet” route. I didn’t think that would be fair to someone trying to behave diet-wise. 🙂 I wished I could have sent her some of our local cheese since she is a Wisconsinite (get a pro’s opinion), but I didn’t think it would keep properly!

I was also excitedly awaiting to hear from Autumn who is super busy as a student in Indiana. She likes to cook, and is into makeup! Girl after my own heart. It made me really happy when she told me she made the cookie pie I had posted and enjoyed it. Such a sweetie!

Keep reading after the break to see what I received!

 The Lean Green Bean 

What will be inside??

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Slow-Cooker Beef Tacos

Have you ever bought ingredients you intend to use for one recipe then something happens and you’re left with ingredients you need to re-purpose? It happens a fair amount for me. Recently, I wanted to make a beef/cranberry recipe from Kayotic Kitchen. I read through the recipe a few times and was excited because we had cranberries we needed to use at some point, as well as most of the other ingredients. We just needed to buy beef suitable for a stew. Well, after buying 2 pounds of it, I realized that the recipe would take way more time than we had for dinner that night. Since it was a Sunday night, there wouldn’t be time until the following weekend and we would have to freeze the meat, which seemed like a waste since we had bought it for this nice recipe. I looked up so many slow-cooker recipes, but most were for much larger amounts of meat and could not be scaled down. Ugh! We were already planning on having tacos anyway, so I decided to find a slow-cooker taco dish, and I finally found something I could use!  It couldn’t have been easier, and I even was able to make tortillas from scratch.

For our tacos, we like to mash an avocado with some lime juice and cilantro. We also like to chop a tomato and mix with some salt, pepper, cilantro in place of regular salsa.

Of course there is also sour cream and cheese

Oh, and if you think I’m crazy for making tortillas from scratch, you should try them sometime. Not only do you get to control the flavors in them (we added chopped green onions one time), you can keep them healthier than the store ones. I always get so frustrated trying to find lower sodium ones that don’t come in a huge pack that we won’t be able to get through in a reasonable time. This way, I can lower the salt amount, but also only make the number we will need!

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“Grilled” Asparagus with a Yogurt Sauce

I have had asparagus many ways. My dad was always great at grilling it, but we don’t have proper space to have a grill at our house, so we are stuck finding indoor methods. There is always steaming, but for some reason it had been failing us recently. Growing up, veggies for dinner included steaming them with our fancy electric steamer, frozen bags (usually the steamer ones) of veggies, salads, roasted veggies when we had roast chicken, and the occasional one-off dish like our “Spinach Hilda” (recipe maybe to come in the future–it was passed down from my great-grandmother, Hilda).

Anyway, if it is not one of the above recipes, or one that I find, I don’t really have much else to choose from. My husband is fairly picky about veggies and variety, so I typically let him handle it. He is usually a master steamer, but the asparagus hadn’t been coming out crunchy enough lately, so I was excited to find a new easy way to cook asparagus that allowed for crisp stalks. This comes from an America’s Test Kitchen technique. I was doubtful that it would work because I was worried it would dry out the asparagus or make them greasy, but not at all!

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Pretty Much Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy Birthday to me! I wanted to share this post on this day since I think of my mom even more on this day. She always made birthdays special, along with just being a wonderful mom. Thinking of you, Mom, and the signs you used to post around the house on my birthday reminding me what time I was born, my many family nicknames, etc., the desserts you would make (picked out by the birthday person), the special dinner meals you made (picked out by the birthday person), the thoughtful gifts you would give, and the time spent together (shopping days and buying lunch out!).

My mom–a few years younger than I am turning. 🙂

My dad and I from a previous birthday. He does a pretty good job being both dad and substitute mom! Hehe.

Now onto the cookies!!

I had to include my husband K, who does “his darndest” to keep my birthdays happy. And he does love his cookies…(ignore the bread in the background, which may be part of a future post)

Just a quick note…I recommend this other recipe now in 2016.

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Chihuly Glass Bowls–SprinkleBakes

I was enjoying a beautiful Seattle day, which means wandering around farmers markets, going into little shops, etc., when we decided to make our first visit to a store called Book Larder. What’s great about them is that they only carry food books! I was in heaven browsing the books. One of the first ones I saw was “SprinkleBakes” and I was excited. You see, I had just started following her on Twitter and through her blog, so I had remembered her saying there was a book, but didn’t really think much about it at the time. At the store, I was able to look through it and I saw so many things I wanted to try. I am not a very good “let’s make things pretty” baker, but this book inspired me to try. Plus, she gave lots of hints and clear steps that made it easier to see how to do it. My husband got it for me and I was happily reading it the whole way home.

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Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

I have been making macaroni and cheese for my husband for many years now. I have done different recipes, different variations, different seasonings. Finally I have settled on a recipe that satisfies us on an average day. It’s cheesy, and can be popped in the oven for just a few minutes to get a nice crunchy topping while remaining gooey underneath. I wanted to share it because it is such a dependable recipe that I can make at any given hour (yes, I stock pasta and shredded cheese). You don’t need any cream or fancy milk, which is part of the reason I like it.

Crunchy and creamy in one!

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3 Simple Salmon Recipes

Copper River Salmon came to the Seattle area and I think everyone went just a little salmon crazy. I picked some up at the local grocery store for a whopping $22 a pound, having no idea how much it should be. But, it was fresh and wild caught, so I was satisfied. It ended up tasting so good that we had to buy it again. Lo and behold, Costco had it (of course in large form) for $10 a pound! We picked up a pack that had two pieces so we could freeze one. Luckily, we were able to entertain our friend Lisa with the salmon, as well as the mushroom recipe. Because we had so much salmon to make, I wanted to try it with several preparations. Our favorite ended up being the brown sugar one because you could really taste the salmon. The other two were still good, but they would be better served on a more basic salmon.

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