10 Reasons Marriage Is Better The Second Time Around

I was invited to submit my thoughts on why second marriages are better. The piece published in Huffington Post today, with tips from 10 remarried folks. My tips are featured at number 7 on the list!

Here’s what I shared:

  1. What’s one reason second marriages are better than first marriages?

A second marriage is an eyes-wide-open experience; you know what kinds of work are involved and say yes anyway. Plus, you endured a worst-case scenario and not just survived, but thrived! A second marriage means you’ve let go of the ’perfect spouse’ ideal, embraced your imperfections and found the unique ‘must haves’ you need in a life partner.

  1. Give us the rundown on your marriages: How long was your first marriage? How long have you been married this second time around? Has your current spouse been married before as well?

My first marriage lasted six years, almost to the day. I was divorced before I turned 30. I’ve been in my second marriage for five months, following a five-year courtship of what we affectionally call “fits and starts.” My groom was not married previously, but says he’s never been happier to be a second husband!

  1. What’s your brief advice for divorcees who are hesitant to give marriage another shot?

Remember that marriage is a choice, and if you decide to give it another go, be all in. When I put my wedding rings on each morning I consciously choose my spouse. I commit to our relationship. I acknowledge that being married means I forgive past and future transgressions, and I opt to trust. My thrice-divorced mother offers this sage advice too: “You don’t have to marry everyone you love.”

Read the rest of the article on the institute of marriage, 2.0.

Breakfast Cookies

It’s been too long since posting, but rather than look back, I’m looking forward.

I have a friend in Austin, the Maple Syrup Lady, who produces maple syrup in Michigan, then hauls and sells it here in Texas. Part of her business is blogging about recipes. This week she tried a new ‘breakfast cookie’ recipe and I had the pleasure of sampling the results.

Let’s just say my bag of 6 cookies lasted 2 days, and that took restraint. They’re soft and fluffy, moist, tangy, and just the right amount of crunch. They’re like less refined Lara Bars, only WAY less expensive. Not to mention that they’re chock full of fruits and grains, no refined sugar, no butter, no eggs – and potentially gluten free. (If you’re into that). Who doesn’t want to eat cookies for breakfast?!

maple breakfast cookiesIngredients
1 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce
2 Mashed Bananas
2 Tbsp Pure Michigan Maple Syrup
1/2 Cup Raisins or Dried Cranberries
1/4 Cup Chopped Almonds
1 Cup Fresh Strawberries, Diced
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp Sea Salt
1 1/2 Cups Rolled Oats

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine the applesauce, mashed bananas, and maple syrup in a medium sized bowl. Add in the dried fruit, nuts, strawberries, cinnamon, and sea salt. Fold in the rolled oats.

3. Use an ice cream scoop to make 16 cookies. The dough will be loose so pack them together and press down on the middle to make a cookie shape. Place on a prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.

And yes, the Maple Lady has an online store and ships!

The recipe makes 16-18 cookies per batch – 80 calories per cookie.

 

Pumpkin ale cupcake with maple frosting and candied bacon

Rather than a wedding cake, we asked several friends to bake a dozen cupcakes for our reception. I cannot express how awesome they were! We had almond, hostess cakes, mocha, pumpkin chai, chocolate, sprinkles, maple, mini pies, marshmallow and more flavors than I can recall. It was amazing. And delicious! I promise to post pictures when they come in.

In the meantime, here’s the first recipe I collected, from our friend Justin. He kicked butt with the texture and flavor combination, having perfected the treats through trial and error. I present Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes with Maple Frosting and Candied Bacon:

Ingredients:
2 cups cake flobacon cupcakesur
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 TB pumpkin pie spice
1 cup pumpkin puree
6 oz pumpkin ale
6 TBS butter slightly cooler than room temp. firm but yields to a finger.
4 eggs separated
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tarter

Frosting:
6oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2.5 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
4 TBS butter, at room temp
3 TBS maple syrup

Candied Bacon:
4 strips of thick cut bacon (+2 more for bacon snacking while waiting for cupcake to bake)
3 TBS maple syrup
1/8 cup granulated sugar

Candied Bacon Instructions
Place bacon in a foil lined baking sheet and place in a cold oven. Set oven for 375F. Bake to desired level of crispness, 15-30 minutes. Set on paper towels to drain grease. While Bacon is cooling, heat maple syrup and sugar in a sauce pan over Medium/Medium Low heat. Heat to hard crack stage- syrup is dark and foamy,(300F with a candy thermometer, A spoon dipped in the syrup then plunged into ice water will form a hard candy shell). Use tongs and grab a slice of bacon and use a painting motion to get a candy glaze on each bacon strip. Cool candied bacon on parchment paper to avoid stuck bacon. chop into desired sized pieces for cupcake topping.

Frosting Instructions
Whip the butter and cream cheese until fluffy (5-10 minutes with paddle attachment on stand mixer on max). Add maple syrup and mix until incorporated. Add confectioner’s sugar and mix, slowly at first then on high, until frosting is light and fluffy. Frosting can be refrigerated until needed, just mix it up when applying.

Cupcake Instructions: Preheat Oven to 340F

Dry Ingredients
Sift Cake flour with baking soda, baking powder, salt, pumpkin pie spice in a mixing bowl.

Wet Ingredients
Cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy (about 10 minutes on max setting on my stand mixer, with the paddle attachment). While mixer is on, add egg yolks one at a time waiting for each yolk to be fully incorporated before adding next yolk. Batter should have thick ribbony texture. Mix pumpkin puree with pumpkin ale. Add beer/pumpkin mixture to batter while mixer is on. Batter will curdle. Don’t worry. Add cream of tarter to egg whites and whip until cream of tartar is incorporated and the egg whites have big bubbles( i used a hand mixer for the whipped egg whites). Add 1/3 cup of sugar to egg whites and whip until egg whites are at stiff peak stage.

Batter
Add dry ingredients to wet batter in thirds. Fold mixture until just barely incorporated. Add whipped egg whites to batter in thirds. Fold mixture until egg whites are barely incorporated.

Bake
Fill cupcake liners 2/3rd of the way full. Use a toothpick to do a quick stir of each cupcake to settle the bigger bubbles. Bake for 15-25 minutes until internal temp reaches ~200-210F or cake tester/toothpick comes out clean after inserted.

Cool. Frost cupcakes and sprinkle candied bacon on top.

Notes:
Makes 15-18 cupcakes. I think. I was never consistent enough on spooning in the batter to the liners that i can tell you how accurate this is. If you’re scaling the recipe, cream of tarter is 1/8 teaspoon per egg. Recommend doing candied bacon and frosting first before mixing the batter. I used smuttynose pumpkin beer for the cupcakes.

This was the basis of my recipe, http://www.generationyfoodie.com/2011/11/pumpkin-ale-cupcakes-with-maple-bacon.html, but the cupcakes were too thick and verged too close to the muffin realm, the frosting was too thick and not maple enough, and the bacon was barely candied.

“Holy moley!” Shrimp and Parmesan Grits

The only way to enjoy grits is to add butter and cheese. Then add more butter and cheese.  This was the first time I made this dish, and while it’s delish, it’s also decidedly not heart healthy. Which makes this recipe perfect for sharing!

For our first Friends-giving this week, B and I each made a memorable dish. His German Potato Salad is practically legendary now, but my shrimp and grits held their own in the taste test. I’d make this again. In fact, the hubby declared, “Holy moley! These are good!” Thanks for the recipe, Aunt Judy – and Southern Living.

PARMESAN GRITS:
1 tsp salt
2 cups uncooked quick-cooking grits
14 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (not the powdery stuff)
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 TBS butter
SHRIMP SAUCEshrimp n grits
At least 2 pounds unpeeled, medium-size, raw shrimp
pepper and salt
vegetable cooking spray
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS all-purpose flour
1 tsp corn starch mixed with 1 TBS water til smooth
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped green onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp hot sauce
2 cups fresh baby spinach
parsley and lemon slices for topping
DIRECTIONS:

1. Prepare Parmesan Grits: Bring 1 tsp. salt and 8 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in grits. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in cheese and pepper and butter until smooth. Taste and keep warm. TIP: Use a whisk – it helps the fluffiness factor.2. Prepare Creamy Shrimp Sauce: Peel shrimp; devein and/or detail, if desired. Sprinkle shrimp with pepper and 1/8 tsp. salt – I tossed them with salt and pepper in a colander. Cook in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp from skillet with slotted spoon.
3. Keep the skillet on the stove. Reduce heat to medium. Add oil; heat 30 seconds. Whisk in flour; cook 30 seconds to 1 minute. Whisk in broth, green onions, grlic, lemon juice, half of the lemon rind and all the hot sauce. Bring to a boil and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened. TIP: If the roux never thickens add the corn starch mixture and boil one minute. Stir in shrimp until heated through. Taste broth and add salt, pepper and/or more hot sauce as desired.
4. Pour grits into serving dish. Add spinach leaves. Top spinach with shrimp and sauce. Sprinkle with parsley, lemon slices and lemon rind. Serve immediately or keep warm. TIP: Nobody likes congealed grits.
This made a LOT of grits — more than one 9×13 pan could handle. Next time I’ll serve in two pans, but in the meantime, who is excited about leftovers? This girl!

Easy Broccoli Cheese Soup

I woke up yesterday to a broken heater and a balmy 59 degree apartment. After calling, emailing and leaving a voicemail for the maintenance service, I curled up in sweats next to a space heater and the cat.

I normally wouldn’t get near this much dairy but my HUSBAND of one week (we got married!) mentioned a hankering for broccoli-cheese soup. I swallowed several Lactaid pills and we went to work.

This is a good recipe: solid, 30-minute, one pot comfort food. Serve with crusty bread for sopping. The base recipe was Cooking Light’s, but as we all know, you always add more cheese.

Ingredientsbroccoli-cheese-soup

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 bottle non-stout beer – we used Anchorsteam
  • 1 (16-oz) package frozen broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup grated spicy cheese (chipotle, pepper jack, etc.)
  • 2 1/2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 TBS Worcheshire sauce
  • 1 tsp + black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 10 oz processed cheese, cubed (such as Velveeta)

Directions

Heat a large nonstick saucepan coated with olive oil and cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; saute 3 minutes or until tender. Add broth and frozen broccoli. Bring broccoli mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Add beer and Worchestire sauce. Reduce heat to medium; cook 10 minutes.

Separately, combine milk and flour, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add milk mixture to broccoli mixture. Cook 5 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Stir in pepper, salt and spicy cheese.

Remove from heat; add Velveeta cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Optional: use immersion blender for 20-30 seconds to smooth out portions while leaving most of the broccoli florets whole. Eat with glee! Pairs well with beer.

Easy Spicy Pumpkin Soup

It’s no secret that one of my life goals is to promote pumpkin as more than a seasonal fall food. Pumpkin is so undervalued in savory foods and baking! While I continue as pumpkin ambassador, here’s an easy pumpkin soup recipe to warm your cold anti-pumpkin soul. Modified from the Nutmeg Nanny recipe.

INGREDIENTS:spicy pumpkin soup

30 oz. (2 cans) pumpkin puree
1 onion, diced
2 TBS olive oil
1 can light coconut milk
1 can regular coconut milk
1 TBS red curry paste
2 TBS curry powder
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less according to desired spice level)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Add onion and olive oil to large pot. Saute until onions are soft and translucent.

2. Add everything else to a pot and heat on medium low until warm. (Do not boil)

3. Using immersion or regular blender, whip until desired consistency. Taste and adjust heat and salt.

For an extra prettiness factor, top with a swirl of coconut milk, a shake of red pepper and a few toasted pinenuts or pumpkin seeds.

Angry Chicken (Arrabbiata)

The word “arrabbiata” in Spanish means angry, and this sauce is meant to make your mouth burn. That was my goal at least, as I’ve been trying to kick a wicked sore throat for days and have a very unscientific theory that spicy foods will heal the hurt.

This sauce turned out GREAT, and earned happy sighs and compliments from my fiancé as well. It’s spicy but not overboard, easy but layered in flavor. I’m making this again with shrimp!

IngredientsSeasoning
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 6 boneless chicken thighs or 3 breasts
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 TBS minced garlic
  • 1/2 diced red onion
  • 1 (24 oz.) marinara sauce
  • 4 tomatoes, roughly chopped or 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (or more to taste)
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne or chili powder
  • 12 oz. pasta for serving
  • Goat cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. Season the chicken thighs with a pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken. Brown the chicken on both sides (5-7 minutes each side), then remove the chicken from the skillet.
  3. After the chicken is removed from the skillet, add the onion and minced garlic to the pan, loosening the browned bits. Sauté briefly until onion and garlic are soft.
  4. Add marinara sauce, tomatoes with juices, basil, crushed red pepper, and chicken broth to the skillet. Stir to combine.
  5. Return the chicken to the skillet with the sauce, and spoon some sauce over top of each piece. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer. Taste it and adjust the heat and salt. Simmer the chicken in the sauce for 30 minutes, turning the chicken over half way through to make sure both sides receive adequate heat and sauce.
  6. Serve the chicken and sauce over cooked pasta. Top with goat cheese.

Adapted from Budget Bytes.

P.S. Don’t serve this over brown rice pasta. They’re lying. It’s not the same as normal pasta and you will be disappointed.

Baked Pea and Spinach Risotto

Generally I’m not a fan of Real Simple recipes; they’re bland and dull. Simple taken too far = boring. However, with the addition of my trusty cooking sidekick, Lemon Pepper seasoning, this baked risotto comes together easily. Plus, there’s a fair amount of veggies you can add to risotto to keep nutrients high. And the best part? No standing at the stove sweating for an hour, hoping the broth incorporates!

Ingredientsbaked_spinach_risotto_300

4 TBS butter
2 shallots, chopped
salt and black pepper
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups Arborio rice
1 package frozen peas
8 ounces baby spinach, roughly chopped (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago, plus more for serving

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 425° F. Heat the butter in a medium Dutch oven or ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper and cook, stirring often, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the broth and rice and bring to a rolling boil. Add 1/2 tsp lemon pepper. Stir briefly.
  3. Cover the pot and transfer to oven. Cook until the rice is tender and creamy, about 25 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven. Add the peas, spinach, Parmesan, 1/2 tsp lemon pepper, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to the pot and stir to combine.
  5. Return to oven for 5 more minutes. Remove and stir. If the risotto is too thick, add up to ¼ cup hot water. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan before serving.

You can half ingredients, and adding protein is always an option. As is, it made 6-8 servings. Now we have leftovers for days!