Bacon Lettuce Tomato

Dear Dream Reader.

I hope you like BLT’s.

Let me hit you with a fact about me straight out of the gate: I do NOT eat enough BLT’s. This needs to change. And it will. One sec…let me update…done. Ok. I just added number 18 to my New Years Resolution list>>18. EAT MORE BLT’s, Ironically positioned under>>17. LOSE 10 POUNDS.

But look at it! IMG_3665

I whipped up this little number pre new year resolution-ing. Basic. Simple. Clean. Quality ingredients that each stand alone. I could eat this everyday.

If you are on the fence about converting to the BLT, let me offer a little help:

1. There’s bacon

2. There’s bacon.

So let’s celebrate the BLT this year! Every month I will deliciously bring you a new recipe for a not-so-average BLT.  So stay tuned.

But for now we need to get the basics down:

1. BREAD. If I didn’t adore bacon so much I would say the ‘B’ in BLT stands for bread. Do not under-rate this ingredient. If you have any experience making bread, do it. Trust me. It is the ticket! If you are not comfortable with this, then pay a local bakery to do it for you. Or just choose a good quality bread.

2. TOAST. What’s better than cutting up the roof of your mouth with a hearty, toasted piece of bread??? Well, a lot of things actually, but what I’m trying to say is, It’s worth the pain. So toast that sucker up.

3. MAYO. And lots of it.

4. LAYERING. #justsaynotosoggybread The order is bacon on the bottom, tomato in the middle and lettuce on the top. No battle.

5. SALT AND PEPPER. Put salt and freshly ground black pepper allllll up on that tomato. K?

Thats about it. I’m not picky about the tomato selection or lettuce selection or even bacon selection (I’m a lover not a hater). But should I be? Lemme know if I should.

Thanks,

Jessica

If You Don’t Like Squash, Think Again!

Move over butternut! Mama’s got a new favorite squash and her name is     Kabocha! Plus, it’s fun to say. This is how it is pronounced [kah-BOH-chah]. This info would have been utterly useful when informing the checkout lady exactly what she was scanning. “Um ko, ko, ko something… Ko-be-chi, Ko-bu-choo…I know it starts with a K. ” Thankfully, I now have engrained this delectable, heaven-sent gourd to memory, and you should too.Kombucha2

It’s been around forever, but I was introduced to it less than 2 years ago. It had me intrigued, but I have been a little lazy. PLUS it super hard to find at the local grocery stores. I now am starting to see them pop up here and there, and I’m so happy we have found each other! The taste is a mix between a butternut squash and pumpkin. The flavor is nutty and sweet and fills you to the brim with happiness. On top of that you know you are getting all the good stuff like vitamins or whatever. If you like to nerd-out on nutrition info, check it out here.

Many of the ways to prepare Kabocha involve cutting it and then baking it. But I’m all about easy, and let me tell ya, cutting a Kabocha squash is not easy (think butternut squash on steroids) SO I thought I would just go with my gut,  aaaannnnddd guess what happened…NAILED IT!

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash.  Cut squash in half and remove the seeds.
  3. Brush the flesh with coconut oil (you can sub any other oil here)DSC_0082 copy
  4. Bake cut side up for 30-40 minutes (depending on the size)
  5.  Let cool slightly and cut into wedges for serving. (It’s about easy, not pretty remember?)

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Easy. Fast. Healthy. DELICOUS.

I eat it right out of the skin. The skin is actually tender enough to eat as well if you are hardcore like that. I served it with chicken broccoli and cauliflower. Honestly I just put a sprinkle of salt on mine. It doesn’t need much! For the kids I cut it in chunks and sprinkled a little cinnamon sugar on it and they annihilated it!

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Here are some other ideas for serving:

  1. Coconut oil and salt. (Yes that is how I explained in the recipe.) But next time I’m def going to add a little extra coconut oil after it’s baked. I think it compliments really well with the nuttiness of the squash.
  2. Cinnamon sugar. (So easy for the kids)
  3. Butter and brown sugar.
  4. Pure maple syrup and toasted pecans.
  5. Peanut butter. (Whaaaaaa?) Yes, do it.

Real moment: I don’t know whats worse: The fact that I am just finding out about Kabocha, or the fact that I just wrote 500 words about it. Thoughts?

If you are a lover of Kabocha fill me in on the deets! What are your favorite ways to eat it. I feel like I’m missing out on some big stuff here.

Thanks!

Jessica

A New Year A New Goal

Today I introduce myself. I am a mother. I am fiercely in love with my husband of nine years. I cook, I bake and I’m awesome at both. Hi, I’m Jessica.

With this New Year comes an opportunity for new goals. My goal is to be more open. I want to use this blog to do just that. In the past I have dabbled with our family blog a bit. I had a short list of family and friends who would read my blog and I liked it that way. I didn’t want any one else to read it. When someone I didn’t know would leave a comment, it would leave me itchy and reaching for a brown paper bag.

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This fear extends to all corners of the internet. I admit I have always been a lurker. I don’t dare leave my fingerprints with likes or comments! However, in real life, I am quite outgoing. Put me in front of 1,500 people and I actually enjoy it. I can see their faces, I can sense their feedback, and it fuels me. But ask me to comment on someones blog I have never met, and I crumble. This blog begins the process of changing that. I no longer want to prowl secretly through social media. I want to share the love, leave my mark, and maybe in return, float a little love my way.

I originally had this blog planned as a food blog. I love getting creative in the kitchen, and for many years, have wanted to share that inspiration with others. So this blog is appropriately titled The Sweet Files, where I can file and share my recipes. However I also want to file things that are sweet to me as a mother, as an adventurer and as a humor addict.

Please note that YOU have the power to help me face my fear by leaving a comment! It will force me to respond.

Thank you for reading!

Jessica

Peppermint Crunch Sandwich Cookies

Anything with peppermint and chocolate is almost sure to put me in the Christmas spirit. Add a Holiday playlist by Mariah Carey and fresh balsam candle and it is the perfect trifecta. Kind of like Joey, Matt and Andy.

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These cookies are easy to eat and even easier to make. I started with the following ingredients, and after three batches of cookies, one batch of frosting, two broken ornaments, four “the world is about going to end” tantrums, one poopy diaper, and three perfectly matched Mariah high notes, the cookies were finished. They were crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. The frosting was thick and creamy with a little bit of a crunch from the candy cane pieces. So, yeah… it was a crispy, chewy, creamy, crunchy, candy cane christmas cookie. I love to alliterate, don’t judge.

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This is How I feel

Do you guys love gif’s as much as I do? They are the perfect medium for describing how I feel at an exact moment.

This is how I feel as a cooking mom.

                             

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When I’m cooking and there are no kids in the house.

                           

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Trying to make sense of a recipe in metric measurements.

                             

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When I make a bomb.com dinner and I know the kids are going to love it.

                              

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When someone asks if I was the one who brought the delicious cookies to the church party.

                        

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Trying to seem interested when my kids are showing me 12 different ways they can eat their peas.

Everything you Need to Know About Building an Amazing Gingerbread House!

"Jack and Jill"
“Jack and Jill ” house. If you want to build this house, refer below to template 1.

I am by no means a professional when it comes to gingerbread houses. However, I have been making them as a tradition every year for about ten years. I have learned first hand what works and what doesn’t. Lucky for you, I have put this knowledge into one easy-to-follow package. No really, this is my gift to you. Everything you need to know. right. here. This would take you hours of research online Pinterest. So congratulations! JUST by finding this post you saved yourself a little extra time so you can do something constructive, like make your neighbor gifts or complete your christmas shopping, orrrrrrr prooooobably  just finish season 3 of Scandal with a jar of nutella. You’re welcome.

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“Snowy Cottage” house. If you want to build this house, refer to template 2.

Follow this step-by-step guide and it will hold your hand and walk you ‘ginger’ly (see what I did there) through the whole process from measuring the template to placing your finished house on the mantle.

Get your inspiration from this video and then get to work!

*Before you start, plan at least two or more different days to work on your house. Trying to do it all in one day is hard!

TEMPLATE 1 (Jack and Jill House)

"Jack and Jill"

The following template is for the first picture of the “Jack and Jill” house, this is the house featured in the video above. It is very large.

You will need:

  • 2 Poster boards
  • Yard stick
  • Pencil
  • Scissors

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I have included a picture of each piece of the template for you to use as a reference to make your own. Note: these are not to scale, do not print them and trace. Use the measurements and draw your own. This way will be easier, considering that these pieces are larger than most printers. It looks confusing and scary, but it’s easier than it looks. If you are having trouble seeing the measurements, click on the image and it will enlarge.

Roof Template: Cut two (meaning use one template piece to cut two out from the dough)
Roof Template: Cut two out of the dough (but you only need one template, and use it twice)
Front and back template: Cut one template and only cut windows out of one for the front, then cut just the solid body out for the back. Unless the back will be shown, then feel free to cut windows for both.
Front and back template: Cut one template. When cutting the dough, only cut windows out of one for the front, then cut just the solid body out for the back. Unless the back will be shown, then feel free to cut windows for both.
Side Template:  Cut 1 template, use for 2 dough pieces.
Side Template: Cut 1 template, use for 2 dough pieces.
The long top rectangle will be the roof that juts out over the porch, and the three bottom pieces will make up the four sides of the chimney. (cut 2 out of the middle piece)
The long top rectangle will be the roof that juts out over the porch, and the three bottom pieces will make up the four sides of the chimney. (cut 2 dough pieces out of the middle piece)

 Once you have the size of your house,  go to Lowes/Home Depot and have them cut you a piece of cheap wood that is bigger than your house. Mine was 24×17.  Paint it white. Or you can use a sturdy large platter. You can use cardboard if your house is smaller. Check the measurements of your house with the wood to make sure it fits with extra room to add fun details to the front yard. Also make sure it fits in/on the place you want to display it.

Template 2 (Snowy Cottage House)

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This template will fit on one page, but print it twice so you can fully cut all the pieces out. Trace onto card stock or a manila folder. If you want cut out windows (to fill with “stained glass”) make sure to add them to the template. This house is small and would look beautiful on a cake stand

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 marthastewart.com

DOUGH

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups packed dark-brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

You will need:

  • Saran Wrap
  • Rolling pin
  • Parchment paper
  • Sharp paring knife

*If you are building the “Jack and Jill” house, you will need to double this recipe* 

  1. Cream together butter and sugar. Add spices, salt, baking powder and molasses.
  2. Add a portion of flour mix slowly, then add a portion of milk, mix slowly. Repeat this until flour and milk are incorporated.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Dump on floured surface and knead until dough is smooth, no longer than 30 seconds.
  5.  Cut into 4 equal parts, wrap 3 of the portions in saran wrap and put in the fridge.
  6.  Roll out dough. Fold two sides of the dough inward (like pie crust) and place on a piece of parchment paper. Unfold and touch up a bit with the rolling pin.
  7. Place template on rolled dough and cut with a paring knife. Make sure to do the windows too!
  8. Lift parchment paper by the edges to place the cut-out onto a baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes (you may need to rotate halfway through if your oven cooks unevenly). Hot out of the oven, place template back on top of cooked dough and re-cut any areas the puffed up and have lost their shape.
  10. Slide parchment paper off of cookie sheet and onto a cooling rack with the gingerbread. Once cool, they should be hard.

CANDY WINDOWS

You will need:

  • Candy thermometer
  • Spatula
  • Saucepan
  • Parchment paper

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup

Combine ingredients on a saucepan over high heat. Stir until all sugar crystals are dissolved. Without stirring, boil for about 15 minutes, or until it reaches 290 degrees. Its important that it cooks long enough or over time, the windows will melt again. You can add food coloring at the end if you would like. I think blue or yellow would be pretty!

Window Shortcut: If you don’t want to worry about temperatures and such, just buy hard candy in the color of window you want. (Jolly Ranchers or Life savers work well.) You can even use multiple colors and create a stained glass effect.  Just take your gingerbread out of the oven a couple minutes early and place the crushed candy in the window holes, put back in the oven to finish baking and it will melt the candy.

Place gingerbread on parchment paper. The candy is very hot, so make sure it is on a surface that won't get ruined.
Place gingerbread on parchment paper. The candy is very hot, so make sure it is on a surface that won’t get ruined.

Sugar Glue

This stuff is the strongest “glue” I have EVER worked with. It is 100% worth your time to whip it up. Your other option to assemble the house is the royal icing (you will cry and/or scream if you JUST use icing), or hot glue. I like the idea of everything being edible so I go with sugar glue, plus it works even better than hot glue. Do you think its cool if I fix a couple of my broken dining room chairs with it?? Seriously, it’s that amazing!Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 2.19.57 PM

Just put about 1 cup of sugar into a shallow saucepan, turn on high and leave it alone. It will start to smoke slightly (that is the idea, it’s burning) but if its too smokey turn down the heat. Once all the sugar has turned to a dark molasses type liquid, stir and use a brush to brush on the edges of pieces that you are going to assemble. Make sure you are assembling on your board or platter/tray of choice. It will cool off quickly, put it back on the burner if it starts to get too tacky to work with.

Royal Icing

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Ingredients:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tsp. cream of tarter
  • 2 lb. bag of powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup of water

*You will need roughly 3 batches of frosting if building the “Jack and Jill  template.

Add room temperature egg whites to bowl with cream of tarter. Beat until foamy. Add powdered sugar and incorporate as you slowly add water. when adding the water it will start turning cement-like. keep pushing frosting down with a spatula IMPORTANT: Beat for 7 minutes or longer, until stiff peaks form. ( when you pull your beater out the peak should be straight up, not bent over). Put into a pastry bag with a large round or star tip.

DECORATE!!

This is the most exciting part! Before you put any candy on, you want to pipe the icing around all the corners and push and smooth it into the gaps, this will further support your house.

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Candy tips: Pick a theme for your candy before you buy. For my “Jack and Jill” house I used blues and yellows with some whites and browns/black. I bought my candy in the bulk section at WinCo. This is a great place as I swear they cater to gingerbread houses! They have so many fun novelties, at a rock bottom price. The christmas “lights” are chocolate covered sunflower seeds, the silver balls are sixlets!

I wanted a more whimsical feel to my “Jack and Jill” house, so I used a lot of candy, as opposed to the “Snow Cottage” house I used more piping details and only one color of candy to give it more of a romantic feel.

Phew!! If you have made it this far congratulations. That was a lot of reading. Just imagine how accomplished you will feel when you actually make the house! So be brave and go for it. I believe in you!