Warm Pasta Salad with Lemon + Herbs

Warm Pasta Salad with Lemon + Herbs

Our twins had finally arrived. I never felt so tired and so joyful at the same time, so in love and so overwhelmed. I sat in the hospital bed under the fluorescent lights, tending to my babies and asking every “new mom” question in the book. I was exhausted and blissfully naïve. I had no idea what I was getting into — what we were getting into.

During those early days, several nurses commented that my husband and I worked really well together. He was hands-on right from the get go, despite never having changed a diaper in his life. His first diaper was for my newly circumcised son who made it a habit of projectile peeing on anyone within four-foot radius. My husband woke up with for every feeding for weeks, wiping spit-up, consoling babies, giving bottles — doing whatever needed to be done. He was, and is, a total rock star dad.

I agree with those nurses; we did work well together. Before my kids’ birth, I was warned that having kids could shake a marriage. Maybe we were the exception. Maybe we could glide through the struggles that supposedly came with having newborns.


As weary as we were those first few weeks, a mix of adrenaline and euphoria fueled us. Then, we got tired of being tired. Family and friends no longer stayed over, which meant the social buffer keeping us on our best marital behavior left with them. My husband went back to work and I had to figure out how to do this whole mama thing by myself. But it wasn’t just the learning how to be a mother; it was learning how to parent and be a wife.

Keep reading and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs!

Warm Pasta Salad with Lemon + Herbs
Warm Pasta Salad with Lemon + Herbs
Warm Pasta Salad with Lemon + Herbs

Full post and recipe instructions can be found at Coffee + Crumbs!

Roasted Pears with Buttery Chocolate Sauce + Smoked Sea Salt

Roasted Pears with Buttery Chocolate Sauce + Smoked Sea Salt

I love going out for a big dinner, but there’s something extra comforting and cozy about setting the table, lighting a few candles, and enjoying a meal in your own home. My husband and I try to have a "date-night-in" periodically. They can be a little easier to pull off when the budget or babysitting logistics add an extra challenge to going out. Or, let's be honest...sometimes I just want to eat dinner in my sweatpants (romantic, right?). 

There are challenges to staying in, though. For our annual Christmas date-night-in, my daughter decided it was a good night to stay awake in her crib crying, so she ended up joining us for dinner. Not quite what we had in mind, but fortunately that doesn't happen most of the time (and she was quite happy when she realized she won the bedtime battle, so it was kind of cute having her sitting with us.)

Sometimes we order out from a favorite restaurant, other days we cook a special meal outside our normal dinner rotation, or we combine a bit of both - like takeout for dinner and then a homemade dessert.

This recipe for Roasted Pears with Buttery Chocolate Sauce + Smoked Sea Salt is the perfect addition to any date-night-in menu. It’s warm, sweet, and irresistibly decadent. Add toasted hazelnuts for a bit of crunch and finish the dish with a hint of smoked salt. It’s a combination of flavors worthy of any special occasion. 

Are you a fan of doing date nights in? Do you have any favorite date-night-in recipes? I'd love to hear in the comments below!

Roasted Pears with Buttery Chocolate Sauce + Smoked Sea Salt
Roasted Pears with Buttery Chocolate Sauce + Smoked Sea Salt
Roasted Pears with Buttery Chocolate Sauce + Smoked Sea Salt
Roasted Pears with Buttery Chocolate Sauce + Smoked Sea Salt
Roasted Pears with Buttery Chocolate Sauce + Smoked Sea Salt
Roasted Pears with Buttery Chocolate Sauce + Smoked Sea Salt-8.jpg
Roasted Pears with Buttery Chocolate Sauce + Smoked Sea Salt

Roasted Pears with Buttery Chocolate Sauce + Smoked Sea Salt
Yields 4 servings

Roasted Pears
2 pears (I recommend using Bosc or Anjou pears)
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons turbinado or brown sugar
⅓ cup raw hazelnuts
Pinch of smoked sea salt*

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the pears in half and scoop out the seeds. Place them cut side up on a baking sheet. (Line the sheet with foil or parchment for easy clean up.)

 Brush the cut side of the pears with the melted butter, and sprinkle the sugar evenly over the buttered side of the pears (about ½ a teaspoon of sugar per pear half).

 Roast for about 30 minutes, or until the pears are slightly browned.

 While the pears are roasting, make the chocolate sauce (see recipe below), and toast the hazelnuts. To toast the hazelnuts, add them to a small pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Stir or shake frequently for about 5-7 minutes, until the nuts are fragrant and slightly browned. Remove from heat and let the nuts cool enough to handle. If you like, you can rub the skins off the hazelnuts with a dish towel (I personally don’t mind leaving a bit of the skins on). Roughly chop the nuts and set aside until the pears are ready.

When the pears have finished roasting, transfer them to individual plates and drizzle with the chocolate sauce. Top with the chopped, toasted hazelnuts and a pinch of smoked sea salt. Serve with vanilla bean ice cream, if desired. Enjoy!

 *You can substitute regular sea salt, but the flavor of smoked sea salt definitely takes this dessert up a notch.

Buttery Chocolate Sauce
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (or use chocolate chips)
3 Tablespoons heavy cream
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch of salt

Add the chocolate, cream, butter, and salt to a small saucepan. Heat very gently over low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate and butter are melted and the ingredients are fully mixed. Remove from heat and set aside until you’re ready to use.

Note: This sauce is meant to be served very warm. If you make it in advance and the sauce cools completely, the chocolate and butter will separate and harden. You’ll just need to rewarm it before serving.

This recipe was originally featured at Lark + Linen.

Cocoa + Cardamom Waffles [and reflections on creativity and self-worth]

Cocoa + Cardamom Waffles

There are two voices, one for each ear, whispering supposed truth to me. I waver between listening to one or the other. It’s a constant struggle to choose to heed the words I know are true, the words that say I’m worthwhile, I have something to offer, I’m created in the image of a God who has designed me for a purpose. Other times, I turn away and listen to the voice that mocks me. “You’ll never be as good as that person. Why even try? It’s all been done before. The world doesn’t need your creativity, your thoughts, your words. You have nothing to offer.”

That latter voice is crippling. It causes me coil up and hide, refusing to share anything at all for fear of how it may be received, or for fear that no one will even take notice.

And then the other voice speaks, waking me up to the truth. My words are needed. They’re my words – no one else’s, and the idea that something is only worth contributing if it’s the best (according to our culture’s idea of “the best”) is a blatant lie. How do you think the people who are deemed “the best” got there? They practiced, worked and contributed before becoming the best in order to excel in their craft. Sure, some had more God-given talent in a certain area, but prodigies still have to practice.

But then what if I don’t ever get to that point? What if I don’t really want to get to that point? I honestly don’t really have the desire to be famous, and I’m OK if my work isn’t the best of the best of the best. Is my work still valid if it’s not at the very least a stepping-stone to public recognition? Should I even bother if the platform on which I speak remains small?

Yes. The extent to which others acknowledge and appreciate your work does not dictate its value – or your value.

“Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands” (Brene Brown). When I stop and think about why I’m struggling through this debilitating cycle of comparison, what I often realize is that I’m trying to find my worth in the affirmation of other people. If I’m doing that, then my worth is constantly changing. If someone likes me, I’m worthy. If they don’t, I’m worthless. If I receive affirmation for my work, it’s good. If I don’t, it’s terrible.

It’s exhausting.

When my sense of worth and creative value rests on the shaky ground of outward recognition, it is so easy to falter, to doubt, to grow weary, tired and discouraged. But when I realize that I have worth as a human being, created by God in his image, I remember that I have worth, because HE has given it to me. I can echo the words of the psalmist and say, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13-14).

My worth and the value of my work are determined by the Creator God, and he doesn’t change. Even if no one else sees what I do or recognizes my contributions, or even if it’s not up to the quality of the person next to me, He sees it and values it if it is offered up to glorify Him.

Francis Schaeffer wrote, "How can art be sufficiently meaningful? If it is offered up merely before men, then it does not have a sufficient integration point. But it can be offered up before God…So the man who really loves God, who is working under the lordship of Christ, could write his poetry, compose his music, construct his musical instruments, fashion his statues, paint his pictures, even if no man ever saw them. He knows God looks upon them." (And may I add, "cook and photograph her recipes" to that list?)

Over the last couple years, I’ve been learning better how to silence the debilitating voice and listen to the words of the life-giving one. The truth is finally starting to sink into my heart – and the irony is that as I’ve recognized my worth from God and have been grounded in him, my work has improved. My courage has grown. I’m more willing to show myself to the world, and if I’m not well received, that’s OK. My identity and value are not on the line.

The volume of the lies is gradually fading. Thoughts of worthlessness are becoming mere white noise, drowned out by words speaking beauty and truth. I choose to listen to the truth.

Our topic for Wednesday March 1st is "The Environment." What does it actually mean to take care of the environment? Who's job is it really? Do we have a moral obligation to do so?
Cocoa + Cardamom Waffles
Cocoa + Cardamom Waffles

Cocoa + Cardamom Waffles
Yields about 10 (7-inch round) waffles

2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
½ teaspoon salt
Cooking spray or additional butter (to grease the waffle iron)

Preheat a waffle iron to medium-high (I set mine to setting number 4 out of 5). In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Whisk in the buttermilk and melted butter.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, instant coffee, and salt. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, and stir just until combined.

Grease the waffle iron if needed. Pour about ½ cup of batter onto the center of the preheated waffle iron. (You may need to adjust this amount based on your waffle iron and the manufacturer’s recommendation.) Close the waffle iron and cook until the waffles are crisp on the outside. Repeat this step until you use all the batter.

Serve immediately, or keep the waffles warm in a 200-degree oven until you’re ready to serve. (Hint: They’ll stay crispier if you avoid stacking them!) Top with powdered sugar, fruit, whipped cream, maple syrup, or any other favorite toppings. Enjoy!

Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw

Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw

I enjoy watching football. OK, let me clarify: most of the time I enjoy watching football. And by most of the time I mean when I’ve finally given up hope that the Bears will actually do anything productive, flip the channel to another game, and momentarily pick a different team to root for. Fair-weather fan, I know. I fully admit it. But I’m a Bears fan just by marrying a Bears fan, so I don’t have to watch every painful second of every game, right?

Regardless of where your team loyalties lie, half the fun of game day is getting together with friends and family - and you can’t watch football without food. I think it’s physically impossible. Just like movie night and buttered popcorn or Chicago baseball and a Vienna Beef hot dog, the experience of watching football requires the appropriate fare. Super Bowl weekend and pulled pork sliders certainly fits that requirement.

This recipe for Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders is made in the slow cooker, so if you’re having a big crowd over, you don’t have to worry about prepping food while everyone arrives. (It also freezes well, so you can save leftovers.) The coffee flavor complements the pork and isn’t overpowering, so even those who aren’t coffee fans will love it. It’s sweet, savory, and smoky with a hint of spice at the end. Top the pork with a tangy, creamy homemade slaw, serve it on slider buns, relax on the couch, and savor the day the Falcons’ beat the Patriots.

Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw

Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders
Yields about 20-24 sliders (10-12 servings)

1 (4-5 pound) pork butt roast
3 Tablespoons finely ground coffee
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
20-24 slider buns

In a small bowl, mix together the coffee, chili powder, brown sugar, garlic powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Thoroughly rub the spice mix all over the pork butt roast. You should end up using most, if not all, of the spice rub. 

Place the spice-rubbed pork in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for about 6 hours. The pork is ready when it can be easily pulled apart. 

Use a couple forks to shred the meat, and remove any large pieces of fat. Give everything in the slow cooker a good stir so the spices, juices, and meat are thoroughly mixed together. 

Serve the pork on the slider buns, and top with the red cabbage slaw and a few chopped green onions. Serve and enjoy!

Red Cabbage Slaw
Yields about 10-12 servings

1 medium-sized cabbage, shredded (about 8 cups) 
2 large carrots, shredded (about 2 cups) 
4 green onions, chopped
2 limes, juiced (about ¼ cup of juice) 
¾ cups mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons honey (plus more to taste)
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more to taste)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (plus more to taste)

In a large bowl, mix together the cabbage, carrots, and most of the green onions (reserving a few for garnish when serving). 

In a separate bowl, make the dressing by whisking together the lime juice, mayonnaise, 3 Tablespoons of the honey, vinegar, salt, and black pepper. 

Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture, and stir until everything is fully incorporated. Season with additional honey, salt, and pepper to taste. 

Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. When you’re ready to serve, give the slaw another good stir to redistribute the dressing. Serve on top of the pulled pork and garnish with the reserved green onions. Enjoy!

Quick Tip: Why not have pulled pork for breakfast? Save some of the meat, and top it with an over-easy egg the next day. Check out this recipe for more info!

This post was also featured on the FreshGround Roasting blog, and ingredients were provided by FreshGround Roasting. All opinions are 100% my own.