About Jess

By day, I wield a red pen as an editor in the public sector. But my real identity is activities director, head chef and laundress, general manager, and creative force behind the busy lives of my two school-age kids, their coach/resident jokester/my husband, and myself. I can do all of that blindfolded, but in late-bloomer style I'm working on untying that blindfold and approaching it all with my eyes {and heart} wide open.

Links delicious

Oy. My reader is full of pages opened to recipes to try or to compile here or to inspire.  While I’ve made a few, the rest stare back at me from the screen, the digital version of a really tall stack of recipes on my kitchen counter.

The fam over at DALS always issues great compilations.  I’m eyeing #5, 7, 9 and 10 in particular.

We need a little something to perk up breakfast on school mornings.  These egg cups might be just the thing.

It’s no secret, I’m smitten with smitten kitchen’s recipes.  I especially love the ones that celebrate seasonal flavors by means of minimal fuss and still manage to produce blow-your-mind flavors.  This naked tomato sauce sounds like one of those.

Though I’ve done it before, I’m a little iffy about using ground pork for burgers.  Something about the texture can make me cringe.  However, when combined with Asian flavors, I think it might just be a winner.  IGE’s Pot Sticker Burgers with Spicy Asian Slaw are on next week’s menu.

And speaking of IGE, this take-out fake-out Mongolian Beef recipe has been sitting on my virtual counter for an embarassingly long time…

And lastly, several of 1 Cup Awesome’s school lunch series had me thinking about some throwback dinners — kind of a fun concept!  Haven’t made any just yet, but the Spicy Turkey Burgers and Cowboy Salad hooked me right away.  Made it last night, with a few tweaks for what I had on hand, and I loved it!  The mayo totally elevated the grilled turkey burgers, and the fresh sweet corn and garden tomatoes were the salad stars.


Links delicious

Could go for some Pineapple Limeade Cooler right about now…

Scones…love them.  I find that recipes {and the results} for scones can vary widely, so when I find a good one, I stick with it.  Thinking I should add this one to the rotation.

Oh, she had me at “breadcrumb-like crouton rubble coating each cut side of tomato.” And then slayed me with “crouton fairy dust.”  I now must make this tomato salad with crushed croutons.

{As an aside, in that very same post, Deb mentions a tomato and corn omlette and links to this picture.  Sheesh, now I want to make that, too.}

Pina Colada Cupcakes — yes, please!  {are we picking up on a pineapple theme here?…}

Links delish

Sorry, folks.  This week’s {Looks} Links delicious is a bit sparse.  Guess I’ve been caught up in photographing and documenting for A Week in the Life and I haven’t been drooling over food photos and words quite as much.  Forgive?

I tend to be a bit iffy about sangria, but I’m willing to give this one a whirl.

This recipe for Key Lime Pie Ice Cream has been open in my feed reader for months.  Perhaps it will finally make it to my kitchen come August.

Dear friends who are well-acquainted with my sweet tooth sent me *cupcakes* for my birthday this week.  Little did they know, but the master baker behind this delicious little business is a former colleague of my husband’s, so I’ve known Christina for several years.  The cakes were incredible, and I’m so thrilled for Creme Cupcakes’ success {and for any opportunity to taste these lovelies!}!

Weekend report

Tried the genius salad idea from DALS featured in last week’s “Links delicious.” HUGE hit with the fam! The kids loved it and requested that every salad be served that way forevermore.

In the spirit of the genius salad, once the lettuce and {garden} cucumbers were gone, all that remained in the bowls was feta, a little bacon, some sliced pear tomatoes {also from the garden}, chives {garden again}, and a few sunflower seeds. Across the table sat the rest of the steam-sautéed green beans {not from the garden, dammit.  why won’t those plants produce??}. I married the two bowls and tossed the veggies in a little blush wine vinaigrette {Brianna’s — my new all-purpose favorite}. Oh my, what a happy accident!!

As much as I wanted to make peach crisp at some point over the weekend, it just didn’t happen. But still, for two nights in a row, at 9:30 p.m. I craved dessert.

In the form of dark chocolate to be precise.

To be even more precise, I craved dark chocolate chips.

Nestled in a pillow of cookie dough.

Aha, perfect occasion for the recipe developed expressly for eating in short order, no equipment–of the mixing or baking variety–required. I think of this as more a formula than a recipe, largely because it would take me longer to locate the original recipe than to just wing it. Hence, the proportions are flexible and adaptable.
Using a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe {or this one, if you wish} as a guide, mix together corresponding proportions of butter and sugar. Add flour, maybe a pinch of salt, and a scoush of vanilla extract. If the mixture is too stiff, add a few drops {yes, drops — don’t overdo it} of water. Lastly, add the chocolate of your choice — here I suggest you round up in the proportion of chips or chunks. After all, that’s the point of this whole exercise isn’t it??

Here’s what I did tonight:

1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. or so of applesauce {my grand attempt to make the notion of eating cookie dough a nearly healthy option ;)}
1.5 tsp. each brown sugar & white sugar
Teensy bit of vanilla
about 2 Tbsp. flour
Chocolate chips

Freeze for the time it takes to draft a blog post. Be sure to retrieve it before your husband does.

One last note: this is best made after the kids have gone to bed so you can savor it rather than scarfing it down so you don’t have to share. 😉

Links delicious

Crisp Flatbreads with Honey, Thyme and Sea Salt from Smitten Kitchen

Elvis Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream from 1 Cup Awesome

This genius salad idea from DALS.  I feel lucky that my kids will generally eat salad.  I prefer to serve assembled, dressed salads, probably only because it cuts down on the wrangling of the 16 bottles of salad dressing to the table and back to the fridge again.  But as certain diners’ taste preferences change, it seems the dress-your-own variety increases the likelihood of consumption at our table.
(Completely unrelated sidenote:  I can no longer think, type, or read the word “consumption” without conjuring images of the plague in 16th century England, thanks to my complete fascination of late with The Tudors.  Speaking of delicious, Irish actors…check out the cast.)

Ever made a veggie burger?  I’m thinking of trying this one.  Please tell me I’m not the only one that gets totally grossed out by those little grisly bits in ground beef…Though I suspect my husband gets equally grossed out by watching me pick those bits out of burgers sometimes. 😉

Kudos to my bro and the crew at Bella Vita for this great review!

Favorite things

Trader Joe’s cannoli. In the freezer section. For dessert in a pinch, it’s dang tasty.


This galette from Dinner: A Love Story. I made it this weekend using a mix of cherries and blueberries and a pie crust I found in the freezer. It was dessert in a pinch {again}, and it was FAN-tastic. The homey deliciousness of a pie, with a fraction of the effort. Can’t wait to make one again!


Dinner on the fly. Saturday night, we put together a fantastic meal with minimal effort (thank you, summer!). Steak and corn on the grill. Salad with strawberries and walnuts. Sesame semolina bread from Panera. And thanks to my brother’s generosity, a 2007 Paso Creek Cab.


Sweet corn. One of the best things about summer in Iowa.


On a mission

Note: As I endeavor to unearth this blog and sort through the pile of unfinished drafts cluttering up the collection of posts, I’m marching a few things out…the moments for them may have passed but the lessons and ‘things to remember’ are still present…

For a time, I lost my muse–I don’t know, somewhere around the time all of the beautiful, bountiful, fresh seasonal produce disappeared from the grocery stores and soccer games started to eat up our Saturday mornings and made the farmers market no longer an option.  Oh, yeah, and that whole two kids in activities and school + work + life routine kinda put the brakes on innovation in the kitchen.  Innovation suddenly became “how can we not eat fast food or breakfast for 3 out of 5 weekday meals?”  And I didn’t think that was worth writing about.

So here we are.  Life is just as full but nevertheless I hope to make a go of this again.  Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Much as I’d hoped to celebrate some summer-fresh veggies or some such wholesome noshery, what was on my mind and in my kitchen when this draft originated was cake.  My baby bird turned 5 (gah!) this spring and desperately wanted to make cupcakes to share with her class.  Due to allergies, we avoid eggs and nuts in any treats for school; the absence of eggs in baked goods boggled me so I deferred to the tried-and-true recipe the class has used before:  sub applesauce for eggs in a boxed cake mix.


Boxed anything and me are like {this}.

BUT I have learned to make concessions on occasion — birthdays being one of them.  To my kids, cake is so quintessentially “BIRTHDAY” that it simply must be part of the day, and after 9 years I have officially (for now, anyway) abandoned the stress I used to pour into making from scratch the *perfect* cake for them.  They do not care from whence it came; all they want is the final product.

And the frosting.

We went the boxed route this time (for school.  I ate one and instantly regretted it–why waste calories on something that tastes so ridiculously artificial?!).  And I’m kicking myself that I didn’t make this.  A dear friend calls it Wacky Cake and makes for occasions from book club to birthdays.  Next time, I vow!

The following weekend, we celebrated Easter and the big birthday with the grandparents and awesome uncle, so I was confronted with the cake dilemma again.  I wondered if she’d go for strawberry pie?  Or unfrosted cupcakes with homemade frozen yogurt?

We went with homemade frozen yogurt and her grandpa made her an angel food cake. All was right in the world.

{Still, I wish I would have made these little beauties, even if just for home.}