Quinoa + Veggie Casserole

Happy belated Valentine’s Day!  I hope your weekend was filled with tons of love and affection.  And, if it was anything like our weekend, filled with food.  TJ and I never celebrate Valentine’s in the most traditional of ways. We always celebrate a day or two (sometimes a week) before or ahead (who needs to fight all those crowds?!).  We have opted for cheap, delicious meals in lieu of fancy shmancy overpriced restaurants.  We have gone to Disneyland instead of doing anything too romantic.  We’ve even done a scavenger hunt race.  Now, that we have Olivia, we wanted to continue our non-traditional celebrations, but also sprinkle in a little of that cheesy heart stuff that a little kid loves.  

So, our weekend was full of food.  It is the way we would celebrate, after all!  Instead of boring you with all that we ate, I’ll share with you what we had last night.  We went to an incredible restaurant downtown, Marugame Monzo.  They specialize in handmade udon noodles. Oh man.  We had such a fantastic time.  Olivia had a whole bowl of Zaru Udon (chilled noodles with a dipping suace) to herself! Man, can that girl eat!  After dinner, we headed to The Pie Hole, a fantastic place that specializes in all things pie, both sweet and savory.  We, of course, had a little sweet treat to end the night.  Needless to say, we need some healthy meal alternatives to counter-balance all those indulgences!  If you’ve read some of my past posts, then you already know that I’m heading straight to our Quinoa.  It’s such an easy choice for us. High in fiber and protein and, best of all, Olivia loves it!  We chose to make a casserole dish.  We saw a recipe that was similar to this that used brown rice, but since we’re on our quinoa kick, we decided to substitute it.  This is a lovely cheesy casserole dish with tons of vegetables.  It’s super easy to make – which is always a great perk!  As always, you can substitute whatever veggies you have on hand.  Today, we used carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and peas.  Also, Enough chattin’ – let’s get started!

What You’ll Need

1 small onion, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 cup of cauliflower florets, chopped

1 cup broccoli florets, chopped

1 cup peas

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

1/3 cup + 1/2 cup of your favorite tomato sauce

1/3 cup + 1/2 cup ricotta cheese

8-ounces of mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 cups cooked quinoa (we cooked ours in chicken broth)

salt, to taste (we omitted the salt due to the sauce + chicken broth + cheese, but if it’s for a mainly adult audience, go ahead and pop some salt in for added flavor!)

What You’ll Do:

Preheat your oven to 375.  Grease an 8×8 baking dish.  We greased ours with a little coconut oil.  Make sure your veggies are chopped up into bite-sized pieces.  

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Heat your oil in a large saute pan and add your veggies.  Saute the vegetables until the vegetables are tender.  

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Transfer the cooked vegetables to a large bowl.  Add 1/3 cup of pasta sauce, 1/3 cup of ricotta, and 1 cup of the mozzarella.  Stir to combine.  

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In another bowl, combine your quinoa, salt (if you’ve chosen to include it), 1/2 cup pasta sauce, 1/2 cup ricotta, and 1/2 cup mozzarella.  

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In your baking dish, press half of your quinoa mixture into the baking dish.  Spread all of the vegetable mixture on top, followed by the remaining quinoa mixture.  

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Bake for 50 minutes.  Once it’s done, allow it to cool for around 30 minutes before you serve it up.

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Fiber? Check! Protein? Check! Veggies? Check! Healthy? Check! It passes a bunch of tests!!  And, more importantly, it Tastes Oh So Good!  Enjoy!

~ M ~

Cheesy Quinoa Bites

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Have you been reading a few of the posts I’ve written?  If so, you’ll remember that I posted about a Quinoa “Mac” and Cheese.  Have you tried it yet? Isn’t it yummy? It really has all the indulgence of macaroni and cheese, but some goodness of the extra fiber and protein from the quinoa.  Since we’ve been on a quinoa kick around here (it is just so nice to be able to buy it in bulk!), I wanted to think of another recipe that I could make that Olivia could eat for lunch while I was at work.  Enter the Cheesy Quinoa Bites.  I know, you’re probably thinking that these are just another spin on the Mac and Cheese – just in smaller ‘bites’ form.  I promise you – although there are some similarities (cheese + quinoa), the addition of some white beans and the absence of the panko crust take it to another flavor dimension..whoa…flavor dimension. So deep.  

These little cheesy quinoa bites are packed full of protein and fiber from both the quinoa and white beans, packed full of nutrients from all the vegetables, and packed full of yummy taste from oh-so-yummy cheese.  Honestly, you can’t lose!  Another big perk is that they’re crazy easy to make and you can easily pop the whole batch in the refrigerator and warmed up.  I haven’t done it myself, but you probably could even freeze them and just warm them up when you and baby are ready to eat them.  Enough typing – let’s get started!

What You’ll Need:

2 cups cooked quinoa (again, for extra flavor, we cooked our quinoa in low-sodium chicken broth)

8 egg whites

1 cup of shredded carrots **

1 (15 oz can of white beans)

2 cups of chopped up broccoli **

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

4-6 teaspoons of garlic powder (you know darn well I’m going to put in way more than this!)

1 teaspoon of onion powder

Parmesan Cheese to top

Cooking Spray (we just used coconut oil and took a paper towel to grease up our mini-muffin tin)

What You’ll Do

Grease up your mini-muffin tin.  Grease up your tin.  

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients.  

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Portion out the mixture into the mini-muffin tins. They won’t really expand, so feel free to pack up each little muffin “well”!  If you’re cheese lovers like we are, then feel free to sprinkle some Parmesan Cheese on top, or even some more shredded Cheddar cheese.

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Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the edges are starting to brown.  Let them cool and pop em out! That’s it! So easy!  This makes about 48 “bites”.  

** ALTERNATIVES **

Honestly, throw in whatever chopped veggies you have! Shredded zucchini? Yup! Cauliflower? Why not? Go veggie crazy!  

Whatever veggies (or even variety of cheese) you choose, you’ll take comfort in knowing you and family are eating something packed full of fiber, protein, and nutrients!  Plus, they’re cheesy so you know they’ll Taste Oh-So-Good!

~ M ~

Homemade, Nontoxic Paint

Oh – this blog IS called “Tastes Oh-So-Good”. You’re right. But will you just indulge me for this post? It’d be greatly appreciated. Plus, this homemade paint is nontoxic/edible – so, does that count? Though, we did try it – and we have to admit, it tastes just awful. Absolutely awful. Good news is – we intended it to taste awful. You know, so baby won’t want to eat it. Nasty taste mission accomplished.

Olivia is just shy of 16 months-old now. And while we probably should have gotten her into arts earlier, we just aren’t the craftiest of people.  So, for us to stay up way past our bedtimes (and yes, as parents, our bedtime is just around 10pm now – don’t judge) to make some homemade paint. Well, we must truly be in love with our little girl.  This recipe didn’t take too long to make. The longest part of this process was waiting for the concoction to cool down.  And, I have to admit, it was sort of fun to make!  This mixture made about 4.5 cups of ‘paint’.  Ready to make some art with us? Let’s do it.

What You’ll Need:

– 6 Tablespoons of Sugar

– A dash of corn syrup (maybe a teaspoon or two)

– 1 Teaspoon Salt

– 1 Cup Corn Starch

– Just Shy of 4 Cups of Water + White (or Rice) Vinegar to top off to 4 cups of liquid

– Food Coloring

What You’ll Do:

On low heat, you’ll want to combine all the ingredients above (except the food coloring) in a medium saucepan.

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Stir frequently until it thickens. Once it reaches the desired consistency, remove the saucepan off the heat to cool. (We stopped when it became a bit thicker than the picture below – plus, during the cooling process, it thickened up even more.)

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Once the mixture is cooled, divide up the mixture into Ziploc baggies.  We put about a 1/2 cup of ‘white paint’ into each baggie.

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Drop some food coloring into each bag and, while the baggie is zipped up, mush and mix away.  Keep adding food coloring until you get the color you want.

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We had these little 8oz mason jars that we divided the paint up into to store. And there you have it! Gross tasting, nontoxic, homemade paint!   (Oh goodness…please forgive my dirty grout in the kitchen…blasphemous!!!)

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We ended up painting the next day and the paint, by that time, had gelled up a bit.  We used foam brushes to paint.  The colors were surprisingly vibrant!

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What do you think of Olivia’s first masterpieces (the one on the right is our family painting – we all had a hand in that one!)? I may be biased, but I think we have a little artiste on our hands!

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Thank you for letting me stray away from my food posts – and I hope you have as much fun making these paints and masterpieces as we did!  Because this is fun – but I can assure you (as my husband can attest to), this does NOT taste oh-so-good.

~ M ~

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies

Whoa. Whoa. Whoa.  Hold on.  Lactation cookies?!  What are those?? Do they have breast milk in them? Will it cause someone to spontaneously lactate?! Why would I eat these?!

Calm down! Calm down!  These are really just yummy cookies with a title that may turn you off a bit.  There are no crazy ingredients in here nor will it cause someone to start lactating randomly.  Promise.  Instead, these cookies incorporate a few ingredients that are known galactagogues.  What’s a galactagogue, you ask?  Simple – something that promotes lactation.  Some examples of foods or seasoning/herbs that encourage lactation include oatmeal, flaxseed, brewer’s yeast, and fenugreek.  Lactation cookies usually combine three galactagogues in the recipe: oats, flaxseed meal, and brewer’s yeast.  Again, these won’t make you spontaneously lactate (men, you reading this?!).  I mean, how many times have you eaten oatmeal in your life?  And how many times did you randomly leak breast milk? I’m guessing that number is close to 0.   Instead, if you’re producing milk, they just kind of … help the process along.  Many make lactation cookies when they’re experiencing a low supply.  So, it’s a great way to encourage lactation while getting in a little yummy treat.  Because one of my dearest friends just had a baby last night (gaahhhh!! So excited!), I, along with another awesome friend, helped put together a breastfeeding basket (yes, she indicated she would be, or at least trying, breastfeeding).  The basket included some magazines, some nursing pads, hair ties and bobby pins, lotion and chapstick, and nipple cream. Here’s the basket we made for her:

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I also wanted to make her some lactation cookies.  Not because she has a low supply, but just to show her that there are some yummy ways to encourage your supply later on.  I will be printing out the recipe and giving it to her for the future.  So, let’s get started with the recipe!

What You’ll Need:

4 Cups Whole Wheat Flour

3 Cups Old Fashioned Oats, uncooked

2 tsp baking soda

3 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 cups (or 3 sticks) of unsalted butter

2 cups of firmly packed brown sugar

4 tablespoons of water

1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal

4 tablespoons of brewer’s yeast

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 16-oz can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, but pure pumpkin)

1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup of chopped pecans

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What You’ll Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, mix the 4 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal and let sit for at least 5 minutes.  In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, yeast, cinnamon, and salt and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until it is nice and creamy. Slowly beat in the brown sugar. Once that is done, add in the vanilla, egg, and flaxseed mix. Beat until smooth.  Next, add in the pumpkin and mix well.  Slowly add in your dry ingredients and mix well.  Stir in your oats, chocolate chips, and pecans.

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You can use your hands for this part to ensure all the oats get covered.  You don’t want dry oats in your cookies!  Place the dough in 1.5 inch lumps, about an inch or two apart.

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Bake for 13-15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and and cool on a cooling rack.

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If you’re truly experiencing a low supply (and I mean truly experiencing a low supply and not just nervous about it), you can have up to 4 cookies per day.  If you just want a great treat while you happen to be breastfeeding, well, pop a cookie every now and then!  Good for you and baby (indirectly) and Tastes Oh-So-Good!

~ M ~

Risotto with Spinach + Peas

As much as I love vegetables, I will be the first to admit that I probably don’t eat enough vegetables. Scratch that. I know I don’t eat enough vegetables most days.  Although I always make sure to feed Olivia wholesome, nutritious foods, there are days I struggle with putting enough vegetables in her meals.  I am proud to say, however, that though it is a struggle at times, I have done a pretty darn good job 😀

Tonight’s dinner was a little indulgent, a lot of vegetables, and a whole lotta delicious.  I’m a sucker for Risotto. That creamy, oh-so-delicious risotto.  Makes my tummy swoon with joy. TJ makes a fantastic risotto with mushrooms that I’m sort of obsessed with.  Because mushrooms can be a bit on the rubber-y side and because Olivia only has about 4 teeth, I decided to make this risotto to share with Olivia instead.  It was also great because we had all the ingredients already on hand since most of these are staples in our kitchen.

I think making risotto seems to intimidate people because it seems like it would require a lot of work.  While risotto does require a bit of ‘babysitting’, it truly isn’t a difficult dish.  Your efforts will pay off!

Ready to get started?

What You’ll Need:

2 cans (14.5 ozs) of reduced-sodium chicken broth (The recipe for a homemade one is at the bottom of this page here)

A Few Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 Finely Chopped Onion

Salt & Pepper (As I’ve said before, I try not to cook with salt in our house so I omitted the salt)

1 Cup Arborio Rice

1/2 Cup Dry White Wine** (I used a non-alcoholic wine. I’ve written more about it below)

1 bunch of finely chopped spinach (about 10 ounces or so)

1 package (10 ounces) of frozen peas, thawed

1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (who am I kidding, I used about 3/4 cup!)

2-3 Tablespoons Butter

What You’ll Do:

In a saucepan, heat up the chicken broth and 2 cups of water. Bring it to a simmer and keep it lightly simmering.  In another saucepan, drizzle in your olive oil and saute up your chopped up onions until they are translucent. This will take you about a few minutes.  Season your onions with some salt and pepper.

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Next, add in the arborio rice and stir until the rice is nicely coated and mixed in with the onions for about 1 minute.

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Add in your wine and stir for another minute or so.  The rice will absorb most of the wine up.

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Take about 2 cups of the hot broth and ladle it into your rice and onion mixture.  You’ll want to stir this occasionally. (Remember how I said you’ll have to babysit it a bit?)  Once that liquid has absorbed into the rice, ladle in about another cup of hot broth and stir occasionally.  Wait until the liquid has absorbed before adding yet another cup of broth.

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Keep going with this process until the arborio rice is tender and creamy.  You may not use all the broth up.  This whole process may take you about 20-30 minutes.  This is why people tend to think making risotto is difficult – it requires you to ‘stay’ with it.  But you can stir! I have faith in you!

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Once your arborio rice is ready, stir in your Parmesan cheese, peas, spinach, and butter.  Mix well.  Season with some more salt and pepper if you desire.

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You’ll want to serve this immediately for the best result.  If you’d like, top with a bit more freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

** VARIATIONS**

Contrary to popular belief, the alcohol doesn’t completely burn off when you cook with it.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I have no problem with some wine.  However, since Olivia would be partaking in this dinner with us, I didn’t want her getting any leftover alcohol.  We ended up this wine for a traditional wine.  It was a bit citrus-y than I would have liked in my dry white wine I would have cooked with in a Risotto, but hey…better than a drunk baby, right? 😀

TJ and Olivia weren’t quite ready to join me for dinner just yet, but I couldn’t help but sneak in a few bites of my own first!  Decadent, chock full of vegetables, and Tastes Oh-So-Good!

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~ M ~

Jumuk Bap – Leftovers Edition

It certainly has been quite a bit since I posted a recipe, right?  Miss me? Hope so. Before I continue with tonight’s recipe, let me start by saying – I am no Korean cook.  I’m not going to try and convince you that this recipe is in any way authentic.  But what it lacks in authenticity, it makes up for in simplicity, deliciousness, and convenience.  Jumuk Bap are sort of the Korean version of the more well-known Japanese Onigiri.  Both are essentially little rice balls of goodness.  My version of Jumuk (meaning “fist” in Korean) Bap (or Ju-Mok Bap, however you’d like to spell it in English) , I love making when there are leftovers around.  It’s an easy way to incorporate those leftover veggies and meat you have laying around from last night’s meal.

I would also like to say that today’s recipe may frustrate you a bit.  You know when you read those recipes with no real measurements? A dash of that, some of this, and a large heap of that over there? Yeah…this is one of those recipes.  Don’t worry, use your cooking skills and judgment for this one.  I promise you it isn’t as daunting as you may think it is right now.

Tonight’s version of Jumuk Bap, I used carrots, onions, spinach, and ground pork as the veggies + meat.  I would’ve ideally loved to have incorporated some bulgogi (recipe here), but alas, ground pork is what we had.  Go ahead and use whatever veggies and meat you think would work well in this or whatever you have on hand.  Go crazy – experiment!  Now, let’s get on with the details, shall we?

What You’ll Need:

1 cup of short-grain rice (Sushi rice would be ideal)**

1/2 cup of minced carrots

1/2 cup of minced onions

1/2 cup of diced spinach

Toasted Sesame Seeds (maybe a generous tablespoon or so)**

Chopped up Seaweed (I used about one sheet)

Sesame Oil

Soy Sauce (optional)

1 tsp (or so) of Rice Vinegar (optional)

What You’ll Do:

Cook up the rice.  I use a rice cooker (what Asian girl do you know doesn’t own a rice cooker?!), but if you cook your rice stove top, you’ll cook the rice according to the package (or 1 cup of sushi rice and 1 1/4 cup water).  Toss in the sesame seeds and the rice vinegar (if you’re using the rice vinegar) into the rice at this point and mix well.  Once the rice is cooked, set it aside to cool a bit (enough so that you’ll be able to handle it with your hands).  Coat a pan with a bit of sesame oil, enough to coat your vegetables.  I sauteed my carrots and onions first since those take a bit longer to cook than the spinach.

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Once those softened a bit and the onions became a bit translucent, I added in the spinach.

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I don’t like to add too much salt to our food, but if you’d like, go ahead and add soy sauce or salt to your veggies.  I personally think the meat (especially if you’re using one that was already prepared with spices and some salt, like bulgogi, flavors up these rice balls just wonderfully without added sodium.  I’m assuming at this point, since you’re using leftovers, the meat is already cooked.  If not, just go ahead and cook up your meat.  Like I mentioned earlier, I’m using some ground pork we had leftover.  Add your veggies and your meat to your rice and mix well.

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Sushi rice (or other short-grain rice) is pretty sticky, so before you delve on in and get your hands dirty, you’ll want to wet your hands with some cold water.  Otherwise, the rice will just stick to your hands.  Scoop up about a few tablespoons of the mixture and form it into a ball.  Just keep shaping it – it will come together nicely.  Keep going until your mixture is all gone.  Once the Jumuk Bap are room temperature, they’ve probably set quite well.  Wrap each ball with saran wrap – how easy and portable is that?!  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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**VARIATIONS**

I usually include a “Variations” section, but I suppose this one is more of a “Miscellaneous” section this time.  I really urge you to use a short-grain rice/sushi rice.  It really sticks together much nicer (that’s why your sushi stays together so nicely).  If you must, must, must use another rice, instead of forming the balls with your hands, you’ll want to rip a little saran wrap and place that in your hand. Scoop up the few tablespoons of the rice mixture into the saran wrap and pull the saran wrap around the mixture.  Shape it into a ball and then twist the rest of the saran wrap to close it on up.

My other tidbit is about the toasted sesame seeds.  Toasted sesame seeds are super easy to find, especially in an Asian grocery store.  However, if you happen to come across just regular ol’ sesame seeds, don’t worry!  Toasting sesame seeds is so quick and easy!  In a pan, just sprinkle your sesame seeds and turn up the heat.  Shake sesame seeds so that the bottom doesn’t burn.  Remove them from the heat once your seeds have browned a bit and when they get fragrant.  Voila!

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This is a great picnic snack, a great way to stuff in some extra veggies, and, like I said, a great way to use up those leftovers.  Sure, you may be using leftovers, but this is a great way to transform those leftovers into something that Tastes Oh-So-Good!

~ M ~

Crockpot Curry Chicken

This is quite the busy day or two.  Today, my dad, who lives in Thailand, is coming to visit for 2+ weeks.  In fact, TJ is out picking him up from the airport right now.  We still had some cleaning to do around the house but I wanted to make sure that we had something healthy and delicious to eat for dinner tonight once he arrived.  Not only that, last night, baby O gave us quite a fever scare.  Long story short: two days ago, baby O had a fever. Her first time sick! It was quite a high fever of 103.6.  Called the docs and because she was acting fine, they just told me to keep a close eye on her.  Next day, her temp was 99.1.  I figured she was just fine.  Later in the day (last night), we took her temperature just before her bedtime and we found it to be 104.9.  Eep!  First-time mom jitters!  Instead of calling the docs (after-hours, so we couldn’t reach them anyways), we just rushed to pediatric urgent care.  We gave her a fever reducer and the good doc checked her out. She looks fine.  Apparently, it’s just an unusually high fever for a cold virus.

After last night, and because my dad is coming in today, we wanted to make sure we had something quick and easy to cook.  Out comes the crockpot.  Wait…wait…don’t leave this page!  I know, images of 1970s cooking are running through your head and you are imagining tons of sodium-laden condensed soups used.  Don’t fear!  No condensed soups here! I promise!  This recipe really is healthy, easy (5 ingredients or less!), and, most importantly, delicious!  Have you ever had those wonderful Japanese curry rice dishes?  They’re delicious!  We make those often, as well, but when you need something to throw into a crockpot, this recipe is a great quick fix!  Now, let’s get started!

What You’ll Need:

2-2.5 pounds of chicken thighs*

1 16-oz jar of salsa

1 16-oz tub of fat-free or low-fat sour cream

2 generous tablespoons of curry powder

A generous heap of minced garlic

What You’ll Do:

Ready for this easy recipe?  Spray your crockpot with a cooking oil.  Ok – so, I don’t really like to use those cooking sprays, so instead we just use coconut oil (the one from Trader Joe’s is fabulous and cheap) and spread a thin layer with a clean paper towel or brush the crockpot (or pan for other recipes) with the coconut oil.  Throw in your chicken.

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In a mixing bowl, mix together the sour cream, salsa, curry powder, and garlic.

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Once it’s mixed together, throw it into the crockpot over the chicken.

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That’s it! Really! Now, just cook that in your crockpot from 4-8 hours.  I know, that’s a huge range.  If you’re cooking fresh or refrigerated chicken and you want to cook this on high, it will likely be done in 4 hours.  Frozen chicken on high will take an extra hour or so.  Low heat? Well, then, add some hours to it.  Just test the chicken!

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*Now here’s my caveat to the chicken (remember I starred it above?).  Use boneless, skinless chicken thighs…that will also reduce the cooking time slightly.  But if you want something a bit more decadent, leave the skin on and the bones in.  Is it any surprise to you that I like my chicken with skin on, bone in? Either way, I promise you the chicken is tender and delicious!

Tonight, we served the curry chicken over rice (brown rice to eat a bit healthier – going to Hawaii in a few weeks!) and some steamed broccoli and cauliflower.  The broccoli and cauliflower was just steamed and not all that fascinating, I know.  But with a delicious curry sauce like that, you probably won’t need to do much to your sides!

**VARIATIONS**

As I said earlier, skin on, bone in, skin off, boneless – whatever!  You decide!  Also, if you have some fresh veggies handy, throw in some chunks of carrots and slices of onions.  Absolutely delicious!

Baby O loves curry of all sorts (this Thai mama is proud!) so she can definitely partake in this meal, though she didn’t tonight since she is still recovering from her fever.  Oh, don’t worry, she will get to enjoy some later in the week, though! I’ll make sure to save her of these melt-in-your-mouth, tastes oh-so-good leftovers.

~ M ~