Strawberries & Cream Cookies

Despite my lack of activity here and on my Instagram feed lately, I have actually been cooking like crazy over the last few months! However, turning a recipe into a post requires a lot more time and effort, and as you know from my last post, I have my hands pretty full lately. So, to minimize stress and keep things manageable, I’ve just been focusing more on meal planning and feeding my family.

However, today, on a whim, I decided to experiment with a cookie flavor I was craving in my mind. These strawberries & cream cookies are everything I had hoped they would be. Light and crisp, yet still a bit chewy, with little creamy bits thanks to white chocolate chips, and natural strawberry flavor.

For these cookies, I used the Simply Balanced freeze-dried strawberries (found at Target). These are always a staple in my pantry anyways, since the boys love to eat these as a healthy snack.

There are a lot of recipes out there for strawberry flavored cookies, cakes, cupcakes, etc but a lot of them use artificial flavors (like Jell-O mix), or real strawberries, which you may or may not know, usually results in a gummy, not-so-appetizing texture when baked. Ever since a couple years ago when I found my favorite peach cupcake recipe, I discovered how effective freeze-dried fruit can be in baking. You still get that natural flavor, while avoiding the textural differences from using fresh. Due to the lack of liquid, it also allows you to play around with the measurements, adding more or less depending on how much flavor you want.

Unfortunately, my love for fruity sweets is not shared with my husband–he’s hands-down a chocolate guy, so I will probably be enjoying these alone, but if you like fruit flavors when it comes to sweets, then I hope you’ll give these a try! They really are satisfying!

Strawberries & Cream Cookies

Yield: about 2 1/2 dozen

Print recipe

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cornstarch

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 Tbsp milk

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

1/3 cup freeze-dried strawberries, chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cornstarch, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugars with a handheld mixer until creamy and smooth. Add egg and vanilla and continue to mix until combined.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and mix with a wooden spoon, just until combined. Then, fold in the white chocolate chips and strawberries.

Scoop enough dough to roll into 1-inch balls. Then place on the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Using the palm of your hand or the bottom of a floured glass, press down gently on the cookies to flatten slightly.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are just turning golden. Then remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before removing cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Jordan

Today is one of those days I want to just crawl in bed, pull the blankets over me, and just wait for the next day to come. It’s been emotionally draining, I’ve cried twice already. That’s not like me. I usually am really good about putting on a smile and going about my day, where no one would have a clue how upset I really am. But I don’t know, today I just can’t do it.

April is Autism Awareness Month. They say autism can be an invisible diagnosis. Sure, there are some kids who are further on the spectrum who don’t talk, avoid any physical affection, etc. But the majority of kids on the spectrum, from afar, seem relatively “normal.” If we’re friends here, you may or may not know, that Jordan is also on the spectrum. It’s been 3 months since we finally received a diagnosis for Jordan, and that all of our challenges we struggled through for the first 3 years of his life were finally, in a way, validated. Finally. We’re not bad parents. We didn’t fail him. We didn’t “blow it,” as our first jerk pediatrician told us. We didn’t do anything that caused his sleep issues, his reluctance to potty train despite our endless efforts, his unpredictable meltdowns, his complete disregard for any food that isn’t in the form of some familiar carb (like mac & cheese, quesadilla, or pizza). However, I constantly feel isolated in our situation, like no one understands. I also know that is partly my fault, because by nature, I don’t let people in. It’s how I’ve always been. I’m not proud of that trait of mine, but it is what it is. But I think I need to start being more transparent about things, so here we are. I sit here typing this to share a little bit of what it has been like. 

About a month or so ago, I had a particularly bad day. I was home with the boys and thought, “It’s a nice day, why not get the boys outside for a bit?” This is something I usually don’t attempt because it’s absolutely exhausting but for whatever reason that day, I felt up for the challenge. It was worth it to provide them some happiness at the playground at our place. I held Evan and walked with Jordan to the playground, but to my surprise, as soon as we got there he started crying saying “NO SLIDE! NO SLIDE!” He sat down on the ground and wouldn’t budge, wouldn’t even walk back home with me. A little girl walked up, asking what was wrong with him. I casually told her, smiling, “Oh, he’s just upset because he doesn’t want to be here at the playground.” Meanwhile, I was freaking out inside about how I was going to get him back home. Well, it took at least 30 minutes to walk what would take about 3 minutes to get back to our front door. I called Tony panicked somewhere in that time frame, because I literally didn’t know what to do I had Evan on my hip, Jordan screaming, melting down, and it was physically impossible for me to carry them both. Eventually, foot by foot, we made it back. Tony came just as we were at the front door. My hip (which is already a bad hip) gave me pain for two weeks after that. I came home and cried. Like practically sobbed. I haven’t attempted to go anywhere with my boys since because I just can’t do it. So I’m literally stuck at home with them on the days I’m home.

Despite these issues we deal with, I am thankful that Jordan does have at least some sort of verbal communication, although limited. He tends to refer back to his same known phrases. He doesn’t know how to create spontaneous conversation/sentences. I would do anything to be able to have a conversation with my son; for him to ask me a silly question, like most little boys his age. “Who, what, where?” Those are not words in his vocabulary, and it breaks my heart when he resorts to whining and crying instead of being able to simply tell me what’s wrong.

I’m also thankful, because many kids on the spectrum tend to have sensory/emotional issues that make them uncomfortable when touched, and do not like to give hugs, etc. Jordan is not this way. He is the most loving boy I know and loves to come into the bathroom in the morning when I’m getting ready for work to give me the biggest morning hug. “Mama hug” he always says, with his arms extended out to me.

Back to what I was saying about autism being an invisible diagnosis: in some ways, the fact that Jordan’s diagnosis is not immediately apparent can be a challenge as well. If I’m being completely honest, I admit that I was once that person who said I would NEVER let my child have an electronic device, such as an iPad, at the dinner table. ESPECIALLY out at a public restaurant. I knew I would be strict and never allow it. Well here we are, 2 kids in, and you can bet that if we go out at a restaurant Jordan will most likely have an iPad in his hands. It’s absolutely essential if Tony and I ever want to have an opportunity to eat out and not feel isolated in our own home. If not, Jordan will be standing up in the chair, crawling under the table, shaking salt and pepper everywhere, or simply melting down and screaming because he just cannot sit still in a chair for an extended period of time.  But the worst part is I feel it. The judgment. Even if no one around actually cares, even if it’s not actually there, I still feel it. When Jordan is having a meltdown I wonder if someone nearby is thinking “Why doesn’t that mom discipline her kid?” or “My child would never act that way.”

Having an ASD diagnosis for Jordan also brings with it a lot of fears and a lot of questions. What does the future hold for Jordan? Will he have friends? Will he grow up to live independently or am I going to be raising my child for the rest of my life? Will he be happy? And what about Evan? How will that be for him growing up with a brother who has more need for our attention? Will he feel jealous? Neglected? Will he be upset that he has a brother who is different? And then the worst ones, usually something like, “What did we do to deserve this?” I don’t know the answers, and these things swirl around in my mind everyday…today more than others.

I thought after his diagnosis, we finally had the answers and could start getting him the help he needed. To make things easier for him, AND to make things easier for us. But February came and went, then March. And now here we are in April, and still in the same place we were in January. Finally, this past month we were finally given the green light to start the process with the school district, but now it’s just been evaluation after evaluation for the last two weeks. I mean, twice a week, my husband and I have to manage to arrange time away from work to take Jordan solo, without his brother, Evan, to these appointments.

Each evaluation session is stressful, with various therapists trying to get Jordan to complete different assessment tasks for them. “Jordan, can you stack these blocks?” “Jordan, look at my book: which one is red?” “Jordan, can you string these beads?” “Jordan, which one is bigger?” It’s overwhelming for him, and he usually resorts to melting into a limp puddle on the floor, hiding his face or saying “No more book” because he’s just over it, or because his attention span can’t take it. Today both of the boys had an appointment with pediatrician, which was again, stressful. Evan screamed and cried the entire time, while Jordan was obsessed with turning off the exam room lights, freaked out when the doctor tried to examine his ears, kept trying to open the door to escape the room. By the time the appointment was over, we were both so stressed and overwhelmed. Thankfully, Evan knocked out in the car on the way home so that we were able to transfer him in his crib for his nap.

Reflecting on the appointment is adding to the constant stress I feel. A new issue has come up with Jordan, requiring another appointment (how will we ever fit this in with our already ridiculous schedule?). They also threw in the possibility of starting in Evan in speech therapy because he’s a little behind where he should be as far as first words go. There’s absolutely no way we could take Evan to speech therapy in addition to Jordan’s endless appointments, and our work schedules. The doctor agreed to give it a few more months and monitor but seriously? We really cannot handle another single thing on our plate right now.

I don’t know what the future holds for us. Right now I work part time because I love my job. I love being a nurse. But secondly, I NEED that time away from the house, where I have a work life. I hope that can continue. But at the same time, I don’t know how we will manage these multiple appointments. Will things settle down once this evaluation process is over and we move on to therapy? Or will therapy add even more to our already overflowing plate? Time will tell.

If you’ve made it this far, we must be good friends? Or maybe family. I mean, 1600 words is a lot to read if we’re not close. But if we aren’t and you still read…thank you. It’s hard to not feel isolated in this situation. I know I’m not alone. I know there’s millions of families going through similar situations. But when you can’t leave your house to go out with your kids solo, when even a simple family dinner out takes extensive preparation, when you aren’t good at letting people in, it sure can feel that way. I’m not writing this for pity, support, or encouragement. I KNOW I can do this. I know WE (Tony and I) can do this, even though it does make our own relationship way more difficult. I guess I just needed to put my thoughts somewhere, because over the past few months they have just been building and building in my head. I do hope that reading this helps you understand though, a bit more about Jordan, and a bit more about what we experience as parents, and probably other parents as well.

Cheesy Cauliflower Muffins

A couple weeks ago, my youngest son, Evan, turned ONE year old! I can’t believe how fast the last year went…or maybe I can, considering how insanely busy this past year has been. My husband would agree with me when I say that this past year has definitely been the most difficult one for us, in all aspects. I spent the past year working night shift in a labor and delivery unit, then I would come home and take care of Evan while Jordan would go to daycare, so sleep for me was very irregular. My husband and I rarely slept in the same bed together because of this, let alone have much quality time period. My body functioned off lots of coffee and naps. Looking back on it, I think I was actually quite crazy for doing what I did, but hey, we pulled it off and made it through the year.  And now I vow to never do that to myself or my family ever again!

Since our move to Escondido, I’ve been slow to return to work. I think the craziness of the past year has a lot to do with it. I spent the year constantly exhausted and irritable, and now I want to savor these moments at home with my boys and be mentally and emotionally present for them. Aside from just being able to talk with them and play with them, I thoroughly enjoy being able to cook for them…even if one of them (Jordan) is the pickiest eater ever, and only eats about 15% of what I make!

Evan, on the other hand, is my GREAT eater. He literally eats everything and I love that so much about him. He never seems to get full, and if you continue to fill his plate, he will continue to eat (now if he could just learn to take bites out of food, and not try to shove and stuff it in his mouth even if it doesn’t fit, that would be great). With a child like this, it’s actually a lot of fun to get creative and make different types of kid-friendly foods!

Mini muffins are one of my favorite things to make, because they’re the perfect size for little eaters and they also freeze wonderfully. I’ve made a lot of lighter, cake-style muffins in the past, so this time I wanted to try something a little different and savory. After taking a mental inventory of my fridge and freezer, I recalled a bag of frozen cauliflower rice I had and knew it would be perfect for muffins! The cauliflower bakes into the batter nice and soft, giving these muffins a traditional fluffy texture. The cheese melts on top, so with each bite you get a crispness from the cheese and then the warm fluffy muffin in the middle. SO good!

I made these the other day while Evan was taking his nap, so when he woke up these were warm and ready for his post-nap snack! Needless to say, Evan LOVED them. I cut the mini muffins into little bite-sized pieces and let him have at it. He never would have stopped eating them if I didn’t eventually take them away. Even Jordan ate one, so in Jordan’s terms, I’d say that’s pretty successful!

Cheesy Cauliflower Muffins

  • Servings: 16-18 mini muffins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup cauliflower rice (thawed, if frozen)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the wells of a mini-muffin pan and set aside.
  2. Beat egg and milk in a medium bowl until thickened, about 1 minute. While mixing, slowly add melted butter.
  3. Add cauliflower and cheese to egg mixture, and stir to combine.
  4. In another bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Add to wet mixture, and mix just until incorporated.
  5. Divide batter among mini muffin pan, scooping about 1 1/2 Tbsp of batter per well. Sprinkle additional cheese on top of each muffin. Bake for 15 minutes, or until muffin tops are browned and slightly crisp. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes, then remove muffins to wire rack to finish cooling.

Notes: Best served warm. I used a combination of whole wheat and all purpose flour to make it a bit healthier, but feel free to use just one type if that’s all you have. If freezing, let cool to room temperature, then place in a freezer-safe container or zip-top bag and freeze for up to 1 month.

Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp with Coconut Rice & Pineapple

For those of you who follow along via Instagram, you know that for the last few weeks I’ve been cooking through my Half Baked Harvest Cookbook by Tieghan Gerard. I’ve followed along on her Instagram (@halfbakedharvest) for quite a while now, and have grown to love her excellent food styling and photography, but also her simple mountain-living way of life. Seeing her photos and reading about her thoughts and lifestyle are, in a way, relaxing and calming. Not to mention everything she makes literally makes me drool.

I made this meal a few nights ago for dinner after a (very close) poll on Instagram. It was either this or a summer veggie pizza, but this one won! If I’m being honest, I actually expected this one to win, so I was a little surprised at how close the poll actually was! The thought of Hawaiian garlic shrimp is pretty hard to resist, if you ask me!

If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, or even read about Hawaii, I’m sure you’ve heard about the famous shrimp trucks that sit near the coast. They are a popular tourist and foodie destination, and you can read tons about them online. Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is the most famous and also probably the most authentic, but due to popularity, there are TONS of these shrimp trucks all over the island.

Tony and I went to Hawaii 5 years ago for the first time, and we had a blast seeing the sights and tasting all the food! We went on some amazing hikes that I will never forget (where we actually had to cross rivers, trek through mud, and my husband did it all…with a broken flip-flop!) to get to the beautiful waterfall at the end. So many memories were made during that trip, and I dream of the day I can go back! With the boys being so young, we probably won’t be able to do any trips like this soon, but once they get older, we look forward to traveling with them and showing them what the world has to offer. In the meantime, we can talk about these amazing destinations and reminisce while enjoying a plate of this Hawaiian garlic shrimp!

The shrimp is amazing, but I want to emphasize that for me, the coconut rice and fresh pineapple were what really made this into a whole delicious meal! I’ve never made coconut rice like this before, so I was a little skeptical about how it would turn out, but I should’ve known that Tieghan would never steer me wrong! The coconut rice had the perfect amount of stickiness, and complemented the buttery garlic flavor of the shrimp SO WELL. And then, the pineapple on the side was just the perfect fresh element.

I definitely recommend trying this recipe if you, like me, are missing Hawaii. I know it’s not the same as being able to order a shrimp plate in person from Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, but for a dinner at home it sure did keep me satisfied.

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Hawaiian Shrimp with Coconut Rice & Pineapple

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

For the shrimp:

  • 1 pound tail-on raw shrimp (with or without shell)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon, plus lemon zest
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • Fresh pineapple, for serving

For the coconut rice:

  • 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • Flaked sea salt

Directions:

In a large Ziploc bag, combine shrimp, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, 1 Tbsp of parsley, and cayenne pepper. Marinate in fridge for at least 30 minutes, up to 24 hours.

In a medium pot, bring the coconut milk and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil over high heat. Add the rice, shredded coconut, and pinch of sea salt. Stir, then cover and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then turn off heat and let rice sit for an additional 20 minutes. Once cooked, remove from heat and fluff rice with fork.

While rice is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Use a slotted spoon to scoop shrimp and garlic from bag with marinade and add to hot skillet. Season with salt and pepper and cook shrimp until pink, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove shrimp from skillet to a plate and set aside. Add butter to hot skillet and a pinch of salt and pepper. Continue to cook over medium heat until the mixture becomes aromatic and the garlic begins to turn golden-brown. Watch closely, don’t let the garlic burn! Remove skillet from heat and return shrimp to pan. Add the rest of the parsley, lemon zest, and juice.

Scoop rice into serving dish, and top with shrimp. Use a spoon to add extra butter-garlic sauce onto shrimp and rice. Add fresh pineapple and serve.

*Recipe slightly adapted from The Half Baked Harvest Cookbook by Tieghan Gerard

And we’re back!

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Hi everyone! So some of you—friends, family—may already know that I used to run The Beachside Baker, waaaaaay back when. Think like…2010 era. It honestly was just a fun way for me to keep track of things I cooked or baked, while also having a place to document my life experiences for those who lived back home (I moved from my hometown of Manteca, CA to Long Beach in 2009).

While I had absolutely no skill in food photography whatsoever (which is embarassingly present if you scroll back in history in The Beachside Baker Instagram feed), I kept it going for quite a while. It wasn’t until I became knee-deep in care plans and clinical rotations in nursing school that I started to leave blogging behind. Nursing school was no joke! I was literally running on caffeine half the time! There was no way I could find time to cook and bake, let alone write and schedule blog posts!

Well, here we are now, almost 9 years later. Since then we’ve experienced marriage, kids, career, and a big move from Long Beach to Escondido, and while in between jobs, I’ve found myself with more time to bake and cook than ever. I’ve been pretty active on the Instagram account for the last two months, but with as much as I’ve been doing, I keep asking myself, “Why not just start up the blog again?” So here we are.

The Beachside Baker 2.0!

I may convert some of the previous Instagram posts from the last few months into blog posts here before I start updating directly to the blog. That way those recipes can also be easily accessible here.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you find something here that you can enjoy!

-Kimiko