...based on the fruit I had in the refrigerator before grocery shopping.
This fruit salad was not planned, originally. The first time I made it, I kind of just threw together what I had at the time to make a light but filling fruit salad.

The cheese I had at the time was feta—not as good as the rich, creamy goat cheese I used when I made it again for this post. Goat cheese wins by a long shot! 

 
 
...based on a simple recipe my dad made up once upon a time during my childhood.

Growing up, we always knew it was Sunday when we could smell pinto beans cooking on the stove all afternoon. My dad threw together this one-pot dish at some point while I was young, and it became a staple in our family. 
My husband was a little confused the first time I said I was making "pinto beans" for dinner ("Uh...just...pinto beans?"), but that's what my brothers and I always called this meal. I suppose, to be more descriptive, you might call it pinto bean soup

Served with some crusty French bread, it makes an easy, wholesome (not to mention inexpensive!) dinner that takes hardly any time to prepare.

 
 
...based on the time I bought dried cranberries that smelled soooo good and I had to add them to the applesauce I'd already planned on making.
Applesauce is so simple to make. And I love that it's a sweet, sweet treat you can make without adding any extra sugar...because if you haven't read the memo—apples have a lot of sugar in them. 

An average gala apple has 16 grams of sugar, in fact! So no need to add any extra sweetener, y'all! 
Apples. Cranberries. Cinnamon. 

That. Is. All.

(OK, plus a tiny bit of lemon juice.)

 
 
...based on a classic whole wheat pancake recipe, plus the addition of Greek yogurt to complement the essential elements of a comforting, wholesome pancake. 
These pancakes are delightful. I made them once by combining a few recipes (as you do), jotting down the ingredients as I went. They turned out so delicious and flavorful that I decided to remake them this weekend for ze blog, and I was happily surprised to remember—I didn't have to add any sugar to them. 

(Sure, they got topped with maple syrup, but hey. Good start.)

The yogurt and pecans pack them with protein, and the whole wheat flour and sprinkled wheat germ make them deliciously hearty. 
I'm not sure how to describe these pancakes—they're rich and buttery and pancakey, and I want to say the yogurt adds a little tang to them, but I'm not sure if tang is an adjective people usually look for in a pancake description. 

So if that doesn't entice you, pretend I didn't just write that and make them anyway! I promise you won't be disappointed. 

 
 
...based on my cooking aunt's chicken salad sandwich recipe, the reason for my 18-year-old self's conversion to the green olive appreciation society.
Disclaimer 1: Not entirely sure such a society exists.

Disclaimer 2: I'm sure I have more than one aunt that cooks. But my first year of college I lived with my aunt (and uncle + two cousins, naturally), who is well known in her small town for her cooking. These chicken salad sandwiches definitely fall on the easier side of her recipe repertoire, and they were great for weeknights or busy weekends. 

So satisfying and so easy.
Growing up, I baked far more often than I cooked. Easier for a kid to bake something for her nine-person family than to cook a meal that would survive the trek down the table all the way to the youngest of six brothers. It'd be the 90s Campbell's I-didn't-know-there-was-chicken-in-this-soup commercial every time.

So if there was ever a period of my life where I "learned" to cook, it was probably the year I lived with my aunt. However, my aunt's a one-woman show in the kitchen, so it's not like I probably did much more than slicing tomatoes. Cooking osmosis, I suppose.

Incidentally, I tend to cook the same way now. Back in my dating days if I was making dinner, I had to think ahead and be very intentional about delegating something if my date wanted to help. It was usually slicing tomatoes.
Also incidentally, this was often what I would make—these chicken salad sandwiches plus baked red potato "fries" (which I'll share soon) were always a smash hit.

 
 
...based on these insane waffles I saw posted a while back by Epicurious—which is a super dangerous (read: awesome) food blog to follow, let me tell ya.
OK, so the above picture is of these crunchy waffles that are perfection for a weekend morning. I spiced them up by doubling the cinnamon and adding pecans.

The below picture is of another moment of baking insanity for which I hold Epicurious responsible:
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Husband's wicked birthday cake...
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made with all things MAGIC.

(I will find an excuse to make this cake again.)


Alright, back to these incredible cornmeal waffles.
They have a comforting, full flavor, thanks to whole grain cornmeal, whole wheat flour, spelt flour, and hearty, old-fashioned rolled oats. 

A generous amount of cinnamon adds warmth to the taste, and pecans enhance the crunch effect you already get with the coarse cornmeal.

You should know, I had to eat a waffle in the middle of the day in order to get this post ready for you guys. Oh, the sacrifices I make...


 
 
...based on my hot-weather-necessitated adventure in How Many Ways Can You Vary A Salad—in which I have discovered that broccoli salads are an awesome variation of their lettuce-based siblings.
Some of you might agree with this awesomeness because you get bored with lettuce after a while.

I hear ya.

Some might agree because broccoli salads usually include bacon.

I hear ya.
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mmm...bacon!
(I put up a classic Jim Gaffigan bit on the Laugh a Little page, fyi! It's a must see.)

Many of the broccoli salad recipes I found called for a crazy amount of mayonnaise, so I definitely wanted to make a lighter dressing for mine. Substituting plain yogurt plus a smidgen of mayo (olive oil mayo's my fave) goes a long way in making dressings lighter while keeping the familiar taste.

Fresh broccoli, crunchy veggies and pecans, crispy bacon—all tied together in a light, tangy-sweet dressing. Include some bowtie pasta and sprinkle some fresh Parmesan cheese on top, and you've got a complete dinner that should delight any crowd!

 
 
...based on some tropical flavors and one of my all-time favorite secret ingredients.
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(I guess the secret ingredient isn't that secret when you sprinkle more on top.)
This smoothie is delightfully sweet, refreshing, and surprisingly filling.

I came across this idea for a smoothie when I was exploring dates as a natural sweetener. I love the simplicity of the ingredients, and I was surprised by the way all the flavors blended together! In a word, delicious.

 
 
...based on an intoxicating blend of summer ingredients and fall spices, to kick off the season where even though Starbucks has pumpkin lattes already—there's still a bit of summer left. 
Here on the surface of the sun, however, there's no confusion about it still being summer. I find it amusing that all the coconut oil in jars are clear even inside Trader Joe's because it's still so warm!

This recipe calls for melted coconut oil, so if you're still in the dog days where you are, you're golden. 
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(Even in our pantry, it's murky white at best. So. Warm.)
Sweet zucchini and warm spices...hint of coconut...gooey dark chocolate...altogether moist goodness from Greek yogurt and coconut oil...I made this bread last week, but putting all these photos together has made me want to remake it immediately. 

So much yum. 

 
 
...based on my recent happy accident of purchasing fresh basil
and my recent/current/constant obsession with walnuts.
I have recently been using a lot of fresh basil in my cooking endeavors. There was a slight line-separation discrepancy in the please-pick-this-up-at-Trader-Joe's list I quickly jotted down for the husband a few weeks ago, and instead of having basil Italian sausage in our fridge we ended up with Italian sausage and fresh basil. 

Not complaining! Some miscommunications work out for the better, don't you think? 

One of these days we will start growing fresh herbs on our patio since it is sunny ALLTHETIME, but until then, this purchase will now be intentional. 
I'm also obsessed with walnuts lately. Usually we have pecans around but I have rediscovered that I think walnuts are the king of the stone fruits. (Which is the family nuts as a group apparently belong to...lock that little gem away in case you're ever on Jeopardy.) 

Missing protein on your plate? Try walnuts! Getting bored with your hot breakfast cereal? Try walnuts! Tired of chocolate on your sundae? Try walnuts! 

I'm kidding, that's crazy talk. Keep the chocolate--add walnuts.
To get the full recipe, click the button below!