Friday, April 19, 2013

New Design!

Guess what, y'all? The lovely Ashley of Little Leaf Design has worked her magic and I have a gorgeous new site. Click through to see!

It's still but isn't on blogspot anymore so you'll need to update your subscription if you'd like to continue to receive new posts. I'm sending this post out on the old feed, but after that all new posts will be through feedburner only:

(Which also means if you're reading this through the old feed, I don't think you can get to the blog by clicking on the post title the way you normally would. That link is likely broken. will get you there, though!)

Monday, April 15, 2013

What we ate: Mediterranean Quinoa Salad, Spinach Pesto, Chicken & Gnocchi Soup

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Funny story: I searched for quinoa recipes thinking I had this big jar of it in my cupboard that needed used. Turned out it was couscous. Oops. I made this anyway, with the couscous, and we thought it was pretty good. I don't even like olives normally, but didn't mind them in the salad. The dressing was tasty enough we might just put it on couscous or quinoa for a side dish when we don't feel like making the whole salad.

Spinach Pesto

I was looking for a way to use the spinach left over from the quinoa salad and this recipe was in my May Redbook. I couldn't find it on their site, but it's pretty simple: combine 2 cups fresh spinach, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, 2 tbsp pistachios, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 garlic clove, and 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Blend in the food processor, or a mini chopper if you have one, until smooth.

(That mini chopper is seriously the very best wedding present we got. We use it all the time and it's much easier to clean than the big ol' food processor.)

The pesto was pretty good. Obviously no basil pesto (my favorite) but yummy. I mixed it into pasta with chicken, then wilted another several cups of spinach in a frying pan and put it over top.

Also one of my favorite wedding presents: our brown everyday dishes
(OMG, when I went to link to that I saw they were on a big sale so I
replaced everything we've chipped or broken over the years. Yay!)

Chicken & Gnocchi Soup

Okay, so I tried this again. April linked to an alternate recipe in the comments the first time I made it. I was initially disappointed because the recipe is almost identical, but I thought, well, if this really is THE way you're supposed to make it I must have done something wrong. So I pretty much did the same thing again, just tweaking a few things. I cooked the roux twice as long as the recipe (both of them) said and I added a little chicken stock as I went along so it didn't get too paste-y and stick to the bottom of the pan. Also, I kept the heat really low and let the soup simmer between each step for much longer than the first time. I cut the gnocchi pieces in half (a good recommendation from the second recipe) and cooked it for less time.

Guess what? It was AWESOME. I loved it. It's still not an everyday kind of thing, what with the quart of half and half and all, but my craving was finally fulfilled.

Same picture as last time because I didn't bother to take another.
It would have looked the same, anyway.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Iowa State Fair

I found this in my drafts folder. Look at the wee little Paul! And my two-year-old Margaret!

Taken in August 2011

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

52 Date Nights, Week 23: Light Candles ...and Take Pictures

Previous date night posts here. Free stay-at-home date night ideas PDF download here. (Not sponsored.)

Friday night Thomas banished me to the basement after the kids were in bed. It's a testament to how tired I was that I didn't suspect anything beyond what he said: he wanted to pick up a little and then he'd be down to watch The Office with me.

Ten minutes later he asked me to come back upstairs. I sighed heavily as I dragged myself off the couch. When I reached the top of the stairs and found this:

That right there is our unity candle, some much-needed munchies, and glasses ready for wine.
The whole room was filled with candles. We got out the tripod to take pictures, which led to messing with the self-timer and my new lightscoop for self-portraits (another date night activity!)

(flash free)
Taken in the same lighting with flash + lightscoop
The best part is that when I downloaded the pictures a few days later I found this:

(Taken the next morning while I was still in bed.)

Monday, April 8, 2013

What we ate: Coconut Ginger Chicken, Cauliflower Pizza, Salsa Verde Beef

Coconut Ginger Chicken & Vegetables

The first time I made this (a few weeks ago) I thought, oh wow, this is better than a restaurant. And I made it. At home! COOKING IS AWESOME.

Make it as written, though, because the second time the store was out of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. They had whole chickens on clearance (I guess not as many people bought them for Easter as expected?) so I threw the whole thing in there. The chicken itself turned out great. When it was done, I broke it down and put all the dark meat back into the coconut ginger sauce and saved the white meat for other days. The sauce ended up watered down from the juices of a whole chicken, though, and it was just blah.

Cauliflower Pizza

To paraphrase Shalini: this is not pizza. But it's pretty good not-pizza.

My biggest beef with cauliflower pizza is not that I expect it to taste like pizza and it doesn't. I do not expect pizza. But I DO expect to be able to eat it like pizza, namely, by picking up a slice. But you can't do that, either. The recipe (which, to be fair, doesn't promise anything about picking it up) says to cook until it's good and crispy and we've cooked until it's burned around the edges, but it still disintegrates when you try to pick it up. So this is fork pizza.

That said, I still like it a lot. I put it on the meal plan this week because I was craving it, actually. I love that the base of dinner is basically a big ol' pan of vegetables. I like that it makes cauliflower edible for me since I don't like it in floret form. I topped it with the white meat from that chicken, green peppers, and Roma tomatoes. Delicious.

Salsa Verde Beef

We've been making this ever since Katie wrote about it on Food Lush forever ago. She recommended it with chicken, but we use it for any cuts of our beef share that are especially tough because it will turn anything, no matter how tough, into yummy goodness. We eat it over brown rice and lettuce because apparently that's how Thomas' family always ate stew-like things. (Like chili. They serve their chili over lettuce.) I was skeptical, but you know what? It's pretty good. I'm a fan.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

21 months

I’ve been reading my archives lately and smiling a lot at how much Paul is like Margaret at the same age.  He adores the bath and so did she. He plays this game where he runs in front of the vacuum seemingly trying to get his toes run over, which is quite stressful for someone who generally tries to avoid running over little feet. Apparently she went through a phase where she did the exact same thing.

He’s discovered this little barn full of plush horses someone gave us when he was born and is obsessed. Except half of the time he calls them “moo’s.” I always correct him and say they’re horses; horses go neigh! He said neigh once, but now he calls them ho’s, so…oops.

His favorite things right now are “uchs!!” (picture a real German throat clearing in there) When we go for a drive, he stares out the window intently and announces every time he sees a truck.

Dogs are “woof woofs.” Ducks are “duh duh.” That one is my fault because for some reason I call the rubber ducky ‘duck duck.’

Grandma is ah-ma, which sounds a lot like mama and can get confusing.

He was pretty close to my sister who moved to Spain in January. She sent him a postcard and he sleeps with it every night. They Skype once a week and he thinks she should be available in the computer 24-7.

Margaret is hooked on Llama Llama books right now and Paul has followed suit. He said llama the other day and when I didn’t get it (mama? Wawa?) he turned straight at me, all frustrated, and said LLAMA LLAMA clear as day. Then MAMA. Because he wanted to read Llama Llama Mad at Mama. (Which Margaret reads to him, by the way. It’s adorable.)

His favorite thing of all time is the Lion King. We have it on my iPad and whenever he catches sight of it he begs and begs (roar? Pees? ROAAAAAAAR?) He and Margaret also have an unfortunate game where they trap the cat somewhere (under the couch, under the crib) then lean down and roar at her.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

52 Date Nights, Week 22: Play Twister

Previous date night posts here. Free stay-at-home date night ideas PDF download here. (Not sponsored.)

We’ve been trying to do this date night thing on the cheap (figs and brie nonwithstanding) and we don’t own Twister. I asked all my local facebook friends if they had one we could borrow (no luck) and checked the game aisle of Goodwill several times.

Then we went to my in-laws for Easter this weekend and Thomas spied Twister in the game closet. Which led to…
What, do you guys just hunt eggs and stuff?
Playing Twister in my Easter dress.

Having your daughter man the spinner and your mother-in-law take pictures completely takes the flirting-while-Twistering option off the table, but it was still a lot of fun.

Our taskmaster:
Later she said to me "Mommy, I had fun playing Twizzle."
Of course, once we played with the kids we wanted to buy our own. It was great for Margaret to work on right/left (she knows which is which, but it takes some thought) and Paul to work on colors (his favorite is BOO). I think after all that searching I’ll end up just buying one from Target. Looks like flirting is back on the table.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

March 2013 Books

I only read TWO BOOKS this month! Operation: read less books in 2013 is coming along. Unfortunately I seem to have replaced reading time with Candy Crush, so...that's something to work on. Baby steps.

Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir by Kelle Hampton
I am terrible at reading books I own. Awful. I usually have so many library books I struggle to keep up with them and don't read anything else. I pre-ordered this book and received it the day it came out. A year ago. (April 3, 2012) I read a few chapters, but was soon pulled back to my library list and...yeah. Finally finished it this month. The first half was AH-MAY-ZING and the second half dragged. Still a really good book, though. I started reading Kelle's blog around Nella's first birthday, so it was nice to get more of the backstory. (This comes out on paperback today, I think.)

The Last Policeman by Ben Winters
I didn't know enough about this one to be super-into reading it, so it languished at the bottom of the library pile for awhile. I finally picked it up when I couldn't renew anymore and was hooked immediately. I read it in a day and a half and wanted more.

Monday, April 1, 2013

What we ate: Korean Beef, Emeril's Turkey Club Casserole, Mexicali Skillet

Korean Beef

A++, five stars, straight to the top of the dinner rotation. This was SO good and SO easy. Plus, it took like 20 minutes to make, so. Wins all around. Make it tomorrow. Use fresh ginger. Try not to grate your finger.

This did not take 20 minutes. More like way-too-many-minutes-for-a-sandwich. It also created a ridiculous amount of dirty dishes, creating extremely high expectations for the finished product. If I’m going to dirty a pot for b├ęchamel, a frying pan for bacon, a cutting board for bread, a mixing bowl for the eggs/cream, a casserole dish to make it in and another to weight it down, then yeah. It better be good.

Also, the grocery bill is a bit of a deterrent, both price-wise and health-wise. A pound of bacon, a pound of turkey, half a pound of ham, half a pound of cheese, 8 eggs, and a cup of heavy cream. Recipe for casserole or a heart attack? (And yet I chose to make it, so.) (I made a half batch, though.)

I viewed it as sort of a special occasion (calorie wise) and a project (time wise). It turns out since I now have the time to cook, it’s become a hobby. So while I might whine about the dishes, I actually didn’t mind making this.

I thought it was fine. Thomas liked it a lot. I'd eat it again. I'd even make it again, if I wanted a project. I don't think I'd ever make it just because I wanted to eat it, though. The work to yumminess factor ratio wasn't high enough.

Quick, Easy Mexicali Skillet

It seems my meals fall into two categories: Takes all afternoon to make and Throw it together in 15 minutes. This was, as promised, quick and easy. I've always hated taco seasoning packets, though, so I made my own from Holly's recipe.

The finished meal tasted exactly like you'd think taco seasoned ground beef + pasta + diced tomatoes + black beans would taste. No surprises. A perfectly respectable 15-minute meal, but nothing anyone is going to rave about. (Unlike, say, the Korean beef which I almost made again instead.)