Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2016 In Review

I've never done a year in review post before! It sounded fun so I thought I'd try it.

In January, we found out that we were expecting a baby! #5. We've had a baby every "even" year since 2008, so why should 2016 be any different? Exactly.

In related news, I love being pregnant. Really. There is nothing sweeter than having a baby inside my belly. Nothing sweeter than telling our kids that there's gonna be another. Nothing better than filling every seat in my van.

I love it.

In March, our baby #2 turned 6. I turned 35. (!) We added a furry member to our family: Meet Ari Zebra (Mary Beth was in charge of naming him). He is a lionhead bunny. (Ari=lion in Hebrew; Zebra=black&white color to an 8-year-old). Isn't he CUTE???

In April, our baby #1 turned 8. Wow.

In May, our baby #4 turned 2, Matthew turned 35 and we celebrated 13 years of marriage! If you had told us when we got married that we would have 5 children, I would have called you a false prophet. But that's okay because I've had to eat a lot of words in my day. I'm used to it.

June started summer! I love summer. The kids literally wore nothing but bathing suits the entire month. We played in the backyard, in the sprinkler, in the baby pool, in the fields, the orchard and on the playset. We also went to the (real) pool a lot. Even as we pass the pool in the dead of winter, Sarah Kate (she's 2) still screams "pool!" Never mind that it's empty save some leaves and twigs.

In August, our baby #3 turned 4. And the big girls started school, 1st & 3rd grades. Then, in a stroke of genius, I taught my big girls how to clean bathrooms.

In September, our Levi Davidson was born! He weighed nearly 9 pounds. Sweet, peaceful, precious baby. The 4 kids are so proud. Levi excels in nursing, smiling and sleeping. (I didn't think we could birth a baby that slept in the first year of his life. Levi has proven me wrong and I am thankful!)

In November, our 13-year-old longhaired mini weiner dog went to heaven. (Most dogs do go to heaven, you know.) She slept with us every night. I still miss her. I will need to have another weiner dog in the near future.

It's rarely calm, never quiet, sometimes clean and usually fun at our house. I am thankful for another year of God's blessing on our family. Matthew and I kicked off 2017 with the Whole30! It's so much fun (well, maybe "fun" isn't the most accurate descriptor, but I'm trying to be positive). I will probably post some Whole30 recipes on here just in the event that we do this again, I'm not reinventing the wheel trying to remember what we ate for the month!

(In case you're curious, Whole30 is a 30-day elimination eating plan where you get to eat meat, eggs, nuts, fruits, vegetables & certain healthy oils (like olive & coconut). No dairy, sugar, grains or legumes. It's not a diet. It's a nutritional "reset." Or so I'm told.)

These are 2 peas in a pod...

Happy New Year, y'all!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Grilled Corn Salad

I've been making this salad this summer and everyone loves it everywhere I take it. I know it's technically not summer anymore because Labor Day has passed and we're not supposed to wear white shoes (I don't actually own any white shoes) or summery dresses. But it's 94 degrees here and I'm really pregnant so I'll eat corn salad and wear summery dresses if I feel like it. Just sayin'.

Have you grilled corn? It's smoky and sweet and absolutely delicious. Mixed with the other salad ingredients - like feta cheese - downright addictive.

That's probably all I need to say about this.

Go forth and make it while the corn is still fresh-picked and delicious.

Grilled Corn Salad

8 ears of corn, grilled until slightly charred (I usually brush it with olive oil before grilling)
3 avocados, diced & tossed with the juice from one lemon (to prevent browning)
2 cups tomatoes (I use garden-fresh heirlooms or grape tomatoes), chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 (heaping) cup crumbled feta cheese
English cucumber, peeled and diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

6 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Cut the corn from the cob and toss it with the other veggies and feta cheese. Whisk the vinaigrette together and mix it with the salad. Serve this immediately at room temp (yum!) or chill it in the fridge for up to a few hours. Best served the same day you make it.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Kale & Quinoa Salad

There's something about summer and pregnancy that makes me crave salads like crazy! I can't get enough salad. I've made this kale & quinoa salad several times (and I've eaten Panera's Greek Kale & Quinoa salad several times…delicious…and Malone's kale & quinoa with salmon…fabulous). No one else in my family is wild about this combo of flavors/textures, but I think it's awesome. (Matthew is not a picky eater but raw kale is a bit too…chewy for him. And that's okay. More for me.)

So you just cook the quinoa (takes only about 15 minutes), throw in the minced kale and Craisins, toss it with the vinaigrette and top with the sliced onions and goat cheese. Hello delicious.

I've eaten this warm, room temp & cold. All 3 ways are my favorite.

Kale & Quinoa Salad

1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed well in a sieve
2 cups water
1 bunch kale, leaves stripped from stems and finely chopped
heaping 1/2 cup Craisins
Sliced almonds, toasted (about 3/4 cup, but do as many as you like)
Goat cheese, crumbled (about a cup, maybe more)

Lemon Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons, juiced)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Cook the quinoa in the water in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes until water is absorbed. Stir in the chopped kale and Craisins. Toss with the vinaigrette. Add the almonds and goat cheese to taste - you can sprinkle on top or mix them into the salad. (I tend to sprinkle them on top because goat cheese tends to dissolve into salads if you mix it too much.)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Tex-Mex Fried Rice

It's summer and I am thankful for that. I love having my kids home with me! It's wild and crazy and loud (did I mention that it's loud?) and dirty and messy but it's fun. We play outside (a lot). And I've even had time to make a few new yummy recipes.

So I have another Pioneer Woman recipe to share…I added a few things to it to make it work for our family and everyone LOVED it! It was pretty delicious and easy…and good left over. I'll definitely make this again.

Tex-Mex Fried Rice
Adapted from Pioneer Woman

1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
15 oz can black beans, drained & rinsed
4 oz. can chopped green chiles
10 oz. can Rotel tomatoes
3-4 cups cooked white rice (leftover rice works well)
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
1 T garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 T worcestershire sauce
4 green onions, sliced thin
Juice of 1 lime
1 bunch cilantro, chopped fine

Brown the ground beef with the onion and bell pepper in a large deep skillet, crumbling as it cooks. Drain any excess grease. Stir in the corn, black beans, green chiles and Rotel. Cook for a minute. Stir in the rice and remaining ingredients and heat through. Ready to serve! Delicious by itself or topped with cheese, salsa, avocado (or guacamole!) & sour cream.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Heavenly Hummus Wrap (PW Recipe)

Hi y'all. This is not my original recipe, and it's so delicious exactly the way it's written that I really haven't changed anything. PW knows what she's doing. Which is, I guess, why Food Network deemed her worthy of her own show. And she has several cookbooks. And her own line of KitchenAid mixers. And dishes.

Let's face it. She's an empire. So who am I to mess with one of her recipes.

I have a thing about wraps, so when I saw her make this veggie wrap on her show, I knew I needed one. It's really delicious. There's just something about the cool and creamy hummus, the warm and sweet caramelized onions, the cool veggies, the salty bite of feta and the balsamic-dressed greens.

Mmmmm...I'd like one right this moment. But I've de-prioritized cooking this week year while I finished up my painting projects. I've nearly finished painting the main floor and gotten a start on the second floor. Whew.

Heavenly Hummus Wrap

Spinach wrap (sold where the tortillas are)
Hummus (I make it but you can buy it)
1 onion, sliced thin
2 tsp butter
Roasted red peppers, sliced
Canned quartered artichoke hearts, drained
Feta cheese, crumbled
Handful of leafy greens (spring mix, arugula, spinach, etc.)

Smooth a generous amount of hummus on the center of the tortilla. Caramelize the onions in the butter over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes or so until sweet and browned and delicious. Spread desired amount of onions on top of hummus. Next layer the roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts on top and sprinkle with feta. Toss the greens with balsamic dressing and place on top of the wrap. Roll it and enjoy!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

(How to) Can Fabulous Salsa

Last summer my dad grew more tomatoes than I can even describe to you. No lie. Buckets and buckets.

This is my Bitty Baby. She's 19 months old. Hurts my heart. 
I was thrilled. I made tomato sauce and froze it. We ate fresh tomatoes every day. I made fresh pico all the time. And (drumroll please) I canned salsa!

Canning salsa has been on my bucket list for quite some time. (Remember, we're not to judge others' bucket lists.)

You're gonna wanna do this, peeps. Eat it with a spoon, drink it with a straw, just get it in your mouth.

I shared it with my family and my brother said it was the perfect amount of "sweet and heat." Mission accomplished.

Once I became a pro at canning salsa, I went to town canning pears & apples from our orchard. By next summer, I'm going to be a canning machine. Watch out. It's juicy, messy & sloppy but so worth it.

Here's how I did it.

(How to) Can Fabulous Salsa

8-10 cups of peeled, chopped & drained tomatoes (I used Roma tomatoes & plum tomatoes)
2 large sweet onions, chopped
2 green peppers
1/2 cup jalapeno peppers, chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 T cumin
2 tsp pepper
2 T kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
15 oz. can tomato sauce
12 oz. can tomato paste
Juice of 2 limes
Bunch of cilantro, chopped fine

Place all ingredients except for lime juice & cilantro into a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to create the consistency you want. I like it pretty pureed (though not completely). Taste it and see what you think. You can always add more heat, salt, sugar, whatever, to suit your taste. Stir in the cilantro & lime juice. Ladle into canning jars, seal with lids and cook in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

*Just a canning tip: the jars may not feel completely sealed on top when you remove them from the water; if the lids don't pop after the jar has cooled, you know you have a good seal. If it still pops, process in the water for another 10 minutes.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Barbecue Chicken Nachos

I just noticed that I last posted in September. That was four months ago. It's now 2016. I'm not even going to ask you where my life is going because I know you don't have an answer either.

So. What's happened in the last 4 months. Matthew and I stayed awake ALL THE WAY TO MIDNIGHT on New Year's Eve!!! This is news, people. We haven't rang in a new year since we had children.

Exciting item #2. We acquired a new family member. It is a baby kitten! Ugh. Kittens one of God's cutest creations. We named him Tubby. He's clearly a smart cat since he chose our house to come howl in front of. And I'm a total sucker for animals. And my dad is a vet! Told you Tubs is smart.

It was a dark and stormy evening (for real), my dad dropped Matthew off from their afternoon of hunting and we heard a kitten crying in the bushes. My dad and I hunted around in the bushes, using our flashlights because it was dark as night and raining and calling "here, kitty" about a thousand times. We caught him and the rest is history. Tubby is adorable and sweet and positively adores our children. Well, he adores the two older girls. The two littles are a bit rough with him. He's sweet and tolerant anyway.

It goes with the territory. I just remind Tubby that he picked us. He loves our dogs, he loves our other cat, Harry, and I'm sure he will love the bunny we're getting this spring when Mary Beth turns 8. (We're on our way to a petting zoo. Just how I planned it. Don't say I didn't warn you.)

Christmas break was wonderful...I love all of my kids home with me. I considered not sending them back to school this semester. Learning is overrated, no? (Matthew does not share these thoughts. Hence the reason children need mothers AND fathers. That is not a political statement. It's just a factual statement.)

Christmas break...where was I...oh, yes, these nachos. Um, yum is all I can say about these. My sister-in-law makes these and my brother loves them and she told me all about them and I said yes I'll be making those soon and so I made them in December. Matthew and I LOVED them!!!

Quantities are approximate because it simply doesn't matter. (Plus, I don't have time to measure anymore. I just empty out the refrigerator and dump stuff in. Things turn out okay. Usually, anyway.) A pile of chips, a pile of cheese, chicken, bake. Top with green onions, sour cream, BBQ sauce & pickled jalapeno slices. Devour.

So easy. Please make these. And by all means, use Neely's BBQ sauce recipe (I tweaked it a bit and blogged it here). Bottled BBQ sauce is just too...gloppy. Neely's is perfect. You'll lick your plate, despite your New Year's resolutions!

Barbecue Chicken Nachos

Tortilla Chips
Shredded Cheese (I used a combo of Pepper Jack & Cheddar)
Cooked chicken, chopped (I used grilled but sauteed or even rotisserie would work!)
Black beans (I just used canned, drained & rinsed)
BBQ Sauce

Sliced green onions
Sour Cream
Pickled jalapeno peppers

On a large baking sheet, spread a layer of tortilla chips and top with cheese & chicken. Spread another layer of chips on top with cheese & chicken. Bake in a 375 degree oven until cheese is melty & bubbly. Remove from oven and generously top with BBQ sauce. (If you put the BBQ sauce on the chips before you put it in the oven, the chips get soggy. Just FYI.) Sprinkle green onions on top. Top each serving with sour cream and jalapenos.

My mouth is watering. Can't wait to make these again.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookies (soft. coconut oil. so good)

For cryin' out loud, y'all. It's SEPTEMBER. What in the world.

I know you're dying for an update on my exciting life, so I'll oblige. We bought a house. We sold our old house. We moved.

Did you know that moving entails packing every single itty bitty item you own, putting it in a box, putting the box in a vehicle and driving it to a different location?

I won't even get into unpacking every little thing.

If I had thought that through, I might have thought twice about moving. Oh my word. Children have a lot of little bitty things. Times four. And I had stuck a lot of things in a lot of places. Wow.

But we're moved and it was all totally worth it. More than worth it. So worth it, we're never doing it again. Ever.

We love our new place. All of us. Especially the dogs and the kids. They run and romp and dig holes (this applies to kids & dogs alike). The kids play in the dirt and run in the field and help their daddy prune trees. Kids are supposed to be dirty and sweaty, you know? Also, most of us have shared poison ivy (that was fun).

I have a long list of farm animals I plan to procure at some point. And no, the list does not include goats. Nearly everyone has asked me this. What is the deal with goats? To quote my dad: "If a fence won't hold water, it won't hold a goat." There ya go. No goats on this land.

But I would consider a burro (that's the Spanish word for donkey, but it sounds much better in Spanish don't you think?).

So I do cook occasionally, but it would be embarrassing if I told you what I make (I'm using the words "cook" and "make" very loosely in this context). But we do eat on our screened-in porch every night. It's awesome. It might get a bit cold in the winter, but kids are messy and at least one person spills their milk every night, so I think we'll just suffer through.

On an unrelated note, I tried yet another recipe for chocolate chip cookies. I tweaked it a bit and I think they're pretty delicious. I fell in love with coconut oil during my Whole30 and so I just applied that healthy oil to baking (I'm sure the creators of Whole30 would be thrilled with that). Don't skip the step of chilling the batter because your cookies will be puddles when you bake them. Just follow the directions and your life will go as planned.

Softest Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/4 cup melted coconut oil (measure the melted oil to equal 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup dark chocolate chips (Ghiradelli chips are the best)
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Stir together the oil, butter & sugar until combined. Add the egg and vanilla and combine. Add the salt, soda, powder & flour with the chocolate chips and stir until just combined. Scoop into mounds (I use a cookie scoop) and chill for at least 3 hours. Bake on a parchment paper lined baking sheet for 7-8 minutes, until not quite done (they will set up as they cool).

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Banana Pudding (quick, easy & no-cook)

It's been awhile, y'all.  So I'll just begin by telling you some of the random thoughts that swirl around in my head.
  • School is out. For the summer. Could I please just press pause for a year or so? I used to be all for continued education but now I firmly believe that a first grade education is adequate. Plus, I'm now one of those annoying people that thinks "life goes so fast once you have kids in school." I'm not actually one of those people saying that, though, because that would make me actually annoying. But I'm totally thinking it.
  • This is my baby. She is almost 1. Year Old. I just birthed her, so I'm not sure how she's turning one. Because I just had her the other day. Although she has nursed approximately 5,000 times in the last 12 months. I kept count.

  • She is a complete joy. She screams if I don't feed her fast enough. She loves to swing. She still nurses as many times during the hours when normal people are sleeping as she did eight months ago. I let her because someday I will be sad when she doesn't want to nurse anymore. (Does that make me weird?) It's good to be the baby of the family, let me tell you. She's a regular celebrity around here.
  • So the last time I blogged, we had just gotten Pip, our adorable and tiny chick. He didn't even have feathers. Just fuzz. Or whatever the scientific term of chicken fur is. Approximately 16 hours after we brought him home, he turned into an awkward, half-grown chicken with feathers. He grew something odd-looking on his face and his legs got long. He was not nearly as cute as he had been the day before. Then our mini longhaired dachshund attacked him. She was fierce. He suffered nerve damage in his leg (my vet confirmed this diagnosis) but he compensated well for his handicap. Then he escaped his pen (I use the term "pen" loosely for the box he lived in). We have not seen him since, though my children have been known to wander around the yard calling, "Pip!" as if he's going to saunter up to them. They were even looking for him at the Arboretum during a walk the other day.
  • I haven't the heart to tell him that he got eaten by an animal. If you run into my children, please don't mention that our pet chicken was probably was someone's midnight snack.
  • Our house is on the market. If you're shocked, sorry. I haven't had time to text and/or call and/or email my entire contact list. The good news about this is that my house is really clean. The bad news is that all I do now is clean my house. That's why I haven't told you that my house is on the market. I've been mopping, sweeping, vacuuming, picking up toys, emptying trash cans (where do kids get all of this trash they throw away???), folding blankets (someone makes a fort around here approximately every 4 hours), picking up pillows (all good forts require lots of pillows), putting the dogs out, letting the dogs in, feeding and watering the dogs, feeding and watering the children, cleaning up spilled milk (whoever said not to cry over spilled milk didn't have 4 children), changing lightbulbs (put your house on the market and within 12 hours half of your lightbulbs will have blown. guaranteed.), and wiping snot/spit/drool/yogurt/milk/banana sticky fingers/some unknown sticky or gooey substance off of every glass door and window that can be reached by the tongues and/or fingers and/or feet of little people.
  • Following the advice of our wonderful realtor (if you want her name, let me know. She's awesome and I couldn't recommend her any more highly), I cleaned off our refrigerator, freeing it from the invitations, birth announcements, pictures, chip clips, calendars, magnets, memory work & art work that had accumulated there. Bubby (he's 2 1/2) thinks we got a new refrigerator. Just because it's clean. "Wook at our new fridge!" he announces every couple of hours. It's pretty funny. It actually does look pretty new because it has been protected by a nice thick layer of the items mentioned above.

  • Our peonies bloomed. This is always a momentous occasion in our family because all of my bridesmaids and I carried bouquets of peonies at our wedding...12 years ago. The groomsmen even wore the large buds of peonies in their boutineers. It was fabulous. So now we have a long line of peonies in our yard, and every May when the bloom, it reminds us of our wonderful wedding. And we tell our children about it. And I cut big bunches and put them in our house. Yes, ants come into the house on the flowers. Life goes on.
  • I'll be digging up every last one of my peonies bushes when we move and transplanting them to our new house. This announcement counts as a legal disclosure.
  • So we just re-paved our driveway. It was worth every penny for the entertainment provided to these two middles. They loved all of the equipment, from the steamrollers & bulldozer right down to the sledgehammer.
Your eyes do not deceive you. That is, in fact, Tinkerbell on the left.
  • I haven't really cooked a whole lot of new or exciting things lately. I did a Whole30 challenge. Have you heard of that? Think paleo on steroids. It's insane and awesome at the same time. Basically I turned into a carnivorous rabbit. Bottom lime: in the end it was worth it and I was glad I did it. But during that month I wasn't exactly fixing cheesy, saucy enchiladas, pasta dishes or peanut butter cookies - you know, the types of things that people want to read about and look at on a food blog. I did eat good food, but I was too hungry to even think about blogging. Just bein' honest, ya'll.

  • After my Whole30 experience, it was my husband's birthday. He requested Banana Pudding. It's his fave. I love it too. He prefers the no-cook version and since it WAS his birthday and all, I obliged. But this is my favorite - with homemade vanilla pudding. Mmmm. How bad could that be. But the no-cook version is way faster and easier and you don't have to worry about curdling your eggs in your hot custard or scorching the bottom of the custard because you forgot to stir, stir, stir. (Been there, done that. Scorched and/or curdled pudding must go straight in the trash. There is no redemptive plan for such a mistake.) And this no-cook recipe is a very delicious version. I've already educated you Yankees on banana pudding, so if you need a refresher, read this post.
I'm off to clean up some mess that someone made in the time I wrote this post. I'm not sure who did it, how it happened or what spilled, but I guarantee someone did something somewhere. I just tell myself that sticky won't exist in heaven. And I'll just leave you with this picture of our perfect family, where no one cries or whines and everyone always is happy to have their picture taken.

Banana Pudding (quick, easy & no-cook)

2 large boxes instant vanilla pudding
3 cups whole milk
1 cup sour cream
8 oz. Cool Whip, thawed
1 box vanilla wafers (don't buy generic please)
6 bananas (give or take...depending on size, just don't be skimpy)

Whisk together the pudding mix and milk in a large bowl until no lumps remain. Whisk in the sour cream. Use a spatula to fold in the Cool Whip.

In a large serving bowl (think a salad bowl - and it's nice if it's clear glass so you can see the layers), start with a layer of vanilla wafers (cover the bottom), sliced bananas (cover the vanilla wafers), and pudding (use about 1/3 of the pudding mixture). Continue layers - you'll do 3 of each - ending with the pudding. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving).

Monday, April 13, 2015

Chili Mac & Cheese

Since it's been a long time since I posted, I thought I'd introduce you to the newest member of our family.


Can you tell that my biggest girl is pretty excited. Pip is a chick (can you tell?). Yes, as in a chicken. 

No, we haven't moved to the country since we last talked. Why do you ask?

So anyway.

Chili Mac & Cheese. Comfort food, I think it's safe to say.

My mom used to make this for us. It's just really good. These things just go together. So you really should make it.

It's easy. It's good. It's cheesy. That's enough for now.

Chili Mac & Cheese

8 oz macaroni (about 2 cups uncooked), cooked according to package directions
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 cups shredded)

Brown the beef with the onion and bell pepper in a large skillet, crumbling the beef and cooking until no longer pink. Drain any grease. 

Add the garlic, tomatoes, cumin, oregano, basil, salt & pepper and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Combine with the pasta and pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish. Top with the cheese and bake in 350 degree oven until bubbly and hot (about 20 minutes or so).