Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Spinach Artichoke Wonderpot

Christmas down, New Years to go! Today I have a great, no-brainer recipe for you to try. Its not spectacular or super special but its tasty, unique, and oh-so-easy. So I guess you could say it's perfect for this lull in the next few days. And who doesn't love spinach artichoke anything?

How was your Christmas? Ours was full! We started opening presents at 7am, and was making our annual Christmas breakfast by 9am. We have the same thing every year - Mimosas, Eggs Benedict except with Welsh rarebit sauce (beer cheese sauce) instead of Hollandaise with tomato slices, orange rolls, cinnamon rolls, and a big bowl of fruit salad. This year we added in some apple cinnamon sausage compliments of my husband. Family and friends lingered and a mix of Christmas music and The Hunger Games played in the background. Not the most traditional Christmas movie ever, but you know, c'est la vie.

By 4pm we were at Mambos, our restaurant, for a Christmas dinner. Lobster Fra Diavolo for me and prosciutto wrapped tenderloin for Jeremy. Cannoli and chocolate hazelnut panna cotta for dessert. Not bad at all. Kids opted for regular bow tie pasta with meatballs. My sister, brother-in-law, and niece joined us this year and between us, ridiculous things were said.

Right before we left the restaurant Kaylee, my sister, let out a defeated Oh-no... I look...like... a... whore. It was shocking because my sister doesn't usually use words like "whore" and also because of the sincerity and seriousness in which she said it. Turns out she had a run in her stocking. I laughed, then took a picture.

And that's not all. Other ridiculous things were said. Things like I think I might train for a half marathon and do you want to join me? To be clear, that came out of my sisters mouth. I said A HALF MARATHON? Crazy. Why not start with a 5K? I mean, we don't even run...like at all. Then the real ridiculousness started when I responded with I would train for a 5K with you...

Don't laugh. I realize a 5K is only 3 miles, but I have never run a mile before. I jogged two miles really, really, s-l-o-w-l-y two years ago. I probably could have speed walked faster than I jogged. But that's about all the experience I have going for me. I listened to Mumford and Sons "I Will Wait" and Katy Perry's "Firework", and "You Ain't Never Had A Friend Like Me" from Aladdin while I did it. I remember. I was on the bike path by the river way down where it starts on the west end of town. It was cold, but not quite enough to deter me. 

End random memories.

Christmas night was spent reliving our childhoods while my two oldest kids played Super Mario Bros  for the first time on the Wii they got for Christmas. Up until now I have banned video game playing from my house. I hate it. But I used to play Mario Bros and was feeling nostalgic and I knew the kids would flip so I said yes. That music came right back to me. My sister and Pat were throwing out names I had long forgotten like Bowzers castle and Princess Peach and Yoshi. I forgot that a flag pole signaled the end of the level and Mario would slide down in victory. Pat looked up some video online of a kid playing elaborate piano to all the Mario theme songs. It was awesome.

Uncle Pat showing the kids how it's played

I caught this one morning around 5:45am. My son was just beholding the tree, sitting still and waking up. It's my favorite.

End Christmas re-cap.

So back to this wonderpot. The genius of the wonderpot recipes is that the pasta and all ingredients are cooked together for a specified amount of time and when it's done the remaining liquid, thickened by the starch in the noodles, becomes the sauce itself. Just stir and eat. Fun, right? The only thing to be wary of is cooking too long. You must eat this when it's ready. If allowed to sit, the liquid will keep absorbing into the noodles and become overcooked and thick. Make sure you season to taste with salt as well. This dish needs a hefty dose to make all the flavors shine through. I may even add a dusting of Parmesan to the top of my bowl next time.

Happy New Year, friends!

Spinach Artichoke Wonderpot
adapted from budgetbytes
serves 4-6

8 oz. mushrooms
1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts
5 cloves garlic
1 medium yellow onion
5 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp olive oil
12 oz. fettuccine (I used whole wheat)
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
freshly cracked pepper
4 oz. frozen cut spinach
Parmesan for topping
kosher salt

*I adapted this recipe to make a whole box of pasta, serving 6. I used 1 lb fettuccine and 6 1/2 cups of vegetable broth and added some extra salt, oregano, thyme and artichoke hearts but kept everything else the same. It turned out well.

Rinse the mushrooms to remove any dirt or debris. Slice the mushrooms thinly. Drain the can of artichoke hearts and roughly chop them into bite­ sized pieces. Thinly slice the onion and garlic (you can mince the garlic if you don't want large slices). Place the vegetable broth, olive oil, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, onions, and garlic in a large pot. Break the fettuccine in half and add it to the pot along with the oregano, thyme, a few hearty pinches of salt and some freshly cracked pepper. Push the ingredients down under the broth as much as possible. Place a lid on the pot and bring it up to a rolling boil over high heat.

As soon as it reaches a boil, stir the pot to evenly distribute the ingredients and prevent the pasta from
sticking. Turn the heat down to low so that the pot is just simmering. Allow the pot to simmer, with the lid on, for 10­-15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Give the pot a stir every few minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking.

Once the pasta is cooked through, add the frozen spinach. Allow the heat from the pasta to thaw the
spinach. Stir the pot to help break up the clumps of spinach as they melt. Taste for seasonings. You'll probably need salt to prevent a bland finish. Serve hot with some grated parmesan on top.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Rotisserie Style Chicken and Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! This was our Christmas card photo. No updates on how we're doing. Just simple. I need to choose more simple in my life.

Our christmas tree shopping was simple too. Four kids, five minutes and a picture later we were done. It was also really, really fun, so just goes to show.

This blog is called "My Life In Food". I chose this name because while I always include a recipe (the food part) it's also about my life. Sometimes I wrote mostly about the food. Other times, it's mostly about my family. This is my personal scrapbook of sorts. I write for me and it doesn't always make the most sense and its not always eloquent. It's alright. I have enough self awareness to know I'm not going huge with my blog. At least, I don't think I am. It's not the goal, anyway, even though I love sharing with every single one of you who reads. Since this is my personal scrapbook, I end up talking about myself a lot. This is one of those days, BUT I want to share it all with you. Keep reading.

I am an inspiration hunter. However, I don't start the day with the thought "I'm going to hunt for inspiration today". I just search for things that catch my interest, challenge me in good ways, make me think, or make me happy. I read a lot of articles. I shop and add things I love to my cart. I find gift ideas for other people. I hear a great song. Somebody's else's words will move me. A colorful magazine cover will draw me in. I collect it all and it's like fuel to my soul. I don't mind saying I love beautiful things, interesting things, smart marketing, good packaging. I appreciate the whole of things. I become intrigued with things or ideas, then inspiration just naturally follows. This is something that happens to me most everyday. These are some of the things I've found particularly interesting, thought provoking and life giving lately. I wish I had cool fonts and colors in which to present these to you...to do the very things I've been talking about, to draw you in, catch your interest, stop and make you say hmmmm. But I'm not tech savvy and I don't have the slightest idea how to deliver this info in pretty packaging on a blog as much as I'd LOVE to. Seriously, if I could, I'd spend hours designing something with style for you. But for now, I'll lay it out simply without flair. The quality content is still there.

-If you need a bit of motivation to JUMP and get started, whether it's achieving your goals, dreaming bigger, starting over, or not waiting around for your life to begin, read these two articles:

JUMP - By Glennon Doyle Melton
Why I'm leaving radio forever- By Matt Walsh

I select these because they're not written in the "five steps" fashion. Rather, they are stories/thought/ideas/concepts which inspire you to take what you want from them, whether it's a little nugget of wisdom or the whole dang message and run with it. I adore writers who inspire me to think for myself and give me the tools to do so without telling me what to do. This is especially helpful if you tend to understand things intuitively like I do.

-If your heart hurts this Christmas, read this:

What to do with a hurting heart this Christmas- By Ann Voskamp
I am sad- By Glennon Doyle Melton

Ann is pretty unique and artsy with her writing. Some find her hard to read while others didn't understand anything until she said it. Glennon is real, raw and honest. She also leaves you feeling better about humanity and life after you leave her site.

-If you have been trying hard this Christmas season to be peaceful and focused on the reason for the season, but find yourself still stressed and maxed. When your expectations for the holiday don't measure up to your ideal...read this:

Cobbled Together Christmas- by Addie Zierman

Really, this can be applied at any time of the year.

-If you want to understand God's love. Like actually GET IT. Or if you are having trouble with relationships. If you want your eyes opened, read this and then read it again and again to everyone you know.

Little Drummer Girl- by Glennon Doyle Melton

You may have noticed I seem to be a bit infatuated with Glennon. Its true, she's my penultimate right now and I can't even pretend to not favor her. She speaks to me like no one else has. She reaches the inner parts of me and I'm changed. I don't one hundred percent agree with the whole of her theology sometimes, but for the most part? She does an excellent job of pointing back to Jesus and spreading light and hope and love wherever she goes. Truth be told, I think its a dose of what everyone in the world really needs. This is my most favorite piece I've read all year. ALL DAMN YEAR.

-If you want something awesome and simple to cook: Rotisserie Style Chicken

This tastes just like what you get at the store and only requires a regular oven, no rotisserie necessary. The method is awesome. Try it, you'll like it.

Rotisserie Style Chicken
adapted from My Fathers Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow
serves 4

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Large pinch coarse sea salt
  • 1 whole roasting chicken (3–4 lb; preferably organic), neck and giblets discarded
  • Twine
  1. Heat oven to 400°. Mix butter, garlic salt, paprika, pepper and salt in a bowl. Rinse chicken inside and out; pat dry. Insert fingers between skin and breast to separate the two. Rub seasoned butter over chicken and under skin. Tuck wings underneath bird and tie together with a piece of twine. Tie legs together with another piece of twine. Place chicken on its side in a heavy roasting pan and roast 25 minutes. Turn onto its other side and sprinkle with several tbsp water; roast 25 minutes more. Turn chicken on its back; roast 10 minutes more. Turn on its breast; roast until skin is crispy and chicken is golden brown, 10 minutes more. Remove from pan and let rest, breast side down, 15 minutes, before carving.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Roasted Sausage with Grapes

Roasted Sausages and Grapes

So, my sister Kaylee and brother-in-law, Patrick, left for a three day trip to San Francisco last week and I watched my niece, Paisley, while they were gone. So I had Olivia, who is five and can't walk or talk but is obsessed with pushing Paisley down. When Paisley gets pushed down, she cries, naturally. Paisley, who just turned one, enjoys opening all cabinets, eating dog food, pulling lamps down off tables, furniture diving onto her head and toddling over to Olivia to be pushed. Then theres Ellie who is now five months and likes to be nursed in the absolute quiet with no distractions and held for a major part of the day. I was alone with these three for almost 2 hours of the 3 1/2 day trip when I decided I'd be fine. Sure, it was going to be hard, but I vowed to keep calm and not loose my shit. Sorry. That's exactly what I thought though. So far so good i thought, but then again, it was nap time. When wake ups happened, they all ate lunch in shifts. And since I had to feed all four of us manually, it was just about time for another round of naps by the time I got done.

Olivia getting ready to hit Ellie and Paisley getting ready to eat something disgusting off the floor
Roasted Sausages and Grapes

I found the grove somewhere towards the middle of day two, and it got better. Thats always how it is.

Aunt Krysta, I like this drawer
Roasted Sausages and Grapes

The night before they left, my brother-in-law made us all gumbo for dinner. It was my request and he was so sweet to make it. It was incredibly swoon worthy. He's a chef so it was bound to be, but he's also a native of Louisiana so you could say he knows a thing or two about gumbo. My husband happened to bring home some special cheeses last night on a whim, so we also had quite an appetizer spread. And wine. And beer for the gumbo. Then, when we got done it was decided we should whip up an apple crisp quick. But while it was baking I made the heartbreaking discovery that we didn't have any vanilla ice cream. Chef brother to the rescue was like do you have cream? As a matter of fact I did. How about eggs and vanilla? Yes! Yes, we did. And he happened to have just picked milk up for Paisley earlier in the day. It was a Christmas miracle. He said okay, well I'll just whip up some ice cream then. I make it in 10 minutes flat all the time. It was probably one of my favorite nights ever.

Kaylee and Pat were also here for a couple days last month. On their last night I made them this quick roasted sausage and grapes dish. It was really easy and different. An excellent December menu item, for sure. The grapes and sausages get spiked with a bit of red wine and balsamic vinegar and its that delicious balance of sour, salt and sweet. This is perfect for company because it requires minimal effort, comes together super fast, but still retains a wow factor. I paired this with some celery root puree, but good ole mashed potatoes work very well to bring this dish together. Salad on the side and you've got a very well balanced dinner. You can also just serve this with some bread for mopping up the juices and call it a night! Make it and tell me what you think. It's so good!

Roasted Sausages and Grapes

Roasted Sausage and Grapes
adapted from Ina Garten
serves 5-6

1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian pork sausage
1 1/2 pounds hot Italian pork sausage
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds green or red grapes, removed from stems (about 5 cups)
5 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
4-5 tablespoons red wine, such as Chianti

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add sausages and simmer for 8 minutes to remove some of the fat. Remove to a plate.

Melt butter in a large (12 x 15-inch) roasting pan on top of the stove. Add the grapes and toss them to coat with the butter. Over moderately high heat add the wine and simmer until liquid is reduced by half. Transfer the sausages to the roasting pan with tongs, nestling them down in the grapes in one layer. Place in the oven and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, turning the sausages once, until they're browned and grapes are tender.

Transfer the sausages and grapes to a serving platter with tongs and a slotted spoon and cover with aluminum foil to keep them hot. Keep all juices in the bottom of the roasting pan. Add the balsamic vinegar to the roasting pan and cook over medium-high heat for 1 minute until it reduces slightly. Pour all juices over the grapes and sausages and serve hot.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Burnt Caramel Custards

Burnt Caramel Custards

Phew! What a week it's been. Craig and Sally, two of our favorite people, flew in from Dallas to spend Thanksgiving and my birthday with us. One of my very favorite things about them is how easy to be around they are. Theres no pressure to do this or that or all be together, we just move fluidly in and out of lunches, dinners, meetings, workouts and down time, talking or reading or sharing. Everyone is just themselves and accepted and loved as such. Plus their daughter, Evey and our son were basically inseparable the whole time. It twas awesome. I'm so sad to see them go. Sniff sniff.


Jeremiah and Evey pulling the wishbone

Also, on klove the other day (the Christian radio station) I heard one of the hosts say something about a story they read about someday being able to put a computer chip under our skin to use for credit cards or something like that. Then she followed up with wouldn't that be cool? What she did NOT say was EVERYONE FREAK OUT BECAUSE THIS IS DEFINITELY THE MARK OF THE BEAST!!!!!!!!!

You guys, don't look at me like that. I can't be the only little girl who was warned about this mark of the beast computer chip thing. Its burned into my fear memory. This information was presented to me as hard fact. Then, when I got married and told Jeremy all about it he rolled his eyes and said well, they were certain credit cards were the mark of the beast before the computer chip thing, and it was something else before that...maybe checks? Jeremy grew up in the church and his dad and grandpa were pastors, so I considered him the utmost authority about such matters. Jeremy didn't seem alarmed and I learned to relax a little.

If you're still staring, confused about all this "mark of the beast" stuff, you needn't worry. You might be like, well, thanks Krysta, but generally when we're talking about BEASTS I will worry. 

And I'll have to be like, good point, friend, but do you know how many religious leaders predicted end of the world stuff and were wrong? And do you know how many people believe different things about this beast business? And do you even want to spend your time worrying about beasts anyway? I mean, it's Christmas...

Burnt Caramel Custards

It IS Christmas, dontchaknow, and I'd bet since you are the type of person to read food blogs, you'd also be the type of person to throw a big ole Christmas dinner. If this is sounding right, then I have the perfect dessert for you this holiday! And I do mean perfect. One recipe makes 8 servings, it can be made up to a day ahead of time or morning of since its served cold, and its decadent and different. Also its easy and fast to make. There are a few steps, and I will ask you to bake these in a water bath but DON'T FREAK. Even if you don't know what a "water bath" is, much like the mark of the beast drama, it's not going to matter right now. It's going to be just fine. I'll walk you through it. The end result will be a creme brulee-ish custard without the hard top but it will taste like a soft vanilla caramel. These are rich, but so so lovely.

Burnt Caramel Custards
adapted from Bon Appetit, Oct. 2013
serves 8

1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3/4 cup plus 4 Tablespoons sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks, room temperature
pinch of kosher salt
Whipped cream (for serving; optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place cream in a medium saucepan; scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add pod. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat; set aside.

Bring 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar and 2 Tablespoons water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar (don't over-stir). Make sure sugar is completely dissolved and then raise heat to medium-high. Boil, swirling pan occasionally and brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush ( I don't do this unless its obviously collecting at the sides of the pan), until mixture turns a deep amber color, about 4 mints; remove from heat.

Remove vanilla pod from cream; discard. Slowly add cream to caramel (mixture will bubble vigorously). Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally  until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Whisk egg yolks, kosher salt, and remaining 2 Tablespoons sugar in a large bowl. Slowly pour in caramel cream, whisking constantly. Divide custard among eight 6-ounce ramekins or oven-proof bowls, and place in a large baking dish or roasting pan. If you need two pans to fit all the ramekins, thats okay too. Fill pan with water to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Don't freak out. It'll look like this:

Burnt Caramel Custards

 Bake until custard is just set but still jiggly in the center, 60-70 minutes. Remove ramekins from baking dish; place on a wire rack and let cool. Chill custards, uncovered, at least 3 hours.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Broccoli Potato Leek Soup

Broccoli Potato Leek Soup

Hi friends. It's been a little bit since the last post. Sorry bout that. We've been busy lately but all good things like hosting dinners for friends, visits from my sister, more sleep training for baby, and reading, reading, reading! I've never considered myself a book worm but lands alive, I go through books like crazy without even realizing it. The other day I counted four books read since Eleanor's been born (4 1/2 months) which may not sound like a lot, but for a sleep deprived mom, it surprised me.

Sister and Eleanor

Uncle Pat and Jeremiah

Need some good reads? Check out: Carry On, Warrior. Thoughts on Life Unarmed (memoir-ish), and The Language of Flowers (novel). Both make it into "the best books I've ever read" category.

And then buy some fun new tea to read with from here: esp emporium

A friend came for tea last week. I provided chocolate croissants and she brought the tea. So glad she did because while I would have offered her the standard sleeptime or apple cinnamon, she brought exotic teas like pina colada, roasted almond and sweet melissa. It was loose leaf and I learned how to brew it - easy- 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons loose leaf in a strainer for each cup. Just pour the boiling water over. This was good quality tea too. I wouldn't recommend it otherwise. Nothing was fake tasting and you could see pineapple chunks and coconut shavings or apple slices throughout. If I were you, I'd do some Christmas shopping on their site...Unless you know me. Because if you know me, chances are you're getting tea for Christmas so you shouldn't shop there. And books. Don't get the books either.

-Spoiler alert- Too late?

Actually I only know like three tea drinkers. Bummer. The site makes you want to buy bags and bags of tea. And sometimes I wonder if it's cruel to force books on people. I mean, the only reason I'm so excited about them is because I've already read them and  know the recipient would really like it too. But they don't know this, so it's kind of like when your Aunt gets you socks and she's all excited because she owns these same socks and they fit like a glove and are warm and the BEST SOCKS EVER, but you are looking at the box like...she got me socks. Thanks? The appreciation comes later. Whatev- I wouldn't get non book people books anyway. I know a lot of non book people. Isn't that just the luck? I don't get it. My one friend, Kel, doesn't read books or drink tea or coffee or cocktails. She doesn't really dine out, or eat "gluten" most of the time. She loves working out and is super chatty and I'm always like do we even have anything in common!? What do I get you?!?!?! So I go to Anthropologie and it always works out.

The holidays are laden with these sorts of contemplations which is why I like to keep the food simple on non-celebratory nights. This soup has been made eleventy million times in my house this winter so far. Okay, so it was more like three times, but I don't make anything three times in a season so it's basically the same thing. The reason we love it is because it's both comforting and healthy at the same time. What potato soup do you know where its main ingredient is broccoli? What broccoli soup do you know that has blended creamy potato throughout? And which of either of these soups do you know that is tied together with not onion, but the sexy, sexy leek? It's dreamy. Sometimes we add a little raw cheddar cheese on top. Shhh. It doesn't need it but it's dang good.

This also happened. First solids!


And here is what she thought about it!


eh, you can't win them all. Onto the soup!

Broccoli Potato Leek Soup

Broccoli Potato Leek Soup
adapted from Bethenny Frankel
serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups sliced leeks, white and pale-green parts only
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium rusett potatoes, peeled and cubed
8-9 cups broccoli florets (about three heads) I measure 8 overflowing cups
6 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
cheddar cheese for serving, optional

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 additional minute. Add potato cubes and broccoli; cook, stirring, until potatos begin to soften, another 3-4 minutes.

Pour in stock and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until broccoli is tender, about 25 minutes. If you need to add more stock to the vegetables, go ahead. The liquid should come right up to the top of the vegetables. It's okay if not completely covered.  Once cooked through, puree in the pot with an immersion blender, or in batches using a regular blender. Add salt and pepper, then return to pot and warm through. Taste and add more salt if needed. If it's bland at all, add more salt. It won't be. Serve warm. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Black Bean Spinach Enchiladas with Easy Homemade Sauce and Halloween Recap

Black Bean and Spinach Enchiladas

I'm officially sulking over here today because I didn't get to take my kids trick-or-treating on Halloween. It was snowing and cold and I couldn't take young Eleanor out in the elements even though she had the cutest costume in history. Say hello to baby Rosie the Riveter!


I know, right? Swoon. It's pretty funny. My cousin commented that there was something so right yet so wrong about lipstick on a baby. But my question is have you ever tried applying lipstick on a baby?! Theres no way it doesn't turn out looking like a hot mess. Also, the headband inspired the costume, not the other way around. I purchased it because I thought it was so cute - way chic and retro and cooler than those huge flower headbands -


But when I tried it on my husband and friend laughed. I admit it was a bit Aunt Jemima-ish. I googled Aunt Jemina, but to my dismay she didn't wear a headband. Who was it she was reminding me of? That's right peeps. Rosie the Riveter. Once I made that connection I couldn't go back. Buy your headband here.

Livy stayed home as well since she hates being cold and already did the neighborhood trick-or-treat last weekend. I struggled with this because she loves the people and commotion downtown, but it really was too cold for her to enjoy. She got to wear her costume again to school, so she got a few wears out of it. Here's my beautiful snow fairy queen!


She loved this dress. Liv loves all things girly even though she's a spice rod. If Ellie is sugar, then Olivia is cinnamon spice- that's what we've decided. She's a spirited, possessive little thing, but also so sweet and cuddly- unless you try to move in on whoever she's cuddling with- then she'll hit you. Like at night she demands daddy to herself. She'll even get your attention to brag and tell you that she's cuddling daddy and you are not.

And guys? She's obsessed - OBSESSED - with Eleanor. She scoots right up to her whenever she's in her mini swing or on her play mat. Somehow, someway, Ellie always ends up "accidentally" hurt. So, I put her in the swing on top of our table to get her away, but undeterred, Liv just stood right up next to her pushing the swing higher than I'd like, refusing to just leave her be. SEE?!



I'm like get away you relentless little stalker! I think she's a bit jealous. That mini swing used to be hers. We call it the "luxury swing". Don't ask.


But see, she broke Eleanor's other swing because she's like the hulk and destroys absolutely everything, so it's her own fault. Speaking of the hulk, as a side note, I'd like to add that I really wanted the family to dress as Marvel's The Avengers this halloween. Jeremiah would be Captain America, Isabella would be Ironman (If you knew her, you'd know she would. She was Spiderman when she was 3.) Olivia would be Hulk (with a purple tutu to pretty it up), Jeremy would be Thor, I'd be Black widow, and Ellie would be Loki or Samuel L. Jackson's eye patch character because that's just bad ass. Unfortunately, my family lacks my keen and brilliant vision and wanted to pick their own costumes. Wah-Wah! I also suggested that my sister and I be Kourtney and Kim Kardashian and my brother-in-law could be Khloe. Patrick would make an excellent Khloe.

I'm happy to report that Jeremiah and Isabella made it to the trick-or-treat, so we're only 50% horrible parents. They rocked their bumblebee and Spiderman costumes, respectively.


Cutest kids on the planet. But then again, I'm biased.

IMBlack Bean and Spinach EnchiladasG_5074

Black Bean and Spinach Enchiladas

I'm also really excited to tell you guys about this sweet little enchilada recipe I found. I didn't know how flavorful spinach and black beans would be for an enchilada filling, but trust me, it's delicious. I suppose it may have something to do with the three cups of cheese called for, but we used raw cheddar so it wasn't so bad. Also, you could cut this down to two cups without losing much flavor. I went ahead and used all three because it was only a small block of cheese and it was divided between our family of five so it really wasn't that bad. I wolf down much more on a cheese platter. The flavor is also punched up by corn, green onions, cilantro, and cumin in the filling. But what really makes this stand out is the homemade enchilada sauce. Please, don't skip this step. It's so flavorful and easy made from scratch. As it bakes, the sauce softens the tortillas (I used whole wheat) and makes them chewy and almost doughy. I recommend getting good quality tortillas for this. I bought mine from Bamboo market where someone brings them in fresh everyday, made without preservatives. This meal was a winner and the kids chowed. Plus, If I ever make other enchiladas, I have a new go-to sauce. No more cans. Yay for that!

Black Bean Spinach Enchiladas with Homemade Sauce
adapted from Martha Stewart
serves 4-6

{For the sauce}
3 cups organic low sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. chili powder

{For the enchiladas}
15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups corn (I used frozen, thawed)
6 oz. fresh baby spinach
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. cumin

Kosher salt
3 cups shredded 3 cheese blend (or pepper jack, raw cheddar etc.)
8 whole wheat or flour tortillas

Make the sauce: in a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add tomato paste, flour, 2 tsp. cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder. Cook 1 minute, whisking. Whisk in broth, bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, and cook until slightly thickened about 8 minutes. Salt/pepper to taste, and set aside.

Saute the spinach in olive oil over medium heat for 1-2 minutes until slightly wilted. In a large bowl, combine beans, 2 cups cheese, spinach, corn, green onions, 2 tsp. cumin, and cilantro. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly spray a 9x13 inch baking dish, and pour a small amount of the sauce to coat the bottom.
Generously fill tortillas with mixture, roll up tightly with ends tucked in, and place seam side down in dish. Pour remaining sauce over the enchiladas, coating evenly. Sprinkle 1 cup cheese on top. Bake about 20 minutes, and garnish with cilantro and/or green onions (optional).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Vegetarian Mexican Posole Soup

Vegetarian Mexican Posole Soup

Whoa. My last post was super popular. Either there are other sleep deprived parents searching for baby cat nap answers (hallelujah! We are not alone!) or you guys really have a thing for stir fry...

O- to the -M- to the- G. You guys, I haven't been getting your emails. A friend recently told me that she had written me and email through my "contact" tab here on the blog. Odd, I thought, never got it. And then BAM! I remembered several other people had told me the same thing. You see, I'm not getting those emails. If you've written me and I didn't get back to you, know that I'm not ignoring you! I do get my comments but I'm needing to fix the email issue. For now if you need to get a hold of me you can drop me a line at kmacgray44@hotmail.com.

Other than this revelation we have been preparing for winter up in these parts. Winter here means cold and snow and soup and stew. We've had a few snowstorms already, most recently one that dropped 12" of snow in 24 hours. It was wet snow. Perfect for snowman building, which happened...in a huge way...in Carhart overalls, a santa hat and nothing else...in October.

That would be my husband and it might be why I love him.
Vegetarian Mexican Posole Soup

And this would be the snowman (snow giant?) that was built
Vegetarian Mexican Posole Soup

Halloween is this week and almost as if on cue another snowstorm is due. It always snows on Halloween here. It's like a rule or something. The newest soup on the menu for such a time as this is vegetarian posole. I love it. My mom and step-dad used to make this growing up. My step dad is Mexican so he knows how to make a good pot of posole. Only thing is, it's supposed to be made with pork or chicken which is delicious but not gonna fly in my house all the time. My mother reminded me though that the star of posole is in fact, the posole (or hominy) and the toppings add all the charm- crunchy, fresh shredded cabbage, cilantro, radish, and a squirt of lemon all add brightness to the hot soup. I questioned my mom on the lemon. Didn't she mean lime? She balked. No. Lemon it is. The soup is awesome on its own but the toppings bring it to life. The cabbage wilts ever so slightly upon hitting the hot soup and the lime and cilantro tie in perfectly to the cumin scented tomato broth. The key here is to use frozen hominy, not the canned stuff. It's just not the same. The frozen variety comes raw and you cook it into the broth and it becomes something more in the pot than just another ingredient. Also, the texture can't even be compared. I love to bite down on my hominy and feel that satisfying chew, like an al dente pasta. That's why you need to go the extra mile and find the frozen hominy. It's actually a common ingredient in grocery stores. It's usually kept in the Mexican section of the freezer aisle. Look for where the frozen burritos are and you'll be close.

It looks like this: Posole and "Duck Sauce"

Vegetarian Mexican Posole Soup

Another ingredient you may not be familiar with is something we refer to as "duck sauce" because it has a picture of a duck on the can...not sure why... (?) but it's actually just Mexican tomato sauce and again, I promise you it's an easy to find ingredient in the Mexican section of the grocery stores where the dried chili's are and such. This product right here is what defines your broth. It gives it a little spicy edge, and flavors everything with tomato and chile. If you really can't find it, my mom says to add jalapeño to the onions in the soup. But really, don't let it come to that. Just find the sauce.

Vegetarian Mexican Posole Soup

You can make this in a crockpot too, if you'd rather- double points! And, it's sure to warm you through on a snowy night. Think of us on Halloween while those of you in warmer climates are running around in sleeveless glory, my kids will be layering. At least snow fairies can have long sleeves, Spiderman already has long sleeves, bumblebees can have black cardigans, and Rosie the Riveter can wear a jean jacket instead of shirt. Pic's in the next post.

Mom and Dave's Mexican Posole Soup
serves 4-6

*Use frozen posole for this soup, not the canned stuff. See note above.

*You can make this with chicken or pork as well. Cook it seperately, then add it in. Use shredded boiled chicken, like you would for chicken and dumplings.

1  large yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 (28-oz) can of diced tomatoes
1/2-1 can of  El Pato brand "duck sauce" or "Mexican tomato sauce"
8 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock
1/2 a bag of frozen hominy (about 3 cups)
1 large zucchini, chopped
1 head of cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
Kosher salt
black pepper
Shredded green cabbage, for topping
Lemon wedges, for serving
Slivered radishes, for serving

In a large pot, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat for five minutes or until onion is translucent. Add the can of tomatoes, chicken stock, zucchini, frozen hominy (I just put the whole frozen chunk in the pot and let it break apart as the broth heats) half the cilantro (reserve the other half for topping), cumin, salt and pepper to taste, and 1/2-1 can of the duck sauce. I use a whole can. A 1/2 can is fine if you don't like a little kick. It's not very spicy-it's just right in my opinion. Bring soup to a boil, then turn the heat down and let it simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the hominy is tender. Taste for salt and adjust seasonings. Serve soup with the cabbage, lemon, reserved cilantro and radishes.

Monday, October 21, 2013

All Purpose Brown Garlic Stir Fry Sauce and How To Beat The Baby Cat Nap

All Purpose Brown Garlic Stir Fry Sauce

Disclaimer: If you don't have a baby and could care less about naps/sleep issues, just scroll to the bottom for the recipe. However if you are interested, I'm going to tell you how we got our three month old successfully napping in her own bed...for longer than 40 minutes! This is some exciting stuff for sleep deprived parents, lemme tell ya. And Maya Angelou says when you learn, you should teach. I don't know about teaching, but I'm all about sharing.

A note to consider: I have what The Baby Whisperer classifies as a "touchy baby" which means she's extra sensitive and needs more help in certain areas, like sleeping on her own and staying asleep. Not sure which type of baby you have? Take the test here and find out. 

Dudes! And ladies. I was gonna blog here and be all THE BABY DOESN'T NAP LONGER THAN 40 MINUTES EVER blahblahblahblahblah losingmyfreakingmind blahblah nosleep blahblahblah blah.

But today I'm here to tell you that after some hard work we have come out on the other end finally victorious in various areas, namely conquering the cat nap!

What is a cat nap? a short nap that last anywhere from 20-45 minutes. This is sometimes called "the 40 minute intruder" because it does just that- It intrudes on a nap. It's rude, really.

Why it's a problem-  because babies need more sleep than 30-40 minutes at a given time. They should get at least an hour to an hour-and-a-half to be sufficiently rested so they are happy upon waking and not cranky until their next nap time.

Some babies need their parents help teach them the skill of going and staying asleep. When babies  wake early from naps, they get tired again a short time later so instead of the optimal wake/eat/sleep cycle, it looks more like wake/eat/sleep/wake/cranky/sleep (but not too long because, surprise! It's already time to eat again!) In other words, they are chronically tired and it affects EVERYTHING from mood, to nighttime sleep to feeds. Basically, if you want to conquer this beast I'm told you need a consistent schedule. A good place to start is to wake your baby up at the same time each day and put them to bed at the same time every night.

But the problem is that my baby wakes up at different times each morning regardless of the bedtime, so it's hard to get the same routine happening at the same time every day. Sometimes she'll wake up at 5:00am and be up for the day. Like, happy and babbling even. As in, definitely not going back to sleep. Boo! I was NOT about to set a 5:00am wake-up time. We were in a vicious cycle. Something had to change, especially since she is still waking up three times a night to eat. After thinking through it multiple times, I decided if I could get her napping figured out and get her the day rest she needs, it would help the rest fall into place. I always hear good sleep begets good sleep.

A plan. She won't go to sleep without me!- Usually, we would walk Ellie around the house to get her to fall asleep. This worked for a while, until she got too heavy and needed to be walked for longer stretches of time before settling down. You could not sit. Walking only. Another problem was the walking wasn't working all that well anymore. She'd get overtired and fussy and would take forever to nod off. Then, you'd have to hold her for her entire nap or else she'd wake up early. Now I have her successfully going down for every nap in her crib upstairs.

The only way she would sleep! Holding her...Do you see how big she is?!
All Purpose Brown Garlic Stir Fry Sauce

What I did-  I started small since there were a few issues to deal with, which were getting to sleep without my help, AND staying asleep without my help. So, I started placing her in her swing when I saw she was getting tired (eye rubbing, yawns) when I'd usually start walking her. She fussed at first since she was used to the walking. Some times she would straight up cry when I put her in. But since I was in the living room with her, I just kept talking to her and telling her it was okay and to go to sleep. I would also play classical music on Pandora softly and run a box fan for white noise, but I didn't pick her up. She would fall asleep after 10 minutes or so. Victory! But even then she kept waking after 40 minutes. So I'd let her fuss/cry for a few minutes and see if she'd self soothe back to sleep. The first few times, she didn't. She just got revved up and mad, so I'd pick her up and let her be up a while, then hold her to sleep when she got tired again before the next feed. I figured the sleep was more important than how she was getting there at this point. I only focused on getting her to fall asleep without me, which was working. Then, each time she woke up early I'd let her fuss just to see if she'd self soothe back to sleep. I always gave her the chance. After 4-5 days of this, she did it. She woke up after 35 minutes, fussed for five minutes (which seems like 30 minutes- but it's not-look at the clock. You'll always think it's longer than it has been) and the FELL BACK TO SLEEP FOR ANOTHER 40 minutes!

So, this is what we did for another week. For every nap. Consistency is key I've been told.

After a week of consistent swing naps she got so used to it that the second I placed her in, she would close her eyes and immediately nap. Sometimes she'd fuss for 30 seconds or so but that was it. So, I decided since she didn't need parental contact to help get her to sleep anymore (all the walking), I'd start setting her in the crib upstairs instead of the swing with a mobile that played SOOTHING, quiet classical music since that what she was used to downstairs already, and a box fan for noise. I hoped she'd make a sleep association to it. All the sleep books will tell you to put your baby in their bed sleepy but awake so they learn to fall asleep on their own. This was crucial. But this was not working for us...yet. She cried like mad and wouldn't calm down even though I was standing in the room with her, reassuring her. She just wasn't tired or calm enough.

So, I stretched out her awake time from 1 1/2 hours, to 2 hours (she is three months old, so this is appropriate) so she was good and tired when I set her down. I figured she needed to be tired enough to get her past that 40 minute mark and get back to sleep. This is supposed to be a no-no. Overtired babies are harder to settle. I agree, mine will melt down when overtired, but I kept her up past the fussy overtired faze and I waited until she was really, really sleepy before setting her down. I got the idea from this blog and it made sense to me and our situation. Guess what? IT WORKED! I also extended the period in which we get ready for sleep with a longer routine (more settling). After she was really, really, tired we would go upstairs, turn on her fan, and I'd get her into her Merlin's magic sleep suit, gently, (more on that below) then pick her up and walk her silently and slowly for 2 minutes around the room. Then I whispered that it was nap time, set her in the crib and turned on the mobile. After watching the mobile for 30 seconds she started to cry, but within 20 seconds it turned more into a fuss, so I waited and let her work it out. Guys. Five minutes later she was asleep! She woke up again 40 minutes later and fussed/cried but I waited to go in until I heard distressed crying. I never heard it. Again, five minutes later she had put herself back to sleep! The very first time! HOLLA!

I don't think it would have worked prior to the three-month old mark. And some babies won't be ready for this until 5-6 months. It just depends on how good their self soothing skills are. Sometimes you have to wait it out.

*The Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit is a swaddle transitioner and even though the babies look like they are in ridiculous giant marshmallow space suits, I'll be damned if it didn't do just the trick. She could move her hands about, but it muffled any jerky reflexes she had and made her feel secure and snug. She much prefers it to the swaddle. I know this because she sleeps better and longer in the sleep suit. I was skeptical but like I said, you never know unless you try. It's scary trying new things, but so worth it when it works! 

What changed- Because I stretched Ellie's awake time to two hours, and she'd nap for 1 1/2 hours (sometimes only one hour, and sometimes 2 hours), it bumped our schedule from a 3 hour routine to a 3 1/2 hour (and sometimes 4 hour) routine which worked better for my baby. I wouldn't have guessed it, but it did work better. I guess you don't know until you try. She was hungrier for her feeds and ate more, which sustained her for longer periods of time, and helped with the napping. It all works together, you see. It also helped get us on a three nap a day schedule instead of 5-6 cat naps. One thing though- I ALWAYS WAKE HER UP if she is still sleeping at the two hour mark. And, I don't let her sleep longer than a two hour nap once a day. I wake her to keep her on the schedule so she doesn't skip a feed. I've also read that if a baby sleeps longer than a two hour stretch during the day, it'll rob them of night sleep.  She usually sleeps 1 1/2 hours for her morning nap, 1 1/2-2 hours for afternoon nap, and 1 hour for her early evening nap. Now her bedtime is earlier (between 8pm and 8:30pm) and I swear it's helped her sleep better at night! So strange how it all works.

How good naps have changed night sleep- I wake her up before I go to bed around 9:30pm or 10:00pm to give her a dream feed. Sometimes she wakes up for this on her own, sometimes not. Either way, she eats and goes right back to sleep. She still wakes up every three hours to eat throughout the night, BUT she goes back to sleep easier and now if she fusses when I set her back in her bed, she puts herself back to sleep after a few minutes since she's used to it during the day. I used to pick her back up and hold or nurse her again until she was in deep sleep, or I'd hold her in bed with me and let her sleep there. I was exhausted! It is leaps and bounds better this way!

I should say, this might not work for you. I'm just sharing what my experience was and what worked for me. And honestly, I don't have it all figured out. This kid leaves us guessing daily. But this napping in the crib for longer than 40 minutes thing is huge. Huge, I tell you. If the Momma's are anything like me out there, they are googling all sorts of things and reading about all the ways they can get some much needed rest without neglecting the needs of your littles. I get it. I so get it. I read and re-read and took what I felt in my gut might work and what made the most sense to me and our situation.

* Update- This post has been so popular that I decided to share more information and update. First off, an excellent source for baby sleep drama is Troublesome Tots. She goes over everything from when and how to do cry-it-out, to helping you figure out exactly what in your routine is tripping you up and not leading you down the road to blissful sleep. Check out "Why Sleep Training Didn't Work" and "Baby sleep, what is normal?" to get started. 

As for us, we are still napping great in this house! She now is almost 4 months and gets 3 long naps a day (morning, early afternoon and late afternoon) plus a catnap (20-30 minutes) before bed. Bedtime is between 7pm and 8pm each night depending on when her last nap was. I try and keep her up two hours before bedtime and manage naps to hit bedtime around 7:30pm each night. I still watch her sleepy cues instead of the clock though, which is why it varies from night to night. She had five night stretch recently where she'd wake up every hour or so and cry at night and I'd go to her. I was getting super frusterated until I learned about a common 4 month sleep regression. I think that's what it was because she is back to her normal pattern of sleeping and waking every three hours to eat, then right back to sleep. We also learned that since our baby is so sensitive she really needed MORE soothing before and AT bedtime to get her to settle down for a long stretch and not wake up an hour after going to bed. So now we do a 30 minutes routine every single night that consists of kids in the other room (to make it quiet), feeding session, then bath, jammies, sleep suit, and the same routine upstairs I mentioned above except without the mobile being on. I found she falls asleep with it on, then gets mad when she wakes up and it's off. So I just stopped turning it on. She still likes to look at it. 

Phew! Onto the food!

All Purpose Brown Garlic Stir Fry Sauce

All Purpose Brown Garlic Stir Fry Sauce

I have been successful in other areas besides nap time. I have conquered Chinese food! Can I just be honest for a second and say I'm not that good at Chinese food? Because I'm not. I have had a couple dishes turn out really well for me, but mostly I just eat Chinese when I'm out. Stir fry is one of those things people make on busy week nights. I don't quite get this because chopping all the vegetables takes some time, not to mention making a good sauce to go with it. Then I realized most people don't make a sauce, which is why I have thought homemade stir fry pretty much sucks for most of my life. My mom used to make stir fry. It was nothing more than some veggies sautéed in garlic with some soy sauce. I tried this once, but I added the soy sauce to the vegetables in the hot pan and it burned. Burned soy sauce is disgusting. I decided stir fry was just something better left to the experts and restauranteurs. But then I saw this recipe for basic brown garlic stir fry sauce and it got me thinking...every time you order Chinese food it comes drenched in a sauce. Beef and broccoli is slick with a brown glaze. Sweet and sour chicken has a tangy sweet sauce coating. Shanghai eggplant comes with a sweet and smokey hoisen style sauce. I never thought about it before, but the sauce is what makes it good. Duh.

All Purpose Brown Garlic Stir Fry Sauce

If I made a proper stir fry sauce and added it to my vegetables at the end, I would have a delicious satisfying meal; one plain soy sauce just can't touch. I jumped in, and I'm so glad I did. Guys, this sauce is amazing. It's basic and would go with any Chinese vegetable stir fry combination you can think of. Add chicken or beef if you want and it'll be amazing. This is a basic brown garlic sauce with a hint of ginger. Thick and delicious, it coats all stir fried vegetables just so. It isn't too heavy nor too thin. It's right on the money.

Some vegetables and protein to consider using in any combination with this sauce are:

sliced bok choy
snow peas
Shiitake mushrooms
bamboo shoots
water chesnuts
baby corn

Who's ready for some good Chinese food at home?

All Purpose Brown Garlic Stir Fry Sauce

All Purpose Brown Garlic Stir Fry Sauce
adapted from Chinese Cooking For Dummies By Martin Yan
makes enough for 2 woks full of vegetables, serves 8

*note: This is a larger batch recipe. You can half the recipe to serve 4. That's what I did.

1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup rice wine (mirin)
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger (I used a scant tablespoon)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup water (for cornstarch)

In a bowl, combine soy sauce, broth, rice wine, sugar, sesame oil, 1/3 cup water and white pepper. Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 cup water. 

Heat a pan over medium-high heat; add the cooking oil, swirling to coat; add the garlic and ginger; cook, stirring until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

Add the soy sauce mixture; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 1 minute. Add the cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until the sauce boils and thickens. 

Set sauce aside at room temperature until ready to use. Add the sauce to your cooked vegetables and allow to heat through. Serve immediately.

The key for stir fry: Cook vegetables in a hot wok (or skillet) in a bit of oil. The key is to have the skillet hot and to keep stirring and flipping the vegetables around so they don't burn. Cook the heartier vegetables first, such as broccoli and carrots and add the rest in stages based on how long they'll take to cook (if using meat, cook that first, then add the broccoli and carrots). I'll add a few tablespoons of chicken stock to the skillet with the vegetables every now and then to help cook them further with the help of the steam. Cooking all the vegetables shouldn't take longer than 5-7 minutes, start to finish.

Add stir fry sauce when vegetables have finished cooking and allow to just heat through. Serve immediately over rice.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Balsamic-Lime Bean and Veggie Stew

Balsamic-Lime Bean and veggie stew

I am slowly emerging from my newborn baby centered world back into real life. Some days I am already there and others I struggle for any kind of normalcy. Had one of those two days ago. They are the worst! Making dinner has been a central part of feeling normal for me. Every day the kids get off the bus at 4pm and I sit with my Jeremiah and help him do his first grade homework. I like this, mostly because I can understand first grade math. I listen to him read me a book about what sort of jobs dogs can have or something like that and then we do a math sheet. Isabella never needs homework help. I like that since I mostly DO NOT understand sixth grade math -wipe that there smirk off yer face- After, I set the baby down, tidy up the kitchen and start my dinner prep. Its methodical and calming most nights provided I'm not rushed. I hate being rushed. Red wine helps too. I've decided I'm cool with a glass of red wine most nights, considering I usually only have more than that if people are over. Oh, and we're having  people over again! Slowly, but surely. Real life has made it's re-entrance and It's sweet. I even got a little 10 min hot tub "date" with Jeremy a few nights ago. Ten minutes is about all my hubby can last in a pool of hot water. His stomach starts to hurt. He's weird. I've gotten used to it.

Along with real life, I've been enjoying comforting, simple pleasures. I'm starting to care about what I'm putting into my body again. Not that I ever stop caring, but you know...

Balsamic Beans is what my sister-in-law calls this dish. Actually, I think Isabella dubbed it that, but since the lime is so prevalent, I changed the name. Also, there's a fair share of vegetables up in this pot, so I couldn't let beans get all the glory. This is a goulash of sorts, but stew sounds tastier so lets go with that, hmmm? It's simple, satisfying, and versatile since you can throw most any vegetables you have on hand into this thing. My favorite combination is the red or yellow bell peppers, roasted sweet potatoes and spinach so that's what I'm sharing. I've had it with carrots and no spinach, and one time she forgot the sweet potatoes and it was still awesome. Although, the sweet potatoes are a must in my book. Don't ask why. I just love them here. This dish definitely fits the bill for my simple but comforting meals lately.

See? I'm paying more attention! I'm actually eating breakfast this morning within an hour of rising! And look at how balanced it is! Ezekiel sprouted english muffins with avocado, garlic flakes and sea salt on one side, and coconut oil and raw honey on the other. Minerals and good fats galore. Black tea with a smidge of raw milk and strawberries. I ate more than three. Bonus points. Oh, and I also had a green juice FOR THE WIN!


This stew is more saucy than it looks in these pictures since you don't drain the beans before adding them. The juice from the cans thickens everything up and carries the flavors over to the other vegetables. We eat these with sweet potato chips, but beanito's (black bean chips) work too. We mostly eat eat bite with chips, like a chips and dip, but obviously you can eat it with a spoon too.

Balsamic Bean and Veggie Stew

Balsamic-Lime Beans and Veggie Stew
serves 4

1 medium sweet potato, not peeled and cubed into bite sized pieces
2 cans black beans (or any beans for that matter) undrained
1 can of kidney beans, undrained
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 5oz. container of baby spinach
olive oil
Sea Salt
1 teaspoon dried garlic flakes (spice aisle- or substitute with 3 cloves fresh garlic and sauté with the vegetables)
2-4 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar (the quality you use makes a difference in taste)
1 lime, cut in half
sweet potato chips, beanitos or corn chips, for serving

Preheat your oven to 375.

Toss sweet potato chunks in a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes or until tender. Set aside to cool.

In a large soup pot, saute the bell peppers until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the beans with all their juice and spinach and wait for it to wilt down (it will all but disappear!) about 5 more minutes. Add the garlic flakes and salt (you need quite a bit of salt. Start with a teaspoon and go from there). Add the roasted sweet potato into the pot, then add the balsamic vinegar. I use close to four tablespoons of vinegar, you may need less or more depending on the quality. Just taste and add more if desired. Simmer everything together for 5 minutes, stirring. Taste for salt and add more if need. Add half on the lime juice to the pot and stir. Serve in shallow bowls with the chips for dipping, and more lime on the side for squeezing. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

London Fog Tea

London Fog Tea

I seem to only be managing one post a week here lately. I was feeling like a slacker until I had a pep talk with myself. I wondered why it's been so hard to get new material on here when I love writing and cooking and blogging. Blogging is my number two hobby (behind cooking). It's my 'me' time.  So why then, for the love, has it been so hard? I mean, it's not like I have a newborn BABY or anything. It's not like I haven't slept through the night in three months, or been able to actually put the baby down in a crib for naps. It's not like I hold her 75% of my life or anything. It's not like she just got vaccinations yesterday or anything...or that choosing to get those vaccinations kept me up even more at night because I actually read about side effects and educate myself about links to autism and Guillian Barre Syndrome and Intussusception. It's not like I don't freak myself out that they want to put all that aluminum into her little body with each injection, even if it does happen to protect her from also dying of pertussis. It's not like I've been trying to sleep-train the baby or get her on a schedule or anything. It's also not like I have three other little kids who need me, or the sweetest little handicapped daughter who has decided she will no longer nap, but instead has made it her mission in life to yell and wake her baby sister ALL THE LIVE LONG DAY. It's not like the family actually depends on me to make dinner at night or keep the laundry going. It's not like Eleanor just had a two-day hospital stay, or that the day we got home I had to take the damn dog to the vet for an ear infection. Nope. Not here, ya'll. I wonder why it's been so dang HARD?

London Fog Tea

Namaste. I wish I did yoga. I think it would help relax me.

Don't ask me why after revealing my recent time-suck "hardships" I thought to say "the divine light in me recognizes the divine light in you"---because if you didn't already know, that's totally what namaste means.

I've been reading a lot of Glennon's stuff while I hold the baby. It's been good. That's her book on the arm of the chair. The pretty rainbow one. The other stuff is Baby Whisperer, vaccine info, and Brene Browns book "Daring Greatly" because a girl needs a little variety.

London Fog Tea

I've also been drinking lots of black tea with raw honey and raw milk and a smidge of vanilla because, well, why wouldn't I? No one needs yoga with that stuff around.

London Fog Tea
adapted from From Scratch, by Shaye Elliott

1 Earl Grey or Black English Breakfast Tea Bag
1 teaspoon raw honey or maple syrup (sometimes I use a little less)
4 tablespoons raw milk, or unsweetened nut milk (or more if desired)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
boiling water

Place tea bag, honey, milk, and vanilla extract in the bottom of a mug. Pour hot water over. Stir, and wait a few minutes for the tea to brew into a delicious sweet tea nectar. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Raw Honey + Lemon Cold Syrup

Raw Honey + Lemon Cold Syrup

Greetings from the deep, dark depths of the nasty cold/cough household, which we shall be called henceforth until we are all healed. Three days back into the school year and Jeremiah caught it. Then a few days later on my Mom's fiftieth birthday over Moscow Mules, I caught it. The next day Olivia caught it. Three days later Isabella succumbed. My sister was visiting and both her and my niece came down with it. And it finally caught up to Jeremy a few days ago. You know it's a strong one when every single person goes down one by one.

It's been a blast and half up in here for the past 16 days. What with all the not sleeping at night due to having a newborn and not being able to take cold medicine because of the nursing, and trying desperately not to infect Ellie. At least the weather has been cooperating. It's been raining and thundering for days and days. Perfect curl-up-in-a-blanket-and-drink-tea-and-eat-soup-weather. I had it the worst - I'm still coughing and on day 12- and not being able to take anything to relieve symptoms was really sad until I remembered this raw honey and lemon cold syrup I had made last Spring for such a time as this. Yes, last Spring. It keeps a long time in the door of the refrigerator which is super convenient. Take five minutes, make this now, and you'll have it whenever you need it.

Raw Honey + Lemon Cold Syrup

Raw honey is excellent for sore throats and coughs because it contains anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. If a sore throat is caused by a virus, the honey will actually help rid any bacteria that may be lurking making it truly healing in and of itself. Raw honey is actually nutritious! Just make sure you buy real raw honey. That processed stuff you buy in most grocery stores won't have the same healing properties because it's heated to such a degree in processing that it kills off many of the beneficial components. Raw buckwheat honey is especially healing if you can find it. It's also gloriously dark and molasses looking. Honey also calms a cough by coating the throat and acting as a suppressant. Lemon and its juice contain vitamin C and help to boost the immune system. Together, this team can't be beat.

Make sure to use organic lemons since we use the skin in this recipe as well. You don't want toxic chemicals on the lemons because that would defeat our purpose, now wouldn't it?

I make the basic syrup and leave it in a glass mason jar in my refrigerator until I'm ready to make tea with it. Just add about a tablespoon of the lemon and liquid in the bottom of a mug and pour piping hot water over. Inhale the steam and drink the tea! Voila!

Raw Honey + Lemon Cold Syrup

There's lots of ways to adapt this too. Try adding to your cup:

+a few shavings of fresh ginger root, or a few shakes from your spice shelf.

+a shot of Crown Royale or whiskey for your own version of NyQuil- this is old timey.

+a tablespoon of raw coconut oil - it's immune boosting, anti-viral and especially comforting to a sore throat.

+A teeny tiny pinch of cayenne pepper to help open nasal passages

You may also take this by the spoonful instead, although hot liquids are super beneficial for colds so you may prefer to make the tea.

This tea helped me out tremendously while taking care of my little honey baby, Eleanor:
Eleanor- Raw Honey + Lemon Cold Syrup

Eleanor- Raw Honey + Lemon Cold Syrup

I love the way my mason jar looks filled with thick golden honey and lemon slices. It makes me want to dive in and use right away, but I know I need to be patient. It'll be a couple of days before the honey and lemon juice get acquainted, thin out, and turn into a pulpy, rich marmalade of sorts. It should keep well in the refrigerator for 3 months.

Raw Honey + Lemon Cold Syrup

Raw Honey + Lemon Cold Syrup

1 mason jar (Any size, although I used a smaller one)
organic lemons, cut into small slices
Raw honey- buckwheat honey if you can find it

Fill your jar to the top with lemon slices. Pour honey into the jar until it reaches the top and covers lemons. Seal tightly and store in the refrigerator. Let it sit for a few days before using. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.