Tuesday, November 29, 2011

the quiet

Sometimes it's good to stop and enjoy the quiet and peacefullness of a moment. This morning I went into Evan's room to wake him up so we could get ready for school and start the day. He was sleeping so peacefully and looked so sweet, I just couldn't bring myself to wake him just yet. I sat in the glider and rocked and watched him. Listened to his breathing. I was going to be late to work. I chose to soak up the quiet and the peace even at the expense of being a little late to work. Life will go on.

I like to do that sometimes. I like to take a piece of moments like that and carry it with me throughout my hectic day. It's important to just enjoy things in the stillness of a moment. Life is often a hustle and bustle of one task after another. I like to hang on to the quiet. To hang on to the image of my sweet, resting boy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's Here!

I love office supplies/school supplies/organizational type supplies. I like to stroll down the office isle at Target just to feel the organization potential and abilities. It calms me, really.

I did something I don't normally do. I splurged on myself. For an organizer. And. I'm in love.
I ordered it last Wednesday and it arrived today! It came from Tiny Prints, my favorite place for custom cards, announcements and now....planners! We ordered Evan's 1st birthday invitations and they were beautiful.

Let me tell you, it's chock full of cool stuff. Weekly planning, month views, places to jot down goals and to-do's, a little folder to store stuff and a cool plastic pouch to store coupons and such. A place for important phone numbers and notes and even special occasions so I can stop forgetting people's birthdays. In my version I got to customize the front of it with pictures and our family names. There are also little stickers and such to make it fun and make it my own. It's also just the right size to fit in my bag. When the new baby arrives I can see myself using it to track those important diaper changes and feedings. I'm so excited.
The minute I opened it I started jotting things down in it. I will be doing this annually from now on. Totally worth it. Getting to customize it with pictures is super cool and fun and means I'll use it because it's fun to use it.
I'll use it for:
  • Meal planning/shopping lists
  • Goals/To-do's
  • Special occasion tracking
  • Evan's school events and breaks
  • Bill reminders
  • Appointments
  • Coupon holding
  • Baby tracking
  • Blog ideas/notes
  • Important phone numbers
I know these days people really like to use their smart phones for scheduling and contacts but I am a pencil and paper old school kind of girl at heart. I still thinks it's cool to have the actual book in your hand even though the novelty of a Kindle is neat. I like seeing my handwriting for my shopping lists and sometimes it just feels easier to write it then to open the app and type it out. If I had the time I'd still write in a journal. I guess I just like the personalization of it. 

That's why this little bundle of awesomeness is right for me. I'm a nerd. I'm okay with that. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

blueberry lemon sour cream pancakes

I know what you're thinking. It sounds weird right? No. No no no. It's perfection.

Breakfast food is by far my favorite and I think I can say the same for my toddler. So I was really excited to give this experiment a try.

I love the original recipe but I also love the mixture of flavors in my son's blueberry lemon oatmeal muffins. So I decided to sort of combine the two. It's lovely. The bright layer of flavor that the lemon zest lends is refreshing. Chopping up the fresh blueberries ensured I would get a blueberry in most every bite. The sour cream is a must for a moist, melt-in-your-mouth experience.

I made a dozen, ate some for breakfast then froze the rest for quick breakfasts during the week. Now I can just heat 'em up in the microwave and head out the door when I'm in a rush (which is most every day). They also make a great snack for the kiddo when I cut one into strips manageable for small hands.  

Do this!

blueberry lemon sour cream pancakes
adapted from onelovelylife.com

3/4 c milk
1/2 c sour cream
2 1/2 tbs melted butter
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 c flour
1/2 c fresh roughly chopped blueberries
zest of one lemon

Make it:
Combine milk, sour cream, butter and egg. Stir in salt, sugar and baking powder. Stir in flour and lemon zest until just moist. Fold in chopped blueberries. Don't over mix!

Place pan on medium heat and spray with non stick spray or coat with butter. Drop batter onto pan by 1/4 cupfuls (you might have to use your spatula to thin out or make more circular). Wait till you see those beautiful bubbles then flip until golden brown. 

Note: Make these on a Sunday morning and have the leftovers all week! I won't judge you if I see you eating one by hand while you drive to work. Not that I've ever done that. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

herbed chicken with spicy cherry tomatoes

My Dad has never ever liked chicken. He won't even eat any food that has been near chicken. He must have been traumatized as a kid. Poor guy. He's missing out on delicious chicken like this!

Chicken with spicy herbed cherry tomatoes. Mmmm. Oh me oh my. This dish warmed my tummy and made my taste buds dance. I served it with couscous and broccoli.

I've never been very good at preparing chicken but pounding it out into a thin, even thickness, really helped. It was cooked through and still moist. I was thrilled because my previous experiences with chicken ended with really dry parts and undercooked parts. This technique is a must for quick cooking! It even fools you into thinking you are eating more than you really are. It's also super cheap but looks gourmet.

I served the chicken and tomatoes alongside lemon orzo. The lemon-y taste of the orzo paired well with the hint of lemon on the chicken and tomatoes. Orzo cooks up in 10 minutes so this side dish is a snap.

Chicken with spicy herbed cherry tomatoes
adapted from One Lovely Life

4 chicken breast cutlets (these were labled "thin sliced" in my market)
2 1/2 tbs of butter
1 tsp of oregano
2 tsp of fresh basil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 c cherry tomatoes
3 tbs flour
extra virgin olive oil

Make it:
Combine butter, oregano, basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to incorporate. In a shallow dish mix flour, salt and pepper. Pound out chicken to an even thickness, the thinner the quicker it will cook (I used my rolling pin and some plastic wrap).

Heat pan to medium/high and coat with a thin layer of evoo. Dredge chicken in flour, shake off excess. Add half the butter and the chicken to the pan (if working in batches, divide the butter accordingly so all chicken gets a bit of butter). Cook chicken for 7 minutes then flip and cook for 4-5 more minutes. Set chicken aside. Add the remaining butter to the pan along with cherry tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occaisionally.

Get it on the table faster with some night-before prep:
  1. Prepare the herbed butter, store it in the refrigerator until you need it.
  2. Put the flour salt and pepper on a shallow plate and cover with plastic wrap.
  3. Pound out the chicken and store in a plastic storage bag.
You already have all the hard work done! Now you can get this dish on the table in 20 minutes.

Eat this!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

beef pot pies

In my last post I talked about my love for cooking. Now I'm on a mission to put good food on the table through time-saving prep and planning. I'm inspired by many of the awesome food blogs out there and the mountains of cookbooks in my pantry. I'll be preparing recipes, with my adaptations, then giving tips on how to get it on the table faster, even with a toddler on the loose. I'll also be sharing what didn't work, which, I think is just as helpful.

Lets get to it!

I loved the gloomy weather we had this weekend. It was one of those weekends where a mid-afternoon nap was required.

These beef pot pies went perfectly with the weather. It was all I served to my husband and toddler and it was just enough to fill our bellies. We even had leftovers for tonight! I just stuck them back in the oven covered with foil for 30 minutes on 350 degrees.

To me, pot pies are a fun way to eat a stew made of whatever meat and veggies you have on hand. This recipe was inspired by the talented gal at onelovelylife.com. I didn't have all the ingredients that the recipe called for so I started throwing in what I did have. It turned out hearty and delicious anyways.

beef pot pies
adapted from onelovelylife.com


olive oil
1 1/2 lbs beef cut for stew (small cubes) (my market actually has it labeled "stew beef")
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp paprika, smoked or regular
2 c beef broth
1 tbs cornstarch
1/4 c milk
3/4 c frozen green beans
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper

Make it:

In a large pot over medium heat, add oil and beef, brown on all sides. Remove from pan.

Add onion, carrot and celery to the pot and cook over medium heat until tender, around 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Add spices and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. 

Add beef back to the pot and pour in broth. Stir, bring to a boil then cover and reduce heat to a low simmer for 1 1/2 hours. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch and milk together. Pour into the beef mixture and stir. Add the green beans and simmer for 5 minutes. 

Pour stew into 4 individual baking dishes OR one 8"x8"baking dish. Make egg wash by beating egg with 2 tsp of water. Roll out pastry and brush with egg wash. Cut pastry into 4 squares for individual pies (don't cut if making one pie). Lay pastry over each baking dish. Cut 2 slits in the top of each pie with a sharp knife. 

Place pie(s) on a cookie sheet in case of overflow.  Bake pie(s) for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. 

To get it on the table faster, do some night-before prep:
  1. Make the stew. While it simmers go take a nice long shower. 
  2. Let the stew cool. Place the covered pot in the refrigerator. 
  3. Take the pastry out of the freezer to defrost in the refrigerator.
I started the stew at 8:30 and was in bed by 10:30. The only real work that goes into it is 10 minutes of chopping. No bigs. 

Look at you! Now all you have to do is re-heat the pot of stew for a few minutes, place in the baking dishes, prepare the pastry and bake. You'll have dinner on table quick. 

Eat this with your slippers on. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Joy of Cooking

We didn't have a lot of money when I was growing up. I never cared though. As long as there was food in the house, a hot meal on the table for dinner, I was content. I still feel like that. When my pantry and refrigerator has food in it, I feel good. When I make good food, I feel good. The fall weather in combination with good food, is by far the best. All of this in addition to the effects of pregnancy...I want to live in the kitchen.

I posted a while ago about needing to find a way to get dinner on the table faster and I turned to.....dun dun dun...boxed meals. We tried that for a couple of weeks. Ick. Bleh. Not worth it. It tasted terrible and we were eating garbage (a ton of sodium, ground beef, high fat...). I didn't feel right about it. Even if it did save us some money.

This week I've been making real food. With some planning and do-ahead prep, I've managed to put some good meals on the table, quickly. I've even spent some evenings (after baby is in bed) in the kitchen baking. I feel really good about it. I love to cook and bake. There's something therapeutic about following a recipe, step by step in a formulaic way. Then to have successful results....confidence boost!

Cooking really is a joy (even if my son throws it on the floor...) and it makes me happy. I think I've found a way to make a hobby be part of our daily lives. Yay!

I'm really into the blogs onelovelylife.com, joythebaker.com and shutterbean.com. They inspire. I've discovered you don't need a ton of wacky and expensive ingredients to make awesome food.

My schedule is really tight getting home at 5 and needing dinner no later than 6. Here's how I make it work:
  • Prepare a menu for the week along with my shopping list. Everything. Breakfast, lunches, dinner, snacks. Important: Read the recipes. I need to know what I'm getting into before I commit.
  • Do my shopping for the week. This way I'm not running to the store after work.
  • Post my menu on the refrigerator so I never forget to defrost something.
  • Look at the menu each night (after baby is in bed) to see what I can defrost, chop, marinade or take out of the pantry in order to be ready for dinner the next night. This is the biggest help. With as much prep done as possible, I can throw dinner together quickly.
  • If I have a night with a lot of energy, I use it to bake up stuff to freeze to have on hand.
  • If I'm too tired to do the dishes, I leave them until the next night (gasp!)
Don't give in to the boxed meals!

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