Wednesday, October 31, 2012

pumpkin pasta: a fast fall feast!

I stood at the refrigerator yesterday afternoon wondering what I could make for dinner. I had three requirements: 1) it was the end of the month, so I needed to use up leftovers before making my next grocery trip; 2) I was headed to an appointment after dinner, so it had to be fast; and 3) I had a cup of pumpkin (the rest of the can from making pumpkin cheese bread) and a cup of sausage (the remnants of sausage pizza). Easy decision!

Monday, October 29, 2012

sausage pizza: fun & inexpensive weeknight meal

I have much to say on the topic of pizza eating. For my toddler, pizza can be a vehicle for toppings she wouldn't consider eating on their own. Figs? Arugula? Onions? Olives? Broccoli? Foggetaboudit. But on pizza? Peesa! Yef pwease! she says as she slams the first piece in her mouth.

My four-year-old finds pizza-making a shade even more fun than pizza-eating, and I can see a special glimmer light up in her eyes when I tell her what's on the menu. Homemade pizza, yes!! I slide the learning tower up to the counter, and the two of us get to work rolling, slicing (yes, I hold my breath as I hand her a dull paring knife), and spreading.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

music man & horsie cuteness

We owe our weekend parenting sanity to man who calls himself "DJ Tiesto." Nate discovered that if you put on his station on Pandora, the kids magically behave themselves...for HOURS at a time. I'm telling you, it can be 30 minutes past starving and tired, and my children will miraculously turn from crazy banshees into perfect angels. It's downright odd. But do we ask questions? No siree Bob, we do not. We have beliefs about gift horses' mouths around these parts.

Friday, October 26, 2012

{this moment}: autumn beauties

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. Photos capturing moments from the week. Simple, special, extraordinary moments. Moments I want to pause, savor and remember.*

Dancing punkin, flowers from hubster

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

bring home wine O_o

Once again Crappy Pictures has perfectly described my life the very MOMENT it is happening. Seriously, y'all, you should just go read her blog. What am I doing here anyway?

Okay, moment of self doubt over. I am here to report that there is currently a broken birthday candle, half an apple slice, and a plastic sheep under my foot right now as I stand at the kitchen counter typing. AND I AM NOT PLANNING TO PICK THEM UP ANY TIME SOON.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

DIY holiday fun

Welcome to the October 2012 Simplicity Parenting Carnival: Holidays
This post was written as part of the monthly Simplicity Parenting Carnival hosted by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM. This month we are discussing how we simplify the holiday season. Be sure to read to the end to see a list of the rest of the excellent carnival contributors.

In the past I wouldn't have considered myself the crafting kind. That's an understatement, really. I tried one Martha Stewart craft project in college--creating my own criss-cross ribbon photo board--which was an abysmal failure. Lately, though, I've been enjoying taking up more craft projects with my girls. Perhaps it's the fact that they are so small that makes me adventurous. After all, who cares if a child's art project isn't perfect?

Monday, October 22, 2012

did you read? {10 favorite cookbooks}

I've been known to gab about my love of cookbooks, even on the blog a few times. A good cookbook can be just as good as the best book, in my opinion. I love to nuzzle into the couch with a few cookbooks from the library to get some great ideas. Norah Ephron once likened the feeling of being taken away to another world by a book to the "rapture of the deep" experienced by deep-sea divers who forget which direction is the surface of the water. Rapture is definitely a word I'd use to describe my adoration of cookbooks.

Not many library selections make the ranks of the cookbooks I buy, but those that make it to my shelves aren't ignored and left to gather dust. I treasure them and consult them weekly. Some women have a purse to match their every mood; personally, I prefer to pair my moods with cookbooks. Whether I'm craving an international meal, a quick comforting recipe for the kids, or one made from ingredients found at the farmer's market, I have a book to do the job well. Below are a few of my favorites, for your consideration (note: these are indeed affiliate I can buy and then write about more cookbooks, of course!).

1) The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman

The hubster's family gave us this one the year after we got married. Mark Bittman is staffed at the New York Times and is one of my favorite food writers (I am also looking forward to purchasing How to Cook Everything: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food one of these days). I don't always agree with his column (see comments of another post), but his books are thoughtful and well-written. I love that I know when I have a delicious dish in an international establishment, say harira at a North African restaurant, I can come home and flip open the book to that recipe so I can attempt to replicate it. Whether you crave kung pao chicken, masala chai, or plaintain chips, you'll find them in this giant volume. We received a leg of lamb-- a rare inclusion-- in our latest CSA bundle, so I plan to try lamb tagine with prunes next week. I'm a sucker for prunes and meat together.

2) Essential Pepin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food by Jacques Pepin

You can read more about this one on my previous post about it. It's my all-time favorite cookbook and can frequently be found on my nightstand. Jacques Pepin is my food hero.

3) The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook: Heirloom fruits and vegetables, and more than 100 heritage recipes to inspire every generation by "The Fabulous Beekman Boys"

I wrote about this one previously too. The fall recipes are the absolute best, so now is the perfect time to check it out. Be sure to browse their website too (they also have a show on Cooking Channel, which I haven't watched yet because we've been cable-less for almost a year).

4) Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets by Deborah Madison

Another one given to me by my mother-in-law, a fellow avid home chef, this book pushes the limits of my ability to cook with local ingredients. She doesn't stop at just introducing us to vegetables like kohlrabi and escarole; she elevates humble farmer's market fare to another stratosphere. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the delicious results.

5) Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round by Marisa McClellan

While this isn't a traditional cookbook perse, I would argue its as important an addition to your repertoire as any book, if not more so, if you plan to preserve food. Canning requires exact balances of acidity, sweetness, and pectin in the case of jam, so the chemistry component alone makes me a preserving cookbook evangelist. You can fly by the seat of your pants when making soup, maybe, but unless you have tons of experience, I wouldn't try the same with blueberry jam. Like most cookbook authors today, Marisa also has a wonderful blog, which is how I found her book.

6) The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond

I adore her signature style of photographing each stage of the cooking process. It makes for a fun evening read and an instructional guide. She has such a way of making readers feel at ease, like we've been invited into her kitchen for a chat. I can't get enough of her blog. Um, also, carnitas pizza. Need I say more? She has a great show on the Food Network that I catch on Saturday mornings at the gym when I can.

7) Savoring Spain & Portugal by Joyce Goldstein

This one is sadly apparently not being printed any more. But I'm including it anyway because I love the notion that each international trip should be followed by a cookbook of the food in that area upon returning to the states. We went to Spain and Portugal in 2009 and have enjoyed this book (a third gift from mom-in-law!) even more because it reminds of all the delicious food we ate on our trip. We shared our favorite recipe from this book last year, a Galician fish soup that is one of Nate's specialties.

8) The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

I get many of my staple recipes from Ina, like hummus, tabboulehroasted vegetables, and granola. I love how simple and straightforward her recipes are. She of course also has a fabulous cooking program on Food Network. Not surprisingly, they love her in England as much as we do here. She has such a calm and joyful approach to cooking and to life, and her marriage reminds me of a set of my grandparents who seem to love cooking and eating as much as Ina and Jeffrey. They are a delightful pair.

9) My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness by Gwyneth Paltrow

The addition of this book on the list might surprise you, but she is correct in titling this book "easy recipes." They are as much about family and comfort as they are about being cookbook-worthy. It's my kind of cooking, and the photos are fabulous. I wrote about this one previously too. Gwyneth also has a great e-newsletter and website with more recipes.

10) The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

This book will be released on October 30th, so I can't offer an authoritative review yet, but c'mon! Anyone who has ever read her blog knows it will be amazing. Have you pre-ordered yours yet? I did!

Editor's note: This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday, Monday Mania and The Homestead Barn Hop.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

cranberry orange bran muffins

Isn't fall wonderful? In fall, I scramble to make all the meals I love to eat most in cold weather. The fall harvest is so bountiful, that as in summer it feels like the sky is the limit. Cabbage and kale are back, as are cranberries and oranges. Which can only mean one thing. Cranberry bread. (Ok, it means three things: cranberry bread, gwumpki, and mac & cheese with kale & mushrooms).

I've learned something about myself in the past year. I don't much care for quick breads. I've been making them since I first started using the kitchen (12 years old maybe?), and yet for some reason the fact that I don't like eating them didn't occur to me until this year. It seems to me the edges always get too brown and dry, and no matter how great the recipe, breakfast breads just don't travel well. Muffins, on the other hand, are the perfect travel food. When you have two kids under five, food that can travel is your best good friend. Hence, I'm sharing yet another muffin recipe today.

Flours & grains

This recipe is adapted from a Cooking Light recipe. I like that one but feel like they could have made it a bit healthier. While they are normally good at cutting fat, they don't much tweak the flour and sugar in their recipes, so I do it for them. I think a taste test wouldn't glean much difference, but the added bran and adapted sugar make them good for breakfast (instead of dessert, which the original recipe was bordering on). I might even use applesauce in place of more sugar next time, but I was worried about changing the solids/liquids the first time around.

cranberry orange bran muffins
makes 16 muffins (though I normally double my muffin batches)

3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. white whole wheat flour
1/2 c. bran (I like Bob's Old Red Mill 10 Grain cereal)
1/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1/3 c. unrefined sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. grated orange rind
3/4 c. orange juice (about 1 large orange; you can supplement with cider or other juice)
1/4 c. oil
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 Tbs. maple syrup
2 c. coarsely chopped fresh cranberries
1/3 c. chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degF. Combine flour through orange rind in a large bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl; add wet mixture to flour mixture. Spoon into greased or paper-lined muffin cups (I like to use a 1/3 c. measuring cup). Bake for 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and muffins spring back when touched. Let cool for five minutes in cups and then carefully remove and cool on wire rack.

Editor's note: This post is a part of Real Food WednesdayMonday Maniaand The Homestead Barn Hop.

Friday, October 19, 2012

{this moment}: fall vests

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 

p.s. As usual, I broke the "single photo" rule. Sometimes a moment stretches on, you know?...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

ministering to my dear ones, Betty Crocker style

The book pictured above is one my mom found me at Marshall's many years ago; it's a reprint of the original Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book from 1950. She figured correctly that I would love the illustrations and descriptions (as well as some of the recipes of course). I rediscovered it in my daily basement organizing a few days ago and have been delighting and chuckling in reading it ever since. Here's one of my favorite passages from the introduction:

We dedicate [this book] to homemakers everywhere, --to all of you who like to minister to your dear ones by serving them good food. That's an age-old way to express love and concern for their welfare. And it's just as important today when we make use of the latest short cuts, equipment and prepared foods as it was when women made their own bread, butter, cheese, --all the foods their families ate.

Grand, isn't it? My favorite chapter above all others is "Meal-Planning & Table Service." You can imagine all the juicy sentences I've been gleaning from it. The first is the introduction, which tells you the basic seven foods to eat. Behold, the "Circle of Good Nutrition." Because that's a thing.

Group 1: Green and Yellow Vegetables 
Group 2: Oranges, Tomatoes, Grapefruit (or raw cabbage and salad greens) 
Group 3: Potatoes and Other Vegetables and Fruits 
Group 4: Milk and Milk Products 
Group 5: Meat, Poultry, Fish, or Eggs (or dried beans, peas, nuts, peanut butter) 
Group 6: Bread, Flour and Cereals 
Group 7: Butter and Fortified Margarine (with added vitamin A)

I must report to you that you've been doing it all wrong. According to the wisdom of 1950, we all need to be eating more yellow vegetables, oh and some fortified margarine (with vitamin A!). Margarine is so important, in fact, that it gets its own CATEGORY. Boy, I was way off. I think the best is when they combine potatoes with fruit. Science, y'all.

Here are a few other passages from that chapter (italics are theirs):

Planning, preparing, and serving meals is an art which develops through inspiration and thought...It's important to plan a variety of foods for well balanced meals to keep your family well nourished. But above all, be sure those meals are appetizing, attractive, and delicious to eat. For mealtime should help build happy home life.

Indeed. Here, here!

It may be only a ruffle of lettuce to set off a salad; a bunch of purple grapes for an accent note on a platter of roast chicken; a few tiny pimiento bells to add color to a bowl of oyster stew at Christmastime. Whatever the finishing touch, be sure to make it as good to eat as it is to see.

Mmmm, pimiento bells. One of the more underrated garnishes, apparently.

The cocktail section begins with the best sentence ever written in 1950...

The clever wife has a simple appetizing cocktail (cold in summer, hot in winter) ready for her weary husband when he comes home at night.

Amen, sistah.

From a chapter titled "Short Cuts," here are some suggestions for keeping your personal outlook high (bold is mine, it's a must-read):

Eat proper food for health and vitality. Every morning before breakfast, comb hair, apply make-up, a dash of cologne, and perhaps some simple earrings. Does wonders for your morale. While children are napping, do something refreshing. Write, knit, or listen to pleasant music. Harbor pleasant thoughts while working. It will make every task lighter and pleasanter. Notice humorous and interesting incidents to relate at dinnertime.

Can't you just imagine this perfect housewife, cheerily handing her husband a drink and reporting the mysterious incident with the missing sock (spoiler alert: the dog ate it!)? I wish it were still a job to write such passages in today's world. I would so rock at that job. Except that I'd probably be fired for suggesting that housewives meet their husbands at the door wearing only a cocktail and a smile. Heck, they could have used some shaking up of tradition, right?

Here is Betty's suggestion for a Sunday evening supper dish:

Welsh rarebit with tomato slices, anchovies, and gherkins. 
Chilled pears. 
Chocolate cupcakes. 
Coffee, milk, and tea.

Because nothing goes better with my rarebit than some gherkins and tea.

Thanks for indulging a weirdo historical cookbook lover and reading along with me!

Happy cooking, ladies.

Editor's note: This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday, Monday Mania, and The Homestead Barn Hop and:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

a yard!

The girls have spent the past two afternoons joyfully running through the backyard, turning over rocks and poking bugs with sticks. It's a small space, but it's all theirs, and they seem to understand the significance of this truth.

I've been chatting with neighbors over the fence, and I enjoy the proximity. I keep thinking about the generations who lived in our home before us, chatting with their neighbors over the fence. Our home has been lived in, and I look forward to the years we will add to its history.

The cat is enjoying herself too.

Monday, October 15, 2012

pasta amatriciana

Amatriciana is a classic Italian sauce that traditionally includes cured pork and pecorino. I love it because it allows me to turn some bacon ends into a meal. I learned about it from my CSA farmer, who is never short on great use-it-up recipes. After making beef bourguignon a few nights ago I had some bacon I needed to use up in the fridge. I grabbed a jar of marinara, some spaghetti, and a wedge of Parmesan cheese. Voila! Dinner is served.

pasta amatriciana

1 Tbs. olive oil
½ lb bacon cut into 1 inch pieces
1 red onion, chopped
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 jar marinara sauce
1 lb spaghetti or bucatini
splash of red wine vinegar
freshly grated Parmesan
chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. In separate pan, heat olive oil over moderate heat, add bacon and cook 5 minutes or until it begins to render some fat.

Add onion and continue to cook until onion begins to brown and bacon begins to crisp (about 12-15 minutes).

Remove all but about a teaspoon of bacon fat. Add marinara sauce and crushed red pepper flakes. Turn up heat slightly to bring to a simmer, scraping any bits off bottom of pan. Simmer 5 minutes. Turn heat to low and add splash of red wine vinegar.

While sauce is simmering, cook and drain the pasta according to package directions. Reserve a bit of pasta water if your sauce needs thinning. Add pasta to the sauce and toss well. Serve with cheese and parsley.

Our farmer also recommends green salad, bread and a nice merlot to round out this yummy meal.

Editor's note: This post is part of Real Food Wednesday, Monday Mania, and:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

blissfully unplugged

We were in New Hampshire peeping at some leaves over the weekend and didn't have internet. I returned home today to a mom in labor, and I'm already back home tonight. Yay for fast babies! I will tell you more about the trip tomorrow, but for now here are some pics I stole off Nate's phone...

Friday, October 12, 2012

{this moment}: me and c

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

p.s. I know I'm breaking the "single photo" spirit of SouleMama's {this moment}, but I felt this shirt deserved its own picture. A little known fact is that in addition to the power of three wolves howling at the moon, there is also much power to be gained from two deer staring at you.

p.p.s. We're getting ready for a leaf-peeping trip this weekend. Friday is a day that I don't shuttle Charlotte to a class, so it's nice just to sit and drink some tea with her. Oh, and take in a little "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" too (DTN has a great website for kids, by the way).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

alligator song, part deux

I am home for a few hours of nap between session one and two with a laboring mom. I'm scarfing down a banana and peanut butter while the kids eat lunch, then planning to put on tele-nanny for Vivi while Charlie and I sleep. Some weeks are all about threading seconds together to make minutes, and it feels like there is a never-ending trail of stuff not being done along the way. But the kids are fed (even it is the eleventh day in a row of PB&H) and entertained. Sometimes that has to be enough.

I couldn't end the post without also providing you some entertainment, so here are videos of Vivi and Charlie singing the same song as two-year-olds. FYI, the lyrics are actually:

Five little monkeys swinging in the trees
Teasing Mr. Alligator
You can't catch me, you can't catch me
Along comes Mr. Alligator quietly as can be
And SNAP! that monkey out of the tree

I love how the kids butcher it. And whispering is the cutest.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

but on the plus side, I can see what's in the fridge

Watching TV, the great live-in babysitter. Check out Charlie's snazzy new slippers. Wish I had some!

Let's pause and chuckle for a moment at my plan to exercise every day this month. I could just pinch those adorably naive September cheeks. I'm happy at least to be able to support Nate's desire to work out every day...and am honestly even happier to use his goal as an excuse to give up my own. I don't seem to have a single moment to myself, and when I finally get one, I might do yoga but will probably more likely knit or read or just vegetate. Oh, and preserve the bushel of apples we picked last weekend. Yes, a whole bushel. Sheesh.

All of my memories of our past moving troubles are rushing back. Is this like when moms supposedly forget the pain of childbirth? It must be because I think every single person who's in the middle of moving says "I will NEVER move again!" Myself included. It's hard, y'all!

Yesterday was rough. The curse of too much of a good thing, I suppose. I was staring at a conference's abstract review deadline (well-meaning but overly generous volunteer project), the house on its first day after the move, and a possible client in labor. But I still managed to watch some cable TV last night (um, yes I caved) because hello. Cable.

Rather than bore you with the tales of missing shower curtain rings and phone chargers, I'll tell you about the random fabulous thing that happened last night because of the move. I was in the basement--I may or may not have been searching for shower curtain rings--when my eye caught sight of an old box my dad gave me years ago. It had gotten mixed into retired college textbooks at some point and forgotten about. I thought it only contained newspapers and magazines from when I was little, and maybe an old art project or two, but I decided to crack it open and have a peek.

I was surprised to find that underneath the papers was a stack of some of my favorite books from childhood! INCLUDING... Cookie Monster and the Cookie Tree! I was just thinking about buying another copy. The best part about these books is that they aren't the classics we all know and love from childhood (except for beloved Winnie the Pooh) but were just the books I happened to love best. Some of them I had completely forgotten about until seeing again, and it was as though I had been given back great memories that had been long ago forgotten. Nostalgia. Ain't it grand?

One of my favorites from the stack is Giants are Very Brave People by Florence Parry Heide (I've been Googling this one for years trying to figure out what it's called, and all I had to go on was a line from it--"crumpets and scones and ice cream cones"). I especially love the illustrations...


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