Good Things Jar

Here she blows! Our Good Things Jar 2013!

My guiltiest admission. I’m pretty awful at documenting Brady’s life. I get so caught up in us living it, that I forget to capture it. I failed at the baby book before a year, my camera broke so long ago that I can’t remember the last time I used it. Printing pictures? Ha!

So here she is. Our Good Things Jar 2013. Although four weeks behind(yes, I see the pattern) I plan on getting at least one in there a week. We are beyond blessed, I know this. But sometimes I forget what I had for breakfast. So this year, at the end of the year, all of those beautiful blessings will be there, in print. For us to remember.

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Kitchen Cheats, Part I

I am learning the lesson of all working moms…use your time wisely!   Getting out of the house to the grocery store is harder now…coordinating with nap times, fussy times, play time, relaxing time…you know the drill.  I am trying to shop smart, plan meals, and my new endeavour is trying to prep smart. Below is my attempt at cheating in the kitchen.

Nothing makes me happier than a house full of food! Oh the possibilities!

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We eat a fair amount of chicken (who doesn’t?).  We have been buying rotisserie chickens for a while to cheat, but I know they are loaded with sodium and you pay a premium for prepared food.  So this week I used my dusty old crock pot and made 4 chicken breasts, shredded them, and put them in freezer bags in 1-2 cups portions so we can easily use them for quesadillas, pasta meals, soups, and casseroles.  Recipe/Idea credit to Mountain Mama Cooks.

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Shredded Chicken:

4 organic, boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 dried oregano teaspoon

Put chicken in slow cooker and sprinkle with spices. Add chicken stock. Put lid on pot and cook on low for 4-6 hours. Shred chicken with a fork, cool completely, portion into ziplock baggies, and freeze. This makes almost six cups.

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Last week I used Adobo, but any recipe I have ever use only calls for 1 or 2 peppers plus some sauce, so I always end up wasting the majority of the can.  Today I chopped all the peppers, mixed them with the sauce and divided into 1 tablespoon pouches (which looks to be about the equivalent of 1 pepper) and put them in the freezer.  Feeling pretty clever!

I think fresh herbs are what makes the difference between “good” and “delicious”, but I always used to end up with wilted or slimey herbs in my fridge! I have several things I do to prolong the life of herbs, here is how I prep scallions (my next Cheats post will discuss parsley and cilantro). Chop the white portion and some of the green, place in freezer safe tupperware and use when needed.

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A couple of other simple things I do to have good food on the ready–prebake potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets.  I most often use all these ingredients in a hash, the beets in the salad, or mash up the potatoes.  It is great to have these on hand and not have to wait the hour for them to bake (I know you can do in the microwave but I don’t like them as much that way).

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And how could I forget? Da bacon!  We love to add bacon to kale, collards, and swiss chard…or actually to just about anything.  It is nice to have cooked bacon so you can just cut up and add to whatever you are cooking.  I know, I know, we are supposed to be doing healthy…but come on…bacon is good for the heart. Err actually really bad for the heart, so I guess I mean good for the soul of my flavor palate! I bake my bacon, so much tidier.  Speaking of bacon, you should totally check out this bacon comedy sketch by Jim Gaffigan. Hilarous!!

I am always looking for new ways to prep…suggestions welcome!!

Crustless Quiche, Crispy Potatoes!

Home again, Home again! We are home from a fabulous and not at all relaxing vacation! Disney World was more than I ever thought it could be, but woah! It was exhausting! To be able to get right back at it we needed something quick and delish!

I love sneaking veggies into things, so quiche is perfect. And I also love when the oven needs just one temperature, so these potatoes pair well!

Crustless Quiche

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6-oz fresh baby spinach
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/3 cups non fat milk
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese

Preheat oven to 400F.
Lightly grease a 10-inch quiche/tart pan.
In a medium frying pan, cook diced onion over medium-high heat until translucent and tender. Add in fresh spinach and cook until just wilted. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, flour, and baking powder. Whisk in milk, then stir in spinach-onion mixture.
Pour quiche base into prepared pan. Top with feta cheese.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until center is set and the outside edge is golden brown.
Let set for 5 minutes, then slice and serve!

*Letting this set is key! Frittata is traditionally served at room temperature, and this really tastes better once it’s set.  This little trick also makes it a great make ahead meal.

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A fan favorite, probably because of customer participation!

Crispy Potatoes

  • 1 pound red potatoes
  • Good olive oil
  • Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 400.
Toss cubed potatoes with olive oil and sea salt.
Place potatoes on baking sheet and book for 1 hour.

Add my very own version of crusty bread, the kind I buy from the baker, and ta-da!

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A full meal, with lots of leftovers! 

{this moment}

{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.

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{this moment}

{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.

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Butternut Squash & Kale Pasta Bake

Another frigid day, I hear it was -16 with the wind chill last night!  So no surprise (well actually it was) today had the added treat of frozen pipes.  I was greeted this morning with a sputtering kitchen sink…then curplunk! Nada, nothing, zero…without water all day. We spent half the day obtaining the ingredients to warm up our pipes… So with our warming concoction brewing, and us still without water, we desperately needed a simple creature comfort of a tasty dinner.  My original plan was for something with the chicken thighs I had in the fridge but I didn’t want to try to clean up chicken juice with the “splash and wipe” method of bottled water.  So in my second stroke of genius in two days (first being filling the coffee pot last night, so at least I didn’t have to greet this day uncaffeineated!) was this dish.  I am pretty proud. My own brain child.

Onions, diced; fresh thyme, chopped; garlic, minced; butternut squash, cubed; kale, chopped; parmesan/asiago/romano blend; butter, water, milk, and red pepper flakes.

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First, put the water on to boil the pasta.  Preheat oven to 350.  Heat dutch oven on medium heat, add butter and heat until frothy.  Add onions, cook until soft. Add garlic and thyme, saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

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Add water and butternut squash, mix with onion mixture, put lid on and cook for about 10 minutes until squash is soft.

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Add kale, salt and pepper to taste, and red pepper flakes, cook for several minutes, then lower heat.

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Add pasta, milk, half of cheese. Mix well.

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Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.

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Place dutch oven uncovered in oven, bake for about 20 minutes until bubbly.

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And there we go. Very comforting, comfort food.

Butternut Squash & Kale Pasta Bake

  • I box whole wheat penne pasta
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 medium butternut squash, diced
  • 1 bunch of red kale, devined and chopped
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup parmesan/asiago/romano cheese, ½ cup for mixture, ½ cup for topping
  • 1 ¼ cup milk

Make pasta, set aside. Heat butter in dutch oven on medium high heat until foaming, add onions and cook until soft. Add garlic and thyme, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add water and butternut squash, mix with onion mixture. Put lid on and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes or until soft. Add kale, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes; cook for several minutes then turn heat to low. Add pasta and milk, half of cheese, mix together.  Put uncovered in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until bubbling. Garnish with parmesan.

Sausage Soup and Crusty Bread

Following Jess’s suit of “warm me up it is 11 degrees outside food”…I made this combo as Christmas Gifts for the neighbors and it was definitely time for it to resurface on this frigid January day. Disclaimer–I know it is a weekday, but this is really much more of a weekend meal…my “weekends” are usually midweek so my Wednesday soup could be your Saturday soup!

I got the soup recipe from my sister Bonnie, who got it from her neighbor Bev, so I tip my hat to Bev!

My token “gathering of ingredients” photo. I suggest you get the sausage without the casings, but I couldn’t find it.  I also only had whole tomatoes, but crushing them was easy enough.  Oh and I added an extra pepper (not photographed).  And I forgot to photograph the chicken stock (still need to post my “Kitchen Cheats” post regarding the best stock!).

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Chop, chop, then mise en place of the first set of veggies (onions, garlic, carrots, peppers). Zucchini comes later!

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Remove sausage casings, then brown and crumble sausage.  I use my biggest soup pot from start to finish (another gratuitous plug for the one pot meal).  Using a spoon remove all but half the fat from the pan (important! otherwise you have a gross fat residue on top of the soup when it is done, not to mention totally unnecessary saturated fat).

Add onions, cook until soft, not brown. Add garlic, cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add carrots, green peppers, chicken broth, tomatoes, and basil.

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Simmer for 2 hours. 3o minutes before serving add Zucchini (cut into half circles) and orzo.

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Final photo to come.  I make my soup the day before I want it (in this case because I was having company the next day and cooking and getting house and baby ready all in one morning is toooo much to handle!), so it goes perfectly with the next recipe…CRUSTY BREAD. OH MY GOD CRUSTY BREAD. The same crusty bread recipe that has been viral on Pinterest. For good reason. So amazing, so easy…be careful, you will want to make this all the time.  Actually Jess, you could totally incorporate this bread into your kitchen for Jason’s add on calories!

Now you must have a dutch oven/cast iron pot with a lid. Everyone should have a dutch oven, no need to have the uber expensive Le Creuset.  Mine is a Tramontina, I think it was $80? I swear I use it every week, my most favoritest (yes FAVORITEST!) kitchen tool.

This is it, 3 ingredients + water + time to wait overnight…no rising, no beating, no kneading.  And people will say “Oh my you made bread”,  with some kind of admiration that you are a kitchen goddess, and then you feel guilty for letting them think so. You chose whether to let them in on the secret or let them treat you like the kitchen goddess that you are.

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In a large mixing bowl whisk flour, salt, and yeast. UNBLEACHED flour (I haven’t been willing to try what happens with bleached flour). Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.

Shaggy mixture below, I don’t know what makes it shaggy, but this is what it looks like.

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Cover with plastic wrap, leave on your kitchen counter for 12-18 hours.  Below is the next morning, see, it no longer looks shaggy.

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Heat oven to 450. Once oven reaches temperature put dutch oven with lid in the oven to heat for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pour dough onto floured surface (it will be sticky).  Gently shape into a ball.  My sister (sister of the sausage soup) put a nice spin on it, I followed suit.  Cut the ball into 4 equal parts.  Place dough on parchment paper and wait until pan is hot.

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When pot is hot, place parchment paper with loaves in and put lid on. Put in 450 degree oven for 3o minutes. After 30 minutes take lid of and continue baking for 15 more minutes. Done, and done!

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And there you have it, perfect winter weekending meal. The soup makes a lot so you can eat it all week or freeze some for later.

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Sausage Soup:

2lb Sweet Italian Sausage                   28 oz can crushed tomatoes (use sauce too)

2 medium onion, diced                        2 tsp dried basil

2 cloves garlic, minced                         salt & pepper to taste

4 carrots, peeled, diced                        1 cup orzo pasta, dry

2-3 green bell peppers, diced              4 small zucchini, cut in semi circles

80 oz chicken broth

Remove sausage casings, brown and crumble. Remove half of the fat. Add diced onions, cook until soft, not brown. Add garlic, cook about 1 minute. Add carrots, green peppers, chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, and basil. Simmer for 2 hours. About half hour before you serve add dry orzo and zucchini, and cook. Add salt and pepper. Garnish with parmesan cheese. Makes 6 quarts.

Crusty Bread

3 cups UNbleached all purpose flour

1 3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp yeast

1 1/2 cups water

Whisk dry ingredients. Add water and mix until shaggy mixture forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12-18 hours. Heat oven to 450, place dutch oven with lid in oven for 3o minutes. Meanwhile pour dough onto floured surface, gently form into ball (or cut into 4 equal loaves). Place dough on parchment paper (if you do the 4 loaves, they will seep together, that is OK, the seam is there when it is done cooking to separate the loaves). When pot is hot, place parchment paper with dough in pan, put lid on, bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes take lid off, cook bread for 15 more minutes. Cool on rack.

The Watchful Owl

Transitioning back to work after a dreamy maternity leave has been hard (to be expected, I am assured by all my working mom friends).  On the other hand, I realize how lucky I am that Brad and I can swing it without using any childcare…I work nights and he works from home (and travels some, but so far we have been able to organize our schedules). My working the overnight shift works really well for us.  Brad is home with Elsie while I work and then while I sleep the next day.  I feel like I am missing less since the majority of the time I am gone Elsie is sleeping, and then the next day Brad wakes me up to nurse.  I think I have gotten pumping at work down, and I am pumped (punny haha!) that I have been able to express more milk than she eats while I am gone, so I am building my freezer supply to boot.

Despite my spin on the positive, I do miss out.  Bedtime is something I really look forward to, and I miss being in that routine every night. Our routine consists of Gaelic Lullabies (i heart Pandora), tubby time, then a date with Granny Blanket and our two favorite books.  The ever classic “Goodnight Moon” and our new classic “A Book of Sleep” by Il Sung Na.

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“A Book of Sleep” has a new meaning for me now that I miss 3 bedtimes a week.

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It comforts me that I am the Watchful Owl those nights I am away…even if it means I have to be the Tired Owl too!

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Happy to be home tonight…

Kitchen Challenges, Part 1 (of many)

I love food.  It’s why I do what I do.  To talk about food all day, you have to love it.  Although eating clean is a huge part of our lives, I enjoy a treat, too!  

That being said, I do have to watch what I eat.  I keep an eye(sort of) on my caloric intake, and I workout 5 days a week.  Jason however, has the opposite problem.  The calories just fall off of him.  Always.  So while I need to check myself sometimes, he is always looking for more.  Always.  

I refuse to be a short order cook, kind of like running errands on a Saturday.  I just won’t do it.  So the challenge; how can I get hime more calories in a meal without damaging what we eat?  So far, he just eats more.  Or adds bread.  Or sour cream, or dressing.  What do you do? And what are some of your menu planning challenges?  

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Baby, it’s cold out there! 24 to be exact.  What brave arctic warriors we were today, rode bikes at the park despite the chill.  So, of course, chili was the answer! This is certainly one of our favorite recipes; quick, easy, hearty, wholesome and delicious!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

  • 2 tsp EVOO
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 large sweet potato or a few small ones, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cup water
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in skillet, add onion and sweet potato and cook stirring often.  Add garlic, chili powder, cumin and salt.  Stir constantly about 1 minute.  Add water and bring to boil.  Cover, reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until potato is tender, about 15 minutes.

Add beans, tomatoes and lime juice.  Increase heat and return to boil, stirring often.  Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook until reduced, about 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in cilantro!

A few adjustments; we use a little more water, the fire roasted diced tomatoes and real lime juice.  Tonight, we also added plain yogurt as a topping.  Start to finish, 30 minutes.  And- who doesn’t love a one pot meal!

So this being my first post (woot!), I got so excited I forgot to take pictures.  Here’s what’s left of our “blustery-cold out there but oh so warm in our tummies” meal.  We also added fresh baked break from my local bakery (Four Worlds) and avocado and corn salsa on the side.  Superfood surplus!

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