Friday, April 30, 2010

Chocolate Pudding Pie

I have loved this chocolate pudding pie since I was in elementary school. My mom had a cousin who seemed to live a charmed life and she always brought it to family picnics. Why was her life so charmed, you ask? Well, let me just tell you - her husband always wore those short, corduroy, "op" shorts, remember those? They had a really pretty house with a beautiful black pool in the backyard. And, she made a mean chocolate pudding pie.

I still remember the summer day, though, when she called my mom to tell her that her husband was leaving her for someone else. I'm not sure what would be more humiliating, having to bear that or having to call everyone and tell them, over and over. It's so interesting to me how I still remember that day even though I was probably eight years old. I guess it was reality encroaching on the naive mind of an eight-year old.

My mom very graciously allowed me to keep raving over this chocolate pudding pie for years and years until she finally broke the news that the pie was not all that exotic: packaged oreo crust, instant pudding, and cool whip. Talk about a reality check. My mom was busy slaving over homemade everything, while this lady with the
"charmed life" threw together a pie in five minutes, and I was adoring her and her dessert.

I have to admit, it is a really great concept; crunchy cookie crust, rich chocolate filling, and a creamy topping. For some reason, I had been craving this pie and decided to see if I could replicate it adequately. I did. The great thing about this pie is that it could be delicious served chilled or frozen. With the exception of the crushed oreos, the ingredients were something I could control. I'm certainly not advocating this much sugar or heavy cream on a daily basis, but it made for a decadent treat. We loved it.

Chocolate Pudding Pie

2 cups oreo crumbs (remove the filling or buy oreo crumbs in the baking aisle)
5 T butter, melted

1/2 cup sugar
2 T cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup cocoa
2 cups milk
2 tsp vanilla

whipped cream topping:
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
4 T sugar

1. Mix oreo crumbs and butter. Line a pie plate with crumbs and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
2. Make pudding. Stir all ingredients (except vanilla) in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir for one minute.
3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour pudding into crust. Refrigerate until crust and pudding are cooled.
4. Whip cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Top pudding with cream, add chocolate shavings, if desired, and refrigerate for an additional hour before serving.
5. For a little throwback to the Bill Cosby jello-pudding pops, freeze and serve.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Day So Far....

5:38 am
Our alarm was set for 5:30, and we finally dragged ourselves out of our warm bed. Rob has a board meeting this morning and I had made breakfast for him to take. I had made rhubarb coffee cake, quiche, and raspberry oatmeal swirls last night, but had to pack everything for him.

I called Starbucks so Rob could pick up a traveler on his way to his meeting.

I helped Rob load everything into his car, waved and trudged upstairs.

I hear Josh turn the shower on.

I pour myself a cup of coffee and shake the cobwebs from my brain.

Josh finally turns the shower off.

Josh screams like a little girl and I realize he probably caught sight of the huge (!) "thousand-legger" I'd seen a few minutes earlier. Poor little guy, didn't have his contacts in and all he saw was a big, furry creature right by his feet. The bug was so big, it had stripes. He was hiding under the scales until I squished him.

The girls are wide-awake. I bring them drink boxes and cinnamon-sugar toast [after carrying each of them into our bed and turning "imagination movers" on].

The girls are grumpy, big-time.

I finally slide the last two (of five) flans into the oven for the middle-school multi-cultural fair (I made them last night, while burning the heck out of my finger and breaking a glass in the process....I really need a bigger kitchen).

The girls discover old pictures in our blanket chest. I come into the living room to find piles and piles of pictures. grrrr...

We're getting ready for the bus. Emma is sobbing. I have to talk her down "from the ledge" for the next ten minutes.

On our way back from the bus stop.

I return a phone call (for another cooking job) while unloading the dishwasher.

I feel the cinnamon and sugar on my sheets and immediately strip the bed and wash the sheets.

Emma is finished playing with her Barbies. She asks for her morning snacks: string cheese, mott's natural applesauce with blueberries, and a granola bar. Time to watch "Dinosaur Train" for fifteen minutes (yes, those are naked Barbies in the background).

still to come....
my mom is coming with a load of fertilizer for our new garden (!)

I need to deliver above-mentioned flans

I need to put all of this away (yes, that's a huge pile of laundry).

How is it this early and I'm already wiped?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I'm moving on

As you've probably noticed, I become obsessed quite easily. I'll try a new recipe, fall in love, make it like a thousand (or usually four) times, and then move on to something else (once I'm officially sick of said food).

My obsessions have been many: greek spinach pie, parmesan-artichoke topped tomatoes, porchetta, hog maw, and biscuits, to name a few.

First there was this…..
Rhubarb Custard Pie

Then there were these…
Oven Roasted Tomatoes

But, I’m moving on.
I am loving these…
Raspberry-Oatmeal Swirls

Oh, am I ever loving these. So simple. So delicious. So fresh-tasting.

I first saw this recipe on a “Nigella Eats” episode. I was preparing a brunch for 35 people on Monday, and just knew I had to make these raspberry-swirl yogurt parfaits. The recipe calls for greek yogurt, but I simply drained vanilla yogurt until I had the consistency of greek yogurt. The yogurt is layered with pureed frozen fruit. I pureed frozen raspberries in a blender with confectioner’s sugar and layered the raspberry mixture with the yogurt, lastly topping with crumbled oatmeal cookies. The result: creamy, rich and flavorful deliciousness. Certainly worthy of an obsession. You could certainly purchase the cookies and crumble them, but for investigative purposes I made my own cookies and crumbled them. I simply used the Betty Crocker recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies, omitting the raisins. I also topped with a few fresh strawberries and blueberries.

Oatmeal Cookie Recipe:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup stick butter, softened
½ cup shortening
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup flour

1. Mix all ingredients except oats and flour.
2. Refrigerate mixture for at least four hours or overnight.
3. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto parchment-paper lined cookie sheet.
4. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until browned.

I'm sure the possibilities are endless with this recipe. I would imagine that pureed frozen strawberries or blueberries would also be delicious (I am partial to red raspberries, as they are among my favorite fruits). I think granola would also be tasty, I rather enjoyed the simplicity of the oatmeal cookies, though. Here is the original recipe. Please feel free to improvise, but honestly, this recipe is a keeper. Certainly as good as the rhubarb custard pie, the oven-roasted tomatoes, and the above-mentioned foods. I don't take my obsessions lightly, they have to be quite exceptional to reach that status.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

We Have a New Pet...

Just kidding.

Really, though, our kids are so starved for a pet that they've resorted to treating this bear like she was a dog.

I think we're going to have to take "her" up to the cabin soon or she'll probably be pretty bald. And, after two years and what we paid for this thing, that would be bad!

She is pretty cute and really soft - and very quiet.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I Need [Another] New Doctor

I consider myself a reasonably healthy individual. In fact, so healthy that I have avoided my annual "well-exam" for about five years. Now, I do need to see a physician maybe once a year or so for a sinus infection or something minor. But, when my girlfriend recently had a hysterectomy I thought that maybe I, too, should schedule an appointment. The physician I'd been seeing (since 5th grade) is apparently facing some serious jail time, so I needed to find someone else within the practice to declare my "primary care physician".

I decided on a physician I'd seen a few times for above-mentioned sinus infections. I'd always found him professional, but kind (and willing to prescribe zithromax!). So, yesterday, I headed in, fully expecting to receive a clean bill of health. After waiting in a paper gown for at least 45 minutes, he finally came in. He did a great job, very thorough, caring, and knowledgeable. The downside: way too thorough. He looked at me like I had three heads when I told him I hadn't been running as much and that I ran maybe twice a week and did yoga twice a week. He said that if I lost ten pounds I could get my BMI a little lower and that ice cream and cheese (my primary sources of calcium) were fattening. It's not that I don't realize any of these things, but to have someone else point them out to you is a little disheartening.

Apparently in the next few months I need to have a mole removed, schedule some labwork, have an ultrasound, and possibly consult with a surgeon. We do have an HSA (basically a great way to trick yourself into thinking that you're not spending your own money on things your insurance should cover), but it's certainly not unlimited. I don't normally put a price on my health, but I just expected something else, along the lines of: "you're doing a great job, now get on out of here"!

So, I've decided that I need a new doctor. I would like someone at least 100 pounds overweight, a heavy smoker, one who thinks these would make a great breakfast

Perhaps it was my small form of rebellion that when I returned home, I immediately whipped up a batch of peanut butter cookies. Thanks to Betty Crocker, we all enjoyed these immensely last night.

Peanut Butter Cookies (courtesy of the Betty Crocker New Cookbook)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup softened butter
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
granulated sugar

1. Mix 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, peanut butter, shortening, butter, and egg in large bowl.
2. Stir in flour baking soda, baking powder and salt.
3. Cover and refrigerate for 2hrs or until firm.
4. Form into small balls, roll in granulated sugar and bake at 370 degrees for 9-10 minutes, or until light brown.

In other news, I've been obsessed with keeping my house clean this week. It's been a full five days and I've made my bed every day. I consider this the mark of a good housekeeper. Now, I don't fold my underwear, I consider that the mark of a total clean freak. I'm not sure how much longer this little trend of mine will last, but I'm enjoying it while it does! I feel so much better when I look around and see clean surfaces and no clutter.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Kid - Pleasing Enchiladas

As much as I want them to, my kids just don't like spicy foods. Every time I try to sneak a spicy component into our meals, my kids sniff them out and sometimes they can even conjure up real tears. I always imagine that building up a tolerance to spicy foods would be kind of like building up calluses on the bottom of little feet (we usually try to do this in the late spring, so we can be barefoot as much as possible!). I will keep trying to get my kids to like a little spice in their foods, if they continue to rule out anything with a little zip, they are missing out on whole genres of ethnic cuisine (and that makes me a little sad inside). For now, though, I'll feed them things like these enchiladas. My gang inhaled these, I found them a little blah. If it were up to me, I would have added black beans, chipotles, pickled jalapenos, and sliced green chiles.

Kid-Pleasing Enchiladas
2-lb chuck roast
smoked paprika
ground cumin
ground black pepper
kosher salt
small jar salsa, divided
1 can refried beans
2 cups cooked rice
2 cups shredded cheddar
1 can enchilada sauce
sour cream or plain yogurt for topping

1. Place chuck roast into baking pan. Sprinkle roast with cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper. Add half of the salsa over roast. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for at least two hours. Shred meat and place into large mixing bowl.
2. Mix shredded beef, cooked rice, shredded cheddar and remaining salsa.
3. On a tortilla, spread 3T refried beans down the center, top with meat and rice mixture and roll. Place tortilla, seam-side down, into baking dish (9x13). Finish assembling tortillas.
4. Top tortillas with enchilada sauce, more shredded cheddar (if desired) and bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

My New Favorite Thing...

I mentioned these slow-roasted tomatoes on one of my last posts.

I have tried, unsuccessfully, to make roasted tomatoes before. Surprisingly, I've found that the secret lies in the quality of the tomatoes. I know this probably doesn't sound surprising, but stay with me. The secret is poor-quality, winter white, cardboard tomatoes. I've tried to roast tomatoes from my garden - local, sugary-sweet, jewel-colored specimens, and they were disappointing to say the least. After reading one of Ina Garten's cookbooks, I found that she suggests roma tomatoes, which you can find year-round in a large bin at your local grocery store. Her recipes are consistently flawless and this recipe is certainly no exception.

Here are the tomatoes before they were slow-roasted

And after

The application is so simple, but so versatile. I like topping a piece of baguette with a smear of goat cheese and a tomato slice.

Last night I topped tilapia fillets with slices of slow-roasted tomatoes, chopped zucchini, slivered mint and chives (from my garden), yellow pepper, feta cheese, and lemon. I drizzled the mixture with olive oil, salt and pepper. The topping was seriously amazing. I am brainstorming a little in order to create the perfect dish. I wasn't totally satisfied with the tilapia, does anyone have any other suggestions? I think chicken would be too dense - maybe cod? sea bass? I do think this would make a terrific topping for pizza, maybe with naan or pita.


Even though the fish recipe wasn't a perfect result, the tomatoes are definitely worth trying. They are inexpensive, simple, and can be used in many different ways.

Ina's Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

roma tomatoes, cored and sliced into third
olive oil
garlic powder
balsamic vinegar

drizzle roma slices (on baking sheet) with all ingredients and roast at 275 degrees for 2 hours

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Soft Place to Land

I've been thinking about writing this post for a long time. I hope you'll allow me the liberty of discussing matters completely unrelated to food (well, kinda).

One of the reasons I started this blog was to encourage other young mothers to make family mealtime a priority. My sister-in-law was prompting me to establish a subscription service of sorts that would include meal planning ideas. I'm not sure why I decided on a blog, but I am really glad I did. I realize that my impact on the world is rather small, but I really enjoy having a writing outlet and you, my readers, are amazing! Your encouragement and comments are so thrilling to me. Thank you.

One of the other reasons that I had been harboring some sort of idea of sharing was inspired by Rob's aunt, Nancy. She encouraged me to develop some sort of medium in which I could spur other young moms to nurture their families. She is very involved in the lives of many young families in her area in CO, and shared that the ability to nurture is not inborn, but rather taught. I am certainly no expert in sociology, psychology, or human nature, but I think I might have an idea why the younger generation seems to be having a harder time incorporating behavior that I assumed would be second-nature. I think this is a result of our culture and the breakdown of families.

I had the blessing of being born into a fully-functional family. My mom, while working full-time, served my sister, my father and I in every way possible. She, while never verbally instructing me, taught me how to nurture. Our culture, maybe not intentionally, discourages this type of "antiquated" behavior. I understand that my way of thinking may be old-fashioned. I may not have a high-powered career or expect my husband to share my chores, but I take pride in the fact that I provide for my family, a soft place to land. What do I mean by that? I aim to make our home a place where my husband and children feel safe, relaxed, comfortable, and well-taken care of. I want them to walk in the door and exhale a sigh of relief. I want our home to be a shelter from the storms of everyday life.

I am certainly not perfect in this area. I admire the women that can "do it all". As I think about my role next year [with all of my children in school full-day], I am conflicted. I want to be productive, but not at the expense of my family. I know my limitations, and I think a full-time commitment would be too much. I do feel the need, though, to branch outside my home and myself, and in some way, to serve others. How this will look is completely a mystery to me. I have not always served my husband and children to the best of my ability. During some of Rob's busiest times, I have not supported him fully, but instead added to his stress-load [by complaining that he isn't home enough]. I haven't always offered myself to him fully, instead being selfish with emotional and physical love. I understand that everyday life can get in the way of serving a family. It's not glamorous work, it's hard, and it's selfless. I do, however, feel it's the highest calling of a wife and mother.

For me, personally, that soft landing always existed in my parents house. Lately, though, I've noticed a shift in my feelings. I'm not sure if this is due to maturity or the fact that I simply love this stage in my life, but my soft landing is now our home. Don't get me wrong, I love spending time in my childhood house, but it's become just a place, not my "home". I also suspect that my soft landing has little to do with material possessions or a place at all, but rather, the people in my life. I do love my kitchen, my bedroom, and my living room, but my memories and feelings are much more connected to the other people who inhabit them with me.

Maybe you didn't have the benefit of being taught how to nurture. It's possible you don't even know how to nurture, or how to translate the abstract idea into your own life. I just want to encourage you, if possible, to make your home a soft place to land. Serve your husband and children. Take pride in the fact that you are their soft landing. Be the woman that God created you for. I will always remember a friend from church saying that she knew of two couples that suffered broken relationships because the husband felt unloved. He went elsewhere. I'm certainly not advocating that adultery is anything other than the offenders fault. I'm just saying that if we're giving our husbands love and support and a soft place to land, how much more unlikely it will be that they will look elsewhere for those things.

I want it to be said of me, at the end of my life, that I took care of my husband and children. That I did it for the Lord and for them, and that I did it well.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pizza and a Movie

NBC is apparently trying to bring back "family movie night". Our Friday nights are usually pretty boring anyway, so we thought we'd give it a try. Wal-mart was one of the main sponsors, and some of the commercials I'd seen were plugging buying pizzas and staying in as a family to watch the movie, "Into the Mountain".

I probably haven't been to the Wal-Mart here in York for a few years. On vacation, we usually buy some of our things there, but here I always opt for Target. Either way, I thought it might be fun for each of us to make our own pizzas. Josh really loves taco pizza and Emma requested pepperoni, so I just bought some various toppings. We snacked on sweet gherkins and grapes (a disgusting combo, I know) and assembled our pizzas together. I simply handed each person a round of pizza dough (bought at Price-Rite for 84 cents) and laid out toppings.

Josh wanted me to take a picture of his masterpiece so my blog readers would know how creative he is!

I made a whole pizza for Rob and I to share. On Rob's 3/4, I made him a typical pepperoni pizza. My part of the pizza, however, was way better. I made Ina Garten's slow roasted tomatoes and topped them with olive oil, parm, spinach, and fresh mozzarella. Holy moan-inducing results!

Ina's Slow Roasted Tomatoes

roma tomatoes, cored and sliced laterally
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Place tomato slices on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle all ingredients over tomato slices (only a little of each ingredient is needed). Bake at 275 degrees for 2 hrs.
**These slices are also delicious on baguette bread, topped with slivers of parmesan, goat cheese, or brie**

The final result on our night? Well, three scary dreams later (two for Kate, one for Emma), I'd say we're probably better off renting something from red box! The make-your-own pizza idea, though, was a success. It was so great to just hang out in our kitchen and work on a project together. I should have taken pictures of the process, but my kitchen floor is so, so dirty. On that note, I'm off to clean it...
wish me luck! I bought a new rug to put in front of the sink and I want to scrub my floor before I lay it down. (and another Magic Eraser bites the dust!)

Just Some Recipes...

Orecchiette with Prosciutto and Peas

This is a perfect last-minute dinner. Translation: if, like me, you forget to thaw what you need to make dinner, this can be made in a flash!

orecchiette, cooked al dente
1 pkg prosciutto, thinly sliced
1 T olive oil
1 small red onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
marinara sauce
heavy cream
parmesan cheese
frozen peas
red pepper flakes

1. Saute prosciutto, onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until the ingredients reach a golden color.
2. Add desired amount of marinara to heavy cream ratio (we prefer a "pink" result, a blush sauce).
3. Add peas, parmesan cheese, and desired amount of red pepper flakes (for a hint of spiciness).
4. Toss with orecchiette and serve.

Grilled Flank Steak with Coconut Jasmine Rice, Steamed Green Beans, and Roasted Butternut Squash with Honey

Coconut Jasmine Rice

Prepare rice according to directions, replacing half of a can of coconut milk with some of the water.

Roasted Butternut Squash

Toss slices of butternut squash in olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet at 395 degrees (turning occasionally) until squash is browned. Add honey and stir. Roast for an additional 10 minutes.

Meatball Subs with Roasted Sweet Potatoes Fries


1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 T olive oil
1 cup fresh spinach, sliced finely
1 small can tomato paste
1 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

1. Saute onion, carrots and garlic in olive oil until slightly tender. Add spinach and saute for one minute. Remove from heat.
2. In a large bowl combine remaining ingredients. Form mixture into medium-sized meatballs.
3. Brown meatballs (in same saute pan used for veggies) on two sides and place onto baking sheet.
4. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through. During last 10-15 minutes of baking, pour marinara sauce over meatballs and continue cooking.
5. Split rolls and place onto cookie sheet. Spread butter and garlic powder and top with cheese (we like provolone or mozzarella, or both)
6. Bake rolls during last 5-10 minutes of meatball cooking time.
7. Assemble subs, top with additional parmesan cheese if desired and serve. A few fresh slices of spinach would also be delicious.

Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

Cut sweet potatoes into french fry size slices. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Stir occasionally and roast until browned nicely.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Perfect for: Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner

Potato-Crust Asparagus "Quiche"

3 potatoes, thinly sliced (I used my mandoline slicer)
2 tsp olive oil
1 small red pepper, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
3/4 lb asparagus, blanched and chopped
1/2 cup swiss cheese, shredded
3 eggs
1/3 cup milk
2 T cornstarch
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

1. Saute potato "chips" in saute pan until browned on either side (you'll need at least three batches). To create the "crust", overlap the slices in a circular pattern in a pie plate, completely covering the surface of the pan.
2. In the same saute pan, (using additional olive oil if necessary) brown chopped red pepper and onion until golden.
3. Layer: chopped asparagus, peppers and onions, and shredded cheese on top of potato crust.
4. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over vegetables and cheese.
5. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until quiche is set in the center.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What I'm Loving Lately....

1. My new bag. I bought this with some of my "pay" for my last cooking assignment at Collage. Baggallini is a company started by flight attendants and is designed to be no-frills and practical.

2. Skirts. This is probably a pretty dangerous thing, actually. Skirts are comfy, stretchy, and unlike shorts, not a great gauge of body proportions (translation: I could gain twenty and never know it!).

3. Flip-Flops. These are part of my summer wardrobe, almost exclusively. I've been wearing the same pair of JCrew flips I bought at Gabe's for $1.49 for at least seven years. I decided this was the year I needed a new pair! I've been lusting after these Chaco on Sierra Trading Post, but I really can't justify paying that much for sandals! I found mine at Gabe's for $16.99 (still more than I usually pay), and found that they retail for $50. Either way, they're comfortable, practical, and seem pretty durable. (are you sensing a theme here?)

4. Our neighborhood landscape. We have one of the most beautiful collection of flowering trees I've ever seen. Because the neighborhood is older and more established, trees surround us. Purples, pinks, whites, and yellows invade our little street for two to three weeks every year. The above picture is taken right underneath our dogwood, peering next door at the neighbor's two flowering trees (all varying shades of pink).

6. My new armchairs. We moved a large (and very old) sectional downstairs to our basement for the kids playroom. This left a very empty space in our living room. I'm not great at designing beautiful spaces, so I really had no idea what should be placed there. We really needed some additional seating, but the room is a little challenging, due to two doorways and a large and curved window. My friend is in charge of selling the contents of her grandmothers house and I found these:

They are super-comfy. I love the fact that even though they're probably more than forty years old, they are traditional and are pretty timeless. Rob doesn't love them, but they were very affordable and we really, really live in our house and I appreciate their durable fabric and construction. Sometimes I think things were better made forty years ago!

7. Spring Cleaning. I've just started. Trust me, this is barely scratching the surface. My goal is to spring clean my house sometime before the kids are finished with school for the year (June 9th). I know that seems like a long time, but it's been a few years until I've done this and it's way past overdue. Spring cleaning, for me, involves lots of purging. I've only cleaned and organized three closets, and already, four garbage bags have been filled. For the size and age of our house, we really do have plenty of storage.

This is my closet:

It is a cedar closet, located in our hallway. For some reason (probably the fact that our house was built in 1955), our closet doors are not being very cooperative. Most of our closet doors have been removed, which is a good incentive for keeping things relatively spare and organized. Also in our hallway, we have a full-sized closet that we use for coats and our "winter bin" and a smaller broom-closet where I keep my vacuums and cleaning supplies.

This is Rob's closet:

Rob's closet is located in our bedroom. I successfully finished changing all of our clothing for the season and organizing the three closets and cleaning underneath our bed. Our comforters and sheets have been laundered in our bedrooms (in bleach, of course. I love bleach). This commences all progress in spring cleaning. I'm going to try to work a little bit each day. I'll keep you posted.

What are you loving lately? What projects would you like to tackle in the next few months? Tried any great new recipes? Have you purchased something you now can't live without? I'd love to hear all about it!

Great Quote

I saw this on a bumper sticker yesterday:

"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." Frederick Douglass

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Light Spring Dinner

I know I've mentioned before that my cravings for certain foods are very seasonal. Around this time of year I always become hungry for asparagus, leeks, spinach, rhubarb, artichokes, and lighter fare. We usually eat less heavy meats and starches and everything begins to taste a lot more fresh.

Here is a perfect example of a "spring" meal for us: Leek and Spinach Quiche, Rhubarb Muffins, Parmesan-Artichoke Topped Tomatoes, and Lentils.

Leek and Spinach Quiche (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
1 unbaked pie crust
4 leeks, white part only, sliced
2 T butter
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 cup sliced spinach
1 1/4 cups milk
3 eggs
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup shredded swiss cheese
ground black pepper

1. Saute leeks in butter. Add thyme, cover and cook for ten minutes.
2. Add spinach and saute for one minute.
3. Place leeks and spinach on unbaked pie crust. Cover with shredded cheese.
4. In small bowl, mix: eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Pour over shredded cheese.
5. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or until puffed, brown, and set in the center.

Rhubarb Muffins (adapted from Taste of Home)

Recipe here (just adapt for muffins)

Artichoke and Parmesan-Topped Tomatoes
4 medium tomatoes, cored and halved
2 T mayonnaise
1 T parmesan cheese
1 tsp fresh basil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 can artichokes, chopped (not marinated)
panko and parmesan for topping

1. Place tomatoes cut-side up on baking pan.
2. Mix next five ingredients in small bowl.
3. Top each tomato half with 1 T mixture, then top with additional panko and parmesan.
4. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, until browned.

Lentils recipe here

Friday, April 9, 2010

One of my favorite places.....

I love Price-Rite. I know I've said this before, but I feel like I can't say it enough. While I don't buy everything at Price-Rite, it is so conveniently located to our house and I typically need to re-stock on produce every few days, so this is perfect for our family. I like to shop in the mornings, the crowds are light and the shelves are full! They have such a great selection of unusual and fresh fruits and vegetables. On a regular basis they have (while in season): blood oranges, guava, papaya, peppers, parsnips, celeriac, ginger, brussels sprouts, sugar peas, greens, citrus, leeks, fennel, etc. Some things I haven't tried yet, but we try to sample unusual things when we can. We've had: golden kiwi (really tasty), prickly pear (eh), paw-paw (good, but kind of strange), lychee (just plain strange), and purple bananas (tasted exactly like the Cavendish variety).

I don't purchase meat, eggs, or dairy at Price-Rite, as I prefer local vendors for these things. I do buy my "dry goods" here: cereals, baking ingredients, spices (great selection and very inexpensive), chobani, frozen veggies, juices, kashi granola bars and crackers, and bread. They also have an amazing half of an aisle devoted to Italian specialties (pastas, sauces, canned artichokes, vinegars, pine nuts, capers, instant espresso, ladyfingers, etc). I try not to stock too many snacks in our house, instead encouraging our kids to eat fruits and veggies (some days I'm more successful than others). I save at least half as opposed to shopping at our local grocery store, Giant.

I took a few pictures of the produce section. This was on a morning trip, probably around 10am or so. The store was spotless, the produce was stocked beautifully and I couldn't help myself, I had to document it. Thankfully no one saw me, I'm sure I looked pretty stupid!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spaghetti Squash, Revamped

The last time we had spaghetti squash (per my eleven-yr old's request) it was more than disappointing. I think spaghetti squash is amazing. It's super crunchy and light, but when topped with a good sauce, it's easy to believe you're actually eating pasta. I'm trying to incorporate more vegetables into my diet (when I'm not eating peanut butter sundaes) and I bought some veggies for grilling and making soups. I have been determined to redeem my last spaghetti squash endeavor, so grilled vegetables seemed like the perfect pairing. I also grilled some smoked sausage [that I buy at our local butcher) and it was a delicious summer-like dinner.

I halved the spaghetti squash and scooped out the seeds and then placed the halves (cut side down) on a baking dish. I baked the squash for about 40 minutes and after I determined it was tender I proceeded to scrape the inside with a fork. The strands definitely are not as long as a traditional pasta, but I find that a little more convenient. I grilled peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and yellow squash to toss with the spaghetti strands. I also added a little parmesan cheese. It's been beautiful here in York, so we've been enjoying our dinners on the back porch.

The Depths of Debauchery (or gluttony - whatever)

Friendly's [restaurant] holds many fond memories for me. There is a vague memory of a trip to Friendly's after a fun trip to Hersheypark. Friendly's was a favorite haunt after church youth group [in high school]. Friendly's was our "treat" right after we were married (and a $15 check was a huge expenditure). We used to have three locations here in York, but I think we're down to one. Apparently their popularity (at least in this area) is waning. Rob has always been a bit creeped out by the cleanliness, but I am willing to overlook just about anything in order to get one of these:

A Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Sundae

That's right, I've concocted my own version and it is ridiculous.

Here it is:

In a bowl, place 2T peanut butter (I use natural jif) and microwave for 30-45 seconds or until peanut butter is melted. Place two scoops of chocolate ice cream on top of melted peanut butter. Pour this hot fudge sauce over the ice cream and top with whipped cream.
*The original Friendly's version is served with vanilla ice cream, but I always preferred the chocolate ice cream. Also, in my version, you don't have to pay extra for more peanut butter sauce! :)

Monday, April 5, 2010


You know, as I was typing a post last night (it wasn't really a post, more a brief commentary on our day) it struck me again that even though "a picture is worth a thousand words", sometimes it doesn't tell the whole story. I received a few comments like, "what a great looking family", "you're so blessed", "love the pictures", etc. While our pictures (and, of course I only pick the best ones to post) are a great representation of us at our best, they definitely don't tell the whole story. Nowhere in these pictures can you tell that no one wanted to take a family picture. That our neighbor, Mark, took our picture. That the huge bin (yes, the red one) in the background is left over from my uncle's house ( it smells like smoke, and we're trying to air it out). That I was supposed to put our winter clothes in here, and I'm just too lazy to bring it inside and fill it with clothing. That Rob made us late for church because he wanted to wash the car.

I love our life. Sometimes I just look around (and usually remark to Rob) that I am so happy. Sometimes, though, when the kids are fighting or I'm really annoyed with Rob I realize that this, too, is real life. I do wish a picture could tell the whole story, but usually I'm thankful it doesn't! Today I happened upon some old pictures and keepsakes that have been hiding in our blanket chest (we don't open it much because it still smells like mothballs).

I found some great pictures of when we were dating, early pics of Joshua and also cards and letters Rob wrote to me. There were the notes he left on my car in my high school parking lot. The letter he sent to me from a ski trip in CO our senior year of high school (he wants me to throw the letter away, but there is no way that I will). I was struck by many things as I perused through these things this morning. First, that Rob and I were crazy young. Second, we were pretty dorky. Third, I can't believe I kept all of these things. Fourth, and lastly, I'm so glad I did.

I found this picture of my sister and I and my grandparents. I remember visiting the Indian Steps museum. I remember my grandfather's Alzheimer's was getting pretty bad at this point. He was an amazing genius. He could build any machine you needed, without any blueprints (they were in his head). He lost any and all abilities to function. We finally lost him when I was 18. My grandmother was amazing. She took care of him until she physically couldn't anymore, but would spend all day with him in the nursing home. She used to babysit Josh when he was little and, even at 80 years old, she would tuck guns into the waistband of her shorts and crawl under the dining room table with him. What I don't remember is my sisters dorky fanny pack! :)

I think this was Christmas morning. And, yes, that was me with the snaggle teeth and a perm.

This is Rob and I for my senior prom.

This is Josh, can you believe what a chunk he was? This, my friends, is what a healthy appetite can do for your baby. This little guy only had breast-milk until he was nine months old. Exclusively.

These are my two guys.

These pictures don't show our struggles. How, at 21 years old we became parents. How, at college graduation Rob was holding his nine month old baby. I love looking back, though, to see how far we've come. Even though the pictures don't tell the whole story, they spark the memory. We remember, and that's the point. I don't know if anyone has ever read "1984", but memory is one of the main themes in the book. Memory is the one thing we can control. Memory is a beautiful but sometimes painful thing. But, it is ours to hold.