Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ranch-Covered Oyster Crackers

Elegant? No.

Gourmet? No.

Will they impress your foodie friends? Probably not.

But are the delicious crowd-pleasers? Yes.

And it's not Christmas without these babies. They're the perfect munchie while you're putting together a puzzle, playing a game of Pitch or Rummikub or Scrabble, or sitting around talking at eleven p.m. Wow, I want to be doing all those things, right now!

But since I won't be doing any fun holiday puzzles or games or chatting for at least a few more days, I'll settle for eating my first batch of Ranch-Covered Oyster Crackers in its entirety, small bowlful by small bowlful. Possibly before my husband returns from work.

I hope this easy to make treat becomes a holiday classic around your house, too!

Ranch-Covered Oyster Crackers
2 pkg. oyster crackers
1 pkg. Ranch dressing mix
1 1/2 Tbsp. dried dill
1 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning
pinch of salt
pinch of garlic salt
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil

Mix seasonings with vegetable oil in a large bowl.  Pour in oyster crackers and stir until crackers are evenly coated.  Pour into a rimmed cookie sheet.  Bake at 200 for 1 hour, removing from oven to stir every 15 minutes.  Spread on waxed paper to cool.  Store in a tightly sealed container.  Share, if desired.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Our New Favorite Pork Tenderloin

Here's the deal.  Last year we split a half side of pork with my brother and sister in law.  We've eaten all the bacon and most of the pork sausage.  Did you know you can't get a quarter of a hog, all in bacon?  I felt a bit cheated.  Like maybe my brother knew something I didn't and was taking all the bacon.

So all the bacon is gone, most of the pork sausage is gone, and now I'm left with a bunch of roasts.  Not a bad problem to have, except I only like pork roasts when they are smoked or shredded and covered in barbecue sauce.  And you just can't do that every week.

This recipe doesn't solve my roast problem, but it did remind me that I really do like pork.  When it's marinated in a slightly spicy marinade and then served with a fresh, bright, tangy pesto-ish substance.  Oh yes.  Pork the new way.

The marinade was really good, but it was the sauce that really sold us.  I even ate leftovers.

And it's a recipe from Cooking Light.  Good for you!  Eat on...

Argentinean Pork
Serves 4 (3 ounces pork and 2 Tbsp sauce)
6 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 c. fresh parsley leaves, divided
2/3 c. fresh cilantro leaves, divided
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
3/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano leaves (I used 1 tsp. dried)
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (wow, I totally forgot this!)
1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1. Combine 2 Tbsp. oil, 1/4 cup parsley, 1/3 cup cilantro, cumin and red pepper in a shallow dish.  Add pork.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour (or a few), turning once.
2. Preheat grill to medium-high.  (I used a grill pan because it was about 27 degrees out).
3. Sprinkle pork with 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper.  Place pork on grill rack coated with cooking spray (or grill pan coated with cooking spray!), and grill for 8 minutes.  Turn pork over and grill for 7 minutes or until a thermometer registers 145.  Remove pork and let stand for 5 minutes.  Cut crosswise.
4. Combine 3/4 cup parsley, 1/3 cup cilantro, 1/4 teaspoon salt, oregano and remaining ingredients in a food processor; pulse 10 times.  Drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil through food chute with food processor on.  Serve with pork.
Calories 319; Fat 23 g; Protein 24.5 g; Carbs 29 g; Fiber .7 g

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pumpkin Corn Chowder

This recipe involves four of my favorite year-round ingredients.  Garlic, green onions, sweet potatoes, canned pumpkin.  So of course it's good.  Why was I surprised by how much we both liked it, that first time I made it?

 Pumpkin Corn Chowder has become a family favorite (or at least family chef's favorite) since I discovered it last year. It's doesn't require much prep at all, yet it gives you some unique flavors. Cumin in your chowder? That's new to me...

It's creamy and a little sweet and a little savory.  Topped with sour cream and pepitas, this is a yummy little soup for a cold winter's day.

Pumpkin Corn Chowder
from BHG 2011 Cookbook
1 c. thinly sliced leeks or 8 large green onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 c. 1" cubed sweet potatoes (about 12 ounces)
1 14-oz. can vegetable (or chicken) broth
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 15-oz. can pumpkin
1 14.75-oz. can cream-style corn
1 10.75-oz. can reduced fat and reduced sodium condensed cream of celery or onion soup (I've always used celery, full fat, full sodium... just because.)
1 c. milk
1 Tbsp. snipped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried crushed thyme
pumpkin seeds, toasted (pepitas)
sour cream

1. In a 4-qt. Dutch oven, cook green onions and garlic in hot butter on medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add cumin and cook for 30 seconds.  Add broth, sweet potatoes, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat.  Simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
2.  Stir pumpkin, corn, celery soup, milk and thyme into potato mixture.  Cook on medium heat until heated through.  To serve, sprinkle soup with pepitas and garnish with a dollop of sour cream.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Citrus Salad

Is there anything more gorgeous, on a cold, gray winter day, than sliced citrus fruits?

What?  You mean you don't chop up oranges and grapefruits and clementines on cold, gray winter days?  Because it's tops on my priority list.

Particularly when my ever-loving husband brings home four pounds of eat-them-immediately-before-they-get-any-softer clementines, apparently not remembering about the three pound bag already in our refrigerator.  I love him.  I didn't mention the bag.

But I made immediate plans to whip up this salad.  I called this the "Ward Off Our Nieces' and Nephews' Colds" Salad as we ate it before running over for a birthday party. Leave it to the under-ten crowd to be germ carriers...

I didn't realize it only requires two clementines.  Neither of us are very observant, it seems.

So the salad?  It's fresh, light, tangy, zippy, unusual for us.  The toasted coconut takes it over the top.

It's from Better Homes and Gardens. Ooh...  when I went to get the link to the recipe, I found this delightful-looking recipe for Fresh Citrus and Cranberry Salad.  Cranberries, ginger, oranges, mint - on my list now!

Keep Calm and Drink Coffee

After reading Living Locurto's recent post about being a tad overwhelmed by the many, many, MANY demands - and even the delights can become demanding - of the holiday season, I was inspired to create a little saying of my own.  I'm sure it's not the first time it's been said.  But it's the first time I've said it, and the first time I've created a cute little printable sign that you can hang on your fridge or bathroom mirror or beside your desk.

Remember to stop and savor the scents of the season along with your cuppa joe!

Coffees that should make it into your mug:
Starbucks Caffe Verona... an old classic for me
Starbucks Sumatra... rich and dark, sort of how you might feel after three days of lounging on Italy's Amalfi Coast at some posh resort
Blacksmith Coffee Roastery's Bali Blue Moon... what's not to love?  And they're a small husband-wife team pursuing their passion.
Java John's Superior Blend... a classic, full taste and at an amazing price.  And another entrepreneurial coffee roaster.
Caribou Coffee's Daybreak Blend... usually I prefer coffee from the darker side of the roasting scale.  But this is a treat.

Suggested scents to wrap gifts, decorate the tree, and read the Christmas Story by:
Bath and Body Works 3-Wick Candles... they burn evenly, are highly fragranced the entire time they burn, and if you happen to get them during a Buy One, Get One Free sale, they're only $10 each!  We buy them in bulk - so they gave us a great little cardboard carton to tote them home in.

My favorite holiday scents:  Fireside (smells just like a wood burning fireplace, without the smoke); Winter (crisp, slightly clove and orangey); Marshmallow Fireside (warm, nutty vanilla with a bit of fire to finish it off); Homemade Cookies (a deep, rich vanilla scent, without being too sweet).

And I'll say for the record, nope, they are not paying me to list these things.  I just love 'em myself!

Friday, December 9, 2011

New Year's Eve: Party It Up

We're having a New Year's Eve party!  I'm so excited!  I love entertaining and haven't hosted a big shindig since this summer... because of, chronologically listed, bed rest, baby delivery, new motherhood, holidays.

A big part of my love of entertaining is simply the planning part of the process.  So I've already got a game plan in mind.  Fair warning: You'll be seeing my rough draft notepad rather than a thoughtfully worded monologue about party planning.

7:30    On-time guests arrive / start snacking
8:15    Crazy Rook tournament (prizes for winners and losers)
10:15  Tournament ends / prize ceremony / bake party sandwiches
10:45  Snacking continues / set out puzzles, cards, dominoes, trivia, bingo
12:00  It's 2012!  Bring out the bubbly!

Now, I want to go into hyper-drive and make about 10 different appetizers and a couple drinks and have party favors and possibly even a theme.  I've been poring over magazines and cookbooks and compiling lists.  But in the back of my head, I know this is not necessary.  And with a baby it might just be overdoing it without reason.

Because... our friends aren't expecting an elaborate party.  They will all ask if they can bring something.  And I will let them.  Because I know many of them also enjoy trying new recipes or sharing old favorites, and because bringing something to a party makes (most) gals feel that they've contributed to its success.  Because a good party isn't about the food you provide or the perfect way it all looks arranged together.  It's about the friends you see and the memories you make.

And maybe I'll go all out in a couple years.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Treadmill: First Run

I am pleased to announce I made my inagural run on our new treadmill yesterday.

It was slow.

I breathed with difficulty at times.

I had to walk for a minute mid-way through.

But I did it!  I walked upstairs on lead legs and felt slimmer, tauter (is that a word?!) and stronger already.

Blasting my music helped.  I can't run effectively without music.  It's only a problem when I forget my ipod and only notice as I'm walking into the gym.  But this won't be a problem at all this winter, because I'm going to freeze my gym membership and hit it hard on our treadmill instead.

I'm accustomed to competing with the person next to me (I don't think they usually catch on), and I won't get to do that anymore.

The surroundings are a *bit* stark.

But the proximity is priceless.

3 Months of Motherhood

With three months of motherhood under my belt, I'm finally beginning to think clearly again, finally beginning to feel like I'm regaining some of ME, and finally beginning to spend more of my day enjoying my little boy than panicking about how to be his mother.

I'll be completely honest and tell you, it has been a rough road.  I entered motherhood with a baby IQ of about 10.  Before he was born, I'd changed about 25 diapers in my life, never bathed a baby, never cared for one for more than three hours.  Because he was born 5 weeks early, we didn't even have time to attend the baby care classes.  For a Type A person, this was a frightening situation!

I've always heard it said that a mother's love is instinctual and natural, and I am so grateful it is.  Because that love is all we had going for us.  Our poor baby has suffered through more clumsy diaper changes, discomforting baths, and and weeping mommy moments than I wish he had, but I have learned some things.

1. Pick three or four people, besides your spouse and doctor, that you're going to take advice from.  If anyone else gives you advice (And they will.  Oh, they will...), listen politely, thank them graciously, then either toss it out the window or run it by one of your chosen advisors.

2. Let people take care of you.  Make a list of things you need help with - so you remember when people ask - and then don't be too proud to share your list.  Even if what you really want them to do is watch your baby so you can steal an hour's worth of uninterrupted sleep.

3. Take a shower every day.  Even if you don't put on a speck of makeup or blowdry your hair or wear anything besides stretchy pants, you will feel so much better.

4. Take a walk every day.  Even if you have to go to the mall and walk laps with the orthopedic shoe crowd.  You'll feel better for the activity and getting out of the house.

5. Ask your mom or mother in law to come spend a few days with you - once in the early weeks and then again at about six weeks.  Mine both offered such valuable support and ideas, plus they were more than happy to take care of diaper changes, feedings and even rocking at night to give us a break.  I realize this is ironic, but thank God for mothers!

So that's what I know.  The other stuff - practical stuff about diaper changes and burping and comforting - well, that's all better learned the hard way.

My mom told me, "It's trial and error.  Try something and if it doesn't work, try something else.  And maybe that first thing will work later."  Comforting, right?  Ha!  For someone who thrives on checking the box when I've completed the task, this ambiguity is difficult to accept.  I've found that one of the few constants in my day is the way I love my son.  Whether I show it by holding him when he cries, changing his diaper when he's wet, talking and playing with him when he's awake or comforting him when his tummy hurts, I do believe he recognizes the love in spite of the sometimes clumsy attempts.

Fortunately, love isn't one of those things you have to learn.

Friday, December 2, 2011

My Rosemary Dilemma Continues

Last month I was debating transplanting my rosemary bush into a pot and bringing it inside to survive the winter.  Well, it was one of the projects I never completed, so instead I bought a rosemary tree from the grocery store.  It's so pretty that I haven't been able to cut any sprigs off it yet.  This could be a problem.  But I'll deal with that later.

The immediate problem is that my rosemary tree is shedding little leaves all over our rug!!

It'll tell you something about the current state of my housekeeping when I tell you that my husband noticed this before I did.

Well, you can learn anything online.  It's shedding leaves because rosemary plants are "high light" plants that want a lot of light to thrive.  When they aren't getting enough light (as during winter months, especially if they are indoors), they will shed their less efficient leaves to conserve food for the higher efficiency leaves.  Survival of the fittest.

I just hope my rosemary tree makes it through winter!

An update on my outside rosemary plant:  it seems to be doing quite well, even though temperatures have gotten quite cold.  And it is not losing any leaves.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Best of Show" Tomato Quiche

This one's a winner!

I've been making more egg-centered recipes recently?  My mom keeps chickens, so I have a steady supply of fresh, organic, free-range eggs available.  The difference between grocery store and fresh eggs is amazing.  Fresh eggs have harder, thicker shells; their yolks are more yellow and stand more upright after being cracked; they have more and better flavor.  But maybe I'm biased - or at least spoiled - by my ready supply of free, fresh eggs!

I didn't make my own pie crust, so I saved even more time.  And again in the interest of time today, I'll simply give you the link to the recipe!  I love how the recipe contributor says she first used it in the 1970s.  Good food is truly timeless!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Treadmill: The Purchase

Well we did it.  We bought a treadmill.  We'll pick it up on Sunday, hopefully my hubby will put it together on Sunday, and by the end of Monday we'll be one day closer to being The Hot Youngish Parents.
Stand by for more updates.  Something's got to keep me honest, besides the disappointing fit of my jeans lately.

In the meantime perhaps I should run up and down our stairs in an effort to prepare for really sweating.  Exercising outside just isn't an option at this point.  even if the temp hits 50, there's still that very definite bitter winter chill in the air.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Time Management

Time Management is no piece of cake.  It's a struggle, a daily, minute by minute struggle.  This is nothing new to me, to you, to any of us.

But it's taken on a new meaning for me in the last couple months, because I am no longer "working," because my husband now comes home and even if he does not ask, I feel as if I have to give some sort of accounting of my accomplishments during the day.  Most often, I feel this urge when:  the laundry basket (with the pack and play "extras" in it, not clean or even dirty laundry) is still sitting in the middle of the living room for the second day; the kitchen table is still piled high with magazines, photographs, Christmas lists, receipts, random notes, used floss that I extracted from my purse; dog hair is actually floating above the coffee table and end table in the aforementioned living room.  "So what did I do today? " You understand my urge to explain, what with this incriminating evidence against me.  Not to mention the fact that I'm probably wearing the same black yoga pants I've been wearing for the last three days and I've got baby spit-up on my shoulder and maybe some lingering in my hair.

My problem seems to be that if I spend twenty minutes doing something productive, something I can proudly report at the six o' clock confession, I feel entitled to then spend thirty minutes doing something less than productive.  Such as checking my email.  Such as organizing my email into topical folders.  Such as browsing Sephora and creating a wish list - even though I know I won't pass it along to anyone and even though I use the same three color combos every day.  Such as browsing around on Facebook.  Such as reading my hilarious book (When did I get like this?: The Screamer, The Worrier, The Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget Buyer & Other Mothers I Swore I'd Never Be) while having a leisurely lunch.

I can't blame it on this little cupcake, who has rewarded me at the end of his second month by taking periodic, peaceful naps wherever I put him.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

White Chicken Chili

It's a day for chili.  Gray, cold, breezy.  Chance of "precipitation."  If it's snow instead of rain, I'm complaining to the weathermen.  All in all, a day for chili.

I can't believe I've never shared my White Chicken Chili recipe with you.  Or maybe I can.  I guard it closely.  Because I want my White Chicken Chili to be the Best Ever, and if I share it all around, someone else may make it better.

Shame on me.  Here it is.  Let it enrich your life as it's enriched mine.  My husband requests it at least every other week in the cold fall and winter months, and he's a happy man when I make it.

We ate our White Chicken Chili as part of an all-white meal.  Not a purposeful thing.  It just happened.  I roasted cauliflower (yuuum) and made onion rye bread (from a mix).  Delicious.

A note on roasting cauliflower:  it's super easy.  Chop off the florets.  Toss them with olive oil and more sea salt than you think you need.  Sprinkle ground cumin and ground cayenne and toss around again (I toss them in my aluminum 9x13 pan for the fewest dirty dishes possible.).  Roast for 20 minutes at 375.  Rotate pan and/or toss cauliflower.  Roast 20 more minutes or until they start to smell yummy, almost like popcorn.

White Chicken Chili
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (seasoned*, cooked and chopped)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 can chicken broth
2 4-oz. cans chopped green chilies
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. whipping cream

Mix all ingredients in soup pot, except sour cream and whipping cream.  Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.  Slowly add sour cream and stir until melted.  Add whipping cream and heat thoroughly.

* I used Lawry's Seasoning Salt, ground black pepper and ground cumin to season my chicken, and I "sauteed" it in a nonstick skillet with cooking spray.  Some people just boil their chicken for this chili, but I think adding these flavors and sauteeing it gives it that extra oomph.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sassy Tailgate Sandwiches

I wish I could say I created these delightful sandwiches.  I didn't.  I'm just glad they're in my life now.  In fact, I'm so glad that I'm actually going to copy the recipe from the magazine onto a recipe card, so I won't lose it.

They're not just for a tailgate party, folks.  I can see them making an appearance in our home a lot this fall and winter.  Game night with friends, lunch on Saturday, with soup on Christmas Eve, with cut veggies and crackers Christmas Day.  And anytime in between.

They're quick and easy to put together.  I made them between spit-up episodes and didn't suffer any "have to concentrate on this recipe" stress at all.  I stuck them in the fridge and pulled them out an hour before we wanted to eat them, to pour on the topping and let it sit.

Another plus: the ingredient list is short.  Kitchen staples plus a few easy-to-find additions.  Note: if you buy sliced cheese instead of block, you don't have to do ANY chopping for this recipe.  Have I gotten lazy or what?

Check out the recipe at Taste of Home!

A Squirrel Feeder: Possible Problems

I've thought about it a bit more.  About the squirrel running across our yard, that I want to feed.

There could be a few issues with doing this.

One, would the squirrel feeder attract varmints such as possums and raccoons?  I don't want possums and raccoons running amuck in or around our yard.  They might get into the cat shed, where I might encounter them in the dark of the night when I put Murray to bed there.  Yikes.  There's not enough free space in that shed to comfortably flail around avoiding a wild animal.

Two, would Murray catch squirrels that innocently came to eat at the feeder?  I like the squirrels!  I don't want to see them massacred and brought to our back door.  I'm not sure if Murray's hunting abilities extend to squirrels, but this summer he caught his fair share of birds, mice and bunnies.  We freed those that we could, but not without extreme agitation, shrieking and shaking hands.  I'm not sure if I'm up for all that in freezing temperatures.

Three, I would have to sweet talk my dear husband into refilling the squirrel feeder periodically, because I despise cold weather and stay inside when possible.  He would not enjoy this chore.

Four, squirrels in the backyard would be one more thing for Haley to bark at.  That Dog.  Is On My Last Nerve.

It's a lot to think about.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lazy Day = Squirrel Sighting

Well sure I should get out of my bathrobe and take a shower.  Really face the day.  It is almost ten after all.

But doing that would mean I'd have to dislodge the sweet babe so peacefully snoozing on my shoulder.  Why do I feel like I have to be so productive all the time?

And if I weren't leisurely sitting here precisely five minutes ago, I would have missed seeing the squirrel who bounded across our yard.  I so enjoy watching squirrels leap around.  This is the first one I've seen actually on the ground in our yard.

I am definitely putting a squirrel feeder on my Christmas list.

Wow.  With that statement, I feel about eighty five years old.

But if you're a squirrel lover like me, check out this website.  It's all about squirrels, from what they eat to the various kinds.  Nerdy fun.  No offense meant.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hospitality 101: Using Camo To-Go Cups

It's a happy day for the hunters in my life!  They're getting Mossy Oak to-go cups for Christmas.  Before you start thinking this is a really weird gift, let me give you a little history.

My brother and sister in law have a lot of visitors who stop by their house on their way east.  (We are in the part of the country where you don't just go to a store or a city, you can also go in a direction or to "the city.")

They decided that, our family (and many of our friends) being the coffee fiends they are, that it would be thoughtful to send them on their way with some coffee to go.  Because of course when you have visitors you brew a pot of coffee.  Thus the surprising popularity of the to-go cup in our family.

Was I paid for this post?  No, I wish.  It's essentially a free advertisement for Chinet, Mossy Oak, and Walmart (where I found the cups).  $2.97.  Not a bad deal at all for a really fun stocking stuffer!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bad Breath... "That" Person

You're probably thinking I'm going to write about running into someone with really bad breath this morning at church.  Nope.  Not it.  I might be that person; in fact I might have already been that person in the last couple months.  So I'm going to give anyone with bad breath a free pass for the next six months or so.

Here's my confession.  When new moms used to say they sometimes "forgot" or "just didn't have time to" brush their teeth, I made judgments.  The judgments were just internal.  I'd say the right words, sympathize, laugh wryly with them.  But inside, I would judge.

Now I understand.  I don't think I've ever actually left the house without brushing my teeth, but I can't be sure.  Keep in mind that this is coming from a girl who used to brush her teeth immediately upon waking and then again before actually leaving the house, breakfast or no breakfast.  But when you're stumbling out of bed at 6 am to change and feed a squalling baby (after changing and feeding and cuddling him at two, and then maybe dealing with pacifier re-plug-in's until two thirty), oral hygiene is the last thing on your mind. 

My wake-up call to this came a couple weeks ago when I kissed my hubby hello when he came home for lunch and he hesitantly asked, "When was the last time you brushed your teeth?"  Not even "Did you brush your teeth this morning?"  The implication I got was more along the lines of "Have you brushed your teeth in the last forty eight hours?"

So let this serve as my apology to those new moms who I judged...  And if I am "that person" to you, please give just take a subtle step back and ask if my morning started exceptionally early.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Turtle Pumpkin Pie

You know Starbucks' annual special-edition Pumpkin Spice Latte?  I think it's achieved sort of a cult-like following.  Among my friends, the first day it is available results in a mass text frenzy.

So when I discovered this pumpkin pie recipe, that tastes just like that Pumpkin Spice Latte, I knew I had found a winner.  A pie that will stand the test of time.  A recipe that will skip right past my trial recipe binder and into my official recipe collection.

When you start with a puddle of caramel and chopped pecans in a graham cracker crust, you know you've got a good thing going.

And then when you combine vanilla pudding mixes with pumpkin and classic fall spices, and then add whipped cream on top of all that...  well, how can you go wrong?

You can't.  You just can't.

Enjoy this with friends, with coffee, and preferably with a cozy, roaring fire in the stone hearth behind you.  Yes, I have a vivid imagination.

Turtle Pumpkin Pie

1 deep-dish graham cracker crust
1/4 c plus 2 Tbsp caramel topping
1/2 c plus 2 Tbsp chopped pecans
1 c cold milk
2 pkg instant vanilla pudding mix
1 c pumpkin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
dash of ground cloves
8 oz whipped cream, divided

Drizzle 1/4 cup caramel into pie crust.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup pecans on caramel.

Whisk together the milk, vanilla pudding mix, pumpkin and spices.  Fold in 1 1/2 cups whipped cream.  Spread into prepared pie crust.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Before serving, spread remaining whipped cream on top of pie.  Drizzle 2 Tbsp caramel and sprinkle 2 Tbsp pecans on top.

Things I've Googled This Week

What's been on my mind this week?  Well, here are the topics I remember Googling.  If they're on your mind too, I hope you find it helpful that I've already done the hard work of typing in the search topic...

Can you transplant rosemary inside for the winter
Helping baby sleep through the night
When should baby sleep through the night
Letting baby cry it out
10K training plan
Can rosemary survive outdoor winter
Rachael Ray's French Style Tuna Melt
How much should a newborn eat
Carter's baby size chart
Baby projectile vomit definition
How much should 7 week old eat
Hello Kitty coloring pages

As my mom sometimes says (but it makes her nervous), "You can find almost anything 'on Internet.'"

Friday, November 4, 2011

Projects I've Not Completed Yet

Some peoples' blogs have themes.  They share knowledge and ideas.  They inspire and motivate.  They are cohesive and organized.
My blog is different.  Apparently I just want to write little snippets.  About my life.  About a random thought that passes through my head.  About a recipe I try and like (or make for the fiftieth time and still like).

I just wanted to get that off my chest.  I know my blog is a potpourri.  I know that you don't know what you're going to get when you come over here.  Sometimes it stresses me.  I'm sorry if it stresses you.  Now I feel we can continue with my list of Projects I've Not Completed Yet.  That "yet" says it all.  That "yet" explains why my projects sit in plain sight, unfinished, for months and months.  Because I honestly think that I will complete these projects!

1. Organizing my "recipes to try."  I've gotten the recipes corralled by a black binder.  They are sorted into categories such as pork, chicken, kebabs, pizza, etc. in manila folders.  The binder and folders have been sitting on one of our kitchen chairs since late summer.  When people come over I move them to our office.

2. Organizing my "home and garden ideas."  Same thing as with the recipes, except this pile lives in the office full time.

3. Going through each and every old magazine I have and pulling out recipes I want to try and home/garden ideas.  These magazines live in a basket in our office and under our living room coffee table and in a basket in our kitchen.  I have a lot of magazines.

4. Creating the family memory-genealogy book for my grandparents.  This has to be done by Christmas, so at least  I have a deadline.

5. Scrapbooking the first couple months of my boy's life.  With about seven hundred photos to weed through, you will understand my delay.  And the fact that I have a two-month old.  That's a factor too.  However, when I do find time, all the paper and stickers and photos are stacked in Idea Groups on our table and buffet downstairs!

6. Stacking the empty planters somewhere other than the far corner of our deck.  No, wait, that's a project my hubby hasn't completed yet.

6. Starting my Christmas Shopping Notebook.  It's where I first write ideas for each person for Christmas, then write what I've purchased and how much I've spent.  It's a great little resource, until the week before Christmas, when I throw caution to the wind and start buying "one more little thing" without writing it down.  Shh.  Don't tell.

7. Painting shapes for the nursery's wall art.  And then hanging the pictures my Mom painted.  In other words, finishing decorating the nursery.  Shame on me.  Bad mom.  Mother's guilt sets in early, I can vouch for that.

I'd like to say I'm wrapping up this post so I can start one of these projects.  In reality, I am going to take a shower.  Then I'm going to fold the laundry I started yesterday.  Then... we'll see.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Three Day Uniform (Don't Judge Me)

I have to wash my uniform today.

I'm worried.  I have a lot of questions, questions that don't have easy answers.

What will I wear during the approximately 24-hour drying period?  Will my other clothes be binding and restrictive and tight?  If they are, will they keep me from chowing down on chips and salsa or going through the drive through for an Oreo McFlurry?  If they do, will I be pleased with this discipline at the end of the day or will I beg my husband to take me out for that ice cream fix?  Will I stop wearing stretchy pants every day?  Will I again reserve them for evenings and weekends only?  Will this help me fit back into my pre-pregnancy jeans faster?

Ahem.  My mind really started running there.

But it has to be done.  I can't wear the same stretchy pants and a baggy sweatshirt for more than three days in a row.  Even with two years and a baby under our marital belt, I don't want my husband to know that I am in near-daily danger of succumbing to my undisciplined, sleep-until-ten-and-eat-pizza-every-day self. 

Farewell for now, my uniform.

Startling Realization:  two years and a baby into it, he probably already knows my weaknesses.  I'm lucky he agrees to pizza every Sunday and kindly says "how about this weekend" most nights that I suggest a post-dinner ice cream snack.  He's a strong, wise man.

No Use Crying Over Spilled Oatmeal

I hope this isn't indicitave of how my day will proceed.

It happened when I walked into the office this morning, to check online if it's too late (or advisable at all) to transplant my thriving rosemary plant to a pot so I can keep it inside this winter.  You think November 3 a little late to just be starting to think about transplanting?  I have two excuses.  1) We've had a lovely Indian summer and the sunny weather fooled me.  2) The new man in my life keeps me pretty busy.

Anyhow, something happened when I walked into the office and sat down.  The oatmeal went kersplat.  The good news is, I was able to scoop it off the floor with a wide spatula in just one smooth move.  The bad news is, I have been eating oatmeal that congeals enough that it can be scooped up with a spatula.

So here is my second breakfast.   decided not to attempt another bout with oatmeal.  Peanut butter, banana and honey sandwich.  Tasty, no?

Here's to days that end better than they begin!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What a (Pregnant) Woman Wants...

With my second trimester has come hunger, extreme hunger.  I'm a little concerned that I might be eating more than is truly necessary for the little life inside of me.  I think I have to assume that with my amazing return of energy and the growth of my baby, comes an equally amazing need for more calories to burn, but still...  To be on the safe side, I'm going to ask my doctor on Monday.  Because although I've got my energy back, I haven't exactly taken to the gym every morning OR evening for the last two weeks.
While I have immense respect for the women who gain 60 pounds while pregnant, then shed it with a bootcamp combo of no-carbs and 2-a-day workouts post-birth... I don't really want to be one of them.  I'd prefer to gain a modest 20 to 30 pounds and then shed them with a normal diet, yoga and walks with my brand-new baby in the fall!

This week has really marked the beginning of my Hunger Strike.  I've been trying to come up with creative, filling, somewhat healthful meals, especially for lunch, since I'm lucky enough to be able to stop work for an hour to eat and relax at home each day.

So here it is... a look at What This Pregnant Woman Wants*.  Be prepared.  These are no light lunches for a tidy, girly appetite.  This is, after all, a Hunger Strike we're talking about.

 An amaaaazing omelet - eggs with milk, shredded sharp cheddar and feta.  With two slices of bread.  Note the lack of veggies though.  I'm working on that...

These are Tostitos Hint of Lime chips... yum...
My amazing toasted sandwich, with pickle slices and lettuce.  Took it to the next level!

Leftover Potato-Leek pizza and steamed green beans.  But that wasn't all I had...
Yes, a little strawberry shortcake!

Another piece of Potato-Leek pizza.  Very filling, very satisfying.  And take a look at that salad!
This is a little salad trick of mine.  I like to put low-fat cottage cheese on my salad.  It lends creaminess and plenty of flavor so you don't have to use as much dressing!  And of course, sunflower seeds for a little omega-3 boost.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this little peek into my lunch life.

*"Wants."  These meals are not completely honest representations of my "wants."  If they were, they would include a lot more ice cream and chips.  However, since these are not things I indulge in every day when I'm not pregnant, I didn't think now was any time to be starting.  I don't want my child to come into this world with a born-in love for Doritos and Cookies n' Cream!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Strawberry Shortcakes

The Strawberry Shortcake.  A taste of spring.  Even when using Reddi Whip and a Hostess Shortcake.

Embrace your version of the strawberry shortcake today.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Steakhouse Dinner

It may look like we're livin' large at Ruth Chris or Hereford House... but no, we just dined it up in style at home.

A couple things I love about having a steak dinner at home...

I can wear my yoga pants, a tee shirt stained with dirt from a little yard work, and no shoes.

I can eat fresh green beans, completely unspoiled by butter or oil or anything else.  You just can't get a truly plain vegetable at a steak house.  And really, why would you try?  The onion fries or the sauteed mushrooms are just so delicious.
Point two kind of got lost there.  I meant to say something more like "I know exactly how my food is prepared, so I'm not consuming a lot of unnecessary fat or sodium."

To prepare the T-bones, we rubbed a little olive oil on them and then rubbed on about 2 teaspoons steak rub per steak.  My grandma gave this to us for Christmas.  It's so flavorful - too flavorful for our tastes on these excellent pieces of meat.  I rubbed most of the rub off my steak once it made it to my plate, and the amazing thing was that the flavor had just melted into the meat.  Ideal!  Next time we'll probably use this as a marinade instead of a rub.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Orange Breakfast Crescents

In honor of the Royal Wedding (After maintaining weeks of aloof disinterest, I finally got sucked in yesterday...), we had Orange Breakfast Crescents for a little light, late breakfast this morning.

These are light, airy, sweet, and delicately flavored with orange.  The perfect treat to take to brunch with the girls... or make for Mom on Mother's Day... or for your little girl's tea party.  Even my husband liked them!

And they're easy.  Have I mentioned that yet?  That's a prerequisite for any dish to make it to my "Breakfast Dishes I Might Actually Make" list.  See, I'm not a morning person, so I don't like to do much first thing in the morning.  I spread the cream cheese filling on the rolls and rolled them up the night before, so in the morning all I had to do was pop them in the oven and whip up the frosting.

Orange Breakfast Crescents
1 pkg 8-count refrigerated crescent rolls
3 oz cream cheese
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/4 tsp almond extract
Preheat oven to 350.  Blend last four ingredients.  Separate rolls into their triangles.  Divide cream cheese mixture evently among triangles and spread, leaving a 1/4" border.  Roll each into a crescent, starting at the long edge.  Place on a baking sheet (lightly spray with cooking spray if it's not nonstick) and bake for 15 minutes or until browned.

1/2 c powdered sugar
1 Tbsp orange juice
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/8 tsp almond extract
Combine all frosting ingredients while rolls are baking.  Spread over hot crescent rolls as soon as you remove them from the oven.  Serve immediately.

Note: You can substitute vanilla extract if you don't have almond extract!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Rare Pear

A good pear is hard to beat.  My parents get the Harry and David pears at Christmastime, and I adore and cherish those bites of melt-in-your-mouth peardom.  But rarely am I patient enough to buy those hard pears at the grocery store and then wait for them to ripen.  Sometimes, if I do actually buy them and put them in a dark corner of our cupboard to ripen, I forget about them and find them two weeks later at a stage way past ripe.

Not these pears.  I bought them.  I stored them.  They ripened.  I shared one slice with my dear hubby and then I ate the rest of them.  Better luck next time, baby.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chocolate-Nut Cookie Pie

This pie is delicious served warm, with a glass of milk on the side.  It's got a slightly crispy top, a rich gooey center (no doubt courtesy of the butter), and a decadent layer of chocolate and nuts at the bottom.

And it's easy.

Reason enought to make it tonight, no?

Just in time for shorts and swimsuit season, from my kitchen to yours...

Chocolate-Nut Cookie Pie
2 eggs
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
1 c butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c chopped walnuts and/or pecans
1 9" baked pie crust
Preheat oven to 325.  In a large bowl, beat eggs until foamy.  Add flour, sugar and brown sugar; beat until well blended.  Blend in melted butter.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.  Pour into pie shell.  Bake for 1 hour.