Category Archives: Uncategorized

The green grass grows all around

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 Even though Sam is only 3 months old, I decided it was time that he get used to the great outdoors.  His first camping trip is scheduled for August!  Here’s hoping he likes dirt and decides to sleep through the night- God bless the other campers, in advance, for putting up with a noisy baby.

  

 Sam oversaw my weeding efforts and Gilligan helped clean up the weeds by throwing them around the yard.

Our poor, neglected garden.  Between the heat and the infant, it’s hard a rough go this summer. 

Sam worked on his core strength while Gilligan gazed longingly at all the flowers he wanted to trample. His on backyard probation since he ripped Nick’s thriving grapevine out of the ground.  Naughty doggie. 

I was clearly more amused than Sam by our backyard adventures. 

Found out, rather quickly, that someone is not amused by the hose.  So we sat on it instead.  Take that, hose!

Fiscally frisky

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What a difference three weeks makes!  I went back to work on July 2.  I gave my notice on July 9 and Friday, July 20 was my last day!  Craziness.  I’m so grateful that I get to spend this time at home with Sam.  And now it’s especially important to me to keep costs down now that I’m not bringing in the big bucks.  I’ll do the usual cost savers- walking instead of driving, more library books, turning off the A/C when it’s not super hot, etc. 
I’ll also use nap time to do some planning…
  And couponing!  I tried to get into coupons a few years ago and just didn’t have the patience for it.  But now it’s kind of a like a game for me- how much money can I save?  The trick for me is to only use coupons for things we really need.  It’s easy to find a deal on random items and think, “score! a direct hit!” but if it’s something we never use (air freshener?  kitty litter?  doritos??) then I gotta show some self control and move along. 

This week I found two coupons for cereal- each for $1 off 2 boxes of General Mills cereals.  I combined the coupon with a deal at Star Market that gave $6 off 4 boxes of General Mills cereals.  Total cost for 1 giant box of Cheerios, 2 boxes of Wheat Chex, and 1 box of Peanut Butter Cheerios (a girl has to have some fun!)= $16. 47.  Price paid= $8.47.  Love!  While we don’t normally eat a ton of cereal, my sister and niece are coming up next week and I hear wee ones with teeth love Cheerios.  So excited to see them!!

I also had a coupon for formula.  Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to convince them to give me the best deal, but I still saved $5 on 2 cans.  And I got to annoy all the other people in the express line while I sent the assistant manager to double check the price!  Sorry, folks.

So while I’ll try my best to stick to my budget, it’s so important to me to keep Sam in good food.  He is chomping at the bit to get after some solids!  Last night at dinner he was royally ticked off that we were all eating and he wasn’t, despite having just had a bottle.  
I plan to make most of his food and I’ve got Baby Led Weaning on hold at the library.  He’s just now starting to develop his fine motor skills and I can’t think of a better way for him to practice than by squishing some food in his chubby little hands.  

Plus, he already likes carrots!  


Food from friends

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Since we brought Sam home, we’ve been inundated with delicious food.  Honeybaked ham and turkey breast from Nick’s work, homemade sauce from my father in law and good friend, delicious casserole and fruit salad from a friend, bacon pasta and chocolate covered strawberries from Nick’s aunt.  We even got a Panera gift card from friends- a virtual casserole dish, indeed!

We’ve been spoiled, but I’m ready to start getting back in the kitchen.  Even though I’m not getting a lot of sleep, I’ve been trying hard to maintain some sense of normalcy.  The house is (mostly) dog-hair free due to frequent vacuuming and I do at least one load of laundry a day.

Today my mother in law discovered that Sam loves his swing so I foresee some more time to get into the kitchen.

Here are some recipes I can’t wait to try…

Veggie Pot Pie with Black Pepper Biscuits

Whole Grain Strawberry Pop Tart Scones

Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps

And maybe a few from one of new cookbooks, Giada De Laurentiis’s Everyday Pasta

To get myself back into the cooking spirit, I’ve been reading Crunch Time by Diane Mott Davidson.  I love these books- nothing like a caterer/sleuth to keep this cook entertained!

Mixed Berry Pie with Whole Wheat Crust

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I’m in the process of converting all of my favorite treats to whole wheat/whole grain. I prefer the nutty taste and chewy texture- the health benefits aren’t bad either.

That’s not to say that this is a healthy pie by any means. It has butter and cream cheese and sugar and cornstarch. But, all things in moderation, right?

I’m still working on perfecting the pie and pie crust. The filling in this pie really holds its shape- probably due to the cornstarch. I plan on experimenting with tapioca and flour to see what kind of filling they produce. Plus, I just LOVE tapioca. In any form.

The crust isn’t going to blow anyone away- it’s not overly flaky, but probably could be if you’re a better crust handler than me. I must get a pastry blender!

It has a nice crisp crust, fresh out of the oven, and the nutty flavor of the whole wheat flour balances well against the sweet-tart fruit.

Note: The only difference between this and the Blood of a Terrorist Pie is the top- use a crumb topping for BoaT Pie.


Pie crust isn’t hard, but it does take a little bit of forethought. Combine all of your ingredients in a freezer safe bag and freeze for at least 1 hour before preparing. Some people freeze their bowls and utensils, too. I’m too lazy for that.


Thaw out your berry blend. If, for some reason, you forget this step (ahem, me) slightly frozen berries work well, too.

Remove your frozen flour/butter/cream cheese mixture from the freezer and place in a large bowl. This part gets a bit messy- you’ll want the space to work with.

Using your pastry blender- or your hands (like me)- work the flour into the butter and cream cheese. You’re aiming for pea sized bits of fat throughout.

Now for the liquid. Some people use ice water, Cooks Illustrated recommends chilled vodka, others use plain milk. I decided to add some flavor with this vanilla almond milk. Plus, I didn’t have any of the others.

Add 4-5 tbsp of almond milk- just enough to bring the dough into a loose ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour before rolling. You could also freeze- if wrapped a bit better, or refrigerate overnight.

While the crust is resting, make your filling. Combine brown sugar, cornstarch, and berries. Add a teaspoon or two of vanilla. You could use white sugar here too- if you’re a sissy afraid of flavor.

Mmm…berry goo.

Flour a large surface with all-purpose flour.


Flour the rolling pin, too. Throw some on your hands, as well.

Unwrap your dough.

Throw some flour on top.


Roll out carefully. Start from the center and roll out in one direction at a time.


See those streaks of butter and cream cheese? That’s what makes the crust flaky and yummy.


To check if your crust is rolled enough, put your pie tin down on top. You’ll want it to be at least an inch or two wider. My pie tin has holes in the bottom to ensure proper browning. It also means you can’t make a crumb crust without some finagling.


To get the crust into the pie tin, carefully roll it on to your rolling pin.


See? Rolled.


Lift it up into the pan and unroll into the pie tin.


Trim off the excess leaving a half inch extra. Press the crust into the tin, making sure to push it down into the edge.

Pour in your filling.

Bring the scraps together in a pile and roll out again. Cut into strips or another design, if you’re feeling creative.


Rustic is another word for homemade which is another word for unprofessional. Works for me.

Bake for about an hour. Yum.

Cut some tin foil strips and cover the edges of the pie. This part browns the first so you want to keep it from burning. Remove the foil for the last 10-15 minutes of baking.


Mixed Berry Pie Filling

1 16 oz. bag of frozen mixed berries, thawed
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch

Combine all ingredients and stir to mix and release juices of berries. Fills 1 9-inch pie.

Whole Wheat Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, spooned into cup and leveled
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 oz. unsalted butter, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
4 oz. cream cheese, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
4-5 tbsp unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Combine all ingredients in a freezer-safe bag or container. Freeze at least 1 hour before mixing.

Remove frozen ingredients from freezer and place in medium bowl. Using your fingers, work butter and cream cheese into flour until there are pea-sized crumbs. Add almond milk until a loose ball forms. Wrap ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Roll out dough on a surface floured with all-purpose flour- make sure to flour your hands and rolling pin, too.

Bake filled pie at 350 for about an hour.

Strawberry Buttermilk Scones

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I had some leftover strawberries hanging out in the fridge this morning that were crying out to be used before they left the world of edible food. I made some strawberry cupcakes last week and didn’t use quite the whole 2 pounds. That recipe still needs some tweaking, but this one is ready for you right now. Simple, satisfying baked goods are within reach- even on a weekday morning.

Since it’s just the two of us, I’ve been trying to halve recipes and make sweet treats on a smaller scale. I give a lot of what we eat away, and I’m sure my neighbors enjoy it, but there’s something lovely about just making enough for your family.

Start with whole wheat flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir to combine.


Drizzle in the canola oil.


Stir to create a crumbly mixture.


Pour in the buttermilk and dump in the strawberries.


Stir gently to combine. It’s ok if the batter is a bit lumpy.


Using a 1/3 cup as a scoop, create 5 similarly sized scones on your cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes in your 400 degree oven. Remove and cool on a cookie rack.


And that’s it! They are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Naturally sweet strawberries dot the pastry.


I ate mine with a bit of salted butter.


If you wanted to make this a simple dessert, you could increase the sugar to 1/2 cup and the strawberries to 3/4 cup. Split and serve these with whipped cream for instant strawberry shortcake! Strawberry season is upon us- enjoy!

Strawberry Buttermilk Scones
Adapted from How to Cook Like Your Grandmother

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup buttermilk (or scant half cup regular milk + 1/2 tbsp apple cider or white vinegar/lemon juice)
1/2 cup strawberries, cleaned and diced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk to combine. Add the canola oil and stir to create a crumbly mixture.

Add the strawberries and buttermilk and stir until combined. It’s ok if it’s a bit lumpy.

On a lightly greased cookie sheet, use a 1/3 cup scoop to measure out 5 scones.

Bake 15 minutes. Cool on a cookie rack.