After a couple of pretty hectic and overwhelming weeks, I was able to spend a few quiet moments in my kitchen today calmly baking and sipping tea while listening to music that did not involve Disney or Raffi. I had forgotten how therapeutic it can be to cook for no other reason than “just because”. I kept things simple and seasonal with this beautiful and delicious Irish Apple Cake. Every step, from peeling and slicing the apples, creaming the butter and sugar, and crumbling the topping made me feel a little more like myself. The house smelled like warm cinnamon and apples, which was perfect on one of the first truly fall-like days we have had so far. Crisp, cool October air wafted through my kitchen window and I think I breathed a little deeper than usual in an effort to savor every wonderful smell.
Aside from needing the simple therapy baking provides, I also felt it was appropriate to bake a cake during my first week of the third trimester. Baby is moving and grooving, kicking my ribcage whenever possible, and making it difficult to get a full night’s sleep. This little boy is so active already that I’m beginning to think the whole second-child-is-easy-going rumor is a total lie. I guess we’ll see what happens when he arrives! Until then, I’m going to keep drinking lots of chamomile tea, following every meal with a couple of Tums and taking advantage of random energy boosts to do very important things. Like baking cake.
As I was researching recipes for Irish Apple Cake, I realized that they are all slightly different. Some have crumble topping while others do not. Some call for brown sugar while other use white. It seems that apple cake is different from home to home. I based my recipe on this one from The View from Great Island. Continue Reading →
Sometimes frozen mini pizzas are all you can muster for a meal. That’s been the story for us the past few days.
This week has been a long one. Every day seems to drag by and move slower than the day before. We lost a college friend in a tragic accident. It’s hard to wrap your mind around the fact that someone, who was perfect healthy and well this time last week, is no longer here. The silver lining through it all has been this: realizing my college community is alive and well nearly 10 years later. The friends I at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa have made this week bearable in the way they have come together to remember the laughter and wonderful joy we shared together. Remember to appreciate your friends each and every day. Give your loved ones extra hugs. Don’t take important people in your life for granted.
Honesty time: I’m sure I haven’t been the most present mother lately, which is probably why the level of picky-eating seems to have risen exponentially. Or maybe it is just all part of the toddler process. Either way, I’m working on keeping food on hand that are sure to please on the worst of days. These mini pizzas, made with mini whole wheat bagels, are topped with a roasted red pepper pizza sauce. It’s not as fancy as it sounds. Basically, I took store-bought pizza sauce, poured it in the food processor, and added 3 large roasted red peppers. A few pulses later, I was left with a bright red, super flavorful and vitamin-packed sauce that was perfect for my little hunger-striking-2-year-old.
There isn’t a trick to making these freezer-friendly aside from this: freeze the pizzas on a large sheet pan before transferring them to a freezer bag. I let mine freeze overnight but I think 4 hours would be sufficient. Once they are frozen, you just take them out as needed and bake them in the oven for a quick 12 minutes and serve. Easy snack? Check. Pizza dinner? Check. Continue Reading →
It’s true what they say: every pregnancy is different. I remember being at this stage with Riley. I was not able to eat much (especially not curried pumpkin hummus) because I would get heartburn instantly. I’ve traded the heartburn in for more aches and pains in general this time around but all in all I have no complaints. We are gearing up for life with two boys and I’m pretty certain it’s going to be great.
Another difference between this pregnancy and the first is my ability to control my cravings and maintain a healthier diet. It’s easiest for me during the second trimester to eat nothing but the very best for me and my baby, but during the first trimester (plain noodles and mashed potatoes, please) and the third trimester (give me all the ice cream) I tend to struggle. Being able to expect this has helped me make better choices during my daily hunger attacks. This curried pumpkin hummus is a great midday snack to help power me through until dinner time. I like it with multigrain pita chips, spread on a piece of toast, or as a dip for fresh veggies. It’s easy to make at the beginning of the week and have around for those afternoon protein boosts that are so important when you’re growing a human.
And with this recipe, I will now give you a break from my plethora of pumpkin dishes. I hope that, at the very least, I’ve shown the variety of ways homemade pumpkin puree can be incorporated into your weekly meal plan. In case you missed my previous pumpkin-themed posts, here they are:
A couple of weeks ago we hosted a dinner party for 8. It was a perfect evening, so we set up the table outside next to the garden, hung a string of white lights, and set the table for an evening of food and wine with friends. The event all came about thanks to Rodney Strong Vineyards 25th anniversary celebration. The celebration happened across the country and benefited the James Beard Foundation. Restaurants in Healdsburg, CA; New York, NY; Miami, FL; and Austin, TX (along with a group of food bloggers hosting dinners in their homes) participated on Saturday, September 20, 2014.
“This is a once in a lifetime event that acknowledges our pride and passion of being in the wine business,” says Klein. “The shared dinner will be a fantastic celebration, bringing together partners, friends and fans we’ve come to know over 25 years of running Rodney Strong. Wine is what brings family and friends together at the table and there is no better way to show our appreciation than hosting these special dinners that will bring people from across the country together on one spectacular night.”
Admittedly, I have not thrown a proper dinner party in quite some time. So, I began by planning every detail, from the menu to my schedule the day before and the day of to make sure I had everything covered. The menu, as usual, changed a bit once I went to the grocery store and scoped out the highest quality, freshest food they had a available. In the end, this is what I ended up serving:
Lately, I’ve been trying to make breakfast more of an event. I’m fully aware that once we have a second little one around this may not be possible, but a girl can dream, right? I’ve been getting up a little earlier than usual, spending time waking up, and then deciding what to make. This keeps me from just tossing anything and everything into a bowl and covering it with milk. Oatmeal is often the first thing that comes to my mind because I can dress it up to fit that day. Yesterday, for example, we woke up to cloudy, cold, rainy skies. Comfort food was all I think of and this time of year that means something pumpkin spiced. This pumpkin spice oatmeal was absolute perfection.
The pumpkin puree I posted the other day just melts into the oatmeal and creates a luxuriously creamy texture that is hard to resist. I sweetened things up with a little maple syrup and added that wonderful, warm cinnamon-spice flavor with a couple teaspoons of pumpkin spice seasoning. Topped with crunchy, protein-packed toasted walnuts, this made a super satisfying breakfast that could honestly pass as dessert. So awesome.
The 5 minutes of complete quiet that happened while I ate this bowl of perfection were sweet, too. And exactly what I needed in the midst of a couple really tricky days. Sometimes being a mom is hard. Not everyone tells you that but I’m guessing its not an easy thing to describe. At least the hard days sometimes begin with a delicious, healthy breakfast so you don’t have a complete nervous breakdown, right?
Who knows? The way this week is going this just might end up being my dinner tonight. And that’s totally fine with me. Continue Reading →
I truly love this time of year. The way the light changes from vibrant summer sun to softer, more golden reflections of fall leaves is absolute perfection. And the cooler air? Yes. Give me more of that. The change in seasons also means more of my favorite foods. Pumpkin spice things, caramelized things, herb-y things…they are all on my radar right now. This savory pumpkin butter tart is now at the top of my favorite-fall-foods list. Creamy pumpkin puree (recipe here) plus some homemade applesauce, pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup and amaretto make a perfect pumpkin-apple butter. Spread on puff pastry and topped with walnuts, caramelized onions and blue cheese showcases the butter’s sweet-spicy perfection in a new way.
This tart would be perfect for anything from last-minute cocktail parties to holiday appetizers alongside a glass of crisp, bubbly Prosecco. You could also turn this into a perfect fall lunch or light supper by pairing it with a simple green salad and a glass of chardonnay.
I’ll be eating this in my backyard while I watch the leaves fall and pile up on the lawn, contemplating when I should ask my husband to start raking. It’s gonna be a good time. Continue Reading →
The other day, I was thinking about what it is that makes autumn so wonderful. A little later that day, as I put root vegetables, acorn squash, and apples in my shopping cart, I realized that there is such a feeling of comfort during this season. No matter what the day brings, you can always find a comforting soup, warming cup of tea, a soft blanket, or a pumpkin-spice candle to lift your spirits. Another reason I love fall is because there is always something that need roasting, baking, or braising in the oven that was ignored all summer. I love turning the oven on first thing in the morning when the air is cold in preparation for a day of baking or roasting. Even without knowing exactly what I’m going to make, I set the temperature to 350 F and find something to set on the middle rack.
Today, I roasted a pumpkin to make some puree now that the grocery stores are filled with sugar pumpkins. I love buying 3 or 4 of these little pumpkins to set on the table or in a window sill for decoration. Then, I use them as needed and replace them with things like bowls of apples or winter squash. Multitasking decorations. It’s the way to go.
If you’ve never tried making your own pumpkin puree, I highly recommend it. The process is ridiculously easy and results in a pumpkin puree that is far fresher and more flavorful than anything you’ll find in a can.
Here are the easy steps showing you how to roast a pumpkin and turn it into puree!
Cut off the stem:
It is much easier to cut the pumpkin in half if you get rid of the stem, so use a SUPER sharp knife and carefully cut off the ‘lid’.
During our first summer in Colorado, I discovered my love/obsession with Colorado peaches. I have honestly never tasted anything so delicious and for a couple of weeks all I can think about is eating at least one peach every single day so I don’t miss out on the fleeting season. It also helps me deal with the fact that I am overheating/melting every time the temperature creeps above 85 degrees. Last year, I made a huge batch of peach jam thinking we would enjoy it all year round. But then no one ate it. It turns out people have some serious opinions about peach jam. Message received. This year, I opted for something a little different and made a peach shrub. Never heard of a shrub? It is essentially juice extracted from fresh produce and mixed with vinegar to be used as a mixer for cocktails. You can do it with just about any seasonal fruit from spring and summer berries to fall apples (which I’ll be trying ASAP). And once you make it and stick it in the fridge, you have one year to savor and enjoy.
Yep. It’s wonderful.
I plan to sip my way through the year (or the next 6 months…depends on how long this lasts) with shrub-based mocktails like this one. Fall flavors like sage, nutmeg and apple cider blend perfectly with the sweet flavor of summer peaches. And the vinegar adds a lovely zing that most mocktails lack. Continue Reading →
We went out for Ethiopian food over the weekend with some friends. Eating out is not something we do very often, thanks to the fact that I’m always cooking something, and when we do go out it is usually to a favorite place that serves something our picky toddler will eat. But this time, there would be no toddlers. No bowls of macaroni and cheese, plates of pizza, or crayons being dropped on the floor every 3 seconds. No. This time, we were having an adult night out at a brand new, interesting restaurant. And it was awesome. I’m now completely obsessed with Ethiopian food and with the woman who owned the restaurant we went to. She was beautiful in every way, from her silvering hair to her twinkling eyes and genuine, child-like smile, she captured my attention from the start. We ate with our hands by scooping up bites of lamb, lentils, and chicken with a piece of injera. Injera is basically Ethiopia’s answer to tortillas, crepes, bread, and utensils. It has a flavor similar to sourdough bread and is light and airy yet quite filling. I started thinking about how much fun it is to eat this way and how we don’t have nearly enough of that in American cuisine. Then I realized that we do: dip! Chips and dip may be far less romantic, but it’s a similar concept, yes? With that in mind, I bring you a delicious, football-worthy dip: Pumpkin-White Bean Skillet Dip.
Apple Cheddar Scones? Yes. They are amazing. The sweet, tart green apple and gooey, warm pockets of sharp cheddar are a match made in heaven. My husband always asks me where I get the inspiration for my recipes. For this particular recipe, the inspiration came from a brief visit to Oregon when I was lucky enough to attend an event hosted by Tillamook with a group of fellow food bloggers. We spent a lot of time eating cheese and ice cream together and this pregnant lady was very happy about all of that. I think I filled my calcium quota for the next 3 months. Aside from eating all of the things, we also learned a lot about how their company works. We met some of their key employees who work to make sure the products they put out on the shelves are of the highest quality. We were able to soak in the beauty that is the Oregon coast. And perhaps most importantly, we were able to make a personal connection with a company that has truly proven itself over and over again throughout the years. I didn’t really have one specific company I looked to for cheese, ice cream, or yogurt, but now I do.
Seriously. So. Much. Cheeeeeeeese.