Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Loving those meatballs

Lately, I just can't cook up some ground turkey or chicken with a dish like spaghetti. Seems a waste to me. I can make the meat so much more flavorful by adding spices and veg to it and creating meatballs. I form the balls, bake them for a while and then braise them in some broth for a little bit to keep them flavorful and moist.

In my large pan I sauteed some onion, a small green bell pepper and some mushrooms until onions were translucent. I then added three chopped zucchini and tossed until still tender. I added a can of chopped roasted tomatoes, the meatballs with remaining broth that had reduced a little after simmering and some cooked spaghetti. I combined and cooked until liquid was reduced and incorporated and served with Parmesan cheese.

It's all about the kids

Merry Christmas everyone! Late again, but here I am. It's been and still is a whirlwind time for me but I do see some settling in the horizon. I hope to again be able to update daily and visit my friends.

We took our trip up to Tennessee this Christmas and we had a wonderful time with family. The children enjoyed playing with each other, Santa's gifts and some of the beautiful perks of being in the north. One of them was playing in the fallen leaves!
Bella almost completely buried.
Kris kept running and diving on in. He had a blast!

Bella's cousin Emily. I really didn't get to see Bella that much that week. She was too busy playing away with Emily. They get along well together and also happen to look like sisters. I hope that before they are all grown, we can be closer so they can grow up and experience life together.
Sweet little Cate. This was the day before a much needed ear tube replacement and adenoid removal procedure. She was having such a time keeping balanced with those ears. Bella had the same procedure done and it did wonders for her. Cate has had her procedure and is already showing great improvements.
I can't forget to mention Kris's best pal Emma. She's a golden retriever and the most gentle and obedient dog I've ever known. I wanted to just put her in the car with us and take her home. When we are able to get another dog...I want an Emma. Kris was always by her side and loved her company.

Friday, December 18, 2009

At little Christmas early

Fennel, onion, and chicken toss about with some chopped bacon for flavor and some macaroni pasta. I used the last of that old bottle of champagne to add some more flavor.
The kids got to open some gifts from family in New Jersey before our trip up to Tennessee. Bella enjoying Kristjan's new dinosaur baby. The toys for him work twice as well because she enjoys playing with them too.
The attack of the dinosaur rock hotel! Kris decided to put it on his head. It houses a bunch of stuffed dinosaurs. A very cool gift! He loves it. We officially are living in dinoland.

Once I get home today from work it will be panic packing, stacking and the last of the cleaning for our trip in the very early hours of the a.m.

In case I don't manage to make it to a computer during our travels...

Have a Merry Christmas!!!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The butterflies are coming

With all the crap going on in my life right now, I still get little bursts where I remember it's Christmas and I'm supposed to be excited. I am, I really am. It's just hard when I'm knee deep in spreadsheets with a new boss that's uber excited and is always texting me, emailing me, and making me attend meetings. Don't get me wrong, I love his pleasant demeanor, I'm just so swamped at work and so behind at home...I can't seem to be able to yet soak up any of the holiday season. Oh, and I'm so behind on here as you well know.

I am getting those butterflies though! Tonight and tomorrow I will be cleaning and packing for our trip to Tennessee for Christmas. I am so excited! I haven't seen my beloved Tennessee since Thanksgiving of last year and I miss my sister Caroline and the family up there. Those mountains beckon. I can hear them calling! I have also instructed the townspeople up there to guarantee some snow for our visit. I wonder how they are getting along with that request.

I have some recipes to post and I promise to get them on tomorrow. Until then, happy baking, cooking, cleaning and celebrating!

10 Blogs with great attitute or gratitude

Winners are:

1.504 Main
That only too me weeks to do! Congrats! You bring me a smile at each posting.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bits and pieces

Since so much time has passed I'll just give you bits and pieces of some of the great food that passed our way.
Some spicy seared shrimp to top on a salad. I marinated them in some Cajun spices, paprika, garlic powder and a little soy sauce. Tossed them about with a little olive oil in a hot pan and served on a green salad.
My first attempt at cranberry dressing. I had heard a chef on the radio spill out this easy recipe and tried it myself. In a pot put in 2 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 cup of orange juice and some orange zest and simmer until thick. It was very delicious and easy as pie.
Every year for Thanksgiving I like to make Martha's Autumn Vegetable Succotash. It's quite simple and always delicious. There's also another reason we like to make it though...
The leftover succotash and turkey combine to make the best pot pie! Dad has that recipe mastered and we always look forward to it.
We are getting more recent here. This is just the other night. I took out gnocchi, brussel sprouts and cauliflower and placed them on the counter. Chris said "What are you going to do with that?" He usually likes gnocchi baked in a cream type sauce and was scared I had something bizarre going on in my head. Well, I always have something bizarre going on in my head, but that's irrelevant to this!

I decided to make him his beloved gnocchi with cream sauce. I preheated the oven to 450 degrees. I first sauteed a chopped onion, some sliced mushrooms and some sliced ham until the mushrooms has released their liquid. I then added the cauliflower florets and cooked until al dente. I removed them from the pan and put in a bowl. In the same pan I seared the brussel sprouts. I got them nice and browned before adding back the items in the bowl along with a little beef broth. I cooked until the broth was reduced a little then added some whipping cream.

In a large baking dish I added the items from the pan, two tablespoons butter, 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar and 1 cup Parmesan cheese. I baked it for about 25 minutes until thickened. Chris was smitten and made me promise to make it again.
What's better than plain mashed potatoes? Mashed rutabaga. It's so dreamy to me. Cut up a rutabaga in chunks and boil until tender. Mash and add butter, cream, salt and pepper. You have just created magic. If I don't have cream, I'll use soy milk or even broth. It's all good.

Also here are those cute little Spring onions. I just sauteed them with some balsamic dressing for a while and served.

May this be a sign that I can rejoin my beloved blogging community! I also have a task to complete - a gift from 504Main. I promise to get it done! :o)

What in blue blazes is going on here?

Let me try this again folks. I am about to jam in some missed experiences and food here, bear with me please. How are you all first off? I missed you dearly. I'll be visiting my blog friends as soon as I can. I need to get back into the world I love again.

Kristjan enjoying an animal book. He loves to look at books. I consider that a good sign.
Bella being nice enough to share "Pepper" with her brother over at mom's place.
Ahh....Kristjan's birthday. I should dedicate this moment to a post alone, but I'll keep it short and scary. Let's start with Thanksgiving. Bella had a soar throat and Kris developed the sniffles and a cough. The week after, Bella gets better, Kristjan's head and cough gets worse and I get strep throat. I take Kristjan to the doctor to get checked out on Thursday of last week and the doctor says his chest is clear but fills a prescription for it to clear.

Friday night he cries out all night saying "owee!". The next morning (his birthday) he's crying and miserable and won't turn his neck. He won't let you near his neck or head. I call the doctor and they refer us to an urgent / after hours pediatric office that is open on Saturdays. We take him to this doctor and receive a cold and heartless response. He says in a stern voice: "I am greatly concerned about your son here. You need to take him to the emergency room and have him given a spinal to check for meningitis." At that point my heart sank and started to panic. I thought I was going to maybe lose my little boy.

The drive from that quacks office to the hospital was absolutely heart wrenching. I hope to never experience that again. We arrive to the hospital to find that he in no way had meningitis and after blood work, physical exams and an x-ray we found he had a sinus infection. Which explained the crying and sensitivity in his head and neck.

I'll never return to that doctor's office again and the hospital made a copy of the referral. They seemed quite interested in why he put us through all that. Made for a long birthday and Chris and I grew a few more grays that day. We still celebrated his birthday that night and enjoyed mom's amazing cannelloni, family and cake.
I still get teary eyed when I see my little boy and think of that day. I love him and his sister so much.
Bella and Grandma made these adorable little marsh mellow snowmen. Bella brought a few in to daycare and school to share with her teachers. They all loved them so much I had to make photo copies of the recipe to share with them.
Finally that lose front tooth came out!

As the days pass I hope to be able to get myself back together again. I don't want to miss out on the complete feeling of the holiday season. It's already going by so fast and with work and illnesses, I forget what time of year it is. Those of you out there making things, organizing things and planning for Christmas, I envy you! Anyway, shall we all enjoy this time...hectic or not.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Oh I miss thee.

I'm an empty and dark soul these past couple of weeks. I have not been able to document any cooking or type away on my blog here. My sanctuary.

Work has been so busy and chaotic lately and home life to match. Just give me just a tad more time and I'll be back to rolling again. Look! I've already updated my weekly recipes. Now just to get caught up with the rest. Hugs and kisses.....Nessa

Monday, November 23, 2009

Making up for lost time

Sorry folks! I'm a week late in posting and all due to a whirlwind of events. My work has gone crazy. With my boss leaving a couple weeks ago (no love lost there), I have had to take on his secretive duties as well as keep the operations moving. Secretive meaning, he just split without sharing any information of how or what he did on anything.

I also; just this moment, found out that I am losing another co-worker that handles the accounting and HR, so those duties will be flung at me as well. So far she's shown me a ton of things and I can't imagine how I'm going to get it all done. I am feeling completely overwhelmed and not feeling too confident in myself that I have the brain capacity to handle this. I need good notes and thorough instructions. I'm not letting her leave until I feel comfortable! Not like how my boss just up and left us here in the dark. Such as life I suppose. There's nothing I can do about it until I can free myself of this. Patience grasshopper.

I have also been in and out because of doctor's appointments. I have an impacted wisdom tooth causing problems and needing surgery, Kristjan had an x-ray on his arm for his mystery ailment (x-rays came out fine) and then I had to stay home with him due to a stomach bug. Basically, I have not had the time to blog or keep up with my pals in blog land. I'll try to do better. I have to! The holidays are here and I'm going to do all I can to enjoy the moment and the happiness of family.

I did manage to get some cooking in that deemed worthy to share. Other nights were repeats or just plain uneventful sandwiches and such. I did make and truly enjoy a dish inspired by Martha's baked penne with chicken and sun dried tomatoes recipe. I changed it around a bit by using ziti instead of penne (no big deal there), ham instead of chicken, skim milk instead of whole milk and Monterrey Jack cheese instead of provolone. I also did not use any mushrooms.

Basically I created a rue then added the cheese, ham, sun dried tomatoes, cooked ziti and baked until top was golden for about 25 minutes. One of those comfort meals that provides plenty of leftovers. Check out the recipe, it's wonderful.

Something free at Disney?

Downtown Disney and Disney Marketplace just recently had an art festival which also included activities for the kids. This was free to the public. We enjoyed a day of beautiful art displays, cute projects, plenty of window shopping and some relaxing.
Bella enjoying a little picture drawing project after designing her crown.

We met our pals Janet, Alex and their two lovely daughters, Kali and Hannah at the festival. We all brought our lunch to help save some money. We found the perfect waterside spot conveniently next to a margarita and beer booth.
Beauty with an awake Sleeping Beauty.
I think Chris's preferred kind of pet dog. One made with Legos. One day we will convince him to allow a puppy on board.

After a long day of browsing, playing, drinking and eating it was time for the adults to find a grassy spot to rest and for the kids to burn off some energy and...


What a wonderful day. I have to admit that one of my favorite parts of the day was just chilling out in the grassy field just taking it all in. See, you can enjoy a little Disney without breaking the bank.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sounds of horror and the visiting angel

Sometimes events occur all at once. One moment things are calm and serene and the next complete chaos and madness erupts. That was my yesterday and this morning. Want the story? Well, here it is.

My mood and patience was fine and dandy up until my lunch hour at work. Then the inner walls of my happy little world started falling down. I usually eat at my desk and blog here or read a book during my lunch time. It's supposed to be my little break in the day. Still though, people transfer calls to me and come up to me for help or questions. "I know you are eating lunch but...."

It's not in my nature to be a bitch, but in my mind the expletives are vividly expressed. I've tried the diplomatic and "corporate" approach by stating that I was attempting to eat, please come back later. It works for a while, but never lasts.

Then later, after I picked up the children from my parents, I pulled into the drive and Bella began screaming in complete horror. I'm telling you, the sounds that came out of her mouth were more horrid than Jamie Lee Curtis in "Halloween". I immediately got her into the house before the neighbors called the police from all the noise and we then attempted to communicate with her and access the problem. She frantically pointed to her foot shaking and screaming and then after much sniffling and panting she said: "I got bit by a fire ant!". A fire ant? One little fire ant? Really? After a little TLC and stories of ant bites that both Chris and I had experienced as children, we finally got her calmed. Oy.

After that entertaining experience, my fun wasn't quite over yet for the evening. Kristjan decided it was a perfect time to go from pleasant to screaming tantrums without warning. He wanted to be held by me, which I happily obliged. A few minutes later when I attempted to put him down so that I could tackle dinner, the screaming resumed. He didn't want to eat, he didn't want to drink, just stomped and screamed. We placed him in his room until he calmed and then I thought it may be bath time. He usually really digs that. It wasn't the case, he continued to throw tantrums.

I grabbed a moment to update my status on Facebook. I commented on how my patience was withering fast. Twenty minutes later the doorbell rings and my good friend Kimberly was at the door with some fresh baked chocolate and craisin cookies. With her long blond hair blowing in the wind with a handful of cookies and a much needed hug, see seemed like an angel in the darkness for me. Her act of giving gave me that positive lift to get me through the night.

Chris and I poured a glass of wine, I completed dinner while Chris fed Kristjan his bottle (yes, still on it twice a day) and he finally calmed down enough to allow us to eat. After dinner we all enjoyed some of those delicious chocolate cookies and Kristjan finally settled down for bed.

Morning comes and with the roller coaster ready for more action. It began with me picking up Kristjan by his hands and wrists playfully to thinking I hurt him. He started crying while holding one arm and saying "Owie!". I began crying because I just hurt my child.

After dropping Bella off at daycare and realizing that Kristjan's arm was still bothering him I drove back home with him to pack a diaper bag before heading to the ER to check out his arm. Suddenly he started to use the arm freely without crying. He picked up some dinosaur toys and then proceeded to use that same arm to hoist himself up on the couch and said "Dinosaurs?".

I examine his arm again and realize that he's really fine. Back in the car we go; with his Spinosauraus in hand, back to daycare. He walks happily into the building before plopping down on his butt at the doorway of his classroom in a sudden screaming tantrum. I left him screaming and kicking in the arms of his teacher this morning. I'm sure he's fine now, but it kills me inside to see him like that. Days like this rehash that feeling of guilt of having to work instead of be home with my children while they are little.

I'll get through this and so will my children. I may have all my hair pulled out, but we'll get through this. In the grand scheme of things it's small in comparison. In the moment however, the screaming, the tantrums, the crying and the chaos takes its toll on me. Just as I'm sure it does every mother. I hope for a better evening. My angel can't come every time I need her.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A good deed or great marketing?

The grocery store is out to make money...period. But, I'll have to give them a tad of credit for once. Publix has these recipes that they feature each week, provide a recipe card, a pretty binder to collect your cards (there is a fee for the binder) and even a person there at the store making a sample dish to try. It's a great marketing strategy for them because most of the recipes feature specific brand name ingredients. I'm sure those brands pay top dollar to be featured in the recipes. Behind the counter where the employee is making the sample dish, they have all of the ingredients needed for the recipe coveniently available to just pick up and go.

I do have to give them some good marks for showcasing recipes to be made from home, even though at times processed items are used. At least there are more whole food ingredients being used which provides the customer with some practice and knowledge that goes beyond that box of Hamburger Helper or package of Hot Pockets.

Maybe with enough experience, someday a client may go beyond using a jar of "Acme" roasted red peppers and roast them on their own or use a spice combination from their pantry instead of a "taco seasoning" packet. In the long run; for perhaps a few, this strategy may hurt the store's profitability. I have hope for those few customers but know that when looking at the bigger picture they will continue to profit highly from their name brand exposures.

Every now and then a feature recipe catches my attention. This recipe was featured about a year ago and was featured again this weekend. I had made it before and we all liked it. Why not make it again? I especially love the cannellini beans, garlic, basil and roasted red pepper side dish. I could eat those beans alone.
This recipe is called Tuscan Style Chicken with Italian Sauteed Beans. It's very easy to make and is comprised of whole ingredients which I like. I do change out the cheese. The recipe calls for mozzarella and I use goat cheese. I also seem to use more white wine with the beans than the 1/4 cup it calls for. I let them simmer longer while I'm preparing the chicken.

One day I may actually invest in their cute little binder and gather up those recipe cards that look appealing. I do have a confession though. I did end up using a jar of roasted red peppers for this dish. I didn't make it to my produce market and wasn't going to spend $4.99 a pound on grocery store red bell peppers from South America. Scandalous!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Another use for leftover pasta

Friday after work I was pretty bushed and couldn't think of a restaurant in town to pick up dinner. Honestly, the restaurants we have in our town are either chain restaurants with high calorie meals, all fried food buffets or fast food joints. None of which appeal to me. With no healthy option to be found, it's best to just eat at home. Which we do 99.9% of the time. But you know...there are times believe it or not, when I'm not in the mood to cook!
After giving up on my food hunt, I figured it would be best to clean out the frig of any leftovers before grocery shopping anyway. I had some leftover cacio e pepe and thought a minute. I know! Pasta patties or pasta crisps! Whatever we should call it, they turned out great! I mixed my leftover pasta with 2 eggs, 1 egg white, some chopped walnuts, chopped sun dried tomatoes and chopped chives. I then divided amounts on my skillet and turned them once browned. Turned out great! I made some seared eggplant, tomato and goat cheese sandwiches to go with it. I didn't get a night off, but I ended up loving dinner anyway.

My little ones enjoying a breezy afternoon.

Not good with rituals

A while back I said that every Sunday would be pizza night. It's not always the case. Things happen and it just don't get to make them each Sunday consecutively. So to take the pressure off myself, I'll just make pizzas if time or schedules permits. How's that? Yes, that feels so much better.
Chris's favorite: Carmelized onion, goat cheese and mushrooms.
Eggs, eggplant, pepper jack cheese, soy sausage and olives.

The cheese pizza for the kids.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Roman pasta

Found this Roman pasta recipe called Cacio e Pepe thanks to A Cup of Jo the other day and knew I had to try it right away. It's a super easy dish where you mix together spaghetti, Pecorino Romano, a little pasta water and lots of cracked black pepper. I'll have to make it for mom, she absolutely loves black pepper. This dish is for her. The pasta was quite good and Chris and I were surprised that so much flavor came from just three ingredients.

Bella helped me make the meatballs. We mixed together 1 pound ground turkey, 1 small onion chopped, 1 egg, 1/4 cup chopped bacon, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, 3 cloves garlic minced, 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning and 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs.

Rolled them up and baked them at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes then added them to a pot with about a cup of organic beef broth and simmered another 20 minutes. I initially had the lid on so that they could braise a bit and get extra moist, then I removed the lid so the sauce could reduce a bit.


Just a little note on a little experience I had this morning on the way to daycare around 6:15 a.m. while sitting at a traffic light facing east. The light was taking forever, but I didn't mind. I was completely contented watching the beautiful sunrise. I've always loved the sunrise, it seems much more quiet and peaceful than sunset.

There was a slight mist on the little valley below and the layers of clouds reflected such brilliant colors. I sat there and looked upon the whole landscape, realizing how large this picturesque scene was and its complete beauty. I thought, "How many people just do their thing, and not see this and how many times have I done so as well?" I told myself to take it all in and never forget while promising to always appreciate what is always sitting right there in front of me. Whether it be the vastness and grandeur of the beautiful sky or the little giggles of my children playing in the tub, it's all here to be experienced and cherished. Be present, look and listen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Better in threes

Last night I created for the first time a trilogy of elements. The asparagus were a bit tart (from cooking in the champagne), the sweet potato was; well, sweet and the chicken had the saltiness. If I tried to just eat the asparagus alone, I was put off by the tartness and the chicken alone was a bit salty. However, when I made sure to get a little of each on my fork, a wonderful fusion of flavor emerged.

Chris said to me that it reminded him of when we watch Iron Chef and the chef instructs the judges to make sure to dab this along with that to taste the item together instead of separately.

I still had some leftover champagne and knew I had to make another sauce. It was one of those throw together meals that ended up turning out beautifully. I have to write it down before it's forgotten forever.

Herbed chicken with baked sweet potato and asparagus cooked in champagne reduction

  • 1 pound chicken breasts halved
  • 4 sweet potatoes well washed
  • 1 pound asparagus with ends removed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Herbs De Provence
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cups champagne

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. You will be baking your potatoes until they are soft in the center - about an hour. Season your chicken on both sides with the garam masala, oregano, Herbs De Provence, Cajun seasoning and garlic powder. Sear chicken on both sides until browned. Move to plate and cover with foil. In the same skillet add 1/2 cup of the champagne and deglaze the pan. Add the asparagus and the remaining champagne and cook until liquid is reduced about half and the asparagus is tender. You may have to add more champagne if the asparagus is not tender enough and the liquid is reducing too much.

Plate with baked potato sliced open with asparagus on top, served with a chicken breast with sauce poured on top.

I am planning on taking some photography classes soon. I am really interested in learning more about my camera and using it properly. I am sure I am missing out on some great photos. This will also hopefully aid in making my food pictures look a little more appetizing. That, or I will have to get a mini studio going with proper lighting as Chris tends to tease me about when I'm snapping photos in the kitchen. I see some beautiful captures of food online and from other blogs. I can't imagine everyone has a studio with controlled lighting. I may be wrong, but I have a feeling the majority of it is user error on my part with my camera.

Correction: The camera I got Chris for Christmas that I have basically confiscated from him ever since I took my first photo and realized how much I loved to use it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Some tummy clean up

I try and eat healthy as much as possible, but at times I just fall off the wagon with blunt force. I'll stop by a Greek restaurant for lunch and grab a Gyro filled with meat and tzatziki sauce or have a giant grilled Reuben at my favorite German spot.

Even having too much red meat or meat in general makes me feel bad about my diet. Not just because of my cholesterol, but because of my conscience regarding animal welfare. Getting certified humane, antibiotic free, vegetarian fed, hormone free meats in restaurant fare in my neck of the woods is few and far between. My solution to feeling down about my recent eating escapades is a period of cleansing foods. The key here is to stay on these foods and not stray. Sure, that's it.

Quinoa is a super food in my book and I love the taste and texture. It contains a balanced set of essential amino acids which makes it a complete protein source. It's also a great source of dietary fiber and is high in magnesium and iron.

Sauteed vegetables with tofu sausage and red quinoa

  • 1 cup red quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 small yellow squash cut in 1 inch chunks
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 1 orange bell pepper chopped about 1 inch
  • 1 pound brussel sprouts quartered or halved (depending on size)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 large pinch crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 package "Gimmie Lean" soy sausage

In a large pan with a little oil cook sausage breaking it up until browned. Transfer to plate. In same skillet, saute shallots, peppers and brussel sprouts with a dash more oil. Meanwhile in a small pot add the water to the quinoa and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Fluff with fork. Once the brussel sprouts have browned a bit, add soy sauce, crushed red pepper and broth.

Once the liquid in the skillet has reduced by almost a half, add the squash and the cooked sausage. Simmer another 5 minutes. Serve on top of cooked quinoa, sprinkle cilantro on top.

Gimmie Lean can be found in most grocery stores. To me, it tastes just like Jimmy Dean! I'll have to do a taste test one day. Not sure if I could get my co-workers to oblige to such a challenge. None of them would touch a piece of tofu if you paid them.

Change in atmosphere

I found a way to add a little bit of relaxation into the house, while still remaining functional and not taking too much time. That is, I can still get a shower in, while not using up all the time it takes to take that relaxing bath and still feel relaxed in the process. Besides, the tub in the kid's bathroom is so shallow and short, I am practically in the fetal position while trying to bathe. Not a very relaxing pose.

Our shower has a window on one side (frosted of course) and a large clear glass window on the other (shown here). I've always felt a bit shy when showering at night because I know the bright light coming through the glass is reflecting my upper torso through the window outside. One night I just lit one candle and thought it may be enough to shower and still feel some sort of privacy. I loved the calm dim light verses the blare of the regular bathroom lighting.

The next night, I grabbed 3 candles that my mom gave me, lined them up on the shower window sill and really got into relaxation mode. It's my little getaway from the hustle and bustle of my crazy household. Just a few minutes of calm and peace helps me be a nicer mommy.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Heidi, the medieval princess and the happy skeleton

Getting ready to venture out and see what excitement awaits.
The neighborhood clan: the devil, a gorilla man, a lovely senorita, one of the Mario brothers and a beautiful medieval princess.

Kristjan stayed indoors to hand out candy. He really digs that. I think next year, we'll have him run about and join in on the fun.

November is here and I am officially in the holiday mood. Time to gather those wonderful fall and winter recipes, experiment with Thanksgiving sides and desserts and then prepare for Christmas. The food, the decorating, the planning, the gifts. Even though it will be super tight this year, I still want it to be a magical time.

I took my mom out to visit a mall in town we both hadn't been to yet. This mall had plenty of wonderful stores. Gucci, Luis Vuitton, Chanel, Tiffany etc. Even though I couldn't buy anything, I still went in and looked at all the lovely items and beautifully made clothes. Luckily looking and dreaming are still free.

We did find a store called Zara which mom had shopped at while visiting in Malta. This store is all throughout the globe and carries the latest European fashion at very reasonable prices. We were surprised and delighted to find one near home. I swear we looked at almost every item. They were very nicely made, most coats and vests were tailored, (which I completely adore) and they were classic looks that can work with many variations. I fell in love with the store. What I loved more was that they had prices that were affordable.

After a wonderful time window shopping we went by a local Irish pub for some crispy fish and chips and I enjoyed a creamy Guinness on tap. What a wonderful day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Attack of the tooth eating squirrel

We came home to find our pumpkin looking a little different than before. We have a lot of brave squirrels roaming around and our pumpkin must have looked like a formidable snack. We've since brought in our gummy friend and will let him back out Halloween evening. Then again, he may look more ghoulish if we go ahead and let the squirrels rip him to shreds. What do you think?

Also a great post by The Wednesday Chef from the other day called "Leap and the net will appear." Truly inspiring to me and the timing was perfect.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What to do with all those leftovers?

It's a Friday night and we are all home from a busy day. We rarely go out and still have all these leftovers in the frig but don't really want the re-heat and eat dinner. It's time for a frittata!
This frittata had 1 bell pepper chopped, 4 scallions chopped, 2 leftover cooked chicken breasts cubed, leftover spaghetti carbonara, pepper jack cheese grated, a little half & half and about 8 eggs.

Placed the eggs in a bowl with about 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and a dollop of half & half and beat well. In my pan I cooked the pepper, scallions and chicken until peppers were a bit wilted. Added the pasta and tossed until warmed and well limp (you know cold pasta is like a brick). Added the egg mixture (do not stir!!) and cooked on the stove for just a couple of minutes. Put more shredded cheese on top and put in 375 oven for about 15 minutes or done in center.

Voila! A totally new thing from the old and now new leftovers for the next morning.

Spiced pork tenderloin

Spiced pork tenderloin with champagne sauce

  • 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup champagne (white wine would work too)
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 tablespoon butter
Mix paprika, cayenne, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Place loin in bowl and coat well. In a hot pan with a little oil, sear loin on all sides then bake in oven for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

Remove pork from pan and allow it to rest. Using same pan, deglaze pan with champagne and let reduce to about half. Add in the half and half and simmer about a minute. Add the butter, then combine. Slice pork and serve with sauce on top.