Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Weekly Menu #3 for October

It's been a busy week! Between painting, getting sick, and keeping my toddler corralled, I've struggled to stay organized. But I'm finally ready to post—so here we go:

Monday – slow cooker BBQ and grape jelly meatballs with applesauce and chips

We spent the afternoon painting an apartment with friends and had dinner together afterward, so meal prep needed to be quick and simple. These meatballs are super easy—it was really nice to come home and find the meatballs ready and not much else to do before dinner. Admittedly, these are not the healthiest meatballs that the world has ever known….on the other hand, it would be pretty easy to upgrade them by using sugar-free jelly and BBQ sauce. As for the meatballs themselves, you could always make them from scratch ahead of time—it just takes a little extra planning. The Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook has some great meatball recipes, and of course you can always check Pinterest.

Tuesday – taco lettuce wraps

These are just as good as regular tacos, but easier! If you prefer foods made from scratch, you know the difference in quality between “real food” and processed foods. The downside to making everything from scratch is that it usually takes longer. The health and yum factors make it worthwhile, but sometimes you just want something quick and easy, without all the extra steps. By replacing the taco shells with Romaine or iceberg lettuce, you eliminate the work of making the taco shells. And of course if you're cutting back on carbs, it's also helpful in that regard.

Here is the recipe. Doesn't it look amazing? I skipped the sauce, but followed the basic idea. This is definitely a recipe I will use again.

Wednesday – stuffed bell peppers

These are always filling and delicious. I usually stuff the peppers with rice, veggies, and beef, but I think I might try fish instead of beef this time...white fish pretty much goes with anything, so I don't expect any weird flavors.

Also, you can fit a lot inside a bell pepper – no need to slave away in the kitchen making extra side dishes. ;) I'll probably spoon out a little applesauce for Dean, though. There's no way he going to eat a single bite of bell pepper—he can just have applesauce and some of the fish/rice mixture instead. 

I don't usually follow a specific recipe for stuffed peppers--I just stuff and bake 'em. But if you want a good basic recipe to follow, this one looks delicious. 

Thursday – twice baked cauliflower

Take a peek at this recipe. Doesn't it look good? I haven't made it before, but I have high hopes for it. Cauliflower is one of the few vegetables my toddler will eat. Besides, there's cheese. And BACON. Who doesn't like bacon? (I love bacon. Don't you like bacon? Are you telling me you don't like bacon? No, you're reasonable, of course you like bacon. Everyone likes bacon. ;))

Friday – chicken with poblanos and cream
I just found this recipe off Low Carb Maven – and to me, gotta admit, it looks like manna from heaven. I love chicken. I love peppers. And I love cream-based sauces. Only problem is, the hubby does not like spicy peppers...poblanos aren't that spicy, but still suspect. So I'll probably replace them with a green bell pepper...and make myself a separate dish with the poblanos. ;)

Saturday – pizza night!
I don't have any pepperoni on hand, so we'll probably settle for a cheese pizza...might add some kale and kalamata olives on mine. This is the recipe I use for pizza dough. 

Sunday – leftovers
Leftover pizza, that is. :)

That's the menu for this week! And now I'm off to work on next week's menu... :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

chunky peanut butter chocolate chip sandies

Nobody likes a healthy cookie. They're too—healthy. They lack the perfect texture—regardless of whether the cookie is meant to be crisp or soft and chewy—and usually there's a funny aftertaste of whole grains. There's never enough chocolate, and if there is, it's never sweet enough. And what's with all these dried gogi berries and weird coconut shavings? Hey, does this have coconut flour in it??

Sorry. I don't like “healthy” cookies either.

Except, when they don't taste healthy. (Sounds terrible, but it's true.) You just can't beat a real chocolate chip cookie made with real sugar and white flour—a tender, buttery, slightly gooey cookie fresh from the oven with little pools of warm chocolate in it….

Sadly, you can't just replace white flour with spelt or coconut flour or almond flour and expect to get the same result. That's usually not how baking works. (Although in the recipe below, I was able to do just that! The peanut butter masks the taste of the spelt, I think.)

However: there are some delicious “healthy” cookies out there, believe it or not. With food-allergy awareness continually growing and more wholesome, natural foods coming back into vogue, health advocates and people on restricted diets have done a lot of research...and a lot of ACB (“alternative cookie baking”). ;) (Totally made that up, by the way.)

And thanks to Pinterest, anyone with an Internet connection can reap the rewards of their labor.

I think.


There'd BETTER be some good healthy cookies out there!

OK, reality check. See, I haven't been able to find very many healthy cookies...I know for a fact that there are at least a few out there, and I have faith that there are more, but it does take some effort to find them. As we all know, there are a lot of rotten healthy cookie recipes floating around on the Internet/Pinterest, and the only way to sort the good cookie recipes from the bad recipes is to...make...them...all.

A little time-consuming, if you ask me.

Not a project you can whip up in a single day.

Over the course of a few months, however, I'm hoping to test enough recipes to come up with a list of super yummy, super healthy cookies you'd be excited to replace your old cookie recipes with. As I find them, I'll share them on the blog.

(I'm tempted to end with, “Make cookies great again!” But that reminds me of a certain somebody...and thinking about that certain somebody puts a damper on pretty much I'll refrain.)

And actually, if you like peanut butter, here's a recipe you could try today!

(A word of warning: if you don't like dry cookies, these aren't your best bet. Sandies are supposed to be dry, though; it's not the healthy ingredients “ruining” them! I've had these made with white flour and sugar, and the taste/texture is pretty much identical to the healthy version below. If you haven't had sandies before, give 'em a try. We love these.)

~ ~ ~

Chunky Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Sandies

[Taken from Lauren Groveman's Kitchen by—you guessed it—Lauren Groveman. Original recipe is on page 487. The “tweaked” recipe is below, in my own words.]


4 cups ground spelt

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp

½ cup + 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon GentleSweet (the same as 1 ½ cups sugar; use only 3 cups spelt if you use sugar instead of GS)

1 large egg

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup chopped peanuts

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 F and butter the cookie sheets.

Whisk the dry ingredients in one bowl.

In another bowl, cream the butter with the Gentle Sweet. Add the egg, mix well, then stir in the peanut butter. Nuts and chocolate chips come next. Add the flour mixture and stir until the batter is smooth and well-mixed. (This is a stiff dough, so use your muscles!)

Use a tablespoon to scoop out the dough onto the cookie sheets. You can make a crosshatch pattern on each cookie using a fork. Bake 10 minutes, switching the cookie sheets about halfway through.

That's it. :)

~ ~ ~

So, out of curiosity, what's your favorite type of cookie? Any favorite recipes to share? :)

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Weekly Menu #2 for October!

Well, here's my second menu plan for October, and it's actually on time today! (Sort of. In future, I'd like to have these posted in the morning as opposed to the afternoon. Still, progress is progress! ;))

So here's what I'm planning to make this week....

Monday – Greek lemon soup (The Silver Palate Cookbook, p. 55) with flatbread

This is one of the meals I “sprung” on my unsuspecting husband one evening when we were newly married. His tastes are very—shall we say, American—and he doesn't always appreciate new foods! “Lemon soup” sounded pretty suspicious. Edit: OK, so I started out bragging about how much Andrew enjoyed this soup against his own will, but I have to admit he wasn't too enthusiastic about it last night. *Sigh* But honestly, it's almost a crime to dislike this soup. The flavor--oh my goodness, the flavor is out of this world! Not to mention this soup is very easy—and very inexpensive—to make. Check out the recipe here.

Tuesday – chicken cobb salad (Against All Grain, p. 136) with flatbread

I'm using the recipe from Danielle Walker's Against All Grain, a cookbook I own and wholeheartedly recommend. There's a similar (but not identical) recipe posted on her website, which you can find here. (The online version calls for marinating the chicken a longer period of time; in the book, she marinates it for only 30 min. It's probably great either way! In fact...I may not marinate it at all...)

I love “hearty” salads—with meat, cheese, nuts, etc. Something that fills you up and offers a wide variety of flavors and textures that compliment each other. I love the flexibility, too; you can dress it up or down anyway you want. This recipe calls for avocado, bacon, chicken, boiled eggs, tomatoes, and artichoke hearts; I'll take away the avocado and replace the bacon with ham (a crying shame, but I don't have either on hand), and add some cheese and kalamata olives. Can't waaaaaiiit!

Wednesday - Thai pad see ew (Against All Grain, p. 148)

Another recipe from Against All Grain. Again, pretty easy, not much to it, but delicious! One of the few "foreign" foods that my hubby will eat. Click here to view the recipe. 

Thursday – lemon chicken (The Silver Palate Cookbook, p. 55) with wild rice and green veggie

I haven't made this one before, but wow...I am really looking forward to it! This recipe looks amazing. I'll probably make a few tweaks, since I avoid using sugar or white flour in my meals whenever possible. Maybe I'll coat the chicken with Parmesan instead...mmm. I'll let you know how it goes!

The chicken recipe is posted here

Friday – salisbury steak (Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison, p. 174), steamed veggie, mashed potatoes (for Andrew & Dean)

Definitely a keeper—very satisfying, very flavorful.

Saturday – pizza

Gotta have Saturday night pizza! SO easy when you make the dough ahead of time (thispizza dough recipe is amazing). And it's fun to experiment with the toppings. Usually I just do sauce, mozzarella, and pepperoni, but last week I ran out of sauce. It was just as good without it, honestly. I covered one half of the pizza with pepperoni and the other half with sliced jalapenos and kalamata olives...gosh, that was amazing.

Sunday – leftover pizza

Note: If you were wondering, the Parmesan-coated fish sticks from last week turned out great. The Parmesan worked well as a replacement for the white flour. :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Weekly Menu #1 for October!

Well, it is a couple days late, but here is my first weekly menu plan for October 2016!

As you may notice, I like to keep things simple. Even when Andrew is home, dinner prep can be stressful with an energetic two-year old who wants to go outside, play with Mommy, read a book, eat a snack, drink my coffee, climb my leg, make tea (“Put kettle on! Make tea!”), play with Mommy's kitchen things, etc, etc, etc—ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

OK, not exactly, but if you have small children or little siblings, you get the basic idea.

Anyway, I like to keep it simple most days. I do need to expand my “repertoire” of recipes (hopefully this blog will help me do just that), but there's a certain charm to simplified meal prep that I don't intend to throw out anytime soon!

Normally, my dinners consist of three categories—a protein (meat or eggs), a salad or grain/starch, and fruit or veggies. If the main dish is filling enough, I'll omit one of the sides. Keeps it pretty simple. I typically stay away from meals that take a long time to make, although I'm interested in exploring shortcuts if something strikes my fancy.

Anyway, back to the menu for this week:

Monday: Trim Mac Salad (p.181 in the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook) - S

This meal is pretty easy. All you do is prepare the lettuce, brown some ground beef and onions, and add some cheese and diced tomatoes. The original recipe calls for specific seasonings as well as broth or stock, but you don't need the stock and you can use whatever seasonings you think you would enjoy. Just don't forget the salt. :) :) :)

Actually, I made this for lunch on Tuesday, not for dinner on Monday (we skipped dinner that night), but I'm putting it here because it's a great quick and easy dinner (and it was slated for Monday, originally). Makes a great lunch too!

Tuesday: flatbread, green beans, tuna burgers – Crossover

This was another easy meal, mainly because I had both the bread dough and the tuna burgers made up days before. (I sometimes make a large batch of tuna burgers at the beginning of the week so that Andrew can take some to work for lunch during the week. Need to do this more often—it makes dinners easier, too.)

If anyone's interested in tuna burgers, I can post instructions later (I don't have a recipe on hand, I just wing it), but you really ought to check out the bread recipe. If you ferment the dough for 3-5 days, it lowers the carb count (so for Trim Healthy Mamas, it becomes “E” friendly). So far, I've used it for pizza and flatbread, and it is really good! You can find the recipe here

Wednesday: quiche, salad - S

I like this one because after you pop that quiche into the oven, you can with the baby...whatever. Plus, quiche is a convenient way to get rid of leftover veggies or meat that would otherwise go to waste (or the chickens). I usually make a crustless quiche because it eliminates extra work. It's still really good!

Thursday: Parmesan-crusted fish sticks, apple slices, roasted veggies

The sides are super easy; the fish sticks I haven't tried yet. I got the idea from Pinterest (where else?) and can't wait to try it! I'll let you know how it turns out.

Friday: pesto chicken, salad, potatoes (for Andrew/Dean) – S for me (I avoid the potatoes) and Crossover for everyone else

Again, the pesto chicken is super easy...all you do is smother on some pesto and add some cheese on top (I use mozzarella), then bake. Sometimes I sprinkle chopped nuts on top and that's good too, but it's pretty versatile and you can dress it up anyway you want. Sliced tomatoes also make a yummy topping.

Saturday: pizza – Crossover (or E, depending what toppings you use)

Since I use Gwen's E bread dough recipe for this, I make the dough days in advance. All you have to do is roll out the dough, add your toppings, and bake. Easy as pie. (I do bake the crust for about 10 min before adding the toppings, to make it crustier, but that's a matter of preference I think.)

Sunday (lunch): leftover pizza

That's it for this week! What do you think?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Our Visit to Jim Thorpe

Well, hello! I meant to post yesterday, but yesterday was rather busy. We drove up to Jim Thorpe, PA this weekend to celebrate our third-year anniversary, and we didn't get back until last night. After a long day of chatting, sightseeing, walking, and driving, we didn't feel like using any more brain cells than we could help. So instead of blogging or reading, we popped the chunk into bed and watched a Frank Capra movie!


Anyway, we had a lot of fun. Jim Thorpe is a gorgeous little town right in the Pocono Mountains, complete with breathtaking scenery, quaint shops, and some VERY steep hills. We arrived in the middle of a fall festival, so the town was pretty crowded that first day, but we had a blast just walking up and down the main streets, enjoying the autumn décor and live musicians posted at regular intervals along the street. The town dressed up for fall with pumpkins, corn shocks, and Halloween decorations everywhere. Skeletons seemed especially prominent!

The Mauch Chunk Opera House

St Mark's and St. John's Episcopal Church

Inside the church

After walking around some and deciding not to tour the jail (too busy), we explored St. Mark's and St. John's Episcopal Church instead and had lunch at the Stone Row Pub & Eatery.

When we checked in to the Hillcrest B&B after lunch, we had the chance to chat with our hostess, cuddle with the dog, and sip a little red wine before rushing off to catch the train. What a blast! If we ever go back, we're definitely riding on the train again. Loved the scenery, loved the feel of the train chugging along, loved the mountain peaks hidden in the felt a little like riding on the Hogwarts Express in some isolated area of Scotland! My only complaint is that the ride ended too quickly. It lasted forty-five minutes, but it felt like fifteen. 

At the train station

A handsome Englishman I met on the train. ;)

After wrapping up dinner at the Broadway Grille & Pub, we crashed for the night. Our stay at the B&B was very comfortable and relaxing. The room was furnished with a four-poster, a small electric fire, antique table and chairs, books and magazines, tea, coffee, hot cocoa, and dark doesn't get much better than that. ;) We spent the evening reading, talking, and enjoying the goodies provided. For me, that is one of the highlights of the whole trip...just relaxing with some magazines after a fun but long day of walking and sightseeing. 

In the parlor at the B&B


By the way, if you ever stay overnight in Jim Thorpe, PA, I do recommend staying at the Hillcrest B&B. They had some of the lowest rates we could find, our host & hostess were gracious and hospitable, and the house was beautiful....very English. (Which is fitting, since the couple running it are British and planning to move back to England at some point.) Our hostess served us a traditional English breakfast, complete with watermelon (first course) and (second course) bacon, eggs on toast, sausage, tomato, and mushrooms, all cooked in the skillet, and washed down with tea. She refrained from serving us blood pudding, correctly assuming that her American guests would be too squeamish to try it!

On the second day we spent the morning chatting with our host and hostess before touring the Asa Packer mansion. It is a gorgeous home, with elegant furniture, expensive decor, and historical significance...but I think my favorite bit was the cross-eyed painting of Sarah Packer, which was designed so that the eyes are fixed on you no matter where you are standing in the room (!). I know that's slightly pathetic...and for the record, I did thoroughly enjoy the house and grounds...but that painting really stood out to me. :P

Anyway, that pretty much sums up the tour. We grabbed a coffee then headed back to Lancaster to retrieve Dean from his Grammy's house and hit the hay. My favorite moment of the day--of the whole week--happened when we walked in the door. Dean saw us, grinned, and said happily, "Mommy!"

Gotta love that. <3

Well, more to come soon! I intended to post a weekly menu on Monday, but it was too much on top of everything else. I'm planning to wrap that up tomorrow and post it sometime in the afternoon.

Have a lovely evening. :)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

heading in a new direction

I'm thinking about taking this blog in a new direction.

In my first post, here's what I wrote:

I started this blog for a number of reasons – to record moments I want to share with those I love, chat with friends and family, meet new like-minded people, get something down on "paper" when I'm struggling with writer's block, journal my creative projects, and hopefully just have fun. I hope you have fun reading my blog, too, and I'd love to hear from you!

I still want to do all of that – but I'd like to give the blog a new focus. Normally, I just post a few pictures and some scattered updates on Dean, the chickens, the garden, etc. Not terribly interesting (except for Dean, of course! Dean is always interesting!!). I need to be a little more serious about writing on a regular basis, and for that I need a topic.

Well, I think I've found one. After a lot of thinking and planning, I've decided to try focusing primarily on my culinary and homemaking/mommy projects. Those are two of my main interests right now. I enjoy cooking, baking, drooling over home décor projects (thanks, Pinterest), interacting with my precious two year old, and creating a home for my family. I'd love to improve my skills and know-how by researching and writing about these topics for the blog. Of course, I will also include pictures and family updates—how could I not post a few pictures of that chubby face and big blue eyes every once in a while?

(Too cute to shoot, that kid.)

So, my basic idea is to post 2-3 times a week according to a set category. E.g., menu plans one day, a recipe the next, a home décor or kiddie project the next. Feel free to shoot me ideas or suggestions! I have a long list of ideas to keep me going for a good while, but I'd love to get a feel for what you are interested in, too.

Well, it's getting late! I'm cutting this a little short, I know, but tomorrow is a big day and there is still much to do...we are celebrating our third anniversary tomorrow by taking a short vacation to Jim Thorpe, PA. We've planned to visit a mansion...take a train ride...explore a so-called haunted jail. It is going to be so fun! I'll definitely post some pictures when we get back. :)

And so, goodnight. Sleep tight. Don't let the frostbite bite. ;)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

featuring Dean...again ;)

Just wanted to post a few more pictures, since I'm still behind on that. Next week I will move on to more substantial blogging. This past week, I sat down during my free time (Dean's nap time, when else?) and wrote out a long list of ideas for blog posts. Nothing like a good brainstorming session to get the creative juices flowing again. :)

Right, then—forward! Here are the other snapshots I wanted to share. (As usual, it's all about Dean…:))

The man himself! In his dinosaur shirt, no less. ;)

Meet Billy the Caterpillar...who, by the way, is quite a genial fellow and an old friend of mine--one of my top two favorite toys from my childhood (Kirsten the American Girl doll was the other). He and Dean get on great. :D

Out by the creek in our backyard...such a beautiful place.

For some reason, he looks like a little Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer in this picture...

Mommy's brave explorer

OK, now he looks a little like John the Baptist. He's ready to dunk somebody. ;)

Dean enjoying a watermelon popsicle (thank you for the popsicle molds, Momma!)

That's all for now. Hope you enjoyed the pictures. :)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Hello there! Where've you been? (Haha...)

Well, hello there! It's been a while. Much too much of a while.

(Note to self—never post New Years Resolutions about how much blogging you are going to get done during a given year. Someone might actually remember what you said. Ouch!)

Well, let's see. It's been a few months since my last post and I should have something interesting to report, but...well, I guess things are pretty normal. I do have a few updates and some pictures to share, though, so I'll go ahead and do that. :)

Our chickens have become escape artists. It is IRRITATING! I love the fresh eggs every day and letting my two year old grow up with animals around, some point...we are going to have to purchase better fencing!! They keep squeezing through holes or pushing up the wire so they can crawl under it and escape. Why do they keep trying to escape? Because they want to eat, eat, eat, all day, and they are never satisfied with perfectly sensibly-rationed proportions! They have this powerful urge to snack endlessly...they are a bit like hobbits in that regard. Breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, supper, and a few snacks thrown in—they'll take it! other words, they are behaving like perfectly normal chickens that want to chase bugs all day with lots of space to run around in…

That's enough about those ornery chickens. ;)

In other continues as normal. Andrew works his market and real estate jobs; I look after Dean and take care of things at home. No brothers or sisters on the way yet, though we hope there will be soon.

And next year, I simply must find a more efficient way to garden. Breaking up a large patch of soil and keeping it weeded has proven more than I can handle during hot summer weather, especially with an exuberant two-year-old thrown into the mix. By the time I have one area weeded, another part has become overgrown; after I conquer that overgrowth, another patch of dirt breaks forth into illustrious vegetation. The cycle never ends.

But, thanks to Pinterest (and a tiny bit of actual research), I have a plan for next year. I'm going to try growing some vegetables in pots and others vertically, on a trellis or something like it. (If you search for “container gardening” and “vertical gardening” on Pinterest, you can find some pretty fantastic examples of what I'm talking about.) I like this method because it takes up a lot less space and therefore requires less weeding. And, if you do it right, it's gorgeous. :)

Container and vertical gardening do require certain materials that I don't have, but I'm hoping to find some of that at thrift stores or on Craigslist—it doesn't look like it costs too much or pose too much of a problem, though potting soil would be an additional cost. Anyway, I'm excited about the prospect. :)

Other news? Well….hmm...I'm tentatively thinking about opening a shop on eBay and/or Etsy. I need to do some more thinking on it, but I find the idea appealing. It would be nice to make a few extra dollars to help out with expenses. I don't have any experience with marketing, so that's a drawback, but...we'll see. My idea is to create a variety of handmade soaps and sell them online. More on that later, if it comes to anything!

Not much else to tell...we have been looking at houses recently, and we'd love, love, love to buy our own home, but everything is kind of up in the air at this point. Guess we'll see.

The other day we took Dean to the Muddy Run Park and had a picnic dinner there. Dean had a blast--he chatted with squirrels, battled trees, rode on Daddy's back, tried out the slides and swings, and had a great time exploring with Mommy and Daddy. Here are a few pictures:

Mommy's two favorite people <3

His hair.... :P

I love that face... :)

"Tree fall down! Whack! Whack!"

This isn't from the park, but it's recent and I couldn't help including it.... He just couldn't wait until dinner. He had to have some watermelon...right then!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Updates & Pictures :)

Well then! Pictures are long overdue, so here they are--all of them Dean-centered, of course, which is sort of the way life works now (!). Hope you enjoy them!

Wearing Mommy's flip-flops
Love that sweet face :)

And THAT sweet face!

And that one... (ahem)

At the park

This playground was so much fun--it's practically a wooden castle with all sorts of stairs, doorways, towers, and hidey-holes to play in. I predict we'll be going back pretty often as Dean gets a little older.

Do you like Dean's hat? :)

Can't decide if he's a cowboy, basketball star or superhero...

just playing quietly by himself


Baby in Boots

Reading with Daddy :)

"What do you mean, they don't fit?"

"Well--I think they look pretty good, Mommy."

Mischievous look :)

"Mommy, look! This is so cool! Look what I found!"

"Ready for church, Mommy!"

Five-Time Winner of Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award... (or whatever award Lockhart won...)

Sleepy son

Apparently we're not sure what a shoe horn is used for...

"Oh, now I get it!"

Our serious little reader

Dean reading Watership Down...Mommy reading Green Eggs and Ham...

...having an intellectual conversation here...

This kid really helps out around the house a lot! ;)

They sure do grow up fast...he'll be shaving before I know it. Oh wait...he already is...

Looking at the big boy books

learning shapes :)
That's all I have time for, for now. I'll post again soon hopefully. :)