Monday, February 24, 2014

Faux Spring (+ more recipes)

Reading: I'm now 126 pages into Wilkie Collins The Woman in White (out of 627 small print pages). It's got just enough thrill to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, but not too much that I can't sleep at night. :)
Watching: Nothing, I've been too busy doing some editing this weekend and this book ^^^ is just too good!
Listening to: Bay Area Worship Song Rotation (bayareaworship) on Spotify. This is our church's playlist of whatever songs we're singing. My favorite on here right now is For the Sake of the World. We just sang it while visiting our church in Pennsylvania too.
Can't get off my mind: Wellies. With this thaw and all the mud, rain boots are on my mind. Mine are disintegrating, Jack's have a huge crack in them, and Lia is squeezing her toes into an old camo pair of Jude's. So my goal this month is to get us all a good deal on new boots so we can go on plenty of woods walks!------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hello, heat wave!  The thermometer has been skimming 60 degrees all weekend and we're welcoming the sunshine with open arms!  There are still a few patches of snow in the yard.  But we actually had the windows and doors open yesterday.  I just love that fresh air smell in the house!

A tiny snowball!
On Friday I woke up relieved that we had nowhere to go -- a bona fide home day.  Two hours into that day I was dying to get my four kids back OUT!  So we packed a lunch, grabbed some "treat drinks" at Seven Eleven and headed to "The Meadow" in hopes of finding a semi-dry place to run.

It was overcast and dreary but warm enough that my boys felt comfortable refusing coats. :)  And we walked, and walked, and walked ... until the baby couldn't keep her eyes open anymore and Lia couldn't lift her legs another step.

What will I do when I no longer have sleeping babies to capture?!?
At one point a group of five (foreigner) adults walked by.  The one man pointed to my brood and said "All you?"  "Yes, they're all mine" I responded with a smile.  And then he gave me a round of applause.

I love when strangers take joy in my [somewhat] large family.  Although I wasn't feeling much like clapping when, about 30 minutes later, Jude decided to sprint down the path, around the bend, and completely out of sight.  So I start pushing the stroller faster to catch-up, and Lia starts pounding the pavement slower and whining that she's tired.  I sent Jack ahead to find Jude, right about the time a man walking all alone passed us, trekked back to the 2-year-old, hiked her up on my hip, and tried to push us all up the hill and around the bend to find the boys.  But they're nowhere in sight.  We round the next bend, me out of breath, Julia uncomfortable, Joci thankfully still sleeping.  Still no boys.  Meanwhile, I'm praying that the man that just passed us is simply a kind stranger and not some child-snatching creep.  And then I have to be the crazy mom yelling J names at the top of my lungs, holding a toddler on one hip and using the other hip to push a stroller as fast as I can.

In which we "read" - d-o-g w-a-s-t-e b-a-g-s.
It's situations like this where I realize having a large family really does have its drawbacks... and how vulnerable I am when I try to take all four of my kids out on my own.

No worries though.  I reached the top of the last crest, rounded the final bend, and saw both my boys sitting on the bench by the car just as the stranger walked by with a wave.  Evidently they were too engrossed in the melting snow to respond to my yelling.  Oh, motherhood!

She was still sleeping when we got home, and stayed asleep for all of 3 hours!!
It may be a while before I work up the courage to do another walk in the park.  Which is fine, because the colder temperatures are making their way back to Maryland and we're enjoying a cozy, quiet Monday with nothing to do but watch the dump truck refresh our firewood stash!

Here's some of the food we enjoyed the last week of January!

Fresh Cranberry Scones
These are my go-to scones.  They always turn out flaky and delicious!  I like to buy up a bunch of cranberries when they're in season (and on sale) and then keep them in the freezer for when the mood strikes ... or these scones.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread
I love The Pioneer Woman's style of food-blogging - the step-by-step instructions, minute-by-minute pictures, and laugh-out-loud writing.  I just wish her recipes were a tad bit healthier.  But she's generally my source for back-to-basic cooking.  This was my first attempt at cinnamon raisin bread.  I followed this recipe, but used half whole-wheat flour instead of all white.  And raisins too.

Normally we make this with all purple cabbage, but I only had green on hand this time.  It's so much prettier with purple!
Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing
I LOVE this salad.  Jon's a big fan too. We've made it a few times this year and it's caused me to discover a newfound love of Thai food.  Fun fact about my homemade peanut butter that I used in this: the blender ate my spatula in the middle of making it.  So I'm now picking out tiny rubber bits from my most recent batch.  Thankfully, it did not appear to impact the deliciousness of this salad!

French Dip Sandwiches, Roasted Carrots, Salad, Peanut Butter Pie
It's baby season in our MOPS group!  I made a big batch of these in the Crock-Pot one snowy day and split it between our family and a new mama's.  I packed up the filling along with some rolls, provolone cheese, an extra container of sauce, side salad, and roasted carrots (baby carrots + olive oil + oregano --> bake at 350 for 20 minutes or so).  My mom has a recipe for peanut butter pie that is my favorite!  I've been craving it and figured this was a good excuse to make it.  I messed up the crust, though, during pre-baking.  So this ended up being a "deconstructed peanut butter pie" with crumbled pie crust on the bottom, followed by a peanut butter/confectioner's sugar crumble, homemade vanilla pudding, and whipped cream.  At least it still tasted the same!

Teriyaki Chicken Pizza
I wish I would have taken a picture of this because the one on All Recipes simply does not do it justice!  This was a winner with the whole family, I'm sure the pineapple helped.  I made my own pizza dough earlier and had it in the freezer for a quick dinner!

Vegetable Pot Pie -- I did not trim the crust because crust is my favorite. :)
Vegetable Pot Pie
Way back when I was pregnant with Julia, we took a tour of the Birth Center.  And that's where I met fellow mama and Navy wife, Sarah.  I only knew Sarah and her family a few months before they moved to Japan, but the second time I ever saw her was when she brought us a meal after Julia was born - this delicious pot pie!  It's the perfect winter comfort food!  I didn't follow this recipe exactly -- I didn't have Pernod or saffron threads, and I also made a whole wheat pie crust.  There were so many veggies leftover that I made a second pie and froze it for another military friend that is getting ready to move.  I think this pot pie is totally for spreading love and paying it forward!

Cheddar Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms [FAIL]
Oh, these were terrible, just terrible.  Even thinking about them makes me shudder.  My poor children.  After choking down my portion I cleared their plates and gave them cold cereal instead.  To be fair, I don't think it was the recipe's fault, but perhaps I just did it wrong.  I've been told the key to portobellos is to caramelize them.  So I won't write the idea of a mushroom burger off, it just might be a while before I work up the nerve to try them again!

Cuban-Style Pork Roast
Black Beans and Rice
Mango and Avocado Salad
Dulce de Leche
Family favorite here folks!!  We had friends over for dinner (I'll try to cut back on words starting with "F" now) and decided to go with a Cuban theme.  I did not have high hopes for this recipe the first time I read it, but trust me, it is soooo GOOD!  And since it's in the Crock-Pot, low maintenance too! Which means more visiting with guests!  We served it up with the black beans and rice - great for kids and for soaking up the pork juices.  This was our first time trying the mango salad and we'll definitely be having it again!  Jack requests mangoes from the grocery store every week now!
My friend, Eileen, brought dessert - homemade dulce de leche from Smitten Kitchen. I did not make it myself, but I did eat it, and can attest to it's wonderfulness!

Meatloaf (made with Oatmeal) and Quinoa Spinach Mac and Cheese
This is my favorite meatloaf recipe.  You know who else loves a loaf?  Julia.  And since she doesn't like much of anything these days, I knew we were due for this meal.  Instead of a "loaf", I form mine into eight balls because I love a crispy outer edge.
This is my healthy substitute for mac 'n cheese.  The crispy breadcrumb topping does the trick!  As a side note, I have not idea what "Panko" breadcrumbs are, but I always see them in recipes.  I like to take leftover bread, toast it, throw it in the blender, and then keep it in a container in the freezer for any recipe that calls for breadcrumbs.  I don't know if that's "Panko" but, so far, it's worked just fine!

Whole-Chicken in the Crock-Pot and Asian-Style Cobb Salad
Everyone once in a while, I make this whole chicken in the Crock-Pot.  I use some of the meat for a meal and freeze the rest.
In our family, the key to salads is letting the kids make their own.  I just know I have to make extra of their favorite ingredients.  In this case, we quadrupled the oranges!

Overnight Chicken Stock in the Crock-Pot and Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
After making Whole Chicken in the Crock-Pot, I take the leftover bones and "stuff", throw in some veggies and herbs, and let it cook overnight again for homemade chicken stock. The next morning we wake up to the smell of chicken soup.  I freeze it in one-cup portions to use for cooking rice or quinoa, and in any other recipe that calls for chicken brothe.  And especially for homemade chicken noodle soup!  We made this one with homemade whole-wheat noodles, lots and lots of noodles for the kids' sake!

Sante Fe Turkey Stuffed Peppers
Saw these on a friend's Facebook wall and they were really yummy!  Joci was having a tough day, so I made them entirely with a child strapped to my chest.  I did not pour water in the bottom of the dish because I didn't want them to get soggy.  All in all, it was a nice twist on traditional stuffed peppers!

Copycat Chipotle Barbacoa Tacos
Cilantro Lime Rice
Vegetarian Black Beans
Mild Tomato Salsa
Corn Salsa
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Oh friends, am I sharing a secret with you!  Okay, not really, since it's all over the internet and it's not my secret, but still -- copycat Chipotle!  This is exactly what I order when we go to the restaurant - barbacoa tacos with black beans, two kinds of salsa, lettuce and cheese.  I would get the guacamole too but I'm too cheap to pay extra.  We like to make this meal for guests.  In this case, I was bringing another MOPS mama dinner.  This almost tastes like the real thing.  But I must admit, there is one advantage that Chipotle has over these recipes and that is no prep and no clean-up.  This meal takes a lot of time, which is why we reserve it for special occasions!
And I'm including the peanut butter chocolate chip oatmeal cookies because I have NEVER made a good chocolate chip cookie.  Mine always turn out thin and crispy.  But these, these actually came out just right.  And to celebrate that I thought I'd post them here!

One last recipe: hummus for when we hosted our small group.  I've been trying to perfect my hummus recipe for almost as long as I've been married.  Jon and I love Sabra hummus, so that has been my goal.  But I've never been able to get the texture just right.  This time, I may just have it.  The secret is to cook and peel the garbanzo beans.  Unfortunately, I think the flavor was lacking.  So it'll be back to the drawing board.  But I feel like we're getting one step closer.  And lastly, if you have time, check out more of the Desert Candy blog.  She's an ex-pat living in the Middle East and, well, she just makes Middle Eastern cuisine look like something I'll have to start adding to our menu!


Jennifer Smith said...

The cloudy day photos of your kids came out beautifully!

I have a copycat Waitrose hummus recipe that is pretty divine, since I consider Waitrose to be the best store-bought hummus in this hemisphere... Remind me to make it when you visit Cayman!

J9 said...

I just saw this comment. Great, I'm putting Waitrose hummus on my calendar for spring 2015!! ;)

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