Mid Vacation Muse

Morning Beach So we’ve been on vacation for a while.

One solid week of it spent at the beach.

Filled with high tides and low tides, mudslides, and triple cherry virgin daiquiries.

Appearances were made under moonlight by “Hey Hey Crabs” - as named by the shorties in our crew while they hunted the side-skipping rascals by headlamp and plastic cocktail cup. Hey Hey Crab Once in while, we’d find one little feller who’d missed the boat and hung out till sunrise.

It’s OK, Little Feller. The moon’ll be back tonight. . . . Just hang out for, like. . . 15 hours. Surf Lessons We made friends with surf bums and poolside waitresses, slathered ourselves in pints of coconut sunscreen, and some of us braved pre and post storm waves. morning beach Some of us – *ahem* – attempted to brave them.

Then, after choking on bucket-loads of salt water, returned to shore weak kneed and shakey-elbowed.Done for the day of rough-wave jumping with minimal confidence in the skilled-swimming department.

Blended iced lemonades are more my speed. Under an umbrella. With a book.

Mama’s a watcher, not a swimmer.

And books there were. A thinker. A dreamer. A heart breaking sad-story turned good. And magazines with summer food.

And a 1000 piece puzzle in which I would not partake. Puzzles, in this lady’s book, are crazy making. Stick me in the kitchen instead. I’d rather make tacos, and fry beer-battered fish, and chop tomatoes for bruschetta. A cocktail just to the top right of the cutting board is a nice touch too. Beach People Now we’re here, in our home.

Coming home is so sad and still so nice at the end of sunny, surfy, carefree days.

It’s time to swing ourselves back into routine. Sort of. Maybe.

OK, maybe not yet. morning beach Time to plan meals and tidy up.

Seize days and live by the moment. Love by the second.

Remembering that it’s all fleeting. Life, really, is not under our control. Waves I wish it was, but I’m reminded over and over again that I’m not the driver of this train.

Somehow though, it goes where I need it to go, whether I actually want to go there or not.

Summers, I’ve learned, always hold a mixed bag for me.

Some lovely, some ugly, but always something that needs doing.

And that’s the way life goes.

So far, the hubs and I have tackled roughly 24 combined vertical inches of stacked paper on the kitchen counter.

His has been lingering for about 6 months.

Mine has been lingering since Easter of 2013.

I’m not proud of this.

It’s just who I am.

A stack-of-paper hater/procrastinator.

But it’s gone now.

Don’t you dare come back, Paper Stacks. With your smug little faces. I’m a changed woman.

My counter space is MINE.

We’ve been cooking too. Tasty things that will eventually show up here.

But my camera has been tucked away, snug in the cupboard, while I hoard this family time to myself.

I’ll break it out and dust it off soon.

We made a version of this pesto rigatoni.

I recommend it. It was a hit all around – and that’s saying something given the kale content, which is: ANY.

Because my family doesn’t like kale – when they know about it.

Also? We made these. Again.

I fiddled with the flour content a little because they came out so thin, but just add a little more and: swoon.

Oh! And this for flashy dinner dessert with friends.

We fell back on these burritos and this sauce. Because staples are staples for good reason.

Aaaaand, I’m pretty sure my summer will not be complete until I try this cocktail.

I can’t. even. think.

Next? I don’t know. I’m ready for the beach again.

XOXO until next time, friends.

Caramel Apple Dark Cherry Crisp

Caramel Apple Dark Cherry Crisp

Look at this, Guys.

It’s a miracle: a seasonal dish, ON. TIME.

I know! Who kidnapped me and replaced me with an organized, punctual imposter?!

I’m still trying to figure it out too.

Meanwhile though, let’s talk Crisp.

As in crisp that’s perfect for backyard barbeques. As in July 4th barbecues. As in crisps that feature summer cherries and good ol’ Granny Smith apples for a hearty dose of Americana dessert on this, our American holiday.

Crisps are easy. They’re all the goodness of pie, without the hassle of crust.

So, when you’re considering what you want to be nibbling as the sunset turns to night sky and the crickets start to chirp and you’re all anticipating the first firework, give this recipe staunch consideration.

It’s star-spangled yum.

Ooo. And make sure to serve warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream – because even if you don’t like ice cream (*ahem*) there’s no better way to eat warm, subtly caramel crisp than with a scoop of melting sweet cream.Caramel Apple Dark Cherry Crisp

By the way – there should be a recipe category called, “Paleo, But You’d Never Know It”.

Because this is, but you wouldn’t.

And also? It’s gluten free.

If you’re not proponent of butter in your Paleo dishes – you can swap it out for coconut oil – although, I make no promises about how that will bode for the caramel element of the filling. Best of luck, and let me know. ;-)

Caramel Apple Dark Cherry Crisp

Yield: about 8

Ingredients

    For the Crisp topping:
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 tablespoons (light colored) maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons really cold butter, cut into cubes
  • For the Fruit filling:
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 cups diced Granny Smith apple
  • 2 cups pitted and halved dark red cherries
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash of salt
  • 5 tablespoons light colored maple syrup

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crisp:

In a medium sized bowl, combine the pecans, almond flour, almonds, arrowroot powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. stir with a fork to combine. Add in maple syrup and stir again. Crumble will stick together in clumps. Work cold butter in with fingers. Pinch it into the crumbs as evenly as you can, but some butter-chunks will remain. That's OK. When finished, put crumble in the fridge until ready to use.

For the filling:

Heat an oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add butter and allow to melt as the skillet heats.

In a medium bowl, toss together diced apple, cherries, lemon zest, arrowroot powder, cinnamon, and salt. Toss to combine. Add in maple syrup and toss again. Add all ingredients to butter in the hot skillet. Cook until a thick, caramel sauce forms, stirring constantly (this will only take a couple minutes depending on the temp of your skillet. Continue to cook and until apples are crisp-tender ( about 3 - 5 more minutes). Remove from heat. Remove crisp topping from the fridge and use fingers to crumble it over the top of the fruit/caramel mixture as evenly as possible. Bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes, until the edges are bubbly and the crisp topping is golden brown.

Source

Sara| Home is Where the Cookies Are

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/06/29/caramel-apple-dark-cherry-crisp/

Homemade Beef & Bean Burritos + Taco Sauce (from scratch)

Homemade Beef and Bean Burritos & DIY Taco Sauce

Every day here in the Sunshine State, it is roughly one billion degrees outside. (Please let’s not talk about our hair in the accompanying 100% humidity.)

And, every day, at roughly 3 pm, the sky grows dark and a deluge opens up and soaks the living bejeezus out of all things outdoors.

And, also? Once the deluge commences, for some mysterious reason, the air conditioner seems to work extremely well. Like I’m digging out my fleece pants and hoodie sweatshirt and cranking it up to 80 degrees so I can stop my teeth from chattering.

This comes from living in a sub-tropical climate for a double-digit number of years. We become like reptiles. We need the sun to stay warm.

So in the summer, around 3pm, the sky grows dark, it starts to rain, and I’m really cold.

Therefore, cozy comfort food cravings begin.

Like burritos.

So even though burritos don’t seem like summer food, for reptiles they are.

Reptiles ♥ burritos. (I’m pretty sure about that, but don’t mark that as your final answer if it ever shows up on a legit test about animals and the foods they love. More research is necessary, I’m sure).

So I know burritos are not rocket science.

I’m not here to pretend they are.

I’m just here saying that when you put them together like this and you share them with friends, they’ll devour them, then they’ll fight over who get’s the last one.

And they’ll be super happy when you bring more for round two a few weeks later.

Burritos = friendship makers.

For reals. Homemade Beef and Bean Burritos & DIY Taco Sauce

Aaaaaand, when you make the sauce and the spice mix initially, you’ll have plenty extra left over to make burritos a few more times in the future  without the extended (reallynotsoextended) prep.

And the “taco” sauce? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it would be pretty spankin’ good as an enchilada sauce too. Or with some huevos rancheros, or in a nice little homemade salsa.

All I’m saying is, you’ll be happy to have leftovers.

Homemade Taco Sauce and Beef and Bean Burrito Filling

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: about 10 -12 large-ish burritos, with leftover sauce and spice mix

Homemade Taco Sauce and Beef and Bean Burrito Filling

This sauce as just as satisfying as store bought versions, but so much healthier. If you are following a Paleo regimen, or just prefer not to use refined sugar, light-colored maple syrup is a fine substitution for the sugar in the recipe. Just throw the ingredients in a pot before you start browning meat and it can simmer away while you finish up your burrito filling.

Ingredients

    For the Taco Sauce:
  • 1 (17.64 oz) carton Pomi strained tomatoes
  • 3 1/4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • For the Burrito Spice Mix:
  • you could go here, which was my starting point. We've since altered it to the recipe that follows. I also like to make a larger batch - so that the next few times around all I have to do is pull it out of the cupboard already mixed and ready to go:
  • 4 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 4 tablespoons onion powder
  • 3 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon crushed, dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • For the Burrito filling:
  • 3 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 can (or 1 3/4 cup) blackbeans, drained
  • 4 tablespoons taco/burrito spice mix
  • 1 cup of water
  • tortillas
  • and toppings of choice:
  • shredded cheese
  • guacamole
  • diced tomatoes
  • shredded lettuce

Directions

For the Taco Sauce:

Add all ingredients to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook on a low simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers in the fridge, tightly covered. You can also freeze portions for later use.

For the Burrito Spice Mix:

Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk to mix well. Set aside. (Store in an airtight container at room temperature).

For the Burrito filling:

Over medium heat, in a large skillet, borwn the beef. Drain.Reduce heat. Add in spice mix and water. Stir and cook over med-low heat until water is mostly evaporated. Remove from heat, serve hot on tortillas with cheese, sauce, and desired toppings.

Source

Sara| Home Is Where The Cookies Are

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/06/24/homemade-beef-bean-burritos-taco-sauce-from-scratch/

* I have marked this recipe as Paleo because both the filling (if you remove the beans) and the sauce (when you sub maple syrup for the sugar) are Paleo compliant. However, Paleo eaters – you’re on your own when it comes to tortillas and cheese!

Easy Peanut Butter Sugar Cookies

Easy Peanut Butter Sugar Cookies

This, right here, is my split (food)personality showing up for you on bright, shiny display.

Do I want to be healthy? Yes.

Do I sometimes follow a Paleo regimen? Sometimes, but not so much lately.

Do I bake cookies? Yes. Almost all times.

Is sugar bad for you? *Ahem*.

I guess. . . if you want to get all scientific-y and high-and-mighty truthful about it.

Am I exercising and counting calories and trying to shed the most sticky, annoying 4 pounds on earth? Yes.

Sometimes, does a girl just want a freakin’ cookie?!

That was a rhetorical question.

Because, of course.

Just like everyone else this time of year, we’ve been on the superbusy train.

I don’t have time for intricate, hours long recipes for my high-calorie, non-healthy sweet fix.

For one day, I didn’t care, and these cookies are what came of it.

Small, soft in the middle, crispy on the edges, and a cinch to make – just mix, sugar dip, and drop on a tray.

No refrigeration, smooshing down, or fork-tine stamping required.

If you make them small enough (36 cookies per batch), my rough calculations are that they are about 90-100 calories each.

And I’m just going to throw this out there because it IS summertime and all – these would make ideal sandwich sides for a middle smoosh of Moose-Tracks ice cream. (I know – coming from the girl who doesn’t like ice cream. But can anyone really turn down Moose Tracks? I probably could, actually, but you know – would anyone else? Would you? Now I really want to know. Club Moose Tracks or not?? Ok, but even as I write this, I’m thinking, if someone handed me a peanut butter sugar cookie/Moose Tracks ice cream sandwich, I’d for sure eat it.)

It’s like window shopping for the junk-food deprived, folks. I’ve been dreaming in high-fat, calorie dense sweets lately.Easy Peanut Butter Sugar Cookies

Aaaaaand, we’re headed into summer with a wham-bang start!

PS – Do you guys have a summer bucket list??

What are you going to do for the next 10 weeks?

I want to know – ’cause I might steal your ideas so we can keep this house clicking at a nice happy tic.

Easy Peanut Butter Sugar Cookies

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 9 minutes

Total Time: 24 minutes

Yield: 36 cookies

1 cookie

90-100

These cookies are quick and simple, and for that reason, I abandoned the traditional baking order of mixing dry ingredients in a different bowl beforehand. Here, you mix everything in one bowl, starting with wet and ending with dry. The only additional bowl you'll need is a small one - for dipping the dough in granulated sugar before you bake. **A note on measuring your flour: For this recipe, I went with the stir, scoop, level method. This means you'll stir and fluff your flour with a fork while it's still in your storage container. Then use a spoon to lightly add it to your measuring cup, then level off the top with the flat side of a butter knife. If you want to eliminate the spooning step, you can gently scoop up your flour in a quarter-cup measuring cup (being careful to scoop lightly and not pack the flour into the measuring cup), then level it with the flat side of the knife.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup crunchy, natural peanut butter ( I used Jif Natural)
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (table salt would work too)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar (for dipping)

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a mixer, add butter and peanut butter. Cream together. Add sugar and cream again.

Add in vanilla and egg. Cream together.

Add in baking soda, baking powder, salt, and 1/2 cup all purpose flour and mix just until incorporated. Add in 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour and mix until incorporated.

Scoop dough by heaping teaspoons, dip or roll in granulated sugar, and place on parchment-lined baking sheet, 2 inches apart.

Bake at 350 degrees F, for 7-10 minutes, or until bottom edges are just turning golden.

Source

Sara| Home is Where The Cookies Are

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/06/11/easy-peanut-butter-sugar-cookies/

Stacked Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pistachio Balsamic Vinaigrette

Stacked Heirloom Tomato Salad With Pistachio Balsamic Vinaigrette

Let me tell you what not to do.

Don’t let yourself erase any photographs you ever use on your blog. Ever.

Because then probably, by some yet-to-be discovered law of the internet, the one set of photos you can’t find from April 2012 will attract the attention of a buyer – a real flesh-and-blood breathing person who wants to pay you cold hard cash for the rights to use them in an online promotion this October.

And then you’ll start to daydream about all the things you could pay for with cold hard photograph cash. Then boom! You’ll shed a tear or two because somehow. SOMEHOW those are the only missing photos from the last 800 or so days of your life.

It just doesn’t seem fair.

And I’m sure there is a lesson in here somewhere, I’m just trying to figure out which one it is. Because so far, I’ve thought of about 16.

Just sayin.

The other thing you shouldn’t do? Binge on pizza and chocolate chip cookies this weekend after you’ve been religiously working out for like, a whole 5 days.

6 Week 6 Pack, yo.

Here I come.

The thing Jeezy MicCheezy doesn’t tell you though, is that your six-pack will be buried under that floppy layer of skin left behind from that time you grew a human in your belly. Times four. *sigh*.

My belly tells my story. Of love and wholeness and 4 fantastic little shorties I’d never trade for rock hard abs. That would only be a 4 pack anyway. Which would be totally weird and incomplete.

Something else one must never do – experiment with super short razor lengths when cutting one’s husband’s hair.

You might get a good chuckle out of it.

He will not.

The fourth thing you must not ever do - we’re going with a double negative here: You must never not make this dressing.

Serious.

If you are a balsamic vinegar lover, consider making it, like – this exact moment.

Unlike most vinaigrettes, it’s thick and dipable (Ranch replacement anyone??).

It’s lighter, healthier, and cram packed with lightning bolts of flavor.

Pistachios.

??

Pistachios are the magic ingredient.

They are the thickener that is not mayonnaise and the super subtle smoky salty flavor that is not bacon.

Why not just go with bacon?

Well, that is an excellent question, since bacon is probably the best food ever known to man.

(On an off-note here, we had breakfast this spring with a man who said he never eats bacon. Ever. It’s like death fried as a stick – that as a child his mother always preached the horrors of bacon. He just cannot fathom putting it in his body. . . . This, he told us as we brunched with bacon infused Bloody Marys in our hands – garnished with gigantic, thick slices of crispy bacon. . . .*Ahem*.)

The most truthful answer is fourfold: 1. Let’s go meatless, and 2. Let’s not dirty more dishes frying bacon, 3. Let’s be healthy, 4. Let’s be speedy.

Done, done, done, and done.

Actually, I guess it’s fivefold: 5. Let’s make it so delicious you want to lick your plate clean.

Done.

Stacked Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pistachio Balsamic Vinaigrette

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: about 3/4 cup

about 2 tablespoons (but you'll want more!)

This dressing is lick-your-plate good. Typically, a serving size of dressing is 2 tablespoons. You certainly could abide by that here - it's packed with flavor. However, it's also very light, so if you feel like you want to pile on a little more? Go ahead - without the guilt!

Ingredients

    For the Salad:
  • 2-4 large Heirloom tomatoes (consider 1 whole tomato per person)
  • Parsley and fresh ground black pepper for garnish
  • For the Dressing:
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 cup dry roasted, salted, (shelled) pistachios
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 3 large, fresh basil leaves, washed, dried, and torn
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

For the salad: Wash tomatoes. Slice them into rounds a little thicker than 1/4". Stack them, varying colors, and garnish with parsley. Sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper.

For the dressing: In a small food processor, blender, or Magic Bullet, add the vinegar and pistachios. Blend until pureed and smooth. Add in smashed garlic, and torn basil. Whir again until smooth. Add in olive oil and whir until thickened. Taste, and add in desired salt and pepper.

Serve right away, drizzled over stacked tomatoes, or refrigerate for later.

Source

Sara| Home is Where The Cookies Are

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/05/27/stacked-heirloom-tomato-salad-with-pistachio-balsamic-vinaigrette/

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup (with crunchy sweet and savory toppings)

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup (with delightfully crunchy sweet and savory garnish)

This soup belongs in the “I know it’s late spring/almost summer but I don’t care” category.

It’s off kilter.

That’s what I’m thinking right now. “Off-kilter” is what this soup says to someone who might pop over here to see what’s new.

What’s new this third week of May? Butternut and Apple soup.

(Odd??)

Poor timing, maybe. Since butternut squash and apples are the poster children for fall food galore.

Maybe. Maybe our food choices belie our outer, organized, calm demeanor (Wait. Who’re we talking about?) and ruthlessly expose the tilling of our inner chaotic goings-on.

I feel tilled and off-kilter.

Everything’s all strewn about and upturned and crumbly and haphazard.

And that’s just my livingroom carpet.

. . . and the area rug under the kitchen table.

. . . and the gigantic mountain of unfolded laundry on the couch. (Picture: chest-high.)

The big, the everything, the bird’s-eye view, is that life feels like it’s a real-time illustration of high entropy.

Everything is everywhere and it’s moving really fast.

Trying to tame it into order feels impossible and like it’s against all nature.

There is a war going on here, folks.

I think it’s called, “My House Prefers Chaos, and That’s the Natural Order of Things So Just Get Used To It”.

Ok, so maybe it’s not a war, but a novel (with a really long, annoying title) based on a thermodynamic law and it’ll never make the best-seller list.

Either way, there are moments of quiet and molecular rest (mostly as toys and socks and snacks have found their roosts on random plots of common floor space) here and there, and in those moments. . .  there is reading.

And at the intersection of this book:

and this book:

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess  -     By: Jen Hatmaker<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

was this soup.

Weird, right? And Ina Garten is its mother.

I have never once tasted a recipe developed by Ina Garten that I didn’t love in one way or another.

So obviously butternut squash and apple soup jumped from “I’ll make it this fall when it’s seasonal”, to “I’ll make this right now because right now I’m smitten with these two ladies and what they have to say, and one can never really go wrong employing a Barefoot Contessa based recipe.

And anyhoo – I’m a fan of 1) soup, 2) butternut squash, 3) apples, and 4) making a gigantic batch of dinner that can be shared or frozen for later.

Two little unforseen bonuses that make this particular combo a keeper for any season? Butternut squash and apples are available year round and both are long-lasters. By “long-laster”, I mean they enter your kitchen on day one, fresh from the store or market but, (and, BUT and AND) the great thing about them is that they have long shelf-lives. If you don’t get around to the soup until five days later or next week, it’s ok. Your ingredients are still good to go. Not the case with most other veggies and fruits.

Therefore – this is a busy person soup to boot. Get to it when you get to it, and make enough to freeze for later. Two dinners in one. Sign me up, Ina. And Jen. And Jenny. We’re making soup.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup (with delightfully crunchy, sweet and savory garnish)

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 10 or more

This soup is deceptively easy to make. If you're intimidated by buying a whole squash and preparing it yourself, or just prefer convenience, many stores carry pre-peeled and diced squash. The version I have here is slightly spicy. You may want to tone it down the first time around if you are serving spice-sensitive folks. Then, add in more heat individually. This recipe is also incredibly flexible - thus the trail from here to Jen Hatmaker (who subbed sweet potatoes for the squash) and Jenny Rosenstrach, to Ina Garten (who consequently was inspired by a recipe in The Silver Palate). You can easily make it into your very own personalized version by adding, omitting, and/or subbing various spices, toppings, and other ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 2 -3 tablespoons extra light olive oil
  • 2 (smallish) medium yellow onions, peeled and diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I used 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt and 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper)
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder (optional)
  • 1/8 teasopoon cayenne
  • 7 cups (give or take) butternut squash, peeled and in 1" cubes
  • 2 Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, and large-diced
  • 5 1/2 cups (give or take) low sodium chicken broth (I used Swanson)
  • garnish:
  • Scallions, sliced
  • Walnuts, roughly chopped
  • Apple slices,skin on, julienned or diced

Directions

In a dutch oven or large stock pot, heat oil over medium to medium-high heat. Cook the onion until transparent and starting to brown. Add in salt and pepper, the leaves of the thyme sprigs, curry powder (if desired), and cayenne. Stir to combine. Add in squash and apples, stir again. Top with chicken broth. Add enough broth to cover the veggies and apples by about a half inch. Simmer uncovered for about a half hour. Check every now and then to make sure there is enough broth, and add more if needed. Cook till the squash is tender. Turn off heat and use an immersion blender (if you have one) to puree, adding more broth or water to reach desired consistency.

If you don't have an immersion blender, you can puree in batches in a regular blender, making sure to leave the vent open (or the lid slightly adjar), but covered with a towel (so that the soup will not explode because of the high temperature - keep the towel in place to catch hot splatters). Serve hot, topped with garnishes of choice. Allow leftovers to cool completely, then refrigerate or freeze for later.

Source

A blended adaptation by Sara|Home is Where The Cookies are, from Dinner: a Love Story, Ina Garten, and inspiration from Jen Hatmaker's 7:An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/05/13/butternut-squash-and-apple-soup-with-crunchy-sweet-and-savory-toppings/

Teacher Love, Plus A Vase (totally recycled and recyclable)

Daisy in recyclable vaseDear Teachers,
I have so many things to tell you, but let’s start first with the confessions:

First on the list is this: I’m sorry, but I have officially checked out for the school year. There are only 26 days left. Maybe only 24 if you don’t count tomorrow or the actual last day. I think you are awesome, and there’s no way I could do what you do, so I fully, totally, completely appreciate your career choice and the fact that somehow, day-to-day, you keep it together and keep showing up for work and, by the grace of God, end up teaching our children how to read and write and add stuff together. Continue reading

Manchego Chorizo Egg Tart

Manchego Chorizo Egg Tart| Home Is Where The Cookies Are

I need your advice.

What do you do for dates?

I don’t mean Medjool or Deglet Noor, fresh or dried, put them in salad or wrap them with bacon.

I’m talking QT with your main squeeze.

I’ve got a hankering to spice things up. I want to leave The Blacklist and various “Movies On Demand” in our dust and ride off into the sunset to do things new and exciting – or at least new and. . . fun? Weird? Unusual? Silly?

A couple of weeks ago, I got the bee in my bonnet that I wanted to go on a “couples sunset kayak adventure” in the nature preserve.

This, I thought, was a grand romantic idea.

Until I remembered the mosquitos.

And thought about the twelve other people we’d be kayaking with and the more than likely hairy + pungent guide.

And the alligators. Continue reading

Almost Easter, an Almost Fast, and A New Camera

We’re two days away from Easter.

About a week and a half ago, two things happened:

1. I started this post, and

2. I GOT A NEW CAMERA!!! (lots of jumping and clapping here and squeaking like a tickled monkey)

Numero dos is the reason for the severe lapse in posting.

“New Camera” also means the clearing of memory space on my computer for new programs and new photos. Which means I have spent all last week trying to figure out how to get my precious HP Mini to recognize space-age mass storage devices from 2014, when this little baby was in its prime in 2002.

HP Mini? I love you. Don’t ever think otherwise. We just got you a little Pod to store all your stuff in, is all.

And now we’re ready to boogie.

So here we are, friends – that post I started last week:

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I’m on a diet, of sorts.

A self-prescribed sort-of fast until Easter.

Spiritual preparation by way of cookie denial. Continue reading

Weeknight Meaty Marinara

Weeknight Meaty Marinara - a quick, healthy, and hearty meat sauce. (Paleo and Whole 30 compliant)

No! Don’t do it.

Don’t call it Bolognese.

We can’t, you see, because of these six things:

  • No wine
  • No dairy.
  • No itsy bitsy chopped up celery or carrots.
  • Too much tomato sauce.
  • Only one meat variety.
  • And we’re cooking it comparatively faster.

So there are plenty of reasons why we are forbidden from labeling this hearty meat sauce, “Bolognese”.

Also? I’m aware that finally in northern climates the temperatures are starting to break the 50 degree mark.

Most of you in that sort of spring would probably rather be shaving asparagus, or baking lemon meringue pie, or dusting off your outdoor grill.

I get it, but hang with me here for a minute – we can still break out the margaritas and Jimmy Buffett album this weekend. Continue reading