I’m going to keep it simple today, food-wise.
White chicken chili. In the slow cooker.
I’m going to keep it simple today, food-wise.
White chicken chili. In the slow cooker.
Because it is.
My friend Lara said to me once, “I totally pressed the Easy Button today and bought a rotisserie chicken for dinner”, and that got me thinking. . . . Yes. Easy button foods are good. Especially for this time of year.
So, we’re pressing the Easy Button here, because when we press it, it’s like a big breath of stressed air gushes out and relief replaces it.
I’m serious about this salad. Add it to your holiday dinner menu.
I just got lost in Facebook for a whole episode of Doc McStuffins while our Littlest snuggled into a pile of blankets on the floor (I managed to jinx ourselves into sickness. I JUST thought to myself two days ago, “Wow. It’s already Halloween, and we haven’t had a bug yet this year. . . . Touché, mother nature, touché.)
This is why I stink at Facebook: basically, I fear it will suck my life away, so I avoid it like the plague – or, erm, a stomach bug.
But I love to hate Facebook so much that I joined Instagram too.
Like minutes ago.
This makes no sense, you say?
Well, I’m not the spouse who went to med school folks.
I’m the spouse who went to art school; logic doesn’t always play a significant role in my actions.
So I’m there. On Instagram now.
I have no idea how to use it, which totally makes me feel like a wicked-old fart.
I see hashtags, but I thiiiiink the hashtags have more to do with being linked to Twitter.
Which, btw Twitter, watch out, bc #yourenext.
So – Instagrammy.
If you wish to join me there, you can find me here. (I believe so anyway, there’s no way I can confirm nor deny this currently. . . . If you try and fail, let me know. If you try and succeed, I’ll see you there.)
I’ve got one super awesome picture of a paper pumpkin up there. Mostly because I had no idea what else to post at the moment. It was sort of a tester.
“Testing, one, two, pumpkin. Testing, testing. . . . ”
It’s super easy – and I only * the ‘homemade’ part, because, well, we’re starting with tomatoes from a carton (and chicken broth from a can if you don’t have homemade stock on hand) instead of from the garden (or your own chicken), which means three things:
1. They’re tomatoes like these**, which means we’re dealing with nothing but tomatoes ⇒ *healthy!*
2. Because they’re from a carton, there’s no need for all the steps that go into getting smooth tomato soup, it’s just smooth anyway. So, snip open a carton, and we’re good to go.
3. We can have this soup any time of year, summer or not, in a matter of minutes; so when it’s blustering snow outside and nothing sounds better than a steaming bowl of out-of-season-tomato soup and a grilled cheese? Looky here, folks. This recipe is your ticket.
***I harp on these tomatoes all the time. No, they’re not paying me (but they should), I just love them.
Don’t be freaked out, now.
It’s only a little zombie ghost.
These have names, actually. Alvin is on the far left, Simon is that bean pole in the middle, and that thick boned little guy on the right is Theodore.
As a girl who’s got luke-warm emotions about Halloween in general, I must admit I’m somewhat of a sucker for cutesy pumpkins and pillowcase ghosts. AndLetsNotForgetTheCandy.
Remember how I said I love my kids’ teachers?
Alvin was the creation of my little guy under the direction of his second grade teacher, and he’s one of my most favorite ever decorations for the end of October.
When we made Simon and Theodore, it took us roughly 10.2 seconds once the jars were clean. And the project drained my pocket-book of around $13.50 ($6 for the tealights, $3.50 for the bandage (at Wal-Mart), and $3.00 for the googley eyes) and we have enough supplies left over to make at least 4 more
chipmunks zombie ghosts (I’m just guessing a number here, because we still have leftover tealights, wrap, and oodles of googley eyes).
All it takes is this:
I can neither confirm nor deny the effectiveness of the sports tape. We haven’t used it yet. I can confirm however, the effectiveness of pudgy little pre-school fingers organizing the supplies. They’re excellent for the job. Also excellent? Self adhering sports wrap. Life. Saver. Don’t skimp.
And the Wiggle Eyes . . . fun, yes. But not absolutely necessary. I say a good ‘ol pair of black construction paper lookin’ balls would do just swell here. Use a single hole punch to let the pupils’ glow come through.
So here’s the deal:
1. Clean your jar. We’ve got one spaghetti sauce jar, one olive jar, and one salsa jar.
Soak them in water for a few hours to wet the labels, then scrape them off. Wash ’em one last time to remove any residual goo. Let them dry completely.
2. This is going to be a tricky 4 seconds. Starting at the bottom edge of the side of the jar, start winding the self adhesive wrap around the jar and work your way to the top, layering the wrap slightly as you go. When you reach the top, snip it and stick it. Phew. Thank goodness that’s done.
3. Glue on your oculus of choice.
4. Insert tiny little battery operated tealight.
5. Watch your adorable little Zombie Chipmunks flicker in the night.
If they were real zombies? They might look creepier – like this:
I just thought of something – these guys could star in “The Not Walking Dead”.
Get it? Because they don’t have legs. So they can’t walk. Plus, they’re not alive. Which, I guess technically, neither are zombies. But whatever. I’m confusing myself.
The kids nixed the creepy version though. They like these guys friendly and cute. Bonus if you spy them hanging out in broad daylight:
I am a middle child.
According to the experts, this makes me a peacemaker.
And so I am.
This is my gift to all those out there who are both angered and tempted by pumpkin spiced food offerings in the sweltering hot days of September. (If you live – blessedly – in a climate that’s affording you a cozy long-sleeved shirt at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, carry on with steaming hot lattes, my friends. Enjoy one for me.)
Living where we do, in sub-tropical suburbia, leaves my sentimental soul wanting during the “seasons”; which means I’m usually trying to comfort my heart’s desire for smoky bon fires, crunchy fallen leaves, and apple harvests with some serious head fakes.
I actually tried it, you know. Drinking a hot pumpkin spice latte. (So sue me.)
It just felt wrong – to sit sipping a burning hot spiced latte while I sweated through my tank top, mopped my brow, and tried to pretend fall was in the midst.
The air doesn’t even smell like autumn yet – and it does sometimes, even here – because leaves do eventually fall (I’ve heard this is more because of the photosynthesis cycle and the shorter days than the actually temperature).
But as far as feeling like fall has arrived?
That’s the full-on head fake.
And that’s where pumpkin spiced muesli comes in.
I will admit unabashedly that I am a newbie to muesli.
It’s always sounded bizarre to me. And I have yet to try any version made with fruit juice instead of milk. I’m not ruling anything out for my future self though – weirder things have happened.
I met muesli face to face about a month ago, here.
It was crazy good. Then all of a sudden – it was supposed to be autumn, I felt the need to dive into the annual head fake, and voila.
Pumpkin Spice Muesli.
Fall flavor. Cold breakfast. Whole goodness.
I’ve eaten it, with gusto, at least 9 mornings out of the last 14.
And guess what?
It’s starting to feel a lot like fall.
I feel like we’re long-lost friends finally meeting up for coffee after weeks of chaotic, um . . . chaos and total absorption in our own little worlds. And by that, I mean I’ve been totally absorbed in my own little world, and I have lots of friends with whom coffee dates and catch-ups are supremely necessary.
Forgive me for being the friend who’s gone missing.
And also, Dear Readers? Forgive me for my writing at this particular moment, because I think the part of my brain that gives good words is asleep. We’re doing our best this morning – me and my brain. I’m giving him lots of coffee (why my brain is a man today, I don’t know. Probably because I find him unreachable and perplexing right now. And sometimes stubborn. And he loads the dishwasher wrong.)
So what shall we talk about that doesn’t require lots of good words?
Yes, bread is always good, regardless of words.
And this bread is simple.
This bread is good, simple, healthy, and DELICIOUS.
Note the use of all caps in “DELICIOUS”. That is to emphasize the actual deliciousness of the bread. Because I lack other words. So I’ll capitalize on the accuracy of the one I have.(Heh! Capitalize. . . .)
So, the bread.
If you’re into whole grains, nuts, the slight sweetness of honey, and yeast bread that comes from your hands, in your kitchen, with minimal work, this is your new baby.
Hands-on time required will amount to about 10-15 minutes the first time around (not including rise time and baking time), but I’ve made it three times, and each time I shave a little time off the prep. (Total time will end up just under 2 hours).
This, my friends, is the way all many-grain (9 grain, 10 grain, 12 grain. . . whatevs) breads should taste. Soft, nutty, wheaty, healthy. . . FRESH.
Also? I must warn you – watch yourself when it comes out of the oven warm and fragrant. If you have a slab of butter near by, don’t consider your diet safe.
And, if your first loaf gets stuck in the pan and happens to come out in pieces, you might be tempted to curse the fact that you thought olive oil would create an apt enough anti-stick barrier, then you’ll forgive yourself and stand there with a gigantic hunk of tender, warm, nut-bread in one hand, a knife adorned with a generous blob of soft butter in the other hand, and all those pieces might end up smoothly dressed and on a one way trip to your mouth.
But if it does, and you do, and it does, don’t worry. You’ll enjoy it 100%.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
What happens when you discover a cookie dough that works as both chocolate chip cookie dough and the best sugar cookie dough ever? (Sugar cookie lovers, Pin this one!)
You make it about once a week, that’s what happens.
Then you start sticking all kinds of accessories on top of the naked dough balls – candied orange bits, salted nuts, white chocolate chunks, leftover peppermints from Christmas (Hey – don’t judge – I bet you have some too. . . .), purple and pink star sprinkles. . . .
And on top of all that kooky fiddling, you realize the dough chills perfectly well rolled up into a nifty little log that can be sliced, topped, and baked any time you darn well please. Continue reading