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Poached Egg and Avocado Toast

We all need to start the day with a healthy breakfast.

I know there are some of you out there, that can’t handle the thought of stuffing food down their gullet until, like ten-ish. I however, am not one of those people. I ‘m a hungry camper in the morning. Sometimes I think it’s the grumbling of my belly, not the alarm clock that wakes me up and forces me out of my nice, cozy bed.

As you may have noticed, I’m partial to sweets. And I do love a flaky, delicious pastry in the morning afternoon and night.  But if I want to downsize my jeans, and by jeans I mean ass, pastry is clearly not the best choice for me. I’m gonna need some protein and healthy fats to keep me full so I’m strong enough to pass up those cursed delish donuts.

Enter this tasty little dish. Hearty, healthy, satiating, delicious, easy and quick. Need I say more?

Poached Egg and Avocado Toast

poached egg avocado toast

Loaded with all the good things the body needs to start the day strong and keep you going all morning. Nutrient-rich avocados, loaded with heart healthy fats, protein and whole grains make for a perfect meal any time of the day.

Just an egg, a slice of whole grain toast, half a ripe avocado, some fresh chives and a few minutes is all you need for a delicious, healthy start to your day.

poached egg avocado toast

If you don’t want to poach the egg, you can always just fry it in a pan with a little cooking spray. And, I don’t mean to be bossy, but poached is definitely the way to go. If you’ve never attempted this technique, it’s super duper easy and quick. Four minutes is all you need. If you’ve never had a poached egg, what the hell is wrong with you. You have been totally missing out on a deliciously creamy, oozy, flavorful experience.

If you think it’s too difficult, don’t be afraid. Check out how to properly poach an egg here and get cracking. See what I did there?

It’s a whole lot easier than you think and well worth it. Trust me.

Happy poaching!

Poached Egg and Avocado Toast
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
A delicious, healthy breakfast to start your day off right and keep you full all morning
Ingredients
  • 1 egg
  • 1 slice whole grain toast
  • ½ ripe avocado, sliced or mashed
  • 1 tsp. fresh chopped chives
  • Fresh ground salt and pepper to taste (I use Himalayan pink salt)
Instructions
  1. Poach the egg and place on top of avocado and toast.
  2. Sprinkle with fresh, chopped chives and season with salt and pepper.

 

 

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Summertime Sucks

summer mom

I don’t mean to be a Negative Nelly or anything but I’ve just got to get this out there.

Summer vacation sucks!

Well, it doesn’t suck for everyone, but I do have say, it kinda sucks for us working moms. It throws a real monkey wrench in an already hectic schedule. Actually, it takes the schedule and turns it to shit.

Oh, and let’s not forget about the serious mom guilt that comes along with having to be away from your kids all day while they are not in school. Especially on those hot, sunny days that scream “Come to the beach!” and you’re stuck in the office. That guilt comes out in full force when your child cannot go with friends because you can’t get them where they need to be. That one kills me.

It’s hard working a full time job and having kids at home. My son is 15 so he is at home. He’s too old cool for camp, and stays home alone. He finds things to do most of the time. I really don’t have to worry about him too much. Except for the food. You’re at the office or where ever you work and the teen calls. You know those calls moms.

Mom, I’m hungry!

Teen: “Hi Mom. I’m hungry. Is there anything to eat?”
Me: “I don’t know. Look”
Teen: “I don’t think there’s anything in the fridge”
Me: “Did you look?”
Teen: “Forget it”
Me: “Have a bowl of cereal”
Teen: “I don’t like cereal. What time are you coming home ?”
Me: “Just make yourself something!”
Teen: “Forget it”
Me: “Starve then”
click

Five minutes later…
Teen: “Hi Mom”
Me: “What?”
Teen: “Can you order me a pizza? The place down the street will deliver. You just gotta give em your credit card”
Me: click

Then I come home at the end of the day to the teen still in pajamas, an empty pizza box, dirty dishes, crumpled napkins and crust on the floor that the dog spit out.

“Mom! I found some money! I ordered it myself! I even had enough for some wings!”

He says this beaming with pride. Like this is some sort of real accomplishment and he’s actually thinking that I should be proud of his resourcefulness. Wow. That’s all I can say about this. Wow. He’s going to be living in my basement forever.

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah

Then there’s the 10 year old.

She’s not old enough to be home alone during the summer for long periods of time. So, I work to pay for camp. Funny thing about that, she bitches every single day that she has to go to camp. Because clearly, kayaking, swimming, playing games, eating s’mores and arts and crafts is a real drag. So we start each day with an attitude. And sometimes tears. That’s always a special way to start the day.

But camp doesn’t start for a few more weeks, so every day we shuffle off to a different friend’s house. Thank God for a great group of helpful parents and good friends. It really does take a village.

Friday morning was exceptionally busy. I had to pick up my son from a friend’s house and bring him home to dog-sit our injured dog, drop Nina off at a friend’s for the day and be at work early. As I was running around (hobbling is actually a better word due to my recent back injury, so there’s that), Nina said she would be in the car waiting. So, I got my shit together, ran limped to the garage and off we went.

Scratch that. Off I went. About a mile down the road I realized I was in the car talking to myself. Nina wasn’t in the back seat. I turned around in someone’s driveway and high-tailed it home, pulled into the driveway and there she was. And she was pissed.

“Don’t say a word! Just get in!” I yelled.

An argument on who’s fault it was that I was down the street while she was in the driveway instead of in the car, where she said she was going to be, was futile and it would only stand to piss me off and my day was already getting off to a not-so-great start. And it was only 7 a.m. At least it was Friday. That’s all I can say.

By the way, this is Day 3 of summer vacation. DAY 3!

I’m already tired and need them back in school. It’s just so much less I have to think about. Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels this way.

To all the stay at home moms, I’d like to to take this opportunity to say “I hate you“.

Ok, I don’t really hate you, I do envy you though. After my surgery in December I was home for 6 weeks, and it was so much easier and less stressful. I didn’t dread the call from the school nurse or the sick kid in the morning or the early releases. There was no worries about how kid one was going to get home from staying late at school or getting kid two on the ice before 5:00. I enjoyed not eating dinner at 8:00 or folding laundry at 10:00 p.m.

Do you work outside of the home? Do you feel more stress when the kids are out of school? How do you deal with it? How do you keep your schedules organized so you don’t, let’s say forget a child at home?

Don’t say alcohol either. Although I find it helps.

For real, I want to know. I totally need you in my village!

 

 

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

gluten free peanut butter cookies(affiliate link) 

My kids are not gluten-free. So honestly, I don’t care if these are gluten-free or not. You may not either. Or maybe you do. I feel for all you parents who have to deal with food allergies. It’s hard enough to get kids to eat as it is, without having to throw allergies into the mix. So gluten free or not, I’m declaring these cookies frigging delicious. They have quickly become my very favorite cookie. Maybe even my very favorite sweetie snack. I heart them. Truly.

Easy enough your kids can make ’em!

These cookies are made in one bowl with only a few ingredients. Flour and butter aren’t on the list either. So there’s that. Nice, right? Peanut butter, eggs, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and vanilla. THAT-IS-IT! Super easy!

Nina can make these cookies in her sleep. They are her thang. They come out perfect every single time. Crispy edges and chewy middles, peanutty and sweet but with juuuuust a hint of salt from the Himalayan Pink Salt sprinkled lightly on the top.

I ask Nina to make these all the time. She’s like my little peanut butter cookie pusher.

If you love peanut butter cookies, you absolutely need to try these. Easy and delicious. Win-Win!

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies
Cuisine: Dessert
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 18 cookies
 
Easy, delicious, gluten free peanut butter cookies.
Ingredients
  • 1 c. smooth peanut butter (not oil on top type)
  • ½ c. packed light brown sugar
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • Pink Himalayan Salt ( or coarse sea salt) for lightly sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside
  3. In a large bowl or bowl of an electric mixer, beat peanut butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until well blended
  4. Using a large ice cream scoop (1½ Tbls) scoop onto sheet, approximately 2 inches apart
  5. Flatten slightly with the tines of a fork (traditional criss-cross pattern) and lightly sprinkle tops with salt. Just a few grains are enough.
  6. Bake 10-12 minutes until edges are slightly browned and cookies are golden.
  7. Cool on pans for 2 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely

gluten free peanut butter cookies

Recipe from Alton Brown’s Everydaycook Cookbook

This is one of my favorite cookbooks. Every single page contains an amazing recipe and beautiful food photography. If you’re looking for a new cookbook to lose yourself in, you can grab it here

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means I receive a small payment if you make a purchase through this link. Thank you for supporting my coffee habit

Boozy Barbecue Fathers’ Day Gift Guide

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means I receive a small payment if you make a purchase through this link. Thank you for supporting my coffee habit.

June is all about last days of school and first day of camp. Bonfires and beaches. Warm, sunny days at the lake and of course, barbecues and beer. I don’t know about you, but when I think about all these things I think about Dads and Fathers’ Day. Also because my father in law (a.k.a. Grumpy or Cranky Frankie) reminds me to not forget his birthday which is the same day as Fathers’ Day, or thereabouts.

Did you know that in the past, a lot of men were upset about the day because it was an “attempt to domesticate manliness with flowers and gifts, most likely paid for by the man himself”.

Men.

Whatever.

We love ya dads! And because we love you, we’re giving you booze and barbecue for Fathers’ Day!  Which, by the way folks is June 18th, Cranky Frankie just reminded me again.

Now go out there Dads and grab your beer, get your buzz on and cook us some meat!

If you’re lost for what to get Dear Old Dad for Fathers’ Day or are looking for something clever, here are some of my favorite gift ideas.

Boozy Barbecue Fathers’ Day Gift Guide

fathers day gift guide

  1. Dad need a hobby? How about Mr. Beer Premium Gold Edition 2 Gallon Homebrewing Craft Beer Making Kit. He can make brew from start to finish with this kit. There’s no need for additional purchases, it’s all in here. That’s a hoppin deal!
  2. Whether dad’s barbecue is world famous because it’s finger-lickin, lip-smackin good or because he burns everything to a crisp, he’d be proud to display this Dad’s BBQ Vintage Tin Sign by the pit.
  3. Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades–Bastes, Butters & Glazes, Too and
  4. How to Grill: The Complete Illustrated Book of Barbecue Techniques, A Barbecue Bible! Cookbook by Steven Raichlen. These books are a must for anyone passionate about BBQ. From the beginner to the sophisticated BBQ chef! I bought this for my husband for Fathers’ Day. Ssssshhhh, don’t tell him! Also, don’t tell him I already sorta kinda read it. I couldn’t take it anymore!
  5. Praise the Lard: Recipes and Revelations from a Legendary Life in Barbecue Here’s another can’t live without barbecue book written by “The Legend” Mike Mills and “Barbecue Heiress” daughter Amy. Anecdotes and almost 100 smokin recipes from 17th Street barbecue royalty. Who can resist recipes like Pork Belly Bites, Ain’t No Thang Like a Chicken Wing and Blackberry Pie? A great read with beautiful full color photos.  The man in your life will love it. Ok, you will too. But, don’t buy it right now and read it and wrap it. That would be wrong.
  6. Barbecuing can be messy business. Dad needs an apron. I have a thing about aprons. They define you as a cook, as a person even. At least mine does. What does your apron say about you? Is it a bikini body or funny cartoon or a smart ass phrase? This apron is definitely going into the gift bag. It says it all!
  7. Does the man in your life prefer wine? This Wine for Two Gift Box includes two wine tumblers and two wine twirls chillers that sit at the bottom of your wine glass for a refreshing sip every time. So “swirl and twirl” and enjoy!
  8. I personally love this new  YETI Hopper Two Portable Cooler. Tough as nails and ice for days! The new tapered design makes it easy to load (and unload) and carry and it is nearly indestructible. YETIs are pricey but they are so worth it! If you are an outdoorsman, you need to make this investment. They really are fantastic products! My husband loves his YETI Tundra 75 Cooler. It’s big and heavy, but they do sell two-axel wheels separately, of course. I think my husband would have a tough choice to make if someone said “It’s either the wife, or the YETI”.
  9. ROCKS Whiskey Chilling Stones Handcrafted Granite Round Sipping Rocks with Hardwood Presentation and Storage Tray is a unique gift for a whiskey lover. These stunning, eco-friendly granite stones will quickly chill your spirits without watering down your drink.  They come in a gorgeous hardwood presentation and storage tray and would make a beautiful addition to the home bar. These would make a perfect companion for a good bottle. Here are a few recommendations if you need soe help. Whistle Pig Straight Rye Whiskey for the rye lover,  and you can’t go wrong with an exceptionally smooth Gentleman Jack and if you’re looking for bourbon, Maker’s Mark is a great choice for a wheat bourbon.
  10. Mason Shaker Barware Set I loved this! Of course I do have a fondness for Mason jars, but who doesn’t? This set comes with a Mason Shaker,  a natural hardwood muddler, a Jigger (.75 oz) and an awesome book called “Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails” that contains 168 Pages of recipes like the Watermelon Daiquiri and The Down Easter. Yes Please!

Remember, nothing replaces the gift of time. Bring him some lunch. Help him out around the house. Play a few games of cribbage and just be present. There are many that would give anything for just that.

Have a great Fathers’ Day!

Let me tell you a secret about a father’s love 
A secret that my daddy said was just between us
He said daddies don’t just love their children every now and then
It’s a love without end, amen

-Love Without End Amen, George Straight-

Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies

I’ve got to know.

Sprinkles or Jimmies?

In New Hampshire, we call them jimmies. Well, I call them jimmies and I’m from New Hampshire, so I’m guessing everyone in New Hampshire does too. Actually, that’s only partially true. Because I say chocolate jimmies and rainbow sprinkles. And sometimes I say chocolate sprinkles. Ok, I’m wishy-washy. It’s all part of my charm.

chocolate sprinkle cookies

I do love me some chocolate jimmies though. I think I could stick my tongue into a tub of them and be perfectly okay with that. Wrong? Sure. But as always, this is a judge-free zone.

If you like jimmies or sprinkles or whatever you call them, you’re gonna love these Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies. Oh, and if you like chocolate, you’ll love them even more. These cookies are like little, cakey dark chocolate brownies covered completely in delicious, chocolatey sprinkles. See? I said sprinkles.

I can picture these in red, white and blue for those Memorial Day cookouts coming up this weekend. What d’ya think? Colored sprinkles really don’t have any flavor, not like the chocolate ones do. And even the chocolate sprinkles aren’t really super chocolaty, unless they are really good quality. And let’s be honest, good quality sprinkles are kind of a waste if you’re just sticking your tongue in the container. But, no one would ever really do that.

I make these cookies often. A lot of times I use rainbow sprinkles, just because they’re purdy. But the chocolate on chocolate version is my personal fave. I love how dense they are and because they’re made with cocoa powder and not chips, they aren’t super sweet. These got rave reviews from the neighbors, by the way. Like, “Here’s your empty plate. We’ll wait while you whip up another batch” type review.

They are easy and fun to make with the kids too, if you’re looking for something for your budding baker to help you with in the kitchen. There aren’t a lot of ingredients and shaping dough into balls and rolling them in sprinkles is always a good “chore” for the kiddos. They can’t really screw it up and the perfectionist in me can chill.

chocolate sprinkle cookies

I’ll be making these for a neighborhood Memorial Day partay on Sunday. What kind of treats are you serving up this weekend?

chocolate sprinkle cookies

Whatever you’re cooking up this weekend, make sure to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this great country.

Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies
Recipe type: dessert
 
These cute, dense chocolate, sprinkle covered cookies are simple and delicious. They
Ingredients
  • 1 c. butter
  • 1½ c brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 c. flour
  • ¾ c. cocoa powder (I used Scharffen Berger Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder)
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder1 tsp. salt
  • ½ c. chocolate sprinkles
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy
  3. Add in eggs, one at a time mixing completely after each
  4. Mix in vanilla
  5. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix until blended
  6. Add flour mixture to wet mixture and beat on low until fully combined
  7. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in fridge until dough is chilled for at least 30 minutes
  8. Roll two tablespoons of dough into a ball and then into sprinkles (or granulated sugar if you want)
  9. Place balls on a parchment lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart and bake for 9-11 minutes, edges will be slightly firm and centers will be a bit soft
  10. Cool for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack
  11. allow cookies to cool on baking sheet

Recipe at Created by Diane

 

 

 

 

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Chinese Takeout Burger with Asian Slaw #BurgerMonth

It’s my turn to show off an epic burger for #BurgerMonth at #GirlCarnivore. May has been filled with burgers of all kinds. Made from all kinds of proteins, vegetables, fruits and cheeses. Some healthy, some not too much.

Chinese Takeout Burger with Asian Slaw

This burger was put together by my clever husband. We made our own crab rangoons, just because we had nothing better to do. But really this burger is for those leftover “crabbies” hanging around after overindulging in Friday night takeout.
leftover chinese takeout burger with fresh asian slaw

Asian Slaw

The Asian slaw is my favorite part of this burger. A tangy, flavorful, peanut dressing coats this crunchy, fresh slaw made with cabbage, carrots, red and yellow peppers. I couldn’t stop eating this stuff! You can serve it as a side but it’s even better sitting atop those delicious fried, cream cheese filled wontons.

asian salw

Sweet Chili Sauce

Then there’s the sauce (insert Homer Simpson drool noise here). This sweet, spicy chili sauce has a kick, but not so much of a kick that you want to stick your tongue in a glass of milk or dab it with a piece of bread (am I the only one who does that?). It’s sweet and zingy. Soooooooo gooooood! This sauce is incredible on wings too, by the way.

Crab Rangoons

These homemade crab rangoons are so good. Of course, feel free to use the leftovers. We always order more crabbies than we should when we get Chinese takeout. So, this is a different way to enjoy them a day later. It’s quicker and less messy too. Just sayin.
rangooncrab rangoon

Honestly, the burger is just a vessel for all the other good stuff on top. I added some subtle Asian flavors into the patties, but the slaw, rangoons and sweet chili sauce are the heroes here. You could totally get away with a plain burger patty and not feel like you’re missing something. But the ketchup and brown sugar give the patty a beautiful caramelization, see?

asian burger

When you bite into this burger, you get the creaminess of the insides of the rangoons, the fresh taste of the slaw and the amazing sweet, hot kick of the sauce all at once, and it is A-W-E-S-O-M-E!

Chinese takeout burger with asian slaw and sweet chili sauce

The Giveaway!

This burger was created especially for #BURGERMONTH 2017. A celebration happening all month long here and at Girl Carnivore and all across the interwebs with over 100 talented foodies.

I’d like to throw out a special thanks to these awesome brands for supporting our burger habits American Lamb Board, Anolon.  Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner, Char-Broil, Curly’s BBQ, Cuttingboard.com, Melissa’s Produce, Primal Stone, Spiceologist , Thermoworks , & Veal Made Easy and for the KICK BUTT Grill Prizes!!

Be sure to follow #BURGERMONTH to check them all out! And most importantly head on over to BurgerMonth.com to enter for these awesome prizes!!

burgerbanner

PRIZES:

●      American Lamb Board – (ALB prize boxes 5 lbs of ground lamb, an apron and a meat thermometer
●      Anolon – 10″x 18″ Double Burner Griddle and Grill Pan
●      Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner – prize packs of beefy grilling-themed goodies
●      Char-Broil – Char-Broil Kettleman Grill
●      Curly’s BBQ – Curly’s BBQ Pork Pack
●      Cuttingboard.com – Olive Wood Carver Bo
●      Melissa’s Produce – Baby vegetable box
●      Primal Stone – XL Primal Stone
●      Spiceologist –  4 Rub Grilling Spice Set
●      Thermoworks –  Thermapen Mk4
●      Veal Made Easy – 5 lbs Veal and grilling gear

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chinese Takeout Burger with Asian Slaw and Sweet Chili Sauce
 
This epic burger is a delicious fusion burger topped with creamy crab rangoons, crunchy peanut Asian slaw and a zingy sweet chili garlic sauce. Definitely not your average burger!
Ingredients
  • Burger
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ¼ c ketchup
  • 1 Tbls brown sugar
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 egg
  • Crab Rangoons
  • 6 oz imitation crabmeat, chopped or canned crabmeat
  • 1 8 oz. package softened cream cheese
  • 1 Tbls granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbls Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 green onions, finely sliced
  • Oil for frying
  • Asian Slaw
  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, finely grated
  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbls soy sauce
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • 2 Tbls sesame oil
  • ½ c creamy peanut butter
  • 1 head Napa cabbage, sliced thin
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
  • 2 serrano chiles, finely minced
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 3 green onions, all of white part and half of the green, cut on the bias (or not, it really doesn't matter)
  • 2 Tbls cilantro, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • Sweet Chili Sauce
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 4 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • ½ c corn syrup
  • ⅓ c granulated sugar
  • ¼ c Sri Racha or Thai Chili Garlic Sauce
  • 1 Tbls soy sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp garlic, minced
Instructions
  1. Slaw
  2. In a blender or food processor, blend ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, oil, and peanut butter and process until smooth.
  3. In a large bowl add all remaining ingredients and toss with dressing. You may not use all the dressing. It's great on rice noodles!
  4. Sweet Chili Sauce
  5. Dissolve cornstarch in rice wine vinegar in a small bowl
  6. Combine vinegar mix in a small saucepan with all remaining ingredients and cook over medium/low heat stirring frequently until the sauce reaches a boil. Remove from heat, cool cover and chill. If sauce thickens too much and you are unable to pour, just heat it up a tad until pourable.
  7. Crab Rangoons
  8. Mix all ingredients and place 1 tablespoon mixture in wonton wrapper. Brush with water (I use my finger) and press to seal completely.
  9. Heat oil to 325F and place a few wontons in oil at a time and fry until edges are browned and crispy and flip over and fry until nicely browned. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate with paper towels.
  10. Burger
  11. Mix all ingredients together and form into patties. Place on a hot griddle or cast iron pan and cook until edges are "gray" and "lacy" then flip and cook until desired doneness.
  12. To Prepare burger, place on a bun, top with crab rangoons, slaw and sweet chili sauce and enjoy!

Slaw recipe came from here

Asian Sweet Chili Sauce slightly adapted from here

 

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Crockpot Vegetable Soup

I love vegetables. And I buy a lot of them. I get a little overzealous when things look super fresh. Honestly, a lot of them don’t get eaten. For whatever reason, the crisper ends up with leftover veggies that are, shall I say, no longer at their best.

crockpot vegetable soup

Stop feeding the trash can!

If this happens to you, I have a suggestion. Make this soup. Don’t waste all that food! Make a healthy, delicious, flavorful soup to enjoy for lunches, a light dinner or even a snack to stave off the hungry horrors.

For me this is a win-win. I started Weight Watchers last week (down 4 pounds, thank you very much) and this soup is pretty much free points (depending on what you throw in there, some veggies have points).

This is also one of my favorite soups because really, there are no rules. You just use whatever veggies you have left over at the end of the week. No green beans this week? No problem! There is no wrong way to make this. All you do is chop up your veggies and toss them in the crockpot with some broth. Cook four hours on high and you’re done.

Ok, I lied. There are a couple of rules. I know, I know. But there are a couple of veggies I find you really need for a good flavorful stock. The French call it Mirepoix (meer-pwah). Which is usually 2 parts onion to one part each carrots and celery.  I use this in pretty much all my soups.

crockpot vegetable soupI had some extra fresh basil, so I whipped it up with a bit of olive oil and a clove of garlic and added a little dollop to each bowl. The pesto added a little more depth of flavor and the fresh garlic added just a touch of heat. Feel free to leave that out if you don’t have any or just don’t like basil. The soup was delish without it. But my window basil plant needed a little trimming and I didn’t want to waste it.

This is great for the warmer weather that is (hopefully) coming our way. The crockpot won’t heat up the house. You’ll use up all the veggies you overbought at the farmers’ market and you won’t add any extra jiggle to you backside.

Does it get any better than that? I think not.

Crockpot Vegetable Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
 
A delicious, healthy, barely any prep crockpot soup that uses up any unused veggies you have on hand so they don't go to waste. Delicious for a satisfying lunch, snack or light dinner
Ingredients
  • 1 32 oz. box Chicken Broth (or veggie or beef)
  • 1 large onion, chopped into small pieces (but not minced)
  • 1½ c mushrooms
  • 4 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1 head garlic, minced
  • 1 c celery, chopped
  • 2 c green beans, 1" slices
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 c frozen corn
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Pesto
  • 1 c fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 Tbls olive oil
Instructions
  1. Put all soup ingredients in the crockpot and heat on high for 4 hours
  2. Pesto
  3. Place all ingredients in a blender and puree
  4. Add desired amount of pesto to soup and enjoy!
Notes
This is what I used. If you have different veggies on-hand or like different veggies, change it up!
Use the mirepoix and whatever else you have on hand (i.e. zucchini, summer squash, kale, escarole, baby spinach, etc)
If you want you can also add some pasta (mini raviolis, orzo, alphabets) or even some leftover chopped chicken

crockpot vegetable soup

 

 

 

 

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Happy New Year!

Yes, that’s right. Happy New Year! If you’re thinking I’ve hit my head or hit the bottle, neither is correct. Well, maybe one is correct. So why, you ask am I saying “Happy New Year”? Well, I’ll tell you.

My birthday is in May. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I hate my birthday. Always have. Put your psychology pants away folks, it’s simple. I hate the thought of getting older. I don’t even like songs that make me think of getting older. “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac sends me into a fit and even though I love Luke Bryan and his butt, the song “Fast” makes me want to sit in a corner, look at the kids’ baby pictures and cry.

I don’t even really like to celebrate anyone’s birthday. It isn’t uncommon for me to even forget my family. I may have had to wrap up a pair of my husband’s jeans for his birthday just so the kids could give him something. I lost a few votes in the “Best Wife” category that year. I did go out and get a nice Carvel cake though. No one can resist those crunchy cookie thingies. Ok, that didn’t really earn me back any more wifey points. But it was something.

new year resolutionsSince I have always looked at my birthday as such a negative thing, I try very hard to use that month as a time to make positive changes. My New Year. I always have my annual physical and mammogram in May. See how fun and positive? I started this blog in May. Keep an eye out for some rocking blogiversary giveaways, by the way. YAY! More positivity!

The past year has been kind of a crappy health year for me. Lyme disease, a hysterectomy, anxiety, weight gain. All of it. Honestly, I’ve been in complete denial about the weight gain.

“Damn yoga pants shrunk in the dryer!”

“Cheap zippers!”

Have you been there? It sucks when you finally see it. It’s definitely a “WTF?” moment.

I woke up the other morning and when I looked in the mirror, I saw my grandmother. It was horrifying. I loved my Grammy to pieces and all, but truth be told, she looked like Ursula, the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid.  For realz. If you knew her, you’re laughing right now. Now that you have that picture in your head, you can imagine it was a wake up call for me. I couldn’t hit the “Register Now” button on the Weight Watcher site fast enough I tell ya.

It seems like everything hit me all of a sudden. I was putting on my makeup and I said words to myself that no woman, or person for that matter, should ever say. Mean things. Things that would break my heart in teeny tiny pieces if I ever heard them come from my daughter’s mouth.

You can’t make a horse out of horse shit

Then I cried, had a little panic attack at the thought of the loss of control my youth, blew my nose, pulled on my big girl pants (literally and metaphorically) and decided getting a plan of action would be more beneficial than say, taking down a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

Negative thinking can be very powerful if you choose to use it in a positive way. Those nasty words didn’t force me to throw on a pair of old sweatpants, take an Atavan and cry until my eyes swelled shut. No siree bub! They pushed me to make some changes and do something about the things that are annoying me and adding to those previously mentioned panic attacks.

Time time is now for positive changes!

Don’t want to be fat?

Stop eating crap and move your ass.

Don’t like missing appointments and being late all the time?

Get your shit together!* stay tuned for more on that topic (wink, wink, hint, hint)

Want changes in your life?

Make them happen! No one else is gonna do it for you. 

Want to feel pretty?

Spend some time on yourself. Color your hair, buy a new pair of shoes, get your nails done, get a facial, wax something. It does take time, especially as you age (sympathetic pat on your back).

Whatever it takes! You deserve it! We all do.

I am going to be 46 people! FORTY-EFFING-SIX! Closer to 50 than 40. I can hear AARP calling my name in the distance. It’s time to get shit done.

This is my time! I’ve said it many times before, as I’m sure many of you have also. But,

I can’t do anything about yesterday. I can only change right now.

Today I’m stepping out of my comfort zones, stopping the excuses for what is holding me back, and taking steps to make those positive things happen. I have 2 major issues that need to be tackled and have the crap beat out of them right now. Health and Organization. Who’s with me? You forty something women out there with busy lives and busy kids? I know you’re with me! Oh and hey, if you aren’t with me, can you send me some helpful tips, because I’m a big ol’ mess right now.

What is is that you want to change? I would absolutely love to hear from you. I’m dying to know what kind of crap is holding you back and making you’re life a little less happy. We’re all in this together.

 

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Cherry Cheesecake Jars and How to Pack A Picnic

It’s that time of year. The need to be outside has completely kicked in. Especially after an 85 degree Easter Sunday. The windows have been open, letting out all the indoor winter air. The trees are in bloom and the grass is greening up. Of course, allergies are also in full bloom.

You can’t let that stop you from getting outside though. Just pop some Claritin, stuff some tissues in your pocket and get outside. Take a hike, do some fishing, play on a swing set, have a picnic.

no bake cherry cheesecake jar

I am not a big outdoors-y type person, I admit. Last spring Nina and I took a hike and the next morning I woke up unable to move my leg due to a deer tick embedded in my butt. After a diagnosis of Lyme disease and three antibiotic treatments later, I finally felt better and vowed never to go outside again.

But life’s too short for that and I’m sick of being stuck in the house. I have been wanting to do more inexpensive, quality type activities with the kids and having a picnic is at the top of my list. I used to love packing up some sandwiches and snacks and heading out on my bike with my friends. We’d find a spot near a stream or the lake and break out the food. Even if we were just hanging out in the backyard, it always seemed more special with a picnic lunch.

Here are a couple of ideas for packing the perfect picnic lunch.

  • Food safety first! Make sure foods that need to stay cold, do! Freeze half-filled water bottles then fill em up and use them as ice packs. They’ll keep your food chilled and be ready to drink when you get where you’re going.
  • Mason jars are great for building layered salads. Place wetter ingredients on the bottom (i.e. salad dressing) and more delicate ingredients on the top (i.e. salad greens). Shake em up and dig in!
  • Pack heavier items on the bottom and more fragile items on top.
  • Wrap up your individual silverware settings in a cloth napkin and they’re ready to go.
  • Don’t forget the extras! Salad dressing, salt and pepper and condiments will make your meal perfect!
  • Don’t forget a bag for trash!

no bake cherry cheesecake jar

Cherry Cheesecake Jars
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
 
A simple, no-bake, creamy, cheesecake packed in portion perfect mason jars. A delicious ending to a picnic!
Ingredients
  • Crust
  • 2 c. crushed graham crackers (about 12)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tbls. granulated sugar
  • Filling
  • 1 c. heavy cream, chilled
  • 1 (8 oz) block of cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ½ c. sugar
  • Topping
  • 2 (8oz) cans Cherry Pie Filling *Use whatever flavors you want. Mix em up!
Instructions
  1. Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter together until it looks like wet sand and put about 2½ Tablespoons of the mixture in each jar and press down gently, either with the back of a spoon or your fingers wrapped in plastic wrap so the crumbs don't stick, then set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the cold heavy cream until stiff peaks form, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to another bowl and set aside
  3. In the bowl of the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese, vanilla and sugar together until creamy, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add half the whipped cream and mix until blended. Then fold the other half in gently to keep it light and airy, not heavy and dense.
  5. Spoon about ⅓ cup cheesecake mixture into each jar and press down gently with a spoon to remove air bubbles. You can even tap them gently on the counter (on a towel so the jar doesn't break). Continue with all the jars until the filling is evenly divided into each jar
  6. If it looks messy, just wipe the inside of the top of the jar with a damp paper towel.
  7. Top with about 2 Tablespoons fruit pie filling and cover each jar and place in the fridge for about an hour to chill and firm up. Jars can keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Notes
You'll need 6 (8oz) half-pint wide mouth mason jars

You can easily double this recipe

 

 

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Chocolate Babka

It’s Easter week! That means Babka around here. If you have never tried Babka, I suggest you do. I like to say Babka, it’s a fun little word. And it’s a delicious little bread. A dessert bread actually.

polish chocolate babka

“Dessert bread?” you say.

Yep. It’s a thing. For those of you who may like something not too sweet to enjoy with a steaming cup of coffee after your big Easter meal. This is perfect.

The dough has a hint of cinnamon and swirled with a rich, chocolate filling and studded with toasted walnuts. It’s twisted and topped with a light, sweet streusel.

Polish Chocolate Babka

It’s perfect alone, but even better slathered with a bit of creamy, butter.

I had never made this particular babka before, but decided to follow along with the monthly King Arthur Flour Bakealong. If you haven’t tried one of their challenges, they are really great. They have step by step photo instructions and if you have any questions, there is a hotline number to call. These challenges are great if you are looking to become a better baker or just want to try out a new recipe. And of course you can always show off your delicious masterpiece on Instagram at #Bakealong.

I always hesitate to make breads because of the time they take with all the rising and resting. I’m not usually home for long periods at a time, and I’m not really familiar with breads enough to know what will happen if I say let it rise for an extra couple of hours, I guess I should call the hotline myself. But I was planning on not getting out of my pajamas the other day, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

I found this recipe to be really simple, it really looks harder than it is. It is impressive! You’ll get lots of ooohs and aaaahs if you bring this on Easter Sunday or any day, for that matter.

Let me know if you give it a shot and make sure you come join me for the May Bakealong!

Happy Easter!

Here is the recipe straight from King Arthur Flour!

Chocolate Babka
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Polish
 
An impressive sweet bread, loaded and swirled with chocolate, nuts and cinnamon. Beautifully braided and topped with streusel
Ingredients
  • DOUGH
  • 1 to 1¼ cups lukewarm water (110F)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6¼ cups All-Purpose Flour
  • ⅓ cup Nonfat dry milk
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2½ teaspoons salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature*
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • *Reduce the salt to 2¼ teaspoons if you use salted butter.
  • FILLING
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup Cocoa powder, Dutch-process or natural
  • ½ teaspoon espresso powder
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped semisweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips, mini chips preferred
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted if desired
  • GLAZE
  • 1 large egg beaten with a pinch of salt until well-combined
  • TOPPING
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅔ cup confectioners' sugar
  • ½ cup All-Purpose Flour
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the dough ingredients (starting with the lesser amount of water), mixing until everything is moistened. Add additional water if needed to allow the dough to come together.
  2. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Then mix/knead until it's soft and smooth.
  3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and cover. Let rise in a warm, draft-free spot for about 1½ to 2 hours, until nice and puffy. *see Notes
  4. Gently deflate the dough by giving it a gentle squeeze and divide it in half. Set the pieces aside, covered, while you make the filling.
  5. To make the filling: Combine the sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, and espresso. Stir in the melted butter. The mixture will look grainy and shiny; perfect.
  6. Shape each half of the dough into a 9" x 18", ¼"-thick rectangle. If the dough "fights back," let it rest for 10 minutes, then stretch it some more. Don't be fussy about size; 19" or 20" is as good as 18".
  7. Smear each piece of the dough with half the filling, coming to within an inch of the edges.
  8. Scatter half the chocolate (make a thin layer), half the nuts, and half the chopped chocolate/chips over each piece.
  9. Starting with a short end, roll each piece gently into a log, pinching to seal the seam and ends. Working with one log at a time, use a sharp knife or bench scraper to cut the log in half lengthwise (not crosswise) to make two pieces of dough about 10" long each; cut carefully, to prevent too much filling from spilling out. With the exposed filling side up, twist the two pieces into a braid (not really a braid, but more of a twist), tucking the ends underneath. Repeat with the other log. Place each log into a lightly greased 9" x 5" loaf pan.
  10. Brush each loaf with the egg glaze. Mix together the topping ingredients until crumbly, and sprinkle half the topping over each loaf.
  11. Tent each pan with plastic wrap, and let the loaves rise until they're very puffy and have crowned a good inch over the rim of the pan, 1½ to 2½ hours.
  12. Preheat your oven to 300°F toward the end of the rise time. (if using oven to proof, take breads out before you preheat!)
  13. Bake the bread for 35 minutes. Tent lightly with foil, and bake for an additional 15 to 25 minutes (for a total of 50 to 60 minutes); the loaves should be a rich-golden brown.
  14. The bread is perfectly baked when it registers at least 190°F on an instant read thermometer.
  15. Remove the loaves from the oven, and immediately loosen the edges with a spatula or table knife. Let the loaves cool for 10 minutes, then turn them out of the pans onto a rack to cool completely.
  16. Slice the babka and serve it at room temperature; or rewarm individual slices briefly in a toaster oven with a little bit of butter, if desired. There won't be any leftovers, but if there are just store, well wrapped, at room temperature. Freeze for longer storage.

 

 

 

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The End of an Era

Hockey

My little boy turned fifteen at the end of March. He isn’t so little anymore. A fact that he reminds me of several times a day, as he is now much taller that I am.

When we were younger, I say we because I know every parent uttered the same words to their children, “Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. It goes by in the blink of an eye”. Naturally, we didn’t listen. It isn’t something you have a sense of when you’re young. You live in the moment, just as you should as a kid.

In the blink of an eye

Then at some point, you realize they were right and you wonder how it went by so fast. I don’t think the reality of it hit me until my kids were born. Just yesterday they were babies. I still remember how sweet their little heads smelled and how soft their skin was. How innocent and gentle and silly and impressionable they were “just yesterday”.

I remember when Andrew was four. I put him on ice skates for the first time. Honestly thinking he’d hate being so constricted in all the gear, but feeling it was my duty as a New Englander to make sure he knew how to skate. He got out there padded from head to toe, grabbed his little milk crate to help him stay upright and off he went. Right on his butt. He was so awkward. He spent more time sitting on the ice than skating on it, even with the help of the crate. I knew when he came off that would probably be the last time he would want to go the rink. But he got off the ice and let us know how much fun he had and couldn’t wait until the next lesson.

That was the end of any free time we had. From then on it was lessons, practices, tryouts, games. It didn’t matter if he had to wake up at 4:00 in the morning to get out on the ice. He’d sleep in his skates, if we’d have let him. He never complained. He loved the sport.

When he was ten, he developed arthritis. I know, right? Arthritis? It affected several joints, but his ankle was the most painful. It was so swollen that he couldn’t bend it at all. Putting pressure on it was agonizing. But he would wake up even earlier than normal so I could massage his foot enough to get it into the skate boot. Sometimes the pain of just getting on his skates would bring him to tears, but that never stopped him. Sometimes he’d get sick from the pain, but he’d keep going. Clean it up and get back out there. The heart of a hockey player if I ever saw one.

Throughout his illness, he was fortunate to have had amazing coaches. They always encouraged him. They pushed him when they could and knew when to pull back when he’d had enough. His teammates were always there to help him out, make him laugh or give him a hard time like boys will do. They were tight.

Fortunately he healed and, knock on wood, it has not returned. But I will never forget how special our hockey family was. We ate together, laughed together, cried together. We were together early in the morning and late at night. These coaches and teammates and their families became our family.

I can’t imagine our time with them is done. But after a devastating 3-1 loss in the second round of the playoffs, it is. I walked out of the rink without saying goodbye to anyone, it was too hard. I know I’ll see them again soon.

Andrew won’t be playing in that league next year, he’ll play only high school hockey. His coach will not be coaching again and the other boys will be playing elsewhere as well. Everyone is moving on. We say we’ll keep in touch. I hope that’s true, but isn’t that what everyone says? You’ve got to make the effort, like anything. It’s hard to think that it was just a blip in time. That we could just blink and it would be gone and these people would not play any more part in our lives.

Every hockey family knows this feeling. Actually any team that spends this much time together knows it. Most would say they wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m going to agree. Every awful smelling car ride, injury, win and loss was worth the precious time that was spent with these special people in the early morning hours and the super late nights, the Turkey Tournaments and team dinners.

Although we won’t miss the actual chore of carting these kids around, the time spent in the car with the kids will certainly be missed. When you have a captive audience, there are many opportunities for serious conversations and you never know what you might learn. There were some pretty great moments that took place en route to all those practices and games that may never have if we hadn’t been forced into the car with each other so often.

We may not have hockey anymore, but we have those memories and friendships that we were fortunate to have built during many frozen hours.

Enjoy every moment.

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