Thursday, July 24, 2014

Making a move and my awesome salad

Hello Crushers!

Today is the last day that I had to pack a lunch for my full-time job with the international medical society that I work for. Tomorrow we are all going out to lunch as a treat, so this is it. I'm sure I will pack a million more lunches in my lifetime between traveling, camping, Steve and our kids. That's a lot of PBJ!

This morning I rushed around the kitchen getting last minute things done (yes, I had to touch up my toe-nail polish) and making my lunch. I did not think very hard about doing it. Mostly this was my inner thought process: I should take an apple. And some cantaloupe before the cantaloupe goes bad. Take the last piece of string cheese - hope Steve doesn't mind! Oh, there's that lettuce from the garden. Steve is going to pick more lettuce, so I should eat that up. What to put on the lettuce? Cucumbers from the farmer's market? OK! Ooooh! There's leftover chicken from last night's Asian Ginger Chicken (Wildtree)! Score! Do I have time to slice a tomato? No. Bummer."

My tomato-less salad.
I will be making a career change to stay at home mom (SAHM)/part-time professor/something new that I'll tell you about soon. The last time I changed jobs, I had more of a "See ya! Don't get between me and the door!" feeling. I was burned out and needed something new. Four years later and I am married with a baby and a much healthier me! I can only imagine what the next four years are going to look like!

This is why I have mixed emotions about leaving my job. I enjoy the people I work with and the tasks I do. I have been able to travel to far-off, exciting places and eat incredible foods (kangaroo anyone?). However, I get to be home more as Ellie's mama, and you can't beat that.

For the men and women who have to work or choose to work and can't be home, I am impressed by everything you do for your family. For the full-time and part-time stay-at-home moms and dads, I'm impressed by everything you do for your family. I'm not judging anyone; this is just what works best for our family at this time. I'm sure you're doing the same.

Before the school year starts again and I go back to being Prof. W, we are going to take some time to relax up at our cabin. My dad is getting to build his dream garage up there and we will be there to help (and shop and swim and fish!). It's the perfect place to recharge out batteries. Hopefully, I will have another career move to share with you soon. More on that later. For now, I'm going to enjoy my salad and stop being so contemplative because really, it's a salad. It's not the first and won't be the last. Plus, I got stuff to do!

In the meantime, here is how I made the chicken:
I followed the recipe for Grilled Asian Ginger Chicken and made it into a freezer meal. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the veggies thawed out. They weren't soggy like I thought they would be. Instead of grilling them because we ran out of time, we just cooked them in a frying pan on the stovetop. They were DELICIOUS with some brown rice and frozen sherbert for dessert. Yum!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Virtual Running Date No. 50: A Camping we will go!

Good morning, Crushers!

If this was a running date (and I've been cleared for running again - whoot!), I'd tell you all about our camping trip.

We got back from our camping trip on Sunday night, and I would like to say it was a total success. We had perfect weather - upper 70's-low 80's - and less mosquitoes than I thought. Like many northern states, Wisconsin could claim that the mosquito is the state bird during summer. I'm glad it's really the robin though. I digress...

View from top of the fire watch tower.
People told us to our face that we were nuts for taking a 3 month old camping. I even thought it when I saw how packed our SUV was just to take two adults and one tiny person to Peninsula State Park for 2 nights. So. Much. Stuff. We may cave and get a minivan before you know it. Or a truck. Anyway...

We camped with our friends Adam and Erin and their three girls (ages 5, 3, and 1.5). They camp like pros and bring everything you could possibly need for five families. Now that's some awesome preparation. The only things we forgot were a light blankie for Ellie and a bottle brush. Not too bad for our first camping trip with a kiddo!
Hiking with Ellie! (Yes, she had a hat, but I took it off for the photo)
 Our eggs and sausages with the chopped up veggies made breakfast easy. Erin and Adam had noodles with their girls the night before, so they asked if we could add them to some of the eggs. Scrambled eggs and noodles? Apparently it's a family recipe from their German heritage. No matter, it was surprisingly delicious! The breakfast cookies were also a hit. Only four ingredients and it was nice to just have a quick breakfast before packing up the tent!
Playing in the shade with daddy!

Erin made tacos and had all the fixings for dinner. Tacos while camping? OK! Again, delicious. We had a picnic lunch by the beach after seeing a lighthouse and climbing a fire watch tower. Camping was great.

Now to do it all over again next weekend... We are nuts.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Camp cooking: Breakfast "cookies" and food prep

Hello Crushers,

Note: Yes, this is Friday, so technically there should be a Faith-filled Friday blog post, but I switched it up and did that yesterday. Here is a recipe instead.

As you know, Steve and I love being outdoors. This includes camping. This means we're taking our 3-month-old daughter camping this weekend. This probably means we're half nuts.

I'm really OK with that.

We're camping with some friends who have 3 girls under the age of 6, so we'll all just be kid wranglers. They've done this tons of times, so if we start letting our novice show, they can help guide us to where we need to go. I'm very thankful that they are also experienced camping cooks and are making tacos for us on Saturday night! WIN!

Since we're dividing up the cooking duties, we have breakfast to make. We're going to do omelets on our little propane stove top. In order to make this as headache free as possible, I chopped up a bunch of veggies ahead of time and put them in little plastic food containers. Although, I've been moving toward more glass containers at home, I'm sticking with plastic for camping because a) it's lighter and b) I don't care as much if I drop or break it.

We are packing eggs, cheese, butter, milk, cooking spray, diced peppers, diced onions, other veggies for snacking, PBJ fixings, and these breakfast "cookies" that I found on the Internet thanks to Pinterest. Unfortunately, the link doesn't go to the same recipe. It goes to some paleo breakfast bars with almond flour, so I have no idea who to attribute this recipe to. Since I didn't follow the recipe exactly anyway, here is my version of breakfast cookies.

Breakfast "cookies"
2-3 Very ripe bananas
1.5 cups oats (I used old fashioned oats)
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 tsp-ish cinnamon

Peel and mash the bananas in a bowl. I found it easier to break the banana in pieces first. Stir in the oats, applesauce and cinnamon. Then you can either add the raisins or save them to sprinkle on top. Since I was making these at 10:30 p.m. last night, I ended up baking these in a greased 13 x 9 pan so they're more like bars than cookies. I sprinkled the raisins on top instead of mixing them in because I thought it looked nice.



Thursday, July 17, 2014

Because cancer sucks, that's why.

Hey Crushers,

Today is not a food-based blog post. Today is a day that we all need to lift some people up in prayer. Why? Because cancer freakin' sucks, that's why. So we're going to have a Faith-filled Friday a bit early.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  - Psalm 121:1-2

Liz, over at A Mothership Down, cracks me up. She is Nolan's mommy and a fantastic writer. Most of the time she shares witty, and hilarious, observations on life. motherhood, and her baby's fantastic hair. Today's blog post was neither witty, nor hilarious. Today's blog post was from one mama for another. As part of this new tribe called motherhood, I want to share it too.

Please take the time to read about Saiorse's story and CareAline products that help make life a little more comfortable for people with various diseases including cancer. I had a central line in my chest as a 10-year-old while fighting osteomyelitis (a bone infection), and it always felt in the way. This product would have been so helpful back in 1994. (I know I posted 1993 as a commenter on A Mothership Down, but I just realized my math was bad.)

If you feel moved to donate to get this product to more people, please feel free to do so. They have an indegogo page for fundraising. I donated because a) I could have used this product, b) I nearly cried into my coffee cup thinking about how strong this mama is to honor her daughter by helping more people and c) CANCER SUCKS.

I know too many people who have or are battled/ing chronic diseases and cancer that it makes me feel like I'm the common denominator. Fortunately, for me, that's not the case. Unfortunately, that means we all know too many people battling diseases that require PICC or central lines.

If you're still feeling giving, please also consider donating to my cousin's 2014 24-hour Booty Ride (it's a bike ride) page. Jim has biked over 3,000 miles to prepare for this event to honor his wife who has been battling breast cancer for over 2 years. They were supposed to be the photographers for our wedding when Mari was diagnosed. We quickly had to scramble to find other photographers (thanks Emily and Jon!) while they dove into the world of chemo, radiation, side effects, hair loss, and all the ups and downs of cancer treatment. We got to see them just a few weeks ago when they visited from NC, and let me tell you that I have rarely seen such a beautiful spirit!

Let's all lift our friends and family who are battling cancer. Ask God to surround them with love and care and healing in whatever form that might be. Let's ask to guide their medical staff and uplift their caregivers. And if the unthinkable happens, let's ask that they are welcomed into Heaven and Jesus' open arms.

Go ahead now and get some Kleenex and hug some people. You know you want to.

Monday, July 14, 2014

And we're back...

Hello Crushers!
Sorry for the nearly three months (tomorrow!) of silence. I've been a little busy with a brand new person taking up most of time and attention. Wait I take that back. I'm not sorry. I'm LOVING my daughter, and don't mind her taking up my time. She's pretty amazing.

Hi, I'm Ellie. Nice to meet you.
She has captivated our hearts and minds since the day we met her. And she took her sweet time getting here, too! Must take after her mother...

In addition to all things baby, Steve and I have been balancing a lot more of the cooking. He's a pretty awesome cook. And I've been learning how to eat all sorts of things one handed!

Last night we made patty melts on the grill. YUM! We used the recipe for Wildtree's Best Burgers, grilled them, and then toasted buttered bread on the grill and added some delicious, melty cheddar. I should have taken a picture, but with a baby in one arm and a sandwich in the other, I did not have the ability to take a picture!

More amazing food has happened like fried chicken, skillet lasagna, potato soups and lots of garden veggies! I'll try and post more often now, but we'll see. I may be dropping down to a part time worker, but that doesn't mean I won't be a busy Mama! Start a neighborhood association? Travel up north and camping? Re-do my syllabi for this coming year? Get back into running? Continue with Friday devotions? And be the best mama I can be? Challenge accepted!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Faith-filled Friday: Patience and grilling

Hello Crushers!

Yes, I'm still here. The baby has not decided to pick her birthday yet, so we have reached full term at 40 weeks!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23
We are very fortunate that our baby has made it to full term and we "shouldn't expect" any major developmental problems that preemie babies would have. Other than the gestational diabetes, I have been very blessed to have a relatively uneventful pregnancy. We've been so, so blessed!

Last night, Steve caught me talking to her. I was doing nursery rhymes to see how many I remember. I started joking that I hope she gets Steve's memory for songs and his singing voice. But I hope she gets my skin, arms, hair and ability to remember names. And our love of food and cooking and nature. And Steve's ears. And my grandpa's memory for places. And Steve's grandma's craftiness. And our moms' patience. And so many qualities that I don't even know if you can pass on to another person! 

While we wait for her arrival, Steve is planning on grilling out tonight thanks to the beautiful weather we're having! It's in the 60's today! We can sit out on our back patio and grill up some pork chops, asparagus and maybe even try some hassleback potatoes on the grill. I'll let you know how they turn out!

If you don't hear from me for a little while, it'll be because Baby Girl has finally decided to show up. Otherwise, I'll work on that patience part and catch you on Monday for a Virtual Running Date! Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pasta Redemption

Good morning, Crushers!

The pasta debacle of the past few days has been resolved. We made the recipe last night and it was delicious! I'm so glad I found this recipe and tried it. There are a few modifications that I made because of personal preference and ingredients that I chose to use. It probably has 10x the calories that you actually need, but if you stick to the portion size, it's not so bad. I had to stick to the serving size because I'm only allowed so many carbs, but that works to my advantage!

Here is the original recipe for Sweet and Creamy Bacon and Sausage Linguine. And here's what I did:
1 box of pasta (I used spaghetti since it was on sale instead of linguine)
1 pound of Italian turkey sausage, browned and crumbled
6 slices of bacon, chopped up into small-ish pieces (I could have made them even been smaller)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp honey
1/4-ish tsp Penzey's Berbere seasoning (you do not need much at all!)
Black pepper to taste
1/2 lemon, juice and zest
1 1/2 - 2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 bag of spinach, washed and dried
3-4 Roma tomatoes, diced
As much Reggano Parmesan cheese as you want 


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare pasta according to package instructions. Make sure you don't let the pasta cook too long or it gets gross. Plus, you're going to be adding sauce, so watch out!

In a large pan (hello favorite Calphalon pan!), brown sausage and bacon. Remove sausage and bacon, leave drippings in pan. NOTE: I was worried about this step since you're going to be adding butter and heavy cream later. Instead, I think I'd either keep the drippings or the butter, but not do both next time. By the time this was done, so was my pasta. I just drained the pasta and moved the sausage and bacon into the pot with the noodles and stirred them so they wouldn't stick together. Why make another pan dirty?!

The pasta and meat is waiting for the delicious sauce!
Stir in chicken broth, butter (see note above) and honey. Season to taste with Berbere and pepper. I left out the salt since that seemed like overkill. Continue cooking until chicken stock is reduced by half. I'm always amazed at how quickly that reduces!

Stir in lemon juice and zest. Stir in heavy cream and simmer until it coats the back of a spoon. Honestly, I probably did not wait long enough before adding the spinach, but I was getting really hungry. Plus, I was using a cool silicone coated spoon, so nothing sticks to that thing! Add baby spinach and stir until wilted. This doesn't take very long.

And here's the healthiest ingredient becoming not as healthy...
I waited until the last minute to stir in the diced tomatoes because I left the seeds in and didn't want them to get too mushy. They look prettier when they're not all mushed up.

Ready to be eaten!
Pour the sauce mixture over the bacon, sausage and linguine and stir until thick and sticks to noodles. Again, I probably did not wait long enough, but I was hungry. What can I say? Plate it up and top with as much Parmesan cheese as you'd like.

This will DEFINITELY be made again at our house. I loved it and so did Steve. I thought we'd end up arguing over who was going to take the leftovers to work for lunch, but fortunately it made enough for lots of leftovers! This would be a great dish to serve at a party since you could probably make the sauce without the drippings and use veggie broth in case you have vegetarian guests. It would be so good!

Peel-a-head: I will get to make myself a whole pan of these strawberry shortcake bars. I can't wait!

Monday, April 7, 2014

VIrtual Running Date No. 49: Pasta Problems

Good morning, Crushers!

Remember how I said that I was going to make this wonderful pasta dish on Saturday night? Heh.

IF this was a virtual running date, you'd be doing the running and I'd be doing some waddling. Yeah, we're waddling now. Oh. My. Lord.

Anyway, after a wonderful morning walk on Saturday, we went to a bunch of stores to plan out Steve's soon-to-be raised garden bed. He's got veggies on the mind! Just when I was all ready to make us a delicious dish on Saturday night, I realized that we never bought pasta on Friday while grocery shopping!

Um, kind of hard to make linguine without the noodles. Facepalm.

So, I'll be making that tonight for dinner instead. Unless baby girl shows up. Then we'll just have all the ingredients for another time.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Faith-filled Friday: Think before you speak and some Aldi salad love

Good morning, Crushers!

In light of the recent heated outpouring of remarks made about the Mets' player who took a few days of paternity leave, I would like to use this passage for today's Faith-filled Friday:
My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding. - Psalm 49:3
Yes, the rest of this Psalm provides a lot of commentary on wisdom and foolishness for the rich and poor, but I like this passage because of the words "meditation of my heart". It reminds me of the phrase, "think before you speak", but even more so because you're thinking with your heart. Is what I say going to hurt or help? Is it going to affect someone else's heart (emotions) if I say these words?

I hope that I can remember this as a parent and be as patient as my mom is. She always says that you never know what someone else is going through. Not that you're not allowed to be mad and have feelings, but you should not take them out on someone else. Even when the make crazy statements about paternity leave or "you're still pregnant?!".  Yes, yes I am.

Anyway, considering how much I LOVE Aldi grocery stores, I'm shocked to learn that I discovered only today that they have an app (for iPhone and Android), tons of recipes online, and a test kitchen just an hour or so away from my house. I wish I could take a peek in there!

While I was making my weekly menu, I decided to check out their recipe section to see what was there. Um, HELLO! This is awesome!

Here is our menu for the week:
Saturday: Sweet and Creamy Bacon and Sausage Linguine
Sunday: Grill out
Monday: Tacos and beans
Tuesday: Homemade Pizza
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Wing it/Salads
Friday: either go out to eat or go to the hospital to have a baby

Yup, next week Friday is my due date, so we'll either be sticking to this meal plan or we'll be tossing it all to the wind and raiding our freezer meals. (Speaking of freezer meals, I broke down and used one on Wednesday night for dinner - Mozzarella and tomato chicken pasta - and it was amazing!)

Anyway, one more thing I love about Aldi is their really wonderfully priced produce section which means I can make up all sorts of crazy salads. Today's lunch was a romaine lettuce, red pepper, onion, cucumber salad with balsamic sprinkled on top. Oh, and a side of strawberries. Yes, yes we could go and buy all sorts of organic veggies, but that's just not in our budget right now. Instead, we are choosing to eat as healthy as possible in our budget. I think this salad works!

Delicious salad!
Also, it's pretty gestational diabetes-friendly. I ate it with a tortilla and cheese and the strawberries as my carbs. Yum! Speaking of yum, did you know that since Aldi is a German company, that all of their chocolates are delicious German chocolates? WHOO!

Have a wonderful weekend, Crushers!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Virtual Running Date No. 48: Still here, and Spring made an appearance too!

Good morning, Crushers!

If this were a virtual running date, er walking for me, I would tell you, "Yes, I'm still here. Yes, I'm still pregnant. Yes, we feel as ready as possible. No, I'm not sleeping for more than a few hours at a time. Yes, we're excited." I think that covers most of the questions... Oh! "How am I feeling? Round. I'm feeling round."

Just in case you ever need to know what NOT to say to a pregnant person, here is a fairly comprehensive list.

Anyway, I'm happy to say that although the baby has not arrived yet, spring has started to show itself. We had a gorgeous weekend filled with family time. Here is a photo recap of the weekend:

The Wisconsin Badgers have made it to the Final Four!
Here's a picture of the bump in team colors. Future fan!

All of the snow is finally gone from our backyard!
There is a bit yet on the north side of the house, but that's OK.

I found these two awesomely ridiculous ceramic snails with pots on their heads
hidden among the brush. Steve raked the whole yard!

We tried out our Ergo Baby Carrier with our nephew Dylan.
He fell asleep in two minutes in the carrier. Look at that little nose!
On Sunday night Steve grilled outside in shorts and a t-shirt.
The first burgers of spring taste so good!
 I hope spring is springing around you, and that you're able to enjoy some nice weather. We are predicted to have a "wintry mix" later this week, but I'm pretending that it's not going to happen. Let's hope the weather stays nice for everyone!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Faith-filled Friday: Speak Life

Good morning, Crushers!

I have the song "Speak Life" by Toby Mac stuck in my head. Unfortunately, I don't know any of the words beyond the refrain, so I'm sitting here humming the same few lines over and over and over. Does that ever happen to you?

Anyway, I was talking to my sister and somehow we got on the topic of high school mean girls. You know the ones - not as bad as Regina in the movie - but the ones that you remember with the perfect hair? The ability to make any boy stutter? The fear they put in the hearts of all? The unwritten rules of where you could sit in the cafeteria?

Now, I was pretty fortunate that my grade didn't have A mean girl. I mean, there was definitely different crowds of people, but there isn't anyone in my mind that I could point to and think, "She was awful." My sister was not so lucky. They had a group of girls who were "plastic" from their fake tans to their dyed hair to their parents' credit cards. These girls? They are why I get really annoyed by teens when I go to the mall, which I only go to if I really need something.

These teens are not just found in a suburban, middle class public school. They can be found in private schools (just ask my mom about "the clique" back in her day at a religious private school), public schools, inner city schools and rural schools. I have friends from college who went to rural schools where you fed cows before class. Somehow the mean girls still had time to get all gussied up before class. Steve could tell you about the mean girls he sees in his inner city classes that exude an aura of "I'm cooler than you".

Where do these girls come from? No idea. I'm kind of guessing that their moms were the mean girls before them and somehow it's genetic. Or maybe it's just that they are in that group? No clue.

However, I really, really, really hope that my daughter (who is due in 2 weeks!!!) never ever acts like that. I hope she always speaks life to others. That never a mean word passes from her mouth to another's ear. I also don't want her to be a push-over, but to stand up for herself when the time is right with the appropriate words. Mostly, I hope that she'll be a more eloquent speaker as a teen than her mother was, who regularly stuck her foot in her mouth (and still does on occasion). Words should be used for encouragement, not cutting another person down.

Raise your thoughts a little higher,
Use your words to inspire,
Joy will fall like rain,
When you speak life with the things you say. - Toby Mac Lyrics from KLOVE

Let's all try and speak a little more life today and every day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Butternut Squash Soup kind of day

Good morning, Crushers!

Steve and I have been working on getting through some of the veggies we still had stored in our freezer from last fall's harvest. We recently ate roasted beets from his family's garden. Remember when they turned my hands purple? Fortunately, that didn't happen when we roasted them this time! HA!

I had some left over butternut squash from fall when I made risotto with my grandpa. Freezing the leftovers really paid off because I was able to turn the squash into a really nice soup last weekend. Perfect for a Tuesday night dinner with some fancy grilled cheese (provolone with spinach and mushrooms - yum!). This recipe made enough for the both of us for dinner plus three 2-cup containers for the freezer!

I took a the Butternut Squash and Carrot soup recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and tweaked it. I didn't have enough carrots on hand, so I substituted potatoes. Also, I couldn't find nutmeg anywhere in the house, so I used cinnamon instead. The soup was a bit sweet, but it was a nice compliment to the salty grilled cheese.

Butternut Squash Soup:
3-4 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped into one inch pieces
2 cups potatoes (I used red potatoes), peeled and chopped into small pieces
1/2 a large onion, diced
1 Tbsp butter
1 32 oz box container of low-sodium chicken broth (veggie broth would work too)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup half-and-half or heavy whipping cream

Gear you'll need: A large sauce pan or pot, measuring cups and spoons, a blender or food processor, a sharp knife, cutting board and veggie peeler.

I was fortunate enough to already have peeled my squash, so I didn't have to do that again. What a challenge! Anyway, peel your potatoes and dice them and the onions if you haven't already done so. Put the potatoes, squash, diced onion and butter in the pan/pot and cook for about 7-8 minutes stirring occasionally. They should be tender when you poke them with a knife.
Simmerin' away...

Once the veggies are tender, add the broth and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for a good 25 minutes. You can stir it occasionally. Your squash and potatoes might start to break down a bit. That's perfectly OK since you're going to puree it in a minute.

While that's simmering away, assemble your blender or food processor. I know that I'm one of the biggest food processor fans in the whole world, but I chose to use a blender for this one. I KNOW. Here's why:
  1. I knew I would be pouring hot liquids and the blender has a spout.
  2. It is easy to measure with the lines on the side of the blender, although you don't REALLY need to measure too much.
  3. It is easy to clean up!
  4. It has a puree button.
  5. I couldn't find the right attachment that I wanted to use on my food processor.
Really, numbers 1 and 4 were my biggest reasons, but I figured I'd share them all just in case it sways you one way or the other.
Make sure the lid is on tight!
Once you're all done simmering, add about 1/3 of the mixture to the blender, make sure you have the lid on securely, and puree the heck out of it! Make sure it's nice and creamy. Although the original recipe said to return it to your sauce pan, I just put it in a big bowl that has a lid because I knew I'd be storing it before we'd eat it. As you repeat the steps to puree the mixture, be careful that you don't spill and burn your fingers or arm.


Anyway, once you've got that all done and in a large bowl or back in your sauce pan, add the cream and spices. You could have added the spices already, so if you did, that's fine. I don't think it matters too terribly much. All the real chefs out there can prove me wrong in the comments if you'd like!

Now you can divide the soup into "now and later" portions or you can just stand there with a spoon and eat it. There's no judging here.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Virtual Running Date No. 47: That's where he gets it from...

Good morning, Crushers!

If this was a running date, please allow me to say I'm really sorry if I gave anyone high hopes for the weather over the weekend. It was all lies. You would have needed at least 2-3 layers to run. It never really got warmer than 40 degrees. Tonight's forecast calls for an inch of snow and a high of 22 tomorrow. Ick!

If this was a running date, I would tell you that no less than 5 strangers and 3-4 non-strangers have asked me, "When are you due?" Either I look really pregnant or I've started to walk funny. I hope it's the former and not the latter. I am refusing to waddle. I'm still wearing (low) heels for goodness' sake! Anyway, I think the kiddo should wait to make her arrival until we get some solid 40-50 degree weather. No need to rush into the cold!

If this was a running date, I would have to tell you about one of my new favorite shows. If you live in Wisconsin, you know that we take our cheese seriously. In fact, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association sponsors the World Championship Cheese Contest. Although no American cheese maker has one the top prize since the 80's, Wisconsin earned the most gold medals of any American cheese maker - a whopping 33 gold medals! Anyway, I found this new show called Wisconsin Foodie and they were featuring a grilled cheese cook-off. Doesn't this sound like something fun to do with friends on a weekend? 

If this was a running date, I would tell you that I'm not sure if this kiddo will take after me or her dad in the kitchen. Only time will tell. So far, she match us in active nature, but we are two very different cooks. As you know, nothing Steve ever makes turns out the same. It usually always tastes good, but he never finds a reason to use a recipe. I like recipes and will veer off course to add an ingredient or try something new, but using recipes is like doing good research. Research is something that I preach to my students every week!

If this was a running date, I would tell you how Steve's parents dropped off about 10 jars of "hot beans" which are now taking over our fridge. Fortunately, these things are delicious. It's like pickled green bean with dill, vinegar, garlic, and a few other things I can't quite determine. You know why? NO TWO JARS ARE EXACTLY THE SAME! I even saw part of a cinnamon stick in one of them! Now I know, that's where he gets it from. Steve made chili over the weekend, and despite some identifiable items like beans, beef, and tomatoes, it's as random as the hot beans. In fact, some hot beans made it into the chili.

There's two reasons I needed to take a few antacids on Saturday night - the chili and the Badgers' exciting win.  Seriously, I do not even have to watch the game. I could just sit upstairs and listen to Steve and the guys yelling at the TV in the basement man cave. "WHERE'S THE FOUL?" "DID YOU SEE THAT?!" "OHHHHHHH!" Nothing boring around our house!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Faith-filled Friday: Get excited!

Happy Friday, Crushers!

While we've been studying Jeremiah at Bible class lately, I just can't post some of his confessions this morning. It is too nice of a day to think about snotty Israelite people from 2,500 years ago who got captured by the Babylonians and the prophet they refused to listen to. Just can't.

Instead, I typed the word "rejoice" in the search engine of You know how many results came back? 154. That's a lot of rejoicing. Sometimes people rejoiced with tambourines and dancing. Sometimes people rejoiced after a long hardship. Sometimes people rejoiced just because they could. All of them are good reasons to be happy and share the happy.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:4-7
We have hit week 37 of baby-watch. That's right. We are so close! See? Good think the passage for today also speaks about being patient and not anxious. Because, seriously? I'm pretty excited to meet our little person!

I must admit that I'm also really excited by all the cute spring and summery clothes in stores. It's a beautiful day here in Wisconsin!

Hello, Sunshine!

Granted, it will be back down in the 30's (today's high is 50) tomorrow, but one day in the 50's is better than a foot of snow!

Also, last night, I was at the Wauwatosa Woman's Club and I met this fantastic photographer, Kevin Miyasaki, who is from Tosa (as we natives like to say). He has done a number of travel, fashion and food assignments. Go check out his website, especially the Perimeter project. Go ahead, I'll wait.

He brought two cookbooks for a drawing and I WON ONE! I am stupid excited about this book because it's a memoir about one of my local kitchen crushes, Sanford D'Amato, or Sandy to his friends. I've eaten at Sanford (the author's restaurant), he's cooked with Julia Child (YEE!), and he is opening a cooking school in Massachusetts (road trip?!). I repeat, "YEE!"

Also, it's signed by the author and the photographer. I cannot wait to read it cover to cover and try out some of the recipes. I'm not sure I can try all of them because he has surgeon-like precision with his dishes, and well, you've seen my food photography. But I can try!

So let's all try and find something to rejoice about today whether you've had a good day, you're coming out of a hardship, or maybe you need to save rejoicing for another day. You can do it!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Smart idea! Use that freezer!

Hello Crushers!

Happy first day of spring! Although it is only 39 degrees outside, I am wearing a dress, boots, jean jacket and I am resisting wearing a normal coat. At least for quick walks outside between buildings!

I'm hoping that the weather will pick up on the humans' leads and take note. Also, I hope that all the Wisconsin teams in the NCAA tournament do a good job today! Go Badgers and Panthers!

I just wanted to share a great freezer meal prep idea that I read about from Betty Crocker today. Instead of always prepping a full meal for the freezer, you can just prep a few of the meats to use later. For instance, the link shows that you can shred chicken, brown ground beef (and season it), or make meatballs to use later. Just save those and then thaw them when you need them. It would take up a lot less space in your freezer if you don't have the room, and you can still make lots of recipes from them with pantry staples.

That Betty... she's always thinking!

Jumping over to another kitchen crush, Kristin at Iowa Girl Eats is having a promotion today where you can win a $100 Visa gift card from KitchenAid and Blogher. Not only does her Steak Crostini with Bleu Cheese Marshmallow S’more D’eourves look amazing, but if you comment on her blog, you could be entered to win! Now, I'm not sure that I could handle making savory marshmallows, but I can direct you over there to learn how to do it!

Disclosure: I am receiving an entry into the contest by blogging about the contest. But seriously, you should go read about it and enter too!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Virtual Running Date No. 46: Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Dear Crushers,

If this were a virtual running date, I'd tell you to stay bundled up! It's still cold here. Only 20 degrees F! Geesh! Run in layers - green layers!

Finding things to wear while 36 weeks pregnant is getting to be a bit of a challenge. I pretty much stick to my 5-6 favorite outfits now and just rotate them. It's easier than trying to get too creative! Ha! Anyway, I've got a green sweater on and green and orange earrings, so I'm all set for today. Granted, I will have to skip the Guinness and whiskey and a lot of potatoes that normally go with traditional Irish foods that Americans like to enjoy.

I know "throwback Monday" isn't a thing, but I found some photos of my work trip to Ireland that you might enjoy:
"Slainte!" is a traditional toast meaning "Health!" or "To your health!"

The most interesting convention centre I've worked in.

The River Liffey

Inside the chapel at Dublin Castle

The Round Tower at Dublin Castle - they held lots of criminals there.

Some of the grounds at Dublin Castle

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral - makes you want to say a prayer!

On the grounds of Trinity College
Yes, we took the tour and saw the Book of Kells - amazing!

A busy street on one of the few sunny days in June

St. Stephen's Green - the pigeons were not afraid of anything

Me in St. Stephen's Green - about one month before our wedding!

"An Taoiseach" is the Prime Minister

Sweny "druggist" aka pharmacy was mentioned in James Joyce's "Ulysses"

Deliciousness inside!

If they ask for volunteers for a "special tasting" RAISE YOUR HAND!
You get to try a few extras!

If this were a virtual running date, I'd tell you about all the new Irish recipes I discovered! Over the weekend, the PBS Create channel was featuring travel and cooking shows from Ireland or about Ireland. One show that I got addicted to (while I was supposed to be napping/relaxing) was Kevin Dundon's Modern Irish Food. He featured everything from scallop tarts to "Kinky Eton Mess" to a new spin on Cottage Pie. My favorite thing that I ate while in Ireland was either the delicious steak or fish. You can't go wrong!

Despite all these new delicious recipes he showed, Steve and I will enjoy some corned beef sandwiches at some point this week. I might even make my own bread to go with it! I don't have time to start sour dough bread if we're going to eat it before Saturday, but I could do a nice loaf of wheat bread. Also, doesn't this recipe for Asian chicken thighs sound amazing?

Darn, now I'm all hungry. However, if I hear "you're eating for two" one more time, I might lose my cool. People say the weirdest things to you while you're pregnant. Seriously.

Anyway, if we were on a virtual running tour, I'd also tell you the funny thing that happened this weekend. We have been trying to knock out a few projects here and there while keeping most of March low-key in case the kiddo decides to arrive early. We both agreed that the second car seat base needed to be installed. However, the next project we had a bit of a disagreement on. Steve was sure that installing a new digital converter box in the basement "Man Cave" and rearranging all the cords and electronic devices was necessary baby-prep. I thought that assembling the new stroller we got as a gift was more important baby-prep.

They both got done, but it just goes to show that every one's priorities are a bit different. The baby will eventually watch something on TV. We're realistic about that. The baby will eventually need to use the stroller (or mom will need the baby to use it). Granted, the kid won't need either item for a while, but at least it's all done!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Meatball Subs - Steve Cooks

Alright Crushers,

Today I'm going to do my best to write out how to make meatball subs the Steve way. This is a little difficult for me because he doesn't really measure anything. Instead, I will try to give you approximate amounts. 
Chef Steve
Isn't he handsome?

Note: Steve has full ability to edit this, so you might want to come back later and see what he's changed. In the meantime, he's got long days ahead of him this week with parent-teacher conferences!

OK, so here is what he did:

Meatball Subs
Ingredients (approximate):
1 ground pound mild Italian sausage
1 ground beef (at least 85% lean)
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs (maybe? I have no idea - he just sprinkled them in there)
1 cup-ish spinach, cut into small bits (two handfuls?)
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 jar marinara sauce
1/2 sliced peppers
about 8-9 hot beans (his dad's recipe, which also is never quite the same)
4 deli brat buns

In case you're wondering what hot beans look like, that's them.
Some people call them dilly beans.
In a large bowl, you combine one pound each of the sausage and ground beef. Add the diced spinach, garlic, and onion until it looks about right. You can add more or less of these items, but be careful that you don't add too much or they could get soggy and break apart.

Oh, you should probably preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (You may want to enlist your wife or someone else to turn on the oven for you if your hands are covered in meat mix - see next paragraph). Take a large baking sheet and line it with aluminum foil (I'm adding the foil part now since we forgot to do it on Sunday - easier clean up!). Then take a baking rack and place it on top of the foil-lined pan. Spray it with some cooking spray so the meatballs don't get stuck. This way they bake nicely and a lot of the grease drips off.

See? We forgot the foil. Oh well, they still turned out great!
Add in the egg and bread crumbs. Then, use your hands to mix everything up and make sure it's all well incorporated. (Steve made a point to note that while his hands were washed, he did this all without taking off his wedding ring). Mold the meat mix into balls that are a little big bigger than golf balls and try to make them a consistent size.

Place them on the cooking rack with about 2-inches between them. Put the whole pan in the oven for 20 minutes or until they're fully cooked. They will shrink a bit, but not that much!

All ready for sauce!
While those are baking, go wash your hands and start on the sauce. Heat the contents of a jar of marinara sauce in a sauce pan along with some ground pepper, a little salt, your sliced peppers and hot beans. Heat it until it bubbles and then turn down the heat or it will splash all over the place.

When the meatballs are done, place about 3 of them on a bun and cover in the marinara sauce. Make sure you get a few peppers and hot beans on there, too. Sprinkle your favorite cheese on top. Then try and eat it without splashing marinara sauce all over the place!

Feel free to add as much or as little sauce as you like.

Monday, March 10, 2014

VIrtual Running Date No. 45: Steve Cooks

Good morning, Crushers!

If this were a virtual running date, I would be telling you all about the delicious meatball subs that Steve made this weekend. However, he wants to tell you about it in his own words. Seriously, all I did was tell him how long to bake the meatballs for and I chopped up a few veggies. He did all the hard work including, "forming the meatballs with my hands - wedding ring and all!"

Please check back later for Chef Steve's meatball subs!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Faith-filled Friday: Oh give thanks!

Hi Crushers,
Lately, I feel like I'm doing nothing with my spare time except writing thank you notes. While I initially wanted to complain that my hand hurts and my handwriting is getting seriously wonky, I know that that would be completely stupid of me.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. - 1 Chronicles 16:34
See that? Give thanks... for he is good. Love.

I cannot complain about writing thank you notes. That means we had that many people to thank for sharing in our joy and excitement as we wait for Baby Girl to arrive (5 more weeks!). Here is a picture of the card we got at work today along with some wonderful gifts:

 If you can read around the cupcake, you can see that everyone is really excited for us! People are so dang happy. I would write out thank you notes every day just for all this love.

If you think about all the loving that God does for us, we would be forever thankful. As we should be. So when we're upset that things aren't going our way, we need to take a break from feeling down and be thankful. Thankful for what you do have. Thankful for things we don't even realize we have!

P.S. This is my 200th post. If you're new here or your a regular reader, thanks for stopping in! I hope you come back for more faith, food, and fitness. And soon, baby pictures!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sometimes things work and sometimes they come out of the oven like rocks.

Good morning, Crushers!

On Monday night, I had this delicious menu planned out with broiled steaks, guacamole, a nice salad and brown rice. We're doing doing steak Tex-Mex style. Makes me want some more of the guacamole as I type this...

Anyway, I have only used the broiler setting on my oven(s) to make fish. How hard could it be to make broiled steaks? Steve said his mom did it all the time, and there has yet to be a recipe from Carol that didn't work.

Turns out that these gorgeous looking pieces of steak (on sale!) could become hard as rocks.

Perhaps I should have marinated them?

Turns out that my trusted Better Homes and Gardens cookbook was full of it when it told me to broil the seasoned steaks 4-5 inches from the heat source for 30 minutes, flipping half way through, based on the thickness of the steak (about one inch). Um, no. Just no. I think they could have been nicely done with 10 minutes on each side.

Bless him, Steve ate two helpings. Why? I have no idea. They were flavorful, but so, so well-done.

Last night was better. We had chicken with spinach and feta on the weekly menu. Originally, I was thinking of making Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts, but then I realized that some of my chicken breasts were not thick enough. I guess I got a little overzealous while slicing up the chicken for freezer prep last week!

What to do? Hot spinach and feta side dish? How about adding some red potatoes? No, that's weird. But wait that could work...

That's how dinner made it's way to the table last night:
From the top going clock-wise, Greek Parmesan oven potatoes, spinach with feta sauce
and skillet chicken with feta sauce.

My mom posted a recipe for Garlic and Parmesan oven potatoes on Facebook last night, but with my Greek food theme, I wanted to use some of the Opa! Greek seasoning from Wildtree. Some of that same seasoning made it's way into the sauce too.

Here are the recipes from last night:
Greek Parmesan Oven Potatoes
2lbs of red potatoes, sliced in thick slices (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick)
1/3 cup oil (I used veggie oil, but olive oil would have been nice)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 Tbsp Opa! Greek Seasoning from Wildtree
4-5 good shakes from your pepper shaker

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil (or you could probably use a 13x9 inch pan). Put all the ingredients in a zip-top bag and shake it up! Once everything is coated nicely, spread it out on the pan and bake for 30 minutes.
Oven potatoes in the oven!

While that is baking, heat some oil (about a Tbsp) in a skillet and cook your chicken breasts for about 7 minutes on each side. They should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. I sprinkled some pepper and salt on each side. Delicious!
Can you hear the sizzle?

Now, if you can manage it, start the feta sauce while you're letting the chicken and potatoes do their thing.

Feta Cream Sauce
(I modified the recipe a bit since I didn't have evaporated milk. Here is what I did)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
3/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
1/2 Tbsp Opa! Greek seasoning from Wildtree
nearly 1 cup feta cheese crumbles

Directions: Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and keep stirring so it doesn't get clumpy or burn. Gradually pour in the milk and just keep stirring. (you may need to go back and flip your chicken over now) Once the flour and milk are all friendly and bubbly, turn down the heat a bit and stir in the seasoning and cheese. Now just keep stirring until the cheese is melted. This will take the rest of the time that the chicken is cooking and your potatoes are cooking. Just keep stirring!

Goes great on chicken and even spinach as a hot dressing! Yum!
So, while one recipe is a total flop, or in this case a total brick, it's nice to know that there's always another recipe to try to redeem a sad, sad steak.