Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spaghetti sauce revisited

I tried a new variation of my spaghetti sauce recipe on Monday night. While the taste in the original recipe was delicious. the sauce was a bit thin. Husband and I love thick sauce that doesn't leave your plate all watery. This alteration fits the bill:

For the tomato sauce, substitue 6 oz. of tomato paste plus 6 oz. of water. Multiply the herbs, spices, and sugar by 1.5. Also, I used 2 small tomatoes (plain, not cooked in olive oil, parmesan and garlic, and it turned out just fine).


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A la Matt

I planned to make tilapia for us for dinner, but had no idea how. I asked Matt for suggestions...which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. Usually he is wondering how I could decide what to cook, but not how to prepare it. Sometimes, that's just as far as I get. You know what I mean?

Matt's suggestion, as usual, was so perfectly simple that it couldn't help but be absolutely delicious. He reminisced about eating foil fish dinners at some hole-in-the-wall restaurant in northern Michigan with his Dad many years ago. Inspired by that, and using what we had on hand, this is what he created.

Whitefish with Butternut Squash and Green Beans

The before picture. The camera battery died before we got an after photo!

2 tilapia fillets, thawed (or other whitefish)
1/2 bag frozen chopped butternut squash
1/2 bag frozen cut green beans
4 Tbsp. butter
Several dashes each of garlic salt, pepper, salt, and brown sugar according to your liking

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Lay a large piece of foil on cookie sheet. Place ingredients on foil in order of ingredient list. Lay a second large piece of foil over fish mixture and crimp all edges tightly together to seal ingredients inside.
3. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

We served this with Creamy Parmesan Risotto (from a box). It would also be delicious with mashed potatoes, rice, perhaps bread (I bet this would be delicious to soak up the melted butter!), or maybe even pasta.


Rule of 3s

My Dad used to say things happened in threes: people died in threes (I remember him saying this in particular when John Denver and ... two other famous people died.), people were born in threes (well, except for his twin daughters, but he made up for it by having three daughters altogether, so...). I guess it's one of those things that works when it works and you don't talk about it when it doesn't! Ha:)

Anyways, I've got a great rule of threes for you inspired by Aunt Holly the Great.

Three uses for three oranges, three limes, and -okay- one lemon.

To begin, slice the three fruits horizontally.

1st use: take the end orange slices (the ones with just a little bit of flesh on them) and put them in a pitcher. Add to it slices of lemon and limes. Fill the pitcher with ice cold water, muddle (haha, I learned this term while making mojitos with Beth last summer!), and wha-la, an icy, summery, citrus-y drink to share! Thanks for the idea, Aunt Holly (who made something like this last summer while we were camping)!

I'll give Holly credit for these ideas, too, because it would be just like her to use these fruits for all they're worth!

2nd use: Store the remaining orange slices in the refrigerator for convenient snacking.

3rd use: Chop up the remaining bits of citrus rinds and put in the garbage disposal for easy cleaning.

I guess I just feel like a regular ol' Little Suzie Homemaker today, and I'm quite okay with that. Baking bread, grooming the dog, getting groceries, sewing some old clothes, vaccuuming, etc. - that's what my day will consist of. Maybe it's a good thing when your "work" and your "day off" begin to resemble each other? Thoughts? Threes?

(Like a day off, B?)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Happy birthday, Dad!

Today is my Dad's birthday. He would be 52 years young. To celebrate, I made chocolate cake and danced in the living room to my Beatles CD all day. I even worked out to it!

The picture on the left is Dad with Charlie several years ago. This pup is five now, and here he is with me on the right. Matt took this picture the other night when I fell asleep with the dog.

It's a good day to have this little dog Charlie. As I cry looking at Dad's picture, he hates to see me sad. He comes up to me to nuzzle and lick my face. If I smile, it will be made better. He knows this. He is just like Dad.

Happy birthday to the very best Dad.

These two songs have been the most in-my-head and dance-in-the-living-room-able.

Can't Buy Me Love


Wednesday, March 09, 2011


I am exhausted. And I am reminded of the purity of childhood.

This morning I FINALLY took real action on my interest in volunteering. I have been wanting to volunteer somewhere ever since school got out last May. Let the excuses abound: Over the summer it didn't happen because we were out of town for 2/3 of it, not to mention I was recuperating from a very tough school year. In the fall, I was going to volunteer at a few places, but they didn't work out for various reasons. I started watching Connor though, and it was just enough "outside" time to keep me sane and connected with others. Once I stopped watching him, I mostly focused on enjoying friends for a bit, especially before they moved. Then there were the holidays. Finally, this winter I was determined to forget all my excuses and make the most of my last few months here. I decided on a place to volunteer; weeks of phone tag ensued to no avail. Alas, however -and now that it is spring, I ran into my old boss Faye at United, of course. It was decided.

I would help at my first real workplace, School for Little People.

Here I am posing with my second class of two-year-olds after our trip to the fire department. Why, yes, I believe that fire hat is flying.

So, this morning I headed over to SLP. I visited with all my old friends from the staff, caught up on who's teaching who and where, and then went to work organizing the library. All I have to say is I am exhausted because I have not had so much conversation and activity packed into three hours in quite a while. I didn't even work in a classroom -which, if I did, I was expecting would be a snap to get back into, but seeing twelve kids in one ten square foot area was enough to overwhelm this out-of-touch teacher!

I am also reminded of a metaphor (for approaching the Kingdom of God like a child) I witnessed yesterday while riding my bike. I was riding down the paved trail, the one families often walk on, too. I approached a small group of women and children. The women saw me 20 yards away and began to corral the kids. The children, however, were oblivious to the presence of me on my bike until I was riding right passed them. This struck me as I passed one of the children, and heard a small excited voice say, "Mommy, a bike!"

The mother's preparation to avoid the danger of the bike was good. Without it someone could have been hurt. I'm wondering though, was the child's presence in the moment better? Kind of like, Martha's preparation in the kitchen was good, but Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus was better.

It reminds me of something Matt read recently in Francis Chan's book Forgotten God. The author was describing how we so often say we want to do God's will in our lives. This is good, of course, but we often talk about this in terms of the whole big picture of our lives all at once. We look so far ahead that we often miss this moment. He challenges us instead to ask God's will in our next ten minutes. Maybe this is better. We probably need both. I love this idea because, in doing so, we invite God into the real action of our lives, not just the planning team. What an adventure this can be.

All this talk about children has inspired me to do another thing children often do...take a nap when they are tired. Good night!

Yes, this is it

The news is so sad. The world is so broken. In our daily lives is so much discontent. There is joy in there somewhere. There is real love, buried in the rubble of ... whatever it is we're doing. We do have hope of better living.

If you want to solve a problem, do you attend to the symptoms? Where there is sadness, plant love. Where there is brokenness, bring repair. Where there is discontent, make contentedness. Yes, that seems to work, but only temporarily. Soon sadness increases and you pour on more love; brokenness resumes and you bring more reapir; discontent returns and you attempt to create more contentedness.

To really solve a problem of course, we must attend to the cause. We must transform the heart. Continually in every moment. A single moment without the heart gives foothold to sadness, brokenness, discontent. Transformation, like metamorphosis is not a one time thing. It is a cycle of life that continues to give new life.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Scrumptious jambalaya

This is another paleo recipe...among my favorites. And I promised to my friend Jenn that I would post it so everyone could reap its tasty rewards.


1 tbsp. olive oil, plus 1 tsp., divided
1/2 lb spicy sausage, sliced (look for andouille sausage)*
1 c. chopped onion
3/4 c. chopped green pepper
1/2 c. chopped celery
1 tsp. cajun seasoning, plus 1/8 tsp., divided**
1 bay leaf
16 oz. tomato sauce
2 c. chicken broth
1 1/2 c. water***
1 1/2 c. finely chopped cauliflower
Dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 lb. shrimp

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil, sausage, onion, peppers, and celery. *I used ground sausage because I had it left over from using the other half pound in a breakfast. As such, I cooked and drained the sausage, then followed through with this step.

2. Saute for around 5 minutes, then add the seasoning and bay leaf. Cook for 1 minute more. **I just estimated the seasoning here and with the shrimp (below). I hardly ever measure seasonings. I used this recipe for the seasoning, which I also estimated...may be why it had a good kick to it! Adjust for your preferences.

3. Add the tomato sauce, chicken broth, water, and cauliflower. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. ***Looking back, I can't actually remember if I added the water in this step. Regardless, it had plenty of broth to it, so you may choose to skip the water. It's up to you.

4. Meanwhile, in another skillet, saute the 1/2 lb. of shrimp, 1/8 tsp. cajun seasoning, and a dash of cayenne pepper in 1 tsp. olive oil. Saute for 2 minutes, then stir into the jambalaya.


Eating the paleo way

About a month ago Matt and I decided we would experiment with paleo eating. Paleo eating adheres to the idea that our distant hunter-gatherer ancestors were exhibited greater overall health than we do in our modern society because of the food they ate and lifestyle they lived. That being said, the idea is to eat more like they did.

Curious about this idea, we ordered the book The Paleo Solution, and I read up on the nitty-gritty how's and why's of the concept. The eating plan limits the eater to meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, oils, and small amounts of natural sugars (no dairy, grains, or legumes!). The evidence was pretty convincing and we decided giving it a shot couldn't hurt, but would also be the only way to see for ourselves if it delivered the health benefits it promised.

After trying it, we agreed with others that 100% paleo eating is both unneccessary and extremely difficult. We did not want our food and its paleo-ness to act as some kind of idol in our lives. We've since switched to approximately an 80% paleo diet, and are loving it! The book comes with 30 days of recipes. Not all of them resembled food (as we're used to) and some of them contained food combinations I would hardly recommend, but many of the recipes were delicious!! I've uploaded lots of pictures of these recipes, so over the coming weeks I will continue to post them for your viewing pleasure.

Chicken Apple Hash

2 tsp. olive oil
6 oz. chicken (we used left over rotisserie chicken)
1 medium to large apple
2 tsp. cinnamon or allspice (choose your favorite...we chose cinnamon)

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over mediumheat. Shred and add the chicken. Grate the apple, then add to the pot with your spice of choice. Cover and cook on medium-low, stirring frequently. Once the apple has cooked down and become soft, it is ready to serve.

By the way, this is intended to be a breakfast.

Grain-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe is paleo, but not from our book. It was created by a couple in Pennsylvania who eat paleo and write a blog called The Food Lovers' Primal Palate with their amazing recipes.

When we tried these, Matt and I agreed they taste almost like an Almond Joy candy bar! I guess it's the combination of almond flour and coconut oil.


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Too good to be true pancakes!

About the time I thought to take a picture of these beautiful gems, this was all that was left of them! Not that you need a picture to know what a pancake looks like, but it just makes the blog prettier, you know?

My wonderful Stedman family has an amazing recipe for whole wheat pancakes. Carrie-Mom has worked all kinds of recipes to make them healthier. Her pancakes are one of them, and they are certainly top-notch. I've been making them for several years as my go-to recipe. No more boxed mixes around here.

As much as I love Carrie-Mom's recipe, I have been thinking about what kinds of baked goods would do okay with a substitution of applesauce in place of oil, and maybe agave nectar in place of sugar. The pancakes seemed a good place to start. The result is a bit lighter and fruitier. I hope Carrie-Mom approves!


1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. white flour
1-2 eggs
1 3/4 c. milk (for about half of this amount, I used vanilla almond milk)
5 Tbsp. agave nectar
4 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
6 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract


Mix dry ingredients first. Then add wet ingredients and whisk together. Drop ladlefuls (I like to use a medium-sized ladle for pancakes, muffins, cupcakes. It's so much less messy than a spoon!) onto hot griddle. Cook until bubbles form on the pancake's surface, then flip. Remove when lightly browned and cooked through.

This recipe makes 12-14 six-inch pancakes.

I like to serve this with butter, real maple syrup (Grandpa's, of course!), strawberries and blueberries. Matt prefers his with butter, syrup, and bacon!

Enjoy!! (Did I mention they come in at around 25 calories per pancake? That's about 1/4 the usual pancake calories. Eat up:)

Here is our puppy-dog being cute.

I took a random, arm-stretched-out picture of Matt and I and it actually turned out great...on the first (not fifteenth) try!

Birthday weekend

We were lucky enough to celebrate two birthdays while in Dallas over Presidents' Weekend. Hubby just turned 28 the week before and our favorite little boy turned 2.

We used the birthdays and the long weekend as a wonderful reason to get together with the Killian family. Our mutual friends, the Pellegrins, also came for the visit. We basically spent the weekend eating and playing.

The restaurant right outside the hotel had the most wonderful breakfasts. Soon I will have to try to make their "Anaheim Scrambler" (scrambled eggs with thick-cut bacon, cheddar cheese, avocado, green onions, ... can't remember what else) as well as their "Baked French Toast" (cinnamon-y bread pieces baked in custard and topped with warm maple syrup).

We also enjoyed a bit of shopping, because our hotel was attached to a fancy-shmancy mall. Most of all though, we just hung out (in the four-star hotel Courtney got us for $58 a night!), and enjoyed each other's company and laughter.

At the mall play area are Connor and James on the left, Jude and Jenn on the right.

Hardworking mama Courtney takes Jacob with her everywhere. Isn't he cute?

Matt and I help babysit now and then. Nice how we just sit back and let him get into stuff, eh? That's my wallet in his hands...always teaching him such great things. The best one this weekend was how if he asks really sweetly and relentlessly, I will give him a small piece of gum (which he will swallow in five seconds and ask for more).

The end...back to the real world.
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