Monday Internet

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Love Anne’s tips on planning when you’re not naturally a planner.  And I am naturally a planner.

This Italian wedding soup looks amazing and like it should be on the January dinner docket, for sure.

Now that December is behind us, I don’t know that you’ll need to gift any picture books anytime soon, but I loved Janssen’s little blurb before her list, about writing dates in books.  I’m in.

Perhaps the reason I was in a reading rut is because I was on a roll in the TV department.  The Affair is back (LOVE, but it took a couple episodes to get rolling), Jane the Virgin is killing it as always, American Housewife is cracking me up, and I started Masters of Sex from season one.  Here’s are two other lists of shows I should be watching.  Should I give Crazy Ex Girlfriend another try?

Joy the Baker made baked brown butter champagne donuts.  I’m not normally a donut kinda girl, but please read the aforementioned sentence.

Habit.  I need some new ones in 2017.  And this is how I can get some good ones going.  Maybe?  Reminder , routine, reward; reminder, routine, reward…

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Cooking for Pops [fesenjan]

When we go to the beach, we take turns cooking.  Most of us make our staples.  Wooden Nickels is always good for mac and cheese, brussels sprouts, and spinach pizza.  My husband grills brats, and there’s always a burger night in there.  But Pops does his own thing every time.  He spends the morning culling AllRecipes* for something that’s just right.  His tastes tend toward the exotic, so we know when he’s cooking we’re not going to end up with another boring casserole.**

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When Pops visited for a weekend, I combed my Pinterest boards to see if there was something worthy of serving him for dinner.  I came across this Persian chicken dish on one of the best food sites around, Simply Recipes, and I knew I was on to something good.  I love making something completely new and different, and while I don’t know whether or not this ended up tasting like a traditional Persian chicken with walnut stew, I do know that it was a great meal, and fun to make.  Because we’re always passing the Gooplet, we shared the responsibilities involved with preparing it, and all sat down to enjoy once he’d gone to bed.

*While at the beach this year, a friend pointed us toward their app, which has a great search tool you can use seriously, or for fun (Give me an appetizer that takes two hours to make, and involves Fruit Loops–ooh, now I want to play Chopped on our next rainy beach day.)
**I say that in jest, dear readers, as I am always, always good for another boring casserole.  They’re perfect at the beach because you prep them in the morning, and cook them in the evening, leaving you multiple hours to spend at the beach.

A Balancing Act [bacon wrapped club crackers]

When a family is kind enough to invite you and your baby to a cocktail party, you are forced to make a tricky decision.  Do you…

a) pay a babysitter a large chunk of money so you can go childless, only to have everyone in attendance ask you why you didn’t bring your adorable child?

b) bring him and leave super early because he goes to bed when the rest of the world is eating dinner?

This go-round, we chose b, and for the first time in my life, our family was both the first to arrive and the first to depart at this event.  I am so glad we went, though, as I got to catch up with some old faves.

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They say motherhood is a balancing act, and my one regret is they served my favorite party appetizer here. In my balancing of wine in one hand, and child in another, I never managed to get my hands on one.

So I made them at home.

Dear readers, do you know the magic that is bacon-wrapped Club crackers?  Safe to say if you attended a Super Bowl party in the 1990s, you’ve eaten one or two. May I refresh your memory and encourage you to eat another couple.  And soon.

To make bacon-wrapped Club crackers, you will need:

  • Club crackers
  • Parmesan cheese (I like to use shredded, not grated)
  • sliced of bacon, cut in thirds

Line a baking sheet with foil, and top it with a cooling rack.  Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

To prepare the crackers, place a heaping teaspoon of cheese on each cracker.  Wrap bacon on top.  You want the cheese facing up and the seam from the bacon facing down when you place these on the rack on the baking sheet.

Bake for 2 hours.  Enjoy them right away, or prep them ahead of time, and serve at room temperature.

Wins of the Month – December, 2016

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December Wins:

  • Hung pictures on the wall.
  • Got out of the house to see a play.  And get my toes done.  And my hair.
  • Hosted overnight guests two weekends in a row.
  • Switched a lot of boring life items (toothbrushes, toilet paper, detergent, etc.) over to Amazon’s subscribe and save program.
  • Started some holiday traditions, and kept old ones going.
  • Bought and ate a metric ton of champagne gummi bears.
  • Read a book in three days.

November Wins//October Wins//September Wins

#momlife [pork saltimbocca]

I had visions of gloriousness for the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  My husband was taking the week off, and I wanted to do two things.

  1. Visit Arlington National Cemetary, where Grandma Glass of Milk is buried, because it’s so pretty in the winter, with the wreaths adorning the graves.
  2. Make fried chicken.
  3. *Okay, maybe I also dreamed of a trip to Target sans Gooplet.

I did neither (*none) of those things.  Instead, we spent a whirlwind Christmas weekend biting off more than we could chew in terms of family visits and food and fun, and then my husband got sick.  With a cough.  That still hasn’t entirely gone away.

I threw an awesome mom-fit about how I JUST WANTED A BREAK and I didn’t get it.  And after a couple days, I realized, this is #momlife.  It’s never getting a break.  Suck it up, Jennie.

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Despite all my fit-throwing, I did make the time to cook some dinners that are more hands on than usual.  Since I had an extra pair of hands, albeit germy ones, at home all day, every day, I could make dinners that required a little more active cooking.  These have eluded me for, oh, about the last 10 months.  Here’s a winner:

To make pork saltimbocca (or #porkonpork) for 4, you will need:

4 boneless center-cut pork chops (1/2 inch thick; 5 ounces each)
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large shallot, finely chopped
8 fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
5 thin slices prosciutto (about 3 ounces), 1 slice chopped
1 cup grated fontina cheese (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 10 -ounce package frozen peas

Preheat the broiler. Season the pork with salt. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, dredge the pork in the flour and add to the skillet; reserve the flour. Cook until browned, 1 minute per side. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium; add the shallot to the skillet and cook, stirring, until soft, 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high. Add the sage and 2 teaspoons of the reserved flour. Cook until sizzling, 30 seconds. Add the wine; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half, 2 minutes. Add 1 cup broth; return to a boil and cook until thickened, 2 minutes. Add the pork; return to a simmer. Top each chop with a prosciutto slice, then the cheeses. Broil until bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped prosciutto; cook until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the peas, the remaining 1/4 cup broth and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover; cook until the peas are tender, 5 minutes. Uncover; increase the heat to medium high. Cook until the liquid is reduced, 1 minute. Serve with the pork.

A New (to us) Breakfast Food [overnight Belgian waffles]

I asked my husband for a waffle maker for Christmas.  He was shocked, and thought it was the most un-romantic gift ever.  Which I thought was weird because usually we get each other (drumroll…..) nothing.  We’re adults who can buy whatever we need, and a lot of stuff we want, and we all know I spend half my life trying to own less crap.

That said, I got a waffle maker!  She’s beautiful.

In our family, I make pancakes, my husband commandeers French Toast, and no one makes waffles because we don’t have a waffle maker.  Except now we do, and so for its inaugural run, we graced it with Ina’s overnight Belgian waffles.  Do not be scared off by the yeast this recipe calls for.  This is not like making bread from scratch (but that’s easy too, see here.)  This is a recipe that involves stirring a bunch of stuff you dumped in a bowl, and that’s it.  I made this batter after Gooplet went to bed, and kept things moving in the waffle maker while my husband fed him breakfast the next morning.  The perfect recipe for us right now.

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To make 10 or 12 waffles, you will need:

  • 1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
  • 1 package (¼ ounce) active dry yeast, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 cups lukewarm whole milk (90 to 100 degrees)
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for the waffle iron
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Sliced bananas, toasted coconut, warm maple syrup, and crème fraîche, for serving*

The night before, combine the water, yeast, and sugar in a very large bowl (the batter will expand enormously). Allow it to stand for about 5 minutes, until the yeast dissolves and the mixture has started to foam, which tells you the yeast is active. Stir in the milk, butter, honey, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and whisk until the batter is smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to sit overnight at a cool room temperature.

The next morning, heat a Belgian waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions and brush the top and bottom with melted butter. Beat the eggs together with the baking soda and whisk them into the batter until combined. Pour just enough of the batter onto the hot waffle iron to cover the grids (⅓ to ½ cup each, depending on your waffle maker), close, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes on medium heat, until the waffles are golden brown. Cut them apart with a small knife, if necessary, and remove them with a fork. Repeat the process until all the batter has been used. Serve the waffles hot with sliced bananas, toasted coconut, maple syrup, and crème fraîche and let everyone help themselves.

*We didn’t use Ina’s fancy toppings, just maple syrup.  We get a bottle from friends every year–it’s our favorite.

 

A Fresh Start Brain Dump

Who’s ready for some rambling?

Yesterday, dear readers, I told you I didn’t have any resolutions, but my brain just kept spinning and spinning when it came to the idea.  Whether or not I’ve made specific resolutions each January, I’ve always had some sort of plan in mind; something I wanted to do. And this year, when it comes to the nitty gritty, I just don’t.

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(hello, gorgeous)

I am not going to say I should eat better (of course I should, I’m guessing a whole lot of us should), or try to put down my phone (I love my phone for books and podcasts and way too much Instagram, and I’m okay with that).  And for some reason, I can’t get into picking a word for the year.  Maybe because my life changes pretty quickly these days.

ben and birdy: Yay, It's Wednesday Cake! Cake:

(found this one via Dinner, A Love Story)

But I do have a couple of big picture items I want.  A vision?  I just rolled my eyes at myself for even typing that word.  Despite my inability to make a resolution, I still want a great year.  And with that, here are some fresh-start-for-a-new-year ideas I found online.

From Cup of Jo (who found them from Dolly Alderton):

  • Always carry a book in your bag. Trains will be delayed, post office queues will be long; you’ll be able to rattle through a book a week if you fill dead time with reading rather than scrolling through Instagram.
  • Switch from black to navy. Black is chic, but navy is soft. (Oh wait, this is how I’ve always lived my life except for like, two years in high school, when I tried really hard to be into black because it was cool.)
  • Send your best friend a bunch of flowers to celebrate her achievements, from as big as getting a promotion to as small as standing up to a difficult boss. We owe moments of excitement and surprise to our dearest and oldest friends as much as we do to our partners and lovers.

And from Kelle, at Enjoying the Small Things:

  • Clean one kitchen cabinet. If you feel inspired to keep going, that’s fine, but go for one. (I love the idea of committing to one small step.  Do more if you want, but just do a little bit.  That’s about all I can handle with someone pawing at my ankle all day.)
  • Make sure you have a desk drawer stocked with pretty stationery so you can send lots of snail mail this year. Buy new stamps. I got these pretty botanical ones for the new year, but these Wonder Woman ones are a powerful way to celebrate your woman power as you go in to the new year.
  • Visit the Valentine’s section at Target and smile.

Tracy wrote this post about getting organized for the New Year, and you have to follow her Instagram stories sharing her steps.

Becky posted a list of affirmations and while I kinda roll my eyes at that word too, a whole bunch of them lined up with how I want to live my life.  Here are the highlights (but so many that I didn’t post are how I want my family life to play out over the years, so click over and read them all if you love a bulleted list as much as I do.):

  • I honor my role as a mother and my children know and feel this whole-heartedly. They never have to wonder if they’re more important than work / friends / hobbies / etc.
  • I recognize that traditions are grounding and special and significant in our lives and I do my part to carry out and create traditions in our family.
  • I support my husband and children in the hobbies and interests they pursue because I know what my own hobbies and interests mean to me.
  • I am a loyal friend who avoids gossip. I take a sincere interest in others and find value in learning from different people — regardless of how well or how little I know them.
  • Our home is a place of refuge, peace, joy, comfort, and happy memories — for the five of us and also for our guests.
  • When it comes to material things, we only have things that we USE or that we LOVE. Clutter is a thing of the past. In our home we have pictures and decor that remind us of what’s important.

From Emily Henderson:

Survive while smiling – So easy. Our christmas “vacation” was riddled with small things that went wrong (car broken into, basement flooded, HFMD, sick toddlers, SO MANY DROPS OF WATER FROM THE SKY THAT WE AREN’T USED TO IN LA, etc.). But we survived and really, really tried to stay positive (thank God for grandparents). I’m pretty good at keeping things in perspective, but it’s always nice to remember that no one has ever died of a blog failing or an instagram post being ‘unliked’. No one has ever died of being an insecure parent, watching too much reality TV (GAH TONIGHT IS THE NIGHT!!! #bachelornation), or forgetting to provide socks for their baby. In fact no parent has ever died of crawling into their toddler’s crib and cuddling with him (many mornings in a row) because he is scared and just needs his mama even though I know that when he begs for cuddling in the middle of the night and I acquiesce, that I am creating quite the (cuddle) monster. I don’t care anymore. I’ll be cognizant of my decisions, but i’ll do whatever I want to to make our kids the happiest they can be (especially during a big change like a move) and keep Brian and me in a healthy and happy marriage.

And I’m always inspired by Elise and Ali’s chat about their words to kick off the new year.  I’ve listened since their first one, three years ago.

On Resolutions [salted caramel pretzel chocolate chip cookies]

Did you make them?  Did you pick a word?  I’ve done both in the past, and couldn’t seem to do either this year.  Instead, my husband and I took about 5 minutes on New Year’s Eve to talk about what we hope 2017 will look like in our family.  Per usual, that involves me not trying to pack a zillion things into short time frames.

I did post on my Instagram story (which, btw, is such a fun place to share real-time kitchen antics) that I wanted to eat more cookies.  Then I saw this post on Design Mom and figured we’re onto something here.

The cookies I shared are these salted caramel pretzel chocolate chip cookies, and they’re every bit as delightful as you’d expect, given their name.

To make 36, you will need:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pretzels
  • 18-20 caramels, cut in half (I like to use Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramels)
  • Pretzel twists for pressing on cookies (about 36)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars together for about 3 minutes. Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry ingredients. Stir in the chocolate chips and chopped pretzels.
  4. Form the cookie dough into balls, about 2 tablespoons of dough. Place a caramel piece in the center of the dough ball, making sure the cookie dough completely covers the caramel. This will prevent the caramel from oozing out in the oven. Place on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Gently press a pretzel twist on top of each cookie. Sprinkle cookies with sea salt.
  5. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden brown. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

*A note: When you store cookies with large chunks of salt on top (as can be found on pretzels), science happens, and the salt can make things soggy over the course of a couple of days.  Keep that in mind as you store these.  I baked about half the dough, stored the rest in my fridge, then made a second batch for a later occasion.

A Resolution Breaker [stovetop mac and cheese]

This mac and cheese is amazing and quick, and if you’re looking for a great way to break your 2017, “be a healthier person” resolution, this is it.  I made it as written months ago, and we’re experimenting with Havarti and Mozzarella later this week.

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Cheers, dear readers, and happy 2017.  I’ve got tons to tell you, but I’ve gotta get through the most epic reading post ever.  I’ve been editing it for weeks–weeks!

To make Alton Brown’s Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese for 4, you will need:

1/2 pound elbow macaroni*
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
6 ounces evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.

*I take issue with a lot of recipes that call for less than a whole box of pasta.  Why wouldn’t you make the whole box of pasta?  So use a big pot, and double up if you want, dear readers.

November and December Reads

These past two months, I was in a complete reading rut.  I used to stress that I’d never touch a book again, or that less reading meant I was watching too much TV, but now I don’t worry as much.  I always come back to books.

You know I love this. via Happy Monday. Hope you have a good week. xo:

Just Read:

You’ll Grow Out of It, by Jessi Klein – Loved it.  Flat out, loved it.  Don’t know that anyone not born in the 80s would feel the same, but I was, and I loved this.  Also, anyone who includes a chapter about attending their first barre class in so much (hysterically accurate) detail wins.

Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult – Oh, Jodi.  My first Jodi was My Sister’s Keeper.  I read it when it came out in 2004.  I hit Jodi right when she hit her stride.  Where Disney had The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, Jodi was on a roll with My Sister’s Keeper, Vanishing Acts, The Tenth Circle, and Nineteen Minutes.  I eagerly awaited the release of each novel, and in between, I went back and read her earlier books.  And then, I kept reading the new one each year, but they lacked that same “can’t put it down” feeling that those others held for me.  Until this one.  It’s so relevant.  It’s so well-done.  I’m calling it my fiction read-alike to Hillbilly Elegy, and it’s making me want to read this, this, this and this, too.

Reading:

Counting Thyme, by Melanie Conklin – This one came recommended by my aunt.  It’s a middle grade novel about a sister who moves across the country to New York so her younger brother can participate in a medical trial for kids with Neuroblastoma, a horrifying cancer about which my aunt knows far too much.  When she was telling me about it, I wanted to read it first because of the family connection, and second, because I realized I hadn’t read a middle grade novel in ages.  I’m enjoying it.

Want to Read:

The Mothers, by Brit Bennett – Just came in for me at the library, and I know I’ll need to get started because they’ll want to keep it moving.  Can’t wait.

Mrs. Bixby’s Last Day, by John David Anderson – I’m a sucker for a teacher story, and this one sounds like it will tug at my heart.

(image/shelf goals)