If You Want it to be Spring Break, You Have to Make it Spring Break [Week in the Life, Monday]

Monday was the last day of our spring break. But not really spring break. I was just mom-ing away at home like I always do. The difference between spring break and regular life was that I declared it spring break. This meant laundry was neglected, I got lax about cleaning, I shirked some clean up duties to read on the porch every night, and we are all still fine.

One of the things I loved about being a teacher was that come June, the school year was over and done, and you could start fresh in the fall. Not so with mom-life. It’s on and on and on and on-going. And there’s never a good time to stop the madness and take a break from the daily routines. But sometimes, your friends are on spring break, and so you declare a little break of your own.

If you want it to be spring break, you have to make it spring break.

You decide that this is the week you’ll have a little more fun.

Here’s what Monday looked like.

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He just lives to be outside. I enjoy being outside, but not as much as him. On good days, I’m accommodating.

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He and I both share a love of the grocery store, thank goodness. He likes to bang on boxes in the front of the cart, and point and shout at balloons as we walk around. He loves saying hello to the butcher, and the check out ladies.

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I am almost always my most productive during Monday morning naptime. Today was dinner in the slow cooker, laundry folded, dishes washed, smoothie finished, coffee poured, trash and recycling out, groceries put away.

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We are in the car for something or another every day. Love seeing those chubby feet.

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We love when we have an errand to run right near two of our besties. Met them at the grocery store and picked up a couple things at Home Goods (but not the things I needed).

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He asked for TV when we got home, so 10 minutes of snuggles and Sesame Street (with Grover and Cookie Monster).

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He loves to play with little figures. These two are fresh from the Easter basket.

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We ventured off to see more friends (told you it was spring break). The grown ups had a glass of wine and spanikopita. He ran all over the place.

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They did dinner together while I caught my breath.

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We (3) did bath time with a super tired Gooplet.

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We ate dinner together, but each did our own (phone) thing.

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I ended the day the best way I know how. Reading (Small Admissions) on the porch. A couple nights away from home this week means this is probably not going to happen as much as I want it to.

Why so many photos in one day? It’s Week in the Life! Stay tuned for more shots from my week.

Questions? Ali invented it.

Past Weeks in my life? 2016//2015//Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday* Saturday Sunday 2011 (!!!!!)

*AGOMYR, you still reading? Be sure to click on Friday. xoxo

 

Wins of the Month, February 2017

Some months, I jot down wins as they happen, and others, it’s all I can do to look back at the calendar and wonder what happened. This month was the latter.

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And I think, rather than a bulleted list, our biggest win was that we survived.  My husband started traveling more for work, I took on a big role in our church, and the entire month was spent with one of us either coming or going. And we’re still standing. On to March.

 

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 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 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.

The Wisdom of AGOMYR [pioneer woman’s twice baked potatoes]

After Thanksgiving, AGOMYR was kind enough to inquire as to the results of a little experiment I conducted in my kitchen.

“How were The Pioneer Woman’s mashed potatoes?”

“Oh, AGOMYR, they were good.  They have almost everything Grandma Glass of Milk’s recipe has.  But they just weren’t the same.”

“Um, of course they weren’t.”

Because nothing is ever the same as your grandma’s mashed potatoes.  Especially when you and your grandma have gone so far as to exchange Hallmark cards specifically about mashed potatoes.

So noted.

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I can tell you, however, that The Pioneer Woman’s twice baked potatoes are absolutely and completely too good to be true.  There is not a shred of nutrition in them.  But now and again, I’m okay with that.

These would be a delightfully decadent addition to your Christmas table, and you could make them ahead of time, and reheat them in the oven right before serving.

To make potatoes for 12, you will need:

8 baking potatoes, washed
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 sticks salted butter
1 cup bacon bits (fry your own!)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup Cheddar or Jack cheese (or a mix of both), plus more for topping
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3 green onions, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. Rub them with the canola oil and bake for 1 hour, making sure they’re sufficiently cooked through.

Slice the butter into pats. Place in a large mixing bowl and add the bacon bits and sour cream. Remove the potatoes from the oven. Lower the heat to 350 degrees F.

With a sharp knife, cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scrape out the insides into the mixing bowl, being careful not to tear the shell. Leave a small rim of potato intact for support. Lay the hollowed out potato shells on a baking sheet.

Smash the potatoes into the butter, bacon and sour cream. Add the cheese, milk, seasoned salt, green onions and black pepper to taste and mix together well. (IMPORTANT: If you plan to freeze the twice-baked potatoes, do NOT add the green onions.)

Fill the potato shells with the filling. I like to fill the shells so they look abundant and heaping. Top each potato with a little more grated cheese and pop ’em in the oven until the potato is warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes.

A Dose of Nostalgia [adult spaghetti-o’s]

It’s terrifying to think that it’s people my age who are the targeted market for nostalgia these days.  The first time I heard a Red Hot Chili Peppers song on the classic rock station I flipped out.  Classic rock?  A song that I remember vividly from my childhood? Not possible.

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Need something to eat while you’re finishing up season two of Fuller House?  (Surely you’ve finished Gilmore, even though I haven’t started.)  May I suggest Bon Appetit’s adult SpaghettiOs?

To make enough for 6 people, you will need:

  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • ¼ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck (20% fat)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ medium onion
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 large sprigs basil
  • 12 ounces anelletti, ditalini, or other short tubular pasta

Purée tomatoes in a food processor until mostly smooth; there should still be some dime-sized pieces remaining. Set aside.

Whisk panko, cheese, oregano, garlic powder, ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, and 1½ tsp. salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in egg and cream. Add beef and mix with your hands until just combined, being careful not to overwork (if packed too firmly, meatballs will be dense). Form into 1″-diameter balls (you should have about 24); transfer to a plate.

Heat oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high. Cook meatballs, turning occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides but not fully cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to another plate.

Cook onion and garlic in same skillet, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and begins to soften, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add tomato paste and cook until brick red, about 1 minute. Add paprika and a pinch of red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add sugar, basil, and reserved tomato purée. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is slightly reduced and flavors have melded, about 20 minutes. Add meatballs and any accumulated juices; continue to cook until meatballs are cooked through, 5–10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain and return to pasta pot. Pour sauce and meatballs over pasta and stir to combine. Transfer to a platter and top with cheese.

It’s (Almost) Girl Scout Cookie Time [thin mint brownies]

I posted an Instagram the other day, in which it was revealed, that yes, I still have two boxes of Thin Mints in my pantry.  Two boxes!  People were shocked.  The truth is, Tagalongs are my great weakness in life, but I can take or leave a Thin Mint.

Until you tell me they can be crushed up and made into icing for brownies.  Brownies!  I just got that.

img_6730To make a batch, you will need:

  • 1 (16.5 oz) box Devil’s Food Cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 (9 oz) bag mint chocolate chips
  • 1 (9 oz) box Thin Mints (about 30 cookies)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 (12 oz) bag mini chocolate chips*
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13 baking dish with aluminum foil and coat generously with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. With a mixer, beat cake mix, eggs, and melted butter until well combined. Then stir in mint chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Press into the bottom of prepared pan, and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes until the edges have just set. Allow to cool completely.
  3. For the frosting, crush the cookies in a Ziploc bag into fine crumbs. With the mixer again, beat the cookie crumbs, powdered sugar, and softened butter for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Spread over cooled brownies and top with mini chocolate chips. Cut into squares and serve.

*By the time all was said and done and I got these made, I didn’t think the extra chips on top were necessary.  I love these with just the brownies and icing.

All of Our Dinners [tomato and orzo soup with grilled cheese croutons]

Over the past couple of weekends, my husband and I have been poring over Ina’s cookbooks (more on this later).  This is a first for him, but not so much for me.  At one point in his perusal, he remarked, “These are all of our dinners!”

Astute observation, honey.

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Our most recent Barefoot Contessa dinner was her tomato and orzo soup with grilled cheese croutons.  I first enjoyed it on a lunch date with my longtime friend Sarah, and was so pumped to find I had all the ingredients I needed (save for saffron) to make it at home.  It was on the table only two evenings later.

To make soup for 4, you will need:

3 tablespoons good olive oil
3 cups yellow onions, chopped fine (2 onions)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
Large pinch of saffron threads
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup orzo
1/2 cup heavy cream
Grilled Cheese Croutons (see below)

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. (It will finish cooking in the soup.) Drain the orzo and add it to the soup. Stir in the cream, return the soup to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.

Serve hot with Grilled Cheese Croutons scattered on top.  This is a simple as making your favorite grilled cheese, and cutting it into bite-sized pieces.

Currently

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Making: lists, so things get dumped out of my brain (and remembered).
Cooking: lots of meals, but never quite on the day I think I’m going to.
Drinking: OJ to combat the sniffles.
Reading: You’ll Grow out of It, by Jessi Klein.
Wanting: what else? To spruce up the house in a couple of places
Looking: at floating shelves (see above)
Playing: the Hamilton mixtape songs
Deciding: whether or not the flowers on the counter will last a couple more days
Wishing: my Facebook feed would settle down already. 
Enjoying: Sugarfina treats from AGOMYR.  She’s too good to me.
Waiting: for a chance to catch up on Jane the Virgin and Barefoot Contessa
Liking: that I’ve still got the windows open in mid-November!
Wondering: the best way to start organizing the pantry.
Loving: getting dressed in the morning. I can’t even believe I said that. 
Pondering: what Christmas will look like. 
Considering: a party where I invite people to come over to use up all my leftover disposable paper plates, cups, and napkins from other parties.  Does this happen to anyone else?
Watching: Jane the Virgin. I’m behind a couple of episodes. 
Hoping: I can pull off all the new dishes I want to try this Thanksgiving. 
Marveling: at the way all my holds come in at the library at the exact same time and then I have three weeks to get through 47 books.
Needing: deep breaths.
Smelling: nothing, because of those aforementioned sniffles.
Wearing: sneakers, always.
Following: the flow, a la Jess Lively
Noticing: that food brings people together. 
Knowing: this year the Christmas sheets will go on the bed early.
Thinking: of gift ideas already. 
Feeling: content. 
Admiring: patience in others.
Sorting: baby clothes.
Buying: baby clothes.
Getting: posts together for a meal planning series – 2017, dear readers!
Bookmarking: recipes, always. 
Disliking: how when I read multiple books at once, I rarely finish any. 
Praying: for families who aren’t looking forward to the holidays. 
Opening: too many tabs online. 
Giggling: over every last Joe Boden meme out there. 
Snacking: on sour cream and onion chips, my true weakness. 
Coveting: M.Gemi shoes. 
Wishing: for a couple new kitchen tools. 
Helping: organize a couple of events. 
Hearing: