Tag Archives: goodies

life happens.

Our next door neighbors have a giant holly tree in their yard. It’s at the front corner of their back yard, if that makes any sense, and the reason that’s important is that the location of it makes it hang over into our driveway. Big time. I, for one, am thrilled about this. Christmas decorations cost money, and holly hanging over my car is free.

The point is – the last time I posted on the back burner, I hadn’t even noticed any berries on the holly tree. I started to see them a few weeks ago, and their unripe greenness reminded me of how bright and Christmasy they had been when we first saw the house. One morning this week, I got into my car, heading to work, and noticed that the berries had started to get yellow. How could it be that time of year already?

Today, as I sit on our couch in our living room, looking out into the crisp autumn afternoon, the berries are bathed in cool sunshine. They are a deep orange-y almost-red, and I can hardly believe it. Life happens. Life is busy. Holly turns red practically before your eyes these days.

And so, in the spirit of taking the time to notice what’s going on around us, here is a recap – with some pictures, don’t worry, I know I’ve been long-winded already) – of the past month. It’s been a good one, a crazy one, a memorable one. Enjoy!

Let’s see. Where should I start? Well, I’m still doing yoga. It has been so incredible for me. I’d heard about Bikram yoga for a long time, and had always been too chicken to try it. I started in July, and haven’t really looked back. I try to go to class at least three times a week, which usually means I go to class three times a week. With a full-time, “traditional” job, it’s often tough to fit in the 90-minute class, but it’s worth it. The studio is about ten minutes from our house, and the benefits I’ve reaped since starting are well worth the scheduling challenges I face. I feel better in so many way, including that much of my chronic back pain is now nonexistent. Cheers to Bikram. I’m an official convert.

Okay, I know. It’s time for some pictures. You know I love to take pictures of food, so that’s what I have. I’ve made lots of great dishes recently – this was a Cooking Light fish and tomato and basil saute:

I also made butternut squash soup for the first time. How amazing does this roasted butternut look?

Next came the big batch of basil pesto, some of which is still in the freezer. Check out this picture: Charlie is a BIG dog, and the basil plant is as tall as he is!

I also made the very unique and ridiculously delicious acorn squash quesadillas with tomatillo salsa from Smitten Kitchen. They’re like nothing else I’ve ever eaten, and we loved them. Here is a picture of the squash before roasting and a picture of the quesadilla filling cooking on the stove.

I also made from-scratch pumpkin pie this month. Strange, but true. I roasted and pureed the pumpkin myself and everything.


The crust was kind of a disaster – it was perfect underneath the pie but burnt on the top edge – but the rest of the pie was delish. This picture doesn’t really do it justice. It was much lovelier in real life!

I guess I’m getting out of order here, but the cooking topic brings me to yesterday morning. Carrie, Kus and I decided to make brunch here – and it ROCKED. The menu included mimosas, cinnamon hazelnut french-pressed coffee, cinnamon raisin french toast with fresh fruit, and spinach and ricotta quiche. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. It was to die for. I am kicking myself for not taking any pictures.

I had the pleasure of visiting R. in Charlottesville a few weeks ago, which is always well-worth the drive West on 64. I miss living in the same city as her. Maybe one day. :)

All three members of my immediate family have celebrated birthdays in the past month, too. My mom’s was a big year, if you know what I mean, so Dad threw her a huge surprise party. It was awesome. She had no idea. I sent my brother art supplies in the mail for his birthday, and we were all together again to celebrate Pops with a lovely dinner made by mom on Friday night. Again, I’ve got to remember to start taking pictures of things other than food. Sheesh.

I also did a little Fall decorating at our house – for some reason it seems that I’ve only taken pictures of one room, but here they are. What do you think?

My MFA program is…well, it’s going. I still get frustrated a lot, but I’m really working on it. I’m trying to remind myself that it’s okay for things not to be perfect and it’s okay for me to not feel like writing every second of every day. It’s just a crazy time, and it’s hard to me to balance everything.

Work has been crazy, but I like it that way. I’d so much rather feel like a chicken with my head cut off than be sitting around bored all day, doing nothing. I feel really fortunate to have found this job when we moved to Richmond, and it continues to be good to me.

Finally, last weekend we got a small group together and headed up toward Wintergreen to hike Three Ridges. It’s an almost 15-mile loop, so we did it over two days. We got on the trail at about 3pm on Saturday, camped Saturday night, and came off the trail at about 12:30pm on Sunday. It was awesome. We really needed to get away, and it was the perfect place to be. You just can’t beat Fall in the Blue Ridge. You really can’t.

And in case you need a laugh to end on, tomorrow is my last class at a local yarn store – I am allegedly learning how to knit socks. Tomorrow makes class #4 – and I seriously don’t know if I will be able to get through the second one after the class is over. Those things are complicated. And yes. You read that correctly. It has taken me four weeks to knit PART OF one sock. Gah.

Anyway, thanks for being here, and thanks for reading. Cheers to you and your loved ones, and enjoy life happening. :)

xo

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nothing much better.

So I mentioned a couple of months back that Alex and I were starting to get deliveries of fresh produce, eggs and cheese every other week through Dominion Harvest. Remember me going on and on about that? Anyway, it’s been awesome It’s so awesome to come home from work to FOOD. A whole big box of it. Anyway, when Alex was gone during the week for four weeks straight for his clinical (yeah, bummer!), I always tried to make it a point to feed him really well when he was home. :)

I’m a few weeks late posting this, but here’s how we used almost our entire box in one delicious meal. But don’t worry – it was still cheaper than eating out AND we had tons of leftovers!

Gazpacho. Yes. I am totally in love with my food processor. It took this:

And turned it into this:

Which I then proceeded to stir up all together to make this:

Fresh and yummy goodness. Seriously. There’s not a bad thing in this stuff. (Oh, and on a tip from Al’s parents – add some red wine vinegar to the recipe!)

Next on the menu for that evening were Greek Mini Meat Loaves. These babies are chock full of deliciousness. I mean, OATS in meatloaf? Who would have thought? Amazing. Check out the bowl pre-mix – you can barely even see the meat! And not in a too-much-breading-in-a-crabcake way. More like in a how-did-i-ever-eat-ground-beef-without-all-this-stuff-mixed-with-it way.

And here they are, in the muffin tins post-baking – my apologies for the half-empty pan. We sort of forgot to take a pic at first because we were too busy stuffing our faces.

And of course there was tzatziki to go on top – I used Miss Smart’s recipe from here. I followed it pretty loosely, using Greek yogurt and way more cucumber than necessary. I like it like that. Doesn’t everything look so pretty and fresh?

Mmmmmm. I took a picture of Alex enjoying this delicious feast, but I won’t post it because I was too busy getting full to take a halfway decent one. So you can imagine instead.

Anyway, cook something awesome this weekend. You won’t regret it. :)

xo

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one brownie at a time.

I love chocolate. It’s no secret. Give me the choice between a bag of Skittles and a Reese cup (or Snickers bar, or Hershey’s kiss, or Twix, or M&Ms) and I’ll pick [any of] the latter every time. One could say I have a problem. And so, when I found out that one of my sorority sisters from UVa started this awesome blog a couple of years ago and in turn found a link to this equally adorable online space – I was in heaven. I love healthy, fun food blogs – and all of the ones that Sarah links to fit the bill.

Anyway, I was perusing last week, and came across Brittany’s recipe for “Special Brownies.” No, it’s not what you think – but a friend of ours immediately thought the same thing. So don’t feel bad. Okay, okay – back to the point here. BLACK BEAN BROWNIES. Does that sound disgusting or what? I suppose I should admit that as much as I love chocolate – I despise beans. Except for refried ones. Smothered in so much cheese they’re practically unidentifiable. Anywho, I digress.

I had seen recipes for black bean brownies in lots of hip and trendy places over the past couple of years, and I just couldn’t bring myself to try them. I don’t know – when you hate beans as much as I do (which is a lot) it’s really hard to imagine tarnishing one of your favorite things on earth (read: chocolate) with them. So I ignored all the recipes. But when Carrie and I decided to cook dinner together last Thursday, I figured I’d go for it.

Honestly, I think it was the hot yoga that did it to me. I have officially been to class 11 times – that’s 2 – 3 times a week for the last 4 weeks! Aren’t you proud? Anyway, I figured if I’m working my butt off for multiple hours every week to try and be healthier and feel better, I could stomach the idea of possibly making brownies (YUM) just a tad better for me.

So, after our delicious dinner (of which I forgot to take pictures – sorry!) which included parmesan asparagus, pasta with basil and red peppers, and parmesan & panko crusted tilapia, we began our quest to make special brownies.

Here’s the thing – when you’re making them, they sort of look as nasty as they sound. The recipe is here (and above), so I won’t go through every little thing, but I will show you what I mean:

Yep. It’s true. You actually just dump everything into your food processor and, well, process. Scary, but it works. So anyway, I made a couple of MINOR changes to the recipe – I was afraid of any smidge of beany taste, so I added some mini semi-sweet chocolate chips in the batter pre-processing (so they got all crunched up) and on top. I made a second batch (yes, we finished the first one in three days) yesterday when Alex’s family came, and was forced to modify again – I only had 2 eggs, and it calls for three. So, thanks to Google, I figured out that I could use 1/4 cup flax seed meal and 1/4 cup cold water to substitute for an egg. HOW SWEET IT IS THAT? So I did, making it even more healthy, not a bit less tasty, and therefore exponentially more exciting. :) I mean, get real – can YOU tell the difference?

Their texture is a tiny bit different, but not in a bad way. Just different. As in – not Betty Crocker out of a box texture. Which is fine. :) I enjoyed them the way I always enjoy brownies – with a (probably too big) scoop of vanilla ice cream. I was a satisfied customer:

In case you can’t tell, there’s no brownie left in there. Knowing me, not even a crumb. It was awesome. Who knew?

Happy Monday! Go make some brownies.

xo

 

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summer salsa.

As a wedding gift, Alex and I were given six beautiful heirloom tomato plants. They were tall and scrawny and about a foot and a half tall at the time of the gift (around two and a half months ago) and we planted them in our yard. There were two Sungold plants, one Green Zebra, one Garden Peach, and two that I (embarrassingly enough) can’t remember. One is a roma-like variety and the other is a more standard red. Anyway, the roma variety has “bottom-rot”, which has been a major bummer. The standard red is producing a tomato here and there, I’ve gotten a decent handful of Green Zebras and Garden Peaches, and one of the Sungold plants is doing well. The other one, on the other hand, well – see for yourself.

That’s a little blurry, but let’s just say this guy is out of control. In a good way. Check it out:

I’m telling you, these pictures don’t do it justice. This thing is the size of a small jungle. IT’S AWESOME. I pick a whole batch of tomatoes about every three days. Aren’t they pretty?

Between our tomato plants, my aunt and uncle’s tomato plants, and the every-now-and-then tomatoes that I get in my Dominion Harvest deliveries, I have been making the most delicious salsa ever. I use as many tomatoes as I have/want to use, chop up one onion, and add big slices of whatever kind of hot pepper strikes my fancy at the grocery store. I also dump in a little salt and pepper, and sometimes I squirt in a tad of lemon juice. If I’m serving it fresh, I add cilantro – but cilantro’s one of those things you either love or hate. If I’m freezing it, I leave the cilantro out. I’m not sure how the texture of the leaves would turn out post-thaw. My food processor does the rest – and VOILA! The best salsa ever.

Anywho, we have been eating this stuff like it’s our job – and since I’ve used different tomatoes each time, the batches have ranged from green to red to pink to yellow. It’s fantastic!

Do you have any favorite salsa recipes for the summer?

 

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trying new things.

Okay, so last week, Alex was having a sort of crummy day. And nothing makes my future hubby happier than meat when he’s down in the dumps. Straight up, delicious, meaty meat. He’s a meat-and-potatoes kinda guy – who, luckily for me, also happens to be willing to try lots of random vegetable and fish combos too. Anyway, I remembered that he mentioned years (yes, literally years) ago that he loved Sloppy Joes. And I had never made – or eaten, for that matter – them before. I remembered seeing this recipe online a while back, so I tried it out.

I have to say – I’d definitely recommend it! It’s super easy, and makes a decent-sized batch. We ate leftovers for a few days afterwards! We had ours with whole wheat buns and a bottle each of Legend Lager – Legend is a Richmond brewery, but if you can get their stuff wherever you are, I’d definitely recommend it. :)

That same night, I decided to think up a better way to start our days – aka re-vamp our breakfast routine. We’re big fans of super sugary cereal, but I’ve been thinking that there has to be a more nutritional way to get our engines going in the morning. So, armed with some sausage and absolutely no plan, I made a breakfast casserole. I started with 4-6 eggs (I actually cannot remember how many I used), which I whisked into a scramble in a medium mixing bowl. I browned a roll of hot breakfast sausage on the stove, and plopped the crumbles into the eggs. I shredded a 4-ounce block of Cabot sharp white cheddar into the mix, added a little bit of milk, and stirred. Then, I greased the bottom of an 8×8 inch Pyrex and poured the mess into it. I cooked this for between 20 and 30 minutes (again, I should have been a little more exact) at 375 degrees (I think it was 375 – GAH, I know. I’m sorry!). I know that these aren’t the most specific directions, but it seems like this is something that’s pretty hard to mess up! We ate like kings every morning for the rest of the week – I cut the casserole into 8 pieces, which gave each piece a very reasonable amount of egg (less than 1 egg per serving), sausage (less than one official “serving” per piece) and cheese (not exactly sure the serving size to piece of casserole ratio). We loved it – I’ll definitely be making this again on a regular basis. It was so easy to just get out a slice and zap it before work in the morning!

Okay, if you’re still reading this (which I don’t blame you if you’re not – I’m a little all over the place today), here’s the REALLY big news. If you like these recipes – get excited for the coming months. Thanks to the advice of a co-worker, I’ve signed up for a share with Dominion Harvest for this season! Basically, Dominion Harvest is a CSA co-op that delivers the box of produce directly to your house. Um, don’t mind if I do!

Alex and I will get a box of produce (complete with a dozen eggs and some sort of awesome local cheese) every two weeks to start. You can do every week, too, but I didn’t want to overload us at the beginning. We are SO excited about this – it’s like a farmer’s market that comes straight to your front door! According to my friend who referred me, DH also sends out recipes via email – which is awesome since a lot of the veggies we get probably won’t be on our normal recipe list.

I still hope to grow some goodies in our brand-spankin’ new backyard, but it won’t be a huge harvest this year between exams/job shifts/that whole wedding planning thing are all taking up lots and lots of the good stuff (i.e. TIME) these days. This is my way of being adventurous and supporting local farmers (almost 100% of the goodies in every box we get will be from farms less than 100 miles from the Richmond area!) and of course eating lots of delicious dinners this year.

Anyway, sorry for this ridiculously long, rambling, and picture-less post. Thanks for reading – really. :) Hopefully the recipes to come (with some eye candy) will make up for it.

xoxo

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a spring surprise.

Last fall, I planted some kale in the box gardens we built in our apartment’s tiny backyard. For a few reasons, the harvest never happened:

1) Weather. In central Virginia, kale is a spring and fall crop. It likes cool evenings and mild days. If any of my fellow Virginians remember last September-ish, it went from being about 95 degrees to approximately 40 degrees in about, oh, two weeks. Not exactly kale-friendly.

2) Oops. I had never grown anything from seed before. For our box gardens, I bought seedlings from the Charlottesville farmer’s market. Anyway, my dad told me just to “spread them around” in the soil. Well, I did that, but apparently I spread a few too many. My little square box was so filled with those little sprouts that when they did come up (even though they didn’t have time to fully mature – see #1) they were so smooshed in there together they never would have had a chance anyway.

3) Woof. Since that little backyard of ours has often been the gathering place for our friends and their dogs, there was always a chance that the pups would decide the boxes were a playground. And alas – one fall evening, dear Bella got the party started. She dug and dug and dug until (we thought) every little tiny plant was upturned and every seed had flown out of the box. We didn’t mind – after all, the weather and my lack of gardening skills were already working against us.

But check it out – the picture above was taken this morning! As the weather started getting warmer (I’m going to ignore the fact that it SNOWED this morning. And yes, sadly, I’m serious), Alex and I started noticing some little sprigs popping up in our box. Sure enough, it was real live kale. There’s about a 12 inch deep line of the leafy green – a line that’s usually blocked by this board we use for impromptu seating:

And so, on this cold March evening, I’ve just enjoyed a plate full of steamed kale! (In case you’re curious about how I fix it – I use a steamer basket, layer the kale with chopped onions, and use lots of salt and both black and white pepper for seasoning.) And of course, it was marvelous. Bring on the spring. :)

xo

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full and happy.

friday. picasso, momma, jake, strawberry street cafe. a drive to norfolk, hardly any traffic, a niece and nephew to ooh-and-ahh over and a brother and sister-in-law armed with dinner for the grill and wine. lots of wine.

saturday. doughnuts. a trip to the zoo with a four-and-a-half year old and his seven-year-old sister. doumar’s. sunshine. a nap on the ride home. early bedtime.

sunday. early morning run. church. family. the tavern. homemade ginger snaps. a super short shift at work. more sunshine – for longer. delicious dinner.

this is the life. this is MY life. how lucky am i? and because everything is better with pictures, enjoy these. :)

happy monday!

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