Christmas Eve (This Christmas is Special Because…)

Sometimes the simplest comments make the most impact. Today Brenden said: ” You know what’s so special about THIS Christmas??” And we all stopped our whining and complaining and looked at him like we were about to get an early present.
“What??”
“It’s the only Christmas Brielle will be four and Michael will be two.” And then we had a long discussion about how Christmas comes once a year, and so do birthdays, and no, Brielle, you were not four last Christmas, you were three. But all that constant banter aside, Brenden’s comment was not lost on me.
So here I sit, desperate to get some memories down before they are lost in the abyss of “too many pictures” land.

Today we celebrated Christmas with the extended family. All 45 of us. Brenden and I made exactly three turkeys. Well, one turkey and two turkey breasts. We didn’t have the oven space for all three so one was slow-cooked (and turned out a little gross) the other was cooked in the oven as usual, and the third Brenden smoked. Outside. At 6 am. In the rain. Talk about commitment!



Remmy is always under-foot, waiting for something to drop.. and something always does. 

I made my favorite cranberry sauce. It’s four ingredients and the prettiest/tastiest sauce ever. 



3 cups cranberries, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup orange juice, 1 tsp orange zest- simmer for 10 minutes. Delish.
Then we headed to Grandmoms! Actually Great-Grandmom’s… who passed away just a couple months ago. This was mom’s way of honoring her, having Christmas at her house and closing that chapter properly. So we all happily obliged. And surprisingly only a few tears were shed. We miss her so.

The house was decorated beautifully and there were tasty treats everywhere. Brielle was in heaven. My favorite was the little mouse mom made out of hershey’s kisses and chocolate covered cherries(!!!) And Brielle’s face… oh my.


So many cousins and noise and fun! Mom and the kids put on the most adorable nativity play and we sang carols to accompany it. 


Gifts! Grandmommy always gave books and this is the last year we will be getting her thoughtful reads. *tears*

Cuddles with Uncle Ethan.

Kitchen time. Lots of it!

We left after tons of food and fun and headed to Christmas Eve service where we volunteered to help with the kids. Turns out all the kids wanted to stay with the parents in the service so we got to do the same! Michael went up on stage to “sing with Paul Zach” who is the praise and worship leader and his absolute hero. Brielle was too shy and wanted to sit in my lap and watch from a safe distance.


He may look like he’s singing but he’s not. He didn’t sing one word, he just looked around and LOVED being up there with all the big kids!

Everyone was over-tired and couldn’t get bathed and in bed fast enough. ME TOO. What a day!
Can’t wait for Christmas morning!!!!



Bacon Cabbage Chuck Beef Stew: Paleo Comfort Food!

Good old Crock-Pot meals… I can be having a haaaale of a week and if I have dinner cooking in the slow-cooker I feel like I can (possibly) hold it all together.

This week I’ve had a couple of those days. Monday for example: Everything I did I had to re-do. The kids were sick and not sleeping. I was tired. I came home from running errands and put an entire load of freshly washed laundry BACK into the washer. It was in the hamper upstairs ready to be folded and I thought it was dirty and started the process all over again!

But in the background my good old Crock-Pot was dutifully “doing.” So I breathed in.

And let me tell you what I smelled.

We recently got a cow share. Hm. Does “beef” share sound better? Either way I have a freezer full of grass-fed beef that I know lived a happy and healthy life. We named it Sarah. Don’t think about that too long. I try not to. 😉img_5202 img_5203This is our first time doing a beef share, and it’s super fun to pull out different cuts for different recipes.

So Monday I pulled out a mammoth sized chuck roast. When Brielle saw it she said ‘That’s something a dinosaur eats.” and then “Is that BLOOD?” Yeah, she doesn’t eat red meat and probably never will after seeing this.

I found this recipe on The Nourished Caveman. It is so easy and delicious.

Ingredients
  • ½ pound of organic uncured bacon, in strips
  • 2 to 3 pound grass-fed and -finished chuck roast, cut in 2″ pieces
  • 2 large organic red onions, peeled and cut in slices
  • 1 clove organic garlic, peeled and smashed – (I used minced in a jar garlic)
  • 1 small organic green or Savoy cabbage
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 sprig fresh organic thyme
  • 1 cup of homemade beef bone broth (I used organic store-bought but now I can make some bone broth with the bones from this cut!)

We started by putting the bacon in the bottom of the slow cooker. Michael helped with this until I caught him with an entire piece of raw bacon in his mouth. Reallllly gross. img_5201
img_5204Then we sliced the red onions and added them to the bacon along with the garlic.
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Then we cut the beef and the cabbage. This was a group effort, which means a LOT more effort on my part, and zero time for picture taking.

This is the easy breakdown of all steps:

  1. bacon slices to line the bottom
  2. onion slices and garlic
  3. the chuck roast
  4. the cabbage slices
  5. the thyme
  6. the broth
  7. add few pinches of sea salt and a liberal amount of freshly ground black pepper
  8. Cook on low for 7 hours.
  9. Serve in bowls.

This is Michael adding the cabbage. It looks like a lot of cabbage but it will caramelize down beautifully!
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I love including them in the cooking. It is pretty time consuming (and more than a little messy) but I know it’s invaluable.

After the stew was done I stirred it all up, added some salt and tasted it.
It was sooooo good. I didn’t know how the onions and bacon would turn out because the onions were a big pile in the bottom of the slow cooker and the bacon was in raw strips (???) but they were a delicious caramelized tangle of goodness.

The beef was tender and to die for.

But the cabbage was my favorite. It had amazing flavor and was so delicious. I’m going to slow cook some cabbage alone with some bone broth very soon. The health benefits of cabbage are off the charts and I didn’t know slow cooking it would make it so tasty!

So there it is. And I’m eating leftovers right now! It’s perfect for a Fall/Winter day. XOXO

 

 



Mexican-Style Pulled Pork

Yet another slow-cooker pork recipe to add to my arsenal! Praise the easy recipe gods.

And this might be my favorite yet.

I had high hopes for this recipe for a few reasons. One being that it called for enchilada sauce. That just spelled “comfort food” to me. And let me tell you, it does not disappoint in this category.

This pulled pork can (and should!) be served over everything from baked potatoes to big fat rolls to corn tortillas. And the sides… I can’t even imagine the tastes that would compliment this. Coleslaw, Pinto beans, Collards, oh my!

We kept it simple tonight and ate the face off some tacos. With a side of spicy black beans.

Mexican-Style Pulled Pork:

You will need –

  • 2 to 3 lb. pork butt or shoulder
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/2 cup enchilada sauce
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 2 green chilies, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the last six ingredients in the list (the spices) in bowl and rub it all over the meat.
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img_0719Put the seasoned meat in a slow cooker (turned on low.)

Now pour over the meat:
The salsa, the enchilada sauce, the green peppers, (I used 1/2 can of mild green chilies – sliced – instead) and the beef stock.
img_0722Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours.

Once it’s done, take the meat out and let it rest. Strain the sauce with a colander into a saucepan.) It’t hot! Cook the sauce over medium heat until it thickens a bit.

I added two tablespoons of corn starch to a portion of it and once it was dissolved I added it back to the pan. It thickened the sauce nicely! Totally optional, but gave it more of a gravy comfort food vibe.

Shred the pork using two forks, and put back in the slow cooker with the thickened sauce, combining with a few stirs. Cover the crock pot and cook on high heat for another 20 minutes. I didn’t cook it the additional 20 minutes, (we are impatient over here,) and it still turned out perfect. 

Open it up (again) and enjoy!!!!

XOXO

*This recipe (minus a few changes) is from Paleo Leap: My go-to treasure trove for all things Paleo!

 

 



Slow-Cooker Cochinita-Style Pork

Can I just tell you how much I love trying a new crockpot meal? Especially pork?

1) If we love them, I have yet another easy meal to add to my list of go-tos.
2) I love seeing Brenden happy, and it seems he’s happiest eating PORK.
3) Slow-cooker recipes usually have lots of leftovers, and leftovers are my best friend.

This is a style of pork I’ve never even heard of before! It’s a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork that is prepared by marinating the meat in strongly acidic citrus juice. And the mix of spices is superb.

The recipe calls for Pork Butt. Which, if you want to be less grossed out you can just call “Pork Shoulder.” It’s a great cut of meat for the crock-pot because it has lots of good fat to render, and it’s a great cut of meat for your wallet because it’s more economical than most cuts. WIN.

The ingredients:
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  • 4 lbs pork butt
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2/3 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 habanero peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

I always cut my veggies first, even before I even open the meat. I want the meat to be the last thing that touches my surfaces.

So first I dice the tomatoes, slice the red onions, and dice the red peppers. Already I am loving this meal, just look at these beautiful colors!
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I dump all of that in a big bowl, and put it aside for later.
Now I juice the limes and pour the juice in a bowl with the orange juice and the garlic. I dice the habanero peppers and throw them in there too.
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I set the bowl of juices aside and go on to the spices.
I mix all the spices in a little bowl and then the meat makes an appearance.
I always try to buy happy meat/meat that came from happy animals.
I rub the spices into the meat.
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Now it’s time to put it all in the pot!
I set the meat in the slow cooker and pour the delicious liquid over the top.
img_7292Next I pour the bowl of veggies on top of that.
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Once the meat is cooked (8 hours later) I shred it and mix it all in the crockpot to make sure it has access to all the flavors and juices.

This pork can be served with a sweet potato mash, or with anything really, but I chose to make tacos.

I made some black beans to go with it, and warmed some corn tortillas in a pan. I find that doing this without butter makes the corn tortilla perfectly warm and crispy while still being just a little chewy. (Which I love.)
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The most important ingredient they saved for last:
Cilantro.
Add some sea salt and plenty of cilantro to your final dish! It takes the entire meal to a different level.

It was a winner! Michael loved the pork by itself, Brenden and I loved the tacos, Brielle wouldn’t try it, (but what’s new??) and I’ll for sure be making it again.

Next time I plan to marinate the meat in the spices and juices overnight.

*This is yet another recipe from paleoleap. I could make a recipe -a-day from these guys and never get bored! Check them out for all things Paleo!

 

 



How I Document Our Days

A foolproof way to solidify memories in our minds is to relive them. Talk about them. Look at them. Listen to them. Experience them over and over. It’s so powerful!

I’ve always felt a desire to document life’s events and life in general. By the time I was eighteen I had an entire cardboard box full of (boooorrrrring) journals. Now that I have a family I feel the value even more.

I use five tools to document our days, and four out of the five are FREE! Here they are.

1) The Notes app:

It’s the yellow “Notes” icon on your iPhone home screen. (I’m sure non-iPhones have a version of this, and I’m sure it works just as well!) I use this notepad as our running family journal, (as well as for grocery lists, and a thousand other things,) because it’s so convenient. I can talk at it or type, and I always have it with me, unlike a traditional journal, so I actually do WRITE in it whenever I have a free minute or two.

Another great thing about this notepad is that you can insert photos! This way when Brielle says something I never ever want to forget like: “mommy, my brain tellded me to swallow my gum but I didn’t listen..” (Hands me big glob of gum) I can take a picture of her little face and huge eyes and insert it with the above quote into our “family” notepad. There forever.

Or if I am writing about a life event of the family I can include a pic or two. Then I email said notepad to my gmail account about every two months and download it to my laptop to a specific folder. This way if I lose my phone I won’t lose everything I love so dearly IN my phone as well. I plan to print some of these entries out to put in her physical baby book as well.

(To insert a photo in your Notes app, press your finger on the page where you are writing and a horizontal bar menu will come up. “Insert Photo” will be in that menu.)

2) The Voice Memo App:

This is another iPhone app that is already on the home screen just waiting to be used.

This app is AMAZING at helping preserve memories. When we are in the car and Michael is doing his Star Wars theme song in the back (he’s unnaturally good at this tune,) I just click record and it’s saved forever. Or when Brielle is playing with her clip dolls on the couch and they are having a gentle princess disagreement about one not wanting to be the other’s sister anymore, I click record and the dialogue is saved forever. Because in two seconds these babies will be singing different songs, their voices will be different, their interests will be different! And I adore being able to look back and see who they were yesterday. And really FEEL it.

3) Our own private (AKA, would be incredibly annoying to anyone but us) Instagram Feed:

I created a private account, (I just went into settings and set it to Private.) And I switch back and forth between my private and public accounts. Instagram makes it nice and easy to have multiple accounts! While on vacation I would dump pictures and videos in there like a bull-dozer pushing dirt into the Grand Canyon. It will never run out of space. Now that we are home I upload pics to my private feed about once a week. Such low-maintence for a free photo album that will (hopefully) last forever? I’ll take it!

And it has so many perks: It has a beautiful feed that because I don’t follow anyone else on this specific account I see only MY pictures. Which is amazing when the kids want to look at my phone. Brenden is my only follower (poor thing) and I direct captions to him like its my j.o.b. This is a realitively new addition to my documentation arsenal. And I can’t recommend it enough. I can add videos, pics, text, anything. And everything. And for me the biggest benefit is the privacy. I love interacting with people SO MUCH and I get my energy and life from relationships with others. But there’s something so special about the private love and community of your own little family.

4) Baby books and photo books:

I do them the new-fashioned way: Shutterfly and/or MixBook. Both are amazing and Shutterfly seems to have deals every single day. No matter when I’m putting a photo book together I can google “Shutterfly coupons/discounts” and get tons of codes. I found a 50% off discount code for our Rhode Island trip book just randomly on the day I wanted to order the book! So I got three books, one for each of the grandmothers involved and one for us, at a significantly discounted price! I also use Shutterfly for other things too: Wall (photo) calendars, customized coffee mugs and fridge magnets.

But I love the photo books because they really get the most value out of the pictures we take daily. These big photo books can be placed throughout the house and enjoyed daily by everyone! Together! Brielle and I read hers all the time. I made one for my pregnancy with her, (I was on bedrest so I had the time) and one for her first year of life.

I haven’t done baby books for Michael yet but everything is ready to be compiled and I’ll get to it this Fall. Before now he wasn’t old enough to really appreciate it. But now I can’t wait to see his eyes when he has a physical book in front of him (one of his favorite things!) starring HIM.

Of course nothing can replace a good old fashioned baby book of the “my mom” variety, so I did one for Brielle and am working on Michael’s now. Growing up I always felt a direct correlation between how many pictures/hats/baby memorabilia my mom had in my baby book and how much she loved me. I kid. Sort of.

In reality I am one of seven kids and I’m amazed my mom even attempted to have a baby book for each of us. I would find pictures of my siblings in my baby book more often than I would find pictures of myself! It’s pretty bad when your mom says “I think this is your brother??” As she’s holding a picture of a baby from YOUR baby book.

5) We listen and watch and read often:

Brielle and I go through all her baby books weekly, laughing at how cute she was and the things she used to say. We open the Voice memos app and listen to how she used to pronounce words, and how Michael said “bubble” (his first word.) We look through my private Instagram feed and rejuvenate and flex our memory muscles. It’s amazing how much Brielle has remembered about our NYC trip last year just because we look at pictures and talk about it! She asked the other day if we could go to “Liliana’s coffee shop.” That was a sweet little local coffee shop right across the street from our apartment in NYC!

So that’s what I do! So far it hasn’t stopped them from growing, but it sure does help me sleep at night knowing that I have so many sweet sweet things to look back on and enjoy.

“Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them.” 
Bob Dylan

“Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.”
Corrie Ten Boom

XOXO



Mustard Roasted Fish and Lentils!

I’ve always included Brielle in my cooking, but just recently she’s really started to get into it. Now she wants to participate more than just stirring the pancake or cupcake batter.

This week she helped me make fish. We went to Whole Foods and picked it out together and I fielded questions like, “Mommy, why aren’t his eyes moving?” (We were looking at the smoked whole whitefish.) And when she saw the huge Octopus: “Mommy, can it eat??” Nope.. it’s dead.

So there were some heavy feelings at the fish counter, but we survived and walked away with a pound of haddock.

Then we waited 48 hours to cook it (way too long) and when I opened it all I smelled was bad fish. So we returned it and got more. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. If my produce or meat goes bad (within reason obviously!) I just RETURN IT. I mean, why re-buy it if you never got to use it in the first place? (No judging please.)

So we got the fresh, happy fish home and got to work making Mustard Roasted Fish.

Brielle did an excellent job spreading it out on the baking dish… and touching it in general.    IMG_9506
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First, lay the fish in a baking dish and preheat the oven to 425.

The original recipe calls for cream, but to make it dairy free I decided to use Mayonnaise instead. (Seems a little gross but it somehow worked!)

For the mustard sauce we put in a bowl:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Juice of 1/2 lemon (We used lime because we didn’t have lemon.)
1 shallot, minced

Stir stir stir.
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Then spread the mustard mixture on the fish.
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As you can see, we added (maybe a little too much??) Olive Oil to the fish first.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Then pop into the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. I like to turn on broil right at the end to get the top sort of brown and crispy.

Let me backtrack one quick second. That morning, before cooking the fish, I made LENTILS to go with it. Talk about delicious. And so many health benefits! Lentils are high protein, stablize blood sugar, lower cholesterol, increase energy, etc. etc. etc! We love them.

Rinse and drain one cup green or french lentils.
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Cut up one onion.
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Put some olive oil in a dutch oven or pot, (I am using a regular pot because my dutch oven burned up, long story..) And add the onion and sauté for a few minutes. Add some garlic, maybe a teaspoon? I never cut my own, I use the pre-minced jars.

Then add the lentils.
IMG_9519Next pour in 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth.

Bring to a boil and cover. Lower the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.

Now add some spinach, a couple handfuls.
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And a cup of frozen peas.
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Cover again and cook for another 4-5 minutes and then season with salt and pepper.

Serve the fish over the lentils. Brielle didn’t have ONE bite of fish, which I expected, but it still broke my heart!
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We had a great conversation at dinner as Brenden and I ate our fish and Brielle ate a quesadilla and carrots, where we explained to Brielle that this meal was not in fact our favorite food either. But we still eat it because it’s healthy and good for our bodies.

Her diet is improving slowly, and I am working harder than ever to encourage her to eat healthier foods and have a better relationship with food in general. It’s a process for me. Blog post coming up about my struggles with that soon. When I find another free, (alone) 30 minutes!

Hope everyone is having such a wonderful summer.

XOXO

*This recipe is originally from Cooksmarts.



Single Parenting… In The Summertime

Brenden left on Monday for a week-long trip to Manhattan for work. We dropped him off at the airport and when he leaned in to give everyone a “hug and a kiss!!” Brielle cried for the first time while saying good-bye to him. Which of course broke my heart.

So much love for her daddy!
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Brenden rarely leaves for work trips but when he does my appreciation and respect for single moms sky-rocket. How. do. they. do. it? I’ll tell you how, they just do what they have to do. And when they can’t anymore, they just keep going.

Mad respect.

Well this week thankfully I had my little sister Gen stay with me for a couple days. It’s the 5:00 hour when they expect fresh blood to come in the door, (aka daddy to walk in and throw them around the room and tickle them,) that I have the hardest time with. Michael needs so much physical interaction these days. I toss him and tickle him until I collapse. And it’s still not enough! Boys are so different than girls!!

He keeps me laughing though. This was us on Wednesday. We walked to CVS after playing at the Discovery Museum on the downtown mall. His shorts fell off (somehow??) and he wouldn’t let me catch him. He was screaming and laughing and running around the store like crazy. Brielle volunteered herself to get him. The result: A four year old dragging a screaming two -year-old in his diaper down the isle. People thought I was such a great mom.
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I was laughing hysterically. The kind of laughing that makes you weak and you can’t lift things. I was laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation and that this was my life. And I had to somehow get us out of here. To no-doubt another ridiculous situation.

We were on the other end of the downtown mall from our car and I didn’t have a stroller. And I had already made the mistake of actually BUYING something… which I now had to carry back to the car with my two kids.. in the 100 degree weather. I hate elevators (long story) so there were flights of stairs involved in getting back to the car in the parking garage.

I picked up the screaming diaper-only Michael and the bag of crap I should have just left there and Brielle said “My legs are tired, hold me mommy!” I said, Brielle, I have to hold the bag and Michael.” Her response: “It’s okay mommy, I’ll hold the bag and you hold me.” Someone helllllp me.

We made it home, in case you were wondering. Just barely. And at home I was greeted by absolutely no-one. Except my dog and cat who happen to always need something too.

I’m complaining because it’s fun, but really it was a good week. Thanks to Gen we had some successful dinners at the pool that were relatively stress-free.
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And with a (lot) bit of help from Gen we made a Welcome Home sign for Daddy.
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Soooo ready for the weekend and co-parenting again! Have a beautiful weekend!

XOXO



A New Take On A Summer Salad

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Okay, we have been eating salads every single night for dinner. Heaven! The shopping/prepping/clean up is sooo much easier! All I do is keep the same staples on hand and switch up the toppings.

Staples:
Spinach
A variety of olives and peppers
Our favorite balsamic vinaigrette
Grilled veggies that I cut up and marinate in balsamic and olive oil and roast and they are good the whole week!

I switch up the toppings:
Chicken Salad
Tuna Salad
Grilled Chicken Strips
Curried Chicken Salad

You get the point.

Well today I made Salmon Croquettes for our lunch salad! I say “croquettes” but really I have no idea what the difference between a “Salmon Croquette” and a “Salmon Cake” is. Is there a difference? For some reason I picture a croquette to be smaller and crispier. And maybe even yummier? so this was a croquette.

I didn’t measure what I used, I just eye-balled it. But I promise you can too. It’s the most no-brainer meal ever. And so freaking delicious.

I started with a can of salmon. Thank you Trader Joes.
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Open that up, pour out the juice (preferably into a grateful pet’s food bowl) and dump the fish into a bowl.
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Next add about a cup of Panko Bread Crumbs. Or regular bread crumbs! Or Gluten Free Bread crumbs. Really anything you want that’s a bit of a bonding agent.
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Now, two eggs. (No pic for this because my son was a total mess cracking the eggs everywhere.)

Now, ONION! 1/2 onion, diced. This is muy importante.
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Add it to the bowl and then some salt and freshly ground pepper.
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Now, mustard! About 1 tablespoon. Even if you aren’t a mustard fan please don’t skip this step. It really adds to the flavor! Any Dijon will work beautifully.
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Stir stir stir. Mix mix mix.
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Now heat a pan with cooking oil. Medium-high heat. Take about two spoonfuls in your hand and pat it down to the size you want. Add it to the pan. Wear an apron at this step because POP POP POP. And oil ruins shirts!
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Let me tell you, just looking at this pic makes my mouth water. And I just ate!
While you cook the croquettes (HA, I love saying that word mostly because I have no idea what it means,) prepare your salads!

I added some mustard to the side of the greens for dipping, and some olives and peppers.
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This is my favorite salad dressing of all time. But olive oil and vinegar and a little salt and lemon would be just as good on this dish!!
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Sprinkle the greens lightly with your dressing of choice and top with your piping hot salmon!
IMG_6242ENNNNJOY!



What A Blur!

Preschool ended and it all became a blur. I haven’t written a blog post in… how long?? If mommy-hood is full-time during the school year it’s full-time x 100 during the summer. I literally don’t have a moment to myself. Helllllp.

So what have we been doing… hmmmm.

We’ve been taking swim lessons every morning. Talk about hard-core! Every morning for two weeks Brielle will plop into the pool with Coach Chris and Coach Lauren. Even if it’s raining! She’s already feeling more confident and I’m thrilled.
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We’ve been playing with our friends. Yay for summer tea parties!
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We celebrated Father’s Day with our amazing daddies.
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We gardened. A ton. And as fast as we planted the deer said “thank you” and ate everything. EXCEPT for the Ferns. So bring on the ferns!!
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We celebrated my birthday! My favorite girls took me out for a night on the town. I haven’t been dancing in AGES! We had so much fun.  IMG_5796

Brenden and I had a hot date at the new Bebedero in town. Uber and all! It was so life-giving sitting next to my love, enjoying amazing food and talking about anything and everything, with no two-foot-tall interrupters!
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We’ve been taking full advantage of the ACAC outdoor swimming pool. The kids love it!
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And Michael is playing T-ball!
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Sort of. 🙂
And Brielle’s been enjoying the benefits of her gymnastics classes.. She’s feeling stronger!
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And whew it’s been so hot out.. Hello ice pops and hydration.
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We went camping!! With tents and all. 🙂
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We’ve been making lots of messes. Lots. This is flour and salt and water. I wish I had the “after” picture.
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We’ve been having so much fun pretending and playing and just being lazy. Children have such amazing imaginations.
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We have been having a little more screen-time than usual… Sorry Dr. Donovan. I’m doing my best!
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Whew. The first day of summer was yesterday and I feel like we’re already a month in! Can’t wait to see what the rest of the season brings. What are YOU doing this summer???

XOXO



West African Chicken in Peanut Sauce!

Saturday was hectic.. Too much stuff going on in too little time. But there was a pound of chicken in the fridge that was expiring that day and there was no way I was going to let that happen!

Brenden went to the gym at 4:00 and I decided to use the 45 minutes between then and when we all went to the pool to save the chicken. We already had dinner plans, but this meal keeps beautifully and viola! Our Sunday dinner would be dunzo. So I got to work. (And work it was, the kids were a hot mess.)

It’s another Cooksmarts favorite. It’s rich and full of flavor, and good with rice or by itself.

You will need:
1 lb. Bonesless skinless chicken breast
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
3-4 carrots or turnips, peeled and chopped
Peanut butter, creamy (“natural” preferred but any variety is fine.) 1/2 cup
Garlic, 2 cloves
Fresh ginger, 2 tsp. grated
2 tbs tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
Red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp.

Garnish: (all optional)
3 tbsp fresh cilantro
Peanuts, 1/2 cup, roasted and unsalted, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime

Put the carrots (or turnips) on a microwave safe dish and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave for 4 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender and carrots still have a bit of crunch. Set aside.
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Heat a dutch oven or wok over medium-high heat. Add the chicken (season it with salt and pepper!) and sear on all sides, about 4 minutes. Don’t cook it through, it will cook in the sauce later. Set aside.
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Next make the peanut sauce.

Whisk together the Peanut butter, tomato paste, chicken stock, ginger, and red pepper flakes At first it looks pretty gross and then you smell it and realize, this is how they do that sauce, wow!!
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Now add more oil to the hot pan and toss in the garlic and bell peppers. Cook until it smells delicious, about 1 minute.

Now add sweet potatoes, carrots (or turnips) and the peanut sauce. Add chicken and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on med-low for about 10-12 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. I added a little more chicken stock because it looked too thick. But it depends on the consistency you want!
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It’s so good I couldn’t help but eat it straight from the pot.

Serve it with the peanuts/cilantro/lime juice or all by itself!

During all this cooking and picture taking the background dialogue was constant as per usual. Michael was at the sink “washing dishes” (a.k.a pouring water all over the floor) when Brielle brought her doll into the kitchen:

“Mommy, can you cute Peelah’s hair now?”
Me: “But her hair is so pretty, are you sure?” (She’d been talking about it for two days so I knew she was sure.)
B: “Yes, I really want it shorter. She really wants it shorter.”
I grab my kitchen shears. “Okay, how short?”
She gives me the length with her fingers parted in the air.
I show her on the doll. “Here?”
“Yes. Thanks mom.”
I make the cut.
And then I move to the OTHER side of the doll’s head and make the same cut on that side. Of course, right?? Wrong.
She melts to the floor, crying real tears. “I did’t want that side short!! Only this side!”

We spent the next five minutes taping Peelah’s hair back on ONE side of her head.

Here is her doll, “Momma, I love her just the way she is.”
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Peelah seems happy with her new hair too! 🙂

And the chicken was saved in a delicious new state, ready to be devoured at a later date (I couldn’t resist!) 😀

I hope everyone had a great weekend!