Great! Full!

50 Days of Gratitude

Days 31-40

Phew!  I’m getting there.  I’m trying to avoid repetition, but have been tempted to recycle some items.  For instance, I would like to find 8 ways to be thankful for coffee. Lattes, coffee, iced coffee, cafe con leche, Dunkin Donuts, Irish coffee.  That’s seven.  What am I up to now? 180-something list items?  You try to make a gratitude list that long and not put coffee on it at least twice.

140. Plum’s cutest little woodchuck teeth

141. A good steak

142. A husband who loves yard work

143. Warm, clean laundry – When I was small… wait, I was never small… when I was young, I used to lie on the couch and have my father put all of the fresh-and-hot-from-the-dryer laundry right on top of me.  Weird, but comforting, too.  

144. Elections

145. Dishwashers

146. Sticky buns

147. Jeans – I mistyped this so for a second I wondered which “Jean” I was thankful for.  There is a woman named Jean in my office, and I suppose I am thankful for her, but I didn’t remember putting her on my list. If I can’t wear yoga pants every day, I would like to wear jeans (not Jean).  A girl can dream, and I dream of jeannies.  (Ouch, that was terrible.)

148. The smell of wood smoke – It means November is here, the days are short, the leaves are down, the wood is stacked and the slippers are on.

149. Meatloaf – With a ketchup and brown sugar glaze, and mashed potatoes on the side.  Mmmmm.  You took the words right out of my mouth! (Okay, someone stop me, this is getting ridiculous!)

150. Alpacas

151. Ohio – Blue state in 2012.  I am thankful for that. 

152. Microwaves

153. Kind words

154. Anniversaries – Happy #4 to me and my first husband.*

Photo by Hinkley Photo

155. Q-tips

156. Coffee milk – I think this is a New England thing.  Coffee syrup + milk = delicious.  Add a salami sandwich (#177) on white bread with mustard and you have a delicious and nutritionally lacking lunch of champions. 

157. Thoughtfulness

158. Dinner dates

159. Boots – When you are 2.5 and you have big feet, your boots go up to your knees. But you don’t care much and insist on wearing them everywhere.  Even with shorts. 

160. Parenthood – I may spend a lot of time whining that it is hard, but it is also so very very good.

161. Those jelly candy fruit slice things

162. Working garbage disposals – I am mostly thankful for these because currently we do not have one.

163. In-laws – No really, I’m not joking.  Mine are great.

164. Butter – REAL butter. What is up with people eating all sorts of food that isn’t actually food? I had breakfast at a friend’s house a few weeks ago and we had coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Seems simple enough, right?  But no. Bacon? Not real bacon. Cheese? Not real cheese, soy cheese. Butter? Not real butter – some sort of butter-ish spread. Cream for the coffee? Not real cream, flavored Coffeemate. I am no health nut, and my diet is passable at best, but I do have one thing going for me. I try very hard to make sure the food I eat is ACTUAL FOOD.  Bring on the butter. (And please disregard all of the items on this list made with high fructose corn syrup.) 

165. Grandparents

166. Hopefulness

167. Facetime

168. Gifts

169. Lobster – See also #164.

170. Modern medicine – My dear Plum, we are working hard to get those ears fixed, my dear.  Here’s hoping the 5th time is the charm. 

171. Peacocks

172. This day

173. My own special blend of slightly jaded optimism – Sarky Tartlet, Jaded Pollyanna, I’ve been called both.  And while I’m content to whinge and whine about the current state of affairs, deep down I still, and will always believe in people, in community, in love and in kindness.  I may not say that out loud – cynicism is easier – but it’s true. 

174. The swirl of sweet Plum’s hair – She used to have a perfect swirl of a belly button – alas, no longer. But it appears the swirl has migrated to her head. Her hair falls naturally into a perfect little vortex on the top of her little strawberry-blonde head.  

175. Roast chicken

176. A purring cat – The other night, Mr. Pickle discovered that cats purr. He was confused and then amazed. It took him 2.5 years to discover this, because he finally figured out the best way to pet our sweet Lula cat is from head-to-tail, and not vice versa.  Pickle thinks purring is a fabulous cat trick.  I suspect his amazement will subside in a few weeks when he gets his big boy bed and the purring cat tries to sleep on his head.

177. Salami

178. Many happy memories

179. Curiosity

180. Spellcheck

181. Plumbers – See #162.

182. Music

183. Live theater – I miss it.  Seeing it. Doing it. All of it. 

184. Wild salmon

185. Calm evenings

186. Wednesdays

187. Shoes that are comfortable AND cute – Right now I am crushing on Cole Haan flats and wedges with Nike Air technology.  Perhaps Santa will bring these?  I’ve always wanted my own pair of blue suede shoes! 

Cole Haan Milly Wedge in Cobalt

 

* He is my only husband, but that joke never gets old.
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Gr8ful.

50 Days of Gratitude

Days 21-30

97. Chapstick

98. GPS

99. Incident on 57th StreetThis is a Springsteen song – the favorite of many long-time fans.  He doesn’t play it in concert too often.  But my sister and I got to see it in Hartford.  She has been to about 20 shows, and has never seen it live.  The energetic fan next to us was so excited to hear it, he cried.  No really, he did.

100. Hotel points – I used to take surveys online for hotel points which I then traded in for airline miles.  It was time consuming and annoying, so I stopped.  Besides, I don’t fly with small children if I can help it. But I just happened to have enough points for an overnight stay with my sister after the Springsteen concert.  Win!

101. Water

102. Linemen (and women)

103. Lox – It must be the Swede in me.  I love me some smoked fish.  Speaking of… have you ever been to Barney Greengrass?  Go.  It’s yummy. And hysterical.

104. Dogs

105. Reconnecting

106. Leaf piles

107. Scalloped potatoes

108. Cousins playing together

109. Quiet drives

110. Blessings – Miss Plum was baptized a few weekends ago.  It was lovely to be surrounded by family, and Plum sure did look cute in her puffy white dress.  She screamed every time the priest came near her.  I couldn’t help but think, “That’s my girl!” (Says Sarky, ducking from the lightning…)

111. Onion dip – I made this for a party recently and it received rave reviews.  Was it fancy and gourmet? Nope.  It was the recipe on the back of an envelope of Lipton Onion Soup Mix.  Mayo + sour cream. How can you not love it?

112. Zito and my BTX friends – BTX is a Springsteen ticket exchange, where fans sell their extra tickets to other fans at face value. Scalpers be damned!  Back in 2003 a magical little community of friends was created through this ticket exchange.  It was a very interesting way to meet lots of great folks from all over the world.  And while it is strange to count my interwebs friends as true and close, that is what many of them are.

113. Floss

114. Power

115. Helpers

116. Luck

117. Morning

118. Gatherings

119. Creating new traditions and memories – This Halloween, the grandparents came to us.  We had dinner, handed out candy, and did some trick-or-treating around the neighborhood.  It was great. I hope the tradition continues.

120. Fresh eggs – In New Zealand, “eggs” is pronounced “igs”.  An American friend asked a supermarket employee where she could find the “eggs” (they are in the baking aisle and not refrigerated) and was told that the store carried no such thing. Ha!

 

121. Letterpress – Old-fashioned, luxurious and lovely.  Do I have 35 letterpress studios bookmarked? Maybe.  My wedding invites were from Bella Figura.  They were perfect.  Did I spend too much money? Yes.  Did my guests likely not notice the detail and end up throwing them away? Probably.  But do I regret my choice?  Absolutely not.

122. Pepper jelly

123. Cannoli – In the Mike’s v. Modern race, I’m voting for Modern. Every time.

124. My neighborhood

125. Manners

126. Bag Balm – Diaper rash? Chapped lips? Hangnail? Have a cold and a sore, raw nose from too much blowing? Dry feet? The name is unfortunate, but the stuff is a miracle.  You know the father in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”?  The one who thinks Windex is the cure for all that ails you? Yeah, I’m kind of like that with the Bag Balm.  Opa!

127. Health insurance

128. Leftover Halloween candy

129. Food delivery (have I ever used it? No. But I like knowing that I could!)

130. Feather pillows

131. Clean babies

132.Good books – Who has some suggestions? The stack on my nightstand isn’t speaking to me.  

133. Travel mugs

134. Challenges

135. Cardigans

136. Girlfriends

137. Those rare occasions when my son still wants to be rocked and sung to sleep – I made it all the way through “Puff the Magic Dragon” the other night and only choked up once. “Dragons live forever, but not so little boys…”

138. The approaching end of political ads

139. Fresh mozzarella

Stay tuned for days 31-40…

Squash Squish!

My husband loves rice, in all its starchy white goodness, hot with butter, salt and pepper.  Me?  Not so much.  So I’m always looking for good side dishes and salads that are just a tad bit more interesting.  Sorry, Honey.

This one is a new favorite. I ADORE this concoction.  Smitten Kitchen has done it again. The combination is just perfect.  I ate it while the squash was still just a bit warm and it was grand.  It has a tendency to dry out a bit, so when I ate it fresh from the fridge the next day I drizzled a little olive oil on top.  I have written up the recipe as I prepared it.  Deb at Smitten Kitchen actually used Ricotta Salata and I think she made a better choice.  The feta was a little bit too tangy, or briny, or something.  I would have preferred something salty and creamy.  (Aside: I can’t type “Ricotta Salata”  without thinking of Zenyatta Mondatta. De-do-do-do, de da da da is all I want to say to you.)  The lightly pickled onions absolutely take the salad to that magical place, so don’t skip them.

Make this.  It is a fantastic side dish that is rice free.  It is fall loveliness in a bowl, and is comforting, but relatively nutritious at the same time. WIN!

Butternut Squash Salad with Farro and Other Yummy Things (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
  • 5-6 T. olive oil
  • 1 C. uncooked farro, prepared according to the directions on the package (they vary)
  • 1/3 C. toasted pepitas (aka pumpkin seeds, the salted ones)
  • 3 ounces of feta (or even better, Ricotta Salata, crumbled)
  • 1 T. sherry vinegar
  • 1 T. water
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. sugar
  • 1/2 small red onion, small dice
  • Salt and black pepper
Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Toss the squash with 2 T. of the olive oil and then place in one layer on baking sheets.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast about 35 minutes, until tender and lightly browned. It’s a good idea to turn the squash over after about 20 minutes of cooking time.
 
While the squash is roasting, cook the farro according to the directions on the package. Drain.
 
In a small glass or bowl, combine the vinegar, water, salt and sugar and stir to dissolve the solids.  Dice the onion and add to the liquid.  Cover and put this in the fridge for 30 minutes.
 
Once the squash and farro are cooked, let them cool slightly then place in a large bowl with the pepitas and cheese.  Pour the vinegar/onion mixture in (all of it!), add 3 T. of olive oil (if you want to – I didn’t add any olive oil until the next day) and mix.  Enjoy!
 

Things I Love Thursdays!

I’m on a fritter kick. Mix some flour, an egg and… whatever else you feel like and voila! DELICIOUS!  Mother-in-law just dropped off some zucchini.  Why do something healthy with it?  Shred, add cheese, etc. and pan fry, baby!

I made these broccoli fritters 3 weeks ago and I can’t stop thinking about them. Truly.  They’re that good.  Topped with a little sour cream (maybe garlic sour cream?) add a glass of white wine, and you have my perfect summer dinner.  Thank you Smitten Kitchen for this great recipe.  I suspect this will be a favorite for a long time.

Broccoli Parm Fritter Amazingness

3 C chopped fresh broccoli
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 small clove garlic, grated or pressed through a garlic press
1/2 t. salt
A bit of black pepper
Olive or veggie oil for frying

Steam broccoli, but not until it is grey and mushy.  I use the Pampered Chef microwave steamer (love it.)   Let it cool a bit.  Heat the oil – you don’t need much.  Beat the egg a little, add the rest of the ingredients then the broccoli. Mix and mash up a bit. I used a wooden spoon, but a potato masher could work too. Once the oil is hot, drop a scoop of the batter into the pan and then flatten it out a bit.  I like my fritters to end up about 3 inches in diameter.  If they’re too much smaller, they begin to feel like passed hors d’oeuvres to me.  Brown for 2-3 minutes on each side.  You may need a little more oil to cook up all of the fritters.  When they’re done, put them on a paper towel to drain off any extra oil and sprinkle with a little Kosher salt.  Eat them warm! And I dare you not to dream about them.

Adapted from the ever-fabulous Smitten Kitchen.

Strawberry Amazingness.

I couldn’t post this on a Thursday, because this isn’t something I like, it is something I love!

It is so delicious, easy, creamy and amazing.  I was suspicious of the sour cream, but the ice cream is fabulous, and not tangy.  It is also not light.  But I say bust out that dusty ice cream maker (or, in my case, KitchenAid attachment) and get cranking because this stuff is gooooooooooood.  And it tastes like SUMMER.

Strawberry Ice Cream

1 lb. fresh sliced strawberries
¾ cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
½ tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (believe it or not, I used lime and it tasted just lovely)

Combine the strawberries and sugar is a bowl, stir and let it become amazing juicy goodness for about an hour.

Put the strawberry/sugar mixture in your blender or Cuisinart with the remaining three ingredients. Blend, but not too much!  Make sure this mixture is cold – it doesn’t hurt to stick it in the fridge for a while.  In fact, if you’re entertaining, you can make this in advance, and then start the ice cream maker when you sit down for dinner, and 30 minutes later – fresh strawberry ice cream deliciousness!  Once the mixture is cold, just follow your ice cream maker instructions.

Credit: I adapted this recipe from Annie’s Eats – a food blog I enjoy.  Check it out!

Souper, souper, supper!

We went to Panera last night after a failed attempt to get hubby a new cell phone (he’s so indecisive!).  You know, since I’ve been a teetotalling incubator and husband has been joining me in my non-drinking ways, dinners out have gotten a lot cheaper.  So I admit I was a bit surprised that our Panera bill was as high as it was.  (Admission: I DID get myself 2 rather expensive drinks.  AND I realized that my pregnancy-induced cold beverage obsession will soon be over – which will save us lots of money…)

Anywho…

I knew I had a recipe for Panera-ish broccoli cheddar soup saved somewhere.  So today, I dug it up and made it.  It isn’t hard – a lot of the steps can take place at the same time.  And it IS delicious. If I had the energy (Sarky = 9 months pregnant, in case I haven’t mentioned that 4000 times by now) I would have thrown together a beer bread, or some sort of quick bread to go with. It makes a good amount of soup – perhaps 8 servings? I used the recipe from The Curvy Carrot with a few modifications.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

  • 2 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 T. olive oil (the recipe called for all butter, but my butter was frozen so I used some olive oil instead – you really don’t need the oil… or that much butter)
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1/4 C. flour
  • 1 C. whole milk
  • 1 C. heavy cream (really, you could modify this too – use half and half or just use all milk)
  • 3 C. broth (I used chicken broth to make it a little richer, but I know veggie broth would work well here too)
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 carrots grated
  • 4 C. broccoli florets (I used fresh and chopped them up, but frozen would work in a pinch too)
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar, cubed (I used grated supermarket cheddar, because I had it on hand.  Still yummy.  Though I’m sure some really good cubed sharp cheddar would be even better!)
  1. In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter and oil and saute the diced onion until it is translucent (about 5-7 minutes). Stir frequently so they don’t brown too much. Take them off the heat and set aside.
  2. Cook the broccoli and carrots.  (Don’t kill ’em. I steamed mine until just cooked.  After all, you’re going to be putting them in hot soup, you don’t want to make mush. I tossed mine in my Pampered Chef microwave steamers.  Worked great!)
  3. In a large Dutch oven or sauce pot over medium heat, whisk together the flour, milk, and cream until smooth. (If it seems lumpy, just keep whisking.)
  4. While whisking, add the broth until integrated.
  5. Add the nutmeg and bay leaves, and let the mixture simmer over very low heat, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.
  6. Add the cooked onions, broccoli, and carrot.  Let simmer for another 20 minutes.
  7. Take off the heat and add the cheese and stir until completely melted, adding more broth if necessary.
  8. Salt and pepper to taste!  You’ll probably find that the cheese and broth make the soup plenty salty, but a little pepper is yummy.

As Sarky T’s Mama would say, “Nom, nom, nom.”

Crock of What?

I try to like crock pot cooking.  I really do.  The ease!  Opening the front door to a great-smelling meal/home!  Not spending my evening standing over the stove! But I feel like everything ends up tasting a lot like overcooked beef stew.  And it is always gloopy.  Is that a word?  Ew.

But (there’s always, a”but” isn’t there?)…

This sounded like something a little more soupy, and a little less gloppy.  And my husband loves corn chowder.  I don’t, but the addition of something other than milk and corn made it sound more appealing to me.  The prep time was more than the typical crock pot recipe (which is usually 1. open package/can, 2. dump in crock pot) but it really did turn out well.  I left out the chipotle and basil because the entire household is still slowly recovering from the Stomach Bug That Shall Not Be Named.  But I think it needs it.  It needed some brightening at the end – a little jazz, a little acidity.  I also sauteed the onions in regular olive oil, since we already had cooked bacon in the fridge.  And instead of heavy cream I used half and half, which I had on hand.  This one is a keeper, for sure.  I suspect if you cooked the potatoes separately, it would freeze and reheat well, too.  Bonus.

Crock Pot Chicken and Corn Chowder adapted from Pink Parsley

  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tsp minced fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pound potatoes (some type that holds up to long-time crock pot cooking), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 (15-oz) can creamed corn
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  • 2 tsp minced chipotle chiles in adobo (optional)
  • 3 Tbs minced fresh basil (optional)

Cook bacon over medium heat until crisp and browned.  Remove to a paper towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon.  Add the chopped onion to the bacon grease and cook until softened.  Add the garlic, tomato paste, and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.  Whisk in 2 cups of the broth, scraping up any browned bits.  Transfer to slow cooker.

Add remaining 3 cups of broth, potatoes, carrots, and bay leaves to the slow cooker.  Submerge the chicken in the broth mixture.  Cover and cook on low until chicken is tender, 4 to 6 hours. (I found 5 hours to be plenty.)

Transfer chicken to a cutting board, and shred or chop it into bite-sized pieces.  Add it back to the slow cooker, along with the creamed corn, frozen corn, cream, and chipotle chiles.  Cook  for another 10-15 minutes until everything is heated through.  Remove the bay leaves, stir in the basil, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Serve. With crumbled bacon on top.  Mmmmm.