Thai Quinoa Salad

25 Jul Thai Quinoa Salad

Thai Quinoa Salad

Quinoa. We dated a few years ago. I couldn’t commit. We parted ways.

Then I was introduced to the quinoa salad at Zoe’s Kitchen (ahh mazing!), and I realized that perhaps I shouldn’t ditch this little grain just yet. Perhaps I just needed to find some better recipes. Perhaps quinoa is really a keeper. Perhaps.

So I found this recipe scouring the depths of Pinterest. The sauce was reminiscent of one of my fav dishes (Simple Asian Peanut Noodles), and so I felt like it had some real potential. Y’all – this stuff is good.  As Blake described it to Brogan last night when he asked what was for dinner: “Pure deliciousness.” And it is. I hope you enjoy!

Thai Quinoa Salad

1 cup dry quinoa, cooked according to the package and drained afterwards
3 cups of shredded (or sliced very thin) cabbage
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup diced green onion

Sauce:
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
6 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tbsp)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp water

1) Add all the salad ingredients into a large bowl.
2) In a small bowl, mix the sauce ingredients until peanut butter is fully incorporated with the sauce.
3) Pour sauce over salad and toss until well combined.

Adapted from Sweet Peas and ABC’s Rainbow Thai Farro Salad

Mushroom Stroganoff

1 Jul Mushroom Stroganoff

We’ve been trying something new in the kitchen lately – adding some vegetarian dishes to the dinner rotation. And the craziest part of this menu modification is that it was my husband’s idea [gasp!]. The meat eater of all meat eaters actually suggested that we add some vegetarian meals to the line up (thank you Netflix and the documentary Cowspiracy).  While I love meat, I like to mix it up and so I saw this as an opportunity to try out some new recipes. Yay!

So let me introduce you to Mushroom Stroganoff. This dish is ahh-mazing. I’ve always been a stroganoff fan, but mine had always had beef. I thought it was the beef that contributed most of the flavor, but I was wrong. This dish is full of flavor and hearty as well. My kiddos loved it too – Brogan actually said it was one of his favorite dinners ever! I’ll take it! Hope you enjoy!

Mushroom Stroganoff

Mushroom Stroganoff

1 tbsp butter
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
8 ozs white mushrooms, sliced
8 ozs baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp flour (I used gluten free)
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (if you want to be 100% vegetarian, use soy sauce)
2 tbsp whole grain mustard (I used Grey Poupon Country Dijon)
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 lb pasta (would prob be best with egg noodles, but I used gluten free penne), boiled according to package

1.) In large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter and sauté onion and garlic until translucent (about 5 mins).
2.) Add mushrooms, salt and pepper. Sauté until mushrooms are soft and browned (about 8 mins). Stir in tomato paste and cook a few minutes longer, continually stirring.
3.) Add flour and stir, scrapping the bottom of the pan as you do. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add white wine to deglaze. Continue stirring and scrapping the bottom. Once wine is mostly evaporated, add vegetable broth, Worcestershire (or soy) sauce, mustard and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes.
4.) Remove sauce from heat and stir in sour cream. Stir in cooked pasta and serve!

Mushroom Stroganoff1

Adapted from the Cookie Writer’s Mushroom Stroganoff (Vegetarian)

Getting Patriotic!

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I took my youngest son out today to “test run” my ideas for my 4th of July mini sessions next weekend, and let’s just say I’m feeling pretty patriotic! This little guy was the perfect model and it was some great one-on-one time. I may be biased, but I think he rocks red white and blue.

Easter Minis!

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Yesterday was Easter Mini Session day! After a day-before forecast of 80% chance of rain, the day ended up being perfectly overcast (a photographer’s dream!). With the help of some friends, we came up with this sweet shabby chic theme and the set turned out even better than I had imagined.   I’ve got to thank Trader Joe’s for the perfect tulips, Hobby Lobby for the perfect Easter eggs and God for the perfect weather!

And like the icing on the cake, I got to photograph some of the cutest kiddos ever! Easter Minis were a success! When do I get to do this again??

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Getting back to normal

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Dare I say it… but things are getting back to normal: Berkley finally likes people who aren’t named mommy, I get a few hours of “adult” time each evening, and [knock on wood] I’m even getting to sleep through the night again – well, sometimes.

Yep, I’m getting the hang of this mommy-of-three thing. I’m feeling like myself again. A better version of myself, actually. Excuse me while I start reciting clichés, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s true. I’m proof. In the last year, I’ve had to grow and pick up a few more life skills – how to control less, how to stress less and how to enjoy the little moments more. I’m Type A and so this was hard. Real hard. But I’m trying.

I’ve learned with three kids there’s not a lot that I really have control over. For the planner in me, this is terrifying. But I live in a world where there is 3 times the chance that some part of my “plan” is going to get uprooted. And there are 3 tiny humans with little to no self control who have their own agendas at work. With them there are two outcomes: behind door #1 there’s “I get what I want when I want it how it want it precisely” and behind door #2 is “tell me no and I will go batshitcrazy on you”. What I want is behind door #3 where “the children obey, don’t ask why and don’t throw themselves violently on the floor”. I hear one day we may get there, but honey, we ain’t there yet. So my point – I’ve learned to surrender to the fact I can’t plan for everything and the kids don’t give a crap about my plans anyways.

Stressing less means that when my kids do go batshitcrazy, I don’t care. Kick your legs like a maniac, go on. Throw your sippy cup across the room. I don’t care. Scream your head off in the grocery store – you’re still not getting that candy bar. And I don’t care what people think of my parenting either. See, I used to think there were some parents who had it all figured out. I thought that those “lucky” ones had cracked the code and were raising consistently obedient children that didn’t throw fits or talk back or require bed-sharing for 11 months. It’s a lie. There are no perfect parents and there are no perfect children. The third child has taught me that 50% of this parenting thing is a crap shoot. So am I apathetic? No. But do I stress about the fact that my child just screamed in public that I’m the poopiest mommy ever? Nope. And he still isn’t getting that candy bar.

Looking back, I don’t think I took enough time with my boys just enjoying them. I was wound up too tight. I couldn’t wait for them to start eating solids or sitting up or crawling or walking. I did a lot of time thinking about their next milestone and not enough cherishing their “now”. But with Berkley it’s been different. Perhaps it’s because she’s our last. Perhaps I’m smarter and know that she’s easier now than she will be at three. Whatever the reason, I have just cherished her little moments. And I’ve been being intentional about doing it with my boys now too. I’ve learned time goes by so fast and they’re not little forever.

For me, normal means I can exhale. It means I can enjoy our life. It means I’ve got energy to spare for my marriage and myself.  I’ve only gotten back to “normal” by surrendering, by reflecting on the craziness of the past year+ and by learning from my mistakes and doing better. Yes, my life is loud and chaotic, but there’s also a calm to it.  It’s contentment knowing that our family is complete. And it’s peace in knowing that God made me the mommy of these precious children.

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Simple Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken

17 Jan Simple Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken

This dish is so. stinking. good. I’ve been making it for almost a year and am ashamed that it’s taken me this long to write about it. When we learned early last year that my middle son’s allergies would be keeping dairy, egg and gluten off the menu, I started trying more Asian recipes because they were typically conducive to our restrictive diet. This one was by far the best. The base of this recipe is the noodles (without the chicken). I’ve made it in the past topped with roasted shrimp and grilled chicken, but it would also be awesome as a vegetarian meal too. Tonight was my first attempt at this style of chicken and I loved it. Side note: I’m picky about chicken. I like grilled, I like roasted, I like boiled and shred… but I don’t like to cut up raw chicken and cook it because it typically gets too chewy. So I’ve long been perplexed about how the chicken at Asian restaurants is so tender. So I plopped some random phrase into Pinterest about how to get unchewy chicken for Asian recipes and wouldn’t you know there’s a technique: you “velvet” chicken. It’s really a thing. Well I tried it and it worked as advertised – delicious tender chicken pieces that went perfect with these noodles. So here you have it, my current favorite dinner for the fam (which, by the way, they all LOVE!) – hope you enjoy!

Simple Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken

Simple Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken

1 lb gluten free spaghetti noodles, cooked according to instructions
1/3 cup gluten free soy sauce
1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter – or more to taste (if you have creamy, just add chopped peanuts)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 scallions, sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp sesame seeds

1) While the pasta water is heating, add all ingredients (except pasta) in a small bowl (I used a 2 cup measuring cup). Stir well until ingredients are fully incorporated.
2) Pour over hot pasta. Add chicken (or other protein such as shrimp) – see below. Stir well until pasta is completely coated with the sauce.

“Velvet” Chicken
1 1/3 lbs chicken breast, cut into thin slices
2 tbsp canola oil (divided)
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 large egg white
1/4 tsp salt

1)  Whisk in 1 tbsp oil, cornstarch, vinegar, egg white and salt in a medium bowl. Add chicken and coat well. Place in the refrigerator to marinate for 30 minutes.
2) Place 1 to 2 inches of water in a sauté pan and heat on high to boil. Once rapidly boiling, place the chicken pieces one at a time. Once the pan returns to boil, boil the chicken for 1 more minute. Remove with a slotted spoon. Set aside and cover to keep warm.

This recipe makes enough for my family of 5 with a little leftover. We love edamame with this dish too!

Velvet chicken

Velvet Chicken

Soy Peanut Sauce

Soy Peanut Sauce

Simple Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken

Adapted from The Comfort of Cooking’s SIMPLE ASIAN SOY-PEANUT NOODLES and How to Velvet Chicken

 

A Family Day of Kindness

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This past Saturday I put my family on mission. We spent the entire day out in the community spreading kindness and doing for others – we had a Family Day of Kindness. For the last six months or so I’ve been tossing around the idea of giving the kids this sort of opportunity. After reading a blog post by a mom who did this with her children to celebrate her birthday, the notion was laid on my heart. And while December is crazy for everyone, it was important that this experience be part of my kids’ Christmas season because this is what Christmas is all about.  And so we did it. We spent the day being intentional about giving; about putting others first.

Now before you go imagining this picturesque day of my family out spreading kindness and Christmas cheer – where everyone was smiling and happy and selflessly giving of themselves for the benefit others – please remember that I have a 3 and 5 year old. That is not how it went down. For starters, I got my children in and out of the van (and car seat) 11 times in about 4 ½ hours. 11 times people. And with one child who will not under any circumstance willingly go into the car seat on anyone’s timetable but his own, let me just say that I deserve some sort of award for my patience and the fact that none of the four letter words in my head came out of my mouth. It made me tired. But we persevered – safely and all buckled in – ha! I kept their interest by making it a game, urging them to complete one “mission” so we could hurry on to the next one. But herding 2 little boys is about like herding cats and so “come on!” and “keep it moving!” were the phrases of the day (as were “come back!” and “don’t touch that!” and “you better not run into that parking lot!” and “I’m going to call your father!” – but I digress).  I started singing this hurry-up kind of song to pick up the tempo, which of course thoroughly annoyed one of my boys… so he made up his own song that I should sing instead. And of course my other son hated the new song.  Did I mention I was tired?

Trying to get kids to buy in to the idea that the world doesn’t revolve around them is tough. Kids expect to always get something. And while telling my kids no is not a new thing, the blatant “you get nothing, but you will give to someone else” was pretty in their face – especially at our stop at the Dollar Tree. I handed each boy a few dollar bills and told them to place them in the toy section so that other kids could purchase toys. “So can I get a toy?” they asked. “Nope. Today is about giving to others.” Oh. My. Gosh. Talk about a meltdown. You’d have thought I told them they were never getting another toy in their life. In a matter of moments I turned into, and I quote, “the worst mommy ever!” and the day turned into, and I quote, “the worst day of my entire life!” It was affirmation that the kindness outing was needed.

But the day was not all bad. Absent all the ins and outs of car seat… and trying to get them to leave the fire station (after the firemen so graciously let them play in the trucks)… and the Dollar Tree episode, there were bright spots that warmed my heart and I pray leave at least a small impression on them as well.

So here’s what we did all day…

1) We made homemade cookies and delivered them to 12 of our neighbors

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2) Left a card and homemade sweets for our mail lady

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3) Randomly purchased $10 in gas for a stranger

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4) Put quarters in the carts at Aldi and left a bag full of quarters for later

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5) Delivered handmade cards and a treat basket to the fire station

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6) Dropped of a bag of food at the local food pantry

7) Left dollar bills in the toy section of the Dollar Tree

8) Left our waitress an extra-large tip at lunch

9) Dropped off handmade cards and treat basket for the local librarians

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10) Placed a card and flowers at the grave of my husband’s grandparents

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11) Walked the halls of the nursing home delivering hugs, handmade cards and homemade cookies

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12) Went to the park and gave away bubbles to other children

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13) Stopped by another fire station and delivered more cards and a treat basket

While I gathered a lot of the ideas from the blog post that inspired me, I asked the boys for their input as well. Brogan came up with the idea to visit his great-grandparents’ grave and leave a card – and told daddy what to write on the card – I just love his little heart! Beckett wanted us to give treats to the firemen, and also suggested that we talk to everyone we saw. They really can be the sweetest kids.

Fortunately the idea of random acts of kindness is more prevalent now than ever, but people still have a hard time comprehending that someone will do something for them without the expectation of anything in return. When we were at the gas station, I asked the boys to pick a number (bad idea – 2 boys and I needed 1 number – I’ll rethink that next year, ha!) and I told the clerk that I wanted to put $10 in gas on that pump. She kept saying, “that pump is empty” and I responded, “I know, I want to put $10 on it.” To which she asked, “what kind of car are you driving?” And then I repeated that I had already purchased my gas, and wanted to buy gas for a stranger. It just didn’t register. And then at the park, as the boys were trying to give away bubbles, they would walk up to a kid and say, “would you like some bubbles?” and either the kid or the parent would kindly say thanks, but no thanks, you can keep your bubbles. And the boys would deflate and I’d interject, “we came to the park for the sole purpose of giving away bubbles, please feel free to take them if you’d like them.” And then they’d get it and graciously accept the bubbles. And the boys just lit up when they did.

I share this experience not in search of recognition or kudos, but in hopes that it will inspire someone – just as the blog post I read inspired me. Our experience was not perfect. My kids were not perfect. I was not perfect (but close because seriously, 11 times out of the car seat and I didn’t lose it!). There was more that I wanted to do, and I’m already thinking about how to make next year better. But the point is that we did something. We live in a world where most things aren’t free and if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. This makes me sad about our world. There are so many lessons that I want to teach my children – one is what it means to be the answer to someone else’s prayers. And while I don’t believe that all of our acts of kindness met this criteria, maybe one did. My hope is that their little hearts were softened by making others feel good. My hope is that they begin to realize that life shouldn’t be all about me, me, me – that greater joy comes in giving than in receiving. My hope is that this experience planted the seed of selflessness that will allow God to use them for His purpose. Seeing them boast with pride as they handed out their own handmade cards and got big smiles in return brought me so much joy. I could see that they were getting it – the true meaning of Christmas.

Gluten Free Buttermilk Pancakes

7 Nov Pancake

When our family first started going gluten free, one of things I was most bummed to give up were pancakes. Sure, I’d come across gluten free pancakes at the store, but what I longed for were my homemade pancakes. At the time I hadn’t cracked the code to turn my normal recipes into gluten free ones without compromising the taste or consistency. Well my friends, thanks to King Arthur’s gluten free multi-purpose flour and some tips on their website, I did crack the code! Add 1/2 tsp xanthan gum and an extra egg and voila! Behold, I give you really delicious gluten free pancakes. You’re welcome.😉

Pancakes on griddle

Gluten Free Buttermilk Pancakes

2 cups gluten-free multi-purpose flour (King Arthur’s works great)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups buttermilk
4 tbsp butter, melted (plus more for the griddle)

1.) Heat griddle to 375 degrees. Whisk together GF flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, and 4 tablespoons butter; whisk to combine. Batter should have small to medium lumps. (The lumps are important – they will be very flat if you beat out all the lumps!)

2.) Grease the griddle with about 1/2 tbsp butter before each batch. Using 1/4 cup measuring cup, pour pancake batter, in pools about 1 inch away from one other. When pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.

3.) Repeat with remaining batter, keeping finished pancakes on a heatproof plate in a 175 degree oven. Serve warm.

Xanthan Gum

Gluten free multi-purpose flour

Gluten Free Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins

30 Aug GF Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins

Baking – ohh, how I have missed you. Ever since earlier this year when we learned my youngest son Beckett had food allergies (the most serious being gluten), I’ve put my baking on hold. Weekends used to mean homemade muffins and pancakes and biscuits, but trying these things without regular flour was more hassle than I felt like dealing with. It was unknown territory, and frankly with the baby, I didn’t have much time for experimenting. But a few weeks ago I wanted real pancakes and so I googled “how to substitute gluten free flour for regular flour” and was amazed by what I found – it’s actually pretty simple. Add xanthan gum and egg to almost any recipe and voila, you have gluten-free baked goods that don’t taste gluten-free. They rise and they have the same consistency. So with a new found excitement and hope about eating normal again, I’ll be baking – hallelujah, I’ll be baking! I’ll be testing out my old recipes and seeing how it goes. I’ll share my successes, and hope that if you are also gluten impaired that you’ll too be able to enjoy some of your old favorites again.

Gluten Free Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins

3 very ripe bananas
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup gluten free all purpose flour
1/2 cup gluten free oats
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips

1.) In a large bowl, whisk together bananas, brown sugar, oil, buttermilk and eggs until well combined (banana chunks are OK).
2.) In a small bowl, stir together flour, oats, xanthan gum, baking soda and salt. Slowly stir into wet ingredients and fold in chocolate chips. Stir until just combined – do not over-stir.
3.) Pour batter into lined muffin tins (I use a scoop), and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 21 minutes.

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GF Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins2

GF Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins3

GF Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins4 Xanthan Gum   Gluten free multi-purpose flour

GF Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins5

GF Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins6 GF Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins7

Balsamic Pot Roast

30 Aug Balsamic Pot Roast

For years I’ve stuck by my tried and true pot roast recipe – it’s good. Real good. But a few months ago I went looking for something a little different where I could rely on my crock pot to do most the work. I came across this recipe on Pinterest, and it was instantly a crowd-pleaser. The meat is super tender, and the flavor is awesome. It’s very simple – mix up the sauce, pour it over the meat in the crock pot, turn it on and forget about it. If you like a gravy with your meat, you remove the drippings at the end and simmer it on the stove with some corn starch. Last night was probably my 6th time I’ve made this, and every time I go to my blog to find the recipe, only to be reminded that I haven’t blogged this recipe yet. Well darn it, I’m finally doing it – partly to share with others… and partly so that in a few weeks when I want to make this again and I don’t have to search through hundreds of my pins:) Since one of my kiddos is on a gluten-free diet, I just subbed gluten free soy sauce for the regular variety, and my whole family can eat it. Hope you enjoy!

Balsamic Pot Roast

1 3-lb boneless chuck roast
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp gluten free soy sauce (regular OK too)
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp corn starch (for gravy)

1.) In a medium bowl, whisk together beef broth, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, honey, garlic and pepper.
2.) Place chuck roast in crock pot and pour sauce over top.
3.) Set crock pot to Low and cook for about 6 hours.

To make gravy:
Take 1 1/2 cups of the drippings from the roast and place in a small saucepan. Mix the 2 tbsp corn starch with a few tbsps of cold water in a small bowl and mix until smooth. Whisk into drippings, and heat over medium high-heat until it simmers and sauce begins to thicken. Salt and pepper to taste.

Balsamic pot roast sauce

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Balsamic Pot Roast

Balsamic pot roast gravy

Adapted from Add a Pinch’s Balsamic Roast Beef recipe

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