Snacking…endless snacking

Oh man. I love snacks. I snack when I’m happy. I snack when I’m sad. I snack when I’m bored. I snack and snack and snack. So, it’s important (especially to get the new year off to a good start) to try to snack on good stuff. And, that’s not easy. Especially because the not-good-for-you stuff is soooooooo good.

I’ve been trying to keep chickpeas on hand simply because I love roasted chickpeas to snack on. I haven’t been able to get the girls on board with this snack yet (I think they know that  it’s actually fairly healthy…or at least it’s healthier than many other options) but I love them!

  1. Open a can of chickpeas.
  2. Dry the chickpeas as much as you can.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  4. Toss the chickpeas in olive oil – lots of olive oil.
  5. Cook for 30-45 minutes. (I like it closer to 30 minutes so some pieces are a little chewy and some are crunchy.)
  6. Top with whatever seasonings you have on hand: sea salt, cayenne pepper, fresh herbs, whatever you think might taste good.
  7. Eat and enjoy!
  8. Repeat when you realize that you just finished off the entire batch yourself……
Yum!

Yum!

Sometimes You Just Need a Bowl of Dumplings

Blueberry Dumplings

Blueberry Dumplings

Blueberry dumplings. Yum. So easy. And so yummy. And such a great way to use up a lot of blueberries.

We had some blueberries that were dangerously close to be too old and that meant – dumplings! I’ve made this recipe before but it really is a solid recipe. It’s very easy to put together, requires very few ingredients, and you basically mix it together and set your timer.

Be sure that you have some vanilla ice cream on hand.  The ice cream melts almost instantly and adds a creamy texture and some extra flavor.

 

Banana Pumpkin Bread and What To Do If You Are Out of Pumpkin Pie Spice

I had two bananas that were in desperate need of being made into banana bread.  In the past several months, I’ve been making a Weight Watchers recipe for banana oatmeal bread.  It’s a fine bread.  Simple to put together.  But I wanted something a little different this time.

There are many cans of pumpkin in the pantry since I stocked up after the holidays were over.  And, I found a recipe for a banana pumpkin bread that had some good reviews.  You can find the recipe here.  I took a look in the pantry to be sure that I had all of the other ingredients and I did, with the exception of pumpkin pie spice.  Pumpkin pie spice is one of those ingredients that really make a big difference in the final product.  Luckily, I also found a substitute for pumpkin pie spice that you can make with ingredients that you probably already have.  You can find that recipe here.

It came together very easily.

On a side note:  I don’t usually bake with a lot of honey.  But when the honey hit the other ingredients, the smell swept me back to my childhood.  My Nana and Papa gave me a cookbook for my 8th birthday – one of many cookbooks that they gave me.  This cookbook was amazing.  I would cook something out of it quite frequently.  And, of course, I still have it.

Image

I flipped through it and could remember the recipes that I had tried when I was a kid.  It’s amazing how powerfully connected the sense of smell is to memories.  The smell of the honey in the bread recipe brought me back to one of my favorite recipes that I would make.

Image

Oh man.  Banana frothies.  So good!

Out of all of the cookbooks that I was given as a child, this one was probably one of my favorites.  Nana would usually inscribe something on the front cover.  Like, “Happy Birthday” or the hopeful “I’m sure you’ll become a great chef.”  Nana, I am not going to be a great chef as I get distracted when cooking and have destroyed too many pots by cooking rice and forgetting about it.  But, I think that you would be proud of my pastry chef abilities.

Anyways.  Back to the bread.  Here’s what it looked like on the way into the oven.Image

Not really a pretty bread but it did smell pretty good.

The outcome: this recipe has a weird baking time.  I noticed in several of the reviews that others had issues with the baking time.  This bread was in the oven for almost 25 minutes longer than the recipe called for.  The toothpick finally came out clean after 25 extra minutes but it seemed to take forever to get to that point.  The poor bread is covered in holes since I had to test it so many times!  It is also a lot darker than I thought it would be and I hope that the top isn’t baked too much.

The taste: I’m going to try it toasted.  The taste is pretty mild.  Sometimes banana breads and/or pumpkin breads are very strong because those two fruits can have very strong flavors.  But this is actually pretty light.  If I can ever figure out the actual baking time, this could become a favorite recipe.

IMG_20130404_212802

Very Hungry Caterpillar – First Birthday Party

So baby girl’s first birthday was a month ago.  I put in a lot of time planning for the party and thought that I would share some of the ideas and how they turned out.
I knew that Very Hungry Caterpillar would be the theme.  Pinterest is full of planning ideas for this birthday theme.  (Not nearly as original of an idea as I had initially thought.)  The easy thing about making this book into a party theme is that your menu is basically planned already.  Everything that the caterpillar eats…well…that’s what you will eat.

Once I knew what the theme was going to be, I started doing research online and kept my eyes open for ideas.  I looked for anything that could be used for the party.  I found the napkins at Target.  I thought that they had an Eric Carle-esque look to them.

Happy Birthday little peanut!

Happy Birthday little peanut!

I was very excited when I found these little containers in the $1 aisle at Target.  (I love the $1 aisles at Target.)

I love a great deal!

I love a great deal!

I took a lot of inspiration from this party.  You will definitely see some similarities in her cake and in the one that I made.  That little banner across the cake is too cute!  I also used the labels that are posted at the end of her blog post.

Happy Cake!  I'll write more about the cake on a future post.

Happy Cake! I’ll write more about the cake on a future post.

One of the labels. We printed off and glued onto cardstock.

One of the labels. We printed them and glued onto cardstock. “On Saturday he ate one slice of salami.”

Another food label.  These were so perfect for the party.  As soon as they were placed, it was very clear what the theme was.

Another food label. These were so perfect for the party. As soon as they were placed, it was very clear what the theme was.

Some of the foods were pretty straight forward.  Some, however, I put my own little spin on.  Instead of making a pie, I made little tiny pies.  You can find a how-to here.  They are just pie dough and pie filling.  Couldn’t be easier.  Instead of eating cupcakes and ice cream cones, Grammie made the cupcakes in ice cream cones.  They were delicious and adorable.  The tops of the cupcakes were decorated with little candy caterpillars like in this post.

Check out the caterpillars on the ice cream cone cupcakes!  So cute!

Check out the caterpillars on the ice cream cone cupcakes! So cute!

I spent a lot of time cutting out circles to make a garland.  I also used some of the circles as large confetti on the table as to decorate the inside of the door.  Now, I am fully aware that stores sell large hole punches so that you do not have to cut out countless circles.  I checked one particular store’s website to see if they carried them.  Then, I called the store to be sure.  When I got to the store, they didn’t have a single one.  So…..I did a lot of cutting.

Circles and Caterpillar on the door.  It's a fuzzy pic but you can get an idea of how it looked.

Circles and Caterpillar on the door. It’s a fuzzy pic but you can get an idea of how it looked.

I’ll be writing a how-to post for the garland.  I think it turned out pretty cute.

Garland hanging across window.

Garland hanging across window.

It was a great party.  It was a day full of laughter, hugs, food, and family.  And baby girl definitely had a good time.

The table is ready for a party!

The table is ready for a party!

What birthday party themes have you seen for first birthdays?

The Simplicity of Summer Food

I love summer vegetables and summer fruit.  Not only do they always instantly remind me of the warm summer months, but they rarely require that you do anything to them for them to be delicious.  Fresh cherries are rarely better than right out of the bowl.  A zucchini sliced up and lightly sauteed or thrown on the grill?  Delicious.  I usually feel like it is best to keep summer foods as simple as possible.  Plus, who wants to turn on the stove when it’s this hot?

Recently, in our CSA, we received a lot of raspberries.  I love raspberries.  I love love love raspberries.  They are completely perfect on their own.  However, in order to keep me from simply eating them all on their own in one sitting (and I know that I am perfectly capable of doing just that) I decided to dress them up a bit.

Pudding?  Check.  Pile of raspberries?  Check.  Dessert, breakfast, and snack?  Check.

Pudding + raspberries = perfection

Potato salad

So, we had some small potatoes from our CSA and a bunch of dill. Dill is one of those herbs that I love (it smells like summer!) but I have very little use for (how many ways can you actually use dill?). So, I decided to make a potato salad.

I chopped up the potatoes. Boiled and drained them. Sprinkled them with a bit of apple cider vinegar and some salt and pepper. Then tossed them with mayo, mustard, and dill.
Results?

Well, the texture was a bit off because I boiled the potatoes too long.  However, the taste was great.   That’s one of the reasons why I love potato salad so much.  You can pretty much throw anything together and it’ll probably make a good potato salad.

What’s your favorite potato salad recipe?

Mushrooms and pie crust

My Papa was an amazing man.

He showed his grandchildren incredible amounts of love.  I’m sure that taking us on walks in the woods was actually a pretty stressful occasion for him.  I’m sure that each time we stepped on a morel mushroom he probably rolled his eyes a bit.  I’m sure he got tired of driving the lawn mower with the wagon attached to it around and around the yard until we had finally had enough.  And I’m sure at the end of the day, he thought about his silly grandchildren and would have a little chuckle.

We're probably all waiting for Papa to drive us around.

My Papa was an amazing man.

He knew the value of real food.  He knew the importance of farm-to-table cooking way before it became trendy because he was the one farming the food.  We always had bushels of corn in our fridge.  Melons of every type were served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Green beans came in a big bowl and were quickly given to my sister and I to start snapping on the porch.  Without knowing it, Papa was a foodie.

I kind of feel sorry for my foodie friends who are forever on the search for the perfect meal.  Because I have already had that meal.  I’ve had that meal several times throughout my life.  A platter of Papa’s fried chicken.  Mashed potatoes with white gravy.  Apple salad.  Fried morels.  And pie.  Oh, the pie.  The only reason that I am even close to being good at baking pie is because I have notes written in the pages of my cookbook that tell me some hints about how to make crust like Papa made.

It is sad to think about all of those perfect meals that I will never eat again.  But I know that I am luckier than most because I have already eaten the best meal on the planet.  Those travel and cooking shows will never know what they missed out on.

Why was that meal always so good?  Was there a secret ingredient?  As cheesy as it always sounds, I am fairly certain that the secret ingredient was love.

And so I say, goodbye Papa.  Your cooking was fantastic but your heart was what was truly outstanding.

Tell Nana, “Hi!”  I’m sure she greeted you with at the gates with a smile and a sandwich.