Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

The morning started off well.  We met some friends at the Portland Children's Museum and then did some shopping in the afternoon.

Then it was time to get ready for trick-or-treating.

After some photos, we stopped at two houses and...

... Jolene decided that she was done for the night.  
No teeth = no candy = Unhappy girl!

What did you do for Halloween?  What was the best costume you saw?

Monday Morning Weekend Roundup

Jolene and I flew solo again this weekend while Dustin was out deer hunting.  She had the last of her 4-month vaccinations on Friday morning and did such a great job - what a champ!  I got a lot more done on Friday than I expected to.  Yay!

On Saturday, I met up with my Mother-in-Law and we visited with Dustin's Grandmother.  Since we were already across town, Jolene and I stopped at Ikea and Home Goods.  You can see pictures of my goodies below.

Dustin ended up coming home late Saturday night because he missed his girls (and he didn't see any bucks).  Could he be any cuter?  We had a great Sunday as a family - first breakfast, then some work around the house, followed by a nice drive with Pumpkin Spice lattes.  Ahhh!

Complete        Incomplete        Added

  • Take Jolene to the doctor
  • Dust the dining room lighting (part of the Express Happy House Challenge Plus)
  • Wash the glass portion of the dining room lighting (part of the Express Happy House Challenge Plus)
  • Clean the dining room furniture (part of the Express Happy House Challenge Plus)
  • Clean the dining room windows (part of the Express Happy House Challenge Plus)
  • Clean the dining room blinds (part of the Express Happy House Challenge Plus)
  • Deep clean the dining room floor (part of the Express Happy House Challenge Plus)
  • Meal planning
  • Schedule grooming appointment for Lilly (our golden retriever)
  • Find a new OB-GYN and schedule appointment (just for a preservative-free flu shot people!)
  • Wash, fold, and put away two loads of laundry

  • Grocery Shopping
  • Wash, fold, and put away three loads of laundry
  • Take Jolene and Lilly for a walk, weather permitting (ran out of time)
  • Meet up with Grandma Miller and visit Great Grandma Roberts
  • Go to Ikea and Home Goods

  • Take Jolene and Lilly for a walk, weather permitting (raining)
  • Bake something fall-ish
  • Decorate mantel (I still need to pick up a few things and will share pictures this week)
  • Pick up Pumpkin Spice lattes and go for a nice fall drive
  • Dustin: Hang mirror above mantel
  • Dustin: Install dimmer switches in dining room and Jolene's bedroom
  • Dustin: Fix shelf in tupperware kitchen cabinet

Meal Plan:
Sunday - Crockpot Baked Potato Soup
Monday - Leftovers
Tuesday - Steak, Baked Potato, Salad
Wednesday - Buffalo Chicken Tacos
Thursday - Pesto Alla Trapanese
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday - Out of Town

Home Goods: Apothecary jar and ribbon platter

Galvanized platter, white and silver glitter wicker balls, vanilla candles

Close-up of white and silver glitter wicker balls

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Crockpot Baked Potato Soup

This soup is super easy and tastes delish. Dustin approved! Using the frozen hash browns reduces the prep time to nearly zero and the final texture is perfect for us.

Crockpot Baked Potato Soup

30 ounces frozen, shredded hash browns
42 ounces chicken broth
1 can of Cream of Chicken soup
1 medium onion, diced
0.25 tsp ground pepper
8 ounces cream cheese

Sour cream (topping, optional)
Shredded cheese (topping, optional)
Green onion (topping, optional)
Bacon (topping, optional)
In a crockpot, combine everything except for the cream cheese.  Cook for 6-8 hours on low heat.  About 1 hour before serving, add cream cheese and keep heated until thoroughly melted.  Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, bacon bits, and/or green onions - you decide. Mmmmm!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Weekend Planning

It's week three of my weekend planning.  It's going to be just me and Jolene again this weekend as it's the closing days of deer hunting season (Dustin still hasn't gotten one) and Jolene is getting the last of her four month vaccinations on Friday (I like to stay close to our doctor, just in case she has a negative reaction).  I really hope that this weekend is more productive than the last one!

Take Jolene to the doctor
Dust the dining room lighting (part of the Express Happy House Challenge Plus)
Clean the dining room furniture (part of the Express Happy House Challenge Plus)

Meal planning
Wash and put away 4 loads of laundry
Clean the dining room windows and blinds (part of the Express Happy House Challenge Plus)
Take Jolene and Lilly for a walk, weather permitting
Decorate mantel

Grocery shopping
Deep clean the dining room floor (part of the Express Happy House Challenge Plus)
Take Jolene and Lilly for a walk, weather permitting
Bake something fall-ish

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Week 1 Recap: Express Happy House Challenge Plus

I am pretty proud of my first week of the Express Happy House Challenge Plus (courtesy of Molly at My Happy House).  For the first week, our two tasks were to make the bed and empty the sink.  Drum roll please...

1 - Make the bed: 5/5
2 - Empty the sink: 4/5

We were out of town for two days and nights, so only five days were possible for me last week.  I so wanted to empty the sink on that last night, but Jolene would not let me escape.  I enjoyed the snuggles more though!

The "Plus" for last week was to deep clean the kitchen.  I'm glad we started here because it's probably one of the hardest areas for me to tackle, aside from the bathrooms.

Here's the itemized task list that Molly provided (things I finished are in green, unfinished are in red):
  • Clean the cupboards- interiors and exteriors
  • Wipe down appliances
  • Clean windows
  • Clean blinds
  • Clean refrigerator interior
  • Clean pantry
  • Deep clean counters and small appliances
  • Deep clean floors and garbage/recycling containers

That's right, I finished it all!  Woo hoo!  A big thank you to Jolene for napping without Mommy today so I could finish!

I am most excited about the pantry.  Talk about a disaster zone!  Here are the before and after pictures:

Kitchen Before

Kitchen After

Pantry Before

Pantry After

For this week, Molly has added two new daily tasks (3 - Clear the clutter, 4 - Sweep the kitchen floor) and a deep clean of the dining room.  That room is definitely cleaner than the kitchen was, so I'm planning to add some extra work on too.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spicy Green Beans

One of my favorite dishes at Thai and Chinese restaurants is spicy green beans.  I finally decided to try making my own and they turned out pretty good.  For our family, more spice is always nice!  So I added some extra dried crushed red chili peppers after cooking.

Spicy Green Beans

1 pound fresh green beans, washed, trimmed, and cut in half
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon dried crushed red chili peppers
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
1 teapsoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic and chili peppers and cook for a few seconds.  Add green beans.  Cook for 1 minute.  Add water, hoisin sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and salt. Cook until liquid is nearly absorbed and the green beans are tender, about 12 to 15 minutes, stirringly occasionally.  If more spice is desired, add extra dried crushed red chili peppers after cooking.

Crockpot Chicken Curry

Boy did I need the crockpot today!  Jolene was not happy today unless in my arms.  Fortunately, I threw dinner in the crockpot this morning and had a delicious meal waiting when Dustin got home.

Crockpot Chicken Curry

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 onion, diced
1 jar Trader Joe's Curry Simmer Sauce

Place all ingredients in crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Morning Weekend Roundup

We were at my in-law's house this weekend, so it wasn't a very productive weekend for me.  Dustin got off work earlier than expected on Friday so I wasn't able to start on the Express Cleaning Challenge Plus as I had planned.  Saturday was a pretty great day - relaxing with my favorite people in the world, followed by a fantastic dinner at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants.  Yum!  Sunday was rough.  Jolene woke up at 4:30am and her naps were 14, 17, 20, 22, 30, 33, 39, and 46 minutes long (there are a lot of naps during the day when you wake up that early!).  Sigh.  To top it off, she's running a fever today and will only nap with me so far.  Poor baby girl!

I have a feeling this may be a tough week, so I revised my meal plan to include more crockpot meals so I'm not rushed to make dinner in the afternoon.

Complete        Incomplete        Added

  • Wash and put away 3 loads of laundry
  • Straighten up house (I hate leaving a house dirty when going out of town)
  • Pack bags for trip
  • Clean out the cupboards - interiors and exteriors (part of the Express Cleaning Challenge Plus)
  • Clean windows (part of the Express Cleaning Challenge Plus)
  • Wipe down all appliances (part of the Express Cleaning Challenge Plus)

  • Meal planning

  • Clean blinds (part of the Express Cleaning Challenge Plus)
  • Clean out fridge interior (part of the Express Cleaning Challenge Plus)

Meal Plan:
Sunday - Out of Town
Monday - Easy Red Beans and Rice, Salad
Tuesday - Crockpot Chicken Curry, Spicy Green Beans, Garlic Naan
Wednesday - Risotto with Butternut Squash and Pancetta, Salad
Thursday - Crockpot Beef Stroganoff, Green Beans
Friday - Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup
Saturday - Leftovers

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Remember how much I love my crockpot?  LOVE!  Here's another recipe that I use my trusty crockpot for.   

Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce
1 medium onion, diced
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt  
0.25 teaspoon black pepper
1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
1 can black beans, rinsed

Place chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, green chiles, garlic, corn, and black beans into crockpot.  Pour in chicken broth and season with cumin, salt, and pepper.  Stir.  Cover and cook on low setting for 6 to 8 hours.  Use a fork at the end of cooking to shred chicken in crockpot.  Garnish with tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheese, and avocado slices.

Holiday Cards

As the holidays approach, I can't help but think of my favorite - Christmas!  It's a very special holiday this year since Dustin and I are sharing it with Jolene.  I know she'll be too young to open her presents and understand, but I am just so excited to share this time of year with her.

We've also never sent Christmas cards before, but this is a great time to share an updated family portrait with our family and friends.  I've been browsing the cards on Shutterfly and these are some of my favorites:

We're having our portrait taken in early December, so I'll share our final card choice here after I send our cards out.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Easy Red Beans and Rice

I always stock up on canned beans when they are on sale and this is one of my favorite in-a-pinch recipes featuring kidney beans.

Easy Red Beans and Rice

2 cups water
1 cup uncooked rice
1 (16 ounce) package smoked sausage, cut diagonally into 1/4 inch slices
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (15 ounce) can canned kidney beans, drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
Green onion, sliced

In a saucepan, bring water and rice to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is done.  In a large skillet over medium heat, cook sausage for 5 minutes. Stir in onion, green pepper, and garlic, and saute until tender.  Add beans and tomatoes (with juice in can).  Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.  Serve over rice and sprinkle with green onion.

Crockpot Beef Stroganoff

My crockpot has definitely been getting a lot of use since Jolene's birth.  It's so nice to throw all the ingredients in the crockpot in the morning and then dinner is done by the time Dustin gets home, without any additional effort on my part.  And some days, Jolene doesn't let me get much done and I am so thankful when that turns out to be a crockpot day.

Here's an easy recipe, Dustin-approved:

Crockpot Beef Stroganoff

1.5 pounds beef stew meat
1 whole onion, Diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 can (10.75oz) Cream Of Mushroom soup
1 teaspoon salt To Taste
0.5 teaspoons black pepper
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
0.5 cup sour cream
0.5 cup cream cheese, cut into a few smaller chunks

Place all ingredients, except for sour cream and cream cheese, into crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  With about 1 hour left in the cooking time, add the sour cream and cream cheese.  Stir after the cream cheese begins to melt.  Serve over egg noodles.

Collard Greens, Potato, and Black-Eyed Pea Stew

I love winter greens - collards, kale - yum!  This is one of my favorite recipes featuring collard greens.

Collard Greens, Potato, and Black-Eyed Pea Stew

6 cups chicken broth
1 bunch collard greens, chopped
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
4 red potatoes, cut into chunks (for most red potatoes, I cut into sixths)
1 15.5-oz can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

Bring broth and 2 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat.  Add collard greens, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add tomatoes and potatoes, and return to a simmer.  Cover and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.  Add black-eyed peas and simmer until heated through, about five minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Weekend Planning

It's week two of my weekend planning.  Last weekend was pretty successful, but this weekend won't be quite as productive.  As I mentioned before, it's hunting season, so our little family will be heading to Grandma and Grandpa Miller's house for the weekend.  I'm looking forward to seeing my in-laws and I know they are definitely looking forward to seeing little Jolene.

  • Wash and put away 4 loads of laundry
  • Straighten up house (I hate leaving a house dirty when going out of town)
  • Pack bags for trip
  • Clean out the cupboards - interiors and exteriors (part of the Express Cleaning Challenge Plus)
  • Clean windows (part of the Express Cleaning Challenge Plus)
  • Wipe down all appliances (part of the Express Cleaning Challenge Plus)

  • Meal planning

  • Clean blinds (part of the Express Cleaning Challenge Plus)
  • Clean out fridge interior (part of the Express Cleaning Challenge Plus)

Sausage, Mushroom, and Spinach Pizza

Dustin absolutely loves this pizza and I make it almost every week.  In fact, we haven't ordered a pizza since I mastered this's that good!

Sausage, Mushroom, and Spinach Pizza

2 links hot Italian chicken sausage
4-6 crimini mushrooms
1 5-ounce package baby spinach
Prepared pizza dough *
1 cup prepared pizza sauce *
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

* You can certainly make your own dough and sauce.  With a new baby, I'm often looking for quicker recipes now.  I use Trader Joe's pizza sauce and garlic and herb dough.

Remove the pizza dough from it's package and place onto a floured surface.  Allow to rise for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, slice the sausage links into 0.25 inch thick rounds.  Slice the mushrooms approximately 0.25 inch thick.  Place the spinach in a pan, cover, and wilt over low heat.  Allow to cool.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  After the initial 30 minutes has passed, roll the dough out into a 12 inch round.  Place on a pizza stone or cookie sheet  Spread pizza sauce onto dough, leaving just a 0.5 inch border around the outside.  Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on the sauce.  Using a spatula and paper towel, press the spinach to re.move the excess moisture and then spread around the pizza.  Place the sausage and mushrooms on the pizza.  Sprinkle additional cheese on top.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is lightly browned and bubbly.  Slice and serve.  Enjoy!

My Favorite Banana Bread

My husband never eats the bananas I buy because he's secretly hoping that I'll make banana bread once they've gotten a little too ripe.  His wish was granted this morning and the house smells lovely!  I love that the weather has finally turned and that I can bake again.  Hurray for fall!

Dania's Favorite Banana Bread

1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick butter, room temperature *
2 large eggs, room temperature
3-5 ripe bananas
0.5 tablespoon milk
0.5 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt *
0.25 cup chopped walnuts
Vanilla sugar **

* If using salted butter, I only use 0.25 teaspoon salt.  If using unsalted butter, I use 1 teaspoon salt.
** Penzeys Spices (only the best spice store ever) sells vanilla sugar.  If you can't find this, try sprinkling a mixture of cinnamon and granulated sugar over the top instead.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a loaf pan.  Cream the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well.  In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a form.  Mix in the milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon.  In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt - stir with a fork to mix.  Add the banana mixture and walnuts to the creamed mixture and stir to combine.  Add the dry ingredients, mixing just until the flour disappears.  Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle vanilla sugar over the top.  Bake 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clear.  Allow to cool before slicing (if you can resist, I never can!). 


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall Flower Arrangement

I just love how this new fall flower arrangement turned out.  Again, it's inspired by my finds on Pinterest.

To create this you'll need:

5" glass cube: $9.99
Mum bush: $2.79 (60% off this week!)
Yellow popcorn: $0.00 (already had, $3.99 if buying new)
Brown satin ribbon: $2.50
Jute twine: $0.00 (already had, $2.49 if buying new)
Plastic cub: $0.00
Total: $15.28

Cut brown satin ribbon to fit around the middle of the glass cube.  Use two pieces of scotch tape to secure the ribbon on the back.  Cut jute twine to fit around the middle of the glass cube.  Use one piece of scotch tape to secure the twine on the back.  Tie the jute twine in the front.

Cut your plastic cup to fit inside of the glass cube, so the lip of the cup is just above the brown ribbon when looking in the cube from the outside (I used the cup so I wouldn't have to use as much yellow popcorn later).  Pour the yellow popcorn around the cup until it is nearly to the lip of the cup.  

Cut the individual mums from the bush using wire cutters.  Trim them to the desired length and arrange inside the plastic cup.


Fall Centerpiece

I recently joined Pinterest and oh my goodness is it addictive. I found some amazing fall decorations that inspired a few crafty evenings at home.

First up is my new fall centerpiece.

What do you think?

To create this you'll need:

Glass hurricane: $0.00 (already had, $9.99 if buying new)
8" white candle: $4.99
Green split peas: $1.99
Small red beans: $1.99
Yellow popcorn: $3.99
Jute twine: $2.49
Total: $15.45

Place your candle in the hurricane.  Pour in approximately two inches of green split peas, followed by two inches of small red beans, and then yellow popcorn.  Tie jute twine around the top of the hurricane. 


The Express Happy House Challenge Plus

Molly at My Happy House is challenging bloggers to participate in her five-week Express Happy House Challenge Plus.  Each week, Molly assigns two tasks to be completed each day (2 tasks, 5 weeks, 10 total daily tasks).  Molly is also adding the "Plus" each week - one room to deep clean in preparation for the upcoming holidays.  Molly is even including a list of to-do's for the deep clean (yay!).  I'm excited to participate and hope to have one Happy House at the conclusion of the five week challenge!

This week, our daily tasks are to (1) make the bed and (2) empty the sink, plus deep clean the kitchen.  Aside from our office (disaster zone), the kitchen (specifically, the pantry) needs the most work.  Time to get my hands dirty!

DIY Nursery Letters

Because I knew we were likely moving either before or shortly after our baby girl was due to arrive in June, I had to hold off on the nursery planning.  But once we'd moved into our new home in Portland (and baby girl finally had a name), I was free to finally decorate her room.  For my first project, I chose to create her name in letters to hang on the nursery wall.

I picked up my supplies at Michael's:

Six wooden letters: $20.94
Six wooden shapes: $1.74
Paint: $13.90
Detail brush: $0.00 (already had, $4.99 for four pack if purchasing new)
Five foam brushes: $0.50
Acrylic sealer (gloss): $5.99
Total: $43.07

To create your own nursery letters, begin by painting your letters.  I used two coats of Martha Stewart acrylic satin paint with a foam brush:

J, E: Sweet Pea (lavender)
O: Couscous (pale yellow)
L: Ballet Slipper (pale pink)
E: Summer Haze (pale blue)
N: Artichoke (pale green)

Then, paint your shapes.  For mine, I applied two coats of Martha Stewart acrylic satin paint with a detail brush:

Hearts: Camellia Pink (medium pink)
Flowers: Blue Sky (medium blue), Yellowjacket (medium yellow)
Tulip, Butterfly: Heliotrope (dark purple), Mint (medium green)

Then attach the shapes to the letters using a hot glue gun.  Next, spray your letters and shapes with an acrylic sealer (I used gloss).

I hung the letters on the wall using Command medium picture hanging strips (three per letter).

DIY Wall Art - Abstract Lines

After moving into our home in Portland, I was struck by how bare our walls were.  Something had to be done!  Unfortunately, we don't have a large art budget.  What's a gal to do?  Well find a DIY project of course!  For my first DIY art piece, I chose something very simple to complete.  I was inspired by this image:

I headed to my local craft store and picked up my supplies:

18" x 24" canvas: $8.99 (used 40% off coupon)
Paint: $2.78
Foam brushes: $0.20
Painter's tape: $0.00 (already had, $2.99 if purchasing new)
Acrylic sealer (matte): $5.99
Total: $17.96

To create your own DIY abstract lines wall art, begin by applying the painter's tape to the canvas, including the edges.  Then, plan out which color you'd like in each white section of the canvas.  I used a light blue for the majority of my canvas, but added a dark blue in certain sections for contrast.  Next, apply a coat of paint.  Allow to dry and then apply a second coat.  Allow to dry and then peel off the painter's tape (leaving you with crisp white lines).  Last, apply an acrylic sealer (if needed).  Voila!

For my project, I used Martha Stewart craft paint in satin finish (Cloud and Deep Sea) and 3/4" painter's tape.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hood River Harvest Festival

I've wanted to attend the Hood River Harvest Festival for years and decided it would be a great trip during my recent girls' weekend.  My in-laws live in that area as well, so my Mother-in-Law met us there too.

We had a great time exploring the arts and crafts tents and I walked away with some fantastic pottery for not only our own home, but also for Christmas gifts (yay!).  One of my favorites, Klickitat Pottery, was there and I have another new favorite - Steven Provence Pottery.  I kept returning to this beautiful bowl at Steven's booth and then would put it back down.  I never ended up purchasing it and after leaving, kicked myself all day.

Fortunately, I have the sweetest Mother-in-Law and she stopped back by to pick up the bowl for me.  I love her!

Pitcher and cup from Klickitat Pottery
Bowl from Steven Provence Pottery

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Morning Weekend Roundup

I think I did pretty good for my first weekend planning.  A big thanks to Molly at My Happy House for motivating me!

Complete        Incomplete        Added

  • Jolene's doctor's appointment
  • Grocery shopping for guests
  • Finish Jolene's 4-month blog post
  • Clean kitchen - Jolene was very upset after her vaccinations, so my hands were a little full!
  • Vacuum house

  • Clean kitchen
  • Clean master bedroom and bathroom
  • Go to Hood River Harvest Festival 
  • Take Jolene to Gymboree Play & Learn class - We went to Harvest Fest instead! 

  • Meal planning
  • Grocery shopping 
  • Wash and put away 7 loads of laundry - No, I didn't let it pile up that badly.  This just includes the sheets and towels from our weekend guests, Jolene's separate load of clothing, and Jolene's cloth diapers from yesterday.
  • Straighten up Jolene's room
  • Take a walk with Jolene and Lilly
  • Finish decorating for fall

Meal Plan:
Sunday - French dip sandwiches, salad
Monday - Risotto with Butternut Squash and Pancetta, salad
Tuesday - Nutmeg Gnocchi, salad
Wednesday - Chicken stirfry
Thursday - Pizza (sausage, mushroom, and spinach), salad
Friday - Out of town
Saturday - Out of town

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Risotto with Butternut Squash and Pancetta

Ahh, fall.  The perfect time for a delicious risotto.  I really like making risotto and once fall rolls around, this is my go-to recipe.  Yum!

Risotto with Butternut Squash and Pancetta

4 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 cups arborio rice
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

Bring broth to boil in medium saucepan.  Reduce heat (simmer) and cover.  Heat oil in large saute pan over medium heat.  Add pancetta and saute until cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Add onion and squash.  Saute for an additional five minutes.  Add rice and saute for 1 minute.  Add wine and adjust heat as needed so that liquid bubbles gently.  Stir until liquid is absorbed.  Add about 2 cups hot broth mixture (I add 2 ladle-fuls).  Stir until liquid is absorbed.  Continue adding hot broth 1 cup at a time (again, I don't get out measuring cups here, just use your ladle) until rice is tender, simmering until liquid is absorbed before each addition and stirring often.  Once you start on rice, this should take about 20 minutes.  

Add butter and Parmesan to risotto.  Season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with additional Parmesan if desired (um, always!).  

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

I love butternut squash and look forward to making butternut squash soup each fall.  This simple recipe is a great weeknight dinner.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
6 cups chicken broth

In a large pot, melt butter.  Add onion and cook until translucent.  Add squash and broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until squash is tender, about 20 minutes.  Remove squash with a slotted spoon and place in a bender and puree.  Return blended squash to pot.  Stir and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Nutmeg Gnocchi

This is one of my favorite easy weeknight meals.  It is simple and just delicious!  For those of you who haven't tried gnocchi, they are little potato dumplings that cook in minutes.  Trader Joe's sells dry gnocchi that is very easy to use - just toss into a pot of boiling water and once they float to the top, you're done.  Take care not to overcook them as they become very sticky.

Nutmeg Gnocchi

1 package dried gnocchi
1 yellow onion, diced
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or butter
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/4 cup milk or cream
1 bag fresh spinach
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (shredded)

In a medium pan, saute onions in about 1 tbsp of oil until soft.  Meanwhile, prepare gnocchi according to package directions.  Drain and add to pan.  Add another 1 tbsp of oil, nutmeg, and salt.  Toss until gnocchi and onion mixture is well coated.  Sprinkle in walnuts and drizzle in milk. Heat for an additional minute.  Place spinach on top and cover pan with lid.  Remove pan from heat.  Once spinach has wilted, add Parmesan cheese and stir to combine.


I love Trader Joe's!

One of my favorite things so far about Portland is our local Trader Joe's store. I had visited a Trader Joe's store with a friend before but never bought anything. Well, I've made up for it now!  Here are some of my favorite products found at Trader Joe's:

  • Frozen mandarin orange chicken
  • Frozen chicken gyoza
  • Frozen chocolate croissants
  • Frozen naan
  • Frozen mushroom ravioli
  • Hot Italian chicken sausage links
  • Banana yogurt
  • Cereal bars - An Apple Walks Into a Bar...
  • Charles Shaw wines (otherwise known as 2 or 3 buck chuck) - chardonnay for cooking, shiraz for drinking
  • Joe Joe's cookies (TJ's oreo cookie)
  • Chocolate covered peanut butter pretzels (danger - these are addictive!)
  • Yogurt covered raisins
  • Potato gnocchi
  • Sparking water (lemon, lime)
  • Refrigerated pizza dough
  • Colombian roast decaf coffee
  • Brownie truffle baking mix
  • Pumpkin cream cheese
  • Curry simmer sauce
  • Bagged salad, spinach, and romaine lettuce leaves
  • Cut flowers

So, if you haven't visited a Trader Joe's store, you're missing it ASAP!