What we’ve been up to…

Wow. Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter came and went.

And the 4th of July.

I missed this, but we’ve had a fabulous rest….

Though time is speeding by, we’ve filled it with everything from home projects to vacations, dinner parties to volunteering. It would take way to long to totally catch you up so we can get back to some fun stuff, so instead, here are a few pictures:

Volunteering with Service League for the Mazza Museum – a really magical place.

VolunteerMazza

Super Bowl Paleo fun with homemade cauliflower pizza crust (you know you’ve Pinned it, too…), and coconut-coated baked chicken nuggets. Verdict? We ate it allllllll. 

CauliflowerPizza

Our spare room (aka, the really-nice-storage-space-with-a-desk) actually turned into a real room. With a bed. That my mom and I refinished. And a mattress. Come visit?

Bedroom

The Husband’s parents got visit and sleep on a real bed. Made the whole redecoration totally worth it. That, and always being able to walk into a room with a bed that’s made. That’s pretty great, also.

TheParentsVisit

And there was the local chili cook-off. It’s a big deal. And mostly delicious.

ChiliCookoff

We dressed up like Superman and Lois Lane for a charity gala… and didn’t enjoy it at all (obviously… ;) JK – best thing we’ve done this year! And doesn’t the Husband make a dashing Clark Kent? Oh, that curl...

Lois&Clark

I got the chance to visit my Great-Grandmother. And, THIS is her wallpaper. A recent visit to Anthropologie made me realize how much I love it, and totally wish I could copy it or frame it or something… grandmaswallpaperI flew from cold, cold Ohio to bright blue California for a little family get-away. What a difference a few hours makes!

flighttocali

…I saw these mountains.

calimountains

…and walked along streets like this.

Cali

..and stuck my toes in an icy desert oasis.

California13

Celebrity encounter #1: Saw the Author of “The Language of Flowers”, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, talk about her New York Times Best Seller. She signed my book, “To Rachael, with Tulips…”

LanguageOfFlowersI got glasses. For the first time. Luckily, I just have to wear then when trying to see a ppt presentation or driving at night… or when I want to feel nerdy-chic.

glassesWe went home for Easter, and both wore fabulous footware.

Easter

…and mom made pies.

Easter Pie

We joined the County Club, and I’m learning to love golf. Or, attempting to. At least this place is totally lovely and we get to hang out outside and say, “let’s go to the club for dinner….” I’ve sort of always have wanted to say that…

Country Club

We’re super active in our local Young Professionals organization. It’s lots of fun, and has a ton of neat activities that we have the opportunity to lead. From around here? Check it out!

FYP

We saw BOB DYLAN. Just look at that silhouette… the hair.

Dylan

We went to Traverse City, Michigan and Camped. And ate.

Traverse City food

And my little sibs came to visit while my parents went on a 30th Anniversary trip. And we canoed, tie-dyed, watched a drive-in movie, swam… And ate.

Donuts with kids

Then we went to Cincinnati. And watched baseball. And ate.

FindlayMkt.

So, lots of fun. Lots of adventures. Lots of food…. and I’ve missed sharing it all! So, though we’ve got a full calendar, and plenty of relaxation penciled into our summer schedule, I’m going to do my best to keep up… And, the Husband wants to write a post about his theories on the best way to get a deal when garage sale-shopping. I’m serious.

So, I had to catch you up, first ;)

P.S. I also ate lots of this – my new favorite concoction: Oatless oatmeal. Packed with protein, perfect for smothering with fruit and nut butters. Recipe to come!Oatless oats

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Uncle Glenn’s {Cheesy} Potato Soup

Sometimes, it is better just NOT to know what is in your favorite dishes.

But, there’s a problem with that. If you never get the recipe, you’ll never be able to enjoy that cake, pick apart those little creamy-bacony-puff appetizer things, scoop up mom’s gooey dip, or…. savor Uncle Glenn’s Potato Soup.

So, continue if you dare. A staple at our family gatherings, this cheesy, rich goodness is so worth it… especially if you need to whip up something for a crowd after a day of sledding. Or intense game playing/movie watching/shopping/present wrapping…

{My Uncle Glenn, my sister, my dad and Lulu the puppy – Too. Cute.}

Uncle Glenn’s Cheesy Potato Soup

Serves 6 (double for a crowd!)

Ingredients

  • 1 Two lb. bag of cubed frozen hash browns (you can use fresh potatoes too, but hey – we’ve got a bunch of hungry cousins on our hands. Can’t dawdle).
  • 1 Jar Cheese spread (Yep. That’s Cheez Wiz. Don’t hate.)
  • 1 Qt. Heavy Whipping Cream, room temperature (You’ve already done the Cheez Wiz…why stop now?!)
  • 3 Chicken boullion cubes
  • 1 1/2 Cups Chopped Carrots and Celery (See – vegetables! This is practically a health food… Food chopper/processor is the easiest).

Directions:

  • Place potatoes and bullion cubes in a stock pot. Add water just to cover, cook on medium-high heat.
  • When potatoes are soft (poke with a fork), add cheese, carrots and celery. Stir until cheese is completely melted.
  • Slowly add heavy whipping cream, continue stirring.
  • Reduce heat to low, stir frequently.
  • Simmer for about 15 minutes until warm through, and well combined.
  • (Note: To thicken, add instant potato flakes!)

This rich, creamy, fast soup is best paired with crackers, bread, bacon bits, and enough green leafy things to make you feel better about yourself… or (Uncle’s recommendation) deer salami. That part is totally optional.

Be brave. You’ll be the hero of family tales for years to come.

Enjoy!

Do you have any indulgent, quirky, fun, family-gathering favorites that you are looking forward to this season?

Retro Squash {Truffles}

First off, these really aren’t truffles. Sorry to disappoint, but I just didn’t want the name of my post to be “Squash Balls”.

Umm… doesn’t exactly inspire cozy, happy, holiday thoughts. So, because these little treats are round and have somewhat of a crispy, sweet coating… truffles they became.

I found the inspiration for this recipe in a April issue of Family Circle from 1955 (one of my grandmother’s magazines). “Crispy Sweet-Potato Balls” – They are little funky-retro, and a lot fun to eat.

Unlike Mrs. Eisenhower’s Apple Pie, I did make some modifications to this recipe.

With the biggest eating day of the year looming close, I wanted to be sure I could pound some stuffing, mashed potatoes and Black-Friday-Power-Shopping-Frappuccinos without overwhelming guilt.

Don’t worry. The “yummier” PG-13 version is below also… Worth a shot if butter and zweiback crumbs are your thing. I’ll let you choose for yourself ; )

Retro Squash Truffles

Makes about 10 larger-than-golf-ball-sized truffles

Squash Mixture:

  • 2 Cups of roasted squash (I used a Kabocha, but Butternut or Sweet Dumpling would work well also, or even Sweet Potatoes like the original recipe suggests.)
  • 1 T Earth Balance (or butter), melted
  • 1 t Brown sugar (May need to vary based on the sweetness of your squash)
  • 1/2 t lemon juice
  • Dash of Nutmeg and Pepper (to taste)

Coating Mixture:

  • 2/3 Cups of Panko Breadcrumbs (graham crackers or a few crushed pecans would be great additions, too)
  • 2 t Earth Balance (or butter), melted
  • 1/8 t Cinnamon and Nutmeg and Salt

Directions:

  • Mash squash in a large bowl; add remaining squash-mixture ingredients; beat until fluffy; form into balls truffles.
  • Combine coating-mixture ingredients in a pie-plate; roll truffles in the mixture until coated well, place in a shallow baking pan.
  • Bake in slow oven (325) for about 35 minutes, or until truffles are heated-through and coating is crisp.

Garnish these little spheres of sweet-fluffy-mashed-potato-like goodness with a drizzle of real maple syrup, or….

…yep, I went there.

Add half of a marshmallow for the last five minutes of baking time for a gooey treat. Perfect nestled next to a turkey, and fun to make (and eat) with kids.

That is, unless you get TOO into the retro thing, and make the whole family dress alike…

Just. Don’t. Do it. They won’t appreciate that when they’re older. And, therapy is expensive.

Enjoy!

For all of you adventurers out there, here is the original recipe, as printed:

Crispy Sweet-Potato Balls

Makes 8 large Potato Balls

Potato Mixture

  • 2 Cans (1lb, 2oz each) of vacuum packed sweet potatoes
  • 4 T (1/2 Stick) of melted butter or margarine
  • 2 T Brown Sugar
  • 1t Salt
  • 1/4 t Nutmeg
  • 1/8 t Pepper
  • 1 t Lemon juice

Coating Mixture

  • 3/4 Cup coarse zwieback crumbs (About 6 slices)
  • 2 T Brown Sugar
  • 2T Melted Butter or Margarine
  • 1/8 t Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Salt

Directions: Same as above, but bake for 40 minutes.

Tastes like {Home}: Vegetable Beef Soup

Everyone has that unique set of flavors, textures and smells that instantly transport them back home…

We’ve all been there: You’re rushing around making dinner after work, and then all of the sudden you find yourself sitting in your mom’s kitchen with the table at eye-level, a spoon in your hand and something dribbling off of your chin…

In your mind, of course.

For me, one of those time-travel dishes is my mom’s “Vegetable Soup.” With loads of vegetables, chunks of beef and its signature apple cider vinegar tang, it is my ultimate comfort food, and the first recipe I asked my mom for after the Husband and I were married. It’s also very easy to make. Definitely a bonus.

Some other yummy benefits:

  1. I almost always make it with leftovers – Clean out the fridge, stretch your $ and get an amazing depth of flavor!
  2. It gets better the longer that it sits – Seriously. It’s wonderful piping hot from the stove, but even better in two days.
  3. You can make a huge pot of the stuff and eat it for weeks – Let it “marinate” in the fridge, then freeze for great take-to-work lunches and fast dinners.

Here is the usual drill: The Husband starts dropping subtle hints that he would like to incorporate some meat into his dinners. “Hey babe – You know, you could say ‘Or just add chicken!’ to this meal on your blog. It’s REALLY good, but some people might like chicken…. yum, chicken… mumble, mumble, beef….mumble, drool…”

Then, after a few more meals, I can tell by the look in his eyes that the man needs some red meat. And, if I would like the trash taken out or my windows happily scraped or my next shopping trip approved, I had better serve some. Fast. (Ladies: Chickpeas can only take you so far in your marriage… Sometimes, it takes a pot roast to get things done).

So, I toss a roast, veggies, seasonings, some red wine and the kitchen sink into a crock pot before I leave for work, and we are greeted with delicious smells and a fast dinner when we get home. My favorite vegetable additions are sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts (fresh, cut in half), baby carrots, fingerling potatoes, onions and a couple of cloves of garlic.

Well, with just the two of us, we always have a ton of meat, broth and flavorful vegetables left over. That is where the soup comes in. Just separate everything, stuff it in the fridge, and pull it out when you’re ready. The exact quantities don’t matter (ANOTHER reason I love soup… ) so just go with what you have!

Homey Vegetable Beef Soup

Ingredients:

About 6 hearty servings

  • 3-4 cups Beef broth (Reserved from the roast, or purchased)
  • 1-2 cups Beef roast, cooked and slightly shredded/chopped into large bite-sized pieces (Or, whatever you have left. I like more veggies than beef, so even a little is fine!)
  • 1-3 cups of leftover roasted vegetables (or whatever you have left), roughly chopped (While not necessary for the recipe, the flavor is wonderful. If you aren’t making this from leftovers, just add 1-2 potatoes, cubed. They will cook with the soup.
  • 2 bags of frozen mixed vegetables, or one “family sized” package (corn, green beans, carrot cubes…you know the one.)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of tomato sauce
  • About 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, or to taste (trust me… it makes the dish!)
  • About 1/2 cup of green lentils (Just for fun!)

Directions:

  • In a large pot, add all ingredients except vinegar, stir and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 1 hour, or until vegetables are tender. Add vinegar toward the end of the cooking time. Add pepper to taste – you shouldn’t need additional salt.
  • Serve with crusty bread, cheese and sliced apples. Warms you from the inside out, reminds you of dinners when you were 12…

Enjoy!

It’ll make you (and your man) happy for weeks to come.

What are some of those flavors and foods that make you feel like a kid again?

Harvest Salad with {Apple Cider} Vinaigrette

Yes, there is squash involved. Avert your eyes now if you can’t handle another bite. But really… you’d regret it.

You are sort of getting this recipe third-hand: This dish was inspired by Steph, who was inspired by this dish from The Daily Garnish. The genius that she is (that’s a math teacher for you!), Steph substituted apple cider for orange juice in the millet recipe. As I was licking my fork after sitting down to dinner with her and her husband a few weeks ago, It dawned on me that it would make a delicious salad dressing. Boy, was I right! (Thanks girls!)

P.S. Little known secret fact about Steph: She loves Honda mini-vans. Shhhhh.

This salad is packed with everything I love about this season: Salty-sweet roasted squash, tangy Gorgonzola cheese, crunchy toasted pecans, tart dried cranberries and melt-in-your-mouth pan-fried cinnamon apples. I declare these match(es) made in heaven.

A perfect accompaniment to any meal (Like Thanksgiving…), but this delightful concoction could be great as a main dish as well. Add chicken, toast a crunchy baguette, and you’re set. (Or, you could have it at 9:00p.m. with leftover quinoa loaf and BBQ sauce like we did. Super classy.)

Harvest Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Serves 4 (ish) as a side dish

For the Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

For the Salad:

  • One squash, thickly sliced – I used a Sweet Dumpling, but Acorn or even butternut would work as well (you would just need to peel and cube the butternut)
  • One to two apples, sliced – Depends on size
  • 1/3 cup of pecans, toasted and chopped- Can use without toasting, but they are more flavorful after a just a little bit of time in a dry skillet!
  • 1/3 cup Gorgonzola crumbles – Any strong cheese will work, and even Feta in a pinch.
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • About 6 cups of spinach or mixed baby greens
  • 1 T Earth Balance, or olive oil (or butter) for sauteing
  • A few dashes of cinnamon

Directions:

  • Slice squash, and bake on a foil-covered baking sheet with olive oil and salt at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until it starts to get a little brown and caramelized. You will probably have leftovers… never a bad thing.
  • While squash is baking, combine the dressing ingredients, and whisk. You will have plenty for a crowd, or just to save in the fridge for another day.
  • Toss the sliced apples into a skillet with the Earth Balance or olive oil, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Let them cook until tender (they will smell soooo delicious!), about 15 20 minutes minutes on medium heat. Note: These apples are wonderful on freshly baked biscuits with honey (like my mama makes)…or almost anything for that matter.

  • Arrange cooked squash, apples and other toppings over a bed of greens, and serve! I like to have my dressing on the side, but feel free to toss a little in with the finished salad if you like.

When you eat this salad, it’s like the entirety of the month of November is having a party in your mouth. You wouldn’t want to miss out on that, would you?!

So, slip on your comfy PJ’s best party dress, grab some leftovers baguettes, and enjoy…

Curry for {Cheaters}

We had another jam-packed, fun-till-you-drop weekend.

Someday, I vow we will spend an entire weekend in our PJ’s at home. Like, when we’re 85… But for now, we love that we can go, go go!

Our days were full of family, friends and Jesus at an annual church conference in Columbus, amazing food at the North Market and a peek at Cole & Steph’s new house (where we ate more amazing food…big surprise)!

The Husband and I had such a rich time getting to know people from across the country, and having the opportunity to talk to them about the sessions we attended on “God’s Disruptive Goodness” (think: all of those times major events have happened in our lives that we didn’t plan for… and how they ended up bringing us closer to Him, teaching us things, and preparing us for even better things ahead!) . Though we learned a TON, I have to say that the North Market, my veggie curry lunch and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream were some of the major highlights of the trip : )

{Small photo above, right: Conference friends eating downtown. Sebastian, far left, assisted missionaries Dow & Lois Robinson in translating the bible into Aztec, and creating a written language for the Aztec people. The others at the table served in Costa Rica and San Antonio for the Boy with a Ball organization. Photo above: The North Market in all of its delicious glory!}

After staying up late (2:00a.m.!) chatting and hanging out downtown for two days, we were worn out on Sunday. But, not too tired to see Cole & Steph and their beautiful new home! Steph made the best, most perfect fall dinner possible with recipes from Daily Garnish and Eat, Live, Run (a couple of our favorite “blog ladies”!). Try these dishes…they are to die for. Then, you can invite me over because you’ll owe me : )

{Bison burgers with mushrooms and steak sauce, butternut squash and cranberry maple mixed grains and apple spice bread with apple cider glaze}

Well, I’ve had curry on the brain for a while. Hence the reason that I inhaled my lunch at the Market so fast that the Husband looked concerned and our new friends thought twice about inviting us to go with them… But, making real curry with real curry ingredients and real curry patience and exactitude doesn’t always float my boat. You know what does? Throwing stuff I already have laying around into one big pan. That is why I created “Curry for Cheaters”…sometimes, cheaters do win.

Real curry enthusiasts will cringe and squirm at this concoction, and I don’t blame them. But, If you want something fast and flavorful, this will do in a pinch. You can use ANY of your favorite vegetables in this dish (or whatever is languishing in your fridge). The only thing I think you should absolutely stick with is the sweet potato. Best part.

Curry for {Cheaters}

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 Servings of short grain brown rice, prepared as directed (or 10 min. brown rice if you need something faster! Use Vegetable broth for the best flavor.)
  • Olive or Canola oil to saute
  • 1-2 T Garlic Gold (or one clove of garlic or garlic powder to taste)
  • 1 Bell pepper
  • 1 Sweet potato
  • 1/2 Large onion
  • 3 Stalks of Bok Choy
  • 2 oz. Shitaki Mushrooms
  • 1  can Chick peas (15oz.)
  • Handful of Snow Peas
  • 1/2 t Salt
  • 1 t Garam Masala
  • 1 t Yellow Curry powder
  • Dashes of Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Smoked Paprika (or anything else that sounds yummy…)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 Cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk (I always have this in the fridge…coconut milk, not so much.)

Directions

  • Heat oil in your pan on medium/ medium high heat (including Garlic Gold Garlic-infused oil if you have it…so good. A gift from Steph!).
  • Chop all of your veggies, and begin sauteing onions and peppers.
  • While onion and peppers begin to soften (about 8-10 minutes) placed diced sweet potato in a microwave safe bowl, add a splash of water, cover, and cook on high until tender (time will vary – 2-5 min.).
  • Add the rest of the vegetables and the spices to the pan, and continue to cook.
  • Remove sweet potatoes from the microwave when done, drain, and add to the pan with the other vegetables.
  • Saute the mix until vegetables are tender, but not limp. A crust will begin to form at the bottom of the pan (flavor!). Time will vary depending on your veggie choice, but try around 10 minutes and see where you stand.
  • Slowly deglaze the pan with the almond milk, 1.8 cup at a time. Stir in between.
  • Curry will become a little creamy and sweet, and a lot wonderful : )
  • Serve on top of rice, garnished with plain yogurt.

So delish, so easy, so healthy. Make it now, clean out your fridge and thank me later : )

Enjoy!

Do you have a favorite toss-together dish? Let me know about it!

Mrs. Eisenhower’s {Apple Pie}

Fall is full of so many wonderful things: The food, the holidays, the desserts, the weather, the food, the clothes….the food.

To celebrate the season, and the fact that we were actually at home for an entire weekend (unheard of!), the Husband and I took a trip a local orchard for their famous cider, and fabulous apples.

Geckle Orchard started as a hobby for owners Gene and Jane , and now is a local favorite for natural, small-batch pressed cider, and a wide variety of apples. They also sell their aged vinegar, and honey from the bees that pollinate their trees.

We got  a mix of Gala, HoneyCrisp (my fav!), Empire, Liberty, Ruby Jonathan, Cortland, Jonagold and McIntosh. Mmmmm…

Well, with all of these apples, what’s a girl to do?

Make a vintage apple pie, that’s what!

My great-grandmother gave me a stack of magazines from the 1950′ and 60’s several years ago. I LOVE looking at the photos, advertisements and reading the stories and editorials from the pages of  “LOOK”, “Modern Bride”, “Women’s Home Companion” and “Ladies Home Journal.”

Well, an issue of Family Circle from September of 1957 (their 25th Anniversary Year) has a wonderful spread on the First Family, “When the Eisenhowers Cook.” And in it, was the perfect, easy apple recipe…

Apparently, the President’s wife, Mamie, didn’t start out being very fabulous in the kitchen. In fact, it was Eisenhower himself that was known for being a “Walking recipe book” and who was “as vain about his dishes as any fussy chef”. As a General, he paid special attention to the Army’s food-service, and it was said that he often used cooking to help him unwind during his time in office.

But, the President passed on some of his skills to wife, and though as a young bride she said she said she could “only make fudge and mayonnaise”, her repertoire expanded with his help (though the fudge did help lure her young second lieutenant). She ended up being very influential in the White House kitchen, and loved to make her husband’s favorite foods.

The dish that caught my eye – nestled between the ads for Hydrox Cookies and Diet Delight Peaches – was Mamie’s Deep Dish Apple Pie. So, I tried it. Unaltered, unhealthified and unmodernized. I wanted to enjoy it just like the First Lady, and it. was. delicious.

Old-Fashioned, and the President’s long-time favorite with cheese, ice cream, or cream

Mamie’s Deep Dish Apple Pie

{Directly from the pages of the magazine}

Ingredients:

  • 10 to 12 tart cooking apples (about 8 cups, cut up – I used Ruby Jonathan)
  • 1/2 Cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Cup sifted flour
  • 1/2 Cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 Cup (1 stick) butter or margarine

Directions:

  1. Pare apples and cut into small pieces into a bowl; stir in sugar and lemon juice to coat fruit well; spoon into buttered 9-inch shallow baking dish.
  2. Combine flour and brown sugar in same bowl; cut in butter or margarine with pastry blender or 2 knives; sprinkle over apples; pat down.
  3. Bake in moderate oven (350) about 45 minutes, or until juice bubbles around edge and topping is golden-brown. Serve warm with cream, ice cream, or snappy cheese.

I was surprised to see this called a “pie”, when there is no crust involved, but I loved it. It was easy, fast and simple…and I haven’t perfected the whole “crust thing” yet anyway ; ) The only thing that might have made it better, would be a handful of chopped pecans added to the topping…

So, grab some apples and your favorite apron, and channel your inner “American royalty” as you take your first delicious bite…

…let me know if you liked the “snappy cheese”.

Enjoy!