Friday, September 28, 2012


This is my go to recipe for making chewy on the inside and crunchy on the outside focaccia that all my friends go nutty for.  With a hint of garlic and rosemary, and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, what is not to like?

For the herb flavored oil:
Start by placing 1/2 cup of EVOO, one thinly sliced garlic clove, about a tablespoon full of fresh rosemary leaves and 1/4 tsp of Italian seasoning in a small sauce pot and warming over low heat.  As soon as you see some sizzling in the pan, turn the heat off and let the herbs steep in the oil.

For the focaccia:  
Place 2 tsp of rapid-rising dry yeast and 2 tablespoons of sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer.  Add a cup of lukewarm water to the the bowl and let the yeast get going.  I usually walk away from the bowl for at least 10 minutes.  Just remember that if your water is too warm it will kill the yeast.  Place the dough hook on your  mixer and add about 2 cups of flour.  Turn mixer on low and let it go til you have a gooey little sponge of dough.  At this point add 1/4 cup of olive oil, and continue to let the mixer go.  Once the oil is incorporated add another 1 1/2 to 2 cups of flour to the dough along with a sprinkling of good salt (about 2 tsp.) and let it go until the flour is well incorporated and the salt well distributed (about 5 minutes).  This dough is going to be soft.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover with a damp towel.  Allow to rise for 30 minutes.  Punch down the dough and divide in to two equal pieces.  Put each piece in a 9 inch cake pan, and stretch it to fit.  Allow to rise another 15 minutes and then dimple the dough with you fingers.  Pour half of the oil mixture on to each piece of dough, and place in a 425 degree oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese to the top of each loaf, and allow to cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes in the pan before setting them out on a cooling rack.  

This makes AMAZING sandwiches, though I must confess that there have been times that my family devoured a whole loaf before it ever was able to cool off.  I have also made this focaccia with white whole wheat flour with good results.  I am going to try to make a whole grain version soon!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rules to Move By

As most of you know, I am in the middle of packing/moving.  We will officially take possession of the new house on Oct. 1, but I think the seller is going to give us the keys late Sunday afternoon!   YAY!  Since I have done this thing a few times (in my 34 years, I have moved 16 times), I thought I would post some rules to move by.

1.  If you are packing yourself, start early.  This move I started packing about 6 weeks before we knew we would be moving, and I have been able to stay on schedule and not feel so overwhelmed.  Each weekend, we had a set of tasks that needed to be performed and items that needed to be packed.  Once they were done, we were able to get moving off of our minds and enjoy the rest of our weekend.

2.  Wait until about 2 weeks before your move to schedule cut off of old utilities and turn on of the new ones.  I tried to start this process about 6 weeks out, and found that many of the utilities simply wouldn't schedule these things more than 30 days out.  Also, move dates can change some and then you are scrambling to call all the utility companies to change things.

3.  Save money where you can.  Have you priced moving boxes lately...Holy Smokes it can get expensive fast!  We were able to save money by watching craigslist for moving boxes people were getting rid of.  We came across a family less than a mile away that had been professionally moved and was getting rid of all their boxes, and were able to get them for pennies on the dollar, and bonus, they had quite a few boxes that were full of packing paper, so we didn't have to buy any of that.  Another move we contacted a printing company and they gave us all their used paper boxes.

Side note:  We were moved professionally our last move and had saved all those boxes knowing that we would be moving again when we bought a house.  Unfortunately, our basement flooded and it ruined the majority of those boxes.

4.  Buy good tape.  Even if it costs you $50 to get the right kind of tape, in this case it is money well spent.  There is nothing worse than getting ready to move a box in to the moving truck and having the bottom fall out because you used cheap tape not intended for moving/storage.  Also, use plenty of tape.  We have been professionally moved quite a few times, and there is a reason that the movers tape the seams 3 times.  It keeps the contents in the box.

5.  Let your children help pack.  Marcus packed away all his stuffed animals and volunteered to do it.  He has also been helping mark boxes.  This helps both with his writing skills as well as his spelling, plus he gets to have some ownership in the moving process, which I think is going to help make the transition a little easier.  If your children help you pack the boxes, it helps them with spacial relations, and builds analytic thinking skills.  i.e.  Where do you think this will fit best in the box?

6.  Mark your boxes well.  So often people just mark the room on the outside of a box and don't mark the contents.  When you have 20 kitchen boxes that are unmarked, it makes it really difficult and time consuming to find your silverware or spatulas.  By the time you are at your new place, you aren't going to remember if the silverware was packed at the bottom of the dishes, or in with the pots and pans.

7.  The professional movers always make what they call a utility box.  It usually has things like cords for the TV components (and sometimes the remotes), screws that were removed from table legs or other furniture, and any other spare parts as well as the tools you will need to put these things back together.  This box can be a real life saver.

8.  Another great box to pack is one with toilet paper, light bulbs, paper towels, cleaning supplies, trash bags, and anything else you think that you might need right in the beginning.  I have made it to a house just to find that the previous owners/tenants took every stitch of toilet paper and every single light bulb out of the house.  Sometimes people leave the house a total mess when they leave.  Even if I arrive and the house is clean enough to eat off the kitchen floor, I still feel the need to clean the toilets, counters, and inside the fridge and freezer, and I usually want to vacuum as well.  If you know what size filter the HVAC system takes, you might want to pack one of those to replace the old one as well.  It is just a good idea to get a fresh filter in the new house so that you aren't breathing in someone else's "stuff."

9.  Forward your mail a little early.  When you are moving 1,000 miles away, it is nice to have the mail start to forward a day or two before you actually leave.  This way you won't be worried about if they actually are forwarding your mail.  You will quickly see that you aren't receiving mail at your old house, and the mail should start arriving at your new house within a few days of you getting there.  Sometimes there can be a significant lag in when your mail starts arriving at the new place.

10.  Keep your stress in check.  Many studies have now found that moving has replaced divorce as our most stressful life event.  You read that right.  Obviously there are more components to this than just the physical move itself.  You can plan ahead, but there is always going to be something that pops up that you are not prepared for.  Try to take time each day to meditate, or exercise, or do whatever it is that helps you de-stress.  Make an effort to get back to normal or find a new normal as quickly as you can.  Since the kitchen is the heart of the home, I always feel like if we get it unpacked and settled, it goes a long way towards normalcy.  We can eat home cooked meals again, it gets rid of a lot of the boxes littering the house, and it is a room that is central to everyone.  It gives everyone just a little touch of something that they are familiar with.

These things have helped me tremendously, and I hope that they can help you if you are moving some time soon as well.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tis the Season to Eat Mollusks...

Yum, yum,yum, yum, yum...yum, yum, yum, yum!

I love when the weather cools and some of my favorite mollusks come in to season.  When I saw beautiful mussels at the market, I just had to buy a bag.  

After cleaning and de-bearding the mussels (I don't bother purging the mussels in flour and water, because most mussels these days are farmed and not sitting in mud) and discarding any mussels that wouldn't close or had broken shells, I started a minced clove of garlic in some olive oil in the bottom of a large pot.  After the garlic had just started to get ever so slightly brown, I added about a tablespoon of tomato paste, the juice of a lemon, a cup of dry white wine (I used some Three Buck Chuck I had on hand) , and a strong pinch of saffron threads.  I allowed this to bubble away covered for about 5 minutes on medium high heat, and then added the mussels.  I covered the pan, and gave it a good shake.  I checked the mussels after about 5 minutes and they were starting to open, so I turned off the heat and left them on the stove to finish opening.  There is nothing worse than an overcooked mussel, so as soon as I start to see a few of them are opening, I turn off the flame and let the residual heat cook the rest of the mussels through.  The finishing touch was a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley.

We served this up with a crusty whole grain baguette, and a simple salad tossed with olive oil and lemon juice, and a little vino on the side.  Much juice was sopped up with the crusty bread.  My kiddo loves mussels.  I think it is the tactile nature of eating them.  We taught him to use an empty shell to pinch the other mussels out of their shells.  

While we are talking about kiddos.  My child is a really good eater.  He has never met a fish he didn't like.  He will literally gorge himself on sardines if I will let him.  This Summer while in Florida he ate his first RAW OYSTER.  He thought it was ok, but of course he preferred the fried ones.

My point here is just to let your kids try stuff.  Don't assume that a five year old won't like fish, or any other foods.  Give them the opportunity to try new things.  You might be surprised what they like.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Walked in to Marcus's room this morning to gather laundry and found this on the chalk board on his desk.

I. Love. This. Child.

He may not have known that this is just what Mommy needed today, but it sure melted my heart and relieved the stress and worries of the day!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Meet the Family

I know that I should have done this post a long time ago.  Maybe back when I first started blogging.  So, yes this post is much overdue.  All I can say to that is better late than never.  So here goes.
There are only three of us in my family:  my husband (Dan), my son (Marcus), and me. 

As of October, Dan and I will have been married 11 years, and we have been together for 13 years.

In the time that we have been together we have moved 8 times (counting the move that we are currently in the process of).  We moved in together when we lived in Atlanta, and I was working while he was a student at Georgia Tech.  From there we moved to Michigan when he got his first job in the automotive industry.  His company relocated us to Kentucky less than a year later.  After a little over a year in Kentucky, Dan took a job with a different automotive company, which moved us to Mississippi.  We were really unhappy in Mississippi (no offense to anyone living there, it just wasn’t the place for us), so after about 18 months there Dan started to look for a job somewhere else.  That led us to Alabama where we lived for just over two years.  We bought a house there, Dan got his Master’s while we were there, and Marcus was born there.  On a whim Dan put his resume out there.  A company contacted him, he interviewed with them, and the next thing we knew we were moving to South Carolina.  I made some amazing friends in South Carolina and I miss them all terribly.  The company he worked for in South Carolina is headquartered in Indiana.  So about two years after we arrived in South Carolina the company said we needed to be in Indiana at the “heart of things.”  So here we are.  We are moving out of the town that his company is in because everything here relates back to his company, and you can’t go out anywhere without running in to someone he works with.   We have moved so much that I have felt like a gypsy at times.  For a while we would be somewhere a year and we would both start to get antsy feeling like another move was imminent. 

We all have our hobbies.  And we all help each other with our hobbies from time to time.

This is one of Dan’s recent projects:



It is a 1978 Honda Goldwing that he literally saved from the scrap heap.  He has done a ton of work on this motorcycle, and it is his pride and joy.  I was able to help him with this project by cutting down and shaping the seat, and sewing a new seat cover for the seat.  Everything else is his work.  Marcus lent some ideas for the project and was always there for moral support (i.e. “good job Daddy”).  We are looking for a larger project for Dan’s next restoration.  Maybe an old truck or station wagon.  When we figure it out, I will be sure to post about it.

Marcus loves reading and writing stories.  He is also enjoying Tae Kwon Do (though he is finished with lessons until after the move).  He looks forward to moving into our new house so that he can have a playset outside, and finally a safe place to ride a bicycle.  His other hobbies are building with Legos, playing with Thomas trains, and pretty much anything normal little five year old boys enjoy.  He also enjoys playing dress up (little boys style of course).

Then there is me.  I have quite a few hobbies.  I am a former coupon addict.  I was doing coupons before it was cool. J  Then one day, I decided that it had become an obsession.  So, I slowed down a bit with the coupons.  There are not many food items that I buy with coupons anymore because we eat mostly fresh foods, but I cannot bring myself to pay full price for non-food consumable goods.  Think hygiene items, paper goods, cleaning products.

I really enjoy cooking (imagine that).  A few years ago I got in to baking cakes, and have actually been hired to do quite a few cakes.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Avenger's Cake for a little boy named Justice

A Barbie Fairy Cake for sweet Ella

An Owl cake for Miss Violet

With cute matching owl cupcakes!

I like to make old things new again.  This is a barn find desk that I refinished for Marcus, complete with a chalkboard.  I will say that I think chalkboard paint is a severely overused medium, however in this instance I felt it was totally appropriate.



I also like to upcycle items.  I recently bought a Russian weapons crate at a thrift store.  I am going to use it to make a coffee table for my husband’s mancave, and I will document that whole process and make a post about it.  It has great bones, the subject matter is awesome (it even has Russian writing on it), and there is great storage because the crate opens on a hinge.  Can’t wait to get this made.

As a family, we love to travel.  Marcus for as far back as we can remember has been telling people that he wants to be a “vacationer” when he grows up.  We tend to go to places that are warm, and sunny where we can get the sand between our toes.

We have also been known to find a cabin in the woods to retreat to when the beach just isn’t calling our name.

But some of our best days have been spent heading to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods and wandering the aisles looking for inspiring ingredients.

We are hoping to find more normalcy and joy in staying home since we are finally buying another house.  We have been renting since we left Alabama, and it makes it hard to take much pride in a house, or for it to ever really feel like home.

Well, that is pretty much us in a nut shell.  We do have some quirks, but there is a whole lot of love happening here too!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Creamy Pesto Shrimp Bowl

This is just a quicky recipe.  It would definitely not be Ina approved.  It was inspired by pantry/freezer clean out.  I am not one to buy jarred pesto or jarred Alfredo sauce, but had received some in a gift basket and it needed to be used.  Frozen EZ peel shrimp are a great quick protein to have in the freezer.  Just run a little cool water over them in a colander, and they are ready to peel even if the flesh is still frozen.  It is ok for the flesh to thaw during the cooking process, and if you are one of those people whose shrimp always turns in to tough little rubber bands, it might even help you make nice tender shrimp instead.

Make sure to save those shells for making shrimp stock down the road!  I know, I am totally obsessed with shrimp shells!

 Makes 4 servings

1/2 pound angel hair pasta (I use whole wheat)
3/4 pound of large shrimp
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 jar Alfredo sauce
1/4 c. pesto
1/4 c. pine nuts, toasted

Boil you pasta according to the package directions, making sure to add salt to the water.  While your pasta is going, in a large saute pan, add the garlic to the olive oil over medium heat and let it sizzle for about a minute.  Add the shrimp and cook until they are pink (should take about the same amount of time as your pasta).  Add your pasta directly into the saute pan and toss with the shrimp.  Add the Alfredo sauce and toss once more.  Once you have your serving in a bowl, drizzle a tablespoon of pesto and a tablespoon of pine nuts on top of each serving.  Enjoy.

This meal is great with roasted asparagus on the side.

Now, I have to go pack.  EIGHT more days til we start moving!  YAY!!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Busy Bees

Things are busy and crazy here.  There is a whole lot of packing going on!

Some how I managed to squeeze in a very colorful and healthy lunch.

This salad was just Heavenly.  I had a bed of baby spinach (would have had more but it was the last of the container), about 3 ounces of grilled pork loin, a whole sliced carrot, a whole sliced cucumber, 1/2 of a sliced yellow pepper, and a pile of beets.  I love beets, and these ones just happened to be love beets.  They were the honey ginger variety (purchased at Whole Foods) and they were delicious.  The dressing is a Caesar that is made fresh at my whole foods.

We won't even talk about what I had for dinner, because it was not colorful, nor was it healthy.

Our washer and dryer are starting to get old, so I spent a good part of the day running around looking for a new set.  I refuse to pay retail for anything, so I decided to go looking of open box deals, and scratch and dent.  I hit the jackpot at Lowe's and found a matching Samsung HE front load washer and dryer set that were both on scratch and dent!  SCORE!  I paid less for the two of them than you could purchase just one of them off the showroom floor.  After they are delivered I will take pictures so you can see how scratched and dented they are.  For me, saving well over $1000 was well worth the scratches and dents.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Girls Night Out!

Last night, I met my bestie (Lizzy) for a much needed girl's night out.  We had been trying to set one up for weeks, but people's schedules were so full, so it ended up being just the two of us.

We went to Bistro 310 here in Columbus. Both of us have been there many times in the past.  When I first moved to Columbus, Bistro had a monthly changing menu.  Now it seems that the menu has gone to seasonal.  I was a little disappointed to see that they had not changed over to the Fall Menu yet, because they make some pork shanks that are out of this world.

We started our evening with a bottle of Andeluna Torrontes and the restaurant's Grilled Artichoke appetizer. It was not nearly as good as I had hoped for.  In fact it tasted like egg salad.  It was described on the menu as Grilled artichoke, 310 artichoke-parmesan dip, chives, toast points.  The toast was large slices of charged bread, the artichoke-parmesan dip tasted like egg salad (except for the long pieces of tough artichoke leaf that had made it in to the dip), and the grilled artichoke left you scratching your head wondering what exactly you were supposed to do with it.  We were hungry though, so we did make a good dent in it.

We were served salads after this.  Lizzy had the house salad and I had the Caesar.  No complaints about either!

For our main course, Lizzy chose the Baked Polenta Lasagna, which is described in the menu as Layers of Baked Polenta, Fresh Herbs, Grilled Vegetables, Fresh Mozzarella, Goat Cheese, Roasted Vegetable Coulis.  It was delicious.  Everything just worked really well together.  A bite with polenta, goat cheese, and grilled zucchini that was dipped in the coulis (it was a tomato-y and red bell pepper-y tasting sauce) was D-I-V-I-N-E!

I had the Roast Chicken which was described as Roasted chicken, White Cheddar Chorizo Grits, Sautéed Swiss Chard, natural jus.  The Grits were pretty darn good, though I did not get any hint of chorizo in the them.  The chicken was a simple, yet well done roast chicken.  The Swiss chard was my favorite part of the dish though.  I love greens, and these were done just right.  I would have been happy to have a little less of the natural jus on the plate, because it thinned the grits and made them harder to eat, but all in all it was a good meal.

For dessert we ordered the The Flourless Chocolate Cake which was described as rich Valrhona chocolate cake, chocolate covered vanilla bean “lollypop”.  Unfortunately we were so excited to taste it when it arrived, that I forgot to take a picture.  The cake was hot and gooey, and truly dark chocolate deliciousness.  The "lollypop" was vanilla bean ice cream dipped in dark chocolate.  The dark chocolate on it was at least one quarter of an inch thick.  It too was delicious, though not very easy to share! ;)

All in all, I would say the food was good.  Not the best I have had at Bistro 310, but really I am not complaining.  The conversation was excellent!  It was just what I needed to help me de-stress a bit.  It was probably the first time Lizzy and I have ever gone out and I did more of the talking than she did.  Thank you Lizzy for a great night!

***Side note on the 2010 Andeluna Torrontes wine.  It was really good!  Lizzy and I both drink more red wine than we do white, but this white was so good that the bottle was gone before we ever got our main course, and we were wishing we would have had just one more glass to drink with the meal.  It is a very fruity white wine, but not a sweet wine.  In fact the finish was very dry.  I am a fan of Argentinian wines, and Andeluna is always a good bet for my money.***

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wild Blueberry Scones

Over the next week or so, I WILL be posting a FEW recipes even though we are in the process of packing and moving.  I have lots of good food hiding in the freezer that I need to use up.  These will probably be all my original recipes, because I am not going to go out and buy stuff so that I can specifically make an Ina recipe. I need to use up what I have.  If the photos don't look great, chalk that up to using the phone for the pics.

Today, I decided to make scones.  I was thinking about pumpkin scones, because they are in season (at SB at least).  Alas, there was no canned pumpkin in the house, and I had a Costco sized bag of wild blueberries in the freezer, so Wild Blueberry Scones it is.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl cut 1/2 cup of butter (a stick) in to 2 c. of self rising flour.

Stir in 1/2 cup of sugar, and then fold in 1 cup of low fat buttermilk.  This will be a very dry dough.  Delicately fold in 1 cup of frozen wild blueberries.  Really, like 3 folds and that is it, or you will get a purple gunky mess.

Dump mixture out on to a floured surface, and shape in to a rough rectangle.  You may want to flour your hands as you do this, or you will end up with purple hands.  Trust me...I know.

Next cut the dough like this to make 16 triangles.  (Notice that big hunk of butter stuck to the knife?)

 Place the triangles (about 2 inches apart) on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.  If they aren't browning after 20 minutes, turn on the broiler and finish them off.  Allow them to cool on a cooling rack if you can wait that long.

Enjoy them with a cup of hot tea or whatever your beverage of choice with scones is.

These would have been tasty with a lemon glaze, but I did not have any powdered sugar or fresh lemons on hand.  They are quite delicious as is.  Not overly sweet, and super tender.

****A side note on frozen blueberries vs. fresh.  If you were thinking about using fresh blueberries for this recipe, you will want to add some more liquid to the dough.  As the frozen blueberries thaw, they moisten the dough.  I like using the frozen blueberries, because they keep the dough nice and cold which helps yield flakier scones, because the butter doesn't melt before baking.****

The times are changing

I has been over a year since I last posted.  I can't believe it!  It has been a really stressful year.

But, there is good news!

We finally bought a house!

It has two kitchens, and I am thrilled!  The lighting is going to be amazing for shooting photos, and the main kitchen space is such an inspirational space.  I promise that there are going to be plenty of recipes coming, as well as posts about home decorating, upcycling, and so much more.  We will be officially moved in the second week in October.  I may post a few posts between now and then.  For now, just know that we are really busy packing and getting ready for our move.