2018 was a year of repair and replacement for us. Let me just run down the list really quickly for you of the things we repaired and replaced this year:
1 Hot water tank
1 septic system
1 septic alarm - TWICE (don't ask)
1 irrigation system
sod around 3/4 of the house
Most of the plants (and trees) around our house
2 Refrigerators (One replaced and one repaired)
air conditioner in one vehicle
2 Dryers (plural - we bought one and replaced another)
Tires on 3 vehicles
Since we own 4 vehicles, we actually expect that at least one of them will be at the repair shop at all times. What we didn't plan for is our thirteen year old house to actually starting implode this year. From what people tell me, it's not unusual for a home to have a midlife crisis around this age. Maybe houses age quicker than humans - like in dog years. If that's the case, it's no wonder that our 91 year old home needed some extra care and love this year.
Suffice it to say that this was an expensive year for us. Did I mention that we also had two kids in college in 2018? BUT, despite our catastrophic house failures, I feel like we are entering 2019 with a home that's even better and stronger than before.
We weren't always the picture of positivity when we had to face these epic house projects but we did our best to make lemonade out of our lemons. (And trust me when I tell you that most days, it felt like we lived in a lemon.) Thanks to the bulldozers that tore up most of our yard during the installation of our brand spanking new septic system, we were able to rework a lot of our landscaping into something that was more manageable. It took four months of living in a field of mud but now that our grass is in with our new and upgraded sprinkler system - we couldn't be happier.
One thing that we did learn this year was to appreciate the simple things about our house. Hot showers, cold food, clean laundry. I was forced take an involuntary sabbatical from my dishwasher and washing machine for 6 weeks which meant a LOT of hours spent at the laundromat. You've never seen anyone so happy about doing laundry than the day I finally got to use my washing machine at home again.
We ate a lot of simple meals while we were on water restriction too. You know - hand washing dishes and all. This creamy carbonara is one of our favorite simple meals - even when we're NOT on water restriction.
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup diced pancetta (or bacon)
Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon. Stir drippings into pasta mixture.
Before you start to jump all over my case - I know that I messed up this recipe - in a big, big way. I scrambled the eggs!!! Rookie mistake. I also know what I did wrong. I should have lowered the temperature of the water under the eggs and added the reserved pasta water to prevent this from happening. I also should have added the pasta to the egg/water mixture initially instead of waiting to stir it in until the end. So to all of you who actually read through my blogs to the very end - congrats - these are the real keys to NOT scrambling the eggs in your carbonara like I did. You're welcome.
Anyone else confused about the coffee shop commercials that have been popping up this month? The ones where the happy customer steps out of the masterfully decorated coffee shop while taking a giant gulp of their freshly made custom coffee drink. Seriously, have you ever tried to sneak a sip of your coffee while exiting the store? You're not going to be able to taste anything else for a solid week!!!
I myself have been guilty of succumbing to the intoxicating aroma of a freshly made latte. How could something so amazingly delicious smelling possibly be painful? More times than not, I succumb to the temptation of a beautifully crafted drink and I instantly regret my impulsive decision. Why in the world do coffee shops feel the need to get their coffee up to metal melting temperatures?
Unfortunately, hot coffee drinks are not my only weakness. I've also been known to sample piping hot food, straight from the oven. Most of the time, this is a decision that I regret but unfortunately, it rarely serves as a learning experience to discourage me from repeating the behavior. What can I say? The draw of the delectable smelling food somehow overrides my common sense.
That is exactly what happened when I made this Salmon Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash. I popped a steaming, perfectly browned squash cube in my mouth as soon as I pulled the tray out of the oven and I instantly went into full dragon mode. I'm pretty sure that I actually breathed fire out of my mouth and I burned a few taste buds off with that one bite.
Despite the obvious hazards of consuming overly hot foods, I still recommend this recipe highly. (I'm sure that you will exercise more caution than I do.) This salmon salad was really, really good. A nice change from all of the sweets and overly rich foods that we've been eating lately.
Salmon Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash
2 1/2 cups chopped butternut squash
2 1/2 cup sliced red onion
1 lemon, halved crosswise
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
3/4 teaspoon plack pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon canola oil
4 salmon filets
4 cups curly wave kale
4 cups spinach
1/2 cup pomegranate arils
Place kale, spinach, pomegranate, squash and onion in a large bowl.
Add vinaigrette and toss to coat.
Place salmon on top of salad and spoon remaining lemon juice over fish.
Admittedly, this salmon was not picture worthy. The issue was my impatience once again. I didn't let the oil in my pan heat properly and I added the fish too soon which lead to significant "sticking" in the pan. Maybe one day I'll learn to be more patient in the kitchen.
Have a great Saturday!
Anyone else have a December bucket list? You're probably not surprised by the fact that I've had my December bucket list written down since September. What might surprise you though is that there isn't a single baking task on that list. Oh, I'll be doing lots of baking and filling my share of catering orders this month but those tasks didn't make it onto my bucket list. I enjoy holiday baking - probably more than most - but that's not what I want to look back and reflect on at the end of the month. On the contrary, my bucket list is filled with "togetherness tasks". Doing things that focus on creating lifelong memories with the people that I love.
"So what's on your bucket list?" Thanks for asking. ;)
*Taking a family hike through the woods with the dog on a crisp, cool afternoon. *Sled riding and a snow ball fight. (Generally playing in the snow.)
*Coffee dates with friends so we can catch up over hot peppermint lattes.
*Annual phone calls to friends that live far away.
I'll spare you from reading through my entire list because it's quite long but you get the idea.
Sacrificing some of the things that I do on a regular basis to make more time for my bucket list goals is key to accomplishing my list. Spending time with family and friends is far more important than having clean baseboards anyway. I've tried to simplify dinners this month to make more efficient use of my time. Hearty soups, stews and make ahead casseroles are my jam this month.
This beef stew was a big hit with my family and it saved me a TON of time in dinner prep. I put it together in a jiffy and tossed it in the oven for a couple of hours - freeing me up to do other things. December bucket list things!!
1 Tablespoon oil
2 1/2 pound chuck roast, cut into 1 1/2" pieces
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 yellow onions, sliced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 garlic cloves, smashed
28 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
2 cups red wine
2 cups beef broth
1 bunch fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 3/4 cups pearled onions
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Cover pan. Bake 2 hours at 275 or until beef is tender. Spray skillet with cooking spray. Add mushrooms and cook until browned.(5 minutes) Stir mushrooms, onions and vinegar into beef mixture. Cook 15 minutes. Remove bay and thyme and serve.
Anyone else have a December bucket list? I want to hear about your traditions and the special things that you do this month. What are the the things that you do to make December more meaningful?
Tomorrow marks the official beginning of the Christmas season for me. I recognize that many of you have already jumped into full blown holiday mode with both feet and I know this because I've seen your Christmas tree pictures on Facebook. :) It's not that I'm not READY to get into the Christmas spirit, quite the opposite really. I feel like I'm about to burst into Christmas carols at any moment but I'm doing my best to reign it in because today we're singing "Happy Birthday" to my sweet daughter. I'm devoting all of my energy to honoring our youngest child today but believe me when I tell you that at promptly 7 AM tomorrow morning - our house is absolutely going to explode with Christmas.
Today my sweet girl turns twenty. TWENTY! When she was younger, she used to insist that we not put up any Christmas decorations, play Christmas music or watch Christmas movies until AFTER her birthday. I would find myself sneaking candy canes into the grocery cart when she wasn't looking. I would secretly watch Christmas movies while she was at school and play my Christmas music when she wasn't in the car. That is exactly how December 2nd became the first official day of the Christmas season for me. The day that I could openly celebrate Christmas.
Every year, I feel like I've been able to push the boundaries of Christmas decorating prior to December 2nd just a little bit more. Even though my sweet girl is living in her own apartment now, I still feel guilty about putting up Christmas decorations ahead of the birthday celebration. Old habits die hard I guess.
Between the birthday cake baking and the secret Christmas preparations, this has been a busy week. I haven't made a lot of meals and if I'm being perfectly honest, I haven't been in the mood to cook. We still have a refrigerator full of Thanksgiving leftovers and I am perfectly happy eating those until they're gone. My family isn't as thrilled about 5 consecutive days of leftovers though so I made some Mini Chicken Pot Pies for us last night.
These pot pies are so good AND you can make them ahead of time if you've got a busy week. Let's face it - it's December - we're all busy. And if you've still got leftover turkey in your frig - make some Mini Turkey Pot Pies. Delish.
Mini Chicken Pot Pies
1 Tablespoon oil
4 cups chopped mushrooms
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 cups cubes sweet potato
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 frozen puff pastry sheet
Sandwiching a birthday between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a bit of a challenge but it's also a wonderful time of year to celebrate. This birthday is a bittersweet day for me because it marks the end of an era. We're no longer the parents of teenagers. As hard as it is for me to believe - we have adult children now. I have always loved being their mom - at every stage of their lives. I am blessed to be able to celebrate with her today as she celebrates her twentieth birthday.
I am not in the habit of writing deep theological blog posts - I'm a food blogger. I operate under the assumption that my blog readers come to my website looking for great recipes with a few humorous anecdotes from my crazy life thrown in. I like to keep my posts light and fun without a lot of political satire or fictional drama BUT ... since I write this blog about my recipes and my LIFE, my opinions and my personality are inevitably going to creep into my writing. I'm not out to convert you to my republican Christian conservative views - I'm simply sharing my story with anyone who might be interested.
If I'm being perfectly honest, the thought of sharing my innermost thoughts and feelings on the internet for all to read and criticize, is terrifying. So why in the world would I subject myself to such scrutiny? Quite simply, I'm not a good at writing in a journal but I want to record all the stories and memories that I'm likely to forget. I have loved going back and revisiting some of the blog posts that I wrote over 10 years ago. So much has changed since then and I'd already forgotten some of the hilarious stories about my kids.
I'm also grateful for a place to store all my recipes. I am super forgetful and I rely on my recipe index more than anyone else. I browse through the index frequently to jog my memory about the delicious recipes that I've made but had forgotten about.
My pita bread is going to go down and one of my favorite bread recipes. I loved this bread and it's super versatile. I could eat a pita round by itself but I also like to open it up and stuff it for sandwiches. I loaded this one with chicken, spinach and avocado and it was amazing.
2 2/3 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 1/3 cups ice water
1/4 cup olive oil
4 teaspoons honey
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
You can let them cool OR you can dive right in while your pita is still warm. Trust me - warm pita are BOMB!
Slice in half.
Stuff and enjoy.
I'm kind of obsessed with warm sandwiches so I also like to warm these stuffed pita sandwiches - panini style. I don't have a panini press but I put them in a skillet with a heavy cast iron pan on top and cook them until browned and toasted. A perfect lunch for a cold November day.
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