Monday, December 14, 2009

taking a break

sorry for lack of updates...

I'm going to be taking a break from the blog. This time of year is just too busy to add one more thing!

Here's hoping you enjoy a happy holiday (whatever you celebrate!) and a happy New Year.

Monday, December 7, 2009

meal plan monday

December 7 – December 13

Breakfast: chocolate chip pancakes, fruit
Lunch: vegetable soup, cheese toasts
Dinner: baked macaroni and cheese, roasted cauliflower, spinach salad

Breakfast: cinnamon roll oatmeal
Lunch: out
Dinner: beans and cornbread, raw cut up veggies

Breakfast: cream of wheat, applesauce
Lunch: chicken strips, fruit, cut up veggies
Dinner: Italian sausage and tortellini soup

Breakfast: eggs on toast, smoothies
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: spaghetti with artichokes and tomato cream sauce, spinach salad, garlic bread

Breakfast: oatmeal with yogurt and applesauce
Lunch: minestrone, breadsticks
Dinner: apricot chicken, latkes, apple-pineapple sauce

Breakfast: pumpkin spice oatmeal
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: taco bar

Breakfast: gingerbread pancakes, eggs, bacon
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: Hanukkah dinner at Nana’s

Gingerbread muffins, stained glass cookies, whole wheat bread, chocolate pudding cake

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Last night, Ava's ballet class put on their first recital of the year. They did a mini Nutcracker Suite and it was adorable! I'm pretty sure than nothing holds a candle in the cuteness department to 4, 5, and 6 year olds trying to be graceful.

Ava's class was the Chinese tea, complete with little paper fans. She had so much fun (and not an ounce of nerves, thank you very much!).

Our favorite book lately has been The Little Ballerina, which is about a little girl who is preparing for her first recital. Afterward, she goes out to dinner with her family for a cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake, so naturally, Ava wanted to do that.

Thanks to everyone who attended for making the evening so special for Ava!


Ava, on the right with the orange fan:

curtain call:

receiving flowers from her best friend, Nick:

Enjoying her post-recital milkshake:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

the december list

This is the third year for our December list and I'm so excited about it! I think I got the idea from Family Fun, but I honestly can't remember exactly (and ain't that the story of my life!). The idea is that you write each idea on a small piece of paper, stuff them all into a jar or advent calendar, and then pull one out each day. These are supposed to be activities to do as a family - simple, free or inexpensive, and fun. The best part of this year's list was sitting down as a family and coming up with it together.

So here, in no particular order, is our activity list for the month:

- go see the Zoo Lights
- make salted caramels
- make a gingerbread house
- bake cookies for the firefighters
- have a family Candy Land night
- take the MAX downtown to see the Macy's Santa
- bake Hanukkah cupcakes to take to Nana's
- make kissing balls
- make real hot chocolate and real marshmallows
- watch Charlie Brown Christmas
- make snowman soup
- pick a stuffed animal to take to the Dornbecher Children's Hospital
- make an ornament
- bake cookies for us
- drive around the neighborhood to check out the lights
- family pizza making night
- watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the good/animated version)
- Go to Mt Hood to play in the snow
- family Memory night
- read The Polar Express
- family driedel night
- watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
- make a Hanukkah decoration
- go to Peacock Lane
- look at pictures from past Decembers

Then several plans for specific days:

- cut down our tree
- decorate our tree
- have a latke dinner for the first night of Hanukkah
- read the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve
- make monkey bread for Christmas morning
- drink sparkling cider on New Year's Eve

What special activities are you planning to do with your family this month?

Monday, November 30, 2009

meal plan monday

it's DECEMBER tomorrow, people!! Wasn't it just March a few days ago??

November 30 – December 6

Breakfast: banana oat muffins, yogurt
Lunch: soup, grilled cheese sandwiches
Dinner: brie, turkey, and cranberry paninis, spinach salad

Breakfast: eggs in a nest, fruit salad
Lunch: chef’s salad
Dinner: out

Breakfast: pumpkin pie oatmeal
Lunch: soup, salad
Dinner: chicken baked with leftover stuffing and sour cream, roasted broccoli

Breakfast: soft boiled eggs, toast, fruit salad
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: out

Breakfast: oatmeal with yogurt and applesauce
Lunch: black bean soup, salad
Dinner: garlic pasta with sesame roasted sweet potatoes

Breakfast: applesauce pancakes and apple cider syrup
Lunch: soup, salad
Dinner: hummus pizza, salad

Breakfast: pumpkin waffles, bacon, eggs
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: lasagna, salad, roasted broccoli

honey whole wheat bread, cranberry orange muffins,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

many thanks

today I am giving thanks for:

good health

a warm, comfortable home

two happy, healthy, living girls

the best partner ever

amazing friends

the ability to make a seriously amazing pie crust

Happy Thanksgiving, my dears!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

when the husband is away...

Good thing: I can watch whatever trashy television shows I want. Sans peanut gallery comments.

Bad thing: Monday Night Football is just not the same when we have to talk about it on the phone.

Good thing: The girls sleep with me all night. I love hearing them breathe and I absolutely adore listening to Ava talk in her sleep.

Bad thing: They're both getting through colds and Emily snores like a Mack truck. She also insists on having one hand on me at all times. Nothing like being felt up by your two year old.

Good thing: The girls sleep later when Joel is gone. 'Nuff said.

Good thing: We can eat cereal or burritos for every meal!

Bad thing: We've eaten cereal or burritos for every meal. Ugh.

God thing: The girls behave like perfect angels on the first day, every time.

Bad thing: Not so much on day two.

Good thing: Joel is only gone for two days and two nights.

Good thing: He comes home in t-minus 8 hours.

Not that I'm counting...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

right now

right now I am...

listening:: to my girls play the piano and sing at the tops of their lungs.

smelling:: my chocolate cake cooling on the counter.

stitching:: an adorable cup of cocoa.

editing:: pictures on LOVE this site!

planning:: an evening of playing catch up on the laundry after having a broken washer.

watching:: the leaves (and branches!) blow right on down the street.

wondering:: if all little girls shriek, or if I'm just (un)lucky.

Monday, November 16, 2009

virtual cupcake, baby shower edition

These are some cupcakes I made for a baby shower/mama blessing. I made marshmallow fondant, which was super easy and also super easy to work with, along with vanilla cupcakes and vanilla buttercream frosting (requested by the mama). They turned out delicious, if I do say so myself. I'm really not a fan of regular old rolled fondant, but since I love marshmallows, I thought I'd give this a try and I'll definitely use it from now on for decorating. An added bonus is that the girls had a blast playing with it too!

To make the fondant, I poured a 15 ounce bag of mini marshmallows into a big glass bowl, added about 2 teaspoons of water, and microwaved them at 30 second intervals until everything was all melted. Then I sifted about 2 cups of powdered sugar and stirred that in. I waited a bit for the mixture to cool, then I poured it onto the counter (that I greased VERY heavily with shortening and extra powdered sugar). I kneaded everything until it was smooth, and then I separated it into thirds (one for the kids, one to stay white, one to dye pink - I used gel food coloring and it worked really well). Then I just rolled it out to about 1/8 of an inch and cut and decorated away. I'd say that one recipe of fondant will decorate about 24 cupcakes, depending on how you decorate them. For these, I spread a little buttercream on them, and then topped them with a round of fondant that I cut our with a cookie cutter. Then I made fondant bows, roses, and other shapes (and baby's initials).

For the buttercream, I used this recipe:

Vanilla Buttercream

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted.
pinch of salt
2 t vanilla
2 T heavy cream

In a stand mixer, cream butter until light and fluffy using the whisk attachment. Add sugar and salt, cream for about 4 minutes or until very smooth. Add cream and vanilla, whip another 3 minutes. Use immediately, store extras in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature to use again. This is definitely the best tasting buttercream I have made in a while!

december daily

I saw this idea on Ali Edwards' blog. If you're a paper crafter and haven't checked her site out yet, do it! She's got some great tutorials for all kinds of things and does awesome giveaways every week.

She's made a December Daily album every year, where she counts down until Christmas. I liked the idea, but wanted to do all of the days in December so that I could include Hanukkah, Christmas, and our annual New Year's party. It's a busy month in our house, so I liked the idea of having one book with one small page per day for a picture or whatever.

It took me an afternoon to whip this up. I used a chipboard album that I got at Micheal's for the base, but if you're not lazy like me, you could make your own. Ali used an actual album, and recovered it. I'm too lazy for that, so I just used the 4 chipboard pages for the front, back, and two middle pages. Then I used either my craft knife or my Cricut to make the rest of the the pages. I couldn't find Hanukkah paper anywhere (!!!), so I had to make due with blue and white paper. I did find many, many "December" paper stacks that of course were made up solely of Christmas paper, so I used one of those and made my embellishments with the Cricut.

Here are a few pictures of the finished result. I can't wait to fill it in next month!


Blogger is not cooperating with picture posting. 4 posts have been eaten!

I'm trying to work things out with them, since I had some cool things to post, so until then, here's the weekly menu.

And on another note...does anyone use Typepad? Thoughts? I'm thinking of switching from this format to that one.

November 16 – November 22

Breakfast: gingerbread waffles, fruit
Lunch: huevos rancheros (yum!)
Dinner: leftovers

Breakfast: grandma mack's breakfast casserole for our breakfast potluck
Lunch: mini pizzas, veggies to dip
Dinner: curried tofu and udon soup

Breakfast: banana oat muffins, yogurt
Lunch: sandwiches, salad
Dinner: pizza party with friends

Breakfast: oatmeal, fruit
Lunch: tomato soup, cheesy toast
Dinner: white chicken enchiladas, Mexican rice

Breakfast: eggs in a nest, fruit
Lunch: out
Dinner: thanksgiving potluck with friends

Breakfast: bagels
Lunch: soup, salad
Dinner: hummus pizza, salad

Breakfast: pumpkin bread, yogurt
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: meatball sub casserole, broccoli, salad

french bread, whole wheat bread, snickerdooles, cranberry apple pie

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

the yummy cookie

If you're familiar with the Greek system, you're familiar with little sisters. My second little sister, Rachel, liked baking even as an 18 year old. At the time, I thought she was crazy. Who baked when there were boys to kiss, beers to drink, classes to sleep through? She did. And she always brought these cookies to the house. 70 girls, huge, gooey cookies, and Thursday night TV. Excellent combination.

These are some humongous cookies. I usually cut the recipe in half and get 30 very large cookies. The dough freezes really well too. The key with these is not baking them longer than 10 minutes. They won't look done at all, but let them cool on the baking sheet for another 10 minutes and they will be amazing.

Rachel's Yummy Cookies
makes 48 gigantic cookies

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
4 sticks butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 cups light brown sugar
4 eggs
2 t vanilla
4 cups AP flour
2 t baking powder
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup toffee bits (heath brand)

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a food processor, grind oats as fine as you can. Add semi sweet chocolate chips, blend fine.

Cream butter and sugars for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, blend well. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Scrape down sides of the bowl. Add oat-chocolate mixture. Mix in remaining ingredients by hand.

Using a large cookie or ice cream scoop, place 6 balls of dough greased cookie sheet. Bake on center rack for 10 minutes. Cool 10 minutes on cookie sheet, then transfer to cooling rack. Best enjoyed warm (microwave them for 10 seconds!).

I'd include a picture with this post but...we ate all of the cookies. Next time, my friends, next time.

Monday, November 9, 2009

meal plan monday

November 9 – November 15

Breakfast: oatmeal, fruit
Lunch: tomato soup and grilled cheese
Dinner: crock pot chicken adobo, brown rice, snow peas

Breakfast: eggs, sausages, toast
Lunch: sandwiches, salad, fruit
Dinner: out

Breakfast: apple oatmeal muffins, yogurt
Lunch: pasta salad, veggies for dipping
Dinner: eggplant parmesean, garlic bread, salad

Breakfast: oatmeal, fruit
Lunch: mac and cheese, carrot sticks, fruit
Dinner: creamy crescent casserole, spinach salad, green beans

Breakfast: eggs in a nest, fruit
Lunch: minestrone soup, homemade bread
Dinner: chicken marbella, couscous, green beans

Breakfast: gingerbread waffles
Lunch: chef salad
Dinner: sausages with peppers and onions, spinach salad

Breakfast: overnight caramel apple french toast
Lunch: lentil soup
Dinner: leftovers

Whole wheat sandwich bread, gingerbread, granola bars

Sunday, November 8, 2009

the to do list

i love lists. i am guilty of making lists of my lists. this week starts the beginning of the craziest time of year (ahem, the most wonderful time of here is now over - baseball and football seasons collide no longer. waaaaaah.)

today i found myself with too much free time, so i made a list of my various to do lists. yep, it's official...the end is near.

- the thanksgiving to do list (we're hosting 8 other people, plus whomever is dropping by to watch football during the day)
- the baby shower to do list (this weekend)
- the channumas gift list (we're shooting for handmade holidays around here, so i'm starting early!)
- the holiday baking list
- the monday to do list (because there's always a lot to do on mondays!)
- the homeschool plan for the week

and now i need a nap.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

right now i'm...

watching: thursday's grey's anatomy. it's finally back to being a good show!

listening: to the girls play the sweetie game. they hug and hug and call each other "sweetie." and then it starts all over again.

recovering: from a night of drinking wine with a girlfriend followed by a morning of watching my two friends' kids. tylenol is my friend.

planning: my thanksgiving menu. can't figure out what type of dressing to make! suggestions?

wearing: these slippers. i love them. you need to buy yourself some!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


a great stay at great wolf lodge

Last week, we took an impromptu midweek trip up to Grand Mound, WA for a night at Great Wolf Lodge. After hearing about this hotel from so many friends, we had to try it out for ourselves and it was a blast!

I'll be honest and say that it was on the spendy side ($190/night for their cheapest room - but that includes your admission to the water park), but I think it was worth it. They have a TON of activities for kids of all ages - the ginormous water park, an arcade, a craft room (both with free and pay for crafts), a spa for grown ups and another one for kids, an interactive magical quest game, story time, and seasonal activities (we went right before Halloween, so they had a trick or treat party and hayrides). Since the hotel is in the middle of nowhere, they definitely throw enough at you to keep you busy! Our kids loved the water park, as they had safe and fun options for all ages. We all loved the interactive game that took us on a scavenger hunt of sorts throughout the hotel. I loved that there was a good mix of free and pay for activities.

Here are a few pictures from the trip:

Emily trying to shoot water at Ava:

Ava water slides:

Emily doing her best seal pup impersonation:

Big girl in the water:

Mama and her babes:

Spending time in the craft room:

Silly sisters:

Checking our status during our interactive quest game:

One of the stops along our quest:

Thanks, Great Wolf! What a fun two days!


we had this tonight for dinner and it was sooooo good.

Pretty Penne Ham Skillet

1 lb uncooked penne pasta
3 c cubed fully cooked ham
1 large sweet red pepper, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 c minced fresh parsley or dried
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp minced fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 c olive oil
3 T butter
1 T lemon juice
1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth
1/2 c shredded parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile in large skillet saute ham, red pepper, onion, parsley, garlic, basil and oregano in oil and butter for 4-6 min. or until ham is brown and vegetables are tender. Stir in broth and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Drain pasta, stir into ham mixture. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serves 6.

**Ayelet's notes: I used whole wheat pasta and tossed the parmesan into the skillet at the very end. YUM**

Monday, November 2, 2009


OK, I've been double dog dared, and I can't walk away from that!

This month, I'm taking part in National Blog Posting Month and pledging to post once a day every day this month. If you're a fellow blogger (and I know that most of my readers are), I double dog dare you right back...take the challenge!

meal plan monday

November 2 – November 8

Breakfast: baked eggs, toast, fruit
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: homemade pizza, spinach salad

Breakfast: cinnamon bun oatmeal
Lunch: lentil soup, homemade bread
Dinner: pretty penne ham skillet, salad

Breakfast: applesauce, blintzes
Lunch: grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup
Dinner: black bean chipotle chili, cornbread

Breakfast: eggs in a nest, fruit
Lunch: sandwiches, salad
Dinner: chili dogs, veggies for dipping

Breakfast: oatmeal and fruit
Lunch: out
Dinner: croque madams, fruit compote

Breakfast: yogurt granola parfaits
Lunch: soup and sandwiches
Dinner: buffalo chicken sandwiches, carrots and celery

Breakfast: coffee cake, fruit
Lunch: out
Dinner: crock pot sausage and cabbage casserole

Bread, brownies. Granola bars

And on a side's NOVEMBER already?!?!?!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

meal plan monday

October 26 – November 1

Breakfast: pumpkin spiced oatmeal
Lunch: soup and sandwiches
Dinner: homemade pizza, salad

Breakfast: eggs in a nest, smoothies
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: $20 hot dogs at the Rose Garden

Breakfast: cereal, fruit
Lunch: sandwiches, salad
Dinner: out

Breakfast: eggs, toast
Lunch: out
Dinner: tacos, Mexican chopped salad

Breakfast: eggs, toast, bacon
Lunch: soup, sandwiches
Dinner: beer and cheese fondue with bread and veggies for dipping

Breakfast: spiced pumpkin waffles, bacon, fruit
Lunch: out
Dinner: baked macaroni and cheese, broccoli, salad

Breakfast: coffee cake, fruit
Lunch: tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
Dinner: lentil and brown rice soup, salad

Whole wheat bread, granola bars, cookies

Monday, October 19, 2009

two little pumpkins

We had a fun day at the pumpkin patch at Lee Farms last weekend. The weather was gorgeous, the pumpkin selection was great, and there was a lot to do and see besides pumpkin picking. The girls had fun petting some baby chicks (and even Joel thought they were cute! Maybe this means I'll get my chickens after all?!) and ooing and ahing over two newborn calves. Seriously, there is nothing cuter than fluffy chicks and baby cows who can't even open their eyes yet. Too bad I was too busy oohing and ahing myself to take pictures of them! I did get a few shots of Ava and Emily and their search for the perfect pumpkin:

meal plan monday

October 19 – October 25

Breakfast: cereal, fruit
Lunch: sandwiches, salad
Dinner: white bean chicken chili, cornbread

Breakfast: pumpkin oatmeal
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: out

Breakfast: eggs in a nest, smoothies
Lunch: soup, salad
Dinner: lamb and green bean casserole, homemade bread

Breakfast: pumpkin muffins, smoothies
Lunch: English muffin pizzas, fruit and veggies
Dinner: ultimate beef nachos, salad

Breakfast: oatmeal, fruit
Lunch: soup, sandwiches
Dinner: Indonesian chicken, brown rice, Chinese broccoli

Breakfast: pumpkin pancakes, sausages,
Lunch: leftovers or out
Dinner: cheeseburger pasta, veggies, fruit

Breakfast: French toast, pumpkin apple butter
Lunch: loaded baked potatoes, salad
Dinner: cheddar baked chicken, roasted cauliflower

Whole wheat bread, brown rice pudding

Sunday, October 18, 2009

adventures in homeschooling

No, we haven't disappeared off the face of the earth. It's been a crazy week! 3 birthday parties, hosting our homeschool co-op, play dates, ballet, soccer, movement class, and just general hanging out. Here are some pictures from the learning activities we did this week:

We worked on fine motor skills by building with mini marshmallows and toothpicks. I was surprised at how few marshmallows the girls ate:

For math, we did a lot of graphing games. Here, we graphed the color of the leaves that we collected in our front yard. We used our bears for counters, but you could use anything small - beads, cheerios, buttons...:

We worked on a lapbook on the months of the year. This is one of the mini books, which had a matching activity:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

light a candle

Tomorrow (October 15) is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day.

1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, fetal demise (second trimester), or still birth (third trimester). Chances are, you know at least one person who has experienced at least one loss (well, hey, if you're reading this blog, you certainly do know someone).

It's difficult for someone who has never experienced a loss to understand the overwhelming grief that we go through. It's difficult for me to even put it into words. With Maxwell's due date only days away, surrounded by almost all of my friends who are in some stage of pregnancy, our lost children are calling to me even more.

So, tomorrow I'll light candles for them, and think of so many other women who share their heartache with me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

meal plan monday

October 12 – October 18

Breakfast: eggs, toast, fruit
Lunch: minestrone, homemade bread
Dinner: homemade pizza, salad, veggies for dipping

Breakfast: apple granola crisp, yogurt
Lunch: asian noodle soup
Dinner: Italian sausages and lentils, garlic roasted potatoes and broccoli

Breakfast: oatmeal, applesauce
Lunch: soup, grilled apple, turkey, and cheddar sandwiches
Dinner: penne with pumpkin and sausage, spinach salad

Breakfast: eggs in tomato, toast
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: baked chicken teriyaki, brown rice, steamed snow peas

Breakfast: oatmeal, fruit
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: creamy chicken enchiladas, Mexican chopped salad

Breakfast: biscuits and gravy, eggs
Lunch: soup, sandwiches, salad
Dinner: curried udon stir fry

Breakfast: pumpkin oatmeal
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: spiced pumpkin waffles, apple cider syrup, sausages

pumpkin shaped bread bowls, whole wheat bread, buffalo chicken dip for game day

Thursday, October 8, 2009

thursday randomness: the pumpkin edition

It's been a crazy week. I admit, I haven't even broken the camera out once (bad Mama!). Monday was a playdate, clothes shopping for Ava, groceries and other errands, and also Ava's ballet class. Tuesday was a babysitting co-op meeting, babysitting a girlfriend's two kids for the day, and dinner with the inlaws. Wednesday was Ava's homeschool co-op, then a meeting with the other moms afterward to discuss next month's curriculum, then an afternoon of bread baking followed by a potluck dinner with our MOMS Club. Oh, and add a trip to the gym every day. Needless to say, I've been in bed by 9 every night.

Today is a bit more relaxed...watching a friend's kids this morning, then school with Ava, then the gym. Tomorrow is another MOMS Club activity and more school with Ava. And probably more gym time. Why do I do this to myself? Simple - I would go absolutely insane if we stayed home all day, as would the girls. I could probably drop out of my babysitting co-op, but how would I get my me time during the week??

This morning, I made some pumpkin spice lattes in my little crock pot, using this recipe. Have I mentioned my love for the Crockpot Lady?? We've liked all of the recipes that I've tried from her site, and since they're crockpot recipes...they're super duper simple. I really need to start making one of her soups once a week so we can eat yummy soup all week for lunches.

Finally, I brought this yummy lasagna to my inlaws' on Tuesday night. It was pretty easy, and since it used the no-boil noodles, it came together in about 20 minutes. YUM!

Pumpkin Gorgonzola Lasagna

1 15 oz. can pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 tsp salt
1 tsp minced fresh sage
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3 cups milk
3 tbsp all purpose flour
3 tbsp butter
1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lbs sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 box oven ready lasagna noodles
freshly grated parmagiano reggiano cheese
1/8 - 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
1) Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat with 2 tbsp oil. Add the sausage and cook until golden brown, breaking up the meat as it cooks with a wooden spoon. Push the meat to one side and add the onion and garlic. Cook until onions are tender, being careful not to burn the garlic. Season everything in the pan with salt and pepper ( to taste). Set aside.

2) Meanwhile, in a medium-sized sauce pan, melt 3 tbsp of butter. Whisk in flour and cook for about a minute or so, whisking continuously until smooth. Whisk the milk in next, break up any clumps that might form. Bring the mixture to a slow bubble, and simmer for 2 -3 minutes until slightly thickened. Season with salt, pepper, sage, and nutmeg. Add Gorgonzola and stir until cheese is completely melted, 1 - 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

3) In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin and ricotta cheese.

To assemble lasagna, begin with 1 cup of sauce spread on the bottom of a 13 x 9 casserole dish. Layer three noodles over the sauce, top them with 1/3 the pumpkin mixture, 1 cup of the meat, and another cup of sauce. Repeat these layers two more times, topping the casserole with a layer of lasagna noodles. Spoon any remaining sauce over the top and (optional) you could sprinkle chopped walnuts and some freshly grated parmagiano reggiano cheese.

Cover with foil and bake until the sauce is bubbling and pasta is cooked through, about 45 minutes. If you choose to add the walnuts and/or the parmagiano reggiano cheese, after the first 45 minutes of baking, remove foil and brown the top (about 10 minutes).

Joel pointed out that this lasagna reminded him of this recipe, so I thought I'd post it's definitely going on the menu for next week. The only thing it's lacking is the Gorgonzola, but of course, it would be easy to add in.

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage
Rachael Ray

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, cracked and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
4 to 6 sprigs sage leaves, cut into chiffonade, about 2 tablespoons
1 cup dry white wine (I suppose you could use more stock, but it would alter the taste significantly)
1 cup chicken stock, canned or paper container
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup (3 turns around the pan) heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, ground or freshly grated
Coarse salt and black pepper
1 pound penne rigate, cooked to al dente
Romano or Parmigiano, for grating

Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the sausage in it. Transfer sausage to paper towel lined plate. Drain fat from skillet and return pan to the stove. Add the remaining tablespoon oil, and then the garlic and onion. Saute 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are tender.
Add bay leaf, sage, and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes. Add stock and pumpkin and stir to combine, stirring sauce until it comes to a bubble. Return sausage to pan, reduce heat, and stir in cream. Season the sauce with the cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.
Return drained pasta to the pot you cooked it in. Remove the bay leaf from sauce and pour the sausage pumpkin sauce over pasta. Combine sauce and pasta and toss over low heat for 1 minute. Garnish the pasta with lots of shaved cheese and sage leaves.

I'm not usually a fan of Rachael Ray's recipes, but this one is great (and fast too!).

See? Pumpkin can be used for many things besides desserts!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

meal plan monday

Weekly Menu
October 5 – October 11

Breakfast: pancakes, eggs
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: slow cooked white beans with tomato and basil, homemade bread, salad

Breakfast: cereal, fruit
Lunch: sandwiches, salad
Dinner: pumpkin gorgonzola lasagna, salad

Breakfast: spiced oatmeal
Lunch: sandwiches, salad
Dinner: potluck with friends

Breakfast: cream of wheat, homemade applesauce
Lunch: soup, grilled cheese sandwiches
Dinner: maple roasted pork loin, mashed sweet potatoes, sautéed broccolini

Breakfast: eggs in a nest, fruit
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: Italian sausage soup with tortellini

Breakfast: waffles
Lunch: soup, sandwiches
Dinner: santa fe casserole, salad

Breakfast: pumpkin oatmeal
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: Cincinnati chili over spaghetti, veggies for dipping

Broccoli casserole for potluck, honey oatmeal bread, pumpkin cranberry muffins

Friday, October 2, 2009

five things friday

5 things our family is currently in love with:

1) Nature walks. Ava and Emily both love collecting leaves, pine cones, twigs, and pebbles to turn into art. We've got a nature table in our entry way and their found objects go there.

2) Hullabaloo. This is such a great game, especially on rainy days. It's got two settings, simple instructions, and best of all, it's a game where you have to move! Fun for the whole family and great for playgroups and parties.

3) Nutella. You know, the chocolate-hazelnut spread. YUM. We found out that Ava isn't allergic to hazelnuts, so I've been letting the girls have this as a treat to spread on bananas or graham crackers. It also makes a mean Rice Crispy Treat. Nutella is made in a factory that only processes hazelnuts - great for someone with allergies!

4) Apples. We went to Oregon Heritage Farms last week and got a ton of apples for a great price. We canned apple-pumpkin butter, made apple prints, had an apple taste test, made apple-brie sandwiches (grilled, of course!), applesauce, and apple spice oatmeal.

5) Snacktime, by the Barenaked Ladies. I'm a big Barenaked Ladies fan, and I'm also a huge fan of kid music that's not annoying. We all love listening to this CD in the car. There are 24 tracks about all sorts of silly things, from frogs to vegetables to a fabulous version of the ABC song.

best. dinner. ever.

You simply have to make this! Gnocchi are one of those foods that kind of scared me (rather like bread used to scare me). The recipes are always long and seem too complicated. Why not just get the packaged gnocchi at Trader Joe's? Because homemade gnocchi are SO worth it! And they are so easy! True, there was some prep work (cook the sweet potato ahead of time, let it cool, drain the ricotta). But the actual hands on time was pretty minimal. It helped that I had a little helper to roll the gnocchi over the fork, but honestly, you could just skip that part if you wanted too.

I cut this recipe in half and it was perfect for the 4 of us, plus a little extra (which I reheated in a skillet on the stove). The girls gobbled these up.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage

Bon Appétit | December 2005

These dumplings have a light texture, thanks to the addition of fresh ricotta cheese. Drain the ricotta in a sieve for two hours before starting the recipe.

Yield: Makes 10 to 12 servings


2 1-pound red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), rinsed, patted dry, pierced all over with fork

1 12-ounce container fresh ricotta cheese, drained in sieve 2 hours 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 3/4 cups (about) all purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons chopped fresh sage plus whole leaves for garnish


Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place sweet potatoes on plate; microwave on high until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Cut in half and cool. Scrape sweet potato flesh into medium bowl and mash; transfer 3 cups to large bowl. Add ricotta cheese; blend well. Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, and nutmeg; mash to blend. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms.

Turn dough out onto floured surface; divide into 6 equal pieces. Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into 20-inch-long rope (about 1 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky. Cut each rope into 20 pieces. Roll each piece over tines of fork to indent. Transfer to baking sheet.

Bring large pot of water to boil; add 2 tablespoons salt and return to boil. Working in batches, boil gnocchi until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to clean rimmed baking sheet. Cool completely. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Preheat oven to 300°F. Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until butter solids are brown and have toasty aroma, swirling pan occasionally, about 5 minutes.

Add chopped sage (mixture will bubble up). Turn off heat. Season sage butter generously with salt and pepper.

Transfer half of sage butter to large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add half of gnocchi. Sauté until gnocchi are heated through, about 6 minutes. Empty skillet onto rimmed baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining sage butter and gnocchi.

Divide gnocchi and sauce among shallow bowls. Garnish with sage leaves.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

right now thursday

right now i'm:

eating: yummy lentil soup, bread fresh from the oven
watching: Emily squish each lentil before popping it into her mouth
listening to: Melody Gardot
hoping: that my fantasy football team kicks butt again this week
enjoying: long sleeves, fuzzy socks, and having the heat turned up
remembering: how the girls snuggled in bed with me all night last night
planning: our homeschool curriculum for next week
excited for: Joel to come home from his trip
procrastinating: folding the laundry
cooking: beans on the stove for tomorrow night's chili for our potluck playgroup

Monday, September 28, 2009

another monday, another meal plan!

Breakfast: French toast, fruit
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: slow cooker buffalo chicken soup, homemade bread, veggies for dipping

Breakfast: cereal, fruit
Lunch: sandwiches, salad
Dinner: out

Breakfast: eggs, toast, sausage
Lunch: quick veggie soup, homemade bread
Dinner: homemade pizza, veggies to dip

Breakfast: pumpkin spiced oatmeal
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: homemade sweet potato gnocchi with browned butter and fried sage, salad

Breakfast: eggs in a nest, fruit
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: applesauce whole wheat pancakes, apple cider syrup, bacon, fruit

Breakfast: leftover pancakes and syrup
Lunch: soup, bread
Dinner: shepherd’s pie, salad

Breakfast: granola and yogurt
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: bouef bourguignon, buttered egg noodles, salad

Carrot muffins, whole wheat bread, pizza dough

Sunday, September 27, 2009

just like the mama

I've written before about Ava and her mama-like tendencies. She mothers Emily almost as much as I do (currently, she's sitting next to Em while Em uses the little potty, reading her a story). She loves to bake, sew, read, and scrapbook with me, and lately, she's loved to clean with me. The other day, I thought she was being a little too quiet while playing in her room so I went to check on her and this is what I found:

I wish I would have taken a picture of her room after she was done with it! It was IMMACULATE. She dusted, she made her bed (and made it WELL), she put all of the toys, clothes, and trinkets away. She's wearing an apron. It made this mama a teary eyed mama, for sure.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

this post sponsored by Erath Pinot Noir

concentration is the name of the game

This has been a crazy week!

The girls started the week off with a lovely head cold (that they oh so nicely shared with Mama). Of course they got better right when I got the stuffies. Then came the play dates, baking day (where I ran out of eggs, thanks to pesky two year old and was SAVED by my friend Taegan. She has chickens.). Have I mentioned how much I want some chickens?? Joel and I will have been together 10 years in November...what is more romantic than some fuzzy chicks and an ark to put them in for my gift?? But I digress...where was I? Oh yes, baking day. Once again, I made Amish White Bread. Holy moly, this is good stuff. Soft, with a firm crust, a touch of sweetness, and the dough is a dream. I confess that I kneaded it by hand because it was so fun. Plus, pesky 4 year old had an incident at the gym daycare and I needed to finish my workout somehow.

Speaking of pesky 4 year old...she's back to her old tricks: awake before 5. This does not bode well for Daddy's upcoming business trip. Let's all pray to the gods that she kicks the habit over the weekend. Because really...4:30 is not in the morning. It's the freaking middle of the night. Particularly when your REM sleep began after midnight.

Besides being pesky, the 4 year old has been tons of fun this week. For school, we learned about people in the community (remember the old Sesame Street song???). This tied in to our newest lapbook, which is based on the book and movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Did you read this book as a kid or to your kid? I can't believe that Joel had never heard of it! Can't wait to take her to see it this weekend. The movie looks quite different from the book, but still looks fun. Of course, she only gets to see it if she stays in her room until at least 6:30. Wish me luck. She also learned about the days of the week at her preschool co-op. Her homework is a booklet with a page for each day where she needs to write a picture of what we do each day of the week. Mama: "Well, Aves, what do we do on Sunday?" Ava: "We watch football!" Yep, she drew a picture of Mama and Daddy parked on the couch, mini crock pot in front of us, beer next to us. Niiiiiiiiiiiice. And true, very true. Emily has also done some homeschooling - we've been focusing on apples and farms, which has been a lot of fun! The girls have made some apple themed art and we've been talking about farmers and what they do (and Emily has been making some seriously cute farm animal sounds. Her MOO rocks!).

Shamless cute topless baby photo:

I promise...that wine bottle was NOT open during school hours! Only right after...

While Ava has been in school, Emily and I have taken advantage of the two year old story time at the local's so fun! She loves story time! They do a few free crafts afterward, which only sweetens the deal for her. I love having time with just Emily. She's such a different kid than Ava and its fun to see her be herself when her big sister isn't around running the show.

"Mama, we're fancy like Nancy!"

I also got some one on one time with Ava this week - she did all of her chores and turned her tickets in for a Mama/Ava manicure at a fancy salon. I confess, I mainly chose the fancy place because I needed some serious help in the cuticle department. They filed Ava's nails, gave her a special drink, and gave her a special kid's magazine while her nails dried. After that we had a snack at Starbucks and then did some shopping for some fall clothes. Good times. Of course, the next day, she was back to her pesky self. Oh well, at least I have the memories, right??

See that scar? I got it while skiing when I was like 15. I hate the snow. And on another note: hands look OLD.

Luckily, I'm scheduled to drop the kids off at a friend's house tomorrow morning so I can do some housework (read: craft) it Saturday yet?? Oh wait...moms don't get weekends off.

I'd write more, but I have to go clean up this mess.