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Kristen

Cooking Uncategorized

African Chickpea and Peanut Butter Soup (Gluten and Dairy Free)

March 30, 2017

Happy Spring friends! Over in my neck of the woods, things don’t feel completely Spring-like, but there is a definite freshness in the air that wasn’t there two weeks ago when we had a historic snowstorm that kept us trapped in the house. Well, except for when my husband went to the grocery store to buy pie. Clearly, we did not plan well for Pi Day this year, and clearly we take food very seriously in this household. Don’t hate though, that Price Chopper pie kicked butt and I did not have to do any work for it. My husband brought it to me on a plate, heated, and with fancy whipped cream. Praise hands.

So, while I didn’t bake any pie that day, I did finally make this lovely soup that my friend introduced me to months ago. I saw this soup in a picture on her instagram and knew that I had to have it! It did not disappoint. It is unique and delicious and- you can totally use the veggies you have in the house to customize it and clean out your fridge.

I figured I better post this recipe now in case anyone wants to make it before the weather gets too warm for soup. We’re having a moment of rare quiet  in our house. Nine month old baby Indy started crawling last weekend, and if he isn’t sleeping, he is following me around the house, trying to eat dog hair and random carpet fuzzes, and touch the outlets and the cable modem. How does he know? Are babies born with the capability to zero in on gross and dangerous objects? Anyway, that little love bug is currently napping off a party he had in his crib at 2 am. I’ve already had too much coffee to do the same- but that’s lucky for you, because now you get this soup!

I used this recipe, and made only a few minor changes, based upon the ingredients that I had in my house at the time/ what I thought would taste good! Plus, this one mentioned using tomato paste instead of crushed tomatoes, so I did that as well, because I wanted a thicker soup. I will also mention that I’ve seen pictures of this soup served over rice and garnished with peanuts and cilantro. There are so many different ways to serve this.

African Chickpea and Peanut Butter Soup

Ingredients

Olive oil (for sautéing)

1 medium white onion, diced

2 cloves minced garlic

2 carrots, pealed and diced

1/2 big bag of spinach (like the ones that come in prepackaged salad bags at the grocery store)

1 15 oz can of chickpeas

1/4 cup of peanut butter

1 and 1/2 6 oz cans of tomato paste

2 cups of vegetable broth

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon of parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Start off by heating the oil in a pot (I used a pan because I wasn’t thinking, and enjoy doing unnecessary dishes apparently) and sauté the carrots. Once the carrots begin to soften,  add the onion and garlic and sauté until everything is soft.

Add the chickpeas, and sauté them with the veggies, just to give them some flavor.  Sprinkle on the cayenne pepper, and mix everything together.

In a blender (or food processor if you have one) blend together the peanut butter and tomato paste, then add in the broth and blend until everything is smooth.

Add the peanut butter mixture to your pot and stir everything together. Once the soup is heated, add the chopped spinach and cook just until it wilts nicely. Sprinkle in the parsley, and add the amount of salt and pepper that your heart desires.

I hope you guys try this soup! It really is delicious. It’s nice to be writing again.

Talk to you next time my baby naps;)

 

 

 

Life Parenting

Hello, 2017

January 1, 2017

It’s been 17 years since my mom and I stayed up late playing Monopoly around the coffee table, waiting for my dad to come home. My two little siblings were tucked away in their beds, and I was happy to have my busy and very pregnant mom all to myself for awhile.  It was the year everyone in the tech field was anxious about the dreaded Y2K and what it would do to computers, so my dad and a few coworkers had to ring in the new year at work in case it all went to hell in a hand basket. We all know how that went down, nothing crashed, nothing happened. Our country still had many unknown trials to face in the future, but that was not one of them.

Last night, my husband and I spent our first new years eve with little Indy. We went to our favorite Italian place for a very early dinner with friends. My poor baby who is suffering from his first real cold pulled my hair and whined until he fell asleep on me. We got him ready for a bath at home and in the one minute that he was naked between diaper change and bath- he peed down my entire outfit, down to the shoes! After we finally got our poor munchkin to sleep, we watched Grand Tour and I read Dragonfly in Amber- the second book in the Outlander series that Ilana mentioned in her last post. We are both hooked! Despite all of the grand plans we had for the evening- these sleep deprived parents chose to sleep through the new year. Goodbye 2016. You brought us our son- the absolute light of our lives, some of our happiest moments, some terrible losses, and the worst election season that I’ve ever experienced. Last night I was more than ready to put 2016 to bed. I slept soundly through the transition of years right next to my best friend. I wouldn’t change a thing.

I woke up at 12:09 to the sound of Indy crying and got up to help settle him. It was officially a new year. This morning, as I write this, I know that the coming year won’t be easy. I am aware of the fear and suffering in the world, as well as the hurt and the pain that my family deals with as so many of us cope with loss. I have hope though, and that makes all of the difference. I hear my son’s little coos and I am determined to do my part to make this world a better place. I have so much hope for joy in the coming year. Today as we all lay low at home to recover from our colds, I’ll pack away our Christmas decorations and prepare us to settle into our quieter winter rhythms after the holiday rush.  I think I’ll leave out my little advent candles for a little bit longer, though. I’m not ready to put them away. I’ll light my candles as a reminder of the hope, peace, joy, and love that I long for God to bring to this world.

Happy New Year my friends! I hope to write more faithfully this year. I’m thankful to Ilana for keeping this blog going over the last few months as I’ve adjusted to new motherhood. Thank you, as always for reading.

Uncategorized

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes and Comfort Food

October 5, 2016

Whenever we buy bananas at our house, I may as well assume that we will have two or three leftover in the fruit bowl- squishy and overly ripe. It happens every time. They are perfect for banana bread, but I’ve played this game too many times recently…and impossible though it may seem, I am tired of banana bread. Banana bread and I are on a break, although I was feeling guilty and wasteful for potentially throwing away food. However, I remembered the delicious banana and strawberry pancakes that our friends made us when Indy was born. They were healthy and rather filling, not like fluffy buttermilk pancakes (which are obviously very good in their own right). I remember being very full after eating only one. Our friends also pre-wrapped and froze them for us, so that we could defrost one whenever we needed a convenient breakfast.

With all of this in mind, I hunted down a recipe that I thought seemed similar. I found this one on pinterest and adjusted it slightly to make more, and I added a little olive oil and substituted milk for an almond/coconut blend. The recipe came out great, and its simplicity ensures that you probably have most of these ingredients in your home right now. I hope you try it the next time you are making a lazy Saturday breakfast or on a Sunday night for make ahead breakfasts during the week. These pancakes are indeed the ultimate filling and comforting breakfast to eat on a chilly morning!

Speaking of comfort food, what have you been cooking recently? My husband and I have been cooking at home a lot more often recently, and it has been so nice. We’ve definitely fallen into the habit of eating around the coffee table in a hurry, so its nice to slow down and set the table and just sit, eat and talk. Two of our favorite meals have been The Pioneer Woman’s BBQ Meatballs (very kitschy and not for the food snob- I am warning you!) with mashed potatoes and crockpot chicken and biscuits (made with a roux, not with cream of chicken soup). I used the crockpot for the chicken and veggies, and made the roux on the stove with the chicken and veggie broth from the crockpot. I recommend making homemade biscuits, or using bisquick. When I decided to really cheat and use a can of biscuits, the bottoms got soggy and never cooked properly.  The next comfort foods that I am craving are vegetarian chili and butternut squash soup with garlic bread.

Although this season of life has been busy, it has also been wonderful. Our boy is growing quickly and developing a sweet and social little personality. Sadly his really good newborn sleep habits have regressed, so we are doing some gentle sleep training. It’s more of a fuss though and learn to connect those sleep cycles than a cry it out situation. The weather has been really cool and pleasant, and there have been fun things going on around town despite the fact that summer is officially over. We are relishing our last few outdoor Green Markets, and I recently took home a big grocery bag of books from the library book sale for $2! I am currently reading Nora Ephron’s first novel Heartburn when the little man lets me have some down time.  So far, I am finding that it is darkly funny and lends itself to being picked up for only a few minutes at a time, which is usually all I get. As for television, Outlander has been very good, and I’ve been indulging in my guilty pleasure Married at First Sight. It’s seriously addicting, and before you judge…two couples from season one are still happily married. Has anyone started watching This Is Us? Mandy Moore and Jess from Gilmore Girls are in it. I’ve cried during both episodes. Ugly crying, and this show has lots of twists.

Anyway, we are looking forward to doing some apple picking this weekend! I have applesauce to can before Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving! Anyone doing any canning this fall? img_3944  img_3916

Uncategorized

I made lemon bars, and you should too.

August 30, 2016

Anyone else feel like they still have one foot in summer, and the other in fall? I won’t lie, my pinterest boards are filled with pumpkin recipes and ankle boots, but part of me has just begun to enjoy the summer now that it’s no longer 95 degrees out! My husband and I feel a little bit as though we’ve skipped summer. We just didn’t see the point of dragging our newborn out into the brutal heat. However, a recent trip to Lake George with family has us wanting to squeeze every last bit of enjoyment out of the summer season. This means walks at night with Indy and our dogs, and afternoons spent sitting on a blanket on the lawn, drinking a beer and watching our little guy kick around. We’ve been able to shut off the air conditioning and open the windows wide, sheer curtains billowing about in a scene that always reminds me of The Great Gatsby.  Do you remember the part when Daisy and Gatsby see each other for the first time in years, and she is lounging around, trying to stay cool with her friend Jordan? Fitzgerald mentions the curtains blowing around in the breeze, and although it isn’t important, it is an image that always stuck with me. So, until pumpkin spice lattes return to Starbucks, I’ll be over here ignoring the siren song of mums on front stoops, fuzzy socks, and chili in the crockpot. Well, mostly ignoring (surreptitiously sips iced pumpkin coffee from Dunkin). Those days will come soon enough!

In the spirit of enjoying summer, I’d like to share a recipe for lemon bars. To me, they are a summer dessert- probably because they remind me of lemonade. It’s the perfect time to bake them now that the temperature has dropped slightly. I’ve been thinking about lemon bars since a sweet friend from church brought us some for dessert after baby boy’s birth. This isn’t the exact recipe she used, but it is a good one. I made these for my husband over the weekend, and we’ve been enjoying them! I’m sharing the link for the original recipe that I made, but also, the alterations that I made today to make these lemon bars gluten and dairy free to accommodate members of my family who have dietary restrictions. I also made a version with lime juice to change things up! My husband and I found both versions to be delicious- but the gluten and dairy free version is a little less rich, with a more crumbly crust. I may need to experiment with different types of flour to make the crust comparable to the original recipe. Does anyone have any suggestions? I also may add a drop of food coloring to the lime bars next time or top them with lime zest so that I can tell the bars apart! I’m excited to share them with family soon. Give these a try and enjoy the last bits of your summer:)

Lemon Bars

For the crust:

1 cup of soft, but not fully melted coconut oil (or butter for the dairy version)

1/2 cup white granulated sugar

2 cups of gluten free flour (or regular for the wheat version)

For the lemon filling:

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups of white granulated sugar

1/4 cup of gluten free flour (or regular for the wheat version)

2/3 cup of lemon juice

powdered sugar for topping

or a Lime Version:

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups of white granulated sugar

1/4 cup gluten free flour (or regular for the wheat version)

2/3 cup of lime juice

1 table spoon of lemon juice

powdered sugar for topping

Directions:

Line a 9×13 pan with tin foil, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together your crust ingredients and press the dough down flat in the pan until the whole thing is covered. Bake in the oven for about 18 minutes. While the crust is baking, mix the lemon filling in a stand mixer or blender until the filling is frothy. When the crust is done baking, pour the lemon mixture over the top and bake for 20 minutes.

Once the bars have cooled, chill in the refridgerator for two hours. Remove the bars from the pans, and peel off all of the foil.  Right before you serve the bars, cut them into squares and top them with powdered sugar.

 

 

Uncategorized

The Truth About Cloth Diapers

August 25, 2016

 

Hello friends! Now that my son has been wearing cloth diapers for almost two months n0w, I feel like I can give you an honest review of what cloth diapering has been like for us. I did promise to share the good, the bad, and the ugly! Please excuse my fuzzy iPhone photos! I slowly began transitioning to mostly cloth diapers when my son was about a month old, and he stopped pooping a zillion times a day! This was also the time that little Indy began to chunk up a bit to fill out the diaper. I no longer have anything to worry about in the chunk department- this kid is a 13 lb 11 week old!

Honestly, cloth diapers are a little bit more of a pain than disposables. You need to prewash brand new cloth diapers before the first use according to their instructions. Disposables have easy tabs, and that telltale line that turns blue when the diaper is soiled. They are super convenient to use when you have a newborn and are tracking the number of dirty diapers.  You take them and throw them into the trash when they are soiled. They are more absorbent for longer periods of time than cloth. But…

I noticed that Indy stopped getting diaper rashes quite as frequently when we switched to mostly cloth diapers. I think maybe the chemicals in the disposables were irritating his already sensitive skin. And…

there are so many different types of cloth diapers that it is easy to find out what works best for your baby and your lifestyle.  I definitely recommend trying a few different ones if you get the opportunity to. I was lucky to be gifted a stash of gently used diapers before I gave birth. This has allowed me to find my favorites, and purchase more of what works for us in larger sizes. The diapers I purchased can be worn from about 8-35 lbs.  I am a big fan of the Bumgenius All In One diapers. All In One means that they have no separate parts or inserts. I love that there is no stuffing or prep required. I think I will like them even better once Indy is a little older and they aren’t quite so bulky on him! Be aware that these diapers are pretty bulky and will make newborn clothing tight before your baby has officially outgrown that size! Indy has been filling out some larger sizes of clothing while wearing cloth.

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I also like Thirsties and Flips diaper covers. With these, you simply place an absorbent insert inside and change that out when it is soiled. Then you can wipe off the cover (as long as it isn’t too messy) with a wipe. It’s pretty cost effective because you get more uses out of each diaper, and inserts are cheaper than diapers. These sound like they would not hold as much- but both brands of diapers recently contained two really big messes without leaks! I also love the fact that these are not nearly as bulky as other diapers. Pictured here are two covers, one with the insert, and one without.

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The other style of diapers that I have tried are pocket diapers. For now, I think that these are okay. They work well, but they have the bulk of an All In One without the convenience- because they must be stuffed. The inserts are stuffed inside, so once the insert is dirty, so is the entire diaper. However- I’ve heard people say that they love these and find them to be more absorbent because you can stuff them with whatever type of insert that you want, and you can add more inserts for a heavy wetter. I am keeping an open mind about these because I may find that I love them once Indy starts wearing cloth overnight. The brands that I have tried are Rumparooz, Thirsties, Fuzzibuns, and Bumgenius.

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Once I got into a good routine, cloth diapering baby boy turned out to not be quite as big of a pain as I was expecting. I have a wet bag inside my diaper pail, and one in my diaper bag for when we are going out. The wet bags have done a good job of containing the mess and smell so far, and I simply throw them into the wash with my diapers. My wash routine is simple, and I do it every other day. I use Bumgenius detergent, and do a warm wash, a heavy duty hot wash, and then a cold rinse. I’ll throw a little bleach in the hot wash about once every few weeks. I hang dry the all in one diapers and covers, and throw the inserts into the dryer. If a diaper is extra messy, I will spray it off in the toilet before I throw it in the pail. I do plan on investing in a diaper sprayer shield due to some recent splatter!

All in all, I am really pleased with cloth diapering. We are definitely saving money, and the amount of work has not been a huge impact to our lifestyle. I still use disposables on trips and overnight, but I am hoping to start trying cloth overnight once my little guys habits change a bit!

Cooking Uncategorized

Our Favorite Enchiladas

August 13, 2016

Oh man, guys. This is one of our favorite meals ever. We make them at home, and order them out at Mexican restaurants.  Any excuse to eat enchiladas and we are all over it. Make these enchiladas for someone, and you’ll have a new best friend instantly. They are that good! I first made these for my husband’s 24th birthday the first year we were married. I was still learning to cook and I was shocked that I successfully completed a seemingly complicated recipe.  I used the Pioneer Woman’s Recipe from her first cookbook as a guideline, but over the years, we’ve changed things up a bit- and you can too! I’ve made these with meat, vegetarian, and dairy free with vegan cheese. Once you get the general idea- its so easy to customize your filling. It’s all good! Even though making enchiladas is quite the process, it really is not difficult once you establish a system. There are a lot of steps- but they are all easy!  Bonus points if you have a buddy help you because you can create an assembly line- but you can do this alone.

 

You’ll Need:

1 Rotisserie chicken, completely shredded  (or you could use black beans or lentils)

1 small can of green chiles

Half of a pepper, diced

half of a small onion, diced

1 small bunch of cilantro, minced

Penzey’s Taco Seasoning

1 package corn tortillas

1 large can and 1 small can of red enchilada sauce

shredded mexican blend of cheese (or vegan cheese for the lactose intolerant among us- or just skip the cheese)

Vegetable oil (for frying)

Start by sautéing the diced pepper and onion.

Once they are soft, add them to a big bowl. Mix in the chicken, can of chiles, and a half cup of the cheese. Add a tablespoon of the minced cilantro and a tablespoon of taco seasoning.

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Next, heat vegetable oil on your stove top and bring it to about medium heat. You can always adjust the temperature if things are cooking too quickly.

While the oil is heating, pour some enchilada sauce into a shallow bowl. Add some of the sauce to the bottom of a casserole dish. Take the tortillas out and set them on top of the bag. Put your bowl of enchilada filling on the counter next to that. Now it’s time to grab some tongs and start frying!

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Fry both sides of a corn tortilla. I usually wait until one side puffs up, flip it, and fry the other for about 30 seconds. I would like to add that I always end up breaking one of my first tortillas. If this happens to you, don’t be sad. Just go easier with those tongs! Next, use the tongs to transfer the tortilla to the bowl of sauce and dunk it in.

I always end up burning my fingers a little because I grab the tortilla out of the sauce with my hands, because the tongs always rip them at this point. Do this at your own risk! Place the enchilada in the casserole dish, add some filling, and then roll the tortilla over so that it is pinned closed by its own weight. Then you get back in there, and do it again until you run out of filling or tortillas or both!

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Once your casserole dishes are full and your fingerprints are sufficiently burned off, douse your enchiladas in a generous amount of enchilada sauce and an unholy amount of cheese.

The next step is to bake them at 350 until everything is melted, and maybe a hint browned on top- about 15 minutes. Add some fresh minced cilantro to the top and serve! If you are making these ahead, you can stick the casserole dish in the fridge and just bake them a little before you intend to serve them.

These go great with a shredded lettuce salad, a side of refried beans, and maybe some spanish rice! They  are also great on their own. Or with a Margherita (if you do this- only a little sour mix guys- mostly tequila and lime juice, and just have one because we are responsible adults.) At the very least serve them with some chips, salsa, and guacamole.

Enjoy!

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Uncategorized

Sleepy and Thankful

August 5, 2016

Hello friends! It has been quite awhile since I’ve posted. That’s because I have been busy taking care of a tiny newborn who has grown into a chunky, happy two month old! I can hardly believe it’s been two months since my week overdue baby boy arrived on a Friday night. My husband and I could hardly believe it when the doctor put a squirming grunting, 7 lb, 3 oz baby boy on my chest. I immediately took in his dark hair and eyes, and the tiny little birthmarks on his eyes that the doctor called angel kisses. The night we became parents changed everything- but in the most wonderful way.

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I’m feeling very thankful lately.

Thankful for a healthy, handsome baby boy, whom my dad nicknamed Indy (as in Indiana Jones).I think that’s what I’ll call him on this blog.

I am thankful for family who helped us out before and after Indy’s birth, and everyone who sent well wishes and gifts. I am thankful for friends who brought us meals for two weeks so that my husband and I could lay around with our baby and binge watch shows together, and just stare at our tiny boy. We’ll remember those first few weeks forever. I know that people call a “Baby-moon” a vacation you take before baby’s arrival, but we truly feel that we had one the week after our son was born.

I’m thankful for first smiles and bright eyes, and fur babies who have been nothing but sweet and gentle toward the new tiny human in our home.

I’m thankful whenever I see my husband cuddling our son and for all of the feedings and diaper changes he does.

I’m thankful that Indy now usually wakes up only once a night and for the cold brew coffee (more on that soon) that gets me through sleepy afternoons.

I am thankful for at home date nights with a glass of wine, and our tiny boy nestled in his bassinet nearby.

I’ll try to get better at this blogging thing. I’m thankful to Indy’s wonderful Aunt Ilana for holding down the fort and writing so many awesome posts! I’m hoping to share more as I begin to discover the new normal for my life now that I am a mom. I’ve slowly begun cooking more, and Indy finally fits into his cloth diapers- so that has been an interesting transition!

Thanks for reading. I’ll leave you with a photo of this caprese salad that we enjoyed last night. We just substituted peaches for tomatoes, and kept everything else the same. So, so good.

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Talk to you soon:)

 

Gardening Uncategorized

Gade Farm

May 24, 2016

I don’t know about where you live, but the weather in upstate New York is finally getting mild and sunny. After what seemed like weeks of rain, we’ve finally gotten enough sun to sit outside, sip cold drinks, and watch the dogs run around the yard. And, when those aforementioned dogs get me up because they need to go outside at four in the morning (help me), I hear birds cheerfully chirping away. It is also light out by the time my husband leaves for work, which is nice.

Now that I have, for now, a little more time on my hands, I’ve started to think about doing a little landscaping and yard prep for the summer. I’m waiting for our car port to be cleared out so that I can complete the long anticipated patio makeover. While I wait, I’ve been bargain shopping and window shopping for lights and an outdoor carpet. We also want to start a vegetable garden , but with a new baby on the way, we’ve decided to keep things pretty simple this year and buy a few plants at some point. We’ll probably plant tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, and various  herbs. Although I do not have the greatest green thumb, we have had decent luck with those three crops in the past, and our zucchini seems to practically take care of itself! I don’t know why, but it does. Luckily, even if we don’t harvest our own huge bounty this year, there is always plenty of fresh produce at the Green Market on Sundays. My husband plans to remove the boxes he built for our little garden two years ago and just dig out a nice patch of our yard to fence in.

With other projects on hold, I started thinking about our window boxes. There is something about coming home and seeing your window boxes heaping with flowers that feels so cozy and nice. The first year we lived in our house,  I planted marigolds that I sadly killed by watering at the hottest part of the day- but you live and learn! I can’t remember what exactly I planted last year. There were red, white and yellow flowers that lived very happily in the sun and absolutely flourished for most of the summer once I started watering them before it got too hot!

This year, I was uncertain about what I wanted to buy, but I knew I would shop at my favorite place to buy plants,  The Gade Farm. If you’ve been reading this blog for the past year, you might remember me mentioning this nursery and country shop as home of hands down the best apple cider donuts I have ever had, and delicious fruit pies that they import from Mourningkill Bake Shop. It also has one of the most beautifully arranged nurseries that you have ever seen! If I am ever feeling down, or uninspired, there is something about walking through that gorgeous rainbow of plants and flowers that immediately puts me in a good mood. I figured that Gade’s would be the perfect distraction from feeling like my baby won’t ever come!

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Initially I was a little overwhelmed by the large selection of full sun plants- and the crowd- it was insane for a Monday morning! I guess I wasn’t the only one intoxicated by the sunshine and mid 70’s! I also think people are probably getting their yards ready for Memorial Day weekend this week. Despite the crowds,  I quickly made my way over to the flowers that were $2.99 a pack. I love nothing more than a good deal- and I figured that I could buy a bunch of flowers and still stay within a reasonable budget! I chose orange marigolds, purple crawly flowers called Verbena Imagination, and red Salvia.  The staff was very helpful and friendly and even loaded everything into the back of my car for me. Between a large bag of soil and all of my flowers, I spent about $47. I bought 11 packs of flowers to cover my five window boxes. Honestly, I ended up buying way too much- because although the boxes look a little sparse now, if all goes according to plan- they will fill out like crazy once they get better established.  Knowing how things took off last year, I did not want to overcrowd the boxes. The rest of the flowers ended up in little pots that are now decorating my front stoop. Before I left the nursery, I also stopped into the country shop and bought a delicious very berry crumble top pie! So worth it!

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I am so glad that I took the time yesterday to do some planting! There is nothing like getting your hands into the soil and spending time outside. Plus, although today is mild, the sun is currently hiding behind some clouds, and I don’t know whether it will come back out today.

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What have you guys been planting so far this year?

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Review

Albany Eats: Mr. Pio Pio

May 17, 2016

Disclaimer: The following is an overly dramatic review of a Columbian restaurant in Albany that is heavily influenced by my overly dramatic pregnancy emotions. You’ve been warned! But also…you guys should go. Because it was so, so good. By the time my food came, I was too hungry to take pictures- so you’ll just have to go and see for yourself!

It was Mother’s Day, 2016. So, basically, it was a few weeks ago. I happened to see a picture of a beautiful plate of Columbian food on social media. I haven’t had many cravings during this pregnancy (besides Mango Curry), but this was the strongest one yet, and it brought me to tears. I quickly googled Columbian restaurants near me, and I came across one in Albany! It was called Mr. Pio Pio, and my friend informed me that it is, in fact, located very close to U Albany. Because it was cold and rainy, and we already had plans to cook a steak dinner, my husband and I decided it would be best to stick with our original plan, and indulge this particular craving another day. So, I mustered all of my pregnant lady courage, and took a nap, hoping that the craving would pass.

I woke up, and it did not! My sweet husband promised me that we’d have a dinner date on Friday where I could finally order my platter tipica. I spent the week dreaming of fried plantains, and we invited two of our friends along for a double date. Although we had the address, we rolled past it and had to turn around to find it. Its one of those little hole in the wall restaurants that you could easily pass by because the sign is not eye-catching, and the neighborhood isn’t the greatest.

When I walked in, my first thought is that it looked more like a restaurant that you would order take out from. In fact, they did seem to have a lot of take out orders. Still, the menu looked good, so we sat down and waited for our friends. My husband and I both ordered the Bandeja Tipica, and our friends split the Picada. The food took awhile to come out, but it was nice to have time to just talk and catch up. Plus, when the food arrived, it was well worth the wait! The Bandeja Tipica consisted of a generous portion of steak, rice, beans, a fried egg, avocado, and fried plantains. My husband and I ordered the green sauce on the side- and everything was incredible. The food reminded us of  La Finca, a restaurant that we loved on Long Island! However, it is important to note that unlike La Fina, Mr. Pio Pio does not serve alcohol. If you go to La Finca, you need to order their sangria as it compliments the food perfectly! The Picada was a platter piled high with grilled beef, chicken, spare ribs, columbian sausage, tostones, fried cassava, and chicharron. It looked great- although I was not 100% certain what everything was. Our friends seemed really happy with their dish. They used both the green sauce and a super spicy red sauce… I recommend trying both!

My husband was pretty impressed with all of the food that came out, and asked me if I would be willing to split the Picada with him next time. The truth is though, that I am all about those sides! They are my favorite part!

All in all, the restaurant does not have the most fancy or impressive atmosphere, but the servers were friendly and the food was really good! We will definitely be going back! Next time we pass through Albany, we will absolutely stop in for dinner or maybe even order take out.

Baking Cooking Recipe

Frozen Pizza, 2 Ways

May 3, 2016

As many of you know, I’ve been spending the last few months preparing for the arrival of my baby boy! My due date is now less than a month away- and instead of manic nesting energy- I find myself incredibly sleepy! I’m hoping to give my body the rest it needs now so that I can store up some energy for the home stretch. Along those lines, my pre-baby freezer meal prep for the week is cheat your butt off frozen pizza! The sauce, dough, and cheese are all store bought. The meatballs are leftovers from Sunday dinner. The second version is a vegan, veggie pizza with a sweet onion/garlic sauce. I recently saw it on A Beautiful Mess, and I have been dying to make it ever since. This one requires more work, because you have to make the sauce and cook the veggies a little- but the dough is still store bought.

From reading I’ve done, the key to making a good homemade frozen pizza seems to be pre cooking your pizza dough a little bit, and wrapping them really well to prevent freezer burn.  I’m planning on making four small pizzas, so that they aren’t so floppy that they fall apart on me when I am trying to move them to the freezer!

What You’ll Need:

2 bags refrigerated pizza dough

flour (for rolling)

(for traditional pizza)

1 small jar of sauce

1 bag of shredded mozzerella cheese

2 sliced meatballs (or whatever is in your fridge)

Penzey’s Pizza Seasoning

(for veggie pizza- adapted from A Beautiful Mess)

1 medium onion

4 cloves of garlic

1/2 large green pepper

2 big handfuls of spinach leaves

1 quarter of a medium zucchini

Penzey’s Italian Herb Mix

2 tblspn olive oil (plus more for drizzling)

1 tblspn balsamic vinegar

 

The first step is to remove the paper from your onion and garlic cloves, drizzle them with olive oil, and wrap them in tin foil. Bake them for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees.

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While your onion and garlic is roasting, chop up your veggies into thin slices (I chose peppers, zucchini, and spinach- but you can use whatever you want), and sauté them with olive oil and italian herb mix until they are just starting to get soft. You do not need to fully cook them because everything  will be baked when you are actually getting ready to eat your frozen pizza. Once your veggies are slightly softened, you can set them aside while you wait for your other veggies to be done roasting.

Once the garlic and onions are finished roasting, set the temperature to 375 degrees, and begin rolling out your dough into four small pizzas. I baked my rolled out dough for about 6 minutes at first, but I noticed that when I left the dough in for 2 minutes longer by accident, it was slightly more sturdy for wrapping the pizzas later. So, I’d say bake your dough for about 6-8 minutes, depending upon what makes sense to you.

Dough before baking

Dough before baking

Dough after being baked for about 7 minutes. It will look similar to the raw dough, but you will be able to move it without it breaking.

Dough after being baked for about 7 minutes. It will look similar to the raw dough, but you will be able to move it without it breaking.

While you are baking the dough, prepare the onion and garlic sauce. Blend the onion and garlic cloves with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar until it is pureed into a thick sauce. Once that is completed, make room to assemble your pizzas and gather the rest of your toppings.

For the traditional pizzas, I spread on tomato sauce, scattered slices of meatball, and covered them in mozzarella cheese. I figured if I covered the sauce in cheese, it would be less likely to all stick to the plastic wrap! I also sprinkled on the pizza seasoning.

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For the veggie pizzas, I divided the onion and garlic sauce between the two pizzas and spread them over each. Next, I added the softened veggies. It turned out that I cooked a large amount of veggies, but I used all of them anyway since these pizzas do not contain meat or cheese.

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This may be overkill, but I wrapped each pizza tightly in three layers of plastic wrap. I stacked them neatly and nestled them into the freezer. According to Emma of A Beautiful Mess, you need to thaw the pizza for at least an hour before you intend to bake it, and then bake it for 18-22 minutes at 400 degrees. Definitely keep an eye on your pizza as ovens can have some variations! I hope these come out good- because I will be saving them for easy meals after the baby is born! I think either of these types of  pizzas would be a nice dinner for two with a big salad- or a really generous dinner for one with no sides. Enjoy!

Pizzas tightly wrapped and ready to be stored in the freezer!

Pizzas tightly wrapped and ready to be stored in the freezer!