Leap day!

This is a day that we get to enjoy but once every 4 years. This is an occasion. An occasion not to go unnoticed. And so here I am, noticing it.

February has been a good month. It seems like it was over in a flash. Bring on March (and spring!)

  • I am loving my new budget plan. It’s working! I’m tweaking it as I go to better suit my purposes. Most important: I’m sticking to it.
  • I made a chocolate cake out of black beans. I attempted another gluten free dessert, but it was something of a flop. And edible flop. But still not blog worthy.
  • I finished my taxes! Oh happy day! Done and done for 2011.
  • I made pasta sauce. So easy.
  • Whittle My Middle. Total fail.
  • I crossed 6 recipes off my 101 list. Not bad for a month’s work.
  • I’m getting back into running. I found a kick butt class at a local gym that I plan on going to for the foreseeable future. Love it!

February was a pretty good month, but I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I’m a more than a bit excited about spring. Even though we haven’t really had winter here, I’m ready for it to be done. Normally winter looks like this:

It’s pretty. I can go snowshoeing. And skiing. That helps make winter tolerable.

This year, not so much. It’s been quite drab and not snowy at all. Bring on spring! This month, I will:

  • Whittle My Middle. 5 days a week. For the 4 full weeks of March.
  • More new recipes. Ideas: chicken cacciatore, meatballs, chana masala, kale chips, teriyaki chicken, tomato soup, white chicken chili. We’ll see what actually gets made.
  • Finish off my couch to 5k plan, and run a full 3.1 miles. After I finish 3 miles I intend to keep going, with the ultimate goal of 3 miles being a normal weekday run, and 6 miles being doable on the weekends.
  • Sign up for a triathlon for the summer.
  • Travel! I have plans for a weekend in Iowa and a long weekend in Washington, DC.

I wanna know: What was your favorite part of February? What are you looking forward to in March?

Strawberry and Banana Stuffed Crepes

My mom used to make crepes almost every Saturday mornings. I didn’t fully appreciate what a treat they were. Thanks, Mom!

When I was home, I decided to take a stab at it. It took me a few tries, but I got it eventually! First attempt:

Total fail. Lesson learned–make sure your pan is hot enough.

I used the Betty Crocker recipe for the batter. Check out all those dough and batter stains. That’s how you know that a cookbook is well loved.

By the third crepe (or so), they weren’t looking too awful.

Then Baby Sister showed me up. Apparently my burner still wasn’t hot enough. Well done, Baby Sister!

Without further ado, here you go!

Crepes

From Betty Crocker Cookbook

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tbs. butter, melted
  1. Mix all dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients.
  2. Use a whisk to make the batter smooth.
  3. Pour 1/4 cup batter into hot, greased pan.
  4. Swirl the pan immediately to spread out the batter.
  5. When the batter is almost cooked through, use a large spatula to flip.

For a great video how to, check out this clip.

Now, once your crepes are done, keep them toasty in a warm oven, and make your filling. Simply chop strawberries and bananas and warm them in a skillet.

Fill each crepe with the warm strawberry/banana goodness and whipped cream. Roll them up! Top with more creme and fruit, if you so desire.

Happy breakfasting!

I wanna know: Did you have a favorite breakfast when you were a kid? Is it still a favorite?

Freezer Meal: Stuffed Pasta

I have a confession to make: I love hands on food. Anything that involves assembly, I’m all over it. So, when I saw these heavenly things on Iowa Girl Eats last Friday, I knew that I had to make them. Stat. I had never seen (noticed) such huge pasta shells before, and I immediately fell in love. Love, I tell you. Giant pasta love.

The gist of it is this:

  1. Cook your pasta.
  2. Cook your meat.
  3. Stuff your pasta. (After this step, you could put them in a freezer safe container and save them for up to a month. When you want to eat them, take the container out of the freezer, leave it in the fridge to thaw, and then continue with step 4.)
  4. Pour marinara sauce all over the stuffed shells, and grate more cheese on top of it all.
  5. Bake!

Easy peasy. And oh-so-tasty.

Friday night dinner, anyone?

I wanna know: Do you have weekend dinner traditions?

I remember when I was younger, we would get take out pizza and a movie every other week on pay day. No matter what.

Cornbread

There is a recipe on allrecipes.com that is my all-time favorite. It’s called Grandmother’s Buttermilk Cornbread. If there were a scorecard for recipe awesomeness strictly based on the recipe’s name, this one would be a winner. First, the word “Grandmother.” Any recipe that comes from any grandmother’s kitchen is sure to be tried and true and yummy. Can I get an “amen”? Second, the word “butter.” Enough said. And third, “bread.” Nothing says comfort food like bread, warm our of the oven. Especially when it’s coming out of grandma’s oven. And there’s butter involved.

I’ve made this recipe a few times. Usually with chili. This time, I thought I’d change it up. You see, on Saturday morning, I ended up at Meijer, and found their not-quite-dead-yet veggies rack. If you get there at the perfect time, you can buy almost-expired, fresh produce at steep discounts.

Sixty-eight cents for almost 2 lbs of peppers? Yes, please!

So, I invited a few friends over to join me+family, and we made fajitas with all the fixings. The plan was to make mild fajitas; family isn’t a huge fan of spicy food. Despite my best efforts to cook family friendly food, the peppers I got to supplement the bag of peppers you see above were the wrong kind. They looked like bell peppers and were labeled bell peppers, but were so spicy. Not bell peppers. Family wasn’t thrilled. The result: I got to take home all the leftovers.

Instead of just buying more tortilla shells for the leftovers (boring), I figured cornbread would be the ticket.

I was right. Magical. Cornbread, topped with spicy peppers and onions and fajita sauce, and then a dollop of sour cream. A big dollop.

Yum yum! A note about the cornbread: I substituted buttermilk for 1 cup whole milk+1 Tbs. lemon juice. Instead of lemon juice, you could use vinegar. Weird, but it works just fine!

Not feeling fajitas or chili for your cornbread? Make tacos or barbeque chicken! If you’re in more of a dessert mood, cornbread tastes great slathered in honey or jam, topped with fruit and whipped cream, or eaten plain.

I wanna know: What do you do with cornbread?

Words of Wisdom (from one turned 60)

More often than not, your neighbors are just “the people that live next door.” You know the kind. You know their names. You might agree to feed their cat while they’re on vacation. But that’s about it. Occasionally, really occasionally, you strike it rich when you move. Not only do you get a new house, but you get the neighbors that go along with it.

We fell in the “strike it rich” category when my family moved to a nearby town 5-ish years ago. Really. We hit a gold mine in the neighbor department. Our neighbors are the kind that are more like family. The kind you celebrate holidays with. The kind that are there through thick and thin. And things can get pretty thick sometimes.

This weekend, the guy across the street turned 60. And he shared some words of wisdom with me (28, to be exact).

  • “Get cash, keep cash.” In other words: work hard (get paid) and save your money (don’t spend it all). Read this book if you’re really wanting to get in control of your finances.
  • In the same vein, he also says, “Buy low, sell high.” Invest your money. Wisely.  You do want to retire sometime, right?
  • “Think more.” Definitely not less.
  • “Green side up.” When laying sod, it’s always a good idea to put the green side up. The moral of the story: work hard and do a good job at whatever you’re doing. Even if you don’t enjoy it, being faithful in the small things will pay dividends toward your future.
  • “At 31, you’ll know what to do with your life.” This is comforting. I have 7 more years to figure it out.
  • “We always need to improve.” Don’t stop learning or growing. Ever.

                                               Source

I wanna know: Do you have any other pithy quotes to add to the list?

Pasta Sauce

This past summer, I canned an exorbitant amount of tomatoes. Once we consider that there is only one of me, and that tomatoes aren’t a regular part of my diet, I feel like we really can accurately call the amount of tomatoes I have in my basement “exorbitant.” This not merely melodrama, people. This is reality.

Coming to the aforementioned conclusion, I realized that I need to start eating my canned tomatoes, instead of just leaving them to sit on my shelf. All lonely like. Pretty and organized. But lonely.

Over lunch today, I consulted my trusty Joy of Cooking for some inspiration, and made a quick and easy pasta sauce out of one of the jars.

Pasta Sauce

Adapted from Joy of Cooking

You will need:

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 shallot, diced (alternatively, you could use 1/2 small onion)
  • 1-15 oz can of diced tomatoes (or a pint sized jar)
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Add 1 Tbs olive oil to a small skillet.
  2. Once it is hot, add diced onion and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to a simmer and cook until desired consistency.

While your sauce is simmerin’ (15 or 20 minutes is all it should take), cook up your favorite kind of pasta. When it is done, drain it, adding 1/8 cup pasta water to your pasta sauce. Let the pasta sauce simmer for 2 more minutes, and then top your pasta.

Done and done! This recipe will make two servings. Double or triple as needed.