{Feelings Friday} On birthdays…and lists

Oh hey 31, its nice to meet you. This birthday sort of snuck up on me…unlike last year, when 30 felt like this looming number with so many expectations. For my early 20’s self, turning 30 meant I was supposed to have all of my shit together. And while on the outside it may look like I do: full time job, husband, house, child…I feel like I am just making it all up as I go along. I’m not sure how anyone trusts me to do all of the important things I do on a daily basis…sometimes it terrifies me. I’ve repeatedly had to tell myself “get it together, you are a grown up!” this year.

I think that is the key to being in your 30’s…accepting that you are just making shit up as you go and not apologizing anymore. At least, that’s what I’ve learned…30 was the year of self-love and acceptance for me. It started with some gut-wrenching heartbreak and ended with some more. But I did a whole lot of growing in that 365 days. Sometimes it was messy; sometimes it was beautiful. It wasn’t boring, that I can tell you.

On another note, while I certainly love making grocery lists and summer bucket lists and to-do lists at work…I’m done with them in my life life. When I was 27, I made a 30 before 30 list. It makes me laugh now looking at it…what I thought was important. What I thought I should do. What I even wanted then. I’ve done approximately 5 things on that list. Some of them I have no desire to do any longer and others I’m not sure are even possible…hello paying off credit cards every month or finding the time to be on a board or learning how to sew.

I’ve realized its more important for me to live my messy, imperfect and joyful life instead of making a list of things to check off in order to prove to myself that my life is full. Making the list put more focus on things instead of experiences. This year, the stuff that was the best wasn’t at all planned. It wasn’t catchy or sexy. The best stuff was teaching Connor how to make cookies and making a huge mess in the kitchen, playing cards with my husband like we are 70, buying new porch furniture and drinking wine out there after Connor was in bed. It was visiting with loved ones and laughing so hard I almost peed my pants. It was having my kid tell me “you are really nice Mommy, I really love you.” It was a million little things that never seem to make the big, fancy list.

So instead of a list of things to do this year, I’m just making myself a promise. I promise to celebrate the beauty in my life. Even the days that are terrible or boring or sad. Because even on the worst day, I have so much to be thankful for.

Was 30 a banner year for any of you? Share your wisdom!

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{Where to Shop Wednesday} Califia Farms Pumpkin Spice Latte Cold Brew

It’s fall, which means its the season of pumpkin spice everything. That makes some people cringe and roll their eyes, but I, on the other hand, jump for joy. And I’m not apologizing for it. I’m a sucker for all of the fall marketing; I’m not ashamed. Give me all the pumpkin things!

Naturally when I saw this bottle of Califia Farms cold brew on one of my recent trips to the grocery store, I had to try it. While I prefer my pumpkin spice drinks hot, its been freakishly warm here this month. So an iced coffee pumpkin treat was quite nice. I liked it a lot and found the almond milk flavor to be quite delicious with it.

If you are a PSL fan, see if your local grocery store has this and let me know what you think!

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Concord Grape Jam

I rarely wander into the realm of making homemade jams. Usually I feel like I can buy really yummy stuff (hello, Sarabeth’s) so why would I take all the time to make my own. Then I started getting a farmshare…and when they send concord grapes, you make jam.
grape jam 1

So for the past two years, I’ve made this jam and its just SO GOOD. Makes a mean PB&J, just ask Connor. Also, just give me a big ol’ English muffin topped with butter and this jam and I’m a happy camper. It’s actually quite easy to make, so if you find yourself with some concord grapes, definitely churn this jam out of your kitchen one afternoon…you’ll be glad you did!
grape jam 2

you will need:
2 pounds concord grapes, stemmed
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Set 2 small plates in the fridge to chill to use later.

Remove skins from grapes by just squeezing them a bit…they’ll pop right out. Place skins in one bowl and grapes in another. Place skins in a food processor and puree with ½ cup of sugar until smooth.

Combine skins, grapes, lemon juice and remaining sugar in a wide heavy-bottomed pot. Boil mixture over moderate heat, stirring frequently and skimming the foam that bubbles up, until the pulp is broken down, about 20 minutes.

Force mixture through a food mill or strainer over a large bowl. Discard solids and return jam to the pot and cook at a low boil for about 30 minutes more. Monitor closely, skimming foam and making sure the jam doesn’t burn.

To test jam, remove from heat, then drop a teaspoon of jam on a chilled plate. Place the plate in the fridge for 1 minute, then til the plate to the side. If the jam remains in a mound and doesn’t run, its done! If it still runs, continue cooking and repeat this same testing procedure every 5 minutes until its done.

*If you are brave and knowledgeable about canning, you can certainly prepare your jars and lids and can this. You can also double this recipe to yield much more jam to hold onto through the winter. I had a smaller amount of grapes and am totally intimidated by canning alone without a pro to help me, so I just store mine in the fridge.

makes: 3 ½ pint jars (or in my case, 1 large jar)
time: 20 minutes prep + 50-60 minutes cooking
from: Gourmet

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Fluffy Squash & Sage Biscuits

You guys….its FALL! Fall is my favorite. I feel like summer extended so far into September and it was just making me cranky. But now, all is well with the world and the air is crisp and there are mums and pumpkins everywhere. Oh, and there are honeycrisp apples and squash abound! I have more squash I know what to do with from my CSA, so I’m searching for some new fun ways to eat it…like these biscuits.
Squash & Sage BiscuitsThe mild and sweet squash flavor is a great compliment to the boldness of the sage…and they are just pretty. I’m thinking these would keep well in the freezer, so I plan to make a bunch and enjoy them all fall!

you will need:
1 medium delicata squash (½ cup squash puree)
2 cups all purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1 small bunch fresh sage (2 teaspoons chopped + 12ish whole leaves for garnish)
¾ cup heavy cream
1 small egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400°F and slice squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and pulp in the center. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and then place squash halves cut-side down on a baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes or until a knife pierces the flesh easily, think room temperature butter.  Remove from oven and let cool. Scoop out the flesh, discarding the skins, and puree in a blender until smooth. Chill in fridge until ready to use. This step can be done a day in advance.

If not already on, preheat the oven to 400°F. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda together. Using a thick grater, grate the cold butter into the flour mixture. Pop mixture into the freezer for about 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the chilled cream, squash puree and chopped sage. Whisk until smooth. In an even smaller bowl, whisk the egg and tablespoon of heavy cream.

Retrieve the flour/butter mixture from the freezer. Using a pastry cutter or a large fork, mix everything together until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add the squash and cream mixture, stirring just until the dough comes together. Use your hands to lightly knead the dough until it fully comes together. Don’t over work the dough, be gentle. You may also need a tad more cream if you have some loose floury mixture at the bottom of your bowl.

Dust a clean work surface with flour and either roll out or press the dough until it reaches a uniform ¾ inch thickness. Using a biscuit cutter (circle or square) or a pizza cutter, cut out the biscuits. Reuse all of that dough from the area around the biscuit cutter, just be careful not to overwork the dough.

Place biscuits on a lightly greased baking sheet, then brush the top of each with the egg wash. Garnish each biscuit with a sage leaf, then bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden on top.

Let biscuits cool for a few minutes and serve warm.

makes: 12 biscuits
time: 20 minutes active prep + 45 minutes cooking time
from: Kitchen Vignettes

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Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Dulce De Leche Filling

Today I have some fun things to share with you! I was chosen to participate in OXO’s Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Bake a Difference campaign this year. They partnered with Dorie Greenspan as she prepares to release her new cookbook Dorie’s Cookies in October. So, lucky for me, I received a box of awesome baking goodies (all featured here) and this amazing recipe. For each blogger that participates in this campaign, OXO is donating $100 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. How great is that?!
pumpkin whoopie pies 1

So not only are these yummy, fall flavored whoopie pies amazingly delicious, I’m totally in love with the goodies I’ve added to my baking supplies.
pumpkin whoopie pies 4

Here’s what I got:
OXO goodies

  • OXO’s Non-Stick Pro 12 Cup Muffin Pan – made with ceramic-reinforced, two-layer, commercial-grade coating that provides ultimate non-stick release and is scratch-, stain-, corrosion- and abrasion-resistant. Unique micro-textured pattern ensures even baking
  • OXO’s Medium Cookie Scoop – designed for easy scooping and consistent shaping, it has soft grip handles that absorb pressure while you squeeze to smoothly release your cookie dough
  • OXO’s Illuminating Digital Hand Mixer – includes intuitive digital controls to steadily increase or decrease speed while you are mixing and has a light to guide you! Also features on on-board beater clip, wrap-and-secure cord, and flat, stable base that allows for compact, upright storage…amazing for limited kitchen cabinet space!
  • OXO’s Medium Silicone Spatula – tough enough for scraping, mixing and scooping, this soft, non-slip spatula stays flexible longer without discoloring or melting

Now, for the cookies!
pumpkin whoopie pies 2

for the cookies, you will need:
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ baking powder
½ baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ cup pumpkin puree
½ cup buttermilk, room temperature
¾ cup fresh (or frozen) cranberries, coarsely chopped (if frozen, don’t thaw)**

Position oven racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat to 375°F. Butter or spray two muffin tins, even if they are nonstick.

Whisk the flour, cinnamon, cardamom, baking powder and baking soda together in a bowl and set aside.

Working with a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter, sugar and salt together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and beat for another 2 minutes or so, until creamy. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the pumpkin puree and beat until it’s fully incorporated; don’t be discouraged when the mixture curdles – it will soon smooth out.

Turn off the mixer, scrape down the bowl and add half of the dry ingredients. Pulse to begin the mixing and then mix on low, scraping the bowl as needed, until the flour mixture is blended in. Beat in the buttermilk. Turn off the mixer, add the remaining dry ingredients, pulse and then mix on low until you have a lovely smooth batter. Switch to a flexible spatula and fold in the cranberries. Don’t be too thorough – it’s better to have an uneven mix than to break the berries and turn the batter red.
batter & spatula

Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop out level portions of dough, or use a tablespoon to get rounded spoonfuls, and fill the muffin tines. The scoops of dough will sit upright in the center of the tins, but when baked they’ll melt evenly into the cups.
muffin tins

Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back after 6 minutes, or until they are puffed, golden brown and springy to the touch.

Transfer the pan to a rack and let the cookies rest for 5 minutes, then turn them out on the racks and allow them to cool completely.

for the filling, you will need:
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
1 cup marshmallow fluff
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
pinch of fine sea salt
¼ cup dulce de leche, homemade or store bought

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a medium bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter, marshmallow fluff, sugar and salt together on medium-high speed, scraping the bowl and beater(s) as needed, for about 3 minutes, until very smooth. Lower the mixer speed, add the dulce de leche and beat until thoroughly blended.

to assemble the whoopie pies:
assembly Using a spoon or a small cookie scoop, place the filling on the flat sides of half of the cookies; sandwich with the other cookies, flat sides down. The cookies can be eaten now, but the filling benefits from a 30-minute stay in the refrigerator. Just be sure to let them come to room temperature before eating them, so the filling is nice and soft.
pumpkin whoopie pies 3

*Whopper-Size Whoopie Pies – Dorie says you can use a large cookie scoop (about 3 tablespoons) to portion out the dough and make 6 really big pies (12 individual cookies). These bake best when you use an insulated baking sheet or stack two sheets one on top of the other. Line the top sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and bake the cookie for 15 to 17 minutes.

*Storing: Unfilled cookies can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 24 hours. Once filled, they can be kept covered in the fridge for a day or two, but they are best the day they’re made!

**Disclaimer: I could not find fresh cranberries ANYWHERE! I checked or called every grocery store within 10 miles of my house, and nada. I did find some frozen ones that were infused with cherry and other juices and so I decided to just leave them out. But, I will surely be making these again in October/November when fresh cranberries are aplenty at my local grocer.

makes: 14 whoopie pies
time: 15 minute prep + 12 minutes baking + 15 minutes assembly
from: Dorie Greenspan

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Late Summer Gazpacho

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{Feelings Friday} Mama Self Care

Mamas. Let’s chat. This #momlife is crazy. Being a mother is amazing; I adore my kid and absolutely positively cannot imagine my life without him. But there are just so many things that fill up my days, weeks, months that sometimes I feel like I might go a little bonkers. Between working full time, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, the dog, maintaining a house and cars, shuttling the kid to school and all of the fun activities, budgeting, you know all the things. There are so many more! I feel hives breaking out as I think of all the stuff on my totally made-up “to do” list.

And sweet Mother of Mercy, three year olds are insane. I understand the term “threenager” now. He’s a tiny dictator, skilled in manipulation. He’s simultaneously adorable, hilarious and maddening. There are times you’d think there is a teenager in the house the way we fight (ex: meltdowns because I flushed his pee instead of him). Other times he has me rolling on the floor laughing (ex: “Mama I slept in my bed all last day…maybe you buy me a new toy or somethin’?”) or bawling because he is so compassionate and sweet (ex: grabs my face with his hands and says “I love you Mama, you know that?”). Its a daily roller coaster of alllll the feels over here.

Plus, lets just add the fact that I am completely and totally in charge of ANOTHER HUMAN LIFE. There’s no manual for that…I’m just making shit up as I go along and hoping to God that something sticks and I raise a kind, compassionate human who spreads love in this crazy world.

After taking care of all of that on a daily basis, the last pieces to get any sort of priority or attention is my marriage and myself, which are arguably the most important to nurture and care for. But when you are just going through the motions and rocking your routine, you think, look at me I’ve got this…don’t stop doing or moving. Then all of the sudden, the craziness just hits to you…like you’ve been treading water for too long and you just have to slow down and cling to the side of the pool for a bit. Then you think to yourself, maybe I should have slowed down, maybe those little things aren’t so important, maybe I need to take a break from the madness. Every time this happens to me, I promise myself I’ll be more proactive and not let myself get to the point of collapse…to let go a bit, to ask for help. It appears I have a lot of conversations with myself 🙂

Why is it so flipping hard to take time for ourselves?! Why do we feel guilty when we do?! We are our own worst enemy, I’m convinced…at least this is the truth in my case. Nobody gives me pressure to do all of the things. I do that to myself! Well, at least admitting you have a problem is the first step…

Self care is a huge goal for me, but one that continues to be so hard. Once I’m stressed, I make myself take time, but it continues to be a challenge for me to be proactive. This summer I had many built-in occasions that allowed me to take time for myself. Between a summer celebration of a college friend’s elopement, an NYC birthday weekend for my lovely mama, and a bachelorette weekend for a dear friend, I had a lot of fun trips. Oh, and some seriously good girlfriend time. It was good for my soul. I did miss my boys while I was gone and there were some times I let the guilt creep in. But overall, this summer was a reminder of how many wonderful people I have in my life and how lucky I am to have a support network that encourages me to take care of myself.

Here are a few snapshots of my summer adventures:

BFF reunion & classy celebration of recent nuptials

BFF reunion & classy celebration of recent nuptials

Feast at Chelsea Market

Feast at Chelsea Market

Mama Cheater Bite & I in Times Square

Mama Cheater Bite & I in Times Square

Bacheloretting in Folly Beach

Bacheloretting in Folly Beach

Celebrating this sassy gal becomming a Mrs.

Celebrating this sassy gal becoming a Mrs.

This weekend, I get to spend away with my wonderful hubby for more celebrating: a wedding in Baltimore and my sis-in-law’s 30th birthday celebration in Arlington. Its going to be great and I’m going to savor every minute, so that next week, when I’m stressed and feeling weighed down by all of the “should do’s,” I’m going to stop and be thankful for the time to celebrate.

So really, all this self care business is not only good for the mama, but for the whole family. How do you all take time for self-care? Please share your wisdom!!

Let’s help each other do better at this! Hands in ladies…

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Curried Cauliflower & Kale Quinoa Salad

Quinoa is one of my favorite things. I want to say grains, but it isn’t actually a grain; its a seed. I have found that most people either love or hate it, and I am firmly in the love camp. I’m always on the hunt for a new variation of this yummy super-food for my lunch or a tasty side to serve with dinner. I honestly don’t cook with curry powder too frequently, but when I saw this recipe I knew I would love it…and I do. The flavors are awesome together. I will definitely be adding this to the quinoa-for-lunch rotation!
curried cauliflower & kale quinoa

you will need:
1 cup quinoa
salt & pepper
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
4 teaspoons curry powder, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
½ cup raisins
juice of ½ lemon

Cook the cup of quinoa according to package directions and set aside to cool after seasoning with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 425°F and prepare the cauliflower. Toss pieces with 2 teaspoons of curry powder, 2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil and salt and pepper. Spread cauliflower out on a non-stick baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes until tender and browned.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons coconut to a large pan set over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the chopped kale and cook until bright green and slightly wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add the cooked quinoa and cauliflower to the pan with the kale. Toss well, then add raisins, lemon juice and season generously with salt and pepper. Eat warm, room temperature or cold, all of the above are delicious!

serves: 4-6
time: 30 minutes
from: adapted only slightly Fooduzzi

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{Where to Shop Wednesday} Colette Paperie

It’s been a while since I’ve done a w-t-s post! I’m back at it this week with a totally non-food related suggestion for you all…Colette Paperie.

I love witty cards…both getting them and sending them. Last year I found Keli last year at the Handmade Arcade and stood at her table cracking up for a good 15 minutes. I purchased some cards then and have since in her online shop.

Here are a few of my favorites:


Go buy some awesome cards in Keli’s online shop now! You’ll give the best cards for all of your upcoming weddings, baby showers and just-cause-you-feel-like-it occasions. You’re welcome 🙂

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{Lightened Up} Eggplant Parm Stacks

Eggplant Parmesan is a delicious dinner, however I always spend the rest of the evening feeling super stuffed. Its a heavy dinner that is more suited for cold weather, but when I got it in the farmshare last week I had a strong desire to bread it :). This recipe is a lighter take on the traditional preparation, keeping the slices separate, limiting the amount of cheese and omitting the heavy tomato sauce. Honestly, I’d take this version over the traditional any time of year.
eggplant parm stacks

I suggest serving with some pasta and simple tomato sauce. I like Trader Joe’s Arrabiatta sauce, it packs a nice flavor for a jar of tomato sauce. Connor says its too spicy for him, so we always have some basic tomato basil variety on hand. Also, leftovers of these eggplant stacks reheat very well in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes. This is an easy dish to whip together on a weeknight and feels much more decadent than it is! That’s a win in my book, for sure.

you will need:
1 medium or 2 small eggplants, peeled and sliced into ½ inch rounds (about 15 slices)
kosher salt
¾ cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon each freshly ground salt and pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
½ cup regular bread crumbs
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 large eggs, beaten
olive oil for pan frying
2-8 ounce balls fresh mozzarella cheese, thickly sliced (about 15 slices)
2 large heirloom tomato or 4-5 plum tomatoes, thickly sliced (about 15 slices)
15 or so leaves of fresh basil
balsamic reduction for drizzling (I LOVE this Cream of Balsamic and always have some in my fridge)

Lay the eggplant slices in a colander or on a wire cooling rack and sprinkle generously with salt and let sit for an hour for the bitter juices to weep. Rinse the eggplant with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. While the eggplant is sitting, prepare your breading ingredients. In one bowl combine the flour, salt and pepper. In a second bowl combine the panko, bread crumbs, parmesan, dried basil and garlic powder. In a third bowl beat the eggs.

Dip each eggplant slice in the flour mixture, then the egg, then the bread crumb mixture. Make sure each slice is fully coated before moving on to the next bowl. Place each breaded slice on a baking sheet until ready to cook.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. You will need to add more oil for a new batch of eggplant slices.

Fry breaded eggplant slices in batches until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. When cooked, set the eggplant slices on a baking sheet. When all eggplant is cooked, top each slice with a piece of mozzarella, then a basil leaf, then a tomato slice. Broil on high until sizzling and tomatoes begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes.

Take out of the oven and drizzle with balsamic reduction/cream of balsamic and serve immediately alongside some pasta with a simple tomato sauce.

serves: 4
time: 15 min prep + 15 min cooking

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