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Monday, November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday Soup

The turkey has finally disappeared, the last piece of pie consumed and family has departed back to their respective homes.  Thanksgiving is over and this means only one thing to me....CYBER MONDAY has arrived!

For those of you unfamiliar, Cyber Monday is the "Black Friday" of the online shopping world.  Personally, I very much dislike shopping at the mall, at department stores or at big box retailers.  I always have.  The one kind of shopping I enjoy (and have become rather proficient at) is online shopping.  For myself, for my husband and daughter, for gifts, for diapers, even for groceries; shopping online is a daily occurrence in my house and today is a day I look forward to all year long.

If you venture out into cyberspace today you will find almost every retailer has incentives, discounts and sales. Free shipping, two for one, 20% - 60% off your orders, the deals are plentiful!  I have found several online stores I love and would love to share them with you.

TheFind.com  is one of my favorites.  This site offers the ease of typing in an item you are looking for and then provides photos, pricing and links to thousands of retailers offering what you are looking for.  It saves time by consolidating your search and allows you to compare prices without having to toggle back and forth between web pages.

ShopStyle.com  is similar to the find but is clothing specific.  You can search for clothing, accerssories, shoes, etc. offering women's, men's and children's options all in one place.  Type in "Brown Leather Riding Boots" for example and it will provide a plethora of photos with pricing which when clicked on, take you to the retailers web site for purchase.

Zulilly.com is one of my absolute favorite children's and maternity online stores.  This site is a membership site, enter in your email and receive daily offers deals year round on some of the top children's brands (clothing, shoes, accessories, decor, toys and more) as well as maternity wear and accessories.  Zulily offers daily discounts from 20% - 60% for a limited period of time (usually 72 hours or until items are sold out) and with designers and stores changing daily it always offers something new for all of your needs.

Today was a perfect Cyber Monday, rainy and cold, a wonderful day to stay inside and shop online.  And the good news is the day is not over, the deals are still plentiful, so get online before the day is done and enjoy the savings!

Below you will find a hearty and healthy Chicken Veggie Rice Soup recipe that is perfect for a rainy, cold Cyber Monday.  Easy and delicious you can make this soup while shopping to your hearts content online.  Also a great post-Thanksgiving soup if you still have leftovers. Just substitute chopped cooked turkey for the chicken and skip the first three steps in the directions.  Add the turkey when you add the peas and there you go, your fridge is clear of Turkey Day remnants.  Enjoy!

Chicken Veggie Rice Soup

Ingredients
12 Cups Organic Chicken Broth
1.5 Pounds Organic Chicken Breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
24 Oz. Organic Kidney Beans, drained
4 Medium Organic Yellow Squash, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
6 Medium Organic Carrots, peeled and cut into nickle-sized slices
1 Bunch Organic Celery, leaves removed and chopped
1 Large Organic Yellow Onion, peeled and diced
1 Bag Frozen Organic Peas
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 Teaspoons Sea Salt
3 Teaspoons Ground Black Pepper, divided
2 Teaspoons Red Pepper Flakes
2 Teaspoons Oregano
2 Teaspoons Garlic Salt
1 Teaspoon Cumin

Directions 

  • In medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium and saute garlic for 3 minutes.
  • Add chicken pieces, sprinkle with oregano, garlic salt and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, cooking for 8 - 10 minutes or until cooked through
  • Combine chicken broth and rice in a large stock pot over medium high heat, cover and bring to a boil
  • Boil for 7 minutes
  • Add onions and celery to stock pot, stirring to combine.  Cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes
  • Add carrots, kidney beans, squash, remaining spices and chicken to stock pot, stirring to combine.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add peas, cover and reduce heat to medium low.  Continue to simmer for an additional 15 - 20 minutes or until carrots pierce easily with a fork.
  • Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  This soup can also be frozen (allow to cool at room temperature first) and will last up to 6 months.
  • Enjoy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thankful? Yes, indeed.

Thanksgiving is upon us you will no doubt be seeing a plethora of "thankful" blog posts, Facebook posts and Tweets this week.  I have no doubt we are innately all thankful for many things but having the opportunity to tell those we love, those we admire and those who support us how thankful we are, is such a gift. I hope you will take time over the upcoming holiday to surround yourselves with family, friends, goodness, love, thankfulness and of course, wonderful food.

T......is for THANKFUL which I am for so many, many things.  Good and bad, life does not always let us choose the destination but  I have found the journey is often the greatest, most surprising gift.
H.....is HARPER, for the precious gift of our healthy, wonderful, beautiful, sweet girl.
A.....is for AHHH!  I finally feel at 31 years old that I have found my purpose, my peace, my place and could not be happier.
N.....is for is for NATE, my brother who I have had the great fortune of also calling my friend. He is a husband, uncle and father-to-be who I admire so much. He has an envious work ethic, he makes me laugh and he has such a generous, kind heart.  I am so very lucky to share life's journeys with my brother!
K.....is for KEVIN, the most wonderful, supportive, loving, thoughtful husband and father I know.  I am thankful every day to have my best friend, my greatest source of laughter, and someone with the patience of thousands, by my side.
S......is for SISTERS, who this year and always have been a great source of laughter, support, friendship, and pure joy in my life.  Although not sisters by blood, we are sisters at heart and I am so fortunate to have you both.
G.....is for GOING PLACES, which we have done a lot of this year.  Spending time with friends and family we love (who live too far away) is so valuable to us and I am so thankful this year has been filled with so many wonderful places and most importantly, with some of our favorite people.
I.......is for INCREDIBLE FRIENDS who have wiped my tears, shared my smiles and have been with me for so many of life's ups and downs.  You are all so special to me and I am truly thankful for each of you.
V.....is for VARIETY and learning to embrace life with all the changes it brings.
I.......is for INTROSPECTION which I have done much of this year.  It has made me question myself at my core but has allowed me to reach a place where I realize I am happy with me, happy with life and thankful for all of the good and bad that I bring to the table.  I am a stronger person because of it, with a quieter head and softer heart and I am so thankful for that.
N....is for NINE MONTHS of cravings, tears, fears, smiles, kicks, tumbles, fist pumps and wiggles in my belly.  Although it is well known I was not a fan of being pregnant, when I hold my daughter I would happily do it all again and again - I am thankful for the great gift and honor of carrying my sweet baby girl.
G....is for GRANDPARENTS. Grandma, Grandpa, Grammy & Gramps...as our parents we questioned you, we challenged you, we made you laugh, we made you cry, we have made you proud (which I know because you tell us so!), we have started our own lives with the foundation you poured your hearts and souls into.  Getting to know you as GRANDPARENTS, we now see all of the things we missed while we were looking at "our parents" - your love, your care, your helpfulness, your support, hugs and kisses....Harper is so incredibly lucky to have you in her life and so are Kevin and I.

THANKSGIVING is a wonderful occasion celebrating THANKFULNESS, such a powerful, wonderful gift.  Wishing you many days, things and people to fill your hearts with thankfulness today and always.

I thought I would share one of my favorite recipes and an excellent substitute for the mound of mashed potatoes that typically accompany the Thanksgiving Day turkey. Easy, delicious and wholesome, Cauliflower Mash is a delightful side to any dish!

Cauliflower Mash

Ingredients:
2 Heads Organic Cauliflower
1 Cup Organic Light Sour Cream
3 Tablespoons Organic Parmesan Cheese, shredded
1 Cup Water
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Directions:

  • Chop cauliflower into 1 inch pieces (eyeball, doesn't have to be exact) 

  • In a medium saucepan, combine water and chopped cauliflower 
  • Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, boil for 10 - 15 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork
  • Remove from heat and strain excess water
  • Place cauliflower in a medium mixing bowl and blend with a hand mixer until smooth.
  • Fold in sour cream and mix by hand until well combined
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Sprinkle with cheese just prior to serving
  • Enjoy!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chocolate Chip Comfort

I have had a decidedly uneventful week this week.  The weather has been cold, too cold to get outside and enjoy the fresh air.  The sky is dark at 5:30 p.m. now and makes for one sleepy little lady by 7:00 p.m.  We stayed home this weekend and enjoyed doing a whole lot of nothing (divine!) but on that note, quiet weekends do not interesting blog posts make.

So, since I deprived you of a recipe last week, I thought I would offer up one of my all time favorites for you to enjoy.
 
Call me old fashioned but I sincerely believe every Mom should have a go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe in their cooking repertoire.  I substitute brown rice flour for all purpose flour and I promise you won't be able to tell the difference.  In fact, I would argue the cookies are actually more flavorful using the brown rice flour and are certainly more wholesome.  Also, you can use margarine instead of butter if you choose however I am a big proponent of cooking with real food - real butter, real sugars, etc.  You can feel good about this wholesome recipe and trust me, if these chocolate chip cookies don't bring you comfort on a cool day, you are in for a very long winter.

In addition, I always double the recipe (you will notice this in the photos) and put 75% of the dough in the freezer for later.  I love being able to make a few cookies at a time fresh from the freezer when the craving calls or when I have guests expectantly or otherwise. Please see below for instructions on freezing the dough.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 Cups Brown Rice Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Cup Organic Salted Butter, softened
2 Large Organic Eggs
1 Cup Organic Brown Sugar, packed
1 Cup Organic Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 Cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (I use Ghiradelli because they are all natural)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine rice flour and baking soda and set aside

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine sugars and butter, blending at medium speed until smooth

  • Add eggs and vanilla, stirring to combine

  • Slowly add in flour combination to butter and sugar combination, mixing by hand until well blended

  • Stir in chocolate chips

  • Spoon dough onto ungreased baking sheet (approximately 1.5 inch rounds)

  • Bake for 10 - 11 minutes or until edges begin to brown

  • Remove from pan and cool on rack for 5 minutes

  • Enjoy!

Freezing Directions
  • Place a large piece of waxed paper on a cutting board
  • Scoop 2 Cups of dough onto the waxed paper

  • Form dough into a log

  • Roll log in waxed paper


  • Place covered log into a zip closure freezer bag

  • Repeat until dough is gone.
  • To serve, remove from freezer and cut portion of log you wish to use.  Spoon dough onto cookie sheet and bake as directed above.  Return unused portion to the freezer. (dough can be frozen for up to 6 months)


Monday, November 7, 2011

Lesson Learned

We had the wonderful pleasure of heading west to visit some of our favorite friends in San Francisco this weekend.  Traveling anywhere with a 5 month old is a gamble but a four and a half hour flight is truly risky.  Luckily, our daughter was a gem on the way to San Fran, kicking off an amazing weekend.

Lesson learned.....it was too much to ask for the flight home to go as well.  Take the three hour time change in conjunction with a flight time around normal bedtime and turning the clocks back, suddenly we found ourselves as "those people".  Those people who had a screaming, inconsolable, exhausted baby.....on an airplane for four and a half hours.  She started fussing as we taxied and didn't stop until she passed out from exhaustion three hours into the flight.

YES, we were those people who were trying anything and everything to comfort our little girl; those people who looked like we must be borrowing someone else's baby because certainly this couldn't be our own child we were trying unsuccessfully to quiet.  I was sweating profusely while I tried to rock her in my seat.  I was flashing everyone around me as I tried to nurse her while she kicked and flailed so much she was everywhere but under my nursing cover up. We were those people getting scolded by the flight attendants for trying to walk with her up and down the aisle while the seat belt sign was on.

My husband was doing his best to help quell the situation by showing her toys, singing to her, trying to make her laugh - she batted at him with the aggression of a seasoned warrior, she wanted nothing to do with any of it.  We were those people who tried politely to ignore the woman across the aisle asking if she could help.  Did we want her bracelet for the baby to play with?  Offering genius advice such as, "Maybe she's hungry?".  Oh, well of course!  Why didn't we think of that?  I really thought as we passed over Kansas they might open an escape hatch somewhere and gently push us out.....and at that point, I may not have even resisted.

We have all been on a flight with a crying baby (or several) but only now do I fully understand the hell that I have seen on the faces of those poor parents.  You are trapped, there is nowhere to go, nothing to be done.  When you have exhausted all options and still have a screaming child, when you have started to tear up yourself because you feel helpless, when you start to wonder if something more serious is happening with your baby, just as the panic sets in - this is when it stops.  Finally, an exhausted baby slumps against your shoulder and is quiet.  A collective sigh passes through the cabin from everyone around you who have been covering there ears with pillows, shaking their heads, rolling their eyes.  Finally, quiet.

By the way, if you are ever in this situation and the baby screaming is not yours, please refrain from offering your wisdom to the parents.  It's bad enough when as the baby's parents you can't do any of the usual tricks to keep the peace, but having complete strangers suggest obvious solutions (although well meaning) could lead to violence.

Lesson learned........we survived, however, the battle aboard flight 794 is forever ingrained in our minds.....as well as that of the other 180 passengers on board.

You will notice I do not have a recipe to post this week (unless you want a recipe for a travelling disaster, then please see above) but will have something delicious to share again next time.