Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fung-tastic Pasta Bake

I realize it's been a few days since I posted. Rather than post my list of excuses, let me just say that I promise to make it up to you.  I have several really neat projects in the  works. Stay tuned this week.  I can't wait to show them to you.

In the meantime, I have a recipe. This is a Rachel Ray style, chopping-is-the-most-complicated-step, one-dish dinner. I was craving pizza this week but didn't have the energy for homemade dough, so I improvised with an easy layer lasagna feel. This turned out to be a tasty, easy dinner. It took 15 minutes from start to oven and could easily feed six.

The key to this dish is the mushrooms. Not just delicious, they are a good source of fiber and protein, also providing B and C vitamins. In a vegetarian dish, mushrooms add heartiness. The carnivore in your family won't miss the meat. I kept the spices simple to emphasize the mushroom's flavor. Hope this helps during a busy week.

Sauce: (You can substitute a jar of tomato basil pasta sauce. I just didn't have any on hand.)
3-16 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 T Basil
2 t salt
2 t sugar

Box of whole wheat rotini
6-8 c water

2 packages of mushrooms, 1 cremini or portabella and 1 white, sliced
1/2 medium onion
1 c ricotta cheese
1 lb grated mozzarella
Grated parmesan, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all sauce ingredients in a medium sauce pan and simmer while preparing the rest of the dish. Combine rotini with water and boil until al dente. If available, use an oven safe pot with a lid so dish can be transferred without dirtying a second piece. While pasta and sauce cook, add 1 T olive oil to large pan and saute mushrooms and onion.
When pasta is cooked, drain and return to oven safe pot (if you don't have a safe pot, use a large baking dish and cover with aluminum foil). Cover the pasta with half the sauce. Spread ricotta cheese and half the mozzarella. Next cover with mushrooms and onion. Spread the rest of the sauce over the mushrooms. Top with remaining mozzarella and a little grated parmesan.
Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove cover and broil for 5 - 10 minutes to brown cheese.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

G's Treasure Tin

Baby G caught me in the act today. I was throwing out a treasure, an empty oatmeal canister. I certainly don't know what I was thinking to miss its hidden potential as G's new box for collectibles. It came complete with a lid. Fortunately, she rescued it immediately and loved it as her own.

After she carried it around all morning, I thought I'd make it pretty. We rummaged through the big craft closet finding fun, glittery paper and Mod Podge.

The only tricky part was keeping the card stock conformed to the round container. Thank goodness for rubber bands.

The finished project. 

If you're thinking that my one year old really doesn't care if it says "G" or "100% Whole Grain Oats," you are correct. Sometimes a project is worth doing just because it's easy, or because you really like the smell of Mod Podge. At any rate, G now has a pretty treasure canister that she can call her own.
It always helps when your treasure chest is full of play silks!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Organizing our Stuff

This morning:

Baby A slept;

Baby G played by herself (YAY!)

 The Result: 

Yarn/craft on one side...

Gear on the other!

I really love having the house stream-lined, organized, simple. Generally, our house looks this way one day a month (usually when Real Simple arrives - all those beautiful, sparse rooms). Why? Two project lovers married. A recipe for huge messes, messes with prolonged conclusions. Who wants to put the project away in the middle of it just because you aren't going to have time to work on it for 4 days? But today, I'm one step closer to that beautiful, sleek house.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Not so fussy fish

My sister and her college roommate are on the paleo diet. It's based on the understanding that since our ancestors were hunter/gatherers, our digestive systems evolved to match the diet they ate - lots of meat, fruits, veggies; no legumes, tubers or grains.

The girls came home from classes at the end of last semester, bone weary, only to be further deflated when they opened the fridge. They had no "easy" food. No sandwiches, no cereal, no mac n' cheese. Everything had to be cooked. The roommate lamented that all their food was "fussy." What a cute, appropriate phrase.

I feel for them. Our house is similar. We keep healthy food on hand so we won't be tempted with junk, and everything is scratch ingredients. Want a cookie? We have the ingredients to make 100 types of cookies, but we have to mix, chill and bake them.

So what about Sunday nights? Sunday nights are the night I most want Chickfila (specifically because they're closed, so I'm jonesing for waffle fries). Actually, Sundays are just hard. I identify with single moms on Sundays. We wake up early to get pastor husband out the door with breakfast and coffee in hand, then I feed and dress the girls by myself, pack two diaper bags for separate nurseries, then navigate church with a 15 month old and an infant. Blurgh.

This morning was especially rough. G talked through her early nap, A decided eating was overrated, then as we're walking out the door, G trips and busts her lip, dripping blood down her shirt and skirt. *sigh.

This evening, DH is back at work. I got the girls through arsenic hour, a 45-minute dinner (the joys of self feeding) and a bath. The last thing I want to do is make another mess preparing a fussy dinner.

Enter my new favorite no fuss health food... the sardine.

What??? you say. The sardine? Really? I love them. Tiny packets of protein, vitamins B12 and D, omega-3's and calcium. They are amazing on a sandwich or salad with spinach, chopped onion, olives and hardboiled egg. And, they're precooked. If you don't like them, you don't like them. But if you're even neutral, pick up a can.

That's my tip of the day. Try sardines. They might surprise you.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Baby Update

I left you hanging in my 2nd trimester - all that whining and then no baby pics. Sorry. At least I didn't post the last month of whining. It was bad - partial bed rest for 3 weeks, lots of tylenol. On the bright side, I knitted... alot.

The highlights:
August - September - blah. You didn't miss much - lots of monitoring Baby A for possible complications that never materialized (Hallelujah!).
The three of us in the hospital parking lot - thought this might be our last 3 member family photo, but A fooled us

October - We moved! And our house in Knoxville sold! We've had a very eventful Fall. In regards to our new house, let me quote P.D. Eastman: 
"I love my house. 
 I love my nest.
In all the world, my nest is best!"
I sobbed with relief when I found out we were finally going to be settled in Virginia with our own furniture in a long term rental. To top it off, this house is perfect for us. Because we moved shortly before A was born, I unpacked the necessities and threw the rest in storage without any organization at all. This week, I started digging through boxes, throwing out more stuff thanks to a kick in the pants from Real Simple.

October 31st - G celebrated her 1st birthday with her adopted gp's, a big piece of chocolate cake and a line of trick or treaters singing "Happy Birthday" (her name was butchered all night long).

November 25th - awesome Thanksgiving. We watched the Macy's Parade and the Dog Show with G, my family drove all morning to have dinner with us, and we spent the evening with our best friends. I loved it! Did I mention no cooking or cleaning?!

November 26th - Tim navigated Black Friday traffic on our way to the hospital at 7. Afton Grey Ellis was born at 9:26 am, weighing 7 lbs. 10 oz and stretching 19 1/2". I liked this birth - so much calmer. Baby did great; I felt good; we went home a day early. The experience fits Afton. She's a relaxed baby. Gwennan didn't fuss much, but she was intense from the start, just ask anyone she's stared down in the grocery store.

The following 5 weeks, various parts of our families stayed with us to care for G while I recovered from surgery (A big shout out to Mom and Mom - you were life savers!).

We spent 6 days as a 4 member family, then a trip to K'town for a belated Christmas.
Nieces with their Aunties!! 

Now, we're back to normal, well "new normal." Everyone warned me that two babies was going to be more than twice as much work, and it is. But I don't feel particularly hectic or worn out. In other words, God is being incredibly gracious to us, and I'm enjoying our Irish twins. Just don't call during arsenic hour.

Playing in the backyard with Sissy. 
I remember visiting a friend with four little ones whose house felt remarkably peaceful. Her kids had an established routine, and she was quiet, even when they were not. I pray that our house feels like that. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

About a blog

I'm eating a sectioned grapefruit right now.

I like grapefruit; it's good for me.

Mostly I'm eating it because the process conjures a scene from "Little Women" where Jo March is writing her novel while eating an orange. Somehow I hope to channel my favorite fictional character through citrus.

This blog causes great turmoil for me. The very act of blogging assumes that someone on the internet is going to find my writing compelling enough to devote time reading it. Not just one thought, either, but every time I take up the notion to post.

By creating a blog, I'm claiming digital importance - Read me! I'm interesting.

Please understand - the problem IS that I believe I'm inherently entertaining.

And my dilemma... I want to appear humble as well.

That's right, appear. As a Christian, I know I'm called to humility; therefore, I want to appear humble. Actual humility would mean changing my prideful way of thinking and accepting my actual place in human history.

Even now, I want to turn this post in a poignant direction that appears to honor Christ but actually just makes me look like I'm a really humble person claiming not to be humble because that's what humble people actually do. Good grief - I'm sick!

Subconsciously I started this blog to self aggrandize. Ironically, I was deflated by the lack of interest people showed - few hits, even fewer comments. To my frustration, the sea of people online weren't interested in my meager "crafty" resume'.

I'm sorry for my approach to this blog. I'm sorry for my online bragging. Thank you to whomever read it. I hope to be more honest in any future posts. Stick with me; I'm growing. Thanks.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stuffed Peppers

Sometimes I miss the blog, like today after I made a delicious meal and want to share it. Problem is I'm really busy with the two girls and forget things like taking pictures of said meal. But for those of you who don't mind a recipe without a picture, here goes:

1 c wild rice or brown rice
3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 t of salt
1 c ricotta cheese (could substitute cottage cheese)
1/2 c spanish olives, chopped
1/2 c mozzarella cheese
1/2 t paprika
1/4 t cayenne pepper

3 bell peppers

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cook rice with carrots and salt in water according to directions. While rice mixture cooks, chop olives and mix with spices, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses (hold out a little mozzarella to sprinkle on top of peppers). Cut peppers in half length wise, removing seeds but leaving the stems to retain the shape of the pepper.
When rice is cooked, combine with cheese and olives then fill peppers, covering with remaining mozzarella.
Place peppers in a baking dish with 1/4" of water and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and broil for additional 5 minutes until cheese browns.

Enjoy this easy all-in-one meal.


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