Saturday, September 28, 2013

Butternut Squash Pasta

Fall has officially arrived in Philly--the leaves are changing, nights are crispy chilly, and the farmer's market is full of squash, pumpkins, and apples. I'm in heaven.



So when Jessica from How Sweet Eats linked to this recipe for a butternut squash macaroni and cheese, I was psyched. I'd just received a free (local and organic) butternut squash from my friend Melissa, who had gotten the veg in her CSA box but was leaving for vacation and couldn't use it.



She informed me that I had been "voted the friend most likely to put it to good use" (by her), so I decided to make her proud.


Or something.



And guys? This recipe was intense. I spent probably an hour or so in the kitchen, and it was a good amount of hands-on work. But it was totally worth it.



I skipped the panko crumbs on top, but this pasta bake was heavenly. The butternut squash was so creamy and slightly sweet, and the gooey cheddar was just...delicious. The chorizo wasn't particularly spicy, but it was good for texture and just to have some meat (so it could count as a real meal in my house).



So, if you find some butternut squash and have a little extra time to spend in the kitchen on a cool fall evening, try this one out! It was totally worth the time and effort.





Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Roasted Veggie Soup

Sooo, you remember how I was so excited about my roasted veggie plan?



Yeah, after eating heaping helpings of roasted veggies five times in four days...I was kind of over them. Not in a permanent way, just in a I'm-so-not-taking-these-for-lunch-tomorrow way.



But how could I waste all that deliciousness? Those roasted veggies needed some new life, my friends.



Enter....soup!



I love soup. I love pretty much any kind of soup, but I especially love good, hearty soups that fill you up and warm your soul. A good chicken noodle soup is nice, but nothing is quite like a rich potato or broccoli cheddar soup.



Mmm. Those might need to happen soon.



Anyways, I grabbed what was left of my sad little roasted veggies,





Heated up some broth,





Warmed the veggies in the broth,





And blended! Add some half-and-half for creaminess, and some of these guys for a little kick.






Voila. Roasted veggies get a five minute makeover.






And for the record, I had a big bowl of this with a hunk of challah bread, and it was delish. I only blended for maybe 10 seconds tops, since I'm a nut about texture and can't handle super smooth pureed soups after more than few bites (even that tomato soup I made had some chunks left in it).



I'd like to call this a fall chowder, but really I'm not sure what makes a chowder a chowder. Any helpful cooks out there?


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Why "Why" Cannot be Answered

Full disclosure: I teared up at the reading of this post. 



By now you should be familiar with Jen Hatmaker's blog, but this is beyond beautiful and needs to be shared. 



A coworker shared with me that a personal tragedy early in her life led her to reject God and organized religion in every way, shape or form. If only someone with this perspective had reached out to her, instead of saying "God has a purpose." 



There is a time for mourning, as for everything else. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Currently...

Cooking: ALL THE FALL FOODS!!! Seriously guys, I don't know when I've been so motivated to cook all the things. I'm going nuts over squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, apples...holy moly. At least it's good for us (?) because we're eating lots of seasonal, homemade stuff. Except when it's cookies. Especially when it's cookies?



Planning: The 5th annual Oktoberfest!! Well, not quite, but mostly I'm astonished that this is our 5th year. It's an awesome day of apple picking and eating of delicious foods. And Oktoberfest beer, of course.



Excited about: The crisp fall air. It just furthers my belief that we all need to be simmering apples into sauce, pumpkins into pie, and sweet potatoes into soup. I'm in heaven.



Watching: (I purposely saved this one for last so I can geek out without losing all of my readers right away) DR. WHO. Oh.my.gosh. Words cannot describe the level of fandom I have achieved in an astonishingly short time. This is my first time through the show, and I cannot stop watching (and really, why would you?). My favorite doctor so far is 10, although I've only seen 9 and 10. When I'm finished with the new series, I'm going to go back and watch all of the old ones as well, but I knew I'd want to be up on the current ones, so I started there.


What more is there to say about the Doctor? You just need to go watch it. Like, now. It's amazing, and it will consume your life in the best possible way.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday Food-Day

(Just a heads up that posts may be slowing down now that school has started...thanks for continuing to stop by!)



I love the new school year for a lot of reasons, but one of them is pretty simple--it feels like a fresh start. I basically get an extra "new years" to make (and break) promises to myself and others. One of those promises is usually about eating well.





I actually love vegetables (probably thanks to parents who always encouraged us to be in the kitchen, and having a large veggie garden in the backyard that taught me about the wonders of sun-ripened summer tomatoes). So, it's not terribly difficult to eat my veggies, except...



it kind of is.



This is my two-week old method of getting my veggies in. It's nothing mind-blowing, and it's pretty fool proof:


Cauliflower and broccoli (my personal favorite)


Yellow squash and zucchini


Sweet potatoes (Dan's favorite)!



Roast 'em!



Honest to goodness, roasted veggies feel like a treat. Nothing else I've tried brings out the glorious flavors and textures. I use these basic implements,






And add these guys as I see fit (sweet potatoes with paprika and garlic is heavenly, even Dan agrees).





I'll divide up these goodies into little bowls with brown rice (I'm a big fan of a shortcut here: I use Uncle Ben's Ready Rice and just nuke a couple packs. There are no preservatives, and while they don't have a ton of flavor, they're perfect with a hearty serving of roasted veggies) and have lunch all week long.



Best part? It takes me about an hour, start to finish, on Sunday afternoon.



Then I get to make some cookies with these babies.






I can't make any promises as to how long this system will last, but so far it's delicious, and it's actually training my body to crave vegetables every day. I'm not packing myself any sweet snacks, just fruit and maybe a granola bar or something salty.



Let the healthy(ish) eating commence! What's your favorite thing to pack for lunch? Or are you lucky enough to buy or make at home?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Conquering the Consequences

It's been quite some time since I've given an update on my garden, and there are two main reasons for that.



One is that this summer has been REALLY weird weather-wise, starting with a cold, wet, spring, then a hot, wet, summer, then really mild, almost-fall-like weather. Apparently this summer is actually the wettest on record, in addition to some strange temps.



Second is that I'm lazy. Both when it comes to actually working on my garden, and attempting to document it.



And I'm here to show you what reaping the seeds (pun intended) of laziness looks like.






It's been weeks since I've so much as touched a weed, as you can clearly see.





So, I decided to spend some time while on Rosh Hashanah break to clean up the garden (last year my MIL, whose yard I borrow to garden, decided very suddenly to clear out the garden about six weeks before the season ended, and I wanted to give her a reason to not do that this year, especially since the squash will go on for a while yet). She actually came out to help me while I was there (score!) and about an hour later we had this:






Much better. (Also, now she knows to not tear everything out just yet.)






We also staked up one of my sad little pepper plants, since it's been consumed by squash (never again, people. Those things are vicious). It's actually producing, so I wanted to give it a fighting chance.






And, once we cleared away the pile of weeds, we found...






The first real spaghetti squash! (And a tomato...)




Praise the Lord and tune your fiddles (?!), my garden hasn't been a complete flop this year.



I'm going to do some work this fall in the soil-amending departments by adding some leaves, ashes, and hopefully compost, and my FIL mentioned renting a tiller for the spring so we can really work the soil and, fingers crossed, have a better garden next year.



And PA gardeners with tips, tricks, or better exclamations than "tune your fiddles," share your thoughts!



Thursday, September 5, 2013

Back to It!

(By the way, we've broken 5000 site visits! You guys rock! If you follow me using the link on the right-hand side of the page, it'll be easier than ever to know when I've updated!)



Labor Day weekend has come and gone, meaning that school is baaaack!



I can't decide if this is more "womp womp" or "woohoo!"



"Womp womp" because...well, I have to go back to work.



"Woohoo" because...I actually like my work!



My district wasn't able to offer me a teaching position for this school year (and last year's job as 2nd grade teacher was only a year-long gig). However, they have moved me from my old aide job in multiple disabilities to an aide job (in another elementary school) in learning support. This is kind of sad because I'll miss my friends and kiddos, but also really exciting because this position has more academic emphasis, and I'll get to work closely with students on their actual lessons.



I'm sure there will be plenty of posts to come on school and the cool things I get to do there. The learning support teachers I'm working with seem really great, and they expect me to not just shadow kids and help them when they need it, but to take an active role in helping these kids succeed. Since that's the stuff that kind of makes my job worthwhile, I'm super excited to jump in.



I'll keep you posted! How was your Labor Day weekend? Are you gearing up for anything new or exciting this fall?





Monday, September 2, 2013

Simplest Ever Wall Art

At the very beginning of the summer when I was feeling all ambitious about the imagined amounts of time and energy I would possess to tackle all kinds of exciting projects (ha) I vowed to do "at least one craft" this summer.



My husband likes to remind me about this, as I sit watching 30 Rock for the fourth time through and whining about going back to school.


Source


I do, however, like to organize my stuff, and so I set about cleaning out and reorganizing my craft supplies. Which led to this--the easiest, awesomest, fakest craft-turned-decorative-wall-art a girl could ever hope for.



Just in time, since summer is (for all intents and purposes) over. Womp womp.



It all started with some pretty fabrics from Michael's (you know, the little squares they sell to quilters, bundled into little packets of coordinating color). Add some cheap-o embroidery hoops, and voila!






Instant wall art.





And when I say "instant," I mean pretty darn instant. I put the fabric on the inside (smaller) hoop, fitted the outside hoop snugly around, and tightened. Then I trimmed the excess fabric off. Then I stuck some thumbtacks in my wall (cause I'm high-tech like that) and hung them up.


All said and done, I'd say this was about 10 minutes of my life. Not counting the two minutes I spent deliberating on which fabric to put in which hoop (the biggest hoop is my favorite fabric, obviously).





My friend Liz, who has a good eye for decorating her home (which she has done beautifully, I might add) is going to do this on a larger scale with some awesome printed burlap we found at Joann's. If you I ask really nicely, maybe she'll let me take a picture and put it up here!



So, if you're looking for a super quick and easy way to dress up a room, here ya go!