Monday, December 19, 2011

Hustle and Bustle

I’m officially one day shy of a month since my last post.  I’m finally getting a new one up just under the wire.  I would be lying if I said that wasn’t metaphoric for the rest of my Christmas preparations… 

Teacher gifts due tomorrow (all eleven of em): haven’t finished
Cookies for Santa and neighbors: Made them, then ate 90% of them.  Oops.
Christmas shopping: not even close to finished
Christmas wrapping: HA! now that’s funny

I’m not the only female whose running shoes are getting a little extra workout this month.
Can’t say I’ve been cooking up a whole lot of masterpieces in the past month.  Thank God for the Crockpot… there is nothing better than dumping something in there first thing in the morning, spending the day running around like a mad woman, then coming home to a house that smells awesome coupled with the knowledge that dinner is done.

Thanks to my Pinterest friends for pinning this gem and trying it out first!  It’s a winner. I modified the sauce a bit to be more potent, and added some veggies.

Crockpot Thai Peanut Chicken

1 lb Chicken Thigh (breast is good too, but I like thigh way better in the crockpot… holds up better than breast especially if you want to start your crockpot earlier in the day and leave it for more than 5 hours).
1 cup salsa
1/3 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
Juice from 1 lime
2 tbl Soy Sauce
2 tsp fresh or dried ginger
1/4 cup lite coconut milk
Red Chili sauce (for more kick)
Cilantro for garnish
Broccoli (my chosen veggie) … Next time I’m doing red pepper

Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl… salsa



Soy Sauce

Coconut Milk… since you only use 1/4 cup, I meal planned THIS later in the week and saved the rest for that .

Mix er up

Pour over chicken in the crockpot… I know… looks so appetizing!  Cook for 5-7 hours on low

So I wanted to add some kind of veggie so I wasnt just eating straight up peanut butter rice.  Broccoli would have been AWESOME… if I put it in the right time (which would have been about an hour before serving).  I accidently added it about 5 hours before we ended up eating it, so the broccoli got pretty mushy.  Red pepper would be a better choice next time because it holds up better for long periods in the crockpot.  You could throw the red pepper in at the beginning with the chicken/sauce.

On the flip side… the broccoli got so mushed up that the kids didn’t even know it was in there!  Gotchya!

Overall a winner… flavors were mild enough for small people, easy as can be to throw together, and I actually had all the ingredients on hand anyway.  A great quick meal!

May you and your family have a wonderful Christmas together!  I’ll be back in 2012, renewed and ready for a lot more posts in the new year!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

HungrySister Presents: Sausage Pumpkin Cornbread Stuffing Muffins

Like HungryMom said, it's still pumpkin time! I made these 'stuffing muffins' for my work's Iron Chef: Pumpkin competition and I liked them so much I'm bringing them home for Thanksgiving. I adapted this RealSimple recipe to make these single serving muffins and they are really ADDICTING. Hot or cold, I couldn't get enough - and I hope you feel the same way!

You'll need:

3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 jalapenos, minced (with seeds)
2 or 3 stalks of celery, chopped (not pictured)
One small onion, diced
12 corn muffins or two 8.5-oz corn-bread mixes, prepared and crumbled (10 cups). (You'll see that I just bought 4 large cornbread muffins because I forgot how many I needed, and it was fine! I also made this with 8 muffins instead of 4 once…it was still good. You really can't mess it up)
One 15 oz can pumpkin
One 14 oz can chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup fresh sage or 1 heaping tbsp dried sage (I used two or three because I love sage :) )

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Chop up the onion, celery, and jalapeno and saute in a large skillet for 5 minutes or so. Add the sausage and cook until no longer pink. (I failed to take a picture of the sausage)

While your skillet is a-sizzlin crumble up your cornbread muffins. I thought this was a nice before and after shot!

Add cornbread to the pan once the sausage is cooked. Fold in the pumpkin, broth, cranberries, and sage. (I was pretty bad at taking pictures of all the steps! How does HM do it?)

Next, add heaping spoonfuls of this delicious concoction into a greased muffin tin. Pop in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until set (aka bake them until you can scoop them out of the muffin tin all in one piece).

If you can manage it, let the muffins cool. If you can't handle it, eat 2 or 3 immediately.

When I first sent HungryMom a picture of these she said "I can't decide if they look awesome or gross."

Whether you think they look awesome or gross, I promise you they taste amazing!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It’s Still Pumpkin Time

“MOM! Don’t they know it’s not Christmas yet?!”

I’ve trained my kids well.  The Wreaths and Big Red Bows that don every shopping center in suburbia are perplexing to them.  At this house, Christmas celebrations start AFTER Thanksgiving.   Admittedly, RIGHT after Thanksgiving since I usually drag the Christmas boxes out the minute the last turkey sandwich is gobbled up.  

Let me be the first to confess, I was actually not that annoyed to see Red Christmas cups at Starbucks before Halloween.  I mean, I really really do love Christmas and everything about it.  But there is something sad about the way we, as a society, are always chomping at the bit for the next big event.  Can’t I just enjoy my family, and my turkey, and this very moment before the media starts stressing me out about that packed December calendar, the fact that I still have pumpkins out front, the financial stress of the holidays, the fact that I have “25 days 20 hours and 16 minutes” to finish my holiday shopping, and quite frankly everything else that distracts me from the TRUE meaning of Christmas.  

I’ve felt the same stresses lately related to running.  It’s time to decide what I want to do about a Spring marathon, and I just feel torn about my decision.  While I appreciate looking forward and planning for what’s next to come, I don’t want to be always so focused on what’s ahead that I miss what’s current.  I want to enjoy November for what it is… a time to pause, reflect, and be thankful for the here and now.

Today I’m thankful for a 70 degree morning and short sleeves on my run.

I’m thankful that I get to write this post with a cute little 18 month old on my lap feeding me crackers.

I’m thankful that it is November, and I don’t feel guilty about still having my pumpkins out front and Pumpkin Chili for dinner.

This recipe is super easy and healthy too.  You can easily adapt it to stovetop and have it ready in 30 minutes but I prefer the crockpot so I can make it a convenient time and basically just keep it warm until dinner.

Oh and, the cute 18 month old found the delete button on the computer so use your imagination for the first few pictures.

Pumpkin Turkey Chili
(also… super easy to double but this easily feeds 4)

1 pound lean Ground Turkey
1 yellow pepper
1/2 an onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes 
1 14 oz can Chicken Broth (or more depending on how soupy or thick you like your chili)
1 14 oz Can Canellini Beans (drained)
1 14 oz can Pumpkin Puree (pure pumpkin, NOT the pumpkin pie puree)
3 tablespoons chili powder
Whatever chili toppings you like… I went with cheese, scallions and greek yogurt

In a skillet, brown the ground turkey.  About 3/4 of the way through add peppers, onion and garlic.  I like to saute the veggies a bit before I throw it in the crock-pot because I feel like it helps to bring out the flavors a bit more, especially if I have less than 4 hours of crock-pot time.

Move to the crock-pot

Then start the dumping… dump tomatoes

dump the pumpkin… the pumpkin makes this creamy and awesome!!

Drain and wash the canellini beans

annnnd dump

Now the chili powder

The chicken broth

Then cover the top and let her go.

The longer you let this go in the crockpot the thicker it gets.  I only had about 3 hours before dinner but it was still awesome.

Annnd you caught me… that’s totally not greek yogurt but a big dollop of sour cream.  :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Kind of, But Better

Pardon the lack of posts, but I just ran a marathon.

Well kind of, but better.  Last Saturday night I set my alarm for 4:15 am.  It made me nervous that more than a few people were depending on my timeliness.  Becca and I decided on a whim that we would take our first-time marathoner friends into DC for the Marine Corp Marathon.  I have spectated MCM in the past… two years ago when I was sidelined halfway through the training season due to a very welcomed setback (pregnant with Sage), I went into the city with my sis-in-law, Kate, to spectate her first marathon.  I ran some of the course with her and she told me later that my presence from miles 20-26 was a huge help.

While I believed that I helped her by being there, I didn’t wholly grasp the value of having a pal to get you through the tough marathon miles until Meredith did it for me this past September!  And by some miles, I mean 14 miles, in her case.  Without a doubt, my marathon time would have been a different one without her encouragement.

So when the opportunity presented itself for me to “pay it forward” at MCM I was all about it.  I can thank the four years of Field Hockey, Lacrosse and Track in high school for teaching me about competition, teamwork, and pushing through pain.  I can thank the countless pregame potluck dinners for my love of an awesome post-workout meal.  But it was that one short season of cheerleading in high school that taught me the most useful skills for the weekend;  Feeling not a bit ashahmed to cheer your head off and, more importantly, being able to take yourself out of the spotlight in order to encourage another.

I prayed before the race that Becca and I would be able to navigate DC (on foot) and get from mile marker to mile marker in time to catch every one of our friends.  I prayed that the timing would work out so that I could be there for each runner, and be there in a way that they needed me, exactly when they needed me.  It worked out perfectly… I shared 16 miles race day morning with some amazing, inspiring women.

Becca and I at the start

I got to catch miles 20 to 22 with Dorothy.  I have never run with her in a race before!  I can’t even believe she was pulling out some 7:30 miles at mile 22 of her 18th marathon… what a rock star.  My marathon experience only made me appreciate my friends who have run COUNTLESS marathons and keep signing up for more!

sharing a smile with Dorothy at mile 21

I ran back to mile 20 just in time for Becca to toss me my stuff as she hit the road with our friend (and mother of FOUR!) Audrey who was racing her first marathon.  After a few encouraging words they were on their way to the finish, and finish she did under 4 hours in her first marathon!

I made it back just in time to catch Gwen.  Now Gwen and I have been running together since high school, so we fell right into step.  I never get to see her these days, and I’m only sad that I only got to get her through one mile before I had to head back.  Next time Gwen, I’m staying for more!

A few minutes later and I caught up with Leslie and Andrea.  These ladies trained their butts off ALL summer.  Training for a marathon is so much more than just fitting in long runs.  The running is the easy part, the fun part.  What makes it an accomplishment is keeping every other ball in the air while you do it… wife, mother, employee, friend, sister.  These ladies did it like pros.

It was my honor and privilege to “pay it forward” and run the last 6 miles of the marathon with them.  That cheerleader in me really shined through, and I’m pretty sure at the time, the people around us wanted to punch me in the face for all my encouraging, peppy words.

So here I am a week later and I kind of feel like I’m recovering from a marathon.  I passed out that night by 8 pm and woke up the next morning with a raspy, sore throat.  A cheerleader, through and through!  When all is said and done, it was so rewarding in a totally different way to be the encourager versus the encouraged.  I had the best day out there.  If you get the chance to be that person for someone I suggest you do it… it was almost like I ran a marathon, but even better.

A quick recipe to wrap up… I had a sweet potato left over from my last post, so I put it to good use in this hash.  It’s kind of like the Mexican Hash I’ve posted before, but in my opinion even better.

Sweet Potato Hash

2 sweet potatoes (I only had one left and wished I had more)
1 can of black beans
1 cup of frozen corn
clove or 2 of garlic
1 jalapeno
1 onion
1 lime
2/3 cup water
1 tsp cumin

optional: ground sausage

I decided that I needed to add some turkey sausage to this because my husband would still be looking for dinner after he finished the vegetarian version.  Brown that first then add in onions (alternately, just heat olive oil in a skillet before adding onion)

Add the diced sweet potatoes

Then the jalapeno… slice in half and remove seeds (I left some in there because I like it hotter)

Slice into sticks

Then dice

Add the cumin

The water

And the drained beans

let that all cook together for a while over medium high heat so that the sweet potatoes can soften up a bit.

After about 10 minutes, add the frozen corn

Loving all the colors

Slice a lime and chop some cilantro, and assemble your garnishes on a very fancy Thomas the Train plate for serving


Monday, October 24, 2011

It Took Some Time

My first baby turned six this month.  I still remember every detail about the day he was born like it was yesterday.  We were so excited to have a kid. I reiterate...Kid.  I say KID because I remember, in all my naivete, the images that filled my head when I found out we were pregnant with a boy.  Playing catch with Dad!  Camping trips!  Bike rides!  Sports every weekend!  I thought we were giving birth to a 6 year old.  

Being the first of our friends to have a baby, we didn’t really know much about the baby/toddler phase.  We started our family the day he was born and the years to follow were some of the best I’ve ever had! But, there were many years and experiences before we got to know the big kid I’d expected to meet 6 years ago.  

For his 6th Birthday we bought Drew his first, shiny new big-kid bike.  When Kevin brought it home, I was doubtful that the large 2-wheeled contraption would even be his size.  It looked twice his height!  The tires were huge and narrow!  Nonetheless, when he hopped on to give it a spin it fit like a glove.  

Yesterday, for the first time, I ran alongside my first born baby while he rode his bike to the store.  It was a perfect, crisp fall day.  The kind of day that took me right back to my own childhood family bike rides.  I said a silent prayer of thanks… Thank you Lord for blessing us over and over again in our six years as a family.  Thank you Lord for giving me a healthy body so I can run and bike with my own children.  It took some time, but we are right where I’ve always wanted to be.

When we got home from our trip to the store (thanks Camelback for carrying groceries) I put this stew together for the crockpot.  It is not your standard dump and go crockpot recipe.  It took some time, but it was worth it!

Sweet Potato Beef Stew

1 pound (or more) of lean stew meat
32 oz (1 box) beef broth
3/4 cup wine
1 onion
1 large sweet potato
1 package (not an exact measurement here) of mushrooms
4 slices of bacon
a couple cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon thyme
couplea bay leaves
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup tomato paste
parsley for garnish (optional)

I wanted to avoid flour this time so I used corn meal to coat the stew meat and cornstarch to thicken the stew.  Go ahead and just use flour if that works for you!

First off, I put the stew meat, a couple spoonfuls of corn meal, salt and pepper in a ziplock bag and shook it up.  (Again, flour does the same trick…)

Then I sliced the four pieces of bacon

And threw the in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add in a couple cloves of chopped garlic.

After a few minutes, add in the chopped onions and mushrooms, give them a toss, then let them do their thing for a few minutes without touching them.

While that’s going… get to the sweet potato.  First I took the skin off, then cut in half.  Slice the ends of both sides.

Stand half the sweet potato upright (on the flat base you created by slicing off the ends) and slice down into thirds.

Then lay them flat and cut into sticks.  Hope that made sense! (You could also save half here in their stick form for sweet potato fries another night in the week)

After cutting into sticks, cut the opposite direction to create evenly diced sweet potatoes.

Now your onions/bacon/mushrooms are done!

Put them both in the crockpot

Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil into that same skillet and heat it before adding the stew meat.  You want to just sear the sides, so high heat for a few minutes.

Then add into the crockpot.

Add the whole container of Beef Broth

About 3/4 cup of wine… I really only measured for the blog’s benefit :)

About 3 oz of a 6 oz can of tomato paste

Tablespoon of thyme and the bay leaves

Set it on low for about 5-7 hours.

When you’re about half an hour out from being done, thicken the sauce by adding 2 tablespoons cornstarch to 2 tablespoons of cold water.  Whisk, then add into the stew.

Add the cup of frozen peas too.

I garnished with a little chopped parsley because I happened to have it and it was just so dang pretty.  Seriously, how good does this look.  I need to go heat up some leftovers now.