HOW TO HANG A DOOR WREATH {without nails}

I love wreaths. It's a simple way to dress up a door and can be super personal and unique. When I don't have a wreath up, lots of people can't find my house.

Right now our door has a very kid-friendly plastic Halloween sign on it. The kids think it's pretty awesome! (Thank you Grandma.)

After Halloween, we'll be back to wreaths. So I have a secret trick to share with you.

Living Room Transformation

Welcome! Pull up a seat on the couch and stay a while. I can't believe I haven't done a post on the overall great room living space that we spend about 90% of our time in. 

When we bought the house 2 1/2 years ago, the whole thing was painted in sherwin williams camelback. I hated it. Not that it is a bad color itself, just that with so much of that color it felt like the walls were closing in. Tyler actually liked it and still claims that he does, but then he also claims that this looks good. Let it be known that I painted the entire house by myself, all camelback is almost gone (3 closets left). Okay, he helped me paint the kids' bathroom, but besides that, yours truly. The new color is sherwin williams accessible beige



In all my birthday party planning, this is the first time I really rocked it! Bwhaa-ha-ha-haaa. Okay, I'll stop. But really, I've never created such a master plan. It was a ton of fun and the kids were talking about it long after the party was over. 

In the gathering of items, I ordered enough sharpies to last a lifetime, small canvas bags that will double as an activity and goody bags, and magnifying glasses to examine their rocks - handed out as the kids were leaving. 

Office Update

You know how sometimes you live with a room for a while and then you get tired of it?  That's what happened in our office.  It seemed like such a sad addendum to the rest of the living space, mostly because of it's lack of color.  Problem solved!  


I revealed The Office last May, and not that there's a huge amount different, but enough to make it a little more lively.  So almost a year later, here we are again.  And lest you think I've gotten it down this time: sometimes I wonder if the blue has too much green or if the other walls should be a different shade of gray.  But then I stand back and think I like it so much more than before and don't dislike it enough to redo it yet again.  :)  Yet.  Everything in the house is subject to scrutiny.  

So here you have our very used and functional office.  

Matching Office Chairs

I love my new craigslist find!  I've been wanting new chairs in the office that actually matched.  I've had similar painted/upholstered chairs, but they just weren't speaking to me anymore.

They weren't in very good condition when I brought them home, but for $46, I'll take them.  They had gross red vinyl seats.  The extra surprise was the old jeans that were stapled to the chairs under the vinyl.

A Blog Announcement

I've been so excited to tell you (drum roll please) that I have a new blog!!

I've been thinking about doing this for a while and after slaving away learning a new system, I now have a place to invite you to in wordpress.  

Carrot bowl is the new home for all food, Pretty Dubs will remain the home for home and crafty projects.  I get to have double the fun now!  I have some good things coming up for both places and I hope you have fun exploring.  

Talk to you soon!

House Rules

You're likely to get some creative answers if you ask small children what they think are your house rules.  I know because this is exactly what we did.

I Hate Being Late + Roasted Brussel Sprouts

If there's one thing that drives me crazy about myself, it's my judgement of timeliness.  I hate being late and I feel like I try so hard to be on time.  But then I'm not.

So I think I've come to a couple conclusions about this.  I have three children.  Getting them ready consistently takes twice as long as I think it will.  I need to adjust my start time (even if it seems SO early to start the process...which I do think).

Apple Crisp on the Healthy Side

Can you really think of anything better than apple crisp?  Warm, cuddled in front of the tv, spooning in soft apples with crumbly topping...mmmmmm.  I want some right now.  In my desire, I had to come up with something I could make to fill the need.  Welcome to the healthy side of apple crisp.

Remember my Homemade Granola?  Stroke of genius, well, I think so.  Apples get soft and delicious with heat, add some cinnamon to kick it up, and top with granola!  Is it sugary and buttery like the original?  No, and that's why it's better.  It still tastes warm and sweet, but the right sweet.

Apple Crisp
makes and 8x8 pan

7-8 apples, sliced with skins on
2 cups homemade granola (or other healthy alternative) - you can use less or more as you want

Preheat oven to 375.  In a bowl, mix your sliced apples and add some good shakes of cinnamon and stir to coat apples.  In a 8x8 pan, spread your apples evenly on the bottom.  Top apples with your granola.  Cover with foil and bake in oven for 10 minutes.  Check apples to see how soft they are.  I didn't let mine get soggy, I still wanted them to keep some shape.  If they are close, then take off your tinfoil and let back for another 3-5 minutes.  If it's not close, cook for another 3 minutes and check again.  When you do take the foil off, keep an eye on your crisp so you don't burn your granola.  Remove from oven and spoon in.

Veggie Seed Burger

I want to take several weeks and make veggie burgers every night.  There are so many different recipes out there!  So I guess you can look forward to continuing reviews.  Yea!

Okay, this one comes from Oh She Glows.  They had several specific wants for their perfect veggie burger, and this is what they came up with. 

I really liked it, my husband didn't.  I think it had great flavor, but the texture is seedy.  That's fine with me, and as long as you're prepared for that, then you'll be good.  I did have the advantage that I knew what I was making and so expected it to be seedy.  It was amazing broken up on a salad the next day and would encourage you to make them just for that!

Oh She Glows' Perfect Veggie Burger

1/2 cup onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
Flax eggs: 2 1/2 Tbsp ground flax + 1/2 cup warm water, mixed in bowl
1 cup oats, processed into flour (use your food processor)
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup cooked black beans, rinsed and roughly pureed or mashed
Heaping 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped (or fresh herb of choice)
1/3 cup almonds, chopped (toasted if preferred)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (toasted if preferred)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce (tamari)
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Cashew Peanut Kale

It's a green day!  Appropriately, I wanted to give you something very green you could make for your St. Patrick's Day dinner.  I had this recipe on my list for a while and had quite the cooking day this past week where I busted out 4 different recipes.  Hello kale!

A while ago I told the hubs that I was thinking of making dinner during the day so I could actually take pictures of it in natural light.  His response, "So we're going to have leftovers every night?"  But at the same time, he wasn't surprised that I would even think of that.  Lucky for him, it's lighter later and as we go even more into spring/summer time, I'll be cooking until 9pm!  Well, maybe.  We might be playing outside instead.  The point is that I could and will still have enough light for pictures!

Thanks to The Urban Baker for this one!  It was peanuty in flavor, but the cashews gave a good balance to not make it overwhelming.  The peeled carrots gave awesome color and an extra texture.  And the wilted kale was delicious.  I'm making it again for tonight!

Cashew Peanut Kale 
Adapted closely from The Urban Baker

5 Large bunches of kale
3/4 cup cashews, roasted salted
2 carrots, peeled into strips

3 Tbsp creamy salted peanut butter
3/4 cup water
1-2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp ginger powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp soy sauce (to taste)
2 Tbsp rice vinegar (to taste)
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1/4 tsp cayenne
1-3 Tbsp Bangkok Padang peanut sauce (found easily at Winco, etc) - this is spicy

Prep your kale by de-veining it, taking off all the leaves from the middle vein, wash and chop the leaves.  Have your cashews on hand.  Peel your two carrots.  Set all these aside.

Using a large (tall) saute pan, add all the sauce ingredients and whisk briskly over medium heat until the peanut butter melts and they blend together.  Reduce heat to simmer, continually whisking for about 2 minutes.  Don't let it burn.

Fold kale into the sauce, over low heat, and let wilt down to 1/3 the size.  Add cashews and carrots, stir to combine, and remove from heat.

I ate this warm, although I'm sure it would be good cold (as the Urban Baker claims).

Black Bean Soup

This soup is total comfort food for me.  It's warm, my favorite flavors, and good no matter what time of day you eat it!  It's weird, but I really think I'd be happy eating it for breakfast.  Actually, I think I'll make it again tonight.  Here in Portland we've been having such a happy winter/almost spring, but today is looking like you would guess it would: cloudy, windy, kinda cold, and about to rain.  July 4th is the beginning of the no rain season, so we have a while yet.

Another good part of this recipe is that there are SO many different ways to make it.  If you just have 5 minutes, add your drained and rinsed beans with some broth and salsa and you're ready to eat once it's heated.  I hope this becomes your new go-to recipe, you'll love it!

Black Bean Soup

1 onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp ground cumin (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
3-4 cans black beans (6-7 cups), rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups water + 2 tsp vegetable or chicken stock bullion OR 1 1/2 cups stock (add more or less to achieve your desired soup thickness)
2-3 cups chunky salsa
2 Tbsp lime juice

I've also added these extras:
(adapted from Simply Recipes)
2 chopped peppers - choose between bell peppers, anaheim, or jalepeño (depending on what you want for heat) - seed, stems, and ribs discarded
1 Tbsp oregano
3 Tbsp orange juice concentrate
salt to taste
chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

In a large pot, sauté onion until tender, add garlic, cumin, and crushed red pepper and stir for another minute.  Pureé 2 cans of beans with 1/2 cup of stock until smooth.  Add all beans to the pot.  Add stock, salsa, and lime juice.  Adjust the amount of stock/water until the soup is the consistency you like.

If you want to add the extras: Add the chopped peppers to the pot when you are sautéing the onion.  Add the rest when you add the beans to the pot.

Avocado Quinoa Salad

So remember how we had a dog at our house for a while?  We loved dog-sitting Angus and he was so fun with the kids.  But he did end up going home with his owners.  I think it was a great experience to learn what it's like to have a dog without the commitment.  

In case you were wondering, this is what I learned from having a dog:
1. Indoor pets have hair and it gets on things, you have to get over that.
2. When you have an almost 2-year-old in the house, adding a dog is like having 2 puppies.  I think maybe a dog when my kids are a little older would be better.
3. There are advantages to getting an older dog compared to a puppy.  They are trained to go to the bathroom outside, this dog was crate trained, and there was no chewing on furniture.

It was a lot of fun and the kids loved having him around.  

So about this salad; it was so good.  I think the key is to cook the quinoa in broth; it makes it so much tastier!  The other good part of this recipe is the celery.  I'm not one to go on about celery.  But it adds the perfect crunch.

Avocado Quinoa Salad
from Women's Day Eating Light magazine

1 1/2 cups quinoa
2 cups broth
1 large avocado
2 - 3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 cucumber, diced in quarters
1 stalk celery, diced
salt and pepper to taste

Cook quinoa in a medium saucepan as package directs using broth instead of water.  Let cool.  Meanwhile, halve avocados, remove pit, peel and cut into chunks. Place in a large bowl. Add lemon juice; toss. Add cooked quinoa and remaining ingredients; toss gently to mix. Chill until ready to serve.  

Making a Bolster Pillow

One more post about our master bedroom!  When I re-purposed the bench for the end of the bed, I cut off the purple pillow tops.  Inside there was lots of stuffing, so using that and some other that I had lying around, I made a bolster pillow.  

A Week of Salads

Sometimes I'm in a salad rut.  When lunch time comes around, I'm not always feeling the greens.  So what helps?  Well, I think variety will be your best friend in this case.  It is for me.  Different colors, flavors, and textures will keep your salad interests peaked.  

There are endless options out there, here are a couple more for you:

Day 1:   Grapefruit Tomato Salad  - Mix of greens and spinach, cucumber, yellow cherry tomatoes (any color will do), cashews, grapefruit, and I added avocado after this shot.  With grapefruit being in season, I thought this would be a fun try.  Yes, the grapefruits are tart, so you'll need to balance that with the salty cashews and the avocado.  Very fun to eat and makes you feel good after.  

Making a Tufted Bench

I scored this awesome bench for free!  A neighbor (Hi Heather!) gave me the heads up that a bunch of stuff was getting dumped and I could see the potential the minute I laid eyes on it.  I had originally thought of a non-storage bench with curvy legs, but I couldn't beat the price and actually really like the way it all came together.  

And wa-lah, the vision has come to life!  This was a fast project and I did it right in my bedroom (for the most part).  The fabric for the bench was a leftover Ikea Ritva curtain panel - the other one I used for my Tufted Headboard.  You really can't beat $25 for fabric that covers two significant projects!

Bean Salad with Lemon Dressing

This past week seemed unusually whirwindish.  It might have been because I decided to put in a new shelf in the laundry room, rip the entire contents of our office closet out and back in, going through the kitchen cupboards and weeding out the unwanted, reorganizing my cookbooks, and putting in a new microwave.

The garage is a disaster.  I kinda use it as a dumping grounds when I'm in house organizing mode.  I'll know I'm done with organizing for a while once I clean the garage.  For some people, that's left to the men, not around here.  Sure, Tyler will help out, but I think I use the garage more than he does (minus the pull up bar).

So I think it's safe to say I'm feeling spring cleaning, only about a month early.  Really though, I just want to minimize.


I've had quite a few visitors from pinterest to see my bedroom. We're closer now that I've shown you where I sleep, right? :) It makes me happy that you're here and I hope you are inspired to make your home just the way you want it. 

I'd love to have you visit me at my food blog Carrot Bowl, where I eat mostly veggies with a few indulgences (yes to Cherry Chocolate Chip Bars!), and showcase regular people who are inspiring (think 74-year-old woman who runs 4 miles everyday at the track). 

The day has officially arrived to reveal our master bedroom!  I'm really excited and love what we've been able to do.  It's definitely been a process, but I kinda love that part of decorating.  

I'm sure it will continue to change in small ways, but I feel like the bulk of things is done for now.  Just as a before and after, here's what our room looked like before we moved in.  Nice and blank.  Well, nice except for the wall color.  In case you're wondering, that is Camelback by Sherwin Williams.

39.3 Miles for Emma - will you help?

As you might recall, on Christmas day my brother Nathan and his wife Sharlynn had a sweet baby girl, Emma Rae.  She was born 5 weeks early.  That morning came with contractions and all Christmas gift opening was postponed as everyone gathered in the hospital bright and early.

Mango-Coconut Chia Pudding

I enjoy hosting things at my house.  I like being with friends and gleaning knowledge from other people.  I'm a true extrovert.  For me, even thinking that someone might be coming over helps me keep the dishes at bay and bathroom wiped down.  Well, that and my own peace of mind.

However, I recently had a conversation with a good friend about her stress of inviting people over.  She doesn't feel confident in her hosting or her house for hosting.  She sees all the projects that need to get done before she would feel content, unable to see the good in her place, her hosting skills, or the way she can carry a conversation making you feel #1.   

My advice came in parts.  What would yours be?

White Bean Hominy Chili

Today marks 5th day my little buddy has had a fever.  As a first grader, he's pretty cute to have around the house and easy since he just wants to hang on the couch and play the kindle.  We've gotten some good reading and drawing time in, too.  Seriously, winter sicknesses have knocked us out hard this year!

So I'm going to warm up with another soup.  I'm hungry right now and wish I had some leftovers to heat up.  

White Bean Hominy Chili

1 onion, diced
1 jalepeño, seeded, deveined, and diced
2 poblanos, diced OR 1 can green chilies
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tsp cumin
1/4 cup lime juice OR 2 limes, juiced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
3 cups broth
1 (29 oz) can hominy, drained and rinsed
3 (15 oz) cans white beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste

Add onion, jalepeño, and (if using) poblanos to chili pot and sauté.  Once onions are translucent, add garlic and sauté for another minute.  Add green chilies (if not using poblanos), cumin, lime juice, cilantro, broth, hominy, and beans.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Get out blender and pureé half the chili and then add back to the pot.  Heat and eat!

As a random side note, I recently found "100 Days of Real Food" and I love it!  She lists the definition of "healthy food" and I think it's spot on.

Southwestern Veggie Pasta Salad

So what do I feed my ravenous children?  I have been asked this several times, so here's some of our ideas.  I'd love to hear what healthy snacks you have for your little'uns.  

apples and peanut butter
carrots and hummus (sometimes I'll throw in the multi-grain chips from costco, the ones with flax seeds in them, hexagon shape)
fresh fruit of all kinds
fruit leather
dried fruit
cans of beans (I'll rinse them and they'll eat them with no additional ingredients or heating)
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (preferably Adams natural peanut butter, homemade jelly, and homemade bread - but we work with what we can do)
occasional yogurt


Kids are always hungry, at least mine are.  

Sometimes I think it's boredom hunger and sometimes the real deal.  Either way, when we changed how we eat, my main reason for doing so was for my kids.  I want to have healthy food be the comfort food that they know and remember.  I don't know if there's a better gift I can give for their physical health than a love of healthy food and exercise.  

Sautéed Veggie Wrap + Weekly Menu

I think I enjoy lunches the best.  They are easy, I can pack them full of veggies, and try combos on myself before I try them on the rest of my family.  This is one of my favorites.

If hummus and fresh crunchy veggies taste good, then why not soft veggies?  Amazing.  I water saute whatever vegetables I have lying around and cook up a fresh tortilla (thanks to the uncooked tortilla packs we buy from costco - one of the things I don't worry about making on my own).  Spread your hummus in the tortilla and top with your veggies.  It's so good.  I wish I'd had that instead of homemade noodle soup.

It's a sick day today.  My 6-year-old is getting over a 104 degree fever.  Today is much better and he hasn't been knocked out like he was all weekend.  I'm just hoping it doesn't plow us all down.  Since he's just barely getting his appetite back, I whipped up some noodle soup and ate it with the kids.  It was perfectly warm for today.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Salad

Does anyone who owns pets have days that they really wish they didn't have pets?  Even though you might really love your pets?  Seriously, I would like to know.  

The dog, Angus the black lab, that we are babysitting (see more here) is still at our house.  He could be here for up to a month more.  So right now we're trying to decide what we really want; do the good things about having a dog outweigh the bad things?  If we want to, we can keep him.  Or he could go home or find a new home.

When you have kids, you know it will be hard, but they're your kids and you love them.  Don't mind the vomit in your hands, the poop on your clothes, the screaming, sleepless nights, dirty windows, back-talking, and messes everywhere.  On the flip side you have cuddles galore, lots of entertainment, someone(s) who want to hold your hand (obviously I have small children), phrases like "Mom, you're my friend forever," endless lego imagination, wonder at every small thing, a viewpoint from somewhere your unaccustomed to seeing from, and an opportunity to serve small human beings who happen to be your family.

Flourless Peanut Butter Blondies

We're coming to a close on January.  Can you believe it?  This means we're one month into our New Year's resolutions.  The month's not over yet, so you still have time to come up with your own.

These are mine for 2013:
- Spend less on groceries (this means really shopping with a list every time...and less "window" shopping)
- Save more than we did last year
- Exercise at least 3 times per week
- Dedicate more time to strengthening relationships with extended family
- Always give Tyler the benefit of the doubt
- Be gentle with my children, even if they are trying to pick the fight
- Improve my spirituality by making time for meditation and study; lunch time seems to work well

Some of these are easily measurable, making them good goals to keep track of.  The other ones have to be remembered everyday.  It's going to be an awesome year!

What are your goals?

Who says you have to bake with flour!?

Are they gooey and warm and hit the spot and you just can't get enough...yes, yes they are.  I might have made 2 batches over the weekend.

Peanut Butter Blondies 
adapted from Detoxinista's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies

1 cups natural peanut butter (I've used Adams chunky and smooth, both are good)
1/3 cup honey
1 flax egg (1 Tbsp flax meal mixed with 3 Tbsp water - in place of 1 egg)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional - I added them, but without they'll taste just like peanut butter cookies)

Preheat oven to 350.  Lay (un-greased) parchment paper in an 8x8 pan.  In a bowl, mix together all ingredients, then if you're using them, fold in chocolate chips.  Pour the batter into the pan, making sure the parchment paper nicely folded into the pan edges.  Smooth the top and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool in the pan, then lift parchment out with your blondies, and cut.  Makes 16 squares.

*A friend told me she's had these in cookie form and they were good that way, too.

Creamy Almond Butter Freezer Fudge

It was just over a week ago that we buried my 22-day-old niece, Emma Rae.  Her neonatal liver failure got the best of her body.  (See where I first talked about this HERE).  We went to Montana to be with my family and help distract them with my three hooligans.  Everything went as good as possible; her 4-year-old brother even helped carry the casket out of the funeral service.  I'm so glad we got to be there to love and support my brother and family.  

As a mother, I can't imagine the emptiness that my SIL feels.  It's times like these that I'm grateful for the hope and faith of living again as a family after we die.  I really believe they will all be together again.  But right now, it has to be a daily walk, a daily step, and hopefully an inspiration to live better knowing she's waiting for us all to join her.

Moving on to a more delicious topic, these were very good!  Tyler kept on walking past the freezer just so he could snitch another one.

I recently found the Detoxinista and have already tried a couple of her recipes.  I'll report on another one next.  To find the recipe, go to her Creamy Almond Butter Freezer Fudge.

My only note is that I was wondering "why" did I have to include the coconut oil.  So I tried her recipe and then did the same thing, half batch, without the oil.  And surprise!  It didn't work.  The recipe needs the oil or it never sets up.  The almond butter mixture never hardened, so I ate it with apples instead.

Split Pea Soup

Thanks to my sister for this recipe!  I love a good split pea soup and this one didn't disappoint.  It's fun that as she gets older (and graduating from BYU this spring!!) that we get closer together.  I guess that means I'm getting older too.  It's the big 3-0 this year for me.  I used to think that was old.

Split Pea Soup 

1 lb dried split peas
8-9 cups broth (I used 5 cups broth and 3 cups water)
4 carrots, chopped
3 medium potatoes, chopped (I used the 2 I had on hand)
3 celery stocks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients on the stove top and cook on medium to medium-high until peas and vegetables are soft.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

I did omit the ham from their recipe.  It was perfect, especially since we ate this when it was raining outside.

Wait.  I live in Portland.  Rain?

Their recipe calls for a crockpot, which you certainly could do and have a stress-free day.  On low for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4.

Great Harvest Copycat: Honey Whole Wheat Bread

I love it when I make time to make bread.  There's something about warm bread that none of us can resist...or can you??  I've been making a bread recipe from my friend Sierra for the most part, but decided to branch out this time.  I'd pinned this recipe a while ago and it was totally worth it!  

Honey Whole Wheat Bread
from Eat Cake for DinnerFind It, Love It, Share It

3 Tbsp instant yeast
4 c. warm water
1 cup honey
8-9 cups whole wheat flour (I ground mine myself)
3 tsp salt
1/2-1 cup optional add-ins (I added 1/2 cup quick oatmeal.  You can add sunflower seeds, ground flax seeds, etc)

Combine yeast, water, and honey.  Let sit for 5 minutes or until frothy and bubbly.

Add salt, add-ins, and 5 cups flour.  Mix.

Add remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, until you get a soft dough.  You want the dough to just pull away from the sides of the bowl.  The softer the dough, the more moist the bread.  But if it's too sticky, it's a little gummy.  Knead for 4 minutes on low.

Grease a large bowl and put your dough ball in and cover.  Let rise until double.  I probably let mine sit for at least an hour.

Punch down and shape into loaves.  Put into greased loaf pans (I made 3 loaves from this, but probably could have made 2 larger loaves) and let rise again until doubled.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

*Note that sometimes bread needs more or less flour, so adjust to what your batch needs.

And when it's done, you can smear it with some warm (or cold) Apple Butter!  Seriously, you'll be trying to make up excuses to eat more.  

Apple Butter

If I ever start to wonder what I should be doing with my time, I often end up in the kitchen.  This was hard at first when we changed the way we eat, which is still a learning process, because I was used to making cinnamon rolls, cookies, brownies, etc.  I had to gather some healthy recipes, but no matter how you eat, it's fun to try new recipes, have suggestions from friends, and spending time on your feet in the kitchen.  It makes sitting down eventually that much more rewarding!  At least for me.

And the good thing about this recipe is that it's really really easy.  I've made mine the the stove-top twice, but it can also be made on low overnight in the crock-pot.  Wake up to your house smelling wonderful.

Thanks to my friend Teresa for introducing me to apple butter.  It's the perfect blend of natural sweetness from the apples and the perfect addition of spices.  It can have added sugar, but I don't think it needs it at all.  Try it without first.

Apple Butter

12 apples, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups water 
1 - 1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice

Cut your apples into chunks, peels on.  Put apples and water in a pot with the spices.  Let simmer together until apples are softened.  In batches, blend (this is where I wish I had an immersion blender). Put blended apples back into the pot and let cook down on medium-low until the mixture is thickened.  It should be the consistency of a soft jelly preserve.  Store in the fridge in airtight container...or eat in one night.  

For extra goodness, spread on Honey Whole Wheat Bread!

Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate

We have a new house member.  Angus, a black lab, is hanging out with us for 2 weeks while his owners are relocating.  It's fun to have him around and the kids are enjoying his company.  It's a good trial run for us...would we want a dog in the future?  At the end of this 2 weeks we will be a) attached and sad to see him go, b) say it was fun, but not for us for a while, and/or c) fun, maybe we'll get one of our own.

It will be an adventure.  

I was intrigued by the pomegranates in this salad.  They are so good!  And combined with quinoa had to be good.  I've been wanting more quinoa dishes anyway, so this was a good excuse to cook this awesome super food.  It was a great side salad.

Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate
from Cooking in the Costco Way

1 cup quinoa
1 3/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
2 mini cucumbers, diced
1/2 lb grape tomatoes, halved
1 pomegranate, seeds only
1 Tbsp chopped fresh italian parsley
1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (I think I might have omitted I can't remember)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add quinoa and toast for 5 minutes, or until the quinoa starts to pop and turn light brown.

Meanwhile, heat stock to boiling in a medium saucepan.  Add quinoa and simmer for 15 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.

To prepare the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, comine warm quinoa with cucumbers, tomatoes, pomegranate seeds, chopped herbs, and the dressing.

Serve at room temperature.  (I also had this cold from the fridge the next day and it was good)

Pavlova & Italian Soda Bar

Before Christmas we threw a work party for Tyler.  It was fun to mingle with his work friends and enjoy lots of good food.  From the white elephant exchange we came away with a $15 itunes gift card and a Dali Melting actual clock, not a painting.

I wanted to make a dessert that would stand up to some oohhhs and aahhhs.  So pavlova called my name!  (This does not quite fall into line with our eating habits, but that has to be ignored this time).    

The presentation of this dessert does all the work for you, because it's probably the easiest dessert you'll ever make.  It's a dessert most often consumed in New Zealand and Australia that is crunchy on the outside and so so light inside.  Top that with some homemade whipped cream and berries.  Heaven in your mouth.  And you don't even feel bad when you've eaten half of it.  Okay, maybe you will.

adapted from this recipe

4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4-1/2 cups powdered sugar
Berries of choice (blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, mango, etc)
optional - can also add chocolate chips or shavings to the top

Preheat oven to 300.  Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.  This recipe calls for the pavlova to be spread out in a 9 inch diameter.  You can do this by drawing a circle on one side of the parchment and flip over when putting the dessert on (no pencil shavings in your dessert).  I doubled the recipe and spread out probably in about a 12 inch circle.

In a mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form then while continuing to mix, add 3/4 cup granulated sugar gradually and let sugar dissolve.  Add a pinch of salt.  Mix until peaks are stiff.

In a separate bowl, mix the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and cornstarch together and fold into the egg whites.

Spread mixture in an even layer in a circle on your parchment paper.

Bake at 300 for 1 hour.  Turn off your oven, leaving the pavlova in, and let bake for another 30 minutes.  It should be hard on the outside and moist on the inside.  Let cool completely.

In your mixing bowl, whip the heavy whipping cream until peaks are almost stiff.  Mix in powdered sugar according to taste.  Top your pavlova with the cream and berries.  Stand back and admire your work!

We also had an Italian Soda bar for the party.  It was a good way to have fun drinks!  I found this FREE PRINTABLE that I stuck in a frame and it worked perfect for our guests, most who had never tried this before.  It was a great party and I would gladly host again next year...but I haven't told Tyler that yet.

Green Enchiladas with Cashew Poblano Crema

My little niece is 2 weeks old.  She's at Primary Children's Hospital with a team of careful doctors and some very devoted parents, but the odds are not in her favor.  Her liver is failing and her 3-year-old brother doesn't really understand everything that is happening.  Sometimes I let myself get sad, but then I have to pull myself together to take care of my own 3 kids.  It's a hard time, but there have been so many kind people.

I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Plato. "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." 

On Tuesday was my sister-in-law's birthday.  A woman came to visit her.  My SIL didn't know who she was.  The woman said she was sent by a group of people who know of her situation, her baby, and her 3-year-old at home.  She said she's not part of the group and there's no way for them to be discovered.  She gave my SIL a build-a-bear gift card for the 3-year-old and $500 check card to "help."  My brother and his family don't live in Utah, so who knows who these very kind people are.  

This is just one small thing.

Another is the group called "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep."  This group is made up of photographers who volunteer their time and photos (free people) for others who are losing their children.  They will come in and take pictures of the sweet babies and their parents as a forever treasure.  As everything is unhooked, life-support turned off, they can come and capture that sweet moment with your little love.  (Or they can come before if you want.)  I found Heather Pickett through this site.  She's been a nurse in the NICU, she knows all this first-hand.  And as a photographer and mother herself, what a gift she's willing to give.

This is just a shout out to all those mourning and sad.  We are all fighting a hard battle and the kindness we share with each other is the only way we'll all be able to make it through.  That...and time.  

And now to a new recipe.  In my searching, I've come across the method of soaking nuts quite often.  I finally decided to try a recipe that included this process.  It was really good and you'd never get there were nuts in it at all!  Not lying.  Also, there is no cheese in these enchiladas.  We're going fresh people.

You cook the filled tortillas and then top it with the nut crema to serve. 

I also followed the recipe instructions to make my own green salsa.  Roasting the tomatillos and peppers made them sweet and so much better than a store-bought green salsa, which I have never loved.  This mixture is roasted tomatillos, jalapenos, onion, garlic, cilantro, and salt to taste.  

After soaking the cashews, they were mixed with a roasted poblano pepper, garlic, onion, lemon juice, water, and salt to taste.  It was a little bit spicy, but not too bad for the kids.  It was impressively good and I am sold on using nuts in sauces because of this dish.

The assembly goes first with dipping my whole wheat tortillas in the green salsa, filling them with a mushroom, spinach, onion, & garlic mixture, and placing them in a baking pan.  On top and bottom of the enchiladas is more of the green salsa.

After cooking, spread the crema mixture, some salsa, and cilantro on top.  Serve warm.

After eating these, I would like to experiment with different fillings.  This was good, but it's very versatile!  A bean, corn, tomato, pepper filling would be fun to try.  **Note that there is NO cheese, so the stringy enchiladas are not what you're going to find here.  Enjoy your fresh veggies!

And here is Love & Lemons amazing photo, for which I did not have the lighting or the time to take (excuses excuses, I know).  And find the recipe HERE.
Image via Love & Lemons
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