Oatmeal

It has been pretty cold and snowy in Boone the past few days. And windy. And did I mention cold? We have been running from the house to the car to work, and back at the end of the day. We haven’t really been venturing out much because it’s cold, I’m lazy, and we don’t need anything. I am seriously stocked up on groceries for a while, and I did some cooking on Monday, so we haven’t even been tempted to eat out. It has been glorious!

Oh, did I tell you that I joined a co-op? I’ll save that discussion for another day, but I will say that it has changed my grocery shopping habits, which tend to get out of control.

Anyway, to the real point of this post … we discovered oatmeal this year. Not the packs of oatmeal you mix with water and microwave. Real oatmeal – that isn’t mushy and full of weird ingredients. We eat it almost everyday for breakfast, which is a big step because before ate chick-fil-a for breakfast a lot. Oatmeal is quick and easy to make. We make a big batch at the beginning of the week and eat on it for several days. It reheats really well.

20120105-104013.jpg

Oatmeal
*modified from Oh She Glows

2 cups water
2 cups almond milk
1 cup steel cut oats
1 TBSP flax seeds, ground
1 TBSP chia seeds
1 TSP vanilla extract
1 TSP cinnamon
1 apple
maple syrup
walnuts

Mix all ingredients, except for apple, syrup and walnuts in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Add apples and maple syrup to taste. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Served with toasted walnuts.

The nice thing about oatmeal is that you can alter it to suit your palate. Don’t like apples? Try substituting pears instead and add some cloves and nutmeg for a nice flavor. Try blueberries – frozen, fresh or dehydrated. Don’t have chia seeds? Cut down on the liquids, but get yourself some chia seeds. You can find them at a health foods store -Whole Foods and Earth Fare carry them. They offer the only complete source of protein in a vegetable form. They will help you have energy throughout the day. Don’t have almond milk? Use all water instead- it will be less creamy, but it will work. Haven’t used steel cut oats before? Get some. Don’t be afraid. You can find them in the bulk grains section of many grocery stores. Sometimes they can be found in cans in the breakfast cereal section, but they will be really expensive. I order from our co-op, and I was able to get 30 lbs for $1.06 per pound. I love steel cut oats because they don’t get mushy.

So, if you are looking for a healthy, filling breakfast recipe to comply with your New Years’ resolutions, look no farther.

Holiday Break

I have to say that was the most relaxing holiday break we’ve had in a long time. I only worked half days the week leading up to Christmas, so I had plenty of time to get the house clean and get us packed up for Christmas in Spartanburg, SC. It was so nice not to feel stressed and rushed walking out the door, although somehow I was still trying to gather and wrap presents right before we left.

Speaking of things I didn’t get done this year, we didn’t really decorate for Christmas, and somehow I didn’t mind too much. I have really been feeling the need to declutter, and the idea of putting decorations all over the house didn’t thrill me. So we cut down our tree, put on lights, and left it alone! As Christmas cards came in, I did put them in the tree with clothes pins, but that was all we had on the tree. It was refreshing.

We enjoyed spending Christmas with Matt’s family in SC. His mom helped me sew some pajama pants that I was trying to give to my mom and sisters. I often feel like the world’s worst sewer, but I can only get better with practice, right?

20120102-111835.jpg
Matt’s dad helped him build a light box for a screen printing press he is setting up.

20120102-112025.jpg
They also spent lots of time racing cars!

20120102-112207.jpg
As soon as we got home from the Christmas Eve service, we changed into our pjs, ate our Christmas dinner and played games.

20120102-112447.jpg
Here is the whole family! It was a nice week – we stayed up late, slept in, ate great food, and had a lovely time with family.

After a nice, long Christmas break, we came back to Boone for a few days. I only worked half a day, so once again, I had plenty of time to get us ready for our trip to Greensboro, NC to ring in the new year with my family. We enjoyed spending a few days with my sister before she went back to Thailand!

20120102-113352.jpg
I got a food processor from my parents, and it had a juicing attachment, so of course I made lots of juice!

20120102-113523.jpg
I helped my mom cut out some strips for a quilt she is working on.

20120102-113613.jpg
I didn’t finish all of the pajama pants I was trying to make, but I did finish my mom’s, and they fit great. I’m encouraged to keep working on the other pairs!

We also spent time with some relatives in Charlotte, did some shopping, and played lots of Settlers of Catan.

We came back to Boone yesterday and now have an entire day to unpack and get settled into the house before we have to work tomorrow. It has been glorious to come back rested with time to get ready for the week!

Soup for Breakfast

20111228-103649.jpg
I particularly love holidays because I can eat whatever I want, including potato-leek soup for breakfast. With a hint of snow on the ground this morning, it just seemed perfect to eat potato soup and knit.

This afternoon we are headed to celebrate Christmas with my family. Even though I had a few extra days to prepare, I am still feverishly trying to finish some handmade gifts!

Savoring Summer

Yesterday after work we began the 6 1/2 hour drive to the coast of NC, which somehow turned into only 5 1/2, and even that felt short.

20110903-085120.jpg

Maybe because I had so much knitting to do! I’ve come to love road trips, as Matt always drives, and that usually gives me plenty of free time to get into a nice rhythm of moving the needles. I actually finished a project I’ve been working on since last Thanksgiving!

20110903-085531.jpg

So today I plan to sit, read, enjoy the sand and the waves, and savor the last bit of summer. I realized that Labor Day never meant much to me as a kid, but now I am craving the long weekend as a transition to fall. I am going to soak up ever last bit of summer sun, and then I am going to whole-heartedly embrace fall.

Christmas Traditions

I can't believe it is already Christmas Eve. This morning I have been thinking of all the fun memories I have of Christmas as a child. One of my favorite traditions I had with my brother and sisters was that we always slept in the same bed on Christmas Eve. Thats right – all four of us in one bed.

N29701581_35682902_4005When we were this size, it wasn't too hard for all of us to fit in one bed! (Check out the reindeer clothespin necklaces – my mom was so crafty!)

We would find every alarm clock we could and set them all for 5 o'clock in the morning. Of course, after having to stay up late to put out presents, dad and mom weren't too excited about getting up that early and they would always try to find the clocks and turn them off. Thankfully, we were quite crafty and usually had one hidden well enough that it wasn't found. 

Those sure were good memories. Now that we're getting older, things are changing. Last year I was married, so we didn't all sleep in one bed. This year Liz is in Thailand, and I'm at my in-laws for Christmas. Change is good, and I'm glad to see each of us finding our way in the grand scheme of the world, but it is nice to have such delightful memories of when we were young. 

N29701581_35682901_3530_edit

Whether you are starting new Christmas traditions or reflecting on old Christmas traditions, make sure you spend time with those you love and let them know how much you appreciate them. 

DSCN9421_editTake time to cozy up, drink homemade hot cocoa, and breathe in the new year. 

Did you have a favorite Christmas tradition when you were a kid?

St. Patty’s Day Cake Balls

Today is St. Patrick's Day.  Normally that doesn't mean anything to me, but today is different.  Did you see Bakerella's Red Velvet Cake Recipe?  Oh my.  As soon as I saw how she made green velvet cake balls, I knew I had to try.  I have been dying to try this since I saw the cake balls on her blog last week.  Seriously, if you like all things sugar, you have to check out the amazing treats she makes. 

So, I charged into the kitchen after work and dug my hands right in.  Word of caution: this is a messy process and it is a bit time consuming, especially if you double the recipe and make 120 cake balls like I did.  Hindsight, I could have made do with only one batch.  Oh well, I just need to accept it.  My grandmother was a caterer and my mom cooks for anyone she can find, so I'm pretty much fated to always cook in ginormous portions. 

DSCN7139 

Doesn't it look green and gooey?!  I made a double batch and only used about 2 1/2 ounces of green food coloring.  Thats a lot less than it takes to make red velvet cake.

DSCN7141 The cakes are ready to go in the oven.  I'm just going to go ahead and confess that my favorite part of this recipe is not having to make sure your cakes come out in one piece.  My cakes always get stuck to the pan.  Always.  I'm forever "gluing" them together with icing and making a sticky mess. But not with this cake.  Once they were cool enough to work with, I just took them out of the pans in pieces and laid them on a cookie sheet to cool completely.  Its freeing to just pull the cake out in pieces.  Very freeing. 

Shoot, I forgot to take a picture breaking up the cake and mixing it with icing.  Thankfully, it was an easy step and you can just imagine the picture: green cake pieces in a bowl, cream cheese icing, and my hands deep in it all.  Very messy.

DSCN7146 This is what the cake balls look like when you roll them.  The colder the mixture is, the easier it is to roll them. 

Unfortunately, I also don't have a picture of the dipping process.  Matt was a trooper dipper.  120 cake balls is a lot of cake balls to dip.  It isn't a hard process, you just have to get the right rhythm going.

DSCN7153 And here they are ready for delivery!  Don't you just love those shamrock sprinkles? 

How to Make Croutons

I have an awesome (read: sometimes slightly weird to outsiders) family.  On of my favorite things about my family is what my parents used to put in our stockings when we were kids.  We would all get a box of croutons and a roll of cookie dough.  Thats kind of weird, right?  But we loved it!  I loved croutons as a kid, especially the Brownberry kind.  I'm not sure if they even make them anymore, because I haven't been able to find them in stores in a long time.  Matt and I don't usually stock croutons at our house, but anytime I go to my parent's house, I can be found snacking on a bag of croutons.  They're just so spicy and cruncy and delicious!

Fast forward to last night.  I had some leftover bread from a dinner party that I was going to turn into a snack for Matt after work.  Turns out, it was pretty stale, so I decided to attempt making croutons.  They are so easy and so tasty that I actually went to the grocery store and bought two more loaves of french bread to make more!  I stuck them in a mason jar, so now we have croutons anytime I feel like a little munch (or anytime I feel like putting them on a salad, like they're designed for).

Crouton Recipe

Cut stale or fresh bread into small cubes (think 1/2 inch)

Drizzle a few teaspoons of olive oil on bread cubes.

Season with anything you desire: salt, garlic, oregano, rosemary, herbs de provence, etc.

Spread the bread cubes onto a sheet pan and back at 350 for about 10 minutes, or until they look golden, stirring and mixing occasionally. 

Store the cooled croutons in an air-tight container and enjoy!

UPDATE: I have now abandoned my homemade vegetable soup for lunch and am eating a bag of croutons instead.