hygge & cinnamon pear cake.

last year, talking with a few girlfriends about books we were reading, a friend said she was reading The Year of Living Danishly. she had just started it but said that so far it was funny and interesting and explained that the part she was in was talking about a Danish word: hygge. she said it was something about being warm & cozy, and we all laughed about how to pronounce the word (“hue-guh” not “hoo-gah”).

sounding like an interesting, light-hearted read, i put the book on my to-read list, but i was the most intrigued about that word: hygge. warm? cozy? sold! Google, of course, gave me lots of great places to learn more, which i did lightly, but it wasn’t until the end of the year that i really came back to it.

each year, i choose a word to focus on for the year. i first heard about “one word” in 2012, and i think of it in a few ways: sometimes as a word that i need to focus on…something to choose. other times the word is more of a lens…something that helps me as i’m making decisions. without much expectation, i chose “breathe” for 2013, and lo & behold, it truly was a word that helped guide that year; so i kept at it.

usually a word would surface as the year began, but at the end of last year, “hygge” popped back into my mind. i felt like it would be a good word for 2018, so i started to dig into it more seriously. without a direct English translation, hygge can maybe most closely be described as a feeling, but as i continue to learn, it seems more like a mindfulness or an intentionality to me. i love how alex at hyggehouse put it:

…whether it’s making coffee a verb by creating a ritual of making it every morning to a cosy evening in with friends where you’re just enjoying each others company to the simple act of lighting a candle with every meal, hygge is just about being aware of a good moment.

and with that: i think hygge is basically my life word…but starting with a year is probably a good idea ;o) hygge effectively sums up in one word what i’ve been using many words to try to describe for the past few years; what i have been working towards & how i want to continue to grow.

wired for productivity & feeling a constant need to be a better multi-tasker, i truly long to slow down & be more intentional. getting married, becoming a parent, and moving into our house are all things that have made continuing to choose this new lifestyle even more meaningful, but – even after a few years of work – daaaang do i have a long way to go! i know i’m doing a lot of re-programming after so many years of feeling like i’ve needed to work harder, do more, and excel. i remind myself often that Rome wasn’t built in a day & that small steps matter.

by the grace of God, i’m getting there, and i feel like learning more about hygge is already another helpful lens for me. it’s helped me take a step back & think less about what i need to do or not do and more about how i do things. how i hope others receive time with me or time with us at our house.

then it hit me, these past few days, that it also includes how i go about doing even the most normal things & the simple ways i can enjoy them – or enjoy them more. lighting a candle while i work. [finds & lights candle; immediately feels more cozy.] a cup of tea. gardening. weekend brunch. a vase of pretty blooms. typing those things out makes them sound so simple, and in general they are, but i know that the profundity of hygge is the balance it strikes between how we do what we do, why we do it, and who we do it for (ourselves included). and that sounds like a very worthwhile life – er, year – pursuit.

it could just be me, soaking up the cozy, slow nature of these snowy winter minnesota days, but i think winter may draw out the hygge-ness in many of us. bundling up to head out, then the rush of warmth as you enter a cozy house and gather around fireplaces and tables with friends and family. slow meals. pajama-jamy days with only playing & naps & movies under soft blankets on the agenda. whatever it is for you, i hope you find those simple moments more readily and that they leave their joyful, peace-breathing mark on your heart each time.

one thing that brings me great joy & slows me down is cooking & baking for others. the very nature of cooking & baking evoke hygge for me (maybe not so much weeknight cooking hygge-ness, yet. i love it but, i’m working on more cozy/calm, less post-work hustle/multi-tasking. maybe lighting a candle will help? haha!), and the recipe below was really fun to make and has been a gift to enjoy together this weekend.

:: cinnamon pear cake with vanilla fudge sauce ::
adapted slightly from nigel slater, ripe

pear cake slice

nigel writes, in the head note for the recipe, “This is the most gorgeous fudge sauce imaginable, tasting like melted, creamy vanilla toffee. The pear cake isn’t bad either.” our family would like to enthusiastically second, third, and fourth his sentiments. that sauce…

i needed to make a few ingredient substitutions:
–  i commonly sub light brown sugar for light muscovado sugar and did so here.
– i used granulated sugar in place of golden baker’s sugar. google pointed me in that direction, letting me know that golden baker’s sugar can be found – it’s just rather expensive.
– i didn’t have self-rising flour but found a number of recipes that all lead me to the same result: it’s super simple to make. to each cup of flour, add 1½ teaspoons of baking powder and ¼ teaspoon of salt. whisk well & use as directed in recipe.

ingredients

cake
14 tablespoons (200g) butter, softened
1 cup (200g) golden baker’s sugar [sub: regular granulated sugar]
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1½ cups (200g) self-rising flour [if making your own: 1½ cups flour + 2¼ teaspoons baking powder + ⅜ teaspoon salt]
½ teaspoon baking powder

pears
1½ pounds (750g) ripe pears
½ lemon
3 tablespoons (40g) butter
3 tablespoons light muscovado sugar [sub: light brown sugar]
heaping ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

vanilla fudge sauce
scant ½ cup (100g) light muscovado sugar [sub: light brown sugar]
⅓ cup (100g) maple syrup or golden syrup [i used maple syrup]
3½ tablespoons (50g) butter
⅔ cup (150ml) heavy cream
a couple drops of vanilla extract

instructions

  1. preheat oven to 325º.
  2. lightly butter a 9½ inch springform cake pan (ours is 9 inches and was fine. i don’t see why an 8 or 9 inch square cake pan wouldn’t work).

pears

  1. peel, halve, and core the pears. dice into ¾ inch cubes. to prevent pears from browning, you can put them in a bowl of water mixed with the juice from the half lemon.
  2. melt butter and muscovado/brown sugar in a medium sauté pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. add pears (drain, if in lemon water) and cinnamon to the pan, cooking until they are tender and the sauce coats the pears; about 5 minutes. take pan off the heat to cool.

cake

  1. in a medium bowl or stand mixer, beat butter and golden baker’s/granulated sugar until light and creamy.
  2. alternating (so that the mixture doesn’t curdle), add eggs and half of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture, mixing well after each addition.
  3. using a spatula, fold in the remaining flour and the baking powder, followed by the cooked pears and their syrup.
  4. pour batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake 45 minutes, until risen and golden. a metal skewer inserted in the center of the cake will come out clean when it’s done. in a pan smaller than 9½ inches, the cake will take longer.
    * i checked the cake every 3 minutes and ended up needing and additional 6 minutes for a 9 inch springform pan.

vanilla fudge sauce

  1. stir together sugar, syrup, and butter in a small sauce pan.
  2. bring mixture to a boil for about a minute, stirring only enough to prevent it from sticking to the pan.
  3. stir in the cream, remove from heat.
  4. add the vanilla, stir well, and leave to cool. sauce will thicken as it cools.

serve slices of cake topped with a spoonful of sauce. slater also recommends ice cream which would be decadent, but even with “just” the sauce, it’s a warm, cozy, luxurious treat.

yield: one 9½ inch cake; approximately 1 cup of sauce; 8-10 servings

Advertisements

lunchtime glory days & a salad “recipe.”

in college, my favorite lunch spot was Mrs. Green’s. to my great benefit, it was right next to the business school that i spent many seemingly endless days at for 2+ years. had Chick-fil-A been in good old Harrisonburg at the time*, much less fifty steps from my home-away-from-home, i’m not sure how i would have fared. but i digress.

Mrs. Green’s was in the basement of a building, and – maybe for choosing lettuce and vegetables? – the unexpected rewards of lunch there were the sunshine & lake views. the back side of the building was lower than the front, so our tired minds & sleepy peepers welcomed the vitamin D and entertainment from the ducks playing in Newman Lake.

it was a surprise to exactly no one that the easiest part of lunch, for me, was deciding where to go. however, once i was there, all bets were off. the spread of deliciousness to choose from was fantastic. different types of lettuce, spring greens, spinach…endless vegetables & proteins & fruit…toppings, toppings, & more toppings…dressings. all ready & waiting. it’s a good thing we paid by visit, not by plate weight.

those were lunchtime glory days! in trying to channel my inner Mrs. Green, this little ditty has become my faithful go-to. with a little prep (roasting beets & shaking up a jar of dressing) that is mostly hands-off (hooray!), i can throw it together quickly, it travels well, and, so far, it’s been a crowd-pleaser, too.

beets are a vegetable that i first started to explore, basically out of sheer necessity, six years ago. i joined a CSA for the first time, and these little jewels were, shall we say, bountiful. the only thing i connected beets to up until that time were the magenta, pungent pools of pickled, rubbery cubes on salad bars, but i was hopeful. i mean, how could something so pretty (deep purple! gold! striped! even the greens are cool) not have at least a little potential?!

friends, i’m here to tell you that i found their potential. and it’s delicious. just sweet enough, velvety, good both warm and cold, and easy. that’s maybe one of their finer features on the topic of weekend prep for weekday meals. this delightfully thrown together salad has all the right things going on between crisp greens, sweet/savory beets, creamy avocado & feta, fresh berries, and salty nuts all mingling with the maple balsamic vinaigrette.

with beets and greens rocking it in our CSA boxes and berries at the peak of their season, i’ve been a pretty happy camper re-living a little slice of those good old glory days.

*seriously, the pickins were slim in suuuper-small-town VA when i was there. it was a BIG day when we got a Super Walmart in addition to the regular Walmart.

:: roasted beet salad with maple balsamic vinaigrette ::
how to roast beets adapted – barely – from the kitchn

beet salad with maple balsamic vinaigrette

salad recipes sometimes seem a little silly to me because you can throw together whatever you like & happen to have. however, just as quickly as i say that, sometimes i need to see a new pile of goodness to keep my salad rotation – pardon the pun – fresh. with all of that said, the list of ingredients below are the the cast of characters that are often on hand at our house, but sub in whatever you have & love!

i used the kitchn’s recipe for oven roasted beets the first time i made them this way. their instructions are great, but in the interest of keeping things all in one place, i’ve outlined the process with my adjustments below. i roast a bunch in one batch over the weekend, peel & dice them, and they’re read to go all week.

ingredients

salad
1½ cups greens
⅓ cup roasted beets, diced
⅓ cup roasted sweet potato, diced
¼ avocado, diced
⅓ cup cooked chicken, diced/shredded
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
handful of fresh or dried berries
nuts or seeds (sunflower seeds, pepitas, chopped pecans…whatever you like)
maple balsamic vinaigrette

maple balsamic vinaigrette
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

instructions

maple balsamic vinaigrette
add all of the ingredients to a jar of your choice (pint sized or larger) & shake to combine.

roasted beets

  1. preheat oven to 400º.
  2. tear off a piece of aluminum foil that’s big enough to create a little packet for the amount of beets you’re roasting. set the foil on a baking pan/sheet.
  3. if your beets still have the greens on them, cut them off right where they connect to the beet.
    *save your stems & greens! they are great washed, cut, and mixed into your salad greens, sautéed as a side or mixed in to eggs, in smoothies, or lots of other ways. this salad from sara at sprouted kitchen is the bomb.
  4. scrub the beets a little & and toss them onto the foil. no need to dry them; extra water is actually good. it will create some steam in the foil packet & will help the skins slide off even more easily. (before i seal up the foil, i make sure there is a tablespoon or so of water in the packet.)
  5. trim off any rough parts of the beets if you’d like, but even that’s probably not necessary.
  6. roll the top & sides of the aluminum foil to create a little rectangular packet.
  7. slide the pan into the oven & roast for 45-60 minutes (45 for smaller beets, 60 for larger).
  8. take the pan out of the oven & let the beets cool, still enclosed in the packet, for 20 mins or so.
  9. peeled roasted beetopen up the packet, and when the beets are cool enough to touch, apply a little pressure & a downward motion to the skin of the beet, and it should slide right off.

 

 

2017 & cake for dinner.

friends, i’m fairly certain that i could sit here for hours looking at the screen with this post 75% ready to go with the cake picture, link, and recipe written & formatted. days, even. maybe weeks? because the other part of the post – the part where i jump back in to this little old blog spot-o-mine – that part i feel like i need to do “right.”

“right.” oy! such an unnecessarily heavy word sometimes, isn’t it? but we’re going to shake off all of that & jump in. just like that :o) small steps, one at a time.

a few things have happened since that last post just shy of two (two?!) years ago. i tried writing about 15 different posts after that one, as we stepped into IVF, and i don’t know what it was, but it just didn’t work to post them. so to fast forward: we are one of the incredibly, overwhelmingly, beyond-any-words-ever blessed couples that it worked for. and i have to tell you: we have spent the last year watching the most ridiculously awesome little boy grow & learn & basically amaze us daily. we are for sure THOSE cliché parents.

we also moved into a new house (1.5 weeks before the babe arrived. totally sensible!) on the exact opposite side of town. so, you could say that 2016 was full to the brim with learning  & all the new things all at the same time. it was wonderful. and it was busy. and it was exhausting.

i love every ounce of what 2016 held for us – how we grew together as a family, how it shaped us more into who we are created to be, how we learned about each other & ourselves as husband & wife, parents, creatives…and i am looking so forward to 2017. to slowing down, savoring this sweet, fleeting season, loving well & focusing on each other,  doing some new things.

and how better to start a year than with cake for dinner on new year’s eve, right?

to back up a few steps, my permanent christmas eve job is bringing dessert. i hadn’t even started thinking about what to bring when i stumbled upon this recipe, but there was immediately no other option once i saw it. in the interest of full disclosure, the cake itself is easy to make, but the marshmallow fluff & buttercream frosting take some time. it’s not an every day, one bowl & done recipe, but for a special occasion, it’s absolutely worth the effort. plus, the recipe as written made extra fluff & buttercream, so i made an extra cake on new year’s eve. which gets us back to that cake for dinner thing. there’s a first time for everything!

:: hot chocolate cake ::
adapted – barely – from the cake blog (a recipe by olivia bogacki)

IMG_1253

i joke that there are certain female “musts” that i wasn’t born with – one being i don’t love chocolate. i’ve never been one for chocolate cake or chocolate frosting, much less the two together, so the fact that this cake recipe & this chocolate frosting recipe are now my go-tos says something. the cake is dense & rich while the frosting is light & rich. both in their own way that i can only best describe – as strange as it may sound – as luxurious.

the recipe as written made three times more marshmallow fluff and two times more buttercream than i used to assemble the cake – and i don’t think i skimped on either one. we used the leftovers in hot chocolate & took little tastes by spoonful before making a second cake & still having fluff left over.

the original recipe didn’t mention anything about making components or assembling the cake ahead of time, but i don’t see any reason why you couldn’t do either of these things. if you would like to do either of these things, i’ve made notes at the bottom of the recipe.

ingredients

cake
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
¾ tsp salt
2 large eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil (i used canola)
½ cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup hot chocolate, made with milk

marshmallow fluff
⅓ cup water
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup light corn syrup
3 large egg whites
½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla

chocolate buttercream frosting
5 large egg whites
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 ½ cups butter, at room temp, cut into ½” cubes
4 oz dark chocolate, melted & cooled (i used bittersweet)

instructions

cake

  1. preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. grease two 8″ round cake pans. line bottoms with parchment & dust with cocoa powder.
  3. measure all dry ingredients into the bowl & mix until combined.
    * i recommend mixing by hand with a whisk. both times i used my electric mixer i ended up with a thin layer of cocoa powder all over my counters…even when i was really careful the second time.
  4. in a separate bowl or large measuring cup (4 cup works well), mix the eggs, oil, buttermilk, & vanilla. slowly add the warm hot chocolate while whisking constantly.
  5. add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients & mix on medium speed for 2-3 minutes (or by hand until everything is combined & there is no sign of dry ingredients). the batter will be very thin.
  6. pour batter evenly into prepared pans. bake for 30 minutes (checking at 25 minutes) or until a toothpick  inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
  7. cook cakes on wire rack for about 10 minutes, then take them out, peel off the parchment, & let them cool completely.

marshmallow fluff

  1. combine water, sugar, & corn syrup in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved, then insert a candy thermometer and stop stirring. you are watching for the temperature to reach 225ºF.
  2. while you are waiting, place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
  3. when the sugar syrup reaches 225ºF, start whipping the egg whites until they reach soft peaks. *continue monitoring the sugar syrup*
  4. when the sugar syrup reaches 240ºF, remove the pan from the heat, turn the mixer speed to medium, and very slowly pour the sugar syrup into the whipped egg whites in a thin stream.
  5. once all of the syrup is in the mixer with the whipped egg whites, turn the mixer speed up to medium-high and whip the fluff until it is thick & glossy and the bowl of the mixer is no longer hot. the original recipe says this takes about 7-8 minutes.
  6. turn the mixer speed down to medium, add the vanilla, and mix until combined.

chocolate buttercream frosting

  1. place the egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a mixer with the whisk attachment and whisk until combined.
  2. insert a candy thermometer into the bowl with egg white & sugar mixture, place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk constantly (to prevent eggs from cooking).
  3. when the egg white & sugar mixture reaches 160ºF, remove the bowl from the heat.
  4. using the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8-10 minutes – again feeling for the bowl to cool down, this time so that it is no longer warm. the meringue will be fluffy, glossy, & will hold stiff peaks.
  5. switch to the paddle attachment and, with mixer speed on low, slowly add the butter in small cubes. mix until all of the butter is mixed in & there are no streaks or chunks.
  6.  add the vanilla and cooled chocolate and whip on medium-high until silky and smooth.

to assemble the cake

  1. place one cake layer onto serving plate. pipe a dam of chocolate frosting around the edge of the cake (this prevents the fluff from seeping out; i put some frosting in a plastic bag & cut a small tip off) and the spread about a cup of the fluff in the middle.
  2. put the second cake layer on top.
  3. from here you can do whatever works for you. if you want to do a crumb coat – go for it! if you want to just frost it – go for it! the original recipe called for a crumb coat & 20 minutes in the fridge before frosting. i skipped the crumb coat & didn’t have any trouble.
  4. i used my fancy plastic bag for piping again & did little scallops of fluff on the top, but it was a little fussy, so i went with piped rounds around the bottom of the cake. the video they link to is helpful if you want to try the scallops :o)

assembling the cake ahead of time: the second cake we made was eaten over the course of a week (stored in the refrigerator), and we didn’t think it ever dried out or lost flavor. i think assembling the cake up to one day before serving it would be just fine. Store the assembled cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator, taking it out 30-60 minutes before serving to let the buttercream warm up.

making components ahead of time: each component (cake, marshmallow fluff, buttercream frosting) can be made prior to assembly.

  • cakes: the fully cooled cakes can be wrapped in plastic wrap & stored one night before assembly (i did this), or in the comments, the author of the cake blog says they can be wrapped in plastic wrap & stored in zip-top freezer bags in the freezer, thawing before assembly.
  • mashmallow fluff: can be made a day or two ahead of time, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. you can use it cold from the refrigerator for assembly.
  • buttercream: can be made a day or two ahead of time, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. let it warm to room temperature for 30-60 minutes before assembly.

yield: one 8” 2-layer cake; 12 servings

2014 in pictures & squash ginger soup.

i’ve never been one to be all that short-winded, so if a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s probably fitting that the pictures below are what i could “cut down” to as a summary of 2014. the majority showed up along the social media path, so they aren’t new, but here, together, in chronological order they remind me of the story of our year. a little year in review is after the recipe, if you’d like.

2014 in pictures

:: squash ginger soup ::

squash ginger soup

per usual, this recipe is highly adaptable. if you don’t have a leek, you can throw in another ¼ cup of diced onion. we didn’t have a full 4 cups of butternut squash, so i used buttercup squash, too. for the ginger & curry, i recommend starting on the lower side of the measurements, unless you have strong feelings about either ingredient. use more or less depending on your preference. for example, we do 3 teaspoons of ginger because we like the kicked-up flavor it offers, and we do about 1 ½ teaspoons of curry. the orange juice may seem to be an unusual addition, but it blends all of the flavors really well.

ingredients

2 thick cut slices of bacon, optional (if not, 1 tablespoon olive oil)
2 cups carrots, sliced
1 medium leek, sliced
½ cup onion, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2-3 teaspoons ginger, peeled & minced
4 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, & cubed (1 – 1½” is good)
1 medium celeriac, peeled, trimmed, & cubed (1 – 1½” cubes is good; approx 1½ cups)
1 medium apple, cored & diced (you can keep the peel on)
4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (not powder)
4-6 cups stock (vegetable or chicken) or water
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
½ cup orange juice
½ cup milk, milk alternative, or cream, optional
salt & pepper, to taste

instructions

  1. in a large stock pot over medium heat:
    if you’re using bacon, cook it until crispy. place on a paper towel to drain until cool, then crumble into small pieces. if there is more than a tablespoon of bacon fat, pour it off & discard.
    if you’re not using bacon, heat one tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. add carrots, leek, onion, garlic, & ginger to pan. sauté 2-3 minutes (your kitchen will smell dreamy!).
  3. add squash, celeriac, apple, & thyme to pan; stir to combine.
  4. add stock to cover vegetables, depending on how you want your soup: 4 cups will result in a thicker soup; 6 cups will be less thick. even 6 cups will not result in a runny soup, though.
  5. increase heat to medium high & bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. simmer until squash & celeriac are fork tender – 15-20 minutes.
  6. remove pot from heat & stir in curry powder & orange juice. if you have an immersion blender, you can purée the soup until smooth in the pot. if not, wait until the soup is cool & blend it in batches in a blender or food processor.
  7. serve warm; we love it in any number of ways – plain, with a dollop of plain yogurt, bacon, & croutons, or with a little hunk of crusty bread.

yield: approximately 10 cups (depending on amount of liquid used)

– – – – – – –

2014 was a pretty quiet year. i struggled for the first few weeks of last january to settle on a word to focus on for the year and was actually just fine with not having one. the point of having one was if something came to mind & felt fitting, so there was no need to force one…and then one day it hit me: abide. if it’s even possible, i think my soul sighed in sweet relief – “abide” felt perfect looking ahead to 2014.

i am the vine; you are the branches. if you remain in me and i in you,
you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
john 15:5  

this year has been one of deep, deep thankfulness for my incredible husband &, fittingly, having wonderful things to celebrate him for throughout the year. we’ve tried new things [knitting socks (me), calligraphy (both), homemade bitters (him), a fantastic class at the kitchen window (both), & lots of new recipes (both)], explored our city, traveled well-worn paths at our favorite farmer’s markets, & got outta dodge for a week-long, wonderful road trip to see friends (in chicago) & family (in ann arbor) this summer. the cherry on top of our summer was a visit  from nieces cuter than you could fathom, full of adventures & fun.

i got a few more stamps in my passport, soaked up encouraging words & quotes that resonated truth, and was attuned to growth all around me. part of that was in the patio garden we had – i was mildly obsessed with having my hands in the dirt & watching everything sprout & blossom. the rest seemed to purely be nature’s gift. our house plants grew like crazy, our wedding lemon tree continued to be a rockstar, & even our christmas tree sprouted! have you ever heard of that?! it’s for sure a first for us! they were the simplest, often tiniest little things, but seeing the sprouts & buds kept reminding me in quiet, consistent ways of the new things always waiting just around the corner.

the unrivaled highlight of this year, however, was celebrating our first wedding anniversary. we looked back on our first year full of deep love, true heartache, & the sweetest comfort in knowing that we are richly blessed to do this life together. in the same way, looking back on 2014, we see a year full of those very same things. i cannot imagine going through this past year with anyone other than dustin by my side. this year was filled with more joy & more laughter-until-i-cried thanks to him.

here’s to deep, abiding love, hope, & the new things in store for 2015!

gratitude, day 28.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for a relaxed week.

thanksgiving week 2014i am super grateful that this week i was able to work remotely before thanksgiving and the long weekend. we had plans monday in minneapolis, so my office away from the office was spyhouse NE. i settled in early in the morning at a cozy table towards the back of the main room. a warm caramella, computer, notebook, and a view out the windows as the snow flakes fell. tuesday and wednesday i worked from home which was a wonderful thing.

as you might imagine, the more relaxed week has allowed for great kitchen time. there was a lot of pumpkin going on, cooking, baking, curry, pie, donuts, soup…lots of bases covered. the first recipe i want to share, though, is for shauna niequist’s pumpkin curry. laura made it a few weeks ago, and after all but licking my plate, i had been craving it in a major way. it is a simple recipe that comes together pretty quickly. i halved shauna’s recipe and improvised on a few things which i’ve noted below.

:: pumpkin curry ::
adapted from shauna niequist

pumpkin curry lgwith more people learning about food allergies, i am so thankful to have a growing collection of recipes that i can pull from that are diet and/or allergy friendly. this one is gluten free & can be made vegetarian by omitting the chicken & chicken broth. we had canned tomatoes & dried cranberries on hand, so we used those in place of the roma tomatoes and raisins. we loved both so much that we’ll probably always use them. as shauna notes, this is another dish that is even better the next day.

also – i know it’s not the most photogenic dish, but i promise it makes up for it in flavor!

ingredients

olive oil
1-1½ lbs boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp curry powder (use what you like best, and adjust to your liking)
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (adjust to your liking)
½ tsp sea salt
1 cup yellow onion, cut into strips or diced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled & minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
1 bell pepper, cut into 1” strips
½ cup dried cranberries
1 cup plain yogurt, optional
3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped, optional
3 tbsp fresh basil, chopped, optional

instructions

  1. in a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of olive oil. add chicken, curry powder, cayenne pepper, & salt, stirring to coat. cook chicken until browned, about 5-7 minutes. remove the chicken from the pan & set aside.
  2. heat another 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan and add onions. cook 3-5 mins, stirring occasionally until onions soften & become translucent. stir in the garlic & ginger, cooking an additional 1-2 minutes.
  3. reduce heat to medium low and add cooked chicken, broth, pumpkin puree, tomatoes, bell pepper, & dried cranberries to pan. stir to combine & taste for seasoning. adjust to your liking with additional salt, pepper, or curry if needed.
  4. allow curry to simmer until bell peppers & cranberries are soft and tender – approximately 20-30 minutes.
  5. we served the curry over rice & with a dollop of plain yogurt to cut the heat a little.

yield: 4 servings

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.
gratitude, day 16. :: gratitude, day 17. :: gratitude, day 18. :: gratitude, day 19. :: gratitude, day 20.
gratitude, day 21. :: gratitude, day 22. :: gratitude, day 23. :: gratitude, day 24. :: gratitude, day 25.
gratitude, day 26. :: gratitude, day 27.

gratitude, day 22.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for jammie days & kettle corn.

movie snuggles

after a busy week, the past couple of days including a rockstar almost-three-year-old (even when he’s under the weather – poor guy!), staying in today was exactly what we all needed. we slept in, and when we woke up, we dubbed today to be pajama-jammie-jam day. we proceeded to make pancakes, play, draw , paint, nap, and watch movies. and what goes better with movies than popcorn?! this is our go-to kettle corn recipe. i hope you love it as much as we do!

:: kettle corn ::
recipe from two peas & their pod

ingredients

¼ cup coconut oil
½ cup popcorn kernels
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp sea salt

instructions

  1. melt coconut oil in a large pot with a lid.
  2. add popcorn kernels.
  3. when popcorn kernels begin to sizzle, sprinkle sugar over kernels.
  4. cover the pan, shaking it lightly. continue shaking the pan as the kernels pop.
    *hint – using pot holders helps to hold the handles & lid while you’re shaking the pot over the heat.
  5. when the popping slows to about 30 seconds between pops, take the pan off of the heat, remove lid, & sprinkle salt over popcorn. put the lid back on & shake to cover kernels while the sugar is still warm.

yield: about 10 cups

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.
gratitude, day 16. :: gratitude, day 17. :: gratitude, day 18. :: gratitude, day 19. :: gratitude, day 20.
gratitude, day 21.

gratitude, day 11.

This gallery contains 25 photos.

gratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for … Continue reading

gratitude, day 9.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for sunday sabbath.

today was one of those days i talked about on the first day of these “gratitude lately” posts: full-to-the-brim with memories & goodness. we had back-to-back things happening all day, but they were totally worth it and totally life-giving. we got to spend the beginning of the day with my mom & step-dad before driving across town to have coffee with friends we love. then we all headed to church together to worship & learn with a community of people we are grateful to do life with – on sundays & many other days throughout each week. as full as it was, it was truly a sabbath day of resting with loved ones & being refreshed.

we’ve learned that sundays tend to be a little more full purely due to the transition from weekend to new week. if possible, we try to keep errands & other running around to saturdays so that we can be home sunday to make breakfast, prep lunch stuff for the week, do laundry & house work, etc. an incredibly helpful habit we’ve adopted is having dinner either completely made (thus only needing re-heating) or fully prepped (to throw in a pan or in the oven as soon as we walk in the door) before we leave for church. at least one of us is already in the kitchen doing lunch stuff anyway, so working on dinner fits easily in that rhythm. plus, a little extra work earlier in the day makes those last hours between getting home & (hopefully…) getting to bed a little less chaotic. because, let’s be honest – i have a hard time with sunday nights. i’m one of those people that agrees 100% with this:

Honestly….

A post shared by The Honest Company (@honest) on

this recipe is a home run as much for making ahead of time & warming later as it is for prepping early & having dinner on the table without a whole lot of fuss. from the first time i made it this past winter, sweet potato chili has been in our meal rotation at least monthly – even in the summer!

Continue reading

gratitude, day 3.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for fall’s harvest.

i have been reminded in the past month how much i adore the pumpkin & squash fall treats us to. we’ve made butternut squash soup, butternut squash pasta, and pumpkin cookies, and tonight we made pumpkin scones. the flavors are so deep, rich, and sweet. as an added benefit, they store super well, so their goodness lasts through the fall into winter. if we can spread them out that long, that is.

all of these recipes could find their way into a post this month or sometime in the future, but the one i want to share today is the butternut squash pasta. the day i made it, with the weather being a little overcast and the feeling of fall blowing in through the wind, i was craving something warm, comforting, and savory. we had gotten our very last weekly CSA box the week before, and i was coveting the butternut squash.

Continue reading

holding on to summer.

pickle profile

after a picture-perfect weekend of sunny, warm days – particularly at the end of september…in minnesota, no one wants to be the first one to say it. after all, i had just gotten myself warmed up to the idea of fall. and then we had last week in all of its glory, and this morning, we woke up to that chill in the air again. we’re not there just yet – there are sunny days still ahead, but fall is here. in a way, the burst of warm air & sunshine with everyone out & about soaking it all in actually helps the transition. i can’t quite say that i’m fully ready to turn over t-shirts for sweaters & flip-flops for boots, but i have begun the transition a little in the kitchen. we had mediterranean beef stew last week, chili with our small group a few weeks ago, and chicken noodle soup for dinner tonight.

one of my favorite parts of the summer-to-fall season transition is getting to enjoy a little of both. these days, it’s not unusual for me to have a pot of soup simmering and a pile of produce ready to preserve: canning tomatoes, basil, garlic, cucumbers, onion, raspberries. we canned 40 pounds of tomatoes so we can cozy up with warms soups & stews all fall & winter, froze jars of pesto, stashed away jars of jam to open when the first snow flies, and made four pints of a fun, new-to-me version of pickles. the recipe came in one of our CSA weekly newsletters this summer, and friends made them right away. their rave reviews had me slicing cucumbers the next weekend, and here we are. we’re suckers for our CSA’s garlic, so i couldn’t help adding it to the recipe. it didn’t disappoint, and now i can’t get enough of the garlicky, sweet, crunchy little snack.

Continue reading