Thursday, December 31, 2015

December 2015

Whoa, today is the last day of 2015!  So much has happened to us this year, as tends to happen every year it seems.  While a lot of bloggers are writing about their year in review, we've been so busy eating and socializing our way through December that I feel compelled to play catch up before looking back at the whole year!

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Spotted Brown Mouse (a.k.a. SBM), Jules' archrival-slash-BFF still lives.  He often hides under the dry sink or the stove.




My mother turned 60!  We had the quietest birthday celebration at my house in our PJs, with a simple dinner and Gluten Free Black Bean Brownies for dessert.  Dana's recipe is awesome!  I highly recommend this dessert if you're looking for low sugar, high protein blast of chocolate.  These babies are only 140 calories, 9g of sugar and 5 g of protein per 'muffin'.  If you've never had a black bean brownie, the answer is no, you cannot taste one hint of black bean despite it being the dominant ingredient.  Pretty cray.


We celebrated Thanksgiving at my parents-in-law's house with lots of friends and family.







A lot of delicious and skillfully prepared food was served...




I, of course, brought the Apple Spiced Coffee Cake I wrote about last month.

And we played pass the baby... :)



Andy and I have been actively upping our meals to incorporate a lot of vegetables and salads in between feasts.  Check out my post on How to Boil an Egg for this yummy inspired, dressing-free salad.  


My snacks for work have gotten a little too elaborate.  Plain Greek yogurt with chia seeds, pecans, walnuts and honey :)


Still, I have FOMO on holiday foods so I tried Stollen this year (thanks but no thanks!) and picked up this pack of Apricot Rugelach, which I would be happy eating ALL. DAY. LONG.  Nomnomnom...


Now that we have a house and are married 'adults' we are starting a tradition with some of my family to host an early Christmas celebration at our house.  The second week in December, my mother, sisters and their kids are invited to our house to kick off the holiday season together.  Not only are the kids thrilled that they get to give and receive presents early, but we love seeing each other and spending time together off-holiday, where party hopping tends to occur.  Christmas Eve and Christmas were no rush for us this year and I think we're on to something...



The kids' cousin Jules was not interested in getting in the group picture but proudly poised by his cat grass gift from his Grandma :)


We had our first baby shower!  Our family is way too generous.  I'm the youngest of the "first round" cousins on my family's side and the last to have kids so I think everyone is pretty excited!  I'll add more photos when I get them - I was not the photographer at this party as you can imagine.  Though I did get a close up of Bob the Cat, she was way too cute.


And the baby shower cake was way too good.  Light and fluffy, oh yes.


Jules and I have been sharing the spot in front of the fire as the weather has started to get colder.


Nathan got a toupée.


We were pretty good about incorporating light meals for dinner between holiday gatherings.  We recently baked a spaghetti squash, sautéed some vegetables then topped it off with a delicious Rao's marinara and parmesan cheese.  This is one of my favorite meals but I only ever make it once a year because cutting a raw squash is so treacherous (Andy had to step in for this one).  Let me know if you want me to post our 'recipe' it is pretty simple and oh so worth it.  (Plus, one squash was about three meals for two.  Cook once, eat thrice.  Yessss.)


Jules is in heaven with all the online shopping we've done this month.


With our new holiday celebration schedule, we were able to have a quiet morning at home on Christmas morning... (as seen on my instagram @charlielbl - follow me if you aren't already!)


And a quiet evening at home on Christmas night.  We made this Whole Roasted Chicken, called Weeknight Roast Chicken.  This was my first time making a whole chicken and it was magical.  Really easy, SO flavorful and this recipe is now in serious rotation.  While this recipe is definitely worth it's own blog post, nom nom paleo already did an amazing job of step-by-step instructions so it isn't worth me re-creating instructions for you.  It IS worth you clicking on this link and checking it out for yourself.  Trust me on this one.


And last but not least...we finally bought a bed!  There are so many good sales right now and we couldn't pass up this beauty from West Elm.  I've actually not had an actual bed as an adult.  Now we feel like we're living in luxury.  When I get out of bed in the morning, I'm basically already standing up.  That might not sound like much of a luxury to some of you but since my legs can't bend farther than you see in this photo without doing a 'ladylike' spread eagle, it is a luxury and I'm so thankful for it ;)

{30 weeks}

This is kind of long-winded story but I'll tell you how we end up with this bed if you care to read on.  We previously had been sleeping on our box spring + mattress on the floor.  When we started discussing nursery plans in November (...set up your nursery while you're feeling good during 2nd trimester and all that jazz that goes out the window...) we decided to replace the carpet in our baby boy's room.

Which led to us replacing the carpet in our master bedroom as well...
Which led to us ripping out the crappy built-ins in our walk in closets...
Which led to us to repaint the closet walls and ceilings...
Replace the dim light fixtures...
Then buy a new bed since putting our mattress on our shiny new floors looked and felt ridiculous...
Which led to the decision for a King size bed and mattress since me + the bump + the million pillows leaves zero room for Andy...
Which led to new sheets...

Which leaves the nursery pretty empty but with shiny new wood floors!

So January it is.  We'll get to furnishing the baby's room in January (and then I'll tell you all about it!)

Thank you so much for reading!!!!  Have a SAFE NYE!!!!  Happy 2016!!!

Xo - Charlie

Saturday, December 26, 2015

How to Boil an Egg (...for a yummy salad)


I grew up thinking that a boiled egg meant a dusty yellow-green yolk (sorry, mom) that you would proceed to smash with mayo and pickles and then daintily spoon back into your hollowed out boiled egg white.

Boiled eggs meant a battle with the egg shell, trying not to disturb the delicate smooth shape of the egg while removing the crackling white eggshell.

Eggs meant a refrigerated product that could not be left out at room temperature, lest they spoil.

I used to be afraid of a raw egg.

Now these things that I used to know seem kind of silly to me.  I might have a bit of a cowboy attitude toward food and/or perhaps I've gotten a little too spoiled in the bubble that is Ann Arbor and now I'm food snobby.

As I've aged and learned to feed myself - constantly on the hunt for new recipes, new foods to explore, new cooking methods to attempt - I've developed a passion for cooking and have gotten pretty good at it (right, L.M.?)

I've also discovered some foods/methods that I'm not good at.  I'm not great at making a boiled egg.  I Google 'how to boil an egg' each time I go to attempt it.  It is quite frustrating to undercook an egg, as I destroy the too-soft whites while trying to peel it.  But with each destroyed egg, I'm learning.  I'm making progress.

A boiled egg does not mean a dusty yellow-green yolk but a vibrant yellow-orange, somewhat moist yolk.  There is an easier way to peel an egg.  Eggs are sold next to canned goods in Europe and eggs from the farmer don't go in the refrigerator.  Raw eggs are probably okay to consume as long as they are from a good, safe source (here is where my cowboy attitude takes hold, 'good' and 'safe' might mean something different for me than you).

So, like most of my posts, this one is for me to remind myself of something.  While I'm not good at boiling an egg, I have recently succeeded (and recently failed) and I hope to get better as I boil more eggs.  Because, gosh, I just love a perfectly boiled egg!

Do you have any funny food stories from childhood?

I used to think grilled cheese had to be burnt black too, I didn't realize that a golden crust was also an option.  (Sorry again, mom and dad! )  My parents aren't terrible cooks, I swear :) haha


My quest for egg boiling skills started because we've recently decided to switch up our dinner salads from this Simple Salad or this Kale Salad to a Cobb inspired salad...

-Romaine lettuce
-Baby spinach
-Cheddar cheese
-Tomatoes
-Cucumber
-Bacon
-Red onion
-Farro
-Avocado
-A boiled egg

This baby doesn't even need dressing :) :)


So finally to the point of this post, to remind myself how to boil an egg, here is the method I like for now:

In a small sauce pan, add enough water to cover 2 eggs and begin to heat to a boil.  Once the water is warm, not boiling, add two eggs, set a timer for 10 minutes and continue to bring to a boil.  Once the timer goes off, remove the sauce pan from the stove and set into the sink.  Run cold water into the sauce pan with the eggs, dumping the boiling water as you fill up with cold water.  Once the water is cool to touch (about 1 minute), gently tap the egg against the side of the pan and peel.  In theory the egg shell and membrane should come off in large chunks rather than tiny-piece-by-tiny-piece.

I originally found the recipe here, but read it wrong and developed the above method.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Banana Pancakes


We had an overload of ripe bananas a few weeks ago so I was getting desperate with what to do with them.  One loaf of banana bread, banana bread granola...what next?  I've been really into making pancakes on the weekends so naturally I thought I'd try my hand at banana pancakes.  I explored the idea of those all banana pancakes but quickly decided I would miss the fluffiness of real pancakes and would likely be overwhelmed by an all banana pancake so I took one of my favorite regular pancake recipes and just added 1/2 of a banana.

Voila!

These beauties.  A newest favorite rotation to add to our weekend pancakes.  (My Oatmeal Pancakes with Berry Compote is another go-to recipe 'round here.)

This banana pancake recipe is super straightforward, just a few ingredients:










Does this happen to everyone else too?

My pancakes come out with different finishes depending on the order they are cooked in.



^^ They all taste equally delicious but this finish is my jam maple syrup.











Banana Pancakes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c flour
2 tbsp sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 over ripe banana, smashed
1/4 c unsweetened plain applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
1 c milk

Directions:

Whisk your dry ingredients together and set aside.  In a large bowl use a fork to smash your half banana into a mush and add your applesauce, whisk together to work out the clumps.  Add 2 eggs and vanilla and whisk.  Add your milk and whisk together.

Add your dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir with a fork until combined.  Set aside for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat a buttered skillet over medium heat.  (I like to get two going at once because this part feels like it takes forever when I'm hangry for breakfast!)

Once your skillet is HOT, scoop about 1/3 c of batter onto your buttered hot skillet, let it cook for about 1 minute 30 seconds and bubbles are forming, then flip, cook for another 90 seconds.  Using a spatula, remove the pancake and pour another 1/3 c of batter onto your skillet.  I butter the skillet every other pancake and that seems to work well.

Repeat until you've made about 8 airy, sweet banana pancakes and enjoy plain, wrapped around a slice of bacon or with pure maple syrup.



My strategy for eating pancakes is stack 'em and savor each fluffy bit, enjoying the layers that get a little less maple syrup action (as photographed earlier in this post).  Andy, on the other hand, prefers a divide and conquer method.  Butter each layer, then stack and slice into bite size and THEN slather with maple syrup.  I suspect our son will be the divide and conquer type too :)

What's your pancake eating method?