Cold Icky Day, Warm Full Belly

Cold weather has finally (and briefly) moved into the southeast. Moose is stuck at work but Lil Bit and I are busy working on things at home. Including a yummy and hearty soup that has become a family favorite. I was originally inspired by a recipe you can find here. However, none of us are fans of celery and Lil Bit has a tomato allergy so this Mommy had to creatively find a way to give the soup some flavor and acidity. You can absolutely pre-prep this and throw it in the freezer (minus broth) for a busy night and cook in either the slow cooker for about 4-6 hours or you can also cook in a Dutch oven the way I do for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The last 5-10 mins I cook I take the lid off and let it reduce just a little.

Mushroom Barley Stew (E2 Tomato-free version)

8oz Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced

2 carrots sliced (I like rainbow carrots)

1 onion, diced

1 cup uncooked pearl barley

2 cloves of garlic, minced (I am having a strange pregnancy aversion to garlic at this time so I just used about 1 tsp garlic powder)

1/2 to 1 tablespoon of salt (I tend to like it less salty because I use unsalted beef broth that still has some sodium content)

1 tsp of dried basil

1 tsp of preferably fresh black pepper

1-2 tablespoons Marsala or similar wine

6 cups of unsalted Beef Broth (if needing tomato-free for allergy PLEASE watch the label as many, many brands include tomato. I use Pacific organic brand or Field Day organic brand as they have so far been safe for us)
This is a super hearty stew and probably makes between 6-8 servings depending on size/appetite. Moose is a big guy with a big appetite so closer to 6 servings for us.

I hope you my spin on this stew. 

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Mommy and Me Day: Christmas cookie edition 

My little one had her first day of Christmas vacation today for which I happen to be off of work. She kept telling me all day how excited she was to have a “mommy and me play day” and it made my heart sing. We played and talked and went to the grocery store together but the best part was baking cookies. We made my “reindeer poop cookies” as my family and friends have gleefully named them. They are a chocolate crinkle cookie with crushed up peppermints (only the ones made with real peppermint oil do the trick) on top while still hot and they do resemble their name sake. I so loved that she is old enough for us to put on our Christmas aprons, sing Christmas songs into our spatulas, and make some love-filled goodies. 

Yummy products of our Mommy and Lil Bit Day


This tradition is especially important to me this year, my first year without my Nana. Nana baked for the holidays like it was her God-given job. My family on that side is very large with even more extended family and friends flocking to my Nana’s small but ever-welcoming home and arms. For as long as I can remember walking into my Nana’s house in the weeks approaching Christmas meant having your olfactory overloaded with the smell of sweets and treats in the oven. Just as many stayed in old-school Tupperware on a small fold out table, in the back of the dining room as were given out to family, friends, co-workers or someone who just looked a bit peckish. And there was my tiny, bespectacled-Nana, all 5 ft-even of her, with one of an assortment of Christmas aprons on and immediately stopping whatever she was feverishly working on to give you a hug and a kiss. 

She’d ask about your day in front of your momand then conspiratorially whisper to question if you wanted to help bake–and lick the spatula with a glimmer in her eye after making you wash your hands and pull your hair back. I always thought of her as one of Santa’s helpers as a child as she moved about the kitchen in a magic way. I know Lil Bit will never get these cherished memories with her “Nanny”, but I can give her as close to an experience as possible with all 5’1″ of me, finding some holiday spirit inside and patience which I do not normally have for a special day of cookie-making. I hope we get to do it every year and I hope she looks as forward to it as I did with Nana. And yes, I gave her the spatula to lick. 😉

Nana and I circa pregnant with Maddie so 2011?

How to love cooking for those that don’t–Part I (My introduction to the culinary world)

So I guess before I explain the above title let me explain a little about me and the Moose.

Before Moose and I started dating, even when we were just friends, I ate a pretty bland, borderline rabbit food diet. I had never really liked food that much even as a child. My parents used to have to cut all the “crusts” off of everything, even taking the breading off of chicken nuggets. I drank water and apple juice and that was pretty much it. As I got older a few more things made it onto the very slim list including salads, breading, and Chinese food. I’ve never liked pizza, fried chicken or sweet tea (how anti-Southern is that of me, bless my heart….)

Looking back now I know why I was thin and my mom had to literally iron my pantyhose/tights for dance class so that they didn’t wrinkle and sag. I was always doing at least one very active activity. Well along comes high school and even late I that game I was picky, my now husband, then best friend, started educating my palate with Greek/Mediterranean food at a little restaurant that no longer exists (much to our dismay). The owner, a man who could have been the basis for Costas “Gus” from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, was so warm and welcoming and told me I was picky only because I had never had Greek food before, “I cook something for you…..”

And so he did, and I ate. Any weekend night Moose worked, our very own “Gus” would tell him to call me and have me come down and he would cook for me. Chicken Alfredo, chicken Marsala, pesto, Greek yogurt with honey, Greek salad, feta cheese, crusty bread with “good” olive oil and balsamic vinegar all became weekend staples, thank God for tennis or I would have been as wide as I was tall. He would never let me pay for a meal unless if was with a bunch of friends. I owe the man more than the sum of all those meals for educating my palate.

From there I continued to discover new food with Moose and when he left the engineering route and went the culinary route I actually developed a love of food. Sedentary lifestyle of a nursing students and the Moose’s rich and delicious food = 40 lbs that I’ve never quite shook for long. I lost weight when I became a floor nurse but gained it back when we got married and moved back home and I began nightshift. More school, a baby and now I’m 50lbs from my high school weight and 30 lbs from where I’d like to be but I really still love food.

Part of the problem is that I’ve always hated cooking or at least thought I had. Turns out I just didn’t really know how to cook and was completely uninterested in learning how. Lil Bit changed that, I wanted to give her the most nutritious food while she was growing in the womb and just as organic and nutritious while I was breast feeding. Once she was old enough to eat I began making my own baby food and then her meals. My husband started a healthy lifestyle change and began bodybuilding about two years ago and now we are much more health conscious with our cooking in general; however when I want something comforting or savory, I have to cook it. Thus began my culinary journey and a love/hate relationship with cooking.

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My first Pinterest fail….

This was supposed to be something entitled “spiced sweet potato and goat cheese egg skillet” instead resembles goat vomit. Despite its paltry appearance, it tastes magnificent. The original recipe from Naturally Ella.

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I also used coriander in place of turmeric which I also think helped, again despite appearances. Lil Bit agrees.

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