Category Archives: Cooking

What I’m into: October 2017

Drinking a cup of coffee right before putting the kids to bed (or, rather, letting one’s husband put the kids to bed because he’s going to be at a work thing the following night) is a totally good idea, right? Checking in on the old blog to get myself focused for an evening of productivity.

Reading

I got an alumni library card for the Drake University Cowles Library (thanks, MPA degree!) and it is so awesome. College students don’t read for fun, and so their selection is well-stocked. Plus, it’s a quick bike ride from my house.

Leave it to “Trials of the Earth,” a recently re-issued memoir of pioneer woman Mary Mann Hamilton, to give me a little perspective in life. I’ve always been drawn to pioneer stories (team Laura Ingalls Wilder forever) but this is such a blunt, raw, moving account. Pioneer life was hard work, and as this NPR review puts it :

Beyond everything else, this memoir impresses on readers just how easy it was to vanish in an earlier America. Fevers and accidents carry off loved ones, sometimes in a matter of hours; in other instances, it’s simply the promise of a better life in the next county that lures Hamilton’s friends and relatives away, never to be seen again.

I also skimmed “The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated” on our trip back to Chicago for a wedding. It breaks things down into 10 pretty simple rules. We’re doing most of the things listed, but I’m hoping to be much more proactive/knowledgeable about our finances and there were some chapters that covered new ground for me. It’s also funny and approachable, if you’re looking for smart advice in this department.

Cooking

Our veggie drawer hath overfloweth this fall, between our own little garden, produce from neighbors and a half share of the Blue Gate Farm CSA. I just defrosted some grated zucchini from last month and made up another batch of Smitten Kitchen zucchini fritters tonight. So. Good.

You seriously can’t go wrong with any of Deb’s recipes (and I’m not a huge cook) so I got Joe a copy of her new cookbook for his birthday, with the promise I’d make him whatever he wanted from it.

Exploring

I post kind of a lot about places we visit as a family, and I have been loving the blog Des Moines Outdoor Fun since discovering Stephanie via Instagram. She seems like a total kindred spirit. We checked out Margo Frankel State Park on Sunday morning (north Des Moines – almost Ankeny) after seeing one of her posts, and it was a great little spot to spend a couple of hours with the kids.

I also recently joined the Polk County Conservation Advisory Board (don’t be too impressed, I basically just e-mailed to ask to be on it!) and attended my first meeting out at Yellow Banks State Park (Runnells/Pleasant Hill area).

It was neat to see a new-to-me nature spot, and we got a sneak peek at some plans for cabins there, and saw how the little lake had been re-done. There’s a backpacking camp area just an eighth of a mile from the parking lot/dock, so I think we might be able to try that out with the kiddos next summer.

Dressing up with my husband

Joe and I got fancy for a reception in Chicago at Lacuna Lofts, where my little brother will have his wedding next fall. It’s a funky site with a great view of the skyline. I’m so excited for him! I get to be a groomswoman.

We brainstormed our Halloween costumes on the way home and decided to go as protected bike lanes and the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge!

I used to love coming up with the Iowa/Des Moines themed costumes when I worked for the YP weekly, and it felt good to get creative, even if it was kind of last minute.

I can’t believe tomorrow is November! Even though this year has been generally awful (in my opinion) on a macro scale, and I’ve had my first panic attack about the state of the globe, I am so, so thankful for my family, my community and the happiness in my life.

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Hy-Vee Dish: Happy Hour for the parent set

I’m not sure what it says about my life that the Hy-Vee “Dish” freezer meal workshop I just attended was fun and exciting, but it kind of rocked my world. (Well, nobody got me tickets to the  Beyoncé Formation World Tour!) My friend Kate from babysitting co-op got together 15 women for a Monday night happy hour situation and we all left with 10 meals (four serving each) for under $150 – and no cost to attend.

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Our workshop was from 6-7 p.m., which was perfect timing to take advantage of the Hy-Vee Market  happy hour before we started in on our meals. My grandpa always used to write recipes with “Step 1: Pour a drink,” so I felt right at home. The packaging itself happens in the market cafe, too, and you can bring your beverage right over. (My friend’s jaw dropped when they gave her a bill for just $4 for two local brews. Good deals. Or she’s just cute.)

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The Hy-Vee staff (shout out to Jenn and her team at the Valley West location) did all of the shopping/chopping for us before the event, and each meal had a prep zone with all of the ingredients, instructions, measuring spoons, labeled bags – everything. You just don an apron, gloves, buddy up and measure and dump.  The ingredients were high quality, and whatever is left over you can arm wrestle your friends to take home.

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There’s a variety of meal options, so Kate was a genius and invited us all to a Facebook event and posted the options as a poll, so we could vote for our favorites. Here’s what we took home:

  1. Chicken Pad Thai
  2. Southwest Marinade Steak
  3. Party Chicken
  4. Firecracker Grilled Salmon (super excited about this one!)
  5. Honey Garlic Meatballs
  6. Baked Ziti
  7. Chicken Asada Fajitas
  8. Crockpot Italian Beef
  9. Chicken and Dumplings
  10. Orange Chicken Stir Fry

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I brought my sister-in-law and caught up with my friend Kimberly at the Chicken Pad Thai station. Then, once all of the meals are prepped, they divvy them up for you and you just pay at the register.

I could totally see organizing one of these as a great “stock the freezer” party for a mom-to-be, with everyone chipping in to buy her portion of the dinners. I could also see a group of dudes doing this, or a couples date night thing with a bunch of friends.

Really, just, everyone with a mouth – if you’re the kind of person who uses the slow cooker on the regs, sign up for this. Hy-Vee always manages to make grocery shopping fun for me, and they really outdo themselves with the Dish event. I think you can get a group together and call to schedule a workshop, but certain Hy-Vees also have them on their events calendar.

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What I’m into: Caucus week edition

Totally nerding out in my corner of America because it’s CAUCUS EVE.

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Free caucus download via xo-lp.com

As an Iowan By Choice, I take the privilege of our first in the nation caucus seriously — especially now that we don’t work at the paper and can participate. I gleefully take all of the pollster calls (most recently in the midst of a carwash) and am so excited and a little nervous to head to the Roosevelt auditorium with my family and neighbors and engage in civil political discourse. I know many of my thoughtful neighbors and there seems to be strong support for Hillary, although I plan to caucus for Bernie Sanders.

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While I would absolutely love to see a woman in the white house, for me, Bernie represents the social justice candidate. I’m not disillusioned with Obama and don’t think a “political revolution” happens with a single candidate. This article does a pretty good job of capturing my feelings.

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We went to see him at a rally this summer, and every time Sanders’ voice comes on NPR, Emmett recognizes it! Speaking of NPR, I think I’m going to get up early (because, let’s be frank, I’m typically up feeding a baby at 4 a.m.) and head to Smokey Row for live Morning Edition before work:

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Descending the soapbox now! Entering the kitchen!

I’ve been back to work for about a month, and the biggest stress has been trying to figure out how to get dinner made and served without everyone in the house having a meltdown. This past week we nailed it, repurposing leftovers and utilizing our groceries wisely.

Our latest go-to is variations of tamale pie, which is one-skillet and allows for lots of improvisation. In a cast-iron skillet, sweat veggies like zucchini, pepper and onion in chili powder, add meat (we’ve used ground turkey and most recently leftover pulled pork from a crockpot meal) and top with wet cornbread mix, then bake. (Something like this recipe.) It comes together quickly from scratch and is great for lunch the next day.

We’ve also been eating fresh drop biscuits with soup because mixing them up with pantry staples is a great activity to keep a toddler busy while we get everything together.

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What I’m into: Holidaze

You know it’s the Christmas season when the kitchen table is covered in fabric and I’m trying not to step on straight pins!

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I have my sewing machine out to finish up Eileen’s stocking, which involves quilting Moda Winterberry charms in a coordinating design to hang alongside her brother’s. (Pattern is a riff on this one from Prudent Baby).

The majority of my Instagram feed is either babies, dogs or fabric designers, and when I came across a festive tablesetting project on the fatquartershop feed, I was inspired to make it for my forever friend, Regina:

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(I made my own template, but you can purchase them here.)

Regina and I got to meet up at my hometown Breakfast with Santa this past weekend and had to get a special photo with our baby girls.

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My mom’s side of the family also celebrated, and this snap captures the feels from our family party:

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Emmett’s wearing a Super Why cape my mom sewed for him. Super Why is a PBS superhero with The Power…To..Read! – obviously my favorite super power of all time.

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Joe and I brought this New York Times chocolate whiskey cake, which features a half a cup of Irish whiskey and a bunch of coffee and pinch of pepper/clove. It was intoxicating.

I still have some last-minute crafting, so I’m going to cross my fingers the kids keep napping and put MAIDS’ new holiday song, “All About Xmas” on repeat. Softly.

P.S. I’m obsessed with all things Aziz Ansari right now. Joe and I listened to “Modern Romance” on our drive to/from Chicago and we’ve bingewatched “Master of None” and I laughed out loud watching his Madison Square Garden special on Netflix. He’s got this refreshing sincerity and feminism going on in the midst of all that funny.

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Girls of 2015

I’m always surprised by how excited everyone seems to be that I had a little girl as my second (and last!) child. I love being a mom to a boy and raising him to value and respect women, and would have been totally content with two little dudes. But I’ve got to tell you – pink clothes explosion aside – having a daughter in a time when there are so many inspiring women breaking barriers is pretty exciting.

There’s still so much work to be done to achieve gender equality on a global scale, but this really made me smile:

Semi-related, Joe and I listed to the audiobook of “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg” on our Thanksgiving travels while the kids were sleeping. (We ‘checked it out’ of the library using their Overdrive app!) Her story is super inspiring, but what impressed me so much was the example of an egalitarian marriage that she and her late husband, Marty, shared. Also, I know what Eileen’s next Halloween costume should be 😉

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We also tried to get through (and completed the first set) of the “36 Questions that Lead to Love” featured in the New York Times.

I-80 is so boring, so I have to resist the urge to spend the entire ride scrolling through social media, which is unfair to Joe while he’s driving. I’m feeling super grateful that the only minor meltdown we had in 12 hours of total travel time was a rough patch around Newton on the way home. Bonus points for getting to breastfeed in the Mississippi River McDonalds twice in one week! Ha.

P.S. Joe made this butternut squash mac & cheese as a Thanksgiving side and although Emmett pushed it away after half a taste, it was a hit with the grown-ups!

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At home with the Heggens

Last week, my friends Danny and Katy and I finally made good on a volley of “LET’S MAKE RICOTTA” text messages. What? You don’t text your friends about cheese?

I had cheesemaking on my 30-before-30 list, a my friend even got me a sweet kit, but Emmett and I always seem to drink all of the milk in the house before I can manage any attempt to morph it into cheese. Danny is on a make-things-and-document-it kick, and I knew he’d DIY-d ricotta before, so I talked him into inviting me over to whip up a batch, especially since we don’t see each other at YNPN Des Moines board meetings any more. (Tear.)

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We donned aprons and made this creamy Smitten Kitchen ricotta because pretty much every post on Smitten Kitchen is a mouthwatering gem and they could attest to its taste and ease. Making the ricotta was insanely simple. The Heggens have way nicer kitchen utensils and even bought a bottle of silly alcohol-free red wine for me. The ricotta takes just a few minutes on the stove, and then we had to let it drain/firm up, so could hang out on the back porch and chow chips and drink “wine” and talk about the situational leadership model I learned about at a retreat. Because we’re geeks.

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We went a step further and turned half the ricotta into spinach-and-ricotta dumplings, sauteed in marinara sauce. They were pretty delish. I can’t find the Cooking Light recipe online (it’s in the current issue), but this is pretty similar.

Joe and Emmett came over for dinner after the cooking sesh/Emmett’s nap, and Danny even let Emmett try out his ukulele.

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I’m pretty terrible at making time to hang out with my friends. But I’m a champ at eating Sunday dinner. So, we should probably make and eat Sunday dinner with friends a lot more often.

 

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What I’m into

We have zilch on the agenda for Memorial Day weekend, which is quite amazing, because we definitely need a long weekend to recover from all of the fun we’ve been having before graduation party and family reunion weekends have us traveling again.

Here are a few things I’ve been enjoying lately:

Family date night to Pedal Art at the DMSC. Joe scored tickets to the early evening poster show preview party, so we were able to attend the bike month event as a family and snag a great print before the crowds arrived. It’s so rare that the timing for those events works out for us, so I was in heaven with my 20 oz. chai latte pregnant lady splurge.

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Yummy Toddler Food. My friend Amy (who is admittedly somewhat neurotic about making sure her kiddo gets wholesome food) started Yummy Toddler Food and although many of the meals don’t quite work with Emmett’s allergies, the variety of recipes is great inspiration! Follow Amy on Instagram, too.

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Did you know you could DIY fruit snacks with a healthy supplement boost? (I also love her list of mealtime gear, which is would make practical baby shower/toddler birthday gifts. Emmett loves meal prep.)

Brunch in CB. We finally went to Dixie Quicks in downtown Council Bluffs when we were in the Omaha area for a wedding last weekend and it was a delightful and delicious spot right downtown. Any place that has gourmet chilaquiles and gives toddlers dinosaur figurines to play with is great, but this also has a little attached art gallery. If you find yourself in the area, check it out!

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Image source + more pics 

A fantastic bedside book. I finished “All the Light We Cannot See,” our next book club choice, ahead of schedule because I hated to put it down! The prose was lyrical, the chapters short but the novel thick, and it was set in WWII France, so pretty much my ideal combo. Definitely recommend.

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A mid-week visit from a long-lost friend. Alex, my freshman year college roommate, lives in Wyoming and Alaska and the last chance I got to see her was in the Dominican Republic at a wedding in 2012! It was so special to share Des Moines with her, especially a bike ride around Cumming Tap, a visit to the Jasper Winery Concert Series, and an afternoon outing to the Des Moines Art Center restaurant (nom!!!) for girl talk and Fiber: Sculpture 1960-present exhibition. It’s amazing! Go!

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Visitors are encouraged to walk through this piece and ring the bells and shells. It’s a dream. Also, there is a giant woven vagina. So.

We also visited Beaverdale Books and Backcountry Outfitters, where I bought what look like ballerina sandals for an 80-year old, but feel like the ultimate footwear for a lady who is going to be pregnant through the heat of summer. (Apparently they are “yoga lifestyle” shoes, but let’s be real – they are going to be utilized while eating fried things on a stick at the State Fair, walking the dog and at work.)

Off to soak up more long weekend. Code for: Take more naps!

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