During the month of November, I’m participating in NaBloPoMo, where I try to write and publish each day.
I don’t know what it is about this time of year that makes me abandon any sort of diet or food regulations I might normally have going for me. Perhaps it begins with Halloween and the amount of candy that enters the house. Or it might have to do with being inside more often… which typically leads me to baking a lot. Or maybe it’s just that the holidays are full of sugary treats and fatty, sharable sides. Who knows. But what I DO know is that I LOVE food that tastes good.
Now, for me, saying “food that tastes good” covers a multitude of sins. I love fancy meals. I love farm-fresh eggs and meats. I love organic fruits and veggies. I love cuisine from all over the world (here’s looking specifically at you, Italy and Thailand). BUT! I also love a good slamburger (the term coined by my husband for a greasy burger from a no-name burger joint). I love a late-night hotdog from a street cart. Coldstone ice cream creations can cheer me up any day. My kids don’t have to beg to get me to eat at Chick-fil-A. To me, they taste good. And that’s what matters.
But this time of year, I lean in to those home-baked cookies, the cinnamon-sprinkled drinks, and the heavily-buttered breads or potatoes. I want large cuts of fatty meats (hey there, prime rib!) and richly-flavored, creamy soups (butternut squash soup, anyone?). And who can blame me?! It’s getting dark at 5:00pm and I’d like to have some compensation for the stealing of my daylight.
So today, I celebrate the pumpkin muffins with maple-pecan drizzle, the eggnog spiked with bourbon, and ramen from the Bahtmobile (our local Asian food truck). I celebrate shortbread cookies, King’s Hawaiian rolls (why are they so good?!) and 18-pound hunks of prime rib – if you’re having Thanksgiving lunch at our house, anyway. I celebrate good ol’ GBC (if you’re from around here, you should know that’s green bean casserole) and mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and Honeybaked Ham. It’s going to be a good couple of months, y’all, in the world of flavors. Indulge. ‘Tis the season!
Folks, I’m feeling pretty silly that I missed a week of Currently. So hopefully this one will be stellar enough to make up for it! Here’s a bit about what’s been going on since my last Currently. I’m linking up like always with Becky at Choose Happy!!
Reading || About That Fling by Tawna Fenske. It popped up on an ad on my Kindle, it was on sale, and it sounded like a good beach-type read. It was! There was nothing really incredible about it, but it’s a great romance with a love triangle and a little akwardness to round it all out, haha. It was fairly easy to read and I plowed right through it, which is my favorite thing about a book I’m really enjoying. I just (finally) downloaded The Girl on the Train so I’m excited to start it!
Excited || for fall TV to start back! I’m always really glad to start back up with the shows that stop for the summer – even though thank goodness for Netflix to get me through! I’ll be watching Modern Family, New Girl, Grimm, and Once Upon a Time. Anything else I should add to my queue?
Enjoying || spending time with my big kids. Now that they’re both in school a couple/few days a week (9-noon) and the fact that lunch and naps take up most of the afternoon, I’m trying to spend more intentional time with them. They’re also thriving now that they’ve got some time away from each other. There have been some sweet moments (organic moments, even!) of togetherness in the past couple of weeks, and I love it. I’ve also added a cute thing to EK’s bedtime routine. I ask her what her favorite part of the day was, and I share mine, and we talk about them. Sometimes she even extends the conversation to something she didn’t like, and we can talk about that, too. I don’t like to talk about the negative part too much, but sometimes it opens up good conversation. It’s been really nice to get to know each other better in this way.
Cleaning || up after my son all day every day. Y’all, J is like a tasmanian devil, a whirling dervish… he wrecks SO MUCH without really even trying. In one day, he’d locked himself into two rooms (and our door locks don’t unlock easily) so we took the doorknobs off the two rooms, and behind one of the doors, he was pouring my (favorite) dark grey nail polish on the floor! I’d like to say I didn’t get mad, but I did. I totally checked out; I handed Hubby the nail polish remover and told him to leave as much of the floor finish as he could. It doesn’t look too bad, but I was just surprised J could be so destructive in a matter of two minutes – what a huge parenting fail. I don’t know how to do a better job teaching him what not to touch, where not to go, what things to be careful with. I know it’s just “a boy thing” but I need him to calm it down. Phew!
Baking || pumpkin muffins! I’m going to do two recipes… this one from Wellness Mama and this one from the Barefoot Cook. Hopefully they turn out well! Hooray for triple naps and baking!
What are you up to currently? Have any pumpkin recipes you love? Anything else fall-related you’re doing?
Apparently, when I get into nesting mode, I just can’t stop baking. I had a day last week that I made several batches of muffins to freeze, and here I am, at it again!
I’m still working on that enormous zucchini I mentioned – which is a damn shame, because today I picked another huge one (also hiding). It’s been in every smoothie and several recipes now, and I’ve still got about two cups left of the other one. Sheesh. Anyway… Since I had so much still, this baby STILL has not graced us with his presence, and because Hubby and EK were out visiting this morning, J and I got to baking.
I chose two Paleo recipes, one from Against All Grain and one from Detoxinista. It’s a battle of the zucchini bread, y’all.
The main differences were almond flour vs. coconut flour, and honey vs. maple syrup. Both recipes turned out incredibly moist (yum) and obviously delicious. While waiting for the loaf to bake, J and I ate three muffins. Obviously nothing wrong there!
All in all, I’d say they both turned out well enough for me to do them again! The Detoxinista recipe was so sweet that I think if I do it again, I’ll lay off on the maple syrup just a bit. But folks, they’ve been eaten right up, so I’ll say they were a success!
Life is good, y’all. I’m at the end of my 26th week, and feeling really well! I’m tired, but hey- what’s new? Just a little exhaustion on the side of my normal life doesn’t seem that unusual. I’ll hit the third trimester next week, so I guess that’s why.
I already miss the warmer weather – here in NC we’ve had a little regression, between the rain and some cooler temperatures coming back in… and I’m not excited about it. I was LOVING wearing shorts and flip flops. Bring it back!
Anyway, I’m a day late, but I’m linking up with Becky at Choose Happy for her Currently link party. Join us! I love finding new blogs and hearing what you’re up to!
Thankful for || a Hubby who let me sleep in this morning (yay!) and who is consistently the meal master at our house. He’s an amazing chef, who is creative and quick. What better two things could a chef be?! I also love that it typically means we have friends over a lot, to help us eat up the yums. It’s a win-win.
Baking || two batches of muffins on Sunday! One is technically a friend’s adaptation of an Against All Grain cupcake recipe, but because there’s no sugar and they’re gluten free, I’m calling them muffins and eating them for breakfast. The other batch was from Not So Desperate Housewife: Apple Pie Muffins. Let me tell you – also extremely delicious! The kids have been eating them up, too, which for me is a huge win.
Feeling || exhausted. I guess it’s pregnancy and two little crazies combined with a fierce desire to not be lazy and to still do all the things I like to do… which sometimes means I’m running around town all day and staying up late at night… aka not getting quite enough rest. Even if I’m not napping, I need to let myself have rests, and I’m not great at it. Here’s a little selfie of the big bump so you can see why I’m tiring a little more easily…
Needing || to slow down and chill out. This is piggybacking on my feelings… I’m also a little short-tempered right now, and every time I notice it, I hate it! But there are times that my mouth speaks before I’m able to stop it, or I let my feelings get the best of me. I know that stress is a little bit of it, going stir crazy on the days we’re mostly at home is a little bit of it, and I’m totally gonna blame a little bit on hormones. But I need to chill out – I know this. Doing it is just harder than admitting I need to do it.
Can’t believe || that my daughter is 3! We went yesterday for her 3 year check up, and she’s 30lbs, a little over 37 inches tall, and has only had one sick visit to the doctor in her life. I’m thankful she’s healthy, smart, and awesome, and if we could just get her potty trained, we’d be feeling 1000x better. I know… kids eventually potty train. But let’s be honest. If I’ve gotta buy diapers for three kids in July instead of just two, I may cry a little.
Well there’s my update! What’s going on with you currently?
Today’s Currently isn’t a link up. But I just haven’t posted anything in what feels like AGES, so here I am, telling you what I’m Currently up to, in the style of the link up!!
Thinking about || Thanksgiving and all that that entails. For me, it has entailed rearranging my basement for guest space, two (so far) extremely expensive grocery store trips in preparation for cooking and baking, ordering a Honeybaked Ham (we could give or take a turkey, haha!) and making copious amounts of phone calls and emails planning, preparing, and getting excited. My parents, my brother and his girlfriend, my grandmother, my aunt, uncle and cousin are all coming up here from GA for the holiday. It may be a little hectic, but wonderful. And I haven’t even gotten to things I am thankful for!
Thankful for || family, friends, food to eat and a roof over my head. Here in North Carolina, we’ve had a couple of weeks of drastically changing weather, and I’m thankful for warm boots, rain boots, coats, scarves, and heat in my house. I’m also thankful that I have wonderful family and friends to spend my holiday with. It’s nice to not dread the family coming into town and the hours and days that we will spend together. I know many who are not this fortunate.
Cooking || some of my family’s favorite Thanksgiving staples to take them to Hubby’s family’s T-Giving meal. This will include my family’s dressing recipe and our well-loved cranberry salad. Today I also worked on one of my favorite holiday snacks to have around the house: ranch oyster crackers (basically a package of oyster crackers baked with olive oil, ranch mix, dill, lemon pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper) – yum! I’m also baking some cookies (the cherry shortbreads I talked about a few weeks ago and a gluten/dairy/sugar free sugar plum recipe that is SO GOOD. I’m basically excited about it.
Anticipating || some renovations around our home! Hubby and I have decided we’re staying put, and hiring a friend’s company to renovate the basement. The idea is that we will get two more bedrooms, a bathroom spruce up and a laundry room out of the project and we are PUMPED. Hubby and I also have a few projects on the main level that we’re going to be working on during the times that EK is at preschool and J is napping, such as repainting baseboards, touch up painting on walls, etc. I’m excited about this process, and loving my (already well-loved) home even more.
Hoping || I’ve been praying and hoping for more patience with EK. Confession: I don’t know how much better I’ve been getting. She’s amazing – communicating, behaving, potty training, being sweeter to her brother… but still there are attitude issues sometimes (I mean, she’s 2!) and some things she does (to her brother, mostly) that I feel like trigger me losing my cool. I’m working on it. Prayers for that, if you’re the praying type.
Loving || two new pairs of leggings and two new chunky, tunic-length sweaters, all from Crown & Ivy. They are comfy, the leggings are thick (think can’t see through them when you bend your knees, and no panty lines, because they aren’t painted on, either!) and therefore warm, and the sweaters are cozy. Basically, I’m living in them.
Alright. There’s my long-overdue update. What are you up to? What are your Thanksgiving plans and recipes?
Yesterday, if you saw some of my Currently posts on Instagram, I caught a little Christmas spirit. I got out my tree, untangled some lights, lit a cinnamon and evergreen candle, and even listened to my first few Christmas tunes. For the first time this year, I baked a batch of Christmas cookies! Actually, there isn’t truly anything “Christmasy” about them, except that I (almost only) bake them around Christmas.
There are a few cookie recipes that my mom always made during the holiday season. She made them for us, for family members, for neighbors, for friends, for teachers, you name it. I’ll share the recipes here on the blog throughout the season, so that you can consume more than your fair share of cookies over the next two months, just like my family does!
Here are the ones I made yesterday:
These are called Cherry Shortbread Cookies. They are from a Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Cookie cookbook from, oh, 1990 or so. My mom’s edition is so well-used that the binding has broken, and I’m using photocopies out of a 3-ring binder. There is a whole section for shortbread, a whole section for holiday cookies, and so on… let me just say, they’re delicious. I’ve tried a LOT of them, and rarely have been disappointed.
The recipe calls for 1/4 cup maraschino cherries, well drained, 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and red food coloring if you’d like your cookie to be vibrantly colored. Mix the flour and sugar, add the butter and mix on low until the mixture looks like fine crumbs, then add the drained cherries until it looks like dough. Make one-inch balls (with your hands of course, and expect them to turn pink), then flatten them on an ungreased cookie sheet (I use parchment paper) about 2 inches apart. Bake for approximately 20 minutes (till they are slightly firm and edges are golden) on 325 degrees. I do it all in my Kitchen-Aid mixer, so I don’t even use a bowl!
I always leave out the nutmeg because I don’t really like it (in anything, not just these cookies). But I typically double, and sometimes triple, the recipe because it doesn’t make too many. So because I was already doubling yesterday, I decided to go out on a limb and try something new… I’ve been baking a lot with almond meal, and I know it’s not a great flour-to-almond-meal substitution. It’s very moist, so typically you need a little less of whatever the liquid is. Because there isn’t a “liquid” in the recipe, I knew I couldn’t straight sub. But I wanted them to be a little healthier, so I used 1/2 cup almond meal, and 3/4 cup (plus one tablespoon to thicken it) flour. That way it was a little less worthless gluten. They actually turned out tasting BETTER! I was truly surprised. In the picture above, you can see the ones on the right have specks… those are the almond meal specks!
So now the fun part… my sister-in-law is hosting a cookie swap in a few weeks, and I want to have a new thing or two that I can bring to the table. What are your favorite cookie recipes? Can you comment with the recipe or a link to it? I can’t wait to see what YOUR holiday cookie favorites are!
The first time I tried clean eating, I wasn’t very creative. I also didn’t do much looking around for different options or substitutes. I just ate mostly salads, veggies, grilled chicken or steaks with no sauces, and snacked on fresh fruit and nuts. That’s fine for a while, but when you have a craving, or want something a little different, or with more depth of flavor (we are self-proclaimed foodies at our house) you need to dig a little deeper and be a little more creative to get the flavor you want without the processed ingredients.
Clean eating is, in a simple definition from Melissa (my Stroller Strength guru), a lifestyle where anything you put into your body either came from the earth, or had a mother. There are a few exceptions, and a few specific dos and don’ts, but for the most part, that’s the easy way to look at it. The biggest way (I think) that I ran into problems was with sugar (obviously) and grains… there are a lot of processed grains that you typically buy instead of buying them in their natural forms (brown rice vs processed white rice, for example, or white flour vs whole wheat flour). Therefore, pasta and bread are pretty much out, too, unless you make your own. One accidental perk of eating clean is that it can easily become gluten free, so if you’re on the gluten free diet, it’s helpful for that also.
Anyway, since I’ve cleaned up my eating in general, and done several week or two-week bouts of completely clean eating, I’ve become a little more creative and done a lot more looking for yummy recipes or snack ideas. This weekend, during my “nearly perfect day” I did some digging (read: Googling) to find a new recipe, and made a recent favorite, and now we have breakfast (or snacks? or both?) made for the week.
That’s the other key to clean eating; it takes a little more planning. I find myself needing to visit the grocery store a little more, but because I’m buying produce and meat instead of pre-made items, I don’t spend quite as much. EK loves helping bake or cook, so I get her in on the fun too, and she’s learning how to be healthy without me even forcing it on her!
I want to share a few websites that I have used for recipes or meal ideas. BUT also know that I love southern-style, more savory cooking too! For example, The Pioneer Woman is my absolute favorite website for recipes, but obviously those are for flavor and not health, necessarily!
The Gracious Pantry – All clean eating recipes, tricks and tips for keeping it up. Home of the No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies of my clean eating dreams.
Hungry Healthy Girl – Healthy recipes, lots of them clean! (This is where I got the Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins from, and both my kids LOVED them! FYI don’t try to eat them hot… the stuck and fell apart. Patience is everything!)
Mama Natural – Where I found the clean Pumpkin Spice Latte. This website is in general a little crunchier than I am, but I like it all the same!
Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body – Home of the delicious Banana Bread that EK and Hubby love so dearly. Not all recipes are clean or even healthy, but there are some great dairy-free, vegan, and healthy recipes here.
Hope that these are good resources for you if you’re on a healthy journey! Do you have any websites that I should add to my list? Leave them in the comments!
Obviously, there is no such thing as the perfect day. There is no 24-hour time span that goes exactly how you’d like it to, or exactly as you planned. However, there are days, from wake up to bed time, that seem to go pretty darn well. This is one of those days.
When I got up this morning, it was to the sound of J fussing (he had probably started out talking, but I was too asleep to hear it) and EK running around (she’s taken to not visiting me before she visits her toys). Hubby had a gig last night, so I let him snooze. I fed the kids breakfast, while putting on my running gear one piece at a time in between bites… EK’s toast in the oven, one sock. A few bites of fruit for J, the other sock. Grapes washed and given to EK, the sports bra is on. You get the point. Finally, everyone was fed, packed in the stroller, and we were off for one of my favorite things: a long, cool, morning run. This 10-degree cool off in the weather has been a saving grace for my running skills. Ain’t nobody got time for an Indian summer.
Recently, I’ve been running to the grocery store in the mornings. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is that it gives me a bathroom break. It gives EK a chance to get out and walk around, and there’s always at least one thing that I discover we are out of, or I am randomly craving. So we run to the grocery store. I usually take a 2-mile route to get there, shop it up for 15-20 minutes, and then run a (different) 2-mile route home. It’s a nice process, I think. Anyway…
We get home, and two of my girlfriends come over for homemade pumpkin spice lattes. I came across this amazing-sounding recipe (check it out here, from Mama Natural) and the girls said they wanted to try it. So we spent an hour and a half making our lattes and chatting. Super nice. During this time, J went down for a morning nap and Hubby woke up, so life continued in the Hsu house as normal.
Hubby and I got to thinking about EK’s room, and how it’s oddly put together. When we put her in there, we weren’t sure how sleeping in a “big girl bed” was going to go. It’s a full size bed, and now she’s used to it, so we decided to make it look nicer (perk: deep clean the room in the process). We rearranged her furniture and vacuumed, dusted, etc. It’s adorable, functional, and she loves it. Win.
J woke up, and EK wanted to try out her new bed placement, so we swapped them out. While she was sleeping, we ate a stellar take out lunch (Vietnamese pho – a revelation), we ushered Hubby off to work with smooches and waves, and J let me take a shower without crying a lot (thanks, little guy!). I call that a productive two hours.
EK woke up, and J was ready to nap round 2. While he was asleep, EK and I got some quality time together baking. We made pumpkin muffins and banana bread (both clean recipes, check them out here and here). Both turned out well… muffins stuck to their cups a little but tasted delicious, and the banana bread was perfect, as usual. That recipe is bangarang.
When J woke up, I packed up my sweeties and headed downtown to meet some family and friends at the Texas Pete Culinary Arts Festival. For those of you not from around here, Texas Pete is our local hot sauce, and the festival invited all the best restaurants in town to have booths of Texas Pete-inspired dishes. Also there was beer, served especially by our sweet friend Aida. So basically, it was a great evening of yummy food and great friends, adults and babies alike. My sister-in-law Holly and her son Finley were there, as well as a long-time church friend Abby and her little girl, Elliott. Having time with girlfriends and their babies really is the best of both worlds.
When we headed home, there was a mini-meltdown moment, spurred on by the fact that I forgot I needed gas in my car (come on, Mom! Rookie mistake!) but we made it home, had a quick bath time, and both kids were out by 8:30. I call that a great day. Everyone got the play and the rest and the snuggles and the exercise they needed. There wasn’t a sacred Double Nap but there was one-on-one time for me with both kiddos, and sometimes that’s hard to come by.
So here’s your encouragement: despite the meltdowns, despite the fact you forgot something at the store yesterday, and despite the fact that you’re on your own with those beasts all day, make the best of it. Look for the fun and the good, and don’t worry that you didn’t do laundry or dishes. You had fun. So did they. No one missed anything. Praise the Lord.
For my bestie’s birthday, we have several things going on. Yesterday was her actual birthday, but we started celebrating on Sunday. She had been wanting to try making macarons (an extremely temperamental item to bake) so she found a few recipes and we gave it a shot! (The one we drew from the most was from here.)
Stay tuned to hear about our upcoming BEACH TRIP this weekend! First time I’m leaving the kiddos with Hubby, and I’m pumped!