Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pasta with Pecan and Broccoli Pesto

Pecan and Broccoli Pesto? Yes, and it was quite tasty!

Following all the Christmas food this week, I was craving Chinese food. Then I was sick of that tonight and wasn't feeling well enough to go grocery shopping, so I had to come up with something to make out of what we had available at home. I knew I was going to make some type of pasta dish, and I didn't have much meat available to use (I found out after I started cooking that we had bacon...I'll use that tomorrow).

We have lots of pecans right now, so that I was going to put those in there somehow, and we have lots of frozen broccoli. I had one lemon left, plenty of cheese, and some pasta.  I did my usual scanning over recipes online with some of these ingredients and came up with the pesto.  Since I didn't use a whole lot of broccoli, we weren't really able to tell it was there.  I roasted the pecans before adding them to the pesto mixture, and the nuttiness of the dish was divine and very filling.  Whole wheat pasta of some sort would have paired nicely, but I was all out of it.  The bucatini I used is like a thick spaghetti with a hole through the middle. It is the closest thing I've found to Pici, a traditional Tuscan pasta, while grocery shopping.

I had a few frozen shrimp left (pre-cooked...I should really pay more attention to labels these days), so I heated some butter in a pan and tossed the thawed, pre-cooked shrimp for a minute or so and served those with the pasta. The sweetness of the shrimp went nicely with the nutty pasta. This dish may seem a little complicated, but it came together rather quickly. My husband approved; however, my two-year-old son wouldn't even try it. He settled for Chef Boyardee. *sigh*


Pecans (I used whole pecans...from my freezer)
Pasta of your choice (I used Bucatini...from Giada Laurentis' brand at Target)
Extra Virgin olive oil 
1-3 canned anchovies in oil (omit these if they totally gross you out, but I urge you to give them a try)
Red pepper flakes (as many to satisfy your desired heat level)
Salt and black pepper to taste
1-2 cups broccoli florets (I used frozen)
1-2 tablespoons garlic, minced 
Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, grated (I used Pecorino, but I was torn as to which to use)
Juice from 1/2 to 1 whole lemon
Zest of one whole lemon


1.  Place your pecans on a pan (I line mine with foil) and toast them in the oven or toaster oven for about 10 minutes on low heat (about 200-250 degrees F).

2.  Bring a pot of water to boil for your pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

3. While the pecans are toasting and the pasta is cooking, make the pesto.  Heat a few 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium-large non-stick pan over medium to medium-high heat.  Add the anchovies and stir until they break down into the oil.  Add red pepper flakes (I added just a tiny bit at this stage, because I served this to my two-year-old.  My husband and I topped off our pasta with an extra sprinkle or two right before we ate it), black pepper, and some salt and reduce heat to medium-low.  Add the garlic and the broccoli and cook for 2-3 minutes (longer if your broccoli is still frozen...I thawed mine first).

4. Zest your lemon and place the zest aside.  Using a blender, food processor, etc... blend the broccoli/garlic/anchovy mixture with 3/4 of your toasted pecans, juice of half the lemon, cheese and more olive oil as needed to aid the blending process.  Set the pesto aside.

5. Chop the remaining pecans into small pieces and set aside.

6. When the pasta is finished cooking, use a coffee cup or some other heat-safe container to scoop out some of the starchy cooking liquid. Set this aside and drain the pasta.

7. Heat the pan you cooked the broccoli mixture in to medium-low heat, and then add the pasta, pesto (as much as you think you need...I had some left over), some of the starchy pasta water, and a little more lemon juice. Mix well. 

8. Turn off the heat and add the lemon zest. Toss, and then taste to see if you need to add more salt or pepper. 

9.  Before serving, sprinkle the pasta with the reserved pecans you chopped (I like a little crunchiness to my dishes sometimes).

I served this with shrimp, but I think this would be lovely alongside some type of grilled while fish, such as Tilapia or Grouper.

I actually forgot to add the cheese to the pesto at first, and the pesto tasted pretty good without it.  So, this would make a nice vegan pasta dish as well.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Two-year Vintage Train Photo Shoot

For Luke's two-year photos, I decided to go with a vintage-style shoot. My photographer (Amanda Campbell of Chasing Daylight Photography) suggested this great train station, and I couldn't be more thrilled with the results. We did a vintage-style little man birthday party for him too (sneak peek coming soon), so I was able to use some of the clothing and props for the shoot and the party.

I inherited this valet from my paternal grandfather.

I love shopping at thrift store and antique stores, so I had a blast gathering up the clothing for the shoot. Luke's little green outfit was found at a thrift store for $5. I found the shoes at a consignment sale for $2. I bought the cute black hat new at The Children's Place. My husband's outfit, save for the shoes, which he already owned, came from a thrift store. He is a little embarrassed by the whole ensemble, but I think he looks amazing and sexy. I think I did good with the sizing. Those pants fit him so well. He is embarrassed by the hat too, but I think ya'll will agree it looks great on him.


I found my dress at our local Dillard's clearance store (I go there first for dresses) for under $20. It was originally $155. I found the hat at a thrift store, the tights at Target, and I splurged on the shoes. They were $50 at TJ Maxx (but hey, I can wear those with lots of things, right?).

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cloud Gazing with Daddy

Pointing up at the clouds

I had to share these great pictures of my two handsome men. My husband came home early from work today, and he and Luke spent some time together outside playing. Luke thought laying beside Daddy outside was really something. He kept laughing and looking up at Lee and smiling.

You might notice the red on Luke's shirt. That is paint from our apple printing project (see previous post). Luke had a very fun-filled day today.

Apple Fun for Toddlers

Apple lacing card

Apple activities and units have been popping up on my Pinterest home page in the last couple of weeks, so I decided to create some materials and do some activities with Luke.  Luke had a play date with three other toddlers today (ages 22 mos., 2 years, and 3 years), so I threw a few apple activities into the mix. They had fun, and I felt like Supermom. Haven't felt like Supermom in a while, so that was very nice.  The mom who hosted the play date made some homemade applesauce, and that was a big hit with everyone and a wonderful way to end our apple-themed morning.  In a not-so-related-note, she also had homemade ketchup from her own homegrown tomatoes (maybe I don't feel like Supermom).  The ketchup was awesome. I must get the recipe and make some.  I'll be sure to share when I do.

I started by making a large felt tree and a felt board as the support.  For the felt board, I simply wrapped white felt around one of my old canvasses and attached it to the back of the canvas with a staple gun. Amazingly, Hancock fabrics had a sale on felt when I went to buy it. Yay!

To make the tree, I just went to cutting.  I didn't make a template or draw my design on the felt (although I have used chalk on darker felt once before to draw objects before cutting them out). As this project was meant for young ones, I tried not to worry too much about perfection.  I'm amazed that everything is still in good condition after its first use with four toddlers.

Tree in progress

I cut out the tree trunk, and then I began cutting cloud-like shapes out of dark green felt for the top of the tree.  I cut one large piece for the top as well, but I liked the idea of the kiddos being able to create the tree themselves and make it different each time. I am quite pleased with the results.  This tree can be an apple tree, pear tree, orange tree, etc...

Completed felt tree

Then I needed some apples.  I found an apple image online and created red, yellow, and green apples for the tree.  I printed them, cut them out, laminated them, and then I attached  Velcro stickers to the backs so they would stick to the felt tree.  I also created a cute little apple basket.

Apple tree
(large piece of green felt used here instead of the smaller pieces)
This morning I let the kiddos help me put the tree on the felt board and attach the apples.  I did some songs and chants about apples as they played.  We worked on color recognition as we put all of the red apples in the basket. We talked about how some apples are sweet and some apples are sour. We also did some counting with the apples.  Here are some of the songs and chants I used:

I'm a Little Apple
(to the tune of I'm a Little Teapot)

I'm a little apple, short and round.
I make a munchy, crunchy sound.
If you bite into me you will see...
I'm delicious as can be!

I sang the above song to the kiddos as we began our "lesson". I showed them a real apple as I sang the song. It can be found here along with some other activities.

Here are two chants that I threw in as they were building the tree:

Apples Juicy

Apples juicy, apples round.
On the tree or on the ground.
Apples yellow, apples red.
Apple pie and juice and bread.
Apples crunchy, apples sweet.
Apples are so good to eat!

As I said the above chant, I pointed to the apples "on the tree" and those "on the ground".  I also pointed to the "apples yellow" and "apples red." This chant, along with some other apple activities, can be found here.

This next chant can be found here along with some printables.

Apples, Apples

Apples, apples, one, two, three.
Apples for you, apples for me.
Apples big, apples small.
Apple trees tiny, apple trees tall.
Apples sour, apples sweet.
Apples, apples are nice to eat!

As I sang this next song, I placed apples one at a time onto the tree.

Ten Little Apples

One little, two little, three little apples,
Four little, five little, six little apples,
Seven little, eight little, nine little apples, 
Ten little apples in an apple tree.

Apple prints

This afternoon once we got home, Luke and I made some apple prints. I cut open the apple and showed him the seeds inside, and then we painted them and stamped them on white poster board. This activity was a big hit with Luke. He is really into painting right now. We used washable kid paint, so I just got out the garden house and washed us and everything around us down a bit when we were finished.

Luke also got his first lacing card today. I don't know if it will be noticeable to anyone else, but he has such a look of concentration on his face in the picture below. Today is the first time I have seen that look on his face.

Concentrating really hard on his apple lacing card

As part of our apple fun today, the kiddos also got to play with a real basket and some large, red pom poms.  I threw these in with Luke's John Deer tractor/farm set and just let the kids play. Luke had fun with this once we were home as well.

He loves his vehicles

Below are some free printables that I created in case you want to do some of these activities with your little ones.

Apples for the tree and a basket ( I cut mine out, laminated them, and then I attached Velcro stickers to the backs):

And an apple for a lacing card (I cut mine out, laminated it, and then I used a hole puncher to add holes around the outside edge of the apple):

The original apple image I used can be found here.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Homemade Eggplant and Salami Pizza

Well, sort of homemade. I start with a refrigerated dough (Pillsbury-brand thin crust). This is always so yummy. I don't know why I don't make this more often, because it is not difficult and not that time consuming.

For some reason that I can't remember, my husband and I started putting eggplant on our pizzas at home. Thinly sliced zucchini is good as well, but I just love the taste of eggplant.  Eggplant and tomatoes are always a good combination.  Add in some cheese and you've got a winning combo.

The best part of my homemade pizza is probably the sauce:

(I'm an add this and that sort of cook, so I rarely measure)

Splash of extra virgin olive oil
1/4-1/2 onion (white or yellow), chopped
Tomato sauce
Tomato paste
Roasted red peppers (I buy jars of already roasted peppers...cheaper and quicker), chopped
Crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
Salt/freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Saute the onions in the olive oil until they are translucent.  Add in some tomato sauce and paste and stir well and bring to a slight boil.  Add in the roasted red peppers, pepper flakes, and salt/pepper.  Boil for a minute or so and then lower heat and allow it to simmer for a few minutes.

Puree mixture and keep it warm until you are ready to add it to your pizza.

I like my sauce a little spicy. I think it works well since the pizza crust I buy has a slightly sweet taste.

For the pizza in the picture, I made half with eggplant and half with salami.

I baked the sliced/peeled the eggplant and then sprinkled it with salt and left it in a large colander for 15-30 minutes.  I rinsed it off well and then baked it and the salami in a 375 degree oven for a few minutes before cooking the pizza crust.  I wanted the salami a bit crispy and the eggplant to be cooked through (the pizza once assembled doesn't bake very long).

The crust pre-bakes for a few minutes, and then you pull it out of the oven and add your toppings. I put down the sauce, a little cheese (Italian blend), the vegetables/meat and then more cheese.  I added mozzarella on top of the eggplant and feta on top of the salami.

You can also sprinkle red pepper flakes on top of the vegetable/meat instead of (or in addition to) putting them in the sauce.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A New Office Area in the Mudroom

I did not tackle Luke's little nook/reading space this weekend, but I did clear out this mudroom office area (with the help of my wonderful neighbor) in preparation for the arrival of the professional organizer I hired.

A previous homeowner had this area custom built as an office/sewing area, but since living in the house we have only used it as drop zone.  What has wound up in this area?  Coats, bags, groceries, mail, dirty clothes, clean clothes, and junk, junk, and more junk.  And this summer, a watermelon that my mother-n-law brought us got placed on the counter amid the clutter and was forgotten.  It began to rot and the juice ran onto everything.  I kept wondering what that horrid smell was.  I just assumed it was something the cat did, but after cleaning up her litter box and the laundry room (which is at the end of mudroom) where her litter box resides, I still smelled the smell, so I hunted for it and found the watermelon.  Enough was enough.  This area had to be cleaned out and kept clean.

With the help of a professional organizer, I am getting things in order.  This morning she helped me put things into the office area in a functional way.  We are going to tackle all my arts/crafts bits and pieces in a couple of days.  Sometimes you just gotta call in the professionals to help you.  I was getting overwhelmed at the clutter and needed someone else to tell me where to put things and how to best utilize my space.


This cabinet above is now nice and neat with my printer paper, blank DVD/CD's and extra toner for the printer ready to go.

We discovered that by turning three of the small awkward cubbies into one, they worked perfectly for magazine folders.  I bought some of these cheap, bankers folders from Staples a while back and have intentions of covering them with pretty paper and decorative bookplates.  After I get to that project, they will be stored facing the other way and look pretty.  I'm just glad I found a good use for this awkward space.

The computer will be placed into this area as well as the printer and my Silhouette Cameo cutting machine (putting it in the drawer previously used for hanging file folders).  We will also use this area to pay bills, house my school books/supplies, and keep envelopes and other mailing implements.

Eventually I want to repaint the walls an aqua/grey color and install a pretty, fabric- or paper-covered cork board on the wall space between the counter and upper cabinets.  But for now, I am just glad the area is clean, uncluttered, and is now functional.  I will be turning our old computer room into a guest room/craft room.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cozy Corner for Luke's Room: Sneak Peek

I picked up some items from Target today (above) to create a cozy little hideaway for Luke's room.  Every child needs a secret spot of some sort to which they can retreat.  I have a feeling I'm going to crawl in a lot too. I'm hoping to get it created tomorrow or at least by the end of the weekend.

I've been seeing lots of great forts, tents, and other hideaways and reading nooks on Pinterest, and I am smitten.  Here are some that I like, and one of these is the inspiration for the one I'm making Luke. Can you guess which one?

From Sew Liberated. This blog features a very kid-friendly home.

Great use of space here.  This one found at Apartment Therapy.

I love the magical feel of this tent and room.  Found on Pinterest via Tumbler.

Love the alphabet and the string of lights.  This one from Apartment Therapy as well.
Love the colors here and all the cozy rugs and pillows.
Found this on Pinterest.

Bathtub Tea Party and Outdoor Kitchen Sensory Play

Bath time is usually my husband's "job", but occasionally it is my turn, and I like to add lots of fun and learning. Luke loves the water, so bath time is a no-fuss affair. Last night when he got in the water, Luke was pretending to drink the water from his rinsing cup. I had the great idea to have a bathtub tea party.

 I called my husband in to watch Luke while I ran to the kitchen and grabbed two antique melamine cups and saucers from the cabinet. My bathtub tea party was a hit. Luke practiced pouring water from the rinsing cup into the tea cups and from tea cup to tea cup until the bath water got cool. He even poured me some "tea" and held the cup near my mouth so I could drink.  It is always nice when a toddler shares.  Luke is not quite two yet, and he doesn't fully understand how to pretend, so plenty of bath water made its way into his mouth and tummy.  By the end of the bath, though, he was putting the water in his mouth and spitting it out. Progress.

Before Luke woke up this morning, I gathered some kitchen items like a wooden spoon, plastic cups and plates, a plastic measuring pitcher (which I found by the curb a few houses down), and various other containers and placed them on our front porch near the sandbox.  I filled a bucket with water and another container with ice right before we headed out to play. This was also a hit. We added rocks and leaves to our "ingredients", and I made a nice green salad and demonstrated to Luke how we pretend to eat weeds from the yard. I had to take the eating spoons away from the scene, because he was drinking water from them and even tasted some sand.  Oh well, a little dirt won't hurt, right?

This morning's activity was inspired by various outdoor kitchens I've seen on Pinterest and elsewhere.  As soon as I finish Luke's indoor play kitchen (note to self:  I have to get started first if I'm going to finish it), I'm going to tackle an outdoor kitchen for him.  I love the one below.  To see more great outdoor play kitchens and mud pie stations, go check out this blog post from Design Dazzle.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Carnival Tent Display

Three elementary schools, one from the city of Huntsville, one from the city of Madison, and one from Madison County teamed up with The United Way to hold summer reading carnivals this past week. I signed up to volunteer at the public library's table at the county school, and I also volunteered to create a display for the story time area.

I went straight to Pinterest for ideas, and I created quite a Pinterest board dedicated to all things carnival. I can't wait to throw Luke a carnival-inspired birthday party! This backdrop from a wedding was my main inspiration:

This image and other pictures from the wedding can be found on the  Style Me Pretty blog.

I said I would never make these paper fans again after making them for a bridal shower this spring, but I gave in and made them anyway.  I used needle and thread to hold them together last time, but this time I used a hot glue gun, which made the work a lot easier and quicker.  I don't know which caused me more injuries, though--the needle or the hot glue. I am dangerous with both.  There are many tutorials out there on making these fans. Here is one from Crafty After All.

I had an old copy of Heidi that was a hand-me-down given to me when I was young.  It was falling apart, so I decided since this was a summer reading carnival, using pages from a children's book seemed appropriate.

I had plain red printer paper to use, and the other papers are digital scrapbook papers that I printed from my computer.

The draping of the display, which was not perfect and drove me crazy, was done with plastic tablecloths from the dollar store.  I cut each tablecloth in half lengthwise, and then I folded the cut halves in half lengthwise so there would not be as much transparency.  The wind was against me the day of the installation, and I was completely by myself setting it up.  With that said, I guess I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

I was very impressed with the tape I used to attach the display to the brick.  I will purchase Scotch Tough Duct Tape again for similar projects.  It held the display securely all day on brick in full sun, and it came off easily and did not leave residue.

The font I used for the "READ" sign is a free font aptly called Carnival and available from Dafont.

Here is a list of the scrapbook papers I used for my fans:

The solid blue paper (with great texture, I must add) is from the Sending You a Papyrus kit from Scrapyrus Designs.

The red and white chevron paper is from the Shining on Me kit from AH Designs.

The yellow polka dot paper is from Mommyish, and was part of a Pixels and Company Collaboration titled More or Less.

The blue polka dot paper was created by Captivated Visions for the Everyone Has a Story Kit.