Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Related to my last post, there is a great post over at 52 Kitchen Adventures with ways to use up leftover canned pumpkin puree:

50 Ways to Use up Leftover Pumpkin Puree

This is where I found the pasta recipe that inspired last night's dinner.

Gnocchi with Pumpkin, Parmesan and Bacon

So, it is officially summer here in North Alabama, and it is hot. Actually, today wasn't so bad, because we had some light storms coming through to give us some cloudiness and nice breezes.

Anything pumpkin makes me think of Fall and hearty meals, but tonight I just needed to find something to fix for dinner in a pinch, and it was slim pickins' in my kitchen. So, a hearty, fall meal in the heat of summer it was.

I had three quarters of a can of pureed pumpkin (I keep it on hand now to mix with yogurt and cinnamon for my to get some veggies in that kid somehow) and a few slices of bacon that needed to be used, so I headed to the computer to see if those things went together in any kind of way and hopefully with pasta or gnocchi (the gnocchi needed to be eaten soon too). I found this pasta dish, and it set my mind a whirl, so I headed into the kitchen to start whipping up some food.

When I told my husband what I was planning to make, he made a horrible face. I guess pumpkin isn't his thing.  Now, if you aren't a pumpkin lover, never fear. Honestly, I don't like the taste of pumpkin straight up either. I usually only eat it as a pie or mixed with cheesecake around Thanksgiving. Except for the color of the sauce to give it away, you wouldn't know this was a pumpkin-based sauce. Great, comforting meal complete with a veggie, but even better because you can't really taste the vegetable.

Thanks to Tastefully Simple's Garlic Garlic and Onion Onion seasonings, I didn't have to chop a thing!

Pumpkin sauce before adding the cream and cheese
 (adding some more broth to this would make a yummy soup)

Gnocchi with Pumpkin, Parmesan and Bacon

Bacon, 4- 6 slices
Butter (just a pat)
Tastefully Simple's Onion Onion, about 1/2 tbs (or you could use about a 1/4-1/2 of an onion of your choice, chopped)
Tastefully Simple's Garlic Garlic, 1-2 tsp (or feel free to use some fresh garlic)
Smoked Paprika, just a pinch
Ground and dried chipotle pepper, just a pinch
Dried sage, 1/2-1 tsp
Dried thyme, 1/8-1/4 tsp
Dried basil, just a wee pinch
Sherry cooking wine, just a splash (um, I guess about a tbs or so)
Water, about 1/4-1/2 cup
Better than Bouillon Chicken Base, 1-2 tbs (feel free to use chicken stock or broth instead)
Water, about 1/2 cup (to mix with chicken base)
Pureed pumpkin, about a cup or so (I used 3/4 of a standard can)
Package of gnocchi (found on the pasta aisle)
Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1/4 cup)
Heavy cream, about a tbs
Salt and black pepper to taste

Cook the bacon in a large pan until crispy and set aside. You will leave some of the bacon grease in the pan to cook with, but if you think there is too much, just use some paper towels to blot some of it up out of the pan.

Turn down the heat to medium-low and add a pat of butter to the bacon grease.  Add the Onion Onion through the dried basil and stir.  Let the seasonings heat up gently in the pan for a few minutes (mine took on a nice, golden color).

Add a splash of sherry cooking wine to deglaze the pan; I used a silicon whisk to get all the yummy bits from the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat a little and add the water and Better than Bouillon Chicken Base. Stir well.  Add the pumpkin and stir again. I let mine simmer for 20-30 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering and getting very yummy, cook the gnocchi according to the package directions.

Add the Parmesan cheese to the sauce and stir thoroughly until the cheese melts. Add the cream and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve warm, adding the crumbled bacon on top with each serving and a little more freshly-grated Parmesan. Enjoy.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Fun at Luke's Great Aunt's House

My husband's aunt lives out in the country and is about an hour and a half away from us. Luke loves to visit her and so do I. She is like a grandmother to Luke and me. All of my grandparents passed away before Lee and  I were married, and spending time with my husband's aunt brings back memories of my grandmothers.  Her cooking isn't too shabby either. Good, wholesome, country cooking.  Yum, yum.  

Andy, our cousin's kitten
Luke loves our cousin's two kittens. Our cat is older and has never liked children, so Luke doesn't get to interact with her.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Day Out with Thomas the Train

Last month we took Luke down to Calera, AL to see Thomas in person. Luke loves trains, and he watches Thomas videos on Netflix and on my tablet.  He has two different Thomas and Friends track sets, and he says "Toot Toot" several times each day.

It was not a great day for it. It was a bit cool, and then it rained really hard. Luke was not in the best of moods, either. He was "that kid" that day.  You know, the one who has tantrum after tantrum and generally causes distress for everyone around him. Poor fella didn't have a real good night's sleep the night before. By the time we were scheduled to ride the train, he was exhausted. He almost fell asleep on the train.

He really enjoyed playing with the Thomas tracks that were set up for the kiddos. He wouldn't share his table with anyone, though.

Played putt putt golf for the first time. Was going fine at first, then Luke began taking balls from other children's greens. Then he started taking clubs. One of those kicking and screaming til we got him out of there moments.
Luke was scared of Sir Topham Hat.
Not to fond of the train "engineer" either.

We will have to return to the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum next year when Luke is older. I think he might enjoy it better then. I hear they have a nice Polar Express-themed outing around Christmas time.

Energy Bites

I was looking for something new for us to have at breakfast and for snacks that would give us some protein and whole grains, so I decided to give these energy bites a try.

They were a hit with Luke, and he even enjoyed helping me make them.

They are a mix of peanut butter, oats, honey, ground flax seed, chocolate chips, and vanilla extract.

Roll them into balls, coat with some extra oats, and then store them in the fridge.

You can find a recipe at Lil' Luna's blog. She used coconut flakes as well, but as a general rule, I don't do coconut.

DVD Case Turned Mask...or Something

From this

To this

In just a few seconds, he turned a boring ole DVD case into, well, something. Can't turn my back for any length of time. He was so funny, though. He was walking strangely, almost like stomping, and moving his head around funnily, and making weird noises. He hasn't displayed much make-believe behavior akin to what other kids his age are doing, but sometimes he becomes another character just by picking up a stick or, well, putting a DVD case on his head. He's always (almost) good for a laugh and squeezes.

Love this boy!!!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Good News: I Saved Money on My Groceries!

I am feeling quite proud of myself. I planned ahead and left the grocery store with a week's worth (maybe more) of groceries for about $110. I spend anywhere from $50-80 when I stop in "just to get a few things." I didn't just get food either. I got out of there with a large container of laundry detergent and two bottles of Seventh Generation all-purpose cleaner.

All it took was looking at the sale paper and buying mostly what was on sale this week. I know, why have I not done this before? Who knows? I am certainly doing it now, though. If $110 sounds like a lot to you, shut up. Just kidding. Actually, please tell me your secret.

I was so pleased with my savings at the grocery store that I refused to stop and pick up dinner on the way home (I was in a time crunch yesterday, so this would have been reasonable). We had grilled cheese sandwiches with canned tomato soup for dinner instead. Trying to clean out the food in the pantry also. I started organizing it on Saturday. I'll post about that later.

Adapted from a post I saw on Honest Toddler's Facebook page.
I hope to begin doing some proper meal planning very soon so that I am not so frazzled about what to fix and also so that I can save money and not wind up with so much food in the pantry that is not going to get eaten before it expires. There is no reason I should have a pantry completely full of food when I go to the store like twice a week! Got to stop the impulse buying.

I've started a Pinterest board for meal planning, house cleaning charts, etc... to help me get started. It only has 30 pins so far but it's a start. Don't you just love Pinterest? Next to shopping, it is the best way to feel accomplished with out really doing anything that constructive ;)