I heart brussel sprouts and bacon.

Brussel sprouts and bacon.  Andrea stumbled across this recipe and it quickly become one of our family’s favorite food combinations.  I’ve given this tried and true recipe a shout out before but I wanted to ensure that it’s officially recorded alongside our other family favorites.  And if there wasn’t reason enough to love this recipe {hello, bacon}, it’s so darn simple that you can have dinner ready in a flash.  What more could you ask for?

Pasta with Brussel Sprouts and Bacon

Serves 5-6

Sea salt

One pound penne

3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling

5 or 6 slices of center cut bacon

3 large rosemary sprigs

1-2 heaping teaspoon of chopped garlic

Generous sprinkling of red pepper flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound brussel sprouts, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons butter

Fresh squeeze of lemon {2 lemons}

Parmesan cheese

PREPARATION

1. Bring large pot heavily salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook until pasta is just al dente.

2. Meanwhile, heat large sauté pan over high heat and add the olive oil. When oil is hot, add the bacon and rosemary, and sauté until the fat on the bacon starts to turn translucent and very lightly brown, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and sauté until garlic and bacon turn richly brown, about 3 minutes. Add the brussel sprouts, a large pinch of salt and a splash of water to pan, and sauté until sprouts just start to soften, about 2 minutes. Spread sprouts mixture in pan and press down to flatten. Let it sear for a minute, then stir it up and repeat. This helps brown the sprouts. Add the butter, sauté for another minute.  {I’ve been skipping this part lately.}

3. Drain penne and add it to pan with brussel sprouts mixture. Cook, tossing, until everything is well mixed. Spoon into pasta bowls, squeeze lemon juice generously over pasta mixture and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Adapted from here and here.

Buttermilk pancakes save the day.

We’re wrapping up the week here.  I’m ready.  On one-hand I’ve been amazed at all that we’ve accomplished.  On the other hand it’s been a dozy.  Maybe I’ll blame it all on pregnancy hormones. {Why is everyone else so crazy and unreasonable?  Why am I crying?  Again?}

Yes, it could be worse. Yes, someone else has it harder. Yes, I’m thankful for my family, for my friends, for this life.  Yes, we are blessed.  But sometimes it’s just blessedly hard.

In the midst of all of this I’m beginning to nest.  {Of course!}  Anything and every room is fair game.  Right now I’m just getting rid of stuff.  I pride myself on not collecting or keeping junk around, but boy oh boy we have still managed to collect more than our fair share of things.  Thank goodness for the goodwill and an extra-large garbage can.

But when the going gets really tough it’s buttermilk pancakes to the rescue!  For breakfast!  Or dinner!  We’re easy like that.

They are simple to make and taste so much better than any mix.

To kick off the weekend, I thought I’d share our favorite Saturday morning recipe.

Buttermilk Pancakes  {from the Joy of Cooking, notes by me.}

Prepare and preheat your griddle to 350 degrees.

Whisk together in a large bowl:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour {When I’m in my crunchy-granola mom mode I use whole wheat pastry flour.  The kiddo’s and Alex can’t tell the difference.  They’re still good, just not as fluffy.}
3 Tbs. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Whisk together in another bowl:

1 1/2 cups buttermilk {shaken}
3 Tbs. melted butter
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently whisk them together, mixing until just combined.  Spoon 1/3 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake.  Cook until the top of each pancake bubbles and flip.  Cook until each side is slightly browned.  Serve immediately with butter and real maple syrup.

Makes about 12 5-inch pancakes.

{And yes, chocolate chips are a great addition.}

William, who is currently on a dairy, soy, egg, citrus, almond and peanut-free diet gets to enjoy his chocolate chip oatmeal pancakes instead.  {recipe below.}  They are surprisingly yummy but more muffin-y than pancake-y.

He gobbles them right up.

photo via

 Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes {adapted by me}

Serves: 4 pancakes

Ingredients:

1 very ripe medium banana
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 flax egg (1 Tbsp flaxseed meal + 2.5 Tbsp water)
pinch salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon sunflower seed butter
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
3 Tablespoons coconut milk
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour
3 Tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips {non-dairy, soy-free}
Instructions:
  1. Preheat a skillet to medium heat or about 300-325 degrees.
  2. Prepare flax egg by mixing flaxseed meal and water and letting set for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Mash your very ripe banana with baking powder.
  4. Add flax egg, oil, salt, vanilla, almond butter, almond milk and stir.
  5. Stir in oats and flour until just combined.
  6. Sprinkle in chocolate chips and fold gently.
  7. Scoop scant ¼ cup measurements onto lightly greased griddle.
  8. Cook for 2-4 minutes on each side – until golden brown.
  9. Serve plain or with a small drizzle of maple syrup and a few additional chocolate chips for melting.

Yes, one can only imagine my grocery shopping list.  Or bill.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m not gonna lie.  I’m having a pretty good time in the kitchen.  Dinners are fun to make, there is always a treat {or two} ready to eat, while yet another good recipe waits patiently in the wings.

As Alex so kindly put it, “Wow, Libby, you’ve really hit your stride.”  {And I’m 99% sure he wasn’t referencing my cooking skills, but rather my consumption.}  Ahem.

Perhaps this is just in contrast to those first-trimester pregnancy woes when food was the last thing on my mind and my family apparently starved?  I’m thinking yes.

Anyhow, for some reason I feel compelled to make sure that all of my most prized recipes are safely tucked away in one place.  Because what happens when all of those pinterest links stop working?  And mama needs to bake some cookies and she can’t find her recipe?  Surely we can count on the trusty family blog to always be around.  Right?

Yes, these are the thoughts that keep me up at night.

I’m pretty sure I have now blogged about these cookies at least 30 times. I don’t care. I can’t help it.  This time it’s in the name of recording a treasured family recipe.

Typically I can make a batch of cookies and will only eat one.  Out of the entire batch.  Not kidding.

These days I hoover them up like it’s my job in life.

They’re just that good.

THE Chocolate Chip Cookies via and adapted {no, I simply can’t let a recipe be} by me.

2 cups minus 2 Tbsp. cake flour
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour {in a pinch I’ve substituted whole wheat pastry flour and no one was the wiser}
1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. coarse salt, such as kosher
2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups  light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks, preferably about 60% cacao content
Sea salt

Combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk well; then set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until very light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low; then add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.  Add the chocolate chips, and mix briefly to incorporate.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and chill for 24 to 36 hours – and up to six days.  {You MUST do this.  I know, I know, letting cookie dough just sit in your fridge is practically torture, but it’s worth it.  And really, the dough isn’t that tasty.  Trust me, I know good cookie dough.  Persevere my friend, it’s cookies we’re after.}

When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F.

Using a standard-size ice cream scoop, scoop the dough onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  {I can fit about 9-12 cookies per sheet}

Sprinkle each cookie lightly with sea salt, and bake until golden brown but still soft, 8-10 minutes.  I like my cookies on the soft and gooey side so if you like crispy you will need to add some baking time.

Transfer the cookies onto a wire rack once cool.

Repeat with remaining dough.

These cookies freeze well too.  Yes, they’re practically perfect.

Spring Green Risotto

This has meal has always been a long-time favorite of mine, but recently it’s become a favorite of all SIX family members.  This is one-part miracle and another part *they don’t really have a choice*.  Quite honestly the baby loves this meal and really, who’s going to argue with a pregnant cook and her cravings?  So while this might be a case of which came first – the chicken or the egg? – the point is that this dish has become an almost weekly meal in our dinner rotation that everyone happily eats.

Amen.

That alone is reason enough to record the recipe for my children.  Because they will no doubt have only fond childhood memories of this spring-y comfort food.  Right?  Here’s hoping.

As with most of my favorite recipes, this too is one of Ina’s creations.  I really think it’s our mutual love of butter, hydrangeas and white kitchens that have brought us together.

I highly recommend making this dinner at the end of a long day.  There is nothing more therapeutic than chopping and chopping some more and then stirring and stirring some more.  It also requires you to make a big ‘ol mess of your kitchen and to use almost every utensil and dish you own.  To me, that’s all the more reason to love this dish.  Just be sure your hubby is on board for dish-duty.

Spring Green Risotto

recipe by Ina, adapted by me.

Ingredients

1 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2-3 leeks)
1 cup chopped fennel
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
4 to 5 cups simmering chicken stock, preferably homemade {Ha.  This is where Ina and I differ.  I have however discovered a new chicken stock: “Kitchen Basics” is the brand.  It makes all other chicken stock look and taste like water.}
1 pound thin asparagus
10 ounces frozen peas, defrosted
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving {Ina got me on this one…I’ve started grating all of our parmesan cheese and the difference is amazing!  You really should give it a try.}

Directions:

Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and fennel and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Add the rice and stir for a minute to coat with the vegetables, oil, and butter. Add the white wine and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until most of the wine has been absorbed. Add the chicken stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring almost constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. This process should take 25 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the asparagus diagonally in 1 1/2-inch lengths and discard the tough ends. Blanch in boiling salted water for 4 to 5 minutes, until al dente. Drain and cool immediately in ice water.When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, drain the asparagus and add it to the risotto with the peas, lemon zest, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Continue cooking and adding stock, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender but still firm.

Whisk the lemon juice and mascarpone together in a small bowl. When the risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in the mascarpone mixture plus the Parmesan cheese. Set aside, off the heat, for a few minutes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve hot with a sprinkling of more Parmesan cheese.

I’m back.

In the kitchen that is.

With my helpers of course.

The fog was slow to lift but this week I’m finally feeling like myself again.  This was especially made obvious by our grocery bill which probably doubled {tripled} on my last shopping trip.  Yay food!  It’s also pretty obvious when you glance at our kitchen counter which is overrun with baked goods.  In the last few day we’ve made Andrea’s homemade granola, our favorite chocolate chip cookies, chunky banana bran muffins and my new favorites – gluten free chocolate chip cookies with shredded coconut and chopped pecans.

Yes, those pregnancy pounds may not have found me in the first trimester but it’s looking like I’m off to set record during the second.

The only downside is that I have yet to translate all of this energy into dinner time.  Mornings are great, lunches are my favorite, and in the afternoon I’m ready to whip up some sort of treat.  But by dinner I’m just plain hungry and exhausted and don’t want to prepare a darn thing.  So in the meantime I’ve tried out recipes like these wraps {The kids and I loved them, Alex not so much.}  I’ve also got all the basics on hand for kale and quinoa salads and the like.  Easy-peasy, plus I owe it to the baby.  {I *may* have consumed my fair share of top ramen in the first trimester.}  That and I’m pretty much grossed out by all meat and fish.

Chunky Banana Bran Muffins {recipe from Ina, but slightly adapted by me}

  • 2 cups unprocessed wheat bran
  • 2 cups buttermilk (shaken)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups mashed bananas
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place paper liners into muffin tin.

Combine the bran and buttermilk and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, 1 at a time. Scrape the bowl and then add the molasses, orange zest, and vanilla. (The mixture will look curdled.) Add the bran/buttermilk mixture and combine.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low-speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the batter just until combined. Don’t overmix it! Fold in the raisins, bananas and walnuts with a rubber spatula.

With an ice cream scoop or large spoon, fill the muffin cups to the top and bake for 18-20 minutes.  {my oven bakes fast and hot}

Gluten-free Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies  {adapted from here and from Pamela’s chocolate chip cookie recipe on the package.}

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups Pamela’s Baking Mix
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips with 60% cacao
  • 1/2 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

To make:

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Cream together softened butter with the sugar.
  • Add egg + vanilla, mix
  • Add Pamela’s mix then chocolate chips + salt + nuts + coconut, mix
  • 1 Tbs makes about 20 cookies.
  • Place cookies parchment paper on baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Veggie Wraps {via, and of course slightly altered by me.}

  • 1 apple
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 cucumber
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • baby spinach
  • whipped cream cheese
  • mango chutney
  • multi-grain tortillas
  • Use food processor to shred the apple, cucumber, and carrot. Make sure to work in batches so that you are shredding and not creating a bunch of liquid.
  • Next, squeeze lemon on top of slaw, stir.
  • Take one carton of whipped cream cheese and add about 2 T – 3 T of the mango chutney.
  • Take tortilla and spread a good amount of the cream cheese mixture all over the tortilla. Then top with spinach and lastly with the slaw.  {You will want to drain some of the slaw liquid before adding it to the wrap.

How’s that for recipe overload?

Breaking out of a dinner rut.

The last few weeks dinner has felt like less of a chore and something I actually look forward to preparing.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been diligent about making a weekly shopping list and menu?  Maybe it’s because I have fresh flowers in the kitchen?  Maybe it’s the help?

I’ve tried a few new recipes and brought back some of our old favorites.  I can’t believe we forgot about this one: Thai style halibut with coconut curry broth.  Alex put it in his top-five and Henry practically licked his plate.

Risotto is my comfort food. I make this recipe a handful of times when the weather warms up {or at least feels hopeful} and Alex and Henry who don’t share my risotto love still clean their plates.  {What is it about Ina?  Why do her recipes always call for *good* ingredients?  Like I’m going to use *bad* olive oil?}

Since Monday is the big grocery shopping day, the fridge looks pretty bare by the end of the week which results in some pretty creative dinners.  Last Thursday, ready to get things cooking, I grabbed the chicken breasts that had been thawing in the sink and immediately noticed that one looked *off*.  This did not help my already rocky relationship with chicken.  I tossed it all.  Not sure what to do next I fried up an entire package of bacon, it seemed like the most logical option, no?  No kidding, I left the kitchen for two minutes tops and came back to this.  A plate with four strips of bacon left and three children with very greasy fingers.  This was by far the easiest dinner I prepared all week.

Note to self: bacon = easiest dinner ever.  Everyone will eat it.  Yes, even William.

Go ahead and call it rabbit food.

You won’t offend me one bit.

We have two new favorites around here and we’re hooked.

The first can be either a snack or a veggie side-dish.

Kale Chips.

The boys love them.  As in Henry begs; can we please, please, make some kale chips today mom?

No joke.

via

We use the recipe from smitten kitchen.  {side-note, am I the only one who goes to that site to just look at her beautiful pictures of food?}

Baked Kale Chips
1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 300°F. Rinse and dry the kale, then remove the stems and tough center ribs. Cut into large pieces, toss with olive oil in a bowl then sprinkle with salt. Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until crisp.  *crisp is key*.

Perhaps this is the perfect example of how a little oil and salt can make anything tasty.

Our second favorite is a salad that I made up out of desperation.  {Anyone else do that, oh shoot!  It’s five ‘o clock!  What are we going to have for dinner?! scramble?}  Anyhow, using what we had in the fridge/pantry I stumbled upon a salad that Alex and I could eat every night.  And we do.

I also happen to think it’s pretty.  Yes, this is important when it comes to food.

It doesn’t have a name, but let’s call it the *Quinoa, arugula, feta and pomegranate salad* for short OK?

In a salad bowl add:
2.5 Ounces of arugula {that’s half of one of those small pre-washed, boxed salads}
Crumbled feta, about 1/3 cup
2 ounces pomegranate seeds {Alex got all thrifty on me and seeded them himself…who knew?}
1/4 quinoa cooked according to package directions {we add straight from the stove to the greens}
Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Serves 2

Enjoy!

It’s Thursday already?

Writing about faith can be exhausting.  For me there’s lots of praying and worrying involved.  Concern that I’m sharing His truth properly, especially when I’m barely scratching the surface myself.  However, I do find rest in knowing that He will take and mold my words and use them for good.

Sharing pictures of my children, recipes, even my shoes seems easier. Safer.  Yet the deeper I dive into my relationship with Jesus, the more I realize that even those simple everyday words and pictures tell His story too.  You just have to look and read between the lines.

So let’s hear about the children shall we?  Oh, and I even have a recipe to share.  Pumpkin spice muffins, {with cream cheese frosting if you like to live dangerously}.  Originally the recipe was for pumpkin spice bread, but I seem to have this problem with leaving any sort of recipe alone.  I must play around with the ingredients and make it my own.  {see recipe below it’s a goodie.}

Which brings me to Thursday.  How did we get here so fast?  It has been one of those blessedly calm weeks and to add to its perfection the days have offered up the best fall weather has to give.

I’m savoring my mornings with William.  He is a delight.  He is happy, yet he throws a mean temper tantrum.  He talks non-stop in his little pip-squeak voice.  Non-stop.  And it is the cutest darn thing you have ever heard.

This week he discovered how to climb out of his crib.  One night while I was reading bedtime stories to Henry, William, who had already been tucked in walked into Henry’s room.  Hi mommy!  Hi Ree-Ree!  Henry and I dissolved into giggles over little Woo-woo’s escapades {don’t we have the most creative nick-names?} while William climbed up into the second twin bed proclaiming night-night!  Knowing this wouldn’t last long, I played along, tucking them both in and waited for William to run out of the room.

Five minutes later both boys were sound asleep and ever since William has slept in his new big-boy bed.  Even for naps.  Which means that our crib now sits empty and I’m having all sorts of emotional feelings about that.

And while this new sleeping arrangement seems to be working, it is different from what I imagined.  We had hoped to have Henry and Charlie share a room, but after a few weeks of trying Charlie made it clear that wasn’t going to work.  I know that I should be celebrating our Henry/William combo success, but there is this little nagging feeling I have about *Charlie* being the one left out…

Henry seems to be doing a nice job of escaping my camera these days.  I know that its partly his age, but another problem is that he is away at school all day.  It’s funny really, how we rush them off to school only to discover how much we miss them.  Part of me jokes that I’m going to pull him out and home school so that we can be together as a family.  Seriously.  I feel good about his school setting, but part of me wants to have a family adventure year.  This time of little ones is passing in what seems like a blink of an eye and I’m prepared to do my best to slow it down.  Has anyone done this, a year or two of regular school, a year or two of homeschooling and then back to regular school?

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

1 cup 100% pure pumpkin

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

3/4 cup water

1 1/2 cup dark brown sugar {this is already less than what the original recipe calls for…}

1/4 cup canola oil

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup ground flax-seed

{I like my baked goods with a crunchy-granola taste, hence the whole wheat flour and flax-seed}

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Heat pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a small sauce pan over medium heat until steamy.  Stirring continuously, cook until pumpkin is stiff, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a medium bowl; whisk in 3/4 cup water, then brown sugar, then oil, then eggs until smooth.

In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining dry ingredients, then fold into the pumpkin mixture until just combined.  Scrape batter into greased muffin pan {or loaf pan}.  Bake for 17-20 minutes, until firm and golden brown.  Let stand for a few minutes.  Cool on a wire rack. Makes 12 muffins.

This recipe doubles easily.  For a real treat make this cream cheese frosting to go on top. {the frosting recipe will easily give you enough for 24 muffins.}

Hmm…sorry I don’t seem to have a picture of the end result.  I can say however, that the batter is yummy.  William will also confirm this.