Thursday, March 26, 2015

Browned Butter Alfredo and Hospitality

We had a wonderful week. Way less cleaning than last week. Way fewer snotty noses to wipe and coughs to cover.

We had a three guests over the weekend, with our Northern Ireland guest staying until Thursday. It was a blessing to have people in our home. We shifted around to make room for people at our table and in our beds. (Mr. Hippie and I had the sofa bed for a couple nights, and the boys camped out in the basement.) 

Can I say it again?! What a blessing!

There is something awesome about spending some extended time with people in your home environment. It gets real. There was laughter and good food and good conversations. It reminds me that there is always room-even when space is really limited-if there is room in your heart. It also reminds me of the Gracelaced print I have hanging in my dining room..."come in, there's always room at the table for you."

I wanted to remind you that we are celebrating She Plans Dinner's first anniversary with an amazing sale. If you have been wanting to try out a menu planning service, a 50% off sale is definitely the time to give it a whirl. Use the coupon code oneyear to cash in on your savings! (here)

Today I have a pasta recipe for you. I love pasta. I REALLY love pasta. It pairs nicely with my bread obsession. If I wouldn't grow to the size of a barge, I'd eat pasta every day. Seriously.

This recipe is called Browned Butter Alfredo. Ummm...delicious!

The pasta might be the healthiest component of the recipe. Which tells you a whole lot.

But, browned butter. The nuttiness. The flavor. The scent. So worth taking a couple minutes to brown it. Melted butter is good. Browned butter is spectacular.

I use both spicy and mild sausage for my alfredo. 12 ounces (3 links) of each kind. The random spicy sausage adds a surprise pop of flavor. I also use bow tie if I have them. If not, penne works just as well.

Mix the browned butter with a pint of heavy whipping cream and 2 cups of parmesan? That's heavenly. Ambrosia

I love that this recipe really is fast and easy. It is full of deliciousness (and calories. Die happy, people.) 

In the interest of full disclosure, the recipe calls for an iron skillet. I don't even own an iron skillet. So, I just use the pans I have. I'm sure the iron would add something to the recipe, but, I'm all for not sweating these types of details.

Browned Butter Alfredo
16 oz bow tie pasta
6 spicy sausage links (24 oz)
2 large cloves garlic
1 stick butter
2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
2 cups (8 oz) grated romano/parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
parsley for garnish, opt

-Cook pasta according to package directions.
-Grate garlic.
-Remove sausage from its casings, and brown in a large cast iron skillet oven medium high heat. Remove from skillet, and drain grease. Set aside.
-Place the iron skillet back on the stove, and add butter. Cook for 1-2 minutes until brown. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in the heavy cream and cheese, then add the cooked sausage. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve over pasta, garnished with parsley if desired.

Happy last weekend of March!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fail to Plan=Plan to Fail

The jury is out on who said it.

When you fail to plan you plain to fail.

Benjamin Franklin and Winston Churchill both said something along these lines. And, since they both are rather known for their quips, quotes, and general wisdom and common sense, we should stand up and take notice.

How many times have you had grand plans, ambitions, or resolutions that have fallen by the wayside, because you have failed to plan out the small steps needed to reach the goal?

I'm sure, if we are all honest, we'd have to admit it's not been a one time failure. We probably don't even fit into the occasional failure category. Sigh...

Here's another question...

How many of you resolved to eat more healthy in this year of 2015? How many resolved to eat at home more-in order to save money and to eat healthier? How many decided to plan menus week by week?

How many are still doing these things?

How many are eating planned, healthy meals at home?

How many have failed to plan and thus planned to fail?

(You know what I mean. It's why New Year's resolutions get such a bad rap.)

But, what if the planning stage was delegated to someone else? What if the meal planning was delegated to She Plans Dinner? There would be no failure to plan, and thus no plan to fail...

She Plans Dinner provides 2 week menus with 12-15 dinner recipes, plus a complete grocery list that covers all the needed ingredients for the menu.

She Plans Dinner has three separate menu tracks:

Classic Comfort-the familiar tastes of home.

Variety-the adventurous flavors of near and far, with plenty of variety in the meats and sides.

Fit & Healthy-a low carb, high protein, almost gluten-free and dairy-free plan. It showcases delicious meats and vegetables.

She Plans Dinner does the planning for you. All you have to do is shop, cook, and eat. It will save you money. It will save you time. It will help you reach your goal of eating more healthy meals at home.

It has been 1 year since She Plans Dinner first launched! To celebrate our first anniversary, I am running a sale. The coupon code oneyear will get you 50% off any subscription. Simply add the code one year to the box at check out. This code is good for the entire month of April. Feel free to use it for yourself or for someone else. (or both) Think wedding and baby shower gifts, birthday presents, and Mother's Day.

Insider tip: the code is good for any subscription, but the best deal is for a good (3 month), better (6 month), or best (12 month) subscription. Essentially, you can get a 6 month subscription for the price of a 3 month subscription, and a year long subscription for less than the price of a 6 month subscription. That's a deal!!!

Well, what are you waiting for? Sign up today!


Friday, March 20, 2015


How has your week been?

Here in the Mitten, we are on our second week of most days' temps being above freezing. Wow! It feels fairly tropical. And a couple days even flirted with 60. I have had my windows open several days. Out with the old, and in with the new. Big sigh...

I have fresh green growth were my bulbs lie buried. That is encouraging. Spring is showing it's face in many, many ways. I have yet to see any crocuses, but I know others have in my area. I'm looking...

I have been running outside, in the early mornings. Spring training is in full on mode. I ran two 7 mile runs this week, plus a 4, a 3 and a 2. Every week the miles are increasing, as is the speed of said miles. One of my routes includes a 1/2 mile span that overlooks our city. That scenic view was topped with a colorful sunrise this morning. It was a reminder of why I love early mornings. And why I love to run in the early mornings. I'm not going to say that I love running...

I spent a fair bit of my week doing spring cleaning. The boys' room got the run down, and then I washed my own bedroom walls. And all the linens. Everything looks and smells fresh. Spring cleaning is kind of a funny thing. I always can tell when I've done it, but if you'd asked me before, I would have said my house was clean. All that sunshine and fresh air emphasizes all the licks and promises of the winter.

We are counting down the weeks until summer break. And we hit a milestone this week. Only 9 more to go! Which is almost a quarter of the year, but still. It is so close I can taste the freedom! On the one hand, I want those weeks to fly by. On the other hand, the 9 weeks corresponds pretty closely with our 25k race, and I want every single one of those weeks to crawl by. I'm not in panic mode about training, but I still have a lot of miles to pick up in 8 weeks.

Here are a few things I've been reading around the web this week...(when I wasn't cleaning or running)

A Stay at Home Parent is Not a Luxury "So in some ways, yes, we are lucky that I can stay home. But a luxury is a nonessential item. An indulgence. What I do is essential, and certainly not self-indulgent."

How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel. Very thought provoking. "In order to safeguard the trajectory of young evangelicals, we must uphold the authoritative Word of God. It is imperative that those in a position to influence millennials have transparent and honest discussions about the culture wars evangelical youth are already engaging. Otherwise they will be silent and accepting in the face of persecution and false doctrine."

What is Spiritual Abuse? "It is not a coincidence that these abuse prevention policies are often known as safety policies. Because if shepherds are doing their job right, the sheep are safe. They are protected. They feel secure. And they don’t leave the church en masse."

I am on Day 20 of No Chocolate! Whew! Some days I miss it. Most days I don't. I need to have a game plan come April 1. Something realistic. Dessert one weeknight and one weekend day. That's it. I've been holding pretty close to that this month, and I think it is good.

While I am abstaining from chocolate, I know you aren't, and so I decided to share one of my most favorite and most consumed forms of chocolate.

Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I know that everyone has their favorite recipe. Mine is a bit different. I use butter, shortening, and peanut butter. But, not a lot of peanut butter, because they aren't peanut butter cookies. They are chocolate chip cookies. I also use real vanilla. The cookies are melt in your mouth soft straight out of the oven and good dunkers on the subsequent days. I also love to freeze my cookies, and then dunk them. I love the frozen chocolate-ness, and the way they still soak up the milk and get kind of chewy soft.

I generally make cookies every week or two. My kids aren't thrilled when the cookie jar is on empty.

Okay, I've got to stop talking about these or I am going to highjack my own resolve.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1-1/2 cups white sugar
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp water
4-1/2 cups white flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups (12 oz) chocolate chips

-Heat oven to 375 degrees.
-Cream the shortening, butter, peanut butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and water, and beat well.
-Add the flour, baking soda and salt, and stir in, scraping the bottom of the bowl, until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips by hand.
-Place teaspoons full on a greased baking sheet about 2" apart. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-11 minutes, until lightly golden on the edges.
-Cool on the sheet for 2 minutes, and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Have a magnificent start of Spring weekend!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Whipping it into Shape

So...I know that hospitality is about making people feel loved and welcomed. It is sharing what you have.

But, what if hospitality looks like sharing your sons' bedroom/bunk bed with the preacher for a week? And said bedroom has footprints on the ceiling, winter mildew (and other things) on the windows, and enough legos to build the Empire State Building (full scale version)?

Well, then it is time to whip that bedroom into shape before the preacher comes.

It's really not about making an impression. It's about keeping him alive.

The boys are generally in charge of their own room upkeep. I insist that they vacuum and dust it once a week. But, that tends to be a rather cursory operation. About every three months I go a bit ape on them, and I make sure everything is picked up and vacuumed and dusted. Usually one kitchen garbage bag makes it to the dumpster. And another kitchen garbage bag makes it to Goodwill. And the cycle begins again.

Keepin' it real, folks.

I am such a good mom that I as I was surveying the catastrophe that constitutes the boys' room, I actually threatened that they were going to use their allowance to buy ceiling paint if I didn't have a can in the basement. Because, what in the world motivates a person to put their feet on the ceiling? I don't know! I've never put my feet on the ceiling of my bedroom.

All that greasy, dirty, foot-ness. Yuck.

All I can say is, by Friday, this room will not remotely resemble it's former inglorious state.

Clean sheets, clean windows, freshly painted ceiling. Well dusted and vacuumed. Legos thinned and picked up and put in a newer, larger and flatter, more useful bin. Room aired. Bags to the dumpster. Bags to the Goodwill. The room, and it's inhabitants, aren't going to know what hit them.

(Btw, I also have friends staying in my bedroom this weekend. But, because I actually regularly clean my bedroom, all I have to do is change the sheets. Like I said before-there's no footprints on my ceiling.)

Forgive me if I don't get around to writing again this week....

Monday, March 16, 2015

Why I Post About My Workouts on Social Media


I saw this meme on FB the other afternoon, and it literally made me laugh out loud. 

But, I also realized that I don't agree with it. Obviously. I mean, if you follow me on social media at all, you know that I post about my workouts. And I have yet to fall off a treadmill.

Maybe I'm just a braggart, as are the rest of humanity who posts about their workouts on social media. Maybe we are rather narcissistic. Or maybe it is more than that.

I'm all about posting about workouts, whether for my own or someone else's, because it is posting something positive. It is celebrating a victory. The victory of getting out there and doing it. Whether "it" is Pilates, or a run. A walk or a bike ride. A swim or Zumba. Soccer or tennis. Each post represents someone who made a choice and followed through. They put one foot in front of another, over and over again, to reach that mark. They chose to do this activity over 110 other activities that they either should or could be doing.

And that is worth a like. It's worth a "good job." It just is.

I don't post my miles to shame anyone. I post my miles to remind myself of my progress. And I post indiscriminately. I post the short runs and the long runs. I post the lousy runs and the really good ones. If I am training, it will be on FB. If I'm not-it won't be. Which is why you can surmise rather accurately that I lean towards lazy from December-February. (I ate tons of baguettes in February. I posted about that too.) I should be running. But, the bed is warmer. The streets are icy. There's all kinds of excuses. And I revel in them.

I post my miles because it is an unofficial connection with my running community. My running friends are scattered geographically. But, when I see their posts, I like them, and I add some encouragement. Because we aren't competing against each other. We are all at different points of  personal journeys.But we are in this together. We get the cold and the heat. The sweat and the aches. The slow, plodding runs, and the occasional fast, triumphant runs. And, every time I see one of my friend's posts, I am propelled to get out there and get it done. It is accountability. If they can do it, I can too.

I have a friend who posts a photo from her walk each morning on Instagram. She often attaches a verse with it. Both the verse and the "fitness community" aspect of her posts encourage me. Another Twitter friends whom I follow because of a blogging connection, posts about her runs. I really know little about her, except that she is the mother of 6 kids. And seriously-if she can get her butt out the door with 6 kids-I can do it with only four. That's how I look at these posts. It's motivating. It's encouraging.

If you think about it, social media posts are really not that far removed from running magazines or other fitness magazines. They are full of routines and people "bragging" or getting bragged on. Plus, they have a much wider audience than my FB profile.

In the interest of full disclosure and transparency especially considering this post...I ran 3 miles this morning. And it was bad. Slow. Ponderous. And that is true of 99% of my Monday runs. Why? Because they are what I call stretching runs. They are the first run after I pushed it on a long run. And the muscles protest. And my Monday route is hilly and it is hard whatever day I run it. And my Monday runs generally take place after a swim. (Though not this morning) And it is hard. The only good thing that can be said about it is that it happened. And it's training. And each mile that I plod through this week, will help me run better next week. 

When we share what we've accomplished, we aren't sharing the blow by blow gory details, nor are we sharing what hurdles we had to overcome to do it. We are just saying-it's done. Rejoice with me.

So, if you have friends like me, who post about their workouts, know that it is often about much more than bragging. And, for most of us, it has nothing to do with shaming.

There is plenty of room on social media to celebrate each other successes. The "atta girls/boys" can be a beacon of encouragement in channels that often sink to negativity and personal attacks.

You can choose to scroll past. You can choose to like or comment. You can choose whatever other reaction you want to choose.

But, the choice to rejoice with those who rejoice will never be regretted.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Kids' Current Favorites And Beef Au Jus Recipe

It's been a while and I figured I share some of my current favorites. And, since my offspring tend to get rather obsessive about things, I'm sharing some of their current favorites too.

LC's current favorite is Ever After High. And her cousin Ruthie. It's not a good day when she doesn't have a chance to hang out with her cousin. They like to act out different story lines when they play together, and their current story of choice is Ever After High. I guess it's a television show and book about the offspring of various Grimm's Fairy Tale characters.

Meres has always been my different child. She is loud and vivacious and she likes to put things in groups and lines. Her favorite thing lately has been a set of green sticks and purple balls that we got for a Christmas gift a couple years ago. By attaching the balls to the sticks, and vise-versa, you are able to build all kinds of structures. It keeps her busy for hours. Unassembled, the sticks double as swords.

BMV is into anything MineCraft. The game on the iPad. Books. Legos. His own knock off board games and comic strips. Though it often annoys me, I guess that MineCraft is a relatively innocent obsession for a 12 year old.

Freckles is into his Decisive Battles of History dvd lectures, by a favorite Professor. He saw them in the Great Courses catalog and was really interested in them, so we gave them to him for Christmas. There are a couple dozen lectures and he has breezed through the majority of them. He may not know the exact dates, but he has quite the grasp of the battles, equipments, armies, etc.. It makes me smile when he asks if he can watch another one of his lectures.


As for Me, I'd say my current favorites are bombon, my new artwork from Segovia and Gracelaced, my new washer (big enough to wash a kid) and my lanterns. I love my lanterns. I actually recently bought two more at IKEA because I use them all the time.

Oh, and Onion Beef Au Jus, AKA French Dips. Those are a perennial favorite. Almost any time a restaurant has French Dips, I will order one.

Imagine my excitement when I found this super easy recipe so that I can make my own! Tender beef, salty dipping juices, and touch of Swiss cheese goodness. So good!

Onion Beef Au Jus Sandwiches
1 (3 lb) beef rump roast
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large onions
6 Tbsp butter
5 cups water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 garlic clove
1 (1 lb) loaf french bread
1 cup (4 oz) shredded swiss cheese

-Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
-In a Dutch oven over medium high heat, brown the roast on all sides in the oil. Drain.
-Peel and slice the onion into 1/4” rounds. Mince the garlic clove.
-In a large skillet, sauté the onions in 2 Tbsp of butter until tender. Add the water, soy sauce, soup mix, and garlic. Pour over the roast. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 2-1/2 hours or until the meat is tender.
-Let the meat stand for 10 minutes before slicing. Return meat to pan juices.
-Turn broiler on to high.
-Slice the bread in half lengthwise. Cut into 3” sections. Spread remaining butter over the bread. Place on a baking sheet and broil from heat for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Top with beef and onions, sprinkle with cheese. Broil 4-6” from the heat for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve with pan juices and potato chips and pickles.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Reading Lately (Kindle Edition)

I've been reading more on the Kindle App of my iPad in the past month or two, than in the 2 plus years I've owned my iPad.

It was great for our trip. And since our trip, I have kept on reading on it. Surprise, surprise. I love it. This is why...

Reading on a device is convenient. When I am out and about, I don't generally have access to wifi on my iPad. But, I have access to all those titles on my iPad-even without wifi. Having the books on the iPad allows me to use minutes here and there to read.

Books on Kindle are easy to schlep around. Consider the weight difference of all the corresponding books of all the downloaded tomes.

The price is right. Modern Mrs. Darcy's Daily List of Kindle Deals is both my downfall and my lifesaver. Downfall because there is new deals every day. Lifesaver because I can get some good reads for anything from free to (my limit) $1.99. I tend to have a mental list of books I am wanting to read, and then I watch the list for them to come on sale.

Access to good authors who haven't been traditionally published yet. Or may they are published, but aren't available at my local library. (or even in our library system). So, the only way I can read these books is by purchasing them either as a eBook or a paperback from Amazon.

There are only 2 downsides that I can see from reading on a device.

What my kids see. Since I write this blog, and have an online business, my kids see me on the computer a lot. If I add reading to that, it just looks like mom is addicted to her computer and/or FB. Which is not exactly the message I want them to be picking up.

There are some studies out about how being on devices within 2 hours of sleeping keeps you from getting as much quality sleep. This makes me a little leery to be reading on my iPad right before bed. Maybe traditional books at that time of day?

Two of my favorite recent reads were by Katherine Reay. (Dear Mr. Knightley and Lizzy & Jane) They would probably fit into the fan fiction genre. Both are well written books that have a bit of delving into harder topics. (foster care and cancer). They have no language or explicit content.

I also read Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley. And I started his sequel, The Haunted Bookshop. I breezed right through the first. The other is slowing me down a bit. The first is a short read-maybe 2 hours. The other is longer. I had BMV read Parnassus on Wheels on one of our train trips in Spain. He enjoyed it too.

I also read Secrets by Kristen Heitzman. I enjoyed this mystery, but the love angle annoyed me. The protaganist wasn't truthful to his love interest. Girls want the truth, you know!? This is the first book in a trilogy. From what I can tell, they kind of bring their issues into the next two books. I know all of us married couples have issues and make mistakes, but I'd torn about whether I want to keep reading about their issues. So, I guess I do recommend it. But, with caveats.

I also have a couple memoirs loaded. I'm over halfway through Sophie Hudson's A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet. She is hilarious. I am looking forward to diving into both Atlas Girl and The Antelope in the Living Room.

Anyway, that's what I've been reading lately. On my Kindle App. And btw, most of these were $1.99 or $.99 still when I linked them today.

Have you read any good books lately?