From our table to yours

We have finally gotten back in the routine of menu planning!  Yahoo!  [smile]  Perhaps you think my enthusiasm a little over exaggerated, but menu planning is something that really works for us.  By mapping out at least what we plan to eat for dinner, we are able to stick to a grocery budget and watch our waistlines.  [smile]  I will admit that we don’t always stick rigidly to our plan, but knowing that we have the ingredients on hand for a few specific meals during the week really takes the pressure off the late afternoon dinner decision making.

Since we’ve started back our menu planning process, Caleb has been encouraging me to post a few of our favorite go to recipes.  Particularly because a couple of them have come up in conversations he’s had with friends who read my musings and he’s promised that they would show up.  [smile]  Below is one of our all time favorite super easy dinner recipes and the other is a new treat we’ve been making lately to celebrate the changing season.   Hope these inspire your dinner plans for the coming weeks.

“Easy Stuffed Baked Potatoes”- I usually serve these hearty stuffed potatoes as the entree with broccoli as a side.

Lightly coat 2 baking potatoes with olive oil and coarse grain sea salt.  Place potatoes on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes.  While the potatoes are baking, combine one can of black beans and one can of original Rotel (canned tomatoes and peppers) in a small saucepan.  Cook on low until black bean mixture is simmering.  Remove potatoes from oven and top with black beans.  May garnish with sour cream/Greek yogurt and/or shredded cheese.

“Oven S’mores”- It is very possible that everyone has been making s’mores like this for years, but it’s new to us. [smile]

Line baking sheet with tin foil.  Place half graham crackers on tin foil.  Top with mini Hershey’s chocolate bar and 2 marshmallows.  Broil on high.  Don’t leave these to sit in the oven.  Watch them and remove from oven when marshmallows have reached desired done-ness.

-Margaret

His and Her’s: Coffee

CoffeeHis and Her’s: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”

Can you guess which cup is Caleb’s?  [smile]  Even if you didn’t know that he is a Beatles super-fan, all you’d have to do to tell our cups apart would be to give them a bit of a sniff.  We definitely both love our morning joe, but we are not at all on the same page about how to enjoy it.

I’m a coffee purist.  For my regular morning coffee ritual I like dark roast, rich flavor and a couple of tablespoons of half and half to mellow it out to a dark caramel color.  Yum… I can taste it now.  Well, I actually can because I’m enjoying some now.  [smile]  Caleb on the other hand likes his coffee sweet and creamy.  I’ve broken him on the need to have flavored coffee creamer every day… all that sugar can’t be the best for you… but whenever he can get his hands on it he goes for the flavored sugary goodness.  The actual flavor doesn’t seem to matter as much as the sweetness.  His final concoction ends up a light camel color.

On one essential ingredient to our coffee routine we both agree.  A cup of coffee is best enjoyed together.  On those mornings when Caleb had early classes I barely drank a sip of my morning cup.  It never tasted nearly as good as the cups we’ve sipped together.  So my recipe for the best cup of coffee is to find someone you love to share it with.  It’s bound to be the best cup you’ve ever tasted!

-Margaret

Fiesta Night

Over the past two weeks almost every meal that I’ve planned has been built around some unused pantry item. I’m trying to use as much of our food up as possible before we move. The hassle of carting around pantry items from our apartment to my in-laws house then finally to our new parsonage is one I would like to avoid. [smile]

I’ve been really surprised at how many meals I’ve been able to come up with. Full disclosure– I am not a fan of stocking a pantry. [gasp… smile] Perhaps my imagination of your reaction to that is a bit over dramatic, but I think I’m probably in minority here. Most people I know seem to keep quite a bit of canned or boxed food on hand. I appreciate the convenience of having what you need on hand, but I’ve found that if I keep too much on hand inevitably one or more items never get used. Plus I really prefer to cook as many things as I can from scratch. Working with fresh veggies is my favorite!

Even though I try not to keep too much extra food around, I still have enough things like rice or canned veggies to build a couple of meals last week. One of my most successful eat as much from the pantry as possible nights was what I’ve decided to christen “Frazier Fiesta Night.” It was such a good meal that I’m already planning on recreating it when we move into “The Parsonage.” Caleb also gave it the husband’s seal of approval. I think it was the dessert that put it over the top! [smile] So without further ado the menu followed by recipes. Hope you feel inspired to celebrate a belated Cinco de Mayo with a fiesta night of your own!

So yummy!

So yummy!

Menu:
Mexican Rice (a la a boxed Rice-A- Roni mix and can of tomatoes from the pantry)
Spicy black beans (canned beans mixed with a can of Rotel both from the pantry)
Veggie Fajitas (recipe below)
Salsa, guacamole, chips and whole wheat tortillas
Dessert Nachos (picture above, recipe below)

Veggie Fajitas: 1 medium zucchini, 1/2 onion, 2 bell peppers (yellow or red recommended), 1 cup frozen broccoli and cauliflower, 1/2 cup fresh carrots, cumin, chili powder, 1 tbsp olive oil, and 2 cloves garlic smashed

Preheat oven to 450. Cut up the vegetables into long strips appropriate for fajita stuffing. [smile] Add vegetables, smashed garlic and olive oil to an oven safe dish. Mix to evenly coat vegetable with oil. Add cumin and chili powder about 2 or 3 teaspoons. I just eyed the distribution of the spices, but you could always add more later if needed. Roast for 35-40 minutes until the carrots are appropriately “soft crisp.” Serve with whole wheat tortillas and your favorite fajita toppings.

Dessert Nachos: 2 whole wheat tortillas, sugar, cinnamon, 1 tbsp butter melted, 1 1/2 cup fresh berries, 1 small lime, 1/2 cup chocolate chips, 2 tbsp half and half, whipped topping

Chop up your berries. I used raspberries and strawberries because I love eating them together! Add a teaspoon of sugar to the berries along with the juice of a small lime to make a sort of “salsa.” Set aside so flavors can get to know each other. Preheat oven to 350. Spread melted butter on tortillas then top with sugar and cinnamon to taste. Use a pizza cutter to slice tortillas into 6 or 8 “chips.” Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 8-12 minutes. Watch while baking to prevent burning. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. While waiting for the chips to cool, melt chocolate chips with half and half. You could do this in the microwave or on the stove top. If you choose the stove top, make sure you stir almost constantly so the chocolate doesn’t burn.

Now for assembly: Scatter chips on plate. Top with fruit salsa, melted chocolate and whipped cream. Enjoy.

(Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites.)
-Margaret

Haunted by Death

Death by Chocolate Waffles

Death by Chocolate Waffles

I am being haunted.  Followed around by the sweet memory of the most awesome dessert I think I have ever eaten.  Sinfully rich and yet delicately light these “Death by Chocolate Waffles” is to ‘die’ for.  [smile]  Last Saturday, Caleb and I ordered these perfect chocolate waffles topped with warm creamy Nutella at Tryst in Adams Morgan, DC.

I need the recipe.  Have any of you out there ever made a chocolate waffle?  I’ve seen recipes that use chocolate syrup and others that use cocoa.  If you have a recipe suggestion, please let me know.

-Margaret

Saturday Picnics and Sunday Potlucks

Though the weather was a little chillier than we would have liked, our weekend was full of sunshine and time spent with our DC communities.  And after a tense Friday evening watching the news coverage from Boston while under a tornado watch, the weekend was the perfect antidote.

Awesome ad courtesy of Chris Able

Image courtesy of  Chris Abel

Saturday Picnics:

Personally I think sunny April Saturdays were created especially for picnics.  [smile] I mean what better way to celebrate spring than with hotdogs and veggie burgers, ripe strawberries and whipped cream, tag and Frisbee?  The only thing we were missing was a kite!

Answering the call to “Keep Calm and Picnic On” we gathered with our seminary cohorts to celebrate the approaching end of the semester and the joy of living in community.  Given the weather the night before (lots of rain) we were all a bit skeptical as to the feasibility of holding the picnic outside, but in the words of one of our classmates “a picnic kind of loses its allure when moved indoors.”  Happily the ground had dried out enough to spread blankets and lunch on the lawn.  Lunch consisted of the aforementioned hot dogs, burger, strawberries and whipped cream with a few Whole Foods salads, cupcakes, and root beer floats donated by a few of the student organizations. Chips and popcorn rounded out the delightfully and deliciously eclectic mix of offerings.

Old Fashioned Hymn Sing on the Hill,  Wesley Theological Seminary

Old Fashioned Hymn Sing,
Wesley Theological Seminary

If you’re at all familiar with gatherings of seminary students you can be assured that one of two things will inevitably ensue:  1. theology talk or 2. a spontaneous hymn sing.  Given the stress of approaching final papers and tests, theology was pushed aside for the picnic in favor of joyful singing!  [smile]  One thing I will certainly miss about seminary is the freedom with which my classmates raise their voices in praise.  Their enthusiasm reminds me of John Wesley’s notes for singing at the beginning of the UM Hymnal:

Sing lustily and with a good courage.  Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.  Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

Preach it JW! [smile]  After the hymn sing we decided to grab a photo with said Wesley.  All in all a lovely day and a lovely memory of our experience at seminary.

Group shot with John!

Group shot with John!

Sunday Potlucks: 

Sunday brought a second opportunity in our weekend to share a meal with friends in DC– Crossroads 3rd Sunday Potluck!  As perfect as Saturdays seem for picnics, Sunday and potlucks are paired even more perfectly.  I love figuring out the perfect dish to bring.  This time I picked something that just sings spring is here and summer is coming.  Its one of our families favorites and got rave reviews at the potluck– “Uncle Steve’s Tabouli.”  I brought it as a side for the dinner Sunday, but it can easily be made into the main dish with the addition of some pita, hummus and additional veggies (think sweet peppers or chickpeas).  Recipe follows.  Bon appetit!

“Uncle Steve’s Tabouli”

Ingredients: 1 cup bulgur wheat; 1 1/2 cup boiling water; 1 1/2 tsp salt; 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice; 1 heaping tsp fresh crushed garlic; 1/2 cup chopped scallions; 1/4 cup olive oil; fresh ground black pepper; 2 medium tomatoes, diced or about 1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes; 1 packed cup freshly chopped parsley; 1 cup grated carrot; 1 chopped cucumber

Combine bulgur, boiling water and salt in bowl.  Cover and let stand 15-20 minutes, until bulgur is chewable.  Add lemon juice, garlic, and oil, mix well.  Refrigerate 2 or 3 hours.  Just before serving add vegetables and parsley and mix gently

-Margaret

Saturday Morning: In 3 acts

Act 1:  “ANI” for the win!

photo(5)

At least one of our weekend mornings each week involves a game of Scrabble.  We received the board game for Christmas from Lisa and Raymond, my wonderful in-laws, and began incorporating it into our weekend routine in the new year.  I love playing Scrabble for a couple of reasons:

  1. I’m super competitive and its a game at which I excel.  Caleb has come within a hair of beating me a couple of times, but somehow I always seem to come out on top.  This morning the competition was intense going into my final turn I was down by 5 and narrowly squeezed out a win by catching Caleb with 2 tiles left in his hand.  The final score was 285 to 284.   I will admit though its funny how now that I’m winning against this person that I love so much and who I really want to see succeed, the victory doesn’t taste near as sweet as when I won Clue or Monopoly against my little sisters.  [smile]  Sorry Sarah and Rachel.
  2. Playing Scrabble together also reminds me of Mom and Pop, my grandparents.  Mom is in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s now and can’t play like she once could, but for years my grandparents would end each day with a game of Scrabble or Rummikub together.  It helped keep their minds sharp and was a point of connection with each other.  Whenever I visited, they would invite me to join in the nightly game.   I always enjoyed it because a different side of their relationship was on display.  My own competitiveness is just like my Mom’s.  Oh how she hated to loose!  She would even playfully accuse Pop of cheating.  It was so cute and like looking through a window into their days of “courting.”  I hope Caleb and I will keep playing until we’re old and gray and until my mind goes.

Act 2:  Pancakes a la Margaret

Pancakes w/ Lemon Curd and RaspberriesOh I just have to share my new favorite way to eat pancakes.  So I felt like something sweet for breakfast this morning and found a couple of pancakes from a couple of weeks ago hiding out in my freezer.  So I popped them in the over… we don’t have a microwave, but that’s for another post at another time. [smile]  Then the only question was what to top them with.

I’m really trying to cut back on processed sugars and added calories and pancakes are already sweet so I’ve been trying to discover ways of eating them without honey or syrup.  I checkout the fridge for what I had on hand and of course the raspberries were sitting there just calling out to me.  Then I perused the door and spied the jar of lemon curd I’d bought last week to make a pie for some new parents in our church.  The two were begging to be put together.  So I spread a thin layer of lemon curd on each pancake and filled it with raspberries.  Eating it “taco-style,” it was one of those “I can’t believe I’ve never tried this before and I will never forget how awesome this tastes” moments.  So yummy!

Act 3:  Blogging in the library to the soundtrack of my high school years

So that catches me up to the present where I reveling in the joy of reflecting on the simple pleasure of a simple morning while sitting in my favorite spot in our seminary’s library with Caleb at the computer behind me writing a paper and listening to 90’s pop on Pandora.  To say I am happy being me and being where I am now doesn’t quite express how completely content I feel.

Each moment of contentment or happiness now though brings up a feeling on nostalgia.  We are officially a month from graduation and a month and 1 day away from moving from DC and a little over 2 months from the move into our new parsonage.  I am so excited but will also miss so much about DC.  Last night Caleb and I went out to one of places in the city, We the Pizza on Capitol Hill, and then took a walk around the special places in the city for us.  We walked around the Library of Congress complexes where he told me he loved me the first time and then visited Dupont Circle where we met for our first date and where he proposed.

It will be odd leaving all of these special spaces behind, but I like the thought of making more places special.  Somewhere in Tennessee is the special restaurant where we’ll go to celebrate our first anniversary.  In some hospital in some new place, we’ll check into the labor and delivery unit to have our first baby.   Not anytime in the near future mind you.  We’re not there yet, but someday we’ll create that memory.  [smile]  And someday in the future when our kids are old enough to enjoy it we’ll take them on vacation to DC where we met and fell in love.

Reflecting on the past and the future is fun, but right now I’m going to try to practice the sacrament of the present moment and focus on being happy being right here, right now.  Will you join me?

-Margaret

The Case of the Disappearing Spaghetti Squash

Dinner last night was supposed to be the super healthy spaghetti squash and tomato sauce.  Sadly, when I got up from my computer to begin dinner preparations I found that the spaghetti squash I had purchased at the grocery had magically transformed into a butternut squash on the way home.  With a simple “Abracadabra,” poof the spaghetti squash disappeared!

Well, that might be a bit of a stretch.  The truth of the story goes a bit more like this:  I was so overjoyed to see the $1.99 price sticker on the squash I picked up the wrong kind.  The disappearing or transforming squash was more of a disappointment than a real dinner killer.  We did have some whole wheat pasta on hand so I just made a minor substitution and voila– dinner!

Now the real dilemma is what to do with the said butternut squash.  I could return it I guess, but I’m wondering if anyone has a recipe, preferably vegetarian, they would suggest instead.  If worst comes to worst, I’ll take it back, but hoping not to have to make another trip to the grocery anytime soon.

-Margaret

PS– if you haven’t ever tried spaghetti squash as pasta and are wondering how to cook it, Kitchen Treaty has a great tutorial with lots of pictures.  Its really very simple and I don’t think its a very noticeable change from pasta, especially if you use as much sauce as Caleb does.  [smile]