Friday, February 20, 2015


So I fell off the blogging wagon. Again. Maybe I’m not cut out for blogging. Who knows? What I do know is that I kind of like writing it, even if months go by without taking fingers to keyboard, so I’m going to give it another go.

A lot of cooking and reading has gone on since we were last together. I have so many good eats and good reads to share with you. And Ben started Kindergarten. Kindergarten!!! By baby is truly no longer a baby. He’s doing well and loves going to “the big boy school” with Jake. Time really does fly.

And now to what everyone (at least around here) is talking about. Snowmaggedon. New England has received unprecedented amounts of snow is the short space of three weeks. My kids have spent most of the month of February at home. Never before has our school district had to call this many snow days in one winter – much less in such a short amount of time. The plowed snow along the side of our driveway forms mountains. Streets have been narrowed. Snow banks are so high you can’t see around corners. There is more snow expected this weekend and I’m not sure where we’re going to put it all. Spring is just around the corner. Thank goodness.

Being stuck inside for days on end does have it benefits. We’ve had a lot of family time and had fun playing board games and watching movies and generally enjoying being together. The boys have had more homemade cookies in the past few weeks than they’ve had in their entire lives. And I’ve had plenty of time to tinker in the kitchen and read. I’ll write about all of that soon – some highlights are Boston Girl by Anita Diamant, my obsession with freezing homemade burritos for quick lunches, the best pork tenderloin ever and Sarah Addison Allen’s new book (love her!).

In the meantime, did you know that if you use purple carrots, you get purple chicken pot pie filling? Tastes just as good, though.

I’m going to be stuck inside for another weekend (and at least of few more if this pattern continues) as Winter Storm Pandora heads for New England. I’d love to try some new recipes - f you’ve got a favorite post a link in the comments!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My Latest Read: Molly Wizenberg, How I Love Thee

I didn’t think it was possible to love Molly Wizenberg any more than I did before. But I do. I just finished her new book Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant,A Marriage. I couldn’t believe my luck getting it from the library so quickly. It was released on Tuesday with a waiting list of over forty people, but by Saturday it was wine. My guess is that the peeps at my library know a good book when they see it and bought multiple copies to keep up with the demand.

Anyway, Delancey is a memoir about the early years of Wizenbergs marriage during which she and her husband, Brandon, opened an upscale pizza restaurant called, well, Delancey. This is not just a book about the restaurant or food. It’s also about finding your way in the early stages of marriage and building a strong foundation on which your marriage can grow. I found myself rooting for Molly and Brandon and cheering at the end when Delancey finds its feet and is a rousing success. The food also sounds dee-lic-ous. It makes me want to jump on a plane to Seattle just to eat there. If anyone is looking for a quick, yummy read, this is it!

In other news, remember that book I published about a year ago? Well, it’s won an award. Last month
TheNever King won the Independent Publishers of New England award for Best Genre Fiction. I guess I should finally figure out how the market it now, huh?

I also ran (and sometimes walked) a 5k on Mother’s Day. After a serious ankle injury at the beginning of April and an adulthood of wanting to run a 5k and not doing it, this was a huge deal for me. I feel inspired to finally get in shape and joined my local Koko Fit Club. They are running a special deal for the summer and it looks like the program will provide the hand holding I need to kick start my fitness routine. According to their measurements I’ve already gained 1.2lbs of lean muscle – woo hoo! Although  I weigh more than when I started Koko (thanks to muscle weighing more than fat) I look smaller and my clothes are fitting better, so I’m going with it.

I’ve also been pinning recipes like mad to Pinterest. And I’ve fallen in love with Stitch Fix. I also have to say that the whole "Concious Uncoupling" thing has left a bad taste in my mouth regarding Gwyneth Paltrow. 

I’m back in the blogging groove so look for upcoming posts about the boatload of books I’m picking up from the library this afternoon, grill recipes now that nice weather has arrive in New England, my next fix from Stitch Fix and my trials and triumphs getting rid of the baby weight I’ve been carrying around for the last five years. Am I still allowed to call it baby weight given that my youngest will be six this year?

What have you been up to?

Monday, March 10, 2014

What's For Dinner: March 10th-15th

There is finally hope that Spring is on the way to New England! On Saturday we enjoyed temperatures in the high 40’s (don’t laugh – when you’ve been dealing with the Polar Vortex temps in the 40’s are downright tropical!) and daylight savings time means it’s light until 7:00pm Woo hoo!!

My friends convinced to but a Living Social deal for BTone Fitness. They describe it as “torture” but say it has transformed their bodies. Should be, um, interesting. I plan to try my first class next week!

I didn’t make it to number one on the waiting list for The Winter People this weekend as I had hoped, but I did get The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty. I started this weekend and it’s a fun read, as Moriarty’s books always are. More on that later in the week!

At a girls get together yesterday Stitch Fix and Birchbox were hot topics of conversation. Anyone tried either?

It’s Monday, so here’s what’s for dinner this week:

Monday – Salsa Crock-Pot Chicken – Before I left for work this morning I put four frozen chicken breast and a jar of salsa on Low.  A half hour before serving I’ll had a can of black beans and a cup of frozen corn. Dinner. Done.

Tuesday – Roast chicken, roast potatoes Trader Joe’s Parisian Carrots (little carrot balls!)

Wednesday – Vegetarian Chili from Annemarie at Real Food Real Deals.  Meatless Wednesday!

Thursday – Trying this Skinny Southwestern Crustless Quiche from Cookin’ Canuck (I also joined her Run Like a Girl Challenge #runwithdara. Join me!) She says its 141 calories which is great – I have been looking for a low cal quiche for a long time. We call it Scrambled Egg Pie around my house. It’s all in how you spin it when it comes to getting the boys to eat it!

Friday РStuffed Shells with Kitchen Sink Sauce. What is Kitchen Sink Sauce, you ask? Take any veggies you have hanging around. For me this week it was celery, onion, and zucchini. Sauce the veggies until soft. Add one clove of minced garlic and saut̩ for one minutes more. Add 1 28-oz can and one 15-oz can of crushed tomatoes and 1 6-oz can of tomato paste. Simmer for 10 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender. Simmer for 10 minutes more. Healthy, full of veggies and my kids swear it tastes like the jarred sauce we buy. This recipe makes a lot so freeze some for another day!

What’s on your plate this week?

Thanks to Org Junkie for hosting Menu Plan Monday!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Strep Happens

It has been a crazy week and a bit around my house. All three of my boys got strep throat. Then as one got well they would get it again from those who were still stick. It’s been an endless round of me playing nurse and miraculously not getting sick. I am happy to report that everyone is well again and looking forward to life returning to normal. In other news….

Somehow, I have been talked into running the Warrior Dash with some friends at the end of May. The Warrior Dash is a 5k with a twist – there are twelve obstacles and a ton of mud. Given that I am not in the best shape and haven’t run a 5k since A Splash of Color last Spring, I’ve got a lot of work to do. Couch to 5k starts NOW. Given that it’s still freezing here in New England, I’m going to have to adapt the program for the elliptical in my basement until the snow melts. I may do the Splash of Color again in early May as a (non-obstacle) practice run.

In book news, I’m next on the library waiting list for The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. I’ve been looking forward to reading this one. I’m hoping to get it in time to curl up with it this weekend. Review to come!

I gave up wine for Lent. I like to relax with a glass of wine – this is going to be a tough one. But Lent is about sacrifice, right?

The Scotsman gave up red meat. This is obviously going to affect my meal planning.

Last weekend I attended a lovely Southern themed dinner hosted by a friend (solo, as The Scotsman was still spreading his strep germs). The whole meal was wonderful and made me think of warmer times ahead (because the weather is always nice in the South, right?) but my favorite dish was the Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Casserole. Tastes like dessert but served as a side dish because it’s a veggie!

Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Casserole

6 medium sweet potatoes
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 TBS flour
¼ cup butter
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
½ cup flakes coconut (optional)

Cover the sweet potatoes in boiling water and cook for 35-40 minutes or until tender. Peel and mash the sweet potatoes.

Combine the sweet potato, ½ cup brown sugar and the next 4 ingredients. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth (I have found that an immersion blender will work, too.) Spoon into a greased 13x9” baking dish.

Combine the 1 cup brown sugar and the flour. Cut in the ¼ cup of butter until the mixture is crumble. Stir in the pecans and, if desired, the coconut. Sprinkle the mixture over the casserole.

Bake uncovered at 350®F for 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbling around the edges.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hello. My Name is Diana and I'm a Cookbook Addict.

My Cookbook Collection

I love  cookbooks. It’s an addiction. Curling up with a good cookbook is my idea of a good time, especially if you throw in a crackling fire and a glass of wine. It’s where I get inspiration for my kitchen experiments as well as your average weeknight dinner. Between Snowmageddon and the boys being on school break, I’ve been home a lot this week. I’ve been paging through my collection planning some fun I the kitchen for the weekend. Sadly, I’ve had to do it without the crackling fire as the wood pile is buried under a couple of feet of snow. But I did have my wine ;-)

Here are some of my favorites that I come back to again and again:

Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach

Jenny Rosenstrach "gets it". We all want yummy, healthy, easy and quick to make meals because with kids and a job and a million other things it's hard to get a good meal on the table.  The recipes I've tried have been easy, quick and my picky little munchkins have not rejected a single one. I’m able to make many of them with things already in my fridge or pantry - perfect for those nights when planning dinner is a big fail. Last night I made Lazy Bolognaise and it was delicious. I wish I'd made more to freeze for another dinner.

The charm of Dinner: A Love Story is not just in the recipes. Rosenstrach is a gifted writer and supplements the book with laugh out loud stories that make you realize that there are people out there just like you - struggling to get a good meal on the table but making it a priority to at least try - and Jenny is one of them.
Feast by Nigella Lawson
I am firmly on Team Nigella.  The poor little lamb really has been through the ringer lately, hasn’t she? Anyway, I consider a Nigella Lawson cookbook recreational reading. The descriptions for each of her recipes bring personality to the dish and gives you a little glimpse of Nigella’s life. Some favorites from this book are the Mini Meatloaves, Lemon Roast Chicken and of course, the Everyday Brownies that gave me hope that I can bake without a visit from the fire department.
Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten
I was first to introduced to Ina Garten shortly after I got married. My step-mother gave me Family Style after I asked for the recipe for the turkey meatloaf she made when we went to visit my parents (it’s in the book.) It started my love of all things Barefoot Contessa and I now own all of her books, but Family Style is the one I use the most. The pages are stained and gross, but to me that’s just a sign it’s well loved. My Turkey Sausage and Goat Cheese Lasagna and Chicken Pot Pie are from this book. It also has the best meatball recipe I’ve come across. The recipes aren’t very figure friendly, but for special occasions and comfort food emergencies this book never fails.
What are some of your favorite cookbooks?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Learning To Love My Slow Cooker - Beefy Stuffed Peppers Recipe

A long time ago, in what seems like a previous life , I was one of the marketing managers for Crock-Pot® Slow Cookers. I knew the ins and outs of the slow cooker function intimately, edited a cookbook produced by the company and moderated the recipes and message boards on Why I left the world of marketing is a blog post for another day, but given my previous job in the world of slow cookers, you’d think I’d be some sort of slow cooker maven with tons of delicious recipes up my sleeve, right? Um, no. Not even close.

My dirty little secret was that I couldn’t make anything that tasted good in the slow cooker. Recipes turned out bland. The Scotsman would hang his head in despair every time I hauled out the slow cooker as he knew another flavorless meal was coming. I wondered what was wrong with me. There are tons of people utterly devoted to their slow cookers. Why couldn’t I get with the program? About a year ago, I gave away my slow cooker. It was taking up valuable cabinet space and I rarely used it. Then, this past Christmas, I had a change of heart. As a busy working mom, I knew the slow cooker could make dinner time so much easier, if only I could find some flavorful recipes that whole family would enjoy. My mom got me another slow cooker for Christmas, and I’m happy to say we’ve found some recipe winners that I’ve been making regularly for the past couple of months.

The first thing we tried was pulled pork. I had a pork roast in the freezer from our meat CSA and I tossed it in the slow cooker with a chopped onion and bottle of on barbeque sauce (any brand will do) and let it go on low for 8 hours. At the end I shredded the pork, put it on whole wheat buns and called it “BBQ Burgers” (it’s all in the marketing where Jake and Ben are concerned.) It was a big hit with everyone.

However, our favorite recipe so far is a Beefy Stuffed Peppers. We kind of made it up based on a (non-slow cooker) dish from our childhoods. I was worried it was going to be bland but it isn’t at all and is so delicious. It’s also super easy – you don’t even have to brown the meat. The recipe calls for your favorite marinara sauce to be poured on top of the peppers, but we’ve been using Simply Balance Organic Squash and Pumpkin Sauce from  Target. It adds extra veggies and is a bit thicker than other sauces, and holds up well in the slow cooker without getting watery.

I’ve been pinning some slow cooker recipes on Pinterest and hope to try at least one a week – of course I’ll share the good ones with you!

The Peppers: Pre-Sauce

Beefy Stuffed Peppers

4 Bell Peppers (any color – we use red and yellow)
1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
¾ cup cooked brown rice
½ TBS Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1 jar marinara sauce (about 24-oz but if your jar has a little more or less, don’t sweat it)

Mix together the ground beef, onion, rice, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

Cut the tops off of the peppers and scoop out the seeds. Stuff the peppers with the beef mixture (if you have leftover beef mixture, it can be frozen for another time.)

Place the peppers in the slow cooker. Pour the marinara sauce over the peppers and cook on Low for 6-7 hours.

Monday, February 17, 2014

What's For Dinner? February 17th-22nd

Happy Monday! Here’s what we’re eating this week:

Monday – Salmon in Italian Dressing, Roast Potatoes, Broccoli – This is a super easy recipe my kids like. Marinate 1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced in half in ¼ cup Italian Dressing. Spoon over salmon and bake until cooked through.

Tuesday – Chicken Shwarma in Pita Bread, Tomatoes and Cucumbers in Vinaigrette – The Scotsman loves him some Shwarma ever since he tried it at a take-out place near where we used to live. We’ve never made it at home, and he decided it was time to change that. After extensive recipe goolging, he chose this one.

Wednesday – Slow Cooker Beefy Peppers – I made these for the first time three weeks ago and they were immediately added into the dinner rotation. Super easy and delicious. Recipe to come on Wednesday!

Thursday – Homemade Pizza – well, with store bought dough and sauce. But its assembled at home. That makes it homemade, right?

Friday – Salsa Chicken, Cornbread – Last weekend a neighbor told me about her go-to slow cooker recipe: throw frozen chicken breast and a jar of salsa in the slow cooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours. During the last half hour add a can of black beans, a cup of frozen corn and a sprinkling of shredded cheese.

Saturday – Beans and Rice, Parmesan Cauliflower Cheese – my kids love beans and rice. Me? Not so much (I think it’s a wee bit on the boring side). One day, I’ll figure out how to spice it up without offending the kids taste buds.

What’s on your menu this week?

This week I’m participating in Menu Plan Monday hosted by the Organizing Junkie.