Thursday, April 26, 2012

Country Kitchens + Banana Muffins

{via English Home Magazine}

I wish this were my kitchen.
Stone floors, Aga, incredible island, dogs and all.
More than anything though, I love the coziness of this kitchen.
I gotta have a cozy kitchen.

On Tuesday, before the sun came up, I warmed up my non-Aga oven,
had Ella Fitzgerald on Pandora, put the kettle on
and made a batch of banana buttermilk muffins.
If my kitchen doesn't look good, by golly it will smell good!!
99.9% of the time school day breakfasts consist of a soft boiled egg+ toast + yogurt
for the boys.  And a protein bar for me. A smoothie if we are feeling fancy. 
Occasionally, I'll have a hankering for something warm, sweet, and
fresh from the oven. With a tiny bit of extra planning {not my forte} it really doesn't
take much more time in the morning.  I measured my dry ingredients 
and lined my muffin pan the night before.
Added the wet ingredients in the morning and they were out of the oven before
I heard the floors creaking upstairs. 

Banana Buttermilk Muffins 

1 3/4 c flour
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 c buttermilk
2 mashed up ripe bananas {about 1 c}
2 TBS canola oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375
Line muffin pan with paper liners.
In large bowl combine flour through salt.
In another bowl combine buttermilk through vanilla. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir till just combined. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full.  {I use an ice cream scoop} Bake 15-20 min.
Store in a zip lock bag once cooled. If you have any left to store that is.  They didn't last very long here.  This is a quick and easy way to use up your overly ripe bananas too!! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Recipe | Family Life | Weekends + {More} Soup

Yesterday, when saying good bye to the other preschool moms, I wished everyone a "happy weekend".  It was Monday.  I sure hope that isn't any indication of a dragging week ahead.  I'm occasionally off by a day, but a whole week?!

We did have a nice weekend even though it already feels like we are due for another.  We've been watching Emma, my parent's dog since last week.  Is this joy or desperation on her face???

She actually far prefers being my kitchen companion than the boys' playmate, but she is a good sport and puts up with their shenanigans.

Friday night we walked into town for pizza....

The pizza parlor is just off the square, in what was once the village library.  Next door is a gift shop that was originally referred to as the "five and dime."

I spent my ENTIRE Saturday organizing Lego with Andrew.  His room had become a safety hazard and I couldn't take it a second longer.  It feels good to have it all in order and I just hope he can make it last, at least for a few weeks.  Because I certainly kept my room neat as a pin growing up. {insert lots of laughter and eye rolling from my parents + brother}  Sunday morning, I went to see the Hunger Games with friend Katie and her 11 week old baby, Elise.  Baby slept through the whole movie and we ate popcorn at 10:00 in the morning.  We had a little chuckle about feeling a bit sacrilegious, both of us Catholic, watching the Hunger Games no less, on a Sunday morning.  The movie was pretty good, but the book is so much better. No big surprise.   Which brings me to soup...Katie and I both had a slight obsession with Panera's chicken orzo soup last summer.  She was pregnant and had a good excuse, I on the other hand, just suffered from unexplained cravings.  When fall arrived and Panera slowly started phasing out the soup we would text each other when we found a location that still carried it and then grab it for lunch or dinner.  But sadly, one day, all was depleted and I don't see any signs of it coming back this year.  I had searched for some recipes online but they just didn't sound right.  I finally stumbled on this one via pinterest, made a few tweaks and viola, "nailed it" {Katie's words, not mine}  Anyway, it is good, really healthy, very springy, and addictive.  Enjoy....

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
2 tsp olive oil
1 c diced carrots
1 c diced celery
1 small onion, diced
half of a chicken breast, with skin + bone
1 cup roughly chopped spinach
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
3/4 c orzo pasta
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
8 - 10 cups chicken broth
2 lemons

Preheat oven to 350.  Rub chicken breast with olive oil, season liberally with salt + pepper, place on baking sheet and roast for 35-40 minutes, remove, loosely cover with foil and let sit.  I made a whole chicken breast.  I used half for the soup and saved the other half for stuffed manicotti the next night. Turn up heat to 400.  Slice one lemon and place on parchment lined baking sheet.  Roast lemon slices for 20 min. Remove and set aside.

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 2 tsp olive oil over med. heat.  Add carrot, celery and onion and saute for about 6-8 min.  Add 8 cups broth, spinach, thyme, and orzo, season with salt and pepper.  Bring to boil, cover partially with lid and reduce heat, let simmer for about 15 -20 min.    

While soup is simmering peel skin off chicken and cut meat away from the bone.  Shred chicken. Add chicken to soup along with the zest and juice of one lemon.

Stir + serve.  Top soup with roasted lemon slices.  Yum, yum.... 
Tip: Add additional broth as needed. After soup sits for a while the pasta absorbs broth and you'll need to thin it back out.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Books | Good Reads

A couple months ago, I read the Hunger Games trilogy.  I was completely engrossed, couldn't put them down, and couldn't explain why, because they are about the farthest thing from any sort of book I'd typically enjoy.  The first was brilliant, the second was decent, and the third was utterly horrific.  Literally. Too much horror and gore for me, but if you read the first you will read all three because you will have to know how it all ends.  Anyway, after that, I wanted something lighter, so I turned to tried and true beloved author, Elizabeth Berg.  Her collection of short stories, The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted, is down right addictive.  You'll cry, laugh out loud, relate and want to make an apple pie from scratch when it is all said and done.  I highly, highly, highly recommend this book.  Of the four books I've read over the last few weeks this is my favorite.  The other Elizabeth Berg, Once Upon A Time There Was You, is also very good, but forgettable.  I adore all her books though, and I'd like to think we'd get along pretty well in real life too.  Reviews for Little Bee are vast and wide so I won't recap much other than to say I'm glad I read it.  And while fiction, it is based on real events, heart wrenching, real events.  It is a story that will stay with you for a long time, the kind that makes your heart hurt and leaves you puzzled about the cruelties that occur at the hands of mankind and the ability of hope to prevail in the most desperate of circumstances.  Next up, was a little mindless chic lit, which I found in Emily Griffin's, Heart of the Matter.  It is very typical of her other books, all of which I've read and enjoyed.  Her characters have a little depth and she captures the nuisances of everyday life well.  It was fun to see Rachel and Dex make an appearance too. But it is the sort of book that a month from now I'll forget all the details.  A perfect beach or poolside read.

I picked up this one for the weekend....
Have any of you read it?

I've also started to think about a summer reading list.  Here are some contenders...

So, tell me, have you read any of these?
Any other amazing books you've stumbled on lately?
I'd LOVE to know....  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Recipe | My 2nd Favorite Vegetable Soup

Some weeks, I feel like I blog more about food than anything else, especially my children.  Maybe it has something to do with the photos.  Food is a much more cooperative subject.   It stays still, it doesn't pull funny faces, it happily stays put in the best light.  But I promise, I'm not turning food blogger on you.  I've found though, that I do go in phases with my posts and my current one seems to be centered around eating.

Saturday it was chilly and rainy and I was craving vegetable soup.  We stayed in our Pjs till about 12:00 until I faked a call from The Fresh Market. Apparently, they had spotted ghosts stealing from the store and needed a Ghost Buster Team stat.  "Who You Gonna Call?" {Charlie spends most waking hours as Ghost Buster these days, with a make shift Proton Pack and a Ghost Bust-Ta-La-Tor {his term} for zapping ghosts.}

I gotta tell you, I've never seen 3 kids move faster.  Andrew, friend Payton, and Charlie were in the Ghost Buster mobile in less than 5 minutes and we were on our way, singing, "there's something weird, and it don't look good..." Once in the store, the three took off in a very stealth and silent ghost search while I shopped in peace filling the cart with necessary ingredients.  Come on. Brilliant, right?  I thought so.

My favorite vegetable soup in my Mum's but it is an all day, labor intensive affair, that I have been too intimidated {not to mention short on time} to tackle.  Over the years, I tried others in the hopes they would bring a bit of the same tasty comfort but they've all greatly disappointed, until I tried this one.  I think the secret is in the mashed up cannellini beans that are added to the broth. It gives the soup body and really good flavor that you just can't get with broth and tomatoes alone.  I've made a few tweaks to the original recipe to suit our liking.  Charlie LOVES this soup and gobbles it down with gusto and much appreciation. Andrew, not so much, but 1 out of 2 isn't bad! And it works just as well for a spring meal as it does for a winter one thanks to the mix of vegetables.

 15 oz cannellini beans, drain + rinse
2 TBS olive oil
1 c onion, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1.5 cup zucchini, peeled + diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBS fresh thyme, chopped
2 tsp fresh sage, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
32 oz chicken broth
2.5 oz rough chopped baby spinach
14.5 oz fire roasted, diced, tomatoes

In a bowl mash half the beans with a masher and set aside.
Heat oil in a large soup pot {I use a large Le Creuset dutch oven} over med high heat.  Add onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, garlic, thyme, sage, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes until vegetables are soft.  Add broth and tomatoes with their juice and bring to a boil.  Add the mashed beans and whole beans and spinach and let simmer for 35-45 minutes over low heat.  I topped the soup with little Parmesan + thyme toasted baguette slices that I put under the broiler for a couple minutes.


(recipe adapted from here)

*parental disclaimer ~ my boys have not actually seen the movie Ghost Busters.  charlie just loves the song and the youtube video of a ghost buster themed party.  just making sure... i know you were a bit worried. :)  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Shopping | Online General Store

I was recently talking with blog friend, Tiffany, about our shared love of general stores.  In New England they seem to be alive and well in just about every charming little town.  In Cape Cod, my favorite is the Brewster General Store.  It is walking distance from the home we rent and one where I've watched Andrew play with the same wooden marble maze that I played with as a little girl.  It's always the last stop on our way out of town too, usually to pick up a couple little bags of lobster shaped gummy candies for friends back home.

While clicking through on a pinned image I discovered this terrific shop in Brooklyn.  A slightly modern twist on the everyday general store {no lobster gummies here, but certainly a few other cute gift ideas} with really fabulous + simple products.  I had fun browsing on the website tonight {oh yeah! a rocking Saturday night!} and thought you might too....

Above are a few of my favorite picks.  I especially like the striped linen hand towel above far left.   It would work great as a dinner napkin and reminds me a bit of the ones used in these favorite place settings {pinned on my entertaining board}.

Friday, April 13, 2012

S'mores Anyone?

Our DI team had a little Friday night fun to celebrate a great season.
The movie, Hugo, was kind of slow.  The book is better.
The s'more making, however, was da bomb!
Have you ever tried a homemade vanilla marshmallow, 
roasted over an open flame till charred and gooey, 
placed on top of a melting peanut butter cup and 
wedged between two freshly baked chocolate chip cookies?  Have you?
You must.
{assorted chocolates all from Trader Joes}

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Recipe | Cheddar + Dill Scones

Where has the week gone?  I haven't spent much time on the computer this week. Amazing how much you get done when that happen, isn't it?!  Anyway, the promised brunch recipes are coming, just a bit slower than I thought.   Tomorrow night I have a group of kiddos coming over to watch our first outdoor movie of the year.  Hope we don't freeze!  Hope I can get a fire going in the fire pit so they can roast some marshmallows.   I'll be back with more recipes next week, till then I will leave you with this one for cheddar and dill scones.  I made them a few days in advance, let them cool, then froze them.  I took them out of the freezer and let them sit on the counter while the oven warmed to 350, then I put them in for 10 minutes, uncovered.  These flaky, tasty, light as air scones are highly addictive and make enough to feed a crowd!!


  • 4 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 4 extra-large eggs, beaten lightly
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1/2 pound extra-sharp yellow Cheddar, small-diced
  • 1 cup minced fresh dill
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water or milk, for egg wash


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine 4 cups of flour, the baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Mix the eggs and heavy cream and quickly add them to the flour-and-butter mixture. Combine until just blended. Toss together the cheddar, dill, and 1 tablespoon of flour and add them to the dough. Mix until they are almost incorporated.
Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it for 1 minute, until the cheddar and dill are well distributed. Roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. Cut into 4-inch squares and then in half diagonally to make triangles. Brush the tops with egg wash. Bake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outside is crusty and the inside is fully baked.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter At Our Home

Happy Easter, my friends!
I hope today was filled with lots of joyful celebration for you and your families.
It was a glorious spring day for us and we enjoyed hosting brunch for
my parents (+ Emma, the best dog ever ).

I have only one rule when it comes to setting the table.  Only real flowers, no exceptions. Ever.
I liked how this arrangement came together.  The flowers were bought at Trader Joe's.
I probably spent less than $25.
This bunny was safely tucked in Charlie's arms tonight.
He fell asleep at 5:50 PM.  I worry how early I will be up with him tomorrow.
I kept the baskets really simple this year:
a book + a small toy + three eggs filled with candy + chocolate bunny
The "egg hunt" was finding eggs with written clues in them.
They had to follow the clues to find their hidden baskets.
The Brunch Menu:
Cheddar and Dill Scones
Baked Eggs with Tomatoes and Herbs
Hashbrown Potatoes
Roasted Asparagus
Ham with Assorted Chutneys
{Cranberry + Apricot + Ginger Chutney
and Mango Mustard Chutney}

Lemon Madelaines
Honey & Vanilla Pound Cake Topped with Berries

Orange, Peach, Mango Mimosas

We drizzled fresh honey over the cake. Yum.

Entirely unplanned..all three in gingham. 
We love gingham, yes we do.  We love gingham, how about you?! :)

We love our Emma!! 
My Mum and I spotted those two hanging out while we were doing dishes.
She is indeed smiling!
More delicious than chocolate, that face!
I will be back with recipes next week....