News

Well, it looks like Plan A is about to go into action in full force. I verbally accepted an offer from Western Carolina and should be signing a contract within the week. Look out Asheville, here we come!

I’m glad that something good came out of this week. I’ve been in bed pretty much since Saturday with a horrible virus. I swear I’ve lost 5 lbs. since my sore throat made eating anything solid a very unpleasant experience. I was actually napping when the call came in from Western. When I woke up two hours later, I hastily ran to the car to return the call (I didn’t think barking dogs or a yappy two-year-old were exactly appropriate as background noise during contract negotiations).

So, as I sat in my pjs in the front seat of my truck (with crazy hair and sleep in my eyes) listening to the offer that would alter the course of our lives, I was almost giggling out loud at what the department head would have though if he could have seen me right at that time. We got through the details fairly quickly and I stumbled back into the house to share the news with the boys, not that Parker has any indication of what this means to his future.

Hopefully, it will mean a childhood spent skiing and white-water rafting, fishing and camping. The kind of childhood that we couldn’t have given him had we moved to Ft. Lauderdale or D.C. True, his life would have been enriched in other ways, but my only goal for him is to give him as carefree of a childhood as possible and what better way than to have a access to huge National Parks and open mountain ranges.

Lentil Soup, Greek Comfort Food

With both of my parents having been raised in Greece, my version of “comfort food” varies slightly from the traditional mac and cheese or chicken noodle soup that most people think of. My mother has been making this lentil soup for me since I was old enough to eat solid foods. It’s filling, it’s healthy and a nice bonus is that it’s super inexpensive to make.

Here’s a list of our ingredients:

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First, put your lentils in a colander and rinse.

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Once rinsed, put the lentils in your pot and add water until they are covered.

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Set the temperature to high and bring them to a boil. While the lentils are coming up to a boil, go ahead an chop your onion.

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Once it comes up to a boil…

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put the lentils back in the colander and rinse them again. In case you’re wondering what all of the rinsing and boiling is about, it allows us to skip the “soak beans overnight” step that most bean recipes require.

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Put the lentils back in the pot and add 7 cups of water.

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While we’re waiting for the beans to come up to a boil, I put all of the other ingredients in a bowl so that I can just dump them in together. So, into the bowl go 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1 minced clove of garlic, your chopped onion, 1/2 cup of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of oregano.

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Mix your soup and bring it up to a boil.

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Now add in your bowl of ingredients as well as your three bay leaves.

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Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 40-45 minutes. Before you serve the soup, add in a couple teaspoons of salt and mix it well. Then, it’s ready to eat!

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I like to serve this with a big chunk of crusty bread.

White Chocolate Cherry Macadamia Nut Cookies…Lord Help Me.

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First, let me say that I’m so sorry to do this to you. I personally wish that I had never laid eyes (or lips) on these cookies. I feel the same way about hour-long facials and Smokey Bones donuts. These cookies are so unbelievably good that once you’ve been corrupted, you’ll never be the same. With that said, let me tempt you.

Here’s what you need. Butter, brown sugar, white sugar, 2 eggs, vanilla, flour, baking soda, salt, milk, macadamia nuts, maraschino cherries (cut into quarters), white chocolate chips.

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Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Begin by adding 1 cup of brown sugar, 1 cup of regular sugar and 1 stick of softened butter into your mixer. Seriously, how can these be bad?

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Cream together the sugar and butter until combined and fluffy.

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Add in 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons milk and stir until combined.

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In a separate bowl, mix together 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add this dry mixture into the mixer.

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Mix until incorporated. The batter should be stiff and should look like this.

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Now, we’re going to take this from good to amazing. Add into your batter, 1 cup chopped macadamia nuts, 1.5 cups white chocolate chips and 1/2 cup maraschino cherries.

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Mix until combined and put onto your greased cookie sheet in heaping tablespoons. I got so excited about eating these that I forgot to snap a picture before I put them in the over.

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Bake for 11-13 minutes and let cool for about 10 minutes before you dig in.

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Here they are in all of their cherry, chocolate and nutty glory. As with everything I bake, I promptly eat 4 and then send the rest with the Irishman to give to his friends. I wish I could argue that it’s due to my generous and maternal nature, but it’s primarily because I would eat all of them in two sittings. If you have a party coming up, put these on the table and then stand back while they’re gone in 30 seconds. Seriously, they’re that good. Now go forth and corrupt your friends and coworkers. I don’t want to be in this addiction alone.

Tip: Cleaning Your Blender

Smoothies are one of my favorite things to drink/eat. I make them on an almost daily basis. I make them so often that my Vita Mixer has earned a regular place on my counter top. This is a very coveted positions for small kitchen appliances, in case you didn’t know. My husband, however, doesn’t make them very often. When I asked him why, he said that he hates cleaning blenders. Then I looked at him like he was daft. Blenders are the easiest appliances to clean. Here, let me show you.

This is a lovely smoothie that I made this morning. The recipe is very precise. It’s a large handful of frozen strawberries, a small handful of frozen cherries, one banana and enough soy milk to make it liquidy. Smoothie making, it’s an exact science.

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Now, here is my delicious smoothie in a cup. Before I even take the first sip, I rinse out the blender, put a little bit of dish washing liquid in it and fill it half way with water.

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The last step of the super easy blender cleaning is to turn the blender on and let it go for about 30 seconds.

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Rinse out the soap and you are all ready for your next smoothie. Ta-Da!

Loop Holes

Here is a picture of Parker…

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or should I say, here is a picture of Parker with Play-Doh in his nose. He had been playing quietly (too quietly in retrospect) when all of the sudden he said, “Mommy, nose hurts.” I looked up at him and there was a gigantic wad of blue Play-Doh shoved into his nostril. As I stared at him in disbelief, I said the first thing I was thinking. “Parker, why on earth did you do that?!?”

His response – “Mommy said no Play-Doh in mouth.

I now know that I should have been more specific about where Play-Doh doesn’t belong. Parker is probably the only two year old that now knows what the word “orifice” means. Oh and in case you were wondering, he had blue snot for two days.

Planning, It’s Your Friend

Every weekend prior to grocery shopping, I sit down and write out a menu for the week that includes lunch and dinner. I do this for a couple of reasons. First, nothing is more annoying to me than coming home from work, standing with the fridge open and thinking, “What’s for dinner?” At that point, I’m already hungry and tired and the last think I want to do is think coherently. Second, I hate going to the grocery store, spending $100 and two days later, I don’t have the complete ingredients for a single healthy meal. So, I started the menu tradition.

In the beginning days of menu planning, it seemed a bit overwhelming to figure out what the heck we wanted to eat all week. I would spend hours looking through cookbooks, get frustrated and then ended up making the same stuff week after week. One day, inspiration hit me. What if I had my own cookbook that contained only stuff that was tried and true? A couple of days later, I came across this nifty thing.

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It’s just a bunch of index cards bound together, but it spoke to me, so I took it home. I spent the next couple of hours going through our favorite recipes and writing them on each individual index card.

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The cards are color-coded, so I split our recipes into sections that made sense to me (appetizers, soups, sides and main dishes). In order for a recipe to be added to the index, in needs to get a thumbs us from me and the Irishman. If we try something new that was just ok, I wouldn’t add it. This is for super yummy dishes only. That’s the official criteria.

So now when I sit down to plan a menu, I pick 4 dinner recipes from my purple recipe “book” and I pick one new recipe to try (either from my Cooking Light magazine, Food Network or the Internet). It now takes me less than 10 minutes to get a menu together. And you know what they say, time is money.

So give planning and her sister, organization, a try. I promise that they will simplify your life.