Monday, December 27, 2010

Chirstmas Dinner 2010

Well, this year was the biggest crowd we've had at our house for Christmas....and I loved every minute of it! It may not be a lot of guests by some people's measure, but we had ten people.

Christmas Eve dinner was a Benjamin family tradition of snack-y foods. The chili was a new addition, however. It's been so "chilly" here lately (pun totally intended!) that the dish just seemed appropriate. Plus, it's a slow cooker meal: set it and forget it!

Christmas Eve dinner:
Obama chili
Shrimp cocktail
Nut bread with cream cheese
Cheese/sausage with crackers
Torta de casar cheese and quince spread (courtesy of Jamie & Nacho)
Assorted cookies & ice cream

This Christmas dinner was pretty vegetable-heavy. With such a rich, tender red meat as the main dish, the veggies helped to balance it out....and the red wine complemented it nicely! The roast was a little particular with the temperatures, but the rest of the dishes were pretty easy! I had my brother, his partner, and my brother-in-law in charge of each side dish. I consider the meal a success because we had VERY little leftovers!

Christmas Dinner:
Standing rib roast

Cranberry sauce
Cauliflower sformato

Garlic butter roasted mushrooms

Pumpkin pie

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Week 50 Menu

I think we're still in a food coma from yesterday! we still have a houseful of people, so we'll be flying by the seats of our pants for dinner!

Sunday: Haven't decided yet. We still need to restock the fridge.
Monday: Fish and oven fries...encore from last week. Yum!
Tuesday: I'm's choice
Wednesday: I'm's choice, Part Deux!
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Schezuan noodles
Saturday: Out? Something very low key while overdosing on college football!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Freezer Cooking - December

The freezer stash is getting pretty low. And, I'm excited to get some yummy food ready to eat after the holidays!

Here's my plan!
- Wheat Pizza Dough x3 (from Smitten Kitchen)
- Hamburger Buns x2
- Chicken Pot Pie (Ina Garten) We're going through a phase
- Beef Stroganoff (Paula Deen)

- Stuffed Shells x2 (This Week for Dinner)....hoping to get to this one in over the holidays (we'll see)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas in Florida

I've lived here in Florida for five years now (!). Christmas always sneaks up on me down here - what with the absence of snow and extreme frigidity. Our new house has a lot more trees on our property and in the neighborhood. Just this week I noticed that the leaves on the trees are starting to change color. While stopped at a stoplight on the way home listening to "Sleigh Ride," this scene just struck me as odd: Christmas decorations and palm trees. Bizarre.

Sometimes just a little weird for a Midwestern girl.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hamburger Buns

I've gotten pretty good at making pizza dough....who knew it was so easy to make (and freeze to have available at any time!)? After reading through some of the other freezer cooking plans, I found a simple recipe for hamburger buns (or hot dog buns or dinner rolls....whatever your fancy) and decided to give them a try.

These rolls/buns are fantastic! I've made them as hamburger buns and dinner rolls, made double batches to freeze for later, slathered them with jam, & given them to new parents to snack on. Yum! Whenever I do even the smallest Freezer Cooking session, I include these rolls in the agenda! There is so little active prep time involved.

The recipe calls for "gluten" to make the buns light and fluffy. Okay, a new one for me. I've got to tell you, the funniest part is that the box of gluten is available in the Organic/Health Food aisle right next to the gluten-free products! The irony was thick.

I highly recommend giving these rolls/buns a try!

Wheat Hamburger Buns
From Connie

8 - hamburger buns
12 - hot dog buns
12-15 - dinner rolls

1 cup water
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter (cut into small pieces)
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon Vital Wheat Gluten

Place all liquids ingredients, followed by all the dry ones, and lastly the yeast (not touching the water) in stand mixer. Never place the yeast where it will come in contact with the salt or sugar as it can decrease the activity of the yeast. Make a small well in the top of the flour and place the yeast there.

Allow dough to mix. After 5-10 minutes, check your dough. It should be in a soft, tacky ball. If it is dry and stiff or feels like Silly Putty, add liquid (80°F), 1/2 to 1 tablespoon at a time; if too wet and sticky, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. If it leaves a small indention that fills slowly, it’s right.

Allow to rise about 1 hour, it should double in size. [Bonnie's note: I left it to rise for 4 hrs on a busy day, and it was just fine]

When the rise is complete, turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Gently roll and shape the dough into a 12-inch rope. With a sharp knife or kitchen sheers, divide the dough and roll gently into balls. Place the dough balls onto a greased baking sheet or baking sheet with silicone pad. Flatten slightly (to about 1/2″ tall).

Cover and let rise in warm oven (170 degrees) 10 to 15 minutes until almost doubled. Brush tops with melted butter or beaten egg and top with seeds if you like.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Bake 9 to 11 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks. These keep in the freezer for 3 to 4 weeks.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Week 49 Menu

Sunday: Fish and chips
Monday: Boursin-stuffed chicken (thanks for the idea!!) and roasted carrots
Tuesday: Leftovers
Wednesday (Mom & Dad arrive!): Homemade Pizza and green beans
Thursday (Brother arrives!): Crockpot chili & cornbread
Friday: Christmas Eve feast
Saturday (In-laws arrive!): Standing rib roast, Garlic Roasted Mushrooms, still working on the other dishes!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Week 48 Menu

Sunday: Asian salmon (Ina Garten), roasted vegetables
Monday: (Leftover) Salmon salad
Tusday: Shitake mushroom risotto
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Red Curry Burgers with Boursin cheese [anyone else have good Boursin recipes?...have a lot of it from Costco!!]
Saturday: Out

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Air Handler Roasting on an Open Fire...

Well, the "fun" I referenced from last week. Oy.

We put Shelby to bed and settled in for some Monday Night Football. A smoke detector went off upstairs followed by another and another!!!! What the what??!! Most residential smoke detectors have a wimpy beep. These alarms sounded like the second missile key had been activated. Needless to say, Shelby was completely freaked out.

Upstairs had a horrible burned electrical smell, but no smoke. I quickly checked the outlets I could find for char or smoke. Nothing. I was standing under the air vent in the hallway and the smell was pouring out of it. At that point, I told Scott to call the fire department. Was the attic on fire? The ducting? We just had a very damaging fire at work and I wasn't taking any chances!!

Not one, but TWO fire trucks came to our house on the quiet cul-de-sac in the quiet neighborhood with lights everywhere. Two firemen came up to the house with oxygen tanks on backs and axes in hand. Good Lord. They checked out the attic and the upstairs and found nothing (thank goodness!).

The younger fireman was asking me (only slightly condescendingly) if the smell was a burnt dust smell. I told him, "Look. I work in a factory. I've worked in maintenance for 7 years. I know electrical burning things. I don't like them. That's what we've got up there!" He gave a quick nod and said, "Got it."

They went down and popped the panel on the upstairs air handling unit. The wiring was black, charred and mostly missing! Found it! Luckily, it was contained to the air handler. The firemen told us to bundle up and sleep downstairs. With all the firetrucks outside, Shelby was in heaven! When they went to leave, she was upset. I told her they needed to help another little girl and she emphatically said, "NO!" I guess they were her personal firemen now!

We brought Shelby's mattress down to the guest bedroom and I convinced her it was like taking her nap at school on a mat. She bought it for a while. I slept out on the couch until she work up at 12:30. After trying to get her down for an hour, we ended up sleeping together on the couch. My daughter "sleeps large," so it was pretty miserable. It was like living with a newborn again!

The next day an electrician was able to rewire the unit and we were back to normal!!! They found a loose wirenut that caused the wires to short, arc and catch on fire. We had the downstairs air handler replaced during the inspection when we bought the house. Guess it was only a matter of time for the other one!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Yesterday was full of "excitement" (a whole post must be devoted to the "fun" later). But, one thing was just hilarious. I went to pick Shelby up from school I saw her friend Chloe and her parents in the parking lot as I was headed in. Chloe's mom looked at me with confusion and said that Shelby wasn't at school - the teachers told her Shelby was picked up early. I could hear the proverbial crickets chirping. And, I'm fairly certain I had the stupidest, trying-hard-to-connect-the-dots look on my face.

Then it dawned on me: Scott picked her up to take her to a doctor's appointment.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Personal Pans

I've been looking for individual ramekins/gratin dishes to serve pot pies and other individual oven entrees in for a while. I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for (shocking). Most were too fancy; some were too big. They just weren't right. One day I was taking a stroll through Williams Sonoma with a gift card burning a hole in my pocket.

I saw a set of four personal pizza pans and thought: Hmmm, sturdy, heats evenly & dishwasher-safe. Love it! I've used them for several dishes - especially with Freezer Cooking recipes.

For stuffed shells, I made them and froze them in groups of five or six. When I was ready to serve them, I popped a bagful into the pan, covered with marinara sauce and cooked them up.

For Chicken Pot Pies, I made up a batch of the filling. Then, I lined the pans with plastic wrap and filled them up with the filling. I popped them into the freezer until the pot pie filling was completely frozen. Then, I pulled the "hockey pucks" out of the pans, wrapped them in the plastic wrap and stored in a freezer bag. This freed up my pans for the next dish! When I wanted to cook the pot pies up, I unwrapped the "hockey puck" and let the filling defrost in the pan.

I've also used a pan to test out a half batch of Cauliflower Sformato I was thinking of serving for Thanksgiving. It was pretty yummy, but wasn't a favorite for the whole family. By using the small pan, I wasn't stuck finishing up an entire souffle all by myself! Only a small amount of leftovers.

I have a lot of friends who are having babies this winter and spring. I've been so excited about my pans that it got me thinking. What a better gift than the gift of dinner! A set of pans plus "hockey pucks" of various varieties and prep instructions! More to come!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

For Thanksgiving this year, we had two fantastic guests for the weekend - Michelle & Karen Connavino. They are Scott's cousins and dubbed "Shel" & "K" by Shelby. They immediately took to each other and got on famously! I think Shelby was just excited to have other people to spend time with over the 4-day weekend! :)

The weather was just fantastic. Not to make the northerners jealous, but it was almost 80 degrees throughout the weekend. Love it! We enjoyed the weather and went to the park multiple times and to the beach several times, too.

We did family Penguin Bowling down the long, hardwood hallway. It was like we had our own personal bowling lane! Michelle convinced Shelby that, in order to bowl properly, you need to wear a fireman's hat and the animal washcloths on your hands. Shelby was a firm believer. It was pretty hilarious.

Week 47 Menu

We've all been a little sick this week, and we all feel like some good comfort food!

Sunday: Chicken Pot Pie filling over egg noodles with oven fries.
Monday: Minestrone soup from freezer with crusty bread
Tuesday: Italian Beef (Pioneer Woman)
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Spinach Enchiladas (GoodLife Eats)
Friday: Pasta with eggplant ragout
Saturday: Out.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Week 46 Menu

Sunday: Leftovers of all shapes and sorts
Monday: ABLTs (regular BLTs with Avocado)
Tuesday: Individual Chicken Pot Pies from freezer (Ina Garten)
Wednesday: Sweet Potato Gnocchi from freezer (Three many Cooks)
Thursday: Chicken & Chickpea salad (Three Many Cooks)
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Week 45 Menu

Scott's cousins Karen & Michelle are driving down from Cleveland on Wednesday! I'm really looking forward to seeing them! The holiday menu is pretty set, but most other nights are tenuous at best! :) There may be some game-day decisions!

Sunday: Dinner at friends' house
Monday: Pulled pork in slow cooker & roasted squash
Tuesday: Leftover pork & salad
Wednesday: Italian Beef in slow cooker (from Pioneer Woman)
Thursday: Turkey breast with sausage stuffing, cranberries, potatoes & (of course) pumpkin pie
Friday: Leftovers....if we have recovered from the feast by this point!
Saturday: Out somewhere with our holiday company!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Musical Taste

On the way home from school, I typically listen to my podcasts from NPR.....yes. Not only do I listen to NPR, but I stockpile NPR shows to listen to later. Hey: I like to be informed!

I digress.....We listen to Car Talk & Wait, Wait. But, sometimes, when I've had a rough day, or just need something different, we'll listen to music. A couple weeks ago I put on Glee, Volume I and started at the beginning. A Glee-ophile knows that Journey's "Dont' Stop Believin'" is the first track. We listened to it. Of course, I belted out Rachael's part. Shelby was bobbing her head (her version of dancing) and smiling during the song. When the song was over, she requested "more?!"

Well, today was another Glee Day. The intro to Journey started playing and Shelby started singing!! I'm not sure which language she was singing in, but she was singing and her whole little body was moving to the music. When the words started, she sang even louder. It was SO CUTE. By the end of the song her legs were kicking and moving all over the place and she was yelling "MORE!" We listened to it 4 times! On the 4th time, I wasn't fast enough on going back to the beginning and the next song came on. Man, was she upset!

I'm not sure if I'm more excited that she likes Glee or Journey! Either way: impeccable taste.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Simply Hilarious

Shelby is now two....and at times she acts every minute of it But, most of the time, she is acting out hilariously grown-up activities or telling us a story (of which we can understand approximately 62%).

Since she started in the two-year old room at school, he language has exploded! She can string together 3-word phrases and tell us "I need _____." It is such a blessing to be able to understand a lot more of what she wants - which is good since she has so many opinions (wonder where she gets that from...)!

Some words are still a mystery and Shelby gets "ohh" or "mmhmm" or "right!" from us. And, some words sound very similar to other ones. In that case, one has to rely heavily on context. Pumpkin, paper, picture, and pockets all sound VERY much alike . So, after a quick scan of the room, we can usually figure out what she's after. And, surprisingly, Shelby is pretty patient with us while we figure out what she wants!

Here are some pictures that just struck me as classic Shelby and they made me laugh.

Shelby waits for the doctor at her 2-year appointment. She settled in with a good book and some raisins. She was okay until the vaccine needles came out...

Shelby puts on my wedge sandals and starts vacuuming....because, clearly, vacuuming in heels is the only way to go! She even presses a "button" (a little knob made by the plastic mold) to turn it on.
Shelby is all dolled up for church. She insisted on the Chlo-Chlo shoes* with this outfit. Hey, she's got her own style. Sadly, she knows Mama's coffee mug goes with us to church. This morning: it's Shel-Shel's mug. Shelby is also showing off her new "Cheese" grin for the camera.
*"Chlo-chlo shoes" are little brown Mary Jane shoe that her friend Chloe had. We had bought some for her to grow into a while back. When we finally broke them out for her to wear, she started referring to them as "Chlo-chlo shoes." There are also "Ari shoes" for the same reason. It makes it so nice to know exactly which shoes are being demanded!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Week 44 Menu

Sunday: Asian Salmon (Ina Garten) and Oven Fries
Monday: Leftover pizza
Tuesday: Minestrone Soup from the freezer (Pioneer Woman)
Wednesday: Zucchini Boats
Thursday: Veggie quesadillas
Friday: Pulled pork from freezer
Saturday: Out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Meat Cake

My friend from New Hampshire posted on her blog about this meat cake. At first glance, I was horrified. Then, I kept thinking about it. WWFD (What Would a Foodie Do)? Ya know, it might just work.

I think this recipe might be a little over the top - the sweet potatoes and marshmallows just aren't sitting right with me. A girl's got to draw a line somewhere.

I think I might want to try it out. It's a great novelty recipe! In my mind, I will make these changes:

1. Leave the cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes & marshmallows out of the cake.
2. "Frost" the whole cake with mashed potatoes and put it in a very hot oven to put some color on the potatoes (a la twice-baked potatoes).
3. Make up some extra-syrupy cranberry sauce (1.5 - 2c water instead of the traditional 1c) and drizzle over the top of the "slice" when serving.

What do you think?

Photo courtesy of Chow

Stuffed Shells

Stuffed shells were a new addition to my Freezer Cooking foray in October. I have never made stuffed shells before. I don't know why - some preconceived notion about difficulty to make and little taste.

The recipe was so simple to make! The only challenge was getting the filling into the silly, slippery shells. I channeled my inner Sandra Lee and spooned the filling into a Ziplock bag and piped it into the shells.
[Bonnie's tip: don't use a double-walled freezer Ziplock....the inner bag tries to squeeze out the outer one!]

In my quest to feed my family more vegetables, I pureed some roasted butternut squash and mixed it in with the ricotta. It added some great color and flavor to the dish! I would even add spinach, roasted red pepper or peas the next time.

As far as how well it worked as a Freezer Cooking dish, it held up well. I let the shells cool completely, then flash-froze them and packaged them up in small bags in groups of 5. As far as preparing them, I popped them straight from the freezer to the oven and they were perfection in 20 minutes! It seriously is the perfect go-to meal when you're having a busy day!

Simple Stuffed Shells
From Jane Maynard, This Week for Dinner

– Half box of pasta shells (about 20)
- 16 oz ricotta cheese
- 1/2 butternut squash, roasted and pureed
- 2 cloves of garlic, mashed through garlic press
- 1 tsp. salt
- A few shakes of black pepper
- 2T chopped fresh basil
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- About half a jar of tomato-based pasta sauce
- Handful shredded fresh parmesan cheese
- A few handfuls shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Dice the butternut squash and roast at 450 degrees for 45 minutes. Puree and set aside.
2. Boil shells as per package directions. Drain and make sure they don’t stick to each other.
3. Mix together the ricotta, pureed squash, garlic, salt, pepper, basil, and egg.
4. Stuff your shells, maybe about a tablespoon per shell. Use up all the filling for about 20-24 shells.

To cook and eat right away:
Place shells in a 9×13 baking dish, drizzle with pasta sauce (I think I used about half of a jar or so), then sprinkle the top with mozzarella cheese. Bake in 350 degree oven until hot and bubbly, about 25-30 minutes or so.

To freeze and enjoy later:
Allow shells to cool completely. Place them on a cookie sheet or baking sheet and freeze until solid. Package them up in small bags in groups of 4 or 5 (a VERY generous portion) and store in the freezer. When you're ready to eat them, take them from the freezer into a baking dish. Drizzle with marinara sauce and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake in 375 degree oven until hot and bubbly, about 25 minutes or so.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Week 43 Menu

Sunday: Roasted shrimp
Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: Stuffed Shells (from freezer & This Week for Dinner!)
Wednesday: Pasta with eggplant ragout
Thursday: Pumpkin pancakes
Friday: Asian Pizza (filling from freezer)
Saturday: Out.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Week 42 Menu

Sunday: Pork chop with fiesta corn
Monday: BLTs
Tuesday: Sweet and Smoky Ribs in the slow cooker!
Wednesday: Pasta with eggplant ragout
Thursday: Sweet Potato Gnocchi (from freezer)
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Birthday Party!

On Saturday, we had friends over and celebrated Shelby's second birthday! After her nap, I asked her if she wanted to wear a dress. "NO!" I pulled out her pink, frilly dress. "NO, NO,....YES!!!" She was so cute.

Jennifer and Elvin brought Alexis. Harry brought his parents. Plus, other friends of ours. We got a cake from Publix...and it looked exactly like the picture! A Cake Wreck it was not!

And, when it came time for us to present the cake to her. We all started singing Happy Birthday and Shelby got shy and hid. When we told her to blow out the candles and she wouldn't. So, I blew them out. Shelby got wide-eyed, pointed at the cake and said, "More!" So, we lit the candles again and she helped blow them out. She definitely liked to eat the cake! After this picture, she demanded a napkin.

Burgers/hot dogs
Fruit (strawberries, raspberries, & pineapple)
Fruit dip
Pasta salad with carmelized onions, roasted red peppers and peas
Buffalo Chicken Dip
Homemade chips
Cake and ice cream

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Minestrone Soup

One of the new recipes I tried during Freezer Cooking Octoberfest was Pioneer Woman's Minestrone Soup. I have to say it was pretty fantastic! The vegetables stayed pretty crisp. And, even though it was frozen, it tasted pretty fresh!

The best part was that Shelby liked it! She saw Mama & Daddy eating their soup and wanted her own. With her bowl and spoon, she picked out the onions, carrots, and white beans! The absolute BEST part was when Scott tried to teach her to slurp up the broth! She didn't quite get the concept between suck in and blow out. The following video should explain everything!

Roasted Vegetable Minestrone
from Pioneer Woman

■2 whole Zucchini, Halved, Cut Into Strips, Then Cubed
■2 whole Summer Squash, Halved, Cut Into Strips, Then Cubed
■8 ounces, weight White Mushrooms, Stems Removed And Quartered
■2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
■Kosher Salt To Taste
■2 Tablespoons (additional) Olive Oil
■2 whole Carrots, Washed And Sliced (not Peeled)
■1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
■3 stalks Celery, Sliced (leaves Included)
■8 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
■2 cans Cannelini Beans, Rinsed
■1 cup (heaping) Cut Green Beans, Fresh Or Frozen
■1-½ cup Medium Or Small Pasta Shells, Uncooked
■1 can (14.5) Diced Tomatoes With Juice
■Salt And Pepper, to taste
■¼ teaspoons Turmeric (optional)
■Parmesan Cheese, Shaved

Preparation Instructions
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Toss cubed zucchini, squash, and mushrooms in a bowl with olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt. Arrange onto two sheet pans (to avoid crowding) and roast in the hot oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until brown and black parts begin to show. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onions, and celery and stir to cook for 3 minutes. Pour in broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for ten minutes.

Add cannelini beans and green beans. Cook on low for five minutes. Add pasta and cook for an additional five minutes. Add canned tomatoes, stir, and cook for an additional five minutes on low heat. Check for seasonings, adding salt, pepper, and turmeric.

Add roasted vegetables at the very end. Stir and allow to simmer and heat for a few minutes before serving. Be sure to check seasoning! Add more broth if necessary to increase liquid amount.

Serve with Parmesan shavings and crusty Italian bread.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Week 41 Menu

Sunday: Leftovers from the birthday party!
Monday: More leftovers! (why is it that you ALWAYS make 2.5 times more food than you really need for a party?!)
Tuesday: Minestrone Soup and crusty bread
Wednesday: Stuffed Shells (from This Week for Dinner)
Thursday: Pancakes
Friday: Homemade pizza
Saturday: Out

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Week 40 Menu

Sunday: Burgers on the grill with homemade buns
Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: Schezuan Chicken (from the freezer)
Wednesday: Pork tenderloin (from the freezer)
Thursday: Butternut squash risotto with leftover pork
Friday: Homemade pizza
Saturday: Shelby's birthday party!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Freezer Cooking - October

My freezer cooking extravaganza is going to take place next Thursday or Friday. I have a couple days off around Shelby's birthday. The princess is turning two, and we're making progress with getting her to eat what we're eating. The girl loves meat (red meat, chicken, ribs, doesn't matter). So, this month will have a larger focus on "hiding" veggies in yummy foods that will be acceptable to our expressive toddler.

I have been bookmarking recipes that I'm excited to try! It's an ambitious plan, but boy does it help having dinner just a quick thaw away!

Here's my plan!
- Wheat Pizza Dough x3 (from Smitten Kitchen)
- Hamburger Buns x2
- Stuffed Shells (from This Week for Dinner)
- Minestrone Soup (from Pioneer Woman)
- Green Meatballs
- Chicken Pot Pie (since it's getting to be decent weather again!)
- Sweet Potato Gnocchi (from Three many Cooks)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Where Did October Go?

It has been a crazy October! I've only had time to post menus!...not even review the new recipes we've tried! We've had a lot of good times this month Two sets of grandparents visited, Scott and I each had a week out of town for work in October, and culminated with Shelby's 2nd birthday party today (a blog post will certainly follow recounting it!).

When I was in St. Louis for a class, I got to pet a Clydesdale! Please note that the handler had to lower the horse's head so my friend could get both me and the horse in the same frame....not a proud moment for me. :)

I also had a fantastic view from my hotel room! This hotel is adjacent to the Cardinals' ballpark (I faced the river, as you can see). It was the last homestand of the season. The Cards shoot off fireworks after homeruns and victories. Judging from their season, they had a lot of fireworks leftover. Well, on our first night there, I was completely freaked out by random explosions outside my room! Once I realized what was going on, I was just annoyed that the fireworks continued until 11pm (long past my bedtime).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Week 39 Menu

Sunday: Chicken & roasted potatoes/onion/squash/zuchinni
Monday: Grilled cheeses
Tuesday: Spinach Enchiladas
Wednesday: Grilled flank steak & fiesta corn
Thursday: Obama Chili in the slow cooker with crusty bread
Friday - Saturday: Baba Lawrences in town for the weekend!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Week 38 Menu

Sunday: Grilling out with Grandpa & Grandma Benjamin
Monday: Grilled chicken with rice (carmelized onions and Craisins included)
Tuesday: Pasta with eggplant ragout
Wednesday: Slow cooker chili
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Homemade pizza
Saturday: Out

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Week 37 Menu

Scott was out of town, and this week is my turn. Away from Scott & Shelby for the whole week! Then, my parents are coming in on Friday! So, it's going to be a no-frills menu! I cooked up a vat-ful of rice as a go-to "toddler alternative." So, they should be set!

Sunday: Out with friends visiting from Seattle
Monday: Applesauce Pancakes (made mix ahead of time...and the applesauce! Yum! I hope there's some left when I get home)
Tuesday: Burgers on homemade buns
Wednesday: Chicken on the grill
Thursday: Pasta
Friday: Italian Beef in the slow cooker
Saturday: Out with the grandparents
Sunday: Out with the grandparents

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Asian Pizza

It's no secret the Lawrence family loves pizza. We are disciples of Joseph's in Atlantic Beach & Mellow Mushroom in Jax Beach. But, these days, we are in love with homemade pizza! We've played around with a lot of different topping and crust combinations.

Well, I think we've got it this time! We had originally planned on having Asian Lettuce Cups for dinner, but we made a game day decision to have pizza. I wasn't really prepared for pizza, but I put on my Iron Chef smock and looked in the fridge to pull together a pizza.

I decided to go for broke. I would make an Asian pizza. I had the topping (lettuce cup filling), but I got stuck on sauce. I had the Schezuan Sauce in mind, but I didn't want it to be as complex since the topping was already well-seasoned. Mixing the basic components (peanut butter, olive oil and soy sauce) gave a good "glue" for the pizza.

I also made one other change. I really like Smitten Kitchen's pizza dough recipe. But, I've put my own spin on that one, too. Deb's recipe makes a thin-crust pizza, but we like a thicker crust. So, I made a 1.5x batch and it was just right! I also substituted 1/2 cup of the total flour for whole wheat flour. I figure: yeah, it's carbs, but at least it's a little healthier that way!..Hey, it works for me!

The result was absolutely fabulous! It was a big hit! And, surprisingly filling. California Pizza Kitchen, here we come! Here's the final recipe:

Asian Pizza

Pizza Dough
1 1/3 cups white flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/3 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2/3 cup lukewarm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil

See Pioneer Woman's Asian Lettuce Wrap recipe. Prepare to topping ahead of time to be able to throw together the pizza quickly!

1 cup shredded mozzarella
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

1/4 cup peanut butter
1-2 tablespoon live oil
1 splash soy sauce
1 splash vinegar

For the dough, stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can. Dump all clumps and floury bits onto a lightly floured surface and knead everything into a homogeneous ball.

Knead it for just a minute or two. Lightly oil the bowl (a spritz of cooking spray perfectly does the trick) where you had mixed it, dump the dough in, turn it over so all sides are coated, cover it in plastic wrap and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size.

Dump it back on the floured counter, and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under that plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.

Sprinkle a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat your oven to its top temperature. Roll out the pizza, spread the sauce on the dough, then the topping, cheese and finish with cilantro.

Bake it for about 10 minutes until it’s lightly blistered.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Slow Cooker Ribs

My Mom used to make ribs when we were younger. It was a special occasion. They were meaty, tender, and messy. Oh, were they messy! We loved them, but would never eat them at a restaurant....too barbaric. When we would eat The Ribs, we'd gather at the table (a fresh package of paper napkins open), and lower the blinds lest the neighbors witness us feed like lions on the Serengeti!

I saw a recipe for slow-cooked ribs in the oven. Of course I immediately thought how I could adapt the recipe for the slow cooker. The recipe called for 6 hours in a 200-degree oven. So, I was a little concerned about over-cooking them in the slow cooker for 8-9 hours. No worries! They turned out pretty well. We've always had wet ribs, but this recipe called for a dry rub. The brown sugar, cumin and chili powder were just the right combination!

And, even better: everyone love them!

Sweet and Smoky Oven Spareribs
Adapted from Deb in the Smitten Kitchen

Servings: 2 1/2 pounds will be generous for 2 people

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoons chili powder (ancho is recommended) or paprika
1 teaspoons salt (see Note above about increasing it)
1 teaspoons garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 pounds spareribs, cut into 4 slabs, rinsed and patted dry
1 teaspoons mild or hot pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika)
1/2 tablespoon cider vinegar or red or white vinegar

In a mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, chili powder or paprika, salt, garlic powder, cloves and cinnamon; you can do this easily with a fork. Place each slab of ribs on a piece of foil that will fit into the slow cooker. Sprinkle spice rub over the ribs, patting it in generously on all sides — you’ll be glad you did. Turn the ribs meat side down and tightly fold the foil to make sealed packets.

Place the foil packets in the slow cooker seam-side up. Cook for 8-9 hours on LOW or until a fork easily penetrates the meat.

Once finished, open each packet carefully and pour the accumulated juices into a saucepan. Boil the juices and reduce them by half, at which point you will have a syrupy sauce that easily coats a spoon. Stir in paprika and vinegar.

Remove the ribs from the foil and either coat them with the sauce or serve the sauce alongside the ribs. For extra caramelization, the ribs can be finished for a few minutes under the broiler, before being coated with sauce.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Week 36 Menu

Scott is out of town early this week. So, those meals are fairly simple (Read: Can be prepared while minding an almost-2-year-old Spider Monkey!).

Sunday: Steaks and craisin couscous
Monday: Big salads with leftover steak
Tuesday: Cilantro rice
Wednesday: Sweet & Smoky Oven Ribs (from Smtiten Kitchen)...holdover from last week
Thursday: Chickpeas with Paprika and Cilantro (from Three Many Cooks)
Friday: Asian Lettuce Wraps (from Pioneer Woman)...freezer stash
Saturday: Out.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Shelby has a fixation with Mickey Mouse. She can express her opinon with words now. She can turn on the TV now. She can turn the channels now (after pressing enough buttons).

Her attention span is getting longer so she lasts longer than just the intro. We have four episodes of The Mouse on On Demand. We know those episodes by heart. We just recently got a DVD of four new episodes! Hooray! Last weekend, both Scott and Shelby were enjoying the lazy day and the new episodes!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Week 35 Menu

Sunday: Leftover pizza & pancakes
Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: Chicken Pot Pie (from the freezer)
Wednesday: Spareribs in the slow cooker (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Thursday:Eggplant Parmesan (from the freezer)
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Freezer Cooking - September

I've done my September freezer cooking in steps. I haven't had any days off work lately. So, I'm doing a little every weekend. I'm starting to get a bit more bold and adventurous with what I'm freezing. You never know until you try, right?!
Here is what's on my agenda:
- Hamburger buns (2 batches) - done
- Pizza Dough (4 servings) - done
- Eggplant Parmesan (2 batches) eggplant plank frozen separately from the ragout - done
- Curried Carrot Soup (1 batch) stored in 1-serving containers - done
- Peach Jam (1 batch) - waiting for the peaches to ripen!
- Chicken marinated in Schezuan sauce (4 servings) - tomorrow
- Asian Lettuce Wrap filling (2 batches) tomorrow

Friday, September 10, 2010

Shelby Dust Buster

She has overcome her fear. I think she drops food on the floor on purpose - just so she can use the dust buster!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Weekend, Part 2

On Sunday, we asked Shelby if she wanted to go to the pool. She said, "Beach!"

Usually we'll load up all our gear into the car, drive around for a while looking for a spot, then haul all of our gear onto the beach. Today, we thought: well, we moved to be close to the beach. Let's take advantage of it and ride our bikes to the beach!

We loaded up Shelby and our towels/toys into the bike trailer and took off! We took the straight shot over to the beach (~1.5 miles) with only two traffic lights in our way. We chained our bikes to the access ramp and wheeled the trailer onto the beach. It was so easy!!!! We'll think twice about driving to the beach again!

Shelby has no fear when it comes to the ocean. There was a nasty undertow and some crashing waves (for Northeast Florida), but she still ran right into the surf screaming and laughing!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fun Weekend

We had such a great time this weekend! We managed to spend most of our time on our side of the Intercoastal. It was so much fun.

On Saturday I had to work (boo). But, we went to The Third Street Diner for dinner. It's a retro diner with American and Greek food. It's a good thing Shelby doesn't sit in a highchair anymore. The diner's two highchairs were already occupied by two adorable girls. The three babies couldn't take their eyes off each other: pointing and smiling the whole time. Afterward, we went up to Neptune Beach. We came across a drum circle at Lillie's Coffee Shop. They meet the first Saturday of the month and they call themselves: Perk-cussion....perk-cussion? Get it?! They had a bunch of blocks, drums and maracas for the kids to play. Shelby thought it was fantastic!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Week 34 Menu

Sunday: Steak and toasted green beans and grilled pears for dessert!
Monday: Seared tuna and Grill Watermelon (from Bitten Word)...we're going to put Dad to work this weekend!
Tuesday: Red beans and Rice (from Jane's menu last week)
Wednesday: Grilled chicken marinated in Schezuan sauce
Thursday: Coq au Vin (from Three Many Cooks) - didn't get to it last week
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Play Date

On Sunday, we went to Harry's house for playtime and dinner. Both Shelby and Harry take about thirty minutes to warm up to the other family. But, once everyone feels comfortable, we have such a great time!

They play SO WELL together! They shared the crayons and paper....

And, they even took turns tickling each other! Those, my friends, are looks of pure joy!

Photos courtesy of Scott Lawrence Photography.

Still Got It!

I'm getting a little older now. I'm stuck in between the Baby Boomers and the Fresh Out of College Twenty Somethings. My peer group is somewhat non-existent. My lunch group consists of people spanning thirty years! We talk about baseball, kids, college, hometowns. Today, I even recited one of Shelby's favorite bedtime stories. I was told I needed a life! :)

But, when the Twenty Somethings compliment me on my hair, clothes, and jewelry, I know I still have it! I've gotten the trifecta in the last week. It's pretty amazing, actually!....if you've ever met me. :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Week 33 Menu

Sunday: Dinner at the Stahls
Monday: Roasted chicken/veggies with white beans in a viniagrette
Tuesday: Spinach lasagna (from the freezer)
Wednesday: Pulled pork sandwiches (from the freezer)
Thursday: Coq au Vin
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: out.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Toddler TV

Shelby has been stuck on Mickey Mouse Club House for a while. She whines and demands Mickey be turned on. She loses interest in it after a couple minutes. But, she instantly is enthralled when the Hot Dog Dance comes on at the end. Fortunately, there are MMCH episodes on On Demand! UNfortunately, there are only four episodes and we have seen each at least 20 times.

Scott decided we needed a break from The Mouse. So, he tested out other Disney Playhouse series. Shelby took to one of them in a second: Agent Oso!

Check out his theme song. He truly is a unique bear.

He gets special assignments from his "Paw Pilot." With the assignment comes "Three Special Steps" for success. The last of which involves the Paw Pilot only giving Agent Oso ten seconds to complete the task. I think it's stressful for a toddler show!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I Sense a Theme

We went to Home Depot tonight to get a ceiling fan for the Man Cave. There were light fixtures and fans everywhere. Seriously, this was the first thing she saw and the only thing that interested her. She swept most of the aisle by the time we left. The staff was grateful.

I am just loving the camera on my iPhone!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan

I have a problem. I love eggplant, but struggle to prepare it in a tasty manner. If I saute it in oil, it gets too mushy. And, unless it's baba ghanoush, it's probably pretty bland. I've read the same laments on Smitten Kitchen and now Bitten Word.

The Bitten Word boys reviewed this recipe from Cook's Country and they like the recipe specifically because the dish doesn't turn out "gooey." They had my attention.

I love the pan-fried-then-baked eggplant planks. The eggplant almost melts inside the breading - like a mozzarella stick. Pair that crispy plank with the tender eggplant/tomato ragout, and you have a fantastic, restaurant quality Eggplant Parm!

I was certainly surprised! I thought it would be a good, decent recipe to throw in the rotation. But, I would serve this dish for a fancy dinner party. The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled to accommodate a crowd. You just have to dredge a few extra planks. I spiced up the ragout with a generous helping of pepper flakes.

In true Bonnie-fashion, I tried to do as much prep the night before as I could. I mixed up the breading, prepped the eggplant, chopped the garlic and gathered all the pans and dishes I would need. The next time I would like to try making the planks ahead of time and heat them in the oven when ready to serve them.

from Bitten Word

Serves 4 (the recipe said serves 2, but it was way more than we could ever eat)

1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
½ cup panko bread crumbs
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup shredded provolone cheese

1. BREAD EGGPLANT. Cut two ¾-inch planks lengthwise from center of eggplant, halve each plank crosswise, and cut remaining eggplant into ½-inch dice. Place flour in shallow dish. Beat egg in second shallow dish. Combine bread crumbs, ¼ cup Parmesan, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in third shallow dish. One at a time, coat eggplant slices lightly with flour, dip them in egg, and dredge in bread-crumb mixture, pressing to adhere. Transfer to wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet and let sit 5 minutes (or refrigerate up to 1 hour).

2. COOK EGGPLANT. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat ½ cup oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook -eggplant slices until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to wire rack set inside baking sheet and bake until eggplant is tender and deep golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

3. MAKE SAUCE. Meanwhile, pour off oil and wipe out skillet with paper towels. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chopped eggplant and ¼ -teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in remaining oil, garlic, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 -seconds. Add tomatoes and reduce heat to medium. Simmer until eggplant is tender and sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper; cover and keep warm.

4. ASSEMBLE. Combine remaining Parmesan and provolone in medium bowl. Top browned eggplant slices with cheese mixture and bake until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Transfer half of sauce to platter and top with eggplant slices. Spoon remaining sauce over eggplant. Serve.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Only Way to Go Grocery Shopping

I love to grocery shop. Crazy, I know. I love looking at the ad to see what's on special for the week. I love making my list for the week on my iPhone app. I love going to Publix. I love walking up and down the aisles. Shelby and I usually go together sometime during the weekend. Her attention span is good through the deli section, but wanes by the bread aisle. You don't even want to know how ugly the produce section can be!

But, now I've discovered a way to keep Shelby entertained from lunch meat to lettuce. Behold: The spaceship cart!!!

Shelby loves to steer and beep the horn (thankfully, no audible horn exists, just Shelby saying "beep"). And, she gets plenty of attention as she hams it up in her cockpit. Throw in a cup of water and some fishes, and she's set for the whole trip!

Week 32 Menu

Sunday: Mahi and roasted potatoes
Monday: Eggplant Parmesan
Tuesday: Real burgers on the grill (after a veggie-heavy week last week, Scott is craving some real meat)
Wednesday: Sweet Corn Pancakes
Thursday: Grilled, marinated chicken and stir-fry veggies
Friday: Homemade pizza
Saturday: Out.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I first learned about microlending from reading Thomas Friedman's "The Lexus & the Olive Tree" in college. He talked about women who obtained microloans to buy cell phones. They charged their customers to make calls. The women could support their families and make their standard of living just a bit better. Brilliant!

I know it's been around for a while, but Kiva fascinates me. The fact they can gather 78 lenders from around the world to loan a Ukrainian woman $2100 to fund her clothing shop is incredible. Do you know there are 745,000 individual lenders from 201 countries who have collectively loaned $150 million? Even more incredible: 98.84% of all loans are paid back. Trying getting those kind of stats in our banking industry!!

I don't think I've ever felt so good about donating $50 before.

Kiva - loans that change lives

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Is there any question who's daughter she is?? Give this girl a baby wipe or a towel and she'll go to town cleaning the nearest flat surface for a good fifteen minutes.

Grandma and Uncle Mike found this pretty party dress at TJ Maxx. What a great find! Shelby just loved wearing it and dancing at the reception!

And, yes, Cinderella was allowed to go to the party! Instead of glass slippers, she has pretty, pink shoes (see previous post).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Family Picture

I finally had time to sit and relax. So, I'm trying to catch up on the blog (besides a weekly menu, of course!) I realized there is no recent picture of the three of us...the last one I can find is from Shelby's first birthday! We were able to get this one while we were in Cleveland at the Fritz & Alison Wedding Extravaganza.

Even though it was a thousand degrees, we clean up pretty well!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Week 31 menu

Sunday: Turkey tenderloin, rosemary potatoes, & green beans
Monday: Out for a final night with Grandma & Grandpa.
Tuesday: Stuffed Peppers from the freezer stash (This Week for Dinner)
Wednesday: Chicken Pot Pies from freezer
Thursday: Chickpea Burgers (from This Week for Dinner) with homemade buns....these are a big hit! Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Hopefully we'll have some friends over for dinner

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Week 30 Menu

Sunday: Out for pizza with beach friends!
Monday: Pasta with pesto
Tuesday: Burgers with homemade buns and broccoli/zucchini.
Wednesday: Peach/Bacon/Mozzarella Paninis (on Kate's menu last week!)
Thursday: Italian Beef in the slow cooker by request...Grandma & Grandpa get here!
Friday - Saturday: Probably go out!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Italian Beef

Italian Beef. French Dip. I don't care which country it came from - shreds of beef, crusty bread, and a dipping sauce? I'm a fan. For goodness sake, it was the first meal I ate after I gave birth to my daughter Shelby! A sandwich never tasted so good!!!

No, I am not a proud person. Note the IVs are still hooked up.
Yes, I am a pretty secure person to share this photo with the InterWeb.

It never really occurred to me that I could make this treasure in my own kitchen. This year I've really tried to use our slow cooker. So, I've been on the lookout for different meals to make in it. I found the recipe on Pioneer Woman's food blog. She simmers her chuck roast on the stove. No offense Ree, but I don't have that kind of time! So, I adapted it for the slow cooker.

When you have Italian Beef, it's a special occasion and it calls for special bread. You need a good, hearty sub/hoagie/hero/grinder (depending on where you live in the country) roll. This week I took it a step further and put mozzarella on top and finished the sandwiches in the broiler. It was fantastic!! It tasted just like an sandwich from a restaurant. After we finished dinner, I forgot that we had some roasted red peppers in the fridge! They will be incorporated next time. Italian Beef is one our favorite comfort foods now!

Italian Beef
from Pioneer Woman

■1 whole 2.5 To 4 Pound Chuck Roast
■¼ cups Butter
■1 whole Large Onion, Sliced Thick
■3 cloves Garlic, Peeled
■½ cups Soy Sauce
■1 cup Sherry (cooking Sherry Is Fine)
■½ teaspoons Salt
■4 cups Water
■Toasted, Buttered Deli Rolls
■OPTIONAL: Rosemary, Thyme, Other Spices

Preparation Instructions
Heat butter in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions for a couple of minutes, or until starting to get brown.

In slow cooker, set chuck roast on top of the onions. Add all remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours, or until beef is fork-tender and falling apart. **If meat is not yet tender, return to oven for 30 minute intervals till it’s tender!** Shred meat with two forks until all large chunks are gone. Serve immediately or continue to simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

*Mixture can be refrigerated overnight. Remove hardened fat from top of pan before reheating.

Serve on top of toasted, buttered deli rolls. Top with cheese and place under the broiler if desired.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Week 29 Menu

The produce at the store looked so good this week! I think I bought one of everything! :) But, this week's menu is heavy on the veggie. We can set a good example for Shelby. And, who knows, she may even find a few more she likes!

Sunday: Italian Beef in slow cooker with au jus
This is slowly (pun intende) becoming my favorite meal; this time I finished it off (sandwich assembled with mozzerella) in the broiler for a couple minutes. If possible, I think it was even better!
Monday: BLTs
Tuesday: Lettuce Wraps (from Pioneer Woman)
Wednesday: Chickpea Burgers (from This Week for Dinner) with homemade buns
Thursday: Summer Succotash (from Smitten Kitchen)
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out!

Friday, July 30, 2010


I forgot to add:

Since I bought the house as "Bonnie Benjamin" and am selling it as "Bonnie Lawrence," I was listed as 'formerly known as' on all the closing documents!

I felt like Ron "Tater Salad" White....a nod to Blue Collar Comedy*!

*I don't know whether to feel at home or disturbed, but since I've lived in The South for five years, Blue Collar Comedy makes more sense now. The humor seems more familiar. To make sure I don't forget my roots, I may need a dose of jokes about snow suits, corn and meat/potatoes delivered with a Yooper accent! :)

It's Closed!!!

You know how they say the happiest day of your life is the day you buy a boat.....and the second happiest day is the one where you sell the boat? The same logic applies to those holding two mortgages!

Well, we have closed on our old house! It was purchased by a couple from Gainesville who is sending their daughter to UNF for undergrad and physical therapy school. Her parents preferred her in a house rather than an apartment. We asked what they liked about our house (since they were seriously considering two of them), and apparently, the girls liked the colors of the bedrooms! Go figure!

We couldn't be happier! But, this sale did not come without it's obstacles along the way:
- Minor termite damage in the garage...remember: in Florida it's not if you'll get termite damage but when
- A broken air compressor for the air conditioner...the darn thing blew out 10 days before closing!!
- An incorrectly recorded lot parcel number...from when I bought the house!

When we walked away from closing, we were the ones going home with a check (rather than forking over a big one like when we bought our house)! It'll be enough for a couple frappuccinos...and a scone if we want to splurge! :)


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vacation: Part Three

The marathon wedding day started at 8:30 for Scott. He headed to Mama & Papa Streiff's new house to get ready for the wedding.

Grandma, Grandpa, Mikey, Shelby and I got to the church at 11:00. The Church of the Saviour was just gorgeous - an old Gothic church with a LOOOOOONG aisle! Even Shelby signed the guestbook! Since music is such a big part of Fritz's life, his gift to Alison was the beautiful music played during the ceremony. There was a trumpet voluntary and organ music before the processional. Then, alumni from Fritz's classes sang some wonderful choral arrangements Fritz picked out. When Alison walked down the aisle with her dad, Fritz had the biggest smile on his face. It was so cute!!

Shelby saw her dad up front and said, "Dada" every 10 seconds. And, during the 90-minute ceremony, it got to be a bit much! Grandpa walked up and down the side aisle with her. They stood in the narthex, and had the coolest seat in the house with the cross breeze! They checked out the playground and outdoors, too. The groomsmen released each pew to go through a receiving line of the bride, groom, and their immediate families. With 450 guest, it took over an hour to release the whole church!!!

The FIRST reception was in the church's new (air-conditioned!) Great Hall. There was a live band, dancing, six-tiered cake, and a wonderful lunch spread. Poor Shelby (having been kept up late by her party animal grandparents the night before*) was starting to poop out. She got to enjoy the food and the music for a while. But, she was sent home with the grandparents to nap.

Scott and the bridal party left for portraits in the sanctuary, and soon left for more pictures at the country club thereafter. Sarah Kaplan - my wedding widow friend - and I helped deconstruct the reception hall. Then we headed to Beechwood Mall to kill some time before the next reception. Sarah and I were dressed up in our pretty wedding clothes and jewelry and heels. I tell you the truth: I have never gotten as much attention from sales staff as I have on that afternoon! We were stalked and doted on in every store we went in! It was crazy!

In the evening, we went to the SECOND reception (an intimate 250 people) at Manakiki Country Club. It was fantastic: wine, gin and tonics, cheese, and crackers for the appetizer. We had a chance to talk to the Streiffs and our other friends. The "young people" (Fritz's definition: 33 years and younger) sat outside. It was a bit stifling at first. But, we finally got a breeze. The cake was a delicious cassata cake from an Italian bakery in Cleveland's Little Italy. You can't go wrong with strawberries and cream inside the cake.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Week 28 Menu

Sunday: BBQ at a friend's house; we're bringing fruit, fruit dip, and some homemade wheat rolls
Monday: Something quick!
Tuesday: Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich with Charred Spring Onions (both from Bitten Word)
Wednesday: Pulled Pork (in slow cooker)
Thursday: Spinach lasagna (from the freezer) for Lasagna Day!
Friday: Homemade pizza
Saturday: Out.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vacation: Part Two

While on vacation, Friday brought even more fun!!

Shelby took Grandpa to the lake to throw rocks in. She points toward the lake and says, "Wa wa!"

Then, Scott and I went on a lunch date to Nordstrom Cafe at Beechwood!
Trivia: Nordstrom Cafe was our first date when we went to a wedding in Minneapolis!

Grandma and Uncle Mike entertained Shelby with a $3 swimsuit, turtle sprinkler, and Little Tykes slide!

Later that evening, Scott and I went to Fritz and Alison's rehearsal dinner at Church of the Saviour in Cleveland Heights. It's a beautiful, Gothic church with one problem: no air conditioning. The weather forecast called for ninety-degree weather, and the wedding forecast called for 450 guests. Yikes!

Scott was a groomsman. So, I sat in the "wedding widows" pew with another Ohio friend: Sarah Kaplan. Sarah's husband Phil was another groomsman in the wedding.
Trivia: Fritz met Sarah and Phil on an airplane on the way down to our wedding in January, 2007! They have been friends ever since!

The rehearsal dinner had 80 people!....Ummm, the same size as our wedding reception! The dinner was catered by Fritz's friends. They are IT people by day, and foodies by night. This dinner was their first professional catering dinner. It was fabulous!!! My favorite was basil ice cream with balsamic strawberries.

Family Portrait

Silly Hijinks with the Lawrences and Streiffs!

Video courtesy of Scott Lawrence Photography

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vacation: Part One!

Scott, Shelby, and I went to Cleveland last week for Fritz's wedding and, of course, to visit with the Lawrences!!!!!! The vacation will be split into several posts as SO MUCH fun was had during the trip!
You may not know it to look at them, but Grandma and Grandpa Lawrence (AKA Bappa and Abappa) are party animals!! Let me elaborate:

Dave picked us up at the airport at 4. By 6:30, the house was filled with Streiffs*, Streiffs-to-be, Streiff-in-laws, and Connavinos for burgers on the grill!

Nancy had originally invited Beth (Streiff) & her husband John to dinner because they were driving Uncle Mike home. Then, Mom and Dad Streiff came after picking Gretchen up at the airport. Peter and his girlfriend came over when they drove in from Nashville. Even the Groom and Bride-to-be came over after getting back into town after a pre-wedding getaway! Oy!

I've known Fritz for several years now, and enjoy catching up with him when we're back in Ohio. I have heard about Beth and Gretchen from Scott and Mike, but I had never met them. I had my chance, and they are so awesome! I'm sad it's taken so long to get to know them! They are the type of girls I would have been best friends with in high school and college.

Barbecue #2! This one had the usual cast of characters: Lawrences, Connavinos, Mary Jane, Michael, Jerri. Michelle and Karen made mojitos. Yum!! Emily brought the twins. Shelby was enthralled with them! She just kept pointing and quietly saying, "bebe....bebe...." She loved them until Nancy or I would pick one up. then, she would get upset and demand to be held in the other arm. Nancy got her a plastic container to hold Goldfish Crackers (it's shaped like a Goldfish, conveniently). She loved it and would eat out of it. Once it was given to the babies as a rattle toy, Shelby would have nothing else to do with it. She may be little, but, man, is she territorial!!

*The Streiffs are Methodist ministers who serve in Ohio. They are longtime family friends of the Lawrences. Their son Fritz was the one getting married.

Week 27 Menu

YES, menus usually get posted on Sundays. YES, it is Wednesday. Well, I think I have finally recovered from vacation (sad, really). It was SO MUCH fun!!!!! More to come later. Well, here is my improv'ed menu for the week.

Sunday: Airport food in Atlanta
Monday: Pasta with pesto
Tuesday: Chicken Pot Pie (from freezer)
Wednesday: Steak and broccoli
Thursday: Mini-quiches
Friday: Pumpkin pancakes (some good comfort food!)
Saturday: out. don't know where: just out.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Week 26 Menu

It's a pretty lame menu this week. We're out of town most of the week. I'll be doing my stock-up-cooking-extravaganza this week, but not much on the what's-for-dinner-tonight-cooking front this week.

Sunday: Pizza
Monday: Stuffed Peppers and veggies
Tuesday: Whole roasted chicken with homemade, crispy tortilla chips
Wednesday - Friday: Vacation in Cleveland (AKA Cooking with Uncle Mike!)
Saturday: Wedding Food in Cleveland

Friday, July 9, 2010

Knife Skills

Once I recovered my wallet from my felonious toddler on Tuesday, I headed off to a cooking class at Publix Apron's Cooking School! Mike and I had talked about finding a knife techniques class, and surprisingly, Publix offers one! Publix keeps five chefs on staff to teach these classes!

The class was simply fantastic! There is a test kitchen with room for about a dozen student cutting boards. The kitchen was outfitted with Wolf appliances, and the chefs had the best ingredients from the store in their kitchen. There were only six of us in the class. The chef had laid out some cheeses for us to nibble on during the class.

The first thing I learned was my knives are not sharp. I mean, I thought they were. But, after using professionally-sharpened knives, I feel like I've been cutting my vegetables with a ruler! Then, we learned the proper way to cut with a chef's knife. I realized I had the basic idea of how to handle the knife from watching Food Network, but I certainly learned some great cutting mechanics.

We spent two solid hours chopping, dicing, mincing, julienneing, and chiffonading. We started off easy by rough-chopping leeks, onions, parsnips and carrots. By pushing down and forward on the knife, chopping was so much more efficient!

We minced garlic and ginger by smashing the heck out of it with the side of the chef knife on the board then mincing the pulp. Less than a minute to mince three cloves of garlic!
Kitchen Tip: You can peel ginger with a spoon!

We moved on to small-dicing tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, potatoes and green beans. It was a challenge to get everybody the same size!

We finished up with chives, scallions and parsley. How many times have you chopped up a scallion only to have the little pieces still connected? I have done it many times. But, after I'd practiced my knife skills for two hours, my garnish came out very clean and crisp! I was so excited!!

The next thirty minutes were spent cooking up our dishes. The class' focus was really on chopping. So, the sous chef did most of the simmering and cooking while we learned with the executive chef. At the end we got to sit down and enjoy all the food. Everything was fantastic!!!

The class menu:

Orange Glazed Carrots
featuring: onion, carrots, garlic, ginger, parsley
Potage au Pistou (AKA Vegetable Soup)
featuring: red potatoes, brussel sprouts, green beans, tomatoes
Pico de Gallo
featuring: tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, garlic, cilantro
Vegetable Broth
featuring: onion, leek, celery, carrot, parsnip
Potato Vichyssoise
featuring: leeks, garlic, potatoes, chives

By the end of the class, I was ready to quit my job and work full-time in the Publix kitchen! I had such a great time! I could definitely be a prep chef in my next life. Need fifty onions diced by daybreak? Not a problem: I'm qualified. I took a class.

Freezer Cooking - July

Ahhhh, vacation again! I have a couple free days before we leave for Cleveland (minus LeBron) to visit family and go to a wedding!

Last month was my first foray into once-a-month freezer cooking. Overall, I think it was a success. The dishes all turned out very yummy. We only had chicken pot pies leftover. But, it was just too hot for pot pies in June!

I have a couple recipes I want to try this month. I got a pizza stone last month. So, I think I will put it to the test!

Pizza Dough x one million! (we are just in love with homemade pizza!)
Hamburger Buns
Schezuan Sauce - for marinade and sauce
Green Meatballs
Vegetable Soup (from Cooking Class!)
Spinach Lasagna
Breaded Chicken Nuggets (if I'm ambitious)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Life with a Toddler

I signed up for a cooking class at the Publix Cooking School (knife skills!). More to come on the class later.

I was going to leave work a little early. I got my keys and noticed my wallet wasn't in my purse. I looked in the car and then in the workout facility at work. No dice. I figured it must be at home as it had been a very early morning.

I came home and couldn't find it. I tore the house apart! I even looked in the bushes, garbage can, dishwasher and fridge....Hey! You never know! Don't judge me! You know you've put a dirty dish in the fridge absent-mindedly before! It was getting closer and closer to the time I had to leave and I had no ID or money. I had to go across town for the class and only had a quarter tank of gas. Not ideal. I took the checkbook to the bank to cash a check.....but the darn bank closed at 4pm! Seriously?!

I came home dejected and apathetic. Scott offered to leave early to get home in time for me to make the class, but I was just so bummed. I figured since I was home, I may as well clean up Shelby's toys a bit. I was thinking, "I can't even blame her! She's still too little." As I tossed Kitty into the toy box, I saw a familiar, black wallet peeking out from under Baby Henry! It took a minute to register.

The Pumpkin pickpocketed me!!!!!!!!

I grabbed it, threw on my shoes, and called Scott that his daughter had stolen my wallet as I squealed out of the driveway. I made it to the class with 3 minutes to spare. And, it was the most amazing class! I'm so glad I was able to go!