Monday, November 28, 2011

Meatless Monday: Make Yourself A Dang Quesadilla...

We like quesadillas in this household.  There are times  when I'm stuck on what to have for dinner and then B will come to the rescue with this brilliant idea, "Why don't you make us some dang quesa-DILL-as!"  And then I do...

No meat in the house?  Check.  Mushrooms on hand?  Check.  A little cheese?  Check.  Maybe some spinach? Check.  You're well on your way to deliciousness.

So, in honor of my favorite awkward 80's boy who made geek 'cool', I bring to you a favorite meatless recipe...

Dang Spinach and Mushroom Quesadillas

16 oz sliced baby bella mushrooms 
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 Tbs olive oil
2-3 Tbs white wine
1 bag spinach 
12 flour tortillas
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
4 oz pkg soft goat cheese (plain chevre)

Saute onion and mushroom in 2 Tbs of olive oil until golden.  Deglaze pan with the white wine and cook until liquid is evaporated.  Season with a bit of kosher salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.
Top a flour tortilla with monterrey jack cheese.  Dot with the goat cheese, and layer spinach leaves over the cheese.  Top with a generous amount of the onion/mushroom mixture and a bit more cheese.  *Place another tortilla on top and grill on a griddle or nonstick skillet about 1-2 minutes on each side or until tortillas are golden and cheese is melted.


*you can butter the tortillas first, but I've noticed the tortillas brown just fine without the added butter.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Explaining Thanksgiving...

Hi friends!  Are you in full-on Thanksgiving prep like I am?  Right now I have two loaves of pumpkin bread in the oven, and four more loaves to go!  I also have several baskets of laundry to fold and put away and bags to pack for four people before tomorrow afternoon...yes, I am a procrastinator.

Last week, I was talking with one of my international friends from Yemen, who has only been in the states for a short time.  We were discussing Thanksgiving, which was a perplexing holiday to her.  She asked, "Who do you celebrate with this holiday?  A saint?"  I explained to her that we aren't celebrating any person in particular, it's just a time to be thankful to God for his goodness.  She was quiet for a bit...sort of processing what I said, then she asked, "Thank God for everything?" Yes. "For all that we have?"  Yes. "For our health and for our home?" Yes.  She smiled then said, "Ahhhhh...thank you to God because all is from Him!"  

I love having these conversations with my international friends.  It forces me to really think about why we celebrate the holidays.  To them, they see the food and the presents and boisterous celebrations, but don't often hear the true meaning behind our expressions of celebration.  These conversations force me to stop and look past the feast-filled table and remember that all that I have is from Him.  I listened to my friend talk about the strife in her country, what it's like to have to flee for your safety and that of your child--all the while leaving behind your husband.  My heart broke as she said flatly, "We had nothing.  We come here and are safe.  We have everything."  

I have never faced religious persecution.  Never. I have never packed up my children in the middle of the night for fear of their safety.  My children have never had to give up a meal.  And my home, though modest, is sturdy, protects us from the elements, and is a mansion compared to many dwellings around the world.  Our water is clean and safe for drinking, cooking and bathing.

I have so much to be thankful for.  I live in a country that, even in a poor economy, is rich by world standards.  We can peacefully walk our streets without the fear of bombs or fear of being forced to leave because of our religious beliefs.  Our grocery store shelves are stocked with such an abundance that we can hardly decide which item to choose.  

For some reason, God placed me here, and how sad it is that there are times that I live out my days in discontentment because I want more. more. more.  A bigger house.  The latest technological wonder.  More stuff.  That is not's greed.  

I am thankful for the reality check and I am thankful that God saw fit to place these amazing friends from many cultures and backgrounds in our lives.  They give abundantly, though they have less by American standards.  They rejoice in the small things and show appreciation for a simple act of kindness.  They hunger for truth and the word of God.  But, most of all, they are thankful.

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.  And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins.  And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she, out of her poverty, put in all 
that she had to live on."
Luke 21:1-4

I love this verse, and every time I read it, I am struck by the visual of thankfulness and true worship.  I venture to say that the widow Jesus was speaking of was giving all that she had as an outpouring of thankfulness and gratitude for the blessings God had given.  It was all that she had, and in her thankfulness and obedience, she recognized that is was God's to begin with. 

I have much to learn about true thankfulness.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Meatless Monday...Spaghetti Squash Gratin

First of all, a little is B's birthday!  Happy birthday love!  I don't write a lot about B because frankly, he's the only normal one in our little family.  Ha!  He doesn't write on the walls or feed his lunch to the dog.  He doesn't unroll the toilet paper from the tube, or flush toys down the toilet.  I'm not so sure he signed up for our craziness, but he handles it with style and we love him for it!

He's an amazing husband and father!  I never would have imagined that we would go from junior high crushes to married with kids.  He is a blessing to our family and I am so grateful to be able to 'do life' with him.

Now, while I am sharing a Meatless Monday meal with you today, I am not forcing B to eat meatless on his birthday!  Birthday boy gets to choose his meal, and I have a feeling carne asada may be on the menu. 

But, let's talk meatless right now.  I am typically not a big fan of squash in general, but I made this spaghetti squash gratin  from Naturally Noshing, and I've totally changed my mind.  It is so delicious and while eating it I completely forgot I was eating squash and thought I was eating a creamy pasta bake!  Yum!  When I took the gratin out of the oven, it was so bubbly and golden and smelled amazing!  This recipe is definitely a winner.  We ate ours as a main dish with a salad, bread, and green beans, but I may just make it to take as a Thanksgiving side!  I hope you enjoy it as much as our family did!
Photos from Here

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

1 large Spaghetti Squash, halved, seeds removed
1 bunch of greens (I used kale) stems removed and chopped
1/2 red onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
1 egg beaten
3 green onions chopped
6 mushrooms chopped (I used baby bella)
1/4 sour cream (I used light)
3/4 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese + 2 tbs for topping 
(I used a parm/asiago blend)
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs sliced almonds

Roast squash halves cut side down in a pan with about an inch of water at 400 degrees for about 25-30 minutes.  Cool slightly then using a spoon scrape out the squash strands and place in a bowl large bowl.
Heat olive oil in a pan (about 2 tbsp) and saute onion until softened. Add the garlic and mushrooms and saute until garlic becomes fragrant.  Add kale and saute until wilted.

Add mushroom/kale mixture, green onion, egg, sour cream, cottage cheese and 1/2 cup of parm to the squash and stir until combined. Add salt and pepper to desired taste.
Pour mixture into a greased casserole dish and top with remaining parm and almonds.
Bake at 400 degrees until golden and bubbling about 30 minutes.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thrifted Thursday, Cashmere-Yes, Crafty-No...

For some reason I felt like wearing a dress...which is so rare you may not see it on the blog again... 

This dress was an amazing find.  It's cashmere, so you can imagine my surprise when I spotted it at the thrift store for like $3!  It's in perfect shape and is probably the most comfortable item in my closet.  I usually pair it with denim, but today felt like a leggings day, so I went with it.  Now, my mama always had a rule when I was growing up that dresses should be no longer than your finger tips...just kidding...they should be longer than your finger tips.
This dress just barely passes mama's test...
scarf:  swap party
belt: thrifted
cashmere dress:  thrifted
leggings:  target $5
boot socks: target
boots: thrifted...sick of seeing them yet?

And now for your crafty delight, I present a bracelet I made myself:
Kidding again.  It's just a thrifted skinny belt wrapped around my wrist and buckled to look like a cuff bracelet.  I did not inherit my mama's crafty gene.  She only passed on her resourceful gene.  She also did not pass on her good-decision-making-gene. Honestly, I couldn't decide which accessory to wear with the dress...maybe you can give your opinion!  I loved the above belt bracelet, but I wanted to wear this one too...
excuse the dry's that time of year.
It's from Forever 21 and I really love was cheap too!  I really love the chevron pattern, and it was a fun pop of color that tied in with the yellow belt.  Decisions.  Decisions.

Anyway, I hope you have a wonderful Thursday friends!
And if you haven't called your mama it!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Meatless Monday: Penne With Mushroom Sauce...

So, it's Monday, and I just got back from taking my kiddos to the doctor's office for their shots.  In their book, I'm nowhere near the rankings for 'Awesome Mom Of The Year.'  Little do they know that shots totally stink for everyone involved...the screaming kid, the nurse's ears, and the mommy who has to console everyone including her own nerves.

So what does a woman do after all of that drama?  Well, quite frankly, I like to sit myself down in front of the computer with a nice big bowl of B's cookie dough and write about food while the kiddos think I'm kidding?
I'm already feeling much better...

Alright enough of my cookie dough shenanigans...let's talk pasta.
I found this recipe from Sweet Paul, and knew I had to try it.  The ingredient list was simple enough: mushrooms, pasta, chicken broth and cream, which was perfect for a quick meal.  Now, if my vegetarian sister is reading this she would be all, "Um Nikki...why are you still cooking with chicken broth?  Haven't you switched over to vegetable broth yet?" Baby day I'll switch over to vegetable broth and cream made from plants.  

So.  Back to the pasta. 
Simple ingredients, and really delicious.  You won't miss the meat, but if you think you will, toss in a bit of grilled chicken or prosciutto and peas would be delicious too...just don't tell my sister.  I made a subtle change by deglazing the pan with white wine, and I loved the flavor it gave the cream sauce.

Penne Pasta With Mushroom Cream Sauce

1/2 pound baby portabella mushrooms (washed/patted dry and thinly sliced)
1/4 chopped red onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 Tbs White Wine
1/2 Cup of chicken stock 
(for sibling rivalry, but vegetable stock is okay too)
1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream
1 tsp dried dill

Boil penne in salted water until al dente (I used about 3/4lb).
While pasta is cooking, in a large pan saute mushrooms, garlic and onion in 2 Tbs of olive oil. Cook just until onions are softened and mushrooms begin to brown.  Add a dash of kosher salt to the mushrooms/onions for flavor.
Add white wine to the pan and cook until wine evaporates a bit.
Add the chicken stock, cream and dill.  Cook until sauce begins to thicken slightly.  
Drain pasta (do not rinse!) and toss it with the cream sauce.
Serve topped with parmesan.

My family really loved this recipe, even more so the next day!  The original recipe calls for spaghetti noodles, but I personally liked how the penne held the sauce.

Happy Monday!

And seriously, no offense to my awesome vegetarian sister Jess...that's her on the left getting her vegetarian groove on.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thrifted Thursday, The One Where It Snowed...

I've come to expect that in Iowa, anything can happen.  Growing up in Missouri, you  could be fairly certain to not expect snow before Thanksgiving.  Maybe a bit of frost...but not snow.  Not so in Iowa.  
Yesterday morning we woke up to this...
Cardigan:  Thrifted
Jeans: Forever 21
Boots: Thrifted

I mean, it's November!  This is crazy!  I know I'm acting all, "What the heck?" But, I actually kind of liked waking up to the snow.  And if you listened very closely, you may have heard my children screaming with delight when they woke yesterday morning and discovered the white stuff.  The little Mr. was all, " it winter now?!"  I said flatly, "Nope...still fall."  Confusing stuff that weather.

Maggie...this one's for you...boot socks!  

Feather Necklace:  Forever 21

The snow is actually melting a bit, so it's pretty much back to business as usual.  The little Mr. has been packing as many snowballs as he can before it's all melted, despite me telling him that in a month there will be more snow than he can handle.  Oh well.
Happy Thursday Friends!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

O' Happy Day...

There have been so many things making me happy lately.  For one, my morning chai has gone from this:

To This...
 I love it when all of the holiday products start coming back again.
I mix one part warmed milknog (gotta be AE) with one part strong-brewed Tazo chai (sweetened a bit before combining with the nog).  Mmmmm...

Another bright spot in my life is my kiddos.  They're always a bright spot, but lately they've entered a season of contentment.  The Mr. has been so gracious to his sister, and has been consistently compliant (but more importantly, with a joyful heart!).  They have been playing happily, sharing with joy, and have been so kind and loving toward one another.  That makes me so proud of them.  

Yesterday, the little Miss knocked over Mr.'s tower of blocks.  At first he got angry, but then I heard his voice soften as he said, "I'm sorry I yelled...I was just having a bad day.  But, you can't just come and knock over my tower.  We're a team and we built this together, so we can't knock it over.  We can make it again, it's going to be okay."  Then they hugged and made amends.  

I've sort of been waiting and hoping that we'd reach this moment in our family.  For so long there was bickering and complaining, but our wee ones seemed to have turned a new leaf.  B and I have been praising them and thanking them for working so hard to be content and joyful.  Tomorrow they may fight, but we can now point them to this time when they worked together and use it as a reference of how God desires for us to treat one another.

Another bright spot is B.  We've been married for over 10 years now, and he still calls me "Beautiful".  He opens my car door for me, and shows compassion toward our children.  He prays for the kiddos and me every morning on his way to work.  I'm so grateful that he makes prayer for his family a priority.  I'm grateful for his gift of wisdom and leadership.  And I'm so grateful for his humor...he makes me laugh everyday.
He is a wonderful husband and father, and I'm so proud of him.
*Sigh* I love him.

What is making you happy these days?

Psst...for those of you who read my post the other day about my friend Mary's ebook, listen through November 15th, when you use the discount code 'FABPARTY' you will receive a $3.00 discount making the price only $4.99!  Head over to Mary's blog to get your copy of , Plan A Fabulous Party {Without Losing Your Mind}!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Friend, An Ebook, And A Shoebox...

Hi friends!  It's a bit dreary and cold in my neck of the woods, but I'm sitting here this afternoon with a hot homemade chai and a copy of my friend Mary's ebook: 

I can't tell you how many times I've felt like the picture above when trying to plan the perfect party.  A procrastinator by nature, I've had birthday parties that have gone awry and have found myself scurrying around up until mere seconds before the arrival of my guests trying to get everything just so. I wish I would have had this ebook years ago!

Mary offers practical advice, while covering everything from the guests to the venue, food and entertainment and behind the scenes details!  After 10 years in public relations and an array of experience in event planning, Mary has compiled a practical guide that will have you hosting a party or event that both you and your guests will enjoy!

I found this book to be a quick and enjoyable read, providing truly usable tips that translate well into any party or event.  I can't wait to plan my little Mr.'s 6th birthday utilizing Mary's tips to avoid my last minute hoopla!

Today is a special day!  If you order today, Mary is donating all of the proceeds from the sale of her book to Operation Christmas Child!  Operation Christmas child is an amazing program through Samaritan's Purse International that sends shoeboxes filled with toiletry items, toys, candy and other goodies to children in underprivileged countries.  For many of these children, these shoeboxes are the only Christmas gift they will receive.  Not only will they receive a tangible gift, but they will also be presented with the gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I hope you will head on over to Mary's blog, Giving Up On Perfect, and purchase your very own copy of 
Plan A Fabulous Party {Without Losing Your Mind}
and support Samaritan's Purse: Operation Christmas Child!

Have a blessed day friends!

The opinions expressed in this review are solely my own.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Meatless Monday: Blueberry Muffins I'm totally stretching the whole 'Meatless Monday' thing today.  The closest thing we made to meatless all weekend was blueberry, I'm making an exception today.

I discovered this blueberry muffin recipe right after the little Mr. was born.  I spent a lot of time at the library trying to collect reading material for all of those hours I was clocking sitting in a rocker and nursing.  I figured that since the meal deliveries would be ending soon, I should probably try and find some easy recipes to get myself back in front of the stove.  That's when these blueberry muffins from Heaven beckoned me.  Oh my goodness are these good and so worth the effort of dirtying up a few dishes.

B is definitely the health conscious Felix to my 'give me the bacon' Oscar, and tried to make these healthier by cutting out the butter and using applesauce instead.  All I am saying is leave the butter in and eat a salad for lunch to balance things out.

And if you need any more proof as to how delicious these are, whenever uncle K.K. comes to visit, I make him these muffins (because he claims they are "rad") then send the leftovers home with him.  I'm just trying to secure my status as the best-big-sister-he-never-had.

Okay...enough chatter. Here's the recipe.  
Remember:  Keep the butter, eat a salad.

yields 2 dozen
3 C flour (I use white whole wheat)
2 C sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 stick + 2 Tbs. butter softened
3 eggs
1 C. milk
1 C blueberries (if using frozen, thaw and drain first)

Flour, sugar, baking powder, salt.  Cut in all of the butter until mixture is crumbly and reserve 1 cup of mixture for topping.

To the remaining mixture, add eggs and milk, stirring until just combined.  Fold in blueberries.  Either spray muffin tin with non-stick spray, or use muffin liners (my preference).  Fill cups with batter 3/4 full and top with crumb topping.  Bake 15-20 min in 350 degree oven until golden and centers test done.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thrifted Thursday...

Today has been one of those days.  Simply put.  This morning started with a flooded basement.  The washing machine was running, and somehow a stray sock found it's way into the floor drain, which made the water back up when the washing machine was on the spin cycle.  There was soapy water everywhere, which made me realize there's a reason I'm supposed to put things back on the shelves instead of laying them on the floor in front of the shelves...lesson learned.  There are now several wet boxes.  
Lucy has some "splainin' to do" when Ricky gets home tonight.

The grocery store trip with the wee ones was interesting.  Can I just say I'm not a huge Wal-Mart fan anyway, coupled with my little one's hiding in every clothing rack we passed, I felt my grumpies creeping in.  

Sorry for complaining.  This is November and I'm supposed to be thankful.  So, I will say I'm thankful for Thrifted Thursday!  I'm also thankful for a certain friend who gifts me with her hand-me-downs! Actually, are they really considered hand-me-downs if most of them still have have tags?!

How do ya like the dead garden?  It's time for yard work.  I'm tempted to not paint the garage just so I can have rustic pictures...yeah...B's not going for that one.
Cardigan:   Hand-me-down
Jeans:  Old Gap
Scarf:  DIY
Shoes: Converse--$7--not thrifted, 
but might as well have been for that price!

I know what you're thinking.  "Really Nikki?  You're posting THIS outfit?"  Well, it fell in the 'thrifted' category (sort of) and it was super-comfy which made me less crabby.  This cardi is the first color blocked item I own, so for once in my life I'm marginally on trend.

I completely forgot that I owned these jeans, but discovered them at the bottom of my jeans pile while organizing my closet and preparing my donation pile.  These babies are NOT getting donated. They are super-comfy.  You can't tell from the picture, but they are flared with the perfect amount of fringe on the bottom.  I amount of justification will redeem the jeans...
I. Just. Can't. Let. Go!

Oh, and the sunnies are new as of today.  $7 Target glasses baby.  I gave up on fancy schmancy sunnies until after I'm done raising little ones.  I can't say no to my wee ones trying on my glasses and wearing them around the, under $10 it is for this mama.

Happy Thrifted Thursday friends!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Adventures in Food

Last week was a culinary adventure of sorts for the Jackson '5'.  We were recently introduced to a sweet Iraqi family who invited us over for dinner last Tuesday.  We were a little nervous that the little Mr. and Miss would say things like, "ewwww!" "What's that?!" or our all time favorite, "I'm not eating that!" But to their credit, they did wonderful and tried everything that was placed before them.  And honestly?  Everything was delicious!  

We learned that Iraqi dishes contain a large variety of rice, vegetables and meats and it is customary to serve Iraqi tea (a strong brewed sweet tea served HOT!) right before the meal.

Our hostess served us Kibbeh, Turshi (pickled vegetables), Tabbouleh, Lahmacun, and Laffa.  They serve everything family style and you just sort of grab and pass.  Honestly, we were so warmly welcomed, and Iraqi's really take hospitality very seriously.  They make sure you are comfortable and well-fed, then send you home with a huge mound of leftovers!  We had such a wonderful time with our new friends!

Then on Thursday, we went out for Indian food for the first time:

  We feel like we are fairly adventurous as far as food goes, so we couldn't believe that we hadn't tried Indian food yet.  This was an equally yummy meal, and once again, the kiddos were troopers and tried everything!

We ordered cheese Pakora, Samosas, Lamb Vindaloo and Chicken Tikki Masala.  Really, the flavors don't compare to anything I've ever had and everything was so amazing!

So, I suppose last week was about trying new things and making new friends...and we loved it!

So, question...what is your favorite ethnic food?