Friday, April 25, 2014

April in Minnesota

In Atlanta, winter is short and spring emerges eagerly: Cherry blossoms in February, Daffodils in March, then Dogwoods, Forsythia, and by April, cotton white Pear Trees line the boulevards and driveways of every thoughtfully planted place.  By May, the only spring blossoms remaining are the giant, white magnolia flowers with their far-reaching sweet aroma.

In Minnesota, winter holds a tighter grip. The wind whips across the frozen lakes. Springs teases us with momentary warmth and then blankets us once more with snow. But the sounds of winter and spring are quite different. Winter echoes and crunches. Spring, in a day, becomes deafening as the frogs emerge from their slumber. Ice on the lake slushes like a giant, five-mile big gulp held in the earth's hand.

I took this picture in front of our house on Monday. Yesterday was the official Lake Ice Out.  I think spring has finally sprung!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chocolate Covered Strawberry "Carrots!'

I have to admit, I have a penchant for cute food. So when I saw these on Pinterest, I knew I had to make them!  I mean, the only thing that could possibly be more fun than chocolate covered strawberries are chocolate covered strawberries that look like carrots!!  I'm telling you, pure genius!

Here are a few tips so that you, too, can make these bunny-worthy carrots for Easter!

First, wash your strawberries and let them dry on a paper towel.  Chocolate does not like to cling to wet strawberries!

Next, pinch the strawberry stems toward the center to make them look like carrot tops!

Dip the strawberries into your orange candy melts, covering as much of the strawberries as you can without coating the green stems.

To make the strawberries look even more carrot-like, drizzle more orange across the strawberries to give it a lovely striated effect.

Make sure you keep an eye on them or some bunny will gobble them up!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Photo Challenge - Beautiful Black & White

This year's vacation photos took on a new look. 
No more cute babies. No more precious toddlers. 
But my Tweens?  They're still keepers. 
Two-person stunts occupied time on the beach. 
They are so beautiful to me!

Two-Person Stunts and other Tweenage Vacation Photo Ideas

We recently returned from spring break and I was reminded, once again, how fast time flies. I remember when spring break meant getting out my camera and capturing shovels, pails and sunbonnets. Chubby fingers playing in the sand, tentative toes touching the water's edge - alas, motherhood is all about adaptation.  Just when you think you've got it all figured out, THEY CHANGE!

This year's beach vacation was all about the two-person stunt.  Apparently, there are websites and Instagram accounts dedicated to the two-person stunt.  If you were a tweenager, you would know this.  So instead of collecting shells on the beach this year, we did this.

And this.

And this.

And by we, I don't mean me, I mean them.

I just thought I'd be clear about that.

Now, for the boys who run from me whenever I get out the camera, I was still able to coerce a hand holding a beautiful shell.

And sneak a shot of the husband carrying the red bag with all the shoes…

A little reality is always good to capture on vacations, too.
Like how food is very important.
But not always very pretty!

Add in some sibling love and a gorgeous sunset

and you've got yourself a Tweenage vacation album.

And don't forget a selfie!
It might be the only photo that you're in! Ahem.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Vegetarian Confetti Black Bean Chili with Sweet Corn Salsa Muffins

The Husband has been out of town lately, so I've been cooking a few meatless meals.  To go with the 12" of snow we received yesterday (yeah, I had to throw that in!) I decided to make a nice pot of chili. Without meat. My high school son, who actually ENJOYED debate class (takes after his father) said I couldn't call it chili.  I could call it soup. I could call it stew, but not chili. I looked it up. According to the International Chili Society, Traditional Red Chili is defined as
"any kind of meat or combination of meats, cooked with red chili peppers, various spices and other ingredients with the exception of BEANS and PASTA which are strictly forbidden.  No garnish is allowed."
Wikipedia defines chili sauce as:
"spicy sauce made primarily from chili powder and/or chopped fresh chili peppers." 

In response to that argument, here's what I have to say.  "I'm the mom and even though your dinner contains no meat and lots of beans and technically no chili powder, it's still delicious and I can call it chili if I want to."  I've always been good at debate like that.

He agreed with the delicious part.

I often begin my soups/stews/chili with the following:  2 cups onions, 2 cups carrots, 2 cups celery.  Not only does it create delicious flavor, but it bulks up the veggies and I'm all about bulking up the veggies.  I added Worcestershire sauce for a meaty flavor, cumin for smokiness and agave nectar to balance out the acidity.  If I weren't serving this to four children, I would have also thrown in some red pepper flakes for heat.  Know your audience I always say!

Next for some really amazing cornbread, and I say that because my kids don't even like cornbread, but they loved these muffins!

They FINALLY opened a Trader Joe's in our neck of the woods (Yay!) and this was yesterday's sample:  Cornbread mix with Corn and Chili Salsa. 

 It was super moist and the salsa gave it just the right kick.  Just follow the recipe on the box and add 1/2 a jar (about 1 cup) of salsa!  How simple is that?

Confetti Black Bean Chili
by Rachel @ Simple Girl

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cups onions, diced
2 cups carrots, diced
2 cups celery, diced
2 cans fire roasted tomatoes
2 cans black beans, drained but not rinsed
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon Cumin
1 Tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Saute' the diced onions, celery and carrots in a stock pot or dutch oven, 5-10 minutes until softened.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir until combined.  Adjust seasoning.  Simmer on the stove for 30-45 minutes. If you prefer a thinner consistency, add more stock.