Wednesday, February 29, 2012

roasted eggplant + olive dip

I am in love with a dip.  No, not Brian.  It's this eggplant dip recipe that I've tinkered with every time I make it, and now it's perfection.  I wouldn't normally call a recipe I make perfection, but hear me out: it is really tasty.  AND: it is really healthy.  Healthy and dip don't normally go hand in hand but this one does!  And the combination of smoky eggplant, sweet onions, and salty olives is a flavor combination made in heaven.  It could also be used as a sandwich spread, or even a pasta sauce.  If you'd like to fall in love with a dip, gather these ingredients:

1 eggplant
1 sweet onion
1/2- 3/4 cup olives (green or kalamata)
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 cup greek yogurt

serves 4-6

First grab your eggplant and sweet onion and preheat your oven to 350.
Cut your eggplant in half lengthwise and chop your onion into largish chunks. Place the eggplant face down on a pan and lightly spray your onion chunks with cooking spray (or drizzle them with a tsp. of olive oil).
Bake for 30 minutes, stirring onions halfway through. The onions should look browned and the eggplant should be wrinkly and soft to the touch. Let the onions and eggplant cool completely.
The eggplant should look like this:
Once the eggplant is completely cool, scoop out the flesh into a food processor (or a blender).
Add the onions and blend.
Add in the olives,
and the lemon juice.  Blend all together to a consistency with very small chunks, but not to a smooth consistency.
Pour your mixture into a bowl.  You could stop here, if you'd like.  It's good this way.  But I love the creamy addition of greek yogurt, and it tips it over into greatness.  So stir in your yogurt until well blended.
Serve it up!  I like it with pita chips and veggies, and Brian likes to forgo all dipping foods and eat it with a spoon like a savory yogurt. 
Happy dipping! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

perfect weekend

A perfect weekend could be a combination of a million different things.  Here's our version of a perfect weekend.

A trip to the zoo!  We all love the zoo.  The animals, the sounds, the interactive adventures, and for the littles, the statues they can clamber over.
They are drawn to the animals that they can touch and hug on.  Rowan especially loved the baby lion.  Here she is making her mama happy in a vintage outfit.  Which was worn by me way back when it was new and not vintage!
She got a lot of gnome comments at the zoo, thanks to that hood.  I LOVE that my mom saved some of her favorite outfits of mine, and now my daughter gets to wear them.  We're running low on the outfits that still fit, which makes me sad.  Quick, I need another baby girl!  Just kidding.  Kind of.

We checked out a few REAL animals, too.  How cute is that bear sunning himself on the log?  Preeeetty cute.
We all enjoyed the sunshine, not just the bear.
And this Northerner really enjoyed the brisk temperatures after a week of 80 degree weather.  I know, I know.  You think I'm crazy.  But give me a 55 degree day with sunshine, and I'm a happy camper!
A perfect weekend includes a lot of time outside.  And we took in the outside in huge doses!  We also found out the Rowan has the upper body strength in the family.
Poor Fletcher has inherited my upper body strength.  He just falls right off when he tries to hang on the monkey bars.  I feel your pain, kiddo. 

A perfect weekend includes a trip to Barnes and Noble, where the littles get to play with the train table.  And Brian and I take turns just browsing and drinking coffee.  We also got a great view of a beautiful sunset on the way back home.
{taken from Brian's phone}

A perfect weekend has lot of happy family time, but also a bit of alone time for me and Brian.  The babysitter came to hang out with the littles on Sunday, and we had a farewell to Columbia date.  We usually headed downtown for date days/nights, so we hit some of our favorite places to say goodbye.  We had brunch at The Gourmet Shop, a great little place to while away a Sunday morning.
We thought Brian's beer name was pretty funny.  You know, since he'll never be "Ruthless."  Heh.  Heh.  Get it?  Sorry.  I even let Brian hold the camera just a little.  Like for 5 minutes.  I avoid letting him hold it, because I end up with 20,000 pictures of me on the sd card, most of which will never see the light of day.  It's sweet, flattering, and super annoying.
But I guess one day our children will know that mama existed, too. 

The Gourmet Shop has great little restaurant, and then a big shop stocked with wine, cheese, gourmet food, and fancy kitchen equipment.  I always drool over the fancy kitchen equipment.  How cute are these mini le creusets?  I want one in each color!
I also think I need a SERIOUS rolling pin.  Just to keep Brian in line.
He ran away after taking these pictures.

We did a little shopping around the vintage shops, and Brian briefly considered trying on one of these seersucker suits. 
I think he's been wanting one ever since we moved to the South.  Maybe since before that.  I don't think they'd fit in back in the Midwest, but who knows?  If anyone could pull it off, it's Brian.

We wandered into an Irish pub when we heard live music, and we were lucky enough to catch some really awesome music.  And also catch a coupla drinks.
After our drinks, Brian obligingly drove around downtown, letting me jump out and take pictures anywhere my little heart desired.  He's a keeper.
It was a great weekend.  Nothing monumental happened, but it was still one for the books.

What does your perfect weekend look like?

Monday, February 27, 2012

{diy} st. patrick's day garland

We're kinda proud of our sliver of Irish heritage in this house.  St. Patrick's Day is Brian's favorite holiday.  He's a big fan.  We're going to be in the middle of moving for this year's St. Patty's Day, but you will usually find us at a parade, wearing green, with beer in hand.  Yep, even when I'm pregnant (but without the beer of course...mostly).
And usually that parade is in Chicago, the best city (outside of Dublin) to celebrate St. Patty's Day.  Don't argue with me, you Bostonians.  Just don't.

Wow, I got wildly off track of the garland, but here we go.  I made garland this year for our mantle, and thought I'd share how I made it.  It was super duper easy!
First I went through what I already had, and I STILL have a ton of scraps from that drop cloth I used for my Christmas tree skirt.  So that is what I used for the little pennants.  You'll also need the following:

Green fabric scraps (or like mine, green patterned)
Green yarn
Green felt stickers (or you could glue small shamrocks if you can't find stickers)
Embroidery needle
Scissors and/or rotary cutter
1. Cut your fabric to the size pennant you would like.  I did about 3x4 inches.  First I cut vertically with scissors.
2.  Then I cut horizontally with the rotary cutter.  But you could do that with scissors too.  I was not very exact in the measurements, I just did them roughly the same. 
3.  I ended up with 16 rectangles, then cut little triangles out of the bottom to make them pennant shaped.  Is that the right term for them?  I know pennants can be triangles, too...
4.  I gathered up the rest of my garland making items!
5. I stuck these little felt stickers on each pennant.  I found them in the dollar section at Jo-Anns and knew I'd think of SOMETHING, so I bought them on a whim.  Yes, I am the person that marketers target when they place dollar bins near the checkout.  Guilty.
6.  Cut your green scrap fabric into strips.  Mine are roughly 1 to 2 inches wide by 4 to 6 inches long.  I was not exact at ALL. 
7. Tape the end of your yarn so that you can thread it through the embroidery needle.  Cut off the taped end when it's been threaded through.
8.  Sew the yarn through your pennants.  I did only an entry and exit stitch, but you could stitch all across the top if you have a lot of time to kill.
9.  After all your pennants have been strung, tie your fabric scraps between each pennant.  I only did one knot each so that I could slide them on the yarn to arrange them once they were hung. 
Hang them anywhere in your home that needs an Irish touch!  These were really quick and easy.  And I think they are as cute as can be for the effort.
Enjoy!  And don't forget:  everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, February 24, 2012

what i'm loving lately: winning the epic battle of winter dryness

Oh yes.  I am not being dramatic at ALL.  For me, winter dryness has always been an epic battle.  And now I think I have found the winning combination to battle those dry itchies.
In the arsenal:

1. Scrub towel.  I was introduced to these while living in Korea.  They are long enough to grab both ends and scrub your own back!  They have the texture of something you would scrub your pots and pans with, and leaves you with sparkly, raw, red skin.  Which actually isn't that great UNTIL you combine it with #2.  {we had been using our stock from Korea, but I recently found them at Target!  Hooah, Target. Hooah.}

2.  Eucerin Calming Body Wash.  Holy moly, I'm not sure how I've ever gone a winter without this stuff.  It is a cleanser AND body oil in one.  Used with the scrub towel (you could probably use a brush or a loofah if you must) it leaves your skin so silky and soft.  Very, very necessary. 

3.  Moroccan Oil.  I have long, wavy, thick hair.  I know.  It's the one blessing mother nature bestowed.  And one more thing.  It may come as a shock, but I dye my hair.  Mother nature also "blessed" me with dishwater blond/mousy light brown locks.  No, my hair isn't naturally a buttery yellow.  Shocking, I KNOW.  So combining the long, wavy, and dyed, my hair can become straw-like in the winter.  This has been a saving grace!  I use about twice the directed amount on the bottom half of my (still damp) hair, comb it through, and I'm good to go!  I rub the excess on my hands into my cuticles and on my elbows, and it does double duty.  I am not particular to any brand of moroccan oil, but you can find this brand at (where else?) Target.  It really keeps my hair soft and keeps that static winter hair dryness at bay. 

4. Curel Itch Defense Lotion. Full disclosure: if you worry about these things, this lotion DOES contain parabens. But my skin! My skin NEEDS it! And it works soooo much better than anything paraben free that I have found. I slather this stuff on, and my skin stays nice and soft for up to 24 hours. Seriously life changing.

What do you use for those winter itchies?  I'm always open to new suggestions!

p.s.  Not a one of these companies have any idea who I am, and I certainly was not compensated in any way for this post. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

savannah: day two, finally!

When you go on vacation with littles, it is a completely different animal than when you go on vacation as a couple.  A few years ago, going to Savannah would have been a lot of museum tours, walking, hitting every cemetery, and late nights out to soak up the night life.  Well.  Let me tell you we did not step foot inside a cemetery (so sad).  And as for museums?  We found the train museum.  Does that count?  It sure does in Fletcher and Rowan's book.  Fletcher has carefully cultivated his own passion for trains in his 3 1/2 short years, and now Rowan has come aboard (oh my, sorry for the bad pun).  So when Fletcher spotted the trains, parked there like big iron and steel sirens, we knew where we'd be spending half a day. 
The littles were in HEAVEN.  Fletcher ran from train to train while Rowan toddled along quietly murmuring, "choo-choo, woo-woo."  How can you say no to such pure happiness?
We took a train ride, and Fletcher and I got a very special treat, indeed!  We got to ride in the CAB OF THE TRAIN!  Wow, Fletcher was in awe.  He barely spoke to the engineer because he just sat there, mouth open, sparkling with joy.
And although Brian and Rowan rode in the car behind us, they were just as happy to be riding a train.
Well, Rowan WAS happy until she saw mama up at front.  Then she was all, WTF?  Why am I back HERE???  She cried.  She cried much.  I told Brian afterwards that he should have ridden up front so he could have asked the engineer proper questions.  I was stuck saying inane things like, "Wow.  That whistle sure is loud, huh?"  Yeah.  I don't exactly have the same passion for trains as the rest of my little family. 

After the train ride, we checked out the historical train yard and sheds.  It WAS pretty amazing, even to me, the non-passionate one.
Fletcher: playing with a small train while looking at the big trains.  This is his heaven, trust me. 

We dodged a few raindrops and headed down to the river to meet my parents for a late lunch.  We found a lovely patio table where we watched the ships pass through and ate fried pickles.  Now fried pickles are something I can become PASSIONATE about.  Wow.  How am I just experiencing these right before leaving the south?
As we ran into naptime, Rowan became very unhappy, i.e. screamy and irrational.  So my parents took the littles over to a beautiful fountain and taught them to throw in coins to make a wish.  Fletcher made about 15 wishes.  Rowan made about 25.  Brian had to go change out a dollar to keep everyone happy for just a few minutes more.
When our last penny was gone (literally) we said goodbye to Gigi and Bop and packed up.  As we drove out of Savannah, my very wonderful husband agreed to stop at the Thunderbird Inn for some pictures.  It is a really cool little hotel that has been lovingly preserved from the 60's.  Unfortunately, it was full when we tried to book it. 
Brian charmed a couple maids into letting me see into one of the rooms.  He's a charmer, that one! 

It was a quick trip, but I really enjoyed Savannah.  I can't wait to go back when the kiddos are older, or maybe just alone with Brian to see it in more depth.  But for now we'll be taking road trips in the Midwest area when we move to Missouri next month. 
Not to mention the very very long road trip just to get there!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

prosciutto, spinach & goat cheese stromboli

{Let's take a break from Savannah.  I'll get back to it tomorrow.  Or perhaps you are relieved?  I don't blame you.}
If you weren't aware, yesterday was Fat Tuesday.  We had plans to go out for dinner last night, but Brian had to work late.  It was still Fat Tuesday, so I wanted something just a little extra special.  But I had to use what was on hand, and after a quick inventory, this recipe was the result.  I adapted a recipe my own mama has been making for years.  It is really easy, really quick, and really tasty.  If you'd like to try it out, here's what you'll need:

4 oz goat cheese
3-4 oz prosciutto
9 oz package frozen spinach (defrosted)
1 can crescent rolls
3 T cream cheese
1 T sour cream
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1-2 minced garlic clove
serves 4 (unless Brian is there; then it serves 2)

First, preheat the oven to 375.  Put your defrosted spinach in a colander, pressing it down with a spoon to get as much water out as possible.  Leave to drain while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.
Mix together the goat cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, and your minced garlic.  I cheated and used the squeezy tube of garlic because we did not have fresh garlic on hand. 
Add in the drained spinach and the shredded cheddar.
Pop open that can of crescent rolls.  Yes this is a super cheat as far as stromboli is concerned.  You are definitely supposed to mix up an Italian Bread recipe from scratch, but this is a quick recipe, remember?  Feel free to make your own fresh bread if you are a perfectionist.  Or if you don't have children and lots of time on your hands.
Uh, where was I?  Oh yes.  Crescent rolls.  Unroll and press the seams together as best you can, making a rectangle.  {Dear Pillsbury:  bring back the crescent sheet.  The perforated rolls are making my life hard and full of strife.  Yours forever anyway, Ruthie}
Spread your cheesy spinach mixture in a strip across the middle.
Top with the prosciutto. 
Carefully roll it all up lengthwise.  Cursing the perforations as you roll and spinach leaks out.  The cursing is just an optional step there.  Maybe you gave up cursing for Lent.  I would never do such a thing.  No fucking way!  (sorry mom...)
Now is the time that if you used something without perforations (or if your perforations really sealed up well) you would need to make slits for venting the steam while cooking.  I obviously have enough venting there.  Bake for about 12- 15 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned.
Let cool for about 5 minutes, and make angled slices with a serrated knife.  Easy!
Eat up!  Well, don't eat up today if you follow Lent.  No meat today.  Go ahead and eat up tomorrow!