Monday, July 28, 2014

favorite places

 While the kiddos and I were back home we visited one of my favorite childhood places.  It's a farm and settlement from the early 1800s.  It's a beautiful place frozen in time, and up until just a few years ago, it was still a working farm.  I always try squeezing in a trip there when we're back home to enjoy it and feel like I'm reliving a part of my childhood again.

And it's one of those places that doesn't tarnish from memory.  It really is just the same as my child's mind remembers it.
 What I didn't remember was that some summers the mosquitos are ridiculous.  And so my littles didn't find it *quite* so magical, maybe.
Here's hoping for a trip back in the Fall when the colors are glorious, the mosquitos are gone, and these grumpy face turn upside down!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

spicy asian zucchini noodles!

We love pretty much any dish that includes noodles around here.  Spaghetti?  Yes.  Macaroni and cheese?  Yes, please!  Spicy asian noodles?  YES,  FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY.  Sorry, we feel strongly about noodles.  So after making spicy asian noodles as a staple for the past few years, I thought I'd try my had at making it with zoodles (the internetish way of saying zucchini noodles).  I've made zucchini noodles with just a cheese shredder in the past, and it's a little time consuming.  But!  I just got a handy spiral slicer, so it seemed like a good time to try!  And it was a great idea.  Using up the abundance of summer zucchini, and lower in calories and carbs to maintain my, ahem, swimsuit physique.  (Ha!!)  The best part was that it's so flavorful, you won't really notice the lack of real noodles.  Brian is usually not a big fan of any kind of noodle replacement, but he ate this dish right up!

You'll need:
3 to 4 large zucchini
1/2 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup sliced broccoli
1/2 medium sweet onion, sliced
1/4 cup sesame oil
2 t. red pepper flakes
2 T honey
3 T soy sauce
2 T tahini or peanut butter (or one T of each)
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
2 t chopped fresh ginger
garnish with:
chopped green onions
sesame seeds
fresh cilantro
fresh lime

First shred/spiral slice your zucchini, and squeeze dry with a clean towel, gently.  I really recommend investing in one of these spiral slicers if you like your vegetables this way!  It's a very small investment with fun returns!
Set aside the noodles, and heat your sesame oil and red pepper flakes in a small sauce pan on low.  Don't bring to a boil.  Just warm the oil on low-medium for about 5 minutes, then let cool a bit.  Strain out the pepper flakes using a fine mesh sieve.

 Heat oil again in a large skillet, and add sliced sweet onions, broccoli, and shredded carrots.  Saute until soft, and then add in the zucchini noodles.  Saute mixture on medium for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add more oil as needed.  Whisk together the honey, soy sauce, tahini (or peanut butter), ginger, and rice wine vinegar in a small bowl.  I use half crunchy natural peanut butter and half tahini just because.
Take the zucchini noodle mixture off the heat and pour your whisked sauce over, tossing to coat thoroughly.  At this point you can serve it warm, or chill it for a few hours in the fridge and serve it cold!  I tend to serve it cold in summer.  Garnish with fresh cilantro, sesame seeds, sliced green onions and a squeeze of lime juice.  Experiment with your favorite veggies- pea pods would be delicious in here, too!
So fresh and summery, but it actually fills you right up.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

back home again

So I took a very long break from blogging.  I didn't even think about it.  But then I realized I have no idea what's going on with my favorite bloggers, too, and I miss you guys.  So I'll be catching up here and there this week.  But it was good to unplug a little.  Not counting Instagram because that's pretty much an addiction at this point.  

The littles and I had a trip back to my hometown planned since the summer is Brian's busy time at work.  We were planning on staying a couple of weeks, lounging on the beach, and seeing lots of friends and family.  And we did all that!  But a few days before we had planned on leaving, my grandmother passed away.  So Brian took off from work, and helped me throw luggage in the car, and we caravanned it up together.  He took the kiddos to his parent's house and my parents and I headed to North Carolina for my Grandmother's memorial service.  It was a bit of a whirlwind, and although it was a sad reason to be there, it was so good seeing Uncles, Aunts, and cousins- some that I hadn't seen in decades.  
 When I got back, Brian was already on his way back to Missouri.  So the littles and I resumed our trip as planned.  We had cousin time, grandparent time, friend time, and a load of beach time.  My parent's home is just down the road from the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  We spent more time at the beach than anywhere else, and it was lovely.  All these pictures are from one evening, since I didn't want to drag my camera bag every time we went.
 Can you see Chicago there in the pink light?  I love looking across the edge of Lake Michigan and seeing that skyline.  We took the train in one day and did the Field Museum, which is a wonderful natural history museum.  I HIGHLY recommend it for families with kiddos older than 3.
 On this particular night, we weren't planning on getting into the water since we had been to the beach earlier in the day.  We had planned on watching the sun sink, and then head home.  But my kids are water babies.  So shirts were stripped, and pants were soaked, and we all loved it.
 It started on a such a sad note, but this trip turned out to be so good for my soul.  I saw many old friends, a few dear friends, and I got lots of extra time with a best friend that came all the way from Colorado!  My parents were wonderful as usual, letting us run rampant through their home (while it's being remodeled!) with my friends and their littles.  And every time I go back "home" to Indiana and Chicago, I realize just how lucky I was to  have grown up in such a magical place.

So what have you all been up to this July?  I'm going to go catch up and find out!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

treehouse living

This past weekend we packed our car to the gills with food, blankets, and books and took off for a treehouse in the woods!  We met our friends, Lacy and Dan, and their sweet baby at the campsite, which was heaven on earth for our kiddos.  There was of course the treehouse we stayed in, a big pool, a little lake with paddle boats, and tons of nature to dig around in.  And I was in heaven because there was air conditioning, hard cider, great conversation with friends, and a good book to read.
It was hot and humid, but it didn't matter.  There were cold drinks and a cool place to sleep at night.  All the time in and on the water really wore the kiddos out, and so there was a lot of rest time in Dan and Lacy's hammock, and Rowan even put herself down for a nap when she got sleepy.
The treehouse was actually built on a steep hill, so it wasn't in a tree.  We could walk straight onto the deck from a dirt path, but when we walked around the deck to the back, there was a long drop down to the ground.  We really were among the trees out on our little deck!  And our friend's treehouse was right in conversation distance from our deck.
We had a few cooking mishaps including blackened pizza crust one night, and forgetting about the oil bubbling on the fire.  So an oil fire gets really exciting in the woods!  Once the fire died down, Brian took the dutch oven off the fire, opened the lid, and a yellow cloud of smoke floated up from a now empty pot.  A quick trip into town for cooking oil and we were back in donut-making business.  Which are necessary for a successful camping trip, if you weren't aware.  
The little cried when we had to leave, and announced wishes to live in a treehouse all the time.  I may have fallen in love with the idea, too.