Stuff & Chickpea-Miso Gravy

>> Thursday, November 29, 2012


If you read Writing Chapter Three, you got a taste for why I didn't write anything yesterday. Things were crazy. But they eventually got much better. Today was much the same, but I can't let that paralyze me all the time.

My new mantra is "roll with it" . . . we'll see how that works! I'm staying optimistic that thinking positively has the power to impact my actions and feelings. I got that idea from some of your comments.


Which brings me to a BIG THANK YOU for your positive response to my last post. It means a lot that you all are with me as things change and evolve. And if you haven't yet entered the giveaway(s), there's still time!

I've received some questions about why I won't just merge (never)homemaker with Writing Chapter Three. Originally, I wanted to avoid bombarding this audience with baby photos and anecdotes. That's not what this blog is about. Some content does overlap, though, and many have told me that they just read both blogs anyway. But I don't know if that's the majority.

For the time being, I will continue to keep them separate and see how it goes. But if you feel strongly either way, please let me know!


It feels weird posting Thanksgiving recipes now. I hope to have my act together next year . . . but this one in particular is worth it, as I'll surely be making again to go with dinner or lunch or even breakfast. It was great on the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and just alone.

Like with many of my recipes lately, the flavor combination was a result of using what we have versus buying extra ingredients.

MISO & CHICKPEA GRAVY

What you'll need . . . 
  • 1 small onion, chopped 
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon white miso 
  • Black pepper and thyme, to taste
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Method . . . 
  1. In a small saucepan, heat some olive oil and saute the onion and garlic until glassy.
  2. Add the miso, black pepper and thyme cook until coated.
  3. Add the stock and flour and whisk for a couple minutes, until thickened.
  4. Then add in the chickpeas and cook for a couple minutes.
  5. Then toss everything into your blender and blend until smooth.

I'll get on with the rest of the Thanksgiving recipes tomorrow (some of them are really short and some of them are just links to other sites).

Have a great night!

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Thoughts & Giveaway(s)

>> Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I re-read my posts over again from time to time. Lately, what I've come to realize is, well, a lot. So much of this past year has been forced. About getting back into my old shape. Getting back to the things I was doing pre-baby. Chasing the shadow of my former self.

The DSLR-toting marathon runner with (too much) time to do cool stuff. OK. "Cool" might be stretching it. I just feel like I don't identify with the person who could drive 5 hours, go run a PR half marathon in the ADK mountains, then go out beer-tasting at breweries for the rest of the day.

And yet that girl is me. No time to do something mundane as stop and dry my hair even!


Now I feel like I do few things that could be considered interesting beyond our little family of three. Adjustment is hard, but I haven't really minded the change. Catching up on episodes of Homeland while we eat takeout pizza and watch Ada throw blocks across the room is great, too. It just feels so different!

On an intellectual level, this frustrating pursuit of my former life makes little sense to me. Things are different now. I know they are, and I'm actually fine happy. Yes -- it sounds like I'm forcing it -- but I can confidently say that at this stage in my life, I am happy!

In practice, though, I don't feel as great. I feel . . . confused. Stretched thin. Directionless. I suppose I grazed the topic a bit during my New Leaf project. I feel off. There are so many things that have changed in a single year that I think it is completely normal to be a bit lacking in my enthusiasm for all of it happening at once.

Anyway: New Leaf. I have slipped a bit off the track. I knew it'd take more than a couple weeks of change to get at what I really need.

The (abridged) truth is . . .

  • I'm 29 . . . so this is a big year for me before I enter the 30s. I don't know how, but I've been conditioned to think this way. Self-fulfilling prophecy. 
  • I'm a mom now and no amount of trying will get things the way they used to be -- mind or body -- nor do I want them that way when I actually stop to think about it.
  • I'm struggling with my weight and fitness. Whereas I used to write up tips and tricks for you all, I'm the one who needs the help now.
  • I work at home now. And some of what is "home" is my job, too. It's changed my identity and level of social interaction in ways I'd like to address.
There are many more things I could go and list. But this post isn't intended to be a TMI look into my confused mind. I don't even know if I want to delve into the long version myself! I wanted to write this today to be honest. To explain what this means for the blog. Because in all of this, blogging has certainly suffered.


I want to shift this blog back to something I feel happy about versus trying to be something I'm not anymore. A place where I feel motivated again instead of lacking.

I think I am going to start writing more about those truths I listed above. Make it more personal versus straight-up recipes and Pinterest-y tips for getting in good treadmill workouts. (Sure, there still be tons of food, too.) However, I think a big focus will be  my journey toward finding who I am NOW.

Along with some posts about getting back into shape. I am not having an easy go of it. I need to spend less time trying to write up ways to get motivated to run and actually go running. (Which I'm off to do soon now that our treadmill is fixed!)

GIVEAWAY

I have more to write about this, but I won't make this too long today. A while ago, a bunch of your filled out a survey about the blog. I never did anything to thank you for your thoughts. Now onto the fun part! The GIVEAWAYS!

Here's what's up for grabs.

  1. A yarn ornament -- handmade by me!
  2. A wreath -- handmade by me!
  3. A batch of Christmas treats (TBD) -- again, made by me!
How to enter? It's less formal than our other giveaways. Simply leave a comment below with the word HAPPY and some way to contact you (whether it be a blog address, email, etc.). I'll be choosing three winners at random on Friday, November 30 via some type of online number generator -- since the old one I used is gone.

Pssst: If you're keeping up with Ada, I posted her 12-month update today -- complete with walking video! -- on Writing Chapter Three.

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Stuffed Delicata Squash

>> Monday, November 26, 2012


This year, we cooked on Saturday. Our belated Thanksgiving table featured some old favorites as well as some new recipes that I know we'll be making next year and beyond.


#1: Stuffed Delicata Squash
#2: Cranberry-Golden Beet relish
#3: Cranberry-Jalapeno Cheddar cheese
#4: Sweet potato stuffing w/ Sunflower bread
#5: Apple Cider & Ginger Glazed Parsnips
#6: Red-skinned mashed potatoes
#7: Miso-Chickpea Vegan Gravy
#8: Bittersweet Chocolate Pie

So, let's get to sharing some recipes!


I've seen lots of great recipes for delicata squash lately. We got a lot of it in our CSA this season, so I've had my share of practice cooking with it. We decided for our meal to use it in our main course.

TOFU LOAF STUFFED DELICATA 

What you'll need . . .

  • 2 large delicata squash, cut length-wise and scoop out seeds
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Our Smoked Tofu Loaf recipe for filling

Method . . .

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Put your delicata squash on a baking sheet cut-sizes up. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, prepare your tofu loaf mixture. You will be filling each piece of squash with it for baking. Feel free to play around with seasonings, etc.
  3. Take the squash out of the oven and distribute the tofu loaf mixture evenly. Then bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until firm and browned.
  4. Let cool and slice for serving. Should last several meals for 2 people. Or serves 6.

Seriously delicious and easy to make. And great for dinner any night, not just on Thanksgiving. You can read more about our holiday weekend over on Writing Chapter Three.

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Previews

>> Sunday, November 25, 2012


We cooked and baked and cooked some more yesterday afternoon. By sundown, which is why all these photos were taken with flash, we had a vegetarian feast that should last us for at least another meal and a half.

It's hard picking a favorite dish.


I'm hoping to share all these recipes this week. For now, I'm off to enjoy the rest of our Sunday!

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New Traditions

>> Saturday, November 24, 2012


A new Black Friday tradition in our house: Apple Cider Pancakes. I whisked up a batch yesterday morning, adding in apple cider because we were low on almond milk. Almond extract because we're low on vanilla.

They're incredible -- spiced perfectly for the season and sweeter than usual pancakes, which is why we're reserving them for special occasions. My favorite part is how browned they get. And how fluffy they are thanks to a heaping tablespoonful of baking powder.

Yum.


APPLE CIDER PANCAKES

What you'll need . . .

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon golden flax meal 
  • Generous pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 cup almond milk 
  • 1 cup apple cider 
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Method . . . 

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, and flax meal.
  2. Then add in the almond milk, cider, oil, and almond extract. Stir with a whisk until well combined.
  3. In a frying pan, heat some Earth Balance (or butter) over medium heat and -- once sizzling -- scoop batter in heaping 1/4 cupfuls. 
  4. Cook on both sides until browned (they will brown more than "normal" pancakes due to the sugars in the cider). 
NOTE: Recipe makes enough pancakes for 4 generous servings. If you are only making for 2, you might consider making half the batter.


Now I'm off to cook Thanksgiving dinner for the three of us. Our holiday in Pennsylvania was fun, but I sure was jealous of all the tasty vegetarian feasts I saw streaming in on Instagram.


Hope you're all having a fantastic weekend! Any recipes stand out in your own cooking for the holiday?

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In the dark . . .

>> Friday, November 23, 2012


I'm just going to say it: Running after the sun goes down isn't the safest habit. You may disagree. And that's fine, but I have quite a bit of experience logging miles after dark. Lots of experience, actually. Still, it is often necessary to head out when visibility isn't optimum.

For example, you may work during the day, may not have a gym membership, may juggle family/other runners, etc. Or a combination of all these reasons.

This time of year, I typically run half of my weekly mileage after dark.


Now, let's back up. I absolutely love running sans-sun. But to be entirely honest, I have tripped on sidewalks and fallen flat on my face. Many times. Or almost been hit by cars. Or twisted my ankle. You see what I mean by now. But we'll get to all that in a moment. Over the years, I've gotten smarter about the whole thing.

Here are some tips.
  • Walk or s.l.o.w.l.y jog to-be running routes in the dark to look for obstacles or other issues (poor or absent lighting, places where cars dart out ahead of stop signs, safety, etc.). I almost guarantee you'll notice something to watch or avoid that you wouldn't have thought of -- even if you regularly run that route during the day.
  • If you can avoid it, try not to plan hard workouts for nighttime (or early morning) runs. Stephen and I have worked out a schedule where we alternate days. His difficult workouts are usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Mine is on Wednesday. So, we run in the daylight those days, as well as for our weekend runs.
  • Invest in an inexpensive head lamp. (Mine was only $8, but there are lighter, less bulky ones, too.) It will help your visibility, but -- more importantly -- it will help other pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, etc. see you.
  • Consider slapping on a reflective vest. We share one much like this and, again, it helps others see us. I can tell a huge difference when I wear it, especially with motorists making rights-on-red at intersections or inching forward at stop signs.
  • Be a defensive runner. When it's bright outside, I tend to push my rights as a runner. I usually make eye contact and keep my pace across streets if a car is only approaching. At night, I always, always assume that no one can see me. So, if there's a car nearing, I slow down or stop until there's been some type of contact made. (Which is why it's good to not have a specific pace workout planned.)
  • Change your stride. Take short, quick steps, which will give you more contact with the ground. Better awareness of what's underfoot.

I try my best to follow all these rules, but I still find myself falling or worse. So, if you can -- try to do most of your running when the sun is up. If you can't, consider joining a gym either temporarily (I know some offer winter-only memberships or a freeze on memberships) or year-round (there are bare-bones gyms around my area that cost only $10/month).

There's nothing bad-ass or hardcore about running in the dark if you hurt yourself.

So . . .


Pay attention. It's true that for many of us, running is when we let our minds wander. However, when it's dark -- it's best to try and use all senses to stay safe. All the gear in the world can't help otherwise.

Do you have any tips for running at night (or early morning)?

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Imaginary Thanksgiving

>> Wednesday, November 21, 2012


As I mentioned yesterday, we are actually going out to eat for Thanksgiving dinner this year. (Sacrilege for a food blogger, I know. Alas, the plans aren't up to me.) But that doesn't keep me from dreaming up a homemade Thanksgiving meal. More than likely, we will be making many of these recipes over the weekend when we celebrate as a family of three.

Here are a few holiday-appropriate favorites:


Roasted Beet Chutney: Cranberry sauce is good, but for our table this year, I'd rather do a smoky chutney. Goes great on its own, but we love pairing it with brie.


Cranberry-Persimmon Sauce: But if you're on the hunt for a good cranberry sauce, this one is it. Can be made with fresh or frozen cranberries, too.


Cranberry Stuffing: This vegan recipe features ginger and basil along with apple and shiitake mushrooms. The basic lesson is that you can experiment to go beyond the traditional and incorporate some of your favorite flavors into the holidays.


Herbed Potato-Stuffed Acorn Squash: I never get enough of a good baked squash. Add mashed potatoes, and it's a perfect vegetarian/vegan Thanksgiving entree. You can even play around with the filling, using sweet potatoes and different herbs.


Smoky Pumpkin Chili: Since I don't eat turkey, I love a good, hearty soup on the table. Chili is about as hearty as you can get -- and features beans for protein -- and with the addition of pumpkin, it's super seasonal.


Yogurt Biscuits: A great quick-bread to go with the rest. And if you have leftovers, they are great toasted for breakfast the next morning. Vegan? Try these Vegan Buttermilk Biscuits.


Chocolate Pumpkin Pie: If you make only one of these recipes, this one should be it. I hate traditional pumpkin pie. Lacks pizazz for me. Add chocolate? Now we're talking. And I love making things in individual sizes.


Pumpkin Hot Chocolate: Sometimes after all that comfort food, there isn't room for dessert. (OK -- for me, there's always room, but we're all different!) This tasty beverage is a great alternative.

5 MORE DELICIOUS T-GIVING ROUNDUPS

Hope you all have a safe and happy holiday. Though, speaking of safety, I'll be back before then with some tips on running in the dark. So hard to believe this photo was taken just a year ago!



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Monday -- errr -- Tuesday!

>> Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Weekend in brief:

weekend

#: Our city now has a Chipotle! I had never been to one before, but now I'm hooked. #: I ran double digits for the first time since the Runner's World Half Marathon. 10 miles in 1:25. (Been logging my miles on Daily Mile again, by the way!) #: Ada's birthday party was a complete success, but my house is back to being a mess again. #: Mother-Daughter eggs. She hearts scrambled. I heart omelets.

In this omelet . . .

  • 1 egg + 2 egg whites + splash almond milk
  • 1 sliced up tomato
  • Diced onions
  • 1 string cheese with mozzarella and cheddar (it's all we had!)
  • Lots of black pepper
  • Tons of hot sauce
I'm thrilled so many of you enjoyed the Pumpkin Hot Chocolate recipe from last week. I also made a peppermint one that's just as easy to mix up.



PEPPERMINT HOT CHOCOLATE

For one giant mug of it, simply combine . . .

  • 1.5 cups almond milk (homemade or store-bought -- unsweetened, if possible) 
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder 
  • Handful dark chocolate chips 
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
I'll be back soon with some of my Thanksgiving recipe favorites -- from our archives and elsewhere. To be entirely honest, with Ada's birthday bash this weekend, the holiday was far absent from my mind.

Our holiday plans? Well, we're traveling to Pennsylvania this year to visit my mother's side of the family. My grandparents have generously offered to take us out to eat at this great place in their town. So, no cooking for us. However, Stephen and I are having our own Thanksgiving dinner at some point during the weekend.

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Polenta Grilled Cheese

>> Friday, November 16, 2012


There's really no cute or cool story for how I came to make this recipe. We are running low on food, which used to be fine when we didn't have kids. But with Ada eating more and more each day, when I'm out of stuff -- I need to get very creative if I can't make it to the grocery store.

C'mon, mom. I'm hungry!


One of Ada's favorite foods right now is cheese. She likes cubed cheddar with her other favorite food: grapes. She also likes American, which we never used to buy until we got desperate during her recent solids strike. Thankfully, we had a few slices left. No bread, though.

So, while we ate the last of our eggs at breakfast, I made some polenta.


POLENTA GRILLED CHEESE

What you'll need . . .

  • 1 cup polenta 
  • 3 cups water 
  • Pinch salt 
  • Cheese of your choice 
  • Earth Balance or butter 

Method . . . 

  1. Bring water to a boil, then toss in polenta and whisk for several minutes, until thickened. Cook for a couple more minutes and then take off heat. 
  2. Generously grease an 8" x 8" baking dish. Pour polenta into it and smooth it out, distributed evenly.
  3. Let chill for at least 4 hours. 
  4. Then -- using a sharp knife -- cut out squares or rectangles from your chilled polenta. Carefully cut your piece in half through the middle, so it'll be like bread for the cheese. 
  5. Place a slice or two or cheese in between the pieces of polenta. 
  6. Cook over medium-high heat on a pan (I greased mine first with Earth Balance) until polenta is brown and cheese is bubbly. 
  7. Slice and enjoy.
I made a small "sandwich" for Ada.


And a larger one for myself.


Crisis averted. I don't love American cheese, but it actually tasted good. OK. It tasted amazing, and I'm embarrassed to admit that. Just imagine how incredible it will be with cheddar or pepper jack!

Almost as good as the Polenta Pizza w/ Roasted Veggies we made a few months ago, too.


Happy birthday, Ada Mae! (And happy Friday to the rest of you!)


You can see some gorgeous photos, if I do say so myself, I took for the occasion over on Writing Chapter Three today. Now I'm off to do some last-minute party planning before tomorrow's big bash.

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Pumpkin Hot Chocolate

>> Thursday, November 15, 2012


I found myself with an extra five minutes this morning. Enough time to whisk together a warm drink. First idea: Make some basic hot chocolate. Then I thought about making Maple-Peanut Butter Hot Cocoa. All we have right now is sunflower butter. Just wouldn't be the same.

What caught my eye on the kitchen counter was some leftover pumpkin puree from Ada's breakfast. Now? You see where this is going. I made Pumpkin Hot Chocolate (it's vegan, too!) with almond milk and a drop of almond extract. I'm in heaven.

(Also, the wreath "prop" in this photo. What was I thinking? Entirely unnecessary and looks ridiculous. Shoot and learn, my friends.)


Excuse the chocolate dribbles on that last photo. I HAD to sip some while it was super hot. I just finished the last drops, and I will tell you confidently that this is my new favorite cold weather drink. The pumpkin is so light and sweet mixed with the chocolate. 

I know. I know. "Pumpkin doesn't belong in everything, Ashley."

I'm not so sure about that. (Many examples . . .)

If you'd like to make your own mugful of this delicious drink, just whisk together the following ingredients in a small saucepan on your stove-top. Medium heat until hot, but not boiling.

  • 1-1/2 cups unsweetened or homemade almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon (a drop, basically) almond extract (optional, but PLEASE DO IT!)
*** Feel free to use any milk you have. I opt for unsweetened so I have more control over how it tastes. Even put a few chocolate chips in your mug for good measure.

This post definitely replaced the regularly scheduled programming today. I'll be back with some more Mommy Runner thoughts and tips tomorrow. And next week, I'll probably share my favorite mint hot chocolate recipe. At least the cold is good for something!

Like love cats? Then you'll love the post over on Writing Chapter Three. Four words: I Gatti Di Venezia! It's Ada's favorite book and will probably pounce its way into your hearts as well. Too bad I can't find it in print anywhere.

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