Sunday, October 28, 2012

Storm Prep

First off, you may have noticed a few changes to the blog layout. I'm testing out a few different designs, so bear with me while I try some new things. I'd love to hear your feedback on the new header - leave a comment letting me know what you think!

So, in case you're living under a rock and haven't heard, we're expecting a huge storm here on the east coast. All the shore towns near us are being evacuated, schools are closed for the next few days and public transportation in NJ and NY have all been suspended. They're saying the eye of the hurricane will go right through our town. Yikes!

Hopefully we won't have any issues at our house, but I'm kind of looking forward to holing up with my little family for a few days. In anticipation of the storm, though, we made sure to get some outdoors time in over the weekend. Friday night we headed over to our friends Heather & Kevin's house to hang out by the fire pit for the evening, which was a great time as always.

Yesterday we had plans to be out for most of the day, so I wanted to make a nice breakfast for everyone before heading out. I had hoped to make pancakes, but unfortunately we hadn't gone grocery shopping yet, and had nada in the house except Kashi and bananas. Cereal on a Saturday? No way.

I dug through the freezer and came up with 2 Van's Light waffles, so figured I could scrape together something fun for me and Matt. I started by caramelizing some bananas with a little coconut oil, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice.

I spooned the warm bananas over the toasted waffles, then topped them with some fat free Greek yogurt for extra protein. I also found a few strips of soy "bacon" in the freezer, which served as a side.

After breakfast, we picked up MomMom and headed downtown to exercise our vocal cords with some big time cheering. Matt's mom was running her very first 5K ever!

She's been working so hard with her team at the gym, and it was so great to see her pumped up for the race and leading her teammates on. She had a goal of running the race in 40 minutes, and she beat it with ease!

It's been quite a while since I've participated in a race or fun run, and it gave me the itch to get back on the track.

We spent the rest of the day shopping and taking care of other errands to make sure we have everything we need in case we get stormed in. Including movies. I honestly hardly ever buy movies since it's so easy to just rent them from OnDemand or Red Box, but Matt spotted a huge sale at FYE in the mall, so we popped in to buy a few. Total oldies but goodies!

Lunch was the usual grocery day lunch - another big salad from ShopRite. Good as always.

We had originally planned to go to a party last night, but a babysitter isn't always in the cards. So instead, we invited MomMom and my sister and brother-in-law over for a family movie night, complete with homemade gnocchi, red wine, popcorn and candy.

You better believe we broke The Lost Boys out of its packaging to watch first. It's so cheesy it's amazing. Especially the soundtrack. Best 80s movie ever.

Now it's time to batten down the hatches and ride out the storm. Stay safe, east coast friends!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Week in a Day

The last few days have gone by in a blur - what's new? :) It's been almost a week since I've had a chance to post, but a lot of fun things have been going on around here. Here goes a medley of random happenings!

Matt's latest beer went on tap last weekend, and it's a good one. His famous Widowmaker IPA is smooth and drinkable with the perfect balance of hops. Love this brew! We drank the first few pints with my good friend Dana - who lives in north Jersey and I don't get to see often - sitting by a backyard fire burning my old shoe boxes. We're classy like that.

Peanut butter & banana stuffed french toast made its way onto the breakfast table, and maaaay become part of the standard weekend rotation. Delicious!

Switching all know my love for football season, but I'm having a love/hate relationship with the new schedule this year. 

Love that football is on a minimum of 3 days a week and we've been enjoying the games with friends, but hate that I keep forgetting to update my fantasy team on Thursdays. I can't get used to these Thursday night games every week.

I'm sorry, but how cute are these two little peanuts? All of us parents were hanging out in the bar watching the game, while these two sat at the kitchen island chattering on about who knows what and eating Matt's homemade hot wings. Love it. 

And in other big news, I got a new car this week! After 6 years, I said goodbye to my little silver Corolla. It was actually a little bittersweet. It was the first car I ever bought with my own money, and she served me well through the better part of my 20s. 

But all things must come to an end, and it was time to trade her in. The ridiculous amount of baby gear I carry around at all times called for something a little bigger. For posterity, I had to take a goodbye pic before I left it at the dealership for good, but I've been loving driving my new ride around all week!

In other news...

My review of Serenity Cafe is finally up on Jersey Bites. Check it out if you're local!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Recipe ReDux: Cumin-Scented Winter Squash Soup

This month's Recipe ReDux post is dedicated to the orange colors of autumn. What better way to celebrate the arrival of fall than with a warm, comforting bowl of winter squash soup? (And if squash soup isn't your bag, scroll down past the recipe - there are some other great fall recipes there from other bloggers.)


This soup is thick and creamy without any use of actual cream (it has less than 150 calories a serving!), and is so easy to make. The addition of a small amount of cumin, curry and ginger give it a great warmth as well.

A few weeks ago when I was home in Vermont, a family friend gifted me a huge Blue Hubbard Squash, one of my favorite fall treats. It was enormous!

I absolutely love Blue Hubbards for their creamy, thick consistency and deep flavor. Not to mention the great orange color.

When cooked, the flesh has a lot of body and can be even thicker and smoother than mashed potatoes. Unlike most potatoes, though, these babies are packed with vitamins and antioxidants. Blue Hubbards don't grow by me in New Jersey; I've only ever seen them at one farm here, and they were plucked when still tiny and sold as gourds. So if you can't find a Hubbard, a butternut squash will work just as well for this soup.

To cook the squash, just cut it in half, set it cut side down, and bake it for about an hour at 375, until it becomes tender. 

The skin then becomes almost hard and shell-like, so it's really easy to peel it away from the cooked flesh. Then scoop out the seeds and the flesh. At this point you can store the cooked squash in the fridge or freezer until you're ready to use it. 

To make the soup, you basically just sautee some veggies, then dump the squash and seasonings in the pot and let it cook for an hour or so. Done and done.

I served the soup alongside green apple & smoked cheddar paninis for dinner (and I bet it would go great with these chipotle, butternut squash and pepperjack cheese paninis too), but ate the soup all on its own for lunch the next day. Fall in a bowl!

Cumin-Scented Winter Squash Soup

Serves 6

1 onion, diced
1 carrot, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. mild yellow curry
6 cups cooked winter squash (Blue Hubbard or butternut)
6 cups water or vegetable broth
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. ground ginger
Dash crushed red pepper flakes

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add onions and carrots. Sweat for a few minutes until the onions become translucent, but not brown. Add the garlic, salt, cumin and curry, and cook for one minute more.

Add the squash, water or broth, black pepper, red papper flakes and ginger, stir well until combined, then bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 1-2 hours. Taste soup for seasonings. Using an immersion blender, standing blender or food processor, puree soup until smooth.

Eat immediately, or store in the freezer for 2-3 weeks.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bakery Bike Ride

Morning, friends! It's the weekend again, finally! Last night the weekend started off with dinner and drinks at our friends' Chris & Karla's house, and play date for Riker with their little boy Evan. We had a great time, but it was a bit of a late night and I woke up this morning feeling tired and unmotivated to work out. We had planned to go for a bike ride this morning to get in some outdoor exercise, though, so we put some breakfast together and got moving as soon as Riker woke up.

Matt made us fried egg white sandwiches on whole wheat English muffins with Laughing Cow light cheese. Delish! I also had a glass of apple cider on the side. It's the only juice I ever drink - love the stuff.

After breakfast we took a 20-minute drive to Allaire State Park to ride along the bike path. It's beautiful there.

It was a sunny, warm morning so we saw lots of creatures out and about. Pheasants...


And Riker's favorite of the day...caterpillars!

We completed a 12 mile loop and worked up a nice sweat before calling it a day. I always love taking long bike rides with Matt; we get so little time to just sit and talk, and when we bike ride together we end up having long discussions that have nothing to do with work, daycare, bills, or chores. It's great "us" time and we always feel refreshed afterward.

The park we biked in has a really cute old historic village at the center, so after we finished our ride we decided to take a walk through the village and visit some of the old buildings. 

There's a working railroad as well as a blacksmith, a leather worker, and most importantly, a bakery.

After seeing the sign for freshly baked bread and goodies, we couldn't pass it up. Something about buying a homemade roll or scone from a tiny, historic bakery on a fall day was just too nostalgic to decline.

We shared a freshly baked piece of apple cake and cup of hot coffee. Perfect post-bike ride snack. :) We also picked up some cookies for later on tonight.

It was such a nice morning with my little family. Now we're off to spend the afternoon car shopping, which I'm both excited for and dreading at the same time. Enjoy your Saturday!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Tale of Two Paninis

Before we talk food, I had to share this picture of Riker. He turned 10 months old this week and I can hardly believe it. Look at that little face - I can't take it! He needs a haircut, but I'm procrastinating big time; once those curls and long bangs are gone, a baby he will no longer be. Sigh.

Sooo, dinners have been a little uninspired the last few nights. Busy work days, a day trip to PA for a client visit, and some tiredness left from the weekend all led up to a few nights of easy veggie pasta bowls, raviolis with Laughing Cow and salmon stir-frys.

I haven't shared a new panini concoction in a while though, and we've had two pretty fantastic ones in the last two weeks. If you're in the market for a new dinner sandwich, these are sure to hit the spot.

Panini #1: Tomato Jam, Grilled Onions & Mushrooms and Provolone

This guy makes use of some sauteed onions and mushrooms (olive oil or cooking spray), tomato jam, and sliced cheese on some artisan bread. I used leftover rosemary kalamata olive bread I bought on my Vermont road trip.

I grilled the paninis in the George Forman with some cooking spray, and served them alongside some roasted Brussels sprouts.

Panini #2: Green Apple, Smoked Cheddar and Dijon 

A few days ago I made a big batch of Hubbard squash soup, and it begged for this favorite sandwich of mine. I've eaten this sandwich many times before, but this was the first time I subbed in smoked cheese. Perfection!

Matt had the idea of using soft pita pockets rather than sliced bread, and it was a great choice. Great for dipping.

Off to veg out on the couch and watch some Modern Family. G'night!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Weekend Fun

This weekend went by in a total blur. When I woke up this morning it felt like it should be Saturday, not Monday. :/ Oh well, another work week begins!

Saturday was meant to be a day of crossing things of the to-do list, but everyone in the house was feeling under the weather and a bit grumpy, so Matt decided we all needed to get out of the house and enjoy the beautiful fall weather.

So pumpkin picking we went! We headed out to Emery's Farm, which is the same place I get my organic blueberries for homemade blueberry jam. The place was hopping, and we made sure to take part in all the activities, starting with the corn maze.

And picking out our pumpkins, of course. Two big ones for me, one little one for Riker.

Every time I took his pumpkin away so he'd stop chewing on the stem, the kid threw a temper tantrum. Guess he likes his pumpkins!

Not as much as Matt loves his pies. Every time we come to Emery's Matt insists on getting a pie, because they really are the best. And he can't wait until he gets home - he literally takes a plastic spoon out and eats it right from the box in the parking lot. 

I'm not much into the pie thing, and I'm really not into the donut thing either, but every year I have to have one apple cider donut. It's really a must.

So good! I hope the powdered sugar is distracting you from the terribly grown out nail polish on my thumb. Gah!

When we returned home, unfortunately our sick bug returned and I lost all energy for cooking or anything else. I honestly think exhaustion got the best of me and made me sick...for the last few weeks I've been working really late each night and on the go constantly, and maybe getting sick is your body's way of saying, Stop! Take a break! Get some rest! I gladly obliged. :) It ended up being cups of soup and to bed at 8:00 for this little family. 


I still felt under the weather most of the day on Sunday, so I ended up laying around most of the day trying to rest up, since we had big plans for Sunday night. Late Sunday afternoon, Matt and I headed up to north Jersey for my cousin Chris' wedding night.

The wedding was beautiful. During cocktail hour I snacked on some sushi, calamari and other goodies, but dinner was really delicious. We started with a deconstructed fall salad with poached pears, walnuts and goat cheese.

For my entree, I selected the broiled cod and crab in an Asian glaze with mashed potatoes and patty pan squashes. Love those!

I love details at weddings, and all the little touches were really pretty.

I really loved the flowers. And the cake.

We weren't able to stay too late since Matt and I both had to work this morning, but we had a great time with family while we were there.

Congrats Chris and Christina!