almost gallo pinto

Ok, so let me just start off by saying I know this is not real traditional Costa Rican gallo pinto.

Gallo pinto is literally "painted chicken" even though there is usually no chicken in this dish - a simple mixture of rice and black beans that may as well be the country's national dish!

This is a very close second for flavor, and I'm pretty sure that it will take you back to Costa Rica in your heart...  at least it did for me (I lived in San Jose for a few months many years ago!) and for Navy (his grandparents live there and he just got back from a visit!)!

This recipe was born out of desperation and necessity.  My beautiful, sweet, allergic-to-dairy niece is here spending the weekend with us.  And since we pretty much live on dairy in this family and I didn't plan ahead, I was stumped for a bit.

So, I started scouring the pantry to see what was hiding in there (since I knew there was no way I was going to be able to get the kids out of the pool on this beautiful day to go with me to the store!).

I saw all of my bottles of Salsa Lizano in my cupboard (a traditional Costa Rican sauce that is the main flavor of Gallo Pinto - and only available online or in latin markets!) and immediately had a craving.

Salso Lizano is a wonderful veggie-rich sauce that is hard to describe.  If you can't get your hands on any, you can substitute worcestershire sauce.  It won't be the same, but that's about as close as you'll get!

I couldn't find any black beans in my pantry, but had some garbanzos...  so those would have to do.  I also didn't have any red bell peppers, but I didn't miss them in the final dish, other than for the pop of color!

Other than that, dinner came together quickly and tasted even better than I'd hoped!

I added a can of chicken because this was our whole meal and I wanted a bit more protein in there.  You could easily use a cooked chicken breast instead, or leave it out and serve this with fried or scrambled eggs!

(Gallo Pinto is often served for breakfast in Costa Rica...  using last night's leftover rice and beans!)

Almost Gallo Pinto Recipe

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 (10.5 oz) can chicken or 1 or 2 cooked chicken breasts, diced
1 (15.5 oz) can beans (black, garbanzo, whatever...), drained
3 cups cooked rice, cooled
salt & pepper
1/3 cup Salsa Lizano (or worcestershire sauce if necessary)
1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro (or freeze-dried!)

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat.  Stir in the onions and cook until translucent.  Stir in the chicken and beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Dump in the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through.  Stir in the Salsa Lizano until well mixed, tasting and adding more if desired.  

Season with salt & pepper, to taste, and toss with cilantro just before serving.

Next time I have all the ingredients, I will post the more traditional Gallo Pinto recipe for you all!


Norway on my heart... & a recipe

I am norwegian-american.  (Maybe you guessed by my kids names...  Bjørn & Haakon?)  

Born and raised in America... but with norwegian blood.

We have family, and close friends living over there.  And quite obviously... the tragedy in Oslo & Utoya - just one week ago - absolutely broke my heart.

Norway is such a peaceful country.  A beautiful place full of mountains and fjørds and amazing people and wonderful food.

Not the kind of place you would expect a bombing and horrible shooting-spree to occur.

(Do we ever really expect that kind of tragedy??  But for some reason it shocks me more in Norway than even here on American soil!)

So, with Norway even more on my heart than usual this past week...  I have often caught myself daydreaming of my favorite norwegian treats!

My heart is so full of love for that country and especially its people, and food is, well... a tangible expression of that love.

This little treat has been on my mind several times this week.  If you familiar at all with Norway or Scandinavia, you have likely heard about/seen/tasted smørrebrød - norwegian open-faced sandwiches.

Usually spread with butter and topped with good things like brown gjetost (goat's cheese) and jam, or shrimp salad and cucumber, and almost always beautiful...  they are a staple at every norwegian table.

(photo credit to come - when I can find it!)

My favorite is a simple butter, cheese, cucumber sandwich on dense norwegian bread (sometimes with a thin slice of meat and hard-boiled egg).  I could eat this every morning and night of my life and not grow tired of it!

But lately I  have been changing things up a bit and turn them into little almost-bite-sized snacks...  hearty crackers - topped with my favorite smørrebrød toppings!

(smørrebrød literally means "butter bread".  Now doesn't that just sound good?)  ;o)

Norwegian Open-Faced Sandwich Crackers Recipe

Triscuits (shredded-wheat crackers), or some other hearty cracker
sliced cheese (your choice!  cheddar, jarlsberg, swiss, jack)
sliced english cucumbers
garnishes (mayo, mustard, red pepper flakes, etc.)

Layer each cracker with a slice of cheese and a slice of cucumber.  Top with a bit of crushed red pepper if you'd like, and a sprinkle of salt if you are not using salty Triscuits!

I like to put a slice of hard-boiled egg and a tiny dab of mayo or mustard on top sometimes!



Join me in continuing to keep the people of Norway and those who love her in your prayers as they heal through this tragedy, won't you?


raspberry rhubarb crumble

I think we've reached the end of rhubarb season around here...  and that makes me incredibly sad.

My rhubarb plants got choked out by weeds this year (I know, I know...) and I never got around to buying our local grocery's 15lb bag to stock my freezer...  so I am now out of luck until next year.

I must say, though...  this crisp was the perfect way to send the season out with a bang!

Rhubarb perfectly balanced with raspberries (fresh or frozen work fine here!) and a sweet buttery crumble topping.

I keep my crumbles pretty tart, because I like to serve them warm with ice cream.  If you don't want to serve yours with ice cream, feel free to up the sugar a bit in the fruit mixture!

Raspberry Rhubarb Crumble Recipe

4 cups raspberries (about 1 1/2 pints)
4 cups chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

In a large bowl, gently toss together the raspberries, rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch & lemon juice.  Dump into a 9x13" baking dish.

In another large bowl, stir together the brown sugar, flour, oats, spices & salt.  Mix in the butter with a fork, or your hands, until everything is moistened.

Sprinkle the topping mixture in clumps evenly over the fruit in the baking dish.  Bake for 1 hour, or until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is golden brown.

Serve with ice cream or sweetened whipped cream!


not-so Green Smoothie

We all know we need to eat more greens right?

Dark, leafy greens... as in a big salad.  But really, how often can we (and do we?!) eat big green salads, especially without dousing them in not-so-good-for-us salad dressing?!

Well, here's the solution...  Green smoothies!

Yep, I said green smoothies.  I know, I know...  green is not the most appetizing color of a beverage, and in fact this smoothie is not even 'green'...  but I am talking more about the philosophy of this smoothie than of the actual color.

Green smoothies are about upping your daily intake of dark leafy greens.  All it takes is some greens (anything really...  the darker the better!) and some fruit!  Simple, right?

This smoothie is a mixture of banana, frozen berries, mixed greens/spinach & a bit of ice and water to thin it out.  That's it!

It's really more of a method than a recipe...

Throw some fruit in a blender, add in as much 'greens' as you can fit, blend until smooth, add in a bit more fruit, water or juice if the greens are too strong and enjoy a healthier you.  That's it!

The bonus:  My two-year old and 7-month-old both LOVE these smoothies!  (As do I!  Although I can't seem to get my husband or 9-year old to try them!)

We try to 'green smoothie' as close to every day as we possibly can!

Green Smoothie Recipe #1 (berry)

1 banana
2 big handfuls or more mixed greens/spinach
1-1 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries
1/2-1 cup water

Blend until as smooth as you'd like... using more or less water to get the consistency you want!

or try this one:

Green Smoothie Recipe #2 (tropical)

1 banana
2 big handfuls or more mixed greens/spinach
1 1/2 cups frozen or fresh pineapple chunks
1/2 cup mango or other tropical fruit nectar or puree

Blend until as smooth as you'd like... using a bit of water to get the consistency you want!

(I use my food processor for these because my blender broke...  and it works great!)


why I love bedtime...

and it's not exactly why you'd think.

Yes, I do love that it means another day is done, and the time for rest is upon us.

Some days, more than others, I am amazed to have made it through one more day.

But most days, a part of me is sad to have to say goodbye for the long hours that are 'bedtime'.

Yes, I may be thrilled for the first hour or two after the boys are in bed, but it's not long before I miss them.

I miss these breaths of life that fill my heart with so much pride and joy and love and just...  fullness.

But the real reason I love bedtime is this:

I love the quiet time before sleep finally takes us.

The time when hearts are quiet and heads are clean and nothing is better than mommy's hugs and song after song after song until we are both so tired we can barely keep our eyes open.

I love holding my sweet baby while he nurses himself to sleep...  while holding onto my hand and resting assured in the love that my heart pours out over him.  Calm, happy.

I love checking on my sleeping boys one last time before sleep takes me as well...  and my heart aches with the love that fills it.

I love bedtime.  I will miss bedtime... maybe most of all.


chicken & pasta with pesto cream sauce

We got a new Trader Joe's near us (ok... it's about an hour away, but out here in the boonies that counts as 'near'!) and went to check it out last weekend.

The first thing I spotted before we even walked in the doors was a big display of basil plants.  I couldn't resist the intoxicating aroma and immediately snatched one up!

Now, what better way is there to enjoy fresh basil than in a great homemade pesto sauce?!

Well, maybe torn up all over a bowl of fresh nectarines and vanilla ice cream!!  But that's beside the point...

Anyways...  I have a great recipe for a pesto chicken penne dish already, but I loved this idea from The Pioneer Woman to toss the pesto into a cream sauce!

What we're doing is essentially combining pesto and alfredo into one dish... which is pretty much genius, in my book!  (Thanks, Ree!)

Chicken & Pasta with a Pesto Cream Sauce Recipe
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

2 chicken breasts, sauteed in olive oil, with salt & pepper
     (Or use the meat off of one 'cheater chicken' from the store!)
1 pound short pasta, cooked al dente (penne, rotini, or whatever you have on hand!)
2 cups fresh basil
3/4 cup toasted pine nuts*, divided (1/4 cup + 1/2 cup)
1 garlic clove
salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup (or so) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cream
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (+ more for topping!)

Cook the chicken, set aside. Cook the pasta, drain and set aside.

In your food processor, place the basil, 1/4 cup of the toasted pine nuts, the garlic clove, salt & pepper and red pepper flakes. Pulse until everything is finely chopped. 

While the food processor is running, slowly stream in the olive oil until you have a smooth, creamy consistency.  Dump the pesto into a small bowl and stir in 1/2 cup of the grated parmesan.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, heat up the heavy cream and butter until combined and heated.  Turn off the heat and stir in the pesto, the chicken, the pasta, and the remaining 1/2 cup of pine nuts.

Serve with additional parmesan cheese sprinkled on the top of each dish!

*To toast the pine nuts, place them in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until golden brown.  Set aside to cool before using.


rhubarb crumble bars & the Secret Recipe Club!

I was assigned to Lady Behind The Curtain's blog for this months Secret Recipe Club (click on the link to go find out what that's about...  it's super fun!)!

When I was looking around her blog to see what I wanted to make, I stumbled across her Boysenberry Bars Recipe and I knew immediately that it was one I wanted to try!

These bars are amazing.  Absolutely amazing.  So incredibly delicious, easy, and satisfying... yummm!!  They basically taste like a fruit crumble in a simple bar form.  Lots of delicious topping and easy to serve, freeze if desired, and eat!

I kept the base & crumble part very similar to her version (except for adding a bit more butter and using my mixer like the original Pioneer Woman Recipe calls for, because I like the chunkier texture that allows), but instead of using boysenberry or apricot preserves, I used my homemade Rhubarb Sauce!

I make rhubarb sauce in the summer and freeze it in smaller batches to enjoy all year long...  in yogurt, over ice cream, or just by the spoonful!  This recipe is a perfect way to showcase that beautiful sauce, but you could easily substitute any kind of preserves or freezer jam that you like!

Rhubarb Crumble Bars Recipe
adapted from Lady Behind the Curtain & The Pioneer Woman

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup butter, cut into smallish pieces
11/2 - 2 cups rhubarb sauce

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Line a 9"square baking dish with foil or parchment paper and then butter the foil.

In your mixer bowl, place the first 7 ingredients (everything except for the butter and sauce) and mix until combined.  Add in the butter and mix until crumbly and combined.

Dump about two-thirds of the mixture (no need to measure, just guesstimate!) into your prepared pan and press firmly.  Spread the rhubarb sauce evenly over the crust.

Take the remaining crust mixture and crumble it evenly over the top.  Press down gently.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.  Let cool completely in the pan and then lift out by the foil and cut into bars to serve.


french silk Samoas® pie

Some days you just need to bake a pie, you know?

Or is that just me??

Well, either way...  this was one of those days.  I needed to bake a pie.  A beautiful, creamy, satisfying, preferably chocolate, pie.

It's not that it was a particularly miserable day that needed cheering up...  in fact, quite the opposite!  It was a lovely day of family, sunshine and laziness.

But...  these darn new allergies have me pretty twisted up and miserable inside!  I can't see straight, I can't breathe well, I can't think clearly...

In fact, I have spent countless hours these past few weeks dreaming of ways to rip off my face so that I can get to the insane itching underneath!!

Enough about me though...  let's get back to the pie!

Who doesn't love french silk pie?  (Unless of course, you don't like chocolate...  in which case I can't really help you!)

And I took it a few steps further with a toasted coconut crust and a caramel drizzle that make it taste just like a Samoas® Girl Scout cookie!  Yummm...

Now, please don't be scared of the raw eggs in this pie!  Eggs have come a long way in the past several years and the dangers just aren't as high as they used to be.

Granted, I only use organic eggs which makes me more comfortable with eating them raw...  and I am not pregnant, nor do I plan on serving large quantities of this pie to my toddler or baby!

By the way... the husband decided this pie should be called "I Want Samoa Pie".  I guess that means he liked it!  :o)

French Silk Samoas® Pie Recipe
adapted from the naptime chef

2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup butter, melted & cooled
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 oz (3 squares) unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
store-bought dulce de leche or caramel sauce

Preheat the oven to 300ºF.  In a medium bowl, stir together the coconut and butter.  Press onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9" pie plate.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the melted chocolate and vanilla until combined.

Add in 2 of the eggs and beat on HIGH speed for exactly 5 minutes.  Add in the other 2 eggs and beat for an additional 5 minutes exactly.

Spoon this mixture into the cooled crust and place in the fridge to chill and set for at least 4 hours, or cover with wrap and set for up to 2 days.

Combine the heavy cream and powdered sugar and beat on high until light and fluffy.  Pile the whipped cream onto the chilled pie, cut, and serve topped with caramel sauce!


candy bar brownies

You know those BIG bags of miniature chocolate candy bars they sell at Costco?

The ones with itty-bitty snickers, milky ways, 3 musketeers, baby ruths and butterfingers?

The ones that seem to jump into your cart all on their own when you shop hungrily before a mini-road trip?

Well, I have one of those bags in my house.  Hiding in my laundry room actually.

(Hiding from me, not you!  If you come over to my house, please go into my laundry room and eat as many as you'd like so they stop staring at me!)

Anyways... this morning I woke up thinking about brownies.  (What?  Don't you wake up thinking about brownies in the morning??)

And since I have been staring at that bag of miniature temptations, I decided to use some of them up in these brownies.

I started with my regular Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies, took away some of the chocolate chips, pressed miniature chocolates into the top and then when frosted it with chocolate chips at the end.  I think it was a winner.  The only problem was coming up with the right name!

Candy Bar Surprise Brownies?  Hidden Temptations Brownies?  Candy Machine Brownies?  Chocolate Overload Brownies??  Diabetic-Coma Brownies???

It all got to be too much.  So I sat down and ate another brownie and decided to just stick with simple.  Candy Bar Brownies.  Really...  what more do I need to say?

Candy Bar Brownies Recipe

3/4 cup dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup butter, melted & divided (1/3 cup + 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups flour
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided (1 cup + 2 cups)
24 or so miniature chocolates, unwrapped

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Line a 9x13" pan with parchment paper and butter the paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and baking soda.  Whisk in 1/3 cup of melted butter until smooth and wet.  Stir in the boiling water, whisking until smooth and thick.

Whisk in the remaining 1/3 cup melted butter & the sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt until smooth.

In a small bowl take about 1 tablespoon flour out of your measured 1 1/3 cups and toss it with the 1 cup of chocolate chips.  Whisk the remaining flour into the batter until just smooth and combined.

Stir in the flour-dusted 1 cup of chocolate chips and spread the batter into the prepared pan.  Press the miniature chocolates evenly spaced into the top of the batter.

(The idea being that each brownie you cut & serve will have a mystery hidden candy bar in the center!  Fun, huh?)

Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the edges are firm and the center is just set.  Sprinkle the remaining 2 cups chocolate chips evenly over the top of the brownies and place the pan back into the oven for 3 minutes.

Remove from the oven again and smooth out the now melted chocolate chips evenly with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula.

Let cool completely and chill in the fridge for a few hours to let the chocolate top harden again.  Lift from the pan and cut into squares to serve.


what it is...

this blog, I mean.

What this blog is...  is my journal.  The place I share my thoughts and my dreams, my questions and my randomness.

It's my recipe book.  The place I write down my favorite recipes, so that my children will have them all in one place someday.  So that they can recreate their memories, and even share their history with their families...  for generations to come.  So that they will know me now, when we are beyond this place.

It is my children's baby books...  their milestones and struggles.  Our life.  Who we are.

It's my journal, my recipe book, and my children's baby books...  all wrapped up into one happy little space.

One place where I can be me.  Just me.  Who I am.  Hoping that someday, someone will see me.  And be proud.


why I don't leave my babies in the church nursery...

I stumbled upon this article by Metropolitan Mama the other day and I was so happy to hear someone else say what I have been thinking and feeling for so long.

I have always felt a bit judged and looked down upon for not putting my babies in the nursery from weeks old, so that I (or should I say others?) can sit through a sermon undisturbed.

Now, don't get me wrong...  I am happy that nurseries are available for people who want to use them, and I love the people who volunteer their time to take care of our kids!

I happily put my 2 year old in the nursery, now that he loves to go there, but I just haven't ever been able to wrap my mind around putting my little, helpless babies into someone else's care just so I can sit still for a while.

I mean, God gave us these beautiful babies to care for and love and cherish, so why should we push them aside in his house?  My babies are never happier than when they are strapped to my chest listening to me sing worship to Him!

So, here's the condensed version of Metropolitan Mama's Top 5 Reasons I Don't Leave My Babies In The Church Nursery (click on the link to go read her full version!)

1.  I don't want my baby to cry.  Now that's just a given for me!  Not that my babies will never cry...  I am not delusional... but I will not cause them to cry for no good (to me) reason.

2.  I don't want someone else to change my child's diaper.  Ok, this might just be me (and her!) but I just prefer to change my kids diapers.  Maybe it's just that I like to know that they are cleaned to my (OCDish) standards...  I really don't know.  I just know that I am most comfortable with taking care of my own children's privates (whenever possible!) and not having others deal with that area.

3.  I don't want my kids to get sick.  Yeah, I know this one is kind of pointless, because there is no way to keep them from ever getting sick...  but I have been in that same situation, where a mom is telling me on Saturday (or Sunday morning) about her child's fever and vomiting, and then I see her dropping them off in the nursery!

4.  The ratio of kids to adults is too high.  Ok, this one kind of depends on the child's age...  I don't mind if my toddler is one of a large group, as he is most likely happily playing away.  But throw a younger baby into the mix, and all of a sudden that one adult (or two, if you're lucky) has only 50% of their attention to give to all the rest of the kids!

5.  Most of all, I want to be with my kids.  This is really the heart of the matter...  I like being with my kids.  I love holding my babies!  I just can't get enough of having them in my arms, snuggled up in a baby carrier or playing on my lap.  I'm not yearning for a break from them (until they're 2, that is!) and I just don't want to let them go.

It's not long before they are running away to play with their friends and don't have time to snuggle in mommy's arms anymore.  I have to get my fill while I can!  :o)

Disclaimer:  Please know that I don't judge you, and your choices on this (not-even-very-controversial) topic.  I just wanted to share my heart, as I have often felt questioned about this and hope this helps someone understand where I'm coming from!

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