Thursday, April 23, 2015

Exploring RVA: Proper Pie

Now that it's not 15 degrees out, some of these Exploring RVA posts should probably include non-food places ;) Where should we go?

Last fall, we finally went to Proper Pie! I feel like we were the last people in RVA to try it out, and I'm not sure why we waited so long. Church Hill is a part of town we don't visit much, so we need to change that because the views of the city from the top of the hill are amazing!

I love the design of the space - concrete floors, exposed duct work that is so popular around here, and industrial style decorating that I think is timeless. I think I remember some of the floor was left unpainted so you could see some logos from previous tenants of the building - but I could be wrong.

They post the available flavors every day on Facebook, so check out their page before you head out to make sure they have something you'll like. There are some flavors that are always there, but they also love to try new things.

The savory pies come in these adorable bags - no plate necessary because they recommend you eat them with your hands like an empanada. I didn't do that because Idon'tknowwhy so I asked for a fork. They obliged.

I chose the savory mince and cheese. It tasted like homemade pot roast, but the sauce was really thick so it wasn't soupy. Sooooooo tasty! The meat was not in bug chunks so the texture was consistent throughout, and the crust was buttery and flaky and so, so delicious.
Nehi orange was a bonus!

For dessert I chose a Dutch apple pie. I think I had this once before when Bonnie and Ashley went there for lunch and brought me a treat when I met up with them later in the day. The crumb topping was crunchy and the apples were still in tact - I hate when you bite into apple pie and the apples have turned to mush. Ew. This was perfect!

After we finished our lunch we took a drive around Church Hill - so pretty in the fall!

My only complaint about this place, and this is really stretching it, is that there wasn't much seating. We went on a Sunday at lunchtime, so it was understandably busy, but there are only a few tables in the space. There is a also bar with stools where you can see the kitchen, and another bar along the front window which is where we sat. I was right next to the door and felt like I was in the way every time someone came in. There isn't much space for them to add more seating, so this isn't feedback they can act on, and I feel like they've made good use of the space they have at the front of the house.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pantry Organization

It only took 10 years of living in this house with an actual pantry to figure out how to organize it!

Take a look at this before shot - so gross:

You can sorta tell I was trying to keep the stuff organized. Similar items are corralled near each other, but there was no real organization. I had some bins for flour/sugar/snacks, but the bins were all different sizes so they didn't stack very well, and some had lids/some did not. If there was a sale on canned vegetables and I stocked up, they were put on different shelves wherever there was space. I never knew what I had, which made putting together meals difficult.

It was just not working for me. So let's fix it!

First, I took everything out and threw away anything that was expired/about to expire as well as items we would never use (I'm looking at you, big crinkly bag with exactly 4 croutons inside and 'Christmas in a jar' that I'll never simmer on the stove). 

Then I put everything into these categories to figure out how much real estate I'd need to dedicate to each:
  • baking sundries - extracts, baking spices, baking soda/powder, cocoa
  • baking dry goods - open flour/sugar/powdered sugar
  • backup baking dry goods - sealed packages of flour/sugar that I'm not currently using
  • grains and starchy sides
  • peanut butter/honey - this probably won't need its own category in anyone else's house, but I'm a fan of peanut butter ;)
  • bulk bins of salt & pepper
  • breakfast - cereal, oats, pancake mix
  • chips and snacks
  • canned goods
  • pasta
I asked for a 3-tiered can stacker/organizer for Christmas last year (and got it!) so canned goods had a plan.  Also, I knew I wanted to move all my dry pasta and open containers of baking dry goods to some glass jars I had been purchasing over the last few months from IKEA. I picked up a few every time I went in different sizes with the beginnings of this pantry makeover idea in my mind. Don't they look so cute? 
{Note} If I were super DIY OCD I'd put chalkboard labels on the jars like everyone else in the blog world, but if 
you can clearly see that it's quinoa vs. orzo, why do you need a label? If they were frosted glass, go for it!

Once my cans and jars were ready, I went out in search of some bins for everything else - 4 small and 2 large. If I were doing this project now I'd get them at Dollar Tree ( I am obsessed) but at the time I went to Big Lots and found 4 identical bins that looked like the perfect size for my smaller categories. They didn't have any larger bins in stock, but I knew that the 2 larger bins would be together on the top shelf, so they could be different in style without making me twitch.

I used those 4 bins for baking extracts, grains/starches, backup dry goods, and pb/honey/salt/pepper:

I found the top 2 bins at Target for way more than I would have paid at Big Lots for matching ones, but whatever. They look complementary at least. As you can see at the top left, we clearly have a chip problem. Top right is breakfast stuff. There is 1 random bin beside the can organizer that has snacks like granola, dried fruit, and almonds. Since snacks like that tend to rotate pretty quickly in this house based on our current cravings, I just used a plastic shoebox sized bin because it fits well in that corner. 

So there you have it. Our working pantry system. Now when Dave needs something he can find it, and when I'm meal planning I can easily see what we have and need!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Easter Weekend

The long Easter weekend started off with a sinus infection! Yuck! I went to the doctor as soon as I felt that familiar headache to make sure I got some good drugs and would be able to enjoy the holiday weekend! When the doctor asked me if I had a drug preference (yes, yes I do) I knew I would be good to go by Saturday.

After we finished at the farmers' market and checked out the book exchange, we headed over to my brother's house so I could deliver Reed's Easter basket. Luckily they were free at the last minute, because even though I've had R's basket ready for several weeks I never made any plans with either them or my parents, who have hosted us for Easter the past few years! OOPS!

In addition to his Easter basket we brought over 15 eggs filled with candy to have an impromptu Easter egg hunt in their backyard. I figured he'd already done at least one other hunt, whether at school or at a local event, but can you have too many egg hunts? Nope.

We snuck in the backyard (well, their dog ratted us out) to hide the eggs, and after Reed had gone through the basket we brought him, we went outside so he could find the eggs. He was so excited to have this hunt all to himself because he had been to a hunt that morning where all the older kids hogged the eggs and the younger kids got the shaft. This hunt had no competition!

He very thoroughly walked through the backyard (with a little help from Uncle Dave) and shouted "I FOUND ONE I FOUND ONE!" every time he spotted an egg. He also might have said "I'm so good at this!" Haha!

He found them all and then we went inside to check out his loot. Dave had convinced me to mismatch the egg colors because it was more fun - but Reed and I agreed that they should match, so he opened every single one and "fixed" them.

We played a few games of hide and seek and played outside for a bit, and then we headed home.

Sunday we did it all over again with our friends! We staged an egg hunt in the backyard - this time the eggs contained no candy because these kids had all been to several hunts already and were candied out, but it was just as fun! While Dave, Bonnie, and Eddie were hiding the eggs I ran inside to get the kids excited, saying the Easter Bunny made a last-minute surprise bonus visit! It worked and they all came running - no shoes, no coats, no baskets! Haha!

These girls and some new friends hunted those eggs and played their hearts out!
taken by eddie, bonnie, dave, and ashley

After dinner we all crowded around the TV to watch the Little Mermaid. Not just the kids - all of us. Who doesn't love the Little Mermaid?

Great weekend! :) Hope you all had a very Happy Eeaster!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Chicken Nachos

Whooo boy, these were good!

I have been watching YouTube videos instead of reading blogs lately. I'll make a separate post on some of my favorites, but OrganizedJen is right at the top of the list. She's neurotic in a good way (or at least in a way I can relate to), super organized (hence the name), and her husband is very talented in the kitchen/on the grill.

They recently posted a video showing how to make his chicken nachos and I almost didn't make it to the end of the video before I raided the pantry to see if we had everything I needed to make them. I was in luck! Here's their recipe:

I made modifications based on the fact that I wanted to eat these that night for dinner and didn't have time for a lot of those steps. Also we don't have a smoker and I don't like dark meat. They still came out delicious.

Here's how I recommend you make these - this timeline assumes dinner is served at 6pm:
  • 2pm: coat 1-2 lb.s of boneless, skinless chicken breasts in 3 tbsp. of olive oil and 3 tbsp. of taco seasoning (here's how I make my taco seasoning)
  • 2pm: put chicken in the oven for 2 hours at 250*
  • 4pm: take the chicken out of the oven, cover it with foil, and let it rest
  • 4pm: put 1 can of (drained) kidney beans and 1 can of (drained) black beans in the crock pot with a cup of stock or water; throw in another tbsp. of taco seasoning if you like spice like we do!
  • 430pm: shred the chicken and throw it in the crock pot with the beans
  • 530pm: preheat oven to 425* and start assembling your nachos (see gif below)
  • 545pm: put nachos in the oven long enough to melt the cheese
  • 6pm: EAT

An assembly gif for fun:

We topped our nachos with some sour cream, pico, and guac - make your own if you desire. I did not desire:


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Book Exchange

A few weeks ago we were driving home from a friend's house and Dave spotted something just beyond the sidewalk near Libbie & Grove. He pulled over and we found that it was a Book Exchange box! It was too dark to really investigate it and find out which books were inside to trade, so we made a mental note to come back in the daytime.

So this past Saturday we went on an adventure.

First stop was the Farmers' Market at St. Stephens - it's my favorite, and just happens to be a block away from the Book Exchange. It was the first outdoor market of the season and I wasn't going to miss it! There weren't too many booths there so early in the season, but we still got some good stuff - 2 Fuji apples, some local honey from Maury Flores (can't find a website or any other record of them online?):

The booth where I normally get zucchini/squash had a ton of herbs!

We picked up some oregano and purple basil:

We loaded our loot into the car and then walked down to the Book Exchange - it was such a beautiful day out and Libbie & Grove area was bustling! Tons of people on walks and running errands - what a friendly neighborhood, too! We brought two books to add to the box - Into the Wild and Silver Linings Playbook. Both good books but neither of us will read them again so we thought we'd pass them along.

We didn't find any books we needed (Jane Eyre was tempting but I have so many books in my TBR pile it'd be a while before I'd get to it) so we left empty-handed. Better to give than receive, right? :)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Zucchini Tacos

I know, I know. WHAT?

Trust me.

Farmers' Market season is my favorite season. Well, it really spans 3 of the 4 seasons, so it's more like my favorite weekend activity. St. Stephen's hosts my favorite market and if I don't have anything going on between 8am-noon on Saturdays, that's where you can find me. I have my favorite booths, ones I don't even look at because I hate their faces, and others that have great stuff but it's just not for me. I have very clever names for them like 'Goochland potato guy' and 'the one with the huge booth and lots of cilantro' and 'that other big one that's more expensive but their tomatoes always look better so let's go over there before we leave'. Love.

BUT - towards the end of its run, I get sick of zucchini and don't even want to think about eating another squash. In spite of this we keep buying them because they're good for us and we like them and we'll miss them in December. So in an attempt to find another way to use them besides grilling them with olive oil/salt/pepper (boring) I asked Bonnie, my recipe database extraordinaire, for an idea.

She delivered. She had made tacos using the zucchini instead of the taco shell. Good way to consume a vegetable that's covered in tasty goodness rather than on its own, saves some carbs, and supports local farmers. Win-win-win. So we tried it - and it was delicious!

All you do is cut the zucchini longways and scrape out the seeds and enough other guts to create a nice sized well for your taco filling of choice (I use ground turkey or beef), and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until the zucchini is fork tender.

Add your toppings (avocado and cilantro from the huge booth!) and enjoy! These are so good that I'm looking forward to making these a lot this summer.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Candy-free Easter Baskets

I love spoiling the kids in my life when it comes to holidays and birthdays. I know life isn't about presents, but it's so cute to see their little faces when they get a surprise! :)

My nephew can slam some chocolate so he is the exception here and will be gifted some candy, but I have never seen these 3 little girls' parents feed them chocolate. Never. Maybe they do, but I've never seen it so I don't want to give their kid something they don't usually let them have.

So this is how I create an Easter basket that contains no chocolate. Note - this is a random assortment of characters because I pulled things from each basket. I guess a kid could be into both Batman and Ariel, though.
  • Socks - you can find these really cheap just about anywhere in cute designs. One of the girls in deep into Curious George but it's near impossible to find merchandise other than online. Hopefully this monkey-who-clearly-isn't-George will be a good stand-in. :)
  • Crazy straw - I got these for the older kids to make drinking out a real cup more fun
  • Flash cards
  • Stickers - I will claim amnesia when these end up on the inside of the car window. What stickers? I would never give a baby stickers!
  • Slinky - the jingle says it all: it's a wonderful toy
  • Ellie is obsessed with balls and we might throw them around the house when I watch her. I thought a really soft one might be better for our little game
  • Crayons - you can never have too many, plus Batman!
  • Clothes - Target and Babies R Us always have cheap ($30$5) separates on sale in the spring that are just too cute to pass up! To keep things cheap I got 1 piece for each kid, either a shirt or leggings in some pattern or print that matches their personality. I got ones for Agnes with little ballet shoes on them since she's enthusiastically been watching ballet recently
  • Bubbles - all the kids love them. Bonus points if Uncle Dave pretends the bubbles are poison and have to be popped before they touch his skin!
  • Character trinkets - these are cheap from Party City and might not last more than a month, but they'll provide some entertainment while they last. 
  • Band-aids - they make these for just about every character (except Curious George!)

Other ideas:

  • Puzzle
  • Movie, book, or CD (Agnes will probably get the Annie soundtrack if I can freaking find it - why wouldn't they make the original soundtrack more available since Annie is a thing again? I refuse to buy her the new version. I'm an Annie purist.)
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Colorful hair bands
I had to control myself - every time I brought home a bag from Target or Party City I got the side eye from Dave. He knows the baskets are overflowing at this point - that pair of heart pants in the picture is teetering on top only secured by the tissue paper surrounding the basket handle.

I already mentioned that my Batman- and Bubble Guppies-loving nephew will get some chocolate since he loves it, but each little girl is just getting a snack-size bag of veggie sticks because they all love them! Dave can pound some veggie sticks too - he eats like a toddler!

I found the baskets at Party City for $1.79 and used some Dollar tree ribbon and washi tape to dress them up for Easter:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Breakfast Bake

I bought a bunch of quinoa and we haven't been using it as frequently as I thought we would. I love it as a side with our dinners instead of having rice all the time, but to switch it up a bit I decided to make something sweet with it. Not sure how healthy this is, but it's probably better than cake, right?

Here's what you need (I used this recipe from POPSUGAR and modified it a bit based on our tastes and what we had in the pantry):
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1-2 apples, depending on their size (I used 1 huge Honeycrisp)
  • 1/4 cup Craisins
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups almond milk (use whatever kind of milk you like, you just need the liquid)
  • 1/4 cup agave (recipe called for maple syrup)
  • 1/3 cup almonds, chopped

It was really easy to put this together:
  • stir together quinoa, cinnamon and nutmeg
  • pour into greased 8x8 pan
  • add layer of diced apples
  • add layer of Craisins
  • in a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and agave/syrup and pour into the pan
  • stir a bit to make sure everything is saturated
  • sprinkle chopped almonds on top

Bake at 350 degrees for an hour - when you take it out it should be mostly set but there may be a little bit of liquid that will disappear as it cools.

Once it cools to room temperature, cover and put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, cut a piece, throw it in the microwave and enjoy!

I hope you enjoy it, because I didn't. Quinoa has no flavor - it's all about what you add to it - so if I make this again, I'd throw everything into a bowl and combine so the quinoa is coated with all those delicious flavors. Assembled according to the recipe, the egg/milk mixture didn't penetrate the quinoa layer - so it tastes like apple/craisins/egg/milk/almonds on top of baked quinoa rather than one cohesive "breakfast bar". Blech.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Fayth's Housewarming Party

My friend's MIL invited some friends, family, and coworkers over for a fun craft day!

She recently moved into a new house, so she gave us the grand tour - her craft room is awesome! Her husband built her this desk with tons of storage for her various crafting pursuits. Everything was perfectly organized, in true Fayth fashion.

You can tell that she has put her heart into every detail and every inch of this house. This vignette displays some family photos and handkerchiefs belonging to her mom.

Ellie-belly came with us, and she was the main entertainment for the day. We spent time reading books and putting all her stuffed animals down for a nap. Ellie was insistent that she wasn't tired, but she wanted her friends to be rested, I guess? ;) She's very independent these days and was practicing putting on and taking off her shoes and socks.

Eventually she gave up and just put her shoes on her hands. Whatevs.

For the crafting portion of the day, Fayth had stations set up where we could practice wood carving, cross stitch, card making, and/or make ornaments out of plastic beads. I waited for my turn while watching how the others fared - the woodworking looked easier than it actually was.

Fayth had a ton of crafting beads in several colors, so we created ornaments in whatever pattern we wanted. Once we created a design with the beads (I made a simple rectangular shape using University of Richmond colors), she melted them in the oven for 20 minutes to create a stained glass effect. Then she used a Dremel to drill a hole for the string.

She had little goodie bags for us all to take home - what a nice hostess!

It was fun spending the afternoon with some people I already love and some new ladies, and I always love playing with my Ellie-belly! :)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Charlotte turns 2!

The kids in my life are growing up entirely too fast! I can't believe my nephew is already 4 and will be in school soon! Agnes is 3 going on 16, and little Charlotte is already 2! How did this happen?!

We celebrated her birthday last weekend with lots of gifts and cake, as you do. The party was at her house so she was in her comfort zone. I love this art wall her parents have created - it's her own little art gallery in the family room!

She got a ton of gifts and had a great time tearing the tissue paper out of the bag and throwing it, to reveal whatever awesome thing was inside :)

She got a little shy when we sang to her - can't blame her. I don't like all those people looking at me either! So she stayed close to mama's side and then blew out her candle.

Happy birthday, pretty girl!