Friday, November 26, 2010

apple sausage dressing.

I'm exhausted.  Are you exhausted?  That said, here's my recipe for Pretty Mommy's Holiday Recipe Exchange. (Make sure to check out Michelle's Cranberry Bread and Torrie's recipe for Turkey Gumbo.  Hope you saved the carcass!)

Allison's Apple Sausage Dressing (serves 8-10)
1/4 cup of unsalted butter 
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped fennel (about 1 large bulb)
2 tart apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds hot Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh sage finely chopped
8 cups day old *bread, cubed (see cook's note #1 please)
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste 
1 cup chicken stock

Melt butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Saute onion, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add celery and fennel and saute until tender about 10 minutes.  Remove form heat; add apple, sausage, sage, bread, and salt.  Season to taste with pepper and mix well.  Add the chicken stock, a little at a time, to moisten until the mixture just holds together. (You might not use all of the stock.)

Place dressing in a large covered baking dish and bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes.  Take the cover off the last few minutes so the top gets brown and crusty.

Cook's Notes

1.  I use *cornbread in this recipe.  But you can also use a large loaf of day old sourdough bread, which is delish too.  Actually, any old bread will do!  I know there can be some (household) controversy over bread vs. cornbread stuffing.  In fact,  we got to my parents' last night and I discovered that my mom had made a second non-cornbread dressing!  Oh, and and I should mention that there were only SEVEN of us, two of which were the girlies, and you know whose stuffing they ate!  (REALLY mom????!!!!!)  

2. I use a combination of sweet Italian and spicy Italian sausage so that the girlies can and will eat it.

2.  Don't save this recipe for the holidays!  It's yummy and SO easy.  Half it up and make it for dinner whenever.

3.  Leave the bread out and you've got a wonderful saute to serve with eggs served any way.  

4.  I host Christmas morning and plan on trying the saute mixture (minus the apples and bread) in a frittata.  

Hope everyone enjoyed her Thanksgiving!  We are getting our tree today.  : )

Thursday, November 25, 2010

thankful thursdays.

dear eyesore in the middle of our bedroom and (sometimes) bane of my existence (aka my treadmill,)

thank you for providing space for a quick 30 minute respite.  although forced upon me (by me,) i am now thoroughly refocused on the abundance in my life (rather than the stress of today.)  and as always, thanks for the single opportunity to safely belt out songs to my ipod.  my talentless inner rock star is swelling with joy.  in addition, i'll be enjoying that cornbread stuffing with childlike abandon later thanks to you.

gobble, gobble-

thanks for everything sparky!

Happy Thanksgiving.  I am truly thankful for all the amazing generous loving people in my life, espcially (but not limited to) Sparky, the girlies Ava and G, my brother, my parents, and the hotties.  Thank you for creating a life of splendor and abundance for me.  I love you.

Hope everyone has a great Turkey day! xoxo


So here I am stressed out with the holidays.  And yet, somehow, I find the time to window shop (on-line of course.)  Procrastination much?  I definitely love me some stripes and dots, with a little sparkle thrown in for good measure.

sparkles and stripes dress from ua

dance the polka dot dress from ua

sailor sweater from j.crew.

must love dots dress by kate spade

striped splendid cardi from nordstom

jimmy choo leopard "dots" from nordstom

Super thankful for one of my favorite forms of distraction.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

the night before.

Remember when you'd come home for Thanksgiving during those blessed college years (and for many adult years after?)  The Wednesday night before, you'd meet up with all your old high school friends at a local bar, have a few beers,  listen to a live band, and catch up with everyone.  I'm not sure what, but something's stirred up a little bit of nostalgia in me for those simpler days.  Perhaps it's the infiltration of Facebook and the fact that I now "see" all my old friends on a weekly basis.  (Oh, who am I kidding? A daily basis!)  Or maybe it's that fact that Thanksgiving is actually a lot of work, and even though I really love to cook, it can be a tad overwhelming. (Everyone should go thank their mothers right about now.)

me in my junior year of college

Anyway, anybody (local) going to Hennesey's tonight?  If you are, would you have a beer for me and touch the Vic's sign too?  Thanks!

Debbie's "The Best You Ever Did Taste" Cornbread
1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons baking powder
1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn
4-6 ounces chopped green chilies (from a can)
1 cup butter (that's right, ONE CUP! guess it should be called corncake, not bread)
1 1/8 cup sugar (again, corncake.)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat oven and a 12 inch cast iron skillet at 300 degrees.

Mix flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder and set aside.  Melt butter and combine with sugar, corn, and chilies. Mix to combine.  Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until well blended.  Add cheeses and fold in flour mixture until mixed well. (Lumps are okay.)  Remove skillet from oven and evenly coat with oil.  Pour in batter.  Bake 1 hour or until done.

Now you are asking yourselves "Why is she posting this recipe here?  Makes no sense."  But that's where you'd be wrong.  Because baking this bread IS what I'm doing the night before Thanksgiving.  And actually I should be making it the night before the night before Thanksgiving.  Or even the night before that, because this really should sit out for a few days before using it to make the most incredibly scrumptious sausage-cornbread stuffing you ever did taste. I'll be posting that recipe on Friday for Pretty Mommy's Holiday Recipe Exchange.   You can make it for that other holiday, you know, the one we've all already started indulging in.

Monday, November 22, 2010

should have known.

Hit play.

I decided my favorite band (as well as this grainy low quality video) from my kindergarten days was a better fit for today's slump.  Score one for Lindsey and Stevie.

in a mood.

This morning has been a tough one; I won't bore you with the mundane details (and really nothing so terrible happened!) but let's just say, there might have been a few tears shed by every (hormonal) female member of our little family.  I needed some serious cheering up and I needed to do it all by myself.

I've got a little mental list of funk busters that I can draw on when needed and usually one or more works like a charm.  Running is my great escape and at the top of the list, but currently unavailable to me.  Music is always a go-to mood enhancer or chaser.  But putting on my favorite (unoriginal) band from college still left me meh.  G wasn't in the mood for cuddling so I couldn't even "use" her.  So, what then?

It hit me as I was staring off into space, sipping coffee, hearing "I can do anything with my belly belly belly screen" for the 30,000th time, and ruminating in my sad mood.  I had been eyeing these bananas all weekend long thinking, "Why doesn't anyone in this house eat bananas anymore???" And I'd planned on making banana bread instead of letting them go to waste.  (Pet peeve #13: Any sort of produce going uneaten.)  Well, the weekend came and went and shockingly, no banana bread.  Here it is Monday morning, an epically bad Monday morning, and those same bananas were staring me down, mocking me, just daring me to throw them away.  It was at this moment that I realized cooking ALWAYS* lifts my mood.  I mentally wiped the scowl off my face and started smashing those suckers into smithereens (after peeling them of course.)

Cheater "Banana Bread" Muffins
1 box Spice Cake Mix (surprise surpise!)
4 overripe bananas that have been sitting on your counter, staring you down for days, smushed
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup chopped cashews (I used ones that were roasted and lightly salted)  (<--------Okay, I lied.  I did not add this ingredient because the two year old is allergic to nuts but I would add them if that weren't the case!)

Possible other add-ins: white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, raisins, or dried cranberries.

Put all ingredients in a bowl.  Stir everything together.  Portion into a muffin tin lined with super cute baking cups. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until cooked through and a tooth pick comes out clean.

(*I'm not ALWAYS in the mood to cook, but I find that when I do cook, my mood instantly improves.)

So, what are your funk busters?  I'd like to know.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I'd like to introduce you to my favorite pants.  Imaginary friends, meet my pants.

Pants, say hello.

You can get your own here.  Your body will love them.  But more importantly, they will love your body.  Truly.  

P.S. Get them in ankle length if you are under 5'8".

Thursday, November 18, 2010

thankful thursdays.

dear man who blatantly cut in front of us in line for the matterhorn,

thank you for providing me with the prime opportunity to teach my daughter a lesson about respect for others, patience, and manners.  thank you further for not even turning around to acknowledge my daughter kindly looking up at you while saying "i think you are supposed to be waiting on the number two" because she truly thought you had stepped in front of us on accident.  it just highlighted to me what an amazing human being i am raising.

all the best-

the five year old in another line where everyone was very disney-like and waited their turns. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

just discovered...

this blog via this blog.  And I am loving it.  Everywhere I go I am thinking "I want to be her!"  Of course, I'm talking about emulating someone else's style here, not life.  Because I love my life.  Especially the part where I get NO sleep for days on end.  Oh, didn't you know?  Sleep is over-rated, unnecessary, and for the weak.  Face it, you want to be me. =)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

tomorrow is another day.

The last 24 hours have been filled with highs (visiting my girlfriends at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach to sip wine on the balcony of an epic suite while watching the sun set over Catalina before going out on the town to celebrate my friend Shelbi's birthday) and lows (having my sweet feverish two year old throw up all over me.) From the moment I got home last night at around midnight, Georgia has spent almost all of her time lying on my chest.  And while I cherish being able to comfort her, I am exhausted.  Her fever finally broke (at least momentarily from the Motrin) and she's sitting next to me (as opposed to ON TOP of me) happily playing on my iphone.  I'm not sure what the night ahead holds.  It might be another sleepless wonder but I'm taking a little "me" time (while I can) to reflect.  I am, in all honestly, feeling a bit defeated in this moment.  But pushing though that is the knowledge that I am, without a doubt, truly blessed.

Friday, November 5, 2010

my love affair with the baby ruth.

Halloween candy is evil. It starts with one little snack size Baby Ruth. You tear the wrapper slowly, attempting to muffle the sound so that your 17 month old won't come toddling over, begging. You bite down into the sweet chocolate, your teeth sinking into the soft nougat. There's the slightest crunch of peanut. MMMMMMMMM. You sip some cafecito to wash it down. The next (and last) bite isn't as tasty...but it leaves you wanting more. And before you know it, you are lying on the floor in the midst of foil and paper, chocolate smeared across your chin, your jeans unbuttoned to account for your growing belly and the ache within it. The 17 month old is sitting on your legs saying "nummy" as she licks the inside of a wrapper. That round orange "pail", turned on its side, is laying next to you, empty, and you wonder how you are going to explain it all to your four year old as she walks in the door, home from preschool.

I posted this picture with that caption on facebook last year around this time.  I think it was then that I realized my need for some sort of creative outlet.  So I thank you Baby Ruth.  My skinny jeans curse you, but my creative mind thinks you rock. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

this is my daughter.

As the five year old and I were walking home from school the other day, a cute an adorable little tow head blonde was headed out of his classroom for his recess.  Ava saw him and her face LIT up with delight.  She immediately dropped my hand and ran over shouting "RYAN!"  She threw out her arms and wrapped him up in one of her typical bear hugs.  (She is not shy with these, gives them out freely to every soul lucky enough to be in her range of movement.)  He returned a HUGE smile coupled with a very slight hug and said "Hi Ava."  She waved bye and we were on our way.  Couple seconds later...

Me: Who was that boy, Ava?
Her: That's Ryan, Momma.  You know, from church.
Me: Oh. Right.  What grade is he in?
Her: Second.
Me: Do you have a crush on him? (Immediately wish I could pull those words back into my mouth, you know the way you slurp up a long piece of spaghetti that failed to twirl on your fork!)
Her (head cocked staring up at me now, perplexed look on her little face): What does that mean?
Me: Oh, just that you kinda like him, no big deal.
Her: Oh.

Silence as we walk for about 10 feet and she is in major thought mode. (That girl does not stop talking so silence is HUGE for her.)

Her:  You know Momma, I think he's crushin' on me.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Every Halloween since Sparky and I got married, we've had our families over for dinner.  We live in a very kid friendly neighborhood, full of darling trick or treaters as soon as the sun goes down.  When we first moved here, we were sort of the the "odd men out."  We'd just gotten married, we were still in our 20s (well I was,) and we didn't have children.  I always joke that no one spoke to us until I started walking the nighborhood when I was VERY pregnant with Ava.  People were suddenly stopping to chat or waving hello from their cars calling out "When are you due?" I looked down at my belly and thought "Ah! I've got the golden ticket!"  Of course, I'm exaggerating; we are beyond blessed to live in our community.  Our neighbors are amazing generous friendly people.  I walk Ava a football field's length to get her to kindergarten.  There are green belts and parks throughout the neighborhood.  It's one of those places that, when Ava gets a bit older, I will be comfortable telling her to "be home when the street lights come on."  (Maybe. =)

Halloween evenings have changed a bit since we started the tradition 8 years ago.  We are now on the street with the best of the trick or treaters, while my parents or my in-laws man the house, passing out candy.  Friends, big and little, are invited for dinner too and wine flows freely (even as we cruise the neighborhood.  Shhhh.  Don't tell the lovely police men that cruise through too!)  One thing that hasn't changed is the menu.  (I tried one year to change it up and got some serious flak!)

Easy Halloween Menu
Chips and Salsa (from Las Golondrinas if you are local, the best chips and salsa around!)

Easy Artichoke Dip
1 cup mayo
1 cup parmesan from that green can, plus more for sprinkling on top
8 ounces cream cheese at room temp
4 ounces chopped green chilies
1 large can artichoke bottoms, drained, rinsed, dried, and chopped

Mix all ingredients well in a baking/serving dish that is oven friendly.  Micro for 10 minutes, stirring half way through.  Sprinkle parmesan generously all over the top and put under broiler for a few minutes to create a crust. Serve with crudites, crackers, or tortilla chips.

"Girlfriends" White Bean Chicken Chili (So easy and beyond delicious!)
6-8 organic skinless, boneless chicken breasts
olive oil
2 cups onion, chopped
4 (or more) garlic cloves minced
8 to 16 ounces (canned) chopped green chilies
3 tablespoons cumin*
5 teaspoons dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 (15 ounce) cans great northern white beans, rinsed and drained
3 (11 ounce cans) white shoepeg corn, not drained
salt and pepper to taste
48 ounces organic low sodium chicken broth

On a cookie sheet, toss chicken in olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes until slightly undercooked.  Let rest on counter to cool.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil over a medium flame in a large pot.  Use enough to cover the bottom of the pan.  Add onions and saute onion over med-low heat until soft and translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes. (Do not allow to brown.) Add garlic and saute another minute.  Stir in chilies, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, lemon juice, beans, and corn.  Add chicken broth and bring to boil.  Turn down heat and simmer on low for 20 minutes to combine flavors.  Chop chicken into bite size pieces and add to chili and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with cilantro, grated cheese, green onions, sour cream and tortilla chips.

Cook's Notes:
1. If I'm making this for solely adults, I'll use half canned chopped chilies and half canned chopped jalepenos.
2. To spice it up after, I use my Sriracha trick.
3. You can change the portions however you'd like.  I personally don't like a lot of chicken in my chicken chili (I know, weird) so I go heavy on the beans and corn, easy on the chicken, but you can go heavier on the chicken, lighter on the corn, etc.
4. Cumin is the best spice in the entire world.  I am just sayin'.  I think I add more every time I make this.
5. Last night, I had cut up lime sitting on the counter for people drinking Pacificos.  Just randomly squeezed a bunch in my bowl of chili.  Sometimes I have REALLY GOOD random ideas.
6.  If you are attempting to get some whole grain into your kids, this chili is great mixed with some cooked brown rice.
7. Yummy served in a bread bowl, but better served with my mother in law's cornbread.

Debbie's Cornbread
We used to pick up some seriously scrumptious cornbread from Bandera, a local restaurant serving wood fired chicken, grilled steaks, and fish. (Great atmosphere and bar too--check it out, if you are ever near Corona del Mar.)  It's hard to describe the cornbread if you haven't eaten it.  It's unlike any cornbread I've made or had anywhere ever.  It's more cake like, a little sweet, a little savory, buttery, moist, perfection.  A couple of years ago, my mother in law Debbie developed her own cornbread recipe using Bandera's version as inspiration.  Let me tell you, it does not disappoint.  It's better than the original!  Unfortunately, I'm still waiting for her to email the recipe.  I'm wondering if she's trying to keep it a secret.  (Hmmmm...  a la Marie Barone... except my mother in law is one of the sweetest, most generous and helpful ladies around, so no. =)  I'll post it as soon as she sends it my way.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween!  I'm almost over my Baby Ruth hangover.

*I wanted to call this post "cumin turns me on" but I thought that might be inappropriate given the content.