Penne Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes

Penne Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes (and Bacon and Chicken)
4 servings

8 oz. penne pasta
4 slices chopped bacon
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 c. fresh baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. red or white wine vinegar
1 c. chopped cooked chicken
1 c. chopped tomatoes (halved cherry tomatoes or chopped roma tomatoes work nicely)
1/3 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare pasta according to package directions.  While pasta is cooking, salute bacon in olive oil in a large skillet until crisp.  Remove bacon from pan, leaving oil in pan, and set bacon aside.  Add spinach and garlic to oil in pan, sauté until spinach is wilted.  Add vinegar and continue to cook for 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes and chicken; cook until tomatoes are softened and hot, about 2-3 minutes more.  Add well-drained cooked pasta and bacon to the pan and gently toss to combine pasta and sauce.  Sprinkle with cheese before serving.

Straight up honesty here: this recipe is from the pasta box (it fits with my culinary philosophy!).  Of course, I tweaked it a bit (I added the chicken, and used white wine vinegar instead of red), but it was just about as much of a recipe follow as you'll get out of me these days.

And it was G O O D!  I've been on a vinegar kick anyway, but haven't added it to a cooked sauce.  The result was zippy and subtle at the same time - a nice little punch that wasn't overwhelming.

And here, my friends, is the pasta box itself:

We like things fancy here, ya'll.

When we've not been eating pasta box recipes, here's what we've been up to:

... Sitting in boxes on tables

... considering our level of thankfulness for warm ski lodges

... posing for family portraits

... looking our finest in every possible fabric pattern

... enjoying the fruits of the Mister's labor: a snow cave/fort/stadium/fire pit/maze extravaganza

What's winter for, if not snow and pasta boxes?


Baskets at Work

You know what's satisfying?  Seeing what kind of use one of my baskets gets once I send it off to its new home.  I recently got to work with an exceptionally talented local photographer to make her a custom basket for newborn photo shoots.

I don't know what the rest of you put in your baskets, but this sweet thing wins the Cutest Award.

(Get the basket here ... you know, if you want to).


Little Lady Turns Two

There aren't even really words to say it - but, you know.  Words aren't even necessary when it comes to celebrating someone you love.  This one - Little Lady - there's no end to the joy and laughter she brings us as our precious daughter and little sister.  Happy TWO!


Jacob's Ladder Modern Baby Quilt

It's turning cold - therefore, it is quilt and soup season.

Here's a little baby quilt I was able to put together for some dear friends who are expecting their first in just a few weeks.  Until I get to hug their precious son in person, this little quilt will have to do the trick!

This Jacob's Ladder Modern Baby Quilt measures about 28" x 40".  I pieced small strips on a white background with a faux applique method - no real pattern, just fun piecing!
 It is quilted all over in a meandering free-motion pattern.
 And there - can you see it? - the tiniest of labels!  That's a new addition to my etsy shop!


Chewy Granola Bars

"Quite Possibly The Best Thing To Come Out Of My Oven, Ever" Chewy Granola Bars
based on a recipe from my friend Valerie

yield: about 3 dozen 1x3" bars

3/4 c. soft butter
1 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
3 Tbsp. maple syrup or honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
1 egg
1 1/2 c. flour (I used 1 cup of almond flour* and 1/2 c. all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. oat flour* (made by pulsing rolled oats in a food processor) + 1 c. rolled oats
2 c. rice krispies
1 c. chopped nuts
1 c. raisins or dried cranberries, or a combination
1/2 c. dried sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together wet ingredients in a small bowl, then add sugar.  Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl and add in wet ingredients (I did this step in a mixer with a dough hook to save myself the stirring).  Press into a well-greased 9x13" pan.  Bake for 25-35 minutes.  Cool then cut into bars.


I hit the jackpot with this.  I am definitely not telling you I'm an amazing cook -nope, what I'm saying is that this is an amazing recipe.  And it made a TON!  I cut these into 1"x3" bars because they are really hearty, and it turns out that they are just the right size for stuffing in my mouth when the kids aren't watching.  What's that?  You've never done that?  Oh.  Well, I sneak food all the time because my precious vultures sweethearts love to eat as much as I do.  Don't worry, they're getting them too ... just not every time they happen to walk by the fridge!

So, go.  Make these.  Be a better person than me and share them with those you love.

*If you don't have almond flour, no biggie - just use 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour.  And if you aren't in the mood for pulverizing oats in a food processor, omit the oat flour and throw in an extra cup or so of rolled oats.


Cookies, and First Things

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies (an updated version of these

3/4 c. coconut oil
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. flour
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. bittersweet chocolate chips, or any combination of things to equal 1 cup (dried cranberries, coconut flakes, chopped dates, rolled oats, chocolate/white chocolate/butterscotch/peanut butter chips, etc)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together coconut oil and sugar until fluffy and light in color.  Add egg and vanilla and blend in.
Mix in flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.  Stir in chocolate chips/other additions.
Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop dough onto a baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges (the tops will not brown, but do NOT cook longer than 10 minutes!).
Let cool on the sheet on a wire rack for five minutes.  Remove from baking sheet and let cool completely.  Makes approximately 3 dozen.

Ya'll.  This girl started preschool!  I may or may not have used these cookies as an incentive to let me get some first-day-of-school pictures.

She loves it!

Prepare yourself for a bit more preciousness.  She finally fits in these teensy Chacos that have been in the "to-grow-into" box for two years.

Also, we just completed our first sewing project together: a ruler holder.  Maybe you didn't know that rulers needed cases, but they do.  Let us know if you need one for a measuring device you possess.  She's really good at these.

So many first things!  Good thing there are plenty of cookies for mommy ...


Roasted Tomato Sauce

If I could have only one thing from a garden, it would be tomatoes.  Millions of them.  OK, maybe more like hundreds, or even just dozens ... but, tomatoes.  They are the reason I garden.

About a week ago, I found myself in possession of almost 30 pounds of tomatoes, all at once, all ripe.  I immediately wanted to eat every single one figure out a way to preserve one of my favorite things about summer because - I'll have to face it soon enough - winter is coming, and I'm going to need encouraging.  My friend Erin had told me that she had roasted some tomatoes and made a sauce, so I decided to try it myself.  Typical sauce-making methods call for lots more steps and time than I was willing to do - like, pureeing the solids FIRST and then boiling it for a few hours to cook off the liquids.  No, thanks.

You can make this with ANY amount of tomatoes you have - don't think that because you aren't starting with sinkfuls of tomatoes you can't do it. Also, you can adjust the other veggies you add in there - I did a batch with sweet potatoes and zucchini instead of carrots; I also think that adding more onions or garlic would make a really fantastic sauce. 

Roasted Tomato Sauce

10 lb. tomatoes
2 lb. carrots
2 sweet peppers
1 onion
2-3 cloves garlic
2-4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Wash and place in a roasting pan: tomatoes with stem core removed, carrots and peppers, quartered onions, and peeled garlic cloves.

Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Stir to coat everything.

Roast at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until the tomatoes have split and released their juices, and some of the other vegetables are golden brown.

Place a large colander over a large bowl; scoop out the roasted vegetables into the colander.  Let it sit and drain for 10-15 minutes.  You can gently press on the solids a bit if you need to to let the extra liquid drain out.  I highly suggest saving the liquids to use for cooking rice, braising meat, or as a soup base (I did all three).  If you're not sure what to use it in, consider substituting it whenever a recipe calls for some kind of broth.

Now, puree the solids in a blender or food processor, or with a stick blender. 

Freeze or can the sauce, according to your preference. 

Word to the wise: consider freezing it in the amount that you think you'd use at a time instead of in one giant ziploc bag.  Since we eat a lot of pizza (this kind or this kind or this kind), I freeze it in little 1/2 cup amounts - just enough for pizza sauce for two pizzas - so that I can thaw out what I'm actually going to use.  I also prefer to can tomato sauce in smaller jars for the exact same reason.  Also, it lasts longer that way. 

If we eat pizza once a week, I think I'll have enough sauce to last until March.  Summer will carry me through winter.  Encouraging, indeed.