black bean salad

This meal has been one of our staples this summer.  It is an easy way to use up what we have a lot of right now; peppers, onions, tomatoes, corn.  I am trying to figure out how I can convert this meal from a summer dish to a fall/winter dish using roasted veggie and warm black beans.  I will let you know once I figure something out!

This feeds our family for a couple meals.

1/2 lb of dry black beans sorted, rinsed, soaked, cooked, cooled and rinsed again - or you could probably use 2 cans of black beans rinsed
2 large tomatoes chopped
2 medium cucumbers chopped
2 green peppers chopped - you could use any color, green is what we have
3 ears fresh sweet corn sliced off the cob - we don't cook it, but you could if you want
1/2 medium onion finely chopped
1-2 chipotle in adobo, chopped fine - or dried chipotle seasoning to taste - or you could leave this out if you don't like spice
juice of one lime
good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil - maybe 2 Tablespoons
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all in a big bowl, and then serve as is or over rinsed and cooked quinoa

This is a great meal, lots of protein and veggies, and it is very filling, not to mention relatively cheap since we have all of these veggies in our CSA basket these days.  My kids really enjoy it, even with the spice.  Actually, my kids enjoy spicy, and I think it is because I eat so much of it and nurse.  We are all about strong flavors in this household!

Do you have a black bean salad variation?  Or a warm black bean salad recipe I could try for the fall?

simplify my kitchen

I have a pretty large kitchen.  I love it.  Lot's of counter space for me to do whatever I need to do cooking wise.  Lot's of cabinets and drawers to hold everything in.  A HUGE french door fridge, that is pretty much awesome since I usually have so many vegetables to store.  I don't have too many appliances, the all important coffee maker, a KitchenAid, and a blender.  All but the coffee maker are in the cupboards.  I don't own a lot of cookbooks, I have problems with recipes - meaning I cannot follow them to save my life.  I do have a binder that has some recipe inspiration from magazines, and I also have my box of recipe cards which holds some of my most favorite recipes, mainly from my mama and Nana, and those I typically follow to the T, wanting to recreate my childhood memories and all :-)

So why do you need to simplify your kitchen?  Well, I do have a lot of a couple of things.  I have a lot of Pyrex bowls and casserole dishes, and I have a lot of prep bowls.  Most people would use one or two of these things for an evening meal.  However, I am not most people.  In fact, I have the uncanny ability to use every bowl and pot for one meal.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am fully capable of making a one pot meal, but I typically only do that once a week, and it is usually a soup or chili that I then serve for several meals.  I'm talking about my other meals, when I feel the need to be creative.  You know the meals, the quinoa with black bean salad, regular salad, roasted veggies and steamed green beans kind of meals.  Yes, we will eat all of that in one setting - apparently we are a hungry bunch.

Back to my problem.  Do I really need to have 12 bowls?  While I like the convenience of quickly moving through my meal prep, I do not like the fact that I have to run my dishwasher 3 times per day.  Maybe the bowls and pots I use are just too big.  Maybe I need a second dishwasher.  Maybe I should learn to use fewer bowls and just clean them in between uses in the sink.

One of my goals for the next week or two (because I am not a fast mover on these organizational projects) is to clean out my kitchen.  Do you have any tips?  If you prepare a lot of your own food from scratch, how do you manage the cleanup without running the dishwasher all day everyday?  Inquiring minds would like to know :-)


Our electricity is up this month.  It was bound to happen.  Night is coming a lot sooner now than it was during the summer, and no matter how much I want to go to bed at 7:30pm, it definitely is not happening!  I was a little surprised at the jump though, until I remembered all the canning I have been doing.

We have an electric stove, I wish it were gas, or better yet one of those old wood cook stoves - although that would not be a pleasant canning experience in August.  Not only is it electric, but it is a glass flat top.  I think that technically you are not supposed to can on a flat top stove.  I do it anyways since we have a very large front burner.  But, it takes FOREVER for it to actually come to a boil.  Add in all of the cooking of tomatoes/apples/salsa/etc. on the other burners, and it adds to an entire day of the stove on...for multiple days.  I was thinking that it might be nice to have some type of outdoor stove for canning, but I have no idea how that would work.  How do I keep the jars sterilized, and get them outside without dumping everything?  I'm not that coordinated.  Any ideas?

I need to be more diligent about unplugging as well.  I have most of our electronics on surge protectors, but I have these awesome surge protectors that have "always on" jacks.  Hmmm...I was curious why my computer would continue charging even after I turned the switch off.  So now I have to unplug from the wall, and that is a little more complicated because, if you have read any of my posts about the children that live in this house you will already know why, I have furniture covering just about every addition to those lovely outlet protectors.

What do you do to reduce your electricity usage when it starts to get dark out earlier?  Once it gets colder, I'm sure that we will all be snuggling up in bed earlier since it will be the warmest place in the house :-)

basketweave scarf

I've been talking about my love of knitting on here for a little while now.  It is extremely relaxing to me as a craft.  I am not strict about it, if I make a mistake I usually just keep on knitting, and say that it gives the project character :-)  Or I figure a way to disguise the error as I am going along.  I like knitting because I have very little dedicated time to sit and craft, and it is easy to put a project down if, say, Jack has climbed up on the table and is trying to eat Emma's lunch.  Not that that happens in our family :-)  I also love sewing, but find that sitting down to sew something with littles running around isn't the easiest.  Either they "help" by pushing the pedal, or see previous comment about Jack and Emma.  I am still working on a bag that I started several months ago :-)

But knitting, knitting is something that can be picked up and put down with ease, and I love that.  What I don't love is how damn long it takes for me to finish a project because of the ease of putting it down.  Maybe it is just me, maybe most knitters are able to fly through a project.  That brings me to my current project, a basketweave scarf for Emma.  I decided to use basketweave because it is an easy pattern, and you can kind of do it however you want.

I used a yarn that had two strands of worsted weight twisted together.  Great on technicalities right :-)  And size 8 needles.

Cast on 20 stitches

Row 1 - knit
Row 2 - knit
*Row 3 - k4, p4, k4, p4, k4
Row 4 - p4, k4, p4, k4, p4
Row 5 - repeat row 3
Row 6 - repeat row 4
Row 7 - p4, k4, p4, k4, p4
Row 8 - k4, p4, k4, p4, k4
Row 9 - repeat row 7
Row 10 - repeat row 8

Repeat from * Row 3- Row 10 until your desired length
Knit 2 more rows
bind off and weave in ends

Easy peasy basketweave scarf :-)  There are a lot of variations you can do with this type of pattern, if you want a wider scarf, add 4 more stitches, or if you want larger squares do 5 stitches instead of 4.  The fact that I have worked on this for a few days and only have about 12 inches knit, well, now we know why I start thinking about Christmas in August :-)


All of a sudden it is fall.  If you live in Maine, you start to feel it in August I think, maybe it is all of New England.  But this past week it was a shock to my system.  Waking up when it is only 40 degrees out does that I guess!  I figured that it was time to start on my soup craze.

Soup is one of our staples during the winter.  It seems like I make soup every week and we have it for days.  Maybe I should work on variety...or maybe freeze some so we don't eat it for a week straight.  Although, I have to think about the many people in this world that don't have many options as far as food goes - or anything for that matter - and eat beans or rice pretty much every day without variation.

I make my own vegetable stock, and chicken stock.  I always tried to make chicken stock whenever I roasted a chicken, but since we are eating a lot less meat these days, and veggie stock seems to be used in more than soups, I started making my own.  Probably the easiest thing that I can do, with the least amount of effort.  All I do is take 6-8 carrots, a few onions, a bunch of garlic - literally I will use an entire bulb - and celery if I have it on hand.  Chop it up, throw it in a big pot with olive oil.  Saute for a few minutes, and then pour in a lot of water.  I think I usually do 12-16 cups.  Probably I use too much water, but you know what?  It is cheap, and I find that a little veg goes a long way.  I add some salt and pepper, and then just let it simmer for a couple hours on the stove.  It ends up reducing by a third maybe.

At this point, most people tell you to strain out the veg and then just use the liquid, but I just use my hand blender and blend it all up.  Apparently you have already sucked all the vitamins out  at this point, but I think it gives a little texture, and am too lazy to strain it out :-)  My daughter will eat this for days if I let her.  But, I try to add some potatoes and other veggies, a jar of crushed tomatoes and you have an amazing veggie soup.  Add some beans, and there is a good bit of protein.

This past weekend I made a lot of veggie stock.  I was planning on just freezing half of it, but for whatever reason I didn't.  I decided to make a roasted squash and apple soup.  I roasted a couple delicata squash and several apples that I had cored at 400 until I went to check on them and realized the apples had all exploded into mush (maybe 20 minutes???).  I then added it all sans skins to my HUGE pot of veggie stock.  I knew that I had way too much stock at that point, but I tried to make the best of it.  I blended the whole thing up, made some brown rice, and then pretended that the soup was curry and just served it over the rice.  Add some red pepper flakes, and it ended up being amazing, and not at all what I was expecting.  Also, a pretty damn good way to stretch 5 carrots, 3 small onions, 2 delicata squash, and 4 smallish macs :-)  Now I have 2 quarts of this soup in the freezer and enough to last us 3-4 meals this week.  Amazing what a few root veggies and water will do :-)

What about you?  Do you like to make soup?  And do you make your own stock, or buy from the grocery store?

cool weather means knitting

After realizing that fall is here, I decided it was time to pick up my knitting again.  Jack needs a new hat for the fall/winter.  Imagine my surprise that the hat I made him last year, the hat that I made extra big to tide him over an extra season, is too small for my baby boy this year.  So, what is a mama to do?  Well, knit a new one of course.  I am hoping that I can make a matching hat for my hubs as well.  We shall see how long it takes me to knit this one...since Emma deserves a new one as well :-)  I have a lot of hats in my future I guess.

Actually, I have a lot of knitting in my future...I need to start working on my list for Emma.  I also have a few special projects that I am working on for myself...imagine the years I have been knitting I haven't made myself anything except a cowl last year.  And that was mainly because it was freezing out, and I needed something to keep me a tad warmer :-)

Do you knit?  Do you have any projects you are working on?  And are you able to craft for yourself?  Or is it mainly for other people?

apple season!

Last week I shared my go to muffin recipe.  It really is my go to muffin recipe, and shows up in my home on a weekly basis, especially once it starts to get cool outside...and let me tell you fall is definitely knocking at my door right now!

Apple season just opened for pick your own up here last weekend.  We haven't made our way over to our favorite orchard yet, that is on the agenda for Saturday, but my local grocery store happened to have the same apples that we will be picking next weekend, albeit at a slightly higher price.  I picked up half a peck to bring home to my apple loving daughter - she will eat about 4 macs a day if I let her - with the promise of apple muffins.

There is something so satisfying about apple muffins to me.  They are super easy, and such a treat.  Typically I try to make them relatively healthy, I never ever put a streusel topping on my muffins.  However, for the first apple muffins of the season, I felt it absolutely appropriate.  Not to mention we have one sick little girl, so something a little special to cheer her up was in order.

I was able to take this:

And turn it into these:

You may be asking yourself, where are the rest?  Well, these three muffins are all that are left from my batch of sugar muffins this morning.  My family devoured them so fast, I was almost not able to take any pictures of the final product!  Matt dubbed them the best muffins he every had, and then promptly went into diabetic shock :-)  Perhaps next time I will make these for an afternoon snack, instead of a 7am breakfast!

What is your favorite apple variety?  Mine is the Cortland, it stores pretty well, and makes delicious apple sauce.  Or are apples not a local fruit for you?  And why is it that we have apples from Washington State in the store right now even though it is apple season in Maine?  Probably the same reason the Idaho potatoes are here...even though Aroostook County has some of the best potatoes I have ever for thought.

waking up early

I never used to be a morning person, and sometimes I still question whether or not I actually am a morning person.  What I do know is that early morning seems to be the only time that I am able to get some time alone. Do any other mamas have that problem?  It seems like I am always with my kids, not that I don't love them to pieces, but once in a while it would be nice to get up and drink a HOT cup of coffee, instead of the lukewarm cup I often get.  And since we have no microwave...yeah...the coffee continues to get cold.  While I love iced coffee, lukewarm is definitely not my favorite!

I always thought that in college I was a night person.  I would stay up until all hours of the early morn with my roommate watching cheesy movies (which I absolutely love by the way!  Bring It On...Yes please!).  And then I would turn around and set myself up with 8am classes.  I was convinced that if I could get all my classes done  by noon I would have a much better college experience :-)  But here I am, trying to now wake up when I used to go to bed in college...

I've joined in on a little challenge that you can find more about here.  I am really excited about trying to have this alone time in the morning.  Not that I haven't tried before, but now I am signed up and have a group of people to be accountable to...and my husband is finally on board with me waking up SUPER early to have some alone time.  I wish him luck.  We co-sleep with our kiddos, and when one of us gets up, it tends to wake up the entire house :-)

What about you?  Do you like to wake up early?  And how do you keep the kiddos in bed if they hear you waking up?

one of those days and a recipe

It's going to be one of those days.  You know the ones that I speak of, right?  I think it has been one of those weeks actually...The hubs is traveling today for work.  See he telecommutes, but once in a while he needs to make his way 3 hours down the highway for a visit with his office.  It makes for an extremely long day for me, and him I'm sure, although I don't have the opportunity to go out to lunch with friends for an hour and chit chat about Jersey Shore...

Without fail, whenever Matt travels he gets up early, like 4:30am, so he can make it to the office at a decent time.  Without fail, whenever Matt wakes up at 4:30am my babes decide they should definitely be awake by 5am (and that is with me telling Emma to go back to bed 3 times).  So we drag ourselves out of bed and head down stairs.  Luckily I thought ahead and made pumpkin muffins for breakfast.  I roasted the 2 teeny tiny pie pumpkins we were able to glean from our garden on Tuesday and stuck it in the fridge. Recipe below.

Now I am alone with the kids for the whole day, until after they are supposed to be in bed (although I usually let them stay up until Matt gets home on these days, it seems only fair).  I have my stack of books to read, some crafting supplies at the ready, and a secret stash of never-before-seen-by-my-children movies.  I am hoping for 10am nap time :-)  Did I mention it is pouring outside?  Guess the park is out!

I should mention that having Matt travel once a month isn't a big deal at all, obviously, it just throws off our rhythm, and sometimes it takes a couple days for us to get it back.  Any tips when you have no car for a day, and two very active children that need to run free for large periods of time?

Pumpkin Muffins

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
~2 teaspoons of cinnamon
~1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
~1/4-1/3 cup of sugar
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 beaten egg
flesh of one small pie pumpkin, or half of a larger one, or one can of one pie pumpkin

Mix all dry ingredients with a fork, then mix milk, oil and egg in another bowl.
Make a well and add wet ingredients, stir until combined.
Fold in pumpkin.
Place in greased muffin tins.
Bake at 400 about 10 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Makes about 12 muffins.  These freeze great as well!

This is my go to muffin recipe.  Take out the pumpkin and add blueberries if it isn't quite fall in your neck of the woods.  These are also good with just cinnamon and nutmeg, or with chopped apples.  I'm not so good at if 2 teaspoons of cinnamon seems like too much for you add less, or you can do what I do, add cinnamon and nutmeg to the dry ingredients and wait until it starts to look more like wheat flour instead of white :-)


I am getting my tomatoes this weekend, well a bushel anyways.  I don't think I can handle much more than that in one day, I have too many crazy children...oh...only two?  I guess sometimes it appears to be several more than two children...maybe my eyes need to be checked again...

I am actually really looking forward to a good canning session this weekend.  I will pick up my bushel from the Fish Monger (strange, I know), and then can the additional 20 pounds that I have from my garden waiting to be turned into something delicious.  I am planning to make just a basic tomato sauce, crushing the majority, and if I can squeeze a couple more batches of salsa, I will be happy.  I need to buy more quart jars though.  I don't have nearly enough...and I also need more lids.

I am not entirely pleased about using the disposable lids.  One, they are disposable, do I can because I want to throw more stuff away?!  Not so much.  The second part is that there is BPA in all of those canning lids.  I don't know how much BPA actually gets into the food itself, but one of the big reasons I can to begin with is so that I know what is in my food, and BPA is not one of those things that I actually WANT in my food.  I have read in various places that because the lid is not touching the food the exposure is minimal, but I don't know how reliable that is.

One option I have come across is Tattler reusable canning lids, but I'm not sure how well these work, if they are safe etc.  I have read that SouleMama uses these lids, and that seems to be a good recommendation to me.  I have read mixed reviews though, and am not entirely sure they are recommended by the USDA for canning…although…I am not one to really listen much to the USDA…they seem to think that raw milk is bad for you, and agree that Monsanto should own just about every variety of seed gene there is…so they are kind of up in the air to me as far as reliability goes ;-)

Does anyone else have any good canning lid recommendations?  I would love to hear if there are other options out there.  Perhaps I need to get a book on how people stored food before canning was an option…but I would seriously hate to lose my ability to preserve tomatoes…and I’m not sure of another option that doesn’t require some form of energy (I’m talking about you deep freezer!).