Thursday, November 3, 2016

Wheat Berry Salad with Orange Curry Dressing

Patrick came home one day a month or so ago with a bit of leftover salad. It was so good that one of his coworkers helped me hunt down the general ingredient list. (Thanks Ginny!)

This wheat berry salad is a bit different than its inspiration. I used dried apricots instead of dried cranberries and it is a bit spicier although, this would be remedied with less curry powder.
We really liked it. Obviously, this is not for the gluten free group but it is dairy and soy free.

Wheat Berry Salad with Orange Curry Dressing 
For the salad -
1 cup wheat berries
1 cup brown rice
2 cups chopped kale
5 green onions chopped
1/3 cup cashew pieces
1 small can (7 oz) crushed pineapple drained
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots (could substitute dried cranberries or raisins)

For the dressing -
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 cup orange or mango marmalade
2 T fennel seeds
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 T curry powder (scant)
1/2 t salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Directions -
1. Cook the wheat berries and the brown rice per package instructions using vegetable broth instead of water.
2. Allow wheat berries and rice to cool.
3. While the first two ingredients are cooling, chop kale, green onions and apricots.
4. Add all salad ingredients to large bowl.
5. To make the dressing, add all dressing ingredients to a small food brocessor or blender (I used my small Ninja Express) and blend until smooth.
6. Pour dressing over salad and mix well.
7. This salad is best to let sit in the fridge for a few hours to let flavors mix.
8. Serve on a bed of greens. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Curry Bowls with Rice Noodles

I found this recipe on A Pinch of Yum's website. Check out this site for lots of great recipes. As usual, I made some modifications to it but Patrick and I enjoyed it. I found that prepping the vegetables earlier in the day or the night before and storing them in the fridge was a great way to save a bit of time later on when everyone was hungry and cranky.

Curry Bowls with Rice Noodles
For the Curry Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or broth
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1 14-ounce can lite coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili paste (sambal oelek)
  • 4 tablespoons coconut aminos (could also use liquid aminos or soy sauce)
For the Bowls:
  • 4 ounces brown rice noodles
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • half a sweet onion OR red onion chopped
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 red pepper diced into medium sized chunks
  • 1 cup chopped asparagus
  • 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
  • sesame seeds for topping
  • limes for serving
  • a handful of fresh basil for serving
  1. Soak the noodles in a bowl of very cold water for at least 20 minutes. When soft, drain and rinse.
  2. For the sauce, heat the oil in a large saucepan. 
  3. Add the green onions and ginger; stir fry for 5 minutes. 
  4. Add the curry paste; stir fry for 1 minute. 
  5. Add the coconut milk, sugar, chili paste, coconut aminos and simmer for 15 minutes - it should thicken a bit.
  6. For the veggies, in a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. 
  7. Add the onion, carrots, broccoli, and asparagus. (I usually have these chopped and ready to go so that all I have to do is dump them in.) Stir fry until the broccoli and asparagus are bright green. 
  8. Add the cabbage and cook for 1 more minute.
  9. Add the softened noodles to the saucepan with the sauce and gently mix. 
  10. Add the veggies and toss together until just combined.
  11. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and basil and a squeeze of lime.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The last days of summer

The three boys and I spent Wednesday evening at the beach. The Long Island Sound is more protected than other beaches and it makes it a perfect place for the younger kids to play. Patrick had a meeting and so we left without him. (Poor guy has missed out on all of the beach time since we have been here.) We took a sort of picnic. I cheated and picked up pizza for them and a veggie wrap for me.

We played in the "puddles"/ tide pools and enjoyed the sunset. It was warm. One of the few remaining warm days before fall comes for good this year. There were just a few families on the beach and as the tide went out we had plenty of room to run off the day and play.

E and M digging and wading.

Betsy told us that the evening times at the beach were special. I believed her but I now understand what she meant. The feeling was much different. It was so calm and peaceful, so quiet and lovely. The sunset was unmatched on Wednesday which didn't hurt.

Betsy, E, M, and J checking out the sand.

A lovely mom offered to take all of our picture after my attempts to have E hold J failed miserably.

Good night sea. Good night sand. Good night wind. Good night beach.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Chocolate Mixed Berry Oat Bars

3 year old approved

I came across a version of this recipe at Texanerin Baking's blog. Go check out her original and peak around at some of her other recipes! I made some of my own modifications but otherwise I liked what she created. This is my version of Texanerin's bars.

Chocolate, Mixed Berry, Oat Bars

  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup soft (but not liquid) refined coconut oil 
  • 1/3 cup soy free Earth Balance Spread
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries
  • 1/3 cup mixed berry jam (or any berry flavor that you happen to have on hand)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
  1. Line an 8"x8" square baking pan with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 375°F. 
  2. Stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.
  3. Cut in the coconut oil and mix until the dough just comes together.
  4. Gently press two thirds of it onto the bottom of the prepared baking pan.
  5. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until the edges just start to brown.
  6. While baking, prepare the berry filling. In a small sauce pan, stir together the berries and jam. Heat through until it is mashed with a fork.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  8. Spread this mixture over the baked crust and then sprinkle about 1/2 of the chocolate chips over the berry layer.
  9. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the chocolate chips.
  10. Bake for another 25-28 minutes or until the top has lightly browned and the filling is bubbly.
  11. Remove from the oven and top with the rest of the chocolate chips.
  12. Let the bars cool completely in the pan and then refrigerate at least 3 hours before cutting.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Fun happenings

I am loving being home. Although it can be a little crazy, I feel more relaxed and more calm. I feel like I can really "be there" for the boys. I still do feel a little guilty for not working but down the line I am sure there will be time for that.

The first few weeks of school have gone well, although E is TIRED by the end of the day which makes for some rough evenings. He came home on the first day and told me that the best part of the day was lunch and said, "mom, seriously, I am so good at lunch". Love it. Although, I apparently under packed and he was "soooo hungry".

M and mom at the beach on a cool day.

E and M on the rocks in the side yard of our house.

M spending time with dad on the playground before he had to go back to work for an evening meeting.

My little buddy, M.

Look who is the big brother during the school day.
M and I have been able to spend time together, which we really hadn't done since he was a newborn. He often surprises me with little observations and his language expands daily. M and J and I walk across the street to the pond almost every day to check in on the fish, turtles, ducks, geese, and every now and then a crab or two. Last week, we spotted a three legged turtle. M thought it was pretty interesting that the bigger one with three legs bumped the smaller one off the rock while he was climbing up. There are some really big snapping turtles and we have seen painted turtles and sliders. I am sure there are more than a few varieties that I am unaware of.

Turtle friends.
Brothers watching the turtles
 E starts flag football this week and is looking forward to his first game and practice. His team is the KC Chiefs. What are the odds? Ha. He is also signed up for Cub Scouts. Pretty exciting when you consider the Collins' family history in the scouting world.

We have checked out Whole Foods, walked over and gotten our library cards, gone running at Tod's Point (without Kona - no dogs allowed until Dec 1st), gone to the beach, and found a gym to work out at. We have ventured to Target (a whole separate post of it's own), found a sporting goods store and spent time walking in the neighborhood. We are slowly unpacking boxes and getting settled in. Patrick has misplaced his keys almost daily, which definitely makes it feel like home. Ha!

We have some adventures in mind too. We are hoping to take the boys on the train, probably just a few stops away. We would eventually like to go into New York City but may need to recruit a brave soul to go with us. I'm looking forward to finding a yoga class/studio that I love and am hoping to get to Trader Joe's one of these days. For now, we are just finding our new normal, one day at a time. 

The Long Island Sound off of Tod's Point - Morning run

Grilled "Sausage" and Veggie Sandwich

I was using up leftovers and vegetable on their "last legs" in my fridge for lunch today and it turned out quite good.

We had green pancakes, VeganEgg, and vegan sausages for dinner last night. There were several sausage links left that Patrick crumbled in a wrap and I used one for this sandwich. I also roasted a few veggies late morning to use them before they went bad.

Roasted Veggie and Hummus Sandwich

- 2 slices good whole wheat bread or sandwich bread of choice
- 2 tablespoon of roasted red pepper hummus
- 1 teaspoon Earth Balance soy free spread
- Roasted Brussels sprouts, celery, broccoli, carrots, and red onion (see specifics below)
  - salt and pepper
  - olive oil or vegetable broth
  - brown sugar
  - garlic powder
- 1 slice vegan cheese
- two slices of tomato
- 1 vegan sausage link

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Chop veggies and arrange on baking sheet sprinkling with olive oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper and brown sugar for Brussels Sprouts.

  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 1 cup broccoli florettes
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion 
  • 1 tsp olive oil or veggie broth (or to taste)
  • pinch of salt
  • garlic powder
  • black pepper, to taste
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • 1½ cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • pinch salt
  • black pepper, to taste
3. Roast vegetables for 20 minutes (or to liking) stirring once halfway through.
4. Cook vegan sausage link according to instructions or reheat if leftover.
5. When vegetables are nearing completion, spread Earth Balance on one side of each slice of bread.
6. With the buttered side down, place one slice of vegan cheese on one slice of bread and spread hummus on the other slice. (Note the Earth Balance is used on the toasting side.)
6. Place desired amount of roasted veggies on the sandwich on top of the cheese.
7. Slice sausage link the long way for a flat surface and add both pieces to the sandwich.
8. Add sliced tomato and press two slices together to form sandwich.
9. On a lightly oiled, preheated skillet, cook the sandwich for 2 minutes or so on medium. Watch the bottom so as not to burn. Flip when adequately toasted. Toast on the other side for 1 to 2 minutes.


Friday, September 9, 2016

A Heartfelt "Thank you"

I honestly have to say I feel so lucky. Moving away from friends and family in Nebraska is hard. I miss my mom and dad everyday. We are all looking forward to our visitors. My aunt and uncle and then mom and dad have a trip planned in October and we are looking forward to Patrick's mom and dad and our great friend Steve to visit in November.

I also have to say that we love it here. People here are so incredibly kind and generous. From helping to stock our home before our arrival, to loaning us items to keep a household with three little kids running smoothly (or as smoothly as it gets), to bringing over meals and flowers and little surprises for the boys, to working through the process to get us beach passes and the necessary paperwork to register E for Kindergarten, we are grateful.

All of the little kindnesses add up and do not go unnoticed. On Sunday, Patrick's first day of preaching at First Congregational Church, Mrs Baker handed us an armful of beautiful flowers that had been part of the bouquet on the alter and told us to put them in our home with blessings from the day. They make me smile every time I walk by.

There was a bowl of pink flowers on the counter when we got here and Pam brought over a very happy sunflower. The generosity is amazing. (It also reminds me that I should keep more flowers in our home!)

There was a bag full of children's books from the Caring Committee (I think) waiting for the boys and they have absolutely loved going through them and reading everything repeatedly.

Betsy stocked up our freezer and fridge with produce and a few Trader Joe's items and also made us a meal on our first night in Old Greenwich. She has taken the boys to the park, taken us to the Greenwich Farmer's Market, given me a tour, answered all of my crazy questions, loaned me dishware, pots and pans, a cutting board and knife, and generally just saved the day over and over.

Pam was also in on the preparations for our home. She has stayed with M and J while we took E over to the introduction for Kindergarten. She walked us to the Old Greenwich Farmer's Market, loaned me kitchen supplies (thank you, thank you) and answered a million questions.

Jan helped Patrick with the beds the day we arrived so that the boys beds would be ready for them that first night. He has helped with some general repairs and offered countless times to assist with all sorts of things around the house.

Craig and Vance have welcomed us to the "neighborhood". They helped with home preparation, have put up with the noise from our yard and the playground while the boys burn off energy, have given great tips on places to go and things to see, and held a welcome party for us in their home.

And there are so many others that have offered to watch the boys, answer questions, show us around, and help us with items that were delayed or lost in the move.

People have asked us to dinner, invited us for happy hour, and introduced us to their friends. We feel so lucky to be welcomed with open arms, open hearts and so much love. Thank you!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Tomato Peanut Curry Soup aka How NOT to Use Your Blender

Anyone who has a Vitamix, or other blender that they use regularly, knows that you don't blend hot soup or liquid. Why you ask? Because explosions occur. Cooling off the substance to be blended is key. Leaving the lid partially off the blender and covering that bit with a tea towel would work but did I listen to my own advice? No, of course not. Due to this, I created a curry covered cupboard. Lovely. Luckily, it cleaned up quickly. I also managed to cover myself in it. Thankfully, it wasn't so hot it burned. Whoops.

Anywho, this is delicious. I had a Tomato Peanut Curry Soup at a restaurant in Lincoln called Bread and Cup just before we moved. My mom watched the boys for a couple of hours and Patrick and I went on a lunch date for our anniversary! It was lovely, and so was the soup. I wanted to recreate something like it. Their version was definitely better but maybe it was just because I didn't end up wearing that particular meal... question mark? I highly recommend that you visit that restaurant if you are in the area. It is owned by a local couple who lived down the street from us and they source everything they can at the Farmer's Markets. The menu changes with the season and it was quite good. They didn't have many vegan options. Everything was very meat and egg heavy but vegan isn't their goal and with a little scouring of the menu I was able to find a plantcentric meal.

Yes that is a plastic spoon. Don't judge. The moving truck with the other half of our belongings has not yet arrived.

Tomato Peanut Curry Soup
(Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped (or garlic powder)
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
1 15 -ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
3 T tomato paste
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 1/2 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter (I used my homemade variety because it was what I had)
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh cilantro and chopped peanuts, for topping


Chop veggies into similar size pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and celery; cook, stirring, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, spices and 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste) and cook, stirring, 3 more minutes.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, vegetable broth, brown sugar and 1 cup water to the pot, then stir in peanut butter. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on med low. Stir occasionally, until the soup thickens slightly, about 20-30 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender (ideally) or in a regular blender in batches. If using a regular blender make sure that the soup is very cool. Trust me on this one. Season with salt and black pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls; top with cilantro and peanuts. 

Can I just say....

"Yay for soup!"?


Thank you to Betsy and Pam for the use of some odds and ends kitchen equipment while I await the arrival of my own. The cutting board, knife, and pot/lid were integral in this meal. :)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

New Beginnings

We have been in Old Greenwich for almost a week. (Still haven't seen hide nor hair of the moving truck with the rest of our stuff on it.) There are so many great things we have discovered and I am sure we are only scratching the surface.

Things that I love...
- um.... the ocean 5 minutes away - obviously
- the sound of the seagulls
- the church bells ringing every 15 minutes during the day right in the backyard
- the sound of the train going into the city (not loud and wall shaking, just catch it now and then)
- the amount of light and windows in this house, amazing
- the cemetery outside of the window
- the quiet space we are in
- the humidity
- two Farmer's Markets with a wide variety of fresh fruits and veggies

Giant fresh celery

Seen on my run through an adjoining neighborhood
Things that M says he loves
- the beach and the "white things" (Where the waves break. He loves to stand and let them hit him square in the chest. He would prefer not to hold a hand but his mother just can't quite let go just yet. )
- playing in the big boys bedroom


Things that E says he loves
- SCHOOL (said with enthusiasm)
- digging in the sand at the beach
- a park on the other side of the backyard fence

Beach time

Things that J seems to love
- that his dad covered his windows to make his room darker for sleeping
- that mom is home so he can eat "on demand"

J's "chef hat" per E

Things that Kona seems to love
- the quiet suits her as she ages
- all the new smells

Patrick wasn't all that interested in playing my "what do you love about Connecticut" game. He has been a bit grumpy due to dealing with the moving coordinator at Mayflower. Her communication skills have been a smidge questionable.

Lunch at a make shift table
Update: sounds like the second load of our belongings will be here next Tuesday and that the movers will move a few of the large items upstairs for us that didn't get done last time. I would say this is well outside of the 3-12 day window that was guaranteed? 

This is what we will all look like if our clothes don't come soon. Wink.

Other observations
- In Nebraska the parking lot birds were giant blackbirds. In Connecticut, they are big, brave, white-ish, fluffy seagulls.
- You can make chocolate chip cookies with very few kitchen implements. I started making them before I realized that I didn't have a mixer or spatula or parchment paper here yet. Oops. I was also missing a non-essential ingredient. Oh well.
- Window air conditioners and big heat radiators remind me of my days at the Delta Gamma house.
- Gentle leaders for dogs are quite foreign around here.
- Going to Target in Nebraska is much less stressful than going to Target in Stamford, CT. However, because the Target in Stamford is on floors 3 and 4 of the building, on top of the parking garage, they have a conveyor belt/escalator for the carts to ride on. This was pretty entertaining for all of us. And, yes, you do have to pay to park at Target.

Target wore him out!
- People honk at you to go the minute the light changes to green, even if there are people in the cross walk in front of your bumper. Yikes.
- Toll roads/booths freak us out.

I am sure I will come up with a few more things. I am thinking of posting on Thursdays about life in general and on Mondays with a recipe from the week, Vegan of course.

Until next time...

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Day 5 - 8/26 - Mountville, PA to Old Greenwich, CT

Today was the last leg of the journey. I got up and ran with Kona in the hilly, humid, hot weather. It rained during the night so the humidity was way up and there was dew everywhere.

I ran up to a high point to look out over rural PA. It was absolutely gorgeous.

Looking to the SSW

Kona, trying to figure out why we were taking an unusual break in our run
Just running down the back roads. Carefully.
Everyone is ready for their own beds. E didn't sleep great and I was up in the night with a teething J. E was delighted this morning to see that the tooth fairy had come. He met me at the bottom of the stairs with a handful of quarters. "Mom, you will never guess what?! The tooth fairy left me FOUR pennies (read quarters)!" He ran around all day with a pocket full of quarters and peppermints. We could hear him coming.

We left Trish's and headed for Old Greenwich.We stopped at a gas station to make a quick lunch, feed JJ, and let Kona out. It was literally fuel only. The boys were less than impressed with the bathroom facilities.

Back on the road, were headed to the Tappan Zee Bridge and Old Greenwich. Getting close. The big boys were very excited and were singing "Old Greenwich, Old Greenwich" over and over again. We looked at all the new things out the windows including the bridges, the bridge construction, the boats, the water, and all the traffic.

We got into town a couple of hours earlier than we thought and ended up getting there before the movers were finished. The next few hours were a whirlwind with people in and out and excited "welcomes".

We discovered that the moving company, Mayflower, contracts crews at either end of the travel to load and unload the truck. The Lincoln crew was great, very careful. The Old Greenwich crew, maybe not so much. They also managed to unload everything we own (well, the 2/3 of our stuff that made it) onto the main floor. There was a total of 1 box upstairs labelled "Garage". They put the washer and dryer in the middle of the living room floor. There were boxes marked "fragile" that were crushed under other boxes, the glass in my great grandmother's china hutch doors was shattered on one side and numerous other items broken. They even left the broken glass from the hutch on our front walkway.

Sigh. The stuff is just stuff, it is all replaceable (or unnecessary) but it did make for a lot of work for Patrick to rearrange and carry absolutely everything to the right location. When the rest of the boxes and furniture arrives (you know, essentials like our silverware, clothing, the bolts to J's crib, and ALL the kitchen paraphernalia) we will make sure to help the movers with some instructions. Wink wink.

Highlights of the day included the kindness of the people waiting for us on this end. Betsy, Pam, Jan, Steve, Richard, Craig, and everyone who helped to pitch in to get the house ready for us. Some key things that they had waiting for us were laundry detergent (especially important since we are living out of our suitcases for a week longer than we had planned), staple grocery items, paper towels, paper plates and napkins, plastic eating utensils, and dinner from Betsy on that first night. (That vegan tart you made was AMAZING! Thank you.)

After having help from Jan (thank you so much) with the boys bed set up and getting bedding located we were all out like lights. It was quite a long, exciting day.

So glad to have arrived safe and sound. More on the next few days and our adventures in Connecticut to come. And once my kitchen returns to functional, more recipes. Yay!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Day 4 - 8/25 - Youngstown, OH to Mountville, PA

Today we drove through the hilly, winding countryside of Pennsylvania. It was beautiful.
Into Pennsylvania
I gave E and M children's Dramamine and took a dose of Bonine myself as a preventative measure. I don't have a great track record with drives of that sort. Everyone did just fine, although we may need to have the breaks on the van looked at.

We got up and had breakfast at the hotel and loaded up in the car for a 280 mile day.Yet again, more construction, tis the season I suppose. The boys didn't get any screen time today due to the issues yesterday. Lots of snacks, a pit stop for lunch, stickers, and an Etch-A-Sketch seemed to keep everyone entertained. Patrick had been telling E about some tunnels that he remembered driving through as a kid. Patrick's family traveled East to see family periodically and that was something he liked. The moment we crossed into PA (first thing in the morning) E said,  "where are the tunnels?" Ahhh, so literal.

When we got to the Pennsylvania border, I said to the Micah, "welcome to The State of Independence. This is your state." Micah said, "nooooooooo, I don't like that." Of course he didn't. Sigh.

The big news today was, about 10 minutes from our destination, E said, "I just wiggled my tooth out." He said it perfectly matter-of-factually, which if you know E, is a miracle. I crawled to the back of the van to retrieve the tooth and put it in a baggie donated by Aunt Trish upon arrival.

First lost tooth!
We got unloaded and walked to the neighborhood park to play for a few minutes. The boys got hot quickly and we headed back to Trish's house for a drink of water and a little dinner. Dinner was delicious - all of our favorites. She had yogurt, hummus, fruit, and Triscuits for the boys and loads of veggies and wraps for Patrick and I. So good. She had some great trail mix that I hadn't had that included dried pineapple and peanut butter chips. Yum! I have to admit, I rarely meet a trail mix that I don't like.

The boys discovered the game room in the basement and E played pinball game after pinball game while M watched, mesmerized.

Patrick had also bought a small Connect 4 travel game but the boys weren't interested in playing. They did enjoy making patterns with the chips and throwing the pieces all over.

E with Max and Kona.

Pinball at Aunt Trish's. They thought that was soooo cool.

Jonah was a fussy, teething mess most of the evening but he did eat a whole container of bananas at dinner time. This is also a small miracle as he has not been all that interested in anything but milk.

Mmmmm. Bananas.

E and J playing at Trish's house.
E and M and Trish
Just what the big boys needed after a long 4 days in the car.
E had lots of fun running and playing and wrestling.     
Tomorrow it is on to Connecticut. Here is hoping all goes well with the movers and we get settled into our temporary space.