spicy sausage & arugala naan pizza

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10 weeks.  That’s all that is possibly left until we meet out little guy.  In some ways, 10 weeks still feels luxurious and distant and in other instances it feels like a blink away. Of course we are excited for the day to come but there is always so much on the “to-do” list.  Regardless of our planning though, I am sure he will come whenever he is ready to grace us with his presence! This week, 30 weeks pregnant, marked a change in my energy level.  My second trimester energy high is starting to wane a bit and I am curious if the crushing first trimester exhaustion that I have had an extended reprieve from is returning. Getting through the day isn’t too challenging but I definitely feel the day on my bones when I ride home and in my muscles when I finally collapse on the couch. Quick and easy dinners are therefore a major necessity now. This latest naan pizza was so simple that it might become my next obsession.

Ingredients

4 Naan

tomato paste

ricotta cheese

1 Spicy Sausage

1 red onion

parmesan cheese

red pepper flakes, salt, pepper

olive oil

arugula

Preheat the oven to 425.  On a baking sheet lay out the 4 naan.  Mix 4 tablespoons of tomato paste with 4 tablespoons of water. Spread this mixture over the naan, leaving a little room at the edges for “crust.” Lay some thin slices of red onion on top of the sauce, crumple the ricotta cheese and scatter over sauce, sprinkle parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Remove sausage from casing and crumble and distribute over the 4 naan. Drizzle olive oil on each naan. Bake in the over for 16 minutes. Once the time is up, top each pizza with arugula, serve, and enjoy!

family celebration, vacation, and babymoon

Last week was a wonderful celebration!  My mom and dad invited all of us to join them on a Disney Cruise of the Caribbean for their 40th wedding anniversary. Planned a year in advance, it is hard to believe that we just finished this magical time together.  We were so lucky to partake in this incredible vacation and so lucky to be celebrating so many wonderful family moments. While on board we toasted to my parents and their beautiful commitment to one another over their many years of marriage, we sang happy birthday to Avery who recently turned three, we enjoyed being together as a family, and David and I enjoyed some quiet moments that we deemed our “babymoon.”

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We boarded the Disney Fantasy at Cape Canaveral  and spent two days at sea while we cruised down to St. Maarten. The ship was just beautiful. Disney is known for its attention to detail and its excellent customer service and in both of these areas they again excelled. Our dining staff, Yanina and Kaya, became instant friends and helped make our experience truly magical. Each day aboard, we explored all that the Fantasy had to offer from midship pools, to Broadway shows, to character encounters with Avery and Smith and so much more. Ending each night in one of the rotating dining rooms with Yanina and Kaya, we would recap our adventures and dine on lavish four course meals. It was a vacation fit for a king and I am not sure how much of the weight I gained is from the baby-to-be and how much was from the extravagant meals!  Regardless, it was well worth it as we all settled in to life on the Fantasy.

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Our first port of call was St. Maarten.  Here we departed from the cruise itinerary and Bryan became our guide. Having traveled extensively in the Caribbean when he flew for American Eagle, Bryan took us over to Maho Beach best known for its picturesque beach, delicious beach side bar, and the low flying planes overhead!

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To be that close to planes landing was actually quite amazing.  The bar showed the arrival times and people lined the beaches and paused from their swimming to watch the aircraft land. It was so cool!  This topped with warm clear blue water made our day in St. Maarten quite special.

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Our next morning, we woke up in St. Thomas to yet another beautifully warm and sunny day. We left the Fantasy early and boarded the Kon Tiki Island Boat Cruise. While aboard, we sang, danced, and partied our way to an isolated beach where we spent the afternoon soaking up the rays, enjoying our time together, and just relaxing.

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Our last stop was Disney’s Castaway Cay in the Bahamas. This island oasis was groomed in true Disney fashion. From their pathways, to the set up of the lounge chairs, to the island BBQ lunch, to the underwater reefs the island exuded care, relaxation, and fun. This was our longest day off the ship and we enjoyed every moment. David and I snorkeled in the morning.  It was so different snorkeling while pregnant.  At times, we would  be gliding along the ocean looking at schools of fish and then the little guy would move and bump and kick. I like to think all that movement was because he was enjoying the weightless swimming  in the sea. David and I would stop and say, “Wow so right now it is just you and me but very very soon baby makes three!” With only 88 days until the estimated date of arrival this trip marked our last vacation as “just the two of us.”  Thankfully we had plenty  of time with our niece and nephew to practice a little parenting this past seven days =)

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But really just being together as a family made the trip so special.  It is sad being home now in that it is so quiet.  I keep expecting to see someone come around the corner to say hello or to ask us to run off here or there on the ship. I am so thankful for last week and I am really looking forward to our next family gathering which will most likely include baby-to-be!

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vegetable barley soup

Last night David and I were set to watch a marathon of Homeland.  Finally realizing that our local library could save us a great deal of time and money, we have started to borrow television series instead of splurging on them ourselves. We donned our pajamas and curled up on the couch together each with a big bowl of our vegetable barley soup.  Covered in blankets, we enjoyed both the warm meal and the good drama.  Of course, being pregnant meant that our “marathon” of Homeland episodes was actually just one for the night as the meal combined with my sleepiness were the perfect combination for an early bedtime!

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Ingredients:

5 garlic cloves diced

4 onions diced

6 carrots diced

4 parsnips diced

6 celery sticks diced

1 cup of barley

1 bunch of kale, washed and torn roughly

2 cans of 28 oz diced tomatoes

6-8 cups of water

red pepper flakes, black pepper, salt

Cook the barley according to package. In a large dutch oven or deep soup pot, heat olive oil  and add the garlic. Toss together until garlic is fragrant. Add all of the vegetables (carrots, onions, parsnips, and celery) and mix together.  Add spices. I went heavy on the red pepper flakes and pepper to ensure ultimate flavor. Cover the vegetables and left cook for about 12-15 minutes. Stir occasionally.  Once the vegetables are translucent and cooked through, add the diced tomatoes and water. Bring to boil, and then simmer together for 15-20 minutes. Add in the kale and the cooked barley.  Enjoy!!

roasted chicken and root vegetables

The picture associated with this meal does not do it justice. I should have taken the shot before David carved the chicken, but the smells of the delicious meal had permeated the house for 90 minutes and we were ravenous to begin dinner. The chicken’s photo shoot was rushed but boy oh boy did we savor this meal. We actually even broke out into a little “fight” over the potatoes and whose plate was perhaps being too potato gluttonous! So even though this picture is a bit underwhelming, we had to post about the meal in order to add it to our growing list of delicious dinner options.

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Ingredients:

1  4lb chicken

salt, pepper

1 stick of butter

chicken stock

1-1.5lb of fingerling potatoes, cut in half lengthwise

4 carrots, cut into 1-2inch sections

2-3 yellow onions, cut into quarters

1 lemon

1 head of garlic

In a roasting pan create a “bed” of carrots, potatoes, and onions. Pour 1 cup of chicken stock over the bead of veggies. Rinse the chicken and stuff the chicken with the lemon cut in half and the head of garlic cut in half . Seal cavity with a toothpick. Bring the stick of butter to room temperature and smear all over the chicken, even between the skin and breast meat if possible. Generously sprinkle pepper and salt all over the chicken. Bake the chicken for 30 minutes at 425, then flip the chicken over (add more chicken broth if needed to avoid burning vegetables and baste chicken), bake the chicken for another 30 minutes, then flip the chicken over (add more chicken broth if needed to avoid burning vegetables and baste chicken), bake the chicken for a final 30 minutes. Take out of the oven and wrap tightly in aluminum foil for 20 minutes to let the juices set. Carve and serve with the roasted veggies!!

spicy pork & mustard green soup

My cravings primarily come in two categories: salty and spicy. I find myself picking the spiciest item on the menu or adding drizzles of Sriracha sauce to everything (including my lunchtime salads!). This little dude has a “hot” tooth and I find myself giving in to it every day.  Thankfully,David already was a spicy food eater otherwise this latest phase of food cravings would be miserable for him. I sort of want to try a chicken wing eating contest with him now to see who can handle the hottest of hot. Prior to the baby-to-be, I wasn’t a lightweight when it came to spice but I definitely feel a new level of spice competency! It is my latest “super power” perhaps?

Last night for dinner in order to tap into this craving, we cooked up a spicy pork and mustard green soup from Bon Appetit. With David helping as my sous chef, cleaning the greens and dicing the scallions, the dinner from beginning to end took no longer than 20 minutes to make. Super easy, spicy, and flavorful my craving was satiated….for now. (Though a drizzle of Sriracha really added just that little bit extra I needed).

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paella & pregnant winters

The Winter is a beautiful season in New England. Snow covers the trees, streets, and yards of every home, while people huddle with loved ones and friends to stay warm. The sun shines brightly most days with clear blue skies, but the temperatures remind you that winter prefers for you to stay indoors or to layer yourself.  I like to pretend sometimes that I live in the North Pole when the banks of snow are higher than my thighs. How rugged are we? I say as I take Buster and Bella out back to carve a path. This winter has been particularly snowy.  Snuggling indoors with David, we cook solely belly-warming meals like paella. Yet, this winter has turned me a bit against it. Part of me has started to ache for warmer temperatures and springtime rains. Perhaps being pregnant contributes to this a bit. Snowy streets are treacherous for me now. I worry a lot about falling down and what that could mean for the little one. Thankfully (knock on wood) I have avoided this seasonal hazard so far. This morning though, I was in a panic as I tried to climb the hill to my school and found myself sliding backward more than moving forward. While I definitely don’t want to “wish” winter away, I am getting ready for the Spring thaw to come our way.

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beef empanada

My History Department is pretty special. We come together not only for meetings on curriculum and lesson planning, but for dinners, and holiday and birthday celebrations.  During one of our off-campus gatherings, Yolanda hosted and made a number a delicious dishes.  This beef empanada dish was inspired by the one she served us!

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1 lb chopped beef

1 can diced tomatoes

1 onion diced

2 garlic cloves diced

teaspoon red pepper flakes

teaspoon cumin

black pepper and salt, to taste

1/2 teaspoon oregano

Goya Discs (usually in the frozen food aisle)

Salsa

Canola Oil

In a large pot saute the onions and garlic until translucent and fragrant. Add the beef and cook through. Add cumin, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, and mix all of the ingredients together for approximately 2 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and stir for another 2 minutes. Lower the heat while you assemble the empanadas.

Once the mixture is prepared, scoop a tablespoon of the mixture onto half of one of the Goya discs, fold disc over and press ends closed with the tongs of a fork, and set aside. Repeat until all of the mixture has been used.

Heat about an inch of canola oil in a frying pan, place 4 empanadas into the pan at a time. Allow them to fry the disc to a golden brown approximately 2 minutes on each side. Set aside on a plate to cool. Serve with salsa and enjoy!!

soy-braised short ribs with sugar snap peas

I love three day weekends!  It would be amazing to have one every weekend. Three days is just enough time to fully recharge one’s battery, check off items from the to-do list, and, for teachers, have time to grade without having to compromise on time with a loved one.  I had such a good weekend of all of this. And, of course the time spent with friends and David was the best. How did we tie together this delightful winter treat?  By cooking up a delicious crockpot dinner by Real Simple.

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semi-homemade baked ziti

Last night we rang in the New Year with our neighbors. It was so much fun hanging out, playing charades, and just spending time together. David and I have always said we are incredibly lucky to have moved into our neighborhood. We instantly made friends with those around us and were welcomed in. Last night was just a great reminder of that. To celebrate, the host and hostess shared a “New Year’s Eve around the World” theme. Each house then adopted a country and brought a dish with them to share. David and I chose Italy. It was a hectic morning and my meal choice went from one dish to another. I finally settled on some baked ziti and I think it came out pretty well and was insanely simple to prepare.

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2 boxes penne noodles

1 can 28oz diced tomatoes

1 cup Ricotta Cheese

1 package mini meatballs

2 jars Rao’s arrabiata sauce

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Prepare the penne noodles according to box in order to have “al dente” noodles.  Return the strained pasta to a deep sauce pan. Mix in 2 jars of Rao’s Arrabiata sauce, mix in cup of Ricotta Cheese. Cut meatballs into quarters and mix in to pasta. Finally mix in the diced tomatoes. Pour mixture into a baking dish. Top with the shredded mozzarella and bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Turn your oven to Broil and brown the top layer of cheese for 5-7 minutes (watch it during this part so as not to burn the top layer but just brown and bubble slightly). Then serve and enjoy!

pappardelle with pumpkin and caramelized onions

On Saturday morning, we woke up to find that our furnace had stopped working. David headed up into the attic (that’s right our furnace is in the attic!), to see if the pilot light went out.  Forty minutes later, we still could not figure out how to get the furnace moving again. It was chilly but not cold…yet. The repairman explained that the part we needed was probably the pressure switch and that we would need to hold tight until Monday when he could get one to us. Looking out over the prospect of a cold weekend in which the temperature was low and falling was grueling. Bundled in every warm article of clothing we had, we baked breads and roasted chicken in an attempt to keep the kitchen warm. At night, we snuggled the pups in bed but even their little fury bodies were not enough to keep us really warm. At one point we even had to tuck Buster and Bella in under the covers because they were shivering!

Clearly, we needed something to keep us positive as we waited for Monday and the furnace to be repaired. Out from under the snugly covers I headed into the kitchen and cooked a hearty pumpkin pasta to warm our tummies until the furnace could warm our limbs. This buttery pappadelle with pumpkin and caramelized onions recipe was delicious and subtle. I would recommend trying it out whether your furnace is out or not!

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