Truth or Dare – Leek & Salmon Pot Pie

Heaven help us . . . we have entered into the phase of Truth or Dare. In general, we’re not much for sleepovers round here. But hey, it’s summer, and as one last treat for Big Little One and Medium Little One we decided to whoop it up with a slumber party. Two friends plus my two and we have a squealing, giggling, chattering overnight adventure.

First we hit the pool. Then dinner. Then movie watching in the treehouse. These were all somewhat parent directed, or at least suggested, activities. Then after the movie, out it came in all of its glory – dun, dun, dun – Truth or Dare. Absolutely no parental guidance heeded here.

Now though I would like to raise a wise eyebrow on this one and suggest the dangers of carrying out dares that could later lead to embarrassment, I just can’t. I so fondly remember my Truth or Dare days. Specifically I recall wearing a Richard Simmons wig and doing leg lifts in the middle of the street while my friends held the boom box (yes, I just said boom box) that was blasting music from Flash Dance. We reeled with laughter and doubled over because our sides hurt from it. It still makes me smile to think of that moment in time. It was pure silliness. Pure abandon. Pure naivety. So I table my eyebrow raising, and let the dares just run wild.  I pretend not to hear them downstairs as one pees in the baby’s training potty (that one gets points for creativity!) I call them back on the number they used to prank call me and ask for 12 pairs of the polka dot underwear they are selling. They roar from the bedroom down the hall and I hope that they are soaking up this time of side-holding hilarity. I hope they will have a moment like my Richard Simmons one that will stick with them forever and will remind them of good friends and what a good belly laugh really feels like.

Sure, I continue to enjoy a good laugh here and there with close friends.  I haven’t completely lost my sense of humor here in middle age. But it’s just not the same kind of rollicking, double-you-over, can not catch your breath laughter.  It’s usually a giggle here and there while sipping a glass of wine or a good cocktail and enjoying a flavorful dinner of some kind like this Salmon and Leek Pot Pie I made the other night.

The leeks caught me eye at the Farmer’s Market and I bought them and then just took it from there.


I cleaned and sliced the leeks, and then sauteed in some olive oil until they were tender.


I cut the salmon into bite-sized chunks and then tossed the salmon and leeks with some grated lime zest, dill, salt, and pepper.


I took a Trader Joe’s frozen pie crust which I had let defrost and unfolded it into a glass pie plate.  As an aside, this crust ranks quite well on the real food ingredient scale – enriched flour, butter, palm oil, water and salt. (Palm oil is very high in saturated fat, but it has zero trans fats.) I spread the salmon and leek mixture into the crust.


I covered it with the second crust and crimped the pie edges together and trimmed it close to the pie plate. Then I mixed up a little egg and water wash, and brushed it over the top crust. I baked it in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes until the crust was golden brown.


I love my leeks and now I am excited to have found a good use for the salmon that I always have left over from my Costco filet purchase – never enough to make a full second meal of salmon alone, but too much to not use in something.


And now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s just way too much laughter in the other room. That friend-memory making-truth or dare spiel is all well and good, but these girls have to get to sleep at some point . . .

Here’s the complete recipe for Leek & Salmon Pot Pie, adapted from Gourmet.

Contemplating my Jerusalem – Baked Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

Here in my little ramblings, I try not to take myself too seriously. How can I? Most days I feel lucky if I have a single moment of sanity.
But then there are times, when I see my existence with such clarity that it amazes me. Don’t get me wrong, overall it’s like I’m looking through a fuzzy haze (think year round June Gloom)  just trying to figure out the general form and shape of things. Just trying to keep all the balls in the air, all the plates spinning, and all the children believing that their mother is a somewhat credible source, and at some point, prior to their births, had fully functioning cerebral capacity. The great thing about this usual state of craziness called my life is that it makes these rare moments of clarity even more beautiful.
This past weekend, I heard a really gifted speaker talk about Jackie Robinson and the apostle Paul. You see the connection right away, don’t you? Yep, I wasn’t so quick to get it either. But essentially, it has everything to do with greatness and advocating for something bigger than yourself. Of course Jackie was a great baseball player. But more importantly he was a great human. And the main thing that made him great was that he was focused not on himself, but something greater than himself. Paul had once been about himself.  He had the pedigree, status, and citizenship to make him totally success-bound, at least in the way people in the world define success. But after his transformation on the road to Damascus, Paul  became all about Jesus. He was willing to risk everything for something greater than himself. When all indicators told Paul he should turn tail and run, he repeatedly headed straight into the place or situation he should have avoided. Jerusalem was that place for Paul on more than one occasion. With others pleading with him not to return to Jerusalem, he stayed true to his convictions, stayed obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and went. He knew that what he would encounter there would not be easy, pleasant, or fun. Be he knew it was necessary.
After hearing this all laid out, I started wondering if we all have our Jerusalem? Do we have a place we return to because it’s the right thing to do? Because the Spirit calls us there? A place that it might be easier to avoid, but that we go back to in obedience and in faith?
In my moment of clarity, I inventoried my Jerusalem(s) – yes, plural, because I decided I have a few. And I was thankful for them. I was actually thankful for those “places” that I say time and time again I don’t want to go back to. Those places that give me grief. Those places that get my hackles up. Those places that make me nutty. I was thankful for THOSE places. Because in my conviction to go back to them, I know that I’m living for something bigger than myself, that I am at least trying to stay true to my convictions, and that I’m capable (on a good day) of the humility needed to do something I don’t want to do.
So thank you, gifted speaker, for stirring this up in me. I know my JerusalemS and I wouldn’t trade them for any 5 star resort on the planet.
And now, how on earth does one segue from THAT into a recipe? I have no clue. I have used my allotted daily allowance of brilliance just getting that thought down. I have no words or energy left for a clever transition. So if you want to keep reading for a great breakfast recipe for Baked Breakfast Oatmeal Bars, please do. If you’re stuck on figuring out your Jerusalem, just take your time with that one. And if you think I’ve gone over the edge with this one, just know that it made sense in my mind. It really did. So now . . . about that oatmeal . . . .
I love this recipe because I can mix up one pan of it, bake it, and have breakfast ready and waiting for my clan for about three days. I start by mixing together old fashioned oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, chopped pecans, and white chocolate chips. I spray a glass baking dish and then spread the oat mixture in that dish.

On top of the mixture I place sliced banana, more chocolate chips, and more pecans. I also add fruit sometimes. Sliced strawberries and raspberries both work well.

In another bowl I mix together eggs, milk, melted butter, and vanilla. I pour that over the oat mixture.

I bake the whole thing in a 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes, until it is golden brown. The next morning, I cut into slices and my crew has a yummy oatmeal breakfast.

I personally like to reheat my slice, but my odd offspring prefer the bars cold (?). Weird, but acceptable. The sweetest thing? They can serve these to themselves and their siblings which can buy me another 20 minutes in bed!  And no, my bed does not count as one of my Jerusalems, even though I’m called and drawn to it again and again!

Here’s the complete recipe for Baked Oatmeal Breakfast Bars, adapted from The Urban Nester.

Here are some additional breakfast options to peruse:

Just Not a Pajama Girl – Plum Upside Down Cake

This week has had us running in a million different directions.

I foolishly thought that with a little respite from water polo that I would have a few low-key, kick-back kind of days.  Wrong.  The Hubs non-chalantly announced at dinner on Sunday that there was an intensive soccer clinic going down this week and that Medium Little One would be there EVERY night.

But at least our mornings have been much more relaxed than usual.  We’ve eaten pancakes together, done puzzles, played Monopoly, played in the sand box, fiddled in “the garden”.  So my confession is that I have to try really hard on those slow paced mornings.  I guess it’s time to come to grips with the fact that I’m simply not a stay in my jammies and lounge kind of gal.  I make it until about 10:30 and then it’s like something just flips inside of me.  I myself need to shower and get dressed.  I need my small people showered, dressed, and coiffed.  And then I start looking around at the sheer mess resulting from our lounging and I freak.  I start tasking out orders and our leisurely morning comes to a grinding halt.

Oh, we may still have fun and relax over the course of the day, but that 10:30ish mark is just a breaking point for me.  I need to know that “things are in order” and everyone has done what they need to do to start the day.  Psychotic?  Most definitely, but that’s just the way this girl is wired.  All I can hope for is that my small people don’t undergo too much therapy later in life as a result of it.  I can hear it now, “It was weird, we were having so much fun, playing Monopoly, when all of a sudden my mom’s head started spinning, her eyes rolled back in her head, and she started drilling out orders about everything that needed to be picked up, and gave us 10 minutes to get dressed and be presentable.”  As I see it, I will have either created post-10:30-pajama-avoiders like myself, OR my progeny will be like those ones that you see in the bagel shop on Saturday morning living life in their PJs as if no one will notice or care.

Usually, after we switch gears and get “presentable”, we also launch into some kind of productive activity.  Yes, productivity will be a whole other topic for adult-life therapy. I just keep telling myself, there could be worse evils, right?  Anyway, this week, one of our productive activities together was to make this Plum Upside Down Cake.  We bought a ton of plums and they all seemed to ripen at exactly the same time.  Knowing we couldn’t possibly eat them all in time, I whipped out this recipe and off we went.

We started by mixing some butter, date palm sugar, and honey together in a skillet.  The actual recipe called for brown sugar, but I was curious as to how the date palm sugar would substitute in.  It didn’t melt as smoothly as brown sugar usually does, but the end result was just as good.

plimglazeDSCN1755  We poured that glaze into the bottom of a regular cake pan.  Then I sliced up the plums into wedges and the little helping fingers arranged them in this lovely spiral pattern on top of the glaze.


After that, we mixed together some butter and sugar with the electric mixer.  We added in a couple of eggs along with some almond extract and some vanilla.


We mixed together the dry ingredients which included flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

plumdryDSCN1759Then we alternated between adding the dry ingredients and milk to the butter and sugar mixture.  When the batter was done, we spread it over the top of the plum swirl.


We popped it in a 350 degree oven and baked for about 55 minutes.  We let it cool in the pan for 30 minutes after taking it out of the oven.


We ran a knife around the edges of the pan to unstick the gooey glaze.  Then we inverted a platter on top of it and flipped out the cake.


It was surprisingly light and very tasty.  We are still staring at a good amount of very ripe plums, so we may just be looking at a repeat dessert another night this week, and another little “productive activity”.


Here’s the complete recipe for Plum Upside Down Cake, adapted from Epicurious.

Have your own supply of oh-so-ripe plums?  Check out these other plum dessert recipes.

When You Feel Like a Stinker, Go Do Something Nice – Apple Peach Fruit Leathers

Wish I could say I had orchestrated this on purpose, but I’m afraid that’s just not the case.  A little family bike ride the other night led us through an area near our house known as The Incredible Edible Garden.  We noticed that tons of tomatoes, squash and peppers were literally rotting on the vine.

A couple of days later I did a little googling around and found the contact info for the food bank that harvests the crops.  The lady on the phone didn’t seem too concerned about a minimum group size, so I arranged for myself and kiddos to go do some gleaning today. I roped a friend’s kids into picking with us, and off we went.  What a wonderful relief to the stress I have been feeling of late.  Everything was put on hold for two hours as we did nothing but pick eggplant.  Who knew eggplant could be so therapeutic?!  And who knew that eggplant could be so prickly?  I was glad to get these shoes off when we were done picking.


All together we picked 11 bins of eggplant and 2 bins of bell peppers.  Not bad for a band of 5 kids, one toddler, one almost toddler, and a weary mom.  Everything we picked will go to Second Harvest Food Bank and be distributed to people who are in need.  How cool is that?

We had one brief break while picking and I whipped out some homemade fruit leathers, water, and grapes.  Let’s just say that the friend’s daughter that I  had taken with us is BEYOND PICKY in what she eats.  I was banking on her maybe drinking some water and that would be about it.  She suspiciously eyed the fruit leathers.  Like an animal checking out its prey, she inched closer and closer.  She asked what they were and I answered.  Still not actually offering so as to not scare her off.  Finally she asked to taste.  I held out the container and she took a smidge.  That would be the end of that, I thought.   All of a sudden it was like Mikey and the old Life commercial – She liked it; she really, really liked it!  To the tune of about 6 fruit leathers down the hatch.  So with that picky eater approval, I present you Apple Peach Fruit Leathers. This is so simple it is ridiculous!

I started with some unsweetened applesauce. Then, I pureed one peach and added that to the applesauce.


After that, I added in some cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.


I spread the mixture out thinly and evenly on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.


Now here’s the kicker . . . I baked it for SIX hours at 170 degrees.  I then used a pizza cutter and cut the leathers into strip size pieces.

So easy (long yes, but easy) and so healthy.


Oh, and the really sweet part of this deal?  Not really satisfying the picky eater friend at all.  But driving these kiddos to get well-deserved milkshakes post-picking and hearing their sweet voices as they prayed for the people who would eat the food that they had gathered.


Here’s the complete recipe for Apple Peach Fruit Leathers, adapted from my friend over at Love Life Naturally.

Want to explore more “leather” recipes?  Check these out to start.

Blah! I’ve Been Blindsided – Summer Corn Chowder with Bacon

I have seriously hit a wall.  I look at the calendar for the next three weeks and I don’t see any way I am going to feel rested and rejuvenated before that back-to-school bell rings.

The funny thing is that just about two weeks ago I was feeling wonderful enjoying how summer was softly slipping by.  Then WHAM!  Family funkiness set in and I feel like I’ve been robbed.  My reserve of peace and calm has been depleted just like that.  I want it all back, and I want it back now.  I want to laze.  I want to linger.  I want to lollygag.  And yet it doesn’t look lkie that’s in the cards at the moment.

And as some of you readers might well relate to, these periods of unease are notorious for their “trickle down effect”.  Yep, you feel like a rotten egg inside and all of a sudden your offspring start acting like rotten eggs.  It’s a vicious cycle.  I can’t take any more arguing.  I don’t want to wake up to whining.  If anyone is going into timeout, I think it should be me and I think that timeout should take place at a five star resort.

All sarcasm aside, I have seriously considered asking the Hubs what he would think about me escaping for a weekend.  I’m imagining something along the lines of using hotel points, checking in, lounging, reading, listening to pure silence – – – just picture a big sedentary, quasi-comatose blob, and that’s what I dream of being for 48 hours straight.  I may not even emerge to consume food.  I said “may not”; don’t hold it against me if I decide to shower and make myself presentable for the express purpose of eating out at some swanky restaurant.

But until I actually have that conversation with the Hubs, and he’s on board with the 48 hour escape idea, I guess I will just have to suck it up and keep on keepin’ on.  I’ll sort through the major crisis at hand. I’ll take toddlers to swim lessons, drive kids to practices, plan play dates and get togethers, police ipad usage, continue the endless cycle of feeding people, washing people, washing clothes, and washing dishes.  I’ll try not to whine about it all, because as I myself have been heard saying, “Whining isn’t going to change anything.”

I know my perspective will change soon enough, even if the Hubs isn’t down with that 48 hour furlough idea.  It always does.  I know that soon enough I will see things in a different light.  Feel that heaviness gone. When I start hearing kind words from my kids’ mouths again and see them helping of each other with love in their eyes, then I’ll know that we’re back in synch and that, for the most part, everything has been restored.

I  don’t know about you, but when junk goes awry in my little universe, I always find that soup makes it better.  Here’s a little Summer Corn Chowder that I whipped up recently.  It might not cure all ills, but it sure did taste good.

I started by sautéing up a little bacon.


After the bacon was crisp, I removed it with a slotted spoon and set it aside.

I took about 6 ears of fresh sweet corn and removed the kernels from he cobs.


I added the corn, along with some chopped russet potatoes and diced crookneck squash to the bacon drippings.  I sautéed it all for about 5 minutes and then added in some veggie broth.  I simmered it all about 20 minutes until everything was tender.


I then scooped about 3 cups of the mixture out and transferred it to the blender.  I pureed that to a nice smooth texture.  I transferred it back to the original pot, added in some fresh whipping cream and a little cayenne pepper for a bit of a kick.  A little salt and pepper to taste and we were good to go.

corn chowDSCN1697

Here’s the complete recipe for Summer Corn Chowder with Bacon, adapted from Epicurious.

Racing Mind; Random Thoughts – Thai Basil Eggplant

I generally have at least one main idea in my little brain when I sit down to write.  Not the case today.  My mind is racing.  Can’t seem to distill it down for the life of me.  So I guess I’ll just go with it and declare this “Random Thought Thursday”.  It is Thursday, isn’t it?  I may have to double check that.

First up, my area of concentration in my book club this week.  This was such an eye opener.  The category was waste.  There were a lot of suggestions in the book on how to address this topic.  The actual 7 habits were 1) gardening 2) composting 3) conserving energy & water 4) recycling 5) driving only 1 car 6) shopping thrift & 2nd hand 7) buying only local.  Jen Hatmaker adopted ALL of these habits for a whole month. Since reading the book 7 the first time through I had already started gardening and composting (a tad),  I also try to be pretty on the ball with recycling.  The one car idea is just laughable in this circus called my life.  Maybe in another season, another space, and another time.  So I decided to really hone in on just waste in general.  Thinking about avoiding the waste beforehand.  My target?  Paper towels, sanitizing wipes, napkins, & plastic!

Three pretty unassuming characters to some, but absolute monsters to me.  I use paper towels like they are going out of style.  I rip and wipe without a second thought for the tree who sacrificed for me.  Wipes (baby or sanitizing) are like my weapon of choice.  I confess, the napkins was me stacking the deck.  I knew I could do a good job at this one. And plastic?  Well, that one just crept in there and I thought it would be a good idea to educate the kiddos more on how MUCH of it we use and how we can be more mindful in that arena.

So last Friday morning I took the paper towel holder off the counter.  Hid it completely so as to not succumb to temptation.  I took an old towel, cut it into 8ths, and voila . . . . my paper towel replacement plan.  Sanitizing wipes – out of sight as well.  Baby wipes – well, I limped along on that one.  After all, I DO still have a baby to vouch for me.  I am not kidding when I tell you that I had paper towel withdrawals.  It literally took me 3 days to stop the paper towel grabbing reflex.  By Day 4 I had finally gotten over the gross factor and felt somewhat confident that I could keep my little realm just as clean using rags and washing them as I could with my arsenal of paper towels.

Napkins were easy.  I simply decided to use cloth napkins instead of paper.  I told you, I was sandbagging on that one.

For the plastic deal, I kicked things off by watching a little TedTalk with the kids about where a lot of our plastic ends up – The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  Then we set up bins for each member of the family. (True confession, I actually reached for a paper towel and a wipe to clean up my bin.  How sick and twisted is that?)  Hubs and I shared a bin, Big Little One and Medium Little One each had their own.  The point was this – if you use plastic at any point in the week, no matter where you are or what you are doing, you have to hold onto that plastic and bring it home to your bin.  That way, we could all get a visual reality check on how much plastic we are actually using.  I’m happy to report that my girls were really on this, AND, not huge plastic abusers in the grand scheme of things.  I, on the other hand, have a glaring issue with plastic vessels intended for the transport of caffeinated beverages.

So tonight wraps up the week on waste.  The paper towel, wipe and napkin experiment was habit changing.  I’m so glad I did it.  Next week I will return things to their proper counter top space and see how well I can cope with the temptation. The deal with plastics is a biggie.  But I’m honestly not sure where to go with it from here.  I’m contemplating buying in bulk for a week to see what that looks like and what kind of a difference it would make.  The truth is, there is just SO MUCH packaging for most non-produce purchases.  I guess I’ll just continue to chew on that one and see what changes I can make baby step by baby step.

I had so many other thoughts on my mind that I wanted to share.  Like how my girls placed 5th in water polo junior Olympics.  Like how we’re back at it again for the next 4 days with Big Little One’s Co-Ed polo team.  Like how much fun a good old fashioned scavenger hunt can be.  Like how frustrating is when people don’t practice full disclosure. Like how I just need to finish seasons 7 & 8 of 24 so that I can reclaim my life and maybe read a book again.  But all of that would take way too long, so I’ guess I’ll just cut straight to the recipe for Thai Basil Eggplant.  Oh, and if you hear a dinging noise in the background, that’s the Hubs texting me the score at the end of each quarter of the water polo game happening right now.

OK, so Eggplant.  I love it, but I usually tend more in the direction of Italian when preparing it.  Honestly, I have a fear of Asian cooking.  I think I avoid it because I don’t think I will pull it off well.  But when I saw this recipe, I was hopeful and thought I had a decent chance at success.

I started by slicing the eggplant into slabs and then into slices about 3/4″ wide.


I heated some vegetable oil in a large pan and added the eggplant slices.  I added a little bit of water and then covered the eggplant and turned the heat down to medium to let things cook.  I checked about every 5 minutes to make sure things weren’t sticking or burning.  Total time, it took about 20 – 25 minutes for the eggplant to cook all the way through.

I thinly sliced green, red and yellow bell peppers and one white onion.


I heated more oil in a large skillet and sautéed the onions and peppers for about 5 minutes and then added in some minced garlic.


For the sauce, I whisked together some hoisin sauce, soy sauce, water, chili sauce & cornstarch.  I added the onion and pepper mixture to the eggplant.  I poured the sauce over and cooked over medium heat until the sauce coated all of the veggies.  I transferred everything to a platter of brown rice and garnished with fresh sliced basil.


I think I could get used to this cooking Asian thing if it works out this well each time.