Tuscan White Bean Stew

In case you have been following along, I feel like I should update you on the house situation after the last post. Let me just put it this way: the house-hunting saga will continue. The seller decided not to sell his house mid-negotiation. "Unusual," you may think, yet that is the second time that has happened to us. One of these days I will write an entire post and fill you in on our house hunt from beginning to (hopefully) end. 

Anyway, on to more exciting and enjoyable things, like hot soup on a cold day. This soup is hearty, although it  could even be served to a vegan friend. It is super flavorful thanks to the abundance of rosemary and garlic. And it is just about the only soup I can think of that has a satisfying crunch, thanks to the crouton topping. 

My dad made it for James and I some time last month when we were over there for a visit, and I was excited to get the recipe and share it with you. When he emailed it to me, I was surprised at how few ingredients it included. It begins by infusing some olive oil with garlic (very easy, and a good thing to know how to do), and the rest is very simple. I pureed a cup and a half to make it stew-like, but you could leave it more like a soup, or puree more to create a thicker consistency. Any way you make it, it is sure to fill you up and warm you up in the cold, rainy weather.

Tuscan White Bean Stew
adapted from my dad's recipe which was adapted from the Mayo Clinic Cookbook

5 tbsp olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, quartered
3 cloves garlic, chopped
about 4 cups artisan bread, cut into cubes
1 can white beans, undrained
1 white onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups coarsely chopped carrots
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups broth

Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the 3 quartered garlic cloves and let cook a couple minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat and let the oil and garlic stand about 10 minutes. Discard the garlic, and return the pan to medium heat. Add the bread cubes and saute, stirring often, until light brown and crispy. Set aside. 
Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrots, stirring until onions begin to brown and carrots begin to tenderize, about 15 minutes. Stir in the chopped garlic, chopped rosemary, salt, and pepper and cook a couple minutes. Then add the can of beans and the broth. Bring to a boil, then let simmer at least 10 minutes. 
Remove about 1 1/2 cups of the soup and puree in a blender or food processor. Return to the pot and stir well. Garnish each bowl of soup with croutons and a rosemary sprig if desired. Enjoy.


Little Helpers, Big Lessons

Long before I even found out that I was pregnant with James, I decided that I wanted to be the type of parent that takes action rather than reacts to issues as they come up. Raising a human being doesn't just happen. It takes preparation, planning ahead, and thinking through how you are going to deal with and handle situations. There is no correct set of guidelines to follow. Each parent handles things differently, which is why every child is different.

One thing I have tried to be deliberate about from the beginning is having James help out around the house. I know it may sound crazy since James is only one and a half, but it's not like we wait until they understand language to speak to them, so why wait until they understand what chores are to ask them to help out?

I truly believe that if we make helping out fun, if we engage children as we help them do things around the house, and we step back to appreciate what we have accomplished, then maybe there will never be a need to bribe children into doing checklists of chores. If we fail to give children the positive outlook of chores being fun and productive activities we can do together, they will just do a quick and sloppy job at anything we force them to do down the road so that they can move on to what they really want to do. And who knows how this may affect their schooling and even their job performance in the future?... Do you see what I mean about being deliberate in my actions? Everything we do has a consequence!

The other benefit of allowing young children to "help" with chores is that you are interacting with them rather than trying to get something done quickly while they are playing by themselves (we all know that doesn't work anyway). Here's an example: I may be trying to make dinner, or throw some baked good in the oven for an event the next day, but James wants me to play with him. I could try to do everything by myself in the kitchen while repeating over and over "Hold on, sweetie, mommy will come play with you in a minute... why don't you go pick out a book and mommy will come read it in a minute?... Mommy just has to get this into the oven... James, hold on just a second..." on and on and on. This only results in a bite on the back of my leg. Not kidding. That's exactly what James does when he is frustrated that I am not paying attention to him. And guess what? He has learned that I will pay attention to him real fast if he bites me (not to mention, I will let out a pretty awesome sound!). Okay, now here is a different approach: I could not take myself or my schedule so seriously, put an apron on James, put on some fun music, plop him on the counter, and let him "help." The result: a huge mess, a 20 minute task takes an hour, the final product may suffer, but also a whole lot of giggling, dancing, and an important lesson learned: helping is fun and mommy cares more about spending time with you than making a perfect dinner.

Some other ways James "helps" out: putting toys or other items back into containers (I make this fun by having him stand back a little and throw them in, "Basket!"); switching laundry over from the washer to the dryer, or the dryer to a laundry basket (I hand him clothes, and he puts them where they go); carrying armloads of clothes or diapers down the hall to his bedroom and putting them away in the drawers (you have to let your perfectionism go on this one, the pjs will no longer be folded, or in the correct drawer!); taking recycle items out to the garage and putting them in the bins; emptying the dishwasher (he takes things out and hands them to me).... the list could go on, but I'm sure you get the point. Just remember: the things we teach them now will last their entire lives, so have fun, don't take yourself too seriously, and applaud them tremendously when they do help out, you will be surprised how much they will want to do.

(PS Could everyone please say a prayer/ light a candle/ send out good vibes/ whatever it is you do... We found a house we like and may be putting in our fourth -yes, fourth- offer on a house... more to come, and thanks!)


Maple, Berry, and Pear Dessert

I've been thinking about my little blog a lot lately, and planning in my head several posts that may or may not ever come to fruition. The reason I have been thinking more than blogging? Could it be because I am too busy taking care of a 60 pound dog who had a tumor removed from her head and we now lovingly call her Frankendog? No. Possibly because my toddler has a terrible cold and he nor his parents can ever sleep due to the coughing? Wrong again. Then it must be the obsessive house hunting that has seemed to take over my life?...

The actual reason is that every time I get on my computer to write a blog, I get side tracked reading other people's, and before I know it an hour has passed, nap time is over, and it's back to reality.

Reading all my friends blogs is seriously like a part-time job (that I don't get payed for and love doing... so maybe not like a job), and is even more time consuming when they post like everyday.

Anyway, here is a little recipe I threw together last night because we had a sweet tooth and needed something to go with our vanilla ice cream. Oh, and I needed to remedy the fact that I bought pears at Costco and they all ripened at once.

Maple, Berry, and Pear Dessert
3 1/2 cups pears, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 cups berries (frozen then thawed, of course, unless you live on a different planet where berries are actually in season)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups oats
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of salt
6 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into small (pea-sized) pieces
vanilla ice cream, for serving

Combine the fruit, maple syrup, and vanilla in the bottom of a baking dish.
Mix together the oats, brown sugar, spices, salt, and stir in the butter pieces. Sprinkle oat mixture evenly over berry mixture and bake 35-40 minutes at 400 degrees.
Serve hot over cold vanilla ice cream. Enjoy.


You Know You're a Mom When...

Does anyone else remember "The Family Circus" that would appear in the comics every Sunday? (It's possible that it is still around, but we don't get the paper; who has time to read it anyway?) Every once in a while, the comic would read: "It's apparent your a parent" and then it would go on to show all the tell-tale signs that signal to others that you indeed have offspring. It was pretty cute.

Lately, I have been thinking of several of my own:

1. You need to squeeze past someone in public, so you blurt out: "Beep, beep!"

2. Your phone, sunglasses, and camera are constantly covered in little finger prints.

3. Your own clothes shopping is done at Costco. As one mom friend said to me "...I mean, you're already there..." (Did anyone else recently pick up that eight dollar DKNY hoodie? No? Just me?)

4. You sing obnoxious songs that you learn from your child's toys. Lane came into the kitchen the other day serenading me with: "The Weebles weeble-wobble, but they don't fall down... The weebles! The weebles!"

5. You carry Kleenex (mostly used) and a binky in every handbag and every pocket of every jacket you own.

6. You leave the house with a really obvious wardrobe malfunction... obvious to everyone else anyway. Here is a small sampling of some of my own clothing issues: deodorant on the outside of my armpits on my shirt (so distracted by a little one, I forgot to reach inside my shirt while applying), inside-out clothing, taking off my jacket and realizing that what is underneath should have never been paired with my pants/shoes (i.e. brown on brown on brown- yikes).... the list could go on.

7. You decide to stop by a popular clothing store while on a romantic getaway with your spouse and buy nothing over the size 4T.

8. You use the words "bink" and "nums" in casual conversation with other adults.

9. Your main concerns when house hunting become proximity to parks and libraries, safety of stairways, and school ratings.

10. You do all you can to stifle it, but bust out laughing when anyone who doesn't have a child tells you how exhausted they are.

... I am sure you moms can think of plenty to add to my list. I would love to hear them!