Daily Dose of Rabbit Food

Daily Dose of Rabbit Food: October 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Natural Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies {Gluten Free}

Nothing goes together better than peanut butter and jelly except for peanut butter and chocolate! It's a fact, right? I have even gone so far as to drop little chocolate chips onto peanut butter toast. It is heaven when the warm toast melts the peanut butter and chocolate together. Do I sound hard up for peanut butter and chocolate or what?! Halloween is upon us and tomorrow evening pounds and pounds of sugar will be consumed by little monsters running a muck on our neighborhoods. Instead of joining the trick-or-treaters and inhaling multiple pieces of fun-size candy bars I decided to make Natural Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Just for the record, I am not a huge advocate of kids mowing down on processed, sugar-filled candy but hey, it is Halloween and who I am to take away the joy of stuffing Snickers after Snickers down the hatch from the little goblins. If I tried to give away apples or carrots I would be known as the weird lady that lives down the street. We don't want that now do we? Plus, I don't want to wake up with toilet paper hanging from my trees or eggs on my front door.

Not only do these cookies take care of a hankering for Reese's but they are also simple to make. There are only six ingredients in these lip-smackin' good cookies. Did you know Reese's are the number one most popular Halloween candy? One of my patients told me that yesterday; she sounded like she had her facts straight!

Natural Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Natural Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Crazy for Crust's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup of chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate - 60% Cocoa)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or grease pan with
    natural cooking spray.

2. Mix together peanut butter, sugars, egg, and baking soda. Stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

3. Drop cookies onto baking sheet in 2" balls. Using a fork, gently press down on each
    cookie making a criss-cross pattern. Press remaining chocolate chips on top of the

4. Bake for 8 minutes or until they start to brown. Cool before removing from cookie

Natural Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Natural Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Natural Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am telling you, heaven in a bite! My philosophy is that your final product is only as good as the ingredients that go in. Make sure to buy a natural peanut butter that is not filled with hydrogenated oils and sugars. Sometimes natural peanut butter gets a bad wrap because the oil separates from the peanuts and you have to stir the peanut butter and oil together before you use it. Just think of it as a 1-minute arm workout! Ok, ok, if stirring is too much for you there are no-stir brands out there and should be available at your local grocery store as well as chains. Also, I am fan of high-quality chocolate. The higher the cocoa content the better for you. If you are a milk chocolate person through and through it is a bit of a transition to dark chocolate. Let me tell you, mixing dark chocolate into a peanut-buttery cookie is about the easiest way to transition into the dark chocolate realm! Happy Halloween to you and your children! Have fun passing out candy or trick-or-treating! I hope nobody wakes up with a stomach ache from too many fun-size candy bars!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rustic Pumpkin Pancakes

The simplicity of a pancake is a comforting, belly-pleasing, makes-you-want-to-smile way to start the day! I don't know what it is about pancakes but they just make you happy! Maybe it is because they remind you of childhood, maybe it's because you almost feel a little naughty eating something so sweet for breakfast, or maybe it's because they are just that darn delicious! After a lazy Sunday morning of sleeping in, reading the paper in our sweatpants, and cuddling with our dog, Magic, we thought whipping up some Rustic Pumpkin Pancakes would be a great way to get us up and moving. No need to feel guilty about these pancakes; they are made with better for you ingredients than many pancakes recipes.

Pumpkin Pancakes made with half whole wheat flour and coconut oil

Rustic Pumpkin Pancakes
Makes 6-8 pancakes

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour (can use 1 cup white if you do not have whole wheat)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (can use dairy or soy milk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted and cooled (can use butter if you do not have coconut oil)

1. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar in medium bowl.

2. Whisk pumpkin and egg together in a small bowl. Add the milk, vanilla, and coconut
    oil. Whisk until smooth.

3. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and fold until just combined. A few lumps
    will remain.

4. Heat skillet or frying pan to medium-low. Using approximately 1/4 cup of batter for each, 
    cook pancakes until golden brown, flipping once, about 2-3 minutes per side.

5. Serve with butter and pure maple syrup.

Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple Syrup

Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple Syrup

I like to top my pancakes with sliced bananas! I know it sounds weird but don't knock it until you try it! It is a great way to get your potassium and they taste so delicious layered on the pumpkin pancakes and swirled in cinnamon, butter, and maple syrup. Cody, on the other hand, likes his with pancakes topped with peanut butter. I think that goes way back and was learned from his Uncle Pat! Peanut butter is a must for his waffles and pancakes! I have taken a few bites of his and it is pretty amazing! However you like to top your pancakes I hope you enjoy these pumpkin pancakes as much as we do!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cucumber Dill Sauce and Man Caves

Wow! This work week has been KAH-RAZY! Notoriously, health care systems get busy towards the end of the year but in combination with October being breast cancer awareness month work has been nonstop! I am pretty sure South Benders got the memo that they need to come in and get their girls screened. Don't get me wrong, busy is a good thing and I am glad women are taking care of themselves, but a girls gotta get a minute during the day to take a break! Note to self: Invest in comfortable shoes, stock work locker with K-cups, and don't drink too much water during the day. By the way, have you had your mammogram yet? If not, what are you waiting for?

So, have you reached the point in your life when staying home on a Friday night doesn't actually sound too bad? Yep, me too. I am hoping I am not alone on this! It has been nice to do laundry (eeek... did I say this?), sit on the couch for a few minutes, and pick up the house. Apparently my husband is on the bandwagon too because he was excited to work on "garage projects". He takes a lot of pride in his garage and I have to hand it to him; it is a clean, organized garage and there is always a cold beer available! The garage is slowly but surely turning into a man cave. Cody and our friend, Andy, are working on installing a heater, installing a sink, and mounting a flatscreen out there as we speak. I think if we needed to survive in our garage we could!

On nights like this, when cooking for one, Salmon with Cucumber Dill Sauce is my go-to meal. Salmon is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Our body can't produce Omega-3's so we must get it from the food we eat. It is important to consume Omega-3's because they help increase your HDL ("good" cholesterol), reduce blood pressure, prevents clots by acting as a blood thinner, prevents age-related macular degeneration, and acts as an anti-inflammatory. As if you need another reason to eat salmon, it tastes pretty darn good too! Just be sure to look for a wild salmon as it is the most sustainable choice!

The cucumber dill sauce recipe was given to me by a co-worker. Cody and I both love it. You know how it is hard to have peanut butter without jelly? Chocolate cake without milk? Well, that is us with salmon and cucumber dill sauce! The secret is time. The longer the sauce sits in the refrigerator the more the flavor develops. I would suggest chilling it for AT LEAST one hour before serving. My recipe below is for one but can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, or whatever comes after that depending on how many you are cooking for!

Salmon with Cucumber Dill Sauce

Salmon with Cucumber Dill Sauce
Servings: 1

3 oz. wild salmon filet
1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon dried dill, divided
1/8 cup sour cream
1/8 cup mayo
1/4 cup cucumber, seeded and diced
squirt of dijon mustard (approximately 1/2 teaspoon)

1. Combine sour cream, mayo, cucumber, 1 teaspoon dill, and dijon mustard. Chill for one hour
    before serving.

2. Place salmon on foil lined baking sheet. Squeeze lemon over salmon. Top with minced
    garlic and 1/2 teaspoon dill. Cook, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Salmon
    should be cooked to a temp of 145 degrees.

3. Remove skin bottom of salmon. Serve salmon with cucumber dill sauce.

Cucumber Dill Sauce - Super Easy Recipe

Cucumber Dill Sauce - Serve with baked Salmon!

Salmon with Cucumber Dill Sauce

I know I will be get my second wind the for the weekend after a good night of sleep! For now, I will settle for cuddling with Magic. I just love him. When did we start allowing him on the couch?!?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pear Salad with Honey Balsamic Dressing

Pear Salad with Honey Balsamic Dressing is a cinch to whip up! The salad is full of beautifully contrasting colors and the homemade Honey Balsamic Dressing pairs perfectly with the pear, blue cheese, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries. Salads are sometimes underrated and seen as a filler. I think a beautifully crafted salad is an experience and when the taste tantalizes the taste buds it gets you excited for the next course. Not to mention, filling your stomach with a good for you salad will help settle your hunger before the main course. Most importantly, starting dinner with a handcrafted salad gives you a little more time to linger at your table with your loved ones, which is the best part of a meal!

The Honey Balsamic Dressing is made with pantry stapes and takes no time at all to make. The dressing has a nice balance and is not overly sweet or too vinegary. Whipping up a homemade dressing is much healthier than using store-bought salad dressing. I know, it seems a little daunting for some reason. Maybe it is just that buying a bottle of dressing is so much easier. Trust me though, once you make your own, you will be hooked! This dressing is easy enough for everyday but fancy enough to impress company.

This salad can easily be made into a meal by doubling up on the pear, blue cheese, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries or by topping it with grilled organic chicken.

Pear Salad with Honey Balsamic Dressing

Pear Salad with Honey Balsamic Dressing

spring mix or baby romaine
pear slices
blue cheese crumbles
sunflower seeds
dried cranberries
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup honey
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce

1. Whisk balsamic vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, and soy sauce together until blended.
    Slowly add olive oil to mixture while whisking to help evenly combine dressing

2. For one serving, toss 2 cups of spring mix with 1-2 Tablespoons of dressing.

3. Top tossed spring mix with pear slices, blue cheese crumbles, sunflower seeds, and
    dried cranberries.

*The leftover dressing can be kept in the refrigerator for one week.

Pear, blue cheese, sunflower seed, and dried cranberry salad

Pear Salad with Honey Balsamic Dressing

If you are serving a large family or company I would double the dressing. I tend to make small amounts because it is just Cody and I! If you are having company and plan on serving this Pear Salad with Honey Balsamic Dressing the dressing would look nice presented in a small mason jar. I just love the rustic feel of mason jars and it would be a perfect look for this type of harvest salad. I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I Made It: Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies are a must in the fall! If you are like me, you can spend countless hours on the Internet milling through various combinations of pumpkin, chocolate, and sugar! On my endless Google search for "Healthy Pumpkin Recipes" I came across this Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe posted by Maria and Josh from Two Peas and Their Pod. Healthy? Check! Pumpkin and chocolate? Check! All ingredients on hand? Check! Check!

The Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies were easy to make! The one ingredient that you may not have on hand is coconut oil. I know, I know, it sound weird and scary. It took me a long time to open up to it too. I assumed my food was going to taste like coconuts! Coconut oil is a healthy fat and can be used in the place of butter, vegetable shortening, or any solid fat without dramatically changing the taste. Coconut oil boosts thyroid function, helps control blood sugar, increases digestion, increases HDL, and helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Coconut oil is a great option for cooking because it can withstand a high heat.

So, on to more important things, like chocolate, lets get down to business....

Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe by: Two Peas and Their Pod

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
3/4 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheet.

2. In medium bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and
    spices. Set aside.

3. Using a mixer, combine coconut oil and sugars together. Add vanilla extract and pumpkin,
    mix until combined. Slowly add in the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
    Stir in chocolate chips.

4. Drop by large, rounded tablespoons onto baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until
    cookies are just beginning to brown around the edges. Transfer to cooking rack, cool

Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie

Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie

I am so glad Maria and Josh shared this recipe. This is definitely going to be put into my regular rotation of recipes! If you haven't been to Two Peas and Their Pod I highly suggest it! A lot of simple, family-friendly recipes. Happy baking! 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

BoBo's Baked Pasta!

Bobo's Baked Pasta is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods! If you didn't know, BoBo is my mom. Growing up Italian we ate ALOT of pasta! In fact, a holiday meal was not complete without a dish of pasta. My Grandma Simeri makes a mean rigatoni, Grandma Bollero is known for a killer lasagna, my dad makes one helluva fettuccine alfredo, and my my mom makes an oh-so-good baked mostaccioli.

The best and worst thing about Italian cooks is they make their recipes by memory and taste! My dad always says, "Why follow Betty Crocker's recipe... I want to make it the way I like it, not the way Betty Crocker likes it!". I have gotten my parents to write down recipes for me and I do follow them but I always do a taste test at the end and always throw in a pinch of this or that! I can't help it; it is just in my blood!

Making your own sauce is much easier than you may think! The most important thing is time. Just like a chili or a fine wine the longer it sits the better it tastes. I like to do a double batch of sauce and freeze half. It is so nice to be able to pull homemade sauce from the freezer and have a beautiful meal in minutes. If life gets in the way and those jars of sauce in the store are calling your name I won't judge! Just do me a favor, don't skip step 2 and add the Italian sausage, onion, and garlic to the jarred sauce. You will thank yourself later!

Baked Pasta with Italian Sausage and Mozzarella Cheese

BoBo's Baked Pasta

1 lb penne pasta
2 cups of mozzarella cheese
1/4 c olive oil
1 lb of Italian Sausage
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 - 32 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I prefer San Marzano)
1 - 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 c parmesan cheese
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp parsley
1 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1. Combine crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, parmesan cheese, brown sugar, and all spices
    in large sauce pot. Heat on medium low.

2. Heat oil in large skillet and saute garlic and onion for 2-3 minutes. Add sausage, brown.
    When sausage is cooked, add sausage, garlic, and onion to sauce. DO NOT DRAIN
    SAUSAGE! (This will add flavor to your sauce.)

3. Cook pasta in lightly salted water for 8 minutes. DO NOT COOK ALL THE WAY.
    Drain noodles and run them under cold water to prevent them from further cooking.
    The noodles will finish cooking in the oven.

4. Mix sauce, noodles, and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Pour into a baking dish. Top the pasta
    mixture with remaining mozzarella cheese. Baked at 350 for 45-60 minutes or until cheese
    is browned.

Baked Penne with Italian Sausage and Mozzarella Cheese

Baked Pasta with Italian Sausage and Mozzarella Cheese

Baked Pasta with Italian Sausage and Mozzarella Cheese

Baked Pasta with Italian Sausage and Mozzarella Cheese

I adjusted my mom's original recipe just a little bit. After I taste my sauce I always seem to throw some garlic salt and parmesan cheese into the pot and add a pinch more basil and parsley; I adjusted the recipe to reflect this. I encourage you to taste your sauce. If you think something is missing, add it! Also, I am all about saving money but don't go cheap on the crushed tomatoes. Shell out the extra dough for San Marzano tomatoes and your taste buds will thank you! I hope you and your family love this recipe as much as we do! To make the meal complete serve with a salad and garlic bread!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Peanut Butter Honey Oatmeal

Happy Saturday! I hope you all are finding ways to slow down and enjoy yourself for a little bit this weekend! My recipe today is simple and sweet just like my Peanut Butter Honey Oatmeal! Oatmeal is a breakfast that just warms the belly! I think I like it so much because it is kind of like a blank canvas; it takes on the flavor of whatever goodies you want throw in! 

Most days of the week I am a plain Jane and eat my oatmeal straight up with a touch of brown sugar. A serving will usually hold me over for a few hours but by mid-morning I get a little hangry and need a little something more to hold me. When you have a busy day and won't get a chance for a mid-morning snack a great way to make your oats stick with you a little longer is to add in some peanut butter and honey. The peanut butter adds protein to the breakfast and will keep you satisfied for longer! Plus, I am always looking for any good excuse to eat more peanut butter! Who doesn't love it?

Peanut Butter Honey Oatmeal

1 serving of plain oatmeal, cooked 
1 Tablespoon of Peanut Butter
1 Teaspoon of Raw Honey
Brown Sugar, optional

1. Heat oatmeal according to container directions.
2. Stir in peanut butter and honey. 

*If you like your oatmeal on the sweet side add-in brown sugar to taste.

I am always looking for new oatmeal creations! If you have a favorite recipe send it my way! Have a happy and healthy Saturday!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

No Muss, No Fuss Mexican Chicken Salad

With my Grandma's passing this week there hasn't been a lot of extra time for thought out meal planning, prepping, etc. Sometimes life gets crazy and a girls just gotta get some food on that table! God bless Whole Foods for their delicious guac-kale-mole, knowledgable cheese guys, and good-for-you products. I found a little gem of a skillet sauce made by Frontera. There are many varieties to tickle your fancy but I chose roasted tomato and mild red chili to pair with chicken. 

Frontera uses all-natural, preservative-free, fresh ingredients in their products. Frontera's mission is to make high-quality, regional Mexican food available to all. Rick Bayless, one of the founders, has won many awards in the culinary world. Not only do the products taste amazing but the company also aims for sustainability by investing in community, living in balance with the seasons, and providing capital grants to small, sustainable farms in the Chicago area. That gets an A+ in my book. 

The roasted tomato and mild red chili has a very distinct smoky flavor and it pairs nicely with a soft, salty cheese. Typically, Mexican dishes are served with cojita cheese but the "cheese guy" at Whole Foods recommended a ricotta salata to me. The gentleness and slight saltiness of the ricotta salata pairs perfectly with the smokiness of the skillet sauce. Win, Win. 

So, lets get down to business. You will need the following:

Frontera Roasted Tomato and Mild Red Chile Skillet Sauce
- 1 small yellow onion, sliced
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (can buy pre-packaged if short on time) 
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb. of organic chicken, diced into cubes
- Additional toppings: lettuce, sour cream, guacamole


1. Must service chips, guac-kale-mole, and salsa to keep husband happy.

2. Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in skillet. Add onion and saute until soft. Remove onion from 
    pan, set aside.

3. Add additional 1 Tablespoon olive oil to pan, heat for one minute. Add chicken to pan and 
    cook until done.

4. When chicken is cooked, add the skillet sauce and onion to pan. Stir for 2-3 minutes,
    coating chicken in sauce.  

5. Toss in cilantro 1 minute before serving. Do not skip the cilantro. It finishes off the 
    chicken perfectly.

The chicken can be used in tacos or on top of shredded lettuce to make a salad. The flavor is so big that it doesn't need any additional salsa or taco sauce. It is perfect with lettuce, salty cheese, and a little sour cream. If anything, a touch of guacamole can be added but the chicken can definitely stand alone.

Frontera Grill Sauce Mexican Chicken Salad

Frontera Grill Mexican Chicken Salad

Truly a great meal in a matter of minutes!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How to Kick Fear in the Face!

I want you to take a minute and ask yourself, "If I had all the time and money in the world what would I be doing today?" 

You are probably quick to say laying on a beach drinking a margarita! If you think about the question for a minute you will probably come up with something a little more meaningful. Your answer might be volunteering for an organization, starting your own business, starting a non-profit, traveling, or even spending more time with your family. When you think about your answers you will find that accomplishing these things would fulfill you on a very deep level. But why don't we do them?

I believe there are 3 main reasons why we don't pursue our passions: time, money, and fear. I will save time and money for a different day but I want to talk about fear. Fear is something that affects everyone in some capacity. It can influence major life decisions as well as small everyday ones. It can slowly creep in or it can show up like a force out of nowhere.

The interesting thing about fear is that it is created within ourselves. Before we even voice our dreams or goals to someone else our minds already tell us we can't do it. We tell ourselves that our idea isn't good enough, that we will fail, no one will buy our product, that people won't support us, etc. The list goes on and on. We must learn how to quiet the voice of fear. If we do not, fear will takeover and soon will prohibit us from doing the things we dream of, the things that give us gusto, the things that truly motivate us.

FACE FEAR HEAD ON with the steps below:

1. Ask yourself if you are fearing something you can control. There are certain things that we can't control, for example, natural disaster, economic downturn, or a home break-in. To combat these types of fears we must create an action plan in the case of an event. To put a plan into action about how you would handle these types of situations will make you feel more secure. 

2. Ask yourself what the worst case scenario is if you go for something you have been holding back on.  For example, say you deserve a raise at work. You put together a list of reasons as to why you deserve the raise. Maybe you take on extra projects, the average salary for your position is much higher, you want to take on additional responsibilities. Once you do this, you must set a specific time to meet with your boss and present your case. Best case scenario, he or she says yes! Worst case, he or she says no. The worst case scenario is something you can live with. Even if you don't get the raise you were able to clearly voice reasons as to why you deserve it, you showed your boss you are not afraid to ask for what you want, and you didn't let your fear stop you. 

3. Create a Plan B. Try to map out the possible outcomes and how you will respond! In the event that something doesn't go as planned you can refer to the back-up plan and proceed forward. When you are starting a new adventure, you shouldn't expect things to go textbook perfect. The most rewarding roads are not straight; they are usually full of roadblocks, curves, and hills and you should welcome this!

4. Train yourself to think more positively. If you don't believe in yourself, nobody will. Most of us let negative thoughts freely flow through our mind on a daily basis. Take notice of this and when you feel the negativity coming in try to replace it with positive. Create a mantra out of it! Going back to the raise example, you may tell yourself that you will never get the raise so why bother. If you don't believe you should get it, neither will your boss. You must be your greatest cheerleader. Create a mantra to repeat to yourself: I am strong, I am brave, and I will ask for what I feel I deserve. Repeat this over and over until it squashes that fear!

Fear is something that every person faces. You must kick fear in the face and take charge of your own life. Do not let it stop you from achieving your dreams. I believe in you and you must believe in yourself!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

In Honor of an Inspiration, My Grandmother Bollero

My Grandma Bollero passed away very early on Saturday morning. Although her body is no longer here, her spirit will forever stay with me. She has taught me so many things just by example. She is the most selfless person I know. She devoted her years to her husband, children, and grandchildren. There is not a time I can remember that Grandma did not show me love. She has taught me that love is the greatest gift you can give to someone. 

Every single time I walked through her door I was greeted with a hug and a kiss. I can remember spending the night as a kid, waking up to the smell of their coffee, and sitting at their round kitchen table eating Cheerios with sliced bananas. To this day, cereal with sliced bananas is one of my favorite breakfasts. Grandma and Grandpa always had salami, fontinella cheese, and Italian bread on hand from Charlie's Butcher Block. On the holidays, she would purposely hide salami for me in case it was gone by the time my family arrived! My Grandma is famous for her "toasted cheese" sandwiches. To this day, I have never had a better grilled cheese than hers. As an adult, I now realize the secret ingredient is a lot of butter in the pan but they were so delicious! What I wouldn't give to have one more toasted cheese with my Grandma and Grandpa.

My Grandma was one of my best friends. I have far too many fond memories to count. Her ultimate wish for me was happiness. She was happy when her family was happy. Long before I met Cody, she always said, "I just want to be able to see you get married". I am so blessed and thankful that she was alive and able to be at my wedding. 

A few years back she had given my mom an old powder compact that my Grandpa had given her on their wedding day, October 15, 1949. My mom was to give it to me on my wedding day. She had a handwritten note in it telling me that she wanted me to have it. That compact and letter is so special to me.

Years ago, when my Grandma and Grandpa were in Italy they bought a rosary for me for me to carry on my wedding day. I had the rosary with me throughout my whole ceremony. I know I will always have two angels watching over me.

The day my mom got married my Grandma taped a lucky penny in her shoe. It must have worked because 30 years later my parents are still going strong. My mom took the penny from her shoe and taped it into mine on my wedding day. I will someday pass this on to my daughter.

These special moments are things I will never forget. I look to my grandparents love for one another as an example of how Cody and I should approach our marriage. Even if we can give each other half the love my grandparents gave to one another I know we will be just fine!

 My Grandpa passed away in April of 2012 so he was only able to be at my wedding in spirit. He was a veteran and loved our country. He taught his grandkids the importance of how to handle a flag and more often than not there was a flag hanging from their front porch. If you look at the picture above you will see a flag. This was not staged and I do believe that it was a sign that he was there.

The pictures below are from my Grandma's 90th birthday party. She lived over 90 beautiful years. Even towards the end she always had a smile on her face and you could see the love in her eyes. She spent the last few years of her life living at Greenleaf Nursing Home. The staff has become like family to us and I think my Grandma was like family to them.

She was truly an inspirational woman. I have been blessed to have had her as a Grandma. I am so grateful that I was always able to spend time with her. I look back with no regret and will always move forward with her in my heart.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Pumpkin and Sausage Pasta

Tis' the season for Pumpkin and Sausage Pasta! Pumpkin is a versatile ingredient that can be used in breads, muffins, beer, pies, chili and pasta! Just the taste of pumpkin is comforting! It is an iconic fall flavor and when we start to eat pumpkin-inspired dishes we are usually enjoying the color change of the leaves, bonfires, tailgating, and cider mills. If you have always played it pumpkin safe I encourage you to push past that comfort zone and whip up some Pumpkin and Sausage Pasta!

Pumpkin and Sausage Pasta

3 cups uncooked penne pasta (reserve 1/8 cup of pasta water after noodles are strained)
1/2 lb of Italian sausage or Italian turkey sausage, casing removed
2 cups fresh mushroom
1/2 medium sweet onion, sliced 
4 cups of fresh spinach
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1.5 cup no-sodium chicken stock
1 15 oz. can 100% pure pumpkin
1/2 cup white wine or additional chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
fresh parsley, chopped

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/8 cup of pasta water.

2. Brown sausage in skillet. Drain any grease. Set sausage aside.

3. In skillet heat oil and garlic until fragrant. Add onion and saute 8-10 minutes. Add
    mushroom and saute another 5 minutes or until onions and mushrooms are soft.

4. Add sausage to onion and mushroom saute. Stir in chicken stock, pumpkin, wine, sage,
    garlic powder, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered,
    for approximately 10 minutes or until thickened. Add spinach to sauce, stir occasionally,
    and allow spinach to wilt.

5. Combine noodles, sauce, and 1/8 of the reserved pasta water together. Stir in grated
    parmesan cheese. Garnish with chopped parsley and additional parmesan cheese.

Mangia! Mangia! (Eat, Eat)

*The starch in the reserved water helps the sauce bind to the noodles. This trick can be used for all 
  pasta dishes.

*I highly recommend buying a good block of parmesan cheese and grating it by hand for this recipe. 

Step 3, before spinach

Step 3, after spinach

Step 5

Pumpkin, Spinach, and Sausage Pasta
Finished Product!

This Pumpkin and Sausage Pasta will not disappoint. If you have picky eaters who may turn their nose at the though of pumpkin in their pasta don't even tell them its a main ingredient! The pumpkin flavor is subtle enough that they may not even realize it is there! Cheers to a happy pumpkin season!