Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

The stockings are (almost) hung, our baking is wrapping up and we are preparing for Christmas morning.

Need a last minute gift idea? Click here for a recipe for my friend Camille's Jarred Gift Soup Mix. This soup is amazing, and it is a super cute last minute gift idea:

Need some ideas for Christmas morning breakfast? These can all be made the night before and just popped into the oven:

Baked Egg Sandwiches Casserole

(Easter, but good any day) Morning Gratin

Eggs in a Nest

One last thing before I check out for the Christmas Holiday...if you have any recipes, advice or other general wanderings you want to see discussed on SP&P in 2010, email me. I love new ideas and have a few posts in the work for some New Year ideas (Amy, I haven't forgotten about you!). Email me at

Wishing you a Sweet, Merry Christmas-

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blizzards, Christmas and Clark

What do you get when you mix together an early Christmas celebration, 18 inches of snow and lots of good food? The Sweet Peas weekend.

For those of you who don't follow weather news, we were in DC for "Blizzard '09!"*

Besides being absolutely giddy about the snow, R and G also got to open their Christmas gifts on that side of the family and hang out with their cousins:

SPH and I also braved the winter mess to go meet Baby Clark, SPH's best friend's 6 day old newborn (pause for obligatory "ahhhh"):
It was a whirlwind of traveling and excitement and now we are home to face a whirlwind of Christmas and excitement.

But while we were visiting, we learned how to make Snow Cream, which G grew very fond of eating. Want to learn how to make your very own snow cream for next time you have a snow? Check out my post today on

Last but not least, I leave you with my new cookie decorating creation, my new favorite cookie love. It is a simple way to use leftover sugar cookie dough to make a Christmas-y cookie. Or, if you are like me, a way to get out of having to do too many cut-out cookies (I love the way they look, but sometimes, I just want an easy way out).

Use your favorite sugar cookie dough, but shape them into balls to make round cookies. Once cooled, ice on some white icing and sprinkle with crumbled candy canes. Mmmm:

These make for very tasty, very simple cookies for Christmas. And couldn't we all use a little bit of "simple" this week?

Merry Christmas All-

*Note to Jersey Baby-you can betcha that I just loved seeing Doug Hill reporting on the snow!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Easy Gingerbread Fix

Over the weekend the Sweet Peas baked. A lot.

At one point R asked if we could do a gingerbread train, something he saw in a store the week prior. Undaunted, I said, "sure!" So I drew up some plans:

I will spare you the details except to write it is $*&@^# hard to create a three-dimensional gingerbread train. So after trying, and deciding my sanity was more important to me than succeeding in making a 3D gingerbread train, I pulled out the train cookie cutter and we made 2D gingerbread trains, thank you very much. R and G loved them, and I felt proud that I had not sacrificed my inner peace in an attempt to become Superbaker.

But perhaps you are not the baking type, yet want something gingerbread-y to eat. I can't blame you since I will take a gingerbread cut-out cookie over a sugar cookie any day of the week. Now you can have all the yummy gingerbread flavor in a fun dip.

I created this dip for apples, but you could easily dip pretzels, crackers or even cookies into it. It is so super easy, I promise you will find something to dip in it, even if it is just a spoon!


Gingerbread Dip*

1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon molasses (or alternatively, 1 tablespoon brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients. Dip, repeat as necessary.

*I call it dip, but one could also eat it in a bowl, using a spoon, and call it "Gingerbread Yogurt."

Life is Sweet-

Monday, December 14, 2009

Blogs and Sleepovers

R and G are very intrigued with why I blog. They've known for years that I do something with the computer, which relates to why I take pictures of almost anything we do or make in the kitchen. But the other day I came into our play room/office and found the boys:

R informed me that they were setting up their own blog, one for all their Lego creations. Not a bad idea, eh? Thank goodness that SPH is a computer whiz and has already created a log-in for R, that basically allows him to go to a handful of websites, and blocks all others.

This weekend we had R's first sleepover with a friend from school. I love being a "fly on the wall" to their conversations, which suddenly sound so much more grown-up and advanced. Thankfully the worst word I heard during the sleepover was "fart."

But all in all the sleepover went well and we actually got a decent amount of sleep. But the boys were up a little after 6am, which on a Saturday morning can be brutal. What's a mom to do? I got up with the boys and we made pancakes.

After a cup of strong tea and these "mom survived hosting her first sleepover" pancakes, and all was right in the world:

Basically, my foolproof homemade pancake recipe, with some miniature chocolate chips and diced cooked bacon mixed in to the batter. A little piece of heaven, drowned in a bath of maple syrup.

Have a great week All-

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Creamy White Bean Soup

This soup is a dream--in that I have been looking for years for a way to make a low fat creamy soup that doesn't taste low fat. My barometer on this experiment has been SPH's reaction. When he tasted this soup he said, "you did it!"

My secret weapon?

I've used evaporated milk for years, but mostly for sweet treats and such. But I recently started trying it in savory dishes to replace regular milk. It adds an extra layer of creaminess, and if you use the skim milk evaporated milk, it has no fat.

Best yet, because the soup recipe below is a good "base" to start, you can make it your own. I made the soup vegetarian and then sauteed up some serrano ham to sprinkle on top and steamed some spinach to mix into my bowl. I kept R and G's bowls plain and they gobbled it up.

Trust me, you want to try this easy, healthy, warms-you-right-up soup.

Creamy White Bean Soup

1 pound dried Great Northern Beans
8 cups water
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup white wine or water
1/2 cup flour
1 quart broth (you can use beef, chicken or vegetable)
1 - 12 oz can evaporated skim milk

Toppings/Add-ins: Ham, Bacon, Spinach, Peas, Broccoli, Bell Peppers, the list could go on...

Pour the beans and water into a large stock pot and pick out any unusual or funky looking beans (ones that are brown, or are "one of these beans are not like the other!" looking). Bring water to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, simmer until the beans are tender. Drain in a colander.

In the same stock pot, bring the olive oil to medium high heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions are slightly translucent. Add the wine or water and scrape any good browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to low.

Add the flour and stir well. The mixture will be very thick. Slowly add the broth, about a cup at a time and stir vigorously to ensure the flour mixes with the broth. Once all the broth is added, continue stirring and increase the temperature to high. Stir occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil. Let boil for a minute and then reduce heat to simmer. Add the evaporated milk and stir well.

Keep warm on the stovetop, stirring occasionally until ready to serve. Top with anything you choose, or simply serve plain.

Serves 6

Stay warm All-

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lunchbox Reviews

Next year R will be attending school full day and need to pack a lunch. A few months ago a store opened up around the corner that sells bento boxes and other "green" lunch packing choices. I had had my eye on one type of box in particular, but then I stumbled across this website and my choice received only a 2 out of 5 lunchbox rating.

Not sure if a lunchbox purchase is in your future, but this website, Top Lunch Box Reviews could be helpful. It sort of reminds me of the book I used when buying new baby things, Baby Bargains. It breaks down each lunch box option and rates the pros and cons...

A friend of mine uses a box she bought her son on, but any personal thoughts on lunch boxes out there?


Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday S'Mores

Finally! Look what we just woke up to see...

As if the snow wasn't enough, R and G are in full blown Christmas mode. We celebrated Christmas early with Grandma and Papa this weekend and if I had to break it down it was a Thomas the Train Christmas for G and a Star Wars/Legos Christmas for R.

This is the first year that R has written his own letter to Santa:

Translation: "Dear Santa. I want a Lego Space Police Kit. From R" We'll work on niceties and politeness next year.

As I mentioned in my last post we went to our town's tree lighting ceremony Friday night. Can you guess what R and G's favorite part was of the night?

Take a wild guess...

Our local fire department had about 4-5 fire pits for s'mores making, and the boys were all over making their own. I am still removing marshmallow from G's jacket, mittens and hat.

Nothing like a warm bowl of chili to warm us up before venturing out in the cold to see our town's holiday lights. Our meals for the week are a bit hazy because I am feeling a bit lazy. I'll try and must up some energy to go to the grocery later today...

'Til then, have a great Monday-

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Last night...our town's tree light ceremony, complete with make-your-own s'mores and hot chocolate:
Today, time to get some good local foods and more at:
(If you live in Central Ohio, this is a terrific event to buy wonderful foods and locally made products)

Tonight, we open gifts with Grandma and Papa, who are visiting from Virginia.

It's starting to look a lot like Christmas, even if we have yet to see one. single. snow. flake.

What is up with that?


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pomegranate Braised Pork Shoulder

The Wall Street Journal recently did an article on foods that can help boost your immune system. A quick glance at the pictures of food that accompanied the print article showed oranges, squash and nuts, but then I read the list of highlighted foods and came across, "pork shoulder." Pork shoulder was included for its high level of zinc, a nutrient considered key in strengthening your immunity.

My entire family loves pork shoulder in our favorite Slow Cooker Carolina Pork BBQ recipe and for some yummy pork tacos. But thinking of pork shoulder as a "power food" is a new twist on an old favorite...and one that deserves a new recipe.

I took the idea of pork shoulder as a power food and then combined it with pomegranate juice and carrots, two other key foods in staying healthy and came up with this recipe. It is delicious, and just the thing for a chilly December dinner. It is special enough for company, and yet easy enough for a lazy day supper. Enjoy!

Pomegranate Braised Pork Shoulder

3 pound pork shoulder, bone in , cut into three pieces
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 onions, sliced
1/2 pound baby carrots, cut in half
3 ribs of celery, roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup flour
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup 100% pomegranate juice
1 quart beef or chicken broth
2 teaspoons dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix the pork shoulder, 3 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, being sure to coat the pork well.

Heat a large dutch oven or stock pot (that can go in the oven) over high heat. Once the pot is hot, add the olive oil and the pork, searing on each side for about 3-4 minutes. Remove the pork and set on a plate. Reduce heat on pot to medium.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic to the pot. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the onion becomes a bit translucent. Add the flour and tomato paste and stir for a minute or until it is well incorporated (mixture will be stiff). Stirring constantly, add the pomegranate juice and broth until the mixture is fully combined. Lastly add the thyme and return the pork to the pot.

Push the pork into the pot to make sure it is at least 3/4 covered with liquid. Place the pot or dutch oven in your oven for 3 hours.

Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over Cauliflower Mash or mashed potatoes.

Serves 4-6.