Sunday, December 26, 2010

Organizing Kick

(First things first--how was your Christmas? Joyful and fun, I hope. Ours was full of smiles, surprises, snow and sweet things.)

What is it about this time of year that brings on an organizing kick?

Perhaps it is the throng of new gifts gracing our home, the slower pace after the holiday preparations and celebrations, or the coming new year; whatever the reason, I've been making lists, sorting and planning.

With all this organization in the air, I also updated my Sweet Pea Virtual Cookbook Recipe Index. Hope it helps in the coming year of menu planning, grocery shopping, cooking and yes, eating too.

And with this project crossed off my list, I'm hitting the hay's a snowy, cozy night, and the flannel sheets are calling my name.

Sweet dreams-

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Eve Eve Eve

R and G's friends are here for Christmas movie night, "Santa Buddies" is playing on our TV, a roaring fire is in the fireplace, SPH and I are sipping some wine and I am making some Christmas Biscotti:

Life is good.

Tomorrow we'll deliver some of the above biscotti, along with some other Christmas treats to our old neighbors and friends. Then we'll hunker down to decorate some last cookies for Christmas Eve and prepare for our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day menus.

Christmas morning I'll be trying a new take on a new recipe, an egg braid from Cooking Light, along with some fresh kiwi and pastry. Later in the day SPH will whip up his now-famous Bouillabaisse, along with a warm Spinach Salad and Champagne.

Again, life is good.

As we celebrate Christ's birth, I am thankful for the peace that passes understanding, love without end and true joy. I leave you with a quote from a friend of a friend's blog, that is so apropos this time of year:

“Centuries of secularism have failed to transform eating into something strictly utilitarian. Food is still treated with reverence…To eat is still something more than to maintain bodily functions. People may not understand what that ‘something more’ is, but they nonetheless desire to celebrate it. They are still hungry and thirsty for sacramental life.”Alexander Schmemann (For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy)

As you break bread this Christmas, may you find the fulfillment for which you hunger.

Peace, Love and Joy to you this Christmas Time-

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Annual Christmas Yule Log Cake

I am not sure when or how this tradition started, but ever since I was a teenager, Christmas Eve celebration has meant one special dessert: Yule Log. If I remember correctly, it might have originated from my learning about Christmas traditions in France during French class. Since je deteste learning a foreign language, this could have been the sole bright spot during a year of learning French from Mademoiselle Pinto.

But I digress...

This rich tasting lemon and chocolate dessert graces our celebratory table each Christmas Eve, and also adds a touch of excitement, as we drizzle a bit of rum on top and then ignite our log!

So, if you're looking for a way to add a little excitement to your Christmas Eve celebration, or a Francophile, give this dessert a try. It is not difficult; in fact the cake ingredients are quite simple. For assembly there are a few more steps than a typical cake, but the technique is not advanced.

Christmas Yule Log Cake

4 eggs, separated
2 egg yolks
6 tablespoons white sugar
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 - 8 ounce package Neufchatel (reduced fat cream cheese) cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 - 1 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Make the cake:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat 6 egg yolks with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the lemon zest until pale and very creamy (about 2-3 minutes on HIGH).

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form when you gently rise up the beaters (do this when the beaters are OFF!). Fold* in the remaining 5 tablespoons of sugar. Once fully folded in to the egg whites, fold the egg whites into the egg yolks.

Fold the flour into the egg mixture.

Line a 10x15 cake pan and up the sides a bit with parchment or waxed paper. Grease the paper.

Pour the batter into the pan and spread with a spatula until even.

Bake 8 minutes, or until the edges are slightly brown.

While the cake is baking, sprinkle a clean kitchen towel with a teaspoon or so of white sugar. When the cake comes out of the oven, turn the cake on top of the kitchen towel. Remove the parchment or waxed paper.

Cover the cake with a new piece of parchment or waxed paper and roll up. Place seem side down on a cooling rack to cool fully.

Make the Frosting:

In a small microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips by cooking on HIGH for 1 minute increments, stirring between each minute. Once the chocolate is fully melted, set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the Neufchatel (or cream) cheese, butter and confectioner's sugar. Add the vanilla and the chocolate. Mix well.

Assemble the Christmas Yule Log:

Carefully unroll the cake (it is a sponge cake and is very pliable, it has never broken when I do this step). Spread a little more than 1/2 of the frosting on the cake, and then roll up.

Slice a small part of the cake off at an angle to and place on the side of the cake like this:

Use remaining frosting to cover the outside of the cake.

Voila, you've made an amazing Christmas cake that is sure to impress!

We drizzle a tablespoon or two of 151 Rum on top and then ignite our log!

Life is exciting and...igniting!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Decorating with Food

This weekend we added the final touch to the Sweet Pea Family outdoor Christmas decorations.

No, it wasn't a big blow-up snow globe (G's choice) or blinking colored Christmas lights with light-up reindeer (R's choice). Instead, we followed SPH's lead.

SPH lived a good bit of his childhood in Williamsburg, Virginia. I'll never forget our first Christmas together as a married couple when we went to his family's church in Williamsburg for Christmas Eve service, followed by a tour of Historic Williamsburg. It was beautiful and poignant, for it reminded me of my family and my own home church (where were married) since it always decorated its exterior a la Williamsburg for Christmas Eve.

So this year we decided to bring a little Williamsburg to Central Ohio. It was an undertaking, but well worth it! I love cooking so much, I think it is a bit apropos that our house is decorated with food for Christmas. But before we added the food...

SPH cut out the shape of the frame we would need and I spray painted it green and added nails:

I used Magnolia leaves to cover the edges:

I spaced out a pineapple and some Red Delicious Apples:

I added some more greens and SPH hung it above our front door:

I love this decoration for so many reasons: the meaning, the history, the sentimentality and of course, it's FOOD!

This week we have a jam-packed holiday schedule, so we'll be relying on a few freezer dives and pantry dives to serve dinner:

Breakfast for Dinner
Frozen Pizza and Spinach Salad
Easy Cheese and Black Bean Quesadillas and Fresh Pineapple
Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chicken Stir-fry with Edamame and Brown Rice

Have a sweet week and stay warm!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Make-them-your-own Italian Stuffed Shells

We've been on a bit of a red and green kick here at the Sweet Pea home. Decorations, wrapping paper and yes, even our food. I developed a new appetizer dip using red pepper and spinach (recipe due to post on next week) which was just bursting with Christmas colors. Now I want to share another favorite dish that is ripe for red and green: Make-them-your-own Italian Stuffed Shells.

This recipe is for basic stuffed shells to which you add either sauteed vegetables or ground meat. In fact, you can easily use this recipe to customize your meal and make, for example, half vegetarian and half with meat...perfect for holiday or group gatherings when you need to accommodate Aunt Linda's mushroom aversion and cousin Julian's new vegetarian diet.

Lastly, this recipe makes enough for 2 - 9x13 dishes...freeze one for later or share!

Make-them-your-own Italian Stuffed Shells

1 - 12 ounce jumbo shells package
32 ounce container reduced fat ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided use
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1-2 cups sauteed vegetables or meat (we used a combination of eggplant and mushroom, but spinach, bell peppers, broccoli, or ground beef or Italian sausage would work great)
2 - 28 ounce jars marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook the pasta shells according to the package instructions. Drain, drizzle with a teaspoon of oil (to help prevent sticking) and set aside.

In a large bowl mix the ricotta cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir well. Add vegetables and/or meat and stir again.

Pour one jar of the marinara sauce in each of the bottoms of the 9x13 pans.

Taking one shell at a time, add 1-2 tablespoons of the filling. Place on top of the marinara and nestle in, so the sauce comes up around the shell. Repeat until all the shells are filled.

Sprinkle remaining one cup of mozzarella cheese on top of the shells. Bake 35-45 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted.

You may also cover the pan with foil and freeze. If you do this, be sure to let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking, and add up to 15 minutes to the bake time.

Serves 6 (per pan).

Have a sweet day,

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Books and Easy Meals

R and G must be getting excited about Christmas. They have been pulling all the pillows from our love seat and sofa, and some from the living room too, to pile onto our love seat, aka, "Santa's Sleigh." They use their imaginations to come up with all sorts of scenarios for Christmas Eve. I love it.

Here they are after one session of Santa's Sleigh, when they found some books nearby. I knew something was up when their play got realllllly quiet. Thankfully, they were captivated by some books, not mischief. I tried to snap a picture without either of them catching me, but G was on to me...

Perhaps the sweetest thing I have witnessed this Christmas season is R, reading a Christmas book to G, without being asked to do so.

This is the time of the year when I shift into low-key mode with my dinner preparations. This week I'll rely on my slow cooker and some easy meal preparation helps from Trader Joe's:

Chicken Taco Fiesta Soup
Italian Bean and Artichoke Soup
Eggplant Parmesan (using breaded eggplant from TJ's) and Spinach Salad
Thai Green Curry Tofu (again, pre-made curry sauce)

With all the holiday fun, I'd rather use my kitchen time for baking up holiday sweets!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Magical Snow and Sweet Potato Enchiladas

Today's the first day of December and we woke up to our first snow of the season. There's something pretty magical about the first snow, and for it to occur as we flipped our calendars to this new month, well, it's been a fun morning.

I volunteered in R's classroom, and when I arrived, the class was outside, "catching" snowflakes on pieces of black paper to make observations. Is there anything more exciting in the winter than the first snow of the season?

Today I posted a new enchilada recipe that uses turkey and black beans at It's a good one, but I also have a new vegetarian enchilada recipe about which I am fired up.

I used leftover sweet potatoes from our Thanksgiving dinner, combined with sauteed spinach and white beans and a whole lot of yummy Southwestern flavors. The sweetness of the sweet potatoes, paired with the earthy spinach and beans as well as the zesty spices created a symphony of good taste. If you don't have leftover sweet potatoes, cook one medium sweet potato and give it a good mash, you'll be ready to go.

Sweet Potato, Spinach and White Bean Enchiladas

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 4 oz can diced green chilies
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup water
2 cups (packed) fresh spinach
1 – 15 oz can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
½-3/4 cup mashed sweet potatoes (about one medium sweet potato)
10 whole wheat or flour tortillas
1 – 12 oz can enchilada sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium skillet over medium high heat, heat the oil. Add the onions and garlic, cook for 3 minutes. Add the green chilies, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and oregano. Stir well to combine. Add the water and spinach. Cook until the spinach is fully wilted, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Pour the spinach mixture into a large bowl. Add the beans and sweet potatoes and stir well.

Taking one tortilla at a time, place about 1/3 – ½ cup of the mixture at one end. Roll up like a cigar and place in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Repeat.

Once the baking dish is full, pour the enchilada sauce over all the enchiladas.

Bake in the preheated oven 20-30 minutes, or until they are bubbling and the tortillas are slightly browned.

Sprinkle cheese on top of the enchiladas and place into the oven for 5 additional minutes.

Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

Makes 10 enchiladas

One last note: I am on Facebook. Search for Sweet Peas and Pumpkins, and you can friend this blog. I post on FB all the new recipes I post here.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Back in the Saddle

"Back in the Saddle Again..."

R caught the bus to school this AM.

G is off to preschool.

SPH is back to work.

Me? I'm ready to tackle this new week, and some new recipes, as well. I've been searching for a good mole ("mol-ay," not the rodent!) recipe for months, maybe years. This weekend I hope to perfect it to share with you.

Oh, and if you have any extra turkey from last Thursday, go ahead and freeze 2 cups of the leftovers, because on Wednesday I have fantastic recipe for your leftovers.

Hope your Turkey Day was yummy. Our turkey was smoked by SPH and looked lovely:

And how 'bout them Bucks?! A great football game was followed by our annual sojourn to Easton Town Center to see the tree, lights and holiday trains:

We even managed to go with Grandma and Papa to get our Christmas Tree, which as I type, is up and if I do say so myself, beautiful.

It's been awhile, but here are our meals for the week:

Shrimp and Parmesan Grits, Greek Green Beans
Pasta Puttanesca
Falafel and Hummus, Tzatziki
Slow Cooker Moo Shu
White Chili

Let the Holiday Season truly begin!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Let the Cooking (almost) Begin!

I spent four hours (yes, four!) grocery shopping today with G. I love to go to the grocery, and G blessed me by being a super trooper. It certainly helped that the three places we went had good samples and lots to keep us both entertained.

Our new local grocery store is the Market District and shopping there is not so much a place to get what you need off your list, as it is a foodie's dream shopping experience. We ate in the cafe before we shopped (it served as a great rest in the middle of our grocery marathon) and were able to choose from sushi, pizza, tandoor items, rosti, crepes and pho, just to name a few options. I've been to this store about a half dozen times since it opened last month and I feel like I am just scratching the surface.

Here's a picture of a recent trip to the Market District with R's Cub Scout Den:

And check out this uber-cool produce I found there:

If you live in Central Ohio, and love food, you need to make a pilgrimage to experience the Market District.

But with our grocery shopping complete, I'll begin our cooking for the big feast tomorrow. This year we're hosting SPH's family and my parents, and are excited about creating our first big Thanksgiving memory in our new home.

Our menu this year:

Cranberry Salsa Rounds
Pumpkin Butter and Grahams
Horseradish Cheese and Pumpernickel Sticks
Olive/Relish Tray
Vegetables and Dip

Main Event
Smoked Turkey
SPH's Homemade Gravy
Oyster Dressing
Cornbread Stuffing
Sweet Potato Casserole
Corn and Apricot Quinoa
Green Bean Casserole
Champagne and Sparkling Cider

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Apple Cranberry Pie
Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie

When I really stop and consider all the blessings in my life, I am so very, very thankful. Giving thanks this year may be easy or more challenging, depending on your current circumstances. No matter what you're experiencing, I pray you'll be able to soak in the goodness of life and truly feel blessed this Thanksgiving holiday...and beyond.

With my warmest Thanksgiving wishes, and a big "gobble, gobble,"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Buckeye Buckeyes

It has struck me this week that we are, holy cow, a week away from Thanksgiving and about a month from Christmas. I don’t feel stressed with the upcoming holiday celebrations, just more than ever, blown away with the fact that the holidays are already here.

This year has been super fast for the Sweet Pea family, and as I finish our preparations for our Thanksgiving meal and begin to think about Christmas decorating, I also have in the back my head the other holiday we celebrate this time of the year: the Ohio State-Michigan game.

True, a football game is not a celebration of plenty or a Savior’s birth, but in this part of the country, you might wonder if some folks put Buckeye Football on par with miracles and bounty. Buckeye Football is B-I-G stuff here, and no regular season game is bigger than Ohio State-Michigan.

To celebrate a big Buckeye game, I love to make my favorite game day treat, Buckeyes. There are a few variations out there on this classic peanut butter and chocolate classic, but I like to think my version and technique holds its own. After all, I have rolled and dipped hundreds and hundreds of these babies, and in the process, learned a few tricks that do help making these treats more of a breeze.

Buckeye Making Tip #1 (and this is *key* to make the process easier): Stick a toothpick in each peanut butter ball and freeze the balls before you dip them in the chocolate. This will prevent the balls from dropping in the chocolate, and makes dipping a super-quick process. Read below for my tip to remove the toothpick hole from the finished Buckeye.

Make these beauties for the upcoming holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, OSU/Michigan, take your pick!) and you will be the hit of your gathering!

Buckeye Recipe from a Buckeye Blogger

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 cups powdered sugar
12-16 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix the peanut butter, butter and vanilla extract. Stir well to fully incorporate.

Add two cups of the powdered sugar. Mix well. Check the consistency of your dough (you are aiming for slightly more firm than play dough). Add more powdered sugar as needed.

Roll the peanut butter dough into ¾ inch balls. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat Liner (optional, just makes clean-up easier). Repeat with remaining dough.

Place a toothpick about ½ way into each peanut butter ball. Freeze for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

While the peanut butter balls are chilling, pour the chocolate chips in a microwave safe dish. Cook on HIGH for 1 minute. Stir, repeat. Keep cooking for 1 minute increments until the chocolate is fully melted.

Remove the peanut butter balls from the freezer. One at a time, dip one ball about 2/3 of the way into the chocolate. Place back on the cookie sheet to cool. Repeat.

If at any time the chocolate gets too stiff or cool, place the chocolate back into the microwave for 30 seconds.

Dip all the remaining peanut butter balls. Remove the toothpicks. Dip your finger in water and gently press each Buckeye where the toothpick was extracted. This will smooth the hole and make it disappear.

Makes about 4 dozen Buckeyes.



Saturday, November 13, 2010

Teacher Winners

CarrieC and Josh, you both win a $25 gift certificate from Del Monte! I have two, so email me at your address and I will pop it in the mail to you!

Have a sweet weekend all-

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Calling All Teachers Giveaway

I volunteered in R's classroom for a good hour or so yesterday. It reminded me of how most teachers easily best me in the patience department. I love volunteering in the classroom, but I am not sure if I could do it every day.

So, teachers, I have a special giveaway for you and only YOU.

Del Monte is sponsoring a giveaway for teachers and has shared a $25 gift certificate toward the purchase of any Del Monte products. In addition, Del Monte is sponsoring a "Teacher Monday: Cash for Classrooms" online contest to award ten teachers to win $1000 for classroom supplies and fresh fruit for their students.

If you are a teacher, enter a comment below, sharing your best teacher tip. I'll pick a random winner by Friday, November 12 at 9pm EST.

Thank you to all the wonderful teachers out there that have touched so many lives!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Baked "Whatever You Have on Hand" Couscous

I'm ignoring the dishes in the sink and writing this blog post. Just hoping I can squeeze it in before the boys' television show ends...

This is one of SPH's favorite dishes and I love it because it is so versatile. I've made this many times, and it is always a little bit different.

Need an easy, different side dish? Here's your answer (just omit the protein)...

Need a one dish dinner with protein, whole grains and vegetables? Here's your answer...

Need a dish you can tweak with whatever you have on hand? Here's your answer...

If you have:

couscous (or quinoa, brown rice, orzo or other small pasta)
one 15 ounce can of broth
1 egg
1 1/2 cups of cheese
some vegetables and/or protein
some common pantry items (ie, salt, pepper, onion, garlic)

You have everything you need to alter to your family's food preferences!

Baked "Whatever You Have on Hand" Couscous

1 - 15 ounce can broth*
3/4 cup couscous
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups vegetables, chopped (we used butternut squash)
2 links chicken sausage or about one cup of protein, diced (if using)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (we like a mixture of romano and mozzarella, but have used cheddar too)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a microwave safe bowl, bring 1 cup of the broth to a boil. Add the couscous and cover. Let sit 5 minutes and fluff with a fork.

(*if using quinoa, rice or a small pasta, you will only need 1 cup of broth, and will omit the step above, instead, cook quinoa, rice or pasta according to package directions)

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium high heat, heat oil and then add onions and garlic. Cook 2 minutes. Add the vegetables. Cook until the vegetables are tender; cooking time will depend on your specific vegetable. If using sausage or other meat, add at this point, and cook until browned.

Add the salt and pepper, rosemary and thyme. Remove from heat.

Mix the couscous (or pasta, rice, or quinoa), vegetable mixture, and half the cheese.

In a medium bowl, wisk the egg and add the remaining 1 cup broth. Pour over the couscous. Spread into a 9x13 baking dish and top with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese begins to brown a bit.

Serves 6

The show is over and the dishes are still waiting for me-

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Snowville Creamery

This is our favorite milk and I want it to be yours too:

No, I am not getting any kickback to write about Snowville, it is motivated by pure love of this milk. Formerly only available in Ohio, I had to share that it is now available in my former hometown of Washington, DC too.

I first tasted Snowville a couple years ago at the Clintonville Farmer's Market on a hot summer day. The skim milk I tasted was more reminiscent of ice cream than any milk I'd ever tasted. Rich, smooth and almost sweet.

It is produced by free range, pasture grazed cows, or as Snowville puts it, "Milk the Way it Used to Be." Watch this video if you want to learn more!


Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Best Barbecued Baked Beans

After doing this blog bit for a few years, many of our family favorite recipes have already been shared. But after delivering barbecue feasts, including our family's famous baked beans, to a few friends who have had either a new baby or surgery in the last several weeks, and getting thank you notes that said, "the flavors were so amazing," and "the beans were delicious!" I looked on the recipe index and realized I had yet to post this recipe.

Shame on me for waiting this long to share the Sweet Pea Family's Baked Beans. Every time I make this recipe, someone asks me for it. I try to be humble, but these are the best darn baked beans I have ever made, tasted or shared.

You can omit the bacon to make them vegetarian, and they still taste pretty good. But if you are a carnivore, the bacon makes these sublime. They are even hearty enough to be a stand alone leftover lunch meal; in fact R took these beans twice for lunch last week!

The Best Barbecued Baked Beans

1 medium onion, chopped
4 sliced bacon, chopped
2 - 15 ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed*
2- 15 ounce cans Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed*
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce

In a large stock pot over medium heat, cook the onion and bacon until the bacon is crispy, about 5 or so minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.

Increase temperature of the stove top to bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

Serves 8 as a side dish.

*Really, you can use about 4-6 cans of any combination of beans you desire. I have used kidney and chili beans too.

Have a sweet weekend!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Perfectly Simple Chicken and Orzo Soup

I don't use the word "perfect" lightly, I was just blown away with the simply beautiful result of this simple method to make chicken soup. Instead of using a complicated method, I relied on the most basic of ways to create what turned out to be a flavorful fall dish. The orzo jazzes up this recipe, but feel free to use noodles or any other pasta.

Perfectly Simple Chicken and Orzo Soup

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, sliced
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
12 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 pound orzo, uncooked

In a large stock pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot. Cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables become tender. Add the chicken and let cook for 2 minutes, flip, and let cook 2 more minutes.

Add the water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Allow to simmer 15 minutes. Remove the chicken to cool (so you may shred it). Return the broth to a boil and add the orzo. Let simmer for 10 minutes or until the orzo is al dente.

Meanwhile, shred the chicken. Once the orzo is cooked, reduce the heat to low, add the chicken and keep warm until ready to serve.

Serves 6.

Not to make a grand statement about this soup, but a lingering cough was gone after a couple bowls...


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Apple Nachos

Yesterday I went for a walk by myself in a local park. The sky was brilliant blue and the leaves were a feast for my senses: the sound of them crunching under my feet, the beauty of the endless color combinations and yes, the smell. I love the scent of autumn leaves in the air.

Since the calendar is parked squarely in the middle of fall, here's an autumn-ish snack that was inspired by my friend Jenn. Jenn, I am not sure if this is what you had in mind, but here's our Sweet Pea rendition of Apple Nachos.

I whipped this snack up in about 5 minutes and the boys were giddy with delight eating it. If your sweet peas have a peanut allergy, you can easily substitute almond, soy or another type of nut butter.

Apple Nachos

2 apples, sliced thin (we used one Honey Crisp and one Golden Delicious Apple)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
1/4 cup pretzel pieces

Place the apples on a large plate and sprinkle with the lemon juice. Toss gently to coat the apples.

In a microwave safe dish, combine the peanut butter and honey. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir well to incorporate. Add the milk and cinnamon, stir well.

Place the peanut butter mixture in a plastic bag and snip off one end about 1/4 inch wide to allow you to drizzle the mixture on top of the apples (alternatively, you can sort of "splash" the mixture on the apples with a fork).

Top with peanuts and pretzels.

Serves 2.

And voila: the perfect salty-sweet healthful snack. Ours was gone quicker than you could say "yum!"

Have a sweet day-

Monday, October 18, 2010


We're back from a wonderful visit back to R's birth state and our home for 10 plus years, Virginia. Granted, we were in Charlottesville, not our former DC suburb home town, but it was wonderful nonetheless. We saw family, friends (including Deep in the Heart of Texas and Slacker Mama!) and lots and lots of SPH's classmates from his alma mater, University of Virginia.

Central Virginia in the autumn is beautiful, and we had lots of great views from where we stayed.

We toured campus, took in a tailgate and football game, went hiking and just caught up with lots of folks dear to us. It was a great weekend and we just got back this evening.

(Meg, I took this picture of the walls for you!)

So as I take a break from unpacking, preparing laundry, compiling a grocery list and the such, I thought I would check in with a few photos and let you know I will be sharing a new favorite fall recipe as soon as I recover from re-entry.

Have a sweet night,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


In case you missed this story on the web today:

Click here

Urban legend? True story? Only Sally Davies, the photographer who experimented with this McDonald's Happy Meal knows for sure.

After SPH shared this story with R, G and I at dinner tonight, there was only one response from G:

"Did she get a Happy Meal toy?"


Monday, October 11, 2010

Midnight (okay, 9pm) Snacks

During the day there are times, say around 5:30, when I could really go for a snack. But since the "sneak a quick little snack without the boys noticing" phase has long been gone in our home, I usually forgo any snacks except the ones the boys are already having during their snack time. If I do try and sneak a snack it usually goes something like this:

Me, opening something: "crinkle, crinkle, crinkle"

R and/or G: "Mom, what are you eating?"

(under my breath grumble)

At this point I can go one of two directions: I can take the responsible route and walk-away-from-the-snack. Or, I can share my snack with the boys, who have little to no will power with snacking right before dinner (they are, after all, hungry, and have a bona fide snacking gene) and then end up frustrated because they don't eat a good dinner.

So I like a good snack when they are asleep in bed and I can relish a snack moment in peace. These muffins are my latest sweet treat. I love a good, tasty, but healthful muffin, and these fit the bill perfectly.

Orange Cranberry Muffins

2 cups hot water
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or alternatively, use only all-purpose)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
4 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups buttermilk*
zest of one orange

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the hot water and dried cranberries. Let sit for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and ginger in a large bowl.

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and add the applesauce, oil, buttermilk and orange zest.

*(I almost never buy buttermilk, but make it at home. Pour one tablespoon white vinegar into a cup container. Fill the rest of the cup with milk. Let sit 5 minutes. Voila! Buttermilk! For this recipe you will need two cups.)

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Drain the water from the cranberries and add the cranberries to the muffin mixture. Stir to incorporate.

Pour into muffin tins with liners. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Makes 36 muffins.

36 too many muffins for you? Halve the recipe, freeze some for later, or do what we did and wrap up a bunch and share them with others...R's and G's teachers, even R's bus driver got a surprise last week.

Have a sweet week,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Easy Cilantro Lime Empanadas

Empanadas usually require a pastry-type dough to assemble, which is a huge road block for me; first, the added calories and fat and second, pastry dough is too time consuming for a week night dinner. So I got to thinking about filo dough and how it might be the missing link to an easy empanada meal.

Using filo dough for empanadas turned out to be a home run idea. It was fast, tasty and the cooked flaky layers of the dough were a big hit with the boys. As they gobbled up this dinner, I was feeling pretty smug about the fact that they were filled with black beans and butternut squash. Yes, my theory continues to be proven in our home: when foods are wrapped up, and unseen, the boys eat them up.

You might suffer from filo intimidation, but conquer your fears and know that filo is much easier to work with than you might imagine.

Easy Cilantro Lime Empanadas

1 package frozen filo, thawed (they usually come with two separate rolls, you will only need one)
1 -12 oz package frozen pureed butternut squash
1 - 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Arizona Dreaming seasoning (a new Penzeys spice mixture, or you can use taco seasoning)
4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of one lime
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Roll out the filo on a counter and cut it in half lengthwise and be sure to cover with a barely damp cloth when you are not working with it.

In a medium bowl, mix the squash, black beans, salt and seasoning. With a pastry blender or the back of a large fork, smash the mixture together, breaking up the beans a bit while you do so. Add the cream cheese, cilantro and lime, and mix well until everything is fully incorporated.

Take 2-3 sheets of the filo and place 2 tablespoons of the cilantro lime mixture at one end like this:

Fold in triangles, much like you would fold a flag, like this:

Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat liner:

Brush with a bit of oil or spray with cooking spray. Repeat until the filling is gone.

Bake 15-18 minutes or until slightly browned.

Makes about 18.

Serve with sour cream, salsa and a touch more cilantro:

R liked these so much he was asking for more for a the next several days. I envision these as a good after-school snack as well...

Off to go buy more filo,

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Most Significant Food Project

The last two Fridays, and other times throughout the spring and summer, I have been off for the morning to do some food stuff far beyond anything else I've ever created in my kitchen.

Any guesses?

Here's a picture to give you a clue:

That's G in our church's Community Garden:

There are a group of very, very dedicated volunteers who have created a vast garden out of a plot of grass next to our church:

R (before school started), G and I have been honored to work beside them as they have tilled, planted, watered, weeded and harvested an enormous amount of food:

All of this fresh, healthy, locally-grown produce has been donated to low income and homeless individuals and families in Columbus. Does it get any more significant than feeding the hungry?

This past Friday we harvested bag after bag of greens, tomatoes, peppers and okra. And to date, the garden has reaped more than (wait for it)...

7,000 pounds (and counting!) of fresh produce.

I share this to encourage you, uplift you, and hopefully inspire you to do the same. Even with our family's small contribution to this effort, we have been honored to be a part of this amazing group of volunteers! And like most volunteering, we have come away with far more than we have given...


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lightened Gumbo

I vividly remember the first time I had gumbo. I was flying with my mom to Florida to visit my Grandma Kay. We were flying USAir and were given a choice for our lunch entree, one of which was chicken gumbo. Feeling adventurous, I tried and loved it.

Now, I ask you, what is the most amazing part of the above story?

1. We were served a hot meal on a short flight
2. I was young and chose to eat gumbo

Hmm, I believe it is a toss-up.

You see, I was a pretty picky eater as a child, but for some reason, perhaps being lured by the exotic idea of flying (a rarity as a child, we drove everywhere!) I did the daring and ordered the gumbo.

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for gumbo and this week in Columbus, it is perfect gumbo weather. My version uses an oven to toast the flour (a key component in any gumbo), rather than frying it in oil. The flavors are rich and hearty, but this dish is full of nutrition.
Lightened Gumbo

1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces light chorizo or andouille sausage, diced
1 - 28 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 quart chicken broth
15 okra pods, ends cut off, and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup brown rice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a oven safe dish, sprinkle the flour and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, in a large stock pot over medium high heat, heat the oil. Add the carrot, celery and onion, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 1 minute. Add the sausage and cook 4-5 minutes, or until it browns slightly. Reduce the heat to medium low, and once the flour is ready, add the flour and stir well.

Once the flour is fully incorporated, add the tomatoes and chicken broth. Increase the heat to medium high, and stir well, to ensure no lumps form. Add the okra, pepper, thyme and oregano. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the brown rice and simmer for 35-40 minutes. *Alternatively, you can do the above steps in the morning, add the brown rice and cook on low for 8-10 hours in a slow cooker, 4-6 hours on high.*

Serve with crusty bread and hot sauce, if desired.

Serves 4-6

Feel free to alter the proteins in this dish to your heart's content: add chicken, shrimp or use only vegetables. Alter away!


Friday, September 24, 2010

Dinner for Breakfast, aka, the Football Quiche

We love brinner, aka, breakfast for dinner. It's a winning solution to the answer "what's for dinner?"--the boys are thrilled, it's usually pretty easy for mom to prepare and dad loves it too. But this week we had dinner for breakfast...

Last weekend I made quiche, and it was my manly-man husband that suggested it. I am not sure where the idea that "real men don't eat quiche" originated, but the men in my family love it. They love it so much, and are so secure in their manhood, they ate this quiche while listening to football coming in from the family room television. Hence, the name "Football Quiche" was born.

I served the leftover quiche for breakfast a few days later. R looked at his plate, then at me and said, "we're having dinner for breakfast?!"

Football Quiche

1 teaspoon olive oil
6-8 ounces ham, chopped
1/2 cup diced bell pepper
1 cup fresh spinach, packed
4 eggs
4 egg whites
1 - 12 ounce can evaporated skim milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
10 sheets filo dough
cooking spray
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet, bring the oil to a medium warm heat and add the ham. Cook until the water has all evaporated and the ham begins to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the ham from the pan. Add the peppers and spinach and cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until the peppers and spinach are wilted a bit. Remove from the pan, mix with the ham.

Mix the eggs, egg whites, evaporated skim milk, salt, pepper, onion powder and nutmeg. Add the ham mixture to the eggs and mix well.

Place one sheet of filo in a pie pan. Spray with cooking spray. Lay the next filo sheet, spray with cooking spray. Each time you layer a new sheet of filo, make it at an angle to the prior sheet, to ensure full coverage. Once the filo is fully layered, add the eggs, and top with the gruyere cheese.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the middle is no longer jiggly. Let sit for 10 minutes before slicing to fully "set."

Serves 8, or 4 for dinner, then breakfast.

Have a sweet weekend!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The perfect autumn condiment

I love exposing the boys to new flavors and watch their palates expand and grow. Horseradish has such an interesting "kick" to it, without being hot and spicy. Both R and G got a kick out of tasting this kick-filled sauce.

We served it on green beans, but the sky's the limit.

Try it on:

baked potatoes
steamed broccoli
a soup as a drizzle
grilled chicken
roasted brussel sprouts
and the list could go on...

Click here for the recipe I posted today at for horseradish sauce, the perfect autumn condiment!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Chipotle Taquitos

I was craving Mexican food, but wanted something a bit different. I gave a new idea a whirl, and I was glad I did!

R quickly deemed these, "a make again!"

Normally taquitos are fried, but these crisped up really nicely in a hot oven. Be sure to preheat your cookie sheet prior to adding the taquitos, so when you place them on the tray, they will crisp up on the bottom.

Chipotle Taquitos

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided use
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 banana pepper, deseeded and deveined, minced
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, diced
1/4 cup salsa
1 - 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup light sour cream
20 corn tortillas
4 cups water
optional toppings: sour cream, salsa, guacamole

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a cookie sheet in the oven to preheat too.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat and add the onion. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for 2 minutes. Add the oregano, salt, banana pepper and chipotle and cook for two minutes.

Add the salsa, black beans and water and bring to a simmer. Simmer 5-6 minutes or until the water has evaporated. Remove from heat.

With a pastry blender or the back of a large fork, mash the mixture slightly. Add the sour cream.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil (can use the skillet for this too, even if it is slightly still dirty). One at a time, dip a corn tortilla into the water for 1 second.

(This allows the tortilla to be malleable enough to roll without breaking. However, if you leave it in the hot water for more than a second, it begins to fall apart)

Place the tortilla on a plate, top on one side with 1-2 tablespoons of the chipotle mixture, and roll up like a cigar. Place on a tray while you finish the rest of the tortillas.

Take the remaining one tablespoon of oil and brush it on the hot cookie tray with a pastry brush, or alternatively, use cooking spray. Place the taquitos on the tray and bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown a bit.

I can picture myself making these for the boys for an "I'm so ravenous" after-school treat when they are teenagers. But for now, they make a really seriously tasty dinner.

Life is sweet,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Roasted Sweet Potato Soup

Today is a soup day. For lunch, I savored every bite of some leftover White Chili I made this weekend for dinner. Need a new soup recipe? Try this savory, yet slightly sweet soup that features roasted sweet potatoes and a delicious drizzle of maple syrup. Click on over to for my recipe.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Great Lunchbox Conundrum

Okay, moms (and maybe some dads too, but in my experience, it is us moms who bear the weight of school lunch responsibilities), here you go, some new approaches to school lunch boxes. If you saw my post last week, you know I've been trying to come up with a list of new ideas for your kid's school lunch.

I've heard a lot from mom's via email, facebook and (get this!) face to face conversations. Packing school lunches can be a challenge, whether you have a "I want lunchables!" daughter or a "I only eat a crustless peanut butter and jelly" son.

I've broken these ideas down into categories below, and I bet you, you have some really great ideas to share too. So, after you read my start of ideas, please comment with anything else that comes to mind!

School Lunch Box Ideas:

(All of these ideas start with the same basic approach, a whole wheat or other tortilla, with something spread on it, topped and rolled and cut into 4-6 pieces)

Pizza: marinara sauce, toppings (try sliced olives, spinach, pepperoni and/or roasted peppers) and shredded mozzarella cheese
Taco: cream cheese and salsa mixture, toppings (try shredded lettuce, diced peppers, corn, black beans and/or sliced olives) and shredded cheddar cheese
Mediterranean: hummus, diced cucumber, sliced olives
Ranch: ranch dip (try adding a bit of ranch dressing to cream cheese), shredded carrot, diced chicken, shredded cheddar cheese
Barbecue: barbecue sauce, diced chicken, corn, shredded cabbage or lettuce and shredded cheddar cheese
Pesto: pesto and cream cheese mixture, feta cheese, roasted peppers, sliced olives
Hawaiian: cream cheese, drizzle of barbecue sauce, diced pineapple (squeeze all of the moisture out, or the roll-up will get soggy), diced ham
American: ranch dip, diced smoked turkey, sliced pickles (again, squeeze all of the moisture out), shredded cheddar cheese
Teriyaki: teriyaki sauce, diced chicken, shredded carrot, bell pepper slices, tiny broccoli florets

Homemade "Lunchables"

Cheese and Crackers: stacks of cheese, cut into cute shapes or squares the same size as your crackers, whole wheat crackers, sliced meat or pepperoni, cut up fruit
Make-Your-Own Pizzas: mini-pitas (we get ours from Trader Joe's, they are no bigger than 2-3 inches in diameter), mini-container of marinara, shredded cheese, pepperoni slices, sliced olives
Make-Your-Own Tacos: tortilla chip bowls (Tostitos makes these), shredded cheddar cheese, salsa
Make-Your-Own Pitas: mini pitas, cut in half, hummus, vegetables, feta cheese

Hummus with pita, sliced carrots, cucumber slices, or the vegetables of your choice

Peanut butter with whole wheat crackers, apple slices, celery sticks, pretzels

Barbecue sauce with chicken strips (thanks Jenn, great idea)

Vanilla yogurt with apple slices, crackers or pretzels, or served in a bowl with "toppings" to make a yogurt sundae, such as raisins, dried fruit, granola, coconut

Cottage cheese mixed with salt and pepper, whole wheat crackers, vegetables

Cream cheese (combined with a bit of ranch dressing to make it more easy to dip), vegetable sticks

Alouette (or soft pub cheese from Trader Joe's) cheese with whole wheat crackers, vegetables

Leftovers (this is a partial list of things we have tried or will try with our thermos funtainer food jar)

Tortellini with vegetables and a touch of olive oil
Vegetable Dumplings and edamame
Pasta Carbonara (really, any pasta)
Barbecue Pork or Chicken (Erin, do you have any extra of this in your house?)
Meatballs, noodles and broccoli
Spaghetti Os (make your own with tomato soup and pasta--super tip Katie)
Rice and Beans

Odds and Ends (other lunch ideas)

Smoothies in a thermos
Hard Boiled Eggs
Homemade Trail Mix (what a good thought Mayhem)

Last but not least, I try not to get on a high horse with food, but it is so important to read the labels of your food. Here, from Kraft's own website, is the ingredient list of one of their new "wholesome and nutritious" (their words, not mine) Lunchable options:


Our kids all suffer from I-want-junk-fooditis, I think it is part of being a kid. I am not trying to single out a certain type of food as "bad," but I think this ingredient list can serve as an example. I fall into the 90-10 camp with food with ingredient lists like the above...make sure you allow your kid to be a kid from time to time, but make sure the majority of their food has ingredient lists that you can pronounce!

Oh, and keep those ideas coming, I am always looking for new inspirations!


Monday, September 13, 2010


I've been wanting this simpler URL to "sweet peas and pumpkins dot blogspot dot com" for awhile.

I considered going with a "dot net," or even "dot biz," but knew that this URL was up for renewal in September 2010. So I waited...and waited and this weekend, SPH (our in-house tech support) surprised me with the news that it was mine.

So now, a simpler way to find the same blog, but the old URL will still work too.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Somewhere between sandwiches and edible art

There are two extremes in school lunch boxes: the traditional, run-of-the-mill sandwich-chips-fruit-treat camp and then the crazy cool, works of art bento box lunches.

Are your kids sandwich eaters? If so, say a quick word of "thanks," since I am convinced my lunch packing would be infinitely easier if R liked sandwiches. Not that I am complaining, in fact, in a curious way, I love the challenge of finding healthful, outside-the-(lunch)box ideas that R will eagerly eat. And yet, my creativity and desire to make art in my son's lunch box is lacking.


I am trying to bridge the gap between the sandwich doldrums and edible art, and I have a feeling some of you might be in the boat.

My friend Katie sent me a message to this end, and a few of us started brainstorming unique lunch ideas. I've used several of them, and R's been a pretty happy camper in the lunch department.

First, my equipment:

R requested a Star Wars lunch box this year, and since I have happy memories of my own character lunch boxes, we obliged with Thermos' lunch bag:

To this we added the Thermos Funtainer Drink Bottle:

and Thermos Funtainer Food Jar:

and a half dozen or so lock and lock food containers:

These containers are BPA free, airtight and super easy to use for little fingers. I love them.

Last, but not least, we use our SnackTAXIs for things like chips and crackers:

I love all of these items, but the Funtainer Food Jar is by far our most indispensable tool so far. Why? It keeps things warm for up to five hours, greatly expanding our list of lunch options.

So what have we been packing in R's lunches with all this great equipment? I listed my "Top Ten Outside the (Lunch)Box" ideas on, but have a few more general ideas to add in the coming days...


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Spaghetti Lasagna

A while back I hosted a giveaway and asked for recipe requests in the comments. My friend Amy asked for a recipe combining pasta and chicken nuggets. So in the back of my mind I've been playing around with ideas that would fulfill her request, but balance it with a good dose of healthfulness too.

Below is a Sweet Pea original, Spaghetti Lasagna. You want to know the best part? This recipe started out as a traditional lasagna, but when I went to put the finishing touches on it this past week, I realized I was out of noodles. So I used the "necessity is the mother of invention" mentality and came up with a twist: using whole wheat spaghetti in lieu of traditional lasagna noodles.

You can easily omit the nuggets in this recipe or do the lasagna half and half, it is really up to you.

Spaghetti Lasagna

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti, cooked
1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets
1 - 28 ounce jar of marinara
1 - 16 ounce container, part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup (packed) spinach leaves, chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon garlic powder, divided use
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
6 chicken nuggets, cut into fourths or small bite size pieces
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. Once cooked, drain fully and set aside.

Place the broccoli florets on a cookie sheet and spray with cooking spray or olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender and slightly browned. Keep the oven on for baking the lasagna.

In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, spinach, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

In a 9x13 baking dish, spread 1/3 of the marinara sauce in the bottom of the pan. Top with half the noodles, then half the ricotta mixture, half the broccoli, half the nugget pieces and half the mozzarella cheese. Repeat, making sure the noodles are fully covered on top (if there are "exposed" noodles, they will get crunchy and tough to eat).

Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until it is bubbly and the cheese is fully melted on top.

Serves 8.

Side note: Amy's son has an egg allergy, so this is egg-free. Also, you can very easily make this the day before or in the morning for dinner in the evening.

Have a sweet Labor Day weekend all-

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pirates, Milestones and Fashion

I feel all sorts of juxtaposed. Summer, fall, summer...fall? Tonight was a neighborhood block party, and despite being hot, hot, hot and at a "summer" event, I keep forgetting that school is in session (that reminds me, I need to pack R's lunch for tomorrow!).

The last few weeks have been full of fun things. For instance, we finally got around to visiting the Santa Maria (C. Columbus' ship, here in Columbus). While, of course, not a pirate ship, G was not going to be told otherwise. If you ever have the chance to visit the Santa Maria, I highly recommend it:

Then, right before school started, R "graduated" from COSI's Little Kid Space. I am not sure he knows yet that next time we go, while G runs around COSI's ginormous play area, he will be scorted to the Big Kid Hang-out room, but the graduation was a hoot and lots of fun:

After graduation, R started 1st grade, which so far, he loves:

I am hoping 1st grade includes a lesson on fashion since I fear R may have inherited his late Great Great Uncle Bob's sense of style:

If left to his own devices, the above is what R would have chosen to wear on his 1st day of 1st grade...quite the 1st impression, eh?

I'm off to pack R's lunch. I've been bantering around with some friends on FB for more school lunch ideas. I think a post is in the works...