All-of-this-Mixed-Up-and-Baked-in-a-Beautiful Blueberry Galentines Pie

Happy Galentines weekend, all! (If you've never heard of Galentines, go ahead and click on the link for a tutorial and welcome to the holiday! I'm unabashedly channeling Leslie Knope in this post.)  Instead of our typical weekend gems post, I wanted to send a little love & appreciation to all of our N+L internet Gal Fridays today (or is it Gals Friday?). If I could have a weekend wish, I would have you all over on Saturday for a long chat, good laughs, and some pie.  Since that's not in the cards, I thought I'd share my favorite pie recipe and raise a fork to you across the miles.

If you've seen the 2007 dark comedy film Waitress, you might remember that Jenna (Keri Russell) bakes a series of cathartic pies that she creates and names after her emotional state at the time, things like the Marshmallow Mermaid Pie, the Falling in Love Chocolate Mousse Pie, the I Don't Want Earl's Baby Pie, Baby Screamin' Its Head Off In The Middle of the Night & Ruinin' My Life Pie, and finally the I Can't Have No Affair Because It's Wrong and I Don't Want Earl to Kill Me Pie.

In that spirit I'm calling this the She's-All-of-This-Mixed-Up-and-Baked-in-a-Beautiful Blueberry Galentines Pie. (I lifted the title directly from a song* in the new Waitress musical.) Don't get me wrong, though, this could also be whipped up on Valentines, too, and called the Blueberry Declare-Your-Love Pie. It's G's favorite pie on earth. In fact, it's one of his love languages. Feel free to choose your holiday on this one.

photo by  Mark Boughton

photo by Mark Boughton

She's All of This Mixed Up and Baked in a Beautiful Blueberry Galentines Pie
{or} Blueberry Declare-Your-Love One-Crust Pie

1 9" prebaked pie shell (I have great luck with Pioneer Woman's pie crust recipe)

4 cups blueberries, rinsed and dried (can use frozen but fresh is 100 times better)

1 cup white sugar, divided into 3/4 c. and 1/4 c 

1 cup water

3 T. cornstarch (i.e., corn flour in Australia)

1. Line baked pie shell with 3 cups of blueberries

2. Combine 1 cup blueberries, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 cup water in a medium saucepan and cook over medium high heat, boiling until soft.

3. In small bowl or mug, combine 1/4 cup sugar and 3 T cornstarch. Mix in a little (2 T or so) of the hot mixture and stir until smooth then add to pan with hot mixture.

4. Cook for a few minutes, stirring until warm and smooth and thick.

5. Cool and pour mixture onto berries in the pie shell.

6. Refrigerate for 2+ hours for pie to set. 

7. Serve with ice cream or fresh whipped cream. Go on, head back for seconds.

(A big thank you to my friend, Annette, who passed along this recipe to me many years ago.)

  • A few of those pie recipes from the movie Waitress
  • *The lovely Sara Bareilles song (from the new Waitress musical) that inspired the pie name:

Happy weekending!

Building community -- one meatball at a time

Annie's last post on the shrinking family hit me hard. My third child is a senior this year, so I'm reluctantly heaving myself aboard the she's-leaving-home-soon roller coaster. But for now, Maddie is home for a few weeks from New York, and Jordan arrives in Houston on Sunday. Then, for ten glorious days, I'll have all of my chicks under my roof. And then they will leave me. I find it all very rude.

As we've adjusted to our own shrinking family, we've found that the quiet (while often welcome) can, at times, become deafening. Also, we need people. And perhaps it's these very holes in our lives that made an idea like Friday Night Meatballs all the more appealing -- hopeful even.

Photo by   carina romano  via  serious eats

Here's the story of Friday Night Meatballs: A couple in Philadelphia instituted a tradition of weekly Friday night meatball dinners to connect with family and friends -- and in so doing expanded their community on a global level (they have pics of people in the Ukraine having Friday Night Meatballs). Sarah Grey, the mastermind behind Friday Night Meatballs, sent out a Facebook message informing friends of the new tradition and asking for participants. Each week they had folks sign up, Sarah's husband Joe mixed up a pot of sauce and meatballs, and they had an informal but lively get-together that Sarah describes as "a comforting, relaxing, energizing cross between a Shabbat dinner, a salon, and a playdate." 

It was "salon" that got me. I've always wanted to host a salon.

The cool part about Friday Night Meatballs is that you can connect with your regulars -- your family and close friends -- but it's also an opportunity to get to know other people, those further outside one's immediate "group." The Greys have people sign up online (I'm sure in a safe and responsible forum), so they get a variety of interesting folks. And voila! Their circle expands! 

The recipe is simple and delicious (the meatballs can be made and frozen ahead of time). A few Sundays ago we had several families over after church to give the recipe a test-run, and I can testify that the meatballs were a success. And while I cannot wholly commit to Friday Night Meatballs on Friday nights in the crush of football season, I'm intrigued with the idea of branching out, moving beyond my comfort zone, meeting new and interesting people. Maybe in this season of shrinking and reworking our family life, marinara is one simple answer. If I cooked up a pot of meatballs, would you come? 

Smooth sailing in the morning

I think I've shared here before that each school morning I make a hot breakfast and pack a lunch for my 17 year-old daughter, Rebecca. This isn't exactly newsworthy, except to her two older sisters who, rather unjustly, were left to fend for themselves in the mornings, often throwing a few granola bars in the their backpack when they were short of time.

I know. I painfully regret those granola bars as they sort of ruined my run for mother of the year.

At any rate, I've got a good gig going now. It's a bit complicated, but bear with me -- there is a recipe coming your way.

Each morning at 5 AM I shuffle to the bottom of the stairs to make sure Becca is up. Sometimes I shout up for confirmation. Once she answers, I hurry back to bed and burrow into the darkness and covers. I do love the burrowing. Then, at 5:35 I get up and head into the kitchen. I pop a sausage and egg cup into the microwave for one minute, assemble the lunch I'd prepared the night before (place refrigerated and pantry items into a brown sack), and pull out a place setting for breakfast. This takes me 2-3 minutes. So when Becca rounds the stairs at 5:40, everything is ready and waiting. We read a chapter in the scriptures together as she eats, say a quick prayer, and then she scoots off to seminary.

And then, wait for it, I GO BACK TO BED. 

Until 6:30, when I get up for real. I know it sounds ridiculous, but those few minutes back in bed mentally get me ready for the day. I just love it.

My message for you is that I'm getting credit for breakfast AND lunch for only 2-3 minutes worth of effort in the mornings (and you can too). Plus, both of my kids LOVE these sausage and egg cups for breakfast. They are ridiculously easy to put together and seem destined to promote my pursuit of mother o' the year.

Here's how they go. (I originally found these in Primal Cravings (a cookbook I love), but I've seen variations all over the interwebs.)

6 ramekins
6 eggs
1 breakfast sausage (like Jimmy Dean)
green onions

Preheat oven to 350. Divide the sausage into six portions. I just cut the tube in half and then squeeze out three sections per side into the ramekins. Then smoosh (I'm highly technical) the sausage into the bottom of the ramekin and up the sides to form a crust. A meat crust! Try it . . . you'll like it. Crack one egg into each meat crust. Top with green onions and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Like so . . .

Ever try to edit a photo of raw meat for color? It's weird. And difficult.

Ever try to edit a photo of raw meat for color? It's weird. And difficult.

Then bake for 30 minutes. Voila! I let them cool, wrap each individually in plastic wrap, and then throw them in the refrigerator for early morning retrieval.

Excuse the messiness of the ramekin. I realized after baking that to be truly photo-worthy, I needed to wipe off the sausage remnants prior to baking. But ain't nobody got time for that. In short, it's not much to look at, but my kids have yet to leave a morsel untouched. It's a family favorite for sure.

Here's to three minute breakfasts and peaceful mornings . . .

A few good gems

Take a bow, everyone, and pat yourselves on the back: we've made it through another M-F and the weekend is upon us. What's on your docket? My family's scattered around a bit this weekend. Maddy's in Sydney for a debate tournament so it's just the boys and me until Sunday night. Sam's taking the PSAT tomorrow morning and I'm hoping to take a nice long walk around the lake by our house. We may end up seeing a movie, too. Have you seen any movies lately that you loved?

A few gems to take you into the weekend:

An innovative German afterschool game/program featuring a time-traveling professor is redefining play and learning and bringing lesson plans to life as well as teaching empathy. LOVE it.

Looking ahead to Halloween? How about three years' worth of couples costume ideas from Say YesCamp counselors, Dirty Dancing couple, acroBATS, lumberjacks, punk rockers, Mary Poppins and Bert, motorcyclers, magician and rabbit, and couples from Singing in the Rain, Moonrise Kingdom, and James Bond.

Given that it's springtime here and that the imported pumpkins at Costco are more than $30 each, we may take a cue from a Subtle Revelry and carve pineapple jack o'lanterns this year! Or oranges?

Divine caramel sauce and easy 10-minute caramel sauce. Because apples. And caramel. (Also--after being in Australia for two years now, I've started to say car-a-mel instead of car-mel. I just felt like I should confess that to someone.)

15 not-so-scary Halloween movies for wimps

Interesting: interpreting the motifs on turkish rugs

Friends, I've made this homemade kettle corn recipe three times in the last week or two (and wanted to make it at least eight more times). So easy and so so good in that sweet salty delicious way.

via Artisan Sweets

via Artisan Sweets

Illustrated mugshots of characters from famous banned books.

Gavin (at Zen Pencils) illustrates quotes from inspiring speeches in a cool, accessible way. I especially love his installments for John Green (advice for a writer), Amy Poehler (great people do things before they're ready), and Ira Glass (advice for beginners). 

Loving the Brave Women poster that Ashley Mae Hoiland recently created. It would make a great gift for a girl or teen (or grownup) in your life. She's also a wonderful writer.

via   Ashmae

via Ashmae

The art of slowing down in a museum (in case you missed it). I'm going to take this approach the next time we go museuming.

Make owl library cards from a free printable at love vs. design.

Have a fabulous weekend! Oh, and are you looking for your next good read? We've started posting what we're reading in the sidebar---> 

Launch lab, or 28 days without Diet Coke

Gratuitous cake photo.

Gratuitous cake photo.

Way back on June 30th I issued a no sugar (no artificial sweetener) challenge for the month of July. Friends, I'm here to tell you I've stuck with it. I know! I'm just as shocked as you! There has been no ice cream (not even on the 4th of July), no cake, no cookies, no treats of any kind. To tell you the truth, I've only marginally missed the sweets. I have missed (and continue to miss) the Diet Coke. Heck, I'd even take a tall glass of Crystal Light. But fear not, I am well hydrated. Turns out one of the side effects of only being able to drink water  . . . is DRINKING WATER. It's genius.

I have a few observations on the whole no sugar thing. Let's start with the good:

  1. One of my primary reasons for beginning this challenge was to increase my fitness level. I work out five days a week, but I wasn't seeing a ton of improvement, and I was suspicious that my nutrition (ie a bevy of sugar) was to blame. This turned out to be true. Not that I'm killing the Crossfit workouts now (because I'm old and non-athletic), but they feel better. I feel better while I'm doing them.
  2. Knowing I wasn't eating sugar was sorta peaceful. This one is hard to explain. In my normal (doughnut-laden) life, I fought with myself daily over what treats I would eat. And then I'd beat myself up about the treats I'd eaten. It was a long, exhausting monologue in my head of "Should I? or shouldn't I? I should. I will. Uh oh. I shouldn't have eaten that!" But because I'd already decided no sugar, none of that non-productive (and often abusive) diatribe was running through my head. Phew.
  3. I lost five pounds. There's THAT! (FYI, I was being pretty careful to eat very clean as well.)
  4. I completely defeated the 3 PM slump. I used to get so tired and grumpy around 3 PM everyday. I felt groggy and unfocused. But once I stopped eating sugar I felt fine and productive all afternoon. Generally, I even woke up in the morning feeling more refreshed.
  5. I'm not as hungry during the day. I'm hypoglycemic, so once I start riding the sugar roller coaster, I have to eat pretty frequently. When my sugar and carb intake is controlled, I'm free of the lows that include hunger, headaches, irritability, and the shakes. No one likes the shakes.

Here's the bad:

  1. No trips to Sonic. A few times, when I was with the kids, I ordered a bottle of water with the good Sonic ice. That is NOT EVEN THE SAME.
  2. No sugar can be boring. Desserts are fun. Heck, they can even be exciting. No alcohol, no coffee, no tea, no sugar. I don't have a lot going for me in the vice department currently.
  3. Ummmm . . . I can't think of any other bad things. But I'll keep ruminating.

In conclusion:

On August 1st I plan to drive myself to Sonic and buy a Route 44 Diet Coke with lime. But other than the occasional Diet Coke (nope, not going back on that full-time either), I don't have any plans to return to my sugared past. Not even for doughnuts, which I love from the very, very, very bottom of my heart. 

Anyone else complete the challenge? Do chime in with your thoughts.


Winner, winner chicken (tortellini salad) dinner

Gorgeous Kinfolk Dinner in Sydney, photo  via  

Gorgeous Kinfolk Dinner in Sydney, photo via 

This salad is an all-out winner. Hearty enough to be a main dish but versatile enough to fit in to any meal, you will love this one year round. I've taken it to dinners and potlucks and served it here at home for both guests-are-coming-over kinds of events and just our everyday family meals. It's also really really easy--more assembly than anything else.

I have never, however, served it without being asked for the recipe. (Well, my family doesn't tend to ask. But only because they know it comes from this favorite cookbook and that this dish will always be in the rotation at our house.) 

One thing I especially love is its adaptability. It's pretty healthy as it is but if you know someone's cutting carbs, just drop the pasta. It's still delicious. Vegetarian? It can still stand proudly without the chicken. 

Chicken & Tortellini Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette
(adapted from Whitney Ingram's The Family Flavor cookbook)

Mix together
1/2 cup prepared pesto (I use the Kirkland brand from Costco or whatever my grocery store has on the shelf)
2 tsp. vinegar (red wine or balsamic)
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or shred up a grocery store roasted chicken if you're in a hurry)
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper
1 pkg of fresh cheese and spinach tortellini (or other favorite filled pasta--I use ravioli in a pinch)
1 carton cherry or grape tomatoes, cut into small pieces (I also like to use colorful heirloom ones)
2-3 handfuls of rinsed baby spinach
1/4 red onion, sliced thinly or diced
. . .
Prepare chicken breasts by rubbing with olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper and then baking in a 400 degree F oven for 25 minutes. Cool and shred/slice into bite-sized pieces.

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse with cool water and set aside.

On a large platter or bowl, combine salad ingredients. Drizzle pesto dressing over the top and toss. Can be served at room temperature or chilled.


Launch lab: No sugar challenge

When Annie and I met up in Austin last Spring, we discussed Lab posts as a way to practically and tangibly try out new habits and practices that could enhance our lives and our homes. I loved Annie's initial Lab that emphasized saying intentional hellos and goodbyes to her kids and husband as they left and entered their house. It's an enjoyable practice.

Urban Harvest Farmers' Market. Houston, April 2014.

Urban Harvest Farmers' Market. Houston, April 2014.

What I'm proposing for our Lab for July is a no sugar challenge -- not nearly so enjoyable. I've actually debated back and forth over sharing this challenge via N&L because I don't want the no sugar challenge to be interpreted as a weight-loss or body image injunction. To be completely honest, I wouldn't mind dropping a few pounds. However, my desire to ditch sugar has more to do with the way I feel than the way I look. I work out almost every day. Some days I have boundless energy, and I'm raring to go. Other days I feel like my limbs are made of concrete and my mind is cloudy and sluggish. And mostly, those slow days are the culmination of what I like to call the EATING ODYSSEY, wherein I eat a bevy of sugar-laden foods. 

On Saturday I attended a nutrition workshop at the Crossfit Box where Sterling and I work out. Part of the instruction included issuing a no sugar challenge for the month of July. I'm up for it, but I work better in groups. Who's with me?

Your mission, should you choose to accept, prohibits sugar AND artificial sweeteners from July 1 - July 31st.

This means no sugar, honey, agave, Splenda, Truvia or ANY sweetener of ANY type whatsoever. This means no Diet Coke for me, which equals no afternoon trips to Sonic with the sun roof open and the radio blaring. Perhaps I'll just drive around aimlessly with a cup of water.

No chocolate (including dark chocolate).

No fruit flavored yogurt, flavored oatmeal, cereal, jam/jelly, Nutella, Nutri-grain bars, granola bars, soda, fruit juice, sports drinks, or milk. 

And it goes without saying -- no treats. No candy, cakes, ice cream, muffins, rice krispie treats, or gooey brownies with a thick layer of caramel. Essentially, no joy of any kind is allowed. Except health. Guys! Health is allowed!! 

If you want to join in, leave your name and e-mail in the comments. Then I'll send you some inspirational cheers throughout the month. And yes, I'm going to be totally embarrassed if I get zero comments on this post. So come on! Help a sister out.

It starts tomorrow. Off to eat ice cream.