In the Kitchen: Gnocchi with Bacon Cream Sauce and Peas

I like rountine. I like lists and knowing exactly what’s going to happen when it happens. Except when I don’t. I have these spurts of needing to do something different that won’t go away until I go and do something different. I usually dye my hair or go get a tattoo. So when I got this burst of the need for change this week, I was stumped. I’ve recently lightened and then re-dyed my hair so I couldn’t do that. I just got a tattoo so that was out. Plus I have no money. So, I decided I could take to the kitchen and cook something different. 

I knew I had all the stuff I needed to make homemade gnocchi so I decided to make a dinner completely from scratch. Lately we’ve been doing a lot of microwave and mix quick cheats for meals. It’s easier on weeknights and cheaper. But the food’s not as good. You sacrifice quality over time. 

I’ve only ever made gnocchi one time before – for our 1st wedding anniversary. So, in 2012. But I’ve been wanting to try again. I consulted a few different recipes online for some guideline especially since I wanted to use instant potato flakes instead of dealing with whole potatoes. (Alright, maybe it wasn’t 100% from scratch) So, I got some basic idea of what I was aiming for ingredient and measurement wise (none of the recipes could seem to agree on how much of each item to use) and made my own. Here it is: 

Take 1 cup of instant potato flakes and add 1 cup of the hottest water you can get from your faucet. Or microwave it or use a stove. Whatever works best for you. I’m lazy so I just use the tap. Mix it together all nice and neat. Add one egg. Blend it all together. If it’s too dry, add a splash of water, but don’t get it too wet.

 

Next add whatever seasonings you want. I had dried basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. I went with about ½ teaspoon for them, but Josh said the gnocchi didn’t have much flavor (I disagreed). So, figure out what works best for you. If you like bold flavors, go big. Then add 1 ½ cups of flour. I used my hands to get it all mixed and kneaded into a ball. Then start taking pieces and rolling it out into long strips. You can be fancy and use a fork to indent the top, but that’s up to you. The little ridges are supposed to help hold the sauce. It seemed like an extra step to me and I skip those when it’s a week night. They turned out fine without them.

 

Bring a pot of water to a boil. I took a pair of cooking scissors and just cut the little shapes into the water over the pot. You can cut them on the board beforehand if you want. Personally, I like to cut mine smaller. The bigger ones are a bit more doughy tasting. Leave them be until they float. Scoop them out and let them rest.

 

Sauce time! This recipe I’ve had since back in 2012. I found it somewhere on the internet. I certainly don’t take credit for it. It’s a cream sauce with bacon. It’s not exactly healthy, but it’s really good.

 

I cooked three strips of bacon. Took out most of the grease. Left a little for flavor though. Then I put in about 1 tablespoon of butter. Once it started melting, I took the bacon I chopped up and added it back in. Then I added onions. I usually use yellow onions for this sauce, but I had green onions that I needed to use cause they were headed south. So, I sliced then up, green and white, and put them in. You have to let the onions soften and then you add peas. I had a pretty big amount because I had defrosted them earlier in the week and taken about ½ cup out of the bag. We love peas though so it wasn’t a big deal for us. I’d say add ½-¾ cup depending on your love of them. Get the peas warm and then add a cup of milk. Now, the original recipe called for pancetta and half and half. I’m poor and cooking for my husband and a toddler who mostly feeds hers to the dog. So, I use what I have – milk and bacon. However, the fancy ingredients would definitely make for a fancier end result.

 

You let the milk mix all in, salt and pepper it, and let is simmer until it’s thickened some. When it’s where you want it, add the gnocchi to the pan, mix it all together, and let it heat the gnocchi back up to warm. Then you eat!

 

Josh thought the gnocchi were too doughy, and, like I said, smaller seems better for this recipe. I’ve only ever made gnocchi twice, and it was with instant potatoes. I’m sure real potatoes give you a much better consistency. I also think I overworked the dough. It’s really important to not do that, and I went ahead and did it anyways.

 

The sauce was a hit. Even the toddler drank it out of her bowl.

It helped scratch the different itch. I love cooking a full fancy meal and wish I had the time and resources to do it more often. Maybe I’ll try sneaking more meals like this in on a regular basis. 

Anxiety and Perspective

Anxiety. 

My anxiety is crippling. 
It’s devastating. 
It’s overwhelming. 
It’s consuming and mutilating. 

It’s also ridiculous. 

I used to think my depression was what kept me down. I blamed it for all the problems I experienced that effected me internally as well as socially. I’ve realized recently, while I do suffer from depression, my anxiety is the controlling disease. 

It strolls up and grabs me by the throat and holds until I feel like I can’t breathe, most times literally. I have days where I gasp for air because it’s all too much. And I don’t know how to control it or fight it or even avoid it. It sneaks up when I least expect it. My day can be going great and before I know it I’m covered in a blanket of anxiety and pretty soon I’m suffocating. 

Perspective. 

Some days I need it more than others. These days, where it feels like the sky has fallen and I’m crushed under it, perspective is the only thing that helps fight the anxiety (for me anyways). It is so necessary during these times. Gotta see the forest for the trees. I’m more of a trees for the forest kinda girl which makes some days really hard. 

I get so lost in the details no matter how teeny tiny and insignificant they may be. This adds to the panic of anxiety. It’s hard to put things where they need to go in your head and step back and see the big picture when you feel like the entire world has collapsed around you.

But you have to.

 
You fight it. 
Sometimes it takes a while. 
Sometimes it takes all your energy.
Sometimes you just go to sleep and (hopefully) it’s gone when you wake up.
 
Eventually, you feel relief. I’m sure it’s different for everyone. I can breathe easier. My mind stops spinning scenarios and stops making plans. It slows down. 

And perspective steps in. 

My girls.
My husband. 
My dog. 
My family. 
My job. 
My sanity. 

It’s all still there. It’s all ok. Nothing has changed. Nothing has happened. The people and things that matter are all still there. And as I relax I feel like I’ve run a marathon because of the stress that was put on my body. And I’ll go back to functioning. 

Hopefully, no one noticed my attack.
Hopefully, the rest of the day will be ok. 
Hopefully, it won’t happen again. 

But it will. 

Spring!!!

Spring is officially here! Believe it or not. And I am not about to let old moody Mother Nature kill my excitement. Yes, I realize it’s been cold and gross, and, yes, I am still wearing ugg boots and sweaters to work, but it is officially spring today and we are gonna celebrate all things spring. 

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Rain boots (which we definitely need today😐)

Flowers

Pastels

Easter

Going to the zoo 

Sunshine 

Bubbles

Clouds (the good big fluffy kind)

Flip flops -cause those suckers are out as soon as it’s warm enough to not get frostbite. 

Puppy car rides (not pictures: her head out the window)

This little girl’s birthday

And this year – it means the beach!! Mattie’s never been, Ellabelle doesn’t remember going so it’s gonna be so much fun! 

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Now, if only Mother Nature could get her act together give us some warm temps! ☀️

Easter Prep 🐰

St. Patrick’s Day is today. It’s not a high ranking holiday in my opinion. The only people who really love St. Patrick’s day are the Irish and the drinkers of America. I am the smallest bit of Irish (my easily burnt to a crisp skin is a testament to that), and I am not a drinker. There’s also very little fan fair for the holiday. Yes, I’m wearing green. And yes, I ate too many shamrock cookie and green punch at the work party. That’s about it though. I didn’t even pull out my St. Patrick’s day garland at home this year. I did decorate my office though. 

No, I’m ready to move past shamrocks. I’m ready for the bunny. 🐰

Ellabelle was so excited about Christmas, but she was so sick. I don’t think she really got the full experience (vomit will do that). So, this is my redemption holiday. The bunny is gonna bring back the joy! It’s a lot of pressure for him, but I think he’s got it in him. 

So, not unlike every other holiday/celebration in my life, I started Easter prepping pretty early. So everything we got to fill eggs as well as some of the basket items were on clearance. We don’t do candy because the girls get so much from grandparents and great grandparents (not to mention the Halloween candy still sitting in the candy bucket on my counter). So I always looked for alternatives. I used to do goldfish and that worked great when Ellabelle was still little. However, now she’s old enough to know that that’s kinda a crummy egg find. And it won’t work on Mattie because she only wants what Ellabelle has. So we get creative. 

First things I found were marked down blind bag necklaces at Walmart. For $.25 apiece, I got 5 eggs filled for $1.25. 

Ellabelle is obsessed with Mario right now and I found two K’nex (kinda like Legos) Mario figures for her. I found Bowser and Yoshi, and those were only a $1 each. 

At Toys R Us, I found World of Nintendo Microland play pieces on clearance. They ended up being about $1 a piece for the little guys, and I know Ellabelle is going to be super excited about them. 

After Valentine’s Day, Kroger had their Valentine’s sets of Shopkins on sale. There’s nothing Valentine’s about them except the box the came in. Ellabelle has been asking for some for a while. So I grabbed a bunch of those because they ended up being about $.37 each. Both girls love the ones I gave them early (they were multiples), and I know they’re gonna love that the bunny knew to bring them. 

Before I had found all these items out in the wild, I found these adorable little plastic dogs and cats on Amazon. They come in a 12 pack which puts them at about $.40 apiece. I ordered the dogs because they were listed at a clearance price, and the cats weren’t. I was planning on going back and ordering the cats closer to Easter, but I found the Shopkins instead. 

I also found a My Little Pony hair bow and a 4 set of rings for $.50 each at Walmart. Bracelets for each of them, and rabbit suckers. 


So, ultimately, it may be cheaper to buy the candy, but, if you’re smart about it and look for deals, you can still snag alternatives without spending a fortune. 

And now to the main attraction: BASKETS. 

I waited on getting Ellabelle a nice basket. I knew we were going to have at least two kids, and I wanted matching baskets. So once we found out that our tater tot was a girl, I finally got to get my nice baskets for the girls. They’re white with pastel gingham and I added bows (they’re actually hair bow I found in the girls section of Walmart 😂) and little initial eggs. I love these baskets. And I love filling them with goodies. 

We’re not buying as much this year, but Josh says it looks like I still went overboard. I can never win with him. After Christmas, Target had a great sale on DC Superhero Girls. With buy 1, get 1, I did just that. We gave Mattie a Wonder Woman doll back in January, and the bunny is going to bring her Supergirl. She’s also recently really been into playing with Ellabelle’s My Little Ponys, but big sister doesn’t like to share. So I found her one of her own on eBay. 


She has a jellycat bunny she got last Christmas and a pig she got for Valentine’s Day, and she loves both. So I found a large puppy one for almost the same price as a regular sized one. It’s personalized for her. (Her bunny’s ear says Matilda; the puppy’s says Mattie). 

She’ll also get a new pack of pacifiers which will probably be her favorite thing. 

In Ellabelle’s basket, you’ll find a stuffed Bowser. She’s been using her beanie baby cats as a replacement lately. She was ready to upgrade to an actual bad guy. She also got a Cat Peach. She’s obsessed with cats and Mario and specifically her Cat Mario, Cat Luigi, and Cat Toad toys. They don’t make a plastic figure version of Cat Peach yet so I was lucky I found a plush one. 


She’s also got a Batgirl sling shot (got it on clearance for $2.49 at Target!) and a Supergirl flyer (which was also clearanced at Target – I just can’t remember how much). 

I also found pizza bronzer and lip balm (luckily it’s actually grape flavored) at Justice. 


And she’s gonna flip over her pink glitter bath bomb I got off etsy. She’s been wanting bath bombs for a while, like she cried when we walked past a Lush, and this one is going to be a hit. 


Since we’re leaving for the beach about two weeks after Easter, the bunny is bringing us a beach basket. It’s all stuff we have to buy anyways, but he’s gonna get credit for it. It’s also going to be a scavenger hunt. The eggs will have clues to all kinds of places. And that silly bunny, well, he’s not just staying at our house. He’ll be at Oma’s and brunch and back to our house where the basket will magically have appeared while we’re gone. It’s going to have seashell bags, swimsuits, sunglasses, a sandcastle set, and a special mermaid outfit for each girl. The bunny is going to make sure we are ready to vacay! 

I’m really hoping that the bunny can make up for Santa this year. I know my girls will love the hunt regardless. I just want to make sure they have the best memories of holidays, and I worry so much about making the details perfect. I can’t wait for curlers and dresses and watching my girls run around together. It will definitely be a memory for me. 

Preschool drama & my poor mama heart 

Ellabelle has this friend at school. She always talks about her.

“What’d you do today?”
“Played with Willow.”
Repeat daily.

She’s even asked if Willow can come to her birthday party in July. This kid seemed like BFF status the past few weeks.

I took Ellabelle into school one Monday, and Willow was already there. It makes my mornings so much easier cause I can get her to let me leave quickly and without incident cause she wants to go play with Willow. So I sent her off and had a mommy moment of watching my girl run off to play with her friend. Too my dismay, Willow yelled, “No! Get away! I don’t want to play with you!” and then pushed Ellabelle.

Ellabelle, realizing I was still standing there, came running over to me crying. My heart was shattered. All I wanted to do was scoop up my girl and run out of there and take her to get ice cream because I love her and she’s one of my favorite people in the whole world and no one should ever treat her like that. My mind was in hyperdrive. Thankfully, the teacher stepped in and took both girls and talked to them. And I fled.

I was shook up in the car. This little girl is the sun in the middle of my universe (along with her sister). She made me a mama. She is smart and funny and kind. I couldn’t wrap my head around what I saw. Josh thankfully talked me through my moment of mommy panic because he’s more level headed than I am.
I hate that my sweet innocent girl experienced something so, shall we say, “grown up.” Her sweet soul doesn’t understand these things. It’s clean and pure and free of this sort of nastiness from other people. Eventually, the world is going to break her down and tarnish her with the ugly truths. But she’s only 4. I didn’t think these things start this early. I’m sure they do and, rationally, I know this is normal. I’m just not ready to have people be mean to my kid.

The next day after school, Ellabelle complained in the car that Willow wouldn’t play with her again. So we advised her to play with someone else instead. And she did on Wednesday, and she seemed fine. Then the next day, when I dropped her off, she ran into the classroom and joined a boy playing a game and he yelled, “We don’t want you playing!”

It’s a rough time for a delicate momma heart. She seems like such a little baby to me still. This mama bird wants to keep her baby in the nest and protect her. Josh swears this will be how she learns social norms and how to act around people. That doesn’t mean I have to like it.
I was picked on and made fun of and felt like an outcast for all of grade school. I don’t want Ellabelle (or Matilda) to grow up with insecurities and self doubt simply because of other kids. And I know the most important thing is to make sure they both know they have a safe place at home with accepting and open arms.

We all want the best for our kids. We all want people to love or at least be nice to our kids. Unfortunately, that’s not how life always goes. I will teach my girls to be kind to everyone. I will also teach them how to properly handle when someone isn’t nice to them. I have to let my little birds leave the nest and test their wings. I’m just gonna have to to grow a tougher skin on this mama heart of mine.

 

In The Kitchen: Tempeh

I’ve been trying to eat healthier. What I’ve realized in the process is that almost every website that offers advice on this is like, “Lean protein and veggies.” And that’s cool with me. I can handle veggies. There’s not too many of them I don’t like. But the lean protein, that’s where you get me. I don’t really like meat. I like a nice cut of steak and I’ll eat bacon, but that’s pretty much it. I’ve always kinda struggled with meat. I don’t like the way beef tastes the way cows smell (which makes me sound crazy to almost anyone who hears it), but that’s how I feel about it. So, in order to move to a leaner diet, I had to start looking for alternatives.

I started with chickpeas. And I really like roasted chickpea, but they just aren’t enough to work as a full substitute for me. So I asked the Google machine and found tofu and tempeh. I don’t particularly like tofu. It’s too spongey for me. So, I thought I’d try tempeh.

So, what exactly is tempeh? Well, thanks to Wikipedia, we can all know that it is “a traditional soy product originating from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form.” Apparently, this process makes the soy more digestible which is better for your body cause you get more minerals out of it.

I decided it was for a try. I purchased Lightlife Organic Original Tempeh. I found it in the organic/health food refrigerated section of my Kroger.

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The nutritional facts (which are what really matters) are for 3oz, and it comes in 8oz packaging.

  3oz (serving size) 8oz (whole package)
Calories 140 350
Fat 4.5g 11.25g
Carbs 10g 25g
Sugar 0g 0g
Protein 16g 40g
Fibers 7g 17.5g

 

I ate about half so for me 21g of protein sounds pretty dang good for having no meat! It’s not bad in any other category either. The whole package has less carbs than a single banana and more fiber than a cup of oatmeal in just the serving size.

Alright, so cooking:

I’ll tell you this it was a little scary at first sight. It’s definitely weird looking. EB thought it was rice crispy treat. But I was determined to be brave and try it. I read online to boil it first to take away from of its natural bitterness. So, I boiled it for 10 minutes flipping it once. I then dried it off and cut it in half so I could put it in a baggie to marinade it. Since this was the first time I was making it, I went a really safe route and used oil and chopped garlic to marinade it. I let it sit for about 2 days before I actually used it.

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Josh and I fell in love with tikka masala when we lived in Columbus and would go to North Market. I’ve tried to make it from scratch the past, but it just didn’t work out well. So, I buy it in a jar and, usually, brown up some chicken and shred it to toss in. (Don’t forget the naan!)

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This time, I made a chicken breast and browned my tempeh (in two separate pans). I used oil and crumbled it because I thought it would work best with the sauce. Once it was nice and crisp and brown, I put half the sauce in and let it all marry together. The remainder of the sauce went with the chicken.

I served it over rice, and it was really good! I actually almost couldn’t even tell it was in there because it was similar in shape and texture to the rice since I crumbled i. It also really filled me up. It reheated really well for lunch the next day as well.

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I’m looking forward to being more adventurous with the marinade and trying different forms for the tempeh. I think this may be the start of a beautiful new food friendship.

29.5

Today’s my half birthday. Twenty nine and a half. 6 months til the big 30. I used to love my half birthday. It was always exciting. I’m a weirdo and always made a bigger deal out of it than most people.

12 1/2 meant I was almost a teenager. I couldn’t wait to be 15 1/2 to go get my temps. 20 1/2 meant 6 more months til I was 21. But there’s no looking forward to being 30.

Our society puts so much emphasis on youth and beauty. We don’t take care of our old. They get very little government support. They have the worst health care coverage. Many are left in nursing homes to die as if they’re a burden. Old people should be celebrated, but, they aren’t. So what’s the appeal of growing old?

Josh told me that at 30 you start to come to terms with your mortality. I mean that does make sense. Most people have jobs and kids and responsibilities. Once you enter your 30s you kinda know where you’re going to be for the majority of the rest of your life.

I had a case at work this week that really bothered me. This old lady had killed herself at her nursing home, and I had to sort through the requested photos of the scene (my job is weird and disturbing sometimes). What bothered me most about the room was how empty it was. No pictures. No personal items. No blanket from home. Not even a plant. The room was empty of anything that showed this women was loved by someone. Now, I didn’t have the whole story obviously. All I know about her and her back story came off a Deceased Person form. The picture painted by the room though was enough.

I don’t want to end up alone. I want my children to come visit me. I want to have so many fond memories that I have too many photos scattered around. I don’t want to be old and in a diaper and stuck in a nursing home with no hope. I know it’s inevitable (hopefully not the nursing home part) and maybe this is what dealing with my mortality is. I just don’t want to come to a day in my life where I have no hope for the future. It seems like such a horrible place to be.

And now that I’ve thoroughly depressed myself about getting older, let’s focus back on the now. I’m still young! Well, sorta. I am an 84 year old Yiddish grandmother named Eunice on the inside. She likes to knit and bake and talk about how foolish youths are, but I’ve still got plenty of life left to live. I get to wake up and feel the sunshine and hug and kiss my babies (who are still little babies) and run without too many pains and eat without worrying about how my stomach will handle it. 30 isn’t old. 30 is just the beginning of a different type of life stage.

I’ve made a 30 before 30 bucket list back when I turned 29, and I’ve been working on it a little bit. Statistically, at this point, I should have 15 of them done. I definitely don’t. I also had to go back in and change a few because they just ain’t gonna happen (like going tubing when it’s been in the 60s all winter). So here’s my full list and what I’ve accomplished so far:

30 before thirty

  1. Go berry picking with my girls
  2. Go on a hayride
  3. Play in the rain with the girls
  4. Knit 10 scarfs to donate
  5. Get hair professionally dyed
  6. Write at least once a month
  7. Pay off a bill
  8. Fix the roof
  9. Organize the house completely
  10. Fix/replace the oven
  11. Go on a family vacation
  12. Get another tattoo
  13. Save $1000
  14. Lose 30 pounds
  15. Finish painting the kitchen
  16. Family portraits taken
  17. Paint pottery
  18. Make a cake entirely from scratch
  19. Visit Carew Tower view deck
  20. Visit Sunlight Pool
  21. Run some sort of race
  22. Take Josh to the Taste of Cincinnati
  23. Go camping
  24. Got out to a fancy dinner
  25. Own a king size bed
  26. Make smores
  27. Donate my hair
  28. Make $50 on etsy
  29. Go see a dermatologist
  30. Make something out of blown glass

So here’s what I’ve accomplished:

– go on a hayride
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-fix/replace the oven
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-family portraits taken
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-go out to a fancy dinner (Anniversary at the Melting Pot)
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-own a king size bed
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-make $50 on etsy
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So I’ve only actually finished 6. I’ve got about four currently in the works though. So it’s not too bad. Some of them are rather lofty goals anyways. So yeah, 6 months left to kick this list into gear. 6 months til I become “old” whatever that means. 6 months til a trip with my Joshie to celebrate another year.
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