Sentimental...

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Sometimes my life feels like that Bill Murray movie...you know Groundhog Day? Wake up, make bowls of cereal, change diapers, rush kids out the door to school, laundry, play time, cleaning, cooking....

This is not a complaining post~ in fact, just the opposite. As much as these days with little ones can feel unending; I find myself wishing they were unending. I actually sometimes can feel myself missing it. Even though I am still in the midst of it. Do you ever feel that way?
I already miss the random Cheerios tucked in the couch cushions, the Matchbox cars in my kitchen drawers and the Buzz Lightyear underwear left on the stairs.
When I first became a wife and a mom (those things happened nearly 5 years apart) I tried so hard to keep a spotless home. I thought glistening wood floors and wrinkle free bedspreads meant I was doing my job well. My sweet mother-in-law has always gently reminded me that there will be years of glistening floors and crisp bedsheets down the road. Now is the time to let those things go and just savor all that this season has and is. And what this life has right now is

Soapy finger painted pictures on my bathroom mirror

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A diaper and clothes hanger on the garage roof (thanks Ezra for that)

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Daily obstacle courses crafted by 2 year old ingenuity

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A freshly "painted" brick home, sidewalk and driveway

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Just cleaned make-up brushes used to buff a 5 year olds cowboy boots during a long car ride, the new toothbrush used by a busy 2 year old to meticulously clean the fireplace ~ and later used to meticulously clean his 8 teeth. Pages of spelling word lists on the fridge, piles of elbow and knee pads mixed with bicycle helmets and roller blades...its alot going on at once~ and I welcome it with open arms knowing full well that in just a few short years I will have those glistening wood floors and pristine sheets and will long for those days of crushed Cheerios in the couch.

**Here is the winner of the City Tavern Cookbook:

Kristi said...
"I love cookbooks and Iron Chef! I'm so glad I found your post (via facebook). I'll be sure to catch Sunday's show and I'll look for the PBS show, too. It sounds great! Thank you."

Congratulations Kristi! Email me (megan@ittysmitty.com) with your home address to claim your prize!

Raspberry Cordial

**Don't forget the City Tavern Cookbook giveaway ending on Sunday!** Click here to enter.

I am not much of an Internet surfer. I check my FB account, read my favorite blogs and email all in the span of 10 minutes or so a day. Unfortunately my computer time has increased a bit more lately thanks to Foodgawker. Have you been over that way yet?

A few days ago I spotted a recipe for Raspberry Cordial ( you know, that tasty drink Anne's bosom friend Diana accidentally got drunk on there in Green Gables?) Raspberries are out of season here in Lexington but that didn't keep me from buying a big container of them from Sam's Club this week.
I spent some time looking at various recipes online. Some called for macerated berries boiled down with sugar and some even called for raspberry jam. I stuck with the original recipe I had found but tweaked it based on what I had on hand. I imagine the amount of sugar, berries and liquor can be altered a bit with the same basic outcome. Here's hoping, at least!I should know in 3 months.

I am already planning to bring out the cordial on Christmas Eve after the boys have gone to bed. Sipping it slowly or maybe mixing it with a bit of champagne in front of a crackling fire? We can work out those details later. For now, its tucked away in the furthest corner of my spice cabinet awaiting its debut.

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Raspberry Cordial

1 large wide mouth Mason Jar (not sure on the size, it measures 6.5 inches tall)
12 ounces Fresh Raspberries
1 cup Sugar
Vodka
Distilled Water

Place the jar and seal in a hot water bath on the stove and sterilize it that way.
Clean the berries. After the jar is sterilized layer the ingredients in the jar. Sugar first, berries second. Add vodka until the jar is 3/4 full. Top with distilled water. Do not stir.
Place the lid on the jar and store it in a cool, dark place and enjoy in three months.

A City Tavern Giveaway

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A few months ago...well let me go back even further. A couple of years ago I stumbled across a show one Saturday afternoon on PBS. Don't you love those weekend afternoon Public Television shows? Growing up I spent many Saturdays trying to re-create Bob Ross paintings with my dad and watching Cajun chef, Justin Wilson ("how ya'll are?"). Do you remember him?

Well back to the story at hand. I stumbled across this amazing cooking show one Saturday afternoon called "A Taste of History". I called Canaan into the room (he's my cooking show buddy) and we watched as this enthusiastic German chef cooked course after course over big hearth fire at Monticello. If you've never seen it, it really is amazing. Chef Staib steps back in time and gets to know the founders of our country through the food they ate and the recipes they prepared. Its like a great tasting History lesson!

Since that time, Canaan and I have tried to make it a point of watching A Taste of History whenever we get the chance.

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A few months ago (I am finally to that point of the story...) I had the crazy privilege of interviewing Chef Staib on the phone for an article I wrote about planting a Thanksgiving Garden. You can read that here, if you are so inclined.

First of all, I was completely blown away that this award winning chef that has conceptualized over 350 restaurants and stars in an Emmy award winning show (several times over, to boot) even had (or took!) the time to talk to this freelance writing, mama of 3 from Lexington, Kentucky. He shared with such speed and enthusiasm and German flair that my head was spinning and I wanted to jump on the next plane to Philadelphia just to absorb even an ounce of that passion he has for food and history.

After the interview, his fantastic assistant Molly (who had set up that phone interview) sent me a copy of one of his cookbooks, City Tavern. How sweet, right?!
The cookbook, aptly named after Chef Staib's famous restaurant in Philadelphia, City Tavern, is heavy and thick and full of amazing photos, stories and recipes. Everything a cookbook should be. Canaan, our avid cookbook reader, has declared City Tavern as one of his favorites.

So why do I tell you all of this? Well....I am giddy with excitement for a number of reasons.

Number one; Chef Staib is going to be competing on Iron Chef this Sunday, October 2nd! He will be battling Bobby Flay, who happens to be Canaan's favorite celebrity chef. I think my sweet 8 year old will be sitting on pins and needles the entire episode!

Number two; A Taste of History won three Emmy Awards this year! I'm not even on the Staib team and I'm pretty excited about that one.

Number three; Chef Staib has generously provided a copy of City Tavern; Recipes from the Birthplace of America to be given away this week on the blog! So from now until Sunday night, October 2nd at 9pm EST (just an hour before Iron Chef airs), please leave a comment in today's post (one entry per person, please). A winner will be chosen at random and announced here Monday morning.

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And the winner is...

Here is the winner of the Classical Stretch Season 6 DVD Set:

Amanda Naprawa said...
"I have been having constant back and hip pain for seven years. If I could solve it with stretching....Oh, the joy! If I don't win this giveaway, I am going to have to invest in the series on my own"

Congratulations Amanda! Email me (megan@ittysmitty.com) with your home address to claim your prize!

Stay tuned...I think I may have another great giveaway up my sleeve this week.
Until then, I couldn't resist showing you one of the many faces of Othniel Rockland Smith.

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Argyle & Minestrone

*Don't forget to enter the giveaway. You have until Sunday!*

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Its fall...finally. I am not a summer kind of gal. In fact, I count down the days until summer is over and cooler weather arrives. Its odd, I know. I actually think this time of year might be my favorite. Its is just on the cusp of fall...the anticipation is still in the air. The leaves are just beginning to turn but haven't yet. The evenings are cool and crisp and the days are warm and breezy.

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I hadn't posted any family photos recently...umm...most of them turn out like this.

Our summer smoothies and salads are taking a backseat now to some fall standards. One of our favorites is a simple Italian Minestrone we make over and over again during the autumn and winter months. I tweak it occasionally (depending on what's in the fridge that day). Make a big pot of it. The leftovers taste even better on day two and three.

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(forgive the absence of beautiful food photography. Dinnertime + 4 hungry boys= "in the moment" food photography ;)

Italian Minestrone

1 pkg. Lean Italian Turkey Sausage
Diced Carrots & Potatoes (the amount varies between 1/2 cup and 1 cup of each depending on the laziness factor that day)
1 lg. can of Petite Diced Tomatoes
4 cups Chicken Stock
Thinly shredded Cabbage (again...anywhere between 1-2 cups)
Salt & Pepper
1 can Great Northern Beans

Brown sausage in large stock pot. Drain fat and place in a bowl. Set aside. Saute potatoes and carrots for 10 minutes in the same stockpot. Add canned tomatoes and chicken stock. Simmer 15 minutes. Add cabbage and beans. Cook until potatoes are soft and cabbage is wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

A Giveaway

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From MSN UK

Last week I posted about my love of Classical Stretch. I love, love, love this exercise program and am reaping such amazing benefits from it ~ best of which is an almost complete healing from ongoing back pain that neither chiropractic care or physical therapy could do.
"Classical Stretch is a combination of scientific stretching, PNF, tai chi, yoga, ballet, physiotherapy and chiropractic movements. It plays with the concepts of agonist / antagonist and joint rotation to speed the rate of elongation and strengthening which results in a leaner looking body. It also focuses on spinal rotation and joint alignment, liberating the back from pain and improving posture."
I am not the only one singing the praises of this workout. Models, movie stars and professional athletes are loving the results too!
The team at Classical Stretch have been so amazingly generous to send the Complete Season 6 DVD Series with 30 workouts for me to giveaway here on the blog~ a $72 value!! So from now until Sunday night, Sept. 25th at 9pm EST, please leave a comment in today's post (one entry per person, please). A winner will be chosen at random and announced here Monday morning.

In the meantime...check out Miranda's super great blog, Esmonde White House and friend Classical Strech on Facebook here

You Say Butternut Squash...I Say Ice Cream

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The butternut squash from my friend Steph is the gift that keeps on giving. Day 2 of my squash experiment produced this little beauty.

Bourbon Butternut Squash Ice Cream with Maple Caramel Swirl.

Its yummy...and sweet....and spicy... and a little boozy. In other words, perfect.

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1.5 cups whole milk
1.5 cups heavy cream
1 egg
3 egg yolks
1 cup roasted and pureed butternut squash
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
1/4 cup bourbon (you could add a bit more...taste and judge for yourself.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice butternut squash in half lengthwise.Roast until you can pierce the squash easily with a knife. Remove from the oven and cool. Scoop out the flesh and puree in a blender or food processor. Set aside.
Heat up milk, cream, sugars and spices in a saucepan. Meanwhile, gently beat the egg and yolks in a separate bowl. Once milk begins to simmer, remove from heat. Temper the eggs by slowly pour one tablespoon of the milk mixture into the egg mixture while beating the eggs constantly. Repeat with two more tablespoons. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the milk mixture while stirring. Turn heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the custard has reached a point where it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat.
Add butternut squash puree to the custard, whisking to break up bits and incorporate evenly. Stir bourbon into the custard. Chill custard in the fridge overnight and freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Maple Caramel Swirl
adapted from www.scoopadventures.com

6 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup maple syrup

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar is a deep golden brown color. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in half of the cream until smooth (be careful, mixture will bubble). Stir in remainder of cream until combined. Stir in vanilla and maple syrup. If lumps of caramel form,return pan to low heat and stir until the lumps are dissolved. Transfer caramel to a heatproof container and allow caramel to come to room temperature. Chill in refrigerator until completely cool.

Once ice cream is finished churning, pour a layer of caramel sauce into a container.Lightly spoon a layer of ice cream on top. Continue to alternate layers of caramel and ice cream until the container is full. Do not stir. Freeze for atleast 4 hours. Scoop and enjoy!

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You Say Butternut Squash...I Say Doughnut

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My sweet friend Stephanie came over the other night with red beans and rice for dinner and a big butternut squash from her garden. Leave it to me to find a completely unhealthy use for such a vitamin rich vegetable.

But I can definitely boast that if you were ever to have a doughnut, this would be the healthiest of them all. They are baked, not fried and loaded with gorgeous orange squash puree.
I have a couple more butternut squash recipes up my sleeve I'll share in coming days. Bring out the loose fitting sweat pants!

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Butternut Squash Baked Doughnuts
adapted from Fifteen Spatulas

1 cup mashed butternut squash puree ( I baked the squash upside down, skin on, and scooped out the soft pulp)
3Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup whole milk
2 1/4 tsp. instant dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon (you could also use nutmeg in addition, or in replacement)
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 egg
2 egg yolks
3.5 cups flour, more for rolling

Melt the butter, and set aside to cool.
Heat the milk to warm. Put in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl to mix by hand. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the milk and let sit for 5 minutes until bloomed. Add the sugar, brown sugar, salt, vanilla, nutmeg, and whisk to combine. Add the mashed sweet potato, butter, egg and egg yolks, and beat until well combined.

Change to the dough hook or get a good arm workout. Add the flour. Mix at medium for 2 minutes, then increase the speed up to medium high and knead until a soft dough forms and the dough pulls away from the sides about 5-7 minutes. (I enjoy kneading dough, so I did this by hand for a good 5 minutes) If it doesn’t pull together, add a little bit more flour.
Dump the dough out onto a floured countertop or into another large bowl (it will be soft and sticky), form it into a loose ball, and let it rise for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface to about 1 inch thick.

Using a circle cutter (or a mason jar ring ;), gently cut out circles and poke the middles to make holes ( I used the cover for my candy thermometer). Place the doughnuts on parchment paper lined sheet pans, and let them rise another 2 hours, covered with plastic wrap or a cloth kitchen towel.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the doughnuts for 10 minutes, until they have risen and are golden brown. Depending on the thickness of your doughnuts, this may take more or less time. Just keep an eye on them.

While the doughnuts are baking, make a basic cinnamon sugar topping by melting the butter in one bowl, and whisking the sugar and cinnamon in another. While the doughnuts are hot out of the oven, dip them in the butter, then immediately toss in the cinnamon sugar.

Additionally you can make a quick maple glaze by mixing melted butter and confectioners sugar to a thick Elmer's glue like consistency. Add a drizzle of maple syrup and mix again. Dip the warm doughnuts in the glaze.

Some Lovelies


Some lovely wall art ~ source unknown



A cake from a lovely baking blog ~ Sweetapolita



A lovely craft booth...I don't think beautiful displays like this happen at craft fairs in Kentucky ~ source unknown


~source unknown

As always, I am inspired by so much I see, touch, taste and experience. One of the biggest sources of not only inspiration but health and energy I have found in the past year is The Esmonde Technique ~ Classical Stretch. As some of you know, I have had ongoing back issues for some time now. I have always been prone to back problems but an injury after a workout nearly two years ago made things take a turn for the worse...to the point of being unable to sit, for even a few minutes, and losing sleep.
About a year ago I ran across a 30 minute program on our PBS station called Classical Stretch. I DVR another great workout program and thought I'd give this one a chance. It has revolutionized my health and my life.
The science behind the technique is amazing and each workout is so educational. I sweat buckets and my legs feel like jelly by the end and amazingly I go to bed and wake up the next morning, nearly pain free. But even more so, the flexibility I am gaining, the freedom of movement, the strength in my core, legs and back surpass anything I have ever received from my intense pilates and yoga classes of the past.
The developer of this technique is a former ballerina and works with not only many professional athletes but even has a DVD series specifically for those facing breast cancer rehabilitation.
I am not usually one to promote products on the blog...but I couldn't pass up the chance to shout from the mountaintops the praise of this program.