Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

I think the Internet needs more food posts.

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

Oh hey there.

It’s been a very long time since I wrote in this space. Our family looks a little different — it’s doubled in size to include two small, lovely, crazy boys.

I don’t have any romantic notions about starting this blog up again, but I’m currently doing a lot of computer-based planning on some topics that feel blog-y to me, so I figured I may as well plan them here. So I can share my progress like a good millennial, or something.

Those of you who have been around here a while know I’m not the best at sticking to goals, motivating myself, and, you know, other essential qualities of productive human beings. But ah, motherhood. It’s amazing the number of times I now find myself realizing that to change my child’s behavior, I need to change my own.

We’re at the end of our second baby’s first year now, and we just completed a 1,200-mile move. Now that the boxes are (mostly) unpacked and we’ve stopped with the daily takeout, we’re looking for ways to begin to thrive here. And we are all craving structure.

My three-year-old especially is a creature of serious habit. Lately he’s had some understandable anxiety after being totally uprooted. A lot of that anxiety is coming out in food-related issues. He’s always been an extremely picky eater, but frankly, it’s getting ridiculous.

This child would eat mac and cheese for every meal if I let him, won’t eat Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets because they aren’t processed enough, and recently decided to remove cheese ravioli and quesadillas from his already-limited food repertoire because I used an unfamiliar brand of cheese.

And now I’m feeling your judgy eyes and the need to back way, way up.

Because HOW in the world did we get here?

Well. When your infant spends every single car trip screaming his head off (I’m talking breath-holding, blue-turning screaming), and you figure out that giving him one of those food-trapper snack cups with puffs in it lessens the screaming time, you give him the damn snack cup. And when he shows a gigantic preference for carbs over any other type of food, well, that’s not the battle you can fight right then. You’re focused on the not listening to screaming for 12 hours a day.

It also didn’t help that until recently we lived in a tiny house with no dining table, and therefore no family meal structure.

So, how we got here is an unhealthy mix of some sensory difficulties and a lot of “accidental parenting,” aka survival mode. I have no regrets about our choices, honestly. We couldn’t have made different ones at the time, and I’m glad we figured out that cheerios and bagels gave us a little break. But now that he’s three and doesn’t cry all day (prraaiiiise), I’d really like it if he ate something other than variations on cheese, bread and fruit. Meals are a terrible chore and end in lots of power struggles, and I’m just. over. it.

So my brilliant plan is to rid the house of all our fallback options. No more Annie’s mac and cheese. No more cereal for breakfast. For Eric and me, no more sneaking ice cream and candy out of their hiding places after the kids are in bed.

We are revamping meal time with a combination of dietary choices and routine/rhythm/structural changes in our day. So if you feel like it, follow along. I have no idea how this is going to go.

Well, except for phase one:


<3 Brynna

Two-thousand thirteen.

Monday, December 31st, 2012

A happy New Year
[Photo Credit]

Although I skipped over the usually obligatory Thanksgiving, advent, Christmas, and other end-of-year posts, I think New Year’s posts are some of the best in blog-land. There’s something so inspiring about reading everyone’s goals, focus words, and year-end reflections and accomplishments. (My 2012 year in review post WILL be coming soon, once my best and I have a chance to hash out the happenings.)

Some of these goals aren’t measurable or specific (we all know how “do ______ more” usually pans out)… but here are a few areas I’d like to improve:

  • Eating at the kitchen table. Right now we eat almost every night on our couch while watching Netflix (for shame!). This is because our kitchen table (first stop after the front door in our tiny apartment) is our clutter-catch-all, and we never want to both cook AND straighten the table. I’d like to use our cute placemats, pay attention to each other, have conversations, and get up from the kitchen table when we’re done (which I suspect will make cleaning up from dinner immediately a much more natural transition).
  • Start playing the piano again. My aim is once a week to start out. I figure if I do this, I will naturally want to play more than that, which is my eventual goal. To make this goal more measurable, I’ll probably decide on a few songs to learn and perfect.
  • Develop better routines. This is a biggie. It includes creating a rough weekly schedule that works with my highly variable work responsibilities, a cleaning routine that works for both of us, a gym routine and a morning routine. I started majorly slacking in the morning (and letting myself) when I got sick this summer, and now I can’t seem to drag myself out of bed until Eric’s almost ready to leave for work. Ideally I’d be awake with Bible read and tea/coffee had by that time, ready to start my work day.
  • Pick a few books of the Bible to read and re-read this year. I’m stealing this approach to a Bible-reading plan from this post by our good friend Paul. I’ve chosen Esther, Isaiah and Phillipians so far. Any suggestions?
  • Simplify and improve our eating. Eric and I have talked about wanting to start eating organic meats as a step toward improving the quality of what we put in our bodies. This means eating less meat in general and finding out where the best deals are, as our grocery budget doesn’t have much room to expand. We’ve talked about doing a CSA arrangement if we can find an affordable one. I love cooking, but grocery planning/shopping is one of my most hated chores.
  • Become a better photographer. This will probably involve working through some online tutorials, as well as practicing a lot. I’m looking forward to this goal as a fun one, especially with our new camera.
  • Work through a writing book slowly and do all the exercises. I tend to treat writing books as general inspiration, instead of really using them to practice skills. I have a couple awesome writing books right now, including On Writing Writing Down the Bones, Bird by Bird, and one from my mother-in-law called Writing as Way of Healing. I want to spend some quality time with each one.
  • Blog more consistently. I know I’ve totally neglected my blog this year. It was a strange year in some ways, especially with four months of sickness, which I think left me quite depressed in the low energy, just getting by kind of way. One positive is that that leaves me with tons of blogging material, particularly about my writing career, that I never got to in 2012. That should be enough to jump-start my new blogging habit.

Thanks for bearing with me through the breaks this year, friends.

2012 in review, coming soon! (PROMISE!)


Recipe: Pear, bacon and bleu cheese flatbread pizza.

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

It’s been a long time since I posted a recipe. Most of our cooking in this season is done quickly  and with hopes of many leftovers for lunches and dinners without extra cooking. But I posted a picture of last night’s creation via Instagram, and many of you thought it looked delicious and/or asked about the recipe—so for you, here it is!

Oddly, last night wasn’t much different from previous nights intention and ingredient-wise… except I was in one of those moods, which coincidentally has carried over into today’s gingerbread waffle making, kitchen tile grout scrubbing and floor mopping.  I call it “I can absolutely no longer look at a computer screen, my body needs to move, and it’s been a while since I’ve put effort into homemaking beyond the bare minimum.”  Also coincidentally, Eric hasn’t been feeling well, so into the kitchen I went, alone, feeling a little creative, and with the leftover stars aligning.

Leftover stars aligning? Let me explain.

I’m so not one of those cooks who plans what to do with my leftovers. If I’m really on top of things, I sometimes manage to have the foresight to cook extra diced chicken if I’m using it two nights in a row. But I also routinely (like right now) have things in the fridge like 3/4 a head of cabbage I used for one night of tacos. I entered this week with a vague idea that we’d make a bacon and pear pizza. We almost always keep bacon and mozzarella on hand, I make my own crusts, and I knew I’d be able to figure out some sort of base. Luckily, it was a combination of random leftovers that really made this pizza special.

How to make really good pizza, Brynna style

1. Decide you don’t feel like making a pizza crust. Realize you have some leftover flat bread from curry last night. Oops, you already stuck it in the freezer. Throw it in the 350˚ oven to thaw it.

2. Chop and fry up some bacon (3 slices in my case, for 3 flatbread rounds). Drain the grease. Realize you have a perfect amount of leftover chopped red onion in the fridge. Give that a go-around in the same pan.

3. Shred some mozzarella cheese. Slice the pear.

4. Smell something cooking and realize that the flatbread’s still in the oven. Open it up to discover breads that are not burnt but are puffed up and quite toasted. Take them out, smush them down even though the tops are now all crumbly, and hide the big bread flakes under a blanket of alfredo sauce.

5. Throw those guys on a cookie sheet, add shredded mozz, bacon, red onion, pear, and bleu cheese crumbles that were in the fridge.

6. Realize there are no vegetables on this thing. Grab some spinach and chop it like basil for a little vitamin garnish and the illusion of health food.

7. Return to oven until cheese is melty. Broil for the last couple minutes to speed up browning.

8. In the mean time, if you’re so inclined……see the unused half-pear on the counter and a lone apple in the fruit bowl. Chop them up really quick, toss them with a dusting of cinnamon, sugar and flour, and throw them in ramekins.  Use your fingers to smush up some butter with sugar, cinnamon, oats and flour and put it on top of the fruit. Dessert!

Pear, Bacon, and Bleu Cheese Flatbread Pizza
or, the recipe without the play-by-play, for those of you who don’t like rambling. C’mon.


3 Trader Joe’s flatbread rounds
About 1/2 c jarred Alfredo sauce
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese
3 slices of bacon
3 Tbsp chopped red onion
Half a pear, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons bleu cheese crumbles
8(ish) baby spinach leaves, chopped in a chiffonade


1. Preheat oven to 350˚.
2. Fry bacon in a skillet; drain grease. Add red onion and cook 1-2 minutes until softened but not translucent.
3. Toast flatbread. Watch closely!
4. Remove from oven and top with Alfredo sauce, dividing evenly among three rounds.
5. Top three rounds evenly with remaining ingredients.
6. Return to oven just until cheese is melted and begins to brown.

Serve with wine, and follow with apple pear crumbles (but you have to read the rambly recipe for that. Step 8.)



Keep on keepin’ on, summer.

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

It’s almost the end of summer.

I had my first craving for fall a few weeks ago, oddly enough when Eric mentioned football. (Or, maybe it wasn’t that odd — I started craving football food, specifically his mom’s chili cheese dip, not actual football games.)

September. It’s the second year in a row I’ve started the school year without school. After a lifetime of Septembers dedicated to starting a new school year, it feels strange. Especially after I kept being told, “Well, if you don’t find a job this year, you will next year!” I know I’m not the only one, but sometimes it feels like it. September means the beginning of a new year for me much more than January ever has. Yesterday I went into the office aisle to buy envelopes and could barely get through all the kids doing last minute school supply shopping.
But as I finally picked up a library book yesterday that I’ve been meaning to read for weeks and found myself flipping to the Autumn chapter, something felt wrong — and, turning pages in reverse, I settled back in on Summer. After all, it’s 90 degrees outside, produce is late this year, and I’m just barely starting to get tired of my grungy summer uniform (cut off shorts, uncute tank tops, and 3-year-old flip flops anyone?). Summer is still definitely the dominant season here, and I’m just fine with that. (more…)

Homemade Nutella

Friday, July 29th, 2011

I was introduced to Nutella at the very young age of four-ish, when my family lived in Germany.  My mama would make bread in the bread machine, and we helped her take out the big metal key and cut thick, chewy slices.  Nutella spread onto that warm bread was probably one very few things that shut me up when I was little.  Wondering what all that cracked sugar was about?  Well, here you go.

Fast forward twenty years.  Nutella is almost as popular in the U.S. as it is in Europe.  I was surprised when I got to college and tons of my friends knew of and loved Nutella as much as I did.  But here’s the thing — Nutella now vs. Nutella then, and U.S. vs. European Nutella are two different worlds.

The current version of Nutella Americans buy in stores in the plastic jar contains partially hydrogenated oils and more sugar than hazelnuts, among other things.  Although he doesn’t list what is different, this taste test (read the comments!) confirms that Germans do not consider the two products to be one and the same.  Actually, our Nutella that claims to be “imported” is imported from Canada, not Europe.

Now, all this is not to say I have replicated the German version of Nutella.  I have simply followed, using very simple ingredients, a recipe for cocoa hazelnut butter.  Its hazelnut content is twice that of its sugar content, unlike the jarred version (which lists sugar FIRST and only contains 2/3 cup of actual hazelnuts).

In other words….  this is totally healthy and should be eaten all the time. ;)

Here is the recipe, from Su Good Sweets (Go visit! This site will make you want dessert NOW. At not even 9am. Promise.):


Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread (caramel base)

Borrowed from Su Good Sweets

Yield: about 12 ounces (1 1/2 cups)

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 cups whole raw hazelnuts
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt

  1. Preparation: Line a baking sheet with foil. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Make the caramel: Combine the sugar and water in a 3- to 4-cup saucepan. To prevent crystallization, don’t stir it again during the cooking. Cover and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Remove the lid and wipe down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush or a scrunched up paper towel dipped in water. Cover and cook for 2 minutes, or until the sugar’s completely dissolved. Uncover and cook until the syrup looks like pale amber maple syrup. If your pan’s dark and you can’t gauge the color of the syrup, spoon a drop or two onto a white saucer. Swirl the pan gently, continuing to cook and test the color until the syrup turns medium amber.
  3. Immediately pour the caramel onto the lined baking sheet. Tilt the sheet to spread the caramel as thinly as possible. Let harden completely, about 15 minutes.
  4. Toast the nuts: Meanwhile, place the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until the skins are almost black and the meat is dark brown, about 15 minutes. Stir the nuts halfway through baking to ensure an even color.
  5. To get rid of the bitter skins, wrap the cooled hazelnuts in a clean kitchen towel or paper towel. Rub until most of the skins come off, but don’t worry if some remain.
  6. Make the nut butter: When the caramel is completely cool, break it into small pieces and pulverize in a food processor. Try to get the caramel as fine as possible at this stage (it won’t get finer once you add the nuts).
  7. Add the nuts and process until they have liquefied, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Be patient; the nuts will go from a fine meal, to forming a ball around the blade, to nut butter. Add the cocoa, vanilla and salt and process until smooth.
  8. Transfer the spread to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for 1-2 months. For best results, stir the chocolate-hazelnut spread before using.