# fall flavors

I wanted to share with you some new recipes that have proved themselves worthy—so worthy, in fact, it’s all we want to eat. The temperatures have turned pretty chilly since that snowfall last weekend, so soup is always on our weekly menus, but first comes dessert. Always.

Joe and I love Food Network’s Magazine and while I was in Oklahoma the much-anticipated “Thanksgiving Issue” arrived. Normally I’m the one that scans its pages for recipes we’ll eventually test, but this time something caught Joe’s eye. “I found something we really need to try,” he said on the phone after our conversation had been filled with talk of family, funeral and baby shower. “Okay. What is it?” “A crisp.”

And this is where I paused, because unlike my sweets-lovin’ husband, I don’t normally sway towards fruit desserts. My childhood was filled with cakes and cookies, vanilla and chocolate abounded! Brownies? You bet. Ice Cream? The more the merrier. Fruit desserts always seemed so grown-up to me. Something you eat when you’re old and pretending to be healthy. (That’s my reasoning, at least.)  This opinion strayed ever so slightly when my aunt started making pies, but as delicious as they are I always counted myself among the cake and brownie lovers of the world first.

But, when we were thinking of a fall-ish dessert to try this week Joe quickly reminded me of the crisp. And then something magical happened. I. freakin’. loved. it.

Crisp 4

The combination of the tart cranberries, juicy pears and the crumbly topping was over the top. Why? Why didn’t I realize how delicious fruit desserts could be?! To think of all the time I’ve wasted!

Crisp 2

After almost a week (a miracle, I tell you), we have one piece left…so I knew I had to document this moment and share the recipe with you. Don’t be like me. Give fruit a chance.

Crisp Header 1

Cranberry Pear Crisp

From Food Network Magazine

1 lb. cranberries (thawed if frozen)
1 c. dried cranberries
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 firm pears (such as Bosc), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground allspice
1 c. plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 c. pecans, chopped
1/4 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine the fresh and dried cranberries in a large bowl. Add 1 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons water and the vanilla and toss to coat. Lightly smash with a potato masher or fork to burst some of the cranberries. Add the pears, cinnamon, allspice and 2 tablespoons flour and toss to coat. Transfer to a 3-quart baking dish.

Make the topping: Mix the remaining 1 cup flour, the pecans, oats, the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the salt in a medium bowl, then stir in the melted butter. Use your fingers to pinch the topping into small clumps and sprinkle it over the fruit.

Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

But wait! There’s more!

I also have to share our newest favorite soup. I’ve always made my dad’s tomato soup, but—again—Food Network Magazine had Barefoot Contessa’s Easy Tomato Soup and I was intrigued. Like most of her recipes I’ve made, it was incredible. The only difference I made was upon noticing the final product was a bit too “onion-y” for us, I decided to puree it…completely forgetting there was pasta in the soup. But, I actually loved the texture of bits of pasta and onion. It had a nice bite and made the soup thicker. I think I’ll make it that way from now on. No photos for this (we ate it too fast), but I highly recommend it for these cold nights!

Easy Tomato Soup

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust

3 Tbs. olive oil
3 c. yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
1 Tbs. minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 c. vegetable stock (I used beef-flavored veggie stock for some depth)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
Large pinch of saffron threads (I used a pinch of paprika instead)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. orzo
1/2 c. heavy cream

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the stock, tomatoes, saffron (paprika), 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. (It will finish cooking in the soup.) Drain the orzo and add it to the soup. Stir in the cream, return the soup to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.

Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches! Or in a big mug in front of the TV! Whatever you do, just start eating.

# nesting

Once upon a time, a time not so long ago, we had a tree by the side of our driveway that had gorgeous thick, yellow leaves. And then those leaves started to fall and revealed a terrifying sight.

I present to you a massive hornet’s nest.

Nest 1

Nest 2

Nest 3

I took these pictures right after Saturday’s football game, but we had been aware of the nest for at least a week. We mostly worried if the inhabitants were still alive, what would happened if we knocked it down, were either of us allergic to hornets. I even showed it to a maintenance man who came to do a winter inspection of our house. He took one look at it, shook his head and just said “sorry. nope. not touching it.”  A few people told us to wait for a hard freeze, which had already happened a few times, but we decided to wait until the first big snow…just in case.

After yesterday’s storm, all the remaining leaves were gone and the nest was just staring us down from its perch and since another storm was on its way, we knew we had to act quickly.

Nest 4

Here’s my knight in multiple-layer armor, realizing the nest’s exterior was too delicate to knock down with a broom. (It had a thick tree limb going through it as support.)

Nest 5

But our loppers did the trick.

Nest 6

With one quick snip the nest was on the ground and then we waited.

Nest 7

We watched this opening for a good minute to see if anything would happen. It was at this moment that I realized we forgot to bring out the bug spray….#YOLO!

Nest 8

Because I was dying to know what was inside, Joe got a broken branch and began to tear into the nest. And I did what anyone in my situation would do. I started making a quiet buzzing noise. He jumped back, said some things I’m pretty sure we vowed never to say to each other and stormed inside, all over my hysterical laughter. But he was back in less than a minute.

Nest 9

Good news! The hornets were all dead! Bad News! You are probably going to get chills and have to scratch your head while looking at these pics. They make my skin crawl just looking at them! Seriously, I look like a meth addict. Can’t. Stop. Scratching.

Nest 10

Nest 11

Nest 12

Nest 13

Fascinating, isn’t it? I mean, mostly disgusting, but a little fascinating. I wonder how long it took them to build it?

So, there you go. That’s the real story of The Girl (& Boy) Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, minus the tattoos, violence and actual kicking.

# snowy day

It’s been a full month since our first snowfall, but today marked the first covering of snow! It’s supposed to be like this for the next four days, but there was no way I wasn’t going to document this moment. Hard to believe it was 65 degrees yesterday and the wind chill was 14 degrees earlier this afternoon.

Do you hear that? It’s winter. And it’s not going anywhere for a while. Enjoy the Winter Wonderland pics. I can’t wait to document the mountains once the storm rolls past.

First Snow 1

First Snow 2

First Snow 3

First Snow 4

First Snow 5

First Snow 6

First Snow 7

# usu v. hawaii

Another weekend, another Saturday, another home game! Admittedly, this is what I want to do at football games, but I’ve learned to be a pretty good sport.

USU Game 11-2

Utah State played Hawaii, whose team was delayed in LA but made it just in time to play. I kept feeling sorry for them running around in the cooler temps and higher altitude. Here’s a little pre-game action with the school’s “Scotsman” tradition.

USU Band 11-2 A

This was my first game to attend solo, so I sat with the band again. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and I’ve always enjoyed the company of low brass.

USU Band 11-2 B

USU Band 11-2 C

But mostly I enjoy the company of this guy. Can’t tell you how much I love watching him in action.

USU Band 11-2 D

Ah, drum cadence choreography.

USU Band 11-2 E

This week the band performed a new show to the student section side, which meant a better (though slightly-off-center) viewpoint for me.

USU Band 11-2 F

They only have to win one–ONE!–more game to qualify for a Bowl Game. Fingers crossed for not only the wins, but maybe a Bowl Game that doesn’t take place in Idaho. Other possibilities: Hawaii (!), Vegas (!), San Diego (!), Ft. Worth (!)…..here’s hoping!

Friday Five: Habits & Goals

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

After reading The Power of Habit, I really started to examine my day-to-day routine and what I noticed was pretty startling. Working from home has made me function almost completely on auto-pilot—my days all looking distinctly similar, which can be comforting in a way. But Mr. Duhigg urges readers to shake it up, see what happens when you start digging yourself out of the ruts of familiarity by understanding your triggers and your rewards. As his book shows, that’s when extraordinary transformation can occur. It’s worth a shot. And since today is the first of November, what better day to start a 30-day challenge? Here are my goals for the coming month:

5. Create a schedule and stick to it

This might sound counterintuitive when trying to shake up habits, but creating a daily schedule will allow me to be very purposeful and intent with my time rather than functioning on auto-pilot without thought. I’m hoping it will make me more productive with interests outside of work and house upkeep.

4. Comfort Zone Barriers

Working from home sounds wonderful, until you realize you can go days without seeing anyone else, talking to anyone else or even leaving your home. Not good…or fun. I need to get out more, spend more time with friends, take more photos, volunteer somewhere, apply for jobs that would allow me time to still work from home….I haven’t quite defined where this will go, but these suggestions are a start.

3. Set the Alarm

I am definitely a morning person, but the combination of a night-thriving husband and a job that doesn’t need a specific start time has me sleeping in later and later and later. And staying up later and later and later. It doesn’t quite work for me. I’ll reserve the weekends for sleeping in, but otherwise want a regular wake-up time for the week that will get me going. Again, setting a new habit to break the old.

2. Goodbye, Bad Habit

My goal for this month is to break at least one big bad habit I have looming in my life. And there are several to choose from. Should it be my love affair with diet coke? My obsession with peanut butter? (32-year-olds really don’t need to eat a peanut butter and honey sandwich every day, right?) My procrastination to go to the gym on a regular basis? I haven’t decided which to choose yet, but will keep you posted.

1. Positive Thoughts

I’ve been down lately and once you’re there, it can be pretty easy to stay there. But November is the month of Thanks and I have a lot to be thankful for. Joe and I decided to share one thing we’re thankful for in our lives, starting today for the entire month. I hope it encourages us to be positive, to look on the bright side, to fill our heads and our hearts will all the good around us. The first on my list? Bella, of course.

Side note: Is anyone else left with an entire bowl of candy from Halloween? Where are the trick-or-treaters?? We had maybe 15 kids, total, and our neighborhood is FULL of them. I had made our favorite vegetarian chili in the crock-pot for our night in and the first group of kids that came by asked why my house smelled amazing. I told them it was my dinner and they asked if they could have some. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time sweet potatoes have trumped chocolate, ever.