Empty Nest is (still %$#@ing) Hard

We are closing in on the three year mark of being Empty Nesters. It feels like longer though, as our youngest was functioning pretty independently the last year she was here. For some reason, I thought it would get easier, but it hasn’t. There is something to be said for “out of sight, out of mind,” but it definitely doesn’t apply here.

Of course, there is less laundry, fewer dishes, fewer piles of shoes, less clutter, less chauffering, etc. We don’t miss the sisterly bickering, but boy do we miss the giggling, debates, brainstorming. It’s great to have Fargo to snuggle with on the couch (when he wants to), but we miss seeing the girls snuggling on the couch.

I’ve hypothesized before, that maybe it’s harder for us because so many of our friends’ children go to school close enough that they can see them more often. When we did the empty nest thing, we REALLY did it, and only see our kiddos 3-4 times/year. Yes, there are things that are easier to get used to, but too many that are not.

Every once in a while, hubby will say, “it would be really cool if the kids could just come over for dinner.” He is right. We are definitely grateful for technology and the ability to text, Snapchat, Facetime, email, whenever possible, but it’s not a replacement for big, huge squeezes.

Just because they’re far away, doesn’t mean we (especially me) worry less. The eldest was sick last week during her Spring Break, and if she were closer, could have come home and been coddled. The youngest traveled abroad for Spring Break and though she was abroad for an entire semester last fall, it’s harder to have her even further than usual.

The eldest is graduating in a few weeks, which brings along so many emotions, and may be why I’m writing this post. How did we get from this…

…to two kids graduating from college in the next 13+ months? How did the years go by so quickly?

I try to keep this blog pretty upbeat. I try to use my free time wisely (for the most part), though I’m not always sure what that means. The hubby and I enjoy being a couple again (for the most part…haha ). Fargo lucked into being a spoiled empty nest puppy, and I’m glad we can spoil him. But whether they choose to live where they are, or move back to the East Coast, they will likely never live close enough to just “come over for dinner.”

If I’m going to be an honest empty nest blogger, this part of it needs to be shared as well. As proud as we are of our amazing daughters, empty nest is (still $%#@ing) hard, even three years later.

 

Molly on the Range Recipe Round Up Part II

I didn’t think that I had taken so many pictures of the Molly recipes, but when I started typing out and putting together the post, I realized I needed to break it into two. Here is the second half. Hopefully I will test out even more in the near future, though tonight I’m going with a Spicy Cauliflower Burger from Pinch of Yum. I’ll report back on that one soon.

Unfortunately, Molly doesn’t have an online link to her Shakshuka Couscous, so I have a link to a post by Sarcastic Cooking. I haven’t spent much time on this site, so I don’t know much about it. Molly does not use Adobo Sauce, she uses Harissa seasoning. I had never heard of Harissa before, but luckily my mom happened to have some and she gave it to me. As a side note, I just saw Harissa Salsa at Trader Joes, though I didn’t try it yet. Molly doesn’t use pepper jack cheese, she uses feta. I believe these are the only two ingredient differences.

The onions, garlic and seasonings smelled incredible.

Molly says you can make this without the couscous if you don’t have time to let it cook. She has a whole backstory to this dish which is fun to read. I used the veggie broth base and I think I should have added a little more liquid.

This was interesting. It took way longer for the eggs to cook than I had anticipated.

Molly says you can leave them uncovered if you like a runnier yolk, or you can spoon the tomato/coucous mixture over top if you want more of a buttery textured yolk. That’s what I opted to do, especially since they were taking so long to cook. That is why you can’t see the eggs below.

Hubby thought it was excellent. I thought it was a little thick and overly tomato-y. I liked it a lot, but will definitely try to adjust just a tad next time.

My Ex-Boyfriend’s Meatless Balls was a MUST just because I thought the title was great. As mentioned in the previous post, the link goes to a video that Molly made. I have to give her credit for saying you use nuts without laughing. In the book, she gives the option to choose walnuts or almonds. I went with walnuts and I toasted them in the frying pan for a few minutes.

Then everything goes in the food processor, and blend. I tried to mix too much vs pulse and my blade began to lift from the bottom again. I had to mix more by hand. Also, I need to figure out how to fix my burner because the frying pan is tipped enough that the oil isn’t evenly divided, thus the bizarre looking arrangement below.

Let me tell you, these are AMAZING!! We tried one on its own and then we did the actual pasta with sauce/meatballs thing.

You can’t even tell by looking at them that they are meatless. And did I mention they were AMAZING?? Hubby, the meat eater, was super impressed. We were both very excited for lunch leftovers the next day. Definitely bringing these back for a repeat performance soon.

Fargo was, once again, worn out by all of the food excitement.

 

Molly on the Range Recipe Round-Up Part I

Sorry for the delay in posting. This was a longer one to put together (I actually ended up dividing it into two posts). I’ve been spending more time cooking/baking so have a lot to write about. It’s also tax time. For some reason, I decided to wash and iron all of the curtains yesterday and it took a HUGE chunk of the day, way more time than I thought. I spent time chatting with a few friends and my kiddos and I loved every minute, though it also cut into blog post creation time. But here it goes.

Molly on the Range is a fun book/cookbook and so far, every recipe we have tried has gotten four thumbs up. Co-workers with whom I’ve shared a few recipes, have made them and also enjoyed. Since I began the baking/cooking (more adventurous cooking)/kitchen adventures/blog, I have mostly pulled recipes from food blogs, but this is a book worth having. Some of the recipes are on Molly’s blog, but the book versions may/may not have tweaks. Others are not on her blog, though I’ve found other bloggers who have posted about them. For one recipe, Molly has an online video vs a blog post, which is what I used for the link.

I am including two of Molly’s recipes in this post, Hummus, Cauliflower Shawarma Tacos. The Part II post will include Shakshuka Couscous (this version is the closest I can find online and I’ll note the differences), and My Ex-Boyfriend’s Meatless Balls.

We love hummus, and have tried numerous varieties and versions. I followed her recipe closely, even soaked and cooked the dried chickpeas as directed.

chick peas soaking

I’m having a little issue with the food processor. The blade will start to float up off the bottom when I mix for too long. It happened here and it happened with another recipe. But this is what the chick peas looked like after the soaking and cooking.

Molly is right, eating it warm is amazing and makes a huge difference!

Next up is the Cauliflower Shawarma Tacos. Hubby was a little wary of this one, but let me tell you that it was so incredibly delicious, we’ve had it twice already. I used the vegetable broth base vs. the chicken broth base.

Seasoned cauliflower ready to be roasted.

Add the sauteed onions, the raw onions, the tahini sauce, some cilantro and roll it up, and OH MY!!

Just as a refresher, here is the book.

 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookie Peanut Butter Swirled Brownies

I baked over the weekend. I baked using refined sugar. I baked something I saw on Instagram, something that called out to me. I baked Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookie Peanut Butter Swirled Brownies!!! It has almost all of my favorite components (missing pumpkin/squash). After so many weeks of trying to avoid sugar, I figured go big or go home. Or so I thought, but really, this recipe only has 1/2 cup of white sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar, which is way less than a lot of recipes I’ve made.

I was definitely in a chocolate mood, so lots of melted chocolate was a good way to start. Add in some cocoa powder and instant coffee and mmmmmmmm….

choc cocoa powder

choc mmmmm

Once the brownie half is done, it’s on to the oatmeal cookie half. The recipe gives the option to use a more flavorless oil, or to use coconut oil. I opted to try coconut oil, especially as we’ve been enjoying it so much on popcorn. It was a good choice.

oatmeal batter

As with the brussels sprout latkes, I was concerned as I put the two batters together, that they wouldn’t meld/mix/combine or that they’d combine too much, etc.

choc dollops

choc and oat

Ready to bake, crossing fingers.

choc oat pb

I think I may have left it in a minute or two long because I was unsure if the brownie part was really done, but overall, looked pretty decent.

choc oat pb done

This was a really great choice for the baking comeback. It was not in any way too sweet. Using all dark chocolate and unsweetened peanut butter helped. I really liked the little bit of coffee flavor that came through in the brownie bites. Definitely a winner!

choc oat swirl

Fargo watched me trying to get a good picture of the finished product. I didn’t really get a good picture, but it was funny watching him watching me.

fargo plate

I took all of the pictures with the fancy camera. I definitely have lighting issues, as there are lots of yellow tones. I don’t have picture editing skills yet. I am still also failing on indoor vs outdoor light settings.

pic failure

It’s obviously going to be a long learning curve for me.

 

Playing With The Fancy Camera

One of these days, I’ll understand the light issues/adjustments. But otherwise, I’ve been having some fun. A few turned out pretty neat. I could literally take sunrise and sunset pictures every darn day and never get bored. Of course, I never seem to get bored or tired of taking Fargo pictures either.

Three of the many balls in the yard.

Poor attempt at fixing color issues due to incorrect light settings.

More playing with color adjustments.

Brussels Sprout Rosti with Balsamic Dijon Yogurt

I have now tried three recipes from my Molly on the Range cookbook.

And all three have been AMAZING! I made hummus, starting with dried chick peas, and the brussels sprout “latkes” I’ll be talking about here, and last night I made Cauliflower Shawarma Tacos (hummus and shawarma tacos in a later post). Holy cow  it’s been a fun food week.

The first thing to note is that the link I am sharing for the Brussels Sprout Rosti is not quite the same as what is in the book. I will tell you the differences as I go along, as I followed the recipe in the book.

I started with “shaved” Brussels Sprouts from Trader Joes, which I think may have been bigger chunks than the “finely shredded” she listed in the ingredients. Once I started putting it all together, I had the sinking feeling that there was no way I’d end up with a pancake shape.

 

In the book vs the website, she calls for 2 cloves of minced garlic and 3/4 cups of flour or chick pea flour. I used regular flour.

It was a challenge to get them into a pancake shape in the frying pan. It’s also a challenge to use my very special pan, because the burner is slanted and all of the oil runs to the lower half. I have to constantly tip it back the other way.

br sp frying

As these were cooking, and they took a long time, hubby was making the Dijon Balsamic Yogurt. In the book, she uses full fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. The recipe calls for 2 T of honey.  We agreed that next time we will use less, maybe 1 T, as it was slightly sweeter than we prefer.

dijon balsamic

 

Huge surprise when it was time to flip the sprout latkes and they held!

br sp latkes

Hubby said he was skeptical about this meal,but whoa boy, it was awesome! I might brown them a bit more next time.

br sp latke sauce

I’m actually going to make more sauce and use it as slaw dressing. I think it will be good.  Hopefully I’m right.

Another win was bringing home a jar of Everything But The Bagel mix from Trader Joes and adding it to the top of my bread before baking. WOWOWOW!!!

everything bread

Like I said, it’s been a good food week!

 

Fresh Pasta

Our youngest spent the Fall semester in Italy, studying art, traveling, and eating fresh pasta. She had a most amazing experience, which made us incredibly proud of her and happy for her (not that we aren’t always incredibly proud of them both) . We can’t provide her with more time in Italy this semester, but hubby had the brilliant idea to get her a pasta maker for the holidays so she can at least recreate part of her experience.

The night before the girls left, hubby and the youngest took the pasta maker for a test drive. I was not directly involved, just the official photographer, so this post is mostly pictures.

It’s not a fancy machine, it’s hand crank, and it can only make fettuccine and spaghetti, but it’s pretty.

pasta maker

Make a well for the eggs. Youngest, “better mix because the eggs are escaping.”

egg well

It’s more time consuming than originally thought with “rest” times for dough.

pasta dough

rolling

Fargo photobomb.

fargo pasta

First roll through (youngest is cranking).

pasta sheet

Team effort.

rolling noodles

The noodles come out in pairs and need to be separated.

double noodles

noodle pile

Recording her first home made pasta!

noodle snap

A little butter and parm…WOWOW!!

plate o pasta