Monday, October 31, 2011

Creamy Potato Soup Recipe

There is nothing nicer on a cool Autum day then some warm, creamy potato soup. This is always a favorite and it's simple and easy to make!

Slow Cooker Potato Soup Recipe
5 lbs bag of potatoes, diced (peels still on)
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken broth (or use some homemade stock)
16 oz cream cheese, softened
Salt and Pepper to taste

Toppings:
Sliced green onions (optional)
bacon, cooked & crumbled (optional)

1. Add potatoes, onion, garlic, seasoning and chicken stock to slow cooker.
2. Cook on high for 6 hours.
3. Stir in the softened cream cheese and allow to melt (approximately 30-60 minutes). Stir every 10-15 minutes until soup is well blended.
4. Taste soup and add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Garnish with onion and bacon. Serve with a side of crusty bread.

Serves 10-12 people

~Luci

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lessons For New Runners

This is a follow-up blog related to my Adventures In Running post I did a few weeks back. In case you missed it, I started running this summer and I have somewhat become a big fan of running, which totally surpises me! When I hit the pavement, I feel completely motivated, empowered, and just plain proud of myself! Let's face it though, I am slow and probably look like a fool running...this pic below probably describes me the best:
source

As I said in my last post, I am not a runner. I have always hated running. However, not having a local gym has forced me into running outside and I have become such a huge fan! I am convinced if I can run, you can run! I thought it would be nice to share some lessons I have learned about running outside. Some experienced runners might laugh at my list, but these are just some small things I have learned about my new outdoor activity.

1. Start Small- You can not go out on your first day running and expect to run 5 miles right away. Running is one of those activiites that you have to work your way up to long distances. We have a really long driveway. When I found out that one loop around it equals .20 of a mile, I started with my driveway. When my baby naps in the morning, I would set up the monitor outside and run the drive. I started with just one mile at a time. Each morning I would run just a little longer and soon I worked my way up to 3 miles. Just keep it up, even with a short distance, and you will eventually reach the distance you want to achieve.source

2. Eat Light-Small breakfasts about 30 minutes before my run are key. I usually will just have a greek yogurt, coffee, and water. I have eaten bowls of cereal before running and I realize quickly how lots of food jiggling around in your stomach for a period of time is not fun. So light breakfast, lots of protein is key.

3. Stay Steady-
A steady pace is the key to being able to run long distances, even if it's slow.
I have found that if I keep a steady pace, I can go for longer distances and don't tire myself out as quickly.

4. Breathe- Try to keep your breaths steady. There has been numerous studies that show improper breathing while running results in greater stress on your body. I have the hardest time breathing steadily at the end of my run. I think I get a little too excited to finish and I end up breathing sporadically and it makes the end of my runs the most difficult.

5. Survival Shuffle- source
This is a little tip from my husband, "Never stop, do the survival shuffle." When you get tired, you just move your legs like you are running even though you are going slower than a running pace. This slow pace allows you to rest, but not give up and start walking. This has been the key to running longer distances for me.

6. Gear- I like to bring water, hat, glasses, sunscreen, and my mp3 player. I have already wrote a blog about the importance of Sun Safety, but I also thing it is very important to stay hydrated while working out.

7. Music- It's not essential, but I LOVE running to music. source
Jog.fm is this really cool website that gives you a list of songs based off the pace you would like to run. It's awesome! I have always had this problem where Outcast's B.O.B (Bombs over Baghdad) will play on my MP3 player and all of a sudden I am sprinting and tire myself out. Jog.fm has allowed me to pick songs that help me keep a nice running pace.

8. Resist the Smells- This is probably one of those things that only bothers me, but smells really bother me. Sometimes I feel like being this guy: source
There is nothing that makes me sick more while running outside then the smells. Exhaust from a stinky car, really floral plants, cow manure, and so many others odors make me really sick. I remember having the same problem at a gym. I would be a machine and a really stinky guy would come up next to me and I just had to move! I avoid the smells by not running along congested roads or avoiding that house with the really floral lilacs (which I love, just not while running.) It's one of those things that I can't get over, but I try to avoid at all cost.

9. Track It- I LOVE my Run Keeper app on my phone. I love how it gives me reminders of my pace, how far I have gone, and tracks all my personal records. I think this has been a big motivator in my running. I love getting an email from them telling me that I have Acheived A New Personal Record. The program also allows me to track where I want to run and it will tell me the exact miles of my new path before I run it. Hands down, one of the best phone apps I have found.source

10. Try new routes- I have been running my driveway for months now and finally ventured outside of the yard a few weeks ago. I was amazed at how my time got better by almost a minute. I think it's because I have new things to look at and to keep my focus. It gets very boring to just run in a loop all the time. On days when my husband isn't working I try to run a different path each day.
We recently took a trip to San Franscisco and my husband wanted to run with me across the Golden Gate Bridge. We started at Ghirardelli Square and ran across the bridge and back (a total of 7.16 miles!)
By far, the longest I have ever ran! I mean sure, my time was slow, but I was so proud of myself! My husband took a ending pic of me and I like to look at it periodically to motivate myself to get out there and run!
As I said before, if I can run, you can run! All you have to do it get out there and give it a try!
Remember:
source

~Beth

Friday, October 21, 2011

Our First Trip Away From Our Baby

My husband and I finally did it, our first trip away from our baby! He turns one this month so we decided he was old enough to stay with Farmor and Farfar (Grandma & Grandpa in Norwegian) for a few days. This trip came up because my husband had an opportunity to go to a work convention in San Francisco and I have never truly visited California (other than the airport). The idea was that during the day, he would here attend various presentations and I would explore the town. At night, we would meet up, have some nice dinners and see how far we can walk the town together. It would be a great time for us to spend together, alone, which is something that can be rare when kids come along.

I have to be honest with you, I was very nervous about leaving my little man. I have never stayed even one night away from my son, so five days away was a pretty big deal. My husband's parents were nice enough to drive across state to stay at our house with him. They thought he might react better in his normal environment and I think they were right. In fact, I don't even think he noticed that we left! Leaving was harder on me than him, which I assumed it would be. When you are a SAHM and your primary function is to care for your child, you tend to forget that you can do things without them by your side. I am so use to adjusting my activities to fit his needs, it was strange to do things without thinking about his schedule.

We decided to say "goodbye" to him at our house and catch a ride to the airport without him. To be honest, I probably would have burst into tears in the middle of the airport if he would have come with us. I think saying goodbye at the house was better for him too. I am not really sure if he understood we were leaving for a few days or just the evening, but whatever it was he took the leaving well, which was the goal.

The first night there, my wonderful husband anticipated I would be a little distracted by leaving our son, so he planned for us to attend a five course dinner with wine pairings at the very nice restaurant, Fleur de Lys. The meal featured an appetizer of our choice, fish course, meat course, cheese plate and a dessert. It was a french restaurant, so everything was very small portioned but completely delicious! It was amazing how each wine that came with our meal brought out the taste in the food even more. The dessert was my favorite, the Fleurburger:

(Lightly spiced dark chocolate ganache, home-made Beignet. Banana flavored milk shake & frozen fennel ice cream "Pommes Frites")

The rest of the days were followed by the normal San Fransisco tourist things:
The Bay Bridge
Sea Lions at Pier 39
Lombardi Street
SF MOMA
Alcatrez Island
Inside Alcatrez
Arm wrestling at the Musée Mécanique - Fisherman's Wharf
a run across the Golden Gate Bridge

and of course, the Full House houseI also had some nice pampering time of a 90 minute massage and my make-up being professional done for a black tie event for my husband's work:Although you may not see any pics of my husband above (at his request), he was with me on most of my tourist escapades. We had a wonderful time and it was great to spend so much time with him. We came back to an even bigger little boy then when we left! I can't believe how much he grew in the five days while we were gone! He can now go up and down steps, he attempts to walk holding onto things even more, and has gained so much interest in animals. It was a good time for him to spend time with his Grandparents and I am sure they had a wonderful time making memories with him.

We both missed our little guy very much. We each called every day while gone, but overall I think we both really enjoyed the time together. You forget when you add kids to the marriage mix that it's important to make time for just you and your spouse. We have gotten so good at bending our activities to fit our son's schedule that it was a nice break for us to do whatever we wanted, eat wherever we wanted, stay out as late as we wanted, and really just spend some good quality time together. After all, the best gift you can give your child is a healthy, happy mom and dad who are committed to each other and committed to being the best parents we can be.



~Beth

Monday, October 10, 2011

Adventures In Running

I have blogged before about how I am somewhat obsessed with exercising. In my post on My Love Of Food, I take you back to my super skinny high school days followed by my freshmen 40. Exercising was something I knew nothing about, until I wanted to lose weight for my wedding. Since that time, I fell completely in love with exercising! My 30 minutes to hour of exercise, I do almost daily, has become my sanctuary time for myself. I have always had a gym to work out in, so imagine my heartbreak when we purchased a house in the country and I found out that the nearest gym (that provides daycare) would be close to a 30 minute drive. NO THANK YOU! I decided to try something that I have always dreaded...running outside.

I am not a runner. I remember running the mile in junior high and seriously finishing in about 18 minutes. (BTW, I walk a 14.5 minute mile now so I must have stopped half way and took a nap or something.) This picture really sums up my view on running:
Don't get me wrong, I have used and abused many treadmills of my gym years, but I find when I have actually tried to run outside I am totally exhausted after a short distance. Maybe it's the fact that I find the treadmill a little threatening (I mean, if you quit running you'll fly off the back!). Or maybe it's the feeling that if I have others around me it will push me to keep running. Whatever it is, I have always dreaded running outside; it's no picnic! There are so many environmental factors that you don't find in a gym. You have hills, wind, heat, cold, uneven terrain, and the smells (more on that later.) I have always envied long distance outside runners. It's tough work to run long distances and I have never understood how some people can just run, for what seems to me, like forever! I have always envied girls like this:
When it actually comes down to running outside, I would actually eat the cookie while thinking about how hard it is to run that mile outside!I am surrounded by runners and each of them in their own way have motivated me to finally get out there and do it! (Oh and the fact I have don't have a gym anymore!)

My husband is a runner. He ran cross country in high school and runs about 20 miles a week and let me tell you, (I am just not saying this because I am his wife) but he has some of the best looking legs I have ever seen! My old roommate and good friend Greta, has always been a runner. I am not exactly sure how far she runs, but I do know that she has some killer six pack abs! It's obvious that running has been great for her. Also, I have an old coworker that I still stay in touch with on facebook, Lea, who's daily 6 mile runs, multiple races, and blog has all been quite inspirational.

And let's not forget the famous inspirational runners:
Lola

Simon Pegg
source

and of course Forest Gump.

So I decided to become a runner about two months ago, and I have learned a few things about running (which I will go into detail later with my blog on Lessons For New Runners,) but the best thing I have learned is running gets results. I have lost 1 inch around my hips, 1/2 inch around my waist, and I have a little line of ab definition! I made it down to a 10 minute mile and now run about 4.5 miles at a time.

I have somewhat become a big fan of running, which totally surpises me. I love challenging myself each day I go out. I try to run just a little faster or a little farther. I would ideally like to just do a regular 5 mile run a few times a week. The one downside I have found from running is that my calves have gotten bigger :( Oh well, I guess you have tradeoffs with everything.

I hope this post motivates some of you out there to get out there and give running a try. I just want to remind you that if I can run 4.5 miles, you can!


~Beth

Friday, October 7, 2011

Making Pear Butter (or Apple Butter)

Lately my son and I have been going on very long bike rides around town and discovering this new little town we moved to. On one of our trips I noticed a pear tree covered in pears, dropping fruit all over this alley. I saw the owner of the house and asked him if we could pick some pears. He said, "Sure, but they are rock hard." I picked a bunch of the pears made the trip home with all of them.

I put the "rock hard" pears in a paper bag and set them it a closet. I checked on them 2 weeks later and was very happy to see soft, ripe, pears! (This works on green tomatoes too!)

Anyways, I decided to try making some pear butter with these pears. This was my first time attempting any sort of jelly type of canning, so it was quite the adventure and I am glad how it turned out! Also, this entire recipe can be made with apples, resulting in apple butter. Just replace all the words that say pear with apple and maybe add some cinnamon into the spices.

To start this whole process, you will need to make a pear sauce (like apple sauce.)

First wash your pears.
Peel, slice, and core all your pears.
Now you need to cook down your pears. I had about 20 small pears, so I added them to a stockpot with 1/2 cup of water, and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
Bring it to a boil and turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes until pears are super soft.
Once they are soft they will look something like this:
Puree your soft pears either in a blender or a food processor.
You should end up with some yummy pear sauce. Now at this point, you could keep the pears this way if you wanted to serve homemade pear sauce. It tasted really good! However, if your goal is to make pear butter, you need to measure how much pear sauce you ended up with. I had 1.5 quarts. The amount you have will determine how much to add of all the spices.
Place your pureed pears in a crock pot (large enough to hold it.)
And then add your spices. You will need nutmeg, sugar, cloves, allspice, and 1 large orange.
I ended up adding 2 teaspoons of nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon of all spice, 1 teaspoon of cloves, and about 2 teaspoons of orange rind.
Then I squeezed the juice from the orange to about 1/4 cup and added it to the pear sauce.
And then of course, to make it more jelly like, you need to add sugar. I added 1 1/2 cups of sugar. The measurement of spices, juice, and sugar is all up to you. Add some in, taste it, and make it your own. My rule always when cooking is to add a little at a time, taste, and add more if needed. I barely ever measure.
Stir it all together.
To make the thick, creamy consistency of pear butter (or apple butter) you need to have the water evaporate while cooking. To do this in a crock pot, place some butter knives under the lid so the lid is elevated a little. It will allow the steam to escape and the water to evaporate.
Cook on low for 12 hours and stir every so often. You will end up with something like this dark, creamy color.
Now it's time to can! Canning can be very dangerous because if it is not done correctly you can get botulism....which from what I heard is terrible and can be deadly, so before you attempt canning read a book on it or a few websites.

Items for canning:
small jelly jars with unused lids and rings
jar grabber
large stock pot for water
lid grabber
canning funnel

To start, you need to have your jars sterilized and hot! To do this, boil them in some water for about 15 minutes. In addition, heat your lids in hot water too. Do not boil the lids because it can effect the seal. Keep this water on the stove boiling. It will be used for the hot water bath. You need to have enough water in the pot to cover your jars with at least 1 inch of water.
With you jar funnel (which is sterilized), place it in the sterilized jelly jar and fill it with the hot pear butter. The pear butter needs to be hot to create a seal for the lid.
Fill the jars until they are about 1/4" from the top rim. Wipe off any pear butter that might have gotten on the rim of the jar.
Use your jar lid grabber and place a hot lid on top of your jar. Place the ring around the jar lid and tighten.
Put them in the pot of boiling water and keep them cover with at least 1 inch of water and boiling. (People say to use a canning pot, which I think because it is coated so your jars won't break. I didn't have a problem with that, but it might be a good idea to invest in.) Boil for 15 minutes.
Use your jar grabber and remove the jars from the hot water. Be careful, they are hot!! Let the jars cool overnight and in the morning check to see if the jars have sealed. To check to see if they have sealed, just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (it will make a popping sound) it is not sealed. If they aren't sealed you will need to refrigerate them, but more then likely they are seal and you now have your very own homemade pear butter!
Hope you enjoy it!

~Beth

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