The Half-Crunchy Mama

Trying to live a natural life with balance


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We are both pretty sad after saying goodbye to the paci

It has been two weeks since giving up the pacifier and we are both still struggling a bit. All of us, I guess. But mostly Sugar Bee and I.

Bye-bye, paci. “When I’m three, I will have zero pacis.” She was telling everyone that. She would also talk about giving them to a friend’s new baby because she needed them more. I had done my best to prepare her and we talked about all of the events that surrounded her becoming a “big girl.” At the ripe old age of three.

I completely admit that I am guilty of doing lots of things that the old preschool teacher me of the past would want to slap me for. I still help her eat sometimes. She was still in a crib until just after her third birthday, and she still had a paci for sleep and those time she needed extra comfort. I can’t seem to get this stubborn kid to be independent enough with some things so I end up helping or doing them (slap); pottying without help with her pants (she knows how), getting dressed on her own (or at least only needing help), even shoes are often a discussion point (annoyance). Lots of other kids her age do these things already. I have milestones in my head from years of teaching and helping to raise other people’s children. I am aware that I may place more pressure in other areas as I can see what kind of brain she has, but for some reason I’m not pushing some of the other things that I should be encouraging her to do. Maybe I’m subconsciously trying keep her my baby just a little longer. I know that I am savoring moments, every moment,  maybe a little too much. No one has any idea what lies ahead and this gift from God may very well be the only one that I get to receive. Savor, I must.

I always wanted lots of kids (like 3 to 5), but things don’t always turn out as we planned. Our own plan is not THE plan, and that is possibly one of the hardest things I’ve tried to learn throughout my adult life. It is still a struggle for me. We had put off conceiving our first child when we found out the Russian’s army unit was going to deploy. And then they put off his deployment. Twice, if I remember correctly. So I lost a few of the easier-to-conceive years living by the the motto most military families are familiar with, “Hurry up and wait.” Sure, I could have gotten knocked up and handled pregnancy, delivery, and even those first weeks/months on my own if I had to. But I didn’t want to. I knew the awesomeness and wonder of babies, but the Russian did not. He never held one until she arrived (true of most men) and I didn’t want him to miss anything. I’m so glad that we waited because all of my experience didn’t prepare me for this kid. And I needed him so much those first months. Colic is no joke.

Now here I am pushing 39. I may never have another opportunity to experience these moments of being a mom to a preschooler, so I make the most of everything when I can. I know what you’re thinking…lots of women have babies in their 40s. Let’s be realistic here. I come from a line of women that didn’t have the easiest time conceiving, I delivered my first child at 35, I have a full-time career and the stress that comes with it, my husband is in school at night after working all day and we hardly ever see each other (or have energy to get together), and I’m already tired. Babies take a lot of energy. If it comes to be, I will be overjoyed. For now, I’m settling into accepting the fact that I may very well be raising an only child. I will save my thoughts on that for another time.

I’m slightly envious at times of true SAHMs that do not have a job (that they get paid for) outside of the millions of jobs we all have inside the home. Even my times with her in the house with me (after her morning preschool and nap are over) are often distracted by my computer/sametimes/conference calls and the myriad of things that I have to get done on a daily and weekly basis to run a household. So when nap time comes, I make the most of it. Putting her down for a nap has always been my favorite time of day. Yes, I still rock her her to sleep (slap) because I can. There are no other children that need me, and this allows me these precious times with her. It is the one time of day that I truly give her all of me…and I take plenty from her in return. I soak up her peaceful quiet and enjoy the sound machine in her room, temporarily able to leave my work on the other side of her door. Most days, this time is the only point in the day that I am able to do that, to completely focus in on her and her needs. And sometimes I can’t. There are days when I have to get her down earlier or do it in a hurry in order to make a conference call or get back to a really hot issue for work. I hate those days. The ones when I feel like I have to rush through this precious time that I’m trying to hold onto. I’m grateful for my job and my career, but I despise when I feel robbed of this part of my day. Evening bedtime is treated differently because she is left to fall asleep on her own so that I can return to my computer and finish working after the break for cooking dinner, giving a bath, reading books, and saying goodnight. Nap is our time together. I cherish it.

I watch her, peeking through my eyes as she finally starts to drift off. Then I just stare at her, taking in every part of her face, the way her hair falls, her breathing. Now as she lies there without the pacifier blocking part of her face, I am forced to see that she really is no longer a baby. I mean, she will always be my baby, but she really is growing up. I forced us into this with my thoughts and feelings that she needed to be out of a crib and was not supposed to have her paci anymore, and what better way to make it all happen than to tie everything together in one big event. Turning three. So we took away the beloved plug that we all didn’t really mind having around. She only was allowed to have it for sleep or when in dire need for comfort, and it had been that way since before she was two. It soothed her, gave her comfort when she was really upset, tired, or not feeling well, and the best part was how well it helped her sleep.

Did I do the right thing? I still don’t know. Here we are, just past the two week mark after losing the paci and she still seems to struggle at times, especially with falling and staying asleep. In the days since I started drafting this post, at least the sleep has improved for her, but other things have gotten worse. What concerns me is that she seems to have more of an oral fixation than I realized, regressing sometimes by putting toys or her hands in her mouth, even chewing on her nails a little. She’s looking for a way to soothe herself. Even her blankies aren’t enough….but those are only for sleep times. The paci has been her comfort through so many things in her entire short life that I can’t blame her. Maybe I should have waited longer and found a different way to say goodbye, but I can’t go back. We have made it this far and things are improving. Just a lot slower than I thought they would. I still have that last paci stashed away in her drawer, and I have fought the urge a few times to give it to her. We will fly in October for the first time without one. To be honest, just thinking about it makes me kind of nervous. She’s always been a fantastic traveler, but we also always had two pacifiers with us. I know it has always helped her with flying and that we will find another way to cope, just as we are finding ways to help her cope in her daily life. She still talks about her paci almost every day and I feel sad for her. And maybe a little guilty.

I’ll never know if I did right by making turning three, the big girl bed, and letting go of the paci a triple combo or not, but what’s done is done. She’s sad. It’s like she lost her best friend. And I am sad, too. I lost my baby. She’s growing up so very fast. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

 

Did you have a paci kid? What was the adjustment like? How long did it take? I would love to hear some of your experiences. Please share with me in the comment section below.

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Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

My creation for dinner Saturday night. A bag of frozen cooked shrimp, a few zucchini, some fresh herbs, and items that are always in the house gave birth to deliciousness.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

As I mentioned in my post for Creamy Zucchini Noodles, I love my spiral slicer. We love zucchini noodles and they are a healthy alternative to pasta for whole food and grain-free diets. So I made some noodles.

I took this next picture to share with you another of my favorite kitchen tools, the Microplane grater. I zested the whole lemon before squeezing all the juice, using both for the sauce.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

 Aside from making the noodles and handling the lemon, the only prep that was needed was getting the garlic ready for the mincer. My favorite kind of meals are ones that are fast, cheap, and easy. This one checks all of those boxes.

As usual, I tossed the noodles in olive oil that was preheated in a skillet over medium heat. I shook some salt and fresh ground pepper over it and cooked them for about 5 minutes until they softened, but were still a little firm. I removed the pan from the burner and set it aside.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

 Then it was time for the sauce. I melted 4 tablespoons of butter (I use Kerrygold) over medium-low heat and then added 6 cloves of freshly minced garlic, cooking for about 2 minutes. Then I added 1/4 cup of white wine, the lemon juice, and zest, bringing it to a boil.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

After about a minute or two of boiling, I added the thawed shrimp. I heated the shrimp in the sauce over medium until they were heated through. (You can tell when they are heated enough when they have shrunk a little and the sauce starts to boil again.) I removed the shrimp from the pan with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Then I added a tablespoon of gluten-free flour (Bob’s Red Mill), whisking constantly to combine. I also added a little salt and fresh pepper after the flour.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

Once the sauce had thickened, I returned the shrimp to the pan and coated them in the buttery lemon sauce.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

I threw in about 2 tablespoons each of freshly chopped parsley and basil from the garden, tossing well to coat the shrimp.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

I divided the zucchini noodles into our bowls and topped them with the Lemony Shrimp Scampi. Oh. my. It was so good that this is the fastest turnaround for a recipe post from me. Ever.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi


Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

The amount of shrimp should probably be for three servings, but I only had two servings of noodles (portion size is not something the Russian and I do well), so I would suggest that you add another zucchini to the noodles if you don’t want to eat 6 ounces of shrimp in one meal. Another thought that I had was it may not be easy to find a 12 ounce package of shrimp, so if you can only find a 16 ounce one, use two additional zucchini and increase all the sauce ingredients slightly. If you are friend of mine, you can probably eat the portions that this recipe makes – perfect for two!

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into noodles with a spiral slicer (or julienne peeler)
  • 1-2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp butter or ghee
  • 6 cloves of garlic, freshly minced
  • 1/4 c white wine, preferably on the dry side
  • Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon (about 2 1/2 Tbsp)
  • Zest of one lemon (about 1 tsp)
  • 12 ounce package of frozen cooked shrimp, thawed and drained
  • 1 Tbsp gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp chopped basil
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
DIRECTIONS
  1. Heat EVOO in a skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, salt, and pepper to pan and toss to coat. Cook for 5 minutes until noodles have softened, but are still firm and bright green. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Melt butter in another skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook for about two minutes until garlic is soft and fragrant, but not browned. Add wine, lemon juice, and zest. Bring to a boil and cook for about 1 minute.
  3. Turn heat to medium and add the shrimp, tossing to coat. Cook until heated through (when visibly shrinking and liquid starts to boil again). Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Add flour, salt and pepper (to taste) to the lemon butter sauce and whisk constantly until flour dissolves and sauce thickens.
  5. Return shrimp to pan, add fresh herbs, and toss to coat.
  6. Serve zucchini noddles topped with shrimp, drizzling extra sauce over the top. Enjoy!


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Eggplant Ragout

Get excited!! It’s a true original from The Half-Crunchy Mama. I apologize to my readers (especially my Facebook fans that knew about this for a few weeks) for taking so long with this post. Back-to-back weddings, a few weeks with Sugar Bee out of summer camp, and my job workload has left me with about a dozen drafted posts that aren’t close to publication time. But hey, I’m finally getting this one out to you! Better late than never and I think you will find it was worth the wait.

I have varied my eggplant ragout so many times through the years. For this particular batch, I worked with what I had in the house. You can switch up the spices, add some red wine, use sauce from a jar, improvise! That’s what I’m always doing in the kitchen. About 95% of the time that I make this dish, it gets served over oven-roasted spaghetti squash. I couldn’t find one in Kroger and was in no mood to go to another store that evening, so I went with a gluten-free pasta. I kind of prefer it on the squash, but it will be just as delicious served over any pasta you choose (but I would go for the squash). There are a lot of things that you can do to make this your own. Hopefully, it will still look similar to this in the pan when it’s finished and ready to fill your belly.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

The most exciting part of making my ragout this time around was that it was made with two freshly grown eggplants picked right from my very own container garden.  #humblebrag One large one would probably be enough. Feel free to adjust the quantity of both the beef and the eggplant based on the ratio that you want to have in your sauce.

Peel, slice, and dice the eggplant.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

Dice it even smaller than this. I left them a little too big this time (about 1/2 inch dice), but it worked good for the photos 🙂 Put the diced eggplant in a bowl lined with paper towels, tossing with salt as you add to the bowl. It’s time to get the eggplant to sweat.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Let the salted eggplant sweat it out in the bowl while you prep the other ingredients. It should be nice and glistening with visible water droplets before it gets thrown into the pan.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

Chop and dice an onion. If you somehow missed this tutorial on the interwebs, it will forever change the way you cut onions. Next, mince up about 5 cloves of garlic….more or less depending on your taste. As I’ve said before, we love garlic in this house.

Heat your oil in a deep saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic to the pan, and saute until the onions are just getting soft, but not browned. I LOVE the smell that fills that house from just this part alone.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Throw a pound to a pound and a half of ground beef into the pan and combine, breaking it up. Add some Worcestershire sauce and/or red wine. Yes, I use the “unclean” Worstey sauce on just about anything beefy or pretending to be beef (like ground turkey).  I love the flavor. And I love wine which is why it’s often included in any meaty saucy concoction, but I actually didn’t have any red wine in the house. WHAT?!  Hard to believe, I know, and a shame that I didn’t have any to go along with cooking my ragout. I knew something was missing.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 While the meat is still a little pink, add your (hopefully) very sweaty eggplant to the pan.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Drizzle a generous amount of EVOO over the eggplant, as well as some freshly ground pepper, before combining with the meat mixture. Eggplant absorbs a LOT of oil, so don’t worry about going a little overboard with oiling it up in the pan. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook 5-8 minutes, stirring often, until the eggplant starts to get softer. (They will be releasing liquid as they cook.)

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

Add the fire-roasted, diced tomatoes, tomato puree, tomato paste, and all the spices. Taste a little of the liquid and add salt and pepper according to your taste buds. I can’t tell you how much to add because I don’t use much salt. Start with maybe 1 teaspoon of salt and several turns around the pan with the pepper grinder and taste it again. Continue until you like the flavor.

You will know it’s ready to simmer when it’s ridiculously thick and you can stand a utensil up in it.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Cover and simmer the sauce until the eggplant basically turns to mush. When you think that it’s getting close to being finished, get going on the pasta. If you are roasting spaghetti squash like I usually do, you should be about ready to take it out of the oven if it’s not already cooling off to get spaghettied.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

As I mentioned above, Kroger didn’t have any squash and I was pressed for time, so I headed over to the natural food section to scope out what GF pastas they had. They had a few brands that I don’t really care for because they do NOT reheat well and taste horrible as leftovers, so I was starting to get nervous about what I was going to do. Then I spotted this box:
Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Gluten-free spaghetti made in Italy? Well surely this must be tasty. After all, Italians know their pasta! I cooked it up and I must give it a RAVE review. I have tried almost every brand of GF pasta on the market and can tell you what tastes “real” and what to avoid unless you are going to eat it all right away (no leftovers). Not only did this taste amazing, but it reheats beautifully. Six thumbs up from this household!

After finishing the pasta (or making spaghetti out of the squash), it’s time to eat! This was the plate I made up for Sugar Bee.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Of course mine needed cheese. Fresh shredded Parmesan-Reggiano….yum.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

As usual, Sugar Bee approves!

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Eggplant Ragout

Be sure to dice the eggplant very small or it will take a long time for them to soften. You could also leave the meat out and double the eggplant for a vegetarian meal. If you prefer to make a casserole or want an idea for what to do with the leftovers, scroll down past the recipe details for a cheesy transformation! 

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 large or two small eggplants, peeled and diced small (1/4 inch)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (several tablespoons, divided)
  • 1-1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1-2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce and/or red wine
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 28-ounce can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 28-ounce can of tomato puree
  • 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 3 ounces tomato paste (about 3 ounces)
  • Pasta of choice or roasted spaghetti squash
  • Cheese for garnish, if desired
DIRECTIONS
  1. Sprinkle peeled and diced eggplant with salt while adding it to a bowl lined with paper towels. Set aside to sweat.
  2. Heat oil (a few turns around the pan) in a deep saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions start to get soft, but not brown.
  3. Add ground beef and Worcestershire/wine, and mix well to combine.
  4. When the beef is still slightly pink, add the eggplant, fresh ground pepper, and drizzle a few tablespoons of EVOO all over the eggplant. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, for 5-8 minutes until eggplant begins to soften.
  5. Add tomatoes, puree, paste, and spices, and add salt and pepper to taste. (Taste a few times.) Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until eggplant starts to get mushy.
  6. When the sauce is almost finished, cook pasta according to package directions or spaghetti the cooled roasted squash.
  7. Serve ragout over pasta and top with cheese, if desired. Enjoy!
*Note: If using spaghetti squash, begin roasting it before making the sauce as it takes time to cook and will need to cool before handling. Here is a link to basic cooking methods. I cut in half, coat flesh with EVOO, and roast cut-side down in the oven at 375ºF for about 30 minutes, depending on size. When cool enough to handle, shred with a fork to make spaghetti-like strands.

 

Leftovers? Or maybe you want it to be a casserole instead?

Here’s a second meal you can make out of what is leftover or you can just continue here from where I ended the Ragout recipe.

Combine pasta and ragout in the pasta pot or a large bowl. Add to glass baking dish (I used an 8×8-inch one for the leftovers) coated with cooking spray. Pat down with spatula or back of spoon to flatten.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Add a layer of grated Parmesan cheese. I use a grated Parmesan and Romano blend that I get from Trader Joe’s.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Cover with about one cup of shredded cheese. I like the Italian blend one from Publix, but regular shredded mozzarella would be just fine.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Place in preheated oven and bake at 325ºF for 15 minutes. Switch on the broiler for the last minute or two to brown the top. Now you have another meal!

2014-07-19 18.56.48

 


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Things that I learned from a few days away from my family

1. I was missed almost immediately. I had taken three phone calls and we were barely halfway there. It was nice to be missed already. By both of them and likely the dog, but he can’t talk on the phone. The girls and I chuckled a little as there were also a few texts, but it was sweet. I was not annoyed. And I missed them, too. A little.

2. I was a little heartbroken at first. Kissing Sugar Bee goodbye as she slept in her crib, a first for me, was quite a shock. I had no idea that I would have such strong feelings at that moment about leaving her behind. I needed it. She needed it. We all needed it (my pre-trip post). But it still was very difficult for me. And it surprised me. As I drove to meet the crew I was traveling with, I could feel the distance growing between us. It sounds crazy, but the energy connection I have always felt with this kid is nothing to scoff at. Once the girls and I were on the road and singing our lungs out to Journey, all was good. I felt so much better. And almost normal. I had a most excellent time with the girls I drove and roomed with.

3. Age is just a number. I say this a lot, along with, “You’re as old as you think you are.” Truth. I was among the last ones standing each night. I might be old in comparison (I think the bride to be referred to me as her “older and wiser” friend), but I can still hang. I had ridiculous amounts of fun that weekend and was not feeling like someone pushing 40….whatever that is supposed to feel like.

4. While on the road, somewhere around hour 2, it dawned on me that this was my first ever trip with only girls in my adult life. I think the last time I went anywhere with just girls was high school. During college and up until last weekend, all the trips I have taken were coed. I have always seemed to have more male friends and was never much into lots of girly stuff, but I had a absolute blast on this trip…dancing, eating, pool, drinking, catamaran, nothing but fun with just a bunch of girls!

5. It is still possible for me to sleep in.  I was in bed until 10 a.m. I WAS IN A BED UNTIL TEN IN THE MORNING!! And it felt INCREDIBLE. Of course I had been awake off and on, but I actually kept falling back to sleep. It was amazing. I was up a little earlier on Sunday, but I wanted to get showered and packed so I wasn’t holding anyone up…and I was awake anyway, just enjoying the peace and quiet. I was a little worried that I would have a difficult time sleeping without the sound of the white noise in her room as even on nights when she stays overnight at Gigi’s house, I put the monitor on so I can hear the white noise. Yes, she’s three and we still have a video monitor. Judge me all you want, but my kid loves her bed so much that I would never know when she falls asleep or wakes up without it. Her sleep is a good indicator for the type of day she will have, so I’ve been a bit obsessed with her sleep. Perhaps it’s one of the results of dealing with a colicky baby. I still can’t believe I was in a bed until 10. THANK YOU GIRLS!

6. I have more of a caffeine (coffee) problem than I realized. I drink a pot of coffee every day. I work from home and my coffee maker has a stainless steel carafe to keep it warm for hours. The hotel had these little single-serve packet things. I kept going into the hall to ransack the maid’s cart for packs at a time. I have a problem.

7. I miss “dancing.” I have that in quotation marks because I am fully aware that I am a white girl. Zumba has at least taught me better rhythm, but I would never want to see video of me on a dance floor. We had a lot of fun that night with each of us on 3-4 hours of sleep and traveling that morning.

8. The Young Living Ningxia Red is NO JOKE. I seriously had no hangovers. And I should have. I drank a packet before bed, one in the night when I woke up to potty, and another when I got up in the morning. AMAZING. The oils helped, too, as I applied them at bed and in the morning. (See my previous post on some of my oil successes this far for what to use.) Totally helped the brain fog lighten up and get me on the road to feeling normal….once the appropriate caffeine levels were reached.

9. The house can survive without me. Yes, I came home to a mess, inside and out, but soup was cooking and wine was chilled thanks to The Russian. He does good sometimes. He gets a gold star for that one. He got another couple of gold stars for keeping the kid and dog alive, and the house was still standing. I could feel the relief emanating from him when I walked in the door. It’s nice to be needed. And it was nice to be away from that.

10. Seeing Sugar Bee for the first time in over three full days was completely anticlimactic. It was far from the reaction that I expected. I was hoping for the greeting that The Russian gets after coming home from work, on the rare occasion that she sees him when he doesn’t have school. Even when I get home from my Saturday job that I actually leave the house for, I get a pretty awesome greeting with running and joyful cries. She turned and looked at me from the couch, and then turned back around to watch tv. Ouch. I sat down next to her and she basically seemed to be avoiding me and not making eye contact. I was sure that this was normal, but it still hurt. So I just scooped her up and hugged and kissed her, telling her how much I had missed her. Before long, she was back to her old self and all about mama. The last three days had been a nice break, but I was ready to get back into my real place in this current life. And as always, the dog was overjoyed to see me. Nothing like the love of a dog. For real.

11. I needed to fast the next few days. I will get a post together about the different ways I fast and why, but my poor body sure as hell needed a break. I was so happy to get to the gym on Monday!

12. I realized that I need to do something like this at least once a year. My doc told me I need to do it once a quarter 😉 I really did have the best time. I almost didn’t go because of money. Things have been tight the past few months and we have a ton of things coming up (weddings, other travel, my HS reunion), but I found a way to make it work. I had some leftover bonds from childhood and cashed them in to pay for the bulk of the trip. That was all my money that I used for something that was all for me. I think that’s fair and it made me feel a heck of a lot better about spoiling myself with a weekend getaway.

My top favorite moments: the drive out to Charleston singing like fools and sharing about each other, the drive back to the hotel on our night out and singing our heads off while crammed in one vehicle, the catamaran excursion (who doesn’t love drinking on the water?), and getting to know a fantastic bunch of girls.

Thank you, ladies, for making my first weekend away from my family such a fantastic and memorable one.2014-07-26 20.20.02-1


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Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts. Yes, they are spelled with an ‘s’ on the end, as in the capital of Belgium. I didn’t realize that until I started cooking them as an adult. Usually people love or hate these little baby cabbages. We LOVE them. In fact, I have always liked them, even as a kid. My mom would cook some for dinner every now and then, and my dad and I were the only ones that would really eat any. My sister would hide hers in the bottom of her milk to escape eating the few that she was given. The ones my mom cooked weren’t even fresh and I still ate them. Crazy, if you ask me.

I make them all the time in a variety of ways, but they are almost always roasted one way or another in the oven. Roasting them makes them soften and caramelize a little to give them a slight bit of sweet. Through the years, I have fed many a friend at my house. Feeding people makes me happy. Silence at my dinner table fills me up, knowing that everyone is just enjoying the meal. All too often I have heard, “I can’t believe I am eating Brussels sprouts….and I like them!” People can always trust me, especially when it comes to food. I will never lie about food. I take food very seriously.

This particular night, I didn’t have my usual ingredients handy for my favorite and most popular Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans (with a few modifications), so I got creative. Balsamic vinegar adds such depth to foods, so I figured it should be a good choice for the sprouts.

First off is to wash the sprouts. Obvious, I know, but I mention this because I do a little more than just rinse them off. I let them soak for a few minutes in a bowl of water. Those layers of leaves can store a little more dirt than you would think. Then I take a few out at a time to the cutting board, cut the bottoms off, and halve them. The outer layer of leaves often fall off and that’s just fine. I usually want those to fall off because if they don’t, I remove them anyway. If leaves aside from those outer ones fall off, I just scoop those up and place them in the bowl with the halved sprouts.  They crisp up something delicious in the oven.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

 Toss them in the bowl with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and fresh pepper. Spread them out on a jelly roll pan (the technical name for this type of baking sheet) and place them cut side down.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Bake in a preheated oven at 375ºF for 20-25 minutes. They should look like this when they are almost finished:

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

 Add a few teaspoons of balsamic vinegar over them and stir with a spatula to spread it around. Watch out, though! The vinegar gets really strong on a hot pan and can burn your nose.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

 These are even good leftover…I like to eat my leftover sprouts right from the fridge.


Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Just one of several ways you can roast these baby cabbages up in the oven. The balsamic vinegar adds a complex sweetness to the sprouts. 

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 lbs Brussels Sprouts
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
DIRECTIONS
  1. Cut the bottoms off of the sprouts and halve them. Discard outer leaf layers if discolored.
  2. Combine in bowl with EVOO, salt and pepper.
  3. Spread out on a jelly roll pan or baking sheet, cut side down.
  4. Roast in 375ºF oven for 20-25 minutes until somewhat browned.
  5. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over them and stir. Place back in oven for 2-3 minutes. Enjoy!