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This is yet another Everyday Food recipe that has been a go-to for a quick meal for many years now — the entire meal comes together in well under 30 minutes. This is a recipe even my husband has perfected!  I have slightly modified the original recipe to suit my family’s tastes.  We like this best when served with a green veggie, like steamed broccoli. When cooking broccoli, don’t toss the stalks! Slice them thinly and toss them in with the florets to steam until everything is bright green and fork-tender.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for baking sheet
  • 2 slices bread *
  • 4 thick cut boneless pork chops
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 4 TBSP apricot jam

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil and brush lightly with oil. Place pork chops on pan.
  2. Tear bread into large pieces; place in food processor. Pulse until large crumbs form. Drizzle with oil; pulse once or twice, just until crumbs are moistened (you should have about 1 1/2 cups crumbs).
  3. Season pork chops generously with salt and pepper; spread one side of each chop with 1 TBSP jam. Dividing evenly, sprinkle breadcrumbs over jam, and pat them on gently.
  4. Bake until crust is golden and pork is opaque throughout, 14 to 16 minutes. Serve immediately.

*I use whatever bread we have on hand — it’s a great use for slightly dry or stale bread as well as the heels of the loaf.

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Product Love: Skullcandy Pipe iPod Speaker Dock

photo courtesy of http://www.skullcandy.com

If you are looking for a compact, stylish speaker/charging dock for your iPod, look no further. I got this for my husband for his birthday last year, and we couldn’t be happier with it. Not only does it look good, it sounds amazing.

What I like:

  • Big sound, small footprint (about 8″ long with a 2″ diameter)
  • Charges as it plays
  • Remote control with a range of up to 20 feet
  • Looks neato!
  • Sounds fantastic! You will be amazed at how loud you can crank it up                                                                                                  (and then turn it back down again when your kids complain)

Music Love: The Ting Tings

If you are not already familiar with the indie pop fabulousness that is the Ting Tings, you should be. If you are, congratulations! Now introduce them to your kids so we can derail some of this Beiber and Miley Cyrus nonsense.  Their 2008 album We Started Nothing is upbeat and will have you booty-shakin’ from start to finish. They have a new album due out this year, which should be worth a listen. In the meantime, enjoy this:

Yoga Love: Reverse Warrior

Reverse Warrior brings an intensified stretch to the hip flexor of the back leg as well as deeply opening and stretching the front ribcage. This pose is also sometimes called Peaceful Warrior, with the raised arm representing the warrior lifting his sword heavenward, away from battle,  in a gesture of peace.

From Warrior II, root strongly down through both feet and rotate your front hand so your palm faces up. As you inhale, lengthen the spine and sweep the hand skyward while letting the back hand gently sink down to rest lightly on your back leg. Reach the crown of your head upward, lengthening the neck and lifting the chin slightly — let your gaze follow your raised hand. Make sure that the front knee is still stacked squarely above the ankle and not collapsing inward. Breathe into the front ribcage, letting the intercostals (the muscles between the ribs) expand.  Be aware of your lower back and keep it long to avoid any compression.  Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths. To come out of the pose, exhale and bring your arms back into Warrior II position, then step your back foot forward to meet the front foot. Switch sides and repeat.

What would you like to see more or less of in future Weekend Edition posts? Do you enjoy the current format, or would you like to see something new? I welcome all comments! Have a glorious weekend!

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This simple pasta dish is a favorite of my husbands…mine too! Cooking the squash in the same pan as the bacon imparts a smoky flavor to the squash, elevating it above the ordinary. This dish is hearty enough to stand alone, but is accompanied nicely by fresh fruit or a green salad. We prefer to use whole-wheat pasta in this and all pasta dishes — it’s healthier and adds substantial texture.  Also, I don’t go out of my way to purchase cream for this recipe — I often  substitute half-and-half, or even regular milk. It tastes just as good and is lower in calories and saturated fat.

If your children don’t care for this dish, you can toss some cooked squash with pasta and spaghetti sauce — they won’t even notice the squash is there.  One last note: The original recipe calls for Asiago cheese, but we prefer Parmesan. Try it with whatever you know your family will enjoy.

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 8 ounces fusilli
  • 4 slices bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
  • 4 medium yellow squash (8 ounces each), quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Asiago cheese, plus more for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water; drain pasta, and return to pot.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium. Add bacon, and cook until browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain (leave bacon fat in skillet).
  3. Place skillet over medium-high heat. Add squash and garlic to fat in skillet; season with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash begins to soften, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover, and continue to cook until liquid is evaporated and squash is tender, 2 to 3 minutes more.
  4. Add cream and cooked pasta to skillet; toss well, and cook until cream begins to thicken. Remove from heat; stir in Asiago, and add enough reserved pasta water to create a sauce that coats pasta. Stir in  reserved bacon and top with more cheese.

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When cooking homemade meals most nights, it is inevitable that there will be leftovers. Sometimes I’m able to incorporate them into another dish, and sometimes my husband is happy to take them as lunch later in the week, but often, despite the best intentions, I’m left with a fridge full of odds and ends. When this happens, we make lemonade from the proverbial lemons and serve them up diner-style.

I assemble all the edible leftovers in their containers on the countertop and survey what I have. If I’m feeling particularly spunky, I’ll write some quick menus. Often, this task is tackled spontaneously by one of the kids, complete with drawings for each entrée. I announce that tonight is “Diner Night” and make everyone take a seat. I hand out or recite the menu, then take drink orders. By the time I return with drinks, everyone is ready to order. Depending on the day, we sometimes offer smaller “side orders” of certain items, or make new items (sandwiches or hash) with what we already have on hand. My husband and I work together to play short-order cook, and everyone gets what they want.

Other ideas:

  • Think up a name for your family Diner and always refer to it by name.
  • If the kids are old enough to use the microwave and dish up food, switch roles and let them run the diner.
  • Splurge a little  and buy a ready-made dessert for a surprise ending.
  • Have your little customers pay for dinner by helping bus and wipe of the table at meal’s end.

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Valentine’s Day seems like the perfect opportunity to discuss creating harmony in the home. I’ve been struggling with this problem off and on for a couple of months and have found that there are definitely things that help foster a more loving environment in my home.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I have been given guidelines to follow that help to bring our family closer together and to invite the Spirit of God into our home. These guidelines include praying together as a family as well as individually, studying the scriptures, and holding Family Home Evening once a week. When I am striving to live by these guidelines my home is noticeably more harmonious than when I am not. These practices also create opportunities for my husband and I to share our morals and values with our children. Praying together as a family helps our children to develop a sense of gratitude as they give thanks for their blessings. Prayer also helps develop them to selflessness as they pray for the needs of others.  Although many of the ideas below are based on these principles, you need not be a member of my faith — or of any faith —  to employ them.

1. Center Yourself : Try to wake up 15-30 minutes earlier than you usually do and take this time to meditate, study scriptures, pray, or to read something uplifting and inspiring.  I find that when I am able to do this, I can face the day in a calmer, happier, and more peaceful way. It’s so much better than getting up and walking directly into the chaos of the morning.

2. Stick to a Routine: As much as possible, stick to the same routine each day. Do homework, eat dinner, and start getting ready for bed at a consistent time each day. When kids know what to expect each day, they will become more able to anticipate what needs to happen next and take steps to help out

3. Spend Time Together: Aside from family dinners, it is important to take time each week to enjoy each other’s company. This can take the form of a formal Family Night, or can be as simple and spontaneous as a Saturday outing to the park. Either way, it is important to interact with your kids in different settings. Let them know you enjoy spending time with them doing a variety of things — get to know them better and let them see that there is more to Mom & Dad than they expected.  Bonus: in my experience a change of pace puts the kibosh on sibling rivalry better than anything else. If you have more than one child, try to schedule occasional one-on-one time between each parent and each child. Sometimes they just need to have you all to themselves.

4. Take Time to Teach: It’s important to let your children know what you expect from them and why. Share your ideals with them, and try to model good conversational skills. Model good listening behavior and guide them in conflict resolution. When they have the tools to work it out on their own, there will be less tattling and more cooperation.

5. Spot Good Behavior: When you see your kids being especially helpful, kind, or mature, point it out immediately and complement them on it. Then, bring it up again later in the week — saying, for example “I was so proud of how your helped your sister clean up her room the other day. It really made me happy to see that you are learning to be so thoughtful.” Kids respond to positive reinforcement and it’s nice for them to hear what they have done well.

What tips or strategies do you employ to maintain a sense of peace and harmony in your home? I would love to hear some new ideas!

Happy Valentine’s Day! May your home be filled with laughter, happiness, love, and kindness!

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Home Made Sweeter: Weekend Edition


Product Love: Method Laundry Detergent

Let me start out by saying “No, this is not a paid endorsement!” I just really, really love method products. They are environmentally friendly, safe to use, and have great scents! I first bought Method Laundry Detergent when we were gearing up for our big cross-country move. The bottle is compact (only 3 inches diameter across the bottom) will wash 50 loads with only a 20-ounce bottle, has a locking pump-style lid, and seemed like it would be easier to pack than the typical giant box of laundry detergent I was using at the time. Like all the other products in the Method line, the Laundry Detergent delivers big-time. It smells great, uses only 4 pumps of detergent for an average size load of laundry, works wonderfully in both regular and HE machines, and takes up very little space! Add to that the fact that the bottle is made of 50% recycled material and is 100% recyclable and I’m sold! Even better: a feature that allows the pump to dispense every last drop of detergent from the bottle. The only downside is that it can be a bit priceyabout $15.00 for a 50-load bottle, but it really does last all 50 loads. They also make a fabric softener that I have yet to try, but I think I will give it a whirl when I need to buy detergent again.

Music Love: “Dead Disco” by Metric


I love this song and just added it to the “happy happy run run” mix I’m compiling on iTunes for when the weather is a bit nicer. It’s a bit reminiscent of 80’s synth-pop/rock. Maybe I love it because the bass line seems like a mash-up of the Cure’s “A Forest” and “Jumping Someone Else’s Train” or maybe it’s because the vocals somehow bring Blondie to mind. Either way, it will get you up on your feet.

Yoga Love: Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2)

Warrior II continues working the legs just like Warrior I, but also opens up the hips and strongly tones the arms (particularly that area under the upper arms that tends to sag as we age), and with the proper modifications, can also work wonders on your inner thighs. This is a strong, stabilizing pose that challenges and tones the entire body. This is also a fantastic pose for improving body image and self-confidence.

photo courtesy of http://www.yogajournal.com

From Warrior One with your right foot forward, exhale and rotate your torso to the left, simultaneously opening the hips and lowering your arms to shoulder height with palms facing the floor. If you need to adjust the placement of your feet, please do so, in order to prevent knee injury! Hips and knees should be open towards the left. Keep your gaze forward, over the right hand. Take a moment to make sure your back foot is at a 45-degree angle with the outer edge of the foot staying grounded, and that your weight is equally distributed between both feet.

Glance down at your right knee, to be sure it is stacked directly above your ankle rather than rolling inward. Reach strongly in both directions with your fingertips, as though you are being pulled opposite ways. Strongly engage the muscles of your arms –particularly the triceps — taking care to keep the neck long and the shoulder blades drawing down the back.

Finally, root your heels down into the mat, and draw your feet toward one another, thus engaging the inner thighs. Focus on your breathing, keeping it long and steady. Hold for 5-10 breaths.

To come out of the pose, bring your hands to your hips, gently rotate the hips forward (the same leg position you used in Warrior One) and then step the left foot up to meet the right. As you exhale, step the right foot back, coming into Warrior One and then follow the steps for Warrior Two on the opposite side. End your micro session, by closing your eyes, and breathing deeply for 5-10 breaths. Enjoy the strength, focus, and determination that Warrior Two brings.

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We have a lot of books in our home. With that comes a problem, however. If not kept in check books can creep off of shelves and wind up in every room in every imaginable place: stacked on top of tables and counters, hiding under beds, peeking out from behind dressers, littering the floor, and consequently, getting damaged in the process. I dream of having a dedicated library in our home. One room that is lined from floor to ceiling with bookshelves and furnished with oversized leather chairs, perfect for curling up in for a nice read. Maybe a sturdy table for homework purposes. Sadly, it remains a dream and so I am left with the dilemma of how to go about organizing the hundreds (thousands?) of books in our home.

I was thinking about this the other day, and realized that there are a lot of different ways to organize books and that, rather than adopt a single method, I’ve chosen a smattering that work for me and employed them in different places throughout the house. Not every method works in every instance. I’ve even implemented a system on my Kindle to keep things organized and accessible. Here are some of the different methods I use for organizing my books:

Color: The main bookshelves in my house are in the living room. These are filled mostly with books we bought to read for enjoyment. There is also some poetry mixed in there, from my days as an English major. These bookshelves, for about a year now, have been organized by color. I really enjoy having my books arranged this way. It’s somewhat unusual,  it’s  visually pleasing to look at, and I have discovered that I remember books by their cover art and can actually find what I’m looking for more quickly this way.  Both of my sisters have since adopted the organize-by-color method as well. If you like bookshelves to look uniform and tidy, this is a good place to start. You can even go more extreme, and turn the books spine-in for a subtle, monochromatic look, but obviously, it will be more difficult to locate a specific book with this method unless there is some other system of organization in place.

Subject: My husband and I have a lot of diverse interests from crochet and beekeeping to photography and art history. If we have more than one or two books on a specific subject, I tend to group them by subject on dedicated shelves. For example, my husband keeps all of his art, photography, and design books on shelves in his studio area. I keep all cookbooks together as well as books on yoga, crochet, beekeeping, home organization, and parenting casually grouped by subject on a large built-in bookshelf in my bedroom. Having the cookbooks there is mildly inconvenient, and I would encourage you to store cookbooks in the kitchen whenever possible. Religious books and manuals are stored together in another location.

Size: Try though I might, I have not yet found a better means of organizing the kid’s books. Right now we have a dedicated bookshelf for this in our son’s room and plan to add one to our daughter’s shared room. There is a fair amount of spillover onto the toy shelves, but I hope to eliminate this when I add another bookshelf. The shelf we currently use is small with only 3 shelves and the books are organized by size for the simple fact that it makes them neater as well as easier for children to put away. Since there are only 3 shelves, I can even tell at a glance what shelf each book belongs on. Large picture books are on the bottom, medium-sized on the middle shelf, and smaller books go mostly on the top. I say mostly, because the top shelf is really the only shelf that has another designation — all top shelf books are easy readers and early chapter books. This keeps them slightly more out of reach of the baby and also makes it easy for my two readers to find something that they might enjoy.

Type: I specify “type” because we do have a lot of books sorted this way such as my the easy reader books mentioned above, my husband’s old sketch books, photo albums, and my embarrassingly large comic book collection.

Tips for Tidy Shelves:

  • Don’t be afraid to try something different. Books don’t always have to be lined up neatly from left to right. Try running them from right to left or laying them on their sides and stacking them vertically. I also like to lay a book or two sideways in the space on top of traditionally arranged books. If they aren’t level, rearrange the base slightly, putting books of equal heights at the front and end of the section you want to stack on top of.
  • Mix things up. Mix in stacks of books with regularly shelved books. Add small, interesting objects to the top of stacks or in spaces at the end of a shelf to act as bookends. I have a few old, heavy cameras and some oddly-shaped vases that I do this with.
  • Store outside the shelf. Books look nice mixed in with decorative elements around the room. Stack a few to give a lamp more lift or to elevate a candlestick. If you have spare dresser space, consider lining up some books spine-up in a drawer.
  • Library books need homes too. Since it can be difficult to track them down when it is time to return them, I like to give library books a dedicated space. Our current library issued re-usable tote bags to our kids when they got their own library cards, so lately we’ve just been using these. They hang on the doorknob of the bedrooms with the books inside. Before that, we used a large basket tucked in a corner of the living room. Either way, it’s easier when you give library books a home of their own and let your kids know that they must be returned there each evening.
  • Reduce, Re-use, Recycle. It’s a good idea to go through bookshelves once a year or so and get rid of books you no longer use or know you won’t read again. You can donate books to hospitals, shelters, prisons, or goodwill. Used book shops will pay decent money for some items — it is always worth taking in a box full of books for the proprietor to sort through. They are also great sellers at yard sales. Another option is using old books for craft projects. I’ve seen some amazing things from wreaths, to simple book-folding wall art, to mobiles and purses.  I’ll leave you with this lovely inspiration:

If you have any tips for organizing, storing, or crafting with books, please share in the comments section!

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