Hi there! Mama here.
You want to know the truth? Based on my track record with goal-setting, I really thought I'd be behind in my "30 Weeks" goals by now, but here I am, finished with week 4!

For this week's goal, I wanted to make homemade baby food for my 5-month-old. For both cheapness and goodness sake I make most of the food in my home from scratch--bread, pizza, biscuits, teething biscuits, smoothies, bran muffins, Goldfish, granola, Oreos--so why I never tried to make homemade baby food before now, I'll never know...because seriously, it is so easy. 

I found a recipe in my acquired-last-summer-but-didn't-get-around-to-reading-it-until-now copy of Start Fresh by Tyler Florence, famous chef and father of three. Basic recipes with minimal ingredients and simple instructions make this book super easy to use, even for the most  inexperienced cook (I mean come on, can you really call steaming a vegetable and then mashing it up a recipe?). 

For my baby, I decided to start with sweet potatoes mixed with golden potatoes. If you want to see what I did (and also see some seriously cute baby pics), follow the "Read More" link below!

Picturewhite lights + 2 goofballs = photo fun!
Hi there! Mama here.

Well, the first snowfall has arrived here in Michigan and some people aren't thrilled, but I can't help but feel excited. The frost in the air and the snow on the roof just make me smile because I know it means the holidays are coming... and I don't know about you, but frost and snow and cold weather all add up to winter-time goodies for me! 

Some of my fondest holiday memories involve the familiar scents and tastes of holiday goodies: Going to my grandma and grandpa's house on Christmas Eve and excitedly dumping out stockings filled with our favorite Christmas candies, my other grandpa carrying those little peppermint Christmas tree nougats in his pockets, getting a box of chocolate bells every year after the church Christmas program, chocolate oranges from my dad, and the scent of my mom's Christmas cookies and breads filling the house with heavenly smells. When I look back on it all and remember how I enjoyed the food more than almost anything else about the season, I wonder...is it really any surprise I've ended up doing this? ;)

So last night Papa and I watched The Green Hornet (way better than the Green Lantern movie, just in case you were wondering) while we savored a couple steaming mugs of hot cocoa (Raspberry for him and French Vanilla with peppermint extract for me). If you don't feel up to making your own from scratch, I highly recommend Land O Lakes brand because, well, it's the best store-bought hot cocoa I've ever tasted. I always make sure to keep at least a dozen of their individual packets around in various flavors during the holidays for guests to enjoy, and trust me--they DO enjoy it!

Aside from just the goodies, holiday crafts are super fun, too. I was looking for one to do with Little Boy Blond and came across one Christmas-time creation that would be just perfect. We use a lot of glass jars here in the Sweet Home kitchen and there are always at least four or five of them just sitting around waiting to be filled with Sweet Home Granola or other goodies. So when I came across Martha Stewart's DIY snow globes, I knew I'd found a winner! Just take any old (clean and dry) glass jar with a lid and a tight seal, and voìla: instant snow globe success! You don't even have to use a Christmas theme for these to be fun; Papa and Little Boy made some with footballs and airplanes and they turned out super cute! (Cotton balls for clouds? Papa is so creative.)

What else? Well, we decided to do a family photo shoot to get some (hopefully) good pictures for a photo card this year (since Mama never actually got around to sending out cards last year...oops), and we had a ball! I was inspired by two Christmas light themed photos I saw on Pinterest: one of three kids and one of a newly engaged couple. I kind of took the lights idea and ran with it, and one of the final results is the picture in this post. We wanted something funny, so I thought up the idea that Little Boy had wrapped Papa in Christmas lights and left him hanging--they both loved it!

Anyway, I hope you're enjoying the season and taking some time out to spend with the ones you love, because--snow or no snow--that's what really makes it feel like Christmas!

Sweet Home à la Mama

What kinds of goodies or crafts are you enjoying this holiday season? Leave a comment and share!
PictureLittle Boy Blond and the Great Pumpkin!
Hi there! Mama here...and to my great joy, autumn is here, too!

As for news, we've recently moved (thus the lack of recent posts--sorry!) and we are recently expecting a new little one as well! It's so much nicer being pregnant in the cold months...let's just say I prefer to pull on a sweater over my bump instead of trying to attempt shorts and a tank top with a belly band, lol. Little Boy Blond is going to be a big brother (I have to call him "Little Boy" now, as there's going to be a new "Baby" around soon!), and we couldn't be happier. :)

With the move comes excitement as well as a minor disappointment: our living space has doubled, but the Sweet Home Kitchen is now about half the size as it used to be! I was bummed at first, but as I've purged unused cookware, a thrice-used cake-decorating kit, and a few random doodads that I can't remember ever using (A melon baller? What was I thinking?), I've found that the space is quite sufficient for everything I need

I'm also glad that this move was in the fall. Our last move was in the worst humid heat of August, and it was a real doozie. Not only did the cooler weather this time of year make moving easier, but it's really nice to settle into our new home with hot things like bread and roasts baking in the oven to share around our family table. For those of you who've never had the pleasure of autumn in Michigan, allow me a moment to digress...

There is nothing like autumn in Michigan. The weather changes so quickly that it catches us all off-guard...the dog days of summer melt into the glory days of fall, and all of a sudden the green, lake-lined edges of the mitten state are transformed into a sea of gold and rose as leaves begin to turn and fall. Ah, fall.

Along with the changes in color come the cool, biting winds that are as tangible as the crisp red apples you eat at the orchard as you search for the perfect pumpkin: not too big, not too small, and nicely rounded and presentable on at least three sides (because at least one side will be facing the wall, of course). Once you've got your pumpkin and pet a few farm animals, you can hop on the hay wagon and ride through a corn maze before heading back to the mill for cider and doughnuts that taste that much better because they're so fresh that the edges of the doughnuts are still crunchy and warm from the oil. Mmm. Fall.

Sadly, the apple crop on this side of the state wasn't too hot this year and many of the mills had to order apples from the western side, hiking up the prices from last year. While I've avoided the fresh made cider at $10.50 a gallon (yikes...guess I'll be buying it at the grocery store this year), I'll admit I did indulge in a few fresh doughnuts, just for the sake of tradition. ;)

But anyway, this post was supposed to say something about granola!

For the home (not for the shop), I've been working on mimicking a favorite product of mine: Nature's Path Pumpkin Flax Granola. This time of year I can't help but long for anything pumpkin (Have you tried the Better Homes and Gardens recipe for Melt-in-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies? I have and um, yeah, amazing), and since I'm kind of a granola fanatic, pumpkin granola in autumn is a must. 

The first time I tried, I added way too much molasses to my recipe, which made it very, shall we say, robust. Not quite the light, airy texture of the Nature's Path version. Also, my puffed rice bits were larger than theirs (since I was experimenting, I went cheap and bought the massive, off-brand kind on the bottom shelf...big mistake), so it was kind of a weird mix altogether and not very pleasant.

Since I didn't feel like testing another batch (moving has been kind of overwhelming, to say the least) and really just wanted that delicious pumpkin seed flavor, I've resolved to dump a handful of pumpkin seeds in with my regular granola mix and call it a day. It's not quite the same as the Nature's Path version, but it makes for a great fall-flavored granola and nips that pumpkin fix! Now hopefully my chestnut craving will hold off until after Thanksgiving...

So here's to a new beginning, and to the holidays ahead! Be sure to watch the blog for more seasonally-inspired goodies!

Until next time,

Sweet Home à la Mama

What are your favorite fall recipes and/or pumpkin variations? Do share!
PictureDolsot bibimbap--yum!
Hi there! Mama here.

So in case you didn't know, we here at the Sweet Home kitchen absolutely, positively, LOVE Korean food. Yes, Korean food. How, you ask, did we get to know and love this perhaps (undeservedly) lesser-known of foreign foods here in the Midwest? Well, let me tell you.

Before Papa and I were, well, a mama and a papa, we did a year-long English teaching stint in Daegu, South Korea, or The Land of the Morning Calm (so named for its "spellbinding natural beauty of picturesque high mountains and clear waters and its splendid tranquillity, particularly in the morning"). The description is quite accurate; Korea is a breathtaking country and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

But again, I digress. This post is supposed to be about delicious Korean FOOD! So you see that picture up there? That's a dish called "bibimbap" and it's one of my favorites. It literally means "mixed rice," but really it means, "mixed rice and vegetables with beef, chili pepper paste, and a fried egg on top." It's one of the first meals you'll have if you visit Korea, whether it's served on the plane ride there (thank you, Korean Air!) or at one of the gazillion Korean restaurants that serve it as part of their regular menu. It's a popular, easy-to-handle dish for both natives and foreigners, and can be wonderfully customized for carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans alike!

My favorite version includes shitake mushrooms, zucchini, bean sprouts, spinach, and carrots (all sauteed separately), ground beef, and a sunny-side-up egg, all mixed in a sizzling stone pot (like you can see in the picture above). This version is called "dolsot bibimbap" which means "bibimbap in a sizzling stone bowl." The great thing about dolsot bibimbap is that the bowl is so hot when you serve it that once you put the egg on top and start mixing, the rest of the egg actually fries inside the pot and the rice gets all crispy crunchy on the bottom. Delicious!

Because they had just opened up Shin's Korean Restaurant in our home town of Mount Pleasant, Michigan literally within months of us coming home--weird, we didn't really have a need to learn to cook Korean food ourselves for a couple of years. Here in Grand Blanc, though, sadly there is no Korean restaurant in sight. There is, however, a great little Korean grocer less than ten miles from our home and an AWESOME Korean cooking website with all of the recipes we know and love!

After first trying her recipe for japchae and having wild success, I returned to Maangchi's Korean cooking website in search of her bibimbap recipe. To make sure you're able to properly cook authentic and delicious Korean dishes, Maangchi posts detailed ingredient lists, clear instructions, great photos, and short videos with each recipe to make sure your meals turn out just as great as hers. Once I found the recipe I was looking for, I set out for Seoul Oriental Market in Flint to gather the ingredients.

You should be able to find most of the ingredients at a regular grocery store (I was able to get the rice, eggs, zucchini, garlic, ground beef, shitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, spinach, sesame oil, and soy sauce at our local Meijer), but some of them, like the gochujang (red hot pepper paste) and kim (seaweed), might be tough to find in some areas. I would recommend visiting a Korean grocery store simply because a) there are a ton of great things you can buy there (Korean rice cakes, plum juice drinks, and sweet red bean pastries for starters) and b) Koreans are great to talk to! (I'm not trying to generalize...it's just that I've honestly never had a bad experience in the hundreds of Koreans I've spoken to.)

In any case, I followed Maangchi's recipe and the bibimbap was a huge success! It was definitely a lot of work (if I could chop veggies half as quickly as Maangchi I'd have finished a lot sooner), but it was well worth it once I tasted the results and saw the satisfied look on Papa Blond's face. Score!

So if you're feeling adventurous and want to give Korean cooking a try, I suggest you check out Maangchi.com and give it a whirl!

Until next time,

Sweet Home à la Mama

Have you tried Korean food? If so, what's your favorite? Have you made it at home? Feel free to leave a comment and share your story if you've successfully (or unsuccessfully!) tried any Korean dishes yourself--I'd love to hear about your experience!