Nov 182013
 

How was your weekend? Mine was pretty good. A mix of fun and low-key. On Saturday Michael and I volunteered for the Pixie Project. It’s been awhile since we’ve volunteered there because they changed the hours they needed dog walkers. :( It didn’t work with our work schedules so we stopped. And then we got Bella…but I still wanted to help out when I could. The Pixie Project was having a charity dinner and auction to raise money for the shelter so we spent about three hours Saturday helping them set up at the Left Bank Annex. It was a really cool looking space!

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We folded like 300 napkins and then helped set up all the tables–the cutlery, the plates, etc. It was so much fun and I felt really good that I could help them. It looks gorgeous when we left and I wished we could have afforded to go to the benefit!

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At least we were able to do our part. I hope they raised a lot of money for the puppies and kitties at The Pixie Project.

On Sunday I woke up to blue skies and dry air. The fall leaves were covering the grass and there was a slight wind rustling in the trees. It was warm and cozy inside the house and I was feeling lazy and craving comfort food. I put some Sarah McLachlan on the iPod and set to work making a childhood favorite: Navy Bean Soup.

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The best Navy Bean soup I’ve ever had is my aunt’s. However, she’s the type of cook that just throws things together and the end results is magic, so I didn’t have a recipe to follow. Instead, I combined two recipes I found that sounded as close to what I remember her making. Instead of posting both of those recipes, I’ll just share my adaptation.

Slow Cooker Navy Bean Soup with Bacon

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 10 hours

Total Time: 11 hours

Yield: 8-10 servings

Calories per serving: 300-400 calories depending on servings

Adapted from a Betty Crocker recipe and this recipe: http://www.sisboomblog.com/2013/05/slow-cooker-navy-bean-with-bacon-soup/

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of dry navy beans (about 2 1/4 cups)
  • 4 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 pound cooked ham, diced
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • Dried thyme, to taste but more is better :)
  • Fresh rosemary springs
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Rinse and soak the beans overnight. Drain and rinse the next day.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet and add bacon, cooking until lightly crispy. Save some aside for topping later, if desired. Add garlic and onions to the rest of the bacon, cook until golden and soft (about 10 minutes).
  3. Transfer onion-bacon mix to the crockpot.
  4. Add the water, chicken stock, vegetable broth, beans, and spices.
  5. Mix in the diced ham and the carrots and celery.
  6. Cook on low 8-10 hours or until beans are softened all the way through.
  7. Top with some shredded parmesan cheese and the reserved bacon.
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I realized making this recipe that I need a bigger crockpot. I suppose I could have halved the recipe to make less, but that kind of defeats the purpose of a crockpot meal. I wanted enough for dinner, some lunches for the week and I’ll freeze the rest to have later when the craving for navy bean soup returns. But my crockpot was filled to the very brim. I’ve never had it that full before. I checked on it throughout the day and mixed everything around to make sure it was all cooking evenly.

I like soups with vegetables in it so I’m glad I combined the two recipes to include two vegetables I don’t eat very often: celery and carrots. I don’t know why, but it’s hard for me to eat and enjoy celery…

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I sauteed the onions, bacon and added garlic at the very end and then put it all in the crockpot on top of the veggies. The rest of the ingredients went in. Bella was helping me in the kitchen, or rather she was waiting patiently for things I might drop on the floor that she can hoover up as quickly as possible.

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After it was all shoved in the crockpot I took off for the pool. I got in a really nice swim in a mostly empty pool (score!), came home to have lunch, raked some leaves in the yard and then played ball with Bella who had the Puppy Crazies and was doing laps around the yard. Back inside, the kitchen smelled wonderful!

Towards the end of the 9 hour cook time, it was still a little too “brothy” for what I was looking for so I mixed together 2 tablespoons of gluten-free flour and 2 tablespoons of water and added that to the pot. That thickened it up nicely!

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The soup was perfect. It wasn’t exactly like my aunt’s soup but it was close and it was delicious, and that’s what matters. I loved that it had the vegetables in it. As I ate it I realized that the bacon wasn’t necessary, and it actually made the dish slightly saltier than I was expecting. When I voiced this to Michael he disagreed. He loved the bacon in there. So to each it’s own. If you make this dish, the bacon isn’t necessary but it’s tasty. :)

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I got about 11 servings out of this recipe, which makes the calories even less than it already was! I was surprised at how low calorie it was.  I even had seconds because it was so hearty and delectable.

Michael’s mom is remodeling her kitchen and supposedly we are getting her old fridge. As soon as we make room in our garage, we’ll get it. It’s going to be great! We’ve talked about getting a big freezer since our freezer is so tiny. This will work nicely. I expect to have a lot of frozen homemade meals in there for later! I know I have three large tubs of Navy Bean soup ready to go in there!

After dinner Bella and Michael cuddled on the couch, complete with Bella snoring. It’s not very lady-like, but it’s adorable. Usually I try to work on her puppy-training homework in the evening while we chill and watch TV but I decided to give her a night off to nap.

Anyways, this recipe is a winner. If you don’t want soup for a month, half the recipe. ;)

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Oct 282013
 

Ever have one of those weekends where nothing seems to go right? Yeah that was this weekend. I’ll start with the downright crappiness of this weekend first and end on the good stuff.

DOWNS

It was time for the kitties’ annual check up which is ALWAYS fun. Both of them are suddenly as slick as ice and impossible to catch. Not only that they have been traumatized the last month because of Bella and so I felt really guilt torturing them with a vet visit. When I brought them home, for some reason Maya decided to run down the hallway, through the dog cate, past Bella and hid underneath the kitchen table. Which meant that Bella chased her because she thought it was a game. Why didn’t Maya run under the bed in the bedroom like she always does? Who even knows. SIGH. Playing referee between the dog and cats is getting old.

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The worst part of the weekend was Saturday night. It was late, I was exhausted and half asleep, getting ready for bed, brushing my teeth etc… When this happened:

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That is my sink, now a sinkhole. It happened so fast and I still don’t really know what happened. I’m guessing I dropped something and it shattered the glass sink. You can kind of see from the picture that the glass turned into a spiderweb. The sink part dropped into the lower cabinet, getting everything wet and showering it with shards of glass. The glass also shattered and scattered all over the bathroom. Like all over. There was glass everywhere.

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So what did we do? We closed the bathroom door and went to bed. Sunday morning we woke up fairly early and I started to clean up the mess. I had to throw away a lot of stuff simply because it would be too hard to clean the glass shards out of it. Long story short, we were at Lowe’s at 9am buying a new vanity for my bathroom. I’m glad we found something else and that it was on sale. I’m also thankful that Michael installed it for me.

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No more glass sinks! I think the new one looks nice. Eventually we’ll finish the remodel of the bathroom and have new floors and paint on the walls (right now it’s just primer). My pool was closed so I had to drive across town to go to another pool. When I got home my sink was attached to the pipes and I had running water! So that’s good.

UPS

My weekend started off great. After yoga I went to my friend Debby’s house for our book club meeting. We read “The Haunting of Hill House” this month and after our discussion of the book we watched the original movie from the 60′s. It was so much fun! There was a decent sized group of us, tons of wine and lots of really good food. Too much good food.

Debby’s roommate Alex is a superb cook and spent the day creating all sorts of goodies. He made a Greek orzo spinach salad, some pastry puffs stuffed with cream cheese, other pastry cups with cottage cheese and then baked, a tomato and basil salad, a pumpkin cheesecake, cucumber and onion salad, and little dried apricots with Stilton cheese mixed with Sherry topped with a toasted walnut.

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I definitely ate too much. As in, my stomach was so full I probably could have used some Tums for the acid-reflux. Ooops. I more than made up for it on Saturday by being way under my calories for the day. I didn’t do it on purpose, it just kind of happened that way because I was so busy running around doing errands and stuff.

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The good thing about Saturday was that I got in a run at the gym and my legs felt AWESOME. The whole run was great, I felt good afterwards and I felt even better on Sunday. No knee pain, no sore quads, nothing. I felt GREAT! I’m also doing really well with my weight lifting! I have another post coming soon about the progress I’ve made so far.

Saturday afternoon we had a dog trainer come out to the house. Her name is Kate and she’s from Cooper’s Dog Training. She was so nice and I could immediately tell that Bella liked her. The first session was 2.5 hours. It was a lot of her just observing Bella. We took her for a walk so she could see how she acts–pulling on the leash, barking at strangers, etc. Of course Bella was on her best behavior. :P But Kate got a good assessment of Bella and we went over a lot of stuff. It was a little overwhelming but I did take away a few good ideas and we have homework for this week. We’re working on “Leave It” and also on sitting and waiting during meal time until we say it’s ok for her to eat. She’s sort of getting that. I hold the dog bowl up, put food in it, tell her to “sit” and wait until she sits before lowering it to the floor. If she comes out of “sit” before I tell her to we start all over. I think she’ll get this one quickly because food is involved. :D

The best part of the weekend was the playdate Bella and I had with my friend Nicole. She brought her dog Daisy, a little papillon, to Brentwood Park . There was a great dog park there! It was all fenced and there was tons of room for the dogs to race around. Nicole has a lot of dogs and she does a lot for dog rescue (even rescued a pit bull recently). She was also our reference when we applied to adopt Bella.

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This was the first time Bella’s been to a dog park. We have such a big yard and there’s also a lot of HOA space next to our house that we haven’t felt the need. She gets tons of running around in the yard and we take her for walks. But going to the dog park was such a fun experience I want to do it again. Bella barked at new dogs that came in through the gate, but then she sniffed them and everybody was best friends.

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I was a little nervous at first but Bella did a great job. She was so happy! She raced around like a crazy dog and chased after her ball, play-wrestled with the other dogs and sniffed lots of butts.

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It was really fascinating watching the dogs play and interact with each other. It was a good lesson in learning dog body language. The dog training went over some of that with us and we also talked about “calming signals.” I saw a lot of that with Bella at the dog park. I didn’t think she’d be the aggressive dog at the park and I was right. She barked a few times but mostly she rolled onto her back and was submissive to other dogs she encountered.

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She was so stinkin’ happy! It was cute to see and it definitely improved my foul mood! Seeing her so blissful with the other dogs was too funny. She wore herself out. We played for about an hour and then said our goodbyes. She zonked out on the couch immediately!

I’m glad the weekend wasn’t a total bust. Thanks Bella!

How was your weekend?

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