31 July 2014

To Everything There is a Season

Hi all,

I won't even bother with my usual excuses for having been away from the blog this last little while. They're pretty tired out, those excuses are, and besides, there's one really good reason behind my absence that has put things into perspective and allowed me to make some decisions recently that are both sad and exciting at the same time.

I know many of you will totally get it when I say that lately I've been battling a sort of blog ennui. If I'm honest, it's been a struggle for a couple of years now to define who I am as a blogger and what Money Pit Love really is. What began as a practical forum to share stories with family (and who I'm not sure even read the blog anyway!) became a labour of love, then one of nearly unlimited fun, and then one immersed in an epic identity crisis.

MPL has been limping along ever since, being less a creative outlet than an ill-fitting suit. I struggle with the self-imposed parameters of MPL. I feel like the brand itself is suffocating in response to my internal pressure to remain true to it.

Because the truth is: I'm not a brand. I'm a person, and what I want to represent is my life, not a product.

The fact is, I'm changing. Money Pit Love still feels to me like the 'little blog that could', chatting about my renovations (in the old Money Pit), design and d├ęcor. Now, those interests represent only a small part of me. There is so much more I'd like to explore, share, and discuss, and much of it feels inappropriate for this blog.

The bottom line is, I've decided to close up shop here at MPL. This will be my last post here, though the site will remain live. There are a lot of links out there in the internet that lead back this blog, and nothing frustrates me more than when something interests me and I click to a dead link. KILLS ME. So I won't do that. Just... no more posts here, and an invitation to join me over at my new venture, Life of Plenty.

Life of Plenty is where I'll be hanging my blogger hat from this day forward. I hope the amazing friends I've made through MPL - all of you, out there - will make the transition with me, too. What I write about will remain largely the same - lots of food, lots of kid stuff, lots of life stuff - but in a way that lets me feel free to celebrate those things as a holistic whole without worrying about how I'm being perceived or whether I'll lose my place in the YMC Community if I don't post for a week.

So, Life of Plenty. My new blog about life: all of it. Food, family, heath, parenting, design, the arts, travel, home, career, leisure.... ALL. OF. IT. I hope to see you there.

xo
April

08 July 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Tuna Pasta Salad

Let it be known that I am NOT a pasta salad kind of girl. I never have been: the very idea of noodles with salad dressing turns me right off. When I tried to eat it in the past, my throat literally closed up and said, Nope. Not going to happen. Spit it out, 'cuz it's not going down.

So when I met Daryn ages and ages ago, and he said to me, My mom makes this pasta salad with tuna and pickles and green peppers, and it's awesome. You should totally try it. I was like, Um, NO. Thank you. I'd rather eat dirt.

But I was young and totally in that stage where you do things even if you don't want to, to make the other person happy and to like you more and think you're cooler and better than any girl they've dated before you, so when he said, Seriously, try it, I was like, OK. And so I did, thinking that probably I was going to have to excuse myself immediately to deal with my throat-closing-over issues and wondering how I could keep him thinking I was cool even while I was totally failing the Mom's-Noodle-Salad-Test.

But you know what? The funniest thing happened. I LOVED IT. I ate a little bit, and then a little bit more, and then a little more after that... and then I asked for a whole bowl and ate the whole damn thing! And ASKED FOR SECONDS. Because as weird as it sounds and sort of looks, it TASTES amazing. I could literally eat this salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner (full disclosure: I have totally done this.)

Great on the beach, at a backyard barbecue or in a bowl on the couch, it's a chilled-out alternative to traditional pasta meals with all flavor-punch of a summer salad. Also, if you excuse that whole cup-of-mayonnaise thing, not terrible for you! So the next time you're looking for a filling and satisfying but not hot and heavy summertime dinner, look no further than Tuna Pasta Salad. Just chop, toss and enjoy!



TUNA PASTA SALAD
Preparation: 20 minutes + 1 hour | Cooking Time: 14-20 minutes | Serves: 6
     
Ingredients:
  • 500g whole wheat Rotini pasta
  • 3 cans light flaked tuna in water, drained
  • 1 cup dill pickles, small diced (6-12 pickles)
  • 1 cup green pepper, small diced
  • 1 cup old cheddar cheese, small diced
  • 1 cup Miracle Whip
  • 1/4 cup pickle juice
  • 3 tbsp. yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
        
Cooking Directions:
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions, until noodles are just al dente. Drain (but do not rinse); allow to cool for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and allow even cooling.
      
  2. Meanwhile, drain tuna and flake into a large mixing bowl or storage container (I use a container with a snap-on lid, to make mixing easier down the road).
      
  3. Dice green pepper, pickles and cheese. Add to tuna; stir to combine.
      
  4. When pasta is cool, add it to your tuna mixture. Toss to combine.
      
  5. To the pasta add pickle juice, mayonnaise, mustard and pepper. If you've used a mixing bowl, stir with a large spoon until the pasta is evenly coated with dressing. If you're using a sealable container, snap the lid on and shake like crazy until the dressing is evenly distributed.
      
  6. Taste-test for preference; add more mayo, pickle juice and/or mustard as desired. Chill for at least one hour prior to serving. Can be served cold-cold, or slightly cooler than room temperature. Either way is delicious!
  
If you want to make your salad even more pickle-y you can add 3 or 4 spoonful's of Bick's Dill Bits relish in addition to the chopped pickles. It gives it a little extra "oomph" in the tartness department, which I think is awesome. Otherwise, it's perfect just as it is!


NOTES | EASY, KID-FRIENDLY (depending on the kid)

01 July 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Bruschetta Pasta + Goat Cheese & Fresh Basil

Happy Canada Day, peeps!

What better Foodie Tuesday dish to celebrate Canada's birthday than a festive red-and-white one? I can't think of any (except maybe cupcakes, but we're trying to keep it healthy around here at the Pit so you know... not those.)

Even better than a better-than red and white dish? One that's super easy to make, and can be served at room temperature. It's a perfect (perfect!) cottage weekend dinner.



BRUSCHETTA PASTA + GOAT CHEESE & FRESH BASIL
Preparation: 20 minutes | Cooking Time: 20 minutes | Serves: 6
      
Ingredients:
  • 10 firm plum tomatoes, medium diced
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely diced
  • 6 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. + 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2-4 oz. plain goat cheese, crumbled (or, however much you like)
  • 6 cups whole wheat rigatoni, uncooked
  • 1/2 to 1 cup fresh basil, chopped
 
Cooking Directions:
  1. Cook pasta according to directions, until al dente (tender-firm). Drain well, but don't rinse with water. Set aside.
      
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine tomatoes, onion, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, mustard, chili flakes, salt and pepper. Whisk to blend well.
      
  3. Add pasta to mixing bowl; toss to coat evenly. Add basil and give it another stir.
      
  4. Top with crumbled goat cheese (to taste) and serve at room temperature.
         
I often make the tomato mixture a few hours ahead of time, and let it marinate until it's time for dinner. The tomatoes absorb the other ingredients and intensify the flavours.

Be forewarned: this is a very romantic meal only insomuch as the garlic and raw onion will drive everyone away who's not eating it with you. Don't expect to get all lovey-dovey with your leading man (or lady) unless he or she is eating it right along with you.

Otherwise this dish tastes like a million bucks, and looks equally as festive. A more Canadian-looking dish I've never cooked!

So hap-hap-happy Canada Day, folks! Enjoy the festivities; however you might be celebrating, be safe and eat well.

NOTES: EASY
   
     
{gently adapted from The Art of Living Well cookbook by Rose Reisman}

30 June 2014

Speaking My Language

A friend of mine recently posted a link to an Entertainment Weekly article that I couldn't not click: The 55 Essential Movies Kids Must Experience (Before They Turn 13.)

I can't remember a time when my day-to-day dialogue wasn't riddled with pop culture references. When the well-timed insertion of a movie quote into conversation didn't have the effect of creating instant and universal understanding - and sometimes the ties of lasting friendship - between participants.

It's even fair to say that at my advanced age (38), I've been employing certain turns of phrase for so long, I've forgotten where they originated. They're so fully integrated in my vernacular I can't even tell when or where I adopted them.

So this list caught my eye and I gotta tell you: it's pretty terrific. Very comprehensive. And almost completely bang on.

I won't give you the whole list - you can find it here - but it inspired me to write my own list: the most important contributors to April-speak. Really, the ones you need to fully know (and maybe memorize) to truly 'get' me.

Author's note: the list is pretty kid-friendly, but not 100%. Overall? I'd say PG-13.

The Essentials of April-Speak:
  1. The Princess Bride
  2. Star Wars collection
  3. Zombieland
  4. Harry Potter (books AND movies)
  5. The Colbert Report
  6. Se7en
  7. Fairly Odd Parents
  8. Get Smart (Steve Carrell version)
  9. The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
  10. Transylvania 6-5000
  11. Phineas & Ferb
  12. The Muppet Show
  13. Monty Python & The Holy Grail
  14. Monty Python & The Meaning of Life
  15. Office Space
  16. Robot Chicken
  17. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
  18. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
  19. Friends
  20. Family Guy
  21. The Far Side
  22. Wedding Crashers
  23. The Walking Dead
  24. Dirty Dancing
  25. Ron Swanson (I would say 'Parks and Recreation' but really, it's just Ron.)
  26. So I Married an Axe Murderer
  27. The Matrix
  28. The Long Kiss Goodnight
  29. Chicken Run
  30. The Crow
  31. Babe
  32. Blade Trilogy
  33. Modern Family
  34. Grosse Point Blank
  35. Animaniacs
What about you? What pop culture references pop up most often in your conversation? What's on your list?
   

17 June 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Strawberry Shortcake

The strawberries are here! The strawberries are here!!!

Dudes, did you hear? The strawberries are here.

Living in Canada, in Ontario, in the suburbs, we can't really say the summer has started without an obligatory strawberry-picking excursion to a local farm. For us it's a mostly annual tradition: 40 minutes of picking berries under a gruelling hot sun, then an equal amount of time standing in line to pay premium prices for the berries you just picked yourself, and then home to make yourself sick eating all the berries in one go that you just paid a mint for. It's awesome.

If you're feeling adventurous, though, those berries can be more than just a bowl-full with milk and sugar. You can make all kinds of strawberry things: strawberry jam, strawberry compote, strawberry ice cream, dried strawberries and my favourite, strawberry shortcake.

Warning: my strawberry shortcake is no beauty queen. Don't serve this to people you want to impress, like a co-op board you're petitioning, or your future mother-in-law. Everybody else is fair game, though, and they'll thank you for it.



STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
Preparation: 1 hour | Cooking Time: 20 minutes | Serves: 8
    
Ingredients:
Sponge cake
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
    
Ingredients:

Strawberries

  • 3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup fresh (small) strawberries, hulled but whole
 
Ingredients:
Whipped cream
  • 500 mL (roughly 2 cups) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  
Cooking Directions:
  1. Wash and hull all your strawberries. Set aside 1 cup of small berries for the top; slice the rest into thin slices. Toss the sliced berries in a bowl with lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Set aside.
      
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9" round baking pans lightly with canola oil and set aside.
      
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
      
  4. In a larger mixing bowl, combine melted butter and sugar. Beat together with a handheld mixture on medium speed, for 2-3 minutes until it becomes "crumbly." Beat in eggs one at a time until thoroughly combined, then beat in vanilla.
      
  5. Add the flour mixture in three parts and the milk in two, alternating between the two (starting and ending with flour.) Beat on low until each portion is thoroughly combined with the butter/sugar/egg mixture.
      
  6. Divide the batter between the two greased pans, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon or spatula to make it an even thickness (you want it as flat as possible). Place in the pre-heated oven on the middle rack for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes away clean. Remove from oven. Cool 15-20 on the counter before turning out on baking racks. Cool a further 45 minutes.
      
  7. Meanwhile, in a large chilled mixing bowl, combine whipping cream, sugar and vanilla. Beat with a handheld mixer on high until it has thickened and doubled in volume. Reduce speed to medium and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
      
  8. Place one layer of sponge cake on a cake stand (preferably one with a raised edge, since it's a messy cake with potential for spillage). Spread half the whipped cream over the top, leaving a half inch around the edge of the cake. Smooth the top of the cream, then make a shallow divot into the middle (so the berries will pool, rather than spill.)
      
    Next, stir the berries then spread all three cups of sliced berries over the whipped cream. THERE WILL BE SPILLAGE. It can't be avoided.
       
    Place the second layer of sponge cake on top of the berries. Spread the remaining half of the whipped cream on top, all the way to the edges. Top with the cup of whole, small strawberries - I apply them "by hand" in that I scoop up a handful and drop them on top. But you can be more artsy if you like. 

Like I said: NOT a beauty queen. But she wins the taste test every time.


NOTES | SEASONAL, KID-FRIENDLY