My Convertible Life

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday's 5: Holiday Recipes

One of the downsides of actually learning to cook (and doing it regularly) is that you're bound to make some stuff that tastes bad now and then. This week I got a little too adventurous and tried to make pumpkin quinoa pancakes (see photo) -- the muffins are so good, I though it would work.

As it turns out, not so much. They weren't awful, just not very good -- not worth the effort.

But at least I'm trying. And blessings on my sweet husband who eats whatever I make with a smile. My kids? Well, not always.

Anyway, December is the season of cooking, with holiday meals, parties and treats at every turn. So here are links to five recipes that might be useful for some of those dinners plus a bonus recipe for a treat:
  • Kale with cranberries: I know some of you are kale-haters, but I promise you this one is easy to make and delicious to eat.
  • Brussels sprouts and carrots: A simple recipe combined with a grammar lesson -- what more could a nerdy cook ask for?
  • Pumpkin soup: This one works just as well with butternut squash or other similar veg. Delicious as a starter course or a lunch option.
  • Butternut squash with cumin couscous: Like the soup recipe, this is another that makes great leftovers for taking hot lunch to the office.
  • Lasagna: The official title of this recipe was "The Best Lasagna" and they're totally not kidding. You'll want to make an extra for the freezer.
  • Marbled chocolate treats: Perfect for cookie exchanges, teacher gifts or your own holiday dessert.
When you're done cooking, let me know and I'll be right over for a taste. Or maybe just leave us a link in the comments with your favorite holiday recipe to share.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Let Them Eat Pizza (with a gift card!)

Meal planning doesn't happen as religiously around here as it used to -- but I'm trying to get back into the habit. With or without a plan, we still probably eat pizza about once a week, or at least every other week.

So when the local marketing team for Papa Murphy's Pizza asked me if I'd like a gift card to try out their pizza, I was happy to accept. They recently opened a store in Raleigh that's near Cameron Village, so we stopped by last week on our way home from the library.
Papa Murphy's has a little video so you can see for yourself, but it's sort of like Subway for pizza except that you take the pizza home to bake it. They have some signature combinations that you can choose from or you can pick your toppings -- then they assemble the whole thing fresh in front of you. The nice part of that for us was getting the half-and-half arrangement required to keep both kids and grown-ups happy.
When they assemble your pizza, they build it on this paper plate that can somehow magically go straight into the oven -- if you're keeping track, that's one less pizza pan to wash after dinner. My only fear was that the family size pizza almost didn't fit in my oven (see photo), but it turned out fine.
As it turns out, the family size is enough for my family at dinner (four of us, served with a salad) and lunch again the next day (for two of us). Tasty pizza, made fresh, served hot out of the oven -- all in all, a successful dinner.

And now, thanks to the lovely Papa Murphy's team, YOU TOO can walk into the store, whip out your gift card and take home dinner -- if you enter to win here. I'll even throw in a spiffy PM water bottle and coffee travel cup (now you're REALLY excited, I can tell). It's just what you need to take a break from all the holiday turkey coming up.

Because we don't do a lot of giveaways over here at My Convertible Life, I'm going to keep it simple. First go to the Papa Murphy's website to be sure you can get to a store nearby -- and while you're there take a look at the other menu items, like cookie dough, salads, lasagna, cookie dough, bread sticks, cookie dough. Then just leave me a comment below with your email address and/or Twitter handle so I can get in touch with you if you win. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012.

It's that easy. Just like bringing home the pizza.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Recipe: Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

Quinoa. Also known as "keen-wah."

It's one of those foods I felt like I was supposed to be eating, but then the healthy breakfast recipe I made with it was so disgusting that it made my kitchen stink and I actually took the stuff outside to the garbage can. And then I was left with this open bag of organic quinoa that I couldn't bring myself to toss because it was so expensive.

Twitter and Pinterest to the rescue, of course. Unfortunately I no longer remember which person tweeted the link to this recipe from Once a Month Mom, but it is awesome. Seriously.

Click the link for the complete original recipe, but here are my notes and adaptations. My kids and husband go through these so fast, that it's almost not worth making them without doubling the recipe...


  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (I've found that if you cook 1/2 cup of dry quinoa in 1 cup of water, you get a generous 1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa, which works fine.)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups pureed pumpkin (This is about what a can of pureed pumpkin contains, so by doubling the recipe you don't have that half a can of pumpkin sitting in the fridge.)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips (They taste just fine without the chocolate chips. But because my children fight over things like who got the muffin with more chocolate chips in it, I found it was easier to put a scoop of muffin mix in the paper liner first, then place 5 chocolate chips in each one, then another scoop of mix on top. Yes, that's what my life has become.)

The original recipe is for 12 muffins, but I can usually get 18 out of it -- meaning that the doubled recipe gets me 36 muffins. If you prefer to make big heaping muffins, then maybe you'll only get 24. Also, she suggests freezing them and microwaving for breakfast, but they've never lasted long enough at my  house to get all the way to the freezer so I can't vouch for that step.

When you make these, let me know. I'll be over with hot tea for both of us.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Where I attempt to write a post about politics that doesn't offend (too many) people

On Tuesday, I'll be voting for Barack Obama. I can tell by the silence that you're not the least bit surprised.

That's part of why I've been largely absent from Facebook for the past several weeks, except for my Instagram feed and today's shoutout to my amazing husband who ran a half-marathon in under two hours (woot woot!).

But otherwise, I've been intentionally avoiding Facebook for two reasons:

  1. I don't want to read all the nastiness that people spew about the candidates they don't like. It doesn't matter what side you're on, I just can't stand the ugly. Not surprisingly, I get more worked up when people are posting lies and absurdities about candidates I support -- but I really can't stand any of it. Cheer for your team, but don't trash the opposition. I'm only on Facebook to see pictures of your kids anyway.
  2. I never know when something I post that's related to politics will offend someone else. After the Democratic National Convention, I shared an image of Michelle Obama from a friend's page that I just thought was cool. Turned out that one of my relatives thought it was blasphemous. Oops. Whatever she saw was the total opposite of what I saw, but in her eyes I guess I was just as bad as those referenced in #1 above.
I knew it was time for me to stop engaging in election-related banter when my 80-year-old uncle forwarded an insulting joke about President Obama (and his supporters) to me a couple months ago. I don't know why he sent it because I assume he knows we don't share political views, but he did and it was really stupid and I completely over-reacted by sending him a terse email lecture in reply. Haven't heard from him since because he's probably still laughing too hard at how uppity I got.

At that point I decided I'd do my best to keep my political opinions to myself unless asked for them. Or unless I'm on Twitter and watching the presidential debates, in which case the filters are off but you really don't have to follow me until the mess is over.

So now I'm about to break my rule two days before the election -- but not about the presidential race. I don't believe anything I write about Obama will make you vote for him anymore than putting his campaign in my yard will cause you to suddenly change your mind. (If you are on the fence, I encourage you to read this piece from The New Yorker.)

But I do think the two signs I have posted in my yard might make a difference because they're for local races. In case you live in Wake County and you're still reading my ramblings, here's my two cents:
  1. Vote Caroline Sullivan for Wake County Commissioner. She's smart and she gets it. And if elected, she'd be only member of the Board of Commissioners who has children in the Wake County Public School System (they're in middle school). Given the important role that the Commissioners play in providing local funding for public schools, I'd say that's a significant qualification. (You should also vote to re-elect Betty Lou Ward.)
  2. Vote Sig Hutchinson for NC Senate. Somehow I got on the GOP mailing list, so I've been getting pummeled with outrageous mailings about how Sig Hutchinson has been raising my taxes. That's pretty impressive given that he hasn't held any office that would give him taxing authority. I know Sig from his great efforts over the years to expand our greenways and public parks. I trust that he'll bring a vision for Wake County and for NC that matches mine -- one that focuses more on quality of life for the state's residents.
If that's not enough opinion-sharing for you, just let me know -- more than happy to overshare and give you all sorts of lectures about why you should vote for Beth Wood (state auditor), June Atkinson (state superintendent of public instruction) and Sam Ervin (NC Supreme Court). But I don't think I can write about those without violating item #1 at the top of the post. So we'll just leave it at that.

Happy voting, y'all.