Eat This: Caramelized Onion Tart

I use CookSmarts for our meal planning most of the time — it’s rare that we don’t eat a CS dinner! I definitely appreciate not having to think very hard about what we’re going to eat, Monday to Thursday, and it provides lunch leftovers more often than not. Our freezer is packed with soups, patties, and other easy to thaw lunch options for Matt and M, which means less money spent eating out and more healthy food for the family.

Fridays usually call for Friday Night Meatballs (and when they don’t, it’s because we’re doing something else that typically involves food). That leaves weekends open for anything new we want to try, or to soothe Matt’s meat and potato cravings. If I’m on cooking duty and I’m totally stuck for ideas, I’ll often search through Cooking Light’s recipes — they’re all relatively balanced, and if the low-fat ingredients give me pause I just sub in something less artificial.

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So that’s how I ended up  making this onion tart! We had a bag of onions in the pantry and pie crusts are inexpensive. I subbed in fresh rosemary instead of thyme, and used the mozzarella we already had in the fridge rather than buy Swiss. It was crazy easy to make and looked really impressive, like I had slaved over a hot stove for ages.

We had it with a green salad on the side, and it was far more filling than I expected. I took a wedge to work the next day for lunch and it was just as good, cold.

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My recommendation? Unless you’re tied to the whole ‘light’ aspect of Cooking Light, a bit more feta would be good. I couldn’t really taste it. But other than that, A+!

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Birthday Brunch – Dos and Don’ts

We hosted a little birthday brunch for me on Saturday — 27 isn’t really a big deal but we like excuses to celebrate! I landed on the brunch idea while trying to think of low-key party options. We tend to have evening parties, which used to work well when we didn’t have a toddler with a bedtime and two adults in the house who range between exhausted and mildly exhausted on any given day. A midday party meant less booze, less worry about party time smashing into the bedtime routine, and a way to make an adult party kid friendly.

It turned out really well (at least — I think it did) and I think it’s a great idea for anyone who wants a party but doesn’t want to worry about it all day long. I have a few tips for anyone else considering a birthday brunch!

Get food, but don’t go crazy.

This is probably a good idea for any party, but the ones we usually have are around dinnertime so you need more of a spread. I had too much food at the birthday brunch — six kinds of fruit, homemade granola, yogurt & parfait toppings, donut holes, cinnamon buns, chocolate sauce, and a bowl of chips Matt brought out after the fact. The pastries and fruit were enough and I ended up scooping most of the yogurt bar stuff back into its respective containers post-party (which is fine by me because I love yogurt!). Friends of ours recently did a kid’s birthday brunch and they had eggs in ham muffin cups, smoothies, and pancakes, so you can also go the savoury route!

Make your cake in advance

We failed on this one again. Matt ran out of time and energy so he got to work on the cake Saturday morning and was still at it when people showed up, so he missed part of the party. It was an awesome cake, though!

Mimosa bar — do it.

It’s a grown-up brunch, after all. We had a bottle of cheap champagne, orange punch, peach juice, and pink lemonade along with orange and lime wedges and frozen cranberries and peaches and fresh strawberries and pineapple. All of the fruit doubled as snack food except for the limes and cranberries, and the juice was a booze-free option for the little kids and people who weren’t drinking. I also had part of a bottle of white zinfandel as backup and ended up sending my brother-in-law out for another bottle of champagne — we probably didn’t need it, and 3/4 of it is sitting in my fridge right now, but it was good to have on hand just in case.

Make it a drop-in party

People came and went as they wanted, which was nice — no real formality. We didn’t put an end time on the party and once it had died down a bit it mostly turned into a family hangout.


There are tons of ideas for brunch parties online, especially on Pinterest, and you can go as fancy or simple as you’d like. We focused on food and drinks and didn’t have entertainment otherwise, and it still turned out good for all ages and fun, too. Everyone was out of the house by mid-afternoon and I cleaned up quickly, saving us from that post-party dread that comes when your party ends at midnight and you still have a messy house the next morning. There’s still a burning smell in the kitchen from a cake mishap, but that’s another story… :)

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Useful Apps: YOU

I’ve mostly stopped incessantly downloading iPhone apps, mostly because I have the iPhone with the smallest memory available and despite the fact that I store most of my photos elsewhere, it’s somehow always on the cusp of not enough memory. I made an exception to my download embargo when a friend pointed me toward YOU.

This app is connected to Jamie Oliver, who isn’t really an inspiring presence in my life or anything, but he’s a recognizable name. It’s sort of like an inspirational Instagram. The whole idea is to capture ‘micro-actions’ — essentially, photo prompts that have something to do with health and wellness. Every day there’s an Action of the Day prompt, which you fill in by taking a photo.

There are also a handful of prompts that get you started when you first sign up, and a weekly prompt. The community of people using YOU seem pretty active and engaged so far! I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll stick with forever, and I can’t see it gaining the popularity of other social media apps — it’s really targeted to a specific niche — but if you’re interested you can find me as @shayla.

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Not a Book Report: Orange is the New Black

I’ve been reading a lot more frequently now that I’m a card-carrying member of the library and have resurrected my e-reader from the dusty technology bin. That being said, I still have no idea how to approach blogging about books, and most of the things I’m reading would have been considered hot new literature… several years ago. I don’t want to return to the world of high school book reports, either. So this is Not a Book Report about Orange is the New Black.

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I read this because I’m a fan of the show, let’s just get that out of the way. I probably would not have picked it out otherwise, although as the child of law enforcement officers I have a fascination with books about prison.

This is not a book that I would call a salacious telling of true crime. It’s really all about prison, and more specifically, one woman’s experience with it. I kind of wonder what I would have gleaned from this book had I not watched the show, because although they are two different things with two different plots, there is enough similarity that I found myself picturing the show and its characters versus letting my imagination fill in the blanks. I guess that’s okay, given that this is non-fiction and if I really wanted to be accurate I could look up what the real Danbury prison is like.

Orange is the New Black, the book, has far more of a focus on prison reform than the show. I don’t think a drama about prison reform would be particularly riveting for most people so that makes sense. I’m someone who is interested in the judicial system so it was still interesting to me, but if you’re in it thinking that you’ll get TV-style plot points, you won’t. The book is more intellectual, with less focus on individual people Piper interacts with versus her own prison experience.

Bottom line — if you’re intrigued by law and order but are willing to read through the actual data and scenarios, rather than hyped up television-style drama, read this. If you prefer zany prison antics, stick to the show.

Rating: 3/5 Marbles

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The Year of Pressing Play

I’m turning 27 tomorrow. It doesn’t feel like a particularly monumental year — 27 feels like a space saved between 25 and 30. There’s nothing new or novel about 27. No special privileges afforded, no named celebrations — just another spin around the sun. Not that that’s a bad thing!

Twenty-six came in a burst of activity. It was one of our first times having a big group people over to the house, following the birth of M two months prior. We had spent a big chunk of the day at the hospital working with our lactation consultant and came home with no time to spare. Matt toiled in the kitchen for most of the party while I sat on the couch, exhausted, with my hungry baby. Twenty-six was a year of exhaustion in general and to be honest I’ve spent most of the year forgetting how old I am. I keep thinking I’m turning 28.

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Twenty-six was a year of hitting pause. We hit pause on nearly everything, in fact — housework, repairs, hobbies, employment, some levels of self-care — it all took a backseat to survival and change. When the sun came up on January 1 this year I decided it was time to press play again, and so I’ve been taking steps to better myself and cultivate joy in our lives. That isn’t to say that we’re in a constant state of happy jigs, over here, just that I’m trying to move things up a notch beyond survival, into thriving.

So 27 is the year of pressing play. It may not be a breathtaking year to celebrate — I can legally drink everywhere, I’m not afforded any new privileges or responsibilities, my car insurance remains the same — but personally, I’m hoping it’ll be a year of greatness.

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