Sunday, October 1, 2017

Maryland and DC 2017

Waaaaayyyyy back in August, we made a trip to Frederick, Maryland.  Jason was headed there for work so the kids and I tagged along too.  We took this same trip last year - I love it because I have so many great memories in MD from when we lived there part time back when Redmond was a baby.  The kids love it because we live in a hotel with a pool for a week :)

To kick off our trip, we went to Jason's company's summer picnic.  They are always so fun with lots of activities to keep the kids busy.  The had face painting, a photo booth, and these hilarious inflatable horses to bounce around on.

     

Once the picnic was over, it was time for the after party.  Jason's boss hosts this every year complete with fresh crab and homemade fries.  The fries are aaaaamazing!!  I, of course, passed on the crab, but Jason dug right in!


Also, just look at this gorgeous view and sunset taken at the party.  Total view envy going on!!


Not long after the sun set, we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep.  We had a BIG day coming up in the morning!

In Kindergarten last year, Redmond learned about presidents, the White House, and Washington DC.  He talked about it all year - specifically the White House.  We decided that this trip would be the perfect opportunity to take the kids to DC.  First stop?  The White House of course!


My sister, her family, and my niece who was staying with her for a couple weeks drove to meet us and walk around DC with us.  Love this picture of all the cousins together at the WWII Memorial.


We saw a few of the main attractions - The Washington Monument, The Smithsonian, the WWII Memorial, and everything in between. 


We did a lot of walking.  According to my Fitbit, we clocked in approximately 8 miles!  The kids did awesome, but gladly accepted piggyback rides from their older cousins (and us) at any point.


After lunch, we made one more stop.  My brother-in-law told us about the old Post Office and how it offers the best views of DC.  So, we trekked a few blocks over and, after a hilarious trial and error adventure of trying to figure out how to get to the top (it involved us looking like complete fools in the Trump hotel...), we finally made it.  And, he was right - the views were awesome!


It was hard to get a good, clear picture due to all of the screens/bars over the windows, but I was able to get a few.

     


After that, it was time to head back to MD.  We said our goodbyes to my family and headed to the Metro station.  Yes - we rode the Metro to/from DC!  It turned into much more of an adventure than we had planned due to a large chunk of the Metro being shut down for repairs.  So, each way we ended up riding the train, getting on a huge accordion-style city bus, then back on the train.  It was pretty cool to have the kids get a true big city transportation experience.


We finally made it back to our car and we were no more than out of the Metro parking lot before this happened:

     

What a great, exhausting day!!

The next day was Monday and Jason had to head to work :(  So, the kids and I went to one of my favorite places in Frederick - Baker Park. 

     

The kids got bored playing at the park pretty quickly, so I decided we'd go for a walk instead.  I wanted to show them this cute little covered bridge about a half mile away.  I used to push Redmond in a stroller on this path seven(!!!) years ago.

     


I didn't take a whole lot of photos the rest of the week, but it pretty much consisted of swimming, eating, playing, and the occasional donut and ice cream :)

     


We loaded up the car Friday morning and headed on our next adventure.  We decided to stay the night in Pittsburgh.  The first stop once we got there was the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.  Oh my gosh, y'all.  This place was amazing!!!!!  I seriously can not put into words how incredible this museum is.  Nor can my photos give it justice.  So many awesome exhibits.  So much fun!

     

    

     


After the museum, we headed to our hotel to check in.  One of the reasons we wanted to stay in Pittsburgh was because they kids have never really experienced skyscrapers.  We've done lots of traveling, but had never stayed in a big city with the kids.

     

We headed out to grab some dinner (and margaritas ;) then went out to explore the city.  The kids loved all of the golden bridges.

     


We were all pretty exhausted so after we walked around, we got some dessert and headed back to the hotel.  We explored the hotel a bit then went to our room, zoned out in front of some cartoons, and went to bed. 

The next morning we grabbed some breakfast in the hotel, loaded up, and headed home.  We had a great week full of adventures and relaxation :)

~ Sara :)

Monday, July 24, 2017

Caprese Pasta Salad with Sun Dried Tomatoes

If you're on the hunt for the last pasta salad recipe you'll ever need, you've found it.  I created this recipe a few years ago and it has been the only pasta salad I make since.  I have no idea why it's taken me so long to post it on here - maybe it's because I have the recipe memorized - but it's here.  It's finally here.


It's a play on a Caprese Salad - it still has the basil, mozzarella, balsamic, and tomatoes, but the tomatoes are sun dried, I've added arugula and, isn't everything better with pasta!?!?  This is a great salad to make ahead of time - a few days before you're going to serve it, whip up the dressing, cook the pasta and store each (separately) in the fridge.  Then, toss the pasta, dressing, and other ingredients together and serve!

Also, I have a warm Caprese Pasta that Jason and I love :)

Caprese Pasta Salad with Sun Dried Tomatoes
 

Ingredients:

16 oz pasta (any shape will do, but I like to use Farfalle)
8 oz Pearl sized fresh mozzarella (you can also cut an 8oz ball into bite-sized pieces)
3-5 oz sun dried tomatoes, chopped
2-3 oz fresh arugula (about 2 large handfuls)

For the Dressing:
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp dried basil OR 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1.  Cook the pasta until al dente.  While pasta is cooking, place ingredients into a pint sized mason jar, seal tightly and shake to combine.

2.  Once pasta is cooked, strain and rinse well with cold water.  Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Refrigerate until chilled - at least 2 hours - and serve.  Enjoy!

~ Sara :)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Drunk Cherries

After receiving even more sour cherries from my mom, I was running out of ideas on what to do.  I decided to take my Tipsy Cherries up a notch and make.....well....Drunk Cherries!


Unlike my Tipsy Cherries that have just a tablespoon of liquor per jar, these cherries are swimming in nothing but liquor!  I start them the same way I start cherries when I dry them - let them macerate in sugar overnight (you can save the syrup from when you drain them for homemade Grenadine).  This gives them a bit of sweetness.  Feel free to adjust the amount of sugar to your liking. 


Drunk Cherries

Ingredients:

12 cups pitted sour cherries
1 cup sugar
Preferred liquor - Rum, Vodka, Tequila, etc.

Directions:

1.  Combine the cherries and sugar.  Mix well, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

2.  Strain cherries - saving the syrup for Grenadine - and spoon cherries into mason jars.  Tap the jar on the counter as you are filling it to ensure the cherries are packed in tight.  Pour desired liquor over cherries, seal and refrigerate.  The longer they sit, the stronger they'll be.  Enjoy!!

~ Sara :)

Tipsy Cherries

Not to be confused with my Drunk Cherries, Tipsy Cherries are a combination of simple syrup and a touch of liquor and can be canned using a hot water bath and stored outside of the refrigerator.

They are a great addition to cocktails or would make a great gift - maybe with a nice bottle of liquor??



Tipsy Cherries

Ingredients:

Pitted sour cherries
Simple Syrup (2 parts water/1 part sugar)

Per 8 oz jar:

1 tbsp liquor
1 tsp sugar (if you'd like them more tart, you can omit)

Directions:

1.  Prepare canning jars, lids, and rings.  Bring hot water batch canner to a boil.

2.  Fill jars with pitted sour cherries tapping them as you go to ensure they are packed tight and settled, leaving 1/2 inch headspace at the top.

3.  Once the jar is full, add the liquor and sugar and top off with the simple syrup.  Place the lid and ring on top and set aside.

4.  Once all jars are filled and the canner water is boiling, carefully set the jars into the boiling water.  Cover with a lid and process for 10 minutes. 

5.  Remove the jars and allow to seal.  Once the jars are sealed and at room temperature, remove the rings, label, and store.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Homemade Grenadine

This recipe is a great way to use up all of the delicious, tart juice that's leftover after making Homemade Dried Cherries.  Just simmer the leftover juice, add sugar to your liking, and voila!  Homemade grenadine!



Homemade Grenadine

Ingredients:

Leftover cherry 'syrup' (from dried cherries)
Sugar

Directions:

1.  Heat the syrup over medium heat until warm.  Taste and add sugar one tablespoon at a time until desired flavor is reached. 

2.  At this point, you can either ladle into canning jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes at a full boil.  OR, allow to cool, transfer to a jar and refrigerate.

~ Sara :)

Dried Cherries

The cherry saga continues!  After my batch of Sour Cherry Jam, I knew that I also wanted to do a batch of dried cherries too.  Working with sour cherries is time consuming due to having to pit them, but it's worth it to have these delicious nuggets preserved to enjoy until next season!  I use this cherry pitter.  My mom has multiple cherry pitters and swears by this one saying it works the best.

I have this Presto Dehydrator  and I've been super happy with it!  I've dehydrated lots of fruits like kiwi, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, etc. and I've made beef jerky for Jason in it many times, too.

This recipe is super simple - you just need cherries, sugar, and some patience ;)  The cherries do take awhile to dehydrate - 15-23 hours depending on just how dry you want them.

These do come out fairly tart.  If you want more of a sweeter end result, just up the sugar.  Once dried, we eat them by themselves, added to salads (especially in my Kale Salad!) or in homemade trail mix. 
Dried Cherries

Ingredients:

12 cups pitted sour cherries
1 cup sugar

Directions:

1.  Combine the cherries and sugar in a non-metal bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.  Strain the cherries, saving all the liquid for homemade grenadine (the liquid can be kept in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks).

      

2.  Using a slotted spoon, place the cherries in a single layer on a mesh screen for your dehydrator.  Dehydrate at 135 degrees.  Cherries will take 15-24 hours to dehydrate, depending on how dry you'd like them to be.

     

3.  Once dehydrated, store in an airtight container in your pantry.  They should stay fresh for months, but if you start noticing precipitation on the inside of the container, your cherries are holding moisture and should either be used soon, stored in the fridge, or put in the freezer for later use.

~ Sara :)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Macaroni & Cheese

If your house is anything like mine, there is a request for Mac & Cheese weekly daily.  Ashlyn would live off of m&c if we let her.  Unfortunately for her, we don't let her, but that could be because I have a hard time with self control when it comes to ooey gooey Mac & Cheese.  Especially this recipe.


This recipe is quick, easy, and I generally have everything on hand to make it.  You can make it kinda cheesy (8 oz of cheese, 1/4 cup of parmesan), or really cheesy (12 oz cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan).  We (surprise, surprise) prefer the latter.  And you know, what, I may or may not have thrown even more cheese in it a time or two....



In the winter, I bake it in the oven.  It's great baked in a glass baking dish, but even better in a cast iron pan (this is the one I bake ours in).  In the summer, I do all the prep work on the stovetop, but bake it on the grill in either CI or in a disposable (recyclable) pan.  The grill gives it a nice smoky flavor and crisps up the bottom, which I love.  This is also a great recipe to make ahead.  Get all the prep done, cover and stick in the fridge for up to 2 days before baking.  Just add about 10-15 minutes to your bake time.


Mac & Cheese
Serves 4-8

Ingredients:

16 oz pasta (any noodle will work, use whatever you've got in the pantry!)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups milk (preferably whole or 2%)
1/4 tsp dried mustard
1/4 tsp black pepper
8-12 oz shredded cheese
1/4-1/2 cup fresh parmesan, grated
Additional melted butter, olive oil, or cooking spray

Directions:

1.  Cook the pasta until slightly underdone (it will finish cooking in the sauce).  Drain, rinse thoroughly with cool water, and set aside.  Butter or oil your baking dish if needed and preheat oven or grill to 350 degrees.

2.  Melt the butter in a large saucepan (I use the same one I cook the pasta in) over medium low heat - be careful not to burn the butter.  Once melted, whisk in the flour until completely combined.  Slowly begin whisking in the milk 1/4 cup at a time being sure to whisk out any lumps.  Once all the milk is combined, add the mustard and pepper and turn the heat up to medium.  Continue whisking frequently until the sauce begins to simmer.

3.  Once the sauce begins to simmer, whisk constantly until the desired thickness is desired.  Don't let the sauce get too thick because the cheese will thicken it up by quite a bit.  You want it to be the consistency of a thin gravy.

4.  Remove the pan from the heat and add in 3/4 of the shredded cheese, reserving the rest for the top.  Stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until cheese is completely melted.  Add in the reserved pasta and stir to coat.  Transfer to baking dish and top with remaining shredded cheese and parmesan.  Bake for 20 minutes covered, remove cover and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until top is golden and sauce is bubbling.  Enjoy!!


~ Sara :)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mid-Summer Garden Update

Our garden is alive and well here at the Hayes Homestead!  We've been busy keeping up with not only the garden, but all the other hundreds of projects we have going on :)  I realized I haven't really posted a garden update in over a month so I figured I'd throw a few pictures in a blog post quick!

It's already the middle of July and harvesting has begun!  So far we've been able to harvest radishes, peas, a few cucumbers, a zucchini, and pole beans.  We just love this time of year!!!


Last weekend, we decided to pick up a couple bales of straw to see if it could help keep the weeds down in the garden.  I put it around the potatoes, cabbage, brussels sprouts, pole beans, kale, broccoli, radishes, tomatoes, and peppers:

     

           



     

I'm curious to see how well the straw keeps weeds at bay.  We left the rest of the garden as-is.  We wanted to see just how well the straw does and, well, we only had two bales!


This is our first year growing potatoes and they seem to be doing well.  The plants are growing well, no sign of flowers yet, but we're looking forward to harvesting our first potatoes this year!


We planted close to 10 cabbage starts this year, but only 3 took off.  We also have one lone brussels sprout.


Jason made this awesome teepee for our pole beans to climb.  Some of them are over 5 feet tall already!


Our tomatoes seem to be doing really well so far.  We've got quite a few plants that are already housing tiny green tomatoes!


Our pepper plants are struggling this year.  We started a total of 25 by seed and only a handful made it.  I've since replaced some with plants I bought at a local greenhouse, but even those are slow growing.  We're also having an issue with something eating the leaves off of our pepper plants, too :(


Both peas and cucumbers are doing well.  We're picking a handful of peas everyday and have gotten at least once cucumber every other day for the past week.

     

Jason recently expanded our garden by an additional 700 feet(!).  So far, we have a row of purple beans growing in there and I just planted nine more cucumbers that can grow up the corners of what used to be our gazebo on our deck.

    

Our corn was "knee high by the Fourth of July" and is mostly doing well.  It seems that a couple stalks have succumbed to worms (ew!) and the roots have become intertwined with weeds on a few others.  But, for the most part, we're hopeful for a bountiful corn harvest this fall!


We will soon have more spaghetti squash than we could ever possibly eat!  We planted four, thinking that if one or two make it, we'd be good.  Well, all four are alive and producing VERY well.  The best part?  Jason is the only one in our house that likes it.  Ha!  I see lots of Baked Spaghetti Squash in his future!

     

We only planted one zucchini plant this year, which will be PLENTY.  We've already harvested one from our plant and have many babies starting to grow.  We've also got three eggplants that, like the peppers, are taking their sweet time to grow.


We just planted pie pumpkins this year which I'm going to attempt to can once they're ripe.  I'm not exactly sure what - other than pie - I'm going to make with them, but we'll find out!


Ready to see something super cute?  Look at our watermelons!!  If you look closely by my thumbnail in the second picture, you'll see a teeny tiny watermelon starting to grow.  It's just amazing what one little, tiny seed can grow into.

     

I just harvested our garlic earlier this week!  All 40 cloves I planted back in the fall grew into bulbs.  Some are quite small, but I still call that a successful harvest!

     

Lastly, I'm excited to say that the Hayes Homestead Orchard is finally full.  We had space for one more fruit tree and I was having a hard time deciding what to fill the spot in with.  I finally settled on a nectarine tree.  We picked one up last weekend and Jason put it in the ground.


And that, my friends, is my mid-summer garden update.  This is, by far, our busiest, but most rewarding, time of the year.

~ Sara :)