Monday, September 29, 2014

Meal Plan: 9/29-10/3

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Monday: Sweet Potato, Chicken and Quinoa Soup 

Tuesday: Slow cooker beef stew w/ peas and mashed potatoes
Hubs requested this one and I HATE using canned cream soups (or any canned soups) but I do have some from my never-ending stash from before I was wise to the world of food. Best to use them than waste them. This is the meal I am sharing with my friend Lauren's family this week – we share the mindset of 'everything is okay in moderation', including canned soups :)
Wednesday: Leftovers (My office day)
Thursday: Quesadillas
I love having cheater nights of something so simple for dinner. Some families make breakfast for dinner, we make quesadillas when we want to be lazy and eat comfort food.
Friday: Whole roasted lemon-herb chicken, roasted parmesan broccoli, pasta. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Meal Plan: Sept 22-26

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I know, I know. TWO blog posts in one day. WHAT has gotten into me!? Well, I've been wanting to post my meal plan every week since I make one and thought maybe someone here could benefit from it! And if not? That's okay too. I love sharing regardless.

Most recipes I make can be found either in the "Recipes We'd Like to Try" board on my Pinterest page or the "Keeper Recipes" board. Otherwise it's just random stuff I make regularly. If something sounds tasty and doesn't have a link, please comment below and I will update the post with instructions!

Monday: Chicken Florentine Casserole (Keeper Recipes)

Tuesday: Baked chicken tenders, siracha orange green beans, roasted red potatoes. Update: The green beans were moved to my 'keeper' board because Hubs LOVED them. I will definitely keep them in the rotation for him, but they were slightly too spicy for me and way too spicy for LW. 

Wednesday: Every other Wednesday my friend makes us dinner, and every other Thursday I make her family dinner, so one night a week we each get the night 'off' but still get a home-cooked meal in our bellies! It works so well, I love it! This week she's making us baked ravioli. YUM. 

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Oven tacos  Update: From now on I will follow this recipe for the filling, but skip the baking process entirely. The filling is sinfully delicious and the baking just made the shells chewy....freezing and thawing made them downright soggy. Still satisfying but kind of a bummer this time around. 

Some Notes on Me Lately

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Hi! I've been so busy lately I haven't been able to fill you in on much via blog - however I have been posting little nuggets on Instagram, so follow me there to stay in the loop! Here are some notes on my life lately:

I feel more at home in the new house than I have ever felt anywhere but my childhood home – actually, I feel more at home here now than I do at my childhood home. Maybe because Hubs grew up here and knows every finicky light switch, every creak in the floor and every stubborn door knob but maybe just because we know this is it. We've reached our final 'landing' place and we couldn't be happier. I absolutely love our new home.
Working full time from home with a toddler is hard. Like....HARD. But, every day I seem to find new tricks to make it a little better (like hiding grapes around the kitchen so I can work and he stays off my keyboard!). Toddlers are delicate because one day they hate watching TV, the next they will sit and watch a whole show. One day they love playing blocks and will stack/knock them down for an hour, the next they think blocks are stupid and cry if you suggest them to play with. I'm constantly changing and evolving as a mom just like LW is constantly changing and evolving as a boy! 
I have taken time for myself a lot lately because I have learned I really need it. One way is by putting new Jamberry Nails on every week. Last week I sported Midnight Celebration and this week I'm sporting Alphabet over Deep Sea (both discontinued). I feel so girly and fun when I have cute nails! It's like they belong on Pinterest all the time. I also got a massage this weekend. Whoa. 
Slowly but surely, Hubs and I have started to acquire pieces that will make this house 'our' style. For the first time ever we have matching bedside tables. I can't even begin to say how exciting THAT purchase was! Plus, at the same garage sale we scored a vintage, ornamental mirror for our entryway and a super cute bench for LW to sit at in our bedroom and look out the window, one of his favorite past times. I thought the blue color in the Greek key pattern on the bench would be close to the blue on our walls and it is nearly the exact shade. All four of these items (two tables, mirror and bench) were $40. We win! 
Oh, and window treatments!!! I scoured Bed, Bath & Beyond this weekend and came up with a winning combination that won't break the bank. I found the rod ($6) and valance ($4 on clearance) plus bought a set of honeycomb cordless blinds that are regularly $39.99 on clearance for $16.99 and I used a $5 coupon....That would mean I just dressed that whole window for roughly $22. Bang. I'll post another pic once Hubs hangs the blinds and when I know the size works, I will be going back to buy them hopefully for the all other windows we need blinds on! I knew I was hoarding those $5 coupons for a reason. 

As more pieces of the home come together, I will share more photos. For now...don't hold your breath for a "home tour" like the one on the old house because I just don't know if we will ever be "done" decorating this house! 

And, if any of you are in the Chicagoland area or know someone house hunting in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago....please SHARE OUR HOUSE THAT IS FOR SALE. THAT is the real home-tour to see ;) 

In the coming weeks I hope to at least decorate the front of our home with festive fall items. Bales of straw, pumpkins, gourds, mums and the like. I follow John Colaneri on Instagram and not only do I want every beautiful accent in his home to be in my home, this weekend he and his wife decorated their front steps. Swoon! 
Here are a few other front steps that I love for fall...Happy Decorating! 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Taking Stock

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The move put me into a spiral and more than several times a day I say out loud, "I am actually losing my mind...no. I am. This time I am losing it." Which is typically out loud only to myself, or to Princess. She always gazes back in understanding. 

Along Abbey Road just shared this wonderful piece and it instantly inspired me to do the same. I have so many things going on that I don't even know where or what to share with you. So here it is. I'm taking stock (since I was just making stock. ha! ha! HA!!) 

Making: Ring slings..my last two. Forever. (okay, until I have a pregnant friend in need of one)
Cooking: Fall-y things. Stocks, squash, roasting things, chili. 
Drinking: Tea. I've been into spicy teas lately. Orange spice and chai. 
Reading: Nothing. I've been craving to read for weeks - maybe months now. I started The Fault In Our Stars for a second time and got about 70 pages in in one night....and haven't picked it back up because I feel like by the time my behind hits the couch I'm mentally tuned out. Bill holds whole conversations with himself and I am just sucked into the black hole that is my iPhone. Someone needs to take that thing away from me. It's a problem.  
Wanting: Our house to sell. We're living in the new one, but the old one hasn't sold and it's starting to weigh on me (and it hasn't even been a week). 
Looking: For everything. Like Abbey says, there is a black hole following her... There is one following me too. I was in such a stressed tizzy through the pack up/move out phase that I don't know where I packed, moved or unpacked certain things. It's like all of moving was an out-of-body experience for me. I'm exhausted from constantly wondering which house to drive to or where do I store the oatmeal now. 
Playing: A lot of Amazon Prime Playlists. Specifically, "Classical for Yoga", "Indie Pop Commute" (Carried Away by Passion Pit is my current jam) and obviously the instrumental tracks from Frozen. I may or may not have listened to Vuelie (feat. Cantus) on repeat today. 
Wasting: so much time LOOKING FOR STUFF. Ugh. 
Sewing: ring slings! And hopefully little boy cloth diaper pants soon. My goal is to wrap my head around garment sewing, starting with tiny pants for my tiny dude. 
Wishing: I had a doughnut. 
Enjoying: Quiet work time during naps lately when it's just me, my music, my tea and Illustrator. Mmm. It feels good to design again sometimes. 
Waiting: For an answer. 
Liking: Our new neighborhood. It's mostly old people, but they are SO happy to have a young family around. Everyone goes out of their way to wave or stop by to say hello. It's so adorable.
Wondering: If music class next week will be better. Tonight Billy started the next level up in Kindermusik and most of the other kids are way older. I miss our baby class :( 
Loving: That I can wear scarves and boots again. Not even mid-September but I will take it!!
Considering: Making pumpkin pancakes for breakfast. Because Fall. 
Hoping: I fall instantly asleep and when I open my eyes, it's morning. Those nights of sleep are the best. 
Marveling: at how Princess learned her Invisible Fence so quickly. It seemed so grim and then she just learned! So quickly. 
Needing: to go to bed. It's freakin' LATE.
Smelling: Leftovers that we still haven't put away from dinner. Ham and roasted butternut squash w/ cinnamon and nutmeg. 
Wearing: Jammies.
Following: TheBabyGuyNYC a lot lately. The ABC Kids Expo roped me in pretty hard. I am in zero need of baby stuff and here I am, stalking it. I just can't get enough sometimes.
Noticing: I spend too much money on pointless things. Time to cut back. 
Knowing: Tomorrow is another day. It all starts over, fresh and new. A whole new day to explore, adventure, accomplish and produce greatness. 
Thinking: That seems ambitious. ^^
Buying: NOTHING! Time to cut back. Christmas will be here before we know it. 
Feeling: Unsure. I don't even know about what...THAT is how unsure I am. 
Bookmarking: Squash recipes. I just want to eat all the squash. Ever. 
Opening: every drawer and cabinet in search of something I still can't find. Dang. 
Giggling: At Billy answering every question with an honest, "No." and head shake lately. Kid cracks me up. 


So, that's where I am lately. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pressure Cooker Chicken Stock

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This weekend LW had the flu (or something foul) so it left me stuck at home with him. Thankfully, Hubs and I traded off who was "on duty" and I was able to get some pretty fun things done!

Saturday afternoon I made mini chocolate chip zucchini muffins, roasted beets (Hubs did these), apple sauce and chicken stock! I also sewed a little bit on Sunday afternoon and made "use as many veggies as possible in this pasta" salad.

Now, how do I make this chicken stock, you ask? Lucky for you, I'm going to share my stocky ways. Really, it's laughably simple. Here's what I do:

  • Start by labeling a freezer bag "STOCK". 
  • As your veggies are flirting with the idea of going bad and you know you won't get to use them in time, pop them in the bag and keep it in the freezer. When you cook chicken, save the bones and fat, put it in the freezer bag with the veggies. The veggies I use are: celery, onions, carrots, green onions. 
  • When the bag is full, make stock by:
    • Placing all bag contents in your pressure cooker and filling cooker with water to the "MAX" line. 
    • Add a few sprigs of thyme and parsley from your garden as well as a few bay leaves. 
    • Bring pot to boil with lid OFF and burner heat on HIGH. 
    • Once water is boiling, put on pressure cooker lid and lock into place. 
    • When pressure is reached, set timer for 60 min and turn burner heat to LOW.
    • At 60min turn burner OFF and release pressure. Let stock cool on stove. 
When my stock is cool, I strain it and put it into bowls and place it in the fridge overnight. 

The following day, I use a slotted spoon and skim the gelatin off the top of the stock. Sometimes, I will also pour the stock through cheese cloth if I have stubborn gelatin that won't follow the spoon. 

Next, I pour my chilled stock into ice cube trays and freeze. 
I do this in batches since I only have four ice cube trays. Once each round of trays is frozen, I pop the stock out and into a freezer bag. For me, approximately 3 cubes equal 1/2C. 
Now, when I need to make quinoa or anything with chicken stock, I have a ton of it waiting for me, and all I used to make it was chicken scraps and nearly spoiled veggies! Things I would have ended up throwing away or composting becomes soups, stews, side dishes and sauces with minimal effort. 

If you don't have a pressure cooker, I own a Fagor 8qt Pressure Cooker and absolutely love it. It's not too early to ask Santa! Happy stock-ing (get it, the pun? Stocking? Santa? Maybe too soon...)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

We Moved!

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Oftentimes in this life I have to pinch myself to remember that this is real, even though it feels like I'm living a dream.

This weekend, Hubs and I moved into our dream house. It's the house Bill grew up in and as long as we've been together, we've dreamt of buying it and living in it forever.

So all those home renovations we took care of at the other house? Yeah, it was to sell it :) I'm sneaky that way. And no, sadly we did not complete a "Grocery Challenge" with this move. Having a toddler that requires fresh fruits and veggies prevented that!

Praying for a quick sale on the other house and a lifetime of happiness in our new one!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Freezing Our Garden Tomatoes

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Last week Billy (aka: LW [Little Wiliam]) got to spend the night at Nana's house which left Hubs and I childless for a whole night! Oh the possibilities. We relived our first date - sushi and ice cream. Feeling extra romantic, naturally we spent the rest of the evening....FREEZING OUR TOMATOES.

Haha. Gotcha. You thought I was going to be inappropriate.
In all seriousness, our garden has EXPLODED with veggies this year - it's been amazing! I knew we wouldn't be able to eat all of the tomatoes before they spoiled but didn't want to put the effort into canning this year so I opted to freeze them. Here's how I did it:

Start by boiling a big@ss pot of water - I used my "Super Pot" aka slow cooker. It boils water pretty quickly.

Then, I scored the bottom of all of the tomatoes with an X and dropped them into the boiling water for 10-15 seconds.

From there, they immediately went into the ice bath and were strained.
 Bill then peeled and cored all tomatoes and handed them back to me.

I chopped them up and weighed them all – each freezer bag was filled with 28oz of tomatoes. The perfect amount for a batch of chili :)
 
Then ta-da! They were done and ready for the freezer in about 20 minutes.
My mistake was freezing them wherever they fit in the freezer. I wish I had thought to lay them flat on a half sheet pan first to freeze them flat – it would have made storing them much easier. Now they're all awkwardly shaped and will be difficult to store. Luckily, chili season is nearly upon us!

How do you make the most of your garden veggies?