Monday, October 31, 2011

Little Photo Shoot

Last week I took advantage of some nice weather and the boys being out of school.  I took them to a park and got a few pictures :)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Weekly Menu

We made a Costco run after soccer this morning and stocked up on some meat, so I'm ready to cook for awhile.  I'm kinda a meat snob and prefer organic meat, pork, and poultry, but sometimes the wallet doesn't allow for that kind of constant purchasing.  I just can't think too much about the meat (and the junk that is in it) while I eat it or I won't be able to eat it.  I've had some serious cheesy Italian cravings this pregnancy and lately have craved a big juicy filet Mignon (it's the anemia kicking in!)  Costco carries filet Mignon for an incredible deal--you just have to cut the filets yourself.  For $65 we got 16 giant (IMO) filets!  Jaime and I divided all the meat and pork up, dropped it in family size portions in to freezer bags, then stacked them up in the freezer.  Having these on hand will help in the next few weeks as we get closer (6-7 weeks!) to baby coming. ***Side note--that means Christmas is in 7 weeks.***

Saturday--Filet Mignon, shrimp, green salad, garlic mashed potatoes
Sunday--Mom's cooking for us :)
Monday--BBQ ribs in crock pot, rice, green beans and corn
Tuesday--Beef Enchiladas, Beans, green Salad
Wednesday--Loaded Baked Sweet Potato Soup
Thursday--Chicken Spaghetti via Pioneer Woman (with a few alterations to make it GF&DF)
Friday--Sausage and Spinach Frittata

Last week's Chicken Enchilada Pasta was DELICIOUS!  I definitely recommend it. The only change I made to it (aside from separating some out to keep it GF/DF) was to only add 1 can each of the enchilada sauces.  Alexander read the recipe to me as I made it and he read the part that described it as being "a symphony in the mouth."  So, while we cooked, we discussed what that meant.  When he ate his, he said that it was a symphony in his mouth too!  Everybody loved it and enjoyed it for lunch the next day.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tile Tray

I have wanted to do a tiling project for quite some time now, I just didn't know how to tile--adhesive, grout, spacers, etc.  I'd LOVE to redo my bathroom and kitchen, but I knew I couldn't start with such big projects.  I even had some less than $5 tile picked out for a small project.  Then came along Chris over at Just A Girl with just the perfect beginning small tile project!  I've had a plain wooden tray on my bathroom counter for at least a year or so now to help corral a few items that always sit on the counter.  I wanted to paint it or do something to it, I just never quite knew what and, big picture, it was a project that was low on my to do list.  However, once I saw Chris's tiled tray, I knew that that was the perfect way to begin tiling, finish that boring wooden tray, and add a pretty touch to our master bathroom.  Chris posted a pretty thorough tutorial on how to do this project and I followed it fairly closely.  
First I played with the tile on the tray, including another tray because of the different sizes.  My chosen tile didn't fit perfectly in the tray and I wasn't about to figure out how to cut tile for this little project.  After playing with it, I still couldn't decide, so I went ahead and painted both trays.  Whichever tray I ended up not using I knew would go in the girls' room with their newly painted bookcase. (Their room is slowly coming together.)
After the paint was dry and I finally decided on a tile layout with a tray, I applied the adhesive/grout mix.  This stuff is great and easy to use--a lot like spreading frosting on a cake!  It does take time to set and dry. 
Also, because I was just beginning, I didn't spend money on proper tiling tools (just like Chris).  So, to spread the adhesive stuff I cut a square of the cardboard that the tile came on.  Isn't that tile pretty?
Then the adhesive needs to be scored.  I cut notches in my piece of cardboard.
Next came the fun part of laying the tile.  While deciding on my tile arrangement, I had cut my 12x12 sheet of tile in to strips because it was arranged in an offset pattern that just wouldn't work for me since I wasn't going to be cutting tile.  Working with strips was easy.  Since I was not having to lay individual pieces of tile, I didn't have to worry about spacers and just eyeballed space between each strip.
Then, because the directions on the adhesive/grout stuff says to let it dry for 24-36 hours before using the mixture as a grout, I did.  But I couldn't resist cleaning up the edges some with a damp cloth.
After waiting the designated amount of time, I used a new square of cardboard to spread the layer of grout all over the tile and in between each one.  Again, it isn't too different from icing a cake--with sandy frosting!  (My container of adhesive/grout looks like I barely used any from it.  For just under $8 it goes a LONG way!) I couldn't resist cleaning it up some since I had some chunky pieces of grout.  However, I realized the more I tried cleaning, pieces of it would come out from between the tiles.  So, take it from me, let it dry for the 4 hours it says then wipe it down.  See below how it all came off.
See in that picture above how there's still some chalky film on the tile?  That comes off super easy later after it's dried again for 24 hours.
Here she is all wiped down and shiny on the bathroom counter.
I can hardly believe that picture is just a month shy of being 5 years old! It was taken on our 5 year anniversary.
And because I couldn't resist a little staging...
Don't be afraid to learn something new by doing just a small project.  I still don't think I'm ready to tackle redoing the shower or the kitchen backsplash, but I'm ready and excited to try a bigger project...and I've got a couple in mind!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Meet Jack

So, our pumpkins were stolen as you read last week~right? you read this little blog often, right?  I know I've got lurkers out there...anyone want to leave some comments? You'd make my day! :)  We knew that just because someone stole them, we couldn't let the kids go without carving at least 1 pumpkin this year.  Also, I'd found a handful of new pumpkin seed recipes that I REALLY wanted to try. (I did some caramelized pumpkin seeds that will likely show up here tomorrow. They were awesome!)  Well, Whole Foods had their pumpkins on sale last weekend when we did the grocery shopping.  For a mere $2.50 we picked up 1 pumpkin (I've been hoping they would do their 5 for $5 pumpkin sale again, but so far no such luck.)
So, last weekend, as planned, the kids got to enjoy the October ritual of pumpkin carving.
Cleaning Jack out
The plans

Applying the plans
Here's Jack~who has lived a life indoors to protect his safety!

Pancake Muffins

These pancake muffins are ridiculously easy, quick, and so much fun to customize!  They can be made ahead and frozen or enjoyed fresh from the oven.  I made some the night before that were gluten free and dairy free for the kiddos for breakfast in the morning.  Then in the morning I whipped up some regular ones for the hubs and myself.  I can tell you right now, these will be a regular breakfast/snack item for some time to come! :)

Basic Pancake Muffins
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt (use a little less if using regular table salt)
1 egg
3/4 c milk
1.5-2 tablespoons melted butter (could sub oil or applesauce)
Mix-Ins (see below)
Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl then add the wet ingredients and mix well.  Divide batter between muffin cups (I like using the silicone cups because the muffins pop out so easily. If you use a metal pan, don't use paper liners, just spray with oil.)  Bake at 350 for 15-17 minutes.  Depending on your mix-ins, this makes 9-12 muffins.
The list here is endless! Let your imagination and taste buds lead you :)
cooked sausage
cooked bacon
chopped apple
wheat germ
dried fruit--cherries, cranberries, blueberries, etc.
fresh berries
couple teaspoons sweetener--sugar, honey, brown sugar, agave, etc
peanut butter
chocolate chips
spices--cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, etc
herbs--basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary
chopped ham
cheese--Oooh, so many cheeses to choose from!

For gluten and dairy free
I used Silvana's all purpose GF flour mix from the Cooking For Isaiah cookbook.  You could likely use any all purpose GF flour mix, just know that they vary in flavor and texture.  Use your favorite.  For dairy free, I used almond milk and Earth Balance DF/GF/SF butter.
For the muffins I made a few nights ago, I used about a 1/3 of a pound of cooked chicken sausage and half of an apple chopped up--the kids LOVED them the next morning with some eggs.

For the more mainstream muffins I made, I used wheatgerm (couple tablespoons), chopped apples (half an apple), cinnamon (about 1 teaspoon), vanilla (1 teaspoon), walnuts (couple small handfuls), and dried cranberries (couple small handfuls).  Two of these babies along with a cappuccino and I was one happy and full mama! :)

Double your recipe and stash some in the freezer for those rushed mornings or those mornings where the kids are up and hungry and you want to stay in bed.  What? I know I'm not the only one ;)
 Inspired by this recipe.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Weekly Menu

This week we've got some crazy weather predicted.  Today 70, tomorrow about the same, Monday 86!!!! then Wednesday is 55.  Can you say, "CRAZY!"  Anyway, enough weather reporting.  When I got the new issue of Everyday Food mag in the mail this past week I got so excited.  As I flipped through it my excitement grew.  It has a section called the Grocery Bag where they have 5 easy weeknight dinner meals along with the grocery list of items needed for the meals.  I got excited because for 3 of the meals I already have pretty much everything needed. Leave a comment here and let me know if you try any of these meals and what you think of them, particularly the Tuesday and Thursday meals. Thanks!

Saturday--Steak pizzas with peppers and onions*
Sunday--Pork tenderloin with roasted fall veggies* (parsnips, onions, and brussels sprouts)
Monday--Buttercup squash pasta with bacon and sage (yes, butterCUP squash, it's a cute medium sized, colored a lot like an acorn squash squash, with a sweet flavor)
Tuesday--Chicken Enchilada Pasta  (I really hope this one tastes good.  It had several positive comments.)
Wednesday--Chicken lo mein*
Thursday--Penne with Artichokes (another new meal that I hope turns out yummy)
Friday--Caramelized chicken noodle soup A filling, hot, and healthy meal to eat before going to Trunk-or-Treat :)
*These meals are from the November 2011 issue of Everyday Food

Friday, October 21, 2011

Stolen Pumpkins

Our just right pumpkins that the kids had so much fun picking out were stolen off of our front steps!  We planned on carving them, roasting the seeds, lighting the jack-o-lanterns on Halloween to greet trick-or-treaters.  No more.  Someone's idea of a fun prank isn't so funny or appreciated.


The kids automatically said we should call the police because stealing is wrong. We don't take things that don't belong to us.  Try explaining to an 8 year old and a 5 year old that stolen pumpkins, though very important and major in their lives, has very LOW importance to the police.  We hope that the boys remember how they feel about their missing pumpkins, destroyed fence (vandalized over the summer), etc. and will think twice about their actions. Jaime is so done with this neighborhood and I have to agree. (Not that stealing and vandalism and bell ringing pranks don't occur in other neighborhoods.)  Our house seems to attract the deviants for some reason.  Is it because we are on the corner?  Is it because our kids don't go to the local school?  We don't know why.  We are frustrated.  And we want our pumpkins back--undamaged!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pumpkin Patch

We love visiting one of the local pumpkin patches every year.  I'm picky about when we go...the weather has to be right--fall weather, cool, leaves changing.  This past weekend we had PERFECT weather!  It was a cool morning, but not as cold as a couple of years ago when we needed sweaters, coats, gloves, and hats.  It was warm enough that we didn't need coats, but long pants and sleeves were great.
Our usual trip got cut a bit short because John Paul sliced his finger open and decided he didn't really feel good (he also had spent the night at Grammy Julie's and didn't sleep much).  We all did have a wonderful time though and picked out some perfect pumpkins and got to ride the tractor ride.  The only thing we missed was our trip through the corn maze.
First was the tractor ride.  The tractors pull the trailer all around the fields so the riders can spot all the perfect pumpkins.  Penelope and John Paul kept pointing them all out. "Want that one!"
Then the wagons must be chosen.  These two insisted on these wagons although Penelope couldn't decide which one she wanted to push/pull and kept trading Alexander.  He was a good big buddy and went along with all the trading with little complaining.
While Alexander and Penelope did the wagon dance, John Paul was busy dragging and pulling the biggest pumpkin he could move.  Oh, the effort! :)
Spotting another perfect one.
The wagons are filling up...
Our loot
Fun times!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Another FABULOUS Pizza

Oh my, Friday night I made another incredibly fabulous pizza!  It was a pumpkin pizza with caramelized shallots, mozzarella cheese, arugula, balsamic vinegar, and this simple pumpkin sauce.  While the pizza was cooking I thought that adding some crispy cooked bacon would be pretty tasty on there too.  Jaime said, "Well, yeah, bacon tastes great on everything!"  Next time :)
Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of the pizza making process or even one of the final baked pizza, just a quick shot of the couple of pieces that were left after Jaime and I finished eating and it turned out to not even really be worthy of putting on here.  Just trust me, this pizza is awesome!
The recipe I started with can be found here.
Pumpkin&Caramelized Shallots Pizza
1 batch bread dough** or pizza crust
6-8 shallots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 15oz can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped (or 1-2 teaspoons dried rosemary)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
kosher salt
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded*
1-2 cups arugula
Balsamic Vinegar Dressing
**if making the bread dough, make dough, let rise 1 hour, then spread it in a rectangle on a greased baking sheet, let rest about 20 minutes.
*to make it dairy free, use Daiya mozzarella cheese. to make it gluten free, you can make/buy a gluten free crust or make individual pizzas on toasted slices of GF bread (did the quick bread trick for the kiddos).
Heat oven to 450 degrees then bake pizza crust for 3-5 minutes.  While it's baking, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium to medium-low heat, add sliced shallots and stir occasionally.  The shallots will whiten some and then start browning...this is the caramelizing and tastes incredible.  Keep an eye on them and stir so that they don't burn.  This can take 15-20minutes. (Caramelizing the shallots can be done ahead of time if desired.)
In a small pot, combine pumpkin, 1 cup water, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup (I used 2 tablespoons and we decided it was a little too sweet) and rosemary.  Heat to a boil while stirring then reduce heat to simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool a bit.
Spread about half of the pumpkin sauce on the pizza crust, top with the caramelized shallots, then sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top.
Return pizza to the oven to bake for about 10-12 minutes.  Remove pizza from oven, top with the arugula.  Let cool for a couple of minutes then slice.  Drizzle some of the Balsamic Salad Dressing over individual servings and enjoy.  (Top with cooked bacon too if desired!)
It sounds like this pizza takes a long time, but the shallots don't require much hands on time so get those started then make the sauce and shred the cheese.  It comes together pretty quickly and truly is worth it!
The extra pumpkin sauce can be used on a second pizza or tastes great tossed with pasta, some blue cheese and the Balsamic Vinegar Dressing (and bacon if you have any!)  Yes, Jaime and I had this pasta for lunch yesterday :)
~Leave me a comment here on the blog and let me know what you think.~

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Balsamic Vinegar

We LOVE  balsamic vinegar here in our home.  It can be savory or sweet, drizzled on salads or over a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Because making a quick salad dressing is so simple and easy--only 3 ingredients!--I like to keep some on hand.  There are different ways to change it up or add to it, but the following recipe is what I keep ready to go in the fridge.
Balsamic Vinegar Dressing
Dijon mustard
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Mix all 3 ingredients together (an easy way to do this is place all 3 in a small jar, tighten the lid, and shake.)  Play with the ratios to get the flavor you like best.  This is something that I've never measured, but I'm guessing it's about 1 teaspoon mustard, 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and 2-3 tablespoons olive oil.
To fancify this dressing, you can finely dice some onion or shallots to add in along with different herbs.

Reduced Balsamic Vinegar
Pour some balsamic vinegar in a small pot. Stir and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  As it simmers, it will thicken and sweeten (if not sweet enough, add a small amount of sugar).  Cool and store in refrigerator.  Drizzle over ice cream and/or berries.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Weekly Menu

Well, last week's menu never made it up here...busy and relaxing weekend.  We had chicken curry (wasn't as good as last time), chili, chicken noodle soup, pizza, butternut squash pasta, and a couple of other meals.  I'm so excited for the predicted cooler temps this week.  I try not to complain about the weather, but the past couple of weeks have just been too warm for October in my opinion!  This week's menu has me excited to cook.  Once again, Pinterest has been an inspiration for several of these meals.  I love that!  I feel like Pinterest has helped me out of my cooking rut.  Thank you, Pinterest!
Saturday--Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas
Sunday--Spaghetti and meat sauce, roasted potatoes, roasted cauliflower, green salad (with crispy fried goat cheese for the hubs and me!)
Monday--Southwestern Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Tuesday--Crock pot Teriyaki Chicken, Rice, Broccoli
Wednesday--Crock pot Ravioli casserole, green salad
Thursday--Chicken Tortilla Soup
Friday--Fast French Onion Soup (made with ghee instead of butter) and Green Salad

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Halloween Decor

Typically when it comes to Autumn, I just decorate for the season.  However, yesterday the boys asked if we were going to decorate for Halloween (they still haven't begun discussing what they are going to dress up for Halloween!)  I thought, why not?!  So I hopped on the internet this morning and came across some pretty cute, easy, cheap, and simple decorations that would work for us.  Both of the decor items I created today came from this great blog, Hi Sugarplum! by Cassie.
I've been saving jars--spaghetti sauce, pepperoncini, applesauce, and another small one--for the last several weeks for a different project, but these jars are just right for this quick and festive Halloween decor.
A quick trip to the dollar store for some gauze and I was ready to go!  All you need for this project is
jars, gauze, tape, glue, googly eyes, scissors, and tea lights.
The rolls of gauze from the dollar store came in 2.5 yards/box (I used 2 boxes) and was plenty to cover my 5 jars.  Tape the end of the gauze to the top of the jar and just wrap it around and around until you get to the bottom, then cut and tape.  Use some glue to attach the eyes, let dry, then drop a tea light in the jar.
They are cute, but when they are lit up, they are even cuter! :)
And here's the mantle:
And although the boys asked for a grave (meaning cemetery with tombstones) they love the spiders and mummies.


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