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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pin It To Win It: Easter Edition

I know I'm not alone when I say I love Pinterest. Like, I really love Pinterest. I seriously have an unhealthy addiction to it. I find myself using it for just about everything these days. Cleaning tips...check! Recipes...check! Crafts...check! Decorating ideas...check! I really don't know what I did before Pinterest. 

In all honesty though, I find Pinterest to be a great resource for holidays. And with Easter only a few days away, I compiled some of my favorite ideas for Easter fun with little ones.

1) A Bathtub Easter Egg Hunt from Growing a Jeweled Rose
2) Bunny Hand Prints
3) Bunny Pancakes from Everything Evans
4) Bunny Craft from Raise A Boy
5) Lollipop Garden
6) Natural Easter Egg Dye from Ecocrazy Mom
7) Bunny Bottom Pretzels from  The Queen Says
8) Egg Counting from Creekside Learning
9) Bunny Money from Crafty Journal

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Want It Wednesday

I need new pots and pans and have been researching "green" cookware options. I haven't made up my mind yet on which ones to buy, but these beauties (Bialtti Aeternum) are high on my list!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Crockpot Mashed Potatoes

To go along with our faux Thanksgiving dinner the other night, I made mashed potatoes. Normally, I make them the old fashioned way....boil the potatoes, mash them, and throw in some seasoning and milk. But on Sunday, I didn't feel like spending the whole afternoon in the kitchen worrying about side dishes so I tried a crockpot version. Not only were these super easy, but they were incredibly delicious. Needless to say, I will not be making mashed potatoes the old fashioned way again. I couldn't find the original source for the recipe but I wish I could since someone deserves a lot of credit for this gem!

Crockpot Mashed Potatoes

5 lbs sierra gold potatoes or red potatoes, diced with peel
• 1 cup water
• 1 cup butter, cut into chunks
• 1 tablespoon salt, plus
• ¾  teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1 1/3  cups milk, warmed

1. Place the potatoes, water, and butter into a slow cooker.
2. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Cover, and cook on High for 4 hours.
4. Do not remove the excess water from slow cooker. This adds to the creamy texture.
5. Mash potatoes with a masher or electric beater, adding the desired amount of warm milk to achieve a creamy consistency.
6. Keep warm on low until serving.
7. Potatoes keep consistency for a couple of hours after mashing. Just keep the lid on the slow cooker and serve directly from there.

Menu Monday 3/25

Call it spring cleaning (or just plain craziness), but I've spent the last two weeks cleaning out and getting organized. No room or closet has been safe, including our freezer. Spending every second on cleaning/organizing projects left little time for cooking, so I used a lot of freezer meals (which helped us work our way through our freezer inventory). An unexpected benefit of eating freezer meals was that I found a turkey that had been hiding in the dark recesses of the freezer. I knew it would be a perfect Sunday dinner for us and that the leftovers would serve as a starting point for our meals for the rest of our week.

Sunday: Turkey
Monday: Spaghetti
Tuesday: Southwest Turkey Sandwiches
Wednesday: Potato and Turkey Lasagna *
Thursday: Italian Turkey Soup
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: No plan (we have a party to go to...yea!)

*New recipe 

I shared this menu on Weekly Menu Monday:

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Superhero Birthday Party

Growing up, birthdays were a big deal in my family and I've continued that tradition now that I have a family of my own. So when C turned three a few weeks back, there was no doubt that we would have a party for him. And given his love of all thing superheros, there was even less doubt about what the theme would be.

Since C loves all of the superheros the same, asking him to pick just one for a theme was just impossible; so we chose all of the superheros. I found an awesome invite on Etsy from MetroEvents that totally fit the bill!

Since I wasn't picking just one character, I chose to focus on vintage comic sayings. I made this wreath for the front door using two small, styrofoam wreathes and ribbon. I added the bam and pow to go with the theme.

 We have a small entryway so, this is what guests saw as they came through the front door.

I made capes for all of the kids and they doubled as decorations until everyone got there.

We typically have a dessert table set up in the dining room and that's where we sing and do cake, so I wanted something special here.

I tried to carry the theme through to the food as well. At the kids table, we had Spiderman juice boxes, goldfish, peanut butter and jelly batwiches, and Avenger pizza pockets (which hadn't gotten put out at the time of this photo).

We also had a Captain America fruit tray and Spiderman seven layer dip as "super" additions to the adult food!

Beyond the kitchen is our family room, which usually serves as the kids play areas at our parties and where we open presents.

  I planned a lot for this party and, in the end, there's nothing I would have done differently!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Want It Wednesday

It's still cold here on the East Coast, but I'm dying for warm weather. This sweater from Madewell screams Spring to me!

Fairweather Cardigan in Doubledot

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tips for Tuesday

Right after C's party, we left for Disney World. I knew from the start that we would only really have a day to eat any leftovers so I planned our party food accordingly.

We served buffalo chicken, hotdogs, and sandwiches as the main dishes. The buffalo chicken freezes well so it came down to eating the hotdogs and the sandwiches. There was no way we could figure on eating the leftovers of both (I almost always have way too much food) so I decided to change our usual sandwiches. Instead of a preassembled sandwich tray from a local deli, I opted for a lunch meat tray. We offered all the fixings and people seemed to like the chance to customize their sandwich. When the party was over, we did however have leftovers, which leads me to my tip...make sandwiches ahead of time and freeze them!!!! 

I heard people talking about this at the salon one day when I was getting my haircut and knew I had to try it. It's not that making a sandwich takes all that long, but some days are just crazy (or I'm just especially lazy) and sometimes I have too much lunch meat in the fridge and I hate to waste it. 

I was very skeptical the first time I tried this. I made a few sandwiches and the only thing that I changed was the order in which I constructed the sandwiches and the way I bagged them. Normally, I put the condiment on the bread and then the cheese followed by the meat and just throw the sandwich in a plastic bag. When freezing, I put the condiment on the cheese not on the bread (that way the bread doesn't get soggy) and wrap them in saran wrap before bagging them. After the sandwiches were made and frozen, I just had to wait for a chance to try them on my unsuspecting husband (he's such a good sport). Since he takes a sandwich every day, K is very aware of when something changes and is usually quick to point out when it's a change for the worse.  So when I first gave him a "premade" sandwich, I held my breath waiting for him to call and complain about  question the sandwich. Much to my surprise, he never called. So, I tried a frozen sandwich the next day and the day after that and the phone never rang. Finally on the fourth day, he called and asked why I had started to plastic wrap his sandwiches....this was a great way to find out that there was no discernible difference between a fresh sandwich and a frozen sandwich!

Since my initial test, I try and keep a few sandwiches on hand in the freezer. But after C's party, I managed to make and freeze ten sandwiches, which was great for when we got back from vacation because I didn't have to run out and get ingredients for K's lunch and I could just ease back into reality!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Menu Monday

I managed to stick to last week's plan with the exception of Sunday. I had planned turkey but forgot to move it to the fridge to defrost. We ended up having rotisserie style chicken instead, which gave me a leg up on this week's meals (lots of leftovers) and a chance to restock my supply if homemade chicken stock!

Monday: Chicken Flautas*
Tuesday: Chicken and Ale Soup
Wednesday: Chicken Parm Patties*
Thursday: Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes*
Friday: Homemade Pizza
Saturday: TBD
Sunday: Takeout

*New recipe

I shared this menu on Weekly Menu Monday:
In No Simple Language

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

Since this is our first week back to a normal routine, I didn't want to stress myself out too much, so I planned really simple dinners.The thing about simple is remembering that simple is not the same as boring. I feel guilty advertising this as a recipe since its more like a method, but its definitely not boring.

For this dinner, you only need boneless chicken breasts, buffalo sauce, and a crockpot. In the morning, just toss the chicken in the crockpot and cover with the sauce. Cook on low for about 6-8 hours and you are set. When the chicken is done, all you have to do is shred the chicken and chose how you want to enjoy this tasty little dish. I typically serve these as sandwiches, but have also used it over lettuce for a salad.You can customize this with ranch or blue cheese dressing or blue cheese crumbles or anything else that you like!

Obviously, my brain is still on vacation a little since I forgot to snap a photo!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

DIY Date Art

It wasn't long ago that my idea of DIY was making my husband do something or finding someone on Etsy who I paid to DIY (I know super embarrassing)! But times have changed.

Like many out there, I love Pinterest (like a lot). It has given me so many great ideas, but most importantly, its given me the confidence to start tackling DIY projects by myself. Like this one...

I had seen a lot of variations on date art and loved them all but I wanted to keep it simple and clean. I had picked up a pack of canvases back at Christmas on sale and and knew this would be the perfect time to use one. A stencil and a sharpie was all I needed for this project and, about an hour later, it was all done!

I love the finished product, but I love that I actually DIY'd it myself more!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Want It Wednesday

I love shoes, especially pretty shoes and these Kate Spade wedges are calling my name! As this is the first installment of "Want It Wednesday", I thought I would start with something sparkly!!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Secret to my success

The last month has been crazy for us. I have been swamped at work, while simultaneously trying to keep up things at home, plan a "super" 3rd birthday party for C and get ready for our first trip to Disney World. My days were packed to say the least. I could definitely have used more hours in the day.

Typically, Cooper wakes up most mornings between 5 and 6 and its pretty much nonstop from there. I am home with him most days and work in the evenings after he goes to sleep, so with things so busy, I was up until about 1:00 or 2:00 am most nights. I was so beat it wasn't even funny and the only thing that helped me get through it was an afternoon nap. When C went down midday, I would lay with him. A few hours of shut eye in the afternoon made up for what I wasn't getting at night and it was so energizing! People always said to "nap when the baby naps" and I never did. Now, I wished I had!

So the next time things are out of control for you and you don't know how you are going to get through, just relax and take a nap (preferably with your baby)!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Homemade Poptarts

C loves Poptarts and superheros so how great would it be if you could combine them? How great would it be if you could find a way to get some Nutella in there? The answer...pretty darn great!!! This was the only picture I could get because C was scarfing these down faster than anything I've ever seen.

This was so simple. I used ready-made pie crust and our superhero cutters. I always try and get C to help in the kitchen and he was able to use the Captain America cutter and cut the dough out. When your helped is done, take one piece of dough and cover it with a spoonful of Nutella and a few banana slices and top with another piece of dough. Pinch the sides together to seal the pockets (another great kid-friendly job) and cover with a simple egg wash. Follow the baking instructions for your pie dough and enjoy!!!!!!

I knew these were a hit because C has asked for these several times!

This recipe is linked to the following link parties:

Menu Monday

We've had a crazy month and I am so happy that things are now slowing down and getting back to normal for us. And normal means meal planning! I usually try to look at the month as a whole and then revisit my plan each week. Its helpful to have a long range plan so you can pick up things at the lowest prices and also so you know when you won't need a meal due to a special event. Here is our week...

Monday: Corndog muffins
Tuesday: Pizza from Costco (my husband loves their pizza)
Wednesday: Baked Potato Soup
Thursday: Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches
Friday: Black Bean Tacos
Saturday: TBA (dinner with friends!)
Sunday: Turkey

I shared this menu on Weekly Menu Monday:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Year of the Snake

I am not a huge believer in New Year's resolutions, but I do believe in self improvement. So while I won't decree that this is the year I lose ten pounds and learn a new language and travel the world, from time to time, I will mention my long term goals and my strategy on how to accomplish them.

Like most moms, one of my goals is to feed my family in a healthy, tasty manner. I spend a lot of time each month planning and shopping for our dinners but its a struggle to balance healthy eating, taste, and cost. If 2013 is the year of the snake, than 2012 was the year of the chameleon for me with regards to how we eat. I tried out two very different strategies, extreme couponing and green/clean eating.

Let's start with couponing....my extreme couponing was never getting $600 worth of stuff for a penny but I followed the same strategy as those dedicated ladies on tv.

  • It's super easy to get started.
  • There are a lot of really good deals out there if you know how to find them.
  • My pantry was overflowing!

  • It can be time consuming.
  • It's very stressful if a deal doesn't work out the way you thought/hoped/planned.
  • I had a ton of food in the pantry but it wasn't food we would always eat and it wasn't the most healthy. 
I did a lot of research online about green/clean eating before I got started. I learned far more than I ever thought I would about how food supply and what goes into the things we eat. To say its eye-opening is an understatement.

  • I felt confident about the safety of the food we were eating.
  •  We tried a lot of different types of food and vegetables.
  •  Since most of the stores near me have somewhat limited selections, I ended up doing a lot of running around.
  • This was definitely a costly endeavor.
  • It was a hard sell for my husband, a diehard junk food eater and green skeptic.
To be honest, neither of these lifestyles (and it is a lifestyle) was really for me. I have since adopted a hybrid of the two. I do use coupons more than I originally did and I watch the sale circulars, but I tend to coupon only for household items, personal items, and things my husband can't live without. As for the green side, I found that knowing my son's food is safe is far more important to me than convenience and the cost so we still go organic for our meats, milk, and produce. I have found that the added cost of organic foods can be offset in unconventional ways, including going meatless two nights a week (up from one night), reinventing leftovers, and making use of the freezer.

I've got a few other ideas up my sleeve as well so stay tuned!