Monday, February 27, 2012

Menu Monday: March Calendar, and a recap

Here's this month's calendar, ready to print if you're looking for ideas.  As before (but working properly this time, I hope), you can download the PDF and print it, then adjust with a pencil if you need to, or download the Google doc and make adjustments before printing. 

Did you wonder about how the new recipes from last month turned out?  Here's a quick recap of the ones I was planning to try out: 

I posted about the beef stew, it is totally a new favorite.   
The baked pasta was fine, but I think the strong cheese flavor and the texture of the noodles (Adam felt I overcooked them a bit) was a turn-off for the rest of the family.  It didn't make it into the recipe box, and I doubt I'll make it again.  

Instead of making the the bread sticks 100% from the recipe, I used my pizza dough recipe for the dough and tweaked it a bit.  I'll post my modified recipe soon because it was a huge success, and it's back on this month's menu. 

I did wimp out with the avocado chicken parm, but I made a version of this Chicken Parmesan Bake (the one that's floating around Pinterest and all over the internet) instead, and it was a huge success.  Also back on the menu. 

And... I haven't made the chowder yet, but it's on the revised menu for this week, so I'll keep you posted!

The new (to me) recipes for March are: 

Chicken Ranch Tacos (not sure if I will do it as posted or in the slow cooker as suggested in the comments, we'll see...)
Pizza Bites (I've actually made these before, but this time I'm going to write out how I do it so I can post about it)
Chicken Pot Pie (this is a new incarnation of an old recipe that I'm pretty excited about)
Lemon Garlic Grilled Chicken (I am totally loving this warmer weather...bring on the grill recipes!)
Roasted Garlic Chicken Pesto Pizza (I will probably have to make the kids their own pizza and make this just for us grown-ups, but the picture is so beautiful my mouth waters, I really want to try it)

Okay, if you're still hanging in here, I've got a bonus tip for you!  I figured it out this month while trying to use up stuff from my pantry, but it may not be anything new to anyone but me.  I like a good mix of new recipes and really easy stuff.  So here's something that fits in with my Italian cheater dinners.  Do you like creamy pesto?  Like Pasta Factory creamy pesto?  We do.  So a while ago I bought a pesto packet and thought I'd try to figure out how to make it.  But instead, I just dumped it into a pan with cooked cubed chicken and a jar of Ragu Alfredo sauce and we ate it over bowties.  Yup.  Easy peasy.  And yummy.  Not quite like Pasta Factory.  But still good.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Update/Sneak Peek

Okay, so I've gone MIA for the last couple of weeks, and you know why?  I've been bitten by the spring cleaning bug, and I've been super busy organizing.  Which is so fun, by the way.  In a take-over-your-house-your-brain-and-your-life sorta way.  I'm not really coming up for air yet, but here's a sneak peek at some of the projects I'm halfway done with.  Prepare yourself for some very scary "before" pictures!  I have to really thank Leslie Knowlton, my childhood friend and professional organizer for holding my hand (figuratively) through all of this.  It seriously was causing all kinds of anxiety in my life, but she is so clear-headed and thorough (and fun, sheesh, it was really fun gabbing while doing the pantry!), I can't recommend her enough. 

The pantry, before:

Now, I'm still working on labels, but here's a peek at the snack section of the pantry, after:

The food storage room exploding into my laundry room, before:

The pantry, after:

Ha, ha!  Just kidding, I got this photo from the Rack 'n Roll website.  But I did get a delivery of these babies yesterday, and I'm so psyched!  No really, just wait, it's going to be awesome. 

I don't have any before pics of the fridge and freezers, but just assume it was bad. Like I found condiments older than we've lived in this house.  And like lots of soaking and scrubbing to clean nastiness off the bottom.  And like meat in the freezer from 2009.  And, yes, I pulled stuff out of the fridge in February that was leftover from Christmas.  Ugh. 

Here's a sneak peek at the snack bin in the fridge, after:

And the craft room (aka, my sprawling takeover of Adam's office), before:
(This is actually on a very clean day.  You can tell from the vacuum lines on the carpet.  Imagine 1,000 times worse on an average day.  Or if you've been to my house, this is the first thing you see, so you don't have to imagine it!)

A few close-ups of the craft room, in progress:

It seriously makes me so happy to be in that room, and it's only half-way there.  I have some big plans for that space, but it may take months before I finish that project. 

And the entryway.  Oh, the entryway.  Here's a shot of the entryway shortly after we moved into the house in 2009, before:

It never looked that cute after that.  I think it took about three broken picture frames before I gave up and left it the desk empty.  I've tried seasonal decor, too, but again, I have to expect it to be broken and scattered across the house almost immediately.  But empty screams, "Everybody pile stuff on me!"  So it was becoming an eyesore.  Plus, now I have two, nearly three, kids in school, so there is a plethora of backpacks, jackets, shoes, homework, fliers, etc. to keep track of and house. 

So....  So.  Adam and I built this.  (Entryway, in progress)

From Martha's plans.  (FYI, measure and calculate twice before having Home Depot cut your boards, because a lot depends on the thickness of your boards and they vary.  And avoid warped boards at all costs!)  Still searching for the perfect baskets/bins.  I know, I know the white is pretty dang boring.  Trust me, I have big plans to spice it up. But as hard as that sucker was to paint, I only want to have to do it once, so white it is, nice and neutral.  I'm thinking I need to pair it with a shoe storage bench.  I've got some ideas percolating, I'll keep you posted. 

Okay, this was supposed to be a quick update, but it's getting loooong....  So, check back for updates.  And a bunch of other fun stuff we've been up to. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Menu Monday: Beef Stew

Okay, as promised, here is the recipe!  I really love this recipe. If you're a fan of beef stew, or even if you're not, I recommend this one because it is so flavorful and the beef is so tender. 

Beef Stew

based on this recipe found on
2 pounds cubed beef stew meat (I just used a cheap roast and cut it up, worked great)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups beef broth (or bouillon dissolved into water, I have used some of both or whatever I have on hand)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 potatoes, cubed
4 carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped (the original recipe calls for a whole onion)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons cold beef broth (or water)
In a large pot or dutch oven, cook beef in oil over medium heat until brown. Add broth. Stir in rosemary, parsley and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 hour (you can get away with 45-50 minutes if pressed for time, but the full time will yield the most tender meat).  Stir potatoes, carrots, celery, and onion into the pot. Dissolve cornstarch in 2 teaspoons cold water/broth and stir into stew. Cover and simmer 1 hour more. 
I served it with these rolls, my new favorite dinner roll recipe.  If I'm pressed for time, I can whip these babies up in 45 minutes!  Even Rhoades rolls have to thaw longer than that, so I love them!   The trick with them is to not add too much flour, they should be really soft and even sticky, more so than with other bread recipes.  And they take longer to bake than the recipe states, in my experience I have to bake them for 15 minutes at least, or they'll be way too doughy.  But they are amazingly light for how short their rise time is. 

This was dinner last night with my parents.  It was the perfect day for beef stew, gray and rainy, and it warmed us up from the inside out.  We may have more soup this week because there is more rain on the forecast....

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

Menu Monday: Chicken Noodle Soup

I know I promised you beef stew, but it just worked out to have chicken noodle soup instead.  This is what I meant when I said I switch things around, etc.  Thursday night it was easier to pick up a rotisserie chicken than make chicken noodle, and I knew that if I did I could make a much better chicken noodle a different night with the leftover rotisserie chicken.  So here it is, my chicken noodle soup recipe, refined over the last ten years.  (And hopefully we'll get back to beef stew soon, it was really yummy!) 

Chicken Noodle Soup

8 cups chicken broth (I used my rotisserie chicken to make 6 cups of it just the way Our Best Bites describes, then added a couple more cups from a carton)
2 1/2 cups wide egg noodles (although I've heard homemade are awesome, I'm just not quite that much of a Martha!)
2-3 carrots (or about 6 baby carrots), chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1/4-1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups frozen corn and/or peas (or 1 can corn)
1 tsp minced garlic
1-1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
2-3 twists fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
3 cups cooked chopped chicken (I used my leftover rotisserie and some other leftover shredded chicken from earlier in the week)
1/4 cup cold water or chicken broth
1/3 cup cornstarch

1.  Bring 8 cups broth to boil.  Add noodles, carrots, celery, corn, onion, and garlic and simmer until noodles are almost tender. 
2.  Add chicken and seasonings.  Heat through.
3.  Mix cold water/broth with cornstarch and gradually add to soup,stirring constantly.
4.  Heat through and serve.  (It's really great with rolls, like these rolls.) 

Keep in mind that the noodles will soak up the broth and become a mushy mess, so if you want to make a big batch, boil the noodles separately in water and add them to the portion you're eating right away.  Then store the extra noodles and soup separately and add them when reheating. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lily - 16 months

 16 months
18.2 lbs, (29?) inches
(10th percentile for weight, 50th for height) 
light brown/dark blond hair
green eyes

Lily is at such a fun age.  There is just nothing like a toddler who changes and learns every minute. This week she insisted on wearing jammies like Katie's (her Christmas pajamas, a top and bottom with slippers instead of her regular footie pajamas), and strutted around in them saying "ah big." The first thing she asks for in the morning is her "boos" (shoes), and she is so mad (a) that she has outgrown her favorite sparkly shoes and (b) that I have not bought her boots like Katie and Max.

Lily's favorite thing right now is buckles ("buh-pulls").  Buckles on high chairs, helmets, strollers, camera cases, you name it.  Buckle, unbuckle, buckle, unbuckle.  Repeat.  Five thousand times.  Spend five minutes with her, and I promise you, you will never want to touch another "buh-pull" again.

She used to be a passive spectator at toddler time, but the last two weeks she "sang" every song and insisted she get to pick an action (stomping feet) for a verse of our hello song.  She also insists on participating in the art project.  In fact, these days one of her favorite things to do is to "draw" with markers.  It's awesome, as I'm sure you can imagine.  Every 16-month-old should have free reign with markers...

Her favorite songs right now are "If You're Happy and You Know It" and our pajama and potty songs.  She also really loves singing Happy Birthday and saying, "ho, ho, ho!"  (She hasn't figured out that Christmas over.)  I don't love when she whines, "Whaaaay?!" when I tell her no, but when she brings me a book insisting that I read "roll over, roll over" again, or brings me the phone and tells me to call "yelli" (Shelli), or when she begs for me to push her on the "wings" (swings), my heart just melts and I don't want to say no anyway.

Look at this grown up girl!  She's finally coming out of her shell a bit.  She still doesn't trust most people to touch her or pick her up, but she's almost as comfortable with her Aunt Anne as she is with Adam or me, and she's beginning to interact with adults as long as she initiates.  She'll also stay with a babysitter without crying the entire time, as long as the other kids are around and she isn't tired or hungry. 

I love my Lily, and even though I wish she were a little more independent, I cherish our snuggles and the special relationship she and I have. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012


A few days ago Max decided he was ready for lunch and was going to surprise me by making his own sandwich.  He has surprisingly sophisticated tastes for a 3-year-old, and I think he was hoping to have something other than pb&j (he got into a habit of asking for grilled cheese every day a few months ago, I think just to avoid peanut butter sandwiches!).  He pulled out uncooked tortillas, layered deli turkey, green leaf lettuce, sprigs of cilantro, and grated Parmesan on them and folded them up to make his awesome "sandwich." 
Believe it or not, he ate almost the whole thing!  Yum....  (I did offer him a chicken salad sandwich after this, which he ate a bit of, but mostly just because he likes it.  I think he actually was already full!) 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Sadly, I'm constantly after Isaiah about one thing or another.  It's the curse of being the oldest child: parents always expect the most of you, and are the least forgiving when you don't (or can't) deliver.  It's one of my greatest sources of guilt as a mom.  But I managed to catch him in an awesome big brother moment the other day when I was busy with something (or someone) and Adam was busy with something (or someone) and Isaiah read Katie's take-home books with her.  I stopped what I was doing just long enough to snap some evidence.

He was super patient and really helped her sound out words.  I was really proud of him.