More ways to celebrate fall…

Tonight or tomorrow or the next day, I plan to do a kid update.  The little ones been busy making us laugh and ticking milestones off their lists.  I’ve even got some videos.  For now, I wanted to add to my list of autumnal affairs.  I have been so into fall this time around, and I thought I would share all the big and little ways we’ve been making the most of the season.

1.  Two ingredient pumpkin cake.  Cake mix and pumpkin.  That’s it.  It was so good that Riley wants to make some for her teachers.

2.  Pumpkin dump cake.  I found this recipe on Pinterest (from Cookies and Cups) , and I decided we had to try it.  My mom ended up making it to for her and Alli and CE.  Rave reviews across the board – except from Riley and Adrian.  The pumpkin part was too pumpkiny for their tastes.  But that worked out for the best.  More for Shawn and me.

3.  Pumpkin swirl coffee from Dunkin Donuts.  Yes, I know I mentioned this last time but it needs to be brought up again.

3.  Sweet potato pie from McDonald’s.

(Image from mochachocolatarita.blogspot.com)

4.  Crockpot corn chowder.  I consulted my mom for a recipe she had used recently, but then I ended up just going with what we had on hand.  Two cans of corn, lots of potato chunks, two yellow squash cut into chunks and slices, milk, water, one packet of onion soup mix, some flour, salt, and pepper.  In the crockpot all day.  The note was just right for fall.

5.  S’mores campfire nights in the backyard.  I am so, so glad I splurged on our fire pit back in August.  We have spent the past two Saturday nights on the back porch with our new fire pit.  This past Saturday, Adrian and Sidney played in the pack and play (well, Adrian dove in, threw all the toys out, threw the toys back in, then dove in again, then repeat) while Riley chilled in a lounge chair, Shawn started up the fire, and I prepared s’more stuff.  And because we were thinking about camp, I asked everyone to share something they were thankful for.  Shawn was thankful his long week of conferences was over.  Riley and I were really thankful, for everything from golden brown marshmallows to Adrian not breaking his neck to winning a poster at book fair night.  I love that we get to have nights like these, the five of us, singing the bear song and licking sticky marshmallow gobs off our fingers.

6.  Acorn sweeping afternoons.  Shawn has swept our driveway completely clean every weekend.  By the next weekend, the acorn field is continuous, devastating.  He sweeps again.  Adrian, with a mini push-broom, helps.

7.  Scarves.

8.  Slippers and hooded sweatshirts at home.  

9.  Fleece sleepers for the baby.

10.  Glitter top pumpkins.  Riley has been obsessed with glitter, so using some Pinspiration, we set out a tarp and glittered the pumpkins the kids got with grandpa and grandma.  They look amazing.  And the project was so much easier than carving.

(Idea and image from HGTV.com.)

11.  Cookie butter from Trader Joe’s.

This is why I love fall…

1.  Pumpkin swirl coffee from Dunkin Donuts.  If I could, this is how I would start every day from around September 15 until Thanksgiving (after that, bring on the peppermint mochas!).

2.  Butternut squash lasagna.  Recipe from Women’s Day.  I made this over the weekend, and it has lasted for three dinners and three single serve lunches.  And wow, is it good.  It might be one of the best dinners I have ever made.  I cannot wait for my children to appreciate more complex yellow food.  And sage and nutmeg.  One day. 3.  Corn maze.  We headed over to the Athens Corn Maze on Saturday.  Had a ball.  Definitely did not find all six checkpoints in the maze, and we would probably still be in there if we didn’t have a map.  The best thing about the corn maze was the corn box.  Really, just a box full of corn kernels for the kids to play in.  They loved it.  Riley especially. Adrian took a little break to go visit with the animals.  He said hi to every bunny, duck, pig, and horse.  So cute. 4.  Fantasy football.  Sure, my bench team usually beats the team I put in, but I am on a two-game winning streak!  I like that this is something Shawn and I do together.  It keeps us in touch with some of our distance friends, and adds a little fun to our Sunday afternoons.

5.  Halloween cakes.  Last night, the kids helped me make and decorate a confetti cake.  They decked the thing out with all sorts of sprinkles and candy corn.  I told them this was our warm-up Halloween cake, seeing as how it is still only September.

6.  Candy corn.  The kids convinced me to get our first bag of candy corn at the store on Sunday.  But really.  I have a big Halloween bowl I just set out in the dining room, and what is a big Halloween bowl without candy corn?   (Adrian wanted some last night, and to reach the bowl, he pushed over our play table from Ikea and climbed right on up.  Such a resourceful candy-holic!  Boy after my own heart.)

7.  Fall projects.  My parents brought the kids Halloween crafts and an activity book. We’ve been stringing together spider webs and coloring monsters like mad around here.  This weekend, I may have the kids help me make twig candle-holders.

8.  Next week, the weather might be cool enough to break out our new fire-pit!  I’ve already bought chocolate for our first round of s’mores.

Did I mention this is my favorite time of the year?

What’s Trending on Pinterest Today

Maybe it’s because of a certain project I’m working on for a class.  Maybe it’s because my other class is studying databases and I’m thinking about redundancies.  While browsing Pinterest yesterday and today, several trends stuck out.  Pumpkin was sort of obvious now that we are into September, but salted caramel is everywhere! And it is too bad I just finished my jar of Nutella…

Salted Caramel (and Apple Cider)

 

Pumpkin

 

Nutella Treats

Source: pepper.ph via Louise on Pinterest

 

Eye Shadow

Source: favim.com via Breann on Pinterest

 

Up-dos involving braids

Introducing Veggie Night

It is only Tuesday, but I am already looking forward to Friday night.  Yes, it’s the end of the work week, but that’s not why.  Sure, I don’t have to go into campus, but that’s not why either.

Friday night = Veggie night

Now that we are starting to get back into the swing of things with a new semester and school year underway, Shawn and I have started a new weekday tradition.  Monday through Thursday are really busy for us.  I don’t get done from work until after four.  Shawn has Riley after school.  Our evenings are packed with gymnastics, readings, playtime, and getting ready for the next day.  That means we need to streamline dinners during the week.  Here’s our revamped work-week lineup:

Monday: Moe’s Monday

Tuesday: Pasta

Wednesday: Pancakes

Thursday: Meat and Two Sides  or a One Pot Meal (This week, we will be having kielbasa, potatoes, and corn on the cob)

Friday: Veggie Night.

Not gonna lie, I am really, really, really excited about veggie night.  Since I’m home, I have a little more time to cook and prep a dish or two.  And veggie night means I get a whole meal to make with just vegetables and the goal of using up whatever veggies we have left before we pick up our new basket Saturday morning.  Me + kitchen + challenge = Love.

Here’s a recap from the past two Fridays.  So far, I am off to a good start.  Even Shawn is enjoying the meals even if they don’t quite fill him up.

Two weeks ago: I made my first savory cobbler.  So good.  I started with this recipe from Martha Stewart for tomato cobbler.  I made a few changes:

  • Instead of onions, I sauteed three yellow squash in some garlic and olive oil.
  • Then I added the cut-up tomatoes to the pan to saute a bit, too, and get rid of some of the water content.
  • For the biscuit topping, I used my homemade biscuit mix with some milk and a little butter. On top, I sprinkled a handful of shredded cheddar.

Tomato Cobbler – photo from marthastewart.com

(PS For dessert, I made another batch of banana bread cobbler.  Double cobbler night.  Please, please.)

Last Week: I made a galette for the first time.  Again, we had a bunch of tomatoes left over, and I was in the mood for something tart-ish.  I made a few changes to this recipe for the galette, as well:

  • I substituted breadcrumbs for the corn meal in the dough.  And I only let it sit in the frig for about fifteen minutes while I prepared the filling.
  • Reduced the amounts of butter and olive oil in both the dough and the filling.
  • No onion in the filling (we didn’t have any), so I just sauteed a full can of corn.  Then added tomatoes to the pan to cook for a little while.
  • I just brushed a little milk on the dough right before putting it in the oven.
  • For the cheese, I just sprinkled a little shredded cheddar on top.  We are pretty simple cheese folk, here.

Tomato, Corn, and Cheese Galette – photo from alexandracooks.com

 

This week, we’ve got a potluck to go to on Friday.  No veggie night?  No way!  We’ll just bump it back a day.

Summer @Home Highlights!

Shawn’s been back in school since last Tuesday.

The littles are back in daycare as of this morning.

Riley goes back on Wednesday.

I start teaching next Monday at 9:05am.

I start my classes on Tuesday.

Where, oh where, did the summer go?

I thought to celebrate the end of our family’s summer, I would compile some highlights and reflections.  Enjoy!

Best Family Meal:

Shawn: Lasagna and bread crumb pasta.  He can sure do Italian!

Me: Probably my meatball and pea pie.  I also got really good at making carrot fries.

Best Dessert: Banana Bread Cobbler.  Hands down.  Did I mention I am making it this week?  Again?  No way I am letting the kiddos eat all our bananas two weeks in a row!

Best Baked Good: Zucchini Brownies.

Best Lunch: Sweet potatoes with peanut sauce.

Best Outing: Atlanta’s Children Museum and Splash Park and Athen’s Botanical Gardens.

Favorite Adult Activity: Racquetball.  Nothing like whacking a little ball around an enclosed space with your significant other with whom you have spent the vast majority of weeks on end.

Best (Adult) Splurge: New racquetball rackets and my new outdoor firepit!  Instead of stocking up on coffee, I picked up a firepit at Bed, Bath, and Beyond yesterday.  I have really wanted one, and I cannot wait to enjoy it once the weather gets a little cooler.  Me, sipping some tea (or hot cocoa) and reading by the fire after the kids go to bed…  Or our family, roasting marshmallows on the weekend…  Can’t wait!  The kids have already volunteered to pick up sticks!

Proudest Moment: Riley picking up litter at the park the other day.  Adrian giving Sidney big hugs every day.

Cool New Tricks: Sidney standing up.  Adrian and his colors.  Me and my diaper cake (pictures coming!!) and Spanish.  Riley recognizing words.

Favorite Home Improvements: My new shutter message board and vintage key holder in the kitchen.  I’ll post pictures of these soon!

Favorite New Kid-Friendly and Affordable Restaurant: Dickey’s BBQ (and kids eat free on Sunday!)

Biggest Grocery Splurge: Beverages.  Coke Zero (for Shawn), other Coke products for me, coffee, and Chrystal Light lemonade and ice tea mixes.

Favorite Kid Activities:

Riley: Mets Bear Rescue.  Shawn would put my Mets Bear stuffed animal in precarious places, and Riley would have to rescue him.  She saved him from burning lava, floods, high peaks, and cages.

Adrian: Blocks, Trains, and Golf.

Sidney: Hanging out with her older siblings and putting things in her mouth.

Best Realizations: 

  • Enjoy and make the most of every moment with the kids but don’t get overly sentimental.  Time passes too quickly.
  • Recipes are good guides but experimentation can produce fun, tasty, and healthy dishes with on-hand ingredients.
  • Be firm and hug often.
  • Take turns with the Mood.  Don’t hog it but don’t refuse it either.  Everyone gets the Mood from time to time.
  • Days pass so freakin’ fast.  But don’t say freakin’ too much around a four-year-old unless you want her to start saying it, as in “I’m so freakin’ cold, Momma!”
  • I love being a mother AND I love writing, reading, studying, and teaching.  My days are full, and I am pretty freakin’ happy.

Stay tuned for my Summer Exit Interview with Riley and Adrian!  Should be fun.  I started compiling questions, and I cannot wait to hear their responses.

Fall Semester Food Prep: Weekday Meals, Easy Desserts, and a Full Freezer

I feel like I’ve tried a bunch of new recipes recently, and the results have been very encouraging.  I added two meals to the freezer and a batch of scones, and we’ve tried out some quick dinners.  I also made homemade biscuit mix from a Taste of Home recipe, which I’ve already used for the scones, a veggie pie, and a meatball pie.  Plus, Shawn and I made fried okra for the first time this week.  Man, was that good.  Like eating candy!  Anyway, I wanted to have some easy go-to dinners and desserts in mind for when the semester starts.  Now I feel like I am ready, at least food-wise, for the fall.

Weekday Dinners

1.  Meatball Pie.  I bought BOGO bags of frozen meatballs at Publix last weekend.  This was our first dinner using them.  The only thing I changed was the crust.  We had leftover rice, so I used that instead of the frozen potatoes.  The big people really liked this one, and the littles (especially Sidney) loved the pea layer!

2.  Smothered Meatballs.  I wanted to use up some potatoes we got in our basket, and so I found this simple skillet dinner.  I made mine with meatballs, real potatoes that I cut and boiled ahead of time, milk, and cream of mushroom soup.  Heat it all up, and you are good to go!  I also added a can of green beans to get some more veggies in.  I doubled this, so we had it for dinner, Shawn took leftovers to work, and we have a frozen batch.  Riley loved the meatballs, but Adrian wasn’t a big fan.

4.  Sausage and German Potato Salad Casserole.  My dad told me about this recipe.  So easy, and it’s on the can of German Potato Salad: one can potato salad, one big turkey sausage thinly sliced, half cup barbecue sauce, and two teaspoons sugar.  Mix together, bake for 35 minutes at 350.  We all liked this one, or at least part of it.

4.  Next up, we are going to be having Sweet and Sour Meatballs over rice.  We still have two green peppers from our basket, and I picked up a can of pineapple at the store the other day.  Looking forward to this recipe a lot!  I’m thinking Sunday night…

5.  Our staples for quick and easy weekday dinners include the following:

Eggs, rice, and cheese (and…whatever we have: broccoli, bacon, etc.)

Mac and cheese and baked beans (and hot dogs if we have them)

Spaghetti and breadcrumb pasta night

Fried egg salads (and bacon if we have it)

Easy Desserts

1.  My friend made dessert for me the other night, homemade chocolate pudding using coconut milk, dark chocolate, a dollop of nut butter, and NO sugar.  It was amazing!  (Thanks, Paulina!)  So I, of course, had to get a can of coconut milk and give it a shot.  I used one can of milk and a bunch of grated chocolate I had on hand, simmered it in a small pot, and made four small servings in ramekins.  Then I ate all of them.  Oh, and I used a dollop of Nutella in my pudding.  So good!

2.  I’ve also been obsessed with trying mug desserts.  Tonight, I made a healthy-version of a chocolate chip cookie recipe I found on Pinterest.  I substituted a kids serving of banana-honey Greek yogurt for the butter and egg yolk.  Came out a little cakey, but it was delicious!  Sometimes, I just cannot get through a day without a baked good, and these mug desserts are so easy to throw together with ingredients I have on hand.

3. I wanted to make another batch of Banana Bread Cobbler this week (Yes, it is that good!).  I even hid two bananas in the bread basket so the kids wouldn’t see them and they could get nice and brownish.  Yesterday, I check the bread basket, and the bananas are gone.  Shawn gave them to the kids.  Oh well.  Maybe next week.  I need to be a bit sneakier, it seems.

A Full Freezer

So what exactly is in our freezer?  A little bit of everything, which makes me feel good about going back to school and work and crazy weeks made crazier by Adrian’s Monday night gymnastics, Riley’s Tuesday art class, and Riley’s Thursday gymnastics.  Plus, I will be on campus four days this coming semester.  I need a full freezer.  I feel like I am nesting but with food and in preparation for the school year.  Let’s call it “Festing.”  Food-nesting.

Breakfast:

  • Four boxes of frozen waffles.  The littles eat these frozen, and Adrian can put down three in a single morning.
  • Two and a half packs of bagel thins.  Put some nutella on these bad boys, and I will be out the door!
  • Five homemade scones.
  • Two loaves of sweet potato bread

Dinners:

  • One Stouffers dinner
  • One bag of ravioli
  • One and a half bags of popcorn chicken
  • One bag of meatballs
  • One homemade veggie pie
  • One batch of smothered meatballs

Desserts:

  • Half pan of lemon brownies
  • Pan of zucchini brownies
  • Klondikes (these may last through tomorrow night)
  • One container of ice cream

And of course, my freezer would not be complete if it didn’t have a couple bags of frozen breast milk.  Nothing like the stash I had when Adrian went off to daycare.  Then, I don’t think we could fit too much else in our entire freezer.  It was crazy!  Now, I might have a half dozen bags.

And there you have it!

Upcoming Festing Plans

This weekend, I am going to shred two heads of cabbage and put together a couple cabbage-based salads for me to have next week for lunch.  I am super excited to give both of these recipes a go.  The first I found on Pinterest.  The second is from Taste of Home, my favorite cooking magazine:

(I make a light dressing with light mayo, skim milk, s and p, and parmesan
-dressing
-cabbage shreds
-cherry tomatoes (halved)
-black olives
-celery
-drained canned crab / drained canned salad shrimp
-lettuce

Ingredients

  • 1 package (3 ounces) chicken ramen noodles
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 5 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 3/4 cup chopped green pepper
  • 3/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Directions

  • Break noodles; set aside. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the oil, vinegar, sugar, oregano, salt, pepper and half of the contents from the noodle seasoning packet; shake well. (Discard remaining seasoning or save for another use.)
  • In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add noodles and dressing; toss to coat. Serve immediately. Yield: 10-12 servings.

Food Fest Part 2: A Weekend Full of Recipes

Before I launch into a slew of amazing recipes, I want to say that the food wasn’t the only reason my last trip up to Virginia was so good.  Last weekend was an amazing visit for so many reasons.  I got to spend a lot of time with my parents, help and attend my twin sister’s baby shower, get my hair done (cut and highlights…thanks, Mom!), see my little sister, hang out with Aunt Barb and Uncle Ray, go shopping in Target for a full hour ALONE, have a glass of wine or beer each night, bond with Sidney by herself, watch some fun and sweet YouTube videos (lip dub proposal…best thing ever…I cried ever time I watched it!), eat Bruster’s Ice Cream, stop at Sheetz, drink lots of coffee, and relax and unwind for a little while.  Really, I just loved having three and a half days to spend with my family.  Plus, I am so excited for my sister, and this was my last chance to hang out with her before the babies come.  She looked amazing with her big belly, and I even got to feel a baby kick.  I cannot wait to be an aunt!  Oh, man, am I excited for her and CE. Thinking about the twins makes me want to squeal.

Of course, I missed Shawn, Riley, and Adrian, but we really did have a wonderful weekend, and I think Shawn enjoyed his daddy time with the big kids.

So thank you, Mom, Dad, Allison, Aunt Barb, Uncle Ray, Claire, and Sidney for everything.

Now, onto the food!

1.  Banana Bread Cobbler.  This dessert is amazing.  We had it in Virginia with Bruster’s banana chocolate chip ice cream.  So, so good!  I could probably eat the whole thing. It was so good that I made it when I got home for Shawn and the kids.  It was so good then that Shawn said it was one of his favorite desserts I have ever made.  That means it’s up there!  At home, I didn’t have as much butter as the recipe called for, so I cut the butter from the batter and just used a little cup of applesauce.  In the topping, I cut the butter by a third.  Seriously, I couldn’t taste the difference!  I just figured I could eat more!

2.  Hawaiian Ham Party Sandwiches.  Okay, I could eat a whole pan of these without even thinking about it.  And I did eat five before 11am on the drive home.  For this, we cut the topping in half (which means half the butter).  We also used different cheese (Munster, Provolone, and Cheddar).  They melt in your mouth.

3.  Bundles of Joy.  I found these on Pinterest, and we made them for Allison’s shower.  They were a big hit and really easy to make.

I found these Windy City Crescent Rolls on Claire Bidwell Smith’s blog through Pinterest.

4.  Paula Dean Red Velvet Cupcakes.  I am not a huge cupcake person.  Usually, I find them to be a little dry.  Or a lot dry.  Not these ones.  I don’t think I have ever had better cupcakes.  Even the next day, they were delicious.  And they should have been.  We even sifted the dry ingredients.

5.  Sweet Potato Casserole from Taste of Home.  I loved this.  My aunt made this my first night with meatloaf.  I love meatloaf.  But Shawn doesn’t.  And my aunt is a great cook!  This casserole was amazing.  I seriously kept wanting to eat more and more.  And then I finished it Sunday night.  Prior to having Banana Bread Cobbler.