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.

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.

 

Sweet Potato Heaven

The best come to those who wait, right?

This afternoon, I started making my lunch at 12:30.  A simple and delicious and satisfying new sweet potato dish my twin sister told me about and I am now obsessed with.  Including the five minutes it takes to bake the tater in the microwave, the dish takes six minutes to prepare.

Here’s the recipe:

A sweet potato (or just a half)

Peanut butter

Soy sauce

Garlic salt

Cilantro

Bake sweet potato for five minutes wrapped in plastic wrap in the microwave.  Mash it a little when it comes out.  Slather on peanut butter while it is still hot.  Shake on some soy sauce to taste.  Sprinkle garlic salt and cilantro to taste.  Bam!  Instant and delicious peanut sauce!  Now this may sound a little weird, but really the flavors are amazing together, specially if you love peanut butter and sweet potatoes as much as I do!

Before you add the soy sauce and seasonings, it looks a lot like this picture from Biochemista.com:

The rest of the ingredients really enhance the flavors and bring out the savory, salty goodness.  Plus, I am starting to think that everything is better with cilantro on it.

That’s it.  Super simple.

But this afternoon, I heated up my potato SIX times, and in between I did the following:

1.  Swept the kids’ bedroom floor.

2.  Held a crying and tired baby.

3.  Cuddled and played little piggies (you know, the toes’ game) with an adorable toddler.

4.  Nursed a really tired baby.

5.  Made two and a half cheese sandwiches for hungry children.

6.  Prepared a bowl of cereal for a hungry child.

7.  Got drinks for two thirsty children.

8.  Helped a preschooler sign on to my computer to play some educational games.

9.  Set out rolls to defrost and rise for dinner tonight.

But, now the tired baby is happily sleeping.  The other children are fed and watered.  My belly is full of peanut buttery goodness.

Two hours pass so quickly these days.  And I know at some point I will be able to prepare much more complex meals with all the time in the world in a quiet kitchen and miss an afternoon like this one.

Sweet Potato Mania: foil pockets, salad, and bread, oh my!

The last two weeks, we have been flooded with sweet potatoes in our bountiful baskets.  This past weekend, we brought home the biggest one I have ever seen.  I am pumped because I love sweet potatoes.  Adrian likes them a little bit, but Shawn and Riley are not fans.  That means lots of orange lunches and dinners for me – and, the chance to do some creative cooking.  Plus, a little baby food for Sidney.  Maybe because it is summer, I’ve been in the mood to change things up a bit.  So here’s a couple new ideas to prepare sweet potatoes: one from my mom, one from me, and one from Pinterest…

 

1.  Sweet Potato Foil Pockets.  We had these for our Memorial Day picnic up in Virginia.  Oh, man, were these good!  Great idea, Mom!

Ingredients

  • sweet potatoes
  • butter
  • brown sugar
  • foil

Steps

Dice up some sweet potaters

Put them on pieces of foil

Add some butter and brown sugar

Fold them up

Bake pouches for about an hour on 350 degrees.

2.  Sweet Potato Curry Salad.  I came up with this recipe over the weekend.  It was so good, I made it on Sunday, too.  Adrian even liked it!

Ingredients

  • sweet potato
  • light mayo
  • yellow curry powder
  • garlic salt
  • kosher salt
  • cilantro

Steps

  • Dice up a sweet potato.
  • Bake the tater in the microwave with a little water for five minutes.
  • Let it cool a little.
  • Add some light mayo, garlic salt, cilantro, kosher salt, and yellow curry powder.  Everything too taste.  Probably more curry than any of the other seasonings, though.

The flavors came together so nicely.  I am thinking it would be good to eat chilled, but I was too impatient and hungry.

3.  Sweet Potato Bread.  We are going to tackle a couple of loaves tomorrow.  Here’s a recipe I found on Pinterest!  So excited.

And now, of course, even though it is almost 11pm, I am hungry again.  No more posting about food so late at night!

Enjoy!

P.S.  Know what is sweeter than a kitchen full of sweet potatoes?  This…