Pinspiration Wednesday

Good Morning!  I’m linking up with Justine, Leigh, and Erica today to share some crockpot recipes that are perfect for those busy school days on the horizon!

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I know that I’m going to need all the time I have in the late afternoon/evening to check off the daily “to do” stuff AND spend lots of time with the little man and little lady.  I just know I’m going to be missing them so much!  Here are a few supper ideas that will let me enjoy time with them instead of standing over a stove!

Seasoned Chicken, Potatoes, and Green Beans – Doesn’t this look easy?!??  I’ve done this before in the oven too.

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Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili – I think this looks so good!  You could even use leftovers for tacos.  I would serve this with a nice salad.

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Let me begin this one by saying I HATE to bake potatoes!  They take so long, but the Mr. (and now Holden) loves them!  This recipe may be our answer…

Crock Pot Baked Potatoes – I would probably do just cheese or just bacon.  I would even add steamed broccoli.

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Now, this one isn’t a crockpot recipe but…it’s super easy!

Creamy Potatoes and Peas – I didn’t use fresh peas (frozen instead), and I added leftover rotisserie chicken from Sam’s Club (about 1/2 the chicken).  My guys loved it!  The Mr. even requested a definite repeat of this recipe soon!

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Isn’t it just something about a crockpot going that reminds you of the cooler months?!

Speaking of getting ready for school, it’s tax-free weekend here in Virginia starting this Friday.  I got my school supply list for Holden ready to go!  His list is so little compared to what I know it will be as he moves up in school.  In case you are wondering, here is a listing of other states’ tax free weekends.  Happy shopping!  Hope you have a wonderful Wednesday!

Natalie

Friday Eve Randoms

Wow!  This week seems short to me!  I can’t believe it is already Friday AND that a full week of November is almost over!  Tomorrow is my sister’s 25th birthday.  Hard to believe!  Although I won’t be celebrating with her tomorrow (she really should move closer to me!  Selfish perhaps but true!), I’m looking forward to next weekend’s festivities including a birthday dinner for her.  An excellent excuse to cook up something chocolately.  She is a serious {perhaps even more than me} chocolate lover.

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The top picture was in 2010, and the bottom picture was in 2009.  Wow!  Time flies.  Happiest of birthdays to you, Dee!  I (+Jake+Holden+Roscoe) love you!  Here are some dessert ideas for Dee’s dinner…

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Flourless Chocolate Cake with Glaze

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Salted Caramel Brownies

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Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

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Indoor S’Mores

So much deliciousness!

As a sidenote, I found this stellar picture when looking through my old albums on Facebook…

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Daddy was enjoying my bee costume that made a reappearance this Halloween.  A timeless accessory.

In other recent developments, I’ve been cruising through the Redemption series by Karen Kingsbury.  I’ve finished the first two books and am anxiously awaiting my third book to come into the library.  I also read another of her book this October.  Look at me!  Three books in a month!

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I was thrilled to get a half-caff coffee from Starbucks this week and jump on the red holiday cup bandwagon.

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I’m so excited to be in the holiday season.  Can you believe it is here already!?!?  I’ve got all but one of my family’s Secret Santa forms.  We do this every year, and I’ve blogged about it here.  This year, we’ve bumped the limit down from $150 to $100.  I’m all about the savings.  It seems like miscellaneous expenses sneak up so much these days.  Hello car-going-to-the-mechanic next Tuesday!

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Holden had a bit of homework this week from daycare.  Speaking of the holiday spirit, he will be contributing to the turkey at daycare with his own decorated feather.  Markers, stickers, and random purple painter’s tape were his choices.  We added the pictures which he “trimmed” with the decorative scissors with LOTS of supervision.  Lest you think everything was fabulous, there was this lovely dinnertime meltdown this week.

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I’m pretty sure this picture captured him trying to bite his arm to demonstrate his absolute annoyance with me and my “dinner rules” in general.  Lovely.

And for my last act of randomness tonight, I thought I’d share my sweet new parking space.

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Look at me!  On the front row!  I also noticed these pretty flowers out by the front door to school.  Totally missed these as usually am coming out another way.

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Slightly blurry but you get the idea.

I hope you have a great Friday!  Only a few work hours standing between me and the weekend.  🙂

Natalie

KISS: Keep It Simple Silly

This week (and really about the previous month or so) has been all about simple eats that I can throw together.  With all the housing excitement, I’ve just not been in the mood to plan, shop, or prepare complicated meals.  Speaking of housing, we are 4 days away from our apartment move-in and 1 week away from closing on our home (bye bye first place!).  We are moving into a tiny beautiful 2 bed, 2 bath apartment in the Town Center area of Virginia Beach.  We are so urban.  Not really.  Although this place has nice amenities and little perks like a complimentary coffee bar, I have a feeling that everyone involved (including dog) will be ecstatic to say goodbye to apartment living in favor of a new home.  With all this excitement, I think the need for simple meals will continue.  Here’s a few we have enjoyed recently…

Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Buns

I NEVER buy treats like this typically.  Needless to say, the Mr. was way excited about these on Sunday morning.  They were so easy, and the guys just loved them.  I had peanut butter oats for breakfast but enjoyed one later for a treat.  

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P.S.  Notice our super cool “TRUCK!” disposable plates!

Oven-Roasted Potatoes

I cut these up, drizzled olive oil, and sprinkled fresh herbs before popping in the oven.  These will really satisfy that craving for salty foods without adding in the fried component.  

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Eggplant Pizzas

My sister told me how her mother-in-law to-be cooked up some yummy eggplant pizzas, and I just knew I had to try.  I really liked them!  The Mr. admitted they were “good” but that each bite must have a pepperoni on it.  Top it off…Holden loved them!  Winning!  I just sliced up 1 eggplant, made my pizza sauce using a pizza spice herb mix added to 1 can diced, drained tomatoes, sprinkled on shredded mozzarella, and dealt out some pepperonis!  Into the oven until browned slightly and there you go!  

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Fair Warning:  The texture is not crispy in the least.  A little mushy but I was okay with it.  

Treats in the Mail

My mom sent Holden some sweet spring treats, and I also got a few.  I snacked on this energy bar today as I was driving around.  Sometimes, pre made energy is just necessary!  A sweet co-worker kindly brought me a tea as a pick-me-up after reading about my challenging weekend.  So thankful for people who take the time out of their day to make others feel cared for.  Thanks!  🙂

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Question:  What are your favorite simple meals?  What do you have to have in your meals…a meat…bread?  For me, it’s greens!  I almost always have to have a green vegetable.  I know cauliflower is good, but it just ins’t green!

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Easy Meal Planning with Your DIY Recipe Binder

We’re back into this weekday business, and I know that I personally find these busy days, Monday through Friday, to be the most challenging of the week by far.  To help ease the dinnertime rush, I always plan out my dinners.  I made a little menu frame which you can see here, and I write out all the entrees and sides with a dry erase marker that wipes right off at the end of the week.  Back before baby, I got the idea to consolidate my recipes collected over time from magazines, websites, and just plain old recipe cards.  I chose the binder method.  I got a nice 2 inch-ish binder that I’m pretty sure I recycled from college that was super durable.  Then, I got protective sheet covers (to go in binder), a three ring hole punch, and plenty of patience aka reality TV on in the background.  I sorted all my recipes into categories and started to assemble.  By the way, I’ve tried nearly every recipe in the binder.  As I try these recipes, I throw out the so-so or not good at all ones.  No sense keeping something that isn’t good.  I confess that I haven’t tried all the dessert recipes, but I have a whole bunch of those.  Besides, I feel sure that any containing chocolate are just fine, thank you very much!  Here’s what my handy dandy binder looks like…

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I definitely need to take some time to add new ones and refile used ones.  This is also handy as you can take it out of the binder when you’re cooking.  When I need to plan up some meals, I do check Pinterest, my favorite magazines, cookbooks I own, AND my recipe binder.  If I’m feeling less than inspired or pushed for time, I go to my binder first and just get it done.  Nothing beats knowing what dinner is at 5 o’clock on a Wednesday night.  Hope this helps any of you who are in need of life preserver when it comes to weeknight meals and meal planning.  Believe me, it’s worth the start up time to have a variety of recipes handy.  Bonus:  Make sure you have healthy meals in there!  Treats are okay, but healthy is best 90% of the time.  Happy eating!

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A Healthy New Year

Like many people in America, I renewed my pledge to put my health as a priority in 2014.  I noticed that even just a short jolt in the routine can really set me back when it comes to making healthy choices about what I do (exercise-wise) and what I put in my mouth.  Sugar/chocolate are very much a weakness of mine, and I fully indulged over the break.  Those sweet little treats are a much too recent memory!  I logged back in to http://www.myfitnesspal.com  and began “logging” my food.  This is an excellent food log that allows you to search for lots of food by brand.  There are even some user submitted homemade recipes that may closely match up to what I’m/you’re making for dinner!  Click here to see the site!  There is also an app.  I do not have it as I’m all thumbs when it comes to typing on my phone.

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We also decided to ring in the new year with some healthy eats that include the traditional favorites.  I boiled some canned (rinsed and drained) black-eyed peas in low sodium chicken stock with a mix of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, fresh rosemary, fresh sage, and fresh thyme.  Then, I sauteed up some spinach with much of the same items until it was thoroughly wilted.  Add some cornbread (sorry, this was definitely the treat of this meal!) by Krusteav.  This stuff is worth it.  The pan should be cut into 12 servings just so you know.  The Mr. and I were unaware of this until recently, and I must say it does put a bit of a damper on the whole thing when you see what a serving size is.  Nonetheless, we enjoyed our “krusty” cornbread.  The Mr. added some steamed clams and butter which I’m proud to report little H enjoyed as well.  Can you believe he ate 4!?!?!?  I, personally, am not a fan of those little babies, but it tickled the Mr. so much to see him chowing down.  

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Yummy!  I had another treat on New Year’s.  This was by way of Santa Claus.  “He” left me a Luna bar in my stocking that was “Carrot Cake.”  I loved it!  I’m going to try to incorporate more sweet treats that are really those healthy bar options and less chocolate to reduce the choco-addiction that I’m so quick to develop.  This treat kept me going while I was hanging out with this guy doing some returns at Kohls and Target.  Can you believe that Target still had a ton of Christmas stuff???

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He just loves those forward-facing cart things at Kohls.  Thinks it’s an amusement ride!  Happy almost Friday!  I’m totally okay with this whole now-the-weekend-is-here thing.

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5 for Friday – Top Cookie Picks

It’s the baking season!  I’m so not a baker, but I do okay with some cookies.  Although I’m an admitted chocoholic, I find that I’m better able to control my treats if I bake other cookies.  Something about chocolate just makes me want another and then another and then another!  Many of these recipes are from the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook that I adore.  It is the one cookbook that I think everyone should have especially first time chefs.  Yes, I think of myself as a chef.  It was my elementary future career choice, so there.

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Purchase from Barnes and Noble here.  

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The Giant Ginger Cookie!  Perfectly delicious with a little ginger kick.  This is one of my new favorite.

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Recipe here.  

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Lemon Crinkle Cookies – Sweet, but not too sweet!

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Lemon Crinkle Cookies
Makes 2-3 dozen

Ingredients:
½ cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoons baking soda
1-½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cups powdered sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease light colored baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whip in vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and juice. Scrape sides and mix again. Stir in all dry ingredients slowly until just combined, excluding the powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly. Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies look matte {not melty or shiny}. Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

*If using a non-stick darker baking tray, reduce baking time by about 2 minutes.

Lauren Brennan; laurenslatest.com

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Chocolate Chip Cookies – Now, I try all sorts of varieties of these.  The Mr. says none compare to the way his grandmother would make them.  I found this recipe online for the crispy, crunchy cookies.  I’m always up for a challenge, so here I go again!

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See recipe here from The Kitchen Magpie!  Photo from her delicious website as well.  I can take no credit for these bits of yumminess.

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Sugar Cookies! I know some people think they are boring, but I loved making fall-themed ones with Holden.  I think the attraction for me is more about the experience for him.  Plus, they’re so cute when they’re cut out!

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Easy recipe here.  

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Date Pinwheels – These are my favorite, but I admit not a popular one with others.  I may not be making them this year just for that reason.  I mean, I like them, but should I really eat an entire batch?  Probably not!  They’re so good that is is hard not to for me.

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Another delicious recipe from Better Home and Gardens!

There you have it!  Some of our faves.  I know there are many other like the popular snicker doodle as well as other treats like puppy chow.  So many delicious things!  I’m planning to pick three things this year to prevent a case of the overwhelms.  I’m leaning towards ginger cookies, sugar cookies, and chocolate chip for the Mr. of course (I’m sure I’ll have a few too!).  Here is a great idea from Pinterest for a semi-homemade treat that is as cute as it is delicious I’m sure.

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Milano cookies dipped in chocolate and rolled in crushed peppermint candy!  See Hostess with the Mostess!

What are your favorites?  Do you go semi-homemade or all the way?  How many treats?

Happy baking!

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