Monday, September 15, 2014

Gallery Walls

Today's little post is all about gallery walls.  Are you a fan?!  I am.  I love them.  I'd decorate every spare wall space in the house with them if I didn't think it was absolute overkill.  When I saw that Kelly was featuring gallery walls in her most recent Show Us Your Life, I decided this would be a fun little time to show you mine!  

If you read my "About Me" section of this little blog, you'll read that I'm fully aware I don't have much of a personal style when it comes to decorating. If I like it and I think it looks good, I'll decorate with it.  I'm typically not intentional when it comes to decorating.  I don't create "inspiration boards" or spend months poring over fabrics and paint swatches.  

However, I totally should.  Those are pretty flippin' awesome.  I'm just a little too lazy and impulsive.

I should spend time picking things out.  I should be more intentional.  Not because that's what I'm supposed to do, but because I waste too much money when I don't.  The problem is that my taste in decor, patterns, and colors changes when the wind blows.  Constantly. #firstworldproblems.  What I like one year I'll probably detest the next.  This is why I try to stay away from things that are too trendy.  Plus, I'm not really a super trendy person.  At all.  One step into my house and you'd see exactly what I'm talking about.

All that to be said, I really do love my little home.  I love the cozy feel.  I love the absolute randomness that is my decor.  I love the hot mess that it is.  It is busy.  And cluttered.  And it wreaks havoc on my ADD, but I love it.

When we first moved in, the walls were bare {thank you, Captain Obvious}.  I offered to host a baby shower for my sister about 2 months after we moved in and knew this little place had to be {somewhat} presentable.  Fast forward to the night before the shower.  That's when I decided to decorate.  What a shocker that I'd wait til the very last minute.  This little wall went up at about 3 a.m.  And I SO want to change it every single day that I look at it.  It's a bit dark and I'd really like to lighten things up, but I'm sticking with it until I can figure out what the heck to put in it's place {another gallery wall, I'm sure}.


If you look carefully, you can see a little chip in that medallion on the left side of the wall.  My boys like to play ball in the house.  I should say they LIKED to play ball in the house.  Until a few of my things broke.  We had to tap the brakes on indoor ball play.  There's way too many balls in this place as it is anyway :)

Did I fix it?!  No.  Just put it right back up. Lazy, I know.  Let's just call it a conversation starter, shall we?!

               


This is a little gallery wall in the hallway between the boys room and the guest room.  I threw this one up a couple of hours before our out of town family came to visit.  Nothing like an overnight visit/party/shower/dinner to get you decorating!!!  I need to change out the pictures, but overall, I really love the way these frames fill this little space.  I found these frames at Michael's a few years ago and they were marked down an insane amount.  They were a little dinged up, but a bit of elbow grease and paint fixed 'em right up.  The total cost for this wall was a whopping $30!!!




I just put this one up a couple of weeks ago.  I randomly found these frames at Michael's for about 75% off and had to snag them because they were cheap and they matched my curtains perfectly!  I wanted to add a little bit more color in that space, too. I found the framed tin at Hobby Lobby {half off} as well as the sign in the middle of the wall.  The lamps were a fun Kirkland's find.  The pressed tin tray was from Southern Living back in the day and the little pots with the boxwoods {& the boxwoods} were all from Ikea.



Like I said, it's not all perfectly styled.  It's not trendy.  But it's all me.  Scattered and random and {for the meantime} I really do love it all :)







Wednesday, September 10, 2014

No Need to Knead

Bread and pasta....my two favorite carbs.  I could eat a loaf of freshly baked French bread and not even think twice about it.  I remember visiting Europe with my grandma and each time we went, we made sure that every meal consisted of some type of bread.  When we were in Italy, every meal consisted of bread and pasta...those were some of the best meals I've ever had.

As much as I love bread, I don't eat very much of it very often these days if at all.  We have a bread maker I was gifted a few years ago and it's still sitting in the bubble wrap it came in.  I've always wanted to bake a steaming loaf of fresh bread.  My Mawmaw made the most amazing bread from scratch.  I can still smell it when I think about her.

I had every intention of baking a loaf when we got the bread maker, but every recipe I came across called for yeast and/or kneading.  I typically don't keep any yeast in the pantry and I'd always forget to pick some up at the store.  And kneading?!  No thanks.  I'm a little too lazy when it comes to cooking in the kitchen and I'd prefer not to take the extra step {lame, I know}.

Since I've been cooking breakfast for my boys in the morning, I really try hard to mix things up.  They share the same love for bread that I do so I wanted to find a bread recipe that would double as a great for breakfast for them or as a late night snack for me.  Then I came across this one and I knew it was kismet.  And the best part?!  I had all the ingredients on hand so it was on the table and in our bellies the very next morning.  

CINNAMON SUGAR RIBBON BREAD

1/3 C. sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 C. unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 C. light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 C. buttermilk
2. C. all purpose flour
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. baking soda



For this recipe, you'll need a 9x5 in. loaf pan.  Grease that up just a bit and sprinkle with flour.  Set aside.

Now go ahead and preheat your oven to 350.

Mix together the cinnamon & sugar in a small bowl and set aside.


Melt the butter.

While the butter is melting, combine the egg, brown sugar, oil, & vanilla.  Don't pour the butter into the mix until it's had a chance to cool off {for risk of cooking the egg!!}  Once the butter has had a few minutes to cool, add to the egg/brown sugar/oil/vanilla mixture and whisk together until combined.  Then whisk in the buttermilk.

After all that whisking, it's time to stir.

Stir in the flour, nutmeg, and baking soda.  You'll want to stir until it's combined, but make sure not to over stir.  It'll be lumpy and that's A-OK.

Take half of the batter and pour it into your loaf pan.  Reserve the rest and set it aside.  Sprinkle about 3/4ths of the cinnamon/sugar mixture evenly over the batter.  This is going to create the delicious ribbon going through the center of the bread {it's just as tasty as it is pretty}.


Now you can involve your kids if you so desire.  My youngest was BEGGING to help me and he usually doesn't have to beg too hard because I do love when they want to help in the kitchen....even though their assistance usually results in eggshells in the batter, flour sprayed all over the kitchen, and spills on the floor.  Crazy enough, I wouldn't have it any other way...especially now that they're old enough to clean up after themselves ;)

Now top the cinnamon sugar with the rest of the batter and then sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar on top of that.  As you're doing this, just remind yourself that there's no such thing as too much cinnamon sugar.  Especially for this recipe.  Plus, it won't all stick to the crust.  

Bake at 350 for about 45-55 minutes {mine took almost an hour}.  Just like you would with a cake, stick a toothpick in the center of the bread to make sure it's ready.  You may get a few crumbs, but pop it back in the oven if your toothpick is covered in batter.


When it's all ready, remove from the oven and set aside for about 15-20 minutes before inverting.  We covered ours with foil and let it cool overnight so it was ready for breakfast the next morning.


When it was all said and done, we ended up with the most delectable, cinnamon sugar crusted slice of heaven.  SO very good.  And even better with a little tiny spread of butter.  Ohmiword.


I was so happy when my boys ate it all up.  Delighting in my cooking isn't something they're known for, so watching them eat every last crumb sure did make my little mommy heart happy. Of course, I'd be even happier if they would devour vegetables like they do pancakes and bread, but I'll take what I can get when it's 7:00 in the morning.  

Full bellies.  Happy mommy.  A definite winner.  

And I have to say it pairs up pretty well with a tall glass of cold milk, cozy blanket, and Netflix {specifically, Breaking Bad}.  






Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Redemption.

I'm a fan of quinoa.  A BIG fan.  I really like to say the word almost more than I like eating it. 

KEEN-WAH.  

Say it with me.  KEEEEEN-WAHHHHHHH.

It reminds me of my friend, Meredith.  I remember when quinoa started to become a "thing".   I had never heard of it and she was telling us all about it and how she had made a recipe or two with it. I remember balking at the price tag.  NO WAY would I spend $10 for a bag of....what was it anyway???  Rice??  Pasta??  

I started to look for it in the store and couldn't remember how to pronounce it.  

KWEE-NO-UH???  

KWIN-OH??? 

KEEN-WHA???

If I can't pronounce the dang thing, there's no way in heck I was going to eat it.  I'd try to remember how Meredith said it and she'd laugh thismuch when I'd ask her.  I can't look at quinoa without thinking of her...and I sorta love that because she's one of my most precious friends and thinking about her and her contagious laugh makes me smile.   

KEEN-WAH.

I've since tried quinoa and loved...errr, LOVE....it.  I really do.  It can be a little bitter, so I always cook it in chicken broth and add a few little spices to cut the tang.  I love that there are a MILLION ways to make it and it's packed full of protein and goodness. 

KEEN-WAH.

After posting such a sinful little snack yesterday, I knew I needed to add something redeeming today.  I find myself getting many of our dinners from one of my favorite food blogs, Damn Delicious.  If you haven't visited before, you should start.  After trying her Carnitas Avocado Pizza, I knew this dish wouldn't disappoint either...and I was SO right.  More so than I could've even imagined.

SOUTHWESTERN QUINOA STUFFED PEPPERS





3 Cups cooked quinoa {which is about 1 cup uncooked}
1 (4oz.) can diced green chiles
1 Cup frozen corn
1/2 Cup black beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 Cup petite diced tomatoes
1/2 Cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1/4 Cup crumbled feta cheese
3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. chili powder
Kosher salt & ground pepper, to taste
6 bell peppers, seeded & tops cut off

I know this ingredient list may seem like a lot, but it's not.  It's really not.  Especially when you see how easily it's all prepared.  Let's get started, shall we?!

Go ahead and make your quinoa according to package directions.  Like I said earlier, I like to cook mine in chicken broth instead of water.  I'll often toss in a little garlic & onion powder and a tiny bit of sea salt as well.  

Once your quinoa is ready, transfer it to a large bowl.  Now combine the quinoa with the chiles, corn, beans, cheeses, cilantro, & spices.  Pretty much everything except for the peppers.  Stir it all around until it's nice and mixed.


I don't know about you, but I think that looks amazing.  And it is.  

Now.  Let me just tell you that if you're so inclined, you can stop right here.  This "stuffing" is perfect all on it's own.  Since making this dish, I always have these ingredients on hand so that I can make a batch of the stuffing to keep and eat for lunch or any time I'm craving it.  It is unbelievable savory and delicious.

Now let's keep on with the recipe...

Cut the bottoms of your peppers so that they will lay flat in your baking dish.  I basically just shave off the bumps and they sit perfectly.  Cut of the tops, de-seed, and discard.  Fill the peppers with the quinoa stuffing and make sure you're generous with the filling.  You want as much of that goodness as you can fit inside.


We used red & green peppers...as you can see...and I definitely preferred the red.  They were both amazing, my palate just tends to prefer red a little more :)

Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes.  If you can wait that long.


This is the kind of recipe that makes me sad I didn't heed Meredith's advice and try quinoa sooner.  


At the request of Mr. Spouse, next time I make these I'll be adding shredded chicken to the stuffing.  He really enjoyed the meal...he had 3 peppers, for the love!!!....but he said it would've been a bit more satisfying with the addition of a little chicken.  

Noted.

If you're completely opposed to quinoa, I think the flavors would really be a perfect pair with rice, too....but I'm sure you didn't need me to tell you that ;)  




Monday, September 8, 2014

Button Poppin'

I wouldn't consider myself a health nut by any stretch of the means.  I am very conscientious of what I put in my body...sometimes more than others...but a health nut, no.  I abide by the "everything in moderation" theory.  I love working out {ummmm....love might be a stretch}.  I like it.  I do.  And I do it because it makes me feel pretty darn good.  I love eating foods that fuel my body.  Protein...fruits...veggies....and lots, and lots, and lots of water.  I love it all.  But I also love to indulge.  That phrase would be accurate.  I LOVE to indulge.  Who doesn't?!  I don't do it every day, but man, oh man.  I really, REALLY want to.  Restraint and I have become pretty good friends over the years.

I recently went on a "bad food" binge. Y'know...daily indulgences....the button poppin' kind of food.  Ice cream sandwiches covered in sprinkles for dessert...sweet tea for my drinks...and loads of carb laden foods for dinner.  "I don't regret a single bite or sip," said my 5-year-old taste palate.  I can only indulge for so long before my body....and my pants...start screaming for a break.  I'm far from a perfect eater and I'm okay with that. 

One of my favorite indulgences became this delicious S'mores popcorn concoction I found HERE.  I wanted to make a batch and give it to Mr. Spouse's student trainers.  That was my excuse anyway.  One bite in and I was hooked.  I could hear the butons start poppin' with every bite I took.  That's when the yoga pants came out.  This was so very easy to make and took almost no time at all.  My good friend, Restraint, had to be locked up for this indulgence....it was TOO good and too easy for me not to resist.  One bite and you'll see why, too.


S'MORES POPCORN

1 box Golden Grahams cereal

2 bags lightly salted microwaveable popcorn {I used Pop Secret Sea Salt}

1 bag semi sweet chocolate chip morsels

1 bag marshmallows


I know this may sound crazy, but this was the first time I've ever had Golden Grahams.  Stop the world.  I've been missing out!!!!  

You'll need a couple of big bowls because this little batch isn't so little.  Pop your popcorn and divide the bags into both bowls.  

Now divide the Golden Grahams.  Pour half over one bowl of popcorn and half over the other bowl of popcorn.

Now do the same with the marshmallows.  Half of the bag into one bowl of popcorn/Golden Grahams and the other half in the other bowl.

Now mix it.  Mix it real good.  

Melt your chocolate.  You could dirty up your double boiler for this, but I wanted easy and went for the microwave.  About 3 ish minutes, stopping every minute to stir so that the chocolate didn't burn.  There's NOTHING worse than burnt chocolate.  Okay...maybe burnt popcorn.  Yes...that's probably worse.  So if you're melting it in the microwave, make sure to stop every minute and stir. 



Take a couple of large cookie sheets and cover them in wax paper.  Then pour out your popcorn mix evenly on top of them both.  

Then start drizzling the chocolate all over the top.  Just take a spoon and drizzle.

Drizzle some more.

And just {you guessed it} drizzle again.  And again.  And again. 

You might be thinking to yourself, "that's too much chocolate!!!"  and if you are, we can't be friends. 

 There is NO such thing as too much chocolate.

Drizzle until the bowl is empty.

Then lick the bowl. 



I popped the cookie sheets into the fridge for about 15-20 minutes to let the chocolate cool and harden.  

I could barely stand the wait.

So I snuck out to the fridge and took a few melted chocolate handfuls.  

OH.MY.BLESS.


It's as good....well, BETTER....than you could imagine.

Now you can see why my buttons were poppin'.  I don't really want to blame it on the 5 bowls I ate.  Surely that wouldn't have done it.  It might have been the additional batch I made after devouring the first one.  Jury's still out. 

If you're looking for a snack that will satisfy your desire to indulge, look no further.  Your 5-year-old taste palate will thank you :)

Friday, September 5, 2014

A New Look!

I had a post all planned out for today, but I'm not sharing just yet.

I'm FAR too excited about my brand new blog design!!!!!  

Thanks to the amazing talents of Tenille at Designs by Tenille, this train wreck of a blog finally has a new look and is so much more user friendly!!!


Tenille was the brains behind the design for my teaching blog, too.

I'm pretty much obsessed with everything she does.  She is fantastically talented and I'm SO excited she made over my little slice of cyberspace!

If you're itching for a new look for your blog, head on over and let Tenille work wonders for you, too!!!  

Thank you, Tenille!!!!  I absolutely LOVE it!!!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Pamcake Cakes

As a working mom, I know how hard it can be to get yourself ready in the morning and get your kids ready for the day, too.  I've packed lunches and put on mascara at the same time.  I've tossed Pop Tarts at my kids and turned on the Disney Channel just to give myself a few extra minutes to try and look presentable before rushing out the door.  Those mornings usually result in raised voices and tears...mostly for me :)  Whether you're a working mom who heads to the office...a working mom working from home...or just a working mom taking care of your kids all day {HELLO!!!  That's HARD work!!!!}...mornings can be tough!  

Now that my schedule is a bit more flexible, I've made it a point to get up a little earlier and make breakfast for my boys.  This doesn't seem like a big deal, but for two kids who started the day with Pop Tarts, donuts, and muffins for the last two years, it's a HUGE deal for me!  Don't get me wrong.  I don't think there's anything wrong with fast & convenient breakfasts...especially when your sanity is involved...but I really do love being able to make things my boys love to eat.   After all, they don't always love what I cook for dinner, so I'll happily make them breakfast just to tell myself that they really do love my cooking ;)

My boys love pancakes.  We love them so much we'll even have breakfast for dinner some nights.  I don't make the best pancakes.  They always end up burnt and runny in the middle.  Mr. Spouse is the household pancake maker in the house.  Since he isn't home in the mornings I knew I had to figure out this pancake thing on my own.  While I was thumbing through one of my old church cookbooks a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon this gem.  Baked pancakes?!?!  I knew I couldn't screw that up.

This has quickly become my boys' favorite breakfast.  My littlest love, Grant, affectionately refers to them as "Pamcake Cakes" and I'm pretty sure that name will stick for a lifetime.  I love that I can prep the ingredients before going to bed and then wake up, pop it in the oven, and have breakfast ready before the boys wake up.  The extra addition of chocolate chips doesn't hurt the cause either ;)  

BAKED PANCAKE BITES {aka "PAMCAKE CAKES}

2 TBSP. granulated sugar

2 C. flour

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

4 TBSP. butter, melted

1 1/2 C. milk

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350 and lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish.


Melt your butter and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Get ready to dirty up another bowl.  This time make it a large one.  Silently groan as you think about doing dishes.  Groan even louder when you realize your dishwasher is full and you'll have to empty it and put all the dishes away before cleaning the ones you're currently dirtying.  {{sigh}}

In the large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and vanilla.  Then go ahead and stir in the melted butter you set aside earlier.

Pour the flour mixture into the large bowl full of milk/eggs/vanilla/butter and mix until combined.  Make sure not to OVER stir.  Your batter will be lumpy and that's OKAY :)

Pour the batter into the greased baking dish and cook at 350 for 25-30 minutes.



Here's what you'll get when it's all baked and ready to go...


You can top your little bites with a pat of butter and then drizzle a little warm syrup over the top.

You can even add a generous helping of semi sweet chocolate morsels to the batter before baking and end up with these delectable pieces of heaven.


Can you guess what my boys preferred?!?!  Pamcake cakes with chocolate chips, please!!!

Either way you go, you can't go wrong!  You probably have all the ingredients on hand.  You can even store the leftovers in an airtight container for about 3ish days and serve them again.   Talk about a quick and easy breakfast!!  Definitely the best part of waking up ;)


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Pasta Perfection

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably know that I'm a sucker for pasta.  I have over 30 pasta recipes on this little blog {not mine of course.  I'm not a chef...I just know how to follow recipes :)}    Pasta is, by far, my most favorite thing to eat.  I could absolutely eat it every single day.  I really do try to refrain.  My jeans pretty much beg me to take it easy on the carbs :) This dish would've been perfect without the addition of said carb, but I'm pretty sure it adds to the overall delightfulness of this meal, so don't leave it out.

Pasta can be really heavy depending on how you prepare it.  This, however, is anything but filling.  It's light and robust all at the same time.  No heavy sauces.  No crazy ingredients.  If you ask me, it's perfection in a bowl.  

SPICY SAUSAGE AND PEPPER PASTA

12 oz. Penne Pasta {I used Penne Plus, Market Pantry}

2 TBSP. Olive Oil

2 cloves garlic, minced {I used 1 Tbsp. pre minced garlic}

1/2 red onion, sliced

1/2 red bell pepper, sliced

1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced

1/2 orange bell pepper, sliced

 1 pkg. Smoked Turkey Sausage, cut into 1/2 inch slices

Crushed red pepper, to taste

Grape tomatoes, halved {to taste}

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil {more or less depending on your preference}

Shredded parmesan cheese, to taste

Salt & pepper, to taste



This little dish takes no time to prep and cook.  You'll spend most of your time...a whopping 5 minutes...slicing the veggies, herbs, and sausage.  

Go ahead and start cooking your pasta according to package directions.  Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet and the sausage, onion, veggies, and garlic.  Toss in some crushed red pepper while you're at it.  I added quite a bit because we love a little kick in our food.  Add as much...or as little...as you want.  Saute for about 5 minutes or until the veggies & onion soften up.   


Remove the sausage, onion, & peppers from the heat and set aside.  Drain pasta and return it to the pot.  Now toss in the onion/pepper/sausage mix.  And don't forget to add the tomatoes and basil, too.  Mr. Spouse isn't a huge fan of tomatoes so I didn't add too many of those. Toss ingredients until well mixed.  


Now serve yourself a generous helping and top it off with shredded parmesan cheese.  It's okay to be liberal with your serving of cheese...trust me ;)


From start to finish, this dish took me about 25-30 minutes to get on the table.  I know I live my life in exclamation points and I'm a bit dramatic about everything, but seriously...this is AMAZING!!!!!  And if amazing doesn't quite explain it, let me give you a few synonyms that will....
Awesome.  Incredible.  Wonderful.  Marvelous.  Delectable.  Savory.  Scrumptious.  Palatable.
{Insert your adjective here.}

If you're looking for a quick weeknight meal that's easy to prep and takes no time to get on the table and in your mouth, look no further.  Absolute PERFECTION.


When I make a recipe for the very first time, I follow it to a T.  I don't like to veer away from it because, like I said before, I'm not a cook.  After I have it for the first time, I'll figure out what needs to be added/omitted and then eventually make it again with those changes.  When I make this again...which will be VERY soon...I'll use the WHOLE pepper and more red onion because I love a pasta brimming with loads of veggies.  A definite keeper!!!!