Thursday, November 20, 2014

This is How Life Looks...

So far, life this week looks like this...


An asthma diagnosis after years of being labeled with "reactive airway disease".  I'm happy we finally have real answers and treatment because with treatment comes relief!  Bless his heart!!!

Speaking of treatment...this is what my dining room table looks like...



And the bill for that med in the middle?!?!?!  That looked like this...


"I have the most AMAZING insurance!!!!", said no teacher ever.  
But hey...I saved $13.58!!!! {{I hope you can read the sarcasm}}


As much as I hated how that bill looked, I loved that it helped my sweet boy look like this after a string of sleepless nights and cough filled days.  This is a look I haven't seen in forever.  


Praise Jesus!!!



In the interest of keeping things "real", this is what my house looks like at this very second...




But that's because my kitchen looks like this....


We're *almost* there!!!  

I'll be back next week with all things Christmas...gift guides...traditions...decor...and some fun ideas for that mischeivous little elf on the shelf!  Of course, I'll be posting a few things about Thanksgiving too, and some really yummy holiday recipes!!!  

 I hope you'll join me for all the fun!  



Monday, November 17, 2014

A Souper Collection

So, I guess we've decided to bypass Fall and head right into Winter.


It's November.  NOVEMBER (just in case you didn't get the memo).  I'm still supposed to be sweating it out in 80 degree temps while waiting for the kids in the carpool line.  Instead, I'm cozied up in my sweats sipping on my endless cup of coffee.  I'm not complaining about that, but seriously.  I'd at least like to rewind and hold on to Fall just a smidge longer.

Since our early winter has arrived, we've been indulging in more soups than necessary.  After all, it is our favorite cold weather food.  Mr. Spouse makes a mean pot of chili.  I mean, it's pretty amazing.  So we enjoy that through the weekend when he's home to make it.  During the week, we enjoy our soups like crazy.  Just SO darn comforting!!!  I figured it was time to compile all of our favorites for you because I'm pretty sure you might enjoy some of these, too!!!



It's pretty hard to say which one is our absolute favorite because they're all so good in their own way.



I tend to make a TON of Italian Chicken Soup.  That Pioneer Woman sure does know what she's doing.  This is one amazing soup.  A little elbow grease is involved in the prep, but the juice is worth the squeeze.  And you MUST serve this one with SHAVED parmesan.  Trust me on that one.





Whenever we have company, I always make a couple of batches of  my Chicken Tortilla Soup and there's typically NONE left when it's all said and done.  Absolutely couldn't be easier...a definite crowd pleaser, for sure!!!!




I started making this one last year and realized I worked it into our weekly dinner rotation WAY too often.  Not that that was a bad thing, but it definitely got a fair share of it's play in our kitchen.  It's a crockpot recipe, but I love making it right on the stovetop.




This little version of baked potato soup has been repinned a whole bunch.  A friend I used to teach with gave me this recipe and we've been making it like this ever since.  I love that it calls for hash browns as opposed to potatoes.  I'd much rather dump a bag of those in the crockpot instead of peeling potatoes.  This is definitely a soup for the lazy soul.  




While I know this picture leaves little to be desired, this soup is nothing short of fantastic.  This is the closest I've ever come to recreating La Madeliene's tomato basil soup.  If you're a fan of that one, you'll love this one.  We typically serve it with Italian Grilled cheese and it's the perfect companion.  And personally, I always think this soup is even better the next day!




Again, crummy picture, GREAT soup.  I got this recipe from my parents.  It's their 3-1-1 Minestrone.  They make this one whenever they entertain.  It's enough to feed a crowd and it always gets rave reviews!!!




For all my tequila lovers, this is a soup that will sing to your heart...Hearty Chicken Tequila Soup.  Truth be told, I typically don't use the tequila it calls for, although I'm sure that would help on those nights when I want to get the family to sleep soundly ;)  A girl I used to teach with made this for our team one year and I begged for the recipe after our lunch.  It quickly became a family favorite!!!





Once again, this picture scares the daylights outta me.  YIKES.  I'm now on a mission to remake all of these soups and *try* to picture them in a better light.  SCARY.  Anywho, this chicken & rice soup with avocado is a fast and easy meal.  I adapted one of Rachel Ray's recipes to better fit our family and love how it turned out.  Plus, it's super fast and easy to make!  BONUS!


Speaking of super fast and easy, this spinach tomato tortellini soup is just that.  And tasty, too!  This one didn't last too long.  I was really hoping for leftovers, but no such luck.  I made this when we had company over and I really should've made more.  It didn't last.  If you love cheese filled tortellini, you MUST try this asap!



This SOUPER simple chicken noodle soup isn't just easy...it's fantastically flavorful, too!  There's nothing more comforting than a piping hot bowl of chickn noodle soup...and I don't mean Campbell's version.  Homemade chicken noodle soup reminds me of sick days spent on the couch at mom & dads...watching every episode of Swan's Crossing & Saved by the Bell I could fit in before my siblings returned home from school.  Oh how I wish my boys would give this a try!!!  They need those chicken noodle soup memories to cling to when they get older ;)




This might possibly be the most unappetizing picture in the history of food fauxtography, but the taste makes up for what the picture lacks to convey.  I don't know about y'all, but I do tend to consider chili as a soup...especially when it's not too thick.  I found this recipe for Lime & Black Bean Chili several years ago and couldn't believe how much I liked it!  Even my littlest LOVES it!!!  The secret?!?!  Cilantro!!!




Of course, nothing beats a good ol' bowl of this tried and true classic.  Who doesn't love a warm bowl of taco chili soup?!  'Nuff said!



I heard this version of Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana is a very close copycat.  I still haven't tried the original version, but I can tell y'all that I'm 12 kinds of crazy about this one. It is SO amazing!  I need to branch out and try more than just pasta when I visit the OG because if the original is anything like the copycat then I know I'm in for a good meal!!!  

I'm always looking for more soup recipes to add to my soup repetoire, so if you know of any I need to try, let me know!!!!  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What I've Been Up To Tuesday

Things have been quietly here lately, so I thought I'd randomly appear to tell ya what's been going on. 

 I'm prepping for another conference in Michigan, so I've been a little swamped with all those details. I'm also hosting a bridal shower for my soon-to-be sister-in-law the day before I leave for Livonia.  There's nothing like hosting a party at your house to get you in gear to decorate...and/or REdecorate. 

 So....we finally decided to redecorate the "sitting" room and turn it into a little game room.  Let me just tell you that when we first moved in, we had NO idea what we were going to do with that little space.  We threw pictures up on the wall and decorated it the night before my sisters bridal shower {at 3 a.m. in the morning!!!} two years ago and it's stayed the same ever since.  We've been taking our sweet time and we've finally come up with something we're THRILLED about!!!  So...here's what she looks like now....


SO dark!!!  And SCARY!!!!!!

 That table cracks me up because it's 12 sizes too small for the room.  The pictures on the wall are slightly askew....that couchish looking thing reminds me of something from the 60's...and that rug.  Oh, that rug.  #firstworldproblems.  I'm not complaining because it's served it's purpose the last few years as an absolutely nothing room, but it's time for a change. 

The pictures are coming off the wall.  The couch is going bye-bye.  We just got new rugs and my brother is building me a square/low to the ground game table.  I'm getting some poufs...a couple of new chairs...and a new loveseat...and some fun pillows to tie everything together.  Here's a peek....



I'm adding some baskets to the top of the bookshelves...putting a rustic'ish' mirror above the new loveseat...and adding light sconces on either side of that.  We're taking out the claw foot table and putting in a decorated bar cart.  The game table will be low to the ground and those tufted chairs will flank either side of it.  I'm just hoping my vision turns out to be as cute as I think it will :)  We'll see!

Have I told you about our kitchen yet?  The day before we moved into this house the homeowners asked to meet with us.  We went through the house with them...room by room...and you could tell how much they LOVED their little place.   They told us all the stories about what went into building the house...how much they pored over every single decision...and at the heart of it all was their baby...the kitchen.


This is my range.  In case you think your eyes are deceiving you, those are, in fact, roosters.  Roosters.  Painted onto the backsplash.  This was my least favorite part of the house when we purchased and I had EVERY intention of ripping those tiles out as soon as we moved in.  But I didn't.  And they've grown on me.  The previous homeowner painted them himself.  He and his sweet little wife LOVED them.  And if I'm being honest, I kinda feel bad taking them out.  And like I said, they really have grown on me.   I love that this little house has a story to tell and I love that these roosters pay homage to the family who built it.

All that to be said, we're slated to have our cabinets painted starting next week!!!!  YAY!!!  While I really do love the color of these cabinets, it's just not my style.  We really want to brighten the space up a bit, so we're painting them white...well, cream.  And we're adding a pop of color on the pantry door.  And all the decor is finding a new home.  Except the roosters, of course ;)



I found these amazing ladderback chairs at a recent trade days and I'm in the process of stripping them.  The paint was chipping something awful and while I loved the look, I knew it would only be a matter of time before my boys started peeling the layers off one at a time.  These are going around the table in my breakfast nook.  I only bought two because I want a fun, eclectic look in that space.


These are two different chairs I bought at an antique fair a month ago.  I just finished painting them and now I need to find fabric for the seats.  These will go in my breakfast nook, too!


As you can see, I'm a big fan of white.  Plain and simple.  But I love it.  

Now let me take a second to brag on my brother.  He has been gifted so much talent!  I was at an antique auction not too long ago and found this balustrade table I wanted, but I didn't love the price tag.  SO, I commissioned my brother to make me something similar and I couldn't be more excited about it!!!!  It's just BEAUTIFUL!!!  It needs another coat, then I'll sand & stain over it to give it a weathered look.  

If you live in the Houston area and you're in need of new furniture, my brother can hook you up.  Did I ever tell y'all that he helped design and build our outdoor kitchen and deck, too?!




I started decorating for Christmas. Yes, already.  And I don't feel the least bit bad about it.  I love this time of the year and I want to enjoy the decorations as long as I can.  We spend a lot of our holiday time out of town, so the earlier we can put things up,the better.  My boys are SO excited to decorate our trees tonight!!!  43 more days, but who's counting?!  



And I'm not sure if you knew this, but coffee is thismuch better when it's served by Santa ;)


Speaking of coffee, I just discovered that Sonic has the BEST coffee ever!!!  Forget paying $5 for a grande from Starbucks.  There's just something about this particular roast that I LOVE.  Plus, the nearest Starbucks is 20 miles away ;)


When I'm not redecorating and painting everything white, I'm spending time with the fam.  Here's just a few fun pics from the last week courtesy of my little iCamera.  The worst quality ever, but they'll do just fine :)  

Now I'm off to finish painting!!!    Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

KWEENO For The Win!

The last time I posted a recipe about quinoa, my sweet friend, Meredith, posted this commercial on my wall...


I laughed WAY too hard.

And I still do.  Cracks me up every time I play it.  Hahahaha!!!!

We've been eating A LOT of quinoa lately.  I mean, shoo.  We might as well.  I paid enough for it and the bag holds at least 10 servings, I swear.  #quinoafordays

This dish makes enough to feed a small army.  If only my boys would partake in the servings.  They feel a lot like the KWEE-NO guy in the commercial..."what the heck is this anyway?!?!?!"  Not that they'd eat it even if they could figure it out, but still.  Heck, I'd love for them to eat hamburgers with us!!!  I rest in the idea that my boys won't be 25 with the taste palate of a 2-year-old....or will they?!?!

Anyway, like I was saying before, this recipe makes quite the serving.  And it's so delicious, too.  If you haven't made the plunge to serve kweeno at your house, you really should dive in.  This is the *perfect* quinoa starter recipe (in my opinion).  Packed full of flavor and SUPER easy!!!  

QUINOA & CHICKEN ENCHILADA CASSEROLE

1 1/4 C. quinoa
2 C. chicken broth
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded.
1/2 tsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 (16 oz.) jar of salsa {we used Joe T. Garcia}
1 (10 oz.) can red enchilada sauce
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chiles
1 (14 oz.) can of black beans (rinsed & drained)
1 (14 oz.) can of corn, drained
1/4 C. chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 C. shredded Mexican/Fiesta blend cheese
Avocado, diced {for garnish, optional}
Scallions, diced {for garnish, optional}


First up, let's cook the KWEENO...ahem, QUINOA.  I like to cook mine in chicken broth and add a little garlic and onion powder in as it's boiling.  It helps to cut down on the bitterness.  So, combine the quinoa and chicken broth in a pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat, & simmer according to package directions.

At the same time, cook your chicken.  If you're smart, you'll already have yours cooked and shredded...or you'll take it easy and shred a rotisserie instead.  In that case, you would be #winning. If you're cooking it, shred it when it's ready and set aside.

While the quinoa is a-cookin', go ahead and prep the rest.  There will be minimal prep...hence the reason this is a great starter meal if you're just getting into quinoa.

Saute the garlic in the olive oil until fragrant...about 1-2 minutes.  Add the salsa and the enchilada sauce to the same pan, mix until combined, and simmer for about 5-10 minutes.  

Now take the quinoa you cooked earlier and dump it into a large bowl.  Toss in the shredded chicken, too.  Add the green chiles, black beans, corn, cilantro, and 1/2 C. of the cheese.  Mix until ingredients are combined.

Remove the enchilada sauce/salsa mix from the heat and pour over the quinoa mixture in the large bowl.  Stir until the quinoa mix is well coated with the salsa/sauce.  

Transfer the quinoa mixture to a greased, 9x13 baking dish.  Top with the remaining cheese and cover with foil.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes (or until cheese is melted) at 400 degrees.


If you so desire...which we did, of course ( I mean, go big or go home, right?!?!)...go ahead and top your serving with diced avocado and scallions.  

Seriously, y'all.  SO delicious!

I'm really emphatic about explaining the meals I cook.  Not so much articulate, but emphatic, yes.  AMAZING!!!!  Remember how much I love exclamations?!  Because I do!!!  And I love this dish just as much!!!  

If you're just boarding the quinoa train, or if you've had your ticket for years, get on this dish as soon as you can.  Simple, easy, and tasty....a winning combo, for sure!


KWEENO FOR THE WIN!!!!



Monday, November 3, 2014

Tastes Like Fall

Happy Monday, friends.  And...

Seriously...where'd October go?!  That was a fast & furious month full of memories.  Sweet memories.  Some of my favorites were on Friday night...trick-or-treating with my sweet little family.  The only thing that would've made it better was if Mr. Spouse could've been with us.  We sure did miss him.  The joys of Friday night lights {NOT!!!!}  

I used to plan out the boys' costumes months in advance.  I wanted them to be fun & different...more for me than for them :)  But now I LOVE that they have such big opinions about what they want to be.  My oldest insisted on being a taco for Halloween.  A taco, y'all.  He doesn't even like tacos.  But whatever.  I typically wait 'til the last minute to buy or put together costumes because their little minds are always changing.  And {shocker} change they did.  My oldest eventually decided being a ninja was a lot cooler than a taco and my youngest dressed up as a Skylander.  I took my love of leopard print to a new level and painted my face to match my obsession.  My sister & nephew joined in on the fun and my little baby came dressed as Elliot from E.T.  I DIE!!!!  He won Halloween.  


I even managed to make the boys an "exciting" lunch on Friday.  That's what my oldest called it..."exciting".  Ha.  That made me laugh.  Because I know everything else I pack for them is a bit dull and uneventful.  You know, just trying not to set to bar too high for myself ;)


Now it's November and time definitely won't slow down from here 'til the new year.  The weather is finally starting to feel more like Fall and I'm lovin' it.  Cool and crisp.  And here's a recipe that tastes like Fall, too.  A deliciously moist, albeit dense, chocolate chip pumpkin bread.  And I'm topping it off with a sinfully decadent salted caramel frosting.  YUM!!!!  

CHOCOLATE CHIP PUMPKIN BREAD with SALTED CARAMEL FROSTING

3 C. all purpose flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 C. pumpkin pie filling
4 eggs
2 C. granulated sugar
1 C. vegetable oil
4 oz. applesauce {one of those little applesauce cups :)}
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chip morsels 

FROSTING
1 container of whipped buttercream frosting
1/4 C. caramel sauce {I used caramel sundae  topping, found in the ice cream section}
1/2 tsp. sea salt

HELLO FALL.


Heat your oven to 400 and lightly grease an 8x4" loaf pan.  I used 3 disposable 8x3" loaf pans I picked up at the grocery store and they were the perfect size.  3 loaves later, I was one happy, stuffed camper :)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and baking soda.  Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, mix together the pumpkin pie filling, eggs, sugar, oil, applesauce, and vanilla.  Slowly combine the flour mixture with the wet ingredients.  Once it's nice and combined, go ahead and fold in your chocolate chips.  I'm not shy, so I added almost the entire package.  I may have left 1/4 cup in the bag to eat with my peanut butter, but the rest of those morsels found themselves covered in batter.  You can add as many....or few...as your taste palate prefers.

Evenly portion the batter out into your loaf pans and bake at 400 for about 60-70 minutes or until you insert a toothpick into the center of the bread and it comes out clean.  Mine baked for closer to 65-70 minutes.  

Remove from the oven and give it some time to cool...unless you're like me and you insist on cutting a slice and eating it warm with a cold glass of milk.  While you're waiting for the loaves to cool completely, mix up your salted caramel frosting.  Just place the whipped buttercream, caramel sauce, and sea salt in a bowl and stir.  Easiest, tastiest frosting ever!!!  

Once the bread is completely cool, frost it.  Then dig in.  And I mean DIG.RIGHT.IN.  Show no restraint.   My oldest...aka: the world's PICKIEST eater...absolutely LOVED it.  I mean, y'all...he LOVED it.  I was certain that pumpkin was a flavor profile he would vehemently detest, but I was SO wrong.  So I guess you could say this recipe is definitely picky kid tested and approved :)


It's definitely a dense bread.  Not insanely heavy, but dense.  And oh, so moist.  The original recipe called for 2 cups of oil {ohmiword} and I decided to cut that down to only a cup and some applesauce.  While I'm not the biggest fan of pumpkin, I do love the combo of that flavor & chocolate.  And then the salted caramel!?!?!  Well, HELLO FALL!!!!  So delicious!


And because this recipe yields several loaves at once, it's the perfect little something to whip up and take to your kids' teachers or gift to your neighbors.  I can personally tell you that the way to a teacher's heart is right through her/his stomach :)  Okay...well maybe that's just the case for this teacher ;)  Either way, it really does make a pretty great little Fall gift!    Try it & see for yourself!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Last Minute Halloween Gifts

I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating again.  

I LOVE HALLOWEEN!!!!  

I love everything about it.  Not the gore and the horror {although scary movies are my most favorite to watch}, but everything else.  There will always be a little kid in me that just wants to trick-or-treat, veg out on candy, and watch as many scary movies as I can.  And let's be real.  I sorta still get to do that, but nowadays I send my kids door-to-door and when we come back home to check out our loot, I take their candy...y'know, only the pieces that look unsafe to eat {aka: my favorites...sour patch kids & kit kats}.  Once the boys come down from their sugar high, we send them to bed and then stay up late watching old scary movies, laughing at the parts that used to freak us out as kids, and enjoy every last bit of that "unsafe" candy I took away from the kids earlier.  Life is good.

Now I want to share a few last minute Halloween treats if you're in search of something to send to school with your kids tomorrow.

If there's any day in the school year that teachers need a little pick-me-up, it's Halloween.  And Valentine's Day.  And, well, any day that involves copious amounts of sugar.  But seriously, teachers need to know you stand with them in solidarity on this crazy, crazy day.  So we're sending our teachers a batch of homemade cookies this year because teachers like sugar, too :)  And hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em ;)  



About a week ago, my youngest was begging to make Peanut Butter Blossoms.  I've never made them before, but he had some at a friend's house and he couldn't stop talking about them.  So I went on a hunt for a recipe and then stumbled upon this recipe and picture.  


DARLING!!!!  

I wanted to try it.  I really did.  But I decided a batch of regular PB Blossoms would do the trick because ain't nobody got time for all that.  And then I went to Target and found these little Wilton eyes in the baking section.  And a little squeeze tube of icing.  And then I was all, "I'll make time for that" because sometimes I like to torture myself and do things completely unnecessary.  

And it was fun.


I do realize that these guys look a lot more like the worm from "Diary of a Worm" than spiders, but hey...they'll work.


I bought these darling cookie containers at Dillard's last year a few weeks after Halloween.  I wish I would've bought more.  I scored 'em for a whopping $3 a piece!!!!  I LOVE scouring the sale shelves at Dillard's after season.  You can find the best stuff for the cheapest prices!  Perfect for gift giving!!!   I pulled them out the other day and knew our little spider blossom cookies would be a perfect fit!  Unfortunately, I only had two, so I improvised and pulled out another cookie jar I've been holding onto for a few years and I'll be using that one to send to school also.  



We gave these little boxes to the boys' teachers last year.  I found the printable from My Sister's Suitcase HERE and stuffed the boxes with a cozy pair of socks and foot cream.  Simple and sweet!  The cups were a fun treat for their friends...I just cut out & glued on a mouth {drawing them took too long!}, googly eyes, and filled them with cheese balls!  Couldn't have been easier!



My oldest wanted me to make goodie bags for his class again this year and I was totally on board.  Then I saw this on Pinterest {for the love!!!!}




I can't melt white chocolate without burning it every.single.time. so I wasn't really sold on the idea until I found these melts at Hobby Lobby.


SOLD.

So I made a class set of these for both boys to take to their friends tomorrow.  I mean, they'll get plenty of candy trick-or-treating, so this seemed like a pretty fun alternative and they really didn't take long at all to make! And they were SO easy!!!!! 




This will be the first year that Mr. Spouse won't be home to trick-or-treat.  SADSVILLE.  He has a game that night and we're thissad about it.  When he works {he's an athletic trainer} so do his kids.  I remember being in high school and still trick-or-treating.  {Confession:  I went trick-or-treating when I was a freshman in college.  I definitely dressed up as a cow and tagged along with my younger siblings and cousin.  Growing up at that point wasn't an option :)} Those big kids are bummed they'll be missing out on all the Halloween festivities this year and that makes me sad.  So we're bringing a little bit of Halloween to them.

I wanted to do something a little special for them to say 'thank you' for everything they do and hopefully make them smile.  Even big kids are still kids.  So they'll be getting these tomorrow...


Of course, gauze would've been cuter, but all I had was crepe paper and it works just the same :)  I used a dollop of hot glue to adhere it in place then tied it all up with a little ribbon.  The paper inserts on the lid were printed and then cut out with a 2.5" circle cutter {found at Hobby Lobby}. It was the perfect size!  I didn't glue it down or anything...I just placed it on top of the lid then screwed down the rim to secure it in place.


The jars are filled to the brim with candy....good candy {there IS a difference! Ha!!!}  

Can't wait 'til tomorrow!!!  And if you're a teacher, God bless your sweet soul.  I'm sure you wish you could press fast forward until Saturday {oh, sweet Saturday}.   Look on the bright side.  At least you're not dealing with a full moon, too ;)