Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thrifted Thursday...

The other day B came home with a sack and said, "I was at the mall and I picked up a couple of things for you."  It wasn't Christmas, or my birthday...just because.  As a matter of fact, he was supposed to be shopping for himself, but ever the thoughtful guy he is, he moseyed on over to the ladies section to scout things out. He bought me two of the softest henleys in my favorite colors: grey and a light pink that's a cross between pink and lavender.  

B has impeccable taste, so I always trust his purchases.  But, what made it even better was his thriftiness...he bought them both for ten bucks total!  So, today B gets all the credit for Thrifted Thursday!
Oh, and on an unrelated topic, I'm dubbing December, 'No Coat December'...lately the weather has been unseasonably warm in Iowa.

shirt: gap ($5)
jeans: limited (thrifted)

Bracelet: forever 21

necklace: forever 21 ($1!!!!!)

Happy Thursday!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Barely Functioning...

The last few days has been brutal for two members of the Jackson 5...and I'm not talking about the wee Jackson's. 

The little Mr. has been bouncing into our room between 5:00 and 5:30 am, requesting everything from a lost stuffed animal to breakfast and everything in between.  At some point he recruits his sister to join him and before long, our bed has gained two new members along with jabbing knees and elbows.

I adore my children, I really do.  But, I believe this nifty device will be making it's way into our home in the very near future...


Please Lord...I just want to sleep until 7:00 am.

Love,
The mommy of early risers

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thrifted Thursday: Mathematic Equations...

One pinstripe shirt +sweater+comfy jeans= my new favorite outfit.
I wore this outfit to church on Sunday, and loved it so much that I wore it again on Tuesday.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to wear it next week too.  I would have NEVER done that back in high school...so taboo ha!

sweater:  target (really old)
pinstripe shirt: gap kids (thrifted)
jeans: the limited (thrifted
shoes: urban outfitters
vest:  fossil

But who cares right?  Why not wear something you love over and over (washing in between...or not...your choice) because it works for you and you love it?  


Happy Thursday friends!



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Traumatized By A Christmas Tree...

Every year as we place the first ornament on our Christmas tree, B and I often ask one another, "Remember our first tree?"  And then we laugh and laugh and quickly reiterate our vow made 10 years ago, "We will never again have a real tree."  

The year was 2001.  We were a couple of newlyweds celebrating our very first Christmas married.  We were wavering between a real or artificial tree, when a sweet couple at our church offered to let us cut down a tree from their acreage...for free!  We were way excited about that, so we drove B's little Chevy Z-24 to their farm loaded with some rope and bungee cord, and set out to find our tree.  It all seemed very nostalgic and romantic and I have to admit, B was pretty handsome playing the role of lumberjack.

With the help of our friends, we loaded up the tree (on top of our teeny car) and headed home after receiving a bit of advice:  place the tree in a bucket of water and let it sit outside overnight so the scent isn't overpowering.  No problem.


After letting the tree sit overnight...


We brought her in and decorated her...

A few weeks went by, and we were still congratulating ourselves on a job well done.  One evening, I was sitting near the tree admiring the lights, when I noticed a fine white thread in the branches.  I reached up to remove it, when I noticed another thread.  
And another. And another.

Upon closer inspection, I realized the tree was covered with the threads...or webs.  And then I saw it...a teeny, tiny, spider lowering itself from a silken thread.  But there wasn't just one spider...he brought along several of his spider friends and they were partying it up in my tree.

Apparently, the spiders were hibernating in the tree for the winter, and had mistaken the warmth of our home for summer and decided it was time to come out and play.  Gross.

I ran to get B and screamed that spiders were everywhere and that I was pretty sure they were now crawling all over me.  Probably an exaggeration.

So, B carried the hulking tree back outside, with me doing the hebejebe dance behind him. We took ourselves down to the local hardware store and purchased a few bug bombs to set off in the apartment while we left for a few hours to make sure the little beasts were gone.  We came back to a nasty, foggy, mess and began a lengthy clean-up process.

I'm pretty sure this is the reason you're not supposed to just go and chop down some random tree out in someone's field.  I mean, that is why there are tree farmers and little stands set up in abandoned parking lots with perfectly fresh trees that I imagine are debugged as a free service to all paying customers.

So, while you're enjoying the fresh Christmasy scent of your live (bug free) tree, I'll be bringing out the box containing our tree, and place the 'branches' in the little metal slots. Then, branch by branch I will fluff it out, trying to convince myself of how 'real' it looks.  
Yeah.  Not even close.

Merry Christmas!






Monday, December 12, 2011

Meatless Monday: Roasted Vegetable Pizza...

Hi friends!  I hope you had a wonderful weekend!  We sure did in the Jackson house!  Friday night we attended a Christmas party with all of our international friends and had an awesome time!  Then Saturday, B and I had a Christmas shopping date while the kiddos played with friends.  We topped it all off last night with a trip in the car with the kiddos to look at Christmas lights in a few neighborhoods around town.


Weekends usually mean a departure from healthy fare for us, so it's always nice to start Monday off with a meatless meal.  A dear friend  brought this roasted vegetable pizza to us shortly after one of our kiddos was born.  Is it sad to say I don't remember which kiddo for sure?  Anyway, it's super easy, and if you don't want to make your own crust, you can just buy one of the prepared pizza crusts at the grocery store, and I won't even judge you!  But, I will give you bonus points for making your own alrighty?
Let's get started.

Roasted Vegetable Pizza

1/2 an eggplant, diced small
1/2 red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3-4 roma tomatoes, diced
1-2 garlic clove(s), minced
sprinkling of kosher salt and pepper
drizzle of olive oil
sprinkling of Italian seasoning (optional)
2-3 Tbs prepared basil pesto
8 oz pkg mozzarella thinly sliced (I don't use pre-shredded, but you can if you'd like)
1 recipe pizza crust (recipe below) or store bought pizza crust

Directions:

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Chop all of the vegetables and place in a metal baking pan.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with kosher salt, pepper and Italian seasoning (all to taste).  Toss to coat all the vegetables and roast in the oven about 25 minutes or until vegetables begin to brown.

Spread pesto over the bottom of the *pizza crust making sure to spread to the edges (you don't want a thick layer of pesto, just enough for flavor).  Place roasted vegetables over the pesto (you'll have some vegetables left over).  Top with mozzarella cheese and bake 15- 20 minutes or until cheese begins to brown.

Pizza Dough
4 1/2 C. flour
1 3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp yeast
1/4 C. olive oil
1 3/4 C. cold water

Stir together dry ingredients.  Add oil and water and mix with a mixer using the 'dough hook' until ball forms (dough will be very sticky).  Oil a bowl and let dough sit covered with a towel for about an hour before using.  Divide dough for pizzas (can make 2 large or 4 small) pressing out onto a pizza pan or aluminum foil.  You can crimp the edges to form and edge crust like the picture above, or simply pat it out thin Neapolitan style.  Top with toppings and bake.  Mid-way through baking, remove the pizzas from the baking pan and bake directly on the rack (about 10 minutes) to crisp up the crust.


*If using homemade dough, pre-bake the crust for 10 minutes before  putting on toppings, as the roasted vegetable toppings are heavy and can tear the dough.  After you've topped your pizza, bake for another 10 minutes or so on the baking sheet, then slide pizzas directly onto the oven rack to bake another 10 minutes to crisp the crust.  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thrifted Thursday...A Haiku...

I'm out of words today.  So here is a haiku:

Wide leg jeans.
So roomy and so comfy.
They were out,
Now they're in.



denim jacket:  gap (from high school--does that make it 'vintage'?)
cardigan: AE
striped tank: target
wide-leg jeans: thrifted (Limited)


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Decor and Little Fingers...

If your kiddos are like my wee ones, then your tree has been decorated and re-decorated several times over already.  Can I get an amen?  A couple of years ago, I actually swapped out all of my gorgeous glass ornaments for plastic balls in a similar color.  It just wasn't worth the risk of breaking glass, and selfishly, I just wanted to enjoy the tree and not worry about little hands moving things around when I wasn't looking.  Thankfully my little ones mind the 'no touch' rule in other people's homes (so please still invite us to your Christmas parties).

This year we got the kids their very own tree for their bedroom.  It's just a little pre-lit table-top jobby (for around $8 at Wal-Mart), but they love it!  I knew this tree was for the little ones to have fun with, so I decided soft and safe would be our motto.  I found these really great handmade ornaments for inspiration on pinterest and loved them:

I had some scrap felt leftover from a previous project, so using the Pinterest board for inspiration went to work to create a similar look for the kid-tree.

I decided against traditional Christmas colors and just worked with what I had, but I loved it in the end.  All it took was a little hot glue and some quick hand stitches (on the trees--purlbee has an easy-to-follow tutorial) and the ornaments were finished in a few hours time.  The little boy and girl skaters were scored on the cheap at Walgreens of all places.


It turned out to be a fun little project and the kids are having a great time moving the ornaments around on their tree.  I think we may have found a new tradition of making new ornaments for their tree each year!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Meatless Monday: Roasted Vegetable and Blackbean Enchiladas...

**I made a correction to the recipe below...please note that you should use 2 pkg of baby bella mushrooms (8 oz each).


Is it Portabella or Portabello?  I googled the fungi, and it came up that both were correct...so I'm going with Portabella in this post.


Either way, I tend to prefer meat in my Enchiladas...usually chicken, but occasionally beef.  But, then I came across this recipe on Pinterest, and knew I had to give it a go for Meatless Monday...oh, man are they good.  Unfortunately, my camera battery was dead to capture the enchiladas in all their glory, so you'll have to drool over these delicious photos from Perry's Plate...




I made a few changes from the original recipe.  I didn't have time to make my own enchilada sauce, so I used two cans (one mild and one medium) of enchilada sauce, adding sauteed shallots, garlic, cumin, paprika, and a roasted poblano to give it a bit more flavor.  I also roasted the red bell pepper for the filling right along with the mushrooms and onion to save myself a step (I didn't have a jar of roasted red peppers on hand).


Overall these were a hit!  I hope you enjoy them!


Roasted Vegetable and Blackbean Enchiladas
adapted from Perry's Plate

For the Sauce:
*One poblano pepper 
(roasted until blackened over the open flame of a gas stove)
 2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 small shallot finely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
2 cans enchilada sauce
1/2 cup fresh cilantro for garnish
4 oz Queso Fresco 
1/4 cup shredded cheddar/jack

Filling:
2 red bell peppers, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 pkg (8 oz. each) baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, diced
olive oil for drizzling
kosher salt and pepper to taste.
1/4 tsp cumin
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
12 corn tortillas (I used white corn)


Directions:

In a large roasting pan, add chopped red peppers, mushrooms and onion.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt pepper and cumin. Roast for 10-20 minutes at 475 degrees or until vegetables are brown and tender.  When vegetables are done, transfer to a large bowl and stir in blackbeans.  

Using tongs, roast poblano until blackened on all sides over the open flame.  Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and set aside to steam for about10 minutes.  Rinse poblano under water to remove blackened skin.  Remove stem and seeds and chop finely.  In a saucepan, saute shallot in olive oil until tender.  Add garlic, poblano, cumin and paprika and cook for about 30 seconds.  Add enchilada sauce and reduce temperature to a low simmer.    

Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick spray and spread about 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce in bottom of pan.
To assemble enchiladas, warm tortillas in microwave about 20 seconds.  fill each tortilla with about 2-3 tablespoons of filling, roll up and place seam-side down in baking pan.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.  Pour remaining enchilada sauce over enchiladas and top with cheddar/jack and crumbled queso fresco.  Bake in a 375 degree oven about 25 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
Top with chopped cilantro and serve.


*If you're not a fan of poblanos, you can certainly skip them...you want to make sure to roast them completely and remove all seeds as they can pack a little punch in the spice department.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ideas For An Engaging Advent...

Hi friends!  I can't believe it's the 2nd of December already!  The last several weeks, I have been pinning ideas on Pinterest to come up with a way to incorporate Advent in our family.  In the past we did sort of a countdown to Christmas, but this year our wee ones are old enough to really get involved.  I wanted the celebration to be Christ centered, and really focus on what this season means for our family!  I really wanted our Advent celebration to be about loving Jesus, serving others and having fun as a family.


I saw so many cute Advent ideas, but ultimately decided on a simple (and free!) paper chain printable from here.  


I decided against printing on both sides of the paper, and instead hand wrote our Advent activities on the unprinted side of each slip of paper.


I searched all over the internet for activity ideas, but really sort of struggled coming up with an exhaustive list. It took a while, but we finally came up with some activities that are a good combination of just plain fun, and some that are meaningful for our family!  We started yesterday with Day 1, and our kids are already having a great time!  I am happy to share how we are celebrating Advent, and maybe something will be a good fit for your family this season!


Day 1...Each child pick out a new toy to donate to another child     for Christmas.
Day 2...Make Christmas cards and send them to grandparents.
Day 3...Make gingerbread cookies.
Day 4...Watch a Christmas movie in our jammies.
Day 5...Learn about Christmas celebrations around the world and pray for the various countries.
Day 6...Have an indoor picnic dinner.
Day 7...Make a card and gift for teachers.
Day 8...Visit our friends at the nursing home.
Day 9...Watch a Christmas movie.
Day 10...Take a drive and look at Christmas lights with our international friends.
Day 11...Make an ornament for the tree.
Day 12...kids choose dinner!
Day 13...Play board games with mommy and daddy.
Day 14...Read the Christmas story from Luke 2 during bedtime devotions.
Day 15...Go to the library to check out Christmas books.
Day 16...Make cupcakes to celebrate Jesus and share them with friends.
Day 17...Go to an indoor play place to have some fun.
Day 18...Make a card and Christmas treats for daddy's work.
Day 19...See mom for a special treat after dinner.
Day 20...Act out the Christmas story.
Day 21...Drink hot chocolate.
Day 22...Pick out food to donate to the church food pantry.
Day 23...Make a nativity craft.
Day 24...Listen to Christmas music and have a dance party.
Day 25...It's Christmas!  Spend the day praising God for our Redeemer!  

Happy Friday friends!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thrifted Thursday...Those Boots Again...

I don't remember with whom I was having the conversation...maybe my grandma...maybe my sister, but it went something like this:
"I love your boots!"
Me gloating grinning: "Thank you!  They're thrifted!"  
My gloating ended as B piped up, "Yeah, and she'll never take them off of her feet as long as the weather is cold.  I can bank on not seeing her calves until Spring."
Not only is he handsome and insightful, but sarcastic as well.

He's right though...here's yet another thrifted outfit post with my boots as the main attraction:

boots...um thrifted.  Garden...dead.

Anyone know how to get rid of the boot muffin top?  I tuck and tuck my jeans in all day and still they stretch out and over-floweth.

Paisley scarf: via swap party

ch: 
Wrap bracelet: Wal-mart
Watch: Donna Karen

Happy Thursday friends!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Meatless Monday: Make Yourself A Dang Quesadilla...

We like quesadillas in this household.  There are times  when I'm stuck on what to have for dinner and then B will come to the rescue with this brilliant idea, "Why don't you make us some dang quesa-DILL-as!"  And then I do...



No meat in the house?  Check.  Mushrooms on hand?  Check.  A little cheese?  Check.  Maybe some spinach? Check.  You're well on your way to deliciousness.


So, in honor of my favorite awkward 80's boy who made geek 'cool', I bring to you a favorite meatless recipe...


Dang Spinach and Mushroom Quesadillas


16 oz sliced baby bella mushrooms 
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 Tbs olive oil
2-3 Tbs white wine
1 bag spinach 
12 flour tortillas
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
4 oz pkg soft goat cheese (plain chevre)


Saute onion and mushroom in 2 Tbs of olive oil until golden.  Deglaze pan with the white wine and cook until liquid is evaporated.  Season with a bit of kosher salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.
Top a flour tortilla with monterrey jack cheese.  Dot with the goat cheese, and layer spinach leaves over the cheese.  Top with a generous amount of the onion/mushroom mixture and a bit more cheese.  *Place another tortilla on top and grill on a griddle or nonstick skillet about 1-2 minutes on each side or until tortillas are golden and cheese is melted.

Enjoy!

*you can butter the tortillas first, but I've noticed the tortillas brown just fine without the added butter.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Explaining Thanksgiving...

Hi friends!  Are you in full-on Thanksgiving prep like I am?  Right now I have two loaves of pumpkin bread in the oven, and four more loaves to go!  I also have several baskets of laundry to fold and put away and bags to pack for four people before tomorrow afternoon...yes, I am a procrastinator.

Last week, I was talking with one of my international friends from Yemen, who has only been in the states for a short time.  We were discussing Thanksgiving, which was a perplexing holiday to her.  She asked, "Who do you celebrate with this holiday?  A saint?"  I explained to her that we aren't celebrating any person in particular, it's just a time to be thankful to God for his goodness.  She was quiet for a bit...sort of processing what I said, then she asked, "Thank God for everything?" Yes. "For all that we have?"  Yes. "For our health and for our home?" Yes.  She smiled then said, "Ahhhhh...thank you to God because all is from Him!"  


I love having these conversations with my international friends.  It forces me to really think about why we celebrate the holidays.  To them, they see the food and the presents and boisterous celebrations, but don't often hear the true meaning behind our expressions of celebration.  These conversations force me to stop and look past the feast-filled table and remember that all that I have is from Him.  I listened to my friend talk about the strife in her country, what it's like to have to flee for your safety and that of your child--all the while leaving behind your husband.  My heart broke as she said flatly, "We had nothing.  We come here and are safe.  We have everything."  


I have never faced religious persecution.  Never. I have never packed up my children in the middle of the night for fear of their safety.  My children have never had to give up a meal.  And my home, though modest, is sturdy, protects us from the elements, and is a mansion compared to many dwellings around the world.  Our water is clean and safe for drinking, cooking and bathing.


I have so much to be thankful for.  I live in a country that, even in a poor economy, is rich by world standards.  We can peacefully walk our streets without the fear of bombs or fear of being forced to leave because of our religious beliefs.  Our grocery store shelves are stocked with such an abundance that we can hardly decide which item to choose.  


For some reason, God placed me here, and how sad it is that there are times that I live out my days in discontentment because I want more. more. more.  A bigger house.  The latest technological wonder.  More stuff.  That is not thankfulness...it's greed.  


I am thankful for the reality check and I am thankful that God saw fit to place these amazing friends from many cultures and backgrounds in our lives.  They give abundantly, though they have less by American standards.  They rejoice in the small things and show appreciation for a simple act of kindness.  They hunger for truth and the word of God.  But, most of all, they are thankful.



And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.  And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins.  And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she, out of her poverty, put in all 
that she had to live on."
Luke 21:1-4

I love this verse, and every time I read it, I am struck by the visual of thankfulness and true worship.  I venture to say that the widow Jesus was speaking of was giving all that she had as an outpouring of thankfulness and gratitude for the blessings God had given.  It was all that she had, and in her thankfulness and obedience, she recognized that is was God's to begin with. 


I have much to learn about true thankfulness.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Meatless Monday...Spaghetti Squash Gratin

First of all, a little bidness...today is B's birthday!  Happy birthday love!  I don't write a lot about B because frankly, he's the only normal one in our little family.  Ha!  He doesn't write on the walls or feed his lunch to the dog.  He doesn't unroll the toilet paper from the tube, or flush toys down the toilet.  I'm not so sure he signed up for our craziness, but he handles it with style and we love him for it!


He's an amazing husband and father!  I never would have imagined that we would go from junior high crushes to married with kids.  He is a blessing to our family and I am so grateful to be able to 'do life' with him.


Now, while I am sharing a Meatless Monday meal with you today, I am not forcing B to eat meatless on his birthday!  Birthday boy gets to choose his meal, and I have a feeling carne asada may be on the menu. 


But, let's talk meatless right now.  I am typically not a big fan of squash in general, but I made this spaghetti squash gratin  from Naturally Noshing, and I've totally changed my mind.  It is so delicious and while eating it I completely forgot I was eating squash and thought I was eating a creamy pasta bake!  Yum!  When I took the gratin out of the oven, it was so bubbly and golden and smelled amazing!  This recipe is definitely a winner.  We ate ours as a main dish with a salad, bread, and green beans, but I may just make it to take as a Thanksgiving side!  I hope you enjoy it as much as our family did!
Photos from Here


Spaghetti Squash Gratin

1 large Spaghetti Squash, halved, seeds removed
1 bunch of greens (I used kale) stems removed and chopped
1/2 red onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
1 egg beaten
3 green onions chopped
6 mushrooms chopped (I used baby bella)
1/4 sour cream (I used light)
3/4 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese + 2 tbs for topping 
(I used a parm/asiago blend)
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs sliced almonds

Roast squash halves cut side down in a pan with about an inch of water at 400 degrees for about 25-30 minutes.  Cool slightly then using a spoon scrape out the squash strands and place in a bowl large bowl.
Heat olive oil in a pan (about 2 tbsp) and saute onion until softened. Add the garlic and mushrooms and saute until garlic becomes fragrant.  Add kale and saute until wilted.


Add mushroom/kale mixture, green onion, egg, sour cream, cottage cheese and 1/2 cup of parm to the squash and stir until combined. Add salt and pepper to desired taste.
Pour mixture into a greased casserole dish and top with remaining parm and almonds.
Bake at 400 degrees until golden and bubbling about 30 minutes.


Enjoy!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thrifted Thursday, Cashmere-Yes, Crafty-No...

For some reason I felt like wearing a dress...which is so rare you may not see it on the blog again... 


This dress was an amazing find.  It's cashmere, so you can imagine my surprise when I spotted it at the thrift store for like $3!  It's in perfect shape and is probably the most comfortable item in my closet.  I usually pair it with denim, but today felt like a leggings day, so I went with it.  Now, my mama always had a rule when I was growing up that dresses should be no longer than your finger tips...just kidding...they should be longer than your finger tips.
This dress just barely passes mama's test...
scarf:  swap party
belt: thrifted
cashmere dress:  thrifted
leggings:  target $5
boot socks: target
boots: thrifted...sick of seeing them yet?

And now for your crafty delight, I present a bracelet I made myself:
Kidding again.  It's just a thrifted skinny belt wrapped around my wrist and buckled to look like a cuff bracelet.  I did not inherit my mama's crafty gene.  She only passed on her resourceful gene.  She also did not pass on her good-decision-making-gene. Honestly, I couldn't decide which accessory to wear with the dress...maybe you can give your opinion!  I loved the above belt bracelet, but I wanted to wear this one too...
excuse the dry hands...it's that time of year.
It's from Forever 21 and I really love it...it was cheap too!  I really love the chevron pattern, and it was a fun pop of color that tied in with the yellow belt.  Decisions.  Decisions.

Anyway, I hope you have a wonderful Thursday friends!
And if you haven't called your mama yet...do it!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Meatless Monday: Penne With Mushroom Sauce...

So, it's Monday, and I just got back from taking my kiddos to the doctor's office for their shots.  In their book, I'm nowhere near the rankings for 'Awesome Mom Of The Year.'  Little do they know that shots totally stink for everyone involved...the screaming kid, the nurse's ears, and the mommy who has to console everyone including her own nerves.


So what does a woman do after all of that drama?  Well, quite frankly, I like to sit myself down in front of the computer with a nice big bowl of B's cookie dough and write about food while the kiddos nap....you think I'm kidding?
I'm already feeling much better...

Alright enough of my cookie dough shenanigans...let's talk pasta.
I found this recipe from Sweet Paul, and knew I had to try it.  The ingredient list was simple enough: mushrooms, pasta, chicken broth and cream, which was perfect for a quick meal.  Now, if my vegetarian sister is reading this she would be all, "Um Nikki...why are you still cooking with chicken broth?  Haven't you switched over to vegetable broth yet?" Baby steps...one day I'll switch over to vegetable broth and cream made from plants.  

So.  Back to the pasta. 
Simple ingredients, and really delicious.  You won't miss the meat, but if you think you will, toss in a bit of grilled chicken or prosciutto and peas would be delicious too...just don't tell my sister.  I made a subtle change by deglazing the pan with white wine, and I loved the flavor it gave the cream sauce.
MushroomDillPasta053

Penne Pasta With Mushroom Cream Sauce

1/2 pound baby portabella mushrooms (washed/patted dry and thinly sliced)
1/4 chopped red onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 Tbs White Wine
1/2 Cup of chicken stock 
(for sibling rivalry, but vegetable stock is okay too)
1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream
1 tsp dried dill
Parmesan

Boil penne in salted water until al dente (I used about 3/4lb).
While pasta is cooking, in a large pan saute mushrooms, garlic and onion in 2 Tbs of olive oil. Cook just until onions are softened and mushrooms begin to brown.  Add a dash of kosher salt to the mushrooms/onions for flavor.
Add white wine to the pan and cook until wine evaporates a bit.
Add the chicken stock, cream and dill.  Cook until sauce begins to thicken slightly.  
Drain pasta (do not rinse!) and toss it with the cream sauce.
Serve topped with parmesan.

My family really loved this recipe, even more so the next day!  The original recipe calls for spaghetti noodles, but I personally liked how the penne held the sauce.

Happy Monday!

And seriously, no offense to my awesome vegetarian sister Jess...that's her on the left getting her vegetarian groove on.



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thrifted Thursday, The One Where It Snowed...

I've come to expect that in Iowa, anything can happen.  Growing up in Missouri, you  could be fairly certain to not expect snow before Thanksgiving.  Maybe a bit of frost...but not snow.  Not so in Iowa.  
Yesterday morning we woke up to this...
Cardigan:  Thrifted
Jeans: Forever 21
Boots: Thrifted

I mean, it's November!  This is crazy!  I know I'm acting all, "What the heck?" But, I actually kind of liked waking up to the snow.  And if you listened very closely, you may have heard my children screaming with delight when they woke yesterday morning and discovered the white stuff.  The little Mr. was all, "Mama...is it winter now?!"  I said flatly, "Nope...still fall."  Confusing stuff that weather.

Maggie...this one's for you...boot socks!  

Feather Necklace:  Forever 21


The snow is actually melting a bit, so it's pretty much back to business as usual.  The little Mr. has been packing as many snowballs as he can before it's all melted, despite me telling him that in a month there will be more snow than he can handle.  Oh well.
Happy Thursday Friends!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

O' Happy Day...

There have been so many things making me happy lately.  For one, my morning chai has gone from this:

To This...
 I love it when all of the holiday products start coming back again.
I mix one part warmed milknog (gotta be AE) with one part strong-brewed Tazo chai (sweetened a bit before combining with the nog).  Mmmmm...

Another bright spot in my life is my kiddos.  They're always a bright spot, but lately they've entered a season of contentment.  The Mr. has been so gracious to his sister, and has been consistently compliant (but more importantly, with a joyful heart!).  They have been playing happily, sharing with joy, and have been so kind and loving toward one another.  That makes me so proud of them.  

Yesterday, the little Miss knocked over Mr.'s tower of blocks.  At first he got angry, but then I heard his voice soften as he said, "I'm sorry I yelled...I was just having a bad day.  But, you can't just come and knock over my tower.  We're a team and we built this together, so we can't knock it over.  We can make it again, it's going to be okay."  Then they hugged and made amends.  

I've sort of been waiting and hoping that we'd reach this moment in our family.  For so long there was bickering and complaining, but our wee ones seemed to have turned a new leaf.  B and I have been praising them and thanking them for working so hard to be content and joyful.  Tomorrow they may fight, but we can now point them to this time when they worked together and use it as a reference of how God desires for us to treat one another.

Another bright spot is B.  We've been married for over 10 years now, and he still calls me "Beautiful".  He opens my car door for me, and shows compassion toward our children.  He prays for the kiddos and me every morning on his way to work.  I'm so grateful that he makes prayer for his family a priority.  I'm grateful for his gift of wisdom and leadership.  And I'm so grateful for his humor...he makes me laugh everyday.
He is a wonderful husband and father, and I'm so proud of him.
*Sigh* I love him.

What is making you happy these days?

Psst...for those of you who read my post the other day about my friend Mary's ebook, listen up...now through November 15th, when you use the discount code 'FABPARTY' you will receive a $3.00 discount making the price only $4.99!  Head over to Mary's blog www.givinguponperfect.com to get your copy of , Plan A Fabulous Party {Without Losing Your Mind}!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Friend, An Ebook, And A Shoebox...

Hi friends!  It's a bit dreary and cold in my neck of the woods, but I'm sitting here this afternoon with a hot homemade chai and a copy of my friend Mary's ebook: 


I can't tell you how many times I've felt like the picture above when trying to plan the perfect party.  A procrastinator by nature, I've had birthday parties that have gone awry and have found myself scurrying around up until mere seconds before the arrival of my guests trying to get everything just so. I wish I would have had this ebook years ago!

Mary offers practical advice, while covering everything from the guests to the venue, food and entertainment and behind the scenes details!  After 10 years in public relations and an array of experience in event planning, Mary has compiled a practical guide that will have you hosting a party or event that both you and your guests will enjoy!

I found this book to be a quick and enjoyable read, providing truly usable tips that translate well into any party or event.  I can't wait to plan my little Mr.'s 6th birthday utilizing Mary's tips to avoid my last minute hoopla!

Today is a special day!  If you order today, Mary is donating all of the proceeds from the sale of her book to Operation Christmas Child!  Operation Christmas child is an amazing program through Samaritan's Purse International that sends shoeboxes filled with toiletry items, toys, candy and other goodies to children in underprivileged countries.  For many of these children, these shoeboxes are the only Christmas gift they will receive.  Not only will they receive a tangible gift, but they will also be presented with the gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I hope you will head on over to Mary's blog, Giving Up On Perfect, and purchase your very own copy of 
Plan A Fabulous Party {Without Losing Your Mind}
and support Samaritan's Purse: Operation Christmas Child!

Have a blessed day friends!


The opinions expressed in this review are solely my own.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Meatless Monday: Blueberry Muffins

Okay...so I'm totally stretching the whole 'Meatless Monday' thing today.  The closest thing we made to meatless all weekend was blueberry muffins...so, I'm making an exception today.




I discovered this blueberry muffin recipe right after the little Mr. was born.  I spent a lot of time at the library trying to collect reading material for all of those hours I was clocking sitting in a rocker and nursing.  I figured that since the meal deliveries would be ending soon, I should probably try and find some easy recipes to get myself back in front of the stove.  That's when these blueberry muffins from Heaven beckoned me.  Oh my goodness are these good and so worth the effort of dirtying up a few dishes.


B is definitely the health conscious Felix to my 'give me the bacon' Oscar, and tried to make these healthier by cutting out the butter and using applesauce instead.  All I am saying is leave the butter in and eat a salad for lunch to balance things out.


And if you need any more proof as to how delicious these are, whenever uncle K.K. comes to visit, I make him these muffins (because he claims they are "rad") then send the leftovers home with him.  I'm just trying to secure my status as the best-big-sister-he-never-had.


Okay...enough chatter. Here's the recipe.  
Remember:  Keep the butter, eat a salad.

BLUEBERRY MUFFINS
yields 2 dozen
3 C flour (I use white whole wheat)
2 C sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 stick + 2 Tbs. butter softened
3 eggs
1 C. milk
1 C blueberries (if using frozen, thaw and drain first)

Combine:
Flour, sugar, baking powder, salt.  Cut in all of the butter until mixture is crumbly and reserve 1 cup of mixture for topping.

To the remaining mixture, add eggs and milk, stirring until just combined.  Fold in blueberries.  Either spray muffin tin with non-stick spray, or use muffin liners (my preference).  Fill cups with batter 3/4 full and top with crumb topping.  Bake 15-20 min in 350 degree oven until golden and centers test done.