Baking for the Holidays

We are doing zero entertaining this holiday season. Which is both a huge relief and a bit sad. I love playing hostess. But I love the thought of our home staying a safe haven from the holiday madness more. Our own little family of three (and the dog) retreat.

But that will not stop me from baking up a storm (assuming I can find the time) and bringing something to the table other then the wine.

Christmas Eve’s tradition is fresh crab from Humboldt along with local raviolis and malfattis (yes… these are coming from a liquor store! So good!) What a perfect menu for some fresh made, butter loaded rolls. These Cloverleaf Rolls sound easy enough and make a ton!

Christmas morning will be spent traveling from one family to the next. But I may not be able to help myself from making some Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls. Yum. My grandmother froze me some apples in all the sugary goodness which I defrosted Friday morning. I am hoping they are still good for some evening baking…?? If not I guess that will mean an (unfortunate) trip to the store!

Christmas dinner is more family with the traditional holiday menu: bird and sides. But I am always a fan of mixing it up and bringing unique and unexpected items to the table. Over the past years when we have hosted I have made a fabulous roasted beet salad, Bacon and Pomegranate Brussels Sprouts, and Cheesecake in a Jar. This year I am torn between more Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Potato Hash or an Apple Crisp Ice Cream. Decisions.

Any additions to the table that may spark my interest?

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Not sure if I will get around to some last minute Christmas posts so… From my family to yours I hope everyone has a happy holiday season!

 

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Thanksgiving Eat

We are giving up our usual Thanksgiving travel plans to stay home this year. Which bums me out to my core.  But in an effort to balance our time between families we decided that it would be okay to spend the time at home. So my core is slowly warming up to the idea.

There is something you should know about me. I LOVE to entertain. I am 110% sure I got this gene from my lovely grandmother. But with a toddler toddling around doing what they do best (making messes, getting into shit) we are not hosting Thanksgiving.

I did demand ask politely, however, that dessert is all me. I love to bake and this gives me a really great opportunity to try out some new recopies.

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Cream Pumpkin Marshmallow Ice Cream: We did a trial run and knocked it out of the park. Sounds like it has a lot going on- but let me tell you. YUM

Angel Food Cake Churro Bites: Enough. Said. (Angel food cake is healthy, right?)

Clementine Upside Down Cake: I have always been slightly obsessed with the perfect non pineapple upside down cake!

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Cookie Bars: Love cheesecake, love apples, love caramel. Done deal.

Magic Cake: I have always been so curious about this. May have to attempt for the holidays.

Also, why am I just NOW hearing about the amazingness that is Anthropologie aprons?!

Anthropology

Anthropologie Aprons

Feeding Time :: Highchair Style

Mealtime has always been a bit of a struggle for me. Is she getting enough? Too much? I thought solid foods sounded like a dream. I was wrong. All new set of stress. Can she eat that? Is that piece too big? Is she full? Why is she throwing that at me?

I am working on my issues with the above. But one thing both my husband and I knew we wanted was a happy, healthy eater. I see kids all the time filling up on snack foods and skipping dinner, refusing vegetables and fruits, etc. We decided early on that we were going to give her the best possible start and be guided from there. If she hates tomatoes in a year, I will not make her eat them. If broccoli isn’t her thing (which would be insane because she cannot get enough now!) then we will replace it with squash or cauliflower. There are so many options out there, it boggles my mind when I hear phrases like “”my kid hates vegetables.” Um, all of them? Are you sure? (Though I am sure there is that kid out there, and I think my brother is one of them!)

We believe in our household in eating healthy and as fresh as possible. This has been dubbed “Clean Eating” but growing up with grass-fed beef, a vegetable garden, an apple orchard, etc. this was just called eating. I try to stay as organic as I can (I have the “Dirty Dozen” list on my phone so I can be prepared in the grocery store). But even more then organic I worry about unnatural, and unnecessary ingredients. Peanut butter for example, I had a hard time finding one that didn’t have added sugar. And that is including the organic brands. (My personal motto: Just because it is organic, doesn’t make it healthy.”) I look for food dyes, preservatives, etc. We try to stay away from too much precooked, prepackaged foods that contain a ton of sodium. Now don’t get me wrong. Come to my house and you will see candy and ice cream and high fructose corn syrup. We eat it, in moderation. But when it comes to our babe (and ourselves!) we try and be as conscience as possible.

Being a working mom I have to be creative. I honestly do not have the time (nor the desire or the freezer space) to make a ton of different beautiful meals in small portions and freeze it all. I turned to the internet to give me some ideas and I was surprised at the lack of ideas I was seeing. They either seemed pretty unhealthy, pretty standard or too complicated to whip up in the evenings. I have been trying to come up with some fun new ideas and let our lil babe explore some new items, textures and combinations and she comes more and more a toddler. Here are some daily menus around here.

Breakfast

Frozen waffle or pancake (both whole grain from Whole Foods) with a thin layer of jam or peanut butter

Plain Greek Yogurt: We tend to mix in our own fruit to avoid added sugar (and she loves the slightly bitter taste)

Scrambled eggs

One of the above (or more) is always served with some sort of fresh fruit, oatmeal or applesauce.

Lunch

Sandwiches (slightly toasted because we are good like that): Peanut Butter and Jelly (classic), Peanut Butter and Banana, or a thin layer or cream cheese and some sort of mashable fruit.

Grilled Cheese with Veggies: This is so easy it’s ridiculous. For an added benefit, I heat a little frozen chopped spinach and add it with the cheese. You could also do finely chopped or pureed broccoli, or really any other veggie of choice. Sometimes we even go crazy and add some mashed up avocado. If your child is a bit older, my personal favorite is bell peppers and tomato slices. (When does this become a panini…?)

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Lunch is usually served with a fruit or veggie. And usually a handful of Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies is a must! (For me too!)

Dinner

Raviolis: I buy these from the refrigerated section and throw in the freezer. We really like the organic, all natural one that comes in a few different varieties. Then I can grab a couple, toss em in boiling water and done! We haven’t tried the canned version because this is just pretty darn easy and much less sodium (or preservatives depending on what you are buying).

Fish: Even though it is sofreakingoodforyou, it’s not something my husband and I tend to make for ourselves a lot. Now with the addition of the kid, we have tried to cook some up more often. My dad is quite the fisherman so we always have plenty of home caught fish in the freezer. Again, so easy to throw in a pan, in the oven or on a BBQ.

Easy Casseroles: Our favorite is one from my childhood, vamped a bit. Noodles (cooked) a little cream of something (chicken, broccoli, etc.) soup, milk and broccoli (or any other veggie) mixed together, then sprinkled with bread crumbs and cheese and thrown into the oven for a bit. Add chicken to make it more of a meal. Easy. Done. So many different things you could do with this beyond easy base recipe.

Dinner is also served with a vegetable, usually whatever we are having. This kid LOVES her broccoli and cauliflower! We also love sweet potatoes, different varieties of squash, eggplant, frozen veggie blends (easy to throw into a steamer!).

Snacks/ Meal Additions

Puffs. She loves them. Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies. Fruit leathers (One day I will make these myself!) More fruit, applesauce, etc.

:: A Few Links we Plan to Try ::  (Follow me on Pinterest!)

Apple Butter

Butternut Squash Rolls

Banana Bread

Spinach Nuggets

We hear the advice so many times “she just eats what we eat” but that’s not always realistic. Sometimes you need to those easy, healthy go to recipes! We hope we gave you a bit of inspiration to making meal time a bit more manageable with a toddler.

*I in no way claim to be a nutritionist, nor a chef. The above are simply ideas from my family to yours*

Menu: First Course Pizza

My friend and I have a fabulous trend. We both chase after the kid, while attempting to make homemade pizza and pig out in front of pre-recorded episodes of Project Runway while the hubs is out.

Why pizza? The endless possibilities! I literally walked into the Trader Joe’s and started grabbing at things.

This is what I ended up with in my shopping cart: two Trader Joe’s pizza dough, pizza sauce, arugula, mozzarella cheese, raspberries, pita bead, watermelon, mushrooms, an onion, salad dressing, garbanzo beans, and artichoke hearts. I clearly had no plan.

But that is the beauty of pizza. Throw it all on and see what happens.

What happened was magical.

My go to pizza is caramelized onions with mushrooms and a sprinkle of pancetta. (Note that above I clearly forgot the pancetta. My husband: Where is the meat?!)

And our newest experiment: Artichoke Hummus spread under a salad of arugula with fresh mozzarella, watermelon and heirloom tomatoes with a light coating of Goddess Dressing. Fabulous.

I have deemed the salad pizza (similar to a Piadine: flatbread with salad on top) as the “first course” pizza.20130824-162003.jpg

So easy, so quick, so yummy. And so beautiful. I heart heirloom tomatoes. With a passion.

If you have not experimented with Trader Joe’s pizza dough go now. No really, right now. I like to let mine sit out for a bit and we rarely attempt to roll it into an actual circle.

Okay, officially hungry. Happy eating!

Salad Pizza with Watermelon and Heirloom Tomatoes

(Again, not an exact recipe, so not my style!)

Cook pizza dough per package instructions. Coat with melted garlic butter when removed from the oven.

Spread homemade or store bought hummus. (Mine was homemade: 2 cans garbanzo beans, 1 cup(ish) greek yogurt, drizzle olive oil, 4 artichoke hearts, seasoning to taste.)

Top with salad: Arugula. Cherry sized balls of fresh mozzarella, halved. Watermelon slices, cubed. 1 large heirloom tomato, chunked. Tossed slightly with Trader Joe’s Goddess dressing.

Enjoy!

12 Ways to Add Happiness to Your Life Right Now!

20130707-205407.jpg, happiness, 12waystoaddhappiness, lifestyle

I recently read a great article on ways to gain happiness over the next year. It was full of simple ways to change your lifestyle over the course of the year. But for me, I cannot stick to resolutions. I need instant gratification, plausible changes that I can make every single day. I was inspired by this wonderful article to list out simple changes we can all make today to promote a happy, healthy, full lifestyle. Work the below suggestions into your life right now, and see if a bigger smile is added to you daily life.

1. Cook Dinner at least 3 Times a Week

There is something that makes me really happy about cooking and eating my own meal. Once I get over the stress of figuring out what to cook, and who is going to run to the store, sitting down at the table with my family is one of my favorite ways to wrap up the day. With a little planning, aim to eat in at a minimum of three times a week. I will let you in a well known secret: There is nothing healthy about eating out. Cooking your own food is the best way to measure what you are putting into your body. Even the finest dinning establishments overload just about everything with butter. (There is a reason it’s that good!) Find a cookbook, a website, or the family recipe box and take the stress out of cooking. Planning a week ahead and making the trip to the grocery store prepared will help you achieve your goal.

2. Clean Out Your Closet(s)

I often find myself putting together a bag of clothes that I no longer wear only to stop myself. Well, I might wear that shirt again, find a top that looks cute with that skirt, need that 50th hoodie. And guess what, I never do. Same goes for the hall closet and kitchen cabinets. I find an excuse every time. Then each morning when I go to find something to wear, I am bombarded with a row of things I won’t even touch. It’s time to purge. If you have not worn it, used it, or needed it within the last 6 months, get rid of it (seasonal things are the exception). Don’t stop and justify why you should keep it, because you shouldn’t, and deep down you know it. Gain a little cash for new items and host a garage sale. Whatever doesn’t sell immediately take to your local Good Will or thrift shop. Repeat this process every six months, or as you notice items are starting to accumulate. Less clutter will result in less mess, which I can guarantee will put a smile on your face.

3. Get Organized

See item 2. Now take that a step further. We all get busy and counter space becomes storage space. Shoes are left on the closet floor instead of their boxes. Paperwork and mail liter the house. Baby toys are left where they are thrown. When our house is a mess, my husband and I are on edge. He is much more tidy then I am, and I can tell that a messy house annoys him. Which in turn makes him grumpy. When in turn makes me defensive. Which in turn puts us both into bad moods. Truth me told, there is time to clean up, if you make it a priority. I read not long ago that every time you walk out of a room take a item that needs to be put away with you. This is beyond brilliant advice! It makes cleaning up manageable, not so overwhelming. A “clean as you go” concept. Before you go to bed at night, make sure your main traffic area is clean. For us, our bar top receives the brunt of the damage. Before going to bed, taking two minutes to quickly clear it off means waking up to a fresh house. On the weekends pick one project to tackle. Organize old photos, make a binder of important information, dust the back room, set up a new way of storing your makeup, whatever it is that needs to get done that is not your usual household maintenance. Once you set up a way to be organized you will be amazed at how routine it comes.

4. Plan a Girls Day/Night/Lunch/Brunch/Trip

Whenever I go out with the girls I always go home thinking I need to do this more often. A simple coffee date, shopping trip, or a weekend getaway always leave me feeling relaxed. Your girlfriends know you like no one else. I know there are things I will share or say that I would otherwise keep inside. They give me advice, perspective and an outlet. They make me appreciate my own life as I reflect on it. We all get insanely busy, and we all have a lot on our plates, so planning ahead is key. And don’t cancel. Unless the sky is falling, try not to be the flake. We all have things come up but time is precious. Once you write it down on your calendar stick to it! You will never regret spending some bonding time with the ladies.

5. Get Active, Every Day

There is no excuse to not do something every single day that promotes a fit, healthy lifestyle. We make it a priority in our household to go for a family stroll every evening after dinner. Getting outside and stretching our legs for a quick walk helps settle our meal and gives us time to reflect on our day with little distraction. No time in the evening? How about on your lunch break? Hit a class at your local gym. Do it even if you need to leave early. Make going a part of your daily routine. Have 5 minutes before you hop in the shower? Get in a quick ab routine or yoga stretch. There are enough hours in the day to fit in some sort of activity, as small as it may be. You will feel accomplished, your energy levels will go up, and it will up put a smile on your face (and make the dimples on your butt vanish!)

6. Set a Budget

The number one thing couples fight about is money, so the study says. In my household, that is not the case, but I would say in my own personal top 10 stresses, money is one of them. My husband and I have very similar views on money, spending it and earning it. But still I stress over student loans, working full time verse being home more, and the balance of savings accounts. So I set up a budget on Mint.com to track where all my money is going. This is not to say I limit myself, not yet at least. But it is a way to see how I spend. I notice I was spending a lot of money drinking coffee and random food for lunch. So now when I am crunched for time I opt for the free cup at work and pack some snacks instead of walking to the store. I limit myself to $50 worth of new clothes a month. Sometimes I spend over this, other months not a dime. Once you get a handle on where you money is going, it becomes a lot easier to manage where you can cut back.

7. Make a Summer (and Winter) Bucket List

I feel like once again, summer is slipping away from me. I mark the downhill decent to fall with Fourth of July. Don’t ask me why, it just seems like once the fireworks hit, we are staring to wrap it all up. I know I need to be a better planner. There are so many fun, festive summer activities I want to do but time starts slipping by. So this year I am starting a bucket list. And I am taking it one step further and marking the calendar. (Found this lovely free printable here) I refuse to spend the end of the summer bummed that we never made it to the zoo! And the same can be done with winter. Don’t let the seasons pass you by!

8. Start those Pintrest Projects

I have about 800 pins on my personal Pintrest board. Some are inspiration, quotes, cute outfits, but a lot are recipes and DIY projects. It is time to stop pinning and get to it. We can easily live our lives as lookers, pinners if you will, but where is the fun in that? My goal is to attempt one new recipe a week and one project a month. What an amazing way to get out of a cooking rut and add some beauty to your home! I will be sure to update on my progress and share any amazing foods I discover as long as ya’ll do the same!

9. Make some “You” Time

I have always loved some good ole quality time with myself. But with a baby, a hubby, and a job there is very little “me” time in my day. So I gotta get in where I fit in (I think that is a lyric reference…?). I stay up late. The best solution, no, but it does work for me. Staying up an hour or so later gives me that little extra time to play online or watch my Pretty Little Liars obsession. I try to limit this to once or twice a week, as my husband and I like going to bed together. Find some time that you can fit in you! And don’t feel guilty about it. We all need to unwind and have our own list of things we would like to get done. Chill during nap time for a half hour, take a stroll on a work break, wake up 30 minutes earlier just to watch part of a movie. Whatever it is that gets you alone with you, make the time!

10. Be Passionate, Live Passionately

There is the passion we see in the movies (Hello The Notebook sex scene) and there is the passion we feel toward a certain non profit organization. There is no reason our lives should not be full of passion of all types. We should exude passion for the things and people we love. Never fear putting yourself or your passions out there. Find what it is you really care about and go for it, whole heartedly.

11. Soundtrack Your Life

Looking through my high school mixed CD’s titles were often “Summer Boat Mix” and “Break Up Mix.” With everything digital these days don’t leave the days of playlists behind. Create a mix that lifts your mood and gets you ready to conquer your day. Sunshine by Atmosphere is always number on my list. Something about the sweet beat makes me smile every time, regardless of a crappy mood. Music is a mood changer. Don’t let yourself wallow, when you are having a shitty day, pick yourself back up with your own personal mood changing melody.

12. Get Outside the Box

Put your phone down. Okay, wait, finish reading this, then put your phone down. We spend so much time checking in that we are really just checking out. Yes I know that this is the most overheard advice ever, but you aren’t listening to it, so I am saying it again. There is a time and a place for Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, etc. It is not while driving. It is not at the dinner table. It is not while talking to someone. It is while unwinding at the end of a long day. It is while waiting in the doctors office. It is while you truly have nothing else is front of you. Make it a game. First one to pick up their phone pays for coffee. First one to update their status buys lunch. I love my social media as much as the next person, but I am learning to put my phone down and pay a little more attention to what is right in front of me.

Create you own version of Happy

No two lives are the same, nor should they be. The above are ways to spread some smiles, make life a little easier, and have some fun from time to time. It is what works for me, but that does mean that any of it is right for you. We all need to create our happiness, whatever that entails and whatever our own definition of happiness is. My hope for this list is a little inspiration to list your own plan of attack in putting a smile on your face right now. Because why stretch out something over a year that we can accomplish every single day?