Friday, August 29, 2014

Happy (Almost) Labor Day Weekend!

It is crazy to think that 12 months ago I was getting very antsy and anxious, and ready for our little girl to make her grand appearance! I just went back and looked at my posts from late August 2013, and they are all about freezer meals and getting meals prepped for after Lindsey was born. :)

With Labor Day almost here, and SO looking forward to that extra day off I decided that every now and then it's nice to look back and search the origins of a Holiday, and learn a little something in addition to enjoying a day off from work!

Here's what Wikipedia has to say:

Labor Day in the United States is a holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country.

Labor Day was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, who organized the first parade in New York City. After the Haymarket Massacre, which occurred in Chicago on May 4, 1886, U.S. President Grover Cleveland feared that commemorating Labor Day on May 1 could become an opportunity to commemorate the affair. Thus, in 1887, it was established as an official holiday in September to support the Labor Day that the Knights favored.[1]

I don't know about you, but I am so excited for a full three days off to spend with my family! Kenneth picked up a new foster puppy this morning and I can't wait to go home, meet her, and get some puppy breath kisses. We'll probably have her for about a month based on previous experiences. She's a little cutie pie and Kenneth said she's doing well with our other dogs so far. This is the first foster puppy we've had since we lost Sadie, which makes me sad. Sadie was such a good mommy dog to all our foster puppies over the years.

We're planning to meet up on Sunday AM with some other basset hound lovers at a beautiful park and I am going to take my camera and get some good shots of the kids playing and of the cute puppies too! At some point over the weekend, I'm going to take Kent and hopefully his girlfriend April, to their high school to do 10th grade photos there. I'm excited. I love when Kent actually agrees to be a photo subject. I've been combing pinterest for lots of good ideas for angles and poses and have plenty of my own thoughts too. We'll see how cooperative he is. I can't wait to see how they come out!

Hopefully next weekend I'll be doing Lindsey's 1st Birthday photos! I can't believe it's already time for that - but we're down to just 19 days until she's officially a 1 year old and I want to do her birthday pictures in her super cute birthday outfit BEFORE she gets cake and whatever else all over it the day of her party.

One of these weekends we're going to get back to the Chattahoochee too - it is so beautiful there and it's been years since we last visited. I still remember such a nice walk along the water and enjoying a picnic lunch with my boys along the shore. I am sure Lindsey would love it - she is so fascinated by the great outdoors, there is always so much to see and take in!

I will leave you with Lindsey and her daddy - nothing melts my heart faster than seeing the two of them together. :)


P.S. If you're looking for some food inspiration to cook up over the weekend - here are a few yummy suggestions!

Appetizers
Baked Potato Skins
Homemade Guacamole
Annie's Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Chips

Meat
BBQ Mushroom Burgers with Avocado
BBQ Bacon Ranch Burgers 
Triple Bypass Bacon Burgers 
Best Steak Marinade in Existence
Cheesy Bacon Ultimate Dogs
Slow Cooker Ribs

Sides
Corn Casserole
Garden Pasta Salad
Loaded Baked Potato Salad
Ranch Corn on the Cob
Sweet Restaurant Style Coleslaw

Sweet Endings
Banana Pudding
Apple Pie
Chocolate Delight
Pear Crisp
Key Lime Pie
Mixed Berry Pie
Strawberry Shortcake

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Extra Crispy Oven Baked French Fries



This is such a good and tasty homemade French fry recipe - they have a great seasoning blend and come out with a pretty good crisp on them out of the oven, without the guilt of deep frying. We've already made these a couple times, and they disappear pretty fast at my house!

Make sure you give yourself time for these to soak before you need to get them in the oven - soaking helps remove the starch and is an important step in the process to help make sure you get good crispy fries from your oven.

The original recipe suggests using more seasoning mix then I list below, and also suggests sprinkling your baked French fries with Parmesan cheese if desired. So add spices and cheese to taste! :) I liked these as written below - just a touch of yummy flavor, and perfect for dipping in ketchup and serving alongside this yummy burger.

Extra Crispy Oven Baked French Fries from Layers of Happiness

Ingredients
5 medium potatoes (we used golden, the original recipe suggests russets)
1 TBS olive oil
1-2 TBS grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Seasoning Blend
1 TBS seasoning salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp black pepper


Directions
  1. Wash and peel your potatoes (we left peels on, because we like 'em!)
  2. Slice potatoes into fairly thin sticks (about 1/4 inch wide). Slicing suggestion - slice potato into lengthwise ovals and then slice each of those pieces into fries.
  3. Put the potatoes into a bowl and cover with cold water, allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes. If you're leaving them to soak for more than an hour, put them in the refrigerator.
  4. When the potatoes are done soaking, drain them and lay them out on paper towels and blot well to remove excess moisture. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil (I used paper but the original recipe recommends parchment paper). Dry your previously used bowl well, and add 1 TBS oil along with seasonings, stir gently (use hands or a spatula) until well combined and potatoes are evenly coated.
  6. Gently arrange potatoes on the lined baking sheet, make sure they are in a single layer and not overlapping.
  7. Bake 15 minutes, then flip. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes. Turn the heat up to 425 and cook for another 10 minutes, or until potatoes are golden brown and crispy. Sprinkle with more seasoning and grated Parmesan, if desired, before serving.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Secret Recipe Club: Tomato Bacon Jam





For the August edition of Secret Recipe Club I was assigned the blog Feed Me Seymour - I had a WONDERFUL time browsing through Kim's lovely blog! SOOO many amazing recipes that I pinned to add to my menu plan in the very near future, including these Ham and Cheese Popovers, Gouda and Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese, Garlic Butter Mussels, and Creamy Chicken Soup.  Check out Kim's About Me page to find out more about this lovely, self-proclaimed "reformed kitchen failure" and her assertion that "You shouldn't need a culinary degree to make a tasty meal for your family." I totally agree - I love all the easy to read, understand, and duplicate "real good food" recipes Kim shares!

I ended up falling head over heels for the Tomato Bacon Jam, and we took this amazing recipe just a step further and turned it into an integral part of the Triple Bypass Bacon Burgers, recipe below.

Bacon Jam goes great on an ooey gooey grilled cheese too!!
Triple Bypass Bacon Burgers

Tomato Bacon Jam Ingredients (from Kim at Feed Me Seymour)
8-oz bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 TBS white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground mustard
1 TBS apple cider vinegar

Burger Ingredients
1 pound ground beef
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup bacon bits (coarse chopped, cooked bacon)
4 slices of cheddar cheese
4 thick cut slices of bacon

Instructions
  1. Prepare Tomato Bacon Jam first:
    1. Fry the bacon in a skillet over medium high heat until crispy. Place cooked bacon on paper towels to absorb grease.
    2. Drain grease from skillet, reserving 2 TBS in the skillet. Saute onions in the remaining grease until translucent, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, crumble (or rough chop) the bacon when cool enough to handle. When onions are cooked, add the bacon to the skillet along with all remaining ingredients.
    3. Bring jam to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and continue cooking for about 45 minutes, or until thickened. Cool in the pan and then move to a jar for storage.
  2. After jam has been prepared and has been set aside to cool, begin preparing the burgers.
    1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the ground beef, salt, black pepper, barbecue sauce, bacon bits, and garlic powder using your hands. Form the mixture into 4 patties and set them on a plate (you can cover and refrigerate until ready to use if necessary).
    2. Preheat your grill for medium heat.
    3. While grill is heating, cook the 4 thick cut slices of bacon to desired crispiness, and set aside to drain on paper towels when cooked through.
    4. Cook the burgers about 3 - 5 minutes per side, or until they reach desired doneness.
    5. On a bun, layer the burger, slice of cheese, cooked bacon, and coat the top (or bottom) bun with the Tomato Bacon Jam. Add additional toppings to your burger as desired (pickles, lettuce, tomato, onion, etc.)
    6. Enjoy.
    7. Schedule an appointment with your cardiologist.
Lindsey Rose is 11 months old!




Friday, August 22, 2014

Lindsey is 11 months old!





A "behind the scenes" shot - Kenneth grabbed the camera and Lindsey tried to give me big slobbery kisses. :)

Lindsey's 11 month fun facts!
  • Lindsey now has 8 teeth - 4 on top and 4 on bottom.
  • Lindsey primarily feeds herself, finger foods only. She likes smacking things with a spoon, and sometimes tries to pick food up and put it on the spoon but isn't quite getting it to her mouth without assistance....
  • She is a very good eater, and even if it takes a few tries, she will usually eat most anything I give her to taste. She still spits out cucumber and tomato though, even though she used to eat them.
  • She has gotten more snuggly the past couple weeks, she comes up and gives big hugs and big open mouthed kisses with big grins which is about the sweetest thing in the entire world. She knows what "kisses" means, and if she's in the right mood she'll give them when you ask.
  • She has started saying "bro bro" (brother) "ba ba" (bottle) and "bye bye" and they almost all sound the same.
  • She loves Max, but she still doesn't really understand petting gently and gives him excited whacks on the face. Thank goodness he's a very laid back, good natured dog who accepts attention in any form, wags his tail, and gives her kisses in return.
  • She has finally gotten into an actual sleep schedule as of the past couple weeks. Down to sleep around 7:00pm and wakes up around 6:30 (when we wake her up on week days) or 7:00 - 7:30 (on weekends).
  • She still loves watching her "bear movie" (aka Brave) on the weekends, and laughs at the action scenes.
  • Her giggle melts me.
  • She is taking real steps now, in the past week in particular she's really making a ton of progress with walking. It is exciting, terrifying, and sad all at once.
  • She is now wearing size 18 month clothing.
  • I could not love her anymore if I tried.
I cannot believe my little baby girl is going to be ONE is one more short month... how the days have flown! It is such a joy to watch Lindsey growing, and so hard to be away from her all day during the week. I have such little time with her on week days - by the time I pick her up from daycare I have anywhere from 45 minutes - 2 hours before she is asleep for the night, and often times she is tired and cranky while she is still awake after her long day at daycare (where she still pretty much refuses to nap because of all the stimulation). I wish so much that I could be enjoying these days at home with her, helping her practice walking, singing songs, dancing, teaching her words, and rocking her to sleep for naps. Sigh. It is hard to let go of the "I wish" when it comes to watching your baby grow and feeling like you're missing out on so much. Maybe it's because I was able to share these early days with Kent that I feel that much more sad to miss them with Lindsey. They are such precious moments.

I try to just soak up as much of those moments with her on the weekends as I can, and be thankful for the time I do get.

Her birthday party is coming up soon! I am looking forward to it, and can't wait to celebrate her big day - and see what she does with a cupcake!! :)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lindsey is a Baby Sock Monkey!

I ordered Lindsey a sock monkey costume a little while ago, and we pulled it out to get some pictures of her in it, along with one of her sock monkey buddies! She had the most fun trying to eat the bananas - peels and all! :)


Lindsey's birthday party next month is Miss Sock Monkey themed (from Oriental Trading Company) so we were getting "warmed up" and ready for her big day! :)


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Italian Mini Meat Loaves



This is a WONDERFUL meatloaf recipe to add to your collection; it comes out SO moist and full of flavor. The addition of the Classico sauce really gives it wonderful taste and texture. We will definitely use this one again! It goes great with a big Caesar salad for a delicious and satisfying meal! I am already looking forward to making this again.

Italian Mini Meat Loaves from  on AllRecipes

Ingredients
1 lb lean ground beef
8-oz ground mild Italian sausage
1/2 cup diced onion (finely chopped)
1 24-oz jar Classico Fresh Four Cheese sauce, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 TBS parsley
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pour about 1/3 cup of sauce (enough to cover the bottom) into a 9x13 baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, sausage, diced onion, half of the jar (12 ounces) of Classico Fresh Four Cheese Sauce, egg, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and parsley. Blend well.
  3. Divide the mixture into 4 and shape into small oval loaves. Place loaves in the prepared baking dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the tops.
  4. Bake, uncovered, in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese.
  5. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake until the cheese has melted and is lightly browned, about 10 more minutes.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lindsey and Kent - Before the Storm



Lindsey was getting fussy on Sunday (the day she turned 11 months!) after being cooped up inside most of the weekend, so I decided to take her outside for a little fresh air which she seems to love (as long as it's not too hot, or too bright out)! There was thunder cracking in the distance, and I knew a storm was coming, but figured we had at least 20 - 30 minutes we could sit and let her play in the grass and take it all in.

Kent joined us after we'd been outside for about 10 minutes, and he and Lindsey cuddled and played together while I snapped a few shots. They are adorable together. I love my two sweet redheads. :) Kent is the best big brother you could ask for, and Lindsey completely adores her "bro bro".


We decided to call it "quits" outside when the wind all of a sudden picked up and the skies got even darker. Lindsey seemed to love it though!! She put her face right into the wind and smiled as it swept over her face. That little girl has some spunk and personality, that is for sure! :)

Alfredo Pork Chops



This is such a great weeknight dinner recipe! We really, really loved this one. I adapted slightly from the original, so be sure to click the link below and see the recipe in its original form as well. See the entire Classico collection on AllRecipes here!

The boys really loved this one - simmering the chops in the sauce kept them so moist and tender, and the browning with the seasoning gives these the perfect flavor. A definite keeper, and SUPER easy to throw together in a skillet. We served this with some seasoned rice and green beans for an absolutely delicious meal.

Alfredo Pork Chops (slightly adapted) from on AllRecipes

Ingredients
3 - 4 4-oz pork chops
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 cup white wine (I used chicken broth)
1 tsp thyme (use fresh if you have it, I used ground)
1 15-oz jar Classico Fresh Alfredo Sauce

Directions
  1. Combine the salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper in a pie plate, or on a plate, evenly coat both sides of the pork chops with the seasoning.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the chops on both sides, about 4 minutes per side.
  3. Add the wine, thyme, and Alfredo sauce to the skillet. Cover skillet with lid, reduce heat to allow sauce to stay at a low simmer. Cook 30 minutes. Remove lid and simmer for another 10 minutes, or until sauce has reduced to desired consistency.
  4. Serve pork chops with sauce spooned over top.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Meal Plan Week of August 18, 2014

Welcome to another yummy week of meal plans! Have you checked out Erin's free trial for $5 Dinner Meal Plans? If you haven't - GO CHECK IT OUT! :)

Our meals this week are inspired by her menu plans:

Monday
Beef and Bean Oven Tacos

Tuesday
Balsamic and Brown Sugar Pork Chops, baked potatoes, steamed veggies

Wednesday
Chicken Fajita Melts

Thursday
Hawaiian Meatloaf, garden salad, toasted rolls

Friday
Slow Cooker Apricot Chicken, steamed veggies, brown rice

Saturday
Cajun Chicken Fettuccine, steamed broccoli or Caesar salad and toasted rolls

Sunday
Leftovers

I'm thinking S'moreos might make an appearance at our house sometime this week too. YUMM.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Chicken Pad Thai


 

This was SUPER tasty - unfortunately I was missing both the bean sprouts and peanuts, but you really need to make sure you have both, they add needed texture and depth to this recipe. I had this on my "to-make" list for weeks and really wanted to eat it - so despite missing a couple of the key ingredients we made this anyway - and my son and I absolutely devoured it. Kent actually took this cold for school lunch the next day because he liked it so much (and he never takes ANYTHING leftover for school lunch since they don't have anyway to heat things)!

I will definitely be making this again soon - and making sure I have peanuts and bean sprouts to complete this tasty dish!

Chicken Pad Thai from Flying on Jess Fuel

Ingredients
Juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1 package (8 oz) rice stick noodles
4 tbsp peanut or canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup bean sprouts
1/3 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional - we don't eat cilantro so left this out)

Directions
  1. In a small bowl, mix the lime juice, rice vinegar, fish sauce, sugar and red pepper flakes together. Set aside. 
  2. Follow package directions to cook your rice noodles, and set them aside.
  3. Meanwhile, in wok or large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken and soy sauce; cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the middle. Place chicken mixture in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Return pan to the stove and heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the eggs and cook 2 - 3 minutes, stirring until scrambled and firm. Add in the softened noodles, sauce and chicken - stir to combine and cook for about 2 more minutes. Add in the bean sprouts and continue cooking and stirring until sprouts are no longer crisp, about 2 - 3 more minutes.
  5. Dish up into bowls or onto small plates, and serve topped with the chopped peanuts and cilantro (if desired).
Lindsey is 11 months old today! I took these on Friday night in her sock monkey costume - my little monkey girl!



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Emergency Chicken



There seems to be a chicken theme going on around my blog lately... hmm... maybe I'll break out of my poultry rut eventually, but for now we're enjoying some very tasty chicken dishes around here and I'm happy to share another super easy one for your "I need dinner NOW" file. This took no time at all to whip together, and my son in particular really liked this one. It's pretty much just BBQ chicken, but the extra ingredients give the sauce a little kick and a nice consistency and texture - perfect to serve over rice should you so desire. :) A good, summery meal to pull out when time is short and bellies are hungry.

 Emergency Chicken from Aaron on AllRecipes

Ingredients
1 TBS butter
2/3 cup BBQ sauce (recommended: Sweet Baby Ray's)
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
2/3 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken breast pieces - cut into 1/2 inch strips

Directions
  1. Melt butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Stir in BBQ, Worcestershire, garlic powder and combine with the melted butter. Add in the chicken, stir to coat.
  2. Cover and allow to simmer until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the middle - 5 - 10 minutes. Remove the lid and spoon the sauce over the chicken. Simmer a few minutes more, or until sauce reduces to desired thickness.
  3. Serving suggestion: serve chicken and sauce over rice, or with a side of mashed potatoes and corn on the cob or a green salad.

Lindsey at 10.5 months old - it was a little too bright out for her, but I still can't get enough of that sweet face, even if she looks grumpy. :)



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lindsey vs. The Spaghetti

I'm pretty sure it's in the rule books somewhere that all babies must have a picture of themselves naked covered in spaghetti. If it's not in the rule books, I vote that we add it.

Lindsey is 10 months old (11 months in another week!) and this was her first encounter with spaghetti!


Lindsey's first bite. She wasn't quite sure what she thought at first - but she warmed up to it pretty quickly!


Then we gave Lindsey the spoon and let her start feeding herself...




 It didn't take long for noodles, sauce, and little pieces of meatball to start covering Lindsey's face, tummy, and tray.




Max hung out under the high chair - prime real estate for a puppy on watch for baby food droppage!


 Lindsey was really enjoying her meal!


Happy girl - full tummy and spaghetti EVERYWHERE. Straight into the tubby for this little ladybug!

And, since this generally is a food blog, here's the link to our Italian Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs! :)