Cozy “Fall” Dinner

Tonight I made a perfect fall dinner… since it’s a frigid 85 degrees here in Dallas. Anyone else remember having to wear a coat over their Halloween costume as a kid?? Now I’m worried that mine are going to sweat to death in long sleeves.

SO, dinner. Earlier this week I made a batch of bean and ham soup in the Instant Pot. My mom gave me this soup mix from Honeybaked Ham, and it’s pretty great because it includes a seasoning packet along with the dried beans. I did end up throwing a couple of bay leaves in there too. Instead of ham I used a smoked turkey leg and then removed the bone once the soup was ready.

Has anyone else tried this beer bread mix from Trader Joe’s? You just mix it with a bottle of beer (I used this Revolver Blood & Honey), spread into a loaf pan and then pour melted butter over the top.

The bread was perfect with the soup! Just be really careful not to overmix the dough or your bread will be tough (more stirring = more gluten). I only stirred mine a few times and it was a tiny bit tough.

And finally, I did a version of this fall shredded brussels sprouts salad by Iowa Girl Eats. I made a few swaps based on what we had on hand: substituted chopped apple for the pear and dried cherries for the cranberries. It turned out great! Even though I definitely burned the shallots.

The kids were off half a day yesterday and all day today, so now we’re dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Isla:

On one hand, I can’t complain because- unlike Jack- she actually PLAYS with all of the toys in the house. Even his. She dragged this 3 year old giant pirate ship (that he never touched) down from his room, and now it’s manned by Captain Barbie and the Shopkins crew. I love seeing what crazy scenarios she comes up with. BUT then there’s the clean-up…

Posted in October 2016 | Leave a comment

Spatchcocked Chicken

I literally did not leave the house once today until it was time for afternoon pickup. Cleaned the kitchen, stripped beds and washed all sheets, folded a sh– ton of laundry, pulled out the ol’ Instant Pot to make a batch of hard boiled eggs and a big pot of soup. I usually get really restless when I’m here all day, but it’s nice to feel (semi) caught up for a change.

The past few times I wandered Trader Joe’s, this spatchcocked lemon rosemary chicken caught my eye. Spatchcocked sounds dirty (just me?) but it just means a whole chicken that has been split open so that it cooks faster.

I finally snagged one, and tonight I roasted it in the oven for about an hour, surrounded by halved tiny potatoes (tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary) for a one-dish meal. I pulled the lemon slices off the chicken so that the skin would brown.

Pretty good!! And you can’t beat how easy it is to prepare- just pull the chicken out of the bag and place in a baking dish. My only complaint was that I felt like it didn’t have a ton of meat on it, but they come in different sizes so that’s probably my bad. It made the house smell amazing.

Books! I just started The Life We Bury for November book club and it hooked me immediately. Finished It Ends with Us last week and loved that one, too. And because I’m a giant dork I have The Magnolia Story ready to go once I finish the book club pick. No wonder nothing gets done around here…

Parent-teacher conference for Miss Isla Grace tomorrow. Wish us luck!

Posted in October 2016 | Leave a comment

Weekend Recap

Brian left on Thursday for Virginia to visit our alma mater, which meant that I was solo parenting the kids until this afternoon. They were actually really good (for the most part), but MAN I was wiped by like 7:30 every night. Single parents- my hat goes off to you!

Friday was particularly rough. I spent all morning cleaning, and came down from upstairs to find that Chloe had made a huge mess on our rug. Basically she has horrible allergies and uses our sisal rug as a scratch pad. So into the tub she went.

She may look happy here, but trust me she was furious. Girlfriend hates baths.

So then I go to pick up the kids at school. I spent maybe 10 seconds loading backpacks into the trunk, walked around to the passenger side help the kids in, only to find Isla literally carving a drawing into the side of my car WITH A ROCK.

See all those circles?? And one even has a face. Why? Why? WHY???

(She looks really sorry, right?)

On Friday night we had dinner with friends, then Saturday we had a morning birthday party followed by the kids’ school carnival. We stayed at the carnival from about 1-4:30ish. My parents came and helped out, which was great because of course the kids were going in a million different directions. The weather was perfect and the kids had a blast; unfortunately I was too busy chasing them to snap any pics.

This morning we had brunch with my family and sweet cousins who were in from east TX, then Jack had a soccer game at 2. Brian finally made it home around 4, and then we headed out for a Tex-Mex fix. THAT I remembered to photograph (priorities, ha).

Whew. Ok. Back to the grind tomorrow. This is a weird week too- the kids have a half day on Tuesday and then are off all day Wednesday. Trying to think of some fun fall activities (that don’t involve vandalizing cars).

Posted in October 2016 | Leave a comment

State Fair of Texas 2016

We took the kids to the state fair after school on Tuesday, which ended up being kind of perfect because: 1. you can get in for $5 with a Dr. Pepper can, and 2. rides are only 6 tickets on Tuesdays (I think they’re usually 10). We had so much fun! We kicked off the trip with Fletcher’s corny dogs and root beer- annual tradition.

I don’t even know what’s going on here…

Then we walked through the petting zoo, which is my favorite part of the fair. Isla got really into feeding the animals this year. Both kids went crazy over this cute little kangaroo. He was SO friendly! He got nose to nose with Isla, and grabbed Jack’s hand with his little paws and kept giving him kisses on the arm. I honestly wanted to take him home with us.

After the petting zoo, the kids went through the Little Hands on the Farm exhibit. For some reason we’ve never done this before, but it’s really cute (and free!). The kids walk through a “farm” and gather supplies along the way. At the end you sell your goods for play money that you can then use to buy a snack. Honestly it’s probably geared towards Isla’s age and younger, but Jack loved it too.

After the farm we all rode the Top o’ Texas Tower, which is basically a spinning observation deck that takes you 50o feet into the air. Brian is NOT a fan of heights so I was kind of shocked that he agreed to ride it, but 6 tickets was too good of a deal to pass up… and check out the view.

After that we let the kids choose a few rides on the midway, then we high tailed it out of there because it got crowded FAST. But first I had to get my annual Dole pineapple whip. I know I should probably try some of the crazy new fair foods but this is my very favorite. I did keep my eyes peeled for the cookie fries, but no luck finding them.

Oookayyy. So there’s our 2016 State Fair of Texas trip! The kids are already begging to go back.

Posted in October 2016 | Leave a comment

Secret Hideout

I’m feeling pretty important right now, as I blog from my NEW OFFICE!

Haha. It’s actually my closet, but details. A few months ago I bought this awesome new campaign desk that I was SO excited to set up in our guest room/office. I had been working at the kitchen table and it was annoying to have to constantly move the computer at mealtimes. However, before we even unpacked the desk from the box, a wall pipe leaked in the office, the floors had to be ripped up and all of the furniture pushed to one side of the room. Which is how it remains today, until we find flooring that matches what we currently have (OR replace all of the downstairs hardwoods).

Long story short, my awesome desk is still in its box… and I’m blogging from the closet, using my old nightstand as a desk. Which is fine because it’s quiet and the kids can’t find me.

Last Thursday was pretty much the best day ever, because I opened the front door and found a big box o’ makeup from my friend Marie! She works for Stila (jealous!) and sent me a bunch of their new holiday products to try. YES.

First off, it’s all gorgeous. I already love love love their Stay All Day Liquid Lipsticks and wear Patina (dusty rose) and Amore (deep plum) all the time, so I was really excited to get my hands on the Stay All Day, Sparkle All Night set. It contains 5 of the liquid lipsticks plus a glitter topcoat. Trust me when I say these lipsticks LAST. They’re matte so you have to be sure you scrub your lips first to get off any dry flakes, but once this stuff is on… it’s on.

Anyway, I was playing around with the lipsticks the other night and tried Baci, which is described as a “nude pink” but looks borderline greige on me. It’s gorgeous swatched but made me look super pale. But then I had the idea of layering it over one of the brighter shades- in this case Bacca, a really pretty but VIBRANT raspberry color.

Check it- top is Bacca, middle is Baci, and bottom is a thin layer of Bacca mixed with Baci:

SO PRETTY. It’s the perfect everyday mauve-y shade. Pardon the awkward car selfie (and the sun glass dents on my face, haha) but I wanted to show you what it looks like on and in daylight:

Love it, and I don’t have to touch it up all day long, which is good because I’m usually looking pretty rough come afternoon carpool time.

I’ll review more products as I try them out, but just wanted to give you a heads up on this one!

Thanks for indulging my makeup obsession- back to food posts tomorrow!

Posted in October 2016 | 1 Comment

Best Pork Tenderloin

Target was running a “spend $20, get $5 off” sale on meat last weekend, so in addition to our usual deli turkey and chicken breasts, I threw in a pork tenderloin to get us over the $20 limit. In the past I’ve always used the crock pot for tenderloin, and this time my plan was to use the Instant Pot instead. However I stumbled upon this recipe on Pinterest and it looked too good (and simple!) to pass up: Best Baked Pork Tenderloin.

You place the tenderloin in a baking pan, poke holes in it with a fork, coat in olive oil, then rub with a mixture of salt, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, Italian seasoning, smoked paprika and pepper. Squeeze some lemon juice (I used 1 Tbs lemon juice, 2 Tbs orange juice) over the top and bake at 400 for about 30 minutes. I think mine actually cooked for closer to 40 minutes. I kept checking the temp every few minutes with a meat thermometer to make sure it was cooked through.

Once it comes out of the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes and then slice.

SO pretty! Look at that crust! Forgive my terrible fluorescent lighting.

This is honestly the best pork tenderloin I’ve ever made. So tender and flavorful. Next time I may nestle some onions, potatoes and carrots around the pork to make it a one pot meal.

On the side we had roasted veggies, loosely based on this recipe for roasted brussels sprouts, cinnamon butternut squash, pecans and cranberries. I swapped cranberries for dried cherries, because we have a FOUR POUND box of dried cherries that we picked up in Michigan this summer. I also toasted the pecans, because toasting them takes 5 minutes but makes such a huge difference in the flavor.

Has anyone read It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover? I kept seeing it pop up on several of my favorite blogs, and then when I read the Amazon reviews (almost 2600 reviews and 93% gave it a 5 star rating!) I couldn’t resist. Anyway, it arrived today so I’m anxious to get started. Let me know if you’ve read it!

In other book nerd news, I’m going to see The Girl on the Train tomorrow with friends. A grown up movie, and actually seeing it IN the theater and not on Redbox 6 months later?? Pinch me!

Posted in October 2016 | 1 Comment

Great Outdoors

We had a pretty awesome weekend. Jack’s Saturday soccer game was cancelled so literally the only thing on our agenda all weekend was his 2pm Sunday game. Glorious. We spent the entire day on Saturday outside playing. Loving this fall weather (finally!). On Saturday evening we took the kids to see Storks, which was adorable and actually entertaining. Love it when kid movies appeal to adults, too (looking at you, basically every show on Netflix Kids… they are terrrrrible). On Sunday we met my parents and Owen for brunch at Henk’s, ran a few errands, headed to soccer and then spent the rest of the day at home. I feel like most weekends we’re running in 500 different directions, so it was really great to have lots of family chill time at home.

Chloe just wants to be included, sweet little puglet. I think they were sneakily feeding her pistachios here:

I’ve been going to a Monday evening class at the Y, which means that the kids and I are not home til almost 7. So Monday has become unofficial Crock Pot Day. Today I threw together a batch of this paleo jalapeno popper chili. It contains a mixture of ground chicken and ground beef, sweet potatoes, onion, bell pepper, jalapenos, garlic, diced tomatoes, spices and chicken broth.

The original recipe calls for putting the ground meat into the slow cooker raw, which weirds me out. I didn’t want all of that grease floating on top of the chili, so I went ahead and browned the meat on the stove first, then added it to the crock pot. I also left out the crushed red pepper so it wouldn’t be too spicy… though next time I’ll add it in. Since the jalapenos are seeded, they don’t add much heat. I also added 2 cups of chicken broth (instead of 1) and an extra can of diced tomatoes- to make up for the liquid that would have come from the raw meat.

Per the recipe, topped with diced avocado, green onions and crumbled goat cheese:

SO good! I was worried about the goat cheese, but it really does mimic the cream cheese from a jalapeno popper. The recipe involves a lot of chopping, but it makes a big batch and would freeze well. Will definitely be making this one again!

Happy Monday! I’m excited that This Is Us is back on tomorrow! I finally finished Before the Fall last night so now I’m ready to watch TV again, haha.

Posted in October 2016 | Leave a comment

Pasta Pumpkins

Have y’all seen the pumpkin-shaped pasta at Trader Joe’s? Adorable. Obviously I couldn’t not buy those.

That’s what the kids had for dinner tonight, thought not with that amaaaaaazing creamy harvest pasta sauce- because they’re crazy and only want pasta with butter. I was so excited to see that sauce on the shelves again this year! It tastes like La Madeleine’s tomato-basil soup to me, and that’s a very good thing. The label is all pumpkins and squash but all I really get is creamy tomato. Love love love.

Our dinner was one of my go-to’s. Literally three ingredients and one pan:

We’re trying to cut back on carbs, especially at night, so this is perfect when the kids are having pasta. I just saute the broccoli slaw in olive oil until tender (but not super soft). Remove from the pan, then brown a lb of ground turkey in the same skillet. Once the turkey is cooked through, I pour in a jar of pasta sauce, then add the broccoli slaw back to the pan and stir.

So easy and really filling. I actually prefer the broccoli slaw to spaghetti squash. I’m probably cooking it wrong but so often my squash ends up mushy. The broccoli slaw has a better texture, IMO. And this makes for great leftovers! So easy to heat up for lunch the next day.

(I’ll do another post about those little nuggets on the side.)

Can’t believe it’s almost Friday!! This week flew. We have an unusually quiet weekend ahead- just 2 soccer games and that’s really it, which is just fine by me.

Have a great weekend!

Posted in October 2016 | Leave a comment

October Book Club

Sorry for not posting yesterday. I hosted book club here and it was a late night (at least for this old lady). October is my favorite month to host- y’all know how much I love decorating for fall/Halloween and hosting gives me the perfect excuse. Plus pumpkin desserts, obviously. I picked Before The Fall for our book and I’m still about 80 pages from the end. Whoops. It’s a really well written book, but not one that I just can’t put down. I do want to finish it, though.

ANYWAY. Book club. I snapped a few pics before everyone arrived, just to commemorate the fact that my house was actually clean for 5 whole minutes (well, the downstairs at least).

For dinner I made sour cream chicken enchiladas. I used this recipe as a base but improvised a little because the sauce seemed bland. I made the chicken in the Instant Pot and added salsa verde and cumin for flavor. Then for the sauce I stirred in most of a can of green enchilada sauce. They turned out great! I actually made them on Monday night and then baked them on Tuesday.

Also, the best refried beans EVER. The only way I altered that recipe was by adding cumin. It’s basically just doctored-up canned refried beans, but trust me- they’re amazing.

This was actually my lunch today, because I forgot to take food pics last night.

It’s a busy week. Book club last night, parent-teacher conference tonight. Catch y’all tomorrow!

Posted in October 2016 | Leave a comment

Fall In A Bowl

Hey! I feel like I’m still recovering from the weekend. It was BUSY. On Friday my mom and I took the kids to the Arboretum to check out all the pumpkins.

This was right before we got yelled at for climbing on the pumpkins. Oops.

On Saturday we headed up to our neighborhood Oktoberfest for about an hour, then left so we could make it to Jack’s soccer game and pics. After soccer I took the kids to a birthday party while Brian picked up his volunteer shift at Oktoberfest, then we headed back up there after the party. It was a lot of fun- the kids had a blast playing laser tag, ziplining and having silly string battles. Mom and Dad enjoyed the FOOD, obviously. The kids and I split the most amazing frozen s’more (blowtorched!) from Haute Sweet Patisserie and I’m kicking myself for not getting a photo.

I love it during fall when Costco sells the big tubs of peeled, diced butternut squash. I hate peeling and cutting those monsters! My favorite thing to make with them is definitely this roasted apple and butternut squash soup. It tastes like fall in a bowl, haha. You just roast a bunch of veggies and apples in the oven:

Then simmer with chicken stock and puree. I used my immersion blender but you could toss it in the food processor as well.

So good! Last year Trader Joe’s sold these pumpkin croutons that were AMAZING on this soup, but I haven’t seen them this year… so we used parmesan crisps instead.

I went to Zumba tonight so mama is both tired and stinky. Catch y’all tomorrow!

Posted in October 2016 | Leave a comment