What We’re Eating – May 23 – 27

We had a nice little surprise over the weekend: our refrigerator stopped working…for the second time in a month! We went through the whole DIY fix last time, but it was such a huge ordeal, there is no way we’re going through all that again. So until a technician can come take a look (Friday or Saturday!!!! AGH!!!!), we are surviving with a mini fridge and a deep freezer (located in our non-attached garage). Should be a fun week. ūüôā

Anyway, since our cold storage space is limited, we’ll be making several trips to the grocery store this week for our meals. Nevertheless, I’m excited about our menu this week! Continue reading

Stocking The Pantry

The day I’ve been dreading for almost five months is almost here: the day my maternity leave ends. I start back at work in the beginning of May, and besides the overwhelming mommy-sadness I feel, I’m getting nervous about juggling a full-time (and demanding) job and two small children. It wasn’t easy with just J – so I’m sure it’s only going to get harder with another.

Therefore, I’m doing everything that I can now to make my life easier later. First thing on the list: stocking up the pantry and freezer! I am so bad (so very, very bad) at turning to take-out when times get stressful. This is bad for our health as well as our bank account, so I’m getting ahead of the game by stocking up on pantry and freezer essentials.

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What We’re Eating – April 4 – 9

It sure it cold for April here in Northeast Ohio, so our meals this week are warm and comforting. And tasty of course ūüôā

Breakfasts: blueberry waffles (store-bought); oatmeal; toast with salmon cream cheese and capers (my latest obsession – it’s so unbelievably good!); fruit; yogurt

Snacks: strawberries, carrots and green peppers, granola bars

Lunches: leftovers (one of the perks of having only 2 1/2 people who can eat solid food in the house is lots of leftovers! I hardly ever have to plan lunches.) Continue reading

Pantry Cooking – Mexican Lasagna

We are big fans of Mexican food in our house¬† casa. We are regulars at the local Mexican restaurant, and Ryan’s homemade guacamole is pretty much a staple in our fridge, so when I found this recipe for Mexican Lasagna on my quest for pantry cooking recipes, I knew it was worth a try.

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Because I was focused on using only items we had on hand, I had to make a few tweaks in the ingredients, but HOLY MOLEY this recipe is great!

First, it makes a lot of food – and all the ingredients are inexpensive. Based on 6 servings and the price I paid for the ingredients (to the best of my recollection), this costs about $2.11 per serving. You can add ground beef or turkey to the red sauce if you’d like, but I did not – and I honestly didn’t miss it at all! For our 2 1/2 person family, this easily makes enough for dinner and at least one lunch.

Secondly, it’s comforting and satisfying. My first thought was – wow, this tastes like a Mexican Pizza from Taco Bell! However, by my scientific and fact-based calculations (ha!), it’s about 1,000 times healthier. I was counting down the minutes to lunch all day yesterday in anticipation of eating the leftover yumminess.

Third, you probably have most – if not all – of the ingredients on hand, so it’s a great last minute I-don’t-know-what-to-do-for-dinner option. This goes great with a salad, some chips and salsa or just served on its own.

Without further ado, here is the recipe!

Mexican Lasagna
adapted from a recipe on Sugar & Spice by Celeste
Makes 6-8 servings

  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 4-ounce can green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes, “chili ready” are preferred, but not required
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can of corn (regular or cream-style)
  • 2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • soft flour tortillas (I used 6-inch ones, and I used 9 of them in this recipe)
  • guacamole, salsa, hot sauce, other toppings – optional

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Saute the onions in the oil in a large skillet for 3 minutes. Add can of green chiles and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until onions are soft.

2. Add cans of diced tomatoes. Add water to one can (about 1/4 of the can) and add that to the skillet as well. Add ketchup and salt. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 10 minutes.

3. While the sauce is cooking, combine the drained beans and corn in a bowl. Add 2 cups of the shredded cheese, reserving 1/2 cups of the cheese. Combine.

4. In a large oven-safe casserole dish (I used an oval shape one, but any shape would work), put a layer of the red sauce on the bottom, then top with three of the tortillas. Depending on the size of the tortillas you have and the shape of the casserole dish, you may have to tear the tortillas into pieces to get good coverage. It doesn’t have to be perfect – but you should try to cover most of the sauce.

5. Next, add a layer of the bean and corn mixture. You don’t want it to be too thick, but it should definitely cover all the tortillas.

6. Repeat this process two more times: red sauce, tortillas, bean and corn mixture. Top the lasagna with any remaining red sauce and the reserved 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.

7. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. I think it’s helpful to place a cookie sheet in the oven on the rack beneath the casserole dish to catch any spills, but it’s not necessary if you don’t have one.

8. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving. Top with guacamole, salsa, hot sauce and/or other toppings, if desired.

Friday Favorites – March 27, 2015

Happy first day of spring! In honor of the start of the season that brings longer days and sunshine, I’ve put together a Friday Favorites –¬†and this week is all about things that have been making my life easier and/or more enjoyable lately. Enjoy!

1. Pantry cooking. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this as a CPA, but my family is not on a budget. I know, I know – it’s not good! To work on that, I’ve been tracking our spending this past month using Mint. It’s been very helpful, but also very eye-opening. I thought for sure our spending was too high when it came to restaurants and random coffee shop visits, however, the real money-suck in our budget is our grocery bills. Holy smokes – seeing how much we spent at the grocery store this past month was the closest I think I’ve ever come to a heart attack. What’s even worse is we have a TON of food in our pantry and freezer, so besides the necessities for our baby toddler, we really have no need to be going to the store as much as we do. Armed with Pinterest-adapted recipes and the contents of my kitchen, I’ve been able to successfully come up with several recipes made up of items I have on hand, or what I call “pantry cooking”.¬†I’ll be sharing some of our favorites soon! Along with pantry cooking, I’ve also been a big fan of…

2. Freezer cooking. Ok, true story: freezer cooking just about saved me the past few months. No exaggeration. I work at a Big Four CPA firm, and several¬†most months of the year are considered “busy season”. Even though Ryan and I have the best intentions for cooking at home, here is how a normal busy-season evening conversation goes:

Ryan: What time are you leaving?
Me: I don’t know. Probably late.
Ryan: Ok – did you want me to start the [insert name of healthy meal we discussed making for dinner that evening]?
Me: No. I’ll just pick up [insert name of unhealthy fast food restaurant] on the way home.

It’s sad, but true. Now that J is eating what we are, we’ve realized we cannot just pick up fast food when our lives are crazy. And let’s be honest, friends – when aren’t¬†our lives crazy? I’m sure each and every one of you reading this are being pulled in too many directions too often.¬†Pizza¬†and Chinese take-out are not the answer!

I have friends who rave about freezer cooking, so I decided I was finally going to give it a try. My winter busy season runs from mid-January to mid-March, so right after the New Year, I spent an entire Sunday chopping, cooking and portioning food. In that time, I made four different recipes (chili, creamy Italian chicken, chicken pot stickers and lasagna) and either doubled or tripled them, so that in the end, my freezer was stocked with 20 2-serving meals. Every evening, my husband and I would decide what we wanted to eat the next day for dinner and then just put that frozen meal in the fridge to thaw. A-MAZ-ING!!! I’m working on a post dedicated to freezer cooking- I cannot wait!

3.¬†Podcasts. I spend A LOT of my time in the car. Way too much time, in my opinion. While I certainly enjoy my local country station’s DJs, I felt like I could be using my time a little more effectively. I can’t use my commute to work – since Ohio has¬†these crazy laws about distracted driving and keeping your eyes on the road – so I would call my friends and family to pass the time. Problem is most of my friends and family either have short commutes or aren’t up as early as I am, which resulted in me calling the same people over and over…and I’m sure those people got tired of hearing from me all the time. This is how podcasts came into my life – and this is how they stayed:

They are make me think.¬†One of the first podcasts I downloaded was by the authors who gave the world the¬†Freakonomics¬†books. I’m a big fan of their books (see here and here), so it did not surprise me that I love their podcasts too. These guys take seemingly boring topics (car accidents involving pedestrians, quitting a job, and parking lots, to name a few) and¬†expose “the hidden side of everything”. What is the true cost of all our nation’s parking lots? If you don’t care, you should – because it’s high.

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Also check out Radiolab. Great stuff.

They are thrilling. I don’t blame you if you don’t believe me that a podcast can be thrilling, but if you just listen to the Serial podcast, I’m sure you’ll change your mind. I love crime stories, so I was immediately drawn into this podcast about the real-life murder of a high school girl in 1999. I listened to all 12 episodes in a week. Seriously – it’s addicting.

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Also check out Criminal. Each episode is less than 30 minutes but just full of crime-related storytelling.

They make me feel.¬†Strangers is a podcast that details a different story of humanity every episode. I love hearing all the different stories of just people – the pain, the joys, the struggles. It’s all so real – and it makes me want to be a better person to everyone in my life.

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4. theSkimm. I like to be on top of news – both local and worldwide – but it’s so TOUGH. My local news doesn’t cover everything, and if I tried to read even one newspaper a day, I would lose precious time I could (and should) be spending working. I read about the creators of theSkimm and instantly wanted to be friends with them, so I figured their daily newsletter was at least worth a shot. I’m so glad I did because ya’ll, seriously – this has been my favorite discovery of 2015. Said in their own words:

theSkimm is an email newsletter for anyone short on time. No one wants to be the deer in headlights when someone says ‚Äúdid you hear about the latest in Syria?‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúdid you hear about Johnny Football?‚ÄĚ. We have always been the go-to source for friends seeking the scoop on current events or breaking news. We soon realized three things: Reading the news is time consuming; Wanting to read the news is a hobby; lastly, not everyone has the time or interest.

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I guess they are way too modest to include that they are EXCELLENT writers and that they make complicated news headlines (read: what is going on in the Middle East) understandable. Also – they are hi-lar-i-ous. I look forward to the day I can quit my job and join theSkimm team. Ha – just kidding…not really.

What are you waiting for?! Sign up!

5. Parks and Recreation. Ryan and I recently made the decision to get rid of cable. We don’t watch much TV, and when we do, we would just catch up on on whatever was in our DVR. So, it seemed silly to keep paying a ton of cash each month for something we didn’t really use. Bye bye, cable – hello, Netflix and Hulu! So far, we don’t miss cable at all (I know football season will be another story but we’ll deal with that later). Having access to tons of TV shows and movies I’ve never seen has been eye opening – and so much fun! One question though:

Why didn’t anyone tell me “Parks and Recreation” is *literally*¬†one of the best TV shows ever made?!

See what I did there? I’m sure Chris Traeger would approve.

To be fair, my sister has been telling me for months that I would love this show, so¬†I guess I have no real excuse why I’m so late joining the P&R party train. I’m just really glad that I finally got on board. It’s silly, so I can escape all the seriousness of the real world, but it’s still smart humor, so I don’t feel totally guilty about watching TV. I’ve officially put Amy Poehler on my list of women I want to be friends with.

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Ryan and I have caught up through season 6 on Netflix, so now we are¬†facing the same conundrum as we did with my beloved “Friday Night Lights” (FNL) – we love it so much we want to watch more, but every episode we watch means we are one closer to the last one. ARGH!

The one good thing about finishing a series is that it makes room to start another. My dear friend and fellow FNL fan Shannon has suggested “Parenthood” and “Bloodlines”, so those are up next!

 

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Love,

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Catch up + CMA awards

Happy November! I can’t believe we’re in the final two months of 2014. Time continues to amaze me at how quickly it flies.

While it’s not the traditional awards season, I’m so excited that this Wednesday is the Country Music Association¬†(CMA) Awards!

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I love this awards show and am really looking forward to seeing my favorite country music singers perform. Especially the Zac Brown Band and those boys from Florida Georgia Line. Love them!

Also –¬†it’s cold. The temperature has been in the 40’s in Northeast Ohio the past couple of days, and I’m none too happy about it. However, if there is one good thing about chilly weather, it’s cooking for chilly weather. ¬†So, this week I’ll be cooking for chilly weather and country music: BBQ Coca-cola Ribs and chipotle mashed sweet potatoes.

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Here is a link to the list of nominees for Wednesday’s award show. My predictions are below:

Album of the year – Miranda Lambert, “Platinum”

Entertainer of the year – Blake Shelton

Female Vocalist of the year – Taylor Swift

Male Vocalist of the year – Luke Bryan

Music Video of the year – “Somethin’ Bad” by Carried Underwood and Miranda Lambert

Musical Event of the year –¬†“Somethin’ Bad” by Carried Underwood and Miranda Lambert

Musician of the year – Jerry Douglas (if you don’t know Jerry, I highly suggest getting to know him! He’s part of Alison Krauss’s band, and he was George Clooney’s singing voice in “O Brother, Where Art Thou”.)

New artist of the year – Kip Moore

Single of the year – “Automatic” by Miranda Lambert

Song of the year – “Give Me Back My Hometown”

Vocal Duo of the year – Florida Georgia Line

Vocal group of the year – Zac Brown Band