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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Mississippi Roast

Growing up, I loved and looked forward to the days my mom would make roast for dinner. The whole house would fill with the delicious smell of the tender beef soaked in gravy…just the thought is making me hungry! Roast beef piled on top of mashed potatoes – talk about a perfect comfort food.

If you do any sort of recipe searching on the internet, you probably have stumbled across the Mississippi Roast. It’s taken the world wide web by storm, and even been called the “Internet darling of a recipe” by the New York TimesContinue 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.

Pumpkin Pie Truffles

Tired of all the pumpkin stuff yet? If so, sorry – but there is plenty more to come. If not, you’re my kind of people.
Truffles are definitely an indulgence of mine. I haven’t yet met a truffle I didn’t like, and pumpkin pie truffles are no exception. They are a very, very close second to my beloved jalapeno and dark chocolate truffles. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

Pumpkin Pie Truffles Recipe
Anyway, what’s so great about these truffles is how EASY they are. People will definitely think you are a culinary master when you show up with these – and I really don’t think there is any reason to correct them. It’ll be our little secret. 🙂

These truffles are from a blog called Six Sister Stuff, which is one of my favorite blogs to follow. Great recipes, easy DIY projects and other nifty ideas – such a fun blog!

With love,

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International Firefighters Day + Cinco de Mayo!

Did anyone know that May 4 is International Firefighters Day? Unfortunately, me neither. I saw this today and was instantly bummed that I missed out on this holiday. After all, our house is home to one hunky firefighter, and I wished we would have celebrated yesterday. Since we didn’t – and he works today – we’ll just have to have a little party tomorrow. Any fun firefighter themed food ideas? To Pinterest I go…

One holiday I cannot possibly forget is Cinco de Mayo! I have loved this holiday for years, and what’s not to love? Mexican food – good! Margaritas – good! Hanging out with friends who enjoy both of these things as much as I do – good!

It's Cinco o'clock somewhere!
It’s Cinco o’clock somewhere!

However, Cinco de Mayo 2014 is a bit different for me this year…

First, I’ll be riding solo this evening with my sweet baby. He’s been a bit cranky today, so I don’t know if he’ll be in the real party spirit tonight. I can’t complain, though: he was a good sport and allowed me to take a picture of him in a fake mustache earlier. Coolest.baby.ever.

Secondly, I started a month-long challenge last week with some awesome folks led by my best gal pal Katie. The challenge is to be at our best with both physical fitness and healthy eating. Got the fitness part checked off for the day (WHEN DOES T-25 GET EASIER, PEOPLE?!), and I’ve fueled my body with the right foods…so far. The kind of Mexican food I enjoy doesn’t exactly fit into a healthy eating lifestyle (hellooooooo, chips and cheese dip!), so I’m going to go another route: chicken burrito bowl with quinoa. Here was my inspiration:

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Grilled chicken, onions and sweet bell peppers on top of quinoa. Topped with hot sauce and avocado and it’s healthy south-of-the-border dining at its finest! Except that we are out of avocado. Of course. Of all days…

Anyway, happy day-after-International Firefighters Day and happy Cinco de Mayo!

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A DIY Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is all about telling the special people in your life how much you love them, and what says “I love you” more than a homemade gift? Plus, DIY gifts are usually easy on your wallet – and give you the satisfaction of putting effort and an added touch into your gifts.

Break out of the dinner-and-a-movie mold this Valentine’s Day, and get crafty! Here are some ideas I love:

Mugs

Does your significant other, best friend or family member live too far away for you to spend Valentine’s Day together? Let them know you’re thinking about them from afar with these distance mugs. Full instructions are here.

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Even for those lucky enough to their sweeties, DIY mugs are great gifts. Below are some adorable ones I found online:

You know I love anything with a mustache!
You know I love anything with a mustache!

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Truth.
Truth.

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The possibilities are really endless. The Internet has about a million ideas, so you’re sure to come up with one that fits your loved one perfectly! Just fill the mugs with chocolate, add a bag of their favorite coffee (or tea) and the present is complete!

Scratch-off Cards

I first did this for a friend’s baby shower, and I just loved how they turned out. It’s easy to make them for Valentine’s day, and you can get really creative with how you want to make them.

My favorite way to use scratch off cards for ANY occasion is to include “lucky” in the card somehow. Try making a “Are You Lucky in Love?” card – with a few presents your loved one can scratch off. These don’t have to cost a lot of money; in fact, free presents are sometimes the most appreciated! Some ideas might include a back massage, breakfast in bed or getting to pick the next movie you rent. You know them the best – so pick things they will love and appreciate! Here is an example of a card I found online:

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Another idea is to tell someone just why you love them with a “10 Things I Love About You” scratch off card. I like the look of this card, but I wouldn’t do one every day. I couldn’t stand the wait!

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Food

There’s a saying that the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. That may be true for the man in your life, but it’s most likely also true for the friend, mom, dad, sibling, co-worker and children in your life as well! Take the time to make your loved one’s favorite meal, snack or dessert and your effort will not go unnoticed! If you need some inspiration, check out some easy recipe ideas here, here and here.

Another great way to show love on Valentine’s Day is to cook WITH your loved one, instead of for them. Ryan and I did this the first Valentine’s Day in our new house, and it was such a fun time, we do it every year. Make the dinner special by whipping up something you usually don’t cook, open a bottle of wine and just enjoy each other’s company. We always do a surf-and-turf dinner with filet mignon and scallops, and we change up the sides every year to suit our taste-buds. Even with a “fancy” dinner like that, it’s MUCH less expensive than going out to eat, and we get 100% of each other’s attention. Perfection! And don’t worry if you aren’t a culinary expert – our favorite Valentine’s Day story is when we messed up dinner SO BADLY that it was inedible. It was funny then – and it’s even funnier now! So even if everything doesn’t go as planned – there’s always pizza delivery!

One last food gift: I saw this idea on Glitter Guide and fell in love with the idea. No matter what your “significant other” status is, your friends have been with you through life’s crazy up’s and down’s. So why not show them how much you love them by hosting a Friendship Brunch? Just you and your friends, with mimosas, waffles and plenty of love. I am sad that I didn’t think to do this before – but for sure next year, girls!!

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Cards

A few years ago, my college roommate started making her own cards. They are cute, they are unique, and most of all, there are personal. Hallmark has nothing on her! I’ve been inspired by her creatively and started making my own cards, and even though I’m nowhere near her abilities, I have a lot of fun doing it. Google “DIY Valentine’s Day cards” and start crafting! Whether you go with “Owl always love you” or “I mustache you to be my valentine”, you’re sure to make an impression.

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Happy Valentine’s Day to you, my loves!

Killer Intervals – Plus Chia Pudding

In spite of the 60 degree weather, my extended family got together for our Christmas celebration over the weekend (I know, I know: Christmas is over. But when you have a bunch of people as busy as my family, you have to get creative!). While chatting with a few of my cousins, I mentioned the great workout I had at the gym, which prompted one of them to ask “Are you going to put this on your blog?”. Well, yes! I sure am 🙂

I recently stumbled upon the Tone It Up! blog, and it was love at first sight. The site if full of great fitness and nutrition advice from two BFFs/personal trainers Karena and Katrina, whose ripped abs and toned arms make me hate them a little. Their amazing beach hair doesn’t help their likability much either.

But all that aside – their workouts looked legit. They are in the middle of a “Love your body” series that will run until Valentine’s Day. I decided one of the workouts, “Cupid’s Cardio”, would be fun to try for my workout Saturday morning.

Yeah, real fun.

There’s no way that chubby little cherub should be associated with a workout like this. I know I’m not in tip-top shape just yet, but this wasn’t my first day at the gym, either. It’s been awhile since I pushed myself that hard, and now I remember why people quite literally get addicted to working out. What a rush. Plus, in the 33 minutes Cupid’s Cardio takes, I ran 3.3 miles – the farthest I’ve gone since I started running again on January 1!

If anyone is in the mood for a GOOD workout, see below (or go to the Tone It Up! post here); I did it on a treadmill, but it can be done on any cardio machine. Interval workouts are great because you can increase or decrease the intensity without having to drastically change the workout. The mph I did are in brackets – I’m hoping to have this beat in after a few more weeks of running.

Warm up for 3 minutes at a jog [6.0]

Run fast for 1 minute [7.5]

Jog for 2 minutes [6.0]

Repeat this 5 times

Sprint as fast as you can for 30 seconds [8.0 – 8.3]

Jog or walk for 1  minute [5.8 – 6.0]

Repeat this 10 times

And you’re done! As hard as it was (and sweat-soaked as I was after), I felt great. So great that I did their Bikini Strap workout before calling it a day. All that hard work let me enjoy the yummy food my family made for our party with no guilt. Thanks, Cupid!

On a side note, for breakfast this morning I tried some chia seed pudding, again, from Tone It Up! (I might be slightly obsessed with this website). Despite my initial dismay that chia seeds are edible, I have to admit: it was really tasty! And it kept me full until lunch time. I can see how the texture of the seeds might bother some people, but I was ok with it. I’m really, really glad I liked the recipe, not only for the nutritional value, but because I’d be stuck with a big bag of chia seeds if I didn’t!

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend and a great start to the week!