Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Decorating the Home

This was my inspiration! It was one of the first "pins" I made last year when I signed up for pinterest. I wanted to recreate this so badly! So I finally did!

We already had the buffet table and mirror, which saved us quite a bit of money. But I'm sure you could find something similar at a thrift store! I found my matching lamps and shades at Walmart. To make the planter, I used a wooden pallet, which I picked up for free at Home Depot. We cut the pallet to size and used nails to make the planter. I then bought floral foam rectangles, which conveniently ended up being the exact width of my planter, from Michaels. I used 3 of the foam pieces to fill the bottom of the planter, then bought, cut to size and "planted" my hydrangeas. Voila! So simple and I love the look!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Recipe Time: White Wine Chicken

Here's another one of our absolute favorites! Crockpot dishes are such a life savor some days. This one is quick and easy to throw together and tastes delicious. We usually pair this with a spring mix salad with an olive oil dressing.

White Wine Chicken

1 (10.75oz) can condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
1 tsp dried minced onion
1 tsp dried parsley
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp milk
1 package mushrooms
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I normally just use 2 large breasts)

1. Place raw defrosted chicken breasts in bottom of crockpot,

2. In a medium bowl, mix together cream of chicken soup, milk, and white wine until smooth. Then stir in the mushrooms, spices, and salt and pepper.

3. Pour mixture over chicken. And cover. Cook on low for 5-6 hours, or high for 3-4 hours. During the last hour of cooking, take a wooden spoon and "shred" the chicken in the crockpot. Doing it during the last hour makes this super easy, the chicken practically falls apart on its own.

4. Prepare pasta according to package, we use whole wheat egg noodles. Using rice for this dish would be delicious also!

5. Serve sauce over pasta or rice and enjoy!

*Note: You don't need a ton of pasta for this dish. The sauce is super filling!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Recipe Time: Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

I found this recipe on Pinterest a few weeks ago and have been anxiously awaiting the trial. Let me tell you, this tastes twice as delicious as it smells while cooking. And its not as unhealthy as you may think!

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

2 butterball turkey bacon strips, cooked and shredded
1 tsp minced garlic
1 package ranch dressing mix or 1/2 cup ranch dressing
1 10.75 oz can condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 cup fat-free sour cream
16 oz. chicken breasts, frozen or defrosted/raw
8 oz. pasta (I used penne) cooked
 *Some people have said that this has a little too much ranch flavor, or a little too salty, this can be fixed by adding only half the ranch dressing mix.

1. Combine the bacon, garlic, ranch, cream of chicken, and sour cream. Stir until smooth.

2. Place raw chicken in crockpot sprayed with non-stick spray. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Cover and cook on high for 3.5 hours. Shred the chicken with 2 forks, I used a wooden spatula. Then prepare your pasta according the package.

This was so filling! My husband and I, plus the little, all had some and we still have leftovers! Which I will add, this freezes really well! 

Now for the real shocker, the nutritional facts! 
456 calories, 61 carbs, 5 fat grams and 36 protein grams.

Freaking amazing! 

I must give credit where credit is due, so I applaud you Kelly this will be a staple in our home from now on!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Recipe Time: Calabrian Pork Chops with Red Potatoes and Sweet Cherry Peppers

I WISH I could take credit for this meal, but unfortunately, I can't. I pulled this beauty from Teresa Giudice's "Fabulicious" more info on that can be found here! This is now one of our favorite meals! Its cheap, easy and healthy. A perfect trifecta!

Calabrian Pork Chops with Peppers and Potatoes

7Tbs extra virgin olive oil, divided
2Tbs red wine vinegar
2tsp finely chopped fresh basil
1tsp dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2tsp salt
1/4tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 (6z) boneless pork loin chops, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/4lbs medium red potatoes, cut lengthwise into sixths
6 hot or sweet fresh cherry peppers, tops removed, seeded and quartered

*If you can't find fresh cherry peppers, pickled cherry peppers works just as well. I use a whole jar. These wont need cooking so just add them to the potatoes with the browned pork.

1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk 3Tbs of the olive oil with the vinegar, basil, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. Let stand for 15 minutes. Add the pork to the mix, stir to coat, and let it marinate for another 15 minutes.

2. Heat 2Tbs of the olive oil in a large skillet, over high heat. Remove the pork from the marinade, letting the excess marinade drip back into the bowl. In batches, add the pork to the skillet and cook, turning occasionally, until the pork is browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer the browned pork to a plate, leaving any remaining fat in the pan.

3. Add the remaining 2Tbs olive oil to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium. Add the potatoes and peppers, if using fresh, and stir well. Cook, stirring often, until the potatoes begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the water evaporates and the potatoes are almost tender and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

4. Return the pork to the skillet, adding the peppers if using pickled peppers, cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper, serve hot.

I honestly can't say anything else about this dish, other than its absolutely delicious! Our little one even loved it, she was literally shoveling handful after handful into her mouth at dinner. Its a cheap, healthy, hearty meal, that is bound to be a winner in your house too!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Organizing - Your Spice Cabinet

Oh man. My spice/baking cabinet was a disaster! At one point in time, it was really organized and pretty, I promise! But with finding new meals, came buying new ingredients and so this mess was born. I got so sick of having to dig through everything to find one spice, knocking over bottles and jars in the process. It needed reorganized. Badly.

A few months ago, I poured all my spices into small, 4oz I believe, mason jars. They even came with handy sticker labels. It looks a whole lot nicer than a bunch of different sized, plastic bottles, and it made them more accessible. They used to be stacked nicely, 3 tall, on the bottom shelf, you see how that went. sigh. 

First I emptied EVERYTHING out of the cabinet and wiped the shelves down. Then I threw away anything that was expired, or about to expire in the next month. I had a plan in my head, but our cabinet shelves just wouldn't allow that plan. I wanted my first shelf to only be a few inches above the bottom shelf. I'm only 5'3'' so I need to keep my most commonly used stuff easily accessible, hence the spices on the bottom shelf. Having our oil bottles lay sideways was a mess. No matter how tightly you screwed the lid on, they always leaked. I needed the oil to be able to stand. I explained my plan to my husband, who was less than thrilled that I had another project for him, but he grabbed the drill and made his own holes in the sides of the cabinets for the shelf..holders? Ya know, the clear plastic pieces that stick out of the sides of the cabinet to hold the shelf in place, the shelf holders. :)

Once he had that done, I started to refill my shelves. It looks so much better! And hopefully it will stay this clean and organized!! 


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Easy Water Bombs

Our daughter loves bathtime. She would spend hours in the tub if we would let her. I'm always on the lookout for new bath toys, especially ones that double as learning toys! I found an easy peasy bath toy craft and I had to give it a try myself!

All you need is: A pack of sponges, just be sure they are the ones without the scrubby pad! That could be painful. A pair of scissors, and some fishing line!

First, cut your sponge in half lengthwise. 

 Then cut each half into half. Basically you want to quarter your sponge lengthwise. I also trimmed off the wavey parts from my sponge. Try to find straight sided sponges, I had no luck. Do this for all of your sponges. 

Make a stack 2 sponges high, 4 sponges wide (this was before I trimmed my wavey sides), alternating colors. And slip a piece of fishing line underneath the stack of sponges. Tie the fishing line as tightly as you can, and trim the excess line. Do this for the remaining sponges.

And there you have it. Super simple water bombs. Lauryn got more of a kick out of these things dry than she did in the bathtub They'll be fun in the summer when we can violently throw toss them at each other to cool off. Plus they're bound to help her learn colors!

Organizing - Your Bathroom Cabinet

Yep, there it is in all its glory. This photo is actually from a few months ago when I went on a massive organizational spree before my husbands return. I'm embarrassed to even show this photo! It was bad! Nothing was organized, it was all just thrown in there. I needed to fix it!

So I went to walmart and bought some baskets, 4 to be exact, at $6.99 a piece. Then I traveled to in the hopes of finding a way to store my flat iron, curling iron, hair dryer, ect. 

I found this little gem on sale for $13.99!

Actually cleaning and organizing my cabinet didn't take too long, because I threw a ton of crap out! Those million mini bottles of body wash and lotion that you get every year for christmas? Ive had them for YEARS. I kept 1 for my "ready travel kit", 1 for the guest bathroom, which we always keep stocked with toiletries anyway, and 1 for emergencies. The rest, in the garbage. THAT cleared up a ton of space. 

I categorized my baskets into "hair care", "first aid/medicine" "feminine care" and "extras". The extras bin holds extra tubes of toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, loofahs, ect. 

I'm amazed at how much better the cabinet looks, and the fact that it STILL looks this way! It just goes to show how a few baskets can go a long way in making your space more manageable and appealing!

Chalkboard Baskets

I love being organized. I love labels. And I love everything having it's own place to call home, and being IN that home. My OCD love this part of me. Remember how back at the menu board post I said how I was trying to get the refrigerator cleaned up? Well I am sick of bags of onions and russet, red, and sweet potatoes uglifying (is that even a word? no. I just made it one) the top of my refrigerator. I wanted needed a way to organize! I found these lovely chalkboard baskets, as seen above, at target for $39.99. The exact same amount I pay for 240 size 3 diapers. There was no way in H-E-double hockey sticks I was paying $40 for a basket I knew I could make myself! So after my target trip I made a trip to Michaels to find some materials. 

 I got this 15yard bunch of natural jewelry string for under $2.

 This can of chalkboard paint, which you can make yourself, I haven't ventured into that just yet, was around $8. A little pricey but you know I'll be using it again!

I got a pack of 8 2x4inch wood pieces for under $5. I drilled 2 holes, one on each side, just big enough for my string to go through and sanded over the holes.

And I got 2 of these baskets. Originally they were $19.99 a piece but Michaels had them 40% off so I paid about $12 for each! SCORE!

I took my 2 wood pieces outside and sprayed them with the chalkboard paint. Follow the directions on your can of spray paint! My impatientness (look another new word) got the best of me and I didn't listen when it said to wait 24 hours before using for the first time, and I ruined my first 2 pieces of wood and had to start over. sigh.

Once youve waited the required amount of time, "break in" your chalkboard by rubbing chalk over the surface. Then wipe it clean with a chalkboard eraser, or paper towel.

I wrote on my chalkboards "onions" and "potatoes". Then fed the string though the pre-drilled holes. Place the chalkboard onto the face of your basket and secure it by tying the strings to the basket. Cut off any extra string.

BAM! Chalkboard baskets! Target wanted $40 for just one basket. I made 2 chalkboard baskets for well under $40! 
Crafty mommy - 1 Overpriced Store - 0

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day - A day late

I love love love valentine's day! Even more now that I have a sweet baby to smother with extra hugs and kisses! Nothing spectacular to show you guys from yesterday but have a look at some of my favorite snapshots from the day!

Started munchkins day off right with some whole wheat heart shaped french toast! -- And of course I had to make chocolate covered strawberries. They were absolutely delicious by the way.

 She looks absolutely thrilled about Valentines Day doesn't she?

This is the happy, excited about everything, baby I know! She is in love with the teddy bear, now named Rupert, that her daddy got her!

Being the awesome mommy I am, I purchased a GIANT stuffed ladybug for her for Valentines Day. The thing is huge! Just wait, you'll see. But this was her reaction when I started to pull it off of the table. Seriously one of my favorite photos from the entire night!

She loves the freakishly large ladybug!

I told you this thing was big! My 19lb, 10 month old sitting on it, and there's still plenty of room on the back for another 1-2 kids! And the best part, it was only $10 at walmart! Something this large at a carnival would easily run you, ooooh $50, maybe less, but I suck at carnival games.

This was the dinner I made. It was delicious! Chicken breasts baked over portobello mushroom caps, drizzled with a white wine sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, fresh steamed green beans, and bruschetta! I'll link the recipes below! I was even able to score a teeny kid sized heart shaped plate for the little! Very festive.

We topped the evening off with a homemade chocolate lava cake. These things are so good, but super easy to "over-bake". The recipe says to bake them at 400degrees for 12-14 minutes. I baked them for 13 minutes, and when they came out, I thought they were a little underdone. They seemed to have a little too much lava in the center, although I'm not entirely sure how thats possible. So I tossed them in the microwave for 15 seconds. Mine came out with no lava what-so-ever, hubs went in the microwave for 7 seconds and had a little lava. I'd just throw them in the oven for 14 minutes and that should be about perfect!

Recipe Links:

Chicken Breasts over Portobello Mushroom Caps
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Lava Cakes - I nixed the cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg, and almond oil in these. We wanted just a chocolate flavor. We also cut the recipe in half and covered the remaining batter in the fridge. We heated it up the next day in the microwave for 30 seconds. Delish!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Crayon Art!

These little pieces are so much fun to make and to look at! The playroom walls are bare, Lauryn is just simply not old enough to fill them with her lovely masterpieces yet! So to Pinterest I went! Melted crayon art is all over the place and people are coming up with more and more creative ways to melt crayons into beautiful pieces of art. I wanted just a simple rainbow effect so I was off to find some, hopefully cheap, canvases and crayons.

I managed to snag a 5 pack of 16x20inch canvases at Michaels for just $19.99! SCORE!!! If I had the extra space to store them, I would have bought 2-3 packs! Such a great deal! And Target had a box of 240 Crayola crayons for just $6.99. So I snagged up 2 of those as well.

First step, SORT YOUR CRAYONS! It was a pain in the butt, but it prevented the possibility of gluing a yellow crayon right next to a pink one. For a 20 inch long canvas, 58 crayons fill it from one side to the other. So I tried to split my 8 crayon colors as evenly as possibly between that 58. Then just start hot gluing them onto the canvas. Use caution, I can't even begin to tell you how many times I burnt myself doing this project. Every.single.time. Damn hot glue.

 Tada. Crayon filled canvas! Once you get going, this part moves pretty fast.

Be sure to cover your work space with something, I just cut a garbage bag open and laid that over the counter and another for the floor. I made the mistake the first time around of not covering anything and spent a good 30 minutes remelting wax and wiping it off of my counter tops and floor. I didn't think it would splatter! Boy was I wrong! Once your workspace is covered go ahead and fire up your hair dryer. I used the high setting, which probably contributed to the splattering, but on low it took too long to melt. And I'm impatient. It's one of my faults. I'll admit it.

Once you have your wax melted, let it dry before you hang it. It doesn't take long to dry. Looks pretty neat, huh? The splattering did make for a cool effect on the bottom of the canvas.

Here are the 2 that I made for our daughters playroom. They definitely brighten it up a bit and were already starting to work on her colors so these will help!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Recipe Time: Grilled Sausage with Peppers

Growing up, my mother worked a full time job and took care of us kids along with the housework, mostly on her own. So meals were simple, and usually from a box, she didn't have time for much else unless it was the weekend. But having the opportunity to be a SAHM, and especially with our daughter eating what we eat, I have made it my "job" to find delicious, yet easy and relatively cheap meals. We have tried a ton of new recipes and thankfully only a handful have been thrown into the "never again" category. This little gem is so simple and ridiculously healthy! And it doesn't take much time at all!

Grilled Sausage with Peppers

1 package sweet (or hot) Italian sausage - we use turkey sausage for a healthier alternative
1 green bell pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch ribbons
1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch ribbons
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch ribbons
1 medium onion, sliced into 1/2 inch ribbons
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop all veggies into ribbons, I'm super anal about this (maybe a little OCD too, hence the different bowls) so this step, no matter the recipe, always takes me what seems like forever! I want them perfect! Don't forget the garlic!

 2. Heat 3Tbs olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. While you're doing this heat your grill up nice and hot, then lightly oil the grates.

3. Throw your veggies in the skillet and let them start to soften (about 5 minutes), then stir and cover. Cook another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. While your veggies are covered, throw the sausages on the grill. They'll take about 20-25 minutes. Flip them often and cook until no longer pink. I had to interrupt hubs man-grill time to get this photo. He's absolutely loving his new grill!

5. Uncover and stir veggies. Cook another 5 minutes. Then remove from heat and keep warm until sausage is done. If you plan it right, it'll all be done around the same time.

Voila! Excuse the fact that my husband felt the need to cut every single piece of sausage, except one, completely in half, to check for doneness. This smells absolutely delicious while cooking and is surprisingly filling! We served it with some Italian bread and the leftovers made for amazing sandwiches the next day. Our little one even enjoyed this recipe! Its super healthy, cheap, and ridiculously easy! A definite keeper in our books!