Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Grilled Balsamic Maple Marinated Chicken Thighs

Coming back from a full week of training and busy weekend activities always makes the beginning of my week feel very lethargic. I keep telling myself that the long holiday weekend is almost here!

Meals like this make lethargic days a little better. Easy, delicious and simple to prep. I love grilling in the summer and when my local grocery store had 8 packs of chicken thighs on sale for $2 I jumped all over the deal. Normally, I prefer chicken breasts, but the boneless skinless chicken thighs were just as delicious (Ron prefers dark meat liked it more). Kellen, surprisingly, wasn't a big fan of these and told me that it tasted burned. I am thinking the char from the sugar in the syrup was a little too much for his taste. I really liked the flavor combo of balsamic and syrup, but you can't win 'em all with a toddler!  

Do you have any fun weekend plans? I am off work on Friday and play volleyball Thursday evening....the chance of Thursday night shenanigans is looking high.  We are heading to Door County for the weekend, but it is my friend Emily's birthday and they are tubing down the Wolf River on Friday morning, and I am try to see if I can swing staying in town a little longer to go. Kellen is pretty excited to go to our cottage because that means a trip to The Farm! In past years, he has fallen asleep before the fireworks started and I am excited for him to join the fun this year.

Tonight, my friend Emily's little girl is coming to play. I need to do a little garden work and am going to put the littles to work helping me pull beets for a salad this weekend! Thankfully, both kids like to get down and dirty and I know they will love it. 

Is anyone watching the Scream t.v. show on MTV tonight? Scream was such a big movie when I was a pre-teen/teenager and I can't ignore it for nostalgia sake! What about True Detective??? So different than season 1, but I am liking it so far.....I can be such a t.v. addict sometimes. 

Have a great day!


Ingredients

1/3 cup olive oil
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 springs of fresh thyme


Instructions

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together oil, syrup, vinegar, salt and pepper. Place chicken in a large resealable bag. Place thyme in the bag and pour in the marinade. Toss gently to coat. Allow chicken to marinate for at least 4 hours (I prefer 8 to overnight). 

Remove chicken from bag and discard the thyme and used marinade. 

Heat grill to medium heat and grill chicken until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Remove from grill and serve immediately. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Weekly Meal Plan 6/29 - 7/5

This past week and weekend were crazy-ville! 

I was at a training for work in the Wisconsin Dells from Wednesday to Friday night...... so exhausting. I love learning new things professionally, but almost 3 days away was enough for me! I am lucky enough to work with a few amazing ladies, and it was great to spend time with them in between the training sessions. I got home from the Dells around 5:30 and got home to my sweet boys. We grabbed tacos for dinner and I hit the pillow early because I was attending another meet-up on Saturday in Milwaukee. 

The meet-up in Milwaukee was all about personal growth and experience. I have been an avid reader of January Harshe's blog Birth Without Fear since I first found out I was pregnant with Kellen. I don't know about you, but when I was pregnant I needed to read AllTheBirthStories. I seriously gave me a sense of peace and made me feel more prepared as to what would be in store for me. If you are a regular reader, you know that birth empowerment and education is something I feel very passionate about and am always wanting to discuss and learn more about. I find other women's experiences fascinating and different paths people take to be very interesting. Besides my own knowledge, I find nothing more amazing than a woman (or family) that owns their path to becoming a mother. From my own experience, I know that it is a crazy road that forever seems to change all the time. 

So guess what I was up to?!?!?!?!? 

Yep, I went to the Milwaukee meet-up and it was as amazing as I had hoped it would be. I went with my very good and wonderful friend/doula Emily.  The speakers were great and I was lucky enough to hear the ladies of The 4th Trimester Bodies Project. I really enjoyed them because they history of their project was so interesting and the message of body positive perspective was so inspirational. If you have not checked out their photos it is worth a peek. The project is about mothers (in many different capacities), and how different and beautiful bodies worldwide. 

We also heard from Abby of The Badass Breastfeeder.  She was a kickass presenter and blogger. Her work to normalize breastfeeding is incredible, and her blog is an amazing resource for any breastfeeding mom or family. 


Another one of my favorite parts of the meet-up was the healing circle. There were 6 women in my circle and we talked about everything. It was really special. I think everyone who has tried to get pregnant, adopted or given birth has had to deal with many different challenges because of the vulnerability and unpredictability that exists in all of those things. If you are friends with me on Facebook you probably read about my breastfeeding journey and know some things about my birth with Kellen. There are so many layers to my experience as a mother, some are unique and some aren't, but at some point I will share them with you once I am ready.  I love to hear birth stories and would love to read yours if you feel like sharing! 

My group healing circle:


At the end we got to hear January's birth story for each of her 6 children. It was so interesting how each one was so different from a c-section to a hospital birth to a home birth. Very inspiring. Emily and I got to meet January at the end and it was so cool to meet someone in person that you have followed online for years.  If you have a chance to go to this meet-up in your city, do it!!!!!


The meet-up was at a birth center in Milwaukee and an amazing thing happened during the beginning.  There was a first time mom that was at the center to birth her baby and it was born during the conference.  She allowed us to softly sing Happy Birthday to her baby girl with the door cracked. I don't think there was a dry eye in the room. 

There were also cupcakes at the end.....yummy! 

I got home around 8 p.m. (after a trip to Trader Joe's) and we ordered pizza and relaxed. Kellen was at my in-laws and I was lucky enough to sleep until 9:00 a.m...... seriously that never happens! The remainder of the day was laundry, gardening and grocery shopping.  Perfect and relaxing! 

This week I do not have a lot on the agenda, but am getting ready for a fun weekend in Door County for the 4th of July! 
Here is what is on tap: 

Monday: Loaded BBQ Grilled Chicken Sandwiches, Grilled Veggies and Fruit 
Tuesday: Tater Tot Casserole and Green Beans
Wednesday:  Penne with Mini Meatballs and Creamy Pesto Feta Sauce and Salad
Thursday: Out
Friday: Door County
Saturday: Door County
Sunday: BLT and Fruit

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sour Cream and Chive Mashed Potatoes

This is the time of year a corner of my yard is slowly over taken by an army of chives. I love chives and try to find different ways to incorporate them into our meals while they are fresh and plentiful. 

Sour cream and chive is a great flavor combination and I absolutely love it with potatoes. One of my favorite ways to enjoy the flavor combo with potatoes is with wedges and a dipping sauce. However, this time I decided that I wanted to try the combo with mashed potatoes. My boys and I loved these potatoes and it went perfectly with our grilled marinated pork chops and grilled asparagus. I will certainly be keeping this side dish on rotation as long as my yard is full of chives! 

Today I am at training for work and my boys are going to enjoy shells and cheese for dinner with a little grilled kielbasa. I think they like the special treat when I am not home for dinner! We have also been enjoying Ron's father's day gift- a new bike trailer for Kellen to ride in. Kellen wasn't too sure about the trailer at first, but really enjoys it now. Ron told me that Kellen sits and chats with him the entire ride. Ron has started doing bike races/rides with a friend and hopefully Kellen can join the fun in his trailer in an upcoming ride. 

Have a great remainder of the week everyone! Wooohooo tomorrow is Friday! 


Ingredients

2 1/2 Lbs russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 stick salted butter
1/2 - 2/3 cup milk (I use 2 %)
3 Tbl sour cream
1 - 2 tsp salt (to taste)
2 1/2 Tbl chopped fresh chives (+extra for topping)


Instructions

Boil potatoes till tender. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl.  Add butter and sour cream and mix with an electric mixer while slowly adding the milk. Stir in the chives. 

Season with salt and pepper and top with additional chives if desired. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Italian Sub Soup With Toasted Garlic Bread Floaters

A few months ago my friends and I had a soup swap. I brought Thai Chicken Curry and Butternut Squash Soup and it was delicious. However, my friend Amy brought  Rachael Ray's Italian Sub Soup with Garlic Floaters and I have had it on my "to make" list since our swap. I love italian subs, but we don't eat them often and it is hard to find a really good one  like I see my friends eating out East in my area. 

This soup is really easy to put together. The only think that takes a little time is making the garlic bread floaters, but that is still pretty minimal. On a side note, I didn't know how easy making croutons on the stove top was- why did I buy them all these years? I knew that Ron and Kellen would be all over this soup because of the meats and the floaters. Naturally I was right and them both gobbled up the soup. Kellen told me: " this is yummy hot soup- I love the hot soup".  He is so cute.  

So how does the flavor match an italian sub? It tastes a lot like it! It is actually a little strange how much it reminds me of that hearty sandwich. I think the addition of arugula and the floaters give the soup the extra boost to give the soup greats flavor. This soup is really filling and we loved the leftovers heated up for lunch the following day. I can't wait to make this again once the weather cools down in a few months! 

Today, I am getting ready for a work conference later this week. I have meals ready for Ron and Kellen and need to get myself packed! Tonight, I am stopping at the gym before coming home to make dinner and get ready for the week.  I actually have two conferences this week, one is for work with my State organization and the second is the Birth Without Fear conference for my own interest. It will be a busy, but educational week for me! 


Ingredients

2 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 lb mild italian sausage
1/4 pound piece stick pepperoni, diced
1 ham steak, diced (about 1/2 to 3/4 lb)
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 (15-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 pound gemelli pasta 
1/4 cup olive oil
5 cups cubed crusty bread
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups arugula, trimmed and coarsely chopped 


Instructions

Add olive oil and sausage to a soup pot and cook over medium heat. Brown and crumble the sausage, drain off excess grease and add the ham and pepperoni. Cook meats for 2 minutes and add peppers and onions and cook and 2 or 3 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add chicken broth and bring stoup to a boil. Stir in pasta and cook for 8 minutes (or al dente). Make croutons while pasta cooks.

In a large skillet heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add bread to garlic oil, toss and toast the cubes for about 5 minutes. Season the toasty cubes with red pepper flakes, oregano and lots of grated cheese.

Stir arugula into soup just before you serving. Ladle up the stoup into bowls and top with garlic bread floaters.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Bacon Cheeseburger Gnocchi Skillet

I must say that one-pot dishes are starting to become a regular thing around my house (like that is a bad thing....). Ron and I both work all day, and many times a hearty one-pot meal fits the bill perfectly. 

Recently, I made a Ham and Cheese Gnocchi Skillet and it was a big hit with both my boys. I decided to try a different twist on that idea by creating a bacon cheeseburger version. One of Ron's favorite things to eat is a bacon cheeseburger and he loves gnocchi- I knew this would a home run at dinner time!  Unfortunately, when I made this meal Ron came down with a the stomach flu and didn't get to try it right away. The poor guy was so disappointed, but once he felt better he brought it for lunch 3 days in a row. For a guy that does not like leftovers more than once it must have meant that the dish was that good. Kellen and I also loved this meal and I think Kellen was especially excited about the pickles. The child might (I said might) love pickles more than me, and it makes me so happy. Besides being delicious, this meal is really easy to make and cooks in one-pot (easy clean-up for the win!).  

I am really liking playing around with different gnocchi skillets..... I think of a chicken parmesan or pesto version for a future post might be in order!

Tonight, I am stopping at the gym before I head for to grill. The beginning of our week is pretty much unplanned because I have a conference coming up later in the week and won't have time to cook.  However, I have my boys stocked with shells and cheese and a little kielbasa....I think they will survive without me and probably enjoy that mac and cheese treat! 

Happy Monday everyone! 



Ingredients

1 1/4 lb lean ground beef
1 medium white onion, diced
8 strips of bacon, cooked crisp
1 Tbl ketchup
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
16 oz package of Gnocchi
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1 1/2  cup sharp shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh tomatoes

Garnish:
Sliced pickles
Ketchup
Mustard


Instructions

Brown beef in a large oven safe skillet over medium heat. Add onions to skillet and cook until tender. Drain excess grease from the skillet and return to heat. 

Add 1/2 the amount of bacon to skillet and stir. Add gnocchi to skillet, ketchup, water and heavy cream. Stir and let cook for about 6-8 minutes until gnocchi is tender and sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with cheese on top and place skillet under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes until cheese is melted and starts to bubble.

Remove from oven, top with green onion, tomatoes and remaining bacon. Serve immediately with suggested garnishes. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Weekly Meal Plan 6/22 - 6/28


Good evening and Happy Father's Day! 

This weekend was beautiful and that was a happy break from the rainy weather we have been having!

We started off our weekend on Friday night with a fish fry and the bar I worked at before having Kellen. I love Nicky's (I should- I worked there for 10 years) and they have some of the best food in our area. If you are traveling to Green Bay/De Pere area (or live here), you need to stop in and check them out. After dinner, I realized I forgot my credit card and Ron ran back for the card (and a few extra drinks). I had plans with my friend Kayla to grab a drink at a new bar in our area after he returned home.  I love hanging with Kellen, but it was so nice for the two of us to get out of the house sans children! 

On Saturday, we were up early and picked up my Mom to go to the farmer's market. I grabbed a few different veggies and stopped for a case of Georgia peaches after the market.  After the market, we headed some and had subs for lunch followed by a nap for the wee one and grocery shopping for me.  After shopping, Kellen and I met my friend Amanda, her cousin and their children at the Wildlife Sanctuary and then out for mexican. Kellen was the youngest of the group, but the other kids were so sweet to include him in everything and make him feel part of the group- so sweet. After, dinner Kellen and I headed home to relax and Ron headed out for a bachelor party in Appleton.  I worked on laundry and a few blog things before calling it a night (and our cable box stopped working conveniently when I had it to myself....grrrr!).


                           On Sunday, we let Ron relax at home and met friends to pick strawberries. The bushes                                               were still a little green, but we got a few red beauties!


We headed home and picked up Ron for a quick lunch at Noodles & Co. before heading home for naps and prep for our evening cookout. My poor Dad came down with a stomach bug and wasn't able to join us for the cookout, but my Mom, sister and her boyfriend were able to join us! After the cookout, we grabbed ice cream and headed home to put Kellen to bed and watch Last Ship. 

Hope all the Father's out there are having a wonderful day!

Here is what is on tap next week: 

Monday: Rosemary Ranch Grilled Chicken, Couscous and Grilled Veggies
Tuesday:  Roasted Garlic Risotto with Sausage and Peppers
Wednesday: OOT for Work (Frozen Pizza for the Boys)
Thursday: OOT for Work (Shells and Cheese with Peas & Kielbasa for Kellen and Ron)
Friday: Out
Saturday: Out (I will be in Milwaukee for the Birth Without Fear Conference.... I am soooo excited!)
Sunday: Thai Chicken and Pork Lettuce Wraps and Cucumber Salad

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Pineapple Rosemary Cocktail

I Time for June's Crazy Ingredient Challenge! 


The theme for this month is pineapples and rosemary. When the ingredients were revealed I immediately thought of a drink. Rosemary is a strong flavor, but I thought pineapple was bold enough to meet it halfway. I decided the best thing for my drink was to make a syrup with the rosemary. I used a standard base for the syrup and let the rosemary sit in the warm syrup to get as much flavor as possible from the herb.  I picked vodka for my poison because it has a very neutral flavor and, I wanted to focus on the flavors of the challenge ingredients.  To my drink, I added a little pineapple juice and served the finished product chilled over the rocks.

The verdict on this odd couple? Sooooooo yummy! The pineapple and rosemary were great together and the syrup mellowed the rosemary just enough to leave a light flavor with the pineapple juice. I would make this again in a second, and can't wait to share it with my herby drink loving friends! 

Today, I am heading to the farmer's market with my mom and Kellen to grab some veggies. This afternoon I need to devote to some laundry (blah), but my friend Amanda and her kids are coming in the evening for a trip to the Wildlife Sanctuary and then out for tacos. Amanda is in the State Assembly and is a busy lady/mom. I have known her for years and adore her, and always get excited when we get to spend time together. Now that we both have kids it is fun to include them in our adventures!  

 If you are interested in joining our challenge, stop over to Dawn of Spatulas on Parade to say hello and to get more information.  I am excited to see what everyone else made, and what next month will bring! 


Ingredients

rosemary syrup:
2 springs of fresh rosemary
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup water

1 cup vodka
3 cups pineapple juice
Ice


Instructions

To make the syrup: combine all ingredients on the stove top and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat cover and allow the syrup to sit 15-20 minutes. Strain and allow it to completely cool. 

Mix together the syrup, vodka and juice. Fill 4 pint glasses with ice and pour the drink over the ice. Garnish with fresh pineapple or rosemary if desired.