Friday, December 30, 2016

2016: My Favorites

Last post of 2016. This has been a good year for me. Our second baby joining the family was the biggest highlight for me. We are had fun family trips to the Dells and Door County. I discovered Pure Barre and adore it. I reconnected with old friends and made new really wonderful friends. Ron received a promotion at work and we both are doing well in our careers. We booked a 2017 trip to Disney and are looking forward to new adventures. However, 2016 did not come without difficulties. The Presidential election results were terribly disappointing and I worry what our new president will do to our country and my children's future. I also watched a childhood friend loose her mother this summer, and it reminds how short and unpredictable life can be. 

 I am lucky to be where I am and I hope I can contribute to make the world around me better for others in 2017.  I hope you all had a wonderful year. Thank you being with me while my family grew this year. You can't even imagine how much you flatter me that you enjoy reading about my little life, opinions, and happenings. 

Here are a few of my 2016 favorites. 


January 

Simple Taco Soup



February

Easy Split Pea and Kielbasa Soup




March

Skillet Rice and Beans with Kielbasa




April

Rowan's Birthday Announcement!


May

Strawberry, Goat Cheese and Pecan Salad with Basil Vinegrette




June

Strawberry Crumb Bars



Avocado Tomato and Feta Dip




July

BarbeCups




August

Italian Breakfast Casserole




September

Brownie Oatmeal Cookies




October

Red Curry Risotto with Grilled Shrimp




November

Beef, Chorizo, and Bean Taco Chili




December

One-Pot Cheesy Taco Orzo



Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 Reader Favorites

It's that time of year! Time to share the most loved on reader recipes of 2016! There are lots of goodies on here, and that is not surprising because I know you all have excellent taste! 

Tomorrow I am going to share my favorite recipes of 2016- stay tuned!

January

One-Pot Chicken Feta Alfredo



February

Pan-Seared Salmon with Citrus Sauvignon Blanc Herb Cream Sauce



March

Slow Cooker Creamy Parmesan Tomato Basil Soup 



April

Quick Vegetable Soup



May

Raisin Bran Muffins



June

Strawberry Margarita Popsicles



July

Grilled Pineapple Guacamole 




August

Italian Breakfast Casserole



September

Brownie Oatmeal Cookies



October

Pumpkin Chili



November

M&M Oreo Cookie Bars



December

Beef, Chorizo, and Bean Taco Chili



Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Skillet Sweet and Sour Meatballs with Pineapple

I think Ron and I have our house back in a manageable order after Christmas.....it was like a toy explosion in here! We still have the tree up so we can enjoy it a few more days before we take it down this weekend. I always get sad when the Holidays are over and miss all the together time. However, this year we are celebrating with my Mom's side in January and it extends the fun a few more days! Many of us have little kids and it makes getting together really fun. 

This recipe for Tangy Sweet and Sour Meatballs is something I made for my friend Emily after she had her baby girl. It is easy, travels well and is great as an appetizer or as a full meal with a side of rice. I did not make my own meatballs for this recipe, but you easily could and it would be delicious. However, if you are stocked with little kids and short on time like me- the frozen variety is just fine.  The meatballs were so yummy and they have the perfect balance of sweet to sour. Sometimes sweet and sour can be way too sweet, but this was a great balance.  

Tonight I am heading to barre class and am hoping to get to the store to finally get some grocery shopping done! I am also working on my annual reader and personal favorite recipe lists. My posting was not as regular this year, but there certainly are a bunch of favorites I am getting nudged to make again. I will post tomorrow and Friday- stay tuned!



Ingredients

1 can (20 ounces) pineapple chunks
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 batch of 30 meatballs (frozen or thawed)
1 large green pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
Hot cooked rice


Instructions

Open pineapple, drain, and  juice. Set pineapple aside. Add water to juice if needed so it equals 1 cup; and pour into a large skillet. Add 1/3 cup water, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar and cornstarch; whisk until smooth.

Cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Add the pineapple, meatballs and green pepper.

Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until heated through. Serve with rice. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Weekly Meal Plan 12/26 -1/1/17

Back to the grind! Well for a few days and then another nice break to ring in the new year. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! We had a lovely Christmas filled with family, food, spoiled children, and great memories. Here are a few snaps from the weekend:

Tom and Jerry's for the win


The boys in their matching Grinch jammies about to get into bed on Christmas Eve.


Treats for Santa on a adorable plate made for the boys by one of my friends. 



The big guy made a stop for two good little boys.


My Christmas kitty Strider. This was shortly before he hissed at me and tried to bite me. He loves his human mommy.


Yeti in my Spaghetti!


So many fun memories with these two boys! 

This week is a short week and Kellen is also on winter break from school. We do not have too much plan besides a few get togethers and ringing in the New Year with a few friends.  

Have a great week everyone!


Monday: Pizza
Tuesday: Holiday Party at a Friend's
Wednesday: Out
Thursday: Simple Taco Soup
Friday: Out
Saturday: NYE at a Friend's Party
Sunday: 5 Ingredient Slow Cooker Chicken Curry and Rice 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016

One-Pot Tomato Basil Orzo

Today I thought a festive side dish was in order since we are getting so close to Christmas! 

Today is my last day of work before a 4-day weekend. After that, I am back for 3 days and then to another 4-day weekend. I wish this was my schedule all the time!

This is a side dish I put together after Kellen told me he wanted tomatoes in everything.....seriously the kid adores tomatoes.  I love tomato basil together and made this to pair with Italian grilled pork tenderloin. I made this into a one-pot recipe to reduce dishes and eliminate draining pasta and making a mound of dirty dishes. The result was a creamy and delicious orzo bursting with flavor. All of us loved this and since then I have made it a few times since. 

Last night I went to barre and finished the night with a few margaritas with my sister in-aw after class. Tonight, I am finishing up wrapping and getting ready for this weekend! I also need to get to the store to avoid the mayhem on Friday I expect it will be.  My favorite dish we are making are red wine mushrooms. They cook for hours and are amazing. Tonight are are also making oreo truffles and I want to watch Lampoon's Christmas Vacation! 

Another surprising development...it has been in the mid-thirties here and melting our snow! Only in Wisconsin does it go from -25 to snow melting in December....

Have a great day!


Ingredients

1 cup orzo pasta
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
2 Tbl grated parmesan cheese
1/8 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes


Instructions

Place orzo and chicken broth in a medium pot. Bring to a simmer and allow orzo to absorb the  broth as it cook. Once orzo has finished cooking (6-9 minutes) and broth has absorbed add the garlic powder, tomatoes, cheeses, basil and pepper flakes. Stir well and serve.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Weekly Meal Plan 12/18 - 12/25

Happy Monday folks!

Christmas week means a short week and a long weekend for me! Thank goodness....

On Friday, Kellen has his Christmas concert and we enjoyed pizza with a few friends and grandparents after the show. 

This weekend was busy, snowy, cold, and lots of fun.  On Saturday, I took my 100th barre class at Pure Barre and am now a member of the 100 tuck club. I have been working hard at barre and am really proud of myself.



In the afternoon, Ron had to work and Rowan went to my parents so Kellen and I could get to a birthday party. The birthday was for one of Kellen's friends who move from Green Bay to Madison, and it was awesome to see the boys reunite- they didn't miss a beat!

On Sunday it was soooooo cold here. I went to  a barre class to warm up and then headed to my parents for cookie making and the Packer game.  After the game we picked up on of Kellen's friends  headed to another birthday party! The party was wonderful and the kids ran and ran and ran. Ron was done working and Rowan got to come and join the fun for a bit!  


This week I do not have a lot planned besides a Wednesday barre class (my sister in-law is coming!). The rest of the time will be devoted to wrapping gifts and making some candy! I am off on Friday and hoping to get to the salon for a Christmas pedicure!

Have a great week everyone!

Monday: Spicy Beef Tacos
Tuesday: Dad's Birthday
Wednesday: Subs
Thursday: Chicken Taco Bowls with Rice and Black Beans
Friday: Southwest Chicken Spaghetti and Green Beans
Saturday: Christmas Eve Dinner at my Parents: Tenderloin with Mustard Brandy Sauce, Shrimp Cocktail, Cabernet Mushrooms, Mashed Potatoes, Van Able's Green Beans, and Rolls
Sunday: Christmas Day Lunch with in-Laws: Ham, Potatoes, Beans and Rolls/ Family Christmas Dinner: Slow Cooker Meatballs and Eggs Noodles with Peas

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Creamy Tortelini, Sausage and Kale Soup

Hello from snowy Green Bay! Brrr.....

Today is the perfect day for a nice bowl of warm soup.  A few of my cold weather favorites are: Simple Taco SoupThai Chicken Curry and Butternut Squash Soup, Lasagna Soup, and Lentil and Sausage Soup.  For more awesome soup recipes from me click here.  

This recipe came together when we had a particularly cold fall night and wanted something warm in our bellies (yes, I am behind posting!).  I knew I wanted something with tortellini and had some sausage and kale that needed to be used, and the soup was created!

This recipe is really easy and comes together quick due to that fast cooking time of the tortellini. My family love this dish. The pasta will absorb much of the liquid over night, but it still made excellent leftovers the next day.  I love how hearty this soup is- perfect for a snowy day. 

I had an exciting day today! Today was my 100th class at Pure Barre. I absolutely love these classes and am so proud of myself.  We are also headed to a birthday party this afternoon with one of Kellen's friends at a bouncy house place. Tonight, I am hoping for lots of relaxing and I am hoping we can watch the 2nd Harry Potter with Kellen (he loved the first one!) and wrap a few gifts (I found Christmas taco wrapping paper at Target!). 

Stay warm friends!


Ingredients

1 lb italian sausage
8 cups chicken broth
20 oz refrigerated tortellini
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1 cup whole or 2% milk
1/3 cup flour
2 cups chopped kale


Instructions

Brown sausage until no longer pink and crumbles easily. Drain and add broth, tortellini, garlic powder, and red pepper. Simmer till pasta is almost cooked. 

While soup simmers, whisk together flour and milk. When pasta is almost cooked stir in the milk and four mixture. Simmer an additional 2-3 minutes to allow soup to thicken. 

Add the kale and cook an additional 2 minutes. 

Ladle into bowls and serve immediately. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Slowcooker Spicy Honey Chili Lime Pork Tacos

It is so cold. Ah! I am a 4 seasons lover, but the one thing I always struggle with is when it is -20 below- so freeing and miserable. Here's to hoping for a return of "balmy" 20's sometime soon.....

Last night I had dinner with a good fiend and I found myself reflecting on how much I am enjoying this stage of my life. Sure it is absolutely insane with a 4 year old and an 8 month old, and most days I question when I will sleep normally again. BUT, my friends and I connect on a totally new level now that we have kids. Conversations have turned from weekend party plans to parenting and things we do get the most our of life and time with family/friends. I feel like the relationships have turned into greater areas of support and we actually get to know each other better even after knowing some friends for years!

So this recipe....is so good. I love tacos and many times we stick to traditional ground beef because  Ron and Kellen like it best, but I like to try different combos from time to time.  This recipe is great for a weeknight because the recipe is easy to put together and easy to put on the table after a crazy day.  The flavors are sweet, spicy and tangy. I like to top with a little guac, tomatoes, onion and cilantro, but you can top with our favorites. Kellen loved the pork and enjoyed dipping his in a little sour cream.  I love this simple variation on our favorite weeknight go to meal!

Tonight my goal is to get some Christmas gifts wrapped! I know it will sneak up on me fast and I am so behind getting it organized....I am also the worst gft wrapper ever and hate doing it! Plus I do not want to be up till 3 am on Christmas Eve wrapping gifts.... 

Happy Thursday everyone!



Ingredients

2 lb pork loin 
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 1/2 Tbl soy sauce 
3 1/2 Tbl honey 
Zest 1 lime 
Juice 2 limes
1 Tbl chili powder 
3 garlic cloves, minced 
2 jalapeƱos with tops removed
Salt and pepper, to taste


Instructions

Place pork in the slowcooker. Season with salt and pepper.  I  a medium bowl, whisk together broth, soy sauce, honey, lime zest, lime juice, chili power, and garlic. Place jalapenos on both sides of pork.  Cook 7-8 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high. 

Remove pork from slow cooker and shred. Remove jalapeno and return pork to slow cooker. Stir to coat with sauce. 

Serve in tortillas with guacamole, tomatoes, onion, and cilantro. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Weekly Meal Plan 12/12 - 12/18

Well my baby is now 4. I can't believe how fast that went. I know all parents say that, but experiencing it is so crazy.

Kellen had a lovely party on Sunday with his friends. Kellen loves the book Dragons Love Tacos so I opted to make it the theme. We had a taco bar, a cake with the book cover on it, and frosted taco cookies!

Check these babies out:

For activities, I painted plates yellow and cut up taco colored tissue paper topping so the kids could stuff their own tacos! Kellen had a blast and wanted to do it again the next day. He has so many nice little friends and was so happy to have a special day with them. To round off his birthday, we went to see the play The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. When my  Grandma was alive she directed this pla for many years. I was in it as a kid and, when I got older, I helped back stage and did the make-up. I was so fun to see it brought to life again, and Kellen really enjoyed it. The birthday boy finished his night with one request- a Happy Meal from McDonald's.

This week I am doing a few Pure Barre classes and meeting a good friend for a long overdue dinner! I am off Friday and it is Kellen's Christmas concert. A few of us are planning on treating the kids to pizza for lunch after the show!

It is so cold today! Keep warm if you are also in this cold snap! Brrr....

Monday: Chicken and Rice Soup
Tuesday: Goulash and Garlic Bread
Wednesday: Subs
Thursday:  Southwest Chicken Spaghetti and Green Beans
Friday: Out
Saturday: Penne and Meatball Bake, Salad and Garlic Bread
Sunday: Taco Ranch Chicken Bowl with Beans and Cilantro Lime Rice

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

One-Pot Cheesy Taco Orzo

I have a few taco lovers in my house (myself included).  I love crunchy tacos, but we like to try different recipes with our favorite taco flavors. 

I do not cook with orzo often, but our store has a pasta sale (I know right? Yum!), and I picked up a box and decided to make a taco inspired meal. I thought orzo was a perfect vehicle for a one-pot meal (another one of my favorite things). 

I opted for a lean ground beef, but ground turkey would work great. I also added some onions, mild green chilies, tomato, some taco sauce, and taco seasoning- of course.   This meal comes together so fast and is so delicious! Kellen exclaimed half-way into his meal “I love this orzo!” Music to my ears. 

I thought sharing this taco recipe was perfect for this week considering it is Kellen’s birthday week and my little guy is a taco lover extraordinaire.  Like I mentioned in my weekly meal plan post, our theme for the party this weekend is Dragons Love Tacos. 

Today wraps up my crazy season at work and I am celebrating with a barre class at Pure Barre tonight and an easy sub sandwich dinner with my family.  I am getting started on the menu planning for Kellen’s party and ordering his cake for the party.  I  am also starting to put together a few games for the celebration.  My sister is nice enough to help me with some of the printing and getting the decor ready for his party. I love planning birthday parties and am really excited to see this theme come full circle because Dragons Love Tacos is our favorite book. It makes me excited that I now have two little people to plan parties for! Yay!

Happy hump day friends! 


Ingredients

1 1/2 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies 
1 packet taco seasoning
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup taco sauce (I use mild)
2 1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
2 cup uncooked orzo
 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
sliced green onion, black olives, tomatoes, shredded cheese, for topping


Instructions

In a large rimmed skillet, brown beef with diced onion till no longer pink. Drain excess grease.

Add chilies, taco seasoning, tomato sauce, garlic powder, taco sauce, chicken broth and orzo. Stir well.

Cover and simmer for about 8-10 minutes, or until orzo is tender. Top with cheese and other desired toppings and serve.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Weekly Meal Plan 12/5 -12/11

Happy Monday!

Actually, I am exhausted today so maybe Monday is not so happy this week.... 

This week is the last of my busy season at work and that makes me exceptionally happy, and the holiday season is rolling in full force- which also makes me so happy! However, I am feeling a bit behind because St. Nick needs to get his butt in gear so he s prepared tonight!

This weekend was a lot of fun. On Friday, my friend Emily and her daughters came over to play and eat pizza. The kids had a blast playing and the new game seems to be "playing family".  Adorable. Emily and I love the show Shameless and were excited to watch it while the children were preocupied in the other end of the house.

On Saturday, I started my day with an hour of barre class and then home so we could get the boys ready for an overnight with Grandma and Grandpa so we could attend Ron's work holiday party. The party was fun and they had a casino night. We played black jack and I learned how to play roulette!

On Sunday, I headed to barre again and then a Target/coffee run with a friend before heading home to grabe Kellen to watch the Packet game with my parents. Ron was not feeling well and stayed home with a sleepy Rowan. Kellen tried his hand at decorating to keep busy during the game!


This boy is 8 months old!


After the game we headed to the light show at the botanical garden.  It was snowy and the lights were beautiful. A funny thing happened on the wagon ride. The wagon must have brushed a tree just right and it sent a heap on snow on top of us! Brrrrrr!!! Kellen got to meet Santa after and we warmed up with hot chocolate and a glass of wine before heading home for bed. 


This week is Kellen's birthday week! My little boy is going to be 4, and I am in denial.  We are celelbrating on Sunday with a theme from his favorite book "Dragons Love Tacos". 

Have a great week!


Monday: One-Pot Cheesy Taco Pasta
Tuesday:  Out
Wednesday: Subs
Thursday: Slowcooker Mississippi Pork Tenderloin, Rice and Corn
Friday: Cuban Sandwiches and Oven Fries
Saturday: Chili
Sunday:  Pizza

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Beef, Chorizo, and Bean Taco Chili

One of my favorite things about cold weather seasons are warm soups and stews. In our house, we are big chili lovers. My favorite recipe for a traditional chili is my Titletown Tailgate Chili. The chili has won multiple awards and is always a crowd pleaser.  For many years, there was not a writen recipe for the chili and I finally measured and wrote it out when I entered my chili cook-off at work. The chili won and I was naturally very excited. However, this year I wanted to enter again, but needed to create a new recipe. 

My family loves tacos and I decided to create a taco inspired chili for the cook-off. I opted to use a mixture of two different meats- ground beef and chorizo. I also flavored with taco seasoning, chili, and (my favorite chili spice) cumin. I used a few different types of beans over just using chili beans. I also used not only jalapenos in my chili, but a mild diced green chilie. 

I was excited to see what my co-workers thought since the flavors were a little different than a traditional chili. Apparently, they loved it because I won the cook-off for a third year in a row. My co-workers are now discussing "term limits" for me. It is not my fault it is delicious- maybe next time they will come out on top! This chili is a hard one to beat- the taco flavor is subtle, but give just enough of a different flavor to stand out. I like to garnish mine with sour cream and a few corn chips, but cheese, jalapenos, black olives or even guac would be yummy. 

Tonight we are attending Ron's work holiday party. I am looking forward to having some adult time, and getting to sleep past 5:30 in the morning! Kellen is an early morning person and, while I can appreciate another fellow morning person, 5:30 AM is a little too early for this lady....maybe 6:30 would be perfect. I am also planning a barre class, coffee, and Target tomorrow without needing to worry about rushing home. It is the little things.  

Have a great Saturday everyone! 



Ingredients

3 lb lean ground beef
1 lb ground chorizo
1 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 taco packets
1 ranch packet
1 1/2 Tbl chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 can Bush’s chili black beans
1 can Bush’s chili beans (whatever heat you like)
1 can Bush’s chili kidney beans
1 4 oz can chopped jalapeƱos
1 4 oz diced green chilies
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 28 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 28 oz tomato sauce

Instructions

In a large pot, brown beef and chorizo till no longer pink. Drain excess grease.  Add onion and pepper and cook about 5 minutes.  Add taco packets, ranch packet, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and stir.  Add the beans, jalapenos, chilies, and stir.  Stir in the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Simmer on low (stirring every so often) 2-3 hours. Serve with sour cream and corn chips (or any other favorite toppings).