Kinda Like Normal Life

 
Totally rocking this today while the painters are here – *squee* so excited!  Of course I neglected to take before pics (why would I do that) but I’m sure I can scrounge up some old ones for my before and afters of our living/play room and dining to homeschool room! Once I actually get it finished that is…though I’m starting to think I never feel like any room is “finished” and therefore never really do post the after pics. I promise to at least try this time…

  
This morning we decided to do Lowe’s Build and Grow. In a moment of weakness I decided to take the girls. This may not have been the best decision. It was mobbed, I was sitting on the floor trying to help both girls do what really are adult projects. I decided that it would be best if we just went home and got some help from daddy. I’m proud to say that Anya and I finished before daddy and Bianca despite Bianca’s insistence that mommy doesn’t know how to hammer nails.  

 

The girls are very excited to do this again. Mommy is unsure how she feels about this idea but I suppose I could use all the practice I can get.   

And, now for the most important news of the day- it’s my big sister’s birthday!!

Since Alice likes sharing memories, let me share a snapshot of my favorite times with A over the years. First, there’s the time she stuck me in the leaves as an infant- I loved it- there are screaming baby pictures to prove it. Then, there were all the times she dressed me as a punk rocker- full with makeup, teased hair, and awesome bright colored shirts- fashionably knotted at the side, like only an 80s child would appreciate. There are pictures to prove that one too. Another favorite, was visiting A at the pools she life guarded at, where she would always take me to pick out a special treat. A lot of my favorite memories include time with her and her eldest daughter my little Munchkin. Like countless summer days spent playing with M at the Mt. Vernon apartments. There are probably a million other little moments I’m forgetting, but here’s to a special big sister- thanks for everything- well except maybe the leaves thing- I don’t think that was very fun for me 🙂

Happy happy birthday Alice! Wish we were there to celebrate with you!  

 

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How to Tweak in the Kitchen

Tweaking (not to be confused with Twerking which really isn’t safe to be doing around hot appliances- I know I crack myself up:) while cooking is really great for busy moms. I don’t know how many times I’ve decided at the last minute that I want to make something for dinner but I didn’t have this ingredient or that or not enough time (or motivation) to cook this three different ways. Or maybe you have a really picky family member who doesn’t like onions and that other one doesn’t like mushrooms. Instead of pulling your hair out and ordering take out (though I admit this happens at our house quite a bit), you’ve just got to adjust the recipe to make it work for you. 

I bought buns the other day at Costco and after making 2 meals with them I still have about six left. Most of the time when I buy bread products at Costco at least some of it goes to waste (which makes me cringe) but it’s still so much cheaper than at the grocery store. This time, I was determined to eat as many as possible. So, tonight we will be having BBQ Chicken sandwiches. 

 Except, I don’t have BBQ sauce and really don’t want to run to the store just for that. Time to head over to Pinterest, where I found this recipe. I’ve used it before and it’s good but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I don’t like making things with ketchup for 2 reasons. 1) Expense- as with any processed food with multiple ingredients, it’s going to be more expensive to buy it than to make it. 2) Health- the store bought stuff is just not as good for you. I often buy organic ketchup but right now don’t have any and even if I did refer to problem #1. So, off the bat, I knew I didn’t want to use the ketchup. Also, I like my BBQ sauce with molasses. Since I was eliminating ketchup, I knew I could add molasses without cutting out the honey and brown sugar- since I don’t like my sauce too sweet I did reduce the honey to one tbsp. And, I didn’t have honey mustard so I just put in a tbsp of regular mustard instead. Then, I don’t like simmering something that I know I’m just cooking with anyway (if using for dipping it would be another story). 

So here’s my recipe: 

Slow cooker BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

  

Ingredients: 

 

  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce (not pictured-oops) 
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp yellow or Dijon mustard
  •  2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 lb chicken breasts or boneless thighs

Combine ingredients in a medium sized bowl and whisk until smooth.  

 Pour over chicken in your slow cooker.  

Cook on high for 4 hours or low 6-8 hours. Shred chicken and serve on buns. 

  Enjoy. 

  1. My main tips for cooking on the fly would be to make like substitutions (ie: molasses for honey) but keep proportions about the same. 
  2. Sweeten and spice to taste- I almost never take measurements for spices or sweeteners at face value- when you’re baking certain ingredients need to be added to maintain proper baking environments. This is not always the case with cooking. When you’re making a meal, it’s best to consider your own pallet and your audience’s tastes while deciding what to add or omit. If you know someone doesn’t like garlic or pepper or paprika, leaving it out won’t ruin a meal. Though, be careful because dumping in the whole jar might. 
  3. Cooking oils are almost always interchangeable. If you’re cooking something with high heat make sure to use something that can withstand high temperatures (I like avacado oil for this). The very popular olive oil actually has a relatively low temperature so keep that in mind. 

Substituting meats is also pretty easy. I often use ground turkey for beef and never make any other alterations. A lot of pork meals could probably be made with chicken or turkey tenderloin. 

Have fun experimenting in the kitchen! Hope you make some fabulous stuff. 

Now, what did I serve with my BBQ chicken?? Potatoes of course because you know I bought those at Costco as well. But, I thought we had enough potato wedges for a while so I made another favorite: Crash Hot Potatoes from the Pioneer woman. They’re pretty to die for and don’t need one single modification!
 

Home-made Turkey Sloppy Joes

 
We have had a busy couple of days- errands for Saturday, Father’s Day Sunday (which we spent most of finishing our chip board album for daddy), pictures last night (if you’re looking for someone in the Winchester area I really liked Memories by MP), and a play date and trip to tour a local gym today.  

   What fun but wow we’re wiped out. 

  
Tonight, I needed to use up the last package of ground turkey from our last Costco run- I usually freeze half so we don’t end up eating so much ground turkey but I guess I’ve been enjoying the change from chicken (I’m allergic to beef and pork and A got sick off steak recently so we are newly completely mammal free). I’m not going to write a whole new recipe for this one because I did a lot of throwing a little of that and some of that in and I didn’t really keep track. But, I’ll tell you how I deviated from this recipe from Diana over at My Humble Kitchen

First, I used a whole 15 oz can of tomato sauce instead of the paste.  

 Next, I sautĂ©ed my onions and peppers in about 1 tbsp of avacado oil separate from the ground turkey.  

 After the veggies were softened I added a little more oil and some chopped mushrooms. Right before I added the tomato sauce, I added about 1 tsp of minced garlic. 

My last substitution was 2 tbsp or so brown sugar and 1 tbsp of molasses instead of 1/4 cup honey. It was not overly sweet which was nice. I mixed all the ingredients for the sloppy joe together and then added the meat. This creates two separate pans to wash so really I could have done it the other way but I prefer to cook the meat separate from the veggies.  


Voila, yummy healthy sloppy joes. I may never buy Manwhich again- this was so easy!  

And, what do you think I served with it??  

 Yep, those would be my potato wedges though I skipped the Parmesan tonight. Mmmm. We’ve had a lot of potatoes and ground turkey- welcome to the reality of Costco shopping. 

As always, let me know if you try it and like it! 

Turkey Burgers with Parmesan Wedges

 Okay, I really like cooking. And, I love cooking good food. These burgers were to die for and an awesome summer meal. I make the potato wedges all the time but I recently learned a new secret for making them wonderfully crispy and tasty: starch. You can use corn starch but for some reason they don’t sell unmodified cornstarch at my local grocery so I always just pick up potato starch. 

  1. Tonight, I wanted a relatively easy meal and I had just bought ground turkey from Costco (read I have a few more meals with ground turkey left!). It was raining out so I knew there was no firing up the grill but burgers are still easy and juicy just cooked in a skillet, throw on some cheese and sautĂ©ed mushrooms and you’ve got a gourmet looking burger with not too much work. 

 
You don’t need much to make these burgers. Turkey cooks up great plain. If you want to throw in a little spice (like kirkland’s organic no salt seasoning that I talk about a lot) all the better but don’t overdo it. For tonight’s burgers, I used about 1 tsp of garlic powder and onion powder, and maybe 2 tsp of paprika, and 1/2 tsp of ground cumin. Then I added about 1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan. Before I pan fried them, I threw the potatoes in the oven at 400 degrees (see below). Fry them for about 20-30 minutes covered on medium- medium high heat, making sure to flip them once and flatten them with a spatula to squeeze all the grease out, which also makes them more flavorful. The burgers are done when they’re slightly caramelize do on each side and no longer pink (I always cut one in half to make sure when cooking turkey because of the risk of salmonella with raw meat). While the burgers were frying, I sautĂ©ed some sliced Bella mushrooms in about 1 tbsp of Kelly Gold butter. You could also do some onions if you like that sort of thing (who doesn’t?). Just before removing from heat, top with cheese of your choice. I used muenster and it was delicious. I used Swiss and Colby jack for my minions and left a naked burger for A- she doesn’t like cheeseburgers- is she my kid??

 

Before I fried up the burgers I preheated the oven to 400 degrees. I cut about 6 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes into wedges. I tossed them in avacado oil, potato starch, paprika, dill, parsley, garlic powder, and Parmesan cheese. Spread them on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, turning twice. Check periodically to make sure they’re not burning. The Parmesan will turn a golden brown and that’s fine. Turn the oven off when they’re finished and leave them until you’re ready to serve. 

Garnish your burger with mustard, ketchup, mayo, sautĂ©ed veggies, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles…well you get the idea! 

 
I served mine up with fresh fruit and broccoli and it was amazing.  

 
Turkey Burgers:

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • Spices to taste (see above for what I used) 
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 1 tbsp butter (if sautĂ©ing vegetables)
  • 1/2 lb sliced mushrooms
  • Small onion- sliced
  • 4 Cheese slices of choice
  • 4 whole wheat hamburger buns
  • Various sauces and toppings

Sautée vegetables in 1 tbsp butter over medium heat.

Mix turkey, spices, and Parmesan. Form in to four patties. Heat a non-stick skillet (or lightly greased stainless steal pan) to medium heat and add the burgers. You may need to increase heat to achieve desired browning. Flip once (after about 15 minutes) and flatten with a spatula. 

When the burgers are finished (no longer pink in the middle), add one slice of cheese to each burger. Cover until melted. Garnish with sautĂ©ed vegetables, sauces, and other toppings. 

Parmesan Wedges

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium Yukon gold potatoes
  • 2 tbsp high heat cooking oil
  • 2 tbsp potato or corn starch
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • 2 tsp dill
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tbsp grated Parmesan 
  • Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Wash and cut potatoes into wedges. Place in a bowl and toss in oil, sauces, and cheese. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Cook about 20- 30 minutes until brown. Flip once about half way through. Check often towards the end for desired browness and to ensure they don’t burn. 

Enjoy! 

As always, let me know if you try this and love it as much as we do! 

Mozarella Filled Meatloaf Cupcakes

  Ah, what a day. The girls (and baby M) and I had a nice day doing..wait for it…nothing. I mean we homeschooled and ate meals and read a Zoobook. We cleaned up after the last homeschool co-op of the year that we hosted yesterday. But, we didn’t go anywhere- not even to play on the play set because it rained all day. It was wonderful, glorious, magnificent. I didn’t even take a shower until J called to say he was on his way home at almost 5 pm. 

At that point, the girls and I had just begun project make them baby carriers because, you know, A mentioned she wanted one and well, I have hoards of fabric so it should be good for something right? I decided I’d better throw something together for dinner quick and settled on meatloaf “volcanoes.” I was just discussing with my co-op ladies how I love to adjust recipes when I’m cooking. My mom almost never followed a recipe, and she passed on the talent to me. It makes cooking so much more enjoyable and frankly easier- don’t have an ingredient? Sub in something else. Want to jazz something up? There’s a spice or a sauce for that. Back to my meatloaf cupcakes- They’re delicious- everyone had seconds and even the baby who hadn’t eaten much solid food all day, cleaned his plate.

  

On to the good part, what did I do to jazz up a very basic recipe? Let me tell you. First, mix all your meatloaf ingredients (ground turkey, oatmeal, egg, tomato sauce, seasonings and sautĂ©ed vegetables-optional). Then, form into balls and place in a greased muffin tin. I made generous shaped balls and got nine- I am not sure exactly how much meat this was because I buy it in a 4 pack from Costco but I’m guessing around 1.25 lbs. This recipe should not need to be adjusted for one pound but I’m not positive. If you made smaller balls you could probably get 12.  


Next, push each cube of Mozarella into the turkey and cover the cheese with the meat. Finally, spoon tomato sauce over your “cupcakes” to frost them. Set aside the rest of the tomato sauce for later (make sure not to contaminate your sauce with the turkey since you will be serving the sauce with your meatloaf). 

 
Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes until cooked through.  

  
Heat left over tomato sauce and serve. I always love my meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans. Tonight I threw in a fresh fruit salad because that’s what’s great about spring!

  
Mmmm. Delicious! 

   
Mozarella Filled Meatloaf Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1.25 lb ground turkey 
  • 3/4 cup oatmeal
  • 1 egg
  • 1 can plain tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp Italian seasoning (I like costco’s organic no salt seasoning)
  • 1-2 tsp minced garlic to taste
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 bell pepper finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp oil of choice
  • 8 oz Mozarella cubed into 9-12 pieces 

Preheat the oven to 350*. Grease muffin tin.

Step 1 (optional): If you’re using onion and pepper, sautĂ© them in about 1 tbsp of oil until soft. 

Step 2: Mix turkey, oatmeal, egg, 1/2 cup plain tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, garlic, and sautĂ©ed vegetables in a bowl with your hands until well combined and form into balls. Place balls in a greased muffin tin.

Step 3: Create a small hole in the middle of the turkey, push the cubed Mozarella into the center and cover with meat. Frost each cupcake with about 1 tbsp of tomato sauce. Set the remaining sauce aside. 

Step 4: Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes until the turkey is cooked through. Heat remaining tomato sauce and serve on the side. 

Enjoy!  

Let me know if you tried this recipe and liked it!

Decorating with mid century modern

I’m nothing if not eclectic when it comes to taste in decor. As you’d see if you came to my house, it’s full of old stuff mixed with shabby chic, mixed with bright pops of color, and soft neutrals. As we’ve established, I really like old trunks. I love old suitcases. I like apple crates. I currently have a beautiful dark kidney shaped desk as my vanity. I have several pieces I bought new from pier one (like my kitchen dining set that I like a lot). One style that I usually say I’m not huge on is modern. I’m much more drawn to soft curves than jagged edges. I like warm colors rather than cool contrasting hues. However, when I started picking things for my new homeschool room, I realized I love mid century modern. I love the molded plastics and bright colors. I love the curves. Love them. So, I’m going to share with you all a couple of the inspirations for my homeschool room and the progress of my homeschooling chalkboard table. 

I’m loving this colorful circled rug to sit under my brightly colored table and chairs.  
Speaking of chairs- I bought 3 sets (in different colors) of these to go around the table.   


Here’s the color of the bottom of the table. That’s about 3 coats of primer and 2 coats of paint- I just put the 3rd coat of paint on and they look so vibrant. Can’t wait to get them sealed- anyone have any input on poly acrylic vs wax?  

 

And, to finish the room, we replaced the old ugly light fixture with this modern piece. Best part? It was on clearance for $15 at lowes.  


I can’t wait to share my finished homeschool room. I just hired someone to paint it a soft yellow at the end of the month.  

A table to gather around

I had a minor hiccup in my coffee table redo so I decided to take a break and tackle my next big project, the dining room turned homeschool table. The plan is to paint the bottom a bright turquoise with a black board table top. Six cans of spray paint later and I’m almost finished with priming. I’m trying to do it right this time so I don’t end up having to redo it but we shall see- refinishing furniture is not really my forte it seems. Here’s how it looks so far (still needs one more coat of paint on the top).  

 

I’m hoping that this project will be finished by next weekend and I’ll actually be able to show you a final result one of these days (the living room is done so I really could show you some before and afters but…I’m really not good at photographing small spaces- my whole house is full of those.).