Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Butternut Squash Soup

Over the last 2 years as we've grown our own winter squash, I've started to play with some recipes and have some favorites. This is one of those and is just so comforting when it's cold outside! The kids love it and it's a great side for dinner or with a grilled cheese for lunch!

Butternut Squash Soup

2 butternut squash or 1 argonaut (one of our favorites), cut in half and deseeded
4 granny smith apples, peeled and chopped
1 Tablespoon of butter and olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2-3 Tablespoons of heavy cream

1. Preheat over to 400 degrees and roast squash flesh side down for 30-60 minutes until a fork a pierce through all areas. Once the squash a cooled enough, flip the squash over and remove the flesh. This can be done a few days before you make the soup if you'd like.
2. In a heavy pot (I use my dutch oven, a cheaper option here), sauce the apples in the butter and olive oil, about 5 minutes.
3. Once apples are softened, add the squash, spices and broth. Simmer covered, for about 15-20 minutes.
4. Using an emersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. (You can use a regular blender for this part too, just remember to be very careful and not over fill your blender. You'll have to work in batches.)
5. Add cream, salt and pepper to taste and Enjoy!
I add pepitats to the tops sometimes for an extra crunch. You could also put plain croutons on top too if you'd like. 

post signature

Friday, February 5, 2016

Meal Plan Monthly: February 2016

How is the first week of February already almost over???? This week flew by faster than I had anticipated and I meant to have this post up earlier but I became an AUNT! and celebrated my wonderful husbands birthday so life took over :) So sorry it's a bit late but here is what we are having this month:

Chicken Recipes

Ham and Cheese Stuffed Chicken (we baked our instead of frying)
Grilled Chicken and Veggie Burritos (we add the grilled chicken into the burritos)
Coconut Chicken Strips
Chicken Quesadilla's with Bell Peppers
Greek Chicken and Homemade Pita (so good!!!)
Teriyaki Chicken Bowls

Beef Recipes

Spaghetti and Meatballs (premade and frozen for a fast dinner)
Salisbury Steak
Beef Stroganoff 
Corned Beef and Sautéed Cabbage and Brussel Sprouts
Sloppy Joes
Mongolian Beef
Seven Layer Dip
Thai Marinaded Flap Steak (I use a similar marinade from this recipe)

Pork Recipes

Pork Chops with Apples
Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
Kalua Pork
Pulled Pork Sandwiches (using Kalua Pork Leftovers)
Breakfast Pizza (crust recipe with eggs, bacon and cheese on top: bake as crust recipe instructs)
What are you having this month? Please share in the comments below!!

If you are looking for more ideas or are interested in how I meal plan for a whole month, check out my Meal Planning page.
post signature

Monday, February 1, 2016

Surviving the First Trimester

As you can probably gather from my absence from this blog and instagram, the first trimester of this pregnancy was ROUGH on me. Both Max and I feel like this has been the worst I've felt in all 3 pregnancies but who really knows because I think we forget the really bad parts so we keep having more. Maybe? Anyways, this one has been rough. I've been tired and melancholy as the 2nd trimester has entered in but I was sick for what felt like forever! Like willing myself to not throw up every waking moment kind of sick. I gained a total of 1 pound in the whole first trimester and that was in the 13th week when I finally felt a little bit better. SO this is what I basically lived on since about 5 weeks pregnant until 16 weeks. It was a long bout of morning sickness but these where lifesavers to make things a little bit more tolerable.
  1. Peppermint lifesavers: anytime I was driving I have one in my mouth
  2. Saltine Crackers
  3. Cashews and Macadamian Nuts: The salty protein helps a lot!
  4. Cheddar Mozzarella Cheese Sticks: More protein!
  5. Pacific coast ice tea: Helped with getting liquid in me and the caffeine helped me keep moving through the day
  6. Sprouts instant Oatmeal: I would eat this right before bed to help me not be so hungry in the night or morning.
  7. Starbucks stainless steel cup
  8. Driving myself everywhere we went
If you are in the dredges of the first trimester, take heart! It's for a good purpose and it will come to an end at some point. It's different for everyone and can be very challenging!
post signature

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Chinese Chicken Salad

One of my favorite lunches is Chinese Chicken Salad. When I was little and as I grew up, my mom and I would go shopping and every time we would go get lunch at Nordstroms Cafe. We would always get their Chinese Chicken Salad and it was so yummy. Now when I make it at home, I think about those memories of having lunch with my mom.
Myy recipe isn't like Nordstrom's but just one that we've created over time. It's quick and simple and so so good!

Chinese Chicken Salad 

1 head of Romaine Lettuce (amount depending on the size salad you want. 1 small head per person)
1/4-1/2 cup celery, diced
1/4-1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and diced
Raman noodles, crushed into small pieces, sprinkle desired amount, save the rest
1 small can mandarin oranges
1/2-1 Chicken Breast, grilled or sautéed, cut in strips of cubed
1/4 cup toasted almonds

For Dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

-The ingredients for salad part are for a single large serving of salad. The dressing is for multiple salads, great for saving.
-I put all the ingredients for dressing in a mason jar and shake to combine. Pour over salad and toss to coat all ingredients and enjoy!

post signature

Monday, January 25, 2016

Lunch....What to have for Lunch?

One question friends ask me often is what I do for lunch. When it was just Max and I and I was working, we'd both take leftovers because there always were some but now that we have more mouths to feed and I haven't added too much extra to my recipes, Max always gets first dibs on leftovers. 
Since staying at home, I've struggled to really get myself to eat a good lunch. I want good food but I either need time to make it (which doesn't always happen) or I just can't think of anything that sounds good. The struggle is real let me tell you!!!
Anyways, since being pregnant and starving and since the kids are in school 3 half days a week, I've had more time to think about lunch for myself and its a necessity that I eat a good one. I've come up with a list of options and thought I'd share them with you all.

What's for Lunch???

Taco Salad
Chinese Chicken Salad
Chicken Taco Salad
Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese
Corn Chowder-make ahead and freeze in small portions
Pastina Soup
Chicken and Rice Soup-make ahead and freeze in small portions
Chicken and Noodles-make ahead and freeze in small portions
Split Pea Soup-make ahead and freeze in small portions
Pasta with Spaghetti Sauce
Chicken Salad with Crasins
Tuna Salad
Egg Salad
Cheese and Crackers with Fruit or Veggies
Hummus and Tortilla chips and cut up Veggies
A variety of salads from my Salad Pinterest Board

  • If I make a pot of soup with lots of leftovers or a soup that only I like, which I usually half the recipe for anyways (Corn Chowder, Split Pea, etc) I package them into quart sized ziplock bags and freeze them laying down flat until frozen. Then I stack them in a plastic container in the freezer. Then when I feel like a certain thing, I just pull out the bag, place it in some water and let it defrost. You could also pull it out before you head to work and then heat it up there.
  • Cut up some lettuce earlier in the week and put it in a bag with a damp paper towel. Then cut up some other veggies and put them in separate containers. Emily Ley calls it the Sunday Chop :) Too much liquid from all the veggies can make a mess but having stuff separately packaged will help you not have any soggy salads. You can do the same with some of your fruit.
  • Buying frozen tortellini or ravioli and splitting them into single serving sizes (since they are normally packaged for families) then just cook up what you want and use a jared sauce you like or a frozen sauce you have on hand. Something else I do, is if I have left over veggies from the night before, I just toss the tortellini with the veggies, some olive oil, garlic salt and some parmesan and it's a great lunch. 
  • If you have a salad you like to eat often and make a dressing for it you like, make extra and store in a mason jar that way you have a dressing already made on hand when you want it. I eat Chinese Chicken Salad often so I always have the dressing in a jar waiting for me.
  • If making Tacos or grilling up some chicken breasts, I always take out a bit extra meat to plan for a lunch for myself. If you aren't sure when you will eat the meat, package it again (once cooked) in a single serving size and freeze it until you are ready to eat it. Slice up the chicken breast so that it defrosts faster and is already ready to put on a salad. I also do this if we have some leftover meat that has been sitting in the fridge a few days and no one seems to be eating it. Cut it up or slice it (steak, grilled chicken) and package for a salad another day.
  • Keep some of your favorite cheeses on hand for a quick salad. I like feta and dry goat cheese on salads. I keep those on hand since they last awhile in the fridge and then I can throw a salad together with fruit or veggies we have from the garden or the store. Add some nuts and a vinaigrette and you have a great salad!
I hope this helps you get some ideas for lunch. It's always a challenge for me and I tend to forget myself when taking care of the kids but having these little short cuts have helped me a ton! It takes a little prep work at one point but then you are set for a while!

What do you have for lunch? Any ideas to share?

post signature

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Being Planted by the great Orchardist

Being married to a home orchardist and gardener has taught me a lot over the last 1.5 years. My husbands new hobby of growing our own food has rubbed off onto me. One things that I've been fascinated by is the cycle of the tree and the job of the orchardist.
When we received our first 35 fruit tree's, most of them came to us as "bare root trees." This means that the tree is not planted into a pot after they remove it from the ground but rather they are sent, once in their dormant state, to us with bare roots ready for our TLC. There are a lot of reasons I don't know or will pretend to share about why but the tree is bare of anything...a fresh, usually 2-3 year old tree. We receive these trees in the winter when they are in their dormant season because it's the best time to plant them, as to not shock the system of the tree. This dormant season is usually the time the orchardist does a "hard prune" to get the tree ready for the spring and he decides what branches are the best for producing the most fruit.
The next season is when the tree breaks dormancy, a season known as "budding out". The tree "buds out" and pushes as many fruit bearing flowers out as it can as well as a few little leaves. This occurs every year in the spring, when the weather begins to get warm and we stop having freezing temperatures at night. In this season, the bees pollinate those flowers and that is what will eventually bring us fruit.
After the flowers start to fall off and hopefully were pollinated, the leaves push out to fill the tree called "leafing out". This is also the big long season of glory for the tree. It grows, sometimes super long branches (some of which are a bit crazy) and tries to get as much sunlight as it can to grow (remember photosynthesis from science class?). The tree then starts to produce fruit and grows in it's big sunny glory. During this season, the orchardist goes in and pulls off some of the fruit to produce better fruit on the branch, a thinning out. The orchardist also does a small summer prune to control some of the growth and to direct the path he wants the tree to grow in as well as does the big harvest when the fruit is ready!
Then once the fall arrives and things begin to cool off. The tree drops it's leaves and goes into a season where they are getting ready to rest. In the season, the orchardist watches and waits for the tree to go completely dormant in preparation for the big prune. It's a quiet season for both involved, the trees and the orchardist but it's also a time of anticipation for the work ahead.
Are you still with me? What in the world does this have to do with anything? Well, right after Christmas, I started the Life Lived Beautifully Planted study. It is a study about some of the disciplines of a Christian life. Each week, we study a new discipline of the Christian life and I just started week 3 and have been blessed by it. 
Something God showed me through it and was working on my heart prior was the whole concept of our Christian walk in relation to a fruit tree. God has revealed so much of Himself to Maxwell and I through this new adventure of big gardening/orcharding. We are exactly like a fruit tree and God is the Orchardist. He does the hard pruning in our dormant times. This is what people often call their "dry" seasons but I'm starting to see them in a different light. It isn't a bad thing or a bad season, it's an amazing season that we must all go through in order to be ready for what He has ahead for us. We shouldn't feel down or depressed in this season, although at times I know we feel like we can't hear God or we don't feel close to Him but that is when we need to dig deep into the disciplines the Bible teaches us and get ready for what He is going to do. 
I just came out of a dormant season due to this pregnancy. It was a time of quiet and rest and not much to share on here or instagram but now as I'm starting to "bud out" I am seeing the light of what He was teaching in that time.    
One of my favorite quotes from the study is "to be a healthy tree, or in our case to be a righteous person, doesn't mean always performing at an optimal level and always bearing visible fruit for all to see." Just like the fruit tree's, we must go through the season of waiting and quiet, rest, then growth and production. "This is the God-ordained process that brings about optimal health." (Kara Holmes) We should not get frustrated by these seasons, or allow Satan to get into our heads and tells us we aren't growing and God isn't there. He is there, He has a plan and a purpose! He is the great Orchardist and He has a plan for our growth, for our fruit and for His harvest. Allow Him to work and in order to do this, we must plant ourselves in His presence through these disciplines (Bible study, meditation, prayer, worship, ect) and be ready for the seasons He has for us. 
I'd highly recommend the Planted study. I'm only on week 3 and the things I have learn about the first 3 disciplines have been amazing! It's a very short study in terms of day to day but yet I find myself meditating on the truths throughout my days. (This is not a sponsored post, just something God has been teaching me and a tool He is using in my life!)

post signature

Monday, January 4, 2016

Meal Plan Monthly: January!!

Happy New Year everyone! 2015 ended with a slam of busy as it always does and on top of it all, I've just been exhausted. Pregnant with two little kids is exhausting :) On top of that, I didn't really get an appetite back until mid-December making it very hard to meal plan. So now I'm feeling more normal and food actually sounds good so I'm back here with another Meal Plan Monthly. I hope this helps in your planning and as always, I'd love to hear what you are having!
Chicken Dishes:
Chicken Marsala
Crock Pot Whole Chicken
Sweet and Sour Chicken
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Chicken Tacos
Shake and Bake Chicken with Stuffings and cranberry sauce
Chicken Parmesan Casserole (We dice the chicken instead of leaving it whole)
Chicken Cacciatore
Oven BBQ Chicken 
Pork Dishes:
Pork Chops with Pineapple fried rice
Lasagna Soup(We have actually modified this recipe for our tastes using ground beef but it's good with the italian sausage if you like that.)
Beef Dishes:
Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes
Sloppy Joes We do this recipe with ground beef and half it
Teriyaki Flap Steak
Ground Beef Nachos
Chili and Cornbread
Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Beef Stroganoff
Beef with Snowpeas  
Happy Cooking!!

post signature
Blogging tips