Independence Day Weekend

This weekend was my first time celebrating the 4th of July without going to the town parade, fireworks, visiting family for cookouts, etc. We spent the entire weekend celebrating with just the 3.5 of us and I have to say it was a pretty nice weekend. Our original plan involved going to the beach on Saturday and making a huge feast on Dan’s tabletop grill, but those plans were rained out. So we decided to go to the beach on Sunday with a modest feast and cook the majority of it at home that day.

Saturday July 4th went a little something like this…

After a french toast with powdered sugar, strawberries and blueberries breakfast (so festive!) we spent Saturday morning mulling around Walmart spending a lot more money than we intended to, but on things we needed (we got the sleeping bag for MM and a great nursing gown for me and BB). That afternoon we had bratwurst cooked over a George Foreman grill (hot dogs for the picky three year old), homemade pasta salad and deviled eggs. I’m going to admit right now that Dan did almost all the cooking this weekend.

(We were talking last night about our culinary interests and what we thought they’d be etc. I always assumed I’d become this perfect homemaker who cooked amazing dinners, desserts, etc. and basically owned the kitchen. But apart from desserts and the occasional lucky recipe, most of my culinary prospects have been lackluster. I can do a quick, easy main dish like it’s no one’s business but when I try to get fancy, I rarely feel my efforts have been rewarded by an amazing dish. It never feels worth it – you know? Just stressful. Then somewhere in the middle, Dan got interested in bread making, which turned into pizza making, which, with the help of Food Network in the past month and a half, has turned into – he loves to cook. And his food is good, ladies. I am spoiled rotten and I’m not complaining. I actually feel relieved. Sometimes I’m a bit jealous but since I can still kick his butt in the dessert department and I still mostly own the rest of the homemaking gig, I think it evens out and I’m proud of him. So in general, the kitchen belongs to Dan during the weekends especially and more often on weeknights than I care to admit to – but I can play the pregnancy card for now.)

Anyway, this has very little to do with the weekend – so I’ll get back to my little recap. After lunch we spent some time doing MM’s favorite thing – playing with toys. Every day (several times a day) he will come over to one of us and say, “Do you want to come play in my TOY ROOM?” and you know I feel terrible when I am too busy which seems to happen a lot – even more so for poor Dan. So that afternoon we both said a whole hearted YES and spent awhile doing just that. MM was in his glory.

For dinner that night we continued our original menu plan with the second half of our feast – Dan made homemade beef teriyaki – complete with the wooden skewers just like at a Chinese restaurant and oh mylanta, it was Good. We had that with leftover pasta salad and celery with peanut butter and cream cheese and for dessert – lemon bars, homemade right of a Betty Crocker box. I always go back and forth between strictly homemade and “times-a-wasting” and to be honest, this lemon craving of mine is still so new to me that I wanted to try a couple of box recipes first – that I know I can’t likely screw up – so that when I try homemade later when my energy levels return to “normal” I’ll know if it tastes close to right and what things should look like. These came out pretty good – and Dan kicked it up a festivity level with his “plating skills” (all husbands should be required to watch Iron Chef America – I think he secretly scores each of his meals by flavor, plating and originality).

(this picture doesn’t do it justice, I am still working on my food photography and meanwhile the ice cream and whipped cream were melting so I gave up early and got to eating!)

Then on Sunday, our holiday weekend continued…

The weather was gorgeous so we were thinking it would be the perfect beach day. But we set out first thing that morning to Target (which was closed on the 4th) to buy one very special item – Baby Blueberry’s infant car seat and stroller. We got the Graco Mulberry style travel system I’ve had my eye on for months now despite going back and forth a bit, wanting to be sure it was the one, we can now safely say – yes it is, and it’s ours! We had a cheap Cosco travel system with MM that we loathed so much we actually donated it shortly after he outgrew the car seat, vowing to get ourselves something nicer for the next baby. I was worried that wouldn’t happen after Dan got laid off, but with the help of the $100 visa we got, the price was cut in half and we decided to do our sanity a favor and go for it. We’re very happy with it from what we’ve seen so far. By the time we got home the weather was too beautiful to wait any longer.

So we packed up our beach gear and the food we had planned for that day’s lunch and headed to our new favorite beach (not that we’ve checked out any others yet). Dan got to work immediately cooking the rest of the bratwurst and some more hot dogs for MM while MM got to work immediately playing on the beach’s playground.

Then after lunch we headed to the beach. Unfortunately the algae levels were too high or something so the department of health mandated the water be “closed” so we didn’t get any swimming in but the boys still had fun playing in the sand. After a couple minutes building sandcastles Dan taught MM the age old fun of being buried in the sand which he thought was just terrific!

That night we made homemade pizza with pretty much everything but the kitchen sink thrown on top, leftover pasta salad and some watermelon that was leftover from another culinary feat this weekend – we made this delicious watermelon lemonade that I saw on Smitten Kitchen last week. Everything was delicious, making a terrific end to our holiday weekend.

Again with the picture not doing the meal justice.

6 Green Things I Love

This is my first time participating in a Small Talk Six on Saturdays. It’s hosted by the lovely ladies at MomDot. This week’s topic is to name 6 things you love that are green. Here are mine:

1. Money – I wouldn’t mind having more of it, in fact. It might be the root of all evil, but it’s also the route to most of my favorite things like food, shelter, Internet access and magazine subscriptions.

2. Grass – When the grass isn’t green, it’s pretty depressing. Then snow usually happens. But when you open the door one day to find the grass is not only visible but green – it’s a great feeling.

3. Kiwi Fruit – One of my favorite fruits, since I was little. My grandma actually has a kiwi fruit plant and I’ve always loved raiding her garden and picking a fresh snack.

4. Marzipan – It comes in lots of colors that all taste the same but for some reason the green is usually my favorite. Inexplicable, I know.

5. Being Green – I had to say it – I love all ways that I’ve found to be green, like shopping with reusable grocery bags – that’s probably my favorite green habit.

6. Spinach – It’s true. I’m one of those weird freaky people who loves spinach – cooked or fresh in a salad, etc. It’s good stuff!

What things do you love that are green? Be sure to link up your responses at MomDot if you play along!

Aloha Friday: What’s For Breakfast?

It’s time for another Aloha Friday, the day that you take it easy and look forward to the weekend, in Hawaii and blog land anyway. As you should know by now, over at An Island Life, Kailani decided that on Fridays she would take it easy on posting and ask a simple question for you to answer. Nothing that requires a lengthy response.

If you’d like to participate, just post your own question on your blog and leave your link at An Island Life’s blog. Don’t forget to visit the other participants! It’s a great way to make new bloggy friends!

Lately I’ve been having a really hard time finding things to eat for breakfast – okay so I’ve always had a hard time – I don’t seem to like anything consistently and end up with a lot of half eaten boxes of things that I no longer want. When my morning sickness started in this pregnancy I began eating just plain toast with butter and a cup of tea – but now I’m practically into my second trimester, the morning sickness is gone, and that’s still what I’m eating. So my Aloha Friday question this week is.

What do you normally eat for breakfast? What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?

Monthly Menu Plan: January

It’s time for another month of menu planning!

Rather than planning my family dinners night by night, or week by week, I’ve taken the habit of planning out one menu for an entire month. This makes my grocery shopping much easier since I’ve already decided what dinners I’ll be making, I only have to pick up the ingredients missing for that week and the very regular cast of breakfast and lunch foods.

And the looming nightly dinners are now much less intimidating. No longer having to stand in front of the refrigerator scratching my head, trying desperately to figure out something nutritious and delicious to make for dinner? Love that. And by doing this monthly rather than weekly, it leaves more time for life in the days in between. It isn’t rocket science, and thanks goes to Simple Mom who inspired me with this idea.

So here’s my menu for the month of January:

Week One

Monday: chicken strips, sweet potato fries & sweet corn
Tuesday: Fettuccine Alfredo w/ grilled chicken and Caesar salad
Wednesday: Hamburgers w/ choose your own sides
Thursday: *BBQ Chicken Teriyaki w/ mixed veggies & basmati rice
Friday: Grilled cheese & pepperoni w/ clam chowder
Saturday: Book Club – I’ll be out for dinner
Sunday: Swedish Meatballs

Week Two

Monday: Steak & Cheese Sandwiches
Tuesday: Spaghetti and meatballs w/ Texas toast & Caesar salad
Wednesday: *Beer Battered Fish w/ mashed potatoes & veggies
Thursday: *Orange Chicken w/ mixed veggies & basmati rice
Friday: Grilled cheese & pepperoni w/ chicken noodle soup
Saturday: Still haven’t decided – any ideas?
Sunday: Homemade spinach & Alfredo pizza

Week Three

Monday: *Beef toquitos w/ blue corn chips and salsa
Tuesday: ABC pasta w/ garlic and olive oil, with Caesar salad
Wednesday: Hot Dogs & Macaroni & Cheese
Thursday: *BBQ Chicken Teriyaki w/ mixed veggies & basmati rice
Friday: Grilled cheese & pepperoni w/ beef stew
Saturday: Meatball Subs / w provolone cheese
Sunday: Enchilada style Mexican pizza

Week Four

Monday: chicken strips, mashed potatoes & corn
Tuesday: *Gnocchi w/ marinara sauce, with texas toast & caesar salad
Wednesday: Mozechilli Casserole
Thursday: *Orange Chicken w/ mixed veggies & basmati rice
Friday: Grilled cheese & pepperoni w/ tomato soup
Saturday: GAME NIGHT homemade pizzas
Sunday: Make Your Own Burritos

* Trader Joe’s Freezer Food

That’s it for January! Remember, the most important part of this process is flexibility – make a plan, but  don’t get eaten up about it if you decide to switch things up – maybe your dinners for Wednesday and Thursday need to be switched for a week or you make plans at the last minute – that’s fine – this isn’t homework, so it shouldn’t feel like it – the whole goal is to make YOUR life easier! So have fun with it!

If you’re making a menu plan for the month of January be sure to leave a comment with a link to your post in the comments section below.

October’s Month-Long Menu Plan

A few months ago I decided to start making a month of menus (idea inspired here @ Simple Mom) to end the dreaded nightly “what in the heck should I make for dinner?” debate. I think it’s a wonderful idea and I think my husband would agree. Even when he does come home at night to find me half passed out on the couch after a long day of chasing a two year old around the apartment and learns he’s making dinner, he at least doesn’t have to scrounge for something to make – I’ve got a menu. And most nights I make dinner, I swear.

And I’ve had a lot of people tell me it’s a good idea here in blogland, too, so I’ve decided to make this a “meme” of sorts – I’m challenging you, my readers, to make a month-long menu plan also. If you’d like to play along you can put my handy dandy so clearly self-made button on your post, in your sidebar and anywhere else you’d like. And be sure to comment here and let me know you are playing because I’m too lazy to put up a Mr. Linkey. 😛

So here’s what’s cooking this month. First, the weekly theme

Mondays: freezer food-ish
Tuesdays: italian night
Wednesdays: all american meal
Thursdays: soup & sandwich
Fridays: stir fry / skillet meal
Saturdays: pizza night / mexican night
Sundays: something easy & preferably light

Week One

Monday: Chicken Pot Pie (Mrs Budds)
Tuesday: Gnocchi, Red Sauce w/ Ground Beef, Garlic Bread
Wednesday: hot dogs, beans, macaroni & cheese
Thursday: Grilled Cheese & Chicken Noodle Soup
Friday: orange chicken, basmati rice & asian veggies
Saturday: Spinach & Feta Pizza
Sunday: Breakast Pizza For Dinner (I got this recipe from Sues2u2 @ My Musings in a comment on this post – if you have a recipe you think I should try, just leave me a comment in this post)

Week Two

Monday: COLUMBUS DAY Chicken Strips, Potato Wedges & Corn on the Cob
Tuesday: Fettucini Alfredo w/ broccoli & grilled chicken & caesar salad
Wednesday: hamburgers w/ choose your own sides
Thursday: Grilled Cheese & Clam Chowder
Friday: BBQ Style Teriyaki Chicken, basmati rice & asian veggies
Saturday: Popcorn chicken, sweet potato fries & corn on the cob
Sunday: Enchilada Style Mexican Pizza

Week Three

Monday: Frozen Pizza, mozzarella strips & jalapeño poppers
Tuesday: spaghetti & meatballs w/ caesar salad
Wednesday: Steak & Cheese Sandwiches
Thursday: Grilled Cheese & Chili
Friday: orange chicken, basmati rice & asian veggies
Saturday: It’s Game Night at Chez Momma, so we’ll do a cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza and two spinach feta pizzas and maybe some homemade breadsticks, too? I might even make a dessert (maybe)
Sunday: Swedish Meatballs & egg noodles

Week Four

Monday: Frozen Apps: Potato Skins, Mozzarella Strips & popcorn chicken
Tuesday: multi colored spiral pasta w/ garlic, olive oil & caesar salad
Wednesday: beer battered fish, mashed potatoes & carrots
Thursday: Grilled Cheese & Italian Wedding Soup
Friday: HALLOWEEN (we’ll pick something up while we’re out)
Saturday: 1st of NOV build your own burritos
Sunday: Baked Brie wrapped in philo dough w/ cherry preserves

You’re Making Me Hungry

Totally just stole this meme from Fond of Snape, who stole it from Faith who stole it from Andrew, who created this list of 100 things that I think every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life. He says:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here linking to your results.

1. Venison: Was tricked into it by my grandpa it wasn’t bad but I didn’t love it.
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare: I barely like red meat, nevermind raw – and especially not horse.
5. Crocodile: Sorry, not happening
6. Black pudding: all set with eating blood, thanks
7. Cheese fondue: Chocolate fondue is so much better though.
8. Carp: I may have had this, but I’m not sure and I won’t lie to you.
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush: Love the name. Can’t stop saying it…
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich: I’m such a good omnivore, I eat this almost every day.
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart: In Germany no less.
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes: I’ve had every flavor Arbor Mist makes… haha
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans: I love me some Mexican Food and this part is a must
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper I’m not a fan of the spicy, despite liking Mexican Food, I know…
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters: I like mussels better
29. Baklava: Love baklava – had it on my wedding cheesecake
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas: By accident. Ouch.
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl: You haven’t lived until you have…
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut: Did I mention I went to Germany? It’s hard to avoid there…
35. Root beer float: I make them myself at home.
36. Cognac with a fat cigar: No thank you.
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O: You mean a jello shot? Hello.
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk: Get back to me next week…
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu: One, you eat it raw – two, if it’s [edit]cut[/edit] wrong, you can die. Or so I learned on Harvest Moon.
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut: Yes, but I can’t believe this is on the list. Seriously? Right after eel and before sea urchin is a krispy kreme doughnut? ::shakes head::
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal: Yes but I’m not a fan
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine: No, but I want to try it!
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores: I wasn’t born yesterday.
62. Sweetbreads Again, no thank you.
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake: oh yes
68. Haggis: No thank you.
69. Fried plantain: Yes but I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho: Not a fan though
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill: Um…no and no and hell no! [I second that]
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie: Hey if you’re really pressed for cash but need pie…
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor (Contrary to what my grandmother will tell you, I don’t like lobster – but I won’t tell her that)
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

And I’m guessing there are others I wouldn’t eat on this list, if I’d taken the time to google search, but the boy is up and I’m pressing publish already! But, for the record, I’ve had 26 out of 100 on the list and I’m thinking that’s not too bad…