Monday, January 31, 2011

Menu Monday: Mini Meatloaves with Sauteed Garlic Brussels Sprouts

A while back, my friend Chelsi started "Menu Mondays" on her blog and I thought it was a great way to not only share recipes, but also keep track of menus and ideas. So I'm stealing her idea. Thanks Chels!

I think the best way to work this post (for me anyway) is to share one meal recipe, and then include a list of what I plan to cook for the week. If anything on my menu looks appealing to you, let me know and I can make it a future Menu Monday feature.

I will always do my best to share where I got my recipes, but just know ahead of time that my three favorite places to look are: AllRecipes.com, My Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, and my Sister-in-Law Diana. She actually gave me a binder full of her favorite recipes a few years back so you know I will be busting those out :-)

So...this week's meal is Mini Meatloaves with Sauteed Garlic Brussels Sprouts.

What you will need for the Brussels Sprouts:

* 15 sprouts, halved lengthwise
* 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
* 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
*3 cloves garlic, crushed
* Freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)
* Salt and pepper

Step One: Melt butter and olive oil in a medium skillet (over medium-high heat) until butter is foamy.

Step Two: Reduce heat to medium, add smashed garlic and cook until lightly browned.

Step Three: Add sprouts cut side down, cover, and cook without stirring on medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes or until tender. They should look like this in the pan...


The cut side of the sprouts should get nice and browned...


You can then toss with fresh parmesan cheese if you like (I have had these with and without the cheese and it is delicious both ways).

Now for the meatloaf. Here is what you will need:

* 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
* onion, chopped
* 1 egg, beaten
* 2 8oz cans tomato sauce
* 1 cup soft bread crumbs
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
* 2 tablespoons dried parsley
* 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Step One: Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Step Two: Prepare topping by combining the last three ingredients (plus one of the 8oz cans of tomato sauce). Your sauce should look something like this...


Step Three: Combine all other ingredients. {RawMeatPhobia Tip} Because fondling raw meat makes me want to puke in my mouth, I found that using rubber gloves helps my gag reflex :)

Step Four: Form mixture into 8 mini meatloaves (using a mini bread pan works great but you can also use a 13x9 baking pan) and bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes. DO NOT use the topping yet.

Step Five: When time is up, drain any excess fat and cover each loaf with topping. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes.

Your mini meatloaves should come out looking something like this...


I also whipped up some potatoes to go with this meal and it was DELICIOUS!! You have to love meatloaf and brussels sprouts to enjoy this dish, but before you say, "My kids or husband will NEVER eat this", just know that mine did. And they are all SUPER picky :-) Let me know if you try it!

Before I go, I promised to share my menu for the week. Let me know if anything strikes your fancy :-)

Monday: Cheddar Dogs with Sweet Potato Fries
Tuesday: Beef Stew with Bread and Herb Butter Spread
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Parm Crusted Tilapia with Rice and Veggies
Friday: Pizza!!
Saturday: Already have dinner plans :-)
Sunday: Taco pie

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Damn You Dexter!

One of the reasons I am always reluctant to get into a new TV series is because I barely have time to watch the shows I am into now. Thank goodness for DVR...it is one of the best inventions ever.

But when Eric's buddy lent him Season 1 of Dexter a few weeks ago, I caved and decided to watch a few episodes with him. And that's all it took. Two episodes and I was hooked. We stayed up WAY too late, WAY too many nights in a row so I was actually relieved when the first season was over.

But on Friday, Eric came home with Seasons 2, 3 AND 4 from his friend. So can you guess what we did ALL weekend while the kids slept?


That's right friends. We are now on Season 3 and I am seriously tempted to just stay up all night watching it so that I can get it over with. Haha!!! If you haven't caught an episode of this show...you are seriously missing out.

Great writing. Great characters. Great storylines. And to be honest, Eric is pretty excited that I am loving this series because he was getting a little tired of vampires :-)

So...what did all of you do this weekend?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Birthday Party Playdate

Yesterday, our neighbor's grandson Ryan turned 2!!


Sue and Jack babysit Ryan every Friday and they really wanted to make his day special. So, they invited Addie and Blake and I over for some cupcakes. Knowing how much Ryan LOVES the bouncy house we have in our basement, I asked if they would rather come to our house for jumping first! So the kids spent the first half of our birthday playdate jumping themselves silly. But when the cupcakes started calling, Blake was the first one up the stairs...


And after Grandma Sue lit the candles...


Addie got to sing her FAVORITE song, "Happy Booday"...


But since she is tone deaf like her mother...I am sure Ryan's wish was for her to stop singing. Haha!


Grandpa Jack and Addie are buddies. Whenever we see Jack in the driveway, Addie has to run over and say hello. So I am sure it came as no surprise that she would insist on sitting next to him...


The girl loves her cupcakes...


And from the looks of it...so does the birthday boy :-)


Now THAT'S how you eat a cupcake :-)


Last minute playdate parties are the best and now that Ryan has discovered that we keep the bouncy up in the basement all the time...I am sure he will be over a lot more.

Happy Birthday Ryan!! Hope you had a great day!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Eco-Friendly Friday: Make 6 BIG Changes This Year for Under $30

It's the end of January, which means we have all had a solid month to make good on our New Years Resolutions. How are all of you doing?

I read a list of Top 10 Resolutions for 2011 and can you guess what was on it? GOING GREEN! I am happy to see that it is making everyone's list this year. I know it can be overwhelming (and expensive) to get started but since January is also the month for retail sales and clearance...now is the time to make good on your resolution.

Reuseit.com is having their FABULOUS inventory clearance sale and some of these prices are unbeatable!!! What if I told you that you could make not one...not two...not even three...but SIX huge steps in going green this year? And what if I told you could make these 6 changes for under $30?! Would it make you commit to your resolution? If so...then you are in luck!

Here is a quick list of 6 must-have items to help your start your own reusable inventory.

First up...Klean Kanteens, which can run close to $20 regularly, are now on sale for $10.95!


Replacing disposable water bottles is probably one of the biggest changes you can make, along with replacing disposable shopping bags.

These fabulous Recycled Fabric Reuseit Workhorse bags are marked down from $10.95 to only $3.95!!!


And while you are replacing disposable shopping bags, why not replace your produce bags as well?

These Reusable Cotton Produce Bags are only $1.50!!!


I know changing your grocery shopping habits is a big step, but why not keep going and change your lunch routine as well!!

Your first step is getting an insulated, reusable lunch bag. This Reuseit Brand Lunch Bag is marked down from $15.95 to only $5.95!!!


And if you are going to replace your lunch bag, it only makes sense that you replace your snack bags too. These adorable Reusies Snack Bags are just $6.95!


I debated whether or not to include this To-Go Ware Bamboo Flatware set, considering reusable flatware is already a part of our everyday lives (at home anyway). But did you know that an estimated 40 BILLION use-and-toss utensils are thrown away every year? Isn't that the most ridiculous thing you have ever read? And to think that stopping this problem is as simple as throwing your own set of flatware in your lunch bag every day. So that, my friends, is why I am including this set on my list. Plus, at only $5.95 a set...you can afford to get one for every member in your family :-)


I know that finding reusable items is easy these days. EVERYONE is trying to get on the green bandwagon. But just remember how important it is find quality reusables. I am sure you have all seen some reports lately about led being found in reusable bags. You can take comfort in knowing that Reusit.com doesn't sell any of the bags on this list. In fact, most of them are the cheap reusables you find in dollar bins at some of your favorite stores. So beware friends...

Well...I hope this list helped everyone! I would love to know if any of you have "Going Green" on your New Years Resolution list. What changes do you plan to make? What have you already started doing?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

From Kitchen Catch-all to Organization Station

My refrigerator use to be the kitchen catch-all. Pictures, notepads, lists, random magnets, birthday party invitations, etc. I took care of some of my clutter a few months ago when my mom made me a fabric message board. That took care of pictures and invitations, but I still needed to make sense of the space. So...I decided it would be the perfect spot for my weekly calendar. You know...once I could decide on one :-)

Eric could not understand why I was stressing so much over a calendar but what I tried to explain to him is that the reason I am perpetually disorganized is because I haven't found the right system and routine to meet our needs. When I carried a paper calendar...their wasn't an issue. I was ALWAYS organized and on top of things. But ever since I became a SAHM, I have needed something more mom/family friendly.

Well friends...I think I have it!!! I was a hop, skip and a click away from ordering the dry erase calendar tile from Pottery Barn (for $35)...

But then...on a random whim...I went down the office supply isle in Target. I SWEAR I have looked down this isle before and didn't find anything I liked. But then...staring right at me was Target's version of the tile organizing system!!!! They had plain dry erase tiles, a calendar tile, a chalkboard tile and a corkboard tile. The best part...they were only $8.99!!! I heart you Target :)

So I opted for the calendar tile and one (red) dry erase tile...


I know the whole point of this mission was to find a weekly calendar, but after some additional brainstorming, I realized I can still find more room to write elsewhere. Plus, by using the month-at-glance version, Eric and I can see everything we have going on, instead of having to look on our computer or phones. I decided to color code everything as well to make it easier to see and understand. I even made a handy little key for Eric at the bottom :-)


Now, two of the reasons I wanted a weekly calendar was to have more room for menu planning and to-do items. So...I bought this plain dry erase tile to cover both of those things. As you can see, there is plenty of room for my menu/grocery planner and our individual to-do lists. I thought it would be nice to be able to jot things down for each other when need be. You know...like the last bullet point I put on Eric's list. Ha!


I am sure you are all wondering what happened to that cute little menu planner I made out of a picture frame and as of right now...it is back in the basement. I had it hanging on the fridge and when I was cooking dinner the other night, I tripped over Howie and bumped into it with my shoulder. The magnets weren't strong enough to hold it and it dropped to the floor. Luckily, the glass did not break, but it made me realize that this might not be the place for an easily breakable item :-)

So, I went in search of a printable menu planner and I actually came across this SUPER cute weekly menu/grocery planning pad from Momagenda...


As you can see, you write the menu on the left, and then there is a tear-off grocery list on the right. AWESOME idea in my opinion. That way, as I plan the menu for the week, I can also jot down the groceries I need and then tear it off when it is time to head to the store. Smart thinkin huh?

So here is the final product...my clean, ORGANIZED refrigerator door...


Ahh...it feels so good :) Now if we can all just stay organized...we will be in good shape!

Next up:Time to organize my recipes!! Anyone have any great suggestions or organizational tips for organizing recipes? I have books, hand-written cards, magazine tear-outs, internet print-outs, etc. I need a system that works so I can find what I am looking for when I need it. I will be on the hunt but all tips and advice are much appreciated :-)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gone Scrapping

Sorry for the lack of post tonight friends! I got a little caught up in my new obsession. I guess this isn't the worst thing to be obsessed with right now, especially since I managed to scrapbook almost 20 PAGES tonight! But it does take all of my concentration which means that when I wrap up for the night, I am left with very little creativity :-)

I have been scrapping two different places tonight. I started in Picasa (my new love) and made about 10 pages. These are two of my favorites...



While I was on a search for some free digital scrapbook paper, I stopped over at my other favorite scrapbooking site, ScrapBlog. I have talked about ScrapBlog before because it is where I usually make all of my invitations, blog headers, etc. I have been using this site for several years so as you can imagine, I have built up quite a bit of "stock". Problem is...the papers and embellishments you use on ScrapBlog can only be used on their site. You can't transfer them to Photoshop, Picasa, etc. So...I have never really done much actual scrapbooking with them.

However, I received a notice today that ScrapBlog is merging with a new company (that looks very similar to a Snapfish or Shutterfly) and unfortunately, ALL of the papers and embelishments I have purchased over the years will NOT BE TRANSFERED!!!

Now, it's not like I have a fortune invested in this site, but I am really upset that I will no longer be able to use all of my cute stuff. So in exchange for the inconvenience, they are offering their customers free high-quality image downloads for all scrap pages you make so that you can have them printed or save them on your computer. I have been working like a mad woman tonight because the site will be changing on FEBRUARY 1st!!! That leaves me very little time to use my stock so I wanted to make use of my night. Here are a few of my favorite pages so far...






I am SO HAPPY with how these pages turned out! I really wish I would have done more scrapbooking on ScrapBlog over the past few years, especially considering how easy their site was to use, but I have always been a traditional scrapbooker and it was hard to make the change. Oh well...at least this gives me motivation to get a LOT done in the next week :-)

I hope you all had a great, productive night too!

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Day With My Ballerinas...

If you ask Addie what we do on Mondays, she will smile and shout at the top of her lungs "DANCE CLASS!!!". I just love that my little ballerina loves to dance. She isn't shy about showing people her moves and I just hope she keeps that same enthusiasm come recital time :)

The girls have already started preparing for their recital and it is really pretty sweet. They will be dancing to The Teddy Bear song and they will all get a matching teddy bear to go with their recital costume. They've been asked to bring one of their own bears to class each week so they can practice. Today, Addie decided to bring her favorite build-a-bear named "Co Co"...


It was so cute watching all the girls file in with their bears today, I had to take a picture :)


Once a month, my SIL Dana has to work on a Monday which means that Nia gets to ride with us to dance class! Addie loves the days that we get to take Nia because they can chit-chat the whole way their. Well today was extra special because we had Nia come home with us after class! I told Addie that if they were good...we could get "Old McDonald's" for lunch. Do you think she was excited?


The girls must have worked pretty hard in class because they ate like little piggies. Although, that's pretty much how I scarf down McDonald's fries too :-)


My cousin Jill, A.K.A. Super Nanny, stayed to watch Blake today while I took the girls to class. And after a yummy fattening lunch, she lounged on the couch with the girls :-)


I knew that naptime was pretty much out of the question today, since the girls can never seem to settle down when they are around each other. But when they both asked to get into their jammies and lay in Addie's bed...I was all for it!!!!


And they were quiet in bed for a good 25 minutes. I thought, "Could this really be happening? Could they both be asleep?" 5 minutes later, just as I was walking down to check on them, I heard giggling. Turns out they weren't sleeping...they were in mid tickle fight...


So we gave up the nap idea and busted out the Play-Doh...


And some books...


And before we knew it...it was time for Nia to head home. They gave each other a HUGE hug...


And Nia asked if she could come over every day.

Nia Beans...I would have you over every single day peanut. I love you to pieces :-) Hope you had as much fun as Addie and Blake and I did!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bears & Beakers

I was hoping I would get to write this really fun post about the Chicago Bears going to the Super Bowl but if you watched the Bears vs. Packers game today...you know that the Bears are in fact NOT going to the Super Bowl :-(

But hey...there's always next year right? We did get to enjoy the game with my in-laws today and even though the kids were all stylin in their Bears gear...



They could honestly care less about the game. Blake was way too busy playing with Papa Steve...


And Addie was too busy watching Tinkerbell on my phone. Doesn't she already look like that bored-to-death teenager that is too cool family parties?


The kids all had a lot of fun tonight and because they burned an insane amount of energy at Mima and Papa's house...they are currently passed out.

And speaking of burning energy...Blake has been a busy little guy this week. Just last Sunday, I posted about how he took his very first steps. Well, he has been practicing all week and he is finally starting to get this whole walking thing down!!

Yesterday, Aunt Tara sent Blake a little present in the mail. As I said a few posts ago, we all call Blake "Beak (or Beek)" because that is how Addie always pronounced his name. BUT...we also gave Blake this nickname based on the little squeaking sounds he would make as a newborn. If you have ever watched The Muppets, then I am sure you know this guy...



This is Beaker and although he is not NEAR as adorable as my little Beak, Aunt Tara thought it would be a fun, silly little present to send him. I had to call Tara the minute I got it in the mail because when we gave Blake his nickname, I went in search of a plush Beaker and had no luck finding one! So this was a treat for Blake...AND me!!

THANK YOU Aunt Tara!! Blake loves his new toy, as you can see from this picture of him whipping it around...


And we even used it to give Blake motivation to walk for the camera tonight!!

I don't know what it is about kids not wanting to perform for the camera, but I have found that if you distract them with new stuffed animals and bouncy balls (that they can whip at Nana's head)...they forget about the camera and finally do what you ask them to do. Sort of...


Sorry once again for my totally obnoxious voice. I find it helps to turn the sound off when you watch :-)

I really wanted to make sure I had this moment on video because first steps are so precious. I love how they all look like Frankenstein toddling around with their arms out. I was hoping to catch Blake clapping for himself, which he has been doing ALL week! But that will have to be for another video :-)

So...how was everyone else's weekend?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Weekly Calendar Ideas: Part 2

After WAY too much searching on the internet, I have found several super cute ideas for weekly calendars that I just can't decide between.

I first found these adorable Days of the Week Magnets on Etsy...


I have so many cute notepads, I thought this might be a great way to organize my week. I can just jot down info on notebook pages and then stick them under the day magnet. I thought this might also be neat if you had a form or other loose paper that was for a particular day. I also like the addition of a "Menu" and "Do Not Forget" magnet :-)

Another great weekly option (that my friend Amy told me to look into) is this Style Tile System from Pottery Barn Teen...


The size of the dry erase week calendar is PERFECT for my space in the kitchen, and I love that it is simple and clean...that way I can spice it up with different color markers.

The dry erase calendar is certainly a more eco-friendly option (especially since you can get refillable dry erase markers from Reuseit.com), but I do love me a cute notepad. I saw this weekly calendar pad on Etsy and just had to include it in my list...


As I was googling DIY calendars, I came across countless sites that had how-to instructions for making your own dry erase board out of an old picture frame. I thought this was a SUPER cute idea, even if it was just for a weekly menu board. I have a TON of scrapbook supplies in my basement, along with a ridiculous amount of old picture frames that I can't part with...so I decided to whip something up to see how it worked. This picture isn't the best because I used my phone, but here is how my weekly menu planner turned out...


Obviously, you can get a lot more creative and thanks to my friend Chelsi's suggestions, I thought it might be fun to actually make seasonal menu planners. I just found some cute Valentine's Day paper and I might just have to make one for February :-)

I am not sure if a picture frame dry erase board will do the trick for my weekly schedule, but I am going to play around with some ideas this weekend and I will be sure to post my (hopefully) organized refrigerator door on Sunday. That is after we all watch the Bears kick the Packers booties. Ha!

Happy Friday Everyone!!!