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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Leftovers Idea : Tomato Bisque & Chicken Bacon Panini's


Ina once said, the difference between making money in the food business and losing money is the ability to transform leftovers into something fabulous.  While I no longer run a food business, I do run a household and I hate the idea of being wasteful with our time and money.  I run out of dinner making/grocery store steam mid-week, so I'd like to start incorporating an easy, no trip to the grocery store dinner.

This Leftovers Idea was actually delicious - and we plan on incorporating it into our rotation on a regular basis.  Emma loves soup, Mike loves bacon and I love melted cheese.  Everyone was happy.  I started with some tomato sauce leftover from Sunday's dinner, then added a bit of chicken stock, cream and fresh basil.  Easy. 

For the panini, I used leftover garlic bread, sliced grilled chicken from another dinner (I often throw it in the freezer when we grill out), bacon (leftover from BLTs) and a variety of cheese from the cheese drawer.  I don't have a panini press, so I used the heavy weight of a couple of pots and pans - worked great. 


This is how I determined what would go on the sandwich... whatever I could find!  I sliced the baguette into thin slices to make it easier to grill. 



Adding cream to the soup - about 1/4 cup to about 4 cups of soup.


Buttered and...


Pressed.

Look how flat and panini-like.


Really satisfying and so simple. 



You can see, I made Emma mini grilled cheese dippers and chunks of chicken instead of putting it on the sandwich to make it easier to eat.  Of course, she spotted our bacon and needed some of that, too.

What are your favorite dinners that came from being creative with leftovers? 

Monday, August 18, 2014

This Week's Menu | Emma's Back to School ; (

Right now I'm feeling very love/hate towards Back to School.  I love the rhythms of routine that go along with the school year - my walk with Mr. Darcy in the morning, off to school for Emma, work for Mike and me, then to the grocery store with Emma when I pick her up in the early afternoon, we take a walk around the neighborhood, then we make dinner.  I love that little routine of ours.

What I'm hating right now was dropping her off at her first day in the big kid classroom.  She was so brave and sweet with a little hint of timidness when we dropped her off this morning.  I am so proud of the brave, big girl she has become, but heartbroken at the same time.  She seems so grown up as she showed off her new backpack to her teachers and then held their hand as she set off to explore the new classroom.

In her old room (the "Two's & Toddlers" room) she had gotten so comfortable and would bounce around the second she entered.  This day felt different.  She was so putting on such a strong, brave face even though I could feel her little nerves as she entered.  She was in control of her fears, and she was calm.  When did my little girl transform into this lovely little tiny lady? 

Like all working Mom's I struggle with the decision to work.  I'm very fortunate that I get to be a little of both - I work from home for 20 hours a week divided over a couple of days, then get to be a stay-at-home mom the rest of the time. I love having Emma here at home with me while we keep the house, piddle in the kitchen, run our errands and go exploring outside.  But there is a part of me that needs to work, too.  I'm a worker bee - it is the way I'm built.







I've come to terms with the fact that I'm best as a Mom and Wife when I have that couple of days a week to work, let my brain focus and be creative.  Of course, there is always a part of me that feels a bit guilty for loving what I do so much, but at the end of the day, I hope Emma finds a passion that can be as fulfilling for her, too.  I'm so grateful that I have the best of both worlds, but I'm very much missing my Emma this morning.

Our summer break has given me a chance to reflect on what I do here and given me some new perspective and inspiration.  I'm attempting to be more organized in all aspects of my life - on here and at home.  One thing that is always a priority for us as a family is dinner time every night.  Every single night we sit down together as a family and eat at the dinner table.


Because I've never been very organized about meal planning, we go to the store almost every day.  It is my goal to be more efficient with our errands, so I'm going to try to shop for a couple of days at a time so our afternoons are more open.  I'm also planning to incorporate one night of leftovers transformed into a new dinner.  I think this is a really smart way to be efficient with our time and money... after all, each night that I don't have to buy something for dinner is about a savings of $25-30, adding up to more than $100 a month with really no sacrifice at all.



I also am conscious that we have leftover options for lunches the next day for Mike and me.  Mike likes to workout over lunch, so if he can take something with him to the office, he earns an extra 30 minutes in his day if he doesn't have to stop for lunch. 

I'm going to focus on sharing more recipes and home projects here this Fall.  You can expect to see at least 2 recipes each week, along with a home project (mostly inspiration boards and construction updates... slated to start in 1 month!).  Once a week I'll share a product update for the Store - the new Fall Collection is coming out this Thursday.



I'm also planning to share our weekly meal plans here every Sunday so you can use our plan as inspiration for your own (of course, I'm already a day late this week!).  I'd love to hear more about how you organize your family's meal planning, too.  Right now I'm looking for lots of inspiration for make-ahead meals and ways to reuse leftovers.  Please share your favorites!

This Week's Menu :


Sunday : "The" Spaghetti Sauce & Homemade Meatballs with Italian Restaurant Salad and Easy "Homemade" Garlic Bread

Last week I shared our new favorite tomato sauce - the best, and simplest sauce you'll ever try.  This is a Sunday night staple at our house (or something equally as comforting like Pot Roast or Roasted Chicken).  I also love making this on a Sunday because leftover meatballs + garlic bread turn into meatball sandwiches for Mike's lunch. 



Monday : Meyer Lemon Chicken with Basil Mashed Potatoes

This is one of my all time favorites.  You can grill the chicken and serve with veggies if you're in the mood for a lighter/fresher dinner, too.  I make sure to prepare extra chicken to use for the Bacon & Chicken Panini's the next night.



Tuesday : Leftovers Night : Tomato Bisque and Bacon Chicken Panini's

Recipe to come tomorrow!  I use the left over Tomato Sauce to make tomato bisque by adding chicken stock and cream, then bringing it to a simmer.  We always have bacon and cheese, so this is something that I can make almost any night of the week.



Wednesday :  Mike's Favorite Meatloaf, Chive Mashed Potatoes & Roasted Carrots with Salted Caramel Apple Pie

Wednesday is one of my days home with Emma so we like to make a big meal and dessert that we can work on all day.  We use the Barefoot Contessa's Meatloaf recipe as a base, but I've made a couple of revisions that make it easier.  I'll share our version later this week... and that Apple Pie!


Thursday : Tessa's Tacos

We've always loved shredded beef tacos at our house, but now we have a new favorite that Tessa shared a couple of weeks ago.  It is called Korean Beef Tacos with a Mango & Cilantro Slaw.  Sooo good. 

Friday : Pizza Night

We go out almost every Friday night - usually to the pool for dinner, or something easy and family friendly. 

Saturday : Parade & Carnival in Lexington

This weekend we're headed back home to Lexington for the Heritage Days Festival!  Emma can't wait to see her cousins and go to Moo-Moo's Carnival.
............


Just writing this post and planning our week has eased my heartache just a little from this morning.  I'm planning to spend the rest of the morning finishing packaging products for the big unveiling of the new Fall Collection and organizing the new craft station I made out of cabinetry this weekend - can't wait to share photos later this week. 

Happy Monday,
Jenny



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Our Favorite Spaghetti Sauce & "Homemade" Garlic Bread



Is it just me or did something change in the air this week.  Every year about this time the smell of the air gives me the most nostalgic feeling of Back-to-School.  Emma's school has not resumed yet and we're relishing our last lazy days of summer.  Mike gave me a little break and took her to the park this morning so I could have an hour on the computer to get some thoughts out... secretly, I think he just wanted to be outside on this almost fall 60 degree morning.

One of my goals for our break was to do some freezer cooking to prepare for a busy Fall season.  With new products coming out next week, then jumping into Halloween, Thanksgiving and Holiday collections soon after, the fall is looking to be busy.  I don't want our family mealtime to be sacrificed, so I have been stocking the freezer.  Once a week we have Spaghetti and Meatballs, my all time favorite comfort dinner.  We usually have "Spaghetti Sunday" and let the sauce simmer all day, make homemade meatballs (which are much easier than you think), garlic bread (recipe below) and stuff ourselves silly.



We had a favorite Tomato Sauce that I used for years, always tweaking it and making little changes... until one day Tessa (nineandsixteen.blogspot.com) shared a recipe that seemed so intriguing, I had to try it.  The recipe is all over the internet, most of you have probably heard of it - Marcella's Sauce.  The name had an even more special name to me because in our family our Granny's (also a Marcella) Spaghetti Sauce is something that everyone loves - and still makes.  This sauce reminded me so much of her famed sauce.  



It is so easy, you'll never believe it.  I've shared it with many friends, but have never posted it here and have many requests to do so since I rave about it all of the time.  It has become our go-to sauce, not because it is easy, but because it is the best tomato sauce I've ever had.  We now just refer to it as The Sauce.




Marcella's Tomato Sauce
The Sauce  

1 28-ounce can of Whole Peeled Tomatoes (san marzano are the best quality) 
1 white onion, peeled and cut in half
5 tablespoons of butter

In a medium sauce pot, add all ingredients.  Simmer for 40 minutes.  With a wooden spoon, break up whole tomatoes.  No seasoning, herbs or a little of this or that needed.  

Serve with spaghetti, meatballs (here is my very easy recipe for Homemade Meatballs) and real parmesan cheese.


If you've followed this blog for a while then you know I have a love for frozen store-bought bread dough.  I watched the new Barefoot Contessa episode the other day and she made homemade bread with her friend, Eli.  I instantly craved the smell of fresh baked bread... well, if you know anything about bread baking, there is no "instant" about it.   Unless...


...you use frozen dough.  Instead of a classic loaf of bread, we used the dough to create a crusty baguette style loaf by stretching it long and twisting it.  Emma helped me by brushing it with an egg wash, then sprinkling on Garlic Salt.  


Such a good helper.  I always let her do the fun messy stuff, of course.


Here she is telling one of her elaborate stories.  The hand gestures are my favorite parts of her stories usually starting with, "Long, Long ago... "


"Homemade"
Garlic Bread

1 loaf of frozen bread dough (I use Rhodes, found in most stores)
flour
egg wash (1 egg beaten with water)
1 tablespoon of garlic salt

Let the dough thaw according to directions on package.  We usually defrost ours in the microwave for about a minute or two, then let it sit on the counter, covered with plastic for a couple of hours. 

The dough will be slightly puffy when ready to shape into the baguette.  Stretch it and twist it to fit on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Brush it with the egg wash, then sprinkle with garlic salt.

Let rise for 1 more hour until slightly puffed.  Bake at 450 degrees for 10-14 minutes until golden.


Dough has risen slightly, here, and is ready for the oven.


Crusty and soft in the middle!


Golden brown with a delicious garlicy salt crust.

In case you haven't seen my "Homemade" Cinnamon Rolls recipe, you must stop here next!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The View from Where I Sit | Our Summer "Break"


I'm sorry I've been gone for a little while - almost two weeks now.  In reality, I haven't been far.  I've just taken a little break.  We haven't been on a lavish vacation (unless you count vacation bible school...?), and we haven't been doing that much.  And it has been perfect.  Emma's been on school break for the last couple of weeks, with a couple of more to go.  While we've been in a sort of "summer" mode for most of summer (pool, early walks, donut breakfasts, golf, tennis, lounging, etc.) there has still been work and we haven't had a real break until now.



When Emma was just two(ish) months old, I did a post about "The View from Where I Sit"- it was just a snapshot of what a normal day looked like to us at that point in our life.  A newborn baby, puppy and cozy house.  It was beautiful - snuggle moments, our bulletin board of cards and photos, Emma taking a nap, Darcy taking a nap...  The only way it would've been better is if I were actually taking a nap, too ;)   For the last two weeks I've taken a nap almost every day.  You really do learn more about being a Mom as time goes by.



Documenting these "everydays" was something I was going to try to do more often for the blog, because I love taking a moment to stop and appreciate the everyday, the beautiful pauses between the big moments that make up a "normal" day.  It probably comes to no surprise given the name of this blog, that I love "normal" days - everydays

Her favorite spot in the kitchen.
I love routine, being at home, keeping a home and the rhythms of everyday.  I think it is just as important to document those times in our lives as I do the big moments.  After all, it is these normal, everyday moments that actually make up our lives. 

Just like most (all?) of you, I have my everyday moments of frustrations, too.  Sometimes I think if I have to pick up one more puzzle, clean crumbs out of my sheets again or sweep up another spilled bowl of dog food I might go bonkers.  Taking a second to browse around the house with my camera and document these moments of "messes" adds perspective and beauty to these un-produced moments that make up our everydays. 

Welcome to our home any given day of the week.


If you've lived with a toddler, you know that floors are rarely tidy, and laundry is rarely put away.


 Watercolors on the mantle... hopefully to be framed for Emma's room this week.


Has been on my list all summer, of course.  I sort of like them here, though, for now.  Little easy displays like this are good reminders not to take our home, our things or our "displays" too seriously.
 

Test burning a new custom candle scent for the store.  I'm obsessed - you'll love it.


New backpack and lunch box ready for school!

 

By the time I get up the stairs...


Layers of frames and loose snapshots. 


We've never really officially settled in here, with the impending construction starting next month, so nothing really has a place that has been contemplated - mostly just where everything ends up it stays.  The silhouette?  Also to be framed this week. 


I stumbled upon some Pixie Dust in the guest room...


Smiling Emma is enjoying crumbing my bed : )


Our evening reading materials.


Sweet little summer shoes.


 Did I mention we're potty training? 

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