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August 19, 2019

Dinner Ideas for This Week | Organizing for Weeknight Meals


Family Dinner Season is back.  You know this is my favorite part of Back to School... besides getting back to work again : )   I'm embracing the back to routine enthusiasm that comes this time of year - easy meal plans, grocery lists, and simple weeknight table settings to create that evening magic of sitting down together.  

We actually do sit at this table for dinner most nights.  We don't really sit at the island for dinner, though it seems like an easy option, it is actually easier to talk when we're at the table.  So we are usually here, with real cloth napkins, and something pretty in the middle of the table.  I know, it seems like a big ta-do to put on every night, but when it is your routine, it really isn't.  I always have a pitcher of flowers, or a bowl of apples, or something simple sitting on the table that doesn't take a lot of maintenance.  And, well, I own a table linen company (wink), so we have enough cloth napkins to last us a month (or a year!) without laundering them too often.  Emma sets the table, I make the dinner and Mike gets home at about 6:30 and we all get to enjoy each others company for at least 30 minutes each day.  Though it might seem fancy, it really isn't.  It is casual and comfortable because we're so used to our routine.

We play little games to keep the conversation going, like Rose & Thorn, where we share about our day.  It was something I learned in college, but we called it Highs & Lows.  We go around the table and tell the best (The Roses) and worst (The Thorns) parts of our day.  I love it the most because we usually laugh so hard about the "Thorns," though they are what frustrated us most when it was happening.  They become a shared "look at what that crazy world threw at me today" moment that seems silly in the comfort of our little dining table.  

My original love for Family Dinner Inspiration Post here >

For recipes, I try to plan variety, leftovers for lunch the next day, a nutritious mix (not all Mac and Cheese and Pasta, though that's what I love), and things that can be made in around 30 minutes.  I've included my personal favorites below along with some essentials I keep in my kitchen to make it all easier.

I would love to know your weeknight meal strategies and family favorites.  We're all in this together and I always appreciate fresh inspiration : )



*I'll be making individual Chicken Pot Pies tonight, per Emma's Request. I'll share a photo of them later this week.  It is how I usually make them.







Bacon, Eggs, Tomato, Carrots and homemade "Ranch"



I make a big batch of meatballs once a month and use them for so many quick meals during the week.  Here is my meatball recipe, though it is also included in the links above.






This is an old post I wrote and might give you some insight to how we got in the habit of daily family dinners.  Not that it is too late for you to start now : )



All time favorite.  I just the soup gun on this one and will add this to our rotation early in September.  



We make big batches of tomato soup to keep in the freezer, but there are so many good ones in jars now - gourmet tomato bisque that is just as good.  Nothing better than a grilled cheese and soup.  I serve it with Rainbow Soup, too, to add some indulgence to an otherwise very (too?) healthy meal.  


Organizing for Weekday Dinners

Staying organized is essential for being able to easily execute dinner every night.  I haven't tried grocery delivery services yet, but might start when our busy fall and holiday work schedule picks up.  For now, I really like going to the grocery store a couple of times a week.


I make my list on my Grocery Tablets (photo below) that I keep running throughout the week.  If I am really organized, I remember to bring my Tote Bags - and always feel very put together when I do : )




I use this tablet to get an idea what the week looks like.  I plan for dinners, after school activities and my work day.  It helps me to find breathing room in our schedule and helps me plan for what nights to eat at home and what nights we'll eat out.



Almost ever one of my recipes uses sheet pans and parchment paper.  It makes a world of difference in cleanup and it is naturally non-stick.  Everyone that has tried them says they're a game changer for them.  Even my brother is obsessed!

If I am eve stumped on a vegetable side dish - I throw whatever we have in the fridge (broccoli, carrots, potatoes...) on a sheet pan and drizzle it with olive oil and salt.  Seems to always turn out great.  



Do you know what the best part of these is?  They all use the same lid!  And they aren't too precious (18 for $8).  I use them for organizing my pantry (chocolate chips, nuts, sprinkles...), for leftovers, and for freezing everything.

 


We love these at restaurants, why not at home?  I like to box up lunch for Mike in the boxes, or sometimes we'll take a picnic dinner.  The Soup To-Gos are great for individual servings of soup or chili.  I've even scooped ice cream in them, then put them back in the freezer to get out for parties (isn't it so annoying to scoop ice cream in the middle of a party?!).  I put out toppings and everyone makes their own sundaes in their own prepackaged cup. 


Again, I would love to hear your favorite family recipes and your strategies for make it all happen.  I hope you are all having a great start to this new season : )







August 16, 2019

Salted Caramel Brownies | Baking Basket Gift



When we were in England, we stop at a country store that had gorgeous house packaging and baked goods.  I spotted these Baking Baskets that I had carried years ago as an essential, but sort of fell out of the habit of using.  I had mostly used them for baking homemade breads and cinnamon rolls.  They had a new size that was more like a shallow baking dish with Salted Caramel Brownies.  Now that is something I could get in the habit of!  



I used a Large Cello Bag to hold the basket, then taped it closed underneath.   I wrapped the entire thing in Satin Ribbon and included a tag.




This is just my favorite combination of things - a comforting classic, unpretentious treat wrapped in a way that makes it special.  I believe this is what the Barefoot Contessa would call "Hi/Lo."


I used a boxed brown mix - the entire batch goes into one pan.  I used a jar of "hot" caramel sauce.  The Smuckers "hot" caramel sauce is very thick and needs to be heated to be liquid.  This is the kind you want so that it stays goey instead of runny.  I found it at our very basic grocery store with the ice cream toppings.


Drizzle the caramel first, then the salt.
Then I generously sprinkled coarse sea salt all over.  I used Maldon Sea Salt, but any kind will do.

Follow the baking directions on the box or recipe you are using.


I also made some Banana Bread to give as gifts for the new school year in the Medium Loaf Size (here).  One batch of this recipe made two loafs.  One to give and one to enjoy/put in the freezer.

Banana Bread Recipe (the recipe is muffins, but is the same for a loaf)

Supplies Used : 


The Hydrangea Collection | Pillows, Windowpane Plaid, New Candles, Ribbons, Baskets & Rustic Pot


I'm always reluctant for summer to come to an end.  Kind of.  At the end of May when the whole summer is stretched out in front of us, there is no better feeling.  Lazy mornings, afternoon adventures, pool playdates, weekend trips, staying up late to catch fireflies and night time dips in the pool.  It is all so good.  But after a couple of months of bliss, I get the itch to be productive again.  I miss my creative time spent working, quiet time at home keeping house, and time to miss Emma while she's at school.  


These days of elementary school are so so sweet.  The routines of their days, little playground friendships and whole heart excitement give me so many feels.  I have never been a parent that wanted time to stand still.  When she was a baby, I was always eager for her next step toward independence.  


Now, I am ready to freeze time, please.  I would like to live right here in the world of sweet school days, big after school hugs, family dinners with long stories about her day, dessert and board games in the evenings and a peaceful bedtime while everyone is reading their own books in a quiet sleepy house.  These are the days, as they say.  And, goodness, I don't know if I've ever felt it so true.


I have spent the last week nesting a bit, preparing for this new season.  There is something about summer that seems to welcome excess and anything goes, and now that school is in session, I want everything streamlined, tidy and easy.  


I have been decluttering, cleaning out closets, tidying messy drawers, and getting the kitchen back in shape.  I'll share some of my tips next week.


The big project of the summer that is finally (almost) completed was redecorating our living room.  This collection was really all about the finishing touches.  While I will continue to decorate this room seasonally with new pillows and accents (I can't help myself), I really wanted to come up with a base scheme that felt polished and seasonless. 





I love this combination so much.  Do you remember that I first released this design for the Holidays?  Then again in spring and now in fall.  I love something that can seem perfect for every season.  




 I found this Windowpane Plaid last spring and knew it'd be just the thing to add some color (but still work with neutrals) to our room that would work season after season.  The natural color of the plaid compliments our velvet sofa and the soft blue field brings out the sky in the ship painting above.  I love when something just works.  I'll share a detailed post about all of the furniture and links to everything soon.



The chest in our Living Room is in constant seasonal rotation.  There are a couple of 'moments' in our home that are like this - the baking counter in the kitchen, the dining table and this spot.  Keeping something fresh or growing in these three spots makes our entire house feel alive.  They are balanced throughout our home, in each corner and give life to each room.


Myrtle, Lemon Cypress & Olive Topiary in Rustic Pots

This season, I've grouped some new topiary potted in various sizes of my Rustic Garden Pots.  I found the topiary at a local garden center in town (Family Tree for locals).  They can be hard to locate - I had to call around a bit to find them.  They require a mist or a watering every couple of days and sun.  This spot is near a sunny window, so we'll see if it is enough or I should move them to the mudroom bench.  

I find grouping anything in a pretty basket on a chest is an easy styling trick.  Since this spot is in constant transition, I've played around with several different options.  I like stacks of books, something tall like big branches or these topiary or a pretty bowl best.



 

Right on the corner of this chest is also a place that I usually have a candle burning in the evening.  Since this is the front room of our home and a space we walk through constantly, it is nice to have it filled with a soft fragrance, especially when we have company.  

We have two new fragrances this season, poured into glass French tumblers.  They are packaged in Kraft boxes with labels, ready for gifting.

Orchard CandleFresh, crisp apple notes combined with soft orange oil and spice that feels like back to school and open windows.

Classic Candle : Soft fig and White Tea, calming and serene.  This is my favorite for morning and evenings and anytime I just want our home to smell lovely.


The kitchen got a little freshened over the summer, too.  I gave our once black Windsor barstools a lift with a coat of putty paint.  I wanted it to match the stone pitcher by our stove that is holding our wooden spoons.  The color was actually a "camouflage" color called khaki... which I guess makes sense since I was looking for a natural color : )  It is a matte paint (I guess you don't want your camo shiny!) so I waited a couple of days, then finished it with a clear satin spray.

Khaki Camo Paint, here >


I really love this look.  I like how they fade into the background now and feel more subtle.  The black, while classic, was a safe choice.  When we were moving into our home four years ago, I was worried about making trendy choices and tried to make the safest, most classic choices.  But, I don't think I'm really a black painted furniture person - never have been.  I love tone-on-tone creaminess and this suits me so well.

I never really showed this view because the black chairs were so dominant.


Always something fresh in a pitcher on the counter.  It seems (and is) so effortless.





I have been majorly bitten by the baking bug lately - all of the treats.  Cookies, cakes, pies, tarts, brownies.  I have so many ideas for fall baking.  I need to pace myself.


When we were in England this summer (more on that next week), I saw some new uses for an old favorite of mine - Baking Baskets.  I carried these for years in the store, then sort of forgot about them.  I had used them mostly for baking homemade bread and had fallen out of the habit.    

They had featured this new size, more of a mini casserole shape, with a batch of brownies.  Drizzled in salted caramel sauce.  So genius.  So easy.  I could just picture it as the perfect "I'll bring dessert" solution to casual parties, or treat to deliver to friends or neighbors.  Laurie had the idea to artfully fill it with cheese and crackers for a hostess gift with a bottle of wine.  I can see it packed with cookies for holiday gifts.  So many options.  

I placed an order for them right then so they'd be waiting at the school house when I got back.

This is a box of brownies (the entire thing) in one basket.  I bought a jar of caramel and drizzled it on top and sprinkled on sea salt before baking.  I'll provide more details in a recipe post later this weekend.

Large Cello Bags (the large fits all sizes of baskets best)




I also made some Banana Bread to give as gifts for the new school year.  This is the Medium Size.  One batch of this recipe made two loafs.  One to give and one to enjoy/put in the freezer.

Banana Bread Recipe (the recipe is muffins, but is the same for a loaf)




I also made this Peach & Blackberry Pie.  I made it in our Metal Tart Ring and it turned out beautifully - so much easier to slice into wedges than a typical pie plate.  And look at those pretty fluted edges.  I'll share the recipe next week.




My favorite part of back to school is being around the dinner table again.  






The hearth room is feeling bright and fresh with the slate version of the Hydrangea print.






The Slate Linen trim on this pillow compliments the warm tones of the hydrangea.  I just love it.  The photo reads a bit purple, but in person it is a true grey with blue undertones.  Why are blues so hard to photograph?!


There is nothing better than family birthdays.  I love celebrating at home with heartfelt gifts, a favorite dinner, and homemade cake.  And darling wrapping paper makes everything better.









The final step on our tour, our bedroom.  I've been a white on white bedding person for a while.  It is so clean and easy and classic.  I wasn't even looking for bedding when I came across this.  I guess I have a thing for Windowpane plaid lately...

Windowpane Bedding with Box Pleat Trim in Natural


The Hydrangea Rectangle Pillow with Slate Linen Trim looks so great with bedding and adds some unexpected complimenting color.  I love how cozy it has made our room feel.  I'm sure I'll get the white duvet out again in the spring, but for the autumn and winter months, I love this new look.

Now that school is back in session, I have big plans for new recipes, products and blog posts.  We gathered so much inspiration during the summer and I can't wait to share it all with you as we settle back into our routine.

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