Thursday, January 30, 2014

Salsa Chicken

I love a super easy, very few ingredient, meal. This is one that I have been making for a while. It is a nice go to when I didn't plan ahead, or don't want to go shopping to get supplies for something more elaborate. You can't go wrong with only needing three ingredients, and they are something most people already have at home. It doesn't look pretty, but it is very tasty!

Salsa Chicken
Boneless, skinless Chicken Breast, thawed (However many you need to feed your family)
Shredded Cheese (I use the Mexican blend)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. (Size of baking dish will depend on how many chicken breasts you use)
Place chicken breast in prepared baking dish
Top Chicken with enough salsa to cover each breast
Top with cheese (If you are anything like me, there is no such thing as too much cheese)
Cover baking dish with tin foil and bake for 40 minutes or until the juices from the chicken run clear.

I typically serve with corn or mixed vegetables. Spanish rice is another nice side. I really like how the salsa helps maintain the juiciness of the chicken.


Do you have a favorite quick and easy weeknight meal that is your go-to?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ranch Mac and Cheese

I've been meaning to make this version of Mac and Cheese for almost a week now, but we haven't been home for meals, or Matt has wanted something else, so it got put off. Finally today was the day to make it.
I did not get very good pictures because William decided that he wasn't feeling well and wanted to be held while I started dinner. Luckily I was able to distract him with a banana half way through.

When I first saw this version I figured it would be pretty tasty. I was not expecting the seasonings to do as much as they did to flavor it they way they did. It is a nice, flavorful alternative to the normal mac and cheese, or Kraft Mac and Cheese. You should have most, if not all, of the ingredients already at your house, making this the perfect quick weeknight dinner.

Ranch Mac and Cheese                            8 servings
1 (16 oz) package elbow macaroni
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 envelope dry ranch dressing mix
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp garlic pepper blend
1 tsp lemon pepper
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup shredded Colby cheese
1 cup (8oz) sour cream
1/2 cup crushed saltine crackers
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook macaroni according to package and drain.
Combine the milk, butter, dressing mix, and seasonings and heat through.
Stir in the Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses until melted.
Stir in sour cream

Add macaroni to the cheese sauce with the saltines.
Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

I chose to get the "Mac and Cheese" blend of shredded cheese instead of the Monterey and Colby cheeses.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Work in Progress- William's stocking

I don't get a lot of time to work on my cross stitching but the last 2 days I got a couple hours to work on it. I have never done one that is this complex but I am pretty excited for the final product. I didn't want to just buy any old stocking at Target for William for Christmas. I figured it would be much cooler if it was something that I made. My friend Krista had been posting progress of the stocking she was doing for her daughter and I was inspired. I knew I could cross stitch and figured that would be the perfect thing to do for William.
Luckily for me he doesn't understand the whole stocking thing yet since I am no where near finished. I am hoping to have it done by next Christmas. Pretty lofty goal since I only get to work on it sporadically for an hour here and there. I will get there eventually though.

The final product will be a stack of several animals. (Bird, Penguin, baby Polar Bear and Polar Bear) Like I mentioned, I have never done one this complex. By complex I mean having 2 different color strands of floss, all the highlight and shadow stuff, and it will also involve sewing. I am hoping to get into some sewing even though I have told myself over and over again that I really don't need that extra hobby and that I should stick to what I already know. Of course Pinterest likes to tell me differently and lures me in with all the amazing pins of things that I could make. 
I hope to continue to post updates on the progress here. Maybe it will keep me motivated and on track of my goal to finish in just under a year. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Piano craft

Now that Christmas is done, and the gift has been given I can write about the craft project I made for my mom. My mom is a piano teacher out of her home. I saw something that used a rubber stamp of music staffs on a white wooden letter. I thought it was really cute. I debated doing her initials, and then thought a bit more about her studio space and decided to spell out "PIANO." I also decided to get sheet music and use that to decorate the letters.
I found "exciting" music to use since I figured it would be more visually appealing to see the staff full of notes instead of a simple song. I cut the sheet music into strips that were as wide as there were notes. (about 2.5" depending on the song)
I didn't take pictures of the process, which I should have. I got white letters from Michael's and used Mod Podge to attach the music to the letters. I kept the strips long and then used an exacto knife to trim the edges once it was dry. I also applied a layer of Mod Podge to the top to finish it and seal it. I painted around the edge and about 1/4" in on all the edges so that it would allow the music to pop. I also found some ribbon that had a music staff and hot glued that on each letter to make it into a hanger. Mom loved it! Given the space that she used for hanging it, the ribbon didn't work out, but I think it still looks good.

with ribbon

all hung up

Perfect gift for the music lover in your family. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tortellini soup

This has to be one of my favorite soups to make. It is really easy and tastes so good. Plus it is very filling!
I first had this soup several years ago at a Christmas gathering at my aunt's house. I emailed her almost as soon as I got home to get the recipe and I have been making it ever since.
Hope you enjoy!

Ronnie's Tortellini Soup
Serves 4-5

3 cups water
2 cans tomato soup
1 large package 3 cheese pre-cooked tortellini (found in the refrigerated section by the cheese normally. I ended up with "rainbow" tortellini because Target was out of my regular kind. I kind of like how colorful it made it look)
1 lb hot Italian sausage (Any Italian sausage works if you aren't a fan of the hot, or like me, have a baby eating it too)
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp dry basil
1tsp oregano
2 carrots, sliced (I use baby carrots because that is what I have on hand)
1 zucchini, sliced

Brown meat and onion and drain off the extra fat.

Mix everything together in a large pot except tortellini and zucchini. Bring to a boil and let simmer until carrots are just about cooked.

Add tortellini and when they are just about cooked (they will puff up) add the zucchini.

Cook an additional 3-5 min until the zucchini is somewhat transparent. The thicker you slice your zucchini the less transparent it will get. I try to go for a thin slice, but not super thin as you can see in the picture.

Pretty easy for a yummy comforting soup. It is so thick it is almost stew like. Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Chicken Wild Rice

As a Minnesotan I am pretty sure it is a prerequisite that we make Chicken Wild Rice at least once in our lifetime, if not once a week in the winter. Ok, not that frequently, but it is a great comfort food. I found the original recipe that I used here. I have made a few changes, mostly not worrying about making it "skinny." I really should, but for whatever reason I really don't look for the reduced anything cans when buying the soup.
Before I get into the recipe I will add a picture of my helper.

First the ingredients:
5-6 boneless, skinless Chicken breasts
1 cup Wild rice
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1 can Cream of Celery soup
1 can of water
1 package of onion soup mix
fresh mushrooms  (This is a change from the original recipe. I had them sitting around and thought why not use them in this as well.)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F
2. Mix everything except the chicken breasts together

mmm looks pretty

3. Place the rice mixture in a 9x13 baking dish
4. Place the Chicken Breasts on top of the rice mix and cover with aluminum foil.
5. Bake for 1 hour covered
6. Remove cover and bake an additional 30 minutes


7. Mix/Shred the chicken and serve hot.

I love how easy this is to make. I used to be intimidated by Wild rice because I wasn't really sure what to do with it. I also like that it doesn't require a lot of ingredients and what it does call for I usually have on hand. Hope you enjoy it!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Children's Book Themed Baby Shower

Early in November I threw a shower for a friend of mine. This was my first full fledged "theme" shower. I had thrown showers before but none had any sort of theme. It was show up, eat food, play a couple games and open presents. The biggest difference was, that was before Pinterest. So after checking out various ideas for possible themes we agreed that a book theme would be the most fun to put together.
I really had a ton of fun working on this shower. I LOVE to plan parties and get everything together for it, and I really love seeing how much other people enjoy it.
I loved (and still love) the Little Golden Books growing up, so when I saw this invitation on Etsy, I knew I had to have it. Plus it is so bright and cheerful!

I used some of William's book collection to decorate.

All the food had a book theme as well.

There was:
Make Way For Ducklings punch
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Strega Nona's pasta salad
Very Hungry Caterpillar fruit salad
Three Little Pigs Ham sandwiches
Blueberries for Sal Blueberry mini cheesecakes
Peter Rabbit  Vegetables

And very special cookies from a special friend of mine at Fig Tales
How cute are these?? They are little Peter Rabbits. They were very tasty as well!

As per the mom-to-be's request, I chose games that were more "thinking" games rather than the traditional, guess the baby food or fake poopy diapers. They went over really well and people really had to think. The first game was "Alternative Children's book titles", I found here:
This was a lot of fun. It's harder than it seems too, especially if you have an older audience or an audience without kids.
The second game I came up with myself. It was a name the book from the quote. This was also a little harder than I expected. I thought that I had chosen a good mix of easy and hard, but I did not know my audience.

My favorite part of the shower had to be the craft that I planned. It was a great time filler and ice breaker. I saw on Etsy that someone was selling wooden blocks with Children's story book characters on them. They had been cut out of various books and attached to the wood blocks. What an awesome way to personalize a cute/functional toy for baby!! The blocks were hard to find. I checked JoAnn's and Michael's and Hub Hobby, but they all only had 1" blocks or smaller. I knew that was too small for a baby toy. A quick search online and I had exactly what I was looking for! has wholesale wood parts and at very good prices. I think I will save the how I made the blocks for another post, but here is the finished product.

I think it went really well. I am glad I took the plunge into themed baby showers.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Finally getting started

I signed up for this blog years ago, but never did anything with it. My how things have changed since July of 2010 when I first signed up. At that point I had just found out that I was pregnant after a miscarriage, so I was excited, but still worried. Now I have a very active almost 21 month old. I hadn't yet joined Pinterest and had no idea of all the fun, creative things that I would find there. We hadn't bought our pop-up camper (We just got that Oct of 2013) and so I wouldn't have been able to write about all the renovations that I *hope* to do with it.
So new year, start of 2014, why not give this blog thing another go. I hope to write about my adventures with the camper, and have a place to tell all the funny William stories since I am horrible at filling out his baby book, and of course, a place to talk about my Pinterest success and fails.
So I might as well start out with one of my Pinterest successes. We have an unfinished basement which is kind of a pit of all things that don't have a place in the rest of the house. Under the stairs has been our storage for Christmas things. The wrapping paper and gift bags had gotten out of control down there. I came across this blog while surfing Pinterest and knew exactly what had to be done.
So off to Target I went to get a storage bin. Wait, take that back. I went to JoAnn's first because the bins were 40% off and I had a coupon for an additional 10% off regular and sale price. Yay coupons! The bin I found wasn't exactly what I had wanted, but I got it anyway. I had to go to Target for my other usual shopping and ran across the storage bins there, and they were half the price of JoAnn's! So I got my bin at Target. We already had a label maker, but for some odd reason hadn't used it. (Goal for 2014, use label maker more to be more organized.) So I got to work cleaning out that little disaster of a corner.
I did not take before pictures, as it was far too embarrassing of a mess. But I did take a semi finished product picture. There is still more to go, and I need to get another storage bin, but it is so much better than it had been.
Check out that organization!! Yes, I have a lot of wrapping paper, but I really like all the pretty patterns and colors that they come out with every year. Not to mention I need special Santa paper. So that got Matt started in wanting to organize the disaster of a basement. Yay! Now let's hope we can keep on track of this cleaning and organizing the basement. I have a small craft corner down there that hasn't been touched since before William was born that REALLY needs to be cleaned and organized. Once I can get to it that will be my next project. Also I should mention that it is really cold down there and not really a spot for William to play, so the organizing is slow going. 
I have a goal of organizing the basement and a goal of keeping up with this blog. Let's hope I keep up with both of them!