Friday, August 18, 2017

Foodie Friday: I Actually Cooked This Week!

Meal planning, my friends!  Meal planning!  That means that I actually cooked this week!  I hate cooking during the summer.  I don't mind making potato salad or a corn dip or maybe sautéing shrimp for tacos.  But I hate turning my oven on and I always think the crockpot is best for cooler months (I know, that's silly.)  This week, though, I was staring down a week full of football drop offs and meetings at the school and all kinds of things.  So, wonder of wonders!  It's August and I actually did meal planning AND cooked those meals

Here's what our week looked like:


Make Your Own Pizza Night

This is a great way to get rid of leftovers!  We buy an 8-pack of mini Boboli pizza crusts with sauce at Sam's for something like $6.99 and use leftovers to make our pizza.  So it ends up being a pretty cheap meal too.  The girls each had cheese pizza.  Mark and both boys used leftover taco meat on theirs and I had a buffalo chicken pizza.  We served with salad.


Instant Pot Pork Loin and Mashed Potatoes

I had a GNO but given that we all know how Monday nights can go, I wanted to make sure dinner was ready for my family before I left.  No way was I leaving Mark dealing with the kids and homework and general Monday-ness while also having to cook dinner.  So . . . bust out the Instant Pot!  I want to post my method here because the kids LOVED this meal.

First, I seasoned a 2-lb pork loin with poultry rub and garlic salt.  I set the instant pot on the sautee setting and sautéed each side for two to three minutes, until seared.  Then I poured a cup and half of chicken broth over, set the instant pot on manual, high pressure for 27 minutes and let the Instant Pot work it's magic.  I started early in the afternoon so, once the meat was done, I let the Instant Pot on "keep warm" for a couple hours.  When I was ready to make the mashed potatoes, I transferred the meat to a foil packet with a little bit of the juice it was cooked in, placed in a Pyrex, and put it in the oven to keep warm. 

Then it was on to the potatoes!  I didn't drain the "juice" the meat was cooked in.  I just tossed the potatoes in (I think I used about eight baby reds) and set the Pot using manual setting, high pressure for eight minutes.  Once they were done, I mashed them right in the pot and added butter, salt, and pepper.  The end result was SUPER flavorful mashed potatoes that my whole family loved.  We'll be doing this again fo' sho'!



Fun Fact: I didn't eat spaghetti for nearly 20 years.  Growing up, we had it all.the.time. and, up until a couple years ago, I would've told you I hated it.  I don't hate it -- we just needed a break.  ;)  Anyway, my kids love it and J requested it last week, with Mark adding an addendum to the request that I use Italian sausage rather than ground beef in the sauce.  I figured this would be an easy one for a football night since I could do the sauce early in the day.  I browned the Italian sausage with garlic, mushrooms, and peppers then transferred to the crockpot.  I added jarred Prego and let it simmer all day long.  My house smelled SO GOOD.  We served over spaghetti noodles with salad and garlic bread.


Shredded Buffalo Chicken

Crockpot again for the win!  I threw chicken breasts in the crockpot and seasoned them with Ranch dressing seasoning, topped with Frank's Red Hot Sauce.  I cooked for six hours then shredded the chicken.  This was one of those meals that we all ate at different times: the girls earlier and then the boys after football was over.  It's also a meal that we all ate slightly differently.  Mark and K2 both ate theirs in tortillas with cheese and Ranch, The Girl and K1 ate it over chips like nachos, and J and I both had ours with sandwiches -- he added cheese and Ranch, I stuck with just Ranch.  This meal was a HIT!  I mean . . .


Cheesy Pasta Bake

We took the leftover sauce from Tuesday night to make an easy, cheesy pasta bake.  I just boiled penne noodles a dente.  Then I mixed noodles, sauce, and mozza cheese and placed in a baking dish.  I topped with more cheese, covered with foil, and baked on 350 for 45 minutes.  Pasta is always a hit in this house and, last night, every single kid asked for THIRDS (and, in a couple cases, even fourths!)  The sauce was veggie heavy, too, without them even knowing.  Parenting win!  (And, believe me, we needed a parenting win after the shit show that was yesterday afternoon/ early evening!)


We only have two kiddos tonight so who knows what we'll do.  Mark might grill, we might go out.  All I know is I don't have to drive any kid anywhere so . . . pass me a drink! 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thursday Things

1) I'm just going to say it: what our president said in his press conference Tuesday was disgusting and absolutely a low point for our country.  He spoke of violence "on both sides."  People.  One side was freaking neo-Nazis and white supremacists (and one of these people DROVE HIS CAR INTO THE OPPOSING CROWD AND KILLED A PERSON) and the "other side" was, you know, PEOPLE WHO OPPOSE NAZIS AND WHITE SUPREMACY.  I weep for our country.  I cannot believe we have a sitting president who basically sympathizes with hate groups.  Oh wait.  Yes, I can.  He freaking told us the entire time he was on the campaign trail!

2) Let's move on to things that aren't gross, disgusting, and, well, Trumped.

 I'm excited about the eclipse!  And, I'll be honest, this is mostly due to influence of my children (J has already had a quiz concerning the eclipse and we've had to sign waivers agreeing to let them watch) and social media.  But . . . ECLIPSE!  REASON FOR A PARTY!  I'll (maybe, probably, hopefully) be posting about the "party" after it happens but in the meantime I thought I'd pass this along: I'm sending each of my kids to school on Monday with a MOON pie and a single sized SUNny D.  I consider it genius, Mark laughed, and J said, "another corny mom thing!"

3) The kiddos had club night at their school Tuesday night where they received information on the various clubs and organizations.  I learned my lesson last year and limited them to two clubs (in addition to the sport they're doing) each.  We're going to have a busy few months!  J is doing intramurals, football, and playing violin in the orchestra.  The Girl is running Cross Country and doing Girls Club and Ceramics.  K1 has picked football, intramurals, and rocks (the city rocks that they paint and hide all over town.)  And K2 is old enough for clubs this year!  She's doing a special Accelerated Reader to club and also wants to do Glee Club (it's limited to 40 kids and, since she's amongst the youngest, there's no guarantee she'll get in.)  I almost agreed to let the boys do cross country too - they wanted to! - but it interferes too much with their football. 

4) Monday night was one of my last "free" week nights for the next several weeks so I did a GNO with Kendra and Cady.  We headed to Kooky Canuck for burgers and beer and just had the best time laughing and catching up.  It was much, much, MUCH needed girl time.  I'm so thankful I have a partner who will willingly take the kids to let me have some down time.  He even told me Tuesday morning, "my only complaint about your Girls' Nights is that you don't get enough of them."  He's the best.  My friends are the best.

5) Over the weekend, we went to a pretty cool birthday party!  We have friends who live here about 40% of the year . . . meaning, they maintain a house in the greater Chicago area but also one here.  They spend their fall, winter, and spring breaks in Memphis as well as the entire summer.  Their son turned 11 over the weekend and we all celebrated with a Nerf gun battle then swimming at the JCC.  The kids LOVED it!

6) The Boy had his first ever junior high football game!  It was a Saturday night and we had no idea how short it was going to be -- each "game" only lasted ten minutes.  And, unfortunately, the Boys' team scored defensively on the first drive (yay!) but the other team kept getting penalties on offense and the Boys' team never really got a chance to take the field offensively.  He was pretty disappointed and we were a little bit too.  The good news is he's a seventh grader so there are SO many more chances coming his way!

His second game was last night.  I wasn't able to go -- both J and K1 had football practice -- but Mark went.  Aaaaand . . . they lost.  And lost pretty big.  Disappointing.

7) At his practice last night, K1 received his first ever helmet stickers!  He was rewarded for most effort and teamwork.  WAY TO GO KYKES!  He's going to fill that helmet up!

8) Aaaaand . . . to continue all the football talk, J's team went full contact for the first time last night and my baby is BRUISED.  We even had to ice down his arm for a bit last night.  You know what though?  He LOVES it.

9) I had three weeks "off" between the kids going back to school and me getting back to the grind.  And guess what?  We're at the end of week two.  Noooooo.  Make it stop!

10) Basically the most ME thing ever.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Summer Reading List: Moriarty and Hilderbrand

When I took the kids back to school shopping, we went to the Goodwill and after perusing the kids' clothes I made my way to the book section.   It was there that I found a hard copy of Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty.  Yessss!  I read the book a couple years ago - via iPad - but is there anyTHING better than finding a good book at the Goodwill??

Three Wishes is the story of the Kettle triplets: identical twins Lyn and Cat and the "other egg" Gemma.  It's set in Australia and, apparently, is Moriarty's debut.  Lovely debut it is!  The book begins by setting the scene at the sisters' 34th birthday party . . . wherein one has thrown a fork - that lands in her pregnant sister's belly . . . and goes backward from there.

I adored this book.  I adore Moriarty (we'll not talk about The Hypnotists Love Story!.) 

One of my favorite things about Moriarty is her multi-faceted characters.  Each of the triplets in this book are assholes in her own way yet they're all so endearing, so goshdarn likeable.  The characters are very well-developed and, honestly, it made me want to be a Kettle sister!  Moriarty did an outstanding job with her character development.  No one in this book is perfect, far from it, and that makes you enjoy the characters and the story all the more.  I think this was a great book and a good starter for a Moriarty novel.  She does have other, better books (The Husband's Secret and The Last Anniversary) are my favorites.  But this is such a cute and fun book, an easy summer read.

"Cute and fun" and "easy summer read" are currently what I'm craving in a book.  So my next pick was another re-read, Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand.

Jenna Carmichael and Stuart Graham are getting married and both families have descended on Nantucket for the ceremony.  Jenna's mother, Beth, died of ovarian cancer seven years previously and, in her final months, kept a meticulous notebook to be used (or not used) as a guide for Jenna's wedding.  The book is told in the voice of three characters: Jenna's sister Margot, their father Doug, and Stuart's mother Ann.  Each character is dealing with and working through heartache, either past or present. 

I really enjoyed this book.  It did invoke one of my biggest pet peeves: the dead person was practically sainted.  I get it, that's what we do when someone passes away.  But the book doesn't tell us any of Beth's flaws and, honestly, some of the notebook passages made her seem a little controlling.  The characters are well-developed, even though there are a lot of them, and I loved how even though it was the story of Jenna's wedding, it's not told in her voice.  It's less about the wedding and more about everything going on at the same time.  Yet, at the same time, still made me want to get married on Nantucket! 

My biggest complaint is that we know Margot did something professionally unethical but we don't find out what until the end of the book and it's alluded to CONSTANTLY.  It was a little much.  Also, I hate that her character - otherwise likeable - was so gullible in the situation.

I wanted to share a couple favorite quotes from the book.  The first one may seem a little weird but this is something I'm struggling with trying to instill in my kids right now.  OWN IT.  Own what you do!

". . . and because she was the mother of three young and growing souls.  She could feed them takeout every night, she could leave them for hours with Kitty, the afternoon babysitter, but ultimately the person who was responsible for installing their moral compass was her.  It was okay to mess up - to set a scorching hot pan directly on a soft pine table and mar it forever, to file for divorce when she was no longer in love and had exhausted every hope, to become utterly infatuated with the wrong person and then commit what was essentially a crime of passion - but she had to own it."

YES.  Own what you do!  The part about installing their moral compass made me choke up a little.  What a honor - and horrifying thing! - to be responsible for that in another person.

 And this line from the notebook:

"He did two things for me every single day of our marriage: he made me laugh, and he was my friend."

So simple, so lovely, and so needed in a relationship.

Once again, this is a fun and easy summer read.  You'll want to be on Nantucket with the characters!