Friday, January 31, 2014

8 Suprising Foods You Can Freeze + Chinese New Year

Today is Chinese New Year!  My husband's Aunts and Grandmother are coming over and we'll do a little dinner/celebration with the kids.  I am making egg drop soup, chicken and broccoli and fried brown rice.

Since I went out last night and am working from home today I knew I wouldn't have time to do dessert so am doing a traditional Chinese restaurant dessert of vanilla ice cream, fortune cookies, pineapple chunks with plastic sword toothpicks and orange wedges. :)  I will  post a picture later.

Had a great time last night with my friends.  We revert to 15 when we are together and had a lot of laughs.  After dinner my one friend and I hit up BJs which was up the street from the restaurant.
I have been getting in the habit of buying the big organic tubs of spinach to use for salad from there instead of buying romaine.  That way if we have leftover I can put in the freezer and use it for other purposes - for example I toss frozen spinach in soup, homemade bread, omelets, etc.  

Here is a great Get It Done Tip listing other surpising foods you can next time you are about to toss one of these because they are past their prime throw 'em in the freezer and save money to use for another day.



Thursday, January 30, 2014


Today started off with a bang!  Had a bomb scare outside of work so our office was in lock down mode.  All is fine - part of life in NYC! 

Looking forward to tonight and seeing two out of three of my oldest childhood friends for dinner.  I put in the crock pot this morning Garden Chicken Cacciatore for all my boys to enjoy while I am out.  I think they'll like it!

Some people use those crock pot liners to make clean up easy, but I am not a fan of plastic based on things I have read about it.  Some people also use cooking sprays which I read a lot of buzz about questionable ingredients they contain (just do a google search if you don't know what I am talking about). My Get It Done Tip is to purchase a Mistos if you don't have one already.  You can fill a mistos with whatever brand or type of oil you want and pump it to get it to spray. 

The mistos at times may not spray on as evenly as a store-bought version, but I use a basting brush to ensure I have an even coat around my crock pot, pan or whatever baking sheet.


It makes clean up a snap!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Health Bowls

Working from home today and planning to test drive a car later tonight. Fingers crossed.

I read this Get It Done Tip in Real Simple Magazine.  The article talked about how if you are short on time you can mix and match things you have on hand to make a "Health Bowl" — an ingenious mix of grains, vegetables, and anything else in the pantry and fridge (leftovers!) that you can toss together for a healthy quick feast.

Real Simple’s food editors tried nearly 100 combinations of ingredients to come up with this deliciously versatile mix-and-match list of about 50. Keep your health bowl simple, or max out with something from every category.

  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Farro
  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Romaine
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Watercress
  • Mâche
  • Radicchio
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Purple cabbage
  • Steak
  • Chicken
  • Fish (canned, smoked, or freshly cooked)
  • Cured meats
  • Beans (black, cannellini, butter, chickpeas, kidney)
  • Eggs (hard-boiled, poached, or fried)
Vegetables and Herbs
  • Radishes
  • Snap peas
  • Snow peas
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocados
  • Scallions
  • Herbs (dill, parsley, cilantro, tarragon)
  • Feta
  • Goat
  • Ricotta salata
  • Gruyère
  • Parmesan
  • Aged Cheddar
  • Any creamy cheese (like Camembert or Humboldt Fog)
Wild Cards
  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts)
  • Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
  • Kimchi
  • Marinated artichokes
  • Olives
  • Capers
You can find some sample Health Bowl recipes here. Keep handy for those crazy days when you don't have a lot of time to fuss. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tool for Family Calendars + One Pan Weeknight Meal

What a crazy day at work!  We're down a team member, but help is on the way with my new hire starting in 2 weeks...can't wait!

At the moment it is 7 PM and I have a conference call with our Mexico City office.  My husband was charged with keeping the kids away and of course the middle one just came down announcing "I'm NAKED!!!".  Oy vey.

In other news, last night's potato-crusted spinach quiche was excellent!  Tonight's dinner was also super easy and so, so good.  Tonight I made Apple-Balsamic Pork Chops & Rice using Whole Foods frozen organic brown rice and it was done in a snap.


Today's Get It Done Tip is from a working mom of two who swears this tip keeps her family organized so her parents, who watch the kids, know when and where each of her kids needs to be after school so things run smoothly while she is at work.
She uses Cozi, which is the leading calendar for the modern family, accessible from any computer or mobile device. With Cozi, you can:

View individual schedules, or the whole family at once in a color-coded calendar.

Import your Google Calendar for an extra quick start.

Get reminders so no one misses soccer practice or an important appointment.

Send an agenda email for the upcoming week to any family member you choose.

Quickly enter appointments using your own words, "Lunch noon tomorrow".

Add Internet calendars, including personal or public iCals to your family calendar.

Use Cozi's schedule feature to enter recurring activities like sports practices and childcare.

Each week this working mom plugs in everyone's events, color codes them and puts in on the fridge so there is no confusion.

Sounds interesting, so wanted to share!

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Support System + Make Ahead Breakfast Options

My friend Denise should open her own restaurant. She's an amazing cook and looks for the best ingredients to feed her family.

Denise briefly went back to work last year quickly to find her job at home was the most demanding, yet the most important to her family of 3. 
Here's what she had to say, along with some great Get It Done Tips for making a hassle-free, healthy, weekday breakfast.

My husband was laid off early last year so when I landed a job to help support our family, life was good again. Watching our bank account grow each month provided to self worth I was missing from being a stay-at-home-mom. Anyone can run a household but not everyone could earn money and provide. Boy was I wrong.

All was well until my husband got the call back to go to work.  Now no one was home to handle the household chores. So in addition to working we had to run errands after work, cook, clean and manage the finances. I was exhausted. 

Each morning became my time to spend with our son. Would I have preferred spending it eating breakfast together, talking about what he did yesterday and what are his hopes for the day? Of course. Instead, our 'quality' time was spent yelling, tempers flaring, food being prepped as fast as possible lacking any thought beyond, "Will he eat this?", and constant reminders of, "Hurry up, you're going to miss your bus!", while simultaneously getting myself ready for work and prep dinner for the slow cooker. And with the gluten allergies my son and I have, slapping food together for either of us is a chore within itself.

That was not how I imagined spending my mornings with him at all. Going to work no longer felt rewarding and seemed to get in the way of what I wanted out of life. I hated not being able to go to his Fall performance at school. I hated not being able to take time off for parent/teacher conferences, and most of all, I hated being filled in on his day and not being apart of it.

In total, I worked almost eight months that year and much to my dissatisfaction, I was not successful at being a working-mother. I didn't handle this failure very well. I had to find out what I did wrong so I asked my successful working-mom friends, "How do you do it?" and a common answer I received was, "I have a great support system." Whether is was the parents or in-laws, the husband, a nanny, and/or friend(s), you need a support system.

In my case, I am the support system.  And now, a year later, I am happier than ever staying home to support my home and run it like a system. It took everything spinning out of control in order for my husband and I to realize all the work that I put into it.

Stephanie also asked me to provide some of my favorite quick breakfast ideas/recipes so here are a few...enjoy!

Being wheat/gluten, soy, nut & seed free our options for breakfast is limited, time consuming and typically without ready-made store options.  In order to make something nutritious that also tastes good, every Saturday I make one kind of breakfast food in bulk.

Pancakes (sunbutter, apple banana), arepas (our favorite is with Manchego!), or corn muffins, which are easy to make and freeze well and also reheat as if they were freshly made,  are perfect for making ahead. 

Every other Saturday I alternate what I am making so I begin to build up a small stock and then my son has options and I am not exhausting myself with cooking something new every morning.

Also, one of my favorite easy weeknight meals is my crockpot chili.

Crock Pot Chili
1 lb Ground Turkey Breast
16 oz Trader Joe's Chipotle Salsa
12 oz  Trader Joe's Salsa Verde
1 lg onion diced
1 tbsp Spanish Olive oil
4-6 Queen Spanish Olives diced
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
2 cans Goya Spanish style tomato sauce
(a cup or two depending on how thick you like your chili) beef broth or water
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute onions with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.
Add meat and cook until no longer pink
Add beans and saute for a few more minutes Add all remaining ingredients, stir to combine.
Put everything in slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-6 hours.
I wholeheartedly agree with Denise's point about having a support system to help juggle it all - I know I couldn't do it without my husband and parents.   I also love the recipes -- I never had an arepa, but it may be on our menu one day soon! 
Thank you Denise for so openly sharing your experience and some great recipes! There isn't a job out there that is harder and more rewarding then being a stay at home mom and I tip my hat to you! ;)


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Meatless Monday's Potato Crusted Spinach Quiche

Went out with my middle guy to Christmas Tree Shops in the morning to get a little rug for the back door to catch all the snow/mud and a mat to hold all the boots so they drip dry.

My mom mentioned my Dad told her there was a free train event at the county center, so my husband took all 3 for a bit.  While they were out I cleaned and cooked. 

Chocolate Muffins using applesauce instead of oil

Tomorrow's dinner of Spinach Quiche with Potato Crust -- I used homemade mashed potatoes.
Will heat up and serve with a big salad tomorrow.

And tonight's dinner of lemon cod, salad, potato wedges and that recipe all over facebook for the
"Best Broccoli of Your Life".

The cod was excellent and I don't even like fish that much.  The kids usually devour fish and all 3 decided today to revolt, but ate everything else.  The broccoli was fine, but not the best broccoli of my life!

We're resting now and watching Hotel Transylvania.  Goodnight!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hazelnut Crunch Cake

We're off to a friend's house for a playdate/dinner. 

I am bringing Hazelnut Crunch Cake w/homemade hazelnut brittle on it!

May look a little weird, but it is sure to be good!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Poppy Seed Chicken + Laundry Tip

TGIF!  Going with my two big boys to see Frozen tonight and we can't wait!

I made last night Kate Gosselin's "Poppy Seed Chicken" which we'll heat up quick and serve with a salad before we head out.  It isn't my normal style of cooking, but it used up sour cream I had bought for dip last weekend and a sleeve of crackers I had leftover from entertaining.  It was really quick to put together.

 Poppy Seed Chicken
4 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
1 (10-ounce) bag of frozen peas
16 ounces reduced-fat sour cream
2 (12-ounces) cans cream of chicken soup (I used boxed Pacific brand organic cream of mushroom)
1 sleeve ritz crackers finely crushed (I used leftover crackers we had on hand)
4 tablespoons poppy seeds (skipped since I must have tossed ours)
1/2 stick unsalted butter melted (I used 1/2 of this)
 Preheat oven to 350.
Place cooked chicken on bottom of 9 by 13 inch baking dish and sprinkle with peas evenly on top.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream and soup and pour over chicken and peas.
Sprinkle with cracker crumbs and poppy seeds. Pour butter over top.
Bake uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes until sauce is bubbly.

When I get home I can heat it up quick and serve with a salad before we head out for our big night out on the town.
Love this Get It Done Tip from All You Magazine, which helps speed up the laundry folding/putting away process.

Cut down on laundry piles and eliminate small, water-wasting loads. Give each family member two laundry baskets. Keep one in their bedroom for dirty clothes, and the other in the laundry room for clean. As clothes come out of the dryer, fold and sort into each person’s basket. Every other day, switch bins so that the dirty items make it into the wash and the clean ones are put away in a timely fashion.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Leftovers Repurposed

I have a busy day ahead full of meetings.  I was too tired last night to make the potato-crusted spinach quiche dinner I had on the menu, so froze the vegetables and moved it to next week's menu.  Instead I took out of the freezer stuffed pork and will make a bag of pre-roasted organic potatoes and vegetables I bought at BJ's.

Today's Get It Done Tip is again from my wonderful aunt.  As I have mentioned before I hate to waste food.  We buy organic and to just let something go bad and toss it out is a waste so I try to do my best to repurpose extras.   My aunt read about how I stuffed the cavity of Sunday's chicken with leftover basil and celery and she had these tips on how she repurposes her leftovers. 

"Great idea cleaning out the refrigerator with imaginative recipes. Here's another tip for leftover onion dip or any kind of dip (not something that has been out for hours).  I put leftover onion dip on tilapia the other night and it was delicious.  You could put it on steak too.    

I also had fresh string beans and leftover salsa (any kind) and put that in with the string beans along with 1/2 cup of leftover chicken broth. By the time the fish is ready, so are the string beans. It was so good.

I also use up leftover spinach/kale/escarole  by drying them up and then chop and put them in meatloaf or quiche or topping for home made pizza.   

Left over beef stew I chop and put in pasta sauce along with gravy.  I also make hot sandwiches for dinner or lunch put meat  and lots of gravy over fresh rye bread. 

Store bought pesto put on fish, pasta, gnocchi. It is the quickest dinner if you don't want to fuss or do not have time.  Just make a big salad on the side."


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Clothes Shopping for the Working Mom

No school!  I am venturing into the city for work since the train lines are running on time.

Last night I prepped the easiest dinner ever -  Taste of Home's Braised Pork Stew.  It took 4 minutes to get it cooking.

I picked up at Whole Foods frozen organic brown rice so tonight I can quickly heat the rice and stew up when I get home and make a salad. Dinner will be ready in 15 minutes.

Today's Get It Done Tip was recommended on Facebook by someone who works in my industry.  She is a 20-something new mom who works and raved about Stich Fix.

Stitch Fix is a personal styling service. You tell them your style, size, and budget preferences, and they send you a package of stylish goodies to try on at home. Each Fix is unique and hand-picked just for you.

They carry a wide and varied inventory that includes shirts, sweaters, pants, skirts, dresses, jackets, scarves, jewelry and bags.

Stitch Fix takes the hassle out of shopping and gives you the added benefit of having a trained stylist pick out perfect pieces just for you.

Plus, Stitch Fix saves you gas money and hours of time! Perfect for the busy, working mom....I can't wait to try it myself!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Beer for Beauty!

I am on the train at the moment flipping through January's Woman's World and found this fun Get It Done Tip about getting "spa-pampered and gorgeous....with beer!". Here's what they write:

"Packed with Vitamin B, proteins and yeast, beer can soften your feet, nourish your skin and give you shinier hair, raves Alexis Wolfer, founder of"

Still think it sounds weird? Well apparently the Ritz-Carlton in Denver and the Four Seasons Resort in Vail have beer treatments om their menus!  Here are some tips for how to use up that beer in your fridge.

"If you can, opt for darker beer.  Richly hued beers - stouts, dark lagers or Guinness - aren't as diluted, so they contain more of the antioxidants, nutrients and proteins you want.

Soften Your Feet
The yeast in beer is amazing at breaking down dead skin sells that can cause calluses and cracked skin, while the alcohol acts as an antibacterial to keep your feet feeling fresh."
Mix equal parts water and beer in a large bowl or basin. Fill until your feet are covered and relax for 10 to 20 minutes.  Just before done rub granulated sugar on damp feet in circular motion to loosen flaky skin cells.  Rinse well, and pat dry.

Tone and Hydrate Skin
Beer sloughs off ashy skin, and the alcohol content tightens pores. Avocado has hydrating fats and honey draws moisture deep within your skin, leaving it glowing.
1/2 avocado, mashed
1 tbs raw honey
2 tbs dark beer
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and stir until combines. Put on freshly washed skin, avoiding sensitive eye area. Leave on for 15 mins then rinse well and pat dry.

Get Smooth, Silky Hair
Coloring your hair, heat styling or even brushing aggressively can lead to cracks in your hair shaft that lead to frizz. The yeast in beer works to fill and plump up the cracks making it smooth
Shampoo and rinse your hair. Pour a cup of dark beer directly onto your hair, using fingertips to evenly distribute from root to tip. Put on shower cap and let sit 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse well and follow with a scented conditioner."

Love these beauty treatments you can do at odd hours when the kids are sleeping...I know I dont have time to go to a spa during the day for pampering, so for now this will have to do!

School is closing at noon so my oldest was easier than usual to get moving out the door this morning. I will likely come home after lunch depending on how it is outside to be safe.

My Dad is staying over so he can help watch the kids and not worry about the long commute...he is a saint! 

Happy snow day!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Chicken Soup

Almost the entire day was spent car shopping.  For someone who has zero interest in cars and even less interest in having to pay for a car after a few years of enjoying no payments it was torturous.

No decisions yet, but slowly narrowing down the search and about to move into bargain-hunting mode.

I had a special request from my big boy for chicken soup, so picked up 2 chickens at the wholesale club.  One is in the freezer for another day and today roasted one with red potatoes and carrots.

I had a lot of basil and tons of celery that I needed to do something with so jammed it all into the cavity before roasting with nothing but a little but of olive oil and some cracked fresh pepper on it.  Here it is before going into the oven.

It came out tender and juicy. 

It's 10 pm and I just finished cleaning up downstairs and prepped the leftover chicken for soup tomorrow.  I plan to put in the crock pot chicken broth, the leftover chopped chicken and this Ziploc bag full of goodies - an entire bunch of celery, carrots, onion, garlic, lots of fresh dill.

Tomorrow morning all I have to do is dump the contents of the ziploc, broth and chicken in the slow cooker and cook it on low.  When I get home I will prepare the noodles separately. Put a few noodles in each bowl and pour soup over it.  Serve with a salad and it's a great winter dinner. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

It's Sunday..

and we still have 1 more day off - woohoo!

We have a fun day planned.  It's 11 AM and our friends are coming over with their twin boys any minute.   At the request of the our mini guests we're having bagels and I bought some cold cuts, made a salad, fresh-squeezed lemonade, my friend is bringing fruit and I bought this pre-cut cheese platter from BJ's.

I made cake pops as a little treat for after lunch.   This may be the easiest entertaining I have ever done in my life!

Later on tonight my friend is coming up from Brooklyn and we're going out to a local pub. I can't wait!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cranberry-Apple Crumble Pie

We had a great evening with my husband's Aunts who came over for dinner.  We grilled chicken, asparagus and I made homemade spinach bread, spinach/artichoke casserole and a big salad.

For dessert I made Cranberry-Apple Crumble Pie.

Served with fresh whipped cream.

It was excellent!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Thank You Cards + Vegetable Lasagna

Enjoying the start of the long weekend.  Took the baby for his annual exam and he is off the charts in height like his brothers and doing great.

I am about to get the kids settled to make a thank you card for a gift they recently received.  Get It Done Tip whenever the kids get a gift I usually get the card out as soon as possible.  As a back-up I put on my calendar a reminder to send it out.  It's so easy to lose track of whether or not you sent a note so better to just get it out sooner rather than later! 

When I have a number of thank yous to write I keep track of them in my notes section where I have a thank you tab.  I keep thank you notes, stamps, envelopes and pens all in a drawer downstairs so it is easy enough to turn it around quickly.

Tonight's dinner is Better Homes and Garden's Vegetable Lasagna it looks good.

Hopefully we will all be able to run out a little later to start to look at cars since we had to junk one of our old faithfuls!

Happy long weekend all!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

One-On-One Time

Today is my sweet baby's actual birthday!

It's going to be a day full of junk food at the request of my big boy party planners.

I ran out last night and picked up ice cream cupcakes as the after-school snack.  They asked for spaghetti and meatballs for dinner so took out frozen sauce we made awhile ago and will make the meatballs fresh.  And then more ice cream for our little family of 5 celebration.

Today's Get It Done Tip is about finding activities so you can have one-on-one time with each child if you can. This article talks about how one-on-one time can make your child feel connected, confident and build great memories.

Like his brothers, the little man will be signed up for Musical Munchkins as his birthday gift. Musical Munchkins is a weekly mommy and me 1/2 hour class which we'll do Saturday morning.  My husband and I will take turns taking him and I can't wait.

But your one-on-one time doesn't have to cost money. It can be taking one kid on a trip to the food store, a trip to the park, or as simple as using bedtime to have one-on-one conversations to build your relationship with each child.

Here's another article that provides tips that may be helpful.


Only working a few hours from home tomorrow and then logging off for the long weekend! Woohoo!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Quick Weekday Breakfast + Slow Cooker Chicken & Pasta Soup

My husband started kale shakes/juicing well over two years ago.  He is doing it for the health benefits, but it's also today's Get It Done Tip because if you prep the fruits and vegetables the night before it is a mega time saver in the morning to get your breakfast on the table. 

He makes different variations of combined fruit and vegetables every morning depending what we have on hand.  All you have to do is organize the ingridients the night before and put it in a Ziploc bag in the fridge and you can have a delicious breakfast in no time.   We use the Breville Juicer and Vitamix and recommend both.

An added perk? Other than an occasional orange juice we have never bought juice for the kids; we keep it simple with water or milk.  However, on occasion we'll make a big batch of a kale shake or juice for the kids to go along with breakfast or have as a snack.  Nine times out of ten they loved it - well except for weird versions my husband concocts like ones with fresh turmeric!
Here's one we all loved, which was yesterday's breakfast:

2 apples, 1 orange, 1 cucumber, 10 carrots
Just pour it over ice and breakfast is done and in your stomach in a few minutes so you can get on with your busy morning! 

Tonight's dinner looks good.  It's a Slow Cooker Chicken and Pasta Soup with fresh spinach and lemon zest to give it some zip. 

Can't wait to try it!


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Babysitting Option

I love my aunt who on her own started sourcing tips for me to post.  So today's Get It Done Tip is compliments of a chiropractor somewhere in NJ who I never met. ;)
Now, let me preface this with the tip in its current form is probably not going to be useful to many families because of the cost; HOWEVER, if you are an open-minded person, every idea can be used for inspiration to spark other ideas.

Here's what my Aunt G wrote:
"Our chiropractor said that when the children were young he and his wife got a babysitter every week from 4 pm to 8 pm.  They did it on a regular basis and paid the babysitter for 52 weeks if she babysat or not.  They just wanted to be sure that the two of them had quality time and fun together without the children.  Sometimes they went into NYC or other times they would just go to a mall. 
It kind of reminds me of my subscription to the Metropolitan Opera.  If I didn't have a subscription, I wouldn't go as often.  I would make excuses.  I paid the money and therefore I have to go.  Every time I do attend, I'm so happy I did.   I'm sure many a mother doesn't want to spend the money or makes an excuse to stay home for the kids or something else.  A regular system of paying a babysitter for 52 weeks prevents excuses.  Just a thought."

I am simply in awe of this idea. Even if you don't do a luxury 52 weeks, the idea of pre-paying a year for once or twice a month or even once every other month could work.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Organizing Childhood Cards, Ticket Stubs, Artwork and More

Today's Get It Done Tip comes courtesy of my husband who continues to send me invites to try KeepyNow, in full disclosure, I have not actively been using this, but finally checked it out yesterday and it looks very cool!

What is Keepy?

Keepy lets you organize enhance, share, admire and save your kid's artwork, cards, ticket stubs and more.

Here's how it works:

snap & enhance.
Take a photo of your kids' drawings, report cards, lego creations, awards, birthday cards, ticket stubs, face paintings or anything else offline that you want to KEEP online. Tweak the lighting, colors and the crop of your photos with our easy tools.   

Add your kids' names, location and the date your keepy was created so we can organize everything for you.

Record yourself or your child (or both) describing the photo so you can keep the memory (and the cute voice) forever.

share & admire.
Invite grandparents and loved ones to be your kids' "fan" so they can see all your keepies and leave video comments on them. These short gushes of love will be preserved right alongside the photo. You can also share individual keepies with friends & family through email, facebook and twitter.

Keep on keepying on every day to fill your interactive keepsake box with things that your child will never forget. You can keepy ANYTHING. letters, lunch notes, love notes, sculptures, block towers, beaded jewelry, knitting, ceramics or anything else offline that you want to keep and enhance and admire!


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Slow Cooker Hearty Turkey Chili - Food & Fitness Magazine

It was a nice day.  We went to my in laws for lunch and spent some time there.

Since we knew we'd be out most of the day we decided to reshuffle the meal plan and make a slow cooker weeknight meal today so we could serve the dinner soon after we got home.

I got my first issue of Food & Fitness Magazine and LOVE IT!  The magazine's goal is to help with the challenge of feeding your family healthful, delicious meals while getting the best value for your money.   It also rates popular food items and exercise equipment.

In this issue I earmarked the "Hearty Turkey Chili" and we loved it.  As a rule I am not a chili fan and actually banned it from the menu for at least a year at this point; however, this one looked good so decided to give it a try.  We left out the spices because of the kids.  There isn't a drop left and my big boy had 2 huge bowls.

Hearty Turkey Chili
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 cups frozen corn
1 (28 oz) can no salt added diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can low sodium black beans, rinsed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 bunch chives, snipped
In a large skillet heat oil and cook turkey, onion and garlic over medium-high heat, stirring until turkey crumbles and is no longer pink.
Spoon mixture into a 5 quart slow cooker, stir in peppers, corn, tomatoes, beans, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt and cinnamon until well blended.
Cook on high for 4-5 hours or at low for 6-8.
Serve with sour cream, cheese and chives.
Good football food!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Party Time!

My baby is turning 2 on Thursday!  We had a small party today to celebrate and it was a great day.

The little guy loves cars - both real and toys - so I decided to do a car theme for him. 

We painted little wooden cars with glitter glue.  We had a race with little cars that are motorized by balloons.  We did a pinata stuffed with car goodies.

We grilled lemon chicken which came out great and served it with a big salad and a tomato macaroni and cheese casserole using "wheel" pasta. 

For dessert I made our traditional sugar cookie.  Instead of running around looking for cookie cutters that go with the theme I bought a box of number cookie cutters so just make cookies shaped like the kid's age.

My husband was in charge of making a "watermelon car" fruit bowl.  We think it looks a little more like a baby carriage, but still cute!

And this labor of love was created by me and my big boy late into the night.  I baked a double batch of a Martha Stewart recipe for vanilla cake.  I knew that since I was going to work all day I wouldn't have a ton of time, so opted to do a semi-homemade with the frosting.  I found online Pamela's Dark Chocolate Frosting Mix -- it's the cocoa powder, sugar, etc. already mixed together and all you have to do is add a little water and butter.  Great time saver!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Organizing Chores & Errands

TGIF!  I have a lot of baking and decorating to do tonight for the baby's birthday party tomorrow.  My two big boys woke up excitedly chattering about how they are going to help and started debating who would do what - mix the eggs, decorate, etc.  They are so sweet.

My final highlight of Carolyn Cutrone's article in Business Insider about "What Successful People Do on the Weekends" highlights a Get It Done Tip I stand behind and practice weekly.  It's to keep chores and errands to a minimum on weekends.

Cutrone writes "Finishing chores shouldn't be central to your weekend because they often expand to fill available time. Instead, try to do a chore each day during the week. If that's not possible then set aside small windows of time during the weekend. For example, set a half an hour on a Friday night between dinner and when you watch a movie to put away the laundry, or 20 minutes between your piano lesson and bike ride on Saturday morning to empty the garbage. Setting small amounts of time will motivate you to get chores done quickly."

Most stores, like Target, are open late so I will usually run out if needed on a weeknight after the kids are in bed on the rare occasion I need something from there.  I have food delivery from Fresh Direct so my time in a food store is kept to a minimum.  Amazon is a life saver as always. Cleaners, bank, post office we'll do during the workweek to get it out of the way.
There are so many fun articles and tips about what successful people do - ranging from what they eat for breakfast to what they do after work to what they do before 8 AM.  I am interested to pick another topic down the road under this umbrella to adapt it to working moms - fun!
Have a great weekend all!  We have an easy make ahead dinner for tonight so I can focus on party prep.  Spinach Cheese Manicotti will be served with a salad. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Extending Joy

Last night's meatloaf from epicurious was a hit.  Everyone loved it.

I have a busy day at work then need to run out to do shopping in prep for Saturday when we're celebrating our little guy who is turning 2.

Goal is to buy everything tonight so I can bake/prep Friday night.

Today's Get It Done Tip is again from the book "What The Most Successful People Do On The Weekend", by Laura Vanderkam.

The books talks about how planning out your weekend can make you happier, and how it can unlock a key mechanism of joy.

Carolyn Cuttrone from Business Insider writes "Vanderkam cites Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert's 2006 book, "Stumbling on Happiness." In it, Gilbert argues that "the greatest achievement of the human brain is its ability to imagine objects and episodes that do not exist in the realm of the real." Gilbert is talking about anticipation. Anticipation accounts for a huge chunk of happiness, which comes from thinking about the events we plan. Vanderkam writes, "As you look forward to something good that is about to happen, you experience some of the same joy you would in the moment. The major difference is that the joy can last much longer."

In other words, ride the happiness wave a little longer by planning it out in advance.  For me it can be something as simple as blocking a day to take the kids for a special treat of going out to see a a movie.  Or a few weeks back I found a free day and marked the calendar to remind us to put together their gingerbread house. 
Or it can be something more elaborate - like a friend I have (you know who you are!) who books her trip to Disney usually within a week of returning from Disney!! Or in the case of this weekend of my son's birthday celebration -- it's been on the calendar for weeks and I have so been looking forward to it. 


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What Successful People Do On The Weekend

There is an article on Business Insider by Carolyn Cutrone which talks about time management expert Laura Vanderkam's new book "What The Most Successful People Do On The Weekend".

The article provides tips given in the book that are absolutely pertinent to any working mom, so I want to share them over the next few days.

So, today's Get It Done Tip is about controlling your weekends by "making conscious choices".

Laura writes in her book:

"It's so easy to plop down on the couch on a Friday night or Saturday morning and watch TV, but falling into these routines will suck away the few free hours you have. Instead of doing something by default, choose to decide how your time is spent." 

Vanderkam writes, "In a world of constant connectivity, even loafing time must be consciously chosen, because time will be filled with something whether it’s consciously chosen or not — and not choosing means that the something that fills our hours will be less fulfilling than the something our remembering selves will likely wish we’d elected to do."

I agree completely - don't waste time scrubbing the floors or watching TV - block time on the calendar to do something with your family (or yourself!) and make a memory! 

Tonight I have epicurious' recipe for Old-Fashioned Meatloaf ready to go.  I had a special request for meatloaf (weird people, I know!) so made it Sunday and took it out of the freezer today.  We'll serve it with some baked potatoes and mixed vegetables. Will report back how it is!

By the way, I took out one of those super easy banana breads I froze the other week. It was gone in 8 hours - the kids couldn't get enough of it!  I tried a little piece and think they like it since the banana flavor was really pronounced since the bananas were very overripe.  It was the easiest banana bread recipe  I have ever made in my life.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Organizing Addresses

It's is bitter cold out today.  I am working from home so thankfully don't have to deal with the outdoors as much as usual.

Today's Get It Done Tip is about keeping your personal contact addresses organized. There are so many systems you can choose from - I wrote about some online sites that can help you do this back in December like  You can also plug addresses into your online contacts in your iPhone or Outlook which I know some people like to do.

I personally prefer the old fashioned way....excel!  I have well over 100 personal contacts listed.  Column A is last name, B is first name, C is street address and D is city/state/zip.  I sometimes use column E if I need a reminder about someone's kid's name, etc. so I don't flake when I write out the card.

If I get a hard copy of a change of address notification I logon and make the update right away before I toss it.  If it is an emailed change I put it as a reminder on my calendar when I know I will be home and have time to make the update -weekend or evening.

That way whenever I need to send a thank you card, birthday card or holiday cards I know my list is accurate.  All I have to do is select the addresses I want and then can print them right on labels. 

As a back-up I have a recurring monthly reminder on my calendar to send a copy of the spreadsheet to myself in case my laptop self destructs....which happens to me more than I care to fact it happened two weeks ago!

If you dont already have a system in place, try out something new.  In the long run a little effort saves on time and stress.

I can't get enough of these cards...they are hilarious! ;)