I hope you had a great weekend! Ours was lots of fun hosting our friends from college and their two girls. If you read my first blog post, you’ll remember me mentioning a mutual friend through which Brad and I crossed paths. Enter Forrest. (If you need to catch up or refer back, you can read it here: The Million Dollar Question) He is basically the reason Brad and I met and are now married and I like to take credit for his relationship with his now wife, Cassandra. She and I were teammates in college, she was a diver one year behind me and I was a swimmer. Fast forward to now and we are both families of 4, with all girls. Having remained close all these years, we make time every once and awhile to get together. Of course prior to kids we saw each a lot more and vacationed once a year together, but we still travel down to Florida or they come to South Carolina a couple of times a year. We basically can just pick back up from where we left off the previous time and we still share a lot of laughs retelling college stories. From what I can remember, I think this is the first time in last 4 years that we have been together where neither Cassandra nor I are pregnant. The jury is still out if that will be the case next time … looking at you Cassandra! 😉
We kept Friday low key upon their arrival and enjoyed a dinner outing to Blaze Pizza. No cooking or cleaning? Check and check. Saturday morning was for the kids. We made our way downtown and checked out EdVenture, a children’s museum. I’ve seen and heard great things about this place for awhile now, but we had not yet gone because we wanted to wait until Laney was old enough to really enjoy it. The time had come! And because Forrest & Cassandra’s girls are almost 4 and 1, we knew they would too.
Remember when I said the morning was for the kids? Just kidding — us adults had just as much fun. There is a seasonal area that is set up as Snowville at the moment with an area that you can ‘throw snowballs’ at each other. Brad and I had little too much fun trying to get each other. It was a neat concept with white foam balls and the ends of a blower that you would use in a yard to launch them.
Afterwards we came back home for lunch and naps to try to keep with a normal schedule. But if we’re being honest, parents need the quiet time and occasional nap too. The evening was spent at home grilling out and just catching up.
Sundays are for slow mornings, church and lounging. Still trying to protect Morgan the best we can from germs until she is a little older, we have been opting to tune into our church’s online feed of the service. I also try to do a bit of tidying and prepping for the week, like meal planning. We then ate way too many snacks and watched the Super Bowl. But Sunday calories are the Lord’s calories so they don’t count, right? It was the perfect way to end a fun weekend.
Now it’s Monday, so hello to a fresh start on a new week! As I mentioned before, every Sunday I plan out our meals for the week which therefore helps me to build our grocery list. Being a stay-at-home mom with a busy toddler and an alert 3 month old, meal planning is crucial to our schedule so I’m not staring blankly into my pantry and fridge every day around 5:00pm wondering what the heck I’m going to make. With the compiled list, we go on our weekly grocery run to Aldi on Monday mornings after Story Time at the library. If you know, you know. Aldi is a blessing to your wallet, that’s for sure. They are able to offer such discounted prices because they maintain a low overhead and use their own branding on products, which is very well a name brands you’re used to, just with an Aldi logo on it instead. Though they don’t carry all of the items a normal grocery store would, I’ve learned to plan around what I know I can get there. However, for the things I can’t get and need, we just make a separate run to another local store to grab those items. We also purchased part of a cow at the end of last summer and have been enjoying a lot of beef. The steaks were the first things to disappear and now we are left with some meat to be used in roasts as well as a bunch of ground beef. Therefore, I try to do one meal a week with ground beef, our favorite being Taco Salad. Yum!
Here is what we are having this week:
MONDAY | Cheesy Chicken Chipotle Tacos (serves 4)
1 lb. cooked & shredded chicken
1 small can chipotles in adobo sauce
1 14 oz. can Rotel, half drained
1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed & drained
A big pinch of salt & pepper
2 c shredded cheddar cheese
8 crunchy taco shells
Sour cream, optional
Guacamole (recipe below)
Morning prep: I have discovered the easiest way to cook chicken that I need to already have done for a recipe is to do it in my crock pot rather than trying to boil the crap out of prior to using it. I will place the desired amount of chicken in my crock pot and add enough water to cover it, about 6 cups. Then cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours. When you’re ready to make your dish, just drain and shred. It’s perfect every time and so moist.
Ready to cook: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly spray an 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray and then set aside. In a mixing bow, toss together your cooked & shredded chicken, 2-3 chopped chipotle peppers (2 for some heat, 3 if you love spicy), 1 tbsp. adobo sauce, Rotel, black beans, a pinch of both salt & pepper and half of the cheese. Divide the mixture between taco shells and then stand them in the baking dish. Bake in the oven for 15 to 18 minutes until shells are toasted. Remove from the oven and serve with guacamole and the remaining cheese. We also like a little sour cream on ours too. We looove these!
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1/4 onion, diced
In a small mixing bowl, add avocados that have been removed from their skin and pitted, the jalapeño and onion. Most guacamoles call for a red onion. I don’t go out of my way to buy those and simply just use a sweet onion which I always have on hand. Next add a little salt and mash with a potato masher or a fork if you don’t have one until you reach your desired consistency. I prefer to make mine slightly chunky. After a quick taste test, add salt until it tastes the way you would like for it to. Stir in this additional salt with a spoon and voila!
TUESDAY | Parmesan Basil Shrimp & Rice(serves 4)
1 c dry Arborio rice (the kind used for risotto, yum!)
2 tbsp. EVOO
1/2 onion, chopped
3 c chicken broth
6 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 lb. shrimp
1/2 c shredded Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp. chopped, fresh basil (or 1 tbsp. dried)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/4 c milk
Prepare rice: In a large pot, add 2 tbsp. EVOO, 2 tbsp. butter, onion and chicken broth one cup at a time until absorbed. Set aside.
In a large skillet, melt remaining butter over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add shrimp and cook for 3-4 minutes or until heated through. Stir in rice and mix well. Add Parmesan cheese, basil (I’ve only ever used dried and it tastes great), salt, pepper and milk. Stir until creamy. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
WEDNESDAY | Stuffed Peppers (serves 4)
4 large bell peppers (I typically use green)
1 lb. ground beef
2 tbsp. chopped onion
1 c cooked brown rice
1 tsp. salt
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
3/4 c shredded mozzarella cheese
Cut a thin slice from the stem end of each bell pepper to remove the top. Remove the seeds and membranes; rinse peppers. If necessary, cut a thin slice from the bottom of each pepper so they will stand up straight. In a 4 quart dutch oven, or a large pot, add enough water to cover the peppers. Cook about 2 minutes, drain. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a 10 in. skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat, drain. Stir in cooked rice, salt, garlic and 1 cup of tomato sauce until hot. Stuff peppers with beef mixture. Stand peppers upright in an 8×8 baking dish. Pour remaining tomato sauce over peppers. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes longer or until peppers are tender. Sprinkle with cheese and enjoy!
THURSDAY | Creamy Ranch Chicken Casserole (serves 6)
2 lbs. chicken tenderloins
1 can cream of chicken
1/2 c sour cream
1 Ranch seasoning packet
1/2 c grated cheddar cheese
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the chicken into the bottom of the pan. In a separate bowl, stir the cream of chicken together with the sour cream, ranch seasoning and cheese. Top with crushed crackers and bake 25-30 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Enjoy on its own or with rice or buttered noodles. Since we will have had rice the last couple of nights, I will just throw some cut up veggies in the oven to bake at the same time. Our favorite these days is sliced okra with a little salt, pepper and olive oil. The recipe serves 6 so depending on how many you are cooking for, you may have leftovers. We definitely will, so this will make for an easy ‘leftovers dinner’ on Saturday.
FRIDAY | Pizza
Friday is always our pizza night. I grab a frozen pizza from Aldi, preheat the oven, cook for 20 minutes and boom! Dinner is served…on paper plates. 🙂 I personally like the Aldi brand better than DiGiorno. Less money, less grease, more toppings, more flavor. Win. Win. Win. Win.
What fun did you get yourself into this weekend? Who were you cheering for during the Super Bowl? What are your go to meals? I’d love to know!