Saturday, May 12, 2012

35 Quick and Easy Dinner Ideas

Have you ever sat down to make a grocery list and drawn a blank?  It happens to me almost every single time.  This is usually how it goes - I grab a pen and paper and set out to make the grocery list, attempting to make one trip to the grocery store for the week (HA!).  I usually ask Ed what he wants for dinner that week, and he either says, "Hmmm, I don't know.... or he says, "BBQ meatballs."  The meatballs are something I made for him back in 2004/2005, and never since.  Not because they aren't good but because I don't really like meatballs and it is isn't fun to make something that you don't want to eat at the end.  Does that make me selfish?  Anyway, I come up with one or two ideas and then grab some cookbooks to peruse, usually while children are asking me for things, or trying to rip out pages of the cookbook, and by the time I get the list made and actually get to the grocery store, I am in No Mood. 
So, I decided to put one of my Pinterest ideas to good use, and with some index cards, an idex card box, pen, and roughly 2 hours of my time I made a "Dinner Ideas Box."  Here is the visual: 

On each card I wrote the name of the meal, and the ingredients that I would need to buy at the store.  I didn't include ingredients that I usually have on hand, like salt and pepper, olive oil, etc...  I also color coded them: Pink (Beef), Blue (Pork), Yellow (Chicken), Purple (Pasta), Green (Everything Else.)
Oh, and I guess you are wondering how I came up with so many ideas when that is normally the hard part.  Well, for some reason it was so much easier when I was just sitting there watching tv and thinking about what some of my favorite foods are.  I asked Ed and Andrew what they like for dinner and added those meals to cards.  Over the course of the night I had come up with a pretty substantial list!  And since I am a nice person I thought I would share my list with you!  I am just giving the meal ideas, because most of the recipes are common sense or things you might already have your own recipe for.  I will include links/recipes for a couple of the more specific things.  Here you go!

Bacon Guacamole Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast
Broccoli/Sausage/Pepperoni Calzones
Veggie/Chicken Quesadillas with a side salad
Minestrone Soup with salad and bread
Pancakes and Bacon
Baked Ziti Casserole (Think lasagna but with Ziti pasta)
Ritz Cracker crusted chicken with Mashed Potatoes
Homemade Chicken Fingers with French Fries or Tater Tots
Roasted Vegetable and Mozzarella Sandwiches with Sweet Potato Fries
Pastrami Sandwiches with Pasta Salad
Raviolis with Bread and Caesar Salad
Chicken and Stuffing Casserole (made with sour cream and Mushroom Soup)
Teriyaki Chicken over Brown Rice
Chicken Enchiladas
Beef/Chicken Tacos
Grilled Chicken marinated in Italian Dressing
English Muffin Pizzas
Spaghetti with Meatballs or Sausage
Pan Fried Pork Chops with Gravy
Chicken Ziti Broccoli
Stuffed Peppers and Cornbread
Chicken Fried Rice and Salad
Fettucine Alfredo and Garlic Bread
Grilled Steaks with Carmelized Onions
Crockpot Taco Chicken (Chicken breast, jar of salsa, packet of Taco Seasoning - Low 6-8 hours and then shred.  Serve as tacos, taco salad, burritos...)
Crockpot Pork Chops (Boneless center cut Pork Chops, 1 envelope onion soup mix, 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, 1 can cream of chicken soup, 1 packet of pork gravy mix - Low 6-8 hours)

Well there you have it!  Now there is no excuse for you not to know what to put on your meal list this week. : )

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Parenting 101

A couple years ago my sister gave me these magnets as part of my Christmas present.  They are instructions on what to do, and not do, with a baby.  They are pretty darn funny.  They came up in conversation last night with friends and I pulled them out of a (very messy) drawer and we all had a good laugh passing them around the room.  It made me want to share them with you.  I'm not sure why I just told you that the drawer was very messy, other than the fact that it is really really messy, and I have a little guilt about not cleaning it out.  Maybe I will get to that this week.  Maybe.   

If you already have a baby, there are some very helpful tips for you.  If you don't have a baby yet, keep this email around for when you do, just so you don't forget anything.  And even if you aren't the baby type - I guarantee you will still get a laugh.  (I don't know how I would actually guarantee this - it's not like I can give you money back or anything since the blog is free...I guess I am just that SURE that you will think they are as funny as I do!)

So it is a-OK to lift your baby up above your head (just watch out for the baby puke in your open mouth situation), but not OK to rocket launch your newborn into the air like some sort of projectile.

I once saw a dad, in the Target portrait studio, pick up his child's dropped bottle off of the filthy floor, lick it to "clean' it, and then take a swig (I am assuming to remove any germs that were inside.)  He apparently had not seen this before.

I'm not sure what is wrong with this one, unless maybe the coffee wasn't decaf?...  Because of course you would never give caffeine to a newborn, everyone knows that.  (Disclaimer - I would NEVER give hot liquids of any kind to a baby or small child. Maybe she should try iced coffee?  Decaf of course.)

Random stranger as a babysitter- never a good idea.

This one is funny and kinda horrifying at the same time.  I would suggest just letting the baby run/crawl naked around the house until they air dry.

Now, having two kids myself and knowing the kind of desperate diapers situations you can find yourself in, I find it hard to judge on this one.  If you really had NO other wipes left, a skirt might be your only option.  I am pretty sure you have to be a parent to understand how rubbing feces on your clothing could ever even be considered an option.

I wish I could tell you where to find these handy little magnets, but with them being a gift, I have no idea myself.  I hope you got a laugh out of them!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Our thumbs are green today.

A few weeks ago at Sunday school Andrew was given some beans in a plastic sandwich bag.  They were wrapped up in a damp paper towel and the whole thing came with directions to tape the bag to the window and wait for the beans to sprout.  The plastic bag acted like a mini greenhouse.  After they sprouted you could plant them in dirt.

So today we did just that.  We made a scary trip to Building 19 to look for a pot and potting soil (no reason in particular that the trip was scary, that place is just gross.)  Do people really eat the food they sell in there?  Eek.  Anywho, we were in that area and ended up there.  They had pots but no soil.  After a quick trip to CVS (which did have potting soil), and a brief encounter with a very interesting cashier there (he gives out candy and tells jokes while ringing you up), we headed home for some planting.

We had potting soil, sprouted beans, a pot, and another little grow your own flower kit we picked up at CVS, but I had no idea where the watering can was. That is when I noticed the milk jug on the counter that was about to be tossed in the recycling bin. Well, the inner Pinterest in me realized that with a hammer and nail I could turn that gallon milk jug into a handy dandy watering can! So I did just that and we were well on our way to planting/watering! And you would be so proud, I even let Audrey touch the dirt and didn't freak out when she rubbed dirt all over her new outfit. 

Note - I used a milk jug with a screw top cap.  I wouldn't try this with the cap that just pops on and off.

worked perfectly

Andrew watering the beans we had just planted.

Our seeds soaking in the sunshine!

Monday, March 19, 2012

These are a few of my favorite things...

What a gorgeous day outside!  This is THE perfect weather, warm enough for capri pants and flip flops but not hot enough that you need air conditioning. Which works out well since we do not have air conditioning!  This brings me to my list of some of my favorite things....

Warm Spring Weather - low to mid 70's is ideal, and perfect for being outside and playing with the kids in the yard.  I plan on dragging the bikes and hockey stuff out into the driveway later  and working on my "mom tan". (This is similar to a farmer's tan only requires no agricultural work)

Iced Coffee - This is also a required item on a warm spring day such as this, although I would be lying if I said I didn't drink the stuff year round.  You know you are a true  New Englander when you are scraping ice off your windshield and then ordering it in your coffee in the same half hour.  I am a bit of an addict truly.  My husband claims I will bankrupt us with my Dunks addiction - I think he might be a little over dramatic.  (she typed while sipping a medium iced, milk and caramel swirl - yum)

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens - Come on, are you telling me you don't already have that song stuck in your head now too? (Note - while kittens are cute, neither of these things would make my favorite things list.)

Pitbull - No, not the dog, the hip hop singer.  Love me some hip hop.  Nothing like belting out a little International Love while driving out of the preschool parking lot, in an SUV filled with car seats and strollers...oh yeah baby, I am straight up gangsta...

Ridiculously Tall Heels - This has become a recent passion of mine.  The taller the better.  It's nice to not feel like a Mommy all the time  (see previous item on list).  Recently I may have gone a little overboard with my choice of shoe and picked out a pair that are a little too crazy for the occasion they were purchased for.  I may have to find another reason to keep them though.  I would be sad to see them leave my closet, and they seem pretty happy in there themselves.

Dancing! - If you read my earlier post (Shorty Got Low) you would know that I am a fan of the dance.  Zumba is my favorite class at the gym (okay, I will admit I have not been in...well a long time, but I am going back tonight- I really am!  Please feel free to hold me accountable to this later).  This past weekend I found myself at a karaoke spot and may or may not have danced on top of a cube...and to my credit did not even fall off- which was a pretty good possibility since I had consumed a couple glasses of  wine and a good portion of champagne, and of course I was wearing 4 inch platform heels. : )

What are some of your favorite things? Feel free to leave a comment and share!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Top 5 most loved/durable Toddler Toys

Recently I have been noticing that some of Audrey's favorite toys to play with are the same ones that Andrew loved when he was that age (18 months). That means that some of these toys have been played with and loved for close to 4 years now. I thought I would share with you what I would consider the Top 5 most loved toddler toys in my house, that have also stood the test of time. This list is in no particular  order.
Fisher Price ABC Delivery Truck
- Teaches the alphabet and gives an example word for each letter.  Also good for transporting cars, army men, and anything else that can be shoved inside of the delivery truck's compartment.

Fisher Price Peekaboo Blocks
-  Each of the 26 letter blocks contains an item inside that starts with that letter.  The items inside the blocks shake, rattle, and some can be spun in circles.  Fun for letter recognition as well as tower building, assembling forts for Army Men (noticing a theme here?), and leaving all over the floor for mom to pick up.  Not fun to step on.

Leap Frog Letter Wheel
- Ahh, so many memories of Andrew spinning this wheel on the tray of his high chair...It has letters, animals, what more could you ask for?  And talk about durable, this thing has fallen from both Andrew and Audrey's high chairs more times than I could count and yet it doesn't miss a beat, or letter.

Little Tikes Boombox
- Both Andrew and Audrey explored their inner DJ with this cute little radio. Audrey likes to bring it into a room, press the button to play some music and start dancing. I know I'm a little biased but it's pretty much the cutest thing ever.
Fisher Price Corn Popper
- A classic.  So much fun has been had pushing this thing around the house and hearing the "pop poppity pop" sound.  Andrew has pretended to vacuum with it, Audrey has dragged it all over the house, and my brother in law has used it to make Rocket, my Jack Russell Terrier, go insane.  Now that's fun for the whole family right there.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The things you do for love...and blog material

I do not like messy things. In this house Play-Doh gets hidden away, sidewalk chalk conveniently forgotten about during the summer months, and bubbles that come into this house mysteriously end up down the drain... For the record, I do not purchase any of these things myself. They are usually gifts. Thank you family and friends, but really, when birthdays roll around, PLEASE do not give these items to my children - because now you know the truth about what will happen to them.

However, I do love my kids. So on occasion I feel the need to do some sort of yucky, messy, quality kid- fun type of project with them. I try to pretend that I don't mind having sticky fingers, or a disaster of a kitchen, and choose something that I think the kids will enjoy. And, in the instance of tonight, I figured I could use some new blog material. Win, Win. - okay enough with the "winning" it makes me think of Charlie Sheen, which has nothing to do with this post...

Tonight's messy fun - Oobleck!

Oobleck is sort of like Play-Doh, except absolutely nothing like Play-Doh. It starts off looking like liquid, but when you pick it up and press it together it becomes a solid, that is until you stop moving it and it "melts" back into a liquid. Hard to describe. Try it for yourself if you do not have a fear of icky messy things or like me, you can pretend that you don't, long enough for your kids to give it a try.

Here is how it went down -
The ingredients- 1 1/2 cups Corn Starch, 1 cup of Water (not pictured, but I am going to assume if you are capable of reading this that you know what water is), and food coloring (not necessary, but definitely more fun. We made ours blue because Andrew is obsessed with Smurfs) Note: my Oobleck came out too "liquidy" and I added more C.S.

Andrew was the first to go in. I somehow managed to make the Oobleck the same color as the bowl- not great for photographing it...

Andrew is just like me. Here is he saying it is on his hands, he wants to wash his hands, and he doesn't really like it. Audrey seemed like she could take it or leave it. Okay kids- let's remember who we are doing this for here! :)

Time for mom to make this look fun. Notice Andrew holding his hands out like they are covered in flesh eating ants or something. Notice mom's flabby arms - eek, maybe I shouldn't have skipped the gym tonight.

First it's a solid!

Now it's not! In this photo it is "melting" back to liquid through my fingers

The aftermath. Andrew has already left the room to go wash his hands here. Oobleck on the table, chair, the floor, the kitchen counters, and the kitchen sink mat. But it's okay. It's all okay. I can just clean it up with water. Deep breaths Marie. Deep breaths. At least the kids had fun! Right?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It Takes a Village

Well Hello Again!
Since we were last together I became the most recent victim of the stomach bug.  I know, I thought I was out of the woods when I wrote that last post, but that was a sneaky bugger and there was no escaping.  I have been feeling much better, but was unable to get on the laptop because Ed is knee deep in a paper for school.  I am not writing the paper myself, but after witnessing him working on it I think it is safe to say it's almost as painful as having the stomach bug was.

It Takes a Village
That is our motto around here.   It became a joke between Ed's parents, Richard and Cheryl, and I when I went to live with them during Ed's deployment to Afghanistan.  I  had our first child, Andrew, while living with them.  They were a huge help with Andrew as well as our two fur babies (although I would like to disown one of them right now, after she just ate a beanie baby and scattered "beans" all over the place!-story for another blog post...)  Thus our little "village" began.

Ed is home and we now live exactly one mile away from his parents.  We still consider ourselves a village and have designated roles that we kind of took upon.  Ed is the "traveler", not by choice, but due to his job.  Cheryl is the village pharmacist (her trade), and any medical concern gets first directed to her.  Richard drives the plow (an invaluable asset!), and is the go-to "handyman."  And I am the cook.  Several times a week Cheryl will come for dinner, while Richard and Ed are away at work/school.   Sometimes the boys are home to eat too, or sometimes I pack them up leftovers for later.  Recently Ed's grandparents were feeling under the weather so I whipped up a batch of Minestrone soup and drove down the road (they live a half mile away- being near family is awesome), to drop off soup to them.  I also grabbed a bowl for Ed's parents and included them in my delivery run.

Last night we had Cheryl and Grandma Jackie (Ed's grandmother), over for dinner.   I tried a couple new recipes out - Pork Chops with a mustard/apple pan sauce, and crunchy zucchini sticks with an onion dipping sauce.  Deliciousness.  After dinner the kids played hide and seek with Great Grandma.  It's really cute to see them enjoy each other's company.  Here are the pics...

Where could she be hiding?

There she is! (and I spy a Beanie Baby eating dog too...)
Simple and Delicious!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

No Fun Here, Forced or Voluntary

Today's post is brought to you by hand sanitizer, Lysol, and antibacterial hand soap.  Yes, you guessed it, our household has become the latest victim of the stomach virus.  And per Murphy's Law, it happened when Ed is (in)conveniently on a business trip in Arkansas.  Arkansas is stupid.  I don't really mean that, I am just annoyed that he is there and not here.  Poor guy was actually the second victim himself.  Audrey being the first one to catch it on Friday.  I thought for sure when Monday came we were free and clear and then Monday night I see a pasty/ill faced looking Ed during a FaceTime chat, and he informs me he has been taken down.  Poor guy.  Although I was thinking, "Thank goodness he is THERE and not HERE!"  Well, Tuesday at 4am Andrew was the next one to lose the fight against this horrible sickness, and I was kinda wishing Ed was around to help.  We made it through the day and are almost home free.  Ed was supposed to be home tonight at midnight, but I guess mother nature thought she would have one last laugh and scheduled a snow storm (the second one since October) to start today.  Thanks Mama N.  Thanks a lot.  As for me, I refuse to get sick.  When I started to feel a little queasy yesterday I said (to no one in particular), "No, this is not happening.  I will not stand for it.  I REFUSE to get sick."  Seems to have done the trick.  Hopefully, next time you hear from me it will be a post about something fun and exciting.  Till then, I bid you farewell from quarantine cell block 8.

  Signal Flag "Lima" called the "Yellow Jack"which when flown
                                          in harbor means ship is under quarantine.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Great Escape - aka date night

This week's family fun was had by Mommy and Daddy.  Oh yes, it was date night.  A rare occurrence where Ed and I leave the children and go out for the night to enjoy some grown up time.  This meaning a dinner where I didn't have to cut any food up before enjoying my own, we could go somewhere that didn't necessarily have chicken fingers and Kraft macaroni and cheese, and we didn't need to eat by 5:30pm.  Just the two of us enjoying some quality one on one time (sorta, read further).  Here is how it all went down...

I purchased a Groupon for German food at Jacob Wirth in Boston.  I had never been but was hankering for some German and couldn't pass up on the good deal - 1 appetizer, 2 entrees, and 1 dessert all for $25!  Of course this didn't include the price of alcohol, and I also had a hankering for hefeweizen.  Yum, it is soo good.  Grandma offered to spend her Friday night babysitting and she didn't need to ask twice!  And so after a 6pm vet appointment for the pups, we headed into Boston around 6:45, starving for food and a night away.  After we got there, parked, made a quick stop in at the Suffolk Law library to pick up a book  (they had a bucket of free ear plugs which I wanted to bring home - I figured they would come in handy- but I didn't...) it was around 7:30 when we got to the restaurant.  It was packed.  We were hungry.  They told us it would be a 50 minute wait, and we decided it would take longer to leave and find other food, so we stayed.  Ed wanted to go somewhere else for a drink because there was hardly any room to stand, but I didn't want to risk missing our name being called - I get cranky when I am hungry and we were entering a danger zone of hunger.  I sent Ed over to the bar for beer while I clung to a free spot on the wall.  Within minutes I saw that he had made some friends with three of the "bar people", so I walked over to see what was going on.  Well the next 50 minutes were probably one of the most interesting and enjoyable restaurant waits we have had to sustain.  I love the camaraderie of people around a bar.  This bar was no different.  We made friends with Bill, Jane, and Steve.  We heard about where they lived, worked, what they loved about Jacob Wirth, and why they came back regularly.  We met there friend, JM, who was about to leave for school, but would be back in the summer.  We talked beer, wine, food.  I  could even fill you in on the story of  Bill and Jane's neighbor, who flies helicopters for the Army, and the story of his dog Jazzy, who despite having a spleen removed before his owner's deployment was there to welcome home his owner with a wagging tail!- the welcome home party put on by Tommy (the soldier's) sister is on the 28th, in case you were wondering...

At one point these people welcomed us to their "family."  It was awesome.  I love how you add a few drinks to the mix and people can be so nice and welcoming.  I was glad we didn't go somewhere else for our pre dinner drinks.  In fact, I kinda missed our new friends when they went home and we got seated for dinner.  It made me think about a driving experience last week, where I witnessed three different cars beep, gesture, and roll down windows to yell at each other- all because someone wanted to pull out of the Bed Bath and Beyond parking lot, and someone else didn't want to wait.  I was wondering what the heck was wrong with people that they had to be so rude to one another, over a matter of having to wait 30 seconds.  I wondered if that was really how life was now.  Everyone yelling at each other whenever they didn't get their way.  Then we had an experience like last night and my faith in people was restored.  There ARE nice people out there.  I guess it helps if they are sitting at the bar with a drink and not driving in their cars.

The rest of the restaurant experience was great too.  Food was delicious- especially the basket of pretzels.  There was an awesome sing a long going on in the main restaurant - we couldn't see/hear  it from our spot near the door, but I caught bits of songs when I walked to the restroom.  The whole restaurant was singing "Let it Be" at one point, and it was pretty darn cool.   I hope to go back again sometime.
so tasty!