Friday, August 30, 2013

WATERMELON & COCONUT SMOOTHIE



Nothing beats a sweet, juicy, and perfectly ripe watermelon in the summer, am I right?! Too bad you only get those gems about 30% of the time. Usually they are just ok. And sometimes they just suck.
What do you do with all that 'not so tasty' fruit? You freeze it and throw it in a smoothie of course!



WATERMELON COCONUT SMOOTHIE

Throw the following in a blender:
2 ripe bananas
2 heaping handfulls of frozen watermelon
1/2 cup or so plain organic yogurt (I use stonyfield)
Enough coconut almond milk to make it the consistency you prefer

popsicles  |  margaritas  |  sorbet  |  lemonade

And... IT'S FRIDAY! Happy Labor Day weekend! See y'all on Tuesday! This girl will be spending the weekend at Taste of Madison and on a pontoon boat! Yippee! 


Thursday, August 29, 2013

MEAL PLANNING 101

I have had a few readers ask me how I meal plan. I hope you are ready for a novel, b/c I wrote one. :)

While I was pregnant with Ellis, I would always find myself trying to imagine what life would be like when she got here. I was curious how I would feel once she made her arrival, subsequently making me a 'Mom'. Would I be tired all of the time? Would I care about my career anymore? Would Logan and I ever 'go out' again? Well, now that she is here (and 17 months in) I can answer all of these questions.

No, I am not tired all the time. Yes, I still care about my career. Yes, Logan and I get time away, if we make it.

Having a clild has taught me many things. It has taught me how to love (& worry) more than I ever thought possible. It has taught me patience and how to function on little to no sleep. It has also taught me a whole new level of multitasking. Having a child, especially as a working mom, creates a whole new kind of crazy in your life. Crazy isn't staying out too late or waking up with a hangover and barely making it to your studio class on time. Crazy is trying to figure out how to get a child ready for daycare, make it to work on time, get everyone fed dinner by 7pm, keep a clean house, and have enough energy to talk to your spouse at the end of the night. (This goes for Logan and myself - we are a team.) You figure it out as you go. You learn what you have to let go of and what you keep. It's all about making room for what you love and care about and cutting the things you can do without. We might not stay out late with friends as much anymore, but I wake up at 5am every morning to either prep food for that night's dinner or get in my morning run because those are the things that are important to me.

And now, after that long (and probably way too serious) intro, I land on the subject of meal planning. Just because life is busier than ever, doesn't mean I have to sacrifice taking care of myself and cooking heathy meals for my family. I refuse to be the person who swings through the McDonalds drive thru after work and pick up dinner to go. So, I guess I just had to figure it out, right? Well I think I have a pretty good system. At least it is a system that works for me. Whether you already have a system, are in dire need on one, want to save money, or cut nightly trips to the grocery store for last minute meals, you might find this post useful. So here it is, my bible of meal planning to get healthy meals on the table, snacks in lunch boxes and reserve meals in the freezer. This is my routine every other week. So yes, I feel it is totally doable two times a month. Trust me, it will save you time and money.

#1 – Create two Pinterest boards:



Start pinning. I am a huge fan of cooking healthy, so I follow certain people who I know also appreciate a veggie packed dinner. Skinny taste is one of my favorites. Really, the girl never lets me down.  Pin your recipes to your "Recipes to Try" board.

#2 – Review your "Recipes to Try" Pinterest board and pick the following to place on your menu board. (adjust to number of people in your family)

2 snacks
5 meals
1 freezable meal

For example:
Baked Oatmeal Cups (snack)
Energy Bites (snack)
Greek Yogurt and Honey Dijon Chicken Salad (meal)
Thai Quinoa Salad (meal)
Homemade Pizza (meal)
Falafel with Avocado Spread (meal)
Chicken, Broccoli and Quinoa Casserole (meal)
Southwestern Egg Rolls (meal – freezable)

#3 – Review all of the ingredients in the recipes and put whatever items you need on your shopping list. 
Rewrite the list in order according to your route through your grocery store. (this will save you so much time in the grocery store!)



#4 – Write all of the meals you have picked on a menu board that is visible in your kitchen. Mine is a large chalkboard that hangs on a wall in our kitchen. Yours might just be a notebook that is always on your kitchen island – whatever works for you.  Write your list in this order:

Snacks
Freezer Meal
All of your other meals in order according to what ingredients will spoil first.


Note: This picture doesn't really show the meals in the correct order. Hey, I live on the wild side, sometimes breaking the rules. ;)

I usually meal plan the night before I plan on going to the grocery store. It takes me a total of 45 minutes to an hour to find all the recipes I want, write down the ingredients I need, and re-write them in the correct order for my shopping trip. I usually do it while watching TV and winding down for the night.

#5. Grocery Shop. Every two weeks I make an early morning (and I mean EARLY…. like before anyone in the house is awake kind of early) trip to Woodmans for most of my items. I, also, sometimes make a trip later in the week to Trader Joe's for a few organic options. I am sure you have your favorite grocery store. Do whatever works for you.

#6. Set aside a chunk of time and cook up a storm. Make both snacks, the freezer meal, and the dinner for that night. You will make the rest of the meal options throughout the next two weeks. This many meals last us two weeks b/c there are only two of us and a toddler and we live on leftovers. What we don't finish of that night's dinner, goes straight into glass containers to be packed in our lunches for work.  We, also, are not home every night for dinner. Sometimes we are at a friend's house or my parent's for dinner. We do not need a fresh cooked dinner every single night. That just isn't realistic for our family. There are some nights we might just have leftovers for dinner (as well as lunch) or make something simple like 'breakfast for dinner' or chicken on the grill. Plus, that is what the freezer options are for. They are for the nights when you really cannot get anything made. I love always having a stocked freezer. Making one freezer meal a week usually keeps it pretty packed.

Throughout the two weeks, make the meals on the list from top to bottom, making sure to make the ones that require the freshest ingredients first. You want to avoid wasting your money on spoiled ingredients. This system will also nix all those last minute grocery store trips b/c you have planned out every meal.

#7. Wrap up and evaluateWhen all the meals on the board are crossed off, it is time to decide what recipes you would make again and what ones you wouldn't. Go back to your Pinterest boards and transfer all of the ones you liked to your "Tried & True" board and delete the ones you wouldn't make again. Let's face it, not all Pinterest recipes are a win. When meal planning, I now pull from both boards. I have a good mix of 'tried & true' recipes and new ones. I always try at least two new ones every two weeks. It keeps it exciting! ;)

This system might sound a little over the top, but it really works for us. I hope some of you might be able to take some of these tips and integrate them into your own routine. Let me know what you think.

Do any of you have any other good meal planning tips?


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

KITCHEN GADGET ROUNDUP

I am a sucker for a good kitchen gadget and I am loving these!


food pod - Save time when boiling, blanching or steaming by conveniently containing, removing and draining foods in this odd looking little silicone wonder.
flour/sugar containers - Because I might be the messiest baker alive. Ask Logan, he will tell you. It is like a flour tornado went through the kitchen when I bake. I have a feelings these might help.
mini crock - For those of you who fear the microwave. I am not going to lie, I kind of wonder about it...
silpoura - Because I'm always afraid the cover is going to slip and our entire meal will go into the sink. Here is to stress free cooking! 
sippy cup tether - Because children throw things, especially their sippy cups. You don't even know how many times I've cleaned smoothie splatter off our floor.
cover blubber - Move over plastic wrap, here comes the eco-friendly and much cooler way to cover your food.
herb scissors - makes chopping sh!t up just a little bit faster
non-paper towels - We waste a ton of money each year on paper towels b/c Logan is OCD about cleaning and I have germaphobe tendencies. Maaaaybe I we handle these. At least this Esty shop sells them in cool patterns unlike most of the others.
cake slicer -  Because I love to bake cakes and this could be a very handy tool for adding yummy frosting between multiple layers. If I tried to freehand this, it wouldn't be pretty.

Monday, August 26, 2013

ROASTED BEET SALAD

If I wasn't a graphic designer, I would probably be a beet farmer like Dwight from The Office. :) All joking aside (b/c clearly beets are a serious matter) I flippin' love beets. I have tried them on Ellis' tiny taste buds and she doesn't share my same opinion on the topic. I guess she got her Daddy's looks AND his taste buds since she can suck a lemon dry. ick!

If you're a beet fanatic like myself, give this recipe a try. It is one of my very favorites!


Ingredients:
6 red beets
Organic arugula
Feta cheese - crumbled
Candied walnuts (or toasted almonds)

Dressing:
3 tablespoons orange joice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
a pinch of salt & pepper

Directions:
To make dressing - mix all ingredients together and shake (I love my salad dressing shaker)

To cook beets - preheat oven to 350ยบ. Place beets in a baking pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt.  Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour or until tender when pierced with a fork.  When cool enough to handle, peel off the skin. (If it doesn't peel off easy, use a carrot/potato peeler.)  Slice the beets into bite-sized pieces.

To assemble - put a few handfuls on arugula on each plate. Add cooked, sliced beets, sprinkle with feta cheese and candied walnuts and drizzle with dressing.




Friday, August 23, 2013

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT... OR AT LEAST MAKES YOU BETTER

Last Sunday I was a mess. I was just all sorts of out of it. I think I was tired b/c I worked both Friday and Saturday, our house was a mess, we had no food and my anxiety was through the roof. (I know, I know... first world problems. poor me.)

I do have some anxiety issues. It doesn't effect me much these days, but on Sunday it was through the roof. I had almost chalked it up to be a complete disaster of a day until 6pm, when we decided to pack up Ellis, the stroller, my camera and dinner and head down to the Willy Street neighborhoods (downtown) to take a walk. I am in love with that area of Madison. It just makes me happy. I love all of the old houses on the lake and how all the people are actually outside enjoying what is left of summer. I love how the trees canopy over the streets and how it always smells of a BBQ. There was a yoga class going on at a park and it was one of those things that makes my heart smile. I long to be a hippie living on Jennifer Street. :) We walked, talked, I took some pictures with my camera, and we stopped at a park and ate dinner and played with Ellis. It was a pretty perfect ending to a super crappy day.

I love photography. I am not sure how a creative soul couldn't love it. Photography is really such art. I stalk about a million photography blogs and would love to get better at taking pictures myself.  I know the only way that is going to happen is if I practice. what a concept, right? Practice makes perfect... or at least makes you better. :) I have thought about doing the whole 365 project where you take a picture a day, but there is no way I would be able to take an interesting picture every day. I would have a whole ton of pictures of my one year old, with food all over her face, in crappy lighting, in my kitchen.

Anyways, I have vowed to practice taking pictures with my camera once a week and I will probably post them on here. So get ready for a bunch of amateur pictures of flowers and E. Here are a few from our Willy Street walk.








Thursday, August 22, 2013

MAKING THINGS PRETTY: BACKGROUNDS

Backgrounds. I used them all the time in my blog posts to give them a little spice! I use them behind quotes, behind images, as parts on my headers and the list goes on. I could always create texture and pattern in photoshop or illustrator myself, but it is much faster to grab them from websites that offer some pretty awesome ones for free.  Blogging takes a lot of time, so I am a huge fan of anything that helps you get the look you want in half the time. :)

Here are a few websites where you can find some good free images:

iphonebackground.tumblr.com |  bgh.ogqcorp.com  |  flickr.com
(note: always check image rights before using)

Here are a few examples of ones I like and how I might use them. 







Wednesday, August 21, 2013

FALAFEL WITH AVOCADO SPREAD

I know some of you are wondering, what is falafel? 

According to Wikipedia, falafel is: A Middle Eastern dish of spiced mashed chickpeas or other pulses formed into balls and deep-fried.

Well, this falafel is neither made with chickpeas, deep fried nor made into balls. 
My definition is: Kind of like a black bean burger. :)

Anyways, Jodie made it for one of our Monday night dinners last year and it has been a favorite in our house ever since. I love it b/c it is delicious, but also b/c I can freeze it. I make a double batch (8 patties), and we usually eat two and freeze six--- or you can just freeze all eight so they are all ready in the freezer for fast dinners. I also make a double batch of the avocado spread and freeze what we don't use in sandwich-size ziplock bags. I freeze enough spread in each bag for two patties b/c when I thaw the patties, I usually thaw two at a time. The avocado spread actually stays green if you freeze it right away. I also think the lime juice helps to keep its color.




Ingredients

Patties:
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup finely crushed baked tortilla chips (about 3/4 ounce)
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large egg white
1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil


Spread:
1/4 cup mashed peeled avocado
2 tablespoons finely chopped tomato
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream (I never use fat free anything)
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
Remaining ingredients:
Pita pockets
Red onion slices, separated into rings
Microgreens (I skip these)

Preparation:
• To prepare patties, place pinto beans in a medium bowl; partially mash with a fork. Add cheese and next 5 ingredients (through egg white); stir until well combined. Shape bean mixture into 4 (1/2-inch-thick) oval patties.
• Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until patties are browned and thoroughly heated. (If frozen, cook for about 6-7 minutes each side)
• To prepare spread, combine all ingredients - stir well. 


To assemble:
Spread about 2 tablespoons of avocado spread over patty and place it in a pita pocket; top with onions and greens.

grease the pan and cook each side until crispy
avocado spread

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

AUGUST WISH LIST

Life on a budget. I know I have hit on this subject many times before. Budgeting is all about knowing where your money goes so you can put it where you want -- like spending less on clothes and golf so you can put money in your daughter's college fund. :) I guess that what budgeting means in our family at least.

Logan and I decided to both give ourselves a monthly budget to spend on whatever we want that is not considered a necessity. This way I can buy as many pairs of shoes as I want and he can order as many iphone/ipad gadgets as he wants and there is no arguing as long as we stay within the budget. Simple, right? So far, so good. I know our little personal budget system isn't rocket science, but it is new for us. Anyways, it has been kind of fun to plan out what I want to spend my budget on.  I know it is half way through the month, but here is my August wish list. Now, trust me, there is no way I could buy all of these items. Heck, I couldn't even buy the watch on my budget, but a girl can dream, right?! I could always find one similar for half the price. I have pretty decent competitive on-line shopping skills. ;)

I started with Pinterest and then found similar items online.  It kind of gets out my itch to shop for all these things, without actually buying all of them. Is that weird? maybe. :)

PINTEREST INSPIRATION:



MY WISH LIST: Super pumped that two of the items are from local (for me) companies! Gotta love shopping local!


ONE ($50)  |  TWO ($149.99)  |  THREE ($100)  |  FOUR ($145)
FIVE ($21.99)  |  SIX ($6.95)  |  SEVEN ($225)  |  EIGHT ($19.90)
NINE ($31.48)  |  TEN ($49.95)  |  ELEVEN ($24.95)  |  TWELVE ($44)  |  THIRTEEN ($15)

Monday, August 19, 2013

KADEN TURNS ONE - HIS 'FAVORITE FOODS' THEMED BIRTHDAY BASH

I was so excited when Amanda asked me to design a few pieces for her son's first birthday party. First birthday parties can be hard. One year olds aren't into Superman or Barbies yet, so it is hard to pick a theme. You know what they are into though?! FOOD! :) When Amanda told me her theme for Kaden's special day, I thought the idea was so cute and I couldn't wait to get started. I created his invitation, food tags and a 4ft tall menu board! His party was last weekend and Amanda sent me a few pictures of the day, including one of the fun, blue ombre cake she made him. Kaden is one lucky little man!







His blue highchair was refinished and painted by Oak + Olive, right here in Madison! Didn't it turn out adorable!?
Oak + Olive up-cycles, restores, and revives quality furniture for fun and function. Make sure you contact them the
next time you find a piece that needs a little TLC.



My next birthday assignment is a rhino cake for my adorable nephew for his first birthday.  The theme is this cute little stuffed rhino that he loves. They say he is more like a fat blue hippo that wants to be a unicorn. ;) 
These one year olds are keepin' me busy!

Friday, August 16, 2013

ELLIS - 16 MONTHS

Oh Ellis! You make me smile every single day and not a day has passed since you were born that I have not felt like the luckiest person on earth b/c I get to be your Mama. You are outgoing, loud, and the most lovable little human in my world. You are my world and you are your Daddy's world, too. You dance in circles, throw your toys, squeal with delight, and scream all of the time. You love Oliver and Emma (our pups) and you especially love baby dolls. You are not much of a cuddler b/c you want to be moving all of the time. You got your Daddy's looks, but I know you got my personality. You are, without a doubt, going to give me a run for my money b/c I sure did give my mom a run for hers. I wouldn't have it any other way. You think I am funny and you think your Daddy is REALLY funny. I am glad you do, b/c usually don't. ;) I cannot get enough of your sweet giggles and your cute little pigeon-toed walk. I love you to the moon and back Little Miss Ellis Averee. I do.

Like mother, like daughter. We are rockin' some summer white.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

DECK OUT YOUR DESKTOP

My office cube at work is filled with paperwork, random crap and dust at the moment, but at least my desktop is always pretty! I love that so many talented bloggers/designers just GIVE us pretty freebies to deck out our desktops! Here are a few of my very favorites! (My computer is rocking the pink ombre at the moment :)


to to bottom - left to right
you git this  |  vintage floral  |  watercolor floral  |  popsicles  |  pink ombre

Hopefully after this big event is over this weekend, I can clean up my
workspace and make it equally as pretty as my mac. :) We will see...