Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Kitchen fun!

The kitchen is in the center of our home.  It's where we cook, eat, and craft.  It's where homework is done and brownies are baked.  Life happens in the kitchen and so, I thought I would share how our kitchen has slowly (VERY SLOWLY) been made into a space that makes me happy.  This space started out as my least favorite spot in the house and has turned into one of my favorite spots.  I still have BIG plans for the kitchen, but they involve demo and a construction crew.  That's not going to happen anytime soon.

I just spent the last hour searching for pictures of our kitchen when we first moved in.  I was just reminded of how it was not my favorite pick when we first looked at it and it took a lot of convincing from my husband that this was the house for us.  I wrote a lot about our house in this post last year. It was a good house, in a good neighborhood, with a great school . . .it just needed some TLC.

When I finally found pictures, I remembered why we didn't take a whole bunch.  It was really, really bleh.  The walls were covered with some cream wallpaper with ivy leaves all over it and then topped with a coordinating border.  The trim was painted green to match and the linoleum was crawling up the sides of the wall and had a large spliting line down the middle.  It was also brown and yellow.  The kitchen cabinets were in great shape, just not the ideal color.  And there were lots of cabinets, which was a great selling point because I like kitchen stuff. I found some pictures from when we first moved in and 6 weeks after moving in when I hosted my MOPS table for a playdate.
 A few weeks after that playdate, I sort of snapped one day during Ethan's nap.  I could not take the green leafy print any longer.  Out came the spray bottle and a scraper and down came the wallpaper.  That's how Jon found me when he came home from work. 

I knew from the moment we started looking at houses that I wanted grey walls.  I thought I had the perfect color until I started painting it.  We woke up the next morning to purple walls!  Not exactly the color I was looking for.  So, after some serious grey analyzing, we found the perfect color.  The color ended up being Mountain Pass, by Valspar. 

We learned a very valuable lesson on grey.  Grey is hard.  It can be too purple, too white, too blue, or too black.  This is definitely a color you should test out before you paint and in all light settings. Lesson learned.

So for several years, the walls were grey and that's it.  We also had a baby and got a new oven during that time.  I eventually started to paint the cabinets while the boys napped.  The goal was to get it done before we tore out the flooring.  But, I was slow.  I mean I was blogging, running our MOPS program, two boys under 4, homeschooling preschool for Ethan . . . there was a lot of stuff happening. 

Anyways, we finally did the floor two years ago and put in the wainscoting and molding along the ceiling.  What a difference that made.  Then, this past Christmas, I finished the last of the cabinets.  I painted them with Annie Sloan Graphite Chalk Paint and dark wax.  It gave them nice matte finish and they have held up really nicely.  

 This wall is one of my favorites.  All of the paintings on this wall were done by Jon's aunt.  She is amazingly talented.  They are all on newsprint and tie in perfectly with the grey.  Also, if you are wondering about all the index cards with words on it, I promise that's not some new decorating trend.  Those are Weston's sight words so that he can practice while he's emptying the dishwasher or running through the halls.  It has really helped this year!

So, that's our kitchen. We just did a few cosmetic changes on the little space to give it a whole new fresh feeling without gutting it.  Eventually, we will look into new counter tops, a farm sink, and maybe taking the wall out behind the toaster to open things up (the dining room is over there).  We have lots of ideas, but other things are in line first. 

Let me know if you have any questions about details that I may have left out. . . I would love to answer your questions! 

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 19, 2017

What's for Dinner {April Edition & When you don't want to cook}

 April came and went.  When I looked back to see what I made, there really wasn't anything new or really that impressive.  Between Spring Break, Easter, and a weekend away we really just ate the stuff to get by.  I think we ate out a lot, too. I'm not sure. The weather was wonderful, so there was a lot of grilling and eating fresh produce.  We ate a lot of dinners outside and the kids played soccer and badminton.  So, this month instead of linking up to other recipes (because apparently, we didn't eat anything new last month), I am going to share some of my quick and easy dinner ideas.  These ideas are great, because when it gets super hot I don't really want to cook. . . or heat up the house! 

1.  Use the grill.  We are charcoal grill fans, but a few years ago, My husband bought a gas grill and taught me how to use it.  This has saved me on so many nights, because it doesn't dirty up pots and pans, cleans easy, and I don't have to watch it all the time.  Perfect for multi tasking.  I try to do as much on the grill as possible. . . including the veggies.  Nothing beats grilled veggies!   Just grab some meat, pick a marinade, and grill away.  Sometimes, I will come home with meat and mix my marinade and then toss it all in a bag with the chicken or beef and freeze it.  Easy and delicious!

2 Sandwiches. 
There is nothing wrong with having sandwiches for dinner.  Sometimes we have French Dips and I pick up some fresh cut Roast Beef from our local meat market.  Other nights we have Paninis and Grilled Cheese.  We always keep a jar of pesto in the fridge and try to have a loaf of sourdough slices laying around.   I always try to have Bacon in the freezer, because it defrosts quickly and you can't have a BLT without it. 

3.  Wraps. 
Wraps are another thing we like to have ingredients for.  Some chicken tenders, cheese and BBQ sauce and you have a great wrap.  I've been pinning lots of new wrap ideas because it's just so simple!

4.  Quesadillas.  
Tortillas and cheese are a must have at all times kitchen staple.  This keeps the kids happy and the hubby.  I like to keep the individual containers of guacamole laying around to make things even tastier.  You can even change things up and make buffalo chicken or BBQ chicken quesodillas.

5.  Breakfast for dinner. 
My kids love eggs.  My hubby does not.  But, it makes a super easy dinner when we need it.  Last night, Jon was working late, so we had scrambled eggs, sausage, and hashbrowns.  Other options that are Klassen kid approved are breakfast burritos and eggs and toast.  Or even egg salad.  I almost through a party when I realized my kids would eat egg salad a few months ago. 

6.  Hot Dogs and Hamburgers.
 Nothing beats a delicious hamburger and my kids could live off of hot dogs.  So every now and then this make it into the menu.  I'm obsessed with the Shake Shack smoke stack and since we don't have one of those here, I whip up my own copycat version of their sauce and cut up some sweet peppers from trader joes and wah-lah deliciousness.  Jon likes to copycat a Weston Bacon Cheeseburger. . . which I am sure is way more healthy than eating at Carl's Jr. 

7.  Spaghetti Nights. 
A guaranteed dinner that my gets both my boys attention is Spaghetti.  I keep a jar of Trader Joe's sauce laying around and some Penne and we either eat it with Italian sausage or meatballs.  There are no complaints on these nights and it's super easy!

8.  Crockpot Meals. 
Take advantage of your crockpot.  Buy the liners. . . best thing ever!  No crusty clean up!  I like to make my black bean chili, chicken tortilla soup or pulled pork.  Sometimes, I just buy some pollo asado from Trader Joes and throw it in or find a quick recipe on Pinterest for pulled pork.  Last week, I put a pork loin in and topped it with a jar of Apple Cider Starter from Williams Sonoma.  Sometimes you can find them on sale and they are awesome!

9.  And have a list of go-to quick dinner options. Here's my list. 

Indian Chicken Simmer Sauces with chicken and rice - I buy the simmer sauces at Costco and use the microwavable white rice from Trader Joes.

Trader Joes Orange Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, Walnut Shrimp and rice.  Again. . . I just keep these on hand for a quick dinner option.  And those microwavable rice things. . . amazing!

Trader Joe's General Tso Sauce.  It's always in my pantry.  Just cut up some chicken breasts or thighs, cook on your skillet, and pour sauce over and continue cooking until warm.  Serve over rice.

Taco/burrito/bowl nights.  Always a big hit.

Teriyaki Meatballs and veggie stir fry.

BBQ Chicken Salad

Simple Sesame Noodles

 Build your own pizza.  If I don't have time (or energy) to make pizza dough, I stock up at Trader Joes.  Their dough freezes well and is wonderful!  We also keep naan frozen and english muffins to make pizza quickly. 

I also like to keep Trader Joe's frozen mac and cheese, Daiya mac and cheese, Annies Bunny O's, and Chicken nuggets in the fridge because there are some nights where we get take out after the kids go to bed (like every Sunday Night!).

I hope that helps you.   It helps me to get in into one spot.  What's your favorite quick and easy dinner option at your house? 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Spiced Coffee Cake

 My sister sent me a beautiful picture of snow in her front yard this morning.  SNOW!   I replied back with a picture of our clear blue sky and almost dead grass (that might have been a little mean?)  We have had the most amazing weather lately.  The kind where you open all the windows and breathe in the fresh air.  The kind where you can still wear a sweatshirt most of the day, but if you didn't you wouldn't be cold.  It's May.  It's not going to last.  Next week, I will send her pictures of us melting as summer will truly hit.  I will be sad.  The cool, windows open weather reminds me of the beach.  Weather-wise I have been in my happy place. 
We have three weeks of school left and things are really starting to slow down.  Commitments are dropping off one by one and I have found myself sitting and drinking coffee and enjoying the quiet of the house before the kids are home every day.  I dislike summer heat, but I love the quiet.  The time where there are days with no plans, where we can just sit and veg all day.  Where we can be spontaneous or learn something new.
So, while I am sitting here drinking my coffee and writing (and enjoying the quiet!), I realized there there really hasn't been any food posts recently and that needs to change.  I've mentioned my love for the Bake from Scratch magazine and this one comes from their One Layer Cakes Special Edition.  I may have flagged every single page in this magazine!  I mean, one layer cakes are minimal effort deliciousness.  No worries of frosting layers upon layers of cakes. . . but delicious one layer goodness.  Easy Peazy.  And, what is one of the best one layer cakes?  Coffee Cakes, of course! 

I've had to explain to my kids that coffee cake actually is not a cake made with coffee, but a cake to be enjoyed with coffee and good conversation.  It's a easier than making muffins and scones and they come out so impressive that your company will think you went out to the local bakery and bought a fancy schmancy cake. I made this one for my family's Easter Brunch and it was a hit.  My hubby is a fan of all things bread and has added this to his "You can make this again" list. 

Spiced Crumb Cake
from Bake from Scratch

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 cup buttermilk*

3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 9 inch round cake pan with baking spray with flour. 

In your mixer, beat butter and sugar until nice and creamy.  This will take about 4 minutes.  Stop it every minute to scrap sides of bowl.  You don't want to make your coffee cake and realize half your batter is still on the sides of the bowl! Add your eggs, one at a time.  Then beat in vanilla and sour cream. 

Slowly add dry ingredients and buttermilk alternately.  Beat until just combined.  Like most muffin-y recipes, you don't want to over beat or else it will turn out dry and bleh.  Trust me.  Pour batter carefully into your baking pan. Set aside and grab a small bowl (bigger than a cereal bowl, but smaller than a mixing bowl).

Add your crumb topping ingredients.  Grate your butter with a cheese grater and mix with your fingers until nice and crumbly.  Sprinkle over the top of your cake batter. 

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Then take a knife and slide it around the cake to loosen the sides.  Flip it over onto a plate and then back onto the wire rack so it is right side up.  Do this very carefully, or you will have to half circle cakes instead of one beautiful round one. 

Let it continue cooling and then sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Dig in.

If you are making this the day before you need it.  Store on wire rack with a piece of bread on top. . . this keeps the moisture in the cake. 

*I NEVER have buttermilk.  It's just not a thing I keep in my fridge.  You would think that as many recipes that use it, I would.  However, I find that if you add a TBSP of vinegar to your measured milk and let it set for a few minutes, it will sour it enough that you get that perfect buttermilk taste. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Flashback Friday: Quick Art station for kiddos

I took last week off from blogging because it was just crazy with Teacher Appreciation Week fun, and then it took me almost all week to get back into my routine!  Crazy how that happens.  On the plus side, the school year is winding down and things are getting quieter.  I am also realizing how much I actually need to get done before the kiddos are home for the summer.  One of those things is reorganizing our art closet and figuring out what needs to be restocked for the summer and what can wait til July when all those lovely back to school supplies slowly make their appearance (It's like Christmas for this crazy mom!). 

So, today let's flashback a few years to this fun art station that I made the kids.  I am going to make it a few times this summer because it creates open ended fun.  I am also looking forward to what they will make since they are older.  I might even add regular Elmer's Glue because I think that they can handle that now.  

You can find that post over here.  Go read it. 

Do you fit in art with your kids?  What are some of the things you do with your kids over the summer? 

Have a great weekend!


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