Weekends Past

The last few weekends have been fun and crazy! Let’s backtrack…

A few Saturdays ago, we attended a Christmas cookie party. We made Cookie Dough Truffles and they were SO good! You can find the recipe here. It was the first time we’d left Blaire to go out together since our first date/engagement anniversary back on September 10. It was only for a few hours… and we definitely had fun!

No Bake Cookie Dough Truffles Photo Dec 06, 10 44 07 PM

So, last Saturday we kicked off our weekend with some Christmas shopping and a trip to our Farmer’s Market. They had a huge Holiday Open House with more than 35 small, local businesses. We had fun looking through all of the unique items. I even scored an amazing deal on headbands for Blaire. They were just the actual headbands, without any bows attached, and they were only $1! I’ll be posting pictures soon. ;) You can purchase from her on Instagram @thegreenlilac. And you can find her on Facebook, too. I also dressed Blaire up in her Santa outfit to see how it looked and to take a few pictures. We installed Blaire’s new carseat, and as you can see from the photo below, she loves it!

Photo Dec 13, 11 12 11 AM

Photo Dec 13, 12 10 31 PM Outfit – Carter’s // Headband – Claire’s // Moccs – C/O Freshly Picked
Photo Dec 13, 12 38 31 PM
That’s how Blaire feels about grocery shopping during nap time.

My best friends came to town and dropped off my 5-year-old Goddaughter with us so they could do some Christmas shopping. Blaire absolutely LOVES her! Her name is Brylee and she is the sweetest little girl. She sang and made silly sounds in the car to entertain Blaire, and Blaire didn’t stop laughing during the entire drive home. They played together for awhile, and then we decided to bake some sugar cookies to decorate! We used this recipe and they are AMAZING! Brylee and I ran to the store to get the ingredients we needed and some fun stuff to decorate our cookies with. She did so good helping Jason measure out the ingredients. And she even rolled and cut out some all by herself!

Photo Dec 13, 7 43 14 PM

Photo Dec 13, 8 42 59 PM

Photo Dec 13, 8 43 12 PM

We’re clearly not yet pros when it comes to cookie decorating! ;) But it was so much fun!

On Sunday, we did more Christmas shopping and ran some errands. We ended the day with our neighborhood’s annual Christmas Luminary and Light Walk. We got to drink hot chocolate and walk through the neighborhood looking at all of the beautiful Christmas lights. It was in the 50s (which is rare here in Iowa mid-December), so it was the perfect night to be out walking around. We were sure to keep Blaire at a safe distance from Santa, but the minute he acknowledged her, she started crying. Poor girl!

Photo Dec 14, 10 14 09 AM

Photo Dec 14, 6 53 15 PM

It was hard to take photos that did the lights justice, but I tried anyways. Well, that’s an update on our crazy/busy/fun weekends. How about you? What has been keeping you busy during the holidays? xo

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Crockpot Manicotti

We are lovers of anything cheesy and saucy here at my house, so manicotti just makes sense for us. Anything I can make in the crockpot is a favorite for me… so I present: Crockpot Manicotti. This is amazing because you don’t have to boil your pasta before you fill it, which is what I always find to be the most annoying part when making manicotti. I originally found the idea from this pin. It has nothing but raving reviews! However, one of the main differences is that I prefer Ricotta Cheese to Cottage Cheese in mine. I also use fewer ingredients and cook it a bit longer. (I think using the crock pot liner adds a bit of cook time.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Manicotti Pasta (Typically contains 14)
  • 16 ox. Ricotta Cheese
  • 36 oz  Spaghetti Sauce
  • 3 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1 Cup Parmesan Cheese (Optional)
  • .5 tbsp of Oregano (Optional)
  • Crock Pot Liner (Optional)

Photo Oct 13, 3 09 42 PM

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2.5 hours

1. Place your crock pot liner in your crock pot. (This is optional, but it makes clean up a breeze! We typically buy these and they’ve always worked well.) Then pour about 20 oz of your spaghetti sauce into the crock pot.

2. Next, we’re going to make our cheese filling. Mix together all of the Ricotta Cheese, all of the Parmesan Cheese and 1 cup of the Mozzarella Cheese in a medium-large bowl. You can just mix it with a spoon. Once it’s mixed together, add in the Oregano and mix that together.

3. To stuff the pasta shells, you can either use a small spoon OR you can pour the mixture into a plastic baggie and “pipe” it into the hard shells. I recommend piping it into the shells, it is a little less messy and it’s quicker to me. I typically pipe some into one end, and then pipe into the other end until the shell is full.

4. Place the filled shells onto the sauce in the crock pot. Once you’ve fully lined the bottom, cover that layer with sauce. You’ll continue laying filled shells onto that sauce. Once they’re all filled, dump in the rest of your sauce. The cover with 1 cup of shredded Mozzarella Cheese.

5. Cook on high for 2 hours. (Cooking time may vary. Shells should be soft, but not dry.)

6. Sprinkle on the last cup of Mozzarella cheese. Cook for final 30 minutes.

7. Enjoy! :)

Photo Oct 13, 5 24 23 PM

If you try out this recipe, I’d love to hear how it turned out! This is the perfect recipe for a day when you’d like to get dinner started and then run a few errands, or maybe just relax! ;) xo

Unstuffed Green Peppers

Unstuffed Green Peppers are my favorite cold weather dish! I originally came across the idea of not actually stuffing the green peppers on Pinterest last year, and it has changed my life! (Original recipe here.) I do mine a bit differently, a way I think is quicker and easier. I have had lots of friends and family ask for my recipe, so I thought I’d share it with you, too.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Green Pepper (Diced)
  • 1 – 8 oz. can of Tomato Sauce
  • 1 – 14.5 oz. can of Diced Tomatoes
  • 2.5 cups of Water
  • 1 – 8 oz. box of Zatarain’s Jambalaya Rice Mix*
  • 1 lb. Ground Beef
  • Salt & Pepper

Stuffed / Unstuffed Green Peppers Ingredients

*If you’d like to make a bigger batch, you can simply get the larger box of Rice Mix! No need to add in extra of the other ingredients.

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes

1. Brown 1 lb. of ground beef in a large pan. Keep in mind that you’ll eventually have all of your ingredients in this pan, so it should be large.

2. Once beef has been browned, dump out the grease/fat. Then add in the diced green peppers, the tomato sauce, the diced tomatoes and the water. Then, add the Rice Mix.

3. From here, you’re going to heat that rice mixture to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, then cover it with a lid and reduce the heat to low. You’ll let it cook for 25 minutes (or until the rice is tender). Be sure to stir frequently!

4. Serve with shredded Mozzarella Cheese on top of the mix, if you wish. Enjoy!

The Zatarain’s Jambalaya Mix has such a great flavor that it eliminates the other spices you would usually add in to flavor the white rice!

Not so pretty, but it is tasty!

Not so pretty, but it is delicious!

I follow the same recipe when I want Stuffed Green Peppers! Adjustments when stuffing your peppers are:
1.Buy extra Green Peppers! Buy as many as you’d like to stuff. The recipe above will be enough to stuff between 6-8 Green Peppers.

2. Don’t dice your peppers for the rice mixture as stated above (in Step 2).

3. Once your rice mixture is finished, you’ll stuff it in to the peppers. Cover them with foil, and place them in the oven for 45 minutes at 350°.

4. After the 45 minutes, uncover the peppers, sprinkle with Mozzarella Cheese and place back in the over for another 15 minutes (or until peppers are tender). Enjoy!

Much prettier when it's "stuffed".

Much prettier when it’s “stuffed”.

If you try out my recipe, I’d love to hear how it turned out! I think this is the perfect food for fall, I’ve adjusted my recipe and even made it in the crock pot as a soup. I could eat it every, single day. I’ll leave you with a picture of my cute kitchen helper. xo

Photo Oct 06, 4 48 29 PM

Learning to Eat

When your baby starts eating solids, it’s a learning experience for everyone! I have read so many great things about Baby Led Weaning (BLW) that I wanted us to give it a try! We’ve done a combination of real food, along with purees, since that’s what seems to work best for us. (Since BLW doesn’t include purees, we aren’t “technically” doing BLW.) At first, I didn’t really have any luck with her eating the purees, but her daycare provider insisted she’s always had good luck getting babies to eat. So we sent along some foods we knew she wasn’t allergic to, and wa la,  she ate a container each day she was there. Once I knew she had it in her, I was determined to get her to actually eat some of the pureed food.

The practice at daycare really helped and she’s now a puree eating champ! Which is amazing, because there’s nothing cuter than a baby covered in baby food! (See proof below.) The funny faces she makes each time she tastes the food is just an added bonus. ;) I had read a lot of articles about being a good idea to mix several foods at each meal. Whether it’s actually blending them together, or alternating between bites. I’ve read only offering one food at a time leads to pickier eaters, and as picky of an eater as I am, I don’t think her dad could handle Blaire taking after her mama!

Puree Food

Loving the spoon as much as the peaches.

Back on the BLW side of things, she has chewed on lots of different foods, and has actually swallowed a few different things. Her favorites have been cantaloupe, watermelon and cheesy garlic bread. (The garlic bread was no surprise since her dad and I have pizza at least once per week!) But, in all of my research, not one person warned me how scary it would be the first few times they actually swallow something that isn’t liquid. She gags, and even makes choking noises. Nothing will freak you out more than hearing your child choke! Which is why we’re more into the purees these days… at least until she figures out this whole swallowing thing!

Enjoying some cheesy, garlic bread

Enjoying some cheesy garlic bread.