Easy-To-Make Dinners

Every week my husband and I meal plan by creating a menu and only getting the necessary ingredients when we go grocery shopping. It’s helped us cut down on those impulse buys and by shopping at Trader Joe’s, we know we’re getting foods that are healthy for us and at a good price. Before I’ve discussed our various tips and tricks at the grocery store, and by sticking to our budget and planning a menu, for instance, we have been able to save not only money, but time and un-wasted food over the course of the last several years.

Meal planning does take a bit of time and effort in the beginning, but I promise you that it was an easy transition for us to make. Living as two (almost three here in just a short time!) it’s been crucial for us to find recipes that not only are delicious, but use ingredients that we can spread out throughout the week or use up. I couldn’t tell you how much food, and money, we threw out prior to meal planning.

This week I was inspired by meats. As you’ll see, each recipe incorporates a different meat and prepared in different ways. We typically go the healthy route, and although some of these dinners aren’t necessarily calorie free, they make for the perfect meals for busy workweeks. Little preparation, but big flavor ended up being our results from these recipes and we both couldn’t have been happier. So, need some yummy dinner inspirations to kickstart your meal plan? Here are some easy to follow dinners!

This week I was inspired by meats. As you’ll see, each recipe incorporates a different meat and prepared in different ways. We typically go the healthy route, and although some of these dinners aren’t necessarily calorie free, they make for the perfect meals for busy workweeks. Little preparation, but big flavor ended up being our results from these recipes and we both couldn’t have been happier.

So, need some yummy dinner inspirations to kickstart your meal plan? Here are some easy to follow dinners!

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.

Tackle weeknight dinner with this easy to make Philly Cheesesteak recipe thanks to The Kitchn.

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches via The Kitchn

I found this recipe to be not only easy to tackle, but ended up so flavorful and delicious! We used a rib-eye cut of meat and, like the directions say just put them in the freezer to firm up and slice them thin using a mandolin. Just seriously be very careful as my husband learned the hard way that the mandolin will slice your finger if you’re not too careful. I recommend that you get your grocer butcher to slice the meat for you, haha. Either way, this recipe is super easy to prepare for your family and calls for just a few ingredients.

Tackle weeknight dinner with this easy to make Mexican Skillet Lasagna recipe!

Mexican Skillet Lasagna via The Kitchn

This recipe came out so well, and spicy, that it may just make another appearance on our menu in the future. The ingredients are simple to acquire and prepping has never been simpler. Just find yourself actual Mexican (not Spanish) chorizo and use your favorite salsa to bring out these wonderful Mexican flavors. This was the first time I had ever cooked with chorizo myself, and I learned that it’s VERY salty by itself. So, use the recommended amount or even use ‘to taste’ since I just plopped the whole package into this dish – it still came out delicious, but more on the salty side.

The best thing about this dish? Use leftovers with eggs in the morning and it makes a wonderful breakfast too (since chorizo is typically used as a breakfast sausage)!

Tackle weeknight dinner with this easy to make Chili Mac & Cheese recipe thanks to Damn Delicious.

One Pot Chili Mac & Cheese via Damn Delicious

Talk about a hearty meal with plenty for leftovers…seriously. This recipe is packed full of flavor and combines my two favorite comfort foods: chili and mac & cheese. This recipe is also only 3 steps long and just requires you to cook down the onions, add the spices, meat and beans, add your noodles and top with cheese to serve. This will for sure be a hit in your home or even a potluck dinner party.

Tackle weeknight dinner with this easy to make Moist Turkey Meatloaf recipe.

Moist Turkey Meatloaf via Inspired Taste

Now, don’t be thrown off that this meatloaf recipe calls for mushrooms because I promise you that those guys are the key to making this dish moist and delicious. I was a little nervous at first myself because I’ve never heard of a meatloaf recipe calling for chopped up mushrooms, but I’m a believer after we’ve made this for dinner twice now. Again, using simple ingredients, you put it in the oven for about 40-50 minutes and voila – dinner’s ready! I don’t personally put ketchup on it before baking (I use it to dip), but to each their own. This recipe usually allows us to make 2 loaf pans worth, which one is used for leftovers or frozen for later.

Tackle weeknight dinner with this easy to make Pulled Pork recipe thanks to Kevin & Amanda.

Perfect Pulled Pork via Kevin & Amanda

This recipe was actually my husbands favorite to not only eat, but to make. He had never cooked using a brine before and found this process of preparing the meat so satisfying. We prepped the pork a few days in advance with the brine and my husband used his Smoking Gun to give the pork a deeper smokey flavor (obviously this part optional). He loves any opportunity to use it and it’s been one of our favorite gifts from our wedding registry. We used a smaller cut than the one in the recipe since we’re cooking for just the two of us, but once you take it out of the brine and pat it down with the dry rub, just pop it in the oven on low heat practically all day and you’ll be amazed with the final product. So flavorful and juicy. We use this recipe for pickled red onions as a topping for our sandwiches…and be rest assured this is another recipe that will be making its way back onto our menu in the future.

OUR FAVORITE DESSERTS

Only just recently have I had the bug to bake again (as it is one of my favorite hobbies) and try my hand at a few new recipes for dessert these last couple weeks. The panna cotta I’ve made before and knew it would be delicious, but this week I chose a new recipe that I’ve had hundreds of times at restaurants but wanted to see how well I could make it at home. Here are a couple of my favorite, and not to mention easy, recipes to impress anyone for dessert!

Impress anyone for dessert with these easy to follow recipes to satisfy that sweet tooth. Try your hand at this Coconut Cream Pie!

Coconut Cream Pie via Cincy Shopper

This was the dessert I tackled this week as one of my new recipes to try and I can’t put into words just how much of a hit this was. It’s enough to last us the entire week and I was surprised as to how easy it was to make. What I loved the most about it was the fact that it requires you to make the filling and whipped topping from scratch (with the exception of the pie crust, which I used store-bought). No Jello pudding mix or store-bought whipped topping here. The only downside was that I couldn’t for the life of me find coconut extract, but I simply used the vanilla extract I did have and it came out just as tasty. Needless to say I was very proud of myself.

Impress anyone for dessert with these easy to follow recipes to satisfy that sweet tooth. Try your hand at Panna Cotta!

Panna Cotta via The Kitchn

This dessert has intimidated me for so long simply because I felt like it was more difficult to make than it actually is. In fact, it’s quite the easiest dessert one can make from scratch and it comes out perfect every single time – no matter how novice you are in the kitchen. We use ramekins, not a mold, but either way you’ll be sure to impress everyone at dinner when you have this lovely dessert to share 😉

Be sure to follow my Cookbook Pinterest board to see more recipes I’m inspired by each week!

 


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Why I Don’t Read Pregnancy Books

From the moment a woman sees those two pink lines form across her at-home pregnancy test, she immediately begins the process of prepping and planning their pregnancy down to researching the foods that’s on the no-no list, looking up just how much caffeine she’s allowed daily, and holding off on those next root touch up appointments.

Pregnancy is an amazing and beautiful process, but it comes with its fair share of stress and uncertainty. In attempts to alleviate those stressors we turn to online message boards and pregnancy books from our local bookstore. These pregnancy journals and books written by doctors claim to have the most current information available and those message boards make you feel like you can ask anything and get a girlfriend’s response. Well, I’m here today to tell you to never, ever, ever read a pregnancy book or go online for any help related to your pregnancy. Here’s why.

Pregnancy is an amazing and beautiful process, but it comes with its fair share of stress and uncertainty. In attempts to alleviate those stressors we turn to online message boards and pregnancy books from our local bookstore. These pregnancy journals and books written by doctors claim to have the most current information available and those message boards make you feel like you can ask anything and get a girlfriend’s response. Well, I’m here today to tell you to never, ever, ever read a pregnancy book or go online for any help related to your pregnancy. Here’s why.

drop the book and walk away…

Within the first few months of telling our family and friends we were pregnant we were happily surprised by a close friend who sent us a care package that arrived with a pregnancy pillow (OMG possibly the best invention ever made – seriously), a couple pregnancy/birth books, and a few other baby related items. I found it to be so thoughtful since I had no idea how to be pregnant and everything around me told me that reading pregnancy books was a must-do…otherwise you’re like a teen mom and already off to a bad start. So, like any other pregnant woman who didn’t want to be shamed, I began perusing through each book and skimming over chapters here and there.

The one book that completely got me was the popular What To Expect When Expecting. This is known to be as close to the pregnancy Bible as the Bible itself, but after reading through it I have no idea why any woman would want to read it. It is filled with information of every possible symptom, scenario, and fact about pregnancy; all of which maybe 5% actually pertains to any one woman’s experience – or at least mine. There is such a thing as too much information and the last thing any pregnant woman needs to know about is Deep Venous Thrombosis or Placental Abruption. I’m not saying that there aren’t women out there who experience these uncommon complications, but the average 12 week pregnant woman doesn’t need to consume her mind with everything that may go wrong.

So, put down the books and listen to your practitioner. They’re the one feeling you up, swabbing your lady bits, and monitoring both you and your baby’s health. Those are the professionals to whom you need to pay the most attention to and if you’re worried or unsure about anything, ask them! I couldn’t tell you how many times my husband or I called our doctors office to ask some question about “was that piece of Brie I ate safe?” or “is this sensation normal?” That’s their job.

…a lesson learned

Besides, when I read that my doctor should give me a Rh Factor blood test in addition to a glucose screening around 35 weeks and he didn’t mention Rh anything at our appointment…I asked him if that was something I needed. He looked at me and asked, “If you don’t mind, where did you hear that?” I told him that I read it in one of my pregnancy books (Thanks, What To Expect…) and he just chuckled and literally told me to throw out that book. He opened my file and showed me that when I first came in at 8 weeks and had all that initial blood work done, they had already tested my Rh. I was negative and that test didn’t apply to me…so, I learned a major lesson in that moment: our doctor has this pregnancy covered and he would inform me of anything I needed to know.

Google isn’t your OB/GYN

I can’t get simpler or more direct than that. The last time I checked, Google hasn’t been up your whoo-ha to know what you’re experiencing and if it is normal or not. So why ask it? Stay away from the internet, blogs like mine, and other online resources about a symptom you may be feeling or if that slice of prosciutto you ate will cause a miscarriage. The internet is a crazy place and just like WebMD diagnosing your headache as a brain tumor, you will find every possible piece of misinformation out there and it will drive you crazy. Know that every pregnancy is different and comes with different symptoms and side affects. When in doubt, talk to your doctor and speak to them about what you’re feeling.

apps I recommend…

Apps on smartphones are the way of the pregnancy future. I personally only use two apps to follow my pregnancy with: Baby Center and BabyBump, but even then I only skim them and just read the bit about the size fruit or vegetable my baby is and what kind of development they’re most likely going through that week. I also like the photo documenting option where it keeps track of your growing baby bump so you can look back from time to time to see how much you’ve grown. That’s it. Stay away from the message boards and don’t be tempted to even curiously go there. Or at least know I’ve warned you. There’s nothing on those boards that will ever make you feel secure and any question you have should be directed to your doctor anyways…besides those other women will just tell you that they’re not a doctor and recommend you speak to your own. Okay, so there’s one piece of good advice you’ll find on those message boards.

enjoy your pregnancy!

Pregnancy is nine months of your life where you’re gestating a human being. That’s a pretty big deal and no matter how many times you do it (or if you only do it once), it’ll be a special moment in time. It’s important to enjoy this period of your life because there’s a lot about pregnancy that is simply out of your control. The human body is an intricate system and it knows what it’s doing so listen to your body, your doctor, and even yourself. If something doesn’t feel right, call your doctor and ask. If you’re feeling amazing, hold on to these good days because you never know when swollen feet or a baby the size of a mini-watermelon will sit on your bladder and cause you pee every 5 minutes.

Also, having been through a miscarriage before, I can tell you from experience to not miss out on your next pregnancy because of those fears. I would be a liar if I said that my husband and I weren’t skeptical and didn’t want to set ourselves up for disappointment at the beginning of this pregnancy, but here I sit at 38 weeks and about to deliver a healthy baby boy. Like I said, a lot of pregnancy is out of our control and it’s important to enjoy every moment we have.

Aside from throwing out those pregnancy books, what advice do you have for other mamas-to-be out there? What’s the best piece advice you ever received (solicited or unsolicited)?

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An Interview With My Husband: Preparing For Baby

Pregnancy is often a time that is, by the majority, discussed mainly amongst women. From symptoms, stretch marks, and what to expect during labor, these conversations tend to happen without a man in the room (or wanting to participate in the discussion – can’t blame them). However, it’s been my experience during our pregnancy that although my husband isn’t jumping at the opportunity to talk about the good, bad, and ugly parts all the time, he does have feelings about the changes heading our way and how baby Greyson will impact our lives from here on out. He has a mind full of expectations of himself, but also plans for how he wants to raise a young boy into a man (his inner-Texan is showing). Being a dad is an important role for any man and this is especially true for Philip, so I thought it would be fun to share his inner thinkings of becoming a first-time dad for this month’s series of An Interview With My Husband: Preparing For Baby.

This series first began a few months back (off and on) where my husband would take over the blog for a day in the form of a series of interviews I would have with him. I have always been intrigued with our conversations over the years and picking his brain, not knowing what he’d say next, was exciting and, many times, thought provoking. Since we have so many of these conversations I thought it would be fun to share some of them with you all here.

I encourage everyone to spark up conversation like these (to help get questions going feel free to look back at our interviews or just Pinterest search them!) with their significant others because you end up learning a lot about how they feel, what they’re thinking, and even things about your relationship you may not have uncovered otherwise. The topics of discussion are endless and not to mention, it’s always a good time, especially over wine 😉

Join me as I interview my husband in our blog series: An Interview With My Husband. Every month I ask him a series of questions in which he takes over the blog for the day to respond. Today it is all about baby and preparing for this little one to arrive - from the prospective of dad.

Kelly: What most excites you about becoming a first-time dad?

Philip: I wish I knew.  I’m overwhelmed, but in a good way. I’m unable to focus on any one thing because my heart is all over the place.  I try to keep a cool head and think logically, but emotionally, I’m bursting.

K: What fears do you have about becoming a first-time dad?

P: I just hope that he is better than I am.  As sad as it sounds (but it really isn’t), I’ve expressed that I’m disappointed with a lot of what I’ve done professionally.  I had great aspirations, but the world beat me down and I lost a lot of years trying to recover.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, but I hope that he doesn’t fall the way I did and lose all that precious time.

K: What were your favorite childhood memories? What makes those moments so memorable?

P: Really it was the little things I remember the most fondly.  Saturday morning cartoons, camping with my family at Garner State Park, chasing the ice cream man down the street during the summer.  It was the simplicity of it all.  Growing up I remember feeling unsure a lot and I felt bullied a bit, but I remember that I was always happiest doing simple things by myself or those I was close with.

K: What are you most looking forward to once Greyson arrives?

P: Teaching him.  I just hope that he will be willing to learn.  I hope that I am patient – I’m really working on that.  I’m ecstatic about having a baby, but (and I hate to say it) I’m really focused on raising a better man than I am.

K: How do you think Greyson will change you? Your outlook on life? Our relationship, etc?

P: He already has.  My priorities have shifted dramatically and life already seems more dangerous than I thought previously although it’s just as beautiful.  I know that he will strengthen our relationship overall, but will occasionally challenge it – my goal is to recognize when it’s happening so that I may respond in a way that let’s you know that you’re my everything.

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Be sure to catch up with Philip and I for our next interview in March!

Linking up with…

Hill Collection

A Little Bit of Everything

Meet At The Barre

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A Woodland Nursery In A Small Space

If you’ve been following me a while, especially during this pregnancy and my many preparations for baby, then you’ll already know that my husband and I are currently dwelling in a one bedroom apartment. Where we are blessed with square footage we lack in storage space, so when we found out we were expecting, creating a space for baby presented itself with quite a few considerations.

Adding a baby into the mix required us to not only be practical, but minimal when it came to acquiring the nursery essentials and although I’ve had my spurts of serious nesting, I’ve had to reign it in a bit so that we didn’t clutter our home with the unnecessary baby stuff…and we all know what those things are. However, even though I had to get creative within our home, I am pretty happy with how well Greyson’s woodland nursery came out.

Here’s my grand reveal of our nursery in a small space!

Adding a baby into the mix required us to not only be practical, but minimal when it came to acquiring the nursery essentials and although I’ve had my spurts of serious nesting, I’ve had to reign it in a bit so that we didn’t clutter our home with the unnecessary baby stuff...and we all know what those things are. However, even though I had to get creative within our home, I am pretty happy with how well Greyson’s woodland nursery came out.

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

minimalistic decorating

To create a warm and inviting space for baby Greyson I had to first really take a look at the unused space we did have and somehow create useful storage where we didn’t. We are blessed with wall space and my first thought was hanging shelves to maximize that available space, but one safety aspect to placing things on walls is that you essentially can’t above where the baby will be sleeping. So, that ruled out any shelving I had planned on placing on one of the larger walls. Also, this fact is reinforced by mother nature and the true possibility of earthquakes here in CA.

Creating the perfect woodland nursery was easy with the help of simple decorations including birch tree wall decals, wooden baby name letters, and a bird house night light! See how I achieved this look and more on the blog!

Bird House Night Light | Initial Wooden Letters | Birch Tree Wall Decals

So, instead of shelving I opted for the woodland theme with the decorations. I scoured the internet for a while before I was able to find these great birch tree wall decals from Amazon. I needed them in white, I only wanted to spend about $50 tops for the decals (surprisingly wall decals can be quite expensive), and I wanted them made in the USA. Luckily these decals were not only affordable, but they applied perfectly to my textured walls and took maybe about 20 minutes or so to put up. No tears and no frustration – win! I am so happy with how well they turned out and it just gave Greyson’s little corner the perfect woodland touch I was looking to achieve.

*I didn’t use all of the decals that came with my purchase. There are quite a few branches and birds that I chose to not use.

Another fun accent to Greyson’s wall above his crib are his name letters. Again, this was a surprisingly tough item to find, but I am thankful to Etsy shop GoingGaga for these custom made wooden letters. She placed holes in the backs of them so I could hang them with nails, but to save me time and effort I simply used about 2-3 Command poster strips to place them on the walls. So far they’ve been holding up perfectly and I have yet to have an issue with them falling or losing their adhesiveness to the walls.

Creating the perfect woodland nursery was easy with the help of simple decorations including this wooden bird house night light! See how I achieved this look and more on the blog!

sleeping space

Where will baby sleep? We opted for a Graco Pack ’n Play that is equipped with all of the essentials of a nursery included in one product. Our Pack ’n Play has a built in, but removable, changing table as well as infant napper where Greyson will most likely spend the most of his time sleeping/lounging besides the 4Moms Rockaroo swing. If we, or he, doesn’t like it, we always have the option of taking it out and he can sleep on the pad that can be lowered once he’s older.

And P.S…how adorable is this bird house night light? Another great Etsy find!

Why not a crib? Well, this comes under the minimalist category and being able to own a product that has multiple uses. Opt for simple furniture pieces that can be easily transported throughout the house or if you ever move. This infant Pack ’n Play is equipped with all of our baby needs all in one product!

Pack ’n Play | Side Table (similar) | Crane Humidifier | Diaper Genie | Owlet Baby Monitor

Why not a crib? Well, this comes under the minimalist category and being able to own a product that has multiple uses. Cribs also take up a lot of space and considering that we may be moving within the year, I wanted to wait to invest in actual nursery furniture like a crib/changing table set until we’re settled and Greyson has his own room.

Until then, I’ve set up a little command center for all of his diaper changing needs. We had an old Ikea side table that we once used in our bathroom in our previous apartment to hold our toiletries like extra towels and toilet paper. I have been struggling to find a use for it since moving and so for now it will be an extra storage piece next to Greyson’s crib. It’s perfect for placing the humidifier and all those extra diapers, wipes, etc.

Why not a crib? Well, this comes under the minimalist category and being able to own a product that has multiple uses. Cribs also take up a lot of space and considering that we may be moving within the year, I wanted to wait to invest in actual nursery furniture like a crib/changing table set until we’re settled and Greyson has his own room.

Bobby Nursing Pillow | Woodland Pillow Cover | Graco Changing Pad | Mattress Pad | Mattress Sheets

for fun…

This rustic card holder is staying up year round in our home and it has been perfect for holding all those baby cards we’ve been receiving. I love how adorable baby cards can be so I’ve really enjoyed displaying them in our home.

This rustic card holder is staying up year round in our home and it has been perfect for holding all those baby cards we’ve been receiving. I love how adorable baby cards can be so I’ve really enjoyed displaying them in our home.

Rustic Frame Card Holder | Wreath | Mini Clothespins

Remember my Holiday Home Tour post? Well, this rustic card holder is staying up year round in our home and it has been perfect for holding all those baby cards we’ve been receiving. I love how adorable baby cards can be so I’ve really enjoyed displaying them in our home. All I did was swap out the Christmas mini clothespins and used painters tape to attach the wreath!

organizing baby

Reuse decorations from your baby shower like I did to create an inviting and personalized space for baby!

Sharing a space with baby has never been easier by using smart organizing solutions like this cube storage organizer from Target. Keep things tucked away and out of sight (and reach!) by using cube bins or display what you want by leaving the cubes open!

Cube Storage Organizer | 4Moms Rockaroo Swing + Infant Insert | 4Moms Infant Tub

I shared a little sneak peek into my library/all things baby organizer in my previous nursery inspiration post, but the only real change here are the letters we kept from our woodland baby shower. They were used as decorations and, again, I used the Command poster strips to place them on the wall.

I love this cube storage organizer because it has provided us with so much storage space where we lacked in closet space. I just know that we’re going to acquire more baby/toddler things as Greyson grows up and it’s nice to have the storage to place it and keep it out of sight (and reach for that matter!) – especially since we’re sharing Greyson’s space with our living/dining room.

Being practical and minimal with our baby essentials has really helped my husband and I manage our space well, but make it welcoming for our little guy when he comes home for the first time.

Being practical and minimal with our baby essentials has really helped my husband and I manage our space well, but make it welcoming for our little guy when he comes home for the first time.

Here is a broader look of our apartment and you can see just where everything goes. Again, I am so thankful that we have square footage for a one bedroom apartment because I know this feat would be a lot more challenging in a smaller space. Also, being practical and minimal with our baby essentials has really helped my husband and I manage our space well, but make it welcoming for our little guy when he comes home for the first time.

living minimally & purposefully with baby

Being first-time parents doesn’t mean we have to overrun our homes with baby stuff – and I think it’s vital to separate those spaces even if you DO have a room for a nursery/child’s room. In my reading of Bringing Up Bébé, it’s only solidified the importance I feel in maintaining our living spaces and not allowing our living rooms to be taken over with toys, teepees, and other baby/child things. We are able to maintain a clean apartment and managing the amount that comes in with donations or things we can purge helps keep the balance. Living minimally, but with the essentials, has really given us the ability to have a place and purpose for everything…including baby.

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