Category Archives: The Heart of the Home

AHDN: At Home Date Night

February 2, 2016

When you have a life with littles, sometimes “date night” can be few and far between.  With baby sitters and broken routines, cries for mama and good night kisses…well, sometimes is it just plain hard!  To help alleviate some of the pressure, but also keep our time as just us, Mr. Twice Around and I have started implementing AT HOME DATE NIGHT, or AHDN as we call it.  The thought is that once munka is in bed, we have the rest of the evening to ourselves and can enjoy a “date” together.  No phones, no distractions – just time shared together.

The only real RULES that we have for AHDN are as follows:
1) Real clothes (with the occasional exception for PJ’s- when appropriate)
2) No cell phones
3) It has to be more than a Netflix binge on the couch

This past week was my turn to plan, so I decided on a kicked up version of dinner and a movie.

Act 1- Dinner.  Stone ground Mustard Chicken Thighs with a Brussel Sprout Gratin and White Wine

Act 2- Cozy Movie Time with snacks,  Tomato Cheese Crackers, prosciutto, grapes, brownie bites, and of course, champagne.

Now, the thing that really makes this ‘not your average movie night’ for us is the location of our movie.  Typically, we only have 1 TV in our home, and that is in our main living area.  We like it that way.  We prefer it that way. BUT- it makes it fun to bring out our second TV from storage and create a new ambiance for movie watching.  I decided that for date night, I’d set up our TV and Apple TV in our bedroom, and that we’d watch the movie from the comfort of our cozy bed, stacked high with extra pillows and cushions.  Add a tray for our snacks, and we were all set!

Stay tuned for more AHDN ideas!

Pictures

June 19, 2015

IMG_0668When I was a little girl, I had tons of doll babies.  Each one unique, special, and named- I had triplet babies, babies that looked real, babies that could crawl, and one little baby doll (A Magic Nursery baby, for all my 90’s friends!) that was a preemie, and well, my favorite.  (Oh if only my 9 year old heart could have known then…)  I had babies, babies, babies…and as I grew, I always thought that I’d be a momma to many.  A baby for both hips, and one wrapped around my leg, toddling along.  That was my picture of my perfect mommy life. Continue reading

Crazed

May 16, 2015

What is it about a visit from the parents that strikes fear into the hearts of women?  Without fail, I hear the words, and my “crazy eyes” (as DH calls them) come out in full force.  “She’s coming WHEN?… I need to…”  is always followed by an outrageous list of things that don’t REALLY need done, but that would make me feel like a more accomplished woman, wife, and mother when seen through the eyes of my mother-in-law. (and my mother, too, if she were alive) Continue reading

Parmesan Chicken with Linguine in a Sun-dried Tomato Cream Sauce

June 6, 2014

IMG_0894 Wow- that’s a long title, but it really says it all… golden brown crusted chicken, bright bursts of flavor from sun-dried tomatoes, and a luscious cream sauce.  Best of all, it’s on the table in about 40 minutes start to finish.  If I can make this on a crazy Monday after work, I know you can too!  Go on, impress your family, or save it and really impress some weekend dinner guests!

Starting off with the chicken, create a breading station.IMG_0885  I use paper plates for easy clean up!  In one plate, you’ll need some flour seasoned with salt and pepper.  In the second, crack and whip up an egg.  In the third, combine equal parts bread crumbs with grated Parmesan cheese.  If you have massive chicken breasts, like mine were, go ahead and pound them out a bit- they’ll cook quicker and more evenly.  Then just move your chicken through the breading station, starting with flour, and ending at the bread crumb mix.    IMG_0889Once breaded, pop them into a hot skillet that’s been coated with a swirl of olive oil.  Brown the chicken about 3 minutes on each side. (Note: the second side usually takes a bit less time because the oil is hot and sizzling!)    Transfer to a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

About halfway through the cook time of the chicken, you can start your sauce.

Sun-dried Tomato Cream Sauce:
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 pint heavy cream
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp italian herb paste (usually found in your grocer’s produce section- it’s in a tube)
1 cup grated Parmesan/ Asiago cheese blend
2 cups chopped baby spinach
1 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Start with 2 tbsp butter.  Melt over medium low heat, and once melted, stir in 2 tbsp of flour. Slowly stir in 1/2 of the pint of heavy cream, along with 1 tbsp minced garlic, 2 tbsp tomato paste, and 2 tbsp italian herb paste.  Stir over low heat, gradually increasing to medium heat.  Add in 1 cup of the Asiago/ Parmesan cheese blend, 2 cups of baby spinach, and 1 cup of julienned sun-dried tomatoes.  Continue to stir occassionally, adding the remaining 1/2 pint of heavy cream bit by bit.  If sauce seems thin, add a smidge more cheese.
Add salt and pepper to taste, and reduce heat to low.  Stir occasionally and continue to simmer on low until chicken is finished cooking.

  IMG_0892

For this recipe, I used Bertolli’s fresh linguine found in my grocer’s deli department, but you can use any pasta that you like!  I served it up with the bed of pasta, topped with cream sauce, and then topped with sauced chicken on top of that.  I was really longing for a nice glass of white wine to go along with it, but lemonade was on the menu for me!  If you make this- have  it with the wine for me!
IMG_0893
Enjoy!
J

**Disclaimer: This meal is by no means healthy…but it is healthy for your soul, so eat up in moderation!**

 

Homestyle Mac N’ Cheese

March 9, 2014


Not much brings me comfort quite like my mummy’s mac n’ cheese.  Whenever I’d be feeling a little down, or the day had been too rough, it was always there- a warm hug on a plate, letting me know that everything would be just fine. 

These days, I only eat mummy’s mac when I need the big guns- those times when I need to feel her hug, even though she’s passed on.  I’m a firm believer that a good part of her lives on through her food, and there are times, when only that creamy mac n’ cheese will fix what ails me.

BUT, when it’s a Tuesday, and I need some mac for next to no reason at all, I turn to my mac n’ cheese makeover.  Half the calories, a quarter of the fat and four times the fiber.  NONE of the guilt. ALL of the satisfaction. 

Homestyle Mac N Cheese
6 tbsp unsalted butter (go ahead, use the butter)
6 tbsp flour
1/2 lb whole grain elbow macaroni
3 cups fat free milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 1/2 cups low fat shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter or spray a 2 quart baking dish.
Boil pasta- about 7 to 10 minutes

Melt butter in a 3 qt saucepan over medium heat.  Stir occassionally.  Slowly add flour and stir continuously, being sure not to brown.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Add salt, pepper, and paprika.  Slowly stir in 3 cups of milk and continue to cook for 3 to 5 more minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in 2 and 1/2 cups of shredded cheese.  Add pasta, stir, and pour into prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the top with 1/2 cup of panko breadcrumbs and a bit of extra cheddar cheese.  Bake @ 350 for 25 to 30 minutes.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. 

**Tip- if your baking dish seems full, place it on a cookie sheet prior to placing into the oven.  This will catch any sauce that may bubble over. **

Nutrition Comparison

Mum’s and most others per serving: 570 calories, 32g fat, 67 g carbs, 1.8g fiber

Mine per serving: 235 calories, 8 g fat, 28 g carbs, 8 g fiber

100 Day Challenge

February 27, 2014

What, you ask, is the 100 Day Challenge?  Well, it is just that!  It is a challenge to myself to complete 30 different things on my “life list” in the next 100 days.  This idea was shared with me from my friend, McKenzie over at Our Honest World, and when I read about her challenge… and her request for others to jump on board, I knew I was in!  So, with pencil in hand, I set about making my list.

I’d love for others to join us, whether it be fellow blogging friends to keep in contact with, or through facebook, text, or email… just think about the things you could do in 100 days!  The possibilities are endless, right?  I promise it’ll be fun, and that we’ll have a lot of laughs.  We may even discover new things about each other and ourselves. 

Now, some of these items are small.  Some are quirky, and somewhat trivial.  Others are rather large, and even more important to put into my life in the next 100 days.  The point is to do them. To commit to living my life, and to allow myself the time to explore these ideas.

SO- here it is!

1. Blog at least 2 times a week, and have at least 1  be an original recipe.

2. Learn the craft/ practice of yoga. NOT Jillian Michaels yoga, which I love, but kicks my butt.  I’m talking SLOW, methodical, spiritual yoga.

3. Host a Pinterest party.  (for all those DIY things that we pin, but never make)

4. Make a budget and really stick to it.  I was so great at this, but then we moved, and our bills and due dates for them shifted, and well.. my budget kind of died a slow death.  It needs updated.  I’d love to share some of the apps I’ve found and LOVE.  It’s just a matter of sitting down and doing this one.

5. Organize my family recipes.

6. Coupon like a champ.  Again, I use to do this, and then life happened.

7. Learn what all of the settings and buttons on my camera do.  Fancy camera, and all I do is point and click. Pathetic, right?  No more. Time to learn.

8.  Learn to truly meditate.  I like to SAY I’m meditating, when really my mind is going a thousand miles an hour in 50 different directions.  It’s really annoying at the end of the day to be exhausted, lay down, and still be awake for about 40 minutes until I sort through all of the RANDOM thoughts that run through my head.  Meditation. MUST LEARN.

9. take a photography class and read my Plate to Pixel book about food photography

10. make/ paint my own pottery

11. Really take stock of and organize my school class library

12. catch up on Grey’s Anatomy.  Seriously. I am about 5 seasons behind, and the previews still kill me every week. Indulgent? absolutely.  Needed? you bet.

13. organize my pantry so that it stays organized and functional (side note- train husband as to where things go in said organized pantry)

14. restain the deck

15. make Kevin’s brewery tours collage

16. master the “smokey eye” look

17. redesign my blog, or pay someone else to do it

18. keep a journal, including pictures.  note the little things and focus on gratitude

19. find a church we like

20. grow my relationship with God

21. get my passport

22. plan out the trip to Niagara Falls to spread my mum’s ashes-  we promised, and haven’t done it yet…and it bothers me every spring

23. treat my husband the way I did when we first started dating- meaning… send brownies to work, inner office little notes, hide love notes in his pockets… let him know how much I truly love and appreciate him.  We do dates, but I think I could do more of the little affections

24. actually download the fonts that I pin on Pinterest

25. can or pickle something

26. plant a beautiful garden and actually keep it alive

27. reconnect with childhood/ high school friends

28. buy something from an antique store

29. make my own fruit snacks

30. spend a day alone with my mother in law, learning more about her, and her life in younger days

Those are my 30 things.  Not sure which one I want to start with, but it’ll probably be a small one to get me on my way!  I’ll keep you posted how this all goes!

Be sure to swing over to McKenzie’s page too- I should add “Make McKenzie’s laundry soap” as number 31.

Until next time,
J

Cheesy Crusted Chops

February 11, 2014

Let it be known, I love pork chops.  LOVE them.  I get it from my grandmother, honestly, but I love them so much that I almost always buy the bulk family value pack from our grocery store.  I mean, really, who DOESN’T need a dozen pork chops for 2 people?!  I love the look of a bone-in chop, the sizzle of a good sear, their flavor, their versatility, and how budget friendly they are… and because I love them so, I am always looking for a new way to prepare them.  Last week’s culinary adventures may have led me to my favorite chops yet- Cheesy Crusted Chops. 

4 ingredients.
2 steps.
2 minutes of prep.
On your table in 20 minutes or less.
It doesn’t get any easier than that! 

Cheesy Crusted Chops

(serves 2, but is easy to double, triple, or make for a crowd!)

1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
Olive oil
2 bone in chops

Combine equal parts breadcrumbs and shredded cheese.  Add small drizzles of olive oil and mix with fingers until the mixture is a moist paste-like consistency.  (Almost like a sugar scrub?)  Divide the mixture evenly on the top of 2 chops and pat down gently with hands.  Toss into the oven @ 425 for 18-20 minutes. 

simple. as. that.

Enjoy!
J

Bangers and Mash

January 31, 2014

Most people that know me, know that my husband is a man who is very easily pleased.  He never wants for much, or asks for much, which sometimes makes holidays and birthdays a challenge, but makes me want to do something special just that much more.  I usually couple an experience with a gift and memorable meal.  For my honey, there’s no greater meal than Bangers and Mash. 

Bangers and Mash is a traditional British dish of mashed potatoes and sausage with a gravy- pub food at it’s finest.  My sweet husband’s face lights up any time a restaurant adventure results in a menu with Bangers and Mash.  With snow, and just moving into our new house, going out was looking like it might be a challenge for his actual birthday.  So, I decided to try my hand at making his favorite meal.  Now, I’d never made Bangers and Mash before, but I figured, what the hell- It was his birthday, after all, and things usually turn out alright when I wing it!

And oh, Mama… did it turn out!  If you do nothing else, make and devour the gravy.  Then, try not to lick the dish.  Honestly.

Presenting…Birthday Bangers and Mash!

(Serves 2 hungry people)

1 package beer and brats sausages (5 in a pack)
4 tbsp butter, divided
1/4 cup flour
1 packet onion soup mix
1 beer

1/4 cup beef broth

salt
pepper

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a high sided skillet.  Brown the brats on all sides, and set aside on a plate. (They’ll rejoin the party in a tiny bit.)  Add an additional 2 tbsp of butter to the skillet and combine with the 1/4 cup flour to make a rue.  Slowly whisk in 1 beer, 1 packet of onion soup, and 1/4 cup beef broth.  Add in a few dashes of salt and pepper, depending on your tastes.  Whisk and bring to a boil, being sure to stir vigorously for a few minutes to eliminate lumps.  (If there are some, don’t worry- it’s going over mashed potatoes, and will have the onions in there…and no one will notice AT ALL. I promise.)  Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and add the brats back into the gravy.  Continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring and turning the brats occasionally.  If your gravy seems too thick, add a few splashes of beef broth.  Too thin?? add some flour, a spoonful at a time.

Serve in a pool of gravy, atop your favorite mashed potatoes.  For me, I love the speed and convenience of  Ore-Ida’s Steam and Mash potatoes.  They can be found in the freezer section, get steamed right in the bag, and then mashed with 2/3 cup of milk and a few tabs of butter.  They turn out amazingly delicious, without the hassle of peeling and boiling potatoes.  Win!

Darling husband loved his Birthday Bangers.  I was told they have to be a frequent meal, and not just for special occasions… and since they took under 30 minutes, that’s no problem at all!

Until next time…. give it a swirl!
J