Monday, August 29, 2011

Mmm, Mmm Monday- Italian Meatloaf

Fall is coming.  I can smell it.  I can't even begin to tell you how much I'm ready for fires, pumpkins, and crisp air.  Thinking of fall makes me want comfort foods like mashed potatoes, baked apples, and meatloaf.

Are you a meatloaf fan?  So many people aren't.  But you should be.  Especially of this particular recipe.  I found it in one of my Kraft magazines. It has an Italian twist, which makes it taste like one big, cheesy meatball.  It's moist and flavorful, so it would be a good one to try if you have some non-meatloaf eaters in your house.

What you'll need: mozzarella cheese, spaghetti sauce, Stove Top, diced tomatoes, eggs, garlic, and ground beef.

In a medium bowl, add your ground beef and all ingredients, minus 1/4 cup of the cheese and spaghetti sauce.  Get your hands good and gross.  It's all part of the meatloaf experience.  The original recipe didn't ask for additional seasonings, but I added salt, pepper, and a bit of oregano (I'm glad I did).
Shape the mixture into a loaf shape and place it in a greased 9x13 pan. Bake for 50 minutes at 375 degrees.
Top with the remaining spaghetti sauce and cheese and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Reviews From the Peanut Gallery
Me: 4 1/2 stars.  I loved the idea of using Stove Top as the binder.  I loved putting a new spin on an old favorite.  The cheese in the meatloaf kept it really moist.  I will definitely be making this again.

Andy: 5 out of 5 stars. Absolutely delicious.

Emma: Emma does NOT eat hamburger meat--I think it's a texture thing. I was ready for her to ignore it on her plate as she usually does, but I was pleasantly surprised with her review. Maybe using Daddy's fork made it taste better.

Italian Meatloaf
Original recipes from Kraft Foods

2 lb. lean ground beef
1 pkg.  (6 oz.) Stove Top, chicken flavor
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained  
4 cloves  garlic, minced  
2 eggs, beaten  
1 cup  spaghetti sauce, divided  
1-1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1 tsp. oregano
salt and pepper 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix all ingredients except 1/4 cup each spaghetti sauce and cheese.  Shape into a loaf in 13x9 inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake 1 hour, topping with remaining sauce and cheese after 50 min. Bake for an additional 10 minutes. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Fun

Today was the perfect end to a great weekend.  The weather has been so beautiful!  I can feel fall nipping at our heels, and I couldn't be happier about it.  Andy's parents watched the girls while Andy and I enjoyed lunch and ran some errands. It is so nice when we get to spend time together. 

After dinner, we decided to take the kids to the park to enjoy the nice evening.  We tried out a new park today at a school that is close to our house.  It is part of a preschool, so it was perfect for Emma.  She had so much fun running around and doing everything on her own. 

Sophia was so relaxed in her stroller, but she got out for a bit to play with her sister. We promised Emma that we will go back soon, now that the weather is getting cooler.  I feel so bad that the girls have been so deprived of being outside to play this summer.  We'll make up for it now!

Prepare yourself for a photo dump!

Sophia is very serious about eating.
She tried squash for the first time and she loved it!

Just What I Needed

The last three weeks of going back to school, getting my classroom ready,  and leaving my kiddos at home have been challenging.  I have loved getting back into the swing of things, but holy smokes, it is tiring. 

I was cautiously looking forward to this weekend because I had some fun plans.  The last two times we had a fun-filled weekend planned, my sister got in a car accident and Emma got staph.  I did not want a repeat of either.

On Friday, our sweet friends Brad and Amber came over with Emma's buddy, Matthew.  A visit with them was long overdue and it was great to catch up.  My camera went nuts and I was only able to get ONE picture. I can't even believe it.  I have no clue what is going on with it.  Maybe it's forgotten how to work since I haven't taken a picture in weeks. The flash seems to be on the fritz.

Brad was kind enough to let Sophia teethe on his jeans.  She'll chew on anything and everything these days. 

On Saturday, I met up with some friends to have lunch and see The Help.  I had read the book over the summer and had really been looking forward to seeing the movie.  It was fabulous.  I'm usually disappointed with the movies after reading the books, but that was not the case for this movie.  It was fabulously done and Minnie's character just might become one of my favorites ever.  This movie made me want to go home and hug on my babies. 

It was so nice outside yesterday and it had been ages since I had gone out with friends.  It was marvelous to be "Tryna" for a while, although I kept feeling like I needed to be holding onto a little hand.

We met my family for dinner last night at one of our favorite restaurants.  Everyone had a great meal and decided to take a walk down to the park area right next door and feed the ducks afterward.  Emma had the time of her life and was so thankful to be outside.  We've stayed in so much this summer due to the high temperatures.  She ran around the park like a crazy person with her arms stretched out.  She looked like the definition of "freedom." 

Sophia loved watching the ducks with her Auntie Tonia

When we got home, Emma and I went outside for a little bit more playing and I attempted to try my camera out again.  I managed to get a few pictures of my sweet girl since it was still light out and I didn't need a flash.

I hope everyone had a great weekend and are staying safe if you are in Irene's path.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On the Verge!

How did this happen?!? I swear; she was born, I blinked, and now this. Sigh.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mmm, Mmm Monday--Cookies and Creme Pudding Pops

I found this recipe in an old Kraft magazine and was excited to try it.  You can't go wrong with pudding, chocolate, and Oreos.  I lightened it up a bit from the original recipe.  This was super easy and it's a great recipe for kids to help with.

What you'll need: milk, instant pudding, Cool Whip, and Oreos (I only used one package).

Crush your Oreos into small pieces.  They'll soften in the mixture, so a few big pieces is fine.  You don't want dust though.

Whisk 2 cups of milk with the pudding mix for two minutes.

Make a new best friend.

Add the crushed Oreos and 1/2 cup of Cool Whip to the pudding.  Fold until just blended.

Force yourself not to eat this and fight off any "helpers" in the kitchen that claim that freezing the pops isn't necessary.

Fill nine Dixie cups with the pudding mixture.  Put the cups into a baking dish to make it easier to move in and out of the freezer.

Andy has a fear of wooden sticks (It's ok.  He knows it's weird) so I used straws per the instructions.  They seemed a little flimsy to me, so I also tried plastic spoons.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and freeze for 5 hours.

When you're ready to pop them out of the cups, dip them into warm water for a few seconds.  They'll pull right out.

The straws did not work at all.  We improvised by adding a crazy straw for additional stability and the day was saved.

The spoons worked great!
Reviews from the Peanut Gallery:

Me: 5 out of 5 stars.  What's not to love? These were easy to make and they were really good.  I'm thinking about using the mixture as a filling for a frozen pie.

Andy: 4.5 stars out of 5. 


Loved the pops.

Hated the brain freeze.
Cookies and Creme Pudding Pops
recipe adapted from Kraft Foods

1 package (3.9 oz) Jello Instant Chocolate Pudding
2 cups milk
1 100 calorie package Oreo crisps (or 6 regular Oreos)
1/2 cup fat free Cool Whip

Pour the Oreos into a ziploc bag and crush them into small pieces.  In a large bowl, mix the pudding mix with 2 cups of cold milk.  Whisk for two minutes.  The set will be soft.  Add the crushed Oreos, and 1/2 cup Cool Whip to the pudding mixture.  Fold until just combined.  Fill 9 paper cups with the pudding mixture.  Insert popsicle sticks or plastic spoons and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Freeze for at least 5 hours.  Just before eating, dip the cups into warm water for a few seconds to loosen the popsicle. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bad Blogger

I've been a very bad blogger.  I've been pretty nonexistent since I went back to work two weeks ago, but I have been so crazy busy that I haven't had time to breathe, let alone blog. 

I don't have much for you, but here's a little bit of photo therapy until this whirlwind called "the beginning of the school year" settles down.

We spent the weekend relaxing and playing, which is what we do best on weekends.

We built tall, tall towers.

My girls were all kinds of cute.

We loved one another.

Sisters did what they do best.

We ate some good stuff.

Emma practiced jumping with the help of Daddy's back.

Lots of snuggling occurred.

Emma experienced her first brain freeze (pudding pop recipe to come).

She was not happy about it.
We're gearing up for another very busy week and then, hopefully, things will start to slow down a bit.  I'm busy preparing for Parent Night and planning lessons, but once we get into a routine at school, I'll be able to get back into the swing of things here!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mmm, Mmm Monday- Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

A few weeks ago, Gina over at Skinnytaste (a.k.a. gift from the Weight Watchers gods) posted a recipe for Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins.  As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to try them.

You will need: flour, sugar, unsweetened applesauce, vanilla, salt, cocoa, baking soda, egg whites, VERY ripe bananas, chocolate chips, and butter.

Cream together your sugar and butter.  Add mashed bananas, applesauce, egg whites, and vanilla.  Mix on medium speed until thick.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda.

Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture and mix until just combined.  Scrape down the sides of your bowl.

Fold in your chocolate chips.

Add the batter to 12 lined muffin tins.  Fill those puppies to the top.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Optional: Once the muffins have cooled, combine 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar with 1/4-1/2 teaspoons of water (I used a little more) to make a glaze.  Drizzle on top of the muffins. 

Reviews from the Peanut Gallery

Me: 4 out of 5 stars.  These were awesome!  They were SO moist and chocolaty, especially considering they are only 5 points+.  I only gave them 4 stars because I'm not a huge fan of bananas.  But they were yummy.  

Andy: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.  He thought they were delicious and sweet and not too heavy for dessert (or breakfast! ;)).

Emma: When I asked her what she thought of the muffins, she said "Yummy!"

I packed the rest of the muffins up for my favorite third grade teachers as a first day of school treat.  I decided not glaze them, because the glaze didn't really harden and wouldn't have held up during transport. 

If you were one of the recipients, what did you think?