Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Friendsgiving x2

Happy Thanksgiving week, ya'll! We're two days away from Turkey Day but Ryan and I already have two Friendsgiving feasts in the books. Do we have some fun friends or what?!?

We kicked off the Thanksgiving festivities on Saturday night. Our friends Rachel and James hosted a big group of their friends and graciously extended the offer to attend our way as well. The spread was unbelievable and we had a great time with some wonderful people. For my contribution to the meal, I made this sweet potato casserole and this pecan pie- both Thanksgiving favorites and MUSTS for the season!





Friendsgiving Numero Dos came on Sunday. Eliot and Lauren drove down from Brighton to spend the day with us, watch some football, and share a feast together. They came over around 1 to watch the Patriots game. But, since that was pretty much a blow out, we decided to step away from the TV for a little while and headed out to the runway for some outdoor activities (Plus, we had stuffed our faces with chips and dip and needed to work some of it off to make room for dinner!). Ryan and Eliot brought the football and frisbee to throw around while Lauren and I went for a quick run to the end of the runway and back. After getting a quick workout in, we came back to the apartment to finish cooking and eat dinner. For this dinner, I made a turkey breast in the crock-pot, mashed potatoes, and an apple pie (yay for crossing things off my 101 list!) Lauren made a delicious green bean casserole and a spinach artichoke dip. The turkey breast turned out great and was SUPER easy. Look for a recipe soon!





They were the best of friends.... 


To go with dinner, I made an Apple Pie Sangria...which I will be making again and again (especially at the cabin this weekend!) In the pitcher, I put a bottle of pinot grigio, caramel apple vodka, apple cider, and chopped apples. SO. GOOD. 


Eliot and Lauren ended up spending the night so we spent the rest of the night hanging out, ultimately deciding to watch our first Christmas movie of the season, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Classic. And yes... it is pretty much Christmas time in the Smith household. Don't judge me. 

Tomorrow morning at the butt crack of dawn, Ryan and I will be loading up the car and hitting the road for Luray, Virginia to meet my parents, Ryan's parents, and Jake and Colee. I'm literally counting down the hours until we're all reunited for a weekend of fun. 

I'm off to finish packing! Happy Thanksgiving!! 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

#TBT, updates, and # 32: Crock-Pot Creamy Tortellini Soup

Hello and happy Thursday!! 

My trusty Timehop informed me yesterday that it has officially been one year since I first set out on my 101 in 1001 journey! 365 days down, 636 days to go!  
I found it fitting today to update the old list and share a new favorite recipe with ya'll, getting me one step closer to crossing another item off! This recipe came together super fast in the crock pot and tasted delicious! We definitely have plans to make it again in the near future. 
Without further ado, I present to you Creamy Tortellini Soup! 


Ingredient: 
  • 1 pkg. Frozen Cheese Tortellini
  • 1 box Chicken Broth 
  • 2 cans Italian Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 block Cream Cheese
  • 1 lb. Hot Italian Sausage (or mild if you don't like things too spicy)
  • Fresh Spinach 
Directions:

In a skillet (or in your crock pot if you have an amazing crock like mine!), brown sausage. Combine all ingredients in the crock pot and cook on low for 5 hours, stirring half way through. 

THAT'S IT! I mean... could it BE any easier?? 

Enjoy! 






Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Taco Crescent Ring


For Life Group last Thursday, the food theme was brought to you by "the letter R!" Racking my brain for recipes that began with the letter "R" for a couple days, I remembered one of my favorite party dishes...the crescent ring. Janelle and I made a buffalo chicken crescent ring together a couple months ago for a get together. While we were assembling the ring, we came up with tons of different other fillings that would work great inside the crescent ring. Last Thursday, I finally decided to try a different filling, and it turned out awesome! Plus it was super easy and came together in thirty minutes, baked and ready to eat! 



Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 lbs. Ground Beef 
  • 2 cans Crescent Rings 
  • 2 pkgs. Taco Seasoning
  • 1/2 cup Water 
  • 2 cups Mexican Cheese, shredded
  • Taco Sauce and Sour Cream, optional

Directions: 
In a skillet, brown the ground beef. Once browned, add in taco seasoning and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 5 minutes.

While the meat is simmering, lay out parchment paper on a baking sheet. Spread out each crescent triangle, leaving a circle in the middle. I started with four triangles, forming the points on a compass with points facing out. I filled in the gaps from there with the remaining triangles.

Spoon the meat in a ring around the dough about an inch from the center edge. Sprinkle a cup of cheddar cheese over top of the meat.

Wrap the triangles over the filling, pressing the small edge into the center ring to seal shut.

Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Let cool for five minutes. At this point, you can transfer to a serving platter and fill the center ring with lettuce, grape tomatoes, sour cream, cheese, taco sauce... you name it! I served mine with sour cream and taco sauce, mainly because I did my grocery shopping at Target this week and they didn't have much fresh produce. Lazy me.

 Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My Favorite Trader Joe's Products: Part 2

I don't get to Trader Joe's very often. There are multiple other groceries stores much closer to us than TJ's and more times than not my life is too busy to go out of my way for groceries. However, last weekend, Ryan and I found ourselves in Hanover and we decided to stop in TJ's to pick up a few favorites that we don't get very often. As soon as I set foot back in that store, I remembered why I love it so much. Trader Joe's has so many great and unique products! Apparently, I couldn't stay away for long because I made a special trip back out there on my day off yesterday morning to grocery shop for the week. I've blogged about my favorites from this store before but I'm back today to share a couple more must-haves from good ole Trader Joe's. 

Savory Thin Mini Crackers  


These guys were introduced to me by my friend and co-worker, Jill, last year and they were a game changer. Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but they are really good. They make a great snack on their own or with cheese. 

Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce 

I literally stock up on this stuff every time we go. Pasta is a go-to on those lazy nights where I just don't feel like cooking much. You can throw just about anything into your pasta to beef it up and it'll taste 10x better with this tomato sauce. My favorites are shredded rotisserie chicken, peas, and mushrooms. Boom, dinner is served! 

Chocolatey Coated Chocolate Chip Dunkers 


These found their way into my basket for the first time not too long ago, but they quickly won both Ryan and me over. They are a great little store-bought cookie and I imagine would be pretty good dipped in hot chocolate or milk. 

Half-baked Ciabattini Rolls 


Ryan and I like our rolls to be cooked completely differently. I like mine soft (like almost uncooked) and Ryan likes his crispier. These Ciabattini rolls are the perfect balance because they're already half cooked. We can throw a couple in and take them out at different times depending on the way we like them cooked. Win Win! 

Pumpkin Croissants 


Last, but definitely not least, we've got the newest edition to my TJ's obsession list. When Uncle Dave and Aunt Carolyn were in town a few weeks ago, they brought these bad boys into the apartment. I was skeptical because I've never been a huge fan of flaky croissants, but my mind was quickly changed. I've bought these every time I've been back to TJ's since. They make the perfect, quick Saturday morning breakfast! 

There you have it folks! These products are just too good not to share with the world! Now, I'm off to petition Trader Joe's to pay me for all this advertising!

Monday, November 3, 2014

November Goals

Holy Cow. I cannot believe that it's November already. It's blowing my mind how quickly this fall is going and how close the holidays are getting. I'm feeling my work load at school lighten, which has motivated me to take on some new challenges this month. I really enjoyed setting goals for myself this past June, and blogging about them seemed to help hold me accountable throughout the month. On Saturday morning, I wrote down four goals I hope to accomplish by the end of the month that I would like to share with ya'll now!

1. Take 3 fitness classes every week.
Right after we got back from our trip to Ireland, I joined a gym with my friends Heidi and Janelle. I have been going fairly consistently since then and have noticed a huge difference in my energy and stress levels. However, now that it's getting dark earlier (like 4:30 early WAH!) I just know I am going to need more motivation to get my butt to the gym on a regular basis. I am hoping that by setting this goal AND blogging about it, I will feel more accountability to maintain this goal for the entire month.

2. Read a new book not related to Grad School.
I've been doing a LOT of reading these last few months, but it has all revolved around teaching children to read. While this is a topic I am interested in, I have put aside my long list of free readings books from this summer for far too long. This month, my goal is to finally tackle that list, reading at least one book.

3. Finish my Christmas shopping.
This is probably going to be the biggest challenge of the month. I am going to have a lot going on in December and I would feel much better about that knowing I don't have to fight mass crowds to get my Christmas gifts for family and friends. Plus, wrapping every gift takes me about a month anyways so I might as well get shopping out of the way early!

4. Complete a Christmas DIY.
My craft Pinterest board has been overflowing lately with fun DIY's that would spice up our Christmas decorations this year. Plus, I picked up a couple rolls of burlap ribbon from a random bin at the Dollar Store last week and I've been dying to use it. So a Christmas DIY is a must this month!

Well, we'll see how this shakes out, right?!

Happy November everyone!


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fall Traditions

Happy Halloween Eve!

I've unfortunately been closing out the month of October with a pretty nasty virus that has somewhat decommissioned me these past few days. I've done a whole lot of couch-laying and channel-surfing, but am finally feeling like the worst of this thing may be behind me!

With that being said...I cannot believe that tomorrow is Halloween and Saturday is the first day in November... where is this fall going?! I mean, we've already got a chance of snow in our ten-day forecast! Take it easy, November!

Before we're knee-deep in snow , Ryan and I have been trying to make the most of this beautiful New England fall. To honor Throwback Thursday today, I'm taking it back to our apple picking excursion from a couple of weekends ago.
One beautiful Saturday morning, Ryan and I, along with a group of our friends, caravanned our way up to Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, Ma. We had heard pretty great things about this particular orchard, so our hopes were pretty high. And let me just say that this place did not disappoint.

We didn't know when we planned this trip that we were going on the last day that apple-picking would be open for the year. To say that the pickings were slim would be an understatement. There were 5 times more apples on the ground around the trees than there were actually in the trees. And the apples that were still pick-able were perched as high up in the tree as they possibly could be. While some may have accepted defeat and headed to the gift shop to collect their pre-picked, pre-bagged apples, we took the harder way out, grabbing the rickety old ladders and climbing our way through the trees to some pretty delicious looking (and tasting) apples.




For an added challenge, Ryan and Corey took it upon themselves to hoist each other up. Ladder schmadder. #Division1ApplePickers


Once our bags were full, we hopped on the hayride to the other side of the orchard for some fresh and warm apple cider doughnuts.





We spent the rest of our time wandering around the orchard, checking out the resident goats, sheep, chickens, and pigs before deciding to pack it in and head back towards home. 

Another apple pick is in the books! Happy Fall and Happy Halloween, ya'll! 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fall Chili Recipes, Ya'll

With the weather being cool and rainy lately (especially rainy at this particular moment), I've really been craving warm and hearty crock-pot meals for dinner. In the last few weeks, I've pulled my crock-pot out more times than I haven't. I've always been a huge fan of soups this time of year, but Ryan is convinced that soup does not constitute a "meal." Since he was never really on board, I rarely ever make any sort of soup, including stews, chili, and chowders. HOWEVER, we had friends over a couple of weeks ago to watch the Pats game and I made a big batch of chili to share. Surprisingly, Ryan actually enjoyed it! So, clearly with this sudden change of heart I have been making as many variations of "soup" that I can get away with. Tonight, I'm sharing two of my favorite chili recipes, which happen to be polar opposites of each other. The first is a traditional chili recipe I have made time and time again, tweaked from one of my favorite Southern Living recipe books. The recipe makes a TON... I mean a ton! But it can always be cut in half OR frozen to make TWO meals!

Traditional Big Batch Chili 


Ingredients: 

  • 4 lbs. Ground Beef
  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
  • 3 tsp. Minced Garlic
  • 3 (14.5 oz) cans Diced Tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 (8 oz) cans Tomato Sauce 
  • 1 (6 oz) can Tomato Paste
  • 1/4 cup Chili Powder
  • 1 tbsp. Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper
  • 2 (16 oz) cans Kidney Beans, rinsed and drained
  • Toppings: Sour Cream, Cheddar Cheese, Green Onions 
Directions: 
1. Cook ground beef until no longer pink; drain. 
2. Place meat in slow cooker; stir in the rest of the ingredients. 
3. Cover and cook on low 7-8 hours or high 5-6 hours. Serve with desired toppings

Simple and Traditional! 


The next chili recipe is a little more unique. I had a couple of sweet potatoes in the house that I wanted to cook up and I thought they would be a great addition to a turkey chili, but I COULD NOT find a recipe online that I liked...so, I made one up! I was a little nervous about how this would turn out, but it was delicious! Next time, I will probably add more beans. (I didn't add as many this time because my friend Heidi doesn't like them and she was coming over for dinner.) 

Turkey & Sweet Potato Chili 

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. Ground Turkey
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
  • 2 Sweet Potatoes, diced
  • 30 oz. Tomato Sauce
  • 30 oz. Diced Tomatoes 
  • 1 can Black Beans, drained and rinsed 
  • 2 tbsp. Chili Powder
  • 1 tbsp. Cumin
  • Salt/Pepper, to taste 
Directions: 

1. Brown ground turkey and onion; transfer to crock-pot.
2. Combine remaining ingredients and cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 5-6 hours.


There you have it! Two very different, very tasty chili recipes to try out during this wonderful time of year!

Happy Hump Day, ya'll!