Monday, October 20, 2014

Pumpkin Patch Kids | 2014

In trying to sound festive in the most non-cliché way..we went to the Pumpkin Patch last week. 
..and, you guessed it, picked out a pumpkin. 

Walking into the Patch, a flood of memories hit my ever loving heart of a mother and swallowed it whole.  Do you remember the last time we were here?
We were bald.  
Wearing leg warmers and a onesie.
Leg warmers and onesies that I have since boxed up and stored in the attic because they don't fit anymore. 
Walking was our newest trick and we had just turned 10 months old.
Here we are.  A year, (almost) to the day, later.
Who are you. 
You stop growing right now.
This very minute.

..and you too, little missy.
After seeing their reaction to the rows upon rows of pumpkins..
..the bounce houses..
..the hay bales..
..and most of all, the way cool, super huge tractor touring the patch.
I knew this trip wasn't going to actually be about choosing a pumpkin for our porch.
But they entertained the idea well enough.
Pumpkin Huntin' is serious business.  It was way to much fun watching them walk/run through the rows together.

With rows upon rows of open (gated) field, what else is there to do?
How about a fair game.
Lets race.  Get on your mark.  
Jolie starts off strong- a true burst of energy that leaves Parker behind
..until the blasted rock/step/branch/grass? that never was.
In true competitor fashion, there is no time to waist when you have the chance to W.I.N.

No hard feelings.
After all the reindeer games (in October), the pumpkin pickin' was complete. 
With the great Pumpkin selection behind us, we opted for a few photo attempts of just us girls.
Waving as all the cars came through. 
At first glance, this might seem like a fail. But Jolie looks like she's stepped out of a commercial for Paul Mitchell, and Parker really just smiles like that.
But, no she doesn't.
66.6% of us are looking.  
Watching these two change over the course of a year really doesn't hit home until we step into a situation exactly the same as last year.  This year they really did take part in the pumpkin selection.  Played in the fields, the hay, and around the Disney character maze of wood figurines.  
Loving every minute of it.
Growing and transforming right before my very eyes.
I'm so excited for these family traditions to continue.

..but only if they stay small enough to fit in my lap forever. 

headwrap: sweet t designs
tee: target


Friday, October 17, 2014

WE EAT | Weekly Toddler Menu Plan

October is flying by.  I almost feel like as the weeks go by I am hardly remembering what we've done or plan to do..or what is even on the calendar.  I feel like I blinked and the month disappeared!  
If I am being honest here.. if I didn't figure out these meal plans every week, we would be eating chicken nuggets and cereal for dinner.  
Mixing it up with the occasional grilled cheese sandwich.. like once a week.
But.  I am a planner.  And we gotta eat, so here we are again with another meal plan for me to share with you.  I am LOVING seeing your dinner meals via Instagram and Twitter. Be sure to tag me (@masseya) if you happen to make a recipe - I would love love love to see!

Cozy up to your fair share of simple suppers this week.  Everything is warm, hearty, and pretty quick to get on the table.  I plan to do a lot of prepping ahead this week.  You'll see below in the recipe portion of the post that I included make ahead tips for those that would like to try their hands in prepping ahead of time.  It is a game changer for me when I do take the time to do it.  My Pinterest boards are exploding with these elaborate fall recipes that I am dying to try, but anything that calls for a 'root vegetable' tends to take time.
Because I'm a busy mom doesn't mean I can't find the time to make it.. it just means that all of it wont be done in the witching hour before dinner.  
Can I get an AMEN? 
Get your paper & pens ready to make a shopping list.

Recipe Links
Brussels Sprouts Casserole (+ chicken sausage)

Tex-Mex Chicken & Rice Casserole
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1   tablespoon olive oil
2 cups cooked brown rice
2   cups chopped cooked chicken
1 (15oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped seeded tomatoes (2 medium)
1 (4oz) can diced green chile peppers
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
In a medium saucepan cook onion in hot oil over medium heat until tender.
Stir in rice cook and stir for 2 minutes.
Transfer the rice mixture to a large bowl. Stir in chicken, tomatoes, black beans, chile peppers, basil, chili powder, cumin, salt and black pepper. Transfer to a 2-quart casserole.
Bake, covered, in a 425 degrees F oven for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.
{Make Ahead Tip} Prepare as above until the baking step. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours. Bake, covered, in a 425 degrees F oven about 40 minutes or until heated through. Uncover and sprinkle with cheese. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Winter Veggies w Marinara & Mozzarella Polenta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced butternut squash
1 small zucchini, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup water
10  ounces baby spinach
1 1/2 cups prepared marinara sauce, preferably lower-sodium
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup instant polenta
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1-3 tablespoons butter (optional)
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add squash, zucchini, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown, 6-11 minutes. Add water and spinach; cover and cook until wilted, stirring once, about 3 minutes. Stir marinara sauce into the vegetables and heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in basil.  While your veggies cook, bring the water to a boil. Bring the water to a brisk boil over medium-high heat. Add the salt.  While whisking gently, pour the polenta into the boiling water in a steady stream.
Continue whisking until polenta is thickened. Turn down the heat to low and continue whisking until the polenta has thickened enough that it doesn't settle back on the bottom of the pan when you stop stirring. Stir vigorously every making sure to scrape the sides, bottom, and corners of the pan.
Stir in cheese and butter, if using. To serve: Place polenta into a bowl, top with marinara veggies and additional cheese if desired.
{Make Ahead Tip} Prepare vegetables up to 24 hours in advance.  Store in a sealed container and keep chilled.  I would not recommend making the polenta in advance.  It is meant to be porridge-like, and polenta hardens after sitting for a short time.

Coconut Sweet Potatoes & Wild Rice w Chicken
adapted from Better Homes & Gardens
1  (8.5 ounce) package brown and wild rice (such as Uncle Ben's)
4 small sweet potatoes (1-1/2 pounds total), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1   cup frozen edamame, thawed
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken breast
1 (14 ounce) can unsweetened light coconut milk
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter
1 tablespoon red curry paste
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 2-quart casserole; set aside. Prepare rice according to package directions.  In a medium saucepan cook sweet potato slices, covered, in enough boiling water to cover about 8 minutes or just until tender; drain well. Gently combine sweet potato slices, rice, chicken, and edamame.  Transfer to casserole dish.
In a large skillet combine coconut milk and onion. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 3 minutes or just until onion is tender. Whisk in peanut butter, red curry paste, and brown sugar. Continue to whisk until peanut butter is melted and smooth.
Pour coconut milk mixture over vegetables, chicken, and rice mixture. Bake, covered, for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake about 15 minutes more or until mixture is heated through.
{Make Ahead Tip} Prepare casserole through to the point of making the sauce.  Prepare the sauce just before you plan to bake the casserole. The rice/chicken/vegetable mixture can be stored in the fridge up to 2 days in advance.

Broccoli Cheese Twice Baked Potatoes w Beef
adapted from Eating Well
4 medium russet potatoes
1/2 pound 90%-lean ground beef
1 cup broccoli florets, finely chopped
1 cup water
1 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup 0% Greek yogurt (such as FAGE)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 green onions, sliced
Pre-heat the oven to 425°F. Rub the potatoes with olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and prick them with the tines of a fork. You can lay them directly on the oven rack or place them on a baking sheet. Cook the potatoes for 45 to 60 minutes, until their skin is crispy and sticking one with a fork meets no resistance.
Meanwhile, brown meat in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Increase heat to high, add broccoli and water to the pan, cover, and cook until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the broccoli; add to the meat.
Carefully cut off the top third of the cooked potatoes. Scoop out the insides into a medium bowl. Place the potato shells in a small baking dish. Add 1/2 cup Cheddar, Greek yogurt, salt and pepper to the potato insides and mash with a fork or potato masher. Add green onions and the potato mixture to the broccoli and meat; stir to combine.
Evenly divide the potato mixture among the potato shells and top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Return potatoes to the heated oven and bake until the filling is hot and the cheese is melted, 4 to 8 minutes.
{Make Ahead Tip}: Prepare and stuff potatoes. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

French Toast Sticks
1 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
4 slices whole wheat cinnamon raisin bread
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
Syrup or low-fat fruit yogurt for dipping
Beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract in a shallow plate or baking dish with a fork or whisk.
Add the bread slices and turn to coat.
Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the bread slices in batches and cook for 5 minutes or until lightly browned on both sides.
Remove the bread slices from the skillet.
Cut each bread slice into 4 "sticks". Serve with the syrup for dipping.

Pesto Pasta Shells
8 ounces cooked whole wheat shell pasta
1/2 cup prepared basil pesto
Combine cooked pasta and pesto and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
1.5 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (2-3 potatoes)
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup half and half
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Boil potatoes until tender, drain and reserve. Return the pot to the stove top over medium heat. Add butter and potatoes to the pot.  Stir in the half and half and sugar. Mash until well combined. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper to your taste.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

WE EAT | {Crock Pot} White Bean Chicken Chili + Cornbread

White Bean Chicken Chili
adapted from Love Taza 
4 (15oz) cans great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 pound chicken breast
2 (4oz) cans mild diced green chilies
2-3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning (salt-free)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup fat free Greek yogurt
Rinse and drain the beans, and place in the crock pot.  Season with salt, cumin, Italian seasoning  chili powder, and garlic.  Add in the diced green chilies and stir well to combine.  Layer the chicken breast over top of the bean mixture.
Cook on LOW for 8 hours, stirring once to ensure the beans don't stick to the bottom of the pot.  Remove the chicken breast from the crock pot and chop/shred.  Add back into the crock pot and stir.  Allow to warm for an addition hour or so, if desired.  Stir in the Greek yogurt until creamy and combined.  Allow to warm through and serve! 

 Eat over brown rice or quinoa, as the original recipe suggests, OR serve with cornbread (which is how we ate it this particular time) and an additional dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream and sprinkle of cheese on top.  Totally essential to make it extra creamy and delicious! 

Mexican Cornbread
1 (8.5oz) package of corn bread mix (such as Jiffy)
1 whole egg
1/3 cup Mexican Crema (or milk)
1 (4oz) can diced green chilies
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
Preheat pven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine corn bread mix, egg, crema, and green chilies until just blended- batter will be lumpy.  Pour mixture into a glass pie plate coated in cooking spray and top with cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.

I've decided that crock pot soups of any shape are a huge hit with the little birds.  
All starting with the ever so delicious Chicken Taco Soup.
Stirring in the cheese-y goodness is the most important part of the entire meal.  
I made the mistake ONCE to assist, and resulted in a new bowl of soup being poured, with a fresh dollop of the Greek yogurt on top.
Mom totally ruined the entire thing.
22 month old drama.
I can only hope for this kind of (mellow) drama at 16 years. 

Of course there are the essentials for dipping.  
I alway ensure they take several bites before offering something to dip with.  
I want to make sure they arent eating chips for dinner!  
The finest concentration.

There was also cornbread.  I honestly didn't give the benefit of the doubt and offer them corn bread.  When we sat down together and Parker realized that her dad and I were eating the bread over the chips, well.. she was just going to have to have some.

Another hit in this house.  Making just a few tweaks to an already incredibly simple recipe offered up the most delicious dinner meal, and amazing leftovers.  

I'm such a left-over lover.  I almost always make a little extra and in hopes there will be something left for me to tote to work (or eat for breakfast?) the next day, and this is fantastic.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Movie Night Under the Stars | A Picnic Menu + Recipes

Yesterday you got to see a Movie Night {Under the Stars} in all it's glory - 
today, you get the recipes.
I (and Ashley, too!) prepared everything from {nearly} scratch.. and it was hard work.  
BUT- most was prepped the day before, so the day of the actual party was  mainly just assembly.  

Since the party was held outside and the theme was encouraging guests to sit out on lawn chairs to watch a movie.. we wanted to make the food 'easy'.  Easy to enjoy without issues, but worthy of serving at a party.
So, fancy sammys for Picnic Party fare it was.

Picnic Party Menu
Flank Steak on Ciabatta with Grilled Vegetables
Pork Tenderloin & Fontina on Texas Toast
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with Caesar Vinaigrette
Home Style Potato Salad
Apple Slaw
Assorted Chips
BBQ Chips, Tortilla Chips, Kettle-Cooked Sweet Potato Chips
Red Sangria
White Sangria
Lemonade (non-alcoholic)
Assorted Beer
Treat Station
Assorted Mini Pies
S'mores Station
Boxed Movie Candy
Butter Popcorn & Seasonings
Cake (of course)
Potato Salad
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
10 peeled, cooked, and cubed potatoes
4 hardboiled eggs, chopped
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
2/3 cup dill relish
Mix together the first 5 ingredients. Add in the potatoes, eggs, onion, celery and relish. 
Mix gently to combine.  Chill for several hours before serving.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
6 ounces Grilled Chicken Breast
1 heart of Romaine, chopped
2/3 cup croutons
¼ cup shredded or shaved parmesan cheese
4 ounces Caesar Vinaigrette dressing

Caesar Vinaigrette Dressing
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup distilled vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Whisk together ingredients until combined.  Chill until ready to serve.

 Grilled Pork Tenderloin & Fontina on Texas Toast
4 lbs boneless pork tenderloin
Olive oil, for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup packed chopped fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Texas Toast, toasted
4 romaine lettuce leaves, halved lengthwise
8 ounces fontina cheese, cut into (1/4-inch thick) slices
Preheat grill. Drizzle the pork on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle both sides with the Italian Seasoning and grill. Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 160 degrees F. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice the tenderloin into 1/4-inch thick slices.
In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, basil, lemon zest, and lemon juice until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
To assemble the sandwiches: Lay the bottom half of the bread on a work surface and spread with mayonnaise mixture. Add the lettuce leaves, arrange the cheese slices on the lettuce and top with the pork slices. Spread the top half of the toast with mayonnaise mixture and then arrange on top to complete the sandwiches.

Grilled Flank Steak on Ciabatta  
¾ cup soy sauce
¼ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 ½ pounds flank steak, trimmed
Grilled Vegetables
2 large sweet onions
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 red bell peppers
Bacon Horseradish Sauce 
2 teaspoons minced green onion
1 cup mayonnaise
6 sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
¼ teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
6 (2- to 3-oz.) ciabatta rolls, split
1 1/2 cups loosely packed arugula
For the marinade: In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the soy sauce, oil, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, and pepper. Add the flank steak, seal the bag, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
Preheat a grill to medium heat.
Drain the steak, discarding the marinade. Place the steak on the grill. Grill 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or until desired temperature. (You may also bake at 425 degrees F until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion reads 145 degrees, 40 to 45 minutes.) Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
For the vegetables: Grill onion and bell pepper strips, covered with grill lid, over 400° to 450° (high) heat 7 to 10 minutes on each side or until lightly charred and tender.
Brush cut sides of rolls with remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and grill, cut sides down, without grill lid, over 400° to 450° (high) heat 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly browned and toasted.
For the bacon horseradish sauce: In a small bowl, combine the green onions, mayonnaise, bacon, horseradish, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Cover and chill.
To assemble: Spread desired amount of Bacon Horseradish Sauce over the bottom of the rolls. Top with desired amount of arugula and onion/pepper mixture. Top with sliced flank steak. Cover with roll tops. Serve immediately.
Apple Slaw HERE
The recipe calls for chopped cabbage and sliced carrots.
I took the easy route and used  traditional bagged pre-made coleslaw to save on some labor.
Red Sangria HERE
White Sangria HERE
Lemonade HERE
Strawberry Marshmallows HERE
Mint Marshmallows HERE


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Movie Night Under the Stars | 30th Birthday Celebration

well.  here I am.

I'm thirty.  

like I said in this post, I feel the same..still.  but what made this birthday unique is the celebration that was had in my honor.  I haven't really had an official 'party' in my name, and let me just tell you.. after the amazing-ness this "Movie Night" was, I don't ever need another one.  I can promise that my husband is shouting 'yee-haw' in true Texas fashion, and Ashley's husband is clicking his heels in delight.

this night was months in the making, and there wasn't a disappointment to be had.  Ashley (the brains behind it all..) started talking/planning this 'event' about three years ago when I was on bed rest.  Jordan ultimately decided I, with a whale of a belly, wouldn't be able to handle something like that and be comfortable and social AND still safely do as I was instructed and staying off my feet.

so, we saved it for a greater occasion.
you only turn t h i r t y  once, you know.  

there won't be a whole lot of commentary through this post.. pictures speak for themselves.  having a photographer to capture your event makes life WAY more enjoyable when you have 40 people to host, feed, cater, and entertain.  it was such a fun night, and I still go back, a week laster, to think about it.  I am thankful for my people.  the people that came together to love me and to celebrate my birthday in such a way to make is as memorable as this.

I wish you all could have been there!  next time?  
the attire was casual- backyard barbecue of hanging out and getting comfy on the lawn for a movie.. so jeans or leggings (for me) it was. 

the movie I selected was BIG with Tom Hanks.  because there is probably no movie I watched more than that movie when I was young, and I could count on the fact that everyone would enjoy it.  
a classic in my book.
so, get comfy.. its your turn for a Movie Night {Under the Stars}

 p h o t o b o o t h f u n
work peeps
that guy in the back.. with the blinking crown on his head.  thats the president of my company.
my boss wore the loudest photo booth prop there was in the bucket.
my oldest (and dearest) friend, Angela, and the sweet Kristina

my rock
the bestest.  she killed it.  
love. adore. cherish this girl.  
no words can express my gratitude for every bit of work she out into planning this for me.
and her hubby, too.
these people.  
we can always find a way to get ALL 8 of us crammed into a Photo Booth.
its been a couple years since our last photo booth sesh.. and I'd say this one topped the charts.
what would life be like without these people.  LOVE doing life with them.
my girls.
the greatest friends any lady could ask for.
we are all officially in our thirty's (I"m the baby of the group).
but that doesn't mean we have to be grown-ups.
such a fun night.  there was even singing of happy birthday.  
to me.
because I'm thirty. 
..and then there was cake.  the cake was out of this world.
I think I ate it twice that night.
and again for breakfast.
I've heard from many people that their thirties have been a blast.
here's to the best decade, yet! 

Wrapped Cans (floral arrangements)  HERE
Fringe Paper Garland (Photo Booth) HERE
Paper Bag Utensil Packs HERE
Light Bulb Movie Sign HERE
Hay Couch (inspiration) HERE

Shop Credit
Custom Invitation, Paper Printables, Tags, Food Picks, etc.
Kraft Paper Boxes (Salad) HERE
White Paper Food Cups & Lids HERE
Salad Dressing (2oz) Cups & Lids HERE
B&W Striped Popcorn Boxes
Popcorn Seasoning Jars
Sandwich Boats & Newspaper Deli Sheets
Paper Straws
'Bon Appetit' Stamp
Beverage Glasses HERE
Tassel Garland (food table)
"Make a Wish" Match Box
Photo Booth Props
Popcorn Scoops
Dessert Utensils
Treat Yo'Self  Wooden Sign
Gold Foil Thank You Cards
Gartner Studios via Target
Florals (assembled by Ashley)
Market Street

Jennifer Jennings
Movie Screen
Jarrett Dunaway (DIY to come)
Jacqueline Tapella  (Pinspiration HERE)
Pennant Banner, Paper Fans (Photo Booth), & Hand Sewn Pillow Cases
Chara Hoffman

Party Recipes HERE

For Party Planning Inquiries: Contact Ashley Dunaway HERE



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