Saturday, December 19, 2015

Italian Beef Casarecce Soup

You will not regret making this! It's easy to make, filling, easily adapted to what you have on hand, and the best part is it tastes like you're eating a bowl of lasagna. It comes together in about 30 minutes, and requires very little prep. An easy weeknight meal that's sure to impress.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Holiday Home Tour 2015

Hello everyone! I hope you're enjoying the month of December so far. It's only day six, and I already feel like it's passing by too quickly. This is the time of year that I look forward to all year long. I'm sad when it ends, and then summer comes and melts us all away with the heat. It's actually warmer today, about 80 degrees, but it should be back to the mid-sixties in a few days which to me is the best weather possible!

I'm lacking on recipes because we've still been eating a lot of random meals. The other night I fixed my spaghetti and meatball recipe (found here) and the night before we had chicken pot pie soup, I also have a recipe for that. I've been working on Christmas decor around the house, so I thought I would share a little home tour with you. I'm not completely finished with the house, but this post will focus on my family room and dining room. Nothing too fancy really! I follow so many talented bloggers on Instagram, and honestly sometimes the beauty of their posts gets me down. I feel inadequate knowing my home will never look as beautiful as theirs. I don't have the money to buy all the decor items, and I don't have the skills of an interior stylist. But I'm here to show you that you can still decorate your home on a budget, and you don't have to go overboard. Comparison can be a horrible thing. Instead I want to focus on how cozy and beautiful I've made my house for my family to enjoy, and I hope it brings you some enjoyment as well!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Easy Low Calorie Crab and Corn Chowder

While placing my online grocery order I saw that packs of imitation crab were buy one get one free. I don't usually buy seafood, but I actually really like imitation crab so I went for it. Mine was a mix of pollock and king crab, although you can certainly use 100% crab meat for this recipe. I love seafood chowders but the recipes can be a bit heavy using large quantities of heavy whipping cream and whole milk. I lightened this up a bit and simplified it using cream of potato soup instead of needing fresh potatoes; I also used canned corn. I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Soyrizo and Pepper Jack Cauliflower "Mac" and Cheese

Cauliflower has become increasingly popular. I've seen so many recipes ranging from pizza crust to macaroni and cheese that subs cauliflower for noodles. I've had cauliflower gratin before which is super similar to this recipe, and I wanted to switch up the flavor profile from the traditional cheddar. I love Soyrizo. If you don't know what it is, it's a vegan alternative to chorizo. Chorizo has a delicious taste, but the ingredients can be questionable depending on which kind you buy. It's also loaded with fat, and Soyrizo is a great alternative if you aren't vegetarian or vegan but want to cut out all the grease. I personally think when you have it with scrambled eggs and peppers with tortillas and beans on the side, you really won't notice the difference. The flavor is great, and it works really well in this dish since the cheese is already so rich on it's own.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Simple Beef Chili

I mentioned on Facebook that I hadn't been posting as much because my husband and I have been very serious about a deep freezer/pantry clean out! I love having about 5 times the amount of storage space for food versus our old apartment, but I didn't want things to become lost or forgotten. I've been coming up with interesting meals lately. Usually something frozen, with a can of something, and some veggies. Nothing blog-worthy. I did however spot canned tomatoes, canned black beans, canned kidney beans, canned corn, and frozen ground beef the other day; these ingredients just scream homemade chili. I'm surprised I've never posted a recipe for basic beef chili, but this one is so easy to follow and completely customizable. You can use beef, ground turkey, ground chicken, shredded chicken, veggie crumbles, or no meat at all. You can use black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, etc. It's up to you, so use whatever you have on hand.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Easy Roast Chicken and Butternut Squash

When I think of fall I think of squash and cinnamon, so this recipe was a no brainer for me. It's so simple to put together but I love that the flavors are a little different than what I'm used to which is more of an Italian flavor base. This recipe has cinnamon in it which it such a great addition and really warms the meal up. The best part is it's a one pan recipe, and the ingredients list is simple.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Maple Holistics Giveaway Winner!

Thank you so much to everyone who entered the giveaway! I wish I could choose everyone to give these products to, but I went ahead and used trusty old to pick one winner:

Congratulations to Lauren Sakai! Please email me at:

Send me your name and mailing address, and I'll be sure the products are sent out to you soon!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fall Decor and Mini DIY

We bought our house last year, and moved in right before Thanksgiving. I didn't decorate at all. The most I did was pull out the tiny fake Christmas tree we had and I slapped on some ornaments, nothing fancy. This year I'm definitely having so much fun decorating the house! I kept meaning to post this sooner, but I kept buying more stuff to decorate with. Now that's it's been at least a week since I've changed the decor, I figured it's time to share what I've done. Warning! Lots of pictures to follow!  I won't write a whole lot about everything, it's all pretty self explanatory. My biggest source of fall decor was Michael's craft store and reusing items I've had for years. Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Giveaway Ends Tomorrow!

Hi guys! Don't forget to enter the giveaway to win a vitamin C serum and a Dead Sea mud mask! All of the giveaway details and my review can be found here. Giveaway ends Thursday October 22 at 11 pm PST. Good luck!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Kallax Unit for Hidden Storage

I have the Ikea Ektorp sectional in my living room, and end tables would be great except my toddler loves to climb. She loves to climb so much I can't leave the room for long or I'm afraid I'll hear a big thud. She's only 1-1/2, so she's still learning about boundaries. And gravity.

But I digress, the point of this post is to show you how we've turned our sofa table into functional storage. Because the Ektorp is fairly tall, a standard size sofa table would have been pretty short. My husband and I wanted a table that would come up as high as the back of the sectional, and fit the length as well. Looking at furniture on Ikea's website, with the sectionals measurements in mind, I realized the Kallax (formerly Expedit, which we have three of) are nice and tall but also thin. It would be the perfect "table" for behind our couch, the only downside was the 8-unit Kallax wasn't long enough. But if we took the 8-unit piece and combined it with the 4-unit Kallax the length fit the couch perfectly. We did this months ago, and it's worked great since. I don't know why it took me a few months to realize that we had 12 cubbies of storage, completely empty, sitting behind the couch. We have hardwood floor, and the bottom of the Kallax units have felt pads which makes them easy to slide in and out from behind the couch.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Maple Holistics Review and a Giveaway!

I was contacted recently by Maple Holistics, who I hadn't really heard of before, so I did a quick Internet search to see what they were about. I checked out their website and noticed they also sold their products on Amazon, which is a total win in my book because we have prime and I love when things come to my front door. To give you a quick overview of what they sell, it's all beauty products for your hair, body, and skin. I appreciate anything that's natural nowadays, especially when it comes to what I'm putting on my skin. Turning 30 means aging skin and I have really gotten into skin care lately since I still suffer from occasional acne and I have acne scarring on my cheeks. I also make sure I use natural cleaning products around the house, we absorb so much through our skin! So I like to make sure my family isn't walking around absorbing chemicals through their skin or putting chemicals on their skin and into their bodies by using skincare products with bad ingredients. Maple Holistics is currently sponsored for giveaways thanks to EduMuch!

Maple Holistics uses high quality ingredients in their products, and I especially like the use of essential oils which on their own can be rather pricey. I tried out two products, a vitamin c facial serum and a mud mask. Just to give you an idea of my skin type it's normal, with the occasional monthly breakout, and I have acne scarring on my cheeks. I'm starting to get more and more lines as I get older. I definitely notice little crows feet, smile lines, and a line between my eyes probably from being a stressed out mom!

I could go on and on about the mud mask. It's the Dead Sea Mud Mask, and it sounded great and reading about it got me excited to try it. The first time I put it on I seriously felt like I was at a spa or something. Actually I've never been to a spa, haha, but I would think that's what it's like. It looks cool going on because it's dark greenish-gray, you look a little scary and will totally freak out your kids. The essential oils smell amazing, it's just a very relaxing treatment. When you go to wash it off after it's dried, which takes about 10 minutes, it's mildly abrasive so you get an exfoliating treatment in too. I've noticed each time I use it my makeup goes on better.

I'm so exhausted at the end of the day that I usually wash my face right before bed and go to sleep. Since I'm home with my daughter most days, I try to do a beauty treatment in the mornings after breakfast. Whenever I use this mask my skin feels softer and smoother. I don't find it to be irritating at all. When I got it in the mail I used it that night, the next morning, and the next night. Seriously three times in 24 hours. My skin didn't react negatively, and I didn't notice any burning or stinging. I don't have particularly sensitive skin though, and I'm not sensitive to essential oils. So that's something to consider if you have sensitive skin or don't like the smell of lavender. This is actually a product I plan on purchasing the mask once my tub runs out. I've used it a lot and I haven't made much of a dent. It's not a high price point (under $14) and you need a very small amount each time you use it. The price for the products was another reason I wanted to give them a try. There's nothing worse than trying out a product you could never actually afford to purchase yourself. That was always a bummer with beauty subscription boxes. I would find products I love, then find out they were super pricey. This is an affordable line of products.

What's in it:
  • German chamomile to reduce inflammation in the skin, also stress reducing
  • lavender essential oil, relaxing and also helps the skin absorb more of the minerals from the mud
  • green myrtle, helps reduce oiliness in the skin
  • Clary sage to help you relax
  • mud from the Dead Sea in Israel, contains salts and minerals that are supposedly good for the skin and body

This is how much product I have left after multiple uses.

The second product I tried was the Vitamin C Serum for Face with Superior Anti-Aging Benefits. This was a nice serum to apply. I have another vitamin C serum and it's watery, the Maple Holistics serum feels thicker more like a serum mixed with an oil. I don't love the smell, but it only lasts as long as the serum is wet then dissipates. I can't say I noticed anything different in my skin while using this, but I never really notice much of a difference with other serums either. I will say it makes your skin feel more hydrated, especially after using the mud mask my skin feels a little tight and this serum puts the moisture back in. The way I use it is on it's own in the morning, followed by a BB cream. At night I apply the serum, then I apply a moisturizer over it. My skin hasn't broken out from using it, and it doesn't sting or burn my skin in any way. I definitely think this is a gentle serum, versus some I've used that can sting around the nose or where your skin might be extra dry. I'm not sure if I will purchase this serum, but I do know it costs half of what the one I've purchased multiple times costs. Since I'm not sure I notice much of a difference with either, I would rather spend less money. I'll have to see how I feel when I finish the bottle, so far I've used about half of the 1-ounce bottle.

Facts about vitamin C:
  • it's anti-aging
  • provides light protection from the sun
  • reverses sun damage by reducing free radicals 
  • good for fine lines and age spots

Now here is the best part . . . I am giving away both of these products! That's right, both the serum and the mud mask can be yours! I'm going to include all of the details below for entering the giveaway. Unfortunately this giveaway is only open to US residents.

How to Enter:
  • You must be a follower either on Bloglovin, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (all of my social media links are in the upper left side bar on my blog). I will be checking if you're actually a follower, if you aren't I will choose a different winner
  • Leave a comment below on this post to enter and please say how you're following me. For example "I would love to win! I'm following on Facebook" or something along those lines
  • US residents only please
How to Get a Bonus Entry:
  • For an additional chance to win please share this post on social media, then leave a separate comment below saying that you shared it
  • If you're sharing it on Facebook and your Facebook is private, be sure you set that particular post to public so I can verify that you've shared it. It's tough to see posts when users are private, so please keep that in mind
  • You can leave a comment for each social media platform that you share this giveaway on. So you can share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for a chance to get three bonus entries
There you have it, a chance to enter this giveaway four times! All you need to do is copy and paste either a link to this post or a link to my blog to share the giveaway and get a bonus entry! Please be sure to leave a comment on this post to be entered. 

The giveaway will be open for one week, starting today Thursday October 15 and ending 11 pm PST on Thursday October 22. 

If you would like another opportunity to get free stuff you can check out the link below for more information. Maple Holistics is offering free products in exchange for an honest review on Amazon:

Thanks for entering, and good luck!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Roast Chicken with Sage Brown Butter Sweet Potatoes

It's still in the 80's and 90's here in Southern California, so the other day I decided to really force fall upon us. We had the AC on so the house wasn't too hot, a pumpkin apple candle was burning, and fall decor was everywhere. It really did feel like fall, unless you ventured outside. The best part of the day was dinner, it was so incredibly delicious and satisfying. I roasted a couple of chicken breasts for us, steamed some frozen veggies, and the star of the show was these sage brown butter sweet potatoes. I used my spiralizer to make them into noodles. It was an enormous waste of time in the end. I was flipping them very gently while they cooked but I still ended up with more of a sweet potato hash, still tasty though. I would recommend a small dice if you make these. Unless you want a killer arm workout from turning sweet potatoes into noodles! 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Gluten Free Chocolate Lava Cakes

I really wasn't sure about sharing the recipe for these because they are so decadent and indulgent, but I had a request for the recipe on Instagram so I decided to go ahead and share it with everyone. I try to keep my recipes around 400 calories or less per serving because I really find it easier to fit delicious food into your daily diet when it isn't taking up half of the calories you should be eating. These lava cakes are extremely high calorie, but I will say I shared one with my daughter and my husband ate the other one. It was incredibly chocolaty and satisfying, and if we had ordered it in a restaurant my husband and I would have shared one with coffee for dessert. I apologize for the poor lighting, the sun is setting early here so unless I make dessert at lunchtime I lose the natural light. 

I love these lava cakes because they only require a handful of basic ingredients, you don't need to whip egg whites, make a water bath while baking them, or fuss with sifting flour and cocoa powder. I topped mine with extra powdered sugar for presentation. These would be absolutely lovely with fresh raspberries, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, in the microwave!

With the salted caramel sauce I had in the fridge and a craving for chocolate, I decided to make a little mug of hot chocolate for me and my baby girl to share. I gave her some in a bottle mixed with milk, and she chugged that sucker down. Probably a bad idea but she's a great taste tester! This is easy to put together if you're in the mood for something better than the powdered packets, but you don't want to make a whole pot on the stove.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Salted Caramel Apple Tartlets

These are easy peasy to make but pretty impressive to look at. Definitely an indulgent treat, but perfect for this time of year. If you aren't making your own caramel sauce you're missing out! Especially since it's so easy to make. In case you missed it, here's my recipe for homemade salted caramel sauce.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce

This is the easiest recipe to follow and it doesn't require heavy cream or corn syrup. This caramel sauce is great for dipping, stirred into coffee, in pies, on top of ice cream, eaten with a spoon right out of the bowl, or you can even bathe in it. I'm not here to judge. It's delicious and versatile. You can cut the salt in half and it will just be regular old caramel sauce. This is seriously good; buttery and rich, sweet and slightly salty. It's easy and can be doubled, tripled, etc. I love how many ways you can use this. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sweet Potato Pumpkin Soup

It's decorative gourd season, and you know what that means . . . soup! At the store the other day I picked up sweet potatoes, a couple cans of pumpkin puree, carrots, onion, and some other staples. All of those earthy veggies make the best soup, and the whole meal comes together fast. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Salisbury Steak

I don't know about you, but I love Salisbury steak! When I was in college and working I didn't have a lot of money, so I would buy those frozen dinners that would always go on sale, 10 for $10. I loved getting the Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes or with macaroni and cheese. It was great for lunch breaks. This is just as hearty and delicious, but it's healthier to make it at home. Especially since it's so easy! From start to finish, with photographing it, it took 40 minutes. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cheerio Squares

Nothing beats a no bake treat that uses up extra ingredients. We buy Cheerios from Costco, which means two giant family size boxes. After a while Isla loses interest in eating them as a snack, and the majority of the Cheerios get stomped on and then vacuumed up. I wanted to use up some Cheerios and I had marshmallows in the pantry, and figured a Rice Krispie Treat inspired snack would be a hit!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Chicken Enchiladas

These are so delicious and filling! Best part is you can have two enchiladas and a side of beans (or salad? anyone?) and it can be a meal for under 400 calories! Which leaves room for dessert, you're welcome. If you have a bunch of bell peppers on hand and no tortillas, then you could easily turn this recipe into enchilada stuffed peppers. Which would be so delicious, cut calories, and definitely cut carbs. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mommy Mondays: Toddler Favorites

After nearly 20 months of parenting, I've really got the hang of it! Haha! I always love to see what other people like for their kids, and I've noticed as Isla grows the list gets smaller and smaller. Here are some of the basics and things that really make life a lot easier.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Vegan Artichoke Veggie Dip

I made this years ago, six years ago actually, when I was eating a vegan diet. It's easy to make, fast, delicious, and full of nutrients! What's not to love? Now that it's football season it's good to have a few dip recipes on hand. This is great alternative for those of us who love spinach and artichoke dip, but have no self control. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Baked Boston Cream Donuts

I have a lovely and easy recipe to share with you, now you can treat yourself to homemade donuts this weekend. I enjoy watching YouTube because there are some really amazing cooks/chefs/bakers that share wonderful recipes. Two of my favorites are Laura Vitale from Laura in the Kitchen and Gemma Stafford from Bigger Bolder Baking. I recently tried Gemma's no fry donuts and I was inspired! Laura has shared her custard filling multiple times on her channel whether making a fruit tart or filled cupcakes, and I've always wanted to try it. I figured since I was trying out a new donut recipe, I would make some Boston cream donuts. They have definitely become my favorite. After I filled the donuts with the custard, I seriously licked the bowl clean. It's the most heavenly custard I have tried.

My variation for the recipes was using the Truvia baking blend to help cut down on some of the sugar. Unfortunately for the glaze you do need to use powdered sugar. On a brighter note, using a chocolate glaze instead of a chocolate ganache does help cut down on fat and calories. But hey, it's up to you! You cook for you, and do whatever makes you happy. If you aren't making donuts very often, you can definitely go all out. And that also means you can fry these donuts.

Keep reading for the recipe, and a recipe for two other donuts too!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Vegetable Lo Mein

Something I've always ordered when we get Chinese takeout is either lo mein or chow mein, I will always choose noodles over fried rice! Here on the west coast chow mein has fried noodles, but they are not super crunchy or crispy. At least not anything I've had here in California. The chow mein here has the same noodles as lo mein, but they are stir fried separately instead of tossed in at the end. The noodles do have a slight crunch and more chew to them, but I would still consider the noodles to be soft. Especially since they soften over time and when you get takeout there's some time between when it's cooked and when you get it home. The main difference other than the crunchier noodles is chow mein tends to only have a couple of vegetables like celery and cabbage. Lo mein generally has a plethora of vegetables, which is why I prefer to make lo mein at home.

This recipe was a bit of an ordeal, it took over a week to perfect and six attempts total to get the right sauce. The short story is I started with a stir fry sauce recipe from another blog, combined that with a yakisoba sauce recipe to make a sort of hybrid sauce since I love that spice that yakisoba has. It was all wrong. So I started to try other recipes I saw online, and come to find out I don't really love hoisin in my sauce because of the five spice, white pepper isn't as good to me as black pepper, and I don't really like using sherry in the recipe either (most recipes call for Chinese cooking wine but say sherry can be substituted). I also found that while I love a bit of light colored soy sauce, having more than the amount of dark soy is just too salty to me. So when it comes down to it, this is a very basic sauce. I can't believe how many attempts it took, but there you have it. The flavor and type of lo mein I had been wanting to achieve. I will include my little list of tips at the bottom of the page if you're interested, but otherwise enjoy the recipe!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Easy DIY Crib Canopy

Recently I painted my daughters nursery and I've been working on the decor since then. When we bought the house her room was a bright blue, and I tried for seven months to like it but ended up painting it a dark gray. With the darker walls they felt a little bare, especially above her crib. I loved the name banner I put above her crib, but the walls still needed something special! When I was a little girl I had a canopy above my bed, just the kind you get on a hoop and it's called mosquito netting and meant to drape around the bed. It wasn't fancy, but it was really cool when I was little. I wanted to do a canopy for Isla so naturally I went on Pinterest. I started seeing that people were using bed crowns and shelves to make theirs, so I decided to give it a shot. This project cost $35 and took about an hour to complete. For not a lot of time or money I think it makes a major statement in her room.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Personal Review of Ting Mobile Service

This post is a little out of the ordinary for my blog, but this has been a huge money saver for us and it's good to share the wealth! In an effort to save money, my husband explored new options for our mobile service. We have iPhones for him, me, my mother in law and my brother in law and the bill was getting to be a lot every month. He looked into different options and found out about Ting, which is a reseller for Sprint service. We already had Sprint, so the phones were compatible and nothing really changed. The service is the same but most importantly we have saved a lot of money every month. With Sprint we had unlimited data, and with Ting you pay monthly based on your usage. With four iPhones our bill has averaged about $60 a month, that's included data, calls, and text messaging.

One of the downsides if that you have to buy your own phone. Most cell phone companies either give discounted or free phones with new contracts, but with Ting you buy your own phone. What we have done is just buy iPhones on at a discounted price instead of buying brand new in the store. You do have to be careful that the MEID is compatible with Sprint and make sure the purchase is verified and you aren't buying anything fake. You can also go through Ting's website to buy phones, which may be easier for some because you don't have to mess with verifying the phone it's already guaranteed to work with the service which is great. 

Ting is known for their excellent customer service. We have called multiple times and our calls have pretty much always been answered right away instead of going to a queue and having to wait 10 minutes. When we bought our house we noticed that we basically had one service bar in most of the house. Phone calls would drop, we would get voicemails without a missed call, text messages would take a while to send, and during calls sometimes I could only understand half of what people were saying. We called Ting to problem solve and we tried a few steps in an attempt to boost the signal. After living here for a while the problem wasn't getting any better. So again my husband called and mentioned that we had tried all the problem solving steps and that it was a safety issue since we have a small child, we definitely need to be able to make phone calls. Instead of suggesting any problem solving steps Ting sent us an Air Rave, which is a signal booster. Once we turned it on we had five service bars and have had no problems with phone calls or messages not going through. And they sent that to us at no cost, which is really awesome considering our service is so affordable.

If you are interested in checking out Ting you can follow this link to learn more and save $25 off a device or $25 of service credit. This opinion is 100% my own and not sponsored by Ting. This has been something my husband has been suggesting I blog about for months, and I'm glad I finally have. I try to tell my friends and family about Ting whenever I get the chance because hearing how much some people pay is crazy to me! I can't imagine paying that much for cell service ever again. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

DIY Farmhouse Tabletop

I am so proud of how our new dining room table turned out. I love all things farmhouse decor, and I wanted a farmhouse table for our dining room. The downside was definitely the cost. Instead of buying a farmhouse table I thought why not build a top for an existing table that would make it look farmhouse inspired. I've seen it all over Pinterest so it was really easy to get inspiration. I do plan on sharing as many steps as I can to help you build your table top. A lot of what I saw weren't actually tutorials. Some blogs had a couple of progress pictures but most didn't specify the size or type of wood used, what screws they used, and how to assemble the table top. This project took a lot of time because we had to do most of it in stages, but it's completely worth the time. My husband and I really love our table and it's such a great focal point in our dining room.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken Kabobs

This was so easy and delicious! You won't believe how good these are until you make them yourself. The ingredients are simple and cheap, but this is the kind of meal you'll want to go back for a second helping. Let's get right into it!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Kallax Door Hack

This is an extremely easy and affordable way to give your Expedit/Kallax more of a custom look. I realized while shopping at Ikea that one of the Kallax door inserts was the same price as buying one of their seagrass baskets. I thought instead of having four baskets that also having a couple of doors would look great. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Painting a Bench with Chalk Style Paint

When my husband and I were building the table top for our dining room table, we knew we wanted a relaxed feel. I didn't want to buy six of the same chairs instead I wanted four chairs and a bench. Benches are great for children because they can be wiped down, and you can line up three kids!  It also helps save space since you can push the bench in when it isn't in use and get around the dining room easily. Everything I do has to be on a budget. Of course it would be so fun to go on over to Restoration Hardware or West Elm and pick out whatever bench I love, but realistically I just can't justify spending so much on furniture. I was looking at Ikea and realized all the benches were either too wide or too low. Next I checked out Target online and I found a great solid oak bench for under $70! The only downside was the finish. The legs were stained black, and the seat was stained an orange hue. I didn't love that look, but that's where homemade chalk-style paint comes in!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

12 Frame Gallery Wall for $25

This is an easy way to style a wall if you're on a budget. My dining room really only has one wall that can make an impact. One wall is a big window with curtains, and the one across leads into the dining room and is very small. The wall behind the table is quite large and I knew I wanted a gallery wall. The only problem was even inexpensive frames from Ikea in the size I wanted are $12 each, and I wanted 12 frames so that's easily $144 just for frames alone. 

I found these Malma mirrors for $1.99 each at Ikea, and I saw on a couple of other blogs people printed pictures and used Mod Podge or other glues to adhere the pictures to the mirrors. I love the look of the chunky white frame and the small picture, plus I saved a lot of money because I printed six pictures on one piece of paper. You can use regular printer paper, but I have matte photo paper that is great for printing on. I chose 12 of my favorite pictures from tea parties that I've hosted, and I printed them in grayscale. I cut one picture until the size was perfect, then used that to trace and cut out the remaining 11 pictures. I didn't secure the pictures with anything because there is a gap between the frame and the mirror, so I sort of shoved the edges of the pictures in that gap and they stay put perfectly. As great as the idea is for this gallery wall, the way I hung the frames is really what is wonderful. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

DIY Crate Centerpiece

I wanted a centerpiece for my table where I could display some greenery. Vases with flowers are so beautiful when you have fresh flowers, but that doesn't happen all the time. And I didn't want a big bouquet of faux flowers because I really like the natural look of plants. I also didn't want to mess with real plants indoors because I can barely take care of my garden in the front and back yard! I had a crate from six years ago that I got when I ordered organic tomatoes online. I kept it and it was usually used to store cleaning products or whatever we had extra of at the time. It was just a plain crate, all I did was stain it with the same dark espresso stain I used on the dining room table, then went over it with the same gray stain. It absorbed the stain really well and I like the weathered look I achieved. I'll break it down here in steps.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dining Room Reveal

When we originally viewed our house, the previous owners had the dining room painted tan with a dark brown accent wall. The crown molding was an off white color with little paint splatters on it. I saw so much potential and the thought of having a formal dining room was a definite plus. I say now that that room is finished, but I know I'm never really finished with a room. I'm so excited to share the changes we've made, so even though things will probably change in the future I'm happy with it right now.

This is what the dining room looked like for the past seven months. The table was tiny, walls were bare, and the only item with any style were the curtains. Here is what we have for now:

Monday, May 4, 2015

House Update!

I haven't updated much about the house, so I thought I would share some before and after pictures of a few rooms. If you have no idea what I'm talking about you can read a bit more about the house here. Honestly I feel like everything is taking forever. Dramatic, I know. I was so motivated right before we moved in, and right after we moved in. My husband and I would stay up late painting, cleaning, and unpacking. Then he got busy with work and school, and I kind of lost my motivation there for a while.

So far we've managed to paint the kitchen, dining room, living room, entryway, hallway, master bedroom, and laundry room. And I've pretty much, on my own, repainted the crown molding and baseboards as well as touched up the white molding around things like closet doors and doors. We also used a product to restore the hardwood floors. We did not refinish them; it would have cost too much, and we didn't want to take on that big of a project. So we basically cleaned the floors really well, stripping off any previous residue. Then we used microfiber bonnets on a couple of sponge mops to apply the product. The results were amazing and the floors are holding up really well. 

I'll go ahead and get into some of the before and after pictures. I, stupidly, forgot to take a before of every room before we changed anything. So some of the pictures were taken after painting had already begun.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Baked Ziti with Meat Sauce

Oh my goodness this is so delicious. This week was all about using up leftover ingredients. I had a big hunk of whole milk mozzarella, and a container of ricotta. I used some of the ricotta to make rolled eggplant, but had almost an entire container left. I didn't have lasagna noodles on hand, but I always have a few boxes of penne.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ricotta Filled Eggplant

I'm on an Italian food kick this week, mainly because I bought a lot of eggplant and I have fresh basil in my garden! This recipe comes together fast and is really filling, would be the perfect dish if you do Meatless Mondays.

(sorry for the picture quality, snapped this right before sunset)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Zucchini Pasta with Roasted Eggplant and Mozzarella

I could eat this multiple times per week, it's that good! I finally bought a spiralizer after years of wanting one. I used to have a mandolin which seems to have disappeared, so I haven't been making any vegetable noodles. I got the spiralizer in the mail, and made this dish that same day for dinner. It was fantastic and very filling. Hope you enjoy!

Zucchini Pasta with Roasted Eggplant and Mozzarella
      serves 5
  • 5 small Zucchini, spiralized or cut into noodles
  • 1 Eggplant, peeled halfway or fully and chopped into big chunks
  • 28 ounce can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp + 1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup White Onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup fire roasted Peppers & Onions (frozen, or just use 1 whole small onion)
  • 2 tsp minced Garlic
  • 8 ounces Mozzarella cheese, cubed (the vacuum packed type, not water packed)
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh Basil cut into ribbons, or 2 Tbsp of the freeze dried kind
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a baking sheet add the chopped eggplant, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss together to coat the eggplant, and bake at 400F for 20 minutes. While the eggplant is baking make your sauce. In a large saute pan or skillet with high sides add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and peppers and cook for about 5-7 minutes, then add the garlic and cook and additional minute. Add the crushed tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Simmer on medium-low while the eggplant roasts. When the eggplant is finished add to the sauce, and simmer and additional 10 minutes. 

The zucchini pasta is super easy. I used the spiralizer and made the zucchini into noodles while the eggplant roasted. To cook I actually microwaved mine for 9 minutes, although it can also be boiled or sauteed. I just wanted to cut down on clean up. Once the sauce has finished simmering add in the zucchini noodles (be sure to drain the excess water), the parmesan cheese, and the basil. Stir well to combine, finally add the cubed mozzarella. It will begin to melt into the hot sauce. Give it a good stir and serve immediately. 

I really enjoyed this with extra basil on top as well as hot pepper flakes, but I couldn't add those to the whole recipe because it's too spicy for my toddler. Who absolutely loved this meal by the way! Per serving: 323 calories, 19 grams of fat, 16 grams of protein, and 16 grams of net carbs!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Crock Pot Chicken & Dumpling Soup

This is a definite crowd pleaser. Super easy to put together, you can even make this into a freezer bag meal that you thaw out the day before you cook it. I love using the crock pot when it's too hot to be in the kitchen. It's been in the high 80's here, and just last night cooking pancakes for dinner I was sweating bullets. This was a total fuss free meal and it's so delicious, give it a try when you're in need of some hearty comfort food!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Quick and Easy Mashed Potato Pancakes

Last year Isla was a newborn for St. Patrick's Day, so I didn't cook and we didn't celebrate. Now that she's a toddler I wanted to have some fun and cook the traditional Irish-American corned beef and cabbage with a couple sides. This resulted in too many mashed potatoes for a family of three. I like to make leftovers a little different the next day, and these potato pancakes were a fun way of changing up the meal from the previous night. Best part is you can fry a bunch up, then reheat the leftovers the next morning with scrambled eggs. Yum!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

No Fuss Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

There are 1,700,000 results online for chocolate chip peanut butter cookie recipes, but just humor me for a few minutes. I like these because they aren't as fussy as the traditional cookie. No rolling into balls, stamping with a crosshatch on top, or refrigerating for hours. The other night I wanted cookies; like a needed them five minutes ago type of craving. I went ahead and whipped these up. The dough sat in the fridge for 30 minutes while I cleaned up the kitchen after dinner, and the cookies turned out fine. They didn't spread into flat crispy cookies. They were fluffy and tender with a nice crust on the bottom. Truly delicious, super easy, and the best part is freezing half of the dough to microwave an individual cookie for yourself whenever you need a sweet treat! Give these a try the next time you're craving peanut butter and chocolate.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Cauliflower Chicken Fried Rice

Chicken fried rice has always been an indulgence for my husband and me, we probably get it 3-4 times a year whenever we're in the mood for Chinese or Thai food. We have Benihana restaurants here in CA and they make really delicious chicken fried rice. I did a search and found a few recipes that were inspired by Benihana's rice, but instead of white rice I used cauliflower rice. If you're unfamiliar with cauliflower rice, it's just cauliflower you run through the food processor to chop it up into "rice." It's yummy, quick, and saves on the carbohydrates. The best thing about this recipe is you can use whatever you have on hand; in my case, whatever I had in the freezer.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Using Up Leftover Green Juice Pulp

My husband and I recently bought a juicer and the three of us have really been enjoying green juice. Especially Isla, she keeps begging for more until it's gone. I love having the juice instead of a smoothie because I don't feel like I'm choking it down. The downside is missing out on the fiber and having a bunch of leftover pulp. After doing a search on how to use it up, I saw several websites that suggested cooking with it. You can stir it into mac and cheese, make crackers out of it, and even incorporate it into breads and baked goods. I wanted to make a pasta dish because I had a chicken breast that needed to be cooked and a bag of mini shell pasta. This recipe is pretty simple depending on how many ingredients you have on hand, plus it can be made so many different ways. I loved the flavor from the sun-dried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts combined with salty parmesan cheese.

*Warning* This isn't a low calorie meal, but it's extremely filling. Isla had some, I had a bowl of it then went back for seconds and there was still enough left for lunch the next day. So I'd call this 3-4 servings, but definitely serve it up with a big side of steamed vegetables.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Easy Baked Penne

I have been trying to post this recipe for weeks. Every time I make this dish, it disappears before I can get a decent picture. It's great to make for company, and serves quite a few. It will leave us with a little leftovers that we gobble up quickly. I managed to snap this picture with my phone recently, so it's not very pretty but at least gives you an idea of what it will look like!

I've made this recipe four times in the past month. This can be made so many different ways but I'll just share a simple version with you. I like to add a bit of veggies to mine. I also use garlic powder, but if I'm using a garlic marinara or alfredo I leave out the garlic powder. I've used different kinds of penne and they all work great. We really enjoyed the kind that has hidden vegetables. Tasted great and the texture was normal. I really recommend making this when you have company. It will serve a lot and all you have to do is steam some veggies and heat up garlic bread to go along with and you have a very hearty meal. Enjoy!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Chicken Pot Pie Soup, Two Ways

I've made this soup a few times now and a couple of different ways. I definitely preferred the presentation of the soup when it was made on the stove top with frozen vegetables and cubed chicken over the crock pot with canned veggies and shredded chicken. Both taste the same, but the veggies have more crunch when you use frozen. Canned are definitely cheaper so use them if you're on a tighter budget. It's definitely easier to make this in the crock pot. I tossed in the chicken breasts, and dumped everything else on top. Then 30 minutes before serving I shredded the chicken in the crock pot and let it hang out on low heat. You'll see in the pictures below the stove top version is just prettier, but man I love my crock pot. Either way the recipe is super easy. Give it a try if you're in the mood for chicken pot pie without the fuss! I should also say my 11 month old daughter loves this soup, it's kid friendly and has lots of veggies for your little ones.