Monday, March 25, 2013

Make Ahead Monday: My Favorite Chili Recipe

Phew… we’ve had a heck of a couple of weeks around here. I’ve managed to squeeze in a tiny bit of sewing time but not much writing time so I’m backlogged with a few projects to post.

It’s only week 2 of my Make Ahead Mondays and here I am trying to quickly squeeze in a post before heading up to squeeze in a little Walking Dead with my honey so I’ll make this one quick.

What’s your favorite “go-to”, “I don’t really have to think about it” recipe? Mine is chili. When we’re down on creativity or looking for a simple comfort food, we slap together this quicky for an awesome, simple make ahead.

Make Ahead Monday: My Favorite Chili

2lbs ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced (..or more if you live in my house)
1 large can (28oz) of diced or stewed tomatoes
1 large can (28oz) of Bush’s Baked Beans (ok… processed, yes. Simplicity? I’ll take it!)
1-2 cans of dark red kidney beans (depending on how beany you like it)
3TB of chili powder
1TB ground cumin
2TB brown sugar
1tsp of red chili flakes (or more to your liking!)

Soften your onion and garlic in a pan. Add the ground beef and brown. You can make this in a large pot if you’re eating it right away or toss it into a crockpot if you’re making it a few hours ahead. Stir in the remainder of the ingredients and let it bubble away. (2-3 hours on low in a crockpot; 20-30 minutes simmering on the stovetop.) That’s pretty much it!

Cool and store in the fridge for a make ahead. Toss it in an airtight container or freezer bag for the freezer. It will keep a couple of months in the freezer (…but it’s so easy to pull together fresh, I tend to do it that way.)

 that's cumin and chili powder in those tins
mom's stewed tomatoes & "Uncle Alfred's" beef

 why mince garlic when you can microplane everything!


Now how do you garnish your chili? I DARE you to comment and tell me. I think it says a lot about a person. Me? I like a little cheddar cheese, a tablespoon of sour cream and a few crackers on the side. Maybe a little fresh diced onion if I’m feeling crazy (or my husband is participating. This is his favorite!)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Make Ahead Mondays: North Dakota Hotdish

I’ve been brainstorming some ideas for regular blog posts and one that I came up with is “Make Ahead Mondays”. If you haven’t discovered the beauty of the make ahead meal, thank you for allowing me to be the person who changes your life.

Life is busy. Life is exhausting. With two working parents in our house, who’s got the time or energy to put together a meal when you get home from work? No one. Yet, we’ve made the decision to cut down on all the processed junk in our lives and make healthful meals from scratch as much as we can.

So…the solution to our problems has become make-ahead meals.

We do just about all of our cooking on the weekend so that all we have to do the night of is heat it up! Most meals can also be frozen so we often make double-batches and freeze whatever we can for an even easier week.

So here we go—Week 1: North Dakota Hotdish

I am from the upper-midwest and one thing we are famous for is HOTDISH! Not casseroles, hotdish!

I love my mother--really, truly--but she isn’t exactly famous for her cooking. Hotdish in my house was typically comprised of what she called a “Cupboard Supper” where she would combine any insane items she had around--typically rice or pasta, tomato sauce, maybe some hamburger and a can of some veggie. Questionable at best. (love you, mom!)

My mother-in-law on the other hand IS known for her cooking. Good old-fashioned North Dakota comfort cooking. She’s the only woman I know who always has heavy cream in stock in her refrigerator. I thought it only appropriate to kick off my Make Ahead Monday project with a recipe from one of my favorite ladies.

They actually call this “Funeral Hotdish” in North Dakota since it can easily be made in large quantities. Please pardon the title change but I thought folks outside the know would prefer to serve "North Dakota Hotdish" over something with "funeral" in the title. We’ve tried freezing it but the pasta doesn’t thaw really well. However, it actually gets better after a few days in the fridge so it makes for a great make ahead.

click for easy printing

2lbs ground beef
1tb dried minced onion (or in my case, I make it with one fresh diced onion and a couple cloves of fresh minced garlic)
1 can whole kernel corn
1 large can stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato soup
2 1/2 cups elbow macaroni, boil and drain
a squirt of ketchup to taste and/or a few tablespoons of tomato paste
a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar


In a large pot, cook macaroni and drain. Set aside. If you are using fresh onion and/or garlic, soften them in the same pot before adding the ground beef. Brown the beef. Add the pasta, corn, stewed tomatoes, tomato soup, and minced onion (if you skipped the fresh stuff.) Add a squirt of ketchup or some tomato paste and a bit of brown sugar. Give it a taste and add more as you like it to give it a sweet tomato-ey taste according to your preference. Simmer it all for a short time. Season with salt and pepper (or if you're my sweet mother-in-law, don't season it... because you don't do that. ;)

if you are observant, you'll see that I used elbow macaroni
AND some small pasta shells this time around. not intentional.
I just ran out of elbow mac and it worked out just fine!

the secret key in our house is using "Amma's tomatoes"
which are my mother-in-law's stewed tomatoes from her garden


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

DIY Baby Food

GiGi has finally hit that six month stage where she starts to enjoy the wonderful world of solid food!

Being a cloth diapering-breastfeeding family, when Curly Girl hit six months I felt the sense of “perfect mom” pressure to stay all crunchy and make Curly Girl's baby food at home. What I discovered was that it is surprisingly easy and realized, hey, if I can look like one of those amazing moms without that much effort, why not? (Not that motherhood should have anything to do pleasing anyone outside your nuclear family…but you know we all feel it.)

It’s not about perfection. Making your baby food at home allows you to see the food that your baby is consuming. I know how the food was prepared. I know that there are no additives. I know the quality of the produce. I know that it’s the same food my husband and I are consuming. When our CSA is up and running again, I will know the ground that my baby’s food came from and exactly how fresh it is. I don’t have to buy food in hundreds of tiny containers that need to be disposed of. If it’s quick, easy and better for your family, why wouldn’t you? Try it!

Here’s How:
  • Cut up your fruits and vegetables into small pieces.
  • Steam your produce. Vegetables will need to be soft, of course, to puree. I steam fruits for a few minutes to soften but also to eliminate anything that they may have picked up between being picked and being fed to my baby.
  • Toss it in a blender. (I used the Magic Bullet with Curly Girl. Now we have a Ninja Blender.)
  • Puree until smooth.
  • Put about a tablespoon of the puree into ice cube trays for easy freezing.           

That’s it! When I see produce on sale or am making something for dinner, I just make a little extra to blend up for GiGi and pop it in the freezer.

One of my very FAVORITE mom resources is an awesome website Momtastic. They do such a great job of laying out all the nutritional benefits of foods for your baby and a timeline of when to introduce them to your tiny tummy.

Timeclock: This process took me less than an hour to do two three trays of butternut squash (which I bought cut and cubed at Costco) and three trays of fresh pears (which I cut up myself).

fresh pears 

 fresh pears cut

my butternut squash I bought pre-cut (I cooked this
while I cut up my pears. Multi-tasking during naps!)

 cooked and thrown in a blender

all pureed up!

put into ice cube trays. I usually serve two cubes as a 
meal with cereal or other produce

the finished product! I'll pull a couple of cubes
out in the morning and in the fridge for dinner. 

bag it up and date it. these were off to daycare so
I packaged in a set of 10. 

adorable curly girl enjoying some homemade
blueberries. (GiGi is still in that ravenous phase 
where stopping to take a picture is unacceptable. 
I'm sure I'll be posting pictures soon!)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Monthly Onesie Project: February

Oops. I realized that Friday marked March 1st so I missed getting my onesie picture up before the calendar turned. Ironically, I actually got this one done in January, then decided to wait until February to post it… then, well… February got away from me.

(Wonder what I’m talking about? Check out my post on GiGi’s previous onesies.)

My gorgeous girl turned six months! It’s been incredible watching her grow. In some ways it’s so much more precious the second time around. We get to relax and know what’s coming and appreciate every sweet minute. With curly girl, it always felt like we were rushing to the next stage—when will she hold her head up? When will she laugh? When will she crawl? When will she walk? With GiGi, we can just watch patiently and relive all those great developmental stages. (Although I won’t lie, “When will she sleep through the night?” still crosses our minds.)

So here’s my girly’s sweet six-month onesie picture:

 cute, huh? Oh, I could kiss her!

Here's how:

My quick picture tutorial on how I put together my February onesie… in the shape of a heart, duh. (Bet you can’t guess what’s coming up in March, eh?)

find an image to trace

trace it onto fusible web paper

 iron it on to your chosen fabric and cut it out

measure where you'll place it on your onesie (at least 2 inches from neck)

iron it on. I also zig-zagged around it with my machine.

choose some embelishments. I created a ribbon bow and sewed on a pink button. 

 thanks for your help, Heathcliff!

I ALSO decided to try my hand at my first pair of homemade leggings to complete the outfit. I combined a couple of great tutorials to make them by creating a pattern from a pair of store-bought pants. They turned out pretty great! The tutorial I found easiest to follow was from makeit-loveit. I didn't have a double needle for the bottom hem so I decided to make a cuff instead.