Bowtie Pasta Salad

I love this pasta salad! It’s not my recipe, and I haven’t even edited it to make it my own because it was perfect just the way it was when I found it online. Unfortunately, I found it over a year ago when I was searching for a bowtie pasta recipe to serve at my son’s Mustache Bash birthday party, and I don’t remember where it was–so I’m unable to give credit where credit is due.

This makes a yummy side dish, a great party food, or a yummy refreshing lunch on a hot day.

Bowtie Pasta Salad (01)

Cook 16 ounces of bowtie pasta according to package directions. I usually add a little olive oil to the water when cooking pasta, to prevent it from sticking together. Drain it, rinse it in cold water, and drain it again.

Bowtie Pasta Salad (02)

Chop 10 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes into quarters, 1/2 cup celery, 1 red (or yellow) bell pepper, and 1 bunch of green onions. Add chopped vegetables to the cooked pasta.

Bowtie Pasta Salad (04)

In a separate bowl, mix together 2 cups mayonnaise, 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp dried basil, and 1/2 tsp salt.

Pour the dressing over the pasta mixture and gently stir to combine all ingredients. Serve and enjoy!

Bowtie Salad

 

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12 months

Dear James,

In preparation for the your first birthday party, during which time there will be much eating of cake and ice cream, we’ve starting giving you little sweets here and there. Probably not necessary, but I worried it might be a bad idea to shock your little system with pile of sugar all at one time. I’d hate to ruin your big day with a major tummy ache! And what better place to introduce you to your first real sugar, than Krispy Kreme?

Krispy Kreme

You totally approved.

We celebrated your first St. Patrick’s Day this month. And by “celebrated,” I mean I bought you a cute shirt and fed you green food.

St. Patrick's Day

Of this, you did not approve.

You were born only a few days before Easter, so last year you had no clue what was going on. This year, you still really had no clue–but you enjoyed it anyway!

Easter

Happy Easter!

And the Peeps? Yes, you liked the Peeps.

Peeps!

In other important news, you waved “bye-bye” and stood unassisted for the first time this month. My baby boy, you’re not a baby anymore. You’ve officially entered the world of Toddlerhood, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

I love you Big,

Mommy

12 months

(3/28/13)

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Oatmeal-Banana Cookies

I don’t know where this original recipe came from, but I’ve seen it all over. It’s a good one! Easy, yummy, and nutritious. It makes a great breakfast-on-the-go for Baby, or a healthy snack.

01 Oatmeal-Banana Cookies

You’ll need the following ingredients: 3 ripe bananas (I throw mine in a freezer bag and freeze them once they get over-ripe, so I always have several on hand), 1/3 cup applesauce, 2 cups oats, 1/4 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup raisins (I use Craisins or even dark chocolate chips sometimes), 1 tsp vanilla, and 1 tsp cinnamon.

Start by tossing all the ingredients into a big mixing bowl…

02 Oatmeal Banana Cookies

…then mix them all together.

03 Oatmeal Banana Cookies

Spoon them onto a greased cookie sheet and put them in a 350 degree oven.

04 Oatmeal Banana Cookies

Cook them until they’re browned and solidified, about 15 minutes.

05 Oatmeal Banana Cookies

EAT ‘EM!

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Twice Baked Potatoes

01 Twice Baked Potatoes

Coat 4 large potatoes with olive oil and bake them at 400 degrees until they have a bit of give, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

While the potatoes are baking, cook 4 pieces of bacon until crisp. Allow bacon to cool, then crumble it.

02 Twice Baked Potatoes

03 Twice Baked Potatoes

Thoroughly mix 2 cups of sour cream, 1 tbsp butter, 4 tbsp whipping cream, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp sea salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper.

Once the potatoes have finished baking, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. Carefully cut them in half, lengthwise, and scoop the potato out of the skins.

04 Twice Baked Potatoes

05 Twice Baked Potatoes
Reserving the skins, add potato to sour cream mixture and mix well. Add 1/2 the bacon crumbles, 1 cup grated cheddar cheese and 1/4 cup chopped green onions to the mixture and mix well.

06 Twice Baked Potatoes
Stuff potato skins with potato mixture.

07 Twice Baked Potatoes
Sprinkle with more grated cheddar, the rest of the bacon and another 1/4 c chopped green onions.

08 Twice Baked Potatoes
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

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Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken

Here’s another quick and easy slow cooker meal!

Start by placing 2 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a greased slow cooker.

01 Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken

Next, combine 1 cup honey, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 4 tbsp dried onion, 4 tbsp ketchup, 2 tbsp oil and 1 tsp garlic powder.

02 Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken

03 Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken

Pour mixture over chicken.

04 Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken
Add 1 cup of water to the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours (I set my slow cooker to cook on low for 3 hours, and then it automatically switches over to “keep warm” for 6 more hours until I get home–this cooks it just the right amount.)

Remove chicken from the slow cooker, but leave the sauce.

05 Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken
Next, add 6 tsp cornstarch to the sauce in the slow cooker.

06 Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken
Stir to combine with sauce with the corn starch.

07 Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken
Replace the lid and cook the sauce on high for ten more minutes, or until slightly thickened. While it’s cooking, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

08 Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken

Return to the chicken to the slow cooker and stir it into the sauce. Then, sprinkle with the chicken with sesame seeds.

09 Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken

 

Cook 4 serving of rice according to package directions.

10 Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken

Serve the chicken over rice. Easily serves 4 people.

11 Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken

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Slow Cooker Ribs

These are SO good (for the whole family!) and so easy! Prep time is about 5 minutes.

Slow Cooker Ribs 1

Grease a crockpot and line the bottom with 2 cups chopped onion (I use the frozen, pre-chopped onions for faster prep).

Slow Cooker Ribs 2

Place 3-4 pounds of boneless pork ribs on top of the onions.

Slow Cooker Ribs 3
Sprinkle pork with ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, ¼ cup brown sugar and 2 cloves minced garlic and stir to coat all pieces.

Slow Cooker Ribs 4
Pour 2 c apple juice (or 1 c apple juice and 1 c water) evenly over pork and cook on low for 8-9 hours.

Slow Cooker Ribs 5

Once it’s cooked, drain all liquids from the crockpot and add 1 ½ cups barbecue sauce. Cook on low for 1 more hour.

I won’t show you the final picture because these ribs are so tender that they fall apart, so they look like a big blobby BBQ’y mess with my subpar photography.

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Beer Chicken (Lesson 47: Learn a ton of crockpot recipes)

…because that’s pretty much all you’ll have time for. Here’s one to get you started.

 

All you’ll need is 2-4 frozen chicken breasts, 12 ounces of beer, 1 tsp salt, 1 ½ tsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp dried oregano and ½ tsp pepper.

Beer Chicken 1

Place your chicken, still frozen, in the crockpot.

Mix all the other ingredients together.

Beer Chicken 2

Pour beer mixture over chicken.

Beer Chicken 3

Cook all day on low.

Voila. Anybody has time for that!

Loaded Potato and Chicken Casserole (Taking a breaking from feeding baby to feed YOU)

Here’s another great recipe that’s super easy to make ahead and freeze!

Wash and cube 5 potatoes and 1 vidalia onion.

Loaded Potato Chicken Casserole 1

Put the potatoes and onions in a large bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together 1/3 c olive oil, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp pepper, 1 tbsp paprika, 2 tbsp garlic powder and 2 tbsp hot sauce (I use Tobasco, but you can use any hot sauce).

Loaded Potato Chicken Casserole 2

Pour the mixture over the potatoes and onions and stir to coat.

IMG_9240

Place the potatoes in a prepared casserole pan (use a disposable pan if you want to freeze it) and bake them on 500 for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until they’re crispy.

While the potatoes are cooking, cube 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and put the cubes in the same big bowl your potatoes were in.

Loaded Potato Chicken Casserole 3

In a separate bowl, mix together 1/4 c olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp lemon juice.

Loaded Potato Chicken Casserole 5

Pour the mixture over the chicken and stir to coat.

In a separate bowl, mix together 2 cups of fiesta cheese, 6 slices of cooked, crumbled bacon, and 3 diced green onions.

Loaded Potato Chicken Casserole 6Loaded Potato Chicken Casserole 7

(And since it sucks to buy a whole package of green onions when you only need 3, go ahead and dice the rest of them, store them in a freezer bag and freeze for later use!)

Loaded Potato Chicken Casserole 8

Once the potatoes are cooked, remove them from the oven and top with the marinated chicken. Top that with the cheese mixture.

Loaded Potato Chicken Casserole 9

If you plan to freeze it, wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap and tinfoil–label and freeze. It should stay good for about 2 months, or 3 months in a deep freezer. When you’re ready to serve it, just let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

To serve, bake in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Loaded Potato Chicken Casserole 10

This was a big hit with the hubby—and even J devoured the chicken (the potatoes were a little too spicy for him)!

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Super Easy Chicken Pot Pie

One of the easiest meals you can make for your family is a good ol’ chicken pot pie. I love this recipe as a freeze-ahead for 4 reasons: it’s inexpensive, it’s fast, it’s easy, and it makes four meals at one time. I got it from my sister-in-law, but I’ll admit to tweaking it a bit—not because it wasn’t delicious exactly how it was, but because I’m a little lazy and I like to take shortcuts sometimes.

Start by poaching 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves. Poach, don’t boil, as boiling will dry out the chicken. I usually place the chicken in the pot of water and turn it on high to bring it to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn it down to a simmer and set your timer for 15 minutes. If you want, you can add a sliced onion and/or garlic wedges to the water for extra flavor.

Super Easy Chicken Pot Pie 1
After your chicken is completely cooked, remove it from the water and set it aside to cool. But don’t dump the water! Measure it into whatever portion sizes you desire (I do 2-cup portions), place it in quart-size freezer bags, and freeze flat. Next time you have a recipe that calls for chicken stock, you have it in your freezer—no need to buy it. In my experience, frozen chicken stock will last for 2-3 months in a regular freezer, or up to 1 year in a deep freezer.

Super Easy Chicken Pot Pie 2

Now, here’s where I cheat. You could slice up about 4 handfuls of baby carrots, wash, peel, and chop 2 potatoes, and wash and chop fresh green beans. But why? Instead, I use 2 cans of cubed potatoes and a 32-oz bag of frozen veggie mix consisting of chopped carrots, corn, green peas and green beans.

Super Easy Chicken Pot Pie 3
Heat some olive oil in a large pot and go ahead and sauté the frozen veggies in some minced garlic (you can use fresh, or that awesome stuff that comes in a jar) until they’re just defrosted, about 5 minutes. Then drain and add the potatoes.

Super Easy Chicken Pot Pie 4

Remove from heat and add 2 cans of cream of chicken soup, a few sprinkles of onion powder, and shred your chicken into the mix. Top it off with ½ c of heavy cream and stir it up.

Super Easy Chicken Pot Pie 5

Rather than pouring these directly into the pie shells, save yourself some room and divide the mixture into 4 quart-sized freezer bags. Label and date each bag. You’ll end up with just under 3 cups per bag. You’ll need a total of 8 frozen deep-dish pie crusts, so make sure you have those on hand for later use. Freeze the bags flat, keep the pie crusts stacked in each other, and you’ll use a lot less room in your freezer than stacking 4 pies on top of each other.

Super Easy Chicken Pot Pie 6

When it’s time to make a pie, put a bag of the mix in the fridge to thaw over night. Once it’s thawed, pour it into one of your pie shells and spread it evenly.

Super Easy Chicken Pot Pie 7

Top it with a second pie shell.

Super Easy Chicken Pot Pie 8

Then bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until the pie crust is golden brown.

Super Easy Chicken Pot Pie 9

It may not be the prettiest pie in the world, but it sure is yummy!

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Lesson 14: Prepare food and freeze it before baby arrives

Something that helped me tremendously during the immediate weeks after my baby was born was having 2 freezers full of pre-prepared meals. I made a list of what I wanted to prepare in December, started purchasing the dry and frozen groceries I would need in January (this allowed me to spread out the extra food budget over 3 months, rather than taking a big hit to our bank account in just one month), and I started cooking in February (and continued cooking through March, using weekends here and there so I never felt overwhelmed).

I not only chose recipes that would be effortless to store and thaw, but I also chose recipes that I could easily double at one time. Even now, whenever I make a recipe that is easily doubled, I go ahead and double it and freeze one. Hard day at work? No problem–there’s always a lasagna waiting in the freezer.

I also recommend doing this for any of your friends who are pregnant. After a long day of changing poopy diapers, cleaning vomit, and bouncing a screaming newborn, they will love you all over again when they open their freezer and see a healthy meal waiting for them to just thaw, warm, and serve. Frozen Food Baby Showers have actually become a thing.

I’ll post some of my favorite (read: quick and easy) recipes in the days to come.

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