Monday, September 22, 2014

Recipe: Pumpkin Muffins with Cinnamon + Sugar Topping

This pumpkin recipe is my favorite and I make them often throughout the fall and winter seasons. I will bring them to Thanksgiving dinner so my family can take them home and enjoy the next morning. I recommend eating them right out of the oven or warming them in the microwave and enjoying with a mug of coffee or tea. Last week I had one with vanilla ice cream and it was amazing. They are also great snacks for toddlers. I love the cinnamon and sugar topping. If you love pumpkin you will love these.

Pumpkin Muffins
1 dozen

1 1/2 cup flour (I usually use at least 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup canned pumpkin (15 oz can)
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/4 cup sugar (I usually only use 1 cup) + 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees (oven rack in middle)
2) Whisk flour and baking powder in a small bowl
3) Whisk pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, 1 1/4 cup sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth. Then, whisk in flour mixture until just combined
4) Stir together cinnamon and 1 tablespoon sugar in a small bowl
5) Divide batter into cups (3/4 full)
6) Sprinkle tops with cinnamon and sugar mixture
7) Cook for 25-30 minutes (puffed and golden brown)
8) Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack

This is also a great recipe to involve your kids. Ellie loves helping me bake the muffins. I do the measuring and she does the pouring, mixing, and sprinkling.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ellie's First Day of Pre-School + Other Updates

Ellie started pre-school (and her first time at school ever) last week. I knew eventually she would love it if she were timid at first. She said to me, "I don't want to go to school by myself, Mommy. I want to stay with you because I love you." Of course, it made me a little sad, but I had confidence that she would adjust well. We had talked about it all summer and even more so the few weeks leading up to it. I kept telling her that I would drop her off and pick her up everyday. The first day was orientation and the class was split and each group went to school for an hour with a parent. My mother in law stayed with Summer so I could have that one on one time with Ellie. We met her teachers and saw her classroom. She met some of the kids in her class and played with the cool, new toys (a big dollhouse and dress-up!).

The second day she went to school for an hour alone with the same group of kids and the third day was a full day with all of her class (12 kids total). I really liked the transition into a full day and I love that it's a small class. I also love her two teachers. So far it has been great. The first day she was alone she was first to arrive and Summer and I gave her a kiss and hug and she was all smiles as she sat down to play with Play Doh. And, all smiles as we picked her up. She has been excited on school days (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and talks about it on non-school days. I'm so happy she loves it and that she didn't shed a tear (that would have meant I would have shed lots of tears).

 Confidently walking into her classroom. She looks so small here!

Last Thursday I think Summer had the hardest adjustment after dropping Ellie off at school. She had quite a few meltdowns and I think she missed her big sister. We did a few errands, then went to the Library (one that we had never been to before) and she had a blast. There was a great kids area with lots of toys to play with. I checked out some books for the girls and signed Summer up for a Thursday storytime starting this week. On Tuesday we are trying out a class at the Little Gym and if it works with our schedule I will sign her up. It's nice to have one on one time with Summer. After school we have been playing at the playground for a while before heading home for lunch and Summer's nap. I thought I would never say this again, but Ellie has been napping, too! I cannot tell you how wonderful it was last week to have both girls napping at the same time! Quiet time for myself during the day? It's been happening and I love it.

Ellie also started her first ballet class last week. If you follow me on Instagram you have seen the pictures and video I'm sure. Oh my gosh, it's just total cuteness. A group of little girls in ballet outfits. Half of the class is tap and half, ballet. It's a small class and the teacher is great. Ellie is the youngest, but fit in well and she loved it. Last week was an open door for parents to watch, but the rest of the class will not be until their recital at the Holidays. I can't wait for that!

Ellie is in the black leotard and pink tights. I took entirely too many photos on my iPhone before realizing I could take video. I got a couple really cute videos that I watch over and over.

We are finally settling in to a routine with school and classes. I'm back to making dinners during the week (no more lazy summer dinners or eating at the pool). I've been hooked on my new favorite comfort meal and I even dusted off my Crock Pot and used that last week to make our favorite Chicken Tacos. Ellie and I also made our first batch of pumpkin muffins of the season. How cute is this little apron I got on eBay? Ellie was so excited when I gave it to her. She had been wearing one of mine, obviously a little big. She loves helping me in the kitchen. And, it's our quality time while Summer is napping.

Next on my list is to go through the girls' clothes and rotate their clothes for fall. I am starting to create a fall checklist with fun things to look forward to with the girls. Apple picking, of course, and our second annual pumpkin painting party in October are a couple things I am excited about. What is on your fall list?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Delicious Meatloaf Recipe

Growing up I never liked meatloaf, but I do now and this recipe is delicious! My Dad made it for a family dinner last winter and I finally made it myself. The prep time isn't long and I even had Ellie help me pour in the ingredients. Side note: she then went to play and I heard her pretending to shop for "the ingredients to cook dinner." I love her pretend playing! So back to the recipe- the meatloaf cooks in the oven for an hour and if you really want an easy dinner (me, for sure) you can buy roasted potatoes from Whole Foods and heat in the microwave. I also bought fresh broccoli and steamed it. I only put barbeque sauce on half of the meatloaf in case the girls didn't like it. And, as predicted, Ellie thought it was too spicy. I cut into the middle to make sure it was completely cooked before serving.

Best Meatloaf Recipe

1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 chopped onion (I used sweet onion)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup barbeque sauce (I use Trader Joe's Bold & Smokey)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

2. Mix all the ingredients except the barbecue sauce together, then spread the meatloaf mixture onto an ungreased loaf pan. I did this once and it did not cook all the way through in my oven. This time I molded it into the shape of a long loaf onto a cookie sheet. It came out perfectly.

3. Spoon barbeque sauce on top of the meatloaf and bake, uncovered, for an hour. 


Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Birthday Weekend Recap

My birthday weekend celebration started Saturday morning when I went shopping alone. It was actually my husband's idea, which was so sweet of him. I had planned to buy a dress to wear to dinner that night, but I didn't find one I loved. I still made out well and had fun trying things on by myself. Details coming in another post.

Saturday night we had reservations at Talula's Garden, but after looking at the menu we decided to leave and go to another Steven Starr restaurant, and one of our favorites- Buddakan. So glad we made the switch. We ordered our favorites- chicken and shrimp spring rolls with a dijon wasabi dipping sauce, sea bass, cashew chicken, and lobster fried rice. We had the "dip sum" doughnuts with dipping sauces- blackberry jam (my favorite), gingered cream cheese, and chocolate sauce. It was amazing. I'm still thinking about those doughnuts!

Sunday morning, my birthday, I woke up to "surprises" from the girls. Ellie made me a few paintings and I received cards from my husband and the girls. I also got flowers and a framed picture of the girls. I was impressed my husband downloaded the picture and printed it all by himself. That's normally something I do. My gift from him is a watch, but it's something I want to shop for and try on.

We continued with good food and went to my favorite brunch spot, Cake, in Chestnut Hill. I had the best french toast I've ever had and a warm chocolate croissant.

Afterwards, I enjoyed a pedicure at Diamond Spa and it was the best one I have had in a while. I didn't feel rushed and the woman took her time with massaging and making my feet look very pretty. I chose the color, Wicked by Essie. Perfect for the fall weather we have been having.

My parents had us over for dinner tonight, along with my Nana and my brother and his family. My Mom made fish tacos (one of my favorite foods) with Velvet Sky cupcakes and pumpkin ice cream for dessert. Delicious! It was a wonderful day and the best birthday! 

So thankful for this wonderful family I have. Nick was so great this weekend and really helped out a lot with the girls today and spent over an hour with them at the playground while I was getting my pedicure. He is such a great Dad!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fall Wish List: Outerwear

I really don't want to think about fall yet and cooler temps. I'm hoping it stays warm for at least another month. However, I've seen a lot of fall clothing on my favorites websites and I've started a wish list. Even though I won't be wearing it for a while it's good to be prepared. I recently posted a few of my favorites here. I would love to add a leather jacket to my wardrobe, but I also found a less expensive option below. Obviously it's not real leather, but I love the style.

I also love this to throw on with jeans or a dress. It comes in black and turquoise. Another great price of $71.

This sweater reminds me of one I really wanted last year, but it sold out everywhere quickly. My friend, Nikki, always had it on in pictures on Instagram and it looked great on her. It comes in black, too, and also by BB Dakota. This cardigan is another option and half the price.

I wear my J.Crew green vest all the time in the fall. It's one of their items you will find every year. I recommend investing in one! I love the cream and bright yellow.

* This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Currently Pinning

I have been on Pinterest a lot lately so I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite recent pins. You can follow my boards here.

I am not looking forward to the fall season (I love the sun too much). Actually, the one thing I do love about fall are pumpkin spiced donuts. When I saw this recipe I got excited:

My dream closet! How amazing would it be to work surrounded by pretty things and on that gorgeous leopard carpet? See more photos here.

Love these leopard shoes. A neutral that can go with everything. I may not spend a lot on clothing, but I will on shoes since I don't own many pairs and I will wear them often. 

This salad looks delicious. I love kale and am always looking for new lunch options. The pictures are gorgeous, too.

I always see adorable little boy quotes and so I loved this when I saw it:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Recipe: Lebanese Lentils, Rice and Carmelized Onions

I always get the best recipes from my Mom. She is a vegetarian so she is always searching for recipes with lentils and beans. This is one of my new favorites. It is delicious. The cumin and cinnamon add such great flavor! Nick and Summer love it, too, which makes it 3 for 4 (Ellie gets leftovers or pasta).

Lebanese Lentils, Rice and Carmelized Onions (Mujadar)
(6 servings)

1 cup brown or green lentils, sorted for debris and rinsed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (omitted because I didn't have)
1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
3 medium red onions, thinly sliced
Kosher salt
3/4 cup basmati rice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (1-inch) cinnamon stick (I used from my spice jar)
2 tablespoons pine nuts, optional (I did use these)
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice (omitted)
Greek yogurt, for serving, optional (omitted)

1. Throw lentils into a medium saucepan. Fill with enough cold water to cover the lentils by about an inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, as the lentils cook, grab a large skillet. Put over medium-high heat and add the oil. Allow the oil to warm for a minute, then drop in the cumin seeds and cracked peppercorns and cook, shaking the pan once in a while until the cumin seeds darken a touch, about 1 minute.

3. Add the onions, sprinkle with a dash of salt and cook until they turn dark caramel brown, stirring often (about 15 minutes). Splash the onions with a little water if they stick to the boom of the pan. You'll know they're done both by their deep chestnut color and by the slight crispiness developing on some of the onions.

4. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, remove about half of the onions to a paper towel-lined plate; these are for garnish later. Sprinkle in the ground cumin, cayenne and then add the cinnamon stick; saute about 1 minute. 

5. Add the rice and cook, stirring often until some rice grains start to brown. Add the cooked lentils, 3 cups of water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt; bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low so that the pan is at a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. The water should be completely evaporated and rice should be tender. (If there is still too much water in the bottom cook for another 5 minutes).
6. Meanwhile toast the pine nuts, if using, in a small skillet over medium-low heat, shaking often, about 5 minutes.

6. Taste the rice for seasoning. Serve with the reserved carmelized onions, toasted pine nuts, if using, and a little squeeze of lemon juice. You can also serve with some dollops of Greek yogurt.