leftover pizza.

What to do with SO many leftovers? Make pizza!

I had a ton of leftovers from the shower last weekend (even after giving some of it away!). I can only eat so much butternut squash in a salad (and Bryan doesn’t like squash). So I made pizza!

Our favorite easy dinner is homemade pizza with naan for a crust. We buy a big pack of naan from CostCo and keep it in the freezer until we have a night where we don’t really feel like cooking. It typically consists of an easy pizza sauce, pepperoni, and cheese. But when I want to get creative (and a little healthier), I can whip together some good veggies topped with feta cheese and have a tasty meal.

With my leftovers I made a half and half pizza. I sprayed the whole piece of naan with olive oil first. Then one half I used the butternut squash leftovers topped with feta cheese. The other half I used the sweet potato and chickpea leftovers topped with mozzarella cheese. I got to enjoy the variety and use a lot of what was in my fridge.

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I also had a yummy lunch the next day!

welcoming the little pumpkin!

This weekend I had the privilege of throwing a baby shower for my sister. It went off without a hitch, and I had so much fun planning for it!

She is due in February, so I wanted to do the shower before the holiday madness and January (aka, month #9). I also wanted to give her a simple night of celebrating and being with her girlfriends, trying not to make it super “baby shower-y.” I went with a simple “autumn” theme – easy to come up with food options and decor.

For decor, I had a simple layout of autumn “go-to’s” – squash, pumpkins, corn. I went with burlap and lace for a banner and votive candle holders. I added a pop of “pom-poms” for a little flare. And I had Lindsay’s friend put together some fall floral arrangements that looked amazing!

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Not a great picture, but just a little something-something.

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Some of the florals – beautiful!!

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Welcome munchkin!!

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Table arrangement (on our new table! :))

For food I obviously went with squash, pumpkin, and sweet potato flavors.
I found a recipe for pumpkin pretzel sticks. They’re soft pretzels, made with pumpkin (which you couldn’t really taste but was a nice substitute for any oils). I had a cheese dip and a salted caramel dip to go with. (Sorry – forgot to get a picture there!)

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I also made a butternut squash and apple bruschetta. Found: http://tri2cook.blogspot.com/2012/01/butternut-apple-bruschetta.htmlImage 

The real hit were these stuffed sweet potato skins. Found: http://pinchofyum.com/healthy-sweet-potato-skins
These are delicious and fairly easy to make (just need a little time to put together). And they’re still good the next day!

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For dessert I made Lindsay’s request – vanilla cupcakes with Nutella frosting. I found this recipe this past summer and made them for Bryan’s birthday, and we couldn’t get enough of them! Found: http://www.krissys-creations.com/2011/11/vanilla-bean-buttermilk-cupcakes-with.html

We opened presents sipping on some mulled wine and apple cider. Linds got some great, necessary things – a great way to start off all of her showers!

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I just could not be more excited for this beautiful mama! My sister is one of my most favorite people in the whole world, and she is going to be such a WONDERFUL mama! I also can’t wait to have my own little munchkin just 4 blocks away. This baby is already so loved!

mama’s chili.

We recently had a chili cook-off with some of our friends. We had 6 different pots of chili – some were hot, some were sweet, some had meat, some were vegan. It was quite the spread! And a TON of fun 🙂

I whipped up my “Old Faithful” – my mama’s chili. This has been a family favorite for a long time. The most notable memory of eating this chili occurred when I was about 8 years old. My dad messed up this completely easy recipe. My mom was out of town for the week, and just like the perfect mama that she is, she had meals prepared ahead of time for every day of the week. She had chili all ready to go – my dad just had to put the ingredients together. I don’t remember the details, but the story that has lived on is that my dad mixed the meat with some spaghetti sauce. Yum. Good meal, Dad.

It’s become a great family joke. But it has also been the recipe that we all use in each of our households for a good, “old faithful” chili. It’s a simple recipe and easily adaptable. And while it officially got last place in the chili cook-off (no hard feelings), my sweet sweet husband said in the car ride home, “So, I know your chili didn’t win or anything, but it is REALLY good.” We determined that in a “cook-off” scenario, the more unique chili’s took home the prize, but mine is really a good go-to chili – not necessarily notable but consistently delicious (at least this is what I’m telling myself to ease the blow of a loss).

Ingredients:
Base: 1 pound of ground beef (turkey or any meat would do just fine!)
1 can tomato soup (with water added)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 red onion
Your choice: 1 green pepper
1 can corn
1 can black beans
1 can red kidney beans
whatever else you think would be good!
Spices:
Salt and pepper to taste
Chili powder to taste
a pinch of Cayenne pepper
Cinnamon (this is my addition but I use it every time)

-I really make this differently every time. This particular time I used the base ingredients, plus a can of corn, a can of black beans, and a can of tomatoes with green chilis that I just had in the cupboard

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only the best – homegrown Iowa beef (thankful to be married to farmers!)

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Mama’s Homemade Chili
1. Brown the meat in a pan. Drain the fat.
2. In a large pot, saute the meat with the onion (and green pepper or other fresh veggies).
3. Once the onions are translucent, add in all your canned goods!
4. Add your spices to taste. (I continue to taste-test and add more spices as needed!)
5. Let it simmer for at least an hour.
6. Serve and enjoy!

Tip: I usually make this a day prior to serving. I like to let it sit over night, let the flavors marinate a bit, and it thickens up as well. Everyone knows that second-day chili is the best! 🙂

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squeaky clean.

Last Saturday was cleaning day.

Until this year I had a day off every week (being only 80% at my job), but this year I got moved to 100%. Yes, exciting. Yes, an answer to prayer. Yes, my days at work contain less stress.

But, truthfully, I miss my day off. I had long mornings with lots of coffee and reading, followed by a good run. And then I proceeded to clean my house. Once a week, every week. Floors were scrubbed, furniture was dusted, and my weekends were free to have fun.

Working full-time is great, but my house is no longer always clean. Dust piles up, grime gets in my grout, and I simply don’t care to spend my weekends scrubbing floors. So, I learned to let go a little bit. (I still can’t stand dishes in the sink!)

Now I need excuses to get my house good and clean. And hosting is the perfect excuse! This coming Friday is my sister’s baby shower, so, of course, everything needed to be deep cleaned (because I know everyone will check to make sure I took a toothbrush to the grout in my shower).

In an effort to live a little more naturally, I’ve been trying a few different concoctions of natural cleaners. Here’s an all-purpose cleaner that is simple, easy to make, and full of ingredients that I can feel good about.

Ingredients:
1. Water
2. Vinegar
-Vinegar is a FABULOUS cleaner. It is not toxic (like most cleaners are), it’s cheap, and it’s very effective.
-Read here for a great list of uses for vinegar: http://www.thenewhomemaker.com/vinegar)
3. OnGuard essential oil (from DoTerra)
-OnGuard is a blend of wild orange, cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, and rosemary. It is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, a good immune support, and a great disinfectant. I’ve been taking a drop of OnGuard with honey as soon as I feel a little cold coming on (life of a teacher), and I’ve yet to get sick! Using this around my house, too, has been a great way to keep the surfaces that we use daily clean!

DIY All-Purpose Cleaner
Mix equal parts of water and vinegar with a few drops of essential oil and pour into a spray bottle.
I used one cup of water, one cup of vinegar, and about 10 drops of OnGuard.

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Since OnGuard is an active ingredient, it shouldn’t sit by itself for too long. I try not to make more than will last me about a month. Every time I use it, I make sure to shake the bottle really well – oil and water tend to separate when sitting still 🙂

Hope you try this and enjoy!

nut butter.

It is a well-known fact that Hutchison women love peanut butter. Our staple for years was Trader Joe’s Crunchy Salted Peanut Butter. We may have been known to eat it by the spoonfuls. No shame.

Since I don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, I don’t get to enjoy this very often. I still love peanut butter, but I have a hard time buying any processed peanut butter. It still has its place (cookies or baking of any sort), but when I want a good spoonful, I need the real stuff.

With so much more understanding of various nuts and health benefits (healthy fats that aide heart health, cancer prevention, weight maintenance, etc.), people are really getting into various nut butters. Of course I hopped on board. However, spending $8 on a jar of almond butter is not my favorite idea. So I found quite a few recipes for various nut butters online. They all were pretty basic. Get a food processor, grind up the nuts.

As often as needed (about every other week – too often? :)), I get out whatever nuts I have on hand. This is usually a combination of almonds, walnuts, and/or pecans (I get these all in bulk from CostCo). I take 10 minutes, and I have enough nut butter to get me through two weeks! I probably eat way more than I should, but if it’s homemade, it’s better for you, right??

Homemade Nut Butter
about 3 cups of your choice: almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews
(don’t worry about the balance of flavors – just figure out what you like best!)
about 1 teaspoon of olive oil
salt to taste

1. Pour all of your nuts in the food processor (I think a high-powered blender would work well too, but it does take some power)
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2. Grind them until they’re quite grainy but no longer mixing well.
(I forgot to take a picture of this)
3. Once they’re at a point where they need some help “moving” again, pour in just enough olive oil to get them going again.

4. Keep grinding. It’ll go from grainy to clumpy. Like this …
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(you may want to add a little more olive oil here, but you don’t need to – the natural-occurring oils in the nuts will continue to help smooth everything out!)

5. Keep grinding! It’ll smooth out. Just let it keep going until it looks as smooth as you’d like.
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6. Once you’re set, store in a cute mason jar and enjoy every. single. day. (Still…no shame.)
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tis the season!

While many (probably most) disagree with me, once Halloween passes, I am ready for the Christmas season! It IS the most wonderful time of the year … why keep it contained to only three – four weeks of celebration??

And no, it does not negate celebrating Thanksgiving. I can still have my pumpkins and gourds out while listening to Christmas music. I can still burn my pumpkin candle while watching Love Actually – nothing wrong with some good smells and a handsome prime minister dancing to the Pointer Sisters!

In my combined celebration of seasons/holidays, I made this little number.

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I saw it on Etsy (via Pinterest, of course), but it was obviously something that could be made at home for $8, instead of bought for $38. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/195906652513888873/

We made a trip to Lowe’s, so I made a trip down to the lumber section. Bryan said that a 2×8 would be just right. I had them cut 2 pieces of 12in, 2 pieces of 10in, 2 piece of 8in. We already had some 4×4 at home to cut the middle piece.

I already had paint colors to use (or at least mix). So, I spent a few evenings watching Dexter (our new obsession), sanding the edges, and painting away.

I feel pretty good about how it turned out. And now my decor is ready for the next two months/seasons/holidays!

caesar.

we have been busy little bees over the past few weeks. my dear friend, melanie, got married this past weekend, and my week was full of pampering and preparing! getting nails and hair done, new dresses, fancy dinners … it was rough.

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last night was a calm night home, and i wanted to quickly whip up a salad. husband bryan asked for a caesar salad. since i have a hard time buying dressings in the store whose first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, i decided to find an easy little recipe.

i found this gem: http://www.onceuponachef.com/2010/08/caesar-salad-dressing.html

last night i threw it together with a few adjustments. i lessened the amount of mayo, which lessened the amount of fat, but also brought out the other flavors. it also made it a bit runnier, but i liked it better than the really thick dressing. i also added some honey to cut through the “zing,” as bryan called it.

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(with rough measurements – makes enough for about 4 servings of salad)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoon of anchovy paste
1 teaspoon of worchestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard
1/2 half lemon
1/4 cup of parmesean cheese (i only had the grated kind, but fresh would be phenomenal!)
1 teaspoon of honey
salt and pepper to taste

whisk all the ingredients together and enjoy!