The end of October also brings the end of my maternity leave. It is bittersweet. I’ve loved my time with my babe and feel like I’ve made the most of it. I also love working. I’m so grateful for the job I have and feel really at peace to return. I learned with our little boy that working is really right for me.
Once I got my footing with a newborn and toddler, I cooked some fun things and I’m psyched for what I have prepped for the blog! I’m feeling great about one post a week being sustainable. I’m prepped well ahead so I can enjoy the blogging process, have room to keep going, and to not feel stressed. I have a few very seasonal meals up next!
While not made this October, but blogged >365 days after the making, the cutest Pumpkin Shaped Cheddar Cheeseball got to grace the blog!
I also toyed with the concept of a capsule meal plan and fell in love! This season for my life was screaming for some structure while meal planning. Obviously I care a ton about our family eating varied foods together at the table so this bit of structure to plan really helped me. I’ll continue to plan weeknight meals with nights of: pasta or pizza; Mexican; anything goes (aka, leftovers or the easiest thrown together dinners); and whatever else seems good to add in that particular week. Try it. Tell me what you think!
I made a fun Chocolate Mint Smoothie to use the mint that was still flourishing in my garden.
Plus, this month had a French inspired grilled cheese that has a truly pumped up flavor.
The Little Boy:
He’s so interested in rhyming which is funny. He can hear it in books but when figuring out his own words that rhyme is comical. He loves pealing his own banana and has been eating really everything. I got these marshmallows and he has loooved them as treats. He’s pretty psyched for Halloween. We got to go to a few fun events at the library since I’ve been home. He thought the book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was hysterical. I get a kick out of his love for being cozy- me too! He’ll do anything for the prospect of getting cozy- get those jammies on after the tub so you’ll be cozy, put your jacket on so you’ll be cozy, etc.
The Baby Girl:
She’s close to 3 months old and will start daycare soon. We joke she’ll learn to nap there. She’s very smiley and sweet- especially since she really doesn’t sleep much during the day. We are trying to get her to eat more. She’s itty bitty. I swear she’d pretty much sleep through the night if we didn’t have to wake her to eat. Once she gains some weight we’ll be able to stop waking her. She loves the tub when we put her in with her big brother. She hates getting her nails trimmed.
This Year’s Goals:
Year of the candle: I got this Honeycrisp Apple Trader Joe’s one and it is gooooood
Cook more appetizers/snacks: nope
Taking time to blog thoughtfully: ehh. blogging at all at this season is an accomplishment in my book.
Journal the cute moments of my little one: I need to do more of this
What I’m reading: I read Homegoing and Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
What I’m watching: I’m watching Big Little Lies and A Million Little Things
I loooove to jazz up grilled cheese. I want crunch of the bread and beyond-the-average flavors for my grilled cheese. Bread + cheese doesn’t seem to be enough for me. Evidence: this grilled cheese lorraine; or grilled cheese with sweet potato & sage; or turkey & pear grilled cheese; or I could go on…
This time I took some easy tweaks to the basic and think the herb butter spread for the outside is such a win! The outside is super crunchy and flavorful and the inside has 3 cheeses plus rosemary and dijon feel a bit French and just perfect for fall.
French Inspired Grilled Cheese
Ingredients: (for 2 sandwiches)
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons mayo
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
salt & pepper
4 slices of good quality bread
2 slices gruyere cheese
2 slices white American cheese
1 slice Provolone cheese
Mix together the butter, mayo, rosemary, olive oil, and salt & pepper.
Prep it in advance, or mix and spread onto the outer side of the bread.
Assemble the sandwiches with dijon on the inside, cheeses, then the flavored butter on the outside.
Pan fry on each side until melty and toasted.
How golden and delicious does that look? My bread had even lived a full life and came out of retirement from the freezer and still came out amazing. The herbs on the outside make it even more perfect. Don’t think twice about mayo being on the outside. That’s what restaurants do! That’s what grilled cheese food trucks do! A drizzle of truffle oil would be fantastic to keep that French inspiration.
I made this for lunch in 5 minutes, but it is special enough to make a meal out of for dinner!
Psst: have leftover rosemary? Make this honey rosemary cream cheese and you can thank me later
This adorable (and seasonable) appetizer is a year in the making. I made this forever-ago but didn’t get to blog it soon enough and then it seemed weird to encourage anyone to shape food into a pumpkin shape once the mindset is onto the next holidays! It is so stinking cute, super easy, and delicious.
Pumpkin Shaped Cheese Ball
8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
3/4 cup orange cheddar
1 cup Cheez-Its (Cheddar Grooves are really great for this)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper
Stem from a bell pepper
crackers to serve
Bring the cream cheese to room temperature.
In a food processor (or pounded in a ziplock bag), pulverize the cheez-its. Then remove most of it, leaving ~1/4 cup in the food processor.
Add in the cream cheese, cheddar, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, and salt & pepper.
Remove and form into a ball, wrapping in plastic wrap. In the wrapped ball, make pumpkin-like ridges from the top to bottom, about an inch apart. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until serving.
Before serving, unwrap and roll it in the remaining cheez-it crumbs.
Add the bell pepper stem and serve with crackers.
I loved this, and it is show-stopping cute. I like the simplicity of it but it isn’t shy on flavor. I brought it to a get together and just rolled the crumbs before serving. I’ll totally make this again. Orrrr make this cute carrot one but shape it like a pumpkin. So festive! This one is so fitting for October AND November.
Capsule wardrobes are definitely a thing so why isn’t capsule meal planning a thing? I’m doing it! Capsule wardrobes are a smaller selection to mix and match to make choosing easier. Meal planning needs some of those same principles! Starting a meal plan for the week can feel daunting but having a plan, getting the ingredients, maybe doing some prep in advance, and sharing the plan with those eating it are all keys to success. I always meal plan factoring in weather, speed/ease of prep, and what we have going on but why not add in a few more guidelines?
I came up with a bunch of themes and categories and definitely think it has made planning and executing meals easier! I decided to choose a few as the starting point to then plan with our favorites. I’m focusing on weeknights since those are for sure the craziest around here. What are your weeknight go-tos? I need to know!
Here’s my running list of weeknight dinner themes:
night of bfast
night of meatless (here are some of mine, and more of mine)
night of international: Mexican/Mediterranean/Italian/Thai/Indian
night of pizza/pasta/calzone
night of panini/soup/salad
night of grilling
night of a grain bowl dinner (some of our favs are here)
night of anything goes (that means fast, not creating leftovers but maybe even using a leftover item, maybe not everyone eats the same thing: often eggs/quesadillas/grilled cheese/pasta)
night of takeout (that’s what we do on Fridays)
Last week, here’s what we did:
Mon = night of calzone: sausages & onions
Tues = night of crockpot: BBQ pulled pork & roasted butternut squash
Wed = night of pasta: tortellini w/ alfredo
Thurs = night of Mexican: pork tacos & fiesta bean salad
Fri = night of takeout
The prior week, here’s what we did:
Mon = night of salads: build your own salad bar
Tues = night of anything goes
Wed = night of grilling: hot dogs & broccoli salad
Thurs = naan pizzas
Fri = night of takeout
This week, here’s what we did/are having:
Mon = night of pasta: spaghetti & tomato sauce and salad
Tues = night of a blogged dinner (coming soon! it is very fall inspired!)
Wed = night of a freezer food recreated (loaded waffle fries with pulled pork, beans, corn, queso, & avocado)
Thurs = night of anything goes (my bookclub night this week!)
Fri = night of takeout
I tried it out a few weeks. I can honestly say it makes creating a meal plan so much easier. I haven’t quite set our themes we’ll do every week, but I’d guess during this busy season of our lives, I’ll keep: pasta/anything goes/takeout and that leaves 2 other weeknights to get creative or do whatever we’re in the mood for. Tacos/Mexican seems like a likely theme we may have most weeks too. Even 3 weeknights covered with a starting point seems helpful!
What are your go-tos for weeknight dinners??
Anyone who grows mint has it in spades. Anyone who buys mint also probably has extra and wants to get their money’s worth. Everyone wins! In the fall, our herb garden goes bananas and I’m seeking all the ways to use the herbs at hand. I hadn’t made a smoothie with mint this whole season, not since last year’s mojito smoothie (which is also a delicious one). The mint flavor is also perfect to go with a green smoothie. Adding the chocolate flavor muddies the color, but it is ohh-so-worth it.
Chocolate Mint Smoothie
1 cup spinach/kale
1/2 cup greek vanilla yogurt
1/2 apple, frozen
1/2 banana, frozen
hand-full of fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
Add greens, vanilla, and milk. Blend throughly.
Then add in the apple, banana, mint, cocoa powder, ground flax seeds.
I loved this one! It tastes like dessert but starting the day with a fruit and a veggie is the best. The mint is nicely refreshing and the chocolate makes this taste like a total treat. If the color turns you off, pop it into a cup with a cover. This is totally a keeper!
Use your mint for these mojito shrimp and in this zucchini/ricotta/herb pasta and then for this smoothie!