Sunday Inspiration {Back to School Meals Edition}

One Pot SpaghettiHow is it August already? This was pretty much the quickest summer ever and Noah will be starting kindergarten in 10 DAYS! So if you need me, I’ll be in the corner crying. Does everyone else start this early? It always seems nice when the kids are out of school in early May but then August runs around and bam, it’s all over. With school and sports starting up soon, I decided to compile some quick and simple meals that will be easy to throw together on those busy nights.

These skewers. Because we all know, if it’s on a stick a kid will eat it.

A cheese quesadilla as a base for pizza. Enough said right.

Slow cookers are where it’s at when it comes to busy nights. This Cashew Chicken looks to die.

This Chili Tortellini looks like a family pleaser.

A fun, healthy spin on Chinese takeout.

All of my people are seafood fans so this would be a winner.

I love the sweet and spicy combination of this slow cooker chipotle pork with pineapple slaw.

My kids will always eat a sandwich, especially sliders, so these are definitely happening.

This quick shrimp taco salad looks incredible and super easy.

If your kids don’t like these slow cooker spaghettios and meatballs then I don’t know what to tell you.

Another healthy version of takeout that is done in a flash.

Buzzfeed saves the day again with a roundup of 27 weeknight meals your kids will love.

This slow cooker whole chicken can be a simple meal or transform into pulled chicken sandwiches, chicken salad and more.

I’m dying to try this kalua pig.

*One Pot Spaghetti pictured above.

 

Photo Friday

We had a blast on vacation last week in Colorado. I took about 800 pictures so took awhile to sift through and edit them. I’m going to share some of my favorites with you today.

On our first day, my 29th birthday, we went to Elitch Gardens in Denver. It ended up being a pretty stressful, grumpy day but it was nice to get it out of the way (isn’t there always one of those days on vacation?). The kids got up at 5:45, it rained, all the rides closed and the kids were wild. But they did have a blast on most of the rides before the rain. The tea cups were definitely the favorite and this ride was the least. I loved it but Noah wasn’t too fond of the fast spinning and going sideways.
Day 1
Day 2 was Noah’s 5th birthday so we decided to ride the cog train up Pike’s Peak. When we got there, it was sold out…for the day. I had a moment of panic but they put us on the waiting list and we were able to get on the next departure. Apparently a lot of people make reservations then end up not showing because of altitude sickness and such.
Day 3We had a great ride up and Noah actually fell asleep. People, this never happens so it was a little birthday miracle. Clouds started to roll in as we approached the top so we didn’t get a great view but that was ok with me since I’m terrified of heights. Day 3
Day 3

My parents, Noah and I didn’t react well to the extreme altitude so we were thankful it was a short stop before heading back down the mountain. We had a great time though and couldn’t leave the top without trying the “world famous donuts.” Well, we weren’t impressed. To each their own. Day 3
Day 3

The next day we went to The Gardens of the Gods and Cave of the Winds. Before we started exploring, we had a picnic lunch. We also stopped by the visitors center and of course had to stop to check out the trucks with Uncle Trey. Day 4
Here’s the girl exploring.
Day 4

I was fascinated by these. They looked like giant dandelions, or wishers as we call them. Like something you would see in a Dr. Seuss book. Day 4
Hiking on the rocks at Garden of the Gods.
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I don’t know why but this makes me laugh. Day 4

Breaking rules and being goobers. Day 4
Day 4
This is turning out to be a super long post so I think I’ll share the rest of vacation with you all next Friday. Sunday Inspiration will be back this weekend so keep an eye out for it!

Meat Lovers Skillet

If there is a major carnivore in your life, stop everything you are doing and make this. They will pretty much love you forever and request it on any occasion celebrating them. Trust me, I know from experience.
Meat Lovers Skillet 6This skillet is inspired by a diner that we used to frequent often when we lived in Fargo. It was a total hole-in-the-wall joint but don’t those always end up being the best? The “Lotsa Meat Skillet” was the first and only item Joel ever ordered there and he misses it dearly. So this year for Father’s Day, I attempted a copycat version with much success. Meat Lovers Skillet 5
As any good skillet should, it starts with a base of potatoes, shredded hashbrowns in this case. Then you top it with three different varieties of pig. See.
Meat Lovers Skillet 1This isn’t for the faint of heart…or those with high cholesterol. Meat Lovers Skillet 2
It’s then sprinkle with cheese and put under the broiler until it reaches melty perfection. Top it with a few over easy eggs and hollandaise sauce to complete the meat masterpiece. It’s seriously intense and only for special occasions but oh so delicious.
Meat Lovers Skillet 4

Meat Lovers Skillet

15 oz. frozen shredded hashbrowns
2 Tbsp. olive oil 1
Tbsp. butter
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
6 breakfast sausage links, cut into bite size chunks
5 slices Canadian bacon, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
4 eggs

for the hollandaise sauce:
recipe from Tyler Florence
4 egg yolks
1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
Pinch salt

1. Preheat broiler. Heat large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat. Add olive oil and butter. Pour hashbrowns into pan and press down. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until golden and crispy. Carefully flip and cook until other side is golden.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the hollandaise sauce. Vigorously whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel bowl until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume. Place the bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl). Continue to whisk rapidly. Be careful not to let the eggs get too hot or they will scramble. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume. Remove from heat and whisk in the salt. Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use. If the sauce gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.

3. Layer the hashbrowns with bacon, sausage and Canadian bacon. Sprinkle with cheese. Place under broiler until cheese has melted. Meanwhile, cook 4 eggs over easy (or to your preference). Top skillet with eggs and drizzle with desired amount of hollandaise sauce. Cut into wedges and serve. Meat Lovers Skillet 3

Hot BBQ Beef Sandwiches

Hot BBQ Beef Sandwiches 6We’ve been in Colorado for the past week so that’s why I’ve been MIA. I originally planned to write posts ahead of time but with the craziness of preparing for the trip, I didn’t get them done. Then I thought I would write after the kids were in bed but there was a hot tub at the house we were staying at so…. Sorry, I chose the hot tub instead. It was really nice to unplug and not touch my computer for a week but I sure did miss you guys. Hot BBQ Beef Sandwiches 7
I love going on vacation but it’s always hard to get back home, unpack and get back in the swing of things. Coming home to an empty fridge is kind of the worst too. I usually plan something easy for our first night back to ease back into our routine, like this Hot BBQ Beef Sandwich.
Hot BBQ Beef Sandwiches 5

This sandwich was inspired by something I tried at a local sub shop recently. I dreamed of it for days and knew I had to recreate it at home. It starts with a crusty roll, then is stuffed with roast beef, sweet barbecue sauce and provolone cheese. Hot BBQ Beef Sandwiches 1
Place it under the broiler until the cheese turns to melty, slightly browned goodness. These literally take 5-10 minutes from start to finish making them perfect for those upcoming school nights.
Hot BBQ Beef Sandwiches 9

Hot BBQ Beef Sandwiches

4 sub rolls
1 lb. roast beef, thinly sliced
8 slices provolone cheese
BBQ Sauce

1. Preheat broiler. Slice rolls almost in half and spread open. Place on cookie sheet. Slather buns with desired amount of barbecue sauce then divide roast beef evenly between sandwiches. Top each with 2 slices of provolone cheese. Leave them open face.

2. Place under broiler and cook until cheese is golden and bubbly. Remove from oven. Close sandwiches, slice in half and enjoy. Serve additional barbecue on the side for dipping. Hot BBQ Beef Sandwiches 4

Stovetop Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese

We’ve been majorly struggling with Noah’s eating habits these days. All he wants to eat is junk and I’m really starting to worry. I don’t know what caused it to happen so suddenly. We haven’t been eating perfectly lately but certainly not terribly. So I told him our vacation this week is the last hurrah then we’re getting down to business and eating clean again. I don’t think anybody in our house, except for me, is happy about it.
Stovetop Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese 2This recipe isn’t clean but it’s a surefire way to get my kids to eat vegetables. I’m always an advocate for sneaking them in wherever I  can. Though they can see the broccoli, there’s enough pasta and cheese to distract them. Stovetop Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese 4
I’ve always loved broccoli in my macaroni and cheese (even as a kid) so I loved this quick and easy stovetop version. I grew up on baked macaroni and cheese, which is still my favorite, but it’s nice to have a fast option for weeknights. I love to serve this with grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts slathered in barbecue sauce. Something about the combination is perfect for me.
Stovetop Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese 1Feel free to switch out the cheese for your favorites but I have to tell you, the combination of the sharp cheddar and colby was pretty magical. Buuut, I feel that way about most cheeses. When my Grandma was visiting recently, she asked if I could ever be a vegetarian or vegan. I told her I think I could give up meat/poultry but never, ever cheese. Because of recipes like this. Stovetop Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese 3
Stovetop Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb. short cut pasta
3/4 lb. broccoli, bite size
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
2 cups whole milk, warmed
8 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded
8 oz. colby cheese, shredded

1. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. During the last 2 minutes of cooking, add the broccoli. Drain. Put back into empty pot.

2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk for 2 minutes. Stir in the salt and pepper. Slowly add about 1/3 of the milk, whisking while adding. Stir until slightly thickened then add another 1/3. Stir again until combined and slightly thickened then add the last of the milk. Stir until thick and creamy. Remove from heat and stir in cheeses until melted. Combine the cheese sauce with the noodles and broccoli and serve.

Photo Friday

We celebrated Noah’s 5th birthday on Saturday with a sports party. It was unbearably hot so we didn’t get to play outside as much as we would have liked but it was still a good time. We even got to end the celebration with his last t-ball game of the season.

Just to warn you, this week’s post is a lot more picture heavy than usual. I just couldn’t narrow it down to a reasonable amount of pictures.

I love a good theme party so for the favors we went with baseball, peanuts and cracker jacks tied together with a whistle. Sorry parents.
Noah's 5th Birthday

Delicious {store-bought} kettle corn, a baseball glove filled with bubble gum and some fun sports shaped candies. We used this candy mold and candy melts to make them. He made them all by himself, except for the microwaving.
Noah's 5th Birthday
Side note: when Noah was little he asked if he could have gum and we told him he had to be 5. We just picked a random age, not thinking he would remember. But our little rule lover (not that he loves all the rules but he’s very much of a 1st born personality and likes to have clear boundaries set) remembered and has been waiting for the big 5 so he could have gum. So of course I had to buy the huge bucket of Dubble Bubble for the occasion.

Here he is trying it for the first time. He was so excited.
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Noah's 5th BirthdayNoah's 5th Birthday

All the sports food {plus hot dogs and homemade lemonade not pictured}.
Noah's 5th Birthday

Joel set up a bunch of different sports stations in the backyard. Noah's 5th BirthdayNoah's 5th BirthdayNoah's 5th Birthday

Presents.
Noah's 5th BirthdayNoah's 5th Birthday
Noah's 5th BirthdayNoah's 5th Birthday
Noah's 5th Birthday

Funfetti cupcakes with cotton candy frosting, recipe coming soon.
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Pinata time.
Noah's 5th BirthdayNoah's 5th Birthday
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Sharing a seat at Noah’s t-ball game.
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Noah's 5th BirthdayNoah's 5th Birthday

Banana Pudding Sundae

More ice cream is coming your way! I hope you aren’t getting tired of it yet.
Banana Pudding Ice Cream

Today’s recipe is for a delicious, simple ice cream sundae created by Top Chef All-Star, author and busy mom Antonia Lofaso. I have always loved Top Chef and it’s amazing to see the careers chefs build because of the show. Banana Pudding Ice Cream
Antonia recently teamed up with Breyers to create 5 amazingly easy and delicious family friendly recipes inspired by her childhood and favorite ingredients. All the recipes feature Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream which is now made only with milk and cream sourced from farmers who do not treat their cows with artificial growth hormones. The vanilla beans that go into this sinfully simple ice cream are 100% obtained from Rainforest Alliance Certified vanilla beans and sustainable farmed sources. Pretty awesome, right? Because much of the time, there’s just not enough hours in the day to make homemade ice cream so knowing we can choose something that’s better for our family and the environment is a major plus.
Banana Pudding Ice Cream

All of the recipes seriously scream summer and it was incredibly hard to choose just one to feature this week. After some family polling, we decided on the Banana Pudding Sundae. This sweet little sundae took about 5 minutes from start to finish and was a total crowd pleaser. The kids were hanging on my legs, begging for more. Banana Pudding Ice Cream
It starts off with Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream and is topped with caramelized bananas and vanilla wafers to simply recreate the childhood classic, banana pudding. The bananas were sweet and when combined with a bite of cookie, tasted like banana bread topped with ice cream. Honestly, I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did. Sort of didn’t want to share with those little beggers.
Banana Pudding Ice Cream
The combination of temperatures and textures made this perfection for me and I predict it will be making many appearances around here this summer.

I have to share these last two photos of my little assistant. I told him I was going to take some pictures quick then we could eat. He disappeared and reappeared in a flash with his new camera he got for his birthday in hand. He thought we needed an extreme close up.
Banana Pudding Ice Cream

Gosh I love this boy. He’s going to be 5 on Sunday and I’m trying to keep it together. Banana Pudding Ice Cream
*Disclaimer: the ice cream was provided to me free of charge but all opinions are my own.

Banana Pudding Sundae
recipe from Antonia Lofaso
serves 2

1/2 large ripe banana, cut into 4 equal pieces
1 Tbsp. turbinado sugar
1 tsp. butter
1 cup Breyers® Natural Vanilla Ice Cream
4 vanilla wafer cookies

1. Put banana pieces on a baking sheet and sprinkle flat sides with turbinado sugar. Melt butter in a small nonstick skillet and sauté bananas.

2. To assemble each, scoop Breyers® Natural Vanilla Ice Cream into a small wide rimmed glass. Then wedge 2 cookies on either side and top with sautéed bananas.