Easter Dinner

One of my favorite parts of any holiday is the food. I love sitting around the table with family, all enjoying a well-planned and well-prepared meal. I definitely was spoiled in that way growing up–anyone who knows my parents knows they are the best cooks/hosts around. It just doesn’t feel like a holiday to me without at least one big meal with a fully set table complete with seasonal decorations.

So, now that I have my own little family to celebrate holidays with, I find myself planning the same sort of meals. I thought you might want to get a glimpse of our Easter table this year! And just in case you think it costs a ton to put on a meal like this, think again. Our dinner cost about $5/person. Delicious and cheap!

Happy daffodils from our yard decorated our Easter dinner table.

Herb Crusted Lamb Breast (serves 4)
1.5 lb lamb breast
2 c bread crumbs
3 TBS olive oil
3 TBS chopped parsley
2 TBS dried rosemary

Season the lamb breast with salt and pepper. Combine the bread crumbs, olive oil, parsley, and rosemary to create a rub. Add more olive oil if the mixture isn’t coming together to create a paste. Rub the bread crumb mixture over both sides of the lamb. Place the lamb breast in a baking dish and cook at 325 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes.

I made up this recipe this year using two other recipes for inspiration. It turned out delicious. Lamb breast is a very cheap cut of lamb, because it is a little fatty. Just cut away the fat and enjoy this succulent meat. Everyone will think you spent a ton on lamb, but you will know you didn’t!

Sweet Potato Casserole (serves 12)
This sweet potato dish is the BEST. It is from Cooking Light, but you would never guess that it was a light dish. It is sooo good that my husband won’t let me cook any other sweet potato dish. I usually go ahead and make the full recipe and then we enjoy leftovers for the following week. Seriously, so good. I had all the ingredients on hand except for sweet potatoes, so this was another cheap dish.

Buttered Green Beans with Mushrooms (serves 8 )
This was a fresh new take on a classic dish. I felt like the green beans could have used a few more minutes of steaming before going into the water bath. They were a bit crisp for my taste. But still, a nice side dish with little fuss. If you want to go even cheaper, just use porcini mushrooms instead of the specialty mushroom.

Easy Drop Biscuits (makes 6 biscuits)
These are such good biscuits. I’m not usually a fan of biscuits and these little guys still make me swoon. It’s probably that 1/2 cup of butter. Yum. I think that you can make the biscuits slightly smaller and make 8 instead. At least, that is what I did and nobody complained! Most of you will have all the ingredients for the on hand: cheap, easy, and yummy!

I hope you all had a great Easter!!


Sugar Cookies

I haven’t always loved baking, but I have ALWAYS loved making sugar cookies. There are pictures of me “helping” out with the process as early a one-year-old! Making sugar cookies is something of a tradition in my family. I can’t remember one year that they weren’t a part of our holiday celebration. I love every part of the process: making the dough, cutting out all those fun holiday shapes, baking the cookies, and then, decorating them with homemade icing.

This year I went out on a limb and tried a new recipe. I really hate cooking with Crisco because I have a thing against man-made food products. Give me real better any day over fake oils and margarines. Blech. But like I said, the sugar cookie tradition is really strong in my family, so using a different recipe felt almost sacrilegious. I’m happy to report that I didn’t get struck down by lightning . . . and the cookies were better than ever! Actually, I found the dough to much easier to handle and it rolled out really nicely.

I used Alton Brown’s sugar cookie recipe that utilizes just pure and unadulterated butter. Yum, yum, yum. I did add 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract to the recipe, because it’s so much better that way. For the icing, you just mix a bit of water with powdered sugar until it reaches the desired consistency, then add food coloring. You can add a bit of vanilla or peppermint extract to the frosting too. (I realized I just said I hate man-made food products and then described this frosting. Well, one thing at a time, right?)

Now, on to delivering the lovely sugar cookies to all our neighbors . . . because, that’s tradition too!


Christmas Cheer

Well, in honor of December 1st I’m going to post a little Christmas craft project. I’m sure many of you already have your house all decorated and festive, but we’re still in process over here. The tree is up (as you know!), the stockings are hung, the lit garland is up, the wreath is on the door, and there are two Christmas inspired table decorations. We tend to go big around here with Christmas decor, so we’ve got a little left to do.

Anyway, this year we decided to hang garland around our beautiful bay window in the dining room. It frames a huge pine tree in our yard that looks just glorious when it is covered in snow. To add a little ‘something’ to the garland, I decided to try my hand at a Mod Podge project. I know, it’s a shame, I call myself a crafter and I’ve never used Mod Podge. I’ve always wanted to and just never got around to it.

So, here is what I did: I purchased ornament shaped wood pieces from Joanns, some Mod Podge, sponge brushes, and some cute paper. I cut out the paper in the shape of the ornament piece and arranged in ornament-like patterns. Then, I added some Mod Podge as the glue, and then sealed it with some more once it had dried. And there you have it! Some cute decorations to add to the garland once it’s hung around the window!


The Tree

One of my favorite things about Christmas is having a Christmas tree. I love the look, feel, and smell that it provides to my living room. I could just sit for hours gazing at those twinkling lights and sparkling ornaments, listening to Christmas music, and truly getting into the Christmas mood. Growing up, I was always incredibly proud of our Christmas tree. It always had a combination of unique beautiful ornaments with fun sentimental ones. Classy and home-y at the same time. And now, I love getting to share that with my new family!

Hubster is also a huge tree fanatic. And I mean that in two senses: (a) his fanaticism is great (b) he loves really big trees. This year we have our tallest tree ever. I think it definitely fills the space to the max, but well, hubster is so very happy it is hard to object. After all, he who pays for tree should get to pick it out! We had to be a little more strategic this year about ornaments with our little walker nosing about the branches–but it’s still beautiful, and totally us!

Don’t ask why there is no topper for our tree. It’s a very long dramatic tale involving a dozen or so stores and a very ugly angel. End of story.

Each year we pick up a few new ornaments at the Christkindlmarket in downtown Chicago (along with the requisite Vienna Almonds, oh yum!). This is one of the newbies.

And here is Brian’s pick this year. It’s really hard to take a picture of but it is all clear glass with trumpet-like indents all around it. Lovely.

My pick this year was a simple heart. It’s totally corny (especially for someone like me), but our marriage is so precious to me right now I just had to buy this one. And it is beautiful too.

And what would a post be without a picture of our little buddy? I think he is enjoying the Christmas-y weather. Here is sporting a hat made by my grandmother. Many, many, many more pictures of our cute boy in cute hats to come. We’ve got two knitting grandmothers in the family and he’s got the hats to show for it!


Little Monkey

It’s no secret around these parts that there is a huge Monkey fan in our midst. (Side Note: little known fact, there is also a huge Monkee fan in our midst. I’ll let you use your imagination.) So, it should be no surprise that we dressed up the littlest member of our family in Monkey attire for Halloween. I scored a Monkey suit off craigslist for $5. The first time he tried it on, I couldn’t stop laughing because he was so darn cute. I may or may not have laughed so hard that it made him cry.

Thankfully, he recovered, and was a very good sport about being a Monkey. He even waddled a bit around the neighborhood, scrounging for some good candy from the neighbors. The cute factor definitely worked because he managed to bring home lots of sweet treats for mommy and daddy. So fun to have a little one to take trick-or-treating!

Getting ready to go out on the town.

“Mom, it’s hard to walk with these huge feet!”

Some of the neighbors even let him ‘monkey around’ a bit!

Very happy about his Hershey’s bar.
Thankfully, he is happy just holding it and didn’t fuss too much about not getting to eat it!


Pizza Night

I love family traditions. I grew up with a super creative mama who would decorate the house for every season and come up with all sorts of ways to celebrate the holidays. And I’m not just talking about the big holidays.

St. Patty’s Day? No problem. She’d whip up classic Irish feasts including corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots. Not to mention, she’d usually dye our milk green. July 4th? Peppermint ice cream, watching fireworks from the roof, and launching water balloons across the canyon. Labor Day? An all day beachfest with each meal getting better than the last. Seriously, we were spoiled.

So as our little family has grown, I’ve started to think about what kind of family traditions I’d like to have. I’ll probably end up following in my mama’s footsteps in regards to holidays, but I also really like the idea of a weekly family night. Enter: Pizza Night.

Once a week, I’ve started making my own pizza from scratch (100% whole wheat olive oil dough, from that book I keep raving about). It seems like the perfect fun and healthy way to have dinner as a family. I can’t wait until Parker is older and will have fun helping put together his own personal pizza. For now, he likes to watch from his highchair as we enjoy one another’s company.