{nearly} wordless wednesday: missing you...

Baba was shaving with his electric razor one evening and George was very interested in both the buzzing gadget and the process.  I ran to grab the camera and caught this.

A perfect moment frozen in time. 

A foreshadow of a day far (but never far enough) in the future when father will pass along knowledge to his son. 

The logo on my husband's tee shirt reads "PRIDE".

Oh, yes.

My heart can hardly bear all of the love, tenderness and caring in this image.  Especially today as Mr. Boom has started a stretch of overnight work shifts and knowing we won't see too much of him during the next few weeks. Miss you already...


catching up...

As for George...We just returned from G's fifteen month pediatric appointment.  He weighs in at 24.7 pounds (50%), measures 32 inches (75%) and his head is 48 cm (75%).  The doctor was very impressed as he demonstrated his climbing ability, flipped through the pages of board books and charmed her with his dimpled grin.  Although babies raised in bi-lingual homes often start talking much later than kids learning one language, she mentioned that his dozen or more words are actually above the average for his age. He braved it through three vaccines and happily accepted a Spiderman sticker pop (stickers back to back on the end of a tongue depressor) as we left the office. 

We have a new obsession around here: Trains.  Lots and lots and lots of trains. The container that holds them is emptied out first thing in the morning and not cleaned up until a few minutes before bedtime.  All day long, trains run around our kitchen floor, furniture and window sills.  And, tracks?  Ha!  Who needs tracks?  Our trains run on any surface our little guy can imagine.  And, that is the point.  Imagination.  Just what we want for him.  The electronic toys were already at a minimum around here and now, they are all but forgotten.  In favor of "chhhhhhhooooooos."  Many thanks to my cousin and her girls for some hand-me-downs that were happily added to our small starter stash - rest assured they are already well-loved :)

When G is concentrating hard or processing something new, he wears this expression and utters an "Oooo" sound.  I love capturing these little bits, pieces and quirks of his development.
On the homefront...We are still on a search for the elusive perfect-for-us house and, while we look, are starting to get the condo ready to list.  This past Friday night, Mr. Boom and I took a trip to Home Depot and left with paint, a closet organizer, interior doors and hardware and a plan to get a start on improvements during the weekend.  The closet organizer is installed and we both have a bit more work to do before it is blog-worthy but, we are both happy with how it turned out and the better use of space.  When it's all together, I'll post before and after photos.  Bringing out the tools for this project meant that Mr. Boom had a good use for this handy little stocking stuffer from Christmas: 

On saving money...I am actively shopping grocery sales and couponing.  My weekly savings at the grocery checkout averages about $25.  But, this weekend, even though it was the trip for stocking up on meats I was able to combine sales prices with coupons and doublings to save a whopping $36.70!  That's a third of the total bill.  Very, very pleased and well worth the pre-planning.
Some of the best deals:
(3) Coffeemate creamers for $2.50 (on sale 3 for $5, used a $1 off coupon + a 75 cent coupon that the store doubled)
(2) Yoplait Yogurt 4-packs for $3.50 (on sale 2 for $5, used 50 cent coupon that the store doubled and saved an extra 50 cents for scanning items myself)
Pork shoulder $1.99/lb - purchased a 3 pound cut that is in the crockpot right now for our Pulled Pork dinner tonight 
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts $1.99/lb - purchased 4 pounds
Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs $1.99/lb - purchased 4 pounds

In order to really take advantage of meat sales, I use a very essential kitchen tool: a vacuum sealer.  I bought a FoodSaver several years ago off QVC and it has paid for itself many times over.  Whenever there is a great meat sale, I have no qualms about stocking up and no worries about using the meat before it's expiration as I'm able to vacuum seal in portions that suit our family and certain recipes, then freeze them for later. 

The bags I put together today are a perfect example.  Four chicken breasts are the amount needed to make Shredded Taco Chicken (a favorite in our meal rotation) and two pounds of chicken thighs are just the right amount for the Chicken Marsala slow cooker recipe or, one of a few others. Saving money and saving time = a saner me (or, that's what I keep telling myself!).


you, at 15 months..

My sweet George,

You are officially a toddler and are living up to that title and then some!  So curious about your world, a constant explorer and communicating with us more each day.  It is so much fun watching you play, interact and discover. You are an incredibly happy and sweet boy and we are thankful everyday for you and your easy disposition. At 15 months, you...
  • are walking like a champ, starting to run and still climbing everything 
  • got you first pair of "real" shoes: New Balance sneakers, size 6 wide
  • wear 18 month clothing
  • make a "ooo, ooo" sound when you are excited about something or want to get our attention, making an "o" with your mouth, and point to what you want
  • are still an excellent eater.  You have at least one apple each day and also love bananas, clementines and blueberries.  Some other favorites now are veal with orzo, lentil soup, turkey chili, shredded taco chicken, pastina with chicken and carrots, blueberry waffles and egg and cheese omelettes 
  • when you want milk or, if we ask you "Thelis gala?" (Do you want milk? in Greek), you run to the refrigerator and try to open the door. Same goes for your milo (apple)
  • say Mama, Baba, ba-oo (balloon), ba (ball), go and got it.  You understand much more than you can speak and this is very normal for toddlers in bi-lingual homes.
  • are very ticklish under your arms and give us fantastic giggles whenever we play Tickle Monster
  • still adore Sesame Street.  Your favorite episode of late is one where Elmo gets ahold of Abby's wand and makes everyone sing. Baby Bear and Mr. Hooper sing about porridge and you smile and laugh the whole way through the song, "I'm talking porridge, porridge, porridge, yummy, yummy porridge!" The tune is now stuck on constant loop in Mama and Baba's heads
  • know how to kick a ball with your instep.  You dribble your small basketball or soccer ball  through the house daily
  • love your books...to their demise! We have had to replace several of your favorites as they were, ahem, over loved and literally fell apart
  • have complete crying and yelling meltdowns when we need to change your diaper in public restrooms.  I have no idea why this is happening but hope it is a stage that passes quickly
  • give the best hugs and kisses
  • weighed in at 25 pounds even at a recent sick visit to the doctor.  I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of your stats at your fifteen month appointment next week
  • are still getting used to your feet and wearing shoes on different terrain.  You've taken a few tumbles, resulting in some scrapes and your first boo-boo requiring a band-aid
  • love taking walks around town.  You will happily sit in your stroller for long stretches of time around town, people watching and pointing to the trucks as they drive by
  • have so much fun at our local parks with lots of structures to climb and room to run.  We were lucky to have some early spring days in the past month for you to explore our parks for the first time since you started walking. 
  • can reach doorknobs.  We had to put safety caps on the front and bathroom doors, just in case
  • are very interested in figuring out how things work: taking things apart, seeing how pieces fit and pushing buttons
  • go nap once a day for 1.5-2 hours, usually about 4 hours after you start the day. Lately, you have started initiating your own naps, going to the refrigerator and signaling that you would like milk.
  • bedtime is 7:00 pm.
  • when we are home, you cannot stand to have me out of your sight. When out, you will go quite a distance to play, occasionally check to make sure I am still around and, every once in awhile, will came back just to give me a quick hug *melt*
  • are a great car traveler. You will either sit quietly in your seat (still rear-facing), playing with a few toys and listening to music or, you will drift off to sleep
Life with you is such an incredible joy.  Every time you meet a new milestone or discover something new, I think, "This is my favorite age/stage." Then, the next one proves to be even more exciting.  We  can't wait to see what's to come...

I love you to the moon and back, and again,


    toys, glorious toys...

    Tomorrow, G and I will be taking a short road trip to meet up with my cousin and her girls at the happiest place on Earth.  No, silly, not Disney.  Ikea!

    I could spend days hours on end winding and browsing through all of the rooms and aisles.  Sitting on furniture.  Picturing myself and our belongings in simulated living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens.  And, then there is the not so small matter of the Swedish meatballs.

    A trip to Ikea with toddler in tow means only going on a weekday to avoid huge crowds, taking plenty of play breaks and, of course, finding something new to bring home from the toy department.  Super inexpensive and super cute goods for the small set.  I can envision a signature bright yellow shopping bag filled with this fabric play food ($4.99-7.99):

    A few of these puppets ($3.99) - we already have the zebra and he loves it:

    And, perhaps, this sand play ice cream cone set ($2.99):
    This is going to be a fun trip for Mama George :)


    project life 2011: update...

    It's been about a month since the much coveted white box arrived on my doorstep.  Opening each piece and going through the contents was fun but, also a bit disconcerting. How would I keep up this year since it was already February and I was already, technically behind? 

    Simple.  I decided NOT to be behind - it's all in the definition and perspective. Project Life can be anything you want it or need it to be. This year's album won't start on January 1st.  Instead, it starts on Monday, February 14th.  I have the best records of this year beginning on that date.  Works for me.

    What about the first month and a half of the year?  Those photos and stories will be scrapbooked. I have over a dozen page ideas sketched out and journaling jotted down in a notebook, complete with dates, titles and descriptions of the photos to use, ready to go when I make the time to sit and create. 

    How I am approaching this year is different as well.  Last year, I attempted to do a photo a day and then label each photo during editing with the day of the week and date.  Exhausting, time consuming and not realistic for being a first time mom.  I have January through May finished in that format and the rest, well, I'll figure it out.  This year I have a plan:

    1) Journal everyday: I picked up a 4x6 weekly pocket planner in the clearance section at Target for $1.  It's small, light and travels with me wherever I go - switched from diaper bag to work bag to purse depending on what my day looks like.  I jot a few things about each day in the calendar.  Sometimes it's just the mundane schedule, other times it includes an anecdote. The important thing is that I am writing down little memory cues for myself so that, later, I sit down and expand on the information on the PL journaling cards. Relying on my memory alone is a set-up for failure a la Mommy Brain.  This works better.
    2) A Project Life On-the-Go Kit: I travel all over New York City for work and often have down time during lunch breaks or as I am waiting for students to arrive for a training.  Times when I am not at my home office or sitting at my desk, without access to a computer, and where I can take a few minutes to journal.  I had been holding on to a mini metal 'lunchbox' that once housed Maya Road chipboard pieces.  It ended up being the perfect size to hold: 
    • pen (I use a Sharpie pen...love them)
    • black permanent ink pad (rubber band secures the lid for travel)
    • PL date stamp
    • box of asst'd jouranling cards (half with the plain grid, half of the patterned variety)
    • day of the week stickers
    • a few post-it notes for practice stamping or removing excess ink from the stamp
    Using this kit and my mini calendar, I can easily catch up on journaling cards wherever I go.

    3) Photos: I'm taking photos constantly but, printing them is another matter. Primarily, I use Shutterfly and order my prints on matte paper.  I've been very happy with their quality, turnaround and customer service (they are not giving me any incentive to say so - I just like the company). Although it generally takes about a week to receive prints in the mail with the standard shipping, the quality is far better than any of our local one-hour places.  I print only when I have a coupon code, free print offer and (now that I have over 3,000 points saved) plan to redeem my Pampers Gifts to Grow points for free printing packages. I am now uploading my photos into weekly albums in my Shutterfly account so that I can easily select out just the dates I need for Project Life.

    -----> Are you doing PL 2011?  How it is going and what is working for you?


    friday faves: the hubs, food and words...

    Favorite thing about my Husband: Easy...the way he loves both me and George unconditionally. I am blessed to see his face first and last each day, to be encircled in his embrace and to have him as such a hard-working provider for our family.  It's just that simple and just that complex.  He is a family man and he loves us.  There isn't anything more I could ask for.

    Favorite Restaurant: Considering how much I love to eat, this should have been an easy choice.  We don't eat out often and I haven't been to this particular restaurant in a couple of years but, it remains one of my local favorites and, if given the choice, I'd go again and again.  Swaddee House of Thai in Thornwood, NY. 

    I fell in love with their red and massaman curries and pad thai when I lived just a few blocks away and continued to go back every chance I got even after I moved away.  It's a tiny little spot for a leisurely meal with charming servers and authentic tastes and ambiance. And, now I'm hungry!

    Favorite Children's Book: There are several current favorites in our house that are read to exhaustion.  In fact, we've even had to replace a few copies as they have been eaten worn through. I am thankful that my son seems to have as much of a love of books as I had at his age. He'll sit flipping through pages for long periods of time and asks us to read his favorites several times a day. Always guaranteed to get a giggle from the little man are:
    • But Not the Hippopotamos, Sandra Boynton
    • Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?, Dr. Seuss
    • Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, Al Perkins 
    • Moo, Baa, La La La, Sandra Boynton
    • Curious George at the Park, H. A. Rey
    I have far too many of my own childhood favorites to ever list here but, one stand out has always been Anne of Green Gables.  I read the entire series several times over, lost in the life and adventures of Anne Shirley.  Which has me wondering if all those volumes are still in my parents basement somewhere?


    just a little break...

    I have a bunch of stories and ideas for posts buzzing in my head.  The past few months, I have taken some time on the weekends to get my thoughts into the computer, schedule posting in advance and have it on the ball.  Not this week.  Instead, I enjoyed every moment of the last several days with my favorite guys and the budding spring weather.  Ignoring the computer and just living life. 

    One week a month I work five days - three weekdays and a full weekend.  Rather than stressing about trying to cram in blogging, I'm letting it go and taking a very short hiatus until my schedule returns to normal.  If I have some time and decide to put one up, I may go with it but, if not, I'll see you all back here next week.

    Until then, here are a few of my favorite photos from this Saturday at the park:
    Life is good...


    friday faves: blog, sport and memory...

    Favorite blog (other than your own): I have a confession.  I have 265 blogs in my Google Reader.  I love to read what's happening in the blogosphere from other moms, cooks, photographers and random others. It's a wee bit of an addiction but, at least it's not life-threatening...ha!  But my favorite if I was forced to choose just one?  The Pioneer Woman.  Ree Drummond is an amazingly talented woman and I have absolutely no idea how she finds the time to do everything she does in life: homeschool her kids, come up with incredible recipes, write books and blog everything - in photo diary format no less! If you haven't read her blog, do yourself a favor and start now...
    Favorite sport: Long ago, I was on swim teams and in college I dabbled in playing tennis.  Now?  I stroller walk around town.  As that hardly qulifies as a sport, I'll choose football.  I like to watch football and Steelers games are major events in our home.  We're even grooming the next generation of fans...
    Favorite memory:  I have been blessed with so many but, naming one single memory for this challenge wasn't really a challenge at all.  The moment my husband carried our swaddled, newborn son to me to inspect his face, kiss his sweet chubby cheek, is the one that brings me to tears and has me catching my breath everytime it comes to mind. The moment I became a mother:


    chasing spring...

    It is March and I am officially done with the cold weather (hear that, Mother Nature?). This has felt like the longest winter on record and although, yes we did have an inordinate amount of snow and frigid temps, I think it has more to do with having had to coop up a very active toddler. Now, said toddler has a ridiculous amount lot of toys but, even favorite things have their limits. Every time the temps have ventured into the mid-forties or above and the sun has deigned to shine down on us, I have bundled us both up and taken the little man for a walk.

    Last week, we had just enough of a thaw to allow him to set foot on the ground for the very first time. His first time running around outdoors was on the soccer field just a couple of blocks from our house.  In true Greek spirit, he took off running from end to end. He was in his new-walker glory:
    This Monday, it was colder than I would have liked but by late afternoon he was going a bit stir-crazy and taking me down with him so, we headed out again.  To his delight, the toddler park was finally free of snow and he was able to swing, climb, explore and run to his heart's content.  It such a shame that he hates being outside, eh ;-)
    I predict that this spring is going to be loads of fun!


    to rescue disappearing dollars...

    In case you haven't heard or felt it yet, fuel and grocery costs have all been sky-rocketing in the past month.  When I filled the gas tank in our mid-size sedan this weekend it cost me over $62.00 at $3.699 a gallon for regular.  And, it's still on a rapid rise.  Wallet fail!

    Although I work part-time, my commutes are long. Forty minutes to my home office and two hours on my Brooklyn days (about once a week).  That makes the pump, in addition the grocery check-out, painful.  There isn't anything I can do about my gas consumption as I need to get to work and have no one around me for carpooling (and it doesn't help that we live in one of the gas cost "red zones").  But groceries?  I can save there. 

    Now, I'm no extreme couponer.  Not even close.  Over the past few years, I have clipped coupons here and there and, occasionally, even remembered to use one or two at the check-out. Since the beginning of this year, I have been much better about both clipping and using coupons but, they have been less than organized.  Basically a big jumble of clippings thrown in a zippered pouch in the diaper bag.  Not really helpful when I needed to put my hands on a particular slip of paper.
    This week, determined to put some order to the chaos and start shaving some more off of our grocery bill, I finally sat down, labeled my coupon wallet and got them all sorted. 
    I have my coupons separated into the following categories:
    • Baby
    • Baking
    • Breakfast
    • Cans
    • Condiments
    • Dairy
    • Frozen
    • General Grocery
    • Snacks
    • Paper Products
    • Cleaning/Laundry
    • Toiletries/OTC
    The store where I most frequently shop prints relevant coupons at check-out that are good for a limited time and only at that store so, I've added those right in the front so they are easy to spot. The space right behind the zippered section I'm earmarking for dining out coupons. 

    What's the plan from here?  This weeks' grocery list is written out and I've noted "coupon" and the brand next to each item where I have one on-hand.  Before I go shopping, I'll take those coupons out of my organizer and clip them to my list so they are handy and get used.  I'll have the wallet with me in case I need to pull out something extra. I'm hoping that between shopping sales, meal planning and couponing, I can spare my bank account some of the economic sting this month has in store!

    I'll update now and again with my savings and any tips that would be helpful to pass along.  If you have any tips to share, please leave a comment!


    project simplify: or, we really need to get rid of this stuff...

    We are three people living in a cozy condo. 
    We are looking for a new home. 
    We need to get our current home together and on the market. 
    We have too. much. stuff. 

    Enter Project Simplify.  I've been a reader of the Simple Mom blog for sometime and when i read about this challenge, I knew the timing couldn't be better.  Yes, I already have a lot on my plate and, proven in February, am not the best at following through on goal setting but, this simply needs to get done.  I'm joining in.  I'm not going to lie, I'm terrified about the "Before" photos part.  Terrified.  But, I need to see the results and the "Afters".  Here goes nothing...

    How it works, direct from Simple Mom:
    For five weeks, we’ll work together and tackle different areas of our homes. Be encouraged and inspired, knowing that there are other families around the world rolling up their sleeves and working alongside you!

    1. On Monday, I’ll announce that week’s “hot spot” project.

    2. You’ll have the week to declutter, clean, and organize that area — don’t forget to take “before” and “after” photos (no straightening up ahead of time, either!).

    3. On Friday, I’ll reveal my own “before” and “after” photos.

    4a. You’ll also post your photos and write about your experience on your own blog, then link to it on Simple Mom.

    4b. If you don’t have a blog, you can share your “before” and “after” photos in the Simple Living Flickr pool, describing your experience in the photos’ description. (You can also do this even if you have a blog.)

    5. Rest from the week’s hard work by browsing everyone else’s photos (and find inspiration for the next project!).

    6. Cross your fingers in hopes that you’ve won that week’s giveaway.

    This weeks Hot Spot: WARDROBE
    I think I may have breathed an audible sigh of relief when I saw this week's Hot Spot revealed.  Why?  Mr. Boom and I both already tackled this task over the past few months.  Just this past Thursday I dropped a huge bag of my own clothing off for donation.  But, it seems there is always more to do so, though the closet is in decent shape right now, I'll tackle my two remaining messy dresser drawers this week.  Specifically, my sock and underwear drawers.  And, no, I won't be posting an after of that ;-)


    take-out at home: simple slow cooker chicken teriyaki

    Sometimes I want take-out without the expense, the pick-up drive or delivery wait.  Sometimes chinese food at home sounds like a good idea.  So, I came up with this slow cooker version of chicken teriyaki.  We got two plus tasty meals out of this for less than the cost of one chinese order.  This is my first Messily Ever After original recipe - please let me know what you think!

    Simple Slow Cooker Chicken Teriyaki
    A Messily Ever After original recipe

    2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken pieces (I used 1 lb. breasts, 2 lb. thighs)
    1 lb. bag baby carrots
    1 medium onion, roughly chopped
    1 red bell pepper, sliced
    1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
    20 oz. can pineapple chunks, in juice
    1 cuup teriyaki sauce, low-sodium
    1 Tbsp hoisin sauce (found in the Asian section in your grocery store)
    1 tsp soy sauce, low-sodium
    1/4 tsp ground ginger

    Place chicken in bottom of slow cooker and cover with vegetables.  Add pineapple and juice.  Pour remaining ingredients over the top.  Cover and cook on LOW 6-6 hours or HIGH 4-6 hours.  Serve over hot rice.


    friday favorites: possession, celebration and gift...

    Favorite or most prized possession (must be an object, not including photos): There were so many different ways I could have gone with this one and I almost chose my volumes of scrapbooks.  Not quite cheating because, while they contain do photos, they are also so much more. As dear as those scrapbooks and the hobby and memories they represent are to me, they sit on a shelf.  The possession that is most prized is one I have with me, worn on me, everyday.  My wedding set. Yes, I love the design and the sparkle. Oh, the sparkle! 

    What is most prized about these two rings was what my husband and I just celebrated this past Monday: our marriage and the commitment to be together, raise and family and to be true only to one another.

    Favorite holiday: Thanksgiving.  No hesitation, no compromises.  I love Thanksgiving. The food, the family and laughter.  No pressure to decorate, find the perfect tree, gift, card or ornament.  Just a day with people I love sharing amazingly delicious food. 

    Favorite gift you've ever received or given (life doesn't count): I have been blessed and fortunate to have received some incredible gifts in my life so, I'm keeping this one fairly recent.  And, I'm using two for this one because, well, it's my blog and I can *wink*  One tangible and one an experience.

    1) My beloved camera, a gift from my wonderful husband on the day of my baby shower.  The gift that keeps giving day after day as I capture images of our world, our family and strive to learn more and more.  Canon 50D along with the Canon 50mm f/1.4 and Tamron 28-75 f/2.8
    2) BON JOVI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (No, there are not too many exclamation points)  For your second wedding anniversary Mr. Boom got us tickets to see Bon Jovi live in concert in early May.  Bon Jovi.  I have wanted to see them in concert since seventh grade.  That, my friends, is a long wait finally come due.  Wooooooot!
    (My apologies for the original post that was riddled with spelling errors - fixed now!)


    3 in 30: update and what's next...

    At the beginning of February I posted about this challenge and spelled out my three goals for the month. So, how did I fare?  So-so.  I did scrapbook some by working on Project Life and will be keeping this as one of my monthly goals until I find a real rhythm and routine for making it a priority. The shelves in the bathroom were purged of numerous half-empty and expired bottles of toiletries.  It's ready to be removed and the remaining contents added to the drawers of a much smaller piece.  Lastly, the dresser top.  February's nemesis.  It just didn't get done. I'm still planing to go there but getting to organize the bedroom (the one completely un-baby proofed room) is easier said than done.  Ah well.

    March is a new month and, with it, comes three new goals. This month will be busy with going away one weekend to visit family and working another but, there are things that still need to be accomplished:
    1. Scrapbook at least one page/layout each week:  Whether a week in Project Life or a traditional layout this is one I need to get done.  I have several page ideas sketched out in a notebook along with journaling and need to translate a few to paper.  A step ahead, most of the photos are already printed!
    2. Bring lunch to work each day: For health and for being budget conscious as we move forward house hunting, this just has to become part of my daily routine.  I'm giving myself one exception - I eat out the one day a month that I work at Wall Street.  Trecking my lunch through the subways = gross.  And I just don't want to give up that one lunch at Pump.
    3. Participate in Project Simplify: Look for my first post on this on 3/8/11...


    george, meet george...

    G has taken an interest in trains. When we are out running errands, I try to plan them around a stop at the bookstore so that he can get some playtime at the Thomas table. We had picked up a few generic Target brand trains to keep in the diaper bag for the days that the official Thomas trains are missing from the play area but, he already knows the difference.  It's the faces.  He likes holding up the trains and having conversations with their round plastic faces *dies from cuteness*

    One day, I'm sure he will amass quite the collection of Thomas trains. I'm not too keen on making that huge investment right now when our little guy is still very interested in exploring everything with his mouth.  $20 trains with teeth marks?  No thanks. But Mr. Boom managed to find a couple of deals on eBay and, last night THE 'train' arrived. 

    Our George was introduced to George the Steamroller...
    He played with the packaging for awhile, taking it in and out, over and over... 
    Oh the joy!
    Hmm, wonder how this works? 
    Good job Daddy! This gift was a big hit.


    recipe: convenience food turned homemade...

    With work, keeping up with a home and chasing after a very active toddler, time is at a premium.  Admittedly, there have been evenings where I have turned to convenience foods or meal kits in a pinch.  It's something I have never liked to do, knowing they are packed with sodium, fat and processed junk ingredients.  Using the slow cooker is great when planning ahead but, sometimes a meal needs to be put together on a shorter timeline and still be appealing to everyone. 

    Surely, something like a Hamburger Helper could be made out of pantry ingredients, right?  I looked for a basic recipe online, came up with a few and played around to make my own version.  It took 30 minutes from start to finish, ended up tasty and made enough for two plus meals for our family of three.  The guys were happy with the flavor and I was happy to find a quick, healthier alternative to a meal in box.  The ingredient list may look long but, many are spices. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
    Cheesy Beef and Macaroni

    1 lb. box elbow macaroni
    1 small onion, diced
    1 lb. lean ground beef or ground turkey
    1 red bell pepper, diced
    1 yellow bell pepper, diced
    2 Tbsp butter or margarine
    1.5 cups skim milk
    1/4 cup flour
    1 tsp seasoned salt
    1/2 tsp paprika
    1/2 tsp garlic powder
    1/4 tsp black pepper
    1 Tbsp parsley
    2 cups shredded cheddar jack cheese, (8 oz. bag)

    Brown meat in skillet with onion.  Add peppers and saute 4-5 minutes until tender.  Meanwhile, boil pasta in a separate pot.  Drain and set aside. 

    In pasta pot, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk milk, flour and all seasonings together then add to pan with butter.  Once milk mixture is warm, add cheese and whisk until melted. Add pasta and meat mixture and stir.  Serve immediately.
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