Sunday, February 25, 2018

Italian Night

We try to keep a “regular” dinner schedule, however it isn’t as formal as several meal planning methods you have seen on Pinterest, I am sure.  We use “theme nights” to give me a little more fluidity throughout the week rather than having to stick to a schedule.  I previously shared our Taco Tuesday routine, but I wanted to share a favorite “theme” which is Italian Night.

For me, the theme changes with the seasons, ie, what is in my garden that I need to eat before the squirrels get it!  When I have fresh tomatoes, we have homemade spaghetti. In the late summer we have eggplant parmesan fresh from the garden.   When the weather is cooler, I turn to pesto made from basil from my aero garden and marinara for a bruschetta chicken spin. 

Italian night is a fun theme because it can be as simple as spaghetti and homemade meat sauce (my basic recipe is below), or as fancy as stuffed shells with a caesar salad and breadsticks. 

I enjoy the fluidity of these theme nights because it takes the guess work out of meal planning much like formal meal planning, but due to our ever-changing schedules, I don’t feel like I’m tied to spending two hours in the kitchen after a 12 hour work day!

Basic Homemade Meat Sauce

1 lb Ground Turkey

1 large can (about 2.5 cups) tomato paste

1 can (about 1.5 cups) diced tomatoes

Cook the ground turkey in a large sauce pan.  Once completely cooked pour in the tomato paste and diced tomatoes and let simmer for 10 to 20 minutes.  Add herbs to taste, try oregano and basil!  This recipe does not have to be exact and can be changed up to include fresh tomatoes or different types of herbs to taste.

For other “Italian Night” related recipes, click here.

How do you get out of your dinner rut?  Have you ever tried theme nights instead of a formal meal plan?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Product Review: AeroGarden Harvest Wifi

This past Christmas, I asked Santa for an AeroGarden and he answered!  I was introduced to the AeroGarden while shopping at Sur la Table and automatically thought it would be a great addition to my kitchen!   I have grow lamps and shelves set up in my basement for the winter months, but having fresh herbs at my fingertips is fantastic!

If you haven’t heard of an AeroGarden before, it is an all-in-one aqua system for your kitchen. 

The first thing I did when I opened up my AeroGarden was read the directions.  There are certain height requirements to make sure you can raise the light source properly, but it fights under most kitchen cabinets.

Next, I set up the AeroGarden with water, the pods that came with the kit, the plant food, and then I waited!  Here is a picture after 4 days.  As you can see, my seedlings are growing!!

As a busy business professional, it is nice that the AeroGarden blinks when it needs food or water, you don’t have to worry about the levels!

I had a few issues connecting the AeroGarden to the wifi in order to use my tablet as a remote, but I was able to figure it out.  I ended up not using the remote feature as often as I assumed I would.  The AeroGarden is more of a “set it and forget it” appliance.

As far as the plants that come with the herb kit, the dill is growing at a much faster rate (as expected), therefore I have been harvesting it and using it in recipes or drying for longer term storage.  I have harvested the basil once already and made a batch of pesto!

AeroGarden has kit combos including a tomato kit, herb kit, and a blank kit for your own seeds.

After almost two months of use, here is my review:

    1.    Fresh herbs at your fingertips, what is not to love about that?
  2.    Self monitoring and blinking reminders means I don't need to remember             the water and feeding schedule.
  3.    Option to grow any type of seeds using the different types of kids.

  1.    Wifi App was a bit confusing and took several tries to connect, but the               app is not necessary to use the AeroGarden.
  2.    The LED lights are bright, and I mean BRIGHT!  The AeroGarden is the               brightest light in my house - not a deal breaker, but should be noted.  

If you are on the fence about getting an AeroGarden, I highly suggest it!  I love mine and use it everyday!  

Sunday, February 18, 2018

DIY: Bulb Vase

I love making homemade gifts for no reason at all!  You don’t have to wait for a holiday to celebrate the everyday!  When I told you about accidently “forcing” my tulip bulbs, I took the opportunity to share the touch of spring with family.  Finding single bulb vases can be tricky if they aren’t in season, so I decided to make my own.  

I took a few items from around my house to make bulb vases and wanted to share to hopefully spark some spring time creativity of your own!   

For a single bulb vase, I needed something that was transparent in order to see the bulb grow, as well as hold enough water for roots to grow, but not so much that the bulb would root.

While looking in my craft room stash of containers, I found a Nacho Cheese Container (cleaned of course) to use as a bulb vase.  In order to sit the bulb above a water line, I decided to use vase filler stones.

I’m so excited to share these with my friends and I can’t wait to see what they look like when they bloom!

For updates on this DIY project, as well as other updates, follow Classy Event Organizer on Facebook and Instagram!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

How to Start Seeds Indoors

Last year when I started seedlings I started them all at once without much of a plan.  This wasn’t a huge issue, except all my tomato, pepper, and eggplants flowered and went to fruit about the same time.  This meant I had to harvest and start canning in order to use up my plants before the squirrels got to them.

This year, I plan on growing my plants in shifts.  Once every two weeks I will start a handful of seedlings in order to enjoy my plants throughout the season instead of harvesting all at once.  Planting in shifts will also help me have a good idea of how may plants I have and not plant too many.  I live in zone 6a, therefore I start my seeds indoors in February!  Today I’m planting tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, arugala, basil, and cilantro.

Here are a few steps to plant your own seedlings indoors:

First, decide which seeds to plant! 

1.  Find your options - I went through my seed stash to see what I already had on hand, but most stores start stocking seeds at the end of January, early February.  You could also order seeds from online vendors.

2.  Calculate when to plant -  I turned over the seed packets to look at when they should be transplanted outside and how long the seeds should be indoors before transplanted and do the math backwards!  Use a calendar to help you calculate the number of weeks. 

3.  Decide how many of each to start – I decided I want to start a few seedlings this week, and a few more next week, so I started about four seedlings of each type. 

Second, decide how to plant the seedlings!  For my first set of seedlings, I decided to use Jiffy Windowsill Greenhouses, one new and one using refill pods.  When using kits, make sure you follow the directions. 

If using soil or refill pods, the goal is to make the soil extremely moist.  I let my pods soak fully for a solid twenty minutes before pouring out the excess.  Once the soil is ready to go, you just need to place the seeds as low into the pods as the back of the seed packets suggest.  If you aren’t using seed packets, I try to get the seeds about half an inch into the soil.  I use a nail to make a hole in the soil and then drop the seeds in! 

Third, make sure you label the pods which the seed type because it is hard to tell which type of plant is which until real leaves grow.     

Be patient with seeds, they can take a week and a half to show any activity because they are growing in the soil.  Growing a quick sprouting seed like arugala is fantastic to start with because you see results fairly quickly!  Here is a look at my week old arugala seeds.

Make sure you follow along on my Instagram or Facebook page where update photos are posted regularly!   

Sunday, February 11, 2018

DIY: Chocolate Chip "Heart" Pancakes

In trying to celebrate the everyday, I changed up my Sunday Morning chocolate chip pancakes to add a little “Love” to an early Valentine’s breakfast. 

Instead of throwing the chocolate chips in to the bowl with my favorite buttermilk pancake batter, I scooped out a pancake’s worth of batter into the pan and manually placed semi sweet chocolate chips in the shape of a heart.  I had to be a little bit careful when I flipped the pancakes, but they turned out perfect for a quick Valentine’s Day touch!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

A "Hershey Kiss" Valentine's Day!

To me, Hershey Kisses and Valentines day go hand in hand!  Over 5 years ago, I created a series of posts celebrating Valentine’s Day with Hershey Kisses that I wanted to pull out and share with you!  I’m planning on using a few of these “oldie but goodie” ideas for Valentine’s Day this year too!  

Sunday, February 4, 2018

DIY Forcing Bulbs

A busy schedule is something we all deal with, we just don’t get everything completed that we want to!  Last fall, I purchased tulip bulbs with the best intentions to plant them in the landscape, but I didn’t get a chance to do so.  When fall turned to winter, and the winter turned to above freezing, the Mr. found the already sprouting bulbs in the garage.

With this finding, I had a thought – my lack of follow through had started the “bulb forcing” process I might as well take this opportunity and make an arrangement!
Forcing Bulbs is the process of “faking” the environment a flower bulb needs in order to force it to bloom.
The first step in forcing bulbs is to start about 8 to 14 weeks (depending on the bulb) prior to when you want to start the blooming process and put your bulbs in the fridge to fake the “winter freezing” environment, this is their dormancy period.  My overzealous plans and garage did this part for me.

Rule of Thumb:
    Fridge in September to bloom in January
    Fridge in October to bloom in February
    Fridge in November to bloom in March
    Fridge in December to bloom in April

Next when you find your bulbs sprouting, take them out of the fridge, and into a cool place.  Once they turn green, it is time to give them water.  At this point you can put the bulbs in soil in a pot, or in water with gravel or decorative stones.  If you choose the water and gravel method, you will want a clear container to watch the water level.

Light and temperature are also important.  If you keep your bulbs in too warm an environment, they will get leggy. You will want to keep your bulbs growing in a window for some indirect sunlight and around 68 degrees. 

Here is some growth after about a week!  I will be sure to keep you updated with pictures of these arrangements!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

No Bake Cookies

No bake cookies don’t get enough respect.  Recipes for no bake cookies pop-up on Pinterest at Christmastime as a filler cookie because everyone is looking for an alternative cookie type to add to their trays.  Don’t get me wrong, I do the same thing at Christmas, but no bake cookies (or “no bakes” for short) have become a huge part of my regular routine for a few reasons:

1. You don’t have to bake them, which means no pre-heating the oven!  I’m on the go a lot and waiting for an oven to heat up, and then waiting for cookies to bake sometimes takes too long during the week.  Also, not turning on the oven in the warmer months is always a plus!

2. They are quick to make!  The total time to make these cookies from pulling the butter out from the fridge to eating the delicious treats is about 15 minutes – that’s not too bad for a homemade cookie.

3. They are made from household staples.  I really like these cookies because I don’t have to buy any weird ingredients only for these cookies.  We eat oatmeal for breakfast, always have sugar, vanilla and butter, and cocoa for our homemade Cincinnati Chili!  I don’t have to worry if I have an “odd” ingredient like cake flour in my cupboard!

I pack both my husband and my lunch’s every day and I started used no bakes as the dessert portion when I forgot to buy pre-packaged snacks one week.  Since we only go to the grocery store once a week and I knew that I had the ingredients for no bake cookies, I made a batch that Sunday night and had enough no bakes for the week (including few extra to munch on in the evening).  It was such a nice change, I now make no bake cookies each week!
If you have never made no bakes before, here is the recipe I use:

½ cup butter
½ cup milk
4 Tbs cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup peanut butter
2.5 cups oats

Mix butter, milk, cocoa and sugar in a microwave safe bowl for 3 minutes on high.  Stir and keep microwaving until melted and bubbly.  Microwave 3-5 more minutes, stir occasionally until lots of bubbles (roaring bubbles). 

Remove, quickly add peanut butter, vanilla, and oats. 

Stir completely.

Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper. 

Let cool until set.  Enjoy!
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