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Domestic Simplicity has moved!

September 14, 2013

Just posting one more reminder, if you haven’t come over to the new blog I’d love to see you there! 

http://pinestreetdays.blogspot.com/

Moving the Blog!

August 5, 2013

I would have been willing to swear to you up one side and down the other that when Google Reader ended in June, I had saved and transferred all of my stuff to Feedly.  Turns out, I didn’t.  Somehow some got saved, I have no clue what I messed up, but a funny thing happened: it took me until now to realize that so many were missing.  And I only realized because of a few I follow on Facebook and put it together that they posted new links and I realized they weren’t showing up in my reader.  Turns out, I really do like it better without less stuff and only added back in the blogs I was actively missing – digthischick and owl&twine especially.

You all know that I’ve toyed with whether or not to stick with this blog, especially because I don’t love the title of it, so I’ve decided to stop screwing around and just make the switch.  I thought for sure that I’d complicate it and do a few posts on the new one to have “content” before I shared and make sure the design was all nice, but I don’t feel like it.  And the biggest draw for me right now is that blogger lets me access my phone photos to put neatly into posts.  So that’s where I’m headed – catch you on the flip side!

The new site: Pine Street Days.  I’d love to see you over there.  I’m still not entirely sure what it’ll be, likely much of the same, but I’m starting to feel an intentional shift a bit more lately to wanting to share some stories and photos again and to focus more on real photos of our lives, not just forced styledness for the sake of blogging, and to spend a bit less time on client work to be able to share my photo love with my family.

Happy 4th of July!

July 4, 2013

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Nails, toast, hair and drinks all thanks to Pinterest :)

Airport trip courtesy of my sister who we got to pick up today as she got back from 3 years in the Peace Corp!

Hope you had a wonderful holiday!

Lately

June 12, 2013

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I was sitting at Panera getting some work done last night and a family sat down next to me.  Older sister and little brother, probably 9 and 7.  They looked SO OLD.  And it hit me like a ton of bricks that in just 3 shorts years (the time since this birthday party – feel free to chuckle when you look at that awesome photo editing and everything all out of focus:) mine will be the same exact ages.  Ton.Of.Bricks. I’m not exaggerating when I say I caught my breath for a second just taking that in.  I just couldn’t help but think for the millionth time, this is it. Right now, this is what you have of their childhood.  Sometimes I need a reminder.

Oh, hey, it’s officially summer!!  I’ve been going in phases with pulling out my camera vs. just having my phone around. But there have been birthday celebrations and last days of school and visits to the pool to give me a little nudge to keep grabbing for my  camera vs. my phone.  On the list coming up (that may or may not get blogged?): Strawberry and cherry picking.  Lemonade making.  Jam-making.  Cheese-making.  Swimming Lessons.  Picnics in the woods.  More swimming and more hikes in the woods.

p.s. More 6th birthday festivities over here!

Lately, From the Phone

May 31, 2013

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May, in phone photos.  That’s all I’ve got right now for you. I got a new phone a few weeks ago and it’s taken over our family photos completely – I have hardly anything with my real camera from recently. So this is what I have to offer:) Feel free to hang out with me on Instagram – @lillianranauro.

It feels like everything is growing at an insane rate around here lately – the garden (with stuff still left to plant this weekend!), the kids (HOW is it possible that on Monday I will officially be the mom to a 4 and 6 year old??) the chicks, the grass…it’s taking everything I’ve got right now just to keep it all fed and watered with a shake of some photo business on the side. It’s strawberry picking time and the pools are open, so excuse me while I head out for the sunshine! A week and a day left of school until it’s officially SUMMER!

16 Freezer Meals in a Weekend

May 28, 2013

16-freezermealsinaweekend

Well, technically 21 meals, but 16 for our family.  Last month my moms’ group had a freezer meal exchange.   It was genius and we all loved it so much that we scheduled another one for June.  In the interim, I decided that I loved it so much that I wanted to do more, but I wasn’t sure if we’d have enough room to do a ton.  Like magic, our neighbor came over to ask if my husband would be willing to power wash her deck for her in exchange for her extra chest freezer that she wasn’t using.  He would have done it without the offer of anything, but it was a definite yes!  We got it this past Friday night and I made plans Friday night and shopped Saturday to make a bunch of meals this weekend and it feels so great to have a stocked freezer.  I broke it up over two mornings (Sunday and Monday) because of our schedule, but it could have definitely been done in a day if we hadn’t had afternoon plans on Sunday.

I started planning on Pinterest and narrowed down meals based on what would work well together.  A bunch that needed similar ingredients to make prep a bit easier, but would be different enough to not bore us.  Some are crock pot meals, some aren’t.  I also needed to pick one for my meal exchange next week and make 6 total (1 for us, 5 for others) and made the Pork Tenderloin with Apple and Cranberry Sauce for all of them, too.   I only planned to make a few meals, but figured I might as do a little more work for a few more meals while I was doing the shopping and prep anyway!  So, 16 for our family + 5 for other families = 21 meals in a weekend.  Not too shabby for a few hours of work.

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Somewhere along the way, I remembered reading a tip (likely Pinterest) that you should write down what you put into a chest freezer so that stuff doesn’t get forgotten at the bottom.  So I made myself a list and I’m already glad that I did.  In addition to the meals, I also added a few meals worth each of cooked farro, brown rice and black beans and froze a bunch of fruit.  Plus pb&js frozen to grab on a picnic or pool day (just put peanut butter on both sides of the bread with jelly in between to keep the jelly from getting the bread soggy by lunch time.)  It’s not like it takes so long to make a pb&j, but it really is nice to have them made and ready and just throw them in a cooler and have them ready by lunch time.

So here’s what I made.  I can’t make any promises yet on them since I haven’t tasted (I’ll try to update with notes after we eat them, if I remember) but there’s not a ton that could go terrible awry.  I tried to play it safe a bit, we’ll see how it goes!  Before I got started, I went through the recipes to do what prep work I could ahead of time and chopped a whole bunch of garlic, onions and carrots to have them ready.  Here’s a link to a pdf version of the recipes in case that’s easier for you to have and/or save. They’re not formatted perfectly, because I’m lazy, but they’ll work:)

BBQ Chicken

Beef and Bean Burritos

Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fried Rice (x2)

Easy Meat Sauce

Marinated Tilapia for Grilled Fish Tacos

Ham and Bean Soup

Lentil and Sausage Soup (x2)

Pesto Pasta Bake

Pork Tenderloin with Apple and Cranberry Sauce

Vegetable Corn Chowder (x2)

Zuppa Toscana (x2)

BBQ Chicken

Chicken

BBQ Sauce

Put it all in a freezer bag and mix. Thaw for up to 24 hrs before you want to make it and bake at 350 until cooked.  (This one didn’t really need a recipe:)

Beef and Bean Burritos

Original Recipe at Martha Stewart

3/4 cup rice (brown or white)

½ lb. ground beef, cooked

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Coarse salt and ground pepper

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cans (15 ounces each) beans, drained and rinsed (I used one kidney and one black bean because it’s what I had already.  The original calls for pinto. Any would we good!)

1 bag frozen corn kernels (10 ounces)

6 scallions, thinly sliced

8 burrito-size flour tortillas, 10 inches each

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Salsa and sour cream, optional

Directions

Cook rice according to package instructions; set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onions, garlic, jalapeno, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Add beans and 1 1/2 cups water; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 10 to 12 minutes. Add corn; cook to heat through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in scallions.

Heat tortillas according to package instructions; fill with rice, bean mixture, and cheese.

Assemble: Mound 1/4 cup rice, 3/4 cup bean mixture, and 1/4 cup cheese on one side of tortilla. Fold sides, and hold them in. Starting from filled end, holding sides in as you work, tightly roll into a bundle. Place on a baking sheet, seam side down, and prepare remaining burritos.

Serve immediately, with salsa and sour cream, if using, or wrap per freezing instructions.

Freezing Instructions:

Wrap individually in plastic and freeze up to 3 months.

To reheat from frozen: Remove frozen burritos from plastic wrap. Place on a microwave-safe plate; microwave on high for 3 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet; bake at 450 degrees until crispy, about 10 minutes.

If only using a microwave, remove from plastic wrap, and place on a microwave-safe plate, covered with a microwave safe bowl. Defrost at high power for 3 to 4 minutes; uncover, and microwave on high 3 to 4 minutes longer. If only using oven, remove burritos from plastic wrap; re-wrap individually in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet; bake at 450 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil, and bake to crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. (To reheat defrosted burritos, remove any wrapping and bake for 10 minutes).

Chicken and Dumplings (Crock Pot)

Original Recipe Here

3 Medium Size Chicken Breasts

2 Cans Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup

2 Medium Golden Potatoes

1 cup frozen peas and carrots

1/2 Cup Diced Onion

1 TB Parsley

2 TB Butter

Enough Water to Cover Ingredients

4 Biscuits

DIRECTIONS:

Place Chicken in crock pot.  Add 2 Cans of Cream of Chicken Soup, then remaining ingredients (potatoes, peas, onions, parsley, butter.)  Cover with water.  Put lid on..and put on high for 4 hours. Near the end shred the chicken. After 4 hours cut up the biscuits into 9 pieces each.. drop into crock pot and mix.  Cook for 30 more minutes.

Chicken Fajitas (Crock Pot)

Original Recipe Here

6 Chicken Tenders or 1 lb. Chicken Breast

1 medium onion sliced

1 medium green pepper sliced

2 cups of salsa

1 can of green chiles

1 package of fajita seasoning

2 T. olive oil

Place all items in freezer bag. Toss and freeze flat. When ready to cook place all ingredients in crockpot and cook for 6 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Remove chicken from mix, shred and then add back into the mix. Serve with warm tortillas and top with salsa, guacamole, shredded lettuce, sour cream and shredded cheese.

Chicken Fried Rice

Original Recipe Here

NOTE: I’ve halved the original recipe and this makes 8 servings. The original was 16 and a bit too much for our freezer space since I wanted to do other meals, too.

2 cups frozen peas and carrots

1/2 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon parsley flakes

6 cups brown rice, cooked and cooled

¾  lbs cooked chicken(about 2 cups)

1/4 cup olive oil

4 eggs

1/3 cup soy sauce

2 dashes pepper

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, combine the peas and carrots, rice, onion, parsley flakes and chicken. Mix well.

2. Pour into 2 bags (enough serve 4) or less for family size.

3. Seal, label and freeze.

4. Thaw bag of mixture in refrigerator up to 24 hours before you’re ready to cook meal.

5. Heat 1 Tbs oil in a large skillet.

6. Pour rice mixture into the skillet.

7. Cook and stir over medium heat, breaking up any chunks of rice, until hot, about 5 minutes.

8. Push rice mixture to the side of the skillet.

9. Add 1 Tbs oil to the empty side of the skillet and add the eggs.

10. Cook and stir until eggs are thickened but still moist.

11. Combine eggs with the rice mixture.

12. Turn off heat.

13. Stir in soy sauce and pepper and serve.

Easy Meat Sauce for Pasta

½ lb ground beef

2 cloves minced garlic

½ onion chopped finely

1 jar favorite spaghetti sauce

1 can plain tomato sauce

Brown the beef, then add the onion until translucent.  Add garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add jar of pasta sauce and can of plain tomato sauce and heat for 10ish minutes. Freeze until you’re ready to eat.  Alternatively, you could just brown your meat and throw a jar of sauce on top and call it good and freeze it:)  Or even just brown your ground beef and freeze alone and heat it and throw a jar of sauce on top when you’re ready to eat.

Marinated Fish for Grilled Fish Tacos

1lb Tilapia fresh or frozen

2 limes or lemons, juiced + 1 lime for squeezing on tacos when ready

⅓ cup olive oil

1 large or 2 small garlic cloves minced

corn tortillas

Place lime juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a freezer bag. Mix everything together well, add fish to the bag and freeze.  When you’re ready to make, defrost fish in refrigerator for up to 24 hours.  Grill the fish, grilling corn tortillas to warm them while the fish cooks.  Garnish with cilantro, avocado, shredded cabbage, hot sauce and sour cream and serve.

Ham and Bean Soup (Crock Pot)

-1 ham hock

-1/2 bag bean soup mix (about 10 oz of dry beans)

-1 can diced tomatoes

-1/2 onion chopped

-1 clove garlic minced

-6 cups water or broth

Put all ingredients except liquid and beans in freezer bag and freeze.

Throw it all in the crock pot and add beans and liquid.  Cook on high for 1 hour, then low for 7 hours.

Lentil and Sausage Soup

(cook, then freeze)

Original Recipe Here

Ingredients

1 pound lentils

1/4 cup olive oil

4 cups diced yellow onions (3 large)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 large cloves)

1 tablespoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3 cups medium diced celery (8 stalks)

3 cups medium diced carrots (4 to 6 carrots)

3 quarts chicken broth

2 cans diced tomatoes

1/2 pound cooked sausage

2 tablespoons dry red wine or red wine vinegar

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onions, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are translucent and tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for another 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and drained lentils, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, or until the lentils are cooked through and tender. Check the seasonings. Add the sausage and red wine and simmer until the hot. Divide into freezer containers and freeze.

Pesto Pasta Bake

Note: This is a throw-together meal. Use what you have.  Substitute any meat or add veggies, use tomato sauce instead of pesto…go nuts. It’s an easy meal to use up ingredients in your fridge.

1 lb. cooked pasta of your choice – cook to less than al dente

½ lb cooked sausage

¾  cup pesto

3 cups spinach chopped into small pieces

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 garlic clove minced

Mix all ingredients in large bowl, then put in freezer bag or covered baking dish for baking. Freeze.  When you’re ready to cook, thaw the dish in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours and bake at 350 degrees until completely heated.

Pork Tenderloin with Apple and Cranberry Sauce (Crock Pot)

Ingredients:

2 lb pork tenderloin (not in a marinade)

1 t salt

1 t pepper

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 T cider vinegar

1 t ginger

1 t cinnamon

1/2 cup dried cranberries

3 peeled and chopped granny smith apples

Directions: Season pork with salt and pepper and add all ingredients to freezer bag and freeze until ready. Thaw slightly and cook on low for 6-8 hours until pork is tender.

Vegetable Corn Chowder

(The original recipe calls for cooking, then freezing, but I threw everything in a bag ready to cook when I want to make it because everything in the recipe freezes well. The potatoes might be a wild card, but we’ll see! This would also be really great with chicken or shrimp if you want to add a meat.)

Original Recipe Here

3 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)

2 medium red bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced (2 1/2 cups)

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 cups milk

2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes

2 cups frozen corn

Coarse salt and ground pepper

3 cups frozen green beans

Hot pepper sauce, for serving (optional)

Directions:  In a Dutch oven or 5-quart pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, bell peppers, and thyme; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.  Add milk, potatoes, and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until potatoes are almost tender, about 8 minutes.  Stir in corn, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer until corn is tender, about 3 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer 3 cups of the solids to a blender; puree until smooth. Return to pot; add green beans. Bring to a simmer; cook until beans are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Season again with salt; serve with hot pepper sauce, if desired.

To freeze, cool chowder completely before transferring to airtight containers; leave 1 inch of space at the top. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat over low heat (or in microwave).

Zuppa Toscana (Crock Pot Olive Garden Knock-Off)

Original Recipe Here

Makes about 8 servings

5 1/2 cups chicken broth (or 3 cans)

2 cups whipping cream

2-4 cups chopped kale

2-3 potatoes sliced thin and quartered

1 lb sweet Italian sausage

2-3 shakes of red pepper flakes (or more if you like more of a kick)

salt and pepper (to taste)

Combine the chicken broth and heavy whipping cream in the crockpot.

Chop up kale into bite size pieces or, if you are like me, buy a bag of pre washed and chopped kale! I didn’t really measure it but grabbed about 3 large handfuls. I would certainly suggest grabbing more than you think you need as it cooks down A LOT. I almost filled my crockpot to the top with kale and still felt I could have added more. Wash and cut up the potatoes with the skin on. I used 3 large potatoes and felt the soup ended up being too potato heavy. I would suggest 2 large or 3 small baking potatoes. Add both potatoes and kale to crockpot.

Brown the sausage and break apart into small chunks. Season with a touch of salt and pepper then add to crockpot.

Mix all ingredients together and add more salt and pepper for taste as well as a few shakes of red pepper flakes. I don’t like things spicy but I didn’t feel this made it spicy at all. It just gave it a much needed kick to cut the heaviness of the cream base.

Set your crockpot on high for 3-4 hours until the potatoes break apart easily with a fork.

Cool to room temperature, then divide into desired servings and freeze.  Reheat on the stove or in the microwave.

The Girls

May 7, 2013

chicks05 I’ve wanted to get chickens for a few years, but we kept getting caught up in the logistics of it all.  Figuring out where we’d get them, what we’d use as a coop, how we’d care for them, etc.  So I finally decided that we were DOING it this year and getting chickens and, like magic, within a week a post popped up in my Facebook feed that the Alpaca Farm 2 miles from our house had chicks for sale in just the breed I’ve been wanting to get.  They’re all Ameraucanas, or so we think.  I keep reading that it’s really hard to have actually Ameraucanas, but that most that are labeled as such are some sort of mutt breed that are lumped into a category because they lay blue or green eggs.  I’m ok with that.  We wanted them because they are notoriously gentle and good with kids and they also do well with cold weather and pretty eggs and a lovely bonus for sure:) So…meet the girls!

Penelope

Penelope: a.k.a. Bossy or Sassy. She’s Mia’s little girl. She’s the BOSS.  She flocks the other girls and yells at them and tells them what to do all.the.time.  She’s a total stinker, but also the most friendly and because she looks so typically like what we all think of when we think of chicks, she’s also the first that everyone wants to hold.

Clementine

Clementine:  My little girlie:) She’s the runt of the pack and we’re still not sure if she’s just smaller and going to be more like a bantam size or if she’s just a day or two younger than the rest of the girls.  She’s sweet as pie and by far the most calm.  She’s the easiest to hold because she doesn’t try to escape as much as everyone else, she just loves the warmth and snuggles and loves to fall asleep in our hands or on a chest.

Beatrice

Beatrice: John’s little lady.  She’s the wild card.  While Penelope is The Boss, Beatrice is not far behind.  She gives her a run for her money and she is totally crazy and LOUD.  She loves to bother her sisters and is incessantly pushing them around to get the spot she wants for food or in the nap pile.

NicholasTheGirl

Nicholas The Girl:  Nick’s girl.  She’s calm and steady, but has no problem holding her own against the bossy ladies.  She’s also a bit protective of Clementine and I could totally see her being the nurturing mama of the group if she had chicks.  I feel like she’s still a little reserved, so we’re excited to get to know her as she relaxes with us a bit more.

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They’re all growing like CRAZY and I’m totally in love with their little tail feathers that are popping out.  In these photos they’re about 1.5 weeks and it’s wild to see how they’ve grown just since I took these photos last Friday.  They’re taller, their legs are darker, they’re all losing tons of down and have beautiful wing feathers and tail feathers – it’s so fun to guess what they’ll look like when they’re full grown!  They keep trying to fly (and being successful sometimes!)  so we need to get them into a new space quickly.  We started them in a big old Rubbermaid bin, but they’re quickly outgrowing that.  They had to be in there last night for the warmth and the high sides,but we’ll need a better solution soon.  I put them in a baby pool yesterday during the day and they loved having more space, but two flew out, so it wasn’t safe for nighttime. I know we’ve only had them for a week and they’re not full grown, but taking care of them as chick was my biggest hurdle in wanting to have them.  If it’s been yours, too, believe me: it’s no big deal at all!  They hang out in their little spot and we give them clean water and food and bedding every day.  I got the waterer and feeder that fit a mason jar on top and those were only a few bucks each.  Chick starter feed was about $6.  A bag of pine shavings was $4.  We put newspaper under the shavings.  They were $5 each, so that brings the total startup costs to just under $40 – not too shabby.  We still need to build a coop and we could go nuts with just buying one, but we’re either going to use our old shed or build something mobile to move around the yard and, either way, with using scraps and supplies we already have and wood from pallets it’s not going to cost more than $100.  And they really are low maintenance.  The kids love to hang out with them (my favorite quote from Mia is when we were driving home with them and she said, “Mommy, we’re not going to need our tv anymore! Now we can just watch the chicks when we want something to do!” I keep reminding her of this:)  So I know it’s kind of premature, but this is the part I was most hesitant about before we got them and it’s been no big deal at all.  If you’ve been wanting to get some chicks, I vote that you should absolutely go for it if you can do it in your community:) These little girls are making us all so, so happy!

A few resources if you’re considering chickens:

Ashley English’s Keeping Chickens

My Pet Chicken – especially their Chicken Care E-book

Backyard Chickens – forums and more info than you could ever want about chickens!

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