Sunday, August 31, 2014

Seven on Sunday: Week 13

Although this week got off to a **shaky** start (har, har!), we finished strong :)

Day 1: Sunday--While we were camping, Scott and I were shaken out of our sleeping bags by the Great Napa Earthquake of 2014! We were very nervous about the condition of our house, so we headed home to assess the damage. This was the extent of it, so we were blessed...just a few crooked pictures and one broken frame...

Day 2: Monday--First day of school! Where does the time go??! A 4th grader and a Kindergartner! It was a super short day--just Mass and an hour of school so the adjustment was easy. They both had awesome days:

Day 3: Tuesday-- My first day back at work!! I worked on my bulletin board and theme for the year which is a spin-off on the famous Notre Dame football quote, "PLAY Like a Champion Today." This year I'm going to have the kiddos decorate footballs with their pictures on them to put up on this board. I seriously love my job!!

Day 4: Wednesday--Today was the first day it was just Sarah and I! We missed Brookey and Buddy!!! We filled the time with lots of errands and then we made this amazing Pumpkin Gooey Goodness cake! (I don't have a better name for it!!) The kids were so excited when they came home to this awesome after school treat!!

Day 5: Thursday--For much of the summer, Brookey and Buddy decided to share a bed. It was super cute...they would go to bed and talk and giggle and laugh for sometimes an hour before going to sleep. A few weeks ago, Brookey decided to move back into her own bunk. Well, ever since the earthquake they are back to sharing a bed again! Brookey said she's not taking any chances with the top bunk! LOL! It's really cute :) I love how they are clearly divided (Tinkerbell and Spiderman), separated by the giant ducky. LOVE THESE TWO!!!

Day 6: Friday--We were all still adjusting the new school schedule so the kids were SO THRILLED when they could sleep in (school holiday) and I told them we didn't have to leave the house today. Here's Sarah blowing bubbles on the porch. Let's just pause and appreciate the neon Converse....her new favorite shoes. She wore them to church with a sundress, too. I choose my battles :)

 Day 7: Saturday--Saturday Scott watched football, I went shopping and the kids had their first root beer floats!!! A pretty perfect day. Nevermind shirtless's his "thing" now. :)

Have a great week! See you back here Wednesday for Recipe Wednesday!!

XO ~ Casey

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Fun Day: The Best Dip Ever

To kick off the start of the college football season this week, I have an amazing dip recipe for you! For some reason, football season and dip go hand-in-hand in my book.

This one is a crowd-pleaser, no doubt about it--I've probably served this dip at 20+ different events and everyone is always scraping the bowl clean. So here you have it.....

Swiss and Bacon Dip
8 slices of thick bacon, chopped
1 tub (8 oz) of softened cream cheese
1/2 cup mayo
2-4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1-3 tablespoons horseradish 
1 1/2 cups of grated Swiss cheese, divided

1.  Preheat oven to 400.
2. Fry bacon until golden brown, drain on paper towels.
3. In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, mayo, mustard, horseradish, 1 cup of the cheese and cooked bacon.
4. Transfer to a shallow baking dish and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese
5. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown and bubbling

**You can make this a day in advance and bake it right before you are ready to serve.

You can serve this with bread cubes (i.e. sourdough) or veggies like the picture above. My favorite thing to dip with this however are Wheat Thins or pita chips!

Even if you **think** you don't like Swiss cheese or horseradish, give this a try! It's sooooo good!

XO ~ Casey

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Recipe Wednesday: The Crock Pot and the Best Pulled Pork Ever!

**Fun News** The recipes on this blog are now "pin"able! So if you have a Pinterest account, just hover over the picture, click on the Pin It icon and you're good to go! :) Now on to the business of the day...

Do you own a crockpot? If the answer is no, you need one. Like, now. They are pretty cheap and once you learn a few recipes and get into the habit of using it, it will be one of your most valuable kitchen items. The 2 recipes I'm going to share today ALONE are reasons enough to get a crockpot. I'm serious. They are THAT good. The pulled pork recipe has a 2 minute prep time..and that includes washing the knife you used to prep. How good does that sound for a busy weeknight???

First things first. Buy a crockpot. They are available in all sizes and price ranges. I suggest getting an oval one. You can cook an entire chicken in that thing! Here's one from Target for $29:

Or you can get a slightly smaller one from Wal-Mart for about $15! Comes in fancy colors, too :)

Or go for broke and get this one from Williams Sonoma for $249. Wow, whatever is cooking in there looks AMAZING!! I'd eat that--bones and all.

Ok, so now that you have a crockpot, on to the AMAZING recipe--Soda Pop Pulled Pork. It's fantastic. It's delcious. It's sweet, it's tangy. It's just downright AWESOME! And it's probably the easiest "recipe" in the history of man. Here you go...

Soda Pop Pulled Pork

1 3-5 lb pork shoulder (can also be called a pork roast)
2 cans of soda (I use Dr. Pepper but you can use whatever...Coke, Root Beer, something dark)
1 large onion, chopped into chunks
1 cup (or more) of your favorite BBQ sauce (i love Jack Daniels Original No. 7)
Scallions (optional)
Hamburger Buns (if you are making sandwiches)

1. Trim pork of any excess fat on the outside (optional, but I like mine as lean as possible)
2. Place chopped onions into the bottom of the slow cooker.
3. Place pork on top of onions and pour both cans of soda into the slow cooker.
4. Cook on HIGH for 7-8 hours or on LOW for 10-12 hours. Pork should be falling apart when you touch it with a fork.
5. After cooking, carefully remove pork from crockpot. Drain all liquid and onions from the pot; discard.
6. With two forks, shred the pork until it is fine and there are no big "chunks" left.
7. Return shredded pork to the crockpot and stir in the BBQ sauce. **here you can taste and decide whether or not you like more or less sauce. I tend to like it more "pork-y" and less "sauce-y" but that's just me :-).
8. You can stir in your scallions and serve immediately OR set the pot on low or the "keep warm" setting and serve in a hour or so.

It's so.darn.good!!! BUT! Not as good as this next recipe, which is what you can have the next day with your leftover pulled pork. Scott declared it his "new favorite meal" and the best leftovers EVER (and he HATES leftovers!) So here you go....

Pulled Pork Nachos
1-2 cups leftover pulled pork
4-5 large handfuls of good tortilla chips (thick ones!)
1-2 cups of your favorite cheese, shredded (we use sharp cheddar and pepperjack)
Scallions, sour cream and pico de gallo or fresh salsa for topping!

1. In a small saucepan, heat pork until warm.
2. While pork is heating up, spread tortilla chips in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
3. Top chips with pork and shredded cheese
4. Place into a 425 degree oven for about 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted.
5. Top with scallions, sour cream and fresh salsa.

OMG. YUM. YUM. YUM! If you have never tried pulled pork nachos, you need to put it on your bucket list. Seriously. You could even serve this to your friends and they'd never know you were feeding them leftovers! LOL!

Hopefully these two recipes have convinced you to buy a crock pot or at least dust off the one you already have. They were both home runs at my house and I really felt I hardly lifted a finger! :)


XO ~ Casey

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Seven on Sunday: The Final Summer Challenge :(

Just like I knew it would, summer went by soooo quickly! I have to admit, though that everyone (myself) included is excited to get back to school and start a routine crazy as it gets sometimes!

I started the Summer Challenge 10 weeks ago with the hopes that we would make the very most of each and every day of our precious summer. And frankly, so **I**, personally would make an effort to enjoy each and every day with my precious little ones who are growing up too quickly. Looking back at all the pictures, I think we did an awesome job at making the most of our 10 weeks. We hiked, we baked, we camped, we scootered, we swam, we ate Popsicles, we danced, we sang, we got Slurpees, we hung out with old friends, we made new friends, we rode trains, we went to the fair, we shed a few tears leaving my dad's old house, we played with cousins, we ran through vineyards, we witnessed a beautiful wedding. Most of all we laughed...a lot. Yep, it was a wonderful and exhausting summer!

Here are the seven photos from our last Summer Challenge week. Next week, it will be back to the grind and back to our regular Seven of Sunday, which is just s snapshot of our week in pictures. Cuz we'll be too busy for any challenges!!! :)

Day 1: Sunday-- Beautiful day for a family pool day! It's rare that Daddy comes with us! The weather was perfect but when we arrived at the pool, we were the only ones there! Score!!!

Day 2: Monday--What a lazy, lazy day. I swear, no one wanted to do anything!!! We kinda just hung out all day, then around 3:30 decided to take a walk to get out of the house. I think this is what they mean by the dog days of summer. Sarah with her bike helmet on :) She wanted to hold my hand while we walked which was very rare for her!

Day 3: Tuesday--We couldn't waste any more days being lazy so we packed up and went to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. The place is so cool and I am amazed at everything every time I go. I think this jellyfish "display" is my favorite thing. We also surprised Scott at his office afterwards! :)

Day 4: Wednesday--It was off to Costco to stock up on some school lunch items. As you know, I'm new to making lunch for the kids to take to school! I let Brooke and Will choose a few things they wanted for their lunch. They chose Danimals, Nutri Grain Bars, Fruit Cups and Sun Chips!

Day 5: Thursday--At our house Pizza Night is ALWAYS Friday!! However, since I had to work all day today I changed it up and had pizza night THURSDAY! Crazy! LOL! They loved it, clearly.

Day 6: Friday--We went to Fenton's for the best french fries, crab salad and ice cream!! Sooooo yummy--i don't think there was a crumb of food left.

Day 7: Saturday--Crazy day! We left the house at 7am for an 7:30 soccer game (Brookey did AWESOME!). Then it was immediately off to "Glamping" in Napa! As we now know, that ended up on a **shaky** note!! Har, har :) Other than the earthquake, it was great fun. We love staying in a Yurt (which is basically like a round cabin). Three kids and a Yurt:

Well, that wraps up the Rooney Summer Challenge of 2014! What a fun summer!!! See ya back here Wednesday for Recipe Wednesday for the best, easiest recipe ever created. And of course, regular Seven on Sunday next Sunday!!

XO ~ Casey

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Recipe Wednesday: Brown Bag It

 I have a confession to make. I've never made a brown-bag, packed, school lunch for my kids.

Ok, ok, I am **slightly** exaggerating....i did make lunch for Will in preschool 3x a week last year but it was ALWAYS the exact.same.thing: jelly sandwich, crackers, yogurt, cereal bar. It was brainless and an afterthought.

Well, two big things have happened this year...#1 School lunch prices skyrocketed from $1 (teacher discount!) to a whopping $5.70 (#teachersgetnorespect)!!!!Soooooo...Brookey will not be able to indulge in school hot lunch every day as she has the past 3 years. #2 Will has been branching out a little with his food choices so he will consider things other than the dreaded jelly sandwich.

Soooooo..i guess that means Mama needs to get off her butt and start making lunch everyday. Ugh. Luckily Pinterest and the internet have saved the day and I think I have this one under control. At least for the first few months :) I wanted to share with you some ideas about how I am going to make this school lunch thing happen...

First off--I am NOT this mom:

Really, people?? Who did this??? I want to know who it is because I want to be their friend. Because as their friend, I would tell them how ridiculous they are and after that, I would **strongly** suggest some additional hobbies to fill their time so they are not spending their time making cantaloupe hearts.

I'm very practical and short on time so my kids will be deprived of watermelon balloons. Sorry, kids!!! #pleaseforgive

Below is my practical-no-catelope-hearts-school-lunch game plan:

1) Shopping:  I started with a shopping trip! Yay! I bought the kiddos new, good sized lunch bags-this is Will's:

Then, I purchased these Rubbermaid lunch "bento-box" things from Target. They fit perfectly into the lunch bag AND they came with an ice pack :) I can't find them on Target online, but here they are on Amazon: Rubbermaid Lunch Blox

2) "Main Courses:" I scoured Pinterest for some "main course" ideas outside of the typical sandwich (which will STILL be on the menu, of course!). Here is a list of what I came up with...these are things my kids will eat..if your kiddos are more adventurous eaters then there are so many more options!

- Sandwiches: Jelly, Turkey, Ham/Cheese
 - Ham and Cheese skewers (substitute any meat or cheese...turkey, salami, Will even likes turkey pepperoni). Something like this:

- Whole wheat tortilla chips and shredded cheese/cheese cubes:

 - English muffin with cream cheese/peanut butter
- Quesidillas (my kids will eat them cold!)
- Mini bagels with cream cheese/jelly/honey, etc.
- Waffles. This looks great! Who says you can't have brunch for lunch?? Will would request a side of sausage :)

- Meat/Cheese/Crackers (aka: homemade Lunchable)
- English muffin cheese pizza
- Leftover pasta with red sauce
- Pasta Salad
- Cereal and milk
- Mac and cheese
- Tacos! You could also just use those "Scoop" chips and put whatever "toppings" on the side.

3) Fruit and Veggies: I want to include at least one fruit or veggie in each lunch, so here are my top picks that pack and travel well:

- Grapes
- Apple slices (squeeze a little lemon juice on them to prevent browning)
- Blackberries
- Blueberries
- Strawberries
- Orange slices/Cuties
- Apple sauce cups
- Fruit cups
- Mandarin oranges
- Carrot sticks
- Melon 
- Sugar Snap Peas
- Cucumber
- Banana

 4) Sides & Snacks: Last, I brainstormed a bunch of snacks I know my kids will eat. Here are my ideas:

- Cereal bars (they LOVE the kids Clif bars, available at Costco)
- Veggie sticks
- Goldfish
- Crasins/Raisins
- Cheese sticks
- Pretzels
- Cheese Its
- Wheat Thins
- Muffins
- Yogurt
- Graham crackers
- Fig Bars
- Popcorn
- Danimals
- Kettle chips

5) Mix and Match: Now the easy part! I just mix and match! Each week I'll pick 3-5 "main courses", 2-3 fruits/veggies and 4-5 "sides"...then just mix it up! You can definitely do the same, just substitute things that your kids like to eat. If they don't eat many "main courses", add in more fruits/veggies and sides. No one said there HAS to be a main course in every single lunch! Well, maybe that chick who made the sandwich house with pretzel windows but we don't know her :)

Visually, the "mix and match" would look something like this...a main item, fruit/veggie and a few snacks:

 You can see that you can make tons of combinations with just a handful of items.

This "brainstorming" and list-making will definitely help me all year long, as I venture into the world of lunch making. I hope it will help you, too! I'll leave you with a few more pictures of simple lunches that will hopefully get you inspired for the school year. Happy lunch-packing!

PS--If you have any other great lunch ideas, I AM ALL EARS!!! I'll be looking for great ideas all year long! XO~ Casey

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Seven on Sunday: Summer Challenge Week 9!

Well, we're nearing the END of summer. The kiddos go back to school Monday, August 25th so we are trying to make the most of each day! I think we've done well with our Summer Challenge! Remember, the Summer Challenge was to try to do something fun, together as a family each day. I think we've succeeded almost every day with a small handful of exceptions (this week being one of them!).

Last week, the wedding excitement was over, but we still had the pleasure of my brother in law and his family staying with us for a few extra days. We tried to make the most of it! The rest of the week we were busy getting ready for school to start!

Day 1: Sunday--Today we all went to a special Mass in the park called Mass on the Grass. Then the boys went to Berkeley to hang out. That evening we cooked Vietnamese wraps on the little indoor grill. This is kind of a tradition when we get together with Scott's brother's family. Sooo much fun! Look at my white boys with their Vietnamese food! :)

Day 2: Monday--Scott took the day off on Monday and it was a gorgeous day to head up to Sonoma. The beautiful view from from Domaine Carneros. Why is Will holding on for dear life??!!

Day 3: Tuesday--Tuesday was a sad, sad day :( Everyone flew home to Indiana, Scott went back to work and it was just me and the kids home all alone. We decided to get out of the house and go school and soccer-shoe shopping. Ugh..17 stores later, we ended up with 8 pairs of shoes (lots of Buy 1, Get 1 for 50% off deals!) :) On a nicer note, here is Sarah spending a little quality time with Baby Emily before she left.

Day 4: Wednesday--School supply shopping. Ugh. Need I say more? I decided next year I am going to take each of the kids individually so they can actually ENJOY the experience. Today WAS NOT enjoyable!!

Day 5: Thursday--I honestly cannot remember what we did on Thursday and there are no pics on my camera to document it. I do know it involved lots of laundry, cleaning and buying Brookey a new school uniform. But nothing "Summer Challenge" worthy!!! #epicfail :)

Day 6: Friday--Friday was a beautiful day for a little shopping and the park...the park being their reward for me dragging them shopping. Let's just say a Nordie's dressing room was involved again :)

Day 7: Saturday--Even though Brooke did league soccer last year, and Buddy has been doing soccer "classes" since he was 3, I think I elevated to official Soccer Mom status with both of the kiddos in the league this year!! It's gonna be CRAZY! Today was opening day so we spent the morning watching the kids' parade, hanging out at the park and taking team photos. Here's my Power Puff and my Rockin' Ranger (can you guess who is who??!) :)

One more week of the Summer Challenge left and I intend the make the most of it!! Cheers to a great week!!

XO ~ Casey

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Recipe Wednesday: Meal Planning

Ok, today is a two-fer. A recipe AND I'll also share how I do my meal planning.

With back-to-school upon us, it's more important than ever to start meal planning. I plan out my meals every single week. That's just how I am--i cannot imagine going through the day without knowing what's for dinner.

Here is how I do my meal planning:

I typically do my grocery shopping on Friday to stock up for the weekend and the following week. I start by brainstorming what we want for dinner the following week. I like to get input from everyone, however the conversation usually ends up something like this:

Me: Honey, what do you want for dinner next week?
Scott: I have no idea. I'm good with anything.
Me: Seriously??!! Give me some ideas!
Scott: Ok, what about pasta?

Me: Brookey, what do you want for dinner next week?
Brookey: I don't know. Pasta?

Me: Buddy, what do you want for dinner next week?
Buddy: Hot dogs.

 NOT HELPFUL!!! So I usually end up doing it myself and making them eat it :)

I also look at our calendar for the following week and see what's planned in the evening. If it's a soccer night, I'll do something that can be reheated because we all get home at different times. If I work that day, I'll do something I can make in 30 minutes or less.

Next, I write everything out on this little magnet calendar I got in the dollar bin at Target. I keep in on the fridge so everyone knows the weekly menu. I plan from Friday to Thursday:

Then I make my grocery list. I organize it into where the stuff is in the store: Produce, dairy, cans, frozen, meat, etc (yes, I did get very bad grades in handwriting in school!):

I also keep a list of staples that I buy each week: milk, Lactaid, fruit, bread, cereal, wine :)

And that's it!! Pretty simple! Each night before I go to bed, I check the fridge menu and see if there is anything I need to take out of the freezer.  I usually make one mid week trip to the grocery store, get fresh veggies or more milk, etc. We're always running out of something and I'm always forgetting something! But I'm telling you, taking 15-20 minutes meal plan each week is a saving grace, especially during the school year.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite back to school recipes--Sloppy Joes!!! So good, so easy and my kids love it because I always serve it with fries!! :)

Sloppy Joes

1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 cup ketchup (you can also add more if you want it more saucy)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
A few good dashes of Worcestershire sauce (about a tablespoon)
1/4 cup of water, if needed
Salt/pepper, as needed

Hamburger buns or kaiser rolls

1. Brown meat in a large skillet until just cooked through; add onions and green pepper and cook until veggies begin to soften.

2. Add in remaining ingredients and simmer for about 5-10 minutes, until flavors are combined.

3. Taste and adjust seasonings. This is the fun part...i like my sloppy joes slightly sweet (more brown sugar), but some prefer them more savory (less sugar, maybe more mustard).

4. Spoon mixture onto toasted buns.

This meal literally comes together in about 15 minutes. GREAT for busy weeknights :)

A couple of yummy variations/add-ons:

- Top with cheese!

- Instead of hamburger buns, use little sweet Hawaiian rolls

- For spice, add a few dashes of hot sauce or crushed red pepper flakes

- Serve meat mixture over fries and top with cheese for a chili cheese fries-like meal!!

- Cut a baguette in half lengthwise, top with the meat mixture and cheese; put in the oven for about 5-10 minutes until cheese is bubbly...a great open-faced option.



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Seven on Sunday: Summer Challenge Week 8!

Wow! What a week! Family, friends, food, laughter, tears and a wedding!!!! Here we go!

Day 1: Sunday-- On Saturday, my sister in law, partner (now wife!) and Scott's mom arrived. On Sunday, we went to church, made brunch and just relaxed and had fun hanging out...this was definitely the calm before the storm! Here's Grandma T having quality time with Sarah :)

Day 2: Monday-- More fun with Aunties! Let's just say it was the funniest game of Uno ever!

Day 3: Tuesday--What a DAY!! We headed up to Napa for my sister in law's wedding and all the cousins were reunited! They were in heaven!! Here they are running through the vineyards!

Day 4: Wednesday--Rehearsal dinner day! Look at all the cousins! Ages 5 months to 21 years. I love these kids so much it hurts! This is their "silly face" pic.

Day 5: Thursday-- WEDDING DAY! Omg, too many cute pics to post, but here's me and my love :) #selfie! I'll post more wedding pics soon.

Day 6: Friday--Wedding excitement was over today and we headed back home. We took my sis in law to the ferry and we took a 3 "sister in laws of the Rooney family photo!!!" Love these girls!

Day 7: Saturday--On Saturday, we hung out in SF and had one last day with the wedding couple before they went home. What a great week! More wedding pics to come soon!


5 Super Simple Meal Prep Tips

Meal Prep....something many of us WANT to do, but can never seem to get their sh** together enough to actually DO IT! I know, because tha...