Quick Veggie Chilli, Sausage and Cornbread

This is a great meal to make on a cold day!

Start with the chili:
2 zucchini chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 white onion chopped
2 celery stalks
1 can Great Northern Beans
1 can Diced tomatoes (un-drained)

1. Saute onion and celery to soften a bit
2. Pile everything into a crock pot and cook on high for 2.5 hours (my crock pot runs hot, so I cooked on high for 1 hour and on low for the remainder)

I baked this according to this recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/golden-sweet-cornbread/
It was super easy and my daughter loved helping. I didn’t even adjust it to high altitude, though that might make it a bit more moist (I got no complaints).

To Serve:
I served with Basil Chicken sausage which I par-boiled (boiled 10 min, grilled 20 min), but it would be quicker to use already baked sausage. Serve in the chilli or along the side!
I also topped the chili with a spoonful of sour cream and some shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Guten Appetit!

Living Large in the Middle,



And then there were two

We’re big travelers. I mean BIG. We both traveled and studied abroad before meeting, but we have traveled a lot together, too, It’s always amazing how much traveling brings us back together. So, when our first came along, we vowed we would not let her slow us down and we didn’t. In her first 3 years she made it to 10 different states and even got a stamp in her passport (which is adorable, by the way). Now that there are two, a few things come into play: we now have to pay for 3 seats (airfare is only free through age 2) and we have even more stuff to take. Keeping this in mind, we were determined not to stop traveling all together.

If I’m being honest, our travel habits have changed since we had kids. You can’t go from dawn to dusk (or later) with little ones. It keeps us a bit more sane if we chose one activity per day and then leave the rest of the time for naps, swimming, walks or playing.

That said, we thought 3 months was long enough to wait to try out traveling with 4. We chose a simple roadtrip (3hrs) and it went well! We’d already learned a lot about traveling with our daughter, so we put that into play. We chose our driving times and routes carefully. We left after work, at night. Both kiddos were fed and in their PJs and slept almost the entire way. Plus, they slept while we unloaded the car and it was easy to put them to bed when we got to the hotel. On the way back, we left in mid-morning. We took a different route back and planned it so we could stop about 1/2 way home to have lunch and stretch our legs (aka Wiggle the Waggles out). With full tummies, they didn’t stand a chance and both slept for the remainder of the drive!

We chose a trip that allowed flexibility, but in just one weekend we were easily able to squeeze in 2 hikes with picnics, walking along main street, a trip for ice cream, swimming twice, bowling and a carnival – not bad.

The most important thing we did this trip was to put a Pack A Sport on our car. This lets everyone breath and not be buried in suitcases, coolers and Pack ‘n Plays. I love ours, its retro and red. We’ve decided not to paint it, but to tat’ it up with stickers from where we’ve been.

We’ve always traveled to far off places, but this road trip was nice. A slower pace. We might stick more with this for a while…but then again, maybe not. We have a trip to NYC coming up – stay tuned!

Living Large in the Middle,


My Cooking Philosophy

I’m one of those who really enjoys cooking – It gives me the chance to create something without experimenting or needing to invent dishes.

If you talk to my husband, he’ll tell you it’s better to stay out of the kitchen if I’m in it. I think this is because this is my time to forget everything else and create. It’s a bit meditative for me, especially when you get into the rhythm required to make a meal come together at the right time. (I must admit – this is NOT always my forte).

I’ll share some of my quick and/or freezer meals which we pretty much live off of during the week. My focus is on not spending a ton of time in the kitchen so we can sit at the table and have a nice dinner before bed time – that timeline can shrink at an impressive rate!

The items are things I like to make just because or for special occasions and may take a bit more concentration and/or time.



Freezer Skills

Let’s be clear, I do not want to eat anything for an entire week – and that’s how I started freezing meals. Well, that and I wanted to eat during grad school.

I freeze my meals in two ways: Marathon or Banquet Baking.

Marathon is exactly what it sounds like, buy the ingredients, shoo the family out of the house for the day and begin. This requires a lot of cooling, pans and cleaning, but you get a lot by the end of the day. The 2 for 1 Casserole practice below will help your efforts last that much longer!

Banquet Baking, may sound overstated, but the idea is to cook more than you need. I’ll plan a casserole or dish that can be frozen for a meal during the week. Only, I’ll make enough for two nights.

2 for 1 Casseroles!
For Marathon Baking: Using a typical 9×11 dish, Line the dish with 2 pieces of heavy duty foil – splitting the dish in half and creating 2 sides, pour the ingredients in and bake accordingly. Note here: you could also use disposable pans. Cool to room temperature and pop in the fridge overnight. By morning, you can use the tin foil to wrap each half, stick them in a freezer bag, label and put away.

For Banquet Baking: Using a typical 9×11 dish, I line 1/2 with heavy duty foil, pour the ingredients in and bake accordingly. I serve the portion not in on the foiled side and let the rest cool. Cool to room temperature and pop in the fridge overnight. By morning, you can use the tin foil to wrap the half up, stick it in a freezer bag, label and put away.



A Little (ahem…BIG) Girl’s Room

We’re 6 months into our new house. The plan was to paint P’s room before we moved in, but moving 2 weeks after the holidays, in the middle of winter and while 8 months pregnant slowed us down 🙂

P has always loved purple and green, so when we told her we were going to paint her room purple, her response was….”and green.” I’m always thinking about longevity and a purple and green room makes me think we’ll have to paint sooner, BUT hubby gave the ok – so purple and green it is. (Keep in mind, she added pink to her request, but we stopped at 2 colors.)

Since we didn’t get to painting upon move in, we planned for when the baby got here. P’s toddler bed became a crib once again for the baby, so she got a “big sister bed.” We had an old dresser that I love for P’s room, but its cream which is not an easy color to match. We found a cream color bed at AFW – not an exact match, but close enough for now.

We got the bed and then needed new bedding of course. I knew I didn’t want to paint all the walls purple and green, so I tried to find bedding to match 1. the current beigey-pink 2. purple and 3. green. And would you know I found it without too much effort!! I originally found it at Bed, Bath and Beyond, but they won’t accept those 20% coupons online and the store near us didn’t carry it in stock, but I was able to find it online through another vendor. Better yet, I had a coupon from moving and got it for $30 cheaper with free shipping!

Anyhoo, the beds changed and baby came and still…no paint. Finally, a few weeks ago, I bought the paint. I gave up trying to get a family decision and chose colors based on her bedding. So there they sat…2 gallons…for weeks…until this past weekend. We got the walls done and would you know it took no time at all (maybe 3hrs total). I didn’t prime and we only applied a 2nd coat where needed. Hubby has a steady hand and cut in without taping, so that saved some time, but look at the difference! The paint pulls it all together, I LOVE the character just a little color adds. I’ve always read it, but what wonders a little paint can do!

For an extra cute touch, I had P dip her deliciously cute little hand in the green paint and place it in a corner of the purple wall 🙂

Living Large in the Middle,


Spider Plants All Around

We need more plants.

I love looking at magazines and catalogs. They ALWAYS have plants everywhere, but, alas, I am not a green thumb. Mom had a spider plant while I was growing up that seemed to need minimal, and I mean minimal, care. So I decided to start there. No joke, right after baby was born, my girlfriend was over taking professional pics and said she had a spider plan she was trying to give away! Apparently, it was too big. So, the next time we were at her house we picked it up and brought it home. And there it has sat. I’ve clipped a few spiderettes (yes, that is technical name) and put those in water, where they remain today.

In reading online, it seems spider plants are some of the best air purifiers out there and they require VERY little care. So, until I can get more creative, all the rooms will have spider plants – I’ll just call that a theme from one room to another 😉 I was debating how to hang them because I don’t quite think macrame plant hangers have come back into style. Always wanting to keep it thrifty, I decided to use some outdoor plastic plant hangers I had in the garage. I cleanded them, primed them and used leftover paint from P’s Room and A’s dresser makeover. This was so easy and cheap. I only needed to buy more potting soil and the hooks to hang them.

Next up – spider plants for the master!

Living large in the Middle,



Easy Mini Pain Au Chocolat

I made this for our book club after we read Barbara O’Neal’s: How to Bake a Perfect Life. I wanted to give at least on of the recipes a go and not being patient enough to let bread rise unless it’s in my bread maker, this was perfect. These are fast, easy and can be served as a dessert or breakfast pastry!

Easy Mini Pain Au Chocolat
2 pastry sheets (thawed)
Chocolate (chips, bars, etc)
1 egg
1 Tbsp water

1. Cut sheets into 12 squares each
2. Beat egg & water
3. Glaze top of pastry sheets
4. Roll chocolate (2 squares/few chips – what will fit) diagonally into squares (glaze will be inside)
5. Place seam down on cookie sheet (with parchment paper or lightly greased)
6. Brush top w/ remaining egg mixture
7. Bake at 400 degrees 15 min. or until golden brown
8. Let sit 5 min, serve warm



For more information/recipes on/from Barbara O’Neal, visit: http://www.barbaraoneal.com/