January is now halfway over and for some of us, we’re still going strong on maintaining those New Year’s Resolutions. We want to hear what your resolution is (or was) and just for sharing, you’ll be entered to win a $25 gift certificate to Tiny Prints – perfect for ordering your personalized classroom Valentine’s for the kids or anything else you’ve had your eye on. Just hop on over to our Facebook page (and like us if you haven’t already) to tell us what your resolution is. You can either post on our wall or comment right on our status, the winner will be announced next Tuesday, January 24th so get posting!
Valentine’s Day – an artificial holiday that has spawned greeting card empires, movies, songs, poems and the ire of millions all at once. I am mostly in the “not playing” category on this one, however now that I have kids I find myself falling for the playfulness of the day all over again. My oldest two come home from school, backpacks overflowing with little cards, and insist we sit down and read each and every one of them together. They love it, and don’t care about it’s forced commercialism, so I’ve grown to love it with them.
If you too need to rediscover Cupid’s Day through the eyes of your littlest loves, check out our fun list of crafts and cards you can all make together. Whether you’re hosting a Valentine’s Day crafting party for children, or just refusing to buy a value pack of Spider Man or Dora cards, we’ve got you covered!
We are now officially past the two week mark – the point in time when most people have already ditched their well-meaning New Year’s resolutions. How are you doing? Still hanging strong or back to favoring twinkies and wine over rice cakes and yoga? Well, in case you need a kick in the admittedly tighter pants, we’re continuing our Resolutions for the Real You series with another Eat Better entry today: Mediterranean Beef Stew.
Beef Stew and I have a somewhat dicey history, the name alone conjures memories of chewy meat that sat in the crock pot all day and is pretty much the last thing I’d invite to my dinner table. I’m guessing you can see where this is going, much like the last time I posted about how I disliked butternut squash but was willing to start a new religion over this soup, beef stew finally won me over with the inspired addition of some red wine. I first made this recipe several years ago and it’s since become a staple in our house in the winter, the simmering wine smells amazing and even the kids love it which is the sure sign of a winner.
One tip I always make sure to pass on if you want to avoid chewy meat, be sure to trim the pieces into 1″ cubes before you start cooking. The stew meat you buy from the store is usually about triple the size you want it to be, and if you skip this step the results will not be the same at all. Also, a great rule of thumb when adding wine (or any alcohol) to a recipe is to always cook with something that you know tastes good and that you would drink outside of the dish. You certainly don’t need to open a $50 bottle for this recipe, but there are lots of tasty alternatives in the $10 to $12 range and since you only need a cup, it would be wasteful to not drink the rest anyway. What else are you going to do for the hour and a half it takes for the stew to finish cooking?
Mediterranean Beef Stew
- 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 1/2 cups halved mushrooms (about 8 ounces)
- 2 cups diagonally cut carrot
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped onion
- 1 1/2 cups sliced celery
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or other dry red wine
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 (14.5-ounce) cans no-salt-added stewed tomatoes, undrained
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 (2 1/4-ounce) can sliced ripe olives, drained (I am not a fan of oiliness so I’ve never added this ingredient. If you’re not into them, you can leave them out as well with no effect on the finished product.)
- 3.5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Salt and pepper, to taste
*If serving the finished stew over mashed potatoes, which I highly recommend, add potatoes to your shopping list as well.
Heat oil in a large Dutch or stew pot oven over medium-high heat. Add beef; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan. Add mushrooms and next 4 ingredients (mushrooms through garlic) to pan; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return beef to pan. Stir in water and next 6 ingredients (water through bay leaves); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in olives, and cook for 20-30 minutes or until beef is tender (check on the beef at the 20 minute mark, some pots heat faster than others and you don’t want to overcook it). Discard bay leaves. Stir in vinegar. Sprinkle with parsley and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Serve with mashed potatoes.
Originally adapted from Cooking Light.
One of the most comforting meals on a cold winter day is a piping hot bowl of chili. I especially love it with a big piece of crusty bread and some homemade guacamole. I don’t eat much meat anymore, so I needed a good vegetarian chili that was also hearty enough to please my family. The below recipe is super easy, and because it’s made in a slow-cooker, you can literally put everything together in the morning and come home from work with dinner already made.
Recipe modified from Stratford’s Sweet Chili (From 300 Slow Cooker Favorites by Donna-Marie Pye)
Serves 6 to 8
Slow cooker size: 5 to 6 quart
- 1 can (19 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 2 cups home-cooked chickpeas
- 2 cans (19 oz) red kidney beans or black beans, drained and rinsed, or 2 cups home-cooked beans
- 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes with herbs and spices
- 1 can (10 oz) corn kernels, drained
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup liquid honey
- 3 tbsp chili powder
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
- Sour cream
- Cheddar cheese, shredded
1. In slow cooker stoneware, combine chickpeas, kidney beans, tomatoes, corn, carrots, garlic and red onion.
2. In a bowl, combine ketchup, honey, chili powder and cayenne; mix well and pour into slow cooker. Stir mixture to combine.
3. Cover and cook on Low for 8 to 10 hours or on High for 4 to 6 hours, until hot and bubbling.
4. With 1 hour left, add green pepper, red pepper and yellow pepper.
5. Serve in bowls with your choice of sour cream, cheese, guacamole or all three.
We all have a lot of stuff. And when we become parents, we have even more stuff. So, where to put it all? How do we begin to tackle the task of storing it in a way where it doesn’t just sit in a box until we forget we even owned all of this? It’s easy, with a little creativity and a little channeling of our inner Marthas, everything can find a place and look good doing so. Check out some of our ideas to get inspiration for your own piles, and then get organizing!
Organize Your: Books
Books – can’t live without them, can’t throw them away and raise a bunch of illiterates. So then the question begs, where do we keep these ever-growing piles of words and how do we display them in a manner which is consistent with the style in our homes? Question – answered.
Check out these repurposed $3.99 Ikea spice racks. They make great front-facing bookshelves, especially handy for the preschoolers and smaller set.
Take a cue from preschool and elementary school libraries everywhere and put them in plastic bins labeled according to subject. Newbie readers will love being able to go to a specific bin to find what they’re looking for instead of having to leaf through each and every title.
Make them fabulous and organize by color! Fashion over function, absolutely, but sometimes good design just has to win.