Thursday, November 13, 2014

Meal Planning for the Week + Black Bean Soup Recipe

Since the temperatures have cooled down a bit, I've been having fun making all of my favorite soups.  Black bean soup is probably our second favorite soup, with last week's tomato soup being the first.  Sunday and Monday evenings are usually a little crazy for us.  We have church on Sunday evenings, and then we each go to bible study on Mondays after work.  If we don't have something on hand that can be quickly microwaved, we usually end up having to get takeout; an option that I try to avoid because of the extra calories and money.

Soups work so well on Sundays because I can prepare them during the day, and keep them warm in the crockpot while we're out of the house.  When we return from church, dinner is ready to go.  This black bean soup recipe makes a lot, enough for at least three dinners and a couple of lunches, too.  This week I shared some of my soup with my sweet neighbor, Megan, since we had so much extra.  I also attached a little recipe card so that she could make it again.


Black Bean Soup 

EVOO
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 T cumin
1 1/2 t coriander
1/2 t chipotle powder
1 box chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes

Heat the EVOO over medium-high heat in a stock pot.  Add celery and onion, and cook for 5 minutes.  Add bell pepper and garlic, and cook a few minutes longer.  Reduce heat to medium,  add beans, spices, broth, and tomatoes.  Cook for 5 minutes longer and then process with an immersion blender until smooth.  Simmer for an additional 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve topped with shredded cheese or sour cream (or both!).  These also go really well with quesadillas, which are perfect for dipping in the soup.


Here's Our Meal Plan for this Week:

Sunday- Black Bean Soup and Quesadillas with homemade Pico De Gallo
Monday-Black Bean Soup and Quesadillas with homemade Pico De Gallo
Tuesday-Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken with Spicy Asian Zucchini and salads with ginger dressing
Wednesday- Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken with Spicy Asian Zucchini and salads with ginger dressing
Thursday- Out to eat
Friday- Out to eat

Monday, November 10, 2014

Weekend Recap: A Day Trip To Asheville

On Saturday morning, T, George, and I all hopped in the car and headed to Asheville for the day.  We've never taken a day trip to Asheville before, but it's only an hour down the road.  Not sure why we haven't ever done this before- it was such a blast!

We arrived just in time for lunch, and stopped at a place called Rocky's Hot Chicken Shack. T and I first fell in love with Tennessee-style hot chicken on our first year anniversary trip when we happened upon a place called Hattie B's.  We later tried out the recipe ourselves when we hosted supper club, and were very pleased with the results. When we found out Asheville had a Tennessee-style hot chicken restaurant, we just had to go.  This place is also number one on Urbanspoon's current Talk of the Town list, so apparently we weren't the only ones dying to try it out.

We were starving when we arrived, so we started with an order of fried pickles and two PBRs.  Rocky's also has a wide selection of microbrews, but the combination of hot chicken and a cold PBR sounded pretty enticing that day.


I ordered a leg and a thigh plate with fried okra and sweet potato casserole. Once you pick your kind of meat, you then choose your heat level.  At Rocky's "mild" doesn't necessarily mean mild, it's still got some heat to it.  T went with the medium heat level, and I went of the Mildeum, a mix between mild and medium.  Just as we expected, T's was more like a hot heat level, and mine was like a medium-hot.


For his sides, T ordered mac and cheese, and slaw.  All four of our sides were amazing, but we quickly realized we ordered way too much food.  As usual, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs.  We could have easily ordered two sides to share, and I would have been good with just one piece of chicken. 


Regardless of our over ordering, we were very pleased with everything Rocky's had to offer.  A fun ambiance, friendly staff, great food, and a dog friendly porch. George even got to enjoy a taste of their yummy chicken, with the spicy parts taken off, of course. 



Our next stop was downtown Asheville to do some walking around.  Once we felt like we worked off a bit of our lunch we plopped down at one of the outdoor tables at Jack Of The Wood, a Celtic style pub that's home to Green Man Brewing.  We sipped on our beers, and did some people watching as we listened to the oldies music of the radio station next door.  The DJ was broadcasting live right out of the window front, and they had big speakers set out on the sidewalk so everyone could hear.

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After our beer at Jack Of The Wood, we headed to Wicked Weed Brewing, and sat out on their front patio which is also dog friendly.  They even had dog bowls out and a spigot for dog water that looked just like a beer tap.


Wicked Weed's prices for beers were great.  They offered both 10 oz and 16 oz pours of their beers.  I ordered the 10 oz Reticent Saison for a whopping $2.50, and T tried the 10 oz Old Fashioned, an ale brewed with cherries and orange zest and aged in whiskey barrels.  I wish we were hungry, because the food all around us looked scrumptious. 



Once the temperatures started to drop, we decided it was time to head back home.  An hour later we were back in our neighborhood sitting around a fire with our neighbors watching football, and George was fast asleep.  We both agreed than an Asheville trip needs to be a yearly tradition, and this year we couldn't have picked a better time to go.  The air was crisp and chilly, and the leaves were absolutely beautiful, such a perfect time to be in the mountains!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Five on Friday: November Goals

Happy Friday!  Last month I made 5 goals for myself, and published them on my blog.  I really enjoyed working towards all five goals throughout the month, and really have liked the results that I've seen. Writing my goals down forced me to seriously work towards them, something that I've struggled with in the past.  Since it was such a success, I decided to to it again for the month of November, Five on Friday style.

1. Try five (more) new recipes-  I had a lot of fun with this one last month, so I decided to repeat it.  I already crossed one new recipe off the list with this week's Barbacoa Beef Tacos, so now only four more to go.

Barbacoa Beef Tacos



2. Christmas decorations purchased and put up- This one should be pretty simple.  We always travel for Christmas, so I try to decorate early enough that we still get to enjoy our house all decorated before we have to leave it.

3. Do something on the walls of the guest room-  We've lived in our house for almost a year now, and our guest room still has bare walls.  The room has so much potential, and getting something up on the walls needs to be the first step.

4. Clean up the natural area in the front yard-  When we moved in to our house the natural areas in our front yard had been taken over by monkey grass.  T recently cleared one of them out for me, so it's now my job to spruce it up a bit. 

5. Fireplace installed-  I've been wanting to get this done forever, but for some reason I keep on putting it off.  We've got the gas logs, its just a matter of buying the right hood for the fireplace and calling the gas guy to install.  

Hope y'all have a great weekend!



Thursday, November 6, 2014

Meal Planning For The Week

For a little over a year now, T and I have been on a strict budget.  We've got student loans and a car payment to knock out, and we're trying to get both paid off as soon as possible.  In hopes to throw the maximum amount of money that we can towards our debt each month, we budget every single dollar that we spend.  It's exhausting and really frustrating at times, but we've made some serious headway over the last year and we're already ahead of schedule with getting it all paid off. 

So with that said, meal planning is a must in our house.  I have $80 to spend on groceries each week, which includes food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and alcohol.  I try to shop the sales, make use of things that we already have in our pantry or freezer each week, and we always eat leftovers.  I usually spend every last dollar of the $80 each week, and pay with cash so I don't have the option of going over.

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By T's request, we had tomato soup on Sunday and Monday nights of this week.  This is my mom's recipe and it's the best tomato soup I've ever tasted; brie makes everything better.  On Tuesday we tried a crock pot Barbacoa Beef recipe that was incredible on tacos.  I usually shy away from slow cooker recipes. Every recipe I try seems to taste the same to me.  The flavors in this beef were so tasty, and it didn't have the typical pot-roasty taste that I feel so many slow cooker recipes have.  So here's what's on the menu for this week.  The Barbacoa Beef made a lot, so we'll be munching on those leftovers through the weekend.

Sunday: Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheeses with Bacon & Avocado
Monday: Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheeses with Bacon& Avocado
Tuesday: Barbacoa Beef Tacos and salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
Wednesday: Out to eat
Thursday: Dinner with T's company
Friday: Out to eat

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

October Goals: Revisited

October was the first month that I've ever published goals for myself on my blog.  One of the things that I love most about blogging is that I feel like it holds me more accountable to follow through.  I set five goals for myself for the month, and I accomplished or made serious progress towards all of them!  Here's a rundown of the progress that was made towards each goal. 

1. Throw away/donate/consign 15 articles of clothing-  This was easier than I thought.  While getting my fall and winter clothes out of the attic this month, I ran across an entire plastic bin of clothes to get rid of.  So instead of donating 15 things, I made it about 35.

2. Fix the wall in our kitchen...again-  Progress has been made.  I put a layer of plaster on the wall, but it still needs to be sanded and repainted.  Hoping to have that done by the end of the week.

3. Make our yard and front stoop more inviting- We've had the same wreath hanging on our front door for about a year now, so it was high time to change it up.  I made a fall wreath for about $8 using this tutorial that I found on Pinterest. 




I also hung two baskets and planted mums in each.  These looked so great for about two weeks, but now the mums are done, and we've just go two empty baskets.  Any ideas on what to put in the baskets that may last through the winter?

4. Try 5 new recipes- I had fun with this goal.  Here are the new recipes that I tried:  1) Chicken and White Bean Enchiladas 2) Chinese 5 Spice Wings 3) Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette 4) Ina Garten's Meatloaf  and 5) Maple Glazed Pecans.  All five recipes were hits in our house, and will be added to our regular rotation.  I plan do to this again this month, too.


5. Do something with the box of crap in our guest room-   While the box hasn't made it all the way to Goodwill, it has made it's way to the trunk of my car.  Progress, right?

I'm so glad that I wrote about my goals for October, and I plan to do the same for this month.  Keeping myself accountable can be challenging, but putting my goals out there for everyone to see definitely makes it easier to accomplish them.  Stay tuned for my November goals later on this week. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Weekend Recap

Most weekends seem to fly by, but for some reason this weekend seemed longer than usual.  I think it's because we packed so much into it that it seemed like there was an extra day in there somewhere.

This was our first Halloween in our house.  I had fun decorating for the holiday this year, and we were pumped about having trick-or-treaters.  On Friday, I made it a point to get home a little early, cut on our porch light, and opened the front door.  I waited and waited, and not a single kid came to our door!  So disappointing, and now T and I are stuck with a 5 lb bag of Kit Kats and Reese's. What a shame.

Later that night we went to a Halloween party at a friend's house.  T dressed up as Richard Simmons, and I was Jane Fonda.  Both of us were way out of our comfort zones with what we were wearing.  I've never worn something so skin tight in public, and this was the first (and hopefully the last) time T has ever worn shorts that short.  All of the costumes that night were on point.  I must say, we've got some pretty creative friends.


Sophia Grace and Rosie



Harry and Marv with Waldo photobombing

Double Dare Contestants

The Hamburgler
 On Saturday, I headed to Lake Hartwell with my bible study group for a retreat.  It was such a great getaway, and I loved getting to spend more time with these girls.  We completely unplugged for the two days that we were there, and spent the whole time eating junk food and playing games.  Very different from my typical weekends, but so needed.


On Sunday afternoon, T and I spent several hours in the yard raking up leaves.  10 wheelbarrow loads later, our yard is finally rid of all the leaves.  I'm hoping that that will last us for a few weeks, because after all of that raking I am sore!

Hope y'all had a great weekend, too! 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

DIY Coasters

Our dog hasn't ruined many of our things during his puppydom (knocking on wood as I type this), but one of the things that he has destroyed is our coasters. Once every single one of them bit the dust, I decided to start looking around for some new ones.  I was shocked at the prices of some of them. $30 for a set of four?  No bueno.


I have tons of upholstery fabric samples that I've ordered for numerous projects over the last few years.  I've been keeping all of these samples just hoping that some project would come up where I'd be able to put them to use.  I also have an obscene amount of burlap leftover from our wedding decor.  Finally a reason to use it!


I was inspired by this post that I found, and used their method to put together a few coasters for our living room.  It was pretty simple, I just cut out 5 inch squares of the burlap and the upholstery fabric, pinned them right sides together, and stitched around each side, leaving a 2" gap.  Flipped the coaster right side out, and whipped the opening on the side shut.  I made three using this method, and for the fourth, I stitched together remnants of all three samples, to give it more of a patchwork look.




The project took me a total of about 15 minutes, and now we've got four cute coasters that didn't cost me a dime.  George better keep his paws off these babies.





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