Freezer Meals for February

On Monday night, six of us met to assemble six dishes. I had taken a couple months off to clear out the stash of food in our deep freeze(r?), and I was excited to be back. The food for this month was also more grain-free/Paleo-friendly than previous. Score!

Granola Bars



These didn’t even make it to the freezer because I knew I wanted to bake them immediately for breakfasts and snacks this week. They are super yummy! I plan on wrapping most of them up individually and freezing them, because while Finley and I could polish these off pretty quickly, we probably shouldn’t. Also, if I make these again in the future, which I already plan on doing, I’ll use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.

Chili Chicken, Kale and Quinoa Casserole

I’m looking forward to making this one because it looked really pretty! Normally casseroles are ugly – right? This also sounds like it would be a good spring or summer dish, so maybe if it’s a winner, I’ll make another one to store in my deep freeze for after Baby is born.

Zuppa Toscana

  • 1 lb sausage, browned (I used mild ground Italian sausage)
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 3 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed 
  • 16 oz spinach (frozen is fine)
  • 5 cups broth
  • 8 oz heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tbs minced garlic
  • 2-3 slices cooked bacon (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Cook on low for 6 hours.

*Don’t include the potatoes. Keep them in your pantry until you make the soup. You also don’t need to include the broth in the bag.

Meatball and Veggie Soup

This was such a colorful bag of soup when it was finished! Check out all the veggies in it. This also could be a nice warmer weather soup. And by warmer I mean 30 degrees or higher. 

  • 32 oz bag of meatballs (don’t add to gallon ziplock bag – it won’t fit with everything else – just keep in freezer until you’re ready to make the soup)
  • 6 cups Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 16 oz spinach (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cups green peppers, diced
  • 1 cup each summer squash and zucchini, diced (store in separate smaller bag and add to soup for the last hour of cooking – this can be frozen though)
  • 64 oz tomato juice (don’t add to gallon ziplock – keep in pantry and add the day of cooking)
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • 1 tbs dried basil
  • 1 tbs dried parsley
  • Salt and pepper

Cook on low for 4 hours, adding the squash and zucchini in the last hour.

Sweet Garlic Chicken

I made this for dinner Wednesday night and was pleasantly surprised. Other than slow cooker chicken that is shredded, I’ve had not so good luck with whole breasts. They end up dry and blah except for the sauce on the outside. These were a smidge dry but still tasty. Next time (because I only cooked one pound) I’ll reduce the cooking time even more.

  • 2 lbs chicken breasts
  • 1 tbs BBQ seasoning
  • 1 tbs Garlic and Herb seasoning
  • 1 tbs Asian seasoning
  • 2/3 cup pomegranate balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbs cornstarch 
  • 1/2 cup water

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

So ya, I disagree with the cooking time. While I did have half the amount of chicken, mine were done on low after four hours (or maybe less). Also, the sauce wasn’t very thick, so I took it out, heated it over the stove, and added a tapioca starch/water mixture to thicken it. You could use cornstarch but I didn’t have any.

Chicken Wings (no link or original source provided)

  • 2.5 lbs chicken legs and/or wings
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbs ketchup
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Place (thawed, if frozen) marinated chicken in a 9 x 13 baking dish and bake for one hour.

Happy cooking and eating!

Question:

Anyone out there also in a freezer meal group or make freezer meals on their own? 

Today Thus Far

Today has went like this: 

-an early morning wakeup call (5:50am, and Finley has been on a cherry juice strike – coincidence?) 

-a trip to Woodmans for groceries for the week, including a huge vat of strawberries in the clearance section for 99 cents 

-a denied entrance to Play N Learn (a free play group funded by United Way) because we were five minutes late and they were already at capacity 

-an impromptu play date with Finley’s friend Noah and my friend Amber at their house 

-two phone conversations with nurses regarding sore throats and coughs (Finley and I are both under the weather) 

-a delicious lunch of salad with leftover crispy chicken and a small bowl of loaded baked potato soup from Costco 

-a short walk with the dogs while Finley napped

-the discovery on said walk that water was streaming out of a spigot on the side of our house

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-a visit from the company who winterized our sprinkler system, who realized the valve wasn’t turned off (or was turned back on) 

-a sleeping toddler on my chest (she’s been sleeping another 30-60 minutes after she wakes up from her nap if we hold her…which we won’t be able to do for much longer so I’m enjoying the snuggles)

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How’s your day going?

Meal Plan for Sunday, Feb. 8 – Saturday, Feb. 14

I’m posting this on an odd, likely non-shopping day for most folks, but you may always be looking for new recipes. I bookmark mine and go through them when I meal plan.

Also, this post was mostly done on Sunday, but I forgot to finish it and add the links. If you’re anything like me, though, mid-week you realize you’ve forgotten something you need for the week (truth #1) or run out of milk (truth #2).

Sunday: pineapple cashew fried rice

Monday (Brody’s birthday!!!): pork burgers and roasted cauliflower

Tuesday: kielbasa (roasted garlic kind from Costco) and roasted potatoes

Wednesday: oven baked chicken fajitas

Thursday: sloppy Josephines (like sloppy joes but with some veggies snuck in)

Friday: Asian-style ground pork in lettuce cups

Saturday: steak and potato salad

*These last three meals are recipes I’m testing for a friend writing a cookbook geared towards feeding toddlers healthy, good food. How cool is that!

My meals are also interchangeable throughout the week (as long as the meat is thawed or can thaw quickly). I’ll ask Brody what he’s in the mood for based on the options; sometimes he has an opinion and sometimes he doesn’t. If possible, I’ll do some or all prep during Finley’s afternoon nap since 5-6pm can still be somewhat of a witching hour for her.

Let me know if you try any of these!

Meal Plan for Saturday, January 31 – Thursday, Feb. 5

Happy Sunday!

I did my meal planning on Saturday morning because I knew I’d have the opportunity to grocery shop alone during Finley’s nap. Brody’s dad is visiting from Switzerland, so while he and Brody watched a documentary about The Basement Tapes (amazing by the way!), I drove to Copps in Middleton.

I prefer to do my grocery shopping at Woodmans, but I knew it would be busy and I didn’t feel like driving into Sun Prairie for the fifth time in a week. One benefit of this store is there’s a Starbucks in the same strip mall area, so I picked up a decaf Americano with a few pumps of skinny mocha.

This week’s meals are nothing spectacular and include lots of leftover nights because Brody will be gone skiing and my mom will be visiting. This was a chance to make a couple things Brody doesn’t love or won’t eat that I will enjoy and make for good leftovers.

Saturday: carry out from Salvatore’s (we had the Forestiere and Forza)
*Brody’s dad loves their pizza like we do, so we knew we’d have it one night he was here. We picked it up after taking Finley ice skating for the first time.

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Sunday: Ohio Farmhouse Sausage Chili (from The Joy of Cooking), cornbread, and side salad

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Monday: leftovers and/or something from the freezer

Tuesday: Emily’s sloppy joes on baked potatoes

Wednesday: The Pioneer Woman’s chicken spaghetti

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: leftovers

Are you watching the Super Bowl? We will be, although I may be hitting up a prenatal yoga class from 4:30-5:30pm. Then I’ll come home to watch football, chase Finley around and eat yummy food.

Meal Plan 1/11/15-1/17/15

Brody and I have let our preferred way of eating slide over the last couple months. We both felt great sticking to a mainly grain-free diet, and as I mentioned, Brody dropped a significant amount of weight.

Then I got pregnant. All I wanted to eat for the month of October was carbs. Tortilla chips (GF, but still). Bagels with cream cheese. Bread. Cereal. I went to town. I felt nauseated almost every day for a month, and the thought of food, especially meat, would make me want to hurl (which I never did, thank goodness). I could barely meal plan. I’d go to Costco and come home with Aussie bites (which Finley ate most of), mozzarella sticks, fish sticks, pre-made Caesar salad and tomato basil soup.

My grain-loving self then rubbed off on Brody, and he found himself “cheating” more.

The last straw was the holidays. There’s no avoiding all the sugar, carbs and booze (unless you have an allergy and/or are pregnant).

Now that life has returned to normal and my appetite is back, Brody and I are trying to get back on track. Much of this falls on me since I’m the one who grocery shops and meal plans. While pregnant, though, I’m still going to keep some grains in my diet. They do not cause me discomfort, I’m not looking to lose weight, and they make me happy.

Lunches (for me): beef and barley soup
*I used the broth, which had been in our deep freezer, I made from the leftover rib roasts from Christmas.

Sunday: Calzones (from Brittany Angel’s book, Every Last Crumb)

Monday: Steak stir fry

Tuesday: Crock Pot ginger chicken (a freezer meal) and roasted broccoli

Wednesday: Smoked kielbasa (from Costco) and roasted potatoes

Thursday: Pork Szechuan stir fry

Friday: Wing it/order takeout

Saturday: Dinner at The Immigrant Room at The American Club in Kohler!!!

Sorry I don’t have many actual recipes this week, as this was kind of a “clean out the freezer” week. Next week maybe I’ll be more adventurous and interesting.

A Day in the Life [12-11-14]

What better way to fill you in on my life than a this-is-what-I-did-in-day-if-you-care-at-all post. Oh, and it never shows up in what we did today, but I’m pregnant and due June 4! Finley will have a little brother or sister who is almost two years younger than her.

5:50am: Finley is awake but it’s too early for everyone.

5:55am: I’ve successfully soothed her back to sleep.

6:20am: Now she’s awake for real.

6:25am: Diaper change

6:30am: Sesame Street in Mom and Dad’s bed

7:00am: Breakfast with The Today Show playing in the background

7:30am: Bake pumpkin muffins

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7:40am: Finley watches the rest of the Sesame Street episode.

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8:00am: Diaper change

8:05am: Play time with breaks to sample the muffins

9:30am: Drop off at gym’s daycare

9:35am: Kickboxing class for Mama

10:25am: Shower…alone with no toddler trying to open my hairspray or use Qtips

10:35am: Pick up Finley from daycare

11:00am: Home and diaper change

11:10am: Lunch

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11:35am: Play with Mom’s wallet and attempt to eat coins

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11:45am: Read books in Finley’s room

12:00pm: Diaper change

12:10am: Sing “Twinkle Twinkle” and put Finley in her crib

12:20pm: Finley is asleep.

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12:25pm: Make Starbucks hot chocolate

12:45pm: Address Christmas cards in the basement

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1:20pm: Work on this post

2:00pm: Odds and ends: make guac (avocados were on their last legs), fold laundry, brush teeth (whoops, hadn’t done that yet today), pick up a little, etc.

2:30pm: Relax on the couch, meal plan, and make grocery list

2:55pm: Finley is awake – quite a nap!

3:00pm: She has a kids Chobani tube and we watch Mickey’s Christmas Carol. *Normally we only watch an hour or less of tv a day (typically Sesame Street), but I saw this recorded and wanted to see it too.

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3:30pm: Finley eats peanut butter granola with milk, and I have crackers and cheese.

4:00pm: Walk the dogs – Finley cries for the last half of it while I try to keep her happy by singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and the ABCs.

4:30pm: Home and diaper change

4:40pm: Play and wait for Dad to come home (plus another diaper change at some point)

5:25pm: Brody is home, and I watch while he entertains Finley.

6:10pm: Dinner – we all fend for ourselves.

6:40pm: Finley gets a bath.

6:55pm: Brody and I read Finley holiday books.

7:10pm: Lights out for our little one

7:15pm: Couch, pineapple, tv (Blackhawks are playing), Facebook, blogs, Instagram, text with my sister, and this post

8:45pm: Get ready for bed

9:00pm: Lights out for the adults

A Weekend in DC

Good morning!

I’ve got some free time while all the kiddos (Finley plus the two I watch a couple days a week) sleep and wanted to share our weekend trip to DC.

We flew in late Thursday night, and Finley fell asleep sprawled out across our laps. She stayed asleep in our arms as we got off the plane and walked to get our bags.

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Erin and Dan have a one bedroom condo and were kind enough to give us their bedroom for the weekend. Erin’s friend loaned us all the baby gear we needed (pack n play, car seat, high chair, etc), and the pack n play was already set up in their bedroom.

Friday morning began around 7:15am (Finley slept in!!!). Erin and Dan both had to work, so the morning was ours. Brody, Finley and I walked to Starbucks and Target and then strolled around for a bit.

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Erin was able to come home early, so we went to lunch with her. We drove to Union Market.

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What a cool place! There were lots of food vendors and “stores” set up inside. Brody got a burger, Finley ordered a grilled cheese, and Erin and I had Korean tacos. Yum!

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We hung out at their condo for the rest of the day. We drank, relaxed on the couch, watched Finley chase Chester, and ate dinner on the back patio.

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Saturday morning, Finley woke us up before 7am, and to let Erin and Dan sleep a little more, we took a walk to Starbucks (basically the only coffee shop open before 8am – crazy!!!) and a bakery for croissants.

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After her (and my) morning nap, Finley took her first ever train ride.

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We took the train to a BBQ place. I had the BBQ Chef Salad because it had four kinds of meat on it – the perfect sampler!

Next up was the zoo. Unfortunately the rain cut our stay there short, but we still had fun seeing elephants, gorillas, and pandas. It was even one of the pandas first birthdays.

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We decided to walk back to the condo from the zoo even though it was still raining. Finley didn’t mind, and we were already wet from being at the zoo. At the condo, everyone napped. Yes, that means I took two naps on Saturday. Pretty amazing vacation, right?

Once again, we stayed at the condo for the rest of the day and had a delicious meal.

On Sunday our flight didn’t leave until 2pm, so we spent the morning being lazy and eating eggs and bacon.

The flight home went just fine. The problems arose once we got back to our car in Milwaukee. The battery was dead, and we couldn’t find the parking ticket. Yikes! My smart husband called the airport’s information desk, who sent out a guy with jumper cables. He was at our car in two minutes, and a few minutes later, the car was running. Phew! Then, while Brody packed the car, I searched by the driver’s seat for the ticket. And I found it! Phew again! Two potentially pricey mishaps avoided.

It was a fabulous trip and so good to spend time with Erin and Dan!

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My Unwarranted Advice for Soon-to-be Moms

A handful of my friends are pregnant right now. Some with their first, and some with their second. I love talking about all things pregnancy and baby related, and I realized I had never done a post like this before. While I am far from an expert, here are my two unwarranted cents.

1. Read The Happiest Baby on the Block before Baby is born. Read it again after Baby is born. A friend recommended this book to Brody, and I am SO thankful. It was an invaluable resource and helped prepare us for making Finley comfortable in her new, scary environment (aka the world and not the uterus). I suggest reading it after Baby’s birth because you’ll likely have missed or forgotten something, or it will just make more sense now with a tiny being in front of you.

2. Attend a mother baby hour from early on and as long as you can. When Finley was three weeks, I went to Meriter’s (my hospital) weekly meeting for first time mamas. There are three groups: 0-3, 3-6, and 6-9 months. I went almost every week and looked forward to each meeting. I found it to be a safe place to talk about my struggles and ask questions. So many moms were going through similar things, or had recently gone through it, and I learned a lot from them and the nurse who facilitated the meetings. A group of about twenty moms formed a Friday play group so that we could continue to get together past nine months, let our kids play, and be there for each other.

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Finley at one of her last Mother Baby Hours

3. This one is quite trivial but enjoy your thick, luscious hair during pregnancy and for the first few months post birth. Because it’s going to fall out. As someone with thin hair, I loved this part of pregnancy. Thanks to the extra estrogen in our bodies, the hair follicles hold on to the hair you’d normally lose. So when your hair starts coming out and clogging the shower drain, it’s releasing all the hair it’s been hanging on to for over a year. I’ve also been dealing with awkward re-growth of hair on the top of my scalp.

4. Don’t become obsessed with napping like I did. Looking back, I see how much energy I wasted regarding Finley’s napping. Finley was never a bad sleeper (although she had her rough patches like all babies). There’s so much I could say here, but I won’t. I only wish I would’ve been more “go with the flow” and not have been so much of a nap slave. (Do you feel the same way Jena?)

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Sleepy baby

5. You don’t need to change Baby’s diaper very often in the night. For the first few weeks of Finley’s life, I changed her diaper every time she got up in the middle of the night. This would often extend her time awake and make her upset (cold air, cold wipes, etc). I finally learned that unless the diaper is soiled or she’s had it on for a long time, it’s unnecessary to change it.

6. Leave Baby with your partner overnight as soon as you’re ready. Or maybe sooner. I went on a girls weekend trip for two nights to Lake Geneva (an hour and a half away) when Finley was four months old. Brody stayed home with Finley, and he did awesome. I appreciated and needed the break from my role as a mommy.

7. Consider joining Netflix. This was something Brody told a couple recently, so I’m stealing it for this list. Newborns sleep A LOT. I watched the first season of Orange is the New Black in a few days. This winter, we watched all seven seasons of The West Wing.

8. Make as many freezer meals as you can before Baby is born. Even though babies sleep a lot early on, you’ll often be so exhausted that cooking is not appealing. I spent Finley’s naps cleaning, napping myself, or *gasp* relaxing (reading or watching tv). Freezer meals that involve a slow cooker would be ideal. A simple search on online (or even my blog!) will provide lots of options.

9. Keep food and water next to the chair where you feed your baby. I was hungry and thirsty all the time when Finley was first born. Before Finley went to sleep, I’d put an extra water bottle and a small snack (trail mix, Larabar-like balls, etc) next to the rocker.

10. Find a babysitter you trust and use him/her to go on date nights with your partner. Or get a haircut by yourself. We left Finley with a babysitter for an afternoon when she was six weeks old. That may be earlier than some parents are ready for, but we felt confident in our sitter and weren’t going to be far from home. A former neighbor of ours recommended our sitter, who recently graduated from college, and her mom lived across the street from us. I know other moms have had luck with care.com and the UW Job Center website (if you love in the Madison area, but I bet other colleges have something similar). If you’re lucky enough to have family members in the area, take advantage of when they offer to watch your little one.

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Brody and I at a wedding sans baby

Questions:
What was some good or bad advice you were given about pregnancy or babies?
How have you helped a new mama out during those first few months?

High School Friends Reunion

When I left for college, I remember being told my life-long friends would be college friends, not those from high school. They were so wrong.

No matter how much time goes by, when I see my friends from high school, it’s like we were all together yesterday. *Luckily, this is also the case with my college friends.

On Friday night, I went over to Kelly’s apartment and spent a couple hours drinking wine with her and Ashley, who had driven in from the Chicago area.

By Saturday, everyone was in town and ready to get the weekend started. We met for lunch at The Free House in Middleton (which is only a couple miles from our temporary house). I brought Finley who was so well behaved; she ate a ton of food, didn’t need her paci once, and was happy being held by all my friends.

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Everyone shared the details about the big things going on in their lives:

Rena: Getting married in July!!!
Jeana: Pregnant with baby #2, who she announced is a boy!!!
Susan: Also pregnant with baby #2!!! She doesn’t know the sex yet.
Ashley: Recently moved into a new house!!! She stays busy with boys who are 14 month apart.
Bree: Her and the hubby have lots of home projects and have a wedding planning business. They’re so crafty!!!
Kelly: This ambitious friend of mine has her own dental practice!!!

Next up were mani/pedis. My feet needed some loving, so I was super excited for this part of the weekend. I made reservations for everyone at KLC Nail and Spa on Odana, and like the other time I went there, it was great. They even do a paraffin wax treatment on your feet.

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After the pampering, we went our separate ways to get ready for a night out. Susan was our DD for the night, so she picked me up, and we made our way downtown.

A visit to the Terrace was a must, and we all shared a pitcher of Spotted Cow. It was busy, but that’s to be expected for a Saturday night.

For dinner we had reservations at Eldorado Grill. I’ve been there a lot recently, but I’m not complaining. As always, I started out with a blackberry margarita. Mmmm… For dinner, and after LOTS of chips and salsa, I had fish tacos. They were very good. Oh, and I had a second margarita.

Bree swore Weary Traveler was only a couple blocks away, but it ended up being more of a walk. I didn’t mind, though; a walk after the big meal felt good. Once we got there, we saw Jolly Bob‘s across the street and decided that’d be a better spot. Ashley persuaded the bouncer to let us all in for $12 instead of $5/person.

Jolly Bob’s has a beautiful back patio, so we ordered drinks, a Painkiller for me, and found a table. Some guy ended up buying us a round of Lemon Drops. I hadn’t taken a shot in such a long time, and I’m not a huge fan, but this shot is actually a favorite.

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The last stop of the night was Weary Traveler across the street. I had my last drink of the night (some ginger concoction) and we played Cards Against Humanity, which is the best game ever.

We were out until 2am! Of course, Finley decided to start the day at 5:45am. My amazing husband got up with her and I slept in until 8:30am.

To finish out the weekend, Jeana had everyone (except Susan who went back to her dad’s in Oshkosh) over for brunch. Finley had fun playing with Avery, and us ladies chatted away.

I have awesome friends.

Pasta Cooking Class

Brody and I took a break from packing and stressing about our housing situation to make pasta. Finley stayed home with a babysitter, and we did some eating of gluten and drinking of booze. It was fun!

At a charity event for Make a Wish months ago, we went in with two other couples for a silent auction item: a pasta cooking class at A Pig in a Fur Coat. The class was for up to fifteen people, but we ended up having ten. Brody and I had eaten there once before and loved it, so we were excited to learn from a professional how to make a food we don’t eat anymore. Ha! But it’s not like we can’t and won’t eat pasta anymore; we just do in very sparingly.

A Pig in a Fur Coat recently finished the space behind the restaurant. We were technically their guinea pigs, as we were the first class they taught. Chef Dan shared a little about his background in the food business, and then we got going.

First we made the dough and let it rest for a bit. To make the pasta, we split into boys and girls. There was butternut squash ravioli, ricotta ravioli, and something similar to linguine.

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We watched Chef Dan cook our pasta, and he showed us the sauces each would be paired with. The pesto smelled incredible! We learned he doesn’t put pinenuts in his pesto. The brown butter sage sauce smelled heavenly, and it was so easy to make. The third, a simple tomato sauce, was very fresh.

A table in the actual restaurant was set up for us to eat the pasta we made. Chef Dan also brought out bread with chorizo and an heirloom tomato salad. It was a delicious mid-afternoon meal. Our babysitter had mentioned that she loved their fries (cooked in duck fat!), so I put in an order for those. Everything was so yummy! The three glasses of wine I drank while there weren’t too shabby either.

To continue the afternoon of fun, we moved the party to Old Sugar Distillery. We’ve been there a handful of times already, and they make a mean cocktail. They have outdoor seating as well. I ordered the Honey Cap – so good.

Brody and I got home at 6pm to a very happy Finley. She was in such a good mood! Although she was a little crabby after we left, she took a great nap for Emma and woke up smiling.

Finley went to sleep around 7pm, and Brody and I continued our gluttonous ways and ate Salvatore’s pizza for dinner.

It was a very nice day.