Spring has Sprung!

It’s still Spring Break here and we’ve been staying quite busy! The weather has been gorgeous (save for one day where it seemed like we were in a hurricane) – clear skies, white fluffy clouds some days, picture-perfect blue backdrops everyday, chilly mornings that burn off to warm, sunny, lovely spring days.

Spring Break actually started last week, after Bigs got out of school. We had breakfast for dinner that night. I made a baked oatmeal casserole.

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I based my recipe loosely on this one:

http://www.aaronandyolanda.com/2013/07/baked-oatmeal-casserole.html

Instead of two cups of milk, I did one cup of coconut milk and a cup of pumpkin puree. I only added a few chocolate chips. I also didn’t add nuts or fruit of any kind. So it’s basically nothing like that recipe. And it of course didn’t turn out like that recipe (what did I expect!).

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It was alright. The oats didn’t get soaked with the pumpkin custard like I thought they would, so there was a separation of sorts. Next time, maybe I’ll have all the right ingredients and I can make it the right way. 🙂

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I served it with scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and sausages. It did the trick (if trick = filling our tummies).

The next day was GORGEOUS! We went to a park play date.

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Smalls was able to keep up with the big kids this time.

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And Big Brother took the time to play with him.

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I love to see them playing nicely together. 🙂

I gave Smalls a wee little apple and he carried that thing around while playing. He dropped it and still clutched it tightly. This is what I found him holding later on.

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The next day was Pancake Saturday – not to ever be missed in our house! It should be renamed Pancake and Breakfast Meat Saturdays.

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By this time, I’d run out of eggs (running out of ingredients is a key theme in my life, apparently). I substituted applesauce for the missing eggs. The result was an incredibly creamy, custard-like inside. I also added loads of vanilla and vanilla bean paste, and some caramel extract that I found at Wally-World (Walmart). I thought they were just delicious.

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They came out fluffy and golden. So good. Seriously. I might be using the applesauce trick again. I also might HAVE to, as I never seem to have everything I need.

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Oh, pancakes.

After breaky, we went to a local Farmer’s Market/Petting Farm. It’s newly opened and we’ve been wanting to try it out.

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Bigs insisted (and I am not using that term lightly) on wearing his overalls and boots.

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Kind of adorable though.

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We saw all kinds of farm animals. Bigs went up to the chicken coop and squatted down and said to them, “Hey Chickens! Why did you cross the road?!” My husband and I were beside ourselves with laughter!

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From there, we went to the food trucks and market side. We ate an okay lunch of hot dogs.

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And followed that up with a huge cup of the most refreshing, gorgeous, delicious fruit ever. I think it tasted even more delicious after that greasy, fried lunch.

We also ran into two different families we know! It was a great day.

When we got home, there was still some time before nap, so the boys did their “yard work”.

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They earn their keep, I tell you.

On Sunday night, some of our best friends, who have moved far away, came back because of work and we got to visit. We went on a date night with several of our couple friends. It was just wonderful seeing them. It is terribly sad when one of your best friends moves away, but it makes you treasure the time you have with them, when you see them again.

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My husband ordered the best red wine I’ve ever had – Jam Jar! SO GOOD! I will have to get that one next time. I’m not much of a red wine drinker, unless it’s sweet, which Jam Jar was.

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We had a minted edamame hummus and roasted red pepper hummus with lavosh crackers, as an appetizer. We also tasted our friends’ pesto chicken flat bread.

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After we toasted to our wonderful friendships…

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…we dug into our meals. My husband ordered the scallops (did not get a good picture) and they were divine. I ordered the winter vegetarian sampling.

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This plate changes seasonally. I love it. This time, there was a stuffed mushroom, some roasted beets, broccolini, asparagus, and peppers, along with a veggie stuffed taco, and some tofu with mango chutney.

This restaurant is famous for its small desserts. I can’t ever choose one.

Oink.

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I chose the chocolate peanut butter mousse (um, SO good) and the cannoli (cannoli cream, chocolate chips, raspberry sauce, cannoli shell).

I can’t even.

I am still dreaming about that cannoli cream. Is that weird? To dream about cannoli cream?

The next day was St. Patrick’s Day! I always go big on these smaller holidays. I love a theme! I think you know that by now.

Before everyone (else) woke up, I put together the Irish Stew in the crock pot.

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I sort of changed around the recipe. I used this recipe as a base:

http://everydaymomsmeals.blogspot.com/2013/02/its-not-soup-its-stew.html

I did not add onion soup mix (due to the non gluten and dairy-free and high sodium nature), so I added real onions. I only used one can of tomato soup and added a can of no-salt stewed tomatoes. I also added more of the same vegetables. I let that sit on low all day while we were busy doing other things.

For breakfast, I made Spinach Pancakes (yep – the third time in five days that I served my family pancakes – that’s how I roll). This was a great recipe.

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They were chock full of fresh spinach (two cups!). Bigs said that they tasted like green beans, but he kept eating them, so that’s a good sign.

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When drizzled with syrup and some butter, the very obvious spinach flavor was sort of pushed to the back (a plus for most kids).

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I added more vanilla than called for. I served them with corned beef hash.

Here is the recipe:

http://www.superhealthykids.com/blog-posts/no-dye-green-pancakes.php

My best friend since kindergarten was up visiting from where she lives and brought her little girl (who is only 2 months older than Smalls). I LOVE seeing my best friend. I miss her dearly. I feel so blessed to see two of my loveliest friends, who no longer live near me, all in the same week!

For an after lunch St. Patty’s Day treat, I made Leprechaun Pudding for the kids!

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I just mixed half a packet of sugar-free, fat-free white chocolate pudding mix into some vanilla yogurt and added some green coloring. I layered that with some Lucky Charms cereal. I think they liked it.

Earlier in the morning, I’d also made a birthday treat for my bestie. I asked her what she wanted and it was so simple and I love her for that. All she wanted was a boxed mix peanut butter brownie with a ganache on top. How easy!

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I sent that home with her. She let me try it and take pictures of it before she left though. THAT’S a best friend!

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It was good. I used coconut milk for the ganache.

While my boys were napping, I prepared our Irish dessert – Banoffee Pie! I totally used shortcuts. I made a quick crust from graham cracker crumbs and butter. I “baked” it in the toaster oven. I sliced a banana on top of that, melted and poured some dulce de leche that I bought from Costco, and sliced another banana on top. I then whipped a half pint of whipping cream and spread that on top.

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I let it sit in the fridge for a few hours. It was SO good.

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I loved that the dulce de leche was the only sweet part of it. I added no sugar to the graham crust or whipped cream. It was a nice contrast.

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It was a dream of a pie – crunchy, buttery and rich, sweet creamy bananas, indulgent, deep caramel, fluffy, milky topping. Seriously, the stuff (my) dreams are made of.

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Just…yum. It was even better the next day.

And the Irish Stew came out SO SO good!

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The stew beef was so tender, as were the potatoes.

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The broth was rich and tomato-y.

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We ate it for two days. It was great.

I’d call that a successful food holiday!

I got a chance to see my other friend (who we’d seen on Sunday) again before she went back up North. We met, with some other friends, at a neat farm-to-table restaurant.

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We started off with fresh, crusty bread and butter (the only way to “start” anything).

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My friend got a Blue Moon and I had some. I love that beer – so refreshing!

My other friend and I went halfsies on the burger. It wasn’t just any old burger. It had bacon jam, pimento cheese, spicy/sweet pickles, bibb lettuce, and a fried green tomato.

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One of the best burgers I’ve had!

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It was served with wedged potato fries topped with shaved white truffles. Earthy, salty goodness.

Aca-yeah!

Yet another friend and I shared the chocolate cake! We call each other “cakesters”…we just live for cake, what can I say!

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It was delicious. And a wonderful night with wonderful friends.

I got to see my kindergarten bestie again the next day! I took her to my favorite donut shop.

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She hadn’t been there before. She is now a convert.

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I got my now usuals – a sprinkle for Bigs, some holes for Smalls (one of which was shoved whole into his teeny mouth), a German chocolate, a Coconut Crunch, a strawberry and cream cheese, a chocolate and peanut butter, and a chocolate and cream cheese.

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I meannnnnn…..

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Oh, my heavens.

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Why, thank you!

We then walked off our calories at the zoo. It was such a gorgeous day!

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The boys and my bestie’s daughter, B, really loved seeing all the animals.

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The usually low-key otters were really playful and the lemurs saved their freak-out for when we were leaving.

It was a really wonderful day.

My, what a foodie Spring Break it’s been, and it isn’t even over yet!

I hope this finds you all well,

Kristin

Birds of a feather find their way home

Flamingo

Once upon a time, there was a girl about 12 years of age. She had an obsession with flamingos. And when I say obsession, I mean it. She loved anything (tacky or not…mostly tacky) that had flamingos on it. It was her thing. And people knew it. After almost 10 years of loving flamingos like she did, this little girl (now a much older young lady) went through some difficult life changes and all of a sudden, she didn’t know who she was anymore. She had an early life crisis, if you will. Flamingos now reminded her of that rough time in her life and she just stopped liking them. It was very sad.

After many, many years of trying to find herself, the young lady had an epiphany. She realized that she could love whatever she wanted and it didn’t have to remind her of a yucky place in her life…she could just re-associate her love for flamingos to where she was now and to the good memories she had in the past. It was a big step. It wasn’t just about the flamingos. It was about self-acceptance. Finding that she liked who she was becoming, and also letting herself grow, letting go of some of her dark places, learning that she loved finding out more about herself, that it made her more complete.

That little girl turned young lady is me (I’m not terribly young anymore, mind you).

I am very happy to say that I’ve been back in the flamingo game for a few years now (maybe not to THAT extent that I was, but I am more than okay with enjoying them again).

It truly makes me feel more whole when I discover something about myself, that I maybe didn’t previously know or that I somehow suppressed on my journey and have re-discovered. God has helped put me back on the track to being myself and I am so grateful.

So. Today is Bird Day in Bigs’ class at school. Although I have several different bird cookie cutters, it just seemed fitting to me to use my beloved flamingo. I’m not even sure why I ever got into them. Maybe because they are pink (post shrimp buffet)? Because they are weird and stand on one leg? I really don’t know. But they are neat. And they are absolutely a sign of self-acceptance and self-love to me, in some weird (I’m weird, what can I say!) way.

So, I made a flamingo themed lunch for my Bigs today.

Flamingo Themed Preschool Lunch

And I made it as tacky as I could. It’s the only way, really, when dealing with flamingos.

I made a flamingo-shaped crunchy PB&J. I also put in corn and carrots, some pink (strawberry, I think?) yogurt pretzels and some cherry yogurt raisins. I used some of my flamingo cupcake picks and a palm tree, just to tacky it up a little more. I think Bigs will get a hoot out of this. I sure did.

Have a self-accepting day, my friends!

Who you calling tacky

Getting my ducks in a row…

Today is Duck Day for Bigs!

Quack!

Here is his lunch:

Duck Themed Preschool Lunch

It’s a duck shaped PB&J (crusts added back after picture taken). I gave Bigs some corn, a mix of grapes and strawberries, and for dessert – some jelly beans in ducky colors (and I know this to be true since they came out of a Donald Duck packet of Jelly Belly’s).

I once had a math teacher in high school that told me I was always too worried and stressed out about things (see? I told you – it’s how I always have been!) and that I needed to be more like a duck. Even in inclement, horrible weather, even in hurricanes, ducks calmly glide through the water, letting the pelting rain slide off their backs. Sure their little, webbed feet are paddling like crazy under the surface of the water, but the rain drops just slide right off their feathers, not bothering them at all.

I’m going to try to be more like a duck.

Have a ducky day,

Kristin

A Berry Good Day

Today has been a berry, berry good day! Yesterday’s gloomy, overcasty clouds burned off to reveal a blue-skied, clear, gorgeous day. It was a perfect backdrop for strawberry picking. We started our day with our usual Saturday Pancakes.

Pancakes Bacon and Sausage

This time, I added little sausages with our bacon, and brûléed bananas.

Pancake Breakfast

After our hearty breakfast, we were off! The strawberry fields were about a half hour away and we got there just as they opened.

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The boys were SO excited! To them, it must have looked like miles upon miles of strawberries! Bigs did a great job of picking the plump, ruby red, ripe berries. Smalls did a great job of eating any berry he could find, whether it be from the ground (half-eaten by some vermin or squashed by an unknown stranger shoe) or plucked from the plant itself.

Smalls Eating

Just about every time I turned around, Smalls was stuffing a berry into his mouth. His little baby hands were stained red within minutes. When I picked him up to give him a snuggle, his little breath and skin smelled so sweet of ripe, juicy berries. I just held him forever, burying my face in his curly hair and neck, inhaling his sweetness. And he let me, instead of squirming away. It was magical. I could have breathed in his scent forever.

Smalls and Strawberries

The boys had a wonderful time. It was great to show Bigs food-sourcing. He couldn’t wait to get home, wash these sweeties, and eat them – the ones HE picked! Snack-time was wonderful – a bowl of freshly picked berries!

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I love this one of Husband, Bigs, and Smalls, in succession ❤

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It was such a happy morning, with the blue, clear skies, the sweet smell of berries in the air, and surrounded by my three, very special boys. My heart is so full!

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Our bounty, washed and drying

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Beautiful, ruby red jewels

From the strawberry field, we went to a Farmer’s Market. We walked around, munching on kettle corn (it’s always best made right in front of you!).

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Each boy got their own little bag. Smalls dumped his out on accident.

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We smelled the produce and plants for sale (this one was a spectacular chocolate mint plant!!).

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We watched an Amtrak train pull into the station and take off again. We sat there gawking at it like tourists. It was great. Smalls talked about for the rest of the day, in his own little 19 month old way, “Choo choo?? Wooo wooooooo!!”, “Choo choo!!!!”. Those boys love their trains.

And, we also walked through the rows and rows of gorgeous flowers for sale. These are the most lovely hydrangeas. I love hydrangeas.

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Spring has most certainly sprung around these parts – a fresh promise of growth and renewal, and a reminder of life’s beautiful, cyclical nature.

It was indeed a gorgeous and perfect morning for our little family! We ended our day (after all the non-event middle day stuff) with frozen yogurt.

Froyo

The boys are now tucked into bed, I am not far behind. I love when I am pooped from doing things that made me happy.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:13

I am so blessed by these three boys! They give me the hope for a new day and they fill my heart with love. My cup truly runneth over.

Have a very blessed night, yourself,

Kristin

Dough’nt Worry, Be Happy!

It’s Friday! I love Fridays! You know what I loved about this particular Friday? We had no plans. Zero commitments. It is SO rare for us to have nothing to do. I’ve been craving a day like that for a long time. What better to do with our time on a misty, coolish, slightly gloomy Friday than travel 20 minutes to get the best donuts in [the neighboring] town? I don’t even need to explain our history with donuts. It was a perfect start to our Free Friday.

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Since my boys were up extra early this morning, we got there before 7:45am and almost all the donuts were sold out (not ALL, but all the flavors WE wanted). I asked the girl in the front if they had any in the back and she came back and told me that the baker would make the flavors we wanted. That’s what I call customer service!

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We got a half dozen – that ought to last me through the weekend. 😉 Starting on the top left, we got my new favorites, German chocolate, strawberry cream cheese, sprinkles for Bigs (he was THRILLED to have one freshly made just for him!), a plain glazed (nothing “plain” about the flavor though!), a chocolate peanut butter, and lastly, the Coconut Crunch.

I only ate one – the chocolate and peanut butter, which is a classic and amazing combo, as you all surely must know. Bigs ate his sprinkle donut with gusto.

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He wastes no time. He also said, “By the way, Mom, can I have another one?” (LOL, nice BTW, kid, very nonchalant of you!)

I gave Smalls the glazed one. I learned last time that he’s not so fond of sprinkles, for some reason beyond my personal comprehension. That glazed donut (and I’m having deja vu, so I know I’ve said this before about the same donut), is the best glazed donut I’ve ever had – sticky and slightly crunchy on the outside, tender and yeasty on the inside. Smalls loved it. He would put it up to his mouth and suck on it. That’s one way to get all the flavors. I helped him finish it. He didn’t mind sharing his “do-do”.

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Smalls sucking on his donut…because why not?

We only had to stop and leave all our donuts on the table to use the restroom once. Not too shabby.

We made the 25 minute journey back to our house, all the while giggling and talking about donuts, and still smelling of the fried yeast dough.

When we got home, the boys played in the playroom while I did laundry and worked off my donut on the Elliptical (also located in the playroom). Why is it though, that kids can be quite independent when playing with toys, but become completely needy once they see Mommy doing something else, like a timed work out?!

After that, the boys and I did springy crafts.

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We made “shamrocks” out of paper towel rolls (Smalls’ work on the left and Bigs’ on the right). I think each of them took their own artistic license with it. 🙂

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Smalls ate some paint, as per the usual.

Then Bigs used markers as his next medium, to draw Easter bunnies, some crosses, a few churches, and the most even Easter egg I’ve ever seen!

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I’m this kid’s number one fan! He does great work.

For lunch I made an “Everything Salad”, the healthier equivalent to the Everything Pizza or the Kitchen Sink Cookie.

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I love when my leftovers go nicely with a green salad. I used ice berg, red bell pepper, mandarin orange segments, carrots, and sprouts. I added last night’s beans and carrot salad. Delicious!

Ahhh, yes, it’s been a great day. And it’s not even over yet! Gluten free, dairy free pizza for dinner! I might stick to my leftover donuts. 😉 I can handle a GF crust, but no cheeeeeese (I’m out)?! Whatever will I do?

Have a blessed Friday,

Kristin

Curry On!

For tonight’s dinner, I went with a slightly Mediterranean influence. I use “slightly” loosely, since I’ve never been to the Mediterranean and ‘they’ might just be appalled at what I label as such. Earlier today, I made a curried carrot and raisin salad. I love those. I might be the only person who orders them at Chik-Fil-A (no curry in theirs). Am I? Why do they still have those on the menu if it’s only me eating them? So flattered. The recipe called for mayonnaise and since Dairy-Free-Husband can’t eat that (nor would he, with a ten foot long fork), I made a slightly different version for him. Seriously. Wife of the year. I’ll clear some junk out of the way to put up my trophy.

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The one on the left is obviously the better one (with mayo).

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I added more cayenne to my husband’s and used olive oil in place of mayo. I also added turmeric since it helps with his Crohn’s. The result was like a marinated salad. The fresh lemon juice really brightened it up. I actually really enjoyed this take on it.

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The original recipe yielded a creamier, Chick-Fil-A type salad. This might also be really tasty with pineapple in it. Dang. I actually have pineapple this time.

Oh well. I can add some tomorrow and eat it. There’s plenty of leftovers (of both), since I was the only one eating it tonight. :/

Anyways, if you are into such a salad, here’s the recipe:

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/03/carrot-raisin-salad-from-down-south.html

I also made a chicken and bean casserole. I found this recipe today and love that you can pretty much sub out any of the veggies, beans, and proteins.

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I used one can of chick peas and one of navy beans. I used a frozen mixture of green and wax beans and carrots.

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I love a recipe that you can literally just throw together. With whatever you have. That’s my kind of cooking.

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I really enjoyed this recipe too. The bean mixture on the bottom was so good. I couldn’t get enough. Some of the chick peas had browned to a crunchy state. So good. The little boys didn’t like this. Too bad. More for me. This will also be good tomorrow, cold and over a green salad.

Here’s the link to the recipe:

http://www.katheats.com/easy-chicken-and-bean-bake

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I served it with a fresh fruit salad.

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I really enjoyed this meal.

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Hope you have a blessed Thursday and a wonderful Friday! TGIF!

Kristin