Thursday, June 25, 2015

BLT Macaroni Salad

If you've had one macaroni salad, you've had them all, right? WRONG! I came across this one recently, and have made it several times now. It is so good, and just different from what you normally think of when you think of macaroni salad. Bacon, lettuce, and tomato all mixed in with the creamiest dressing. Mmmm! I did slightly change it from the original, but if you want to see the unadapted version, you can find it here.

Let's start with our ingredients, shall we?

16 oz macaroni
1 tomato
1 (heaping) cup spinach
8-10 pieces bacon, cooked (and honestly, why would you use 8 when you could use 10 instead?)
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
3 T. rice vinegar
1 t. garlic powder
2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. black pepper

And that's that. easy enough, right? Here's the rest.

Cook up the macaroni according to the package directions.

Drain and cool completely. I like to run it under cold water.

Next, Chop up the BLT part of the salad.

The bacon....

The spinach...

And the tomatoes...

And there you have your BLT!

Next for the dressing.

 Combine the Greek yogurt and sour cream.

Stir in the rice vinegar. (For the record, this single ingredient is what I think gives this salad it's "edge."

And add the seasonings. I also saved some salt back to add in at the end.

And it makes the creamiest, silkiest dressing.

Next, combine the macaroni with the BLT ingredients.

 And stir in the dressing.

Add the dressing preferably right before serving. If you eat leftovers of this, you can add extra yogurt or sour cream to cream it up a little bit.

Your end result is this beautiful, fresh, creamy side dish that goes with just about anything. Delicious!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Beatin the Heat

  So far, this summer's weather has been great! 70's and 80's with some heavy summer showers mixed in. It's been really nice. Here's what we've been up to. 

Lex is starting kindergarten in the fall, so he's in summer school to learn the ropes before school starts up. He loves it. Here he is, all embarrassed because I made him stop to take a picture. Oh don't you worry, buddy. This is nothing compared to the pictures you're in for on your actual first day of school.

Lex is playing t-ball, his first team sport. It's a riot to watch. It's pretty much just a bunch of kids learning the rules. There are no outs, no points, and everybody gets to run all of the bases.  As for Lex, he thinks the whole point of the game is to try to get the ball first. So when he's in outfield, he sprints for the ball every single time, no matter where he is, and sometimes, will scuffle other kids for it. Sometimes he yells a "war cry" the entire way to the ball. When he does come out with the ball, he raises it high above his head in victory, while all the coaches yell, "Throw it to first! Throw it to first!" And then he finally does.

There he is. # 10. 

And since the coaches perceived his ball chases to be hustle in the outfield, they awarded him the "gold ball" at the first game.

We've been bike riding. Go Eli!

And hanging around the park.

 One night, we got stuck at Kohls during a tornado warning, and had to hunker down in women's clothing. We might be smiling, but we are not having fun.

Cheers to restaurants with outdoor seating.

 And going to Walmart when the firemen are out raising money for charity.

We finally bought a piano! Now Lex can do his piano practice on this and have the keyboard in his room to play on. I LOVE having a piano in the house again. Just ask Jeremy how many times I've played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

 And finally, some fun in the sun. Bring on the sprinklers and slip n slides. These boys are ready to get wet!

And some  pool time too!

 So our summer's coming along nicely. How about yours?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Chicken Avocado Pitas

Let me start by telling you all the reasons you should make this recipe.

First, you don't have to heat up your oven on these hot summer days (thank you rotisserie chicken!).
Second, it's pretty (thank you avocados!)
Third, everything can be made ahead of time and assembled at the last minute.
Fourth, you can use those yummy summer tomatoes from the farmer's market, which leads to
Five, it's pretty healthy.

Giving credit where credit is due, I slightly adapted this recipe from here. It can be easily be changed to fit your personal taste, but really, every part of it is yummy just the way it is.

Here's what you need.

Rotisserie Chicken (the amount will depend on your personal taste. We used about half a chicken for 6 pitas).
4-6 Whole wheat pita pockets
2 avocados, mashed
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
2-3 T. fresh cilantro
Swiss cheese, sliced (2-3 small slices per pita)
A dash of lime juice (original recipe called for lemon, but I also used lime with avocados)
Pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1 t. garlic salt

It's seriously so easy.

Step 1. Mix the Greek yogurt with the garlic salt.

Step 2: Mash avocados and mix in tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice.

Oh that pretty green color. I love avocados!

Step 3: And...... that's it for the prep. You could also do an extra step of prep by shredding the chicken, but we just picked it off as we went.

Step 4: Layer it all together. Spread the yogurt sauce, layer the cheese, and pack in the chicken and avocado mixture.

Since pita bread tends to be pretty dry, we put the yogurt and avocado mixtures on pretty thick. It was messy, but oh so good.

I ended up cutting up the whole thing for the boys so they could eat it with a fork. Another variation that would be just as good is to put this all in a wrap, or even without bread all together. Just one of these pitas stuffed full, filled me up for dinner.

Two hands required!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bucket List Update

Our bucket list accomplishments have been a little slow on the uptake this summer just because, well... we sure have been doing a lot of relaxing and non-bucket list things. But we have managed to get a few things marked off.

First thing checked off our list - Making and filling nature journals, inspired by this one that I found on Pinterest. I seriously whipped these out using brown paper bags and my sewing machine during nap time the day before we went camping. Although I planned on the boys filling them up while we were camping, we ended up just collecting all of our nature items and filled them up when we got home.

I basically just cut a bunch of pieces the same length (no measuring - remember I did this during nap time, so perfection was not the goal). I ran a zig zag border around the edges and included a couple of pockets for collecting nature items (rocks, shells, etc.)

 I included some crayons and glue stick in the back pocket. We actually ended up using contact paper for pressing the leaves in. I don't have an "after" picture but will try to include it in the next update.

Second - A trip to the farmer's market.
We've been to the farmer's market before - actually, we are fortunate enough to have a little farmer's market right here in our little town in addition to a huge one in Columbia that actually operates year round. For this item on the bucket list, we just stopped by the one here in town and I let the boys pick out some food.

Our favorite? Blueberries! We bought a whole quart and it lasted no more than 2 days in our house. 

Also in our loot - cabbage, insisted on by Eli, tomatoes, 2 HUGE zucchini (my favorite), and a pound of turnips, which as it turns out, was loved by everyone in our family. We roasted them in the oven with some olive oil and minced garlic and boy were they good. I may even try to put them in our garden next year.

Third - With all the rain we've had recently (and tropical depression Bill practically knocking on our door), we've had plenty of opportunities to play in the rain. Just this past weekend, we finally got our yard set up for summer - the garden completely planted, slip in slide in place, and flowers all planted. And then the rain started, and continued, and continued. So when the rain was pouring down, I sent the boys out to play. I have great memories of playing outside in the rain, specifically in South Carolina while visiting my aunt. When it's hot, it's hot, and sometimes a splash in the rain is just refreshing. 

 And it was pouring!

So off we go with our Bucket List. More to come soon!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Ha Ha Tonka

On our way back from our camping trip, we practically drove right by a Missouri Landmark that we've been wanting to see. Despite our leftover exhaustion from the float trip, we had to stop and see Ha Ha Tonka State Park. One wouldn't think that you could find castle ruins in the heart of mid Missouri, but about a century ago, a prominent Missouri business man thought this would be a good place to build a castle. The man died in one of the state's first automobile accidents, and the castle later burned down. It became a state park.

We were fortunate to be able to park close. It's only about a 5 minute walk to the actual ruins. On another day, we would have spent the day exploring the park's hiking trails and natural bridge, but for today, a look around the castle was enough. Here are just a few of the pictures.

The views of The Lake of the Ozarks was just beautiful.

What a great place for the boys to explore.

I told Jeremy that I want to buy this place, rebuild the castle and live here. I mean seriously, what other chance could I possibly have to live in a castle in the middle of Missouri. Unfortunately for me, this isn't for sale.

 But boy if it was....

We could not get enough of the views. And the breeze felt so good on this 90 degree day.

And so ends our adventure until another day.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Camping Trip 2015

For the 3rd straight summer, we kicked off summer with a camping trip with our good friends. We took it up a notch this year and traveled a little further, to Bennett Springs, and also threw in a float trip. A day on the river wore the kids out! And who I am kidding? The grownups were wiped out too!

We stayed at River Front Campgrounds. This was the view from our campsite. It was such a pretty place.

And that's the Niangua River just behind those trees. Hence the name "Riverfront Camp." Most of the campsites are right on the river.

Lex, Eli, and Peyton chowing down on hot dogs the first night. No shortage of energy that night!

Oh boys. 

The idea was that these boys would sleep in their own tent for the first time this year. Yeah, that didn't work out so much. Maybe next year.

So the cool thing about Riverfront Camp, is that they do float trips right from the campgrounds. They bus you upriver (7 miles), and then you  raft right into camp and basically walk to your campsite. It's an awesome setup.  So, I have to tell you that I love my new phone because it takes awesome pictures, but I wasn't about to take it on the float trip with me. I'm lying. I totally wanted to take it with me, but Jeremy talked me out if. But Trista had this waterproof camera she brought to take pictures. They are a little blurry, but you get the point. 

 Here we are crammed in the bus. I totally got claustrophobic. I was sitting in the back corner of the bus, and that bus was packed full! I freaked out for a minute or two, but after switching the kids around a little bit, I felt better. Lex and Eli loved this part!

Getting ready to push off.

And the boys manning the front of the boat. They loved it so much. And let me tell you, I am so glad they did. Six hours on a boat with cranky kids would have changed the whole trip. They were so good, and so content. I would take them again in a heart beat.

And there was plenty of swimming along the way. It was absolutely the perfect day.

We were wiped out when we got back!
Here the boys are cooking dinner, with what little energy they could muster. Those foil packets had potatoes, covered with bacon and cheese. Yum. Thanks, Trista! Wait til you see how what we did with the leftovers!

 Just chillin. And no joke, we were all in bed by 8:00 that night.

The next morning, this is what we whipped up on our little camp stove. In leftover bacon grease we added the cooked potatoes from the night before, green peppers, bacon bits, shredded cheese, and then cracked eggs over the top. A complete breakfast hash. And It was so good! I hope we can recreate this for next year!

And there you have the story of our camping adventure this year.
If you want to see how our camping trip has evolved, check out last year's post here. The boys have gotten so much bigger!

Check back later this week to see what we did on our way back. Ha Ha Tonka, here we come!