Hello, hello! I hope that you’ve all had a great week! Ours was really good — the kids returned to school after a longer-than-usual Winter Break, nobody was sick (finally!), and Keith and I were able to get away for a weekend anniversary trip (today marks 12 years of marriage!). We’re headed home right now and we’re ready to see the kids, but the brief break from reality was wonderful!
Before I share the details from our trip, how about we back up to last weekend for a full recap on Our Week in Meals? For those of you who are new around here, this is where I share a little bit about what we’ve been up to over the past week — as it relates to our meals each night. I hope that this series gives you a glimpse “behind the scenes” at some highlights from our life, shows you how I balance a busy schedule with feeding my family, and offers a few new ideas for your own weekly meal plan.
Last Sunday was another freeeeezing day here in Central Virginia. We made quick trips outside to burn off some energy before hunkering down in front of the wood stove for movies, Legos, and books most of the day. I also got some work done, packed school lunches for the week ahead, and washed an endless amount of laundry.
A bundled up late afternoon walk through the woods (complete with whining children who thought it was too cold to be outside)!
Dinner that night was a new twist on our favorite seafood. I prepared Orange Maple Baked Salmon which is about as simple as it gets: 4 ingredients and 12 minutes in the oven! I’ll share the recipe soon — it was a good one! On the side we had couscous and Caesar salad. This meal was a huge hit with the family!
The older boys were supposed to return to school on Monday after a long winter break, but it turned out that the 1.5 inches of snow on Saturday morning was enough to cancel schools for the day. That threw off our plans, but we hunkered down and hibernated inside with games of Hide and Seek, Treasure Hunts, and other antics (it was sooooo cold outdoors). We also made a batch of Egg and Cheese Mini Muffins to keep stashed in the refrigerator for quick breakfasts or snacks during the week.
I had a bowl of Slow Cooker “Cabbage Patch” Detox Soup for lunch (that I thawed from the freezer), along with cheese and crackers on the side.
Dinner was Casey’s favorite (and one of my easy go-to weeknight meals): Spaghetti with Meatballs. I used a bag of frozen meatballs from Costco and just thawed enough for one dinner. We had garlic bread and roasted broccoli on the side.
All of the boys returned to school on Tuesday! The older two had a 2-hour delay from the ice, so after I dropped Spencer at preschool for the morning I had an entire 1 hour of kid-free time for the first time in about a month. It was glorious (and productive), although the house seemed so quiet that I had to turn on the T.V. to keep me company. Weird!
I made myself a delicious lunch and wanted to share: with the leftover salmon filets from Sunday night, I tossed together a tasty Salmon Salad in about 2 minutes. This was the leftover chopped celery that I used to make our dinner for the night, too. Great shortcut, and a nice way to add crunch to the salad.
I ate my salmon with leftover roasted broccoli from Monday’s dinner and some of these crackers. So crunchy — love them!
I prepped breakfast for the rest of the week by making a half batch of Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats in my smaller Crock Pot. This was 1 cup of dry steel cut oats (don’t use regular Old Fashioned rolled oats in the slow cooker!), 4 cups of water, plus a pinch of salt to yield three servings. I used the same ratios from my Slow Cooker Gingerbread Oatmeal, but didn’t season the oats or sweeten them at all.
I keep the oatmeal stored in individual containers in my refrigerator so that I can quickly reheat it in the morning for breakfast. Slow Cooker Oats are SO MUCH better than microwaved oats because they’re thicker and creamier. To reheat, just add some milk and microwave for about 2 minutes (stirring halfway through). Then add any toppings that you want that day — banana + peanut butter; apples + pecans + cinnamon; maple syrup + walnuts; blueberries + almonds; chocolate chips + almond butter, etc. You get the idea! Must try!
After the homework/snack/bath routine, we had a quick and easy dinner that I’ll share on the blog soon — Dump-and-Bake Shrimp Etouffee with Rice. I’ve been making a version of this for years, and it was actually one of the first ways that I got Gibbs to eat shrimp as a toddler. I love that the rice, veggies, and shrimp all go into the dish raw and cook together in one pan. Simple!
On Wednesday morning we dropped the older boys at school, made a quick stop at the grocery store (where I chased this guy through the aisles), and then met my friend Mollie for a walk outside. The weather was finally warmer and the fresh air and adult conversation was such a nice change of pace!
After lunch Spence and I had a special dessert since I was photographing these 3-Ingredient Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Dump Cakes for Two. Such a perfect dessert for Valentine’s Day! I’ll share the recipe on Monday, so stay tuned. Holy cow, they were goooooood. You should have seen Spence hanging over my shoulder as I was taking photos! It was hard for him to be patient…
Dinner that night was Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Chili (defrosted from the freezer) with corn muffins on the side. Always tasty!
Thursday was so gorgeous! We seriously had some weird weather this week, with almost 70 degree temps on Thursday. Unfortunately, instead of my usual Thursday morning walk with friends while Spence is at preschool, I had to go to Charlottesville for the morning for an annual check-up at the doctor. Doctors’ appointments are seriously one of my least favorite things to do EVER, so I treated myself to a Starbucks drink while I was in town.
I went with a Frappuccino since the weather was so warm, and this is the Smoked Butterscotch flavor (minus the whipped cream, made with almond milk). Ohmygoodness. It was heaven! Basically dessert in a glass…
After my appointment I made my way back to the preschool, where I stayed for a Board Meeting in the afternoon until it was time to pick up the older boys at their school.
Since I knew that I’d be gone all day, I planned a dinner to take advantage of leftovers in the freezer. I reheated the Slow Cooker Shredded Pork Barbecue from a couple of weeks ago (recipe is in this post), served it on sandwich buns for the boys, and had (store-bought) potato salad, veggies, and hummus on the side. No cooking necessary, but really tasty!
Spence and I took advantage of the warmer temps and met my friend Mollie for a walk again on Friday morning,
followed by some play time at the park.
We ran errands on the way home (post office, bank), ate lunch (the last of the leftover barbecue from the night before), and picked up the older boys from school. Casey’s friend Pace came over for the afternoon as well, so I worked on packing suitcases for the weekend while the boys played with Legos and had Star Wars battles in the yard.?
After Pace left I just pulled together a random mix of stuff from the fridge to finish up for dinner. I had a bowl of Italian Chicken and Quinoa Soup (recipe coming soon), Keith wanted a bagel, and the boys requested mac and cheese, broccoli, and apples. Not fancy, but it was easy!
And then we were off! On Saturday morning we took the boys to my parents’ mountain house for the weekend so that Keith and I could sneak away for a little anniversary celebration.
12 years of marriage!
We just went about 30 minutes north to Staunton, which is the cutest historic college town nestled in the Shenandoah Valley. The weather was cool and gray, but it wasn’t raining and it wasn’t too cold. That’s about the best that we could hope for in January…
Keith tolerated some of my shopping (including numerous antique stores), and we grabbed a tasty lunch at The Pampered Palate.
I had the Palate’s House Salad with roasted turkey, lettuce, mushrooms, fresh apples, blue cheese, tomato, sprouts, honey mustard dressing and fresh bread on the side.
Followed by chocolates…of course.
I also bought some tea in the cafe shop: this Peppermint Bark flavor because I looooove mint tea,
and a couple of individual tea bags for the hotel room. Fun flavors!
We went for a long walk around town (up and down the mountain hills!) and explored the Mary Baldwin College campus.
Before checking into our hotel, we stopped in the coziest coffee shop for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Matching Cafe Au Laits.
We started our evening with a glass of wine and a crab dip appetizer at the Byers Street Bistro, where Keith could watch football at the bar and I could watch the crowds of people coming and going. It was packed, but a fun atmosphere.
After many friends from home and locals from Staunton repeatedly recommended a small restaurant called The Shack for dinner, we were sure to make reservations. You guys…my dark cell phone photos don’t do it justice because this was seriously one of the best meals that Keith and I have ever eaten together. Not even exaggerating. It was unbelievable!
The restaurant only has 7 tables, the staff is unpretentious and incredibly friendly, and the food was creative, flavorful, and so carefully prepared. We had a 3 Course Prix Fixe menu and devoured just about everything that was served…even though we were stuffed! Keith had a burger and fries that were perfection, and we also shared the 3 courses that I ordered.
Crispy Duck Wings — Sorghum Hot Sauce — Cabbage and Apple Slaw
Smoked Beef Brisket — Brussels Sprouts — Mushrooms — Roasted Sunchoke Puree
Hoopa’s Coca Cola Cake — Peanut Ice Cream — Whipped Cream — Fried Peanuts — Coca Cola Sauce
And then we crashed in the hotel room with full bellies!
We’re off to pick up the kids at my parents’ house this morning, stop at home for a little while to unpack, and then we’re jumping back in the car to join our friends for a party this evening. Hooray for long weekends!