Hi, friends! Happy Sunday! We had a crazy busy week around here, complete with multiple Christmas performances, a holiday party, and of course plenty of easy dinners. Now it’s time to share some of the highlights…
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.
I spent last Sunday morning in the kitchen taking care of a variety of tasks. I prepped the boys’ school lunches for the week, I made a couple of recipes to photograph for the blog, and I put some oatmeal in the slow cooker so that I would have ready-to-go breakfasts in the refrigerator. I had about 2 cups of leftover pumpkin puree that needed to be used as soon as possible, so I created a Slow Cooker Maple Cranberry Pumpkin Oatmeal. I started with my Slow Cooker Gingerbread Oatmeal as a base, but made some changes for this version.
Have you tried slow cooker steel cut oats? Oh my gosh! They’re amazing, and they’re so much thicker, richer, and creamier than microwaving a regular bowl of oatmeal.
Just stir in milk, reheat an individual portion in the morning, and top with chopped walnuts for a filling and easy breakfast!
Slow Cooker Maple Cranberry Pumpkin Oatmeal
- 2 cups uncooked steel cut oats (don’t use quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats because they will get too mushy)
- 2 cups unsweetened pumpkin puree
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- ½ teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cloves
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- 8 cups water
- ¼ cup maple syrup, plus more for serving
- Milk and chopped walnuts, for serving
- Spray the inside of a 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray.
- Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and stir well. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 8 hours, stirring occasionally.
You can make this in advance, store in airtight containers, and reheat in the microwave as needed. If it seems a bit too thick or dry when you go to reheat it, just add milk and give it a good stir!
After lunch we went for a chilly hike to get some fresh air,
and run off some energy.
While Spence napped that afternoon, I set up a Christmas craft for the boys. I got this idea from Jenny, who teaches Spencer’s Parks & Rec art class — Pinecone Christmas Tree Ornaments!
We spread the glue on the edges of the pinecone and then decorated the pinecone “tree” with pom-pom ornaments and glitter. I used the hot glue gun to put an ornament hook on the top of each pinecone, and they were ready to go. Cute gifts for the kids to give their grandparents and to attach to their teachers’ gifts!
Keith was in charge of dinner that evening, while I prepped the sides. I sauteed zucchini noodles in butter, olive oil, and garlic in a skillet for about 1-2 minutes (so fast!), and I baked biscuits in the oven (<-- kids>?
Both of the grandmothers came for a visit on Wednesday morning to see Casey and the rest of the kindergarteners in the Christmas program. So cute!
My mother-in-law arrived with plenty of Christmas goodies for us, too. ‘Tis the season!
Christmas towels, Christmas cookbook, cupcakes, and a chocolate mousse snowman.?
A donut ornament for the tree in Casey’s bedroom. Could not be more perfect for him!
We had lunch at Subway before the grandmothers headed on their way.
Big fan of the tuna salad, while Spence demolished his 6-inch turkey and cheese sub.
While planning our meals and grocery list for the coming week, I snacked on a bowl of plain whole milk yogurt with a dash of cinnamon and a handful of Amanda’s pumpkin spice granola.
Casey had a second performance of his Christmas program that evening, so I fed the kids early before taking everyone back over to the school. We kept it simple with leftover Healthy Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup that I stashed in the freezer a few weeks ago. I served breadsticks on the side for a dinner that was reheated and enjoyed in a matter of about 10 minutes!
Keith wasn’t eating until much later (after the concert), so this was a good option to serve in stages. I could reheat individual portions based on when everyone needed a meal. Sometimes that’s just the way that it works…
For dessert the boys loved these elf cookies that my mom gave them. So many treats when the grandmothers arrive!
Thursday was a day of running around. After dropping all of the boys off at their respective schools, I took care of some errands in town (Yoder’s, Dollar Store, etc.) before my 10:00 a.m. dentist appointment.
I made a quick stop at home afterwards to fold laundry, put dinner in the slow cooker, and grab lunches for me and Spence.
I had a Board meeting at the preschool for the afternoon, so I topped my beef and vegetable soup (that was defrosted from the freezer) with half of an avocado that also needed to be eaten, and took it with me to “drink” on the way. Followed by an unpictured brownie that was thawed from the freezer as well!
Spence ate his turkey and cheese wrap in the classroom while we had our meeting.
After the meeting we picked up the older boys at school, finished homework, and finally sat down to dinner! I had intentionally planned a meal that didn’t involve much cooking, since I knew that I would be gone from the house all day. We had my Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala freezer meal served over brown rice with broccoli on the side. So yum!
That evening I spent a few minutes putting together some easy homemade gifts for my friends. I didn’t feel like I had the time (or desire) to bake a bunch of cookies, so I went for a savory snack that would pair perfectly with a holiday glass of wine: Herb-Toasted Mixed Nuts. A batch literally takes 5 minutes to make, and I prepared three batches (which gave me about 7 mason jars full of nuts).
Here’s what I did in case you need a last-minute idea!
Herb-Toasted Mixed Nuts
Yield 4 cups
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Leaves from about 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 1 cup raw, unsalted almonds
- 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
- 1 cup raw, unsalted walnuts
- 1 cup raw, unsalted macadamia nuts
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Heat oil and rosemary leaves in a large pot over low heat.
- Add nuts and stir to coat with oil. Toast nuts for about 3 minutes (or until fragrant and golden brown). Stir in salt.
- Spread nuts on a rimmed baking sheet or on a piece of parchment paper to cool.
- Once the completely cool, store the nuts in an airtight container for up to 1 week (it's best to keep them fresh in the refrigerator).
Friday was Spencer’s day to perform. After dropping his brothers off at school in the morning, we made a quick run to the grocery store before heading to the theater in Orange for the preschool’s Christmas pageant.
There were many, many tears beforehand, so we considered it a great victory that he even wore his shepherd costume and got on stage!?
He didn’t smile, open his mouth, or even move a muscle the entire time! ?
I took the night off from the kitchen that evening and we picked up carry-out from the Italian restaurant in town. We brought home pizza, salad, subs, and spaghetti…everyone was happy!
On Saturday morning I stayed home to photograph a couple of recipes for the blog while Keith took the boys with him on a variety of errands. We spent the afternoon preparing for a little holiday party that evening! We hosted some of our close friends for dinner and drinks to celebrate the season before parting ways for travel and family commitments over Christmas.
It was such a fun evening! We did a potluck-style party, which is always the easiest and the tastiest. Everyone shares their favorites! I took care of the country ham biscuits, as well as the mini crab cakes (purchased at Costco).
I also made a double batch of my 3-Ingredient Slow Cooker Barbecue Meatballs,
set out my Easy Cranberry Brie Appetizers,
and served a cheese plate with cheddar, brie, grapes, and a variety of crackers.
We had non-alcoholic beverages like Cranberry La Croix seltzer water and juice boxes, as well as beer and Ina Garten’s Mulled Wine.
For dessert I put out a tray of My Grandmother’s Bourbon Balls, as well as my Chewy Ginger Oatmeal Cookies and some giant-sized chocolate chip cookies from Costco’s bakery (always a hit with the kids).
Our friends contributed homemade mac and cheese, potato and cheese casserole, salad, buffalo chicken dip, a fruit and veggie tray, bacon-wrapped dove, more booze, and more homemade Christmas cookies. The food was amazing and the company was even better!
At the end of the evening, I sent everyone home with a jar of Herb-Toasted Mixed Nuts, we picked up the house, and we crashed not long after. My boys even fell asleep on the couch before our guests were gone. Sign of a good time!?
And that brings us to this morning. We’re cleaning up the house from the aftermath of the party and then heading to visit my parents to celebrate Christmas a little bit early. I hope that you have a wonderful week ahead and a relaxing holiday!