What’s for dinner? Spring chicken tortellini bake

by

Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

Baked pasta is my favorite kind of dinner. Any kind of baked pasta. Ziti, lasagna, penne…red sauce, white sauce, green sauce (for real!)…meat, vegetarian, no matter. Throw some cheese and sauce on any kind of pasta and I’m in mom heaven. (You know mom heaven, right? It’s where we get to eat a full meal, a glass of wine and a giant piece of cake with no one bothering us.)

Nirvana.

Anyhoo, since that won’t happen for another decade (for me), you can settle for what I did last night. I made this amazing baked tortellini around 5pm. I fed the kids and then drove carpool for soccer and church, stopped to buy diapers, and took my little guy to a gymnastics class. Once everyone got home, I was the bath and shower Nazi, homework enforcer and piano practice coach. At 9:40pm I ate this tortellini straight from the pan, COLD. And it was so freakin’ good. Just to make sure I wasn’t delusional with hunger, I ate it again for lunch today — this time heated up — and I can indeed confirm it is the bomb. One pan…complete meal. It’s got protein, starch, veggies and dairy.

Can I get an Amen?

Looking for more Sweets and Eats for the Whole Family? Find Lindsay at Sugar Mama.

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Spring Chicken Tortellini Bake
Busy mom tip: Have the butcher chop your chicken breast into bite-sized pieces for you so you don’t have to mess with it later.

20 ounces frozen tortellini
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, cut in half
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/3 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup milk
5 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
1 small yellow sweet pepper, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare tortellini according to package directions, adding the carrot during the last 5 minutes of cooking and the sugar snap peas during the last 1 minute of cooking; drain.

Melt 1 T butter over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add chicken and mushrooms, and cook about 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove from skillet.

Combine chicken broth, oregano, flour, garlic salt, and pepper. Add to skillet along with milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; add cream cheese and mozzarella. Continue stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice. Add pasta mixture, chicken mixture, tomatoes, and sweet pepper. Toss to coat. Turn into an ungreased 13x9x2-inch baking dish or shallow 3-quart casserole. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Bake, covered, in a 350 degrees F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through.

Serves 8-10

How to set up a spring fairy garden

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

I just realized both of my posts this week are about gardening (here’s the other one). Can you tell I’m itching to get out there and play in the dirt? Here we don’t plant most stuff until Mother’s Day and I’m dying. Most years, I get suckered into planting something sooner than that, and then one last ugly snowstorm hits in early May and kills it dead. You think I’d learn…

Tips to make a spring fairy garden

 

So fairy gardens are great, because you can plant in containers. Put the container outside on nice days so the kids can play in the warmth and sunshine, bring ’em in if there’s a storm or frost forecast so nothing freezes over (you can’t leave the fairies out in the snow! Oh, the humanity!)

Because we wanted these to be portable, the containers are smaller than the one we used last fall. These are plastic bowls from the dollar store. And that’s the beauty of fairy gardens — you don’t have to overthink them. Use what you have on-hand, or what the kids can find in their toy boxes or backyards.

Tips to make a spring fairy garden

We wrote on the rocks with a Sharpie paint pen, and after a winter outside, they still look pretty good. And we added a few glass rocks as well.

Tips to make a spring fairy garden

To start your own fairy garden you need:

  • a container (if it’s going to be indoors, it can be small. Maybe a bowl like ours — I’ve even seen teacup fairy gardens)
  • dirt or rocks to fill it
  • fairies or other figures to go in it (the kids can even use toy figurines, or plastic animals — use your imagination!)

And then fill it up with tiny things! We put in some early blooming flowers (hyacinth blossoms) to decorate, and made a cave for the troll with a tealight candleholder turned on its side. We’ve also had good luck finding knick-knacks at thrift stores — we’ve found houses and other little items there. Don’t be discouraged by strange paint colors, it takes 5 minutes to spray paint them white. Or you can have the kids paint them with temperas as part of your project.

You can also put little plants in there — we bought one that was “officially” for fairy gardens (it said so), but usually those are just herbs. You could just plant herbs like rosemary for trees or sage for bushes.

I’m always amazed by how fascinated the kids are with their gardens. They can play for hours, setting things up and making new items, and playing with the fairies and gnomes. It’s a way to bring a little outdoors in when it’s still too cold to go out!

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.

 

The baby food pouch my picky eater emptied in 2 minutes flat

by

Marlee Bangerter

posted in Life & Home

The plight of the third child: At my son’s 6-month appointment, I had to admit that we hadn’t really started solids. I left with a firm resolve to provide William with new flavors, textures, and the same messy, fun experiences as his older sisters.

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Making good on my resolve was surprisingly easy, because I found HappyBaby Clearly Crafted organic baby food pouches. I love using pouches — so convenient! — but not being able to see what’s inside has always bothered me. But the Clearly Crafted pouches are clear — you can see everything that’s in them, vibrant purées that are as beautiful as the fruits and vegetables they’re made from.

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The only problem? My 2- and 3-year-old daughters got ahold of the pouches before I could even pop one open to feed William, and were pretty bummed when I explained that the pouches were actually baby food! But who am I to deny them fruits and vegetables? They all eagerly got in on the action, and I can’t say I’ve ever had that experience with another brand.

My oldest had me read each of the flavors while she lined them up on the table. After William had a few tries, I let June and her buddy Adam have a go.

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June is a picky eater and I was more than a little shocked that she polished off the entire pouch. The one that June is enjoying in the picture is apple, guava, and beet. Who would have thought my picky eater would enjoy such a combination? It makes me want to get more creative at home and try some of the HappyBaby recipes.

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Happy Family was founded by moms, who are devoted to bringing the best to children — so much so that they very carefully source their ingredients. They put me in touch with Pete, who works for California’s Grimmway Farms and provides beets, carrots, and kale for the Clearly Crafted pouches. Pete was kind enough to talk to us about how Grimmway Farms’ food is grown, how quickly it gets from field to pouch, and how Grimmway Farms began.

Q1. What are a few little-known facts about Grimmway Farms and the history of the company?  Rod, 22, and Bob, 17, were two brothers that opened a produce stand in Anaheim Ca. back in 1968.  In 1981, the Grimm brothers moved to Bakersfield Ca. were Grimmway Farms flourished.  Grimmway Farms has grown enormous since then and employees over 7,000 people.

Q2. What farming philosophy does Grimmway Farms follow and how do your core values as a company ensure quality products?  As a company we ensure that we follow all safety regulations and procedures to bring “You” the customer the best quality products we can offer. We have many teams in different departments to ensure this quality.

Q3. Why do you think you were selected out of thousands of options that the Happy Family Company had to provide produce for their products?  I believe we were selected to provide produce because we are a very well known company that shows dedication and honesty in our products.

Q4. How long does it take for your fresh produce to become the finished product for HappyBaby?  Once our produce leaves the field, about 4 hours later the product is made into puree and ready for HappyBaby.

Q5. Tell us a little bit about your family, we hear you have 3 young children – what are their names and ages?  I have 3 beautiful boys; their names are Kraig, David, and Hylan. Kraig and David are twins ages 8 and Hylan is the baby at age 2.  We are a family of 5 and love to spend time with each other when we are home.

Q6. What tips can you offer parents when making decisions about their produce at the grocery store?  Always take the time to read all labels to inform you of the products you are taking home to your family.  Remember, children need healthy organic foods to grow, especially when they are very young.

Q7. What is you favorite fruit or vegetable you grow and why?  Out of all the commodities we grow I believe broccoli is my favorite. I love the taste and texture when cooked or steamed. My kids love broccoli also.

Q8. Does your family have a favorite dish or dessert that you make at home with your family?  One of the many dishes my family and I love to make at home is Beef and Broccoli.  We never get tired of it.

Q9. Do you feel like HappyBaby products are true to the original purpose you had with organic, safety conscious farming? Are you proud of what your produce becomes?  We are 100% sure HappyBaby is true to the original organic purpose of our produce and 100% proud to know that we are feeding millions of babies that will become our future.

Q10. How do you feel about thousands of infants having their first tastes of solid food being your produce?  As a company it makes us very proud to know that we are giving something healthy and nutritious to our young ones because we know that they will become our future leaders.

What do you love the most about the Happy Baby Clearly Crafted line now that you know more about it?

This post is sponsored by Happy Family.

All images by Allison Vandenburg

Dream home update: Are we there yet?

by

Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

Back story: We’re building our dream house and opening it to the public for a two-week tour to benefit Braden’s Hope, a childhood cancer charity which means a lot to us. I’m blogging about the process here to share some of our ideas (and get yours!) Feel free to share our ideas and photos.

Previous posts:
Watch Our Dream Home Come To Life!
Fifty Shades of Gray
The Green Machine

I know that you’re thinking.

Aren’t you done with this thing yet?

It’s been nearly three months since my last update and nearly eight months since we broke ground. You’d think we’d be starting to pack boxes and frantically buying furniture. But here we are. (That’s me with our super duper awesome project manager, Harry.)
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That’s right folks. We don’t even have walls yet. This house building stuff is slow going.

The framing took forever and a day. Here’s a fun view looking up from the staircase.
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And of the family room and kitchen area. We love the view from those windows!
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We even framed in three secret “hidden” kid spaces in this house. I can’t show you those yet because we’re having a little scavenger hunt during the tour with prizes for the kids that find all three! These are the rooms the kids are most excited about.

The kids are also over the moon about this stage (which will someday resemble the one right below!) If you know my family, these hoodlums put on a lot of “shows” so they’re pumped about taking it to the next level.
Stage Collage

Let me tell you what we’ve been working on for the last three months. First, the lighting. It has taken us a long time to figure out all the fixtures. My two favorite things in houses are lighting and trim (which we’ll get to later), so we took our sweet time finding all the right light fixtures. Also, Jeff and I have really different taste in lighting. As it turns out, so do all of you! I posted this Lindsay vs. Jeff pic on Facebook recently and found a pretty even split between us.
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Jeff actually won this battle and got not one, but TWO of his fixtures. I am such a good wife.

We also spent forever and a day on cabinets. I learned so much about the different styles of cabinets. To break it down, there are three main styles of cabinetry — standard (or partial) overlay, full overlay and inset. There are HUGE variations in price on just these three alone.

Then, there’s fifty gazillion styles of doors.

We went with a combination of inset cabinetry, which we love the most but is also the most $$, and a full overlay, which looks nice and clean. Then we chose a modified shaker door style.
Those will be going in as soon as the drywall is up!

And speaking of drywall, they delivered three trucks of it yesterday.
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So we will have walls very soon. In the meanwhile, our designer Erica is beginning to accumulate some things for the house. Here we are with this super fun mirror she picked out for Kate’s glam bathroom.
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Erica is also the world’s best vintage furniture scout. She is adamant about adding some character to a house with vintage finds and has an amazing ability to see through all the junk to find the good stuff. Here’s a few random pieces she’s found lately:
Vintage Collage

She is also known to send me random texts like this one:
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(Just a few days later, a friend texted me they’d seen a windmill similar to this on Fixer Upper! Erica is ahead of her time.)

We’ve also begun planning furniture and colors for each room and I’m finding myself so drawn to navy. We’re using Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy in quite a few spots in the house (pictured on the island below) and in lots of random décor throughout the house. My late grandma’s favorite colors were navy and fuchsia, and I’m loving the connection I feel to her while including both colors in my house.
Navy Collage

Lastly, I always like to leave you with a decision we’re wavering on so you can weigh in. We have this amazing covered alcove on our patio. I envision this large swinging porch bed filling the space. Jeff prefers a manly outdoor grill and bar. Which would you choose?

(Image from Vintage Porch Swings)

OR


(Image from concretenetwork)

Are you team Giant Porch Swing or team Outdoor Grill Oasis?

How to make a tiny party hat from a paper plate

by

Kami Bigler

posted in Life & Home

Have you ever been to a party store and you end up buying cute paper plates and napkins because the patterns on them are so cute?! The only problem is that you don’t know when you’ll use them, so you bring them home and stick them in your “one day I’ll use these” closet. I have a weakness for adorable paper goods. Like those cute striped paper straws…if you’re like me…you need ALL of the colors, am I right? Even though you can’t stand to drink out of them. (haha)

Anyway…here’s a fun DIY idea for cute paper plates: make tiny party hats!

Why tiny party hats, you say?! Because they look so cute on babies…and everyone, really. From babies to grandpas, to dogs, tiny party hats are the way to go. The only problem is they’re hard to come by at the party store.

So let’s make our own!

How to make a mini party hat from a paper plate

I’m sharing the step by step photo tutorial here in this slideshow. The how-to is pretty simple, but the cuteness…oh the cuteness.

Now you have one more reason to buy all the cute paper goods!

Do you have a “baby’s first birthday” coming up?

If so, you’ll have to make these for the party!

*For more craft tutorials, great recipes, free printables, fun giveaways, and real life you can follow Kami at NoBiggie.net, or find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.


Start spring gardening with egg carton seedlings

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

So we dyed, like, a bazillion eggs over the weekend. This worked out perfectly, because now I have a bunch of egg cartons and at the same time I’m dying to start gardening but I can’t actually dig in the ground yet because it’s frozen. Boo.

Get started on spring gardening with egg carton seedlings!

So we’re bringing the garden party inside. Holla.

This part actually drives my husband nuts, because he’s got this cockamamie idea that dirt belongs outside and he gets all cranky when I start lugging bags of potting soil into the kitchen and spilling it and stuff. I try to blame it on the kids, but we all know the truth. So I’d have a broom handy, but there shouldn’t be too much of a mess, really.

You can finish this project in less than half an hour. I’d clear a spot in the kitchen, where you won’t mind a few bits of dirt on the floor, and get to work! One piece of advice, though? Learned the hard way? Your toddler can reach higher than you think he can. If you’re putting these cartons up where he can’t knock them over, make sure he really can’t knock them over onto your carpet and then throw the dirt in the air until you catch him.

Get started on spring gardening with egg carton seedlings!

Supplies:

  • an empty cardboard egg carton
  • potting soil
  • a garden trowel
  • seeds
  • plastic wrap
  • scissors
  • a spray bottle for watering
  • a warm, sunny spot

Instructions:

Cut the top off the egg carton and set it aside. Sprinkle seeds in the bottom of each egg cup and cover them with dirt.

Get started on spring gardening with egg carton seedlings!

Cover the egg carton lid with plastic wrap and set the seedling container inside to keep it from leaking. Mist your seeds and set the container in a sunny spot. Mist every other day or so — the soil should be damp but not watery. In about a week (depending on what you planted), you should have some little sprouts!

Get started on spring gardening with egg carton seedlings!

When it’s time to plant outside, cut each egg cup apart. Get it wet and poke a few holes in the carton so the roots have a little help escaping. Then you can plant the entire thing in the ground. The carton will decompose in a few weeks (this is why you used the cardboard ones, you smarty pants!) and you’ll have some happy little plants.

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.

 

A fun, easy way to dye Easter eggs

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

We dye Easter eggs every year. They’ve run the spectrum from strange color combinations and stickers everywhere that make our eggs look almost inedible, to beautiful, colorful eggs with fancy designs on them. I never know what we’re going to get.

It always seems like a shame, in the years we have beautiful eggs, to just eat them afterward. All that work and artistry and — bam! Egg salad sandwich. But what are the alternatives? If I tried to save them, they’d just start smelling funny. I could hollow them out and keep them, I suppose, but the kids are still little enough that they’re going to break those eggs in about 3 minutes. So we dye them and admire them…and then have them for lunch. Then we do it all again next spring. It’s the circle of life.

tissue dyed easter eggs

This year, we tried a few different ways to dye our eggs. We did some the way we always do, with the tablets you get at the store:

tissue dyed easter eggs

Two pieces of advice, if you’re going to do your basic egg dyeing — the back of the box says you can use vinegar or water to dissolve your color tablets. If you want bright, vibrant colors, always go vinegar. It just makes everything pop. Also, leave the eggs in the color for way longer than you think.

tissue dyed easter eggs

Drop them in their cups or bowls, take the kids and go read a book or do something else together for 10 minutes or so. We always pull ours out too soon, because the kids are excited, and they end up some nice, light pastel colors. Which is fine, but if you want bright, you have to plan on leaving them in for a while.

This year we also tissue-dyed some of our eggs. It’s simple, and doesn’t require a trip to the store to track down egg dye — you might even have everything right at home already.

Here’s what you need:

Supplies:

  • hardboiled eggs, dry and cooled
  • bright tissue paper (I’d use new paper for the best colors)
  • scissors
  • water

tissue dyed easter eggs

Instructions:

Cut several colors of tissue paper into small squares (maybe 1″x 1″ — you want to fit several squares on one egg). Dip your egg in water and shake excess off. Wrap tissue around the wet egg until the egg is totally covered. Let dry.

tissue dyed easter eggs

As the tissue dries, it will start coming away from egg. Peel any remaining tissue off the egg and voila! You get these cool sort of tie-dyed looking eggs.

tissue dyed easter eggs

Now if anyone has about 12 variations on egg salad, I probably need all of them…

Do you dye eggs? What do you do with them afterward?

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.

For the kids: Easter bunny “booty” pancakes

by

Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

We make pancakes every weekend for breakfast, so I’ve been thinking about how I could do a fun version for Easter morning. My oldest kiddo, Kate, found a picture similar to this on Pinterest, but it required special pancake molds and that was not happening. But we quickly realized we could improvise, and honestly these bunny “booties” are even cuter if they’re not perfect.

For this simple version, I made the pancakes in different sizes on the griddle. The body and head are basic round pancakes. The feet are small round pancakes. The ears are oblong shaped, which is easy to achieve if you spoon the batter on the griddle (vs. pour) in your desired shape. Honestly, we got it on our first try. Don’t sweat perfection; most of the fun is in the making of these.

Well, until you eat them. Who can resist bunny booty?

Looking for more Sweets and Eats for the Whole Family? Find Lindsay at Sugar Mama.

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Bunny Booty Pancakes

Pancake batter
Spray whipped cream
Coconut
Mini Chocolate Chips
Bananas

Make one large round pancake and one medium round pancake for the body and head. Then make two small round pancakes for the feet. Finally, spoon batter on griddle two small oblong shapes for the ears. Assemble as shown.

Squirt a little whip cream on the body and sprinkle with coconut. Place a slice of banana on each foot and dot with mini chocolate chips.

Enjoy!

The cutest Peter Rabbit decor for any bunny-themed party

by

Joanna Venditti

posted in Life & Home

I am constantly seeing the most incredible birthday party photos come through my feed on Facebook. My incredibly talented friend, Veronica Spencer has an eye for creating decor for parties. Whether it’s weddings, or a baby shower, she always knows how to put a whimsical touch on it.

But when it comes to throwing birthday parties for her daughter Rose, she goes all out.

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When I asked Veronica what her inspiration for Rose’s first birthday party– a Peter Rabbit themed event– was, this is what she said: “The inspiration from the party actually came while I was still pregnant. Baby Gap came out with a limited edition line up of Peter Rabbit clothing and I fell in love with the displays and the clothing. There were a lot of beautiful black and white illustrations and line work that I decided to incorporate into the party. Of course I bought Rose a beautiful pink Peter Rabbit dress and saved it for over a year, waiting for this party.”

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Check out the rest of the decor for Rose’s first birthday, including Veronica’s inspiration for each item. I am sure it will inspire you to throw your own bunny-themed event…


Lantern terrarium – I had these lanterns we used in the patio and decided to fill them with moss, stones, and some tiny artificial toadstools. I had Beatrix Potter illustrations printed which I then mounted on foam core and used as my graphic elements in the party, like the bird hanging here in the terrarium. The lanterns were a bit of a last minute decision and I just loved the fun element they added to the party.


Cutlery carrots – I think I initially saw this idea on Pinterest for Easter crafts and ideas. I simply purchased green plastic cutlery and wrapped them in orange napkins, tied it with twine, and popped it in a dollar store basket! Voila! Simple and so cute!


Spencer Garden sign – My husband got the grass planters from a showroom he was clearing out and I rescued them from the depths of our basement. I loved having this sign greeting our guests as they came to the front door.


Overall party shot – We’re lucky to have a large space to host our family and friends. My husband didn’t realize I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to hang all these handmade poofs criss crossed 20′ up in the air… With the help of a very tall ladder, some heavy wall anchors, and a lot of patience the poofs were strung. I also made flowers from brown paper bags to accent the poofs, and I wrapped our chandeliers in artificial ivy vines I found at the dollar store. I think it added a really fun garden party setting to the party.


Jemima Puddleduck – I incorporated as many of the traditional characters as I could into the party. Here I had Jemima Puddleduck and some birds holding monthly photos of Rose strung along the wall. It was so sweet to see photos of her growth as the backdrop!


Signage – I love Ikea Tolsby signs. They are so versatile and fun to use! I used them for signage for the food. Here we had Mr McGregor’s garden for our crudites served in clay pots.


Adorable Rose – Every birthday princess needs a tutu! I used some tulle, ribbon, and strands of fake pearls to make this high chair tutu for Rose.


Cake – I gave Christina at Truffle Cake and Pastry free reign with this cake. I told her my inspiration for the party, and the elegant shabby chic vibe I was going for and she knocked it out of the park. Her hand painted details were stunning. I found the Peter Rabbit table runner on sale at Pottery Barn Kids where they had a lot of Peter Rabbit items in their Easter product line that year (lucky me!). I paired it with the burlap table cloth, and hand painted the burlap bunting seen hanging in the background.
Vendor credit – Christina Wong- Truffle Toronto

About Veronica: This party actually pushed me towards opening my business, Oh Rosie Day. I had so much fun making party decor and got such great feedback, I decided to stick with it. I was already running my wedding decor business, Love and Found, so this seemed like a great next step for me. It’s been wonderful to get to help other families create fun and beautiful parties for their kids. I do everything from invitations and banners to jumbo character cut outs. Every day I get to do something I love and I’m so thankful for it!
If you’d like to contact Veronica Spencer to inquire about a party idea, you can email her at hello@ohrosieday.com

A grown-up lunch: Turkey olive sandwiches

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

I’ve mentioned before that sometimes it’s nice to have something other than the kids’ peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or chicken nuggets for lunch. A fancy sandwich is one of those little things that can just make the middle of the day feel special.

This turkey olive sandwich is a great grown-up lunch idea!

Honestly, I’m not sure if my kids would go for these sandwiches. But that’s kind of the point — they’re for me. Tasty, fancy, olive-and-walnut-and-turkey sandwiches all for me. In a house where I can barely go to the bathroom alone, this is a big deal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c whole olives
  • 1/2 c walnuts
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • sliced deli turkey
  • your bread of choice (I like those expensive ones that have lots of nuts and seeds — a 7-grain bread is really good for this)

Instructions:

Pulse olives, walnuts, and olive oil in the food processor until they make a paste.

This turkey olive sandwich is a great grown-up lunch idea!

Spread the paste on your bread. Add slices of turkey, and make your sandwich.

These would also be great for a tea, or baby shower, or spring luncheon. Cut them into cute little triangles and maybe serve with more olives on the side. They’re a little savory, so I think they’d go great with a nice, sweet lemonade.

Do you do anything little like this, just for you?

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.