Slow Cooker Beef-and-Sweet Potato Chili

The slow cooker worked overtime in this household over the weekend.  On Sunday, I knew that I wanted to come home after my baby shower to dinner in the crock-pot for us to enjoy.  I ultimately decided to cook this chili because I had some ground beef in the freezer and we also have a couple of buckets of homegrown sweet potatoes that are ready to cook.  I really never have high expectations for chili because, well, chili is chili.  But this chili was incredible.  It was rich and hearty and I loved all the elements that went into the chili.  This is more than just a bowl of meat and beans.

To make the chili, brown your beef first.  I used a 96/4 blend and it worked perfectly – you won’t miss the fat in this dinner.  You don’t have to stress over cooking the beef all the way through but by cooking it on the stovetop you’ll ensure that the beef will be crumbled in the chili.  Then you just dump the rest of the ingredients into the slow cooker.  Chop the sweet potatoes and make sure to leave the skin on – it will prevent the potatoes from completely falling apart.  Oh, and don’t chop them too small.  Add in chopped bell pepper and onion.  You’ll also add in beef stock, tomato paste and lots of garlic.  The seasonings include chili powder, salt, cumin, and ground red pepper.  Finally add in diced tomatoes (canned – and I went with fire roasted for extra flavor).  All of this cooks low and slow for 7 hours.

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Serve this bowl of chili with a hearty sprinkle of cilantro for a little freshness and shredded cheddar cheese.

We all really loved this chili recipe and I think it might be my new favorite go-to when I’m craving a warm bowl of chili.

 

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Italian Braised Pork with Polenta

Pull out a delicious bottle of pinot noir, because this dinner deserves it.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to enjoy a glass on Saturday evening, however, I froze the leftovers for after BG arrives and I plan on cracking open a bottle when we reach for this dinner in the freezer in February or March.

Despite there being a little prep work, the slow cooker does most of the hard labor.  To start the Italian Braised Pork, sear a pork shoulder (I doubled the recipe because in the south, small pork shoulders are tough to find) that has been seasoned with salt and pepper until browned on all sides.  Add the pork to your crock pot and sauté the onion, bell pepper and garlic in the same pan until tender.  Transfer the veggies to the crock pot with the pork.  Additionally, add in the diced tomatoes, rosemary and thyme.  Let the slow cooker do it’s thing on LOW for about 7 1/2 hours.  Then add in the balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce and cook UNCOVERED for 30 more minutes.

The pork is served over polenta that is cooked with two parts water, one part milk until thickened.  The polenta also has a little bit of parmesan stirred in along with plenty of salt and pepper.

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Hearty and warm – perfect to come home to after a long day.

Coconut Blondies

Good morning, friends!  I can’t believe it’s December already.  This past weekend my sister and Momma came into town (they’re actually still here) for my baby shower.  It was such a treat to be spoiled and loved on by all our local friends and I feel so lucky that family traveled to join us.  I’ll talk more about the shower when I do my pregnancy recap of weeks 30 and 31.  I have one more shower coming up next month and that will be in Charlotte with mostly family.  But today I have a delicious treat for you!

I loved these blondies, Maggie loved them, Momma loved them and Big Guy loved them.  This is a winning recipe.  These sweet treats are loaded with chopped pecans (I used Trader Joe’s roasted and salted pecans) and sweet coconut.  These are in no way “light” but they are delicious and a treat that would be perfect for gifting or having around during holiday gatherings.  The recipe is rather fool-proof and involves mixing together only a handful of ingredients before baking and allowing to cool.

Don’t forget to line the pan with parchment paper – this makes removing the bars and cutting SO much easier.

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I was afraid these bars might be a little too sweet but they were the perfect mix of nutty, sweetness.  Don’t get me wrong – they’re sweet – but one bite won’t send you to the dentist.

Add these to your holiday baking list!  You won’t regret it.

Teriyaki Salmon Rice Bowl

The first book I read in preparation for Baby Watson was “Real Food for Mother and Baby.”    The book essentially breaks down the key nutrients you need during each trimester without overwhelming you.  Interestingly enough, the book only stresses one key nutrient during the third trimester:  omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega-3 is critical for brain development (most happens in the last trimester and the first two years of a child’s life) as well as necessary building blocks for the retina and nervous system.  And while I’ve been taking a DHA supplement all along, I’ve tried to really amp up my intake these past few weeks.  I’ve been adding chia seeds to my yogurt every morning and eggs are a steady staple in my diet.  But I’ve also been trying to eat more salmon.  Big Guy isn’t a fan of salmon so I order it a lot when we’re out at a restaurant but I also try to cook it at home if we’re doing separate things for dinner.

A few weeks back I made this super simple salmon rice bowl.

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The salmon bowl starts by first sautéing bell pepper strips in a little bit of EVOO.  Once cooked, the bell pepper is removed from the pan and the salmon is then cooked for three minutes on each side, basting with the teriyaki sauce.

Fill your bowl with rice, top with the salmon and bell peppers and a little extra drizzle of sauce before sprinkling with green onions.

Like I said – super simple – and SO healthy.  Especially for Baby Watson’s brain.

Classic Beef Pot Roast

The Monday after Thanksgiving has become one of my favorite days of the year since getting married and it’s because we’ve turned it into a “holiday” for us.  We both take the day off work (I use that loosely since I set my own work schedule and Big Guy is never “off work”) and we spend the day decorating for Christmas.  The evening is spent enjoying a cozy dinner and decorating the Christmas tree after exchanging ornaments.  Usually we open a nice bottle of wine – but alas, that didn’t happen this year.

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For dinner this past Monday, I decided to give Cooking Light’s “Most Popular Recipe” a try.  It’s a classic recipe for beef pot roast and I have to say, it’s a winner.  I ingredient list isn’t long and I think the trick to the deliciousness is quality ingredients and searing the meat before cooking in the oven.  This recipe would be perfect for entertaining!  The only change I would make would be to cook the potatoes a little less – they started falling apart on me – or cut the potatoes into bigger hunks.  Oh, and I’d add a sprinkle of parsley so the meal doesn’t look so…so…so…brown.

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This dinner is so warm and comforting and the perfect way to end the day by the Christmas tree.  This time of year can be SO crazy – and even more so this year with a baby on the way and house renovations going on – but these small moments in time are the ones that mean the most to us.

 

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Baby Girl Watson {weeks 28 & 29}

And just like that, Christmas is in full swing.  We had a lovely Thanksgiving with Chris’ family last week before it became all about the trees.  I headed to Charlotte early Sunday morning so I could see all my nieces and nephews and attend one of my nephew’s first birthday party.  And while we all missed Big Guy, it was great to see the family since I won’t see most of them again until Christmas.  Yesterday was spent decorating the house and trying to continue straightening up after the renovations.  I’m praying they finish Big Guy’s office very soon so we can get the inside of our house 100% back to normal.  Today they’re knocking down our existing deck so they can build a screened in porch – very exciting.  I’m now 30 weeks and it’s crazy to think that in about 10 weeks we’ll have a little girl in our lives.  Here’s a recap from the past two weeks!

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Size of Baby:  Eggplant and Acorn Squash.  Baby Girl weighs about 3 pounds.

Weight Gained:  As of a week ago, a little under 6 pounds.  I might have added a pound or two over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Workouts/Exercise:  Still going strong.  Obviously I’m not doing ab work and I’m very aware of my heart rate making sure to slow down when needed. But working out still feels good and I know it’ll help with recovery post-delivery.

Sleep:  Oh boy.  This is where things are getting a little tricky.  One night I’ll sleep like a baby and the next I toss and turn until midnight.  I’m not sure pregnancy is 100% to blame, but I think it’s part of the problem.

Symptoms:  Like I’ve said all along, I’ve felt incredible overall during this pregnancy.  A have a few aches and pains and if I have a super busy day, my body knows it come 6pm.  I’ve also noticed that when sitting and standing, I now make sound effects.  There’s lots of huffing and deep sighs.  It just takes more effort to do things and my ab muscles aren’t helping at all.

Food Aversions:  None.

Cravings and Favorite Foods:  I’ve been loving a little sweet treat post-dinner which is not something I did before pregnancy.  But no crazy cravings or “I gotta have that” moments.

Looking forward to…:  Finishing up the nursery!  The rug arrived and we finally have the big furniture in it’s place.  A few items are in transit and I’m excited to be able to put everything in it’s place and figure out what we need.  OH, and my first baby shower is this weekend here in town.  It’ll be nice to see all my girlfriends and celebrate this precious baby.

Baby/Pregnancy Purchases:  Items for the nursery!  I’m waiting until after my showers to really buy clothing and other items for her since I’m not exactly sure what I’ll need.

 

Baby Girl Watson {filling her bookshelves}

Happiest of Fridays to you!  I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving with family and/or friends.  I’m not a big “Black Friday” shopper – never have been, never will be but if you’re out and about wrestling the crowds at the mall, bless you.  Today I thought I’d bring you a little something different from the usual Friday Favorites.

We all know that I love books.  I remember “camping out” in our playroom as a kid and devouring a book in a few hours.  I’ve loved to read ever since I can remember.  I pray that our little girl has the same love for books that I do.  (I should also note that Chris’ Mom was a HUGE  fan of books and was even a librarian for a few years and Chris’ stepmom, hey Carolyn, is someone I can always go to for a good book recommendation. So hopefully it’s in her genes.)  As we’re starting to pull everything together for the nursery (the furniture arrived on Wednesday!!!!) I can’t help but start a list of books to fill her shelves with.

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Julia, Child  – Not only do I want BG to love books but I want her to love food and cooking!

Julia and Simca are two young friends who agree that you can never use too much butter—and that it is best to be a child forever. Sharing a love of cooking and having no wish to turn into big, busy people who worry too much and dawdle too little, they decide to create a feast for growing and staying young. A playful, scrumptious celebration of the joy of eating, the importance of never completely growing up and mastering the art of having a good time, Julia, Child is a fictional tale loosely inspired by the life and spirit of the very real Julia Child—a story that should be taken with a grain of salt and a generous pat of butter.

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Eloise in Paris – I adore Eloise books.  She needs them all eventually.

Bonjour!  Here’s the thing of it: Paris has just been discovered by Eloise the little girl from the Plaza… Here is what Eloise does in Paris: everything. The effect is rather extraordinaire. If you come to Paris with Eloise you will always be glad you did.

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Madeline’s Christmas – Another classic collection of books.  I remember reading these as a child and they were one of my favorites.

Something is not right with the famous “twelve little girls in two straight lines.” All are sick in bed except brave Madeline, who must run the school, for even Miss Clavel is not feeling very well. But when Madeline finds help from a magical merchant, the girls embark on a Christmas journey that will surely make them forget their sniffles and sneezes.

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Chicka Chicka Boom Boom – A bright book that is a currently favorite of little ones everywhere.

A told B and B told C,“I’ll meet you at the topof the coconut tree.”
When all the letters of the alphabet race one another up the coconut tree, will there be enough room?

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Flora and the Flamingo – So it’s funny, I don’t think this book has any words.  But I mean, it HAS to be in her nursery.

 

What are your favorite children’s books?