Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fresh Fruit and Cream Cheese Brownies

Congratulations... you made it through another Monday! This deserves some sort of a celebration, right? I think so, which is why I am sharing one of my favorite dessert recipes with you all today!

If you have never had chocolaty brownies with a creamy frosting and fresh fruit, you have not really lived... this dessert is so simple to prepare (I use a boxed brownies mix, because "Simplified Living" and is sure to be the hit of any church potluck, book club meeting, or Tuesday evening at home.

(Psst... Fat Tuesday is coming and this would be the perfect way to indulge before beginning another blessed Lenten season!)


Ingredients:
  • Brownie mix
  • 8 oz. of fat free cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • Fresh fruit
  1. Bake brownies as directed.
  2. Let brownies cool for at least an hour.
  3. Blend the cream cheese with the sugar and vanilla until completely smooth. Spread thin layer over the cooled brownie. 
  4. Gently press fresh fruit into the cream cheese topping. Cut into 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Let Them Be Little

This post originally aired on my personal blog in January 2015. Two years (and one new son) later and these sentiments remain true. 

On Friday, I took Jackson to our awesome local library (AKA our new happy place) to play around, read, and kill some time before Brandon arrived home from work. We played around inside for about a half hour before Jax started peering at the "big kids" playing outside.

He. Wanted. Out. So. Badly.

Since it was a nice day, and since my little toddler wan pining to go play with the school aged kids, we went outside--and it was awesome! I had no idea that there was a hands on area in the back complete with musical instruments, playground, smooth wood pieces to build with, and much more. Of course, Jackson wanted nothing to do with that and instead crawled all around in the rocks, grass, and all over the plastic boardwalk (complete with several steps for a curious tot to climb up and down). 

It's amazing how Jackson turned one and just RAN--he seriously changed from a baby to a little boy over night and is now fascinated by blocks, Legos, books, and dirt (this kid loves him some dirt). Sure, dirt is a pain to clean off clothes but it's easy to wipe off tiny hands and faces so I let him pick up rocks, crawl through the grass, and explore this exciting new place. 

He was in heaven and I was having the best time following him, admiring the rocks he proudly showed me, and just taking the moment in.

That's when I heard a voice come from behind us.

"You let him just play in the dirt and get all dirty like that?"

I turned around to see another mom (whose kids had been playing inside the library the same time Jax and I were) staring in horror at my joyously dirty son and his (in her mind) negligent and irresponsible mother.

"Oh, yeah?" I answered, taken aback by her question.

"Whatever, I guess." she responded as she rolled her eyes and walked off with her two kids.

I was stunned and couldn't find the words to respond.  

Was I wrong for letting Jackson play outside? I mean, sure, he was getting dirty but he wasn't being rambunctious or causing any kind of trouble. I kept going over the scenario in my head and tried to figure out why she'd be upset with me for letting him play.

Another 15 minutes passed before the sun began to set and it was time to go home and get Mr. Jax into the bath. On the short drive home, I started thinking about my own childhood and how I was always outside with my brother, next door neighbor/best friend, and all the other neighborhood kids--climbing on the swing set, jumping on the trampoline with the sprinkler under it, and playing Power Rangers in the front yard are just a few of my fondest childhood memories.

I loved my childhood.

Every time I think back on our neighborhood hide-and-seek games and catching of crawdads and garter snakes (and naming them Sarah Michelle Gellar), I can't help but smile.

I want my kids to have that same kind of childhood.

If Jackson wants to dig in the dirt for worms to take fishing, he should be able to.

If he decides he doesn't like getting dirty and would rather paint, read, or do something else he enjoys, he should be able to.

If he wants to run around like crazy, partake in water fights, and climb trees, he should be able to.

As long as kids aren't hurting themselves or others and are being respectful, let them run and play. 

Let them enjoy that all too short period known as childhood--it goes by way, way too quickly and once it's gone, that's it.

Let your kids be innocent and naive to this crazy and often scary world around them. 

Let them figure out what they like doing and what they're good at (whether it be sports, art, music, etc.).

Let them get dirty.

Let their imaginations soar.

Let them be little.
Mamma and her messy (but oh-so sweet) boys. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Tug of War with the Devil

I had every reason to not go to church on Sunday.

After a late night with my oldest (who had fallen asleep at 7 pm to only wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed from 10 pm til 2 am), I woke up with body aches and chills -- plus it was cold outside, it is always hard getting both boys ready and out the door on time, yada yada yada.

Despite a little voice in my head saying "Just stay home this one time... you are tired and don't need to take the boys out on your own this morning," I powered through and had everyone up, fed, and dressed a good half hour before church. Once I topped off my 2-month-old with a quick nursing session, we were out the door and scheduled to actually get to mass a minute or two before it started (which is a big deal, if you know me and the fact that we are almost always late to everything).

When we pulled up, the parking lot was completely packed.

"Is today a holy day of obligation that I didn't know about?" I asked myself as I searched for just one open spot.

I cursed under my breath at all the cars taking up two parking spots, wondering why and how common sense goes to pot in Colorado whenever there is snow on the ground.

"Well, you tried, Annie. The boys are still content in the car seats, so just turn around and go home." the voice told me.

It was then I had a moment of Divine intervention; I found a parking spot. It was about as far away from the front door as I could possibly get, but by golly, I had a spot and the boys and I were going to mass.

While I was walking, I heard the voice again.

"Gabe's carseat is so heavy... I know your shoulder hurts, so why not just turn around, put it back in the car, and go home?"

Gabriel may have the heaviest carseat known to man, but I was willing to bet that the cross Christ carried was even heavier, so on we trekked.

The boys and I were splashed by passing cars.

It was standing room only by the time we made our way into the church.

My poor 14-pound newborn was apparently wasting away from not nursing in the last 20 minutes and wanted to make it known to everyone within a 3-mile radius.

While I may have been physically exhausted by the time mass had ended, my soul felt completely renewed. God knew that my boys and I needed to attend the service and -- as always -- he provided us (and hundreds others) with parking spots, a meaningful homily, and a safe place to come together and worship.

Why am I sharing this story?

No; it isn't to get an "Atta girl -- you made it to church like you're supposed to!"

It is to share that we all have that little voice in the back of our head saying we aren't good enough, aren't deserving, or that we can't do something... never listen to it or give in.

We all have our own personal tug of wars with the devil, but with Christ by our side, we can conquer any obstacle that comes our way.

You, my friend, are good enough.

You are deserving.

You can do it.

And -- most importantly -- you are so, so loved.

Sweetest boys in their Sunday best.

Friday, January 6, 2017

What's For Supper? Vol. 1

If we are friends on Facebook, you may have noticed that I like to share articles from my favorite Catholic blogger, Simcha Fisher. One of her recurring articles (that gives me dinner ideas while at the same time making me literally laugh out loud) is her Friday "What's for Supper?" post, where she looks back at what she served her family of 12 (!) over the last week. It is such a fun and lighthearted topic that I can't get enough of, so I decided to take a page from her book and start sharing what our family has each evening for supper as potential meal inspiration and/or making yourself feel better over the fact that our family survives thrives off frozen pizzas and leftover crock pot meals.

Annieway, without further ado, I give you Living Like Martha's first installment of "What's for Supper?"

Friday
Chicken nachos

'Twas the night before New Year's Eve when I realized I wouldn't be getting my chicken nacho fix for another year (har, har) and decided to throw together some chips, cheese, and diced chicken on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Definitely not as good as the stuff you get at a sports bar, but it sufficed. 

Since Brandon was busy doing contract work on a website, Jackson and I sat at the table, ate, and played Hi, Ho, Cherry-O whilst enjoying each others company. (Side note: Either Jackson -- age 3 -- is cheating, or the rules of HHCO have changed since I was little, as I don't remember the youngest getting to spin multiple times in a row, barking when the spinner landed on the dog, and then getting to dump all of his cherries in the basket... Better luck next time, mom!)

Saturday
Chinese Takeout

Since it was NYE, we decided to do something fun for the occasion and order a bunch of takeout. Brandon had sushi, Jax had chicken fried rice, and I had my beloved broccoli chicken with crab rangoons... it was delicious and the perfect meal to end 2016.

Sunday
Leftovers

...because when there are leftovers in the fridge, mamma ain't cookin', 

Monday

I shared my recipe for taco soup on Tuesday and highly recommend you try it because:
a.) It's so stinking delicious and filling.
b.) It's inexpensive to make (and makes A LOT of food!)
c.) It takes only a matter of minutes to prepare, as you simply just brown the ground beef, mix it with taco seasoning, and then pour all the ingredients into your slow cooker. 

As you probably already know, we here at Living Like Martha are all about simplified living and this, my friend, is truly simple! 

Tuesday
Leftovers

Okay, so I really had every intention of making basil pesto chicken with roasted red potatoes and baked zucchini, but after a rough night of constant Gabe nursing and keeping the toddler awake all day so that he would go to bed at a decent hour, I was like naaaah and walked to the kitchen, set the crock pot on warm, and let it do its thing. 

Did I mention that the taco soup makes A LOT of leftovers? Boom.

Wednesday
Park Burger

Have I ever told you about my taco soup recipe and how much food it makes? 

Jackson and I both had more taco soup for lunch on Wednesday and just about finished it up. Fortunately, we had already made anniversary plans for that evening (which I will post more about next week) and had a dinner of delicious park burgers with my aunt and uncle.

Side note: If you live in or plan to visit Denver anytime soon, be sure to get a Park Burger... they are the best burger in the Mile High City!

Thursday
Pizza Hut

Happy 4th wedding anniversary to Brandon and me! We woke up snowed in at a hotel with our boys, but managed to dig ourselves out to get brunch at Denny's and then head back home. Brandon had talked about making prime rib for dinner, but we found out that most stores only sell this special cut of meat around the holidays, so he ended up getting another cut that needs to tenderize in sea salt for 24 hours prior to making. 

So... half off pizza from Pizza Hut it was and -- aside from some sauce-induced acid reflux -- we had zero regrets.

What did you have for dinner this week?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Slow Cooker Taco Soup

Now that I am a mamma of two, my slow cooker gets even more use than ever before (which I didn't think was possible) -- can you relate? If you are like me and are always on the prowl for a hearty and delicious meal that takes a mere minutes to make, you are going to absolutely love this recipe for Slow Cooker Taco Soup.

I was first introduced to this recipe by my husband, who had a co-worker who used to make it periodically for company potlucks. I'm so glad he got the recipe because it is now a major staple in the Sandmeier home! To prepare, simply brown the ground beef, mix in taco seasoning, and dump the remaining ingredients into the slow cooker for a meal that is sure to be a hit with everyone in the family! 


Ready for the recipe? Read on...


Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. Hamburger 
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 1 pkg. ranch seasoning
  • 1 can chili beans
  • 1 can pinto beans (drained)
  • 1 can kidney beans (drained)
  • 1 can light kidney beans (drained)
  • 1 can great northern beans (drained)
  • 1 can corn (drained)
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes 
  1. Fry hamburger until cooked thoroughly and add taco seasoning (prepare as directed on pouch). Add seasoned hamburger to slow cooker and mix in remaining ingredients.
  2. Cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 4 hours.

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