Menu Monday

Happy Monday! Take some dinner inspiration from my menu for this week.

MONDAY – Spaghetti served with roasted asparagus and bread

TUESDAY – Cilantro Chicken Wantons served with rice and sautéed veggies (edamame, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, and bell pepper) — I find these wantons at Trader Joes in the frozen section.

WEDNESDAYChicken, Green Beans and Potatoes — I don’t use as much butter as this recipe calls for. A little goes a long way without losing out on any flavor.

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Photo by Ela Haney on Pexels.com

THURSDAY – BBQ Chicken served with steamed broccoli and sweet potatoes — You can either marinate the chicken in BBQ sauce and grill it, or if you are like us and don’t have a grill, you can cook the chicken in the crockpot following this recipe!

FRIDAYSlow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls — Make these into tacos or bowls; just finish off with your favorite toppings: guacamole, salsa, tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, etc.

Happy Cooking! 🙂

Menu Monday

This summer is flying by and has been a little crazier than first anticipated. Ryan and I have been in the process of moving for the majority of the summer, hence why my Menu Monday posts have come to a halt. But, I’m back! Ryan and I are beginning the process of getting settled into our new home, and I am even more excited to get back to cooking on a regular basis again.

MONDAY – Spaghetti served with steamed broccoli and garlic bread

TUESDAYOven Chicken Fajitas — Vegetables have been lacking in our diet the last few weeks, so I am looking for any way to add in extra veggies. I am planning on adding zucchini and maybe summer squash to the peppers!

WEDNESDAYEgg Roll Bowls served over rice — This is a new favorite of ours! Full of lots of good veggies, and it comes together so quickly. We like to use ground turkey instead of ground pork, and we add rice to help fill us up a little more.

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Photo by Kleine Beyers on Pexels.com

THURSDAYPulled Pork Sandwiches served with sweet potatoes and slaw — The slaw recipe is a NEW recipe for us this week. I am excited to see how this pairs with the BBQ sandwiches!

FRIDAYSkillet Gnocchi with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe — **NEW recipe for us this week! I am planning on using Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi in this recipe.

Happy Cooking!

I’m Glad I Didn’t Say No

How did a Michigander and Marylander end up in NYC? Sometimes I still ask myself this very question.

Ryan and I have lived in 3 different states in the 6 years that we have been married. We started out in Farmington Hills, Michigan, which is where Ryan found his first job after graduating with his Bachelor’s Degree. We lived there for just over 2 years when a new opportunity in Baltimore, Maryland opened up. One big factor in the move to Maryland was that we would be moving to the area where my parents lived. They kindly offered to let us stay with them for a little as we figured out what steps we should take next. After a few months in Maryland, Ryan began to realize that this job was not what was promised to him. He then began exploring other opportunities, and a job in NYC contacted him. Throughout the initial phase of the interviewing process, the location for this job was up in the air. Toward the very end of the interview process, the recruiter told Ryan that the location for this job would be NYC and that it wouldn’t be negotiable. This new information was tough for me to swallow. The thought of moving to NYC was the furthest thing from appealing to me. Frankly, it terrified me.

With each job change, Ryan has valued my input significantly. He has always encouraged me to be honest with him about how I was feeling about each opportunity and took the time to listen to my concerns and fears. He never once has forced a move on me, and for that I am extremely grateful.

This move to NYC was no different than the others. All I had to do was say, “No!” No other explanation would have been needed. However, through a lot of prayer and tears, God made it very clear that this was the next right step for us.

Now after living in NYC for nearly 3 years, I can’t imagine what life would have been like if I would have said no. These last 3 years have been truly unforgettable in more ways than one. I have been stretched to my limit on more than one occasion, yet I continue to find that I am stronger than I thought and can handle more than I thought I could. My confidence has grown leaps and bounds since moving to the city. I am forced to come up with creative solutions to accomplish simple tasks almost on a weekly basis. My life looks nothing like I thought it would and yet I couldn’t be more thankful. There is always something going on here, which means there is always something new to see and explore.

As Ryan and I look ahead to our next adventure and prepare to move away from this city we have called home for the last 3 years, I am struck with the realization that NYC has changed me. I am not the same person that I was when I first arrived in October of 2016. That person was scared, fearful, and unsure of herself. Each new day slowly transformed that girl into someone who was confident, strong, and more dependent on the Lord than ever before.

There are too many lessons to count from our time in NYC, but the one lesson that has really stuck with me is that it is up to you to choose whether you will embrace each new opportunity or fight it.

This is why I’m glad I didn’t say no.

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The Vatican City

Our last day in Rome was spent in Vatican City. Vatican City is an enclave, which is a country that is entirely enclosed within another country — when you marry a geography buff, you learn fun facts like this when you travel. 😉 So, even though we didn’t get another passport stamp, we did technically visit another country on this trip.

When we were researching for our trip to Rome, we saw that people spent anywhere from half a day in Vatican City to multiple days. This was a very important site for both of us, so we decided to set aside a whole day to be able to take in the everything without rushing. Let me just say, if your schedule allows for it, take a full day to visit Vatican City! There are a lot of famous sites to see including St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel.

Vatican City is a short metro ride from the city center of Rome. Once we arrived, we headed straight to St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Peter’s Basilica is the most iconic structure in Vatican City. Entrance to the Basilica is free, so we decided to spend some time taking in this magnificent structure. If you want to avoid crazy long lines, go during non-peak season and go early in the day! By the time we exited the Basilica the line was noticeably longer than when we entered.

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Our next stop was the Vatican Museums. We decided to purchase a tour for the Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Due to the vastness of the Museums you could easily spend days checking out all the artwork and sculptures. Since we only had one afternoon (and Ryan and I aren’t  huge art people), taking a tour was a great way to see the highlights that the Museums had to offer. The Sistine Chapel was the last stop on the tour, and I still can’t get over how beautiful it was. After seeing many pictures of this famous site in history books growing up, it was incredible to actually see it with my own eyes. Since the tour ended with the Sistine Chapel, we were able to spend as long as we wanted taking in its famous ceiling!

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The ceiling in the map room of the Vatican Museums was spectacular!

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After our whirlwind tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, the sun was beginning to set, and tiredness was starting to set in. We decided to head back to our hotel, get dinner, and prepare for our trip home the next day.

Visiting Rome was such an incredible experience! Ryan and I hope to make it back to Italy one day to check out more places and experience even more of what this amazing country has to offer.

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Just “Rome”ing Around

There are many benefits of traveling to a major tourist area during “off season,” but one major downside is that the weather is extremely unpredictable. You could get beautiful sunny days or it could rain your entire trip. Up to this point we had experienced a bit of both. Our first day exploring the city we had great weather and our second day only had a few scattered showers. However, we were not so fortunate for the third day of our Rome trip.

Day 3: Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo, Pantheon, and Piazza Navona

Even though they were calling for rain, we were excited to begin our day of exploring. We were really hoping the rain would be light like the previous day, but unfortunately that was not the case. As soon as we were on our way to the first site of the day the heavens opened up. If it wasn’t hard enough getting a clear picture of the Trevi Fountain, try adding in copious amounts of umbrellas! Even through the rain and umbrellas, we couldn’t help but admire the beauty of Trevi Fountain.

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See what I mean about the umbrellas?!
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Getting pictures throughout this rainy day was a team effort. I would be the one to take the picture while Ryan was standing behind me with the umbrella to keep the camera out of the rain. We also kept a lint free cloth in our camera bag to wipe the camera lens before taking pictures. This helped so much!

 

The Spanish Steps was next on the list. This was another impressive site, although I was a bit distracted by the beautiful lights along the street leading up to the Spanish Steps. After grabbing a few pictures, we were off to the Piazza del Popolo. Once we arrived at the Piazza, we decided that we needed a little pick me up (and a break from the rain wouldn’t be terrible either). We ducked into a little espresso bar and grabbed an espresso and snack to help give us the boost we needed to keep going.

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View from the top of the Spanish Steps. See what I mean about the lights along the street!

The Pantheon was our next stop and my favorite site of the day. I didn’t know what to expect, but as we rounded the corner and caught sight of the building I was in awe. Thankfully, we got a slight reprieve from the rain as we were checking out the Pantheon, which allowed us to stop and soak in this incredible structure. Also, entrance to the Pantheon was free!

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Funny story about this picture: I realized that I wanted our picture taken in front of the Pantheon, so we took a look around to try and find someone to ask. Of course there was no one when we needed them. Ryan said, “Just give it a minute. I’m sure we’ll find some American tourists soon.” Sure enough two teenage girls with their selfie sticks came strolling up and were happy to take our picture. 🙂  (Also if you want to get a feel for how rainy it was take a look at the bottom of Ryan’s pants in this picture. haha)

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We were quickly losing steam, but had to keep going to check out the last few sites on our list. We made our way to Piazza Navona and enjoyed checking out the various sculptures, fountains, and shops there.

Ryan and I collect Christmas ornaments from the different places that we travel. I still had not found the right ornament for Rome and was starting to get a little nervous that I wasn’t going to be able to find what I was looking for. As we were roaming around, Ryan saw this little shop full of Christmas items and suggested we take a look inside. Thankful to get out of the rain for a minute, we went inside and admired all the hand-crafted Christmas decorations inside. I found a beautiful nativity scene carved out of a piece of wood (I later found out that it was hand-carved from olive wood which is native to the area). I instantly knew it was the ornament for us. I really wanted the word Rome added to the ornament, so Ryan encouraged me to ask the shop owner if she would add that for me. I went up to the shop owner and asked, “Parli inglese?” (Do you speak English), but she said she spoke little English. She did say that she spoke Spanish. I studied Spanish in college, so my face lit up knowing we could still communicate. I asked her in Spanish if she could add Rome on the ornament, and she was quick to do that for me. Before I knew it, we had spent 30 minutes talking in Spanish and learning more about Rome from this sweet shop owner. This is my absolute favorite experience from the whole trip.

By this point we were pretty drenched, so we decided to head back to the hotel to change out of our wet clothes and let our tennis shoes dry for a bit. It was a little frustrating of a day, but a memorable one nonetheless.

 

Menu Monday

Happy Monday! Here is a look at what we are having for dinner this week to help inspire your weekly menu.

MONDAY – Sloppy Joes served with sweet potatoes and green beans — To keep things quick and simple I use manwich sauce for my sloppy joes 9 times out of 10. But, I found this recipe for slow cooker sloppy joes that is tasty as well!

TUESDAYSlow Cooker Asian Sesame Chicken served with rice and sautéed veggies (bell peppers, edamame, and spinach)

WEDNESDAYBroccoli Cheddar Chicken Pasta — Lately, I have been adding zucchini and yellow squash into this dish. This time, I am planning on incorporating the zucchini by making zucchini noodles with my spiralizer!

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Photo by Ella Olsson on Pexels.com

THURSDAYSweet Potato Chili — It is almost getting too warm for chili here, but I had to squeeze in one more chili dinner before the fall. My cousin shared this recipe with me months ago, and it is by far my favorite chili recipe!

FRIDAYAvocado and Black Bean Quesadillas with roasted cauliflower — This is a great meatless meal, but if the members of your family aren’t fans of meatless meals, it is easy to add in your favorite meat: chicken, beef, ground turkey, pork, etc.

Happy Cooking! 🙂

When in Rome

It has been a little while since I last posted about our Rome trip. I’m excited to share more about what we did and saw a few months ago!

After getting settled into our hotel and familiarizing ourselves a little with the area, we were itching to start exploring the city. We began each morning of our trip with a cappuccino and breakfast, which was provided by our hotel.

Day 1: The Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Circus Maximus, Baths of Caracalla, and Altar of the Fatherland/Terrace of the Quadrigas overlook

We decided to begin our morning at the Colosseum, since the crowds tended to be worse later in the day. We did visit Rome during “off season,” but there were still larger crowds than I was expecting. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to visit during the summer months when it is considered “peak season”!

The Colosseum was spectacular. It truly took my breath away and made me tear up a bit. I cannot say how glad I was that we decided not to pack our days too full of activities. It allowed us to take our time at each attraction and soak everything in instead of rushing through to make sure we made it to the next place in enough time. Ryan and I spent about an hour and a half walking around the Colosseum and taking in the vastness of this iconic structure. This was my favorite site of the trip, hands down!

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Your ticket to the Colosseum also gives you access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Naturally, those were our next stops. After entering the grounds of the Roman Forum, we decided to head up Palatine Hill first so we could enjoy the lookout and stake out what sites in the Forum were most interesting to us. This is another instance where we were glad we set aside the time to soak in everything around us. There is so much to see in the Roman Forum that you could easily spend a good amount of time exploring.

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View of a portion of the Roman Forum from Palatine Hill

The jet lag was catching up to us, so we decided we needed a little espresso break to help us keep going. We found that we looked forward to grabbing an espresso in the afternoon each day since espresso cafés were everywhere!

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Our first Italian espresso

On our itinerary, we listed a few sites that were a little more out of the way just in case we had the chance to check them out. As it turns out, we found ourselves with some extra time and decided to make our way out to see them. We walked along the track of Circus Maximus, an ancient chariot-racing stadium located adjacent to Palatine Hill. Next, we headed to the Baths of Caracalla. We did end up purchasing a 48-hour Roma Pass for our trip, which gave us discounted admission to the Baths. The Baths of Caracalla were very expansive and offered us a nice reprieve from the crowds (since its location was more out of the way).

The last major site we wanted to check off of our list for the day was the Altar of the Fatherland. Ryan did the majority of the research for our trip and discovered that there was an overlook at the top of the structure that gave you excellent views of the city. Ryan and I love a good overlook and couldn’t pass that up. We arrived at the top right around sunset and the views were spectacular. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me.

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View from the Terrace of the Quadrigas overlook

After a very full day of exploring, we decided to venture to Trastevere to grab some dinner. With our Roma Pass, we got unlimited rides for all public transit — metro, bus, and trams — which helped us get to Trastevere so much easier. Ryan and I love to take public transit wherever we travel. It helps us to get a real feel for the city we are in and experience even more of the culture.

Day 2: The Catacombs of San Callisto and San Sebastián

One of the first things I told Ryan that I had to see when visiting Rome was the catacombs. I remembered learning a lot about them in school and had to take advantage of this opportunity to check them out. After doing a little research, we realized that some of the major catacombs were located further outside of the city. It took some creativity and careful planning, but we figured out how to work them into our trip!

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Be sure to check the hours of operation before heading out to visit the catacombs. When we were preparing for our trip, we realized that one of the catacombs was closed on the day that we had originally set aside to visit. Thankfully, we were able to play with our itinerary a little to find the best time to visit both catacomb sites. The trek out to the catacombs by bus was a little lengthy but worth it (to us).

Pictures weren’t allowed inside of the catacombs, so we don’t have much to show of our explorations. I will say that it was incredible to take a tour of two of the most famous catacomb sites. It is truly a maze once you get down into the catacombs, and I am very glad we had a guide to help lead us through the narrow passageways.

After we finished our second tour, we decided to go on a little walk down the Appian Way, one of the oldest and most important roads of the ancient Roman Empire. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the best day to walk along the road (it was overcast and rained off and on all day), but we still enjoyed a relaxing day checking out some places “off the beaten path.”

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Walking along the Appian Way

Rome was most certainly living up to all of the hype, and we still had two more full days to explore even more!

Menu Monday

Happy Monday! If you are looking for some dinnertime inspiration, you have come to the right place 😉

MONDAY Roasted Chicken and Veggies served with sweet potatoes — To make this a quick weeknight meal, prep the veggies and chicken the night before.

TUESDAYOven Chicken Fajitas

WEDNESDAYSpaghetti Squash Pad Thai — If you are crunched for time when preparing dinner in the evening, cook the spaghetti squash in a crockpot, instant pot, or in the oven the night before! Also, I always add extra veggies (like edamame and broccoli) to this recipe.

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

THURSDAYSlow Cooker Asian Turkey Meatballs served with rice and sautéed veggies

FRIDAYPulled Pork served with roasted asparagus and mashed potatoes — Whether you turn this into pulled pork sandwiches or eat the meat as is, it is delicious!

Happy Cooking! 🙂

Menu Monday

Happy Monday! Looking for new dinner ideas? Check out my meal plan for the week for some inspiration.

MONDAYItalian Orzo Spinach Soup — This is my favorite soup recipe! I would highly recommend using the whole wheat orzo if you can find it. It helps make it much more filling.

TUESDAYPulled Pork served with green beans and sweet potatoes

WEDNESDAY – Spaghetti served with steamed broccoli

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Photo by Daniel Lindstrom on Pexels.com

THURSDAYEgg Roll Bowl — **NEW recipe for us this week. I am planning on subbing ground turkey for the ground pork and bell peppers for the mushrooms.

FRIDAYSlow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls

Happy Cooking! 🙂

Menu Monday

I don’t know about you, but I am so excited for the start of longer days! 🙂 I am more than ready for spring to make its appearance. Here’s to a good week full of home-cooked dinners!

MONDAY – Frozen Pizza served with asparagus

TUESDAYSlow Cooker Chicken Fajita Soup — I like to make my own cream of chicken soup for this recipe. It sounds like it would be really complicated, but making cream of chicken soup is actually pretty easy and requires very little ingredients!

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Photo by Lukasz Dziegel on Pexels.com

WEDNESDAY – Sloppy Joes served with steamed broccoli and roasted sweet potatoes

THURSDAYOne Pot Spinach and Tomatoes Pasta

FRIDAY – Trader Joe’s Cilantro Chicken Wantons served with rice and sautéed veggies (radishes — these are our new favorite! — edamame, and bell pepper)

Happy Cooking 🙂