Since we moved into our house last September, I’ve been craving a night spent lounging peacefully in the backyard around a bonfire. It’s shaping up to be the perfect evening for that, albeit slightly windy.
I put together a playlist of songs on Spotify for the occasion. Friends relaxing around a blazing fire, drinks in hand, this soundtrack playing in the background—a tranquil autumn evening under the stars.
I hope you have a wonderful Saturday night! Enjoy.
THIS ONE IS SO EASY, YOU GUYS. I know I say that every time I post a weeknight dinner recipe, but this time, I’m talking about Crock-Pot easy. Everyone will be so impressed by your chicken cacciatore, thinking you spent hours slaving away. In reality, prep takes about ten minutes, tops. Now, I’m the type of person who is baffled by the concept of spare time in the morning, so I get what you’re probably thinking. (I mean, those people who get up at 4am to exercise and do whatever else people do at 4am—are they even real? What are their lives?) But! Come on, you. I know you can squeeze in an extra ten minutes just this once to free up those precious evening hours.
And can we talk about chicken cacciatore for a sec? Yummmmm. So rustic and hearty. I tried the cacciatore at one of my favorite Italian restaurants not long ago, and that dish was comparable. Dare I say, this Crock-Pot one might even be better? 😁
This recipe comes courtesy of my mom. We ate it growing up for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure where she originally found it; I did a quick Google search and came up with a few similar recipes, but nothing exact. So, we’ll say this one came from my mom. And probably Taste of Home, or something.
I cook this amount for the two, and then we have lunch leftovers for days. This would feed four people easily.
2 chicken breasts or thighs
3-4 Italian sausage links, cut into half-inch pieces (I use hot, and it doesn’t come out spicy at all.)
1 green pepper, chopped into large chunks
1 onion, also chopped into large chunks
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
24-ounce jar of pasta sauce
1 pound spaghetti
Combine all ingredients in Crock-Pot. Cook on low 8 hours, or high 4 hours*. Serve over spaghetti. Told you it was easy!
*Adjust time for your Crock-Pot. Be wary of the ones that cook at really high temperatures. I can set mine on high for 2-3 hours, and this is cooked. Pretty much, you just don’t want to set it on high and leave the house for the day! Low is fine. If it’s too hot, the chicken will dry out and this dish will get runny. If it does get a bit watery, take the lid off for a while and let some of the liquid evaporate.
Even the dreaded cleanup is a breeze. You can do this one, people!
I’m happy to report that I followed my own set of rules from last Friday’s post. I was able to set everything aside to fully immerse myself in my sister’s wedding. And boy, was it worth it. The day couldn’t have been more perfect.
Katie and the dresses (keep reading for more info!)
One of my favorite details was the collection of family dresses shown above. On the far left is our grandma’s wedding dress, second from left is our mom’s, the third dress is Eric’s mom’s, and the hot pink number is our great grandma’s. Each one had a tag to let guests know who the dress belonged to and the date on which they married their sweetheart. How cool and sweet is that?! When I first saw all the dresses together, especially with Katie standing in front of them like that, my eyes welled right up.
With the wedding also came the opportunity to see family from all over the country, a rare treat.
My cousin, Andrew, and me
Me and my cousin, Amy
Overall, we had a wonderful celebration! I’m ecstatic that my sister found the man of her dreams, and that I gained my very first brother. A great one at that!
Ok, moving on from wedding stuff… here are some things that have been happening while I’ve been preoccupied.
Between wedding prep, visiting with family, and catching up at work, the reality of my life as of late has been that I haven’t had much time to dedicate to tracing paper. So, thank you for sticking with me because I love it here. Please stay tuned.
My sister gets married tomorrow. I mean, what?! It’s not often that you get to say something like that in life, especially when you only have one sister.
Yesterday, Mom and I spent the day helping her with all the finishing touches. Today, we’ll set up and decorate for the reception, rehearse, and sit down to enjoy a rehearsal dinner before the chaos begins tomorrow.
Katie and I are very different people, but, like all siblings, we have this major common denominator of a shared upbringing that connects us. As I wrote my Maid of Honor toast, I did a lot of reflecting on our childhood, and damn, we were lucky. Our parents were (and still are) loving, supportive, and allowed us to truly be ourselves, unconditionally. I want to say all kinds of things about how much I love my sister and Eric here, but I’ll leave all that for the toast.
This weekend, I want to make a point of soaking in every second. I learned from my sister’s bridal shower, and several of my best friends’ weddings, that those hours fly by fast. Real fast.
I want to remember to take lots of pictures, but be present.
I want to put my patience hat on when things aren’t going just right. Let it go; if something’s not perfect, it will not overshadow the day. It’s likely no one else will even notice.
I want to support my sister however I can and make sure she has the happiest, most memorable day possible.
Any advice as we dive headfirst into Katie’s wedding weekend? I hope you all have a fantastic weekend too!
As the crisp Fall weather approaches, I’ve found myself starting to crave warm comfort foods once again. A favorite of mine is chili. Which pairs well with another favorite of mine, beer. Beer chili!
There are about a million chili recipes out there, all slightly different. The one I follow is adapted from a Food Network recipe that a friend shared with me a few years ago. I used to make a Crock Pot chili that was simple and pretty tasty too, but once I tried this version, there was no turning back. And don’t worry, even if you’re not a beer fan, you’ll still love this chili.
Fair warning, this is not a meal to be made on a rushed weeknight. The cooking part doesn’t take long, but you’ll need to allow time for it to simmer. I recommend making this one on the weekend, or whenever you have time to let it simmer for a couple hours, and then reheating it during the week. Pro tip: it’s even better left over.
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound meatloaf mix*
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
4 ounces mushrooms, optional (about half of a small container)
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika**
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1 cup beer (I recommend a lager for this recipe; I usually use Yuengling)
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles
Sour cream and cheddar, for topping
Side note: The original recipe calls for black and kidney beans. We’re not a fan of beans in our chili at this house, so I omit those. If you’d like to use them, the recipe calls for one 15-ounce can of each, drained and rinsed.
*Meatloaf mix is made up of ⅓ ground beef, ⅓ ground pork, and ⅓ ground veal. If your grocery store doesn’t sell this (check with the butcher), you can use any combo of the three or a higher grade meat. I used ground sirloin once (so good), and another time I used just ground veal.
**The smoked paprika is key! Delicious. If you can’t find it at the grocery store, try Trader Joe’s or TJMaxx!
Heat canola oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot and slightly simmering, add garlic, onion, peppers, and spices (chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano). Season with salt and pepper. Cook vegetables, stirring often, until tender. Add the meat and break it up; cook until browned. Stir in the beer and mushrooms, then add all the tomatoes. Stir everything together, then turn the heat to low. Simmer on low for at least an hour and a half. When ready to eat, serve with freshly-grated cheddar cheese and sour cream on top, if you please. I always please.
Meal planning, zzzz. It sounds like such a boring and daunting task, right? I always thought so too. But there’s nothing I hate more than trying to figure out what to eat for dinner at 7pm when I’m already starving. Once I started planning meals, my weeknights and hangry attitude were changed forever. Ok, maaaaybe that’s a bit of a stretch. Realistically, my hangriness improved slightly.
I’ve posted a handful of easy weeknight meals, but really, the best way to make them truly a breeze is to plan ahead. It doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds. I know a lot of people suggest chopping vegetables over the weekend and portioning foods for the week, but to me, that seems terribly time-consuming when I’d rather be enjoying my weekend time doing other, more fun activities. I’m sure those methods work well for some and maybe one day, when I’m even more pressed for time, I’ll change my tune. For now, all I do is spend 15 or 20 minutes max on the weekend to lay out a basic plan for meals throughout the week. What a lifesaver it’s been!
Here are some tips to make meal planning into a habit for effortless weeknight cooking.
Hi, friends! I hope you’re having an awesome Tuesday. I know most of you tracing paper readers aren’t Buffalonians, but I wanted to share a little bit about a project I’m working on anyway.
As said in my About page, I was really hesitant when I first made the move to Buffalo. I mistakenly took negative rumblings and opinions about this city as truth. Over the last four and a half years that I’ve called Buffalo home, I’ve realized that I couldn’t have been more wrong. This city is full of hard-working, artistic, and kind people. There is beautiful, old architecture to be seen, and new shops and restaurants are popping up everywhere you look.
Recently, I was introduced to a phenomenal organization called The Awesome Foundation. The Awesome Foundation is a global community advancing the interest of awesome in the universe, $1000 at a time. With the help of some new friends, we’re bringing a chapter to Buffalo! Our city is the perfect Awesome fit as we experience a renaissance of sorts.
We will function as a fully autonomous chapter, supporting awesome projects through micro-grants, given out a few times per year at pitch events. These micro-grants come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are awarded on a no-strings-attached basis to people working on awesome projects.
Here at Awesome Buffalo, we’re currently looking for chapter trustees, who participate fully in the grant selection process. If this intrigues you, please fill out our interest form and join us in making Buffalo even more awesome: tinyurl.com/awebufform
I’m sorry in advance for using the word awesome so much. More to come!
AHHHH, it’s officially my favorite season! I spent yesterday, the glorious first day of autumn, on an airplane and then in the 98-degree heat of Fort Worth, Texas. In saving grace, last weekend I ventured to Mayer Brothers Cider Mill for apple cider and cider donuts. Now that’s the way to kick off the Fall season.
I’m dancing in my bed here at the hotel in Forth Worth, excited to get home to cooler temps and a weekend full of pumpkins, cider, hayrides, and bonfires.
Here’s a roundup of all things Fall to get the party started!
Whew, what a busy couple of weeks it’s been! I’ve been dreaming of spending more time here, working on all things tracing paper, but life has simply taken over lately.
After such long and busy days, I enjoy kicking back on the couch, lounging and relaxing with a beer or glass of wine. This time of relaxation often includes swiping through some of my favorite social media apps, starting with Instagram.
3,000 flags at the Healing Field, a 9/11 Memorial in Buffalo
7th grade pre-algebra class. A panic-stricken teacher ran in, interrupting our integers lesson, and whispered to Mrs. Potashnik. Taken aback, but quickly pulling herself together as the other teacher left the room, Mrs. P. told us that two planes had hit the World Trade Center. She followed up with something like, “But there’s nothing we can do about it now, so let’s get back to math.”