Running from the Law: 2016

Monday, December 19, 2016

Chicken Pesto Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions are mine alone. #schnucksmeals #CollectiveBias
Busy, busy, busy!! Does anyone else feel like they're drowning this time of year? My to do list is out of control these days and I'm simultaneously trying to get as much done as possible, yet still be present with the kids and enjoy the holiday season. Weekends are always busy, but it seems like even weeknights have been filling up with holiday parties, events and activities as we get closer to Christmas. I'm exhausted when I get home from work and the kids are crazy from being cooped up in the house. It certainly doesn't help that it's bitter cold outside and dark well before I even leave the office. Dinner needs to be simple these days and I'm always on the lookout for anything that makes mealtime easier for me, while still tasting good and not costing a fortune. Enter Schnucks Simple Solution Meals - $10.99 or less for a whole roasted chicken, 15-16 oz American Salad (potato salad, egg salad, etc.) and a 1.25L of Coca-Cola. 
One of my go-to dinners for both me and the kids is a rotisserie chicken - it's one of those things that everyone in our house loves. The kids have no problem taking down a chicken leg a piece, while I use the breast meat to make dinner for myself. I use rotisserie chicken meat in soups, salads, tacos, casseroles, and sliders...basically any recipe that needs cooked chicken gets rotisserie chicken to save time. One of my favorite, healthy and super easy to make meals is a Chicken Pesto Spaghetti Squash Lasagna, made with rotisserie chicken. 

I love this recipe because it's homemade, but comprised of ingredients you already have in your fridge. It's made with spaghetti squash, so it's low in carbs, yet still very filling. You can add/subtract/substitute ingredients really easily, as you want, making this recipe to fit your taste (or to include whatever you have in the fridge). I've included my original recipe below, but I've also included a number of substitutions, additions and other ingredient ideas. 
Prep Your Squash
If you've never made spaghetti squash before, it might sound a bit intimidating, but I am here to tell you that it's easy as pie. Actually, it's WAY EASIER than making a pie, so you are in luck. All you have to do to prep a spaghetti squash is cut it in half length-wise, remove the seeds, drizzle with evoo with a sprinkle of salt and bake it open-face down on a cookie sheet in a 375 degree oven for 45-60 minutes. Cutting the squash in half is literally the hardest part of this entire recipe. It takes every ounce of strength I have to cut squash, even with my sharpest knife, so I just go ahead and consider this 5 minutes of brut force and squash wrangling an equivalent of 30 minutes of cardio. Seriously, if you can cut squash, you can do ANYTHING. 
Prep Your Stuffing
While you spaghetti squash is cooking, take the meat from a roasted rotisserie chicken and shred it into bite-size pieces. One side of a chicken breast is perfect for one spaghetti squash. If you're cooking two squashes, use both breasts. And for three squashes, use the entire chicken. Once you've pulled all the meat off the chicken, combine it with some pre-made pesto. You can use as much or as little as you want. I used about 2 heaping tablespoons of pesto - enough to completely coat the chicken. Add a big pinch of kosher salt (or a sprinkle of garlic salt) to the chicken and mix. If you're not a big pesto fan, just leave it off - the final product will still taste great without it. Or mix ranch dressing in with the chicken instead. 
Lasagna Layers
Once your squash is cooked, flip them over and start filling them. I put a thick layer of pasta sauce, topped with ricotta cheese, then the chicken and top with a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese. You could easily substitute cottage cheese for the ricotta, if you prefer. You can mix extra cheese and/or herbs in with the ricotta. Top with any type of cheese you like - mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, fontina or even crumbled goat cheese. Feel free to add an additional layer of pasta sauce on top of the chicken to make it a bit saucier.  
Bake & Enjoy
Bake your squash until hot, bubbly and heated throughout. I usually turn the broiler on at the last minute to ensure the cheese on top gets melted and slightly browned. Once cooked, you can eat right out of the squash "shell" - no need to scoop everything out. Your fork is the perfect utensil for scraping the sides of your lasagna boat and pulling out that stringy spaghetti threads. 
Coca-Cola Floats
We also thought it would be fun to make Coca-Cola floats for dessert. I haven't had one of these since I was a kid and they were just as good as I remembered. All you have to do is pour some Coca-Cola over vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt and enjoy!
Chicken Pesto Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

- 2 spaghetti squash
- 1 rotisserie chicken (2 breasts)
- 2-4 tablespoons pesto
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 2 cups pasta sauce
- shredded mozzarella cheese
- salt & pepper (to taste)

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place squash cut-side down on a cookie sheet (or baking dish) and cook for 45-60 minutes.
2. Combine pulled chicken breast meat with pesto and a hefty sprinkle of kosher salt.
3. Fill each spaghetti squash boat with about 1/2 cup of spaghetti sauce, 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese, 1/4 of the chicken pesto mixture and top with shredded mozzarella cheese. Add an extra layer of sauce on top of chicken, if desired.
4. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.

Are you a spaghetti squash fan?

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Gift of Photos

Anyone that's ever met me or laid eyes on this blog knows that photos are a very big deal to me. I both blame and credit my mother for this - she's just as obsessed with photography as I am and was the one that gave me my first camera and inspired my love for taking pictures. As you may remember, last year she lost her house, her pets and everything she owned in a horrible house fire, including all her photos. Years and years of documenting, preserving, scrapbooking and memory-keeping of her life, her children and her family were gone in the blink of an eye. It honestly breaks my heart thinking about losing my childhood photos and all those precious memories we'll never be able to revisit by looking through albums and scrapbooks. But we also know how lucky we are to have her still in our lives and we're now focused on making new memories and documenting life going forward. 

One of my best friends from high school is an incredibly talented photographer - Stephanie from SVSiefkas Photography. (Have I mentioned how lucky I am to have so many amazing photographer friends?!) While we were back home visiting my mom a few weeks ago, she just happened to be hosting mini sessions at a local tree farm, so we had to go! I've been dying to do a "Mommy & Me" session with the kids (and Ryan was busy hunting), so this was the perfect opportunity. I even drug my mom along and even forced her into a picture or two with the kids. I was really hoping to turn these photos into some fun Christmas gifts for my mom and all the grandparents on our list. Stephanie did an amazing job and I'm just madly in love with the photos, even if Mac was a bit "bah humbug" by this point in the day (late night, early morning, no nap, lots of sugar = crankypants). I still adore them and we even managed to get a few smiles out of him by making fart noises and singing songs about toots. Boys (insert eye roll emoji here). Scroll down to the bottom of the post to see a little sneak peek of some of the fun items I made with these photos for gifts! 

Aren't they lovely? How could I not turn them into adorable gifts? I started with the idea of making ornaments out of the photos and came across the prettiest glass and zinc Tiny Prints photo ornaments. They have a great selection of sizes, layouts and colors. I ordered one for all three sets of grandparents and one for ourselves. And then I got more excited when I found the Tiny Prints mugs, notepads and the magnets. Can you ever have too many mugs, notepads or magnets? I also make a personalized photo calendar for our families each year (which I adore all year long). And while I was at it, might as well throw in a cute photo iPhone case, a canvas and maybe even a personalized stocking(with or without photo)!

Because if you have beautiful photos - don't leave them stuck in your computer or on your phone. Use them! Print them! Gift them! 
Tiny Prints personalize photo gifts
1. magnets // 2. mug // 3. iPhone case // 4. notepads // 5. ornaments

I've already received my mug, notepad and magnets- my ornaments should be here any day! I'll come back and post a few photos of my items as soon as they're gifted (I don't want to completely ruin the surprise!).

If you want to make some personalize photo gifts from Tiny Prints, you still have time to order any of these items and receive them by Christmas with expedited shipping (you can get cards in only 2 days!). And don't forget your photo holiday cards! Tiny Prints as a huge selection.

Do you gift photos?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Holiday Pajama Party

A few years ago, we began the tradition of taking annual photos of Mac and his cousin Alex (Ryan's brother's daughter) in their Christmas pajamas while they were in town for Thanksgiving. The first year we did this (photos here), Mac was about 6 months old and could barely sit up by himself. Alex was almost 2 and did not want anything to do with me or my camera (I think she was slightly terrified of me). The photos are hilarious - you can see the parents on the side of the photos grabbing the kid by the arms to keep them from falling out of bed or running away. It was a fiasco! But so much fun. The next year went much better (photos here). Alex was almost 3 and loved jumping on the bed and smiling for me. Mac was only about 18 months old - he did great for a while, but had limited patience for yet another mommy photo session and fizzled out, leaving me with a super smiley Alex hamming it up and loving all the attention.

Since we took those photos, a lot has changed. Both Mac and Alex each got a new baby sister the following year, making travel for the holidays impossible and thus no photos. Womp womp. Last year was also a miss, due to... (honestly, I can't even remember what we did last year - I'm losing my mind). Anyway, we were able to pick the tradition up again this year while the Chicago crew was in town for Thanksgiving and let me tell you...wrangling four wild kids and trying to get them all to cooperate and look at the camera and maybe even smile is HARD. How do photographers do this? None of my usual bribery tricks (candy, candy and more candy) worked (on my kids). Alex and Addy were actually both super easy to photograph. Alex loved the camera and was my rock star little model. She's the only one smiling in every single photo. Almost 6 year-olds are awesome! Again, the shoot was a total fiasco, but totally fun! 

I know this is complete photo overload, but they are all just too funny not to post. I didn't get a single "money" shot of all four of them happy (or even really looking at the camera), but I got some super cute ones of just the girls and scrolling through the photos tells a hilarious story as you watch them interact all with me and each other. Their expressions just kill me! Alex with that big happy missing-tooth grin. Mac with his bored face and look of utter humiliation. Mim with tears in her eyes and dreaming of donuts. And Addy is sweet as can be, slightly bewildered by them all! You can really get a good sense of their personalities just by looking at these photos and I just can't help but share a million of them. I just love them all so much (the photos and the kids). 
(This one ↑ is my absolute favorite)
(the bored face is killing me)
(Second favorite ↑ - they're SO over it)

If you've got photos of your little ones in their holiday jams, I hope you'll share them with us. Link up below or tag your photos on Instagram using the hashtag #ChristmasJamParty16.