Food

Slow Cooker Beef Stew: Family Favorite

Beef Stew

This slow cooker beef stew is incredibly easy to set and forget. It’s another recipe that I grew up with, just like our chicken soup and chili recipes. It’s got 5 ingredients, so simple.

Do you know why food bloggers always add a story to their recipes? It’s because Google requires a certain word count on the page so that it will show up in search results. Feel free to skip!

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Story Time

When the pandemic started and everything shut down, I really enjoyed how much our life slowed down. I made a vow that I wasn’t going to overschedule our family again when things got “back to normal” and be intentional about what we brought back on our plates. Fast forward nearly a year and the guilt of seeing my children miss out on so much as found us with another busy schedule filled with school and sports.

Thursdays in the spring are particularly challenging. Little Nugget has hockey practice and Big Nugget has baseball, both right during dinner time. I needed something that I could fix quickly or have at the ready so everyone could eat when they could. This slow cooker beef stew is the perfect recipe.

This beef stew is perfect for cold winter nights or busy family evenings when you need an easy dinner.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew Ingredients

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

You can get this beef stew in the slow cooker in about 5 minutes. This is the Crock-Pot that I use. I prefer to brown the roast in a cast-iron skillet with some avocado oil but if you are crunched on time, skip this step and get everything into the pot. The browning just gives it a little extra flavor.

Properly seared beef.

Layer in the ingredients. I start with the chuck roast, surround it with the cut-up onions and baby carrots then sprinkle on the secret ingredient, Campbell’s Onion Soup Mix.

Beef Stew in the slow cooker

Top it with your baby potatoes and pour in 2 cups of water or beef broth. Set it to low and cook! This beef stew recipe is seriously that simple.

Perfect family friendly slow cooker recipe.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Easy dinner with 5 simple ingredients.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword beef stew, slow cooker
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Rump Roast
  • 10 oz baby carrots
  • 1 onion rough chopped
  • 1 package Campbells Onion Soup (dry)
  • 2 cups beef broth or water
  • 1 lb baby potatoes

Instructions

  1. Brown the roast in a pan with some oil (I prefer avocado oil but any will work. This step is also optional if you don't have time in the morning.

  2. Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker and set on low for 8 hours (or until the beef flakes apart easily with a fork)

Food

Pistachio Delight an Easy No-Bake Dessert

Easy, layered, no bake pistachio dessert that is both sweet and salty with a whipped topping. Perfect for Easter Bruch, Mother's Day Brunch, St Patrick's day or just a summer BBQ. Can be made nut-free! #dessert #pistachio #nobake #allergyfriendly #recipe

Pistachio Delight dessert was a childhood favorite in our house and it’s the one no-bake dessert that my friends will request that I bring to parties. Our family’s version is made with a pistachio pudding, unlike other Pistachio Delight recipes which are also known as a Watergate salad.

It’s a pistachio dessert with a Ritz cracker crust. It’s so simple, no-bake and so very good. I still get texts from old friends asking me for my mom’s recipe. Just like my chili and chicken soup, this dessert is super nostalgic for me. It’s spring in a 9×13 pan. It’s a great treat to bring for an Easter or Mother’s Day brunch, a festive St. Patty’s Day dinner, or just a summer BBQ.

This post contains some affiliate links – meaning if you click through the links and buy anything, the retailer will pay me a small commission at no additional cost to you! 

pistachio delight dessert mid

Pistachio Delight – No-Bake Dessert Tips

This dessert is really easy to put together but does take some planning. You need to give the ice cream a little time to partially thaw. The pistachio pudding mixture should set for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, and if you are using Cool Whip for the topping, it needs time to defrost.

Since we don’t have air conditioning in our house, I’m always appreciative of no-bake desserts during the hot months – which for us lately has been almost all year round. This dessert is something that both of the kids can help with, Little Nugget loves to smash the Ritz crackers and Big Nugget can whisk the green pistachio pudding together.

The (not so) secret ingredient to this dessert is the partially melted vanilla ice cream. I usually buy the rectangular quarts of ice cream so it’s easier to split it in half.

If you don’t have ice cream, you can leave it out and just use the full amount of milk needed and make sure you keep it refrigerated overnight though to get it nice and firm.

Updated Whipped Cream Recipe

We have always used Cool Whip for the topping on this dessert but recently, I’ve been making my own whipped cream for the top. It’s SO easy to make and I can control the ingredients. I’ve added my whipped cream recipe below but here’s a quick rundown on how to do it.

  • Place your bowl and your whisk attachment in the freezer for at least a half-hour.
  • Make sure all of your ingredients are cold when you start.
  • Whip the 2 cups of cream with the 1/4 cup of powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons of flavor (I use vanilla but you can experiment with any extract or flavored water).
  • Don’t over whip! It doesn’t take long to get soft peaks so keep an eye on it, mine usually takes about 4 minutes on high with my KitchenAid stand mixer.

Pistachio Delight Dessert Pan

Nut-Free Option

My nieces are allergic to nuts so we just swap out the pistachio pudding for a nut-free flavor (vanilla or strawberry are favorites) and it’s just as good. There is no reason you have to sacrifice flavor just because of a food allergy.

Looking for more dessert options? Check out my other no-bake dessert red, white, and blue trifle or my secrets to the best chocolate chip cookies.

Pistachio Delight Dessert Pinterest

Pistachio Delight

No bake pistachio dessert.

Course Dessert

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1.5 sleeve Ritz crackers, smashed into crumbs
  • 2 packages pistachio pudding
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 quart vanilla ice cream, softened
  • 1 container Cool Whip or use homemade whipped cream, recipe below

Whipped Cream

  • 2 cups Heavy whipping cream cold
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Line a 9x13 pan with Ritz crumbs and drizzle with melted butter. Make sure all the crumbs are coated and press down into the bottom of the pan to make your crust.

  2. Whisk milk and pudding until just set and then fold in softened ice cream. Spread evenly over the top of the cracker crumbs - careful not to lift the crumbs into the pudding mixture. 

  3. Cover pan with cling wrap and let set in the fridge for 4 hours (or overnight). Top with Cool Whip or whipped cream and serve immediately or refrigerate. 

Whipped Cream

  1. Place your mixing bowl and whisk attachments in the freezer for at least 3 minutes

  2. Combine all the ingredients in the cold bowl and whip on high until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes.

Function

House Painting Project: Before and After Photos

This house painting project, like so many of our others, went from not a priority to an immediate need fast. I was sick of looking at the peeling exterior paint on the plain plywood siding. Not to mention the sad curb appeal. It took some convincing but eventually, I made my case to my husband and he agreed to at least get some quotes.

The first step for anyone about to undertake this type of home improvement is to figure out if this is a project you want to DIY or hire a painting contractor. I knew this answer immediately, I would be hiring this project out. After refreshing our kid’s bathroom over the summer, I swore I would never paint anything ever again. And I meant it.

Finding a Painting Contractor

I’ve learned over the years that the best way to find a good contractor is through referrals. When we did our kitchen remodel, I asked our good friends who they recommended since they have remodeled two homes and the husband works in construction. Their recommendation was fantastic and once again, they came through with their paint guy.

All painting contractors will come and give you a free estimate. I recommend getting 3 different estimates so you can get the going rate for your area. This also gives you some leverage should you need to negotiate. Luckily for us, our friend’s recommendation was friendly, professional and his quote couldn’t be beaten.

When we met, I asked about:

  • What was the process like? How much prep was there and what did we need to do to make the exterior house painting project a success.
  • Was capable of doing some of the additional carpentry I was looking to have done?
  • What his timeline would be?
  • What was included in his quote?

Exterior House Paint: Before and After Photos

It was obvious that our house hadn’t been painted in a VERY long time, plus it just didn’t reflect our style. I wanted to update not just the exterior paint color but also add some character and detail to the house without blowing our budget. The plywood siding and stucco, while boring and dated, was still in good condition so there was no sense in taking on a full siding project. Our painting contractor added some planking to give the plywood areas a board and baton look, saving us THOUSANDS of dollars.

Exterior house paint before painting contractors started. View from street.
House painting project before, beige house with orange front door.
Exterior house paint before painting contractors started.

We went with Sherwin Williams Rock Bottom for the house color and Reserved White for the trim.

Exterior house paint transformation. Dark house against pink flowering bush.

Other Curb Appeal Design Elements

I wanted to bring in some natural elements to break up all the dark paint. The shelf around the front windows was the perfect spot to bring in some wood. The horizontal panels make the house feel more modern and breaking up the dark color.

I ordered these lights and this house number. The lights are dusk to dawn lights that go on automatically. They also have motion sensors to brighten the light if there is activity. The numbers were handmade and took about a month to get here but man, were they worth the wait.

I bought 1×4’s from Lowes and sanded/stained them to match the numbers I ordered. I used Golden Oak stain and then we sealed them with an outdoor poly. Our house painting contractor attached them to the front shelf in under two hours.

Wood accents on the house painting project to increase curb appeal.

This house painting project provided the dramatic update that I wanted. The dark paint, new siding, and natural wood elements gave this 1979 track house some much needed personality.

Dark gray house color with white trim and wood accents. Board and baton siding with stucco and an orange front door. See the before and after house painting transformation.
Food

Overnight Oats – Easy Breakfast Everyone Will Love.

Apple Pie Overnight Oats

I was never on the overnight oats bandwagon until I made these apple pie overnight oats. Then I realized how much easier they made my morning.

This post was originally made a few years ago and I should really reshoot these pictures but the girls were so little and I’m feeling nostalgic about it with Big Nugget turning 7 this week so the old pictures will stay….for now.

This post contains some affiliate links – meaning if you click through the links and buy anything, the retailer will pay me a small commission at no additional cost to you! 

I’m a morning person. I am one of those crazy people who naturally get up at 4:30 am. I’ve been that way since my days of working on a radio show in college but now as a Mom, I have a new appreciation of those pre-dawn moments. I love the stillness of the house when I can read, have my coffee (with this add-in and Nutpods), or go to the gym, and watch the sunrise. I’m more productive, I focus better and I am just a better person.

Did I mention the house was calm? Cause it’s gloriously quiet.

But for all the time that getting up early buys me, it still doesn’t make the 7 am hour any less hectic. Getting kids dressed, fed, and out the door for school is always stressful. Some days I’ve felt like in that one hour, I ask “what do you want for breakfast” 836 times. That was until I figured out this overnight oats recipe.

Perfect Breakfast for Nursing Moms

As a former nursing mom, I was always trying to get oats and flax into my diet to help my milk supply. In that hectic hour, getting them cooking and cooled for the kids to eat didn’t always happen so that was the driving force in developing this recipe. Having some overnight oats already done in the fridge when we’re ready to eat is a game-changer.

Overnight Oats Finished With Coffee

Big Nugget would ask if we had “any of that really yummy oatmeal in the jar” for breakfast. Thankfully, yes. Yes, we did. This recipe fed all 3 of us, usually with some leftover for the next day, but that was when Little Nugget was still in a high chair.

Overnight Oats Ingredients

The night before, I mix all the ingredients together and put them in a mason jar. Overnight oats are really that simple. This yogurt is probably the best-tasting yogurt I’ve ever had. It’s a bit scary when you first open it because of the cream on top but holy cow, it’s good.

The apple butter that I use is from a recipe I found at SkinnyTaste. If you’re unfamiliar with this site, it’s my favorite recipe website. We meal plan 90% of our meals from here because they are super healthy and mostly kid-friendly. I also highly recommend her cookbook Fast and Slow.

These wide-mouth Ball jars are also a staple in our kitchen. Not only are they perfect for overnight oats, but they are also great for salads, my husband’s breakfast shakes, or some homemade mayo.

Looking for more kid-friendly recipes? Check out my chicken noodle soup or my turkey meatloaf dishes – both are Nugget approved!

Apple Pie Overnight Oats

Apple Pie Overnight Oats

Simple overnight oats 

Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Total Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 3 tbsp apple butter
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients and transfer to a mason jar.

  2. Refrigerate overnight.

Function

How to Care for a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree

Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree

I’ve always loved the look of a fiddle leaf fig tree so when it was time to redo our dining room I knew I wanted one in that room. This room is fiddle leaf fig magic – the perfect amount of sunlight for it to take off. These plants can be tricky and their large leaves can be prone to brown spots. But once you figure out what your tree likes, it’s easy to keep them happy.

Soon, my tree started to get a little out of control. I had heard about being able to propagate a fiddle leaf fig tree and thought my overgrown tree was a perfect candidate.

This post contains some affiliate links – meaning if you click through the links and buy anything, the retailer will pay me a small commission at no additional cost to you! 

Fiddle Leaf Fig Care Tips

Plant your fiddle leaf fig in a container that has really good drainage in the bottom of it. Some people don’t re-pot their tree once they bring it home but I’ve always put mine in a container that is just a little bit bigger than what it comes in. If you don’t re-pot, you can line a basket like this one with a trash bag and place the fiddle leaf fig directly in it. Did I mention good drainage? That’s critical and helps avoid root rot.

One of the most common questions I get about our FLF’s is how ofter should you water? I only water once a month but make sure to soak it through thoroughly. Not giving it a good soak will cause the leaves to brown on the edges, especially if you live near saltwater like we do. I’ve recently started using filtered water for ALL my plants to avoid brown spots on the leaves.

Don’t move it. These plants prefer to be left alone in their indirectly sunny spot.

Keep your plant dusted and I wipe mine down occasionally with milk. Sounds super strange right? But, they love to be dusted and the protein in the milk helps them. Plus it makes them so pretty and shiny.

How to Propagate your Fiddle Leaf Fig

The first thing I did was fill up a couple of large vases with tap water and let them sit overnight. This allows the water to chlorine to evaporate. Don’t have that kind of patience? Use distilled water to fill up your vases and make sure to use a vase that can support your cutting so that it is upright.

I’ve learned through doing this process a few times now with my fiddles, that when I replace the water each week, the roots grow much faster!

Fiddle Leaf Fig Roots

I chose to trim the tallest stalk of my fiddle leaf fig tree with healthy leaves. It was the biggest and causing the tree to lean the most. I cut enough of the tree off so that it would be able to stand straight again and gave me enough of a stalk to put into the water, about 3 inches under the last leaf.

Pro Tip: make sure the stalk of your tree is still green where you cut. This will ensure that the tree will sprout roots on your cutting and regrow on the original tree.

Leave two or three stems on your cutting so that it has enough leaves to generate the energy it needs. Too many leaves left on the stem and it will take more energy than it can generate to grow roots.

Place the fiddle leaf fig cutting in the water in a bright spot without much direct sunlight. My fiddle leaf fig gets a little bit of direct morning sun and seems to like it. I placed my cuttings in the same room.

Periodically check the water and refresh it weekly. It took my cuttings about a month to sprout enough of a root system that I could place them in soil.

Some people recommend using a rooting hormone like this one but I didn’t have one on hand and rooted mine without it. I’ve learned through doing this process a few times now with my fiddles, that when I replace the water each week, the roots grow much faster!

Plant your baby fiddle leaf fig trees in the soil. Place them in a sunny spot and keep the water moist for the first month or so. It took a LONG time for my cutting to sprout any sort of growth. Of the two that I planted, the one with two leaves is the one that sprouted new growth. Don’t give up on them, even if the leaves start to brown and get ugly. Give it time, water, and sunshine and you will be enjoying a new baby fiddle leaf fig tree in no time. It’s really easy, just not fast.

Use a good fertilizer like this one. Do you have a fiddle leaf fig tree? Any secrets to keeping yours happy?

Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree

 

Function

Stair Remodel: Before and After Transformation

The after photo of our remodeled stairs.

In my post about our dining room makeover, I mentioned that we had made a list of things that needed to be done to our house when we bought it: stairs, windows, kitchen remodel, and the yard. We were finally in the position to start tackling that list – partially out of financial readiness, partially out of an urgency that comes with a newly mobile baby.

Editors note: TIME FLIES! That newly mobile baby is now a 4 year old! I’ve update this post to answer a lot of the common questions I’ve gotten on this project and 3 years later, I haven’t changed, or wanted to change, a thing about this space!

Staircase Remodel Before

Our house was built in 1979 and both the stair railing and windows were original. When we bought the house, the stair risers were carpeted and open – Brady Bunch style. Before we moved in, our flooring contractor enclosed them when he was putting in the wood floors.

Stairs when we bought the house.

The railing was iron and wobbly. It looked dated. The balusters were so far apart that a small child (or animal) could easily fit through them.

Stairs from front door
Before shot of the stairs

My husband rigged it with mesh and rope to make it safe for the time being but after two years, I had had enough of his decor.

Before view from upstairs
View of my husband’s handy work. Safety first.

I did the usual scouring of Pinterest and Houzz to find examples of what I wanted. My style is more traditional and timeless than it is modern or trendy. I wanted something more craftsman than midcentury for this project especially since this was at the center of our home, quite literally, and one of the first things you see when you walk in the front door.

How to find a contractor

Where do you even start to find someone who does stair railings? I started with the free local home magazines that we get from time to time. They had a few companies advertised that specialized in this work. And I did a google search. Experts will recommend that you get three bids for any project and I completely agree. I’ve found that you’ll always get one that’s way out there with their price and then two that are comparable. Then it’s a matter of who you trust more to do the work.

That’s been true for most of the updates that we’ve done to this house and this time was no different. All the contractors that I spoke with were in the same ballpark as far as price. The job went to the person I felt most comfortable with getting the job done right. He came to the appointment prepared, was knowledgable about the work and had samples with him of past jobs and materials that would be used.

The Work on the Stairs

Once the contract was signed, we had to wait for some space in their schedule. Of course, the first available time they had was exactly when I had the windows being replaced so we had to push out an additional week so that the two projects didn’t over lap. I don’t think it would have been and issue if we didn’t have two large picture windows right above the stairs.

Before view of picture windows
Before: Upstair picture windows

The company I used, Kleinsmith Stair and Trim, had the whole process down to a science. The first carpenter came and took out the old stair railing and put in the new wood posts and railings. This process took two days.

Demo just beginning
Goodbye 1979
Safety first
End of Day 2

The second phase was the staining. They matched the stair color to our floors (Napa Valley Tobacco Hickory) and finished that section in one day. The third was a finishing carpenter who installed all the balusters and finishing pieces.

Finishing work on the stairs
Baluster install

I have to say that beyond some amazing craftsmanship, they were all wonderful people. Super friendly and respectful of our home. They were all incredibly talented.

This post contains some affiliate links – meaning if you click through the links and buy anything, the retailer will pay me a small commission at no additional cost to you! I never link to anything that I haven’t actually used. 

New Lighting

This space wouldn’t look finished until I changed out the light fixtures. While they had been updated at some point, they still didn’t fit my style.

Free lights
Old light fixtures

I found this foyer light and this chandelier at Joss and Main. The upstairs hallway light was updated with a flush mount light from Home Depot.

Staircase Remodel After

New stairway
Finished stairs

Going into this project, I knew that it would make a huge difference. We did it out of necessity but knew it would ultimately increase our home’s value. I was surprised with how much of an impact this made.

Bottom stair view
Love how the new stain works with our wood floors
Top of the stairs
New flush mount light

Not only does it look incredible but it really has changed the entire way this house feels: updated, safe, and warm. The investment was worth every penny.

View from upstairs
New windows, new lights, new railing
Landing lighting
Globe chandalier
New entry light
Foyer lighting

We loved this renovation so much that our next project was to create a special reading nook under the stairs for the girls. I love how it turned out and honestly, it’s one of my favorite hiding spots.

Some other projects we’ve done that you might like, no contractor required: laundry room renovation and our outdoor string lights.