Far Away Friday: Raleigh Part 3

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Science is located in downtown Raleigh and is free! It's huge, with four floors in each of its two buildings. We went because we wanted to let R see the dinosaurs, but turns out- he is scared of them! Of course, Jessica and I putting our heads in the mouth of one of them probably didn't help. You live, you learn.
The big hits were the living collections, which include lots of fish, arthropods, invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians,  and a huge walk in butterfly exhibit which also had a two toed sloth. I'd recommend hitting the sloth and butterflies around snack time so you see the sloth coming down.

This is one of those museums that you could spend days at and not see everything. There are more exhibits tucked into back corners and down hallways and corridors. We looked more at the Nature Exploration Center and less in the Research Center because we thought it would be better for R, but I look forward to checking out the other side too.
I'd say if you hit anywhere in the museum, be sure to check out the Discovery Room, which is perfect for toddlers. In this room there are boxes that adults can pull out to explore with their kids. We picked the Hungry, Hungry, Caterpillar which had the book, some replica butterflies, a memory game, and several other little odds and ends. There were also puzzles, blocks, and several hands on science items for toddlers. The room opens at one to the public, but has morning programing. Each Tuesday there is a drop in class Nature Playscape and on Thursdays they offer Nature Stories. Check the website for the venue for each.

This museum is a lot like the one in DC in the content that they offer, but unlike that one, there was NO line to get in, and it wasn't overly crowded. One reason I don't like the museums in DC is that it's so packed you have to fight to see things. I wouldn't feel safe letting R walk around there either. But here I felt totally fine! We ate lunch at the cafe before coming in and everyone enjoyed their food. Add this to your list if you're in the area!
This is part three of our trip to Raleigh. Check out parts one and two! 
As always, if you're interested in writing a Far Away Friday, please contact me! 

Lidl Dinners: Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera

Prep Time: 5 mins                    Cook Time: 30mins             Total Time: 35 mins


12 oz pasta (I prefer the Tri-color rotini.)
1/2 lb. frozen broccoli cuts, thawed and drained well
1/2 - 1 cup shredded carrots
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tsp minced garlic
1 onion diced
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese
4 oz ricotta cheese


1. Cook pasta according to directions on box.
2. After 5 mins, add the broccoli, carrots, and bell pepper to the boiling water. Bring back to a boil for another 2 minutes of cooking.
3. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water; then drain the pasta and vegetables and return to the pot.
4. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook until just golden, about 1 - 2 mins. Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and 1 tsp salt. Cook until the tomatoes begin to wilt, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water.
5. Pour the tomato mixture over the pasta and vegetables.
6. Add the cheeses and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

As this dish sits, it tends to dry out. Just add a little bit of heavy cream and more ricotta cheese. Stir well, and then heat up. Good as new.

Crock Pot Balsamic Chicken Thighs (serves 6-8)

Prep Time: 5 mins                    Cook Time: 4 hours             Total Time: 4 hours 5 mins

1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1 onion, chopped finely
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbs olive oil
6-8 chicken thighs


1. Combine the first three dry spices in a small bowl and spread over chicken on both sides. Set aside.
2. Pour olive oil and garlic with onion on bottom of the crock pot. Pour in 1/4 balsamic vinegar. Place chicken on top. Turn chicken over so both sides have "kissed" the balsamic vinegar.

3. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours. 

This is part of my seven days of dinners with Lidl. We spent under $90.00 for seven meals for a family of four. All meals are toddler and mom approved, and we even bought several desserts! Click here for the rest of the list. This is the last of the meals, and the leftovers in the past seven days have been awesome. Now to go shopping again! 

Lidl Dinners: Fried Rice with Tofu

Fried Rice with Tofu (serves 4-6)

Prep Time: 50 mins                    Cook Time: 15 mins             Total Time: 65 mins


3 eggs                                                              salt and pepper
4 cups cooked instant rice                              4 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped                                             
1/4 cup red or yellow pepper, finely chopped
1 pkg of Extra firm tofu, drained and cut into tiny cubes.


Preparing tofu (can be done ahead of time)
1. Drain tofu and place between several layers of paper towels. Squeeze water out of the tofu as much as possible.
2. Cut into small cubes.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange tofu in a single later on a baking sheet. Lightly spray or baste tofu with cooking oil.
4. Bake in oven until golden brown, flipping half way through - for 20 minutes on each side.

Preparing Fried Rice:
1. Beat the eggs well, adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
2. Sauté onions and peppers in skillet until soft.
3. Add eggs and stir until all the eggs solidify.
4. Add the rice and tofu and mix well.
5. Stir for 2-4 minutes until everything is cooked and mixed well.

Serve with frozen peas. (I like mine mixed with my rice, but some people don't!) We used the Lidl
chicken egg rolls for the meat eaters, and the spring rolls for the veggies. We also bought a side of
edamame which you just pop into the microwave. The chicken is the frozen Boneless Chicken
Shopping List: 
1. Extra Firm Tofu: $1.69
2. Eggs: $.99 
3. Instant Rice (only use half the box): $2.39 
4. Frozen green peas: $.95 
5. Edamame: $.95
6. Spring Rolls: $4.99
7. Egg Rolls: $2.99
8. Boneless Chicken Wyngz (only use half the bag): $2.69

      There was more than enough rice, spring rolls, and edamame for leftovers for two lunches!   
      This is part of my seven days of dinners with Lidl. We spent under $90.00 for seven meals for a family of four. All meals are toddler and mom approved, and we even bought several desserts! Click here for the rest of the list. 

Lidl Dinners: Quesadillas and Sweet Potato Boats

Quesadillas are a staple in our house. They are easy, they taste good, you can put about anything in them, and they are easy to customize. Pair it with some easy sweet potato boats and a side of rice and you've got a meal.


Prep Time: 5 mins                    Cook Time: 5mins             Total Time: 10 mins

12 oz Mexican cheese, shredded
1 pkg flour tortillas
(optional additional toppings: 6 oz can sliced olives, drained; 2 scallions, finely chopped; 2 tbs chopped cilantro)
Butter (more or less to your taste)


1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 TBS oil.
* If you want veggies- I like to cook the first. Although not listed, you can throw in any leftover veggies that remain from the shopping list. 
2. Add 1 flour tortilla to skillet and top one half with veggies/beans/whatever you want and cheese. Fold over and crease. Add butter to both sides. 
3. Cook until tortilla begins to brown. Flip over and cook on second side.
4. Slice into wedges and serve.
If available, serve with sour cream and top with cilantro. 

Serve with beans and rice on the side. 

Sweet Potato Boats

Prep Time: 5 mins                    Cook Time: 5-10 mins             Total Time: 10-15 mins

2 - 4 sweet potatoes
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes - spicy if you like extra heat - drained
1 (14 oz) can black beans, drained
1 7 oz. can yellow corn, drained
1/2 pkg of Mexican grated cheese


1.     Bake sweet potatoes in a 400-degree F oven directly on the baking rack for 40-45 minutes or until tender to the touch.  Remove from oven to cool to the touch, but leave oven on.
2.     While potatoes are baking, drain tomatoes and mix with beans and corn.
3.     Carefully cut sweet potatoes in half and scoop out insides to make “boats.” Leave ~ 1/4 – 1/2 inch of flesh so they don’t become too fragile and difficult to handle.
4.     Place sweet potato boats face up on a baking sheet and fill with bean and corn mixture and top evenly with grated cheese.
5.     Pop back in oven to warm through and remove when cheese is melted and bubbly.

This is part of my seven days of dinners with Lidl. We spent under $90.00 for seven meals for a family of four. All meals are toddler and mom approved, and we even bought several desserts! Click here for the rest of the list. 

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