Friday, August 29, 2014

Savoring Summer

After a short hiatus, I'm back with more ideas, crafts, recipes and more to inspire you as we approach the new school year!
With the Dog Days in full swing, it hardly feels like the end of summer here in sunny southern Cali! Though my little one is back to school and navigating the waters of (gasp!) first grade, it is hotter than ever! In these last brutal days of summer, I'm trying to enjoy what's left of the season and prepare for the next. One last family trip to San Diego, a trip to the local pool, making s'mores and sipping wine on the patio while the sun dips into the horizon...these are a few ways I have been relishing the warm days that turn into cool summer nights.
Today, as I mentally prepare for the LOOOONG labor day weekend (yes, holiday weekends are longer when you have kids to entertain...) and plan things for us to do, I encourage you to enjoy the last bit of summer we have left. Hit the beach, do a craft or two, run in the sprinklers, enjoy a popsicle or homemade treat and chill.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

30 Meals in 30 Days

Ready to change things up a bit, I have decided to follow suit and try a month's worth of new dishes! Weary of the handful of go-to dinners that I know will be consumed without gripes from little ones, (sound familiar?) I am ready to up the ante and get back to having fun in the kitchen. My kiddos are in a good place eating-wise as they have gotten a little older and over most of their weird food phobias (sauce on the side! plain chicken only!) so I'm excited to try some new things. I'm going to make dishes that I've either never made or am attempting again after a few years or perhaps a botched attempt..there are plenty of those!
I've come up with a well-rounded batch of recipes for the month so join me on this adventure! Make things easier on yourself by baking chicken ahead of time and storing portions and preparing the roast in the crock-pot at the beginning of the week! Here's the first week of recipes:
Roast Beef with Loaded Baked Potatoes
3 pound roast
1 large baking potato per person
potato toppings: sour cream, butter, cheese, chives, bacon...etc.
Roast the beef in a crock-pot six hours or until fork-tender and reserve half for roast beef sandwiches. Season with salt and pepper. Bake potatoes for about ten minutes for two and add toppings as desired!

Ravioli-Meatball Casserole
1-25 oz. pkg. frozen cheese ravioli (boil for about five minutes and casserole will bake a lot faster..)
10 frozen meatballs, defrosted
1 jar vodka cream sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and combine first three ingredients. Top with mozzarella and bake about thirty minutes, longer if you didn't boil the ravioli first. Serve with green salad and garlic bread.
Serves 6.

Sweet and Sour Chicken with Green Beans
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup canola oil
1 cup flour
1 cup sweet and sour sauce
1 cup white rice
1 pound fresh green beans (you can also use frozen..)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cloves chopped garlic
sesame seeds
Get rice cooking in pot with one cup rice to two cups water. For chicken, prepare large saucepan by heating oil over low heat. Coat chicken in flour and fry about five minutes, turning so chicken is crisp on all sides. Remove chicken and allow to drain on paper towels. Remove excess oil from pan then return chicken to pan and add sauce and let simmer until heated through. For green beans, steam first in microwave for about two minutes then add to a saucepan with one tablespoon canola oil and garlic. Add brown sugar and about two tablespoons soy sauce. Cook until browned and tender. Garnish plate with sesame seeds. Enjoy!
Makes 2 large servings. (kids ate something different that night..)
Roast Beef Sandwiches
1 pound leftover shredded beef from roast beef night
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 stick butter, softened
8 slices Swiss cheese
8 slices rye bread
1 bag frozen fries
Heat oven to 400 degrees and bake fries for twenty minutes. Meanwhile, saute onions with two tablespoons butter in a large skillet until golden brown. Add shredded roast beef to onions and heat through. Assemble sandwiches with two slices of bread, Swiss and roast beef. Grill over medium heat, using remaining butter. Serve with fries.

Thai Chicken Pizza
4 pieces naan bread for crust (you can use any crust, homemade or otherwise!)
1 cup shredded chicken
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Heat oven to 400 degrees and begin by making peanut sauce. Combine peanut butter, soy and brown sugar to make peanut sauce (or you can buy it premade). Spread over naan crust and distribute cheese over each. Top with chicken and carrots. Bake for about ten minutes or until cheese is melty and browned. If using a fresh pizza dough, bake at least twenty minutes. Garnish with cilantro!
Serves 4
Chicken and Veggie Couscous and Pad Thai Noodles
1 box couscous (any flavor) plus ingredients
1 box pad Thai plus ingredients
2 chopped, cooked chicken breasts
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups broccoli
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
soy sauce, to taste
sesame seeds for garnish
Make the noodles and couscous and set aside. Heat oil in large skillet and add garlic, chicken, broccoli and ginger. Saute until golden brown then add cooked couscous and soy to taste. Serve immediately with noodles sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Enjoy these fun recipes and come up with some new ones of your own!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Weeknight Fiesta

I adore rice and beans from Mexican restaurants. Adore. I could live off of them and usually wind up with platas de fiesta from Mexican restaurants just for the sake of those darned rice and beans. Add a side of chips and salsa and I swoon. So I decided to whip up a batch of homemade rice on a recent weeknight, crack open a can of beans and make a pan of enchiladas for dinner. It doesn't need to be a special occasion to make good, homemade food! If you are a Mexican-food obsessed girl like me, and especially if you are a gringa, then it is especially satisfying to make it yourself. Here are my recipes. Enjoy! Oh, and ole!!

Green Enchiladas
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I used the Crock-Pot..)
1/2 cup salsa
10 flour tortillas
1 can green enchilada sauce
2 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese
Assemble by rolling each tortilla with a scoop of chicken and a bit of salsa. Place in 9X13 baking dish and cover with enchilada sauce and shredded cheese. Heat under broiler and serve with rice and beans.

Mexican Rice
2 tablespoons oil
1 chopped onion
3 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 cups white rice
3 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 can chopped tomatoes
Pour oil, onion and garlic in medium saucepan and cook for 3 minutes. Add rice and cook another 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes and chicken broth and cook at a low simmer about 20 minutes or until rice is cooked through. I serve with a can of vegetarian or black refried beans.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Luck O' The Irish

Being a mutt, I have plenty of Irish thrown in with my German and Scotch' so it's appropriate my kiddos turned out having red hair. Immediately people assume we are Irish and St. Patty's day is the perfect occasion to celebrate our mixed heritage. So what do you do to celebrate and make the day fun for kiddos? Turn everything green and tilt things up a bit! Here's a beautiful cake I made with the kids to start feeling festive. It's super easy, from a box and fun to make. It tastes great too! And what goes better with a leprechaun hat cake than a craft to work on while it's baking?? My daughter copied this "leprechaun trap" from a magazine and nailed it! We had to practice for the big day! I plan to scatter gold coins around the house, turn chairs on their sides and dye the milk green, among serving fun dishes throughout the day. A fruit rainbow with green pancakes, green pasta and green velvet cake sound good to me!
How will you celebrate?
For the cake:
yellow cake mix plus ingredients
3 round cake pans (I used two 9" and one 10")
1 can chocolate frosting
1 can vanilla frosting
green and yellow food coloring
Preheat oven to 350-degrees then mix ingredients for cake. Distribute cake mix into the three pans evenly. Bake about 15 minutes, until set. When cakes are cool, layer them on a cake plate, filling with chocolate icing (reserve a bit for around the hat...) Then tint the vanilla with green food coloring (reserving a tiny to tint yellow for the buckle..) and get icing! Have fun, be silly and enjoy the day with your kiddos!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Brownie Delight

There's nothing I love more than a brownie sundae. A warm brownie, cold vanilla ice cream (or any flavor, really!) and some homemade whipped cream can transform a ho-hum night on the couch into a fancy dessert date with my hubby! Who am I kidding? I will devour this in my jammies so nothing fancy about it. But homemade whipped cream will put you over the edge! It all begins with the star, a rich, chocolaty brownie! So, grab your favorite brownie recipe, borrow mine (below) or grab a box and whip up a batch. Then turn them into a sundae or mix in some peanut butter cups or other favorite candy like I did. And let's be real, peanut butter and chocolate is always a winning combo!!! Enjoy!

Fudgy Brownies:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
Optional: Stir in a cup of chopped candy bar or whole peanut butter cups!!
Mix all ingredients and pour into a greased 8X8 pan. Place in a 350-degree oven and allow to bake about twenty minutes or until just set (you want them a little gooey!). Let cool and serve. Or, enjoy piping hot, burning your tongue in the process like I do!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

...And the Greatest of These is Love

Hey guys? Have you noticed it's already February and that Valentine's Day is quickly approaching?? Since Christmas passed, I've been looking forward to the next holiday, as I do with most. Once one passes, I gear up for the next. It feels like whatever holiday is approaching at the time becomes my favorite holiday. But Valentine's holds a special place in my heart, especially after having kids. I mean, what better excuse to lavish love on those little ones (and your hubby too, I suppose..) than Valentine's Day? It's a whole day devoted to LOVE!!! Right? Are you with me?? So with no further adieu, let's plan!!!
Of course, nothing beats heart shaped everything and all items made of red, but what are you planning this year? With endless recipes, "pins", and decor to choose from, it's hard not to go crazy. Try and restrain yourself though, and create a game plan for the big day. I went to the dollar store recently to find items for a Valentine's day party for my mom's group and let me tell you, I went a little cookoo trying to sort through all the loot. Treat bags! Cupcake papers and sprinkles! Table decor and stickers! At least it was the dollar store but still, that cart filled up fast! Decide where you'll get the goods, make a list and stick to it or you might end up with items you really don't need. Spread the love, don't forget about yourself and make it fun! Here are a few ideas to make the most of the big day!
- Start the day off with a fun breakfast. Red velvet or heart-shaped pancakes, bagels with strawberry cream cheese or even store-bought donuts served on Valentine paper goods set the tone for the day.
- Send a heart-shaped sandwich in your kid's lunch box and serve with anything pink, red or white like yogurt raisins or strawberry applesauce.
- Create a treasure hunt and hide heart-shaped items, dollar store finds, gold coins and other small trinkets around the house. Your kids will love searching and you will love them being busy for that few minutes. Make it really hard and maybe you can catch up on that stack of magazines on your kitchen counter? Paint your nails? Have a cocktail? Moving on.
- Go out for dinner and get dressed up for the fun of it! A few of our favorite kid-friendly places to eat are In-N-Out, Chipotle and Five Guys and Fries. Or, if you prefer cooking at home and/or it scares you to take kids out to eat because they get antsy, (been there!) then make something festive at home and indulge in a fun dessert like chocolate fondue, decorate-your-own cupcakes, or an ice cream bar with all the toppings. Kids LOVE serving themselves.
- Don't forget about you! Hopefully, your hubby will spoil you and remember that while this is mostly about making fun for the kids, he's obligated to bring you flowers. Or chocolate. Or that book you've been wanting...but do something for yourself. Paint your nails or get a manicure, meet a friend for coffee, take a long bath or savor that glass of wine. Show yourself the love too! You deserve it!
- Speaking of that hubby of yours...don't forget about him! With little ones consuming your time and thoughts, it's easy to forget about that big lug so do something for him you know he would appreciate. It can be as simple as putting together a gift basket of his favorite snacks or renting a movie of his choice or wearing something cute and frilly. He will appreciate it and you will feel great! Have a wonderful day and show the love!
How will you celebrate?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Last Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe You'll Ever Need

Years ago I had a friend who made the BEST chocolate chip cookies with a package of vanilla pudding mixed in. My hubby was not shy to admit they were the best he had ever tasted also, shamelessly gobbling them up when my friend set them out on the counter (hi, Shelly!) So recently, when I had a hankering for a good chocolate chip cookie and knowing there was a package of vanilla pudding mix in my cupboard, I got baking!!! The vanilla pudding adds to a unique flavor and texture and gives the cookies an amazing vanilla flavor. Here's the recipe I used from Pinterest. It yielded two dozen and they lasted all of two days. I did the math. That's six cookies apiece for each of us in my house...clearly not enough. Note to self: must double recipe next time!!!

1 cup softened butter
1 pkg. vanilla pudding mix
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
Mix all ingredients and bake at 350 for about eight minutes until just set and barely browned on edges. Enjoy!