Friday, September 10, 2010

Learning Our Days of the Week

Mary Catherine is 3 now and Jake is 2 so they can both sing the "Days of the Week Song."  They love to sing it, but it became obvious that they did not quite grasp the concept of the seven weekdays.  Mary Catherine is extremely curious and she is always asking me, "Mommy, what are we going to do today?"  I found that it was really helpful for her to know what was coming up in the week so we decided to make a picture calendar of our typical week together.  I didn't want to turn this into a work of art that took 3 hours so I simply cut a rectangle out of poster board and divided it into 7 sections.  From there we looked through magazines and used markers to draw pictures of what activity we do on each weekday.  Here's how it turned out...
We hung it on her closet door so she can see it when we wake up each day.  As you can see Saturday and Sunday have happy faces because my kids refer to the two days Daddy is home all day as "Super Happy Fun Day."  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are school days.  Tuesday is ballet and Thursday we go to the Fun Zone (an indoor jumpy place if you hadn't already figured that out).  Like I said it is not exactly a masterpiece, but it fits the bill.  She loves looking forward to the next day and she is really getting the concept of the seven weekdays.  Have fun with it!

Avocado Pound Cake

Okay before you make an ugly face, hear me out...  What you may not know is that avocado has been used as a butter substitute for some time.  It is rich and high in healthy fats and it really works well in sweet recipes.

Not long ago my husband and I used to live in Nashville (oh, how I miss it there- but that's another story).  I used to take my kids to a park there that had the most incredible homemade popsicle place almost across the street.  The place is called Las Paletas and if you live in Nashville or ever pass through you MUST stop there.  They make everything from scratch and they have the most unusual gourmet flavors (hibiscus, oatmeal raisin, and creamy lime just to name a few).  I think my all-time favorite was their avocado popsicle though.  It was then that I learned how well avocados could slip into my sweet recipes and thus began my quest to bake with them.

This recipe comes from another of my favorite foodie blogs Joy The Baker- check it out!

You will need:
  • 2 9x4x3 inch loaf pans
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (at room temp)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp good vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 heaping cup of avocado mashed (1 1/2 to 2 avocados)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two loaf pans.  Set aside.
  2. In medium bowl sift together flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside.  
  3. In another bowl beat butter on medium speed until soft and pliable.  Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 4 min).  
  4. Add the avocado and beat another minute to incorporate.  Scrape down the side of the bowl.  
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating 1 minute after the addition of each egg.  Beat in vanilla extract.
  6. Reduce mixer speed to low and add half of the flour mixture, all of the buttermilk, and then the rest of the flour.  Beat just until combined.  
  7. Divide dough between the 2 pans and place in the oven.  Reduce heat to 325 degrees.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely.  (My cakes ended up needing an extra 10 minutes added to the baking time)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cottage Cheese Pancakes

I know it sounds strange but my oldest daughter LOVES cottage cheese.  It is her all-time favorite food and she literally begs for it.  Since she is not a great breakfast eater I wanted to give this recipe a shot.  Make sure to use a nonstick skillet or griddle for these, otherwise you will end up with a big mess.  They are delicious and they turn out much denser and moister than your average pancake.

*Recipe adapted from The Joy of Cooking, but I got the idea from my favorite cooking blog- Smitten Kitchen.  Go check it out it will inspire you to cook like crazy!

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup milk
1 cup cottage cheese (I used lowfat)
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla

2 large egg whites

  1. Lightly butter skillet or griddle over medium heat.  If you are using electric, preheat to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, cottage cheese, butter, egg yolks, and vanilla.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and gently mix just until combined.  
  4. Beat the 2 egg whites until they are stiff, but not dry.  Fold them into the batter.  
  5. Spoon 1/3 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake.  Cook until the top is starting to dry around the edges, then turn.  Serve with pure maple syrup. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Petit Fours For Dummies

I don't know about you but my kids love anything miniature.  I am not much of a baker and fondant is certainly out of my realm.  This is a quick and easy way to make "fake" petit fours for your kiddos.  These are great to take to school for a birthday or to make for a fancy tea party with your favorite little princess.

You will need:
  • 1 Angel food cake (look for the rectangular one not round- its easier to cut into small cubes)
  • Food coloring
  • White icing
  • Starburst candies
  • Small decorative cutters (all I had on hand was circles, but you can find little flowers, etc.)

  1. Cut rectangular cake into 1 1/2 inch thick slices.  Then cut each slice into four to make 4 small rectangular mini cakes. 
  2. Arrange mini cakes on a cooling rack that has been placed inside a baking sheet lined with foil.
  3. Add desired amount of food coloring to white icing (I used 3 drops of red to make pink).  Stir well and microwave for 15 seconds.  Stir again and microwave again for another 10-15 seconds.  You want icing to be very thin and runny otherwise it will not pour easily.
  4. Slowly and carefully pour icing over angel food cakes.  Go slowly and make sure to pour around edges to cover sides well.  If your icing gets too thick stop and microwave again.  Repeat until all cakes are covered.  Place cakes in fridge for 10-15 minutes to set icing.
  5. Microwave individual Starburst candies (without wrapper people) for 8 seconds.  Using your palm, press candy into thin layer on counter top.  You may use some non-stick cooking spray if you find it too sticky.  Then use the small cutter to cut out a shape and place on top of cake to decorate.  Use your imagination and have some fun!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How To Handle Picky Eaters

Since I started this blog I have gotten lots of questions about how to manage picky eaters.  The truth is that every kid is somewhat picky.  Kids tend to like the basic and the familiar and that's okay by me.  I don't know that I have any wise secrets to offer, only my personal philosophy on the topic.  Some may disagree, but since I get asked so often I will share anyways.  It's just an opinion- take it or leave it...

I am well aware that many moms today steer away from any processed or fried foods.  I completely understand, but I also feel that kids need to be kids and you can't make every meal from scratch.  You are not going to kill your kid with a Pop Tart now and then.  I also think there are some positive things to teach kids by not making certain foods "forbidden."  I have never had an issue with my kids enjoying an afternoon ice cream or eating a cookie with lunch.  As a result, my kids don't really get excited about sweets.  Half the time they leave the cookie on their plate after two bites. 

All that being said, my basic rule of thumb is to try to provide good balanced meals when I am cooking at home.  This is usually some protein (meat) with fruit and a veggie.  I am not going to pretend that my kids always eat it all.  In fact Mary Catherine barely eats any veggies.  I usually have to work very hard to get a few bites in.  My boys however will eat salad till the cows come home- go figure.  I put one of everything on the plate and I always make sure to have at least one familiar food on there too.  Let them eat and relax.  As for eating out, I let my kids order what sounds good- within reason people.  I am not going to waste my time or money forcing them to order something they will barely eat.  If they want the macaroni, go for it.  I lead by example and make sure to eat and cook well myself.  Beyond that try not to get too frustrated and remember that their preferences will mature as they grow up.  Good luck!

Greek Salad and Talapia

This salad is super quick so it's great to throw together on a weeknight.  I like it chunky and full of veggies so I don't use much romaine lettuce.  You can adapt it any way you like and leave off anything you don't care for.  I am sort of a food snob so I usually hate most bottled dressings.  I found this one at Kroger and it is to die for, plus it makes things quick and easy. 

Roughly chop:
1/2 English cucumber (this is the long skinny kind that comes in a clear wrapper)
2 small tomatoes (I used a yellow and a red tomato)
1 handful pitted kalamata olives
1/4 to 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 red onion (chop into small pieces so it is not too strong)
1 small head Romaine hearts

Top with a squeeze of lemon, fresh salt and pepper, and Ken's Creamy Greek Dressing.  Couldn't be easier!  Then on to the fish...

I top the salad with a piece of pan sauteed talapia.  Here's the secret trick to my talapia...

Take the fish and run it through a shallow dish with white distilled vinegar just a second or two on each side.  Then rinse in water and pat dry.  I know it sounds crazy but this step gets rid of any fishy taste!  Next season the fish with salt and pepper.  Run it through 1 egg beaten and press both sides into panko bread crumbs.  Saute over medium heat in 1/2 inch olive oil until golden (about 5 min or less) per side.  Serve with a wedge of lemon.  You can make this whole meal in 20 minutes... can't beat that!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Diary of an Exhausted Mommy

The crew en route

Traveling will never be quite the same!

River Day 1
Oh my goodness, I am tired.  We loaded the car and drove to the river cabin today.  As many of you know traveling with kids is a lot like moving.  By the time we got there I was already exhausted.  Of course none of this fazed the kids so I began the task of unpacking and entertaining the troops.

 First I filled a bucket with little water balloons and let the kids throw them on the pavement (not at each other- I am not that adventurous).  I have to say that the water balloons were a total hit!  Cheap, quick to set up, and tons of entertainment.  The kids threw them into the sidewalk and happily yelled, "SCORE" every time one burst.  Up next was bubbles, a boat ride, swimming, snow cones, dinner, and bath time.  I am dead!  Glad I can share this trip bit by bit because I will need all the motivation I can get.  Tonight I am going to pass out... tomorrow we conquer fishing and soft pretzels.

River Day 2
I have never made bread and am not much of a baker so I figured I'd start easy with a soft pretzel recipe.  Since this is a week of many firsts why not take on another right?  I found this recipe from Alton Brown's show called Good Eats on Food Network- (go to Alton's Pretzel Recipe for the full recipe).  Of course I have promised to share the good, the bad, and the ugly so here is the pretzel pic...

Okay, so they don't exactly look like pretzels, but I swear they tasted amazing.  In my defense I did let the kids help out shaping them.  I really liked the recipe because it called for you to boil the pretzels first for 30 seconds in water and then bake them with an egg yolk wash.  The result as you can see was not pretty, but super tasty!  I'll get it down next time.  Here are some step by step pics...

After pretzels we were on to fishing (another first).  Thank goodness my babysitter had some idea what she was doing and she rigged the kids lines with bobbers and hooks.  Since this was not exactly high tech fishing we used cut up hot dogs as bait.  Here are my little fishing pros hard at work waiting....

and waiting...
until finally we felt a tug and reeled it in...

Yes, we caught a snapping turtle with a hot dog.  Not exactly dinner, but you should have seen Jake's face.  It was priceless and he still tells everyone he caught a turtle.  Up next was a boat ride and some good old fashioned swimming with my favorite people.

After all that swimming I was ready to relax and so were the kiddos.  We popped some popcorn, watched a movie, cuddled up, and called it a night!

River Day 3
More of the same.  Swimming, boating, and resting.

River Day 4
Time to pack up and head back home.  I have to say I am relieved to head home.  It was fun but I am missing my hubby and his help.

Monday, August 2, 2010

This Weeks Plan

Today I have a hundred thoughts running through my head.  I am all over the place and for that I apologize.  This blog has really inspired me to try new things and to be more creative.  As a result I am getting ready to borrow a sewing machine (Lord help us all) from my sister-in-law.  Every morning as I dress my kids I find myself thinking, I could make that.  Don't get too carried away, I do not intend to make a full wardrobe for my 3 children, only to try out a few things.  We will all see how this new indeavor pans out as I promise to show the good, the bad, and the ugly.

On top of my new quest to sew, I am getting ready to do a mini-renovation in Patrick's room.  He is getting too big for his changing table and I am preparing to put a twin bed in his room to use for dressing and changing him.  In the process, I am going to repaint, and redecorate.  This should all be interesting because I have a very small budget (my husband still doesn't fully know what I am up to).  Having two toddlers on the ground and moving to a new home while pregnant with Patrick, I sort of threw a room together and I have never really loved it.  Now is as good a time as any to tackle it I suppose.  I have some fun ideas and I will share them along the way.

As if these new endeavors were not enough, I have decided to pick up and take all 3 kiddos to the river cabin for the week.  My husband is slammed at work and I know the only way he can get it all done this week will be with a quiet house.  Don't worry, I am not totally insane... I will be taking along a babysitter for some much needed extra hands and eyes.  Even I am not crazy enough to brave the river and driving a boat with 3 little kids alone!  Since the cabin is in the middle of nowhere, you can rightly assume that there is absolutely nothing to do there (oh, and NO internet).  I have been packing all day and I am coming fully armed.  I am bringing plenty of outdoor things to do including bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and little fishing rods.  I am also bringing fun recipes to do with your kids.  I plan to try my hand at bread making and attempt homemade soft pretzels (recipe soon to follow). 

FYI- I have never driven a boat and I have never fished.  One thing is certain... I will return Friday loaded with pics, good stories, and recipes.  This should be interesting... 

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Heirloom Tomato Sandwiches With Basil Mayo

I am famous for this sandwich!  Everyone I have ever made it for has a fit and wants the recipe.  It is super simple and beyond delicious.  My husband is a total man's man meat-eater and he begs for these- that's really saying something!

You will need:
  • Heirloom tomatoes (or really good tomatoes- they are the main ingredient so they have to be GOOD)
  • Bread- You need to slice it yourself and it needs to be good bread
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Mayo
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh mozzarella

  1. Slice bread 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick.  Spray or brush olive oil on both sides.  Grill on grill pan over medium heat until it is toasty and golden on both sides. (This step is simple, but really makes all the difference.  No toasting bread in the toaster.)
  2. In a small bowl mix 1/2 cup mayo with 1 tsp garlic (I use pre-minced in the jar for a shortcut), salt, pepper, and 8-10 leaves fresh basil chopped.  Spread liberally on both slices of grilled bread.
  3. Slice tomatoes 1/2 inch thick, season with coarse salt and pepper, and put on sandwich.  Top with thickly sliced fresh mozzarella and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.  Sometimes I also add arugula if I have it on hand.  
  4. Top with second slice of bread, cut in half, and inhale!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Food Toppers

I have seen this idea before, but it was not until a Saturday morning trip to the doughnut shop that I decided it was time to make some.  The doughnut shop had a plastic topper that they put on the kids doughnuts and they seriously argued for 10 minutes over who got to hold it.  I figured I can make some of my own and we tried them on breakfast this morning.  It worked like a charm and the kids ate every last bite of their pancakes.  Do you think I can put one on broccoli?  Hmmmmmmm?

You need:
  • Craft punch (I used a 1 7/8" round)
  • Card stock
  • Stickers
  • Toothpicks
  • Hot glue gun or double-sided tape
It is pretty self explanatory after seeing the picture but you basically sandwich the toothpick between 2 card stock circles.  Pick a sticker and go for it!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ballet Class

Not long ago Mary Catherine started her summer session of ballet.  Since she is my oldest she was the first to start any kind of "big kid" activity.  Today was the last class so they let the parents watch... You better believe I had the camera in hand!  I cannot believe how big she is getting.  This was one of the moments I thought about when I was pregnant with her...

Gift Tags on the Cheap

My kids are always getting invited to birthday parties and I am always scanning the house for an extra gift tag or birthday card.  A while ago (when I only had one child to spend money on) I ordered some personalized gift cards for my daughter.  They were cute, I admit, but kind of expensive.  I found these blank gift tags at the craft store in a pack of 20 for $1.99 and I got the fire truck stamp for $2.99.  I never knew the craft store had a whole stamp section.  You can find anything you could imagine... trucks, dinosaurs, fairy wands, happy faces, etc.  I got a few for girls and boys and now I can make a cute gift tag in a second.

You will need:
  • 1 stamp
  • 1 pack of blank gift tags
  • ink pad (any color you choose)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Salmon Sticks

I have tons of friends who tell me they can't get their kids to eat fish.  I also have a hard time with this issue, but two of my three will happily eat these...

(*I found this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis on Food Network a few years ago and I have been making it ever since.  The only thing I changed from her recipe is that I use Japanese panko bread crumbs instead of regular.  They give it more crunch and I prefer it that way.)

You will need:
  • 1 large salmon fillet with the skin off (I get a 2-2 1/2 lb piece for $22.00 at Sam's.  It comes already skinned and I swear it is always super fresh.)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt (I use Kosher)
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs (these are Japanese-style bread crumbs on your asian foods isle)
  • Olive oil

Dipping Sauce
  • 1/3 cup lowfat mayo
  • 1/3 cup lowfat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Rinse salmon and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Cut the fish into strips about 1/2 inch wide by 3-4 inches long.
  4. Place flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish.  Place egg whites in another and beat 30 seconds until frothy.  Combine the parm and bread crumbs in a third dish.
  5. Coat salmon sticks lightly in flour and shake off excess.  Then, roll in egg whites and finally press in panko/parm mixture.  
  6. Place breaded salmon sticks on a liberally oiled baking sheet.  Drizzle top lightly with olive oil also.  Bake for 20 minutes until golden and serve with dipping sauce.