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.

Eggplant and Tomato Bake

Ahhhh, it's summer and our Farmer's Market is full of eggplants and tomatoes.  My mom used to make this recipe and I have been making it for a few years now.  It's super easy and healthy so I love it, but I have to admit I still can't get the kids to try it out.  Here's to hoping!

You will need:
  • 1 large eggplant peeled (I use a vegetable peeler) and sliced super thin
  • 4-5 tomatoes peeled and sliced
  • Sliced mozzarella (not fresh just the kind for sandwiches)
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Dry basil
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray square baking dish.
2. Make a thin layer of eggplant to line the bottom of the dish, top with sliced tomatoes.
3. Season with salt, pepper, parm, and sprinkle with garlic powder and dry basil.
4. Top eggplant and seasoned tomatoes with one layer of mozzarella.
5. Repeat layering eggplant, tomatoes, salt, pepper, parm, garlic powder, dry basil, and mozzarella until you reach the top of the dish.  Make sure to finish with mozzarella on top.  It usually takes me 4 layers.
6. Bake uncovered 35-35 minutes until top is melted and golden.  Carefully pour off excess water when baking is finished.
7. Let stand and cool at least 5 minutes before cutting in squares to serve.  Enjoy!

Step 2

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Step 4

Monday, July 26, 2010

Homemade Granola Circles

 I am always looking for a good snack to have on hand and these are just the ticket.

You will need:
  • 2 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup raisins (or you can do mini chocolate chips and leave off cinnamon)*
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
*If I go the chocolate chip route I also add 1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut- so yummy!

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease or spray muffin tin.
  2. Mix together oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, raisins (or choc. chips) and salt.  Mix with a fork and make a well in center.  Pour honey, egg, oil, and vanilla into well.  Mix well using your hands and press firmly into muffin tin. (I only fill 1/2 way.)
  3. Bake for 15 minutes until circles turn golden.
You can also make these into more traditional bars by pressing mixture into greased 9x13 inch baking pan.  Bake for 30-35 minutes instead of 15.  Cool for 5 minutes then cut into bars while still warm.  If they cool completely they will be too difficult to cut.  

Rainy With A Chance Of Cabin Fever

This afternoon was one of those yucky rainy days that seems to drag on forever.  Luckily, I was prepared (or so I thought) with an activity to occupy the kids.  First, we would make homemade granola bars... recipe soon to follow, and then we would build with marshmallows.  My cousin has an amazing blog (check it out here) and she gave me the marshmallow idea.

The cooking was a success and the bars are going to be my new playgroup staple.  The marshmallows, on the other hand, looked quite impressive but really only entertained my 3-year-old.  Jake gave it a try, but just couldn't stick with it.  Mary Catherine made a princess castle out of pink marshmallows and Jake attempted a fire station.

 With 2 hours left until Daddy got home we resorted to some good old fashioned hide-and-seek.  This, on the other hand, proved to be a total hit!  The kids raced around upstairs while I counted to 10, then as I yelled, "ready or not, here I come," I could hear loud squealing and doors slamming.  These are their faces as they were found...
    I have to admit, I got quite a kick out of it too.  As you can see things don't always go as planned, but we manage to figure it out along the way which brings me to my last story of the week.  As a result of this blog I have received lots of emails from friends wondering how I find the time.  Many of you have mentioned that the blog made you feel like you needed to do more at home and with your kids.  All of you who have emailed are WONDERFUL mothers who are selfless and hard working.  I want to make certain that you know I am NOT Martha Stewart and I am NOT Super Mom.  On most days I am just surviving and trying to put out fires while I count the hours till Daddy gets home to provide backup.

This should level the playing field...
Last week while Mary Catherine was in ballet Jake took a very large runny poop in his diaper.  I took him outside to the car to change him.  After wiping his bottom clean and rolling up the dirty diaper, I realized I was out of clean diapers.  I quickly scanned the parking lot looking for another mom I could pawn one from, but I was all alone.  In complete despair I rummaged through the car- here's where it gets good.  Laying in the back was a wet diaper that I had changed earlier from Patrick.  (You get where this is going...)  With no other options, I lined the old wet diaper in clean baby wipes (as if that makes it better) and put it on Jake.  I cannot express the guilt I felt, but what else was I to do?  At least we were heading home right after ballet!

Thank you all for the compliments and praise, but as you can see I am just like every other mom, doing the best I know with what I've got- literally.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Adjusting to New Baby

Most moms of two or more know how this scenario goes...

You are bringing home baby and you are braced for the "big adjustment."  You spend tons of time and energy focusing on big brother or sister so they don't feel left out and you make sure to include them in all new baby tasks.  "Do you want to help mommy change baby's diaper?"  "Do you want to hold baby?"  You get the idea.  Both times I brought home a new sibling this was me.  I was always braced for a difficult adjustment and it never came.  That is, not until a year later.

I am certain having mine so close together is largely the cause, but both times I brought home baby it was smooth sailing.  However, as the baby grew and approached his first birthday I started noticing a change.  Once the baby can walk and fully contend for toys and attention the competition always sets in.

Lately, Patrick has turned 11 months and I have been struggling with Jake being gentle and sharing with baby brother.  I am beginning to worry that Patrick will grow up to think his name is "No Patrick" because that is the first and only thing Jake says to him.  I have to admit it has been an bit funny to watch.  As Patrick becomes more accustomed to this treatment he is developing a strong will and some seriously thick skin.  I was the youngest of three and watching this dynamic it is no wonder I am stubborn as a mule.  Patrick (my sweet 11 month old) now yells louder than a 6 year old and has recently tried to head-butt his big brother.  Seriously, this is not good!

I can talk about this all now with some humor because things are really improving.  I know that there is no instant fix for this.  We are three weeks in to "Operation Crack Down" and I can already see bluer skies.  It is taking LOTS of love, even more patience, and consistent reinforcement.  The reward came this morning while cooking breakfast.  I looked up ready to leap across the room as Patrick approached Jake's toy truck and I heard, "Here you go Patrick."  Jake had actually handed little brother his favorite truck!  I took a breath, smiled and... Patrick proceeded to drive said truck into Jake's head!  What will I do with these boys?

How could this sweet face be the cause of any problems... right?

 Ahhhh... holding hands on our bike ride.  I couldn't miss this one.

Wind Chimes

We have a covered back porch and I was in the mood for some wind chimes so this idea seemed to fit the bill.  I knew I wanted to use an old can, but I  figured out the logistics as I went along. 

You will need:
  • Chimes (I used 5)- if you can't find them, buy a cheap wind chime and take it apart.
  • 1 old can
  • Sharpie marker
  • Drill
  • Natural twine or string
  • Colorful beads
  • Acrylic paint and brushes
  • Hook (for hanging the wind chime in the tree)
1. Wash out an old can and remove one side.  Let it dry out well.
2. Have your kids paint the can with acrylic paint so it will last.  If you have younger kids, I suggest providing one or two colors max (otherwise it all gets mixed).

3. Drill holes in pairs of two in a circle pattern on the top of can.  You will need two holes per chime.  I had 5 chimes so I drilled 10 holes. Make sure to drill holes in a small circle.  Otherwise the chimes will hang too far apart and they will not make music easily. 

4. Drill one hole in center of circle pattern.
5. Thread your chimes through the twine.  Pull each end up through the drilled hole on the can lid and tie and knot at the top.  Check your length to make sure the chime will hang below the can.  Repeat until you have finished all 5 chimes.

(I drilled too many holes because I was learning as I went along.  This pic is still helpful to see how to knot off the twine at the top.)

6. Thread a single string from the center hole and tie a knot at the top.  Hang a bead (I used a large wooden ball bead) from the string so that it sits in the middle of the chimes.  Suspend it from string by tying it off with a knot.  Then hang 3-4 beads from the bottom of string for decoration to hang down below the chimes.
7. Drill 3 holes equidistant around top outer edge of can for hanging.  Thread with twine and decorate with beads if you like.  Tie it off at the top with a hook to hang it in the tree.

Enjoy!  We love our and we made an extra for our Mimi... it makes a great gift for grandparents.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Patrick is Almost 1!

As my baby Patrick approaches his first birthday lots of things are changing.  He is walking everywhere (yes, he started walking at 9 months- help me) and he is trying his hardest to be one of the "big" kids.  This means that he is putting up quite a fight when it comes to his morning nap.  We are in that dreaded phase where two naps is a bit too many and one is not quite enough.

As a result, he has been taking two short naps that are not much use to me anymore.  Reluctantly, I decided this morning to let him drop his first nap and just take one in the afternoon with big brother and big sister.  This task was much easier said than done. I made sure to get him out of the house around 10:00 which is when he usually starts to fade.  Surprisingly, he did very well and went to an open gym play time with us all this morning.  I could tell he was getting cranky and so we loaded up and headed for a quick lunch.  Patrick ate well and was an angel at lunch too.  I was quite pleased and thought I might push my luck and make a diaper run to Sam's Club, but as we loaded to head home I looked in the back seat and this is what I saw...

 I took it with my phone so it's not the best quality, but I simply could not miss this moment!  Poor guy.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Things I Love

I have to write about my new find.  I am always looking for art tools for children that are easy and low-mess.  Half the time I feel like I spend 20 minutes setting up an art project for the kids and they spend 5 minutes doing said project.  It hardly seems worth the effort except I know they truly enjoy it while it lasts.  That's why I LOVE these...

They are called Do A Dot Art!  They are simply sponge tip paint applicators and they are genius.  They require no cups, no brushes, and best of all they make no mess.  You can use them on any paper and you can even find a Do A Dot activity book to use with them.  My kids love to make posters with them and I can pull them out anytime and put them away in a second- no set up. 

You can buy them here if you can't find them at a store: