Monday, August 27, 2012

Menu Monday #15

I am still wiped! We had another busy Friday, which included hosting a fun playdate for the boys and their new friends, and then we also hosted dinner for one of Josh's coworkers and her significant other that evening. The theme for the playdate was shapes, so I made some whole wheat crackers in various shapes for the kids to enjoy. I made some hummus to accompany the crackers and I was quite happy with how it turned out! It was super easy and I'm excited to try some different varieties now. More about the playdate and recipes I used in another post. For dinner, we decided on grilled Italian sausages served on whole wheat hoagie buns, topped with grilled onions, peppers and mushrooms. I slice them thin, then marinate them in Zesty Italian dressing. On the side, baked sweet potato fries with spicy ketchup. For dessert, we finished the meal with some sweet and gooey berry cobbler. I'll post this recipe soon too. It was a fun-filled day with friends!

On Saturday morning, we made bacon and egg sandwiches to use up the leftover hoagie rolls from the previous night's meal. Then we made our way to the local mall for some shopping where we may have stumbled upon the Great American Cookie Company for a few cookies. ;) They make the softest, most delicious of anywhere I can find, aside from my own kitchen! That evening we decided to check out the local fair. Wow. Josh and I both grew up in rural Ohio, so county fairs were nothing new to either of us, but this one was a little red even for us! Haha! I guess it had been awhile since either of us had been to a county fair, so maybe I had managed to forget just how interesting it can be...aside from the grease, the food was ok at best. Unfortunately, it weighed so heavy on our stomachs that we couldn't even think about consuming any of your typical "fair foods" for dessert (i.e. funnel cakes, elephant ears, deep-fried Snickers, etc). Major bummer. After eating, we decided to check out the livestock barns. This made the trip all worth it. The boys loved it! Little Noah's squeals of delight as he was able to pet the sheep, cows, a horse and a baby chick were too cute for words. He was having a ball! Sorry for the poor video quality. I forgot the camera, so all we had were our cell phones. :( And remember, we're not working with iPhones here. ;) I'm determined to convince hubby we need them! Haha!

video

After we finished up with the animals, we made our way to the Demolition Derby. We watched a round of that, but Ethan actually wasn't that interested. I don't think he could understand why the cars would want to run into each other! Haha! He has always hated seeing cars get demolished on TV, so I guess it was along those lines. By this point, we had inhaled enough secondhand smoke to last us a lifetime (yuck, Tennessee), so we made our way back to the van. We were happy that the boys had enjoyed themselves, but one evening was plenty for me!

On Sunday morning, I made pancakes. I hadn't made just plain ones in a long time, so I did that. Josh and Ethan love topping theirs with a little peanut butter and syrup. We enjoyed a lazy day at the house, trying to recoup after the weekend's festivities.

I am happy to report that last week's new recipe for the Chicken Pesto Alfredo was incredible!! It will definitely be added to the meal rotation as it is probably my new favorite pasta dish. I am sure it would be decent using store-bought pesto and Alfredo, but making my own elevated the dish to another level of yumminess. Is that a word?? It should be. It really was awesome and still tasted fresh with the inclusion of chopped tomato and basil on top. The basil pesto by itself was also great and tasted awesome on the homemade crackers that I made later in the week! Maybe I'm crazy, but I think things taste even better when I grow them and make them myself! :) I can't wait to start a garden next year!

Sunday: Take out pizza
I can't remember the last time we had ordered pizza from somewhere other than Mellow Mushroom, so last night we gave Pizza Hut a try. It wasn't that bad, but it made me remember why I make my own now! ;)

Monday: Shrimp scampi pasta, oven roasted parmesan broccoli
This is a meal I haven't made in a long time, but it's a good one. I buy fresh shrimp and peel and devein them, then let them soak for a bit in a mixture of EVOO, lemon juice, fresh minced garlic, crushed red pepper, salt & pepper. Then they get seared in a frying pan, until cooked through. As they are finishing, I add a couple pats of butter and some parsley to the sauce in the pan. Meanwhile, the broccoli is roasting in the oven and I prepare some whole wheat rotini. Once the shrimp is finished, I pour the shrimp and sauce over the pasta and mix it all up before serving. Delicious!

Tuesday: Grilled NY strip steaks, mashed potatoes, grilled corn on the cob, Reese cake
This is the meal Josh requested for his brithday. I bought some nice, thick steaks that should be delicious! I'll use red potatoes to make some creamy mashed potatoes and we'll throw some corn on the grill. For dessert, Josh's favorite - Reese cake. It is every bit as rich and delicious as it sounds. You start by making a chocolate cake (the recipe is actually very similar to the Texas sheet cake recipe I use), then top it with a peanut butter frosting and finish it off with a chocolate frosting. There is no shortage of sugar in this recipe and just a small piece will satisfy your sweet tooth! I think I gain 5 pounds just looking at this cake, so it's a once-a-year treat around here! ;)

Wednesday: Grilled chicken and veggies over brown rice
Another simple meal on the grill. I'll marinate the chicken and veggies (squash, zucchini, onion and Portabella mushrooms) in Zesty Italian dressing. Then they get grilled and served over rice. This meal makes great leftovers!

Thursday: Grilled pork chops, baked sweet potatoes, whole wheat couscous
Simple and easy. We season the pork chops with Patti's seasoning while grilling them. We like to top our baked sweet potatoes with a little bit of butter and brown sugar. To round out the meal, we'll have some couscous, a nice nutty grain.

Friday: On the road
We'll be headed to Ohio again for the holiday weekend, so it might mean eating on the way there.

Saturday: Ohio
Not sure what we'll be having, but it will be a break from the kitchen for me! :)

Happy meal planning to you this week and enjoy the long holiday weekend!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My First Book Review

So this is my very first book review. Well, my first since leaving English class in college that is. But it is the first one I have done for the blog. If you're looking to score the inside scoop on the widely popular Fifty Shades of Grey or The Hunger Games series, you may want to search elsewhere though. I've read neither, nor do I plan to in the future. From what I have heard about the Fifty Shades series, I think it may be a little risqué even for me. I'll stick to Y&R for my daily dose of love triangles and ridiculousness. ;) If you do want a funny, yet colorful, review of Fifty Shades of Grey, I suggest you check out this one.

I honestly can't remember the last adult book I read, but I can guarantee you it was a John Grisham book. After moving on from The Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley Twins, High and University (yes, I read them all!!), I graduated to a few Mary Higgins Clark novels, but then settled in with my good friend, Mr. Grisham. I adore his books. I guess I should have gone into the legal field since that stuff intrigues me so much. Perhaps an idea for a future career? Anyway...this book review is about a couple of free children's eBooks that can be found on iTunes. Yep, I said free. As I have mentioned in previous posts, we can be pretty cheap thrifty about some things and this is one of them. I am proud to say that I am still yet to purchase any app that you will find on my iPad! There are so many awesome free ones out there that I just haven't seen the need for it yet. I know what you're thinking, but you bought an iPad - that's not cheap! While you are correct, it's not a cheap purchase, it was a present for my 30th birthday/6-year wedding anniversary/"push present" for my 2nd bundle of joy. If you've read about either of my labor & delivery experiences, with Ethan or Noah, you know that that alone is probably a good enough excuse for such an extravagant present. ;)

Goodnight Safari eBook
Image courtesy of Apple, Inc.
If you are looking for a couple of great eBooks for kids, look no further. I actually found these on the main App Store page as suggested downloads for kids. I am so glad that I did! The boys love them!! I have never seen Noah get so into a book as he does with this first one, Goodnight Safari by Polk Street Press LLC. I guess it is the fact that he can poke that pudgy little finger onto the screen and see something happen that makes it irresistible. I love how interactive this story is. You can read it to the kids, or have the narrator read it. Then it prompts you to help the baby animals do a specific task like eat, take a bath, give a kiss, etc. It is super fun for them to help give the story its action. Their personal favorite has to be when the baby giraffe is full from eating leaves. He lets out cute little burps that send both of the boys into fits of laughter and Noah even imitates the sound! What is more adorable than that?!? It's just a short story, but definitely makes for a great pre-nap or bedtime story. And if you're not cheap like me, you can also purchase additional in-app activities to practice counting, colors and more. ;) The illustrations are gorgeous and almost make me want to go on an actual safari!

Miss Spider's Bedtime Story eBook
Image courtesy of Apple, Inc.
The next review is for Miss Spider's Bedtime Story by David Kirk. This ones comes with lots of fun, free activities that Ethan can enjoy. This story can also be read alone or by a narrator. The kids can help swipe the pages along and each picture is animated to help narrate the story as well. After reading through the book, be sure to check out all of the cool activities they include with this one. There is a short video to watch. You can also color pictures with virtual paintbrushes where you choose both the size and color of the brush. There is a matching game where you match the different bugs (way neater than having 52 cards strewn all over your living room floor!). And you can also put together puzzles (again, a super plus for this OCD mom who can only handle so many puzzle pieces scattered across the room!). Each of these has easy and harder levels (i.e., 6 vs 12 pieces to a puzzle or 16 vs 30 matching cards). So, you can start easy for younger kids, like Noah, and make it more difficult for older kids, like Ethan. :) It looks like this one may just be free for a limited time, so don't delay with this download!

the boys reading an eBookThese eBooks have definitely provided hours of entertainment and learning already for the boys! I love the fact that they look forward to reading the book every day with me now, and even request it! Ethan has always loved reading with us, but Noah is just now really starting to get into it too and will bring me books to read to him. Love it. So if you have an iPad (or iPhone for the Goodnight Safari eBook) and little ones, you definitely need to check these out! Trust me, you won't be disappointed. And if for some reason you don't like them, at least they were free! ;) Obviously, I was in no way compensated to talk about these books today (but it would have been awesome if I had been!), so my opinions are definitely my own.

What are your favorite eBooks for kids?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My Guilty Pleasure...

Disclaimer: There is nothing diet about this recipe, but it's incredibly tasty and your taste buds will thank you for trying it! :)

I'm trying to be more healthy in my eating habits now (as the cartoon shows, it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change!) and while most of the time I do a great job with this, occasionally my sweet tooth gets the best of me and I cave and make something yummy to enjoy after dinner. Instead of baking an entire cake (read: blowing my diet with over an entire day's worth of calories), I adapted my favorite vanilla sheet cake recipe into a single serve portion that I can have ready in about 5 minutes. Yep, it's that easy!

So in honor of my nephew's birthday today, go ahead and enjoy some cake. That works as an excuse, right? ;)

Single Serve Vanilla Cake

Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp stick butter (I use Blue Bonnet Light)
  • 1/6 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 (heaping) cup all-purpose flour
  • Small dash of salt
  • Small dash of baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Splash of milk (enough to give it a good batter consistency)
Directions:
Microwave the butter on 50% power until it is melted (usually around 30 seconds) in a small microwave-safe dish/bowl/mug. Add the water. Stir in the sugar, flour, salt and baking soda. Mix this with a spoon until blended well. Add in the vanilla extract and milk and stir again until blended well. Microwave the batter for 45 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes, depending on how gooey you like your cake. :) I tend to go with less rather than more time, as I like my cake super gooey (think vanilla lava cake). By not using any egg, it's completely safe to eat this way! :)



Additional variations of the recipe:

Reduced-Fat Cake
I have actually tried quite a few variations on this basic recipe, mostly to make "healthier" versions. While not "healthy" by any standards, they do offer less calories/fat, so I feel slightly better about indulging in them. ;) For myself, I normally use 1-2 Tbsp butter and reduce the sugar to 1/6 cup. Sometimes I use brown sugar, or natural cane sugar, instead of white. I also like to use 1/6 (heaping) cup whole wheat flour with 1/6 cup all-purpose flour, instead of 1/3 cup all-purpose flour. All of these variations taste great to me, as the original recipe is very sweet and rich, so it's easy to reduce the sugar and butter without loss of flavor. I have actually started to prefer the whole wheat version to the white version. I love the flavor that the whole wheat flour gives the cake.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Reese Cake
If you want something irresistible and you aren't counting calories, I suggest my chocolate peanut butter version! :) Prepare as directed above with the addition of 2 tsp cocoa powder when you add the dry ingredients. You can make it like this for a plain chocolate cake. If you want something super delicious, start the baking process by microwaving the cake for 30 to 45 seconds, then drop a spoonful of peanut butter and a sprinkle of semi-sweet chocolate chips on top. Continue to microwave for another 30 to 45 seconds. The peanut butter and chocolate will disappear inside, but leave you with some incredible bites of cake! This is super, super rich, so I recommend cutting the recipe in half or sharing with a loved one! ;)

This cake is definitely one of my biggest guilty pleasures and I have even managed to get my hubby addicted to it too. What's your go to item to satisfy your sweet tooth?



Monday, August 20, 2012

Menu Monday #14

After a super busy day on Friday, which included a fun playdate for the boys, speech testing for Ethan and a doctor's appointment for me, I wasn't feeling the whole cooking thing that evening, so we decided to go out instead. We checked out a local Asian restaurant, the Yong Asian House. It was really, really good! I was pumped about the chance to have some sushi for dinner and I really loved the appetizer I decided to try. I ordered the Roti Canai, which is a crispy and doughy Indian style pancake served with curry sauce. Delicious. I can guarantee that I am going to want to order it every time we visit there now! ;)

On Saturday morning, we had our favorite, Whole Wheat Banana Bread Pancakes. They are the perfect weekend pancake and the boys love them so much that they gobble up nearly as many as Josh and I! Wow! For dinner, we stayed in and I made the Hawaiian pizza that I had been planning to make the night before for dinner. It turned out pretty well and Josh and the boys loved it. I decided to add some spicy pepperjack cheese to counter the sweet pineapple. Topped with a little sriracha sauce after it was served, it had some great flavor!

On Sunday morning, I made a frittata. I had some leftover bacon that I wanted to use, so I combined that with some mozzarella and cheddar cheese and fresh cilantro for a super tasty dish. Topped with a little salsa, it was perfect! On the side, we had toasted whole wheat English muffins topped with a little of the homemade blackberry jam I had made the previous weekend. Yum!

Unfortunately, Ethan came down with something last night. His fever spiked to 102.9 before we even realized he was sick. :( Poor guy does a good job keeping up even when he isn't feeling well! I guess the dreaded sicknesses have begun now that he has started preschool and he'll be exposed to all kinds of lovely germs that we have managed to avoid for the past 3.5 years. Sigh. I am hoping he can make a quick recovery, as he woke up feeling good and fever-free this morning after a long 12 hours of sleep. Picture day is tomorrow at preschool, so I'd hate for him to have to miss it!

Sunday: Whole Wheat Pizza Pancakes and Caprese salad
I need to update the recipe that I have linked to here. I previously made these pancakes using Bisquick mix, but now I make them from scratch using a mixture of whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour. They still taste great and I don't think anyone even noticed that I changed them up! ;) This time, I just used the mini pepperonis to save a few calories, but next time perhaps some turkey sausage instead? On the side, I made a delicious Caprese salad. With all of this wonderful basil we have been growing, I wanted to take advantage of it! I used some great local tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil from our back yard, and then I reduced some balsamic vinegar into a glaze to sprinkle on top. It was heavenly!

Monday: Grilled, blackened wild sockeye salmon over brown rice, oven roasted asparagus
Yep, a repeat from last week, but it is oh so good. We're going to enjoy the sockeye salmon while we still can!!

Tuesday: Chicken Pesto Alfredo
I'm going to try this new dish that I found on Plain Chicken's blog. Here's my pin. I am going to modify it a bit by using whole wheat pasta, my own homemade Alfredo sauce (recipe found here under Chicken Alfredo Roll-Ups), and my own basil pesto. With plenty of basil on hand, I'll try my hand at making my own. I love my poblano pesto, so I'm sure this homemade variety will be much better than anything found pre-made in a jar! It will definitely be more time-consuming done this way, but I think the results will be worth it.

Wednesday: Cheeseburgers with baked sweet potato fries
We haven't had a regular burger in awhile now, so we'll go simple this week with grilled burgers topped with a slice of cheddar and served on whole wheat Kaiser buns. On the side, the much-loved sweet potato fries with spicy ketchup!

Thursday: Grilled BBQ pork chops, grilled corn on the cob, baked beans
Another simple meal on the grill. We'll top our grilled pork chops with some Montgomery Inn BBQ sauce. We'll grill the corn on the cob in their husks, then season with butter, salt & pepper. Josh and the boys love baked beans, so I'll let them indulge in some for dinner. While I'm not really a fan, I'll admit that Bush's Grillin' beans (the Southern Pit BBQ variety) are not too shabby.

Friday: Out to eat?
This week, our local county fair is open, so we'll probably try to make it there one evening to check it out. I think the boys will love seeing all of the animals and maybe enjoy a couple rides?? We'll have to see how those look... ;)

Saturday: Cookout??
We are tentatively planning to host dinner this week for one of Josh's co-workers and her significant other, but we'll have to see if everyone can stay healthy!

Happy meal planning to you this week and good luck to the next round of kiddos starting school this week! :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I'm So Pinteresting!



I'm so Pinteresting! No really. Only people as uber cool as me spend their Friday and Saturday evenings organizing their Pinterest boards. Yep, I am that cool. ;) It is a task (on a very long project to-do list) I have been wanting to tackle for weeks, but I finally got around to starting it a couple weekends ago. If you're a prolific pinner like myself, this post is for you! If you've never heard of or checked out Pinterest, what the heck are you waiting for?!? If you need an invite, I'll be happy to oblige, but beware, please warn your spouse/kids/boss/pets/etc that you'll be ignoring them for at least the next week. The site is a bit addictive (who am I kidding, it's very addictive) and you'll be floored at how many amazing recipes, decor ideas, cleaning products, etc that you will encounter. If you aren't a DIY-er, then it could be your personal hell, but if you're like me, you'll find yourself wanting to re-pin every other pin you see!! Seriously. Don't get frustrated if you aren't the type of person who can find 50 uses for old pallets, or 1,000 different ways to clean using vinegar, though. I'll admit there are some crazy pinners out there, but if you're like me, you'll find it is a useful place to organize yummy recipes, creative ideas and fun projects that you would like to try.

I didn't have very many boards before I started this overhaul...under 20. I had one for most of the recipes I found, but a separate one for desserts. Everything for the home was lumped onto one board. Stuff for the kids or holidays on another. With over 900 pins and counting now, it was getting hard to go back and find things easily. I needed a better system for organizing the boards and pins. So, I started with the board with the most pins, the food. I now break it down like this...

A Guide for Organizing your Pinterest boards
  • The Main Dish
    • Main Dish (this is for miscellaneous items that don't fit into the categories below)
    • Cookin' in the Crockpot
    • Pasta
    • Pizza
    • Salads
    • Sandwiches
    • Soup
  • The Side Dish
    • Breads, Doughs, etc
    • Condiments, Sauces, etc
    • Grains & Potatoes
    • Veggies
  • Sweet Treats
    • Brownies & Blondies
    • Cookies
    • Cakes, Cupcakes & Cake Pops
    • Dips, Dough & Frosting
    • Frozen Treats
    • Fruit
    • Miscellaneous Yummy Treats
    • Pies
  • Drink Up (all beverages, hot & cold)
  • Breakfast
    • Eggs & Meat
    • French Toast & Breads
    • Oatmeal & Granola
    • Pancakes, Muffins, Biscuits & Rolls
  • Recipes I've Tried (links to all of the original recipes I have tried that I found on Pinterest, including my comments about each)
  • Kitchen Tips (useful tips for things to do with the kitchen itself, or for cooking/baking)
Then I moved on to all other items, and came up with these additional boards:
  • Kids
    • Education
    • Food
    • Fun
  • Products I Love (various products/ideas that I want to try)
  • Home
    • Build It!
    • Clean It!
    • Decorate It!
    • Organize It!
    • Store It!
  • This is How I Do Me (hairstyles, clothing, makeup, all thing girly!)
  • Click! Take a Pic! (all things photography)
  • Stitch! Stitch! (all things sewing)
  • Kreations by Kristy (invites, announcements, etc that I have designed)
  • Design Inspiration (things I have found that inspire some of my designs)
  • Holidays (anything related to a particular holiday from food to activities to decorations)
    • Christmas
    • Easter
    • Father's Day
    • Halloween
    • Independence Day
    • St. Patrick's Day
    • Thanksgiving
    • Valentine's Day
  • Get My Workout On! (all things fitness)
  • Articles to Read (links to articles I want to check out or reference later)
  • Parties
    • Birthday (general ideas for any birthday party)
    • Decorations (general decoration ideas for parties)
    • Food Ideas (recipes and ideas for party food/drinks)
    • Specific party themes (I have created a board for each specific party I'm throwing, e.g. parties for the boys' birthdays - Cars, Very Hungry Caterpillar, etc)
  • Tennessee - Local Links (local events, classes, etc that I want to remember)
Whew! I now have 57 boards!


Gorgeous, isn't it?? ;) Yeah, as you can see, it took awhile to organize everything. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to move pins from board to board aside from editing each individual pin. With a mass number to go through, it was a slow process. So, if you are new (or fairly new) to Pinterest, I definitely recommend setting up a board system similar to this (be sure to add boards specific to you, too!) in the very beginning. It will save you a lot of time later when you have hundreds of pins and can't find that one you need!
Happy pinning! And be sure to Follow Me on Pinterest !! ;)


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Berry Delicious!

We enjoyed a couple delicious berry recipes this past weekend. We might as well enjoy the rest of summer while we can, right? As I mentioned in my weekly menu post, I made Blackberry Cupcakes topped with Cream Cheese Icing and Blackberry Jam to take to a cookout Friday evening. They were heavenly. A bit more labor intensive than your average cupcake, but it was worth it. These would be great for a girl's birthday party due to the fabulous purple color that the blackberries create! I started this recipe with the idea of re-creating a blackberry cake that we had enjoyed the weekend before at a local restaurant. To make it a bit easier on myself, I used a boxed cake mix as my base, but next time I may try a homemade base instead to help highlight the blackberry flavor in the cake. I wanted to make them easy to eat at a cookout, so I opted for a cupcake version versus a cake.

Ingredients:

Blackberry Cupcake
(yields 24 cupcakes)
  • 1 package white cake mix (I used Betty Crocker's Super Moist)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup oil (I used vegetable)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 12 ounces fresh blackberries (yields 3/4 cup juice)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
Cream Cheese Icing
(yields plenty for 24 cupcakes)
  • 5 ounces cream cheese (I used Philadelphia's 1/3 less fat)
  • 3 Tbsp butter (I used Blue Bonnet Light)
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp clear vanilla extract
Blackberry Jam
  • Blackberries from the above cupcake ingredients
Directions:
Preheat the oven to the temperature listed on the cake mix package. Combine the cake mix, egg whites, oil and water in a large bowl.

In a medium saucepan, heat the blackberries on medium-low heat. Add the sugar and allow the berries to cook until they are softened, about 10 minutes.


Add the berries to a food processor and puree until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to collect the juice, leaving the seeds behind in the blackberry jam on top.


The carton of blackberries should yield about 3/4 cup of juice.


Add this juice to the cake mixture and mix until well blended. Place the jam, which was what was left in the strainer after draining the juice (pictured on the left above) in the refrigerator to chill.


Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full with batter and bake according to package directions, or until toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow them to cool for a minute in the muffin tin, then remove the cupcakes and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.


In the meantime, prepare the cream cheese icing. My recipe was adapted from one I found on my favorite food blog, Annie's Eats. Using chilled cream cheese, combine it with the butter using a beater blade in an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in the powdered sugar and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat 2 minutes more. Blend in the vanilla and mix until smooth.


Once the cupcakes are cooled, frost them with the cream cheese icing.


Place a heaping teaspoon-sized dollop of jam onto the top of each cupcake. Enjoy!




I decided I wanted to do something with the extra cream cheese icing, so I made Strawberry Shortcake Pancakes too this weekend! It worked perfectly. Since I don't use Bisquick anymore, I needed to find a good pancake recipe to try. Again, I turned to Annie. I found a recipe for chocolate chip pancakes on her blog and I adapted it to work for me. I didn't want a super sweet pancake (like I normally make) because I knew the cream cheese icing would be very sweet and could balance the pancake. So this is what I ended up making.

Ingredients:
(yields 18 large pancakes)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups milk (I used whole because I had extra)
  • 6 Tbsp butter, melted (I used Blue Bonnet Light)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 lb package of fresh strawberries
  • Cream cheese frosting (see above recipe)
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat a griddle or skillet to medium heat. In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Whisk in the milk, butter and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Add in the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix just until incorporated.

Prepare your griddle or skillet with a small pat of butter or thin coating of butter spray. Drop scoops of batter onto the griddle or into the pan.


Cook until bubbles form on the surface and begin to pop, and the bottom is light golden brown. Flip gently with a spatula and cook again until cooked through and light golden brown on both sides. Transfer the cooked pancakes to a baking sheet in the warmed oven to keep them warm while you repeat the process with the remaining batter.

In the meantime, slice strawberries into thin pieces. Once the pancakes are complete, assemble your strawberry shortcake pancakes by spreading a thin layer of the cream cheese icing on a pancake and topping with a handful of the strawberry slices. Repeat the layers and serve. Yum!





These were a hit! Ethan preferred to just dip his pieces of pancake into a small dollop of the cream cheese icing and eat the strawberries by themselves. A fun, family-friendly breakfast that everyone will love!

I've never been a huge fan of blackberries, but they are hubby's favorite. This cupcake recipe, however, has converted me to a fan! I've always loved strawberries and they are one of the boys' favorites too. Which berries do you look forward to eating in the summer?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Big Boy Starts Preschool!

Tears. My little man turned big boy is going to preschool this year!! Do they have to get big so fast?? So Ethan started preschool after much confusion about it all on Tuesday. The city schools were still closed (due to flooding) and at the orientation meeting they had told us that they would follow the city's schedule for weather closings and delays. So, silly me, I assumed this meant they were closed too, since I hadn't heard anything different. I tried calling the preschool and the church numerous times on Monday and Tuesday morning, but couldn't get ahold of anyone, so again, I figured this meant no one was there. What else was I to think?!? Lo and behold, 5 minutes after they opened up on Tuesday morning (and less than 30 minutes after I had gone ahead and sent Josh to work), I got a return call saying that they were indeed there. Seriously?!? Sigh. So, I rushed to get Ethan ready while Josh made his way home to pick him up and get him there. Fortunately, it was just a transition day, so it wasn't a huge deal. Try telling that to my crazy self though that morning though! Off went Daddy and Ethan to preschool. Here he is, "fake sleeping," trying to avoid the inevitable. Always a comedian!


For transition day, parents were allowed to stay with the kids so they could adjust and get used to whole preschool thing. This was a great idea necessity for Ethan, who has never really been away from us much. Apparently he clung to Josh's pant leg for awhile, but eventually warmed up to exploring his classroom by himself. Whew. There was hope he would survive this big step! After Noah woke up from his nap, we made our way there as well to see how big boy was doing on his first day. We found him right at home with some toy cars! He built a driveway where they could all park. :)


Noah decided to get in on the action too and check out all the fun stuff in Ethan's new classroom!


He had no qualms about leaving our laps to go explore. Haha! Go figure.


Lots of fun stuff to explore. I think it will be a good year for him. He's going just two days a week this year to get used to the idea of school. It will be good for Noah to get some one-on-one time with me too, since he hasn't really had that as the second child.


Seeing where he measures up at the beginning of the year!


Getting ready to head home. Poor guy's backpack is as big as him! Haha!


Oh my goodness. The boy will be in high school before I know it!


Here he is before his first official day all by himself.


I was happy to hear that his teacher reported no tears from him!! She said that he played hard and enjoyed the science activities they did that day. Hmm, I guess he really does want to be "Daddy" when he grows up! :)

Menu Monday #13

We had a super yummy weekend filled with delicious food! On Friday night, we ended up going to one of Josh's co-worker's houses for a cookout. He grilled up some delicious steaks, burgers and veggies for us. I definitely need to try the marinade he brushed on the steaks! I decided to make cupcakes to take along with us to share. After trying the blackberry cake the week before at The Riverfront Seafood Company, I wanted to try to recreate it. So, I ended up making a blackberry cupcake topped with a cream cheese icing and a little blackberry jam. It was pretty darn good, but a bit labor intensive. More about that in an upcoming post! We had a fun evening of good food and conversation while the boys enjoyed chasing around their pet ferret!

On Saturday morning, I was unfortunately fasting for a health screening, so no normal big breakfast that day. For lunch, we were in Kingsport, and we couldn't resist hitting up The Riverfront Seafood Company again! I had to get the New Orleans style BBQ Shrimp dish that Josh had had the previous week. It was perfect! For dinner, I made the chicken bacon strawberry balsamic pizza that I was supposed to make on Friday night. It was just as good as the first time I had made it. It really is one that you should put on your must try list. You will not regret it!

On Sunday morning, I wanted to use some of the leftover cream cheese icing I had from the cupcakes, so I tried a new recipe for pancakes, then topped them with the icing and fresh strawberries to make strawberry shortcake pancakes. They were awesome! More about those later too! ;)

This week I tried something new and decided to get all of my groceries at Food City. I had been a dedicated Fresh Market shopper since we moved to TN in January, but when we moved into our house, I started getting some of my stuff at Food City too, since it's just 5 minutes up the road from us. After checking out their produce section and meat counter on a few occasions, I decided it was time to give them a try. They actually have a really decent-sized organic section and I love that they sell local produce when possible. And I can't argue with the price. I ended up saving at least $50 just this week by purchasing everything there instead of getting all of my meat and produce at Fresh Market. Over a month's time, that's a lot of money! Maybe I'll convince hubby that I can finally get an iPhone if I can keep it up? ;) Yes, we are incredibly cheap when it comes to some things. I think that this pic says it best though...


Yes, we have continued to refuse to shell out a minimum of $30 per person for a smartphone data plan, along with hundreds of dollars for iPhones. It's something we haven't felt like we really needed at this point, but I definitely wouldn't mind having one. ;) So yeah, I can't say I don't cringe a bit every time I see someone on government assistance whip one out of their pocket. Ouch. I'm sure glad our tax dollars go to good use! Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now and get to the menu...

Sunday: Creamy Carbonara Cups and pan fried parmesan green beans
This is a spin on the Lasagna Cups I made a couple weeks ago. I still had wonton wrappers left to use, so I wanted to try something else with them. I made homemade alfredo sauce and used this as the sauce for the cups. Then I also used diced chicken breast, bacon and onion inside the cups. These were incredible! Can you really lose with butter and bacon though?? ;)

Monday: Grilled, blackened wild sockeye salmon over brown rice, oven roasted asparagus
We took a break from the salmon last week, but we are craving it again this week, so it's on the menu again! This time we'll have asparagus with it. Surprisingly, it's a veggie that both of the boys really like! Pretty crazy, huh?

Tuesday: Chicken Capri, roasted red pepper & basil quinoa, pan fried parmesan green beans
We haven't had this one in awhile, and it's a great low-cal dish, so we'll enjoy it this week. It is actually out of the South Beach Diet cookbook. First you season chicken breast halves with garlic powder and sear them in a little EVOO on the stove. Then you place them in a baking dish and top them with a mixture of ricotta cheese, salt, pepper & oregano. On top of that goes some crushed tomatoes, and finally a slice of cheese. I'll be using fresh mozzarella. Bake this for a bit to get the cheese melted and ensure the chicken is cooked through well. I'll serve it over the quinoa with the beans on the side. Yum!

Josh requested these again this week. It's his new favorite burger, and I'm happy to put this one on the menu! I just posted the recipe for these burgers and my fries last night. It is definitely one you should try if you want a healthier version of burgers and fries!

Thursday: Grilled chicken, oven roasted parmesan red potatoes, grilled corn on the cob
I like to marinate my chicken breast in Kraft's Roasted Red Pepper dressing all day. It gives the chicken great flavor and keeps it nice and moist. For my potatoes, I dice them into 1/2" cubes, sprinkle with EVOO, salt, pepper, parmesan cheese, garlic seasoning & rosemary and roast them for 30 minutes, until they are crispy and golden. Yum. We'll grill the corn on the cob in their husks, then season with butter, salt & pepper.

Friday: Hawaiian Pizza
I'm going to try a new pizza this week. I'll use my whole wheat dough and regular pizza sauce. Then I'll top it with diced ham and pineapple for an easy Hawaiian pizza. The boys both love this when we get it at Mellow Mushroom, so I hope they'll enjoy my version too!

Saturday: Out to eat

Happy meal planning to you this week! We're taking advantage of what is supposed to a be a beautiful week with several grilling meals again. I am loving these slightly cooler temps, as they are getting me excited for fall!! Is it too soon to start thinking about chili, pumpkins, apples and other fall favorites??

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Not Your Average Burger & Fries

I have been trying out some new burger recipes lately. While we all love the traditional grilled burger topped with American or cheddar cheese, it's also fun to try new recipes with varied toppings. Awhile back, I had pinned recipes for two such burgers that I wanted to try, but without our grill at the apartment, we hadn't given them a try until recently. With all of the rainy days here at the house since we moved in a month ago, grilling has been difficult, but we have managed to luck out and get our fair share in this summer.

The first recipe I tried was for a Caprese Burger. You can find the pin here. The original recipe is from the wishes and dishes blog. It's pretty simple and easy to make.

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound ground beef (I used lean)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 slices of tomato
  • 4 slices (1/4-inch) of fresh Mozzarella
  • 8 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 English muffins (I used whole wheat)
Directions:
For the balsamic glaze: Add the balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce to a very low simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the liquid reduces by half and is slightly syrupy. Remove from the heat, pour it into a bowl or glass, and set aside to cool and thicken.

Mix the ground beef and the garlic. Form into 4 equal-sized patties.

Preheat a gas grill to medium. Cook the burgers on the preheated grill for about 7 minutes per side, or until they are cooked to your desired degree of doneness.

Toast the English muffins in a toaster until they are light golden brown.

Place the burger on the bottom half of an English muffin and top with a slice of tomato and a slice of fresh mozzarella. Drizzle the balsamic glaze over the cheese and top with basil leaves and the upper half of the English muffin. Enjoy!




This is probably our favorite burger recipe we have tried to date. It is such a fresh and light take on a traditional burger and you don't feel bad indulging in one. ;)

The next burger recipe I tried was for a Spicy Hawaiian Burger. You can find the pin here. The original recipe is from the homemade by holman blog. This was another easy recipe to follow.

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound ground beef (I used lean ground beef instead of the ground chicken the original recipe called for)
  • 4 fresh pineapple rings (cut about 1/2" to 3/4" thick)
  • 4 slices pepper jack cheese
  • 4 whole wheat English muffins
  • 1/8 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
Directions:
Combine the ground beef, soy sauce, 1/2 the paprika, 1/2 the chili powder, seasoning salt, cumin and garlic. Lightly mix all of this with your hands and divide into 4 even balls. Form patties, making them slightly thinner in the middle and sprinkle with the remaining paprika and chili powder.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill to medium heat. Coat the grates lightly with cooking spray or oil. Grill the burgers over medium heat for about 7 minutes per side. Top with cheese for the last 1-2 minutes of cooking time, to allow it to melt slightly.

For the pineapple, grill the rings directly on the grates over medium heat. Carefully turn after 1-2 minutes.

Toast the English muffins in a toaster until light golden brown.

Assemble the burgers with cheese on English muffins, top with pineapple and enjoy!




I love the idea of combining the spicy burger and cheese with the sweet pineapple. The flavor combinations are awesome. The only problem I had with this one is that the pineapple made the English muffin super soggy, despite toasting it. I wasn't a fan of that. It might be best eaten as an open-faced sandwich instead of as a traditional burger. Or perhaps a longer grilling time on the pineapple would have helped to dry it out more? We'll have to experiment again with this one.

I have talked a lot about my Baked Sweet Potato Fries, as we eat them often, but I have never given an official recipe for how I prepare them. So here we go!

Ingredients:
serves 4-6 people
  • 2-3 large sweet potatoes
  • ~1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Dash of salt
  • Dash of cinnamon
Directions:
Peel the sweet potatoes. Cut them into fry shapes and place them in a bowl. Soak them in lightly salted water for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Drain the water from the bowl and blot the fries dry. Then coat them in a thin layer of cornstarch.


Sprinkle with the EVOO and toss to coat evenly. Next, sprinkle the salt and cinnamon on top and toss to coat evenly.

Spread the fries out in an even layer on a baking sheet, making sure to leave space between them to crisp, instead of steam as they cook. I usually need to use 2 baking sheets to have enough room to spread them out enough.


Bake for 15 minutes, then turn them over. Bake for an additional 10 minutes, then turn the broiler onto high and broil for 5 minutes to help crisp them up even more if needed. If you are using 2 pans, rotate them between top and bottom racks after 15 minutes.




Serve with Spicy Ketchup. This is a delicious accompaniment to the sweetness of the fries. I love sweet-spicy combinations and this one hits the spot every time!

Ingredients:
serves 2-3 people
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tsp sriracha sauce
Directions:
Mix together the ketchup and sriracha sauce and serve. If you want it spicier, add more sriracha, but I normally keep it in this ratio (1 Tbsp: 1 tsp).



Burgers are a must in our house. What's your favorite burger recipe?

I've linked up to a great site this week. Be sure to check out more great, healthy recipes!

Cook & Tell Recipe Link-Up from The Shrinking Kitchen