Monday, June 24, 2013

Meatless Monday: Grilled Caprese Sandwiches

We love eating grilled cheese sandwiches. Ethan asks for them for dinner pretty often nearly every night, and in the winter, I love making them for him with some tomato soup for dipping. Yum! Now that it's summertime, tomato soup just doesn't seem right, so I decided to try something new and fresh. With our basil plants flourishing in the back yard, I have plenty of basil on hand to make pesto these days. So, I decided that some pesto and fresh tomato sounded great with our plain grilled cheese! It turned out even better than I could have imagined. Crisp, buttery toast on the outside, with creamy, melted mozzarella on the inside...garlicky pesto with the sweet tomato...a dream come true!

Grilled Caprese Sandwiches | more than 9 to 5: my life as "Mom"

Grilled Caprese Sandwiches
(makes 4 sandwiches)


  • Loaf of French bread, or 8 slices of your favorite sandwich bread
  • Butter, softened for spreading
  • Basil pesto (see recipe below)
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced into ~6 slices
  • 1-8 ounce package fresh mozzarella, sliced into 8 equal pieces
  • Balsamic vinegar, if desired

I love baking a fresh loaf of French bread to use for our grilled cheese sandwiches. I can crank one out in just over a couple of hours with the help of my bread machine (only ~10 minutes of hands-on time needed!), so it's something I can do earlier in the day to have ready for when it's time to make dinner.

When you're ready to start, slice your bread into slices as thin as you can get them, around 1/3 to 1/2" thick. Butter one side of each piece liberally. On the unbuttered side of four of the pieces, spread as much pesto as you desire over the entire piece. Top with 1 1/2 slices of fresh tomato, then top that with 2 slices of the fresh mozzarella.

Grilled Caprese Sandwiches | more than 9 to 5: my life as "Mom"

Take the piece of bread with the fillings on top and place it onto your preheated grill skillet (at medium-low to medium heat). Place the other piece of bread on top (buttered side up). Cook the sandwich for 3-5 minutes, or until golden browned. Flip the sandwich and cook the other side for a few additional minutes, or until golden browned, with the cheese melted inside. Serve while hot!

Grilled Caprese Sandwiches | more than 9 to 5: my life as "Mom"

You can also drizzle a little bit of balsamic vinegar on top of the mozzarella, if you wish, before putting on the top piece of bread. This was a tasty addition. I think next time I make these, I'll reduce the vinegar first, so it is thicker, and doesn't run as easily.

The basil pesto recipe I use is a delicious one that I found on my favorite food blog, Annie's Eats. I altered it slightly to include a bit more garlic, and I also thickened it a bit with more cheese. :) When I make it, I like to double the batch, so that I have plenty leftover to use in another meal that week!

Basil Pesto

  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the basil, garlic and pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the processor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream through the feed tube until well incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and stir in the grated Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper if needed.


Grilled Caprese Sandwiches | more than 9 to 5: my life as "Mom"

Friday, June 21, 2013

Cinnamon Baked French Toast

Today I'm sharing what has become one of our favorite weekend breakfast meals. One of the things I love most about it, is that I can get it completely prepared the night before, then all I need to do in the morning is pop it in the oven! This works especially great if your hubby wakes up earlier than you, and can handle getting it into the oven while you're still snoozing. ;) The boys love this dish, and hubby and I gobble it up, too. Accompanied by some fruit, or breakfast meat, it makes a great, easy meal when you have visitors, too!

I love making it for the 4 of us when I have leftover French bread on hand. We recently discovered that it is also delicious when made with sourdough bread. Fortunately, it's easy to grab a loaf from the store when I don't have any extra. I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Two Peas & Their Pod, but it originated from the Pioneer Woman. It makes a huge batch, so I cut the recipe in half for just the 4 of us, and we still have leftovers.

Cinnamon Baked French Toast
(serves 8-10)


French Toast:
  • 1 loaf French, or sourdough, bread
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
Streusel Topping:
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. I use an 8 x 8-inch square dish when I cut the recipe in half. Tear the bread into chunks, or cut it into cubes, and place evenly in the dish.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, cream, sugar and vanilla extract. Pour this mixture evenly over the bread. Cover the pan with saran wrap and store it in the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add the butter pieces and cut into the dry mixture using a fork, or pastry cutter. Combine until the mixture resembles sand with some pea-sized chunks. Cover and store mixture in the refrigerator.

When you're ready to bake it, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the casserole from the refrigerator and sprinkle the streusel topping over the top. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the French toast is set and golden brown. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Taco Night!

For some reason, it has taken me years to start making tacos for dinner. I really have no idea why, as it is a nice, easy dinner. The boys both really seem to love them, too. That always means a meal gets a spot in the rotation! Until this past week, I had always bought flour tortillas at the store for tacos, quesadillas, or fajitas. I had been wanting to try making my own for ages now, but just never did it. After reading yet another post saying how much better they tasted than store-bought ones, I decided to take the plunge. Boy am I glad that I did!! I won't lie, it's definitely quite a bit more work than just opening a package of already made tortillas and nuking them for a minute, but it wasn't hard, so if you have the time, I recommend it. I used a recipe from my favorite food site, Annie's Eats.

Flour Tortillas

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 heaping tsp salt
  • 5 Tbsp shortening
  • 3/4 - 1 cup water
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and shortening (you can use softened, unsalted butter instead, but I chose shortening because that's what I use in my pie dough and I love it!) in a bowl. Use a pastry cutter to mix these ingredients well. Add the water a bit at a time, continuing to knead with the pastry cutter, until the dough forms into a cohesive ball, and the edges of the bowl are clean. Continue to mix well until everything is incorporated completely. You can also use a food processor equipped with a dough blade, but I always make my pie crusts by hand, so I chose to do the same for these, too.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface/mat and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Cover these with a clean kitchen towel and let them rest for at least 10 minutes.
It helps to have awesome helpers like these little guys! ;)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Working with with one dough ball at a time and keeping the others covered, pat the ball into a disc.

Pat it into a disc first.

Dust lightly with flour and roll the dough into a very thin circle, as close to 8 inches in diameter as you can get it.

Time to roll! Flip sides frequently to prevent sticking and roll in different directions to spread it out as far as possible.

Carefully transfer the shaped tortilla to the heated skillet and cook each side for 10-20 seconds, or just until bubbles form and are lightly browned.

Sorry it's hard to see in this pic, but there it is starting to bubble.

Be sure not to overcook, or the tortillas will be too stiff.

They should be lightly browned when you flip them! I cooked them ~20 seconds per side.

Repeat this process with the remaining dough balls, lowering the heat as needed to prevent burning. Store in an airtight bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or freeze.

Like I said earlier, it definitely takes a bit of time to make the dough and get all of them cooked, but I still think it's worth it. The tortillas were delicious, and reminded me of what you get at a Mexican restaurant. Much better, and fresher tasting, than their store-bought counterparts! Mine weren't perfect circles, but they worked. ;) We topped ours with seasoned ground beef, shredded lettuce, diced tomato, shredded cheddar cheese, and sriracha sauce. Delicious!

Instead of freezing the leftover tortillas, we made dessert. :) I topped mine with a little butter, cinnamon and sugar and heated it to melt the butter. Yum! Josh and the boys chose to top theirs with melted peanut butter and chocolate chips, also very tasty.

Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Baby Bump Update: Week 28

Here I am at 28 weeks!

For some reason, it seems like ages since my last bump update. Overall, the pregnancy seems to be flying by now though. I can't believe I'm in my 3rd trimester!

Week of Pregnancy: 28 weeks

Baby size: Baby is about the size of a large eggplant this week!

Baby is almost 15 inches long from head to heel and weighs around 2 1/4 pounds. In the funnier, Dad-to-Be Edition of How Big is Baby? that I discovered, our little guy is as big as a kid's lunchbox this week! Wow!

Symptoms: Back and hip pain are still probably my biggest complaints. Trying to turn from side to side brings excruciating pain and often leaves me awake now in the middle of the night. :( My back is also getting worse, with pain shooting down my right leg, and making it difficult to walk at times. I fear the bulging lumbar discs in my lower back are flared up again, causing this loveliness. Ugh. In the past week or so, I've also started experiencing some dizziness, cold sweats, and general malaise. I'm hoping it resolves itself soon, but I plan on changing my diet up a bit to include more frequent small meals than 3 bigger meals, to see if this helps.

Food cravings: I haven't had a lot of specific cravings lately, but have been wanting sweets all. the. time. I'm trying to start ignoring those cravings though. I've put on about 15 pounds so far, and with 12 weeks still to go, I definitely don't want to gain more than the average pound per week!

Food aversions: Nothing really here now.

What I'm excited about: My next OB visit and the 4D ultrasound!! We'll be going on my birthday for that appointment, so it will be a great present to see our little guy in detail! :)

What I've done to prepare for baby: Sadly, nothing since my last post. I really need to get moving because we have under 3 months left now!! Craziness.

Funny moment: When discussing baby names a couple weeks ago, Ethan and I suggested a name to Josh that he didn't like. So, I told Ethan we needed to keep thinking. He got that familiar twinkle in his eye, and piped up with "Josh!" He thinks it is hilarious to call us by our first names now that he a) knows them, and b) knows that it drives us nuts! So, he thought he was being pretty funny suggesting that we name the little guy Josh. Haha!

Everything looked/sounded great at my OB appointment yesterday morning. Baby's heartbeat was strong around 155, I was measuring right on target, and my blood pressure is still good. I'm anxiously awaiting the results of my 1-hour glucose test now. I did fine with Ethan and Noah, but for some reason I have a bad feeling about this one since everything seems to be different than my first 2 pregnancies. I'm learning this time around that if I expect things to go differently than I plan/want, then I won't be disappointed, just happy if things go well! Haha! So, we shall see!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Rain. So much rain lately. Fortunately, it cleared off on Friday evening, so we made our way to the local Blue Plum Festival. We started out by stuffing ourselves full of tasty food from the local vendors participating this year. I had a delicious, overstuffed gyro and my favorite, fresh-squeezed lemonade. The boys had hot dogs (one of the best I have ever tasted!) and twisted chips. Josh had a seafood variety plate with rice and salad. Unfortunately, his meal was not great, but the funnel cake at the end made up for it! ;) Slathered in powdered sugar, caramel and wet nuts (walnuts in maple syrup), it was quite delicious. Once the sugar coma set in, we decided to walk around, hopefully burn off some of those calories, and check out what else was there. There were 3 stages set up with different genres of music, featuring local musicians. There were also multiple craft booths set up so that local artisans could sell their goods. We swung by the roller derby tournament for a bit, too, to check out the action. It was a fun evening, spent experiencing some of what the area has to offer!

On Saturday, after receiving a wake up call at 7:15 from the Sears delivery guys (much appreciated on a morning where the boys actually slept in! Ugh.), our new patio furniture was delivered a couple hours later. Josh and the boys spent the rest of the morning getting the table and chairs put together.

We were lucky to have great weather again that evening, so we were able to enjoy our first meal around the new table. Takeout pizza was an easy choice, so I could get a break from the kitchen and dishes! After a long day of cleaning and organizing (I am seriously nesting already!!), I was ready for the break. It's a great set from the Ty Pennington collection and I love that we can fit 6 people around it. Even better was the price - free! Gotta love credit card reward money! ;) The boys love the idea of eating outside, so I see lots of meals there in our future.

Unfortunately, the rain kept us from enjoying our dinner there again on Sunday evening, which meant it also ruined my plans for grilling blackened salmon. It ended up being a good thing, as we discovered a tasty new recipe for salmon instead! Josh went to his go-to cooking girl, Rachael Ray, and found this recipe to try. She did not disappoint! Josh declined my offer to let him post about this one, but I didn't want to keep this gem all to ourselves, so here you go...

Stovetop Glazed Salmon


  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 4 salmon filets, skins removed (we used 2 large, 1/2-pound filets)

Combine the lime juice, honey, chili powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk/stir until combined. Heat a non-stick skillet to medium-low to medium heat, drizzle in the EVOO and swirl it around to coat the pan well. Brush the sauce over one side of the salmon filets and put the coated side down into the oil. Next, spoon the sauce onto the other side. Cook about 5 minutes a side, or until cooked through, spooning or brushing generously with the sauce to make a nice glaze. Salmon should be nicely seared and juicy.

Stovetop Glazed Salmon | more than 9 to 5: my life as "Mom"

This dish was excellent served on a bed of brown rice with roasted asparagus on the side! The only change we will make in the future is to add a bit more chili powder to the glaze. It had great flavor, but we love spicy food, and think a little extra kick will pair well with the sweetness of the honey. We both agreed that we like this even more than the blackened salmon on the grill (which is one of my favorite things to eat, so that says a lot about this dish)!

Sadly, I think we may only get one more chance to eat at the new table this week with all of the rain in the forecast. Thankfully, we still have the entire summer ahead of us!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Ethan's Last Day of Preschool

I can't believe Ethan's last day of preschool was last week. The year flew by so quickly!! It's funny how you don't really notice the changes in your kids since you see them every day...but without a doubt, Ethan really grew up this year!

Here he is on his last day of preschool for the 2012-13 year.

Now, a look back at what he looked like on his first day, compared to now...

WOW! What a difference those 10 months made! I dressed him in the same outfit to hopefully see the difference in his size better. :) The shirt is nearly too small for him now, which is evident in the picture! Haha! It's funny how I thought he looked so grown up when I posted at the beginning of the year. Looking back now, he still kind of had that innocent toddler look to him, but it's definitely gone now! He's officially a preschooler!

Ethan had a great year this year. He enjoyed making lots of new friends and learning all kinds of new things! Science and engineering activities were his favorite, according to his teacher, Ms. Susan. No big surprise there! ;) I felt like he made great strides at interacting with others his age, and his teacher said that he was a great kid - popular with the other kids, very intelligent, and meeting or exceeding developmental goals for a child his age. She feels that he will do great in the pre-K class next year. He'll be attending every morning this coming fall, to get him ready for kindergarten (an all day affair here in TN!) the following year. Little brother Noah will also be attending this fall, for 2 mornings a week. I think he'll really benefit from the interaction with other kids his age, since he's used to only playing with his big brother. It will also be nice for me to get a little break with the new baby! :)

For his last day, Ethan took gifts for his teachers to thank them for all they did this year. When I was young, I always brought irises from our garden for my teachers on the last day. They always bloomed at the perfect time for it! I was so excited when the roses from our garden bloomed in time this year for Ethan to be able to take those to his teachers. :) For presentation, I dressed up some mason jars with a band of burlap and a ribbon bow. Aren't the roses gorgeous in so many different colors?

I also wanted to give them some gift cards, and I had found a cute card on Pinterest for a Starbucks gift card. I loved the wording they used, so I came up with an idea using that wording. :)

I took a picture of a Starbucks coffee cup and gave it "poster edges" in Photoshop. Then I erased the original words on the checkboxes and replaced those with adjectives Ethan used to describe his teachers. :) I added their names, just like the barista does when they write your name on your drink. Next, I took some heavy-duty brown construction paper, and printed the wording (thanks a "latte") that I loved on there, to act as the sleeve for the cup. I wrapped it around the cup and glued it on at the bottom, so that I was able to tuck the Starbucks and Target gift cards into the top! Perfect! For a finishing touch, I pasted Ethan's "signature" on the bottom. :)

I was so happy with how everything turned out! They were so cute that I may have to make those an annual gift for all of their teachers. :)

His preschool is offering a "Science of Art" camp this summer for one morning a week for 6 weeks, starting next week, so we decided to sign Ethan up for that. His teachers from this year, Ms. Susan and Ms. Ruth, will be leading it and they will be having all kinds of fun getting dirty/messy with art and science projects. I'm sure Ethan will love that! He's already been asking when he goes back to preschool, so hopefully the camp will help keep him entertained until they start back up in August.