Archive | June, 2012

No Bake Blueberry Pie

29 Jun

Everyone in our house loves blueberries!

I love summertime fruit. It’s so fresh and sweet, it’s very affordable and there’s so many choices. One of our favorites is blueberries and besides being just overall delicious, they’re super good for you too. Good thing, because we eat tons and tons of them.

A few years back my mom passed along an easy no-bake blueberry pie recipe to me that she found in our local newspaper. Aunt Molly is no relation to us!

I’ve used the recipe several times and even posted it on Facebook a couple of years ago, so some of you may have seen it already.

It’s fast, it’s easy, there’s no need to turn on the oven, and it’s yummy. Serve it with whipped cream or ice cream if you’d like.

Enjoy!

This pie is easy, tasty and pretty!

AUNT MOLLY’S UNBAKED BLUEBERRY PIE

INGREDIENTS

1 quart blueberries, divided use

3/4 cup water

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

9-inch baked pie shell or prepared graham cracker crust

Whipped cream for topping, optional

Cooking on the stove, not in, makes this a cool recipe for a hot summer day.

DIRECTIONS

Put 1 cup of the blueberries in a saucepan. Mix water and flour together and add to the pan. Add sugar and salt. Start cooking on high until first bubbles appear, then lower to medium heat, stirring frequently until thickened and the berries are a deep color, 7-10 minutes. Some berries will pop. Remove from heat and let sit a few minutes.

Add remainder of uncooked berries to the pan using a spatula to scrape juices into mixture. Mix well and again let it sit a few minutes, then pour into pie shell. Gently level off. Allow to set and cool completely before slicing. It may take several hours for it to reach room temperature, or even overnight. Refrigerate after cutting.

Note: If using your own pie crust, bake it for 10-15 minutes until cooked and cool before filling.

Whipped cream makes a nice topping but so, too, does ice cream.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Recital Chicken

27 Jun

Recital Chicken!

My girls are dancers. Since they were toddlers they’ve each taken dance class, and this year is their 10th, 8th, and 5th year of dance, each.

This means that each year we are treated to their summer dance recital, a culmination of all their hard work and dedication that year. It’s usually a busy day when we have the recital with a small crowd for dinner and we’re always hurrying to get them to the show on time, so I need a really quick meal.

Hence, my Recital Chicken.

This is the chicken recipe I make every single year for the recital lunch or dinner either before or after the recital, depending on what time of day they dance. Its original name was Hellman’s Parmesan Chicken, and it’s courtesy of my mom, of course!

Since I only make it for the recital and I make it every time, I’ve changed the name to Recital Chicken. It’s quick, easy, few ingredients and can be prepped the day before. It cooks fast and we can sit down and eat relatively quickly, whether we are eating before or after the recital. I serve this with Grandma Grello’s Marinated Green Beans on the side, which can be made ahead of time also.

INGREDIENTS

*I usually have to double this because I’m cooking for a large group.*

1/2 cup Hellman’s Mayo (can use light, I never do though.)
1/4 cup grated Parm Cheese
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I thaw out the chicken tenders that are boneless and skinless.)
4 tsp Italian Seasoned dry bread crumbs (I use plain.)

Recital Chicken can be prepped ahead of time so you don’t have to do anything but cook it when you’re ready.

DIRECTIONS
Combine mayo and cheese.

Spread on chicken, then sprinkle with bread crumbs.

Bake at 425 for 20 minutes. For that nice golden brown color, we do a quick broil at the end for a few minutes.

I serve with rice pilaf which coincidentally takes about 20 minutes so they cook at the same time.
Happy Recital!

My three dancers

What we’re doing for fun this summer: Summer Memories Timeline

25 Jun

If you’ve been a reader of my blog since last fall, you may remember my post about our Summer Vacation banner. It was not something I’d started on purpose and it turned out to be so much more than I expected. The kids loved it.

I had not thought of doing anything like it this summer, but then a few weeks ago I was reading a blog and clicked from that blog to another blog, and saw something that caught my eye: a summer memories clothesline-timeline.

Only problem is: I can’t find that blog I’d landed on, anywhere. I didn’t think I was going to do it, so I didn’t save it. I’ve searched the internet like crazy but can’t find it.

Anyway, after seeing this, it stuck in my head and as I drove around these past couple of weeks, it kept popping into my head. (When I drive from story to story, place to place, I drive in silence–I get a lot of thinking done this way.)

I decided to try a summer timeline for my kids, I thought they’d love it, but I didn’t want to use a clothesline because I didn’t think I could put it up very well in our house nor could I store it well afterwards. (I save everything.)

Instead, I chose to use banner paper ($1.99 roll of Doodle Paper from Christmas Tree Shops) and decorative packing tape ($2 at CVS) along with some little square pieces of paper for them to write their events on the timeline ($1 at CVS).

They saw me buy the Doodle Roll last week before school ended and right away they knew something was up. Alex asked me every day why I bought the Doodle Roll. They wanted to know when they’d be let in on my Top Secret project.

Finally, the last day of school came. With my work schedule I only had one hour in which to create my timeline but I’d planned it out pretty well so I knew what I wanted to do.

Here’s how it looked, I know you’re dying to see it, right?

Our timeline: a blank slate ready to be filled up with a record of our summer memories.

The only disappointment was that I wanted to print out a photo to put on the timeline of them from that morning on the last day, but my printer was broken, not working AT ALL so I couldn’t. However, the “blank slate” aspect of their timeline seemed very appealing to them; the fact that they had this entire space to fill up with things we were doing, places we were going, people we were seeing.

When they walked in on that last day of school, they gasped and ran up the stairs–it’s right at the top of the stairs– to see what the new project was. (We’re a very project-based family!) They were immediately so excited, and I was so thrilled.

Their biggest concern: what if the timeline isn’t big enough? Then what? My solution: we can easily add a section to it and remove the last square I put at the end as an example. They were pleased with that answer.

So we’re off and running with our timeline. Throughout the summer I’ll try to remember to post an update so you can see how it’s looking.

I have no idea how it will turn out, but isn’t that half the fun?

Muffins on the brain

22 Jun

All I could think about was having another muffin!

I did.

I had muffins on the brain.

Ever since I did the peach muffin post a couple of weeks ago, all I could think about was making more muffins.

The following weekend I wanted to make the peach muffins again, but I decided it was too soon for peach. But, it wasn’t too soon for blueberry! I just happened to have fresh blueberries in my fridge.

I’m sure I have a blueberry muffin recipe somewhere. Probably dozens of them. But, I was lazy. I googled a recipe for blueberry muffins and I was not disappointed!

I was directed to my favorite spot: Allrecipes.com for “To Die For Blueberry Muffins” and they were.

To.Die.For.

It was the streusel topping that did it, I know. I’m a sucker for a cinnamon sugar topping.

Here’s the recipe. Try it yourself this weekend and see what you think. I know you’ll have muffins on the brain when you do!

Super easy ingredients. I threw in the whole pint of blueberries.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.
  2. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.
  3. To Make Crumb Topping: Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.

What’s for dinner Wednesday: Maple Glazed Pork Chops

20 Jun

Pork chops with maple and brown sugar glaze. Who wouldn’t love that?

Did you ever hear it said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

I think I’m well on my way down that insanity path.

My family doesn’t love pork chops. I’d almost venture to say some of them are close to saying they hate pork chops.

However, I really like “the other white meat” and I’m determined to find a recipe for pork chops that they like.

So every so often, I try a new recipe. I wait for the results, everyone says they don’t like them, and we move on until I find the next one.

Nine times out of ten, I personally like the recipe.

A cookbook from Grandma Grello’s house. Lots of yummy looking recipes in here!

Today’s recipe is one of my attempts at tricking my family into liking pork chops. I got it out of a cookbook from Grandma Grello and I liked seeing her little notes and recipes stuck in amongst the pages as I went through it.

I figured that if they were smothered in maple syrup in brown sugar 1) I’d like them a lot and 2) they’d think they were pancakes. Or waffles. And like them.

I liked them a lot, they did not.

Shocker.

Back to the drawing board.

If you are someone who does enjoy pork chops and you also enjoy recipes of the “sweet” variety, you’ll be in luck with this one.

Try it out and see what you think.

I doubled the recipe for the glaze because I had a lot of pork chops, but I did not double the amount of brown sugar. That would have been too much.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup all purpose flour

Salt and pepper to taste

4 bone in pork chops (I used eight)

2 tablespoons butter or margarine (I doubled this recipe)

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons water

2/3 cup packed brown sugar (no need to double)

I sprinkled very generously with brown sugar!

DIRECTIONS

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine flour, salt and pepper.

Add pork chops and shake to coat (I could not do more than 2 at a time or they wouldn’t get fully coated.)

In a skillet, brown the chops on both sides in butter.

Place in an ungreased 13x9x2″ baking dish.

Bake, uncovered, at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until juices run clear.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, (I used the same skillet)  bring the vinegar to a boil.

Reduce heat; add maple syrup. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Combine cornstarch and water until smooth; add to the maple mixture.

Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Place chops on a broiler pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar.

Broil 4″ from the heat for 2-3 minutes or until sugar is melted.

Drizzle with maple glaze.

See? Doesn’t that look good? I served ours over brown rice.

A few of his favorite things

18 Jun

Don’s a great dad to his three daughters!

Happy Father’s Day to the best husband and father in the world! I know…I’m biased. I also know everyone thinks their husband is the best husband in the world! (And good for all of us who do!)

Don is a great teammate in the parenthood game. He’s my partner in every sense of the word, doing more than his share of whatever we need him to do.

One of his favorite things to do though, is cook. He loves to take requests and to cook the things we love.

The kids love coming home on Friday nights (his night to cook while we’re at Dance) to find out what surprises Daddy has cooked up (literally) for us all.

Their top favorite meal is nachos, followed by a close second of pizza and calzones.

Every once in a while, Don will get a craving of his own, and we’ll get an extra special meal from him.

So, I thought today, in honor of Father’s Day , which was just yesterday, I’d do a little photo spread of some of Don’s Favorite Things that he’s cooked up for us this past year.

Happy Father’s Day Don, and thanks for all you do!

Don’s calzones are the best around!

Nachos….a Friday night favorite!

Chicken parm, pasta and salad, thanks to Don’s craving one weekend!

Another Friday night dinner, and a special craving he had: Fish and Chips (homemade on both accounts) and a tomato/cucumber/olive salad. MMMMMMM….

My personal favorite Dinner By Don: Chicken Marsala!

And one of his own top favorite Don Meals: his chili

An empty fridge is a good sign, but there’s still work to be done!

14 Jun

Just a few days to go and the fridge is looking nice and empty. No notices, reminders, menus….nothing until the end of August! Woohhoooo!

This is my empty fridge.

Three empty magnets.

It’s my equivalent of a “Gone Fishin’ ” notice.

No lunch menus, no field trip reminders, no field day notices, no project outlines, no calendar of who has music, art or PE on which day.

Nothing. Nada. Empty.

And so it will remain empty until the end of August when school begins again.

Whew…..

Big sigh of relief.

We made it through another school year. Down to just a Few.More.Days!

Then, nothing, just like on the fridge. Well not exactly nothing….

As a former educator, I am a proponent of doing school work over the summer. We read, we write, we do math and yet we still have tons of fun.

Here’s a list of Three Ways to Prevent Summer Slide (which is the regression that kids experience when they don’t keep up with what they’ve learned during the school year, through the summer months.) It’s from Scholastic, so the focus is reading, but we do it all. You can see the full article here.

See what you can add into your summer fun to keep your kids’ brains active as well as their bodies.

THREE WAYS TO PREVENT SUMMER SLIDE

1) Six books to summer success: Research shows that reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing.

2) Read something every day: Encourage your child to take advantage of every opportunity to read. Find them throughout the day.

3) Keep reading aloud: Reading aloud benefits all children and teens, especially those who struggle.

What’s For Dinner Wednesday: Chicken, Grapes and a Dash of Karma

13 Jun

I made this recipe for the first time in January 2003 and I marked it as being “Excellent” at that time. it was just as good this time, as it was then. At least I thought so.

It’s hard to find one meal to feed five people and have all five people like it. It almost never happens. Very rarely anyway. My goal is basically to find one meal that everyone at least likes one part of.

Last week though, I thought I had a winner. I was shooting for at least four out of five “likes” on this one. It was a recipe I’d first made years ago, out of the “Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter’s Cookbook” in 2003, and we loved it. I’m sure I’ve made it since then, but not recently and not since we’ve had all three of the girls. None of them remembered ever having it before.

Liz I was pretty sure on, and Caroline I was pretty sure wouldn’t like it. She hates apple juice, but I was hoping maybe the rest of it would win her over.

(I’ll give away the ending: It didn’t.)

Alex though, was a sure thing. I had considered the ingredients as always, when planning the meal: chicken, pasta, grapes and apple juice. She likes the pasta, the apple juice and the grapes. All those things, a lot.

I served the meal. I sat back. I waited.

“So?????”  I asked them.

Don liked it, I liked it, Liz was fine with it, but I couldn’t wait to get Alex’s review. I was expecting two thumbs up.

She hated it.

And this is where the dash of karma comes in.

Chicken, grapes, pasta….karma.

I said to her, “Alex, you love everything in this! You love grapes, you love apple juice and you love pasta! How could you not love this meal?”

She said, “Mommy, I do like all those things by themselves, I do. I just don’t like all of those things touching each other.”

BAM.

I hate when my food touches. If you look back at all my recipe posts, you can always tell when the dish being photographed is mine because the food is all spread waaayyyyy apart on the plate.

She’s already a mini-me. This just seals the deal. Her food can’t touch. I’m so doomed.

In any case, the dish is really yummy, as unusual as it sounds. You can use any color grapes or a mix of more than one color. I had green so that’s what I used. Here is the recipe. Give it a try.

CHICKEN WITH GRAPES

INGREDIENTS

4 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (12 oz. total) *I used chicken tenders.

Nonstick Spray Coating

1/2 cup white grape juice, apple juice or apple cider (this time I used apple juice, the last time I used apple cider.)

1 tsp. instant chicken bouillon granules

1 tsp. cornstarch

1 cup seedless green and/or red grapes, halved

Hot cooked linguine (optional)

Fresh herb, such as oregano or thyme (optional) *I opted out.
DIRECTIONS

1. Rinse chicken; pat dry with paper towels. Spray an unheated large skillet with nonstick coating.

2. Preheat skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add chicken. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until tender and no longer pink, turning to brown evenly. Remove from skillet, keep warm.

3. Meanwhile, combine grape or apple juice or cider, bouillon granules, and cornstarch. Add to skillet. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.

4. Cook and stir two minutes more. Stir in grapes; heat through. Serve over chicken.

If desired, serve with linguine and garnish with herb. (I used wide egg noodles instead of linguine this time. No herbs.)

Taking advantage of the things around us

12 Jun

Of the six hours we spent at the Great Outdoors Pursuit event on Sunday, I think four of them were probably spent in the spray park, a huge hit with our kids.

Summer gives us a great opportunity. The weather is nice and we get the chance to be outdoors more and to explore the places around us that we don’t often have the time to explore during the hectic school year.

Our parks and recreation department has something each summer called “The Great Outdoor Pursuit,” and it consists of outdoor family events from May through August. Each event is free, lasts the day, and the locations change. Families will visit seven different outdoor state parks and forests throughout the summer if they participate in all of the events.

The Great Outdoor Pursuit “seeks to connect families with outdoor public spaces and inspire active outdoor lifestyles while educating them about environmental and health issues,” and as a recent participant in one of the events, I can say that they definitely achieved their goals!

We were able to attend an event this past Sunday and we were there from 11 am to 5pm, outdoors and active the entire day. There was swimming, boating, a spray park, archery, bounce house, and more, all day long. You could turn in any electronic devices you no longer use, in a safe and eco-friendly manner. There was plenty to do and even though the event officially ended at 3, we stayed on location for two more hours.

The day cost us nothing other than a few dollars for hot dogs but we had such a great day. The kids were exhausted by bedtime, always a good thing, and they can’t wait to visit again or to try out the next event.

We may not be able to do all of the events due to schedule conflicts during the summer, but the events are there and open to the public and free.

It’s just another example of how you can have tons of family fun on a small family budget and not be sitting inside in front of the TV, computer or video games all day long.

With just a little bit of looking around, you can find events near you that can keep your family busy and active all summer!

 

 

A word about Summer and The Whole Bag of Chips

11 Jun

We spend tons of time outdoors in the summer!

Summer is coming! School days are numbered now, down to the single digits, thankfully.

Summer is my absolute favorite time of the entire year. I love having my kids all home and I love having no set schedule. We spend lots of time together as a family, since the majority of Don’s time off as a school administrator takes place during July and part of August. It makes up for the zillions of hours he spends at work during the school year. When he went to work for a full day this past Saturday, I knew in my head that Summer is coming, and that made it an easier pill to swallow, knowing he’d be gone for the day on a weekend, normally our family time, but that soon we’ll have lots of time to spend together with him.

I started this blog on September 25 and since that time it has had over 15,000 hits. I am thrilled with the response it’s had.

However, like I said, it’s summer.

As a work-from-home-mom-writer, I find it hard to balance all the hours of computer time I have to put in with the time I want to spend with my family, but this year with them all in school all day, it was easy–I just type when they’re not here during the days, or when they’re in bed at night.

During the summer, not so much.

Therefore, during the next couple of months, until school starts again, I can make no promises as far as my blog posting schedule. Right now I post five days a week consistently, never missing a day.

I can promise you this: summer won’t be that way. I’ll be working my regular newspaper job as always, but the blog will be on hiatus temporarily, while we’re off doing our family thing.

Family First. Always.

If I have time to post I will, as often as I can, but I will not make a commitment to any type of schedule for the summer. I’m sure you all understand.

Enjoy your own summer, enjoy your kids tons and tons while you have them home. As we all know, it won’t always be that way. They won’t be little forever and we will wish we had this time again. Cherish every single minute, even the tough times. (Yes, my kids bicker constantly too.)

Happy summer!

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