Archive | February, 2013

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Nicoise Salad

27 Feb
This old favorite has made several recent appearances on our menu.

This old favorite has made several recent appearances on our menu.

About 15 years ago when we lived in New Jersey, our friends Max and Jamie introduced us to Nicoise salad (pronounced Knee-Swah). I remember Jamie telling us that it was kind of a “poor man’s meal” in France when she was studying abroad, and that she and her friends ate it often because as students they pretty much fit into that income bracket.

Poor man or not, we loved this salad, and for the longest time we had it often. It reminded me of the Italian Antipasto salad that we have on big holidays because it has a few of the same items on it, but yet it’s very different.

Then, it seemed like we didn’t have it at all for months and months and months. I guess we just kind of forgot about it! I recently remembered it when I came across another version of it somewhere, and we’ve since had it several times.

The thing I like about it as a meal option is that it’s got many components to it, so you can pick and choose what you do or do not like and leave the rest on the platter. I like every part of it, but my kids each have at least one part they don’t like.

And, being that it’s Lent, this makes a great, meatless meal for those who do not eat meat on Fridays.

Traditionally, at least as we know it, the components to the salad are:

Boiled string beans

Hard boiled eggs

Quartered, boiled red skinned potatoes (*see note below)

Black olives

Tuna

There’s a dressing that you toss on the green beans and potatoes before adding the eggs and olives on the top, and then you can add more dressing to the rest as you like.

This time we grilled the tofu on the countertop griddle, but in the past we have used a frying pan.

This time we grilled the tofu on the countertop griddle, but in the past we have used a frying pan.

*Recently however, we have changed out the potatoes and subbed in sauteed tofu. The reason is two-fold: the first is that my kids don’t eat potatoes hardly ever, so this was not a popular item in the salad. I don’t know why, and it still shocks me that they don’t like potatoes hardly at all, especially since I love them. The second reason is that we’ve been doing our very best to stay as far away from carbs as possible, and white potatoes aren’t the greatest for you. On the flip side, they love the tofu. It made me wonder the other day why we didn’t try tofu sooner, since they all love it. (Except Alex. Shocker.)

I’ve found tofu to be like a cameleon, in that it takes on the flavors of whatever you cook it with. That makes it very adaptable and very delicious. When you cook it til it’s crispy, it’s like eating homefries, but healthier.

See, I’m all about potatoes.

So anyway, the photo at the top is the salad with tofu instead of potatoes. You can try it out either way, or try it both ways and see which one you prefer! It’s really a very good-for-you type of meal and it’s light, especially with the tofu. On a day when you might have a big lunch somewhere, this is a nice, light dinner.

Dressing

3 to 1: Olive Oil to Balsamic Vinegar (You can increase this to however much you’d like.)

Equal parts honey and Dijon mustard. (We do about a teaspoon of each.)

Season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder and basil.

New friends, new recipe!

25 Feb
An exciting Kids' State Dinner reunion took place on Sunday afternoon at our house!

An exciting Kids’ State Dinner reunion took place on Sunday afternoon at our house!

Yesterday was a very exciting day!

Our new friend Debra, one of the moms from the Kids’ State Dinner, visited us at our house! She was traveling from her home in Virginia to see family in nearby Massachusetts so we were able to reconnect for a couple of hours.

Debra stopped by in time for lunch, so Don cooked up some of his yummy pizzas and a meatball calzone, and I made a new dessert.

I know that in general you shouldn’t try out a new recipe on new guests, but I thought that Debra would be okay with it, being someone herself who cooks and experiments with recipes.

Until about an hour before she arrived and I realized I was going to have to make a change to the recipe, and then at that point I got a little nervous.

But, luckily it all worked out great. We had a wonderful visit, which flew by, and before we knew it, it was time for dessert.

Debra brought us this pretty trivet, which makes a pretty backdrop for our Fudge Meltaways!

Debra brought us this pretty trivet, which makes a pretty backdrop for our pretty Fudge Meltaways!

That too, was wonderful as well.

It all ended much too soon, but luckily Debra has family here, and we have family in Virginia, so we know we’ll get to reconnect again and again.

In the meantime, here is the new dessert recipe for you. I got it from one of my cookbooks and as I write it for you I’ll explain what happened partway through and how I solved it.

Lately, I often go to the internet when I’m looking for something new to cook, but this time I grabbed a cookbook off my rack, opened up to any random page and moved a page or so beyond it, and found one to try. It ended up being a no bake recipe too, which was a bonus.

There were three layers to the recipe, so I’ll write it out and explain it layer by layer for you.

FUDGE MELTAWAYS (from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book)
INGREDIENTS

First layer.....

First layer…..

First layer:

1/2 cup butter (We used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)

1 sq. unsweetened chocolate (one ounce)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 beaten egg

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

(We did not use the next two ingredients: 1 cup coconut, 1/2 cup chopped nuts)

Second layer....

Second layer….

Second layer:

1/4 cup butter (We used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)

1 tablespoon milk or cream (We used skim milk)

2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Third (top) layer....

Third (top) layer….

Third Layer:

This was our issue. The third layer was supposed to be 1 and  1/2 squares of unsweetened chocolate, melted and spread over the top of the second layer. However, the unsweetened chocolate tastes terrible by itself and we couldn’t guarantee it’d taste any better on top of the dessert. At Caroline’s suggestion, I made a half-batch of Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook instead, and spread that across the top. It was delicious. Essentially it was almost the same as the second layer, but chocolate, but it worked.

So here is the recipe for the top layer, , so for a full recipe, double this one:

2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar

1/8 cup milk (add more as needed)

1/4 cup cocoa powder

3/4 tsp vanilla

DIRECTIONS FOR FUDGE MELTAWAYS

1) Melt 1/2 cup butter and 1 sq. chocolate in saucepan.

2) Blend in granulated sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, eggs, crumbs (and coconut and nuts if you choose to use them).

3) Mix well and press into 11×7 or 9×9 dish.

4) Refrigerate.

5) Mix 1/4 cup butter, milk, confectioners sugar, and 1 tsp. vanilla. Spread over crumb mixture.

6) Chill.

(I left this overnight before completing the top layer. )

7) Using the Better Homes and Gardens frosting recipe above, combine and spread across second layer.

8) Refrigerate and later serve.

Enjoy, but tell me, what would you have done with that third layer? Would you have served it as is? Or, would you have changed it too?

A Great Friday Snack: Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips

22 Feb
The simplest things, like these Mardi Gras masks can provide hours of fun on a week like this one!

The simplest things, like these Mardi Gras masks can provide hours of fun on a week like this one!

Happy Friday everyone!

I hope you all had a great week! We’re finishing off February Vacation week here and it’s flown by, despite the fact that we had no set plans really.

We got to see real, live raptors VERY close up on Wednesday afternoon at the library. Very. Close.Up.

We got to see real, live raptors VERY close up on Wednesday afternoon at the library. Very. Close.Up.

We had a great week it turns out, thanks to the Cranston Public Library. We went there on Wednesday to return our books and realized that there were lots of great programs lined up for this week: a great Raptor program from a local wildlife preserve (Born to be Wild Nature Center in Bradford, RI) and the showing of a movie we had not yet seen, were the two things we took advantage of.

Little things like that give the kids something to look forward to and make the week go by.  And, it gives them the chance to take out new library books. We came home Wednesday with a new slew of books for them to read. Gotta love that too.

Best of all, those activities are all free, from the reading to the raptors to the movie.

Gotta love that even more.

They sounded like rock stars on Tuesday afternoon!

They sounded like rock stars on Tuesday afternoon!

We also had the opportunity to participate in a fun recording session at Reel to Real Recording Studio right here in Cranston. The girls were singing like rock stars for the whole afternoon on Tuesday. If you’ve never been there, it’s great fun so check it out!

We had a great time talking all about our trip and showing lots of photos and memorabilia.

We had a great time talking all about our trip and showing lots of photos and memorabilia.

And finally, we made a visit to Grandma Grello’s assisted living facility, where we got the Mardi Gras masks and matching bead necklaces too, and where Caroline presented her power point presentation about the Kids State Dinner trip.  It was her second such presentation in one week’s time and she did a great job with it, as usual. Reliving that trip is always amazing for us and the audience really enjoyed the presentation. Even better, it sparked some great conversation from the residents about their memories of Washington DC., some dating back to WWII. Living history: a privilege for us to be a part of.

Below is a great Friday recipe for you, taken from the blog, The Girl Who Ate Everything.  We made this on Valentine’s Day but it makes a great after school snack and actually we had leftovers and my kids put it on their homemade waffles this weekend too.

We had barely any of the awesome fruits they have in their recipe below, but we made it work anyway. I used a red apple, a green apple and a green pear and they ate it right up. It’s super colorful, and I always love colorful foods.  I think it’s a plus when you can adapt a recipe to suit what you have on hand and it still comes out great.

So whether you are looking for something for an after school snack or something for vacation week’s end, this is a great choice for you!

This was a great, healthy snack. We used fat free tortillas and sugar free jelly.

This was a great, healthy snack. We used fat free tortillas, fat free cooking spray and sugar free jelly.

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips

Ingredients

    • 2 kiwis, peeled and diced
    • 2 Golden Delicious apples – peeled, cored and diced
    • 8 ounces raspberries
    • 1 (16 oz) carton of strawberries, diced
    • 2 tablespoons white sugar (more or less to taste)
    • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (more or less to taste)
    • 3 tablespoons fruit preserves, any flavor (I used strawberry)
    • 10 (10 inch) flour tortillas
    • melted butter or butter flavored cooking spray
Cinnamon sugar:
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix kiwis, apples, raspberries, strawberries, white sugar, brown sugar and fruit preserves. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes.
  2. It didn't matter that we didn't have the exact fruits listed in the recipe. We used what was on hand and it was great!

    It didn’t matter that we didn’t have the exact fruits listed in the recipe. We used what was on hand and it was great!

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  3. Coat one side of each flour tortilla with melted butter or butter flavored cooking spray. Sprinkle tortillas with desired amount of cinnamon sugar. Cut into wedges and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Spray again with cooking spray (not necessary if using melted butter).
  4. Bake in the preheated oven 8 to 10 minutes. Repeat with any remaining tortilla wedges. Allow to cool approximately 15 minutes. Serve with chilled fruit mixture. This salsa can also be served with cinnamon graham crackers or cinnamon pita chips. Best when made and eaten the same day otherwise the fruit gives off too much juice and it gets runny.

Notes

Source: Allrecipes

What’s For Dinner Wednesday: Cream of Broccoli Soup

20 Feb
This soup is perfect for a cold winter day!

This soup is perfect for a cold winter day!

We have had some pretty chilly days this winter. Some days there’s nothing that hits the spot like a hot bowl of soup, and I’m a huge fan of creamy soups, which is why today’s post is a favorite of mine.

The other reason it’s a favorite is that it brings back memories, and I love recipes that remind me of the past.

This recipe is from my college roommate Karen, from the cookbook she made for me when we graduated.  The thing is, I can distinctly remember a time when we were roommates that I had a terrible sore throat and laryngitis.

Karen made me this soup. I can picture myself sitting at our kitchen table that day, eating her soup. Every time I eat broccoli soup actually, I think of that day.

And a few weeks ago when I made the soup, I thought once again, of that day.

This was the first time I actually made the soup. I’ve never been very brave with soups before, I’ve mostly left them to Don other than a basic chicken soup. But since my friend Paula’s My Soup For You blog has been in existence, I’ve gotten very brave and I’ve since made several soups. In fact, she and I each made a version of a cream of broccoli soup within a day of each other and we didn’t even know it.

As far as my family goes, Caroline and I loved this soup the most. Between the two of us, we enjoyed it over several days’ time, and she liked coming home and having a mug of it after school on cold afternoons.

Here is the recipe for Karen’s Cream of Broccoli Soup. I hope it warms you up on a cold winter’s day!

I used fresh broccoli for my soup.

I used fresh broccoli for my soup.

CREAM OF BROCCOLI SOUP
INGREDIENTS

6 cups chopped broccoli

3 and 1/2 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup flour

2 cups skim milk

1 tsp. butter

8 oz. cheddar cheese, cubed (I used fat free cheddar, shredded.)

Although I used a blender for this, it was definitely more of a food processor recipe, and I didn't use ours!

Although I used a blender for this, it was definitely more of a food processor recipe, and I didn’t use ours!

DIRECTIONS

Simmer broccoli in chicken broth until tender.

Remove bulk of broccoli and in blender or food processor, process the broccoli, onion and celery until smooth. Set aside.

Combine milk and flour in a separate container until dissolved.

Slowly add to broth, stirring until it begins to thicken.

Add puree, butter, salt and pepper to taste.

Stir until it begins to simmer.

Add cheese and stir until melted.

It’s February Vacation Week: Welcome [Back] to the Jungle!

18 Feb
Vacation week idea: Let them write on all your windows, mirrors and doors!

Vacation week idea: Let them write on all your windows, mirrors and doors!

Not every school system has February Vacation Week, but ours does. A lot of people dread vacation weeks, but I look forward to the break. I like having my kids home with me and I like the break from all the stress and running around.

At work, Don gets a lot done through the week while the school building is quiet and it airs out from all the flu and virus germs that fill it all winter.

However, if you’re home for the week you may be looking for ways to fill the time. I find that no matter what, the week flies by, but it helps to have some fun little ideas in your back pocket, just to be safe.

Valentine’s Day was just last week so we have received some new games, crafts and activities which will be perfect for this week. As with last year’s Welcome to the Jungle posts, I’ve decided to feature some of the things we’re doing throughout the week, passing along any fun ideas to you.

Today’s activity idea is one that may or may not shock you: if your kids are bored, let them draw on all your windows, mirrors and glass doors!

Yup, that’s right: day one and I’ve already lost my mind.

Fun gift idea and February Vacation activity!

Fun gift idea and February Vacation activity!

Elizabeth received a new activity as a Valentine’s Gift from my mom and dad this weekend. The Crayola Crystal Effects Window Markers were an instant hit when the girls opened them up. We let them use any glass surface: windows, mirrors and the sliding glass door served as their canvasses.

It was so awesome.

The mirror in our bathroom is huge, a perfect place to try out the new markers.

The mirror in our bathroom is huge, a perfect place to try out the new markers.

The way the markers work is simple: you write on your chosen glass surface and then watch as right before your eyes the regular-looking marker turns into a beautiful crystalized image.

As you watch, it actually looks as if the image is moving while it changes. It’s very, very cool.

We had friends over on Sunday with kids of their own and we let the girls take out the markers while their friends were here and they all seemed to have a blast with them, even the one boy out of the group had a great time, so it’s definitely something a boy would enjoy also.

The one issue we had with using the markers in the bathroom was that we left the artwork up during showers.

Ooops.

It all dripped down the mirror and we had to take it off and start over again. It actually says on the box not to use it in a high humidity area, such as a bathroom. But, our bathroom mirror is so huge, we did it again anyway, but this time we’ll wash it off before the next shower.

You can see how the writing goes on like a regular-looking marker before turning to the crystal effects.

You can see how the writing goes on like a regular-looking marker before turning to the crystal effects.

Which leads me to my next tip: taking off the artwork.

You can take it off very simply with a wet paper towel, followed by a dry one to wipe off any remaining residue. Those are the instructions on the box, and it worked just as they said.

Mirrors seemed to be the best option for us because the windows tend to be cold, at least in the winter, and the crystal effects take longer to work when the glass is cold.

Mirrors seemed to be the best option for us because the windows tend to be cold, at least in the winter, and the crystal effects take longer to work when the glass is cold.

I’d definitely keep this in my arsenal of birthday gift ideas for the future, it was lots of fun and it’s a gift that they can use over and over again, each time with a different result.

Although I don’t know the cost of these, I am pretty sure I’ll be able to find them in my local craft store, and most likely be able to use a coupon for them there.

I think these markers have tons of potential in our house! I can foresee writing special birthday messages on mirrors or windows, or writing fun messages for special house guests when they visit our home, the way we write on our message boards and chalk boards.

If you’ve ever used the Crayola Crystal Effects Window Markers yourself and you have any fun tips or activities to share, leave a comment and let us know! We have all week to experiment with them!

Our bathroom has a mirrored medicine cabinet and a huge mirror, double the fun!

Our bathroom has a mirrored medicine cabinet and a huge mirror, double the fun!

Happy Birthday Bella!

15 Feb
Happy Birthday Bella!

Happy Birthday Bella!

Today is Bella’s third birthday!

If you’ve been a reader since waaayyyyy back when, you may remember my first post about Bella. When I started my blog, we had just recently gotten her.

Bella was 18 months old when we got her, and today she is three.

Last year for her birthday we got her some new toys. However, being the punky kind of dog she is, she’s often rough on her toys, pulling off the eyes, ripping out the stuffing.

This year, rather than spending money on toys that end up in the trash soon after, we decided to give her a different kind of gift.

We decided to bake her some homemade dog biscuits.

My friend from my Stampin’ Up! days, Lucia Kaiser, has a blog called Lucia in the Kitchen, and I often see her posts on Facebook. Recently she posted a recipe for homemade dog biscuits. I sent it to myself for future reference. I knew one day it’d come in handy.

Today is that day. Valentine’s Day and the day before Bella’s birthday.

Lucia’s recipe was quick and easy, just like I like my people food recipes to be. I had everything for it and it was easy to set each of the girls up with their own pile of dough and let them go to town with cookie cutters, making Bella her very own cookies.

Here is Lucia’s recipe from her blog. If you have a dog and you’d like to make him or her some special treats, I recommend this recipe!

All healthy ingredients for Bella's birthday gifts!

All healthy ingredients for Bella’s birthday gifts!

Homemade Dog Biscuits
Ingredients

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
One scoop of dough for each daughter to make her own biscuits for Bella.

One scoop of dough for each daughter to make her own biscuits for Bella.

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, wheat germ and cinnamon. Stir in the water, peanut butter, egg and oil. On a floured surface, roll dough to 1/4-in. thickness. Cut with a 3-in. bone-shaped cookie cutter.

Place 2-in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned (tops may crack). Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 31 dog biscuits.

Editor’s Note: Reduced-fat peanut butter is not recommended for this recipe.
Nutritional Facts 1 dog biscuit equals 61 calories, 3 g fat (trace saturated fat), 7 mg cholesterol, 12 mg sodium, 8 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein.
Lots of different cookie cutters to choose from.

Lots of different cookie cutters to choose from.

We filled at least three or four trays with dog biscuits!

We filled at least three or four trays with dog biscuits!

Happy Birthday Bella!

Happy Birthday Bella!

What’s For Dinner Wednesday: Choose-Your-Own Chicken

13 Feb
They say life is like a box of chocolates.

They say life is like a box of chocolates.

It’s the day before Valentine’s Day and do I have a gift for you!

It’s not a recipe, per se, but rather an idea that might save you some frustration at dinner time in your house too.

A few weeks back, maybe a month ago, we came up with Choose-Your-Own-Chicken for dinner.

Here’s what it is and here’s how it happened:

One night, we were contemplating our dinner plans and Don and I really wanted what we call “California Chicken,” which is a grilled chicken with melted cheese and avocado. It’s a meal we really enjoy. (By the way, you can add sprouts to the top if you’d like.)

We’re the only ones who really enjoy it. If given the opportunity, I’d eat an entire avocado myself, but I think I might be the only one who loves avocado that much.

Back to my story.

We wanted California Chicken for dinner and no one else did. I came up with a plan: let’s make it for us and then cook up a bunch of plain chicken tenderloins without the cheese and avocado and put out some other toppings and dips to choose from.

Kind of like a chicken buffet.

Or, like a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Everyone chooses the one they like the best and then everyone is happy.

So that’s what we did.

Our toppings included barbeque sauce, duck sauce, and ketchup. If one so desired, they could opt for nothing at all on their chicken and just eat it plain.

It’s nothing so amazing, but it really worked out well for us. We were happy, everyone was happy.

In general we won’t make five separate dinners, but we found a way to make one dinner work for five people’s tastes.

So that my friends and loyal readers, is my Valentine’s gift to you: Choose-Your-Own-Chicken.

Enjoy!

Monday Musings: The Blizzard of 2013: The long and short of it and all the in between

11 Feb
On Friday morning it didn't seem like the snow was going to do a whole lot.

On Friday morning it didn’t seem like the snow was going to do a whole lot.

I’m sitting here right now as I type this, watching the Grammy’s with my family. The TV is on and the lights are on. Most importantly, the heat is on and running.

We survived the Blizzard of 2013, Nemo, relatively unscathed. As a native New Englander, I have memories of the Blizzard of 1978, unnamed as it was, and was excited for my kids to have memories of their own of such an event; something for them to tell their children about the way I speak of 1978.

Leading up to the blizzard last week, the reports were flowing in. This was going to be the biggest winter storm in years. Loads of snow, big drifts, high winds and power outages. The meteorologists were having a field day.

I was excited. Stressed. Worried. Excited. Prepared. Nervous. Excited.

On Wednesday night, two days before the snow started, the shelves at the grocery store were already empty. The parking lot-chock full.

On Wednesday night, two days before the snow started, the shelves at the grocery store were already empty. The parking lot-chock full.

I spent much of Thursday running around in between covering stories, getting everything we’d be needing for the storm and everything for which my coupons would be expiring over the weekend, so that by Thursday night I was pretty exhausted, but we were ready. I saw crazy lines at the gas station and in the grocery stores. The shelves were empty on Wednesday night, the night before-the night before the storm.

School was canceled for Friday right out of the gate. So we got up Friday morning and did everything we could to be ready and the day passed pretty uneventfully as the snow began to pile up. We knew the worst of the storm was going to be on Friday night, overnight.  We were expecting hurricane-force winds and we knew we’d be most likely losing power during one of the coldest months of the year.

But by Friday night at bedtime we had 13" of snow...and then the power went out.

By Friday night at bedtime we had 13″ of snow…and then the power went out.

Sure enough, the power went off at 9:00 pm on Friday night. Just prior to that time, the winds had really picked up. It was howling and the snow was coming in sideways. The one little tree in our yard was banging against the front of our house.

We saw blue lightning, and then green and red and pink.

Friday night first night no powerIt was crazy exciting and scary all at the same time. Once the power went off we knew we’d be having the Family Campout right in the middle of our living room. We brought out the sleeping bags for the kids, as well as every blanket we owned, and set them up in the middle, with us on the two couches on either side of them.

When we woke up on Saturday morning, it was stunning outside, to say the least. And freezing cold inside. It had gone down from my toasty 72 degrees to 58 degrees in our house. Brrr….

The branches of our bushes in the backyard were weighed down with the weight of the snow that had fallen overnight.

The branches of our bushes in the backyard were weighed down with the weight of the snow that had fallen overnight.

And outside, so much snow. On our deck alone, where I’d been doing my measuring every hour or two, we were now up to 21″ of snow, but in other spots there was as much as three feet of snow. Our driveway was so full of snow it was hard to even see the cars, and the snow came right up to our front door.

coffee preppedWe started to dig out a little as Don went out snowblowing and I started to dig in to our blizzard preparations. I had filled two thermoses the night before: one with regular and one with decaf coffee; a must if I was going to face the day with a smile.

Since we had no electricity I threw together a quick Blizzard Breakfast Trail Mix and made the kids some hot chocolate while they played The Game of Life. We started getting a steady stream of texts from family and friends, checking in. I laughed as some of our information about the local goings-on were coming in from around the country. Not having smart phones, we couldn’t easily access the internet, but we were thankful for those who could, keeping us updated.

Blizzard Nemo Trail Mix

Blizzard Nemo Trail Mix: Chex, chocolate chips, craisins and marshmallows.

We passed the day on Friday planning our next meal. Between the two of us we’d purchased all “on top of the stove” items to eat, since we are lucky enough to have a gas stove (and gas heated hot water also) and we would be able to prepare hot foods.  In between his trips outside to snow blow, Don made a soup on top of the stove.

Having a gas stove helped us to heat our house for two days.

Having a gas stove helped us to heat our house for two days.

Doing so made our house heat up several degrees. We got a phone call with a tip from a neighbor which made lots of sense: if you boil water on your stove it will heat up your house. Having seen success with the hot soup, we decided to try it. Sure enough, our house stayed at a steamy 72 degrees as long as we kept the water boiling.

Keeping the water running kept the pipes from bursting, at least we think that's what kept the pipes from bursting.

Keeping the water running kept the pipes from bursting, at least we think that’s what kept the pipes from bursting.

By the end of Saturday, we had condensation dripping down the walls of our entire house. But we were warm! We also kept our water running, trickling really, just a bit, all the time with the hopes that our pipes would not freeze.

It must’ve worked, they did not freeze. I think that was what worried me most going into the storm. It was going to be eight degrees overnight on Saturday night. With no power, I was worried about being cold, and bursting pipes.

In the memory-making category, we tried to do fun things with the kids so that they’d be remembering this blizzard for years to come, other than for the fact that our walls dripped with condensation for two days.

Saturday night's dinner by candlelight: turkey hot dogs, turkey burgers, and veggies.

Saturday night’s dinner by candlelight: turkey hot dogs, turkey burgers, and veggies.

We played games: Life, Scrabble, Symbol Simon.

We played with gymp; made keychains and braids.

We ate by lantern light at night, had hot chocolate each morning to warm up, did dishes at night by flashlight, even went out and watched a movie in the car while sitting in our driveway (charging cell phones at the same time) and slept in the living room every night.

By Sunday morning, we were more than ready for the lights and heat to come on, but we were still doing okay. The kids played in the snow, enjoying the very best part of a good snowstorm: sledding. We thought about the possibility of heading somewhere to shower, to get warmer (without all the steam), but we were really doing okay.

Lots of snow to sled in!

Lots of snow to sled in!

And in the back of my mind, I really didn’t want to leave the whole thing. I wanted my kids to have those memories like I had. In 1978 we had no power for a week. We didn’t leave. Of course, we had a fireplace, but still, a whole week without power. Yikes.

On Sunday afternoon we had just finished showers (warm ones but no hair dryers) and we were in the living room contemplating our next meal, when all of a sudden….the lights came back on. A day earlier than we’d been told by the utility company, and earlier than some other RI residents not quite as lucky.

Just like that.

It was all over.

The kids’ very first question: “Can we still sleep in the living room?”

*Success.*

Below are a few more photos from the weekend.

Enjoy!

Even Bella was chilly on Sunday morning. Outside it was just eight degrees.

Even Bella was chilly on Sunday morning. Outside it was just eight degrees.

Hot chocolate in sleeping bags every morning in the living room.

Hot chocolate in sleeping bags every morning in the living room.

Even under the overhang outside our front door, the snow came right up to the door.

Even under the overhang outside our front door, the snow came right up to the door.

The good thing about losing power in the winter: we just put everything outside to keep it cold. A few things froze, but otherwise we were in good shape and didn't really lose any food.

The good thing about losing power in the winter: we just put everything outside to keep it cold. A few things froze, but otherwise we were in good shape and didn’t really lose any food.

We could not even see the cars in the driveway on Saturday morning.

We could not even see the cars in the driveway on Saturday morning.

Took half the day for Don to uncover one car and snow blow half the driveway.

Took half the day for Don to uncover one car and snow blow half the driveway.

Even Samantha, American Girl, was chilly. Gloves were in order, apparently.

Even Samantha, American Girl, was chilly. Gloves were in order, apparently.

Snowing sideways on Friday night. 75 mph winds.

Caroline got this great shot on her iPod touch: It was snowing sideways on Friday night. 75 mph winds.

The Game of Life played in sleeping bags to stay warm.

The Game of Life played in sleeping bags to stay warm.

Our Sunday night reward for making it through the days without power: Chocolate Fondue!

Our Sunday night reward for making it through the days without power: Chocolate Fondue!

A Chocolaty Chinese New Year Dessert

8 Feb
Gramma's Haystacks

My mom’s dessert was chocolaty and delicious!

I cannot take credit for today’s dessert.

My mom brought these for dessert to our house last weekend after bringing another tray of them to a Chinese New Year party the week before, and she has shared the recipe with me.

In fact, it was her idea to use the Chinese New Year theme on my blog this week, and I took it and ran with it. Alex’s salad yesterday was a perfect addition to my main dish and Mom’s dessert.

My Grandma Rose makes something very similar to these with the chocolate and the noodles and sometimes she puts chocolate and walnuts. These are a little bit different, using the chocolate, but adding butterscotch and cashews along with the noodles.

Really depending on your own personal preferences, you can use just about anything you want in them: peanuts, marshmallows, dried cranberries, raisins.

And really, isn’t anything covered in chocolate just perfect?

I’ll warn you though: it’s hard to eat just one of these. There’s something about the combination of the salty and the sweet that makes you want to eat several of them. It’s a slippery slope, taking that first bite!

Thanks to Mom for bringing dessert and sharing the recipe with me, and thanks to Grandma Rose for sharing these with me over the years!

CHOCOLATY CHINESE NOODLES
INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups butterscotch chips (or choose your own ingredient)
One 10 oz. bag of Chinese noodles
1 1/2 cups cashews (or walnuts or peanuts)

DIRECTIONS

Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips in glass bowl in microwave or in sauce pan on top of the stove.

Add Chinese noodles and nuts, as well as any other optional ingredients, mixing well.

Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper.

Cool until completely hardened.

Enjoy!

 

Bonus Post: Continuing the Celebration for Chinese New Year: Alex’s Sunshine Salad

7 Feb
This salad was so delicious and Alexandra was so excited that it was her recipe!

This salad was so delicious and Alexandra was so excited that it was her recipe!

We have the tiniest kitchen, and there are five of us, and every single one of us likes to cook and be in the kitchen. Oftentimes I try to limit it to one daughter at a time helping out in there, just because of space limitations.

This week, Alexandra got her High Five magazine in the mail and immediately looked in the Table of Contents to see this month’s recipe.

“Oooohhh this looks good!!” she said.

Sure enough, the recipe did look good, a recipe for an oriental salad which they called Sunshine Salad. We actually had everything for it, even the Chinese Noodles, which we normally would not have on hand.

So that night, it was Alexandra’s turn in the kitchen. Everyone else, step away.

She wanted to be here today when I typed this, but I said she would be at school so she said to be sure to let everyone know that the salad included a homemade dressing.

That she made.

By herself.

This salad was great, and we’d definitely make it again. Everyone loved the addition of the noodles and the mandarin oranges, which they all love. It was quick and easy to make. I chopped the lettuce up for her, but she put everything else in the bowl and made the dressing.

Our nifty container for the dressing is from The Pampered Chef and we use it for all our homemade dressings. It has a pour spout and a whisk at the bottom, helpful for mixing up those oils and vinegars.

Here is the recipe for Alex’s Sunshine Salad from High Five.

Enjoy!

Ingredients were appropriately placed in Dora, Little People and Strawberry Shortcake bowls for easy management.

Ingredients were appropriately placed in Dora, Little People and Strawberry Shortcake bowls for easy management.

SUNSHINE SALAD
INGREDIENTS

4 cups mixed lettuce greens (we use Romaine)

11 ounce an of mandarin oranges (we opened and drained three little cups of them)

1/4 cup crispy rice noodles

2 tablespoons slivered almonds

1/4 cup sunflower seeds (I skipped this. All we had were the ones in the shells and I was not going to sit and open up a quarter cup of them one seed at a time, but they would be a great addition to the salad.)

DRESSING

2 Tablespoons light brown sugar

3 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar

1/4 cup vegetable oil (we used olive oil)

A very easy salad to prepare, and very quick too!

A very easy salad to prepare, and very quick too!

DIRECTIONS

Wash and dry lettuce greens.

Tear the lettuce into bite sized pieces.

Put the greens, rice noodles, almonds, oranges and sunflower seeds in a large bowl.

Put the brown sugar, rice vinegar and oil into a jar.

Shake or stir to mix the dressing.

Pour the dressing over the salad. Use tongs to gently toss the salad.

So proud! Enjoy your salad and Happy Chinese New Year!

So proud! Enjoy your salad and Happy Chinese New Year!

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