Archive | June, 2013

Fun Friday: Elizabeth’s Lunches

28 Jun
Elizabeth's cookbook of choice

Elizabeth’s cookbook of choice

We’ve often described Elizabeth’s taste as being very mature for her age. She often likes things that surprise us, things that we think other kids her age may not like. It’s exciting to see her try new things, but it’s often challenging to pack her lunch because she’s not a fan of your typical, quick and easy pb&j sandwich.

Last year at some point, she spent one of her Barnes & Noble gift cards on a new cookbook, “The Lunch Box,” filled with unique lunchtime meals. I think she figured if she bought it, we’d make all the things in it for her lunch box.

It was a good thought, but she still ended up with a lot of the more typical lunches we put out each morning- turkey, pb&j, nutella, salad.

Poor Liz.

"The Lunch Box" was not the only cookbook Elizabeth had tabbed for me to start trying some new recipes this summer.

“The Lunch Box” was not the only cookbook Elizabeth had tabbed for me to start trying some new recipes this summer.

But, as the school year came to a close and summer began, Elizabeth came to me with the lunch box cookbook and showed me “a few” of the pages she’d tabbed that sounded good to her. She asked me if we could spend the summer trying out some of these lunches, and I agreed we could. She then showed me a few other cookbooks she’d tabbed a few other pages in.

Just a few.

This might take me more than one summer. Like five.

But, keeping my word, we tried the first recipe Elizabeth picked out, a Tuna & White Bean Salad. She even added in her own ingredient: sliced black olives.

She loved it. I made some for Don, he loved it. I even tried it myself, I loved it. I served some as one of the lunchtime options at a playdate and even they loved it. That’s recipe success in my book.

And so today, for my first real summertime Fun Friday post, here is the first fun lunchtime recipe we tried out of Liz’s cookbook. We’ve tried three or four more, and since I always find lunchtime meals to be particularly challenging, I’ll be sharing more of the recipes with you in the future as well.

In trying this recipe we have found that both cut-up triangles of pita pocket bread or crunchy tortilla chips make a good side with this. You can either put it in the bread, or use the bread or chips to scoop it up. You can eat it with a fork or in a sandwich or wrap. It’s a very versatile tuna salad!

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The very first recipe we tried from Elizabeth’s cookbook: Tuna & White Bean Salad

Tuna & White Bean Salad

from “The Lunch Box”

“In a small container with a tight-fitting lid, combine 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard. Add equal parts canned white beans, rinsed and drained, and canned tuna, drained and flaked. Sprinkle with minced celery and onion. Cover and shake to combine. Season with salt and pepper.”

Enjoy!!

Fun Friday: Kale Chips

21 Jun
These were a fun after school snack!

These really were a fun after school snack!

Kale doesn’t sound all that fun does it?

It really doesn’t. But, I’ve chosen it for my Fun Friday post today for several reasons.

First: We had Kale Chips at the White House for the first Kids’ State Dinner last August. That whole entire trip was fun, including trying the Kale Chips which were from Samuel Wohabe, age 9, from New York.

Second: The newest winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge were just announced yesterday! The Rhode Island winner, Samantha Mastrati, is from Cranston and a friend of ours! She will have so much fun on her trip!

Finally: These were a fun after school snack for the girls to try out. Although Caroline had them and enjoyed them on the trip, no one else had, so I thought this would be a fun snack to share with them.

To make these is super-easy. I bought one bunch of kale for just over a dollar at the store and it made lots of chips!

The prep instructions are minimal and the cook time is quick. Within minutes you have ahealthy, crunchy snack.

Here, according to Samuel’s instructions is the recipe for Kale Chips.

Coat, toss and bake!

Coat, toss and bake!

KALE CHIPS

INGREDIENTS:

1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves
torn into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

On a large nonstick baking pan, drizzle the kale with olive oil, season with salt, and toss until
evenly coated.

Bake until crispy, about 15 minutes.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Miss Meg’s Marinade

19 Jun
In honor of Meg's last week, a recipe from her to me.

In honor of Meg’s last week, a recipe from her to me.

“What’s for Dinner Wednesday” is my editor Meg’s brainchild. As my blog was in its infancy, it was Meg who asked me if I’d like to do a weekly post with my recipes for the Cranston Herald’s Facebook page.

Of course I said yes, and “What’s for Dinner Wednesday” was born.

This Friday is Meg’s last day at the Cranston Herald as she has gotten an exciting new job, working as the press secretary for our  Congressman, James Langevin.

We will miss her soooo much. So, so much. Meg is a wonderful editor, a wonderful boss. A great listener and someone who knows just what to say, how to say it, and when.

Did I mention that we’ll miss her?

Recently, Meg passed along a recipe to me for a new marinade. She found it on Allrecipes.com and said she thought we’d like it a lot and that it was easy. I said I’d try it soon, and just in time for her last “What’s for Dinner Wednesday” post, we did.

And yes, we liked it a lot.

So today, in honor of Miss Meg’s last day at work this week, I am sharing with you the recipe she shared with us.

Thank you Meg for all you’ve done and best of luck in your future! I know you will go far!

Remember to save a little bit for basting later on!

Remember to save a little bit for basting later on!

Miss Meg’s Honey Marinade

originally from Allrecipes.com

INGREDIENTS

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

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves cut into 1″  cubes (I used chicken tenderloin and cut them into 1″ cubes.)

2 cloves garlic

5 small onions, cut into 2″ pieces

Skewers

You can add bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, or anything you’d like to your skewers!

Marinade first, skewer second.

Marinade first, skewer second. Ready to grill!

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, honey, soy sauce, and pepper. Before adding chicken, reserve a small amount of marinade to brush onto kabobs while cooking. Place the chicken, garlic, onions and peppers in the bowl, and marinate in the refrigerator at least 2 hours (the longer the better).
  2. Preheat the grill for high heat.
  3. Drain marinade from the chicken and vegetables, and discard marinade. Thread chicken and vegetables alternately onto the skewers.
  4. Lightly oil the grill grate. Place the skewers on the grill. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until chicken juices run clear. Turn and brush with reserved marinade frequently.

Monday Musings: Change is good.

17 Jun
Time marches on.

Time marches on.

This time of year is a hectic one for those of us who work in schools, and as an education reporter, June is by far one of the most hectic times of all. However, one of the things I enjoy about June in particular, is the fact that I am asked to cover many types of graduations, moving up, moving on and farewell celebrations.

In the past ten days or so, I was blessed to witness a fifth and sixth grade farewell, a preschool graduation, a fifth-grade farewell, a middle school honors night and two high school graduations. At each one I really had no connection to any of the people being honored and yet I had goosebumps at every event, and felt my eyes well up on more than one occasion.

For you see, at each event, as I watch the parents and the students enjoying their special moments,  I am reminded of my own family and of my own life as a parent.

I am reminded that no matter how hard we try, how hard we hope and pray that time will slow down and maybe even stop for a bit, that life marches on and every day, every beginning and every end of the school year, brings forth change of some kind.

And I try to remind myself that change is good, that these are celebrations and happy times.

Each day as I watch my oldest walk out the door to the school bus, I can still see her on the very first day of kindergarten, getting onto that bus in her little sandals, with her backpack on her shoulders. As I sat at the middle school honors night last week, I watched the students who will be leaving middle school for high school and realized that next year that will be her.

Where does the time go?

I think I sang “Six Little Ducks Went out to Play”  the loudest at the preschool graduation last week, as I thought of my baby, going into third grade next year. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were at her preschool graduation? Weren’t we just singing that song for each one of them at their own special preschool ceremonies?

I watched this year’s fifth-graders say farewell to their elementary school last week, it struck me that my middle daughter is going to be there in a blink as she moves onto fifth grade next fall. I am thankful that our school goes up to sixth grade for elementary school because I know I won’t be ready for her to say goodbye to elementary school just yet when next June rolls around.

I need more time.

But it is the high school graduations each, that hit me like a ton of bricks every year. We are moving so quickly towards that goal and I sit there every year thinking that soon this will be us. That soon these will be our daughters graduating high school and then college.

My dad recently told me that my college graduation was “one of those moments” that is forever burned in his brain. The sight of me walking with all the other grads into the ceremony is one he said he’ll never forget.

I don’t know if I can wrap my head the fact that these types of milestones will soon be our own. I don’t know if I can stand it.

But as I listened to each of the graduation speakers this weekend, both students and dignitaries, the resounding theme to each of them was change.

And how change is inevitable, but that change is good.

And so, as another graduation season comes to a close, all I can do is take their word for it.

Fun Friday: “Cook-A-Doodle-Doo!” A story and an activity for you!

14 Jun
This is a great summer read for you and your family!

This is a great summer read for you and your family!

It’s strawberry season!

Strawberries are one of my all-time favorite fruits no matter what time of year, but in the summertime they are extra delicious! I love to pick them, cook with them and to eat them!

Strawberries are great whether cooked or fresh, and of course, there is nothing like a great Strawberry Shortcake to top off any summer meal!

Last year, my friend Sue brought a book over to my house called “Cook-A-Doodle-Doo!” and it’s a perfect story for this time of year. The story is by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel and is illustrated by Janet Stevens.

In the story, the rooster is on a mission to find something better to eat than chicken feed. He enlists the help of several of his animal friends to cook his granny’s Magnificent Strawberry Shortcake.

Through many twists and turns in the kitchen, the group, who is new to cooking and baking, maneuvers through the recipe’s instructions, learning the true meaning behind such things as beating eggs and cutting butter.

One thing that I love about the story is the fact that in the margins of the pages these terms are explained for the young readers so that they can understand more about the ingredients and how they are used. As cute and humorous as the story is, it’s a learning experience for the reader as well.

But the best part of all? At the end of this fabulous story is the recipe for Rooster’s “Great-Granny’s Magnificent Strawberry Shortcake” and it’s a perfect way to end the story, by baking together with the kids, and of course, by eating the fruits of your labor!

I won’t give away the rest of the story, nor will I give away the recipe here. I hope that you’ll gather your family, your ingredients, and get a hold of “Cook-A-Doodle-Doo!” so that you can enjoy some good times in the kitchen this summer!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Balsamic Chicken with Rosemary (A South Beach recipe)

12 Jun
This was both simple and delicious!

This was both simple and delicious!

This is a recipe we tried and liked some time back. It’s a South Beach Diet recipe and it was simple, easy and delicious! At this time of year we need quick and easy with all of the end-of-year meetings and events, so I pulled this recipe out again. In this photo, ours is served with couscous and a sauteed vegetable medley of broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini.

BALSAMIC CHICKEN

From the South Beach Diet Book

INGREDIENTS

6 Boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced or 1/2 teaspoon dried

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 – 6 tablespoons white wine (optional)

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Refrigerate overnight.

Refrigerate overnight.

DIRECTIONS

Rinse the chicken and pat dry.

Combine the rosemary, garlic, pepper and salt in a small bowl and mix well.

Place the chicken in a large bowl. Drizzle with the oil, and rub with the spice mixture.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Spray a heavy roasting pan or iron skillet with cooking spray. Place the chicken in the pan and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken over.

If the drippings begin to stick to the pan, stir in 3-4 tablespoons water (or white wine if using).

Bake about ten minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the portion registers 160 degrees and the juices run clear. If the pan is dry, stir in another 1-2 tablespoons of water or white wine to loosen drippings.

Drizzle the vinegar over the chicken in the pan.

Transfer the chicken to plates. Stir the liquid in the pan and drizzle over chicken.

Serves six

Per serving: 183 calories, 26 g. protein, 4 g. carbohydrates, 6 g. fat, 1 g. saturated fat, 270 mg. sodium, 65 mg. cholesterol, 0 g. fiber

Monday Musings: An only child for a day

10 Jun

This past Saturday two out of three kids had plans for the day. The whole, entire day.

One did not. Elizabeth had the whole day off.

Don had a lawn to cut, a pool to clean, gutters to fix, a garden to weed.

I had a list a mile long of things I needed to pick up from all over the place.

She had two very not-exciting agendas to choose from: his or mine. She chose to hang with me for the day, which suited me just fine. It’s not often that I get a ton of one-on-one time with my kids that does not involve a visit to a doctor’s office followed by a field trip to CVS for a prescription for whatever the illness of the day is, and even that is sometimes a package deal.

So even though we had lots of errands to do, I was hopeful that she’d still enjoy her day. I joked with her that she was an only child for the day, and off we went.

We started out with a fast food lunch at the location of her choice, something we never do. I even ordered a kids’ meal for myself, in order to get her two toys instead of one, which she thanked me for, because it meant that she could give the extra to her little sister. We chatted about her upcoming birthday party plans and made a list of things we’d look for in our travels. We talked about a movie she just saw. She told me about how it’s made by the same people as two other movies she likes and I asked her which of the three movies she liked best, and I really listened to her answer, impressed by what she said.

We held hands going in and out of stores and I thought about the fact that soon she’ll be too old to want to hold my hand much longer.

She pushed the carriage, crossing items off the list as we went along. We scoped out good bargains and got a good gift that we needed. We went back to that same fast food spot, but in a different location, and she got an ice cream cone, another treat.

All in all it wasn’t anything crazy or unique that we did, but it was a fun day no less. I know that had I realized in advance that she’d be alone for the day, I would’ve tried to make more of it than it was, somehow try to make an event out of it, because I know how I am. But I didn’t have advanced notice and the day was what it was, and only that. Yet, she seemed to enjoy it, and I know I did too. It made me thankful for the time I got to spend with her and reminded me how lucky I am to have my girls in my life, each special in their own way.

But most of all, it reminded me to enjoy every minute I have with them, even if it is just a trip to the doctor’s office. Life goes by fast and every minute counts. We don’t need to make an occasion or an event out of the time we spend together, and if we wait for those times to become occasions and events, we’re likely to miss the moments that are right before our eyes, as life passes us by.

That smile kept me going all day long.

That smile kept me going all day long.

Fun Friday: Spiced Chickpeas for an After School Snack

7 Jun
Everyone enjoyed this snack!

Everyone enjoyed this snack!

I forget sometimes that as much as I love sweets, that there are some people in this house who like the salty, more savory flavored foods. My three kids have a mix of tastes but my snacks are often the sweet kinds because that’s what I like best.

However, recently I found a recipe in the Stop and Shop Magazine for Spiced Chickpeas, which are roasted in the oven, and although I didn’t think I’d personally love them, I decided to try them as a snack for my family. The funny thing is, I personally loved them. Everyone loved them. In fact, I just bought two more cans of chickpeas so we can make them again since it’s been a little while since I made them last.

The recipe was simple and had very few ingredients besides the chickpeas, so it makes it tasty, easy, extremely healthy and affordable. If you’ve never tried them before, if you’re a sweet treats kind of person yourself, I encourage you to step out of your snacking comfort zone and give these a try!

SPICED CHICKPEAS

Makes four 1/2 cup servings

INGREDIENTS

1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas (garbanzo beans) about 2/3 cups

1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or canola oil (we used olive)

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Dash of cayenne pepper or to taste

1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional)

Nonstick cooking spray

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Drain, rinse and dry chickpeas on paper towels.

Combine olive oil and spices in bowl.

Add chickpeas and toss until evenly coated.

Spread chickpeas evenly onto a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and crispy.

Shake chickpeas around every 10 minutes or so for even crisping and to prevent sticking.

Remove baking sheet from oven and transfer chickpeas to a serving bowl. Enjoy while warm!

Per serving: 180 calories, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 26g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 0 g sugars and 6 g protein

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Pork Marinade

5 Jun

Dinner: marinated pork, rice pilaf, and carrots/apples/craisins

ORIGINALLY POSTED JANUARY 16, 2012

One of the things I often purchase at Aldi’s at least once per month are their Pork Tenderloins. They’re inexpensive, just the right size for our family (I buy two if we’re having company for dinner) and they come in an “original” flavor, as well as a couple of other flavors. I like the original flavor because we can do whatever we want to the pork. Sometimes we use teriyaki, sometimes we do barbeque, and sometimes we do a simple pork marinade.

Today I’m sharing the recipe with you for the Pork Marinade. Of course, it’s a recipe from my mom and the instructions say “Also good on steak,” and “Don’t double.”  So don’t.

PORK MARINADE

4 TBL Soy Sauce

2 cloves (1 tsp) garlic, crushed or chopped (we usually use minced out of the jar if we don’t have fresh.)

2 TBL olive oil

2 tsp Brown Sugar

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp pepper

ziploc bag marinated pork tenderloin

Throw it all in a bag and you’re good to go.

That’s all there is to it! Super easy. Throw it all in a ziploc bag or tupperware marinater, throw in the pork and you’re good to go. This can be made ahead and frozen, pork and all, for future use as well. When I was pregnant with my third daughter, during my nesting or as I like to call it, panicking, I marinated and froze many different bags of pork, steak and chicken (different marinade for chicken, I’ll share it another day) ahead of time and we were able to use them for weeks and months afterwards.

Hopefully this budget-friendly dinner idea works well for you too!

Enjoy!

So what are you doing this summer?

3 Jun
Bike riding is just one of the fun, free summer activities you can do with your kids!

Bike riding is just one of the fun, free summer activities you can do with your kids!

We are at the point of counting the number of school days until school is out (14 left after today). I can’t wait. I love summer, my whole family loves summer.

We don’t usually make any big plans for the summer, but yet somehow we do a lot and the summer always goes by much too fast.

Since I’m at the point where I’m thinking ahead to summer activities, I’m guessing that I’m not the only one. I thought that today I’d share a list of fun, free summer activities that we do. Most everything is something you can do with your kids also, no matter where you live.

But I’d like to ask you, what kinds of other fun, free things do you do over the summer with your kids? Be sure to leave a comment and add to my list!

1) Riding bikes: There are several local bike paths that we can take advantage of, and we also use a lot of the big, open school parking lots for wide open biking riding opportunities too.

2) Free bowling: AMF has free bowling EVERY DAY all summer long, two games per kid, not counting shoe rental.  You can click on the link to sign up your kids! It’s great for hot days, because it’s nice and cool inside, and it’s great for rainy days, as it gets them out of the house for a bit.

3) Free movies: Regal Cinemas has free movies all summer, as does Showcase Cinemas, once a week. Other movie theaters may be doing the same sort of thing near you too!

4) State Parks: Many state parks all over the country have free entry days or special event days that are free. Check out this link to find one near you!

5) Museums: Many museums are free on Fridays or have free events on Fridays. Check out the calendars for museums near you to see if they do Free Museum Fridays or something similar.

6) Free Summer Music Concerts: Near us, you can go to a free outdoor music concert almost every night of the week. Local bands in our area play in various cities and towns throughout our state and it’s a great night out with the family to sit outside and hear them play. They are also usually all different sorts of bands from oldies to calypso to swing. It’s great fun for the kids to hear something different and it gives them quite the repertoire of music appreciation.

7) Dinner on the beach: Many of the beaches near us are not free during the day but are free at night. Beach passes here are quite expensive, so instead, we’ll often plan a picnic on the beach and bring our dinner down there. We swim and play from early evening until sunset. There’s nothing better, in my opinion, than watching my kids play in the waves as the sun is going down. And to me, it’s often even more special and memorable than a regular day at the beach, although we enjoy that too.

8) Visit your local library: We love our local libraries. I can’t say it enough. A regular visit to the library is one way for us to spend an hour or more in a cool, calm place. But our libraries really kick it up for the summer. We can go to any of their branches to see local performers, participate in a craft, or to participate in their summer reading programs. Be sure to check out your local libraries to see what they offer for summer activities.

9) Letterboxing: My family loves letterboxing and we spend some time in the warmer months finding local letterboxes. If you have never done it before, give it a try! If you click on the link you can read one of my older posts about it.

10) Hiking: Sometimes just taking a nice afternoon hike is all you need to wind down your day. Many local trails are nice and shady, so you can keep cool while you get some exercise with the kids. You may see some wildlife along the way, and don’t forget your bug spray!

So tell me….what can you add to this list? Leave a comment and tell me what fun things you do with your family in the summertime!

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