Archive | July, 2013

A delicious weekend breakfast: Baked Eggs

29 Jul
These were absolutely fabulous!

These were absolutely fabulous!

This past Saturday I was in the mood for something different for breakfast. I wasn’t sure what, but I knew I didn’t want the same old thing.

While I was pondering what I was in the mood for, I remembered that when my kids slept over my parents’ house last, they had mentioned a new baked egg breakfast they’d tried. My mom found it in “Dash” magazine, and it had ham in the muffin cups with the eggs cracked inside, and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. The kids had loved it and I’d been meaning to try it here ever since.

At the same time, I also remembered that Alex’s new “High Five” magazine had come in the mail this week, and that coincidentally, the recipe had been one for baked eggs as well. It was slightly different in that it didn’t call for ham on the bottom but instead had diced tomatoes and shredded cheese.

So, I decided to combine the two recipes. The bake time and temperature was the same for both recipes. The only difference was the ingredients and we liked everything the two recipes called for.

They.Were.Amazing.

Fabulous.

Delicious.

We loved them.

I highly recommend you try these out the next time you are craving something different for your breakfast. They’d even be great for a brunch.

Fast, easy.

Into the oven they went. One pan, couldn't be any easier!

Into the oven they went. One pan, couldn’t be any easier!

Here’s what I did:

1) Spray each muffin well with nonstick spray.

2) Place a slice of ham in the bottom of each muffin well. I actually used deli ham that was sliced in half. One half into each spot.

3) Place about a teaspoon or so of diced tomatoes on top of the ham. (One large vine ripened tomato was enough for all 12 portions.)

4) Sprinkle some shredded cheddar cheese over the tomatoes. (I used nonfat cheddar.)

5) Break one egg into each spot.

6) Sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper on each.

7) Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until the yolks are as firm as you desire and the whites are cooked through.

Serve with toast or an English Muffin if you’d like.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Strawberry English Muffin Fruitwiches

24 Jul
English muffins: not just for breakfast!

English muffins: not just for breakfast!

A while back I posted about Elizabeth’s cookbook and I posted one of the recipes we’d tried at the time, a tuna salad recipe. Since then we’ve had it for lunch and even for dinner!

Today, I thought I’d post another recipe from that same cookbook, one that we have had for lunch and for dinner this summer, and one that we’ve also modified slightly to meet everyone’s different taste buds. It’s a great summer meal because it is cool, doesn’t involve using an oven, and uses a great summer fruit: fresh strawberries.

The ingredients for this are simple, no matter which way you choose to make it. You need:

Fresh sliced strawberries

an English Muffin

Strawberry jam

Goat cheese, cream cheese, or peanut butter

Elizabeth's cookbook of choice

Elizabeth’s cookbook of choice

The directions are even more simple!

“Split an English Muffin and lightly toast the halves. Spread the cut side of the bottom half with softened goat cheese or plain whipped cream cheese (we also have done peanut butter). Top with a thin layer of strawberry jam, followed by a layer of thin strawberry slices. Cover with the top half of the muffin, jam side down, and press gently.”

We prefer to do open-faced sandwiches, in order to have more fresh strawberries! This sandwich has been a hit every time we’ve served it, and it’s easily modified for everyone.

Next time you’re looking for a summery lunch or a cool dinner (or maybe even a yummy summer breakfast,) give these English Muffin Fruitwiches a try!

It was a Ronald McDonald House Birthday Party

22 Jul
Elizabeth couldn't wait for a chance to help out the Ronald McDonald House in Providence.

Elizabeth couldn’t wait for a chance to help out the Ronald McDonald House in Providence.

I’ve always said that one of the things I love about Girl Scouts is that the kids get the chance to do things they wouldn’t normally get to do. This past spring, in March, Elizabeth had one of those chances. Her troop visited the Ronald McDonald House in Providence. The house hosts the families who have children in treatment at the nearby hospitals, no matter how long the treatment might be.

I was not a chaperone on that trip, Don took her that night. When Elizabeth came home, I asked her how it was, and it was clear to me that the visit had made quite an impression on her. She talked about all that she had seen and heard when she was there, and she said that she wanted to find a way to help out the house.

In the later part of the school year, Elizabeth began planning her 11th birthday party, which would be her first sleepover party. It was then that she told me she wanted to do something for Ronald McDonald House at her party, but she wasn’t sure what to do. Around the same time I covered a story at a local elementary school and there was a speaker there from the Ronald McDonald House.

As I listened to the speaker, taking notes for my story, I realized that there was a lot we could do to turn Elizabeth’s birthday party into a fun night of helping others. I came home and told her some of my ideas. As we talked about it, Elizabeth decided that she would incorporate her invites, her crafts and activities, her cupcakes, and even the colors of the paper goods she chose.

We kicked off our party planning and shopping with a visit to McDonalds where Elizabeth got her color scheme inspiration and took a photo with the RMH Helping Hands.

We kicked off our party planning and shopping with a visit to McDonalds where Elizabeth got her color scheme inspiration and took a photo with the RMH Helping Hands.

It wasn’t hard to get excited about this party. Elizabeth’s enthusiasm was catchy. I typed up her invitations before the end of the school year and I put the Wish List from Ronald McDonald House website on the back. Elizabeth added her own message on the front:

** A message from Elizabeth**  My theme is Ronald McDonald.  Ever since a Girl Scout field trip to the Providence Ronald McDonald House, (which by the way was spectacular) I have been inspired to do something that includes helping other other people! Now that it has come close to my birthday I went with helping the Ronald McDonald house fund. You don’t have to come with anything to donate because we’ll be making things for the house at the party, but if you would like to then the Wish List is on the back!

And then came the real fun. Elizabeth had found plates, napkins and streamers in the colors of red, orange and yellow at the dollar store. While we were there, we happened to find bright yellow t-shirts that we could decorate with the fabric markers we had at home; a great activity for the party. We decided to make covered journals and coordinating bookmarks as the craft. We’d use composition notebooks and scrapbook paper to cover them. The bookmarks would be made with the leftover scrapbook paper. These would be for the girls at the party and for the Ronald McDonald House; each guest would make one to keep and one to donate. The journals could either be for kids or adults. They could be used as diaries or for keeping notes at doctor visits or even as gratitude journals.

Around the same time, the kids saw an episode of DC Cupcakes on TV and the bakers were designing cheeseburger cupcakes. It was then that Elizabeth knew she’d found her cake. I hadn’t seen the episode myself, but the girls told me how they were made: chocolate cupcakes sliced in half to make burger patties and vanilla cupcakes sliced in half to make buns. Once assembled, fondant and frosting were used to build the “burgers.” That sounded fun and easy.

Making fondant lettuce for the "build your own burger" cupcakes for the party.

Making fondant lettuce for the “build your own burger” cupcakes for the party.

The day of the party, I used a coupon at Michaels Crafts to get a four-pack of premade fondant in red, orange and yellow. The girls each took a color and made a condiment. Elizabeth made lettuce, Caroline made ketchup and Alex made Swiss Cheese. The white frosting would be the mayo. I baked my two batches of cupcakes and set them out to cool.

These were fun and we used them for the chips and snacks at the start of the party.

These were fun and we used them for the chips and snacks at the start of the party.

Earlier in the month we’d spotted the coolest additions to the party theme: fast-food themed paper goods in the dollar bins at Target. We had plates and napkins already for some of the food, but we could definitely incorporate these items for the rest of the food. We even found similar containers shaped like hot dog holders that we could use for the cupcakes.

The night of the party arrived. All of the guests brought bags of donations for Ronald McDonald House. We had coloring books, puzzle books, toiletries and grocery items. We filled a whole basket with them. The girls decorated their t-shirts any way they wanted to. Our three decided to make theirs Ronald McDonald themed, with big red smiles. Caroline, who loves doing nails, did all the girls’ nails in yellow with big red smiles on the thumbs. So cute!

They seemed to love decorating their journals and creating special ones to put in the donation basket. As the basket filled, they were even more excited. The “build your own burger” cupcakes were fantastic. The girls got such a kick out of creating them and eating them, and they really did look just like burgers!

100_5893

Ready to deliver!

A few days after the party ended, on a Friday evening, we gathered up our family and Elizabeth got together all of the donations and off we went to Ronald McDonald House in Providence. It was exciting for me to see the house, since I’d missed the original field trip. It was fun to bring in the donations and place them in the house where the families could take a journal and where the donated items would be added to the supplies that are kept on hand for the those who need them.

All in all, this party was a huge success. It was a fun party, it was very inexpensive to put together, and it helped Elizabeth help others, which was her intention from the beginning.

Best of all though, the feeling we had from doing good for someone else, definitely takes the cake.

T-Shirt decorating time!

T-Shirt decorating time!

Below are more photos from Elizabeth’s Ronald McDonald House Birthday party.

Caroline's shirt

Caroline’s shirt

Everyone loved their covered journals!

Everyone loved their covered journals and bookmarks! Alex ran the bookmark-making station.

Ready for "Build Your Own Burger" cupcakes

Ready for “Build Your Own Burger” cupcakes

YUM!

YUM!

Ronald McDonald nails

Ronald McDonald nails

Elizabeth created Ronald McDonald smiles on a stick for all her friends to take home with them.

Elizabeth created Ronald McDonald smiles on a stick for all her friends to take home with them.

What’s For Dinner Wednesday: Grilled Caprese Portobello Mushrooms

17 Jul
A yummy addition to our summer meal menu options!

A yummy addition to our summer meal menu options!

We are on our second heat wave this month. When you’re in the midst of a heat wave like this, sometimes you don’t feel like cooking. Or eating.

Scratch that. I almost always feel like eating, even when it’s hot.

But what to eat becomes the question. You don’t want to turn on the oven and sometimes it’s even too hot to grill outside, because when it’s 100 degrees, do you really want to stand over a hot fire?

Sunday was that kind of a night. What to eat? What to cook. Don listed everything in our fridge and freezer but nothing sounded appealing. He’s never that thrilled when I say no to everything we have.

On this night however, it was a good thing that I didn’t want anything we had on hand. We ended up trying a great new recipe from the Sugar Free Mom blog and loving it!

I know I’ve mentioned Brenda’s blog before, but if you haven’t visited it yet, now’s a great time to do so. The recipe we tried was for grilled Portobello mushrooms made Caprese style; a great summer menu addition. Another friend of mine posted the recipe on Facebook and I knew immediately that this meal was in our future.

We bought three Portobello mushrooms, (we knew not everyone would like these so we only bought for those who would), some mozzarella cheese to slice and some good-sized tomatoes to slice up as well. Rather than grilling the mushrooms, Don cooked them in our cast iron skillet, and they were fabulous! We served ours with a side of macaroni salad and corn on the cob. A perfect summer meal.

Give Brenda’s blog a visit, and try out her recipe! I know you’ll love it, and  you’ll love her photos.  Her Portobellos were much prettier and more photogenic than mine!

Her recipe is below.

100_5874

We did not have fresh basil on hand so we used dried instead.

  • 6 large portobello caps
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • few cracks of pepper from peppermill
  • nonstick olive oil cooking spray
  • 6 ounces mozzarella, sliced into 6 pieces
  • 1 large vine tomato, sliced into 6 pieces
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Wash the mushrooms and drain them on paper towels upside down then pat dry. Turn them upright. Spray the mushrooms with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt and garlic powder over the mushroom caps. Add a few cracks of pepper then place the seasoned side onto a medium high grill or grill pan. Follow the same procedure for the bottoms of the mushrooms and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes on one side before flipping over. Top each mushroom cap with one slice of tomato and cheese. Close the grill for 1 minute to let cheese melt slightly. Place caps onto a serving plate. Add one large basil leaf to each cap. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the tops, season to taste with more salt and pepper if desired and serve warm or room temperature.

A great summer snack: Honey Yogurt Fruit Dip

15 Jul

This is a great dip for a summer day!

This is a great dip for a summer day!

The summer is flying by! I can’t believe the Fourth of July is well past us and it’s mid-July already.

We have been super busy, celebrating the holiday, Elizabeth’s birthday, spending time with family and even celebrating Christmas in July last week.

My blog posts have been sporadic, as promised!

But, I wanted to take some time to share with you a new dip that we tried out recently. A while back I’d posted a similar dip but it used 1/4 cup of sugar, which I always found to be a lot. It was delicious, don’t get me wrong…I’d eat it with a spoon if I could, but it was a lot of sugar nevertheless.

Recently I found this dip in the April 2013 issue of Good Housekeeping, which uses honey instead of sugar and the flavor is similar. We tried it out with some summer fruits and it was wonderful. I thought I’d share it with you today so that you can give it a try also.

I hope that you are enjoying your summer as much as we are!

HONEY YOGURT FRUIT DIP

3/4 cup plain yogurt  (we use fat free or low fat yogurt)

3 TBSP. Honey

1/4 tsp. vanilla

Serves Four

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Fajita Quesadillas

10 Jul
Fajita Quesadilla veggies

I love the look of fresh vegetables when they’re mixed up and cooking!

ORIGINALLY POSTED JANUARY 25, 2012:

Today’s recipe is again, one that I did not grow up with! Imagine that, four recipes in two days, and not one of them was from my childhood! This recipe is a combination of recipes from two different people and it makes a great meal or an appetizer for a football game.

We actually had never had quesadillas at our house until about four years ago or so. Elizabeth had a friend at preschool whose house we used to go to for playdates often. My friend Jody used to make cheese quesadillas a lot when we went over for playdates. (In fact, this past fall I featured my friend Jody’s Butternut Squash Soup, which was also a playdate lunch. And just so you know, my traditional playdate lunch at my house is mac & cheese from a box with chicken nuggets. we were spoiled at Jody’s!)

Anyway….we started making quesadillas at our house on a regular basis. You can put anything in them so we’ve done just cheese, chicken and cheese, tomato/chicken/cheese, peppers/beef and cheese, and we’ve done bbq chicken/onion/cheese. However, on New Year’s Eve this year my sister in law Jessica made us Fajita Quesadillas which had all kinds of peppers, mushrooms, onions and cheese, and they were so fabulous!! We had to try them at home. So last week, we had them.

Cook up some chicken tenders first. Then shred or dice the cooked chicken.

My sister in law and I are both lucky because we both live near an Aldi’s and you can get everything you need for your Fajita Quesadillas at Aldi’s.  The ingredients vary, depending what you’d like in your quesadillas. You need soft flour tortillas, we use the large ones.

This is another meal where I pull out some frozen chicken tenders, so convenient! Cook them up if you’d like chicken in your quesadillas.

While your chicken is cooking, grate a bowl full of cheddar cheese (a block of cheese is usually plenty.) Slice up your veggies and cook them on top of the stove.

We use a countertop griddle to make our quesadillas two at a time.

Once you’ve got your ingredients pre-cooked, you’re ready to begin the last step. Butter your soft flour tortillas on one side and lay it on the griddle, in a frying pan, or use a Quesadilla Maker (which we do actually have also, but we prefer the griddle most of the time because we can make two at a time.)

Butter one side of the top flour tortilla and place it on top of the others on the griddle and flip (we have a big metal spatula for flipping!)

Once both sides are golden brown and the cheese inside is melted, you’re ready to cut your quesadillas into triangles and eat them!

finished quesadillas

Once the quesadillas are golden brown, cut them into triangles and eat!

A Sweet Treat for a Summer Snack

8 Jul
These barely had any time on the plate before they were devoured!

These barely had any time on the plate before they were devoured!

We tried a new snack recently. I’d seen a recipe somewhere for chocolate covered apricots. I love dried apricots, and I love chocolate, so I thought this would be worth a try. When the time came though, I couldn’t find wherever it was that I saw the original recipe so I Googled them and came up with one from About.com. It called for nuts, but I omitted the nuts and doubled the recipe since I had two bags of apricots to use.

The recipe was fast and easy and made a yummy snack. I’d definitely make them again. There are lots of fruits you can dip in chocolate including strawberries and bananas. I’ve also seen recipes for chocolate dipped kiwi, and since my kids love kiwi I thought I’d try that in the future too, so be on the lookout.

In the meantime, here’s the recipe as we tried it from About.com, modified for our nut-free preferences.

Enjoy!

I melted my chocolate in a double boiler on top of the stove.

I melted my chocolate in a double boiler on top of the stove.

Ingredients: (we doubled this recipe)

  • 24 whole dried apricots
  • 2 ounces (1/2 cup) toasted almonds, finely chopped
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate

Preparation:

1. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil. Place the chopped almonds in a small bowl. (if using)

2. Temper or melt the chocolate in a medium bowl. (I did a double boiler on top of the stove.)

3. Holding an apricot by the tip, dip most of the fruit into the melted chocolate, swirling to ensure even coverage. Remove it from the chocolate and drag it along the lip of the bowl, removing excess chocolate.

Dried apricots are a pretty healthy snack, before you add the chocolate! We used semisweet chocolate.

Dried apricots are a relatively healthy snack, before you add the chocolate! We used semisweet chocolate.

4. Pat both sides of the chocolate-dipped apricot on the chopped almonds, covering both sides with nuts.

5. Place the candy on the prepared baking sheet, and repeat for the remaining apricots.

6. Place in the refrigerator to set the chocolate for approximately 10 minutes. If the chocolate has been tempered, the candy can be served at room temperature, but if it has not, it should be kept refrigerated until served.

What’s For Dinner Wednesday: Macaroni & Shrimp Salad

3 Jul

This macaroni and shrimp salad is something we look forward to all year long!

ORIGINALLY POSTED JULY 11, 2012: 

If you’re like me, you’re always looking for the perfect side dish to go with the cook-on-the-grill type of meals that happen all summer long. Today’s recipe is one of those perfect side dishes.

As always, it’s super-easy and super-delicious. And as is typical, it’s originally from my mom. She’s been making it ever since I can remember and we’ve been making it on our own for years as well.

You can tell that this photo is of my dish because I actually do put my tomato/cucumber/olive salad in a separate bowl so that nothing runs together, and also because I eat absolutely nothing on my hot dogs. I barely eat the bread. But, I eat every speck of that macaroni salad!

Try this recipe out for your next cookout, I know you’ll love it as much as we do!

MACARONI & SHRIMP SALAD

INGREDIENTS

2 cups elbow macaroni (in general we use a one pound box of pasta and adjust the rest of the ingredients accordingly as well.)

2 stalks celery, thin sliced

1 can tiny shrimp, rinsed

3/4 cup Miracle Whip

celery salt to taste

cayenne pepper to taste

This is a great side dish to bring to those summer dinner parties and cookouts!

DIRECTIONS

Cook pasta according to directions.

Add in shrimp, Miracle Whip and spices.

Cover and cool in refrigerator completely before serving.

Enjoy!

God Bless our First Responders

1 Jul

Today marks a sad day, as it was recently announced that 19 out of 20 firefighters in an Arizona fire crew were killed fighting a wildfire blaze in Arizona. You can read the full article here.

As you go about your day today, and about your week this week, please remember those firefighters and their families. Count your blessings, hug your kids and thank a first responder.

 

The Firefighter’s Prayer

When I’m called to duty god
wherever flames may rage
give me strength to save a life
whatever be its age

Help me to embrace a little child
before it is too late
or save an older person from
the horror of that fate

Enable me to be alert
to hear the weakest shout
and quickly and efficiently
to put the fire out

I want to fill my calling and
to give the best in me
to guard my neighbor and
protect his property

And if according to your will
I have to lose my life
bless with your protecting hand
my children and my wife

Prayer from:  http://earth.vol.com/~anderson/cfdweb/prayer.html

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