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Happy Birthday Don and Alexandra!

23 Mar

So what’s the best birthday gift *you* ever gave someone?

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 23, 2012

Today is a very special day.

Today is Alexandra’s birthday.

Today is also Don’s birthday.

That makes me the best wife ever because seven years ago for Don’s birthday at 1:22 am I gave him our third daughter.

I know, I know, best gift ever, right?! It’s hard to top that one though, so I don’t really try. I’m back to t-shirts, pajama pants and stuff like that for his birthday gifts.

Alexandra’s First Birthday 2006

Since sharing his birthday with his daughter, Don has been blessed with getting to have a Snoopy party, a My Little Pony party, a Dora party, a Purple party and this year…Hello Kitty. Technically they’re not his parties obviously, but you see what I mean.

Birthday crowns all around on Alex’s second birthday.

Thankfully, my parents have this neat tradition that they started with us where we celebrate the adult birthday parties at their house each year and we “kids” get to choose our meal and our cake. I choose….well I won’t tell you what I choose until it’s my birthday this summer. But Don chooses a totally opposite type of meal and cake than I would choose, so I guess it’s good that we each get a chance to choose our own, to choose what we like. Don chooses meatball sandwiches (made with my mom’s homemade meatballs and gravy) with lemon cake for dessert. It’s probably the only time all year we have it and he really enjoys it.

Therefore, today I thought I’d share with you the recipe for Don’s birthday cake of choice each year, the lemon cake. It’s really yummy, I particularly love the corners.

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LEMON CAKE

A cake *just* for Daddy!

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup water

2 beaten eggs

Duncan Hines Lemon Cake Mix

1 can lemon pie filling (divided)

DIRECTIONS

In bowl by hand, mix together oil, water, eggs, cake mix.

Add 1/4 can of lemon pie filling into the mix.

Put into greased 9×13 dish.

On top, distribute the rest of the pie filling.

Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

When cool, glaze with:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar mixed with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. Add a little hot water if necessary.

Happy St. Patty’s Day: Irish Soda Bread

17 Mar

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 16, 2012: Everyone loves a good Irish Soda Bread with their St. Patrick’s Day meal! This one was passed along to me by my father-in-law last winter and it was wonderful. I can’t wait to make it again this year. It’s probably the one and only recipe where I don’t think about subbing out the raisins for chocolate chips!!

INGREDIENTS

4 c  flour

1 c white sugar

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3 eggs

1 pint sour cream

1 cup  raisins

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Grease two 8×4″ loaf pans

Mix first five ingredients

Add eggs, sour cream and raisins

Mix until just combined

Distribute batter evenly between the two pans

Bake loaves 1 hour at 325 degrees

Fun Friday: In honor of Pi Day: Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

13 Mar
Life-changing, indeed!

Life-changing, indeed!

Tomorrow, March 14, 2015 is National Pi Day!

No, silly, not PIE day, PI Day!!

You know,”Pi: the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, approximately 3.14159, an infinite number which has been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point. As an irrational and transcendental number, it will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern.” (For more information like this about Pi, Pi Day and related celebrations, click on the link above!)

Pi Day also falls on the same day as Albert Einstein’s birthday. How great is that?!

Pi Day does have some similar qualities to Pie Day though (and if there isn’t actually a Pie Day, there should be), in that many people like to encourage the eating of pie of any kind to help with the celebrating of the mathematical concept!

To that end, my oldest daughter’s Algebra class will be celebrating Pi Day tomorrow with some sweet treats during class, so I said I’d send in a pie for them to use as part of their Pi Party. I had a single crust in the freezer and just enough ingredients to make the newest pie that I’ve fallen in love with this winter: a chocolate chip cookie pie.

This pie recipe was sent to me by a friend during the first blizzard we had in January as one of 23 different Chocolate Chip Cookie recipes to try out. The list claims to be a life-changing experience. If this pie recipe is any indication, I’d say they’re right!

This is a really quick pie to put together. Few ingredients, few steps. You don’t need to pre-bake your crust and the cook time is about an hour give or take, depending on your oven. The recipe is found on the Love from the Oven blog, and she has credited the original recipe to Nestle.

Obviously I did not make the Pi Day pie and then eat it myself, so my photos here are from the second blizzard of 2015, when I made this pie for dessert one night. It was a keeper for sure, and that’s the only sad thing about sending away a pie for Pi Day….we got to smell it baking, but didn’t get to eat it!

Quick, easy and perfect for Pi Day 2015!

Quick, easy and perfect for Pi Day 2015!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie Recipe from Nestle
Preheat oven to 325

1 unbaked pie crust, homemade or store bought
2 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter softened (1 and 1/2 sticks)
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup pecans or walnuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Beat eggs in a large mixer until foamy.

Now add in flour and sugars. Beat until well blended. Beat in the softened butter.

Stir in your chocolate chips and nuts.

Stir and pour into unbaked pie crust.

Bake at 325 for  50-55 minutes. Let cool before eating.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream (optional).

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Creamy Mushroom Orzo

4 Mar
I loved the texture and flavor of this recipe!

I loved the texture and flavor of this recipe!

ORIGINALLY POSTED JANUARY 15, 2014: Recently my friend Melissa shared a recipe that came through Facebook. Although Facebook is a great place to find and share recipes, you can’t always be sure where the recipe truly originated, so it’s hard to credit someone. It seems as this recipe for Creamy Mushroom Orzo may have originated on the page of Sharon Fox, who lists herself as author, food editor, radio personality and personal chef. However, even she says that the recipes found on her page are not from her own cookbooks, but are recipes she’s tried and loved. But, we do the best we can. I always like to give credit where credit is due, if I can.

No matter what, I’m so glad that someone, somewhere, originally made and share this recipe! I really loved it. I used it as a side dish for a kind of “boring” meal that we were having and to me, it made my meal so much more exciting.

The kids did not love it quite as much and I think it’s because it calls for white wine and it really holds the flavor.

I think that’s why I loved it so much!!

The recipe was fast, easy to make, and delicious; all my top qualifiers for a recipe.

I’m sharing it here, give it a try if you’re looking for something to jazz up one of your own meals!

This was an easy-to-make recipe, fast and delicious!

This was an easy-to-make recipe, fast and delicious!

CREAMY MUSHROOM ORZO

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 chopped onion

3 cloves chopped garlic

2/3 cups orzo

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon fresh sage

1 tablespoons butter

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (or water)

3/4 cup white wine

1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS
1.In medium sized skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and garlic.

2.Stir, cooking until onions are golden and soft.

3.Add orzo, mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, sage, and butter. Cook, stirring about 5-6 minutes until mushrooms are tender.

4.Pour both chicken broth and wine into orzo mixture. Bring broth to a boil. Stirring often cook 10-15 minutes or until orzo is soft and liquid is absorbed.

5.Stir in Parmesan cheese before serving.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Chicken, Broccoli, Cauliflower Casserole

11 Feb
This.was.so.good.

This.was.so.good.

On Saturday, January 24 my husband and I ran to the store to pick up “a few things” to get us through “a few days” until we could get out to do a bigger shopping. It was the day after pay day, and when we’d normally be doing a big shopping, but we hadn’t had a chance to sit down and do our normal two week menu, or to make a shopping list.

We went through the store, picking things up here and there that we knew for sure we were out of and that we knew we could use to put together several meals with. Meats, fresh fruits and veggies; things of that nature all went into the cart.

In the back of our minds, we knew that a big snow storm was coming and just the night before, we’d seen the report that it could be “historic,” whatever that meant.

Well who knew we’d be snowed in for days and days? By the time a week had gone by, we were already expecting another storm, and we were getting a little low on groceries, but really not doing too badly. It didn’t really seem necessary to do a bigger shopping at this point, we were so close to the end of the pay cycle, another check would soon be coming.

And besides, as true New Englanders, we had enough milk and bread to sink a boat. A cruise ship, actually. At the very least, we could have sandwiches galore until the cows came home.

As the second week wound down, I was really being creative with our meals. I had a few things left to work with and I hopped onto Pinterest to do a search. I typed in Chicken, Broccoli, and Cauliflower into the search button and waited to see what came up. I had fresh broccoli crowns and a whole head of cauliflower in my fridge still, as well as a bag of chicken tenderloins in the freezer. You can do a lot with those three ingredients, as it turns out. I scrolled and pinned, scrolled and pinned until I saw a recipe that jumped out at me, simply because it hand Panko bread crumbs on top.

I love Panko bread crumbs.

I found this recipe on a site called Stacey Snacks , and it was listed as being a good idea for using leftover chicken. I didn’t actually have leftover chicken, but I could cook up my tenderloins in bite-sized pieces and just pretend that I did.

The recipe was such that I had to make a few minor modifications, and I’ve listed them below. I had to double it because there are a lot of us who love chicken, broccoli and cauliflower here, and because I wanted to use up the entire head of cauliflower and both of my broccoli crowns.  I had an entire block of cheddar cheese in stock and although I was out of half and half, I had 1% milk, which I could make work with the sauce, which I more than doubled.

Stacey’s recipe was unbelievably good. Our family loved it. We had one sick child that day, so she didn’t eat, but the rest: all thumbs up. I ate this for lunch every day for the following days until it was gone. I’d most definitely make it again. I can’t *wait* to make it again.

Here is her recipe and my modifications along with it. Thanks to Stacey for sharing such deliciousness with us all!

INGREDIENTS

1 cup of small fresh broccoli florets (about 1/2 of a small head) **I used two broccoli crowns**
1 cup of small fresh cauliflower florets (about 1/2 of a small head) **I used a whole head of cauliflower**
1 cup of leftover roast chicken, shredded **I cooked up ten chicken tenderloins in bite-sized pieces**
Japanese panko crumbs for the top
olive oil
kosher salt & pepper

For the Sauce:

3 tbsp of REAL mayonnaise **I used 5 Tbsp.**
1/4 cup of half & half **I used 1 cup of 1 % milk**
1 tsp curry powder (you can substitute dry mustard if you don’t like curry) **I used 1/2 Tbsp. yellow mustard**
a pinch of kosher salt & black pepper
1/4 cup of chicken stock  **I used 1 cup chicken broth**
1/2 cup of grated sharp cheddar (I like white cheddar) **I used an 8 oz. block**

DIRECTIONS

Brush an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with some olive oil.  **My dish was 9×12**
Steam the broccoli and cauliflower florets for 2 minutes until bright and still firm.
Lay the vegetables on the bottom of the casserole.
Place the shredded cooked chicken on top of the veggies.
Whisk together the sauce ingredients, including the grated cheese & curry. Season with salt & pepper. (I really didn’t measure here, but what you are going for is a nice thick, cheesy white sauce, sort of like for macaroni and cheese, so use your best cooking sense!).  **I did add a bit of flour just to thicken mine a little since my milk was thinner than half and half would have been.**
Pour over the chicken and vegetables in the dish and press down with a spatula to absorb the liquid. If it seems dry, then add some more chicken stock to the dish.
Optional (but makes it even better!): Spoon some panko crumbs over the top to cover and drizzle with olive oil. **Instead of drizzling with olive oil, I lightly sprayed the bread crumbs with a canola oil spray before baking.**
You can make this a day ahead and keep covered in the fridge until ready to bake.

Bake uncovered in a 375F oven for about 30 minutes until top is golden brown and casserole is bubbly.
Serve with rice or salad.  **We served with rice pilaf.**

Thanks Stacey!
http://www.staceysnacksonline.com/2012/02/good-ideas-leftover-chicken-w-broccoli.html

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Light lunches

4 Feb
A perfect light lunch for those days you just can't eat another sandwich.

A perfect light lunch for those days you just can’t eat another sandwich.

Ever have that feeling where you wake up in the morning, still full from the night before? Well, we woke up in January still full from December. Stuffed.

When it came time to go back to school, I was looking for some lighter lunch ideas to pack in my family’s lunch bags and other than the usual salads and sandwiches, I was stumped. Over the past year, I’ve really revamped what goes into the lunchbags, and I’ve been so pleased with what they now eat for lunch versus in years prior, but I was still looking for something new and different.

One weekend afternoon however, we were watching some sort of cooking show and my daughter saw a recipe that she said looked delicious, and when I saw it, I knew it’d make a perfect lunchbag lunch. Even better, it wasn’t a salad and it wasn’t a sandwich. The recipe was for a lettuce wrap that contained hummus and diced peppers. The peppers they showed were red, but here at home we happened to have some green peppers on hand, and that works just as well. I had everything we needed, so the very next time I was packing up all the lunches, those who like hummus got a lettuce

Another light, refreshing change for lunches.

Another light, refreshing change for lunches.

wrap, some pita chips for dipping or for crushing on top, and a plastic fork and knife, just in case the wrap was too heavy to eat by hand (which it turned out it was.)

It was a success; a nice, light change from our usual lunches, and I got a thumbs up at the end of the day. With such success, I did another type of lettuce wrap later that week, using some quinoa tabouleh that my husband had made with leftover quinoa from a previous meal. We didn’t have chick peas to throw in, but we had everything else.

Another great, light lunch. One of the days my husband even combined the hummus and the tabouleh into one in order to make a loaded salad, loving all this eating from his Lebanese heritage.

These lunches were quick, healthy, affordable and easy to do in the mornings and I was so pleased with the positive reviews, I’d definitely do them again. They were a nice, light change to start off the new year.

I think you can practically make a lettuce wrap out of anything, or put anything on top of a salad, so tell me, what kinds of things do you put into a lettuce wrap or on top of your salad?

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Two weeks of meals and the importance of eating together

14 Jan
Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Now that we’re back into our regular routines, we’re back to meal planning for the weeks ahead.

Over the holiday and vacation weeks we were eating out of the house so often, either at other people’s houses or at restaurants, that we had absolutely no meal plan at all, and practically nothing to even make a meal with. Once we got back into the routine, we had to sit down and start our preparations again.

One thing I had done over the vacation weeks however, was to keep a running list of the things the kids were asking for during the two weeks. When someone said, “Can we have Shepherd’s Pie for dinner tonight?” during those two weeks, for example, even though I’d have to say no because we were scheduled to eat wherever for whatever event, I’d go and write it down. Making our meal plan is tough because we have to come up with two full weeks of meals. Having a list of favorite requests made it that much easier the next week when we sat down. And, it was kind of nice that first week back to school (which felt as long as five weeks in a row, rather than just one), to announce at dinnertime whose special request produced that night’s dinner.

It’s also been nice to see the kids checking out the menu we post in the kitchen each week, looking forward to the dinner of choice for that night or a future night, especially when it’s something they requested. It makes me feel good to know that they like the routine of knowing what’s for dinner, and that even better, they look forward to certain nights of the week, just because it’s their favorite meal of the week. Our menus are nothing fancy, our meals are straightforward and our lists are posted on whatever piece of paper we have handy, and we cross off as we go, but it’s a routine we’ve established and it makes us all feel good….less stress, somewhat excited for dinner, and looking forward to eating together each night. That’s all good, and I’m glad we’re continuing to stay true to this routine of ours. I hope that in doing so, we ‘re creating good, healthy eating habits and family foundations for our family as we go so that once our kids are on their own, raising their own families,they’ve got a great foundation so that they can eat well and eat together.

I recently saw an article in the Washington Post about the importance of eating together as a family, and its many benefits. It definitely confirmed for us all that we already knew and believed about eating together as a family. If you’d like to read it, click here. We work incredibly hard to keep our schedules and meals consistent so that we can eat together as often as humanly possible, and although we’ve always seen the benefits, which far outweigh the effort it takes to pull it off, it’s nice to have our efforts validated every once in a while too! The article is well worth the read.

In the meantime, here’s two weeks of meals for you to get you started. I’ve even linked to a few of the recipes for you so that you don’t have to search the blog for them:

Sunday: Roasted Chicken Dinner

Monday: Shepherd’s Pie

Tuesday: Pulled pork sandwiches (crock pot meal)

Wednesday: Spaghetti tacos with meat sauce (could be eaten without taco shells or with)

Thursday: Paninis (we used the bbq pork leftovers in the paninis, SO delicious)

Friday: Homemade pizzas (we made three different kinds but here’s just one kind we’ve made before)

Saturday: leftovers

Sunday: Chili

Monday: Ravioli (some of us had butternut squash ravioli given to us by a friend, others of us had cheese ravioli)

Tuesday: Garlic chicken and wine

Wednesday: Chicken Pot Pie

Thursday: Fish Tacos

Friday: Breakfast for dinner

Saturday: Hamburgers and hot dogs

Sunday: Lasagna

 

 

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