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!


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.”


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!



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


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.

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.


From the South Beach Diet Book


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.


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!


Makes four 1/2 cup servings


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


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