Archive | September, 2016

Fun Friday: Homemade Chocolate Cornstarch Pudding

30 Sep
There is just something so delicious about homemade pudding!

There is just something so delicious about homemade pudding!

TGIF Everyone!

Today’s recipe is a fast, easy, fun and inexpensive treat to make!

I love pudding and I always have, even as a kid. I remember my mom making pudding on top of the stove and having me stir and stir and stir with the wooden spoon until it changed color and texture and we knew it was done. She still has the same little glass pedestal cups that she’d put the pudding in. I took these memories and carried them on for my own kids on occasion, but not often enough, in my opinion. It had been such a long time since I’d made a stove-top pudding.

Recently I saw a homemade pudding recipe that was quick, gluten free, and had just a few ingredients. The stirring on top of the stove is what takes the longest–that and waiting for it to chill if you only like it cold.

I love warm pudding and I love chilled pudding, and the last time we had it, we had company over and we debated: do we love the skin that forms on top or not? It was a mixed review. I don’t mind it, I actually love it, but some people didn’t like it at all.

A double recipe makes about six mugs of pudding.

A double recipe makes about six mugs of pudding.

I have found that for this recipe I need to at least double it for there to be enough for five of us, but when we have had company, I have even tripled it because there were eight of us in total.

I found the recipe for this Chocolate Cornstarch Pudding on allrecipes.com, one of my favorite go-to recipe sites. It got 4.5 stars out of five, and I’d give it a whole five out of five if I were rating it!

Here is the recipe:

Chocolate Cornstarch Pudding
INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup white sugar

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/8 tsp. salt

2 3/4 cups milk

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

In a saucepan, stir together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Place over medium heat, and stir in milk. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat, and stir in butter and vanilla. Let cool briefly, and serve warm, or chill in refrigerator until serving.

pudding-3

A Menu, A Recipe and A Warning

21 Sep
Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

September.

How I enjoy the little breaks that I get in September.

The start of school comes barreling in for weeks before that actual first day. They are filled with doctor appointments of all kinds-eyes, teeth, and school physicals, along with coaches’ practices for school sports teams, and whatever else we manage to squeeze in. We shop for clothes, shoes, notebooks and pencils. Those last two weeks of summer vacation fly by and then suddenly, the front door opens and closes a few times one morning, and by 7:30 am, everyone is gone. The house is incredibly silent. So much so that I sit and revel in the silence for a little while, sad, but yet relieved. We did it. We made it to the first day of school.

Whew….

Because I am primarily a school news reporter, this early part of September is my down time, and I enjoy it very much. I still work, but the intensity of my job is lower at the start of the year and it gives me a few weeks to ease into the school routines before it really picks up and we fly into the fall and holiday season of writing, school and family commitments.

This is the time of year I can start to try out some recipes that I’ve been putting aside, sharing on Facebook so I don’t forget where to find them, looking through cookbooks and this is the time of year I have the most time to share them on The Whole Bag of Chips. I even have the time to look up and link up the recipes for any of the meals I’ve shared previously.

Since last year I hardly had any time at all, and since it’s September now, I am giving you a nice, full post today. It’s got our Two Weeks of Meals menu for this week and next, a new recipe we tried out last week and surprise….a safety warning to go along with it!

First off: Two Weeks of Meals

Sunday: Homemade Chili (and later, homemade chocolate pudding for dessert!)

Monday: Paninis

Tuesday: Baked potato soup (new recipe we’re trying out)

Wednesday: Ravioli with sauteed shrimp and grape tomatoes

Thursday: Grilled chicken caesar salad

Friday: Homemade pizza

Saturday: Kielbasa

Sunday: Baked chicken dinner

Monday: Meatloaf burgers

Tuesday: Chicken pot pie (made with the leftover chicken from Sunday)

Wednesday: Cauliflower/Broccoli/Chicken casserole

Thursday: Eggplant Parmesean and pasta

Friday: Leftovers

 

This was a gluten free, lowfat recipe we tried out recently and loved. Every single person gave it a thumbs up. Literally.

This was a gluten free, lowfat recipe we tried out recently and loved. Every single person gave it a thumbs up. Literally.

Next Up: A New Recipe for you to try out, and a warning to go along with it!

Our menu planning is challenging for us because we are trying to combine meals that work for our busy schedule with providing healthy eating options for our family and making it either a gluten free meal or providing almost the exact same option in a gluten free version, every night. Not to mention, we try not to make things we know people don’t like.

Challenging.

But doable.

So this recipe for the Skinnytaste Zucchini Lasagna is one that I saw on Facebook, and I shared it out so that I wouldn’t forget where it was. We really wanted to try it, so we added it to the last two-week menu cycle of meals. It was delicious. A little labor-intensive, so we scheduled it on a night we’d be eating later, with more time to cook. I’d be working that night and my husband would be able to come in a little earlier in the evening to help make it, and to help with all the nighttime pick-ups for the kids.

What’s that they say about the best laid plans?

This was a delicious meal, any leftovers disappeared within days, and we'd definitely make it again, just a little more carefully next time.

This was a delicious meal, any leftovers disappeared within days, and we’d definitely make it again, just a little more carefully next time.

 

Be sure to use ALL parts of your kitchen tools, especially the guards for the sharper ones!

Be sure to use ALL parts of your kitchen tools, especially the guards for the sharper ones!

 

And so, here is the final part of my post for you: the safety warning.

The warning goes like this:

If you are using a sharp kitchen tool, be sure that you are using all of the necessary parts and pieces that go with it. They are there for a reason! Zucchini is a slippery veggie and kitchen tools are very sharp. If you are not careful, you may end up heading out to the emergency room instead of heading to the dinner table!

 

Have a safe and  happy new school year, a happy fall season and a happy two weeks of meals!

Fun Friday: Homemade sidewalk chalk paint

9 Sep
Sidewalk chalk with a twist....paint!

Sidewalk chalk with a twist….paint!

In the summertime, I love the flexibility that my job gives me. I can create my own hours, and I can often work when my kids are asleep. However, some times, I just have to work when they’re up and we’re all home together. On those occasions, I try to get up very early and be done by noon, putting in five or six hours as early in the day as I can, or start late the night before and finish up early so that the best part of the day is not spent with me typing all day.

This summer, when I typed during the daytime hours, my kids always could occupy themselves if they were home. They’ve always had the desire to make and create, concoct and cook. They love DIY sites and Pinterest. My one blog post over the summer was for Oobleck, which they loved making, and today’s is another homemade concoction that they found.

Very few ingredients were needed for this and we had them all at home.

Very few ingredients were needed for this and we had them all at home.

Although we always have a ton of sidewalk chalk on hand (see my post from a few years back about our love for sidewalk chalk and all that it signifies to me) my kids found a DIY for homemade sidewalk chalk PAINT, and were immediately intrigued. What could be better than that? Nothing, apparently. So one Typing Tuesday morning, they asked me if they could make it. The ingredients were simple and we had them all on hand, as well as a bunch of sponge brushes that would be perfect for it, so I gave the okay. They made up a small batch of it and got to work painting outside on the cement. It was just a small amount to try it out, but they decided it was a great thing and would do it again in the future.

The ingredients they needed were:

2 Tablespoons Cornstarch

4 Tablespoons Water

6 to 8 drops of food coloring (they chose blue)

There are many sites online that give out this recipe, but here’s a site they found.

Wet, but drying.

Wet, but drying.

The paint was fine on our cement, and as it turns out, even on our wooden deck stairs (that was an “don’t ask permission first, but forgiveness later” situation) and it’s NOT the reason we repainted the deck at the end of this summer, I promise.

The neat thing was that the sidewalk chalk paint dries differently than it goes on, which was a cool changeover to watch and unique from just using regular already-dry sidewalk chalk. The “Hi” picture shows the changeover starting to happen, with the lighter part being the dry part and darker being the still wet part.

Neat, right?
Right.

And just as an aside, we had a large cookout over Labor Day weekend, and sure enough, one of the biggest hits of the day with adults and kids alike….you guessed it: Sidewalk chalk! Nothing was more fun than seeing grown men laying on the ground in all kinds of funny poses, being traced by their kids. Our sidewalks looked a bit like a crime scene forensics site afterwards!

Enjoy the weekend and have some fun!

New year, new system

7 Sep
By the week, or by the day, I can scroll through and see who has what, but better yet, all of us can see what's going on each day or night.

By the week, or by the day, I can scroll through and see who has what, but better yet, all of us can see what’s going on each day or night.

It’s September already! The summer flew by. It seems that each one seems to go faster and faster, and seems to end sooner and sooner! This summer was a good one though, good weather, good times, an overall good break from the stress of the school year.

With the start of each new school year, I try to be reflective on the past year and see if there is any way I can make my life and all of our lives, easier, flow more smoothly, have more balance, and be less chaotic. We spent the last couple of years really streamlining our meal planning and shopping patterns and we have found it to make a huge impact on our stress in that area. We always know what we’re eating for two weeks in a row, and we’re always stocked up on everything we need for those meals. We plan them to be healthy, budget friendly and most importantly, they coincide with nights that are busy when we have quick and easy meals and nights that we have more time to enjoy a meal with more prep time. It also allows us to coordinate our calendars and keep to the rule of always eating dinner together, as often as we possibly can, which ends up being most nights. Everyone has their thing, and the family dinner is one of our big things.

So now that we had that system down pat, I could look to other areas of our life to see what I could do in preparation for this upcoming school year because once it starts, it’s full speed ahead through June. No time to implement changes and upset the apple cart midyear.

Over the summer, our kids had a friend sleep over, and in the morning after they woke up, I invited her to stay a bit longer and accompany us on an errand, after which we’d drop her off at home, rather than her parents running out to pick her up. She grabbed her phone, opened up an app, took a look, and said, “Let me check my Cozi calendar. Yup, that should work, we don’t have any plans, let me call my mom and ask if it’s okay.”

I had a lightbulb moment right then. I suddenly remembered that years ago, before the days of smartphones and apps, I actually used Cozi briefly, housing it on my laptop computer. It had been recommended to me by my brother as an organizational tool, and although I tried it and liked it, not having a portable application for it, left all my organization at home and me on the road most of the week. Also at that time, none of our kids had smartphones, nor did we. So no one else could really utilize the app and after a while, I stopped using it and went back to carrying a paper planner; an 8 1/2 x 11 bound calendar book with long columns for each day, broken up by the hour. I was the keeper of the calendar. Anyone who needed anything had to ask me first or if they were home while I was home, go look it up in the book. That system seemed to work as best it could, for years.

My post-it note consumption has dropped off considerably with all of my lists housed in one place on my phone for anyone to add to, or to stop and pick up and then cross off from the list.

My post-it note consumption has dropped off considerably with all of my lists housed in one place on my phone for anyone to add to, or to stop and pick up and then cross off from the list.

After that lightbulb moment, believe it or not, I totally forgot about the Cozi app again. My memory isn’t what it used to be. We left that day for our errands, and my lightbulb went off. However, just a morning or two later, I was on a social media page and there in front of my eyes, popped up an ad for Cozi! It was like they knew I’d seen it in person just days before. (That’s a scary thought, but that is what it seemed like.) Right then and there, since I had some time, I opted to download the app onto my smartphone and start setting it up. Now that all our kids are out of elementary school, we finally have five phones so everyone could set up the app and access it from their phones.

As I set us up, I was able to give everyone a colored dot, even the dog, since she has semi-monthly groomer appointments and regularly scheduled veterinary appointments. I could make items repeat weekly, monthly or bi-weekly, and set up reminders for my family members days or hours before an appointment so they don’t forget that we have it. I could also make grocery lists for every store we go to, and to do lists for myself, a shared list, and individual lists, as well as lists for upcoming events. I started seeing many less post-it notes all over my desk and dining room table (which serves as my other, bigger desk). I noticed that if I had a few extra minutes to run into a store, I had the list right with me and didn’t have to search my failing memory for what it was I thought we needed.

My favorite thing though, is that all of our immediate family members have access to the calendar and to the lists. No one has to ask me if we have something scheduled on such and such a day or where someone is on any given night of the week. They can look at the calendar before asking permission to go somewhere. The kids actually start their sentences with, “I looked on Cozi, and the date is clear, can I schedule…..” which takes a lot of pressure off of me having to constantly manage everything for everyone. If someone runs out of something, they can add it to the list, and if they pick it up at the store on the way home, they can cross it off. It’s been great so far, and I think it’s going to really help us streamline our organization. We even added our two weeks of meals list to the list options so at any time anyone can see what’s for dinner tonight, if we need anything from the store for it, we can switch meals around on the fly if we need to because we have the whole list in front of us as well as the calendar, and I don’t have to answer that “What’s for dinner tonight,” question four times between 4pm and 6pm each day.

I often struggle with the ever-presence of technology in our lives, and I work very hard to try to keep balance in our family with phones, laptops and the like, as hard as it is. It’s not a perfect situation, but we’re always trying hard to keep at it. However, in this situation, I like the positive aspect of technology. I hope that throughout the year I continue to see the benefits of Cozi and that it will continue to eliminate some of the stress in our lives.