Adventures in Cooking – Week 11

This week at work we had a food day.  Normally, when we have a food day I can’t eat anything because it’s catered from On the Boarder or some other equally fattening restaurant.  Luckily, this food day everyone was asked to bring in food that started with the letter B (don’t ask me where they came up with). The first thing that popped into my head was blueberries.  I love blueberries!  They are perfect little snacks and they go well in smoothies, pies, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, etc.  Since I consumed so much sugar during the family road trip last weekend, I was experiencing sugar cravings and decided to make mini blueberry crisps.  This recipe is not the healthiest out there, but I tried to make healthy substitutes to the original recipe that I found on Sweet Tooth’s blog so that it wasn’t too bad for you.  For the sugars, I just used non-caloric versions and I used vegan butter from Whole Foods. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture this week since I forgot to take one before I went into work that day and they were almost gone by the end of the day!

Mini Blueberry Crisps

Crust Ingredients:

  • mini pre-made Kebler graham cracker crusts (I like my coworkers, but not enough to make handmade pie crust and fill those single-serving pie tins for the entire office)

Filling Ingredients:

  • 5 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Juice of half of a lemon + zest

Topping Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Quick shake nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • In a large bowl, mix together blueberries, vanilla, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and lemon juice.  Sprinkle zest over berry mixture and place in a 13×9 buttered dish (or about 16 mini graham cracker pie crusts) – (If you are using frozen blueberries, let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes so that the blueberries can soak up the other ingredients)
  • In another bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, and salt.
  • Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut in butter and spread topping over berries – Bake for 20-30 minutes

Something to note, I made these the evening before work and when I tried one it tasted okay, but not great.  I brought then in the next day, heated one up in the microwave for 1 minute and they tasted fantastic!  I don’t know why, but the ingredients just tasted more rich the next day.

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Chore Charts

Every year it seems like my family gets busier and busier. More sports practices, more after-school activities, more homework, and more friends means very little time spent at home and even less time keeping that home clean. Everyday, the kids would come in, fling their backpacks, coats, and shoes all over the living room and rush off to play. Beds were left unmade, bedrooms declared disaster areas, and everywhere this mom went, it seemed like the toys were breeding. After about a month of living in this chaos, I was D.O.N.E!!! Thus, Chore Charts were made.

Supplies:

  • 8.5 x 11 Document Frame
  • 8.5 X 11 Scrapbook Paper
  • Black Sharpie
  • Dry Erase Markers
  • Yarn
  • Scissors
  • Glue Gun/Glue Sticks
  • Ruler
  • Round Magnets

Directions:

1. Place your scrapbook paper horizontal. I let the kids pick their favorite. From the top of the paper, use your ruler and mark down 2.5cm and draw a horizontal line. From that line, mark down 1cm and draw another horizontal line.

2. Next, line up your ruler on the first line your drew. From the left hand side of your paper, place the edge of the paper on 21cm. You will then make tally marks every 3cm (18cm, 15cm, 12cm, 9cm, 6cm, 3cm, 0cm). This marks out the spacing of your days of the week. Move down to the bottom of the page and repeat the same tally marks. Next, place your ruler and connect the tally marks, making sure you do not go past the top horizontal line that your created, except the line at the 0cm tally mark (see below). Write the days of the week in blocks and label your chore chart.

3. Turn your paper vertical, with the days of the week turned to the left. Place your ruler on the line closest to the bottom of the page. Line up your ruler at the 0cm make with the line below the days of the week and make tally marks every 3cm (3cm, 6cm, 9cm, 12cm, 15cm). Move you rule to the top of the page and repeat the same tally marks. Next, place your ruler and connect the tally marks the entire length of the paper. Fill in your child’s chores to the left of your chart.

4. Place your completed chore chart in the document frame. Next, take your round magnets and hot glue them to the four corners on the back of the frame. Take a dry erase marker and place hot glue about 1cm below the cap. You will need to turn the marker and make a complete circle to attach your yarn to. Then take a 12in piece of yarn and carefully wrap the yarn around the marker, covering the glue. Be careful with this step because you can burn yourself and third degree burns are not worth any craft project! Finally, place a dab of hot glue to the back of the frame and attach the other end of the yarn, attaching your dry erase marker to your chore chart.

5. Now, hang completed chore charts on the fridge and get ready for some fun cleaning times.

Completed Chore Chart

My kids have really done well with this system. They enjoy marking off each chore they complete, and really enjoy the allowance at the end of the week. I like the fact that I don’t have to fuss at my kids to pick up after themselves. You do have to make rules when setting up this type of chart system. We have it stipulated that if you do not complete a chore, you don’t receive as much allowance. Our youngest was the first to challenge this rule, and he was really annoyed when his big brother got more money than he did one week. Needless to say, there have been very few chores not completed since that lesson. I hope you enjoy creating this chore chart for your little ones and that it helps your busy life flow just a little more smoothly.

Antique Roadshow

Trying on old-time hats

As you’ve probably noticed, we’ve been a little absent from the blog for the past week.  We have an excuse, I promise!  When my Grandmother moved to Texas, mom and dad would visit her via a scenic highway through Missouri and Arkansas that was littered with antique stores.  As most women know, men don’t really like to stop and shop when they are traveling, so my mother would always tell herself that she would come back to these little antique shops later. About a week ago, my oldest sister Hilary calls me saying that she wants to do something fun for our mom’s birthday this year.  So we all decided that we would surprise my mom with two fun-filled days of antiquing along that same scenic highway.  So Hilary, Katie, mom, and I packed ourselves into a minivan and hit the road early Friday morning (Emily was there in spirit since her pregnancy did not allow her to travel so far for so long)!  Put four women together and you have a guaranteed recipe for silliness.  We kept track of all the crazy quotes that we said and tried to find the ugliest item in every store we went into.  Since we had so much fun, I thought I would share some of the highlights below.  They might not be funny now, but they sure were hilarious when we said them.

Favorite Quotes from our Trip!

  • Mom, if I marry someone like Gerard Butler then you will have so many grandchildren. – Tory
  • I don’t remember people I don’t like. – Tory
  • Yeah, I want to take my butter with me. – Mom (her sarcastic reply when I asked why she was getting a to-go cup at Joe’s Crab Shack)
  • That’s right buddy, you want my cupcake. – Hilary (in response to someone in the car next to us looking at us eating cupcakes from Smallcakes.  Yummy!)
  • I don’t think those are pallets, just wood things. – Katie    They’re called lumber.  – Mom

    Hilary with a statue of Regan

  • We’re also going to pass the natural bridge – Mom   The National Bridge?! – Kate (we kept teasing Katie about this one the entire trip)
  • Tory’s purse will never die because she puts it in a sleeping bag at night and plays it soft music – Hilary (she’s just jealous of my new purse.  Did you know that some designer purses come with their own storage pouch?  Who knew!)
  • Hilary’s super power is a mouth of steel. – Katie
  • Remember that a man’s name is, to him, the most important sound in the English language.  (quoted from The Household Encyclopedia, 1951,  by N. H. and Sylvia K. Mager – a book I bought at one of the stores)
  • Arkansas kind of reminds me of New Mexico, but green. – Katie
  • Everyone has a whip! – Hilary
  • Everyone in Hollywood has dated Jennifer Anniston.  It’s just something to do before you die. – Hilary

Left side of a barn filled with old stained glass windows

And the right side of the barn!

Grant's new bedside lamp

Enjoying the beautiful scenery on the way back home!

We found our ugliest item in one of the last stores we stopped in that day

Adventures in Cooking – Week 10

This week, as most of you know, is the final week of the NCAA tournament.  I’ve had to listen about different basketball teams from all the guys at work and the guys at bowling (oh joy!) for the past month in anticipation of this event.  Now, I’m not a big sports fan.  I’ll watch games on television if someone else is watching it and I’ll even go to a live game or two, but I’m not the kind of person who remembers players names and their statistics.  Because of my indifference to sports, I’m sure I surprised a couple of people when I filled out a bracket this year.  Sadly, I’m doing pretty bad so far.   My final two teams are still in the playoffs, so I’m crossing my fingers that I’m right on that front so that I gain back some points!

This week’s recipe from “How Sweet It Is” is perfect for any party, especially for the games this week, and it’s super simple to make!

Creamy Feta Dip with Jalapeños

Creamy Feta Dip with Jalapenos

Ingredients

  • 16 oz brick of feta cheese
  • 3 whole jalapeño peppers
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + 1 tbsp
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Chose the top off the garlic bulb and drizzle it with a teaspoon of olive oil.  Wrap it in foil and roast for 25 – 30 minutes, or until garlic is golden in color.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Once the garlic is cool, squeeze the roasted garlic of the bulb onto a plate and mash with a fork.
  • Change the oven setting to broil.  Brush the jalapeños with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place them in the oven for 3 – 5 minutes, until the jalapeño skin starts to bubble and brown.  Remove from the oven and let cool. Once the jalapeños are cooled, remove the skins, cut in half, and discard the seeds.  Chop into small pieces.
  • In a large bowl, crumble the feta bricks.  Add the chopped jalapeños, the zest of half a lemon, the juice of half a lemon, the mashed roasted garlic, and 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Blend the ingredients with a fork.  You want the feta to be a bit “wet”, a mix between a spread and a dip.
  • Taste the feta and season with salt and pepper as desired.   Serve warm.

This dip can be served with pita chips, warm pita or naan, spread on sandwiches, or any other type of chip.  This recipe is probably in my top 5 for dips and I’m sure I’ll make it again and again since it’s just that good.

Baby Gift Baskets

Babies, babies everywhere! It seems that every time I turn around, another person I know is expecting a baby. I just love watching them progress through the horrible first trimester, the glowing second trimester and then the awkward/anxious third trimester. I can’t help but get sentimental seeing all these expecting moms, remembering a time when my boys actually liked to cuddled and be loved on by their mommy. I also remember the silly things I did…like waking up from a dead sleep, thrashing the covers about, screaming at my husband that I had lost the baby, only to have him find Grant quietly sleeping in the bassinet by the bed.

With all these expectant mommies comes lots of baby showers. Now, if you’re like me, a package of diapers and a card will just not do. I want my gift to be something that the baby needs, but I also like to pamper the new mommy a bit. While I love making cute little baby blankets for gifts, it’s also fun to create a personalized gift basket for these showers.

Personalized Baby Gift Basket

Supplies: 

* basket/bin (I like to use something that can be used later to store baby items, like this canvas bin)

* baby supplies (baby shampoo, baby lotion, pacifiers, onesies, wipes, socks, etc…)

* mommy supplies (for this mommy, I got pampering items like lotion, manicure kit and nail polish, but you can use anything you think your mommy would like)

* 2 coordinating tissue papers

Directions:

1. First, you need to create layers in your basket. This makes the basket more appealing when it is all finished. To do this, I usually have one big item that I place in the bottom of the bin to fill space (in this case a package of wipes). You will need to cover your bottom layer with tissue paper.

2. Next, choose what items you want to be in front and which ones you want in back. I have found its easiest and usually more visually appealing to place items that are heavy and same in shape in the back. In this basket, I choose to place the baby lotion/shampoo and alcohol in the back. After I placed the bottles in the bin, I put tissue paper behind them, alternating colors.

3. Then, I tuck the mommy items in the front bottom of the bin. I like to think I am hiding a fun surprise for the expectant mommy to find when she digs through the basket. To fill in space, I add more tissue to the side of the basket.

4. Finally, I add the rest of my baby items. As you can seen, I usually place these at an angle, tucking them in here and there, until I think the basket looks good. If there is a space that looks a little bare, I just add another piece of tissue paper. I place the card in front and voila….a beautiful baby gift that any expectant mommy would love.

As you can tell from my basket, this one is intended for a mom expecting a baby boy. It this had been for a girl, I could have added some bows, tights or other cute girly things. Also, if you don’t want to use tissue paper for fillers, you can use the small flannel baby blankets that come in a 4 pack. The key to these gift baskets is that you need to try to make it as specific and personal as you can. As you can see, it takes very little effort to create a beautiful and practical gift that any expectant mommy would enjoy.

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