Monday, July 30, 2012

S'mores Crispy Rice Treats

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Ah, camping.  The fond memories of dirt, showers that charge $0.50 for two minutes of (sometimes) hot water, and who can forget: the food!  Particularly the food that seems to be synonymous with camping, the s'more.  I had fun burning the marshmallows and all, but frankly, I found them messy, unwieldy, and just kind of a pain.  Well, pain no more!  I have combined the best of the s'more world with all that is wonderful about rice crispy treats.  I mean come on, a rice crispy treat is 1/3 of the way to becoming a s'more, right?  Here is a recipe that is easy to prep before leaving on a camping trip, travels well, and if you have little ones, gives them all the s'more flavor, without the fire hazard.

S'more Crispy Rice Treats

  • 1 package (9 sheets) graham crackers
  • 1 bag (10 oz.) mini marshmallows, divided
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 6 cups rice crispies cereal
  1. Line a 9x13 in pan with parchment paper, or spray with non-stick cooking spray, set aside.
  2. Crush the graham crackers into fairly small crumbs, some larger pieces are ok (I just did it right in the bag they were in, why dirty another bag or bowl?).
  3. Mix the cereal and crushed graham crackers in a large bowl, as well as 1 cup of the marshmallows.
  4. Place all the remaining marshmallows and the butter in a large microwave safe bowl, and heat in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until the marshmallows are completely melted and the butter is incorporated.
  5. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the cereal and graham cracker mix, and stir until well combined.
  6.  Pour into the prepared pan and press into the pan to form an even layer.  Spraying a spatula with non-stick cooking spray may help in spreading if it is sticking.
  7. Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and heat in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until completely melted.  
  8. Pour chocolate over the cereal mixture and smooth out over the entire pan.
  9. Let them set up in the fridge or on the counter until the chocolate and marshmallows are set.
  10. Cut into squares and enjoy!

No Knead Artisan Bread

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That came out of my little crummy oven, can you believe that?!  It looks just like the one on the professionals blog, I was so excited!
I know, I know.  I just posted a bread recipe.  It is true, I did.  And then I found this one.  My life has changed.  I saw this on Pinterest, but it is from a website I already knew was just incredible, called The Italian Dish.  They took this recipe from the "no knead" bread book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day from superstar bread bakers Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.Famous bread bakers like Peter Reinhart have even gotten on the no knead bread bandwagon. 

This has revolutionized the way I will make bread.  There is no kneading at all.  Last night I literally dumped flour, yeast, water, and salt in a big bowl, stirred it up, let it sit on the counter for two hours (I started this at 10:20 pm last night, since I found it at 10:15 pm, so I actually set an alarm for 12:20 am to put it in the fridge, that is how much I wanted to try this), and then put it in the fridge over night.  This makes 4, one pound loafs, and the dough keeps in the fridge up to 2 weeks.  When you want to make bread, you pull out a pound of it, shape it, let it rise for 30 minutes, pop it in the oven for 30 minutes, and then you have the most incredible fresh bread ever.  They say the flavor gets better as it sits in the fridge too.

Look at that happy crust, and airy inside, so tasty!

The crust was incredible, I have found the recipe that gives the crust I was in search of.  I highly recommend this recipe for anyone who wants fresh bread, any day, for so much cheaper than store bought.  It requires no special skills, and is so simple.  This turned out better than bread that requires kneading, proofing, kneading, more proofing, then baking.

Try it, I implore you, you too can be an artisan bread baker!!!!

The recipe and technique is explained so well on The Italian Dish blog, that I am just going to put the link, and you can get the recipe there, it is worth the read.  I did half bread flour, and half all purpose flour, per comments I read from the writer of the blog, but by all means, go for the all purpose flour only if that is what you have, I am confident it will be fantastic!

No Knead Artisan Bread Recipe

Let me know if you try it, it just takes minutes (if that) to whip up the dough.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

P.F. Chang's Orange Peel Sauce (with Tofu, Chicken, or Shrimp)

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I love Chinese food.  I particularly love orange peel chicken, and orange peel shrimp.  I REALLY love P.F. Chang's version of orange peel chicken and orange peel shrimp.  The breading is light, the sauce isn't filled with fake ingredients and corn syrup, and it tastes oh so fresh.  This is my version of P.F. Chang's orange peel sauce.  I made this with tofu for all those vegetarians out there, but chicken or shrimp are interchangeable, and very, very tasty (I have used both).  See the end of the recipe for the meat-a-tarian version.  Adjust the chili-garlic sauce for your heat preference and enjoy!

This is a double recipe worth, so it makes about ten, 1/2 cup servings.

P.F. Chang's Orange Peel Sauce (with Tofu)



  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or canola, or vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2-15 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1/2 to 2 tablespoons chili-garlic paste (in the Asian food section of the grocery store), to taste
  • 1 orange, washed well and cut in half
  • 2-3 scallions, chopped (optional)
  • Cooked white or brown rice, to serve the sauce and tofu with
Tofu Batter (or chicken, or shrimp):
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk, soy milk, almond milk
  • 1 package firm or extra firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable or canola oil

To make the sauce:
  1. Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan.  Add minced garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the tomato sauce, water, sugar, soy sauce, chili-garlic paste, and the scallions and bring to a simmer.
  3. Squeeze the juice of half of the orange into the pot and mix all ingredients well.
  4. With the other half of the orange, cut it into 4-6 wedges, and then slice each wedge into slices, peel and all, about 1/8 inch thick.  Add this to sauce (I promise, the peel will be ok, you can see an example in the picture above).
  5. Let this simmer for 30 minutes, or until slightly reduced and thickened.  In the mean time, prep the tofu.
To make the tofu:
  1. Place a medium saute pan on medium-high heat, and pour in enough oil to cover the bottom and about 1/4-1/2 inch deep.
  2. Open the container of tofu, drain off water.  Place block of tofu on a bunch of paper towels that are on a place, and cover with more paper towels.  Gently press out excess water.
  3. Cut the tofu into approximately 20 rectangles.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the milk and eggs, beat to combine.
  5. In a large, shallow dish, mix the flour, cornstarch, and salt and pepper.
  6. Dip the tofu in the egg mixture, then dredge in the flour mixture. 
  7. Test the oil for correct temperature by taking one of the dipped tofu pieces and placing it in the oil.  If it bubble and sizzles, you're good to go.
  8. Place half of the battered tofu in the pan and cook until brown on one side, then flip and cook until brown on the other side.  Remove from pan and place on a plate covered with a paper towel to drain. Repeat with remaining tofu.
  9. Place cooked rice on a plate, top with the tofu, ladle sauce over generously.
  • To make it with chicken or shrimp, use the same batter as with the tofu.
    • For chicken, use 4 medium size chicken breast (boneless, skinless) or boneless and skinless chicken thighs.  Cut into 1 inch pieces and prepare as you would the tofu, starting at step 4.
    • For shrimp, use 1 lb medium sized uncooked, shelled shrimp, and continue at step 4.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

PSA: Hands Only CPR and Infant/Child Choking

Pin It Now! Goodness forbid that the unthinkable happened and someone you knew or didn't know for that matter needed CPR.  Do you know it?  If you are not CPR certified, I highly recommend it, particularly if you have kids.  If you are not certified, here is a video that explains how to do hands only CPR, which has been shown to be effective in circulating blood and oxygen until more experienced rescuers arrive.  This video is only a minute long, and could save a life.

Just two easy steps:

1) Call 911
2) Push hard and fast at the center of the chest.

I have been CPR certified for 12 years, and I think it is the most valuable thing you can learn, that you hope you never have to use.  

Another valuable thing is how to aid a choking infant.  I worry about this all the time because my toddler seems incapable of keeping his finger food at his table and away from his 11 month old brother, who still can't do anything more solid than baby food puree, not for lack of us trying.  See the video below for instruction on how to help an infant:

For infant CPR, check out this video from "The Dr's" television show, very informative:

Lastly, here is how to help a choking toddler, and child CPR. I know this is a lot of info, but it is well worth knowing:

Choking child:

Child CPR:

If you want to find a class, the American Heart Association gives online courses, and then you can take the practical exam at a facility in your city that offers it.  I did this for my recertification.  Super easy, I took the online written portion, printed out the certificate, made an appointment at a local buisness that provides the practical examination, went during my appointment time, did the practical hands on exam, got my certification card right then and there.

Nothing is better than piece of mind, and knowing you have the knowledge to help save a life.

More information on hands only CPR and CPR certification can be found at:

American Heart Association


American Red Cross

Friday, July 27, 2012

King Arthur Flour Hearth Bread

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I am a bread-a-holic.  If I weren't on a diet, my diet would be comprised solely of carbs.  When I worked in Tustin, CA, I was conveniently down the street from a store called Claro's.  It was an italian food shop where you could get imported pastas, olive oils, canned san marzano tomatoes, as well as access to the very popular deli where they would make sandwiches right there for you, and their bakery full of italian breads and cookies and desserts.  One of the things I would go there specifically for was their crusty italian bread.  We don't know the name of it, but it was dark, it was crusty, and it was GOOOOOD!  My husband and I were very good at having half the loaf (it was a large loaf too) gone before we got home from there, if we went down there together.  It is such a happy store.  It is probably the best crusty bread ever, and now I am on a mission to find something that taste like it, and has the crusty happiness.  We think it might only be completely achieved when we get our wood fired pizza oven we lust after, but I figured I should give it a go anyways.

Research led me to my favorite baking site, King Arthur Flour and their Hearth Bread recipe.  This is their go to, traditional, on the back of their flour bags, recipe.  I opted for the version that was supposed to give a crustier, lighter product.  We only waited like two minutes after it came out of the oven to try it, but it definitely had the flavor of the bread from Claro's and a slight crustiness, but when I say Claro's bread is crusty, I am talking 1/4 inch of crispy, flaky bready crusty goodness (the kind where you happily eat the middle out of the slice of bread, then kind of munch of the crust).  This stuff left us, our laps, and our car covered in crumbs, but it was so worth it.  Mine may have been at a disadvantage because between baby and picking up our toddler at preschool and getting lunch, it may have over risen.  Fear not though, I am going to give it another try and see if I can get it any crustier.  The flavor was spot on though.

This is a fairly simple recipe, and anyone who likes good, simple, rustic bread, should definitely give it a try.  The only thing I changed was the addition of 1 1/2 tsp of diastatic malt powder, but that is a specialty item that you needn't worry about.

This is what it looked like when it came out.  It spread out quite a bit, and they ran in to each other.  My shaping wasn't the prettiest, but the good news is, that does not affect taste :)  Make sure you leave enough room between them.  As you can probably tell, we had already dug in by the time I could whip my camera out.

This would make fantastic garlic bread or panini sandwich bread if you cut it parallel to the table horizontally.  Oh my gosh would it be good....or pizza toppings and put under the broiler....or the good old stand by: cut it in big hunks and dig in!

King Arthur Flour's Hearth Bread (from their site)

Makes 2 loaves, 8 servings each, for a total of 16 servings

1 tablespoon (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups warm water (not over 110°F)
5 1/2 to 6 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
boiling water

To mix: Mix together the first four ingredients. Let this stand until the yeast, sugar and salt are dissolved. Gradually add the flour to the liquid and mix thoroughly until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface to knead. (This may be a little messy, but don't give up!)

Knead It: Fold the far edge of the dough back over on itself towards you. Press into the dough with the heels of your hands and push away. After each push, rotate the dough 90°. Repeat this process in a rhythmic, rocking motion for 5 minutes, sprinkling only enough flour on your kneading surface to prevent sticking. Let the dough rest while you scrape out and grease the mixing bowl. Knead the dough again for 2 to 3 minutes.

Let It Rise: Return the dough to the bowl and turn it over once to grease the top. Cover with a damp towel and keep warm until the dough doubles in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours.

Shape it: Punch down the dough with your fist and briefly knead out any air bubbles. Cut the dough in half and shape into two Italian- or French-style loaves. Place the loaves on a cookie sheet generously sprinkled with cornmeal. Let the loaves rest for 5 minutes.

Bake it: Lightly slash the tops of the loaves 3 or more times diagonally and brush them with cold water. Place on rack in a cold oven with a roasting pan full of boiling water on the oven bottom. Bake at 400°F for 35 to 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and sounds hollow to the touch.

For a lighter, crustier bread, let your shaped loaves rise for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven and roasting pan with water to 500°F for 15 minutes. Brush the loaves with cold water, place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 400°F and bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool and devour!

For a heartier, more nutritious bread, substitute 2 cups of King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour for 2 cups of King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour.


1 serving (based on 5 1/2 cups flour used)-- Calories: 140 Carbs: 31g Fat: 0g Protein: 4g Fiber:1g

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Food Review: Merely Sweets--Brea, CA

Pin It Now! On the recommendation of my brother, my family and I went down to Merely Sweets Bakery in Brea, CA since we were right down the sidewalk at Farell's Ice Cream Parlor.

Picture from Kat's 9 Lives blog

When you walk in, it is a very clean, contemporary, somewhat stark design that really allows the desserts to shine.  They were displayed very nicely, with a few cakes, several kinds of cupcakes, a few cookies, and a beautiful display of macarons. They had much less out than I thought they would for a bakery, but I don't know if that is because it was a late sunday afternoon and they were running out, or they just only have a few items.

I am a die hard nutella fan, so when my husband saw they had a nutella cupcake, he pretty much had that ordered right off the bat...he knows me well :)  My brother was going on about macarons earlier that day, even lent me a book on making them, so I had to try one to see what it was all about.  I got the salted caramel macaron.  In the picture below from Kat's 9 Lives, you can see what the salted caramel macaron looks like, it is the one on the bottom left.  It was wrapped up in a nice little bag all by itself, very cute.

The nutella cupcake was wrapped in an individual box and they were both put it another bag.  The prices are a bit high, but for artisinal sweets, I guess it is expected.  Here is the nutella cupcake, photo also from Kat's 9 lives. 

I lovingly protected my stash all the way home.  This is what it looked like when it went in the box, but when I got home and opened it, even though it hadn't tipped over in the box or anything, the frosting had split and completely slid off.  That was disappointing.  I decided to blow all my remaining calories for the day, and indulge in my treats since I didn't know how they would keep.  I started with the macaron.  First off, I LOVE caramel.  The first bite was heavenly!!  It was salty, sweet, and very caramely.  I was so sad I only had one.  The shell was crisp on the outside, slightly chewy on the inside, and I was hooked on macarons right then and there.

With the bar set so high, I was looking forward to the cupcake, even if the frosting did slide off.  I unceremoniously put it back on, grabbed a fork, and dug in.  This is where my happiness ends.  Having eating many, many, many containers of nutella, I know what it tastes like.  I can honestly say that I could not discern a lick of nutella taste from the cupcake or the frosting.  The cake was kind of dense, not a very fine crumb, and not as chocolaty as I would have imagined.  The frosting is where the worst offense was though.  It was like a mouth full of grainy, sugary, shortening laden paste.  It had no chocolate flavor, absolutely no nutella flavor, and it was not flavored of anything really other than sugar and butter or shortening (not normally a bad thing, if there is some other flavor to go with it).  It was so unpleasant, I was so bummed.  I ate it only because I spent almost 3 bucks on it.  Wasn't going to waste the money.

I really expected more from a bakery that looked as nice as this.  The presentation on everything was beautiful.  The macarons where to die for.  The nutella cupcake though, such a disappointment.  It is very possible that it is just my opinion and expectations for frosting, but when you say nutella, in my opinion (and this is all this is), it should taste like nutella, not a mouth full of sugar with no other discernible flavor. 

I would definitely go back for the caramel macarons, but I won't be buying any cupcakes any time soon.

Merely Sweets on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Curious Liam's 3rd Birthday Party

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Today was the day!  The day my weeks and weeks of research (Ok...hours of research on Pinterest...I confess!), supplies collecting, baking, and crafting finally paid off.  Today was my son's 3rd birthday party!  We decided to go with a Curious George theme for several reasons.  One, my son acts more like a monkey than a toddler.  Two, he watches the Curious George shows ALL the time.  I have seen every one.  MANY times.  And there are probably 100 episodes.  At least.

Thanks to the help of my sisters, my mom and dad, my husband, and my mother-in-law, plus several borrowed items from other family members, we were able to pull off a reasonably successful birthday party I believe.

 Here are goody bags we did for the kids.  They had Curious George gummy snacks, glow stick bracelets, crayons, and a Go-Go applesauce squeezer.  Kind of random, but they were affordable, useable, and not completely comprised of junk food (though that is never a bad kind of gift bag).  We wrote the names of the kids on them before they left.
 Here is our "picture wall."  My dad is a professional photographer, so I tried to give him a decorated spot in which to take pictures of the guest with the birthday boy.  I love pictures (can you tell?  There are one or two here).
 My incredibly talented sister painted Curious George.  He was life size, and a dead ringer for the cartoon George.  My son was just enamored and amused and thrilled to have George at his party, and he made for cute pictures!!
 Got to have a close up.  My son has always kind of lived a monkey themed life.  We will never theme our kids room etc. after monkeys again though.  We had his nursery done in monkey theme, and all the stuff we got him  before he was born was monkey themed, and we ended up getting a baby/infant/toddler that sometimes acts more monkey than kid.  The next baby we had, his theme: Winnie the Pooh.  A nice, relaxed, laid back character :)
 Cupcake toppers!  All the printed designed items were from Photo designz  on Etsy.  Great great value, and the printables were fantastic!
 His favorite candy...these and Starbursts.
 This banner was a pain.  It went so much better in my head than it did in real life.  That said and done, after many re-doings of tape and string, we got it up, and I absolutely loved it.  The whole thing said "Happy 3rd Birthday"
 This is a family staple at parties.  It is our version of 7-layer dip, affectionately dubbed "Dave's dip" for the uncle that brought the recipe home from home economics class one day.  Today, it was Jungle dip!  (Those are olives on top...just sayin'.  I thought I bought sliced...oh well.)  We did these individual servings and had individual brown paper bags of chips to go with them.  Portable, individual, and tasty!  Bring on the double dipping to your hearts content!
 We served burgers for lunch.  This is a shot of the menu that I made for people to order their burgers.  They got to choose from a single or double patty (or veggie), their choice of hot toppings (bacon, green chilies, caramelized onions), and cheese (homemade mozzarella, cheddar cheese).  We also made up two "Curious Liam Specials."  The guests marked down the toppings they wanted, and we cooked to order.  Then they got to help themselves to the cold toppings bar we had out also.  Homemade hamburger buns, homemade BBQ sauce, homemade mozzarella cheese (yes, homemade.  There is a previous blog post on it if you don't believe me), caramelized grilled onions, roasted diced green chilies, maple bacon, cheddar cheese, and all the regular burger fixin's as well.  These made for some tasty burgers if I do say so myself. Sorry there isn't a waited long enough to eat their burger for a picture.  My husband the grill master slaved away (and I mean SLAVED away) at the BBQ for a long time in 95+ degree heat (not including the 450 degree heat of the BBQ) cooking all the onions, peppers, burgers, and bacon.  He was such a trooper and it wouldn't have been the awesomeness without his grilling expertise. 
 Homemade dill pickles. 
 This was fruit salad in little waffle cone bowls.  So good, so easy, and so fun!
 On to the desserts...I love desserts by the way.  This is the cupcake spread.  We had vanilla with meringue frosting, and devils food cupcakes with meringue frosting.  The cupcake toppers were part of the printables package from Print Designz, as well as the buffet labels.
 Close up!

 I made caramel apples with chocolate and white chocolate drizzle for party favors for the adults.  Homemade caramel for them of course.  This was one of my favorite parts of the whole party spread, I was so happy with them.
 I was lucky enough to find monkey cupcake liners.  Who knew, right?
 For a monkey party, you must have banana something.  My banana something--frozen chocolate dipped bananas.  Some were plain, some were rolled in peanuts, and some were rolled in Reese's peanut butter cup morsels.
 The whole dessert spread table. 
The last dessert we had was vanilla milkshakes.  I made homemade chocolate sauce, and homemade caramel sauce (Oh my gosh...I wish I could have an I.V. of that caramel sauce...) for people to drizzle in if they wanted to flavor it.  These were a big hit and were gone as soon as I turned my back.  It was funny.

I tried to get the best deal on everything, and spend the least amount I had to while getting what I really wanted.  This involved many trips to Walmart (the shake cups, trays, candy jars, ribbon, and colored table cloths all Walmart, and under a dollar each), Target (napkins, dessert and appetizer plates), Sam's (squeeze bottles, cups for the dip, red dinner plates), and more stores too.  It was so nice to have a themed party, but not have it looked like Party City threw up in my house.  My goal was to not have it look like that happened, and I am happy with the outcome.

We also had a Curious George bounce house from out in our backyard.  This was the best money spent on the whole day!  Our son was over the moon!  He bounced and bounced and just had a blast.  I highly recommend splurging on one if you have an energetic child like we do.  It just made him so happy. 

A gigantic thank you to Larry Berger Photography, who took all these dazzling and drool worthy pictures.  A picture is worth a thousand words, and these all say "Yummy yummy yummy!!"

Overall, it was a lot of work, a lot of research, a lot of driving to a million different stores to get the best deal (I bargain searched, I really tried to do this as inexpensive as possible), and a lot of man hours.  In the end, it was SOOO worth it.  I think our son had a great time, he enjoyed the bouncer, the presents, the blowing out of birthday candles, and probably all the attention in general.  Heck, for a 3 year old, I guess you can't expect much more :)

Happy Birthday Curious Liam!  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Masterpieces Wall

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Our toddler has been in preschool for a few months now, and every day he brings a masterpiece home that he wants to display proudly on the fridge.  Now when he looks at you with big blue eyes and says in the sweetest voice (one reserved only for when he wants something), "I made this for you Mommy, can we put it on the fridge, pleasssseee."  I would never want to say no, but my fridge is only so big (Ok, it is huge, but that is besides the point).  Here is where this brilliant idea that yes, I found on pinterest, comes in to play.  I fell in love with it, it solved so many dilemmas,  and I think it is just downright cute.  His stuff deserves to be displayed like this.  Besides, to him, they are all masterpieces, and in turn, they are masterpieces to me.  

It was pretty simple, and can be made more simple based on the material you choose.  Ours was:
  • 1- 2"x8' piece of wood, cut in half and sanded
  • 2 bottles of spray paint
  • 12 paper clips (I think they were Adecco.  Got them at walmart, 2 in a pack, magnet back.)
  • Gorilla Glue
  • clamps
  • Picture hangers
  • "Masterpieces" custom vinyl print from
So my wonderful husband cut the length of wood in half so we had 2 four foot long pieces.  We sanded them smooth, wiped off the sawdust and then spray painted them with satin black spray paint.

Once it was dry, we used gorilla glue to mount the clips on to the board.  Since they are a magnetic back, they lay nice and flat against the board.  Once they were all  glued, clamped, and dry, picture hanger clips where hammered to the back, and then anchor screws put in the wall and VOILA!  We have a masterpieces wall. 

After they were up, I put up the vinyl lettering.  Got that on then went and collected the best pieces of my son's artwork.

I think it is adorable and I am so happy with how it came out!

Party Favor Caramel Apples--Sneak Preview

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Here is a little teaser from my son's 3rd birthday party coming up on Saturday.  I made these to give as party favors for the guests.  Homemade caramel with chocolate and white chocolate drizzle.  I can't wait for his party!  There will be a nice long post with lots of pictures but for now, I leave you with this :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

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I hate oatmeal.  Like the mushy, soupy, texture like its already been chewed kind of oatmeal.  So when I was told I needed to eat oatmeal to help with nursing my 10 month old, I had to find a more palatable way to ingest it.  So here it is.  Chewy, crisp, airy oatmeal cookies.  This is an oatmeal bandwagon I can be all over :)  I got this recipe from my favorite guilty pleasure, King Arthur Flour.  I modified the Oatmeal Cookie recipe just a tad to up the oatmeal factor, and the health factor (these tasty morsels only have 64 calories each!)


  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cider or white vinegar (put it in, you won't be sorry)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 Oat Bran (I got mine from Trader Joe's)
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats, quick cooking or old-fashioned
  • 1 cup golden raisins, optional (I don't do raisins, but feel free.  Chocolate chips are good too)

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets, light-colored preferred.

2) Beat together the butter, shortening, sugars, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and vinegar until fairly smooth; a few tiny bits of butter may still show. 

3) Beat in the egg, again beating until smooth. 

4) Add the baking soda, oat bran, and flour, beating until well incorporated. 

5) Add the oats (and raisins), stirring to combine.

6) Drop the dough by 2 tsp (#60 cookie scoop)  balls onto the prepared baking sheets. Space the cookies 2" apart; they'll spread.

7) Bake the cookies for 11-12 minutes, reversing the pans halfway through (top rack to bottom, bottom to top). For softer cookies, bake the lesser amount of time; for crunchier, the longer amount. 

8) Remove the cookies from the oven, and let them cool right on the pan.

Yield: Approx. 34 cookies.

 Serving Size: 1 cookie  Servings Per Batch: about 34 Amount Per Serving: Calories: 64 Total Fat: 3g  Total Carbohydrate: 9g Dietary Fiber: 1g  Protein: 1g

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Homemade Dill Pickles

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No, not the annoying baby brother of Tommy Pickles from the Rugrats cartoon (my son is currently obsessed with this '90s throwback).  I am talking about yummy, vinegar soaked cucumbers.  No glowing neon green liquid here, these are fresh, flavorful, and SO easy!  This recipe is from Bobby Flay's Cuban Sandwich Recipe on  I didn't have all the fresh dill and whole seeds for the spices, so I just subbed a small amount of the ground spice equivalent, including garlic.

These will go great with homemade hamburgers.  If you go through the trouble of making everything from scratch for a crazy good burger experience (yes, I am one such crazy person), why not go all the way with homemade pickles too.  These happen to be for my son's upcoming birthday party for his "burger bar" lunch.  Perfect compliment to hand formed burger patties, homemade hamburger buns, homemade mozzarella cheese, homemade condiments and a variety of other happy toppings.

Homemade Pickles:

  • 3 Kirby cucumbers, sliced into 1/8-inch thick slices (I made 1-1/2 recipes worth of vinegar solution, and used 12 mini cucumbers, 3-4 in. long, and put them in 4-16 oz canning jars)
  • 3/4 cup packed coarsely chopped fresh dill (if you don't have it, skip it and add more dill seeds)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped (1/4 to 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (make sure it does not contain iodine, that will make the pickles cloudy)
  • 3/4 teaspoon dill seeds (I put more since I didn't have fresh dill on hand, maybe 1-1/4 tsp)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds (1/4 tsp ground Coleman's mustard powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds (1/8 tsp powder)
Put the sliced cucumber in a medium bowl (which has a fitted lid).
Combine 1 cup of water, the vinegar, dill, sugar, garlic, salt, dill, mustard and coriander seeds in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until the sugar and salt is dissolved. Remove from the heat and taste for tartness, add more sugar if too sour and let cool to room temperature.
Pour the cooled liquid over the cucumbers, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 48 hours, stirring the mixture at least once.
 *According to research, these should last several months in the fridge as long as you use good cucumbers that were not rotting already or had soft spots.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Nutella Oreo Truffles

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Having made homemade nutella the day before, I was then presented with the dilemma of what to do with all that nutella.  Make truffles of course!  I had some fantastic oreo truffles at a family get together on fourth of July, and thought that those may be something that could work with the nutella instead of cream cheese (we don't eat a lot of cheese products or dairy products in our house for the most part).  So I said what the heck, and went to work.

These did not come out as moist as the ones with cream cheese, they were more cake-like than truffle like.  I think that can be remedied by adding more nutella (my homemade nutella was not as thin in consistency as store bought, so if you use store bought, that may help negate having to add extra).  Moist or cakey, they were still tasty!  Not too strong on the hazelnut flavor, but if you were real adventurous you could stick a whole toasted hazelnut in the center.

Here is the recipe, adjust the amounts to suit your desired consistency.


Makes approximately 49 truffles

11 oz homemade nutella spread or store bought (adjust amount for desired consistency)
1 15 oz package oreo cookies
14 oz semi sweet-chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, or dark chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)


  1. In a food processor, process the oreo cookies in to a fine crumb.
  2. Add in the nutella and process until the mix comes together.
  3. Using a 2 tsp cookie scoop, scoop out the mix (make sure to press it into the scoop well), release the mix into your hand and compress and roll into a ball.  Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Once all the mix is rolled out, melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl in 30 second intervals until melted.
  5. Using two forks, roll each ball in the chocolate, remove excess, place back on lined cookie sheet.  
  6. When finished, sprinkle some crushed oreos over the top if desired.
  7. Place in fridge to set.  Store in fridge.

Nutrition (as written):

Calories: 106 cal
Fat: 6 g
Carbs: 14 g
Protein: 1 g
Fiber: 1 g

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Homemade Dark Chocolate Nutella Spread

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Here is another confession--I was buying jars of nutella, and eating it straight out of the container with a spoon.  No time to pass go, or spread it on anything that has redeeming health qualities.  Nope.  Straight from the jar.  And man, when I got to the bottom, it was no joke.  I would scrape, lick, and scoop every last morsel of nutella goodness out of that jar.

Then sadness....I couldn't find it on sale, I couldn't find coupons.  I could not justify the $3.50 for a little jar that would last me not enough days.  Then one day, I saw on pinterest, "Homemade nutella."  Really?  Could it be?  Can it be possible to make it at home.  Well I am here to tell you that yes it is.  I modified the recipe I found on Seemingly Greek to develop this recipe.

Granted, it isn't quite as silky smooth, and not as sweet (if you use milk chocolate it probably would be), but it has such a wonderful, fresh hazelnut flavor, and rich chocolaty goodness, I am quite satisfied.

This is currently slated to be used to make my next endeavor....nutella oreo truffles.  Yes, you heard right.  Nutella. Oreo.  Truffles!  How could you go wrong, right??  Well, I'll let you know :)

In the mean time, here is the recipe.


Makes 15-16, 2 Tbs servings (about 600 grams or 23 oz total)

2 cups (240 grams) hazelnuts, toasted and peeled (I used Trader Joe's large hazelnuts)
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup dutch process cocoa powder
6 oz (or however much you need to get the consistency you want) evaporated 2% milk
1 Tbs refined coconut oil, or another flavorless oil
1.65 oz Trader Joe's 72% cocoa chocolate bar (or any kind of chocolate you want), melted
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt


  1.  Toast hazelnuts on the stove top in a dry saute pan over medium low heat until slightly browned and fragrant.  Do not burn.
  2. Peel the skins from the hazelnuts and place in food processor.
  3. Pulse with the coconut oil until it is finely ground.
  4. Add remaining ingredients, but start with only about 3 oz. of the milk.  Add more to get the desired consistency.
  5. Blend in food processor until smooth and mixed and desired thickness.
  6. Store in air tight container in the fridge.  
  7. Enjoy on toast, in graham crackers, fruit, or just by the spoonful!
I am not sure how long it lasts in the fridge with the evaporated milk in it, but if anyone knows, feel free to drop it in the comments.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mini Corn Dogs

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I have to study for the CSET exams coming up in T-minus 4 days.  Needless to say, all though I want to be a domestic goddess, this week is probably not the week.  My solution--a box of Trader Joe's Corn bread mix, and a pack of hotdogs (or veggie dogs, whatever floats your boat).  This dinner was SO easy!  I made a little modification to the mix preparation, but just to make it healthier.


  • 1 box Trader Joe's Corn bread mix (or any other, just prepare as directed)
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 milk (I used soy milk)
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce (to substitute for half of the oil called for.  You can substitute half the amount of oil called for)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 8 standard hotdogs or veggie dogs

Preheat oven to 350 for light pans, or 325 for dark pans.  Mix the egg, milk, applesauce, and oil in a small bowl. Mix in corn bread mix and mix until just moistened.
Drop by 1-1/2 tsp fulls into 2 mini muffin pans.  Cut the hotdogs into four pieces each, and place one piece in each muffin well, pushing it into the batter.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges and a set.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Homemade Finger Paints

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Win one for Pinterest!  I found a tutorial on Pinterest for homemade finger paints at The Daily Buzz.  It was really easy and I had everything so I thought I would make it for Liam to finger paint in the bath with.  That way I could let him play, and hose him down all in one shot. 


3 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 cups water
food coloring


Combine everything in a pot, heat and stir until mixture thickens. You will know when it happens because all of the sudden it will go from white and thin, to opaque and thick like frosting.  Remove from heat.  I divided it up and put it in a muffin pan, put a few drops of various food coloring and stirred well. 

Put Liam in the bath, gave him some paint brushes (didn't want it on his fingers, go figure!), and told him to go to town.  He is thoroughly enjoying it.  I enjoy knowing what's in it, and that if he ingested it, it would cause him no harm.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Shoe Organizer for Closet Clutter

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I love organization.  I can't control a lot in life, but I like to maintain the illusion that I at least have a miniscule amount of control over the amount of clutter in the house, and where it resides.  When I saw this idea on pinterest, I was on amazon pricing out shoe organizers faster than you could say "Boo!".

I have one little cabinet above my compact desk, and until I found this, it was a health hazard to sit under due to the ever impending possibility of a massive clutter landslide landing on my head.  It had everything from spare car keys, remotes, scissors, measuring tapes, ribbon, all precariously perched there above my head in a 3' by 2' cabinet.  Not to mention enough old magazines to keep a doctors office waiting room quite happy.

This is so simple.  Buy one over the door shoe organizer with clear pockets.  Hang it on the inside of any door.  This one happens to hang inside our downstairs hall closet, which has been converted into an overflow pantry (got to love couponing stock piles!).  It is practically in the kitchen, so it is convenient.  I used three pieces of velcro and put it on the back of the bottom of the organizer and fastened it to the door, that way it would not swing when the door was opened and closed.  And Voila!  You have 24 glorious pockets in which to stash whatever clutter your heart desires.  In our case, we store office supplies, packs of gum, candy bars left from Easter, kids coloring stuff, MiO drink flavoring, and even misc. remote controls.  You get the picture though, anything small enough to be annoying because it never has a proper home goes perfect in this.

Give it a try, you will feel less cluttered and organized in minutes.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mommy's Swim Diaper Fail...Times Two!

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I am a self proclaimed planner.  I plan months in advance if I know something is coming that needs planning.  Birthdays, Christmas, day trips.  You name it, and if it can be planned for, I guarantee I will be planning.  Well, fourth of July was no different.  Every year we go over to my aunt and uncles house, eat yummy food, enjoy good company, and swim.  This is the first year that I have had two kids to take to the party, and with that came a whole new level of planning.  It involved a lot of digging through closets, vacuum storage bags, and brain wracking to find the stuff I was looking for.  I had to plan.  I had to make sure I had swim suits, rash guards, sunscreen, floaties, and towels.  I knew I was missing something...just couldn't put my finger on it.  Then two days before, it came to me--swim diapers!!!  They have to have swim diapers.  Which by the way, it should be a crime against parents how much the diaper companies charge for a pack of swim diapers.  It is highway robbery!

So July third, I decide I have to be super mommy and schlep the kids to Target all by myself while daddy is at school.  I can do it, right?  Piece of cake, they are well behaved children who always do what I say, never make me raise my voice, and are the complete picture of obedience....Oh wait, sorry, I think I drifted off to "In my dreams" land for a moment.  With Declan strapped to my front in a baby carrier, and Liam sitting unstrapped in the cart (stupid target changed their carts, now the strap on the cart over doesn't work.  It is the little things that can make such a difference in a mommy's sanity level I tell you!)  The shopping trip went more like "Liam, if you listen to mommy and are good, I will get you Chick-fil-A."  And then the hour of  "mommy, I want Chick-a-fil-a (its how he says it)!!" Well, eventually the outrageously priced swim diapers where secured in the car, as well as both children.  Ok, one minor mommy victory.

Fast forward to fourth of July morning.  The kids' swim bag was beautifully packed, clothes accounted for, sunscreen wrangled, towles stacked, and three pairs of swim diapers for each kid.  Perfect, right?  No.

Mommy swim diaper fail number one--

Since my husband was cooking the food we were bringing and we wanted it hot, I took the kids by myself so they could swim for a little while.  I had slathered them with sunscreen, we were all in our suits, all I had to do was get there, get them out of the car, set up our gear, and jump in the beautiful pool.  I took my oldest in first.  We got situated and rushed into the pool, got in the cool water and started splashing around have a grand time, video camera rolling and everything so that grandma could see the kids swimming.  Five minutes into this, I pick up my son, see his swim suit slip down and realize that after all the trouble I went through to make sure that I went and got swim diapers, I had not even put it on him!  My sister was conveniently rolling the video camera on us when I came to the realization that he was still in his regular diaper.  I stop mid sentence, lift him out of the pool so fast you would think it was on fire, and then just stand there in disbelief that all my planning had failed. Words don't do it justice, the video does (sorry I cant post it).  Regular diapers absorb an insane amount of water by the way.  The picture up top is him after we got him into his swim diaper and getting him put back together so he can go back in.  Ok, so that was diaper fail number one.

Mommy swim diaper fail number two--

If you read back a few paragraphs, you will notice that in my wonderful packing job of our swim gear, I neglected to mention anything about extra regular diapers being packed.  Well after I got the kids out of the pool, I realized I didn't have any of their diapers with me, and frankly, when your little boy is standing there stark naked, you really don't want to take much extra time to go find them.  I thought brilliantly to myself "Self, just put another swim diaper on him, it will be just fine.  When daddy gets here, you can go fish some out of the car."  So I did just that. My littlest guy had not wet his diaper, so I was able to put his regular diaper back on him.  Unfortunately, five minutes after putting Liam in a clean swim diaper, I look down at him and he is standing in a puddle, with soaked shorts.  Um..what happened dude???  "Mommy, I peed" was his answer.  Yes, I could see that that was the case, but I couldn't understand why he was standing in pee.  Then I realized...for the same reason they can wear these diapers in the pool without them absorbing every iota of water, is the same reason they would not absorb pee on dry land.  Woops!!  Guess I should have taken the time to go fish out a real diaper.  Lesson learned.  Too bad it was at the expense of my son's dignity.  Good thing they probably don't remember much from this age, right?

So the takeaway from all this--

1) Check to make sure you implement all the wonderful planning that was done
2) Swim diapers absorb nothing...they just make parents think they are keeping the pool cleaner that if the     kids weren't wearing one at all....(I life guarded at a public pool for 6 years...this revelation does NOT make me feel better about those 6 years...)

If you read this whole thing, you're a saint, and I hope you don't think too much less of me :)
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