Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Secret Ingredient Is.....

Cottage Cheese!  Who knew.  I hate the stuff and won't touch it with a 10ft pole.  I had a roommate in college who would eat the stuff by the gallon with pineapple.  Looked and smelled disgusting. I come from a long line of "will not eat anything white" eaters.  I'm very proud to say that this is something that I have not passed on to my kids - except for mayonnaise and plain yogurt.  But come on, that stuff is no good.   My kids don't like cottage cheese either.  Honestly, thought I'm not 100% sure on that because it is the one food that I have never ever bought, brought into the house or given them.  Before today that is!

I make excellent Eggplant Parmesan.  I'm talking world famous, better than what you get in a restaurant Eggplant Parmesan.  Normally I make this twice a year.  Once at Christmas and once to do a trial run before Christmas.  I have been making this for years and my family is a huge fan of this dish.  If word gets out that I did a trial run and didn't let my brother or sister know, I'm in trouble! When I say my family, I mean MY family.  My people - my mom, brother, sisters, old friends etc.  I think my husband and kids can take it or leave it, but I don't think they really appreciate it.  They didn't grown up in an Italian Catholic Jersey Household.  A culture in itself, wouldn't you say!

So anyway, I make this dish.  It is very time consuming and not that healthy. When I make it for Christmas it takes a good part of the day and I make it old-school from scratch, right down to the frying. I've tried putting it together in advance and baking it the day of, but it never tastes the same.  I also know that it isn't the healthiest dish out there.  Which is why I only make it a few times a year!

 While at the beach recently, I picked up a magazine that my mom had laying around (yes, I actually had time to sit and look at a magazine - thanks Mom for watching the kids) and saw a recipe for Vegetable Lasagna.   I was intrigued - the main headline of this recipe was cheap & easy -which I am all about!  Upon further inspection, I realized that the recipe wasn't for lasagna at all, but it was an updated Eggplant Parm recipe.  I made it this evening for dinner and the jury is still out.  My three little ones (6 year old and 4 year old twins) would not touch it.  I'm curious to see what my husband and oldest son think!

I pretty much followed my recipe (sorry - can't share this one!)  but incorporated a few of the healthier aspects from this magazine recipe.  Instead of frying the eggplant, I baked it.  Instead of using a lot of heavy cheese (Ricotta & Mozzarella) and eggs in the filling mixture I used cottage cheese.  I liked it. I really liked it.  Who knew!  The cottage cheese made it much lighter and smoother.  The next time I make baked ziti or lasagna I will be using cottage cheese again!

What are some tricks that you have to lighten up some of your favorite recipes?  Or, are you a "sneaker" do you need to put purees in your food to get your kids to eat more veggies?

Thanks for stopping by & have a great evening!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Rise and Shine! It's Breakfast Time!

My oldest son is not a morning person.  He is also not a breakfast person.  He does not like to eat when he first wakes up.  He is content to wait a few hours, then eat cold fried rice for breakfast!  On school mornings we do not have time for this.  I also am a believer in breakfast.  Especially on school days.  We need to make the bus, and that means my children need to eat before they leave.  I am always on the look out for cheap and easy recipes.  I have two that I have tested out this past week and know they will come in handy for school mornings!

 Stuffed French Toast  
These are the placemats my friend brought me back from India!

I see this recipe becoming a family favorite!  It was easy to make, I used ingredients that I had on hand.  You can even assemble the night before and bake in the morning!

6 Slices of Bread (I used whole wheat because that is what we had!)
3 Eggs
1/4 c Skim Milk
1 tbsp. Cinnamon
1 tbsp. Vanilla
1 tbsp. Brown Sugar + more to sprinkle on top
8 oz. Cream Cheese  (see picture)
1 1/2 c Blueberries
Cooking Spray
I happened to have this flavor on hand & it worked out great!
I keep blueberries on hand in freezer.  We picked them earlier this summer!

-Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
-Take a small casserole dish and spray with cooking spray
-Take two slices of bread spread with cream cheese, place them in dish cream cheese side up
-Take two slices of bread, spread with cream cheese, place them cream cheese side down on top of other slices
-Spread cream cheese on top of two slices you just placed in dish
-Take two more slices of bread spread with cream cheese, place them in dish cream cheese side down
-In small bowl, beat eggs, add in milk, vanilla, cinnamon and brown sugar.  You can adjust ratios of cinnamon, vanilla and brown sugar based on your preferences.   Pour mixture over bread.
-Top with Blueberries, sprinkle with Brown Sugar
-Bake for 35 minutes
-Serve warm & enjoy!

Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies
You read that right.  Cookies for breakfast.  Not only do they taste good, but they are good for you!  I made a test batch of these last week and they were gone within 15 minutes!  Super easy to make and the kids can do pretty much all the work.  That is win-win!

2 Large Ripe Bananas
1 c Quick Cooking Oats
1/4 C Raisins
Cooking Spray
-Pre-Heat Oven to 350 degrees
-Generously Spray your cookie sheet with nonstick spray
-Mash Bananas in bowl
-Add Oats
-Mix well
-Add Raisins
-Mix well
-Form into balls and place on cookie sheet
-Press down into disc shape
-Bake For 15 minutes
Makes approximately 16 cookies.
These are best served warm.  On school mornings I am going to make a half batch and bake them in my toaster oven!
Thanks for stopping by.  Please let me know if you try either of these.  Your kitchen will smell great while they are baking! 

Please note: my Oatmeal Cookie Recipe is adapted from one I found on The Burlap Bag.  They are very cool and have lots of yummy cookie recipes! Please check them out!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back to Schoo Tip

Does your child require prescription medicine to be left at school?

My daughter needs an epi pen for her peanut allergy.  This is left with the school nurse.  The Epi Pen needs to be left at the school in the original packaging from the pharmacy.  This means I do not have the box or prescription number if I need a refill.  Yes, the pharmacist can always look it up.  But, I am all about saving time and I prefer to use automated systems whenever possible! 

Here is a little tip - take a picture of the prescription box with your phone.  Make sure you get the full pharmacy label on the box, including prescription # and pharmacy phone number.  You will have it with you pretty much at all times and don't need to waste time when you need a refill.

Also, if you are heading to a doctor's appointment, it is much easier (and quicker) to take a picture of all your current prescription medications with your phone instead of writing everything down.  This way you have exact dosage and can quickly pull that up along with correct spelling of medication.  I did this with a recent visit to my cardiologist and the nurse was impressed!

Have a great night!

Easy Asian Inspired Entree

You all know that I am a huge fan of cooking once and eating twice (or sometimes 3x!) from the same key ingredient.  This minimizes my time in the kitchen, maximizes my time with my kids and helps to disguise the dreaded "left over"!

My kids are a huge fan of Chinese food.  Take out can get pricey and is very tricky to navigate pick up with four hungry kids!  I have started making the following recipe on a regular basis.  It is super easy and most importantly my kids love it!

Pork Fried Rice

The first time I made this my oldest son told me it was the best thing I ever made.  Ever.  My youngest son told me it was better that the Chinese Restaurant.  Both very high compliments from these two!  I make this dish with leftover pork tenderloin.  In fact, we are having this tonight.  Last night I made a pork tenderloin on the grill.  Super easy - heat up your grill on high for five minutes.  While that is heating rub a pork rub on the tenderloin.  When grill is hot, turn down to medium and throw the tenderloin on.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Flip. Cook for another 20 minutes, and you are done!  Here is what you need to make the Fried Rice Dish:

-2 cups cooked cubed pork
-1 bag of peas & carrots frozen mixed vegetables
-chopped onions or scallions (about 1/4 Cup - my kids don't like onions)
-3 eggs
-2 cups cooked rice (great way to use your leftover rice!)
-Soy Sauce
-Canola Oil

Take a frying pan (we don't have a wok - note to husband, woks are not suitable birthday gifts) and spray it with cooking spray. Take your eggs, whisk them together and add to pan.  Cook in your fry pan until scrambled.  Remove eggs from pan and place in separate dish.  Clean pan.

Add canola oil to clean pan (a few tablespoons).  When pan has been heated, add onions, then add peas & carrot mixture.  Cook until tender.  Add pork.  Mix together until heated through.  Add rice.  Stir.  Keep stirring so nothing sticks or burns.  Add soy sauce  - enough to cover - about 1/2 bottle.  (We use the low sodium or sodium free one.)  Keep stirring!  Add in cooked eggs. Stir everything together, cook a few more minutes until everything is heated throughout and your are done!

Easy Pork Fried Rice

If you do not eat pork or are not a fan, you could definitely substitute chicken.

I have a great Beef &  Broccoli recipe that I will post soon!

Thanks for stopping by!  How do you give your left overs a second life?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Easy Enchiladas!

I am all about cooking once, eating twice.   Cooking things that let me spend the minimum time in the kitchen and the maximum time with my kids!  So what does this mean!?!  I cook something and get two meals out of it.  One of my all time favorite things is oven roasted chicken.  You can do so much with this versatile protein.  This is something that I cook year round.  Last Thursday I made my chicken and was able to get three meals out of it!  We had the roasted chicken Thursday night with vegetables for dinner.  On Saturday I made chicken salad for lunch.  After lunch, I took the left over chicken shredded it and put it in the freezer.  This morning I took my bag of shredded chicken (about 2lbs) out of the freezer, put it in the fridge and by 5pm it was ready to go!   For tonight's dinner, we used the shredded chicken in Enchiladas.  We will have an easy, quick and homemade meal that not only tastes great but is pocketbook friendly too!

-2 small cans Enchilada Sauce
-Shredded Chicken (I had about 2lbs left)
-1 bag Shredded Cheddar Cheese
-1 tablespoon of Sour Cream
-1 pack of Tortillas

My kids like the mild sauce.  The sauce with the Green Chile is great too!

-Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
-Take a Pyrex Pan (or casserole dish). Pour 1/2 can of sauce on bottom of pan
-Take your chicken and put it in a large microwave safe, mixing bowl, add remaining 1/2 can of sauce, sour cream and 1/2 the bag of cheese.
-Mix well
-Microwave chicken mixture on high for 1 minute, 30 seconds
-Take each tortilla and fill with a scoop of the chicken mixture, roll and place in pan
-Repeat until you run out of chicken mixture
-Pour 2nd can of Enchilada Sauce on top
-Top with Remaining Cheese
-Bake for 20-25 minutes, cheese will be nicely melted

This is what the chicken mixture should look like

This is a dish that not only my children love to eat, but they love to help make!

Getting ready to go in the oven!


Just out of the oven.  Smells Great!

We will serve this with a salad or black beans on the side. If you make it at home, please be sure to let me know what you think!  What are some of your favorite cook once, eat twice meals?

Thanks for stopping by & enjoy your evening!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I used THE Soap!

"Thanks so much, I love it! I'm going to save it."

"That is so pretty.  It is too nice to use.  I'm going to save it."

"Wow.  That is so sweet.  I'm going to save these."

How many time have you received something or purchased something for yourself and immediately said one of those sentences?  What are you "saving" these things for?!  I am a "saver".  I have a weird collection of items in my closet that are "too nice" to use and I'm saving them!  I don't know what I am saving them for, but let me tell you, when the Apocalypse comes, I'm going to look great in my cashmere sweater and smell great from my hand milled soap collection!

Last week we had a house guest.  He was very sweet and brought me some very nice hand milled soaps.  A few days later, my daughter asked if she could use one of the soaps in her bath.  My response, "no,  I'm going to save them".  She innocently asked, "for what Mommy?"  That stumped me.  I had no idea! Why I am I saving this soap? And why I am saving all of that other stuff?  Stuff that is too nice to use or wear.

I am not going to think like that anymore!  So, we opened the soap (oatmeal honey) and my little girl felt so special to use it and had  pretty, soft skin after her bath!

Are you a saver?  What are some of the things that you have been saving?  Me, mainly high end sweaters and soap. I do have some random things as well!  One of my girlfriends gave me a beautiful set of placements and napkins from India.  Before, they would have gone in the drawer, because I needed to save them and they were too pretty to use.  I'm proud to say they look beautiful on my dining room table.  Every time I walk by, I see the pretty flowers and think of my friend.  We haven't actually used the placemats yet, but they are out and I am enjoying them!  Now, I'm not about to put out my white hand towels with the embroidered shamrocks, because I know they will be ruined in minutes.  But, I do believe I have a set of Vera Bradley Paperclips in my closet that I'm going to dig out and put on my desk......

Thanks for stopping by.  Have a great day!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

She's so lost....

That is what I heard my six year old daughter whisper to her eight year old brother the other day.  We were driving to camp.  It was the kids first day of camp and we had been there many, many times before. (My four kids did an awesome three day camp program at Pump It Up in Leesburg, VA. 9-3 each day!!)

Next I heard,  "Mom are you sure you know where you are going? Maybe you should just use the GPS.  It is there to help you".  Now, I am the first to admit I can't really read a map and I am challenged when it comes to directions and often I do utilize the lady that lives in the dashboard to help me.  But, not this time.  I really did know where I was going.  This did not put my daughter at ease.  She was anxious and she didn't want to be late to camp!

Then I started having flashbacks of when I was child.  My younger sister and I in the backseat of the station wagon.  Having no idea where we were going, and believing that our mom didn't either.  "Mom, maybe we should stop at that gas station and ask for directions" or "Mom, there is a lady walking a dog, maybe we can just ask her".  This was before the days of cell phones and GPS.  No lady in the dashboard to help us!

Thankfully, my children can read maps.  When he was a toddler my oldest would spend hours looking at maps.  Every time my sister would go to Disney, we asked her to bring back some Park maps.  This would keep my son entertained in the stroller our if we went out to eat.  Still to this day, when we are on vacation, I pick up a few of those "freebie" guide books and let my kids read them while we are waiting for dinner.

Are you direction challenged?  What are some tips that you use to help stay sane?

Thanks for stopping by & enjoy your weekend!