Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lazy meal

Today was one of those "day before the grocery trip" and "not on the weekly meal plan" kind of days. I had some gnocchi I meant to cook last week and decided to go with that. Pasta has become a staple in our diet and I especially love making it when I am feeling lazy! Gnocchi is a newer love of mine. I first tasted these scrumptious little potato pillows while in Chicago visiting a good friend a few years ago.

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For dinner, I threw together a quick meal using gnocchi, a few pieces of chopped turkey bacon, and two cups of chopped spinach tossed in a pre made garlic and onion tomato sauce. I topped it with a bit of shredded mozzarella! This was Maya's (and Oliver's) first time eating gnocchi and they both really enjoyed it. I am always pleased to discover new food the children will eat! The total prep and cook time was roughly under 30 minutes! Perfect for busy parents and non parents alike.

What do you do when you are feeling lazy and don't want to cook?


Friday, February 10, 2012

Magic hearts aka resist dyeing paper

Holidays, even consumer driven Hallmark ones such as Valentine's Day, usually provide a fun theme for crafting. Luckily, Maya is always up for creating art! Target tends to keep an ample supply of themed crafts for young children in their bargain section, especially foam stickers.
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Initially, Maya just wanted to free paint on plain white paper and put the stickers on them. Then it turned into dipping the stickers into the paint and "stamping" them onto paper to create heart shapes. I remembered seeing a post through pinterest where the person put foam stickers onto lids of water bottles to create stamps! So, naturally, we experimented with that since that seemed to be the direction she was going in.

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I cut out hearts from the paper and drew simple shapes and words with a white crayon on them. The wax design would show through when Maya painted the hearts with the watercolors! She was so fascinated and thought it was magical! Basically, we just did a very primitive version of resist dyeing using the wax crayons and water colors.

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I showed Maya other ways to alter the paper in order to create an interesting finished painting. We found that if you crumple the paper and then paint it, it yields a very batik like result! Batik is one of my favorite types of textile art and is traditionally present in Asia but it has gained popularity all over the world! Batik is essentially the process of creating a print through resist dyeing. You are probably familiar with tye-dye which is along the same lines.

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Crafting and creating make this girl extremely happy.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chocolate Jumbles

Chocolate.
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If you don't like it, you are a big weirdo. I love chocolate. All forms. My daughter also loves chocolate, in fact she picked out this delicious chocolate cookie recipe. She was going through one of my cookbooks, came up to me and said "Mommy, I definitely want to make this cookie." So it was settled. The recipe is very simple and great for little ones to help make! Drizzling the melted chocolate is especially fun for a young child.

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Ingredients:

1 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 c unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c (1 stick butter), softened
3/4 c sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 oz bittersweet/semisweet chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or crisco. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

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Cream the butter and sugar together in your super best friend the Kitchen Aid mixer, or in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until smooth.

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Stir in half the flour mixture until just incorporated, then stir in the buttermilk. Stir in the remaining flour mixture and beat until smooth. You will then having amazing chocolate cookie dough.

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Place the bowl of cookie dough into the refrigerator for 15 minutes or longer to let the dough firm up. The recipe calls for making ring shaped cookies, but we had no patience for that process today. Once the dough firmed up we spooned drops onto a baking sheet about two inches apart. Bake them for about 10-12 minutes and put them onto a wire rack for cooling. Our oven runs a bit hot, so 10 minutes was plenty.

Next you will melt the chocolate, we prefer the water bath technique. You will heat a pan of water to a simmer. Place your chocolate into a metal or other heat proof bowl on top of the water and stir the chocolate until melted into the desired consistency.

Drizzle on top of the cookies and let sit for about 15 minutes so the chocolate can harden. If you have a 3 year old, she may want to put sprinkles on the chocolate while you are waiting for it to cool. :)

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Stu, the cat

Once upon a time, there was a cat named Stu.

Stu cat

I bought him "on sale" at a pet shop, yep poor little guy was on clearance. If you know me, you know I can't resist a good deal. I felt sorry for him being put on sale, and that his future was maybe questionable with that price tag. So I bought him. My husband came home from work that night and I said "I bought a cat, but it's ok, he was on sale" :) We loved him and treated him like a child, as all childless couples do with their pets. He sat at the table with me while I ate breakfast, in his chair. He followed me everywhere I went and slept on my belly until I got pregnant with Maya and then things changed. I suddenly couldn't stand the cats. We also had a very shy, somewhat awkward female cat named Little Girl. (Clearly, we were very creative in naming our pets.) When we decided to move to Pennsylvania a few months after Maya was born, we found a nice couple in graduate school to adopt Little Girl. We were unable to find a home for Stu, and because we couldn't keep him at our new residence while we stayed with a family member, my mother in law graciously kept him for over 9 months until we settled into our own place in the city.

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By the time he returned to us, Maya was walking. He didn't really like being around her because she wanted to pull on him or scream in his face.

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(Above: one pissed off kitty)

He constantly hissed at her if she approached him but we maintained a happy relationship. Stu chose to stay away from Maya, either hidden in another room or on a place higher than she could reach and come around desperate for attention once she was asleep. Maya, being the unconditional loving child that she is, didn't care. She thought all cats said "HHHHEEEHHH" (hissing sound) and even made him a play-dough birthday cake one year.

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I soon got pregnant for Oliver and decided I just couldn't handle the cat. I found an extremely amazing home for him with a man who was in charge of one of the area YMCA's and his elderly mother. I think Stu needed a home where he could get the constant love and attention he deserved. I just couldn't provide that anymore. I knew he was better off. We told Maya he went to live with a new family. She really didn't understand and I felt no need to try to explain something beyond her comprehension. Occasionally, Maya will talk about him. Like tonight, she made a picture of her and Stu, on the back she wrote him a letter. She gave it to me before bedtime and said it was
"an invitation for Stu to come live at our house again."

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spinach, goat cheese and cranberry salad

I'm obsessed with goat cheese. I love to put it on everything. For the past 6 months I've really been into using crumbled goat cheese in a salad.

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My favorite base is spinach leaves, crumbled goat cheese and dried cranberries. I prefer to use a poppy seed dressing as it brings out the sweet flavor of both the goat cheese and the cranberries.

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Remember the roasted chicken I made yesterday? Well today I added some of the meat to the above salad, as well as some salted sunflower seeds. We currently don't have any poppy seed dressing so I used a sweet and sour that works just as well. Such a delicious, simple salad that quenches my sweet tooth.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lemon, garlic and herb roasted Chicken

Roasted chicken is a great meal that goes a long way for a small budget. I like using the left overs to make a pot pie or tacos. I am planning on making chicken salad for sandwiches as well as a chicken pot pie!

This particular recipe uses lemon, which I think is perfect for poultry and fish. I like using lemon as a flavor enhancer in place of a sauce. Paired with sea salt, cracked pepper and a few favorite herbs, it's just perfect!

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Ingredients:
1 whole roaster chicken
2 lemons
5/6 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1/2 cup of olive oil (or enough to coat chicken)
1 tbs sea salt
1 tbs cracked pepper
1 tbs thyme
6 washed red potatoes
1 zucchini/or squash (or both!)

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Cut the onion and garlic and slice the lemon into wedges. Also, slice your red potatoes and zucchini and set aside. You don't have to cut the onion into small pieces or mince the garlic, just a few large pieces will do but small enough to fit inside the chicken. In a roaster pan, place one sliced lemon, half of the onion and half of the garlic into the bottom of the pan. You will then place your chicken on top of the onion, garlic and lemon. Don't forget to remove the giblets and the other nasty parts! :) Place the rest of the onion, garlic and lemon into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Coat both sides of the chicken in olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs of your choice I used thyme but often use our fresh homegrown basil! After you coat the chicken, place the ingredients from your bowl of seasoned lemon, garlic and onion inside the chicken. Cook for an hour then add the potatoes and zucchini around the edge of the chicken. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Make sure the potatoes are not cut too large otherwise they will not be done when the chicken is! Cook for about 35 more minutes.

The result is a juicy tender chicken and a side of roasted veggies. The juices from the chicken permeate the veggies. So yummy! One of my favorite things about this meal- the lack of dishes! :) I am letting my role as "mom-without-a-dishwasher" show through. Seriously though, one pot meals are fantastic!

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I apologize for the horrible fluorescent lighting! That's the problem with taking pictures of dinner, it's always so dark by the time we eat! Is it spring yet?!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Brick

Today a good friend and I visited an abandoned brick factory about an hour outside of the city. It was especially cold, with 6 inches of snow on the ground, but we were determined to explore. Most of the windows were covered in an aqua green plastic type shingle. When the wind would blow through the building we were in, the shingles would shake and were consequently very loud and it initially caused a moment of panic. At least for me.

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I was almost certain an animal or human was waiting to attack. :) Luckily, the only creature we saw was a stray cat.

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There were many large bags of abandoned supplies, several of which were opened and spilling out. In one area, the particles had formed crystallized looking growths.

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Despite being a brick factory, there weren't too many leftover bricks. They must have been stolen as there was evidence all over of previous explorers. In one room, I noticed what I thought was bullet shells on the ground. This Texan has never shot a gun, so I can only assume what bullet casings look like based on movies I have watched. Ha! There was a target taped to one of the bags as well as an empty case of beer on the other side of the room. I only hope the two were not from the same explorer.

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One of my favorite things about this building was all the light peaking through windows and around corners. It left a very ethereal vibe.

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On the way home, I stopped at one of our local lookout points. I am always amazed at how beautiful our city view is from up here!

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Having grown up in a dry flat climate, I can definitely appreciate all the water and hills! To me, they are mountains no matter what the locals think.

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