Monthly Archives: July 2011

I absolutely loved school up until fourth grade. Before that I was a whiz at coloring in the lines, memorized the pledge of allegiance in under a week, and considered my teacher to be my very best friend. When fourth grade rolled around I discovered math was more than simple addition or subtraction, a spelling test now consisted of words that had more than two syllables in them, and to my utter dismay it was no longer ok to take a quick cat nap in the middle of the school day.

After struggling year after year just to maintain a C average I gave up and concentrated on the things I was good at, being the class clown and attending as many social events as I could. My parents and teachers did the best they could to encourage, motivate, and threaten me into doing better in school. As much as I wanted to do good in school, it  just wasn’t my thing and I had a very hard time trying to find my role as a student. Because of that I adopted a “can’t do, so why even bother” attitude that took me years to shake. As a young adult I either gave up when things got hard, or did just the minimum of what was required of me.

I finally got sick of this mind set one Thanksgiving while trying to help my sister-in-laws in the kitchen. It was my job to make the whipped cream for the pies and of course I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. Instead I whipped the cream much to long and accidentally made butter. Lame. I also tried to help make a lemon meringue pie but was quickly relieved from my duties when someone noticed I wasn’t really taking my job seriously. I went home that night slightly embarrassed and sick of allowing myself to give up on things so easily.

I feel like I’ve come a long way since being voted most likely to be in summer school. Hey, I was pretty proud of that title back then and it was 100% true! Instead of being defeated by my mistakes I’ve decided to learn and grow from then. Sounds hokey I know but that took me a long time to figure out!  Every once in a while that little voice that tells me I can’t do something creeps into my head. I’m much better at ignoring it, but sometimes it can keep me from trying seemingly simple things.

Take making a pie for example, sounds easy enough but so many things could go wrong! The crust could come out tough and bland, the filling could be too runny, or too sweet, or not sweet enough! So much to worry about I’m just going to throw in the towel before I even begin….

NO! We are going to roll up our sleeves and make the most delicious berry pie we have ever tasted. Our crust WILL be flakey, the berries WILL be the perfect combination of sweet and tart, and we WILL top our beautiful pie with homemade whipped cream! We will be proud of our berry pie come dessert time and pat ourselves on the back. Not just for the mouth watering pie we made but also for not backing down from a challenge.

For years my teachers told my parents if I just applied myself I would do great in school. The problem was I just didn’t care about academics, but I am so glad I have finally found some things I love and want to put my heart into. My family, my friends, and this berry pie.

Laundry – I do at least two loads a day.

Milkshakes – I don’t drink enough of them.

Sleep – I try to get at least 6-8 hours a night.

Date nights – Absolutely crucial and they need to happen way more often than my husband and I go on them.

I never really went on a proper date before I got married so I love the fact that date nights are much more important now than before I said “I do.” Why is this type of evening needed so much? Well it gives Ryan and I a chance to be together without our team of boys running circles around us. Also we are able to discuss important things like if I should cut bangs or how handsome I think my husband looks in a plaid button down shirt.

It also gives Ryan a chance to see me in something other than pajamas. He leaves for work and I’m in my jammies, he comes home and I am back in them. Different ones of course but pajamas all the same.

Date night gives us a moment to relax together, hold hands and flirt, you know act like we’re dating again! I also love that these night usually consist of us going out to a nice restaurant, one that doesn’t offer crayons or kid’s cups. A few weeks ago while on a date we both ordered brick chicken for dinner and usually I dislike getting the same dish (silly I know) but I was very glad for it in this case! There was no way I was going to give up a bite of that crispy tender chicken. It was so good in fact I just had to recreate it for the rest of my handsome guys at home.

See, everybody wins when mom and dad decide to take a time out, have dinner and maybe even catch a movie in the theater that is not rated PG.

I am inspired to cook by all sorts of things. Lately it has been by all of the beautiful fruits and veggies summer has been providing us. Sometimes I am sparked by a meal that I have had in a restaurant and other times I simply cook what I am craving.  A few weeks ago I found my inspiration for this dessert  in kind of a silly place.

Promise you wont laugh?

I was totally inspired by The Housewives of New Jersey. Hey! You said you weren’t going to laugh!

Ok, so do you remember the episode where the girls went to Teresa’s cabin for a weekend full of wine and shootin guns? Alright, remember the part where they all got kinda drunk and had a pizza making contest? Is it me or did this footage strike you as probably the most real situation this show has ever aired? Anyways I thought it was such a great idea, drink some wine with your friends and make pizza! Do you remember which pizza won? It wasn’t a pizza at all but a Nutella calzone.

Holy smokes.

I have never heard of a Nutella calzone before, is there really such a thing? I wanted to make it immediately. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since then and in that time have really thought this creation through. For starters a whole Nutella calzone sounds awesome, but I don’t really think it’s practical. A person would more than likely get sick of it half way though eating it and end up throwing a good part of it away, tragic. Second is pizza dough really the way to go here? I think a flaky pie crust would be much better, and third just Nutella? I think we can figure out something else to put in there that would only enhance and not compete with Nutella’s creamy hazelnut goodness.

I give you the Nutella and banana empanada! These little treats almost remind me of a chocolate homerun pie, except these taste incredible. This dessert bakes up quick and topped with a little powdered sugar these buttery empanadas are a Nutella lovers dream. I’m hoping after my husband eats them he will never again question my desire to watch Housewives of New Jersey or any other silly show on Bravo for that matter!

To say that I am serious when it comes to taking care of my skin is a bit of an understatement. Kind of obsessed is a much better way of describing it. I haven’t always been so passionate about skincare and up until a few years ago I didn’t even give it a second thought.

In high school I tanned like there was no tomorrow, never washed my face before bed, and picked at my skin without regard to scaring. When I started beauty school I also started smoking (sorry mom and dad!). I was one of the youngest students there and I wanted to fit in. Who cares about all of the chemicals from the cigarette smoke swirling around my face, I was more concerned with appearing grownup. In my early 20′s I was in crazy mommy mode. For a few years I was either pregnant or nursing a baby, so come bed time taking five minutes to wash my face was the last thing I wanted to do. Trying to get a good nights sleep was much, much higher on my list of priorities back then vs. making sure my pores were clear of that days gunk.

So did I suffer from acne all those years? Holy smokes yes! I remember wanting my dad to pick me up from school when I was in junior high because I was so embarrassed of the horrible state of my face. I always thought it was something I would grow out of, that it was just my hormones and I hoped that when I became an adult I’d have the peaches and cream skin of my dreams. Until then I never went anywhere without my compact and tried to hide behind my hair. On my 28th birthday I realized I wasn’t getting any younger and this acne prone skin of mine was here to stay.

I took matters into my own hands and started out by simply washing my face every night before bed. Of course I instantly saw results, my skin was brighter and my acne was a little less severe. Super encouraged I wanted to do more so I talked to my girlfriend who also happens to be an incredible esthetician. She opened my eyes to facials, serums, and the always important moisturizer!

Since then I can count on one hand the nights I have gone to bed with my makeup on. I have also discovered Retin-A (magical stuff) and I am madly in love with my Clarisonic. I have also just recently discovered that I truly am what I eat. Don’t get me wrong I’m still all about bacon and blue cheese (that combo is an awesome recipe just waiting to happen) but if I want to look and feel good fresh veggies, fruit, and ridiculous amounts of water are the way to go for me. Looking back I think the biggest problem with my skin was me! I am glad to have finally taken control over it instead it controlling me.

When I am eating lunch at home I like to keep things simple and clean, so I whipped up this couscous salad that is chockfull of healthy, yummy ingredients.

Olive oil – There is tons of vitamin E in olive oil which is a powerful antioxidant.

Spinach – It’s full of vitamins A, C, and E and the mineral iron which helps keep your skin bright.

Walnuts – They are high in omega-3 fatty acids that keep your skin heathy.

Tomatoes – There is a antioxidant called lycopene in tomatoes which helps your skin fight off UV radiation. Nobody likes UV radiation!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to turn into some radical ultra healthy, raw diet, vegan, seed eating, food person. Although I do kind of admire people like that. I’m all about balance, a beautiful salad today a burrito supreme tomorrow!

My boys eat eggplant. They eat Indian food and any kind of fish. They will drink up a green smoothie without blinking an eye and my three year old gets so excited when I bring avocados home from the grocery store.

These same kids also love mini corn dogs, ranch dressing, and chicken stars from Burger King. Hey, I get that some foods are just a right of passage for kids (tater tots, pizza rolls) but I don’t want to limit them to only eating those kinds foods. A long time ago when I had just a nursing baby and a toddler at home I would cater to my oldest son’s likes and dislikes when it came to meal time. Partly because I was exhausted and was choosing my battles wisely (naps were non negotiable) and partly because I thought he would eventually want to venture out of his kid menu comfort zone right? Wrong.

Before I had my third son I realized if my boys were going to have a diet outside of fish crackers and granola bars I was the one that was going to have to introduce it to them. They were not going to wake up one day and decide that they loved grilled salmon with a side of steamed broccoli. Just like ridding a bike or tying their shoes, well rounded adventurous eating habits are learned at home where kids feel safe.

So I took the plunge and stopped buying the easy stuff, stopped making them their own dinners and introduced them to the wonderful world of stir fries, tofu, and homemade soups filled with veggies. Some days it felt like my boys would eat any dish I put in front of them. Other days it was an epic battle of wills just to get my oldest to eat anything. Eventually I won their trust and now they will try almost anything once. Much to my delight they have discovered fruitti de mare pasta is their favorite and kraft cheese stinks.

When I ran across this shrimp curry with coconut rice recipe in my Cooking Light magazine I knew had to make it. Even though it sounds like a kids worst nightmare (coconut rice?! Ewwww!) I knew my boys were up for the challenge. They were a little worried when the kitchen didn’t smell like the usual garlic and basil, two things I cook with almost every night, and they kept peeking into the pan wondering what the heck I was making.

Bravely they each took a bite and discovered that this stuff was pretty good. “Hey mom this curry spice is not bad. Can you make this again for dinner next week?” my third son asked. Ahhhh, music to my ears.

My boys and I are killing it this summer!

We are sleeping in late (8am!) and swimming everyday. We are all caught up on our cartoons, made a pretty good dent in our summer reading books, and have had TWO weeknight sleepovers at our cousin’s house.

We have been drinking lemon-aid by the pitcher full and have eaten our weight in popsicles. We have had so many popsicles in fact that we are getting a little sick of what’s out there. Huge dilemma, I know. We’ve already ploughed through our beginning-of-summer-box-of-otter-pops. Of course we have picked out our favorites and now only the lame orange ones are left. We’ve tried several healthy fruit only popsicles and I am not the biggest fan of how expensive they can be or that they come four to a box. Four popsicles?! That is so not going to work in this house. I never buy fudgesicles because not everybody likes them (sad I know) and nothing else in the frozen treat isle has caught our eye.

We decided to take matters into our own hands and concoct our own popsicles. I found this Paula Deen recipe online a few weeks ago and thought it would be perfect for us. She originally made hers with fresh strawberries and banana pudding, but we decided to make ours with fresh blackberries and vanilla pudding.

The ingredients for this creamy popsicle were easy to blend up and only took a few hours to freeze. I can’t wait to try other fruits like nectarines, peaches, and I bet kiwis would taste super good! The posibilites for this treat are endless and I wish our lazy summer days could go on forever as well.

Jul 8

Gazpacho

I have a sick seven year old on my hands. Seriously who gets sick in the summer?!

Poor guy, we had to miss out on all of the fourth of July fun and we have been indoors these past few beautiful (and hot) days. Instinctually I want to make him a big pot of homemade soup, but who wants to eat hot soup in 100 degree weather?

“Not I” said the fly. “Not me” said the flea. “No thank you mommy” said Ewen. I couldn’t think of anthing that rhymes with Ewen.

Well instead of hot soup how about some cold soup A.K.A gazpacho? The first time I had this tomato and raw vegetable soup I was 18. I turned my nose up at it and probably said something like “Ewwww, cold soup? That sounds like so grossss.” The person I was with told me to stop acting like a brat (me a brat?) and try it. So I did and of course I loved it. Thank goodness for older and wiser friends.

Who could resist a savory bounty of ripe summer vegetables blended together with a bit of salt, lemon, hot sauce, and fresh herbs?

“Not me” said the bee. “Yes please” said the fleas. “Can we have a bit more?” asked my four.

That last line took me a good five minutes to come up with.

On to the soup!

I did two things this holiday weekend.

Ok, I obviously did more than just two things but the two things of any intrest are the orzo pasta salad I made for a family get together and a thought I had.

I’ll share my thought first. So I am a fairly fly by the seat of my pants kinda gal when it comes to cooking. I consider recipes to be templets and I like to taylor meals to our taste. I have come up with some family favorites cooking this way and have learned first hand what works and what doesn’t work food wise. FYI no matter how hard you try olives and chocolate never really work together. As far as the rest of my life goes I consider myself to be a very organized person. I put the laundry away every Monday and Friday and I get my car cleaned out every other week. I never grocery shop without a list (even if I am only shopping for three things) and I am (almost) always on time for appointments, play dates, and sports practices. I joking like to tell people our home and schedules are very organized so if anything spontaneous happens I’ll totally be ready for it. The truth is I’m not the biggest fan of spontaneity. I pretty much try to avoid letting things just happen for fear of wasting time. But you know what? Whenever I have allowed for the cards to fall where they may I have (almost) always been pleasantly surprised when I discover the outcome was exactly what I wanted. Not even I could have planned it better myself. I think I need to follow my own example and try to live a little bit more like I cook. If I ruin a dish because of my experimenting, oh well! At the very least I learned something in that process. If my day doesn’t go as planned and a whole bunch of time and energy is wasted, then thats just the way it goes. Tomorrow is another day right?

Now for the pasta. I found a yummy orzo pasta salad recipe on another blog (http://foodformyfamily.com/) and I thought it would be the perfect thing to bring to a family pool party. It’s light, super tasty, and of course I had to add a few personal touches to it.

So heres to living life by the seat of my pants! Well, maybe not everyday. How about every third day? I know! I should schedule a few days of spontaneity on my calendar, that way I can kind of plan around it.

Jul 1

Steak Kabobs

I am completely in love with summer and you will never catch me complaining about the heat. During the winter, after the excitement from the holidays has died down I patiently wait for the sun to come out and for the temperature to rise.

So no I will never whine about getting into a hot car after it has been parked in a shadeless parking lot and having our legs stick to the seat.

No, I will never gripe about a dishwasher filled with cups because the boys seem to need a brand new one for every glass of juice or water they gulp down when it’s hot outside.

I love lugging bags of grocery’s into the house when the temperature hits triple digets. Yup, I really do.

My favorite thing of all is standing over a hot stove during the hottest part of the day to cook my family dinner. Ok, no I don’t love that. In fact I try to avoid the stove at all cost on the particularly hot days. So when my boys can’t stomach yet another night of salad I take the cooking outside to the BBQ. Nothing says summer time like everyday week night dinners cooked on the grill. One of my favorite things to BBQ is kabobs. You can taylor them specifically to each family members taste, they grill up quick, and they are so fun for the kids to eat. They are also great to serve at a party, like maybe a fourth of July party!

Here is my favorite steak kabob marinade. It only takes about an hour for the meat to marinate and it is the perfect combination of sweet and salty. Any of your summer vegetables will pair nicely with it and if red meat isn’t your thing I’m sure it would work well with chicken.

It’s suppose to hit 104 degrees next week, but I would take that over 50 degrees and raining any day!