Monday, January 31, 2011

Spinach Salad w/Honey Mustard Dressing

I love salad. I love that you can eat it all year, and that you can have it a million different ways. I would think that using spinach as a base for salad has to be the most nutritious choice. Since it's January and decent tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados, and basil are hard to come by I have to be more resourceful. Yes, all of those ingredients are available, they're just not very tasty compared to buying them in the summer, also they're very expensive right now. So, I'm expected to pay more for something that isn't that great to begin with. I think not! Enter bell peppers.

When I was a child I never ate bell peppers. See, my mother hated them. In fact, her mother hated them, and she had six children. That means every aunt and uncle I ever imposed on never fed me a bell pepper either. Most of them hate bell peppers too. With the exception of my aunt with the green thumb who is the goddess of all things growing. But I digress, I love bell peppers! Green, red, orange, yellow, they're just a rainbow of nutritional crunchy goodness.

Here is my current favorite salad, it's great as it is in this photo and with this dressing, but it's also great with the peppers cut in strips, some shredded rotisserie chicken, and Trader Joe's Tuscan Italian Dressing.

1/2-3/4 bag of baby spinach
1/4 of each, red, yellow, and orange bell pepper, sliced and chopped in 1 inch chunks
1/4 cup of sliced almonds, toasted
2 tbls.-1/4 reduced fat feta cheese
(the reduced fat is a little softer and not as dry as the full fat version)
Salt to taste

2 Tbls. olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbls. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce

1. Add spinach to a large bowl. Wash, remove tops and seeds and chop or slice your peppers. Place them on top of your bed of spinach. Sprinkle with feta cheese.

2. Heat a small  saute pan over medium low heat. Add your almonds and stir occasionally while toasting. They will release their oils and then you will start to see them brown. You want them to be a golden brow. They will quickly go from perfect to burnt so keep an eye on them. It should take about 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, make your dressing. Simply combine all the ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup and whisk until thick, well combined and emulsified.

4. Sprinkle salad with toasted almonds and dressing.

This post is linked to:
Mouthwatering Mondays @ A Southern Fairytale
Tasty Tuesdays @ 33 Shades of Green

Saturday, January 29, 2011

State Testing Breakfasts In A Jiffy!

Homemade Freezer Pancakes & Egg Burritos
I call these state testing burritos because I started making them on the week before state testing would start. I wanted to be sure the kiddos would start the day out with something healthy even if I didn't have time to make it in the morning. They turned out to be a big hit so I try and make them often. The kiddos will beg me to make them if I go a while without doing so.
See, I hate waking up earlier than I have to. I won't do it to work out and I won't do it to cook! So here's my solution, I make a huge amount of egg burritos or pancakes on the weekend, package them, and freeze them. It's a lot cheaper and healthier than buying similar products from the frozen food isle in your grocery store.
12 eggs
12 tortillas (cooked or heated)
shredded cheese, probably 2 cups (I didn't measure, I just grabbed from a large bag)
1 package breakfast sausage, cooked and crumbled (optional)
12 foil squares
12 wax paper squares
2 freezer bags
1 straw
First, in a large pan, heat your tortillas. While your heating your tortillas, crack your eggs into a large bowl. Whisk with salt, pepper, and a splash of milk if you want. Set aside. When tortillas are done, line them up, assembly line style, and fill them down the middle with cheese and egg. Fold up the sides and roll it closed. Wrap each in a square of wax paper. The wrap each in a square of foil. DO NOT lay the wax paper on the foil and then wrap it with both at the same time. When you go to reheat it in the microwave, you will remove ONLY the foil. You may want to unwrap the wax paper as well and then rewrap with the same wax paper loosely, to prevent it from sticking during reheating.

 Straw Method
The pancakes are super easy. Just make them as you normally would, let them cool, and stack them in three layers in a freezer bag. Place a sheet of wax paper between each layer and use the straw method to remove any air in the bag before sealing. Again, you'll need, wax paper squares, freezer bags and a straw.

Pancake Layer 1
 Wax Paper Layer 1
 Pancake Layer 2
 Wax Paper Layer 2
 Pancake Layer 3
& Straw Method

 Vacuum-ish sealed and ready to be frozen!
Simply remove as many pancakes as you wish and reheat them in the microwave.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Brag Session: Nash and Chloe {personal reflection}

Nash and a group of his classmates participated in Constitutional Competition at one of our local colleges. Many schools were invited. They presented answers to school board members, lawyers, teaches, congress members, etc. It was fascinating to watch these eighth graders explain the constitution. They presented different opinions and ideas and backed them up with court cases and laws. They wore suits and they sat up straight. They introduced themselves with firm handshakes, polite smiles, and eye contact. They spoke with confidence and articulated their thoughts clearly. I know many adults that couldn't answer the questions they were asked. I know many adults who can't explain the Constitution like they did, myself included. I was very impressed, and I'm glad I got to witness our future generation in action. I'm proud of you Nash! And no, his group didn't win. But he was kind of relieved, I think.

Nash and Chloe both tried out for Little League last weekend and they will both be moving up a level this year. This will be Nash's last year playing, as he starts high school next year, and it will be MUCH more competitive. So, just another month and we will be eating, sleeping, and breathing baseball again! I hope that means more radio and television appearances for Nash too. That will help any internship he may apply for in highschool.

Chloe agreed to wear ANOTHER dress for an event we are attending on the east coast in a couple of weeks. The girl hasn't worn a dress in years, and she didn't even put up a fight. Don't tell her I told you, but it seemed she was a little excited. We rushed right out to pick the dress. She tried on several and she was twirling around in the dressing room. She said, "You know, it feels kinda nice to wear a dress!" OH BLESS HER HEART! She got TWO dresses! She did say she wasn't wearing them out in public. By public she means, not to school or around our town. What would the boys think?

Nash is on track to get straight A's. He's in honors classes too. He sure has come a long way since elementary school when he got C's in some subjects! That's another story. I'm actively looking at high schools for him, which is hard to do, because I still don't know if we are moving or not, and where to if we do!

Chloe finished the first Harry Potter and took an A.R. test on it and passed. She's now 1/2 way through the second book. Nash didn't read that series until he was in 5th grade. It was good he waited though because that year when he was promoted he received an award for the most AR points in the whole school. Chloe does have the most in her class, but nowhere near what he had.

Do you ever cry during the back stories on AI?
I do....all the time!
Chloe and Nash and I have been watching American Idol. Chloe hopes to someday tryout for America's Got Talent or AI, but mostly for playing piano, not singing. She is now in her 4th consecutive year of lessons. She started in kindergarten. She actually taught herself how to play Beethoven's Fur Elise! We've had our battles and she's wanted to quit a lot. I know she will thank me when she's older. And she'll always have something to fall back on. Maybe she give piano lessons to little kids when she's in college instead of waitressing. We pushed through, even getting her a new teacher this year. She's much happier with the new teacher. It melts my heart when she plays and now she plays on her her own without any push from me.

I love being a mom, and I especially love being a mom to Nash and Chloe. I feel so lucky to have such wonderfully healthy, happy, smart, and well adjusted kids. I NEVER take it for granted. I truly believe everyday is a gift. Everyday that they still live it home and I get the honor of taking care of them, teaching them, and raising them is like Christmas morning for me. I love you kiddos!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How I Package, Store, and Freeze Bulk Ground Beef

This is a great way to package your meat as soon as you arrive home with it. You won't have freezer burn, even after 3 months and it will be easy and quick to defrost. I always buy my ground beef from Costco. I think they have the tastiest and best quality ground beef, besides free range beef. I purchase either the package of bulk meat, or the package of large squares. Those run between $15-$20. The squares are bigger than patties. If I buy the one that is just lumped together, I will take a large knife and cut it into smaller portions.

Today I'm going to show you how I package it so that I can easily grab what I need. It also is much easier to defrost when frozen in slightly smaller portions. You'll need saran wrap, gallon freezer bags, a straw, a sharpie, and preferably a kitchen scale.

Start by sectioning and weighing your meat into desired amounts. These are between 8 and 10 oz. each. Saran wrap each square individually.

Saran wrap each square individually.

Place wrapped sections into your freezer bags. Seal the freezer bag closed, leaving 1 inch on the corner open. Insert your straw. Suck the air out of the bag as much as possible. With light pressure on the straw, so the air doesn't escape, remove the straw, and seal the last inch of the bag.

You now have "vacuum packed" seals. Write the date and weight on your package and freeze.

You'll have no freezer burn and you can easily remove each block as needed.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Blueberry Coffeecake {with a healthier variation}

I'm attempting to cut down on sugar intake around here. Why? Because sugar causes belly fat and cellulite, among other things. 4 grams of sugar = 1 tsp. Did you know that? Also, most things labeled reduced fat, have more sugar to make up for the taste. It's true. Next time you're at the store compare reduced fat Peanut Butter with regular PB. YOU MUST CHECK LABELS, people!  Dr. Oz, sorry to keep referencing him, but he is EVERYWHERE! Anyway, he says you should stick to no more than 24 g of added  sugar per day. Dr. Oz's website states:
"The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day. That equals about a 100 calories worth of sugar. Unfortunately, it’s less than the sugar in one candy bar or can of soda. This doesn’t include all the natural sources of sugar from fruits, some vegetables and even some whole grains."
I miss baking. I haven't baked this whole month except for granola, which I mostly gave away. I bought some Truvia, I was going to use that to bake with and then I read all of these horrible side effects associated with it. That option was out. I've been working out every day. We've been eating uber healthy. I mean way way healthy. So last night, I gave in to my need to bake.

This was super easy. I put it together while dinner was cooking. It was the first time I tried this recipe. It is from a  The American Country Inn Bed and Breakfast Cookbook.

Alaskan Blueberry Coffee Cake
From: Heavenly View B & B in Anchorage, Alaska

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. milk
1 egg
1 1/2 c. fresh Alaskan blueberries {separated into 1 cup and a 1/2 cup}

1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 tsp. cinnamon or more to taste
1/4 c. firm butter

In a medium mixing bowl, blend together 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, oil, milk, egg, and 1 cup of the blueberries. Beat thoroughly for 30 seconds and spread into a greased round 9x1 1/2 inch pan or an 8x8x2-inch pan. In a separate bowl, combine topping ingredients. Sprinkle over batter and top with remaining berries. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, until done. Don't overbake. Serve warm with butter or honey. Serves 8

Okay here is what I did differently:

I used a mixture of half all-purpose and half whole wheat flour.
I cut the white sugar by an eighth of a cup.
I added 2 Tbls. ground flaxseed to the batter ingredients before mixing.
I mixed the batter for 15 seconds, then added the blueberries and mixed at a low speed for another 15 seconds.
I had to bake for almost 45 minutes. I baked it until it was no longer jiggly in the middle. I checked it every 5 minutes.I used and 8x8x2 square baking dish.
I added a 1/2 cup of old-fashioned oats to the topping ingredients before sprinkling over the batter.

These did taste noticeably healthier. But it was delish and satisfied my craving fully. The kids loved it too and I felt happy knowing I was able to successfully swap out some ingredients.

Martha (Stewart) said that buttering your baking dish, then adding some granulated sugar prior to adding your batter makes a great little sugary crust. I think that would be perfect with this recipe and I'm going to try it next time. (So much for eating less sugar!)

Monday, January 24, 2011

How I Got My Kids To Eat Everything {6 Rules}

Liver, cow tongue, mushrooms, menudo, salsa, beans, escargot, sushi, quail eggs, salad, brussle sprouts, lamb, the list goes on and on. Nash (13) is older and more adventurous than  Chloe, his 8 year old sister, but they are both super eaters. It wasn't always so easy to get them to eat what I wanted them to.

This morning Dr. Oz called into one of our local radio stations for an interview. He said that what you eat while your pregnant will influence how your children eat once their out of the womb. Hmmm, I guess it makes sense. He mentioned that the food you eat makes their way to them via the amniotic fluid through the umbilicol cord. He was much clearer explaining it than I am. When I was pregnant with Nash I craved Rubio's Fish Tacos, and I ate a lot of Cheerios due to morning sickness. It seemed to be the only thing that stayed down. With Chloe I ate rolled taquitos with guacamole. I don't think any of that transmitted to what they wanted to eat later.

I think that taste buds evolve. I think that babies and children's taste buds are more sensitive. Of course Nash lived off of quesadillas and dino chicken for what seemed like forever. And Chloe is still perfectly content with a big bowl of plain noodles.

I eventually learned a few rules that helped them transition into more adventurous eaters. I would definitely try to avoid introducing nutritionless foods and bad habits in the first place, but in my case I was young mother who had no idea what she was doing and no Internet, and no one to ask for advice! So, later I had some serious undoing to do.

6 Rules To Get Your Kids To Eat Better
1. They must try everything. They must try it every time it is served. Sources say that you must introduce a food many times before they will be willing, like 20! Of course, if they are gagging maybe pass. You don't want to traumatize them. And some things they will never like. But you can't serve them broccoli 3 times and then give up on them. And don't overly season things. Maybe trying serving veggies with cheese sauce or dressing at first.
2. If they are hungry they will eat. Hmm, your child doesn't want to eat his dinner? How about skipping the afternoon snack, glass of juice, and cup of milk before dinner. Maybe move dinner a little earlier so the little guy or gal doesn't have a meltdown.
3. Never serve milk with dinner. Have you ever sucked down an entire glass of milk before dinner? If your trying to eat smaller portions try it. You'll be full before you even pick up your fork. Same goes with little Johnny. Serve water with dinner.
4. Eat the number of bites that you are years. So if little Sally is 2, she needs to take 2 bites of broccoli, 2 bites of fish, and 2 bites of salad, before she can be excused, or before she can eat all of her mac and cheese that she loves so much. When she turns 3, she moves up to 3 bites. At 10, she'll eat, you guessed it, 10 bites.
5. Skip most casseroles and salad dressings. Every kid I ever met has issues with casseroles unless it's the above stated mac and cheese. For whatever reason, kids seem to like their food separated. They don't like dressing on salad either. The only dressing most kids like is ranch, in my experience.
6. Let them have a say. Now, in my opinion it's never been a good idea to say something like, "What do you want for dinner tonight?" Or, "What do you want to do today?" Ask that and you may get answers like, ice cream and Disneyland. However, you can still give them choices which will help them feel like they are a part of the process. Do you want super vision carrots or giant muscles spinach with dinner? And for goodness sake, don't ask them if they want salad, just serve it to them! You're the boss, remember?

Now implementing these rules won't change your child's eating habits overnight. These things take time. It took years before my kids willingly opened themselves up to trying new foods. Now it's exciting for them. When we went to San Fransisco this  last fall, we took the kids to a fancy restaurant. Nash had been dying to try Escargot, so I ordered him an appetizer plate. He and Chloe ate the whole thing while me and hubby sat and watched horrified! Anyway, you're not a short order cook. You do enough, you shouldn't have to cook separate meals. Strong Statement Alert: If you have picky eaters, it's because you've allowed it. Even still Chloe complains about eating her veggies, but she always does, with the exception of onions. I don't force her to eat those. Nash still doesn't eat tomatoes. And that's okay, I don't expect them to like everything, that's unrealistic.

Please forgive me if I have offended anyone. These are solely my opinions and ideas. I'm NOT a physician or psychologist, I'm just a mom. These rules worked for my kids and I think they can work for you. It won't be easy, you must dilligent. And if not...there's still hope. How many adults do you know who only eat chicken nuggets and applesauce? I'm willing to bet, NONE.

Need recipe ideas and meal plans. Buy Saving Dinner. It taught me everything I needed to know about serving healthy dinners. I actually prefer the recipes in Saving Dinner The Low-Carb Way.
Do you have any good tips to
share to get kids to eat better?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Superbowl Sliders!

Varying sources say different things about who invented them, but we do know Sliders have  been made famous by White Castle and Krystal.  Wikipedia says "A slider is a very small square hamburger patty sprinkled with diced onions and served on an equally small bun. According to the earliest citations, the name originated aboard U.S. Navy ships, due of the way greasy burgers slid across the galley grill while the ship pitched and rolled. Other versions claim the term "slider" originated from the hamburgers served by flight line galleys at military airfields, which were so greasy they slid right through you; or because their small size allows them to "slide" right down your throat in one or two bites."

You will find all kinds of recipes out there for sliders. They are fun to make and eat, and super adaptable. Nash could eat burgers everyday, and so could I for that matter. I got this recipe from my brother-in-law. We have kind of changed it up a bit to suit our prefrences, but the basic ingredients are beef, onion, pickle, & bun. The secret to these I think is baking them. Yep, you bake it on a cookie sheet/jelly roll pan.

2 lbs. ground beef (at least 80/20 or fattier)
1 packet onion soup mix
2 packages hot dog buns
cheese slices
pickle slices
Shredded lettuce (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix onion soup mix and ground beef in a bowl. Press ground beef into a jelly roll pan (baking sheet with 1-inch deep sides). It should be pressed to about 1/4 inch thick. Bake for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, without opening them, cut the hot dog buns in half. Then, slice just the ends off.  (*Optional: At this point, I lightly buttered the inside of each bun, and placed them, open faced on a cookie sheet. I broiled until lightly toasted, at the same time as when I returned the beef to melt the cheese.) Once your hamburger is cooked, remove from oven, drain the fat off and cover with cheese. Return to the oven until the cheese is melted. Use a pizza cutter to slice the meat into small squares. Note that the meat will have shrunk up a bit when cooked.
To Assemble: Add your condiments to the bun, top with cooked beef, and a pickle slice. We used mayo and lettuce and we used Tillamook Cheddar slices. Different variations include: Using Hawaiian Sweet Rolls or any other type of small roll. You can also use fresh chopped onions mixed into the meat, or dried minced onion. If you use dried onion, sprinkle it on the baking sheet, then press the meat directly on top of it.

This post is linked up to the following:

Tailgating Time @ Our Krazy Kitchen.
 Sundays at One Food Club @ Cocina Diary.
Tasty Tuesday's @ 33 Shades of Green.
Tasty Tuesdays@ Dr. Laura's Adventures.
Tasty Tuesdays @ For The Love Of Blogs.


Blogging: Share The Fun & The Love

I started writing this post last week, BEFORE  I found out I was considered a "Stylish Blogger," so it turns out this post was perfect. There are some rules to follow when excepting the award...Since I love awards, I'm more than happy to accept :) However, I understand that some of my favorite bloggers may not be so inclined, and that's okay. We still adore you!

Rule #1:
Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award.
So, Cakeology, Thank You. You made my week by selecting me! I know your cute blog and business is going to be a sweet success. I look forward to getting to you and sharing ideas!

Rule #2: Share 7 things about yourself.
1. I LOVE blogging and reading blogs, but I hate reading books.
2. I'm a certified sommelier and I have a massage technician license, I don't practice either.
3. I used to be a blackjack dealer.
4. I have two very bright and caring children.
5. I've had a difficult relationship with my parents.
6. I'm Mexican, Italian, and whatever stuff my Dad was. He doesn't know his heritage because he was adopted. Maybe Scottish.
7. I have a terrible memory, and it makes me lack confidence in my abilities.

Rule #3: Award 15 recently discovered bloggers.
This was what I had started on earlier this week just for the fun of it, ironic, isn't it? The rule states 'recently discovered', I'll admit, these may not be recent discoveries but you will love them just the same!

I'm so excited to have so many new friends reading my blog! I love "meeting" new bloggers and reading all the interesting things you share! I appreciate all of you so much! I also wanted to share some of my favorite bloggers with all of you!

First, I want to introduce you to Sue. She share's with us her Munchkin Munchies. She is possibly the sweetest, most selfless blogger ever. I wish we were related, I adore her so much! She is so absolutely genuine and dedicated. She is very talented and creative and although I haven't had the pleasure of tasting her homemade cookies {hint, hint} you will love her photos, recipes, and ideas!

Next up, Diane @ In My Own Style. She's always up to something wonderful. She has amazing tips on decorating, and fabulous tutorials. Her style is clean, simple, organized, and bright. She's super sweet too, and gives great decorating advice.

There's Alicia @ A Beautiful Mess. She and everything she touches is beautiful. Her photos are of particular stature. She has wonderful tutorials, insightful life posts, yummy recipes, and you'll see she has hosted Tasty Tuesdays and Project Smile. You definitely won't want to miss whatever she posts next.

AmberLee @ Giverslog will lend you every idea there is about giftgiving. Wrap it, Stack it, or dish it out, she's got you covered. Teachers, dad's, & hostess gifts? She has an idea for you. Printables, organization, and tutorials are all there too! And...she's on her way to becoming a chocolatier! Seriously. I can't wait to purchase her Ticket Chocolates.

Of course, I love Amanda over at Kevin & Amanda, she has awesome free fonts and great camera tutorials. Steph's recipes @ Plain Chicken will never fail you. Sprinkle Bakes and Joy The Baker will fill your oven with lots of love and goodies. Julie dishes out goodies and real food you won't feel guilty about @ Farm Girl Recipes.  Angie @ Cocina Diary hosts a fun blog hop called Sundays at One Food Club. For all my blogging questions and how-to's, I visit the girls @ The Cutest Blog On The Block {They have a blog and a website}. Then there's Pizzazzerie for party ideas and more food at and tablescapes @ Red Couch Recipes. You must also check out Beach House Living. You'll feel relaxed just surfing through this blissful blog.

It's strange to think that I sit at home doing whatever it is I do throughout the day and I think of you. People I've never met, but people I feel connected to. I think of Sue, making her cookies, and I think of Diane and Alicia. I ponder their struggles, and I hope they are happy. I hope they will continue to find the time and will to blog. I eagerly wait to here the next installment of Megan's love story or of Sunny's journey as a young widow. I look forward to Plain Chicken's next recipe, and Givers Log new chocolate business.

I started blogging in an effort to preserve my thoughts for my children, but it has turned into something more. It's like my own secret world, only I want to share it with anyone who will listen. I'm a blogger! Do you know what that means? What that entails? Well, it is much more than just creating a how-to manual for my children. It is for me. It gives me joy. It keeps me in check. It motivates me to stay on task, to try new things, to open up. I love you all so much and when I'm not blogging, trust me, I'm wishing I were. I'm thinking, always thinking about what I'm going to post, or who I need to visit. With that, I'm off to visit some of these lovely ladies and tell them about their award!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Objects Of My Desire

Like my motto goes...good things simple.
I like pretty things and I bet you do too.
Here are some things I love.
Antoinette Fainting Sofa - Carbon
     Antoinette Fainting Sofa @ Urban Outfitters

Zanzibar Magnets
Zanzibar Magnets @ Anthroplogie

Ceramic Pancake Warmer and Serving Dish
Ceramic Pancake Warmer @ Williams-Sonoma

Set of 3 Apothecary Jars @ Sears for $29.99!

Lighted Flower Branches
Lighted Flower Branches @ Bella Luna Flowers

Key To My Heart Hand Stamped Sterling Personlized Necklace
Personalized Key To My Heart Necklace @ Etsy

 Betty Draper Vintage Dress @ Ebay
Happy Shopping!