Saturday, June 30, 2012

Around The World: Brazil

I know it's been awhile since I featured an Around the World post.  We decided as a family to go alphabetically and learn about different countries.  We plan on reading books, coloring flags, finding the country on a map, and of course cooking food from the featured country.  Last month my daughter picked Afghanstian for the letter A.  This month she had first picked Bolivia, but I had a really difficult time finding recipes.  So, she willingly switched to Brazil.  We are coloring the Brazilian flag to add to our collection and will be learning more about the country.  In the upcoming days I will feature the recipes that we have cooked.  After slaving away at the stove on a couple of occasions to cook a meal that the kids weren't very appreciative of I have decided that for our next country we will be cooking as a family together, on the weekends only.  I think that this will be a good family bonding activity and the kids will hopefully be more appreciative of the hardwork that it takes to make some of these dishes!  Stay tuned as tomorrow I feature our first Brazilian recipe!

Children's Book Review: If the Shoe Fits

If the Shoe Fits

If the Shoe Fits
Written by:  Alison Jackson
Illustrated by: Karla Firehammer
Published by: Henry Holt and Company, 2001

An original take on some favorite nursery rhymes - this is one search for a new house that's bound to be more pleasure than trouble.

There was an old woman
who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children,
she didn't know what to do.
She gave them some broth
without any bread,
Then took them to live
in a new home instead.

Too messy, too woolly, too noisy, too small. Whether it's Humpty Dumpty's wall or Mother Hubbard's cupboard, the old woman (who once lived in a shoe) and her children (who once lived there, too) just can't seem to find a new home big enough for their growing needs. So where will they turn for a cozy night's rest? The perfect place is only a step away -- no moving van required!

* My kids are familiar with most of the classic nursery rhymes.  Told in rhyming text, this story takes the reader on an adventure with the old woman who lived in a shoe as she tries to find a new home.  The old woman encounters many of the characters from the classic nursery rhymes but finds problems with each of the potential new homes.  My kids had a fun time naming the nursery rhyme that the storybook characters on each of the pages came from.  We even recited some of the rhymes on our own before continuing with the story.  This was a cute story that the kids and I really enjoyed. 

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Antipasto Pizza

Our family loves pizza.  It's become a weekly staple in our house.  The variations are endless!  Earlier this week I made a savory Italian bread pudding.  I had enough ingredients leftover to make this recipe.  Perfect!  I hate wasting ingredients and have gotten much better about using leftover ingredients from one recipe in other recipes.  This pizza was super easy to prepare.  There were no sauces that needed to be pre-made or chicken that needed to be cooked. Next time I might add artichoke hearts and/or marinated mushrooms to give it a little more flavor. Overall though we enjoyed it.  Even my son ate this pizza (minus the roasted red peppers, but he did try a bite!). 

Antipasto Pizza
recipe slightly adapted from Taste and Tell

1 store bought pizza dough
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup diced salami
1 cup roasted red peppers, sliced
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 450F.

Prepare and roll out your pizza dough. Top with the mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle on the salami, red peppers and olives. Top with the parmesan.

Bake in the preheated oven until the dough is cooked and browned and the cheese is melted, 10-12 minutes.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Children's Book Review: Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians

Goldie Socks: And the Three Libearians

Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians
Written by:  Jackie Mims Hopkins
Illustrated by:  John Manders
Published by: Upstart Books, 2007

* My kids are very familiar with Goldie Locks and the Three Bears so when I saw this book at the library I thought that they'd enjoy it.  In this story, there's a family of bears who are libearians. Goldi Socks, late for school one day takes a shortcut and discovers the bear family's cottage.  Of course she goes inside and discovers tons of books!  She first searches for a book that's just right, then she wants to look for a cozy place to read.  When the bear family comes home for lunch and discover that someone's been into their books.....well, there's a surprise ending.  I see this as a good book for teaching kids how to pick out an appropriate book, since Goldi uses the 5 finger rule to help her find a just-right reading book.  The kids seemed to like it.  I thought that it was okay. 

Family Rating: 1 thumb up. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chicken Meatballs with Sweet Peanut Sauce

I think I've mentioned before that I really like meatballs.  I actually haven't made them in awhile though.  I saw this recipe and I liked that it used ground chicken instead of ground beef and that it had Asian flavors to it.  I think these were meant to be appetizer meatballs but I just rolled them a little larger to use as a main course.  They were super easy and quick to make.  They were also really tasty.....yes the kids liked these!  We all enjoyed the sweet peanut sauce.  I served these with rice, as seen below, steamed edamame, and some store-bought egg rolls.  This was a great Asian-inspired meal.

Chicken Meatballs with Sweet Peanut Sauce
from Every Day With Rachael Ray, June 2011

1 pound ground chicken
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated onion
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons sesame oil
Chopped peanuts, for garnish

Mix chicken, cilantro, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, salt and pepper; roll into 1-tablespoon balls. In medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add meatballs and cook through, 6 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, mix remaining ingredients (except peanuts) and warm in microwave. Toss meatballs with half of sauce and sprinkle with peanuts. Serve on toothpicks with remaining sauce for dipping.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up.

Children's Book Review: Wolf's Coming!

Wolf's Coming!

Wolf's Coming!
Written and illustrated by:  Joe Kulka
Published by: Carolrhoda Books, 2007

All of the animals in the forest go into hiding because the wolf is coming, but why they are hiding is the big surprise.

* In this story, told in rhyme, the animals are racing home as they hear wolf approach.  He looks angry and hungry as he walks towards the house.  The book is suspenseful with a big surprise ending!  The kids enjoyed this one a lot and I have to say that I was definitely surprised at the end myself!

Family Rating:  1 1/2 thumbs up.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Children's Book Review: The Last Day of Kindergarten

The Last Day of Kindergarten

The Last Day of Kindergarten
Written by:  Nancy Loewen
Illustrated by:  Sachiko Yoshikawa
Published by: Marshall Cavendish Children, 2011

A little girl is worried about first grade and wishes it were the first day of kindergarten again.

* Last Thursday was my daughter's last day of kindergarten.  I cannot believe how quickly her first year of school passed by.  I'm happy that she had such a great year and cannot believe that she's a soon-to-be 1st grader now!  I'm also sad that she's growing up so quickly!  I had put this book on hold at the library in anticipation of reading it to my daughter on her last day of school. She patiently kept the book on our "to be read" picture book pile until her last day.  We actually brought the book out with us to wait for the bus and took some pictures with her holding it.  We then read it before the bus came.  In this story a little girl on her last day of kindergarten wishes it was the first day of school.  She reflects back on the things that she'll get to do if it was the first day of school.  She then talks about the things that she does do on the last day, like taking pictures off the classroom walls and throwing out the stubby crayons.  The book ends with her moving up/graduation from kindergarten ceremony.  I have to say that I got a little teary reading this to her.  The only thing that I didn't like in this book was the big focus at the end on the graduation ceremony.  Since my daughter's staying in the same school for first grade she didn't have a graduation ceremony or receive a diploma for completing kindergarten.  When she got home from her last half-day of school she went up to her room and made herself her own diploma! 

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.


When I went grocery shopping on Monday for the Black Bean Burgers (see Monday's post!) I needed an avocado  for the salsa.  The loose avocados were hard as a rock though.  I've learned from a past bad experience that hard, unripe avocados are not tasty.  The bag of four avocados though were nice and soft.  So, instead of one avocado I ended up with four.  My husband and I both love avocados, even though the kids don't.  So I was super excited to be able to make some guacamole.  There are tons of guacamole recipes out there on the internet.  I had never made homemade guacamole before this, but have eaten it many times when I've gone out to eat at Mexican restaurants.  I referred to foodnetwork to find a recipe and adapted it a little to fit my needs.  Overall, I thought the guacamole was okay.  I ended up using it as a dip for my quesadillas that I made that night, instead of eating it with tortilla chips, like I originally had planned.  It was nice having homemade guacamole, but next time I may try making this recipe as originally written!

recipe adapted from - courtesy of Alton Brown, Good Eats
original recipe here

2 Haas avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
1 lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced

In a large bowl place the scooped avocado pulp and lime juice, toss to coat. Drain, and reserve the lime juice, after all of the avocados have been coated. Using a potato masher add the salt and mash. Then, fold in the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lime juice. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve.

Mommy & Daddy Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Children's Book Review: Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery

Where Do Balloons Go?: An Uplifting Mystery [With Reusable Stickers & 2 Play Areas]

Where Do Balloons Go?  An Uplifting Mystery
Written by: Jamie Lee Curtis
Illustrated by:  Laura Cornell
Published by: Joanna Cotler Books, 2000

In this thoughtful, comforting book by the actress-turned-author, a child wonders about what happens to a balloon that is let go, just as a parent would wonder about what might happen to a child once he or she leaves home.

* We have read several of Jamie Lee Curtis's books and have enjoyed many of them.  I'm sure anyone with a child has had the unfortunate experience of their son or daughter accidentally letting go of a helium-filled balloon.   In this book, told in rhyme, Curtis tackles the question of "Where do balloons go?" when they go up in the sky.  The possibilities are very imaginative and creative.  The illustrations are bright and colorful, but kind of busy.  This wasn't one of our favorite books by Curtis but the kids were still interested.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Savory Italian Bread Pudding

I haven't eaten many bread puddings, but most, if not all of the ones that I have tried I think have been sweet.  I found this recipe for a savory bread pudding and thought that I'd try it.  As much as me and the kids love salami, I try not to buy or eat it very often.  Since I needed salami for another recipe that I am making later in the week, I decided to add some to this dish.  This way, instead of ordering "4" slices of salami, I could order a 1/4 pound.  This dish was definitely different, but tasty.  My husband and I enjoyed it but the kids weren't big fans.   This is not a quick meal, since it needs to cook for 30-40 minutes.  However, if you're in the mood for a savory bread pudding this is worth a try.

Savory Bread Pudding
Recipe adapted from Country Momma Cooks

8 c. french bread, cubed
6 eggs
1 c. milk
1 Tbs. flour
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 c. frozen spinach thawed and drained
1 can of diced tomatoes drained well
3 ounce can of sliced black olives
6 slices salami, cut up
6 slices deli ham, cup up
1 c. Italian blend cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Place eggs, milk, flour and seasoning in a blender and blend.

2. In a large bowl gently stir everything together except for the cheese.

3. Pour in to a greased 9x9" baking dish. Sprinkle cheese on top.

4. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Meatless Monday: Black Bean Burgers with Mango Salsa

I don't know what I was thinking when I decided to make these burgers.  The major fact being that I don't like beans!  The last dish I think I made with beans were bean burritos.  My son, the picky eater of the family ended up loving them!  In an effort to not pass on my eating dislikes to the kids, I try to make an effort to expose them to all kinds of foods....even ones that I don't like.  Since we try to eat meatless once a week I decided to make these burgers.  They were pretty easy to make and while they were cooking in the oven I was able to make the salsa.  The salsa really helped me enjoy these burgers because if I had to eat them plain, I wouldn't be fan.  The salsa was so tasty I could probably eat the whole bowl of just that! The kids, not fans of avocado, picked all of it out of the salsa (more for me!).  But they each ate the half of a burger I gave them.  This recipe made ended up making 8 burgers for me.  I could have made them a little larger, as seen in the picture below, but was happy with the size.  Since I wasn't a big fan of these, we ended up freezing three of the burgers for my husband to eat in a few weeks when me and the kids go up to my parent's beach house in Rhode Island and he stays home. 

Black Bean Burgers with Mango Salsa
slightly adapted from Cooking Light, April 2010

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, divided
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 large egg whites
Cooking spray
1 1/4 cups chopped peeled mango (about 1 medium)
3 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
6 hamburger buns

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Place black beans in a medium bowl; mash with a fork. Stir in 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro and the next 6 ingredients (through egg whites). Shape bean mixture into 6 (1/2-inch-thick) patties. Arrange patties on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes, carefully turning once.

3. Combine remaining 1/4 cup cilantro, mango, and the next 4 ingredients (through minced garlic) in a medium bowl. Place a patty on bottom half of each hamburger bun; top each with 1/3 cup salsa, and top half of bun.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Children's Book Review: Just A Minute

Just a Minute!: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book

Just A Minute
Written and illustrated by:  Yuyi Morales
Published by: Chronicle Books, 2003

In this original trickster tale, Senor Calavera arrives unexpectedly at Grandma Beetle's door. He requests that she leave with him right away. "Just a minute," Grandma Beetle tells him. She still has one house to sweep, two pots of tea to boil, three pounds of corn to make into tortillas -- and that's just the start! Using both Spanish and English words to tally the party preparations, Grandma Beetle cleverly delays her trip and spends her birthday with a table full of grandchildren and her surprise guest. This spirited tribute to the rich traditions of Mexican culture is the perfect introduction to counting in both English and Spanish. The vivacious illustrations and universal depiction of a family celebration are sure to be adored by young readers everywhere.

* As we read the first page of this book and a skeleton (Senor Calavera) comes to Grandma Beetle's door telling her that it's "time for her to come along with him" I wasn't so sure that this was going to be appropriate for the kids.  Luckily, they didn't ask me why the skeleton was asking her to come with him because I'm not so sure that I could or would want to explain it to them.  They enjoyed the english-spanish numbers and seeing what Grandma was busy with for each.  The pictures were colorful but honestly, the skeleton was a little scary-looking if I do say so myself!  Overall, I thought that this was an okay read.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

My family was invited to a barbecue hosted by the family of one of my daughter's classmates.  When I asked what to bring, I was of course told, nothing.  So, my daughter and I ended up baking a box of the Betty Crocker Funda-Middles cupcake mix that I had in the pantry for the kids.  Then I found this recipe in my dessert recipes folder and figured that even if there was already dessert you can't have too many cookies.  I'm not a huge oatmeal cookie eater.  Given a plate of cookies with Oatmeal Chocolate Chip or Oatmeal Raisin, they would probably be my last choice!  However, since I had almost all the ingredients I thought I'd give these a try.  It made enough that I ended up saving half of the batch to serve with dessert at our Father's Day dinner.  At the barbecue, an almost-two year old boy was sneaking these cookies non-stop (and this was before dessert since we couldn't stay)!  Both my parents and in-laws ended up really liking these cookies.  My kids ate them but weren't the biggest fans of them.  I thought that they were okay.  Definitely not my favorite cookie that I've ever made, but I don't think that I've yet to have a home made cookie that was really awful! 
Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
from the Ocean Spray website

2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 5-ounce package Ocean Spray® Craisins® Original Dried Cranberries
2/3 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well. Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate mixing bowl. Add to butter mixture in several additions, mixing well after each addition. Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Makes approximately 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Children's Book Review: Out of the Ballpark

Out of the Ballpark

Out of the Ballpark
Written by:  Alex Rodriguez
Illustrated by:  Frank Morrison
Published by: HarperCollins, 2007

New York Yankees third baseman Rodriguez, affectionately known to fans as A-Rod, delivers an exciting, often humorous story about a boy who puts his whole heart into baseball. This fictional tale celebrates effort, teamwork, and family, and shows that anyone can be successful if they work hard to achieve their dreams.

* Ever since I can remember, I've been a Yankees fan.  Not a huge, watch games on the television kind of fan.  But I have gone to numerous games. Of course the amount has definitely decreased since I've had kids!  They have both gone to at least one Yankees game though and have baseball caps.  When I saw this book I thought that my kids could relate since they have seen A-Rod play.  In this book, a young Alex loves baseball.  When he makes an error during a game he makes sure to keep practicing to prepare for the big championship game.  At the end of the story there's a note to the reader from Alex along with photos of him from his childhood.  This book kept the kids interest although they're not quite big baseball fans yet.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Orzo Salad with Artichokes,Tomatoes, Chickpeas, Feta, and Lemon Basil Dressing

I was looking for a pasta side dish to serve at our Father's Day dinner along with the Sausage & Pepper Wedges, potato salad, corn-on-the cob and garden salad.  I found this recipe and thought it was different with the chickpeas and lemon basil dressing.  It seemed like a light salad side dish and was different than most pasta salad recipes I've seen.  I have two small basil plants that my mother gave me, growing in a container on my deck.  Unfortunately, I assumed that I'd have enough basil leaves to make the dressing for this and didn't.  So, as seen in the pic below, it was lacking a little in the basil flavor!  I opted to serve this dish room temperature.  Orzo is a quick cooking pasta so this dish was fast and easy to prepare.  Overall, it wasn't bad.  It was definitely a light side dish and the flavors were a nice change from the mayo or Italian dressing based macaroni salads that I'm used to. 

Orzo Salad with Artichokes,Tomatoes, Chickpeas, Feta, and Lemon Basil Dressing
recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod

4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups orzo
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped artichoke hearts
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup feta cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Lemon Basil Dressing:
3/4 cup basil leaves, packed
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Pour the broth into a heavy large saucepan. Cover the pan and bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Stir in the orzo. Cook until the orzo is tender but still firm to the bite, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Drain the orzo through a strainer and rinse with cold water. Drain completely and transfer the orzo to a large bowl.

2. Add the chickpeas, artichokes, tomatoes, and feta cheese to the orzo. Stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

3. To make the dressing: in a blender or food processor, blend the basil, garlic, salt, and lemon juice until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the oil. Blend until combined.

4. Pour dressing over orzo salad and stir until well combined. Serve salad immediately or chilled.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Children's Book Review: Let's Do Nothing

Let's Do Nothing!

Let's Do Nothing!
Written and illustrated by:  Tony Fucile
Published by: Candlewick Press, 2009

Frankie and Sal have already played every sport and board game invented, baked and eaten batches of cookies, and painted a zillion pictures. What’s left to do? Nothing! Ten seconds of nothing! Can they do it? Can they act like stone statues in the park? Can they simply hold their breath and not blink an eye? With a wink to the reader and a command of visual humor, feature film animator Tony Fucile demonstrates the Zen-like art of doing nothing...oops! Couldn’t do it!

* I'm glad that I don't hear the words "I'm bored" come out of the mouths of my children.  My daughter reads when she's bored and I'm okay with that!  My son is very good at playing quietly with his toys and can always find something to do.  So, it was interesting to read a book where two boys have played with everything and decide to try to do nothing.  But they soon discover that doing nothing is harder than it looks!  It was nice to see the great imagination of the blonde-haired little boy in the story as he tried to do nothing.  The boys realize that even when you try to do nothing, your body is still doing something.....for example, your eyes blink.  The illustrations were humorous and the kids and I enjoyed this story.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Egg Potato Salad

I don't know why I keep trying different potato salads.  I should just ask my mom for the recipe that she uses since I'm such a big fan of hers.  She's been making it ever since I can remember and it always tastes as good too! I love trying out new recipes though and saw this egg based one and had to try it.  I love hard-boiled eggs in my potato salad.  Of course, earlier in the day before I served this at our Father's Day dinner I tried a potato salad with a bacon vinegarette type dressing on it that was amazing!  So, between my mom's potato salad and the non-mayo bacon vinegarette based one that I had earlier in the day, this one really didn't have a chance.  I made this early in the morning so it could chill in the fridge and the flavors could meld while went out to a barbecue.  It was slightly tangy from the vinegar and pickle juice.  It wasn't bad.  I think I'm just used to the taste of my mom's. 

Egg Potato Salad
slightly adapted from The Cutting Edge of Ordinary

6 medium sized russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
½ cup mayonnaise
1/3  cup sour cream
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
sprigs of thyme
handful of chives
3-4 shakes of Penzys Salt-Free Mural of Flavor Seasoning
1/4  cup pickle juice
1-tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Place a pot of water on stove on high.  Once boiling add potato pieces and boil for approximately 12 minutes, until fork-tender.  Drain and place into a large bowl.

In a medium size bowl mix the mayo, sour cream, mustard, thyme, chives, pepper, and Penzys Mural of Flavor Seasoning.

Stir gently into warm potatoes, add the pickle juice and vinegar and stir gently again. Refrigerate until cold.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Children's Book Review: I'm the Best Artist in the Ocean

I'm the Best Artist in the Ocean!

I'm the Best Artist in the Ocean
Written and illustrated by:  Kevin Sherry
Published by: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2008

The squid that charmed a nation is back . . . and he's making a big mess! Not only is this irrepressible squid the biggest thing ever, he's also the best artist in the entire ocean. He squirts ink, for goodness sakes, and there aren't many animals in the ocean who can do that! This squid is making a masterpiece that is sure to wow his fellow fish. But perhaps they aren?t as pleased as he would think?

The giant squid that garnered starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus for his larger-than-life performance in I?m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean is sure to delight fans with this lively and fresh follow-up that includes a double gatefold spread featuring the squid's impressive artwork!

* Only after reading this book and the book cover did I realize that Kevin Sherry had written a book about a giant squid prior to this one called, I'm The Biggest Thing in the Ocean.  In this book giant squid likes to draw a lot.  He shows off all of the things that he can draw, but not everyone in the ocean loves his skills.  After we read this my son commented, "That was a short book!"  He enjoyed the colorful pictures.  Based on reviews the first book was much better, so we'll have to check that one out soon!
Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Fresh Peach Sangria

My husband and I hosted both sets of parents for Father's Day dinner.  I'm not a big drinker, especially wine.  I often end up with a headache and a bright red face!  But I do love sangria, both red and white.  So, I thought it would be nice to make a white sangria to serve to our guests.  I've had a photo copy of this recipe from the Down Home with the Neely's Cookbook for awhile now and thought it would be perfect to try out.  It had lots of fruit and was light and refreshing!  This is a perfect drink for a warm "almost" summer day.  This is a white sangria, although it's hard to tell from the picture below, since there's so much fruit in the bottom!

Fresh Peach Sangria
recipe slightly adpated from Down Home with the Neelys: A Southern Family Cookbook

2 bottles white wine, chilled
1/2 cup brandy
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup superfine sugar
4 peaches, pitted and sliced
2 plums, pitted and sliced
1 granny smith apple, cored and sliced
1 lemon, sliced

Combine all of the ingredients in a pitcher and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  (We tried putting regular sugar in the mini food processor to make it "superfine" but didn't have much luck.  My husband ended up microwaving the sugar to fully dissolve it.  Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  When ready to serve pour sangria over ice.

Mommy & Daddy Rating: 2 thumbs up!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Baked Spaghetti with Cream Cheese and French Fried Onions

Back in March the theme of The Crazy Cooking Challenge hosted by Tina at Moms Crazy Cooking was Spaghetti with red sauce.  I had made a Creamy Chicken Marinara dish.  I don't make spaghetti that often and hadn't tried any of the other bloggers recipes.  So, when I was in the mood to make spaghetti last week I checked out the Spaghetti Crazy Cooking Challenge to try out one of the recipes from the challenge.  Out of the 84 spaghetti recipes, this one called out to me.  I think it had something to do with the french fried onions!  I can eat those things right out of the can!  Of course, I assumed I had spaghetti and of course didn't check before I went grocery shopping.  When I went to make this dish, I discovered that I only had a box of whole wheat spaghetti.  Honestly, I really don't like the taste of the stuff, and bought a couple of boxes when they were on sale, hoping I'd end up liking it!  I really wasn't feeling "whole wheat" so I ended up making this dish with bow tie pasta instead. I prefer to use ground turkey in place of ground beef whenever possible, as I did in this dish.  This dish took a little bit of time to prepare and then requires at least thirty extra minutes of cook time.  So, this is not a quick dish.  However, it was tasty and everyone seemed to enjoy it.  And I was glad to finally be able to try out a recipe from one of the Crazy Cooking Challenges! 

Spaghetti with Cream Cheese and French Fried Onions
recipe slightly adapted from Fantastical Sharing of Recipes originally from Let's Dish

1 16 oz. box bow tie pasta
1 lb. ground turkey
1 (24 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup water
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Small can French fried onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees while cooking your pasta according to the box. Drain and set aside.

Add ground turkey, onions, and garlic. Cook until meat is browned.

Add cream cheese and water. Stir until cream cheese is completely melted.

Add in spaghetti sauce, season with salt and pepper, and cook until heated through.
Add a little sauce on the bottom of a greased 9x13" dish.
Add pasta and then pour sauce evenly over the top.
Top with mozzarella and Parmesan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Add French fried onions and bake for 5 more minutes.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Children's Book Review: Pig Kahuna

Pig Kahuna

Pig Kahuna
Written and illustrated by:  Jennifer Sattler
Published by:  Bloomsbury, 2011

Fergus and his little brother, Dink, love collecting the things that wash up on the beach, especially if it means that Fergus doesn't actually have to go in the water. Then one day, they spy the greatest treasure of all-an abandoned surfboard. When no one comes to claim it, they make it the star of their collection and name it "Dave." But when Dave accidentally (on purpose?) gets cast back into the ocean, can Fergus find the courage to rescue him?

Whimsically brought to life with Jennifer Sattler's bright, comedic style, here's a story about bravery and brotherhood that little kahunas (and their parents) are sure to love.

* My kids could relate somewhat to this book.  We have just recently watched the movie Soul Surfer, so they are familiar with surfing.  Plus, they are familiar with treasure hunting at the beach.  My parents own a house in Rhode Island right near the beach and the kids have collected many rocks and not so many shells.  In this story Fergus and Dink are collecting treasures at the beach when a surfboard washes up on the sand.  They name it Dave and play with it.  Fergus overcomes his fear of the water, when he goes out to save Dave, after Dink set him "wild and free." The kids enjoyed this book, but I think they enjoyed saying the title even more.  For some reason, they thought "Pig Kahuna" sounded hilarious.  Overall, this was a cute summer read.

Family Rating:  1 thumb up.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bacon Pierogi Bake

I grew up eating pierogies and kielbasa regularly and enjoy them a lot.  My daughter also loves piegories!  Unfortunately, my son isn't the biggest fan of them, so I don't make them very often.  I saw this recipe for a pierogi bake and wanted to give it a try.  It had me at the word bacon!  It was really easy to make and my husband and daughter enjoyed it.  My son wasn't the biggest fan, but he ate some of it so that was an accomplishment!  I don't know if it's because I've been working out and trying to eat healthier (this is NOT a healthy dish!) that I felt this dish was a little heavy for me.  It's definitely one of those comforting type of dishes and would probably taste even better in the fall/winter. 

Bacon Pierogi Bake
recipe slightly adapted from Let's Dish

1 (16 oz.) package frozen potato and cheddar pierogies
4-6 bacon slices, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
1/2 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the frozen pierogies in a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cook bacon in a saucepan over medium heat until crisp; remove from pan. Set aside. Add garlic to drippings in pan, and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add cream cheese to pan, and cook for 1 minute or until cream cheese begins to melt, stirring frequently. Gradually add chicken broth to pan, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the cream cheese mixture evenly over pierogies. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until bubbly and thoroughly heated. Remove from oven, top with cheese, and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Top with reserved bacon, chives, a sprinkling of black pepper, and some additional shredded cheese, if desired.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Chidren's Chapter Book Review: Lulu and the Brontosaurus

Lulu and the Brontosaurus

Lulu and the Brontosaurus
Written by:  Judith Viorst
Illustrated by:  Lane Smith
Published by:  Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010

Judith Viorst and Lane Smith team up to create an irresistibly fresh and funny story with an ending that will surprise you again and again and again.

* I'm always on the look out for new chapter books that are appropriate for and that I can read with my six year old daughter.  I recently checked this one out of the library.  I thought that my almost four year old, dinosaur-loving son might enjoy it too since it involved a brontosaurus.  My family is familiar with some of Viorst's picture books.  I'm not sure if this is her first chapter book, but it was our first by her.  In this story Lulu is a spoiled brat who throws tantrums if she doesn't get what she wants.  When her birthday approaches and she tells her parents that she wants a brontosaurus and they tell her no.....well, she decides to go out and find herself one on her own.  An interesting journey unfolds as she travels on her quest for a dinosuar.   My kids loved the little song that she sings to herself, I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna, gonna get A bronto-bronto-bronto Brontosaurus for a pet" and were singing it throughout the day after they first heard it!  The chapters in this book are extremely short with humorous black and white illustrations. The kids and I enjoyed this as part of our morning reading.

Family Rating:  1 1/2 thumbs up. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Reese's Chewy Chocolate Cookies

I was cleaning out my kitchen shelves and came upon an unopened bag of Reese's peanut butter chips.  On the back of the bag was this recipe.  Since I had all the ingredients I figured that I'd whip a batch up.  Since the recipe yields 48 cookies I ended up halving the recipe.  The 24 cookies we ended up with was plenty!  As noted in step 3, the cookies will be soft after baking.  I was over eager to get them off the pan and several ended up breaking into bits.  When I was a bit more patient, the cookies hardened a bit on the pan and were able to be moved to the cooling rack.  The kids loved these.  I thought that they weren't bad.....(who doesn't like chocolate and peanut butter?!)  However, I've definitely had better cookies. 

Reese's Chewy Chocolate Cookies
from HERSHEY'S website

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-2/3 cups (10-oz. pkg.) REESE'S Peanut Butter Chips

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; set aside.

2. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well. Stir in peanut butter chips. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.

3.  Bake 8 to 9 minutes. (Do not overbake; cookies will be soft. They will puff while baking and flatten while cooling.) Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 4-1/2 dozen cookies.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Children's Book Review: The Incredible Book Eating Boy

The Incredible Book Eating Boy

The Incredible Book Eating Boy
Written and illustrated by:  Oliver Jeffers
Published by: Philomel Books, 2006

Like many children, Henry loves books. But Henry doesn’t like to read books, he likes to eat them. Big books, picture books, reference books . . . if it has pages, Henry chews them up and swallows (but red ones are his favorite). And the more he eats, the smarter he gets—he’s on his way to being the smartest boy in the world! But one day he feels sick to his stomach. And the information is so jumbled up inside, he can’t digest it! Can Henry find a way to enjoy books without using his teeth? With a stunning new artistic style and a die-cut surprise, Oliver Jeffers celebrates the joys of reading in this charming and quirky picture book. It’s almost good enough to eat.

* We have previously read one of Jeffers others books, Lost and Found, so we were slightly familiar with his work.  I found this book to be different though, and honestly, in the beginning a little weird.  In this story, Henry loved books....eating them that is.  How one mistakenly eats a book, I don't know, but Henry did, and ended up loving it.  Then he discovered that the more books he ate, the smarter he became!  Only when he started getting ill from eating so many books did he realize that reading books was much more fun.  Like I mentioned, I thought that the concept was a little weird.  However, as an avid reader myself, I like the message that reading books is so much fun.  I am grateful that both of my children have developed a love of books and reading.  Like Henry at the end of the book, my daughter reads ALL the time. 
Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Weekend Chef: Memphis-Style Baby Back Ribs

Happy Father's Day!  I hope everyone is enjoying this day with their families.  We will be enjoying a bbq with one of my daughter's school friend's and her family and then having some family over for our own little bbq. 

In honor of Father's Day, I thought that I'd post a "manly" dish.  I had a rack of ribs in the freezer that I had been wanting my husband to make for awhile.  I had thought he'd grill them but he wanted to slow cook them in the oven.  What's nice about slow cooking them in the oven was that after the initial preparation, he was free to do other powerwash our shed, mow the lawn, etc.  We don't eat ribs very often, so these were a tasty treat.  We ended up having a spur-of-the-moment bbq with our neighbors that included hotdogs, grilled corn-on-the-cob, these ribs, cole slaw, baked beans, and sauteed zucchini.  The sauce was a little spicy, which my daughter didn't enjoy.  But everyone else thought that these were great. 

Memphis-Style Baby Back Ribs
Every Day With Rachael Ray, Ocotber 2008

2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
2 racks pork baby back ribs (about 5 pounds total)
2 8 ounce cans tomato sauce
1/2 onion, finely chopped
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1.Preheat the oven to 275 degrees . In a small bowl, whisk together the paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Run a paring knife down the length of the bone side of each rack to split the skin, then season all over with the rub.

2.Arrange the ribs, meaty side down, in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast, turning halfway through, until very tender, about 3 hours.

3.Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the tomato sauce, onion, vinegar, brown sugar and hot sauce to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Cut the racks into individual ribs and serve with the sauce on the side.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumb up.

Children's Book Review: A Perfect Father's Day

A Perfect Father's Day
Written by:  Eve Bunting
Illustrated by:  Susan Meddaugh
Published by:  Clarion Books, 1991

Susie plans a Father's Day celebration with her dad that's filled with all of her favorite activities. "A charming Father's Day offering that would be equally good reading all year long." -- Booklist

* Father's Day around our house is usually a laid back, relaxing kind of day.  The perfect day for my husband is spending as much time as he wants working outside on our cars.  He normally is too busy to spend the amount of time he'd like cleaning the cars, inside and out.  He also loves grilling so although I don't have the menu planned yet, he'll probably take care of the meat cooking!  This book was a good lead-in to Father's Day. The kids know that it's coming up.  My daughter already made her present a few weeks ago at her after school arts and crafts class.  In this story, Susie plans a perfect day out with her dad to celebrate Father's Day.  It includes lunch at some fast food type restaurant, feeding the ducks at the pond, and a trip to the park.....hmm, whose perfect day was this?!!!  I kind of led my kids to the conclusion that it sounded like Susie's perfect day!  But my husband agreed with the dad in the story and pointed out that any quality, "fun" time spent with the kids is his idea of a perfect day. 

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Weekend Chef: Peach, Prosciutto & Goat-Cheese Pizza

Another pizza recipe.  Believe me, I will never tire of eating homemade pizza.  Especially because the toppings are limitless!  Just the name of this pizza had me drooling.  Peaches, prosciutto, and goat cheese.....delicious!  My husband was nice enough to make this pizza the other night while I went to a zumba class.  So, when I got home my pizza wasn't as hot as I like I like it.  Regardless, I was expecting deliciousness.  Unfortunately, what I got was just okay.  The prosciutto got a bit hard and chewy.  I'm thinking maybe some caramelized onions might perk it up a little bit.  Maybe my expectations were too high!  I may have to try this one again in the future with some adaptations, because I feel like it has so much potential.

Peach, Prosciutto, & Goat-Cheese Pizza
recipe slightly adapted from

1 store-bought pizza dough
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 firm-ripe peaches, cut into thin wedges and halved crosswise
8 very thin prosciutto slices, torn into pieces
3 oz soft mild goat cheese, crumbled

Put pizza stone in lowest position of oven and preheat oven to highest setting 500–550°F.
Shape dough into desired thickness and shape.

Brush dough with some oil and top each with peaches, prosciutto, and cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake until crisp and golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Drizzle remaining oil over pizza.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Children's Book Review: Daddies do it Different

Daddies Do It Different

Daddies do it Different
Written by:  Alan Lawrence Sitomer
Illustrated by:  Abby Carter
Published by:  Disney Hyperion, 2012

Daddy sure doesn't do things the way Mommy does Just in time for Father's Day, this hilarious picture book takes a high-spirited look at the way dads put their own spin on different parts of a child's life--from going to a birthday party to bathtime. Alan Sitomer's debut picture book is inspired by his own experiences as a father and winningly complemented with delightful art by Abby Carter.

* This book was very fitting for our family.  In our house, Daddy definitely does things different than Mommy.  We could relate to so many things in this story.  When Mommy dresses the girl she looks extra cute, but when Daddy dresses her, her barrettes are crooked and her outfits don't match.  (This sounds familiar!).  Mommy feeds the girl a  yummy breakfast but Daddy makes waffle forts and gets syrup on the dog (Okay, we don't have a dog and their Daddy doesn't make waffle forts.....but sometimes he'll forget to give them some fruit and juice with their bowl of cereal on the weekend!).  This book was really cute in showing that mommies and daddies can do things different.  That's not to say that there's a right or wrong way either.....just a different way!  However, the author shows that when it's time to tuck the girl in and kiss her goodnight, Mommy and Daddy do it the same way.  I think it's good for the kids to see that my husband and I do things differently.  They even point it out to us, "But Mommy (or Daddy!) doesn't do it that way!"  And our answers are always the same, that it's okay, but they need to do it the way whoever's in charge at the time (if we're not together) wants to do it.  I think it's teaching them flexibility and adaptibility.  Plus, it's showing them that we're each entitled to our own opinions of how things should be done.  However, on the big things, like discipline, my husband and I are always on the same page and the kids know it!  This is a cute book to read the kids, and seems especially timely for Father's Day!

Family Rating:  2 thumbs up!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sweet and Sour Chicken

On the now rare occasion when we order Chinese take-out, the kids always want us to get Sesame Chicken.  They love the fried chicken pieces in the sweet sauce.  I'm not sure if they have ever had Sweet and Sour Chicken.  I know that I was never a fan of the fried chicken chunks in a weird coating and the red sauce to dip it in, so we never order it. However, I saw this recipe though and had to try it.  I am so glad that I did too!  When I tell you this dish was AMAZING I am not lying.  My mouth is watering, just thinking about it.  Unfortunately, it's not a quick dinner.  The chicken requires coating in cornstarch and egg and then it gets browned before it cooks in the oven for an hour.  And it has to be turned/mixed in the sauce every 15 minutes.  But believe me, it is well worth it!  The kids asked for thirds! I served this with white rice and broccoli.  I will definitely be making this again soon, it was that good! 

Sweet and Sour Chicken
from Mandy's Recipe Box


For the Chicken:
3-4 boneless chicken breasts
salt & pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil

For the Sweet & Sour Sauce:
3/4 cup sugar
4 tbs ketchup
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp garlic salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Rinse your chicken breasts in water and then cut into cubes. I like my chicken partially frozen when cutting. It makes it easier. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dip chicken into the cornstarch to coat then dip into the eggs. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet and cook your chicken until browned but not cooked through. Place the chicken in a 9x13 greased baking dish. Mix all of your sweet and sour sauce ingredients in a bowl with a whisk and then pour evenly over the chicken. Bake for one hour and during the baking process you will need to turn the chicken every 15 minutes.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up +!!!!

Children's Book Review: Don't Lick the Dog: Making Friends with Dogs

Don't Lick the Dog: Making Friends with Dogs

Don't Lick the Dog:  Making Friends with Dogs
Written and illustrated by:  Wendy Wahman
Published by:  Henry Holt and Company, 2009

Meeting a new dog is exciting, but it can also be scary. This humorous how-to manual shows kids the best ways to interact with unfamiliar dogs, providing helpful tips about all sorts of dog behavior. Children often don’t understand what dogs’ actions mean and can misinterpret a threatening signal for a friendly one and vice versa. Kids and parents will return to Wendy Wahman’s playful illustrations again and again for useful reminders: Slow Down. Stay very still. And remember, don’t lick the dog!

* For kids (like my own children!) who aren't comfortable around dogs, this is a great book to show them how to interact with these animals.  Told in rhyme, this book gives tips to help kids understand dog behavior.  The book reinforced what we have already taught our children, that you need to ask the owner before you go up to pet a dog that you don't know.  However, even I learned new things from this book, like crossing your arms and turning your back to a dog that jumps up.  The pages and illustrations are really bright and colorful! 

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pete's Scratch Pancakes with Pineapple

I know that I already posted a Dutch Baby Pancake recipe earlier this week.  However, I had made that recipe a couple of weeks ago and was having problems posting it.  I made these pancakes just this past week.  Plus, my kids are big pancake lovers that they would probably love it if I made them more often! My kids love pineappple....canned, fresh, it doesn't matter to them!  So when I saw this recipe I thought they'd like them.   Unfortunately, the original recipe didn't specify what size can of crushed pineapple to use.  I bought the smaller 8 oz. size can. I thought the 20 oz. because it is supposed to be undrained would be too much liquid.  However, after making these I'm not sure.  There was hardly any pineapple flavor to the pancakes.  You occasionally got a bite of crushed pineapple but there wasn't much.  I may try making these again with the 20 oz. can, just to see.  The kids enjoyed them and they made a ton, so we had plenty of leftovers for other breakfasts.

Pete's Scratch Pancakes with Pineapple
from Fantastical Sharing of Recipes

2 cups flour
1 3/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 eggs, beat them separately before adding to mixture
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
can crushed pineapple, undrained (original recipe didn't specify, but I used 8 oz.)

Combine dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.

Then combine eggs and butter to the milk and slowly add in flour mixture.

Fold in pineapple.

Let sit for 10 minutes.

Cook. Flip when bubbles appear and then done when sides are browned.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Children's Book Review: Wolf! Wolf!

Wolf! Wolf!

Wolf! Wolf!
Written and illustrated by:  John Rocco
Published by: Hyperion Books for Children, 2007

Putting a new twist on a classic "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," this retelling finds a curmudgeonly wolf discovering what he's been missing the most.

* My kids are very familiar now with the classic story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."  This is a new take on that tale.  Set in Asia, this story is told from the hungry, old wolf's point of view.  Weeds cover his garden and he's very hungry.  When he hears "Wolf! Wolf!" he thinks the little boy is inviting him for lunch.  The ending definitely surprised us!

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Earlier this week I used some sour cream for the Hot Dog Goulash and wanted to use the rest up before it went to waste.  I had bought a carton of blueberries at the grocery store so I thought this cake would be perfect.....and it was!  I prefer to make breakfast baked goods since my kids love breakfast so much! When I make dessert type baked goods, I often have to freeze half of them or they end up going bad.  We just don't eat them fast enough!  So, I made this cake and it was so tasty!  It was baking while we were eating dinner.  The cinnamony aroma had us drooling with anticipation.  Eating this warm out of the oven, it was amazing!  This was one breakfast treat that was eaten all up!

Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake
recipe slightly adapted from - by d newman

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 5/8 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9 inch Bundt pan.

2.In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the sour cream and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the batter just until blended. Fold in blueberries.

3.Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Sprinkle half of this mixture over the batter in the pan. Spoon remaining batter over the top, and then sprinkle the remaining pecan mixture over. Use a knife or thin spatula to swirl the sugar layer into the cake.

4.Bake for 55 to 60 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the crown of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack. Invert onto a serving plate, and tap firmly to remove from the pan. Dust with confectioners' sugar just before serving.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up!

Children's Book Review: I'm Your Bus

I'm Your Bus

I'm Your Bus
Written by:  Marilyn Singer
Illustrated by:  Evan Polenghi
Published by:  Scholastic Press, 2009

Get ready for a rip-roaring, rhyming ride that celebrates all things drivin' with a special spotlight on a kid's four-wheeled best buddy--his school bus! When you're a kid, your school bus can be your very best friend. Morning, noon, and nighttime, too, that golden buddy is at your service. Ready to drive you and your friends to and from school.

And in-between those golden-bus moments, there are other vehicles who drive around town doing what they do best--sweeping, crunching, watching, creeping! Here is an in-your-face read-aloud that is bound to become a modern classic.
* Told in rhyme this picture book shows kids what a typical day is like for a school bus, told from the point of view of the bus.  My son enjoyed this book alot.  He's also a fan of pretty much any vehicle with wheels.  And even though it's two years away, he's very excited to one day be able to ride the big, yellow bus to school like his sister. 
Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Balsamic-Mango Marinated Grilled Chicken

Unfortunately, during the weekday I cannot grill, until I get a grill pan, which I told my husband I am going to buy soon!  Especially since summer is coming and I have a ton of grilling recipes, but can't use our Weber charcoal grill!  When I saw this recipe the flavors sounded delicious, so even though it was "grilled" I thought that I'd just cook it in the cast iron skillet.  I have to say that I was pretty disappointed with this dish.  I marinated the chicken just as the recipe called for.  When it was time to eat it, it hardly had any flavor though!  I'm trying to be semi-healthy in my eating, so I made some cous-cous for the kids and I had my chicken over salad greens.  I used Ken's honey balsamic dressing, which definitely added extra flavor that the chicken lacked. 

Balsamic-Mango Marinated Grilled Chicken
from Recipe Girl

4 boneless chicken breasts (pounded lightly to thin out if they are too thick)
1 cup mango nectar (I used Goya)
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large RIPE mango, peeled and chopped

1. Combine chicken in a large zip bag with mango nectar, vinegar, olive oil and thyme- along with a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Zip the bag closed and move the chicken around in the bag to coat with the marinade. Lie the bag flat in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to 2 hours, turning the bag every so often to redistribute the marinade.

2. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Spray the grill with grilling spray (or rub the grates with oil). Drain the marinade from the chicken and grill about 4 minutes per side, or until the chicken is cooked through.

3. Serve grilled chicken topped with chopped mango.

Family Rating:  So-so. 

Children's Book Review: I Spy with My Little Eye

I Spy With My Little Eye

I Spy with My Little Eye
Written and illustrated by:  Edward Gibbs
Published by:  Templar Books, 2011

Look through this eye-catching book’s special spy hole to discover a world of animal colors!

Have you ever played the I-spy game? Debut artist Edward Gibbs takes the game to a whole new level in this picture book with spy holes. Peeking through the pages, children will be able to spot a different colored animal every time, and guess what it is using a simple, factual clue. Bold illustrations and die-cut holes will absorb young readers as they learn about colors and animal names.
* We have played the I-spy game on long car rides, so my kids are familiar with it.  This book was a great interactive book to read with the family. There's a big circular cut-out with a color behind it.  On the opposite side is a port hole with a picture of the animal's eye.  There's also a speech bubble with the animal giving a clue to it's identity.  I covered the clue with my hand and had the kids try to guess what the animal was based on the picture clues.  Then after they had guessed I'd read the clue and see if that changed their mind as to who the animal was. The illustrations are colorful and bright. We had a lot of fun with this book. 
Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Meatless Monday: Dutch Baby Pancake with Sauteed Peaches

Breakfast for dinner is always a hit at our house.  I hadn't made pancakes, particularly, a Dutch Baby Pancake, in awhile.  With peaches being on sale this past week, I thought this sounded like a great meal.  It was super quick and easy to make. I served it with breakfast sausage and yogurt. The kids LOVED it and would have eaten more if I let them (they already had seconds but I had to save some for daddy!). 

Dutch Baby Pancake with Sauteed Peaches
from Every Day with Rachael Ray, August 2010

1/2 cup whole milk
3 eggs, at room temperature
4 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
A pinch of salt
1/2 cup flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 large peaches – peeled, pitted and sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

1. Place a 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet in the bottom third of the oven and pre-heat to 425°F.

2. In a small glass measuring cup, heat the milk in the mircowave for 30 seconds at full power. Using a blender, mix the milk, eggs, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and the salt briefly at low speed until combined. Add the flour and blend until just incorporated.

3. Add 2 tablespoons butter to the hot skillet to melt, then pour in the batter. Return the skillet to the oven and bake until the pancake is puffed and golden, about 20 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, in a medium size skillet, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons each granulated sugar and butter, the peaches and lemon juice and cook over medium-high heat until the juices are syrupy, about 5 minutes; remove from the heat. Dust the hot pancake immediately with the confectioners' sugar, cut into four wedges and serve with the warm peaches.

Family Rating:  2 thumbs up!

Children's Book Review: Z is for Moose

Z Is for Moose

Z is for Moose
Written by:  Kelly Bingham
Illustrated by:  Paul O. Zelinsky
Published by:  Greenwillow Books, 2012

Caldecott Medalist Zelinsky illustrates an outrageously funny and boundary-breaking story for fans of Jon Scieszka and David Weisner. Zebra wants to put on a show as simple as A-B-C, but Zebra's friend Moose has other (unexpected and hilarious) ideas.

* In this ABC book, Zebra is trying to put on an alphabet show.  Moose is so excited to participate that he can't wait for his turn and keeps interrupting.  This gets Zebra mad and when the letter M finally comes around, Moose is in for an unexpected surprise.  This book was funny yet touching at the same time.  My son loved it and was able to read the ABC parts to me.  I read the speech bubbles to him. 

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fancy Hot Dogs (Hot Dog Goulash)

Last weekend my husband cooked up some hot dogs, corn on the cob, and made some potato salad.  It was a quick and easy dinner.  But then we had three hot dogs leftover.  It's not something that can easily be taken to school or work (my husband likes a lot of condiments on his hot dogs!) for lunch.  Then I found this recipe and thought that I'd try it.  I could use up the hot dogs and the leftover corn on the cob!  This was suprisingly not bad!  The kids enjoyed it and ate all of their dinner.  Although this is not something that I'd think of making on an every day basis, it was quick and easy and a great way to use up some leftovers!

 Fancy Hot Dogs (Hot Dog Goulash)
recipe slightly adapted from Simply Recipes

1 Tbsp butter
3 standard sized hot dogs, sliced into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick slices
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup of water
kernels from 1 1/2 ears of cooked corn on the cob
1/2 pound cooked pasta

1.  Melt butter in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the chopped onions and sliced hot dogs. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and the hot dogs are nicely browned, 5-10 minutes.

2.  Add the sour cream and water, stir until creamy. Add corn and mix in.  Heat until steamy.  Mix in pasta. 

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Children's Book Review: Miss Malarkey Doesn't Live in Room 10

Miss Malarkey Doesn't Live in Room 10

Miss Malarkey Doesn't Live in Room 10
Written by:  Judy Finchler
Illustrated by:  Kevin O'Malley
Published by: Walker and Company, 1995

I know my teacher, Miss Malarkey, lives in our classroom, Room 10. She's there all the time. In fact, all the teachers live at school. They eat dinner in the cafeteria and sleep in the teachers' lounge. I'm sure of it!

So why is Miss Malarkey moving into my apartment house?...

What could be more surprising than finding out your teacher has a life outside school? In Miss Malarkey Doesn't Live in Room 10, Judy Finchler and Kevin O'Malley celebrate kids' comic misunderstandings about the private lives of teachers.

* As a former teacher, I found this book amusing.  I have to say that I don't think I've ever had a student ask me if I lived at the school, though I'm sure there are many children out there who believe that teachers do!  I can imagine it must be hard for students to comprehend the idea of teachers having lives outside of the environment that they know them in.  This book is told from the perspective of a first grade boy who finds out that his teacher is moving into his apartment building.  He discovers that she lives a pretty normal life. 

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Prosciutto Pizza with Tangy White Sauce

I know that I've mentioned numerous times how much my family loves pizza.  It's been a weekly staple at our house now for the past couple of months.  It's so easy to make (of course depending on what is put on top of it!) and there are so many different types to make, that it's never the same old plain pizza for us!  We don't get tired of it!  I saw this recipe and it looked delicious.....and let me tell you, it definitely was!  My husband and I are big fans of prosciutto.  I rarely cook with it though because it's expensive and my kids don't like it.  Although, as with this pizza, in small quantities it can be very cheap!  This pizza was delicious!  My son picked the prosciutto off of his and ate the cheese sauce and dough.  I always make a plain pizza for my daughter so she ate that.  I would definitely make this again....and I normally don't repeat recipes!

Prosciutto Pizza with Tangy White Sauce
recipe slightly adapated from Cooking Light, November 2011

1 store-bought pizza dough
3/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, torn
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

1.  Place a pizza stone on oven rack and preheat to 450°.

4. Combine milk and next 3 ingredients (through egg yolk) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add garlic to pan; cook for 3 minutes or just until butter and garlic begin to brown, stirring frequently. Add 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour to pan, and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in milk mixture, and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly with a whisk. Spread sauce in an even layer over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border; sprinkle sauce evenly with cheese. Slide pizza onto preheated pizza stone. Bake at 450° for 12-15 minutes or until crust is golden. Arrange prosciutto on pizza, and sprinkle with chives.

Mommy & Daddy rating:  2 thumbs up!

Children's Book Review: How To Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps

How to Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps

How To Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps
Written by:  Jennifer LaRue Huget
Illustrated by:  Edward Koren
Published by: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2010

Got a messy room? No problem!

This simple, laugh-out-loud picture-book guide to cleaning your room is sure to make picking up a snap. Here is the first rule: Always wait until your mother hollers, "GET UP THERE AND CLEAN YOUR ROOM—NOW!" using all three of your names. Once she does, you'd better get moving. From dumping out drawers and dividing stuff into piles to arranging all eight zillion of your stuffed animals, here's the kind of advice on room tidying that everyone can relate to.
 With funny, direct text by Jennifer LaRue Huget and amazing illustrations by New Yorker artist Edward Koren, this book is sure to appeal to messy kids everywhere.
* I've mentioned numerous times now my attempt at bibliotherapy to help my kids learn to keep their rooms clean.  This is another book that I have found on the subject.   Based on the title, it seems like it will be a very informative book for helping the kids clean their room.....think again!  The girl who is "teaching" us first begins by totally messing up her clean room!  Unfortunately, some of the scenarios in this book were a little too familiar, like shoving as much stuff as you can in the closet and when I ask the kids to get rid of some of their stuffed animal collection, they claim that all of the animals are their favorites! While this book is humorous, I fear that it's going to give the kids some bad ideas!  
Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Garlic Teriyaki Edamame

I made this veggie side dish to serve with the Thai Turkey Tacos (see this past Wednesday's post).  My husband and I are big fans of edamame.  The kids enjoy taking the edamame out of the pods but aren't huge fans.  I thought that the garlic teriyaki sauce was super tasty.  It was super easy to make and complemented the tacos so well!  This is going to be a repeater!

Garlic Teriyaki Edamame
from - by CRAZY4SUSHI

1/4 cup water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (16 ounce) package frozen edamame in the pod
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1.Bring the water and garlic to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Stir in the edamame, and cook until the edamame are hot, and the liquid has nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-high and stir in the teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, and sesame oil. Stir constantly until the sauce has thickened and coats the edamame, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Children's Book Review: What Little Boys Are Made Of

What Little Boys Are Made Of

What Little Boys Are Made Of
Written and illustrated by:  Robert Neubecker
Published by:  Balzer & Bray, 2012

A playful, updated spin on the classic nursery rhyme "What Are Little Boys Made of?" from acclaimed author/illustrator Neubecker.

* My kids aren't familiar with the nursery rhyme of the same title, so they didn't really understand the author's spin of the rhyme.  When I asked my son what little boys are made of, he responded, "skin and bones."  This book was very stereotypical of boys. The author related pirates, sports, space, and dragons and knights to what boys are made of.  I enjoyed the illustrations and how Neubecker tied in the boy's quilt in his playroom in the beginning of the story, into all of the other illustrations. 

Family Rating: So-so.