Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Children's Book Review: CinderHazel: The Cinderella of Halloween

Cinderhazel: The Cinderella of Halloween

CinderHazel:  The Cinderella of Halloween
Written and illustrated by:  Deborah Nourse Lattimore
Published by: The Blue Sky Press, 1997

Filled with wonderful details and funny mishaps, this spin on the classic Cinderella fairy tale is the perfect Halloween treat.

Cinderhazel is a blond witch who loves dirt more than anything. When her stepsisters and stepmother fly oiff to attend the annual Halloween witches' ball, where the elusive Prince Alarming will make an appearance, they leave Cinderhazel behind. All her attempted spells turn to dust -- until her witchy fairy godmother appears and sends Cinderhazel off to meet the equally messy prince. Could this be the beginning of filthily ever after?

* This was our last Halloween read for the year.  Weeks after getting their costumes, decorating the house, making tons of holiday related crafts, going to parties, and eating lots of treats, the day is finally here!  My kids are Snow White (my daughter has been almost every Disney Princess now) and a T-Rex (my son loves dinosaurs).  Seeing that my daughter loves princesses so much and was Cinderella one year, I thought it was fitting to end our last read with CinderHazel.  The kids are already familiar with the traditional Cinderella story.  In this book, Cinderhazel's stepsisters are going to the Witches' Halloween Ball in hopes of seeing Prince Alarming.  But with the help of her witchy godmother she makes it to the ball.  The story takes a detour from the traditional tale because when the clock strikes midnight Cinderhazel meets the Prince, and of course there's a fairy tale ending.  I didn't like that the title of the book is CinderHazel but the character's name in the story is spelled Cinderhazel, with a lower case h.  This definitely wasn't one of my favorite versions of the tale of Cinderella but the kids seemed to like it and it was fitting for Halloween.

* This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Jack O'Lantern Couscous Stuffed Peppers with Basil Sauce

Happy Halloween!  Hopefully you have many more treats than tricks today!  I am sitting here in New York typing this post Sunday evening because I don't know if I will have any power as Hurricane Sandy, a.k.a. "Frankenstorm" approaches.  It's predicted to hit us sometime tomorrow morning and last until at least Tues. night.  Last year we had a snow storm this year a hurricane.  Luckily, we already went to a friend's Halloween party this past Sat. and tonight we had our "Halloween" themed supper club.  We brought the kids in costume and had Halloween food.  As I was searching for recipes, I found lots of cute food, like mummy hotdogs, which I plan to make for my kids for dinner Halloween night.  Unfortunately, I didn't see many recipes that involved a high caliber of cooking.  Then I came up with the idea of making jack-o-lanterns out of peppers and then went in search of a stuffed pepper recipe.  I finally found this couscous stuffed pepper recipe which was perfect because I wanted more of a side dish type stuffing versus a meat-filled pepper. This dish can be made vegetarian by replacing vegetable broth for the chicken broth and can totally be a main meal. I just knew that there were going to be other protein filled dishes tonight.  Of course I had to go with orange peppers!  I never make stuffed peppers because I don't really like cooked peppers all that much.  However, I found that orange peppers are much sweeter than green and I actually enjoyed them.  This recipe has an interesting Greek influenced filling.  Posted below are the ingredient amount changes that I made since I made 7 stuffed peppers.  Overall, I found this dish really tasty.  I really liked the basil sauce mixed with all of the other flavors.  The kids weren't big fans, mostly I think because of all of the "stuff" that's mixed in the stuffing.  Normally, they do eat couscous.  With the muffin meatloaves that The Weekend Chef made (recipe coming soon!) and the chicken and pasta that were the other mains, I was stuffed after eating! This wasn't complicated to make, it just takes an hour to cook, so not a good weeknight meal.  I will definitely try making stuffed peppers again and use the orange peppers.
Before cooking

After cooking
Coucous-Stuffed Peppers with Basil Sauce
recipe from, courtesy of Giada De Laurentis


2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 cups dried couscous
1 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 packed cups chopped baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
7 medium orange bell peppers
Hot water, as needed

1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) creme fraiche (I couldn't find so I used sour cream)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon water
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra, as needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra, as needed

Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Filling: In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth and cumin to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the couscous. Cover the pan until the couscous is tender and all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 5 to 6 minutes. Put the couscous in a large bowl and add the beans, cranberries, spinach, feta and 1/4 cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir until all the ingredients are combined.

Slice the tops off the peppers and remove all the ribs and seeds. If necessary, cut a very thin slice from the base to help the peppers stand up. Cut out jack-o-lantern faces, if desired!  Stuff the peppers with the filling and drizzle the tops with olive oil. Put the peppers in an rectangular baking dish. Fill the baking dish with 3/4-inch hot water and bake until the filling is golden and the peppers are cooked through, about 55 to 60 minutes.

Cooks Note: If the filling begins to brown too quickly, cover the pan with foil.)

Sauce: In a blender, combine the basil, creme fraiche, olive oil, water, garlic, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste.

Remove the peppers from the oven and arrange on serving plates. Spoon the sauce around the peppers and serve.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

This recipe was shared at:
Tasty Thursdays
Full Plate Thursdays
Creative Thursday

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Children's Book Review: Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
Written and illustrated by:  Adam Rex
Published by: Harcourt Inc., 2006

Being a monster isn't all frightening villagers and sucking blood. Monsters have their trials, too. Poor Frankenstein's cupboard is bare, Wolfman is in need of some household help, and it's best not to get started on Dracula’s hygiene issues. What could be scarier?

Nineteen hilarious poems delve into the secret lives of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Bigfoot, Godzilla, and others. In a range of styles that pay homage to everyone from Charles Schulz to John James Audubon, the monstrously talented Adam Rex uncovers horrific--and clever--truths you won't want to miss.

* This is not your typical Halloween book about trick or treating.  But it does involve all kinds of monsters, zombies, and mummies that are featured in poems.  Yes, this book is a book of poems about monsters and some of the poems also feature food.  The kids especially liked the Phantom of the Opera who keeps appearing and can't get songs out of his head, which of course requires the reader to sing the words to that particular tune.  A lot of the humor is for older kids and adults but my kids still enjoyed listening to the poems and looking at the detailed and funny pictures. 

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Three Cheese White Pizza with Spinach

Here is another pizza recipe.  This was made a couple of weeks ago. Pizza is made almost every week in our house.....but I don't want to over-do it with the pizza postings!  This is another vegetarian based pizza.  One that I knew the kids wouldn't like since they don't eat spinach. This was made during a week of other recipes that used ricotta.  I hate buying the big container of ricotta for one recipe and then throwing the rest out. I've tried to become more resourceful with ingredients and my cooking throughout the week.  Overall, this wasn't bad.....I don't think any pizza can be!  It wasn't one of our favorites but my husband and I did enjoy it.

Three Cheese White Pizza with Spinach
recipe from Cooking Light, June 2012

1 pound refrigerated fresh pizza dough
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6 cups fresh baby spinach
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 1/2 cup)
2 ounces pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons 2% reduced-fat milk
1 garlic clove, minced

1. Remove the dough from refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature, covered, for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat pizza stone in oven to 450°
3. Combine 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and sliced garlic in a large skillet. Heat over medium-high heat 1 1/2 minutes or until the garlic begins to sizzle. Add 6 cups spinach; sauté 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Set aside.

4. Combine cheeses, milk, and minced garlic in a bowl.

5. Roll dough into a 14-inch circle on a lightly floured surface, and pierce entire surface liberally with a fork. Place dough on pizza stone. Spread cheese mixture over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Bake at 500° for 10 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is lightly browned. Top with spinach; bake an additional 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from oven; brush outer crust with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil. Cut into 6 large slices.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Children's Book Review: The Halloween Queen Who Lost Her Scream

The Halloween Queen Who Lost Her Scream

The Halloween Queen Who Lost Her Scream
Written by:  Donna Davies
Illustrated by: Rob Peters
Published by: All Hallows Eve Press, 2011

Halloween author, Donna Davies has created an exciting Halloween mystery that will have your kids sitting on the edge of theirs seats. An action-packed tale of a Halloween Queen named Calliope who lost her scream right before Halloween. Meet an amazing cast of Halloween monsters from witches to zombies as they go on an adventure to help their Queen and save Halloween. Filled will stunning colorful Halloween illustrations by the very talented Rob Peters. This delightfully fun book is sure to become a family tradition.

* Calliope, the Halloween Queen kicks off the Halloween Bash every year with a scream.  But this year, someone has stolen her scream. Told in rhyme, we follow the black widow Mina as she searches for clues to who stole the Queen's scream.  Then we go on an adventure as she helps to gather the special ingredients needed for Witchy Wanda's special potion to get the Queen her scream back.  After reading this book I discovered that the author is a local Hudson Valley resident and owns/runs the publishing company.  Overall, this was a cute Halloween read.

* This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Slow Cooker Chicken Cordon Bleu

Thanks so much Linda! This recipe was featured at:
I first saw this recipe and wasn't sure how good chicken cordon bleu can come out in the slow cooker. I'm really glad that I tried this.  This was super easy to put together and tasted surprisingly good!  My daughter enjoyed this more than my son (even with the swiss cheese!) but my son even ate a couple of bites of chicken and all of the ham.  I would definitely make this again for a quick weeknight dinner.
Slow Cooker Chicken Cordon Bleu
recipe from Crock-Pot Ladies

4-6 Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 (10.75 Oz.) Can Cream Of Chicken Soup
1 Cup Milk
4 Oz. Sliced Ham 
4 Oz. Sliced Swiss Cheese
1 6 Oz. Box Herb Or Chicken Flavored Stuffing
1/4 Cup Butter, Melted
1/4 Cup Water

In a bowl whisk together the cream of chicken soup and milk until combined.

Pour half of the soup & milk mixture in the bottom of a 6-7 quart oval crock-pot.

Arrange chicken breasts on top of the soup mixture.

Lay slices of ham and then slices of Swiss cheese over the top of the chicken breasts.

Pour remaining soup & milk mixture over everything.

Cover top of chicken, ham & Swiss cheese with the dry stuffing mix.

Pour melted butter and water over the top of the dry stuffing mix.

Cover crock-pot and cook on low for 4-6 hours or on high for for 2-3 hours.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chili-Cheese Mac

I don't like most beans, especially kidney beans.  So even though chili is a perfect slow cooker and fall/winter meal I have rarely, if ever made it.  Then I found this recipe for chili-cheese mac.  Unfortunately, I only realized just now that I don't have a picture of the dish (but you can click on the Cooking Light link below to see). However, the kids enjoyed it a lot so I thought that I'd still post it.  Now this dish had a little kick to it from the chili powder and tomatoes with chiles.  I was afraid the kids weren't going to eat it.  They did notice the spice but just asked for more to drink and continued to eat.  If my son eats his entire dinner it's worthy of a 2 thumbs up rating!  However, I only gave this one 1 1/2 because I didn't think it was too special.  It was definitely quick and easy and it was the second recipe that I've made recently that cookedd the pasta in the same pot as the other ingredients in the dish. 

Chili-Cheese Mac
recipe from Cooking Light, April 2012

1 teaspoon canola oil
3/4 pound ground round
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium beef broth
1 cup water
1 (10-ounce) can mild diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
1/2 cup fat-free milk
4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
4 1/2 ounces finely shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil. Add beef and next 4 ingredients; cook 3 minutes. Add broth, water, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Stir in macaroni; cover and cook 10 minutes or until macaroni is done.

2. Heat milk and cream cheese in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook 4 minutes or until cheese melts, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Stir in cheddar. Add cheese sauce to macaroni mixture; toss well to coat.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Children's Book Review: The Hallo-Wiener

The Hallo-wiener

The Hallo-Wiener
Written and illustrated by:  Dav Pilkey
Published by: The Blue Sky Press, 1995
32 pages

Oscar is short, like all dachshunds and other dogs make fun of him. On Halloween he takes more ridicule than ever in his hot-dog costume, but one brave act makes him a hero. Color illustrations throughout. A "School Library Journal" Best of the Best of 1995.

* Dav Pilkey is the author/illustrator of the famous Captain Underpants series (which I have yet to read).  In this story, Oscar, a dachshund is picked on by the other dogs.  For Halloween his mother gets him a hot-dog costume.  He doesn't want to make her feel bad so he wears it, even though he gets made fun of.  He can't walk fast in it and misses all of the treats.  The other dogs who have gotten all of the candy and who usually make fun of him have a change of heart after Oscar helps them out.  There is some hot dog humor in this book, that probably only older children and adults will get.  But overall the story is cute and the kids enjoyed it.

*This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Children's Book Review: The Haunted Ghoul Bus

The Haunted Ghoul Bus

The Haunted Ghoul Bus
Written by:  Lisa Trumbauer
Illustrated by:  Jannie Ho
Published by: Sterling Publishing Co. Inc., 2008

Of course children know about the big yellow school bus…but have they ever heard about the haunted ghoul bus? It’s wilder and way cooler, with a Mutant Mummy driver and a menagerie of monster passengers. But one Halloween day someone else gets on board by mistake: a normal little boy. Soon he’s taking a ride with a furry werewolf, a skeleton whose rickety bones go clitter-clatter, a grinning pumpkin head, a swirl of bats, and a friendly witch named Dolores. Told in fun and appealing rhyme, and featuring holiday-bright illustrations of a cast of unforgettable characters, this playful picture book has sturdy cardstock pages and embossing throughout. It’s perfect for celebrating a (not too) scary Halloween. Kids will want the ghoul bus to come to their neighborhood, too!

* This Halloween book, told in rhyme, tells the story of a little boy who mistakenly gets on the ghoul bus.  He meets lots of different creatures on his ride.  The pictures are bright and colorful.  Overall, the story was just okay.

*This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

The Weekend Chef: Dutch Oven Chicken

My in-laws were coming over for lunch a couple of weekends ago and I put my husband in charge of cooking.  He loves using his Dutch Oven and was excited to cook something in it for his parents, since they are the ones who bought it for us last Christmas.  He found this recipe, but instead of using a whole chicken, cut up, like the original recipe called for, we decided to use thighs.  Less prep work for the chef!  The ingredient list had me skeptical....canned mushroom soup mix and beer??!!  However, this dish came out really flavorful.  As always, when we use the Dutch Oven, the chicken was falling off the bone tender.  The kids ate this, which is always a plus!  It was a perfect chilly, autumn day weekend dish.
Dutch Oven Chicken
recipe slightly adapted from courtesy of panner50

3 lbs. chicken thighs, skin on
3 -4 medium potatoes, cubed
1 large onion, quartered
3 -4 carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
flour (for dredging)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can beer
salt and pepper
1/4 cup oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Dredge chicken in seasoned flour and brown in dutch oven or heavy pot.

After chicken is brown add veggies, garlic, and 1/2 the beer.

Cover and place in oven for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes add the soup and the rest of the beer, cook another 30 minutes or until everything is done.  

Famly Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Children's Book Review: The 13 Nights of Halloween

The 13 Nights Of Halloween

The 13 Nights of Halloween
Written and illustrated by:  Rebecca Dickinson
Published by:  Scholastic Inc., 1996

A rhyming Halloween story follows a shy goblin boy who gives his sweetheart a special present on each of the thirteen days of Halloween, and eagle-eyed readers must find the presents hidden in the illustrations.

  * Halloween night is when a goblin can propose.  A witch brews up a special potion for a shy goblin so he can propose to his sweetheart, and gives him thirteen nights of Halloween.  This book tells the story of the gifts he gives each night.  It is most enjoyable when sung to the tune of "The 12 Days of Christmas."  My daughter and I took turns singing the lines aloud to our son.  I have to say, it got old for me around the fifth night but I was a trooper and finished the book with her.  The illustrations are really great and detailed.  Readers are challenged to find the presents that the goblin is giving and a tiny wizard mouse on each page.  As much as I wasn't into this that much the kids really enjoyed this book.

*This book was borrowed from the library.  

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Slow Cooker: Peking Pork Chops

I'm always trying out and looking for new slow cooker recipes.  I had just picked up some pork chops, so these caught my eye.  Now I know that my crock pot is tempermental and cooks things really fast.  So I adapt cooking times accordingly.  However, even shortening the cook time on these they still came out too dry.  They didn't get tender as they cooked longer....just drier. :(  The sauce was really tasty though and I spooned some on the rice that I served with these.

Peking Pork Chops
recipe slightly adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking

6 pork chops
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon 5 Spice Powder
1/2 cup free soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion sliced

Put pork chops in bottom of slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine sugar, 5 spice powder, soy sauce, ketchup, and garlic. Pour evenly over the top of chops. Lay onion rings on top of pork chops.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for about 4. If your chops are frozen they will take longer to cook.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Children's Book Review: It's Halloween

It's Halloween

It's Halloween
Written by:  Jack Prelutsky
Pictures by:  Marylin Hafner
Published by: Mulberry Books, 1977
56 pages

Thirteen poems to spice up the holiday that ghouls and ghosts love most. "Prelutsky's Nightmares tamed for beginning readers. They're catchy at the most rudimentary level."--Kirkus Reviews.

* Wow!  This book was first published before I was born!  Definitely an oldie!  This book caught my eye because Prelutsky is a well-known children's poet.  We are a fan of his Scranimals and my daughter has read his  poetry collections A Pizza the Size of the Sun and The New Kid on the Block.  This book was a cute collection of Halloween-themed poetry.  He writes about everything from "Bobbing for Apples" to a "Haunted House" and a "Skeleton Parade."  The illustrations have a classic, older look to them. 

*This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up!

Biscuit-Crusted Sausage-Egg Pie

My kids love eggs and breakfast for dinner is always a hit in our house.  Unfortunately, this was one of those recipes that sounded quick and easy, but that I should have read through to plan out my timing.  When I went to make this at 5:30 after taking the kids to tae kwon do, I discovered that there was quite a bit of prep work AND almost a half hour of cooking time involved.  So, by the time this was on the table it was about 6:45 that we were eating.  Fortunately, we all enjoyed this alot!  Even my daughter, who hates pretty much all cheese, ate all of her piece and even asked for some for lunch the next day.  I guess she didn't taste the feta! Because this recipe only called for 4 pieces of biscuit dough and 2 ounces of feta and the biscuits came in 8 pieces and the feta came in 4 ounces, I just doubled everything and made two.  Then we had leftovers for breakfast for a couple of days.
Biscuit-Crusted Sausage-Egg Pie
recipe very slightly adapted from EveryDay with Rachael Ray, May 2009

1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound bulk pork breakfast sausage
1 teaspoon oregano
4 pieces refrigerated biscuit dough, such as Pillsbury
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
Salt and pepper

1.Preheat the oven to 375 degrees . In a large skillet, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and oregano and cook, breaking up the sausage, until just browned, about 5 minutes. Drain and let cool.

2.Grease a 9-inch pie pan with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon olive oil. Place 1 piece biscuit dough into a large resealable plastic bag and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 1/8-inch-thick disk. Remove the dough from the bag and transfer to the prepared pie pan. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces, pinching the pieces together in the pan to form a crust.

3.In a large bowl, combine the cooked sausage, onion and feta; spread evenly over the crust. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, milk, and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the sausage mixture and bake until set, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Family rating: 2 thumbs up!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Beginning Reader Book Review: Marley and the Runaway Pumpkin

Marley and the Runaway Pumpkin (I Can Read Book 2)

Marley and the Runaway Pumpkin
Based on the books by John Grogan
Written by:  Susan Hill
Cover illustration by:  Richard Cowdrey
Interior Illustrations by:  Lydia Halverson
Published by: Harper, 2010
32  pages

Marley's family has spent months growing a giant pumpkin to take to the fair. When the big day finally arrives, Mommy, Daddy, Cassie, and Baby Louie try to be extra careful with their blue-ribbon pumpkin. But with a dog like Marley around, being careful isn't always enough.

Young readers will love Marley's delightfully destructive antics in this I Can Read story.

* I first became familiar with John Grogan after reading his memoir Marley & Me.  The kids became familiar with Marley when they received Bad Dog, Marley as a present.  Since then we've read a couple of the I Can Read books starring this lovable dog.  Although this isn't a Halloween book, it is a fitting fall book.  Especially since we read this the same day that I went with my son and his preschool class pumpkin picking.  Harper Publishing has a leveled I Can Read series to help children choose books appropriate for their reading level.  This particular book is a level 2 Reading with Help.  It was a little more difficult than the books he has been reading to me.  He actually did a great job reading this and could have read the whole book himself (it might have taken a bit longer though!), but I ended up reading alternate pages with my son.  In this book Cassie and her parents have grown a giant pumpkin and are ready to take it to the fair, hoping to win a blue ribbon.  But of course when Marley is around things don't go as planned!  It ends with a lesson about making lemonade when life gives you lemons. 

*This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Recipe Repeat: Broccoli Rabe and Salami Pasta

I was cleaning out my "already tried" recipe folder and found this recipe.  I made it so long ago, that I didn't remember making it the first time so I thought that I'd try it again.  I changed it a little this time, trying to use up some ingredients that I had in the refrigerator.  The kids enjoyed this.  They both like pepperoni, my son loves cheese, and my daughter enjoyed the broccoli rabe.  I remember grocery shopping with her when she was maybe 3 years old and buying some broccoli rabe.  She asked me what it was and when I told her what it was she replied, "I like broccoli, I don't like rabe."  Fast forward to this dinner, eating some broccoli rabe she told me that it looked and tasted like broccoli....and she ate it all up!  I was pleasantly surprised!  This was tasty enough and had components that the kids could pick out what they didn't like, so they were more willing to eat this.  This was a quick and easy weeknight pasta meal.

Broccoli Rabe and Salami Pasta
recipe slightly adapted from EveryDay with Rachael Ray, September 2007

1 pound rigatoni
2 bunches broccoli rabe, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
4 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more to pass around the table
1/3 pound sliced pepperoni
3 oz. mozzarella, diced
Black pepper

1.Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving a ladleful of the pasta cooking water. Reserve the pot.

2.While the pasta is working, fill a deep skillet with enough water to reach 2 inches deep. Bring to a boil, salt it and add the broccoli rabe; lower the heat and simmer until just tender, 7 to 8 minutes; drain and set aside. In the same skillet, heat the EVOO, 4 turns of the pan, over medium heat. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Return the broccoli rabe to the skillet and cook for 1 minute longer.

3.In the pasta pot, combine the ricotta, parmigiano-reggiano and pepperoni. Stir in the reserved pasta cooking liquid, broccoli rabe, diced mozzarella, and pasta and toss to coat. Season with black pepper.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Children's Book Review: City Witch, Country Switch

City Witch, Country Switch

City Witch, Country Switch
Written by: Wendy Wax
Illustrated by:  Scott Gibala-Broxholm
Published by: Marshall Cavendish Children, 2008
40 pages

Mitzi is a city witch.  She likes pizza and plays, crowded subways and noisy streets. Muffletump is a country witch. She prefers hayrides and fresh air, pumpkin picking and her pet snake. When the cousins visit each other, their differences come between them. How can they solve their problem? With a spell, of course But finding the right one isn't so easy. The rhyming text makes this a wonderful read-aloud, while the vibrant watercolor and colored-pencil artwork contains fantastically funny details for kids to pore over.

* This book isn't a Halloween themed book but because of the witches I thought it was seasonally appropriate.  Prior to reading this book I was more familiar with author Wendy Wax's novels for adults.  This book, told in rhyme, is a take on the classic tale The City Mouse and the Country Mouse.   Witch cousins Mitzi and Muffletump visit each other's homes and discover that they each prefer their own homes better.  This is of course after they perform spells to create a more enjoyable visit. The illustrations are eye-catching and colorful helping to make this a fun read.

* This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Fish Tacos with Fresh Salsa

My kids will usually eat anything in a tortilla.  I had not made fish in awhile and thought that fish tacos sounded good.  I liked that this used a tomatillo since I had thought about cooking with tomatillos for this month's Eating the Alphabet Challenge.  I wasn't that impressed with these, which is probably my fault.  I don't really like catfish and next time might try a different type of fish like tilapia.  I also didn't have Wondra (and actually never had heard of it before) so I used regular flour.  Bad idea....everything got kind of soggy.  The salsa was tasty though.  The tomatillos have a slightly bitter/sour taste and paired well with the tomatoes, onions, and lime juice.  The kids had just the fish in the tortilla.  My daughter really enjoyed it, while my son did not. I'm not opposed to fish tacos, just won't be making these again.  However, based on the reviews at foodnetwork, others have enjoyed these.

Fish Tacos with Fresh Salsa
recipe very slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine

1 large tomatillo, husked, rinsed and chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
Kosher salt
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 1/4 pounds catfish fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup instant flour (such as Wondra) or cornstarch
8 small flour tortillas, warmed

Make the salsa: Mix the tomatillo, tomato, onion, cilantro, and lime juice in a bowl and season with salt.

Heat 1/2 inch vegetable oil in a deep skillet or pot over medium-high heat. Season the fish with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, then toss with the flour in a bowl. Fry the fish in 2 batches, turning as needed, until golden brown and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per batch. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain; season with salt.

Fill the tortillas with the fish and salsa. Serve the tacos with lime wedges.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Children's Book Review: Scary, Scary Halloween

Scary, Scary Halloween

Scary, Scary Halloween
Written by:  Even Bunting
Illustrated by:  Jan Brett
Published by: Clarion Books, 1986
40 pages

Four pairs of eyes stare from the blackness to watch fearsome creatures trick-or-treat.

* This is an oldie but goodie Halloween book.  Award-winning author Eve Bunting has written over 250 books and illustrator Jan Brett (a family favorite)  is also an award-winning author and illustrator of many books.  Written in rhyme, this book is told from the perspective of something with two green eyes, shining in the night.  It watches as children go trick-or-treating dressed up as goblins, witches, and ghosts.  Only at the end of the book is the identity of the narrator revealed. 

* This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Meatless Monday: Zucchini Pizza

Another pizza recipe here for you!  I know I've mentioned numerous times that pizza is almost a weekly dinner staple in my house.  It's really quick and easy (depending on what you put on it!) and so much healthier to make it yourself than eating what you get from the local pizzeria. Just to note, I do not make my own pizza dough.  The store sells dough for less than $2 each and we like it.  I knew my kids weren't going to eat this, so they got a plain pizza.  But I love zucchini and wanted to try this recipe out.  The original recipe, linked below, called for zucchini ribbons.  I thought grating it would make for more manageable bites. My husband really enjoyed this pizza.  He liked the flavors of the dressing that the zucchini was mixed in.  I thought that this recipe wasn't bad, but not a favorite. It was definitely something different that we had never had before!

Zucchini Pizza
recipe very slightly adapted from A Cozy Kitchen

10-ounce pizza dough (homemade or store-bought)
3 tablespoons tomato sauce
3 ounces mozzarella (low-moisture), thinly sliced
1 large zucchini, grated
1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 shallot, minced
Salt and Pepper

1. Make your pizza dough or grab your store-bought pizza dough.

2. Preheat pizza stone in oven to 475 F degrees. Stretch out your pizza dough into desired shape.

3. Add the tomato sauce to the center of the pizza dough, spreading it evenly. Arrange the cheese over the tomato sauce. Mozzarella melts and spreads like crazy so don’t put too much. Transfer the pizza to the preheated oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges of the pizza are golden brown.

4. Meanwhile, grab the zucchini, cut off the ends and grate. Set aside.

5. In a medium bowl, add red wine vinegar and using a whisk, slowly add the olive oil until it emulsifies. Add the Dijon mustard, minced shallot and mix until combined. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss the zucchini with the dressing until lightly coated.

5. Open the oven and carefully place the zucchini mixture atop the pizza. Bake for an additional 1-2 minutes, until zucchini is warm.

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

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Beginning Reader Book Review: Dora the Explorer The Halloween Cat

The Halloween Cat

Dora the Explorer: The Halloween Cat
Written by:  Christine Ricci
Illustrated by:  Zina Suanders
Published by: Simon Spotlight/Nick Jr., 2004

Dora and Boots find a lost cat on Halloween. Will they get the cat home in time for the big Halloween party?

* This is a great Halloween read for a beginning reader.  I like the Ready-To-Read series, where you can choose the reading level of your child and then find books that are geared toward that level.  We've read several Dora books and we especially like the ones that have the pictures, like this one, where more difficult words are shown with pictures and the written word.  What I noticed as my son was reading this to me was that he was focusing on the words and not really using the picture clues to help him.  My daughter has outgrown Dora but my son still enjoys watching the show.  What I like about the show and this book (which was probably modeled after the television episode) is that it is interactive.  The reader has to find the flashlight and pick the door with seven spiders.  Of course the story is simple but my son enjoyed it and it is definitely the right time of year to read it.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Chicken with Honey-Beer Sauce

Each week I sit and spend too much time planning the weekly dinner menu.  Between my bookmarked favorites from food blogs, cookbooks, and recipes torn out of magazines it can be quite overwhelming!   I try to have one meatless meal, one pasta dish, one chicken dish, etc.  Sometimes, I add in breakfast for dinner and sometimes when I'm really lazy it's leftovers.  Chicken is a weekly staple, mainly because it's cheap and versatile.  I especially like quick chicken dinners and this one fits the bill.  The kids really enjoyed the combination of the honey and the mustard.   And this dish was super quick and easy to make. 
Chicken with Honey-Beer Sauce
recipe from Cooking Light, September 2012

2 tsps. canola oil
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons thinly sliced shallots
1/2 cup beer
2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle chicken evenly with pepper and salt. Add chicken to pan; sauté 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add shallots to pan; cook 1 minute or until translucent. Combine beer and next 3 ingredients (through honey) in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Add beer mixture to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup. Return chicken to pan; turn to coat with sauce. Sprinkle evenly with parsley.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Children's Picture Book Review: Substitute Creacher

Substitute Creacher

Substitute Creacher
Written and illustrated by:  Chris Gall
Published by: Little Brown and Company, 2011
40 pages

The troublemaking students of Ms. Jenkins' class arrive at school one day to discover a substitute creacher has come to put a stop to their monkey business! He regales them with mind-boggling stories about his former students who didn't follow the rules: Keith the glue-eater, Zach the daydreamer, and Hank the prankster, to name a few. But even this multi-tentacled, yellow-spotted, one-eyed monster's cautionary tales about the consequences of mischief-making can't seem to change the students' wicked ways until he reveals the spookiest and most surprising story of all: his own.

Chris Gall's vibrant artwork leaps off the page with a dynamic comic book aesthetic that will grab both parents and monster-loving kids!

  *This was another book that was featured in my daughter's Scholastic book flyer.  We are familiar with one of Chris Gall's other books Dinotrux.  I think I liked it because I was a former teacher of kids who didn't behave!  This book is about a subsitute teacher who comes in to help a teacher who has a misbehaving class. This is more of a cautionary tale of behaving in school than it is about Halloween.  The pictures are colorful and Mr. Creacher is a bit scary looking.  I was really surprised at how much my kids enjoyed this.  While I thought it was okay, my daughter told me not to return it to the library because she wanted to read it again.  This prompted my son to argue that he wanted to read it again too, so the book was put in the living room where they could both read it at their leisure.  Wouldn't you know that I woke up today with my daugher lying on the floor outside my room reading this book?!! 

* This book was borrowed from our library.

 Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Free-Form Lasagna

I enjoy eating lasagna but it can take some time to make.  Without some prep work, it's usually not a weeknight meal.  This recipe takes the ingredients of a  lasagna without a lot of the work. However, I definitely prefer the taste of a traditional lasagna.....hard work and all!  While this was easier to make, it definitely wasn't a favorite.

Free-Form Lasagna
recipe from all*you, July 2012

8 ounces sweet or hot Italian sausage, removed from casing
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups ricotta (not nonfat)
1 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
12 lasagna noodles, each broken in half

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

2. Cook sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up large pieces, until it loses its pink color, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, oregano and 1/2 tsp. salt, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thick, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

3. Combine ricotta, Parmesan and basil in a medium microwave-safe bowl.

4. Add noodles to boiling water; cook until just tender, 10 minutes or as package label directs. Just before noodles are done, microwave ricotta mixture on high for 30 seconds, stirring once. Drain noodles well.

5. Spread 1 1/2 Tbsp. sauce on each of 4 dinner plates. Place a noodle on top and spread with 1 1/2 Tbsp. cheese mixture. Top with 1 1/2 Tbsp. sauce. Repeat with noodles, cheese mixture and sauce, ending with a layer of sauce. Sprinkle Parmesan on top. Serve, passing additional Parmesan.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Children's Book Review: Good Night Goon

Goodnight Goon: A Petrifying Parody

Goodnight Goon
Written and illustrated by:  Michael Rex
Published by: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2008
32 pages

Goodnight monsters everywhere, in this parody romp with its own special twist!  Goodnight tomb. Goodnight goon. Goodnight Martians taking over the moon.

It's bedtime in the cold gray tomb with a black lagoon, and two slimy claws, and a couple of jaws, and a skull and a shoe and a pot full of goo. But as a little werewolf settles down, in comes the Goon determined at all costs to run amok and not let any monster have his rest.

A beloved classic gets a kind-hearted send up in this utterly monsterized parody; energetic art and a hilarious text will have kids begging to read this again and again.

* With Halloween soon approaching it's time for reading lots of spooky holiday-themed books.  My daughter recently brought home the Scholastic book order form from school.  As she circled almost every book in the flyer as one that she wanted I told her that I'd get them from the library.  I am not opposed to my kids reading....I highly encourage it and read with them.  However, I'm currently against purchasing anymore books for the time being.  My house is overflowing with books.  As a former teacher of various grades, I have boxes of picture books and chapter books!  The Scholastic flyer is a good way to see what books are new or seasonally appropriate and then I put them on hold from the library catalog.  Although this book isn't new, it was the first time that I had seen or heard of it.  Of course the kids are familiar with the Children's classic Goodnight Moon.  This parody is a much spookier version of the classic.  It was a great pick to kick off our seasonal holiday reading.  My kids don't scare easily so the pictures weren't frightening for them.  After I read picture books to them I leave them around for the kids to look at and read on their own.  They enjoy going back and looking at the pictures of this one.

*This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Chicken and Apple Curry

We normally take an annual trip to our local apple orchard and go apple and pumpkin picking with the kids.  This year though my son's preschool is going pumpkin picking and my daughter is going apple and pumpkin picking with her class.  After spending all of the money on their trips we didn't think it was necessary for us to take another trip as a family.  However, that isn't stopping me from trying all of the apple recipes that I've been saving and waiting to try. This recipe I found in all*you magazine.  Not only was it featured in "Dinner Under $10" but it didn't have a gazillion ingredients.  Unfortunately, after it was made none of us really enjoyed it.  The kids ate all of the apple pieces.  For me though, it was definitely lacking in flavor.  There are lots of easy curry recipes out there, this just wasn't a favorite.

Chicken and Apple Curry
recipe from all*you, May 2012, recipe courtesy of Cheryl Dorsey

1 cup basmati rice
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk
2 tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 cups shredded skinless rotisserie chicken, dark and white meat
1 sweet apple, like Gala or Honeycrisp, peeled, cored, and chopped
salt and pepper

1. Boil 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan.  Stir in rice, return to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low; simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.

2.  Whisk lime juice, coconut milk and curry together in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low; simmer 3 minutes.  In a small bowl, stir cornstarch and 2 Tbsp. of water until smooth, then whisk into a skillet. Continue whisking for 2 minutes.  Mix in chicken and apple; season with salt and pepper.  Cook stirring occasionally, until apple is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

3.  Divide rice among 4 plates and spoon chicken on top.  Sprinkle with zest.

Family Rating: So-so.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Beginning Reader Book Review: I Am Going!

I Am Going!
Written and illustrated by:  Mo Willems
Published by: Hyperion, 2010
64 pages
Ages 4+

Gerald is careful. Piggie is not. Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can.

Gerald and Piggie are best friends.

In "I Am Going ," Piggie ruins a perfectly good day by telling Gerald she is going. If Piggie goes, who will Gerald skip with, play Ping-Pong with, and wear silly hats with?

Willems's Geisel Award-winning duo continues to delight readers with their silly shenanigans. Packed full of humor and heart, the Elephant & Piggie Books are vetted by an early-learning specialist and early learners themselves, so they'll be right on target for new readers.
* My four year old son has really taken off with his reading skills.  He's always asking me, "Does that say____?"  when he sees a sign when we're out running errands.  90% of the time he's read the words correctly!  Now that he's attending preschool every day I've stopped doing our daily schoolwork.  Even though he's only at school for 2 1/2 hours I don't want to overwhelm him too much with the academics.  I know he's already well prepared for Kindergarten.  However, I've started having him read books to me during the day to keep his reading skills up.  This was our first book that we read together.  Currently there are 18 books in the series by Mo Willems.  They don't have to be read in any order though!  This was not the first Elephant and Piggie book that we have read.  I have previously reviewed Today I Will Fly.  This was the first time that my son was reading one of these books though.  The text is repetitive and simple enough that he could read this with some assistance (words like yesterday he needed help). The speech bubbles are color-coded (gray for Gerald, pink for Piggie) so you know who is speaking.  After my son read each page, I would repeat it, reading with the correct expression.  In this book, expression does help with the understanding and humor of the story!  My son did a great job and enjoyed it a lot.  At bedtime he chose this book to read to his older sister. It was very cute listening to him read with the expression that I had read with earlier in the day.  We're off to the library today to get another Elephant and Piggie book!   

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up!

No Bake Peanut Butter Pretzel Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Granola bars are a snack staple in our house.  My daughter is very picky with snacks but she really likes granola bars.  They are great because they travel well and I can get the 90 calorie granola bars.  I had never thought of making my own granola bars until I saw this recipe from Maria and Josh at Two Peas and Their Pod.  I especially  liked the "No Bake" part!  I surprisingly had all of the ingredients on hand (even the mini chocolate chips!) and had some time one afternoon to make these.  These were really good!  We all enjoyed these and this was even my dessert one night instead of my usual ice cream cone!  This is a great home-made snack and you can make so many different variations with what you have on hand.  The pretzels and rice krispies definitely added a nice crunch and the saltiness of the pretzels mixed with the sweetness of the other ingredients was nice as well! 
No Bake Peanut Butter Pretzel Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup crispy rice cereal
3/4 cup chopped pretzels
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Cut out an 8 x 8 inch square of parchment paper. Place the parchment paper in the bottom of an 8 x 8 inch baking pan.

2. In a large sauce pan, add butter, brown sugar, honey and peanut butter. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture starts to bubble. Once bubbling, cook for 2 minutes while stirring. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

3. Stir in the oats, crispy cereal, and pretzels. Stir until well coated. Pour into the prepared pan. Press the mixture evenly into the pan. Sprinkle the mini chocolate chips over the top and gently press into the granola bars with your hands.

4. Place the bars in the refrigerator and let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting. Cut into bars and serve.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mommy Book Review: Confessions of a Scary Mommy

Confessions of a Scary Mommy
Written by: Jill Smokler
Published by: Gallery Books, 2012
176 pages

Confessions of a Scary Mommy is a collection of original essays that take an irreverent look at the underbelly of parenting—things most moms would never admit, but feel every day. Brutally honest and hysterically funny, Confessions will leave you feeling less alone in the sometimes overwhelming and exhausting world of motherhood. If you’re already a fan, lock the bathroom door on your whining kids, run a bubble bath, and settle in. If you’ve not encountered Scary Mommy before, break out a glass of champagne as well, because you’ll be toasting your initiation into a very select club. Chapters cover everything from husbands (“If he could be carried around in a Baby Bjorn all day, he would.”) to other people’s kids (“Other people’s kids are just useless, bad influences who play no necessary role in our lives.”) to PTA fundraisers (“It brings out the worst in people…and who wants an overpriced roll of wrapping paper, anyway? How about something we actually want to buy? Alcohol, for instance.”) Each chapter begins with the best anonymous confessions from Smokler’s popular online Confessional.

Whether you’re a mom, a dad, a grandmother, a grandfather, an aunt, an uncle, a teacher, a godparent, or a teenager in need of birth control, Confessions of a Scary Mommy will be sure to leave you nodding your head in agreement and laughing out loud.

* I first heard about this book in a recent issue of Parenting magazine.  I read an anonymous confession from a mom about how she goes to the gym for the free babysitting and reads magazines in the locker room.  It had me laughing and made me want to read this book.  Each chapter begins with anonymous confessionals from moms left on author Jill Smokler's website Scary Mommy.  Then Smokler adds her own comments, opinions, and anecdotes about the chapter topic.  As I read this, I could relate to some of the anonymous confessionals like "I love when my kids are sick and I don't have to feel guilty for letting them watch constant TV and never leave the couch" and "I'm married, but sometimes I feel like a single parent."  Other confessionals made me feel better about myself and my parenting skills....not that I judge, but I think all moms worry about being  a "perfect parent."  This is just a good book that moms....and dads (I had my husband read some of these confessionals!) can read for some humor about the wonderful world of parenting. 

* I borrowed this book from my library.

Mommy Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Braised Chicken with Kale

Being a stay-at-home mom allows me to use the dutch oven during the week.  I rarely use it though because our after school schedule is crazy and using the dutch oven often requires hours of supervised cooking time that I don't usually have.  However, a few days ago we had a relaxing Friday afternoon, so I made this dish.  This is a real low-cost meal.  Chicken quarters are so cheap!  Braising makes the chicken really tender and it easily comes off the bone.  I haven't really cooked or eaten kale a lot so this gave me another opportunity to try it out.  Unfortunately, none of us were big fans of this dish.  I liked the sauce that the kale was in, but the chicken didn't end up with a lot of flavor.  Overall, this was only a so-so dish for us.
Braised Chicken with Kale
recipe from Cooking Light, November 2011

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
4 chicken leg quarters, skinned
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1.1 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/4 cup)
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (16-ounce) package cut prewashed kale
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14.5-ounce) can fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons canola oil. Sprinkle the chicken with black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place flour in a dish, and dredge chicken. Place 2 leg quarters in pan, and cook for 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure with 2 teaspoons oil and remaining 2 leg quarters. Remove from pan.

3. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to pan. Add garlic; cook for 20 seconds. Add half of kale; cook for 2 minutes. Add remaining half of kale; cook 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and broth; bring to a boil. Return chicken to pan. Cover and bake at 325° for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove chicken from pan; stir in vinegar. Serve chicken over kale mixture.

Family Rating: So-so.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Children's Chapter Book Review: Daisy's Perfect Word

Daisy's Perfect Word
Daisy's Perfect Word
Written by:  Sandra V. Feder
Illustrated by: Susan Mitchell
Published by: Kids Can Press, 2012
88 pages

Daisy likes picking lemons on sunny days, playing kickball, and making long dandelion chains. But more than any of these things, she absolutely loves words.

* My daughter and I just finished reading this book together.  We have an almost daily ritual of reading together outside as we wait for her bus to come in the morning.  This book was really cute.  It's about a girl named Daisy who loves words.  She makes all different kinds of word lists.  When she discovers that her teacher is getting married and moving she wants to find the perfect word to give her.  This book is geared towards ages 7 and up and has lots of cute drawings throughout.  After reading a couple of chapters of this book I soon found my daughter creating word lists of her own.  As we read we took guesses as to what the perfect word for Ms. Goldner could be.  We were pleasantly surprised at the end.

Family Rating:  2 thumbs up!

Ground Beef Stroganoff

I haven't made a stroganoff in awhile but it seemed like a good dish for this recent chilly weather we've been experiencing. I like the combo of mushrooms, onions, and sour cream which are the main components of a stroganoff.  I've made stroganoff using beef strips and chicken but I don't think I've ever made one before using ground beef.  I have to say that after making this, I'm not a fan of using ground beef.  The flavor of this dish was good but I think I'd substitute in chicken or steak if I made this again. My daughter ate her serving, minus the mushrooms.  My son ate the noodles. 
Ground Beef Stroganoff
recipe from My Biscuits are Burning

1 pound ground beef
1 med. yellow onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 cup sour cream
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
Handful of mushrooms, (about 8 oz.) sliced
3 tbsp. flour
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Egg Noodles, cooked according to package directions

Bring a pot of water to boil and begin to cook noodles according to package directions.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, brown ground beef until thoroughly cooked.

Drain ground beef to remove excess grease from pan.

Put pan back on stove (setting aside the ground beef), add 2-3 tbsp butter and also the chopped onions and mushrooms (if using). Saute the onions and mushrooms, over medium heat, until onions are soft and then add garlic.

Only cook for another 1-2 minutes so garlic doesn't burn.

Add flour to pan, stir and let it absorb butter. Now add beef broth and whisk vigorously to remove any lumps, turning the heat up to high, bringing it to a boil for 2-3 minutes until you see it thicken slightly.

Bring temperature down to medium and whisk in sour cream and cream of mushroom soup. Stir until mixture is thoroughly incorporated.

Add salt & pepper. Keep tasting mixture until it is seasoned the way you like. If it gets too thick on you, just add a tad more beef broth.

Add ground beef back to mixture until reheated.

Serve over hot noodles.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Children's Chapter Audio Book Review: Roscoe Riley Rules #1

Roscoe Riley Rules #1: Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs
Roscoe Riley Rules #1:  Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs
Written by:  Katherine Applegate
Illustrated by:  Brian Biggs
Published by: Recorded Books, 2009

If the kids can't sit still for the class performance, Roscoe's teacher could be in big trouble. Fortunately Roscoe has a plan to save her--a super, mega, gonzo plan What could go wrong?

* My 6 year old daughter is in first grade, but probably has a 4th grade plus reading level.  We've already read through the Junie B. Jones series, several of the Horrible Harry books, and a couple of the Magic Tree House books.  As much of an independent reader that she is, I still enjoy reading with her. It gives me a chance to read with my daughter and to get to see what new books are out there. I haven't been posting many book reviews recently, just because of lack of time.  But we have still been reading a lot together as a family.  When I was teaching and driving a 45+ minute commute each way to work I started listening to audio books.  If it's a good story and there's an engaging reader, audiobooks can be very enjoyable.  I listened to the first two books of The Hunger Games series this way and my husband has listened to the Harry Potter series on CD.  Since I'm driving the kids around to various activities after school I thought it might be interesting to try a book on CD.  This was one of the first books that we tried.  I had never heard of Rosco Riley before this and discovered this on a "children's audiobook" search through the local library online catalog.  Well, all of us, including my 4 year old son enjoyed listening to this book on CD.  The reader is (or at least sounds like) a young boy. He is very engaging and the book is humorous, having us laughing aloud at some points.  Roscoe is a 1st grader, which my daughter can relate to.  He really means well and has good intentions, but ends up getting himself into some trouble.  After listening to this book, which is part of a series, my daughter requested the next book, which she is currently reading.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up!

Turnip-Parsnip Gratin

It's time for October's Eating the Alphabet Challenge courtesy of Brenda at Meal Planning Magic.  This month's letters were S &T.  The challenge is to make a dish featuring a fruit, vegetable, or grain that begins with the featured letter(s) of the month.  S &T was almost overwhelming with all of the choices available.  Spinach, tomatoes, squash, strawberries, swiss chard.....At first I thought about using tomatillos.  I had never cooked with them before and I really try to "challenge" myself with this challenge.  I didn't end up using them in my Challenge recipe but I did use them in fish tacos I made (see upcoming post).  Eventually I decided on turnips. I've eaten turnips a couple of times but the kids had not.  This recipe also let me sneak in another new veggie for the kids, parsnips. Plus, it gave me a chance to make this recipe which has been sitting in my "to try" recipe for a couple of years.  I posted the original recipe, which yields 8 servings, but I ended up halving it, knowing the kids probably wouldn't be eating it. This was definitely a bit time consuming.  And unfortunately, after all was said and done, I just wasn't a fan.  I wanted to be, but I think it needed more salt/flavor. The kids obligingly took their one mandatory bite and didn't want anymore.  The only one who liked this was my husband.  I'm always happy to try cooking new foods and recipes even if don't end up enjoying them as much as I thought. 

Turnip-Parsnip Gratin
recipe from Cooking Light, November 2009

3 3/4 cups (1/8-inch-thick) slices peeled turnip
3 3/4 cups (1/8-inch-thick) slices peeled parsnip
6 cups water
Cooking spray
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese (I used Gouda, which was also recommended)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Combine first 3 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 7 minutes or until almost tender. Drain; let stand 5 minutes. Arrange about 1/2 cup vegetable mixture into each of 8 (5 1/2-inch) round gratin dishes coated with cooking spray.

3. Combine milk, broth, flour, salt, and pepper in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a simmer. Cook 4 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk until thick. Remove from heat; add cheese, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Spoon about 3 tablespoons sauce over each serving.

4. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko; toast 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over cheese mixture. Place dishes on a baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown on top. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Family Rating: So-so.