Sunday, June 30, 2013

Patriotic Porch Season

I just love this time of year.  At our house, Memorial Day through Labor Day is patriotic porch season.  Michael and I hang star-spangled buntings from the top of the porch, and enjoy the beautiful red, white, and blue view from our big picture window in the dining room.  I just love it.  It really brightens up the porch from the outside, and my windows from the inside.

On a side note, I can't believe it's almost the 4th of July!  Where did June go?  Probably my second favorite holiday of all time (next to Christmas).  Hope you all have a wonderful holiday and make the most of patriotic porch season!


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Baked Apple Pancakes

Here's a fun breakfast idea from my favorite Betty Crocker cookbook.  Puffy oven pancakes with sliced apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  The whole thing is turned out onto the plate right out of the oven, so you get this warm, beautiful, carmelized, crispy exterior with a luscious and fluffy interior.  It's heavenly, friends.  And ever so simple!  On a whim, I whipped up two of these bad boys for Michael's (aka my) sister and her hubby last weekend when they came to visit.  Which also means, I made these at the last minute, with ingredients on hand.  Aaahh, I just love that!  Here's how Mama (and her "friend" Betty) makes it:

Baked Apple Pancakes

- 2 T. butter
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 c. flour
- 1/2 c. milk
- 1/4 t. salt
- 2 T. packed brown sugar
- 1/4 t. ground cinnamon
- 1 medium apple, sliced & peeled

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Spinach Pesto Polenta

Here is my version of this Savory Polenta recipe by Alton Brown.  By adding pesto and a little spinach, you can incorporate some beautiful color, great taste, and a few important nutrients.  The best way I can describe polenta is cornmeal risotto.  Like risotto, it requires lots of stirring to make this grain into a beautiful creamy dish.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Spinach Pesto Polenta

- 2 T. olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 c. chicken or vegetable stock
- 1.5 c. coarse ground cornmeal
- 5 T. unsalted butter
- 1/3 c. basil pesto
- 3 t. kosher salt
- 1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
- 3 oz. parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 c. chopped spinach

Monday, June 24, 2013

Peanut Post: How Mama Makes Grocery Shopping Fun (& Educational!)

When Daddy & Peanut come to visit me at work, I almost always have a list of groceries for them to buy.  Yes, I do work in a grocery store, but by the time I get off work, shopping is about the last thing on my mind.  Lucky for me, I have an awesome hubby who doesn't mind grocery shopping once in awhile (or quite often during the summer when they're bored, I'm jealous, and we're all missing eachother). 

One of Annalyn's favorite parts of shopping is trying to grab/eat/destroy the aforementioned list.  So, I learned a long time ago to write one list for Michael and one for Annalyn.  Of course her list usually consisted of a picture of a baby or a puppy, or an "I love you,"  but recently, it dawned on me - this could be a great learning opportunity!  She's hit that "I want to point and label everything" stage, which definitely lends itself to list making.  So, I went to work, sketching cute little pictures of items she could help Daddy find in the store (then labeled everything to help Michael decipher my less than stellar drawing skills).  Amazingly enough, as soon as I handed her that list, she pointed at the apple and said "apple!", then "nana", then she pointed at the milk and signed "milk", and so on for most of the items, either saying or signing each one.  Gosh, was I proud! 

Peanut's latest list
(does anyone else think my wipes
look more like a shark in a box?)

To prevent it from getting eaten, I even taped over the front and back of the list - think easy, resourceful laminating!  No, it didn't entertain her for the whole shopping trip, but it sure helped. She even found some items off her list and made the connection between the two - awesome, right?!  I think my little Peanut is well on her way to being quite helpful.  (wishful thinking)

Daddy & Peanut inspecting their lists

Happy Grocery Shopping!


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Apple & Bacon Ciabatta Appetizer

Remember this Apple, Bacon, & Gorgonzola Pizza?  Here's an even quicker version made on ciabatta bread and cut into slices as an appetizer/side.  I have to say, it was awesome!  Here's how Mama makes it:
Apple & Bacon Ciabatta Appetizer

- 1 loaf ciabatta bread, cut in half
- 2 T. olive oil
- 2 granny smith apples, sliced
- 4-5 slices of bacon, crumbled
- 1/4 c. gorgonzola cheese
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 T. balsamic reduction, for drizzling

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Coffee Steak Rub

Here's an interesting and flavorful steak rub I came across last week on http://thelemonbowl.comThis recipe combines coffee, peppercorns, brown sugar, and spices for a wonderful flavor, texture, color, and crust.  The recipe author suggested using a sirloin cut, but I just used what we had (honestly can't remember the exact cut I used - it was a big, thin cut that Michael bought).  I don't see any reason you couldn't use it on any cut of steak, though.
Coffee Steak Rub
- 1½ lb sirloin steak
- 2 T. coffee beans – finely ground
- 2 T. black peppercorns – freshly cracked
- ½ T. salt
- 1 T. brown sugar
- 1 T. garlic powder
- 1(1/2) T. smoked paprika
-½ T. (1/2 t.) cayenne
(I used a little less paprika/cayenne than the original recipe)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Family Favorites: Mom's Coffee Cake

Here's a family favorite near and dear to my heart - my mom's coffee cake.  I'm pretty sure she would title this the same way, since my grandma used to make it when she was a kid, too.  Oh, how I love those recipes! 
 This one's even under my mom's name in our family cookbook - I believe the couple in the center of that picture are my Great-Great-Great Grandparents.  Pretty cool, huh?
My mom also made this all the time when I was growing up, and whether it was for breakfast or an after dinner snack, we absolutely loved it.  I can't even tell you how many times we got in trouble for picking off the crumb topping and eating it.  This past weekend I was able to take a personal day and make a 4-day weekend, so to celebrate the extra family time, I decided to make this for breakfast one morning.  Peanut was more than a little surprised by the idea of cake for breakfast!  Here's how generations of mamas in my family make it:

Mom's Coffee Cake

- 1 c. sugar
- 5 T. shortening (my Mom always used butter-flavored Crisco)
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1 egg
- 3/4 c. milk
- 1 1/2 c. flour
- 1 1/2 t. baking powder
for the topping:
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. brown sugar
- 1 t. cinnamon
- 1 T. flour
- 2 T. cold butter

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chicken Fried Brown Rice

Here's one of the healthier fried rice recipes I've ever read or tasted.  I love recipes that cut down calories without sacrificing flavor- genious!  Based on this Brown Fried Rice with Chicken and Vegetables recipe by Liz DellaCroce of The Lemon Bowl, one of my favorite healthy food blogs I've recently discovered.  In the post, she encourages you to use whatever vegetables you have on hand, which is exactly what I did.  In fact, by using frozen vegetables, I was able to make this dish without buying a single ingredient.  Versatile, simple, quick, and tasty... sounds like a workin' mama meal to me!  Here's how this Mama makes it:

Chicken Fried Brown Rice

- 8 oz. chicken breast, diced (I used 2 out of a 3 pack, so probably closer to 12-16 oz.)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1.5 c. frozen broccoli, cooked and chopped
- 1 c. frozen mixed veggies, cooked and chopped
- 3/4 c. edamame, shelled and cooked
- 1 egg
- 2 c. leftover brown rice (preferably cold - making it the night before allows you to greatly reduce the cooktime, too.  I put it on the stove after work and by the time we went to bed it was done!)
- 1 T. sesame oil
- 2-3 T. soy sauce
- 1 T. rice vinegar
- 1 c. scallions, minced (I didn't have these, but I think it'd be delicious!)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Super Easy Tomato Soup

For whatever reason, I've been on a tomato soup kick lately (no, I'm not pregnant).  Maybe it's the yearning for summertime and fresh tomatoes, or maybe it's just a vehicle for my love of basil.  Either way, here's a super quick 'n easy recipe I've been tossing together lately.  Warning:  may induce afternoon naps and belly-warming happiness!   Here's how Mama makes it:

Super Easy Tomato Soup


- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 15 oz. can tomato sauce
- 1-2 t. hot sauce, optional
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves or about 2 T. basil paste / dried basil
- 1 t. thyme
- 1/2 t. oregano
- 1/2 t. rosemary, crushed
- 1/2 t. Garlic powder
- 1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper (add more to taste)
- 2 t. salt (add more or less to taste)
- 1 c. milk, cream, half 'n half (really whatever you have onhand and depending on how creamy you like to make it and how many calories you want to add!)
- 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Friday, June 14, 2013

Chickpea Salad with Fresh Veggies & Dill

Here's a recipe my BFF gave me months ago, I finally made about a month ago, and am just now posting.  Sometimes, that just happens!  The funny thing is that I've made this probably twice since then - so it's not for lack of deliciousness.  Either way, here's a yummy, healthy, fresh veggie salad for these hot summer days:

Chickpea Salad with Fresh Veggies & Dill

-3 tablespoons olive oil
-1 (16 ounce) can chickpeas/Garbanzo beans, drained
-1/2 cup tomato, chopped
-1/4 cup red onion, minced
-1 rib celery, sliced (I didn't have any, but toss it in if you do!)
-1 cucumber, chopped
-1 teaspoon garlic, minced
-2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped (or 1.5 T dried)
-1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
-1/2 lemon, juiced
-1/2 lime, juiced
-cracked black pepper and salt, to taste
-1/4 c. feta

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Baby Product Review: Peanut's Favorite Smoothie Cup - Nuby Super StrawEasy Grip Cup

Nuby Super Straw Easy Grip Cup

First of all, I would love to tell you that I spend hours researching the perfect smoothie cup with a non-spill straw that's easy to hold, easy to use, and easy to clean.   But that just isn't the case with this one.  In fact, I didn't even buy it.  This cup was bought by my very own professional baby shopper (aka Grandma) and was convenienty waiting for Peanut in her cupboard last time we stopped through for a quick visit.  Annalyn was instantly drawn to it (what one-year-old doesn't love straws?) and so was I after watching her walk around the house without spilling a drop (minus the occasional mouthful she intentional dribbles down her chin to be ornery).   Shamelessly, we asked Grandma Cindy where she bought it (Target) and if we could have it!  Like any good grandma, she sent it home with us, saying she would just replace it next time she got to the store.  Ya just can't beat grandparents, am I right?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cajun Roasted Chicken

A couple weekends ago, I decided to roast a bird because it was raining and well, we found ourselves with a weekend completely to ourselves!  So we invited a friend over, ran to the grocery (with a quick Starbucks run), then headed home to get this beautiful chicken in oven.  There is just something so comforting about roasting a whole chicken.  Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm!  Michael requested a Cajun rub, so we compromised with a lightly rubbed Cajun chicken so that Annalyn could enjoy it, too, without too much spice.  I served it with this stovetop cornbread and this amazing coleslaw.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Cajun Roasted Chicken

- 1 whole chicken
- 1 lemon, zested and sliced
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 t. chili powder
- 1 t. smoked paprika
- 1/2 t. garlic powder
- 1/2 t. thyme
- 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
- salt & pepper
- 3 T. butter
- 2 T. olive oil
- 2 c. chicken stock

Monday, June 10, 2013

Coleslaw with a Kick

Inspired by Ree Drummond's Cilantro Slaw, this jazzed up slaw is sure to please and surprise every palate!  The taste adventure starts with a flavorful burst of green onions and cilantro, then cools off with a deliciously tangy dressing, and ends with just the right amount of kick from the hot sauce.  This is probably the best and most addicting slaw I've ever tasted!  I can safely say that the store-boughten stuff is ruined for me forever now.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Coleslaw with a Kick

- 1.5 to 2 (16 oz.) packages coleslaw mix (or 2 heads cabbage + shredded carrots)
- 2 bundles green onions, chopped
- 2 c. milk
- 1 c. Miracle Whip
- 2 t. hot sauce
- 2 T. sugar
- 2 T. cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 t. salt
- 1 t. black pepper
- 1/2 t. celery salt
- 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Stovetop Cornbread

Nope, that isn't a typo.  I actually made cornbread on top of the stove.  Crazy?  Well, kind of.  But lots of fun and oh so yummy!  Last weekend, we invited a friend over for dinner because it was rainy and I felt like roasting a bird.  So I made a Cajun roasted whole chicken (post coming soon!).  Since chickens are much smaller than turkeys, I didn't see any problem with planning it all spur of the moment with only a few hours until the dinner time we set.  Until I decided on side dishes that is.  The coleslaw was perfect - make ahead, refrigerate, and pull out just before serving.  The cornbread Michael had his heart set on... well, that was a different story.  You see, I'm super particular about my roasted birds and I refused to cook this guy higher than 350 degrees.  Since the cornbread needed to cook at 400 for about 20 minutes, I decided to get creative and try it on the stovetop.  I was a little scared and Michael was absolutely skeptical, but I went for it anyway.  And it was AWESOME!  Here's how Mama makes it:

Stovetop Cornbread

- 2 boxes Jiffy cornbread mix
- 4 T. olive oil
- 2/3 c. milk
- 2 eggs

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken & Rice

Here's a working mama meal so easy and semi-homemade that I made it at work!  Simple ingredients, bold flavors, and very little prep time required.  It was AWESOME!  (Photos taken on my iPhone).  Here's how Mama makes it:

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken & Rice


- 1 can cheddar cheese soup
- 2 c. milk
- 1 c. brown rice
- 2 pkgs. precooked diced chicken
- 1/3 bottle buffalo sauce
- 1 pkg. ranch seasoning
- 1/2 c. chopped onion (I even found pre-chopped onion)
- crock pot liners are a must at work!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Apple Bacon Gorgonzola Pizza

Here's an interesting pizza recipe, inspired once again by my friend, Brittany.  It might look/sound strange, but it's absolutely fabulous!  (Not to mention super easy if you use refrigerated pizza dough!)  I think it would make a great appetizer, too.  This post was photographed using my iPhone because my brother-in-law was using my camera for a special pre-wedding gift for his bride.  Here's how Mama makes it:
Apple Bacon Gorgonzola Pizza

- crust for one 12-inch pizza (I used a refrigerated whole wheat one from Trader Joe's)
- 1-2 T. olive oil
- 1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
- 4-5 slices of bacon, crispy and chopped
- 1/4 c. gorgonzola or bleu cheese crumbles
- 2 T. balsamic reduction, to drizzle over the top
- freshly ground black pepper

Sunday, June 2, 2013

My Baby's Done With Purees, Now What? Our Top 10 Favorites!

I've been asked to give advice about good baby/toddler finger foods a few times lately, so I decided to write a post about it.  Granted, I am no nutritionist, I am just a mama of an eating machine.  I remember the questions I had when Annalyn first started really wanting to feed herself, and honestly, there's no perfect answer.  Like any parent, I did what I felt was best for my kiddo, including lots of trial & error (after all, she is our "practice kid" as Michael puts it... aka first born).  We have our go-to meals/snacks, but now that she's eating table foods, we try to give her what we're eating, just cut into manageable pieces (at first, about the size of a pea).  This is a list of some of Peanut's favorites, but again, don't hesitate to give baby what the rest of the family's eating, too.  It's important to introduce him/her to the flavors you normally cook with so you don't end up with a super picky eater later on.  It's not all inclusive, but here's a few of our go-to toddler meals/snacks:

bring on the real food!
(I love throwback Peanut pics!)