Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ham and Cheese Mini-Melts

Good morning, mommies and daddies!

Today, I am sharing with you a modified version of a recipe I saw on a cooking show today.  As soon as I saw it, I knew I could make it healthier and a smidge more kid-friendly.


These are nothing more than some deli ham and cheese, some whole grain dinner rolls, a little bit of lowfat cream cheese, some italian dressing mix, and a teensy bit of butter.

Some of the players:

And in case you didn't know:  Italian dressing mix is a cheap and delicious little recipe helper to keep on hand.  It's about a dollar for three big packets of the stuff, and I only use maybe a teaspoon from each packet, when I use it.

So here's what you're gonna do with it today:  Take a teaspoon of the dressing mix, and stir it into about a quarter-cup of softened cream cheese.  It will taste sort of like a sour cream chip dip.  Now take some multi-grain dinner rolls, which are the perfect size for kids, and schmear a bit of that cream cheese mixture onto one side of the roll.

Now, layer the ham and cheese on each sandwich.

You can bake here,at 325 degrees for about 10 to 12 minutes.  Or, if you're feeling a little naughty, you can melt a little hunk of buttery love:

And mix a teensy bit of that italian dressing mix into it and slather it ontop of the rolls like so:

Then, if you're me, you could shake a little grated parmesan on top.

THEN bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes or until cheesy wonderfulness is achieved.

My kids ate two each.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bad blogger

Haven't blogged in a while, not because I've stopped feeding my family.  But because my stoopid camera lost its charger, and left me with nothing but a 5 MP video camera.  Not happening.

BUT JOY!  Today is my birthday, and my family members are generous to a fault.  I have taken my birthday money and purchased myself a camera.  Whoo hoo!!

After the hours and hours it will take me to figure it out, I will once again be able to post!  I could have just posted a bunch of recipes without pictures, but that just isn't entertaining or informative whatsoever.

And it's all about YOU people, really. 

See you in a few with some great new recipes, lunchboxes, and other shenanigans!


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Uncomplicate Your Christmas

I admit it.  I do it to myself.

I get on Pinterest and I pin everything Christmas.  How to Decorate my Mantel.  100 Elf on the Shelf Ideas.   Burlap Christmas Wreaths.  Fruit-filled table centerpieces.   Recycled Christmas card decorations.   Instructions for how to make your home smell like Willams-Sonoma.  Ridiculously elaborate recipes for breakfast on Christmas morning.   Crockpot Apple Cider.   How to get a postmarked letter from the North Pole.  Homemade, hand-decorated gift wrap.  Special gift boxes for the kids to open on Christmas Eve.  Edible Handmade Gifts under $10.  Funny Christmas card photo ideas for your family Christmas card.   Christmas nail art.  150 Stocking Stuffer ideas.   DIY salt-dough ornaments.  And then I’m supposed to remember to keep Christ in Christmas and be environmentally-conscious around the holidays.

At some point, I’ll start my Christmas list.   In addition to family gifts, there are friends’ kids, and neighbors, teachers, mailmen, hairstylists.  Tips, gratuities.  How much do you give?  Black Friday, Cyber Monday.  UPS, Fedex.  Where’s that package?  Do I have enough wrapping paper?  We’re out of TAPE!!!!

It’s not long before the Christmas-related activities start.  There’s Breakfast with Santa, Christmas portraits, cookie swaps, volunteering, the Macy’s Light Show, driving around to see neighbor’s intricate light displays, the school’s Christmas pageant, decorating the house – inside and out. 

I don’t know about you, but I feel short of breath just writing this.

And I can say with all honesty that I just do not enjoy the holidays at all anymore.  And I used to LOVE the holidays.  I feel pressure, and stress, and plain old dread.

Now, if I sit here and close my eyes and think back to the last time I felt actual Christmas joy, it was probably back before I was married with kids.  There is something about all this responsibility to make sure our kids are having a nice Christmas that saps my own joy.  

How did all of this happen?  I’m quite sure that when I was a kid in the 70’s, none of this existed.  Christmas was simple.  You got Christmas music on the radio the week before Christmas.  You couldn’t wait for the small handful of Christmas specials on TV, like Rudolph and Frosty and Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey.  (If that last one doesn’t ring a bell, look it up.  It is probably the most touching Christmas special of all time.)   Christmas wasn’t jammed down your throat.  It was simple.

The first Christmas was about as uncomplicated as it gets.  Two people and a baby in a barn.  I can guarantee there was no sophisticated mantel decoration in that stable.    Mary didn’t offer the wise men some crockpot hot cocoa with pre-frozen whipped cream dollops when they arrived.   Their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were probably not bought from Walmart at 4 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving.

What I’m trying to say is that this year, I’m going to try and uncomplicate things.   I don’t know how to do that, exactly.  I feel pressure from every angle.  But I vow to make a conscious effort to trim it down to the basics.  The minute I feel my chest tightening, I will re-evaluate whatever I’m doing.  Do I really need to take the kids to every single Christmas light display in the city?  Do the girls really need a three-foot pile of toys on Christmas morning?  Must I make the most sumptuous, ostentatious appetizer I can find for the Christmas dinner table or the most adorable cupcakes for a Christmas playdate?

Take the pledge with me:  I pledge to keep it simple this year.  I will find the joy in Christmas. 


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Baked Ravioli, Today's lunchbox, and homemade breadcrumbs


Last night, I made some baked ravioli with marinara dip for the girls, and baked pierogies for the grown-ups.

Simple, simple, simple.  But since kids seem to like finger food and dipping, this is a fun way to serve ravioli.

Just take a bag of frozen ravioli, and defrost for about a half hour.  I used mini, but you can use any size you want.

Once they are mostly thawed, dip them in ranch dressing, or plain milk if you prefer.

Then, drop them into a ziplock bag or bowl full of panko breakcrumbs.  I only had homemade breadcrumbs on hand (I know, I'm annoying.  I will address these, down further).  Then, lie them on a cookie sheet that is lined with parchment or sprayed with Pam.  At this point, you might want to mist them with olive oil, or give them a little drizzle.   I'm counting calories, so I didn't.  But it might give them a richer flavor.

Cook for 18-20 minutes at 400 degrees.   All ovens are different, so keep an eye out to make sure they're not browing too much.

These are meant to be eaten right away, because they do cool quickly.  We heated up some jarred marinara, for dipping.  They were nice and crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside.

Carby?  Maybe.  But they were filling, and not too unhealthy.

Today's lunch box consisted of some homemade peanut butter balls (a Martha Stewart recipe that, quite frankly, I would not make again), raspberries, and kiwi, along with three peanut-butter crackers.

And, as promised, let's talk quickly about homemade breadcrumbs.  Breadcrumbs are one of those things that I can't believe people buy.   If you're like me, there is always, ALWAYS bread in the fridge or crackers in the cupboard that are about to be stale.
All you have to do is throw them on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven.   I would toast them at 350 degrees for maybe 8 minutes or until lightly browned.

Then, toss them into your food processor and pulse until you have fine breadcrumbs.    Actually, I should have kept grinding mine, but ran out of patience.  You get the idea.
I keep my breadcrumbs in the freezer, to keep them fresh.  But those two cookie sheets above yielded about six cups of crumb.  Which for me, could last half a year.  lol.  You could season them, if you wanted, too.   Salt, pepper, parsley, oregano, parmesan cheese.  Whatever you want!
Get creative!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Figs as a snack, and PBJ Stuffed French Toast

Happy Monday!!

Trying to get caught up with all the photos I've taken of the cooking I've been up to.   But first, a clean snack. 

Purple figs.  Ever had one?  My Produce Juntion had pints for just $2.  I couldn't pass them up. 

Figs taste just like overripe bananas.  Super-sweet and soft.  I was feeling like a decadent snack today, and since I am trying to keep my calories under 1200, that doesn't leave me with much.  So, I peeled a few figs (you can technically eat the skin, but I never eat fruit skin), sliced them into halves, and put a dot of homemade fromage blanc on each (a recipe for another day), then topped it with a pecan.

 Sweet, a teensy bit savory, and LOADS of yumminess.  With nothing over-processed or any nasty preservatives.  

And what got me so hungry for a snack in the first place was just THINKING about writing this post, featuring yesterday's PBJ Stuffed French Toast.  It was so good, even though my daughter suffered a little burn on her leg from the gooey, hot jelly in the middle.

Here's all you need:

You just make a PBJ sandwich for each person at the table.

Whisk up two eggs and dip each sandwich in the eggs, top and bottom.  Then toss them on a buttered grill pan and cook away!  I sprinkled with a little cinnamon sugar on top....

About three or so minutes on each side, or until you get this brown looking deliciousness.

We just halved them and ate them like this.  No need for syrup!  But  like I said, the jelly gets really melty, almost liquidy.  Let them cool slightly before eating.....and for heaven's sake, lean over your plate!



Monday, September 17, 2012

White Bean Burgers and today's lunchbox

So, eating healthy is challenging.   At least 50% of the time, I will make the right decisions.  I have the luxury of time to prep and cook, so there's no excuse not to eat healthy.

But there are days when I just WANT something bad for me.  And I have it.  But then I have to deal with the guilt, and the actual physical discomfort of having EATEN something that was too heavy, too salty, too bubbly, too fatty.

I have learned that there are ways to satisfy those cravings, without blowing all of your hard work.  I have a handful of special 'cheat' recipes that make me FEEL like I'm cheating, but really I'm not.

Veggie burgers are a great substitute for heavy, fatty beef burgers.

I have made black bean burgers before, and they are fantastic.  But today, I'm going to tell you about white bean burgers!

White Bean Burgers

  • 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 carrot, diced
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic

  • Process all the ingredients in your blender or food processor.  

    I was out of oats, so I used a half-cup of all-purpose flour, instead.  When you reach a texture that's sort of oatmeal-like, you're ready to start shaping into patties.

    Now, I experiemented.  I wasn't sure if I would like these baked.  So, I pan-fried four in about an inch of canola oil, and baked four at 425 for 20 minutes.

    My observation is that the fried burgers had a much harder time holding together, while the burgers (baked on parchment) held together like a dream, but were slightly drier.  And probably much lower in fat.

    I would bake them, next time.  Frying isn't worth the added fat.  The burgers were messy and had too much of that oily flavor, for me.

    But both were good, and filling.  I was thinking maybe I could make these into meatballs for the kids.  Hmmmm.

    Speaking of the kids, here is today's lunchbox!    We're so excited this year, because we are allowed to pack peanut butter!    We have peanut butter on wheat bread (no crusts), with grapes and strawberries. 

    If you know of any good lunchbox sites, let me know!  I love to read them.

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    Today's lunchbox and JIFFY Baking Mix Cinnamon Rolls

    Good morning, mommies!

    Today's lunchbox:

    Sorry for the blur.  But we have turkey pepperoni, cucumbers, walnuts, grapes, cherry tomatoes, and a bag of Triscuit on the side.
    She forgot to eat her snack from Friday, which I put into the bottom zippered compartment of her lunchbag.  I opened her bag and found the snack, completely untouched.  She said she forgot it was there, which means she ate part of her lunch as her snack that day, which made me really sad.

    Of course, I reminded her fifty times that her snack for today was in the bottom of her lunch bag.   The thought of her pillaging through her lunch for a snack makes me wish I'd chosen a different kind of bag.

    She'll live, I suppose.  GAWD, we baby these kids.  lol

    Speaking of babying the kids:  Saturday, I made the kids some "homemade" cinnamon rolls.  The quotes are there, because I used a mix.  Not the doughy stuff you find in a tube in the refrigerated section of the market (although THOSE are pretty good, too).  I used JIFFY baking mix.  You may have come across a box of this a time or two.

    This is a lot like Bisquik, but much cheaper.  Really, there is no difference, in my opinion, to warrant the extra couple bucks.  There are about seven recipes on the box for things like waffles pancakes, biscuits, and the cinnamon rolls.  I was first going to do pancakes, because anything else that requires me to knead dough is an instant turnoff.  But I decided to go a little beyond my comfort zone, on that day.  After all, I had this neat new dough scraper thingee:

    This is my floured surface AFTER I rolled the dough.  My camera was being a little bitch, so I didn't get the entire process.  But the procedure is like this:  you stir up the mix, plop it on a floured surface and knead it.  Mine was too sticky, so I added like a quarter cup more mix to the dough, while it was already out on the surface.  This made it perfect, and got some more flour on my board.  I think I was too skimpy with the flour on the surface.  The trick is to use lots.

    Then, I kneaded the dough.  Not as hard as I thought it would be.  I just basically palmed it back and forth 20 times.  Palm it out, then pull it back and do it again.  It came together nicely.   Then I rolled it out into a rectangle, spread some softened butter on the top, and sprinkled it (which sounds so delicate.  really, I loaded that stuff on) with sugar and cinnamon.  I have a little yellow bottle of it already mixed.  I also chopped some walnuts, and scattered them about.   Then I used my little scraper, and rolled up the dough, scraping as I went.  Then I cut the roll into little 2-inch slices and slapped them into a round tin and baked them according to the directions, which I forget but are on the box.

    Now, if you're me, you need the white sugary icing on top.  I mixed about a cup of confectioner's sugar with a tablespoon of milk.  Whisk and let sit.  You might have to adjust your milk, depending on the consistency you're looking for.  Gooey, was my criteria.

    And for Heaven's sake, don't do what I did.  Wait until the rolls are cool to add your icing, or it will melt and disappear and your kids will whine, "Where's my icing?"

    My husband proclaimed that they were the best he ever had.  Now, in all fairness, they were better than the tube kind, but not as good as they could be, if they were made from scratch.   They weren't nearly as sweet, and the dough was more crumbly, which was good.   But I could detect a mix-iness about it that I couldn't define. 

    Either way, the fam was happy.  Give it a try!

    Saturday, September 8, 2012

    School Lunch & the NINJA PULSE versus the Nutribullet

    Hi there!  Now that school is back in session, I will try to document all the kids' lunches.  My daughter, Sofia, is six years old and just started first grade.

    She is extremely adventurous with food choices.  The girl loves calamari, fortheloveofgod.  She will try ANYthing.  And she prefers vegetables to super-sweet treats.  So packing lunch for her is a pleasure, EXCEPT for the fact that she doesn't like sandwiches.


    How do you pack a lunch for a kid who doesn't like sandwiches?  It can be a challenge.  Her appetite isn't huge, so I do a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.  Here is her lunch box.  I love owls.....

    And here is what I packed on Friday.  Snack was raisins, some pretzels and a 2 chocolate chip cookies.  Lunch was rolled up nitrate-free ham, some Jersey white corn cut right off the cob into strips, cherry tomatoes, and green beans in vinegar from my mother-in-law's garden.  There was also a small baggie of Triscuits.  Plus, I packed some chopsticks, just for fun.  She loves to show off her chopstick finesse with her buddies.

    I also wanted to share with you my newest, most favorite kitchen purchase.  The NINJA Pulse.

    We've been juicing for about a year, using a regular old juicer.  Which means we've been throwing away all the valuable nutrition found in the pulp and the skin and the seeds.  So, I have seen the infomercials for the Nutribullet, and have been wanting to get one for a while.  Target has the Nutribullet for $99, which is 20 bucks cheaper than if you buy from the FREE SHIPPING infomercial.  (Nothing is ever, EVER free.)

    So, I went to buy the Nutribullet the other day, and after a 40-minute comparison shopping session in the blender aisle at Target, I realized that the NINJA ($79.99) offered 100 more watts of power than the Nutribullet, PLUS you get a nice sized pitcher, and three blades, some of which are meant for PIZZA DOUGH and COOKIE DOUGH, which the Nutribullet did not have.

    Hel-LO!  The Ninja was cheaper, had higher wattage and better features and attachments.  Sold!

    I made a juice of beets, celery, carrots and cucumbers.  It was much pulpier than my usual juicer juice, so I re-ran it through the Ninja to make it smoother. 

    Kind of a blurry picture, but look at that color.  Drinking that puppy CAN'T be bad for you.  And lately, my diet needs some GOOD.....

    Tuesday, September 4, 2012

    Kids Eat Free

    Love going out to eat, but hate paying for your kids' meals that are hardly touched?  Me, too.  That's why I visit websites like http://www.kidseatfor.com/.  Go here, type in your zip code, and the website lets you know what local restaurants offer free kids' meals.

    Other similar sites:  www.kidsmealdeals.com and http://kidseat4free.com/.

    Happy dining out with the kids!

    Tuesday, May 29, 2012

    101 things to do in 1001 days.

    My family has been in dietary transition, lately, which is why I haven't been posting.  It's really no excuse.  What better time to post than now, as we move as a family from a regular, clean but meat-eating diet, to a raw, vegetarian lifestyle.  I should use this blog as a journal to measure our ups and downs, trials and errors.  A place where I can one day visit and say, "Look how far we've come."  But the change has proven to be a lot of work, one which the girls are less than thrilled about.  But I shall make a better effort to report in, and tell you what I've been learning.

    But for today, I would like to share with you something I found on livelovelife.com.  It really inspired me to create my own list.  I feel more accountable now to actually follow through with the things I've been saying I'll do.  101 things I want to do in the next 1001 days.  Starting now!  I stole many of her ideas, but threw in some of my own that I have been wanting to do or try.   I’m also leaving this list incomplete, as I’m sure I will come across many things I will want to add, as I go along…..
    Start date: May 29, 2012
    End date: February 26th, 2015
    Food & Drink
    1.       Try a new cuisine.
    2.      Cut out white foods altogether with my family.
    3.      Eat 80% raw (out of 3033 meals, I will eat 2402 raw meals.)
    4.      Get some raw recipes the kids will eat.
    5.      Drink water more often.
    6.      Buy a decent dehydrator, vitamix, nutribullet and spiralizer.
    7.      Incorporate a green monster smoothie into my daily menu.
    8.      Learn 10 new metabolic recipes.
    9.      Build up my vegetarian/vegan cookbook collection.
     Fitness & Health
    10.   Walk on the treadmill for 30 min every day.
    11.  Take a kickboxing class.
    12.  Take a yoga class.
    13.  Get the kids to do a yoga class at home each day.
    14.  Take one family walk a week.
    15.  Swim class for girls.
    16.  Reach my goal weight/clothing size.
    17.  Go ice skating in the winter as a family date night.
    18.  Take girls roller skating.
    19.  Sledding/Tubing weekends in the winter.
    20.  Take girls on active adventures while on vacation.
    Family & Relationships
    21.   Make 3 new friends.
    22.  Get 1000 subscribers to my blog.
    23.  One date night per month with DH.
    24.  Better vacations with family.
    25.  Reunite with old friend.
    26.  Organize play dates with friends once a month.
    27.  See my dad more often.
    28.  Try to go to every family party I’m invited to.
    29.  Compliment husband and girls every day.
    30.  Never fight in front of girls.
    31.  Build new youtube channel for Buggy Tales.
    32.  Learn the art of playwriting.
    33.  Start writing a new play.
    34.  Compete in three new competitions.
    35.  Compete for one fellowship.
    36.  Make another short film.
    37.  Get 200,000 views on Buggy Tales.
    38.  Take Buggy Tales books to editors.
    39.   Donate to Good Will once a month.
    40.  Offer something to a stranger in need.
    41.  Volunteer for one program a year.
    42.  Compliment a stranger.
    43.  Sponsor someone in a race.
    For the Home
    44.   Organize financials.
    45.  Make garage into playroom.
    46.  Plant a garden on deck.
    47.  Hardwood floors.
    48.  Attic fan.
    49.  Ceiling fan in LR.
    50.  Landscaping.
    51.   Go to church.
    52.  Take Sofia to a museum.
    53.  Learn how to drive a stick shift.
    54.  Learn Italian.
    55.  Watch all the Oscar winning movies since inception.
    56.  Learn how to fix a flat.
    57.  Ride a horse.
    58.  Go a week without negative self-talk or complaining.
    59.  Save $10 a week (that’s $1,320).
    60.  Go to a haunted house.
    61.  Pumpkin-carving/picking.
    62.  Join an organic local co-op.
    63.  Visit local farmers markets every other week in season.
    64.  Inspire someone else to make similar list…

    Thursday, March 29, 2012

    Baked Cream Cheese Veggie Rolls

    Yes.  It's been seven months.  I apologize.  I was sidetracked by Pinterest.  But I'm back and I've found lots of new recipes to try for my midgets.

    I made Cream Cheese Veggie Rolls with some Plum dipping sauce, last night.  The kids decided they wanted cereal.  Which was fine, because I ate about half of the rolls myself.  The reason I am making a cream cheese roll so soon after the wontons post is because the wontons were good, but required a lot of effort.  I wanted to try egg roll wrappers, and boy, are they easier to work with than those thin, flimsy wonton wraps.  I will never go back to them!

    Baked Cream Cheese Veggie Rolls
    Egg roll Wrappers
    Cream Cheese
    Veggie of your choice (I used chopped fresh broccoli and chopped red cabbage.)

    First, take your wrapper and smear some cream cheese down the middle.  I rarely measure anything, so just eyeball it.  Use as much or little as you like. 

    Then, add the veggies.  You want to add them, and kind of press them down a little bit.  Don't make it too bulky, because you don't want the wrapper to tear, when you roll them.

    You're going to first roll the top and bottom, then fold one edge over to cover the veggies.  I use little dots of cream cheese like glue, to hold all of the edges down.

    Then I lay them all out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  If you don't have parchment, just give the sheet a spray of Pam.   Then I spray the rolls lightly with olive oil spray.  If you don't have a sprayer, I would recommend spraying the rolls with Pam, but if you must, you could brush them lightly with oil.   I sprinkle sesame seeds on top, after spraying, because I like the asian flavor they add.  But again, not necessary.

    Notice how much better I got at rolling these toward the end.  There are some strangely shaped rolls up on the top of my cookie sheet, there.  Sad, messy little pillows.  They ripped open, it was a mess.  But it just goes to show that everything doesn't always work out in the kitchen, just like in life.  You just have to keep at it, and try a different technique, you will find success!

    See?  Look at those beauties!
    Bake at 375 degree for 20-25 minutes, turning midway through.  Just keep an eye on them.  If they're getting too dark, take them out.

    While the rolls were in the oven, I whipped up some Plum dipping sauce.  Which is, essentially, Plum preserves and teriyaki sauce or soy sauce. 

    Just take a couple big spoonfuls of the preserves and add a couple spoonfuls of teriyaki sauce or soy sauce.  Whisk together, and heat over medium heat until it bubbles.  Let it bubble, and stir for about five minutes or so.  Voila!  Plum Dipping Sauce!

    Now, the rolls are done!  Baked, not fried and full of veggies!  They're crunchy on the outside, and the cream cheese makes them creamy on the inside.  You can use whatever veggies rock your boat.  Or, you can brown and season some ground turkey and a litte bit of shredded cheddar and make some Baked Turkey Burger rolls.  Really, there are a million things you can do with egg roll wrappers.  How about some nutella and banana for breakfast?  Or some scrambled eggs and ham?

    Your options are endless!!!  Enjoy!

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