Sunday, September 30, 2012

Grocery Store Redux

True to my word, I developed a plan to save money and eat better: stick to a budget and menu plan! Sounds easy enough, but was it?? Well, for my first week (though I don't start officially until Oct.1st) I'd say I'm off with a bang! I decided Saturday would be my shopping day. It's the last day of the week and the perfect time to prep in peace while my kiddos take it easy, resting from a long week. So yesterday we hit Sprouts, my favorite market, shopping list in hand. My budget was $100 for the week and I came in way under...$61.25! But that does leave me a little wiggle room in the event I need to run out for toilet paper! Although some items are more expensive there, (such as cheeses and staples like ketchup and peanut butter) they have an awesome selection of dry goods in the bulk bins and produce is dirt cheap. I'm trying to avoid processed and packaged foods anyway. I compiled a few recipes before leaving the house, planning to cook five out of the seven days this next week. We have a dinner plans one night and are "allowed" one night out to dinner a week. Here's how my menu looks:
Sunday: Homemade potato cheese soup with french bread
Monday: Dinner out!
Tuesday: Crock Pot BBQ chicken wraps with salad
Wednesday: Chicken enchiladas
Thursday: Baked potatoes with salad
Friday: Bowtie pesto pasta with garlic bread
I'll post the recipes each day if you want to follow along! Wish me luck!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fast Food Frenzy

A few days ago, I had a little banking scare. I got notice that there was a "fraud alert" on my account. After going in and double-checking everything, getting a new card and going over my accounts, everything turned out to be fine. But I did leave with some food for thought...literally. While going over my most recent debits to make sure everything was okay, I was a little chagrined as the banker read aloud the charges: Del Taco, Alberto's Mexican Food, In N Out, Taco Bell, Jack In the Box and McDonald's. Now, I didn't think we ate out that much but perhaps I've been in denial. I tend to look at fast food as a "treat" that I "deserve" because I'm home all day with the kids and just want to get out etc., etc....but between my "treats", my hubby's lunches during his workday and our splurges on the weekend, we were spending a fortune on food! And not healthy food either...we were spending our hard earned money on junk. So what a coincidence that at my last MOPS (Mother's of meeting was a speaker on, wouldn't you know it, healthy eating on a budget. Wow. It opened my eyes and re-motivated me to get my butt back in gear and start cooking up some healthy meals and get some easy and nutritious ingredients on hand for lunches for my kids and I.
There were no excuses for the poor eating habits we had developed and for my being a poor example to my kids. Yes, I'm tired and no, there's not a ton of time to carve out for eyeing circulars, cutting coupons and meal planning in my house but I'm going to do my best. As our speaker, Jesse Brown of reminded us, as a stay-home mom, I am the gatekeeper of what food comes in the home. Further, part of my job is to stretch my hubby's hard earned dollar as far as it will go! So I brought up a challenge to my hubby this morning: to spend $100 max a week on groceries, cut our eating out back to twice a week and see how much we can save in a month. He is on board!  Starting Oct. 1st, I'm on a mission...feed my family healthy, tasty meals and save money in the process. I'll let you know how it's going.
What are your tips for saving more and eating better at the checkout line???

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Costo...the New Girl's Night Out??

Yesterday I got a break from the kids while grocery shopping since my hubby was off work. Doesn't sound like the most glamorous outing but throw in a friend, Costco and some sampling and window shopping and it turned into a fun way for mommy to spend some time outside the house. I've found that as demands at home increase, time for myself has decreased so why not make fun of your errands?? So as I chatted with my girlfriend and browsed the aisles of the wondrous warehouse that is Costco, I found I came home relaxed and ready to face the daily demands once again. I had a spring in my step as I wiped a sticky table, swept lunch crumbs off the floor and put away dishes (hey my hubby can't be perfect!) Sure, a girl's night out would have probably set me back far less (I dropped $95. sigh.) But while I got snacks and stuff for dinner, I also got something much more valuable...a small glimpse of my sanity! Though I don't always have the luxury of shopping in peace, I'll take it when I can! Sometimes you gotta let the kids wreak some havoc while you catch up with a friend, take an extra long shower, or buy those impractical and expensive shoes just because. Oh, and maybe have that girl's night out! You deserve it! Take it when you can.

                                            Frozen tilapia fillets from Costco....yummy!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Coffee Break

Every morning as I stumble downstairs, bleary eyed and reach for the coffee pot like a bad Folgers commercial, I think, I'm getting old! Why am I so tired?? Even my kids know mommy just isn't herself before coffee. And then before diet coke and I'm so tired most nights that by the time my little ones are sawing logs, I'm just about right there with them. A "late night" for me these days is watching a show until ten with my hubby. Much to his chagrin, the night owl that he is, I'm turning off the lights and headed upstairs before the scenes for next week's episode.
As mothers, we all tend to put our kid's needs first. If they make a mess, or are hungry or need to go potty, they need to be tended to whether we like it or not. But besides the mental demands of waking early with kids, carrying them around and picking up after them, the mental fatigue is just as bad, or worse. Tantrums, twenty questions and constantly breaking up fights can lead to an unparalleled mental exhaustion. Add to that a sick kid, one with the stomach flu, perhaps (like mine today), and there's just no time to rest!
I know someday I will look back and miss these times with my kids. I will be able to sleep in, but miss the pattering of little feet. I'll get to eat a meal in peace, but miss preparing lunch and feeding two little mouths. And I will undoubtedly miss the story times, snuggles and the way my kids hug, kiss, and hold my hand with abandon. So I will take the lack of sleep and enjoy today for all it's bloody demands. And for now, cheers to caffeine!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Pumpkin Journey: One Bite at a Time

In the mood for an easy, delicious cake that can be eaten for breakfast, a snack or dessert?? And that is full of the flavors of fall?? And is almost healthy? Good. Me too. Fortunately, I have the best resource at my very fingertips thanks to the recipe that is Almost Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares (or in my case, a bundt) courtesy of my lovely sister and in-house pastry chef, Ellen. Not to be ignored, I've decided that her twin and my other sister, Lexi, should be in on the taste-testing as well. After all, two opinions are better than one! I'd bet however, on this one, that our opinions will be the same. I defy folks to make it and eat just one portion. It's impossible!! From the airy-light, yet somehow dense texture of the cake, with gooey chocolate chips in every bite, to the subtle flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, it's a winner on all counts. I topped mine with a bit of powdered sugar but it needs no accompaniment. Normally, I'm all about the ice cream and whipped cream toppings on all things baked, but this needs nothing. Warm and gooey, sweet and savory, I cannot stop the fork! It gets better with each bite and would be a sure fire crowd pleaser for your next holiday meal. It's like a chocolate chip pancake meets pumpkin pie, perfect for the coming months when it will (eventually) cool off. So without further adieu, here it is the BEST EVER Almost Healthy Chocolate Chip Squares recipe (doubled, and baked in a bundt, in my case!).

1 cup flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350° then mix all ingredients (except chocolate chips) with hand mixer until smooth, folding the chocolate chips in at the end. Grease an 8X8 pan (or bundt if doubling..) and pour batter in and pop in oven. Bake 20-25 minutes (about 45 if doubled..) and pull out of oven once cake is done. It will double in size and when pricked with knife will be gooey and moist. You don't want to overcook this bad boy!!

Helping hands...

                                            Almost wanted cracked and craggy...

                                                    Pumpkin perfection in every bite!!!

Adapted from

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hawaiian Burgers

Here's an easy and fast recipe for a hearty and yummy weeknight dinner! I looove burgers but rarely make them at home as I just don't feel they are as tasty as when ordered out. I guess since my favorite are from In-N-Out, it's tough to even come close to that patty perfection. But I wanted to get outside my cooking box and thought turkey teriyaki burgers would hit the spot. So here it is, my recipe for a taste of the big island:

20 oz. Jenny-O extra lean turkey breast
salt and pepper
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
6 Dole canned pineapple rings
6 hamburger buns
6 slices provolone cheese

Mix first four ingredients and form turkey to make six patties. Grill on medium heat 4-5 minutes on each side, until cooked through and no longer pink. Top with cheese, pineapple and's that easy!

For more ideas for recipes using ground turkey, check out

Monday, September 17, 2012

Burnt Toast

While reading The Pile of Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs by Kristina Hopkinson, I realized that while it's a funny, exaggerated novel about a woman who begins secretly cataloging her husband's pros and cons, there's a lot of truth in it! Of course, I never do this but if I did, I could probably attest to many of her gripes. First of all, let me just say for the record, I'm speaking about MOST women. If you are in a balanced and blissful category all your own, ignore this. Oh, and also?? I kind of hate you.
Most of my days are spent juggling, negotiating and looking at the clock in hopes help will arrive swiftly via my knight on a shining Harley. And then it's time for dinner, and reading and baths and the whole thing starts again. If I'm lucky to squeeze in some "me" time, I'd consider that a good day. Between all the demands of a home, a couple kids and a hubby, I'm all but spent by nightfall. Sure, my darling husband could pitch in more, bathe the children, read to them and tuck them into bed with witty stories instead of catching  up on TV or tinkering in the garage but my kids are a bit attached and mommy has created a monster. I have this funny little thing called "mommy guilt" that creeps in whenever I fail to do everything myself. Madness, isn't it?? The very thing I long for, a little help, a little quiet, a little break, I push away for fear that a ball will drop.
It's not just time that us moms lack, it's also a bit of self-worth that somehow decreases as demands increase. Somehow we just fall lower and lower on the to-do list. I sacrifice time and money on pedicures and haircuts from days long ago for extras like karate lessons and outings with the kids. I give up sleep (and my sanity!) to comfort scared, thirsty children in the middle of the night. I have perfected the three-minute shower, the thrown-together ensemble and no longer scrutinize my meals, appearance, or housekeeping routine. I get the important stuff done and move on. Yes, I eat a lot of burnt toast. Doesn't every mom do this? Give up her portion when there's not enough, sacrifice her piece of the pie or the last bit of spending money for someone else's need? Oh, and forget about a hot meal. When you eat last, once everyone's been served, it just doesn't happen. I think it's natural, normal, primal. But it doesn't mean we have to be doormats. It's time to put ourselves a little higher on the list. Wear clothes that make you feel good, serve yourself first and take a little time to do something you love while someone else watches the kids for a couple hours.
It's not going to make a big difference to them but will make a huge one to you! Imagine taking an extra-long shower in peace, grocery shopping without little octopus arms reaching at everything within sight or sitting and reading a book. Just because. I'm taking small steps in hopes that my children will see that...hello! I'm a person too. With feelings! Maybe they will respect me a little more and do the same for themselves when they are parents. I want to be a really good example so excuse me while I go do my nails!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

First Pumpkin of the Season

For a couple months now, I've been shamelessly promoting all that is fall and hoping others would hop on the bandwagon. Sure, it is still hot temps here in sunny so cal but it is officially fall so I decided it was time for pumpkins. Yes, they will only last a couple weeks if we are lucky but Halloween is a mere six weeks away so I want to savor the season. This afternoon we headed to Vons and allowed the kids to choose their very own sweet, organic pumpkin. They were actually intended for pumpkin pies but they were petite and perfect for little hands, so off to carving we went. With some help from mommy and daddy, our kids happily carved their funny faces into their pumpkins. Just the smell of the pumpkin in the air gave us a new feeling, a new energy. Yes, it's early but have a little fun with  your kids. Discuss their Halloween costumes, decorate for fall and of course, carve a pumpkin. What are you waiting for??


Friday, September 14, 2012

A Good Sport.

As I write, my hubby is reading to our kids by the light of their new, plastic jack-o-lanterns. Wet haired and scrumptious from the bath, they are soaking up this special time with their daddy. Strange requests mount daily as kids think up the funkiest, most random ideas that they think are the best. Although my hubby can probably barely see and isn't the reader of the family, he happily obliges. How many times have you thought to yourself  "am I actually doing this?" Set up a tent in the living room? Sure. Paper bag puppets for the masterpiece theater that is our kitchen table? Why not. Tea parties for lunch?? Princess dress-up for the grocery store? Mommy included...count me in. Because when you become a parent, you must put aside your pride and humility at one time or another. Some days I just don't feel like answering any more questions or playing along with the latest make-believe adventure but I can promise you something...those are the moments I will cherish when they are old enough to be embarrassed by me. So for now, I'll take these precious moments.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Make Life Easier

Life is busy. Kids make it even busier. It seems the older they get, the busier it gets. Shuttling kids from school to music lessons to church can make my head spin some days. So while I try to save time and take shortcuts, I've realized there are some things just not worth the time. For example, I never buy dry-clean or hand wash only garments. It just equals more time in my mind. And I rarely make things from complete scratch. I cut corners where I can, while still maintaining quality, health and integrity of dishes and projects.
Here  are a few tips to make your life a little easier:

- Take full advantage of your slow cooker. Don't have one?? Invest in one. You can find a decent one around $20 and if it's not in the budget, keep your eyes peeled for sales on them or check out second-hand stores and yard sales. Plan to use it a couple nights a week and shop accordingly. A roast can be turned into a melt-in-your-mouth meal when veggies and potatoes are thrown in.
- Stock your freezer with healthy meals for when you're in a hurry and haven't thought about dinner. It saves money and avoids a trip to the drive-thru on rushed evenings.
- Buy clothing that is easy to wash and dry, no dry-cleaning or hand washing required. Also, choose fabrics that don't wrinkle to avoid having to iron. Who wants to take the time and spend the money on that stuff??
- Buy in  bulk when possible. Toilet paper, paper towels, toiletries...things that you find yourself running out of and running out for should be kept in an overstock area to save trips.
- Simplify your routine for getting out the door. Keep shoes, keys, backpacks, everything you need for  the day near the front door and set things out the night before so  you don't spend time looking for that lost shoe.
- Perfect a five-minute beauty routine that can be finished in a flash. I know that vanity is definitely something I've sacrificed since having kids. I just don't have the uninterrupted time anymore to take long showers, blow-dry my hair and put on a full face of make-up.
- If you find something flattering in your  budget, stock up! Sweaters, jeans, t-shirts...all the staples in your wardrobe should be streamlined to avoid "what to wear" dilemmas at the last minute!
- Lastly, another way to get more done?? Enlist your kids and make a chore-chart! Even the little guys of your family can put away toys, clear the dinner table and throw away their trash. The more they do while they're young, the easier it will be to get them to pitch in later.

And here's a list of things to take EXTRA time for...

- Take care of yourself! Get moving when you can and eat as healthy as possible!
- Don't neglect your annual check-ups! The best way to take care of your family is to take care of yourself first.
- Make time for your relationship with your hubby. You were a couple before kids and it's important to maintain your marriage and friendship.
- Find quiet moments during the day. Immerse yourself in a book, even if it's just a few pages at a time. Take time to meditate and pray. We all need a mental break. Be good to yourself!
How do you make your life easier??

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cheese Steaks on a Dime

I am all about experimenting with different recipes and also things I try while eating out. My hubby and I had a hankering for Philly cheese steaks recently but with kids in tow, we knew that a.) our picky daughter wouldn't go for it and b.) it would probably set us back at least twenty-five bucks. We try to save money where we can and decided this wouldn't be worth the splurge so instead I chose to make them myself. I always have provolone cheese, onions and hot dog buns on hand so I bought two small, lean steaks on sale for $4.99 and was off to a good start!! I chopped one small onion and got it browning with a little olive oil. Meanwhile, I sliced the steak super thin and when the onions were nice and soft, I added the steak and cooked it for a couple minutes. I topped our buns with the steak, some onion and provolone cheese and we had four cheese steak sandwiches for less than ten dollars!! Sometimes things don't taste quite as good when made at home but this sure hit the spot!! Try some experiments yourself and see how close you come!! What will you make??

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Chocolate Chip Love Story

I've always loved chocolate chip cookies and consider myself a connoisseur. I always order them for dessert at fast-food places and go to them for an afternoon snack with a Diet Coke (I really value my health...) and they make the best dessert when warmed and topped with ice cream...ever hear of Bazookis?? Enough said. So I've stumbled upon the best, hands-down and it hails from my favorite fast food convenient is that?? Yes, Chick-Fil-A has my vote for BEST chocolate chip cookie. They are actually oatmeal chocolate chip and are large, tasty and usually good but also a little pricey. They are $1.25 each compared to, say, McDonald's which are 3 for $1.00. So my mission was clear: duplicate the cookie and enjoy them for a fraction of the cost. My sister Ellen, our pastry chef here at A Sweet Bite, had given me a brown butter chocolate chip recipe I'd yet to try and decided it was the perfect time to make them. Here it is...

The shirtless for some reason...
The butter is almost done...
Little taste testers...

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups PLUS 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg PLUS 1 egg yolk (I only had one egg on hand but it was fine...)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
*I also added one cup of oats

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter until browned and little black bits start to form on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool until warm.In
a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugars and brown butter on medium-high speed until lightened in color and creamy, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, mixing until combined. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Mix in
the chocolate chips.
Scoop the dough (about 2 tablespoons) onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges. Be careful not to over bake.
Let cookies cool on pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

**I made mine extra large and yielded 16 cookies...

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Kid is a Markered Mess...

Today, desperate for a bit of quiet time, I handed my two-year-old a dry erase board and a handful of markers and let him loose. Sure, I knew there was a chance, a very good chance that my living room and son would soon be covered in a rainbow of clumsy scribbles but still, I took my chances. Sure enough, a couple moments later he came to showcase his artwork on his tummy, legs, all over. I figured, at least his clothes will cover most of that.
This ploy is similar to the one where I took a package of tic-tacs and strategically placed them around the house so my kids could go on a “candy hunt”. Dinner has got to get done, people. Man cannot live on frozen meals alone and if I want to break out of my cooking rut, I need a little quiet. I think all us moms are the same…we just long for peace yet we choose the route of chaos. Prior to having children, I was able to take long showers, work a full day, hit the gym and have a home cooked  meal on the table every night. Dessert, too! But when I chose to have kids, I chose a new life. I chose the spit-up, the sticky faces, the constant questions, bickering and diaper changes. But I also chose something else...unconditional love. The kisses, cuddles and “I love you’s” are worth every hour of sleep lost and ounce of energy drained. Would I choose it again, even knowing the list of cons? You bet.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mug Cake

Want a quick dessert that is fast, easy and won't heat up your entire kitchen?? Me too! Night after night, I need a little something sweet. I usually have homemade cookies, a pie or some ice cream on hand for when cravings call but when I need a back-up, I usually have the ingredients to make a fast and simple but oh-so-delicious mug cake. It's basically a single serving cake mix microwaved in a mug. It takes just 2-3 minutes and when topped with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream, it is the perfect treat! Here's the recipe for one mug cake:
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon oil
You can also mix in nuts, chocolate chips or caramels!
Mix everything and pour into a mug. Microwave 2 minutes then check. If it is still wet in the center, microwave at 30-second intervals until done. Enjoy!!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Canvas Creation

I had been wanting to create a "family rules" canvas for our living room for quite a while and once I made it, I loved it so much, I made two more for my kid's rooms! (oh, and a couple for gifts too!) I love this idea because it is super easy, inexpensive and looks great! With just a blank canvas (any size, depending on where you'll put it..) some scrap booking paper, a glue stick and some mod podge, you'll have an original piece of art for your your living room, office, laundry room...anywhere!!! The best part is you can customize this to fit any space, any decor and it makes the perfect gift for ANY occasion!!! I chose to do a "family rules" canvas for our house (be kind, share...etc.) and an "I promise to..." canvas for my kids rooms with things my hubby and I promise to do with/for our kids (teach them to dance, throw, ride, read to them, kiss them goodnight...etc.) So are you up for a project??
Start with the blank canvas and cut the scrap booking paper into strips to fit the canvas. Choose three or four coordinating patterns and make sure they are not too dark as you're writing will not show up. Either print onto the paper from your computer or trace the letters as I did. I suggest changing up the fonts for a little character. Next, glue the strips to the canvas with a glue stick and let dry. Then cover the piece with mod podge (which dries clear and flat..) and you've done it!! Where will you put yours??

                                                                For the entry way...
                                                                    My son's room...
                                                                    And my daughter's!!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Summer Salads

Ok, I know I have been pushing fall for weeks now, and it's officially here, but because there are a few hot ones still to come, I urge you to take advantage of what's left of all that yummy summer produce out there. Juicy watermelon, berries, sweet corn and buttery avocados, to name a few, are just at the end of their season so why not use 'em up and enjoy them one last time? A great way to do that in one fell swoop? In a big old salad! Lately, I've been working on getting my kids (and hubby, let's be honest) to eat a larger variety of fruits and veggies and this is a great way to load their plates of with an assortment of healthy and delicious foods. It's easier to get kids to try things if you don't make a big deal out of it and just simply add it to their plate with foods they already like. You don't only have to use lettuce for a base; you can use rice, pasta, potatoes...anything!! So what perfect timing for a delicious dressing recipe from Ellen, our in-house pastry chef and sister extraordinaire! I know for me, some of the ingredients are a little exotic (you can tell I'm a simple cook!) but keep them on hand and it will force you to use them more often and get creative!! They will last forever says Ellen, and you will find use after use for them! What will you make??

  3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  2 tablespoons peanut butter
  2 teaspoons brown sugar
  3/4 teaspoon hot chile paste
  1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (or powdered)
  3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  1 tablespoon sesame oil

This dressing was great with a salad made of romaine, chicken, mandarin oranges and cashews. Oh, and I threw in some crunchy noodles in there for good measure!! Enjoy!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pallet Perfect

The time had come for me to revamp the kitchen wall above my table. It was blah and boring and I couldn't stand looking at it any longer. A couple collage style frames and a large letter and it just needed...something. I had been toying with the idea of using a pallet as a shelf for a while and after browsing Pinterest a bit, I decided it was time. Although it would be bulky and heavy, I knew it was just the change I needed. So my darling hubby was able to find one lying around and he was sweet enough to hang it for me. With my blank canvas, I started to place items and decided a few frames, the large letter and a few of the kids crafts would be a good start. I love the way it looks and love the character it adds to my house. It is definitely a statement piece and one that I will leave for a while. Sometimes you have to step outside the box and do something a little different, a little daring and for me, that came in the form of a, easy and full of charm!! What will your next DIY project be??

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Rotisserie Chicken

 I've never been one to buy a rotisserie chicken but I had a couple of recipes in mind that would be perfect with that slowly cooked, fall-off-the-bone flavor that the rotisserie chicken is known for. Sure, I could just throw a few chicken breasts in the crock-pot and let it do all the work for me but I figured for around the same price, I could have instant gratification. My chicken was $7.99 at Vons but I've seen them on sale for as low as five bucks so stock up when they are on sale. Throw a salad and veggie or potatoes with it and you've got yourself a quick, healthy meal. It's better than fast-food and super tasty.
So with my chicken in hand, I got crackin'. First, I wanted to make a chicken salad. At least once a week, and usually on karate nights when we are rushed, I make a simple supper of soup and salad or sandwiches and chips with fruit. So this would be perfect. I like mine with a little crunch and texture so I combined about two cups of shredded chicken, a handful of pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and a big scoop of cranberries. I mixed it all with about a half a cup of mayo and a little salt and pepper and my salad was ready! Served on soft-baked ciabatta rolls from the bakery, I had created a delicious sandwich that blew my typical, boring, ham and cheese outta the water!
For the next dish, I made a creamy lemon garlic pasta with the rest of the chicken. I boiled a box of Barilla callentani pasta and set aside. I browned two chopped garlic cloves, a teaspoon of butter and the juice of one lemon then added two cups of heavy cream and let it come to a slow simmer. I then added oregano, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Once combined with the chicken and pasta, it made a perfect, comforting meal!! Of course, no pasta dish is complete without garlic bread! So what will you make with your rotisserie chicken???

                                             Tangy, crunchy and delicious chicken salad!!!

                                                  Mix the cream sauce, chicken and pasta...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mom Jeans

While shopping with a girlfriend recently, we couldn't help but notice we were continuously drawn to all You know what I mean...we all have our "uniform", our go-to outfits for day-to-day. Mine is jeans, a tank and flip-flops. Or if I'm feeling especially ambitious, sneakers and sweats in hopes that I might get a quick walk in. But either way, each outfit is undeniably boring, boring, boring. Oh, and slightly frumpy when you add the ponytail and day old makeup to the mix. Now, I'm not saying I can't pull it together when need be, but my attire usually falls by the wayside in light of all I'm trying to accomplish during the day. Getting my kids dressed, fed, and entertained with unending messes to tend to, I just don't have the motivation to take it up a notch. Us moms are usually the last to eat, the last to sit down at the end of the day and the last to go shopping for ourselves. Somehow our family budget never seems to allow for frivolous shopping on my part. Shoes for the kids? Check. Tires for the car? Money to pay the sky-high electric bill?? Yes. We somehow manage for those necessities but mommy gets put on the back burner.
So with coupons in hand, my cohort and I decided it was time to shop. You don't have to break the bank to freshen your wardrobe either. Places like Old Navy, Forever 21, Target and Kohl's ALWAYS have sales and coupons available. Without spending a ton, we chose a few great pieces to add to our closet. Over and over, we picked out things in dark colors to camouflage spit-up, stains and snot, items with elastic and anything under ten dollars. After consulting the mirror in the dressing room, we decided enough was enough. Time to spruce things up a little. Without spending a ton, we chose a few great pieces to add to our closet.
The cute boat neck top with stripes would be just as comfortable as the plain, boring t-shirt so into the "keep" pile it went. Stretch jeans comfy enough to hang around the house in, sit on the floor and play in and wear for the rare night out were keepers. We figured we could easily trade the boring, tired pieces for things with a bit more personality without sacrificing comfort. Live in sweats and yoga pants?? No problemo. Maybe try a fresh pair in a bright color or with a splashy pattern. Can't part with the tanks you have in every color? Fine, but try them layered or under a plaid shirt or yes, I'm going to say it...a blouse. We are adults and so we figured it was time to start dressing like them (or at least try). We don't intend to toss our favorite sweatpants or warm-ups any time soon but little by little, we are bringing "grown-up" back. I vow to lose the ponytail from time to time and break my jewelry out of cobwebs once in a while. It just takes a few touches to look better but more importantly, feel better. We are moms first and there's no reason we can't feel great while mastering the toughest job in the world. How do you dress it up?

Monday, September 3, 2012

A (Separate) Date Night

Since our anniversary, my hubby and I have had a pair of movie passes burning a hole wallet. So we decided the time had come to use them. Now, this is a big deal for us. Because movies have become outrageously expensive, they are more of a treat these days. So the sitters were in place. We just had to decide on a movie. This was no easy feat considering there are so many good ones out right now and we both wanted to see different ones. I was leaning towards Hope Springs and my hubby wanted to see Avengers so we had a choice to make...or did we??
Both movies happened to be playing the SAME time at the theater we wanted to go to. Coincidence? I think not. Why couldn't we go out together and see different movies? What was stopping us? Nothing, that's what. Why should either of us sit through a movie we didn't want to see, bored out of our mind?? So we got in line, purchased our tickets and headed inside. Large popcorn, please, split for two. A quick kiss and we were off to our movies. As I settled in and enjoyed all the was chick-flick-esque, I knew Mike was enjoying some action packed adventure of his own. A couple hours later and we were reunited. Off to dinner we went, hand in hand, to catch up. It was the perfect date night and although it may not sound like the most romantic outing, it worked for us. Quirky? Perhaps. A little weird? Maybe, but that's just how we roll.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Fall Crafts

Every mom I know enjoys (or at least endures..) doing crafts with their kids...and the kids?? They love them! Getting their hands dirty, playing with beads, sequins, glitter, glue, buttons and ALL things messy is not just fun for kids, but a way to learn as well. Yes, you will have to sweep (again!) and your kids will probably need a bath but why not whip out the craft box and let 'em at it? I know, it takes effort but really, you are doing them a service by expanding their activities and letting them strengthen their creative muscle.
This week, I had my kids make place mats with puffy paper and stickers, face masks, and fall wreaths out of some old cardboard and glued-on plastic leaves. (It's safer to use white school glue but I hate the stuff and usually opt for hot glue. Just be VERY careful!!!) Your projects don't have to be over-the-top or expensive to make. Most were a dollar or less and honestly, our crafts take less than half an hour but the kids get so excited to show Daddy when he gets home! Oh, and don't forget nature walks and trips to the park to collect pine cones, sticks and other FREE materials for your crafts! What will you make for fall??

 Place mats... 
 ..and masks!!
Don't forget...fall wreaths!! 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Let 'Em Dip!

Got kids who are picky eaters? Me too. It's super annoying and frustrating, isn't it?? After preparing a healthy and delicious meal only to have my kids turn their noses up to it is...disheartening. But lately I think I've gotten to the bottom of it. Here are a few things I've tweaked in our day that seem to have helped and get my kids to eat more:

-First of all, I don't make my kids a separate meal anymore...I did this for waaaay too long before just getting irritated but if they have a willing parent who will make the grilled cheese, chicken nuggets...etc. every night, why not ask for it?? I don't even give them the option. I always serve a little of whatever I'm making that night and add a fruit or veggies with ranch. I give them several different things on their plate, along with something familiar that I know they already eat, and they are more likely to try it.
- Next, I stopped letting them graze all day. My kids would snack too much and not be hungry for the meal. Now, if they are hungry close to dinnertime, I offer fruit or something light to hold them over.
- If dinnertime squabbles arise, I simply suggest they take a couple bites to taste what I've made then back off. If by the end of the meal they still haven't tried it, I  leave it at the table. Later, when they ask for a snack or dessert, I take them back to the plate and offer it again. That's it. My kids would rather get through a couple bites during dinner than have to eat it cold later. The point here is to get your kids to try new things, not join the clean plate club. A couple bites is all we're looking for.
- Lastly, let them dip! I often serve little cups with ranch, BBQ sauce, ketchup...whatever your kids favorite dips are and let them eat their meal while dipping. My son has been known to dip his turkey into peanut butter...strange, but he finished it!! It gives them a little independence and any time there's an opportunity to let them help with a meal or pour on their own sauce, let them. They will be more enthusiastic to eat something they had a hand in. Good luck!!
What are your tricks to get your kids to eat??

          Apples with peanut butter (I also served whole-wheat crackers..) is a typical breakfast
****Disclaimer...if your kids have special nutritional needs or struggle with their weight, speak to their pediatrician before following these tips!