Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lemon Loaf

I love lemon in an oddly intense sort of way.  I love lemon candy, lemon cake, lemon pie, and lemon pudding.  I love it in my water.  I love it squeezed on fish or chicken.  I love how it makes a disposal smell all fresh.  Told you.  Odd.
The point of this whole story, is I made blueberry butter.  This, of course, needed something to be spread on.  What better than a bright, little bit tart, loaf of lemon bread?  In my humble opinion, nothing.  The tang and freshness of lemon topped with smooth, sweet blueberry goodness.  A perfect pair.

Lemon Loaf
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. buttermilk
zest of 1 lemon
Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl.
Add eggs and continue to mix until light and fluffy.
Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a small bowl.
Add flour mixture, half at a time, alternating with the buttermilk also half at a time.
Blend in zest.
Pour into a well greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Cool in pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.
Squeeze the juice of a lemon half over the top of the bread while it is still hot.
***Want to make some blueberry butter for your lemon bread?  Check out how here!***

Friday, June 28, 2013

Emma's Origami-The Piano

I have been trying to keep my little people VERY busy this summer.  Idle hands, right?  So far, my 10 year old daughter's favorite activity is origami.  It is a nice project because it is pretty instant gratification.  Since she is having so much fun with it, I decided to share some of her favorites with you!  Happy folding! 

The Piano

You will need:
origami paper
pen or marker to draw on keys

What you do:
Fold paper in half.  The color inside will be the color of the keys.
Fold the paper in half again,

then open the last fold, revealing a line down the center of the rectangle.  Fold each side into this center line.

Open the sides back up.  Your rectangle should have three crease lines.

Gently separate the layers of the side flaps

and make triangle folds at the top.

Fold the center flap up, to meet the base of the triangles,

then fold up again, making a crease along the base of the triangles.  This is the keyboard.

Fold the sides back in

then gently open them back up and allow the keyboard to fall into place.  Draw the keys on the keyboard and you are finished!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Simple Suppers-Pasta with Tomatoes and Chickpeas

I came home from vacation on a Sunday night to an empty fridge.  I was so tired of eating fast food that the thought of another French fry made me want to chuck.  Luckily, while we were making family feasts on our trip, my sister whipped up a yummy dish.  It was a sauté that included chickpeas, and a can of diced tomatoes along with some other veggies and my all time favorite spice...cumin.  It inspired this simple and speedy pantry dinner.  So, if you are too tired after a long day to make a labor intensive meal(or you have NOTHING in your fridge), try this. 

Pasta with Tomatoes and Chickpeas
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. cumin (or more to taste)
1 tsp. coriander (or more to taste)
1 can (15-ish oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can (15-ish oz.) diced tomatoes
about 1/2 box pasta
salt and pepper
feta cheese, crumbled for topping (or parmesan or none if you have NOTHING)
Heat a large pot of water to boiling and add pasta and salt and cook according to box directions.
While pot heats and pasta cooks, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.
Add garlic and cook, slowly being careful not to burn it, until straw colored and sticky.
Add cumin and coriander and cook 30 seconds, until fragrant.
Add chickpeas and crank heat up to medium.  Cook any residual moisture off beans.
Add tomatoes and raise heat to medium-high, allowing sauce to thicken slightly.
When pasta is almost done, scoop out of water with tongs or pasta scoop and toss directly into sauce.
Toss pasta and sauce together.  If it seems dry, add some pasta cooking liquid.
I grow parsley, so I minced some up and tossed it in to add a little color.
Serve topped with cheese.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Winey Wednesday-That's Not Wine!

I actually have a few wines waiting in the wings to review, but today, in honor and appreciation of my friend Cathy, I am going to share my new favorite nightcap. 
I am sure you have seen commercials for this most fantastic beverage all during the Real Housewives of O.C. (they must know all the ACTUAL housewives watching the show need a little tipple).   It is sweet and limey and refreshing, making it the perfect summertime cocktail (minus the mixing).  I drink this chilled and poured over crushed ice at the end of a particularly trying day (the alcohol level is 8% so it REALLY takes the edge off).  They sell it everywhere and it comes in a strawberry version which I will be trying when I suck down all the lime!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Simple Sides-Summer Vegetable Sauté

For me, summertime meals are all about simple cooking that makes the most of all the beautiful, fresh produce at out fingertips.  Here is Ohio, we are just beginning to get early crops of squash, so last night for dinner, I decided to whip up one of my people's favorite side dishes.  It is simple to make and easy to manipulate, depending on what you have on hand.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Summer Vegetable Sauté
olive oil
zucchini (I used 3 small-ish ones), sliced
yellow squash (I used 3 small-ish ones), sliced
bell pepper (I used about 1/2 pepper because that was all I had, but I like more), chopped
salt and pepper
Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium- high heat.
Add olive oil and heat until shimmering.
Add veggies and cook, stirring occasionally until browning and cooked to your liking (we like them more firm than soft).
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Fitness Fridays - Summertime Fun

Walking the beach with my boys (In some VERY unflattering shorts.  No worries, I am burning them NOW!).

I have been trying my darnedest to get out and enjoy the wonderful warm weather, and you should too!  Here are a few reasons:

1 hour of hiking = 422 calories
1 hour of badminton = 317 calories
1 hour of moderately rowing a canoe = 493 calories
1 hour of hopscotch = 352 calories
1 hour of moderate bicycling = 563 calories
1 hour of Frisbee = 211 calories
1 hour of gardening = 281 calories
1 hour of mowing your lawn with a push mower = 387 calories
1 hour of walking with your kids around the neighborhood = 176 calories
1 hour of roller-skating = 493 calories
1 hour of swimming leisurely = 422 calories
1 hour of jumping on the trampoline = 246 calories

Shocked?  Excited?  Motivated?  I hope so!  Grab your kiddies and get out and play!  Your butt will thank you!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Traveling Food

I cook at home a LOT and I like to do the same on vacation.  It is so much easier to eat in than try to take three small people out.  The problem is, vacation cooking sucks.  The pots never have matching lids, the knives are dull and your pantry full of spices and staples is hundreds of miles away. 
I was trying to come up with a meal plan for the week and it occurred to me that I could pre-mix the dry ingredients for things like biscuits and pancakes in gallon bags.  All I would have to do on vacation is add in eggs, butter, and buttermilk which are things I would have to buy for the week anyway.

I bagged my mixes up and wrote what I needed to add on the outside.  Biscuits and gravy and homemade pancakes on vacation?  Don't mind if I do.
Biscuit Mix:
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
Add to the mix:
6 Tbsp. butter
3/4 c. buttermilk
Cut in the butter until it looks like coarse sand (use a hand mixer, pastry cutter or 2 knives).
Stir in buttermilk.
Pat dough into a rectangle-ish shape 1/2" thick and cut into squares.
Bake at 500 degrees 10-12 minutes.
Pancake Mix:
1-1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
Add to the mix:
1-1/4 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. milk
1 egg
2 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
Mix together the wet ingredients and gently stir into the dry mix until moistened and only small lumps remain.
Spoon by the 1/4 c. onto a hot griddle or non-stick skillet coated with butter or non-stick spray.
Cook until golden on the bottom and dry and bubbled on top.  Flip and cook until second side is lightly browned.
***You may notice the measurements on my bags are different than my recipes.  I was feeding 8-10 people, so I made double batches.*** 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Winey Wednesdays

I just got back from a huge family vacation in the Outer Banks.  It was wonderful.  Lots or ocean, pool, family, food and WINE!  It was nice to have more than one bottle open at a time (usually it is just me drinking, don't judge, I am home with three kids all day) so I could taste them side by side and see the differences.  It made it much easier to identify subtle flavors.  I enjoyed it so much, that I see a wine tasting party in my future!
Today, I am sharing my personal favorite wine from my trip.  My sister and sister-in-law brought it, so I don't have price info, but they tend to stay in the $12-$15 range like me. 

This wine is a Pinot Noir.  The label describes it as having flavors of "dark cherry and wild thyme".  I was surprised at how light it was when I poured it into my glass.  The color made me expect a light flavor, but I was surprised to find the wine was pleasantly rich.  It had a fruity and sweet flavor, but was not cloying.  It was a very full, but not heavy wine.  I really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Banana Lover's Banana Bread

My husband LOVES banana bread.  I'm pretty sure it has more to do with the fact that I add chocolate chips or peanut butter chips (or both) when I mix it up.  I have been using the same recipe for years and it is always a big hit.  Unfortunately for my husband, I am not one of those people who believes if you should not mess with a good thing.
I came across this recipe on the wide wide world of Pinterest and loved the simplicity.  It is apparently from an eatery known for it's wonderful banana bread and was featured in Bon Appetit.  I had some sketchy bananas so I figured I would give it a try. 
I discovered this loaf browns dramatically while baking (so don't freak out) and is wonderful when eaten fresh from the oven.  It is has a slightly crispy and chewy crust with a densely freckled, cakey interior.  After it cools, you should warm it up in the microwave or even the toaster because it is not as good room temp.
I will say, I found it yummy and much more banana-y than my stand-by recipe, but my husband and little people were not fans.  I don't think the recipe is to blame, clearly it was my fault for not adding chocolate chips...

Banana Lover's Banana Bread
Nonstick spray
1-3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt                                        
3 eggs
1-1/2 c. sugar
1 c. mashed ripe bananas (it took 3 for me)
3/4 c. vegetable oil
Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
Whisk eggs, sugar, bananas, and oil in a large bowl until smooth.
Add dry ingredients to banana mixture and stir just until combined.
Scrape batter into a loaf pan sprayed with nonstick spray and smooth top. 
Bake at 350 degrees until a tester inserted into the center of bread comes out clean, about 60-70 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack; let bread cool in pan for 15 minutes.
Run a knife around inside of pan to release the bread.
Turn out onto rack and let cool completely.

***I found this recipe here ***

Monday, June 17, 2013

Make It Monday - Sand Casting

When I was planning my family vacation this year, I remembered a fun project I did as a kid, sand casting.  Basically, you make a mold with sand and pour on Plaster of Paris.  When the plaster hardens, it captures some of the sand, giving you a cool, sand dusted form.
I decided to do this on the beach to avoid hauling copious amounts of sand into a rented beach house (you are welcome homeowner).  I will tell you, depending on the beach you are at, the sand will be different affecting how intricate you can be with your mold.  The sand at the Outer Banks is pretty coarse and we could not letter or do small casts.  Feet and hands worked the best for us.  Try it and you will be able to tell if the sand will cooperate.
If you decide to do this at home, buy sand at any home improvement store.  Be sure to get the finest grain they offer, you will get a much more detailed cast.  While you are there, pick up a box of Plaster of Paris, they sell it there too. 
These casts are pretty easy to break, so if you want to keep it FOREVER don't let your kids play with them.

Sand Casting
What you need:
tray to hold sand (if you are doing this at home)
Plaster of Paris
bowl and spoon (metal) to mix plaster
items to make molds of (keep it simple, shells, hands, feet or simply designed items)
What you do:

Mix the sand with enough water to make it damp, but not wet.
Make impressions in the damp sand with items. (Please note, I am using shells in this picture but they did not turn out well, the sand was too coarse.  We will do this project again at home using finer sand and shells.)

Mix up the plaster following directions.  Mine was a 4-1 ratio of water to mix.  Add more water if needed to make it pourable.  Pour mix over molds.  Let dry according to package directions.  Mine were ready after an hour. 
Gently brush off excess sand with a soft brush to reveal your cast!
***Want another cool kid friendly project?  Check out how to make salt clay.***

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Better late then never right?  I spent 11 hours in a car with three small people, then had to unpack, then had to go to the store since said small people act like it's child abuse if there is no milk in our fridge, AND there are still two hours left of the day so I figure I'm still good.  Here is a peek at the reasons my husband gets to celebrate today...

RE-DIC-ULOUS.  I know.  I made them.
Tomorrow I will show you how cute they are in their manly picture frame.  Tonight I am too tired to do anything else.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Vacation Internet Blues

Today is the last day of my vacation.  I had visions of blogging grandeur when I was planning this trip.  I would show the fantastic things we all did, ate and made.  But alas, the internet fairy has been a cruel bitch.  Sometimes she graces me with her presence, sometimes she comes in bursts, taking the cable as she leaves, and sometimes she stays at the beach, doing NOTHING.  I have some wonderful things to share, and I am sadly excited to get home and show you!  Until then, I will leave you with this...

Nags Head, Outer Banks

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Winey Wednesday

I was scrolling through my pictures to see if I had any projects I had forgotten to post when it hit me.  It's Wednesday and I have a wine to review!  Trust me, you will want to read this.

If you remember, the whole point of this Winey Wednesday thing was to find what wine I liked.  Through trial and error, I have discovered the characteristics I tend to prefer and (added bonus) been more patient and relaxed with my children (weird). 
I bought this wine on a whim at Dotty Lane (better known as Dorothy Lane Market but having nicknames for well known places makes me feel superior).  It was on sale from $15.99 down to $9.99.  As I'm sure you can guess, I made my selection solely based on name and label.
This is the best red wine I have ever had.  It is flavorful, fruit forward with very little bite.  I don't typically like wine with food, but this one went with my chicken dinner very well.  Best part was no headache in the morning!  If you ever come across this wine, buy it, buy it, buy it.  Oh, and then drink it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Make It Monday- Salt Clay

School's out!  School's Out!  It is amazing how quickly childhood boredom sets in.  It's also amazing how quickly adult insanity sets in.  I am thinking the two MIGHT be connected...

I have decided to try to keep my kids as entertained this summer as possible with the hopes of keeping my personal crazy level to a minimum.  To spread the sanity, I will share my activities with you (unfortunately that is mostly my family and I can tell you, sanity in that group is a pipe dream).

Today's summer activity idea is salt clay.  My kids had a lot of fun with this.  First, they got to make the clay, then they could play with it and make things and smoosh them and make more.  When they were done smooshing, they made final cutouts and pinch pots to dry.  Once their pieces were dry, they got to paint and decorate.

It was a simple project that does not take a bunch of supplies, making it easy to whip up on a whim.  If your kids are driving you crazy, bust this one out.  Maybe it will give you a couple minutes of peace.  Use it to pee.

Salt Clay
1 cup table salt
1 cup flour
1/2 cup water
Stir together flour and salt.
Add water and stir into a soft dough.
Knead until smooth and no pockets of flour remain.
Use to make pinch pots, sculptures, or roll out and cut with cookie cutters.
Let dry or bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour.  Bigger or thicker items may take longer to dry.
Paint and decorate as desired!
***Want another cool boredom buster?  Check out sand casting. ***