Cooking for a family, while making family time

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Baby-Sitters Club Viewing Party

Baby-Sitters Club Viewing Party

Summer 2020 is different to say the least. I know each of us parents are trying our very best to make the most of a difficult situation. Finding small things to look forward to has made a big difference in morale around my house. As […]

Deconstructed Berry Shortcake

Deconstructed Berry Shortcake

My favorite thing to during late spring and summer time is to take my kids berry picking to a few of our favorite local farms. This is my own little version of “farm to table”. We pick various berries and cherries in the morning and […]

Teddy Bear Toast

Teddy Bear Toast

This fun little breakfast has been a family favorite since my oldest was a toddler. It’s different enough to be considered a “special breakfast” and easy enough to pull together with stuff you already have in your pantry. The hardest part of this is getting your bear shape, for which I have a tip below!

Ingredients:
Bread, toasted
Peanut butter, Nutella or other sun/nut butter of choice
1 banana

Fresh blueberries

Method:

Toast your bread and choose your spread. Now start by making your bear head first. I use one tablespoon of peanut butter, in the middle of my piece of toast. My tip for getting circles to create the bear head, and then ears is to use the back of your spoon. In a circular motion, using the back of your spoon, spread your peanut butter evenly into a circle head shape. Next, using 2 smaller spoonfuls of peanut butter and do the same back of the spoon circular motion to create the ears.

Once your toast has the bear shape it’s time to create your face. Start by slicing your banana and gently pressing down two pieces in the center of the ears. Next place a third piece of banana towards the bottom of your bear face. Then place two similarly sized blueberries above the bottom piece of banana as the eyes. The last blueberry for the nose will need a little smear of peanut butter to stick on top of the banana. That’s it, you’ve made an adorable, edible little piece of teddy bear toast for your children to enjoy!

This recipe is perfect for one of my add-on learning activities. For toddlers and preschoolers play the song “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” this can be found on YouTube. Next make an obstacle course in or out of your house to enrich the kids experience of the hunt. Find things for the kids to go under, over and through. Some ideas if stuck inside include climbing under the table, over the chair and through the dining room.

Once you finish your bear hunt, read a book about bears, such as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Or if your children are older, a Berenstain Bear book. Have the kids draw their own bear, or their favorite part of the story. While they doodle you go make the toast.

Here are some of our favorite books about bears.

My son loves to call this “Mickey toast” so have fun with it! Turn the lesson into one about Mickey Mouse. Or better yet, create your own toast animal and use whatever resources you have at home to pull your lesson plan together. The point is just to get in some learning while also having fun and getting fed!
Keto Lunchables

Keto Lunchables

This fun little lunch idea came about one morning when packing my husband his lunch. Taking the bread out of the lunch combination kind of reminded me of something from my own childhood, Lunchables! Still to this day they are beloved in school cafeterias all […]

Red Wine Sangria

Red Wine Sangria

I just fell in love with sangria in college. There was a popular Mexican chain restaurant that my friends and I used to go to all the time. We’d get pitchers of sangria and eat all the chips and salsa we wanted. It didn’t take […]

5 ingredient or less dinners

5 ingredient or less dinners

We all find ourselves in a dinner jam, time and again. The best remedy to this unavoidable problem is an arsenal of quick recipes. A lot of these ingredients you will find are pantry staples, like jarred sauces or freezer items like waffles and vegetables. A few of these products are Trader Joe’s exclusives, however I’ve included substitutions that will work just fine. One meal in particular (Carne Asada) will require Trader Joe’s products, so if you’re unable to shop there, omit that one. You will find that a couple of these recipes are ones that I have posted before, however they also fall into the 5 ingredient or less column as well.

Spinach Tortellini

Ingredients: (TWO)

1 package fresh cheese or cheese and spinach tortellini

1 jar marinara sauce

Optional ingredients:

Fresh grated Italian cheese
Grilled chicken

Fresh spinach

Method:

Cook tortellini according to package instructions. Toss with warm marinara and serve. EASY!

If using additional ingredients. Grill chicken, while water boils and tortellini cooks. While marinara warms up toss in fresh spinach to wilt. Stir cooked tortellini with spinach marinara, top with grilled chicken and fresh grated cheese.

Any fresh tortellini and jarred marinara sauce will work. Extra points for fresh grated cheese, additional spinach, or grilled chicken, but they’re not a must.

This is not only an easy dinner but a quick one! Fresh pasta (bought in the refrigerated section) cooks super fast! You can easily have dinner on the table in under 10 minutes. To really pump this dinner up add extra of the additional ingredients, garlic bread and a salad.

Pancetta Alfredo

Ingredients: (THREE)

1 box fettuccine noodles
1 jar alfredo sauce

4-6oz chopped pancetta

Optional ingredients:

Fresh basil
Frozen peas

Parmesan

Method:

Crisp up pancetta in a frying pan until crisp. Cook fettuccine according to package instruction. Once done toss the pasta in the alfredo sauce, top with pancetta and serve.

If using additional ingredients, heat peas in microwave, then toss in the hot pasta and sauce. Top with pancetta, fresh basil and grated Parmesan.

Another easy dinner, and pasta is a comfort food win. Secret tip, if your jarred alfredo is looking thin, add in a spoonful or two of plain cream cheese. This will thicken up your sauce without changing the flavor.

To keep this easy if you can’t find pancetta in your deli section, crisp up and chop bacon instead.

Chicken and Waffle Bites

Ingredients: (THREE)

Frozen 4 section waffles
Frozen or fresh chicken nuggets

Maple syrup

Optional ingredients:

Fresh thyme
Honey

Crushed red pepper flakes

Method:

Toast waffles a little extra, you want them to have enough structure to hold up to the toppings. Bake or air fry your chicken until done. Place warm chicken nuggets on top of toasted waffles. Top with maple syrup and serve.

If using additional ingredients it will really only effect your toppings. Still cook your chicken and waffles as mentioned above. For a more “grown up sauce” stir honey and red pepper flakes together with fresh thyme. If you find this sauce to be too thick you can thin it out with a bit of warm water to reach a more syrup like consistency.

For smaller children feel free to use pancake syrup and not real maple syrup. This will give it more of a sweet, familiar flavor that the kids will love. Adults, you can also buy pre-made hot honey in the store.

Mashed Potato Pizza

This is one of my most popular recipes and for good reason, it’s delicious! This went from an annual post-Thanksgiving treat to now being part of our regular dinner rotation.

Ingredients: (FOUR)

1 can refrigerated pizza dough
1/2-1 cup cooked, chopped bacon
1 cup leftover or instant mashed potatoes

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Optional ingredients:

Garlic powder
Dried oregano

Sour cream

Method:

Preheat your oven according to pizza dough pack instructions. Roll out your pizza dough and if using additional ingredients sprinkle with garlic power and oregano to season. Next pre-bake your crust 8 minutes. Once done take out and evenly spread mashed potatoes on top of the pizza crust. Sprinkle on cheese, top with crumbled bacon and back into the oven it goes for 10 more minutes. Once done, slice up and serve warm, use sour cream for dipping if desired.

If you like to menu plan like I do, plan to get a 5lb bag of potatoes for the week. Make a double batch of mashed potatoes with whatever you like for one dinner. Then save the leftovers to use in this pizza to make for dinner another night that week. This pizza makes for one agreeable dinner, I love to serve mine with a side salad and call it a night.

Sandwich Bites

This is another recipe I have posted before but you may not have realized how EASY it really is.

Ingredients: (THREE)

1 can refrigerated crescent dough
1/2lb lunch meat of your choice

1 cup sandwich or shredded cheese of choice

Optional ingredients:

Everything bagel seasoning
Spinach
Mustard
Marinara sauce

Melted butter

Method:

Preheat your oven according to crescent dough package instructions. Unroll your dough and cut each crescent roll into 2-3 long triangles/strips. Layer each dough strip with lunch meat and cheese of choosing. Roll up, brush melted butter on top, if desired, place of baking sheet and cook 10-12 minutes. Done! So easy!

Now you can go crazy with these. Any combinations you like, any sauces you like, any seasonings you like. Do a ham and cheese and dip them in a honey mustard. Turkey and cheese with everything bagel seasoning on top. Pepperoni and mozzarella with a marinara dipping sauce. Vegetarian? Do spinach and artichokes, sun dried tomatoes or hummus. Whatever filling you like, try it out. These little bite size sandwiches cook fast which is perfect in a rush. I usually pair ours with soup and a salad. My favorite quick soup being, these Pacific brand boxed soups, found in the organic section of your grocery store.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

Ingredients: (THREE)

2 bags chopped Caesar salad kit
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders
Seasoning for your chicken, this grinder from Trader Joe’s is my new favorite for chicken.

Method:

Season chicken well on both sides, then either grill, bake or air fry until done. Set chicken aside to rest. Mix together both bags of salad in a large bowl. Slice cooked chicken to lay over the top of the salad and serve.

This bagged salad is my FAVORITE. I buy at least 2-3 per week to have with dinner. If the salad is the main dish like in this recipe, I recommend using 2 bags of salad.

Carne Asada Street Corn

This one will require the two ingredients be bought from Trader Joe’s as they are exclusive products. However, that being said, they are both SO tasty they’re worth the trip to get.

Ingredients (TWO):

1 package carne asada
1 bag frozen Mexican street corn mix

Method:

Grill your steak until done to your desired internal temperature. While the steak cooks, warm up the corn on the stove according to package instructions. Slice steak, and lay over corn. That’s it, easy! This one is so flavorful, really, you cannot get more of a bang for your buck than with these 2 products. If you’d like to round out the meal to feed a larger family, I sometimes heat up a can of refried beans and cook some rice to go with.

Cornstarch Dough

Cornstarch Dough

I’m sure you’ve seen these dough recipes floating around the internet, called soft play dough, cloud dough or moon dough. They are all basically the same which is a super simple recipe of cornstarch and hair conditioner. That’s it! Now let me be clear, this […]

Easy Sandwich Bread

Easy Sandwich Bread

Once that grocery store panic hit I knew it was time to focus on a bread recipe. It’s always said “grab the bread, eggs and milk” and now of course we all realize toilet paper should never be left off that list. No matter the […]

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen

It’s that time of year again, warm weather and fresh starts are upon us. Also time to use some elbow grease and do some of the chores we tend to put off over the winter. This is a little off brand for me, however, you can’t cook without a kitchen so it’s all relative I suppose. A clean and organized kitchen makes cooking a lot more enjoyable and maintainable. Here’s my list of spring cleaning kitchen must dos as well as some tried and true home made cleaning solutions I like to use.

  1. Oven
  2. Refrigerator
  3. Freezer
  4. Cabinets
  5. Sink
  6. Counters and backsplash
  7. Floor
  8. Microwave
  9. Toaster, coffee pot, and other counter top appliances
  10. Stove vents

Other possible chores

  1. Dishwasher
  2. Pantry
  3. Glasses, dishes and cutlery
  4. Spice rack
  5. Garbage disposal

Ok now I know that looks like a lot. You do not need to do all of this, only what pertains to you and the current state of your kitchen. Let’s dive in, I promise your kitchen will be sparkling clean in no time.

Oven

Not going to lie, I hate cleaning the oven, or I should say I hated cleaning the oven. With the new solution I found the grime comes off pretty easily. The best part, no harsh chemicals or airing out the house/self cleaning oven mode needed. My oven was in rough shape so much so I didn’t even take a proper “before” picture until the solution was on, however you can still see what a big difference it made.

Oven cleaning solution:

1/2 cup warm water
1/3 cup baking soda

1 tbl dish soap

Mix all of the ingredients above together in a medium size bowl, this is going to expand a little bit from the reaction of your baking soda and water. You’re looking for a paste consistency and once that’s reached it’s time to start. With an old dish sponge or cleaning sponge wipe down the entire oven. Take the oven racks out and use the solution on those as well. Now let the oven cleaning solution sit in your oven for 30 minutes. When your time is up, using a clean sponge or towel wipe down the entire oven with warm water. You may need to repeat wiping down your oven a few times until it is residue free. Rinse your oven racks in the sink and put back in. That’s it! A nice clean oven with a lot less scrubbing.

With the 30 minutes you have to wait for your oven to clean why not use this solution in other areas of your kitchen? With any extra solution wipe down your microwave and take the microwave glass plate out to wipe down as well. Next wipe down your sink, faucet and handles. Chances are your microwave and sink aren’t as tough to clean as your oven so let the solution sit only 10 minutes or so and wipe clean with warm water. This solution also works for flat glass stove tops. And just like that 3 of 10 tasks are done!

Refrigerator and Freezer

I do a good clean out of my inventory a few times a year but honestly a lot of the condiments and door items get overlooked. So first start by emptying out the contents of your fridge, side note don’t take on cleaning the fridge and freezer after a big grocery trip, wait until things are sparse then clean before you shop. Now a few general rules, anything leaking, smelly, or you can’t remember how old it is just toss immediately. Now start to check dates on all condiments, salad dressings, marinades and sauces. Anything expired, toss. Any shelving that’s easily removable, take out and wipe down with warm soapy water. If you can’t remove your shelves a bowl of warm soapy water or spray bottle will work. Wipe out all drawers the same way, as well as door shelves. I like to take my door shelves off, take them apart and wash them in my sink. However if yours are not easy to remove or take apart, simply wiping them down will do. Repeat this same method with your freezer, but working much quicker with the wipe down process as the soapy water can freeze easily when working. I suggest a small amount of soapy water on a sponge in one hand and a dry cloth in the other to work quickly wiping as you go. Restore all your goodies to your fridge and freezer knowing anything you pull out is ready for eating. For any extra tough spots or stains use the abrasive side on your sponge. Now is also a good time to wipe down the front, sides and handles of your fridge and freezer, as well as dusting off the top. Reorganize any magnets you have hung up, and be sure take down any old coupons or spelling tests you’ve hung up.

 

Counter tops, cabinets and backsplash

Cabinet doors I find to be the most time consuming. You also do not want to use anything too harsh that could harm the finish on your cabinets. I use a 50/50 mixture of warm water and white vinegar. Then using a spray bottle or soft cloth wipe down each cabinet, this works great on any dried water marks, or little finger prints. For grease or grime built up on your cabinets add a squirt of dish soap and let the solution sit for a minute before wiping clean. I like to use this solution as well to wipe down all counter top surfaces and backsplashes. It’s good also to wipe down your toaster, coffee pot, stand mixer or any other appliances you have on your counter tops. Just be sure to keep the solution warm as you go for best results.

Floors

Any large appliances easy for you to move out, do so. Oven, refrigerator, etc. Then be sure to clean out and vacuum good underneath for any crumbs, hot wheels, magnets, or lost cat toys. Just to name a few of the items we found under our oven. Now to mop I use the same solution as above except make the water HOT. So 50/50 white vinegar and hot water. Use a push mop with a refillable solution bottle, spraying the solution you just made as you go.

Stove vents

Chances are they are gross, especially if you do a lot of cooking on your stove top. This is an important one to clean more than just in the spring. What’s getting caught up in your vents is also directly above whatever you are cooking. So let that sink in a bit and you’ll be more aware of how often you should be checking on them to see if they need to be cleaned. You can just pop these out and scrub them in your sink with hot soapy water and that will work just fine. However if you have a little bit of extra time I suggest letting them take a hot bath. Take out your biggest pot, also known as your spaghetti pot, that super tall guy probably in the back of the cabinet you don’t use too often. Now depending on the size of your filters fill your pot half to three quarters of the way full and bring to a rolling boil on the stove top. Once boiling add a tablespoon of baking soda slowly, as it will start to fizz and you don’t want it to fizz over. Next using a pair of tongs, slowly lower your filter into the pot, you will see the grease start to melt away. I only left mine in for about a minute each, cleaning only one filter at a time. If your filters are larger you may have to flip them over and clean one side one minute and the other another. Everyone’s oven vents are different so do what works best for the shape and size of yours.

 

Now that our top 10 chores are done onto some of the more overzealous spring cleaning kitchen tasks.

Dishwasher

This one is EASY! Fill a glass measuring cup with one cup of white vinegar, place in the center of the top or bottoms rack and run your dishwasher, empty (except for the measuring cup of vinegar) on normal cycle. That’s it! This is a little trick my grandmother taught me and I have been using it for many years now.

Pantry and spice rack

Same as with the fridge and freezer, check those dates. Anything not sealed properly is probably stale, toss it, anything you can’t remember buying, toss. All of your spices should have movement to them. What do I mean by this? Tip the spice bottle upside down, if the spices don’t move, toss them, clumping is a sign of moisture or old age and they won’t have the flavor they should. This is really just a good clean out to make room for more new food! This is also a good way to keep you accountable of what you spend at the grocery store, take a look at what your family is actually eating, to know what to buy and have less waste.

Dishes

Now is also a good time to take inventory of your dishware. Any chipped, cracking plates, bowls or glasses go ahead and get rid off. Same goes for any misshaped Tupperware that’s been in the microwave one too many times. Any old kids cups or plates they don’t use anymore, toss those too. Check your cutting boards, anything not coming out clean from the dishwasher should go. I’m not telling you get rid of your whole kitchen, just to take the time to get rid of any old dishware that isn’t holding up. While you’re at it, sharpen your knives! This is probably my favorite thing I added to my spring cleaning list this year. What a difference it has made sharpening all of my best knives for cooking. Knife sharpeners are super affordable, and a good thing to have to prolong the life of good cutlery so be sure to get one if you don’t already.

Garbage disposal

Now I hate sticking my hand down there as much as the next person. However it sometimes has to be done, VERY CAREFULLY, I suggest with a dish glove on make sure no large food particles reside in the bottom of your garbage disposal. Pull up the rubber lining around your sink drain if you can and give that a really good scrub. Once you place that back, put a handful of ice cubes in your garbage disposal and turn it on. This will help to sharpen your disposal blades. Once the ice is done throw in a few fresh lemon slices and turn on the disposal again. This will give your disposal and sink a nice clean aroma.

There you have it guys! Thanks for sticking with me, I know this was a long one. I hope these tips help to give you a nice clean kitchen so that we can get back to cooking together soon!

Easter Egg Cookie Cake

Easter Egg Cookie Cake

This sweet treat has been on my “to try” list for awhile. Usually I make the same carrot patch brownies every year for Easter. They’ve become a tradition my kids and I look forward to each year. With Easter already being a bit off this […]