Cooking for a family, while making family time

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Feta Onion Bites

Feta Onion Bites

These tasty little nuggets came about as a copy cat recipe from a Trader Joe’s item I loved. A fellow Trader Joe’s lover and good friend of mine found these in the freezer section. Once I tried them at a get-together at her house, I […]

Delicata Squash 101

Delicata Squash 101

There is so much to love about seasonal produce, and fall is full of so many good ones. Apples galore, pumpkin and all things pumpkin spice, and also squash and lots of it. Some of the more popular kinds of squash are butternut, acorn, and […]

Upside Down Magic Viewing Party

Upside Down Magic Viewing Party

Another new children’s movie coming out means another opportunity to turn it into an event. And I’m here to help you guys do the same. Summer 2020 is a lot different than what we are used to but we can still make the most of it!

Our baby-sitters club viewing party was so well received the kids and I decided to plan another. This time is Upside Down Magic, a scholastic book series that’s been dubbed “Harry Potter light.” The movie by the same title will premier as a Disney original TV movie Friday July 31, 2020. Below is the trailer to pique your interest.

The Upside Down Magic books currently have 7 chapter books in the series. I’ve re-read the first 2 books to my kids over the last few weeks preparing for the movie. We’re not sure how much (or how many books) the first movie will cover.

These books aren’t only fun but also show diversity in their characters. They teach important lessons about fitting into a new environment, embracing your differences and building a community. In the first book alone we found a lot of fun food references to plan our viewing party. To name a few, lemonade, cereal, marshmallows and pizza! To add to the food fun was my very own little word play treat, upside down magic cupcakes. Also known as pineapple upside down cake.

Pineapple upside down cupcakes

 

Ingredients:

1 box yellow cake mix (with the eggs and oil it calls for)
16-20oz can of pineapple rings in juice
Maraschino cherries
1/3 cup butter

2/3 cup brown sugar

This recipe will make 24 cupcakes or 48 mini cupcakes. I like to do a combination of both and make 12 regular size cupcakes and 24 mini cupcakes.

Method:

First up preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray your muffin pans generously with nonstick spray. Drain your can of pineapple into a dish and set aside. Next in a stand mixer prepare your cake according to box instructions, adding in eggs and vegetable oil. Now instead of the water the box asks for, use the reserved pineapple juice. Mix until fully combined, 2-3 minutes on medium speed should do.

Now melt your butter and stir together with your brown sugar, placing a teaspoon or so into the bottom of each cupcake mold. Now for the pineapple, there are a few different ways you can do this. If you want a perfect ring, cherry in the middle, you will need to trim a little from your pineapple rings to make them fit. If you’re not worried about presentation, like my kids, just put some pineapple chunks and cherries on top of the brown sugar mixture however you like.

Time to put the cake batter on top of your brown sugar and fruit mixture. I like to use an ice cream scoop for nice even cupcakes. Once complete, bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cupcake comes out clean.

Very important! Let these cupcakes cool before trying to flip. I like to leave mine alone for a good 15-30 minutes. Then I run a butter knife around each cupcake. I take my biggest cutting board and place it on top of the cupcakes. Now it’s time to flip and pray! Hopefully, you’re left with beautiful little pineapple upside down cupcakes, but even if you’re not, they’ll still taste delicious!

It might even be better if they don’t turn out perfect. Just like in the Upside Down Magic books, things don’t always go as planned. Your cupcakes might even turn out a little wonky, just like Nory and that’s ok!

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 […]