Category Archives: Uncategorized

Caramel Corn with Cashews

Caramel Corn with Cashews

Caramel Corn with Cashews

Today is National Popcorn Day, did you know?

Well, after reading about all the horrid, disgusting, carcinogenic garbage that is in microwave popcorn, my family has switched to popping it ourselves. Yes, throwing a bag in the microwave and pushing a button is easy and quick. But popping it yourself takes only a few more steps. It is healthier (way healthier), better for the environment and much cheaper than a toxic bag of corn.

All you need are paper lunch bags and popcorn. Place 1/2 cup corn in the bag, fold over twice, place in the microwave and pop until popping slows to 1-2 seconds. You don’t want it to burn. Top with whatever you want. Melted butter, parmesan cheese, chili powder, herbs. You name it! I urge you to try this. Your body will thank you for it. Check out these ingredients in Act II microwave corn (Popcorn, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Salt, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Annatto Color. Contains: Fish, Milk)
I’m not sure about you, but fish and milk? Really? No thanks!

If you would like to expand your popcorn repertoire, here is a wonderful recipe for caramel corn.

I love caramel corn. Love, love, love, love, love, love, love it. I love the sweetness, the crunch, the way it sticks into my way back teeth. Ok, well maybe not so much the sticking in the teeth (and I’m sure my dentist doesn’t appreciate it either) but pretty much everything else. I had clipped this recipe ages ago. MS drizzled with white chocolate. Sorry folks, I thought it would be way too sweet. I may drizzle with some dark chocolate though. Anyone with me?

Caramel Corn with Cashews
12 cups popped popcorn (from 1/2 cup kernels)
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped cashews
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, divided

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place popcorn and nuts in a large bowl. Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stir in corn syrup, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook until sugar dissolves, stirring once or twice. Raise heat to high, and bring to a boil (do not stir). Boil, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 248 degrees, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Pour caramel over popcorn mixture, stirring to coat thoroughly. Transfer to 2 rimmed baking sheets, spreading in a single layer. Bake 45 minutes, stirring twice. Test doneness by removing a few pieces of popcorn from oven; if they crisp within 1 minute, popcorn is ready. Remove from oven, and immediately sprinkle with remaining salt. Let cool completely.

Enjoy!

Note: Caramel corn can be stored in an airtight container up to 1 week

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, October 2012

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Growing Microgreens

mc5

Many of us treat the new year as a new beginning. A time to make changes, whether they be personal or professional, resolutions are made.

Many focus on their health. Losing weight, getting fit, more daily exercise, reducing stress, eating better. My “every-year” resolution is to lose weight. Since I resolve to do it every year, it obviously doesn’t happen. This year I thought I’d change the mindset a little. To focus less on the negative and more on the positive. So instead of “This year I am going to lose 40 pounds!” to “This year I’m going to get healthy!”. That encompasses a broad scope. Getting more rest, daily exercise, reducing stress and of course, eating better. All of which will help me reach my weight loss goal.

The winter months are always tough in New England. This winter has been especialy difficult as Nina can’t get outside to play because of her injury, so we have been reduced to indoor activities. I must say, if I do one more craft I might hurt someone. Just sayin.

It is also the time of year where our bodies, and minds crave the outdoors. I don’t know about you, but it does a lot for my psyche to have a fresh vase of tulips on the table or a forsythia wreath on the door.

I am eager to garden but that can’t happen with the frozen ground. Or can it? Yes, it can! Nina and I did this project and it was a huge success. It allows you to get your hands in the dirt, although a little of that dirt may end up on the kitchen floor, it isn’t a big deal. Nina got to get dirty and learn about the growing process. And as an added bonus, for those lacking patience, these plants are ready to eat in just about a week. It was a win-win for both of us!

If you haven’t tried these, you absolutely have to! Growing them yourself is super easy and fun and they are readily available whenever you want to throw them in a salad, sandwich or omelette. Not to mention more economical. I see them at our farmers’ market for $6-$8 for a sandwich bag full. For real!

Follow these simple instructions and in a week you’ll be eating these delicious, flavorful, healthy greens.

Now go get dirty!

Using a clean, repurposed food container, sprinkle seeds over organic seed starting mix

Using a clean, repurposed food container, sprinkle seeds over organic seed starting mix

Lightly sift a fine layer of soil over the seeds and mist with water. Check the packets for seed planting depth

Lightly sift a fine layer of soil over the seeds and mist with water. Check the packets for seed planting depth

Mist with water when soil gets dry and place in a sunny spot (6-8 hours)

Mist with water when soil gets dry and place in a sunny spot (6-8 hours)

When ready to harvest, gently pull up and rinse or snip with scissors. Growing in succession will give you an ongoing supply

When ready to harvest, gently pull up and rinse or snip with scissors. Growing in succession will give you an ongoing supply

photos from Martha Stewart and additional directions for growing sprouts

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Cookie of the Week…Plain Oatmeal Cookies

plain oatmeal cookie

After all the super sweet, mega-chocolaty holiday cookies, I wanted a simple, not overly-sweet cookie to put in lunches this week. I decided to try one I had pinned some time ago.

It seemed exactly what I was looking for, as oatmeal cookies are probably my absolute favorite, especially hot out of the oven. Your typical oatmeal cookie has raisins or chocolate chips and maybe some sort of dried fruit for some sweetness. But, I was looking for plain, buttery, hearty snacks. There is enough sugar in these to make them sweet enough on their own. They didn’t need any add ins.

I used a large ice cream scoop, so one would be just the right size for a school snack. I tweaked the recipe only slightly by using old-fashioned oats, increased the water and added some crushed walnuts to the mix.

Looking for an easy, yummy, cookie? Here they are. Now let’s see if they actually make into lunch bags.

Plain Oatmeal Cookies

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 T. water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 3/4 c. flour
2 1/2 c. Old Fashioned Oats
1/2 c. crushed or finely chopped walnuts

Instructions
Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla, and water, and mix well.
Add salt, soda, and cinnamon and mix well.
Add flour, and mix just until combined. Add oats and walnuts and mix just until combined.
Drop spoonfuls onto a silpat lined baking sheet, and bake at 350F for 8-11 minutes (I used a large ice cream scoop and baked them until the edges were just barely brown and slightly underdone in the center)
Let cool for a minute or two before transferring to a cooling rack.

Yield 1 1/2 dozen large cookies

Enjoy!

Original recipe at Jen’s Favorite Cookies

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Pins I love this week!

Here are some of my favorite pins this week. I pin alot. I don’t actually do any of them, but I wish I could. Does that count? Well, maybe with the little one down for the count, I’ll be spending more time hanging around the house. I really don’t want to be lugging her little butt around with me. So maybe I’ll actually do some of these things. We’ll see. Enjoy!

A Charlie Brown Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Pistachio Lemon Wreaths

Pistachio Lemon Wreaths

Hot Cocoa on a Stick

Hot Cocoa on a Stick

Peppermint Meringue Kisses

Peppermint Meringue Kisses

Gingerbread Pizzelle with Eggnog Buttercream Filling

Gingerbread Pizzelle with Eggnog Buttercream Filling

Gumball Snowmen

Gumball Snowmen

Hot Cocoa Cookies

Hot Cocoa Cookies

Red Velvet Hi Hat Cookies

Red Velvet Hi Hat Cookies

Christmas Vacation

Christmas Vacation

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Don’t Say I Didn’t Tell you So!

leg

Life has been a bit of a whirlwind since last Wednesday. That evening, I made an early dinner for the kids and got Nina ready for bed early, so I could have a quiet dinner with the husband.

No sooner had I put dinner on the table, there was a loud thud and a blood-curdling scream from upstairs. I ran up the stairs two at a time and found Nina lying in her bed cradling her leg, crying hysterically.

“What happened?!” I asked.

“I wasn’t doing anything!” Yeah right. She was obviously doing the thing she has been told more than once not to do. The thing that she has been explicitly warned of what can happen if she does this. The thing that makes me cringe just thinking about it.

Once I knew she did “the thing” I knew it had to be broken. There was no doubt.

So, off we went to the emergency room for x-rays and, sure enough, it was broken. She was splinted and sent home so we could follow-up with the orthopedic doctor in the morning for the cast.

Oh and what a cast it is! It goes from her toes to her thigh. But at least it’s hot pink and “Fashionable!”. She’s all about the fashion people. I tried to get her to go for green so we could decorate it like a Christmas tree, but she wasn’t having it. There goes my holiday card photo op!

When the doctor asked how she did it, she stuck to her story, “I was just resting in bed and my bones broke”. He turned his head to look at me, trying his best not to laugh. Then I told him the story and even he cringed a little bit.

Are you ready to hear it? It’s pretty gross. If not, stop reading. Here goes…

She put one foot on top of the headboard of her bed and the other on the mattress so she could hop. She hopped a bit too high causing her foot to slide over the top of the headboard and get stuck between the wall and the headboard. Then she fell and snapped her shin about an inch below her knee. Cringing yet? I throw up a little just thinking about it.

She is doing well. Learning to adapt to life in a wheelchair. Crutches are very tricky as the cast is like half her body weight. Needless to say,we are doing a lot of tv watching and crafts.

Good thing I have NONE of my Christmas shopping done! Oy…

If you have any thoughts on keeping an active 7-year-old from getting bored to death (and keeping her mother’s sanity) I’d love to hear them!

Happy Holidays!

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Catching up

Oh my gosh, where do I start?

The past several weeks have been a whirlwind. Getting the kids ready to go back to school (anyone else hear the choirs of angels?), getting ready for a new hockey season, scheduling gymnastics classes, taking care of doctors appointments and dealing with the worst bout of bronchitis I have ever had.

Phew, let me catch me breath. No, literally. I am still not 100%, but finally starting to feel like I’m on the mend.

This is my first post in quite some time and I’ve got say, it has been a struggle to get back here. I have been unmotivated and completely uninspired. I have also been wondering, why I blog at all, as lately it seems like just another chore. I told my husband I was giving it up. If I couldn’t give it my all, I shouldn’t do it at all. Then I stopped and thought about how much joy I get from it, from all my reader comments and how much I have stepped out of my comfort zone in the kitchen because of it.

It brought a smile to my face. So, here I am.

So, while I get my feet wet again, for this post I’m just going to give you a rundown of what’s been going on and what’s on the agenda and go from there.

I haven’t been doing too much cooking lately. At one point, I don’t think I had even been to the grocery store.

But, last weekend, I started feeling a bit better and I went out and picked up some groceries. The family did a cheer that they wouldn’t have to eat take-out pizza again and I did some cooking. Nothing fancy or new for that matter, but it got me off the couch.

    Christmas Prep

I’ve been working on my Christmas lists and found an app that seems to be working pretty well so far. It does pretty much everything except fight for a spot at the mall. It’s called The Christmas List (who’d have thought?). And for 99 cents, it’s more than worth it. It does take some time to input all your gift recipients, but it will definitely keep you organized.
giftlistapp

While looking for apps I came across The Dr. Seuss Camera and I had to have it. Just look at how stinking cute this is.
grinchapp. You may or may not see my kids posing as the Grinch and his adorable dog Max on this year’s Christmas cards. Although, I’m not sure which one of the kids would be the Grinch.

This week I am ordering supplies for some hand made bracelets and some hair accessories for Nina’s friends. I am also finalizing my food gift list and food packaging ideas.

I don’t know about you but I hate to give gift cards. They are so impersonal. Let me rephrase. I USED to hate gift cards. But as I review my list, I am realizing that the kids I used to buy toys for are now growing up and they like what they like. So a gift card may be exactly what they want. My goal is to find some clever ways of giving these cards.

Last year I used the Bilz Puzzle Box. My guests LOVED it! It got passed around the open house all night until someone got it to finally open. They have a new pinball puzzle that looks awesome that I may have to try this year.

    What’s going on now

Christmas aside, I am in full-on Fall mode. Pumpkins, apples, mums. Yeah baby! My absolute favorite time of the year. Right now I am all about redecorating on a shoestring, so I am planning on putting some Fall touches around the house. I’ll share some pics and maybe some how to’s in the near future.

You can follow my All Things Autumn and Halloween boards on Pinterest. They are loaded with Fall decor, recipes, fashion, adorable Halloween treats and maybe some tricks too.

Today I started the “Health Jar”. Every day I exercise I will put $1 in the jar. Every mile=$1 and every pound at the end of each week=$1. Yes, that also means every pound gained gets deducted. At the end of each month I get to treat myself to something nice. If I slack off, I may get a pack of gum. A good month may get me the new pair of Uggs I’m itching for. Wish me luck. I may incorporate a similar system for the kids. Nina could use some motivation to eat some new fruits and vegetables, and Andrew could benefit with some motivation for a little additional exercise and stick handling practice. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ve got some great recipes to share this week too. I’m just trying to get my pictures together.

So, there you have it. Thanks for sticking around.

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Cookie of the Week – Chocolate Chip

cookie
It’s getting close to the kiddos going back to school. YAY! This summer has really flown by. The kids have had fun at summer camp, boating, swimming, doing crafts, gimp. Oh God, the gimp!

But it’s almost time to switch gears and start back to school shopping and thinking about getting organized and back on schedule. Hockey and gymnastics will be starting within the month, so getting things a little more organized is imperative to keep my sanity in check.

The kids take their lunches to camp every day, as they will for school. So, Sunday is our “get ready for the week” day. I buy giant bags of chips that we bag individually to quickly throw in with their sandwiches. I make a container of fluff to keep on-hand for fluffernutters, fruit gets washed and prepped and cookies get made. Yes, it would be easier to buy a bag of Oreos or Chips Ahoy, but since I can’t decipher the ingredients and they are pretty icky tasting (although I do love a milk-dipped Oreo now and then, who doesn’t!) I have been letting the kids decide what kind of cookies to make for the week.

That being said, welcome to the first installment of the Cookie of the Week series!

So far, we have made chocolate chip, tie-dye sugar cookies and oatmeal raisin.

Now who doesn’t love a chocolate chip cookie? Thin and crisp or thick and cakey. Nuts. No nuts. There are so many variations.
I do love these and for a quick fix, this beautiful thing.

But, we have decided that out of all the chocolate chip cookies we tried, the original NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE cookie is by far our favorite. Hands down. So go grab yourself a bag of NESTLÉ® chips, an ice-cold glass of milk and enjoy a tried and true classic.

Happy back to school!

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts

    Directions

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

PAN COOKIE VARIATION: Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.

SLICE AND BAKE COOKIE VARIATION:
PREPARE dough as above. Divide in half; wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Shape each half into 15-inch log; wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.* Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

* May be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week or in freezer for up to 8 weeks.

FOR HIGH ALTITUDE BAKING (5,200 feet): Increase flour to 2 1/2 cups. Add 2 teaspoons water with flour and reduce both granulated sugar and brown sugar to 2/3 cup each. Bake drop cookies for 8 to 10 minutes and pan cookie for 17 to 19 minutes.

Recipe and photo courtesy of VeryBestBaking

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A Tale of Tails

I took advantage of waking up early yesterday morning and ran two miles before starting my morning routine. I need to do that more often. I felt so good! I was definitely the “windshield” yesterday.

We have been in a heat wave here in New England. It is in the 90s and the humidity is off the charts. Besides feeling icky and sicky, my hair is at least ten times bigger than normal. I am looking GOOOOOOOOOOD I tell ya.

But besides the unfortunate hairdo, the day was looking good. I left work a little early to go home and freshen up a bit because we had to go to a wake (NOT one of the highlights of my day), but the husband and I took advantage of a babysitter and some thank you gift certificates and decided to go out for a non-child friendly Italian meal at Ristorante Molise in Amesbury. This isn’t a restaurant review, but the food there is pretty darn good and if you are interested, I always have the Pollo al la vodka and it is always fantastic.

Now, I don’t know about you, but after a good workout, I always feel good. I don’t necessarily mean physically, so much as that I am more self-confident. I feel better about the way I look. I carry myself differently. With a bit more poise, I guess. I was even thinking to myself “Damn, I look good today”. I was looking sleek, all in black, peep-toe heels, straight, shiny hair, jewelry, make-up done. I was all that and a bag o’ chips man!

So, after a wonderful meal, I stepped away from the table to use the ladies’ room to, well use the ladies’ room and check my teeth. I sailed proudly through the restaurant feeling like people were totally checking me out, because as I said, “Damn I looked good” and I came back to the table to wait for my aperitif.

Our waitress came with the bill and I took the gift certificates out of my purse and I reminded the husband that we had to leave her a tip in cash. I had taken money out of his wallet in the car to pay a toll and instead of handing it back to him, I put it in the console in the car. So as my “punishment” for not giving his wallet back, I was the sucker who had to go out to the car to retrieve the wallet.

As I stood up and turned around, my husband grabbed my hand and quietly said “Turn around”. I naturally turned the wrong way, with my back toward the diner sitting right behind me.

“NO. The other way”

Like an idiot, I continued to turn the wrong way, spinning in a complete circle. So he grabbed my hand and firmly pulled it down so I would sit back down in my chair. And under his breath said,

“You have toilet paper hanging out of your pants”.

I felt my face flush (and it wasn’t because of the sangria). I began to panic but still try to keep it cool. I reached back thinking I would grab a little tab of paper. Not so much. I reached back and began to reel up at least 3 feet of toilet paper that I had so arrogantly paraded through the restaurant.

I was mortified! Of course I was wearing black, so there was absolutely no chance it wasn’t noticed. The poor men behind me were probably having a very difficult time trying not to crack up laughing. I even think I saw a smirk on my husband’s face. I knew he wanted to bust out laughing but feared for his life if he had done so.

So, I rolled up my wad of toilet paper and once again walked through the dining room, now incredibly conscious of myself and not feeling so pretty anymore, with shall I say “my tail between my legs”.

That ought to teach me to be so vane. And also that after checking my teeth in the mirror, I should take a moment to check the other end too.

Just thought I’d share.

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Low Fat Lemon Crinkles

Low Fat Lemon Crinkles

Low Fat Lemon Crinkles

It’s hot. Of course the poor folks out West know better than anyone. Is it just me, or is weather way more extreme lately? I have to say, I am not very prepared for a disaster. And I hate being unprepared. Right now, we’d be up the proverbial creek without a paddle if disaster struck. Here’s a fun fact about me. If you didn’t know, emergency preparedness is a big part of what I do. So, being caught unprepared is not something I am comfortable with. That being said, stay tuned for some emergency prep posts.

Ok. Doomsday talk aside. I don’t feel like cooking anything in this heat. Can I have an Amen? I want cool and refreshing. What’s more cool and refreshing than lemon? Besides a cold shower and standing naked in front of the A/C unit, of course. Not much.

Nina wanted cookies for her camp lunches, and since she wanted to help, these were perfect! I had been wanting to make them for awhile and when someone posted a similar recipe on Facebook, I thought the time was right. These cookies have many different names and they are all over the interweb. Lemon Whippers, Cool Whip cookies, Lemon Crinkles. All the same.

These are so easy and so tasty. They are sweet, tart and chewy. They only use a couple of ingredients, and to all my health food buddies out there, I know Cool Whip is evil, but whatevs. Sorry. We had a great time sitting in the air-conditioned kitchen stirring the batter, rolling the balls and making a mess. This is absolutely a kid-friendly recipe. One I am sure I will make again.

Keep in mind though that although low fat, these babies are loaded with sugar, so make sure you limit yourself. We had a hard time with that. And on another note, these are messy! Nina came in covered with powdered sugar, swearing up and down she “did not just eat a cookie“.

So, if you are looking for a delicious indoor activity with the kids, it can’t get easier, more fun and tastier than these adorable, sunny little cuties.

Stay cool everyone!

    Low-Fat Lemon Crinkles

1 box lemon cake mix
1 (8oz.) container cool whip
2 eggs
1 c. Powdered sugar for rolling

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or use silpat ( I had used 3 sheets so I wouldn’t have to stop rolling to wait for a pan)
3. Combine cake mix, eggs and cool whip in a bowl and stir together. Mixture will be sticky.
4. Put powdered sugar in a shallow baking dish or pie plate.
5. Using a cookie scoop (1 Tbls size) or a tablespoon, drop scoop into the powdered sugar and toss while shaping into a ball. Remember these are kind of loose, don’t worry.
6. Place on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart, as they will spread, and bake for 8-10 minutes.
7. Let cool on sheet for only a minute then transfer to a cooling rack. If you leave them on the hot sheet they will continue to spread and get really flat. Still yummy, just not as pretty.

That’s it! Easy peasy!

Enjoy!

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Happy Cinco de Mayo

Here are a couple of some really great recipes for Cinco de Mayo. I will be making these churros with the kids today. Do you do anything special today? What are you doing? Will you be putting out a full-on Mexican spread or just kickin back with a Corona and lime?

churro

Churros con Chocolate at Delicious Shots

Alfajores-dulce-de-leche-sandwich-cookies-recipe-4
Alfajores at Roxana’s Home Baking

enchilada
Green Chicken Enchiladas at Bev Cooks

Slow-cooker-chicken-nachos_0156-1024x685
Slow Cooker Chicken Nachos at Pass the Sushi

chickenfajita
Grilled Chicken Fajitas at Annie’s Eats

FishTacosLimeCilantroCrema
Fish Tacos with Lime Cilantro Crema

mangomarg
Mango Margaritas at The Pioneer Woman

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