Monthly Archives: September 2011

How to Manage Weeknight Meals

We all want our kids to eat healthy, homemade meals during the week. But with long commutes and early bedtimes, it can be tough to get any meal on the table amid the normal evening and bedtime routine, much less a gourmet Julia Child-like creation. Here are a few tips to help you make it happen:

1. Plan Plan Plan! If you wait until you are standing in your kitchen in your work clothes, already hungry, with a baby hanging off your leg and your husband asking “What’s for dinner?,” you will end up grabbing the fastest thing you can find in the freezer or ordering carryout. Spend some time on Sunday looking at what you have on hand and planning at least 4 meals for the week. Make sure you have all of the ingredients so you don’t have to stop on your way home and you don’t have an excuse for not making something (e.g. “Shoot, I was totally going to make this risotto for dinner but I don’t have any broth. Oh well, guess we’re ordering pizza!”- I’m not saying I’ve said this exact line. . . but it’s probably been pretty close).

Photo via Whipperberry.com

2. Advertise Make sure your spouse and kids (if they’re old enough) know what the options are for dinner that week. That way, you’re less likely to have to deal with requests for things you don’t have and weren’t planning to make, which means (hopefully) less whining. I actually painted a chalkboard on our kitchen wall using chalkboard paint where I write the menu for the week. You can also use chalkboard contact paper instead- no painting, but it works just as well! Here’s a tutorial on how to make your own chalkboard menu. Advertising your menu for the week will not only take care of the “What’s for dinner?” questions, but it will make it easier for your spouse to get started on the meal if you are the one that gets home last. My husband is always willing to help out in the kitchen (he’s my soux chef!), but he’s sometimes afraid to start making dinner without knowing what I have in mind because he knows I’ve usually planned meals out. Which leads me to. . .

3. Enlist Help As long as he knows what’s on the docket for that night, my husband is more than happy to start chopping veggies or put some water on to boil, whatever needs to be done to get dinner started. I seriously don’t think I could do it without his help. If I stayed at home and could get an earlier start, that would be one thing, but getting home no earlier than 5:30 and only having 2 hours to walk the dog, make dinner, get everyone fed, spend some time with my daughter, give her a bath and go through the bedtime routine. . . it’s exhausting. But if my husband walks the dog while I start dinner and then comes in to help me finish it up, it’s a lot more doable. If you can’t get help in the kitchen, see if your spouse can help out with some of the other things you need to get done, like giving the kids a bath.

4. Keep a Catalog of Easy Recipes You do not need to get all “Food Network” every night for dinner. You’ll be burnt out in less than a week. The key to keeping up with cooking is to have a library of familiar, easy recipes you can pull from. That doesn’t mean you can’t try new things, but save the overly complicated, involved recipes for the weekend when you have more time to prep. I post quick weeknight meal ideas here on the blog, and you can also trade recipes with friends.

5. Give Yourself a Break!! You don’t have to be Supermom everyday. Nobody is going to call the police if you are just so exhausted that the only thing you can manage is picking up the phone to call Papa Johns. We all do it, and you’re not a bad mom if you do too. And if you work outside of the home, try not to compare yourself with your stay-at-home-mom friends. I know it’s hard, trust me, but they are able to start prepping for dinner a lot earlier. Working or not, it’s no picnic trying to make dinner with little ones running around, but it does tend to be a lot harder when you only have a limited amount of time to get it all done.

Happy cooking!


Crescent Rolls, 8 Ways

Refrigerated crescent rolls are possibilities in a can! There is seriously so much you can do with them, from breakfast to main entree to dessert and more. Here, I have gathered 8 of my favorite recipes that use Pillsbury Crescent Rolls or Pillsbury Crescent Recipe Creations (basically a sheet of crescent rolls without the perforations). They are super quick and easy. . . not to mention delicious!

Photo via Pillsbury.com

Bake a sheet of crescent rolls (the Recipe Creations works best for this one) according to the directions and cool completely. Mix  8 oz of cream cheese, 1/2 cup of sour cream, 1 tbsp fresh chopped dill, 1 tsp minced garlic and 2 tbsp chopped scallions. Spread the mixture on the cooled crescents, top with your favorite raw veggies, and slice into small squares.

Photo via Pillsbury.com

Taco Pie

Brown 1 lb of ground beef and add taco seasoning according to directions on the packet. Press a sheet of crescent rolls into a pie plate (you may need to separate the triangles for it to fit nicely). Alternate layers of the fully cooked ground beef, shredded cheese, corn, and salsa until you have reached the top. Top with more cheese and bake until the crust is brown (about 20 minutes).

Photo via PlainChicken.com

Chicken Roll-Up Casserole

Fill crescent rolls with a heaping spoonful of a mixture of cream cheese, chicken, butter, onion, cheese and garlic. Smother with a cream sauce of milk, cheese and cream of chicken soup, top with more cheddar cheese and bake for 30 minutes. So good!! You can see the full, detailed recipe here.

Photo via PlainChicken.com

Buffalo Chicken Crescents

Place a slice of provolone cheese on a crescent roll along with a fully cooked fried chicken finger dipped in buffalo wing sauce (like Frank’s Red Hot). Roll the crescents and bake for about 20 minutes. You could also do this with fully cooked shredded chicken tossed in the sauce instead of the fried chicken and bleu cheese crumbles instead of the provolone.

Photo via aisletoaloha.blogspot.com

Jalapeno Poppers

On each crescent triangle, place a dollop of cream cheese, a tsp or so of diced jalapenos and a few small pieces of fully cooked bacon. Pull the corners of the crescent up and twist to create a little purse (this will hold the cream cheese in as it cooks). Bake for about 15 minutes on 350 and start poppin’ (carefully though, that cream cheese will be HOT!).

Photo via oneshetwoshe.com

Apple Dumplings

Place a slice of peeled apple into each crescent triangle and roll up. Put all of the rolls into a casserole dish. Melt 2 sticks of butter, add 1 1/2 cups of sugar and a tsp of vanilla, and pour the mixture over the rolled up apples. Pour a can of Mountain Dew (strange, I know, but it’s delicious!) all around and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350 for about half an hour.

Photo via bacontimewiththehungryhypo.blogspot.com

Breakfast Wreath

Place 1 can of separated crescent rolls in a sun pattern- wide sides in, points out- on parchment paper. Place a strip of cooked bacon on each triangle, and sprinkle shredded cheese in a circle, covering the bottom (wide) half of the triangles. Follow the same pattern with 5 large scrambled eggs, and fold the points of the triangles over toward the center, creating a wreath shape. Top with more cheese and bake at 350 for about 18 minutes. For more details on this recipe, check out Bacon Time With The Hungry Hypo‘s blog.

Photo via eatatallies.com

Marshmallow Crescents

Place crescent triangles on parchment paper. Dip 8 large marshmallows in melted butter and then roll in cinnamon sugar. Wrap each marshmallow in a crescent roll, making sure all the edges are pinched together. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes.


Trick or Treat!

As I’ve been looking around for ideas for my daughter’s Halloween costume, I have come across some pretty funny/disturbing/genius costumes. Some are DIY and some can be purchased online. Here are a few of my favorites:

Tin Man via coolest-homemade-costumes.com

Candy Dots via babble.com

Spaghetti and Meatballs via parenting.com

Nacho Libre via babble.com

Colonel Sanders via craftster.org

Little Pig via chasing-fireflies.com

Max from "Where the Wild Things Are" via etsy.com

DIY Owl via alphamom.com

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Cozy Toes

With fall officially here, the mornings will start to get chillier and chillier. Give your cold feet some love with the Chaia Suede Moccasin Slippers from Target ($19.99). They are super soft and toasty warm inside, with rubber soles so you can easily run outside and grab the paper. My husband has a pair of men’s UGG slippers that I would always steal from him because they were so warm, but the lining on the inside of these moccasins feels the same as his UGGs, only for about $50 less!! If you live somewhere with four seasons, you need a pair of these ASAP.

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Pumpkin Spice Cookies

A friend of mine recently made mini pumpkin spice cookie sandwiches with cream cheese frosting using this seasonal cookie mix by Betty Crocker. The cookies are quick, easy, delicious and perfect for celebrating the first day of fall! You can make the cookies whatever size you want, but the miniature size is great for kids.

For the filling, you can use store-bought cream cheese frosting, or try your hand at this amazing homemade frosting recipe:

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick of butter, brought to room temperature

1 tsp vanilla

3 tbsp whipping cream

4 cups powdered sugar

Blend together the cream cheese and butter using a hand mixer. Add in the vanilla and powdered sugar. Slowly add in the whipping cream until your frosting is at the desired consistency.

Sandwich a dollop of frosting between two pumpkin cookies, and you’re all set!

 

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Restaurant Survival Kit

If you have ever gone out to eat with a baby or toddler, you know that it can be a well-choreographed dance of distraction and engagement, and it is often anything but relaxing. But with the following items under your belt, you’ll be as prepared as you can ever be to tackle the perils of dining out.

Stay-Put Suction Toddler Bowl by Munchkin
. . . unless you want your child’s food to become a flying saucer. These also come in smaller, one-compartment bowls as well.

Available at Target for $6.99 in a set with utensils

Disposable bibs like the Pampers Bibsters
These make clean up a breeze, and you don’t have to worry about putting a messy bib back into your diaper bag. They are expensive enough that I wouldn’t use them everyday, but they’re good for eating out.

Pampers Pocket Bibsters, Box of 32 for $9.99

If your child is teething, then a teething toy is a must when you go out. We never leave home without Sophie. We actually left her at a restaurant once and I called  in a panic the next day, hoping they had her- they did and the world was peaceful again. Now, this particular toy is expensive, so I am in no way saying you have to run out and get a Sophie for your little one  (ours was a gift), but always have your child’s favorite teether on hand.

Vulli Sophie the Giraffe Teether, $22.99

Munchkin Snack Catcher
Anything that allows my daughter to get food out while still being spill-proof is a winner in my book. These little snack cups are perfect for restaurants, the car, the stroller, anywhere really. And we all know that anything in their little hands is going to end up on the floor (or across the room in some cases), so spill-proof=good.

Available in a pack of 2 at Babies “R” Us, $7.49

Booginhead SippiGrip
One of my child’s favorite things to do is to throw her sippy cup on the floor, wait for me to pick it up, and then promptly shove it off the side of her high chair again like some little game. Well no more! With this little sippy cup tether, you can attach your baby’s cup to their high chair so you don’t spend most of your time at dinner under the table.

$5.99 at Babies “R” Us

I can’t promise you that these things will keep your child from shoving peas up his nose or from throwing her head back in the middle of the restaurant and letting out an animal yell you didn’t even know she could do. . . but at least they’ll give you a fighting chance. And, of course, don’t forget the toys! Good luck!


Monsters Be Gone!

When I was little, I was absolutely terrified of the dark. I had this picture of Jesus on my bedroom wall, but in the dark, the shadows made Him look like the Wicked Witch of the West. To this day, I can’t look at that picture without hearing “I’m melting! Melting!. . .” But I digress. I was convinced that monsters were lurking in every dark corner of my bedroom, in the closet, and especially under the bed.

I would make my parents prove to me every night at bedtime that there was not, in fact, a monster crouching in the dark ready to pounce on me as soon as they tucked me in. Even still, I would take a flying leap into my bed from the other side of the room just so that my feet would not be in vulnerable proximity to the resident monster under my bed.

If only my parents (and I) had been equipped with Monster Spray. This top secret, highly effective potion (aka water) is a must-have for any household with children under the age of 10- or maybe even just for people who don’t like being home alone (I don’t judge- I am one of them).

 

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The Perfect Pantry

I was watching The Nate Berkus Show the other day, and his “House Proud” segment featured this house in Raleigh, North Carolina with seriously THE most amazingly organized walk-in pantry I have ever seen! I mean, how beautiful is this?!

Courtesy thenateshow.com

Ok, you may not consider it “beautiful,” but to a hyper-organized person such as myself, this is downright gorgeous. For the boxes, the homeowner used simple boxes from Ikea and spray painted them with chalkboard paint in order to label the drawers. I especially love how she has labeled the simple glass jars using chalkboard contact paper, found here. You can read about the entire pantry makeover on the homeowner’s blog, here.


Quick Bites: Fish Tacos

Fish tacos are a quick and easy go-to  meal in our house. We can make the entire meal in about 15 minutes, which makes it great for busy weeknights. Plus, we almost always keep tortillas and fish sticks on hand. Yes, I said fish sticks. I know they get a bad rep, but you only use a few fish sticks per taco, so it’s really not bad. Plus, they really do make for a decent taco- at least give them a try!

18 fish sticks

6 small tortillas

1 small can of mandarin oranges, drained

1 avocado, sliced

2 tbsp sour cream

2 tbsp salsa (we use salsa verde and it works great)

Cilantro Slaw (recipe below)

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 lime

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp cumin

2 cups shredded coleslaw mix

Cook the fish sticks according to the directions. While they cook, drain the oranges, slice the avocado and make the slaw. For the cilantro slaw, whisk together the lime juice, honey, vegetable oil and cumin. Pour the mixture over the coleslaw mix and top with the cilantro. Toss to mix the slaw well and set aside. Mix together the sour cream and the salsa, and heat up the tortillas in the microwave in a damp paper towel for 20 seconds. Once your fish sticks are done, spread a spoonful of the sour cream/salsa mixture onto each tortilla and then top with 3 fish sticks, a couple slices of avocado, 4 or 5 orange slices and a spoonful of cilantro slaw.

Not a fan of this style of taco? You can just top your fish sticks with the usual suspects instead- sour cream, salsa, shredded lettuce, cheese, etc.

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Lisa Leonard Jewelry

For Christmas last year, my dad and stepmom gave me a Lisa Leonard necklace like the one pictured below with my daughter’s name and her birth date. The necklace is so simple that it goes with almost anything, and I wear it to work all the time (can’t wear necklaces around my grabby little one). Every time I wear the necklace, I get compliments on it. All of her jewelry is really cute, and necklaces like this one make great holiday or birthday gifts!

Tiny Squares Necklace ($56)