Monthly Archives: January 2013

Throw a Kid-Friendly Super Bowl Party

Sure, they might pass out by halftime, but your kids can still get in on the fun during the Super Bowl. Having plenty of kid-friendly snacks, fun football-themed activities for the little ones, and festive desserts will ensure a house full of happy fans (unless your team loses—in which case, good luck!).

Kid-Friendly Snacks

Keep it simple (and healthy) with lightened up versions of your favorite game day foods.

Healthy Seven-Layer Dip from FitSugar
Buffalo Cauliflower from yours truly
Pigs in a Blanket from Food Network
Cajun Crab Dip  from yours truly
Pizza Pretzel Bites from Two Peas and Their Pod
Roasted Garlic Hummus from Annie’s Eats
Turkey Sliders from Martha Stewart
Chili from Cooking Light

Game Time Activities

Chances are, little ones aren’t going to sit through an entire football game. Be prepared with these fun ideas!

Make Your Own Jersey: Buy a bunch of cheap tees, puffy paint, glitter, etc. and set up a table for the kids to decorate their own “jerseys.”

Football Word Search (Free download!)

Decorate the House: Put the kids to work decorating the house for the big game by letting them make footballs out of construction paper. They can even string them together using a hole punch and yarn to make a garland.

Commercial Bingo: Get the kids in on a game of Super Bowl Commercial Bingo! You can download the cards here, and have fun prizes for the winners.

Winning Desserts

Football Rice Krispie Treats from Rice Krispies
Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry Footballs from Domestic Fits
S’mores Cupcakes from yours truly
Healthy Whoopie Pies from Parenting (you can even roll these in sprinkles to match your team’s colors)
Mini Peanut Butter Brownies from Babble

 


Deliciously Simple Crock Pot French Onion Soup

I love French Onion Soup, but I had never attempted to make it myself—for some reason, I had it in my head that this was one of those dishes that would never taste as good as it does when someone else makes it. I was so wrong! I came across a recipe on Pinterest for Crock Pot french onion soup, so I figured I would give it a shot, and I am so glad that I did. It was delicious!

The only thing I would note is that this recipe is a little more involved than your average Crock Pot recipe. If you’re looking to throw this together before you head out the door in the morning, I would highly recommend doing the first step the night before. I spent about 45 minutes chopping and cooking the onions before they ever made it to the Crock Pot. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wake up an extra 45 minutes early to do that in the morning.

I also tweaked the original recipe just slightly by using gouda cheese instead of the Gruyere/Emmental/Parmesan blend the original recipe called for (gouda was way cheaper), and instead of melting the cheese over the soup under the broiler, I just topped the bread with the cheese, popped it under the broiler, and dropped a toasty, gooey slice into each bowl of soup. It gave the same cheesy crouton flavor without the chunks of stringy cheese that are impossible to eat anyway. Enjoy!

Crock Pot French Onion Soup
Adapted from Slow Cooker French Onion Soup 

6 tbsp butter
4 large yellow onions, sliced and separated into rings
1 tbsp white sugar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup cooking sherry (do not substitute or skimp on this ingredient- it’s what gives the soup its distinctive flavor!)
7 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
8 slices fresh French bread
1 cup shredded gouda cheese

  1. Heat butter in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat; cook and stir onions until they become translucent, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle onions with sugar; reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring constantly, until onions are soft and browned, at least 30 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Stir sherry into onion mixture and scrape bottom of pot to dissolve small bits of browned food from the pot. Transfer onions into a slow cooker and pour in beef broth. Season to taste with sea salt; stir in thyme and bay leaf. Cover cooker, set on High, and cook 4 to 6 hours. If desired, set on Low and cook 8 to 10 hours.
  3. About 10 minutes before serving, set oven rack about 8 inches from the heat source and preheat the oven’s broiler. Arrange bread slices on a baking sheet and top each with some cheese.
  4. Broil bread slices until the cheese is lightly browned and bubbly.
  5. Ladle soup into bowls and drop a slice of the bread into each bowl just before serving.

 


50 Lessons I Want to Teach My Daughter

For my sweet Olivia …
1. Your thoughts matter. Your feelings matter. You matter. If someone tries to treat you otherwise, it’s time to walk away.
2. Don’t be beholden to technology. It’s great, it’s convenient, it’s fun, but it will also prevent you from actually living your life.
3. When you’re old enough, read the book The Help. It’s a powerful reminder that we are all human beings and we are all important.
4. You are beautiful exactly the way you are.
5. Sometimes, you just need to say you’re sorry.
6. Be honest … with other people and with yourself, but most of all with yourself.
7. If you want to dance, dance. If you want to play soccer, play soccer. If you want to take piano lessons, take piano lessons. Do what makes YOU happy and not what you think Dad or I expect you to do.
8. Remember the Golden Rule and treat others as you would like to be treated. It will never steer you wrong.
9. Don’t be a jerk when driving. You never know if the person you’re honking at and giving a rude hand gesture to is really someone you know. It’s embarrassing. Just don’t do it.
10. Read, read, read, read, read, and read some more.
11. There will be mean girls and there will be bullies. Make sure you are never one of them.
12. Think before you speak. You will never regret it. But I can promise you that there will be times when you will regret NOT doing this.
13. Daddy and I love you more fully and completely that you can ever imagine. Keep that with you always.
14. Be kind. Contrary to belief, words can hurt just as bad as sticks and stones … and sometimes those injuries last much longer.
15. If a boy doesn’t treat you the way Daddy does, he’s not worth your time.
16. You are smart. Do not ever be ashamed of that or try to make yourself less to make someone else feel like more.
17. Love is love is love—and everyone deserves the right to love whomever they choose.
18. Do not be ashamed of your low points. They give you the strength to climb to the high points.
19. Remember this quote by Thomas Jefferson: “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” Know what you stand for.
20. If you don’t know what a word means, look it up.
21. When someone has to say “trust me,” you probably shouldn’t.
22. Diets do not work. Counting every last calorie is a lot of work and will make you obsessive. If you live a healthy life (eat plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains), limit the sweets a little, and exercise, you will be the size and shape you are meant to be. And that is perfect.
23. Cooking can be so much fun, but please don’t do it just because you think you are supposed to (and especially not because someone else tells you it’s what you’re supposed to do).
24. “Woman” does not equal “weak.” You have more inner strength than you know. Just trust yourself.
25. It’s okay to cry. But if you are ever embarrassed about crying in public, stick out your bottom jaw. For some reason, it’s a lot harder to cry like that.
26. Don’t ever accept someone else’s expectations of you. You can be and do anything you want to, even if it seems unattainable and unrealistic to some people (even to me and Daddy).
27. I will make mistakes. I am still learning. Please forgive me.
28. There are truly amazing and kind people in this world. Do not let the media’s portrayal of society shake your faith in people.
29. At the same time, be cautious and follow your gut instinct—it is usually right.
30. Don’t ever be afraid to talk to me or to ask or tell me ANYTHING. Nothing you could say could make me love you any less. Chances are, I have been there, done that.
31. Talk to your grandparents and ask them about their lives. If you don’t, I promise there will come a time you will want to know and it will be too late to ask.
32. No matter how much sleep you get, you will have under eye circles. It’s genetic, sorry. Invest in a really good concealer.
33. While money will not make you happy, it can make life less stressful, so be careful and responsible with it.
34. Travel as much as you possibly can.
35. Be your own person. Trying to be someone else is just exhausting.
36. The fact that you can vote, work, speak out, and get an education is a gift, and it didn’t come without a price. Do not squander the opportunity your foremothers have fought for you to have.
37. If you ever need to escape for a while, read Harry Potter.
38. Listen to others. As much as your opinions matter, so do theirs.
39. If you ever feel overwhelmed, like life is going to suffocate you, make a to-do list. Just take things one task at a time. Chances are, you’ll realize things aren’t as daunting as they seemed.
40. If you have a math question, ask Dad.
41. You will make mistakes. Try not to beat yourself up over them; instead, learn from them.
42. There is absolutely nothing wrong with dreaming big.
43. It’s never a good idea to take pictures or video of anything you wouldn’t want to Dad or I to see. And please, for the love, do not send any inappropriate pictures/videos/messages to anyone. That stuff has a way of sticking around.
44. Family is the most important thing you have in this world.
45. If you want good friends, be one.
46. Good things come in small packages—remember that when you don’t make it over 5’3″.
47. Speak up and make yourself heard. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you.
48. Be grateful for your life, your health, your family. Sadly, there are many people who have less than you; show them compassion.
49. Being pregnant is way more uncomfortable than anyone warns you it will be, but it is TOTALLY worth it.
50. Stand on your own two feet. Don’t expect anyone to do for you what you can do for yourself. But if you ever need help or just a shoulder to cry on, I will be there.

How to Make a (Healthy!) Meal for $3 a Person

I am all about trying to stretch a buck. I plan our meals each week and shop only for what I need; I plan around what’s on sale at the grocery store; and I try to get more than one meal out of ingredients when possible (like using roasted veggies for pizza one night and paninis the next).

So when I realized I put together this yummy (and healthy) meal for around $3 a person without even trying, I had to give myself a pat on the back! We can’t all eat at McDonald’s for $3 a person—and this meal is way healthier.

I kept the ingredient list short by keeping the cooking simple. I roasted a pound of brussel sprouts with olive oil, salt, and pepper at 400° for about 35-40 minutes. After cutting up three large baking potatoes, I tossed them in olive oil and Herbes de Provence, covered them in foil, and baked for 20 minutes. I then removed the foil and continued baking for another 15 minutes.

The real money saver here was the boneless pork chops, which I sprinkled with an herb blend and pan grilled. Pork is a great low-cost alternative to chicken or beef. My grocery store usually has pork chops on sale for around $3 a pound, and you can generally get four pork chops for under two pounds.

Not bad for three bucks, right? That’s less than a Big Mac … and probably less calories!


To Buy or Not to Buy {Organic}: That is the Question

I try to buy organic as much as I can, but great googly moogly it can be expensive! I usually focus on  the dirty dozen when it comes to produce, and we always buy organic milk, but I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve bought organic meat. So how do you know which organic foods are worth shelling out the extra cash?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently conducted a study on organic versus conventional produce, meat, and dairy. The study concluded that there is no real nutritional difference between organic and regular foods—they have the same nutrients, minerals, vitamins, etc.; however, organic foods have been proven to contain lower levels of pesticides and other chemicals, which is especially important to small children whose brains are still developing.

When it comes to meat, the hormone and steroid levels in conventional meat were not found to be significant or very different from those found in organic meat, thought the AAP notes that the animals who provide the latter are “less likely to be contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria.” Something to think about and definitely more of an issue when it comes to red meat versus poultry.

Perhaps the most surprising part of the report (to me at least), was that the AAP found no real benefit to buying organic milk. Considering I have been shelling out around $7 or $8 a gallon for organic whole milk (about twice the price of the non-organic variety), I was shocked—and a little embarrassed considering I was the one who insisted that we only give Olivia organic milk or she would surely grow boobs by the third grade. The fear of early puberty is what made my husband cave in. Turns out, I was wrong.

At the end of the day, the AAP report concluded that the most important thing is for children to get plenty of healthy foods, organic or otherwise. As Janet Silverstein, MD, FAAP, a member of the AAP Committee on Nutrition and an author on the report, notes, “Many families have a limited food budget, and we do not want families to choose to consume smaller amounts of more expensive organic foods and thus reduce their overall intake of healthy foods like produce.”


Eat Your Veggies: Buffalo Cauliflower

I love buffalo wings, but I do not love how bad they are for you. What I really crave is the buffalo sauce, so I figured I would try to kill two birds with one stone: get my buffalo fix and up my veggie servings (which, by the way, are a recommended nine servings a day). I adapted this recipe from the one for Bang Bang Shrimp from That’s So Michelle. My friend Nicole made that recipe and raved about it, so I thought it would be a good place to start.

I’m not a huge fan of pan frying, but these were totally worth the mess! My husband and I LOVED them. I will absolutely be making this dish again!

Buffalo Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, with florets cut off and separated
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
3 tbsp cornstarch
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp garlic powder
Salt & Pepper
¼ cup canola oil
Frank’s Red Hot Original Pepper Sauce or other buffalo sauce
Celery (optional)
Bleu Cheese or Ranch dressing (optional)

Place Panko crumbs in a shallow dish and mix in salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Put your eggs and your cornstarch into two separate bowls.

One at a time, dip your cauliflower into the cornstarch, turning to coat, and shake off any excess. Next, dip it in the egg and then coat with the bread crumbs. As you finish each one, set it aside on a plate.

After you have coated all of your cauliflower, heat your canola oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (you can check it by flicking a drop of water in and seeing if it sizzles), add your cauliflower florets. Be sure to turn them frequently until all sides are browned. Remove them from the pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate to remove any excess oil.

Let the cauliflower cool for just a few minutes. Working in small batches, put your cauliflower in a bowl and drizzle with sauce; toss gently to coat.

Serve immediately with celery and bleu cheese or ranch dressing.


How to Wear Pantone’s Color of the Year

Last year’s Pantone Color of the Year, Tangerine Tango, was everywhere. Pants, tops, throw pillows, vases, shoes, art, rugs, you name it. So I’m predicting that the 2013 Color of the Year, Emerald Green, will be spring’s color du jour. Emerald green already splashed the runways at the spring 2013 fashion shows for Zac Posen, Lela Rose, Vera Wang, and more, so it’s only a matter of time before it starts popping up everywhere. Here are 12 ways you can rock a little or a lot of this year’s “it” color.

No.1    Banana Republic Sloan Pencil Skirt $79.50
No.2    Essie Nail Polish in Pretty Edgy $8
No.3    Green Bubble Necklace from Etsy Shop Himediy $14.99
No.4    Modcloth Emily and Fin Green Dress $79.99
No.5    Banana Republic Ashley Bow Flat $98
No.6    Old Navy green skinny jeans $19.97
No.7    Gap Striped Moto Jacket $79.95
No.8    The Cambridge Satchel Company Large Classic Satchel $178.00
No.9    Anthropologie Charleston Henley Peasant Blouse $68
No.10  Gap Colorblock Stripe T $24.95
No.11  MAC Eye Kohl in Minted $15
No.12  Gap Floral Scarf $29.95


Soy Citrus Scallops with Soba Noodles

There was a recent episode of Chopped where the chefs had to make a dessert using soba noodles. I had never had soba noodles before, but knowing that they were a type of Japanese buckwheat noodle, I couldn’t imagine having them for dessert. But I was intrigued, so I decided to try them out. I found this (more traditional) recipe for scallops and soba noodles with a soy citrus marinade/sauce from Cooking Light that seemed easy enough; plus the total cooking time was only 20 minutes, which made it doable for a busy weeknight.

While some of the “fast” recipes from Cooking Light seem to take me much longer than the listed time, this one actually was as easy as it seemed. I changed the original recipe just slightly by adding more veggies, and the dish was a hit with my two year old. If I had a con for this recipe, it would be that it’s a bit pricey compared to our usual meals—one pound of scallops will run you around $15—and I had a difficult time finding soba noodles (several grocery stores were all sold out??). Overall, I would make this again, though I may grill the scallops next time, sans marinade, and just toss everything together at the end.

Soy Citrus Scallops with Soba Noodles
From Cooking Light

3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 tsp chili garlic sauce
1 tbsp dark sesame oil, divided
1 lb large sea scallops
4 cups hot cooked soba (about 6 oz uncooked buckwheat noodles)
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 bag of frozen steam-in-the-bag vegetables (I used carrots, sugar snap peas, and baby corn) 

Combine first six ingredients and 1 teaspoon oil in a shallow baking dish; add scallops to dish in a single layer. Marinate 4 minutes on each side.

Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove scallops from dish, reserving marinade. Add scallops to pan; sauté 1 minute on each side or until almost done. Remove scallops from pan; keep warm. Place remaining marinade in pan; bring to a boil. Return scallops to pan; cook 1 minute.

Steam vegetables according to the directions on the bag. Toss noodles with salt and green onions.

Place 1 cup noodle mixture on each of four plates. Top each serving with vegetables and about three scallops, and drizzle with a tablespoon sauce.


Cranberry Bruschetta … Yum!

Go figure that the easiest dish I made for Christmas this year was also everyone’s favorite! It was a bit of a risk—I combined bits and pieces from several different recipes and adapted them to make my own, and I didn’t do a test run on this little experiment before Christmas. Luckily, the risk paid off! I think nearly everyone who tried it asked if I was going to post the recipe.

This is a fantastic appetizer to make ahead of time; in fact, I recommend making it the day before you plan to serve it so that the flavors can develop and the cranberries aren’t too tart.

Oh and special thanks to my brother, Josh, for being my oh-so-talented hand model. {Thanks for washing your hands!}

Cranberry Bruschetta

12 oz fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp chopped fresh basil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
Loaf of French baguette bread

Pick through your cranberries, discarding any that are soft. Place the cranberries in a food processor and pulse a few times to roughly chop. Spoon the cranberries into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Serve on slices of toasted baguette.


Our Favorite {Quick!} Toddler Bedtime Books

I love reading to my child. We do it every night as part of her bedtime routine, and it’s a big deal for her to pick out the book each night. But I’m not going to lie—I definitely have those nights when I positively dread storytime for fear that she’s going to choose some ridiculously long book when all I really want is to get her in bed so I can open a bottle of wine.

After reading The Cat in the Hat one such night (which takes freaking forever to read—thanks for that Dr. Seuss!), my husband and I got smart and started offering her a selection of books to choose from rather than giving her full reign over her entire library of books. She still gets to feel like she’s picking the book and we don’t want to take a long walk off a short pier by the time we’re done reading; it’s a win win! Here are our favorite bedtime books when we’re trying to make a quick getaway.

 *Honestly, there’s not a single Boynton book we haven’t loved. They’re funny and short and perfect for a quick bedtime story!