Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Great Double Stroller Debate

Mr. Mom Machine and I have been going back and forth over the past several months trying to decide whether or not we should purchase a double stroller. Our daughter will be three years old when #2 makes her appearance, and she doesn’t use her stroller as much as she used to. That being said, there are some key times when she does use it: at Busch Gardens, when she’s tired of walking at the mall, at our county festival, etc.

I’m not going to lie—one of the main reasons I have been considering buying a double stroller is because I’m flippin’ terrified of being on my own with two kids and not having a way to wrangle my three year old into some semblance of submission. But since double strollers don’t come cheap, I decided to do my research and lean on more experienced moms of 2+ for some guidance. I definitely don’t want to drop several hundred dollars on a stroller that we never end up using.

So I did what any unsure mom does: I took to Facebook. Luckily, my friends rose to the occasion with tons of great advice!

Danielle S.: “Love the double jogger!! For times when that set-up isn’t ideal, we just use two separate strollers. Didn’t get any other type of double.”

Amber J: “I had a double stroller. it was a life saver! There’s nothing worse than trying to hold a toddlers hand and control them while pushing an infant or having to carry a toddler while pushing an infant. It comes with experience though. It does get a little tricky trying to maneuver around department store aisles and stuff.”

Marci E.: “I would suggest waiting until baby arrives and see how using a carrier works first (if you don’t mind wearing baby). You may find that Olivia grows out of using the stroller by the time you are ready to use it.”

Tracey S.: “I resisted the double until after baby was born, and then went with the Sit and Stand Joovy Ultralight (bought on Craigslist). I am happy with that choice for shopping, outings, etc. We already had a bike trailer that converts to a stroller so that’s what I use when I run/walk with both- I’d love to have a double jogger but couldn’t justify the price.”

Shannon M.: “Depends on the double and what you do with your kiddos! I had a double umbrella and found it useless! I got a used Sit and Stand for the first year (Craigslist) and it was awesome for those 12 months, but definitely not worth buying new. I’ve loved my double In-Step jogger because the seats are really roomy and its useful for a lot of things (when I travel alone, running, etc) so I think that was worth the money new.”

Katie H.: “Mine were all 24 mos or less apart so yes I do [think it’s worth having a double stroller]. Phil and Teds are awesome if you don’t think you will need a double all the time or for very long.”

Charity F.: “I never bought one and only regretted once in almost two years! I bought the Ergo baby carrier and carried one and pushed one in the stroller. We’ve been to Disney twice and just take two nice umbrella type strollers. To me the double strollers were to big and bulky to be worth it. Good luck!”

 

In the end, we decided to try the Baby Jogger glider (which we found for around $65 on Amazon and fits right on the back of our current City Mini). If, when the time comes, we find ourselves smacking ourselves for not getting the double stroller … well, we’re only about 15 minutes from our nearest Buy Buy Baby.

 

What about you, did you use a double stroller? Do you regret your choice?


Shrimp Florentine with Roasted Garlic

I love when a dish is comforting and yet packed with protein and iron. Since I happened to have shrimp and spinach in my refrigerator, I went in search of a recipe that used both ingredients … that my two year old would actually eat. I found this recipe for Shrimp Florentine on Cooking Light and decided to put my own spin on it.

I used fresh spinach instead of frozen, roasted the garlic instead of caramelizing it, and added caramelized onions and goat cheese (because what isn’t better with a little goat cheese?!). The result was so tasty that my daughter didn’t even mind eating the “leaves” (i.e. any leafy green I try to sneak into a  dish).

Shrimp Florentine with Roasted Garlic

4-6 cloves garlic (skin on)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp sugar
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp butter
1/2 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/8 tsp black pepper
4 cups fresh spinach
4 cups hot cooked spaghetti (about 8 ounces uncooked pasta)
2 oz crumbled goat cheese

 

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Remove the outer, papery layers of the garlic, leaving the skin on the actual cloves intact. Wrap the cloves in aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool.

2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent. Sprinkle in sugar, stir, and continue cooking until the onions are very tender, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

3. To prepare shrimp, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp; sauté 3 minutes or until done. Remove shrimp from pan.

4. Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Stir in milk, broth, Parmesan cheese, salt, red pepper, and black pepper. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in spinach a handful at a time until it’s all incorporated and tender. Add onions and shrimp, mixing well.

5. Slice the ends off of the cloves of roasted garlic and carefully peel the skin off.

6. Combine shrimp mixture, garlic, and pasta in a large bowl; toss well. Sprinkle with goat cheese and serve immediately.

 


Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

I have a confession to make. Before now, I had never made cupcakes and frosting from scratch at the same time. I had make cupcakes from scratch and then cheated with frosting from a tub—and vice versa. So this was a big deal for me. It made me feel like I should call my grandma to tell her because I knew, as a former wedding cake baker and caterer, she would be as proud of me as I was of myself.

After my Sunday marathon baking session, I take my proverbial hat off to people who bake from scratch all the time because it is no joke. The result was outstanding, but I have officially decided that I prefer cooking to baking—it’s less strict … more room for deviating from the recipe. But if you love baking, you have to try these cupcakes. They were so good that even I {the self-proclaimed non-baker} will be making them again! 

Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

For the Cupcakes:
Yields 24 cupcakes 

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs plus 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar and butter.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

3. Blend in the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  In a small bowl or measuring cup, blend together the sour cream and vanilla.

4. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mixing each addition just until incorporated.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake until the cupcakes are just set and pale golden, about 20-22 minutes.  Let cool in the pan about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  Once cool, frost as directed below.

 

For the Frosting:

9½ oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup plus 1 tbsp sour cream

 

1. Melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Set aside to cool until just barely warm.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.  Gradually mix in the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt.

3. Beat in the melted and cooled chocolate and then the sour cream.  Continue beating until the mixture is smooth and well blended.

4. Frost cupcakes immediately before the chocolate hardens and the frosting sets.

Recipes from Annie’s Eats

 


Coconut Shrimp Cakes with Mango Pineapple Salsa

Ok guys, these might be the most delicious things I have made in a while! I absolutely love coconut shrimp, but I really hate deep frying things at home because it makes such a mess, so I had never attempted making them. So when I saw this recipe, I went out the next day and bought all the ingredients.

I have to say, my two year old was much more interested in the mango pineapple salsa than she was the shrimp cakes, but my husband could not stop commenting on how good they were! 

Coconut Shrimp Cakes with Mango Pineapple Salsa

For the salsa: 
1 mango, diced
1½ cups diced fresh pineapple
1/3 cup red bell pepper, diced small
¼ cup red onion, finely diced
1 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
Juice of one lime
Pinch of coarse salt

For the shrimp cakes: 
1 lb uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon zest
1 large egg
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro
Few dashes of sriracha (to taste)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Coconut oil for cooking (about 2-3 tbsp.)

 

1. To make the salsa, combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl.  Toss to mix well.  Cover and refrigerate, allowing flavors to blend.

2. To make the shrimp cakes, finely chop the uncooked shrimp. In a medium bowl, mix together shrimp, ¾ cup of the coconut, the garlic, lemon zest, egg, cilantro, sriracha, salt and pepper.  Stir the mixture until evenly mixed.

3. Form the mixture into 7-8 patties.  Add the remaining coconut to a shallow dish or pie plate.  Gently coat the shrimp cakes in the shredded coconut.

4. In a large sauté pan, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the shrimp cakes to the pan and cook, turning once, until both sides are golden and the cakes are cooked through, about 4 minutes total.  Top with the mango pineapple salsa and serve immediately.

 

Adapted slightly from Annie’s Eats, which was sourced from Perry’s Plate


Easy {Light} Red Sangria

I could really go for some cold sangria to help me get through this sweltering summer. Unfortunately, I won’t be having any for another three and a half months. So for all of you non-preggo folks out there, here’s a great recipe for a light version of red sangria that doesn’t require a special trip to the liquor store. Be sure to drink a glass for me!

I made this sangria while we were at the beach, and it was a huge hit! I took bits and pieces from several different recipes to come up with my own easier, lower calorie recipe. This recipe doesn’t call for any additional liquor (so you don’t have to buy an entire bottle of Triple Sec just for 1/4 cup), and it’s lower in sugar than your average sangria. I doubled the recipe since we had so many people, and it was still gone in a flash!

Light Sangria

1 bottle red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon)
1/2 cup light orange juice, such as Trop50
8 packets of Splenda (or 1/3 cup if using Splenda Granulated)
1/2 lime, sliced
1/2 orange, sliced
1/2 lemon, sliced
1 small red apple, diced
2 cups diet ginger ale

Combine wine, orange juice, and sugar and stir. Add the fruit and refrigerate 1-2 hours. Just before serving, add the ginger ale and stir well.


Turkey Burgers with Gorgonzola, Caramelized Onions & Arugula

Turkey burgers get a bad rep for being bland and boring. But it’s really all in the mix and the toppings. When I saw this recipe for mini turkey burgers, I decided to make them big kid-sized and kick it up a notch by adding caramelized onions, mushrooms, and arugula. I also added a dash of Worcestershire to the ground turkey to give it a little more flavor. The result was a delicious, gourmet-tasting turkey burger that was full on flavor and not on fat—score!

 

Turkey Burgers with Gorgonzola, Caramelized Onions & Arugula

½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 lb ground turkey breast
1 medium yellow onion
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
½ cup (2 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, at room temperature
2 cups fresh arugula
Hamburger buns
Cooking spray

 

1. Mix together the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Form the ground turkey into patties and place on a plate. Cover with foil and set aside in the frig while you cook the onions and mushrooms.

2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent. Add mushrooms. Sprinkle in sugar, stir, and continue cooking until the onions and mushrooms are very tender, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

3. Heat a grill pan or your grill to medium heat. Spray with cooking spray and then cook the turkey burgers for 5 minutes on each side or until done.

4. Spread the Gorgonzola evenly on each of the hamburger buns, top with a burger, onions, mushrooms, and arugula.

 

Adapted from Cooking Light


DIY Headboards

A simple headboard can make a $50 Hollywood Frame look like a million bucks, and it can really make a statement in a room. Unfortunately, many headboards can set you back hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. So I’ve pulled together a few of my favorite inexpensive, DIY headboard ideas. Enjoy, and happy headboarding!

Painted shutters- simple, beachy, perfectly shabby chic.

Via The Lettered Cottage

Turn a door on it’s side, slap on some crown molding and a coat of paint and voila! Want to try this one out? Click here for a tutorial.

Via Grand Design Co.

Use reclaimed planks or a wooden pallet and put your inner artist to work. There are so many possibilities with this one! I absolutely love this one from House Tweaking (click for step-by-step instructions).

Via House Tweaking

Perhaps the most time consuming DIY headboard project, but if you can pull it off, you’ve saved yourself quite a bundle! (Pssst, there’s a DIY tutorial here!)

Via Addicted 2 Decorating


Orange Apricot Cupcakes

When I was planning my wedding, I went to a bridal convention with a friend. It was there that I tasted the best cake/filling combo I had ever had—orange cake with Grand Marnier and apricot filling. I couldn’t make it happen for my wedding day, but I’ve been making cakes and cupcakes in this delicious combo ever since! It’s especially good with homemade cream cheese frosting and a little sprinkle of orange zest.

 Now, I have made cupcakes from scratch, but for these, I usually just grab a box of yellow or white cake mix and get to work. The light, spongy texture of box-mix cupcakes works really well for filling {and I’ve never had any complaints}! 

Orange Apricot Cupcakes

1 box butter yellow cake mix
½ cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
½ cup fresh orange juice
1 tbsp orange zest plus a little extra for garnishing
1 jar apricot preserves

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
½ stick of butter, brought to room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp whipping cream
4 cups powdered sugar

 

1. Preheat your oven to 325°. Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners.

2. In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, eggs, water, oil, orange juice and the tbsp orange zest using an electric mixer on medium speed.

3. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners (yields approx. 24) and bake for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before filling and frosting.

4. Fill a decorating bag (fitted with a Wilton #12 decorating tip) with some of the apricot preserves. Insert the decorating tip into the top of each cupcake and fill with the preserves. It might take a couple of tries to get a feel for the right amount. Use a knife to level off any excess filling.

5. For the frosting, 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.

6. Frost each cupcake, sprinkling the top with a bit of the extra orange zest for garnish. Enjoy!


Things I am Loving Right Now

Here are a few things I am loving right now!

 

I recently won a giveaway from Very Busy Mamá (yay!) for a lovely piece of Ruth Barzel jewelry. I chose this long pearl necklace, which is so versatile and delicate—I simply love it!

I recently picked up this little hippo bathing suit for Olivia from Target. Little girls’ swimsuits are just the cutest! They also have this design in a two piece with a little rash guard. And for only $13, I just couldn’t resist!

This thermal protectant from Sebastian has been amazing for my fine hair. My stylist talked me into getting it last time I was in for a cut, and I’m so glad. I tend to get split ends and heat damage really easily, and I feel like this has helped keep my hair healthy and increased my time between cuts.

We are in the process of turning our guest room into Olivia’s big girl room. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on new furniture, so we got picked out an unfinished dresser from Ikea and painted it. We decided to do the drawers in pink ombre, and I found these adorable hand painted knobs from Etsy shop 3ButtonsN2Bows. I ended up buying several types (owls, birds, and trees) in different colors to complete her dresser and nightstand. I think these will give a cute custom feel to the not-custom-priced furniture!

Not sure if it’s the fact that I’m pregnant or just that it’s delicious, but I am obsessed with Ben & Jerry’s Late Night Snack ice cream.  I think it’s my favorite ice cream, which is saying something because I’m pretty equal opportunity when it comes to sweets. There’s something about the mix of salty caramel and potato chips and sweet chocolate and ice cream that just does it for me. Mmmm, now I’m hungry.


Homemade Coleslaw

I’ve been eating coleslaw since I was a kid, but for most of my life it was nothing more than a condiment for my Carolina barbecue. It wasn’t until college that I started appreciating it as a side in its own right.

Funny enough, the place that first turned me onto eating coleslaw solo was Long John Silvers (and I am not a fan of fried fast food seafood). But my husband (then just my boyfriend) had a thing for their popcorn shrimp and usually discarded the coleslaw that came with it. Thus began my love affair with this tasty summer side.

Over the years, I’ve had terrible coleslaw that tasted like cabbage and mayo and really, really exceptional recipes with just the right amount of creamy tanginess (if that’s even a word). This one is now my go-to for making classic southern coleslaw at home. Hope you enjoy!

Homemade Coleslaw

1 family-size bag coleslaw cabbage mix (I get the tricolor one with carrots)
2 tbsp diced onion
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
¼ cup milk
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup buttermilk
1 ½ tbsp white vinegar
2 ½ tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice

 

1. Pour coleslaw mix into large bowl and add onions.

2. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.

3. Pour over coleslaw mix and stir well.

4. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight before serving.