Thursday, February 27, 2014

Picky Eater

Last summer my son had just turned five years old, a whole hand, and he had learned to write all of his letters at preschool. He went through a stage where he wanted to write letters and words all of the time and needed my husband or me to spell everything. I loved this stage, no matter how short lived.

One evening my husband was outside grilling hamburgers and the baby and I were inside getting the sides and toppings ready for dinner. Our son had complained about dinner because we have hamburgers a lot in the summer and at the time he really didn't like them. He was sitting on the outside steps with a pencil and paper asking my husband to spell I…don't…care…about…nothing…you…make. After spelling his dad casually asked him what he planned to do with the note to which came a swift reply, "I'm giving it to mom because she knows I don't like cheeseburgers and we are having them anyway." Trying his best not to laugh, my husband told him that it wasn't really a nice note.

Our son sat for a few minutes and resumed asking his dad to spell more words..I…love…you. To make the note nice. As soon as he was finished with this round, he came into the kitchen with the note; my smiling husband a few steps behind. I'll never forget reading the note out loud. "I don't care about nothing you make I love you." I bent down, hugged my son, told him I loved him too, and praised his handwriting. He walked back outside and we couldn't stop laughing. Innocent honesty.

Fast forward eight months and today he saw a four-layer chocolate cake which prompted him to ask if I could make this for his birthday. Inwardly I smiled and said we usually buy a cake so he can have cool decorations and get the kind he wants. He responded with "well, I think I'd like you just to make me a cake instead this year."

One day he'll realize how special it was for me and I know it won't be long until I make something that he doesn't care for but I'll bask in the compliment for as long as possible.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Chicks Dig It

After preschool my son wanted to play outside for a little bit even though it was a windy, 35 degrees. Knowing he's tired of being stuck inside I said just make sure you come in when you get cold. I started to prepare dinner and I heard the front door open and shut, so he must be coming inside. I called for him to walk into the kitchen but didn't hear any noise so I walked into the living room, he wasn't there, I walked to the front door and saw his coat and shoes. The baby was asleep so I went up to his room thinking maybe he went up there. No kiddo in the house. I walked outside and he's still outside with roller skates and a sweatshirt. I told him it's freezing and he needs a coat, I walked back in to get him a coat and he met me on the porch. He needed his tennis shoes, and he informed me that he started at the top of the driveway and rode his bike down the hill without braking or wrecking. I told him to be careful because he doesn't want to hurt himself. 
And the response….

"Pain hurts, but only for a minute
Yeah life is short so go on and live it
'Cause the chicks dig it"

(We listen to a lot of country in this house, so if you don't know the song by Chris Cagle - Chicks Dig It, I encourage you to listen to the whole song.)

He laughed and ran off down the driveway for his bike. 

Playing in the mulch.

Grocery Store Chaos

First let me say, I hate grocery shopping, it's not just that I dislike it, I hate it and always have. My mom always told me not to use the word 'hate' but I can't help it in this case. No matter what store you shop in you have to 1. pick up item, 2. place item in cart, 3. place item on belt for cashier to scan and place in bag, 4. place bag in cart, 5. place bags in car and drive home, 6. haul everything into house, 7. put all the items away. For someone that hates this process, these steps seem to drag on and on. Yes, I understand that no matter what you shop for even if it's clothes it's the same type of process, but that's not so dreadful.

I also generally grocery shop with two little kids at one of the busiest stores in the area, and yes as much as I dislike Walmart, it's where we usually shop. I'm sure everyone has seen an email or a link that has pictures of the crazily dressed Walmart shoppers and laughed along with me. For the record, I don't dress like that! While I may prefer shopping at our local Giant Eagle, I refuse to pay 15%-20% more for groceries. Plus I like the one-stop shopping. I have two little kids that don't want to go into several stores so mom can get the best deal here and there.

My husband now and then goes with us depending on his schedule which makes it a little easier but also more difficult because he along with our son loves the cookie aisle and freezer section. I seem to find all sorts of things when we place the items on the belt to check out. He on the other hand, likes to grocery shop. Wondering why he doesn't do the grocery shopping by himself? Well that's easy! The one time we tried this, he brought home things from his favorite sections - we had three different kinds of cookies, chips, and tons of freezer stuff. I was in shock putting everything away and asked if he purchased any 'real food?!' I'll never forget the proud reply, "well I did get you an onion." That's the last time he went major grocery shopping. (Years ago.)

*Quick note - major grocery shopping means a lot of groceries, not just running in to get milk, diapers, or just a few items.

I try to use coupons but it's hard to find really great ones and it's even more difficult to shop smart and price conscious when shopping with a baby that's trying to eat the coupons, the list, or whatever she can get her hands on and with a 5-year-old holding up cookies, juice, cake, icing, and yelling, "hey mom look at this, can we get it?" The food companies know how to make the packaging pop at a kids eye level. I recommend never letting kids or husbands go shopping on an empty stomach because this just adds to the craziness. My son gets so excited with his dad in the freezer section that he screams and laughs because he can talk his dad into just about everything that mom doesn't normally get and this is on a full stomach. Can you imagine an empty stomach?

Normally, I try to go in the morning on a weekend when the shelves are stocked and things aren't so hectic but this past weekend, well I didn't time it right. We had things to do in the morning and it was just after lunch that the baby and I ventured out to shop. (My husband and son decided to sit this one out.) I knew before I left that it was going to be a mess but I didn't have a choice, we unfortunately needed groceries. On the way there, I decided that I'd make the best of it. I'd smile no matter what and not get upset. Mental preparation for grocery shopping. Ha!

Anyway, we were just beginning the process and I hear a woman screaming at another, "I'm not making a scene, but if you want me too, I WILL MAKE A SCENE!" I shook my head and kept moving. Down another aisle and a mother snapped at her teenage daughter to watch what she was doing before she hit someone. The store was beyond busy. The daughter pushed the cart away and yelled that her mother can just do it herself. A couple more aisles and a husband and wife were fighting over who knows what but yanking the cart back and forth. I smiled and shook my head at all of it because I knew I should have went first thing in the morning.

My little girl was fantastic on this trip, sometimes I don't get as lucky but she was a happy little girl, maybe it had something to do with her momma laughing at all the craziness. The only things she wanted to do was frantically try to take my shopping list out of my hand, pull at my shirt, pull at my hair, dig in my purse, throw the water bottle out of the cart seven different times, and push buttons on my keys.

We left the store without being yelled at, without getting hit by another cart, and without getting the horrible looks if she was crying. Upon arriving home, my husband and son met me downstairs to bring in all the groceries which was incredibly sweet. On the last trip up the steps, my husband said I didn't get much. I laughed because I considered it a success that I got out of the store with something. I even got an onion!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Little Girl, No Shoes!

No shoes, no socks, happy girl. 

Momma got her cute shoes. 

Calling someone to say she's mad about the cute shoes. 

Kicked off the cute shoes, happy girl again!

Shortbread Tarts with Berries & Cream

My husband has been requesting that I make my shortbread tarts with berries and cream for a long time, well not consistently requesting but now and then he'll say, "do you remember those cookies with the lemon cream and berries? Maybe you can make those sometime soon." The reason I haven't made them, they are extremely fussy, but they are very good. However, he hadn't mentioned the tarts in a long time, but my cousin mentioned that she made chocolate chip shortbread cookies and I thought, I'll surprise him when he gets home from work with the ones he likes. For my cousin's cookies, she posted the picture and recipe to her Pinterest page, I will eventually try those too.

*As a side note - I can't keep a surprise, I give Christmas gifts early, I give all gifts early if I can. I get too excited and want the person receiving the surprise or gift to know as soon as possible. So I told my husband that I made them well before he walked through the door.

I made my lemon cream filling first and completely forgot to take pictures of the process. But the filling is very easy…cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest to balance everything out.

To start the shortbread tarts, cream butter and powdered sugar together in a mixer.

Then beat in vanilla. I love the smell of vanilla and for some reason I tend to smile when I add this ingredient, it's warming.

In a separate bowl combine flour, cornstarch, and a little bit of salt.

Mix until just combined, making sure not to over do it. It's going to be sticky.

Okay here's the first fussy part. The mix is sticky and it's a mini muffin pan. Place teaspoon size amounts into the pan and press the dough up the sides with an indent in the center. It can be a little frustrating.

Once you are satisfied with the way they look, place the pan in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Bake for about 18 minutes, but halfway through the baking process, prick the middle so they don't puff up. Check again in 5 minutes, prick if needed.


Let the tarts cool before removing from pan.

I decided to use blackberries and strawberries for the top.

A little advice - don't use strawberries. The blackberries work so much better with the lemon.

Shortbread Tarts with Berries & Cream
(makes 30 tarts)

Tart Ingredients
1 c. butter, room temperature
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
1 T. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt

To Make
Cream butter and sugar in mixer (approx 2 min.). Beat in vanilla. Add flour, cornstarch, and salt. Mix just until incorporated. Divide dough and place in greased mini muffin pans. Press dough up sides, indent in the center. Place plan in fridge for 10 minutes. Bake at 325 degrees for 18 - 20 minutes (lightly brown). Halfway through baking time prick with a fork. Check in 5 minutes, prick if the tarts have puffed up. Place on wire rack to cool.

Filling Ingredients
8 oz. cream cheese, soft
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1/3 c. lemon juice (fresh)
lemon zest from one lemon
1 tsp. vanilla

To Make
In mixer beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add condensed milk, lemon juice, zest, and vanilla until smooth. Refrigerate until serving time.

Fill tarts and top with berries.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dinner Parties with Kids

Lately I've heard a lot about people hosting dinner parties or going to dinner parties, or people getting together to go out to eat. If you are one of the people that host a dinner party, do you have kids? I hope you said yes, and then my next question, can you tell me how you make this work?

When my husband and I first got married, we did a mixture of all three - we hosted, we went to our friends houses, and we'd go out. After our son was born, we limited all three, in part because if those friends didn't have kids, it was hard to explain that we may need to eat as fast as humanly possible in order to leave if he screamed or had a meltdown. Bedtime routines overtook our social life. I'm not complaining at all - I love bedtime routines and frankly I'm tired and want to unwind when the kids go to bed. But I sometimes miss having friends over for dinner. (I'm not talking friends that are family; that doesn't count.)

I started thinking about what I would even make if we invited friends over…and you know what - that's a little scary. I know my family likes certain things I make, but would other people? And do you tell them what you're making ahead of time so they can politely say that don't want to attend if they hate your suggestion? 

Then I saw that people are creating dinner/supper clubs and through email a theme is determined and everyone discusses which dish they will bring that works for the dinner. I actually really liked the sound of this but I believe you'd need a lot of people and with a bunch of preschoolers and babies…well I'm not sure that works well for an inside dinner. It is still winter. 

I'm beyond interested in what you have experienced or what you plan with your friends. Please post comments to tell me about your parties. Thanks!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Chili for Dinner

A favorite dinner for my family is chili and grilled cheese and it's of the easiest dinners to make. Today my husband called me and asked what we were having for dinner - this is very common and he's passing this on to our son. Just last week while we were finishing dinner my son looked up and asked what we were going to have the following night. I stared at my husband and said like father, like son. Can we finish one dinner first?

Well anyway, my recipe for chili is so easy and while I like to have the chili simmer for at least 45 minutes, it doesn't need to in order to eat.

I gather all of my ingredients - the mason jar is filled with chili sauce already prepared. In the summer we juiced the tomatoes from the garden and added in the chili seasoning before we sealed the jars. 

The petite diced tomatoes with jalepenos, the chili beans, and chili sauce are added into the pot.

At some point, I was told that if you add canned beans to anything you cook, drain the juice off because it helps to prevent beans being that magical fruit. :) I have no idea if there is any truth in it but I drain it off.

Now I add in my seasonings: pepper, lots of cayenne, chili powder if needed, and sometimes I add in red pepper flakes. Oh and just a little parsley.

While I'm adding everything to the chili pot, I start to brown the ground beef and add pepper. We generally buy 1/4 or 1/2 a beef directly from a butcher so I have no idea how lean it is. 

And because I don't know how lean or fatty the beef is, I do something that I would assume chefs and great cooks would scream NOOOO about and that's….yes…I rinse the ground meat. You read that correctly, I rinse it. My family probably isn't aware that I do this but they've never complained that the beef lacks flavor, so I feel like I'm in the clear.

 Add your rinsed beef to the chili pot and simmer until you reach your desired taste.

My husband adds shredded colby jack cheese to his bowl and then pairs it with a grilled cheese. As for our son, well he dips his grilled cheese into the chili so he doesn't always add more cheese, and even with the spice, he loves it. 

While eating dinner tonight my husband mentioned that I'll need to share my recipe with our daughter when she gets older. I responded that I actually don't have a precise recipe, I know the color I need to achieve in the pot and know what it should taste like. He laughed and said well then you can just make it for her and deliver it. We have a loooong way until I ever need to worry about that, which I am thankful for, but when that time does come, I want to make and deliver. Or possibly just teach her "my way" and then have her experiment with "her way."

Chocolate Chip Cookies - An Easy Eight!

I love to bake but being that we are a small family, sometimes it's hard to bake something that you don't have to eat for days. With two adults and a picky five year old, sometimes cakes last too long and with neighbors that are snowbirds, I find making desserts in smaller portions really works for our family. 

I have my standard chocolate chip cookie recipe that I use when I make a couple dozen but what about when you only want to make about eight cookies. Well, look no further because I have the perfect recipe for you. 

Gather all of the ingredients you'll need - easier to have everything right in front of you.

I never have room temperature butter so I slightly melt in the microwave.

 Add the sugars, salt, and vanilla. Mix together really well.

 Add the egg yolks. Remember not the whites.

Now it's time to make the batter actually look like cookie dough with the baking soda and flour.

Add as many milk chocolate chips as you want, I use about 3 Tablespoons. I actually prefer just the cookie, my husband likes a small amount of chocolate, and our son recommends as many chips as possible and then add M&Ms.

Start placing teaspoon size amounts onto your parchment paper so you don't have to wash the cookie pan. :) Who wants to wash more dishes? Definitely not this momma.

 Add the M&Ms to as much batter as you or your family prefers.

I actually get 9 cookies because of the chocolate candy. So 2 of the cookies are especially for my son; which he thinks is just fantastic because he knows no one will eat them.

And the finished cookies. I also stopped at the store today to get vanilla ice cream because my husband prefers his cookies with ice cream. 

So for the entire recipe…

Chocolate Chip Cookies - An Easy Eight!

4 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. white sugar
4 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. all purpose flour
3 Tbsp. milk chocolate chips
and if you have a kid like mine - M&Ms

Make It
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 
2. Blend together softened butter, sugars, salt, and vanilla. 
3. Mix in egg yolks. 
4. Add baking soda and flour, mix well. 
5. Fold in your chocolate chips. 
6. Drop teaspoon sized balls onto cookie sheet. (Remember they will expand.)
7. Bake for about 8-9 minutes, edges just turing to golden brown. 

How do you prefer your chocolate chip cookies? 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Weekend Recap Photos

My brother is doing what?

Getting ready for dad to pull me behind the 4-wheeler.

Loop it around dad.

Come on dad!

Faster, Faster!

You want me to do what?
Oh you want me to smile?

Well okay, I can do that. Can you see my bottom tooth?

Momma, this is the last one before I take your camera. 

Little Girl - 8 Months