Month: August 2012

Cooking Without Drama: Healthy-Ish DIY Chocolate Little Bites

With school back in session I am now getting into the swing of preparing three sets of lunches and snacks everyday.Previously I would pack my husband’s cooler in order to help him stay on the healthy eating track, and pack a bag for my sweet boy.  However, since Princess E has graduated from her daycare/school (which provided breakfast, lunch & 3 snacks in the tuition cost), she now requires a bag of lunch and snacks.

And you can’t toss anything in there.  The food must require no prep, be easy to open, tasty, varied and packed almost every day.  Also the food should be healthy.

One of the kids favorite snacks is ‘Little Bites’.  Enteman’s makes them and I beleive Little Debbie makes a version.  They are basically mini-muffins.  They come 3-5 to a bag depending if you get the regular or 100 calorie, and for a box of five bags will run you between $2.50 and $5.00 depending if they are on sale.  And of course they are loaded with all the packaged food ‘goodies’

However, I make 12 bags of 5 little bites for $2.00 per batch or less. depending on coupons.  When I make them, the recipe actually yields about 72 mini muffins, however there is some snacking going on between getting them out of the pan and into the baggies.

They are also a little healthier than little bites.  Not huge, but enough to make me feel good about serving them.

Homemade Mini-Bites (Makes 72)

Ingredients
2 egg whites
1 can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 box chocolate cake mix
(If you are not trying to hide the pumpkin, feel free to use another flavor cake mix. I did do this with spice cake for grown ups once and they were yum!)

Special Equipment
Stand Mixer
Mini Muffin tins
Spatuala
Cooking Spray
Pancake Mix squirter (This is awesome. Before I had this, I would make the biggest mess.)

Directions

1. Heat oven to 350. Spray mini muffin tins
2. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form
3. Add canned pumpkin and mix until combined. (This is the part where I rip off the label and clean the pumpkin can before the kids see. I’m a bad mom-sue me.)
4. Add cake mix and mix until combined.
5. Put mix in prepared muffin tin, filling 1/2-2/3 full.
6. Bake for 8 minutes at 350
7. Let cool for a moment in the pan, remove to wire rack
8. Cool completely and put in little bags

I typically freeze these and pop a bag into the kids lunches and they defrost in time for morning snack. They have never noticed the pumpkin taste and I can’t taste the pumpkin either.   From heating the oven to clean-up this took about 45 minutes, including taking some photos which involved clearing some counter space. If I had a 2 more mini muffin tins, I could knock about 10 minutes off of this and get it done in less than 30 minutes.

Make a batch for your lunches, I promise they will be devoured.

The List

After I registered the children for school in our new town, I received the school supply lists.

7th Grade Supply List
One gallon size zip-lock bag Tissues for personal use Index cards
Paper – lined, notebook Blue, black, and red pens Dividers
TI84 graphing calculator (recommended) Colored pencils Highlighters
Rulers – dual (metric and customary) Number 2 pencils with erasers Three-hole punch
Three-ring binder (1) Pencil case Glue sticks Scissors, student type Graph paper Sheet protectors
Dry erase markers Protractor Compass Folders with brads and pockets (5) Pocket dictionary Pencil sharpener
Post-it notes Tape Stretchy book covers (jumbo)

Supply items may need to be replenished throughout the school year. There may be a few additional individual class needs that will be addressed the first week of school.

First Grade Supply List
1 spiral notebook:5 Star brand 1 hardcover composition book 1 large pencil box 1 box of 8 markers 2 pairs of scissors 2 packs of 24 pencils
6 black dry erase markers 1 pair of child-size black socks 8 large glue sticks 2 highlighters 2 large pink erasers 2 boxes of tissues
1 package of twistable crayons 1 bottle of hand sanitizer 1 package of wipes 1 box of gallon-size Ziploc bags 1 box of quart-size Ziploc bags
ART SUPPLIES – 1 smock/art shirt, 1 spiral or marble notebook, #2 pencils
MUSIC SUPPLIES – 1 folder with pockets and brads/fasteners, any color

These are the school supply lists for my two children. This was a shocker for me. My daughter had gone to a daycare with a kindergarten program so the only things I ever brought in were used paper towel rolls, egg cartons and the containers for clorox wipes.

My son’s school basically required 5 spiral notebooks, 5 folders, and some pencils with erasers. The school supplied everything else.

I have to wonder about all this. I can understand requiring pens, pencils, notebooks (not why I have to get a particular BRAND of notebook), erasers, a box to put these things in, paper, etc. These all seem like normal schools supplies.

But why do I need to bring in tissues, boxes of ziploc bags, wipes, and hand sanitizer. I also do not want my kids to use hand sanitizer since it kills the good bacteria. If their hands are dirty, send them to a sink to wash them or give them a wipe.

What’s scary is that even with all of this, teachers are still spending out of pocket to buy supplies, which is pretty sad.

I also have to ask: How complicated has 7th grade math become that the children need a $100 calculator? Granted I was really bad at math, but I got through high school and a semester of college math and never used a calculator.

I’ve also heard that on the 1st day, you get a list of “requested” supplies from the teacher, and my sweet guy’s list actually hints at that. However, I will be batshit if this is true. How much more crap do I need to get?

We live in a not cheap neighbor hood and pay not low taxes and yet I am being asked to supply tissues and wipes. What’s next, will I asked to bring in toilet paper and paper towels. And of course, since school has not actually started I have not gotten the fundraising catalogs yet.

Since this is new for me, I have to ask, is this typical? Is this a small list and I should be grateful, or is this alot.

However, no matter how crazy the list, I still love this commercial.

The Faux Foodie: So Easy Sangria

I know that a lot of you out there have a secret.  And no, it does not involve how many times you’ve read the 50 Shades trilogy.  It involves something you are even more reluctant to share.

You can’t cook.  Despite two cooking channels, Top Chef, and a bazillion magazines, cookbooks, websites and blogs, cooking terrifies you.

Whats worse is that you are surrounded by people who can cook.  People who love to talk about food.  People who not only know the difference between regular and extra virgin olive oil, but people who have spent more on the bottle of olive oil they used to drizzle on the tomato salad than you spent on your whole food budget for the week.

Well, help is here.  As they say, Fake it Till You Make It!  So I am here to help you fake it.  Whether or not you make it, is entirely up to you.

The easiest way to fake it is to have a few signature dishes that people love so much that every time there is a pot luck or you entertain, people expecting you to make that dish.

or of course, a cocktail.

So lets start with something easy- Sangria.  Sangria is easy, tasty and I bet that with a little bit of thought you could swap out ingredients all year and have a seasonal Sangria every month.   In fact, if I get 5 comments between the blog, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, I will even feature the Sangria of the Month, using the ingredients that are freshest or best symbolize the month.

Without Further Ado- August Sangria

In August the peaches are at their best.  In fact I am sure that there is a law stating that when fresh peaches are in season, you are required to eat one every day.  If not, I will run for President in 2016 and make it part of my platform.

August Sangria- Makes 1 Pitcher (8-10 Servings)

Bottle of Wine.  (I used a 750ml Spanish Red- Feel Free to use a white if you prefer)

2 teaspoons of sugar or 1 packet of stevia

2oz triple sec (others use gin, but I never have gin in the house)

1 Lemon, cut into 8ths

1 Lime cut into 8ths

2 peaches, peels on rough chopped

16oz sparkling berry flavored water (I’ve also seen ginger ale or tonic water used)

Here are the instructions-Brace yourselves

1. Pour Red wine, sugar and triple sec into pitcher-stir

2. Squeeze citrus and add to pitcher

3.  Add peaches to pitcher

4. Refrigerate for several hours to overnight (There is a make ahead element- but if you don’t serve with lots of ice- or pop in the freezer for 15 min before serving)

5. Prior to serving, add sparkling water.

And look at that.  Add a veggie and dip platter, and maybe some cheese and sliced baguette (the thin loaves of bread) and you have a party right there.

And the fact you bought the veggies, dip, cheese and baguette from the grocery store pre made and put them on your own plates and hid the evidence in the garbage?

Your secret is safe with me. 😉

Phrases I Have Grown Weary Of

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be the Queen.  Mostly because I wanted a tiara, but also because I wanted to make everyone do what I wanted to do.

As an adult, I still crave tiara’s and total control of the people around me.  As an adult I also know that while I can buy a tiara, world domination is probably out of the question.

But just in case I do get to be in charge one day, I would eliminate the following phrases from the English language:

1. Bring Your A Game:  Is it ever ok to bring your H game?   Does anyone have an H game.

2. Think outside the box:  You know what?  Boxes are pretty freakin’ useful.  They hold stuff and keep your crap from lying all over the place.  Lets show the box some respect.

3. Give 110%: Yawn

4. At the end of the day: You’re another day older, thats pretty much it.

5. It is What It Is:  I prefer, “Yeah, sucks to be you”.

6. Text Speak:  You’re talking, please use whole entire words.

7. Synergy:  Every time I hear it I think of Jem and The Holograms

What phrases are you sick of?

Urban Pirate Adventure

For my son Alex, I have two big challenges for his birthday.  The first challenge is that since his birthday is in the middle of the summer, most of his friends are away, so its hard to have a birthday party with no guests.  This challenge was exacerbated by the fact that we moved from Massachusetts to Maryland less than 3 weeks before his birthday.

The second and more recent challenge is little Dude’s age.  Now that he is 12, he is not enticed by a visit to the petting zoo or Chuck E Cheese (I am grateful about the lack of interest in CEC-really I am).  But I still want to do something special for him on his special day.

This leads me to the Urban Pirates.  Urban Pirates is a pirate themed boat experience that goes around the Inner Harbor in down town Baltimore.  For the very, very reasonable price of $20 per person, you get a pirate sash, temporary tattoos, face painting and a 45 minute pirate adventure cruise.

The staff is wonderful, leading the kids through a lesson in pirate vocabulary, dancing, pass the shrunken head, and a chance to defeat the scurvy MadDog Pirate and rescue the treasure.

If you go, the boat is not usually very full.  Our trip had less than 20 people, but the max is 40.  The music can be a little loud, especially if you are sitting near the front of the boat, but its not too bad.  They also do a Bring Your Own Grog boat ride for the adults.

The boat has bathrooms but no food or drink. Food is not important, but in this heat you will want to have some water.  Don’t be me.  Bring the water from home or hit a CVS on the way.  Don’t buy it at the bakery down the street from where you dock and pay $2.00 per bottle.

My children are ages 6 and 12 and they both LOVED the trip.   They are begging to go again.  And since it was so reasonable, (its cheaper than a movie) we will probably go again.  The only other thing to keep in mind is that they sell very attractive bandanas, swords and guns right where you get on the boat.  They are not bad, $3 for a bandana and $5 for the water pistol, but the baubles are highly visible and the staff does mention hitting the gift shop as you are prepping to get off the boat.

But I am an easy mark, and it was his birthday, so I got them each a trinket.  

Happy Birthday to My Handsome Guy

Not my husband- although he is very handsome.  Today is Alex’s birthday, and he is 12.  I can’t believe that my sweet boy is 12, with the occasional bouts of tween ‘tude and the odd man smells that he now produces.

It seems like yesterday that I found out I was pregnant.  It seems like it was a blink of an eye when he looked like this:

Look at that face.  If you don’t feel even the tiniest impulse to pinch those widdle cheeks, than there is something wrong with you and we can’t be friends.

Now I get this handsome face to look at:

I still see traces of baby there, and every once in a while, he lets me pinch those cheeks.

And when I look at him I feel incredibly lucky.  Yes, he has his challenges and can be challenging, but his heart is sweet and pure, his brain is fascinating, and he is a funny kid.

In short, he is the best son ever, and I love him so very much.

Happy Birthday Sweetie!  I hope this is the 1st day of a wonderful year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 Lessons Learned From BlogHer12

I had a great time at BlogHer 12, learning so much that my brain was completely full for a good 24 hours after I left and meeting some great people.

I was also psyched that BlogHer13 is being held in Chicago, a city I love and have not been back to in 10 years, and does not conflict with my son’s birthday.

Taking what I learned from BlogHer12, I am going to make sure I do the following for BlogHer13.

1. Book the conference hotel the very second the conference rate becomes available:  Thankfully, the Sheraton allows you to cancel pretty close to the conference, so even if I can’t go at the end, I can let go of the room and not get penalized.  I really want the conference hotel.  Its much easier to make periodic swag drops during the day, and I think there is more quality socializing to be had when you are in the conference hotel.

2. Bring more going out clothes. I brought one dress for the Friday parties, but that was not enough.  I am going to bring dressy stuff for each night.

3. Bring cute shoes:  I kept to functional shoes since I was schlepping between the two hotels, but if I am following lesson number 1, I can bring the more fun shoes.

4. Bring a baggie for the business cards I collect, since I had them in a million spots in my bag.

5. Find an adorable backpack to keep my hands free, which is especially helpful during the buffet meals.

6. Set the alarm on my phone 15 minutes before each seminar starts so I (a) make it to the seminar before it starts and (b) get a seat at the seminar.

7. Be more assertive about trying to catch up with the bloggers I really want to meet:  I did not realize that there were 5000 people registered and just how many people 5000 people are.  I was hoping to meet Stephanie O’ Dea from Crockpot365 and Melissa from Rock And Drool, but I figured that by checking the badges of people that looked like them, I would find them.  Bad strategy.

8. Try to fit in a nap every day:  If I want to stay out past 11, I either need to nap, or start learning to love Red Bull.

9. Bring a water bottle:

10: Bring some different sized envelopes to organize the papers and coupons you receive as you visit with the vendors.

11. Bring one large suitcase.  I had brought a duffle bag for the 2o pounds of swag I brought home.  (Yes, I weighed the bag), but for ease of transport I think I would have been better off with one really big bag that was slightly empty while traveling to BlogHer, that I could load up at the end.

12. Write more posts and make an effort to connect with the wonderful women (and men) I met at BlogHer12, so I will be a better blogger and social media user this time next year.

So to the others attending BlogHer, anything you would do differently for BlogHer13?