Sunday, October 30, 2011

On a very granola Halloween's Eve

It's been very unlike me, not to have hustled the family to multiple Halloween events by now. Heck, Paige has only worn her costume once. And she only has one costume. (Yes, there have been years when there were two costume options, depending on the weather or mood of wearer. You remember three year olds.) I'm blaming our lack of festive activity on Ed's Sunday football obsession, or Paige's Saturday soccer. Either way, I'm blaming sports.

Today was the day to set things right. I decided we'd check out Full Circle Farm's Harvest Hoedown. Now, I will out myself and tell you that I lean more toward a 'commercial' experience. I love the pretty open spaces and the farm setting. But, give me a snack shack with caramel apples, hot chocolate and a hay ride and I'm really happy. Like here.

Back to the story at the local farm. It was very sweet and Paige had a great time. There was definitely a farm crowd element, with lots of tie dye, dreadlocks, and fanny packs. Paige waited patiently to feed the chickens while some guy talked on and on to the chicken docent about the merits of food scraps versus chick feed.

There's a cute chick(en).

Paige painted a pumpkin. There was no water to clean the brushes between users. (You just picked up whichever stiff, painty brush was available.) That would not be green.

And made a clay (i.e., mud-like ) critter. Yea. There were no baggies to transport still moist critters. (They take about two hours to dry in the sun.) That would not be green.

Finally, "we" made a corn husk doll.
If you want to make a corn husk doll, see the directions below.

If you would like reports on fish, hamsters, or dogs, especially dogs that are 'cute and easy to take care of,' I can help you out. Paige writes on both sides of the paper. Because she is green.

Paige rated her farm experience as a '10.' I was just happy to be out of the house, together, and in the sunshine. Even without the caramel apple.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


So. I've been working on my cooking skills for nearly two years, and thought, why not foray a bit into baking?? Our school's Halloween Happening Carnival, featuring a bake sale, seemed a great opportunity. Hence, I've spent the week with many a baking misadventure.

There were the Mud Monsters - too chocolatey. (Yes, such a thing exists).
The glazed pumpkin cookies - delicious, but not pretty. (Dude, these things are for sale.) Not pictured. : )

And the delicate spiderwebs - oops, won't transport well. (Duh.)

Now, these treats didn't go to waste. We had a big party for our departing school psychologist (wah!) on Tuesday night, and that's where the mud monsters and friends headed. No complaints!

Finally, though, with time running out - I decided to go with a quick and easy mix (that's the busted part) Betty Crocker sugar cookie. Of course, I still had to make it complicated for myself! I think I finally got it right, though, a solid Halloween (transportable) cookie.

(doesn't the shadowy photo add a little spooky ambiance? I totally planned that.)

Voila! The Ghostie

I'm sure many a sugar cookie would do. For kicks, here's what I did. I took the Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix and followed the directions adding an egg and a stick of softened butter. Then, I added two cups of flour. (The directions specified less, but I found I need those two cups.) I refrigerated the dough for 45 minutes (another must, I found). Then, I rolled out the dough, and used my ghost cookie cutters to cut out these guys. I baked for 8 minutes. I've heard the key is to underbake j-u-s-t slightly. I added prepared white icing. Now, to make the eyes, there are many options. I found Target has little candy eyeballs around Halloween time that work well (see Mud Monsters). If you are not transporting, black gel looks good. Chocolate mini M&M's would work. I used chocolate chips. Not my first choice, as they made rather big-eyed ghosts, but that's what I had available.

I'm happy to report that they seemed to go over pretty well at the bake sale. I called people who bought and ate them 'Ghost Busters.' If you are planning a bake sale, cake pops, donuts, and popcorn are hot items!

All the kids, including mine, had a great time at the event.

And the icing on the cake was, I did too! (Buh duh dum!)

Monday, October 24, 2011

My favorite girl, and maybe my favorite recipe

I'm not the only writer in the house! This morning, Paige's class held a mini-writing celebration for families. Paige's teacher stayed with her after school on Friday until 4 p.m. perfecting this piece. My girl is a workhorse. (Her teacher isn't too shabby either!) Paige's memoir is of her seventh birthday party. Apparently Build-a-Bear and its accoutrements was worth it!

Afterwords there was cookie and juice for the kids, and I decided to snap a few pics of P's artwork. Above is her depiction of a city. You can't make it out here, but there is a "Jean Paige" (or by its more well-known name, Paige Denim) store on the left hand side - yellow building on end.
This is her original 'Wild Thing,' inspired by Maurice Sendak's classic.
And finally, a traditional pumpkin picture. I'm thinking there must have been an art lesson on scale, balance, space, or something in there somewhere. I like it!

During the events, I snuck over to my classroom and peaked in the window. I noted a couple of cabinet doors open, which told me that my sub was probably tearing the room apart looking for something. I correctly guessed scissors and brought her a couple of extra pairs lickety split.

After that amazing save, I got to read with kids, hang in the classroom, and be a mama for the rest of the morning. (By the way, do you know the book Thank You Mr. Falker ? Even after hearing it, and reading it multiple times, I still bawl. I seriously need help.) I returned to my kinders in the afternoon and then helped my big kid (student teacher) plan her upcoming lessons after school.

Today wrapped up with Shrimp and Shiitake Risotto. I can't believe I haven't shared this recipe (Fitness magazine, January 2011). It may be my favorite!


  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup dry sherry or dry white wine
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • Pinch salt
  • 3/4 pound medium shrimp, shelled and cleaned (tails removed if desired)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley


1. In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a simmer; reduce heat to low and keep warm.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion; saute until softened, 3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the garlic; saute 30 seconds. Stir in the rice, then add 1/2 cup of the sherry; cook until absorbed, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the broth, stirring until absorbed, 2 minutes. Add remaining broth 1/2 cup at a time; stir each 1/2 cup until absorbed before adding the next. Cook, stirring frequently, until rice is tender and creamy, 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon each of the garlic and thyme and the pinch of salt; saute 1 minute and transfer to a plate. Add remaining oil and the shrimp to empty pan; cook 2 minutes. Add remaining garlic and saute 1 minute more. Add remaining sherry and simmer 1 minute, until shrimp are just barely cooked through; set aside.

4. When the risotto has finished cooking, stir in shrimp and liquid, mushrooms, Parmesan, parsley and remaining thyme. Warm 2 minutes. Spoon into bowls and serve.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lasagna's Cousin

So on Sunday's, when I only have 40 things to do instead of 107, I like to cook something a bit more labor intensive for dinner. (It should be noted for context purposes, that it takes me about 60 minutes to make most of Rachel Ray's 30 minute meals. It should also be noted that in the past, I have considered 'healthy nachos' a weeknight dinner. Full disclosure, people.)

Anyway, today I stayed home from Paige's late afternoon soccer 'defensive drill' class to spend some quality time with a new creation I'm calling 'baked veggie spaghetti,' or her preferred name, 'Lasagna's cousin.'

Lasagna's cousin likes veggies. Lasagna's cousin would prefer to be photographed under better lighting. Lasagna's cousin would also prefer my family buy her a drink before so rudely slicing into her.

box of spaghetti
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup diced yellow summer squash
1 cup diced Portobello mushrooms
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 jar of tomato sauce
3 cups low-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese


Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 13 x9 baking pan

Cook spaghetti according to package directions, until it is al dente. Be sure to use plenty of (lightly salted) water in the pot, so spaghetti doesn't stick. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium size pot and cook ground turkey. Add onion, garlic, squash, mushrooms, basil, and oregano. Cook, stirring, until the meat is browned and the vegetables softened. Drain fat.

Ladle about 1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce into the pan and spread evenly. Layer a third of the spaghetti over the sauce in an even layer, and top with half of the turkey mixture.

Spoon the ricotta into a Ziploc with the corner snipped off and pipe cheese evenly over the sauce. Top with another third of cooked spaghetti. Repeat, layering with sauce, spaghetti and turkey mixture.

Layer final spaghetti on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and shredded Mozzarella.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Eat after a long day parenting, or your soccer sprints.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

let's just say...

Let's just say your husband, someone who's known for coming home from the grocery store with this....

pulls a fast one, and comes home with THIS

Let's just say a moment of craving hit, and you had, I don't know, a couple hand fulls of these and fell asleep on the couch. For instance.

Let's say, the next night you wanted to make something healthier for dinner.

You might make this: (inspired from Peas and Thank You)

Clean and Healthy (for me, I mean, someone) Thai Salad

1/2 head of cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
4 chopped green onions
1/2 cup wheat berries
1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts

First put wheat berries in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 45 minutes, until chewy. Drain.

Place cabbage in a bowl and add carrots, onions and wheat berries. I cheated and finished off with Annie's Natural Shiitake & Sesame salad dressing (instead of making my own.) Top with peanuts.

Crunchy, fresh and yummy.

Monday, October 17, 2011

spooky walk

How do you get in the Halloween mood when it is 80 degrees out?
Go for a spooky walk! Paige and I love to walk the gorgeous neighborhood behind our house oohing and ahhing over the festive and sometimes deliciously frightful displays. Evenings hold a special thrill, with the darkness all around. We keep our eyes peeled for orange lights! Paige snapped on her little pedometer and we got a bit of a calorie burn as well.

Oh, and I can't forget that this guy got a little walk.

And then was ultimately carried (his barking startled the other neighborhood dogs). Try your own spooky walk and let me know how it goes!

the family that shops together....

I was a little hesitant when Ed offered to go grocery shopping...

Usually when he goes, he comes home with this:

I may be a Whole Foods girl, but I'm also a 'no-extras-only-what's-on-the-list girl.' (this does not apply to magazines). Chips and cookies are rarely on the list. Anyway, we decided to do a fun jaunt to the store together.

There was some dividing and conquering initially. Then I discovered the bulk bins during my quest for wheat berries. I've certainly seen the bulk bins before, but it was like a mysterious aisle. Why should I grab a plastic baggie and buy from a bin, instead of what appears to be the same items already packaged a few rows over? I sampled a few cereals (fruit juice sweetened cornflakes and brown rice krispies) along with different varieties of granola. I found some cornflakes that had only four ingredients and 2 grams of sugar. They were delish, and they found their way into my cart. When do you ever get to sample cereal before selecting??

Somehow, these still found there way into our cart...

Baby steps!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

all in a Saturday

From soccer...
to soiree.....
my little girl cleans up good!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Happy Weekend!


It's 85 degrees.

I just received my new US magazine.

I also have my new library book Carrots 'n' Cake based on the blog of the same name. It's a good one!

The weekend is stretched out ahead of me.

Miss P has two girlfriends over and they are happily playing dog family.


Apparently, the dog families need their own bedrooms, and I hear Paige offering up her 'mommy and daddy's room' as an option.


What should Ed and I do for a date for roughly 90 minutes tomorrow (while P attends a birthday party 15ish minutes from home - seems a waste to go back)? Oktoberfest event? Hiking nearby?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

pumpkins on the porch

During the weekend run-around, I dashed into Marshall's looking for a birthday gift. Didn't find one, but I did find this print. $10! I may be clumsy with crafts, but I sure can spot a good bargain.
I decided to mix it up on my Autumn mantle. Not sure if I'm loving it there. Aren't things always a work in progress?
OK, I do take the worst pictures of all time. This was shot with my cheapy point and shoot at about 7:00 p.m. in terrible light. Not sure when I'll get a chance to get a decent one, so, here it is, my fall porch in all its glory. Trust me, it looks cuter in person. Ed loves the hay bale!!!

Happy week!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Weekend plans

Big weekend on the horizon.

Last night Ed went to a concert - Foo Fighters? I'm not even sure. I hosted a play-date to help out my friends who are moving into their new house. We dined at a little Round Table in Willow Glen, scoring a table by a big screen TV that started to play Shrek the moment we sat down. The kiddos got little plastic toys from the gumball machine. All was good.

This morning I'll be hitting Target as the doors open to buy a birthday gift and I'm sure multiple other things I can't live without. I am jonesing for some new fall nail polish - see above. Then we zip to Paige's soccer game. From there, we make our 45 minute trek to our favorite family hair salon. And not a moment too soon for these roots! I do love leaving the hair salon feeling like a new woman! : ) Meeting mom and stepdad for dinner in hair salon town, and returning home just in time to hang out with brother and sister-in-law who are spending the night (with their 4 year old twins and au pair). (OOh, better ready the office at some point.0

Doesn't end there. Tomorrow at nine is Sunday School time, followed by a birthday party at 11:00. I'll use this time to grocery shop, and then before I know it -- time to get ready for Monday.

I do have the finale of The Real Housewives of NJ to look forward to tomorrow night. Although (I can't believe I'm saying this) I'm actually getting a little tired of them (gasp!) : )

What are you doing this weekend?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pumpkin Panckes!

On our annual family camping trip each summer, one of the mainstays is a hot breakfast after a chilly tent-spent night. At least one of those mornings pancakes is on the menu. We do the quick and easy Bisquick variety - we are camping after all!

At home though, I've gotten a little 'fancier,' lately. You know, with an actual kitchen and all. Even with a bed and four walls, I'm still in need of some comfort though. (Those kindergartners don't teach themselves!) And my homemade pancakes now have an Autumn twist.

Pumpkin Pancakes

1 3/4 cups Gold Medal All Purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups organic milk
1 cup Libby's Easy Pumpkin Pie mix

Whisk flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Next add in milk, stirring until batter is combined. Spoon and stir in pumpkin. Do not over mix.

Coat a griddle generously with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Scoop 1/3 cup batter onto griddle. I like to use a perfectly round 1/3 measuring cup for a nice even shape. Cook 3 to 4 minutes until bubbles form and then carefully flip. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes until done. Pancake should be a nice light brown!

Repeat with remaining batter. Top with maple syrup or add your favorite whipped topping.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Welcome October

I am very excited to welcome the month of October! The next three months kicks off my second favorite time of the year. I did some Fall decorating about a week and a half ago, but am a purist and would not take out my Halloween decorations until October 1st! I have just a little more to go, and would take pictures, but sadly my camera stinks. I will tell you that Target was extra stocked with all kinds of enticements - everything you would need for a Halloween party, I had to put back the bat pinata and the pumpkin bowling set. Anyway.

Here is an 'Autumn Chicken' for your Sunday! (Recipe from Too Many Cooks)

olive oil
6 chicken cutlets
salt and pepper
a small block of good cheddar cheese, sliced into matchsticks
3 gala apples, peeled and sliced into crescents

Rub a baking dish with olive oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place the strips of cheese in the center of each cutlet. Add apple slices on top of the cheese. Roll the cutlets from one end to the other and spear with toothpicks. Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes until chicken is cooked.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Paige, girl spy

I just need pictures of the 'spy lair' under the table!