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Posts Tagged ‘easy’

In this ever-changing adventure of being a parent, I’ve tried to come up with fun, creative ways to play with my kiddo. Because, quite frankly, if I don’t, I’d never make it. My son happens to be a loud, fun-loving, super-energetic, never-a-moment-of-quiet kind of kid. Keeping him busy is of utmost importance! Over the past year or so I’ve slowly compiled some fun items and ideas that I pull out once in a while. Of course, Pinterest is always a good backup, but this I actually happened to come up with on my own, people! 🙂 It was a random decision I made one day because I had a large cardboard box that my kiddo had been playing in for a few days, but it was starting to get a little too floppy. So, I decided to cut it open, lay it flat, and give him some crayons. (Obviously, I did a lot of Sharpie doodling, too.) The first day or so it looked like this. He LOVED it! As you can see, it took up most of our living room floor space.

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But, like I said, he loved it, and it sure kept him entertained so I wasn’t about to get rid of it right away! It ended up hanging out on our living room floor for a little over a week.

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(Sorry for the teensy-tiny picture – I tried and tried, but it just wouldn’t cooperate.  If you want to see it a little bigger, just click on it and it will open up.)

I love it when little things turn out to be the big things! The hubs and I even had fun with it, and even though we were ready to have our floor back, we all missed it when it was gone.

Don’t forget to make the most of life. Right now, re-using and re-purposing items is the “thing”, but more than that, this idea reminded me how the simple things in life can really be the most enjoyable. Take a minute to evaluate how you spend time with your kids… doing big, exciting things isn’t bad, but make sure you do little things too. Like letting a cardboard box take over your living room for a week, and turning it into your own unique floor mural! (I don’t think it’s called a mural when it’s on the floor, but right now I can’t figure out what the proper term is! Ha!)

Whatever you do, I hope you have fun with it and join in – your kids will think you’re awesome!

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I’ve managed to try a few new recipes the past few weeks. Well, not entirely new, really. More like new twists on my favorite go-to recipes. But we’ll pretend they’re new, because that sounds so much better!

Anyway, I don’t do a whole lot of seafood stuff because I’m not all that great at it, and it smells and can be expensive. Oh, who am I kidding? It’s mostly because I’m not good at it. 🙂 I usually stick to shrimp and tilapia… and tilapia much more than shrimp. Ah, I’m so adventurous! Ha! One good thing about cooking tilapia over and over is that I have discovered that tilapia is pretty good any way you cook it! But this recipe happens to be a favorite.

Now, to be completely honest, I don’t measure for this recipe. So, all the measurements I list are approximate. 🙂

3-4 Tilapia fillets
1/4 cup of milk
1 cup corn flakes
1/2 tbsp season salt
1 tsp old bay seasoning
3-4 strawberries
1 mango
cookie sheet or shallow baking pan
cooking rack

Pre-heat the oven to 375.
Pulverize the corn flakes in a blender, and put in a shallow dish. Add the seasonings and mix.
Pour milk into another shallow dish.
Place the rack on top of the cookie sheet/baking pan.
Dredge the fillets in the milk, and then in the cornflake mixture. Sometimes I use a fork to scoop more breading and move the fillet around the dish. (Helps to keep my fingers a bit less nasty.)
Shake of a bit of the excess crust, and then place the fillets on the rack.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

While it’s baking, cut up the mango and strawberries. You can add a bit of cilantro or oregano if you like it.

I like to serve this on a bed of brown rice with a lemon wedge, and some veggies on the side.

mango strawberry with fish

Mangos are not always easy to find and can be expensive especially if you don’t live in a tropical climate. So, if that is the case, or if you just don’t like mango, you could use pineapple instead.

I have also made this fried on the stove, if you prefer that method. I just try to bake more than fry – rumor has it that it’s a healthier option. 🙂

Also, I have used raw oats in place of bread crumbs or corn flakes in a pinch. Just grind those oats up real well in the blender and you’re set! The flavor is a bit different of course, but I promise it doesn’t taste like oatmeal! My husband said he thought it tasted a bit like corn meal batter… I don’t know if I agree, but I do know that I liked it!

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Hard? No.
Time consuming? A little.
Worth it? In my opinion, absolutely!

I made 95% of A’s baby food. At first I wondered if it would be complicated. I saw so many mommy blogs that had “recipes” for baby food which had multiple ingredients. They made it sound more complicated than it really is!

I never followed a single recipe. I didn’t do anything fancy either, and if you have access to some kind of blender (in some cases, a potato masher or a fork will work just fine), and a container to store the puree in, you’re ready to go! Seriously.

I always started with fresh fruit or veggies. Frozen will work, too, but I never did it that way. We have a farmer’s market close by, so that was my cheapest option.

I washed everything well, and peeled, chopped, de-seeded, trimmed stems, or whatever needed to be done.

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Next I decided how to cook my choice of produce. Since it was all going to be pureed, I usually stuck to boiling or steaming. Although I prefer baking butternut squash… don’t know why! I normally cut or dice the produce into bite size pieces so it cooks quicker than popping things in whole.

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Once the produce was thoroughly cooked and soft (could easily be squished with my fingers), I let it cool. I tried to blend it up once while it was still pretty hot, and that was a disaster! Don’t do it! (Just in case you’re curious, the heat/steam builds up like crazy in the blender, and ends up exploding all over when you remove the lid!) So, as I said, let it cool until pretty close to room temperature, and then blend with the same water you boiled the produce in. This way you don’t “water down” any of the flavor, and supposedly you don’t lose all the nutrients that are lost while boiling. You’d have to research how all that works if you want to know. I’m no nutritionist!

At first you’ll want to make it pretty soupy. Little babies just starting on solids can’t really handle anything that is much thicker than a creamy potato soup. 🙂 As your child gets older you can add less water, and leave more lumps if your child likes it that way. My kiddo has always liked his stuff completely smooth – no lumps! So, even when I started making it thicker, I always blended it really well.

Peas were never a success when I tried to puree them. For some reason they always seemed gritty. Maybe I just never cooked them long enough to be thoroughly mushy? If you have an answer for this, please let me know! I did have good success with the following:

Apples (boiled or steamed)
Pears (boiled or steamed)
Peaches (boiled or steamed)

(Generally I boiled the veggies – seemed to cook faster that way.)
Green beans
Sweet potatos
“Regular” potatos
Carrots
Summer squash
Butternut squash
Zucchini

A loved all of these… green beans were the most problematic, but I would just mix it up with something else that he did like, and he was happy.

I never pureed meat for A. He isn’t a fan of meat, and the thought of blending it up was revolting, so I didn’t! I also avoided pureeing legumes, because he had gas all the time! I figured I would try to help him out by not making the problem worse. 🙂

At the beginning, there is no need to make large batches since they eat so little. But once they start eating more, you can make multiple large batches at once, and freeze it. I got into the habit of making some every weekend while I cleaned the house, and I never felt like it was taking up a lot of time.

If you’re on the fence about making your own baby food, I definitely recommend at least giving it a try. It might be surprised how easy it is, and I promise you that your wallet will thank you! Not to mention it tastes so much better than the jarred kind.

P.S. I did keep a jar or two of store-bought puree in the pantry as back-up just in case, but I stuck to just the fruit ones because the others are so gross that my little guy refused to eat them!

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I’ve been doing a bit more experimenting in the kitchen lately.  Mostly easy side dishes and things that require little prep work and minimal attention while cooking.

As all you fellow working moms know, once you get home at the “end” of the day, it’s like you step into an alternate reality, and in that alternate reality, the day has just begun!  But, you’re still running on energy left over from the first reality…
(Not to say that stay-at-home moms don’t get exhausted – I know you do, too! I’m just sharing from my current position.)

Anyway, back to my main thought.  Easy, quick food.  Well, if you like bananas, this is a winner!  I saw this idea floating around the web for a little while, but did not give it a try until recently.  Ready for the ingredient list?  It’s a doozey!

1 large, ripe banana

1 egg

That’s it.  Two ingredients. And it makes about 4 medium pancakes. Now, you can always add extras like I did.  Like chocolate chips, or strawberries, blueberries, or nuts… you get he picture.  I did blueberries and chocolate chips.

Anyway, you basically just mix up the banana and egg really well. I mashed the banana and then used a whisk to combine it with the egg. Then proceed to cook like any other pancake!  (Just in case you’ve never made pancakes: Pour some batter onto a medium-hot skillet, and when little bubbles start to pop on the top of the pancake, flip it over and cook for just a little while longer so both sides are a nice, golden-brown.)

I was expecting something heavy and not-pancake-y in the least, but these actually were not too different in texture from a normal pancake.  They are definitely more moist, and obviously, taste of banana, which is different. 🙂  But not bad, if you like banana!

And they look absolutely delicious, don’t you agree?

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I highly reccomend having a side of bacon or sausage with these, so it counter-balances the sweetness of the pancakes.

If you try it, please let me know what your opinion is!

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When it comes to sushi’s extended family, California Rolls are my comfort zone. The real stuff – the stuff with raw fish – is way, way off the beaten bath of my comfort zone.  I’ll eat lots of things, but raw meat of any kind is just disgusting!   OK, so now that you know how I feel about raw meat, we can move on. 🙂

Sometimes I pick up a pack of California Rolls at Publix. J and I both like them, but a few weeks ago it dawned on me that I could totally make them myself!  I had half of the ingredients in the house anyway, so why not?!  It was sort of an impulsive decision, but I’m glad I went for it. Here is what you’ll need:

Sticky rice (suhi rice is the best for this)

Rice vinegar

Nori (dried seaweed sheets)

Ingredients for the center (crab, sesame seeds, avocado, cream cheese, cucumber, etc.  Basically whatever you prefer)

Small bowl of water

Sharp knife (to cut the roll)

Rolling mat (optional, but it sure makes it easier!)

The process is actually a lot easier than I expected.  It is important to let the rice cool completely before doing anything with it.  I have a Japanese rice cooker, but you can just make the rice in a pot.  I used sushi rice, but it might work ok with another kind of rice as long as it’s really sticky.  I would advise you to consult an expert, though.  Do not rely on my un-founded suggestion! 🙂

 

Once it is cool, you cut in the rice vinegar with a spatula.  By cutting it in, you avoid mashing the rice. (I made my own rice vinegar by just adding a pinch of sugar to Apple Cider Vinegar. Might not be exactly the same, but it is close enough for our non-foodie taste buds.)

[Note: When it comes to rolling the sushi, I have a little bamboo mat thingy that works wonderfully.  My Japanese friend gave me mine, but I think you can find them in some grocery stores.  I slide it inside a large zip-lock bag before using it.  It makes clean-up so much easier!]

Spread the rice in a thin layer on the rough side of the nori (seaweed).  It will take a little work because the rice is all sticky, but try not to squash your rice into mush.  You can make it thick if you prefer it that way, but the thicker the layer, the fatter the roll will be and the harder (potentially) it can be to cut.  Leave about an inch of plain nori at the “top”.

Now, you add whatever ingredients you prefer across the “bottom”.  In this case I just used imitation crab, avocado, and sesame seeds.  I like them with a little bit of thinly sliced cucumber, but I discovered my cucumber wasn’t very good when I made this batch of sushi, so I left it out.  Cream cheese is also a nice filler if you like it.

Once you have all your ingredients lined up at the bottom end of the nori, start rolling it tightly from the bottom end toward the top.  Take your time, and make sure it sticks together well or you’ll end up with a mess!

Once you have rolled it all the way to the end of the rice, dip your finger in a bit of water and run your finger across the nori.  This will make it sticky and allow you to “seal” the roll.

All set!  Now, just cut it up into sections and let it chill in the fridge for a few hours!

One tip for cutting: get your knife wet at least once every two cuts.  It will keep the knife from sticking to the rice and smooshing your nice little roll.

If you’re making them to eat later, a nice way to package it is to line a container with lettuce leaves and place the rolls in there.  Not only does it look nice, but it also keeps the rolls from sticking to the container.

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Anyone else out there seem to be always in a rush in the morning?  What is it about mornings anyway?  The work day may drag, but that bit of morning you have at home before the work day begins just flies by like a… well, like something really fast. 🙂

Ahh… life as a stay-at-home mother is my dream!  A dream I have thoroughly enjoyed the past 8 weeks while on maternity leave.  I mean, how can you not love moments like this?

But as with so many good things, that is coming to a soon end.  Back to work I go.  And I’m determined to be happy and make the most of it!

In my efforts to prepare myself, I have been trying to get a little more organized and streamlined in my get-up-and-go process.  There are several different ways I am working on this, and I’ll probably share a few more of them with you in future posts; but, today I wanted to share my efforts in make-ahead breakfast foods. Three of them to be precise. 🙂

Most of the time we are cereal and milk breakfast people.  Not because I don’t like a full breakfast.  Believe me, I would love to have a three course meal at breakfast most days.  I wake up hungry and cereal leaves me empty by about 8:30am.  But cooking a big breakfast every morning is not realistic (at least not in this house) when you are going to head right out the door to work at 7am and leave the sink full of dishes.  The hubs, however, wouldn’t mind dining on cereal and milk four or five times a week! So, I deal, Hubs is happy, and we both make it out the door on time (most of the time).

Now that we have a little guy added to the mix of the morning routine, breakfast is even more of a hurried event for me.  So, I came up with a few ideas, and have begun to implement them.  Hopefully all these ideas will actually do their job of making my morning a little less hectic. The funny thing is, all three of them center around the use of muffin pans… minus the muffins. 🙂

Idea #1: Breakfast casserole.

I just make the breakfast casserole like normal, but instead of making it in a large dish and cutting it into individual pieces, I divide the mixture evenly into a muffin pan!  There ya go – individual portions of breakfast casserole right out of the oven!

Idea #2: Egg, cheese, and sausage sandwiches.

Again, pretty basic.  I cooked up sausage patties in a skillet, toasted english muffins, and baked scrambled eggs in a muffin pan. (A fast and easy way to cook multiples and make them that perfect round shape.) Wrap in foil, freeze, and ta-da!  McMuffins a-la-home ready to eat without going through the drive-through!  (And most likely a bit healthier version.)  I add the cheese after I warm them up, but I’m sure you could freeze the cheese along with the rest of the sandwich.

Idea #3: Baked oatmeal!  (I gotta admit – these play with my brain a little.  No matter what, my brain thinks these are muffins and when I take the first bite it takes it a second to recover and realize why they taste like oatmeal!)

Now, this one is a bit more involved because the recipe calls for more ingredients than just oatmeal and milk… but it’s not complicated in the least, and I think they’re delicious!  Again, I divided up the mixture into the muffin pan, baked them, and once they were cool, I wrapped them up and froze them. A fairly healthy breakfast I would say, right?

So, there you go!  Three simple breakfast ideas that can be made ahead, frozen, and then reheated individually!  I’ve found that using the muffin pan method, you can easily make a variety of “flavors” at once.  For example, you’re not locked in to 2 dozen raisin oatmeal portions.  I made four different kinds by dividing up the mixture into four containers, added strawberries to one, chocolate chips to one, raisins to one, and the last one I decided to leave plain but once I poured it into the pan I sprinkled the tops with brown sugar. You can sort of see the different ones in this picture…

You could do the same with the casserole idea.  Give yourself some variety by making some with bacon, others with sausage or cheddar cheese.  I’m sure there are a ton of other casseroles that would work.  The ideas are limited only by your palate!

I think I’m going to get one of those jumbo size muffin pans to make larger portions… for the times when  an “individual portion” just won’t cut it. 🙂

So, how about you?  What little tricks do you use that help you get out the door on time in the morning?  (Getting up at 3am doesn’t count!)  I’d love to hear them.  I’m going to need all the help I can get!

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You know all those cute nurseries that have the child’s name on the wall?  I’ve seen so many versions of them – wall decals, frames, painted letters, you name it – and they’re all so sinkin’ cute!   We had already decided that we wanted to jump on the band wagon and have our guy’s name on the wall too… the problem was deciding how we wanted to do it.  So many options!

Well, I wanted to share what ended up being one of my favorite projects for our little boy’s room!  This turned out much better than I expected, and even J was super excited when he saw the finished product!

Its A-mazing. 🙂

I wanted to surprise J and do something very “guy-ish” with the letters (as in super hero – ish).  J would have been thrilled had I plastered the whole room with Marvel and DC characters, Star Wars stuff, etc.  But I’m determined to have a little bit of a baby/little boy look in the room for a while.  I mean, they grow up so fast – and I’m sure through Daddy’s influence he will become a Marvel, DC and StarWars fan in due time… but I didn’t want to leave J’s wishes completely out of the picture, so I figured the name would be the perfect way to add that bit of “guy-ness” I was after. 🙂

I found a bit of inspiration here and there, and finally settled on the paper mache/decoupage idea.  I bought cardboard letters from the craft store.  (I waited for them to go on sale and got them for $1 each – oh, yeah!)  Then, I started asking around about comic books.  Since I was going for the decoupage look, I didn’t want to spend tons on comic books that would get torn into strips. 🙂  At first I was having a hard time… until I posted my idea on Facebook, that is!  One of my friends (an actual, real person I know – not just a virtual acquaintance) found out what I was doing and he donated a hefty stack of comic books!  I was so shocked and so excited!  The picture below doesn’t have all the books in it. And the ones that are at the foreground are the. coolest. ever. I’m considering framing a few of the pages… we’ll see.

Honestly, the hardest part was deciding which pages to use!  It took me about two evenings to comb through the stack and set aside the ones.  Yes, I took my time. 🙂  I decided beforehand that I wanted each letter to be a specific character, and I chose J’s favorites (Captain America was my choice actually!): Batman, Superman, Capt. America, Thor, and Wolverine.

Instead of buying Mod Podge or any other kind of special glue, I decided to use an old stand-by which you may remember from your kindergarten days.  Good ol’ hot water and flour!  So easy and cheap!  (The only down side is you have to use it within two days or so because it starts to REEK!)

First, I covered the entire letter with random strips of the comic pages.  No rhyme or reason – just making sure the surface was covered.  I let them dry for a day or so.  If you don’t let the glue dry, then the whole projects gets all goopy and warped.

Next, I sorted through the pages that I had reserved and tore/arranged/rearranged the pieces until I had it the way I wanted.  I didn’t use glue at this point – just set the pieces on top of the letters to get a visual.  Oh, and that green paper – that is actually a gift bag.  I tore that into strips as well and integrated it as a way to tie in the letters with the rest of the room. Yeah, I’m a bit random.  I’ve learned to deal with it. 🙂

OK, so I didn’t take pictures of the in-between process… mostly because my hands were covered in gunk and I didn’t want to get my camera all sticky.  So, you’re going to have to use your imagination!

Next, I slathered the letters with the flour and water mixture again and stuck the final strips of paper on them.   I added a thin layer of the glue over the top of the whole letter, sort of as an extra precaution to make sure the paper stuck well.  I let it dry out completely after that.  As in for about a week.  Probably no necessary, but I had other things keeping me busy, so a week it was!  My final step was to spray it all over with a clear sealant to protect it from moisture (after all, I do live in Florida).

And yes, in the above picture, that is a bin lid.  😉 I figured I’d want be able to pick up the whole kit and caboodle and move it when necessary, and that’s hard to do when you just put down a table cloth or thin sheet of plastic.

Now, I just need to hang it up!  Cannot wait!  For now its waiting patiently on the book shelf while I touch up the crib.  Once the crib is in place, I’ll hang up the letters!

Below I added a pic of each letter in case you would like to see a close-up version. 🙂  Can you tell I’m a little bit proud of this project? HA!

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