Sunday, August 28, 2011

New snack ideas and a giveaway

So, I had every intention of posting this last Monday to coincide with the first day of school here in Houston. I obviously didn't manage that. Somehow the first week of school totally kicked my butt. 4 kids in 3 schools with one left at home will do that to you.
First, I have to share a new idea I have had with snacking. Throughout the last school year I have tried to get snacks somehow organized. I started posting a piece of paper listing what the kids could have on the fridge about mid way through last school year. That was nice, but never intended to be permanent, just a trial. I liked it and ended up keeping it through the school year. The only problem with it was that it was just paper and not easily changeable. With this give away I got a wipe board which just took the place of the paper. Why didn't I think of that before???? I'm actually thinking of eventually getting a new one for lunches, but that is another time and post - it is my next goal.  (Sorry for the super sad picture of the wipe board - I had 2 pictures that were better but tried to turn them clockwise and they disappeared.  Not sure where they went.  I will tell you that I have 3 columns - make is small under the logo, green bucket in the center and fridge.  I just change what is under each topic by what I have available.)
My other big idea (for me at least) was my new dry snack bucket. In the bucket there are all sorts of dry snacks - chips, pretzels, home made trail mix, fruit bars, or whatever I've made or bought. I did that last week and loved it. It works for a snack inside a lunch, an afternoon snack, or dry snack for the kindergartener to take. This has solved lots of problems. Although I have a list posted, kids always come in and ask what they can have. I refer them to the list  (which includes bucket items, fridge items like yogurt or string cheese or items they can make like popcorn or smoothies.) That saves time in the afternoon and also when packing up for school. I also like that it portions food items. Last week I went through a large costco sized bag of potato chips in 2 days because no one has portion control when eating chips. (No one else has that problem right?) Anyway, I'm loving the organization it is giving me. Next goal - somehow streamline the home lunch making.

Now for my giveaway.

This is a perfect giveaway for the beginning of school/snack post!
I have the following to give away
The prize pack is for the treats -one package of Lucky Charms, and one package of Golden Grahams.  I tried to save these treats for the first day of school, but they didn't make it.  (Actually I was fine with that since I had hoped to post this on the first day of school and wanted the kids to try them.)  Of course the kids loved them because they are what they say - treats.  The Lucky Charms one is marshmallow, and the Golden Grahams one is chocolate.  These did go in the snack bucket and of course are gone already.  They were fun and tasty.  Plus if you collect boxtops for your school, each box has 2.  Extra added bonus. 
I actually liked the rest of the prize pack as well.  In addition to the snacks, you get
  • colored pencils (these look pretty interesting - I think they are made out of paper or something - they have a swirly design.  Lots of fun.)
  • wipe board - I already mentioned above that I'm using this for my snack list as we speak.  Very handy.  
  • an insulated bag.  This bag looks very nice, but would be for something like a picnic or snacks for the soccer game or something because it is a medium large size.   It will come in very handy - I just haven't used it this first week of school.
"Disclosure: Cereal Treats Bars, information, and giveaway have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark."  I received the same prize pack I am giving away but my opinions are my own.

My giveaway question is totally selfish today.  I'm always on the lookout for new snack ideas for myself and my kiddos.  Sooo....

To enter the giveaway,

  • leave a comment telling me your favorite snack (for yourself or your kids.)  

Contest will run through Friday at noon.  Winner will be chosen by  Good luck!

I'll start off with what is listed on our wipe board right now - not that any of these are my "favorite"
Make - smoothies (I usually make green smoothies with lots of fruit.) or popcorn (I air pop it, top it with spray butter then salt, cheese mix or 'pizza' mix)
Snack bucket - chips, trail mix, popcorn balls, veggie straws, craisins, raisins, peanut butter pretzels
Fridge - string cheese, apple, orange, plum, yogurt, celery, carrots

If I had to pick a favorite of the kids for my oldest ???  My second - definitely smoothies, my 3rd - pizza popcorn, and the youngest ?? depends on the day.  He likes yogurt a lot and freeze dried fruit.  I myself am partial to yogurt or trail mix, but that too depends on the day.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Green Bean Spaghetti Carbonara

This was a super simple, tasty meal.  I loved it.  Loved even more that DH cooked it last night.  :)  This is definitely a keeper for a quick and easy meal.  I also happen to think this would be great (actually better) with asparagus.
Oh, the recipe is from Everyday by Rachael Ray.  Don't know why I've never tried that magazine before, but I like it.  Looking forward to trying more recipes from it.
Also, be on the lookout for a back to school giveaway on Monday.


  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 1 lb green beans
  • 1/2 lb bacon, chopped (I used pre-cooked and chopped it with scissors)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter (if using precooked bacon)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions adding beans halfway through cooking time.  Drain reserving 1/4 cup cooking water.
  2. While pasta is cooking, saute the onions in butter until fragrant.  Add the bacon and crisp up. (if not using pre-cooked bacon, cook the bacon first then saute onions with the bacon. -So that is how I would do it.  DH said he did onions and bacon at the same time.)  Deglaze the pan with the reserved pasta water.
  3. Whisk eggs with cheese.  Off heat, add pasta, beans, eggs and cheese to skillet and toss.  Season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Asian apple-chicken salad/dressing

I found a new food book at the library yesterday.  Surprise, surprise right?  This one is called 5 a day the better health cookbook.  It had a few interesting recipes that I stuck in this week's menu.  The first being this one.  It really is just a run of the mill salad - nothing super special EXCEPT the homemade dressing.  It was simple and reminded me of the Newman's Asian dressing that we normally buy.  I secretly have a goal of getting rid of all of our salad dressing bottles and making fresh.  It would be totally possible with a dressing as simple as this.  
The rest of the salad was simple too.  I used my pre-cooked chicken -just had to defrost and my already chopped salad in a jar.  I just had to chop an apple and mix the dressing.  
Truth be told, the original recipe did have some extra stuff.  It had mirin - don't know what it is and I couldn't find it in the Asian aisle so I left it out.  It also had parsley and cilantro, but those aren't my favorite so I opted for ease and left them out.  I didn't miss the chopping or the flavor, but if you like them, add them.  I also left out the green onions.  I would probably throw them in next time.  The salad did seem to be missing something - not particularly the green onions.  Actually I think it was missing a crunch.  I almost added some sunflower seeds, but just didn't want to get up again.  They would be a nice addition next time though.
As a complete salad this probably gets a 3 star, because it really was missing something - guess I'm getting spoiled in my salads.  I like to put lots in them.  However, I did really like the dressing and would totally make it again.  That gets a 4 or 4.5 star.
Oops, I totally forgot to take a picture - nothing super amazing though.  Just a lettuce, chicken and apples.  

  • 1 package cubed cooked chicken breast (I grill and freeze mine then thaw as needed.)
  • 2 large apples, cored and cubed (I used red delicious)
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice (1 lime juiced)
  • 2 Tablespoons orange juice (I had a juicy juice orange tangerine - really had more apple than anything.)
  • 1 Tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated ginger (I used a jarred ginger for quick and easy)
  • 1 large head lettuce.  (I used about 1 1/2 romaine hearts.  The original actually called for 1 lb baby spinach but I wanted to use up my romaine -would be good with spinach though)
  1. In a small bowl whisk together lime juice, orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil and ginger.
  2. Toss with apples and lettuce either in a large bowl, or on individual plates.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Brown rice pudding

This is just a combination of 2 rice puddings I have on this site. (This one that was too dry but convenient to make and rizogalo that was awesome flavor and texture but took forever of stirring to make.)  I think next time I'd put 2 lemons worth of lemon zest in it, but other than that I really liked it.  No picture because I just didn't take one.  It looks a lot like rizogalo.

  • 3 cups cooked brown rice (I used left over for dinner the night before - I had purposely made extra).
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/4 c coconut palm sugar - or any type of sweetener - sugar, brown sugar, honey.. (It would be tasty with honey)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Zest of 1 lemon (I'd use 2 next time.)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg white

  1. In a large saucepan, stir together rice, 2 cups milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and lemon zest.  Bring to a boil and let cook at a rolling boil for 8 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together egg white and 1/2 cup milk.  Stir mixture into the cooking rice.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Serve

Sunday, August 14, 2011

zucchini chocolate cake with sour cream icing

I came upon a recipe for zucchini chocolate cake with orange glaze in my Taste of home healthy cooking magazine.  I really wanted to make it and so I had every plan to and bought the zucchini.  I had a ton of tangelos so I figured I was good.  However, my boys ate through the tangelos like crazy eating 2-4 at a time and they ended up gone for this and a previous post.  However, this week I also saw a recipe on Jami cooks it up for a zucchini cake with sour cream icing.  Both cakes were actually quite similar -both even cooked in a fluted tube pan, but Jami's wasn't chocolate.  However I did decide to modify and use her sour cream icing idea.  Wish I could have made my cake look as good as hers.  :)  Here is the cake I came up with - mostly the Taste of home cake - minus walnuts and 1 T orange peel - I'd love to try this again with the orange peel and orange glaze.  I left the nuts out to make sure all of the kids would eat it - and they did - and loved it.  ONLY way to get zucchini into my toddler.  (and this cake actually had a good deal.)  I even used over 1/2 wheat flour - I could tell I did that, but no child had any complaints - couldn't taste the zucchini at all.  This would be great without the wheat flour.  I also think it would taste wonderful with chocolate chips.


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar (I actually used 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup splenda.  I'm not a huge artificial sweetener fan anymore,  but I still have a bag of splenda so I decided to use some here.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour (I used 1 1/2 cup white wheat ground on the pastry setting in my grinder and 1 cup white)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa (I used dutch process)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tesapoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup milk (I had 2 % today)
  • 3 cups shredded zucchini - I had 3 medium and it was only about 2.5 cups shredded
Icing ingredients
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Coat a 10 inch fluted tube pan with cooking spray and sprinkle with flour.  Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in applesauce and vanilla.
  3. Combine flour, (or flours if using wheat and white) cocoa, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and soda; add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition.  Fold in zucchini.
  4. Pour into prepared pan.  Bake for 50-60 minutes (mine took 60) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack to cool completely.
  6. In a medium bowl beat icing ingredients together until smooth.  Frost.

Creamy Spinach Lasagna Roll-ups

I made these for dinner the other day, but the left overs as still sitting in the fridge.  Doesn't make me want to write out the whole recipe.  I will still add the link and a few notes for next time.
First of all, I'm not sure why I chose this, I'm not a huge fan of Alfredo sauces, so don't take all my negative commentary as a fact that these are no good.  You may like them.  I just didn't care for them much.   The sauce ended up just being a simple white sauce which was fine, but I ended up wanting it to have more flavor, and if making this again, I'd probably add some Parmesan to the white sauce.  I also thought it needed more sauce, or that the sauce should be thinner.  The recipe said to slightly undercook the noodles so they didn't break - which I did.  I assumed they would completely cook in the sauce, which they may have a little, I can't actually remember.  What I do remember is feeling like the sauce was sticky and needed to be a bit thinner and a bit more plentiful for my tastes. 
The original recipe from Recipe Shoebox would make a ton.  I tried to make less.  Used about 2/3 of everything, but then 1/2 the garlic powder and the same amount of Italian seasoning because I like that...  I didn't however cut the white sauce down by any and I still wish there was a bit more - or maybe add a can of tomato sauce to the white sauce with some Italian seasoning and make it a mix of white and red sauce - not sure - these are just ideas because I did like the idea of a lasagna roll up.  They were cute.  I also liked that they were vegetarian.  I liked the spinach, mozzarella, and Parmesan on the inside.  It really was the white sauce that ruined this for me.  I could make it again with some modifications.

Mango quinoa salad

Here is a recipe I found on Mel's kitchen cafe, but it originally came from the biggest loser and was also posted on Our Best Bites.  So, obviously a popular one.  With a pedigree like that you'd think I'd leave it alone, but I cut out a bit of vinegar and half of the oil, and definitely left out a good deal of the cilantro.    It was still very tasty, and colorful.  I love a meal that looks pretty.
It was definitely tasty.  I even ate the left overs the next day for lunch.  Always a good sign.  :)

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (3/4 cups dry) cooked in vegetable or chicken broth, at room temperature or chilled
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium mango, peeled and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced
  • 1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  1. In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, oil, lime juice, salt and pepper.  
  2. In a large bowl combine the remaining ingredients.  Pour dressing over the top and stir to combine.  

Friday, August 12, 2011

Menu 8/12/2011

Menu wins a post on the blog again this week.

Orange chicken
Strawberry salmon
Crock pot cabbage rolls (didn't get to these last week)

Lime chicken fajitas

Veggie burgers - whole foods p. 66 & p. 154
Will be trying my hand at making soy milk in preparation for the veggie burgers - p. 153
Chili p. 109
Refried beans -p109
Hummus p. 109

I'm winging the rest.  Even though I had a plan for lunch and breakfast last week I only semi followed it.  Plus I'd like to get grocery shopping done soon.  :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Quick wheat pizza dough

So I decided to do movie night with pizza as a bribe to get my kids to work really hard on cleaning the playroom.  They did a decent job helping and the room looks ton better so I had to make good on my promise (not to mention the meal I had planned for today was slow cooker, so when I made the bribe I really hoped they followed through.)  However, planning pizza on short notice doesn't work for our favorite pizza dough recipe, so I looked for a new one.  What I made was a cross between a quick recipe I had in a book and one I saw on Mel's kitchen cafe with my own twist of agave because I like to sweeten my wheat bread with agave.  I made a lot because typically my family can go through a lot of pizza.  We did end up with a decent amount of left overs, but DH is out of town, and DS2 didn't eat quite as much as he normally does - could be that we made some tasty smoothies to go with our meal. -Our new green smoothie ingredient thanks to that same DS- Ovaltine.   He got fancy when I wasn't looking yesterday. But, that's another post (maybe.)

Here's how I made the pizza dough today - It made 3 large pizzas.


  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 Tablespoons yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons agave
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 5 1/4 cups wheat flour (more or less)
  1. Preheat oven to 500.  Combine all ingredients in a mixer.  Mix with a dough hook until smooth and pliable.  Let rest/rise while preparing sauce/toppings.
  2. Punch dough down.  Divide into 3 balls.  Roll each out to desired size/thickness.  sprinkle a pizza peel with cornmeal.   Roll up the edge of the dough.  (this will form the crust when flipped over.)  Gently flip the pizza crust over onto the pizza peel.  Give it a shake to make sure it will slide - if not add more cornmeal underneath before topping.  Top pizza as desired.
  3. Bake for 5-6 minutes.  (I did all of mine 6, but they were slightly overdone, so I'd probably do about 5 min 30 seconds or something.

Wheat rolls

I made a turkey burger from Mel's kitchen cafe the other day only I didn't have turkey, but did have some sirloin steaks that needed to be used.  So we ground the meat and made burgers with her slaw.  It really wasn't my favorite and I'm still debating posting.  I have to wait for input from Brandon because he made the burgers and had some substitutions.  I made the slaw and basically just doubled the recipe.  Still it was too tangy for me.  I'm just not a slaw person.  I thought I might enjoy it because it was made with romaine instead of cabbage, but it is definitely the vinegar/mayo dressing that I'm not a fan of.  Anyway, I may end up posting it when DH returns from China, because he is a slaw fan.  I'll have to see how much he liked them.  What I do want to post are the buns I made from her site.  They were great, and according to her, she uses them for every type of bun or roll.  They worked great and I liked them for our burgers.  Plus they were pretty simple to make.

Oh, I also have to add, she had a great tutorial on making buns.  I thought I knew how to roll my dough in a nice circle, but of course out of curiosity I had to check out her tutorial and try it.  I really liked it.  Made perfect little circles.

Sorry about yet another tangent.  Now on to the recipe.  I slightly adapted Mel's recipe.  I'm not putting super detailed instructions.  If you would like those, definitely click on the link above to her site.  In addition to the link about shaping dough, she has a nice one about yeast dough.  Definitely one of my favorite blogger.


  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 3/4 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons agave
  • 2 Tablespoons oil (I used a healthy blend oil)
  • 4 cups fresh ground wheat flour, give or take a few Tablespoons.  I think I used 4 cups 2 Tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Combine water, yeast, agave, oil, 3 cups flour and salt in a mixer with a dough hook.  Knead until well mixed.  Gradually add last cup of flour until dough pulls away from the edge of the bowl.
  2. Let the mixer continue kneading until smooth and elastic (about 5 more minutes)
  3. Cover and let rise until doubled.  (About 1 hour.)
  4. Once risen, punch dough down, divide into 12 portions and shape as desired.  Place on lightly greased cookie sheet.  Cover and let rise until double.  Bake at 400 for 12-14 minutes.

Banana muffins

So, I didn't even pay attention to my own blog to know I had already tried a banana muffin with waffle mix, but I made this one differently, so I'll go ahead and post it as well.  It too was good.  I had no trouble getting people to eat them.  I was really trying to get the right amount of mix to fill 12 muffin tins, but this time I was a bit over.
I again was following the 3 parts mix, 2 parts fruit, 1 part yogurt, 1 part sweetener (but I use way less) rule. This time with 3/4 a cup which was a bit more tricky, but doable.
Here is a link to the others I made.  I can't say which I liked better because obviously I don't remember the last ones.  In my defense I did make them while DH was at scout camp, and that was the entire summer ago.  :)


  • 2.25 cups  waffle mix
  • 4 medium bananas, smashed
  • 3/4 cup yogurt.  (I used a 4 oz. vanilla cup, and a 3.5 oz chobani honey nana - it stirred down to not be much.  Together they were 3/4 cup)
  • 2 Tablespoons agave
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Mix ingredients together in a bowl.  Divide evenly among 10-12 greased muffin tins.  Bake at 375 for 18-22 minutes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

sweet corn bread

When we made three bean chili the other day, Brandon wanted to make corn bread.  It is actually very traditional for us to make cornbread with three bean chili, so I looked for my regular recipe on the blog and it wasn't there.  I couldn't believe I had never posted it.  This is my favorite corn bread recipe.  It is the one my mom used.  She has called it Marie Calendar's corn bread before, but in my mom recipe book it just says sweet corn bread.
Normally we make this in a 8 X 8, 9 X 13, or if we want to be quick, in a cup cake pan, but this day, Brandon decided he would make these as waffles.  They worked out fine that way.  A bit drier than usual as a waffle, but super speedy to make that way.


  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar (or 1/2 spenda, 1/2 sugar, or other healthier substitute)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  1. Mix dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt).  In another container mix wet ingredients (oil, butter, eggs and milk.)
  2. Mix the wet and dry ingredients.  Pour into greased 8 X 8 pan or double and use a 9 X 13 pan (or use muffin tins or make as waffles)  Bake at 350 for 35 minutes (8 X 8) or 45 for 9 X 13 - I think muffin tins take around 20 minutes.

One pot chicken and rice

Here is the one pot chicken and rice meal that I tried from Mel's kitchen cafe this week.  I tried to change it and use brown rice rather than white.  To make up for the additional cooking time needed for brown rice, I just added my chicken partially frozen.  None the less, the chicken ended up dry.  It was much better when I shredded it up, stirred it in the rice and had it that way for left overs today.
This was quite tasty.  I would make it again, but would probably just defrost some pre-cooked chicken and add it at the end with the corn and beans.  I could also see myself making this vegetarian and using an additional can of black beans.  As it was I only used about half of the meat the original called for. (which was plenty)

Here is how I made it.


  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb -I cut mine into a 4-5 pieces)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic minces (or powder)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 1 32 oz container chicken stock (4 cups)
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 cup cheese (I used cheddar jack)
  • cilantro (if desired - I forgot it and wasn't sad)
  • salsa and sour cream for serving if desired (I tried it like that - it was OK, but not necessary in my opinion)
  1. In a large pot, saute the onions in butter until golden.  Add chili, cumin, and garlic minces.  Stir to combine.  
  2. Add the rice and saute until rice absorbs the remaining oil.  Add chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer.  Add chicken. (I'd actually wait to add the chicken until about 1/2 way done next time.)  Cover and simmer for about 50 minutes (until rice is done, adding chicken after about 25 minutes -next time of course.)
  3. When rice is done, remove chicken, add beans, corn, cheese and cilantro.  Heat through.  Serve with chicken, adding sour cream and salsa if desired.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Well, I'm back from vacation and trying to get a menu and grocery list put together quickly.  I know I haven't posted a menu in ages.  I've been keeping them in a calendar.  However, it was one of those school year calendars, and it is out of pages, so back to the blog I go.  Funny how since I'm posting this on the blog, I'm actually checking out other blogs for meal ideas.  When I write it down I tend to look in cookbooks more.

Breakfast Ideas
Homemade granola
Waffles and/or muffins using waffle mix
crepes (try with waffle mix - I haven't attempted this yet.)  Use berries and/or make berry/agave syrup for topping
English muffins (try with whole wheat and agave)
mini german pancakes
french toast

Dinners -many coming to you from Mel and Mel's kitchen cafe.  LOVE that site - and have I mentioned that if you comment, she always seems to comment back.  So nice.  Anyway, got multiple things that I'd love to try from there.
Turkey burgers with romaine and carrot slaw
Mango and black bean quinoa salad
one-pot southwest chicken and rice

And a new one from recipe shoebox
Spinach lasagna rolls

And some 5 stars from here
Crock pot cabbage rolls
3 bean chili

left overs, quesadillas, peach and black bean soup
tuna salad, cucumber sandwiches with chickpea salad (but make it white bean salad)

Other things to try
zucchini chocolate cake with orange glaze HC p. 20


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