Friday, August 30, 2013

Oatmeal & Fig Butter Cookies

Trader Joe's fig butter is Jake's favorite jam to have on his PB & J sandwiches.  If you haven't tried this stuff yet, run out right now next time you are at Trader Joe's, pick some up.

As I was making him a PB & J the other day I was staring at the deliciously sweet concoction that is fig butter and thought to myself that it would be really good with an oatmeal cookie.  After a couple of weeks, I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I decided to try making one.

I started with my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe.  Cream butter, brown sugar and sugar.  Then beat in an egg, some vanilla, and some milk.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Since I was feeling a little spicy, I added some cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom too.  If you don't have cardamom on hand, these will still be delicious so don't buy some just because, but if you do, it really adds something wonderful.  Then add to the wet ingredients.  I'm lazy and wanted to make less dishes so I just sifted it directly into the bowl.

Then add your (quick cook) oats.

Now for the fun part, add in some fig butter and try not to drool over the sweet, almost honey like scent.  If you don't have a Trader Joe's these would probably be great with fig jam instead, but that tends to have more sugar so I would cut back on the sugar in the cookies a bit.

As you can see, the fig butter gives it a dark, almost gingerbread like color.  Yum, yum.  The dough will be sticky (you just mixed in a bunch of jam) so I highly recommend using a cookie scoop if you have one.  If not, a couple of spoons will work just fine.

Once you have it all scooped out, bake them at 350 for about 12 minutes.  They will spread quite a bit so make sure you have plenty of space between them.  The ones on the left were a little too close together and joined up a bit.  Even though they end up really thin, they are super soft and moist, not crispy at all.  They really are fabulous.  These are about a million times better than a fig newton (although I do like those).  Enjoy!

Oatmeal & Fig Butter Cookies
Adapted from the Joy of Cooking Quick Oatmeal Cookies
  • 1/2 cup butter 
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tbls. milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. cardamom
  • 1 cup uncooked quick cook oats
  • 1/2 cup fig butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cream butter.  Then add sugar and brown sugar and cream well.
  3. Beat in egg, vanilla, and milk.
  4. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom and add to the butter mixture.
  5. When beaten smooth add oats and mix until combined.
  6. Add the fig butter and mix until well combined.
  7. Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop cookies about 2 to 2 1/2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes.
  8. Let cool about 3 minutes on the cookie sheet, then slide the parchment paper onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What I Wore Wednesday - Wishing for Fall

Since all of my outfit posts so far have involved a skirt or dress, I figured I should mix it up this week.  Luckily, I had dinner plans and since it is cooler at night I could wear pants without melting.

Last fall I fell into a deep, loving relationship with some burgundy skinny jeans from the Limited.  I can't quite squeeze into them right now but seeing all of the fall inspired outfits on pinterest lately has left me wistful for them.

Unable to fill my craving for my burgundy jeans, I busted out this burgundy top instead.  I've had it for forever and because it is so loose it works perfectly for pregnancy.  Of course, if I have a lot of volume on the top, skinnies are a good foil to avoid just looking plain big and luckily I could squeeze into these skinnies, though probably for the last time before this baby arrives.

Add in my trusty wedges and a big bag too balance out my ever increasing belly and I was ready to go.  As I was writing up this post, I realized that I was wearing a top and pants both from Anny Taylor Loft.  I love that store because their clothes are decent quality, conservative enough that I can wear them to work without looking frumpy, and I can usually get away without hemming their pants.  Add in the fact that they are frequently having 40-50% off total purchase sales and I can barely help myself.
Burgundy Top - Ann Taylor Loft - old
Black Skinnies - Ann Taylor Loft - currently $20 off with code TAKE20
Wedges - Charles by Charles David - on sale for $59
Bag - Coach Outlet - last summer 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pasta with Chicken Sausage, Spinach, and Smashed Tomatoes

This wasn't what I had planned to make for dinner tonight, but then Josh and I both bought Italian sausage at the store so I knew I needed to use one of them ASAP.   I had half a pint of grape tomatoes and 1/3 of a bag of spinach waiting to be used up so I decided to combine those three and make a quick one dish meal.  I apologize in advance for a severe lack of amounts in the ingredients.  This was a "to taste" recipe.

I forgot the Italian seasonings (basil, oregano, thyme)
Have you tried this white fiber pasta yet?  It is called "mini" but it cooks up to be pretty big.  Added to that, it cooks in 4-5 minutes which is a huge plus in my book.  I highly recommend it.

Start out by heating up a large saute pan (one big enough to hold all of the ingredients at the end) coated with cooking spray.  Then add in about a pound of Italian sausage (I used chicken sausage) breaking it up as it cooks.  When it is cooked set the sausage aside and wipe out the pan with a paper towel.  (If you use pork sausage you may need to drain it first, the chicken doesn't really leave fat.)

Fill a pot with water to boil the pasta.  While you wait for your water to boil, start the sauce.  

Add some olive oil to the pan and heat it over low heat.  I never measure olive oil, I just swirl around the pan a few times a la Rachael Ray.  When the oil is hot toss in 3 whole cloves of garlic.

Saute the garlic for about 5 minutes flipping the garlic around a couple of times.  Then add some basil, oregano, thyme (you can also just use a pre-made Italian seasoning), and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Once the garlic is starting to get softer and golden add in grape tomatoes (I used 1/2 a pint but I think a full pint would have been even better).  Cover the pan and let the tomatoes and garlic saute for about 5 minutes (shaking the pan back and forth a few times) until the tomatoes are soft and bursting their skin.  

Somewhere in here your water should be boiling so put your pasta in.  If you are using the white fiber, remember it only takes about 5 minutes to boil.

Now for the fun part.  If you aren't wearing an apron, you may want to throw one on.  Take your potato masher and gently mash up the garlic and tomatoes.  Not all of my tomatoes had burst their skin so they squirted a bit when I mashed them.  It all stayed in the pan, but better safe than sorry if you ask me (and the pale pink dress I was wearing).

When everything is nice and mashed...

throw on a few handfuls of baby spinach and add the sausage back in.  Stir it all together.  

By now your pasta should be cooked.  Stir the pasta and 1/4 cup of parmesan into the sauce and if it is a little dry you can add in a little more olive oil or about 1/4 cup of the pasta water.  If you want, you can stop here.  This was what I intended to have for dinner.

While I was taking this photo the pregnant voice in my head told me that this really could use some more cheese, and I have zero willpower.  Soooo, I poured this back in the pan and added about 1/2 a cup of Trader Joe's quattro formaggio.  If you don't have a TJ's this is a blend of shredded parmesan, asiago, provolone, and fontina.

 That's more like it.  If you ask me, everything is better with more cheese.  If I'm totally honest, I served this with extra grated parmesan and red pepper flakes on the side.  I can't help myself.

Pasta with Chicken Sausage, Spinach, and Smashed Tomatoes

  • 1 lb. bulk chicken Italian sausage
  • 1/2 box pasta (I used Barilla White Fiber Mini Rotini)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 pint to 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • dried basil, oregano, and thyme
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 - 1/2 bag baby spinach
  • grated parmesan
  • TJ's quattro formaggio (optional)
  1.  Heat a large saute pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage, breaking it up as it cooks.  When the sausage is cooked through, remove it from the pan and wipe it out with a paper towel.
  2. Turn the heat down to low and add the olive oil to the pan.  Once it is heated add the garlic cloves to the pan whole and saute, flipping the garlic a few times, for about 5 minutes or until the garlic is starting to soften and turn golden.  Then add the tomatoes, a few shakes each of basil and oregano, a pinch of thyme, and a pinch of red pepper.  Cover the pan and saute for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan a few times to move them around.
  3. Meanwhile start your pasta.  *Keep in mind if you use the white fiber that it only takes about 5 minutes to cook.
  4. When your tomatoes are soft and the skins are bursting take a potato masher and mash the tomatoes and garlic.  Then stir in the spinach and the cooked sausage.
  5. Add in your cooked pasta, 1/4 cup parmesan, and the 1/2 cup quattro formaggio if desired.
  6. Stir it all together.  If it seems a little dry, add 1/4 cup pasta water or some more olive oil.
  7. Enjoy!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Plum and Pluot Galette

We were recently invited to a barbeque and I was in charge of dessert so I decided to make something with cooked fruit, namely the delicious dapple pluots I can't seem to get enough of.  I know that not everyone is a fan of cooked fruit but I love it in all forms.  In the fall there is nothing better than a delicious crisp, but in summer it is far too hot.  Summertime calls for a room temperature fruit dessert, and the most common variety is pie, but pies and I have a love-hate relationship.  I love to eat them, they hate to look pretty when I make them.  Enter the savior of every struggling pie maker's dreams, the galette.  Galette is basically a fancy word for a free form pie.  It doesn't involve perfectly crimped edges.  There is no top crust.  All in all, it is super easy and makes minimal dishes which is another huge plus in my book.

I started out with a refrigerated pie crust.  I love these things, just unroll and you are ready to go.  I highly recommend unrolling your pie crust onto a parchment lined baking sheet, then you have no baking sheet to clean and it's really easy to move your galette to your serving plate.

Mix together some flour and sugar and spread it evenly on your pie crust leaving a 1-2 inch border (this is the crust that will get folded over the top).

Then take your fruit, I used two dapple pluots and three black plums, but you could use any variety of stone fruits.  I almost used just pluots but at the last minute I thought the variety in color would look prettier so I added in the plums.  Cut each plum/pluot in half then twist it apart to remove the pit.  Cut each half in half again (now you have fourths) and then cut each fourth into thirds (this gives you twelve wedges from each piece of fruit).  If you have some smaller plums, cut them into eighths instead, use your best judgement. 

Take your fruit and lay them on top of the floured/sugared part of the crust in concentric circles starting with the outside circle until you can't see the crust underneath them.  I alternated slices of plum and pluot, overlapping a little as needed to make them fit.  You might have a few pieces of fruit leftover, feel free to eat those plain.  You could also dip them in a little bit of the sugar and spice mixture we're going to make if you have a little leftover.  I definitely did not do that.  Well, maybe I did, but that's our little secret.

Next mix together some sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom.  Sprinkle this all over the fruit, leaving a little bit to sprinkle on the top of the crust.

Fold up the edges of the crust all the way around, pleating as needed.  Then beat an egg and brush on top of the crust.  Remember the rest of that sugar and spice mixture, sprinkle it all over the crust (the egg wash makes it stick).

Loosely cover it with foil and bake it at 375 for 40 minutes.  Then remove the foil and bake for about 10 more minutes or until the fruit is softened and the crust is golden.

Now for a little more deliciousness, melt some apricot jam (I used Trader Joe's reduced sugar apricot preserves) in the microwave and brush it all over the fruit.

Let cool to room temperature before serving (with whipped cream if you like).   Then try not to eat the whole thing yourself, but if you do, don't feel too badly.  After all, it's fruit so it's healthy!  At least that's what I think. ;)

Plum & Pluot Galette
Adapted from Epicurious Plum Galette
  • 1 refrigerated pie crust
  • 2 medium pluots, halved, pitted, and cut into 12 wedges
  • 3 medium plums, halved, pitted, and cut into 12 wedges
  • 5 tlbs. granulated sugar
  • 2 tbls. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cardamom
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Unroll the pie crust onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  In a small bowl combine 2 tbls. sugar and the flour.  Evenly spread the sugar and flour mixture onto the pie crust leaving a 1-2 inch border.
  3. Arrange the plums on top of the sugar and flour mixture in concentric circles, overlapping as necessary until the crust is not visible underneath.
  4. Combine 3 tbls. sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. cardamom.  Sprinkle all over the fruit, setting a little bit aside for sprinkling on top of the crust.
  5. Fold up the edge of the crust to cover the outer edge of the plums, pleating as needed, all the way around.  
  6. Beat the egg and brush over the crust, then sprinkle it with the reserved sugar and spice mixture.
  7. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 40 minutes.  Then remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes or until the fruit is soft and the crust is golden.
  8. Melt the preserves in the microwave in 20 second increments.  Then brush over the fruit.
  9. Let cool to room temperature before serving (with whipped cream if desired). 
I'm linking up with Sunflower Supper Club's Weekend Potluck Foodie Friday, Link Party Palooza, Best of the Weekend, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, Wonderful Food Wednesday, Suburbs Mama, and Pin Junkie.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What I Wore Wednesday - Coral Maxi

It was disgustingly hot today but we were meeting Josh for lunch and some of his friends were going to be there so I wanted to look nice while still being cool.  Enter the maxi.  Maxi dresses to me are one of the greatest items of clothing a mom can have in her closet.  It is an outfit made up of one piece so it is super quick and easy to get dressed in the morning while still looking pulled together.  Because of their long length, if when you need to bend over to help your child with something, you don't have to worry about flashing whoever is behind you.

Maxi dresses and I fell even more deeply in love now that I am pregnant again.  They have an amazing ability to last throughout your pregnancy and also somehow make you look smaller than you are.  Case in point, look at the top picture of me in this dress where I barely look pregnant (at least that's what I think, if you disagree don't disillusion me).  Now compare that with the second picture where I am highlighting the belly.   It's hard to believe these two pictures were taken two minutes apart, not two months apart.

I've had this maxi dress for a couple of years and it is one of my favorite dresses still.  I almost didn't buy it because I don't think orange and yellow look very good on me and I was worried that the color of this dress was a little too orange.  Also, it was a little outside of my budget at the time but I am so glad that Josh convinced me to get it.  I always feel pulled together and pretty when I wear it so I have worn it a lot.  This is definitely a great example of how spending a little more upfront will get you more in the end.

Dress - Banana Republic Factory - old
Braided Sandals - Target - old - Similar here for $15

I'm linking up with What I Wore Wednesday at the Pleated Poppy, Get Your Pretty On, Style Elixer, Suburbs Mama, and Plane Pretty

Monday, August 19, 2013

Disney Cars Party - Part 2: Party Details/Activities & Free Printables

I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of Jake's Cars party.  Today I'm going to show you what we did to keep the kids busy.  We live in a townhouse so we had planned to have a park party since we have limited space.  Then the weather report was calling for rain so at the last minute we scrambled to relocate the party to our place.  Of course it ended up being a beautiful sunny day, but in the end I'm glad we had the party at home and everything turned out great. 

We had several different stations set up in different areas of the downstairs and we also used our garage for a lot of the party.  The family room had Cars coloring pages and stickers for the kids to use while their parents were getting them their food since 3-year-olds aren't exactly known for patience.
Jake has a lot of Cars toys so once we relocated to our house, we put a bunch of those toys out.
Puzzle book, Memory game, Playmat with mini cars
In the kitchen we had our first themed station: Ramone's Body Art.  This was just a bunch of Cars temporary tattoos (with a Cars washcloth to apply them of course).
Free Printable: Ramone's Body Art Sign

Jake has this race track that you can build lots of different ways and it comes with a jeep that drives by itself.   We named it Smisko Speedway since that is our last name.  On the printable, I deleted our last name so you can fill in whatever you want or just leave it as Speedway.
Free Printable: Speedway Sign

Luigi's Tire Toss: About a month before the party I needed to replace two of my tires so we hung onto the old tires.  Then my mom used a Cars fabric to make some Mater and Lightning bean bags.  We had planned to have this at the park but it worked in our garage perfectly well.  The big Cars picture behind the game is something Josh ran out to Party City the night before and bought to make it look a little more festive in our garage.
Free Printable: Luigi's Tire Toss

The main event was a box car race with each car decorated to look like a character from Cars.  I'm not going to lie, I started working on these the October before the party (it was in January).  They weren't hard, but they did take some time.  First I made the cars, then I painted them the main color.  After that I decorated the sides to look the way they do in the movies (I borrowed Jake's toys to work from).  I cut construction paper to make the eyes.  Because art is not my strong suit, one of the teachers at my school who was an art major in college, graciously agreed to help me and made the rest of the faces on all of the cars.  They turned out amazing.  Finally I made a "license plate" for each car with the character's name to put on the back.  

I have photos of the different sides of each car and would be happy to go into more details of how I made them if you are interested.  Just email me.

As I mentioned, it turned out to be a beautiful day so we had adults stand at either end of our street (we live in a gated complex with minimal traffic) and let the kids race.  They liked it so much that we ended up having lots of rounds.
To protect the privacy of our guests I blurred out their faces.
Of course no house party is complete in Jake's eyes without a pinata so we had a Lightning McQueen one to cap off the games.

Each guest received a personalized Cars coloring book that I made by downloading free coloring pages (just google printable Cars coloring pages) and then adding word art to the cover to put each child's name.  I then put a piece of cardstock as the last page to make them a little sturdier and bound them using the machine we have at my school.  The little bags (found at 99 cent store) had a Cars cup, Cars pencil, crayons, and Cars candy.

I hope that this party will inspire you the way so many other people's parties inspired me.  Feel free to contact me with any questions.  By the way, I have a Mac so if when you download the printables the formatting seems off, let me know and I will try to fix it on my husband's PC.  I never know what is going to transfer over correctly from Mac to PC.

I'm linking up with Best of the Weekend, Link Party Palooza, Thrifty Thursday, Suburbs Mama, and Strut Your Stuff Saturday 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Disney Cars Party - Part 1: The Food, & Free Printables

This was actually Jake's 3rd birthday party, but it was a really cool party and I relied on a lot of pinterest inspiration, so I thought I would pay it forward now that I have a blog and share my own party details.  If you see any ideas here that you want more information on, just email me and I will happily get back to you with more details and/or pictures.  There are a lot of details and pictures so I will break it into parts.  Today I'm going to focus on the food.

I really like having my food match the theme of my party.  Sometimes it takes a lot of creativity to make it work.  Luckily there are a lot of character's in Cars so I was able to name foods based on characters as needed.  We served deli sandwiches because Jake doesn't like pizza which we called "Sarge's Sandwiches."  I also made "Piston Cup PB & Js" for the kids who don't like deli meat.  These were super easy to make.  I just made a whole bunch of PB & J's the day before and then used  race car and  "Piston Cup" (trophy) cookie cutters to cut them out.   A few layers of plastic wrap and they were still super fresh the next day.

For veggies we had out celery and carrot sticks with hummus to dip called "Dip Sticks."

"Francesco's Fruit Cars" were apple slices with grapes for tires.  I used pre-cut apple slices because I was worried about the apples browning if I cut them myself.  To attach the grapes I used skinny cocktail straws cut into smaller pieces.  Then I just stabbed the apple slice and pressed the grapes onto the ends.

The last thing we served for lunch was "Pit Stop Pasta Salad" using tire shaped pasta.  This salad was super popular and I got lots of requests for the recipe.  I'll post it for you guys soon.

For dessert I am a big believer in cupcakes for birthday parties.  That way you can have chocolate and vanilla so everyone gets what they want.  More importantly, you don't have a bunch of preschoolers having to wait while you cut the cake.  I find the under 6 set to be all about instant gratification.  That being said, my mom always made me beautiful, from scratch birthday cakes and that is one thing about my birthdays that really stands out to me so I wanted to do the same for my kids (well, not always from scratch, but always homemade).  So, how do I do cupcakes for the guests but a homemade cake for Jake?  I make a mini-cake.  He loves this because he feels really special and then he usually shares his mini cake with his cousins or BFF.

For the cupcakes, as I mentioned I made one batch of vanilla and one of chocolate.  Then I just did a simple swirl of vanilla icing and stuck on a cute cupcake topper from The Party Animal.  

Before this party my cake decorating (and cupcake icing swirl) skills were really terrible so I signed up for a Wilton class at Joann Fabrics.  The perfectionist side of me takes over sometimes.  At that class I learned about sugar sheets which are pretty much the greatest invention ever.  They are basically like a sheet of paper made out of sugar and they come in a bunch of colors.  

For Jake's mini cake, I took inspiration from a few different cakes I found on pinterest.   To make the number 3, I printed a large number 3, traced it on the plastic backing of a black sugar sheet and then cut it out with my kitchen scissors.  This was a million times easier than making black frosting and it really looked like asphalt because it wasn't shiny like frosting can be.  The mini cars were from one of those Busy Book sets they sell at Barnes & Noble that Jake had gotten for the holidays and then I printed up that little banner and taped it to a couple of the straws I had from making the race cars.  For those of you looking at the number 3, counting four candles and feeling confused, this was a tradition for me growing up.  We always got 1 extra candle "to grow on."

For our table decor, we just had a few Cars tablecloths, a checkered flag table runner made by my amazingly skilled mother-in-law, and a Flo's V8 Cafe sign.  Now for the free goodies.  Click below for the Flo's V8 Cafe sign and the food label tent cards.  Enjoy!

*FYI: The formatting is off when you preview the documents, but when you download them to your computer, they are correct.
Flo's V8 Cafe sign
Happy Birthday cake sign and Food Tent Cards

I'm linking up with Tatertots and Jello for the Link Party Palooza, Suburbs Mama, and Thrifty Thursday