Thursday, February 27, 2014

What I Wore - Nursing Friendly Business Attire

It's been a while since I did a style post and since I had a meeting to go to today I decided to post my outfit.  Since I'm nursing, and still have a ways to go on losing my baby weight, a lot of my clothes are off limits to me still.  I didn't have a suit that fit the girls and would go over my still spread out hips.  This great Chanel blazer belonged to my grandma and I was excited to have a chance to wear it.  Unfortunately I needed some dress pants to go with it and I didn't have any to wear.  Luckily my friend who was coming over to watch my boys had this pair of navy slacks and miraculously they fit!  I paired it with a white blouse (from Isaac Mizrahi's Target collaboration if that tells you how old it is) with a scalloped neckline and my favorite navy pumps.  That's it.  Finding ways to dress my body that are nursing friendly is always a challenge, but I'm getting the hang of it.  I still haven't found a nursing bra that I love so if you have one, let me know in the comments please.  Happy Friday.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Turtle Cookies

I love a classic chocolate chip cookie and am on a seemingly never-ending quest to find the perfect recipe, but sometimes I like to mix it up a bit.  I've been on sort of a pecan kick ever since Thanksgiving so when we had some friends over on Superbowl Sunday I decided to toss some in my chocolate chip cookies.  The chocolate chips and pecans made me think of turtles and I had a bag of caramel bits in my cupboard so these cookies were born.  They did not disappoint.  I don't like dishes so this is a great 1 bowl cookie recipe.

Start out by creaming 2 sticks of butter with some sugar and brown sugar.  Add in some vanilla and a couple of eggs and beat until well combined.

Dump in some flour, corn starch, salt, and baking soda and then wrap your mixer with plastic wrap.  This will prevent you from having a mess when you turn your mixer on.

Mix slowly at first and then once some of the flour is mixed in, turn to medium and mix until combined.

Now for the mix-ins.  Turtles are usually milk chocolate so I used some milk chocolate chunks but I also wanted some semi-sweet chocolate chips so I did half and half.  Then I chopped up some pecans and poured in a generous amount of caramel bits.  If you don't have the bits you can cut up some caramels instead.   Turn on your mixer until they are all mixed in.

Use your cookie scoop to put dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  I froze some dough at this point for those days when I want a freshly baked cookie but don't want the time or mess of baking from scratch.

Look at all of those delicious mix-ins!

Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.  The trick is to take them out while they still look a little under-baked in the center.  Then let them cool for 2 minutes on your cookie sheet before removing to your cooling rack (the residual heat from the cookie sheet will finish cooking them).  This will help the cookies to stay soft and chewy.

These cookies are definitely best a little bit warm.  They are delicious either way but the caramel bits are softer when they are warm.  You can pop them in the microwave for a few seconds to warm them back up.

Turtle Cookies
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chunks
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup caramel bits
  1. Cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add in eggs and vanilla and beat until well combined.
  3. Then pour in flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt and mix until just combined.
  4. Mix in chocolate chunks, chocolate chips, pecans, and caramel bits.
  5. Bake at 350 for about 8-10 minutes then let cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet before removing to cooling rack.
I'm linking up with Whimsy Wednesday, Wake Up Wednesday, Wednesday Whatsits, Made By Me, Moonlight & Mason Jars, Create It Thursday, Showcase Your Talent Thursday, Thrifty Thursday, Pin It Thursday, Pin Junkie, Get Him Fed FridaysBakerette, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, Show Stopper Saturday, Best of the Weekend, Two Cup Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays, and Create Link Inspire.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Saffron Risotto with Chicken, Spinach, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

A couple of months ago I posted this Red Wine & Sausage Risotto and I mentioned that the recipe was easily adaptable.  This recipe is a different version that follows the same basic principles.  I'm sorry to say that I don't have any photos of the steps of this recipe because I was making it while babywearing, packing Jake's lunch, and making some overnight oatmeal for the next morning.  The good news is that my multi-tasking should show you how easy this recipe is.

Start out by dicing up a small onion and sauteing it in a deep saucepan with some melted butter and olive oil.  Once your onion is translucent add in some minced garlic and saute for about 30 more seconds.  Then add in the arborio rice and toast it for a few minutes but don't let it get hard.  You can do this part it advance, just turn off the burner and cover your pan until you are ready to make dinner.

Add in a cup of white wine, stirring once or twice until it is absorbed.  Meanwhile, heat 3 cups of chicken stock over low heat.  I actually used turkey stock this time because I happened to have some, but I normally use chicken.  Either one will work perfectly.  Add in the stock one ladleful at a time, stirring occasionally until absorbed, adding a generous pinch of saffron strands, some salt, and some ground white pepper with the first ladleful of stock.

While your risotto is cooking, cut up half of a rotisserie chicken into bite-size pieces.  When you add in the last ladleful of stock, stir in the chicken, 1/2 a package of baby spinach, and some julienned, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes.  Once the stock is absorbed, stir in some grated Italian cheese, I used Trader Joe's Quattro Formaggio blend.  I think you can never have enough cheese so I serve it with some grated parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

Saffron Risotto with Chicken, Spinach, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tbls. butter, divided
  • 2 tbls. olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • generous pinch saffron strands
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup julienned, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 3 oz. baby spinach
  • about 2 cups rotisserie chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup Quattro Formaggio or grated Italian cheese blend
  1. Put a large, deep saute pan over medium heat and melt the butter with the olive oil.  Once the butter is melted, saute the onion until it is soft and translucent.
  2. Stir minced garlic into onion, saute for about 30 seconds, and then stir in rice.  Cook rice for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is toasted, but not hard.
  3. Meanwhile, heat chicken stock over low heat.
  4. Add in wine and stir occasionally until absorbed.  Stir in a ladleful of chicken stock as well as the saffron, salt, and white pepper.
  5. Stir in the stock a ladleful at a time as it is absorbed.  With the last ladleful of stock, stir in the chicken, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes.
  6. When the stock is absorbed to the consistency desired, stir in the Quattro Formaggio.
  7. Serve with Parmesan if desired.
I'm linking up with Showcase Your Talent Thursday, Pin Junkie, Thrifty Thursday, Get Him Fed Friday, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, Weekend Potluck, Show Stopper Saturday, Future Expat, Best of the Weekend, Craftastic Monday, Monday Funday, Busy Monday, and Mix It Up Monday.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Superman Party Part 2: Party Details & Activities

This was the invite we sent out (once again I've blurred out Jake's face at Josh's request).  I folded it so that when people pulled it out of the envelope only the Daily Planet masthead was showing to make it look more like a newspaper page.

This poster of Jake dressed as Superman was on our front door.  I used my projector at work to project the same photo from the invitation onto a piece of white paper and traced it.  The face was tougher to trace but it looked enough like Jake that people got the idea.  After tracing it, I painted the poster and then outlined with a thin felt-tip marker.  I then cut it out and glued it onto yellow paper along with the letters.  Jake really loved this poster and it is currently hanging in our garage because he wasn't ready to get rid of it.

When our guests first walked in we had these homemade personalized capes hanging from our banister.  I used this template from jollymom to trace the top part of the cape.  Then I cut them out of red felt (I don't sew).  My mother-in-law used her sewing machine to sew velcro on at the neck.  I then cut the yellow felt in the shape of the Superman symbol and used more red felt to cut out each child's first initial.  I used heat n' bond to attach these.  If you wanted to make these completely no sew you could get the adhesive velcro.

Once the kids put on their capes we took pictures of them in front of our telephone booth.  I was worried we wouldn't be able to find a refrigerator box but as luck would have it, a week before the party our neighbors were getting a washer delivered as I drove up.  I saw an empty refrigerator box on the delivery truck and they were happy to let me have it.  Josh and Jake had fun painting the box with a couple of coats of tempera paint.  Once it was dry, Josh cut the door opening and the windows.  Then I used my silhouette to cut out the letters for telephone from black cardstock and glued them onto white construction paper which I glued onto three sides of the box (the fourth was against the wall so I didn't bother).

Remember these comic book letters I made back in September?

I displayed them on the mantel paired with framed photos of Jake dressed as both Clark Kent and Superman.

In my experience 5-year-olds aren't known for their patience so I had Superman stickers, Superman coloring pages, and lots of crayons out on the tables.

The majority of the activities took place in our garage since we don't really have a yard so I wanted to make it more festive.  We have overhead storage in the garage so we decided to make a bunting out of extra comic book pages.  All you need to do to make your own comic book bunting is to take extra comic book pages and cut them into triangles.  Then hole punch the top two corners and string regular curling ribbon through them.  This was something I almost didn't do and I'm so glad I did because it looked really cool.  The picture doesn't do it justice. 

Since we hired Superman I ended up not making most of the games I had planned on, but I did make Pin the S on Superman.  Using the same method I used to make the poster for the front door, I made two posters of Superman.  Then I used my Silhouette to cut out the S symbols for each child with their name written on them.  We split them into two groups to speed the game up.  In case you ever play a game and need a blindfold, we used two of those little ear covering headbands you wear in cold weather.  They were perfect because they didn't need to be tied and they stayed in place.

As far as Jake is concerned, no home party is complete without a pinata so we had to have one.  This was one of those pull pinatas but our kids used their "super strength" and busted it wide open.  You can see our Superman and my super husband in the background.

In addition to the personalized capes we sent the guests home with Superman coloring books with this little thank you tag stuck on the front.

This party was a lot of work and we were exhausted when it was over but it was more than worth it.  Jake had such a good time and really appreciated all of the details.  I wish we had gotten more pictures but hopefully this inspired you the way I am so inspired by all of the amazingly talented bloggers out there.  An extra special thanks goes out to my favorite blogger Amy without whom I don't think I could have pulled this party off so close to having a baby.

I'm linking up with Whimsy Wednesday, Wake Up Wednesday, Wednesday Whatsits, Pin It ThursdayCreate It Thursday, Showcase Your Talent Thursday, Pin Junkie, Thrifty Thursday, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, Weekend Potluck, Show Stopper Saturday, Best of the Weekend, Craftastic Monday, Monday Funday, Busy Monday, and Mix It Up Monday.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Individual Dark Chocolate Truffle Tortes

I love Valentine's Day, but this year we have a newborn and my sister and her family are going to be staying with us so we will be celebrating as a family (not the most romantic).  Instead we are focusing on the love we all have for each other and that translates to lots of hearts.  I wanted to have a special dessert for the grown-ups and these days I am all about things that I can make ahead since I never know when I will have a chance to put Lucas down and cook.

This dessert is perfect because it has to be made ahead.  It is deep, dark, and deliciously rich.  Even better, it has only two ingredients and comes together really quickly.

Start out by chopping up some good quality dark chocolate.  Put the chopped chocolate with some heavy whipping cream into the top of a double boiler.

Stir the chocolate and cream together over simmering water until the chocolate and cream are completely combined and smooth.

Pour the chocolate and cream mixture into individual molds (I used these silicone heart-shaped muffin cups that I bought at Michael's with a 50% off coupon) and refrigerate until set.  If you aren't using silicone molds, line your molds with parchment paper.

When the tortes are set, remove from the molds.  These are perfect as is, but if you want to fancy them up a little, use a fine sieve to sprinkle some cocoa powder or powdered sugar on top.  Another cute idea is to put a small stencil on top (maybe xoxo) and then sprinkle on the cocoa.  When you remove the stencils you will have the dark chocolate showing the design with the cocoa around it.  That was my original plan, but I ran out of time to make my stencils and I wanted to make sure to get you all this idea before tomorrow.

These are really delicious and rich.  I always think dark chocolate goes really well with red wine but a tall glass of milk would also be perfect with it.  Because these tortes are just cream and chocolate, they are really versatile.  Serve them chilled on their own or with caramel sauce, a raspberry coulis, or even some whipped cream. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Individual Dark Chocolate Truffle Tortes
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 10 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
  • cocoa powder or powdered sugar for decorating, optional
  1. In the top of a double boiler, combine cream and chopped chocolate over simmering water.  Stir until combined and smooth.
  2. Pour into silicone muffin cups.
  3. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.
  4. Remove from molds by dipping the bottoms into warm water first so they come out more easily.  Then use a fine sieve to sprinkle on cocoa powder or powdered sugar if desired.
  5. Serve chilled.  
I'm linking up with Thrifty Thursday, Link Party Palooza, Pin Junkie, Whimsy Wednesday, Wake Up Wednesday, Wednesday Whatsits, Pin It Thursday, and Create It Thursday.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Quick & Easy Valentine's Day Breakfast

When I was a kid my mom used to make us "I Love You" toast by using food coloring and a paintbrush to paint I Love You on toast.  Looking back on it, I realize what a simple thing it was, but at the time it used to make me feel so special.  With Valentine's Day approaching, I've been brainstorming what I will be serving my boys since I like to make thematic meals for the holidays.  Since Valentine's Day brings so many sweets, I want to make a savory breakfast.  The I Love You toast of my childhood kept coming back into my mind but I needed to add in some protein.  Enter one of my favorite breakfasts, the one-eyed sandwich.  This breakfast has a lot of different names but I was taught to make it under the moniker One-Eyed Sandwich.  I decided to combine the two to make the perfect thematic but savory and protein rich Valentine's breakfast.

Start out with a slice of bread, I love the Milton's Whole Grain, but use whatever your favorite sandwich bread is.  Use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut a hole in the center of the bread.

Butter one side of the bread including the heart cut-out.   (I actually used Brummel & Brown, not real butter.) 

Put it in a pan, pre-heated over medium and sprayed with cooking spray, buttered side down. Then butter the side that is facing up.  Once it is nice and buttered, crack an egg into the hole in the bread.

When the bottom of the egg white is set, use a spatula to flip the bread.  Continue to cook just until the egg white is set (if you cook it too long, it will still taste good, but you won't have that deliciously creamy, runny yolk).  Also flip the little heart at this time.

When the egg white is set, take it out of the pan and put the little heart on top of the egg filled hole of the bread.  Now for the "I Love You" part.  Use a small paintbrush, (a watercolor one is perfect) and dip it in a few drops of red food coloring.  Use the paint brush to write an I and a U on either side of the heart.

That's it.  Quick and easy but filled with love.  Serve with salt and pepper and start your day with a smile in your heart.

I'm linking up with Two Cup Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Made By Me, Create Link Inspire, Mad Skills, Whimsy Wednesday, Wake Up Wednesdays, Wednesday Whatsits, Moonlight & Mason Jars, Pin It Thursday, Thrifty Thursday, Create It Thursday, Link Party Palooza, and Pin Junkie.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Quinoa Pancakes

Did you know that there is a National Pancake Week?  I just found out about it, and it is next week so in honor of National Pancake Week, here is a delicious and protein packed quinoa pancake recipe for you.  I'm always looking for make ahead breakfasts that give my little guy some protein to start his day.  I came across these quinoa pancakes and knew I wanted to give them a try.  I swapped out the shortening for butter because I don't really keep shortening on hand and added in some cinnamon and vanilla because they are delicious.

These pancakes come together really easily if you have pre-made the quinoa, and they freeze really well too.  They are pretty dense because of the quinoa so I recommend defrosting them before popping them in the toaster to reheat.

If you've never made quinoa, start by rinsing and draining the dried quinoa.  Then combine 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover it, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes.  I like to make a big batch of quinoa and then eat some for lunch during the week with roasted vegetables, but if you are just making it for this recipe you will need 1/3 cup dried quinoa.

For the pancakes, beat 2 eggs well.  Then add in 2 1/2 cups buttermilk, some melted butter, flour, a little bit of sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, the quinoa, some cinnamon, and vanilla.  Mix it all together until just combined.  The batter will be very thick.

Cook the pancakes on a preheated griddle pan sprayed with cooking spray over medium-low heat.  When there are bubbles on the top flip them over.  Because the batter is so thick, after I ladle it onto my pan I use the bottom of my ladle to flatten it out a little bit.  Also, once I flip the pancakes I press on them with my spatula to make sure they get cooked through.

Jake thinks these are delicious plain, but I like to eat mine with a little bit of butter and pure maple syrup.

Quinoa Pancakes
Adapted from The Patrician Palette
Makes about 1 dozen pancakes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup prepared quinoa (1/3 cup dried quinoa and 2/3 cup water)
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 tbls. butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  1. Beat eggs well.
  2. Add in the rest of the ingredients and mix until just combined.
  3. Cook on a preheated griddle pan sprayed with cooking spray over medium heat, flipping after bubbles appear on the top.

I'm linking up with Two Cup Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Made By Me, Create Link Inspire, Mad Skills, Whimsy Wednesday, Wake Up Wednesdays, Wednesday Whatsits, Thrifty Thursday, Pin It Thursday, Moonlight & Mason Jars, Create It Thursday.   Link Party Palooza, Weekend Potluck, Best Recipes, Best of the Weekend, Show Stopper Saturday, and Strut Your Stuff Saturday.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Superman Party - Part 1: The Food & Free Printables

Every other year I do an over-the-top home party for Jake (in the off years we have them at a place).  This year Jake wanted a Superman party and even though Jake's baby brother was 5 weeks old on party day, I didn't want his party to be any less exciting than the Cars party I threw for his 3rd birthday.  You can check out the details of that party here and here.   I did three important things to make that possible.  1) I started working on his party over the summer.  2) I enlisted the help of my husband and my amazing friend Amy (check her out here).  3) I hired Superman.  I had originally planned on making a bunch of games and having the kids complete all of the tasks to earn their capes but then sanity took over and I realized that I would have a newborn and putting someone else in charge of entertaining 20 kids was a really good idea.

Now onto the details.  Unfortunately I don't have pictures of everything and the pictures I do have aren't always the best.  I was nursing Luke right before the party and Josh thought he got pictures of it all, but he didn't.  :(   Hopefully you can forgive me and I will try to describe the things I don't have so you can picture it.

Let's start with the food tables.  I covered both tables with blue and red plastic tablecloths and used binder clips to gather them in the front.  Then I used two Superman symbols I made with my silhouette on the front.  Behind the table I hung red, yellow, and blue streamers from the curtain rod and attached some small Superman emblems to some of the blue streamers.

I really like to make the food thematic and this party was no exception.  I created a little logo for the food labels using the superman symbol but with a J for Jake.  We served Superheroes (deli sandwiches) and Power PB & Js.  To add a superhero touch to the PB & Js, I cut strips out of extra comic book pages and wrapped them around the PB & Js with a little piece of tape to secure them.

I always try to serve healthy foods so I made a veggie plate labeled Veggies of Virtue (oddly this is one thing I'm so bummed we don't have a picture of because it came out so pretty) by putting carrots, broccoli, red peppers, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes in lines on a white tray.   I also made a fruit salad using only green fruits (honeydew, kiwi, green grapes, green apples, and green pears) and called it Kryptonite.  We also served popcorn in little cones I made out of comic book pages stuck into an empty cheerio box wrapped in yellow paper with holes poked into it.

I used the same logo from the food labels to make water bottle labels.  These are so easy to do and add such a customized touch to a party.  It was the first time I've ever done water bottle labels and I will definitely be doing them for all of our parties going forward.

These were super easy to attach.  Just print, cut, wrap around the existing label, and attach with double-sided tape.  In addition to water we served "Super Serum" (lemonade) and we had some sodas in a red ice bucket behind them.

For dessert I made a mini cake for Jake that I frosted with blue and then used Sugar Sheets to make the Superman symbol.  This wasn't my best cake decorating job but Jake was happy with it.  He had these little Superman and Superdog (I didn't realize there was a Superdog) figures that he wanted to stick on top so that's what those are.  I grew up with the tradition of an extra candle "to grow on" in case you are looking at the cake and thinking I can't count.

Then for everyone else I made cupcakes with these adorable cupcake toppers.  I got the idea from several different blogs on pinterest.  I used my silhouette to cut out the little capes.  I haven't quite figured out the print and cut feature of my silhouette yet so I just printed out the symbols and then cut them out by hand.  A couple of days before the party while the boys were asleep Josh and I threaded the capes and superman symbols onto the tootsie pops and then the morning of the party we stuck them into the cupcakes.

If you are interested in a Super J party, here are the printables:
Food Labels 1
Food Labels 2
Waterbottle Label 

I'll be posting the rest of the party details soon so be sure to follow me so you don't miss out.

I'm linking up with Two Cup Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Made By Me, Create Link Inspire, Mad Skills, Whimsy Wednesdays, Wake Up Wednesdays, Wednesday Whatsits, Showcase Your Talent Thursday, Create It Thursday, and Moonlight & Mason Jars, Thrifty Thursday, Pin It Thursday,  Link Party Palooza, Weekend Potluck, Best Recipes, Best of the Weekend, Show Stopper Saturday, and Strut Your Stuff Saturday.