Granola bars

So I had to hang up on my cousin the other day because A and I were in the middle of boiling sugar (A was WAAAY back from that, obviously) to make these:

Granola barsThe base recipe was a Pinterest find, from the blog My Kitchen Escapades you can see it here.

What I really like about these is they retain their chewy-ness (is that a word? I’m making it one), without getting tough (overly chewy, hard for the boys to eat), or crisp (crumby mess). Once you make the base recipe you can mix in pretty much whatever you want. The blog that I found it on has suggestions as well.

A and I decided on 1/3 cup golden raisins, 1/2 cup chopped M&Ms and 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips:

Granola barsAnd we left out the coconut called for in the recipe, mainly because B does not like coconut.

A declared these our “September Granola Bars” because we were supposed to be making them as part of our fall fun activities (more on that later), but he told me it was not fall yet so these did not count.

Granola BarsBut don’t they look delicious! So yummy.

So we’ll be back with another round when it is actually A declared “fall” and A wants to make ones with white chocolate chips, chopped candy corn, fall M&Ms, and golden raisins. I think the addition of the golden raisins ups the healthiness factor by 100 percent, right? HA!

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A month of meals and a grocery list

So here is a little organization tool I worked on to make my life easier this fall:

CalendarI used an old marker board calendar I had to create a monthly dinner plan for us.

However, before I created the calendar I came up with an extensive list to help make our grocery shopping planning easier.

I divided it into two sections. One is dinner ideas, with a list of main ingredients, and sides. The other is a main grocery list for items we should have stocked, or ideas for breakfast items, snack items, etc.

I printed them out on card stock and taped them on the inside of one of our kitchen cabinets using washi tape:

Dinner ListOnce I had that compiled, I set about putting together the monthly calendar of meals. It is not all completed (as you can see above) because we weren’t sure what A’s soccer schedule would be at the time.

Overall I have been really pleased with how it’s working out, especially because I have forgotten less at the store when I go grocery shopping and we aren’t spending a good part of the weekend trying to decide what we are going to fix the next week.

I uploaded our complete list into a PDF file, so you can see our ideas and our typical meal plan list. Enjoy!

Dinners (CupcakesandCommentary) PDF File

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Cheesy egg muffins

Usually we have a pretty standard mix of breakfast items that they choose from. Blueberry muffins, cereal, yogurt, granola, and bananas are favorites. I let A pick from those items (or similar ones) for breakfast. However, he will sometimes come up with a really random request. The other morning he thought it would be “hilarious” if I made cheesy egg muffins. He even made a song up about them. He thought he was pretty funny asking for something I didn’t have.

However, I did have a cheesy egg muffin recipe that I got from my Mom, and I made it that morning for him. A was shocked that I was able to make what he assumed was a crazy request. These are a great little breakfast muffin (they are more like a baked omelet) and you could add whatever you liked to dress them up (diced ham, pimentos, or green onions would be tasty):

egg muffinAll you need is to whisk up five eggs…

eggsPut all toppings in a bowl with the eggs…

egg muffinsPour into six greased muffin cups…

egg muffinsAnd bake them at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes:

egg muffinsAnd all done!

egg muffinsA preferred his topped with ketchup (that’s a family thing) as did I, however, J liked his plain. Enjoy!

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Cilantro Hummus

I had a plan to make these enchiladas yesterday. A and I have been working through making various recipes this summer (we did pesto, marinade, and a bechamel…or cheese sauce as A calls it). I whipped up this simple hummus with A (his favorite part was getting to press the button on the food processor, and of course, taste testing). While J was not interested in testing the hummus before, he loved it in the enchiladas!

So on to the recipe. Hummus is really so easy to make:

1 drained rinsed can of chickpea or cannellini beans

Juice of one medium lemon (I used half and then added the other half, add to taste)

1 diced clove of garlic

1/4 cup of tahini paste

1/8 cup of canola oil (you traditionally use olive oil, but I used canola instead since we were putting it in an enchilada recipe)

1 bunch of chopped cilantro (about 1/2 loosely packed cup)

Salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in the food processor:

Hummus: CupcakesandcommentaryPlace the cover on and blend until desired consistency.

IMG_2723This is the consistency I like, check for seasonings and adjust as necessary.

Then make enchiladas!

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Or serve it up as a dip:

HummusOr do both! You’ll have enough!

And it’s easy enough that you can make it while a certain toddler is rearranging your kitchen:

IMG_2727I seriously don’t know where he gets that from. 🙂

 

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Sunrise punch popsicles

Sunrise punch is a drink featured on The Pioneer Woman’s show that the boys love. It’s similar to an Orange Julius, except with the added pineapple. I love that it has milk in it and A hardly ever drinks milk, so it’s a great way to sneak it in. It makes a lot, so the last time I made it I divided it into Popsicle molds to have on hand for the boys. I leave out the meringue powder (which I have not been able to find in a store), and I use two percent milk instead of whole milk.

Yesterday after J screamed through much of dinner (teething/late dinner), I grabbed two Popsicles and headed out back with the boys (I had three, but one of my vintage Popsicle molds fell apart on the way out the door, so none for me).

They were as big of a hit in frozen form as they were as smoothies!

Cupcakesandcommentary/ Sunrise Punch Popsicles IMG_2594 IMG_2596

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Turkey Rigatoni

Easy. Cheesy. Pasta. Three words that are kid pleasing meals. The best thing about this dish is that you can prep it during nap time, and then stick it in the fridge until you are ready to cook it. Or you can prep it and freeze it. Or you can just make it all up and cook it off right after and it will be delicious!

So your basics…2 cups rigatoni pasta cooked to al dente:

Turkey Rigatoni

It’s not going to seem like much, but it is:

Turkey Rigatoni

Marinara sauce (I sauteed half a medium onion for five minutes on medium, 2 cloves of garlic for thirty seconds, then sauteed half a finely chopped turkey kielbasa, then threw in fresh basil leaves, oregano, parsley, and 3/4 of a bottle of Newman’s Own marinara):

Turkey RigatoniAnd let it cook while the pasta is cooking and you are shredding the cheese:

Turkey Rigatoni8 oz of mozzarella and Parmesan (I used the jar…AHHH! Shock!)

I tossed the cooked pasta with the marinara:

Turkey Rigatoni

Layered on the mozzarella:

Turkey Rigatoni

Then the Parmesan:

Turkey Rigatoni

Then placed two tablespoons of cold butter around the top:

Turkey Rigatoni

Then I baked it off at 375 for twenty minutes (thirty if it’s cold, about an hour if it’s frozen…foil the top if it’s frozen!):

Turkey RigatoniLet it cool for five to ten minutes and then eat! Yum! The full recipe is below.

Turkey Rigatoni
Nicole: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups of rigatoni
  • ½ of a package of chopped turkey kielbasa
  • ¾ of a bottle of Newman's Own marinara
  • 5 fresh basil leaves, ¼ cup of fresh parsley, 10 small fresh oregano leaves all chopped together
  • ½ of diced yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 2 tbs of canola oil
  • 1 8 oz block of grated mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbs of cream cheese
  • ½ cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbs of butter diced
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Cook rigatoni al dente according to package directions.
  3. In a saute pan, heat canola oil at medium heat. Saute yellow onion for 5 minutes, then saute garlic for about 30 seconds stirring constantly. Add turkey kielbasa and cook for five minutes at medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Turn heat to low, add marinara and herbs and let cook on low for about fifteen minutes.
  4. Add cooked pasta to a 9x13 baking dish. Mix with turkey marinara. Stir in cream cheese. Layer mozzarella, then Parmesan, then butter on top. Cook for 20 minutes until bubbly and golden. Let sit for five minutes after taking out of oven.

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Simple summer dinner

While I love trying new recipes, I also love enjoying the simplicity of summer meals.

Fresh, scrubbed, and poked sweet potatoes roasted at 350 degrees for an hour and a half

Sweet potatoes

Ripe apricots, washed, halved and pitted, tossed with a bit of sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon and roasted in the same oven with the sweet potatoes for 30 minutes:IMG_2438

A NY Strip Steak prepped with just a bit of steak dust and Worcestershire and grilled to medium:IMG_2444

Lemon blueberry bars, prepped early in the day and chilled:Lemon Blueberry Bars

The bars are sweet, but not overpowering and the blueberries add this really interesting twist. All very simple, all very delicious!

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PB&J Smoothies

This is a really simple recipe that A and I whipped up this morning because he “wanted something CRAZY” for breakfast. So I made these smoothies that he ate along with some fruity pebble cereal. Crazy, indeed.

So here are your basic ingredients:

PB&J Smoothies: Cupcakesandcommentary Milk, 3 oz yogurt, peanut butter, banana, and either jelly or jam (not pictured). A picked apple jelly, but I added raspberry jam when I re-tested it and it was good!

And you also need a blender. The most important thing to making this is to put the jelly or jam in first and blend it for a good 30 seconds to a minute because it will break down the jelly/jam so you won’t have chunks of it in the smoothie.

IMG_2383 Then you just put in the rest of the ingredients and blend it up!

And while your at it you might want to get some for the kid yelling from the highchair:

IMG_2384

And at our house we serve smoothies in Star Wars cups with neon green straws. How we roll, that is.

IMG_2388

IMG_2389

Smoothies. J approved. One toothy smile up!

PB&J Smoothies: CupcakesandcommentaryAnd here is a little sample shot. The left is the raspberry, the right is the apple, and the recipe is below! Enjoy!

PB&J Smoothies
Nicole: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 1 sliced banana (the riper, the better)
  • ½ cup of milk
  • 1 3 oz container of yogurt (we used vanilla)
  • ¼ cup of smooth peanut butter
  • ¼ cup of jelly or jam (we used apple jelly for one and seedless raspberry jam for another)
Instructions
  1. Blend jelly (or jam) until broken down (about thirty seconds to a minute). Add all remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve immediately!

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DIY Popsicles

DIY Popsicles

This was one of our long weekend adventures. It is relatively easy to do (unless you overly complicate it, as I did), and you can use popsicle molds if you have them, or you can just use dixie cups and popsicle sticks.

We tried three different combinations (at A’s choosing):

Cherries + Cucumbers + Yogurt + Coconut Milk

Cherries + Coconut Milk

Lemonade + Cherries

Oh and please do not think my children eat up vegetables, they do not. I made A choose a vegetable and he picked cucumber.

If you want to layer it we poured the first layer then put them in the freezer for about 15 minutes, then do the same for the second and third if you have those layers.

I stemmed, pitted, and cooked the cherries down (similar to my cherry turnovers) and then let it cool until room temperature. Then I blended it with a seeded and chopped cucumber. You can also use a jar of cherries or cherry juice.

They need to freeze for about three hours.

DIY PopsiclesThis is them setting before the last layer and before we put the sticks and tops on them. Don’t forget to do that!

While A is showing off the yogurt, coconut milk, cherry, cucumber combo; he said the lemonade was his favorite.

DIY Popsicles

However, J LOVED that cucumber combination:

IMG_2292

Even though I have no idea why….I thought if you mixed in the cucumber it would not have a taste and was totally wrong. Cucumber does have a taste and you could taste it in the popsicles….which I did not care for. I particularly liked the cherries and coconut milk combo (Half cherry juice/half coconut milk). I know A really liked making them, so we will definitely do it again later this summer. I want to try these ice cream ones from Pioneer Woman for A and these margarita ones for the adults. Yum!

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The power of yogurt and pizza

I have found that there are two foods that I can serve in pretty much any way and style and the boys will eat: yogurt and pizza. The boys will both eat the spectrum of yogurt from greek yogurt, to fruit mixed yogurt, to cereal mixed yogurt, to yogurt with veggies, and so on and so on. It’s one of my favorites to find when we are traveling because I know that they will both eat it in any shape or form.

A’s current favorite is Yoplait Cars Vroom Vanilla:

Very Vanilla And J’s current favorite is Stonyfields Yo Kids Raspberry Greek Yogurt:IMG_2247

I tried to get a picture of the face he makes when he eats it because apparently it’s quite tart. He scrunches up his eyes and puts his hand on his head, like he has a brain freeze, but then he always wants more! Silly boy!

The second item that I can switch up and mix up is pizza. A and I made pizza last week and we used the following toppings:

Pizza IngredientsRagu pizza sauce (A’s request), mini pepperoni’s, sliced fresh spinach (from our potted garden!), provolone, sharp cheddar, and mozzarella cheese.

I made the crust using this recipe from Lauren’s Latest, and we cooked it at 500 degrees for about 9 minutes on a pizza stone (it’s faster than you can make a Totino’s pizza…just saying):IMG_2217

And the boys ate it up! Yum! A told me next time he wants to try artichoke hearts and fresh parsley. What I have found is that if he thinks of the item and helps me make it he will eat it. Although I still am not sold on his peanut butter and cheese pizza idea. 🙂

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