Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Eating Better #2

Addictive and Super Simple Steamed Broccoli-
When I say this is addictive, I mean it. I seriously eat this as a quick snack a few times a week.  And its so simple, if your kids are anything like mine they'll be eating it faster than you can make it.

The most important ingredient is a good steaming dish. Any good microwavable dish with a tight fitting lid with a vent will work. I suppose if you are super careful about watching it, you could probably use a non vented dish, just be careful. You can also adapt this recipe to use different herbs and spices or even different fresh veggies.

You will also need:
-a head of fresh broccoli
-2-3 pats of butter
-light sprinkling of garlic powder
-pinch of red pepper flakes
-kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

The Method:
-rinse your broccoli well and cut off florets with a sharp knife.
-I fill my small dish VERY full with the broccoli- it just seems to work better that way
-arrange butter slices on top of broccoli
-sprinkle with dry seasonings
-put your lid on tight and microwave for about 3 minutes.
 Microwave times will vary upon model and wattage.

That's it, let me know if your family likes it as much as we do....Maybe we are just odd?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Painted Knife Block

I don't know why it never occurred to me to spruce up my knife block, it just didn't. I "inherited" this knife block (not this ACTUAL one, but one very similar. I forgot to take a before pic) from my husband's apartment stuff when we got married. I didn't think much of it, in fact I never gave it ANY thought at all. Until one day in blog land I saw that someone had painted their knife block in this pretty solid barn red. Well, I thought, it cant get any uglier, lets give it a go....

First I took the knives out and washed it really well....or so I thought. Then I started to sand the lacquer off and realized that there was a very heavy film of dirty grossness covering it. So I cleaned it with an SOS pad and this time it worked like a charm. After I got it really clean, I sanded it down, revealing a beautiful wood grain not previously able to be seen through the grime.

Then I took it out to my yard and gave it a first coat of cherry red spray paint. As any good spray painter knows, spray paint goes on best in layers. So about ten minutes later, I went out to give it another coat of paint and realized I liked it just the way it was, with that beautiful wood grain peeking through the red. I decided to leave it like that...I could always add paint later...and Im glad I did, I think it looks awesome. What do you think?

Eating Better #1

Pleasantly Plump.

Fat...in my twenties.

Fat...in Colorado.
Fat...in a Dorothy costume.
 I have heard them all. People can truly be cruel. If you are reading this and you used to be one of those people who made me feel so horrible about myself....screw you. Don't try to flatter me now by reading my blog. But I must admit, the memory of all the hurtful things said to me has fueled me to change my situation.

Since adolescence, I have yo-yo'd back and forth between a 14 and an 20, through the birth of three children and countless other life events. The real culprit was poor eating habits, not at all helped by low activity. I really love food, I am in school to become a chef so I love to cook...and eat. I also have three children, ages one, three and nine. These kids are hard to please all at once, so I was giving in to my busy schedule and letting them have McDonalds a couple times a week. Not a good idea. I realized this one day when my three year old turned down a PB+J and told me he wanted "Donald's fries" and proceeded to scream himself into a fit.

OK, something needed to change...I am a smart mom and a great cook, so I figured I could make them food that was better for them, feed their brains and that they would actually want to eat. I knew it was going to be a challenge to change their palettes but I figure I have nothing but time. Then I decided, why not keep a record of all the recipes I try to help other moms feed their kids healthier? I also decided to try to keep each meal under $4 per person....stay tuned for more recipes as I make them for my family.

Eating Better Recipe #1

Kid Friendly Salad Nicoise-
Green vegetables, a "fruit", hearty potatoes and plenty of protein make this a great dish for the whole family. It is traditionally served with the eggs cold, potatoes warm, and the rest at room temperature, giving it more layers of interest. I boiled my eggs and potatoes ahead of time and then right before serving, I cut my potatoes in half, tossed them in salt and pepper and good olive oil and grilled them cut side down until warm. I serve mine with home made garlic toast.

-boiled red skin potatoes (when i was ready to serve, I tossed them in S+P and EVOO, cut them in half and grilled them till warm,)
-cherry tomatoes
-hericot vert, steamed (pronounced hairy co-vair...its just long french green beans, I found mine @WM)
-hard boiled eggs
-albacore tuna (the classic recipe calls for a rare tuna steak...which my kids wouldn't like)
-black olives (kalamata is the norm, but again, not for the kiddos...I had mine on the side for the picture)
-lemon basil vinaigrette

Arrange all the ingredients on a family sized platter and either toss with the vinaigrette or serve the vinaigrette on the side.

Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette-
1- 1½ tsp. dijon mustard
the juice of 1-2 lemons (taste them before you use them, I have ruined many sauces with a bitter lemon)
¼-⅓ cup of good extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. of fresh basil chiffonade* or a good pesto
kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
-----> Starting with the smaller amount listed, put all ingredients into a small recycled jar with a lid and shake away until emulsified.  Taste and adjust the amounts as needed to taste.
Store in fridge but use at room temperature.

* To chiffonade basil (or any fresh leafy herb) take your leaves and stack them one by one on top of each other like pages of a book. Then take the whole stack and roll it into a tube shape. Then cut lengthwise across the "tube" of basil. When you loosen your strands you will have something resembling confetti. DO NOT DO THIS STEP AHEAD (unless you are putting it right into a recipe) as you will bruise and damage your basil too far before its use.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chalkboard Labels-

Here's another one thats just too easy...

I already had my chalkboard paint out, so I thought "What else needs chalkboarded around here?"

Well, here it is...Labeled Canisters, now you can just read whats inside instead of opening it up and breaking the air seal. All I did was put a double layer "swatch" on each one. I would have written on them for the picture but they were still a little bit tacky. I can't wait to label them!

Mini-Project: Tabletop chalkboard

This one was so easy, I hardly have anything to write...

I started out with an old frame with no glass.
It did have the cardboard backing that makes it stand up. I simply painted that cardboard backing with chalkboard paint and spray painted my frame to match Stella's room. Voila, instant tabletop chalkboard!

Avocado Tricks

I have heard it through the grape vine....hehehe that some people are intimidated by avocados. If you fall into that category or just dont know to treat them, then this post is for you.

Halving and Coring an Avocado
Stand your avocado on its fat bottom and slice straight down through the core on top until you hit core. Then with your knife blade still against the core, turn your avocado until you have cut all the way around. Remove your knife and take one half of the avocado in each hand and twist in opposite directions. You should now have two halves with the core in one half. Take your large chef's knife and whack the heel (nearest part to the handle) of your blade into the core, wedging it in. Twist knife, which should twist your core right out without disturbing the avocado's flesh.

Slowing your avocado's browning-
For short term (couple of hours) preservation, rinse your halved avocados in very cold water.
For longer term preservation (1-2 days) spritz lemon or lime juice over avocado half. Of course then seal in plastic. If preserving a mashed avocado (guacamole) make sure to put plenty of citrus juice on every surface that hits air and top with a lid. AIR is the browning enemy. 

Dicing your halved avocado
Cut straight parallel lines across your avocado with about 1/4-1/2" in between, going slow so that when you hit your peel you stop, not cutting through it....just up to it. You could even use a butter knife for this step. Next turn your avocado 180 degrees and do the same thing going the other way. When you are done your avocado should look like this one. Then simply either turn your avocado peel inside out, releasing the flesh OR peel away the peel. Either way you will have lovely square avocado cuts.

Partin House Rules

I love the look of the subway art posters that are trending right now. I really like how it makes a visual impact and that you can put quite a few messages in one tight spot. I thought to myself...."Self, you can do that. You have Microsoft Word and a printer."  So, I attempted it.  It was harder than I thought it would be. Now you must remember, I am just learning to be crafty. I definitely learned a few things (as I usually tend to) during this project...

1. Your basic at home printer is only as good as the paper you put in it...duh. I'm sometimes too cheap for my own good...I had decided I wanted to craft a mat out of scrapbook paper and my cheap-o bright white printer paper just wasn't meshing well with it. I literally espresso stained some paper and tried to print on it before my darling hubby suggested I buy some nicer paper. BUY PAPER?, I thought? When I already have it on hand?!?!?!? But....he was right. Again. As usual.

2. Don't be cheap. Thought I just covered this? Clearly not thoroughly enough because I made a stupid mistake. Can you see the seam going up and down through the middle of the rules paper? That was me slicing out a big hunk of paper from behind the rules....hey, no one will see it anyway, right? Why not save some for another project? Duh....Not smart. It left the surface I decoupaged my rules to uneven, thus the seam....grrrr.

3. Use the best tools for the job. I used Microsoft Word because I know HOW to use it. I inserted a ton of little text boxes, set the font, colors and text and sized them all like a puzzle....it honestly took me over two hours to finish. I proudly showed it to the hubby when he woke up and he tells me it could have been made on Illustrator/Photoshop in less than half that time. I cant stand wasting time or money so I am going to have to bite the bullet and learn how to use the programs...I am a little bit of a techno-sissy.

Other things I used for this project- 

I had everything on hand so I didn't spend a penny on this project although I do need to replace the frame from my living room where there is now a blank wall.

11x14 black frame- took off a different wall
Krylon blue ocean breeze spray paint
2 pieces of scrapbook paper
x-acto knife
cutting mat
mod podge
designer printer paper (although I didnt realize the difference it would make)

All in all I am pleased with the way it turned out, though I do think that darn seam will probably bother me. What do you think?

How I ensured a fun-filled summer for the kids for $89 AND saved $289+ in the process...


We are now a family of five so I usually think somewhat in bulk, (FLAT of eggs, check. Ten tubes of toothpaste when they are nineteen cents each? Yes, please) but had not found many ways for that to translate outside of my grocery budget. With two toddlers this year, I knew I had to be creative with our time and I am ALWAYS creative with our money...

So I decided to use some of our tax money to buy a zoo pass. Looking around at the local zoos, I found that a basic family membership ran around $100! Now, $100 to some may seem like a steal, to me....its a good chunk of money. Anything we don't NEED that is over $20-ish I feel the need to justify, so I decided to do a lengthy side-by-side comparison of the three closest zoos to us.

I found that some zoo memberships include free stroller rentals and parking...but some didn't. Some were only open for warm months while other are open year round. The price of strollers runs $8-$16 and parking ran as high as $12. Some memberships could be tweaked to include other non-immediate family and friends. The key here is to find the membership that fits your family's needs. I chose the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Here is the rundown of regular prices:
"Adult admission"(ages 10 and up)- $14 each x3
children's admission(ages 2-9 my 1.5 year old would be free for now)- $9 x1
double stroller rental- $12
parking $5
TOTAL for my family to go ONE TIME- $68
Total to go five times (fingers crossed) throughout the year- $340

AND- with your membership you receive a coupon booklet with buy one get one free admissions to other fun places in Columbus like Cosi, the Columbus Museum of Art and Wexler Center for the Arts. There was an extra savings of $37.75 in coupons.

So for $377.75 worth of services(provided we get to go as many times as I did the math for), I paid a whopping $89 and I get to watch my children learn and discover all year long...and I get to see bears. I have a thing for bears.