cooking up a storm

generally, i like to cook. i do. i'm not a gourmet by any stretch, but i like to try new recipes and i like to look for new ways to cook healthy recipes for my little family. my sources come from lots of places...weight watchers, cooking light magazine, allrecipes.com. and with noah, i've found new places for recipes specially designed for little ones...because as any mama knows, feeding a toddler can be one of life's great mysteries and challenges.

last weekend's perfect combo of fall weather and feeling like i needed to get my stuff together in the kitchen was just the kick in the you-know-what i needed to get cooking again. (because let's face it, i've been slacking in the cooking realm. like big time.) so one trip to the grocery store later and i was dragging out every kitchen toy i have...the crock pot, the large stock pot, the food processor, the list goes on...

it started with homemade pasta sauce. i'll admit it, we've been a ragu family for as long as i can remember. but i was given this recipe (and a sample) of a sauce that my neighbor makes. let's say i was intrigued and felt this sense of guilt...like why wasn't i making pasta sauce, instead of buying it? (i know, it's a weird guilt.) but the sauce was so good that i just had to make it. out came the crock pot and the super simple ingredients...and about three hours later, we had a triple batch of homemade pasta sauce! (sharing the easy recipe below)

super simple pasta sauce

from: one of my awesome neighbors (you know who you are!)

*note: below will make a single batch...i tripled to make a bunch and freeze!

1 - 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 T. olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 t. red pepper flakes (can leave out)

1/2 t. dried basil

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. sugar

this is the super simple part. mix all ingredients together in crock pot, and turn on low. for the triple batch, i let it simmer on low for about three hours. once finished, i portioned out the sauce in freezer bags to keep a stash on hand. super, super simple and really, really good!

then came the homemade hummus. it's a staple in our house and in noah's diet. i had been buying hummus and when i figured out that we were going through a container of it in about a day, and i could make more of it for less than buying it, i went for it. again, super, super simple, and it takes about five minutes to get it all together.

homemade hummus

from: another great neighbor (aka noah's "jenny")

1-15-1/2 ounce can of chick peas (drain liquid and save)

1/4 c. tahini

1 clove garlic (i use minced garlic and it works great)

1/2 t. salt

1/4 c. lemon juice (or to taste)

combine all ingredients in food processor, adding only enough of the saved liquid to your thinness/thickness preference. blend for 2-3 minutes to a smooth paste. if you serve right away, you can add some olive oil, or if you are like me, i keep enough on hand for noah...he loves it with carrot sticks.

the cooking continued, but i'll save those recipes for another time. these are just a few of my new favorites that are really super easy and are big time staples for us. if you get to try them and they work for you, i'd love to hear from you!


watermelon cuteness

two words you don't normally hear together. until now.

i have a co-worker that is expecting her first little one any day, and during her baby shower at work, i learned that she loves watermelon. so much so the entire shower was watermelon-themed, down to an amazing cake that was homemade by another co-worker (we're talking the entire top of the cake had a fondant watermelon on top. a-mazing.)

i picked up a little something for this very special mama-to-be, and wanted to bring the watermelon theme into her baby card and wrap.

i have to admit, i first turned to pinterest for a little bit of reference. after all, this would be my first time making anything watermelon-esque. luckily, i came across this great photo which helped a ton.

i started with the gift bag. one of my absolute favorite things to have on hand are plain kraft paper gift bags...they're wonderful to have so you can personalize them in any way for the special someone receiving a gift. i managed to pick up a pack of 13 at michaels ($5.99 for 13)...and with a 40% off coupon, these were dirt cheap!

next step was to make the watermelon...i decided i wanted to put just one larger one on the kraft paper bag, but then i also needed a smaller one for the card. i started off with a 12"x 12" sheet of scrapbook paper - in kelly green. basically to make a watermelon, i needed to start with a large circle...i pulled out my plantin schoolbook cricut cartridge and cut a 7" diameter circle (and for my smaller watermelon for the card, i cut a 5" diameter circle too). once i had these, they needed to be cut in half to give me the start of my watermelon slice. one of my other must-have tools is a fiskars 12-inch bypass guillotine paper trimmer which came in handy to cut my slices (sounds super creepy and dangerous, i know. what i can say is this: this thing is always stored 8' off the ground at all times. and is never used around little ones with curious hands.)

once we had the green slice, i did the same steps with white scrapbook paper...this time cutting a 6" and a 4-1/2" circle, and cutting in half the same way. same for the bright pink, cutting a 5-1/2" and a 4" circle out of the pink to give us our watermelon.

of course, watermelon isn't complete without some seeds, and it just so happened that i was able to cut out some black leafs from my cricut give a hoot cartridge, that with a little trimming, gave perfect watermelon seeds.

the final gift bag with matching happy baby card

i so loved this little project...i think it's the combo of the green and pink which is just a favorite of mine. combined with, i think it was just a unique and totally different type of graphic for a new baby arrival. like i said, watermelon cuteness. :)

p.s. i just realized i didn't share what the gift was...another one of my favorite gifts to give to parents-to-be. the itzbeen timer. it's this incredible little timer that have four different timers that you can set for diaper changes, feedings, naps, whatever you need to time for a little one. this was a total must-have for me, especially in those early days after the baby comes home and you don't know which way is up, much less what time it is, or what three hours or thirty minutes feels like. a highly, highly recommended gift for anyone!


a very happy birthday

so last weekend was a very special birthday in our family. my bonus mama's birthday. and when it comes to present shopping, i'm just gonna be honest...she's a tough one to buy for. (i love you, bonus mama! ) so i did what i do in that situation...i thought and thought...and then, i made her something. thinking it could be a little something to brighten up her office, i dived into figuring out what she might like that might bring a little sunshine to her office.

i turned to my small blank canvas...11" x 14". then, gave some serious thought to color. my bonus mama is super cool...she likes pretty simple stuff and leans towards a modern yet traditional touch to things.

i went with a robins egg blue. subtle, yet a little touch of modern. two coats later and we were ready to adorn the canvas with something.

i turned to my cricut (of course...i'm sure you're all figuring out the theme here.) to actually find something in my bank of cartridges that i could add to the canvas was a little more of a challenge. i have tons of flourishes, but i needed something that wasn't overly flowery...i wanted to go more simple, and again with that modern feel. i found it on my cindy loo cartridge.

what i loved about this little touch was that it's dimensional, using multiple paper colors and a layered effect. i wanted to obviously complement the robins egg blue, and decided to go for white, grey, a little touch of yellow and a lighter pink.

hint: i really, really relied on my x-acto knife and my glue pen on this one. the glue pen was great for getting just a touch of glue on the smaller pieces of the flourish. as for the x-acto knife, it was my best friend. with the layers on the flourish, there are naturally some small (and i mean miniscule) areas that needed to be trimmed up once the layers were being put together.

and to finish it off, i wanted to personalize it a bit for her...adding an "a" as another layer over the flourish.

pretty simple. hopefully she'll enjoy having it somewhere that reminds her of us. finished it off with a simple ribbon and a "happy birthday" tag.

all wrapped up and ready for its trek to florida!


yum yums!

you know me, i'll share anything and everything creative...from cards to art to ways to get a little one to eat to sharing new recipes that i've tried and loved and have been hits in our house. tonight is a night for the latter...i've got a few new recipes to share that were big faves with my boys (one of which is a very picky eater!)

*note: most of you know me and my preference for healthy eating. the first two were all gathered from healthy recipe sources (credits are included)...and the dessert, well, it's dessert.

let's start with breakfast/brunch/brinner (breakfast for dinner) recipes...

peanut butter and jelly french toast (oh my lordy...so good, it's hard to believe this is healthy!)

from: cooking light magazine

prep time: 15 min./yields: 4 sandwiches

2/3 c. 2% reduced-fat milk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. vanilla extract

1/8 t. salt

8 slices white whole-wheat sandwich bread

1/2 c. strawberry preserves

6 T. creamy peanut butter

1 T. canola oil, divided

1 T. powdered sugar

combine first five ingredients in a medium shallow dish, stirring well with a whisk. place bread slices on a flat surface. spread two tablespoons preserves over each of the remaining four bread slices, and spread 1-1/2 tablespoons peanut butter over each of the remaining four bread slices. assemble sandwiches. carefully dip two sandwiches in milk mixture, turning to coat.

heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. add 1-1/2 teaspoons canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. place coated sandwiches in pan; cook two minutes on each side or until toasted. remove sandwiches from pan. repeat procedure with remaining oil, two sandwiches and milk mixture. sprinkle powdered sugar evenly over sandwiches, cut each sandwich in half diagonally and serve with fresh fruit.

cal. 394/fat 19.4 g./protein 14.9 g./carb 43.2 g./fiber 5.4 g./cholesterol 48 mg/iron 1.6 mg/sodium 519 mg/calcium 124 mg.

moving on to dinner (or a fancy lunch)...

cheese torellini with tomatoes and corn

from: my mama via healthy cooking magazine

prep time: 25 min./yield: 4 servings

1 pkg. (9 oz.) refrigerated cheese tortellini

1 pkg. (16 oz.) frozen corn, thawed or 3-1/3 c. fresh corn

2 c. cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/4 c. thinly sliced green onions

1/4 c. minced fresh basil

2 T. grated parmesan cheese

4 t. olive oil

1/4 t. garlic powder

1/8 t. pepper

in a dutch oven, cook tortellini according to package directions, adding the corn during the last five minutes of cooking. drain and rinse in cold water.

in a large serving bowl, combine tortellini mixture and remaining ingredients; toss to coat.

nutrition facts: 1-3/4 c. = 366 cal/12 g fat/30 mg cholesterol/286 mg sodium/57 g carb/5g fiber/14 g protein

and, once you clean your dinner plate, dessert is served....

chocolate chip cookie dough dip

from: my friend, a.cooper, via food.com

1/2 c. butter

1/3 c. brown sugar

1 t. vanilla extract

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese

1/2 c. confectioners' sugar

3/4 c. semisweet mini chocolate chips

1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

in a small saucepan, melt the butter with the brown sugar over medium heat. stir continuously until the brown sugar dissolves. (you can also do this in the micorwave, but watch it closely. the butter/brown sugar mixture will boil over quickly. stir every 30 seconds or so.)

remove from heat, whisk in the vanilla and set aside to cool.

beat the cream cheese and confectioners' sugar for one minute.

slowly beat in the cooled butter mixture and beat again for another minute.

stir in the chocolate chips and nuts (if using).

pour into a serving bowl and refrigerate.

garnish with additional chocolate chips or nuts if you choose. serve with graham crackers, vanilla wafers or pretzels.

*note: there's zero nutritional facts for this one. because sometimes dessert should just be dessert, it should be enjoyed and not worried about.

hope you enjoy these new faves in our house!


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