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August 30, 2012

Speedy Baked Ziti


I never realized how hard it can be to raise two boys. When one is happy the other is upset, I clean up a mess and they re-do it worse than it was before. The worst of our battles is always around food. My oldest loves cheese and would be happy to eat it with every meal. On the other hand my youngest has decided he won't eat cheese at all unless it's in a recipe. Recently, I have cut out baked good as snacks and my kids have been less than happy. In the last week they have told me that they hate me numerous times due to not having cookies, bread and cake. However, my youngest has discovered that he loves food that he has never tried before such as quinoa and brown rice flour pancakes. If they still were eating all the snacks they would never have discovered all the new healthy foods that they love. One thing that I have not cut out of their diet is pasta. They absolutely love pasta and will eat their whole plates clean when I serve it for a meal. A couple of weeks back I tried a new recipe for Speedy Baked Ziti from the February issue of Food and Wine Magazine, which looked easy and perfect for my picky children.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 45 minutes of total time and makes 8 serving. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store and made no ingredient modifications. I chose to use Rao's brand tomato sauce for the marinara. It really is a high quality tomato sauce and now that it is available at Wal-mart the price is reasonable and it is easy to find. As I normally do I ground my own beef chuck. The flavor really is better and the texture has no comparison to store bought. Plus I can chose to have large or small sized grounds. Make sure to let the ziti rest before serving. Otherwise it will fall apart and not come out of the dish completely.

My two boys really enjoyed this recipe. It was mild enough to be child friendly, while still having enough flavor for my husband and I. Since the recipe uses jarred pasta sauce you can change the taste to suit your needs, which makes the dish very versatile. Overall, this is a very easy and child friendly recipe which I will make again in the future.

For the recipe go to Speedy Baked Ziti.

August 29, 2012

Corn Chowder with Zucchini and Orzo


I love summer for so many reasons. One of my favorite summer things is fresh vegetables. Garden vegetables are absolutely delicious and I love cooking and baking with every single one of the them. In our area zucchini and summer squash seem to grow easier than anything else and I am always swimming in both of them for a good part of the summer months. I have learned to make great tasting brownies, cakes, bread and muffins that my kids love and they have never guessed that they contain garden vegetables. However, as much as I love baked goods I am trying to reduce the amount that my family consumes. So this time when I had a number of zucchini I decided to look for new savory and healthy options. I found a recipe from Everyday Food magazine for Corn Chowder with Zucchini and Orzo, which looked simple, low in fat and delicious.

This recipe has 7 ingredients. It takes 30 minutes of total time, 20 minutes of which is active and makes 4 servings. All the ingredients were easy to find at my local grocery store and I made no substitutions. I did find that I had to let my chowder cook for slightly longer than the 8 minutes suggested by the recipe. At 8 minutes it hadn't thickened well so I allowed it to cook an additional 5 minutes. Be very careful when using the blender with the hot soup. I always place a towel over the top opening in addition to the plastic lid insert. I have had soup splatter more than once and the towel prevents anything from leaking out the top. Another option would be to use an immersion blender. It would work just as well and you wouldn't have to worry about pouring hot liquids. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

With 8 grams of fat and 9 grams of protein per serving this recipe is a great, light summer dinner option. I loved how sweet the chowder was and the zucchini and orzo on top was not only pretty on the plate, but created a nice texture difference. My husband wasn't as big of a fan of this recipe. He thought that the chowder would be great as a breakfast porridge, but not as a dinner option. My two kids loved it though, so he was the odd one out. Overall, this recipe was a great way to use garden veggies and I would use it again next summer.

Everyday Food currently does not have this recipe online. However, it can be found in the July/August issue or here is a link to a modified version.

August 28, 2012

Black Bean, Chorizo and Sweet Potato Chili


If you have read this blog for any given amount of time you know that I love my slowcooker. I use it year round, it's great when it's hot and humid outside to keep kitchen temps down and it's even better in the winter for hearty soups, stews and chili. Since this has been a busy couple of weeks with the school year starting and re-adjustment of schedules I have been relying on my crockpot tremendously. I love that I can set all the ingredients up in the morning when I have more time and by dinner it's completely done. It's a great way to save time and stress. When I was looking through the August/September issue of Taste of Home magazine the recipe for Black Bean, Chorizo and Sweet Potato Chili caught my eye and looked perfect for a weekday meal.

This recipe has 15 ingredients. It takes 15 minutes of prep and 6 hours of cooking and makes 16 servings. I ended up having to go to two different grocery stores in order to find both poblanos and jalapenos. That's normal for my area though and I didn't consider it inconvenient. This recipe does have a number of ingredients, but they are all easy to prep. Make sure to rinse the beans very well or they will taste metallic. Normally, I make my own beef stock, but neither of my local stores had beef bones so I took the easier route and used all natural canned stock. Make sure when you pick any type of stock from the grocery store that it is all natural. The cheaper brands often have additives and they make a big difference in the taste and quality of the stock. This is one area that I do not cut corners and save money by buying the cheaper options. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

When this recipe states that it makes 16 servings it's telling the truth. This recipe made enough for over three meals and the some. I froze half of the dish for later meals, which I would suggest if you don't have a huge family. I really loved the chorizo in this recipe. I use chorizo frequently, especially with eggs and tacos, yum! However, I had never tried chorizo with chili before and I was very impressed. This will be a great meal for fall and winter and I look forward to making it again.

For the recipe go to Black Bean, Chorizo and Sweet Potato Chili.

August 27, 2012

Cream Scones with Dried Pomegranates


Growing up my mother was obsessed with high tea. She collected tea cups, tea pots and hosted tea parties at our house. These weren't little parties either. She would spend hours making tea sandwiches, cookies and most importantly scones. Everything always had to be just right. These were also not jeans and t-shirt affairs. My mother would sew me beautiful dresses to wear to these parties, spending hours making sure everything was just right. As I got older we would spend hours at second hand stores looking for vintage dresses and coats. Then we would dress-up and go to high tea at the Four Seasons in downtown Seattle. It always felt so special and fun and I loved spending the time with my mother. One of my favorite memories of my mom was when I was able to pay for an entire trip for the two of us to Victoria, BC. I was in college and working more than part-time. I saved up as much money as I could after rent etc. and paid for the entire trip. We had a great time and the highlight was tea at the Empress Hotel. It was perfect, the food, atmosphere and most importantly the happiness reflected on my mom's face. I love these memories and every time I make scones for my children I remember my mother. Recently I tried a new recipe for Cream Scones from Everyday Food magazine, which I hoped would be as good as the ones my mother made growing-up.

This recipe has 8 ingredients. It takes 25 minutes of total time, 10 minutes of which is active and makes 6 servings. I did make one major modification. The super store in my area has decided to stop carrying currants, so instead of going to another store I substituted dried pomegranates. The only other change that I made was to use organic butter, I prefer organic butter, eggs and milk, especially for my two boys. I chose not to add sanding sugar to the top of the scones, I prefer the taste without it. Finally, make sure to rotate the pans halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

These scones turned out very well. They had a nice flaky texture and the dried pomegranates worked perfectly. While I love currants, I thought substituting pomegranates was a nice change from my usual routine. I enjoyed my scone with a cup of coffee and it was delicious. Perfect for afternoon tea (or coffee) or anytime of the day.

For the recipe go to Cream Scones.

August 26, 2012

Peanut Butter Cup Protein Smoothie

My oldest has been back in school for two weeks and my family has been doing great with changing our breakfast habits. I have been the one the most in need of reform and I am glad to say that I have completely changed my bad habits. No longer do I reach for the cookies and sweets in the morning, but instead consistently eat protein and fruit. This has been a major change for me and I feel a lot better. I have also changed by kids diets pretty dramatically. We have always eaten well and I started cooking from scratch years ago. However, I have always baked a little too much and can be hit or miss with using whole grains instead of white flour. In the last couple of months I have changed these habits and my family has discovered that they love quinoa, whole wheat couscous and brown rice flour. My two boys have also been much calmer and stopped all the snacking they used to do all day without eating meals. One breakfast food that I have found that my whole family loves is smoothies. They are quick and easy and can be full of protein. Last week I tried a new recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Protein Smoothies from the July issue of Family Circle magazine.

This recipe has 6 ingredients. It takes 15 minutes to prep and makes 4 servings. I'm not really sure why the recipe states that it takes 15 minutes to prep. I was able to put together this smoothie in literally a couple of minutes. I chose to leave out the salt. I tasted the smoothie before adding the salt and I liked it the way it was. I try to avoid unnecessary sodium, so I chose to leave the salt out completely. I actually used vanilla flavored almond milk instead of soy milk. My family prefers almond milk and the remaining soy milk left in the carton wouldn't be consumed and therefore it would be wasteful. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

Everyone in my house thought that this smoothie tasted like something from a juice bar. It is absolutely delicious and I love that it has 15 grams of protein. It does have 14 grams of fat, but since it's mostly from peanut butter which is a good fat I think that it is perfectly acceptable. Plus I don't believe in eliminating all fats from your diet, especially since my family is very physically active. One of the best parts about this smoothie is that it keeps you very full. I wasn't hungry until well after lunch so it was a great way to control my mid-morning sugar cravings. I have already made this smoothie two more times and it is sure to stay in my breakfast repertoire.

For the recipe go to Peanut Butter Cup Protein Smoothie.

August 24, 2012

Blueberry Cream Biscuits

I love berries. Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, yum! My two kids love berries even more than I do and can eat a pint of blueberries in one sitting. It would be great if the price of berries was low all year, but they aren't so during the summer when the prices are low I bake and cook with them as much as I can. Baking has been one of my greatest stress relievers as far back as I can remember and during stressful times in my life I bake a lot. The beginning of the school year is always stressful and I try to calm my sons down as much as possible by baking things that they love. One of their favorite things to eat are biscuits and I bake them frequently. Last week I tried a new recipe for Blueberry Cream Biscuits from the April issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, which looked full of berries and delicious.

This recipe has 7 ingredients. It takes 20 minutes of prep and 17 minutes of baking time and makes 12 biscuits. All the ingredients are basic and I either already had them in my pantry or I was easily able to find them at my local grocery store. Make sure not to overwork the dough. I did have to add slightly more whipping cream than the recipe suggested in order for the mixture to come together without over touching the dough. I ended up with 12 biscuits total. My biscuits took slightly longer than the suggested time in the recipe. It's always hard to tell with my oven how long recipes will take. The oven was built in the disco-era and it doesn't always heat evenly. I did rotate my pan halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

These biscuits turned out delicious. I originally was going to make the blueberry sauce that was included with these biscuits, but my boys ate all the blueberries before I had time to make it. So instead I made the recipe without the sauce. They were delicious hot with butter and I didn't feel that I was missing anything by not including the blueberry sauce. My two boys ate most of these biscuits all by themselves. They are a nice combination of sweet from the blueberries while still having a nice biscuit flavor. I would definitely make these again and they could easily be modified to use other berries or leave out the blueberries completely for a savory side.

For the recipe go to Blueberry Cream Biscuits.

August 22, 2012

Overnight Pull Apart Cinnamon Loaf

Cinnamon is one of my favorite tastes and scents. There is something so relaxing to me about the smell of cinnamon and when I use it in baking it makes me feel warm and comforted. I am so happy that it's almost fall, I love all the colors, scents and tastes associated with it and cinnamon is one spice I think of in relation to the season. Cinnamon is great in cookies, chili, roasted squash, roasted nuts, there are so many delicious options. One of my favorite ways to use cinnamon year round is in bread. Growing up I was in love with cinnamon and sugar on my toast. My favorite breakfast was wheat toast with peanut butter and then topped with cinnamon sugar, yum! Honestly, to this day if I am having a bad day, cinnamon toast can be an instant pick-me-up. It reminds me of being a kid and being happy with simple things like cinnamon toast. Last week I decided that I was in a baking mood and tried a new recipe for Overnight Pull-Apart Cinnamon Loaf from the April issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

This recipe has 11 ingredients. It takes a total of one hour (plus rise time), 30 minutes of which is active and makes 12 servings. I ended up making this recipe two times. The first time I tried the overnight fridge rise and it did not work. My ball was still pretty much the same size in the morning and it didn't heat up to rise on the counter the next day. So I threw away my first attempt and started over. Instead of doing an overnight rise on the second batch I let the dough rise for an hour on the counter. It worked perfectly and the dough rose beautifully. I think one of the key things that went wrong with the first batch is that I overworked the dough. The dough will not go into a nice neat ball. I mixed my dough until it formed together and then let it rise. The first time I followed the directions to make it into a ball and then put it in the fridge. That method did not work at all for me. I chose not to top the bread with pistachios, my boys can be hit or miss with nuts and since they are so expensive I chose to leave them off. Finally, I think that my layering technique might be slightly different. My bread turned out great, but it came off as slices from the top that peeled like monkey bread, not like the picture in the magazine. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I think in total this bread lasted less than four hours in my house. It was so good that I ate a piece and then went back for three more. My two boys were hesitant at first, but after they tried it they absolutely loved it. The powdered sugar glaze was definitely a selling point with my children and it made for a very pretty presentation on the table. I did add slightly more vanilla to the glaze than recommended. I like my powdered sugar glazes to have a strong vanilla flavor. A great bread for breakfast or for a treat any time of the day.

For the recipe go to Overnight Pull Apart Cinnamon Loaf.

August 21, 2012

Lemon Raspberry Coffeecake

Don't you love how school starts and then everyone in the house gets sick? Well, that has been my week so far. My oldest started school last Monday and this morning we all woke-up sick. Love how that works. In order to make myself feel better I baked blueberry biscuits for dinner. They did make me feel better, so I say my cooking medicine must work. Growing up whenever I got sick my mom would cook and bake whatever I wanted. This was especially great when I started to feel better and I was allowed to eat brownies for breakfast to get me to eat. Granted most of the time I hadn't eaten for days and my mom was just trying to get me to eat something regardless of if it was healthy. I just remember lots of ice cream breakfasts, which were pretty great. Today my son ate nothing all day until I baked blueberry biscuits. I sat there watching him eat and thought of my mom and ice cream for breakfast. I love how food can evoke such powerful memories. Before I got sick last week I made another recipe which I think of in relation to my mom, coffeecake. She loved baking and eating pretty much any variety of coffeecake, so I was interested when Better Homes and Gardens had a recipe for Lemon-Raspberry Coffeecake in the April issue.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes 60 minutes of total time (plus cooling), 15 minutes of which is active and makes 10 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients, most of them I already had in my pantry cupboard. For the raspberries I used fresh since they were easy to find and I prefer them to frozen when they are in season. I am horrible about remembering to set out my cream cheese to soften so I take the easy way out and zap it in the microwave for a couple of seconds. I did not put parchment on the bottom of my pan like the recipe suggested. I know every baker but me swears by this method. I prefer to just use baking spray and I have never had a problem with any baked goods not coming out of the pan. My total baking time was slightly longer than the 30 minutes suggested by the recipe. I also turned my pan halfway through the baking time. Finally, I chose not to top the cake with powdered sugar, I thought it was great the way that it was. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I was very pleased by how great this coffeecake came out looking. It was beautiful and it tasted just as great. Even my husband who doesn't like cake had a slice, which is saying a lot. I really like that the coffeecake has a nice taste from the cream cheese without being too rich or sweet. The raspberries are sweet and provide a nice taste and texture to the recipe. Overall, a recipe that I would definitely make again.

For the recipe go to Lemon-Raspberry Coffeecake.

August 18, 2012

Black-Pepper Biscuits with Sorghum


I didn't grow up eating biscuits. My mother never really made them and the restaurants in Seattle served great waffles and pancakes, but horrible biscuits. When I moved to West Virginia I quickly learned that biscuits are a big deal around here. There is a whole chain of fast food restaurants centered around them. The first time I attempted to make biscuits after I moved here was a total disaster. The biscuits barely rose and the taste was less than great. The next couple of times were so-so. They weren't great, but not disgusting. Finally, after numerous tries and approximately five years I learned to make great biscuits. Now I love them and make a batch at least once a month. Today I tried a new recipe for Black-Pepper Biscuits with Sorghum from the June issue of Martha Stewart Living.

This recipe has 9 ingredients. It takes a total of 35 minutes, 10 of which is active and makes 10 servings. I was unable to find sorghum at any of my local grocery stores so I ended up special ordering it. I love that the small ethnic grocery store by my house will order me things and that it only takes a couple of days to arrive. I had no problems with any of the other ingredients and I made no modifications. Make sure to not overly touch the dough. The more you touch the dough the tougher your biscuits will be and the less they will rise. After adding the buttermilk you need to mix the dough just until it comes together, if you mix longer than that it will make the biscuits tough and flat. I ended up with 14 total biscuits, not the 10 suggested by the recipe. My biscuits took exactly 14 minutes to cook and no more. I did rotate my baking sheets halfway through the cooking time. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

These biscuits were delicious. I was worried that they would taste overly peppery, but they only have a mild taste of pepper. My two boys loved the sorghum on top of the biscuits and ate their whole servings. I was happy because I was worried that they might be too adult tasting. These biscuits rose very well and browned beautifully on top. This is a recipe I would definitely make again.

For the recipe go to Black-Pepper Biscuits.


August 16, 2012

Balsamic Roasted Sausage and Grapes with Linguine

I absolutely love pasta. If I thought that my metabolism would let me get away with it I would probably eat pasta at every meal, everyday. You get the picture, it's delicious. My two boys share my love of pasta to an extent. They love spaghetti and meatballs, but often turn their noses up at pesto. So in order to please everyone I have to find recipes that have a lot of flavor, but also have a visible ingredient that my two boys like. Given that they are now three and six the foods that they like seems to change on a weekly basis. One day they love cheese, the next they tell me it's their least favorite food. The next day they love chicken, then they only eat hamburgers. As you can imagine it can become a little bit tiresome. Add to that that my husband is on a specialized diet and isn't eating any of the meals that I prepare, I have become a little kitchen crazy to say the least. So this week I decided to try a new recipe for Balsamic Roasted Sausage and Grapes with Linguine from the June/July of Taste of Home, which looked like it would have aspects that both my kids and I would enjoy.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 15 minutes of prep and 30 minutes of baking and makes 8 servings. I did make a number of changes to this recipe. First I completely misread the recipe and ended up only buying 1 1/4 pounds of sweet Italian sausage. I can either blame it on getting older or the first week of school, but whatever the reason it happened. So instead of using 3/4 of a pound of both sweet and hot sausage, I just used 1 1/4 pounds of the sweet. Honestly, for my kids it was probably better this way. Second, I had bought over two pounds of grapes last weekend. I should have known that they wouldn't last until I made the recipe. I think by the time I made this dish I had approximately two cups left, so that is the amount that I used. Finally, instead of multigrain pasta I used regular. I would love to say that I enjoy the taste and texture of whole grain pasta, but that would be lying. I have tried every brand available and I still hate it! Since I changed so much of the recipe I reduced the amount of spring mix salad greens. My kids can be hit or miss with greens, so I reduced them to approximately 1 1/2 cups. I also let the spinach cook on the stove with the pasta for about a minute so it would wilt. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I really enjoyed the taste of the balsamic roasted sausage in this recipe. The vinegar gave a nice sweet taste to both the grapes and the sausage, without making them too sweet for a pasta recipe. I also like that there are two types of greens making the dish healthier. I bought prepared pesto, but this would be even more delicious with homemade. Homemade pesto would make this dish fantastic. Overall a very easy pasta recipe that has a nice flavor profile and is kid friendly.

For the recipe go to Balsalmic Roasted Sausage and Grapes with Linguine.

August 14, 2012

Chocolate Chip Quinoa Muffins

Yesterday was the first day of school for my oldest son. This new change in my mornings has upended my breakfast routine again and I am determined to keep the good habits I developed over the summer. It seems that when my son is in school it is a crazy rush in the morning to get everyone in the shower, dressed and out the door by 7:30 for the bus. My youngest is not a morning person by any means and normally complains and won't eat breakfast until an hour after he wakes up. During the summer that works fine since he can wake-up when he wants and eat whenever he feels he wants to. However, during the school year this schedule doesn't work and my son grumbles all the way to drop his brother off at the bus. When we get home I like to have something quick and filling for him to eat that can be put together in minutes. In order to achieve this I do a lot of my baking in the evening and one thing that I have found that works very well for busy mornings is muffins. Recently, I tried a new recipe for Quinoa Muffins from Martha Stewart Living, which looked full of whole grains and perfect for a rushed morning.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes a total of 1 hour, 25 minutes of which is prep and makes 12 muffins. Obviously I made one major modification to this recipe. While I loved the idea of quinoa muffins, my boys and I aren't big raisins fans. So instead of raisins I substituted chocolate chips. I also used closer to 3/4 of a cup of chocolate chips, I love anything with lots of chocolate. Since I don't have a dishwasher and find cleaning muffin tins to be tedious, I chose to use muffins cups instead. There are some great muffin cups available now and they look great when served. My overall baking time was slightly longer than the recipe suggested and I turned my pan 90 degrees halfway through baking to ensure even browning. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I don't think these muffins lasted more than a day in my house. They were delicious and I love that they are full of whole grains. My oldest son has fallen in love with quinoa and loves it in waffles, cereal, cookies, pretty much anything that I can bake. This recipe was very easy and the addition of chocolate chips was perfect. I would definitely make this recipe again.

For the recipe go to Chocolate Chip Quinoa Muffins.

August 13, 2012

White Bean Burgers with Spinach


As a teenager and into my early twenties I was a vegetarian. I have always loved vegetables and beans, but I have appreciated meat more as I've gotten older. When I was growing up I was never a big fan of meat and would eat all my vegetables and side dishes, leaving the meat completely untouched. Finally when I was a teenager my mother agreed to let me give meat up entirely and become a vegetarian. As a vegetarian I ate a ton of veggie burgers. Bean burgers, rice burgers, tempa burgers, you name it I loved them all. In my middle twenties I started eating meat again and then met my meat loving husband. I'm pretty sure that he thinks that bacon is a separate food group. My two boys are somewhere in the middle. While they love bacon and meat in general they are also huge veggie fans. This week I tried a new recipe for White Bean Burgers with Spinach from the July issue of Better Home and Gardens Magazine.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes 8 minutes of cooking time and 25 minutes of prep and makes 4 servings. I did make a few changes to this recipe. First I left off the parsley. My two boys won't really eat parsley in anything, so I rarely use it. I have no idea where the recipe was finding 19oz cans of beans. All the beans I have ever found at the grocery store have been 15.5oz. So I used one 15.5oz can and it worked perfectly. I was unable to find country Italian bread, so I used French bread instead. I toasted it as the recipe suggested. Don't make my mistake and use a small pan. Using a small pan made it hard to flip the burgers, I would suggest using a large pan making the flipping and cooking easier. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

These veggie burgers were very popular in my house. My two boys at first were skeptical, but after tasting them they ate their whole servings. I like that they are served open faced, it makes the burgers easy to eat and makes for a beautiful plate. This would be a great recipe for a meatless Monday meal or any day of the week.

For the recipe go to White Bean Burgers with Spinach.

August 12, 2012

ConceiveEasy.com Trying To Conceive Starter Kit Giveaway



I come from a very large family. My mother was the oldest of twelve so their were always little kids running around at all our family functions. Since my family was so extensive I determined growing up that I wasn't going to have kids of my own. That all changed when I met my husband. After being married almost two years I decided that I did want kids. We were lucky and I got pregnant the first month. However, the second time around wasn't as easy. I searched websites about fertility and was overwhelmed. There is so much information online! Wouldn't it be great if everything was together in one site? Now there is a new option, ConceiveEasy.com.

ConceiveEasy.com has a number of great resources, great articles, tips on how to get pregnant, and videos. Everything is in one place making your trying to conceive journey easier. It was recently featured in Parenting magazine and in addition to articles and reviews it offers fertility products. Interested? You came to the right place, it's time for a giveaway!
Here's what included for the winner:
  • What: TTC Kit - The product is for the exclusive new Trying to Conceive (TTC) Starter Kit ™ (a $152 value). The TTC Kit is an all-in-one, natural, proven solution for helping mommies-to-be conceive sooner & easier than ever before. You will receive Conceive Easy's Months 1&2 Fertility Pills, a BBT thermometer and Getting Started Guide to Charting, and can also choose to customize your new TTC Kit with one of the following exclusive bonus gifts:

    Bonus gift #1:
     20 Early Result Pregnancy Tests 
  • Bonus gift #2: 20 One-Step Ovulation Tests
    Bonus gift #3: 10 Pregnancy & 10 Ovulation Tests
Where: WWW - The product website is www.ttckit.com.

 Sounds like a great kit! To enter leave your email address in the comments along with which bonus gift you are interested in. Open to US and Canadian residents 18+ only. I'll draw the winner on August 17 (Friday). Good luck to everyone!

(I'm making this giveaway very easy and not requiring that anyone follows my blog or social media sites. I would love new followers though if you love my content and want to read more :)

Disclaimer: I received this giveaway as a member of MomBlogSociety and was given no compensation for this post. As always all opinions expressed are my own

August 11, 2012

Multigrain Chocolate Chip Pancakes

If you've been following my blog you know that I have working on refining my breakfast habits. So far it is going very well. I have more energy and my two boys have been staying full longer in the morning. I thought that adding more whole grains into my family's diet would be very hard and I would be met with lots of complaints. I have been pleasantly surprised that I have been met with no complaints and many compliments from both of my children. It helps that I have found recipes that combine chocolate and whole grains, but a little bit of chocolate is fine in my book. For the most part I have almost given up using white flour except for once a week and my whole family feels better eating more whole-wheat flour, quinoa, and whole-wheat couscous. There really are a lot of healthy options for breakfast that also taste great. Last week I tried a new recipe for Multigrain Chocolate Chip Pancakes from the April issue of All You magazine, which looked delicious and perfect for a weekday morning breakfast.

This recipe has 11 ingredients. It takes 10 minutes of prep and 5 minutes of cooking time and makes 8 pancakes. I actually had to go to multiple stores to find oat bran. I would have assumed that it would be easy to find something as simple as oat bran, but I was wrong. The only store in my area that had it in stock was the high end grocery store in the suburbs. As I have discussed in previous posts I was given a griddle last Christmas and I love it. It makes making pancakes so easy and they turn out perfect every time. Since I use a griddle I don't use oil or butter to coat. If the pancakes start sticking I spray olive oil, but it is rarely needed. I was able to get all of the pancakes on the griddle at once, which was much more convenient than doing them in batches. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two boys really liked these pancakes. I thought that without the maple syrup they weren't sweet enough. I would suggest adding a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract to make the pancakes sweeter, especially if you are topping them with butter only. When topped with maple syrup it helped with the pancakes being on the dry side. They were great when topped with syrup or would also work well with the addition of vanilla and powdered sugar. Another great way to get whole grains in your breakfast routine.

For the recipe go to Multigrain Chocolate Chip Pancakes.

CampusBookRentals

As anyone that has read my blog for any amount of time knows I spend most of my posts talking about food. However, I also love to save money. Growing up neither of my parents had an education beyond high-school and they were stuck with jobs that were low paying. My mother learned to stretch every dollar as far as possible and taught me to do the same. She also strongly encouraged me to attend college. The only problem, they had no money to help me pay for any college costs. So senior year of high-school I was lucky enough to find a great job in bio-tech that I kept throughout college. I paid for all my own food, housing and tuition with student loans and my own money.

One area that I found to be very expensive was textbooks. I was an English major so all my classes literally had ten books each. The worst part was that a 10 dollar paperback book would sell back for around 50 cents at the end of the quarter. A horrible return! Not to mention the chaos of the bookstore when buying and re-selling my textbooks every quarter. Wouldn't it have been great to have anther option?

Recently I found out about a great new option, renting textbooks from CampusBookRentals.
Some perks are:
-save 40-90% off of bookstore prices
-free shipping both ways
-can highlight in the textbooks
-flexible renting periods
-they donate to Operation Smile with each textbook rented

So how does it work? Here is a video that explains it:



Still have questions? This video goes through CampusBookRentals.com FAQ



I love any site that saves money, especially during college when funds can be so tight. Interested in learning more? Here are two examples of how much money you can save:

http://www.campusbookrentals.com/search.i?qsearch=9780073382685&x=53&y=20



Sounds like a great way to save money on college expenses. Here is a link to the main site to learn more about what the site has to offer:

http://www.campusbookrentals.com




Disclaimer: I received compensation in exchange for writing this post. As always all opinions expressed are solely my own.

August 9, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Salsa

My oldest son starts school on Monday and I thought that everything was going well. That is until he started crying last night because there apparently was a boy last year that was mean to him. It broke my heart. I wish that he had felt comfortable enough to tell me last year instead of dealing with it on his own. Today he told me that he is nervous about his new teacher, classmates and that he won't have any friends in his new class. I wish that I could make him feel better, but I know that after his first day of first grade on Monday everything will be fine. He is very smart and everyone loves him once they meet him. I just need to make him feel better until then. So yesterday I decided to make enchiladas. Both of my sons love enchiladas and I found a great recipe in the August issue of Southern Living for Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Salsa which looked like perfect comfort food for a nervous soon to be first grader.

This recipe has 11 ingredients in the enchiladas and 7 in the salsa. It takes a total of 2 hours and 45 minutes, 25 minutes of which is active and makes 6 to 8 servings. I made a few major modifications to this recipe. When I went to the grocery store I believed that I had bought reduced fat cream cheese. When I started to make this recipe I realized that I had accidentally purchased full fat cream cheese. So I decided to make a substitution. Instead of cream cheese I used a combination of smashed canned reduced sodium black beans and goat cheese. In total I used approximately 2/3 of a can of black beans and 2 ounces of cheese. I mashed the beans and cheese together with a fork and added them instead of the cream cheese in the recipe instructions. For the shredded cooked chicken I grilled chicken thighs with a paprika rub, cooled them and then shredded. Instead of using all mild or hot green chilies I used a can of each. Finally, I forgot to spray the tops of the tortillas with cooking spray, but they came out fine. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

If you like your enchiladas mild I would suggest using two cans of mild green chilies. With one can of hot and one can of mild this recipe had a slight kick. However, these were delicious. The modifications worked perfectly and I love the added nutrition from the black beans instead of cream cheese. My two boys ate more than half of the enchiladas and even though they drank milk since they were spicy, they loved them. I would definitely make this recipe again and the salsa was great as a steak topping the next day.

For the recipe go to Chicken Enchiladas.

August 7, 2012

Cranberry-Orange Scones

I am finally back home after visiting family for the last week. You may have noticed if you follow me on social media that I have been posting a large number of West Virginia photos. My family had a great time going on hikes, parades and visiting parts of the state that we had only been to a few times previously. Now comes the chaos of school starting next Monday. I can't believe how fast this summer has gone. My oldest is nervous and excited about starting first grade, I am just looking forward to being back down to one child during the day. So this is the week that we are getting our breakfast and sleeping routines back in order. I have gotten much better about at least eating something for breakfast everyday and this morning I tried a new recipe for Cranberry Orange Scones from the July issue of All You magazine.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes 25 minutes of prep and 15 minutes of bake time and makes 12 scones. This recipe was very straight forward and I made very few modifications. I have switched over to using organic butter and that is what I used in this recipe. For the orange juice I used fresh squeezed, the flavor is better and the price is low. I did make a few changes to the baking. Before the scones went into the oven I brushed the tops with heavy cream. I always do this with scones, it helps to brown the tops and gives the scones a nice flavor. I found that my scones took the full 15 minutes to fully brown on the top and bottom. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I am a huge scone fan. My mother loved going to high tea when I was in my teens and the tradition has rubbed off on me. I love baking fresh scones and sitting down with a great cup of coffee (or tea). Even if I only get to relax for a few seconds, I relish those moments. This recipe has a nice orange flavor without being overpowering and my two boys loved the scones. They ate the entire batch before dinner. I love how easy these are to put together and shaping the scones in a cake pan was a great idea! This is a recipe I would make again for tea, breakfast or any time of the day.

For the recipe go to Cranberry-Orange Scones.

August 4, 2012

Apricot Wheat Germ Muffins

This week I have been visiting family in the mountains. My two boys have been busy playing and adventuring while my mother-in-law and I are cleaning up my in-laws house. It has also allowed me to catch up on all my blog posts, which often get placed on the back burner and get forgotten. As you may have noticed in my recent posts I am working on my breakfast routine. My two boys are doing great and have cut down dramatically on their sugar and white flour consumption. They have also been drinking more water and  complaining less about the change in their diet. So how am I doing? I have been eating breakfast everyday for the last couple of weeks. When I first started I thought that it would be horrible, but I am feeling better and drinking more water, feeling more energetic and my weight is down to what it was before I had my first son. It may only be a few pounds, but I am very happy. A couple of weeks back I tried a new recipe for Apricot-Wheat Germ Muffins from Eating Well magazine, which looked perfect for a healthy breakfast.

This recipe has 14 ingredients. It takes 1 hour of total time, a half hour of which is active and makes 12 muffins. For the orange juice I squeezed my own. Oranges are cheap right now, much cheaper than the price of orange juice and fresh tastes so much better in recipes. Instead of using brown sugar I used splenda brown sugar for baking. The finished product does have a slight splenda taste, but it was mild enough that my two boys did not notice. I did chose to leave out the grated orange zest. I had grated the orange peel to use and put it in the fridge. However, my youngest child decided to dump it on the floor, so I left them out of the recipe entirely. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

These muffins were very popular with my two boys. They liked that they had apricots and didn't notice that they also were packed with wheat germ and whole-wheat flour. I ate a number of these muffins as soon as they came out of the oven. They are filling, without being heavy and are a great combination of taste and nutrition. Overall, another great breakfast muffin recipe.

For the recipe go to Apricot-Wheat Germ Muffins.

August 3, 2012

State Fair Chili

Growing up I thought chili came from a can. My mother was a great cook, but never made chili. It wasn't until I became a vegetarian and started making bean chili that I knew that great homemade chili was possible. My husband on the other hand loves chili. He also has definite opinions on how it should taste. When we first got married I really only knew how to make bean chili, which I quickly learned wasn't going to cut it with my meat loving husband. So I started trying to learn to make chili with meat. Luckily the town that my family and I live in has its very own chili fest in the early fall and there have been many people that have helped me to perfect my chili cooking. Now I consider myself a proficient chili cook. Last week I was in the mood to experiment with a new chili recipe and prepared the State Fair Chili from Saveur magazine.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 2 hours and 15 minutes and makes 8 servings. As I do with all ground beef recipes I ground my own beef. I highly recommend this extra step. There is no comparison in taste and texture to home ground beef, it is so much better than store bought. To crush my tomatoes by hand I place them in a plastic bag, seal it and then crush them between my figures. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

Homemade chili is really delicious. This recipe is easy to follow and the chili has a great taste. I like that it is simple and lets the ingredients speak for themselves. Make sure to add enough salt to adequately season the chili. When seasoned adequately this chili recipe is delicious, simple and I would definitely make it again.

For the recipe go to State Fair Chili.

August 2, 2012

$4 Spaghetti That's Almost as Good as $24 Spaghetti

My family has a slight pasta obsession. Not just a little bit, but my two boys are currently refusing 99 percent of all food, with the exception of pasta. They love pasta and would eat it three times of day if given the option. Since my husband isn't currently eating pasta I have had free rein to make any type of pasta that I chose. While I love pasta, I really love homemade pasta sauce and meatballs. Growing up my mother's idea of homemade pasta sauce was to add vegetables to jarred sauce. Granted it never tasted bad and I loved it. That is until I realized that homemade pasta sauce is no comparison. It is so much better! Last week I tried a new recipe for $4 Spaghetti That's Almost as Good as $24 Spaghetti from the August issue of Food and Wine magazine, which looked simple and delicious.

This recipe has 9 ingredients. It takes 3 hours of total time, 30 minutes of which is active and makes 4 to 6 servings. I did make a few modifications to the recipe. I think I maybe one of the only food bloggers on the internet that does not own an immersion blender. Everyone I know keeps telling me that I have to buy one and that I will love it. However, I have stubbornly stuck to my blender. For this recipe I poured the tomatoes, garlic, oil and mushroom broth into the blender and pureed until smooth. Then I added it back into the pan and followed the remainder of the recipe as written. I did leave out the torn basil leaves due to the fact that I completely forget to buy them at the grocery store (opps).

My family was very impressed by this recipe. The flavor from the garlic oil and mushroom broth made for a great tasting sauce and my husband thought this maybe one of the best pasta recipes he has ever eaten. The mushroom broth creates a great undertone to the sauce and makes a delicious taste combination. I made veal meatballs to go with this pasta recipe and the combination was perfect. A great recipe that I will definitely make again.

For the recipe go to $4 Spaghetti.

August 1, 2012

Almond-Cranberry Quinoa Cookies

My week of eating healthy breakfasts continues. So far I have been doing really well. I have consistently been eating breakfast every morning for the last two weeks and I have noticed that I have more energy and less crabbiness than when I was skipping eating. This week I am visiting family for the week and I am hoping to not eat too much restaurant or fair food. However, I love fair food, so you might notice a few posts on hotdogs and caramel apples on my facebook page, I love them! My two boys have been doing much better than I expected them to with the new breakfast routine and have fallen in love with healthy waffles and whole-wheat couscous. With fair food tempting them this week my main goal is to not have them eat funnel cake and pop tarts for breakfast and at least include eggs or another protein with every meal. I'm pretty sure fried bread does not count as a protein (I wish it would I love those things!). Last week my two boys and I tried a recipe for Almond-Cranberry Quinoa Breakfast Cookies from the January issue of Bon Appetit magazine, which looked like a great compromise between sweet and healthy.

This recipe has 15 ingredients. It takes 30 minutes of total time, 10 minutes of which is active and makes 2 dozen cookies. I did make a few modifications. I have been trying to limit the amount of sugar that my two boys consume so instead of granulated or brown sugar I substituted Splenda for baking. Instead of using an electric mixer to beat the sugar and butter, I did it by hand. This sounds bad, but my mixer was dirty and I had no time (or desire) to clean it, so I did the mixing by hand. I did not flatten my cookies out before baking and they turned out less flat and crunchy looking than the photo in the magazine. I would suggest flattening out the cookies in order for them to have the best consistency when baked.

I love that these breakfast cookies are full of whole grains. I especially like that they use quinoa, which is a great grain and my two boys love it. Using Splenda for baking worked well and my two boys didn't notice that I didn't use real sugar. This recipe makes a large number of cookies and they lasted for several days. They would also work well frozen, which I often do with cookie recipes. Overall, a nice alternative for breakfast or a snack that is full of whole grains.

For the recipe go to Almond-Cranberry Quinoa Cookies.
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