Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wholesome Wednesday (Chocolate Banana Shake)

Okay, I literally have about 15 minutes before I need to take Brandon to library class. I just walked Adam to school and realized I haven't had breakfast.  So I opted for something quick and filling. This shake took about 30 seconds to assemble and blend. 


6 oz skim milk
2 tablespoons chocolate protein powder (low sugar, whey protein powder)
1 small banana
1/4 cup plain yogurt

So to make this super easy, I put all the ingredients into a tall travel cup and used my immersion blender. I mixed it for about 20 seconds until combined. (if you don't have an immersion blender use a regular blender or drink mixer)

The yogurt and banana give it a smooth and thick texture.  It's satisfying and tastes great.  Gotta go to library...happy Wednesday!!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mini Apple Tarts

Yesterday was a special day for Adam.  He was awarded the citizenship award at his assembly. I had a moment of extreme joy for him.  I knew the day before he was getting the award, but was told not to tell him, so it would be a surprise.  I decided we would have a special dinner and dessert to celebrate.

When Adam came home from school, he was able to pick his dinner, and he chose Chinese takeout.  Then for dessert I made mini apple tarts.  These delicious two bite tarts were the perfect ending to a great day. 

I love making food in miniature for parties, and for dessert it is a great way to have portion control. These little gems can be made a day ahead and are perfect served at room temperature.  I also find, that guests are impressed with little treats.  So here's an easy recipe for apple tarts to try the next time your having company, or just to celebrate something special.

recipe (yields 24 mini tarts)

1 box refrigerated pie crust (you can make your own pastry, but the box kind is easy)
4 cups diced, peeled apples (about 5 to 7 medium apples)
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

preheat oven to 425 degrees. spray two 12 cup muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside.  then on a floured surface unroll refrigerated pie crust and roll slightly larger with a floured rolling pin.  using a 3 inch round cutter, cut out circles. (each pie crust should get 12 circles, re-roll scraps if necessary) place dough in the muffin cups, carefully pressing dough to the sides.

in a large skillet, combine apples, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, and apple pie spice. cook over a medium heat for about 4 minutes, just enough to combine the sugar and butter with the apples and slightly soften the apples.

carefully spoon one tablespoon of apple filling into each muffin cup.  bake for 15 minutes or until crusts are golden brown.  serve immediately or at room temperature.  garnish with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Favorite Cocktail

People who know me, can attest to the fact I really don't drink.  I never wanted to when I was younger and as I got older it still didn't interest me.  I would have an occasional glass of champagne on New Year's and that was about it. 

Then I started dating Jay and it was all down hill, just kidding.  We went away to New York City and in our adventures we went to a comedy club in Greenwich Village.  It was spur of the moment and had a fabulous evening, but the catch was there was a two drink minimum cover charge. I looked at Jay who knew I wasn't a drinker and had no idea what to order. Jay ordered a beer and told the waitress I would have an orange stoli and 7-Up.  Oh baby, I was in love, and I'm not talking about Jay.  So after my two drink cover, I was pretty tipsy and we had an adventurous subway ride back to our hotel at 2 AM.  Jay spent most of the ride trying to keep my comments about the girl in the pink leopard spandex pants quiet. After that evening, Jay vowed if I was drinking he could not, because I get a little too tipsy too quickly.

Now that I gave the back story about my favorite cocktail, I will give the recipe for it too. I still enjoy this drink every now and then. It's light and refreshing and does bring back fond memories.


1 shot of orange vodka
1/2 can of 7-Up
serve over ice

So simple and so tasty!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wholesome Wednesday (microwave popcorn recipe)

I love the smell of popcorn at the movie theater, and I love the taste of it even more. All the melted butter and salt poured on it is simply delicious, and a heart attack waiting to happen.  Our household has become more health conscience over the last several years and healthy snacks are important to us.  Most people know plain unsalted air-popped corn is a great snack option, it's all the oil, butter and salt that isn't so good for us. 

Today I have a quick way to have popcorn in about two minutes with not a lot of fuss.  About a year ago, I saw a segment on the Today Show about making your own microwave popcorn. The guest boasted all you need is a brown paper bag, popcorn, and oil. After looking further into this recipe and experimenting, it actually works.  Here's how to do it:

In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup unpopped popcorn with 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. Stir the popcorn to coat and place in a brown lunch size paper bag. Fold the top of the bag twice to seal the package and microwave on high for about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Listen for the popping to slow down and stop the microwave.

A little experimenting with cook times is needed depending on the wattage of your microwave.  Then salt to taste or add any other topping you wish.  Try a little season salt and Parmesan cheese for a savory treat, or drizzle with chocolate and caramel for a special sweet treat.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blackberry Jelly (canning recipe)

I love canning.  I know it sounds weird to say something like that, but I really do. Somehow it seems therapeutic to me. I watched my mom can her own tomato puree and chili sauce over the years, and loved that in the middle of winter we would have fresh spaghetti sauce. So, I always knew the basics of canning and about seven years ago, I started canning my own things.

The first thing I canned was apple butter and peach apricot butter. I gave them out as holiday gifts that year and received great reviews.  Over the last several years, I have canned things like pepper jelly, pineapple topping, praline syrup, jellies, and our secret family recipe for bar-b-q sauce. 

Today I am sharing a canning recipe for blackberry jelly.  About five years ago, I planted blackberry bushes. On the second year, I had so many blackberries I had to come up with ways to use them. I immediately thought of jelly.  I grabbed the insert out of the pectin box and looked up the jelly recipe. It is really quite simple and you don't need a lot of supplies. I happen to have a canning pot, but any large stock pot will do.  Also canning jars can be purchased just about anywhere these days.  Then all you need is pectin, blackberries and some sugar.

Just as a side note, please use tested canning recipes. I have the anniversary book from Ball with tested recipes that have the correct acid levels and canning times.  You must be careful to use proven recipes, otherwise you risk the chance of contaminated food.


4 cups crushed blackberries (i used fresh, but you can also use frozen thawed)
7 cups sugar
1 pouch Certo (liquid pectin)

crush blackberries and strain through sieve to remove seeds. cook with sugar on medium low heat until sugar is dissolved and the boil can not be stirred down (about 12 to 15 minutes). add one pouch of pectin and stir constantly for two minutes. skim foam from the top and immediately ladle into canning jars, and process in a water bath for 15 minutes. remove from water bath and let stand for 24 hours. 

All the instructions are also on the insert inside the pectin box.  It's a really nice way to have fresh food to serve to your family or give as gifts.  I will be posting more canning recipes throughout the holiday season. Give it a try :o)

Blackberry on FoodistaBlackberry

Friday, September 17, 2010

Time to Relax

Today's post does not give any helpful tidbit, crafty idea, or delicious recipe.  It simply is a quick note of appreciation for what we have.  September 18th is my anniversary of the day I married Jay.  We have been married for six years, and have been blessed with two beautiful boys.  Six years ago, I never would have thought we would be where we are today, both geographically and in our journey together. I do get frustrated with my hubby at times, and I'm sure he does with me. On the whole, I would not change our journey, because I am quite content with my life.  (Perhaps the only thing I would change would be being closer to family.

So this weekend I am enjoying time with family and will not post anything until Monday. So happy weekend everyone, and take time to appreciate what you have :o)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wholesome Wednesday (Sloppy Joes)

Wholesome Wednesday kind of snuck up on me this week.  Busy with the kids in school and company coming on Friday, I was trying to decide what to post. I have a great Brussels sprout recipe, but I think with the weather getting cooler, a nice hot sandwich is good for today. 

Growing up my mom made sloppy joes quite often. It was a meal she could stretch and was also satisfying. My mom always made them from scratch, we never even new what Manwich was. In fact, I never had Manwich until I was an adult. While there is nothing wrong with that, homemade sloppy joes are just as easy and quick. What I love about making them myself, is I can control the quality of ingredients, and sodium level. I use ground sirloin which is 90% fat free and a lot of spices. Also serve the sandwich on a whole grain bun with steamed green beans as a side dish and you have a wholesome, satisfying dinner.


2 lbs ground beef (look for 90% fat free)
1 small onion, diced
1 large can of tomato sauce (26 oz can)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3/4 c water
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp chili powder
salt & pepper to taste

Brown beef in a large skillet with onion. Drain off any fat and discard.  Add remaining ingredients, stir, and simmer on low for about an hour.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ghostly Wreath

Years and years ago, when I first started craft shows (almost 20 years now), I would make these ghost wreaths and brooms every fall season.  They would always fly off the table and then I got away from them, wanting to do new ideas.  Well, I figured it was time to dust off an oldie but goodie.  This wreath idea can be adapted to any size and any budget. The one I did cost $4.00.

What you need:

wreath form (grapevine or straw)
small to medium bush of fall flowers
white glue
wire cutters
used dryer sheets
floral wire (for bow)
ribbon for tying the ghosts (curling or spool-o-ribbon)

This is really easy and takes about 15 minutes worth of work. 

First thing is make a bow using the instructions found at my previous post, Bow Making 101 and set it aside. 

Next, snip off the floral stems from the bush using wire cutters and leaving about 2 inch length on the stem.  Simply start arranging the flowers on the wreath in a nice pattern, remember to work in odd numbers, three or five and leave room at the top or bottom for the bow.  Dip the ends of the stems in white glue before inserting them into the wreath, this way they will hold.

Finally, make the ghosts by using two dryer sheets. Take one dryer sheet and roll it into a ball (you can also use a cotton ball for this), this will be the ghosts head.  Then take the next dryer sheet and drape it over the head and tie it off with curling ribbon. Viola, a ghost. Attach them to the wreath with white glue.

Allow the wreath to dry over night. You can also use a glue gun for immediate dry time.  This is a great project to have the kids help with. It also teaches about recycling and reusing the dryer sheets that would normally be tossed away.

another idea: make ghosts and attach pin backs for a cute holiday decoration

Friday, September 10, 2010

Natural Spider Spray

Hello glad you are here.  It has been a mentally exhausting week of back to school.  No major dramatics to report, which is good news.  So in thinking what I would post today, I wanted it to be simple for my tired brain. 

In the fall, the weather turns damp and chilly, and spiders love to come inside and make your home their new home for the winter. While I believe spiders are helpful outside eating insects, I do not want them taking residence in my house.  Before I had kids, I would go buy a pesticide from the store and spray the whole more spiders. After having children, my mind began to think differently. I wanted to oust the spiders but not harm my kids. So I searched for all natural sprays, and I wasn't happy with what I found. Then one day I saw a tip on T.V. boasting all natural tips for the home.  My ears perked up and sure enough there was a tip on how to rid your home of spiders.  It simply is water and white vinegar.

The spiders don't like the "taste" of vinegar. So you mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to 12 ounces of water and shake.  Put it in a spray bottle and begin to spray every corner in your house, top and bottom.  For the past six months, this is Adam's job. He loves it! He says he feels like he is protecting us. I don't mind him doing it because there is nothing to harm him.  The only downside is, your house will smell like a salad for a day or so. I try and do it on a day that I can keep the windows open, and we do it about once a month during the spring and fall.

Give it a try, and keep the pesky little critters outside!  Happy Friday everyone :o)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wholesome Wednesday (no sugar waffles)

Waffles! It's one of the foods that we enjoy weekly for breakfast or dinner.  I always bought the boxed waffles by the case at the club stores, and I would go through them very fast.  Then about two years ago, I purchased one of the best values for my kitchen....a Belgian waffle maker.  I splurged and bought the Waring Pro, and I love everything about it. I can make a batch of waffles, from prep to finish in about ten minutes, and that includes clean up.

For the last couple of years I have used a traditional waffle mix, and it produces delicious waffles. Then I started thinking, how can I make this better for Brandon (with his glucose issues), and the rest of us.  So I took a scratch waffle recipe and gave it a few tweaks.  I made this yesterday and served them to the boys (including my husband), and the consensus was, they are delicious.  I simply swapped out some of the all purpose flour for whole wheat, and I used Splenda instead of sugar.  I served them with sugar-free syrup approved for diabetes and they gobbled them up.

I was going to switch the eggs for egg substitute but I was out. I think I will try to other variations of this base recipe in the near future.  I also had an after thought, put some walnuts in the batter for a little more protein :o)


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp Splenda

2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c. milk
2 eggs

combine all ingredients with a whisk.  prepare waffles according to your manufacturers instructions.  top with sugar-free syrup or fruit. 

tip: grated lemon or orange zest in the batter would be a nice touch too!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Vanilla Sugar

The weather is starting to cool down, and for most people that means they will turn their ovens back on to bake.  Me, I've been baking all summer, but I do appreciate the coolers temps. I have an abundance a sweet treats for the fall and holidays, and a lot of them will include vanilla sugar.  So you ask, what is vanilla sugar???? It's exactly what it sounds like, sugar infused with vanilla flavor.  It can be purchased at those wonderful high end cooking stores. You know, the stores I walk through but really can't afford. But vanilla sugar can also be made right in your own kitchen very simply.

I decided to give this idea early because it really does take a couple of weeks for the flavor to infuse thoroughly.  I also have a lot of ways to use it come this holiday season as gift ideas. Around November I will do a complete list of how to gift vanilla sugar with incredibly cute packaging ideas. For now, let's just get some made. Once you have vanilla sugar in stock in your pantry, use it in baking where you would use plain white sugar.

You'll need:

Vanilla Beans (I got them at Williams & Sonoma, but McCormick sells them too in the spice aisle)
Air tight plastic or glass container

This is really simple, so here goes. Simply measure out 2 to 3 cups of sugar and place it in a container.  Then cut the vanilla bean lengthwise, and run your knife down the vanilla bean to scrape out the seeds. Place the seeds and vanilla bean into the sugar and stir around a bit.  Bury the bean in the sugar and place the lid on it.  For best results, leave sit for 3 to 4 weeks.

Next week, I teach you how to make your own vanilla. Again very simple.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cheesecake Pancakes

Happy Saturday morning everyone!!! In our house, the weekends are reserved for special breakfasts.  I normally make something I wouldn't have the time for during the week, such as pancakes, french toast, Belgian waffles, etc.  Today's inspiration came from our recent trip to IHOP via Sesame Place.  IHOP was our favorite breakfast location and each morning I tried something different.  The dish that really knocked my socks off was the cheesecake pancakes.  They had actual bits of cheesecake mixed in the batter that became warm and melted once cooked. Then they topped the pancakes with a strawberry sauce and whipped cream.......YUMMY!!!

In my version, I decided if I were to make a cheesecake, I would not cut it up for pancakes. So I created a sauce that had the same flavor profile but without all the work. Give my version a try, and remember while I topped mine with strawberries, any fresh fruit would be delicious.  Also try the sauce on waffles or french toast.

Strawberry Cheesecake Pancakes

4 oz cream cheese softened
3 Tbsp powder sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 to 3 Tbsp milk

In a bowl whisk the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Slowly add the milk one tablespoon at a time until you get a pourable sauce consistency.  Pour over your favorite pancake recipe (or the frozen kind, I won't tell) topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream.

tip: I made the sauce the night before, stored it in the refrigerator, and pulled out to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving!

Friday, September 3, 2010

One Cheese Three Ways

I really should be dusting the bedrooms, grocery shopping, or better yet exercising.  Instead, I'm blogging for a few minutes. Then I'll resume to the before mentioned tasks.

Last weekend, we went to Fly Creek Cider Mill and while we were there I bought some cheese. I always go for the cheddar that is aged in Howe's Caverns (so yummy), but I also bought the garlic herb cheddar spread.  My original thought while buying it, was I would enjoy it on crackers as a snack.  Then my brain started thinking, how else could I use this wonderful soft cheese????  So I started experimenting and came up with three different uses. While most people won't be going to Fly Creek for this cheese, you can find other soft herb cheddar cheeses right in the grocery store. There are many brands that are delicious, just look for it the speciality cheese case in a tub about 4 oz.

Recipe numero uno:

Chicken sandwiches with garlic herb cheese spread.  This one is super easy, just grill a 4 oz chicken breast. Then instead of mayo, use the cheese as a spread on a toasted bun. The warmth of the bun will melt to cheese to a sauce consistency. Then top with lettuce and tomato. 

Recipe two:

Cheesey Orzo.  To make this wonderful side dish, prepare 1 cup dry orzo according to package instructions. (orzo is a small rice shaped pasta, found in the pasta aisle). Then drain and put back into hot pot with 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley, 1 tsp pepper, and 2 Tbsp. cheese spread. Let the heat of the pasta melt the cheese and serve as a side dish. The orzo and cheese is so creamy and tastes really decadent and so so easy to make.

Last but not least recipe #3:

Stuffed Mushrooms. Take about ten button mushrooms and wipe clean with a paper towel. Remove and finely chop the stems. In a bowl mix the stems, 3 tbsp season breadcrumbs and 4 tbsp of cheese spread until combined. Spoon filling in mushroom caps and place on cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown. I served this as a side to my cheeseburger, but would make easy appetizer.

Well, now that I have shared my three ways to use one terrific cheese spread, I must go on with my chores. Come back soon and see what else is cooking.

p.s. I will have instructions for a spook-tacular wreath coming up....start saving used dryer sheets!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September's Cupcake Star

Well are you ready for September's cupcake???? Here it is: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cakes with Mum Inspired Decoration.  The real star of this sweet treat is the flower design top. I love fall, with all the colored leaves and crisp air. I love the fall so much, I even got married in September. (My wedding cake featured a leaf motif and all the flowers were in autumn hues.)  So I decided to make a cupcake that was very simple to make and would make an impression, but reminded me of the famous fall flower: the mum. These cupcakes would be perfect for a fall bake sale. The technique is very simple and once you learn it, change up the colors to pastels for a baby shower or do red for Christmas.

Now remember the recipe will only be featured on Cupcake Spotlight for the month of September!  Return next week for Wholesome Wednesday!

see the parties I have linked to here