Sunday, December 30, 2012

Home Sweet Home!

Four years ago we purchased our house in Oneonta, NY and moved the children across the state to a new adventure.  I won't lie, I was not a happy camper.  I never wanted to leave the suburbs of Buffalo, and I certainly didn't want to move the children away from their family.  In fact, I always thought the day I would put a for sale sign on Irving Place, would be the happiest day of my life.

Well, I was wrong about so many things.  Now that we are embarking on moving back to suburbia, I have many mixed emotions.  I look at all the friendships we have made, and my heart is aching, especially for my boys.  Brandon is leaving the only home he remembers, and Adam is leaving his best friend.  Moving Adam away from his dear friend is very difficult.  One may ask, how close can two 7 year olds be?  Sit in the same room with them for 5 minutes and you will see.  I am thankful that Adam's little friend's parents are great.  They both have committed to helping the boys stay in touch. I am also thankful for social media to help stay in touch with all of our friends we have made in Oneonta.

I now look at this time we spent here as a learning experience.  I am also so blessed to have met some incredible people and families. 

So will I miss everything about Oneonta??  Uummm.....NO!  I will not miss the 120 year old house I live in.  We have a sale pending on a newer home in Lakeview, NY.

Oh, and our house in Oneonta sold in record time....three days! 

So we are setting out on a new adventure.  The boy's and I will finish the school year in Oneonta and will be renting an apartment for several months.  Fun times ;)

Jay will be starting a new job as a district manager, for a company not in the retail industry.  We are welcoming his new hours, and more time for the family.  I am also thrilled to be moving home!  I have missed so many of my friends in Buffalo!!!

Hey, I just thought of house=more blog material!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Neat Packaging Idea For Holiday Treats

I learned long ago, during my days of having a gift basket business, that presentation is key.  You can take an ordinary item and really dress it up with a few simple tips.  I still hold true to that philosophy, especially when giving a gift.

It's holiday time and passing along sweet gifts to our friends and loved ones is so enjoyable.  I like to make food gifts.  The gift is simple, but I like to dress it up a bit in packaging.  I like to put vanilla sugar in mason jars fitted with holiday fabric and ribbons.  I like to wrap a loaf of bread on a festive platter.  The list is endless.  Today I am going to share a neat idea for packaging small holiday treats.

I have been invited to a cookie swap.  This year the hostess put out the idea of packaging the cookies to make the swap easier and more festive.  This is how I packaged mine this  year.

Each cookie swapper will receive a iced sugar mitten with two sugar stars dipped in chocolate.  Here' what the cookies looked like before the packaging.

The cookies on their own are delicious and festive.  However, nestle them in a cellophane bag, topped with a piece of card stock, and a sweet holiday label, and it becomes a great gift.

I used holiday post cards for my card stock that I found at the office supply store.  Then I just printed a label in a coordinating color and viola, package complete!

This is an inexpensive way to dress up any holiday treat.  Think about filling the bags with chocolate clusters, or your favorite trail mix.  Personalize the label to show a nice holiday sentiment.  Go ahead get creative, I give you permission ;)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Amy's Grasshopper Pie

December's Project Pie is here.  I originally intended to share my pecan pie recipe, but I forgot to take a picture.  Then I was chatting with my friend Amy, and remembered she was making her grasshopper pie for Thanksgiving.  I asked her nicely to take a picture and share the recipe.  She delivered, so here it is.  Doesn't it look so yummy? It's perfect for the upcoming holiday season!

Grasshopper Pie
1 Oreo Cookie crust (store bought)
24 large marshmallows
2/3 cup of milk
1 1/2 ounces creme de menthe
1 1/2 ounce creme de cocoa
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Melt marshmallows with milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat when completely melted. Mix in creme de menthe and creme de cocoa until well blended. Pour into container and refrigerate until cold.
Once mixture is cold, whip heavy cream until stiff. Fold into chilled mixture and pour into prepared pie crust. Back into the fridge for at least two hours. Serve with additional sweetened whipped cream. You may also garnish with chocolate curls if you wish.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

French Bread

It's a cold day in Oneonta. The kind of day where all you want to do is snuggle in a blanket.  It's a day for soup or stew, which is on the menu tonight.  To accompany the stew, how about French bread?  Sounds good to me, and here's how you can do it.

First, crack out that bread machine.  Don't have one yet? Well, put it on your Santa list.  Some people have asked me why I like my bread machine so much.  The answer is simple, it makes life easier in the kitchen.  The same as a stand mixer or food processor does.

So now that you dusted off the bread machine here's the recipe.


1 1/4 c. warm water
1 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt (I used Kosher salt)
3 1/2 c. bread flour
2 tsp. active dry yeast

In the bottom of your pan, put in water, sugar, and salt.  Gently pour the flour on top, and make a small well in the flour.  Add the yeast in the well.  Run your machine on the dough cycle for 1.5 lb loaf.

Once the dough cycle is complete, turn the dough out onto a floured surface.  Divide it in two, set aside one piece of dough. 

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12"x15" rectangle.  Starting with the long end, tightly roll the dough. Turn the ends under and pinch the seam.  Then lay the dough on a french bread pan or on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Repeat with the other piece of dough.

Cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 40 minutes.  Then make three slices across the top of the bread, being careful not to cut all the way through.  Mix two tablespoons of water with 1/2 tsp. salt.  Brush this across the top of the dough.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ten Things I Am Most Thankful For

This year has given me many obstacles.  It seems more so this year than previous years, or perhaps I am just older and handling them differently.  I always remind the boys we need be thankful for what we have.  I remind them of this all year.

For Thanksgiving I wish to share the ten things I am most thankful for (in no particular order).

  1. I am thankful my husband has a job that allows me to stay home with the children.
  2. I am thankful for modern technology that allows me to stay in touch with friends and family.
  3. I am thankful for friends.
  4. I am thankful that my parents will spend this Thanksgiving in good health.
  5. I am thankful that I will spend this Thanksgiving in good health.
  6. I am thankful for friends who have invited us to share the holiday with them.
  7. I am thankful for family who go the extra mile to make a little boy very happy (that's you Aunt Tracy and Uncle Wayne).
  8. I am thankful for a husband who makes me laugh, especially when I need it the most.
  9. I am thankful for my regular lunch date.
  10. Finally, I am MOST thankful for my two precious children!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Happy Birthday To My Baby

Five years ago, on a Sunday, we welcomed an 8 lb 11 oz., 23 3/4" baby boy into the world ten days early.  Over the past five years he has given us so much joy (and tears, with a few gray hairs).  Today we celebrated his birthday quietly with just the four of us.

He wanted a Cars birthday.  So a Cars birthday he shall receive.  Earlier in the week, I made cookies for school, but for today a Lightning McQueen cake was the star. 

Brandon received many great presents.  He was so grateful for everything and hasn't stopped playing all day with all his new toys.  He's even letting Adam play too ;)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Red Velvet Cake Mix Cookies

It's holiday time and my cake mix cookies are back.  I posted this super easy recipe a few years ago.  They are tasty and simple to make.  I even entered them in a blog contest and won.

So here they are again with a holiday twist.  I used a red velvet cake mix, white chocolate bits, and chopped pecans.  The result was festive and oh so yummy!

recipe (yield 3 1/2 dozen)

1 package red velvet cake mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons water
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients until well incorporated. Drop by teaspoons onto greased cookie sheet. (12 to a sheet, they will spread) Bake for 11 to 13 minutes. Allow to cool one minute on cookie sheet and then finish cooling on baking rack. Store in an airtight container for several weeks.

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Words Come Back to Haunt Me

Sunday is Brandon's birthday!  I can't believe my baby is turning 5 years old.  This year he wants a Cars birthday.  So I have the Lightning McQueen cake pan for his actual birthday, but for school he wanted cookies.  Cars cookies!

I saw cutters from William-Sonoma and order them.  I thought I would just make a plain sugar cookie, stamp them out, and be done.  They looked really cute with the impression of the characters.   Then Brandon saw the box, where they were piped and iced.  He asked if I could do that.  I hesitated and told him, I didn't think so, it looked real complicated. 

His response to me:  "Mommy, I don't care if you mess them up, but could you just TRY."  This is what we tell our kids all the time, just try.  My words have come back to haunt me.  So, last night I got really brave, and tried.

I think they came out pretty darn well.  We have Lightning McQueen and Finn McMissile ready to go for school.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Keep It Simple Pumpkin Pie

I'm not going to mention the gap in my blog posts.   Well, OK I mentioned it.  I just really want to forget October.  It was a bad month for me.  I had some kind of weird throat virus, followed by viral pink eye, and for the hat trick (that reference is for the hockey fans out there) I had an ear infection. 

OK, back to the topic at hand.  Project Pie this month is a pumpkin pie.  It's the basic Libby's recipe with a few small tweaks.  Instead of adding all the individual spices, I used pumpkin pie spice.  I also added a teaspoon of vanilla to round out the spices.  The rest is just as the recipe says.  Easy easy easy.

It couldn't get any more cliche than pumpkin pie for November, but I couldn't resist.  I love pumpkin pie, and besides my boys wanted me to "practice" one before Thanksgiving.  I am in charge of desserts and this will be one of the choices.

recipe (Libby's Pumpkin Recipe)

3/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
1 can pumpkin puree (16 oz.)
1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
1 unbaked deep dish pie crust (frozen or home made)

In a large bowl, combine sugar, spices, vanilla, pumpkin, and eggs.  Slowly add milk and blend.  Pour into the pie crust. 

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat and bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes, until a knife comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 2 hours.

Tip:  Put pie crust on a cookie sheet when baking.  The filling is very thin and this will help with spills.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Buttermilk "Bribery" Biscuits

The past several months, I have been encouraging the boys to try new things.  It's not always a success, but for the most part things are going well.  However, there are some nights, they are eating whatever I put in front of them.  Those are the nights, I am tired, I am not cooking a separate meal, and it's normally something very normal. 

For example, I made chicken noodle soup a few weeks back.  Both boys were pitching a fit over it.  When I was little, soup was a constant that we ate, and I enjoyed it.  This was also one of those nights, it was soup or nothing.  To accompany the soup that night I made scratch buttermilk biscuits.  They gobbled up their biscuit, or should I say, they inhaled them.  In order to have their second biscuit, I told them they had to finish their soup.  No problem, they stopped arguing, finished their soup, and was rewarded with a second biscuit.

Since that night, on a couple occasions, both boys asked for those yummy biscuits.  So tonight, another soup night, I made those oh so yummy "bribery" biscuits.  I told them I would make the biscuits, but no arguing over the soup.  Once again, no problem.  These biscuits really do work wonders :)

So what's the secret ingredient???  Well, there isn't one.  The recipe is very simple, from my grandmother.  All the ingredients are probably in your pantry.  You may just have to pick up the buttermilk.  Buttermilk really makes it so tasty, so please don't substitute regular milk.

The one item that you can substitute is the shortening.  If you really have strong convictions about using vegetable shortening, by all means use butter for all the fat in the recipe.  That being said, the combination of butter and shortening really does the biscuit delectable.


2 c. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. butter, chilled
2 tbsp. vegetable shortening, chilled
1 c. buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Either line a cookie sheet with parchment or lightly grease a high sided 9 inch cake pan, and set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.  Add the butter and shortening, and with your fingers work it through the dry mixture, until it resembles bread crumbs.  It's best to work quickly and sort of rub the butter and shortening in your finger tips with the flour.

Then make a well, and add the buttermilk.  With a spatula, stir until a soft dough forms.  On a floured surface, turn the dough out.  Gently fold the dough on itself several times.  Using your hand pat a round circle of dough, about an inch thick.

Using a 2 inch round cutter, cut out your biscuits.  When cutting, go straight down through the biscuit, then turn the cutter once you have hit the counter top.  Place the biscuits on the prepared tray or pan.  I prefer using a cake pan, as I find the biscuits are more uniform when they bake.  Bake for 15 to 19 minutes, until golden brown.

Top with butter, jam, honey, etc.  These are also great for biscuits and gravy!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Easy Peasy Chicken Soup

Chicken soup feeds the soul, helps the common cold, and just tastes darn good.  Well here's a chicken soup recipe that anyone can do.  It is easy peasy lemon squeezy (that's what my almost five year calls super easy things).

This soup can be made easily in the afternoon and served for dinner.  The prep time is about 10 minutes, and total cook and simmer time about an hour.  I served it with buttermilk biscuits, but crackers would be fun too. 


1 cooked rotisserie chicken, original recipe (find it at around the deli counter)
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 ribs of celery, diced
1/2 of an onion, diced
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 quarts reduced sodium chicken stock
1/2 package wide egg noodles

In a large stock pot, saute carrots, celery, onion , salt, and pepper in a tablespoon of oil for 10 to 15 minutes.

While the vegetables are softening, skin and remove the chicken from the bone.  The best way to do this, is with clean hands.  As you are pulling the chicken off the bone, discard the skin, fat, or any tendons.  Simply shred the meat with your hands and set aside. You will have about 2 cups of cooked chicken, both white and dark meat.

Once the vegetables are tender, add the garlic and cook a minute or so.  Then add the chicken stock and bay leaf.  Allow to simmer about 20 minutes, then add the cooked chicken.  Simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes.

In another stock pot, bring 2 to 3 quarts of water to a boil.  Cook the egg noodles according to the package instructions.  Drain and put into a separate container for storage (you may add 1/2 tsp. of oil to prevent them from sticking).

Once the soup has simmered, remove the bay leaf.  You are ready to go.  Just add your noodles to a bowl and cover with the hot soup.  Store remaining noodles and soup in different containers.  When reheating, add the noodles to each serving.  This stops the pasta from soaking up the broth in your soup while storing it. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My First Sewing Class

Last night, I went to my first sewing class.  Now it's not the first time I have sewed, but it was the first formal lesson I had.  I learned the basics years ago from my mom, but I wanted to expand my knowledge.  Our project last night was an apron.

At first, the thought of sewing an apron was very daunting.  However, after a bit it started to make sense.  I will admit, I was so scared and nervous.  Before I left the house, I tried to tell Jay I wasn't going.  He answered me with, "you paid for it, and you are going".  Okay, he's right, but I have anxiety when it comes to classes.  I was always the kid in the back of the class never raising her hand.  So, about an hour into it, my shaking hands settled and I started cruising along. 

I also learned, I need a refresher course on rulers and measurements.  I felt so badly for the instructor and her helper, at my inability to cut the proper pieces.  They were patient, and helped me along.  I also learned, I really want a cutting mat and rotary cutter ;) 

After three hours, lots of laughs, and determination my apron was complete!  I think it came out cute.  In fact, every one's was a success.  So for all my local Oneonta friends, check out Project Anthologies for classes.  As for non-Oneonta friends, check out her online store!

ice cream cone center panel, accented with blue and brown
polka dot waistband and ties

Monday, October 1, 2012

Apple Hand Pies

October's Project Pie is super simple and tasty.  I made apple hand pies. What's a hand pie?  Well, it's a pie that has filling contained by crust, easily held in the hand.  It makes for mess free snacking, and very portable.  They are great for picnics, lunch boxes, etc.  Oh and by the way, the filling itself is wonderful over ice cream, pancakes, or waffles.

I did make two versions of these hand pies.  The first version was using a super cute Wilton pie maker in an apple shape.  While it was very festive, it was also on the large size and I only got 6 pies out of the whole batch of crust.

For the next attempt, I used a 3 1/2 inch biscuit cutter, and yielded a dozen little treats.


1 package refrigerated pie crust
3 large apples, I used golden delicious and granny smith
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. apple pie spice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
egg wash and cinnamon sugar for dusting, optional

Peel, core and dice apples.  Place apples, butter, sugar, and spices in a large skillet and heat until apples are tender, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  On a floured surface, unroll pie crust.  Using a round cutter (I used 3 1/2 inch), cut rounds from dough. If necessary re-roll scraps and continue to make pastry rounds.  I was able to cut 24 rounds from one package of pie crust (2 sheets of dough).

Carefully spoon filling into the center of half of the rounds.  Gently cover the pie filling with the remaining pastry circles.  Use a fork to crimp the edges, and pierce the top of the pie with a fork to create vents.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  If desired, brush the tops of the pies with egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown.  Allow to cool slightly before eating.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Name Bubbles

School is in full swing and we already lost an article of clothing.  The third day of school Brandon's little jacket went missing.  I searched the classroom, asked the teachers, and even checked the lost and found.  Well, it's lost and not yet found. 

Even if it is found, I forgot to label it with his name.  I'm normally really good about labeling the clothing, but we were in a rush that morning and I forgot.  So, that night I started marking everything with permanent marker.  The only problem was, some items weren't able to be marked.  Either the color was too dark, care label was too small, or it was plastic and the marker wouldn't adhere.

I started researching labels.  I actually had found this website last year, but never bothered investing in them.  Well, this year with two boys in school, I made the investment in Name Bubbles.  After browsing the selection, I chose the preschool pack.  It had a variety of sizes, along with labels that were dishwasher safe and laundry safe.  Then I simply chose the color scheme, style, and what I wanted it to say.  I chose just our last name, this way I can use them for both boys.

When they came in the mail, I was so excited.  I labeled lunchboxes, coats, hats, water bottles, etc.  I even have ones for shoes and boots.  The water bottles have been washed numerous times and are still intact.  This little ditty is worth the price :)  Check out the website above!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bread Bowls

So yesterday I made chili served in bread bowls.  Let's just take a moment to pause and reflect on the beauty of soup/stew served in a bread bowl.  *SIGH*  OK, we can proceed now.

The recipe is really quite simple and the dough can be prepared in a bread machine, stand mixer, or by hand.  Now before you disregard this recipe because you don't have a bread machine or stand mixer, preparing bread my hand can be quite therapeutic.  I know this for certain, because last month while at my parents I made bread this way. 

My mom has a very basic kitchen.  Probably because I stole a lot of her kitchen items over the years, and partly because she doesn't cook the way she used to.  She is starting to replenish her basics, but I was S.O.O.L. when it came to any sort of fancy appliance, i.e. bread machine or mixer ;)

This recipe will make four medium bread bowls.  They are big enough to hold two full ladles of soup.  The bread also freezes well.  When ready to use, simply defrost at room temperature.  You can always warm up the bread in a low oven too, about 275 degrees.


1 c. plus 3 tbsp. warm water
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
3 c. bread flour
2 1/2 tsp. yeast

All methods will start the same.  In a measuring cup, combine water, yeast, and sugar.  Set aside for about 10 minutes, the yeast will proof and the mixture will foam up.

For bread machine: 

Add the yeast mixture to the pan of the bread machine along with the olive oil.  Then carefully add the flour, cheese, and salt.  Set for the dough cycle.  Check after about five minutes to make the sure the dough has come together.  If the mixture appears too sticky add flour 1 tablespoon at a time.  If it is too crumbly, add water 1 teaspoon at a time.  The dough should hold the shape of a ball, and be slightly tacky.

For stand mixer:

Pour yeast mixture along with olive oil into the mixing bowl of the mixer.  Using the dough hook attachment, slowly add the flour and cheese while the mixer is on speed 2 or 3.  Then add the salt.  Allow to knead for about 10 minutes.  Check for consistency, the dough should be slightly tacky but not sticky.  Add flour or water accordingly.  See note above.  Once the dough is done kneading, place into a greased bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise for at least an hour, until it has doubled in size.

By hand:

In a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients to the yeast mixture along with the olive oil.  With your hands or a large wooden spoon, stir until the dough forms into a ball.  Then on a lightly floured board, knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes.  (this is where you will tone those upper arms)  See note above.  Once the dough is done kneading, place into a greased bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise for at least an hour, until it has doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, gently turn in out onto a floured board.  Cut the dough in four equal pieces.

The next part takes some practice.  Hold one piece of dough in your hand, and gently tuck the ends into the bottom of the dough, creating a ball.  Pinch the bottom of the dough ball together and continue to form into a smooth ball.

underside of the dough ball, pinch and smooth it

Set dough balls on a greased baking sheet, cover with a towel and let rise another 30 minutes. ( you can also sprinkle the baking sheet with a little cornmeal to give the bottom a bit of texture)  Brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  The bread will be golden brown and will sound hollow when the bottom is tapped lightly.  Allow to cool on a rack.  Slice the top off and remove the inside of the bread to create a bowl.  Serve your favorite soup or stew inside your fresh bread bowl!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spicy Turkey Chili with Bread Bowls

Fall is in the air.  It's only a few days away, but I am already in gear for warm comfort foods.  I love love love comfort foods like mac n' cheese, chicken pot pie, soups, and stews.  What I don't love is all the calories associated with it.

I am taking a chili recipe, changing up the beef for turkey and kicking up the spice level a bit.  I will be eating sans bread bowl, but I will treat Jay to this little delight :)

turkey chili recipe

1 lb. lean ground turkey
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 1/2 c. tomato sauce, I used leftover pizza sauce
1- 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp. chopped jarred jalapeno peppers
1/2 tsp. grill seasoning
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ancho chili pepper
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 can kidney beans, optional

In a skillet, brown turkey and onions.  Add to slow cooker.  Add remaining ingredients, and cook for 8 hours on low.  I made this the day before I want to serve it, so all the flavors can marry together.  Also freezes well for up to 3 months.

I will post the bread bowl recipe tomorrow :)

Friday, September 14, 2012

It's Been A While

Hello all my fellow blog readers!!!  It's been a long while since I had a post.  This was not entirely my fault.  My life was side tracked for a bit with some family emergencies back home.  Now I am back in Oneonta, the kids are in school, and we're all back in the swing of things.

First, yes the boys are in school.  This includes our youngest, Brandon, who started kindergarten last week.  The first two days were great, then the realization of a long day set in.  We shed a lot of tears this week, but I think we are on an upswing.  Fingers crossed ;)

I am also back on track with my work out routine.  This makes me so happy.  I have more patience, I am sleeping better, and making smarter food choices.  Yay for me, and Jay, he's on this journey with me.

Oh, did I forget to mention we took a weekend trip to New York City with Jay's parents??  It was full of excitement and adventure.  The adventure part being threatening tornadoes.  It all worked out in the end, although I think his parents may need a vacation from our "vacation".  We did a lot of walking and climbing through subway terminals.

So how about a new recipe?? I mentioned about a family emergency.  My dad wasn't behaving himself and as Jay puts it, "He has a potpourri of things wrong".  The one major change he needs to do is, be on a low fat, low sodium diet.   While I was visiting them, I helped to make a few healthy dinners.

Healthy diet and my dad do not co-exist in harmony.  He is a real meat and potatoes guy, with a ton of salt added in.  So, one night we had heart healthy steaks (certified my the American Heart Association) and low fat twice baked potatoes.  The potato recipe is what I will share with you today.


4 medium to large baking potatoes
1/3 c. low fat plain yogurt
1 scallion, chopped fine
2 slices low sodium low fat bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 tsp. Mrs. Dash herb blend, no sodium version
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 c. reduced fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese

Scrub and wash the potatoes.  Pat dry and prick with a fork.  Lay on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  A knife inserted into the potato, should go in with ease.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit, so you can safely handle the potato.

Slice the potato in half lengthwise.  With a spoon, carefully remove the potato, being careful not to tear the skin.  Set aside the skins and put the "meat" of the potato in a large bowl with all the remaining ingredients; combine.

Evenly scoop the mixture back into the skins.  Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Almost Successful Mini Cherry Pie

We are in month two of Project Pie.  I wasn't going to post my mini cherry pies this month.  Why you ask???  Well, the filling was tasty enough, but I wasn't happy with the crust portion.

Then I started thinking, the whole point of this is trial and error.  This month was definitely an error, but could be remedied if you use pie dough instead of my idea of won ton wrappers.

I had left over won ton wrappers, and was trying to come up with a lower fat version of cherry pie.  The filling was delicious, the edges of the pie was good, but the bottom lacked the texture I was hoping for.  So lesson learned:  Don't use won ton wrappers for a pie crust if you want a true pie crust texture.

I did decide to give the recipe for the filling.  You can make it and use pie crust, pushed into muffin tins and it will be delicious.  I did mini apple tarts a few years ago and the process will be the same.  Here's the link for the technique.

cherry pie filling (enough for 8 tarts)

1 can of pitted cherries, not pie filling (found in the canned fruit aisle)
1/3 c. sugar
1 tbsp. corn starch
1/2 tsp. almond extract
zest of one lemon

Drain the cherries, reserving the liquid, set cherries aside.  In a small sauce pan, add the cherry juice (about 1/3 c.), sugar, lemon zest.  In a small bowl, whisk the corn starch with 3 tbsp. cold water.  Add to juice mixture.  Over a medium-low heat, dissolve the sugar and allow mixture to thicken.  This will only take a 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, add cherries, and almond extract.  Fill prepared crusts. 

This alone also makes a great topping for pancakes, waffles, or ice cream.

Topped with whipped cream, powder sugar, and ice cream

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fiesta Chicken

We love Mexican food in our house.  Well, I should say Jay and I love Mexican food, the boys are learning to like it.  I've been able to get the boys to eat chicken tacos.  That was a huge victory. So a few weeks ago, I made tacos but then had left over guacamole, shredded lettuce, and salsa. 

For most meals, Jay and I will eat leftovers, but I ran out of the taco meat.  What did I do??  I defrosted a chicken breast and made a fiesta chicken sandwich.  Yummy!

ingredients  (makes 2 sandwiches)

2 kaiser rolls
1 6 oz chicken breast
2 to 3 tbsp. guacamole
2 to 3 tbsp. salsa
1/4 c. shredded Monterrey jack cheese
shredded lettuce

Simply butterfly the chicken breast and sprinkle with salt and pepper (I add a little sprinkle of cumin too).  In a non-stick skillet, cook the chicken until no longer pink (about 8 to 10 minutes).  Divide the cheese over the chicken and allow to melt.

Then the rest is just assembly.  I split and toasted the rolls.  Finally just pile up your favorite taco toppings.  I used guacamole, salsa,  and shredded lettuce.

It's a fabulous and quick way to use up leftover ingredients from Mexican night!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Simple Hash Browns

Depending on where you live, hash browns could mean different things.  Some areas refer to hash browns as shredded potatoes and fried on a flat-top.  Some places describe them as a cubed potato sauteed in a skillet. Growing up in my house, cubed potatoes fried in butter with salt and pepper were hash browns.


1 to 2 lbs. diced potatoes
1 tsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. season salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

I decided to take my mom's very simple hash brown recipe and give it a few twists.  First, I par-cooked them in the a microwave steamer to cut down on the time skillet time.  I simply diced about of pound of clean potatoes, put them in my steamer with 1/2 c. water and cooked on high for about six minutes, until fork tender.

Next drain them and lay out on paper towels.  This will remove an excess moisture.  In a large skillet, preheat canola oil with butter, until melted.  Add potatoes, salts, and pepper.  Turn in pan to coat evenly.  Allow to cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.  Stirring occasionally.

Serve as a side dish to any dinner.  Also leftovers are great for omelettes or hash the next day.  Last night we had them with my sloppy joe's recipe.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Family Vay-Kay!

We are back from our annual summer family vacation.  We went back to Pennsylvania this year.  It's actually been our destination for the last few years.  Three years ago we visited Sesame Place (twice in one summer).  Then last year we went to Hershey.  This year we went back to Hershey. 

We stayed in Lancaster, PA at the Eden Resorts.  It is really family friendly there, and the location is desirable for exploring.  The hotel also has a wonderful outdoor play area for the whole family, including mini golf, pool tables, jungle gym, a water pad, and a new pool.

So what did we do on our vacation?  The first day was dedicated to driving there and relaxing at the pool. 

That's Brandon playing my Kindle under the blanket

The next day we went to Hershey Amusement Park.  It was a perfect day for fun, about 85 degrees, sunny, with a slight breeze.  The kids grew in candy bar size over the year.  Adam went from a "peanut butter cup" height to a "Hershey bar".  Brandon went from a "Hershey kiss" to a "peanut butter cup".  A whole year older made a difference on how adventurous the boys were.  Brandon especially over came his fear of the water park and had a blast.

Wednesday was our day to relax and rest up.  In the morning we ventured out to downtown Lancaster.  Our first stop was the Fractured Prune  (donut shop).  We treated ourselves to made to order specialty donuts.

Back Row: french toast chocolate chip, carnival sprinkle
Front Row: Oreo crumble, banana nut bread

After our "nourishment" we went browsing in the quaint shops.  Adam even bought two new magic tricks from Ziggy's Magic Shop.

Thursday we headed to Philadelphia and New Jersey.  I actually didn't know we were going to New Jersey until we put in the coordinates for the GPS while visiting the Adventure Aquarium.  I had one major panic attack while traveling over the Ben Franklin Bridge, other than that Jersey was nice.

Ending our day at the Please Touch Museum was perfect.  The boys were able to run around and play, before the car ride back to the hotel.  On a side note, Jay driving through Philadelphia, cause for one more panic attack.

Our drive home Friday was detoured slightly for one more thing.  A tour of the QVC studios.  Those who know me, this was something I wanted to do for years.  The kids enjoyed it too.  They were able to see how television production works, it was very interesting.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Too Much Of A Good Thing??

Pictured here: Grand Traveler, Back Pack, Squared Away,
Wristlet, Gallery Wallet, Tablet Case, Checkbook Cover,
Euro Wallet, Large Cosmetic Case, Hanging Toiletry
I think I may have a problem.  The first step is admitting it, right?  I think I may have to blame my friend Amy.  I talk about her a lot on her.  She is a very good friend, but sometimes can be a very bad influence ;)

My problem started about a year ago.  It's called "verabradleyitis". 

I have always heard about Vera Bradley.  I had admired the bags and purses, but always thought it wasn't for me.  I mean all those bold prints and colors...nope I could never pull that off.  So, I was over at Amy's and she showed me her new bag.  I really liked the quality and the styling.  She encouraged me to get myself a piece.  I think my comment back to her was something like, "I don't think I could carry a bag like that, being so colorful."  She looked at me and responded, "Why not?". 

So I started thinking, why not?  I started browsing the website and took the plunge.  The first piece I ordered was a wristlet.  The print was Java Blue, a nice chocolate brown and blue, pretty neutral.  Then I ordered a check book cover.  The rest is history.

I started gifting coin purses, lunch boxes, totes, and handbags.  I even turned my mom onto a really nice purse.  For her birthday this year we gave her the matching wallet and eye glass case.  Every person who receives something as a gift is always so appreciative.

So why do I like this company so much.  Well, the prints and colors have really grown on me.  I'm no longer afraid of the "boldness".  I also like that fact I can wash most of the items.  I am really hard on bags, so the fact I can throw them in the washing machine is quite fabulous.  Finally, I like the wide range of product line.  Everything from bags and accessories to luggage and party ware.  Love, love, love it!

The picture above, is the small collection I have started over the past year.  My mother-in-law put a halt on anymore Vera purchases for myself from now until Christmas. I wonder what I'm getting??  Funny enough, I received an email from my sister-in-law, Tracy, today showing me which Vera bag she would like for Christmas this year.

My last piece of advice when shopping Vera Bradley: NEVER PAY FULL PRICE!  Shop online during sales, and check out the selection on QVC for special items.  If you are lucky enough to have a Vera Bradley dealer in your town, shop the discounted items, which are normally older colors.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wine Cork Place Card Holders

I was quite the busy little beaver today.  I had a list of unfinished projects that I checked off one at a time.   I have such a feeling of satisfaction.

Among the projects today was to finish a birthday present.  I actually started this project back in February when I put a plea on FB for wine corks.  It took a few mentions, but sure enough they started pouring in.  My friend Amy mailed them to me, and another local Oneonta friend handed me a whole bag full of corks. 

So what was my project?? It was actually two fold.  First I was making a trivet and needed eight corks for that.  Secondly I was making place card holders. Place card holders??? Let me explain.

I have a relative who shall remain nameless, that sets a beautiful holiday table.  After setting this wonderful table, our seats are designated with post-it notes.  Yes, those yellow sticky notes. I saw these really really cute place card holders made from wine corks.  I believe I saw them in Williams-Sonoma (one of my favorite stores).  The only catch was, they were $4.95 a piece. 

I needed at least a dozen, and no matter how cute they were, I couldn't rationalize spending that.  This is how I came about asking, begging, pleading for wine corks (the one's made of real cork).

After collecting my stash, it was quite simple to do.  I took craft knife and sliced a thin amount off the bottom to make it flat.  This way the cork won't roll around on the table.  Then very carefully and with patience, start to make a slice in the top of the cork.  This is were the card stock will sit.  You want to work in small cuts, being careful not to split the cork in half.

 After scoring it deep enough and carving out the cork slit, test it with a piece of card stock to make sure the card will stay in place. I printed names of our family and left a few blank ones as well.  I really hope she likes it :)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie

Another blogging year has passed and My Little Blogspot is changing it up again.  Say goodbye to Cookie Corner and hello to Project Pie.  This will be a journey we take together because truth be told, I am not a great pie maker.

I can do a standard apple pie, I have Tracy's strawberry pie in my arsenal, and a few cream pies.  Yup that is just about it.  Pie is the one baked good that has always eluded me.  Sounds silly right?  Actually making a really good pie is an art.  In fact, an art that our grandmother's have cornered.  Nothing really compares to grandma's pie.

The first pie to be featured is a creamy peanut butter pie.  A very good friend of our family, Mrs. Krieger, gave me this recipe about 18 years ago.  She used to make it for her late husband, almost weekly.  (She's also the source of my easy peanut butter cookies.)

This pie is so super easy.  It took about 5 minutes to prepare, and a few hours in the freezer.  All you need is a large bowl and a hand mixer.  Go ahead and give this a pie a try ;)


4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. powder sugar
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1/4 c. milk
8 oz. container of whipped topping, thawed
1 graham cracker crust, store bought or home made

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, powder sugar, and peanut butter until smooth, using a mixer.  Slowly add the milk, blend.  Next fold in the whipped topping until well blended.  Pour filling into the pie crust and place in the freezer for several hours.  Allow to thaw about 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

filling before folding in whipped topping

**If you want to get extra fancy, drizzle with chocolate syrup and whipped cream**

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Project Riverside Elementary

Most of the time I use my blog to vent frustrations, silly quirks, or just plain harass my husband.  He's normally a good sport about it.  Today, in all seriousness I have to say I am very proud of Jay.

Every summer Lowe's Heroes does a community project.  In previous years they have donated playgrounds and help to build rails for a therapeutic horse academy.  This year the project is very personal.  Lowe's Heroes built an outdoor picnic area for a local elementary.  It is personal because this is the new school my boys will attend in the fall.

With a collaborative effort from Riverside's principal, Melinda Murdock, and a creative team at Lowe's this project came together nicely.  The original request was for picnic tables.  That would have been simple enough, but Lowe's wanted to do more.  So it was decided to make a 24'x24' patio, fitted with four canopies, and 6 picnic tables.  Enough space to enjoy an outdoor lunch for a class or two, or a workspace for an activity.

This morning the Lowe's delivery truck made its appearance to drop off all the supplies.....

Say Hi to William (delivery truck driver)

digging out the patio area

painting the picnic tables

Adam helping load the stones

laying the patio block

building the canopies

coming together

After the picnic tables are finished drying, Riverside's new outdoor picnic area will be good to go!  I also need to mention all the volunteers worked through down pouring rain!  Lowe's will also be donating curtains for the windows in the gym.  This way assemblies can be held in there without the intrusion from glaring sun.

Another note:  Greater Plains Elementary won the $5,000 grant from Toolbox For Education.  Next weekend they will be building a garden area.