Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Yes, I am That Mom!

Summer is upon us, and I am so happy to have my kiddos home with me.  I am that mom who loves summer vacation as much as the kids.  Every September I get depressed when it's time for them to return to school. 

While I enjoy summer time with the kids, and I want them to have fun (and they will), I don't want all their hard work during the year to go out the window.  My kids read all summer and will be doing activity sheets.  I received a little note home from the teachers regarding books called Summer Bridge Activities.  I went to Barnes & Noble, looked them over, and decided it was just the right amount of busy work.  (psst.... I ordered mine from Amazon because it was less expensive)

The books are broken up into simple daily worksheets.  Each worksheet has a sampling of Math and Language Arts.  They came in the mail today, and they are a hit!  The boys loved it.  Brandon even remarked that his teacher would be proud of him for exercising his brain.

I told Adam and Brandon this will be incorporated into their morning chores. Yes, I said morning chores.  During the summer their morning chores are as follows:

  1. Make their beds and tidy their rooms
  2. Brush their teeth after cleaning up breakfast dishes
  3. Practice their respective instruments
  4. Daily worksheet
These things must be accomplished before I hear the words, "Can we go outside to play?"  This way I am not raising my voice in the evening when everyone is tired.

Now, just so no one thinks I am a mean mother whose children have to do school work all summer with no fun, here are a few fun things the boys have to look forward to:

  • Darien Lake (hopefully for July 4th)
  • Summer trip to the Outer Banks, NC
  • Baseball game in Toronto
  • Food Truck night
  • Taste of Buffalo
  • Swimming in various family and friends pools

We plan on enjoying our summer, as I hope you do as well.  So, if you are interested in a little bit of busy work to keep their minds sharp, I do encourage you to check out these books. I don't receive any kind of compensation.  This is just my opinion from one parent to another on a good buy for summer time.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Malted Chocolate Chunk Brownies

Summer is officially here!!!!  We are winding down with baseball and school, only to get geared up for soccer and summer fun. 

I have many fond memories of summer.  I spent hours swimming in our pool, sitting at my brother's baseball games, and attending picnics.  One of my fondest summer memories was going to our ice cream shop for chocolate malt milkshakes.  My dad was the only other one in my family who liked them, so I blame him for my addiction to them ;)

Today's recipe is based on that lovely summer memory.  I decided to impart that wonderful chocolate malt flavor into a brownie.  The result is delicious and crowd pleasing.

ingredients  (yields 18 to 24 small squares)

1 c. milk chocolate chips
1 stick of butter
2 eggs
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
1/4 c. malted milk powder (look for it by the chocolate syrup and cocoas)
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate baking chunks (find them by the chocolate chips)

frosting ingredients

1 stick softened butter
1/4 c. malted milk powder
2 tbsp. milk or cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. powder sugar
1/2 c. milk chocolate chips (melted)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a double boiler, melt milk chocolate chips with the stick of butter, and then set aside to cool slightly. 

In a large mixing bowl, cream together sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Add the cool chocolate mixture and combine. 

Slowly add the remaining dry ingredients.  Lastly fold in the chocolate chunks.

Pour the mixture into a greased quarter sheet pan and level with a knife.  (You can also use a 9 x 9 pan, brownies will be thicker and need to bake for about 40 to 45 minutes.)  Bake for 31 to 34 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool and prepare frosting.

In a mixing bowl cream together butter, malted milk, and sugar.  Slowly add the milk, melted chocolate, and vanilla.  Once combined, beat for about 5 minutes until very smooth and creamy.   Frost the cooled brownies.  Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Thai Chicken Inspired Pasta Salad

About three years ago I discovered Panera Bread and it was love at first bite.  (I know a bit corny.)  It is a go to place for our family to grab a quick lunch or dinner.  One of my favorite menu items is the Spicy Thai Chicken Salad.  I love the combination of sweet and spicy elements in the salad.  So imagine my delight when I found the salad dressing for sale at our grocery store.  

Today's recipe is inspired by the flavors of that salad, but with a pasta salad spin.  I like this salad for summertime because there is no mayonnaise. It's quick to prepare and has a spicy kick, which is also nice along side of your favorite grilled items.

ingredients  (serves 2)

1 grilled chicken breast, sliced thin
1 cup pasta, cooked and drained
1 ear of grilled corn, cut off the cob
1 cup steamed edamame, removed from pods
1/4 c. sunflower kernels or chopped peanuts
1/4 c. to 1/3 c. Panera Spicy Thai salad dressing

In a large bowl mix all the above ingredients until coated with dressing.  Allow to refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.  Serve as a side dish or an easy lunch.

Remember to tell your guests that it has a bit a heat to it.  The last you want to do is to unexpectedly set someone's mouth on fire.  Also if you prefer the salad a bit spicier, add more dressing. 

The recipe given only serves two, as I use it for lunch.  This can easily serve a crowd by cooking a whole box of pasta, adding more veggies, and of course more grilled chicken.