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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Middle School...check

A stressful day for me. I told you all yesterday that Dylan graduates but I didn't tell you that Max is also graduating from middle school today. Did I mention that Max's ceremony begins at 2:30 and Dylan's begins at 4:30. Did I mention the drive between the two can take 20 minutes to over an hour with traffic. Did I mention that I wish I would have gotten some Xanax from my doctor??!

Yes, stressful is a word I would choose any other time but the word today is milestone.

Max's school required him to write a graduation paper. They are supposed to talk about their memories of middle school and their thoughts on the future. Toward the end of his paper, this one sentence made me catch my breath..."I've been looking forward to this day for 9 years and now that it's here, I don't feel ready."

Max, you are smart, charming, athletic and sincere. You are going big places. You've got this! You ARE ready! I'm just not sure your Mom is.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


It's the day before graduation and I sit here filled with emotions. Dylan is more than my nephew, he is my practice son. Tina was gracious enough to share him with me and I love him as much as I love my own children.

Tomorrow is the start of something big or at least that's what every Hallmark card says. But for Dylan, he's always been headed for something big, he's always been amazing.

His senior year included being a varsity letterman on his hockey team and being called "the nicest kid with the biggest heart that his coach ever had the pleasure of coaching" and you could tell that he spoke from his heart when he spoke about Dylan.

His senior documentary project received "Fan Favorite".

He was accepted to all three colleges he applied to and is headed off in August to start that journey. A journey I am personally NOT thinking about right now.

He received straight As the first semester this year. He also received a Wallin Scholarship which is a pretty HUGE deal around these parts.

Although to ask Dylan about any of these things, he shrugs, gives a shy smile, "it's not that big of a deal" he says. He is modest, he is honest, he is genuine.

Congratulations Dylan!

I love you to the stars and back!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Oven Baked Corn on the Cob

Repeat for those that missed this super easy recipe the first time.

Preheat oven to 350

Toss in ears of corn, right on the rack. Don't take the husks or silk off, don't soak. Just pull them from the bag from the grocery store and toss in the oven. Cook for 35 minutes. Take out, pull off the husks and serve (the silks melt into the husks). EASY, YUMMY and makes the house smell great. I'll never make corn any other way.
Thanks fotosearch, this post needed a photo:)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Heads Up

I really wanted to plan a vacation for this summer because the kids and I haven't gone on one in quite some time. When they were little we went on a vacation at least once per year, sometimes twice. I heard a LOT of people tell me that it was stupid to waste my money on something they probably wouldn't remember. What I always said back was, "I get to see them enjoying themselves now". I honestly wouldn't change one trip. And, they do remember. Their memories may not be complete but they can look at photos and recall if it was their favorite or something funny. They have vivid memories of going on rides with their Papa.

Now my kids are at the age that they can "remember" and you know what? We have NO time to go on vacation. School is harder so they can't miss a week. Max plays hockey and forever has a Christmas tournament so we can't go during holiday break. Max plays baseball and Claire danced and ice skated and there are always practices and performances during spring break. My kids get out of school 2 weeks before I am done for the year and for the past 2 summers, Max starts LearningWorks, the Monday after I am done working and goes until the Friday before I return to work. This year, Claire will join him. I thought I was SO busy and SO tired when they were little, but guess what? That was my slow introduction to teenage years and kids who are busy with sports.

Maybe we'll get a trip before Max leaves for college?? I guess for now the multiple tournaments and competitions we have will have to suffice.

The reason that I'm posting this is for all the parents who say, "we don't have time" or "they are too little". I'm telling you not to wait. I am telling you to go make some memories.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lousiana Pasta

I've been watching my sodium or should I say, I am "trying" to watch my sodium and keep it to 500 mg or less per meal. It is absolutely INSANE the amount of sodium in some foods. I'm sure I didn't keep it to 500 but it's less because I left out the chicken broth and that made me feel better. I will be buying the no salt cajun spice the next time I'm at the store too. If you want the original, go here

Claire has been asking me to make this recipe for weeks so I changed a couple of things and reduced the sodium a bit, added a couple of things to make it healthier and it was a meal we all still loved. The photos are from the first time I made it, to give you an idea but the directions and ingredients are new.

What you'll need:

4 T Olive Oil
4 Boneless Chicken Breasts halved
1 C Breadcrumbs ~ I use Panko
1 C Milk ~ I used skim
2 T Flour

Cajun Sauce
1 T Butter ~ unsalted for me
1 small Yellow Pepper chopped
1 small Red Pepper chopped
3/4 small Red Onion chopped
1 C Mushrooms sliced
1 1/2 C Aspargus snapped into bite size pieces
2 handfuls Spinach ~ fresh and chopped
3 Cloves Garlic minced
1 t Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 t Cajun Seasoning
1 pint 1/2 and 1/2
2 T Basil
3/4 C Fresh Parmesan shredded or grated
12 oz cooked Bow Tie Pasta

Wash and dry chicken breasts. Pound until very thin with a meat hammer~I did it between two pieces of saran wrap or waxed paper to lessen mess. The thinner the better. I would also cut the chicken into pieces about the size of your palm, easier to work with and it doesn't matter if they are strips or's all good. Whatever works best for you.

Mix breadcrumbs and flour together in a bowl you can dip the chicken into.

Put milk in another dish for dipping.

Sprinkle chicken lightly with pepper and garlic powder.

Dip chicken in milk and into the dry. Put on plate.

Move to sauce...

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add peppers, onions, mushrooms, aspargus and 1 t Cajun Spice and cook until crisp tender..about 4 minutes

Add garlic and crushed red pepper to skillet and saute couple more minutes.

Add 1/2 and 1/2, 1 t Cajun Spice and Basil. Simmer (don't boil or you aren't going to like what happens to your sauce) until sauce re-heats and thickens, about 5 minutes. Add cheese to sauce, stir to incorporate.

IF your sauce won't thicken. Ladle out one scoop, add 2 T Cornstarch and whisk until all the lumps are gone. Pour back into pan and stir. This will thicken your sauce right up.

Season sauce to taste with pepper. Reduce heat and simmer on low until sauce reduces and thickens. Add chopped spinach and cook until it wilts.

Back to Chicken...

Heat Olive Oil in fry pan. Fry at medium heat until crisp and golden. Remove and put on plate, tent lightly with foil to keep warm. You don't want to cover tightly or it will get soggy.

Add oil as necessary and continue to cook chicken.

Add cooked pasta to sauce and give a toss.

Plate pasta, top with chicken and serve. Add additional parmesan if desired.

Your ingredients, don't be's SO worth it.
If I was doing this for a dinner party, I would do this step earlier in the day. It's a little messy. Start pounding in the middle of the breast, flatten from the middle to the sides.
This is how thin you want it.
Chop your peppers and onions, I threw in some green just because I had them. You could do this ahead too.
Wash, dry and slice the mushrooms, don't do this ahead, mushrooms are tempermental.
Saute your vegis with some cajun spice and crushed pepper flakes.
Add your cream, chicken broth, cajun seasoning and basil and simmer.
You can't really see the difference but it's thicker now;)
Here is your dry ingredients, mix it up with a couple of cranks from your pepper mill.
Dip your chicken, make sure it's well coated.
Keep going until all the chicken is coated.
Heat some oil, see you don't need much, just a light coating in the pan.
Couple minutes per side.
Dinner is SERVED

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mango Salsa

I saw a dude on the Food Network make a salsa that had mango and avocado and it looked refreshing. I completely didn't pay attention to who the guy was or really what he put in it other than the two main ingredients because I thought I didn't like mangos. Turns out I had them confused with papaya. I have a vivid memory from a honeymoon hung over brunch that involved papaya, ummm yeah, GAG!

So you are probably wondering why I would make something that I thought I disliked?? I actually have several reasons: it was Claire's birthday party, I had several people coming for dinner, I could try out a new recipe and someone would probably eat it. See, I really do have a method to my madness.

Because of my, "thought I disliked them", I've never bought one. I went to the grocery store to grab a couple and this woman was picking them up, putting some back, putting others in her bag so I asked her how to know if they were ripe. She shrugged and said, "you just never know". In my head, I was thinking why are you putting some back and some in the bag?? But I said nothing and grabbed two that looked and felt similar. Kind of soft but not squishy.

When I cut them up, I understood what she meant. I had two mangos that looked like twins from a tree. One was the perfect texture for ripe fruit, color great, juicy, in a word...YUMMY and I realized I DO like mangos. The evil twin was "fine" but it was drier, the color wasn't as bright and it was a bit firmer to cut. Mixed together they worked fine. Everyone who tried the salsa really liked it. I kinda loved it and can't wait to make it again. I think it would be awesome on a piece of chicken or maybe some fish or mixed in with some rice or, well, the possibilities are endless.

At any rate, you're probably wishing I would stop talking and get the party starter so here you go:

2 Mangos peeled and chopped
2 Avocados peeled and chopped
Juice from one lime
2-3 T Red Onion minced
Jalapeno seeded and minced ~ I used one that was about the size of my pinky in length. I would have liked more spice but I knew kids would be trying it too.
Pinch of Sea Salt

Mangos have a hard center. Peel the outer skin and cut as much mango as you can get from the center. Chop and put into bowl. Cut avocado in half, remove pit, score the avocado and scoop out into bowl. Or you can peel it and chop it, whatever works for you. Cut your lime in half and squeeze over the top of avocado. Add onion, jalapeno and salt and give a light toss. Chill and serve. YUMMY.
Here is your chopped up mangos.
Score your avocado and use a spoon to scoop out.
Ready to go.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Monkey Bread

I've posted this before but since it's one of my kids FAVORITE things and what Claire requested for her birthday breakfast, I thought it deserved another post.

There aren't many thing that you can make that are super easy and gets you Super Mom status, so give it a whirl.


4 cans Biscuits cut into quarters
3/4 C Sugar
3 T Cinnamon
1 stick of butter
3/4 C Brown Sugar
2 t Vanilla
1/4 C Sweetened Condensed Milk

Preheat oven to 350

Mix your sugar and cinnamon together in a ziploc bag. Toss your biscuit quarters in the mix. Spray a bundt pan really well with cooking spray. Pull the quarters out and toss into the pan.

In a small pot, melt the butter over low heat, add your brown sugar and vanila until it's melted and blended. Pour on top of the biscuits. Put in the oven for about 30-45 minutes, every pan is different so you'll need to do some checking the first time. It will be puffed up and browned if it's ready to come out. Cool for 10 minutes and then put a plate on the top and flip it over. Drizzle condensed milk on top. Serve it hot, serve it warm or serve it later. It's all good.
Here's what the biscuits look like quartered and in a bundt pan
Put your butter and brown sugar in a pan and melt together until just bubbly
Stir in Vanilla
Pour the caramel sauce over the biscuits and bake
Cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then invert on a plate. You can be done now if you want.
OR you can drizzle Condensed Milk on top for an over the top YUMMY!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Jello Cake

Did those two words just flash you back to a summer party when you were a kid?? NO?! Well, you didn't grow up in my family then. Jello cake hit the family circuit sometime in the mid 70s. It had a nice run and than the recipe was forgotten.

I made a Tres Leches cake and as I poked holes for that, JELLO cake popped into my head and I just had to make it. Here's your blast from the past tasty treat.

What you'll need:

White cake made according to directions
Small box of jello mixed according to directions

1 pint Whipping Cream
1 t Vanilla
1/2 C Powdered Sugar
OR you can go completely old school and use Cool Whip.

Make the cake according to directions in a 13x9 pan. Cool. Poke holes all over the top with a fork. Mix jello with water according to box and pour over the top of the cake.
Yep, the whole box of jello and this is what it looks like
Whip your whipping cream with vanilla until it starts to firm up. Add powdered sugar and frost. I also sliced a couple of strawberries to make it a bit more festive. Chill for at least 4 hours.
Cut into the cake and hear the gasps:)
OR your niece saying, "why is it half pink? I don't get it!"

Monday, May 14, 2012

Quick Orange Chicken

You need to get dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes? I can do that.

I bought this sauce at Target

I poured it into a bowl, added 1/4 C Orange Juice and 1 T Chili Paste.

I chopped up some chicken and pan fried it with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

While that was cooking, I made the 90 seconds!

Poured the sauce over the chicken, let it simmer a couple of minutes and served.
My kids loved it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

I had Claire three days before Mother's Day. I didn't decorate her nursery before she came because I didn't want a random, generic theme. So that year, I left the kids with Craig and went shopping with my Mom to find her "theme" and had lunch out.

That became our tradition. Mother's Day was a day withOUT my children. A day to chill out, have a pedicure and lunch at a restaurant that didn't involve a children's menu. My theory is, I'm a "Mom" everyday, shouldn't Mother's Day be a day for me to relax and not have to be a "Mom"? Yeah, I knew you'd agree:)

But, this year, THIS year, Max has baseball practice. Yes, his coach scheduled practice for Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, yay me. I'll probably still grab some lunch out but it's going to be something different. Maybe a new tradition will come from it??

But I wanted to be sure to wish all the fabulous Mom's, especially my own, a HAPPY Mother's DAY! I hope your children are quiet and you're able to have a few minutes just for YOU!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Happy Birthday Claire

My favorite daughter is turning 12 today. TWELVE! Crazy how the time has flown. I think I have a harder time with Claire because she's always been an old soul. She has always been very articulate and verbal. Basically, she's always been like an adult.

She has always been petite so I don't have those ah ha, "I'm taller than you moments that remind me that she is getting older". Every birthday sneaks up on me.

She's very even tempered. She is a good combination of sweet, sensitive and sassy. She doesn't take any crap and she says what she's thinking.

Her favorite thing this year was dance, she LOVES dance. This year she did jazz, kick and lyrical. Her smile never left her face.

It's not very often that I get a photo with her, this one makes me smile.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Shellac Manicure

I've never been a fan of manicures. Not because I don't like the way they look but because I chip the stupid polish within 5 seconds of getting one. I remember vividly, my 8th grade English teacher's nails. They were always the same length, perfectly painted and she wore cool colors like ORANGE;) I wanted to grow up and have nails just like her. Sadly, that never happened for me.

UNTIL...Tina gave me a gift certificate for a shellac manicure. It is supposed to last 2-3 weeks. It's not supposed to chip. I was a skeptic so I went with a French just in case because chipping doesn't look as bad. The first thing I loved was my nails were ready to go when I left the salon. I could reach into my purse to pay. I could stick my hands in my pockets. They were dry, they were ready to go.

I had it done almost a week ago and I'm LOVING it. My nails look great. They are still shiny. I feel like a grown up. I thought I'd share for those of you who want to give it a try and I'll keep you posted as to how long it lasted.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Taking a break

Hope all of you had a great weekend. I've had some health issues the past week that messed up my schedule. Max has two baseball games this week, my final for my class on Wednesday and Claire's birthday is on Friday. So, I haven't forgotten you, just taking a week to chill. Check back next week for some fun stuff!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Jalapeno Dip

Ok, you've decided not to cook but maybe you need to bring something SUPER easy to a party today. Here it is.

It was good as just a dip and also as a topping for fajitas. I think it would be awesome on a baked potato too.

2-4 fresh Jalapeno peppers chopped~I used 3 and left the seeds from half of one
16 oz Sour Cream~I used light
1 oz package of Ranch Salad Dressing mix
1 T Garlic Powder
2 T chopped Cilantro
1/2 can green chilis~I skipped these
Squeeze of Lime Juice~I used half a lime squeezed

Place all ingredients into a food processor. Blend until smooth. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. I would recommend longer than 2 hours, it was still a bit runny.

Serve with Tortilla Chips, Vegetables or as a topping for tacos, burritos or fajitas.

Friday, May 4, 2012

El Grande Burro

Sorry, I was going to give you a yummy Tres Leche cake today but I've been under the weather all week and didn't get the photos downloaded. Something to look forward to next week:)

So, instead I had to post my favorite!!!

Just that title takes me back in to high school and eating at Chi Chi's. I ordered a beef El Grande Burro every single time I ate there. LOVED them!

Unfortunately, Chi Chi's was SHUT down. Shut down before I figured out exactly how to make the burro sauce. But, I think I got close.

Enchilada Sauce

Large Jalapeno
medium Onion
4 cloves Garlic
1 T Olive Oil
14.5 oz can Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilis
28oz can Tomato Puree
2 C Water
1 T Chipolte Pepper
1 T Chili Powder
1/2 T Cumin
1/2 T Sugar
1 t Salt
1 t Pepper

Give the jalapeno, onion and garlic a whirl in your mini food processor or just finely chop up. I left 1/2 the seeds in the jalapeno for some added heat. If you don't like spicy, take the seeds out with a spoon. Be sure to wear plastic gloves when handling peppers OR be very careful of your hands around your face and eyes.

You can also use a variation of peppers but Target didn't offer choices so this time, you get just Jalapeno.

Put the jalapeno, onion and garlic in a pot with a tablespoon of olive oil and let it sweat a few minutes. Stir it around a little bit so nothing sticks. Add everything else, give it a stir and put on a low simmer for at least an hour to blend all the flavors. If you think it needs some more spice, add teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper.

Taco Meat

1 lb ground Beef (you can use turkey)
1/2 small onion diced
2 cloves garlic
4 t Chili Powder
2 t Cumin
1 t Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper if you're feeling Sassy

Put all of this in a pan until cooked through.

Now the special thing about a burro is that it has lettuce and tomatoes in the inside. I know, sounds lettuce, but it just worked. So..add to your shopping list:

Bag of Lettuce Shreds
1 large Tomato chopped
4 C Cheese ~ I used Mexican Blend
Tortillas ~ I bought the ones that come with 8

Put your tortillas between two damp paper towels and microwave for about 45 seconds. Put about 1/2 C of meat, few Tablespoons of Cheese, lettuce and tomatoes and fold it up. You are going to fold like an envelope, fold in both sides and then kind of roll it up to make a packet. Put seam side down in sprayed 13x9 pan. Pour enchilada sauce on top and bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Top with remaining cheese and bake another 5 minutes or until melted.

Top with more lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream. YUMMY!!

Onion and jalapeno ready for a whirl.

Blend up the onions and jalapenos in the food processor

Let the onions, peppers and garlic sweat a bit

Sauce is ready to go

Put your taco meat first, top with tomatoes, cheese and lettuce last

Fold in sides and then fold over kind of like an envelope

Put seam side down in your dish

Top with sauce


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fry Bread Taco

I chose this because it has the basic taco meat that you can do ANYthing with or you can get fancy and make my favvvvvv, Fry Bread Tacos!

Taco meat
1 lb ground beef (I usually use ground turkey)
1/2 small onion diced
2 cloves garlic
4 t Chili Powder
2 t Cumin
1 t Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper if you're feeling Sassy
Throw the meat, onions and garlic in a pan, salt and pepper to taste. When the meat is about 1/2 cooked, add your other seasoning. It seems to blend better if you do it now, especially true if you are using the ground turkey.

Now let's make our bread. They don't have to be exact, make your circles and let them set a moment while the grease heats up
give it a stretch before placing in the grease...I always use Crisco for frying, it holds up better than oil
Nice and golden brown
Chop up your bread
Add your favorite taco toppings