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Let’s Roll! Morning Meal Idea for Little Hands On-the-Go

We have some busy mornings during the week in our household. Whether it’s preschool, scheduled activities, play dates, or just running errands, it is nice to have a go-to breakfast to feed the kids when we’re running low on time.

At ages one-and-a-half and four, my children are at the height of picky eating. When we are running behind, the best I can content them with is cereal or a breakfast bar. But when I have a few extra minutes to spare (or if I’ve planned ahead, which isn’t unheard of), then I’ll make them up a hand roll. They’re fresh, quick to make, and easy for little hands to hold (which means less mess in the car)!

Here’s my method:

  1. First, take a slice of bread with the crust cut off. Regular wheat or white works best, as heavily seeded breads don’t flatten very well.
  2. Flatten the bread with the heel of your hand. I usually put a second cutting board on top before pressing down which helps make the slices nice and flat. This probably sounds like an odd thing to do, but a big difference between a hand roll and a sandwich is that everything is contained inside the hand roll. If you give a toddler a traditional sandwich, then you’re likely to have bits of filling dripping out all over.
  3. Choose a spread or filling from whatever you happen to have on hand. It could be as simple as butter or strawberry jam, but most often I use two ingredients, like the one shown here which is ham and cream cheese on wheat. For step-by-step photos click here.

Optional: Fold a piece of paper towel and wrap it around the base of the roll. Seal the paper towel edge down with a piece of tape. Not only does this help keep the roll together, but it keeps little hands cleaner as well.

Here’s a list of other filling ideas:

cheese and butter
peanut butter and jelly
cream cheese and raisins
turkey and avocado
canned pumpkin and cranberries
hazelnut spread and bananas
ham and mayo
hummus

Now, I know what you may be asking: why not use a tortilla or pita instead of a flattened piece of bread? Well, you certainly could. Our toddler finds bread a lot easier to bite and chew, and the preschooler prefers the taste and texture of bread over tortillas. This way I just have to make one variety and they are both happy. Sometimes I even make one for myself while I’m at it.

Tip: If you’re using a less flexible filling like cheese or banana, then it helps to cut it into pencil-sized chunks. Place the thin chunk on one side and then roll it, which will put the cheese in the center. Otherwise the cheese will make the hand-roll too bulky and not close properly.

To even better balance the nutrition of a hand-roll breakfast, I like to include a side of fresh, travel-friendly fruit, like grapes, apple, orange segments, or banana, plus a sippy cup with milk or half water/half juice.

And there you have it – a healthy meal to fuel those little bodies that you love, even when you’re feeling rushed!

This post is part of BlogHer’s Rush Hour Tips editorial series, made possible by Got Milk?


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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love and sweetness to you all on this day and everyday!

P.S. If you’re a donut and dark chocolate fan, then you’ve got to try Krispy Kreme’s current dark chocolate iced glazed. I ate it before I could take a picture (nor can I link to it because they aren’t featuring it on their site for some reason). Mmm! It’s sooo good!


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Happy New Year from Cancun!

We just returned from an amazing two week adventure – first in snowy Colorado for sledding, sleigh rides and Christmastime, followed by a five-day once-in-a-lifetime stay at a resort in Cancun! Looking back, it almost seems too good to be true, but we all lived it and I have photos, too!

Since my card-reader is acting up, all I have right now are iPhone photos from Cancun to share. Here are some of my favorites with more on Flickr. We stayed at Barcelo Maya Palace which is an all-inclusive resort on the Riviera Maya, where we met up with David’s parents, his brothers and their families.

Chloe loved getting to spend time with everyone, especially her cousin Paolo. Leo, on the other hand, wanted to pretty much stick to me like a barnacle, although he loved the water and the sand every bit as much as his sister. For New Year’s Eve, grandma and grandpa watched the kids so the three couples could enjoy a peaceful five-course dinner and then ring in the New Year right on the beach.

There were a ton of activities available on the resort for both adults and kids, and because Chloe and Leo are still so young we stayed on the resort the entire time. My hope is that we”ll come back one day when the kids are older and see the famous sites like Tulum and Xel-ha and swim in a cenote (the third photo above is a tiny cenote they had on the property).

My very favorite thing, besides the sunshine, was holding hands while snorkeling with David. My least favorite thing was dining with the kids at the buffet, since neither could sit still for very long and Leo always seemed to make a mess. The food was incredible though. I tried a little bit of everything – duck, quail, rabbit, giant crayfish, crab, lobster and so many other fish and specialty dishes. And the desserts! More choices at one time than I’ll probably every see again in my life. Truly a vacation of a lifetime!

P.S. If you happen to choose a stay at any section of the Barceló Maya resort, we found this unnofficial web site to be really helpful.

 


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DIY Cupcake Party

Since Chloe’s birthday fell on Thanksgiving day this year, and despite the fact that she’d already had a birthday party, we had some of our neighborhood friends over for a DIY cupcake decorating get-together the morning after. Check out some of these gorgeously sweet creations…

  

  

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Rubber Duck Party! **Part 1**

We threw Chloe her 3rd birthday party this past week. It was tons of fun – both for me to plan and for her and her friends to enjoy. Chloe’s bathroom is awash in rubber ducks and that seemed to naturally segue into a perfect party theme for a soon-to-be three-year-old.

I’ll go more into party details in the next post (including some pdf printables), but meanwhile, here are some wonderful photos of the big event taken by my talented friend Greta:

Marshmallow pops

Party water bottles

3 tiers of rubber duck cupcakes

Peanut butter cup “mini-cupcakes”

The treats table

 

 

More of her photos can be seen here.


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The Dirty Life

I’m reading The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love. I love books like this, following someone’s journey through their food and lifestyle choices. I admire their efforts and their resolve. The stories that bind it all together seem so exotic, so unlike my own life and food choices. While I like the idea of lifestyle eating, I don’t have the will or the discipline to keep it up for long. I guess that is another reason I like food memoirs, it gets me trying foods and food processes that I don’t normally follow. It makes me think.

My food choices are all over the board. I’ll never be a vegetarian or vegan (shudder). I like meat and dairy too much. While the idea of a raw food diet may be cerebrally appealing, I don’t have the time, energy or tastebuds to stick to it. Basically, I buy what I think will taste good, whether fresh, fried, processed, or whatever. That doesn’t mean I’m a completely unhealthy though. I try to balance it all out. I try to be mostly responsible, choosing cage-free and local and/or organic where I can. However, I rarely hesitate to cross boundaries either. Just last week, for example, I took the kids to the farmer’s market and by the end had a brimming bag full of summer-ripe produce. But for lunch on the way home we made a pit-stop through the Wendy’s drive through. Even I can see the irony in that.

Image from here.


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Rustic Raspberry Butter Cake

It’s that time of year again for these red beauties. The sad thing is that Chloe no longer likes them. Last year was so much fun – she’d pick and eat as many as her little hands could reach. This year she’ll help pick, but that is about it. At least she still likes blueberries.

For a Fourth of July bbq at a neighbor’s house I made what I call a rustic raspberry butter cake. Simple, buttery goodness, and a great way to use up any in season fruit (I’ve used rhubarb and strawberries, too).

Rustic Raspberry Butter Cake

1 stick salted butter, softened
3/4 to 1 cup sugar (depending on fruit) + extra for sprinkling on top
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
sea salt
1 cup raspberries

In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy – about 3-5 minutes. Beat the eggs together lightly and add in slowly. Mix the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl and then add it in as well. Pour mixture into a lightly-oiled baking pan and dot with fruit. Finish with a dusting of sugar and just a light sprinkling of sea salt on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden.


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Craving #1 – Grilled peanut butter, banana, and jelly with cream cheese

I’ve always liked sweets, chocolate, and baked goods, so craving these things while pregnant is really not unusual for me. However, at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago, Chloe and I stopped at PBJs (thanks to a mention from Charlotte) and tried their grilled “Cream of the Crop”: challah bread, strawberry jam, bananas, PBJ’s peanut butter and… cream cheese? It was SO yummy! A few days later I made myself one at home (and then another one…). Who knew cream cheese could elevate a PB&J to such heights?

Check out PBJs unique menu here.

Grilling Tip: Spread butter on the outsides of the bread (and not just in the skillet) before frying to get a nice even brown. And when making a grilled cheese, spread mayonnaise on the outside of the bread and turn the heat down a bit. The mayo imparts extra flavor and a beautiful golden crisp.


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The Land

Grandpa & Chloe @ Quail Hollow
(Grandpa playing in the stream with Chloe, just like when I was a girl)

When I was a little kid growing up in Virginia, my father bought 20 acres of land in the mountains not far from the Shenandoah River. He built a small one room cabin wired for electricity, but no running water, and uses it as a refuge from the city, as well as private property for hunting. Mostly there is only deer and very small game, but I once remember seeing a black bear, too.

For my part, I have always had a love/hate relationship with the place. Things I hated: the long, boring drive, the warm weather mosquitos, ticks (my dad actually got Lyme Disease a few years back) and and other insects, thorns, brambles and poison ivy, squatting in the woods to pee, and generally being stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do. On the other hand, I have some good memories, too – of wading in the little stream that crosses the propery, throwing rocks and catching minnows and crayfish, climbing my dad’s tree stand, learning to load and shoot a rifle, wandering the nearby abandoned factory, swimming in the Shenendoah, and getting a Nehi soda and a coleslaw-topped pulled-pork sandwich from the old country store.

Anyway, I hadn’t been back there in probably over a decade and my dad specifically asked to take a trip there during our visit so he could get some photos of him with Chloe. Of course I agreed, and we all ventured up there for the day. This time, the drive went much faster than I remembered and I actually enjoyed seeing Chloe doing a little exploring of her own. I got some great shots using my good camera, too, and look forward to sending them back to my Dad.

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On the way home, after a brief stop at Skyline Caverns so Chloe could ride on it’s miniature train, we decided on an early dinner at the newly built Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. I only mention this because, besides the perfectly fried catfish, it was the first time I had ever tried chocolate fudge Coca-cola cake. I had heard about this old-timey southern specialty, and the moist richness of this cake did not disappoint. As a fan of Classic Coke, I think I may have to find this recipe and make it myself (although it will likely take a few experiments to find the right one – a google search turns up a wild amount of variations). But I think I’m up for that challenge. 🙂


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Cookie Jars

We were finally able to finish and deliver all the cookie jar gifts we made for the holidays this year. They are very similar to the ones from last year, but with a revised label since I took a shortcut and bought the cookies instead of making them this time. I daresay they taste just as good, if not better. 🙂


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Chocolate fix

I find these little Ferrero Rondnoir dark chocolates pretty irresistible. Have you tried them? They’ve got a crunchy dark chocolate shell that surrounds a crispy wafer layer, that encloses a soft dark truffle that holds a little pearl of solid dark chocolate in the very center. How’s that for layered perfection?

Do you have a favorite chocolate (bar, brand, candy, etc)? I’d love to hear about it, and maybe get recommendations for my next binge. 🙂


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Garden Fresh Zucchini Bread Recipe

My husband surprised me with two loaves of perfectly textured and delicious zucchini bread made from our garden bounty last week. Each slice quickly disappeared into our grateful bellies, and he was nice enough to make another batch this weekend. If we had room, I’d make a couple more, just to freeze for later. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

2 cups grated zucchini*
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat two 4 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch loaf pans with nonstick spray, line with parchment paper, and spray paper. Combine zucchini, sugars, oil, and eggs in a large bowl and mix until combined. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in nuts and extract. Divide batter between loaf pans. Bake until a tester inserted in the middle of each loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool 10 minutes on wire rack. Invert, and remove parchment paper. Cool completely on rack. Delicious served warm with butter.

*A food processor is ideal for grating the zucchini


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Spam Upside Down Pie Recipe

David is away on a fishing trip, Chloe is sick, neither of us got much sleep last night and I had Spam and eggs for breakfast. Yep, I said Spam. I know a lot of people have a problem with it, including my husband, which is why I rarely eat it. Sure, it is far from healthy and organic, but it brings back some good childhood memories. I actually like its meaty saltiness, in small, rare doses. I’m not even sure why we have a can in the cupboard, except I must have bought it on a whim, for a camping trip maybe? I can’t remember. You’d think that would make it pretty old, but the expiration date isn’t until 2013, which in itself is kind of suspicious. The last time I clearly remember eating Spam was in Hawaii during our Honeymoon in 2004.

Anyway, I was curious to read what wikipedia had to say about it and was tickled by the above Spam advertisement printed on the back cover of Time magazine on May 14, 1945. Is it weird that I’d love to try making a Spam Upside Down Pie? Except no one would eat it with me, which is too bad.

It’s kind of hard to read on the advertisement, but here’s the recipe:

The Original Spam Upside Down Pie

Line and 8-inch mold with Spam slices and fill with baking powder biscuit dough (prepared or home mixed) well laced with tiny cubes of Spam. Bake 40-45 min. at 425F. Turn it out on a platter, fill center with a tart cheese sauce (or one made with tomato or horseradish) and watch the family turn out and fill the table in a hurry!

Tart Cheese Sauce Recipe (from Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1946)

Blend 1/3 c. flour in 1/3 c. melted butter. Slowly stir in 2 1/4 c. milk. Heat and stir until thickened. Add 1/2 lb. grated American cheese, 1 tsp. prepared mustard, 1/8 tsp. Worcestershire, 1/4 tsp. lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt. Cook in double boiler, stirring to make the mixture smooth, until cheese melts. Serve hot over a Spam Upside Down Pie.


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Le Pigeon

Last night, David and I enjoyed an amazing anniversary dinner (only a month late) at Le Pigeon as a treat from David’s parents. Le Pigeon is probably the tiniest restaurant I know, and we had an excellent view of the food preparation from the bar seating that surrounded the kitchen area (the photo above was our same view from where we were sitting).

Since I like to try new things, I was happy to actually order pigeon for the first time (pan fried, with fois gras, grapes, and riesling). The meat was surprisingly dark and flavorful, just a little bit gamey, the breast better than the legs in my opinion. The pigeon starter was followed by a rich and tasty veal paprikash with gnocchi for me and prosciutto wrapped pork for David. For dessert David chose the creme brulee paired with chocolate shortbread cookie and espresso pot de creme (OMG!), and I ordered the creme fraiche panna cotta with blueberries and candied orange peel. While very beautiful and fresh, the panna cotta was too delicately flavored after my rich entree. David gallantly helped me out with it and I finished off his dreamy pot de creme. Such good food in every bite, and really neat to see the attention paid to each dish by the chefs. I hope we’ll get to eat here again.


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Fabric | Greek food

I’ve been stuck in a sewing rut this summer. After this top for me and this dress for Chloe, I just put away the sewing table and have barely used it since. Then I went with a friend to Fabric Depot this morning. Just when I thought I was going to get away with only a couple of lengths of belting for Chloe, I saw a sign at the register for 35% off all Alexander Henry prints – one of my favorite brands (also used on Chloe’s baby blanket and crib skirt). So back I went to get some yards of the fabrics I’d been eyeing earlier. I’ve got a few project ideas in mind, but we’ll see if any of them come to fruition.

Then, this evening when David got home from work, we went to the nearby Greek festival for dinner and treats. It was my first experience with traditional Greek coffee. While the strength of it didn’t bother me, the gritty texture was a bit of a turn off. I did have the best kourabiedes (Greek shortbread cookie loaded with powdered sugar on top) that I have ever tasted though. Will definitely be looking up the recipe!

Fabric images from Funky Fabrix and Pink Chalk Fabrics.


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Doing the Unthinkable

This past weekend included the hottest day of the year in Portland. As a little treat after getting groceries, we stopped by our local Burgerville, an almost-but-not-quite fast-food restaurant that specializes in fresh, local and sustainable food. David chose a fresh blackberry Shake and I got my signature half hot fudge, half caramel sundae.

I don’t know what it is, but Burgerville’s ice cream is seriously delicious. So buttery and creamy. And their in-season strawberry shortcake? OMG. But what really shocked me about this visit was our receipt. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. Printed on the receipt was the nutritional break down for each item, including the calories. What!? That’s unthinkable! Aren’t they afraid it will hurt business once people are faced with that kind of information? Apparently not. I even asked an employee if she thought it was hurting sales and she responded that people seem to really appreciate it. And I’ll admit, I think it’s pretty cool myself. It just seems so unheard of and progressive. Then I got to thinking – would this information stop me from placing an order (or alter my choice knowing that I could save myself 90 calories if I skipped the caramel)? Nah. Nor would I choose the less caloric frozen yogurt as suggested on the bottom of the receipt. But its a great option for those who are trying to make healthful and informed decisions.

I’d be curious what others think about this.

Loading..Oops, I thought this was the kind of survey that lets you see on going results, but it isn’t. Not sure where to get one of those, but here are the results as of Fri. Aug 20 at 1pm PST:


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Gooseberries!

Look what I came home with! Have you seen these before? I hadn’t, and actually, since they weren’t signed, I didn’t even know what they were until I paid for them. Gooseberries! After reading Hungry Monkey (hilarious!) and now The Spice Necklace, I guess I’m feeling a little food adventurous.

So what, exactly is a gooseberry? Well, to me, it looks like a prehistoric grape, with a thicker, veined, and spiney skin (sort of like nettles). It also has a lot more seeds, and a somewhat sour flavor. They can be eaten raw, but most often I think they are cooked into desserts. In the end, I made a simple gooseberry syrup and used it to make a Gooseberry Fool (substituting sour cream for creme fraiche) and enjoyed the rest in a Gooseberry San Pellegrino soda.

Processing gooseberries takes some time. To make the syrup, you trim the top and bottom of each berry, and then slice it in half. Thankfully, they cook and mash down quickly, maybe 5-10 minutes. After straining out the seeds and skin, my pint of gooseberries yielded about one cup of syrup. Here are several gooseberry recipes that also look good:


Gingered Gooseberry Fool


Gooseberry Jam


Gooseberry Meringue Pie


Gooseberry Ginger Ale


Baked Gooseberry and Ginger Nut Cheesecake

Gooseberry streusel cake with elderflower syrup


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Cashew Crusted Halibut

Having the grandparents around to help with the baby frees up a lot more time for cooking. Thanks to a generous trip to Costco, we enjoyed a delicious Easter dinner of cashew-encrusted halibut, organic broccoli sauteed in toasted sesame oil and mashed potatoes. We slightly adapted this recipe and David cooked the fillets to a crunchy golden perfection.

Cashew Crusted Halibut
4-8 oz. Alaskan halibut Fillets (skinless)
2 eggs
1/4 C. water

Breading
1 3/4 C. Japanese “Panko” breadcrumbs
1 C. roasted cashews
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
1 C. all-purpose flour

Crush the cashews in a food processor. Combine all breading ingredients in a bowl. Make egg wash with 2 eggs and 1/4 cup of water. Season Halibut with salt and pepper then dust with flour, dip in egg wash, and then in the breading. Sauté in canola oil over medium heat until golden on each side, then drain briefly on paper towels. Finish in a pre-heated 350-degree oven until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.

A good resource for other ways to cook halibut can be found here.


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Berry Rhubarb Crisp

Another week has gone by. Although there’s been a little rain, this week has been mostly sunny and beautiful. Chloe, Barkley and I have been spending some of every afternoon outside. All of our raised garden beds sit at the ready with rich, dark layers of compost. The rhubarb fills the back of the middle bed and they are already so big! It’s like they sprung up over night. I’m getting an early start on them this year by adding fresh rhubarb to frozen berries remaining from last year, and throwing some of this topping on it. Tastes like summer already.

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