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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

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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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.


Crafty Felt Fun

My friend Greta is literally about to pop with baby-girl number two, yet somehow she has found the time and energy to post about some amazing felt toys and accessories that she’s made for her two-and-a half year old daughter, Ava. I can’t help but find these objects beautiful, functional, and oh-so-inspiring! Click on the links for more details and photos on her blog.

Hair clip ribbon with leaf pocket for ponytail holders

Felt Roll-Up Play Mat

Felt Tea-time Goodies and other Play Foods


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.


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.


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:


My little mischief maker

Chloe is a bonafide mischief maker. Like any nineteen-month-old she’s curious and active, so a little bit of mischief is to be expected. But lately, I’m beginning to wonder if she isn’t a little over the top…

Take this photo for instance. You can see that mealtimes are one of our biggest challenges. Those toddler bowls that are supposed to suction to the tray? They don’t work very well. The mess itself is bad, but I really wish she wouldn’t rub the food in her hair.

You may have seen this photo before, or read this post about how Chloe has a thing for bras. I like this “Oops you caught me again” look on her face.

However, it doesn’t stop her from giving chase when asked to hand them over.

And this one takes the cake. Somehow she found a packet in the bathroom, peeled the paper off and stuck it on her shirt. I kid you not. Imagine my utter astonishment when she came running out to show me. OMG! It’s almost like she knows!

I ask you, is this what you would call a normal amount of mischief?!


Orange Leaf

Photos by Joe H from Yelp. Click on the photos above to see more.

There is so much I’d like to be writing and sharing right now – Chloe turning 14-months-old(!), getting paid to photograph my first product shoot(!), drumming up the courage to submit photos for consideration in a juried art exhibit(!), working on a graphic design project for a service to benefit the low-income, elderly, and the environment(!) – but for some reason, I can’t seem to pin down my thoughts on any of those things right now, so instead…

I’ll mention our recent trip to the mall :-). We were so bored with the rain yesterday, and with Chloe bouncing off the walls we hoped it would at least be a dry place for her to burn some energy. I could also get my “free birthday gift” from Sephora, and David wanted to look at pearl earrings to replace one I lost (the original pair was the first jewelry gift he ever gave me, over 15 years ago. You can imagine how my heart broke just a little when I looked in the mirror to find one missing).

Anyways, no luck at Sephora (they were out right now), and none of the pearl earrings we saw were quite right (the original ones were so perfect!), but we did check out a new self-serve frozen yogurt bar called Orange Leaf. I admit I was drawn into the bright and modern design of this little shop, and for 39 cents an ounce it was a decent deal.

The cheesecake was our favorite. It was one of two “low-fats” in a sea of “non-fats,” and where skinny-mini Chloe is concerned, more fat is better. Along with traditional toppings, they had some unusual options like a gummy rice flour candy popular in Asia that I had never heard of. There was a lot of fruit to choose from, too, including fresh options like mango and blueberries, which I got for Chloe. After the first cold bite, where she squinched her face up, she kept saying “more?” “more?” until the bowl was empty. A pretty healthy choice as far as mall food. And the crazy thing? I loved the spoons! They are orange and very modern shaped. Like contoured little shovels. I should take a picture. Anyway, we got two and we’re going to keep them (although they are biodegradable) for when we’re on the go. Cute and yummy!

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Chanterelle Season

With the clouds and rain that mark the closing of summer, comes the beginning of golden chanterelles dotting the forest floor. It was a good day for a hike in the woods, and David was a trooper for carrying Chloe on his back the entire time.

Things I like about mushroom hunting:
•    The thrill of the hunt
•    Enjoying the outdoors
•    Letting the dog run off-leash
•    Getting something for free
•    Knowing that they’ll make something tasty and delicious
Things I don’t like about mushroom hunting:
•    Walking through spiderwebs
•    Possibly getting lost
•    Possibly picking the wrong type (however unlikely)
•    Hearing the gunshots of hunters in the distance


Garden Fresh Tomato Basil Soup

Compared to last year, we’re having much better luck with tomatoes in the garden this year. We’ve got one each of Roma, Marzano, and Early Girl, plus a few volunteer cherries, which I believe are Sun Gold. Mostly we eat the tomatoes sliced (except the cherries, which we just pop in our mouths), sometimes with salad dressing, topped with a bit of feta and herbs, or simply a dash of salt and pepper.

David spent a portion of the afternoon working in our barely accessible crawl space putting up insulation, and when he came out he said he couldn’t wait to see what delicious meal I was going to cook up for dinner (hint, hint). So, considering the fact we haven’t gone grocery shopping in a while, there wasn’t much to work with except the garden.

In a big pot, I sauteed a yellow onion in olive oil until somewhat clear, then threw in maybe 4-6 cups of chopped tomatoes, 2 cups of chicken stock and a loose handful of chopped basil. It simmered about 30 minutes or so, before I added salt and pepper and pureed it in a blender.  Then I strained it through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lingering tomato skins. Before serving I added a dollop of heavy cream and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Paired with just-baked cornbread (packaged Trader Joe’s is my easy favorite), it was good to the last drop.

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Baby Food and Recipe Books

I just thought I’d mention a few of my favorite baby food books. The first is Super Baby Food, handed down to me by a friend. This has been my go-to resource since Chloe started eating solids. There is so much good information here, including what foods can be introduced each month, easy make-at-home recipes, food storage, nutrition advice, natural cleaning solutions and more. Two other books I’ve enjoyed for baby food recipes are Easy Gourmet Baby Food: 150 Recipes for Homemade Goodness (written by a chef and includes ideas on how to incorporate purees into delicious adult dishes) and Cooking for Baby: Wholesome, Homemade, Delicious Foods for 6 to 18 Months. I borrowed both of these books from our local library.


Other not so good news

Chloe had her 9-month appointment last week. The good news is that there were no scheduled shots during this check-up (I’m such a weenie). The bad news is that Chloe is only in the 5th percentile for weight. It seems she is slowly dropping off the chart. She was at or above the 25th percentile her first several months. Then during the 4th month she dropped to just above 15, at the 6th month closer to 10, and now she’s at a mere 5. We’ve seen three different pediatricians so far, and none seem concerned. This last doctor did suggest that we start feeding her eggs, which I already do occasionally. The nurse said that if she drops down any lower during the next visit, then the doctor will be concerned, but it seems to me that proactive measures now would be smarter than waiting until she falls off the chart entirely.

According our recent doctor, a common reason for Chloe’s weight loss at this age is that she is much more active and mobile than ever before. This seems true. She crawls a lot – from room to room, chasing after the dog, playing with her toys – and she does a lot of standing and jumping in her jumperoo. I’ve also noticed that her dwindling weight correlates to when we started solid food. Her weight was best when we were solely breastfeeding.

Since starting solids, I’ve been very conscientious about Chloe’s diet. She gets a healthy mixture of mostly organic grains, fruits, vegetables, protein and whole milk yogurt. David has suggested that we should just eat what Chloe eats, as her diet is much more healthier than our own.

I’m not truly worried. Chloe has always been on the smaller side. I’ve seen bigger babies who are months younger than she is. Plus, David and I are just not big people. My plan is to continuing nursing, but at the same time slightly adjust her feedings with more good fats and calories. I’m thinking about adding more beans, meat, avocado and whole-milk yogurt and introducing cheeses (starting with mozzerella), olive oil, pasta, and nut butters. I’m looking into flax seeds and oil, wheat germ and tahini. I will also try to be better at giving her baby vitamins (we’re currently using Maxi-Baby Care). My hope is that her weight will be back up to the 10th percentile or more by her 1-year appointment. Here’s hoping.


On the grill

It has been so hot here lately that cooking inside seems like torture. Last night David picked some fresh plums off our neighbors tree and made an awesome dinner on the grill – pork skewers with sweet chili sauce and grilled plums. Then we added a side of quinoa that I had made earlier. What a delicious summer evening treat!

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Fast food cupcakes by Bakerella


Aren’t these hamburger shaped cupcakes fantastic? And check out those sugar cookie french fries! Bakerella has an awesome tutorial complete with download and print packaging templates. If I thought they’d get eaten around here I would definitely give it a try for Father’s Day. Which makes me wonder… does anyone know of a tutorial for fly fishing themed cupcakes?
Via Twig & Thistle

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Oregon State Fair 2008

Some pics of my very first Oregon State Fair this weekend. I definitely did not regulate my time, or my appetite, very well. The first thing I did shortly after we arrived was buy an order of GIANT onion rings (which I split with David), and a GIANT baked potato glopping with sour cream and a mountain of bacon. Then I bought a carnival-sized root beer float to wash it all down with, which made me feel soooo bloated and sick. Of course, pregnant women can’t go on rides, not that I would have wanted to at that point anyway. We spent most of our time looking around at the livestock and exhibits, the colorful game booths, the myriad of people, and part of a couple shows. Too bad I was feeling so rotten, though, because we ended up leaving pretty early (not that David was disappointed. He hates crowds). And wouldn’t you know, I was feeling a little better on the way out, so I snagged some fresh cotton candy, a bag the length of my arm. Then, on the ride home, I ate the whole thing by myself. Geesh.


Japanese Variety

I seem to be stuck in a procrastination phase. I was hoping to be more productive this weekend, but I don’t think I was. Actually, I can’t even remember how I spent it all. Some of it was watching a few netflixed Alias episodes (great eye candy, although the mini anxiety attacks from all the suspense and drama are rough), surfed the net, a little gardening, attended a baby shower and put together some swap packages. I did get a little work done, too, so that’s good.


Not far from my house is a Japanese supermarket called Uwajimaya. It’s a great place for exotic foods and asian gifts like ceramics, specialty papers, and traditional art supplies. We had an asian theme to our wedding (red tablecloths, paper lanterns, chopsticks, etc) and most of our food was ordered from here. I picked up the packages of candy shown above this weekend for some swaps (as well as some Haribo candy for myself). The whole side of an aisle is devoted to sweets, and of course I want to try them all.

Next door to the supermarket there is a Tokyo-based bookstore called Kinokuniya. Besides their unique office supplies and selection of kawaii, I love to browse the imported craft books. Their fine aesthetic and clean photographic style really appeals to me. Sometimes they’re written in English, too. My budget has pretty much limited me to only looking, but someday I’d love to bring a few home with me. For now I just try and soak up the inspiration while I’m there.


The most AMAZING buttermilk chocolate cake EVER

buttermilk chocolate cake

Okay, I am not kidding here, but I just made the most AMAZING buttermilk chocolate cake EVER! And truly, it was not hard at all. I originally saw the recipe in Marcy’s copy of February’s Portland Monthly magazine, and thought I should write it down, but I forgot. Then, while David was waiting that extra hour for me to finish with my dentist appointment, he came across it again and thoughtfully asked the receptionist to photocopy it for me. (Such a sweetheart!)

Since we were having a friend over for dinner, I thought I’d use that as an excuse to try out this new recipe. And it was… magic! Moist, rich, chocolaty, not too sweet and with just the right amount of depth and complexity. And did I mention beautiful? Gorgeously dark with a semi-matte, creamy ganache frosting. I’m never going to buy chocolate container frosting ever again. Now I know the secret – and so do you!

Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake

Once you pour the hot coffee into the batter, don’t be alarmed by its thinness.
“It’s definitely the thinnest cake batter I’ve ever worked with,” [Portland Baker
Melissa] McKinney says. As for the frosting, there’s no need to use fancy chocolate,
she says. “I just use semi-sweet chocolate chips and it comes out perfect.”

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted)*
1 1/3 cups canola oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups freshly brewed, extra-strong hot coffee*
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
24 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick spray, and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

2. Place flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, mix on low to combine. Keeping the mixer on low , add oil, buttermilk, then eggs one at a time. Add hot coffee in a thin stream, pouring down the side of the bowl. Add vanilla and mix until batter is smooth. Divide into pans and back until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool in pans for at least 20 minutes.

3. To make the chocolate ganache frosting, create a double boiler by filling a saucepan with 2 inches of water and bringing it to a boil. Place chocolate chips and cream in a stainless steel mixing bowl (I used glass) and set on top of simmering water, Allow mixture to melt–do not stir right away, When chocolate has melted, stir it with a whisk. Allow to cool at room temperature.

4. Remove cakes from pans. Place one layer of cake on a serving plate. Trim the top with a serrated knife to make it even (although I didn’t find this necessary). Place a scoop of ganache in the middle and smooth it out to the edges using a palette knife or spatula. Trim the top off the other layer and place the untrimmed side down on the top of the frosted layer, pressing gently. Spoon more ganache on the top and smooth it around the sides, adding more ganache as needed to cover. If you need to apply a second coat of ganache, put the cake in the refridgerator for no more than 15 minutes to set before adding a second coat (although I found myself with a surplus of frosting). Makes a single 9-inch layer cake.

My notes: For the cocoa powder I used Droste cocoa from Holland, which is like gold around here, but I really wanted to make it extra special. I also didn’t bother to sift it. For the chocolate frosting I used Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. And instead of the extra strong coffee, I pulled four extra long shots of espresso, enough to make the full 1 1/2 cups.

Postscript: In response to a comment below, I thought I’d add this paragraph from the article for those interested:

So what gives this recipe such staying power? It’s the oil, says McKinney. “Oil makes a moister cake, and allows it to last a week, whereas a layer cake made with butter becomes dry the next day.”  Plus, the hot coffee elevates the cocoa’s depth and complexity. The cake is versatile as well: The batter can be stored in the fridge for several days; stout can be used in place of coffee, it can even be made vegan (McKinney suggests using egg replacement and vanilla soy milk.) And the layers can be filled with whipped cream and fresh berries instead of ganache.

*Update* See this post on halving the recipe, with updated shape and photos!


Similar Posts You Might Like:

*UPDATE* to AMAZING Buttermilk Chocolate Cake

5 Impressive Cake Frosting Techniques + Tutorials



Birthday Freebies

Earlier this month Marcy sent an email saying that you can sign up to get free Cold Stone Creamery ice cream on your birthday. I’m not embarrassed to say that I took advantage of that offer right away. And because my birthday is coming up at the end of this month, I did a little more sleuthing. Other worthwhile birthday offers include Baskin Robbins, Red Robin, and Noodles & Co. In the interest of not getting too much junk email, I only signed up for those, but there are longer lists if you look hard enough. Here’s to free food!


Free Snowflake Placecards

free snowflace placecards

free snowflace placecards

Okay, a little late getting these Free Snowflake Placecards posted. I think, in the future, I’d be better off moving these posts to Monday instead of Sunday!

It is very rare to see placecards used, but I think they are a really nice way of adding that little something extra to a nicely set holiday table. Although they are traditionally used to designate a person’s name for each place setting, they would also be a handy and elegant way to label the different dishes on a buffet table (more so in the case of food allergies, etc).

After dinner, there might even be other uses for that little piece of paper, perhaps as a mini-scorecard for a game, to use for placecard origami, or, with Thanksgiving this week, you could even have everyone write down something they’re thankful for.

Check back next Sunday Monday for the next in a series of weekly Holiday downloads.

Week 1 – Free Holiday Gift Checklist

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