Thursday, January 31, 2013

Peanut Free Puppy Chow

Poor, peanut butter passionate Addie pined for puppy chow.  (Try to say that 5 times fast).   So she set out to make a peanut free version due to Caroline's allergy.  It turned out fantastic!  Now, I'm coming off of a three week cleanse so pretty much EVERYTHING tastes good to me right now, but everyone else in the house was eating it like crazy too so I'm taking that as confirmation of it's goodness.  Addie used a basic recipe on the back of a cereal box and substituted the peanut butter with this handy dandy product.

This is the best tasting peanut butter substitute (or "fake peanut butter" as we call it) I have found.  Besides the taste, other positives are that it contains non-GMO soy and is made in a 100% peanut, nut, gluten, and dairy free facility.  This is the creamy version, but a crunchy one is available as well.  I tried to get some photos of Addie in action but as usual, I didn't get much cooperation.

And I had a couple of photo bombers.

It was a fun family night in the kitchen experimenting with a new twist on an old snack.  I had to remove myself from the room after it was made though.  It was so good and I didn't want to totally sabotage my cleansing efforts!

Peanut Free Puppy Chow (adapted from the back of a cereal box)

9 cups Toasted Rice squares cereal
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup Wowbutter
1/4 cup real butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Measure out the cereal and set aside.  In a 1 qt microwaveable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, Wowbutter and butter uncovered on high for 1 minute; stir.  Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth.  Stir in vanilla.  Pour this mixture over the cereal and stir.  Pour all into a large resealable plastic bag, add powdered sugar, seal, and shake until coated.  Spread out to cool.  (We really didn't do this, everyone was too impatient and started eating it immediately.)  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator (if you have any left!).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What's in the Box Wednesday?

It seems like Addie is picking Wednesday for her eat at school day a lot lately!  Caroline is having a toasted sub sandwich, strawberries, and carrot chips with a little ranch dressing for dipping.

We had a wild and crazy afternoon yesterday.  At about 2:51 I got a weather alert on my phone telling me a tornado warning was issued in my area and to take cover now!   Addie was just getting off the bus, but Caroline usually doesn't get home until 3:10.  I called the school and they said they had checked and didn't see a warning (??!), and dismissal was still on schedule.  I got the laundry room (hidey hole) ready and stood in the garage with umbrellas ready to run down the hill and meet Caroline and her neighbor friend.  I waited and waited.  I called my neighbor at work worried.  We both tried calling the school again and couldn't get through.  The rain and wind picked up and then it started swirling around.  I yelled at Addie to get in the laundry room while I jumped around the garage grabbing bicycle helmets, and fell on the garage stairs.  (I always make them wear them during tornado warnings).  I was torn as to whether to hope they had kept the kids at school and get in the laundry room with Addie, or keep waiting for the bus to arrive.  The wind just kept getting worse!  Finally, I got through to the school and yes, they had kept the kids!  Finally after everything passed, they loaded the buses and I waited on my kiddo with the umbrellas again.  I was worried that she was scared, but she looked at me like I was crazy when I asked her if she was.  She said "No, it was just a drill!"  I'm glad she wasn't aware of any danger!  Needless to say, we had an exciting afternoon.  That was yesterday.  Today it's snowing.  Welcome to Arkansas!  Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What's in the Box Wednesday?

I found out Caroline likes pasta salad last night, so I used some leftovers in her lunch today.  It is accompanied by goldfish, a cheese stick, and natural applesauce.  This particular pasta salad was not a from scratch creation, but now that I know she is a fan, I will be in search of some good pasta salad recipes!  Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Laundry Love

It's 3:30, I have been doing laundry all day, and my laundry room still looks like this.  Before I was even halfway coherent this morning, Addie was knocking on my door.  "I don't have any pants", she said.  We all know laundry is never ending.  There is never really any satisfaction of a job completed when it comes to laundry.  As soon as you think you're done, someone changes clothes.  Between piles of laundry and piles of paper (the other thing that seems to be never ending with mail and stuff carried home in backpacks), a person could go crazy.  I just have to remember to be thankful that I have a washer and dryer and I'm not having to cart it all to a laundromat.  Have you ever thought of what people do who don't have this luxury and can't afford the laundromat either?  My playgroup organizer Kara, found a group called Laundry Love.  Here is what she posted about it on our playgroup meetup site.

"For those living below the poverty line, washing clothes presents both a logistical problem and a financial hardship. From a conversation with a local homeless friend who conveyed this basic need, the Laundry Love Project™ (LLP) was birthed. Laundry Love Projects partner with local laundromats in cleaning the clothes of those living in shelters, motels, cars, garages and on the streets. It is our mission to take laundromats and convert them into hubs of relief, granting reprieve to those living in oppressive poverty."

Volunteers distribute quarters, hand out detergent & make sure dryers & washers are emptied promptly for the next person to use. They are also in need of a volunteer to do a craft with the kids, or anything that will entertain the kids while the parents do their laundry."


I've signed up to volunteer the next time our playgroup goes to Laundry Love.  Maybe it will help me realize just what a blessing it is to have laundry day around here!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Great Souptacular


Today I'm linking up with Leslie at  It's all about soup.  So after you're finished here, head over there and check out some other tummy warming comfort soups!  These are two Mexican style soups that I love.  The tortilla soup is a Rick Bayless classic.  I think I've mentioned before that our favorite Bayless cookbook, Mexican Everyday, is falling apart from use.  His recipes are sooo good.  The other is my Mom's Enchilada soup.  It's great for a cold night and always receives compliments.

Tortilla Soup (adapted from Mexican Everyday, by Rick Bayless)

1 large dried pasilla or ancho chile
1 15 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes and their juice
2 tbls olive oil
1 medium white onion, sliced
3 garlic gloves, peeled
2 quarts chicken broth
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large ripe avocado
6 oz Mexican Queso Fresco cheese
Tortilla chips
1 large lime

Toast the chile by turning it an inch or two above an open flame for a few seconds, until you smell the aroma.  Or if you don't have a gas stove, toast it for a few seconds in a dry pan on medium heat.  Break into pieces and put in your blender with the tomatoes and their juice.

Heat the oil in a large 4 qt saucepan over medium high.  Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 7 minutes.  Scoop up the onion and garlic with a slotted spoon and transfer to blender.  Process until smooth.

Place the pan back on medium heat.  When hot, add the puree and stir constantly until thickened about 6 minutes.  Add the broth.  Reduce to medium low and simmer 15 minutes.  Taste and season with salt to your taste.

Just before serving, add the chicken to the broth.  Divide the avocado, cheese, and chips among your serving bowls.  When the chicken is done, pour the soup into the bowls.  Squeeze the fresh lime over each serving.

Enchilada Soup (by Mom)

1 tbls olive oil
1 lb chicken breasts
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic pressed
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup Masa Harina
3 cups water
1 cup enchilada sauce
16 oz velveeta
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add chicken breasts and brown 4 to 5 minutes per side.  Set chicken aside.  Add onions and garlic to pot and saute for about 2 minutes.  Add chicken broth.  Combine Masa Harina with 2 cups water in a medium bowl and whisk until blended.  Add to onion mixture with remaining water, enchilada sauce, cheese and spices and bring mixture to a boil.  Shred the chicken into bite size pieces and add to soup mixture.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until thick.  Serve with shredded cheese, crumbled corn tortillas, and salsa.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What's in the Box Wednesday?

Today for Caroline's lunch I tried another idea from the Cooking with Trader Joe's - EasyLunchboxes cookbook.  These are "Olive-er Twists" with pizza sauce for dipping, mandarin oranges, and a cheddar Babybel with a heart cut out.  Since I'm not eating gluten and dairy currently, I didn't try a twist, but they smelled delicious while cooking.  Addie is eating school food today, but she tried one for breakfast and gave them a thumbs up.  I adapted the recipe a little and didn't use as much cheese or Italian seasoning.  Happy Wednesday!

Olive-er Twists

1 8 oz can refrigerated crescent rolls (I used reduced fat)
2 1/2 tbls canned chopped black olives
Up to 2 tbls extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup finely grated cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder (I didn't measure this, I just sprinkled it on)
1/8 tsp sea salt (again, I didn't measure, I just used my sea salt grinder and sprinkled it on)

Preheat oven to 375. Combine olives, 2 tsp olive oil, cheese, and Italian seasoning.

Unroll the crescent dough and divide in two width wise.  Spread the olive mixture on one half.  Cut both halves into 6 1-inch strips.  Place 1 plain dough strip over each olive covered strip, pinch the edges, and twist slightly.  I had a little trouble here.  The picture in the book doesn't have olives showing on the outside.  I couldn't get it pinched enough to keep the filling from coming out a little.  However, I think I like the look of how they came out anyway.  Place on parchment or Silpat lined cookie sheet.

Brush with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder and salt.  The original recipe calls for sprinkling with additional cheese and Italian seasoning as well.  Since my filling came through a little, I thought that was good enough.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I'm using Chia seeds in my daily smoothies.  Sounds funny doesn't it?  I've been joking that maybe it will help my hair grow (another after 35 problem for me, thinning hair).  Apparently Chia seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, protein, and fiber.  Who would have thought?  I bought some from the bulk jars at ONF and use 1 tablespoon per smoothie.  They grind up well in the Blendtech and don't add any flavor, so I don't notice them much.  Their fiber content and the fact that they expand when wet, help you feel full.  I have found that to be true.  I do feel full, but not overly so like I do when I eat gluten.  It's day 5 and my gut (that's such a weird word, but there's no better way to describe it I guess) feels fabulously empty, in a good way.  I hope I remember this when the Girl Scout Cookies come in.  That's it for today.

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's Definitely Monday

I had a lot of work to do today so I decided to get up extra early.  And my boss was coming over to go over Quickbooks stuff so I wanted to clean my workspace a little.  I've been after Mike to find the box to some binoculars he bought because I needed the UPC for a rebate.  Well guess what happened when I went through the pile on my desk?  Yep, I found the flattened box.  Oops.  I'm such a piler when it comes to personal paperwork.  I need to work on that.

I've started a 3 week cleanse to try and drop the few pounds I gained over the Holidays.  I should NEVER stop recording my food in Myfitnesspal because that is what happens.  You would think I would learn!  I'd been going gluten free for several days, but then my pal and I saw JJ Virgin on the Rachael Ray show while walking on the gym treadmills.  She promotes going Gluten, Soy, Dairy, Corn, Egg, Peanut, and Sugar free for 3 weeks.  Then each week you will try adding gluten, soy, dairy, or egg back in and see how you feel. (She never wants you to add back in Peanut, Corn, and Sugar).  I KNOW that eating gluten makes me feel sluggish and like I have a basketball in my stomach, but I hadn't thought about eliminating the rest, except for peanuts of course.  That's easy with Caroline's allergy.  I'm on day 4 and I feel really good.  I had a headache the first couple of days, but not anymore.  Just what am I eating you ask?  Well, I'm drinking a rice protein smoothie for breakfast and lunch and for dinner so far I've kept it pretty much the same each night.  I'll have something like a chicken breast, a sweet potato, and asparagus.  Saturday night, Mike and I went to Outback and I had a 6 oz filet, sweet potato, and broccoli. I also have 2 snacks.  So far they've been turkey slices rolled up with guacamole and brown rice cakes with almond butter.   I've done many different "diets" in the past.  But since I turned 35 the same things don't seem to work anymore.  So I'm giving this a whirl. 

After I made my smoothie, Caroline wanted one.  I have a has a lawnmower motor...sometimes it's a little scary. I've made many smoothies in it, but today the lid popped off, the frozen banana went flying through the air, and smoothie went all over the counter and cabinets.  Fun.  Then I proceeded to break the handle on my toilet.  More fun.  I told Mike about everything and he texted "Happy Monday".  I'm just glad this happened on Day 4 of the Virgin diet and not Day 1 or 2 because I would have probably given up and eaten some cheese pretzels or something!

If you're interested in the Virgin Diet read the reviews here

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What's in the Box Wednesday?


Today Addie's lunch has roasted red pepper hummus with zucchini sticks and grape tomatoes for dipping, raspberries, a cheesestick, and Biscoff cookies.

Caroline's lunch has a turkey and cheese wrap, strawberries, a new Chobani Champions Greek yogurt tube (I'm excited about all the new Chobani products!), and Savannah Smiles Girl Scout cookies (I got a preview box at a Leader's meeting.  Don't worry, cookie sales start in 3 days!)  Happy Wednesday!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Double Chocolate Praline Fudge Cake

I know I'm probably posting this recipe a little late since we are into diet season now, but just save it for later.  Plus, there's a funny story to go along with it.  My Mom was getting rid of some books and magazines and I carried home a Gooseberry Patch Christmas Cookbook.  This cake sounded good so I decided to make it for Christmas.  For some reason, I had a lot of trouble in the kitchen those couple of days leading up to Christmas.  I tried to make some candy that I'd made before and it flopped.  My candy thermometer wasn't working, so I used the soft ball stage test, but it still didn't set up.  I was disappointed.  Then I decided to make mini pecan pies for Christmas Eve dessert.  I have been wanting the Breville Mini Pie Maker for over a year.  I got an email the other day that Williams-Sonoma was having a one day sale and it was at it's lowest price ever, plus there was a code for free shipping.  I couldn't pass it up.  My first mistake was waiting until Christmas Eve to try it.  My next mistake was using homemade pie dough.  I remember a sales lady telling me months and months ago that it works best with store bought crust, but I'm sometimes stubborn about that, so I made my own.  Well, you have to be REALLY fast getting those little crust rounds into the machine, the filling poured, and the lid down, because it starts cooking immediately and the the crust will shrink down into the hole if you don't.  It was such a big mess.  The crusts were shrinking down into the hole before I could get the filling in and I was jumping up and down in the kitchen screaming, NO! please NO!  This is our Christmas Eve dessert! And Addie is watching me and laughing.  My father-in-law who drove over for the night, is sitting on the couch hearing it all.  Then after 10 minutes, I lift the lid and the crusts are burned and the filling is not set.  I'm panicking, so I roll out another crust and just do a normal pie the old-fashioned way.  Next, I'm trying out a green bean dish and the last step is to broil it for a few minutes to brown the top.  Well, I blackened the top.  So I had to try and scrape that off.  Lastly, we get to the cake.  It called for buttermilk, which I thought I had bought.  But of course I didn't.  I bought 1%.  I never buy 1%!  So I had to make my own buttermilk using vinegar.  Also, I have 9 inch round cake pans, not 8, so when the cakes were cooling, they looked a little thin.  Addie walks in and says, "That's the flattest cake I've ever seen."  Then my father-in-law walks in and says "I must be doing something wrong, because when I make cakes, they usually came out yay big."  (He's holding up his thumb and finger with about a 4 inch space in between).  At this point, I just want to cry.  But I don't.  Thankfully, after it was assembled with the filling and icing, it looked fine and it tasted MAGNIFICENT!  It was a little involved, but oh, so worth it!  The praline icing was divine.  Everyone loved it.  So the moral of this story is, there will be disasters and hecklers in the kitchen once in awhile, but don't give up.  You'll end up with a winner now and again.

Double Chocolate Praline Fudge Cake

1 c butter
1/4 c baking cocoa
1 c water
1/2 c buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
2 c sugar
2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
Chocolate Ganache
Praline Frosting

Cook first 3 ingredients in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until butter melts and mixture is smooth; remove from heat. Cool.  Beat buttermilk, 2 eggs, baking soda, and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add butter mixture to buttermilk mixture, beating until blended.  Combine sugar, flour, and salt; gradually add to buttermilk mixture, beating until blended. (Batter will be thin).  Coat 3 (8") round cake pans with cooking spray; line with parchment paper.  Pour batter evenly into pans.  Bake at 350 for 22 to 24 minutes or until set.  Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool completely.  Spread about 1/2 cup ganache between cake layers; spread remainder on sides and top of cake.  Chill cake 1/2 hour.  Pour frosting slowly over top of cake, spreading to edges, allowing some frosting to run over sides. 

Chocolate Ganache

2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 c whipping cream
1/4 c butter, cut into pieces

Microwave chocolate chips and cream in a glass bowl on medium power 2 to 3 minutes or until chips are melted.  Whisk until smooth.  Gradually add butter, whisking until smooth.  Cool, whisking often, 15 to 20 minutes until spreading consistency.

Praline Frosting

1/4 c butter
1 c light brown sugar, packed
1/3 c whipping cream
1 c powdered sugar
1 t vanilla
1 c chopped pecans, toasted

Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring often; boil one minute.  Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Add toasted pecans, stirring gently 2 to 5 minutes or until frosting begins to cool and thicken slightly.  Pour immediately over cake.

Here's another picture of this scrumptious cake on the brunch table at Mom's Christmas morning.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Holiday Catch Up

I took a little blogging break while the kids were out of school so I'm playing catch up on some of the highlights of the Holidays.  Here we go.

I won a cookie contest!  My cookie recipe was chosen by a local baker as one of the top 12 in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette 12 Days of Cookies contest!  I won free Hiland Dairy milk for a year!

The girls made more Gingerbread Houses.

We made Christmas cookies.

We wrapped and decorated presents.

We opened fun presents.

We spent time with family.

We played a new game.

We played in the snow.

And finally, the girls got haircuts in preparation to go back to school.

And now, back to reality.  Happy New Year!