Kid’s Cheese Pizza

I looooove pizza! Melted cheese with a delicious crust smothered in tomato sauce?! Yes, please! Making pizza during the summer months is so fun, especially with the kids.  They love to roll out the dough and put all the toppings on.  This particular day, Jack shaped his pizza dough into “Mickey Mouse” and his excitement was so sweet.  He was especially interested in showing his sister, who is obsessed with all things Mickey Mouse, that he’d made a “Mickey Mouse pizza! haha!”  Isn’t that one of the best parts about pizza?  Each person can have a pizza as they like it, with whichever toppings they enjoy, in whatever shape they want! Square, circle, rectangle, Mickey Mouse shape – it’s creativity and personal preference at its food finest!

When it comes to the pizza dough, we’ve always been partial to store bought pizza, because it’s easy and good.  Safeway and Trader Joes make the best, in my opinion.  We tried the Whole Foods dough on this day, and it was good – but didn’t cook quite as well as the Safeway and TJ’s dough.  Maybe it was user error and we should try again?  Either way, Chris got this book for his birthday a few months ago and I’m looking forward to making our own dough later this summer! Rebecca makes a pretty incredible looking Beer Crust Pizza we should try as well, yes Beer Crust! It sounds amazing. Honestly, making our own dough seems so intimidating, and time consuming because what if it fails? But I’m pretty sure we could pull it off, and in the event it doesn’t work out, I’ll make sure to have a bag of store bought dough hidden in the fridge 😉  … To be continued…

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Our very own Pizza Master! 
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See those cute little Mickey Mouse ears? 🙂

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No tomato sauce no cheese, add guac pizza! 😉
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Our “adult” pizza; before shot.  

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Cheers!

Quick, No Mess BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos

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DISCLAIMER: I’m not going to guarantee that these are “no mess” pulled pork tacos.  But they are quick,  easy to clean up, and a crowd pleaser on a hot Tuesday (or any day of the week) when the last thing you want to do is worry about turning on the stove, let alone the oven!

Mexican food has always been one of those things that I enjoy going out for much more than I enjoy making for myself or my family.  There’s something fun, and almost comforting about going to a Mexican restaurant.  Perhaps it’s because when I was a kid my brothers and I would always request to go to Chevys for our birthday dinners.  Each of us always got a batch of tortilla dough to play with while we waited for our food to arrive, and at the end of the meal the waiters would all stand around your table and sing you the most fun, loud, exuberant, hands-clapping Happy Birthday!  And pop a big ol’ sombrero on your head at the end!  Sometimes, if we went on a Friday or Saturday night there was a balloon man who would stop at each table offering to make any animal figure/sword/doll/whatever out of his balloons.  Our parents always obliged – how could they have said no?!  It was incredibly fun; celebratory, really. And made our birthday feel special because these strange waiters would sing happy birthday to us!

These, and many other Chevy dinners were my first experience with Mexican food.  I believe that since it was such an enjoyable experience it made me fall in love with Mexican food.  Fajitas, burritos, tacos, enchiladas, tortilla chips and salsa, guacamole!! You name it…

With these tacos I wanted to recreate, the simple, festive feeling of going to a restaurant right at home.  We make this BBQ Pulled Pork every now and then.  We should make it more often because it’s so easy! This time we turned it into tacos, and I wish we were having it for dinner again tonight.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 lb pork shoulder
  • salt to season
  • 1 can of your favorite BBQ sauce – we used Kinder’s Mild BBQ Sauce
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • Guacamole, I prefer to make my own – though store bought would work fine
  • favorite salsa, we used Casa Sanchez Fire Roasted Medium salsa
  • 1 package of tortillas

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. I lied, you will have to turn on your stove for 2 minutes.  Get out a big pan and put it on medium high, place your pork shoulder on the pan to sear the sides.  Season with plenty of salt.
  2. Immediately transfer into a crockpot.  Pour a 20oz bottle of BBQ sauce into the crockpot to coat the pork shoulder. Put the lid on and set on high for 6-8 hours.
  3. Meanwhile, chop your onion, cilantro, and salsa.  Place in individual ramekins.  If you are making your guacamole, prepare no more than 20-30 minutes before serving so that it stays fresh!
  4. When your pork shoulder is done, remove and place on cutting board.  Using two forks begin to tear the meat off the bone.  It will literally fall off the bone into delicious pieces.
  5. Enjoy!

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Cheers!

An Easter Carrot Cake for Beginners

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Easter is always my favorite holiday. Christmas is wonderful and special, and has so much anticipation built up to it that makes for so much fun and excitement. However, because it’s couched between Thanksgiving, New Years, and the general holiday craze, it can be a bit overwhelming with so much activity.  But, not Easter! Instead, Easter has a quiet start with the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday and slowly builds up with the coming of Spring, before Easter Sunday.

Chris volunteered me to bring carrot cake for Easter dinner this year.  I was more than happy to oblige because I love any excuse to bake 😉 In our home carrot cake season starts in February when Chris requests it as his birthday cake – it’s his favorite so I’m making it my duty to find (or create) the most perfect carrot cake recipe in the world.  If you have one, feel free to send it my way.  So far, this recipe is as close as we’ve gotten.  I’ve made it a handful of times now and it comes out moist and delicious every time — even when I think “uh oh, this time it’s going to fail me” it doesn’t! It’s a great cake for every spring occasion: bridal showers, baby showers, engagement parties, dinner parties, baptisms etc…

I call it a “beginners” carrot cake because I have actually memorized this recipe – that’s how easy it is! It’s a one bowl recipe.  Mix the oil and sugar, add the eggs, sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, add the grated carrots, raisins, pecans – and boom you’re done! …. well, after it spends almost an hour in the oven.  🙂

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INGREDIENTS:                                                                                                                         *Recipe adapted from What’s Gaby Cooking Layered Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups finely grated and peeled carrots – I peel them and then place in my mini Cuisinart food processor to grind.  I use my mini food processor more than I ever would have imagined, it’s one of my favorites.
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 8oz packages of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.  Grease 2 8inch round cake pans.
  2. Using a stand mixer, or large bowl and hand mixer, beat the sugar and vegetable oil until thoroughly combined.  Add the eggs 1 at a time.  I make sure each egg has been entirely mixed in before adding the next.  It only takes a few seconds for each egg.
  3. Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into the sugar/oil/egg mixture.  I place this strainer over my stand mixer and put all the dry ingredients into the strainer to “sift” through to the sugar/oil/egg mixture.  Stir in the carrots, raisins, and pecans.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  Try to divid the batter equally between both pans! Bake about 50-55 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let cakes cool completely before frosting.
  5. To make the frosting: use either the wire whip attachment on your stand mixer, or a handheld mixer, and whip together the powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract until it is creamy and smooth.
  6. Put one cake layer on a cake plate and spread with frosting.  Then put the other cake on top and spread with frosting.  Enjoy!

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Cheers!

Breakfast Power Protein Bars

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Last winter around this time I was nursing an infant, and therefore, sleeping sporadically through the night.  Isabelle was waking up multiple times throughout the night, Jack was up once or twice a night to use the potty… and when they had both started sleeping a little more soundly – my husband got pneumonia (and tore his Achilles), the kids were both on antibiotics for their own never-ending colds, and I was plain old exhausted.  Exhausted.  The sleep deprivation combined with a bit of stress made we want to snack at all hours of the day and night. Can someone say, “comfort food”?!

I reached a breaking point where I just couldn’t keep eating chocolate at all hours.  Don’t get me wrong, I could eat chocolate at every meal – but it was getting too much.   And while I love snacking on nuts, it just wasn’t satisfying enough during this time in my life.  I needed something that was both satisfying and filling.  Therefore, when I saw this recipe in Gwyneth Paltrow’s book It’s All Good, I knew I had to try them.  They turned out to be amazing during those months!  Even now, I’ve been making these pretty regularly.  We keep them in the fridge for up to 10 days, although they typically get eaten long before 10 days have passed!  They’re perfect for a mid morning snack, an on-the-go lunch, or something to nibble at until dinner is ready.  Plus, my husband and kids love them too!!  Okay, maybe Jack doesn’t like them that much (my sweet little picky eater) – but Isabelle rips them out of my hands!

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INGREDIENTS:

Not going to lie, I had to go to the store and especially buy some of this stuff. But it was SO. WORTH. IT! Seriously, coconut flour?? Shredded coconuts?? Almond extract (which I now loooove)

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
  • 1 1/2 cups dates (take out the pit and give them a rough chop)
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (the recipe actually calls for almond butter, but I’ve never made them with almond butter. PB all the way!)
  • 1/2 cup high quality maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate (66%)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a food processor, grind the cashews until they look like sand.  Add the dates, peanut butter, maple syrup, coconut flour, shredded coconut, and almond extract.  Pulse it until you have a sticky ball of dough.  Similar to the picture below.
  2. Line an 8×8 inch baking dish with parchment paper.  Press the “dough mixture”into the dish.  Once all spread out, it should be about an inch thick.  The dough mixture will be very sticky, so it often helps to put a little water on your hands to help spread it out into the pan.  Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, until firm.
  3. Once 6 hours have passed, and you’re about ready to make the chocolate mixture take out your double boiler.  If you don’t have a double boiler, put a little water in a pot and place a heat proof bowl on top of it.  Bring the water to a simmer, and add the chocolate and coconut oil.  Stir until the chocolate has almost entirely melted and remove from heat.  Take the dish out of the refrigerator and pour the melted chocolate mixture all over the cold dough.  Place the dish back into the refrigerator 1-2 hours until it’s set.
  4. Use the parchment paper to lift the entire bar out of the dish.  Cut the bar into rectangles.  Sometimes, if I have enough time (ahem, nap times), I tie the bars up individually in parchment paper.  Lastly, put them in a ziplock or airtight container and store in the fridge.

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I took this picture after letting it sit in the fridge for about 2 hours.

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Cheers!

(Almost) Guilt Free Oatmeal Pancakes

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We love pancakes over here.  Sometimes for breakfast, often for dinner, and maybe lunch too.  Made from scratch or out of a box or bag – they’re practically foolproof.  Especially with a thick(ish) slab of butter and a drizzle of warm maple syrup, who can resist? I definitely can’t, yet I always have a tinge of regret because pancakes have SUGAR, which isn’t something I always want to have at breakfast or dinner.  These pancakes are amazing because they only have 1 tablespoon of sugar and oatmeal! I don’t feel guilty eating them or serving them to my family – everybody wins!  Make them this weekend, and you won’t regret it either 🙂

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Recipe adapted from pancakes, crepes, waffles & french toast by Hannah Miles

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup oats + a small sprinkle of sugar if desired
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (almond or 2% are what I’ve used and work fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. First, you must make the oat mixture.  Put the oats (with a super light dusting of sugar – about a quarter tablespoon, if desired) on a pan over medium heat to toast the oats.  About 3 minutes, and remove from heat.  Allow to cool and put the oats in one cup of milk.  Allow the oats to soak 20 minutes.
  2. To make the batter, put the flour, baking powder, egg, salt, sugar, and milk-soaked oats mixture in a large mixing bowl and whisk until combined.
  3. Add the melted butter, and whisk until fully mixed.
  4. Slowly whisk the remaining half cup of milk, making sure the batter does not become too thin.  If the batter does get too thin, simply stop adding milk.
  5. To cook the pancakes, put a little butter on a large pan over medium heat so that it lightly coats the pan.  Then pour about a quarter to a third cup of batter for each pancake.  Cook until the underside of the pancake is golden brown and some bubbles start to form on the top – about 3 minutes.  Flip with a spatula until the other side cooks – another 3 minutes.   Keep an eye on them!

We don’t have a warmer drawer, so I put the oven at 200 degrees and stack the pancakes in there to keep warm until they’re all done and ready to serve!

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I love adding fresh berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries to my pancakes. Its a fresh and delicious way to add extra fiber and a little sweetness 😉

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cheers!

 

Rice Krispie Heart Treats (for Valentines Day)

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Guess what? I had never made rice krispie treats before.  Lame, right? They’re so easy and a huge crowd pleaser.  I’ve been considering signing up my oldest for soccer, and can’t help but reminisce about my own soccer days.  Soccer was always so much fun: practice during the week, games on the weekends, sometimes weekend long tournaments.  I looooved soccer weekends! After games, the mom’s rotated bringing snacks and we’d always have orange slices, capri suns or gatorade, and so often  we’d have RICE KRISPIE TREATS! These were always the best – and I’m not talking the store bought kind.  I’m talking the mom melted the marshmallows and added the rice krispies, cut them out into little squares – real, homemade rice krispie treats.  Does anyone else remember this?!

With three out of four kids in soccer at the same time, my mom would make these so often during soccer season.  As I stood over the stove with my little ones watching the marshmallows slowly melt and taking in that sweet sticky smell, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for those old days.

However, these rice krispie treats took a different turn as we used a heart cookie cutter to punch out hearts – for valentine’s day, of course. You welcome :

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 10oz bag of marshmallows
  • 6 cups of Rice Krispies
  • 8 oz white chocolate
  • your choice of sprinkles!

INSTRUCTIONS

Rice Krispie Treats:

  1. In a pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.  Add milk and marshmallows. Allow the marshmallows to melt over low heat.  You don’t want the pan to get too hot, because you don’t want burnt marshmallows! Let them melt slow and easy.
  2. While they melt, prepare a 9×13 inch baking dish with parchment paper along the bottom.
  3. Once the marshmallows are melted, remove from heat and mix in the rice krispies.
  4. Pour the marshmallow/rice krispie mix into the prepared baking dish and spread out in an even layer.
  5. Put them into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to cool and set.
  6. Use a cookie cutter to cut out “hearts” from the rice krispie treats – much like you would do when making sugar cookies!

Chocolate “Sauce”:

  1. If you don’t have a double boiler, put a little water in a pot and place a heat proof bowl on top of it.  Bring the water to a simmer, and add the white chocolate.  Allow to melt.
  2. Once melted, remove the bowl from the heat.
  3. With the help of a spoon pour white chocolate over the rice krispie treats however you like, and finish off with some sprinkles!

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This little one having her first taste of a rice krispie treat!

Cheers!

My Favorite Healthy (and super easy) 3 Ingredient Green Juice

 

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Happy New Year! Is anyone else super excited for a clean slate!? I can’t quite remember the last time I was so happy for a New Year.  At the end of 2016, I was so ready for the New Year, that I overindulged like mad.

I’ll try and justify myself by telling you that for a big part of the holiday we were all fighting some cold or other so we stayed inside a lot and ate, slept, ate more, watched movies, and did a lot of reading.  Honestly, it was actually quite nice to fully enjoy cookies, cakes, spaghetti, steak, lasagna, an endless flow of chocolates, bacon, sausage and eggs. Of course, the only downside is that I’ve now begun 2017 with a few extra pounds, which don’t feel so good!!

In an attempt to counteract these extra pounds, I’ve been juicing a bit. Last year I did not use our juicer at all, not once! However, after pulling it out of the garage and putting it back on the kitchen counter, I realize that I forgot how much I like having fresh, alkalizing, and nutritious green juice to get my digestion, mind, and body to feel alive and alert again.  Moreover, I love how drinking 100% makes me crave more fruits and vegetables in my diet.  Also, the broccoli, apple, lemon combination does wonders for your immunity from to all the vitamin C they provide! Cheers to 2017 and more fresh fruits and veggies! Oh, and maybe a trip to New England, I lived in Boston years ago and haven’t been back in 5 years… 😉

INGREDIENTS:

4 heaping cups of broccoli (stem included)

1 1/2 – 2 green apples

1 lemon

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Put all the ingredients through the juicer, stir, and enjoy!

*Makes about a cup and a half.

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Cheers!