Thursday, March 24, 2011

Quesadillas

Usually, a meal with no leftovers is a bummer in our house.  I love having leftovers from breakfast and Hubby's lunch.  But we're off to CO/WA tomorrow morning, so tonight I need to make something quick and cheap for dinner...but most of all, I don't want to create leftovers or too many dishes to wash.  Here's what we're eating.

Quesadillas
whole wheat tortillas
your favorite shredded cheese (using Market Pantry Mexican blend tonight)
shredded chicken or steak, if you desire
bell pepper slices
onion slices
minced garlic
lite sour cream
guacamole
salsa

Saute sliced onion and pepper with a little olive oil.  (If you're not using a sweet onion, throw a pinch of sugar in with it to help it carmelize.)  Take a tortilla and sprinkle cheese on half.  Add the meat and veggies of your choice, fold in half.  Place the quesadilla back in the skillet and turn the heat to medium.  When the cheese starts to melt, flip it.  There will be enough oil residue from cooking the veggies to make the first quesadilla toasty and golden brown.  For the next batch, spray the pan lightly with cooking spray, or you can brush a light film of olive oil right onto the quesadilla or the pan.  Cut your finished quesadillas with a pizza cutter, and serve with sour cream, guacamole, and salsa.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The LDC

Here are more findings on the Little Daddy Cake (the Nugget's new imaginary friend).

1.  The LDC does not live in our house.  He lives at the campus bookstore.
2.  The LDC lives with his mommies, daddies, aunts, uncles, and lots and lots of cousins.
3.  The LDC is probably eating a pretzel.
4.  The LDC can use the urinal in the bookstore.  All by himself.
5.  The LDC likes to take baths.
6.  The LDC works at "the gym".  He takes his computer and a cell phone.  He presses buttons on the computer, talks on the phone, and fixes machines like fans.

Easter basket ideas



Easter is a-ways off, which means it's the best time to start scouting for deals on your Easter gifts! Pick up one thing on sale each week, and you'll be done before tax day! Here are some pictures of the Nugget enjoying his past 3 Easters...he's not looking at the camera in any of these shots. I love capturing him doing his own thing sometimes, and those little soft cheeks are awfully cute from the side.

Here's what will be in the Nugget's basket this year:
1. A travel spirograph drawing set like this one. I got one at a discount store for under $2.
2. A windup ladybug*.
3. A rainbow ribbon.  Since the Nugget channels Will Farrell, he's gotta have the right props.  Maybe a jazz flute next year.
4. Colored pencils in a metal tube*. I bet he'll have more fun taking them in and out of the container than he does coloring with them.
5.  His own kid-sized glass pitcher.  He loves to pour carefully, and I think he's ready!  I'm going to fill it with milk and let him pour his own cup for each meal.

Baby Cabbage and Baby Cupcake are each getting a board book*.  Jamberry and Peek-a-Who, respectively.

One more (unisex! multiage!) idea for you.  Mix and match any of these items below to fit your recipient.


Bathtime Basket
1. Bubble bath
3. Stacking bath cups - for the babies
4. A classic rubber duck - this one actually squeaks, although it's not recommended for teethers, so this is a 3+ treat! I recently read that bath toys that squirt water need to be replaced once a year or they can harbor mold. Eww.
5.  A boat made from recycled milk jugs!
6.  Rub-a-dub dirty dogs.  Scrub them with warm water to "wash away the mud".
7.  A toy shaving kit.  I vaguely remember my brother and I having a kit like this.  It's probably a fuzzy memory because I'm sure we would have used up all the foam soap in one go.  So fun!


*Purchased at Borders closing sale - sniff, sniff*

Friday, March 18, 2011

Imaginary Friend

I picked up a free local family magazine this evening, and the Nugget immediately begged to peruse it.  I skimmed it and handed it over.  He found pictures of dogs right away and announced, "Look at these cute doggies!  Aww!  I'm going to look at them a long time."
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The Nugget and I were playing a game with his apple slices.  He'd hold them in his finger, then quickly chomp, and show me the smaller apple.  I'd pretend it was an amazing magic trick.  When they were all gone, I asked:
Me:  Where did all the apples go?
N:  They went to the party.  They're having cupcakes and taking off the frosting and putting it in their mouths.  Then they're making a face.  It's a happy smile.
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We met friends for a trolley ride and lunch on campus this week.  The Nugget is smitten with most of my mom friends and pays them a good deal more attention than he does his peers.  He insisted on holding hands with Miss K all morning.  When I told him that he'd need to give Miss K a bye-bye hug in the parking lot so we could go to our cars, he hugged her and waved.  As we walked towards our cars, he shouted, "I miss you already!"
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The Nugget introduced me to his first imaginary friend today.  He placed something invisible on the table and announced, "This is a little cake.  It has a penis.  That means it's a daddy.  It's a Little Daddy Cake (LDC).  It has a smile."  I laughed and welcomed the LDC to the breakfast table.  The Nugget offered him some cold cereal with milk and informed me that it was well received.

I figured it was just the usual bite-size figment of imagination the Nugget often has, but the LDC reappeared multiple times throughout the day, without prompting.  "Now, the LDC is riding in the car with us.  He is sitting on my lap.  The LDC wants the window down a little bit, please.  I'm going to hold onto him tight so he doesn't float out the window and up up up into the sky.  And now I'm going to put him on the floor."

At the grocery store:  "Now the LDC wants to ride in a car cart.  Oh, they are stuck...well, I will just carry him then.  No, he doesn't want to ride in a regular cart, he wants me to hold him."

On the way to the library:  "The LDC isn't riding with us now.  He is following us in his own special little car.  He knows how to drive.  He doesn't want to go into the library with us.  He's going to sit and wait in his car until we come back."

At dinner:
N:  The LDC brought us some O's, some squares, some Life cereal, and some Honey Bunches of Oats.  For all of us to share.
Me:  Thank you, LDC.
N:  He says, 'You're welcome.'  He says he'll try some macaroni now.  He's eating it.  He likes it.

I have a feeling the LDC is going to provide plenty of entertainment, for as long as he's with us.

Homemade Mac&Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese - adapted from Grammy and Rachael Ray
2c uncooked macaroni (or rotini)
1 pint heavy cream or half-and-half
2-3 handfuls of a cheese blend - need cheddar or colby and something else like a mozzerella or jack
1-2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
garlic, as much as you like
fresh ground pepper
fresh grated nutmeg
cayenne pepper
panko

Cook the pasta for about 6 minutes; it needs to be slightly undercooked because it will continue cooking in the oven.  Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat, and add flour and garlic.  Combine to make a paste.  Immediately add the cream and stir occasionally.  Add pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne to taste.  When cream starts to thicken and foam, add a handful of cheese, stir until smooth.  Add the second handful and let cook over med-low heat until it looks thick.  Put your pasta and cheese sauce in a casserole dish, and combine.  If you like, add a smaller handful of cheese to the top.  Top with panko, and cover dish with foil.  Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, removing foil for last 5 minutes.

Variations
1.  Add baked, cubed squash or lightly steamed broccoli florets.  Chop these veggies into tiny bite-size pieces and bake them right into the casserole.
2.  If you are in a hurry, you can skip the baking part...just cook the pasta all the way through, mix with the sauce, and serve right off the stovetop.

Craving Cabbage



So we had cabbage for dinner last night, but what I really want is some Baby Cabbage.  Can't wait to see  our little niece in a few weeks!  For now, oohing over her latest photo shoot will have to tide me over...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2011



Today, the Nugget found festive socks (green-orange-white argyle from the Target Dollar Spot) and some golden chocolate coins waiting for him on the kitchen table.  I bought his t-shirt on clearance after St. Patty's Day last year at the Gymboree outlet, and the makeshift sleeves are a pair of his old BabyLegs.  I've had the headband for years.  I added a bonus picture of the Nugget's first St. Patrick's Day, because it's one of my all-time favorites.

Grammy sent a crazy number of green smiley stickers last year, and the Nugget proudly took them to school and passed them out to his friends and teachers.  Since the college kids who normally help at the preschool are on spring break this week, I got to volunteer in his classroom.  I dropped him off, had lunch with Hubby, took a walk on campus, and spent the rest of the afternoon getting lots of love from 18 3-year-olds!  The Nugget did much better sharing me than he did when I volunteered over fall break.

We had a beautiful sunshiny day and even hit 70 degrees in the afternoon....heavenly!  Came home to corned beef and cabbage in the crockpot, and opened some windows in the house for the first time this year.
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May your mornings bring joy
and your evenings bring peace
May your troubles grow less
as your blessings increase!


 

Spring Sunshine



Most of the time, the growth of a child just sneaks up on a parent, unnoticed amid the washing of dishes, the feeding of little tummies, and the everyday routine.  Then, an unexpected milestone, or a pair of too-short-pants that seemed baggy only last month, or you go to get your little one out of bed, and it's like they've morphed into someone brand-new.  It's a miracle and a wonder.

I have moments like these at the park each spring.  We are hardcore park people; we are the last hold outs in the winter, and the first to test the equipment each spring.  Give me sunshine and a windchill above 35, and we're there.  The first trip of the spring is always incredible...it's been only about 3 months, but his growth in that quarter of a year is tangible.  The Nugget is so excited, he's coming out of his skin.  Within minutes, he is trying and achieving new things.  Like solo monkey bars...he can make it to the second bar now, and gracefully land on his feet.  His little legs couldn't reach this one ladder in the fall...now, with one demo from me, he clambers up like a squirrel.  He can go around babies with an, "Excuse me, please," without prompting.  He can do the run-push-leap onto the merry-go-round and skid his foot to slow it down.  He can introduce himself to new friends.  He remembers where we left the bag and can rummage in it himself to get his water bottle.  I don't get to catch him at the bottom of the slide anymore nor offer a boost up a ladder.  Toddler time is over.  Welcome to your childhood, Nugget.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Foot Phone

The Nugget likes to have imaginary phone conversations.  He used to pick up his toy phone and say, "Hello?  Hello?  Hello?  Hi.  Um yeah.  Ok.  Bye-bye."

Then it progressed to the point where he could make the sign for phone and hold it to his ear.  The conversations got a little deeper too, "Hello?  Hi Grammy.  I'm going to come over there for lunch.  Um, I'd like some macaroni.  See you later.  Bye."

Now, he prefers to use his foot as a phone.  He limberly hoists his foot to his ear and calls me, "Hello?  Mom, it's you.  Pick up your phone.  How are you doing?  I'm going to play airplanes with Cat and Giraffe.  You can come too.  Ok?  Bye."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Someone else loves Blaze

Grammy and Grandpa gave the Nugget a spring horse named Blaze for Christmas.  It's been the perfect toy for our active boy.  Someone else loves Blaze too.  Doggie is frequently spotted cuddling up to the not-so-soft horse.  She even tries to stick her head under the red base, and she'll even try to stay there when the Nugget starts riding.

Doggie has always loved wedging herself into tight spaces.  Once we woke up to pitiful whining coming from under our bed and found her stuck under there between storage boxes.  She loves to sleep with her head underneath something, anything.  I don't think this is an evolutionary advantage, as if she had to react to danger, it takes her awhile to safely extract her head from its hiding place.

St. Patrick's Day Treats

Hand Dipped Pretzels
1 bag mini pretzel twists
2-3 bags white chocolate chips
sprinkles - optional

These are really easy, just time-consuming.  Melt chips in microwave in a large glass measuring cup, and mix until smooth.  Drop one pretzel in chocolate, turn to coat, and life out with a fork.  Tap the fork gently to remove the excess chocolate.  Lay on a Silpat or wax paper covered baking sheet and let cool at room temperature.  Shake on sprinkles if desired, before the chocolate hardens.  (Can you spot the pretzels the Nugget decorated?!)

These delights are much richer than the store-bought variety, which is good because I only bought one bag of chips - oops!  I wrapped up a half dozen for each of Hubby's co-workers; just right for an after lunch treat.  I was out of cello bags, so I used a roll of cello.  I cut squares, stacked up the pretzels, gathered the cello, and finished with a bow.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tuna Casserole

As we start Lent this week in a primarily Catholic town, all the restaurants are hawking fish sandwiches, and even Taco Bell is featuring a shrimp taco (Can I interest you in some food poisoning?  Only $2.79!).  The grocery stores all have the fixings for tuna casserole prominently featured on their end caps.  Here's our family's version.  It should be stated that the Nugget will not touch most casseroles with a 10 foot pole, so he'll be munching PB&J tonight.


Tuna Casserole - adapted from Campbell's and Grammy's recipes
12 oz pasta - used tiny shells today, but egg noodles and corkscrews work well too
1c frozen peas
1-2 ribs diced celery
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp onion powder, dehydrated onion, or finely minced onion
fresh ground pepper
1 Campbell's Healthy Choice cream of mushroom soup (Grammy prefers cream of celery)
1/2c milk
2 handfuls shredded colby-jack or cheddar cheese
1 large can tuna, drained
panko or French's onions

Cook pasta according to directions on box, to al dente.  Rinse under cold water and drain.  Combine with peas, celery, garlic, onion powder, pepper, soup, milk, tuna, and 1 handful cheese.  Spread in casserole dish.  Top with remaining handful of cheese and panko or French's onions.  Cover with foil.  Bake at 350 for 20-35 minutes, removing foil for last 5 minutes.  Casserole is ready when cheese is melted, topping is lightly browned, and edges are bubbling.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Italian Chicken

Italian Chicken - by Grammy
2-4 chicken breasts
1 jar of pasta sauce - I like Barilla Marinara or Newman's Own Sockarooni
1 tsp cornstarch - optional

Trim chicken breasts, place in crockpot.  Pour sauce over the top.  Cook on Low for 5-7 hours.  If the sauce is too watery, add the cornstarch and let set for about 5 more minutes.  You can serve the chicken breasts whole, but I like to remove them from the pot and slice/shred the meat, which will make the meal "stretch", then I return the meat to the pot.  We enjoy it over whole wheat pasta, topped with shredded mozzarella or parmesan.

White Chili

White Chili - not sure of the source - comment if you know
1 can hominy, drained and rinsed
1 can great northern beans or cannelini beans - drained and rinsed
1 can green chilies with the liquid from can
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can chicken broth
2-4 chicken breasts
cilantro
lite sour cream
shredded colby-jack
crushed tortilla chips

Put chicken breasts in crockpot.  Cover with all the canned goods.  Cook on low for 5-7 hours.  Top with the remaining ingredients, to taste.  Serve with cornbread muffins.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Easy Stromboli

Stromboli is one of my favorite weekend lunches for our family.  The Nugget and Hubby gobble it up - pretty soon I'll have to start making a double batch!


Buffalo Stromboli:  from my friend AB
1 can Pillsbury pizza dough (you need the original, not the thin crust)
1 can white meat chicken, drained and shredded
1/4c Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Original sauce
1c shredded cheddar or colby jack

Combine the chicken, sauce, and cheese in a bowl.  Unroll the dough, and spread the filling down the center, lengthwise.  Bring both sides up around the filling and pat together, leaving the ends open.  Bake on a *Silpat-lined baking sheet for 15 min at 400F or until crust is starting to brown.

Alternate Pizza Filling:
1c shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4c pizza sauce
2 tbsp diced garlic from a jar
toppings of your choice - diced bell peppers, sliced olives, chicken, pepperoni, mushrooms, etc.

You can also use homemade pizza dough, just make sure to leave it thick when you roll it out and you might need to adjust the baking time.  You can also use crescent roll dough instead of pizza dough if you want a richer, flakier crust.

*A Silpat is a nonstick silicone mat that protects your baking sheet from burnt cheese and allows you to remove the baked good cleanly without having to grease the sheet.

Monday, March 7, 2011

On chocolate, chubby squirrels, and chopsticks

While perusing a jewelry catalog, the Nugget noticed a ring hidden in a box of chocolates.
"Look, that chocolate is wearing a ring!  Ha!  I have never seen that!"
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I was laughing and shaking my head at something funny the Nugget was saying/doing, and he said,
N:  Why are you shaking your head?  Daddy doos that all the time.  Why does he do that?
Me:  I think it's because we do silly things.
N:  Yeah, we crack ourselves up.
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"Look, there's a squirrel!  It's chubby!  I love it!  Awww!"
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"I like to wash my hands with hot water.  It's hot like fire.  Fire is orange.  I like orange.  And purple.  And all the colors."
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The Nugget had his utensils act out some conflict resolution last night, giving them each voices.
Spoon:  I'm squishing the rice, squish, squish, squash.
Chopsticks:  NO!  Don't do that, spoon.  I'm sad because you're squishing the rice.  That hurts my feelings.
Spoon:  Oh, do you want a turn?
Chopsticks:  Yes, I just want to pick it up like this.
Spoon:  But I'm squishing it.  Ok, you can have a turn now.
Chopsticks:  Oh, thank you, Spoon!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Brownies

Brownies:  not really a recipe but a method for making brownies fancier.
1.  Start with a box mix - your choice.  I like the Market Pantry dark chocolate.
2.  Prep and bake brownies according to instructions.
3.  At the end of baking, turn them into:
a.  S'mores brownies - add a monolayer of mini marshmallows and chocolate chips, pop back into the oven with the light on.  Watch them puff, then squish graham crackers down on top.
b.  Mint brownies - add a monolayer of Andes baking bits to the top.
c.  Salted caramel brownies - let them cool, and cut into squares.  Add one baby spoonful of jarred caramel sauce (I like Smuckers Butterscotch Caramel) and a pinch of gray sea salt to the top of each brownie.
d.  Get creative!  I'm sure there's a zillion things/combinations you could use for toppings!  Peanut butter!  Frosting!  Cream cheese!  Pretzels!

Tip for cutting:  Let brownies cool all the way, then lightly spray a plastic knife with cooking spray.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Swimsuit Roundup

Swimsuit season is still just a fantasy, but the suits are in the shops, and I'm dreaming of sand and poolside concrete under my toes.  The Nugget already has a rash guard and trunks for the year, but here's some fun swim stuff if you're in the market for kids' swimwear this year.

Boys:
Tile Print Trunks - on sale for $9.99, regular $14.95
Blue Gingham Trunks - $22.50
Surfing Dog Bathers - $26
Star Swim Trunks - $22
Whale Rider Trunks and Rash Guard - each $19.95
Toweling Hoodie $44.00

Girls:
Elephant Ruffle One-piece on sale for $9.99, regular $24.95
Blue and White Dot Tankini $12.99
Bumblebee One-piece $22.95
Navy and White Stripe Tugless Tank (also available in tankini) $24.50
Floral Print Rashguard Swim Set $16.50

Swim Diapers:
Bummis Clownfish $12.75-$14.00
Finis Pink Bubble or Green Oval sale $7.95, regular $9.99

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

More delays than ORD

The Nugget got sick the night before the last foster parenting class, so I stayed home to comfort him with a Bob the Builder marathon, Pedialyte popsicles, Baby Mum-Mums, and an unlimited juice bar. (He's made a full recovery, but the Bob the Builder song is still stuck in my head.) Hubby went alone to the class, so he's done with that part.

Upon calling the county to schedule a makeup class, the next one I can do is April 30. I guess that gives Hubby plenty of time to finish the essay portion of the paperwork. So now, we're looking at being licensed foster parents in late May/June, or even later, because I hear that summer is a pretty busy time for CPS.

Not to be outdone, our CPS check for the adoption update is stuck somewhere in limbo. Our homestudy agency sent it on to CPS over 3 weeks ago, and it still has not cleared.

Two years ago, we ran into similar delays in the adoption process, and I cried myself to sleep every night. Now, I just wash my hands of the stress - I can't do anything about it, so why freak out? See, I'm growing!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hide and Seek


The Nugget loves a good game of Hide-and-Seek. Here's how it goes, 3.5yo Nugget style:

The Nugget requests that one parent hide with him. The hiding spot is always the same - in Mommy and Daddy's bed, under the covers. Then he yells for parent 2 to "Find us, please!"

The seeker pretends to hunt, while the Nugget yells helpful directions, such as:
1. We're under the covers!
2. No, we're not in the closet, we're in the bed.
3. Do you see my hands? Can you hear my words?
4. Come find us because it's very dark.

Sometimes the Nugget just can't stand the suspense and does the big reveal, popping out of his own hiding spot. Either way, it all ends in maniacal laughter, then the Nugget dives back under the covers and demands to be found again.