Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Crave Wednesday: Baked Mozzarella Bites



As you may or may not have noticed, my hair has taken on a distinct hue as of late.  As they say in The Wizard of Oz, "Now that's a horse of a different color."

When I started my new job, where I wasn't going to have to appear in court, or even an office most of the time, I realized it gave me some freedom to do something fun with my hair.  Despite the fact I rarely do much with my hair, I'm fairly brave when it comes to hair changes.  I've done long, short, permed, straight, bangs, highlights, and even played with color before the kids were born and I had more time for hair maintenance.   My philosophy is that it will always grow back.

I decided it was time for a fun color, not the typical browns, blondes, and reds of the past.  But knowing that hair color is high maintenance I decided to only do the bottom half of my hair.  So that when I got sick of it, I could just cut it off.

So last month I found myself in the salon looking a little like this.

One of the reasons I've always shied away from fun hair colors is that they don't work on brunettes.  You have to bleach the hell out of your hair first.  Which seemed like more work, and also not a friendly way to treat your hair.  But since the end game is chopping it off anyway...



And after a couple more hours under the dryer, I found myself with a whole new shade of hair.


I have to say.  I love my blue hair.  I've even gone and gotten it touched up once already.  When I glance down and see it, it makes me feel like a super hero. Like Wonder Woman.


And in reality, I am a super hero.  I'm super mom - working, taking care of the home, taking care of my family.  Most of us are super heroes and don't even realize it.   I do remember thinking my mom was some kind of super hero.  When we were kids, she went to school, worked in the hospital, taught at the university, and took care of the family.  That last part was not single-handedly, but all the best super heroes have help in some form.  I admired her, even if I did resent the fact that she wasn't home after school to greet us with cookies like most of my friends' moms.  Because I have less on my plate than she did, and because I'm the one picking the kids up from preschool, I can fill in that void I was missing.  My kids don't get cookies after school, but they do get a snack.  And I try to make it something that has some nutritional value in case they end up not eating dinner - which is also served very near the time they get home.  Cheese is my go-to: cheese sticks, babybels, or even just cutting them chunks of cheddar or gouda.

If dinner is going to take a little longer to get together, then I might even up the ante on that cheese.   These baked mozzarella bites take around 5 minutes to make, and add a fun crunch to their normal after-school snack.  The boys shun the marinara, preferring to just eat the bites as they are.  I like the warm marinara with the melty cheese and crisp panko.  It's just heavy enough to hold you over, and light enough not to fill you up.

 Baked Mozzarella Bites  (From Cooking Light)
1/3 cup panko
3 sticks part-skim mozzarella string cheese
3 Tbsp egg beaters
cooking spray
1/4 cup low-sodium marinara sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 425.  Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add panko to the pan and cook 2 minutes or until toasted, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and place in a shallow dish.
  2. Cut mozzarella sticks into 1 inch pieces.  Working with one piece at a time, dip the cheese in the egg beaters and then dredge in panko.
  3. Place the cheese on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Bake for 3 minutes.
  4. Pour marinara into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute.  Serve with mozzarella pieces.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Crave Wednesday: Artichoke, Spinach, and White Bean Dip


June is over, and things are mellowing out a bit.  Which if you know me, know that means very little.

June rolled right into July, and the Fourth of July.   We actually started the celebration a little early.  Because the 4th was on a Tuesday, we thought that maybe the annual backyard campout would be better served on Monday night.  Thatboy wasn't as keen about waking up in a tent on a morning he had to go to work.

So on July 3, he set the tent up in the backyard.  Thatbaby was instantly enthralled.  He hasn't slept in the tent since he was 10 months old.  It's been a while.  And he was convinced it was another bounce house.


Now that he's older, Thatbaby could join in the sleep-out.  And I could too.  Less excited about that last part.  We called it an early night and piled in together to sleep.


We woke up early on the morning of July 4th.  Unsurprising when you have four people sharing a small space, especially when two of them love to rise with the sun.

The boys got dressed in their patriotic best.


And then quickly stripped them off so they could spend the day in the pool.


Thatboy set the pool up under the playset, and hooked the hose to the top of the slide, giving us our very own waterpark.



There was plenty of food throughout the day.  Including a giant bowl of watermelon.


Because it wouldn't be the 4th of July without watermelon.


We always let Thatdog in on the watermelon action.


No sugar cookie White House this year, but they did decorate sugar cookies.  It's fun to watch their different styles.  Thatkid just dumps the sprinkles on.  Thatbaby meticulously places the sprinkles with his fingers.


I grilled some pollo asada and carne asada for dinner, along with some hot dogs for the boys.  And after dinner, we lit the firepit and made s'mores.  We got creative this year.  Thatkid enjoyed his on chocolate chip cookies instead of graham crackers.


And I stuck in a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup in place of a chocolate bar.


And after that, it was time for pajamas and glow sticks so we could head over to the neighbors and watch the town fireworks.



This was Thatbaby's first experience with fireworks and I think it got mixed reviews.  He spent the first part facing me in my lap, holding me.  He spent the rest, still in my lap, but watching the fireworks.  After they were over he said he liked them, but they were "too wowed."  He continued to repeat "fireworks over" and "fireworks all done" which carried over to the next morning.

The next morning it was clear that the fireworks were not the only thing that was over.  The 4th of July came on the end of some serious eating and drinking indulgences and continued through the day. I'm not one that believes in waiting for the first of the year, month, or even week to start anew, so Wednesday the 5th marked the return of better eating.  But I ease myself back.  By allowing myself some "healthy" snacking.  Healthy in the sense that it is high in protein.  As much as I love chips and salsa.  And as much as I ate my weight in chips in salsa over the holiday, it's lacking in a lot of nutrients.  Some whole wheat crackers, paired with bean dip is a better alternative.  The creaminess of the beans means less cheese is necessary, it's terribly filling, and it keeps you full for a lot longer than low/no protein snacks.  I also love the addition of spinach, which always makes me feel like my indulgence isn't that indulgent.

Artichoke, Spinach, and White Bean Dip (From Cooking Light)
1/4 cup grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup canola mayonnaise
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 can baby artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
cooking spray
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Place cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, cayenne, garlic cloves, and white beans in a food processor, and process until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Spoon into a bowl and stir in artichokes and spinach.
  3. Spoon into a 1 qt glass dish coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with mozzarella.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Mommy Mondays: Hey There, Hi There, Ho There, It's a Mickey Mouse Party!

The kids birthday parties are always my favorite thing to put together.  Which is why it's odd I haven't written about Thatbaby's second birthday party.

Confession - I thought I did.  Then I realized I hadn't.  June, man.  I told you it was busy.

So rewind 1 month.  Exactly.

Or a little farther back.  Back when we went to Disneyland in January and Thatbaby developed an obsession with Mickey Mouse.  So much so that he dragged a giant stuffed Mickey around the house everywhere he went.  So it made perfect sense to throw a Mickey themed birthday party.


We combined Thatbaby's love of Mickey with his love of something else - waffles.  We decided to capitalize on that and have a breakfast party, so we could serve his favorite food.



The main idea was a waffle bar.  With waffles on sticks to make them easier to eat, and dip.  Along with berries, bananas, chocolate chips, and two kinds of syrup.  And breakfast meats.  Because everyone loves bacon.


I mentioned dipping the waffles, because on the other side of the table I featured something that was too cute not to include in a Mickey Mouse birthday party.  A fondue fountain!  Between you and I, I felt this might be a little much, but with a "NO GET IT!" from both Thatboy and L&O it became a very popular addition to our table.  And along with the waffles, there was plenty of fruit to dip in it.



And of course there was cake.  I used a lot of Thatbaby's stuffed Mickeys to decorate.  This is the one that started it all.


And this little guy guarded the drinks.  Mickey Mouse apple juice and waters.




I made a separate table featuring Thatbaby's yearly sign with his favorites and how much he's grown.  Just for reference, the kid was 2.5 inches taller and almost 5 lbs heavier than his older brother at this age.



Each guest went home with their very own Mickey Mouse and bubbles.




And there were Mickey party hats for all.

Thatbaby was in his element entertaining his friends and family.





And he loved having his very own bouncy house.  In fact, he now builds bouncy houses out of legos.  And pretends beds and moms are bouncy houses by jumping on them.


He even got to hang out in his room with his besties and check out the scene.  Like any good host.  If they're a Gatsby.


At his first birthday, Thatbaby couldn't be bothered with cake.  This year, he was ready for it.  He loved the singing, blew out the candle, and happily sat and ate.  Tell me again why we don't do the cake smash at the second birthday instead of the first?


It wasn't my most elaborate party, but it was fun for me to watch him enjoy himself so much.  To be around his friends and have all his favorite things in one place.

So until next time, See Ya Real Soon!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Crave Wednesday: Adobo Chips with Warm Goat Cheese and Cilantro Salsa



The San Diego County Fair is only open for a month.  And we've already been twice.  That's how you know summer has officially hit.


If Thatboy had his druthers, we'd be there when the fair opened, and stayed until it closed.  But sometimes he forgets that having kids means we don't always get to do what we want.  So both times we headed over after lunch, letting the kids nap in the car before heading into the fair.



Our first stop is always the rides and games.  Thatbaby found this statue and decided it was his new best friend.  Even better when he saw the dog, and asked me to take his picture with it.


This was the first year Thatbaby has been tall enough to ride the rides by himself.  YOU GUYS HE'S 2!  Thatkid wasn't tall enough to ride the rides by himself until he was 3!  


Of course the kids didn't want to ride any of the same rides.  So we ended up splitting up with them.




The theme of the fair is "Where the West was Fun" so there was a lot of cowboy theme going on.  They turned a whole section into "Frontier Town" and of course we had to check it out.




Mostly because that's where "World of Horses" was located.  And the boys love this section of the fair.





We also noticed on our way out that a Wild West Gun Fight show was about to start.  So we sat down to watch.  They did a great disclaimer ahead of time talking about how the first rule is to never ever ever touch a gun.  And if you see one, find an adult, don't touch it.


After the show, the cast stuck around and signed posters for all the kids.



Thatbaby actually did NOT like the gun show.  The shots scared him. We ended up making a quick exit and exploring the rest of Frontier Town while Thatkid stayed and watched with Thatboy.


We also spent a lot of time with farm animals and farm equipment.


And of course, there's the fair food.  This year I went with the buffalo chicken ravioli.


Thatboy had the fried chicken ice cream sandwich.  Yeah.  I know.  It was a fried chicken patty, topped with ice cream, on a krispie kream bun.  Topped with fruity pebbles.


And the kids had their very first churros.





There was also my fair-must have: funnel cake.  And Thatkid's special request - a Texas doughnut, the size of his head.  These ended up coming home with us in almost their entirety.


Thatbaby went with his own fair classic: Cotton Candy.

And we got another family photo to add to our collection.  As the kids get bigger it's getting harder and harder to fit all of us in!




The fair closes on the 4th of July, I think the boys are planning one more trip this weekend, while I'm out of town.  As for me, I'm done for the year.  I'm already looking forward to the next big thing - my girls' weekend!  And I get back just in time for the Fourth.  Do you guys have big plans yet?  We don't.  Things always come together last minute for us, but it usually involves our backyard, people coming over, and then watching the fireworks.

It seems like everyone is trying to figure out what they're eating or bringing to a Fourth of July bbq, so let me throw my hat into the ring.  These chips pack a quiet, unassuming heat that sneaks up on you, which is tempered by the goat cheese.  The cilantro salsa is going to be your new summer favorite.  I promise.  Fresh and easy, with a definite kick.


Adobo Chips with Warm Goat Cheese and Cilantro Salsa (From Cooking Light)
2 chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped and 1 tsp adobo sauce.
2 cups chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup finely chopped tomatillos
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tsp canola oil
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground cumin
8 white corn tortillas
4 oz fat free cream cheese, softened
2 oz goat cheese

  1. Combine chiles, cilantro, tomatillos, onion, and all but 2 Tbsp lime juice in a medium bowl. Cover and chill for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 375.  Whisk the remaining lime juice, canola oil, adobo sauce, paprika, and cumin in a small bowl. Brush a tortilla with 1/4 tsp juice mixture.  
  3. Top with another tortilla and repeat.  Repeat with each tortilla.  Cut the stack of tortillas into 6 wedges.  Place wedges on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.  Turn wedges and bake for another 10 minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to 350.  Combine cream cheese and goat cheese in a small bowl, stirring until blended.  Spread in a shallow baking dish and cover with foil.  Bake for 10 minutes.