Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"Most Definitely the Most Disturbing Cake I've Ever Made"

Our kids are spoiled. It's birthday tradition in both of our houses to let the kids pick their birthday cake. Then we figure out how to make it. Between the two of us with our seven children, we've made a Cheerio box cake, a ladybug cake, a goldfish cracker cake, a princess castle cake, a Hello Kitty cake, a super hero cake, a space ship cake, a duck pond cake, a little man cake, and now...


Yes, you read that correctly. Toomgis.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Toomgis, check him out here:

Toomgis recently threw out the first pitch at a Dodgers game that my sister and her family happened to be at. Well, then-2-year-old Karis fell in love. And she knew she wanted a Toomgis cake. My sister rose to the challenge and produced this amazing Toomgis look-alike for Karis's 3rd birthday last week:

Toomgis Cake

Kimiko commented that "this is most definitely the most disturbing cake I've ever made."

But Karis loved her Toomgis cake and had a great birthday. Too Much Good Stuff!

Check out these other cake posts:

Friday, September 23, 2016

Greek Salad with Chicken

I realize that salads are typically more of a summer meal, but we eat salads all year at my house (plus it's still very much summer where I live).  I'm not sure if this is because a) I'm too lazy to actually cook something, or b) we don't really have a true winter here (unless you consider lows in the 50s winter).  Salads are also economical as they allow a small amount of meat to go a long way.

One of our favorite salads is a Greek salad that I posted 5 years ago.  It's so good that it really deserves to be mentioned again, but I've tweaked it ever so slightly to make it an entree!  I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner because it's so simple.  Add some chicken to the salad and, BAM, you've got a healthy and affordable entree!  You can use any kind of chicken you want - grilled, sauteed, rotisserie, leftovers, etc.  If I've recently made a whole chicken and have leftover meat, I'll use that for this.  If I don't have any leftovers on hand, I'll typically season boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I can often get these for $1.66-$1.77/lb on sale so I stock up and throw them in the freezer) with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and sautee in butter or throw them on the grill.  And for our family of 5, I can get away with 2 chicken breasts and usually have leftover meat for the lunch the next day.

You can use a bottled salad dressing, but I highly recommend you make the dressing below.  It tastes a-maz-ing (thanks to my sister-in-law for sharing it with me!), and it's healthier and much cheaper than store bought dressings.  My 7-year-old daughter LOVES it and always asks me if we have *that* dressing, even when we're not having a Greek salad.

On an economical note, I realize that Feta can be pricey.  I typically buy a chunk rather than crumbled Feta, because it's cheaper per ounce, and let's face it - it's really not hard to crumble your own Feta.  I've been omitting the olives as half of my family doesn't like olives and not using them also brings the cost down a bit.

Greek Salad
Romaine lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces
Tomatoes, diced
Green bell peppers, diced
Red bell peppers, diced
Red onions, sliced
Cucumbers, chopped large
Olives, sliced (either kalamata or black will work)
Feta cheese, crumbled
Greek salad dressing (recipe below)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  You can either toss it all with the dressing or have people put their dressing on individually.  If you choose to toss the salad with the dressing, make sure you add it immediately prior to serving so that the lettuce doesn't get soggy.

Greek Salad Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 1/4 tsp dried basil
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup red wine vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a salad carafe and shake well.  If the dressing is too tangy for your taste, you can add a little sugar to tone it down a bit.  To help prevent separation, you can put all ingredients except the oil into a blender or food processor.  While the blender or food processor is running, slowly add the oil.  

Note: For those doing Trim Healthy Mama, this is an excellent S!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Kids in the Kitchen--April Makes Scrambled Eggs

First off, our apologies. We haven't posted anything new in over a year. We have a ton of posts to write for you, but our lives keep getting busier and busier. At the same time, we love blogging about food and family and truly desire to continue to do so. We hope this is the first of many more posts to come in the near future.


Last summer we started a routine in our house. Each kid is responsible to cook dinner one night each week. They plan the menu, do the prep work, cook the meal, and set the table. When it's time to sit down to eat, one of the other siblings prays for the meal and include giving thanks for the one who did the cooking.

When I started posting about this on my personal FB page last summer, I received some questions about how I get my kids involved in the kitchen. At that time, the kids were 11, 7, and 4. So this summer, I've been taking pictures of their dinner nights so I can share with all of you. Of course, you know your own children and their limits and abilities. Since there are a lot of opportunities for injuries in the kitchen, always supervise your children and never let them do anything outside their skill level. At the same time, don't underestimate what they are capable of. Teach new skills by demonstrating and talking them through it. Then help them do it. Finally, watch them do it themselves.

Technically, April isn't making dinner in these pictures, but she is involved in the kitchen. And she has become so good at making scrambled eggs, that she can do the whole thing herself. I just light the stove for her because our igniters are broken and we have to use matches. She probably makes eggs 4-5 days a week now.

First she collects her ingredients and tools.

I love those little hands!

The easiest way to end up with shell-free eggs is to break them into a clear dish. This day April was breaking them into my quart Pyrex. Once the eggs are cracked, pick up the dish and look through the bottom. The shells will have sunk to the bottom. You can use a spoon to fish them out, but April and I find it easier to just use our clean fingers.

Cooking is a great way for kids to learn math skills in a practical setting. April is just learning to recognize fractions, but the boys are learning how to double and triple amounts when they cook.

Another fun aspect of cooking for kids is getting to use the kitchen tools and gadgets. For some reason she used a fork the day I took these pictures, but she is usually really thrilled to get to use the wire whisk.

These were plain eggs. She usually makes green eggs with sausage. Just add a few drops of green food coloring and throw some cut-up cooked sausage on top after pouring the eggs into the hot pan. And remember: it is imperative that you let the pan get hot before adding to eggs to prevent them from sticking. See the post here.

April's Scrambled Eggs
4-6 eggs
1 1/2-2 Tbsp. cream
1/2 tsp. salt
few shakes pepper
few drops green food coloring (optional)
sausage, cooked and chopped

Heat pan over medium to medium-high heat. Meanwhile, crack eggs into clear dish. Look through bottom to find and remove any shells. Whisk in cream, salt, pepper, and green food coloring if desired. Add butter or oil to heated pan. Pour egg mixture into pan. If desired, toss sausage on top. Turn heat down to medium. Once bubbles start to form, stir to scramble. Cook until desired doneness, stirring occasionally.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


So, it's become very clear that we just don't have time to write much these days.  Our last post was almost a year ago and that was after not writing for about a year-and-a-half.  When it comes down to it, our families and other responsibilities take priority.  But now it's summer!!  That means I am off work until August!  Woohoo!  I just finished my first year teaching full time, and was it a challenge.  I taught three history classes, one English class, spelling, SOAR (our version of GATE), Yearbook, and PE.  It is only by God's grace that I survived.  And now it's summer!!  I get to spend a ton of time with my family.

Another bonus of summer is the great produce.  Prices come down and flavor goes up.  Although, here in California, prices aren't going to be so great this year with the drought we're experiencing.  Last week I was at Costco without a list....I know, I broke rule number 1.  But we had just returned from out of town and just needed to get something healthy in the house.  I was really excited when I saw watermelons for $3.99 each.  Not the little personal watermelons; HUGE watermelons!  I snatched up two of them.

I like to listen to other shoppers pick out watermelons.  There are so many theories about how to pick a good one--tap on it, push on the end, feel it.  I choose to follow Alton Brown's advice and have never been disappointed.  It's so easy that I usually let my kids pick them out.

What makes it so difficult is that watermelons are green.  We usually look for the absence of green to tell if fruit is ripe.  That's exactly what you do with watermelons.  Every one has a spot on it where it was sitting on the ground.  That spot will be a different color than the rest of the melon.  You want to find a melon that has a ground spot that has no green in it.  Ideally, the spot will be creamy whitish/yellowish.

The next challenge is how to cut and serve the watermelon.  The easy way is to wedge it and let the consumers discard the rinds after they have eaten the good part.  The downside to this is that my kids waste a lot of good watermelon because they don't want to get too close to the rind.  I prefer to cube it.  Such a daunting task!  I know, I know.  We've all seen the YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FggvRvL_NDM).  I've tried it.  I didn't like it.  I have settled on the following procedure for cutting watermelon quickly and cleanly.

1.  Lay a large towel on the counter.  Really.  No matter how careful you are, it's going to juice everywhere.  Use the largest cutting board you have and an appropriately large knife.  Cut off both ends.  At this point, you can proceed as is, or you can cut it in half crossways for easier handling.

2.  I chose to cut this one in half because it was so huge.  Next, go around the edge, cutting off the rind...

...until you have only the good fruit left.

3.  Slice through in one direction--watermelon steaks!

4.  Push half aside.  Lay other half down.

5.  Cut through--watermelon fries!!  You can choose to stop right here.  This is a good way to eat it.

6.  Cut at a 90 degree angle to your previous cuts to make bite-sized cubes.

7.  Serve.  My kids like to eat theirs with toothpicks.

This was from one watermelon.  The large bowl is 5 qts.  And this doesn't include what we ate before I took the picture, about the same amount that is in the small bowl.

And since I put the towel down, clean up was quick and easy!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan and Shopping Trip (A little late!)

This post is a few weeks late, but here it is!  Hopefully I'll have this week's up in a more timely manner, as well as some new recipes!

Monday: Manicotti, Salad, Garlic Bread
Tuesday: BBQ Chicken Salad
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Chicken Spaghetti Casserole (I had made this a couple weeks ago and stuck half in the freezer)
Friday: Chicken Tikka Masala, rice, broccoli
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Breakfast (pancakes, eggs, fruit, etc.)

You'll notice I bought a lot of veggies to use for baby food.  My baby definitely cannot eat all this in one week, but I'm preparing for an upcoming trip, so I'll be making it and freezing it.  I'll write about that process another time.

Store 1: Food4Less

Baby oatmeal: $1.25 each (She refuses to eat homemade baby oatmeal, due to the texture)
Applesauce (for baby): $1.69 each
Cake mix: $1.25 each
Tomato paste: $0.49
Powdered sugar: $1.49
Peanut butter: $4.49
Diced tomatoes: $0.89
Sweet potatoes (for baby): $2.17
Acorn squash (for baby): $1.27
Canola oil: $1.99
Pinto beans (bulk): $2.15
Butternut squash (for baby): $1.94
Grapes: $1.84
Bell pepper: $0.50
Parsley: $0.50
Yogurt: $1.67
Green onions: $0.33
Celery: $0.69
Frozen green beans (for baby): $1.99 each
Frozen peas: $1.00
Kale: $0.99
Tortilla chips: $1.89
Garlic: $1.29
French bread: $1.50
Jalapeno: $0.13
Total: $44.07

Store 2: Sprouts

Apples: $2.41
Pork chops: $3.28
Pork roast: $4.08
Total: $9.77

Store 3: Sam's Club
Sorry, I don't have a picture, but we got 1 gallon of skim milk and 1 gallon of 1% milk for a total of $6.03.

Grand Total: $59.87

I came in about $2 over budget this week, but was under about $17 last week, so the $2 is still covered by our budget.  

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sweet Sandwich Bar--Easy Kid-Friendly Lunch!

I have four kids.  Making sandwiches is a chore.  Usually, Lukas and Keanna like peanut butter and jelly, Koda likes peanut butter and honey, April likes just honey.  Then all of a sudden Keanna doesn't want a sandwich, Koda wants just peanut butter, and April wants whatever *insert sibling name here* is having.  They eventually revert back to the usual, but I never know.  During the school year, you eat what Mom packs.  You can make requests, but there are no guarantees.  So I've been trying to mix it up this summer to make lunches more fun.

Last week I had a brilliant epiphany:  a kid-friendly sandwich bar!  I got out a variety of sandwich ingredients and let the kids decide what they wanted.  I then put the ingredients on their plates and let them construct the sandwiches themselves.  They loved it!  Lukas came back for a second sandwich and asked for a third (which I didn't let him have, but he did eat more fruit).

Lukas's plate:  peanut butter, apricot jelly, bananas, apple,
strawberries, and honey.

I put out peanut butter, strawberry preserves, apricot preserves, honey, apple slices, banana slices, strawberry slices, and pecans.  That's just what I happened to have that day, but there are many more possibilities:  raisins, dried cranberries, peach slices, cut grapes, granola, maple syrup, blueberries, raspberries, apple butter, pear slices...

Mommy's sandwich:  peanut butter, apple slice,
strawberries, and apricot jelly.  Super yummy!!

Everyone is happy.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Grilled Veggie Sandwiches with Garlic Spread

grilled veggie sandwich with garlic spread

With summer here, it means I actually have time to cook.  And not just frozen chicken nuggets.  Real cooking.  With real food.  Summer also means a lot of great produce.  Sadly, I was too busy this spring to get my garden going, so I'm relying on neighbor Jerry's generosity and the WinCo produce section.

This week I loaded up on vegetables.  Thursday's dinner was grilled veggie sandwiches with homemade garlic spread.  Last night we had my dad over for dinner and threw some hot dogs (ok, that's not real food, but it was fun) and veggies on the grill.  Afterward, we let the kids roast marshmallows.

I don't really have a recipe for grilled veggie sandwiches.  I buy whatever vegetables are reasonably priced.  This time I ended up with onions, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes.  I really like red bell peppers, but at over $1 each, I can do without.  The eggplant cost more than I like to pay for produce, but I knew it would be so good.

The veggies would be best cooked on the grill, but I usually stick them under the broiler.

Kimiko made a similar sandwich a few years ago.  You can find it here.

Roasted Veggie Sandwiches
Veggies (onions, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, etc.)
Oil for brushing (I use vegetable)
Salt and pepper
Garlic spread

Slice veggies and place on broiler pans.

April helped me cut the zucchini and squash.  Otherwise,
I would have cut it lengthwise to fit better on the

Brush both sides with oil; season with salt and pepper.  Place under broiler until veggies start to turn golden.  Turn; brush with more oil.  Return to broiler until second side is cooked as desired.

Meanwhile, toast sandwich bread and make Garlic Spread.  When veggies are done, spread garlic spread on toasted bread and top with veggies.

Garlic Spread
2 ounces Neufchatel cheese, softened (softened cream cheese will work)
1 clove garlic (more or less as desired)
Pinch kosher salt
2-3 Tbsp. mayonnaise

In a small bowl, cream Neufchatel; set aside.  On cutting board, finely chop garlic.  Add a pinch of kosher salt.  Using side of chef's knife, press down and drag knife toward you over garlic to pulverize.  Run knife blade through garlic.  Wipe off knife and pulverize again.  Repeat process until garlic is a smooth paste.

Mix into creamed Neufchatel.  Mix in mayonnaise until smooth.  Yield:  makes about 3 sandwiches with spread on both pieces of bread.

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