Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chili Bar

I needed to serve dinner for my son's birthday party on a tight budget. So I decided to do a chili bar. It was easy to prepare, fun for the guests and cost effective.
I made a huge pot of my favorite chili the night before - I wanted to give the flavors plenty of time to get to know one another. Two hours before the party I started warming up the chili. When it was time to eat I poured the chili into a serving bowl and prepared my "bar". In separate bowls I had torilla chips, diced green onions, sour cream, oyster crackers and cheese. Everyone enjoyed customizing their own bowl of chili. One year I did a pasta bar but this is much easier.

For the cake we made a chocolate cake from scratch in a car-shaped cake pan. The cake is really moist and rich - it calls for a cup of hot coffee (Thank you Barefoot Contessa). See recipe below.


  • Butter, for greasing the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups Dove chocolate Discoveries Cocoa Powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Motherhood: Crazy or Crazy?

Sometimes I can't believe the life I once lived compared to the life I have now. This crazy but love-filled world of motherhood.

I can't complete a single sentence because I'm so sleep deprived and yet I'm holding a sick baby on my hip, making a snack for someone and breaking up a spat between my two toddlers all at once. How is that possible? I never multitasked pre-kids the way I do now. My whole concept of time has changed. Its unreal what I can get done in 10 minutes if all of my kids are trying to get dressed somewhere. My compassion for the human race is out of control. I cry over cartoon characters and disturbing news stories about children will literally keep me up at night.

I used to eat $45 steaks in the city. A couple of weeks ago I ate a $12 skirt steak at a local diner and told my husband how good it tasted. Pre-kids I felt embarassed about using gift cards - not coupons, GIFT CARDS. Now I present anywhere from five to 15 coupons at once to a grocery store cashier and think nothing of it to hold up the line behind me to argue why the cashier should accept every single one.

I have to remind myself to do basic things for myself like brush my teeth, shower, look in the mirror before leaving the house, etc. I went to a wedding last week and my mom asked me if I had nylons on. I said, "No. I shaved my legs and put lotion on them." As if it were a huge accomplishment.

I think about having time to myself or going on a sunny vacation with my husband without the kids quite often. The other day my husband and I were about to hit the "submit" button on a four-day vacation to Mexico. We paused, looked at each other and my husband asked, "Can you go that long without the kids?" I said, "No. Can you?" "Nope." We closed the screen and I left to make dinner.

So instead of posting pictures of where we stayed in Mexico here are pictures of what we stayed home for: my spatula in a diaper as opposed to a kitchen drawer, a sippy cup instead of a coffee cup and my 16month old insisting on wearing his brother's swim shoes around the house in the dead of winter.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Easy Shamrock Cake

Today I made an early St. Patty's Day's Cake. It's easy. It's green. It's good.

I usually make my cakes from scratch but I keep a butter cake mix on hand just for this cake. It's one of my favorite desserts that my Aunt Joan makes.

In a bowl I pour the cake mix and ADD the following: a small box of instant pistachio pudding mix (reserve about 1/2 tablespoon for frosting), 1/4c of sour cream and a little green dye. I proceed to follow the directions on the back of the box and bake. While the cake is baking I open up a tub of cool whip and mix in the reserved dry pudding mix (1/2 TBSP) and set aside in fridge.

After the cake has baked and cooled I spread the greenish cool whip on top and its done. It's the kind of cake that you cannot stop eating once you start so be sure to have company over to help you eat it. My sister in law HATES pistachios but LOVES this cake.
I also make it for Christmas because it's green. I make it in a 9x13 pan and then cut it so it looks like a Christmas tree.
It's crowd pleaser. Enjoy!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sea Creature Week

If the boys really want to watch their favorite Disney movie I let them it but turn it into a learning experience. This week is a good example.
Monday: The boys wanted to watch Finding Nemo. I grabbed a few sea creature books and as the movie played, we would point out which creatures in the book were also in the movie - i.e. a sea horse, a clown fish, etc. Later in the day, as I supervised bathtime, I made sure to have another sea-creature book with me. I had the boys match their bath toys to the picture in the book. "What is the name of this one?" "A lobster!" " Great! Do we have a lobster in the tub?" Brant and Mason have a lot of sea-creature bath toys so it works out great.
Tuesday: Before quiet time I had Brant and Mason each pick out their favorite sea-creature book. We all sat in front of the lap top and both boys picked a few sea creatures from their book to watch on YouTube. It's neat for them to see the creature in action like starfish, sharks, whales, etc. After quiet time we took blue construction paper and covered a small box in it. Then we cut out basic shapes, like a fish, starfish, etc. and pasted them onto the blue construction paper to represent an ocean.
Wednesday: Normally, I would switch gears to another theme but on Wed. our family was able to use free passes to the Shedd Aquarium in the city. We all had a GREAT time being able to see so much of what we had been talking about since Monday. Everyone behaved wonderfully!
Thursday: My mom, boys and I went to the Southlake Mall. I can't remember the last time I went to the mall! We went straight to the play area only to discover the staff updated their play area. Can you believe it was a sea theme?? The boys were thrilled and so was I. I'm going to write the staff at Southlake and thank them for continuing to make changes to the mall that make it more family friendly.

Dental Awareness Month

Hi strangers!
I can't believe how long its been since I entered a post on my blog. Between my DCD parties/events and kiddos being sick I can't keep my eyes open at night to write.
February is Dental Awareness month so I did an easy project with the two older boys. They loved it! You just need some glue and construction paper.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Recipes when you are snowed in

Most families are snowed in today so here is a practical recipe until the roads get better or plowed.

Homemade buttermilk pancakes:
Pancakes are one of my favorite meals to cook because you not only have these simple ingredients sitting in your baking cabinet but, you also can hide nutritious ingredients in them and kiddos still eat them.
For example you can throw in a hearty flour such as oat or organic whole wheat. You can use half all-purpose flour and half almond meal (which I find at trader joe's). I have pancake recipes that have sweet potatoes in them, yogurt, walnuts, flaxseed meal, etc. You can also take a basic pancake recipe and ingredients to the batter. Some common additions are chocolate chips, blueberries or a mashed-up banana. But what about some chopped apple and bacon? Or pumpkin puree and chocolate chips?

I made this dish today for four reasons. One, I want to stretch out my regular milk and this recipe calls for buttermilk - which is a staple in this house. Two, the kids love french toast but I want to stretch out my bread supply. Three, I will have a couple of pancakes leftover that I can store in a ziplock bag and stick in the fridge for Jaxon's breakfast tomorrow. Four, the kids can help me make this which will make them feel good.
The recipe below is from the Foodnetwork Magazine.
Dry ingreds:
1 1/2 c flour
3 TBLSP sugar
1 teasp baking powder
1/2 teasp each baking soda and salt
Wet ingreds:
1 1/4 c buttermilk
1/2 stick butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 teasp vanilla
Combine dry and wet ingredients with wisk - just until combined.

You can top with maple syrup (or heat maple syrup in a small sauce pan and add apples/cinnamon, frozen blueberries, etc to flavor your syrup), organic blue agave nector, fresh fruit/whip cream or my favorite the mango dessert sauce from dove chocolate discoveries TM.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

drum project

Today I was cleaning out a cupboard and came across a can of formula and rice cereal. Unfortunately they were both opened so I couldn't donate them. But I thought I would make the cans into a project for the boys.
  • Each boy picked out the color construction paper they wanted to use for their drum and decorated it.
  • We glued the decorated paper to the can and then filled the can with some beans.
They called them "baby drums." We sat together and sang songs - the boys drummed and I strummed one of their play guitars. You can shake the cans too but hitting the top of cans with sticks still makes a cool sound with the beans.