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Kitchen Renovations on a Budget

Pop on over to Chester County Moms and check out my guest post about my recent kitchen renovations on a budget!
Kitchen Reno DIY on a Budget

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Lasagna Muffins

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My friend, Heather, always comments on my “pretty food”. So, I laugh and usually tag her in all of my “pretty food” Facebook photos. I like pretty food. It is nice to look at, you want to eat it, and most importantly, other people want to eat it (like my kids). Pretty food is also necessary if you want people to actually visit and interact with your food blog. But, pretty food has to taste as well as it looks. Pretty food is useless if it sucks, right? So I was so very happy tonight when my supermodel pretty food had hall of fame taste! WOW! When I say hall of fame taste, I’m talkin’ grand-slam H-O-M-E-R-U-N in the 9th inning of the World Series taste! So, naturally I am excited to share.

I made lasagna “muffins” or “cupcakes”. Whatever you call them, they were awesome! Now, I cannot take credit for this idea. It is all over Pinterest, and if you Google it, a million recipes will appear–Food Network, LOTS of blogs, Pinterest… the list goes on. So, why am I bothering to post? Well, when I looked at the other recipes, they were missing taste, so I took the time to blend this creative technique that others have already shared (why re-invent the wheel?) and I added the flavors that I integrate into my homemade lasagna. That is what makes mine different from all of the rest– the “better mouse trap, so to speak.

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Lasagna Muffins

The Sauce: (you can use jar sauce to save time, but then you compromise the flavor)

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  • 1/2  lb. of ground beef
  • 1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes 
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 Tbsp. of sugar
  • salt & pepper (to taste)
  1. Brown ground beef, drain, & set aside.
  2. In the same pan, sautee fresh minced garlic for 1 minute.
  3. Pour tomatoes into the pan and simmer for 3 minutes.
  4. Add sugar, salt, & pepper.
  5. Add beef and simmer for 15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

The Cheese:

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  • 16 oz. of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of fine shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small dash of nutmeg
  • 1 dash of salt & pepper
  1. mix all ingredients, blending well.

The Rest:

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  • 1 pkg. of square wonton wrappers. (about 3 inch squares)
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup of finely shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup of fresh basil, chopped
  • cooking spray

1. Grease a muffin pan with cooking spray.

2. Place 1 wonton wrapper into each cup.

IMG_06583. Add a small spoonful of cheese to cover the bottom of the cup.

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4. Add a small spoonful of sauce.

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5. Top with another wonton wrapper. 
6. Add another layer of cheese, then sauce
7. Top with parmesan cheese, fresh basil, and mozzarella cheese

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8. Bake at 375 degrees for about 18 minutes.
9. Let them rest in the pan, undisturbed, for at least 5 minutes. (if you cheat, they will fall apart)

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*** AWESOME VARIATION***

If you want to make these as an appetizer, or if you have extra wrappers, cheese, & sauce, make them as a single layer in a mini-muffin pan. They are like the cutest little one bite appetizers!

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Picture-less version:

Lasagna Muffins

The Sauce: (you can use jar sauce to save time, but then you compromise the flavor)

  • 1/2  lb. of ground beef
  • 1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 Tbsp. of sugar
  • salt & pepper (to taste)
  1. Brown ground beef, drain, & set aside.
  2. In the same pan, sautee fresh minced garlic for 1 minute.
  3. Pour tomatoes into the pan and simmer for 3 minutes.
  4. Add sugar, salt, & pepper.
  5. Add beef and simmer for 15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

The Cheese:

  • 16 oz. of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of fine shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small dash of nutmeg
  1. mix all ingredients, blending well.

The Rest:

  • 1 pkg. of square wonton wrappers. (about 3 inch squares)
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup of finely shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup of fresh basil, chopped
  • cooking spray
  1. Grease a muffin pan with cooking spray.
  2. Place 1 wonton wrapper into each cup.
  3. Add a small spoonful of cheese to cover the bottom of the cup.
  4. Add a small spoonful of sauce.
  5. Top with another wonton wrapper.
  6. Add another layer of cheese, then sauce
  7. Top with parmesan cheese, fresh basil, and mozzarella cheese
  8. Bake at 375 degrees for about 18 minutes.
  9. Let them rest in the pan, undisturbed, for at least 5 minutes. (if you cheat, they will fall apart)

*** AWESOME VARIATION***

If you want to make these as an appetizer, or if you have extra wrappers, cheese, & sauce, make them as a single layer in a mini-muffin pan. They are like the cutest little one bite appetizers!

3

Raspberry Margarita

I know it’s February, in Pennsylvania, but I am a summer girl. I go through withdraw from all things warm and sunny, so sometimes I buck the season and remind myself that the best part of the year is not too far away. Take for example last night, some of the girls in my neighborhood got together for a mommy/kid mixer. I was planning to bring a bottle of white wine to nicely complement my shrimp dish, but then I decided it was too cold to pack up the kids and head to the liquor store. What to do? While scouring the freezer for the bag of shrimp, I stumbled across a forgotten can of limeade, sitting next to a baggie of frozen raspberries, and the wheels of my mind started to turn. I was going to recapture the brief feeling of summer. Dump. Mix. Taste. Smile.

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It was the right call. The pitcher looked beautiful, and the tart taste of lime and raspberry hit the spot! Now I’m just waiting for that random spring day to prematurely break out my flip flops…

Raspberry Margaritas

(Makes 1 large pitcher)

Ingredients:

  • 2 (12 ounce) can frozen limeade concentrate
  • 16 ounces of tequila (or more if you are so inclined)
  • 12 ounces of triple sec
  • 12 ounces of club soda
  • 1 1/2 cups of frozen raspberries (or mixed berries)
  • crushed ice
  • 1 lime sliced into wedges for each glass or sliced into circles to float in a pitcher
  • margarita salt (to rim glasses if desired)

Directions:

  1. Combine limeade,tequila,triple sec, club soda, and berries in a pitcher, mixing well.
  2. Pour into a margarita or large goblet with crushed ice. Rim with lime and salt if desired.
  3. Serve with lime slice as a garnish.

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Sunday Dinner

This morning, I cooked special pancakes for breakfast, and we will be on the go for lunch. Now,  I am wracking my brains for a different Sunday dinner. All of this thought caused me to question what all of you do for Sunday dinner…While the traditional side of me wants to cook the great big family meal, the tired mommy in me is thinking low key and nutritious, but how nice does take out sound? Just wondering where you all fall in my mental debate…

 

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Ladies’ Night

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I’m getting together with some ladies into neighborhood. On the menu is Spicy Shrimp Linguini, buttermilk biscuits, and raspberry margaritas!

4

Dinner Sanity Through DOJO!

Hallelujah!! I have found a new weapon for my mom arsenal. While I am a firm believer in family dinners, and we strive to sit down together as much as possible, I also realize that the dinner table can be a source of parental stress for me. From the start, my kids have been raised with an expectation of polite manners and conversation at the dinner table. I expect them to remain seated, behave like normal human beings, and ACTUALLY EAT THE FOOD!

Lately, my kids have left a lot to be desired. Some nights I feel like I am playing “Whack a Mole”, with all 3 of my kids randomly popping out of their seats. Other nights, it’s the “I don’t like this” chorus. (This is a whole other blog post in itself!) As a working mom with little time, energy, and patience, I was at my wit’s end…until I discovered one of the greatest educational/parental tools on the planet!

CLASS DOJO!

If you are not aware of this web based tool, allow me to introduce you. Class Dojo is a free website for teachers and school professionals to create behavior tracking plans though interactive media. I was first introduced to the dojo plan through my daughter’s second grade teacher. My daughter is delighted by her little monster avatar and the tally of points she is accumulating. As a mom, I am delighted by the weekly report that I receive via e-mail.

So, here we were, happily progressing, watching Amelia’s dojo points grow, when the light bulb went off. I am a teacher. I have a master’s degree in education, and I have extensive experience with behavior modification. Why can’t I use this at home to improve my kids’ dinner behavior?

Feeling like a rock star, I set out on my quest for dinner sanity. I went to www.classdojo.com to create an account. I first set one up for my real classes, as it is an awesome educational tool. Then I registered as my kids “teacher”, and I used the very easy interface to develop my “dinner dojo”.  Each of my kids were assigned a little monster avatar (the symbolism is much appreciated). Then I customized the behaviors to suit my dinner needs.

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Positive Behaviors:  helpful, good manners, cleaned up, stayed seated, positive conversation, ate well, tried new foods, made healthy choices.

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Negative Behaviors: disrespect, out of seat, rude behavior, wasted time, not eating, negative language, made a mess, not a helper.

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This site is so easy to use. Once you set up your account on a computer, there is an app, so you can control it from your smart phone or tablet! Yup, that’s right. This momma broke the “No Technology at the Dinner Table” rule and plunked the iPad right in the center of the table. What resulted was one of the nicest dinners we have had in months. Not only did everyone eat, stay seated, and clean up after themselves, but we were able to have meaningful conversations that felt like real connections. I hope that this new tool can help us get back on track to peaceful dining.

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If you think that this app can save your sanity too, here are my tips:

  1. Go to www.classdojo.com
  2. Set up an account as a teacher. The parent option only allows you to see your child’s progress in a specific classroom.
  3. Use the great tutorials to help you navigate and create on the site.
  4. If you have tech savvy kids, give them the student code so that they can check their own progress with their own account.
  5. You can also share the parent reports with other meaningful adults (the other parent, a grandparent, or babysitter)
  6. Expand past dinner. I also have a general expectations dojo for my kids. I chose to separate the two because they have to earn good dinner dojo to get fast food or other less nutritional treats.

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I really urge you to try this tool. If you do, please report back and let us know how it works for you. Hopefully we can restore peace and sanity one dinner table at a time J

0

Chicken & Dumplings

If you need some food love

And a full belly’s your wish

Chicken & Dumplings is the perfect

Fab Fairy dish

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Chicken & Dumplings

The Chicken:

3  boneless chicken breasts– poached and shredded

4 cups of chicken broth

1 cup of carrots,

1-2 cups of cubed potatoes

Any other vegetables that you may have in the fridge– peas or corn

The Dumplings:

1 cup of flour

1 cup of Jiffy cornbread mix

1 tbsp. of baking powder

1 cup of half and half

Preparation:

Boil chicken, broth, and vegetables on the stove in a large pot until cooked thoroughly.

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Once that is cooked, mix 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of Jiffy cornbread mix, 1 tbsp of baking powder, and 1 cup of  half and half.

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Drop the dumplings into the boiling soup and simmer covered for 15 minutes.

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I then placed it uncovered under the broiler to brown the dumplings.

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4

Kelly’s Corn Chowder

Some kitchen creations top all the rest

They hold special weight in your recipe chest.

With creamy fresh flavor

And warmth you will savor

This corn chowder is simply the best!

Ok…so I refer to some of my recipes as “big guns”. These are the greatest recipes in my arsenal, and I am careful not to pull them out too often, in order to protect their special status.

This one is one of the top 5 weapons in my kitchen arsenal.

It happened by accident. I had never had corn chowder before, but after scoring an abundance of fresh corn at the local farm, I had to be creative. I am posting this now, because it is a nice way to warm up on a cold day. Not to mention, it would be a great way to sneak some more veggies into your family’s diet.

Kelly’s Corn Chowder

Ingredients

    • 1 stick of butter
    • 1 small onion
    • 1 small carrot
    • 1 small celery stalk
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3 cups white corn kernels, fresh or frozen
    • 3 cups chicken stock
    • 2 cups half-and-half
    • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
    • Salt & pepper

Directions

1. Melt 1 stick of butter in a large saucepan.

2. Use a food processor to finely dice the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and saute in the butter for 2 minutes.

3. Add the flour and stir constantly to make a roux.

4. Cook until the roux is a light brown color.

5. Set aside to cool.

6. In another saucepan, combine the corn and chicken stock and bring to a boil.

7. Simmer for 10 minutes.

8. Pour the boiling stock & corn slowly into the saucepan with the roux, whisking briskly so it doesn’t lump.

9. Return the skillet to the heat and bring to a boil. The mixture will become thick.

10. In a small saucepan, gently heat the half-and-half.

11. Stir it into the thick corn mixture.

12. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve with fresh crusty bread.

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Lavender Pear Martini

Lavender Pear Martini

The scent of lavender

and the kiss of a pear

will help you relax

and not pull out your hair!

Ingredients:

1 oz. of vodka

3 oz. of pear nectar

1 oz. of lavender syrup

Mix and serve chilled in your favorite martini glass.

Lavender Syrup:

Boil 2 cups of water with 1-2 cups of sugar (adjust the amount of sugar based on how sweet you like your drinks) & 3-4 tbsp of lavender. Boil for 5 min. Then strain and set aside to cool. I added 2 drops of red & 2 drops of blue food coloring to make it look purple.

If making a large batch,  mix 2 large cartons of pear nectar with 2-3 cups of vodka (more or less to taste) in a pitcher. Add lavender syrup and mix well. Serve chilled.

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