Monday, July 29, 2013

Foodie Penpal Reveal

It's been a few months since I participated in Lindsay, the Lean Green Bean's Foodie Penpals.  Basically you sign up and get matched up with another foodie in the US.  Then you have until the 15th of the month to pack up a yummy $15 yummy package to them.

This month's Foodie Penpal is Shelby from Illinois.  Chicago is my hometown, though it hasn't been my home in 13 years.  My parents don't even live there anymore so I don't really have a reason to visit but one of these days, I want totake my husband and the kids there to see the sights.  Chicago has amazing museums, food, and atomic cakes!  Anyway, getting matched up with a fellow Illinois-an (?) was a bit nostalgic to me.

The day my package arrived, I waited until the kids were asleep to open it.  I didn't want Mr A to see the contents and ask to eat what was inside.  Even though I always request for peanut free, I don't usually mention egg free or nut free, though I'll probably need to start mentioning nut free too.  It was like Christmas in July.  I received...

- coconut chips (Delish- I crushed them up and sprinkled them on my cookies n cream ice cream.  So good!)
- wasabi peas (a fave of hubby's, Shelby also suggested using these in trail mixes as a substitute for nuts)
- chickpea blondies (homemade from Shelby's kitchen + recipe)

- chocolate covered butterscotch caramels with sea salt (that's a mouthful! These are my favorites!)

Thank you Shelby for a wonderful package!

 And now it's time for some details about Foodie Penpals.  In case you’re a new reader, here’s a reminder of what the program is all about:
-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penplas is open to US, Canadian & European residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Same with Europeans. We've determined things might get too slow and backed up if we're trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 
If you’re from the US or Canada and are in participating for August, please CLICK HERE ( to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions. 
You must submit your information by August 4th as pairings will be emailed on August 5th!

*If you're from Europe, please CLICK HERE ( to signup.

Fun Sandwiches

Summer is coming to an end.  I'm back to work and the kids are back in daycare and preschool full time.  I was glad that I instituted Mr A and Mom's day of fun this summer.  I really liked having 1-on-1 time with each kid.  I was more relaxed, less crazed, and could appreciate being with the one.  With Mr A, I was pleased that we went places that it'd be hard to take a baby and a 4 year old.  But mostly, it was about having focused time with him.

On one of our last days together, Mr A suggested we have a picnic and eat sandwiches.  We also happened to swing by my classroom that morning, where he found my Finding Nemo DVD.  We ended up having an indoor picnic in front of the tv at home, and watching Finding Nemo.  To make the sandwiches a little more special, I got out some cookie cutters, just like in the book Chester's Way, by Kevin Henkes.

From plain to special!
And a few more...
These sandwiches were a hit!

I tried to be a little creative with the fillings inside.

- Cream cheese + strawberries
- Cream cheese + blueberries
- sunbutter + banana
- ham + cheese

Mr A's favorite?  Sunbutter and banana.

Zucchini Potato Pancake

I've been eying some different zucchini recipes lately.  Chocolate zucchini bread, zucchini pizza crust, and zucchini pasta, oh my!  Zucchini is my favorite vegetable and it really is quite versatile, but mostly, I prepare it in the same ways.

So here I am, branching out.  I was inspired by My Kitchen in the Rockies, who's daughter found this recipe in Joy the Baker's cookbook.

As always, I hesitated with the egg.  Since I still have some buttermilk in the fridge, and I love how that reacts with baking soda, I decided to give it a shot and it worked nicely!  I also had some leftover frozen shredded hash browns so I decided to nuke those in the microwave for a minute and they turned out beautifully as well.

My only adaptation next time will be to add in some shredded carrots and shredded onions.  I didn't have either on hand this time around.  This recipe is a keeper!

Zucchini Potato Pancakes

Inspired by My Kitchen in the Rockies, who's daughter found this recipe in Joy the Baker's cookbook

  • 1 cups frozen hash brown potatoes, defrosted 
  • 2 cups zucchini, grated
  • 1/2 onion, grated (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅓ cup AP flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt, divided
  • 3 Tablespoon oil for the pan
  • Oil spray
  1. Mix zucchini with ½ teaspoon salt. Place in a colander for about 10 minutes. Squeeze out extra water.
  2. Whisk the egg and buttermilk together. Mix in flour, baking soda and ½ teaspoon salt. Add zucchini, potatoes, and onion (if desired).  Stir until well combined.
  3. Heat some oil in a cast iron skillet (medium-high heat) and drop the batter in approximately 1/4 cup portions.  Flatten the pancakes slightly with a fork.
  4. Fry until crispy on both sides, flipping them when edges turn brown.
  5. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Buttermilk banana waffles

Yet another Mr A request.  Well, actually, he wanted Mimi Mouse waffles, which aren't possible, as our waffle maker makes square waffles.  Well, maybe I could just cut out a mouse shape with a knife. I guess we'll see.

 I have leftover buttermilk in the fridge so I googled buttermilk waffles and came across Brown-Eyed Baker's recipe, which she adapted from King Arthur's flour.  Immediately, I saw 2 eggs in the ingredient list and knew that would need to be changed. 

You see, the Mimi Mouse pancakes from last week had a little too much egg for Mr A. Since I made 7 pancakes, just eating one, meant he ingested 1/7 of the egg.  The result was extra phlegm, croupy cough, and some wheezing.  That tells me it was too much. But there is a small chance that maybe the eggs were too old.  So with a fresh(er) dozen of eggs, I still thought it'd be wiser to go easy on the egg.
Brown-Eyed Baker's buttermilk waffle recipe called for 2 eggs, but I substituted 2 mashed bananas for 1 egg. I yielded 13 waffles, so let's see how Mr A does with almost half as much egg.  But if he eats 2 waffles, we'll be in the same boat. :(. This is a complicated math problem!

Update: Mr A has been eating 1.5 waffles every day and his immune system seems to be tolerating it better than the Mimi Mouse pancakes.  We'll continue 1.5 waffles next week and then bump up his egg intake.  Maybe I'll try potato pancakes or a veggie something.

Banana Buttermilk Waffles

Inspired by Brown-Eyed Baker

¾ c whole wheat flour
¾ c all-purpose flour
2 T granulated sugar
1 t baking soda
½ t salt
1½ c

1 egg
2 bananas, mashed
1/4 c oil
2 t vanilla extract
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter, eggs and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently whisk to combine. Do not overmix.
3. Spray a waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray, then preheat. Once the waffle maker is ready, add the batter according to the manufacturer's instructions and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the waffle maker indicates they are ready. Serve immediately, or place in a 300-degree oven to keep warm. Leftover waffles can be wrapped in plastic wrap, placed in a ziploc bag and stored in the refrigerator for 2 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pinwheels on a stick

This summer, it's just me and Mr A on Tuesdays, so that has become Mom and A's day of fun!  This past week, we made our second trip to the beach.  I wanted to make pack a lunch a little more interesting than the sandwiches I had made the day before, so I grabbed some tortillas, leftover carnitas, ham, cheese, cream cheese, spinach, and cucumbers.  Unfortunately, my cream cheese did not stop the rolls from unraveling, so I stuck a skewer through them.  This was a big hit with Mr A, and turned out quite practical with his sandy hands that I couldn't quite get clean!

I was pleased that I could tuck in some fresh veggies, whereas yesterday's sandwiches only had ham and cheese.

Pinwheels on a stick
4 Tortillas
2 T cream cheese, softened
1/4 c carnitas
2 deli slices of ham
1/3 seedless cucumber, julienned
1 slice cheddar cheese, julienned
1 c baby spinach

2 bamboo skewers

1. Warm tortilla until soft and pliable.
2. Spread cream cheese on half of the tortilla.
3. Layer meats, veggies, and cheese on the non- cream cheese half.
4. Roll up tortilla, starting with non-cream cheese half.  The cream cheese should be the "glue" to hold the roll together.
5. Cut tortilla into 3-4 pieces.  Stick skewer through each pinwheel.


Check out the crab in the bottom left hand corner that we found crawling on the beach!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Baked Salmon

Baked Salmon... Easy as pie, err... Easier than pie!  Why do they say "easy as pie"?  Because pie is not the easiest thing.

I digress.  Baked salmon, super good for you, super easy.

Baked Salmon
Salmon fillet or steaks
Black pepper
Garlic powder

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 450 degrees F.
Pat dry salmon.  Place on aluminum foil lined baking dish.  If skin is intact, put skin side down.
Sprinkle salmon meat generously with black pepper, salt, and garlic powder.  Flip (only if no skin on bottom) and repeat.
Bake for 10-12 minutes for thin fillets or 18-20 for thicker steaks.  Thicker steaks may need to be flipped halfway to ensure even cooking.  Fish will be firm to the touch when done cooking.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Copycat Mimi Mouse Pancakes

My mom loves Mimi's Cafe... Mostly for their muffins. Mr A, on the other hand, likes the Mimi Mouse pancakes, which are in the shape of a big round pancake with two little circles at 10:00 and 2:00 for ears.  A regular size ice cream scoop and a little scoop help out a lot.

Well, I was feeling like pancakes and I thought it might be fun to try our own version of Mimi Mouse pancakes at home.  Any pancake recipe will do, but I found this recipe from Allrecipes.  I made some tweaks, though.  (Hubby says I never follow recipes!)

I used half whole wheat flour and half AP flour.  I also used half buttermilk, half skim milk.  I used brown sugar instead of white sugar. I added a splash of vanilla extract and a few shakes of cinnamon.  OK, I made a lot of tweaks.

But my biggest tweak was the presentation. Mimi's Cafe only gives you pancakes with a side of fruit.  My pancakes may not be the prettiest... let's face it, they are like the ugly stepsisters...  But there's potential here!

Copycat Mimi Mouse Pancakes

Inspired by Mimi's Cafe, recipe adapted from Allrecipes

  1. Combine dry ingredients.
  2. In separate bowl, combine wet ingredients.
  3. Pour wet into dry.  Whisk until just combined.  If batter is too thick, add a little more milk.
  4. Heat skillet.  Pour 1 ice cream scoopful of batter into center of the pan.  Pour a small scoopful of batter at 10:00 and another at 2:00 to form the ears.
  5. Flip when brown.
  6. Serve with syrup or fresh fruit.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Strawberry Muffins

Out of the blue, Mr A asked for strawberry muffins.  I replied, "We don't have any."  Well, this answer no longer deters the boy.  He knows that Mommy can look up a recipe and then make them.  After much asking, I began to search for a strawberry muffin recipe.  This Martha Stewart one looked promising, as did this video from Barefoot Contessa.

Then, I saw this baked blueberry donuts recipe from Weelicious...
and imagined it with strawberries.  Yummmmmm...
I love Weelicious because it's for moms trying to cook healthy for their kids.  But Catherine understands that eating healthy, reducing sugar, and cooking real food doesn't mean sacrificing taste.  But because I'm not totally used to using whole wheat flour, I substituted half the whole wheat flour for AP flour and of course, the blueberries for strawberries.
I scooped the batter into a mini muffins pan and my heart shaped donut pan.
Neither turned out very brown on top and the strawberries let out a lot of juice, which was ok for the mini muffins, but some of the donuts fell apart.  But all in all, the muffins were tasty.  Mr A loved them, and that's pretty much all that counts here.

I think next time, I will bake at 400 degrees and maybe pat dry my strawberries before folding them in. They were a little sweet for me so I'd cut back on the sugar to 1/3 cup, I think.  By the way, Mr A can't wait for his (pretend) sister's birthday on Tuesday.  She wants blueberry strawberry muffins!

Strawberry Muffins

Adapted from Weelicious
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. 2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
  3. 3. In a standing mixer (or bowl using a hand mixer), cream together the butter and sugar.
  4. 4. Add the egg, buttermilk and vanilla and combine.
  5. 5. Add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until just combined.
  6. 6. Gently fold in the blueberries.
  7. 7. Spoon into greased and floured donut pan, filling ¾ full.
  8. 8. Bake for 14 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed.