Wednesday, October 31, 2012

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Happy Halloween!

This year Cati wanted to be the color blue and she wanted Elina to be the color green. She has also been asking for a blue tutu so I figured I could knock two things out at once. I made the tutus using this tutorial and I already can't wait to make more because it was so easy. How cute are these girls?

This is the first year Cati has been able to understand Halloween and she was especially happy about getting lots and lots of candy (I need to figure out a good hiding place!). Elina, my little trooper, slept most of the time. I hope you all had a great and fun Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

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Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

I have so many recipes and things to share but it's been so hard for me to find the motivation. I think I finally have the overwhelmed feeling under control; or at least I don't feel as anxious as I used to whenever I start feeling overwhelmed. I'm overwhelmed but I know I can get it all done if I take a step back and prioritize. Everything is about balance and finding the right balance for you. And if you are like me and you need help in the balancing department, I suggest making these Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars. Three layers of sweet goodness and one happy face after eating a bar.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars
Source: Tracey's Culinary Adventures adapted from Annie's Eats

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk

8 oz chocolate, finely chopped (I used bittersweet)
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
Fleur de sel for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

To make the shortbread layer: Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well combined, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat just until combined. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and press into an even layer over the bottom (it'll be a fairly thin layer). Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool completely.

To make the caramel layer: Combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk in a medium saucepan. Set the pan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the butter is melted. Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and turns a light caramel color. This may take 10 minutes or more, so be patient. Pour the caramel mixture over the cooled shortbread and spread in an even layer. Allow to cool completely, then chill briefly (I stuck mine in the fridge overnight, but you just want to chill enough that it won't melt when you add the warm chocolate in the next step).

To make the chocolate layer: Add the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter to a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until everything is melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Pour the chocolate over the chilled caramel and spread into an even layer with an offset spatula. Let cool for a few minutes, then sprinkle the top with the fleur de sel (if using). Let the chocolate set completely before slicing and serving.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

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The Color Run

Today was The Color Run in Miami, aka my fitness event for October. I woke the girls up earlier than I ever thought I would (5:45am), gave them a quick breakfast, and we were out of the house by 6:10am. Traffic to the event was horrible but what else can be expected out of an event that has over 9,000 participants?

We made it to the "festival" area by 7:25am and were in the 10th wave. Running this time went a little differently because I used my everyday stroller so that Elina could stay in her car seat and be covered by the rain cover while Cati stood on the wheelboard so she could enjoy the colors. This worked out perfectly because somewhere along the run Elina fell asleep and, because of all the people, Cati was not  interested in getting off the stroller to walk.

The run took place in Virginia Key and, while it was a nice area, running along a sewer plant made for an interesting run. Also, I think a good mile of the run was unpaved or dirt road so there were points where I couldn't run because of the stroller (Cati t even told me to walk because it was too bumpy!) and because I just couldn't fit in between people to keep on running. I made it to the end with both girls and am proud of my self-timed time of 39:32. Considering how much I walked my time wasn't too far behind the first 5K I did where I ran the entire thing.

{By the way, I recently timed my mile time and it was 10:22. A few of weeks ago my mile time was over 12 minutes. The Jeff Galloway program rocks my world!}

We ended up leaving early because Cati got scared after the color bomb (video below) and asked to go home. Lots of people, loud music, and powdered colors floating all around would scare me too if I were two years old. At least she did great for the run.

The run was so much fun and I cannot wait until my November fitness event, the Glow Run 5K. Here are fun pictures from our day:

Sleeping beauty

My running partners

Colorful Cati

Colorful Elina

My girls and me

PS The colors are hard to get out! To get the colors fully out you need multiple showers, lots of hand washing, and something to help scrub out the color. For the most part, the color came out of the clothes so I really can't complain.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

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Elina: Eight Months


Dear Elina,

Happy eight months baby girl. I say this every month, but I can't believe you are eight months old already. At times it feels like it was just yesterday that you were first handed to me. The first month was tough and that time has become blurred in my memory but every month with you since has gotten better and better. You are now at that perfect baby age of knowing, interacting, and responding. You know who I am and that smile that greets me almost every time we lock eyes proves that you know me. You interact with me and I love when you crawl over to me and settle your little body in my lap. You respond to so much, your name, your sister's attempts at making you laugh, and the best one yet, requests for kisses. Things just keep getting better and better.

At eight months old you are a crawling expert, a standing machine, and a novice climber. You are on the move and soon the pat-pat sound of your hands hitting the ground as you crawl will turn into the stomp-stomp of  your feet as you begin walking. You love to eat and have experienced so many different kinds of foods. Your favorites seem to be banana, cheese, and roasted pumpkin with a dash of cinnamon. While it may seem wrong I love seeing how upset you get when we sit down to eat and you realize you haven't been given food. You want to do as we do and that just makes the fact that you are eight months old harder to accept; soon you WILL do as we do because you will no longer be a baby.

This past month you have wowed us with all your developments and your almost-four- teeth-filled mouth. You have discovered the fun of dumping, dropping, and pulling out (you love playing with the dirty clothes!). You still love to cuddle and sitting in the rock chair with you as you smile at me and give me kisses is one of my favorite things to do each day. You are still my content baby. You still suck on the knuckle of your right index finger whenever you're falling asleep or in need of comforting.

On the technical side, at eight months you drink four-5oz bottles of breast milk and, although you fit perfectly fine in your 6-9 and 6-12 month clothing, you are still my petite little baby. You are still sleeping through the night and you are on your way to having four teeth.

Happy eight months Elina. With all the changes you are going through, I hope you can already perceive that my love for you is a constant. I'm so glad I get to be your mommy.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

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Parmesan Oven Fried Chicken

Another drumstick recipe and while I thought it was good, Alex wasn't a fan. It turns out, however, that he isn't much of a fan of drumsticks unless they are doused in hot sauce. \

Parmesan Oven Fried Chicken
Source: Mommy Hates Cooking

2 1/2 Lb Chicken Fryer, Cut
1/2 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 Tsp Garlic Salt
1 Tsp Oregano
1 Tsp Sweet Basil
1 egg


Preheat oven to 425*.

Line a baking dish with foil and grease it as well to avoid the skin sticking to the dish.

Place the flour in a bowl and set aside.

Next mix the cheese, salt, oregano, and basil in a separate dish.

Take each piece of chicken and coat with the flour then pat with the cheese mixture and place on the greased dish.

This will need to bake 30 minutes, then turn the chicken and bake an additional 30 minutes until well browned.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

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Homemade Baby Rice Cereal

When I first introduced Elina to solid food I started with oatmeal cereal. From the beginning Elina has not been a fan of pureed or liquid foods, so cereal was something she absolutely did not want. I tried a different approach by making her rice cereal and not thinning it out so it would be chunky and chewable. The first time I gave it to her she ate it. The second time she only ate half a serving and the third time she flat out refused. Then she went into one of her grunting fits and did not stop until I gave her bits and pieces of the breakfast I was eating. I didn't push the cereal on her anymore and Elina has been eating whatever I have ever since. While this recipe didn't work out for us, it's a recipe to keep on hand because it is so easy and it uses up something you probably already have in your pantry anyway.

Homemade Baby Rice Cereal
Source: Cooking for Baby by Lisa Barnes
Makes 1 cup

1/4 brown rice
1 cup water

Put rice in a blender and pulverize into a powder, 3-5 minutes on medium to high speed.

Bring 1 cup water to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add brown rice powder and reduce heat to low. Cook, whisking constantly, until water is absorbed, 4-5 minutes

Add water, breast milk, or formula to thin cereal to a consistency your baby can handle.

To store, refrigerate cooled cereal in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or fill ice-cube trays to freeze for up to 3 months.


Monday, October 8, 2012

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Pumpkin Lactation Cookies

Pumpkin Lactation Cookies
A couple of months ago my good friend sent me two of these cookies. She made them for herself and wanted to share their deliciousness with me. I'm so glad she did because if I would have come across this recipe on my own I would have thought twice about making it myself. I like pumpkin in desserts but I'm still not sure what desserts exactly I like pumpkin in. The pumpkin flavor in the cookies is mild and what the pumpkin really does for these cookies is make them soft and cakey.
Pumpkin Lactation Cookies

Pumpkin Lactation Cookies
Yields about 6 dozen cookies

4 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups old-fashioned oats (uncooked)
2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (softened)
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
4 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp flaxseed meal
2-4 Tbsp brewer’s yeast
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 16oz. can of pumpkin
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (I omitted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl combine the water and the flaxseed meal; let sit for 5 minutes.

In one bowl, combine flour, baking soda, yeast, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened butter until creamy. Slowly beat in the sugars. Add vanilla, egg, and flaxseed mixture. Beat until smooth. Add pumpkin and mix well. Slowly add your dry ingredients and beat until well mixed. Stir in oats, chocolate chips, and nuts.

Place dough in 1.5 inch lumps, 1-2 inches apart, with a medium scoop. You can use a spoon, but the scoop makes awesome looking cookies! Bake for 13-15 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Remove from oven and transfer from cookie sheet immediately to a cooling rack.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

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The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

Here's a crispy chocolate chip cookie recipe for you. You can never go wrong with any chocolate chip cookie recipe and because of that I've made so many different kinds. It took me copying the recipe into this post to realize that I did something different. Instead of using dark brown sugar, I used light brown sugar. I've never used dark brown sugar in a chocolate chip cookie recipe so I will definitely be trying this recipe again just to taste the difference in flavor.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever
Makes 4 dozen cookies
Source: My Kitchen Addiction

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 360°F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Using a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar together on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until nice and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla, and mix for 2 minutes.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  When the cookie dough has absorbed the dry ingredients, stir in the chocolate chips and mix until they are well distributed.

Drop 2 tablespoons of dough (or use a medium cookie scoop) onto the cookie sheet for each cookie, spacing them 2 inches apart.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges are nice and golden brown. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes.  Then, slide the parchment paper, with the cookies still on top, onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, October 5, 2012

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Whole Wheat Pancakes

I'm slowly trying to get everyone to eat a little healthier around here. There have been speed bumps along the way because Alex can smell healthy a mile away, but even these Whole Wheat Pancakes had him fooled. But then again, you can never really go wrong with breakfast. 

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

Source: Tracey's Culinary Adventures
Serves 4-6

3/4 cup all-purpose flour 

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt 
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 Tbsp canola oil, plus extra for cooking
1 large egg 
1 large egg white 

In a medium bowl, whisk both flours, the sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. In a second medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the oil, egg and egg white. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk just until barely combined - the batter will still be lumpy, that's fine.

Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Once the oil starts shimmering, use paper towels to wipe the pan so only a thin, even coating of oil covers the bottom and sides. Use a 1/4 cup measure to portion the batter into the pan. Cook on the first side until the edges are set and bubbles form on the surface, about 2-3 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the pancakes and cook for 1-2 minutes on the second side, or until golden brown and cooked through.  Repeat with remaining batter, adding the rest of the oil to the pan if necessary.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

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Chili-Roasted Chicken with Roasted Garlic Gravy

Chili Roasted Chicken
We are always looking for different things to make with chicken. Alex came across this recipe and asked me to make it because it sounded interesting. The dish was not what we expected. We were expecting something with some kick but the chicken tasted more like chicken marsala. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't what we were expecting.

Chili-Roasted Chicken with Roasted Garlic Gravy
Source: Epicurious

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 1/4 teaspoons chili powder
1 4 1/2-pound chicken, rinsed, patted dry
12 unpeeled garlic cloves

2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage

Preheat oven to 375°F. Stir 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons flour and 3 teaspoons chili powder in small bowl to blend. Rub butter mixture all over chicken; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place chicken in small roasting pan; scatter garlic around chicken in pan.

Roast chicken 40 minutes. Transfer garlic cloves to small plate. Return chicken to oven and roast until juices run clear when thigh is pierced with small knife, basting occasionally, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel garlic and mash. Stir remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons flour in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat 1 minute. Gradually whisk in broth and wine. Add sage, garlic and remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons chili powder. Boil until reduced to 1 cup, whisking occasionally, about 8 minutes. Season gravy to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer chicken to platter. Serve chicken with gravy.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

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My First 5K

Running a 5K was one of the best and funnest thing I have done. My day started early and involved waking the girls up a good hour and a half before they would normally have woken up and I was afraid it would throw them off and make for cranky kids. The girls were such troopers and I learned that the trick to getting them to hang out in the stroller for as long as they did was lots and lots of snacks. Plus, a sweet and attentive older sister who loves singing and comforting her baby sister.

At first I was going to run a few minutes then walk a few minutes but I decided to try to run the whole thing. And I did it! I pushed and paced myself and I ran the whole thing. I was so proud of myself. I have never, ever ran that much in one stretch of time. I was sore afterward but it felt so good. I literally pushed myself and my girls and I ended the 5K exactly how I started: running. Getting the finisher's medal and seeing my time of 37:05 was amazing (update: official pace time was 11:57min per mile!). I did so much better than I thought I would and now I have a number I can improve upon.

Next up is The Color Run and, once again, I get to share that experience with my girls. I cannot wait!
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September Foodie Penpal: Elizabeth

I always seem to run late with these posts. This month my Foodie Penpal was Elizabeth and I am convinced she had a talk with Cati because the box was full of Cati's favorites: dried blueberries and blueberry spread. Elizabeth was kind enough to send me suggestions for how to eat some of these things and she even shared a recipe. This has been another great month. Thank you Elizabeth for making it that way!
  • Colonna Italian Classic Chick Peas
  • Wegman's Sweetened Dried Wild Blueberries
  • Pop Secret Homestyle Popcorn
  • Polaner Blueberry Spreadable Fruit
  • Texas Pete Garlic Hot Sauce
  • Werther's Original Caramel Apple Filled Hard Candies
For more information on Foodie Penpals visit Lindsey's blog, The Lean Green Bean. The deadline to participate for October is the 4th so head on over! I promise you won't regret it.
The Lean Green Bean
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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

Chocolate Oatmeal Cake
So much oatmeal so little blog space. I made this cake and it was a hit in my house. I thought it needed something more (cinnamon or nutmeg or something), but Alex thought it was perfect. As I do with anything oatmeal this day, I added flax seed. You couldn't even taste the addition so no harm done. 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake
Source: Luanne Thomson on

3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking cocoa
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbsp flaxseed
1/2 (12 ounce) package chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare an 8x8 pan by coating with cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, pour water over oatmeal. Allow to stand 10 minutes.

Add sugars and butter, stirring until the butter melts. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla.

Sift flour, soda, cocoa, salt, and flaxseed together. Add to batter. Mix well. Stir in half the chocolate chips.

Pour into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking pan. Bake at for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.