Thursday, May 31, 2012

What Day Is It?!?

We'd both like to apologize for our departure from our regular Monday, Wednesday, and Friday posts.  With the long weekend and my family now on summer vacation, I am completely confused as to what day it is.  As far as I'm concerned, every day is Saturday because Robbie and Keanna are home.  Yay for having the whole family on a school schedule!!

Anyway, by the time I realized yesterday was Wednesday, it was too late to get a post up.  And rather than confuse ourselves even more by putting one up today, we'll just wait until tomorrow and get back on our regular schedule.

So sorry to those of you who were looking for Wedensday's post.  We'll see you tomorrow!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Wraps

Grilled chicken and vegetable wrap

It's been pretty hot here recently (not summer hot, yet, but hot nonetheless), and I've been reminded of how much I dislike using my stove and oven in the summer.  So we're having more salads, sandwiches, and food cooked outside on the grill.  I found this recipe on Pinterest and decided to give it a try with a few modifications.  The results were wonderful and my family enjoyed it!  The best part was that it didn't heat up my house at all because it's all cooked out on the grill!

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Wraps
Chicken breasts
Red onion, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices
Red bell pepper, sliced into rings
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Garlic powder
Ground black pepper
Wraps, pitas, or tortillas (we used whole wheat lavash bread)
Feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Season chicken breast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Place on grill; cook for 4 to 8 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.  While the chicken is cooking, brush or drizzle onions, bell peppers, and zucchini with olive oil; season with salt and pepper.  Place on grill until the first side begins to soften and get grill marks; flip and cook until tender-crisp.

Remove chicken and veggies.  Cut chicken into bite-sized chunks and give veggies a rough chop.  Season veggies with salt and pepper to taste if needed.

Spread wrap, pita, or tortilla with hummus, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges.  Place chicken and veggies in a strip along on edge of wrap.  Top with desired amount of feta and roll up.  Serve immediately and enjoy!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day

Our Dad back in his army days.
My husband has a 3-day-weekend (first one since New Year's) and we've been having too much fun, so I don't really have a post for today.  But I will try to get one done for tomorrow!  In the meantime, if you're looking for a fun Memorial Day treat, try our patriotic strawberries that we posted last year!

More importantly, though, we want to take a moment to thank all of those who have served or are currently serving our great country.  We appreciate the sacrifice you and your families have made, and we realize it wasn't easy.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Keanna's Birthday Breakfast--Pancake Cake!

birthday breakfast pancake cake

Today my first baby turns eight!  Where did the time go?!?  We aren't having her party until tomorrow, but we can't possibly let today go by without some fanfare.  So this morning we started the day with a pancake cake!  I think this is going to become the birthday tradition in our house.

I started with Gale Gand's chocolate chip pancake recipe, omitting the chocolate chips in the batter, but any pancake recipe will do.  You could use Kimiko's homemade pancake mix recipe or her delicious sweet pancake recipe.

Construction is simple:  pancake, peanut butter, banana slices, chocolate chips; repeat.  End with a pancake, drizzle with syrup, and finish off with a swirl of whipped cream.  So yummy!!!

Of course, you could change up the flavors.  Sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cream cheese filling, bacon...whatever you're tummy desires!

Happy birthday to the sweet girl who changed my life forever!!  I love you!

Keanna yawn at 3-5 days old!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hot Dog Bun Garlic Bread

garlic bread made with leftover hot dog buns

Whenever we have hot dogs or hamburgers, it seems there are always leftover buns that eventually end up in the trash.  I really don't like wasting food, so I've come up with a way to use them up.  It's easier for us to use up a pack of hamburger buns than hot dog buns, because I usually plan at least 2 meals that will use them a couple days apart.  For example, on Monday we'll have turkey burgers and on Wednesday or Thursday, we'll have BBQ chicken sandwiches.  However, with hot dogs, it's a little more difficult to come up with 2 meals (other than hot dogs) that use them.  I did find another way to use them besides what I'm sharing here today that I'll tell you about another time.  Anyway, leftover hot dog (and hamburger) buns work well for garlic bread!

Hot Dog Bun Garlic Bread
Hot dog buns, split
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning
Parmesan cheese

Spread desired amount of butter on each bun (cut side up).  Sprinkle with garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan.  Broil until they are golden brown and crispy on top!

Of course, if you don't have any extra buns on hand, you can always use our more traditional garlic bread recipe!

I apologize for my lack of "real" recipes lately.  Life has gotten busy and there are other things that have taken priority over trying/altering/developing new recipes.  Hopefully you'll still find these simple tips and recipes helpful!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Philly Cheese Steaks

Philly cheese steak sandwich

We are both native Californians, but our familial roots are in Michigan and Pennsylvania.  Our dad grew up in Detroit, and left Michigan when he joined the army.  Our mom was born in Lebanon (home of Lebanon bologna!) and grew up in Palmyra and Mechanicsburg—our grandparents are now back in Palmyra again.  We grew up eating some distinctively Pennsylvania foods—red beet eggs, chicken corn soup, pot pie (real pot pie made in a pot), and Philly cheese steak sandwiches, which I’d like to share with you today.  This recipe is neither healthy, nor cheap, but it is one of our comfort foods and we rarely eat it.

Now-a-days, you can order a Philly cheese steak at just about any American-food restaurant and California even has a chain called The Cheese Steak Shop.  I would agree that most of these sandwiches you can get at restaurants are tasty, but they are not the cheese steaks we grew up eating.

The main difference between our cheese steaks and those you get at restaurants is sauce.  We like Tallarico’s Philly style steak sandwich sauce.  I have never seen it here on the West, so we wait with anticipation for Christmas packages from Grandpa and Grandma which almost always contain a jar or two.  In the absence of the steak sandwich sauce, pizza or spaghetti sauce will suffice.  In fact, The Cheese Steak Shop serves a “pizza cheese steak” which is their basic sandwich with pizza sauce.

As far as the veggies go, I just add caramelized onions, but you can also include peppers and mushrooms.

For the meet, I use Steak-umm sliced steaks.  I know.  Processed and expensive.  But this is how Grandma and Mom make them so that’s how we like them.  You could use real steak, thinly sliced, chopped, and grilled if you prefer.

These are WAY over my $2/lb. spending limit for meat, but
we only have them a couple times a year---and it's
completely worth it!

They come like this.  Keep them frozen until you are
ready to cook them.

From what I’ve heard/read/seen, the classic Philly cheese steak should have American cheese on it.  It is great that way, but sometimes I like to mix it up and use provolone.  When I can’t decide, I do half and half.

Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches
Butter for sautéing and bread
1 large onion
1 bell pepper (optional)
Mushrooms (optional)
2 packages Steak-umms
6 soft sandwich rolls
1 jar steak sandwich sauce (or pizza or spaghetti sauce)
Provolone or American cheese

Heat sauté pan over medium heat.  Meanwhile, slice onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms.  Add 1-2 Tbsp. butter to hot pan; melt.  Add veggies to pan and slowly caramelize, stirring occasionally.

While veggies are cooking, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Meanwhile, break sandwich steaks into pieces.  Add to heated skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until no pink remains.

If either the meat or the veggies are ready before you are, simply keep them warm in a 250° oven.  Heat sauce in microwave or on stove.  When onions, meat, and sauce are almost all ready, butter sandwich rolls and brown under broiler until golden.

This is what happens if you get distracted.  My family
didn't even know they were burnt because the filling
tasted so good.

Top one half with meat and the other half with veggies; spoon sauce over both sides.

It's a messy sandwich.

Cover all with desired cheese and place back under broiler to melt.

Soooooo good!!

And if you happen to visit The Cheese Steak Shop, be sure to pick up another one of our completely unhealthy favorite Pennsylvania comfort foods—Tastykakes!  The butterscotch krimpets are my favorite!  Kimiko likes the chocolate cupcakes out of the freezer.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Filled Pita Pockets

Filled pita pockets

Since I've recently gotten back into the habit of making pitas, we've been experimenting with all different ways of eating them.  One of our favorites is as a snack with hummus, but we've also been trying them out as part of a main dish.  The possibilities are pretty much endless, but here are a couple of the ways we've filled them.

Basically, we've just been filling them with salads.  For example, I tossed some lettuce, red and green bell peppers, red onion, turkey or chicken (either lunch meat, torn, or leftover meat), and Italian dressing in a bowl, then cut a pita in half and filled it with the yummy goodness.

For my husband, I basically took the filling of our Chicken Caesar Wraps and stuck it in a pita instead of a tortilla.  The key to getting everything mixed well is to mix it all in a bowl first, then put it into the pita.

You can also make more sandwich-type filled pitas.  Try filling one with chicken salad, egg salad, roasted veggies, or anything else you'd put into a sandwich or salad!  Actually, you're not even limited to salad or sandwich fillings!  I'd think taco/burrito type fillings would be delicious, as would dessert-like fillings (I'm thinking peanut butter, banana slices, and chocolate chips)!  Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite pita fillings!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Homemade Snack Mix

Homemade snack mix

When we had the boys' birthday party a few weeks ago, I wanted to spend as little money as possible.  My parents had bought a construction party/face painting package at our school's silent auction, so that took care of some activities, paper goods, a few decorations, and favors.  That just left us with the cost of the food.

Lukas, waiting to be transformed into Spider Man.

snake face painting
Koda the snake!

We scheduled the party for 1:30 so we wouldn't need to feed everyone lunch and it would be over before dinner.  I already shared with you the rocket ship cake and dirt cupcakes I made for them.  You can find them here.  I also bought two boxes of ice cream to go with it, but wanted to provide the kids with something a little more substantial.  I thought a snack mix would be the perfect thing--lots of delicious goodies in one snack.

I normally don’t feed my kids snack mixes because they are so calorically dense.  But when out on the trail or expending a lot of energy, it is just what your body needs.  And our little guests were burning a lot of calories painting our fence with water and hammering nails into boards.

The boys worked really hard!!

I headed over to the bulk bins at WinCo, knowing I would find the best prices there.  They do carry a variety of trail and snack mixes, but I was on a quest to make my own.  The cheapest mix in the bins was $2.97/lb. and contained peanuts, raisins, color buttons (generic M&M’s), and almonds.  The only one of those items that might cost $2.97/lb. is the almonds.  You’re paying a lot to have them all mixed together.

I decided on a mixture of pretzel twists, salted peanuts, corn Chex, raisins, dried cranberries, and dark chocolate chips.  Everything except the Chex came from the bins (I bought those on sale a few weeks before).  The most expensive ingredient was the dried cranberries at $3.76/lb., but everything else cost below the $2.97/lb. I’d pay for a pre-mixed snack mix.

snack mix ingredients:  Chex, dark chocolate chips, pretzel twists, raisins, dried cranberries, peanuts

One of the great things about making snack mixes, is that you don’t even need to measure—my almost-four-year-olds can make it.  But for the sake of analyzing my savings, I measured and came up with the following recipe.

Trail Mix
6 oz. pretzel twists
8 oz. salted peanuts
4 oz. corn Chex
3 oz. raisins
3 oz. dried cranberries
4 oz. dark chocolate chips

Measure all ingredients into gallon zip-top bag and mix.  Yield:  28 oz.  Total cost:  $4.10.  Unit cost:  $2.34/lb.!!

I knew I didn’t want to serve it out of a bowl.  I didn’t want their grimy hands touching all of it.  So I portioned it out into Chinese to-go boxes that I bought at Cash & Carry.  They are so convenient for packing meals for people, sending snacks for the boys’ preschool class, and giving cupcakes.

snack mix in to-go boxes

So next time you’re planning a party or a day on the trails, remember that you don’t have to break the bank to have a great, delicious time.

Mom and daughter with faces painted with flowers
My beautiful girl!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

My first Mother's Day, eight years ago!

We don't have a real post for today as we both took this weekend to spend some extra time with our families.  We are so blessed to be mothers!!  Remember, Mother's Day isn't the only time to tell your mom you love her and appreciate her.

With that said, we'd like to let every one of our readers know how much we love and appreciate our mothers.  Mom, Lesley, and Sandy, we are truly blessed by God to have you in our lives.  Thank you for your faithful and diligent care for us and our husbands over the years.  We love you!

My precious princess showered me with homemade gifts
for Mother's Day.  I love her so much!!

The boys gave me some precious things they made at
preschool!  April gave me lots of love and cuddles.

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