Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Product Review: Curious Chef 6 Piece Fruit & Veggie Prep Kit

Both My Love and I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, cooking, baking and eating.  So, it was only natural to invite Lovebug into the kitchen at an early age so we could share this passion with her.  She started helping with food prep when she was about two years old.  Some of her responsibilities back then included breaking the tough stems off of asparagus, rolling out pizza dough, putting toppings on pizza and helping measure and pour ingredients.  

As she got older, her responsibilities and capabilities increased and last year we decided it was time we got her a knife so that she can help with some chopping.  Because of my culinary school background it was really important to me that we got Lovebug the right tools to do the job. 

So, I did a ton of research and when I came across the Curious Chef website, I knew that I had found what I was looking for.   As I looked through the product offerings, I was drawn to how the company takes actual kitchen tools and adapts them for use by children, rather than making toys for the kitchen.  I instantly felt at ease because they explicitly say that they design real tools specifically for kids with ergonomics and safety in mind.  Perfect!!

We ended up purchasing the 3 Piece Nylon Knife Set and couldn't be happier with it.  The knives are sturdy, strong and functional but safe at the same time.  Lovebug was thrilled and it has been awesome to see her confidence grow as she learns how to cut fruits and vegetables.  

I was so impressed with Curious Chef and the knives they make that I started following their various social media sites where they share fantastic ideas, tips and recipes.  So, when I saw that Curious Chef was looking to partner with bloggers on product reviews, I jumped at the opportunity.     

We received the 6 Piece Fruit and Veggie Prep Kit and spent the last month or so exploring Lovebug's new kitchen tools.  Included in the kit is: an apple slicer, a vegetable scrubber, a melon baller, a vegetable peeler, a large mixing spoon, a medium knife as well as a grocery list notepad and stickers.
Kitchen Tools for Kids: Curious Chef Fruit & Vegetable Prep Kit

Here's what we thought:

Monday, July 21, 2014

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

Yesterday was National Ice Cream day so we celebrated by making some Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream.   It was a definitely a group effort with My Love cutting the strawberries, Lovebug mashing the strawberries and me making the ice cream base, while Littlebug watched.

My ice cream maker is pretty small, so I had to freeze the ice cream in two batches, which ended up working out.  I accidentally filled the ice cream maker too much on the first batch so the ice cream didn't freeze or incorporate enough air.

So, we didn't get to enjoy any ice cream on National Ice Cream day.  Luckily, Lovebug was very gracious and understanding about what happened... NOT. AT. ALL.  She's four and she was told she was getting ice cream...  What happened to her ice cream?!?

After a bit of coaxing, My Love was able to appease her with a piece of chocolate.  Thank goodness! Crisis averted!

Meanwhile, I refroze my ice cream maker container last night and tried again with the second batch today.  We ended up with a perfectly sweet and creamy ice cream treat that was worth the wait.  Well, maybe not if you ask Lovebug.  I'm pretty sure she would say that it tasted good but that it would have been better if she had gotten it last night.

Oh well, you can't win them all.  But, this strawberry ice cream is definitely a winner!
Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What's for Dinner?

As a kid, I was always envious of my friends who would come back from summer break talking about the different camps they attended, the things they did / learned at those camps and the new friends / pen pals they made.  It just sounded so exciting, different and fun!  I never got a chance to go to summer camp so I remember thinking that when I had kids, I would sign them up for any and every camp they might be interested in.

Fast forward to now having my own kids and giving thought to what we will do during the summer months when both My Love and I are working.

The answer: I have no idea but there is NO WAY I am signing them up to spend hours, days and potentially even nights with strangers I haven't met and run a full background investigation on know nothing about!!!

Those of you who have been around for a while know that I have trust issues when it comes to my kids.  But for those of you who are new, let me be clear...  I have serious trust issues where my children are concerned.  It's completely irrational and probably the result of having too much scary information at my fingertips via the internet.  But, whatever the reason, I have a hard time trusting my children with people I don't know and I make no apologies about it.  They are my kids and my job is to protect them (among other things).

So, clearly, I lost my mind back in May because I willingly signed Lovebug up for a Frozen themed piano summer camp, where she takes lessons.  It wasn't out of necessity, it wasn't something I had to be talked into, it was just something I thought she would enjoy so I signed her up.

Surprisingly, I was completely comfortable with the decision right until last Sunday night when we were preparing Lovebugs things for camp the next day.  Then, I started completely freaking out.

I mean, I know most of the teachers at her music school, but I don't really know them.  Plus, the camp was open to kids from ages four to ten and I had no idea how much interaction the scary ten year old would have with my innocent impressionable four year old!  Yes, I realize how ridiculous this sounds as I write it, but that's how I felt.

I was truly terrified and anxious as we drove to the school on Monday morning.  But, we were greeted by her lovely piano teacher as soon as we got there, which calmed me down a bit.  I could tell Lovebug was a little nervous as I walked her to a seat, but a sweet older girl (probably 8-10 years old, of course) came over and started talking to her about her backpack which made Lovebug relax.  As I left she was chatting away with her new friend.

Thankfully, the day went by pretty quickly and before I knew it I was speeding driving to the school to pick her up.  When I got there, I found my happy girl playing with her new "best friend".  After hearing about her day, it was abundantly clear that all my fears were completely unfounded.  Camp was great!

Each day of camp, Lovebug came home with fun stories about what she did and learned and who she met and played with, just like the stories my childhood friends would share.  She had such a fantastic time at camp - she made new friends and learned some fundamental music skills, while spending a week emerged in all thing Frozen!

The best part was the adorable recital the students put on Friday afternoon.  We got to see her perform a solo of Do You Want to Build a Snowman, illustrate some of the new music skills she picked up and watched all the kids do a choir performance of all the songs from Frozen. It was truly fantastic!

I'm so glad that Lovebug got to have this memorable summer camp experience.   She had so much fun and has already requested that we sign her up for piano summer camp again next year.  I don't think she realizes that it won't be a Frozen camp again, but the important thing is that I am actually open to considering it.

What does this story have to do with our menu for this week?  Nothing at all!  I just wanted to share. :)

But, speaking of the menu...  My Love had a lot of input this week so you'll notice a lot of new recipes.  Can you tell he's a little bored with our staples?  At least the new recipes all sound delicious!

So, what's for dinner?

SundayChicken Fajitas with beans 

Monday:  Baked Eggplant Parmesan Penne with salad (New Recipe!)

Tuesday: Leftovers

Wednesday: Eat out

Thursday: Asian Brined Pork Loin with Stir Fried Bok-Choy (New Recipe!)

Friday:  Stir Fried Noodles with Roast Pork (using leftovers from last nights pork)  (New Recipe)

Saturday: Hamburgers, oven baked fries, baked beans and fruit

What's on your menu this week?

'What's for dinner?' That question used to haunt me until I started Menu Planning a couple years ago. Now, menu planning is a scheduled part of our weekend routine. See how we do it here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

So Into / So Over - Episode 15

If you know me personally, you know that I am a very honest person and not at all shy about sharing what I think, whether it is good or bad.  So Into / So Over posts provide me a forum to share my thoughts on things that make me happy as well as things that make me, well, not so happy.  Here's what I've been So Into / So Over this week:

So Into:  Summer Fruits
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I could literally eat summer fruits for every meal, snack and dessert for weeks on end and be incredibly happy.  They are so sweet, juicy and refreshing and, to me, are the perfect thing to eat on a hot summer day.

If you looked through our grocery bags during the summer you would find that the majority of our purchases are fruit.  Produce just looks so vibrant and inviting in the store at this time of year and we know that we'll only be able to indulge in perfectly ripe fruit for a short time, so we stock up to get our fill.  Even when our refrigerator is full of fruits, we'll still pick up more as we can never have enough!

I am so into summer fruits and look forward to the 100+ degree weather every year as I know that with the heat comes natures best defense for it... summer fruit!

Here are some tips for picking perfectly ripe summer fruits:
Melons - The heavier, the better. In fact, they should feel heavier than they look.
Stone Fruits (peaches, nectarines, apricots) - Don't press on them - you'll just bruise them. Instead, smell them.  They should smell like what you expect them to taste like.  If they don't smell like anything, then they probably won't taste like anything.
Berries - These should also smell like they should taste.  They should also have bright vibrant colors.  Lastly, bigger isn't necessarily better with these fruits.  The smaller berries tend to have the same amount of sweetness and flavor but it's just more condensed, which makes the smaller berries taste better.

So Over: Super Short Cut Off Shorts
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Call me modest or a prude.  But, is it really necessary for a** cheeks to be hanging out of cut off shorts?  I just find it so incredibly unattractive to see beautiful women with their rears hanging out of their shorts.  Is it just me?  Or do you feel this way too?

To the ladies who wear super short shorts - I realize that it's summertime and I live in Arizona, but we are in the desert, not at the beach!   I'm sure you have worked very hard to achieve the posterior you are displaying, but I just don't need, nor do I want, to see it.  I am a big proponent of wear what you like and what makes you feel good.  But, ladies please, I beg of you... Cover up your rears and leave some things to the imagination!!

I'm so over super short cut off shorts.  They just aren't flattering or attractive, in my humble opinion.

I'd love to hear from you!  What are you So Into and So Over?  Products? Projects? Gadgets? Books? Anything really!  Leave a comment to share.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mac 'n Cheese with Bacon

If you are lactose intolerant, vegan or on a paleo diet (or any other kind of diet for that matter), look away now!  I'm so sorry, but this recipe is not for you! But, I pormise I'll work on sharing more recipes that you can enjoy in the future.
In the meantime, for those of you who are still reading, if four creamy decadent cheeses and a whole lot of half and half (or milk, if you insist) mixed with bacon, pasta and bread crumbs makes your mouth start watering, this recipe is definitely for you!  
We first tried this dish at Lovebug's birthday party a couple years ago.  Since then we have tweaked it a few times and finally landed on the perfect casserole of cheesy goodness that fills your soul.  But, consider yourself warned, this is not something you want to serve everynight.  If you do, it won't just fill your soul, it will also fill your wasteline, your hips and possibly your arteries too.  It's the gift that keeps on giving that way.
But, I believe everything in moderation. So, go ahead and indulge from time to time.  And if you are indulging, give this delicious Macaroni & Cheese with Bacon a try.  It is so worth it! 
Mac 'n Cheese with Bacon Recipe

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What's for Dinner?

We had one of those days today...

You know, the days where the stars align and everything is going right.  

In fact, the day was going so well that around noon I thought to myself, "Wow!  We are having a great day so far! It's not even noon and the menu is planned, the groceries are purchased, the laundry is done, the kids have been bathed (we normally do this in the evenings but today I had some time in the morning so I thought we should just get it done.), and I've even got a little work done."   

And that's when it happened...  The stars shifted in a massive meteor shower that threw our day into a complete tailspin.  

Littlebug had been napping and I had the video monitor sitting right in front of me.  She started stirring so I took a peak and before I knew it, she was vomiting.  

I ran into the room to grab her as she was on her back and I didn't want her to choke.  In a few short seconds there was vomit everywhere. On her, on her bed, on me, on the floor, in our hair.  You name it, it was there.  So, My Love and I swiftly cleaned everything up, just in time for Littlebug to vomit again...  All over her, all over me, you get the point.

This happened several more times until I wizened up and stopped dressing her.  I bundled her up in blankets that I could easily switch out as they got dirty.  We went through several blankets before her tummy started to settle down. 

Luckily, once she got whatever it was out of her system, she was fine.  She never spiked a fever and was back to her normal self the rest of the day, eating, nursing and playing like usual.  She did need more attention than usual though...  Oh wait.  No, that was me.  She was perfectly happy being left to play with her toys, but, I wanted to be sure she was ok. So, I took every opportunity to hold her, play with her and watch her sleep. 

After having a great morning, we didn't have much to show for it.  We planned on cooking tonight and ended up with take-out instead.  We had a whole load of laundry to do... again.  And we had to give Littlebug several sponge baths to clean her up.  So much for a productive day! 

But that, my friends, is what happens when you comment (even to yourself!!) about how great the day is going.  Lesson learned!

So, what's for dinner?

Sunday: Greek food take out

Monday:  Lasagna, steamed broccoli and  spinach salad

TuesdayPotato Cursted Tilapia with herb sauce and Roasted Rosemary Red Potatoes

Wednesday:  Asian Pork Burgers, acorn squash fries and salad

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday:  Enchiladas, beans and salad

Saturday:  Chicken & Vegetable Risotto and fresh fruit

What's on your menu this week?

'What's for dinner?' That question used to haunt me until I started Menu Planning a couple years ago. Now, menu planning is a scheduled part of our weekend routine. See how we do it here.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

What's for Dinner?

So sad to see this three day weekend come to an end. We had a lot of fun...

I am happy to report that I did, in fact, shut down early on Thursday.  However, I was on my phone responding to last minute emails at one point during the afternoon.  But, I'll take that over staying at work late. :)

After work, we picked up the kids and headed up to Scottsdale for some scrumptious eats!!  We had dinner at the incredibly delicious Bario Queen restaurant.  The sister restaurant, Bario Cafe, is one of our very favorite restaurants so we were looking forward to trying this place out.  Let me tell you, it did not disappoint!  Everything was good beyond expectations.  I meant to take pictures but my hands were too busy stuffing my mouth.  Sorry!

If you are ever out in the Phoenix / Scottsdale area you really have to try one of Silvana Salcido Esparza's restaurants, Bario Cafe, Bario Queen or if it's your only chance, Bario Cafe Airport in Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.  The Pork Green Chile and the Carne Asada are to die for!!  Lucky for us, Ms. Esparza will be opening a restaurant in downtown Gilbert at the end of the year.  We can't wait!!

After dinner we went to Sugar Bowl for some tasty sweet treats!  Mint chip ice cream sundaes all around!!  Triple YUM!!  The restaurants in Phoenix / Scottsdale have always been good, but I feel like the local joints have really stepped up their game.  I love that we have a hard time deciding what to eat when we're up that way because there are so many good options!

Anyway, back to the weekend... We decided to take a last minute stay-cation and spent the 4th at a local resort for some fun in the sun.  It was so nice to get away even just for a night and Lovebug had a blast playing in the pool and splash pad!  We were so tuckered out after a day in the sun that half of us (including one adult which may or may not have been me!) fell asleep before the fire works shows started!!  In this adults defense, she is so sleep deprived that she'll take an early bed time over fireworks any day!

The rest of the weekend we took advantage of some sales and did a little back to school shopping (what!?!) and cleaned up around the house.  

Unfortunately, it's time to get back to reality... How was your weekend?

So, what's for dinner?

Sunday: Cheese Steak Sandwiches (recipe coming soon) with Sweet Potato Fries and corn on the cobb
Monday:  Chicken & Strawberry Salad with Crusty Bread

TuesdayMac 'n Cheese with Bacon and Steamed Broccoli

Wednesday: Grilled Pizza (dough / sauce) and salad

Thursday: Leftovers

FridayCarnitas with Beans

Saturday:  Eat out

What's on your menu this week?

'What's for dinner?' That question used to haunt me until I started Menu Planning a couple years ago. Now, menu planning is a scheduled part of our weekend routine. See how we do it here.
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