Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween 2010

We celebrated Halloween all week this year. We happened to have several costumes in our arsenal this year, so we changed it up a few times.

You've seen our Zoo Boo costumes.

The girls went to costume story time at Barnes and Noble as a ladybug and a cat. Boo and Kitty were the only ones there, so they got a ton of attention from all the employees.
Then there was the preschool Halloween party and visiting J's work...Cinderella and Elpheba.

You can actually see her green make-up in this picture.
Loading up the trick-or-treat bag.

And then the church Halloween party, and only Boo made it to this one. Kitty had a rough day and really just needed to go to bed. But Cinderella found a friend in Spiderman and they had a great time together. Pictures coming soon.

Then we have the actual trick-or-treating costumes...a witch and her cat.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I came across several pumpkin whoopie pie recipes and I thought they looked tasty. And Halloween-ish. So one afternoon, Boo and I gave them a try.

Whoopie pies and I were not made for each other.

They actually taste really good. But I am not at all a fan of the texture. Cakey cookies and that filling. Not for me.

So I loaded them up to take to a friend. Because if you like whoopie pies, they are yummy.

But on the way they fell off the stroller and were unsalvageable.

Ill-fated from the start.

BUT if you like whoopie pies, you should give these a try.

Chocolate Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Makes about 24 cookies, 12 pies.

1 3/4 cups flour
1 /2 tsp salt
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 TB baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk together to blend. Set aside.

Combine the butter and sugar. Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

Beat in the egg.

Blend in the buttermilk and vanilla extract until incorporated.

Mix in the dry ingredients, blending just until combined.

Drop about 2 teaspoons of batter per cookie onto the cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 12 minutes in a preheated 400˚ oven, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Allow to cool on the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup canned solid pack pumpkin
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg

Whip together cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Add pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beat until smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Pipe or spoon about 2 teaspoons filling on the flat sides of half the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies, keeping the flat sides down.

Friday, October 29, 2010

S'mores Oatmeal

We love oatmeal.

Pumpkin spice.

Apple cinnamon.

But last Sunday I was in a mood, so Boo and I made S'mores Oatmeal. Completely inappropriate breakfast, but awesome.

I'm used to eating my s'mores with peanut butter, so I added a spoonful of peanut butter to my oatmeal. It was sooooooooooo good. But Boo and I had a fight after she ate all the good stuff off the top and wanted more chocolate and marshmallows for the bottom half of the oatmeal.
Boo wears her costume basically all the time.

Annie uses a kitchen torch to toast her marshmallows, but as we are torch-less around here, I just popped the ramekins in the toaster oven. But be very careful - it takes less than a minute to toast the marshmallows. And they go from perfect to ruined in about five seconds.

S'mores Oatmeal
Cooked oatmeal
Chocolate chips (or broken up chocolate bars from grandma's latest package...or trick-or-treating)
Mini marshmallows
Creamy peanut butter
You could also use broken up graham crackers, but we didn't have any around. And it was still super yummy without them.

Scoop cooked oatmeal into a ramekin. Stir in a spoonful of peanut butter.

Sprinkle marshmallows and chocolate on top of the oatmeal.

Place ramekin in a toaster oven on the broil setting and keep an eye on it. It will take less than a minute for the marshmallows to get toasty.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

We've been eating a lot of Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal. Kitty and I love it. But we needed to change it up.

So we tried Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal.

Yum. Perfect breakfast for fall.



2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 cup regular (old fashioned) oats
2 apples, quartered and cored
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup honey, or to taste

  1. Bring water to a boil. Add salt and oats.
  2. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan and cook until the oatmeal is thick and creamy, 10-15 minutes.
  3. While the oatmeal is cooking, shred the apples or pulse in a food processor.
  4. When the oatmeal is cooked, add the apples, cinnamon and honey.
  5. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

New cooking

I don't want to be a vegetarian, or a vegan.

But I want to eat less meat and dairy.

So I've been prowling the internet and library for new cooking resources and have found some great ones.

Websites first:

Natalie's Killer Cuisine has a vegetarian section under the 'healthy' tab. This is where I found the recipe for twice baked potatoes.

I've tried two recipes from Fat Free Vegan and both have been delicious. And I have about 12 more from this site waiting to be tried.

I just tried my first Vegan Yum Yum recipe this week: Spicy Lemon Pepper Pasta with Broccoli. It doesn't have much of a sauce, which was almost a deal breaker, but it turns out it has fabulous flavor (spic-ay!) to make up for its saucelessness. AND, I love the blog name...and her pictures are gorgeous.

Now books:

America's Test Kitchen has a Light & Healthy 2010 cookbook with 3 great sections: vegetarian entrees, grains and beans, and perfect vegetables. And ATK never disappoints. The vegetable tart rocks.

The Light and Healthy 2011 cookbook comes out next month.

The Everything Vegan Cookbook has a lot of recipes that look great that are not super labor intensive. However, almost all the recipes call for nutritional yeast. It can be omitted, but it is supposed to add a lot of flavor. I need to try it, but I'm dragging my feet. Has anyone tried it?
My cousin recommended The Conscious Cook cookbook, and I just picked it up from the library and can't wait to dive in.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dr. = Drama

The girls had a well visit with the pediatrician this month.

Immunizations were on the agenda for both girls.

Kitty doesn't absorb much prep, but I talked with Boo about what to expect. She was fine, a little uncertain about shots, but nothing too bad. She just wanted Kitty to go first.

I thought that was a bad idea. I should have listened to myself.

All the weighing, measuring, discussing developmental milestones went well. Boo was more than happy to show the good doctor that she can hop on one foot. Kitty was suspicious of Dr. V., but she managed.

Then the dr. left, the nurses came in, and the drama began.

Kitty took her turn with the immunizations, screaming before she was even touched. By the time Kitty was done, Boo was curled up under the chair in the corner in hysterics. I had to drag her out and hold her down for her turn.

It took awhile before we could even leave the room. When the screaming settled to stifled sobs, Boo told me she didn't like her doctor's office band-aids. But with the promise of trip to Target for new band-aids, we headed out. Boo limped along beside me and Kitty continued to sniffle/hiccup in my arms.

There were no Cinderella princess stickers at the front desk. Boo had to settle for Snow White. Oh, the injustice.

We made it to the car. And there was a bee. In the car.

But since I'm a super hero, I got it out.

And the day got better from there.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


First leaf raking of the season.

Kitty peeks out the window to watch the yard work when she should be napping.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cinnamon Waffles with Apples

We tried the cinnamon waffles with carmelized apples last week.

And as with everything Annie's Eats, it was fabulous.

Somehow I neglected to get a picture of the finished product, but here are my carmelized apples.
I didn't change her recipe at all (except I probably doubled the cinnamon, I have a bad habit of doing that), so click on over and give them a try.

She mentioned in this post that she gets a lot of recipes from the Williams-Sonoma catalog.

So I signed up. Can't wait for my first catalog!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Zoo Boo

Last weekend we took the girls to Zoo Boo. It was fun to have J with us at the zoo. The crowds weren't too bad, and the weather was great.

We had a witch...
...and her cat.

Kitty's costume is a work in progress. She needs a warmer black shirt and maybe a little cape. And definitely some green make-up.

Boo has been planning all along to be Cinderella. But her long white gloves are missing. So she's a cat...for now.

Boo insisted on visiting the snakes. But that made Kitty a very very sad witch indeed.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Summer Vegetable Gratin

I've mentioned my new cooking bible before.

I've had this recipe kicking around since August. Sara raved about it. I finally got around to making it for a dinner with J's sister last weekend.

Like all ATK recipes, it's labor and time intensive, but oh-so-worth-it.

Next year's garden will be exclusively zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes, so I can make this once a week. At least.

Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Summer Vegetable Gratin.
Click the link for all the details. Here I will just sum up.

Serves 6-8 as a side, or 4 as a main dish.

6 TB olive oil (or canola oil...I prefer canola)
lb. zucchini (about 3), ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
lb. yellow squash (about 3), ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
tsp table salt
1 1/2
pounds ripe tomatoes (3 large or 5 medium), sliced 1/4 inch thick
medium onions , halved and sliced thin (about 3 cups)
tsp pepper
medium garlic cloves (about 2 tsp), minced
TB minced fresh thyme (or 1/2 TB dried thyme)
large slice of bread
1 cup grated
Parmesan cheese

Toss zucchini and yellow squash slices with 1 tsp salt in large bowl; transfer to a colander set over a bowl. Let stand until zucchini and squash release at least 3 TB of liquid, about 45 minutes. Arrange slices on triple layer paper towels; cover with another triple layer paper towels and firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible.

Place tomato slices in single layer on double layer paper towels and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 tsp salt; let stand 30 minutes. Place second double layer paper towels on top of tomatoes and press firmly to dry tomatoes.

Heat 1 TB oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and dark golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Set onions aside.

Combine garlic, 3 TB oil, 1/2 tsp pepper, and thyme in small bowl.

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush 13- by 9-inch baking dish with 1 TB oil.

In large bowl, toss zucchini and summer squash in half of oil mixture, then arrange in greased baking dish.

Layer caramelized onions over squash.

Slightly overlap tomato slices in single layer on top of onions.

Spoon remaining garlic-oil mixture evenly over tomatoes.
Bake at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes, until vegetables are tender and tomatoes are starting to brown around the edges.

While veggies are baking, process bread in food processor about 10 seconds. (You should have about 1 cup crumbs.) Combine bread crumbs, 1 TB oil and Parmesan.

Remove baking dish from oven and increase to 450 degrees. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture evenly on top of tomatoes. Bake 5-10 minutes, until gratin is bubbling and cheese is lightly browned. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Graham Cracker Pears

Doesn't this look like raw chicken covered in bread crumbs?

Surprise! It's sliced pears rolled in graham cracker crumbs.

We ate this pretty frequently when I was growing up.

Last month when my parents were here, we had a very large bag of pears that needed to be eaten ASAP. I decided to give this a try, see if the girls liked it.

Girls and adults gobbled it up. It was just like I remembered.

Graham Cracker Pears

Place graham crackers in a ziploc bag, squeeze the air out and seal the bag.

Crush the crackers into fine crumbs with a rolling pin or drinking glass.

Dump the cracker crumbs into a shallow bowl.

Slice the pears, roll each slice in the graham cracker crumbs.

Done and done.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Twice Baked Potatoes

I found a new food blog.

Natalie's Killer Cuisine.

I tried her Broccoli and Cheddar Twice Baked Potatoes.


I know I'm funny, you don't have to tell me.

Broccoli and Cheddar Twice Baked Potato
6 large Russet Potatoes
Oil and salt
4 1/2 TB butter
3/4 c sour cream
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 c cheddar cheese, shredded
2 c broccoli florets

Poke 3-4 holes in each potato with a sharp paring knife. Coat in olive oil and salt. Bake uncovered for 1 1/2 hours in a preheated 350 degrees. Let the potatoes cool for about 30 minutes.

Slice off top quarter of potato. Carefully scoop out potato guts and don't break the skin. Now you can eat the the top that you sliced off - it is crispy and salty from being baked with the oil and salt. Yum and yum.

Add potato guts to the butter and sour cream and mash until smooth. Or until you are sick of mashing.

Mix in the salt and pepper. Remember, salt is your friend.

Now add the cheese and broccoli. And if you wanted to add in one little piece of already cooked turkey bacon (crumble it up), your potatoes will be that much better.

Scoop potato mixture back into the potato shells. Add a little more cheese, and bake for 30 minutes.

A very tasty dinner, just for you. Be warned, these are filling. Especially if you ate all the potato tops.

But they make good leftovers.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Duck and Goose

Kitty is in love with the Duck and Goose books by Tad Hill.

We started with Duck and Goose Find A Pumpkin.

Then we got What's Up, Duck? and Duck and Goose 1, 2, 3.

Duck and Goose Find A Pumpkin is our favorite. Kitty can sign 'pumpkin' and Boo can recite the book word for word.
They are board books, so they have been perfect for Kitty to handle.

Next on our list:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Baked egg cups

With the cooler weather, we have been using the oven more. When we have a little extra time in the mornings, I like to make egg cups. Warm and filling, but less mess than pancakes or waffles.


6 slices of bacon
6 slices of bread
6 eggs
Shredded cheese
Salt and pepper


You will want to pre-cook the bacon a bit. You can fry it, but I like to throw it in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes (it doesn't need to be completely cooked).

Cut out a circle from each slice of bread with a drinking glass or biscuit cutter.

Grease 6 wells of a muffin tin.

Line each muffin well with a slice of bacon.

Place a piece of bread in the muffin well, and press it against the sides and bottom of the muffin well.

Crack an egg in each muffin well. You can leave out part of the egg white so as not to overflow the muffin well.

Top with salt and pepper.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Remove tin from oven, top each egg with shredded cheese, and then bake for 1 minute more. This will give you melted cheese and a boiled egg consistency...bake it a little less if you like your egg more runny.

Let the egg cups cool for a couple of minutes, then run a knife around the edges and remove each egg cup.


*Adapted from Annie's Eats*

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chicago...the end

Our last two stops were for good eats.

We got some ice cream at Ghiradelli's (best chocolate ice cream I've ever had).
And grabbed a Giodano's pizza on our way out of town.
Chicago pizza, I have missed you. But you are slow and pricey. Good thing I can make you myself.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chicago...Hancock Observatory

I've been to the Hancock Observatory before.

But it is STILL completely RIDICULOUS to be on the 94th floor of a building, looking DOWN on skyscrapers.

Looking straight down to the square - Ghiradelli's is in the bottom right corner.

Looking to the south.

Looking to the north.

Doesn't this look like I'm on a green screen?

My favorite Dad in his favorite hat.

Grandma, who has been a good sport about trekking all over Chicago.
Only two more stops for the day...