Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sausage, Spinach, and White Bean Pasta

Most of you have probably heard of Buddy Valastro, aka "The Cake Boss."  You may not know that he also has another show on TLC called "The Kitchen Boss" where he cooks regular meals.  Last week, I happened across this show while I was folding laundry and watched him make the following dish.  It looked so good I just had to try it.  However, I could not find it anywhere online, so this recipe is from memory and may not be exactly like Buddy's.  It must be pretty close, though, because it was really good! :-)  See, doesn't it look yummy???

Here's the recipe:

Sausage, Spinach, and White Bean Pasta  (originally by Buddy Valastro)

1 -1.5 lbs Italian Sausage (hot or mild - you choose!)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp, fresh rosemary, minced
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 cans of cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained & rinsed
1 lb. fresh spinach
16 oz. oreccheite pasta (If you can't find this kind, small shells would work fine)

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet brown sausage.  Add onion, garlic, and rosemary.  Saute for about 5 minutes.  Add wine to deglaze the pan.  Stir in broth and beans.  Add spinach - it will wilt as you stir it in.

Drain pasta and stir into sausage mixture.  Sprinkle with some Parmesan and serve!

*Side Note - My hubby was not quite as fond of this as I was.  He said it "needed something" and suggested maybe adding some canned, diced tomatoes next time.  It's actually not a bad idea! 

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Confession: My Kids Are Sleepers

I hope this post doesn't make any of my readers jealous, but I have to confess that my kids are great, late sleepers.  I have several friends with kids who wake up super early every morning - by 5:30 or 6:00 - even on the weekends and during summer.  I am so thankful that my kids don't do that!

Megan is the earliest riser of my bunch.  When left to her own devices, she usually gets up around 7:00.  Rachel and Emily sleep a little later, typically waking up around 8:00.  However, they have both been known to sleep even later than that.  It is not uncommon for me to have to wake Emily up on the days she goes to preschool which starts at 9:00 and we almost always have to wake Rachel up on Sundays so we can get to church on time.

There is a down side to their sleepiness, though.  School mornings can be a struggle.  Right now, of course, Rachel and Megan are in elementary school.  Their alarm clocks go off and 6:30 and have yet to actually wake them up.  I still have to go in, shake them a little, turn on a light, and then re-check.  They can be rather slow and grumpy which makes getting them out the door by 7:15 a real joy! ;-)  When my hubby is home, Emily just sleeps right through it all.  He travels, though, and when he is out of town I have to literally pick Emily up out of the bed and plop her in the minivan at the last possible second.  I can only imagine how our mornings will go next year when Emily starts kindergarten and has to get up and at 'em just like the other two!  I do have to say that Rachel has really turned a corner this year.  In the past, waking her up in the mornings has been HORRIBLE!  It has involved tears, yelling, and frustration.  Although her alarm still doesn't exactly wake her up, I now only have to go in one time to get her moving and she is usually semi-cooparative.  Trust me, this is a HUGE improvement from the past few years.

Please don't consider these complaints, though.  Given the choice between early risers and these late sleepers, I would choose the sleepers every time!  You see I am not much of a morning person myself.  If my kids woke up at 5:30 on Saturdays and vacation days, I might just shoot myself!  If you are a parent with some of those early risers, my apologies (unless you, of course, are an early riser, too).  I assure you that I appreciate these sleepy girls more than you can imagine!

Now, you will just have to pretend there's a picture of the big one asleep.  She really is just as angelic - unless, of course, the camera flash wakes her up.  Then she is mad like you have never seen and I just wouldn't risk it!

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Security - sort of.

Because DW travels so much, we have been contemplating a security system for a while.  We finally bit the bullet and had one installed yesterday.  We, of course, had to explain everything to the girls.  Honestly, I think they are way more freaked out now than they ever were before!  Some of their comments and questions:
  • Why would someone break into our house?
  • What if there's a fire?
  • Now I won't have to lay awake in bed at night being scared about someone breaking in! (Really - you did this before?)
  • What if it goes off while we are in the house? (They have some serious "scared-of-loud-noise" issues.)
  • How does it know whether to call the police or the firemen?
  • Why does it beep every time we open the door?
Last night, as always, I went to check on the girls before I headed to bed.  The oldest rolled over half asleep and said, "Did you turn the alarm on?"

On the way home from church last night, Megan reminded me at least 2 million times to be sure and turn it off when we got home.  Of course, this morning, she called dibs on turning it on before bedtime tonight.

It's all they could talk about last night and it was the first thing they asked about this morning.  

We did it in an effort to keep us all safer.  Although we may have accomplished safety, I think we have also traumatized our kids!  I can only imagine what will happen if it actually does go off sometime (and inevitably, I'm sure it will) - perhaps we should start a fund for their therapy now!?!

Then again, maybe I can use it to my advantage. . . . . . 

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Monday, February 20, 2012

How I Rock My Marriage

Libby, who writes a blog called ELF: A Family Blog, does a feature every Monday called "How I Rock My Marriage" and I wrote today's guest post!  Check it out by clicking here.

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Snow Day - Before & After

We finally had our first (and probably only) snow day of the winter here in NC today.  Here is a little "before and after" from our day.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Are kids entitled to privacy?

During the past week, my oldest daughter has been dealing with some "mean girl" situations at school.  She is in fourth grade - FOURTH GRADE!  I could write and entire blog post about these events and would certainly have a few choice words to share about the issues.  However, in an effort to respect her privacy and make sure that nothing I put out on my blog would ever cause her further strife, I will not.

I will share this, though.  One day, she came home from school saying it was a terrible day, but she did not want to talk about it.  She did not want to tell us what had happened.  After a significant amount of asking, reasoning, and pleading we got nowhere.  So, I resorted to threatening and, when she still wouldn't talk, I kept my threat promise and called her teacher.  She was not happy about this.  We explained to her that, as her parents, it is our job to teach her, advise her, guide her, and, if necessary, protect her.  We cannot do that if we don't have all the information, so we will do what is needed to get the information.

The very next day I saw the following posted on Facebook.  I think this sums up my philosophy pretty clearly and I wanted to post it here so that I can find it again and share it with my daughters whenever the occasion calls for it.

My Promise To My Children

As long as I live, I am your parent first and your friend second.  
I will stalk you, flip out on you, lecture you, drive you insane, be your worst nightmare, and hunt you down like a bloodhound when needed because I LOVE YOU!
When you understand that, I will know you are a responsible adult.  
You will NEVER find someone who loves, prays, cares, and worries about you more than I do.
If you don't hate me once in your life, I am not doing my job properly.

So are my girls entitled to any privacy?  Yes - when they are 18.  Now, I am not a helicopter parent.  I do not expect them to tell me about every single conversation they have.  I do not expect to tag along on all their play dates (and, eventually, dates).  I am perfectly content to drop them off at birthday parties or gymnastics classes and come back to get them later.  (Once they are old enough and when I am satisfied there is adequate supervision, that is.)  I do/will not eavesdrop on phone calls or read their diaries.  However, if I ever feel I need to, I will.  DW and I will have access to their email, their FaceBook (when we determine they are old enough to have these), and their friends.  When we ask questions, we expect truthful answers.  If we don't get them from our girls, we will get them from other sources.  That's our job.

What do you think??  How much privacy should kids have these days?? When should they be allowed to have their own email and FaceBook pages??  Is it o.k. for parents to do whatever it takes to find out what's happening in the lives of their kids??

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day - Bah Humbug!

I just have to throw this out there today - I really dislike Valentine's Day.  Sure, I wore my red shirt and did the school parties, but underneath I really, really don't like it.  Here's why:

I want my hubby (and anyone else who is so moved) to tell me he loves me EVERY SINGLE DAY!  (Which he does.)  And, if he is going to send me flowers or buy me a gift, I want it to be "just because" - just because he was thinking of me or just because he saw something he knew I would like.  It means so much more that way.  (He does this, too, by the way.)  I don't want it to be because Hallmark said he was supposed to or else I might get mad.

I know, I know.  There are lots of people who will say that "He doesn't only love you on Valentines Day.  It's just a special day to celebrate that love."  Well, to that I say - Bah Humbug!

To my 4 Valentines - DW, Rachel, Megan, and Emily - I won't say Happy Valentine's Day.  I will, however, say I Love You!!  I Love You today and every day!!  I Love You to the moon and back!!  I Love You no matter what!!  I Love You more and the most!!

Even though I am not a fan of Valentine's Day, I would still appreciate some love from you - Just because you love my blog!  Just click below to vote!
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Friday, February 10, 2012

Product Review - WhoNu Cookies

Have you heard of these nutritional cookies??

Yes, you read that correctly - Nutritional Cookies.  Quite an oxymoron, huh?

Well, I have been seeing these advertised for several weeks now, so, when I saw them at the grocery store yesterday, I decided to grab a box.  They come in this chocolate chip variety as well as an "oreo-like" chocolate cookie with cream filling.  They really are pretty good for you, especially for a cookie.  Here's a rundown of some of the nutrition highlights:

1 serving = 3 cookies = 160 calories

Also in 1 serving:
10 g sugar
2.5 g saturated fat
3 g fiber (same as a bowl of oatmeal)
30% RDV calcium & Vitamin D (same as 8 oz. milk)
25% RDV Vitamin C (same as 1 cup blueberries)
20% RDV Iron (same as a cup of spinach)
20% RDV Vitamin E (same as 2 cups carrot juice)
20% B12 (same as a cup of cottage cheese and fruit)
They are also nut and egg free!

***All of this - even the analogies - came directly from the packaging.

And here is the big shocker -
They actually taste good!!!  My kids ate them and had no idea they were "nutritional."  Megan even asked if I could pack some in her lunchbox today.

One reason they didn't know is because the Whonu people are marketing geniuses.  Inside the very colorful box is this:
A very plain, resealable package that does not draw the children's attention to the good-for-you qualities of the cookie.

As far as I can see, there is only one drawback.  We don't want to teach our children that cookies, in general, are healthy or that you can eat cookies instead of vegetables.  I am sure there are some parents who would think this product is bad because it will confuse children in just that way.  I can certainly see that point.  However, I don't think that will be a problem in my house for two reasons;  
1) If my kids knew these were "healthy," they would never eat them and never believe they actually taste good.
2) With that in mind, I haven't told my girls that these are healthy and, just like the manufacturers intended, the outer box quickly made its way into the depths of the recycling bin never to return.  To the girls, these are just cookies they get as a treat after supper or in their lunchbox.  (And, I am a great mom who actually bought bought cookies at the grocery store and let them eat them!)

Bottom line, I will buy them again.  

How about you??  Do you think this is tricking or misleading kids?  Or, would you buy them, too, and happily watch your kids munch a little extra nutrition - even in the form of cookies?   

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

One-Word Wednesday


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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Some days are just like that

This weekend, the weather around here has been cold, rainy, and gloomy.  Unfortunately, the mood surrounding the "Spoons" has been rather similar to the weather.  I We've been moody and grumpy.  The kids One child in particular has tested our patience over and over.  I started the weekend with an already long to-do list and every time I crossed an item off, another item instantly appeared to take its place.  The children have seemed, to me, exceptionally needy - sending a barrage of requests my way so that I have not been able to string together more than a couple minutes of downtime.

However, I am not writing this to whine.  I am not seeking pity and my intent is not simply release frustration (that is just a happy side affect).  I hope this blog will, one day, serve as a collection of memories for my girls, so I am writing this because I want them to remember it.  When they are each thirty-something, they will likely have their own families, frustrations, and struggles.  And, I want them to know that some days are just like that.  Some days are sunny, fun, happy, and full of laughter.  Other days are not.  Thats just life and it's o.k.

I have said before that I used to have a very "June Clever-ish" picture of motherhood and family life - until I actually had a family, that is.  Of course, I love them all dearly despite the incessant neediness; despite the less-than-stellar behavior; and despite my own moodiness.  But, on days like these, I find myself disappointed that we haven't squeezed every last ounce of family togetherness and joy out of our time.  As parents, and especially as mothers, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make sure everyone is happy all the time, but that is just not always possible.  Sometimes, we have to cut ourselves some slack and remember that, as I said earlier, some days are just like that and it's o.k.  It just makes the good days seem so much sweeter!

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Check me out!

An article I wrote about Cooking With Kids is being featured on a local Moms' Blog today!  In it, I share some very fun and simple recipes to try with your kids as well as discussing the benefits of cooking with your kids.

 Check it out here: Triad Moms on Main - Cooking With Kids

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Kitchen Shortcuts

As you can see on my blog, I occasionally post recipes.  Some of them are old stand-bys and some are newer recipes I have tried and enjoyed.  I like to cook and try new recipes.  I spend way too much of my "free time" perusing recipes on the Internet.  I also think that family meal time is very important, so I try to keep it fun and interesting.  However, I don't have the time, budget, or cooking skills to prepare super fancy gourmet meals every day.  Even if I did, you can be sure that at least a couple of the people at my family dinner table would turn up their noses completely!

Therefore, I often fall back on some of my favorite "go-to" kitchen shortcuts.  Although they are quick and easy, they are still healthy and hearty.  Plus, they are typically crowd pleasers that keep the complaints to a minimum.  For example, here's what I made for dinner a couple nights ago:

Doesn't that look good??  It actually includes 2 of the "shortcuts" I am about to list!

Since I know there are other parents out there who share my dinner menu dilemma, I thought I would share my 6 favorite kitchen shortcuts.

1)  Shake-N-Bake - Seriously.  You know that box of chicken coating stuff?  You dump it in a bag (which is included), add chicken, then you literally shake it and bake it.  Super quick and super easy.  Nowadays, Shake-N-Bake actually comes in a few different varieties including spicy buffalo, ranch and herb, Parmesan, and extra crispy original.  There is version for pork, too!  And let's face it, who doesn't love chicken fingers?!?

2)  Rotisserie Chicken - If you have a few minutes, run into a nearby grocery store and grab a rotisserie chicken.  They are healthy, tasty, and easy!!  Warm up a few vegetables to go along side it and, Voila! 

3)  Tacos - There are all kinds of recipes for "Shredded Chicken/Beef for Tacos" that, I'm sure, are wonderful, but I don't use them.   I use this:
It has both hard and soft shells to please everyone.  I just brown up some ground beef (or turkey) and then set up a "taco bar" on my kitchen counter.  Everyone is happy when it's taco night!!

4)  Stouffers - Occasionally, when these are on sale, I buy a couple and stick them in the freezer:
They do take a while to cook (usually about 2 hours), but otherwise, it doesn't get much easier than this - Pop it in the oven, add a salad, and DONE!  There are other varieties as well like Chicken/Broccoli/Cheese Bake.

5)  BBQ chicken or pork chops - Drop some boneless, skinless chicken breasts OR some boneless pork chops in a 13X9 pan, pour your favorite BBQ sauce on top, cover with foil, and bake for about 30 minutes.  With a few veggie sides, it is a great meal.

6)  Ore Ida Steam and Mash potatoes - Since I'm a southern girl, mashed potatoes are a menu staple in our house.  They are such a pain to fix, though - boiling, peeling, mashing, etc.  This product makes it soooooo much easier.

The potatoes are already cubed and peeled.  Just take the bag from the freezer and pop it in the microwave for 10 minutes.  Then add your milk, butter, etc. and mash - no boiling or peeling required!  (And they don't taste like the instant potatoes.  They taste like real potatoes be cause they are real potatoes.) Genius!

There you have it - my favorite kitchen shortcuts!  If you have others, please share them by adding a comment.  

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