September 29, 2009

Overnight Slow Cooker Oatmeal

I make this recipe for steel-cut oats at least twice a week. It makes just enough for all four of us and the boys love it. Plus, you can't beat a warm, healthy, hearty breakfast that only takes 1 to 2 minutes to prepare! I like to cook the oats with some cinnamon, then we add our own toppings. The kids like frozen blueberries, which also help cool things off for them. Hubby likes raisins & milk and I like brown sugar, milk & blueberries. Make it your own & enjoy!

Overnight Slow Cooker Oatmeal

1 cup steel cut oats
4 cups water
pinch of salt (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

You'll need a slow cooker and a separate bowl with a 5 cup capacity. In a glass or other oven-safe bowl, mix all of the ingredients together. Set bowl into slow cooker. Fill slow cooker crock with water up to line in the oats bowl...almost like a double boiler (see photo below). Put lid on slow cooker and cook on low overnight.

September 28, 2009

Library Picks: First Human Body Encyclopedia

photo from

First Human Body Encyclopedia by DK Publishing

As I am sure most almost-four-year-olds are, Peanut is fascinated with anything regarding the human body. When he started asking a lot of questions like, "How come by bones don't fall down when I stand up?" or "What's that funny thing hanging in the back of my mouth for?", I did what I always do...I went to the library. The fabulous children's librarian helped me choose this book. At first I thought it might be a little too graphic for a kid so young, but he loved the detailed drawings and photographs. The book explains everything from what your bones are made of to how your taste buds work. It doesn't make for the best bedtime book, but it is excellent for answering nonstop questions about body an age appropriate way. We have renewed this book twice and I think we'll be making it a permanent part of our home library.

September 25, 2009

Mommy Confessions: When Mommy is Sick

#48 I think I'm in biiiig trouble today. I woke up sick this morning and the kids seem fine. I almost prefer to have them sick and me well! I'm sure I'll spend most of the day saying, "Please calm down. Mommy doesn't feel good." and "Want to watch another DVD?"

#49 My husband gave Peanut bourbon-soaked fruit cake for breakfast this morning. I don't think I need to elaborate.

September 23, 2009

The Countdown to Four

My oldest, Peanut, turns four in October. I am literally counting the days. Not because I'm excited to celebrate the anniversary of his birth or to shower him with gifts. But I'm hoping his fourth birthday will be the day he suddenly decides to chill out! Three-and-a-half has been hard on all of us, Peanut included. Tantrums, attitude, yelling, hitting his brother, talking back, no naps, noise noise noise! I dread meal time. I dread time in the car. I dread any time I have to leave a park, friend's house or school. It seems every attempt to get him to do something we want is met head-on with resistance.

The "terrible twos" were nothing. Two was like a spa day compared to three-and-a-half. I keep hearing from other moms that four is better. "Four gets so much easier." "Four is much more fun." "All of that will get better once he's four."

Please, please, please be true. I need it to be true. Come on, four! Deliver!

September 22, 2009

The Last Caprese Salad

Today is the first day of fall & I am afraid this is the last time I'll see a beautiful plate of fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil from our garden until next summer. The basil that hasn't gone to seed is starting to turn brown and our tomatoes are starting to crack from the moisture in the morning air. Last week we savored every bit of this yummy caprese salad. So tasty, so simple and so summer!

Caprese Salad

1 large tomato, sliced
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced
small handful of fresh basil (about 10 leaves)
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

Arrange tomato slices, mozzarella slices and basil leaves on a plate. I like to layer mine in an alternating pattern. Drizzle with olive oil & season with salt & pepper.

Note: You can also drizzle a little balsamic vinegar on top, but we prefer ours with just some really good olive oil.

September 11, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Secretly Eating Cookie Dough

#46 I promised the kids I'd take them to the beach "as soon as I was done with my chores." But right now I'm sitting in the basement eating frozen cookie dough.

#47 I believe I mentioned this about 100 times already. But I CAN NOT WAIT FOR PRESCHOOL TO START!!! 3 more days. 3 more days. 3 more days. 3 more days....

September 9, 2009

How to Avoid Eating an Entire Batch of Cookies

I love love love chocolate chip cookies. I live for warm, homemade Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookies. I swear it's the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever. I love love love these cookies so much, that I'll eat the entire batch myself. My husband might get two, my kids a couple. But then I eat my unfair share, plus the raw dough.

A wise woman in my family (Aunt Colleen? Mom? Cousin Kim? Other Cousin Kim?) taught me that if you freeze your dough in little balls A) You can make fresh baked cookies whenever you want them, and B) You will be less likely to eat them all at once.

Here's what you do:
  1. Make your favorite cookie dough recipe as you normally would.
  2. Bake up a small batch, if you'd like.
  3. Put the rest of the dough in the refrigerator to chill for a couple of hours. I just through my KitchenAid bowl right in the frig!
  4. After the dough is firm, use a small ice cream scoop to make portion-sized balls.
  5. Place balls in a freezer bag, making one flat layer.
  6. Store in freezer.*
  7. When you are ready to bake some cookies, just pull out a couple of dough balls and bake them according to the recipe. You may need to add a little more time since the dough is frozen, but follow your recipe first to be safe...then add time as needed.
*I have no idea how long the dough will keep in the freezer...we usually eat ours up in a week or two.

September 8, 2009

Oven Roasted Corn on the Cob

The other day I was watching Tyler's Ultimate on the Food Network. I think he may have been making fried chicken or something, but his oven roasted corn on the cob is the only thing that stuck in my brain. So when my father-in-law brought by some fresh picked homegrown corn last night I knew I had to try Tyler's technique. It's so simple. Try it. You will never boil corn again. You will not even bother grilling corn again. If you are like me, you'll probably find a way to make corn part of every meal for the rest of the season just so you can eat corn this way. I'm totally serious.

Oven Roasted Corn on the Cob
recipe by Tyler Florence

4 ears fresh corn (that's it. nothing else.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place corn husks directly on the oven rack and roast for 30 minutes or until corn is soft. Peel down the husks and use as a handle when eating.

I actually put mine on a cookie sheet because I was afraid some of the silk would fall off and burn. I also twisted the husks off when the corn was done...the husk and silk freak my kids out. You can add butter and salt if you really want to, but you won't need it.

September 4, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Crazy Busy

#44 I did NOT feel like writing anything this week. Why? Well, Sprout is not sleeping well due to teething, he is suddenly passionate about potty training, we are getting ready for preschool to start, we are still trying to wrap up our front yard landscaping, my mom was visiting, my house is a mess, our kitchen sink started linking, I had play dates scheduled that I forgot about and I haven't been sleeping much either. But here I am typing...well, venting.

#45 Have I mentioned...I CAN'T WAIT FOR PEANUT TO START PRESCHOOL!!! Only 1 week and 3 days.

September 2, 2009

Potty Training...What's My Problem?

Apparently we are potty training right now. I say apparently, because it is sort of news to me. At 20 months, Sprout started asking to use the potty...and actually used it.

I couldn't wait for Peanut to be potty trained. We bought him his first potty when he was 18 months old, complete with a potty book. We didn't really start to encourage potty training until he was 2.5 years old. We started putting him in pull-ups for daycare, because he would use the potty there. But when I lost my job and became a full-time stay at home mom, he completely regressed. I threw in the towel completely and just put him back in diapers. We had a stack of full sticker charts by then, but it was clear he just wasn't ready. I waited until I knew he was really ready and then just moved him to underwear during the day and pull-ups at night. He was finally ready at 39 months old. One day he was in diapers and the next he was wearing underwear. By day 4 he was leaving the house in underwear. After two weeks he was fully potty trained with the occasional accident at night.

With Peanut being such a "late" potty trainer, imagine my surprise when Sprout wanted to use the potty at 20 months. He asks to use it constantly. He only wants to use the seat ring on the big toilet, not the little potty on the floor (Peanut was the opposite). This morning he woke up, asked me to read him a book & then went straight for the bathroom. Now, most parents would probably be jumping up and down with joy. But I think I'm in denial. I give him a high five, cheer him on...and then put him in a diaper and go on with our day. Am I just trying to keep my toddler a baby? Am I just too lazy to deal with potty training again so soon? Or is it just because it took Peanut so long that I'm hesitant to dive right in?

It's funny to me that I feel as if I've never done this before...even though I just did it 8 months ago.

September 1, 2009

Our Favorite Macaroni and Cheese

I originally adapted this recipe from the Pasta & Co. By Request cookbook. We made it for Peanut's first birthday party and it's been a family (and friend) favorite since. You can really use any cheese you like. The original recipe calls for half cheddar and half mozzarella, which makes for a creamier dish and lots of stretchy cheese. But our family prefers sharp cheddar, so that is what we used. You might be tempted to leave the Tabasco out if you are cooking for children, but please put at least a little really brings out the flavor of the cheddar.

Our Favorite Macaroni & Cheese

1 lb sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated
1 lb Colby Jack cheese, grated
3 cups milk (whole, 2%, or 1%)
7 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 lb dried pasta (radiatore or rigatoni work best)
2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/3 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp paprika
3/4 cup milk (whole, 2%, or 1%)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Combine grated cheddar and Colby jack and set aside.

3. In a small saucepan, heat 3 cups milk until near boiling. Turn off heat.

4. Melt butter in a heavy pan large enough to hold the pasta after it is cooked. (It will take at least a 14" sauté pan or a large casserole that can take direct heat.) When foam from butter recedes, remove from heat, add flour, and mix well. Return to medium-low heat, and, stirring occasionally, simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to cook, but not brown, the flour. Gradually stir in hot milk. Raise heat to medium-high and continue stirring until mixture is smooth and thick, about 3 minutes. Add parmesan cheese. Whisk until smooth. Add Tabasco and pepper and blend.

5. Cook pasta until just underdone. Thoroughly drain pasta and fold it into the mik/parmesan mixture.

6. Layer one-half of the pasta mixture into a 9" x 13" pan. Top with half of the cheese mixture. Repeat layers. Top with paprika, sprinkled evenly over the top.

7. If not baking immediately, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze. When ready to bake, drizzle the 3/4 cup milk over the dish. Bake for approximately 1 hour. If frozen, add at least 20 minutes to baking time. The dish should be rusty brown on top. Should it appear to be browning too fast, cover with foil for part of cooking time. Be sure to check for doneness in the very center of the dish.