Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ingredient of the month...


Its finally fall and nothing makes us feel like fall then apples! Going to the local orchard and picking them off the trees and tasting all different varieties. Now, we eat apples year-round but we feel like eating them more in the fall months.
What to do with them? What NOT to do with them!!
Eat them plain! Or slice up and eat with cheese or peanut butter.
Apple Crisp!
Slice up some apples thinly with the skin on--enough to fill an 8x8 pan. Top with your favorite crisp topping and bake. Use canned biscuits or oatmeal cookie dough. Our favorite is a mix of 1/2 whole wheat flour, 1 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup smashed almonds, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp each of ginger, nutmeg, ground cloves, and allspice. Cut in 4-6 tablespoons butter. Bake 30-45 mins until browned and bubbley.
Slice and add to sandwiches. Turkey or ham and apples is yummy.
Add to salads.
Make an apple salad--dice apples and combine with pineapple, peanuts, and yogurt! or grate with carrots, dried cranberries, and a poppyseed dressing.
Add to muffins or breads.
Add to soups.
Butternut Squash and Apple soup! Sautee an onion, two carrots, some celery, one butternut squash, and a couple apples, 6 cups chicken stock, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Cook until squash is tender and puree.
Slice and sautee (a little butter, brown sugar, and spices). Add to sweet potatoes, waffles, pancakes, french toast, carrots, pork chops, or serve alone.
Enjoy fall and its fruits!!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Birthday Season

Twice a year, we have Birthday Season. In the fall, my kids' birthdays fall within six weeks of each other and my husband's and my half-birthdays are mixed in there. In the spring, my husband's and my birthdays come up and the kids' half-birthdays. What are half-birthdays, you ask? My husband's family started to celebrate their half-birthdays (six months past your actual birthday) because a year is too long for a little kid to wait for that special day. We have half of a cake and sing half of Happy Birthday. It is a great idea until you are still forcing your wife to plan a big celebration in your twenties or your child doesn't understand why no one at school is wishing her Happy Half Birthday.

Anyways....because of this season, we end of eating cake for six weeks. In many ways, we enjoy this. But as we are trying to keep off that baby weight (or loosing it, darling hubby) takes great restraint.

Each person gets to pick what kind of cake they want. 9.5 times out of 10, its chocolate cake. So, below is my standard cake recipe. Everyone picks different fillings and icings but the cake is usually the same. Once in awhile we throw in carrot cake (for the baby's first birthday, he likes carrots) or a cheesecake.

I also let the kids pick their theme...Toy Story, Bugs Life, Hungry Little Caterpillar, Princesses. Decorating cakes is really easy. Just be imaginative and creative. Use some ziplocks as piping bags. Color frosting to any color you want. And use small toys as cake toppers. Recently, I made a cake for my niece using small rounds a cake on top of each other to create Rapunzel's tower.


WW Birthday Chocolate Cake

2 cup sugar
1 ¾ cup flour
¾ cup cocoa
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup hot water

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Add remaining ingredients except water. Mix for 2 minutes. Add water. Mix until well incorporated. Pour into 2 greased, and parchment-lined circle pans. Bake 30 minutes on 350oF. Cool and frost.

Chocolate Ganache Filling

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

Combine cream and chocolate in microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave for 1 min. Stir, repeat until chocolate is melted. Stir in vanilla. Chill one hour or until thick. (Add a layer of raspberries! my hubby's fav!) Can add any extract or liqueur to change flavor.

Chocolate Frosting

3 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
½ cup butter, softened
5-6 tbls milk
1 tsp vanilla

Combine cocoa, butter, about half sugar. Add remaining sugar and milk alternately. Add vanilla.

White Frosting

1/3 cup water
2 tbls meringue powder
½ cup plus 1 tbls butter, softened or shortening
6 cup powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp almond extract

Combine water and meringue powder. Whip until soft peaks form. Add 2 cups sugar. Add butter and remaining sugar alternately. Add salt and flavorings.
Can be easily colored and great for piping.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Little Things

Its been a stressful and busy week, so here are some little things to get you through.

*My daughter's art teacher was named the Teacher of the Year for the state of Illinois today! She is a fabulous teacher and person. We love her and we are so glad that she was recognized for her outstanding dedication to our kids and community.
Check out the story at:

My husband is hilarious! Now he doesn't cook, really at all. So, when he was in charge of dinner...he lost track of things. He was making breaded chicken fillets (the pre-packaged, just heat and eat kind). When I got home I noticed that the oven was off and there was no chicken to be seen. I assumed he just didn't make them. So we were sitting down to eat--I somehow ended up serving, my daughter asks where the chicken is. The look on my husband's face was priceless. Then he explains...well I put them in the oven and set the timer for 17 mins. But he apparently completely forgot what was happening and when he went back in the kitchen, he noticed the oven on and turned it off (I don't know, thinking I left it on before I went out to run??). When the timer went off later, he simply turned it off and completely forgot he was baking the chicken in the oven. It still makes me laugh thinking about it.

**Our baby is officially walking! and into everything possible!

**Our almost 3-year-old started preschool and loves it so much he wants to go all the time--especially after dinner and on weekends. Just wait until he is a teenager and I have to bribe him to go.

**Our almost 10-year-old had artwork selected to be copied onto a tile for the wall of the new pediatric wing of the hospital. It is very special (and super cool of the hospital to think of including local, children's artwork as a permanent feature!).

Friday, September 08, 2006

This Week...

What we ate...
Pot Roast (in the crock pot) with roasted potatoes and acorn squash
Meatloaf with brown rice and veggies
Pasta Primavera
Smoothies (hubby's on the Abs Diet that includes lots of smoothie recipes)
Dove Bars!
Apple Crisp
Whole wheat french toast
Cheesy scrambled eggs with hash browns with peppers and onions
Lots of leftovers! (the pot roast and meatloaf fed us for days!)
Carrot Cake (baby's 1st bday!!)
Pumpkin Bread

What we read...
the baby...really into Baby Sign books, Five Little Ladybugs, the Eency Weency Spider
the 2-yr-old...Berenstein Bears Get into a Fight, Green Eggs and Ham, Look and Find Books
the 9-yr-old...Bone: Out from Boneville
the mom...4% Famous (a new book and I have yet to see a plot develop and I am 100 pages in...I don't even know why I am reading it still)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Baby Weight

First of all, I would like to give my love and support to anyone trying to loose weight and/or get into better physical shape. It is a hard thing to do.

Secondly, I would like to share that I am finally back to my pre-baby weight (pre-my 3 year old weight). Although I think our stomach flu of last week helped me get there...

I was very young when I was pregnant the first time and only gained about 25 pounds. I lost it right away...didn't even think about it. Second baby...gained a lot. I decided to be pregnant as much as possible and ate anything I wanted, didn't exercise....I gained almost 40 pounds (I know many people think that is nothing but consider I am only 4 ft 11 inches tall and normally weigh about 118 lbs). With that pregnancy, I had back pain all the time and swelled up like a whale. After losing the initial chunk (e.g. the baby and fluids), I didn't loose much weight at all (I kept a good 5 lbs on in the end). So, we decided to have another kid instead of trying to loose the weight.

Now 3rd time around...I gained about 30 lbs, exercised (up until the day before delivery), and ate better. I thought... I feel great, I look great. I will loose this weight in a snap--I'll be nursing (not that I stopped) and running around after three kids now. And I did loose the initial 20 lbs by my 2 week check up...and didn't loose another pound for 4 months.

What did I do? Besides sweeping away any depression about my weight (couldn't hear or see another celebrity mom who lost all her weight in a week--with the help of nannies, personal trainers, and chefs--did any of those women breastfeed?) and refusing to buy new clothes to accommodate my new size...I started taking classes at the gym (the same gym I had been going to all along and just using the cardio machines--the same gym we picked because of the classes we had never been to). The first class...cardiokickboxing was awful, I thought I would die. The second class..step was terrible, I was just waiting to fall on my face. Then, I did a core class. This is great! Then I persisted on the kickboxing class. I ended up going to the class 2-3 days a week. I have kept this up for 10 months! I love it!

I also tried to watch my diet. Just more fruits and veggies--eating the rest of the baby food doesn't count. I cut out all beverages during the day and drank only water--I allow one small glass of juice and one of milk and an ocassional cup of decaf coffee (I used to down cranberry juice like my life depended on it). I don't drink soda anyways.

I also frequented a Breastfeeding and Weight Loss message board (at This is a great help. There are other women who don't bounce back in six weeks or even six months either.

Finally, the pounds trickled off. And one year later, I finally lost that extra 13 pounds (that's about a pound a month). So, I lost the weight and can I say my jeans are even a bit baggy! (know that I still have a nice, soft belly there) More than the weight, I am in good shape. This means I can play harder with my kids and be a great example of good health for them.