Monthly Archives: January 2012

Patriotic Napoleons for Primary Election Day.

The Primaries are tomorrow here in Florida. The race has been hot, to say the least, with almost every single evening commercial break being completely taken up with campaign attack ads. Having already done my civic duty — it’s really easy to vote early here — I thought I’d commemorate the craziness with a little patriotism.

(You don’t need to explain the irony to me of using a French-named dessert… Maybe you could use this for Bastille Day this summer.)

I saw this easy Napoleon recipe on TidyMom a week ago & knew I needed to make it. I love that the thick pudding/whipped cream mixture is essentially a quick pastry cream! Her version uses raspberries & bananas, which sounded good, but strawberries & blueberries are in season here, & I have to tell you, they’re the best I’ve ever tasted. Living in the same county as the top growers for Florida strawberries, we’re getting Farmer’s Market quality in the grocery store! It’s unbelievable. So I thought I’d complement those berries with chocolate & cinnamon instead of TidyMom’s caramel & brown sugar.

That’s the great thing about this: you can do it however you want! I actually was going to do bananas too, but a certain husband ate the last one. Honestly, though, I don’t think we missed them!

One quick note: in the future, I think I’ll use puff pastry instead of crescent dough for a flakier, more authentic texture.

  • 1 (8 oz.) can refrigerated crescent rolls (or use puff pastry)
  • cinnamon sugar
  • 1 cup cold skim milk
  • 1 box (4-serving size) French vanilla (regular vanilla works fine too) instant pudding & pie filling mix
  • 1 cup prepared whipped cream*
  • thinly sliced fruit of choice (bananas, strawberries, raspberries, whole blueberries)
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • vegetable oil

*I made mine with very little powdered sugar so that it wouldn’t be overwhelmingly sweet. You could also use Cool Whip.

  1. Preheat your oven to 375. Cover a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Unroll your crescents into 4 rectangles. Pinch shut the seams that turn them into triangles. Use a pizza cutter or very sharp knife to cut each rectangle into 4 smaller rectangles, approx. 4″x2″. Place on prepared baking sheet & sprinkle each with cinnamon sugar.
  3. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden & beginning to puff. Allow to cool at least 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together milk & pudding mix until smooth & beginning to thicken, then refrigerate 30 minutes, until set.
  5. Fold in whipped cream. If you’re serving this later, cover with plastic wrap & refrigerate until ready to serve. If you’re serving immediately, continue.
  6. Microwave chocolate chips in a small bowl until melted. Stir in enough oil to thin the chocolate to where it is “drizzle-able” (pretend that’s a word).
  7. Construct Napoleons as follows: one crescent rectangle, dollop of pudding mixture, sliced fruit, another crescent rectangle, another dollop, more fruit, & one last crescent rectangle. Drizzle with chocolate. For small children, just dollop some pudding in a bowl, place a crescent rectangle in the pudding, & top with fruit & chocolate drizzle.

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Valentine’s Day Soup & Sandwich.

I feel like tomato soup is just ideal for Valentine’s Day. If you’re not in Florida, where it hit 80 today, it’s still cold enough for soup in February. Plus, the soup is PINK! Could this be any more perfect? Yes, if you add a heart-shaped sandwich!

For our little family, I made a half recipe of this creamy tomato soup, with one tweak, & then served it with grilled cheese sandwiches on whole-wheat bread cut into heart shapes with a large cookie cutter. Comforting & delicious! (Oh, & lower in fat than a cream-based soup!)

Here’s how I made it:

  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 small clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 3 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped, plus additional leaves, chiffonade, for garnish
  • 3 oz. softened Neufchatel cheese
  • 3/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup
  • 1 can (15 oz.) petite diced tomatoes, undrained
  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion & garlic & saute about 2 minutes, until tender.
  2. Reduce heat to low & add paprika, basil, & cream cheese. Gradually stir in milk & soup & stir until smooth.
  3. Turn heat back up to medium & add tomatoes, stirring constantly & breaking up tomatoes further by squashing them with the back of a wooden spoon, until hot.
  4. Serve with heart-shaped grilled cheese sandwiches!

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Italian Steak with Zucchini & Pasta.

My Husband The Breadwinner doesn’t cook much anymore: 1) he doesn’t need to with me around, except when it comes to pancakes, & 2) he doesn’t get home from work in time anyway. But this meal is evidence that he can find his way around the kitchen if the occasion calls for it. It’s his mom’s recipe, but he made it for me for my birthday a couple years ago & it was delicious & memorable enough to have me craving it this week.

In my own carnivorous opinion, the steak is really the star of this meal, but if you’d rather go the vegetarian route, it’d taste great with marinated portobellos, or even just by itself! It also heats up fabulously for leftovers.

  • 1 lb. flank steak
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite house Italian dressing
  • 2 cloves garlic, divided
  • 1 lb. pasta
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 med. zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup (or to taste) diced onion
  • 2 cans (8 oz. each) tomato sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • salt, to taste
  • parmesan, to taste
  • chiffonade fresh basil, to taste
  1. Marinate the steak 6-8 hours or overnight in the dressing with one of the cloves of garlic, minced.
  2. Prepare the pasta as directed.
  3. Meanwhile, rub the pepper into both sides of the steak & cook it in a skillet on medium heat, 5-6 minutes a side or until desired doneness.
  4. Meanwhile meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium pot on medium heat & saute the other clove of garlic, minced, & the onion for a couple minutes.
  5. Add the zucchini, tomato sauce, & red pepper, then salt to taste. Cook another 2 minutes, then cover & let simmer on low another 2-3 minutes or until zucchini is tender.
  6. Toss pasta with sauce & zucchini, then place in serving bowls. Sprinkle with parmesan & basil, then spread sliced steak on top.

Picky (or at least skeptical) eater pleaser: Take out some of the pasta before tossing it with the sauce & place it in a section of one of those nifty partitioned plates & a little of the sauce & some zucchini slices in another. Cut the steak into small pieces & place them in a third. The Munchkin preferred to dip her pasta in the sauce rather than having it coated in it already, & even tried a slice of zucchini! As for the steak, it was gone before we knew it. I’d call that a success.



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Delicious potatoes au gratin.

Unlike my last recipe post, this is not resolution-friendly. At all. In all fairness, I did make this for Christmas dinner, before New Year’s Resolutions would have been made. If you’re like me & feel you can justify the extra calories because you’re growing a small human in your belly, go for it! It’s so worth it. If you did make a resolution to eat better, then maybe just pin it on Pinterest until a) you make it to your goal weight, or b) you do what I inevitably do & reneg on your resolution in mid-February.

This is a Pioneer Woman recipe, so when it says “serves 8,” it really means “serves 8 hungry cattle ranchers, or 27 cityfolk.” The recipe below is a half recipe, which our family of 3 ate for days afterwards. I also subbed half & half for her 3-to-1 cream-to-milk ratio for two reasons. First, it lightened it up just slightly. But mostly, that’s what I had on hand, because I had made this for Christmas breakfast.

  • 2 whole Russet potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 large clove or 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup (or to taste) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Grease a small baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Cut potatoes into third- to half-inch slices, then cut each slice into fourths.
  3. In a smallish bowl, whisk together half & half, flour, garlic, salt, & pepper.
  4. Place half the potatoes in the bottom of the dish, then cover with half of the half & half mixture. Then place the rest of the potatoes over the top & pour the rest of the half & half over the top.
  5. Cover with foil & bake for 30 minutes. Uncover & bake another 20 or until the potatoes are golden brown & fork-tender. Then sprinkle generously with cheese & bake another 5 minutes or until the cheese is nice & bubbly.

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Make your own Minnie (or any) Mouse ears!

For Christmas, we decided to give The Munchkin a Disney World vacation. We just got back from a long weekend of riding Teacups (3 times!), walking a LOT, & meeting pretty much every character there is. We all had a blast!

While contemplating how to present her with her Christmas gift, I decided to give her some Minnie ears, knowing that she’d probably ask for some once she saw everyone else wearing them anyway. Making them was a much cheaper option than buying them, & after her Angelina Ballerina Halloween costume, I had already mastered the proper “ear technique.” I simplified the method I found here for both sets of ears.

  • a headband in your desired color
  • a sheet of scratch paper & a pen
  • a sheet of stiffened felt (preferably the adhesive kind) in your desired color
  • sharp scissors
  • a glue gun
  • optional: wide wired ribbon for the bow
  • optional: another piece of stiffened felt in a contrasting color if you’re making “real” mouse ears like I did for Angelina
  1. Begin by finding a round object like a glass in the right size for your ears. Trace the glass onto your paper. Then draw a little rectangle below that about half the width of your headband. There may be some trial & error finding just the right size to fit around the headband. Fold the paper at the bottom of the rectangle & cut out the shape so there’s a mirror image at the bottom that resembles a dumbbell.
  2. Trace that shape onto the back (adhesive side) of your felt, then cut it out.
  3. Mark on your headband where you want your ears to go. Remove the adhesive from your felt, then put a line of hot glue on the underside of the headband in the appropriate spot for one ear & stick the felt there. Make lines of glue on the felt on either side of the headband & then do a glue circle a quarter to half an inch from the edge of one of the circles. Very carefully stick the whole thing together from bottom to top. The adhesive gives you less wiggle room (one stick is all you get — no repositioning), but it also creates a much better seal with no glue oozing out.
  4. Repeat on the other side. (Preferably while watching Top Gear, apparently.)
  5. Now for the bow. Cut a length of ribbon & loop it with ends together, then pinch in the middle. (Sorry it’s so blurry.) If you want a “poofier” bow, loop it twice & then spread the loops into kind of an X. Glue some of the overlapping bits in the middle together, if desired.
  6. Now cut several more inches of the ribbon. On the back (non-printed) side of the ribbon, place a dot of glue on the top middle & fold a third of it over lengthwise. Place another dot of glue on top of that & fold the remaining third. Now you have a skinny middle piece. Place another dot of glue on the back of one end of said skinny piece, secure it to the bottom side of your bow, & start wrapping it around the middle of the bow, securing with glue as you go. There will be some ribbon left.
  7. Finally, put a larger dot of glue on the top of your headband. Stick your bow to it, then wrap the skinny bit of ribbon around both it and the headband, once again securing with glue as you go.
  8. You’re done! (This is the picture of her after she opened her present on Christmas morning.)

Ta-da!


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Resolution-friendly recipes!

For the many of us who have resolved to treat our bodies a little better this year, here are some healthy recipes from the past year. (I can’t believe this blog is already almost a year old!)

More new recipes to come, promise!

I’m making these Chewy, Chunky (& Lowfat!) Oatmeal Bars for us to snack on as we walk around Disney World this weekend. They’re so hearty & delicious (we all love them), it’s hard to believe they’re so low in fat!

Start the day off right with yummy Oatmeal Raisin Pancakes. You just might want to skip the butter syrup.

Now, a couple vegetarian dinners: Pasta with Arugula & Tomatoes

…& Skinny Veggie Ziti.

If your Munchkins are joining you in your resolution, help them get some more veggies with some Veggie Latkes. (I can’t believe how young The Munchkin looks in this picture!)

Then finish it off right with the almost entirely nonfat Skinny Banana Bread for dessert!

Best of luck keeping your resolutions — health & otherwise — this year!

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