Grilled Pizza

Today I thought I would share my ALL TIME FAVORITE way to make pizza.

It's good. Like, really good.

Also, it's easy.

And with summer upon us, it tastes just right for this season: charred grill flavor on the dough and loaded with fresh veggies from the garden (or store).

This is one of those recipes that once you get the idea of how it's done, you can take it, and adjust it to your family's taste buds and whatever is in your fridge. I like those free-to-be-me and roll-how-I-wanna-roll type of recipes.

Here's how it's done:

1. Heat up a grill pan (Mine is a cast iron Lodge Logic for somewhere around $20-$30 from Target... SO worth it.) over MEDIUM to medium high heat.
2. Prepare ingredients... slice, dice, and shred.  My ingredients for this pizza are in the picture, but this can really be up to your imagination and supplies.

Note: I use refrigerated pizza dough for grilled pizza. If I make homemade oven pizza, I usually go to the trouble of making my own dough too because store bought just doesn't taste quite right. BUT, for this pizza, the grill and your ingredients are going to add so much flavor, making homemade pizza dough just doesn't seem worth the effort.

This pizza is so good... it makes Pillsbury taste good. Yeah.

3. Pull out dough and cut into 4 rectangles. (There's no need to roll out dough will a rolling pin, just a little pulling and re-shaping will do the trick.) Brush on some oil.

4. Spray grill with oil. Place dough oil-side down onto grill. Brush the other side with oil.

5. The pizza is ready to be flipped when the top starts to get bubbly. (I am hoping you can see the little bubbles in the dough...)
6. Throw on your pizza ingredients. (Note: The hardest part of making this pizza is getting all the ingredients on top before it's time to take the pizza off the grill. Do yourself a favor by having all your ingredients next to your grill and easy to grab.)
7. Cover pizza to assist cheese in melting. I own no fancy grill cover; I just use an old pan. (No making fun of my pan! I got it at my bridal shower many, many moons ago. I learned to cook in this guy. Together, we have survived many kitchen mishaps... as I am sure you can see.)

8. Serve and Enjoy!

Can you tell my husband loves this pizza? :)

Some notes and tips:
  • This is a great thing to make with your kids. Help your child throw some ingredients on their own pizza, rave about how good their pizza looks, and they will most likely eat it. Give kids ownership in the making of a meal, and they are more likely to overcome their weird ingredient anxiety. (Anyone else experience "Battle: Dinner" with a picky eater???)
  • This is great to make with company. Prep all the toppings earlier in the day, store in the fridge until your company arrives and then gather your company in the kitchen to make their own pizza. Good company+glass of vino+interactive meal=Fun times! (Another handy equation to know when entertaining: less work+helping hands=a more-relaxed you and a better time had by all!)
  • If you don't have pesto or pizza sauce handy, this seriously tastes AWESOME with just some extra virgin olive oil. I prepare a little dish with olive oil, italian seasonings, cracked pepper and minced garlic and brush on in the place of sauce. 
  • Consider making a couple extra chicken breasts the next time you cook chicken. Save the extra chicken for this pizza. If I have ready made chicken, this meal takes less than 15 minutes to make.
  •  Imagination Welcome! Steak, Italian sausage, left over meat balls, chicken, ham, peppers, tomatoes, basil, olives, marinated artichoke hearts, spinach, mushrooms, onions carmelized in balsamic vinegar (a wow-factor staple for these pizzas that somehow I managed to forget the last time I made this for dinner)... LOTS of Imagination Welcome!

What would YOU put on top of this pizza? I'd love you hear your favorite ingredient combinations.

Hoping your MONDAY is MADE!


P.S. Have you entered the giveaway yet? Handcrafted Journal, 1000 Gifts, and $10 Starbucks card. One week remains. Do enter friends :)

Good Morning! Good Breakfast!: Baked Steel Cut Oats

Today I wanted to share something from the kitchen. This recipe has SO improved our mornings, especially my husband's. He is in an intense schooling program, that is both physically and mentally exhausting. He works full-time and is in school full-time. While breakfast might be the most important meal of the day, he simply doesn't have the time to have a decent one...


I discovered steel cut oats. (Yep. I said steel cut oats. Keep reading if you want to see how he has time for them in the morning.) They are healthy. They are high in fiber. They are minimally processed. They are a low-glycemic food (which means it takes the body a long time to absorb them, making you feel fuller longer, and giving you energy for longer). They are packed with carbohydrates to jumpstart a morning. They are chewy. (I know, the last item on my list of nutritional benefits doesn't seem to fit. But I do like things to taste good. And the chewier the oatmeal, the better... at least in my mouth).

By the way: feeling any weight from all those crunchy granola, steel-cut-oat women turning their nose up at you, the instant-oat woman. No need to! Steel cut oats are only slightly better for you. Really for me, it comes down to a flavor/texture preference and ... alright, a strange, crunchy-granola tendency to avoid over processed foods. But don't feel bad if you choose to stick to old-fashioned oats, the only extra process is rolling and steaming (and extra cutting if they are instant.) Oats--steel-cut, old fashioned or instant--are ALL so good for you! 

I have always had a thing for baked oatmeal. It's THE BEST way to have oatmeal. YUM-O! I found this recipe and adapted it to suit my family. Baked Oatmeal is SO tasty. I make it on Friday (our closest thing to a weekend at the moment) and serve it up with some eggs, bacon and fresh squeezed OJ. I package up all the leftovers and our little family has 4 days of leftover oatmeal squares that are super easy to reheat and take on the go... just in time for Michael's physically intense weekend.

Baked Steel Cut Oats. (Link will be provided at end of this post as well.)
And bonus for mommies with little ones: Baby Cereal Bars

1: Soak oatmeal overnight in water with tablespoon of plain yogurt, buttermilk, or kefir. This is not absolutely necessary, it's just a really good idea. Grains contains phytic acid, which prevent you from being able to absorb all of the grain's nutrition. Phytic acid also make grains harder to digest. I even read that soaking grains can help a person with a mild gluten allergy be able to eat some different types of grains.Yogurt, buttermilk and kefir all have natural enzymes that neutralize the phytic acid.
2. Drain oats in mesh collander. There is no need to rinse, just get rid of extra water. Put back in bowl.
3. Chop some nuts. I got almonds and pecans going in my concoction... mostly because that's what was available in my stash. (anyone else say AHH-monds and PEE-cans like I do???)
 3. Whisk it, and whisk it good. Whisk together the eggs, milk and maple syrup until nice and frothy. (This made me feel out of shape... my arm kept needing breaks... and by the way it takes less than 2 minutes to get to frothy... yeah, you really need to start working out again, Amanda.) If you can't afford maple syrup or don't feel like going to the store to get it, substitute brown sugar instead... same amount. Though I will say, everyone should make a way for maple syrup every now and again. It's GOOD :)
4. Add egg mixture to oats along with fruit. I have some blueberries and raspberries in this one from my frozen fruits stash. Add cinnamon and canola oil. You could add nuts here too (unless you are making baby cereal bars too), but I just sprinkle mine on top. (They get toasty this way... yummy)
Tip: I always keep at least a bag of frozen blueberries in the freezer. Fruit is a healthy way to make a last minute dessert on the fly without adding too much sugar. Frozen fruit keeps for a really long time in the freezer, and its great to have a last minute dessert/sweetener on hand (pancakes, crepes, crisps... oh my!) Also, if fruit is on special and in season, I buy extra of it, rinse it, and store it in the freezer in freezer bags. Money saved. Happy tummies. Win!
 5. (Optional.) I have a little guy (10 months today!) who will eat just about anything (yep. broccoli, peas, carrots...) so long as he gets to be the one who puts it in his mouth. This has made me have to be creative in how I feed him. Since this has little sugar in it and is minimally processed, I decided to make him his own batch of cereal bars. I just pulled out a little bit, put it in the food processor (to make it easier to eat... he doesn't have many teeth to handle the chewy oats), didn't include the nuts, and put in a little mini bake dish. (Do double check with your baby's pediatrician if you have concerns about whether your baby can have this... My baby can, but all babies are different, the allergen advice keeps changing, and I am no doctor)
 6. Place mixture in oiled pans. Sprinkle nuts on top. Bake in a 375 preheated oven for 20-40 minutes. It's done when a toothpick comes out clean. It's easy to tell when it's done: it will not have any liquid left. I used a 8x8, a 9x9 and a 3" circle (my little circle was done in 20 minutes and my two pans in 30 min. When I made this all in one pan and it was thick, it took 40 min). Side note: I am missing my big pan and have been for years now... I should probably get a new one. Ha!
 Hmmm... Hearty, Healthy, Wholesome, Hungry (alliterations for this creation... I know, I am a nerd)
Serve warm with eggs on a Saturday morning. Important: Drizzle oatmeal with maple syrup or a homemade fruit syrup like this one.)
 Big man approved. Little man approved too.
 For easy breakfast throughout the week: place each square on a piece of foil.
7. Wrap up. Store in fridge. Early each morning, pull out, unwrap (leaving it on the foil), place in toaster oven for 5ish minutes while you are finishing up getting ready for your day, wrap back up in foil, take with you, and eat on the go. So easy! Even my husband can do it! HA!
And in case you are unfamiliar with this math fact: toaster oven > microwave  :)
Husband LOVES his healthy, home-cooked breakfast each morning. I like not having to get up to make it for him.

Baked Steel Cut Oats Recipe

Open Recipe in Google Document for easy printing (Just click link):
Baked Steel Cut Oats

3 cups Steel Cut Oats
1 TBS plain yogurt, buttermilk, or kefir
½ cup chopped nuts
3 eggs   
1 cup of milk                       
½ cup dried fruit or 1 cup of fresh or frozen fruit
1 TBS cinnamon
2 TBS canola oil
2 TBS maple syrup

  1. Soak oats overnight. Place oats in large bowl, fill with water till water is an inch over the oats, place a generous tablespoon of plain yogurt in bowl.
  2. Preheat oven to 375. Grease pans.
  3. Drain oats in colander and place back in bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and maple syrup until frothy.
  5. Add egg mixture to oats along with fruit, nuts, cinnamon, and oil. Fold until combined.
  6. Pour into pans.
  7. Bake for 20-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean or oatmeal has no liquid on top.
  8. Serve with maple syrup. 

Baby Oatmeal Bars: 

Prepare just like above, except omit nuts, and place in food processor before putting into baking dish. 

Oatmeal Bars on the go: 

Prepare as above. Cut into individual servings and store each serving wrapped in foil in the fridge. Unwrap and place in 375 toaster oven for 5 minutes before eating (or eat cold).

Some yummy variations:
blueberries and raspberries
can of peaches, drained and cut, and blueberries. Omit cinnamon. Add tsp of vanilla
Sprinkle toasted wheat germ on the top for some nutty nutrition
dried apricots and dried cranberries as suggests
your imagination: keep the oats, milk, egg and oil ratios the same and play around with the fruit, seasoning/flavoring, sweetener and nut combinations :)

Hope your Monday is Made!


Picky Preschooler Approved: Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

I have a picky daughter. Some days I can stick healthy vegetables in a sandwich or on her plate and she'll just eat it. Most of the time, it is war to get her to eat "the good stuff." For both our sanities, I enforce a one bite rule. She must try one bite of everything no matter how green and strange looking it is. If she is unwilling, she gets a five minute time out on her bed, enforced immediately. I've only had to give her a time out twice. And since enforcing the one bite rule, I have discovered that there are foods she truly can't stand the taste of and foods that she would prefer not to eat (but will eat). I haven't quite figured out if it's a control thing, like she wants to decide what she will eat, or if it's a "I like the taste of processed food better so I don't feel like eating healthy." I am thinking it's a little of both. After seeing the results from the one-bite-rule, I know which vegetables are worth battling over and which ones will cause a serious fight because she seriously can't stand them.

Sometimes, one doesn't want to have to fight over food. Food fights are not fun.

Well, not like this anyway.

So, one night I decided to try hiding vegetables in Addy's food. I needed something that was mild in flavor, similar in color to what I was hiding it in... Macaroni and Cheese with Butternut Squash.

Addy loved it.

She even helped me make it, so there was no secret about the squash throughout the dish.

Butternut squash when pureed and spread through pasta looks a lot like yellow cheese. It has a mild, sweet and nutty flavor that doesn't take mac and cheese in a strange direction. I use chicken apple sausage to compliment it's sweetness (and tell Addy it's chicken or hot dog, whichever one happens to work on a given evening to get her to eat it). I keep the cheese and the butter as low as possible (well, I probably could have gone a little lower on the butter... I guess I could only sacrifice so much butter ha!)... I was not going for decadent comfort food in this recipe. It does taste warm and comforting, but not heavy. It's good enough to make it on our dinner menu 2 times a month in the winter. It has the makings for a sophisticated flavor profile, but it stops a little short so my daughter's 3-year-old palate will not find a reason to dislike it.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

 This recipe uses half of a butternut squash. I either save the other half for another meal later on in the week (wrap it up and it will totally keep for a few days in the fridge) or cook both halves and use all the extra pureed squash for baby food for my son. (Freeze in ice cube trays for easy storage).
Cutting this bad boy will require muscle and an good knife. Butternut squash is not the easiest thing to cut through. Scoop out the seeds and slimy stuff. Stick in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes (until it is tender) or place on plate, cover with saran wrap, and microwave on high for about 6 minutes. Allow to cool (or at least its a good idea lest you burn yourself. Been there. Done that.)
(If you maintain a preschool-age-free or more sophisticated household, you could also cube and saute butternut squash, rather than puree it)
When squash is done, preheat oven to 350.
 When squash is almost done in oven or while squash is cooking in the oven, put on water for pasta on a burner and bring it to a boil. Slice 4 sausages lengthwise in fours and then cut into cubes. I usually use Aidell's chicken apple sausage. It wins my taste-test. I have also used mild Italian sausage (1 lb) and ground beef (1 lb). I like the chicken apple sausage the best, though the Italian sausage is a close second. Ground beef was bland but had potential with more seasonings added to it.
Chop 1 cup of onions. (chop more finely for the especially picky child. They are less likely to notice their presence). Spray a pan that's been heated on medium heat with canola oil. Throw onions and sausage into pan and saute. (Aidell's sausage is already cooked so if you are using this, your meat/onion mixture is done when the onion's tender and browned). 

Place 2 cups of pasta into boiling water. When grocery shopping, I pull out a couple different styles of pasta shapes that will work and let my daughter pick which ones she likes. If she feels like she picked it out, she is that much more likely to eat it. (Some shapes that work: small shells, elbow, ziti, cork screw, or we have even found ones that looked like flowers... can't remember the official name, but my girly-girl loved them.)
The key to cooking pasta that will go into the oven is AL DENTE. Over cook your pasta and you will assuredly have mush after it spends time in the oven. So, read the bag/box of pasta for al dente cook time, stand by that boiling pasta, turn on a timer... do whatever you have to do to not overcook it.
 Peel skin off of squash, cut it into chunks and place in food processor.
(If you have a baby, take out a baby sized portion, add water until its baby food consistency and feed him fresh baby food. I love doing this. I realize it isn't much different than the jar and this really is almost effortless, but it still makes me feel like THE WOMAN. I like feeling that way.)
 Place 1/4 cup of melted butter, 1/4 cup of milk, pasta, meat mixture in casserole dish. Add a "ch-ch-ch" of nutmeg (a "ch-ch-ch" is a little more than a dash and can be described as the seasoning bottle, while open to the sprinkle setting, rising and falling 3 times and each time the cook makes the sound effect "ch"... Okay I know I am weird. If you don't speak in sound effect measurements go with a dash or 1/8 a tsp. I totally make sound effects while cooking.) Also add a 1/4 tsp of cracked pepper and 1/2 tsp of garlic powder. Add 1 cup of cheese (I usually end up with an assortment based on whatever is in my fridge... Monterrey Jack, Cheddar, Romano, American, Parmesean. I find it smart to make sure some kind of yellow cheese like cheddar or American ends up in your mix just for the simple fact that it will hide the yellow squash better as well as about a 1/4 cup of a saltier cheese like parmesean or romano. Last night, I used all five of the aforementioned cheeses simply because I had all of them in my fridge). Add in your butternut squash. Stir. Remember cheese will have a chance to completely melt in oven. Sprinkle top with a little cheese for prettiness sake.
Place in 350 oven for 15-20 minutes.
 This is deliciousness your preschooler or toddler can appreciate. (And will hopefully save you the food drama for one night anyways). I know my preschooler loves it. And so does mom and dad! Disclaimer: My daughter likes this. She's the only preschooler I've tested this on. And while she is definitely picky and definitely likes it, it is not a sure thing that your child will like it as well. Please do not blame me if your child refuses to eat this. I wish I could guarantee that a handful of nutritious recipes could solve dinner time drama for good, but, alas, as each child is different and prone to being fickle, I fear that is not the case.
1/2 lb of Italian sausage and 2 chicken apple sausages mac and cheese combo pictured above. A very delicious combo too.

Without pictures and wordy explanations:
Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

1/2 butternut squash
2 cups of dry pasta (small shells or elbow)
1 cup of chopped onion
4 chicken apple sausages, cubed
1 cup of shredded cheese, plus a little extra for topping (Suggested: About 3/4 cup of American, cheddar, and/or jack and 1/4 cup of Parmesan or Romano)
1/4 cup of milk
1/4 cup (1/2 cube) of unsalted butter, melted
Dash of nutmeg
1/4 tsp of cracked pepper
1/2 tsp of garlic powder

1. Bake butternut squash in 400 degree oven until tender (30-40 minutes) or microwave for 6 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350
3. Saute onions and sausage in pan until onions are tender and just browned. 
4. Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Place dry pasta in water. Cook until al dente and drain.
5. Peel skin off of butternut squash and puree it in a food processor.
6. Place melted butter, milk, pasta, 1 cup of cheese, sausage/onion mixture, butternut squash, and seasonings into casserole dish and stir until ingredients are evenly distributed. Top with a cheese and place in oven for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serves 4 large adult portions or 2 adults and 1 preschooler dinner, plus enough leftovers for all 3 at lunch.

And Most Importantly, It's Caffeinated...

I am a bit of a "foo-foo" coffee drinker. Or maybe a coffee snob. Or maybe I am just picky.

I find instant coffee will not do. Folger's definitely won't. And anything out of the Mr. Coffee, um, pass.

It just doesn't taste good. And I want to start my day out with something that I enjoy.

I found Pioneers Woman's method of making iced coffee, and it has changed my life.


Thank you PW! You have no idea how much some of your posts have changed my life. Berry-buttered, lemon-zested, egg-yolk only and half and half  french toast... all amazing revelations to how good french toast can be (my special occasion brunch go-to recipe) and one on the menu this week: crash hot potatoes, thanks to my friend Janet's recommendation. I can't wait to try em. Though PW I want to know how it is that your site is so full of drool-worthy deliciousness but you are so slender?! Do you eat your food?!

Okay, enough PW praises, back to the coffee: It's cold. It tastes good. I don't have to own an espresso machine or know how to operate fancy machinery. And most importantly, it's caffeinated.

That really is the most important part!

I found the Pioneer Woman's directions to be a bit overwhelming since I don't own large items that allow me to cook for an army (or a family with teenage boys, so not there yet) and cheesecloth is a huge pain in the rear end. So I made some improvisations to make it work for me and thought I would share because truly this has revolutionized my morning. I look forward to waking up, because it means I get to enjoy my coffee. Bible reading and prayer time you are mine because I want to wake up early, and this caffeinated beverage wakes me up enough to not mumble through my prayers.

It may sound silly, and I may be alone on this. But this coffee has changed my life.

I love you coffee!

Here's what I do:

1 cup of ground espresso beans...exact measurement not important. (The espresso is important! And if you are grinding them yourself, do grind them to a fine espresso ground quality.) I've used Cafe Bustello like PW recommends. It's cheap, and it's good. A friend blessed me with some Starbucks espresso beans...their Christmas blend. Thank you friend! That's what I am currently using. (I am going to be honest. I enjoy my Cafe Bustello just as much as my Starbucks ground. The Starbucks tastes slightly better and decidely fresher but not enough to persuade me to spend the extra money. I will say though, that beans are now my thing. I LOVE the smell of fresh ground coffee! Yum!)

Dump into a half gallon pitcher.

Fill with cold water (just the cold setting on your faucet will do.)

Stir to make all them coffee granules wet.

Set in fridge 8-10 hours (overnight)

Line a wire mesh strainer with thin, non-fuzzy, flat, cotton dishtowel. I fold mine over so it's doubled. (About the towel: I picked my dish towel up at the dollar store years ago. I love these towels. I never use these kind for dishes or hands. They are great for rolling dough out on or for covering a bowl with rising bread dough in it. They also make a great cheesecloth substitute. Espresso grounds don't sneak through it like I found with the cheesecloth and I don't have to cut anything up or wonder whether its worth the effort to reuse it. I just dump the espresso ground into trash and run water through it and throw it in the dirty towel bin. I launder it with my towels. Easy! But do know that it will stain your towel a lovely coffee-washed tan. And by the way, so you can benefit from my experiences, paper coffee filters take FOREVER for the liquid to get through and catch far too much of the silt that espresso ground leaves behind so you have to constantly change out the paper mid-pour because it stops letting liquid through. Also, the metal reusable filters do not catch enough of the silt so they are also not ideal.)

Put a funnel onto your coffee container. (Mine is less than a half gallon... that's okay. I just end up with a little extra left over. I move funnel to my cup and pour directly into my glass. Can't waste the stuff, right?!) Pour the delicious life-empowering liquid into the towel-lined strainer into the container.

Enjoy coffee! See below*

Clean up. (Notice this comes after enjoying the coffee. This is important. Clean up happens much more happily when caffeinated.)

This lasts me 10-14 days. A little bit of work one day for almost 2 weeks of delicious, inexpensive caffeinated beverage enjoyment. Definitely worth it! Also, my budget agrees with me now that I rarely drive thru 5bucks, er, uh, I mean, Starbucks anymore (not knocking the Bucks though. I love me a delicious coffee treat every now and again, I just can't afford it daily.)

*To enjoy my coffee... I place a mere 3 ice cubes into a 12 oz. glass. (Only 3 because I want some to keep it cold but I don't want to take up too much space in my glass. That space is precious and must be offered to the coffee liquid! Ha!). I put 3 pumps of chocolate syrup for coffee into my glass. I fill glass just past halfway with coffee. I then fill my glass to the top with milk. I stir and enjoy. (Equal parts coffee to milk ratio.) If you want to be low to no fat, use low fat or skim milk. If you are feeling naughty, use whole milk or half and half. The PW suggests condensed milk as well for the especially naughty.

By the way, about the chocolate for all my fellow die-hard mocha lovers: I buy mine at Smart and Final in the large coffee-shop size. I like it like this because 1. You get a pump. Easy to use. Easy to measure just the right amount every time. 2. It is SOOOO much cheaper. Like 4-6 times cheaper than buying a small bottle at grocery store. Only suggestion: store in the fridge unless you actually run a coffee shop. Mine lasts me about 2-3 months, like 30 times as long as it does at a coffee shop and definitely enough time for it to go bad if left out. (Chocolate syrup can mold... gross, right?!)

Other tasty suggestions: Try a heaping spoonful of brown sugar or raw sugar for my sweet-loving coffee friends. The molasses attached to the sugar granules make this WAY richer, fuller and carmelly tasting than just plain ol' granulated sugar. You could also use a flavored creamer (Not at all how I am able to enjoy this beverage, but, hey, to each their own).

Wishing you many great mornings!

Simplified Instructions:

1 cup of ground espresso beans.
2 half gallon pitchers
mesh strainer
Flat cotton cloth

1. Place about one cup of espresso grounds into half gallon pitcher. Fill with cold water to top. Stir to get all the grounds wet.
2. Place in fridge overnight or 8-10 hours.
3. Place funnel over empty half gallon pitcher. Line mesh strainer with cloth. Pour liquid into strainer and into pitcher.
4. Enjoy however you please :)

It's All in the Details: "2 Minutes to Fabulousness Raspberry Syrup"

I sometimes wonder, if I were to die today, what would my kids, husband, and friends remember about me? Morbid thought, perhaps, but my legacy is important to me. I don't want them to remember the times my patience COMPLETELY ran out, or how if you get me a drink I can forget to be appreciative and instead get all anal-retentive about my ice-to-liquid ratio that varies depending on the beverage (I am quirky, what can I say?), or how sometimes I can be completely lazy when it comes to laundry (Not the cleaning-it or the folding-it part, for me, it's the putting-it-away part. Confession: Stacks of my folded laundry sometimes will sit on my dresser for 2-3 weeks at a time. Who needs drawers when you can just dig through a pile of clothes, right?). I want to be remembered for how I loved. A legacy of love--awe, *deep sigh*, sounds romantic and worth striving for. And, as I am sure is very apparent from this blog, one of the chief ways this girl expresses love is in her cooking.

Nothing says love quite like a Yummy Breakfast!

But one can only be so fabulous.

Sometimes out of necessity, this is my motto. I could run myself into the ground "pouring love" into my cooking. But one can only be so fabulous.

Fortunately, I think one only needs to be so fabulous. Love is in the details. The little bit extra. It's the extra that has the most potential to be remembered (unless of course you managed to set your food on fire or seriously over-salted it; in which case, sorry, that's what's getting remembered! But on a positive note, those are precious, great-for-a-few-laughs moments that family members will cherish forever. Kids/Husband/Friends all want to know you are HUMAN and make mistakes every now and then!). For example, I think of the women's conference I went to: women left raving about the details--things like the pretty menu sticker on their boxed lunch that in scrolled writing said what was inside and the small amount of homemade dill-cream cheese spread for their relatively simple turkey sandwich.

Little details!

So this girl takes really simple things and does something a little extra. In this case, I make boring, simple and best of all EASY Bisquick pancakes for breakfast, but I make a raspberry syrup to serve over it. Instantly Special Bisquick Pancakes (almost an oxymoron) with only two minutes of extra work.

My raspberry syrup says "Family, I love you!"

So here's my 2 Minutes to Fabulousness Raspberry Syrup:

By the way, this is easy. REALLY EASY. So easy I am almost embarrassed to think its worth being posted on a blog. But, you know, I have learned and as this blog post points out, one should never underestimate the power of raspberry syrup or the power of just a little bit extra. So if you are some kind of sauce guru/kitchen ninja, it might embarrass me for you to read further. However, if you are still learning how to get fabulous in your kitchen, please keep reading...

Take about a cup of raspberries (fresh or frozen). Wash them and Toss them into a sauce pan.

Add 2-3 tablespoons of sugar. (This is really based on your tastebuds. I add very little because I like my raspberries tart and I like a little regular syrup on my pancakes too.)

Add about 1/4 tsp of lemon zest. (Once again, this is based on your tastebuds... I love lemon zest in my raspberries so I tend to be very generous in my zesting.)

Heat over medium heat until it is bubbling.  I let mine bubble for half a minute or so. The longer it bubbles the thicker it will get and the more broken down the raspberries will get. So, once again this can be done to your preferences. I happen to like some raspberry chunks in a thin sauce.

That's is! Boom! Your done! This can be served on your Pancakes, waffles, fresh toast, or whatever else might please you. It can be served immediately or it can cool down a bit if you happen to have timing issues like me and have yet to master the art of each part of your meal being ready to serve at the same time.

Bisquik pancakes, 2 minutes to Fabulousness Raspberry Syrup, a sprinkling of powdered sugar for prettiness's sake, scrambled eggs and sausage. Happy Husband. Happy Kids. So, of course, Happy Mom.

Happy Cooking! Happy Loving! Happy Fabulousness! All wishes for you :)

The recipe in printable format:

2 Minutes to Fabulousness Raspberry Syrup

1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
2-3 tbs granulated sugar
1/4 tsp lemon zest

1. Put raspberries, sugar and lemon zest into a sauce pan on medium heat.
2. Stir occasionally.
3. Heat untill bubbling. Turn off heat after 30 seconds.
4. Serve

Serves 4.

Banana Blueberry Breakfast Muffin

I think it's important to set this muffin apart as a breakfast muffin. While I suppose all muffins are supposed to be for breakfast, as a former employee of Marie Callendar's, I'm sorry but a decadent lemon muffin topped with cream cheese frosting should better be classified as dessert (in fact, I think all their muffins should probably be considered dessert muffins... not that I am putting them down. Dessert muffins are good. Marie Callendar's are REALLY good). Point being, muffins are amazing, but not all muffins are packed with that wholesome nutrition (you know, high in fiber and packed with whole grains and vitamins) to start your day off right.

All muffins are not created equal.

I may have lost your attention at "high fiber" but let me tell you this muffin is tasty enough to eat for dessert (truly) but healthy enough to feel good about (and give to your muffin-loving kids for breakfast without worrying for their teacher's sanity during their Krusteaz Blueberry Muffin sugar high. As a former 5th/6th grade teacher, I feel very free to knock on the boxed muffin mixes... at least on schooldays).

Look at it. 

This BREAKFAST Muffin is BEAUTIFUL. Think Banana-nut bread married to a blueberry muffin. YUM!

I originally got this recipe from Chicita Banana (and made some changes) in an effort to find a place to put the bananas that my husband asked for but failed to eat. Pet Peeves: 1. brown bananas on my counter and 2. throwing uneaten fruit away. Sometimes I think he doesn't eat his bananas on purpose, just so I will bake something with them. That's okay, sweetheart, I do like baking.

Banana Blueberry Breakfast Muffins:


The Muffin:
2-3 whole Bananas (brown)  
1 large Egg, beaten
3/4 cup low-fat Buttermilk
1 cup Flour (or 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup of wheat germ***)
1 cup rolled Oats (old-fashioned or quick cooking will work too)
3/4 cup (packed) Brown sugar
1 tsp. Baking soda 
2 tsp. Baking powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1 cup Fresh Blueberries (or fully thawed frozen blueberries)

The Topping:
1/4 cup Rolled Oats (old-fashioned or quick cooking work too)
1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1 Tbsp. (packed) Brown sugar 
 1Tbsp. Butter, melted

1. Preheat Oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin pan with foil liners

2. Combine all topping ingredients except butter in a small bowl. Add melted butter to oats mixture and toss with a fork till well coated. Set Aside.

3. Mash bananas in a medium bowl. For a quick mash, try using your potato masher. Add in egg and buttermilk. No buttermilk on hand, no problem. Make sour milk. 3/4 Tbs of vinegar into measuring cup and fill the rest with milk until 3/4 cup line.
4. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the muffin ingredients except for the blueberries.

5. Add banana mixture to large bowl. Stir until just combined. Don't overstir. Overstirring causes muffins to be tough.

6. Fold in Blueberries.

7. Spoon mixture into muffin tins. Add topping to the top. Place in middle rack of your preheated, 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.

This tasty batter is ready to go into the oven and make my house smell yummy.

It's my picky preschooler approved!

A perfect pairing for preschoolers: Brainfood muffins and Laura Numeroff's If You Give a Moose a Muffin.

Why I Love Wheat Germ:
***I need to take a moment to tell you about the wonderfulness that is wheat germ. Sounds gross, like, hello, we try our best to keep our kids germ free! But seriously, name aside, this stuff is awesome.  Wheat germ is the reproductive part of wheat kernel (hence the germ in the name: think germinate, not bacteria). It has a subtle sweet and nutty flavor (even more pronounced and wonderful when toasted), and its packed full of protein, folates, vitamin E, potassium and iron. It is healthy that tastes better! Best part is, I can sneak in some nutrition on my green-food fearing daughter (nutrition that tastes like it belongs there... yep, I have so tried to hide green beans in her bites of mashed potatoes... fail!) I find wheat germ in the flour/baking section of my grocery store, but some carry it in the health foods section.  You can substitute 1/2 cup of wheat germ for 1/2 cup of flour in any bread recipe. Try it!!!

Chiquita Banana has tons of other delicious and healthy places to put your extra bananas on their website

Saturday Mornings...

I love to cook. I love to cook for people. It makes me happy making people happy. Fortunately for me, I married a man that loves to eat. He feels loved when I create in the kitchen. We are a winning combo if I do say so myself.

So, enter Saturday mornings... Husband worked hard all week, I had the kids to myself save but those few glorious moments of shower time when Mike read Addy her bedtime story and Jed slept. We had high moments--Addy learned to count a little higher, Jed made precious sleep smiles, Dad got an extra job put on his route and therefore made more money. We've had low moments-- Addy's potty training accidents, Jed's irregular feeding schedule, not getting a minute to myself, or Daddy working late. Saturday morning is REDEMPTION. The chance to do things as I wish I could always do them. The chance to not run out of patience, the chance to enjoy my kids with my parenting partner and best-support-a-girl-could-ask-for present, the chance to not set the food on fire because Addy had an accident on the carpet, Dad was working really late, and Jed needed to eat all at the same time (yes, i have so been there, but don't worry, if you are taking cooking tips from me I don't ALWAYS set the food on fire. haha) Had Adam and Eve not sinned, this is what I imagine every morning would look like.

I wake up (usually when the munchkin has found her way into my bed and keeps asking "'Wake, Mom?" Seriously, Addy, if I answer you, I AM awake). I enter the kitchen and make breakfast, Addy watches her favorite movie or helps me stir stuff. My husband wakes up, usually to the smell of food. My Saturday mornings are very normal.

Sometimes normal is good. Very good.

Saturday mornings, I pour out my love for my family into blueberry pancake batter and crackling bacon... the LOVE that I wish I had shown that time that I yelled at my daughter, the FOCUS that I wish I could give my newborn even when his older sister needs a lot of attention, the WARMTH that I wish my husband got from me when he was trying to be romantic and I was too exhausted from pouring out to our kids to feel I had anything left to give. I cook away the week, make food we all like, all can take part in the making and definitely can take part in the eating. And, ah, as the gorgeous berry butter is melting on my lemon-zested pugliese french toast sprinkled with powdered sugar (I feel my waistline increasing just writing the description!), so I can feel the trials of the past week just melt away. I get a moment to savor life and thank God for my many blessings.

I LOVE Saturday mornings! (big sigh) So, dear family of mine, please know I love you with all my heart and am thankful for you EVERYday of the week (Sunday through Friday included).

My breakfast favorites:
  • Orange Juice: too expensive to buy for everyday consumption, but great for a once a week treat. 
  • Good ol' fashioned Bisquick pancakes with fresh or frozen blueberries added
  • BACON (Hey it's Saturday!)
  • French Toast as only the Pioneer Woman can do it... Had it for the first time and it is heaven here on earth
  • Egg Scramble: I throw 4 eggs, some milk... like 1/4 cup, a tsp or so of Mediterranean seasoning blend from McCormick, and dice up whatever lunch meat my husband has left from his week of sandwiches (usually ham or turkey) into a bowl, wisk it a little and put into a medium heat pan. After the eggs are just about cooked through I add some shredded monterrey jack cheese and flip it all around to distribute the cheese and melt it. Yummy. Lots of room for yummy variations with scrambled eggs and a great place to put left-over meat.
  • Quiche: I like mine with Fresh Basil, portobello mushrooms, onions... I will have to pull out that recipe and post it. It is yummy!
  • Breakfast Burrito: I do scrambled eggs, a bag of frozen potatoes o'brien, bacon (or whatever I have on hand), monterey jack cheese, and taco sauce. 
So, since my camera apparently never works on Saturday mornings, here is a picture of breakfast from Addy's 3rd birthday. Nothing quite like Pancakes, bacon and eggs! (Notice the not-very-dinosauresque t-rex pancake. Addy loved it even though you probably can't tell what it is!)

    Make it FUN for your Picky Preschooler:
    • Dinosaur sandwich cut-out: It's just a sandwich-sized piece of plastic that cuts dinosaurs into my dinosaur-loving child's sandwiches. I found it in the grocery store and thought it could be the stupidest and most useless kitchen tool I ever buy or it could be one of the best. It was one of the best. Never under-estimate how much children love FUN looking food. It is how I get Addy to eat a healthy tuna on whole wheat during the week and how i get her to eat a very fancy-looking and tasting french toast.
    • Loosen up Momma and let your preschooler help you. And, usually, if they made it, they will at least try it. You may have a mess to clean up afterwards, but, hey, its saturday! Making messes is FUN!... even if cleaning them is not. (And if you are anything like me, you make a mess in the kitchen anyways)
    • Let your child tell you what shape pancake he/she wants. You may not be an artist especially with a large spoon and batter, but fortunately for you, your child has an imagination bigger than your lack of ability to make a t-rex shaped pancake. They will see it anyways.
    • Burrito Power: I have found that if I stick it in a burrito, Addy will eat it. She doesn't even look inside unless I get bold and stick something she really hates in it. (I apply this rule to fish taco night too, adults have tacos, while addy's soft taco is rolled like a burrito... Yep! She eats the fish!)
    • Um... and as for kid-ified quiche, I am not sure quiche can be made kid-friendly??? At least I haven't figured that one out. Bacon helps though, bacon always help make something good. Let me know if you know a way to make kids love quiche!

    Here's to Saturday, Friends! And here's to you having a blessed one!