Monday, November 29, 2010


During this week after Thanksgiving, I must publicly announce all that I am thankful for. I begin with these two fabulous human beings that joined together as one family unit this weekend. Sarah and Josh were the most beautiful bride and groom I have ever seen. They are beautiful people inside and out.
I am thankful for the wonderful friends who were there to celebrate with us. Lifelong, loyal friends are hard to come by, and this group of people in the collage on the left are the most amazing group of teachers, teacher aides, spouses, significant others and friends! I miss seeing their shining faces everyday! I simply love these guys!
I am also thankful for these people husband, my parents, my sisters, my in-laws, my children. People who keep me smiling, laughing and living!
On this week after Thanksgiving I am grateful that we have our health, our integrity, our joy for life!!!
It IS a wonderful life, isn't it???
Happy Week After Thanksgiving!!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

T'was the Night of Thanksgiving

T’was the night of Thanksgiving,
But I just couldn't sleep.
I tried counting backwards,
I tried counting sheep.

The leftovers beckoned -
The dark meat and white,
But I fought the temptation
With all of my might.
Tossing and turning with anticipation,
The thought of a snack became infatuation.
So, I raced to the kitchen, flung open the door,
And gazed at the fridge, full of goodies galore.
Gobbled up turkey and buttered potatoes,
Pickles and carrots, beans and tomatoes.

I felt myself swelling so plump and so round,
'til all of a sudden, I rose off the ground.
I crashed through the ceiling, floating into the sky,
With a mouthful of pudding and a handful of pie.
But, I managed to yell as I soared past the trees....
Happy eating to all - pass the cranberries, please.

May your stuffing be tasty,
May your turkey be plump.
May your potatoes 'n gravy have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious.
May your pies take the prize,
May your Thanksgiving dinner stay off of your thighs!!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Wish List Contest

I was blog surfing today and came across this fun contest:

Mama’s Holiday Wish List Meme

TodaysMama (link to: and GameStop (link to: are giving away a sleighful of gifts this holiday season and to enter I’m sharing this meme with you.

1. What is your holiday wish for your family?

As generic as it sounds, I really wish that my family stays healthy, because without your health, you don't have much.

2. What is your Christmas morning tradition?

The kids wake up before mommy and daddy, of course, run out of their rooms and into the living room, screaming. Lily starts ripping open presents and Matt yells at her to wait until mom and dad wake up. Lily runs into our bedroom, pulling us by the arms, out of bed. This wakes up Zoey. Zoey cries. Jack stumbles out of bed, makes himself coffee. I brush my teeth, grab the camera and the festivities begin!

3. If you could ask Santa for one, completely decadent wish for yourself, what would it be?

Hmmmm....completely decadent?? I guess...for a super cool, totally organized space in the basement for all of my crafting supplies, and a nice desk for me to work my magic!

4. How do you make the holidays special without spending any money?

There are lots of family traditions that I remember from my great grandmother, and my grandparents that I continue to this day such as: Putting up a Nativity scene under the tree, baking holiday cookies throughout the month of December, Advent calendars, volunteering and helping others whenever possible.

5. What games did you play with your family growing up?

At my great grandma Derk's house, we always played family games on Christmas Eve. I think we played Family Feud a lot. The kids always put on a performance for the grown ups. At my mom's house we always play this game where we steal grab bag gifts from one another. It's fun!

6. What holiday tradition have you carried on from your own childhood?

See #4. We always open presents on Christmas morning and only the kids get to open something small on Christmas eve.

7. Where would you go for a Christmas-away-from-home trip?

Well, in my fantasy world, I'd go somewhere warm and tropical like Hawaii or Aruba, but in the real world, I'd go to visit family.

8. Check out GameStop (link to: and tell us, what are the three top items on your GameStop Wish List this year?

I, personally, wouldn't want anything for myself, but my kids would love some new Wii games, a Wii balance board, a Wii inflatable race car and other Wii accessories.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gobble Gobble & Artichoke Chicken

The kids decided that this year they wanted to create some personalized place cards for all of our guests that are coming for Thanksgiving dinner this year. We are hosting a crowd of about 20 and they made these cute Oriental Trading projects.
Each place card will be personalized with a guest's name on the front and a reason why my children are thankful for them on the back.

I cannot disclose any of the reasons just yet, because some of my blog readers will be attendees at Thanksgiving dinner, but some are real doozies! LOL

We laughed a lot over this one above because Matt said, "Hey! It's Justin Bieber!" So we made a whole joke out of it. Let's just say Justin Bieber is going to be joining us for Thanksgiving this year!

And now one of my favorite recipes: Artichoke Chicken
1. Place 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts between was paper and pound until about 1/2 inch thick. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Coat chicken in flour on both sides. Saute in a skillet that has been drizzled with EVOO. Cook until golden brown and cooked through. Remove.
3. To pan, add 2 cloves of garlic (sliced or minced), the white parts of 2 scallions, and a 1/2 cup of water; bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Add one can of artichoke hearts (drain, rinse and halve them) and 4-6 sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil, drained and slivered). Add one teaspoon of oil, salt and pepper. Cook until artichokes are heated through and sauce has reduced slightly.
4. Serve the sauce on top of chicken. Place chicken over pasta, rice or couscous.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Spinach Tortellini Soup

Another fall favorite is this super easy spinach & tortellini soup.

In a large soup pot, heat 2 teaspoons of EVOO. Add 1/2 cup of chopped onion and 1 clove of minced garlic. Cook until tender, stirring. Add 32 oz of chicken or vegetable broth. Bring the broth to a boil. Add about 1 cup (I throw in the whole package) of cheese-filled tortellini (dried or frozen). Cook according to package directions until tender. Do not drain. Stir in 1 can (14.5 oz) of diced tomatoes, juice and all, 1.5 tsp of dried basil (or fresh if you have it), 10 oz of frozen chopped spinach ( I threw in a bag of fresh baby spinach because I didn't have any frozen spinach on hand). Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired. It doesn't make a whole lot, but it is so delicious!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Leeky Chicken & Couscous

One of Zoey's favorite birthday gifts last week was from Aunt Jackie (sent all the way from Wisconsin)! It is a Minnie costume. Of course, Lily had to show her how to put on the ears. Heehee Look how stinkin' cute she looks...

For dinner last night I made one of my favorite dishes...Rachel Ray's Leeky Chicken and Couscous. Mine is a slightly altered version. (Yes, I always have to change it up just a bit to make it easier for me!)

Leeky Chicken and Couscous
1 & 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 & 1/2 cups couscous
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 1/2 lbs chicken tenders cut into bite size pieces (this is where I changed it up. I didn't have chicken tenders on hand. I had whole chicken breasts, so I cut those up to make about a cup and a half worth)
2 leeks
1 cup dry white whine
Parsley, chopped
(The ingredients are similar to the arroz con pollo from yesterday, so I was able to get a lot of bang for my buck when grocery shopping for this week's meals)
1. Heat the chicken broth and butter in a medium pan. (Use a pan with a tight fitting lid). When the broth boils, add the raisins and couscous. Take the saucepan off the heat. Stir in the couscous and place the lid on the pan. Let stand.
2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add EVOO. Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper and cook until browned.
3. While the chicken cooks, trim the tops and roots from the leeks. Cut the remaining white and tender green parts in half lengthwise, then cut the leeks into 1 inch half moons. Place the leeks in a colander and run cold water over them. Separate layers to release dirt and grit. Rinse well.
4. Stir leeks into the chicken and wilt for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and let it cook down by half. The leeks should be tender and bright green. Chicken should be cooked through.
5. Fluff the couscous with a fork and stir in parsley. Spool onto a plate and top with chicken and leeks.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Baby Singing "Maybe" from Annie

Straight from the Broadway stage to your computer screen...Lily singing the hit, "Maybe" from Annie...

Slow Cooker Arroz Con Pollo

I have a friend, Mary Jane, who makes THE best Puerto Rican Arroz con Pollo from scratch that I have ever eaten, however it is an all day process. So, this recipe is MY version of a crock pot arroz con pollo that still takes all day, but I don't have to do all the work!!! Ingredients:
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp Creole or Cajun seasoning (Emeril has his own Essence Creole Seasoning or Bayou Blast - It contains: paprika, salt, garlic powder, black pepper and onion powder)
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 Tbsp garlic, chopped
2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 cups long grain rice (I use organic long-grain brown rice)
1 cup dry white wine
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, juice and all
1 and 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies
1/4 cup thinly sliced green olives
1 bay leaf
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup frozen green peas
3/4 cup frozen corn
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)

Directions: Dump all above ingredients into your crock pot. Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. The rice will completely absorb all of the liquid and it will be very sticky, which is the best part!! Just shred the chicken throughout and serve!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baked Potato Soup

Thought I would share the recipe for this very rich, creamy and deceptively delicious soup! (What is so deceptive about it? There is cauliflower in there!)
2-3 large baking potatoes - peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
3 cups milk
salt and pepper
1/2 head cauliflower, cored and chopped
1 bunch scallions, white and green portions thinly sliced and separated
4 slices cooked bacon
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1. In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes, 2 cups milk and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the cauliflower and scallion whites, cover and simmer until tender (10-15 minutes). Add the remaining 1 cup milk, then puree soup. (I used my immersion hand blender).
Season with salt and pepper.
2. Microwave the bacon at high power until crisp (3-4 minutes), crumble. Ladle soup into bowls and top with shredded cheese, sour cream and crumbled bacon. Sprinkle scallion greens on top.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

10 Things That Make Me Smile On Your 2nd Birthday

In honor of Zoey's 2nd birthday, which was yesterday, I am going to list a few special things that she does that make me smile. 1. You love Mickey Mouse and you pronounce each syllable slowly and clearly: MICK-EE & MIN-NEE!
2. When I ask you to spell your name, you get all four letters right, but they are in the wrong order, "O-E-Y-Z."

3. You love to look up at the clock on the kitchen wall and tell us the numbers (out-of-order, but still correct!)

4. You love to sing the song "2 Little Blackbirds," and you name the blackbirds Matt & Lil!
5. You have nicknames for everyone in the family, "Mama, Dada, Matt-Matt and Goggles." You call yourself "Baby."
6. You like to quiz me on my colors. You hold items up and ask me, "What color?" If I say, "Red (for example)", you say, "Yes. Red!" LOL
7. Your favorite animal sounds are monkey, kitty, bunny and elephant.
8. When I need you to stand up, you say, "Stam Up!"
9. You love going to the library with mommy to play puzzles and read books.
10. You love to put Mr. Potato Head's body parts in the wrong spots! Heeheehee
Here are some Halloween/Fall layouts I created using collages from Picasa.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy Birthday, Easy Fajitas & What I'm Listening To

First things first...Happy Birthday to my absolute favorite, most wonderful two year old in the whole, wide world...Zoey aka...Baby Zuzu!!! I cannot believe she is two years old! I just adore her!!! More pics of the birthday girl will be posted tomorrow!! Now, here's a super-duper, quick and easy way to make child-friendly fajitas.
I start by pounding my boneless, skinless chicken breasts until they are nice and flat. I season both sides with a little EVOO, salt, pepper and thyme. If you want them to be spicy, feel free to season with chili powder, red pepper flakes and/or cumin.

Next, I grill the chicken on a grill pan. In another sautee pan, I add a little EVOO, some onions, and sliced red and green peppers.

When everything is fully cooked, I let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, and slice into thin strips. Last, we stuff our tortillas with the peppers and onions, chicken and our favorite condiments (lettuce, shredded cheese, guacamole and sour cream!)

I looooooove music, but I am probably the only person on the planet who doesn't have an ipod. It's not that I don't want one, but have never really found the need for it. I do have an itunes account and I burn cds every few weeks. I listen to itunes off of my computer when I'm cooking, cleaning, working out, doing the dishes and scrapping. I thought it would be fun to document what is on my current play list. I like to mix up my favorite new songs with some of my favorite old songs. My favorite band in the world is Pearl Jam, so there is almost always at least one song by them on my current playlist.
If you don't have any of these songs on your ipod or playlist, check them out today! Sooo good!

Here it is. My current playlist:
*Mine by Taylor Swift
*DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love by Usher
*The Only Exception by Paramore
*Raise Your Glass by Pink
*Empire State of Mind by the Glee Cast (Lovvvvvvvvve Glee!!)
*Teenage Dream by Katy Perry
*Animal by Neon Trees
*Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars
*Smile by Lily Allen
*Nothin' on You by B.O.B.
*I Run to You by Lady Antebellum
*I Never Told You by Colbie Calliat
*King of Anything by Sarah Bareilles
*Sex on Fire by Kings of Leon
*You Run Away by Barenaked Ladies
*Viva La Vida by Coldplay
*Come Back to Me by David Cook
*Lucky by Jason Mraz
*I Gotta Feeling by Black Eyed Peas (I just cannot get sick of this song! I still love it!)
*Betterman by Pearl Jam

Monday, November 8, 2010

Grilled Chicken & Spinach Garbage Salad & Humble Announcement

I am not ashamed to admit that I make a lot of meals by emptying my fridge. I like to toss things together so I don't have leftovers. This salad was part planned and part a mixture of things I was just trying to get ride of. I guess the only part that needs explanation is how I grilled the chicken. I start by pounding my boneless, skinless chicken breasts with a mallet until they are fairly thin. Then I season both sides with a touch of EVOO, coarse salt, pepper and a little ground thyme. Then I throw them onto the grill pan. (If it was summer, I'd be grilling outside, but we're in Chicago, so it's definitely not outdoor grilling weather anymore!)

Oops...these pictures are out of order, but there is my mallet. LOL
After the chicken was grilled on both sides (about 5-7 minutes per side), I let it sit for a good 5 minutes. If you normally don't do this, you really should. When you let your meat or poultry sit for a few minutes before cutting, the meat soaks up the juices. It will makes your chicken or meat much more tender and juicy.
After sitting, I cut the chicken breasts on an angle and threw them into a bowl with the following items that I had on hand (which is why I call it a garbage salad)! Feel free to toss with whatever ingredients you have on hand:
*Fresh Baby Spinach
*Black olives
*Fat Free Feta Cheese
In other news, I am humbled and honored to be chosen as the artist of the month on Laurie's Blog (Cook, Scrap, Craft):
Check out her blog (Not to see me, but to see all of the cool stuff she has on there!)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bachelorette Party

I am so excited that my friends Sarah and Joshua are getting married in 2 weeks! A bunch of us went out to celebrate the big day last night and look how beautiful this bride-to-be is... There were good friends, good drinks, great food and lots of fun!

Special people make our lives complete!!

I don't know what we were laughing about!

Congrats Sarah and Joshua!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Appetizer-y Snacks

On Halloween I kept myself busy (in between answering the door for trick-or treaters) by making a kiddie snack and an adult snack. I knew the kids would be famished after all of that hard work ringing door bells, so I whipped them up a family favorite. These cinnamon-sugary breadsticks are reminiscent of churros with their yummy sweetness! They make a great after-school snack too!

Cinnamon-Sugar Breadsticks
Beat 1/2 cup softened cream cheese with about 1 TBSP of cinnamon and 1 TBSP of sugar until smooth. Spread the mixture onto strips of refrigerated breadstick dough. Twist and stretch the breadsticks into 12 inch sticks and bake as the dough label directs. Brush with melted butter and an extra sprinkle of sugar! (I never said they were healthy!) The grown-ups opted for something with a little more of a kick! If you love jalapeno poppers, you will love this appetizer. It tastes like you are eating those cream-cheese stuffed hot peppers!

Be forewarned - this is not for those on a diet. But, like I always say, moderation is the key to happiness! This makes a great party dip!!

Jalapeno Popper Dip

2 8oz pkg of cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayo
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies, drained
1 (4 oz) can diced jalapenos, drained
1/2 cup shredded Mexican style cheese
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375*. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, mayo, chilies, jalapenos and shredded cheeses. Mix until smooth and evenly combined. Spread into a 9x9 baking dish.

In a second bowl, combine Panko and Parmesan and stir with a fork. Sprinkle over cream cheese mixture in the baking dish. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until hot and golden. Serve warm with baguette slices, pita chips, or cut fresh vegetables.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Roasted Beef, Mushroom Barley Soup

It was pretty cold here on Halloween...somewhere in the mid 40*s, so I decided to keep us warm with some homemade soup. This recipe is pretty easy and so tasty.
Preheat your oven to 425*. On a rimmed cookie sheet toss together 1 pound of sirloin steak, cut into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces, 1 pound of mushroom (stems trimmed and caps halved), 1 small onion chopped and 2 tablespoons of EVOO; season with salt and pepper. Arrange on a single layer and roast until beef and mushrooms are browned, about 15-25 minutes.

Transfer to a medium pot and add 4 cups low-sodium chicken, beef or veggie broth (or water) and 1/2 cup quick cooking barley. This is the barley that I used. Make sure it's not the slow-cooking stuff. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high, then reduce heat and simmer until barley is soft, about 12 minutes. Serve with an extra dash of salt, pepper and chopped fresh parsley!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween!

We had a great Halloween around here. I made a collage for each kid with pictures from all of the month's Halloween festivities that I plan to print and add to their albums.

Here is Zoey's...
I, personally, love the pic where she put the trick-or-treating pumpkin on her head. I envision a page with the title: Pumpkin Head.
Here is Lily's collage...
She has pics from school events, girl scouts, dance class and more!

Here are Matt's pictures...
I was sad on Halloween when he told me that he's too old to carry a pumpkin anymore and he wanted to trick-or-treat with a pillow case. Also, he trick-or-treated for the shortest amount of time, out of the three kids. He wanted to help me pass out the candy to the trick-or-treaters! Unusual for an 8-year-old boy, no?

Zoey was so sweet in her costume! She did not want to take it off! Heehee

Batgirl and Mario had so much fun!

She didn't actually trick-or-treat. Jack pushed her up the doors in a stroller and Lily got candy for her.
That mustache makes me laugh everytime I see it.

Here are some layouts I finished last week. Thanks for looking!

I made lots of yummy meals this weekend. I hope to get to post some of the recipes soon!


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