We are incredibly lucky to have a fantastic library branch in our county (Douglas County Libraries). They offer a summer reading program with lots of incentives to encourage kids to read more over the summer and all of their facilities are kid-friendly, cool spaces to beat the heat on super hot days.
While I absolutely love having library books in my house, I’m one of those people who doesn’t like the library books mingling with our own books. I live in constant fear of losing a library book for really no reason. When my mom gave the kids some new canvas bags we decided to use them as new library book bags but wanted to get the kids a bit more excited than they have been about previous bags.
I had them sign up for their first library cards and the summer reading program on the same day. A quick hole punch and a key ring let me attach the cards to the bags for safe keeping.
Now the kids keep their library books in the bags and usually have them hanging from their bed. When we go to the library they can use them to carry the books they want to check out. When it comes time to check out, they have their library cards handy and can easily check out their books by themselves. Our library has a pretty cool check out system where they literally can just place their bags on the check out desk and the system will know which books they have.
They have really loved being able to do the check out process themselves. I have loved having a dedicated spot for the books and not having library cards floating around.
This would be a great Easter basket gift or special outing for the start of summer. I hope you are having a great summer!
The other night I was planning on grilling my Chicken and Rainbow Veggies but a windy rainstorm thwarted my grilling plans. I pulled a quick switch to a one pan dinner. What really makes this meal is the grated fresh ginger. You can read about how I easily always have ginger on hand here. It is really easy to grate when it is frozen.
4-6 chicken thighs
1 cup broccoli (florets cut from crown)
1 cup carrots (cut in long pieces)
2 small or 1 large zucchini (cut into half-moon chunks)
1 cup snap or snow peas (with ends trimmed)
1 Tablespoon garlic (minced)
2 Tablespoons ginger (grated)
1/4 cup prepared Hoisin sauce
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper
Optional add-ins: Red or other bell peppers, bok choy, or other vegetables you have on hand.
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Chop all vegetables
Mix chicken thighs, vegetables, and garlic in an oven-safe pan with hoisin sauce, drizzle of olive, and salt/pepper to taste.
Push the chicken thighs to the bottom of the pan.
Grate the ginger over the top of the chicken and veggies making sure each items gets a little bit of ginger.
Cook for 25-30 minutes.
Serve over steamed rice or alone. Red chili paste and soy sauce make good condiments.
This is a great way to get a variety of veggies in front of my family quickly and I hope it works for your family as well.
To make them just a little extra lemony, I zested the lemon prior to using the juice and put all of the zest in the mix.
I poured the mix in the kids’ popsicle freezer molds and had a little bit extra left over. I poured the remaining mix in an ice cube tray and stuck some popsicle sticks in. Now we have some mini popsicles on hand as little treats that have been perfect for after dinner. And enjoyed by kids and parents alike.
There was a little extra leftover after that so I decided to go ahead and freeze in it a plastic cup for thawing later. I’m thinking on our next pool day I’ll be blending that with some rum for a quick daiquiri. Moms need treats too.
We have a bit of a blizzard happening today in Colorado. Schools are closed, my patients are rescheduled, and we will be snuggling inside all day. Instead of our typically rushed morning we got to stay in our pajamas and ease into the day. We made pancakes and I finished off an entire pot of coffee. So today I thought I would share my favorite pancake recipe.
My recipe is based on this recipe here with a couple of additions of my own. Because I think cinnamon and vanilla extract make all things breakfast even better. I also like to keep my cooked pancakes in the oven until they are all ready so we can all eat together once everything is cooked. This also helps if the pancakes are not entirely cooked through in the middle. The middle will cook through as the pancakes stay warm in the oven.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees and put in a cookie sheet
Preheat griddle or non-stick fry pan
Whisk dry ingredients in large bowl
Whisk wet ingredients in second large bowl
Push the dry ingredients to the side of the bowl and pour the wet ingredients on the other side
Mix the wet and the dry ingredients until batter comes together
Let the batter sit for 5 minutes (do not remix)
Scoop 1/2 to 1 cup of batter onto a hot griddle or fry pan
Flip when bubbles break the surface
When golden brown on both sides, put the pancake on the cookie sheet in the warm oven
Once all the pancakes are done, serve with butter and real maple syrup
Tip: We use real maple syrup in our house because of the not so great ingredients in most pancake syrups. Yes, it is more expensive but it has a stronger flavor so you use less of it. If you have not used real maple syrup regularly before, start with the lightest you can find (Grade A Light Amber) because it will have a more delicate taste.
I hope you enjoy these pancakes on your own snow day or a weekend sometime soon!
Fall coming around always makes me excited for several reasons: Cute layered outfits, boots, Chiefs football, Buffs football, and baking anything and everything. This year we had another thing to be excited about: apples.
We planted an apple tree a couple of years ago and this was the first year I was supposed to leave a few of the flowers so fruit could actually grow. The lovely folks at my favorite garden center told me to pick 100% the flowers the first spring, 75% the second spring, 50% the third and so on. The reason for this is so that the tree can use its energy to put down solid roots instead of growing fruit. Even after picking 75% of the flowers off this year we had gobs of apples! This means that I have been able to work on my apple pie recipe…
I like a classic, flaky crust that is not too thick and an apple mixture that has a good amount of spice to it. I also like the apples to be cut nice and thin so that they stack up together and stay in place while you are enjoying a slice. Random thing that drives me crazy: When you take a bite of pie and the giant apple quarter comes out in one piece with the crust just collapsing on everything. I want the perfect combo of apple and crust in every bite.
When it comes to crust, I do not think you can beat the King Arthur Flour Recipes:
I use the double crust recipe for this pie. My kids love helping with the “squishy part” which is what they call squeezing the shortening and butter into the flour. For my fellow Coloradans and others at high altitude/dry climates: I find myself adding much more water to this recipe than what is called for. Just keep adding a tablespoon at a time until it all comes together without being sticky.
Now for the apples…
5-6 apples depending on size
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
Make the crusts first as directed in the recipe above, wrap them with plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge to cool.
Cut the apples in half. Apples come off my corer/peeler/slicer looking like a whole apple. A quick slice from top to bottom makes perfect thin slices.
Mix the apples, spices, sugar, and flour in a bowl.
Roll out your pie crusts and put one in the pie dish. I like to use a silicon mat and plastic wrap to make this easy and to keep the dough from sticking to the counter or rolling pin.
Paint the first crust with an egg white. This keeps the bottom from getting soggy.
Dump the apple mix in the pie crust and push the apples around to make sure there are not any empty pockets.
Top the apple mix with the next pie crust.
Seal the edges of the crust.
Cut a few slits in the top crust. I like to top my pies with a few crust cut outs and the kids really enjoy helping with this part. You could use small cookie cutters but I love these little crust stampers.
Cover the pie completely with foil.
Bake for 30 minutes then turn temperature down to 375 degrees and remove foil.
Bake for 30 minutes uncovered or until crust is golden brown.
Let cool for 5-10 minutes then serve with ice-cream, whipped cream, or just by itself. Enjoy!
I have not posted in a bit for a variety of reasons. Summer time for us was filled with lots of pizza at the pool and grilled chicken and whatever veggies and fruit we have while soaking up some time outside. (I also made this Lemony Orzo dish about 15 times.) I have a couple of little writing projects going on in my “free time.” We also did our first driving vacation which included camping in Yellowstone and driving all the way to the Oregon coast and back.
The biggest reason for me not writing was that we also started having sports and other activities in the evenings after pre-school and pre-K for Ladybug and Bear. This has added an extra layer of complication for a working mom: how do you get dinner on the table by 7 pm when you are gone from 7:30 am to 6:45 pm?
Crock Pot Chicken has become the Tuesday regular at our house. Throw a few chicken breasts and other odds and ends you have on hand in the crock. Turn it on in the morning and when you walk in at dinner time, dinner is basically ready. Here is the basic recipe and I will give you some different variations to try as well:
The night before:
Set 3-4 chicken breasts out to thaw.
Set crock pot out and put two cups of liquid in.
Add any additional ingredients, seasonings, and salt and pepper.
Cover the crock with the lid.
In the morning, put chicken in the crock, cover, and turn on low.
When you get home:
Take the chicken out of the crock pot and put on a plate to cool.
Get dinner fixings ready.
Shred chicken and serve.
Keep in mind that these recipes can easily be made Whole 30 compliant if you just use approved ingredients. Leaving out the cheese and using lettuce cups instead of bread or tortillas are very easy ways to make these meals compliant.
Our favorite variations:
Chicken Salads: For the liquid, use 1 cup water or chicken broth and 1 cup Italian dressing. Cook all day. Shred and serve with greens, carrots, other veggies, and croutons.
KID TIP: YES, my kids eat salads. And yours can too. Start by putting a small amount of salad on their plate (think one piece of everything in the salad) and a little bit of a dressing they like (like Ranch) on the side. Even if they do not eat it much or any of it at first, they will get used to seeing it on their plate. Gradually, you can ask them to try a bite and eventually increase the amount on their plate. See my thoughts on creating fabulous little eaters here.
Chicken Tacos: For the liquid, use 1 cup water or chicken broth and 1 cup orange juice. Add 1 Tablespoon of chili powder and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. If you have an orange, cut it in slices and add the slices to the crock on top of the chicken. Cook all day. Shred and serve with hard shells, tortillas, or lettuce cups; shredded cheese; sour cream; and other taco fixings.
Chicken Nachos: Cook as above for Chicken Tacos. When you get home, pre-heat oven to bake at 400 degrees. Shred chicken. On a large, oven safe baking dish, layer tortilla chips, shredded cheese, shredded chicken, and various toppings (diced green chilies, sliced jalapeños, black beans, etc). Bake for 10 minutes. Add an additional layer of shredded cheese and broil for 3 minutes. Top with diced avocado, diced tomatoes, sour cream, etc.
Chicken, Rice, and Veggies: For the liquid, use 1 cup water or chicken broth and 1 cup Italian dressing. Add chopped carrots, onions, celery, and/or other veggies. Cook all day. Shred the chicken and put it back in the crock with the liquid and veggies. Microwave some instant rice and separate it into bowls. Spoon the chicken, veggie, and sauce mixture over the rice and serve.
Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches: For the liquid, use 1 cup water or chicken broth and 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce. Cook all day. Serve on buns with a side salad or steamed veggies.
Curry Chicken: For the liquid, use a pre-made curry sauce and add a little water, if needed, to get 2 cups. Add chopped carrots and onions. Cook all day. Add 1 cup of frozen peas to the mix when you get home. Microwave some instant rice and separate it into bowls. Shred the chicken and add it back to the mix. Spoon over the rice and serve.
Chicken Salad Sandwiches or Lettuce Wraps: For the liquid, use water or chicken stock and cook chicken the day or night before you need it. Put the cooked kitchen breasts in the fridge. Shred the chicken when you get home and mix with the following: 3 stalks celery (diced), 1 cup dried cranberries, 1-2 cups red grapes (halved), 1 cup walnuts or pecans (chopped), 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 1/2 cups mayo. Serve on lettuce wraps or toast.
I hope this gives you something to have in the rotation for those nights when you have no time but you still want to get something healthy and good on the table. It isn’t fancy, but it does the trick!
I always look forward to grilling season so I have an excuse to do two of my favorite things together: 1) get outside and 2) cook. I use our propane grill for dinner at least a few times a week once the weather is warm. Now I know there are some purists who think propane grills aren’t the real deal and swear by charcoal. For me, charcoal grilling is for weekends and special occasions. My propane grill works just fine when I have 30 minutes to get dinner on the table!
This recipe is a favorite of mine because it can be made any number of ways simply by changing the seasoning/sauce and or the veggies. I often use this as a clean out the fridge dinner to use whatever small amounts of various fresh items I have leftover from the week. My kids like the name and it encourages them to “eat the rainbow” of different items on their plates.
I often try to sneak a little fruit in here too (either pineapple or peaches). Grilled fruit just feels like summer to me and sneaking some sweet bites into any recipe will always be a winner with kids. KID TIP: “Accidentally” only get one piece of fruit in the scoop of veggies and fruit you give your kids. When they of course eat that first and ask for more, tell them you’ll give them another piece of fruit when they eat one of each of the other colors in the rainbow. This encourages them to try different things and makes sure they aren’t only eating the sweet bits.
Grilled Chicken and Rainbow Veggies
by Mel from Served With Love (in Colorado) May 25, 2018
3-4 chicken breasts
1 red (purple) onion, cut into large chunks
1 cup carrots, cut into large chunks
1 red pepper, cut into large chunks
1 cup fresh pineapple, cut into large chunks
Drizzle of olive oil
Seasoning mix or sauce of your choice for veggies and meat
Salt & pepper
Ingredients above are for the night pictured. I normally would love to have some green in there and zucchini would be my go-to but I didn’t have any on hand for this night.
Other ingredients you can use:
1 yellow onion, cut into large chunks
1 yellow or green zucchini, cut into large chunks
2 broccoli heads, cut into individual florets
1 yellow or orange pepper, cut into large chunks
2 peaches, peeled and sliced
Really just about any veggie that you can cut into a big chunk will work! Just rummage around your fridge and get all the one off fresh ingredients you have.
Seasoning or sauce mix ideas:
Anything that smells good to you from your local spice shop!
Barbecue sauce (chicken)
Italian dressing (chicken or veggies)
1. Get the kids outside and tell them they can come in when dinner is ready.
2. Open a cool beverage of your choice. You’ll need something to enjoy while you’re in front of the grill.
3. Preheat grill to medium high. Have your grill vegetable tray on there so it can get sizzling hot as well. The tray I use is similar to this one.
4. Prepare chicken breasts. My preferred method is to put the chicken breasts, a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, and 1-2 tablespoons of seasoning mix in a gallon size ziplock bag then beat the chicken to about 3/4 inch think with the back of a ladle. (You can watch me and my kids do this here. Seriously, every time my kids see me with a bag of chicken and a ladle, they go and get theirs to “help.”) For the night pictured, I used a Cajun Blackened mix for the chicken.
5. Massage the seasoning and oil mix all over the chicken to make sure every little nook and cranny is covered.
6. Prepare the veggies and fruit. Cut all the veggies and fruit into large chunks and throw them in a bowl.
7. Add a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of seasoning mix. For the night pictured, I used a simple garlic salt mixture for the veggies and fruit and didn’t add any extra salt. Since the blackened seasoning was pretty strong, I didn’t want to use it on both the chicken and the veggies. If you have a favorite mix that is pretty potent, try using that on the chicken and then something simpler/milder on the veggies/fruit.
8. Mix the veggies and fruit.
9. Bring your meat, veggies/fruit, and cool beverage to the now perfectly sizzling grill.
10. Throw the chicken one one side and the veggies/fruit in the tray on the other.
11. Flip the chicken once it easily releases from the grill (usually 5 minutes). This really varies based on the temperature of your grill.
12. Stir the veggies/fruit when you flip the chicken. Do not over stir! You want there to be grill marks.
13. Take the chicken off after the other side easily releases from the grill (again about 5 minutes) and put on a large serving tray.
14. Let the chicken rest while the veggies get to your desired level of doneness (for us, just an additional minute or two).
15. Scoop the veggies and fruit on top and around the chicken.
16. Call the kids in and serve.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4-5 servings
I hope you enjoy your time outside by your grill, cool beverage in hand!
When I was first starting to cook, I would often skip over recipes I saw that called for fresh ginger. It felt like something I never had on hand and something I didn’t want to commit to a whole chunk of because I could never use it all. Yes, I finally realized I could freeze ginger for later but just throwing the whole root in a freezer bag meant I had to thaw the whole root or saw off the chunk I needed which didn’t work well.
The time I put a little effort in up front to peel and cut the ginger into useable chunks was a real game changer. And now I LOVE recipes that call for fresh ginger because I know I can just run to the freeze and grab the exact amount I need whenever I need it.
Here is what you’ll need:
Big hunk of ginger
Plastic freezer bag
Here is what you do:
Peel the ginger completely
Cut the ginger into “coins” (1-2 Tablespoon sized pieces)
Label plastic bag with date
Put sliced ginger in bag
Put bag in freezer where it can be flat with ginger pieces as separated as possible
When frozen, move bag to more convenient spot in freezer
Open the bag and grab the amount you need whenever a recipe calls for fresh ginger (frozen ginger is really easy to grate or mince)
Seal bag and place it back in the freezer
So if you’re skipping over recipes with fresh ginger like I was (or have an unpeeled ginger root in your freezer right now) give this a whirl and see if it works for you!
I travel usually once a year for work to attend a genetics educational conference. This means I get to stay on top of my continuing education credits to continue to be certified but also that I get to try new restaurants in an often new city, which I love.
After a quick google of the “best restaurants in Charlotte” I found The Asbury. From a quick look at the menu, it seemed like elevated Southern food which was exactly what I was wanting. So I gave it a try and was not disappointed.
The chef, Matthew Krenz, won the NC Chef Showdown in 2017. I am a sucker for young waiters being so excited to tell me things like this that I fall hook, line, and sinker in love with a place almost immediately. I love that they seemed so proud to mention this about the place they work. They are probably coached to do this because it works (case example: me).
When you enter The Asbury you are greeted with the kindness you expect in the South: people asking how your night is going and actually looking you in the eye like they care about your answer. The hostess mentioned how they have a new spring menu. When I asked what she recommended from it, she easily recommended her favorite from their dinner menu: Crispy Pork Cheek.
What I ordered:
Maw Maw’s Cast Iron Biscuits with Bacon jam
Small Crispy Pork Cheek
The run down:
The wine list wasn’t expansive but had great options of every type for every price range. I was very happy with the glass I ordered.
Biscuits were good but maybe a little dry. Bacon jam made them just right and I look forward to having my leftovers for breakfast tomorrow.
Oysters were small, creamy, and sweet. As an oyster lover, I am often given the option of 6 or 12 oysters and depending on who I am dining with, that may work or be way to much. I loved how you could order the exact amount you wanted.
The Crispy Pork Cheek was fabulous. This dish tasted like spring and made me excited for my garden. The ginger and carrot bisque was a perfect compliment to the crispy pork and perfectly cooked fresh peas and black eyed peas. It felt fancy Southern and I would have licked my plate if it was socially acceptable. Did the pork cheek need to be fried? No, in short. BUT, the light tempura batter gave it a nice crunch and texture and made it feel even more Southern so my opinion was that it was worth the calories. Also, the seasonal entrees come in small and large portions so you are able to get a small and try more things (which is what I did). I loved this and if my hubby was with me, we probably would have tried three small entrees just to get a good sampling of what they had to offer.
I told the waiter I was having a hard time deciding on dessert and the panna cotta was what he recommended. It was divine. Creamy custard topped with shaved fennel and I believe an apple gel. I loved the little crunchy bites of the fennel with the creamy custard. I’d order it again. And again. And again.
The Asbury coffee was simply good coffee and various liquours but it was good and came in decaf (my waiter swore this was true and was willing to give me his home number to call at 3 AM if that wasn’t the case).
The food was fabulous. Ambience was good. I did think it was a little weird having mainly rustic barn paintings on one side and almost all modern cow paintings on the other. You usually associate that “look” with a coffee shop that has little price tags on all the paintings but that wasn’t the case here. So the art, if there permanently, could be more cohesive but that is a minor criticism of a place with such fabulous food and service.
I would definitely recommend The Asbury and if I am ever back in Charlotte, I’ll be checking out what’s on their seasonal menu and likely booking a table again.
Sleeping and meal time are the two things we’ve decided to be pretty strict on. Our kids have never slept in our room. I know that makes us sound cruel but we have our reasons. The main one being that I am such a light sleeper that I cannot sleep at all with baby/kid noises or extra motion in the bed. We’ve always used monitors so we can hear if we are needed. If the kids were ever sick or I thought I needed to be near to them at night for any reason, I would sleep in their rooms so they have never expected to sleep in ours.
But, like all kids, they did try to get up in the middle of the night and really early in the morning. Thankfully, I found a fabulous product to help us keep them in their rooms at night and until an appropriate time in the morning so the entire house gets a good night’s sleep.
This is a product recommendation that probably every house with kids can use! If you have children you would love to stay in bed longer in the morning or be better about staying in their rooms all night now, this one is for you: The OK to Wake Clock.
We love this thing! It turns green at a set time so if your kids wake up and see it green, they know they can come out of their room. If it isn’t green, they need to stay in their room until it turns on. You set a time for it to turn on in the morning and then you can set a duration for it turn on in during nap time. It runs on batteries or can be plugged in and comes with a green face and pink or purple face.
While the product is fabulous, you do have to train your kids to follow it. We started using these clocks when Bear and Ladybug were transitioning from their cribs to their toddler beds. You certainly could start later than that as well but setting up the “rules” before moving to a toddler bed or right when you do move to the toddler bed probably help.
Explain the night before you use the clock the first time that the clock will turn green when it is okay for them to get up and come out of their room. If they wake up before it turns green, they need to go back to sleep or read/play quietly in their bed. We have books and stuffed animals in our kids’ rooms for that purpose.
Also explain that if they stay in their room and are quiet until their light turns green, they will get a reward. We used M&Ms and then a sticker chart for a reward like a new toy or special date. I like this because they get an immediate reward from the M&M but then something bigger to work towards.
Set the time in the morning for when they are normally waking and then gradually move it later by 15 minute increments every few days of them successfully staying in their room. Example, if your kids are getting up at 6 am and you’d love that to be 7 am or later, set the clock to turn green at 6 am the first morning. Once your kids have stayed in their rooms for a few days at that time, move it to 6:15 am. Then 6:30. Etc.
Same set up for nap time. If they are napping for an hour and you would like to make that 2 hours, start with 1 hour for the time set and then gradually move it to 2 hours.
The most important thing: consistency. Each and every time they get up before the light turns green, walk them back to their room and put them back to bed saying “you can get up when your light turns green.” Say that and nothing more. This means whether it is 5 minutes until the clock turns green or the middle of the night, you still walk them back to their room. No stories, no extra hugs and kisses or cuddle time. Just a quick walk back to their room. Yes, in the early days they protested or were upset. That ended quickly though when they understood that getting up in the middle of the night or early in the morning didn’t get them what they wanted.
Of note, our kids have a jack-and-jill bath between their rooms so they can use the restroom on their own without going out of their room. If your kids need to go out of their rooms to use the restroom, you may need to adjust the rules slightly (can only go out before green to use the restroom BUT must go right back to room). We also have video monitors in their rooms so if they are sick or need something, they can call to us and we can come help them. If you don’t use monitors, you may need to say it is okay for them to come out if they are sick or need something.
Our kids now stay in their rooms until 7:30 am (or later if we have a later night and set the clock back a bit) and have 2-3 hour nap times depending on the day. We also very rarely like I don’t remember when the last time was have them getting up in the middle of the night.
I hope this clock helps you get better sleep! If you have any other products or tips for sleeping through the night, please use the comment feature above to share your thoughts!
*This post is not sponsored. I have owned three of these clocks (one got dropped pretty badly on a trip so we quickly replaced it with another) and there is currently one in Bear’s room and one in Ladybug’s room. As I write this, they are on hour 2 of their naps. 🙂