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Make the best of everything!: August 2012

Friday, August 31, 2012

Magnet Block Letters

My good friend Hillary's little girl is having a birthday!  Of course I needed to come up with a fun homemade gift idea!  I was going to make her a bunch of pretty hair bows.  I  went shopping at my local ' Super center' to check out the craft department, and ended up making this!

My friend Hillary has extraordinary taste! She can put the cutest outfits together and her home decor always looks amazing!! I wanted to make her daughter something extra special for her birthday.

These are your basic baby blocks that I painted and super glued a magnet to.   This can be used as decor in any children's room, and also used as a fun " learning the alphabet" activity!

DIY Magnet Block Letters!


Purchased at my local " Super center"

* 2 packs of baby blocks
* White board.
* 1 package of magnets

Supplies I already had at home

* Super Glue
* Hot Glue Gun
*Paint Brushes
* Paint

When I purchased these blocks, they looked like this.  But I wanted to make them look cute!

With craft paint, I painted the letters on these blocks with black paint.

Then painted the " borders" of each block with fun girl pastel colors.  ( I have a boy, so this was an activity I rarely get to do)

Using both super glue and hot glue, I glued sturdy magnets on the back of each block.  I really wanted to make sure the magnet was secure because this is for a small child.  After the glue dried, I pulled hard on each magnet to make sure it was on there tight.

I think this turned out really neat.  I am thinking that I need to make a " Boy set" for my son.  I think he would have a blast playing with something like this!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Easy Weeknight Salad Bar

Last week, while traveling my family and I stopped at two different Whole Foods Stores to get their salad bar!  Whole Foods Salad bar might just be the most beautiful salad bar around.  This left me in a salad bar kind of mood!

Tonight for dinner, I made a salad bar with items I already had around.  It was so easy to make and this salad bar took barely any time!  This was also a great way to use leftover chicken!

This is a fun way to introduce healthy eating to kids.  They will have so much fun putting their own salads together!

Here are just a few items that I had around that also made delicious salad toppings!

To prepare these ingredients:
1) Opened a can of garbanzo beans and drained them
2) Shredded cabbage I had in my fridge
3) Cut Sweet peppers
4) Peeled 2 carrots and cut them
5) Cut Leftover chicken
6) opened a snack sized bag of peanuts
7) defrosted frozen peas for 2 minutes
8) Cut an apple
9) opened a bad of shredded cheese

see? Easy!

If you want to make your own salad bar, don't go to the store!  I bet you have plenty of items that you can use to make your own salad bar.

Other Salad bar topping ideas:
Frozen corn
Frozen peas
Kidney Beans
Black Beans
Fruit you have around
Deli Meats
Leftover pot roast
pudding snack cups ( for a salad bar dessert)

In addition to salad dressing, I added salsa.  Salsa is a great low calorie way to liven up any salad!

This was a lovely dinner on warm summer evening.  Both my husband and I were able to make a salad according to our own specifications.  My 10 month old son was able to snack on some of the salad bar items as well:)

We will definitely be making this again!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Asparagus Ham Goat Cheese Pizza

Here is a little blogging secret.   I often make things far in advance before you ever see them on my blog.  Sometimes, I am just not sure if any particular project or recipe is a good fit for my blog.  Sometimes, I just need to think about what I am going to say about it before I post.  Also,  sometimes, I just get inspired and make a bunch of things at once, therefore a " line" is formed for when I am actually going to post about any particular subject.

I made this pizza about a month ago.

When making pizzas at home, I often refer to my pizzas as " Garbage Pizza" because I am literally taking anything I happen to have in my fridge and using them as pizza toppings.

My husband often works 12-14 hour days for his accounting job.  So I was astonished, when one day he called saying he would come home for lunch.  I made this pizza for the two of us to have.

This pizza only took about 20 minutes to make.

The proper term for this type of pizza is called a " White" Pizza.  A "White" Pizza is a pizza that does not have red pizza sauce on it.

I LOVE this thin pizza crust that you get pre made at the store.  I sometimes make homemade pizza crust.  I have not been able to get mine as crispy as this!

Lets discuss these pizza toppings. 

Asparagus is such an amazing vegetable.  Roasted, grilled or steamed el dente.  Love LOVE it!

Lets talk about Ham.  I like to use it in the place of prosciutto when I am making Italian food.  Prosciutto is expensive and not readily available in Southeast Iowa.  Ham is salty and works great on Sandwiches or tossed with pasta if you want to make a quick meal.

Goat Cheese is the reason why I could never go vegan.  Its amazing on everything.  enough said.

Together, they made one great pizza.

Asparagus, Ham and Goat Cheese Pizza

1 pizza crust.
4 large slices of deli ham
1 bunch of asparagus
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1-2 ounces of spreadable goat cheese
1 handful of shredded mozzarella cheese

1) With a kitchen brush, paint olive oil on pizza crust
2) Place ham on the pizza crust
3) Arrange asparagus on pizza crust
4) Arrange goat cheese on pizza crust.
5) Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on pizza crust
6) Bake in the oven at 350f for 12 minutes

This was an amazing pizza. It took barely any time at all!

All of these ingredients would also be great tossed with pasta!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

edible baby paint

I'm currently sitting in the Omaha Hilton lobby writing this post.  My baby boy and I had an amazing time at the Omaha Zoo.. But, I should have known it was not a great idea to bring a 9 month old into a hotel atmosphere for 2 days.....  I am pretty sure that my son's screaming woke up are entire floor last night!  Then of course, since we are all staying in the same room.  After he falls asleep we have to just sit in the dark so we won't wake him up.

Well any who,  I wanted to share with you an activity we did with my baby boy last weekend.

Making sure that my son develops skills early on is extremely important to me.  We make sure to read often and to always explain to him how " things work".   But also,  I want him to learn  how to be creative and to express himself.   In addition to introducing music early,we also want him to appreciate art.

Edible paint is a great idea.  My son is at the age where he will put anything in his mouth.  I am always pulling out grass, leaves, cat hair among other little "house fuzzes" out of his mouth.

I found an idea for edible paint Here.

I decided not to cook this paint.  I was making this as a sensory activity. mixing it together only takes a minute.

* One thing to note.  This paint does not work well for artwork you intend on keeping for a long period of time.  This is meant to be a " color" activity for your baby!  If you want something to keep you might want to use real paint, but just make sure they don't eat any of it!

plastic cups or baby jars.
food coloring
flour ( I only had whole wheat flour)

For each color I used:
1/2 cup water
2 large tablespoons of flour
a few drops of food coloring.

Mix all the ingredients together until you get the consistency of paint.

I would recommend  that this activity be taken outside!

I guarantee that every color paint ended up in his mouth!

A masterpiece for sure!  My son is still trying to get the hand of this " creating art" thing.  I will continue to help him develop his skills.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chunky Chocolate Yellow Squash Muffins

My husband, son and I are taking a mini road trip to Omaha this week.  While my husband attends a conference for work, I am going to take my little boy to the zoo.

When I travel, I like to bring a little something to snack on in the car and to eat for breakfast in case the hotel doesn't have anything.  This way you always have something to eat, and you will be less likely to stop for fast food.  I really dislike getting drive thru food.

The only drive thru's I like to go through are for overpriced lattes.

I often associate yellow squash with zucchini.  Actually often, I catch myself calling it " Yellow Zucchini."  This is incorrect.

I kind of played off " zucchini bread" when making up this recipe this afternoon.
Except I never shred zucchini in zucchini bread, I always cut it into cubes.  I like to know its there.
Plus I didn't add cinnamon or any other ' spices" you would find in zucchini bread.

For all of these reasons above, it would be inappropriate for me to call this " Yellow Zucchini Bread".

I added slices of the yellow squash onto the top of the muffin before baking it.  If you are having a party, it would be nice to show your guests what is actually inside the muffin.  especially because this is not your typical.

Instead of using 1 cup of oil.  I used 1/2 cup of oil and 1/2 cup of applesauce.  Its best to make recipes healthier if possible.

This afternoon I made up this recipe.

Chunky Chocolate and Yellow Squash Muffins. 

Makes 18 regular sized muffins.


2 medium sized yellow squash
2 eggs
1/2 cup of canola oil
1/2 cup of apple sauce
2 cups flour
1/2 cup of sugar
5 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 cup of milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chunks or chips

Preheat oven to 350 F


1) Wash 1 1/2 squash and cut them into tiny chunks so that each chunk is about as big as your average chocolate chip.

2) Mix all the wet ingredients together in a bowl.

3) In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together.

4) Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients,  slowly stir in wet ingredients.

5) Add chocolate chunks and squash

6) mix thoroughly

7) cut the remainder 1/2 of squash into thin slices to place on top of each muffin before placing in the oven.

8) Bake for 20-25 minutes.

I really enjoyed these.  I enjoy any recipe with any kind of squash, zucchini, yellow zucchini type things:)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sweet Pepper Lollipops

( Yay for my 100th Post!) 

This afternoon this concept popped into my head.

( And of course I had to photograph this outside with my Iowa backyard in the distance. You know for the dramatic effect.    Sweet Peppers can be very dramatic you know) 

Mini Sweet Peppers in the fridge.  Check. 
Chick Peas and garlic for Hummus in the Pantry.  Check.
Lollipop sticks that just happened to come with my cake pop machine.  Check!  

After spending hours on end watching T.V shows like Iron chef and Chopped, I feel the need to manipulate ingredients into something new all the time.   I wonder if the Chopped kitchen is equipped with lollipop sticks.  If not, it should be.

But really, I became inspired earlier last week when I came home from the store with a bag of mini sweet peppers, and to my astonishment.  THEY WERE SEEDLESS!!!

SEEDLESS??  I was amazed.  If there was one reason why I don't purchase these often was because removing the seeds from every little pepper was such a hassle.  Oh my goodness?  What can I do with these seedless peppers now that I don't have to spend an hour removing the seeds?

Sweet Pepper lollipops are a Great treat!  If you are one of those people who likes to impress people with new and innovative appetizers then these are for you!  Of course, I think of these ideas. Then when I need to make food for various events, I never have time and I end up serving/bringing chips and salsa instead.  

Sweet Peppers and Hummus go very well together.  Also, hummus lasts longer " Out" then mayo  based dips.  

How to Make Sweet Pepper Lollipops

1) Make Hummus

1 can of chick peas
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
2 dashes of Sea Salt. 

Mix all the Ingredients above in the food processor and blend until smooth

2) Cut the top off of each sweet pepper

3) With a small spoon, scoop hummus into each pepper.  I found that using a baby spoon works best. 

4) Stick the lollipop stick into the bottom of the pepper.  You will be surprised how easy it fits and stays!

5) Place the top of the pepper back on top.  for the purpose of a visual affect.  

I Love these.  I wish I had a fun reason to display them all pretty.  

I guess its time to have another party.  ( We just hosted a neighborhood party yesterday).  

If you like! you should Pin this below!!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pepperoni Pizza Tomato Bowls

Pepperoni Pizza Tomato Bowls 

I LOVE pizza.  So much. that I literally never ordered a pizza once throughout the 4 years I was in college.  WHY? because I knew I had the capability to eat the entire thing!

Now that I am married, I can share pizza with my husband, load it up with veggies and its not quite so bad.  We usually opt for a thin crust.

Still, I am always trying to get that amazing pizza flavor without feeling guilty!

This summer, I have been posting recipes on how to use vegetables in the place of bread.  Today I am adding to my list of Healthy Recipes

I have decided to stuff a beautiful summer tomato with my favorite pizza toppings!

My favorite pizza toppings today are pepperoni and zucchini.  Other days, my favorite pizza toppings might include  BBQ chicken, pineapple,  Italian sausage, caramelized onions, asparagus, and Canadian bacon.

How to make Pepperoni Pizza Tomato bowls

1) With a small knife, cut the center out of each tomato. 

2) Squeeze out as much juice as you can from the tomato

3) Stuff each tomato with chopped zucchini and pepperoni.  OR your favorite pizza toppings. 

4) Stuff the remainder of the tomato with cheese. 

5) Bake in the oven at 350 F for 25 minutes

6) Pair with a salad and enjoy!  

This was a nice light summer dinner.

Like? Try my other low carb pizza  recipes!  Egg roll wrapper calzones  and Zucchini Pizza cups!  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tea Organization

In the summer of 2004, I studied abroad in Ireland, and thus, became a tea drinker.  I always got a kick out of the Irish, and how they all were so serious about their tea.  I especially loved seeing these macho businessmen who sat in cafes with their dainty cups of tea.

When dining at nice dining establishments in the United States, I often order tea.  Mostly because tea will often be served with an adorable miniature tea pot. AND the server will  come out with a big box of teas that you get to choose from! I always feel like a kid in a candy store!

If you have never ordered hot tea in a really nice restaurant, you should!!

I often purchase different kinds of Teas.  The problem was, I had boxes of teas everywhere! and no great place to store them.

Here is how I " downsized" my tea collection, and converted my teas into a " Tea drawer".

1) Throw the unused teas away!  It is so easy to keep your teas Forever!  Teas don't go bad. I had many kinds of teas that I had not used in years.  I threw away all the teas I no longer drink.

2) Take your teas out of the boxes they came in. Those tea boxes take up so much room! Many of the tea boxes in my cluttered cabinet only contained a few tea bags.

3) Clean out a drawer

4) Arrange your teas in a silverware organizer. Tea bags will fit wonderfully in most

I used one of the compartments in the organizer for some of the "different shaped" teas.

I really love my new tea drawer!  My drawer feels like those assorted boxes you find at nice restaurants!  I can't wait to have someone over and be able to open the drawer so they can pick their tea!