Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter Eggs, Hoppy Tulips, and Thumbprint Flowers

Even though I'm a little late to the party on the egg decorating front I had to share the little creations we made this week. 

Mini Disclaimer: Some {ok, most} of the pictures are from my cell, so the colors aren't as vibrant as they are in real life. 

This year is the first time Mads has really been able to participate in holidays, and this one is proving to be almost as amazing to her as Christmas was. 

She's ecstatic that the Easter Bunny is coming to her house. 
Thrilled that he likes carrots as much as she does.
Giddy at the fact that we got to decorate the eggs that our chickens leave us everyday. 
And she's beyond excited that the Bunny is going to hide her Easter Eggs for her to find. 
Ohhhh to be almost 3 years old again!

I have been meaning to break out the eggs and dye all week and never had a chance until today. Time is something I don't have much of lately but I still wanted to try something new for our eggs this year. Earlier in the week I found this tutorial for Salad Dressing Easter Eggs on ADozenGirlz and fell in love! I'll spare you the major details since she describes how to make them so well, and to save me a few minutes of typing :) The only thing I didn't do was use the Wilton Colors that she used in her tutorial, I used plain 'ole food coloring in neon colors. The short of it - SUPER easy. SUPER cute. SUPER inexpensive. How can you beat vinegar, olive oil, food coloring and water? The shiny, marbled effect you end up with is so pretty and different. I love them!

To keep it frugal we made egg dippers out of some copper wire we had lying around, used mason jars to hold the hot dye liquid, and plain old egg cartons flipped upside down as a drying rack. 
Our eggs of choice - white and blue hardboiled {yes, my chickens lay blue eggs :)}.

I did get a tad more creative than just dipping and popped some designs on a few of the eggs. My trusty hole punch, some adhesive vinyl {contact paper works too} gave me the WOW factor I was looking for on short notice. For those of you with Silhouettes or Cricuts, the possibilities would be endless! I can only imagine the awesomeness...

I decided on polka dots, stripes, and a chevron egg that didn't come out well enough for photos {can't win 'em all!}. It's simple enough to do -  just stick your shapes to the egg, make sure all the air bubbles are out, then pick your dye color.

For the Punkin' we used vinyl letter stickers that I had on hand to make her name.

I also got creative with a little centerpiece for my table. I saw all these super cute Peep centerpieces floating around Pinterest and just HAD to have one. A florist I'm not, but I must say I think it came out cute!

And of course, what would a new season and holiday be without hand and thumbprint art? Of course you remember Maddy's Fall Masterpiece? Well, this time we went for a pretty spring flower bouquet to match my Peeps centerpiece. Hands for the stems and thumbs for the petals.

We made these bouquets into pictures and cards to give the grandparents for Easter Sunday. It's become tradition that each year they receive a homemade hand print from Mads, they love it! And, I don't know about you but I could stare at little handprints all day long, they melt me.

I hope you all have a great Easter if I don't catch you before then ;)

Monday, January 30, 2012

20 Minute Naked Eggplant Parmesan

Well, not totally naked. Just not breaded. But, naked sounds better than un-breaded doesn't it?

And don't let the fact that there isn't a yummy crisp coating over the eggplant deter you. A little broiler magic goes a long way in making this dish super tasty. 

About a month ago I was perusing my local grocery store's magazine {Hannaford FRESH} and this jumped right out at me. Easy and fast eggplant parm? Say it ain't so! I grabbed the ingredients right then and there and flew home to whip it up.

The result - fabulous! I'm such a sucker for anything eggplant, and melted Parmesan cheese on top - that just sealed the deal for me. Next time I make this dish I think I may try marinading the eggplant in an Italian dressing prior to cooking, for a little more zing!

What you'll need:

2 mid sized eggplants, about 2 lbs. total, cut into 1/2" slices
3 cups of your favorite jarred or homemade marinara sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
sea salt and ground pepper to taste
2 tbsp. fresh basil, parsley or oregano
olive oil, or olive oil spray

What you need to do:

Cover the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish with 1/2 cup of sauce.
Pour the remaining sauce into a pan and warm over low heat.
Position an oven rack about 2 inches from the broiler heat.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. *Shiny side down.
Pre-heat broiler to 550 degrees, or high, heat for 5 minutes and no longer.
Arrange half of the eggplant on the foil lined pan and coat lightly with olive oil or mist with an olive oil spray.
Broil for about 2 to 3 minutes or until the eggplant becomes brown in various spots.

Turn eggplant over, coat with oil and broil until browned.
The eggplant is done when tender all the way through.
Place the cooked eggplant in the casserole dish on top of the sauce, overlap the slices.

Repeat the cooking process with the remaining eggplant and finish filling the casserole dish.
Sprinkle the eggplant with sea salt and pepper to taste.
Cover with remaining warm sauce - spread evenly.
Sprinkle the mozzarella over the sauce and then top with the Parmesan.
Place under the broiler and cook until the cheese is bubbling and browned.
Chop the fresh herbs.

Remove from the dish from the oven, sprinkle with the herbs. 
Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sayonara Caffeine Addiction, and Hello Smoothie Recipe

The three mornings per week I have to head into work can be tough. Hectic, frantic, stressful. Some days I'm lucky to get a shower in, never mind breakfast, before heading out the door. I hustle to get Maddy and all the barn animals fed and ready for the day, leaving myself out of the equation. And I've realized lately that I suffer for it.

I have never been much of a breakfast person. I find it hard to eat first thing in the morning and honestly never had a problem going without it. I would however make the occasional smoothie here and there. But, a few months ago I started losing steam around 11am. I could hardly keep myself motivated to do ANYTHING. So like most people - I increased my morning coffee from one cup to two.  I found myself craving it in the wee hours of the morning even before getting out of bed, then again in the afternoon. The addiction was getting BAD. I would fore-go my morning smoothie because, well, my Keurig is my best friend and let's be honest, it's fast and easy. Never thought I'd be calling a coffee maker fast and easy, but, if the shoe fits!

My coffee addiction had become so bad around here that Maddy was even bringing me my mug if I started getting grumpy. She would {and still does!} point out all the coffee shops we drove past, and has started having "coffee" parties with her dolls instead of tea parties. Even the hubs started grabbing  me a coffee on his way home from work hoping it would make me a happy wife from 5pm on. Hmmmm.....

In December I decided it was time to cut the cord. Obviously my caffeine addiction wasn't getting me anywhere. I began noticing the mood swings on my caffeine crashes, I felt like I was 16! Not good.

I started cutting my coffee load down little by little each day. I used to be a major tea junkie so I started adding a cup of decaf tea back into my routine mid-afternoon, cutting out my 1pm iced coffee. Luckily I never ended up with the caffeine headaches a lot of people experience when cutting out java. After the first week I found myself actually falling asleep faster when I went to bed. That's a HUGE thing for me - I can lay there for hours conjuring up every negative scenario in my head until I'm so stressed and exhausted that I cry myself to sleep. I am happy to say that I haven't had my "normal" bed time tear session in weeks.

Then the following week the hubs pointed out that I hadn't been as moody as usual. I quickly reminded him that I am NEVER moody. It's all in his imagination. And if on occasion I am, let's say, frazzled, it's probably because of him. He quickly agreed. Good man.

It took me about a month but I was determined and by the time January 1st arrived I was down to a 1/2 cup of coffee in the morning, and about 3 cups of decaf tea per day. GO ME! I haven't been crashing late morning, and my energy level seems to have increased a decent amount, added bonus. Will I ever give it up totally? Probably not. It's comforting for me to have a cup of coffee. I just need to realize that it should be more of a treat rather than a necessity.

The downfall? I wake up STARVING now. No longer do I have that large mug of warm coffee goodness to fill my stomach first thing in the morning. I was even getting dizzy I was so hungry. Back to smoothie making I went. I add in protein powder and coconut milk along with a variety of fresh squeezed juice, fruits and yogurt. Definitely filling. And time consuming on my work mornings. And do you have any idea how HARD it is to juggle a mug of coffee, a smoothie cup and a toddler with all her belongings on the way out the door in the morning?

Then it hit me. My genius idea.

Add the coffee TO the smoothie! Der. Why didn't I think of that before? One mug, I still get my little coffee fix, and breakfast, all at once. Protein and Caffeine all in one place - if that isn't perfection I don't know what is!

After a few trials and some nasty results, here is the goodness I came up with...

Berry Espresso Protein Smoothie

1/4 cup frozen berries {I use raspberries and strawberries}
1/3 of a banana
2 lite coconut milk ice cubes {freeze the milk in an ice cube tray}
1/4 cup vanilla or plain low-fat yogurt
1 scoop vanilla or chocolate protein powder
Instant Espresso
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract, add more if desired
Truvia, agave syrup or sugar to taste - I have tried all three, all work great!
Optional: Chocolate syrup to taste for a Mocha Berry Espresso Smoothie

To Make:

* Make the espresso per the directions, you only need one serving
* Add vanilla extract and sweetener to the espresso, then set aside and let cool
*In a blender mix together remainder of the ingredients, being sure to add all the liquid ingredients first for easier blending.
*Once blended add in 1.5 to 2 ounces (little more than a shot glass) of espresso, blend for a few more seconds.
* What you don't use of the Espresso be sure to refrigerate for the next day
* Pour into a glass and enjoy!

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