Thursday, February 28, 2013


1 tablespoon active yeast (or one package)
1 1/3 cup warm water
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
14-16 oz. mozzarella cheese
pizza toppings of your choice
Mix the yeast and warm water together in a large bowl.

Add the oil, salt, and half of the flour.

Stir with a wooden spoon until mixed. It will look like the picture below.

Attach the bowl to a stand mixer if you have one.

If you don't have a mixer, use a wooden spoon to mix the final 2 cups of flour. (You may have to use your hands if you don't have a stand mixer. Spray a little cooking spray on your hands so the dough doesn't stick to them.)

With the stand mixer, slowly add in 1 cup of flour at a time. Let the hook attachment do the kneading work for you. When all the flour is added, let it knead for about 8 minutes. It will look like this:
Remove the dough and grease the bowl with a little oil. Make sure the top of the dough gets brushed with a little oil as well. Cover the bowl with a towel.

Turn your oven on to 170 degrees for about 45 seconds. Place the dough in the slightly warm oven. (Doing this will create an environment that is just warm enough to speed up the rising of the dough, without overcooking it.) Make sure you turn the oven off after 45 seconds!
The dough will double in 30-45 minutes.

After doubled, punch the dough down and divide in half. With a rolling pin, roll out one half into as close to a rectangle as you can on a surface sprinkled with either flour or cornmeal.

Line half of the stromboli with pepperoni and cheese (or whatever other toppings you prefer). Browned hamburger is really good in this stromboli with the pepperoni, but the kids don't like it as much.


Fold the top half over the bottom half and pinch the dough together. Transfer to a pan that has been greased with cooking spray.

Spread a little olive oil over the top. I sprinkle mine with some pizza seasoning (oregano, garlic salt, parsley). Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Place in a 400 degree oven and bake for about 20 minutes.

Serve with pizza sauce or ranch dressing.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Scavenger Hunt

The first step in this scavenger hunt is to cut shamrocks for the clues. I found bulletin board shamrocks at a teacher store to use. Write the clues on your five shamrocks. I taped two chocolate coins to each clue also.
Here are the clues... (If your kids are younger, you may have to help them with the rhyming a little bit. For some of the Valentine's Day clues, I had to repeat the last word in the first line a few times to get them to think of household places.)

Clue #1: (Place this first clue in a manila folder for them to get started.)
This St. Patrick’s Day Hunt can be tough, so I’ll help you a smidge.
To find your next clue, look in the _ _ _ _ _. (fridge)

Clue #2:
Finding this pot of gold is going to be harder than you think.
Your next clue is located under the bathroom_ _ _ _. (sink)

Clue #3:
To finish this hunt, you must be willing and able.
To find your next clue, look under the dining room _ _ _ _ _ (table)

Clue #4:
Let’s hope this hunt doesn’t take an hour.
Find your next clue in Daddy’s _ _ _ _ _ _.(shower)

Clue #5:
Soon spring will be here with wind through the willows,
To end this hunt, look under your parents’ _ _ _ _ _ _ _. (pillows)

There is also a "puzzle piece" on the back of each clue. (The "puzzle pieces"are just a piece of paper cut up that tells them the location of the pot of gold. To find the location, they will have to put all four "puzzle pieces" together in the end.)

For the final pot of gold, I found a green pot of gold at Party City. You could just decorate a plastic bowl with construction paper to look like a pot. I found a bunch of green items at the dollar store to fill in the pot. (green shower poofs, green lifesavers, green toothbrushes, green light-up balls, Andes mints, green Powerade, green rhyming flashcards, etc)


Sloppy Joes

I make this incredibly easy meal almost once a week. These are ingredients that I usually have on hand, and the kids love eating this meal! (And, believe me, I have picky eaters!)
1 1/2 lbs ground chuck
3/4 cup Open Pit Barbeque Sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/8 cup mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce (optional)
1 teaspoon white vinegar

 Brown your hamburger and drain the grease.
 Add about 3/4 cups of Open Pit. (Doesn't have to be exact.)
 Add the 1/4 cup of ketchup. (Again, doesn't have to be exact.)
 I add a couple of "squirts" from the mustard. Close to 1/8 of a cup.
 Then add about 1/4 cup of the brown sugar, along with the teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and vinegar.
 Mix and serve.
A tip for getting your kids to eat veggies is to have a container filled with cut veggies at all times. My kids don't particularly like cooked veggies besides corn and occasionally peas, but they eat fresh cucumbers and carrots like they are going out of style. I will randomly set out the container throughout the day. You would be amazed at how many times, in passing, they stop to grab a handful. If I am extra busy (or just really tired) at night, these also become our veggie for the meal. Last night was one of nights.
Here is my ten-year-old's creation of the night. He wanted to make his sloppy joe in the shape of a shamrock with a cookie cutter. :) Since my one-year-old eats her bun chopped up anyway, I put her sloppy joe in the scraps of his bun.

Counting with Pictures

An Easy, Fun, Learning Activity for Toddlers
My four-year-old, David, loves dogs, so my mother-in-law found pictures of dogs for him to use as counting tools. Each card had the pictures of the dogs pasted on the card already with the words, "1 dog, 2 dogs, 3 dogs," etc. He had to take little Milk Bones, count them to match the number, and paste them on each card.
Studies have shown that, yes, it is great if your kids can count to ten, but what really matters is that they can actually point out objects while they count. This skill is what will help them in their early elementary math classes.
Periodically, we ask David to count the bones on each card and to reference the number written on each card. We have even started to hold up the 1 and 2 dog cards to work on simple math problems. In just a week, he can recall what problems like 1+2 and 2+3 are.
This can be done with any pictures and objects. You could even draw fish on a card and have the child paste on goldfish crackers, or any other little objects you have around the house. Remember, the key is to have them point to the objects while they count. (Not just memorize counting 1-10)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bacon Cheeseburger Soup

32 oz of chicken broth

1 lb ground beef, browned

8 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped (I used one bag of pre-cooked bacon bits-Oscar Mayer Selects)

32 oz frozen potatoes (diced or hash brown style-I used the diced with green and red peppers.)

2 lbs Velveeta cheese

Place ingredients in a crockpot for 3-4 hours on high.

The soup is so easy and tastes like it came from a restaurant. I put oyster crackers in mine, but it definitely wasn't necessary. My husband put a little Worcestershire sauce in his to give it more of a burger flavor. Shredded cheddar cheese on top would add another special touch if you really like cheese.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Valentine's Day Scavenger Hunt

This post is a little late, but this was one of the most exciting mornings we have had at our house. When the boys woke up on Valentine's Day, there was a manila folder waiting for them by their breakfast. On it they found, "Valentine's Day Scavenger Hunt! (Mission Valentine) Open if you choose to accept...(Note: We leave our house by 7:00 AM for school. Normally, the boys are usually still tired by the time we leave. Not after this! They were so excited to start their day.)
I am working on one for St. Patrick's Day.  I will try to post before the holiday in case you would like to try one.
(I didn't decide to do this until 10:00 the night before Valentine's Day, so I just used the same clues this lady did. I will get more creative for the second one!)
 Clue #1:February 14th, full of red and pink--to find the next clue, look under the _ _ _ _. (sink)
This clue was in the manila folder. (I taped a little treat to every clue) If you don't have little treats laying around, get creative. You could put chocolate chips in a little baggie, a pack of fruit snacks, baggie of chips, etc; I did kool-aid singles on one of them. You could do little erasers or objects you find around the house. It doesn't have to be anything big.
 Clue #2: Roses are red, violets are blue, for your next clue, look in a _ _ _ _. (Shoe)

On every clue is also a piece to the final puzzle. My four pieces said, "Who is your Valentine? Flip over to find out." On the back of the pieces, there was a picture of me.
 Clue #3: Good job! You found me. There's only one more--to finish this chase, look behind the _ _ _ _ (door)
 Clue #4: Ha, Ha, just kidding. I'm making this hard. To end this chase, go west 12 yards. (from the hallway) (ok, maybe feet, but that doesn't rhyme :)
 Clue #5: Yeah! You did it! Now wasn't this fun. Put the pieces together and you're all done. Complete the puzzle and find your valentine.

I had a couple of bigger treats waiting for them at the end. The boys are still talking about it!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cheddar Bacon Burgers

This recipe is courtesy of my husband. The boys spend great quality time together grilling these burgers in the summer and winter. David can usually even convince dad to put his burger in the shape of Mickey :)
1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 slices bacon, chopped
3 lbs ground chuck

Mix all ingredients together.

Using a spoon, press a little dimple in the middle of each of the patties. (This prevents the burger from puffing up too much while grilling.)

 Grill burgers until done to your liking. Place onions and other toppings on the burger and eat. (Onions could also be put in the mix before grilling.)


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Cream the sugar and butter together with a hand mixer. Beat in the eggs.
Mash the bananas with a fork. Add them to the sugar/butter/egg mixture. Beat with the mixer for about 30 seconds.

 Add the flour, baking soda and salt. Again beat with the mixer--be careful not to over beat.
 Fold in the chocolate chips.
Grease and flour an angel food cake pan.

 Pour in the batter.

 Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Cool bread on a wire rack. Baking in this type of pan allows for more even baking. Plus, it is a much more managable piece of bread for the kids.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Workspace for Toddlers

My 1 1/2 year old daughter loves to color and read books. When I get home from work and picking them up from daycare, our time is precious if I want to have dinner on the table at a reasonable time.
We have a long coffee table in our living room that I have converted into her own "library". (My 4-year-old has started to make some of this space his own too.) Instead of putting her in front of the tv, I simply suggest that she go check out her library, and it buys me the 20 minutes I need to make dinner. She moves from coloring page to coloring page. When she is done coloring, she grabs a book, sits on the couch, and checks it out.
I rotate books and coloring pages periodically. (Don't put too many crayons on the table or you will spend a lot of time picking up crayons.)
I find her at the table throughout the night without being prompted to go there.
Try to find a spot that you can set aside for your kids that will help encourage this type of activity.

Baked Mac and Cheese with Bacon

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 2 1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese (Parmaseano Romano would probably work just as well)
  • 3/4 pound elbow macaroni
  • 3-5 slices thick cut bacon cooked
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs or potato chips

  • Directions
    • Get a large pot of water boiling for your noodles. When the water boils, cook the macaroni for about 2 minutes under the recommended cooking time. Drain pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water.

    • Meanwhile, warm milk in a medium saucepan or in the microwave.

    • Melt  2 1/2 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add flour. (Make sure you use a pan that isn't very wide. The flour will seize up if the butter isn't in a smaller area.) Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

    • Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

    • Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, 1 1/2 cups cheddar, and 1/2 cup pecorino Romano. Mix drained noodles and cheese sauce in a 4-quart baking dish.

    • Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup cheddar and 1/4 cup pecorino Romano over the noodles and sauce. Add chopped bacon and  scatter breadcrumbs or potato chips over the top. 

    • Take the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter and drop little pats of butter across the top of the breadcrumbs.  (You don't need extra butter if you use potato chips.) Bake at 400 degrees until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and then serve.