Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mini "Caramel" Apples

I've been hanging onto this Family Fun Mini Caramel Apples clipping since September 2008. With two apples in the fridge, peanut butter chips in the pantry, some stray lollipop sticks in a cupboard (although I got to thinking that cotton swabs minus the cotton would work for this too), and a play date scheduled, it was the perfect time to try it.

As in other reviews I've read, I found it difficult to get the melted chips to stick to the moist apple center. And because I couldn't coat them fast enough for the kids' liking, I decided to use creamy peanut butter mixed with honey. Worked well, tasted great, and healthier than caramel.

I set out bowls of toppings (chocolate chips, sprinkles, and walnuts--guess which bowl was left untouched?) and the kids rolled their apples themselves and got back in line for 2nds, 3rds, etc. with sticks in hand.

This snack activity was another reminder of how much fun we all have with the simplest of ingredients, some creativity, and good company. Stella's friend John gave his thumbs up rating when he requested that I please send the instructions to his mom--which I'll do now...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I'm not sure why it's taken me months of blogging to get around to sharing some of my favorite cocktail recipes. Since holiday entertaining is right around the corner, I'll start sharing my "Quick Cocktail" recipes.

My friends Dara & Tim turned me on to this one. The mixer is a delicious Pomegranate Limeade from Trader Joe's (found in the juice section).

Simply add about 5 oz of juice, 1 1/2 oz of vodka (they recommend vanilla) and Ice in a shaker and pour into a martini glass. Or serve "on the rocks" (I like crushed) in a small tumbler. Add a lime wedge to garnish and it'll look like it took some effort.

Whether entertaining guests or watching "So You Think You Can Dance" in your pj's, you'll be feeling fancy with this simple cocktail in hand.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Upside-Down Deep Dish Pizza

I pulled this Ragu recipe (ad) out of People magazine and modified it using ingredients from Trader Joe's.

I used a clear pie dish which was great for showing my kids the "upside down" effect.

Here's how to make my version of this easy and delicious meal:
1) Pour pizza sauce in pie pan (I used approx. 5 oz.)
2) Top with thawed/drained spinach (I used 1/2 a bag)
3) Add a layer of shredded mozzarella (2 cups)
4) Roll fresh pizza dough out to just larger than the pan and place on top pressing the edges to seal
5) Pop it in 375 oven for 20 min or until golden. (Although I'm going to try 400 next time which is what I normally cook fresh pizza at.)

Yes, that's it. Enjoy!

Next time I'll try adding Ricotta between the spinach and mozzarella layers. I don't eat meat so I skipped that step from the original recipe. I might try the Morningstar or Boca soy meat crumbles. Since they are pre-cooked they are easy to add straight to the sauce.

Stella was so intrigued by seeing it made that she was excited to give it a try. She took a bite and asked: "What's the green stuff?" I answered her: "Spinach." Pause. "It's deeeeeeeeeelicious!"

Husband's review: "This is so good, I'm going for seconds!" He was kind enough to leave me a slice for lunch the next day. What a treat that was to discover when I opened the fridge for the daily stare into the fridge at lunchtime. I heated it back up in the oven and ate it right-side up while going about my chores.

This dish went over so well in my house that I will be adding it to the regular line up of my "10 Minutes or Less" meals and removing a previous pizza casserole post which pales in comparison to this one.

We give it 4 thumbs up.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Glitter Pumpkins

Today I had the pleasure of meeting my friend Emily's beautiful baby boy, Hudson. While visiting with her and her mother Cathilee, an amazing centerpiece on their kitchen counter caught my eye. It was a sparkling arrangement of pumpkins and gourds. Emily's sister Katie had created them with her nieces Piper and Polly.

Coincidentally, I had picked up a bag of miniature pumpkins at Trader Joe's this morning in my pathetic attempt to convince my oldest that I'm not a Halloween scrooge. (I equate holiday decorations with adding clutter on top of an already cluttered house.)

The plain pumpkins got a makeover after school when Stella and Sadie were thrilled to decorate the "family" of 4 pumpkins.

Materials needed:
1) pumpkins and/or gourds
2) acrylic paint
3) glitter
4) Modge Podge (Katie used this to create the decorative touches on hers. We just sprinkled glitter on the wet glue.)

Thanks Katie for the beautiful inspiration!

The girls started with paint brushes and determined that dripping the paint over the pumpkins straight from the container was the most fun. Since this technique resulted in thick pools at the base of the stem, they might be drying for a few more hours...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Unclaimed Property Search

I LOVE searching the unclaimed property databases for everyone I know. Finding unclaimed money for my grandmother, mother, friends, etc. is as satisfying to me as if it was my own. Not only do you have the adrenaline rush of clicking on their names to reveal the money owed to them (this feature not available in all states), but you also have the pleasure of sharing the good news with them!

During a nap time break today, I did a spontaneous search and found a few $13 claims for my uncle and then hit the "jackpot" when I uncovered $300 for my BFF. Makes me feel a little less guilty about our spontaneous, clearance section shopping spree last week! :)

There's now a national list of states who participate. Just click on your state to be taken to the State Controller's website. I start by searching on last name only so as not to rule out initials or misspellings of first names. Also, don't forget to search on maiden names or common misspellings of your last name. Have fun! Let me know if you have any success.