Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Just for Fun - Refreshing Summer Salad

I am a decent cook and I don't HATE cooking.  But I don't love it and I am not great at it.  And as I have mentioned before, I only follow recipes.  Well, last week, I was at Trader Joe's and tried a sample of this yummy veggie salad.  The sales associate told me it was just 4 ingredients, plus a bottle of their vinaigrette.  Last night, I decided to make it.  But, I didn't want to use bottled vinaigrette, and have my salad floating in Xanthum Gum.  Soo, I made up a dressing, and it was delicious!

This is so refreshing for summer, I served it alongside some yummy baked chicken.

Mix in a bowl the following four ingredients.

1 can corn, already drained and rinsed
1/4 chopped red onion
1 red pepper, chopped
1 box frozen asparagus, thawed and rinsed *

* I put the box of frozen asparagus in a colander in my sink and left it there for about 5 hours.  Then rinsed them and put in the salad.

Here is what the salad looks like before the dressing is mixed in.

Then add the following, stirring as you add.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Just for Fun - My Summer Reading List 2012

Last summer, I posted a reading list that included books from various categories, including my all-time faves, some easy reads and what I was hoping to read over the summer.  I enjoyed doing it and liked hearing from readers that picked a book to read from my list.  So I'm doing it again!

Infidel - AMAZING!!!
Tender Bar

Historical Fiction:
In the Time of Butterflies

Bringing up Bebe
Sense of an Ending
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Locks

Sherlock Holmes
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Just for Fun:
Paper Towns
Dandelion Summer
Carrie Goes Off the Map
Minding Frankie
Girl in Translation
Home by Morning
Fifty Shades of Grey (3-book series) - I need to explain this rec.  I didn't like the first book.  I thought the writing was poor, the lead male character was despicable and the sex was GROSS - too graphic, and so nerdy!  But my friend told me to persevere, so I did and the lead character became like Don Draper or Tony Soprano.  You root for them because they are damaged and just can't help the way they are!  And I just skipped over the gross (and so not romantic) sex scenes.

All the Books I Hope to Read this Summer:
The Expats
The Violets of March
The Slap
The Miracles of Santo Fico
The Night Circus
Most Talkative

Recent Books I Hated or Could Not Finish (a new category!)
Under the Banner of Heaven
When Everything Changed
Let the Great World Spin
State of Wonder
Little Bee
And here is the link to the list from last summer.

Happy Reading!  And like last year, please tell me your newest fave, I always need new book ideas.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Techy Advice - My Fave App Part IV

This might be the silliest app ever.  And what's MORE silly, is how much joy it brings me!  My friend Cris introduced it to me on St. Patrick's Day.  He sent me a Happy St. Paddy's text with a shamrock emoticon.  I am Irish, so I got very excited.  Where did he find a shamrock emoticon!??  

The app is called Emoji.  And by downloading it, an additional keyboard appears on your Smart Phone (right alongside your alpha-numeric keyboard.)  It has oodles of screens with all kinds of icons including buildings, faces, flowers and food.  A few of my favorite emoticons include the hands praying, the smiley face wearing a surgical mask, the pile of poo with eyes and the mustached-man.  And there are several that remain a mystery to me.  I'm sure you probably already guessed, but it was created by a Japanese group!

And side note: all the apps I recommend are FREE.  Sooo, enjoy!  And send me a text with your favorite Emoji Emoticon!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Baby Advice - Six Months: Almost to the Light

I have a 5-year old son and a 5-month old son.  And with my second baby, it is ALMOST like he is my first, because he is so different.  Due to severe reflux, he slept in his swing and car seat for the first four months of his life.  I moved him into his crib 3.5 weeks ago.  And it has been my definition of hell.  Most nights he was up 3 times.  And some nights 4 or more times.  And absolutely nothing but nursing calms him down.  I guess I should feel lucky that I DO have something that puts him back to sleep right away.  But I would have liked it if my husband's attempts at shh-ing and rocking him would have worked.

Because he is my second, I knew that 4-6 months was a tricky time because babies can't quite self-soothe, but they aren't in that newborn phase where they can sleep anywhere either.  So I persevered.  

I THINK we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Since I moved him to his crib at four months, I have had to nurse and rock him into a deep sleep for every nap and throughout the night.  But then, about 5 days ago, he just wasn't falling asleep while nursing, so I set him down in his crib, slightly fed up, and walked out for a breather.  He cooed and kicked AND FELL ASLEEP on his own!

And then, last night, after getting up every night with him at least 3 times for the last 3 weeks, he only got up once, at 3:30am.  Yahoo!   PLEASE keep it up little one!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Techy Advice - My Fave App Part III

If you like to (window) shop online for AMAZING deals like I do, but hate those pesky daily emails, there is a solution!  Many of the daily deals web sites now have really outstanding apps.  So you can just open it whenever you want on your Smart Phone and start (window) shopping.  My very fave is Gilt, followed by One Kings Lane and eBay Fashion.  I am less impressed with Stylebop, Etsy and Nordstrom.    

Please enlighten me with your favorite (window) shopping apps, so I can do some more imaginary damage to my credit card!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A family friendly EASY recipe

I try new recipes all the time.  What did we do before the Internet?  I find so many delicious and easy recipes from the various cooking web sites.  Tonight, I had some ground beef, but didn't feel like Sloppy Joe's or hamburgers.  I Googled the words "beef" and "rice" and came up with a few good sounding Spanish rice recipes.  I tweaked and came up with my own version and it was delicious.  I was very proud of myself because I have never actually made up my own recipe (even if what I really did was combine other people's recipes!)

Here it is for you to try!

Spanish Rice with Beef


  • 1 box pre-packaged Spanish Rice
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons brown sugar, optional
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. ketchup


Start Spanish Rice cooking.  I like the brand Near East.  Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet brown ground beef. Add onion, salt, brown sugar, chili powder, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Cook until onion is tender. Add ketchup; simmer 15 minutes.

Combine beef mixture with rice. Stir and serve!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Another Weekly Dinner Plan for your Family

I recently received an email from a reader thanking me for the weekly dinner plan I posted.  She had tried and enjoyed one of the (very easy) recipes.  I love to hear positive feedback!

Because of the reader's email, I decided to write a new dinner plan for you, complete with a couple more easy recipes.

Night #1:
Chicken Fajitas: see recipe below

Night #2:

Night #3:
BLT's!  We joke that my 5-year old son likes to eat a B and I like to eat a BL.  My husband is the only one that actually eats a BLT.  I always put a big side salad with lots of veggies (my son likes carrots and mini cucumbers in his).

Night #4:
Burgers on the grill if warm or Sloppy Joe's.  I love Sloppy Joes and always try out new recipes.  Or I used to.  Until I discovered the best recipe EVER on  I have included the recipe at the bottom of this post.  I like to make frozen green beans on burger night and if I have enough time, I'll cut a russet potato thinly, and bake it on a cookie sheet.  Just smother the potatoe slices with olive oil and sprinkle with Kosher salt.  Cook at 425 for about 20-25 minutes (flip once, after 12 minutes.)

Night #5:

Night #6:
Breakfast for dinner!  As you know, we love breakfast in our house.  I have this amazing Martha Stewart pancake recipe, but it requirements buttermilk, which requires some planning.  So I searched and found a decent pancake recipe that requires regular milk.  See recipe below.  I always pair our pancakes with bananas, blueberries and organic breakfast sausage.

Night #7:
Order takeout or a pizza!

I always stress about dinner - just about every day.  It looms over me.  I try and prepare (at least in my head) at the beginning of the week so we don't have to worry about "what's for dinner" at 5:00pm.

Chicken Fajitas
  1. 1 teaspoon pure chili powder
  2. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  3. 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  4. 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  5. 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  6. 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  7. 1/4 cup water
  8. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  9. 1 whole skinless, boneless chicken breast (about 1 pound), cut into 1/2-inch strips
  10. 1 green bell pepper—cored, seeded and cut into thin strips
  11. 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  12. 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
  13. 8 flour tortillas, warmed in the microwave
  14. Shredded lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, salsa and sour cream, for serving
1.      In a resealable plastic bag, combine the chile powder with the salt, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, cornstarch, water and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chicken, bell pepper and onion, seal and knead gently to coat. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
2.      Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet until shimmering. Empty the contents of the bag into the skillet and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are crisp-tender and the chicken is cooked through, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice.
3.      Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a large bowl and serve with the warmed tortillas, lettuce, cheese, salsa, sour cream and lime wedges.
 Sloppy Joes

1 lb. lean ground beef or turkey
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 tbsp. dried minced onion
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
2 tbsp. ketchup
1-1/2 tsp. white vinegar
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp. MSPI-friendly Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
MSPI-friendly hamburger buns

Place ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook until evenly browned, stirring to crumble. Add the celery, cover the pan, and cook until tender and transparent, about 5 minutes. Drain off any grease.

Stir in the onions, tomato sauce, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce into the beef mixture. Season with salt and garlic powder. Heat to a simmer over low heat, and cook until thoroughly heated and onions are tender, stirring frequently to prevent it from burning on the bottom. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Spoon the hot beef mixture onto buns and serve.

Easy Pancakes


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


  1. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in milk, egg and oil. Mix until smooth.
  2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.
**In the comments section, someone suggested adding 1 tsp. vanilla, which I did.  I liked it, but I think I will try ½ a tsp. next time.