31 August 2010

WINNER of My First Giveaway!!

We have a winner!  I used random.org to generate the winning number, 10. 

"Susan said... How about trying some stuffed zucchini blossoms- i always see those on the 'fancy' food shows, they look interesting- it would be fun to try them out."

Congratulations, Susan!  I have always wanted to try stuffed zucchini blossoms!  You will be hearing from CSN stores soon about your gift card! (They will email you.)

I want to try EVERYTHING you all suggested!!  Ratatouille, risotto, crab cakes, creme brulee, crab wellington, homemade pasta, pastry with fruit, Chipotle pork burgers, Cornish game hens,  grilled chicken kebabs, Cajun Remoulade, coq au vin, osso bucco, or mini turkey burgers...my mouth is watering.  I asked the Goose what she would like me to make and she said, "any of those fancy mac and cheese suggestions."  :)  Of course.  She is taking French this year, so I love the idea of making Macaronis et Fromage. 

Thank you all so much for making my first giveaway such a big success! And thank you to CSN stores for their generous offer of a $50 gift card!!

30 August 2010

Back To School

The monkeys went back to school last week and I went back today.  It has been a busy time for us!  I thought I would post a few of my recipes that we use during the school week and a few ideas for store-bought items to pack in lunches.

First, breakfast.  My girls will eat pancakes 4-5 days a week if I let them, but I could not in good conscience feed them pre-packed or white flour mix pancakes.  So, I made up a whole wheat mix that I keep in a ziploc bag in my freezer.  One cup of mix, one egg, and 3/4 cup of milk and you have 6-8 good-sized pancakes. I use white whole wheat flour, which is a bit smoother than whole wheat, but still has all the nutritional benefits of the wheat. (You can also use this mix for waffles. Use all the same amounts, but add 2T of oil.)

Sometimes I am tired of making pancakes or want to change it up a bit for them.  I toast a whole wheat English muffin and add cheese and an egg to it.  Sometimes the girls like their eggs fried (in cooking spray) and sometimes they like them scrambled.  Either way you have a super nutritious Egg McMuffin knock-off. They usually can't finish the whole thing.  It is very filling!!

And don't forget my Anything Muffins! It is the perfect muffin base.  You can add anything, hence the name. :)  Seriously, though--anything you want. From blueberries to chocolate chips, bananas to bacon and cheddar! They also freeze really well, so you could make them over the weekend and pop them in the freezer.  They will be thawed by the time you get to work or leave out a couple overnight (wrapped up tight) and pop the thawed muffins in the microwave for 8 seconds the next morning.  (When I make them during the school week I use at least half white whole wheat.)  Tink's favorite muffin, though, is my Raisin Bran Muffin.

Last year, I could not get enough packed in their lunches--they kept asking for more! This year, they want a sandwich, yogurt or sugar-free pudding, and some Fig Newtons. I think it's the heat that has sapped their appetites.  Also, it's just week 2. By next week they will want totally new things.  Here are some examples of things I pack for them:

pudding and a small cheese round  or stick


The girls LOVE red, seedless grapes.  We buy them even when they are out of season.

Cheerios or Cheez-its snack mixes

dark chocolate Chex Mix

my homemade granola bars

(those are sooooo good.  Make them today!!)

my homemade apple sauce (or, in a pinch, all natural applesauce with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar)

Chickens in the Road posted a homemade Fig Newtons recipe that I am dying to try!! Especially since my girls are on a Fig Newtons kick.

When my monkeys get home from school I usually pull a cookie out of the freezer or they just have a glass of juice.  They aren't usually very hungry and we eat at 4:30, so they don't have to wait long for dinner.  Any of these lunch ideas would be perfect for after-school snacks, though.

Have a successful, wonderful school year everyone!

(The winner of my first giveaway will be posted tomorrow!)

19 August 2010

Coca-Cola Brownies

Tink found a recipe for Coca-Cola Brownies online and asked me if she could make them.  I've been trying to encourage both of my girls to get more active in the kitchen.  Once I start culinary school I won't be home for dinner on Thursdays and the girls will be in charge of making something.  They are excited and it has inspired them to start trying out more recipes. Tink made my banana bread last week and Goose made my breadsticks.  They set up their laptops in the kitchen and just followed along.  So cute. Anyway, this recipe for Coke brownies was easy and fun.  Tink really enjoyed herself and we both enjoyed finishing off the Coke (a rare treat in this house).  These brownies are much, much, much better the next day.  They are great the first day, but something happens when they sit for 24 hours--they plump up and the flavor deepens.  So, make them the day before you want them!

You will need:

1 box fudge brownie mix (1lb. 2.3oz)
2T oil
1 egg
1/2 cup Coca-Cola
1/2 cup buttermilk
For the frosting:

1/2 cup butter (Smart Balance)
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup Coke
4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease just the bottom of a 9x13 pan.

Empty the brownie mix into a large bowl and add the buttermilk.

Then the Coke...

the oil...

and the egg.

Mix thoroughly and then pour into your greased pan.

Bake for around 25 minutes and then let them cool for at least an hour, 3 is better.  You just want to make sure that they are completely cool before you frost them.

After they are cool you can make the frosting.  Melt the butter and then add the cocoa and Coke.

Whisk for 2 minutes on medium speed.

It looks awesome, but don't give in to temptation like Tink and try it. No sugar yet! :)

Now add the powdered sugar, whisking after every cup until combined.

(This recipe makes quite a bit of frosting.  You could halve the recipe and still have plenty to cover the brownies.  Using the full recipe makes for a thick topping.  Absolutely delicious, but maybe a bit excessive.)

Spread over your cooled brownies.

Now, as Tink likes to say, it's time to feast!

These brownies are moist, fudgy, and decadent.  And soooo much better the next day!  I don't know why it happens, but the Coke and even the chocolate flavor is stronger the next day.

You won't be disappointed if you have to eat them the first day. Believe me, I understand! :) :)  But if you can wait...wow.


Tink's Coca-Cola Brownies

1 box fudge brownie mix (1lb. 2.3oz)
2T oil
1 egg
1/2 cup Coca-Cola 
1/2 cup buttermilk
For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter (Smart Balance)
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup Coke
4 cups powdered sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees 
and grease just the bottom of a 9x13 pan.

2. Empty the brownie mix into a large bowl
and add the buttermilk.

3. Then add the Coke, the oil,
and the egg.

4. Mix thoroughly and then pour into your greased pan.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
6. Cool completely.

7. For the frosting:
melt the butter and then add the cocoa and Coke.
8. Add the powdered sugar, whisking after every cup until combined.
9. Spread over the cooled brownies and feast!

Don't forget to leave a comment on my first giveaway and enter to win a $50 gift card to any CSN store!  The contest ends at 5pm on the 30th of August!

13 August 2010

My First Giveaway

I have exciting news! CSN Stores contacted me and asked if I would like to give away a $50 gift certificate to one of their stores to one of my readers.  Um...YES! They have over 200 stores in which they sell everything from dining room sets to bakeware, grills, swing sets, rugs, bedding, clocks, and...wait for it...Le Creuset! How cool is that?  It will be a breeze to spend $50 in one of their stores.  When they first contacted me I spent the next two hours pouring over all their items and I didn't even make a dent in all they offer! CSN Stores contacted me at the perfect time, too, because I have other news.  Exciting news!

If you follow my blog you have noticed by now that I make mom food.  Great mom food, but comforting, easy, usually healthy mom food.  And that's super, but I would love to cook like they do on Top Chef.  So, starting August 30th I am going to culinary school! I am going to be a chef!! Bubba, Goose, and Tink are super excited for me, although Goose is worried that I will be making "fancy food" that she doesn't care for. Not to worry, Goose, I will still make mom food.  :)  There are a lot of people in my life who have encouraged me to go to culinary school.  My buddies PMP (and her mom), Ms. K, and Ms. F are just a few of my strongest supporters and I thank them from the bottom of my heart!!  Bubba's family are also really supportive and excited to be my guinea pigs when I start making "fancy food." 

To enter the contest, just leave a comment on this post answering this question:

What is the first "fancy food" dish I should make for my picky Goose?

The contest ends at 5pm a week from Monday on the 30th of August (my first day of culinary school).  Winner will be chosen at random. (CSN Stores only ships to the US and Canada, so the winner will need to have a stateside or Canadian shipping address.) 

I cannot wait to read all of your suggestions!!  Make sure to leave an email address because the gift certificate will be emailed to you.  Now head on over to CSN stores and start figuring out how you are going to spend your $50! :)

Chef Sunshine Mom--I like the sound of it!

11 August 2010

Chocolate Waffles

When I asked Tink what she would like for birthday breakfast she said, "chocolate waffles!"  I thought it an interesting request since I had never made them before.  And where do you turn when you have never made a dish before and it has to turn out perfectly because it is for a special occasion?  Yep, Alton Brown.  His recipe for chocolate waffles is oh-so-perfect!! They come out with a slightly crisp outside and soft, tender insides. The chocolate flavor is perfect, too.  There is very little sugar in this recipe, so they are not sweet.  We all really, really liked that.  The hint of sweetness came from the chocolate and then, of course, the syrup. If the waffles had been sweet the syrup would have been overkill. Tink ate four and asked for them again the next morning...and the next morning....  :)

You will need:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3T sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (Alton added a full tsp)
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 whole eggs, beaten
1/4 cup oil (Alton used butter, same quantity)
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups buttermilk (don't substitute!!!!)
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
waffle iron

To me, a great waffle recipe has two things: buttermilk and oil.  I would not even consider making waffles without those two ingredients.  I don't, however, think a great waffle recipe needs yeast or beaten egg whites. 

Preheat your waffle iron. I turn on mine before I even start making the waffles, so that it is piping hot and ready to go after the waffle batter rests.

Such an easy recipe--in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. 

In another bowl, beat the eggs together with the oil and vanilla and then add the buttermilk.

Make a well in the center of the dry mix and add the wet.

Stir together...

and then add the chocolate chips.  That's it!  I switch to a spatula to do the stirring when I add the chips.

Let the batter rest for five minutes.  That will give the baking powder time to do its stuff.

I use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to add the batter to the waffler maker.  I have a nonstick, so I don't really need to grease it, but I always give it a little pan spray before the first waffles go on.  After that I don't bother.

Alton says to leave them for five minutes.  I have a temperature indicator on the top of my waffle maker.  When it turns green I open it up.  The waffles are always perfectly cooked.  It takes about five minutes. :) :)

Now for the good part!  Butter...

and syrup!

I got 16 waffles total.  Four for each person.  They are very filling, but it is so hard to stop eating when they taste this awesome!  Full just means we could stop if we wanted to.  Right??

The chocolate chips are something else in these waffles.  So gooey and delicious.  I usually use mini chocolate chips in pancakes or waffles, but with this recipe I used the big guys and I am so glad I did.  I definitely would not recommend using a chip sweeter than semi-sweet.  No milk chocolate.  I loved, loved, loved that these waffles were not sweet, but still full of chocolate flavor!  They definitely tasted like waffles and not a dessert.  Way to go, Alton! Another home run!!

Make them immediately!  For breakfast or dinner!!   Enjoy!

Sunshine Mom's Chocolate Waffles
adapted from Alton Brown

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3T sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (Alton added a full tsp)
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 whole eggs, beaten
1/4 cup oil (Alton used butter, same quantity)
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups buttermilk (don't substitute!!!!)
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
waffle iron

1. Preheat your waffle iron. I turn on mine before I even start making the waffles, 
so that it is piping hot and ready to go after the waffle batter rests.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, 
cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.  

3. In another bowl, beat the eggs together 
with the oil and vanilla and then add the buttermilk.

4. Make a well in the center of the dry mix and add the wet.
5.Let the batter rest for five minutes. 

6. I use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to add the batter to the waffler maker.

7. Alton says to leave them for five minutes.

8. Now add butter, syrup, jam, even peanut butter!

04 August 2010

Elvis' Fried Banana Sandwich

One of Tink's many, many birthday food requests was a fried banana sandwich.  She calls them Elvis sandwiches and she absolutely loves them.  We all do!  Of course, I add my own little touches and healthy it up as much as possible. :) These sandwiches are also a great alternative to banana bread when I need to use up the overripe bananas we seem to constantly have.  In this heat, bananas last two days at most on our counter.  I usually stick them in the fridge, which keeps them from ripening for almost two weeks, but the kids still won't eat them because the skins turn black.  I have come to enjoy my bananas cold better than room temperature!

You will need (for one sandwich):

1 overripe banana
peanut butter
2 slices of whole wheat bread
Smart Balance spread (or butter)
cinnamon sugar
frying pan

Preheat your frying pan to medium heat.  Grease with pan spray or butter.

Spread peanut butter onto both slices of bread.  I like Smart Balance's natural peanut butter.

Drizzle honey on one side of peanut butter laced bread.  Slice the banana and place the slices on the other peanut butter slathered bread.

Put the two slices together, banana and honey meeting in the middle.  Spread the Smart Balance spread onto the outside of the sandwich.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Heat in the frying pan until a beautiful golden brown.

Tink likes to have her sandwich cut in half.  (It's all I can do to not write "sanch" because that's what the girls have always called sandwiches. Sanches! Goose started it.  Her favorite lunch as a toddler was a "cheesh sanch.")

So delicious!!  My mouth is watering and I glanced over at the bananas on the counter.  The stinkin' things are under ripe for once.  Of course!  :)

We've been on a cold sanch kick this week for dinner because the heat index has been in the 100's.  The weatherman said that this is the hottest weather in recorded history here in Florida.  I didn't even want to turn on the burner to boil the eggs for egg salad sanches last night!  But I would turn on the burner for these fried banana sanches!!  I think I've decided on tomorrow night's dinner!

All great flavors!  Bananas, peanut butter, honey, cinnamon.  Absolutely wonderful!  Add the touch of sugar and the nutty whole wheat and you come pretty close to the perfect sanch.  At least according to Elvis and Tink!


03 August 2010

Tink's 13th Birthday!

My baby is 13 years old.  A teenager! I'm not sure how that happened because just yesterday she was playing with dinosaurs and her face was smeared with peanut butter and jelly.  Now she plays video games and wipes her face after she eats. I tried offering her cash to stop growing, but the horse had already left the barn.  She acts more and more like an adult every day and I try my best to be happy and proud of the woman she is becoming (because she is AMAZING), but sometimes I just want to cry because I miss my baby so much.  :)  You moms know what I mean! 

She has grown up quite a bit since that picture.  And what a sweetheart she has become! She is the sweetest, kindest, most considerate person I have ever met.  A true angel.

We had a wonderful birthday weekend.  My parents took us all out to eat at a seafood restaurant for lunch Saturday and then we went back to their house for cake, presents, and a swim.  So much fun!!

We watched some pelicans while we ate.

Tink had the clam chowder...

and crab cakes.

Grandma and Grandpa had the shrimp basket.

Goose had a chicken sandwich (huge surprise there), Bubba had the Mahi Mahi sandwich, and I had the Captain's Platter, which was shrimp, clam strips, oysters, scallops, and Mahi.  No, I'm not a huge pig--I shared! :) :)  But I didn't get a picture of any of those meals.  I did get a nice shot of the neat restaurant, though.

 I highly recommend their Top Shelf Margaritas!

Grandma tied the birthday balloons to the noodles in her pool.  So creative!!  The whole lanai was decorated with birthday banners.  Tink was thrilled!!!

The cake was from Bon Appetit magazine. Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake with Chocolate Ganache.  I followed the recipe exactly and it was out of this world!  Tink said that it's the only birthday cake she wants for the rest of her life.  So sweet. :)  She said, "it will become a tradition!"  Have I mentioned yet that she is awesome? 

Jango Fett managed to take over the cake at one point.  Tink was so excited to see him.  She is a HUGE Star Wars fan.  HUGE.  Maybe a little obsessed.

This is what the cake was supposed to look like, sans Star Wars character...

It was delicious.  Simply, perfectly delicious.  Best chocolate cake we have ever had.

Tink's favorite present was a box full of vintage Star Wars characters that Goose bought for her from a collector.  Goose was so proud to spend her own money (and quite a bit of it) buying her sister something she knew Tink would fall to pieces over.  And she was beyond happy.  She added Jango to the mix after he climbed down off the cake. 

Goose's bunny, Fudge, tried to get in on the action.  (The bunny started off named Edelweiss. Then we started calling him Funny Bunny, then Fuddy Buddy, which led to us calling him Fudd. Then he was kinda messy one day and has since been called Fudge. That name will stick.  For now.) 

I got a little weepy thinking about both our girls being teenagers now.  Bubba helpfully reminded me that Goose will be driving next year. Geesh.  I am so proud of both of them.  Sweet, thoughtful, intelligent, creative, and all around awesome.  I can't wait to see the adults they will become!