Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cupcake Liner Tags




 I love repurposing things like muffin papers. Seems silly when put into the perspective of war or hunger or cancer. But it brings me peace so I do little projects like this and post them on my blog because maybe it will bring a little peace to you too.

But I hate stumbling over my words.  I was at the gynecologist (of all places) the other day and we were chatting about the busyness of life and I found myself saying yet again, "Oh, no, I don't work. I'm a stay-at-home mom." It's a common problem I have. People ask me what I do for a living or where I work and I claim not to work. Which really is the dumbest thing to ever dribble out of my mouth because in fact, this is the hardest I have ever worked.

I blame modern culture for my stupidity.

Ok, so I am not working in a box car when it's 100 degrees outside; I'm not driving the bottom line of various businesses into the billions; nor am I working in a laboratory curing diseases. But I am working. And I am working hard. Whether you want to believe it or not: Being a stay-at-home mom is tough.

I don't quite understand why we get such a bad rap. People have wide and varied thoughts on how we spend our time. Some think we awake leisurely, perhaps at 10:00 am and shower and dress at our own pace and spend our day lying it the sun, snacking on berries and chocolates before wandering around the house aimlessly and calling it a day.

What really happens is that I get up 5:30 am every morning. Some days I barely have time to shower. Most days I don't. The rest of the day looks like this: cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, cooking, cleaning, folding cloths. Shove food in mouth now. Wipe butts, break up fight, discipline child, discipline child, change diaper, change diaper, change diaper. Oh and let's not forget: wipe tears, wipe tears, yell, yell, yell.

I worked full-time in a corporate setting for 10+ years before I became a stay-at-home mom.  And trust me when I say this: I had way more time to myself when I worked full-time. So, no we don't sit around all day eating chocolates and painting our nails. (Manicures? That's a luxury of the past.) I am on-call 24 hours long and I can't call in sick. I'm not complaining -- believe me -- I love staying home with my kids. Just don't insinuate that "I have it made" because I don't have to drive to work and sit at a desk. Because I work, just like you, all day long.

There are others who hold it against us full-time moms, taking it out on us that we stay home with our kids. There are some who even say we are doing our children a disservice by staying at home with them; we're not good role models because out-of-the-home working moms have goals. Working moms demonstrate what it's like to succeed in life. Now that's just funny.

I'm not complaining. No way, no how. I'm not looking around searching for someone to cue the violin. I really mean it when I say I would have this life no other way and I am so thankful I get to stay at home with my kids. I just wish modern culture would stop being mean to us stay-at-home moms. We've given up our careers, our needs and a large portion of ourselves for our families. So stop telling us we don't work. Stop acting like we have no skill set because we've traded dresses for cut-off shorts, high-powered lunch meetings for pb&j sandwiches and the park for the boardroom. Just stop.

We're just different from each other -- no one more right than the other. Equal and different. Isn't that what America is about anyhow? Celebrating differences? Or is that just another one of those things everyone says but no one believes? Cause that's not cool either.

But these Cupcake Liner Tags are pretty damn cool.


The cool-o-meter is sky-rocketing.

The kids weren't exactly keen about feasting on brown, mushy bananas, so I decided to put them out of their misery (the kids, not the bananas) and made some banana bread. We were going to a Memorial Day party so I thought I would bring one as a hostess gift. When it came to adding a tag, I was stymied. I don't really like my handwriting. It's so messy and unpredictable and anyone who understands me knows I value predictability.  So I figured out a way to add a tag without subjecting anyone to my handwriting. And that's how these Cupcake Liner Tags were born.

Cupcake Liner Tags


This is so easy. And it all starts with a cupcake liner.


I like to use a mini-muffin scalloped edge one because I think it looks prettier.

Here's what else you need:

Cupcake liners
Paper circles that fit inside the cupcake liner (I used my Cricut)
Decorations (I used my initial and cut these using my Cricut)
Hole punch
Extra paper
Double-sided tape
Zots


Start by flattening out the cupcake liner with the palm of your hand.


Place tape on the circle and two zots on opposing ends of the circle, very close to the edge. This will keep the cupcake liner from curling up or down too much,


Place the circle on the cupcake liner, taking care to center it.


Add adhesive to the back of your decoration.


Place it on the tag.


I felt this needed more oomph, so I decided to add some punch-out dots.


I wrapped my bread with plastic wrap and then using the zots, adhered the first layer of ribbon.


Then I wrapped another piece of ribbon underneath and pulled it up around each side and tied a bow.


Then I attached the tag using tape.


These are cute to make ahead and keep, so when you need tags, you have a stash waiting for you. Now I'm off to get a load of laundry out of the washing machine, clean some bloody knees and dream up my next peace-evoking project.


Monday, May 21, 2012

The Long and Winding Road to Gluten-Free Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies


 

It's been a long road getting here today. Last Sunday, I posted a picture of these deliciously cakey gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, saying "recipe coming soon!"

Little did I know that two days later this would happen.


Remember that picture of sun tea I was talking about on Facebook?  


Spilled all over the keyboard of my laptop. So I am forced to find ways to transfer "photos in progress" and other goodies from one laptop to the other. And the other laptop is sloooooooowwwwwwww. I read chapters in books while the pictures upload to blogger. 

And then our kitchen faucet started to leak.


Of course, the pool had to be opened in the back yard.


Okay, okay. This one didn't take much time at all, but it still took time to sit outside sans computer. Luckily, we were able to chase the dark clouds away with these pillowy chocolate chip cookies.


I was not the only one.


Gluten-Free Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies


(Note: Since my regular computer is not working properly, ahem, I am working on a way to create a printer-friendly version of this. In the meantime, however, you can copy the recipe text and paste it into a word processing document, such as Microsoft Word, delete the photos and print.) There is a teeny bit of refined-sugar in the dark chocolate chips, which is why I have not labeled this as sugar-free.
Makes 40 cookies

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (I used Better Batter)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (if your flour does NOT contain; I omitted because Better Batter includes it)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
10 ounces dark chocolate chips

Directions:

Arrange two oven shelves in the upper and lower third slots. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, xanthan gum (if using), baking soda, coconut sugar and salt. In a medium separate bowl, mix together the oil, honey, vanilla extract and eggs. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix to combine. Add the chocolate chips and mix to distribute evenly.


Drop tablespoon-sized mound of cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Because of their cakey interior, these do not spread much. 


Place in the oven and bake for 11-13 minutes.


Transfer to racks to cool. Store in an airtight container. 


Eat quickly. They disappear fast!


Nutrition Information Per Cookie: Calories 94; Total Fat 5g; Total Carb 12g; Fiber 1g; Sugars 6g; Protein 1g
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Monday, May 14, 2012

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches, By Deborah Harkness -- ★★★

Summary 

Diana Bishop, a tenured Yale professor currently conducting research at Oxford, lives in a world where there are four types of species -- human, witches, vampires and daemons. Humans, of course, have no idea they cohabitat among other species, but witches, vampires and daemons sure do -- and they sure do not want anything to do with each other.

Diana, an "unpracticing" witch, accidentally uncovers an ancient spellbound manuscript, Ashmole 782. Suddenly witches, vampires and daemons who have once ignored her are now seemingly coming out of the woodworks with an eye on Ashmole 782, including Matthew Clairmont, a debonair vampire and fellow genecisist professor. Diana wants nothing to do with any of it, until her life starts unraveling before her.

She's whisked away to France where she comes face-to-face with her inner most demons and desires and learns that by foresaking her past as a witch, she has put herself in grave danger. And she finds herself in even deeper danger as she falls for the elusive Matthew Clairmont.

A Discovery of Witches is a tale of romance and magic weaved into the historical cloth of our time. It is   the first book in the All Souls Trilogy. The second book, Shadow of Night, follows Diana and Matthew  as they seek to uncover the mystery behind Ashmole 782. It debuts in July 2012.

Review

Let me start by saying that the beginning of this book is awesome. Deborah Harkness expertely creates a world where the reader believes witches, daemons and vampires actually exist:
Suddenly two icy patches bloomed between my shoulder blades.
I had been seen and not by an ordinary human observer. 
When one witch studies another, the touch of their eyes tingles. Witches aren't the only creatures sharing the world with humans, however. There are also daemons -- creative, artistic creatures who walk a tightrope between madness and genius. "Rock stars and serial killers" was how my aunt described these strange, perplexing beings. And there are vampires, ancient and beautiful, who feed on blood and will charm you utterly if they don't kill you first. 
When a daemon takes a look, I fell a slight, unnerving pressure of a kiss. 
But when a vampire stares, it feels cold, focused, and dangerous.
The main character, Diana Bishop is a strong, smart woman who has worked incessantly towards her goals. Never wanting to take part in her witch heritage, she denounced witchcraft long ago after her parents were killed on a trip to Nigeria. She felt it had no part in her life.

But then Ashmole 782 entered her life. As soon as she put her hands on the ancient manuscript, she felt its power; she inherently knew its power. Shortly thereafter, she meets Matthew Clairmont -- a romantically debonair vampire -- charming and chilling at the same time. Harkness creates a story of intrigue and the story steams ahead at a train's pace.

Their relationship builds and so does the momentum of the book, but once Diana and Matthew arrive in France, something really weird happens. And I don't mean in the story line. Something weird happens with the character development of both Diana and Matthew. Harkness changes them. And I don't mean as part of the plot. For some reason she starts giving them strange traits. The characteristics she was able to create in the beginning of the book slowly disintegrates as Diana become a rather weak and frail woman and Matthew becomes a very possessive, sickenly attentive man.

What's even more strange is their relationship. She abandons everything she knows for this violent, possessive man. He won't let her out of his site; he starts calling her pet names. It's very very odd.

I kept reading though, mildly intrigued at the underlying story of Ashmole 782.

The plot gets harrier. More and more characters are added. Details are piled on like spaghetti dinner at my mom's house and towards the end, you're sort of left scratching your head saying, " Now how does Nathaniel and Sophie fit in here?" and "Knights of who?"

In all honestly, the last 1/3 of the book sort of dragged; I knew Harkness was setting us up for the next book. It took quite a while and by the time I got to the end, I had to reread the last chapter about four times. I'm still unsure of its meaning. Perhaps that was the point, though? I don't know.

So you're probably wondering: If you didn't like it that much, why are giving it 3 stars? Well, because I liked the beginning a lot and I really like the story. I am reluctant to give up. I am hoping that Harkness was able to refocus her efforts and bring back the Diana and Matthew from the beginning of this book for Shadow of Night. As soon as my library adds it to catalog, I'm putting in my hold order.

Verdict: Try It, You Might Like It
Rating: ✭✭✭


Here's to hoping number 2 catches the fire of the beginning of number 1,






Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Some Things I Love: Mango Pineapple Julius




 If you are friends with me on Facebook, you know that I am loving these smoothies.


I am loving them so much that I actually emptied out some jars of food so I could store my make ahead smoothies in them. It's the perfect grab and go breakfast.

I am also loving the fact that I buy random clearanced items, like these blank die-cute cards and envelopes I got for 50 cents each, at craft stores whenever I go in.


While I am doing it, I feel sort of like a hoarder. Oh you know, buying things just to buy them because they are so incredibly marked down. I stand in the store caught in this mental fight between to buy and not to buy. Which is really stupid considering the things I am battling over are pennies, but when you come right down to it, it's not the money that makes me hesitate; it's the clutter. The clutter makes me downright jittery. But I always end up buying it, finding a rightful place for it and they end up being used, like these homemade Mother's Day cards from my 4 year-old.


With Mother's Day around the corner, brunch is surely upon some of us. And brunch is that weird meal where you don't want to eat something too heavy because then it seems like lunch and you most definitely want eggs involved because that screams breakfast. I usually end up making this crustless quiche everyone raves about and now I am adding this naturally sweet and thick, Mango Pineapple Julius to the menu. Made with only three ingredients -- fruit, milk and stevia -- it tastes downright sinful, but ha ha jokes on you sinful, it's not.

Mango Pineapple Julius






Makes 2 Cups

Ingredients:

Flesh of 1 mango
1 cup of frozen pineapple
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup milk (I used fat free cow's milk, you could sub any milk)
1 teaspoon stevia (optional)

Directions:

Dump everything in a blender. Process until smooth. Serve immediately.

This is how I measure 1 cup of frozen pineapple:


It' very important to use frozen pineapple and not to add any ice because ice would greatly dilute the flavor. The pineapple serves as the ice that thickens the julius and the flavor that naturally sweetens it. You end up with:


Yep!





Nutrition Information Per 1/2 Cup: Calories 79; Total Fat 0g; Total Carb 17g; Fiber 1g; Sugars 15g; Protein 2g
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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Crunchy Turkey Tacos with a Side of Innocence




 At the grocery store today, my kids were as loud as these Crunchy Turkey Tacos. (And these tacos are loud -- oven-baked crispy shells with only 151 calories per serving.) My one daughter was sitting in the cart while the other one ran circles around her. The one in the cart thought that was hysterical. Running circles? Come on. That's the stuff of comedic legends. They could not stop laughing.

Since this happens quite often and I have resigned to the fact that my children are in fact going to act like children, I tune it out and go on my merry way. As long as they are not being disrespectful in any way, seriously, what is the harm of a few good laps around a cart and some intense giggling?

I was in the bread aisle, intent on scrutinizing labels when a woman came up next to me and said, "They have the cutest laughs." I, of course, rolled my eyes in a good-natured way that said, yeah, you wouldn't be saying that if 97% of your day was filled with this. But then she said, "No really. I just love their giggles. My kids are in high school. I really miss these days. All of the giggles. The plain happiness. I really miss it."

As she said this, she was looking wistfully at my kids and I shifted my head to look at them and it was weird: I saw them through her eyes. I heard them through her ears. They were little kids who right at that very moment were so innocent that they were 100% happy without one single care in the world; their giggles were true giggles, not one ounce of insincerity in them. They were happy. Truly happy and absolutely lovely in their innocence.

I turned back to her and nodded my head in understanding, afraid if I were to say anything, just one thing, I may start to cry. Because at that very moment, I didn't want my kids to grow up. I didn't want them to feel failure and heart break. I didn't want them to know what it feels like to be disappointed or embarrassed or self-conscious. I wanted to freeze time and stay in that very moment forever. Since I couldn't do that, I wanted to bottle up what they were giving off right then and there and I wanted to put it away for a very special day when I could pull it out of a drawer, from beneath old pairs of underwear and say: Here, take this. Breathe it in, pour it over you. Immerse yourself in it. This is innocence. This is happiness. You had it once many many years ago and I am giving it back to you because now you know, you finally realize that there is nothing quite like it.

Crunchy Turkey Tacos


These tacos are lean, mean Cinco de Mayo machines (or any day and any month of the year machines). By combining ground turkey and mushrooms, you're left with a very meaty flavor without all of the fat that comes from beef.

Clocking in at only 151 calories per taco, they are gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free. But they are not, thank heavens, free of taste.



Makes About 10 Tacos (1/4 cup each of meat)

Ingredients:

1/2 tablepsoon grapeseed oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb ground turkey thigh
8 oz sliced mushrooms
3 campari tomatoes diced (or 8 oz of fresh diced tomatoes)
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 white corn tortillas
Cooking spray
Salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion. Season with salt and cook until soft.


Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the turkey meat and cook until no longer pink. Add the mushrooms and tomatoes.


Cook until the mushrooms are slightly soft. Add the chili powder through the salt and simmer until most of the liquid is gone, about 8 minutes. Set aside.


Spray one side of each tortilla with cooking spray (about 1 second per side). Season with kosher salt.


Place two tortillas in the microwave for 25 second to soften. (I did this on a napkin I kept in the microwave.)

Using a loaf pan, hang each tortilla on the handle side of the loaf pan.


For a much thinner tortilla, hang on the non-handle side. I tried all sorts of variations and found that the handle side of a regular loaf pan produced the best crunchy tortilla. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes or until very golden and crunchy. Take out of oven and spoon 1/4 cup of meat into the shell. Top with desired toppings, although I don’t think it needs anything! Taco meat can be frozen.


This taco offers the best of both worlds -- crunchy outer shell and tasty, soft meat, without the fat from frying and from beef.

The night after we had these tacos, my husband was gearing up for his second dinner of the night (do all men do this?) and he asked what we had leftover. I said turkey tacos. He said, "Turkey? Those pockets of awesomeness had turkey in it?"

Yep, fool 'em when you can ladies (and gents). Fool 'em when you can.





Nutrition Information Per Taco Using 1/4 Cup Meat and 1 Tortilla: Calories 151; Total Fat 5g; Total Carb 15g; Fiber 2g; Sugars 1g; Protein 11g

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