Friday, September 28, 2012

Toddler Food Recipes Gone Wrong

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Right around when my baby girl was turning 1, I was consumed with finding fun and easy recipes for finger foods. Sure, she loved cut up avocados, bananas, and whatever I was eating. Bor-ing. I wanted to be that wacky mom that brought a unique snack to a play date that had all the kids drooling and all the moms in awe of my culinary prowess.

I did find a lot of recipes that I absolutely LOVE and I will share them some day, but not today. No. Today is a day to share my miseries.

Let's start with the Baby Chicken Fingers. These sounded perfect - simple ingredients and mushy enough for my Cadybug's gummy mouth. Heck, if they tasted good enough, I'd probably eat them right along with her. You can click on the link and see how they're supposed to look. Here's how mine turned out:
Lesson learned: Broiling is not a skill that I possess. And as someone who hates the feeling of raw meat squishing between my fingers and lurking under my fingernails, the whole process of making this recipe was not in my top ten "happy to be a mama" moments.

So let's move on to the Carrot Snack Sticks. I saw these on Pinterest and thought to myself, "This is exactly the kind of healthy snack I want to make for my carrot-loving baby!" Everything seemed simple and I had all of the ingredients. Well, I had baby carrots and not regular sized carrots. No big deal, right? A carrot is a carrot. No. It is infinitely more difficult to shred baby carrots than it is to shred regular carrots. Fingers were grazed and life lessons were learned. Regardless, baby carrots were the only carrots in my fridge so I kept plucking along. It was a minor wound that would result in what I thought would be the ultimate snack for the play date we were headed to the next day. They look so moist and delicious in the picture...Mine, however, turned out like dry, tasteless dog biscuits...except dogs would turn up their noses at these.

They shriveled up like brittle matchsticks and there was no way I could give these crunchy, dried up carrot biscuits to my sweet girl. How would her 4 tiny teeth mash through these monsters? The recipe says you really have to have patience when working with the dough. Maybe next time I'll find a Mother Teresa to work my carrot dough for me. I just did not have the patience to fold it into a dough, watch it crumble through my fingers, roll into dough again, watch it crumble again, and again, and again.

Okay, okay. Time to move on. Next stop: Carrot Chips. First of all, let's just get it out of the way and say that I only had baby carrots and I did not have the appropriate slicer...apparently. When you're on a budget, you make it work somehow. My family doesn't eat regular carrots, so I don't buy them. We eat pre-washed baby carrots that are easy to put in lunch boxes. We also don't have the fancy slicer in the recipe. I've never needed it before. Hello, that's what knives are for.

Or not.

As it turns out, a steak knife does not slice a baby carrot as nicely as an adjustable mandoline slicer would slice a regular sized carrot. So instead of thin carrot chips, I had miniature baked carrot stubs.

If you're looking for a potato chip alternative and you want to try out this recipe, go for it...but I don't suggest trying it with baby carrots and a steak knife.

After these adventures, I really started to question my ability to cook anything.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How to be a Freezer Cooker: 31 Prepared Meals in 2 Days

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Man, am I drained from too much P! Planning, prepping, and preparing freezer meals is a job! Oh yes, it sounds great to cook a few meals and have them ready to go in your freezer for those days that you just can't get out of your flannel pajama pants, but the work you have to put into it is kind of exhausting. This is an obsession of mine that hurts so good.
Do you think freezer cooking is for you? Then set aside some time and give it a try. Your flannel pants will thank you next week.

Day 1

Step 1: Pick out your meals. I keep all of my recipes in a word document on my computer so that I can do a quick search for specific meals or ingredients. Pro Tip: Only pick out a few meals. The first and second time I did this, I picked out 6-8 meals and it took for-e-ver. I had my mom's help, but it still took way too long. This time around, I picked out 4 meals, and it still took forever (mostly because I chose to wait for my hubby to get home to cut the raw meat – yuck, raw meat).

Step 2: Create your shopping list. If you're a couponer like me, you might want to check what ingredients you already have stocked up and make your meal list from there. If you're rolling in the dough, pick out whatever meals suit your fancy. Choose meals that you think will freeze well. Clueless? Rummage around the internet for some ideas.

Step 3: Take that daunting trip to the grocery store. It may not be daunting for you, but personally, it doesn't thrill me to take a one-year-old out on a windy day and shuffle her around a grocery store while I attempt to compare prices, pick out produce that meets my standards, and continuously pick up the snack cup/toy/sippy cup/miscellaneous cart items that end up on the aisle floors. Don't get me wrong, I have a very well-behaved baby, but entertaining a child and concentrating on grocery shopping can sometimes be multitasking to the extreme.

Step 4: Set aside all of the dry ingredients you will be using. Make plenty of space in your fridge to hold other ingredients and store finished products.

Step 5: Call it a day. Trust me, you will want to be refreshed when you make all of this food. So sit on the couch, put your feet up, open up your laptop and create a Freezer Cooking Prep Sheet. This is where I create a table in a word document and fill it out with the different recipes I'm making and what cutting and cooking I need to do first to prepare for each meal.

Day 2

Step 1: Label your bags and containers. This is SO MUCH EASIER to do before you put any food in the freezer bags. I like to use a sharpie to write the name of the meal + directions for cooking right on the freezer bags. If it's something that I'm going to put in a container, I write on a piece of masking tape and stick it onto the container. Do it first. It will stick much easier now than when you already have it in the freezer.

Freezer Cooking Recipes

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Slow Cooker Beef Fajitas
6 lbs beef round steak cut into strips
3 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes (I used whatever I had on hand – some with chiles, some with garlic, etc.)
3 large onions, cut into strips or chopped
4 green peppers, cut into strips
2 red peppers, cut into strips
6 tsp cilantro
6 tsp cumin
6 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste (I did 10 shakes of pepper and 4 shakes of sea salt in each bag)

1. Write on 6 freezer bags: Cook on low 8 hours (high for 4 hours). Serve on tortillas with sour cream, avocado, shredded cheese, etc.
2. Split all ingredients evenly into six bags and shake.
3. Lay flat in the freezer. (the bags, not you)

*I divided this recipe into 7 meals – 5 regular sized bags to feed my family of 3, and 2 smaller portion bags for my mom to make for herself. If you are preparing this for 2-4 people, I suggest dividing it evenly into 6 bags. Alternatively, if you are preparing this for more than 4 people, you may want to adjust how much you put into the bags or how many you cook at once.

Chicken Stuffed Shells
18 oz package dry bread stuffing mix
3 boxes of jumbo pasta shells
2 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup
28 oz chicken broth
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
12 chicken breasts

1. Cook and chop up the chicken. You can shred it if you like, but I prefer chunks of chicken in my shells.
2. Cook shells al dente (8-10 minutes)
3. Prepare the stuffing mix according to the package directions
4. In a bowl, mix the chicken and stuffing.
5. Fill pasta shells with the chicken mixture and arrange them in a baking dish. (I highly recommend laying down aluminum foil first…you will already have a lot of clean up to do.)
6. Mix the soups in a saucepan with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook and stir 5-7 minutes.
7. Pour the mixed soups over the tops of the shells.
8. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350*.
9. Divide into Tupperware containers for dinners and freeze.

* Figure out how many you think you will want per meal and divide accordingly. My family LOVES these and we will eat leftovers for lunch the next day, so I plan for at least 5-7 per person (and 2 for the baby).

Baked Rigatoni
2 eggs
4 cups cottage cheese
2 boxes of rigatoni, cooked al dente (approximately 11-12 minutes)
1 large can of spaghetti sauce (approximately 3 cups)
20 oz frozen spinach, cooked and drained

1. Write on 2 very large containers: Thaw and place in a greased 2 ½ qt casserole dish. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Bake at 350* for 30 minutes.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs and cottage cheese.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together in the bowl.
4. Divide into 2 containers and freeze.

Onion Burgers
3 lb. ground beef
3 pouches dry onion soup mix
9 tbsp. water

1. Write on a freezer bag: Defrost patties and cook in skillet 10 min. or until done. Serve with buns, lettuce, tomato.
2. Mix the beef, soup mix and water together in a bowl.
3. Shape into approximately 14 patties (about ½" thick each).
4. Wrap individually and seal in the freezer bag.
5. Put them in the freezer.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Crockpot Apple Chunks

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My baby girl loves apples and they were on sale at our grocery store last week. What a perfect opportunity for me to try out this recipe I found for Homemade Crockpot Applesauce (by In the too-short 25 minute nap Cadybug took in the morning, I cored, peeled, and chopped 10 apples (mostly Red Delicious). I don't have a fancy apple peeler - I sure wished I did that morning because peeling an apple by hand - not fun. Peeling 10 apples by hand - really not fun.

This is the equipment I had to work with:

I thought to myself, "Well, I don't have an apple peeler, but I do have a vegetable peeler...same thing, right?"


It took way too long to peel that apple and I nicked too many fingernails, and if I multiplied that by 10? Who has that kind of time anymore (or that many fingernails)? So the 9 unfortunate remaining apples were poorly peeled with a steak knife.

I do, however, have one tool in my kitchen that is a true culinary companion of mine. The Chopper.

This little baby saves me so much time and energy. He may be noisy, but he chops like a pro...and he's dishwasher safe. That's why we're so close. My non-dishwasher safe items end up sitting on my counter for days until I find the motivation to actually wash dishes by hand. Meanwhile, I look at them in disgust every time I walk by.

Then I put all of the apple chunks in my trusty slow cooker and added 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. The directions say that sugar is optional, and I will probably use 1/4 cup next time instead. But when I read that it was optional, I actually said out loud "girl, in this house, sugar is not optional". (And then I went on cooking and pretended like it's totally normal to talk out loud to my computer.)
The directions also say to sprinkle cinnamon on top. Oh I did this...a little too well. I have shaky hands so a sprinkle of cinnamon is more like a thick dusting. Oops.

Cook on high for 4 hours. Let the delicious aromas fill your nostrils and make you want to eat everything in the house while it cooks because the smells will seriously make you that hungry. When it's done, you can mash or blend it up, but we ate it as sweet, sticky chunks of Heaven.

Now, this is the original picture of completed applesauce from ComfyintheKitchen.

This is mine.

Yeah. I think the darkness is due to me using darker apples...and perhaps the piles of cinnamon I poured over the top. It was good, though. So good. The hubs went back for thirds!

Self-given grade: Nailed it

Thursday, September 20, 2012

34 Pairs of Underwear

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Even though my house is often a mess (I have this blue-eyed, one-year-old tornado that hangs out in my living room), I am obsessed with organizing. I find pure joy in simple ideas that make cluttered spaces more functional.

I absolutely love organization, but let's be honest, it just causes more stress. For example, I have a full cabinet of plastic lunch containers and it's always a mess with mismatched pieces and everything just thrown in there (isn't that how most people's Tupperware cabinets look?). Well, I organized it and made it awesomely functional – you know, provided I'm the only one who takes the containers out and I'm the only one who puts them away. I may have an extra gray hair now, but my Tupperware cabinet looks immaculate!

So I read about a few ideas that discuss organizing one space in your home each week for a whole year. What a great idea to break apart huge tasks to make them less daunting! I should definitely do this…..if I ever live by myself again. Seriously, there's no way I can keep the baby and the hubs from shuffling around the areas I just fixed. It's just going to stress me out to work on a new area AND maintain every organized space in the home while my loving tornadoes tear it apart at their leisure. Nevertheless, functional and organized spaces sure satisfy my Type A Personality tendencies...and I can always dye my hair.

I decided to create a list of spaces I want to organize and ideas of how to do it well. However, as far as keeping a strict schedule of doing one project once a week – yeah right. If I'm lucky to have a burst of energy big enough (and a naptime long enough) to tackle one of the problem areas in my home, you better believe I'm going to jump on it, regardless of time in between projects.

So yesterday, I got started. I finally did some spring cleaning (in September). All embarrassment aside, this is what half of my closet looked like. You can't see all that much because it didn't open all that much without spewing. I was horrified that after only 3 years of being together, my closet really let itself go. (The rest of the closet space will be disclosed at another time because it's just too appalling to be exposed right now.)

I went through all of our clothes, trying to make enough space to close the closet without using both hands and a foot. I also dreamed of being able to shut the drawers with only one shove. Side note: what made me believe I needed that many pairs of underwear?

An hour and a half later, this overstuffed bag of outdated and shrunken clothing emerged (because I didn't get any bigger – all of my clothes from college shrunk in the wash slowly and it just so happened to coincide with every caramel frappuccino and brownie I consumed). I'm sure every morsel is going to look great on the crowded racks at the Goodwill.

Feeling haughty from the progress I had made, I went back to my closet. Ready to see how great it looks?

Oh. It still looks the same. Crap.
Why didn’t I include the rest in the picture? Nap time only lasts so long and I don't need to embarrass myself twice in the same post. The rest of the closet will be tackled during Week 2…or in my case, the second time I get a long burst of energy thanks to the bottled Starbucks frappuccino in my disorganized pantry.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lollipop Tree...or Vegetable Bush

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About a week or so into my obsession with Pinterest, I came across this Lollipop Tree (click on the link to see the original beautiful picture of this project from It just so happened that I had a child's birthday party to attend and I thought "hey, I can totally do this no problem". So, off to the dollar store I went.
Medium-sized plant pot: check.
Styrofoam ball to fit in said pot: check.
Giant bag of dum-dums: negative, but they did have smaller bags so I purchased 6 bags to get the equivalent amount of lollipops.

Excited to try my hand at crafting, I hurried home and spread all of the supplies on the living room floor. It's simple enough - put the Styrofoam ball in the pot and stick in the lollipops. I started at the top in a cluster and worked my way down until there was none of the ball showing, leaving me with approximately 2 bags of leftover lollipops that I swore I would use for another project very soon (and yet, 6 months later, they're still shoved in my cabinet).

Did mine turn out beautifully full and round like the picture on Pinterest that sucked me in? Nope. Mine turned out like this:

It resembled more of a colorful piece of cauliflower than the flowering plant I imagined.

Where did I go wrong??? After looking at the directions and images from the original link, I decided that my downfall was that I bought a Styrofoam ball that was too small. It was the only size that the dollar store had and I'm living on a strict budget here, so happy birthday, kids. Have some cauliflower.

Self-given grade: semi-fail

Curious how you can do this fun project? Go here: Meet the Dubiens

Here I Go...

Ladybugs and Lattes: 2 objects that partially define my adult life. Ladybugs have sneakily made their presence more and more prominent simply by coincidence. From the tattoo I chose as a rebellious 18 year old, to the name of the preschool classroom I taught (that ended up showing me that my true passion in life is early childhood), to the nickname for my baby girl (Cadybug), to the decorations of her nursery. Ladybugs just hold a special place in my heart because they represent major milestones in my life. Lattes, on the other hand, are an addiction that I have no intention of trying to kick. When life seems to be attacking me, a good latte will boost my mood in the other direction. Hands down. Ladybugs may have shaped me into who I am, but lattes keep that crazy person going.

So this is it. My first post. You know, because I'm not busy enough cooking, cleaning, organizing, driving the baby to activities, folding laundry, planning activities for the baby, grocery shopping, reading books to the baby, paying the bills, feeding the baby, clipping coupons, running errands, changing diapers, desperately searching for the last free sample packet of instant coffee because I swear there's one in there and I gotta have it now, doing the dishes, nearly passing out on the couch with one eye open watching Ellen while the baby naps, and searching Pinterest for more ideas to fill the tiny gaps of time I have left.

However, I'm excited because this blog will be the new dumping ground for all of the ideas I find on the internet that I decide to try out, whether they are a success...or a total failure. Let me tell you, there have been many failures already, so at the very least, this will be a comical adventure for us all. I originally just uploaded pictures for friends to see my "accomplishments", but I have come to the realization that other people may need to see examples of what Pinterest projects really end up looking like. This is the good, the bad, and the "that can't be right" of really interesting projects that I thought I could do.

I'm excited to document my personal attempts at meal planning, living on a budget, raising my daughter, and organizing my home, almost completely inspired by Pinterest and other internet findings. Thanks for joining me!