Back to School

Back-to-School Gin and [Grape] Juice

It has been a week! This back to school routine is taking a toll on us. With early wake up calls, jam-packed days, and rushed evenings, we’re pretty much collapsing into bed around 9:30.

Usually we’ll wait till Friday to treat ourselves to a cocktail. This week we made it to … Wednesday. Eeek.

I have to give my husband full credit for this cocktail. He has gotten very crafty with his bartending lately and I have been the lucky (and buzzed) beneficiary. He’d come across a cocktail he wanted to make called ‘Indian Summer’ (apropos), but found that we didn’t have all the ingredients. So he improvised and came up with this beauty. It actually uses Welch’s concord grape juice (which we have, because we have kids), but don’t let that scare you – the taste of the cocktail is more complex and sophisticated than you’d expect. Here’s how he made it.

Back-to-School Gin and [Grape] Juice

Makes two cocktails


3 oz. Gin
1 oz. St Germain (yes, we’re obsessed)
4 oz. Concord grape juice
1 oz. Lemon juice
Lemon wedge, for garnish


Pour all ingredients into a shaker. Fill with ice. Shake vigorously and pour into lowball glasses. Garnish with a lemon wedges. Cheers!!

Revamping Second Hand Kids Clothes

As I’ve gained more experience as a mom, I’ve realized a few things. One, toddlers will destroy anything and everything they can get their hands on. And, two, not unrelated to number one, is that it’s downright foolish to buy expensive clothes for them. Now certainly there are occasions for splurging on that special outfit, but for everyday play clothes? Why bother!! I could have a billion dollars in the bank and I know that I would still feel this way.

To avoid the sick feeling I get in my stomach when one of my darlings stains a shirt that I bought new less than 24 hours ago, I’ll often pick stuff up for them at second hand stores, like Once Upon a Child. While there are always bargains to be had, at certain times during the year, you can get unbelievable steals at these stores. I was recently there and picked up a skirt and pants for my daughter for about a $1 each. My daughter is still at the age where she has no idea (or concern) as to where her clothes come from BUT she does like them to be “fancy”. Sometimes the clothes at secondhand stores can be a bit plain (or, alternatively, gaudy) so I’ve found it to be a pretty fun challenge tweaking my purchases to make them just a little bit more chic for her.

Take this $1 skirt, for example. Not bad, right? But it could be a bit better.


I found some cute trim that I’d picked up somewhere along the line on sale, turned on Project Runway for inspiration, and got to work. Here would be a good point to mention that I am a pretty mediocre seamstress. So if I can do sewing projects, then anyone can!
First, I ironed the existing hem to make it easier to attach the trim.


Then I pinned the trim into place.


And, using my superstar (NOT!!!!) sewing skills, tried my very best to sew a straight line all the way around the skirt’s hem to attach the trim.
I figured my daughter would grudgingly accept the skirt into her closet, and did not anticipate her excitement over my craftsmanship. She couldn’t wait to model it for me!
Feeling like a budding fashion designer, I decided to keep going on the next item: a pair of H&M navy blue polka dot leggings, which were actually pretty cute as they were. However, I was determined to put my mark on them.  I’d recently seen some lace-accented leggings that I’d thought about buying and decided that these leggings would be the perfect piece to DIY the lace accent.
I used a 3 inch wide piece of stretchy white lace. To match the inspiration leggings, I wanted the lace to start wide at the bottom of the leggings and taper in as it ran up the leg. To achieve this, I cut a triangle out of the lace, like so:
Starting at the bottom opening of the legging, I hand stitched the lace to the inside hem of the legging.
I did a few stitches up the legging to hold the lace in place, and then finished by using Fabri-Tac (permanent fabric glue) to adhere the lace to the legging.


I then repeated this procedure on the other side. (And once I got the hang of the glue, I realized that I probably didn’t need to do the stitches).
My daughter’s response? A big hug. She loved them and thought it was the coolest thing to be able to make her “plain” clothes fancy. She thought it was something her favorite storybook character, Fancy Nancy, would do.
The possibilities really are endless! Have fun with it!


Cheesy Chicken, Broccoli & Pepper Casserole

I am quickly reaching my breaking point with catering to the individual gustatory preferences of my beloved family members. I’m not alone in this, right?! I either make a bunch of different meals or I yell and stomp my feet and shove the same meal in everyone’s mouths. Either way, I lose! This scenario invariably ends with me going on some long-winded rant about all the children in this world who don’t have enough to eat, while my five year old and 19-month old stare at me, heads cocked, perhaps too young to grasp what it means not to have enough to eat. (We’re working on that.)
This recipe was born of my never-ending quest to find a single meal to please everyone’s palate. In full transparency, three out of four members of my family loved it; the fourth (and pickiest) was lukewarm on it…hey, I’ll take it.
This made enough for two meals for the four of us. Since my picky family members aren’t big on leftovers, I divided the recipe between two dishes and froze one for a future busy day.

Cheesy Chicken, Broccoli & Pepper Casserole

Ingredients:1 1/2 cups broccoli, small chop

1/2 cup diced red pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken
12 oz. package of wide egg noodles

3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 3/4 cup warm milk
1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp seasoning salt
3/4 of a block of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup panko
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 of a block of sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Fill a pot with salted water for the pasta and put it on high. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour, making your roux. Once you’ve ‘cooked’ the flour (it will be a very very light golden brown), whisk in the warm milk. Once incorporated, add the dijon, kosher salt and seasoning salt. (You could definitely put in some cracked black pepper, but since I was trying to make this dish appeal to everyone in my family, I skipped it and then just added it to my plate later). Once the sauce has thickened, remove from heat and add 3/4 of the block of cheddar cheese (shredded).

Cook pasta to al dente, or slightly less. Take chopped veggies and put in a microwave-safe dish for 60 seconds, to soften slightly so that they fully cook in the oven.

Mix the pasta and sauce together. Add veggies and chopped chicken. Pour into 13×9 pan (or divide among two smaller pans, as I did).

Now make your topping. Toss the panko with the olive oil. Sprinkle in a thin layer over the casserole and then top with the remaining cheddar cheese.

Bake for about 20 minutes until lightly browned.


Nutella Stuffed Rice Krispie Balls

Nutella Stuffed Rice Krispie Balls
Last Saturday was a rainy one. We stayed in, for the most part, except for some impromptu puddle jumping for an hour when the rain broke.


It was the kind of lazy Saturday that called for homemade treats…although it needed to be a treat that didn’t interfere too much with me being lazy.
I don’t think it gets any easier than Rice Krispie squares, right? But I was feeling like I needed to step it up just a little. So out came the jar of Nutella (it was a toss-up between Nutella and the Biscoff spread we buy at Costco).
Anyway, the kids loved making and eating these (ok, mostly the eating part). They were super easy, so I’m sure we’ll be making them again.

Nutella-Stuffed Rice Krispie Balls
6 cups of Rice Krispies
1 package of marshmallows
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
Approx. 1/2 cup of Nutella
1/3 cup chocolate wafers (to melt and drizzle over – optional, if presentation matters to you!)
Start by making the Rice Krispie treat part. (Note: 99.9% of the population can skip this paragraph … I am describing how to make Rice Krispie squares. My sister, however, recently admitted that she attempted to cook her Rice Krispie squares in the oven a couple of years ago. She is in her thirties.  So these directions are for her.) In a large pot, melt butter, add marshmallows and vanilla. Stir until the marshmallows have completely melted. Mix in Rice Krispies until incorporated. Pour into dish to cool slightly.

Once cooled, but still malleable, make hollowed half-spheres. My spheres were about 2-3 inches in diameter.  Use your thumb to make the indentation. Spoon in about 1-2 tsp of nutella. I actually put dollops of nutella on wax paper and put them in the fridge to cool/harden to make this step easier. Make another half-sphere with an indentation. Place carefully over top of the filled half. Use your hands to mold it into a nice sphere. Repeat for the remainder.

Nutella Stuffed Rice Krispie Balls

Store at room temperature and enjoy. I promise they won’t last long.


Nutella Stuffed Rice Krispie Balls


Nutella Stuffed Rice Krispie Balls

Back to School: Mini Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

Mini Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

It’s time to start thinking about back to school. For me, at least. This is a big year for us … my baby girl starts kindergarten! Maybe we’re a little early, but this past week we went fall clothes shopping and got Mara a (long overdue) haircut.  She is (mostly) excited about going to school with the big kids, and about riding the big yellow bus. Unfortunately for us, the big yellow bus comes at 6:50 in the AM… so our morning routine is going to need a serious overhaul. And that means being prepared when it comes to the most important meal of the day – breakfast!

We love oatmeal pancakes in this house, and, with boatloads of ripened bananas in the pantry, I decided to make mini banana oatmeal pancakes instead of banana bread, my usual go-to. SO good.

This recipe makes a lot (intentionally), so you can freeze them and warm them up throughout the week.

Mini Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

1 1/2 cups of milk
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs
3 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 cup oats (I use old fashioned)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2-3 bananas

In a measuring cup, combine milk and lemon juice and allow to sit for about five minutes. (We’re making a buttermilk substitute here … so if you have some on hand, you can just use that and skip the milk/lemon juice combo. I, for one, never have buttermilk on hand.)

Get out your blender and throw all the ingredients in, being careful not to mix overly hot butter with the eggs (egg chunk pancakes are not the goal here). Blend until uniform. Set aside for about 10 minutes (it will thicken up as the oats absorb the liquid).

Prepare your griddle or pan. I heated mine to 325 degrees. Spray with nonstick spray (or use butter, which is my preference).

Cook in batches. Serve hot, or allow to cool and freeze in a ziplock bag.

Mini Banana Oatmeal Pancakes


Enjoy! (Inhale!)