Oatmeal Apple Scones

– johanna | October 30th, 2009

Filed under: RECIPES - Breads, RECIPES - Breakfast, RECIPES - Snacks, RECIPES - Treats

I cannot resist the crunch of a ripe hard juicy apple, it is so satisfying. Apples pair well with just about anything, my favorite a cube of cheddar cheese, mmm tasty.

Oatmeal Apple Scones and Chicken Apple Chili are among my favorite uses for apples. The scones, unlike cake or muffins, are not to sweet and make a wonderful companion with a mug of hot apple cider.

Source: Rachael Ray
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon half-and-half
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 apple, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

Stir 1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon into the batter.

Preheat the oven to 450°. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup half-and-half and the egg.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Blend in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the oats and apple and toss. Stir in the liquid mixture until the dough just forms a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Pat into a 7-inch round; cut into 8 wedges. Transfer to a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and brush the tops with the remaining 1 tablespoon half-and-half. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

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Slowing Down in a Fast Pace World

– johanna | October 28th, 2009


Italy Slow Movement

When our oldest was born I had no clue what Helicopter, Attachment, Authoritarian, Permissive, Glider, Conscience or Hyper parenting were. All I knew was I loved holding and kissing my little one every moment. I did have an idea of how I wanted to raise our young one and with time that plan has been revised, remolded and redefined multiple times; for as we know kids come with their own personalities and what works for some others resistant.

We lived in the North Bay of California within easy access to the big city, lazy beaches and majestic mountains. We found we were no longer lured in by the amenities of the city but rather captivated by the peaceful slow moving pace of the country. Our turn of heart is shared by many who escape the congestion and noise of the busy streets for that of suburbia in a noble quest to raise their family. However, many families whom have jumped on the band wagon with dreams of the perfect family life behind the white picket fence in the Burbs or country, have discovered the grass does not always stay greener on the other side. They are coming away from the experience just as overwhelmed as before. The fact is families who dwell in the city as well as those in the country pack too much into their lives.

Slowing Down:

Did “Mary Poppins” and “Hook” not teach us the value of slowing down? I am reminded of the lyrics from the song “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol, “would you lie with me and just forget the world.” Take time out to forget the world. Turn off the electronics, the computers, cell phones, MP3 Players and TV. Sing another song, read the book as if you are present, use the time in the car to open up and connect with your children, go fly a kite.

Slowing down is a difficult decision to make. There is the PTA, deadlines, Classroom sign ups, homework, housework, holidays, family, friends, sports and the list goes on and on. Slowing down does not mean you have to move to the woods and take up knitting and canning. If your family is happy with their present obligations it just means you may need to get a little more creative when it comes to fitting in quality family time. Slowing down means doing what works best for you and your family.

Find Balance:

It has taken me five years to get over my perfectionist tendencies but much longer than that to find balance. I am one who tends to expend all my energy at once leaving me on empty for days or weeks at a time. When I was young and single it was not a problem; however, now that I am older and mom of three sensitive hyper-active children I cannot afford to check out. Sometimes that means ordering take out for dinner on game night or the evening the kids and I loose track of time. There are times I put the little ones in the bathtub a couple times during the day just so I can have time to breathe. I may even go to bed without doing the dishes because I would rather read to the kids. Finding balance sometimes requires making sacrifices.

Make the Time Count:

A friend of mine once described me as the type of person who never had enough hours in a day. I was up early. I retired late. The busier I was the more fulfilled I felt. Comedian Eddie Cantor once said, “Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast—you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” The question I needed to ask myself was “why the rush?” I was filling my day with mindless tasks that in retrospect were fun and made the time pass quicker but were unproductive.

I lived life to the fullest without a thought of where I was going and who I wanted to take with me. Making each moment count means understanding “where am I going?” and “how to get there?” Life is filled with decoys that stall us or hinder us from getting to the place we want to be. Take the journalist approach by asking the important questions relative to relationships both family and romantic, your job, and the person you want to become. Find ways to make those relationships more meaningful.

When time is of the essence we dare not waste it with decoys that give us limited relief. Leo Babauta the creator and writer of ZenHabits.net wrote, “slowing down is a way to incubate, conserve, and harvest our energy, not about relief from boredom by just watching more TV or going shopping” “We need leisure to rest, create, relate, and think.”

The Central Valley of California is a long way from the sandy warm beaches of Florida where I could cast off the stresses of my week and prepare for the oncoming onslaught of responsibilities. I found peace as the waves washed over me taking with them my fears and frustrations. I go there in my mind when my daily challenges build up so much they begin to suffocate me. I find that as I lie there daydreaming I can taste the salt in the air, feel the sand between my toes and hear the crashing of the waves. I feel more relaxed after a hike in the woods or my virtual reality at the beach than an hour spent on the internet or watching a show.

Forget the Jones’:
Lastly, stop the guilt. Sometimes it is ok to ignore the schedule. Stop living a fast life and start living a good life. If we have learned anything at all these past few years in a down turned economy is that less is more. Less gadgets and toys equals more creativity. Less scheduled activities more play time, think the Sandlot. Hopefully one day less meaningless homework and more time to be a kid.

The slow movement is moving beyond the Attachment Parenting mentality that suggests we cater to every whim and need of our children. The slow-movement is bypassing Hyper-parenting that fueled the guilt we already felt by adding prenatal classical concerts in the womb in addition to a Doogie Howser mentality prompting parents to compete with one another over development milestones, pricey preschools and extra extra-curricular activities. The slow-movement is sailing over Helicopter moms who hover over their kids worrying about every bump scrape or bruise and who are responsible for the influx in child safety such as baby knee pads. While safety should be our top concern these little guys need to learn the right amount of independence proportionate to their age.

The slow-movement is getting away from a society super charged with “getting rich quick” and spending that wealth extravagantly. The slow-movement is steering kids away from cell phones and video games and directing their interests to building a treehouse in the back yard, allowing them to explore, providing downtime to relax especially after school and focusing more on family time; nature walks, bike rides, lying in bed and family game nights.

More and more families are taking the conscience parent approach to parenting. They are taking the reins raising their family according to the families needs rather than doing what someone else says they should do. “Conscious parenting is about tuning into your feelings, doing what feels right to you, finding ways to move toward balance, choosing connection, living with joy and gratitude, letting your love spill out all over the place, adopting an attitude of self-reflection, having loads and loads of compassion for yourself, your partner and your children and recognizing that there is no such thing as a perfect parent or a perfect child.” Carrie Cotney PHD.

NY Times- Parenting: What is Slow Parenting.

Slow Down Now: a parody site.

A Holy Experience: religious references but the site is lovely and peaceful.

Ted: Video clip on why we should rethink our fast paced lives.

Playful Parenting: A book on how to make parenting fun.

Slow Family Living: A site dedicated to supporting the family.

Power of Slow: a web blog on slowing down.

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Revised Ukrainian Cabbage and Meatballs

– johanna | October 26th, 2009

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

Cabbage and Beef

A friend of ours from the Ukraine came to visit not long after we settled in California. As a treat he made dinner that night cooking up cabbage rolls (Holubtsi) among other delectables. Stephen is not so much into trying new things. You could call him a simpleton of sorts. But what he despises more than anything are condiments. So you can imagine what must have gone through his head when our friend placed platter after platter of strange cuisine covered with mayonnaise and ketchup.

I love cabbage rolls but unfortunately I am the only who will eat them since the great mayonnaise feast fiasco. Hence cabbage and meatballs were created. Now, I know a lot of people despise cabbage because either they have been turned off by the look of it or they have tried it and it was gross. I agree. The recipes I have tried in the past use far too much oil or butter resulting in slimy oily cabbage. Cabbage needs to be seasoned well with salt and pepper and a smidgen of oil or butter; just enough to keep it from sticking to the pan while sauteing.

1/2 pound extra lean ground beef
1/2 pound lean ground pork
1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 cup matzoh meal
2 eggs

In a bowl combine the beef, pork, turkey, seasonings, matzoh meal and eggs. Mix lightly until combined. Shape into balls according to desired size.

Brown meatballs in a skillet then transfer to a 350 degree oven to finish cooking about 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Serve with cooked cabbage.

OR add meatballs to the pan with the cabbage cover and cook until no longer pink about 15 minutes.

-Larger meatballs take longer to cook.
-Do not compact the center of the meatballs. They take longer to cook. Instead softly gather the meat together and lightly roll into a ball.

1 tbsp butter or olive oil
1 small cabbage, shredded thickly
1 tsp salt and
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup water or broth

Heat oil in a large skillet, with lid, over medium-high heat. Add cabbage; season with salt and pepper. Saute until cabbage starts to wilt, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and let steam until tender; about 7 minutes.

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Halloween Mystery Dinner

– johanna | October 23rd, 2009

Filed under: CREATING MEMORIES, RECIPES - Appetizer, RECIPES - Beverage, RECIPES - Main Dish, RECIPES - Treats

Halloween center piece

It is that time again. It is time for Halloween dinner fun. Here are a few tantalizing ideas for this years Halloween Mystery Dinner Menu.


Boo Beverage

Ghoulish Punch


Worm Pizza

Witch Hat Calzones


Roasted Ghoul Tongue

Barbecue Worm Sandwiches

Brains A La Fiesta

Witches Caldron and Bread Stick Brooms


Graveyard Gravel

Scary Skulls

Kooky Caldron Sundae

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Making Time for the Family: Family Bike Night

– johanna | October 21st, 2009


Family bike night was an integral part of my early childhood. I can’t say when it stopped, most likely when our evenings were filled up with youth group, sports and scouts. I can remember a feeling of closeness to my family as we rode through the streets with the wind in our faces.

I wanted to create the same experience for our children for as long as possible. We have enjoyed cruising  around the neighborhood together and creating new adventures while riding to the park. It is a nice relaxing way to end the day or start one. Choose a night, or day, when all the kids are home such as a lazy Sunday afternoon. Sure the older ones will fight you about it at first but in reality they will not miss the TV show or the video game. If it is one thing I have learned even with little ones is deep down they will be glad of the effort even if they do not show it.

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Cranberry And Apple-Cider Sorbet

– johanna | October 19th, 2009

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

cranberry apple-cider sorbet

There are two interesting specifics to note about ice cream or in this case sorbet. The first being even though you are full from dinner there is always still room for sorbet and the second fact is even in the winter when we are chilled from the cold we can still enjoy a bowl of frozen sugary confection. So while it may be chilly in some parts of world this October with the onset of Fall go ahead and enjoy a bite of cranberry apple-cider sorbet as a special treat served up at a party or afternoon snack.

Source: Martha Stewart
Makes 1 quart
2 cups cranberry juice
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a large saucepan, bring cranberry juice, cider, and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice.

Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Freeze for 2 hours, then mash with a fork. Cover, and continue freezing until set, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Transfer sorbet to a food processor; purée until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container; refreeze until ready to serve.

Use sugar-free cranberry juice.

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Fish Tacos with Cilantro Sauce and Cabbage

– johanna | October 16th, 2009

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

Fish Tacos with Spicy Cilantro Sauce

I have this obsession with cilantro sauce ever since I had a Mexican salad with a cilantro pepitas dressing last year. This cilantro sauce is no where near as complicated as the dressing but somehow it still packs fire.

For the marinade I do not have any measurements except think a “dash here and a dash there.” All I did was pour some of the spice in my palm and using my fingers I sprinkled it over the fish. I like the taste of cumin so I sprinkled a lot. If you are unsure try using a 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon each of the spices. Except for the red pepper flakes. If you like fire go ahead otherwise only use 1/8-1/4 teaspoon. Because there is oil in the marinade (a tip I learned from The Good Mood Food Blog) you should not need to add anymore to the pan before cooking.

Cilantro Sauce:
1 handful green onions
1 handful cilantro
3 tbsp light mayonnaise or plain yogurt
3 tbsp light sour cream
Juice from 1 small lime
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large garlic clove minced

Throw all the sauce ingredients into a food processor. Pulse several times until sauce is smooth; set aside.

Cilantro sauce

Fish Marinade:
2 (3-4 oz) Mahi Mahi steaks
Olive oil
1 lime
Ground cumin
Red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt

Place fish in a baking dish. Drizzle olive oil and lime juice over the fish. Season with cumin, paprika, red pepper garlic and salt. Let sit for 15 minutes to an hour in the refrigerator. Grill fish in a skillet or on a grill for 2-4 minutes each side or until the fish easily flakes and is opaque.

To serve:
4 (6-inch) corn or flour tortillas
Shredded cabbage or lettuce
3-4 radishes, sliced (optional)
Avocado, sliced (optional)
Cilantro Sauce

Heat tortillas on the grill for crispier or in the microwave. Slice or flake fish and place in tortillas. Pile cabbage on top of fish, then add a dollop of cilantro sauce. Makes 4 tacos

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Fun Affordable Halloween Costumes

– johanna | October 14th, 2009


For my birthday this year I received a large box stuffed with old family photos from my mom. I have to say it was a priceless gift that I enjoyed thoroughly. One of the pictures I liked most was a snapshot of a group of kids dressed up in their Halloween costumes. The moment in time captured in that photo was an era of innocence and simple fun. Costumes were made by either talented mothers or Grandmothers or assembled from items found around the house. I remember wearing mason jar rings on my ears one year when I was a gypsy.

I love Halloween. I always say it is my favorite Holiday that is until Christmas time when I am caught up in the glee. I find I can no longer allow my children to look at the costume magazines because the majority of the contents are gore. This year I noticed sites directed toward kids are filled with Halloween suggestions that are a little too much on the scary side rather than sweets pumpkins and black cats. So I decided to go back in time and find some fun costumes and other Halloween goodies that will tantalize a child’s soul and mind not scare him to bits.

I know that making your children homemade costumes is time consuming and when your time is limited who wants the added stress, right? I admit I have purchased my kids costumes for the past five years. So I am in no way pointing fingers. This year after I ordered my daughters mermaid costume for an insurmountable sum of money I came across the site for the mermaid costume listed below. I hit my forehead several times repeatedly telling myself “dummy, you could do that!” And for a fraction of the cost.

The experience also brought to mind a fun activity with a youth group I helped chaperon years ago. We loaded the kids up and took them to the local Goodwill. Each teen was allotted $5.00 to purchase items they needed to combine with something at home to create a Halloween costume with. They all had a blast and the costumes were a hoot.

Here are several links for cheap and simple fun costumes for kids. Good Luck, have fun and most of all Be Safe!

Card Board Box Robot Costume

Card Board Crocodile Costume:

Mermaid Costume

Recycled Butterfly Wings

Cat Costume

Princess Costume

Robin Hood Costume

So Cute Bunny Costume

Ideas at Family Fun

More Ideas at Family Crafts

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Cauliflower Fritter with Spicy Dipping Sauce

– johanna | October 12th, 2009

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish, RECIPES - Sides

Cauliflower Fritters

I love crab cakes and tuna cakes even apple fritters but I have never heard of cauliflower fritters before. Zucchini yes. Cauliflower no. Sadly I was not that thrilled with the results. The fritters were in much need of flavor. So I thought and thought about what was missing and the first thing that came to mind was red pepper. I worked up a spicy dipping sauce I like to use on fried vegetables and was much happier. Yes it defeats the purpose of “only 5 ingredients” but I do not believe in compromising on flavor. I think some kind of mustard sauce or salsa would be a nice compliment too.

Source: Rachael Ray
1 large head cauliflower (about 2 1/4 pounds), trimmed and chopped
1/2 cup flour
1 large egg, beaten
One 10-ounce bag salad greens
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Steam the cauliflower until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, mash and let cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the flour and egg, season with salt and pepper and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Roll 1/4 cupfuls into balls, then flatten into patties, to make a total of 12 to 14. In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the patties until golden-brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Serve with the salad greens tossed in olive oil and the lemon juice.

-1 shallot, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 1/2 cup mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.
-Chopped anchovies.
-Green Onions, corn, peas and 1/2 cup cheddar.
-1-2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning.
-Use Balsamic Vinegar in the place of lemon juice.

Spicy Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp salt

Stir together mayonnaise and ketchup; season with cayenne, onion powder, pepper, and salt.

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Zucchini Cobbler

– johanna | October 9th, 2009

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

Zucchini Cobbler

I skipped making zucchini soup to make zucchini cobbler all because I had some apples and lemons to use up. I was a little concerned with the amount of sugar and flour, a tidbit I did not notice until I was in the process of making the cobbler. Since we tend to eat dessert only once a week this would have to count. Zucchini cobbler tasted surprisingly like apples. Probably the apple cider I threw in there because I did not have enough lemon juice. This recipe gave me inspiration to use vegetables in the place of fruit more often.

Serve with a little vanilla ice cream or whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon.

Source: Unknown
5 cups zucchini (about 4-5) peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cups white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cups butter, chilled
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 X 13 pan with cooking spray.

Place zucchini and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until tender. Stir in 3/4 cups sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and nutmeg. Simmer 1 minute longer; remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir 1/2 cup crumb mixture into zucchini mixture. Press 1/2 the remaining crumb mixture into the prepared pan. Spread zucchini evenly over crust. Crumble remaining crumb mixture over zucchini, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

Use half the amount of lemon juice and add apple cider to make a 1/2 cup.

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