Saturday, December 31, 2011


This is the way my month started....

and this is how it's ending. New Year's is one of my favorite nights. It's when I put pen to paper, and line up a few goals for myself. Some years I am more successful than others. But, I always start the year on a high note and each year I do a better job fine tuning my capabilities and priorities. I am excited to share the small changes we'll be making both as a family, and that I hope to make personally to get back to feeling mom-a-licious in the year ahead. Cheers to 2012, when my overarching goal is to make these positive changes sustainable as a busy mom, wife and friend...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

merry wishes

I wanted to take a minute to wish all full plate readers a very Merry Christmas...

I hope that the year ahead is filled with simplicity,


good friends,

and new ideas.

In January, I look forward to sharing more recipes that are creative,

can be made quickly,

and sometimes made ahead,

so we can nourish our families

with health, comfort and joy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

elf antics - days 23 and 24

I'm having some trouble with my camera talking to my computer, so this is as good a shot as I've got. Suffice it to say that this photo doesn't do the Elf's latest antic justice: after a long day cooped up in the car, the Elf upended Christmas decorations, covered the room with Christmas cards, and started opening gifts.... the kids seemed a litle skeptical that this was the same Elf?

It turns out... (with a little quick thinking-- because really, how could an Elf get out of a locked car and get into a locked house? The kids had a point...) it wasn't our Elf. Our Elf was still out in our car. Of course he was. Sure enough he was still sitting in his little candy box, suspended between the front seats when we checked this afternoon, and the neighbor's Elf seems to have scurried back to their house. Still uncertain about how our Elf would re-enter our house, the kids built him a tree fort in case he has to spend the last night outside, and we left the car's sunroof open....

They will be thrilled tomorrow morning when they realize how much our Elf appreciates their fort building skills. I don't know that our Elf will make another mess-- I mean, appearance-- inside this year. This might be it. But, we're ending it on a high note. The house is back in order, the Elf appreciates our boys, and I will now regain at least an hour a day. Cheers to all of the above.

If you'd like to relive our Elf's antics, you are welcome to click here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

just three more days with the Elf... day 22's antic

Every morning, the kids get up at, oh, about 5:30am to see what the Elf's been up to. And then they come to our room a few minutes later to excitedly tell if we weren't fully aware. I am betting on a little extra sleep today, since the Elf will be harder to find (suspended between the front seats of my car in a candy box). Ah to be an Elf, when even the day's errands can be deemed a road trip. (Note that he also brought all of his "stuff" along for the ride: his goggles, ice skates and tooth necklace. All of the important stuff...)  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

elf antic - day 21

Yep, that's a genuine baby tooth necklace the Elf is sporting this morning...

and his competitive streak played in our older son's favor as he upped the ante. This go round, not only did the Tooth Fairy leave her customary dollar coin, but the Elf left him a $2 bill. Whoa.

And the magic of both The Tooth Fairy and The Elf appears to still be alive and well for another day...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"make or buy"

If you didn't see it yesterday, I urge you to read The Happiest Mom's post on holiday baking. Having just returned from a cookie swap with a decadent platter of other people's cookies, I thought it was absolutely fabulous that the hostesses said "make or buy" 3 dozen cookies on their invitation. How many times have you been invited to something like this, and then just completely run out of time? Or your head is spinning when you look at your to-do list, but you could really use an hour off and a cup of coffee among mom friends? I loved that everyone felt welcome, from those who probably stayed up late to make beautifully iced cut-outs to those swinging by the bakery en route to the gathering.

elf antic - day 20

Monday, December 19, 2011

my tips for decorating cookies with kids...

As I have mentioned in past years, the key to kids partaking in kitchen projects, and having them be enjoyable to all, is all about prep. That and some rimmed cookie sheets, if it involves cookie decorating.

If they're little, get things organized and then invite them to help. If they're old enough to help, encourage them to get things set up for younger siblings... having everything at arm's reach makes it easy to share.

Making a pastry bag out of a sandwich-sized zip-loc, with a tiny hole cut in the corner works well. Older children can make precise lines...and younger ones, well, it helps to keep the frosting contained.

 I don't know about your children, but the attention span of mine is not long enough to make dough, roll, cut, bake, cool and then decorate. So, I made a big batch of gingerbread again this year and froze the cookies until this weekend, when we had time to do the fun part: decorate.

That said, what is most important is that you keep things merry. If you don't have time to bake before Christmas, no. big. deal. I love Meagan Francis' perspective on holiday baking. Forget the calendar, heck, go out and buy cookies and a tub of frosting if that's what works. You and I both know that what matters is that you actually enjoy time together this holiday season, decorating cookies... tromping out in the snow... snuggling up with a book...or whatever family time bring these next two weeks. I hope you all have a wonderful vacation together and will look forward to kicking off the New Year with some health-inspired, simple recipes to share with your families!

homemade gift idea: dark chocolate truffles

I cannot believe I have shelled out several dollars for specialty truffles after seeing how simple they are to make. Those of you who were following our homemade gift extravaganza this past weekend saw that we whipped up a spice rub, a curried lentil soup mix and a lemon-sugar scrub in between birthday parties, chess, paddle tennis and normal weekend revelry. What I didn't mention, was that at the 11th hour (or 4:00pm, if you go to bed at 7:00pm...) my older son and I also made a batch of homemade truffles. My husband rolled his eyes, since the kitchen had just been put back in order, and really did we need to make another homemade gift?! Yes, we did. Because my younger son wanted to give one of his teachers something chocolate, and the kids are giving each adult something homemade this year, and (trust me) I knew my husband and father-in-law would love these, assuming they turned out.

The recipe looked too simple. Really, just 4 ingredients? Yup. And whatever you plan to roll them in.

Homemade Dark Chocolate Truffles
(makes about 60 truffles, depending upon what size you roll them)

1 stick of butter (8T)
2 cups of heavy cream
2 lbs chocolate* (in chunks, chips or chopped)
1 Tablespoon vanilla*
topping of your choice (crushed nuts, cocoa powder, candy cane dust, etc...)

In a double boiler, bring the butter and cream to a fast simmer. Add chocolate and vanilla and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Chill until firm. Once chilled, scoop and roll into balls, then roll into coating of your choice. (Our truffles were about 3/4 inch in diameter. We rolled half of them in cocoa powder and half of them in candy canes we had pulverized in the Cuisinart, until they were simply pink powder.) Store truffles in fridge until ready to enjoy.

* If you can, splurge on high quality chocolate and vanilla for this project. It really will make a difference in the end product. My favorite brands are Dagoba and Guittard (which can sometimes be a little bit harder to find) or Ghiradelli 60% which is readily available in most supermarkets.

Note: this is not for the faint, or those who like things neat and tidy. Handling the chilled chocolate in this project is really messy! I did not argue when my younger son opted out after rolling one truffle, his hands then covered in chocolate... full disclosure: I was sort of thankful because I wasn't that excited to see chocolate hand prints in any other part of the house... 

We packaged this little balls of homemade decadence in mini muffin cups inside these small window boxes, lined with parchment paper.

putting a gift to good use: making curried lentil soup with butternut squash and kale

We took one of our homemade gifts for a test run last night. All in the interest of recipe development, of course. If you're making it along with us, in addition to the 4 cups of dried lentils and spice packet we included (which was 2 cubes of Rapunzel veg bouillon + 2 bay leaves + 1 tablespoon madras curry + 1 tablespoon of the spice rub we made), you will need:
  • a large pot
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 2 (or more) of your favorite sausages (chicken, pork, soy, etc..), chopped (optional)
  • 2 cups of butternut squash, diced
  • 10 cups of water
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper, optional
  • Greek yogurt (optional, as a topping)

Over medium heat, saute the onions and carrots in a bit of olive oil.

Add the sausages and butternut squash, and continue sauteing until the onions are translucent.

Add the contents of the spice packet that came along with the gift + 10 cups of water and let the whole thing simmer for about 20 minutes, until lentils have softened. Then remove the bay leaves...

and add the kale, stirring it in to the soup. Continue simmering for another 5-10 minutes, until the kale is wilted and lentils are fully cooked. Soup will be stew-like consistency. (I make most of my soups this consistency because it's easier for little hands to get it from bowl to mouth!!)

Serve warm, with a dollop of Greek yogurt with counterbalances the heat from the curry powder and white pepper in the spice blend. Because the soup is quite monochromatic, I recommend serving it with a bright green salad.

p.s. The soup is even better on day two, when the flavors have blended. It makes a wonderful vegetarian stew if you leave out the sausage (which is totally optional). It will freeze nicely. Simply add some fresh broth to the soup when you are reheating it. Enjoy!

elf antic - day 19

our older son's favorite antic: the snowball fight (which only took me about 5 days to clean up...)

our younger son's favorite: "when he juggled marshmallows blindfolded swinging from an electric light...I want to practice that too", please don't, sweetheart.

p.s. a lot of hoopla that the elf was sporting his gifted goggles too...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

homemade gift: lemon sugar scrub

Out of all three homemade teacher gifts we made together yesterday (this lemon-sugar scrub + lentil soup mixes + spice rubs), this one definitely goes down as my favorite. Since we're only doing homemade gifts from the boys to all adults this year, this is what I am lobbying for as my gift. It totally works (one of my kids gave it a test run last night) and it is so super easy. Plus, who wouldn't like a little pampering to kick off the new year?

Lemon Sugar Scrub 
this recipe will make a dozen 5 oz. jars (or about 7 1/2 cups)-- you can scale the recipe up or down for your gift-making project
I learned of this recipe on Count it all Joy, which is a fabulous, witty blog full of good ideas. 

8 cups sugar
2 cups olive oil
1 cup lemon juice
zest of 10 lemons (or about 8 Tablespoons)

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Note that stirring the mixture is tough at first, you might have to help your kids get it going...Store scrub in an airtight container.

We packaged it in these 5 oz jars. While everything is edible, you don't want your recipients eating a big scoop, so gift tag should read:

Lemon Sugar Scrub
Apply a handful of sugar scrub to wet skin while showering and massage in circular motion. Will remove dead skin and leave winter skin feeling refreshed and moisturized!