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Get ready for summer now: 5 ways to get ahead

Categories: Productivity, summer living

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It’s still winter, but summer will be here before you know it. I know, easy for me to say since I’m not sitting in the middle of a blizzard like some of you. But, in less than 10 weeks, I’ll have to go retrieve my college freshman and bring all that stuff home. Can you believe it?

Not to give spring the short end of the deal (I love spring, I do!), but summer for working parents brings it’s share of scheduling and preparation challenges, and I like to get ahead where I can.

Here’s 5 things you can do to get ready for summer now:

1. Plan out the summer calendar - I print calendars for June, July and August and we lay them out at home and everyone writes in their summer plans or special events. Camps, vacations, birthdays and even back-to-school dates go on there so we can spot potential conflicts early.

2. Sign up for camps - Now is the time to sign up for summer camps. If you have young kids and have never done this before, just trust me.  Traditional camps, sports camps, music camps, drama camps are ready and waiting for you to sign up, don’t put this one off. If you’re lucky, there might even be a discount for signing up now.

3. Book that vacation - If you ‘re going to have the chance to get away this summer, check that calendar you made and pencil in some vacation time. If you need to look for accommodations, now’s the time to do it so you can get the dates you want before they’re all gone. (Taking my own advice in 3…2…1…)

4. Shop now - Bathing suits and other warm weather clothing items are hitting the shelves. When it comes to the kids, it seems like no matter what size they are, the rest of the world had kids the same size and the new stuff is gone in a snap. I’ve learned to just bite the bullet and buy bathing suits when I see them instead of doing it “later” because the red bulls eye store doesn’t always restock them.

5. Apply for summer jobs - Get your teens out of the house and encourage them to apply for summer jobs now. For example, your college student should be getting an internship lined up (*ahem* is someone related to me out there listening?), and potential lifeguards should be signing up for training now. The competition is tough out there, don’t wait.

Even though it may not seem like it now, summer really does come fast. Check some things off your to-do list now and be ready to relax a little and enjoy it!

Quick dinner idea: Meatball Sandwich Casserole

Categories: Cooking, Entertaining, Lunches, Meal Planning, Uncategorized, recipes, summer living

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The holidays can be a crazy time of year with shopping to be done, preparing for guests and getting kids ready for exams. We’ve been out late a lot during the week lately, and traveling on the weekends, so there’s not been a lot of time to fix dinner. Since it seems my family insists on eating every night, I figured I should try to do something about feeding them.

As a matter of fact, I even had most of these things in the pantry and fridge already, so this was easy.

Meatball Sandwich Casserole

Slices (about 1/4 inch thick) baguette French bread(enough to cover a casserole dish)
olive or vegetable oil to brush on bread

1-2 pounds (depends on what size dish you’re using) frozen cooked Italian-style or regular meatballs, thawed. Works best if they are smaller, bite-sized meatballs.
1 bag frozen chopped onions thawed and drained (I sauteed mine, but I’m sure it’s fine without)
NOTE: you’re supposed to use the onions and green pepper mix to make it like an authentic meatball sandwich, but no one here but me likes green peppers.
1 1/2 cups pasta sauce (I used a tomato-basil one)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Heat oven to 350°F. Brush 1 side of each bread slice with oil.
  • Line the bottom and side of a casserole dish with bread, oil side up and slightly overlapping slices.

  • Bake 5 to 10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown.
  • In large bowl,  mix meatballs, onion (and bell pepper), and pasta sauce.
  • Spoon meatball mixture into crust; and bake uncovered 25 to 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated in center.

  • Sprinkle with cheese; bake 5 to 10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

It was a hit with everyone, and it’s been just as good the next day!

Corn salad with walnuts and feta cheese

Categories: Cooking, Entertaining, Food, Uncategorized, side dishes, summer living

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The most difficult part about cooking dinner for me is coming up with new and interesting side dishes.  Especially in the summer when we are likely to have guests eating with us.  There is only so many times you can serve pasta salad or potato salad before you bore even yourself.

I came across this recipe last year sometime and jotted it down on a scrap of paper and stuffed it into the bottomless abyss that is otherwise known as my purse.  I found it again last week and knew it would  the perfect accompaniment to the burgers I was grilling for some friends that night.
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Mini Cherry Cobblers — Picnic Perfect

Categories: Cooking, Entertaining, Food, Holiday Entertaining, Kids Cook, Uncategorized, summer living

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I found these adorable ramekins at the grocery store a few weeks ago.  I am a sucker for this color blue and pretty things in general.  For only $1 each, I could not pass them up.  I knew that I would find something to use them for.  So far I have served grapes in them, hummus, dips of all kinds– the best part of course is that no one is concerned about double dipping since they all have their own individual ramekin.

I have yet to find the cure for the unparalleled horror of having a sibling breathing near your food, but should I discover the answer to that I will be sure to let you know. I am here for you, people.

So Fourth of July came and I had them setting out on the counter and I decided that I would make a red, white and blue treat with them. 

The best part? The recipe is so easy that even your youngest children can make this with minimal help.

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To make 10* individual cobblers you will need:

2 21oz canned cherries
1 tube of biscuits
1T melted butter
2T sugar
1tsp cinnamon

*Why 10? The biscuits come 10 to a tube and the 21oz can makes 5. So, uh, do the math! Or better yet, make your child do the math and then pat yourself on the back for helping them keep their mind sharp during their summer vacation. Their teacher will be proud of your efforts!

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Divide the cherries up evenly between your ten ramekins.

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Whack your tube of biscuits open against your counter until you hear that satisfying pop. Then take the biscuits out, flatten them slightly, and stick one in each ramekin on top of the cherries.

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Brush the top with the melted butter. Sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Bake in the 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

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These taste delicious hot, cold, or any state of cooling from hot to cold. I have already made another batch today since it was easier than listening to the complaints that 10 is not evenly divisible by 7. (See, more summer math work! FTW!)
 

Chicken Salad with Grapes

Categories: Cooking, Food, Lunches, summer living

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If you have been reading here for any legnth of time, you know that I am all about easy recipes. I do not have a whole lot of patience when it comes to preparing food. My children inhale their food so quickly that I do not think it even has time to touch their tastebuds.

Also, it is now summer and we are often out of the house for the day. I don’t really feel like making big meals every single day. Sandwiches are a working mother’s friend, whether you are working in the home or out.

I had bought some rotisserie chickens from the grocery store for dinner one night. There wasn’t enough left to make a full meal for my family so I decided to make chicken salad. It was fabulous. The kids all loved it. It was da bomb. Did I just age myself terribly with that or what? I don’t even know where it came from, some back cobwebby corner of my brain, I guess.

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You will need:

2 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1 small minced onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup mayonaisse

Step One:
Except for the grapes. Chop all of your ingredients up and toss in the bowl.

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Step Two:

Add the mayonaisse, Worcestershire sauce and salt. Stir well.

Step Three:

Add the grapes and gently stir to mix.

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Step Four:

Serve on some lightly toasted bread. The bread in the photo is gluten free bread. It is Udi’s brand and so good it tastes just like real bread. And those are salt and vinegar chips. You don’t have to serve it with those, but why not? They just make everything taste better.

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And best of all, you don’t have to heat the kitchen all up.

Easy Peach Cobbler

Categories: Cooking, Food, Kids Cook, Uncategorized, summer living

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With the warm weather approaching, or if you live on the face of the sun like I do, the warm weather has already arrived, entertaining demands to be made easier and more casual. Afterall, who wants to slave over a hot stove on a sweltering day? No one that’s who.

This dessert is perfect for the casual entertaining of summer. It is easy, ridiculously so. Your children can make this entirely by themselves. And it is delicious. As a matter of fact, I hid the leftovers so that I could have it all for myself. What? Don’t judge me! You have done the same thing.
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Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Categories: Cooking, Food, side dishes, summer living

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I am constantly on the look out for new pasta salad recipes. Pasta salad is the easiest summer side dish. It goes with anything you grill or you can even eat it by itself for meal. I love to make a large batch and serve it for a couple of meals… usually with dinner and a couple of lunches. Or for when you meet up with friends and have an impromptu dinner date.

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And the best thing about pasta salad? You can make it early in the day, stick it in the refrigerator, and not think about it again until you are pulling the burgers off of the grill that evening.

You will need:

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8 oz rotini pasta
1/2 c Italian dressing
1TB dijon mustard
1TB mayonaisse
1lb grilled chicken breast, cut into strips*
1 small can sliced olives
1 jar roasted red peppers, draned and chopped
1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped

*I used the premade/precooked grilled chicken breast strips that come frozen at the grocery store to make the recipe that much easier. When I grill chicken breast for a meal I like to save a few breasts for using in recipes like this, but this time I didn’t have any.

Step 1: Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Drain and rinse with cool water until the pasta is completely cool.

Step 2: Combine the salad dressing, mayonaisse, and mustard and pour onto the pasta. Stir to coat.

Step 3: Add remaining ingredients. Stir.

Step 4: Cover and refrigerate until dinner time.

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Balloon tied to your chair optional, but why not. It makes meal time so much for festive. And by festive I mean cause your children to punch the ballon into each other constantly, and whine and cry until you threaten to spear the balloon with your fork. Not that I would know this from personal experience or anything. Ahem.

Strawberry Shortcake: A Recipe in Three Parts

Categories: Cooking, Food, summer living

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It is strawberry season. I think. I am basing this purely on the plethora of inexpensive strawberries available at the local grocery store, and not upon any first hand growing knowledge.

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Shortcake is so easy to make that I afterward I always wonder why I don’t make it more often.
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Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Categories: Cooking, Food, side dishes, summer living

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Looking for a new summer side dish? I have a great one for you. This recipe is so easy that I do not even have photos of the steps because I think that you know how to open cans. Right?

You can make this early in the day and leave in the fridge until dinner time. Perfect for those days when you are going to be out of the house all day and just going to grill some hamburgers for dinner.

Also, it looks so pretty. Doesn’t it?

wishbone10

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

1/4 c Hellman’s Light Mayonnaise
2T lime juice
1/2tsp ground cumin
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 cup quartered cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 c chopped red onion
2T chopped fresh cilantro (I left this out because I could not find any at my grocery store)

Combine mayonnaise, lime juice, and cumin in a medium sized bowl.

Stir in remaining ingredients.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

wishbone9

This was loved by all. Except for the child who insists he doesn’t like beans, though I doubt that a bean has ever crossed his lips. So really he doesn’t count. The rest of my children said it was wonderful and that it should be made again and again. My eldest son even ate some of the leftover with his lunch, which says something because his general feeling is that leftovers are garbage that I store in the fridge.

Fried Green Tomatoes, the Recipe

Categories: Cooking, Food, side dishes, summer living

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My garden runneth over with non-ripe vegetables. And sadly, the warm summer growing days are over. We have had frost a couple of nights now and so I was forced to pick everything.

Remember the movie Fried Green Tomatoes?  I love that movie.  If I had to rank my most favorite movies of all time it would be at the top of the list.  Along with the Princess Bride and the Wizard of Oz.  I am sure that there are others that I just can’t even think of right now.

The movie was what first introduced me to fried green tomatoes.  Before that green tomatoes were something that sat on your windowsill until they turned red or rotted.

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