Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's Cooking: Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

One of our weekly staples is pasta with tomato sauce. This meal is guaranteed to be consumed by our two little girls. The drawback is that this gets old after a while (at least for Mommy and Daddy). So, I thought I'd try a different sauce for our pasta.

I found this recipe on the Kraft Foods website. What I like about it is that it is a healthier alternative to your typical Alfredo recipe (see this one as an example). Instead of heavy cream and a ton of Parmesan cheese it uses a combination of milk, cream cheese, and only 1/4 cup of Parmesan.

: The only "modification" I made was using penne pasta instead of fettuccine.

Ease: This was a really simple and easy recipe. I liked the fact that I could cook the chicken and prepare the sauce as the pasta was cooking. I also liked being able to add the broccoli to the pasta as it finished cooking. I'll give this recipe 4.5 stars.

Affordability: Once again, the chicken was on sale. The other ingredients are very affordable. I'll go with 5 stars here.

Taste: I was very pleased with how this meal turned out. It was nice and light. The Italian dressing gave it a nice flavor too. I'll go with 4 stars here.

Family Friendly: Sarah went to town on her pasta and even ate the tops of her broccoli. Abigail took a little convincing to try something new, but she ate her pasta too (and "tried" the broccoli). The girls didn't go for the chicken because, like I typically do, I overcooked it a bit (oops!). I'll go with 4.5 stars for this recipe.

What's Cooking Rating: 4.5 stars

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Where a Kid Can Be a Kid

On Monday the girls and I visited with Nonna, Auntie Laura, Uncle Nick, and Bridget. As we were hanging out we decided on a spontaneous trip to Chuck E Cheese-a first for the three girls (and an item on that "To Do" list I started many months ago).

We all had a really great time, though it was a LOT of work (even though the adults out-numbered the kids 4 to 1). It seemed like Sarah and Abigail wanted to go in opposite directions a lot of the time.

The girls enjoyed riding the mini carousel and helping Mommy play ski ball. Abigail also enjoyed crawling through tubes near the ceiling that led to a fun slide. Sarah seemed pretty excited to run all over the place.

We all had a great time! It'll be even more fun once Bridget is older (though, I think we'll need reinforcements with a third little girl running around ;-)

Special thanks to my sister for the pictures!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cute Conversations with Abigail

Often during bedtime Abigail will call for me. She'll want us to help her with her covers, get her water, etc. Last night I asked Jonathan to take care of her. I could hear them talking in her doorway. Here is a loose paraphrase of their conversation:

A: Mommy's sad.
J: No, Mommy isn't sad.

A: Mommy's sick.

J: No, Mommy isn't sick.

A: Mommy's tired.

Jonathan reassured her I was fine. Then Abigail went ahead and declared, "Mommy is sick and tired."

This morning Abigail came to get me out of bed. She was comparing my features with hers. She concluded that we both have brown eyes while Sarah and Jonathan have blue ones. She then went to describe my hair as "big hair" then went ahead and said my mouth was big. Though she also noted that she had a "big mouth" too. I'm going to have to agree with that one :-)

Oh, and a helpful hint for those of you who have or plan to have a young one. If their birthday month has arrived, don't tell them, "Hey, you know what? Your birthday is this month!" This is especially important if you are telling them at the beginning of the month and their birthday is at the end of the month. Abigail is often telling me we need to get party hats and cake and balloons. I have to keep explaining to her that her birthday is a few weeks away (though now it is finally coming up)!

Whenever we ask her what she wants for her birthday she'll go ahead and talk about the decorations and type of cake she wants. So then we have to ask a different way, "What kind of present do you want?" She'll quickly and consistently respond, "A green one!"

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What's Cooking: Mini-Meatloaves

Another recipe with ground beef! This is actually a recipe I made quite a bit when Jonathan and I were first married, but I haven't tried it since Abigail started eating "real" food. I thought I'd give it a try with the girls.

This recipe comes from the Kraft Foods website and is called Marvelous Mini Meatloaves. The thing I like about it is that it allows for a number of variations (though they aren't on the website, only on my print version of the recipe). Here are just two variations you could use:

Italian - 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 3/4 cup spaghetti sauce, and 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
BBQ - 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 3/4 cup barbecue sauce, 3/4 cup cheddar cheese (we use this one)

I should also mention that it doesn't say how much water to use on the website; it's 1 cup.

So, without further delay, I present to you mini-meatloaves:

Modifications/Substitutions: I always forget to add garlic powder when I do the BBQ variation. Other than that, I follow the recipe exactly.

Ease: SO easy. Also, using the muffin pan cuts cook time in half. I'll give it 4.5 stars (after all, it isn't a slow cooker recipe ;-)

Affordability: I bought the beef on sale (as always). The other ingredients are regular staples and are very inexpensive. I'll go with another 4.5 stars.

Taste: This isn't my Mom's meatloaf (which I LOVE), but it satisfies. The meatloaves stay moist and I love how you can customize them to whatever you're craving when you make them. I'll go with 3.5 stars.

Family-Friendly: Sarah did not eat hers, but she tried it. As soon as Abigail saw me place the pan of meatloaves on the table she started crying. She has NEVER done this. A family dinner has never brought her to tears. She immediately started asking for nuggets and fries. A few minutes and a squirt of ketchup later and she ate all of her meatloaf! I think next time I'll substitute ketchup for the barbecue sauce. I'll also omit the cheese because she didn't go for that. Because Abigail did so well (and because Sarah doesn't totally count yet) I'll give it 4 stars.

What's Cooking Rating: 4 stars (rounded to the nearest 0.25)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Easter Craft: Stained Glass Cross

Today's craft was yet another I had to try as soon as I saw it: an Easter Stained Glass Cross.

When I looked over the directions I had a really hard time understanding them. So, I ended up doing things "my" way. Looking back on it, I probably wouldn't have had to do so much cleaning up work at the end if I had understood and followed the directions.

Here's a quick description of what we did.

1. Cut the cross and cross openings out of construction paper. After cutting out the cross I folded it in half (long ways first, then top to bottom) so I could easily and evenly cut out the openings:

2. Attach cross to the sticky side of contact paper.

3. Tear tissue paper into small pieces and attach to exposed contact paper. The girls were into tearing the paper. Abigail and I did most of the attaching while Sarah played with torn up tissue paper.

4. Trim excess contact paper.

5. Trim excess tissue paper. I ended up using an exact-o knife (this is probably an extra step I wouldn't have had to do if I had understood and followed the instructions).

6. Hang up! I didn't get the whole contact paper thing at first-why not just attach white paper and glue the tissue paper? The contact paper allowed for light to shine through to the colorful paper.

This is probably a craft more suited to older children, but it was still fun and I am happy with the results.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Photo Fridays 03.18.11

We played outside yesterday...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Easter Craft: Yarn Eggs

We made another Easter craft this week. As I was searching for creative ideas I knew I wanted to try this one as soon as I saw it. This week Abigail and I made Yarn Eggs.

I'll start off by saying that I don't think this craft was intended for 3 year olds, no matter how much supervision. Abigail was more interested in attempting to blow up balloons than actually doing the craft. Plus, every time a little bit of the glue solution got on her fingers she would wipe it off on her shirt, the table, you name it.

They still turned out though, so I think I'll make a couple more and hang them on our front door. We may make a couple for the girls' door too.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What's Cooking: White Bean Soup

Ok, I was getting tired of telling you about recipes that didn't end up in the girls' stomachs. So, I thought I'd share a recipe that is tried-and-true in the Kapaldo household.

My cousin introduced this soup to me and my Mom a LONG time ago. Over the years I started making the recipe from memory and omitted things to make it more toddler-friendly (so it might not look a whole lot like the original recipe). In fact, she informed me that it was a Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) recipe, which I found here. Mine is the much less sophisticated version-but the girls eat it!

Modifications/Substitutions: This recipe calls for dried beans where I use canned. Also, rosemary plays a big role in the recipe, but I've omitted it because I figured the girls would be more likely to eat it. I may reintroduce rosemary when they are older because it really adds to the flavor.

Ease: The way I make it is very easy - 5 stars. I'll get into the details here:


2-15.5 ounce cans of cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
1-14.5 ounce can of reduced fat and reduced sodium chicken broth
1 small onion, chopped


1. Saute chopped onion in olive oil until translucent.

2. Add beans and broth. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. You can add the rosemary here and remove it before the next step.

3. Puree with hand blender until smooth (I don't leave any chunks because the girls tend to like a smooth consistency).

4. Serve hot (though not for the girls) topped with kosher salt to taste.

Affordability: This recipe is very affordable, especially since I use canned ingredients. This meal cost me less than $5.00 to make - 5 stars.

Taste: I need to be honest here. When Jonathan comes home to see me making this soup he doesn't dance a jig - he isn't too excited about it. But he eats it! I happen to like it, with or without rosemary. To be fair though I'll only give it 3.5 stars.

Family Friendly: Soup + Toddlers = Big Mess. But it is worth it because my girls eat it and ask for more. This is as family-friendly as it gets for us - 5 stars.

What's Cooking Rating: 4.5 stars (rounded to the nearest 0.25)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Easter Craft: Cotton Ball Lamb

We made our first Easter craft today. It is one of 40 lent activities we'll be doing. This one was pretty straight-forward and really easy for Abigail to do, though, I wish it would have occupied more of her time. Today we made a Cotton Ball Lamb.

We didn't have any paper plates, so I used cardboard that was packaged with a frozen pizza (I cut it a bit to make it smaller).

You'll notice Abigail is wearing pajamas. These weren't the ones she wore last night. In fact, I think these pajamas were maybe the third thing Abigail changed into today (and we made this craft at 9:00 AM)!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Photo Fridays 03.11.11

We went "camping" this week. We pitched a tent, "roasted" stale mini-marshmallows and went fishing. Here's Abigail in our boat on the lake.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lent Calendar

As a stay-at-home-mom I often lose track of what day it is, or when holidays come up. Case-in-point, I didn't realize lent started yesterday until I saw twitter comments about "Fat Tuesday" on Tuesday. I wracked my brain (and the internet) to see if I could come up with any Lent/Easter activities to help the girls understand Easter more and also count the days in anticipation of the holiday.

So, I decided on an "Easter Calendar" where we would mark each of the 40 days of lent with a decorated egg. Each egg represents a different Easter-related activity. I spent my free time Tuesday night constructing the calendar for the girls to see in the morning.

Some of the activities are simple, like watching an Easter movie or reading the Easter story in their Bible story book. Others are crafty (I'll share more on those when we get to them). When we get to 12 days before we'll have a special egg hunt each day to find one a dozen Resurrection Eggs.

I know the girls won't remember a lot of what we do (or even understand all of it), but it should give us something different to do for Lent. Plus, if things go well we may try it again next year.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What's Cooking: Sunshine Chicken

I have been having a really hard time coming up with dinner ideas lately. A lot of recipes I've come across don't look to be promising as far as "family-friendliness" is concerned.

The girls will eat almost every type of chicken nugget I put in front of them. When I cook chicken though, it isn't as well received. I think my main problem is that I err on the side of caution when it comes to chicken and done-ness (see where I'm going?). So, I thought cooking chicken in the slow cooker could help the situation. I found this Sunshine Chicken recipe using my Crock Pot Slow Cooker Recipe Finder, a free App for my iPod Touch.

Modifications/Substitutions: I didn't make as much chicken as stated in the recipe, so I cut the sauce ingredients in half. Also, it doesn't mention what sort of orange juice to use, so I just used the frozen concentrate kind to cut the cost.

Ease: Um, yeah, it's a slow cooker recipe, plus it only called for four ingredients (five if you include the water): 5 stars.

Affordability: I only buy chicken on sale, and the other ingredients are fairly common pantry ingredients. This recipe is very affordable: 5 stars.

Taste: This didn't knock our socks off. The sauce was nice, but nothing extraordinary. We decided to give it 3 stars.

Family Friendly: Will this be the recipe that earns more than three stars? Unfortunately, no. I fear part of the problem is that our slow cooker is a lot like me, it likes err on the side of caution when it comes to done-ness. The recipe stated to set it on low for eight hours. I had it on low and things were plenty done in only five (though this may have been the case because I didn't use as much chicken).
I tried everything to get Abigail to give it a chance. I pushed the whole "sunshine sauce" thing. "Look, Abigail, sunshine sauce!" or "It's called 'sunshine sauce' because there is orange juice in it!" This only made her want a glass of orange juice. Oh well, this was not a hit - 2 stars.

What's Cooking Rating: 3.75 stars

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


More of Sarah's adventures, caught on camera. I feel like I need to start my day collecting all the chairs that go to the kid's table and lock them in my room. Every time I see her wander off I can be sure she's headed for a chair. Watching her risk her life is stressful!

She took three tumbles today. One off the chair in the picture above, another off one of the little wooden chairs, and one outside on the sidewalk (though that one wasn't climbing related). I think I'll be getting a few new gray hairs as a result of this new-found hobby of hers.