Uncategorized

Lilo and Stitch

Something I’ve come to realize when doing Disney dinners is that everyone connects differently with movies. Everyone has parts that really speak to them. It’s great to feel out your audience and see what parts they really like, what they might like to learn more about, and even see if they might have any ideas to contribute to the fun! Activities, food, decorations, props….all these things contribute so much to these fun nights, and everyone can contribute in their own special way.

I often ask our guests to contribute by bringing a dish, a beverage, dressing up, or even bringing props and decor.

One small, but effective “extra” that I picked up from a friend, is to build our dinners around the seasons and weather! I shoot for warm weather movies in the warmer months, and cold weather movies in the winter months!

One of our favorite summer movies is Lilo & Stitch! We try to pair this movie with fruity summer drinks, swimming in the pool, and fun Hawaiian outfits!

One of my ALL TIME FAVORITE FOODS comes from Hawaii! I am always STOKED when I have an excuse to make it! I have to admit that the first time I heard of this, I thought it sounded terrible….but being an adventurous eater, I tried it. What is it you ask??? SPAM MUSUBI!

I must admit that prior to trying musubi, I had never even tried Spam. The sound of Spam just didn’t do anything for me. A bunch of processed meat in a little loaf and packaged in a can? No thanks. However I learned, that during the war years a LOT of packaged meat made it’s way to Hawaii. The locals incorporated Spam into the cuisine, and now it is a staple in their diet.

Just what is Spam musubi? It is basically sushi, but with fried Spam & seasonings in place of the fish wrapped in roasted seaweed. Its salty, sweet, briny, and delicious. It was the perfect starter dish for our Lilo & Stitch Hawaiian dinner night!

SPAM MUSUBI RECIPE

Rating: 5 out of 5.
  • 1 pack Roasted Nori (Seaweed sheets)
  • 4 Cup Sushi Rice (cooked)
  • Furikake rice seasoning to taste
  • 1 can Spam (sliced into 8 pieces)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • Musubi mold

Directions:

Cook sushi rice per instructions. Keep warm and set aside.

To amp up the flavor, I like to quickly toast my sheets of seaweed before assembling my musubi. I turn my gas stove top on medium and quickly run my pieces of nori over the flame a few times. The nori will get a bit more crunchy and fragrant. When you’ve finished toasting your sheets of nori, set aside.

Warm a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the spam slices and fry until crisp and lightly browned on both sides. (2-3 minutes) Pull the spam slices out of the skillet and set aside.

In the same skillet, add the water, soy sauce, and sugar over medium-low heat. Stir to combine. When the mixture is warm and the sugar has dissolved, add the spam back to the skillet and coat both sides of the browned spam pieces. The liquid should be a bit thick and coat the slices once warm.

Using your musubi press, push your warm sushi rice down into the mold. I generally fill mine about 2/3 full of rice before using the press to squish it down.*tip- coat your hands often with cool water to keep the rice from sticking to your hands.* After pressing the rice down, remove the rice from the mold and sprinkle on a few pinches of furikake to your taste. Place the coated spam on top of the furikake rice and finally roll in a strip of the toasted nori. (I personally prefer to use a strip of nori that fully covers the length of the musubi, but many people prefer smaller strips.) Use a small line of water to seal the nori in place.

You can enjoy while warm, or wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. (I prefer to eat mine cold)

The musubi mold that I use can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Musubi-gabo-Certifed-Safety-Approved/dp/B01LZMBBAX/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?crid=2IL78DXEFQPJY&dchild=1&keywords=spam+musubi+mold&qid=1627258282&sprefix=spam+musubi%2Caps%2C250&sr=8-2-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEzRThDUlFXRE9BQkJLJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwNDYwMTYxWTdIS0FXTFFIT0pEJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTAzNzk0ODIyTFdGUTM5S1RRQTU5JndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==

For our main course we had poke bowls. For the kiddos I used sushi rice as the base and put some grilled shrimp and tuna on top along with poke sauce, fried wonton strips, nori, green onions, and sesame seeds. For the adults, we elected to have our tuna raw (traditional) and over salad greens.

We had some fresh pineapple and even made a copy cat version of dole whips at home! This is one of our ABSOLUTE FAVORITE TREATS at Disney World and I was absolutely THRILLED to find a recipe for home! I’ve seen a few different recipes for home use, but this is the one that we used:

Disney Copycat Dole Whips

Rating: 5 out of 5.
  • 2 cups Frozen Pineapple
  • 4 oz. Pineapple Juice
  • ~3/4 cup Vanilla ice cream

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend until smooth. To get the iconic swirl shape that you get at Disney, you can freeze the mixture for about 30 minutes. Place the frozen mixture in a piping bag with a star tip and pipe into cups.

We couldn’t wait that long for ours, so we ate them directly after mixing!

You can also turn the frozen mixture into a dole whip float by adding additional pineapple juice!

Along with our delicious food items, we dressed in luau attire. One of my Mom’s sweet employees even made Neyland a lei out of fresh flowers to wear during dinner! We even tried our best at copying some hula dancing! Most importantly, we had an amazing with with ohana! In case you missed it, ohana means family!

Overall, this Disney dinner has been one of my all time favorites! It was PACKED with amazing flavors, colors, and fun! If you guys give this one a try, leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

Uncategorized

Tangled

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Tangled has got to be one of our favorite Disney movies of recent years. *Personal Confession*- I think it’s way better than Frozen! (shhhh don’t tell)

We actually ended up using this particular movie TWICE for two separate Disney dinner nights. Our first Tangled theme was during a recent trip back home to New York! I still have 3 aunts that live in NewYork and it’s great to be able to get the family together. My family is originally from Germany, and I wanted to pay homage to our roots during our family gathering. We’ve done several German based dinners, as there are several German based Disney movies. German food is Neyland’s #1 favorite, so she’s all for any and all German themes. Tangled is actually set in the fictional kingdom of Corona (yet another reason we doubled down on this movie during this worldwide pandemic.) I have no clue what they might eat as traditional food items in a fictitious land, so we elected to go with the traditional origin of “Rapunzel” which is Germany!

 

During our NY Tangled night, we elected to do an “Oktoberfest” type theme. We took a trip to my FAVORITE store ever- ALDI! It is always an awesome place to find cool foods from different countries (especially German food since it is a German company!) You can generally find a good selection of bratwurst and knockwurst, which is what I chose to get. I have a friend who lived in Germany as a child, and he routinely throws some awesome Oktoberfest celebrations. Because of this, I am well versed in such festivities. I decided to make some curry wurst for our celebration, complete with homemade mayonnaise (making homemade mayo is another life skill I picked up from this same friend- DO IT…you’ll seriously never go back.) We also added in some delicious sauerkraut and fries for good measure. Since Rapunzel is also pictured making homemade pie while locked in her tower, I figured we could end the night with that.

During our visit to Disney, I got Neyland a Cinderella dress at the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique. But I also fell completely in love with Rapunzel’s dress and ended up ordering it for her for Christmas. She wore her gorgeous dress and let me braid her hair and then we picked wildflowers to decorate her braid! I didn’t have a fun princess dress, but I do have a fun outfit for Oktoberfest, so I brought that along. I connected my Mom’s new bluetooth speaker and popped on some fun Oktoberfest tunes and the mood was set! We even played games like she does when she’s trapped in her tower!

I gently pan grilled/steamed the brats and knockwursts and used my Mom’s new air fryer for the fries. Once done, I sliced up the sausages and served with fries and the homemade mayo (check out the recipe below)  with a generous sprinkling of curry powder. We also had some grainy German mustard available for dipping.

After dinner and some dancing, we watched Tangled and had our delicious homemade pie! We ended up making a mixed berry rhubarb pie. It was tangy and tart and absolutely perfect. I was able to call my Grandma in TN to obtain her OH SO PERFECT pie crust recipe.

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New York Recipes

Homemade Mayonnaise

  • 1 whole egg, plus one extra yolk
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cups extra light olive oil or avocado oil
  • kosher salt to taste

Step 1- Add eggs(room temp is best), garlic, dijon, and lemon juice to a food processor 

Step 2- Turn on the processor and slowly drizzle in the oil, or add it in small batches to ensure it emulsifies. Don’t add it too quickly. The mixture should appear nice and creamy.

Step 3- Test the flavor and add salt as desired.

Store in the fridge. This mayo can last 2-3 weeks.

Grandma’s Perfect Pie Crust

Sorry kids! This one is a family secret!

 

When we got back home, a few months passed before Neyland’s birthday. Seriously- HOW IS THIS CHILD 6?!?!?

 

I generally throw a big birthday bash for her, but in 2020 with all the COVID-19 craziness, we decided to just do something small and go on a private trip instead. Instead, we decided to revisit Tangled since her birthday fell on Disney dinner Tuesday. As previously mentioned, German cuisine is her absolute favorite, so I knew it would be a hit. I was able to procure some pork schnitzel for the event. Her favorite way to eat it is pan fried with a squeeze of lemon with a side of pickled red cabbage. We also had some more German sausages. I also recycled some decor she had from a previous princess party. In this case, a super cheap and easy decoration consisting of long yellow plastic table cloths (they’re like $0.99 at Walmart.) I bought several and cut them into thirds lengthwise. After cutting, I braided them into a SUPER long golden braid and draped it ALL OVER the house. We ate our yummy dinner, watched our movie, dressed up, opened gifts, built Legos, and ended the night with real fire lanterns! I wanted to do something super special since it was her actual birthday. Since Rapunzel’s parents release floating lanterns every year on her birthday, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to do the same! I purchased a pack of 5 from Amazon. If you’re interested, you can find them here. The ones we got were tethered to a kite line, and the materials used to make the lanterns is supposed to be flame resistant. They come pre-assembled, and were relatively easy to get going. I’d highly recommend you tether these guys. We set these guys up in our side yard, and if they weren’t connected they would have been long gone. I was really worried that they would land on a neighbor’s house or something, but with the nifty string, we were able to control them easily.

 

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This was seriously magical. We had so many neighbors and random cars stop just to watch these beautiful lanterns float through the night sky.

Our Tennessee Tangled Dinner

If you decide to get “tangled” up in the Disney dinner life, drop me a comment and let me know what you did!

Food, Uncategorized

La Michoacana

Maybe its due to summer officially being upon us, but I’ve been on a serious frozen treat kick as of late. This place has been on my radar for a while now. I think I first saw images of some of their delicious treats scroll across my social media feed a few months ago. I knew then and there that I had to visit. I really love any kind of local small business presenting authentic cuisine, and make a point to go support such places whenever possible! La Michoacana certainly fits that description.

After attending an awesome event that my church hosts called “Worship Nights,” where worship leaders from churches all over the area come together for a night of amazing music and worship, some of my dear friends and I visited this place for a late night treat. They had already been here several times and had nothing but great things to say. I had seen a picture of a “Mangonada” (pictured above) and was convinced that I had to give it a try. I didn’t really know WHAT it was….but it looked great and that was all that mattered! One of my friends did try to talk me out of it and informed me that it was frozen mango ice cream with spicy pepper sauce and spicy pepper gummies sprinkled with Tajin. I was skeptical, but wanted to give it a try. Her husband absolutely LOVES their mangonadas and assured me that he would finish it if I didn’t like it.

After ordering and engaging in a full photo shoot (because let’s face it, this thing is truly photogenic) I timidly took a bite. I have to say it’s like nothing else I’ve ever had. The mango was sweet and tangy, but the salty and spicy peppers make it a bit sour. If you haven’t tried it, you should at least once. I’m not sure that I would get it again, but it was certainly worth trying.

My second go around I tried the other treat that was recommended by my friends. Fresas con Crema! It was absolutely amazing. I’m a big berry lover and this delivered. There was a giant scoop of frozen strawberries covered in cream, chocolate, and wafer cookies!

My daughter joined me during this trip and tried one of their many cream based Popsicles. She loved it….but made a GIANT mess eating it. I think it’s pretty obvious what flavor she indulged in.

This place offers more than just frozen treats too! They have street corn and a whole host of nacho bag options! If you go, leave me a comment with what you got and if you would recommend it! They have so many options I want to try them all!

Food, Uncategorized

Kombucha – Home brew life

Kombucha Home Brew

After a decent absence from the blogging world, I have decided to jump back in and discuss a few projects that I have been working on!

If you have been to a grocery store any time in the past year, I’m sure you are well aware of the current Kombucha craze that is sweeping the US. I was pretty hesitant to jump on this band wagon, but decided to at least give it a try. If you haven’t heard of kombucha, it is basically a fermented tea that people have been drinking for years in the Eastern world. The fermentation process leaves this beverage low in sugar, full of probiotics, and a pleasing amount of carbonation. I’ve never been a huge soda drinker, but i do enjoy a soda on occasion mainly for the carbonation, particularly when my stomach is a bit upset. When I heard about kombucha, I thought it might be a nice healthier option to replace my occasional soda. It also had a possibility of doing more to help an upset stomach than soda did…so why not?

The first brand/flavor that I tried has remained my favorite store bought variety. GT’s Synergy contains a variety of different berry flavors along with ginger and is quite refreshing. Personally, I love the tart flavor and zip that the ginger provides. If you aren’t fond of  ginger or vinegar, this may not be the beverage for you! If you would like to give a store brand a try, I would highly recommend this one. They have a wide variety of flavors, and all the ones that I’ve tried have been really good. The only downside is the relatively expensive cost. One single bottle of kombucha generally runs around $3.00 or more. The best prices I’ve found are at ALDI. You can consistently get bottles there for around $2.75. If you grow to enjoy kombucha, it can become a rather expensive part of your diet.

As my interest in kombucha grew, so did my desire to try and brew some for myself! I’m always down for trying something new and challenging!

After reading and doing some research on the fermentation process, I ran into my first obstacle….I needed a SCOBY. I’m sure you’re probably wondering what in the world a SCOBY is. Allow me to enlighten you! SCOBY is an acronym that stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. To a normal person, it looks like a big slimy pancake shaped blob. This amazing “blob” is what causes all the magic to take place during fermentation. But where does one go to find said blob? A girl doesn’t want to procure a SCOBY from just anyone. I found myself asking around to some of my friends as though I was trying to find some rare black market item. Everyone just looked at me like I was nuts. A few people were interested, but didn’t really know where to find one. Thankfully my friend that gave me the hardest time about my endeavor, actually ended up jumping on the kombucha bandwagon and got me a home brew kit that included a SCOBY!

A Similar Starter Kit can be purchased here

I was officially set to begin my brewing adventure! It just so happened that I received my kit right before a long rainy weekend. It was the perfect time to read up and get brewing! The first thing I learned was that I needed some distilled water. Water free of additives is really what you’re looking for. Chlorine will inhibit the growth of your culture. Other filtered and spring water usually has a variety of additives that help with taste when drinking plain water, but don’t really help when brewing kombucha.

You start the process by brewing a batch of good strong tea. You can use all kinds of different teas and even blends of teas. It is fun to try a variety. You get all the healthy benefits of whatever tea you use. After bringing the distilled water to a boil, turn it off and allow your tea bag to steep for an appropriate length of time. Approximately 5 minutes is a good general rule. While the tea is still hot, add in a rather large amount of sugar. This exact amount will be different, depending on the quantity you’re making. It’s important to use regular processed cane sugar. Raw sugar and honey aren’t broken down the same way by the yeast, and don’t yield good kombucha.

My kit came with a large gallon glass jar. It’s important to clean all of your brewing items well with a mild detergent. DO NOT use antibacterial soap! It will harm your SCOBY! After cleaning, I wipe down all my brewing equipment and even my hands with distilled white vinegar. After my jar was clean and wiped down, I attached an adhesive thermometer to the outside of the jar. Temperature is very important to monitor. I highly recommend placing these on all of your brewing jars.

I then poured my freshly brewed tea into the jar and filled the remaining part of the jar with cool distilled water. You want the jar to be about 3/4 full. The cool water will help bring the tea down to the temperature you want it. If you place the SCOBY in the brew when it’s too hot, it will harm the culture. When your tea reaches the target range of 72-84 degrees, you can gently pick up your SCOBY with clean hands, and place it into the brew. It’s also a great idea to add a small amount (a cup or so) of a previous brew to get things moving. After adding in your culture and previous brew, you simply place a piece of cotton cloth over the top and WAIT. The culture needs to be able to get air, hence the cotton cloth. DO NOT put a lid on your jar. The temperature ranges I mentioned, are ideal for the fermentation process. If it’s on the higher end of that range, fermentation will happen a bit faster, on the lower end, it will be slower. Generally you are looking at about 3 weeks before your first brew will be ready to enjoy.

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I placed my brew up on a high shelf in my kitchen, but quickly noticed that it wasn’t warm enough in that spot. The temperature of the brew was hovering just below the ideal range. I moved my brew upstairs to a shelf that was near a heat register, and was able to easily maintain the desired range after that.

After a few days to a week, you will notice a new layer beginning to form on the top of your brew. This is your brand new culture! A SCOBY forms in layers. The newest grow on the top. It’s important not to move the jar around much or jostle it so that you don’t interfere with the growth. At around a week you can begin tasting your brew and checking the pH. A good kombucha should have a low pH of around 3.2. This helps keep harmful bacteria from growing. My kit came with a big pack of pH strips, and I would highly recommend you keep some on hand. I gently use a pipette to draw out a sample without disturbing the growing culture. When the brew reaches your desired level of tartness, you can choose to either bottle it and drink it as is, or proceed to second fermentation.

Second fermentation is really just the addition of any flavoring items to your brew. I’m a big fan of fruit, so that is what I chose to add. It’s also important to get some good glass bottles for individual serving portions. You can see the “pop top” version that I used. They are available on amazon. Just as you needed to clean all the brewing materials initially, you will want to do the same with the bottles and materials you use for the second brew.

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I gathered a few different fruits and just tried a variety of flavor combinations. Place the clean cut fruit into the bottles and then just add kombucha until they’re mostly full. You  want to leave some air in for the second fermentation so it will be nice and fizzy. You then leave the bottles out to ferment a few more days. I generally do 3 days in the same location/temp as my big brew jar, before moving the bottles to the fridge. Once the bottled kombucha is chilled, it’s ready to drink!

The flavor combinations I tried first (pictured above) were:

  • Blackberry
  • Blackberry peach
  • Peach
  • Strawberry
  • Strawberry peach
  • Strawberry lemon

They were all FANTASTIC! I must say that the amount of satisfaction I get from hearing a great big POP when I open one of my home brewed bottles of kombucha is pretty serious. I also rather enjoy finding new flavor combos and naming them when I find a winner. As soon as I bottle a gallon, I start another brew. I now have a continual brew going at my house at all times! You can also store your SCOBY if you don’t want to brew again right away. Just brew some tea with extra sugar so it can survive while it isn’t being used. I also find it comical that while I was once barren in the SCOBY department, I now produce baby SCOBYs regularly. If I change my blogging name to Mother of SCOBYs don’t be surprised.

Have you guys brewed kombucha at home? Drop and tips, recipes, or tricks that you’ve learned!

 

Activities, featured, Parenting

Pumpkin Potion

Pumpkin (2)

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It’s no secret that I’m OBSESSED with the holidays. This time of year, I look for any excuse to merge my every day life with the upcoming holidays. I also find myself being insanely busy! I try to squeeze in so many fun fall activities (because it IS my favorite time of year) that I literally would fall apart without my google calendar to keep me straight!

This week, for our “science experiment Tuesday,” I merged Science with fall for this super fun pumpkin potion experiment. This is a classic experiment with a fun fall twist that is entertaining for all age groups. I did this activity with a few kiddos of different ages this week, and all were pretty thrilled with it.

The good news? You probably have most of this stuff hanging around your house already. Simplicity is definitely a plus for busy Mamas! So what do you need?

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Step 1

You’re going to channel all of your inner fall energy and carve your adorable baby pumpkin! You can carve any design that you like. I chose to put a traditional face on our pumpkin, but I would say that any design that features many small shapes or holes would be super fun. We also used this time to play in pumpkin guts….because it just has to be done, and sort out all the pumpkin seeds for baking!

I used a cleaning pan to do this entire experiment in to contain the mess. I would HIGHLY recommend that you do the same!

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A happy little pumpkin face!

Step 2

Now that your pumpkin is carved, it’s time to get to work on the potion. The potion is a super simple science experiment that involves a bubbling reaction when you combine vinegar and baking soda. To make it more visually exciting for the kiddos, here is what I recommend.

Get a small/clear plastic cup that can be cut to fit into the pumpkin. This cup will hold the ingredients for the reaction….ya know, since our pumpkin has face holes.

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Make sure that it can fit inside without much extra space, but ensure that the lid of the pumpkin can still fit on as well.

Step 3

Fill the cup 3/4 way full with the vinegar and set it down inside the pumpkin.

Step 4

This is the time where you can really be creative with your potion. We want to add a good squirt of dish soap so that it will get REALLY bubbly. I also add some food coloring at this point. We generally run this experiment through a few times, so there will be an opportunity to do more than one color. I generally let each kiddo pick one color, or a combination of colors to add. You can also add glitter or confetti stars to make your potion super special. Once you have all your “add ins” in the cup, use one of the spoons (from this point forward, this will be your “wet spoon”) and gently stir the vinegar mixture.

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Step 5

This step is when all the magic happens. I let my little one take control of the “wet spoon” so that she can stir the potion as I add the “secret ingredient” aka baking soda. I use the “dry spoon” and add a heaping spoonful of baking soda to the vinegar mixture and allow Neyland to stir it up for a few seconds before putting the lid on the pumpkin and watching potion gush out of it’s mouth and eyes!

We hope you and your kiddos have as much fun as we did with this! Have any other fun fall activities or ideas?? Drop them in the comments!

 

Activities, attractions, Food

GreekFest 2018

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So a few weeks ago, we got to take part in one of my favorite yearly activities- GREEKFEST! If you’ve never been, add this to your yearly calendar! It is a good time for all ages!

I am always down for some delicious Greek food and dancing! This year, we tried a few new food items. Pastichio is a pasta dish that was somewhat similar to lasagna, and quite tasty. We also enjoyed some stuffed grape leaves (Dolmades) and Saganaki! The saganaki ended up being my new favorite. It is basically cheese that has been fried in Brandy so that it has a golden crispy exterior, while the inside remains gooey and delicious. They then slide this on a piece of crusty bread, and hit it with a little squeeze of lemon juice. YUM!

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If it looks like I was sitting in a random patch of grass close to the dumpsters, it’s only because I was. It was so crowded, there was NO PLACE to sit. We enjoyed our delicious food picnic style.

After eating, we watched all the dancing shows. I seriously don’t know how all those kids do that all day long. What a work out!

As soon as the shows were done, Neyland had to get in on the action and hit the dance floor.

Last year, I purchased Neyland one of the “jingle skirt” wraps that all the dancers wear. She was stoked to wear it to the festival this year, and has even worn it to dance class quite a few times. She felt quite “authentic” on the dance floor.

After trying out our Greek dancing skills, we hit up my personal favorite area- “The Wall-o- Baklava.” Ok, it’s really more than just baklava. It’s an entire wall of delicious Greek baked goodies. We got a lovely assorted box for the road.

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If you’ve never been to Greekfest, I highly recommend that you visit next year!

Check out their website HERE

You can thank me later! 😀

Food, Uncategorized

Busy Busy

It feels like the past week or so has been one giant whirlwind! We have had so many things going on, I feel that I can’t keep it all straight! We have had some company, an adorable little orphan to care for, some great food experiences, and made a lot of memories! Here are a few of the highlights…

A few short months ago, a friend introduced me to Indian cuisine. I had this crazy notion that I hated curry, and therefore I would hate all Indian food. HAVE I EVER BEEN MISSING OUT!!! It turns out that I actually love Indian food, and even curry dishes! The first thing that I tried was a pretty “safe” chicken dish called Tikka Masala. It was fabulous! Pair that with some garlic naan….I’m not sure that it gets much better than that!

Last weekend, I was able to go back to Sitar for their lunch buffet. I would HIGHLY recommend it. I was able to try a wide variety of dishes, all of which were fantastic. As an added bonus, the cost of the lunch buffet is cheaper than ordering a single dish off the menu. Even Neyland was thrilled with her lunch! Check out the pics below.

Check out their website HERE

*Only downside- they don’t have a menu that offers kid meals or kid portions.*

 

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That same afternoon, I received an urgent text during church from a co-worker who’s friend had found an orphaned chipmunk. It needed immediate care, so after lunch we were off to go pick up an new orphaned baby to care for.

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Neyland LOVES that we occasionally are tasked with the care of injured or orphaned animals. She has such a big heart for these guys just like her Mama. I am so pleased to be able to show her how hard work and compassion can help even the smallest of God’s creatures.

She quickly got down to the important business of “naming” our little friend. For whatever reason, she was determined to name her “Coconut Honey.” I’ve just been referring to her as “coco” for short. I am happy to report that with some nursing care and bottle feeding, Coco is doing GREAT! She should be ready to release in a week or so! Check out this recent image of her munching on a grape…

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Some other highlights this week included one of Neyland’s all time favorite activities:

MAKING SLIME.

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This “Rainbow unicorn slime” came from a kit that she got for her birthday. I personally think that the DIY slime has a better texture than this stuff did, but it was still fun for both of us!

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We ended the week with another rainbow colored treat! French Macaroons!

Would you believe that I had never tried a French macaroon before? I see really delicious looking recipe videos for these things all the time, and I’ve really been wanting to try some! We stopped by the French Market & Creperie, and got a little baggie of imported authentic macaroons. They were deeeeeelicious! I would also like to give them a big shout-out for their amazing strawberry & creme Crepes. (We didn’t get crepes during this visit, but I included an image from the last time we got them.)

Check out their menu & locations HERE

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The lemon & the raspberry were our favorites!

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featured, Food

German Night

GermanJagerschnitzel (1)

I don’t know if any of you guys have done much digging into your family name & origins, but it is something that is a HUGE interest to me. I’ve traced my family tree back REALLY far. I’m fortunate that my family kept a LOT of papers and diaries. I’ve been able to research using sites like Ancestry to corroborate a lot of my family history that has been passed down, and fill in any gaps. One thing that I always knew growing up, was that our family was originally from Germany. My family immigrated to New York very early on, and many of my relatives remain there today! This simple connection has always left me eager to learn more about my German roots.

Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to visit a German restaurant here in Knoxville. Linderhof Restaurant was my first real exposure to German food. I was advised by a friend about what to get beforehand. I did end up trying the jägerschnitzel with fried potatoes, and had a variety of different “salad” type options which mainly consisted of cabbage & vinegar. All of this is perfect for me because I LOVE vinegar! Before going, I didn’t even know what jägerschnitzel was. If you’re unsure, let me give you the low down. Schnitzel is the main dish. It is a type of meat (usually pork), that is pounded thin, breaded, and fried. The type of “sauce” that is served with it, describes the type of schnitzel. In this case, “jäger” sauce, is a brown mushroom gravy. Jäger actually means “hunter” in German. It is supposed to be a sauce made with ingredients that a hunter might have at his disposal. Also, don’t let me fool you into thinking that I knew any of this. My friend educated me during dinner.

Dinner at Linderhof was amazing and I highly recommend it! It also has a pretty cool atmosphere! I’ve heard from more than one person that occasionally the owner will even come out an play accordion music while people eat. You can check out their website here. It has been under construction for a while, so following them on facebook may be a better option.

So that was my first and only dabble into German cuisine….until I hit the jackpot at Aldi last week. If you were unaware, Aldi is actually a German chain, so you can find a lot of cool German food there from time to time. Last week, their freezer section had a ton of options that I had seen on the menu at Linderhof. I decided to get a box of schnitzel and a spinach & feta strudel, and plan a German dinner for myself and the little one. Later in the week, it hit me that I had failed to consider the sauce for the schnitzel. Thankfully, the box includes a simple recipe for jäger sauce if you’re in a pinch. I wanted something a bit more authentic, so I held off until I could get back to the store. During a quick trip yesterday, I acquired a lovely carton of mushrooms and I quickly decided that Jägerschnitzel was in my immediate future! For the schnitzel, I just followed the directions on the box, and fried it to a lovely golden brown. The jäger sauce I made from scratch and it turned out AMAZING! (I’ll share the recipe below) The strudel, was just an easy “pop in the oven” type side, but it was quite good too! I don’t think it would be difficult to make your own schnitzel, and I’ll probably try that next time. This was an easy “first time” experience.

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Yum! Schnitzel!

Start your sauce first: It takes the longest, and allowing it to simmer a bit while you fry your schnitzel will only make it better! Start off with butter and onions. Cook until they start to brown. Then add garlic.

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Speaking of awesome Aldi finds: This bagged garlic is amazing! I HATE peeling garlic!

Add in those mushrooms and cook until the liquid from the mushrooms is gone! It smells SO GOOD!

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This is what you’re looking for. Next add in your flour. We are basically making a gravy. When you add this, it will get kind of sticky- that’s normal. Let it cook for a couple minutes before adding in your beef broth, vinegar, and spices. Be sure to scrape up all those yummy brown bits on the bottom of the pan! When you add in the liquids, you’ll begin to whisk until the mixture thickens, then allow it to simmer (covered) on low.

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The finished product should look something like this.

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Even the tiny human was impressed! She requested the leftovers for her lunch at school tomorrow!

Jägerschnitzel

Ingredients

  • Cooked schnitzel (See post)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 16 oz. fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used baby bellas)
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • +/- 1-2 Tbsp of heavy cream

 

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter (or bacon grease this will yield the most flavor) in a pan over medium-high heat and fry the onions until beginning to brown.  Add the garlic and cook another minute.

  2. Add the mushrooms and cook 5-7 minutes or until golden and the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated.

  3. Add the butter and melt.  Add the flour, stir to combine and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring continually.

  4. Add the beef broth, vinegar, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper.  Whisk continually until the gravy is thickened.  Cover and simmer on low, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If you prefer the gravy thinner add a little more water (or heavy cream if using)

    Serve the schnitzel hot and covered in the jäger sauce! Enjoy!

     

featured, Food, Parenting

Spaghetti Ice Cream

Spaghetti Ice Cream

Months ago, a picture scrolled across my newsfeed of what appeared to be spaghetti….upon examining the post closer, I was surprised to learn that it was actually ice cream! I thought it was such a cute idea, and I made a mental note that I wanted to try it sometime. Fast forward to this past weekend, when another image of alluring spaghetti ice cream scrolls across my phone screen. I decided to do some research about this dish, and try to make my own!

Cool things I learned: This ice cream dish is actually German! I wouldn’t have guessed that, but it worked out well for me since I decided to try it out on a friend who spent several years in Germany! If it isn’t obvious, this is a GREAT dessert option for kids! They are pretty stoked about ice cream that looks like spaghetti! Let’s get down to the details about how to pull this off in your own home so that you too can impress German friends and children alike!

Items You’ll Need:

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This crazy looking tool is a “potato ricer.” I got this bad boy from my Grandmother many years ago. I pushed it to the back of a drawer with no intentions of ever using it. I could not foresee a recipe that I would ever make that would require such a tool. I’m thankful for once, for my inability to part with things. I will say that it is preferred for this recipe, to have a ricer that has holes only on the bottom, but I was able to place a layer of packing tape around the sides to prevent leakage. It worked well, and got the job done. If you don’t have an ancient potato ricer that your Grandmother left to you, these guys are also available on Amazon. There are a lot of options out there, but HERE is a fairly cheap one.

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The “meatballs” in this recipe are optional. There are also a variety of options that you can use to make them. I baked a batch of brownies the night before. Once they were cooled completely, I shaped them into small balls with my hands. I’ve also seen people use Ferrero Rocher candies, and even small scoops of chocolate ice cream.

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You’ll also need some frozen whipped topping. Use a small to medium sized scoop in the middle of your plate FIRST. This creates height & some extra flavor. I have been advised that an unsweetened cream version is the most authentic.

A bar of white chocolate can be grated using a standard cheese grater to give the appearance of “Parmesan cheese.”

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This was our finished product. It doesn’t take much, but adds a great visual detail to the dish.

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You’ll also want to have a strawberry sauce to use as the “marinara” for the spaghetti. I made a homemade sauce that was super easy and really good. I’ll include the recipe below. If you don’t want to make your own, you can purchase a pre-made version, or even warm up strawberry jam if you’re in a pinch!

Strawberry Sauce

  • 1 lb fresh strawberries (De-stemmed and chopped)
  • 1/3 cup Sugar
  • Fresh lemon juice (juice from 1/2 a lemon)

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Allow it to come to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for ~20-30 minutes. Let it cool in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. It will continue to thicken as it cools.

*I also used my immersion blender briefly to make it less chunky.*

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Finally, you’ll need some delicious vanilla ice cream or gelato. The most important things here are to get an ice cream free from chunky additives. Chocolate chips aren’t going to squeeze through that ricer. Additives also take away from the visual that we are going for here. The other important thing is to allow your ice cream to sit at room temperature to soften a bit. If it is fully frozen, it does not squeeze through the ricer well. The soft ice cream actually holds it’s shape better

 

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Now that we have everything we need, let’s discuss putting it together!

Directions

  • The number one tip I have is to freeze the plate that you will be making your spaghetti on. I placed my plate in a few hours before so it would be nice and cold.
  • After your plate is cold, scoop a small to medium size scoop of frozen whipped topping onto the frozen plate.
  • Next (using a separate plate) place the ricer on this plate so you can scoop the softened ice cream into it. You will certainly get some leaking and melting (hence the extra plate to catch the mess.) You’ll want to put a pretty large amount of ice cream in there.
  • Now that the ricer is full, pick it up and squeeze it out over top of your frozen whipped topping on the frozen plate.
  • Use a knife or spoon to scrape the bottom of the ricer and release the end of the “noodles.”
  • Next, cover the “noodles” in your strawberry sauce
  • If you are using “meatballs,” place them now
  • Finally, sprinkle the white chocolate “Parmesan cheese” over the top to complete your dish!
  • Get some pics and enjoy immediately!

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I still plan to visit the restaurant that was featured in the original post!

You can check out their menu HERE.

I hope you and your kiddos enjoy this as much as we did!

Activities, featured, Parenting

Leaf Rubbings

LeafRubbings

It’s officially September! What does that mean??? It means that I can now shamelessly put up all my fall and Halloween decor without feeling guilty or embarrassing my neighbors! It means that I am now in full fledged “fall mode” despite the fact that it is still sweltering outside! Check out this little sneak peak of our fall mantle this year…

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I think it’s interesting that as a child, fall was my least favorite season. I’m certain this had something to do with school starting, and summer being over. As an adult, I simply adore the chilly air, the beautiful colors, fun recipes, and tons of holiday activities. As an adult, fall is now my absolute favorite time of year. I LOVE any excuse to decorate, and fall marks the beginning of “decorating season.” A mantle is a blank slate just waiting to be transformed. I used to be a purist when it came to fall decor. I never decorated with anything “Halloween themed.”I stuck with pumpkins, corn stalks, and hay bales.  I’ve always been under the opinion that Halloween decor was fake looking and somewhat “trashy.”  In the past few years, I’ve grown to appreciate the addition of a few Halloween pieces to my own decor. I think i prefer simple and more classic looking Halloween decor for my own home, but I’m open to anything that’s done up right! Here I utilized dried birch branches offset at different heights on the left. I also purchased some cut out bats a few years ago from Big Lots. I always stick them to the walls and decor on the mantle to add some depth. They are also waterproof and I use them outside on my porch as well. I have a few old windows and pictures that I rotate on the mantle throughout the year. I generally pick the oldest & spookiest looking window for this time of year. The rest of the decor was picked up during yard sales, and post holiday sales. I always keep an eye out for things even out of season to score a great price!

After decorating, I let Neyland chose our project this week. She chose to do leaf rubbings! This is one of our favorite fall activities, although we actually do it several times throughout the year. It’s also a nice way to get some “fall artwork” up in your home!

We started out by venturing out in our yard to collect some cool looking leaves. You’ll want to take the time to pick ones that have super cool patterns and shapes. Here are the ones that we chose.

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If you can’t tell from the picture, she was pretty excited about this!

After you get your leaves, you’ll need a few sheets of white paper, some crayons, and a smooth surface. Let your little one pick a few leaves and place them on a sheet of paper. Next, place another sheet on top of the leaves and use a crayon to “rub” the pattern of the leaf onto the paper.

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You may want to help your kiddos hold the paper nice and still. Mine has a tendency to move the top paper around and lose her place on her leaf.

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Check out our finished products!

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We also took the time to identify and label what types of leaves we had collected and colored. She enjoyed learning that maple syrup actually comes from maple trees! Now we have some nice fall themed artwork to hang up in our home! Yay fall!!!