Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rewind: Levi's 5th Birthday

It has been busy here this past month. So busy, that I didn't even get to write a post about Levi's 5th birthday.

We first celebrated at a party with family and friends. Levi requested a Transformers theme.

After requesting multiply Transformers for the top of his cake, he decided on Optimus Prime. For the cake I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe with buttercream frosting.

Levi and his buddy, David
Cake time!

The kids all huddled up for the presents.

One of his favorite gifts--a mini Buck knife like Daddy's.

On his actual birthday, March 25, he had a party with his preschool classmates. We played simple party games-many of which I remember playing at my own parties as a child.

I made an Optimus Prime cupcake cake for that party. I used my confetti cupcake recipe with buttercream.

What a treat it is to be mommy to Levi. He is a smart, funny, and loving little boy. He constantly amazes us with his memory and his wit.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 that you?

Yesterday the thermometer rose above 50 degrees. It was at least November, maybe even October since that last happened. Though I enjoy winter, this one has seemed very long. So, we had to get outside to enjoy this weather.

With the snow melting, there were plenty of puddles for the kids to splash in. We all enjoyed the fresh air and "warmth". It makes me hopeful that spring will indeed come...eventually. (I'm choosing to ignore the fact that we are getting 3 to 5 inches of snow tomorrow.)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

February Fun

It's the end of February and it's still extra cold here, but we've been busy with friends and family so the month has quickly passed by. I thought I'd show some highlights from the fun we've been having.

Playing with Lillian's Valentine play-doh.
Valentine's Day lunch with cousins Griffin and Trenton.
John and I shared a cheesecake for two and watched a movie for Valentine's Day.
The kids and I spent a long weekend in Iowa visiting family.
Gearing up to cheer on the undefeated Panther wrestling team.
A hug from T.C. (The Cat) for Levi. Lillian preferred to keep her distance.
Enjoying the meet with Uncle Nathan and Aunt Steffoni.
Grandma K had plenty of snow to play in.

We got to spend time with my cousin, Michelle, and her family who were in town from Washington. We had a perfect day for sledding-sunny and actually kind of warm.
Michelle, Abby, and Lillian
Hunter and Levi
Abby and Lillian building a snowman.
Wayne built a jump for us and took Levi on a run with him.
When we got home we had a belated birthday dinner for John. He requested an apple pie, as usual.
A trip to the Volo Auto Museum-a first for our family.
Levi's friend Anna and her dad and brother came along too. He was super excited to see Bumblebee.
Lillian-our speed racer.
The Circus Spectacular with more friends. Levi loved the stunt dirt bike riders.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Tomato Soup

I love tomatoes, but grew up not eating tomato soup. Maybe I never had good homemade tomato soup, but it stuck with me into adulthood that I didn't like it. A few years ago, I decided to give it another try. I've found that a lot of the things I didn't like growing up, I've developed a taste for as an adult.

This is a simple recipe and makes a small batch. I often make it for lunch. I have also doubled it and frozen it in individual servings. It is perfect when paired with a grilled cheese sandwich.

Tomato Soup
from The Baby & Toddler Cookbook

1 can (28 oz.) plum tomatoes, with their juice (I use my own frozen diced tomatoes.)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 C. vegetable or chicken stock
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. heavy cream

In a food processor or blender, process the tomatoes and their juices to a smooth puree. Set aside. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stock, sugar, and salt and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Transfer the soup to a food processor or blender; reserve the saucepan. Working in batches if necessary, process the soup until smooth, then return it to the saucepan. Stir in the cream and heat for a few minutes. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cheeseburger Soup

January here has been really cold. What's better on a cold day than a bowl of soup? We have soup at least once a week during the winter. I thought I'd start sharing some of our family's favorite soup recipes. Cheeseburger Soup is a very easy soup to put together. You probably have the ingredients on hand already. It's a crow-pleaser with adults and kids.

Cheeseburger Soup

1 to 1 1/2 lb. ground beef
3 T. butter or oil
3/4 C. chopped onion
3/4 C. shredded carrots
3/4 C. diced celery
4 C. chicken broth
4 C. diced potatoes
1/4 C. flour
10-12 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 C. milk
1 1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 to 1 tsp. minced garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 C. sour cream or plain yogurt

Brown ground beef, drain and set aside. Saute onion, carrots, celery, and basil about 5 min. Stir in flour and add broth, potatoes, and ground beef. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender (15-20 min.). Add salt, pepper, minced garlic, cheese, and milk. Stir and cook to melt cheese and heat soup through. Remove from heat. Blend in sour cream and serve.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Winter Walk

This weekend we took advantage of the "warmer" weather (everything's relative, right?) to go for a hike in The Hollows. It was a beautiful walk through the woods and past the frozen marsh.

We saw lots of animal tracks, but the only wildlife we saw were birds. We happened upon some old foundations in the woods. I don't remember these from past trips to The Hollows, but it was a fun find. It's neat to see a piece of history and imagine the settlers who once called it home.

The fresh air was wonderful and it is a sweet winter memory.

For information on The Hollows and other places for hiking and outdoor fun, you can visit the McHenry County Conservation District website.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tea with Downton Abbey

Like most Downton Abbey fans, I have been anxiously awaiting the new season. What will happen to Mary and the rest of the family following Matthew's death? Tonight, we'll find out.

I've seen lots of fun ideas for Downton Abbey-themed parties on Pinterest, but tonight it will be just John and me watching at our house. Still, I thought it'd be fun to have tea and a few things to nibble on. I made my favorite Lemon Blueberry Scones and a simple version of cucumber sandwiches.

For the sandwiches, I baked mini loaves of my regular wheat bread and sliced it thin. Then I spread each with Laughing Cow Light Cheese and topped with a slice of cucumber.

I like to make mini scones when I make up a scone recipe. They make for a better finger food and are a perfect size for the kids.

If you're looking for me on Sunday nights for the next few months, I will be glued to the TV watching the drama unfold at Downton Abbey.

Lemon Blueberry Scones

2 C. all-purpose flour
1/4 C. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. butter, chilled
1/2 C. milk
1/4 C. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 C. frozen blueberries (do not thaw)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut butter into 6-8 chunks and add to flour mixture, tossing to coat. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour mixture until it's sandy and butter is well distributed, with no pieces larger than a big pea. Add in milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest and stir until dough comes together. If dough is too wet, add an additional Tbsp. of flour to the dough.

Either keeping the dough in your mixing bowl, or turning it onto a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 1 min. Flatten dough and add blueberries. Knead gently for 30-60 seconds to distribute them. Divide dough into 2 balls and press each into a disc about 3/4 inch thick. Use a knife and divide each disc into triangles (8 large or 12 mini) and place scones on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 17-22 min., until scones are golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Lemon Glaze (optional, but highly recommended)
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 C. confectioners' sugar

Whisk glaze ingredients together until smooth. Drizzle over warm scones.