Tuesday Tattles: Road Trip Edition

Tuesday Tattles

Now that we are almost settled in California I figure it’s as good a time as any to share my newly acquired wisdom on a long road trip with little ones!

Tip number 1: get a minivan.

Only joking, except that we absolutely love ours and it definitely makes road trip driving (and everyday) driving a little easier. The amount of floor space and storage space we had was impressive!

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Taking a road trip is definitely easier than flying when babies are involved. But it’s not exactly a walk in the park either. Not having a limit on items and liquids makes life so much better, not to mention you don’t have to have a squirming baby on your lap giving you busted lips and black eyes.

Here’s a list of some of the items that made our 5-day drive go relatively smoothly:

Car Seat Toys

I put two car seat toys on rings for Treat to stare at and occasionally grab. The links
prevented him from accidentally throwing them out of his car seat. Mr. Turtle and Freckles are now well loved car companions. (Those names were given by me during an attempt to cheer him up.)

Zeta the Zebra Teething Toy

Firecracker had the classic Sophie the Giraffe teething toy so to prevent any confusion Treat gets a different version. (Granted, Sophie has been lost for almost a year now.)

Disposable Bed Mats

Now here’s an item you probably didn’t expect to see on this list! Treat is the king of diaper blowouts and I wasn’t about to worry about needing to wash the car seat cover in the middle of nowhere. I simply folded up one of these (cutting one in half to fold would be even better!) under his bum for the trip. Really, I should maintain this practice until he starts solid foods…

Diapers and Wipes

I simply kept a jumbo diaper box and filled it with diapers for each the kids as well as a tub of wipes (with refills) on the floor in the backseat for easy access.

Hand Sanitizing Wipes

When gas stations and public rest area restrooms are the main stops it’s highly recommended to have an easy way to clean both adult hands and children hands.

Mirrors

If you don’t already use mirrors for the kiddos during day-to-day travel, you’ll definitely want them for a long road trip. It’s always good to know if they’re asleep and/or starting to stir when planning driving breaks.

Media Station

Unless your vehicle is equipped with rear entertainment, you can easily create your own set up. We got a $5 universal tablet holder and hooked it up to the middle seat headrest. The holder is intended for the back of headrests but as my kids are still rear facing our method worked just fine! We downloaded a season of  Wallykazam and turned it on in moments of great need. Surprisingly Firecracker didn’t acknowledge its addition to the backseat for a long time so we didn’t need to use it until halfway through our trip.

For the adults, books on CD to help with the 40-odd hours of driving. My choice: the whole Harry Potter series! We got through all of books 1 and 2 and more than half of book 3! I am now continuing listening to the series to make LA traffic much more bearable.

Box of Books and Toys

I knew we couldn’t let the movers pack up all of the toys so I kept a bin of the absolute favorites for Firecracker to grab and play with as desired. Of course all the trains made the cut as did Scout, phone, and laptop. I kept some books out for hotel nights, too, mostly those that are bedtime appropriate.

Food

A small cooler of food was definitely a blessing on a long trip. I was able to keep cheese and fruit as well as ingredients for countless PB&Js. Snacks for the adults was also necessary for long stretches of driving. And water! Just don’t forget some silverware, baggies, and cups.

Cereal Storage Box

I can’t take credit for this one. I saw this tip on Pinterest many years ago and have kept a bin (and plastic shopping bags) in my car ever since as a vehicular garbage can. It’s great for tissues, food wrappers, and receipts. I suggest keeping soiled diapers in a deodorized bag though if you can’t toss them elsewhere right away. (Yes, we made a highly necessary diaper and outfit change in the middle of nowhere. Only once though!)

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Coming soon will be more details as well as tips and lessons learned for getting through another military move.

Dislclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

#MuffinMonday: Apple Carrot Muffins

Muffin Monday

#MuffinMonday is a group of muffin loving bakers who get together once a month to bake muffins to brighten their Mondays. There isn’t a theme to #MuffinMonday posts so anything goes, as long as it’s a muffin!

You can see all our of lovely muffins by following our Pinterest board. Updated links for all of our past events and more information about Muffin Monday can be found on our home page.

My cookbook library received a well deserved expansion this past Christmas and we excitedly started cooking out of them immediately. One of the books I received was a signed copy of Giada’s Happy Cooking. This cookbook is quite different from her previous cookbooks in both feel and format. Looking through the book makes me feel like I’m going through a beautiful magazine instead of a book book. There’s even a very honest introduction written by Giada.

The first thing we made were the black bean brownies. All I can say is these were… different. To be fair, we changed it up and used a can of refried black beans instead of regular black beans. Stuart took the interesting result to work for others to try our experiment. Successful wouldn’t be the term to describe that baking adventure! Maybe we’ll give them another go and follow her recipe exactly.

Apple Carrot Muffins for #MuffinMonday from Sew You Think You Can Cook (2)

Today’s muffins came from Happy Cooking. I did have to use all AP flour because I was out of wheat flour and omitted the flax meal. As always, I used cinnamon applesauce in place of the unsweeted regular applesauce called for. I also substituted golden raisins in place of dried goji berries. (I wouldn’t recommend shredding baby carrots, but you do what you gotta do!) Even with my changes, these muffins were definitely successful!

This recipe makes one dozen muffins.

Carrot and Apple Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 1 C dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 C flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 C cinnamon applesauce
  • 1/4 C apple juice
  • 1/2 – 2/3 C shredded carrot
  • 1/4 C golden raisins

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with liners.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and allspice. Add half of the flour mixture to the stand mixer and mix until combined.
  4. Add the applesauce and apple juice. Mix until incorporated.
  5. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until combined. Fold in the carrot and raisins.
  6. Divide batter among the prepared muffin tin.
  7. Bake 18 – 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out cleanly. Allow muffins to cool in the pan 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

*This recipe is modified from Giada’s Happy Cooking*

Apple Carrot Muffins for #MuffinMonday from Sew You Think You Can Cook (1)

And don’t forget to check out these other muffin recipes:

Blueberry Cornmeal Sourdough Muffins from Karen’s Kitchen Stories

Cherry Chocolate Chip Muffins from Palatable Pastime

Cinnamon Molasses Muffins from Passion Kneaded

Cranberry White Chocolate Muffins from Making Miracles

Peanut Butter Cup Filled Chocolate Muffins from Food Lust People Love

Spicy and Sweet Hummus Muffins from Kelli’s Kitchen

Strawberry Vanilla Yogurt Muffins from Farm Fresh Feasts

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. 

#SundaySupper: Regional Specialties

I couldn’t resist this perfectly themed Sunday Supper event! We just moved to California and have a whole new culinary world open to us. I knew I had to participate in today’s event hosted by Sue of A Palatable Pastime.
While we were house hunting, and then waiting for move-in day, we were staying in temporary housing about a half an hour away (without traffic – ha!) from where we want to live. Our little room has been like living in a tiny house, except that the bed isn’t a loft space. The kitchen has all the essentials: stove/oven, microwave, coffee pot, fridge with freezer. There are even some dishes for our use: pots and pans, cutting board, knife set, plates/bowls, etc.

You can’t get in the car without seeing a donut shop or a burger joint, but those options weren’t easily feasible given my current kitchen situation. I wasn’t about to deep fry some donuts or fry up some juicy burgers in a small space where a warning that the fire alarm is very sensitive predominantly posted above the sink.

Southern California is predominantly known for Mexican food and avocados. So, I decided to make tacos for today’s event. My husband requested fish tacos, so that’s what I did. I’m glad too because it felt nice to eat fresh, homemade food after a week long road trip and countless meals eaten out. I was nervous about cooking fish in such a small space, but I was happily surprised that there wasn’t any odor from cooking fresh fish in the microwave. Seriously, who knew!? The fish was flaky, tender, and juicy, too. Dare I say my best fish yet? Although, some salt would’ve been nice. I’ve always taken salt for granted that I didn’t think to purchase any on my grocery trip. Oh well.

I didn’t have a container large enough to make the full pound of fish I purchased so I made half of it one night for dinner as a trial run. I prepared the dish again for lunch the following day to take advantage of the Southern California sunlight!

 I set up my food styling on a pizza pan and used the fresh produce to give some life to my taco display. I had to place the dish on the floor outside our room, but I think it turned out great. I’m looking forward to seeing an improvement in my photography skills while we’re in Cali for the next 2-4 years!

The knives available to me are horrendous. I can flex the blades with my hands making it near impossible to cut anything, if you look closely you can see the grooves the knife left on the avocado slices! But, I powered through and was impressed with how well I could shave the onion (because the knife couldn’t actually go through the vegetable).

Cali Inspired Fish Tacos for #SundaySupper from Sew You Think You Can Cook (2)

This recipe serves two.

Cali Inspired Fish Tacos

Ingredients:

  • juice 1 lime, plus more for serving
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp corriander
  • 1/2 lb fresh white fish
  • 4 fajita-sized tortillas (I used a corn-wheat blend)
  • cole slaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots – no dressing)
  • thinly slice red onion
  • fresh cilantro
  • avocado, sliced

Steps:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, chili powder, and corriander. Season to taste with S+P.
  2. Place fish in a microwave safe dish. Pour marinade over the fish, flip to coat. Refrigerate for 25-30 minutes.
  3. Microwave, slightly covered, for 3 minutes. Flake into bite sized pieces.
  4. Assemble tacos: place cooked fish, slaw, onion, cilantro, and avocado in tortillas. Squeeze with fresh lime.

*This recipe is adapted from Kate at http://www.food.com/recipe/california-fish-tacos-ww-480056*

Cali Inspired Fish Tacos for #SundaySupper from Sew You Think You Can Cook (1)

Appetizers:

Beverages:

Breakfast:

Salads:

Sauces:

Side Dishes:

Soups:

Main Dish:

Desserts:

Plus:

8387592742_f6164fd5a8_oJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the#SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Thursday Thoughts #16

Thursday Thoughts

Last week I shared our favorite kid-friendly activities to do in the Southwest region of Ohio. Today I’m sharing our favorite dining destinations. … And my favorite quilt shop.

Best Places to Eat in the Dayton, Ohio Area

Oregon Express

We didn’t get to check out a lot of the restaurants in Downtown Dayton because of the kids, but we made an exception for this bar! For Christmas 2014 my parents gave me tickets to see Wicked at the Schuster Center, with the promise that my mom would travel up and baby-sit Firecracker. We searched for a place to go do dinner before the show and settled on the Oregon Express for pizza. This was some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. Thin, crispy crust with a lightly sweet sauce and cut into squares like all thin crust pizza should be! We loved this pizza so much that we had to go again, so we chose a random time (2-3pm) when a one-year-old wouldn’t be a bother. It’s a bar so there wasn’t a highchair in sight. The waitress was very kind and patient with the toddler running around the empty establishment.

Pies and Pints

Pies and Pints was another favorite {and kid-friendly} destination. Their pizza flavor profiles are unique and you can even do half-and-half on their large pizzas of the specialty pies. The Chicken Gouda (smoked gouda, chicken, bacon, and chipotle crema) was a staple and could almost never be beat by any other flavor we tried; though my husband always jumped at the chance to order a Thai when we had enough people for more than one pizza so that the coconut wouldn’t contaminate my slices. Their kid’s pizzas are a great size, usually yielding 2-3 meals, and they come to the table as soon as they’re ready rather than waiting for the full order. Turns out there are multiple location in OH, WV, and KY.

Spinozas

Keeping with the pizza theme here. You’d think that’s all we eat! And sometimes it seems like it. But you’ll never hear me complain about it. Spinozas is attached to the mall and therefore is another kid-friendly eatery. They’ll even provide some raw pizza dough for kids to play with while waiting on the meal. Their Spinoza “Swirl” Bread is my absolute favorite thing on the menu, and Firecracker agrees. Their pizzas are very unique and my husband’s favorite is the Yin Yang, a crazy combination of Chorizo, Gorgonzola, and glazed walnuts. They also have pizzas with bases of hummus or garlic oil instead of tomato sauce. I like their well-sized Baruch’s Favorite salad which contains dried cherries, Brie, and glazed walnuts tossed in a raspberry vinaigrette with a slice of cinnamon flat bread.

Meadowlark

I can only speak to Meadowlark’s brunch menu, but I can tell you it’s amazing. We went twice, each after our sons’ baptisms. Their menus are seasonal and everything is made from scratch. Firecracker was baptized in May of 2015 and on the menu was a fried green tomato sandwich that changed my life (okay, not really), but I have been craving that perfectly crafted sandwich every day since. Treat was baptized in March of 2016 and that beautiful sandwich wasn’t on the menu yet. Their liver pate was sensational, though.

La Colombiana Restaurante 

When we had some previous coworkers from Florida travel to Dayton on business we met up with them at La Colombiana in Beavercreek. The food here is all made to order so be prepared to enjoy the company of your eating companions while you wait for your order. The staff is very friendly and attentive. I promise that the wait is worth it. We took my parents during our last weekend in the Dayton area and my Dad absolutely loved it. While the cuisine is different from Dominican cuisine, the flavors are comfortingly similar. The portion sizes are huge and very well priced. The Arroz con Pollo is large enough to feed two people and full of flavor. For a great assortment of traditional flavors try the Plato Tipico, it’s also enough to feed two. Their empanadas are great to share with the table or enough to be a meal for one.

King Garden

It took us a long time to find a good take-out Chinese place and King Garden in Beavercreek finally fit the bill. Their Mongolian beef is almost perfect, the onions are sweet and charred and the beef is tender, it doesn’t get a full 100 points, though, because the onion to beef ratio isn’t right, there isn’t enough meat! But maybe I think that because Firecracker ends up taking most of it.

Graeter’s

Graeter’s is an ice cream chain in the midwest that began 145 years ago in Cincinnati, Ohio. My step-grandfather, Grandpa Ray, grew up in the Cincinnati area and his kids would ship him Graeter’s ice cream down to Florida after he’d married my Busia. I now know why! The black raspberry chocolate chip is my hands down favorite. To be fair though, I never got a chance to try the seasonal Cinnamon in November/December or the Key Lime in August.

101 Beer Kitchen

One of the reasons we preferred the Columbus Zoo to the Cincinnati Zoo is because of the 101 Beer Kitchen and their Loaded House Made Tater Tots. Their menu changes based on the season but their featured pizza was a hit according to whoever ordered it. And their steak, when on the menu, is cooked to perfection.

Fabric Shack

fabric shackAs promised, I couldn’t leave Ohio without finding a favorite quilt shop. The winner here is the Fabric Shack in Waynesville. This shop was worth the 30-40 minute commute. It has an impressive collection of batiks, a great children’s section, and other beautiful novelty fabrics I’d not seen anywhere else.

 

 

Blueberry Scones

The last time my mom came to visit (in Ohio) she made a batch of blueberry scones. She had an early flight out of town and wanted to take one with her in the cab to the airport. Apparently, she makes these scones almost once or twice a month as an easy grab-and-go breakfast.

I decided I’d take advantage of her spontaneous baking and take pictures of the scones, but every time the thought crossed my mind I’d get distracted. Probably had a diaper to change, ha! And then before I knew it, there was only one scone left. The boys in my house quickly gobbled up these scones.

My mom had the scone batter made and popped in the oven before I even knew what was happening. There isn’t any excuse not to make these myself, especially because I now have the recipe.

My mom usually uses frozen blueberries but she used fresh blueberries the last time she made them and declares them better that way. Use whatever you have, other fruits would work in this recipe, too.

Blueberry Scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 C flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick cold butter, cubed
  • 1/4 C sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2/3 C milk
  • 1/2 C fresh or frozen blueberries

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the cubes of butter until it looks like crumbs.
  3. Stir in the sugar. Add the milk and mix with a fork until combined. Fold in blueberries.
  4. Form (“mush” is the term my mom used) dough into a disk and place on a baking sheet. Cut into 6-8 wedges. Spread wedges apart slightly if you want crispy edges or leave touching for soft edges. Sprinkle scones with a little extra sugar, if desired.
  5. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown on the edge/top. Scones will be done when  toothpick inserted comes out cleanly.

*This recipe is adapted from http://www.food.com/recipe/simple-sweet-scones-66409*

Blueberry Scones - Sew You Think You Can Cook

Thursday Thoughts #15

Thursday Thoughts

As some of you may know, we have left Ohio for California! We spent a year and a half in the Dayton area while my husband earned his Masters degree.

Here are some of our favorite {kid-friendly} things to do in SW Ohio.

Next week, I’ll share some of our favorite food destinations.

EnterTRAINmentJunction

If you have any kids who love trains, or you’re an adult who loves model trains, this attraction is a must-see. With more than 2 miles of track in a 25,000 sqft space, this display is the largest model train display in the world! And it’s impressive. The path takes you through the history of train usage beginning with pre-Civil War and going all the way to modern times. There’s even a second floor loft area displaying Coney Island and providing an overhead view of the exhibit. They have scavenger hunts set up throughout the displays, too. Supposedly 10 dinosaurs are placed amongst the scenery, but in two trips we’ve only spotted 7. There’s also a large indoor play area which makes the trip ideal when the weather is cold and rainy. Two outdoor rides that are available Memorial Day thru Labor Day which we didn’t get a chance to experience. Another attraction we didn’t explore is the A-Maze-N Funhouse geared toward older kids.

EnterTRAINment Junction is located halfway between Dayton and Cincinnati on I-675 in West Chester, OH.

National Museum of the USAF

A great, free family destination is the National Museum of the Air Force. The meuseum is located in Dayton, OH. You should note that this museum is massive and it would be near impossible to see everything. If you have a longer trip to the Dayton area I’d suggest only one or two exhibits at a time. It’s a good place to “get your steps” on a cold day, too. During the week it’s not very busy and easier to let the little ones walk around a little more freely.

Young’s Jersey Dairy

Young’s Dairy in Yellow Springs, OH is a fun place to go on beautiful days. They have seasonal activities all year round. In the Winter you can cut your own Christmas trees, there’s an annual Easter Egg Hunt in the Spring, a vintage car show in the Summer, and pumpkin picking in the Fall. We’ve only ever gone to the Dairy in the Fall. There’s a miniature golf course on the property, too! In the evenings you can watch them milking the cows, an event I regret not seeing. During the day though you can pet and feed the goats, and whatever cows are around.

The food at Young’s is good, too. The buffalo cheddar cheese curds are quite delicious and their ice cream alone is worth a trip to the dairy.

Fruit Picking

At the end of the summer, we went berry picking at the Homestead Berry Farm. Firecracker was only 25 months old at the time and he loved running down the aisles of berry bushes and picking raspberries right off the bush! He’d not tried raspberries prior to that outing, despite my trying; now, they’re still one of his favorites! (Though, I don’t think anything will top blueberries.) We filled up a pint of fresh picked raspberries and one pint of fresh picked blackberries. My husband did the blackberry picking while I kept Firecracker away from those prickly bushes, he said it was fun searching for the treasure of the blackberries which grew hidden among the leaves. We also bought a jar of blackberry jam which was delicious on toast.

In the fall, my mom and I went apple picking at Monnin’s Fruit Farm. Once again, my son voluntarily took a bite of an apple that he himself plucked. It’s too bad apples didn’t have the same staying power as the raspberries did. We picked a half-bushel and split the bounty. So many apples! I used some of them in my favorite waffle recipe to date – Apple Pie Waffles.

Zoos

The zoo is always a winner with little ones and we were located right in the middle of two great options: The Cincinatti Zoo and The Columbus Zoo. Both are about an hour drive from Dayton. We explored both zoos while in the Dayton area. While our personal favorite was the Columbus Zoo, I don’t have any bad things to say regarding the Cincinatti Zoo. The Columbus Zoo has a small aquarium on premises and a water park (which we didn’t get to explore, to my husband’s disappointment). General Admission to the Cincinatti Zoo runs at $16, for the Columbus Zoo $19.99. Parking at both attractions is $10. My suggestion for any zoo trip is to go on a less than perfect weather day. Our best animal viewing occurred on a slightly cool, cloudy day with a threat of rain. When it’s not hot the animals are active and the crowds aren’t overpowering either!


Broccoli Artichoke Dip

Right before the Super Bowl the Sunday Supper Movement hosted a Big Game Day Recipes event. During that event I shared Slow Cooker Thai Wings. There were a good number of recipes I wanted to try, but the Roasted Broccoli Artichoke Dip by Cooking Chat was the one I’d picked to make first! With only two (maybe 2.5) of us, I halved the recipe. I shouldn’t have though, because I ate about half of it for lunch that day! The rest of it was inhaled by my husband. Between the two eating sessions, I stored the dip in the fridge. When cold, it got a little too hard for the chips to hold up against, but a quick 10-15 seconds in the microwave fixed the broken chip problem.

We ate this dip with multigrain tortilla chips (our favorite!), but it would be wonderful with pita, too.

broc dip 1 FG1

Broccoli Artichoke Dip

Ingredients:

  • 1 head broccoli, florets chopped
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic, divided use
  • ½ can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained
  • 4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¼ C sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • ¼ tsp dried parsley
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • 1/8 C Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon juice, as needed

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss broccoli in olive oil with ½ the garlic. Season with S+P. Place on a baking sheet and roast 15-20 minutes, until softened. Set aside to cool.
  3. Place broccoli, artichokes, and scallion in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
  4. Add cream cheese and sour cream to the food processor and pulse until combined. Mix in the parsley, cumin, and Parmesan, pulse until fully incorporated. Add lemon juice, S+P to taste.

*This recipe is adapted from David at http://cookingchatfood.com/broccoli-artichoke-dip/*

broc dip 2 FG1