Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fresh Tomato Pizza

My tomatoes are ripe!
I'm sure many of you out there have been harvesting tomatoes for a long time now, but out here in Idaho, they're just coming on and are delicious. It's kind a time to celebrate. I've really been enjoying the mixture of tomatoes this year--all sorts of sizes, shapes and colors. I've been playing around with making my own salsa too, and while the recipe is not quite perfected, it has always been yummy. Kind of hard to mess that up I suppose.

 Well, here is yet another way to enjoy your garden fresh tomatoes--a tomato pizza.


 Super easy to make, and tomato pizza has a wonderfully fresh taste. If you are a tomato fan (and maybe even if you are not) you will love it.

Here's what you do:
  • Get your self some pizza dough. (This is my favorite recipe. Yes, I know it says for a baguette, but it's fantastic for pizza dough.)
  • Stretch your dough to your desired shape and thickness. Brush with a little olive oil (some good EVOO as Rachel Ray would say)
  • Arrange tomato slices on top. 
  • Dot with chunks of Mozzarella cheese.
  • Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs (I used oregano).
  • Bake at 450 for 10 minutes or so--until your cheese melts and gets a little brown on top.
 Enjoy your tomatoes!
I hope yours are as lovely as mine. :)

Monday, August 26, 2013

DIY: Turquoise and Lime Green Deck Redo

Ah! I am completely in love with my deck!

It seriously went from drab, to fab--check out the before picture:

Earlier this summer I made a "deck inspiration post" where I showed the image below of some of the ideas I had for the deck. Clearly it needed a little TLC if it was going to be any thing more than just ugly and "there." I will say, now we all love it. We eat meals out on the deck and just sit out there and enjoy the evening or morning coolness. It defiantly has the feel I was going for: cool, calm, kind of funky.

 I didn't use everything from the inspirational image above. I decided not to make the luminaries, although I still think they are wonderful. And I did have a half dozen old tin cans that I was using for planters, but honestly I didn't enjoy that a whole lot--they can hold only so much soil and moisture, so if I didn't water them every day on the dot then things were dying. I can see why, in the image above, succulents were planted in them--they need less water and I'm sure would do much better.

I did however, do some other fun things. 
1) First off, the deck seriously needed re-painted. It was bare in most places and my kids were even getting paint splinters. So, we painted the whole exterior of the house and then painted the deck. It took 1 gallon of paint. Total cost: ~ $36.

2) I knew right away I wanted a banner. So, while I made these scrap-fabric pennant banners, I also made one for the deck. For the scrap fabric party banners, I just used whatever I had around the house. For the deck, I found a great series of fabrics, all with the colors I needed just over at the ol' Walmart. So, I bought some and a spool of green ribbon to sew them too. Total cost: $10.

3) My girls and I also painted some sticks and made this cute painted-stick heart. I'm not really sure why I like it so much. Maybe just the memory of making it with them, maybe just the fact that it is kind of nature-y and funky all together. Total cost: $3 (for the paint).

4) I also bought some containers for plant pots. We have this crazy-weird, run-down shop in town where you can buy super cheap white plates and platters (yea!!!) and also pots. I bought 2 for $5.99 each and planted some plants in them. I also spray painted 2 pots I already had and filled them with plants. 
Total cost for the pots and plants: $38

5) We painted the picnic table. Total cost: $20

6) I found a great chevron recycled plastic floor pat at World Market that just so happened to be in the exact colors I wanted. Way cheaper than an outdoor rug and so awesome to just spray it off with a hose. Love, love it. Total cost: $65

So, the combined total cost for this fabulous transformation was: a little under $175
Kind of more than I expected to spend, but once I decided that it for-sure needed to be repainted and that I for-sure wanted a rug or floor mat or something, then it pretty much escalates. Considering that, I think we got off pretty inexpensively. And truly, what a great transformation it is!

Hurray for my cute deck! I really love it (in case you couldn't tell). I'm so happy that it looks great, feels great and that it is a place for our family to hang out and enjoy life together.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

One recipe, two ways: Whole Wheat Vegan Zucchini Muffins OR Chocolate Cupcakes

As some of our regular followers know, I am on a dairy-free, egg-free diet right now due to allergy issues with my nursing baby. I've been on quite the quest to find baked goods that I like despite these restrictions because, frankly, life without baked goods is kind of lame!

 I came up with a basic egg-free muffin recipe a few months back (also vegan). It's good, but variety is the spice of life, so I'm always trying out new things, and now that zucchini is on (and on and on and on because I always plant enough to feed a small army) I've been making these fantastic little muffins. 

Love 'em! So, so yummy. The texture is everything a muffin should be. 

I even put the batter in a bread pan one time and made zucchini bread out of it, and it too was great. I love them, my hubby loves them, and the kids eat them like cupcakes.

So one day, when I was making my daughters butterfly birthday cake, thinking about how I won't be able to eat any of it, I decided to turn these great muffins into cupcakes. I whipped up a batch, tossed in some chocolate chips and some cocoa powder until it tasted chocolatey enough, and bam! I had vegan, whole-wheat, chocolate zucchini cupcakes! And they were so good! I promise. :)

I've had a lot of people raise their eyebrows at me when I tell them about this recipe, and I agree--the words "vegan" and "whole-wheat" and "zucchini" should never be used to describe a cupcake. I mean, they seem mock the very essence of what a cupcake should be!
Well, so you would say until you tried these ones. :) They truly are fantastic. The zucchini makes them deliciously moist and the cinnamon tastes so good with the chocolate. No wonder I made them 4 times last month! 

Even my younger brother, who by all accounts is not a vegan-eating, whole-wheat-loving, hide-your-vegetables-in-your-goodies kind of guy, even he said they were some of the best cupcakes he ever had!

 So, now you are all dying for the recipe, right? Just one recipe, enjoyed two ways. Here you go and have a great day. :)

Vegan Zucchini Muffins or Cupcakes 
click here to print 

2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 ¾ c. white sugar
¾ c. canola oil
¼ c. almond milk (or other dairy-free milk substitute)
2 tsp. vanilla
4 c. grated zucchini

For the cupcake version:
Desired amount of chocolate chips
Desired amount of cocoa powder
Chocolate frosting

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Line muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. Mix together the wed ingredients: the oil, milk and vanilla. Add the sugar and stir until thick and syrupy. Add the zucchini.
  3. Combine together the dry ingredients: flours, salt, soda, powder, and cinnamon. Add to the wed ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. For the muffins, pour into the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
  5. For the cupcakes, add some chocolate chips and cocoa powder to taste. Then pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack then frost.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Super Hero Party

I have recently been planning my son's next birthday party and I was reminded of all the fun parties he's had in the past. Not sure why I never blogged about them... maybe because I was busy with the clean-up afterwards :)

So here is one of my favorites... the SUPER HERO PARTY!!!
 This party was so fun and really quite easy to and inexpensive to put together. 
Here's a list of all the games, treats, and ideas for you to throw your own.

I made a round 2 layer cake, frosted it yellow, and piped on a skyline with blue frosting. Pretty easy. 
Then I made star shaped sugar cookies and dipped them in colored candy melt and used yellow frosting to write "POW" "BAM" the birthday boy's name, age, and other fun hero phrases.
 (To get the cookies on sticks, just insert the sticks prior to baking. Be careful and use a spatula to get them off the pan, don't just pull on the stick. Once they cool they're pretty strong.) 
Stick all the fun star cookies into the cake and wha-la!

On our invite we asked all the kids to come in their best super hero costumes to help "Save David's Birthday". Not only were they cute... I mean cool, but it made for some great super hero play time.

We found these awesome super hero sippy-cups filled with apple juice for cheap (at Walmart). The kids had them as their drink, but also got to take home to cool re-usable sippies. 
Have you seen my FREE pattern for making super hero masks?
So easy and fun. I actually didn't get this done in time for the party, but they would have been perfect!

The kids also had treat bags for all the goodies they won playing games.

Leap over tall buildings in a single bound!- I covered cereal boxes with paper and drew on them to look like buildings, then the kids took turns 'leaping' over the buildings and through the sky (blue streamers hung from the ceiling over the boxes).

Stomp out the Bombs!- I through bombs (black balloons) all over the room and asked the heroes to 'stomp them out to save the party'. Little did they know the balloons were filled with candy!!! Just as much fun as a pinata without anyone swinging stick. 

Stop the Evil Villain!- This pretty much consisted of the boys (heroes) throwing large marshmallows at he dads (villains) til they gave up. Probably one of their favorite parts thanks to a couple dads that were really good sports. 

I think that's it! Hope I've given you some SUPER ideas for a party of your own!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Monkey Bites!

I saw this idea in my Better Homes and Gardens magazine last month and just had to try it. 
These are so easy, so fun, so yummy, and even look so impressive.
My kids went CRAZY for them!
and so I thought you ought to try them too.
Better yet, it takes just 3 ingredients you probably already have on hand. 

Just slice a banana or two and lay in a single layer on a wax paper lined baking sheet. 
Freeze for about 20 minutes. 
Spread peanut butter on a banana slice and top with a second banana slice.
 (Making a little sandwich)
Return to the freezer for about 10 minutes.
Dip each 'banana sandwich' in melted chocolate.
Sprinkle with a little kosher salt. (optional but REALLY good)
Freeze again until set, about 20 minutes. 

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