The experimental pizza adventure continues.

Saturday night was our next experimental pizza - Jeremy's turn to pick.  He opted for the pesto, sausage and tomato pizza (no surprise that he went for the one with sausage on it...)

It was another FANTASTIC combination. I don't know that I've had much pesto (despite being a basil fan), but it was fantastic on the pizza. We used the same whole wheat pizza crust as the previous pizza post (alliteration!) but this time there was basil and oregano added along with the garlic and onion powders. Jeremy and I aren't sure which pizza we liked better so far, but Oscar still thinks his pick was the best (and it did win price-wise).

We also had some company for pizza night - Nana, Danielle and Aaron stopped by and stayed for dinner - the more the merrier! PawPaw stayed for pizza last week, so who knows who will show up next pizza night. My pick is up next week (and it's Nana's pick too, so we might have to invite her over to taste test)!

Pesto, Sausage, and Tomato Pizzas

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 pound pizza dough, at room temperature
  • cornmeal, for the baking sheets
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 8 ounces bocconcini, halved
  • kosher salt and black pepper

  1. Heat oven to 475° F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes; transfer to a plate.
  2. Shape the dough into 4 rounds and place on 2 cornmeal-dusted baking sheets. Dividing evenly, top with the pesto, tomatoes, bocconcini, and sausage; season with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  3. Bake until the crust is golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.

GABI goodies

Back at the beginning of August a couple ladies from YouTube started the GABI  Boot Camp Challenge (Grin And Bear It). A whole month of Jillian Michaels, water drinking, no night-time snacking, and random weekly challenges. There was also some self-inflicted torture (no mocha frappes!) But somehow a few of us managed to finish without cheating. I thought I might fall over dead after the first time doing the 30 day shred, and somewhere around day 7 I could barely walk and needed to buy a knee brace, but by day 30 I was more than 10lbs lighter and had a lot more stamina. I don't think I will ever be one of those people that looks forward to exercising (ew - sweat..), but I made it through and I met a lot of awesome ladies in the process.

So from GABI I learned that:

  1. I CAN resist the mocha frappe!
  2. My body is (mostly) capable of vigorous daily workouts
  3. Spinach DISAPPEARS in fruit smoothies (if you have blueberries in there to hide the color...)
  4. Walking 2 miles with a baby on your back takes a whole different set of muscles than the 30 day shred.
  5. I have a really hard time cooking without taste testing (Jeremy had to taste test if I was making something after dinnertime - he didn't complain)
  6. Jeremy is the super-duper-awesomest guy in the UNIVERSE (ok, I knew this one already..). He did the 30 day shred right along with me (or by himself when he got home from work since I mostly did it in the afternoon) and is the best cheerleader EVER. (cheer captain?) 
  7. While I normally lack follow-through, I can be pretty determined when someone challenges me.  

Marie fixed up a gigantic pamper pack to go to one of the people that made it to the end with no cheats, and even though I didn't win it, she still sent me a very very sweet package filled with sparkliness, goodies, and love. It's got all sorts of things to pamper myself with, but my favorites are the high five from her little genius-beeble, Scarlet and the "I AM LOVED" pin. Scarlet is the same age as Alice and SO. STINKIN'. SMART.  She's adorable! And the pin is a well-needed reminder that I am loved (and worth loving!). Marie also has a new blog (here) and I'm excited to see what it's going to grow into. I'm intrigued by the mention of books in the title and I'm crossing my fingers that there will be some Marie written and illustrated books because she's got a wonderful way with words, a love of little ones, and massive amounts of creativity and style. Thank you, Marie, for the challenge AND the goodies!


A few lunches this week -

Leftover pizza from pizza night, carrots, honeydew, almonds and grapes.

GREEN.  Unfortunately the color they are working on this week is orange...  Cucumber, apple, sour straw candy, honeydew, string cheese and PB&J. I put a green post it with purple marker "the HULK was here." He ate it up.

And my favorite this week was ham and cheese sushi sandwiches with his training chopsticks. Carrots and cucumbers, grapes, sunflower seeds, honeydew, and sushi sandwich (flattened whole wheat bread with mayo&mustard, ham, cheese, carrot, cucumber, and spinach.) Everyday I use the big dipper from Planetbox to pack his snack. It usually has some sort of dried fruit/nuts/trail mix. I always worry that he'll feel deprived because the other kids at school buy ice cream and candy, but yesterday he told me he likes what I pack him because it's healthy AND yummy and that the things the other kids eat are bad for you. I don't think I could've asked for a better kid in the eating/food department...

Most of the time I usually pack Alice some lunch in our pink LunchBots so that I don't have to worry about making it the next day when she starts demanding "Dunch! Dunch!". She usually gets the same thing as Oscar. If he gets a sandwich cut into a shape, she is the one stuck with the odd shapes that are leftover. She never complains... though she seems to be pickier than Oscar.  She'll eat cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, carrots, ANYTHING when I'm packing lunches, but when it's time to sit down and eat she isn't a fan of any of those things. I guess they only taste good when mom is trying to cook or pack lunches? 


Tool Box Pinata

For one of Oscar's tool party activities, I wanted to do a pinata of some sort. I thought it would be cool to make it where they had to disassemble something using tools to get to the prizes, and Jeremy suggested unscrewing a toolbox.  With a few suggestions from my Dad, this is what I came up with. So I started with a cardboard box and hot glued an extra hinged panel onto the bottom. I added a cardboard handle through the top slit in the box and fastened it securely on the inside. The whole thing got mod podged (or more likely watered down elmer's glued because it's cheaper...) with red crepe streamers. The cardboard handle was wrapped in black ribbon and some hot glue was used around the base of the handles and painted silver. 

Something I learned from watching my parents make things is that hot glue is not only for gluing things to other things. You can also build things with it (like miniature trees). So I used hot glue on cardboard scraps to add dimension to latches, hinges, and a lock (I took these pictures 1/2 a year later, so the lock got ripped off and I just painted a new one on). They all got painted silver with black details and glued on.

Here is a picture of the bottom of the pinata. The space on the right side is where the cardboard flap was hot glued to the bottom of the box.

And on the bottom the flap had screws around the door, two of which held it closed.

These two screws were the ones that held it closed.

 Once all the screws were out, the door opened like so. 

And this is a closer look at how it worked. The screws that didn't hold the door closed went right through the flap and fit where the notches are. The Screws the held the door closed fastened into nuts that were hot glued to the box. I started out with just one nut, but the prizes weighed enough that I had to add that second one on top. I think in the long run it added to the suspense and I wasn't as worried about the winning screw being found right away because there was still another one to draw out the fun.

Here is how the nut is hot glued on the inside of the box.

And how the winning screws meet up with their nuts.

And here we have some action shots. Since the boys got screwdrivers and tape measures in their tool belts, they had fun using their tape measures to measure the box and having their own screw drivers to use on the screws. 

Oscar's turn.

Aaron's turn.  I held the pinata still for them while they took a screw out and then after each screw I gave the box a good shake up and down so they could see if they got the right one.

When they got the last screw out I gave it a shake and everything poured out. (And kudos to Jeremy for getting this action shot - what are the chances?)

The blur of action as the boys dive for candy and toys.  Some of the things in the pinata (mostly from the dollar tree): mini composition notebooks, keychain lights, bunch balls, peanuts, cookies, pixie stix and other candy. 


S.M.A.R.T. - Cold Salad - Easy Broccoli Salad

A couple ladies that I watch on YouTube have started a series of videos where they share a recipe on a specific topic each week and invite others to reply with their own videos. It's called S.M.A.R.T. - Sharing Meals and Recipes Together, and here is the introduction video. The topic this week is "cold salads" and I thought I'd join in with this broccoli salad we eat nearly EVERY week per Oscar's request. Since I don't vlog, this will have to do!

This is our speedy/easy version of broccoli salad that we can still whip up if we've both been at work all day.  Sometimes we'll tag team it - one of us chops broccoli while the other mixes dressing and toasts almonds.  Oscar used to want pizza and green beans every week - now it's pizza and broccoli salad.  We start with 2-3 crowns of broccoli chopped up to bite size pieces.

In your salad bowl, mix 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/8 cup agave nectar (or honey or sugar or [insert sweetener here]), salt, pepper, and a few dashes of hot sauce.  This isn't precise at all - usually I do a bit extra vinegar with a little less agave. Mix it up.

Add the chopped broccoli and a couple handfuls of dried cranberries.

Toast some sliced almonds (and here is where I usually start doing something and completely forget about the almonds, burning at least half of them.)

Toss the almonds in - burnt or not - and mix it up. Serve and enjoy! If your salad is going to be ready before the rest of your meal, chill it for awhile and add the almonds at the last minute.

Tool Box Cake

Oscar's birthday cake was pretty simple. Rectangle cake, red frosting, fondant accessories. I can't remember  exactly how I ended up with this shape.. perhaps two 9x13s stacked with the long sides trimmed off? I have no picture of the inside, so I can't even remember what flavor Oscar requested.  I built it right on top of my pastry board, but if you want to use wood and don't have any, you could probably cover a cake board or cookie sheet with some faux bois contact paper. The fondant tools were probably the most time consuming part (and trying to get the red frosting smooth-ugh) and they weren't even for eating, so someone could easily just put a set of toy tools around the cake instead. I was glad to have an easier cake after Alice's wonderland cake!


Pizza Night

Last week I was flipping through Real Simple and I came across these 10 easy, kid-friendly pizza recipes. We all looked them over while we were eating dinner and each picked out the one we thought looked yummiest. Oscar picked the ham, cheddar and apple pizza and it went on the menu for this week.

So today we used this Amazing Whole Wheat Pizza Crust recipe and made our first experimental pizza in our experimental pizza adventure. We adjusted the crust recipe to use all whole wheat flour, 2Tbs honey in place of the sugar, and added 1/2tsp garlic powder and 1/2tsp onion powder. It made a LOT of dough.

We spread our honey mustard and piled on the apples, ham and sharp white cheddar. Sprinkled with salt and pepper.

The parent pizza got some extra garlic powder and salt around the crust. This pizza was SO yummy. I'm thinking it will definitely be repeated. Oscar says he gets an A+ for picking an awesome pizza. I agree. SO GOOD. I'll post the broccoli salad recipe tomorrow and next week will be Jeremy's pizza pick!

Ham, Cheddar, and Apple Pizzas


  • 1 pound pizza dough, at room temperature
  • cornmeal, for the baking sheets
  • 1/4 cup honey mustard
  • 8 ounces white Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced ham
  • 1Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
  • kosher salt and black pepper


  1. Heat oven to 475° F. 
  2. Shape the dough into 4 rounds and place on 2 cornmeal-dusted baking sheets.
  3. Dividing evenly, top the rounds with the mustard, Cheddar, ham, and apple; season with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. 
  4. Bake until the crust is golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

  • 2 Tablespoons honey 
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or anything that will be yummy w/ your toppings)
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  •  3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve honey in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the top, and let stand for about 10 minutes, until foamy.
  2. Stir the olive oil, salt and seasonings into the yeast mixture, then mix in 3 cups of whole wheat flour until dough starts to come together. Tip dough out onto a surface floured with the remaining flour, and knead until all of the flour has been absorbed, and the ball of dough becomes smooth, about 10 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover loosely with a towel, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. When the dough is doubled, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 2 pieces for 2 thin crust, or leave whole to make one thick crust. Form into a tight ball. Let rise for about 45 minutes, until doubled.
  4. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Roll a ball of dough with a rolling pin until it will not stretch any further. Then, drape it over both of your fists, and gently pull the edges outward, while rotating the crust. When the circle has reached the desired size, place on a lightly oiled, lightly dusted with cornmeal pizza pan. Bake 5 minutes.
  5. Top pizza with your favorite toppings, such as sauce, cheese, meats, or vegetables.
  6. Reduce oven to 425 degrees F and bake for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on thickness) in the preheated oven, until the crust is crisp and golden at the edges, and cheese is melted on the top.

Tool Party Foods

Since it was a tool theme, all of Oscar's party foods were based on building materials and we built sandwiches.

The macaroni and cheese (Martha's recipe got RAVE reviews) was Elbow Joints, broccoli salad (barely pictured) was Spare Parts, fruit salsa with cinnamon pita chips was Spackle, chex mix was Nuts & Bolts, mini Oreos were Spare Tires.

For sandwich building we had Medium Density Fiberboard (bread), Filler (meat, cheese, lettuce and tomato)

And some glue to hold it all together.

I splurged on some tool cookie cutters and made a couple batches of yummy yummy cookies (I thought one batch wouldn't be enough cookies since the cutters were so large - I was so wrong. Cookie overload!) The sister of awesomeness posted the recipe and made a printable recipe card here. It is a family favorite, for sure.

I also bagged some up so that there would be party favors for the grown-ups as well. 

I'll leave the cake for another day!


Tool Party Decorations and Favors

Here are a few ideas for tool party decorations. These are from Oscar's 5th birthday (duh.) Some pegboard with blue painter's tape makes a great sign. The painter's tape also conveniently disguises the slightly crooked edges that were left when I cut it with a box cutter.  I used the Tool Shop Caps for his name. If I remember correctly I covered paper with the blue tape and then cut the rest of the letters out of that.

More pegboard, painter's tape, and a few pegs to hang the party favors on. I liked that this made a large wall decoration for the first part of the party. Once the boys were wearing their tool belts it was not quite as pretty. The favors for the kids were lowe's nail aprons with their names on them. They were filled with a tape measure and some tools for them to build with.

There was also bunting, balloons, and giant tools (poster board from the dollar tree and silver paint). Like I've said before, there is always paper and balloons for party decorations because they're cheap and add lots of the theme colors. And balloons are fun to play with.


Soup Weather

I've been ready for some soup weather, so I'm hoping that making soup will encourage it to head our way. (that's how it works - right?) It's been cooler at night the past few days, so that's a start. Tonight I made a double batch of lentil soup. It was so fantastically awesome - I'm glad there is more for another day! yay! This soup is packed full of flavors with its leeks and bacon and slight vinegary zing. It's a recipe my mom has been making forever that I didn't appreciate quite as much when I was younger. (One of those foods you don't realize you miss until you're on the other side of the country and it makes the list of "foods to make Mom cook when she visits")

Lentil Soup
from McCall's Cookbook, Random House c.1963
  • 1/2 lb. Lentils
  • 4 Bacon slices
  • 1 Cup Chopped Leek
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Onion - one onion
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped carrot - one carrot
  • 3/4 Cup Chopped Green Pepper
  • 3/4 Cup Chopped Tomato
  • 3 Tbs  Butter or Margarine
  • 3 Tbs  Flour
  • 1 can (10.5oz) Condensed Beef Boullion, undiluted or equivalent of water and bullion cubes  (mom uses "a heaping cup of water and 2 heaping teaspoons of beef bouillon stuff")
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 2 Tbs Vinegar

1) Wash lentils. Put them in 5 cups cold water in a large kettle. Bring to boil.
2) Reduce heat; simmer covered 1 hour.
3) Meanwhile, cut bacon into small pieces; sauté in large skillet until crisp.
4) To bacon in skillet, add leek, onion, carrot, pepper and tomato; sauté over low heat about 5 minutes.
5) Combine with lentils in kettle.
6) Melt butter in same skillet. Remove from heat
7) Stir in flour until smooth; then gradually stir in boullion.
8) Add salt and vinegar; bring to boiling point, stirring. 
9) Pour into Lentils; cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.


random acts of randomness

So in order to rid our shelves of some books and movies, I joined PaperBack Swap and SwapADVD. I realize this might not work to decrease the number of books and DVDs, but at least we can trade for something we want to watch or read. I sent off my first 2 DVDs today and felt like there should be something more than just the movies in the package....

I'm looking forward to shipping out some more randomness!


more apron making

Danielle told me in advance (more than 6 months in advance) that she wanted me to make her an apron for her birthday.  The other sisters have already been outfitted in aprons, so hers was LONG overdue. I used the criss cross apron pattern again and she seems to be happy with it. We also did a lot of girly fun things for her birthday - like pedicures, face masks, lots of pinning and style quizzes. It was a fun weekend!



This is what I'd envisioned for the finished product
Danielle requested a lemon icebox cake for her birthday this year, and I love trying out a new recipe, so I jumped right in.  Of course I didn't leave it as the instructions said to make it.. SURELY it would be better with some lemon curd added to the filling... right?

Well, I don't think I understood how lemon juice thickens sweetened condensed milk. And I had no idea that adding nice thick lemon curd would actually thin it right back out. Who knew? That combined with a very light and crumbly box cake mix meant my four 9" layers of lemony perfection turned into this:

They were unceremoniously smashed into a 9x13 and coated with lots of lemony icing to hide my shame.

It was still yummy though!



Oscar has been in kindergarten for a month now, and is loving it.  He has the same teacher that Jeremy had for kindergarten, so she is parent tested and approved.  Here are a few pictures of his first day of school.

and his very first school lunch and snack.