Cooking With Toddlers: Cheese Crackers

September 19th, 2013  |  Published in Cooking, Recipes, Uncategorized  |  14 Comments

Exciting news in my world: I got a job! I have been a stay-at-home mom since we moved to California two months ago, and I’m not a huge fan of it. I love my daughter to pieces, but I think we’re all a lot happier when I am working. I crave being busy and being around adults, Dave wants back in as the equal parent, and we know that Alice misses friends, activities, and the schedule of school (even for a two-year-old!). Huge kudos to all of you stay-at-home moms who somehow stay sane and motivated!

I start my job in three weeks, so now I have this sweet vacation time to enjoy with Alice before everything gets busybusybusy again. Now that I have a job lined up, I have a million projects I want to finish. Why didn’t I just work on them the last two months? Ha!


Today we combined four of Alice’s favorite things: helping in the kitchen, using cookie cutters in play dough, cheese, and crackers. We made homemade animal- and heart-shaped cheese crackers!

I couldn’t believe how easy these were to make! And they really do taste like Cheez-Its! Seriously, give this recipe a try. It’s quick, fun, and super delicious.


Homemade Cheez-Its

(recipe from Shopgirl by way of BHG)


  • 8oz shredded cheddar cheese (or  whatever cheese you like!)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter, softened
  • Salt
  • 3 – 4 tbs ice water


  1. Mix together the shredded cheese,  1/2 tsp of salt and the softened butter.
  2. Add in the flour and mix until combined.
  3. With the mixer running, begin adding the ice water and mix until a soft dough forms. Use as much ice water as you need for a dough to form.
  4. Divide the dough in two, form each into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat your oven to 375* F and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Roll the dough out on a floured surface into about an 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into 1″ squares with a pizza cutter or fluted pastry cutter, or cut into fun shapes using tiny cookie cutters.
  7. Transfer your crackers onto the baking pans and sprinkle them with salt.
  8. Bake for about 7 – 10 minutes, or until they have puffed up and the edges begin to brown. Let cool before eating.


Warning: these will go fast! I swear all I heard Alice say today was “More cracker?”.



Salsa Canning Party

September 15th, 2012  |  Published in Cooking, Recipes  |  0 Comments

My coworker and her husband who have a farm and a beautiful farmhouse kitchen hosted a group of us for a canning day. We bought all of the vegetables fresh off the farm, got our arms elbow deep in tomatoes, and didn’t sit down for eight hours.

Andria and Corinne at the start of the tomato processing assembly line. Scoring, boiling, peeling.

Tara squeezing out the seeds.

Our farmer host, Amber, dicing away. We used 90 pounds of tomatoes!

So. much. salsa.

We also made pickles. Here they are before we poured the hot brine in. Aren’t they pretty?

The bounty: 52 jars of salsa and 20 jars of pickles!

Salsa for Canning

recipe adapted from


  • 15 lbs tomatoes
  • 2 cups lemon juice
  • 3 cups chopped onion
  • 6 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced (or not seeded if you like hot salsa!)
  • 4 cloves diced garlic
  • 2 six-ounce cans tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp salt (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar (optional)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp cumin (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro


  1. Peel, seed, and dice tomatoes. Place in a large stock pot.
  2. Add all other ingredients in and bring to a simmer.
  3. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Meanwhile, sterilize jars and lids and heat up hot water bath.
  5. Fill the jars to within 1/4″, wipe off rim, and put lids and rings on. Hand tighten.
  6. Put the jars in the hot water bath with at least 1″ water over the top. Boil for 15 minutes.
  7. Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool in a draft-free place overnight. Listen for the wonderful popping noise.

Tomatoes are difficult to can because they are not very acidic, which is why you have to add lemon juice. Do not alter the proportions of the recipe. Check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation for canning information.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins Recipe

October 29th, 2011  |  Published in Baking, Recipes  |  0 Comments

Happy autumn!

These pumpkin chocolate chip muffins have two cups of sugar and two cups of chocolate chips. I’m pretty sure if I frosted them, they would be called cupcakes. But since I ate a dozen of these myself in the last three days, I’m going to pretend they are somewhat healthy and call them “muffins.” That’s how it works, right?

This muffin recipe is so easy to make (you don’t even really need to break out the stand mixer) and it makes 36 muffins! I guess I should stick the remaining two dozen in the freezer before I gorge myself any more. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins


  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 16 oz pumpkin
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 400*F.
  2. Grease or line muffin tins.
  3. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, sugar, pumpkin, vanilla, and oil until smooth.
  5. Mix dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture.
  6. Fold in chocolate chips.
  7. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full.
  8. Bake at 400*F for 16-20 minutes. Makes 36 muffins.

Recipe adapted from


Freezer Meals: Spaghetti Sauce

August 9th, 2011  |  Published in Cooking, Freezer Meals, Recipes  |  3 Comments

Just over a week until my due date! Our little girl is still happily wiggling away in there. The waiting is the hardest!

Here’s one of our favorite meals to freeze. It’s delicious, super easy to double, and a great way to use up all of the veggies in your fridge.

Spaghetti Sauce with Ground Beef


  • olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • assorted veggies (e.g. carrots, zucchini, squash. green pepper, etc.)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 6oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes if you’ve got ‘em!)
  • 1 26 oz jar of tomato sauce
  • 1.5 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Dice veggies, simmer in a large pot with olive oil until softened.
  2. Add ground beef and cook until browned.
  3. Add tomato paste, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, salt, pepper, and brown sugar, stirring well.
  4. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Enjoy with pasta.
  6. To freeze, store flat in freezer bags. Heat up in saucepan when ready to eat.


Freezer Meals: Chicken Flautas

July 31st, 2011  |  Published in Cooking, Freezer Meals, Recipes  |  6 Comments

Frozen Flautas

I’m past 37 weeks, so I guess the baby can come any day now! I’m hoping she holds off at least a week so I can finish letterpressing a friend’s wedding invites. Plus it just hit summer in Oregon and I’ve only gotten to wear my polka dotted maternity bathing suit once. I’m hoping for at least a few more swims in the rivers!

Anyway, the point of this post is to share another freezer meal. We’re up to nine meals in the freezer. Hopefully we can double that and I can document all of the recipes here. These chicken flautas are one of our go-to meals. We’ll buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store when we’re too lazy to cook, and use all of the leftover chicken the next night for this recipe (or chicken and dumplings or chicken noodle soup or some other chicken recipe). The recipe makes ~30 flautas, so it’s enough to bake up a batch for dinner and freeze the rest for later. We usually make the flautas along with this delicious Spanish Rice. Yum!

Chicken Flautas


  • 2 chicken breasts – cooked and shredded
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 30 (6 inch) corn tortillas
  • vegetable oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350* F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the shredded chicken, salsa and ground cumin. Set aside.
  3. Brush one side of each tortilla with olive oil. Stack tortillas on a plate.
  4. Microwave tortillas for 8-10 minutes, checking periodically until tortillas are hot and flexible. You want to be able to roll them without having them flex back or crack.
  5. Put a spoonful of the chicken mixture near the edge of a tortilla and sprinkle some cheese on top.
  6. Roll up tortilla and place on a cookie sheet, seam side down.
  7. Repeat with all of the tortillas until chicken mixture is gone.
  8. If freezing, stick cookie sheet in freezer for 1-2 hours. Then collect frozen tortillas into a freezer bag.
  9. When ready to cook them, bake flautas for 15-25 minutes or until tortillas are a little crispy and golden brown.


Freezer Meals: Macaroni and Cheese

July 28th, 2011  |  Published in Cooking, Freezer Meals, Recipes  |  2 Comments

Frozen Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is my husband’s absolute favorite meal. His Wisconsin roots beat out that pesky lactose intolerance of his every time it shows up on a menu. We discovered this recipe online a few years back and have never turned back. I think it’s originally from an old Fannie Farmer cookbook. We love the garlic (although you can absolutely substitute something more spicy if that’s your style!) and the fact that it freezes so easily. We always make a double recipe – one for tonight and one for the freezer. That’s definitely the easiest way to get meals into the freezer without having to set aside any extra time.

Macaroni and Cheese


  • 8 ounces macaroni noodles
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ~ 1 tbsp powdered garlic (optional)
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups good quality shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup buttered breadcrumbs


  1. Preheat oven to 400* F.
  2. Cook and drain macaroni according to package directions; set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan.
  4. Add flour, salt and pepper. Use a whisk to stir until well blended.
  5. Pour milk and cream in gradually; stirring constantly.
  6. Bring to boiling point and boil 2 minutes (stirring constantly).
  7. Reduce heat and cook (stirring constantly) 10 minutes.
  8. Add shredded cheddar little by little and simmer an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese melts.
  9. Remove from heat.
  10. Add macaroni to the saucepan and toss to coat with the cheese sauce.
  11. Transfer macaroni to a buttered baking dish.
  12. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
  13. Bake 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.

To freeze: Once you have mixed the macaroni with the cheese sauce, allow to cool to room temperature before adding to your freezer. I always freeze it flat in a large zip-top freezer bag so that it stacks easily. When you want to make it, pull it out ahead of time and bring to room temperature. Add the macaroni and cheese to a buttered baking dish, sprinkle with bread crumbs and then bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown on top and bubbling


Freezer Meals: Butternut Squash Tortellini

July 21st, 2011  |  Published in Cooking, Freezer Meals, Recipes  |  3 Comments

Eeks, I’m 36 weeks pregnant! How did it sneak up on me so fast?! The past few months have been busy, busy, busy cleaning out the apartment, getting the baby’s room ready, making baby crafts, learning about childbirth, freaking out about childbirth, working, enjoying summer, etc, etc, etc.

And since I’m pretty sure I’ll have even less time once the baby is born, I’m trying to prep some in advance and get meals ready and in the freezer. We got fresh sage in our CSA box last week, and I just had to find a good recipe for it! I have been holding onto this recipe from a coworker (thanks Gwen!) for Butternut Squash and Sage Tortellini for a while, so I cleared some time last weekend to get to tortellini making. I made 76 tortellini – enough for 3 meals for my husband and me.

What’s your favorite meal to freeze? I need lots of ideas so that my freezer can be stocked by the time the baby gets here.

Butternut Squash Tortellini

Butternut Squash Tortellini

Dough Ingredients:

  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • 1/4 cup cooked, mashed butternut squash
  • ~3/4 cup water
  • dash of salt

Filling Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked, mashed butternut squash
  • 1/4-1/2 lemon worth of zest
  • 3 sage leaves, chopped


  1. Mix together filling ingredients. Set aside.
  2. Mix together dough ingredients. Add water slowly while mixing until dough comes together.
  3. Roll out dough.
  4. Cut out circles with a cookie cutter. Keep dough covered while you aren’t working with it to prevent it from drying out.
  5. Spoon a small amount of filling into the center of each circle.
  6. Dip finger in water, and moisten 1/2 way around edge of circle. Fold circle in half, press to seal, then bring corners together to form tortellini.
  7. Place tortellini on a waxed paper covered cookie sheet to dry out.
  8. If freezing, place trays in freezer for ~1 hour. Then collect from tray and place in freezer bags.
  9. To cook, place in large pot of boiling salted water. Cook until they rise to the top plus 1-2 minutes.
  10. Serve with sage leaves sauteed in olive oil or your favorite sauce.

Butternut Squash Tortellini

Butternut Squash Tortellini

Butternut Squash Tortellini


Lemon Angel Wings Cookie Recipe

December 11th, 2010  |  Published in Baking, Holidays, Recipes  |  4 Comments


Christmas cookie baking time! A friend came over today and we baked four batches of cookies. Clockwise from top left: Peanut Butter Blossoms, Pecan Cups, Lemon Angel Wings, and Cheesecake Dream Bars.

The Lemon Angel Wings were a new recipe for me, and they will definitely be added to my recipe arsenal! They are light, crunchy, and lemony. Plus they look pretty on a plate of cookies!

After baking (and tasting) the cookies, we decorated gingerbread houses (and of course sampled the decorations). Time for the sugar crash and early night.

Lemon Angel Wings

from Taste of Home magazine


  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup cold butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon peel
  • 10 Tbsp. sugar, divided


  1. Place flour in a large bowl. Cut in butter until crumbly.
  2. Stir in sour cream and lemon peel until well blended.
  3. Shape into a 5-1/2″ square. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  4. Cut dough into four 2-1/4″ squares. Place one square on a piece of wax paper sprinkled with 2 Tbsp. sugar. Keep remaining squares refrigerated.
  5. Roll out dough into a 12″x5″ rectangle, turning often to coat both sides in sugar.
  6. Lightly mark center of 12″ side. Starting with a short side, roll up jelly-roll style to the center mark. Repeat rolling from other short side, so the two rolls meet in the center and resemble a scroll.
  7. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Repeat with remaining squares, using 2 Tbsp. sugar for each. Chill for 1 hour.
  8. Unwrap dough and cut into 1/2″ slices; dip each side in sugar.
  9. Place 2″ apart on baking sheet. Bake at 375º for 14 minutes or until golden brown. Turn cookies over; bake 5 minutes longer.
  10. Remove to wire racks to cool.


Campfire Banana Boats

July 18th, 2010  |  Published in Cooking, Recipes  |  6 Comments

Dave and I just got back from camping in the Willamette National Forest. It was great to finally have a day when we both had time to get out of town, sleep in a tent, and hike in our beautiful state. I love Oregon!

Something about campfires makes me unable to resist kid food like hot dogs and marshmallows. (Anyone else share my problem?) The summer camp I worked at last year introduced me to an amazing campfire dessert: banana boats. They’re full of chocolate and marshmallows, less messy than s’mores, and oh so delicious.

Campfire Banana Boats


  • Bananas
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Chocolate chips
  • Peanut butter (optional)
  • Other sweets you love and have on hand?


  1. Slice banana lengthwise, being careful to not cut through bottom peel.
  2. Stuff banana with sweets. (My husband likes a slightly higher sweets:banana ratio! haha! Can you guess which one is his?)
  3. Wrap up tightly in foil.
  4. Place in campfire for ~10 minutes.
  5. Remove from fire, unwrap foil, and eat straight out of the banana.

Yum!! I hope everyone gets a lot of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and delicious campfire treats this this summer!


Summer Shortcake

July 5th, 2010  |  Published in Baking, Holidays, Recipes  |  1 Comment

I realize it’s a bit silly to post a Fourth of July specific recipe on the Fifth of July. But I just have to share this recipe with you! It definitely doesn’t have to be Fourth of July specific – berries and cream are good on any summer day.

The first time I ever made this shortcake, I brought it to a party, cut myself a piece, and walked away to chat with friends. I turned around no more than 10 minutes later to see an old man literally scooping up the last bits of whipped cream and berries from an empty platter with his fingers. I knew then that this would be my go-to summer dessert. I make it a point to make this recipe for at least one potluck every summer.

Summer Shortcake

modified ever so slightly from Martha Stewart’s recipe

Shortcake ingredients:

  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 8 oz. cold cream cheese, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 3/4 cups buttermilk, plus more for brushing
  • Raw sugar for sprinkling

Filling ingredients:

  • 2 pints blueberries
  • 2 pints strawberries, hulled
  • 6 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream


  1. Make the shortcake: Using a food processor or pastry blender, mix together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined. Add butter, and blend until largest pieces are the size of peas. Add cream cheese, and blend again until largest pieces are the size of peas. Add buttermilk, and blend until dough comes together.
  2. Gently knead into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest in refrigerator for at least 1 hour (or overnight).
  3. Preheat oven to 450* F. Divide dough in half. Working with one half at a time on a lightly floured work surface, pat into a disk, then roll into 10-inch round. Transfer to a baking sheet.
  4. Brush biscuits with buttermilk. Generously sprinkle with raw sugar.
  5. Bake until dough has risen slightly and is golden brown, 12-15 minutes.
  6. Leave biscuits on sheets. Using a 2.5″ star cookie cutter, cut out (but do not remove) 6 stars from one biscuit while it is still warm (careful, a metal cookie cutter can get quite hot in this process! ouch!). Let cool.
  7. Using a paring knife, carefully remove star shapes. Snack on the stars (yum!).
  8. Make the filling: Combine blueberries, strawberries, and 3 Tbsp sugar, and let macerate until juicy, 10 minutes.
  9. Beat cream to whipped cream with the vanilla and 3 Tbsp sugar.
  10. Assemble the cake: Place uncut shortcake on a large plate. Spoon half the berries and their juices on top, then spread the whipped cream over berries. Top with all but 1/2 cup berries. Make sure surface is even to support the top shortcake and prevent it from breaking. Carefully place cutout shortcake on top. Fill star cutouts with reserved berries.
  11. Serve immediately, or refrigerate, uncovered, up to 3 hours.

strawberry shortcake

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