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.


My Freezer

June 17th, 2012  |  Published in Cooking, Freezer Meals  |  0 Comments

We loaded up our freezer with meals in anticipation of Dave’s last few weeks of architecture school. We always have a few meals in there, but this is about as full as it gets at any one time. I thought I would share some of my favorite freezable recipes with you.

What meals do you freeze? I’m always looking for new ideas!

Top Shelf:
Baby food (carrots, carrots/broccoli, peaches, apples, butternut squash, yams, beets, green beans, pears)
Cowboy Cookies (I freeze the dough in balls so that I can pop a few in the oven anytime we want fresh cookies)
Chicken Flautas
Teething ring

Bottom Shelf:
Vodka Sauce

Spaghetti Sauce (x2)
Macaroni and Cheese with broccoli
Enchiladas (x2)
Sloppy Joes
Hamburger Buns
Cream of Tomato Soup (x2)
Chicken breasts
Pumpkin puree


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


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!


Recipe Inspiration

May 22nd, 2010  |  Published in Baking, Cooking, Recipes  |  0 Comments


Top Row: Heirloom Tomato Basil Mozzarella Salad, Cranberry Couscous Salad, Asian Pasta Salad with Beef, Broccoli and Bean Sprouts. Bottom Row: Panda Bread, Lemonade, Chocolate-Orange Cake

I decided to split the inspiration posts into two – recipes and craft/sewing tutorials. Here are all of the inspiring recipes sent in reply to the prompt “your favorite springtime recipe.” Spring is surely the season for salads, as evidenced by how many salad recipes were submitted. I have to make my shopping list for the week today, and can’t wait to try some of these out!

Main Dishes:




Come back tomorrow for a compilation of all of the craft and sewing tutorials!


Virtual Dinners

March 7th, 2010  |  Published in Cooking, Recipes  |  2 Comments

I grew up in the Midwest, went to school on the East Coast, and then moved out to the West Coast. I have loved every place that I have lived, and have loved the people that I lived there with even more. It has been incredibly hard for me to move from people that I love so deeply, even though I know that I’ve always made the right decisions to move.

Luckily we live in a digital world, and I haven’t had to completely lose my close friends. I know there is a lot of talk about how the internet divides us and takes away from real relationships, but I have not found this to be true. The internet has allowed me to maintain extremely close friendships with my very dearest friends even though I can only see them in person once/year.

Even with my full support of the internet and social networking, I will admit that I laughed out loud when my best friend’s parents invited their daughter and son-in law and my husband and I to a virtual dinner a few weeks ago. I accepted, not really sure what I was getting into. My best friend proceeded to email us a menu, complete with recipes and a wine selection so that we could all eat the same meal.

So last Sunday we signed onto iChat at 5 pm Pacific time. Sara and Chris signed on at 7 pm Central time. Sara’s parents, Christie and Mark, signed on at 8 pm Eastern time. We all pulled our Chicken or Eggplant Parmesan out of the oven, served it over organic pasta, and toasted with Cabernet Sauvignon. It was awesome. The three-way video chat worked even better than I could have hoped for. We got to try new recipes and discuss them. We got to joke and talk just like if we were all eating in the same room.

Because of the success of the first virtual dinner, Sara and I planned a girls dinner with another close friend for this evening before the Oscars. The menu: Soup, Salad, optional Sandwich, and Cake. See below the cut at the end of the post for the recipes.

I foresee many virtual dinners in my future. Thank you to the amazing people who made the internet possible!

To plan your own virtual dinner:

  • Email out invitations well in advance with a full menu so that all participants have time to get the ingredients.
  • Choose interesting and new recipes that you can try out together.
  • Do a trial run on iChat in advance to be sure everyone knows how to use their camera and join the chat.
  • Don’t try more than 3 locations. We added a 4th one for a few minutes, and everyone’s video turned into Monet paintings.
  • Have headphones handy in case there is too much feedback/echo happening.

Have any of you had virtual dinners before? What have you found to work well? What doesn’t work at all?

Read the rest of this entry »