Thursday, January 31, 2013

Crock Pot Chili (from dried beans) Recipe

Ah, I love this time of year.  It's crock-pot season!  Bring on the soups, stews and now chili.  I don't make chili very often, mostly because it is hard to find a recipe that my "selective" (aka choosy) husband will like.  I decided to give this recipe a go when I read it on my friend's blog:

However, I had to make a few adjustments as my family prefers our chili more soup-like than stew-like.  The good news is that the chili was both simple and it was a success.  My favorite combination!

Crock Pot Chili with Dried Black and Pinto Beans
6 oz dried pinto beans
6 oz dried black beans
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 14.5 oz cans Diced Tomatoes
2 medium onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped (I used a red pepper)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp salt
1 cup water
2-3 cups beef broth
1 lb ground beef
1-2 dried chilies, whole (optional)

1. Soak beans overnight by covering with a few inches off water in a large bowl or pot. The next morning drain water and rinse beans before placing in crock pot.
2. Brown beef, breaking it up as it cooks until cooked through. Add along with all the other ingredients (except the broth) to crock pot. Cook for 8-10 hours.  I added the beef broth about 30 minutes before serving to keep it from being so thick.

I served my chili over brown rice with shredded cheese and a little sour cream.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cibo Urban Pizzeria Cafe

A couple days ago I told you about our fabulous date-night to the Amazing Arizona Comic Convention.  After hanging out with Superman, Spiderman and some pink furry people we built up quite an appetite!  We first tried walking to nearby restaurants downtown.

There are a few restaurants next to each other in Heritage Square.  We wanted to eat at Pizzeria Bianco but the wait for a table was 1.5 hrs!  Since we wanted to eat before 10pm that seemed like a bad idea.  We went back to our car and drove over to Cibo instead.  Set in a restored 1913 bungalow Cibo is a fabulous pizzeria.  They are known for their romantic ambiance, artisanal pizzas and "beautiful" salads.  They even have crepes for dessert!  

A perfect date-night dinner location.  The only hardship was deciding what to pick for dinner.  This is my concentration face. :)

The food is so good that I was half-way through my dinner before remembering to take a photo.  I had the Capricciosa Pizza which had tomato sauce, mozzarella, artichoke, prosciutto cotto, mushrooms and black olives.  Delish!  I also had tea and was happy to see it was loose leaf, no baggie!

Next time you're in Phoenix I highly recommend this little pizzeria.  They're also open for lunch and you don't want to miss their salad selection.

603 N 5th Avenue

Monday, January 28, 2013

Home DVD Workouts (with the dog, baby and child)

On Sunday we were stuck at home in the morning with sick'ish kids (AGAIN, will this winter cold/flu season ever end?) so I decided to head to the gym for a quick Yoga class.  Apparently I wasn't the only one as the class was packed out.  I'm talking yoga-sardines.  I headed back home defeated and since I was decked out in my yoga outfit I decided to pull out one of my workout DVDs instead.

I had 2 choices: Stripilates or Mom and Baby Fitness.

So yes, the Mom and Baby Fitness appeared to be the correct choice since my kids were home.  I got all set up and oh-my was it a difficult workout.  Not the actual video, just being able to workout with a 5 year old, 18 month old and a dog in the same room!  The 5 year old bless-her-heart went and got a baby doll and was working out along with me.  She wasn't so much in the way as in in-my space (right next to me).  The 18 month old on the other hand would have nothing to do with the baby parts of the video and kept pushing on my head when I was doing forward folds or trying to get me to stand up when I was doing lunges.  Sigh.

And then there was the dog.  He wanted to sit in my lap or on me.

I gave up about 1/2 way through.  How do you workout-at-home moms do it?  I'm guessing during nap time perhaps?

I'm so glad my gym has childcare; I'll stick with working out there.  Yoga-sardines beats yoga-toddler-preschooler-dog any day!

Curious about the Stripilates video?  It's a pretty-tame (think sexy not skanky) mat-pilates workout.  I noticed that Amazon on the listing page for this video they had the following titles under the "what other customers buy after looking" section: Totally Nude Balance Ball Workout and Totally Nude Aerobics.  I just have to say ewww to that.  Yikes!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Date Night - Comic Con

Guess where we went last night?

Yes it's true, we went to the Amazing Arizona Comic Convention for our date night last night.  It was absolutely out-of-the-box for us (we're more the dinner/movie type) but it was SO FUN!  I had the best time checking out and taking photos of costumes, talking to the exhibitors and attendees and looking for souvenirs.

I met a lovely artist named Hanna Nance Partlow.  She had colorful drawings and beautifully lettered stickers (she's a "letterer").  She said she could draw "almost anything" for $5 so I had her make me into a superhero.  She also has a facebook page here.  Can you tell I am a fan?

What do you think?  We loved it so much that I had her draw the 5-year-old as a fairy (a current favorite lately).  So fun!

We picked up a couple more souvenirs and it was time for the convention to close for the night so we went off in search of dinner.

More on that later.

Such a fun night!  The Amazing Arizona Comic Convention runs through the weekend.  Tomorrow (Sunday) they're open from 10am-6pm.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fisher Price Friday - Mini Block Board Books

This week on Fisher Price Friday I have to share a find with you.  It may not be a vintage toy, but these darling little board books have drawings of vintage fisher price toys.  That's close enough, right?

Measuring 3.25 x 3.25 these are definitely mini board books.  They're just the right size for tiny toddler hands.  They were published in 2004 by Modern Publishing and are no longer in print.

There are six titles in the collection: Numbers, First Words, Let's Go!, Farm, Toys and Animals.  My sweet baby-girl received all 6 books as a Christmas gift from her grandmother and aunt.

First Words
I love the little drawings of familiar toys.  Do you recognize the Play Family House #952 and Little Snoopy #693?


This book has many favorites including the Chatter Phone #747 and our newest addition the Cruise Boat #2524 (SS Tadpole).


Let's Go (the original Safety School Bus)

These familiar toys are the Rock-a-Stack #627 and the Play Family Farm #915.

Aren't they adorable?  When I saw them I knew they'd be perfect for my toddler-girl.  The size is just perfect for her little hands.  She carries them around and pretends to read (usually upside down, ha!).  They may be out of print but you can still find them used on Amazon, eBay or other used book sellers.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Crockpot Roast with Barley & Vegetables Recipe

I had a rump roast that needed to be cooked last week.  I decided to mix it up by adding some odds and ends to the roast and making my own recipe.  I am pleased that it turned out, especially since the rump roast was free-range organic beef which would have been a shame to toss!

My roast was just about 2 lbs, which fed my family of 2 adults, 1 child and 1 toddler.  If you have more mouths or prefer more leftovers I'd suggest a larger roast.  Just double the ingredients and you'll be set.

The baby (she's 18 months but will always be my baby) gobbled down the barley and carrot pieces.  She probably ate more of those than I did!  The 5 year old preferred the meat and carrots but pronounced it good.  The husband ate it all!  Success!

If you had other odds and ends around (veggies) you could add them too, perhaps celery or turnips.  Or potatoes instead of barley.  I didn't cook the meat ahead at all, just put the thawed roast into the crock pot.  So easy!

I do have one confession about this recipe.  I intended on using beef broth and cream of mushroom soup.  However, when I went to put everything together I realized that I didn't have those on hand.  Whoops!  I went ahead and used chicken stock and cream of chicken soup.  It turned out just fine and my family wasn't the wiser.  However, I would recommend using a cream of mushroom or celery and a beef or vegetable broth.  ;)

Crockpot Roast with Barley and Vegetables
2 lb Rump Roast
2-5 garlic cloves
1 box of condensed cream soup
10 oz broth (+ another 8 oz 1/2 way through)
2-3 carrots - sliced (consider more if your family loves carrots)
1 onion - sliced
6 oz mushrooms - sliced
salt & pepper
1/2 cup barley (not the quick kind)

1. Place carrots and onions in the bottom of the crock pot.  Put the roast (fat side down) on the veggies.  Stick 2-3 garlic cloves into the meat (make little slices for them to fit in).
2. Add salt and pepper to the top of the roast.
3. Mix condensed soup and broth together.  Add 2 sliced garlic cloves.  Pour over roast.  Add the mushrooms.  Set to cook on LOW for 8-10 hrs.
4. About 1/2 way through add (uncooked) barley and 1 more cup of broth.

The roast is ready when it falls apart and the veggies are cooked.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

New Vegetable - Flowering Rapini

Flowering Rapini, have you heard of it?  It is a new vegetable to me thanks to this week's CSA box.  It looks like a bouquet of wildflowers but is actually a vegetable.

I read that the rapini is a relative of broccoli, which means it is both pretty and healthy.  It is a source of vitamins A, K and C as well as potassium, iron and calcium.

Last night I added the flowers to my salad and thought that it added a peppery radish type flavor.  Tonight I'm going to saute the leaves, stems and flowers with some fresh garlic.

Who knew that flowers could be so yummy?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fisher Price Friday - Splash & Stack Bluebird

It's tub time today on Fisher Price Friday.  I'd love to introduce this happy little bird, the Splash & Stack Bluebird #167.  It was made from 1983-1989 and is designed for children ages 9 months to 3 years old.  However, I can vouch that it is happily used by my 5 year old as well as the toddler.  Kids love bath toys!

The bluebird is made up of 5 pieces that stack on each other.  Each piece can be used differently for water play.  The head piece has a beak that works as a pour spout.  The white cup has feathers that can be used as a handle and holes in the bottom to strain water through (3 holes).  The orange "nest" cup has many holes on the bottom to strain water through.  The bottom blue bowl has wing handles on each side.  Last but not least is the plastic baby bird that squeaks and can also squirt out water.

The orange nest goes into the blue bowl.

The white cup sits ontop of the orange nest and the baby bird rests inside the cup.

The bottom of the blue base has the cutest little bird feet molded into it.  It also has the toy number and Fisher Price label.

Love the baby bird and its momma.  Too cute!

The bird fits in nicely with our other jumbo bath toys.  More on those another day.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

DIY Natural "Drano"

One of my sinks has been draining slowly.  I figured it was the build up of my hair (gross I know but a fact of life) and put Drano on our shopping list.  Then I stopped and decided to see if I could do-it-myself using natural products around my house.  Sure enough, I found some great ideas online for how to get rid of sink buildup without having to use the noxious chemicals.  Hurrah!

I happened to have the ingredients at home already thanks to my super-Costco sizes of vinegar and baking soda.  Yet another use for them!

The recipe worked on my sink with only one application.  I had my 5 year old help since I figured she'd enjoy watching the bubbles fizz and she did!  It's a home-cleaning and science-experiment in one.

Natural Drain de-Clogger

Here is all you need:
1/2 cup of baking soda
1 cup of vinegar
1 qt (or so) or boiling water

1. Place the baking soda down your drain.  I unscrewed the top to help it go down and then screwed it back on.

2. Pour the vinegar over the baking soda.  It will fizz and bubble, kids love this part!  If it is staying in the sink mix it up with a spoon a bit to help it go down.  Once it's mostly down use the sink stopper.

3. Let it do its magic for at least 30 minutes.
4. Open the stopper and pour boiling water down the drain (I used 1 tea kettle full).

There you go!  The baking soda/vinegar work at the clogs and the hot water pushes it all down (including the more greasy gunk, again I say YUCK).

Happy de-clogging!

For more Baking Soda and/or Vinegar Uses look here:
10 Uses for Baking Soda
Homemade Pedialyte
Make Your Own Diaper Pail Deodorizer
Keurig Descaling

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

(semi) Wordless Wednesday - Frozen Cactus

It may look like our yard is in mourning but it isn't.

We've had a cold spell the last few days here in Phoenix and this is how we protect our plants.  It had been 25 years since we had so many days of low temperatures in a row!

We tried to get old sheets from the local Goodwill but they were completely sold out!  So we had to settle for yard ground cover sheets from The Home Depot.  Now that the frost is over hopefully our plants have survived.  We'll see when we undress them.

It was quite a sight around the neighborhood seeing all the blankets, sheets, cups (on cactus tops) and covers.  Forecast says a high of 75 tomorrow, so back to normal.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mustard Greens Pesto Recipe

Our CSA had a big leafy bunch of Mustard Greens the other week.  I looked around for a recipe that didn't involve the usual sauteing or wilting.  When I came across the idea to make a pesto out of them I decided it was worth a shot.  Especially since I could use my new food processor.

I used sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts because I didn't want to risk wasting precious pine nuts on something that might end up in the garbage can.  Those suckers are expensive!  However, I'm glad I used sunflower seeds because they add a lovely light nutty flavor that we all enjoyed.

The best part about this recipe is that my kids loved it.  I'm serious.  The 5 year old said it was "yummy mom" and the baby ate it straight off a spoon!  Amazing.  The greens weren't at all bitter or peppery.

Mustard Greens Pesto
1/2 cup dry roasted (and salted) sunflower seeds
1 bunch Mustard Greens (leaves only)
1/8 - 1/4 cup olive oil
salt & seasoning (to taste)
1-2 garlic cloves

1. Cut off the leaves from the Mustard Greens stems.  Wash and set aside.  Boil water in a pot and add the greens for about 60 seconds in the boiling water to wilt them.  Remove, drain and place aside to cool slightly.
2. Put the sunflower seeds in a food processor and pulse for a few seconds.
3. Combine the rest of the ingredients and process until the consistency you prefer.  Add additional olive oil, salt and garlic to taste.

Ta-da!  Less oil is perfect if you're going to use it as a spread on bread or crackers. More oil is better to use with pasta.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Make your own Puppy or Small Dog Sweater.

If you have a tiny little dog like we do (did, she's MUCH bigger now) here is a handy way to make a sweater out of things you probably already have at home.  It's a sock sweater. 

When we brought our little Italian Greyhound home from the breeder it was during the hot-hot-hot part of a Phoenix summer.  She didn't need a sweater for outside, but sometimes the a/c gets a little cold inside so we made her a sweater out of one of my husband's old socks.  

It's pretty simple to do: 
1. Use the top part of the sock (the leg/ankle part, not the foot part). 
2. Cut out arm holes and cut off the foot part of the sock.  Make sure their peeing parts aren't covered!
3. Wiggle your little dog into it.  That's it!  

The hardest part may be getting the dog into the sweater and convincing him/her to wear it.  Ha!  This is our older dog when he was a puppy rocking the same type of sweater.  We thought it looked like a little white undershirt tank.  Hilarious!  He wasn't so sure about it.

So if you have a puppy or a tiny little dog and you need a sweater give it a try.  Let me know what you think!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fisher Price Friday - Puzzle Puppy

Today on Fisher Price Friday I'd like to introduce you to a gigantic Lucky dog (aka Fido).  The Puzzle Puppy #659 is on the left and his tiny (regular sized) buddy Lucky is on the right.  The Puzzle Puppy is a stackable toy version of Fido.  He was made from 1976-1981 and is made for kids ages 18 months to 4 years.

We gave my little baby-girl (17 months) the Puzzle Puppy for Christmas.  She can't quite put it together herself yet but she is happy to take it apart!  This photo is her on christmas morning taking it apart for the first time. 

The puzzle breaks apart into 8 pieces.  The rings attach and fit around a central yellow rod.  

The black ears twist onto the yellow rod and the rest of the pieces slip over it. The bottom ring has the toy number 659 and the Fisher Price stamp.  It's a lovely little toy and super cute to see sitting around the playroom.  

If you like stacking toys check out the Giant Rock-a-Stack #740

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Closet Organization - Kid's Bedroom

Today I thought I'd share how I organize my kid's bedroom closet.  I already shared my closet and now it is the girls turn.

My girls share a room and a closet.  Needless to say there are many many little itty bitty and adorable girl clothes to keep track of.  I prefer to have neat, organized and attractive storage spaces.  Fortunately the girl's room has a pretty big closet, so that makes it easier to tuck everything in and away.

I keep baby-girls clothes on the top since only I need to reach them.  I organize them by type (dress, shirt, jumper, etc) and sometimes by color.  On the shelves above I have 3 pretty boxes to hold bigger sized clothes and baby things (a memory box).  Notice that I use (almost) all the same kind of child-sized hangers for my girl's clothes.  It makes for a more cohesive look and the smaller size keeps the clothes on better.

On the middle shelf I stack the girl's jeans.  We don't need many jeans around here in hot Phoenix so this one shelf fits them just fine.  I also have a hair clip holder that was made for me by a good friend.  It's perfect for baby-girl's tiny clips.  It is also a perfect shelf (kid eye level) to put sonogram photos from each of my girls.  The bucket on the far right is decorated with the same fabric as my baby's crib set and is where the 5 year old puts her dance clothes.

To the left I keep a big white (IKEA) box with the next size up or current off-season baby-clothes.  I want easy access to them so that I can keep checking to see what she may fit.  The little box on the shelf holds off-season baby hats (in season are kept in the hall where we put on shoes).

The bottom of the closet has the 5 year old's clothes.  They're at the perfect height for my daughter since she's the one that picks out her clothes and (mostly) puts them away.  I try to organize her clothes by type and color but I have to let it go a bit since she's the one that puts her clothes back.  The white box on the bottom of the closet holds her off-season clothes that are still her current size just in case we need them (for out-of-state trips usually).

The other side of the closet holds some of their off-season clothes.  Especially the big winter coats.  The floor of the closet has the laundry hamper and two big fabric "boxes" that hold stuffed animals and dolls.  This keeps them off the floor but still at easy access.

This side of the closet has extra blankets on the top shelf.  The middle has one box for the clothes the 5 year old has outgrown (once it is full I move it to my closet to save for baby-girl) and another box with the next size up clothes for baby-girl.  The lower shelf holds baby books, mother's memory books, birthday books, a baby memory box and a jar of affirmations from my baby-showers.

So that's the closet.  What do you think?

For a bonus here is a tip for organizing baby clothes in a drawer.  I use the organizers from IKEA to help keep all her itty-bitty clothes by type (including one just for socks!!).  It makes it much easier to keep it all straight even if it still looks messy in this photo, ha!