Sunday, August 31, 2014

Spicy Garlic Chicken Pizza

I love this pizza, the flavors are great together and it is a unique take on the normal pizza recipe. It may seem a little weird to add pine nuts, but they really do add to the overall flavor. I have been making it for years and have tweaked the original recipe a few times.

Spicy Garlic Chicken Pizza
6-8 servings
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 1/2 teaspoons prepared garlic
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
16 oz. Italian pizza shell
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons diced green onions, optional

1. Brown chicken and cut into small pieces.
2. Combine the garlic, soy sauce, vinegar with olive oil and red and black pepper.
3. Add chicken to the mixture and marinade for 30 minutes at room temperature.
4. Drain and reserve marinade.
5. Heat the marinade and add cornstarch, heating until the mixture is thick and bubbly.
6. Spread the marinade and then chicken over the pizza shell.
7. Add the pine nuts, optional green onions and cheeses.
8. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

1+1+1=1: Preschool Learning Resources

1+1+1=1 is a terrific website/blog with tons and tons of fabulous free ideas, activities, tot and preschool packs, tot trays and printables. They also have resources for kindergarten and first grade as well as lapbook templates. I have found some awesome learning tools to use with the kids. This is definitely a bookmark-worthy site.

Monday, August 25, 2014

5 Fun Fall Family Traditions

The fall season is upon us! Cool, crisp air, football, pumpkins, apples and pretty fall leaves are some of the wonderful things in store during the autumn season. There are so many opportunities for making some wonderful family memories with fall-themed activities. I've picked 5 that my family enjoys and does each year.

1) Visit a pumpkin patch. We have two pumpkin patches that we visit every year. It is fun to look back on pictures of the kids and how they have changed from year to year. The patches that we frequent also have other activities for families- wagon rides, animals, apple picking, corn mazes.
It is one of the things the kids look the most forward to in fall.

2) Take a fall nature walk. The brilliant fall leaves make the perfect backdrop for a hike in the woods, letting the kids collect leaves along the way. Use this as an opportunity for some enriching family time, unplugged from electronics. Time marches on so fast that one day you'll look back and wish for these days to rewind.

3) Make some favorite fall recipes. We fix a snack of pumpkin pound cake and frozen apple cider slush. Since we only make these goodies during autumn, it is a fun seasonal treat. The kids like to help mix ingredients and blend the apple cider.

4) Check out area festivals. Fall seems to be prime time for all kinds of festivals. Pumpkin, apple, corn, fall fests! You name it, I'm sure there is a festival for it and chances are it will be in the fall!
Most newspapers will have lists of area festivals either in print or online.

5) Decorate for fall. Whether or not your family participates in Halloween, you can still enjoy decorating with an autumn theme. Pumpkins, corn stalks, mums are all fall decorating staples. In order to let the kids participate, I will give them a few dollars to pick up some decorations at the dollar store. They also like to hang any fall crafts they've made.

Family traditions can really foster a sense of security and familiarity for kids. They look forward to certain things at specific times of the year. It is always fun to look back at pictures from the same pumpkin patch or festival from year to year and see how everyone changes.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Butterscotch Blondies

Yummy blondies! It is almost impossible to eat just one!

Makes 3 dozen
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar                                                
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda   
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pkg. (10 ozs.) butterscotch chips                                                                  

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
3. Add eggs; blend well.
4. In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt; gradually add to butter mixture; mixing well.
5. Stir in butterscotch chips.
6. Spread into a greased 13 inch X 9 inch X 2 inch baking pan.
7. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and center is set.
8. Cool completely before cutting into bars. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

3 Websites To Score Free Samples

So, you like to save money and get some fun freebies in the mail? If the answer is YES, then check out these 3 freebie sampling sites. I like checking out the new samples each week and while some of them will overlap, you can find quite a few originals. I have to admit that it is kind of a rush when they start showing up in the mail. Don't judge- it's the little things. It truly does come in handy, especially when you receive travel sizes of toiletries, which is great for trips.

1. Start Sampling: I like to check out the samples and forums headers for lots of freebies.

2. My Savings: I usually will peruse the free samples and free stuff headers. They always seem to be updated regularly.

3. Free Stuff Times  I feel like this site is easy to navigate and offers very up-to-date offers.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Lemon Linguine

My kids really like pasta so I'm always on the lookout for new recipes to try. They love lemon linguine and will normally eat 2-3 helpings. My daughter says it is one of her favorite foods. It goes great with all kinds of meats and you could easily add chicken for a main dish.

Lemon Linguine
4 servings

8 ozs. uncooked linguine
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
grated Parmesan cheese, optional

1. In a saucepan, cook linguine in boiling water until tender.
2. Meanwhile, in another saucepan, combine butter, lemon juice, basil, garlic powder, and lemon pepper; cook and stir until butter is melted.
3. Drain linguine; add to butter mixture and toss.
4. Add Parmesan cheese if desired and toss.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

5 Great Things To Do In Chicago

Chicago is such an awesome city to visit: full of history, world-class museums, shopping, fun dining options and kid-friendly attractions. If you are thinking ahead to spring break or summer vacation, Chicago is definitely a place to keep on the list of musts for family trips. I have visited Chicago at least a dozen times over the years. Some trips were for business, some for a girls' only weekend, a few have been a one-day up and back Chicago day trip and, of course, the family vacation.
I have listed 5 top kid attractions that are great fun for the entire family and are sure to be a highlight of your Chicago vacation.

1) Shedd Aquarium- One of the finest aquariums in the country, the backdrop for the Shedd is Lake Michigan. Take a trip to the Amazon, Carribean, and the Artic all in one afternoon. An awesome aquatic show complete with dolphins will top off a fun afternoon. My daughter thought it was so cool to actually see beluga whales up close and personal.

2) Take a Trolley Tour of Chicago- This tour will give the most bang for your buck, traveling all over the downtown area. Get all kinds of Chicago information while enjoying easy and low stress transportation to the top attractions, dining and shopping areas. My kids love riding on the top of the double decker buses for the best views, that is just the ultimate in fun for young ones and will keep their attention while the adults can listen to the tour narration. We purchase a 3-day ticket for unlimited on and off transportation. This ticket also included some Chicago neighborhood tours, taking in the sights of Chinatown, Wrigley Field and the Lincoln Park area.

3) Navy Pier - Kids will love Navy Pier! Between the gigantic ferris wheel, carousel, Chicago Children's Museum, 18-hole miniature golf course, lots of fun restaurants and old-fashioned swing ride, you could spend at least half a day or more just hanging out at the pier. It will also give you some perfect picture taking opportunities with the beautiful Lake Michigan as the backdrop.

4) Museum of Science and Industry-This museum is the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere and is filled to the brim with exciting exhibits that kids will love. Space exploration, a World War II sub to explore, trains, fairy castles, coal mines, streets of yesteryear and the human body are just a few of the areas to explore in this huge museum.
The Museum of Science and Industry is listed in the ASTC program so if you have a reciprocal membership you will be able to get free or reduced admission to this attraction.
Check out this post on the ASTC program:

5) Take a Boat Ride- I love boating on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. There are many options when considering what type of boat ride to take with kids. A Lake Michigan shoreline cruise, Chicago River architectural tour or a combination of the two are the main options for boat rides. Any of the options will give your kids a bird's eye view of the skyline, buildings and excitement of the city with a little historical education thrown in for good measure.
The following website will list comparisons of the various boat tours in the city:

For a comparison of the two main Chicago discount cards that will allow you to visit many attractions at much lower prices, visit:
Many of the attractions are listed on the discount cards.

The attractions above are just a few of the kid-approved Chicago attractions. Chicago is a a great city to explore with your children!