Friday, July 30, 2010

Tomatoes and Garlic and Basil, Oh my!!

Tis the season for tomatoes! I love this time of year. To me there is absolutely nothing better to eat than a homegrown tomato still warm from the sun! But here's where I'll make a confession: I've never actually grown any tomatoes. My husband and I tried once. Our plant thrived until some sly critters enjoyed the fruits of our labor. Our house backs up to a wooded area so the wildlife sometimes gets to enjoy our yard more than we do. But never fear...I have friends and family that are successful gardeners! (image courtesy of flickr.)

My good friend, Mari, has had an amazing crop of Roma tomatoes this year as well as a lot of basil. And like good friends with gardens do, she shared them with me. While I'm happy just eating the tomatoes as is, sprinkled with a little sea salt, I decided to try something I've had at various parties and something I see a lot of in magazines and cooking shows when tomatoes are in season:

Roasted Tomatoes with Basil and Garlic.

I made sure I had:

roma tomatoes
fresh basil
a head of garlic
olive oil
kosher salt
crackers or chips
cheese of your choice

(and a kid who must sample everything.)

I sliced the tomatoes lengthwise. Here's where I have to put in a plug for the Pampered Chef tomato knife. No...I'm not a consultant trying to make a sale. I just think that this knife is really awesome!

After preheating the oven to 275, I got out my extra large casserole dish.
I laid out the tomatoes,
threw in a handful of basil leaves and
scattered a head of whole garlic cloves.
I sprinkled everything liberally with kosher salt
and gave it all a few grinds of pepper.
Lastly I drizzled it all with olive and tossed it around to make sure everything was evenly coated.

Now here's where I change things from most of the recipes I found online. Instead of leaving it uncovered, letting everything get caramelize and chewy, I covered the pan with foil.

And the slow roast begins. Let this baby simmer for 5 to 6 hours on low heat, 250 or 275 F.

And here's what you get. Not quite as pretty as the "before" picture but believe me when I tell you what it's lacking in appearance will definitely be made up in taste!

Now get yourself some toast points, pita chips, bagel chips or make your own crostini.
Layer some mozzarella (or goat cheese would be good too), a roasted tomato and a clove of garlic and go for it!
Crazy delicious!
The roasting makes the tomatoes so incredibly sweet!

Enjoy!! I think I'll go have some more....

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Be Fri's and Friendship Rings

Be Fri? What does that mean to you? Growing up it was the half of the broken heart that I so desperately wanted. I mean, who wants “st ends”? Now the pitiful part of the story is not that I was stuck with “st ends” but that I didn’t have anyone to have a Best Friends broken heart necklace with. I think I mourned this point for many years until I somehow nabbed 6 Best Friends in college (I’d like to see that heart broken up in 7 pieces).

Now as a mother of a 7 year old little girl who so desperately wants to have a friend to share a charm with, I understand how hard it is for little girls to have a best friend. Each girl is in different activities (sports, music, church) or a different class in school and let’s not even mention the mood swings and extreme emotions!

So, I convinced my daughter that she doesn’t want to be tied down to just one friend. That many friends have lots of different things to offer. (Is this foreshadowing of the dating years?) I told her that we could make friendship rings instead. And do you know how cute she is? She first wanted a matching ring with me…and then I made her include her baby sister.

I tried to make this a project that she could do, but truth be told, I ended up doing most of it. It only took me about 5 minutes to do them…so no big deal, right?

You will need:
Colored craft wire (sometimes comes in sampler kits shown)
Wire snippers
Matching beads
Plastic Ring Mandrel ( sells them for $3.77)
Needle nose pliers or crimp pliers

First take a ring you already have and size it on the mandrel.

If you are making small kids rings, you will need about 27 inches of wire. I happen to have ginormous hands and fingers and to make my size 10 ring, I used 48 inches of wire. 

Take your bead and string it on the wire and when the bead is in the middle, bend the wires on the sides of the bead so the bead won’t move around. 

Then place that on the mandrel one size bigger than you desire. For example, if you are making a size 5 ring, place it at the 6 mark. Begin to wrap the wire around the mandrel. Make sure one wire is wrapping above the bead and the other one is wrapping below the bead.

Sometimes I wrap the bead itself.

Make sure to leave about 2 inches to wrap the sides. When you only have about 2 inches of wire on both sides, pull the ring of the mandrel and wrap the ends of the wire around the sides. You can snip any excess off with your wire cutters and then crimp or squeeze the end of the wire so that it won’t snag your skin or your clothes. 

Then push the ring down the mandrel to the correct size. This tightens all the wires.

There you have it. You can do this with big or small beads. You can match the bead or the wire or both. Hopefully these friendship rings are a hit. Hey roomies, guess what you guys are getting at our next reunion?


Creations by Kara

Monday, July 26, 2010

Table Art

Whether you're a fan or not, Macaroni Grill does have one of the greatest things going...

Drawing on the table.

I admit. Even as an adult, having dinner with another adult, and no children at the table, I find myself doodling on the table while waiting for dinner to come. (I've even tried writing my name upside down just like the waiter can do.)

For my Cookie's first birthday a few years ago, we invited over a few family friends for cake and ice cream. We took this idea and covered our kitchen table with butcher paper. I placed markers and crayons and even a few prizes in bowls and cups on my table's lazy susan. It was simple and perfect for a one year old.

This week, we were at it again. The summer afternoons here get HOT. I mean really really HOT! If you're outside, you're usually on your way to swim, swimming, or finishing swimming. If not, an air conditioned home is your relief.

So to help beat the inside summer boredom, we did some table art this week.

Butcher paper is the easiest to cover your tables with. However we bought this roll of paper years ago, during a move, and I can't tell you how many presents and tables we've wrapped with this. It's great having it around.

** If you don't want to cover a table, you can always just get a huge sheet of paper for them to color on the floor. Something different makes it exciting. **

I pulled out the crayons, markers and colored pencils for them to choose from. Instead of bowls of prizes like we did with my Cookie's party, I filled bowls with treats. We left the paper on the table all afternoon so they could come and go.

I also put out a few bowls of stickers. I used these foam stickers. My mother-in-law is the one who introduced these to our family. I swear these stickers multiply and reproduce. When I put them back in the tubs when we finish, we still have full tubs. It's the best!

And after a full day of doodling, you get something like this:

Meggie chose to create a Halloween scene:

And The Boss' latest passion is Wipeout. He draws Wipeout courses all day. If you look carefully you can find (and he calls these by name) The Dirty Diving Boards, The Sweeper, and The Wipeout Zone featuring the Launcher and the Ribcage (which I'm told it's impossible to cross) and then we have the Ultimate Finishing Platform. Awesome!

What are some other ways to help beat the heat from the inside?

I'm linking up to:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Road Trips and Dollar Store Goodies!

Let's face it. The words "road trip" takes on a whole new meaning when you have children. It's no longer a car full of friends with nothing but the open road, some good music and a lot of fun. Kids turn it into a whole lot of "are we there yets" while Dad drives and Mom keeps her eyes peeled for the next McDonald's. The drive isn't always the fun part. BUT! In anticipation of the little 4 hour road trip that my family will soon make I've come up with a couple of things that may make the drive a tiny bit more tolerable.

It started with a visit to the dollar store. . .

The first thing I came upon was a wide selection of flash cards. I have a 4 year old that will be starting Kindergarten this time next year so he could use a little preview of letters and numbers.

There is an office supply store right across the parking lot from the dollar store so I went and grabbed a pack of laminating sheets. I have a toddler who finds it necessary to occasionally eat paper so I thought it may be a good idea to protect the cards. So I laminated the cards, hole punched them and then attached them together with a zip tie.

Now they are toddler proof and there will be no games of "52 card pickup" courtesy of my 4 year old!

Next dollar store find were these dry erase boards. Both of my kids love to draw and so I really wanted these but I had to come up with a way to alleviate the fighting over the markers as well as protect the car, their clothes and their skin from the markers. So some brainstorming brought me this idea:

The dry erase people FINALLY came up with these:

(Walgreens has these on sale this week so if you hurry, you can probably get some!)

I found these plastic, padded envelopes at the office supply store for $1. I covered the sticky strip with some paper so the envelope wouldn't seal.

I added velcro tabs to the envelope

and then used spray adhesive to adhere the envelope to the back of the dry erase board.

Now each child has their own board with an attached pouch that holds their own markers! No fighting! (maybe.)

I then found these DVD/CD holders. Each of my children will have a DVD player to watch so I figured they might as well have their own cases as well.

And since I'm crafty, I personalized their movie holders with some modge podge, scrap book paper and letters!

My dollar store treasures didn't end there. I found some things to entertain the kids in the hotel as well.

The balls are for the pool and my son will LOVE exploring the room with that giant magnifying glass! One dollar for that! Of course I am a little nervous about what he might find. There are just some things you're better off not knowing when staying in a hotel!

And those are board books with photographs. My daughter's favorite! And that thing on the left....that's a little pinball game. Sure to be a hit with both kids.

Wish us luck!!

Happy Trails!