Blissfully Delicious

orange chickenHappy Tuesday everyone! I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. Can you believe that we’re already on the second day of September now? I had an extra long weekend since I took last Friday off so we could go to Minneapolis for the weekend. And it was so nice to be able to get out of town and just get a change of scenario. I think the next “holiday” where we can get time off from work would be Thanksgiving, so I’m really glad that I took advantage of our holiday weekend by going out of town. Every time that we’re trying to decide on where to go for long weekends, we’re always so torn between doing things that we both enjoy and doing things for the kids like the zoo, the children’s museum, etc. Minneapolis has been an ideal destination that offers activities that are really fun for the kids and us. While I’m personally drawn more to urban activities, like checking out restaurants, cool exhibits, some shopping, and maybe a show or two; it’s really hard to do those with the kids, so we’ve been exploring places that everyone can enjoy. orange chicken 2We came back on Sunday and had all day yesterday trying to unwind. In the chaos of unpacking and laundry, I made this really yummy chicken dish. I know as a food blogger, I try not to use the word delicious in every single post, but this one was really delicious! I almost think that it’s better than its original version from Panda Express’ Orange Chicken. See while I have always loved Panda Express, I kind of forgot about them for a while since since there wasn’t really any locations nearby where I used to live. We had a Panda Express kiosk on my college campus, so I used to get them whenever I had extra money. But after that, nope. No Panda Express for me. Fast forward three years ago, when I found out that there was a Panda Express about 20 minutes from where I live, I knew that I would have to make the trek to get my share of their orange chicken dish. It’s hard to not love crispy fried chicken slathered in sweet orange sauce, with a tad of spice on a bowl of steamed rice. The only thing that I would have changed next time was the method of breading the chicken pieces. I feel like some of them were falling apart as they were cooled on the plate. So maybe I will do the flour first, then the egg to bind the flour onto the chicken. But flavor-wise, this dish really hit it on the nail, and I’m adding this to my menu rotation.

fresh strawberry pie While this summer has been pretty unusual and unexpected in term of weather (lots of rain and tornado warnings), I’m still holding on to summer as much as I can, including enjoying as much strawberries as possible. Strawberries is one of those fruits that just taste so much better in the summer when they’re in the season. I admit that I would sneak in a pint of blueberries or so here and there in the winter months, but not strawberries.  I just don’t think that they taste the same in the winter. I’d start eating them in May, and would continue to buy them until late September when I’ll be ready for apples and pumpkins.
strawberry pie 2Instead of a birthday cake, I requested this pie last year for my birthday. My hubby prepared this for me for the first time last year, and I made it again earlier this summer as soon as strawberries were available.  Since my birthday is this weekend, I may even request this again instead of a cake. This dessert is simply a slice of summer: strawberries are mixed in with a little bit of sugar, lemon juice, and a little pectin and cornstarch to make it a nice glaze that binds the juicy berries. I don’t even need any whipped cream on the top, although you can really make it extra special with tons of whipped cream or homemade vanilla ice cream. Have a great holiday weekend everyone, I’ll see you next week!

Flour Brownies
Our kids had room changes this past week. While this wasn’t the first room change that the kids experienced, my little one Liam only experienced one room change when he was five months old, and he barely knew what was going on at that time. He had been with the same caregivers for almost a year. I dreaded last week and I kept on worrying it about it over the weekends. Sure enough, the first two days were a little rough. They had to literally peel his little hands off my shoulders at drop off, and he screamed bloody murder. I had to run off and not looked back. He really bonded with his previous teachers, and understandably, the change was a little traumatic. The next two were a little less painful, he gave us very dirty look but no tears. Finally, on Friday, he smirked a little smile, and wanted a little snuggle before I left. I knew that I was always to be a working mother, but I have to say that no matter how long I have been a mother, the drop off continues to suck. It is a little easier with my older daughter, since I know that she enjoys interacting with her friends, but the little one is always tough. Liam still likes spending time with us. Then, of course with the room changes,  we had the naps change. Yes, apparently my daughter doesn’t get a nap time anymore in her new room, just a “rest-time”. So while she tells everyone that she doesn’t like nap, she still needs a nap. With my little one, he now had to transition to one nap. I figured that with my older daughter not getting any rest at school, she would be tired more and fall asleep easier. Well, she was a little grouchy. I was just glad that this last week was over with. I’m ready now to start with a shorter week next week. I made this brownies for a little celebration treat with the week ended. While I love the intense chocolate flavor of this brownie, I really categorized this brownie in the “cakey” category. So this was a very intense chocolate cake. After this recipe though, I think I have officially declared myself as a “fudgey” brownie person.  Have a great Sunday everyone!

fresh straw froyo As a mom, I’m pretty generous with my kiddoes when it comes to treats. I didn’t really grow up eating lots and lots of sweets, but I always craved them, and gobbled them up whenever they were available. Ice creams, cakes, cookies and anything baked were definitely luxurious items for us kids. I grew up eating fresh sliced fruits, like papayas and star fruits. Cakes, ice-creams and doughnuts were just once or twice type of treats. While my kids don’t get sweets daily, I definitely allow them to indulge on the weekends. I noticed that with my daughter, she’d actually stop eating, even ice-cream when she’s full. She’d walk away and tell me that she has enough. Not a bad trait to learn early on :)
fresh straw froyo 2
As soon as I was on my own, and was able to basically fill up my own refrigerator, one of my absolute indulgences is ice-cream. Even during a period of my life, when I was 20 something, counting calories and spending 2-3 hrs per day working out, I ate ice-cream. I might not have butter, soda pops, or potato chips in my house, but I always had several flavors of ice-creams in my freezer.  Instead of going for the full-fat ice cream, I started venturing out to the low-fat version, the no-sugar version (yikes! Just yikes!), and some other “healthier” version. That’s also when I started eating low-fat frozen yogurt. As soon as both of my kids turned one, I couldn’t wait to share the wonderful world of frozen treats. This was one of the first frozen treats that I made for my daughter as soon as she turned one. I have used whole milk and reduce fat plain yogurt, and both turned out successfully. I have not tried it with the fat-free version, but my guess is that it would work out just fine, it would just be less creamy. I was pretty happy to follow the suit and shared this with my son as soon as he also turned one this past May. Strawberries have been in abundance and beautiful this summer, so I was able to make several batches of this treat to enjoy this summer.

blueberry scones 2Blueberries have been on sale left and right at my grocery store, that I just had to make scones with them.  And this one, was probably the best one that I have tried to make at home. They were not very sweet, but full with blueberries, without the streaking that usually happen on scones or muffins, and are covered in sweet sanding sugar. These are even better since they can be prepared ahead of time and frozen, which is a huge timesaver for our family. Weekend mornings are getting a little hard to plan for anymore. I’m always torn between serving something quick for breakfast so we can get going and take the kids to do fun outdoor activities, or starting it the day a little slower with a homemade breakfast. We took the day off yesterday since our daycare center was closed for room changes. Instead of going to Minneapolis, we decided to stay in town instead and maybe check out the Iowa State fair, which we have never been to… (yep, kind of weird,  I know, since we’ve been living in Iowa for about 8 years now). I mean, who doesn’t love greasy fatty food on a stick, right? :-) blueberry scones Unfortunately, we woke up to a pretty gloomy day, and then the rain started pouring in, and it didn’t really stop all day.  I also must have caught some sort of virus in the middle all of this, so I had a terrible body ache and low-grade fever that I tried to kick. I’m all about rolling in with the punches, but neither one of us really was up to taking two kids with a stroller, to a potentially very muddy setting which will require a lot of cleaning up afterwards. Plus now that I wasn’t feeling all that great, we switched the gear to taking the kids to  the Science Center, which is still a lot of fun, but indoor. I talked my hubby into taking the kids without me so I could sleep off my fever and yuckiness, and thankfully he did, but I’m convinced that sleep can fix almost anything that goes wrong. I was also thankful that I had several leftover of these scones hiding in the freezer,because nothing really brightened up a rainy morning than homemade fresh blueberry scone.