Simply Served Summer Lunch Menu

Recently I had my daughter’s 3rd birthday party at our home.  Since the party was from 3pm-5pm, I wanted to have a light lunch/early dinner menu for the parents.  Below is what I served and felt it was an easy and surprisingly healthy menu to share for any gathering you may have this summer in your home.

  • Grilled Chicken: marinated with lemon juice, fresh garlic and Italian seasoning.
  • Grilled Vegetables: lightly coat vegetables with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Great vegetables to grill are eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, green and red peppers and red onions.
  • Summer Orzo Salad 
  • String Beans with Fresh Mint

Serve with fresh Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

String Beans with Mint

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 12/ minced fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pound of tender string beans
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Whisk all ingredients together except string beans and set aside.
  2. Trim the string beans and put in a large pot.
  3. Add cold water to cover.
  4. Bring water to boil and cook until you can pierce with a fork.
  5. Drain string beans and place under cold water to stop them from cooking.
  6. Add drained string beans to dressing.
  7. Toss well to coat.
  8. Cover and place in fridge to allow string beans to marinate overnight.
  9. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Steak Fajitas

Ingredients

  • 3/4lb lean boneless beef top round steak cut into thin strips
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 green pepper cut into strips
  • 1 red pepper cut into strips

Directions

  • Marinade steak in Fajita Marinade for at least 30 minutes.
  • Heat skillet for over medium-high heat until hot. Add beef and marinade; cook to desired level.
  • Spray vegetable oil onto grill pan.  Cook onion and peppers and toss occasionally for about 15-20 minutes until tender.

Serve with sour cream and Homemade Guacamole.  Enjoy!!!

Fajita Marinade

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Put all ingredients in glass bowl and mix with a whisk.

Traveling with a Toddler

So you tried to delay it as much as you could but the time is here… You need to travel with your toddler. This is probably one of the most terrifying experiences for any parent.  As we all know, every baby is different and as much as you plan and prep, it might not end up as perfect as you planned. However, there are definitely things you can do to help for a (dare I say it) pleasant flight!  See below for traveling tips!

  • Book your flight during your toddler’s nap time.  This will almost ensure that your child sleeps for a good portion of your flight.  The key is to not disrupt your child’s routine too much i.e. waking up early.  Restful baby is a happy baby!
  • Before heading to the airport, make sure you’re familiar with your airline policy regarding child gear.  Most airlines allow you to bring a stroller and car seat without any additional charges. Also, make sure to find out if your diaper bag is considered a personal item or if that’s an additional luggage.  You don’t want to find all of this when you’re at the gate so do your homework beforehand.  Most airlines have all of this information online so it should be easy to get the answers you need.
  • Speaking of gear, try to contact a local hotel if you need a pack and play or crib when traveling.  Most hotels have them and they are rarely used.  It will save you having to carry or ship yet another gear for your baby.
  • Let your toddler exude as much energy as possible right before getting on the plane.  I’ve seen some parents tell their toddlers to sit and be patient once they get to the gate but I say, let them run around.  They’re going to have to sit for hours so why not let them stretch out their legs before boarding.  Plus, the more tired they are, the more likely they will sleep for you on the plane!
  • Buy them their own suitcase and/or backpack.  As you know, toddlers want to do whatever you do.  This includes pushing around a suitcase.  I have seen parents and child having a full blown meltdown at the airport because the child wanted to pull the suitcases.  This is an easy way to alleviate that issue!  It also lets them feel like they are “helping” making it a fun experience for them. Skip Hop has super cute and affordable ones that are both parents and child approved!
  • Bring snacks!!!  Even though you want to make sure that your child has had a good meal before getting on the plane, make sure to bring their favorite snacks.  You don’t know when you’re might get suck on the plane. Plus, snacks is a good way to (temporarily) distract your toddler.  Don’t forget a sippy cup to keep them hydrated.
  • Buy them a new toy.  So your baby has napped and eaten their snacks and you still have an hour to go!  What are you going to do???  Break out a new toy.  Make sure it’s new and something they have never seen before because that way, they will be more willing to play with it longer.  And the toy doesn’t have to be expensive.  You can go to your local Dollar Tree and buy a few new things for them.  I personally love a Mr. PotatoHead doll if they don’t already have one.  It’s a small toy and it provides tons of funs!  A magnetic puzzle is also a great option. The key is that the toy be small, easy to travel with and new.
  • Break out the tablet. Though I’m not a personal fan of electronics for toddlers, a long airplane ride is one of my exceptions. Make sure to download a few episodes of their favorite shows and/or movie. Make sure to download different shows to provide your toddler with options.  Getting them earphones is also great for them and for your fellow passengers.

Hope this helps you alleviate your anxiety about traveling with your toddler.

Feel free to share your own tips or ask any questions!  I would love to hear from you!

 

Books to Get You Ready for Baby

Congrats!  You are expecting a baby!  You’re excited, happy, nervous and overwhelmed because you have no idea to what to do once the baby comes!  I definitely know the feeling!  I decided during my pregnancy to read as much as possible so that I can feel a bit more prepared.  Though nothing will ever prepare you for motherhood, at least I felt like I had a bit more knowledge that I did before.  Plus, reading was one of the few activities that didn’t exude much energy. When you’re 9 months pregnant, that’s exactly the type of activity that you want!

So the first thing I would say is to definitely NOT get the book that tells you what to expect when you’re expecting  having a baby.  It provides too much information which can be extremely overwhelming especially for a first time mom.  Also, it lists everything that can possibly go wrong.  I don’t know about you but I would rather focus on the positive than the negative.

So below are my recommendations on the three books that I read, love and still recommend to my girlfriends.  Happy Reading!

  • The Baby Whisperer: If you could only buy one book, this would be it!  I absolutely love this book because it covers all things baby like proper sleeping, creating great eating habits and taking care of mommy which is very important.  The best part is that it does it with a simply, back to basics philosophy.  It’s also a nice easy read which is great especially when you have pregnancy brain. I have suggested this book to many of my girlfriends and they all agree that it’s the absolute best book to prepare for baby.  Hope you enjoy it as well!
  • Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy: I love this book because it discusses everything that you could experience during your pregnancy but in a fun way.  The book answers embarrassing questions that you would probably wouldn’t ask one of your actual girlfriends.  It also gives you practical tips and advice including what to pack in that hospital bag.  You would never think to do it but packing chapstick was a lifesaver during my 29-hours of labor!  Definitely a great book to get!
  • Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy: Now if you are like me and want to know all the scientific things that are going on with your body while pregnant, then this is the book for you.  It explains what is going on with your body and baby during every week of your pregnancy.  It also has great features on meal planning and proper exercising. Definitely an essential for an expectant mommy!

And since we are in the modern age of technology and apps, I would suggest that you download a pregnancy app.  These types of apps are fantastic because they give you weekly updates on your baby’s development.  I used to look forward the weekly updates alerts telling me that my baby was the size of (insert some type of fruit or veggie here) and what was being developed that week.  It’s also a great way for your partner to feel involved as well.  My hubby downloaded the app as well and he loved being able to know what was going on with the baby as well without needing to ask me or the doctor.  It became an amazing bonding experience for the both of us.  There’s so many different apps out there so chose one that best fits your lifestyle.

Hope you find these suggestions helpful to get ready for your baby.  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need clarification on anything. I would love to help!

What are your favorite pregnancy books?

Let me know because I would love to hear from you!

Remember you are simply EXTRAORDINARY!

Gifts that Give Back: Hostess Gift Guide

Believe or not but the holidays are around the corner!  You will be going to lots of holiday parties and below are great gifts to bring to the party. The best part about it is that each of the gifts below give back to charities.  So you can feel even better during the holiday season!

  1. Pier One UNICEF Holiday Cards : Each box set donates to UNICEF.
  2. West Elm Kitchen Set : Set includes apron, oven mitt, pot holder & tea towel for only $59.  For each gift set purchased, FEED will donate 32 meals to families in need in the USA.
  3. FEED Wine Bag : By purchasing this unique wine bag, FEED provides 5 school meals for children around the world. Available for only $22.
  4. Jonathan Adler (Product) RED Candle : This (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition Tomato Pop Candle sold will benefit the Global Fund in providing life saving medicine. Available for only $38.
  5. Belvedere (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition Vodka Bottle :  Drink for a cause! 50% of the gross profits go to the Global Fund.
  6. Alessi Fruit Bowl : You’ll be the ultimate gift give with this unique and festive fruit bowl especially since proceeds go towards the Global Fund!  Priced at $90.
  7.  No Kid Hungry® Chef Series Silicone Spatula, American Girl™ : William Sonoma will donate 30% of the price of limited edition spatulas towards the No Kid Hungry organization which works towards ending children hunger in the US.
  8. St. Jude Metallic Yarn Knit Throw : Nothing says a great gift than a cozy blanket.  It’s even better when 50% of the purchase price will be donated directly to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®.
  9. St. Jude Metallic Hearts Bowl + Mug : You can never have enough mugs and soup bowls especially during the holidays.  It’s even sweeter when 50% of the purchase price of each bowl and mug will be donated directly to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®.
  10. ONE HOPE The Mixologist Gift Box : For every box purchased, 10 meals are donated to end childhood hunger.

What are your hostess gifts that you love?  I would love to hear it!

Holiday Organization Guide

Whether you want to accept it or not, we only have 6 Saturdays till the Holidays!  Typically, the Holidays can be extremely stressful especially for us mommies. Below is my guide on what you can do to get yourself organized early and actually enjoy the magic of the Holiday Season!

  1. Create or update your holiday greeting card address list: I don’t know about you but every year, I forget how time consuming this is.  Whether it’s changing addresses because someone moved or changed their names due to a marriage, I end up rushing around last minute making all the changes.
  2. Print your labels for the Holiday cards: Imagine getting your holiday cards and just have to stuff the envelopes and stick a label on it and be done?! You can make it happen if you prep in advance.  Make sure you have enough labels before printing.  I remember one year, I was all ready to print my labels and I was short one page. Definitely not fun!
  3. Get your stamps!:  Nothing can be more stressful than going to the Post Office during the Holiday Season.   Save yourself some stress and go now.  It won’t be as busy and you will be guaranteed getting those festive Holiday stamps!
  4. Schedule your holiday photo shoot.  The sooner you do this, the better.  Most people go around the second week of December so try to schedule it during the first week.
    1. Mommy Tip: Schedule your photo shoot after your child has napped and has eaten so you can have a happy, smiling baby for the pics!
  5. Create your gift list: The sooner you do this, the better.  I have personally experienced that I end up spending more money when I have waited last minute in buying my gifts.  You end up forgetting someone and buy whatever you see which always seems to end up being more expensive than what you originally anticipated.
  6. Create your Gift Budget: Once you have your gift list, you can now create your budget.  I have about 14 kids (yes 14!) that I buy gifts for so creating a budget is extremely helpful. The Holidays can easily influence to want you to buy EVERYTHING especially for kids. Having a budget will help keep you on track and not overspend.
  7. Start buying your gifts! I know thinking about buying gifts for the Holidays might seem like a bit much but I promise you will glad that you did.  Early Holiday shopping has so many advantages.  The hottest gifts are always in stock.  You tend to keep with your budget when you shop early because you’re not rushed into getting just anything. And most companies have amazing deals and sales to get you shop early so you save even more money.  The best part is that you can get a head start on all of the wrapping.
    1. Mommy tip: If you haven’t done it already, try online shopping.  Nothing gives me more stress than the thought of stepping foot into a mall during the holidays with a toddler. Most stores now provide free shipping so there’s really no need to go into a mall.  You can also sign up for Amazon Prime which is AMAZING!  Definitely an easy way to relieve the Holiday stress.
  8. Create a gift-wrapping area: This might sound silly but it’s a life saver!  Having one designated area in your home for all things gifts is extremely helpful.  It can be a drawer or a shelf in one of your closets.  You can buy a storage bin at the Dollar Tree and keep your ribbon, tape, scissors, gift tags, etc. in it.  Once you are ready to wrap, you can take out the storage bin and have everything in one place!  Put one some Holiday music and actually enjoy wrapping the gifts you shopped so hard for.
  9. Do an inventory on your gift wrapping supplies:  The kids are finally asleep.  You gather all the gifts that need to be wrapped.  You sit down at the dining room table and you realize you don’t have tape.  Believe me, I have been there.  It’s not fun!  Take the time now to check that you have everything you need: tape, good scissors, gift wrapping paper, bags.  An added benefit in getting these items now is that you will have the best choices.  I remember one year, I went out to buy gift wrapping paper and there was one sad roll left behind because everyone else had bought the good stuff.
    1. Money Saving Tip: Go to a wholesaler like Costco to buy your wrapping paper, bows and tissue paper. The paper is of great quality with wonderful designs, double the quantity and half the price of paper that you would buy at a regular store.  While you’re there, you can sometimes even purchase stamps which will save you a trip to the Post Office altogether
    2. The Dollar Tree is your go to place to purchase the most festive and cutest gift bags!  I can’t even imagine paying more than one dollar on a gift bag anymore.  Once you visit your local Dollar Tree, you won’t either.  The key is going there early because items will sell out and quick! The same goes for stuffing stuffers!
  10. Enjoy the season! The Holiday season is extremely special to me.  It’s a time where you can create magic for your kids.  Try to keep in mind the real reason for the season!  And remember that your children won’t necessary remember the toy that you got them or the gift wrap paper but they will remember how memorable you made the Holidays for them. Keep that in mind when it starts getting to be too much.

What are your tips for getting yourself organized for the holidays?

I would love to hear them!

Halloween Party Details

Since Halloween fell on a Saturday this year, I felt it was only right to throw a Halloween Party!  The first thing I did was send out an Evite for our immediate family.  I then went to my local Dollar Tree to buy the decorations.  I literally spent less than $20 on plates, napkins, serving patters and bowls, and decor.  I then planned out the menu and activities for the kids listed below.  I had apps out when everyone arrived.  We then went out trick or treating as a group which was super fun. When we got back, the kids did their candy exchange and then we played Halloween Bingo.  I then brought out desserts which gave everyone the sugar rush they needed for the dance off.  We then ended the night with a showing of NIghtmare Before Christmas.  It was amazing to see our daughter have such a great time with her little cousins. Definitely consider throwing your own Halloween Party or even a birthday themed costume party. It’s super easy and eerily fun!  Happy Halloween!

Halloween Menu

  • Witch’s Brew: Guacamole
  • Zombie Brain Dip: Buffalo Chicken Dip
  • Brain Pies: Pierogis
  • Vampire Bread: Pepperoni Bread (recipe coming soon)
  • Baby Mummies: Pigs in a Blanket
  • Gooey Monster Fingers: Mozzarella Sticks
  • Skeleton Bones: Buffalo Wings
  • Cupcakes
  • Rice Krispie Treats
  • Cookies
  • Homemade Chocolates (recipe coming soon)
  • Pumpkin Bread (recipe coming soon)
  • Halloween Oreos

Activities

  • Halloween Bingo: Email me and I can send you the template for free.
  • Halloween Dance Off: I listed the playlist below.
  • Trick or Treating: Can’t think of a better activity to do during Halloween!
  • Halloween Movie: Ended the evening with a showing of Nightmare before Christmas!

Halloween Playlist: I put together a list of Halloween songs for the kids to dance to. It was definitely my favorite part of the night!

  • Ghostbusters Theme Song
  • Time Warp from the Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Thriller by Michael Jackson
  • The Monster Mash
  • Shake Dem Skeleton Bones
  • Addams Family Theme Song
  • The Witch Doctor
  • This Is Halloween from Nightmare before Christmas

What are your favorite Halloween Party tips and tricks?  Please share!

Marinated Rosemary Steak

I don’t know about you but the colder seasons inspire me to cook big ol’ comfort dinners.  Nothing says comfort to me than a nice steak and potato meal.  I found this great and super easy recipe that your family is not only going to love but think you’ve slaved all day making!

Ingredients

  • 4 (1 pound) New York strip steaks, 1-inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, cut in half

Directions

  1. In a baking dish, sprinkle the steaks on both sides with the salt and pepper and drizzle with  olive oil.
  2. Place the rosemary in the dish and allow to marinate at room temperature for 45 minutes to an 1 hour.
  3. Make sure to turn the steaks halfway through to infuse with rosemary.
  4. After an hour remove the steaks from the baking dish and discard the rosemary
  5. Preheat a grill or grill pan to high heat.
  6. Place the steaks on the grill.
  7. Cook for about 5 minutes on both sides for medium-rare.
  8. Remove from the grill and allow to rest under loosely fitted aluminum foil for 10 minutes. This allows all the juices to soak into the steak making it super juicy and moist.
  9. Drizzle the Rosemary Butter over your steak.
  10. Serve with Rosemary & Garlic Roasted Potatoes and enjoy!

What comfort meals do you enjoy to make during the cold seasons?  I would to hear them!

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