Thunder Cake

When my son was born in 2013, he received a book titled Thunder Cake, by Patricia Polacco, from my Mother’s good friend and neighbor, Julie. Thunder cake is about a child who is afraid of Thunderstorms and her Babushka helps her overcome her fears of storms. 
For the past 4 years, we have carried on this tradition each summer (the season of the book and secret ingredient). My kids hate storms, and just like th book, the focus of making a delicious cake helps them stay calm.

So today, among the thousand things we must do, we are making Thundercake because it’s storming and the secret ingredient was JUST PICKED, rain boots, coats and all.

I recommend Vermont Nut-Free cocoa powder and tomato paste will work well if you do not have fresh tomato. Instead of a chocolate frosting, I make a chocolate glaze and top with strawberries. Enjoy!

Weeknight Homemade Chicken Soup

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You don’t have to be sick to enjoy a good bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup. I’ve been craving this soup for a while. I made a version of it last week for a friend and I just couldn’t help myself today. I had to make it.

Ingredients:

  • One Rotisserie Chicken, you can find this at your grocers deli counter. Cube your chicken pieces and set aside.
  • 8 cups / two boxes of salted chicken stock (Rachael Ray is safe)
  • 1 carrot, peeled + thinly sliced
  • 3 ribs of celery, halved + thinly sliced
  • 1/2 white onion, diced small (can also use 1 palm/tbsp powdered onion)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced ( can also use 1 palm full/tbsp garlic powder)
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary – dry works too (Penzey’s Spices are safe)
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 2-3 handfuls of flat egg noodles

Directions:

  1. In a Dutch Oven, drizzle the two tbsp of evoo over medium high heat.
  2. Add carrots, celery and soften, about 8-10 minutes
  3. Add the garlic and onion and all the herbs, heat until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes
  4. Add all the chicken stock
  5. Bring to a boil
  6. Simmer
  7. Stir stir stir
  8. Add cubed chicken + your choice of pasta
  9. Simmer for 15-20 minutes + make sure your pasta is cooked through
  10. Enjoy! Yield: 8

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If you don’t want the pasta to get mushy, I would cook the pasta separately. This way, if you know you’ll have leftovers, you can save it for later in the week and have pre-made, non-mushy pasta each time! Nothing worse than soggy noodles.

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Vacation Preparation Tips

Did you know that using hand sanitizer does NOT remove allergens from your hands or any other surface? It basically moves the allergen around. The only way to remove an allergen is by washing it away with soap and water or by using a sanitizing wipe.

I’ve started to think about what we’re going to be doing on our vacation and the types of bags I’ll be carrying around with my kids. For day-time I’m going to be doing a lot of walking with them, so I usually pick a light-weight cross body bag so that my hands are free to hold theirs (awwwwwwwe).

If we’re going to be out all day without any stops, I may use a backpack or light weight tote/catch-all to carry some emergency snacks, books, and a change of clothes for them.

Today, we stocked up on safe snacks that are purse friendly. Here’s a classic stand-by for us that I’ll be using on vacation.

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  1. Epi-Pen twin pack
  2. Chewable Benadryl
  3. Individually wrapped anti-bac hand WIPES (I carry a lot of these)
  4. Luna Bar LemonZest flavor is made on a dedicated nut-free line. It also has a lot of good vitamins in it, so I don’d mind if we sub this for a meal/snack.
  5. Mom essentials, lip gloss, cards, keys + phone. This purse has a separate built-in space for credit cards, etc. It’s one of the reasons I chose this bag, it fits all of my Mom Essentials + Allergy Meds and a snack.

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Our trip starts off with a short car ride, no snacks needed. Then we take a train, which will be super fun for my little guy. For the train, we’ll eat some pre-packed snacks before checking into our hotel. Our hotel is aware of our allergies and is quite accommodating. Since we’ll be in a bigger city, our food options should be OK with allergies, although I never take any chances, and will have a full array of stand-by snacks and alternate restaurants to choose from.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something!

Menu Board Inspiration

Every night before we begin bedtime routine, I cram as much chocolate into my mouth as possible. Why? So that I begin bedtime routine with a smile on my face.

Emotional eating happens. Acknowledge and move on. And this is one of those times where it just works.

After a fun and busy weekend with the kiddos, it’s time to get back at it. This summer, we have tried so so so so hard to keep us on some type of schedule so we don’t get too crazy, but that went out the window about 2 weeks into summer break. If you can’t beat em, join em.

This weeks menu is: 

Monday: Pork Tacos

Tuesday: Beef Stroganoff (Campbell’s Soup Meal Prep)

Wednesday: BLT’s and Soup

Thursday: Buffalo Chicken Salad

Friday: Chicken Cordon Bleu

Saturday: Leftover

Sunday: Homemade Pizza

Giveaway Alert!

To say THANKS! For the more than 2,000 visits, 900 Facebook click throughs and visits from 25 different countries, I’m mailing out these herb scissors from my favorite place, Olbrich Gardens! Just like this post on FB or WordPress and leave a comment! You can also find me on Instagram!

Winner will be selected LIVE tonight.

Gigi’s Weeknight BBQ Ribs

Growing up, my parents worked a LOT. Dinner was always about fast, simple and easy. There were no frills. The spice cabinet contained salt, pepper, Lawry’s season salt and italian herb mix. 

Basic. 

In fact, many of our meals were hamburger helper, over cooked chicken stir-fry or sweet and sour meatballs.

My parents didn’t come from families that cooked a lot, so all of the things we had, they learned how to make themselves. They did a pretty good job for having little cooking experience.

I still LOVE my mom’s BBQ ribs. 

Ingredients

  • One rack of ribs
  • One bottle of favorite BBQ sauce, like sweet baby Ray’s
  • One extra large glass pyrex 
  • Foil
  • Lawry’s season salt
  • Spray pam

Directions

  1. Remove the membrane from the ribs, if you want.
  2. Heat your oven to 425°
  3. Line your oven safe dish with foil. Use pam spray to spray both sides of foil (incase you have a tear in the foil, it won’t stick to the pan)
  4. Place ribs into pan
  5. Sprinkle Lawry’s salt over lightly on both sides
  6. Squeeze entire bottle of BBQ sauce over ribs, coat evenly + cover with foil.
  7. Cook for 1 hour at 425°
  8. Remove after 1 hour and remove foil over top of ribs. Use brush to redistribute sauce. Cook for 10 more minutes.
  9. Turn on broiler for 5 minutes to crisp up.
  10. Serve.
  11. Yield: 5-6

Italian One Pot Pasta

If you don’t like to cook, don’t think you can cook, don’t want to cook, have a case of the Mondays (Tuesdays – Fridays for that matter) or just need something to feed your family or yourself, this is it. 

It’s super fast, and packed full of flavor. We made it on a Monday and it was amazing. Plus, if you have fresh herbs growing, it’s a great way to use up LOTS of basil. If you don’t grow basil, pick up one of those little plants in the produce department at your grocery store. It’s worth it!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 (12oz) smoked andouille sausage (any sausage will work, we just browned off some spicy Italian ground beef)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 3 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups basil, loosely packed
  • 4 cloves garlic (or 2 tbsp powdered)
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup red wine

Directions

  1. In a large dutch oven, combine all ingredients, plus 4 cups of water. 
  2. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes until spaghetti is cooked.
  3. Sprinkle with Parmesan + stir to thicken.
  4. Enjoy! 
  5. Yield: 5-6