So says Sarah…

Healthful Mondays: Cranberry lemon bread

Posted in About Food by Sarah Lipoff on 11/29/2010

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

It seems that every year I pick up a primo can of cranberry sauce to proudly display on my Thanksgiving table, and no one eats any of it. They might take a dainty spoonful, but for the most part, there’s tons left. I hate tossing things in the trash and am always trying to find ways to re-invent and re-use leftovers, so, those cranberries were burning a hole in my brain while chilling in the back of my fridge.

What to do with them?

Cranberries are an amazing little fruit. Packed with HUGE amounts of antioxidants (they are a truly miracle wee things) able to aid in fighting the common cold and ease pesky bladder infections, they are more than itty-bitty tart things. Cranberries grow on shrubs that thrive in low-laying areas of marshy land or water and are harvested with big ol-honking machines. They get their shining moment during the holiday season, and then are added to juices and other things for the rest of the year.

But, most of us have a can or jar of cranberry sauce hanging around for Thanksgiving. And, the majority of the time, that cranberry sauce isn’t eaten.

I had one of those amazing DING moments and got the idea of combining that sweet tangy cranberry jell-stuff with a complimentary tangy-sweet lemon bread for a winning and healthful combination. Cranberry lemon bread.

YUM.

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons room temperature butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 lemon zested

Dash of salt and cinnamon

1 1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup cranberry sauce

How to make the sweet and tangy bread

Toss the butter, oil, yogurt, egg, and sugars in a bowl and give them a good mix with a whisk or hand mixer. Once you’ve got a big, frothy mess, you’re ready for the next ingredients. Go ahead and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, too.

Now you can add the baking soda, baking powder, zested lemon, vanilla, and dash of salt and cinnamon into the mix and give a gentle stir.

Slowly start adding the flour 1/2 cup at a time. Once everything has come together, grease a loaf pan and pour half the dough in the pan.

Get out that cranberry sauce and dish 1/4 cup of the stuff over the mix. You can use a knife to marble the cranberry sauce by running the tip from side to side and then front to back, distributing that cranberry stuff all about.

Now top with the rest of the bread mix and dab on the remaining 1/4 cup of cranberry sauce. You can marble the top, too, if you want.

Put the bread in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Once the time is up, take the bread out and let cool as long as you can stand it.

Enjoy!


Potty-training… continued

Posted in About Life, About Me, Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 11/28/2010

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

We gave potty training a try a couple of months ago, and due to lack of enthusiasm from my babe (and myself) our efforts didn’t really pay off. But, with the wee tot’s second birthday right around the corner, I think it’s time to really give this potty training thing a shot. So, we’re going to seriously work on potty training starting in December.

Why not start tomorrow?  Yeah, I don’t know. It just seems we need a couple of days before giving this potty training thing serious effort.

I already purchased a kid potty and have moved it to the upstairs bathroom, because we are up there more than downstairs. Makes sense, right? And, I brought up some extra diapers, wipes, and am going to pick up some pull-ups. I’m not a big fan of pull-ups (with all those cartoon-character promotions), but hey, they pull up and down easily – just like real undies.

While working the preschool gamut I helped other kids potty train, so don’t know what my hesitation is with getting started with MY child. I think a small part of me (hiding in the back depths of my brain) DOESN’T want to start potty training because it means by baby isn’t a babe anymore.

UGH.

I would love to package her up and keep her just the way she is.

I know I can’t.

So, we’re starting potty training December 1st. I’ll keep you updated.

Cheesecake

Posted in About Food, About Me by Sarah Lipoff on 11/26/2010

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

The other day my husband told me something that surprised me. The husband, unlike me, isn’t a big sweets person. He likes ice cream every once in a while, couldn’t care less about chocolate, and isn’t tempted by cake. He’s partial to pumpkin pie, which makes Thanksgiving his favorite time of year. But, the other night, after we had put the wee tot to bed and were watching some pointless cooking show, he admitted he sure loves a slice of creamy cheesecake.

What?

Really?

When did this happen?

You see, I LOVE cheesecake, and I also LOVE making it! In fact, I used to make loads of cheesecakes in high school and college (definitely adding to my freshman 15-30… ), which lead to the end of my cheesecake obsession. Over the years I’ve put baking and cheesecake-making on the back burner in favor of creating scrumptious meals and nice light desserts here and there.

So, when he uttered those words, an amazed-high-pitch-squeeeeel escaped from my mouth. The husband gaped at me in udder concern. I think he was worried I was malfunctioning in some way. I explained, in gasping words, that I would make him the best cheesecake he’s ever had.

I just needed a springform pan.

First thing in the morning we went the local foodie store and purchased a premium 9-inch pan along with the meager ingredients required for making cheesecake.

And, cheesecake I made.

My husband declared it truly WAS the best cheesecake he’s ever had.

But, I do think he’s learned that offering me food praise is the true way to my heart.

What you need for the best ever cheesecake

16 ounces room temperature cream cheese

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 lemon zested

Dash of salt

2 eggs

Crumb crust (2 cups ground cookies, graham crackers, pretzels (whatever) mixed with 1/4 cup melted butter)

9-inch springform pan + a deep baking pan

How to make the perfection

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put your cream cheese into a mixing bowl and give it a spin with a hand mixer set on medium speed. At first that cream cheese is going to be all gloppy and boring, but then when it starts getting all whipped, it will turn smooth and soft, with no bumps or lumps. Give it a good minute or so with the hand mixer and you’ll get there.

Measure out the sugars and add to the cream cheese. Really mix this up well, making sure there are no clumps of brown sugar. You can also add the vanilla, lemon zest, and dash of salt and give it another good spin with the hand mixer.

Now blend in one of the eggs and mix well. Add in the sour cream and give another good spin. Now add the last egg and blend one last time for about 30 seconds. The mix should look absolutely wonderful and lovely. Set that good stuff aside.

Go ahead and start some water boiling – at least 4 cups. And, go ahead and put that 1/4 cup of butter in a wee pot to warm – or toss it in the microwave for a couple of seconds.

To make the crumb crust, put a good handful of whatever you would like the crust to be made of into the blender. I’m partial to using the traditional graham crackers, but have used chocolate cookies, pretzels, vanilla wafers, and even ginger snaps. Once it’s all pulverized nice and fine, measure out 2-cups into a mixing bowl. Drizzle the melted butter over the goodness and give a mix with a fork. It will look like sand granules.

Gently press the crumb crust into your springform pan. It will be crumbly, but that will change later.

Now, gently pour your cheesecake mix over the crust and smooth the top. Place the sprinfrom pan in the deep baking pan and then into the pre-heated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven.

Before closing the door and walking away, pour the hot water all around the outside of the sprinform pan just shy of 2-inches from the top of the pan.

Set your timer for 45-mintues, close up your oven, and walk away.

Yeah, you’re going to think it’s not done when your timer ding-a-lings, but trust me. A little jiggle in the middle will be just perfect later. Remove the springform pan from the baking tray. Be careful! Not only is that cheesecake hot, that water is hot, too. DO NOT try to take the whole shebang out of the oven! The water will slosh about, causing you to flinch, and your cheesecake will land on the floor. I’ve been there, really.

Here’s the hard part. You need to let your cheesecake rest for at least 30-minutes before touching it. Once those 30-minutes are up, you can gently slide a knife around the outside edge of the springform pan to help release the cheesecake.

So, go ahead, open the side and take a look at your cheesecake! Now, guess what? You’ve got to wait at least another 2-hours before digging in! If you rush it, that cheesecake just wont be right. I know it’s hard to wait, but you will be rewarded later. Place your luscious cheesecake in the fridge and forget about it.

When those 2-hours are up, you can slice away. Put a piece on a plate and enjoy plain or add some fresh sliced strawberries, a drizzle of chocolate sauce, or some chopped pistachio nuts.

It’s all good no matter how you serve it.

Turkey time!

Posted in About Food, About Me by Sarah Lipoff on 11/22/2010

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

Well, the big day is almost here, and the turkey’s hanging out in the fridge all happy in its brine. But, what to do with it? I feel like every year I do the same thing. Coat with butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, shove an onion in it, cover with tinfoil and roast. Blah, blah, blah. Yeah, the end result is usually pretty tasty, but this year I was craving something different. Something special.

We usually have a big rowdy crowd for Thanksgiving, but this year I’m taking it easy and only having a handful of guests. After asking others to help out by bringing yummy sides, I decided I would focus my attention on the birdy. I was ready for a twist on my boring old buttered turkey – but what to do? Time to get out the good dishes, clean the bathrooms, and get going.

It’s turkey time!

I also need something to feed the babe.

Crap.

I’m already freaked out enough about the holidays and getting everything done with the child hanging around. I’m also worried someone wont latch the baby gate at the top of the stairs, close the bathroom door (hello – remember the toilet bowl brush incident?), or will leave a pointy fork just in her reach…..

Yeah, neurotic. I know.

But, you mammas and daddies out there can’t deny having the same concerns and worries. And, the desire to roast the perfect turkey makes everything a bit more insane.

I searched around for some good ideas and was wooed by a picture of a turkey from Midwest Living, which enticed me to try something different. How about a maple glazed roast turkey? Maybe toss some brown sugar and a bit of mustard into the rub-a-dub? Sounds good to me! And I figured the sweet and savory spin would excite the babe enough so she wouldn’t toss the goods to the floor when it was offered to her.

What do other kids eat on Thanksgiving? I tried to remember what I loved and got stuck on mashed potatoes. I still love mashed potatoes and gravy – yummmmmm. But, I don’t remember anything from when I was almost two-years-old, who does? I want this Thanksgiving to be an enjoyable experience for the babe AND have it be an opportunity for her to sit at the big kids’ table with us enjoying the special meal.

I came across some cute and fun ideas for picky eaters from my friends over at the Motherboard that reminded me to keep things realistic and maybe try taste-testing foods with the wee tot before the big day.

I think I’ll just toss extra-extra marshmallows on the sweet potato casserole and let her have at it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Fall leaf spray-painting

Posted in Art Activities for Kids, Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 11/21/2010

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

I feel like the last days of fall are upon us. As soon as Thanksgiving is over, it’s time to get ready for winter. The Christmas ornaments come out, everyone’s blaring holiday songs, and the snow starts drifting down (well, not at my house). I figured it was our last chance to do a fun fall art activity. Because, starting Monday, it’s all about cooking and cleaning (and not stressing) for turkey day!

Leaves are really beautiful things. Just like snowflakes, no two are exactly the same. They each have different little bumps, curves, colors or lines, which makes fall leaves so wonderful. The wee tot and I headed outdoors for a fall leaf hunt and selected a few to use for our project.

I helped her get started by placing some small bits of rolled tape on the back of the leaves so she could press them onto a paper. Older kids could roll the tape and position the leaves themselves, which encourages fine-motor skills and creativity!

Now, before the babe could pull the leaves off the paper and crumble them to bits, I handed her a spray bottle filled with some water-downed red tempera paint. I showed her how to press the top of the spray bottle and she kept herself quite busy trying to get it to work for several minutes. I helped her out by covering the paper with a couple of good squirts. Your child can keep spraying her paper until it is evenly covered with one color, or fill another spray-bottle with a different water-downed tempera paint color for her to use, too.

Then, the really really fun part. I saturated a paint brush with some yellow watercolor paint and let her splatter the paper. Kids of all ages love to splatter paint, which is great – but super messy. So, make sure you’re working in an area clear of white fabric, carpeting, or, you know, pretty much anything you care about.

Encourage your child to try a different color of watercolor paint to splatter all over her leaves to see how the colors blend. Not only is she having a great time making a colorful mess, she’s learning about color and how color mixing works!

Let the painting dry for a couple of hours and then gently remove the taped leaves from the paper, revealing the leaf shapes surrounded by lots of color!

Help your child find a special place to display her finished project – or make several more to use as place mats for Thanksgiving!

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Stuffed butternut squash

Posted in About Food by Sarah Lipoff on 11/19/2010

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

The other night we needed something nourishing and nurturing to eat. It has been pretty gloomy around the house after the kitty-drama, and with the holidays right around the corner, all of us needed something warm and tasty for the tummy that would leave us feeling loved and just a smidge more positive. There was a nice organic butternut squash sitting on the counter, so my brain made the connection – stuffed butternut squash!

Stuffing anything is awesome, and it helps clean out the fridge. I pulled out a some celery, mushrooms, half an onion that was almost forgotten, along with some spinach that was really ready to eat. There’s no denying I had the mixings for a wonderfully savory stuffing.

Ingredients

1 big ol’butternut squash

1 medium onion chopped

1 stalk celery chopped fine

2 cloves garlic minced

1/4 cup chopped mushroom

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Salt, pepper, thyme, oregano

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 Tablespoon water

1 cup chopped spinach

1/4 cup shredded parmesan

1/4 cup shredded swiss cheese

1 Tablespoon soft butter

1/4 cup smashed crackers

How to make the nurturing goodness…

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and get out a nice 9 by 12-inch casserole, or something big enough to put your squash in. Slice the squash in half (careful here – these things are tricky, so take your time) and scoop out the seeds. You can also scoop out some of the squash along the narrow length for more stuffing space. Go ahead and put the cut halves in the casserole to await the stuffing.

Place a large saute pan over medium-low heat and toss in the olive oil. Once it’s all warm and happy, add your chopped onion and celery along with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Let everything cook for about 20 minutes stirring along the way.

Yeah, I know 20 minutes is a long time to saute onions, but it’s worth it – really. They’re now all brown and caramelized and ready for more! Add the mushrooms, garlic and sprig of thyme, oregano or rosemary – whatever seasoning you like. Give everything a good stir.

After a couple of minutes, de-glaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar and water. Step back when you do this or you’ll be blinking and snorting for a little bit (vinegar is a bit strong…).

Let everything hang out while you get the topping started. Toss some crackers (any kind you have) into a baggy and squish squish away. You can measure to make sure you’ve got 1/4 cup or be like me and just eyeball it. A little more or less isn’t going to ruin the finished product. Now add the shredded cheeses and butter to the baggy and squish it all up some more.

Okay, now it’s time to finish up and put everything in the oven. Add the spinach to your veggie mix, stir it around until it softens and check your mix for seasoning and adjust as desired. Then scoop the goodness onto the butternut squash. Cover the squash with some tinfoil and place in your oven for about 30 minutes.

Check your squash after 30 minutes for doneness. Carefully remove the squash and peel back the tinfoil. If it is soft when a fork is pressed into it, you’re good to go.

Evenly distribute your topping over the butternut squash and place in the oven for another 15 minutes uncovered or until the top is all bubbly and gooey. Remove and let everything cool for a minute before eating – you don’t want that burnt top of the mouth thing.

Hopefully you’ll feel hugged from the inside out just like I did when eating the finished tastiness. And, what’s great is you really CAN’T mess this recipe up (other than not cooking the squash all the way through), and you can add things you love! Some chopped walnuts, bit of blue cheese, dried cranberries, or leeks instead of onions would all be great additions or changes!

De-stressing the holidays

Posted in About Food, About Life, Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 11/17/2010

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

I looked at the calendar this morning and just about freaked out. The fact that we are already in the middle of November sent a total crazy-chill down my spin. Because the weather has been so nice at my house these last couple of days, the thought of basting the baking turkey and decorating the house in a festive way totally slipped my mind. We’re also recovering from our pet tragedy. But, there’s no stopping it. The holidays are just days away.

This year I was planning on keeping things pretty low-key for Thanksgiving, but I say that every year and then end up going all out – roasting up a huge turkey and making all the fixings. I spend the whole day cleaning and cooking for friends to come over, eat, mess the place up, and leave. Then, just days later, all the Christmas decorations go up and it’s time to clean the house from top-to-bottom so everything sparkles all over again. The babe’s already pulled down our fall leaf garland and added it to her toy pile. I can’t imagine what she’ll do to a Christmas tree!

I’m twitching just thinking about it.

Last year, my daughter was barely walking, so wasn’t that much of a threat to holiday cooking and preparation. Now I’ve got an almost-two-year-old that isn’t always in the best of moods to contend with, too.

HELP!

I know I’m not alone. There are other mammas out there that pull off stunning holiday meals and look nice and put together at the same time. So, where are they? What do they have to say? Will they come over and cook MY turkey? I found a couple of ladies that were willing to honestly share what stresses them out most during the holidays, which at least helped me feel less freaked-out and caused me to giggle and snort. One mom even suggested moving to a location (like North Dakota) no family wants to visit to avoid all the fuss-and muss!

But, what about all that cooking?! My oven can only hold so much! I decided to get the guests on board for the holiday meal. I can roast the turkey, make the stuffing, and easily mash those potatoes with the baby hanging on my leg – but baking that perfect pumpkin pie? No thanks. Someone else can be in charge of that! I made a couple of calls and evenly distributed sides and desserts to those attending. Yeah, yeah, there was some grumbling, but if you want green-bean casserole on Thanksgiving, bring it yourself!

Also, instead of spending hours making appetizers, I decided to keep it simple. And, thanks to the Motherboard, hooked up with some great ideas that would please everyone (including me), take no time to prepare and wont bust my budget, either!

That gets me through Thanksgiving.

Now, Christmas. That’s a whole other beast.

Oh, kitty.

Posted in About Me, Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 11/16/2010

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

On top of all the crazy holiday stuff, our cat decided it was her time to not be a cat. It was a normal day, and I was busy doing my thing while the babe napped, and then, while enticing the wee tot with some pasta, I heard a noise. And, it was a noise that needed immediate attention.

You see, we recently discovered that our cat was deaf. She was old (like 110 in our years) and was starting to become a little more bothersome than normal. The hubs and I figured it was due to the changing temperature, the amount of food we were giving her – the fact that our child walks on her…

Neither one of us wanted to acknowledge that it was more so probably due to the fact that she was old. OLD.

When I met my husband, he had this cat. This cat was his GIRL. And, she knew it. I don’t think she fully accepted me until last year as a part of HER household.

I was so worried when I got pregnant that Delilah was going to start peeing in the corners, scratching the house to shreds or acting all crazy-like. Actually, Delilah was the one who let the baby grab her tail, touch her whiskers and seriously squash her.

She totally let our daughter get away with tons. And, I think she actually liked it.

So, today when I head her give some big-ol YEOOOOOWLS, I knew there was something going on. I mean, I know she’s deaf and all, but, wow, this was something else.

I found her at the bottom of the outside deck stairs, and she was sitting in an odd position. She couldn’t move. Her back legs weren’t working.

I knew this was bad.

I tossed the babe in the crib (because I knew she was safe there) and got out the flashlight (because it’s dark now) and found her. She didn’t fight me when I picked her up – which made me realize it was really bad. I knew at that moment things weren’t going to go well for the rest of the evening.

I called the hubs. He had a feeling.

We met up at the vet.

Within the hour we were forced to make the decision. Did we want to put our cat through potentially weeks of not knowing what was wrong, keeping her confined while doing blood tests, racking up hundreds of dollars of tests……

Yeah, I know some of you out there would do it. But, we aren’t you. We both knew in a moment and a quick look that this was it. This was the moment.

It was time to help our amazingly wonderful fantastic cat move on to the next part of whatever was to come for her.

We both bawled.

Thanks, Delilah, for almost 20-years of awesomeness. We all loved spending time with you, pulling your tail, bitching about all the f*cking black hair you left everywhere, and your ability to look good at all times.

You rock.

I love you and miss you already.

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Healthful Mondays: Music and math

Posted in Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 11/15/2010

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

Over the weekend the husband decided he is a musical genius and purchased a guitar and amp to play around with. He also picked up a small set of bongos for the babe to pound on. I wasn’t really sure what she was going to do with them – or if she would really understand that they were noise making things – but was totally surprised when she started tapping away on those bongos. AND, she was kind of good, too.

On Friday we visited my good friend and her son, along with making some yummy whole-wheat blueberry muffins. My friend’s husband is a a REAL musician and has an organ at their place. This big-piece-of-music-making thing quickly became the main focus of our time together on Friday. All my daughter wanted to do was play that organ.

She totally threw a fit when it was time to go.

I’ve known she likes music for a while. She totally loves to dance and has really gotten into singing – or pretend singing – songs from preschool (you know, because she’s not talking yet), and has just started this tap-tap-tapping thing. Kids have an internal motivation from birth to move and experiment with their bodies. Dancing and bouncing to tunes are just simple ways they have to express themselves and experiment with gross-motor movement. Eventually that dancing and bouncing turns to clapping and dancing and bouncing. That clapping is a chid’s exploration of controlled noise making – or music!

I think it’s pretty cool because music is not just a wonderful way to express yourself, it also aides in learning!

YES – learning music helps young minds understand and math concepts such as patterns. Music also encourages the right and left brain to work together in harmony to accomplish something – playing an instrument! It doesn’t matter how good you are, playing any sort of instrument, or even singing, boosts the brain’s math capabilities! And, it’s not just playing an instrument that encourages a happy math-ready brain, but listening to music has brain-boosting benefits, too.

No matter how young or old you are, sitting down to that piano, even if it’s been 20-years since you’ve played, is a great way to fine-tune the brain’s math abilities. Your brain is always ready to learn, and playing and listening to music is a fantastic and fun way to keep the brain motivated. So when the hubs was all the sudden super excited about turning his horrid guitar strumming into something more serious, I was completely behind it (especially because with an electric guitar, he can plug EARPHONES into the amp)! The acoustic has been placed in a comfy spot where our daughter can practice her strumming, right next to her wee set of bongos.

Yeah, sometimes I’m not in the mood to listen while the babe is slamming away on the bongos (or to the husband attempting his latest guitar masterpiece), but I remind myself that while they are making all that noise, they are both encouraging their math skills!

What do you think?

Posted in About Me by Sarah Lipoff on 11/14/2010

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

For the last two days I have been OBSESSING about transferring my blog from free-hosting to a paid hosting. I know it’s not a big deal, but when you’re like me and not quite sure what’s happening half the time, potentially losing a year’s worth of writing and stuff is a major up-all-night-biting nails kind of thing. So, I started the process last night, and then stayed up way too late trying to make sure I did it right.

Well, it looks like I did.

Then, I spent the better part of today trying to figure half the stuff out – and deciding on a new theme. I even got the sad, old laptop out for the babe to work on while I was so busy.

This is what I’ve got so far, and I’m not sure how long it will stay this way. You’ll have to forgive the bumps along the way, and if you really REALLY like the way things look, let me know!

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