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Peanut Butter Monkey Ice Cream

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This sweet summer treat is the brainchild of my brilliant five-year-old, who is perpetually dreaming up new recipe ideas. Of course, the fact that he speaks the words and I immediately get cooking has provided some serious reinforcement of this behavior. If you dream it, I will make it. I don’t think a soul at the table was disappointed after Liam recently suggested I make a batch of chocolate peanut butter pudding. In fact, as he sat at the table of guests enjoying the luscious, still-warm pudding, he suggested that everyone should thank him for coming up with such a great idea. Actually most of Liam’s recent recipe ideas have had something to do with peanut butter and chocolate. I told you, he’s a brilliant kid.

With three kids in the family, we go through a good deal of ice cream once the summer heat hits. Catching the elusive ice cream man has become a mission of epic proportions. In the five years that we’ve lived here, we’ve caught the ice cream man once. Once. And this is not for lack of effort. I’m beginning to feel like that kid in Better Off Dead who justs wants his two dollars, as my ice cream man races down my road with the speed of the mailman in Funny Farm. My life has become an ’80s movie.

Unable to rely on the local ice cream man, we’re resorted to purchasing our ice cream at the grocery store or making our own. Making your ice cream at home is not a money-saving endeavor. The cost of the cream and other ingredients will run you just as much as picking up a half-gallon container of your favorite brand. But, there are few pleasures in life as ridiculously decadent as a spoonful of homemade ice cream straight out of the ice cream maker. That’s when it’s best folks; fresh frozen, still slightly soft, and oh-so-satisfying. Don’t wait. Just dive in.

The addition of a fresh, pureed banana to this creamy peanut butter ice cream is the inspired genius of my son. He tried to back out of the banana idea moments after suggesting it, but I was too committed to the idea at that point. He later agreed that his initial instinct was right on target. Mini chocolate chips, fresh bits of banana, and salty peanuts complete this fantastic ice cream treat.

Peanut Butter Monkey Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 banana (pureed)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 banana, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup salted peanuts, coarse chopped

Directions

Prepare your ice cream maker according to your maker’s instructions.

In a saucepan over medium/medium-low heat, combine the cream, milk, pureed banana, sugar, and peanut butter, whisking frequently, just until the sugar dissolves and the peanut butter has melted. Cool for a few minutes at room temperature, then refrigerate for a couple hours until the mixture is completely chilled. Once the mixture is cold, pour it into your ice cream maker and freeze according to your maker’s instructions. Once the ice cream has reached the consistency of soft-serve, add the chopped banana, chocolate chips, and peanuts. Freeze in the ice cream maker for a few minutes longer.

Apple-Cinnamon Quinoa

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One of the many things I’ve learned as a parent is never to assume that your children actually understand what you’re talking about, even if they’re nodding their heads and smiling with comprehension. Children are masterful at making sense of this great, odd world we live in. But there are times when their natural ability to process new experiences falls a bit short.

Take, for example, a few weeks ago, when we decided we’d build a deck off of the back of the house. As we discussed the plans with our neighbor, visited the local code enforcer for a permit, and bounced between hardware stores examining railings, we’d been throwing around the word ‘deck’ for weeks. Deck, deck, deck, deck, deck. When the time came for building to begin, the boys and I gazed out the window as the men worked the auger to dig the post holes. The boys watched as the men cemented eight large posts into place. And I rambled on about the deck, deck, deck. The next day, the men began removing the temporary stairs we’d put in place by the door. Panic washed over the boys’ faces. They watched nervously as the stairs were removed, leaving only the mysterious eight posts scattered around the lawn. Finally, my five-year-old asked, But how will we get down? In a matter of fact manner, I explained that we’d walk across the deck to where the new stairs will be, of course. He paused for a long moment and continued watching the men tear our old stairs off of the house, before finally asking, What’s a deck?

Sometimes the misunderstanding is as simple as a new vocabulary word, easily corrected with an explanation. Other times, the confusion runs much deeper. Recently, we lost a loved one. Since our boys haven’t had much experience with calling hours or funeral services, we anticipated that the experience would be foreign to them and potentially a bit frightening. So, as the day of the services approached, we spent some time chatting about what they could expect to happen. We discussed life and death, heaven, and the difference between our bodies and our souls. My five year old took the entire conversation in stride. He asked questions and seemed satisfied with the responses. It was all going very smoothly for a conversation about such deep issues with a five year old. I was practically patting myself on the back for my expert skills at discussing such a difficult topic with my kids. And then I explained that we would be seeing the body during the calling hours. I mentioned it casually, hoping to communicate a sense of normalcy about it. My little guy’s response was full of casual ease when he knowledgeably responded, Oh, I know. We’re going to see his bones. (As if that would be totally alright with him.) No, sweetie, we will not be seeing any bones and no, you may not touch the body. 

Glad we got that little misunderstanding out of the way ahead of time.

When we arrived at the funeral home, we made our way to the front where our loved one lay peacefully resting, glasses perched on his nose. The boys confidently strode to the front of the room, stood on the kneeler, and peered into the casket, which was open at the head end and closed over the leg end. They stared silently for awhile. I reminded the boys that his soul was already in heaven but that if they wanted to say something, I was certain he would hear it. My five year old quietly spoke a sweet message of love which brought tears to my eyes. And then he turned to his younger brother and said, “I know why they kept the bottom closed…so we can’t see his underpants.” The boys giggled about underpants for the rest of the afternoon. They went to bed talking about underpants.  (Somehow, it always comes back around to underpants.) And I’m again reminded not to assume that kids understand everything they appear to.

In between clearing up misunderstandings about decks, skeletons, and underpants, we’re still cooking away here at Chez Gourmand Mom. Recently, I made this sweet and satisfying apple-cinnamon quinoa, which makes a fantastic alternative for your morning oatmeal. It is wheat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, protein rich, and tasty as can be. Best yet, you can make a big batch ahead of time and reheat for a few seconds in the morning, making it a perfect option for busy weekdays. And if all of that wasn’t good enough, quinoa is a low-glycemic index food, meaning that it takes your body a long time to process all of that good nutrition, which will leaving your body feeling nicely satisfied until lunch rolls around. It’s simple, delicious, and nutritious…no room for misunderstanding here!

Apple-Cinnamon Quinoa

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups coconut milk*
  • 2 tablespoons honey or pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup dried apples, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
*A standard sized 15-ounce can of coconut milk contains just short of 2 cups. You can make up the difference with a bit of water.

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium/medium-high heat. Then, turn the heat down to low, cover, and allow it to gently simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the quinoa mixture to rest for 5 minutes covered. Remove the cover and toss the quinoa with a fork. Enjoy warm.

Makes about 4 servings

Mother’s Day Cinnamon Raisin Donut Bread Pudding

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I get breakfast in bed once a year. On Mother’s Day. My breakfast in bed day is coming soon!! (For the record, my husband also gets breakfast in bed when Father’s Day rolls around.)

Last year, I got my breakfast in bed at the hospital, since I’d given birth to our third son the night before. But the year before that, my husband made me a delicious bacon, egg, and cheese bagel sandwich. It was fantastic. The boys came dancing into the room, buzzing with excitement over serving me breakfast in bed. They’d mostly just watched their daddy preparing the meal, but they took full credit for it.

They may not have made that bagel sandwich, but even young kids are quite capable of preparing some pretty fantastic stuff in the kitchen (with a little help, of course). And there’s really nothing like that aura of pride which emanates from a child who just accomplished something awesome.

With that in mind, I’ve come up with a Mother’s Day breakfast-in-bed recipe which is so simple that even preschoolers can complete almost every step on their own, with just a bit of adult direction. It starts with donuts, chopped into chunks, which are then sprinkled with raisins. Next, a mixture of half and half, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon gets poured over the donuts. As it bakes, the donuts absorb the sweet, creamy mixture forming a lusciously decadent donut bread pudding.

This is good stuff, people. Make it for yourself if no one is going to make it for you. But, if you’ve got some kids who’d like to surprise you for Mother’s Day, here’s a step by step photo guide for them to follow.

Note to helper grown-up: It’s a good idea to gather all ingredients and supplies ahead of time, so you can move through the steps quickly. Young kids have a tendency to get distracted, lose interest, or start eating the donuts if you take too long between steps.

Step 1: Wash your hands. Then, ask a grown-up to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2: Use a paper towel to spread one tablespoon of softened butter all around a medium-sized baking dish.

Step 3: Using a child-safe knife, carefully chop 7 or 8 cake-style donuts into chunks. You can use plain, powdered, cinnamon, or apple-cider donuts. (We used a variety pack of plain/powdered/cinnamon Entermann’s donuts.)

Step 4: Arrange the chopped donuts in a baking dish.

Step 5: Sprinkle the raisins overs the donuts.

Step 6: Pour 2 cups of half and half into a large bowl or measuring cup.

Step 7: Add 1/2 cup sugar.

Step 8: Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

Step 9: Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Throw a pinch of salt in there too!

Step 10: Ask a grown up to help you crack 4 eggs into a dish. Then, pour the eggs into the half and half mixture.

Step 11: Whisk the half and half mixture until it’s well blended.

Step 12: Pour the mixture over the donuts. Make sure you pour some over every donut.

Step 13: Gently press down on the donuts so they drink up the half and half mixture.

*The key to a great bread pudding is not to over-soak the bread (donuts, in this case). The donut chunks should be mostly submersed in the liquid, but not swimming in it. A few donuts peaking out of the top will help a nice crust to form on the top when it bakes.

Step 14:  Ask a grown-up to help you put the baking dish in the oven. Bake for 50-55 minutes.

The bread pudding should look like this before it bakes.

Step 15: Ask a grown-up to help you take it out of the oven. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar. Serve warm.

*If desired, the bread pudding can be made the day before and reheated in the morning.

While the bread pudding is cooking, cut up some fresh fruit. It will trick Mommy into thinking she’s eating a healthy meal when it’s sitting next to her main course of donut pudding. (Mommies like to think they’re eating healthy.)

Cook a huge batch of bacon, because mommies like bacon.

Ask a grown-up to pour a glass of sparkly champagne or sparkling white grape juice for Mommy, because it’s a special day. A cup of hot coffee would be nice too.

Arrange everything nicely on a platter with a fresh flower or two and a handmade card. Your mommy will be in Mother’s Day heaven!

Cinnamon Raisin Donut Bread Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 7 or 8 cake-style donuts, chopped into chunks (plain, powdered, cinnamon, apple cider)
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease the inside of a medium sized baking dish with the softened butter. Chop the donuts into chunks (about 1″ square). Arrange the donut chunks evenly in the baking dish. Sprinkle the raisins on top. Combine the half and half, sugar, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl or measuring cup. Whisk to combine. Pour the mixture over the donuts and raisins. (Try not to over-soak the donuts.) Gently press down on the donuts so they are mostly submerged in the liquid. Bake for 50-55 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm.

Nutella and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast with Raspberry Coulis

I’m going to become an Irish step-dancer. Stop laughing… I’m serious. Well, that’s assuming I can find a dance teacher to take on this 35-year-old mess of incoordination, with zero dance experience, but a whole lot of passion.

It’s just always been one of those things for me. I regret never having done it as a child. Years ago, I told my husband that if we ever had a girl, I’d be signing her up for lessons as soon as she could walk, so I could live vicariously through her. He was smart enough not to argue with me on that plan. But since it seems we’re destined to create a big brood of boys (and they’re much more interested in busting ghosts than dancing), it looks like I’m gonna need to live this dream for myself. Probably best that I fulfill my own dreams anyway, rather than pushing them on my kids, huh?

I’ve contacted a few local Irish dance schools and have yet to find anyone offering adult beginners classes at a time and location I can get to, but I’ve not given up hope yet. This middle age mom is ready to show Michael Flatley who the real lord (rather, lady) of the dance is. Stay tuned…

We had a lovely Valentine’s Day around here, filled with enough delicious goodies to throw me off my diet for at least the rest of this week. Oh, but it was worth it. So worth it. I surprised my loves with this special breakfast, which had everyone oohing and ahhing with each bite. For a weekday breakfast, it’s surprisingly easy to pull off. Simply prepare the ‘sandwiches’ the night before, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate. This will actually help firm up the Nutella, which will make the sandwiches easier to dip in the morn. You can cut the sandwiches into any shape or not cut them at all…though the scraps make a really nice snack with a glass of red wine…just sayin’.

Nutella and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast with Raspberry Coulis

Ingredients

For the French Toast:

  • 8 slices white bread
  • 1/2 cup Nutella
  • 4-6 large strawberries, sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
For the Raspberry Coulis:
  • 3/4 cup raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions

Spread each slice of bread with a thin layer of nutella. (Fight the urge to spread it too thick.) Place the sliced strawberries on four slices of the bread, then place each of the remaining four bread slices on top to make four nutella-strawberry sandwiches. If desired, use a cookie cutter to cut the sandwiches into creative shapes. If preparing ahead of time, wrap the sandwiches in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Eat the scraps.

Lightly beat the eggs with the milk and salt. Melt a bit of the butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Dip both sides of each sandwich into the egg mixture. Place the dipped sandwiches in the hot pan and cook for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown. The nutella will become warm and melty. (It’s easier to carefully flip the sandwiches using a fork and your hands, rather than a spatula.) Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

For the raspberry coulis, puree the raspberries with the sugar. If desired, pass the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the seeds.

Diet  Update: Avoiding the scale like the plague this week and enjoying my valentine’s day chocolates. Will be back on track next week…promise!

Cranberry Chipotle Cocktail Meatballs

I hosted a little cookie exchange this weekend. It was really just an excuse to engage in a bit of holiday cheer with a few of my best girl friends…as if we needed an excuse! We drank pomegranate champagne cocktails and warm mugs of mulled wine as we laughed by the light of the Christmas tree. Then we loaded up our trays with the assortment of delicious cookies and homemade bread before saying good night. I love the holiday season exactly for such festive gatherings.

Our evening was as educational as it was fun. We learned such things as:

  • When offering your guests mulled wine, it helps to say the word “mulled” slowly and clearly, so your guests do not believe you are offering them some sort of fancy French mold wine.
  • Carrots are not only delicious, but also an excellent source of small talk.
  • If your boot gets stuck on your foot as you pass through airport security, you will need to sit in the naughty passenger area until the boot can be pried from your foot. (Try to appear as if you’re ok with this situation.)
  • Alec Baldwin likes Word with Friends and Wegmans. And we still like Alec Baldwin.

I made a few snacks for my cookie party, including some spinach-gorgonzola triangles (think spanakopita, made with gorgonzola cheese instead of feta) and these cranberry meatballs. They’re inspired by a recipe I spotted in an advertisement for Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. Ocean Spray’s recipe calls for a combination of jellied cranberry sauce and chili sauce over frozen cocktail meatballs. It reminds me of the sweet and sour meatballs which my mom used to make with a combination of grape jelly and ketchup. It was one of her standard dishes to bring to potlucks and they were surprisingly delicious. You’d never have guessed the sauce was made from jelly and ketchup, of all things!

I knew there was something to this cranberry meatball idea. So, I made a few little tweaks to raise the homemade factor in the recipe and to kick up the flavor with a bit of chipotle heat. The result is sweet, savory, spicy, and surprisingly delicious. These tasty little meatballs are going to make a prompt reappearance on my Christmas Eve menu!

Cranberry Chipotle Cocktail Meatballs

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/2 medium onion, very finely diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper

For the sauce:

  • 2 cans jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers (from a can of chipotle in adobo)

Directions

To prepare the meatballs: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ground turkey, onions, eggs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper until well-blended. Form into 1″ balls. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet which has been lightly rubbed with oil. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until cooked through.

To prepare the sauce: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium/medium-low heat. (Use one chipotle pepper for mild/medium heat or two chipotle peppers for medium-hot.) Use a fork to smash up the cranberry sauce. Stir and cook for about 5-7 minutes until a sauce forms. Remove the sauce from heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree the mixture using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor. Pour the sauce over the cooked meatballs.

Meatballs and sauce can be refrigerated or frozen until use.

To reheat: Reheat the meatballs in a foil-covered baking dish in a 350 degrees oven, until the meatballs are heated through, about 25-30 minutes (frozen meatballs will take longer). Periodically stir the meatballs as they reheat. Alternately, the meatballs and sauce can be reheated in a saucepan over medium-low heat or in a slow-cooker.

Makes about 60 cocktail-sized meatballs

Tis the season for festive cocktails, like pomegranate champagne cocktails and mulled wine.

For the pomegranate champagne cocktails: Place a few pomegranate arils (the bright red seeds) into the bottom of a champagne glass. Pour a splash of pomegranate juice over the arils. Fill the glass with champagne. The arils sparkle like floating gems and are really fun to pop in your mouth as you enjoy your festive cocktail.

For the mulled wine: Mulled wine is warm, spiced and flavored wine…sort of a warm sangria. It’s typically made with red wine. The flavors and spices can vary. I combined 1.5 liters of Merlot with 1/4 cup honey, 1 cup of pomegranate juice, and two cinnamon sticks. Then, cut one navel orange in half. Squeeze the juice into the mixture, then place the orange halves into the liquid. Slowly warm the mixture to a very gentle simmer. Allow to gently simmer for about 20 minutes. Do not boil. Serve warm. You can prepare the wine on the stovetop in a saucepan or use a slow cooker.

Wormy Apple Pops

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Here’s one for the kiddies…

My son’s nursery school has implemented a firm no-nut policy to protect the kiddos with nut allergies. A lot of schools have implemented similar rules, with good reason.

One of the implications of this rule is that any treats sent in for birthdays or other celebrations must be store-bought, to ensure that they are safe for every child. This means no baking of cute cupcakes or cake pops to send in to school. Even my grocery store’s bakery cupcakes are off-limits, since they include a possible nut contact warning on the package.

We could have sent a package of some other nut-free treat, but I came up with these tasty, seasonal treats instead. We created wormy apple pops by coating fresh, locally-picked apples with sticky caramel and chocolate cookie ‘dirt’. A gooey gummy worm provides the finishing touching. My son’s teachers were more than happy to make time for this fun fall activity.

These treats are completely nut-free and very kid-friendly. Even very young children can follow the recipe using the combination of step-by-step photos with written directions. They’ll build fine motor skills by spreading, crushing, and sprinkling, develop language skills as they process the directions, and enhance their sequencing skills as they follow the first through fifth step. It’s a learning activity with a fun and tasty reward at the end!

** If you’re preparing this activity for a class of youngsters, consider making simple direction cards by printing each photo, along with the step-by-step directions, onto pieces of cardstock. Your child’s teacher may also appreciate a pack of baby wipes to help clean up the class of sticky kids!

Step 1: Start with one ripe, fresh apple.

Step 2: Insert a lollipop stick into the apple. (You can find lollipop sticks at many craft stores.)

Step 3: Use a spoon to spread caramel onto the apple. (We used the individually portioned caramel dip cups, so that each child could have their own.)

Step 4: Crush one chocolate sandwich cookie and sprinkle it on the apple.

Step 5: Press a gummy worm into the caramel. (Some packages of gummy worms contain nut allergy warnings. Target’s Market Pantry brand gummy worms do not contain a nut warning.)

ENJOY!

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Top Ten Gourmand Mom Recipes

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m greatly entertained by reading through the search terms which lead people to this little blog. It often leaves me puzzling over how the terms “Christmas money wreath” or “dog with running shoes” brought people here. What in the world have I been writing about? Of course, most of the time, people are just looking for recipes and, as it turns out, some of those recipes are quite popular!

Here, I’ve compiled a list of the top ten most viewed Gourmand Mom recipes. Then, if you scroll down a bit further, you’ll see ten of my personal favorites. (Clicking on the recipe titles will bring you straight to the recipe.)

What’s your favorite recipe? Tell me about it!

Top Ten Gourmand Mom Recipes

(according to page views)

Crab Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers  – Coming in at #10, these spicy little appetizers are a fresh and flavorful alternative to the kind you’ll find in the frozen food section of your grocery store!

A Better Caramel Apple Cake – Yum! This recipe is the result of experimenting with a delicious recipe I found in the Food Network magazine! Who knew that a bit of boiling water would make such a big difference?? With apple season reaching its peak, now’s a great time to give this one a try!

Almost Perfect Fontina Chops – This recipe is inspired by a Bonefish Grill dish, which is apparently a big favorite, since I get a few search hits every day from people looking for this recipe. This version is not intended to be a copycat recipe; it’s just a delicious dinner inspired by the popular Bonefish dish.

 Independence Day Berries and Cream – Mixed Berry Mousse and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta – My love for panna cotta began with this sweet treat. Mmmm….fresh berry mousse with sweetened cream! Mmmm…

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Almonds – The fresh ingredients do all of the hard work in this simple and delicious salad!

Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp – This is another recipe that gets a ton of search hits. The people want Hawaiian garlic shrimp…and with good reason! It’s delicious! Next time, I’d veer away from the traditional preparation and cook these babies with the shells removed to get more of the buttery garlic in my mouth and less on my fingers.

Chicken Wing Dip – Coming in at #4 is Chicken Wing Dip. It’s practically a classic and totally crave-worthy. Oh dear, just thinking about it makes me want to throw batch in the oven. Must. Have. Chicken Wing Dip.

Pumpkin Gingersnap Parfait – Perfect season for these tasty treats. Some may prefer to sweeten the pumpkin a touch more in these easy treats. For me, they’re just right!

Sweet Honey Cornbread – This one scored most of its hits when it landed on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed section for a day. It’s a great cornbread recipe; sweet, tender, and super easy to make!

And the #1 Most Viewed Gourmand Mom recipe is (drumroll, please)…

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie  – This luscious pie wins the top spot by a landslide. Somehow it’s found itself within the StumbleUpon community. I’m really not quite sure how StumbleUpon works, but it sure drives a ton of traffic to this delicious recipe!

Ten of My Personal Favorite Recipes

Greek Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce – This burger takes the cake as far as my husband is concerned! It’s become his meal of choice for birthdays, anniversaries, and any other excuse he can come up with!

The World’s Greatest Penne ala Vodka – I can’t claim credit for the creation of this recipe, but it’s definitely on my list of all-time favorites!! Seriously the best vodka sauce I’ve ever tasted!

Sausage, Bean, and Rapini Soup – This incredibly satisfying dish is in our regular dinner rotation. It freezes well, so make it in a huge batch to keep on hand for an easy dinner. Make it as brothy as you prefer and serve with a nice piece of French bread!

Chicken Salad Sandwich – Waldorf Style – There’s something incredibly satisfying about the combination of sweet, savory, and crunch in this chicken salad. It’s on my go-to list of easy weeknight dinners!

Grilled Honey Garlic Baby Lamb Chops – I want to slather this honey garlic sauce on everything. I think I could live on this honey garlic sauce.

Cheddar and Garlic Biscuits – I first made these biscuits during a major craving for Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay Biscuits. I searched online for a copycat recipe and found a ton of Bisquick-based recipes. Wanting to make fresh biscuits from scratch, I combined the elements from a basic, buttery drop biscuit with the seasoning of the Red Lobster biscuit. They’re perfect. Everyone cheers when these are on the menu!

Salmon, Cucumber, and Orzo Salad in Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette – This was initially intended as a pantry meal, if you will; something quick and easy using a few leftover ingredients I had on hand. It became an instant favorite. There’s something incredibly satisfying about the combination of flavors and textures in this simple dish!

BBQ Beef Chili – This hybrid chili/bbq beef dish makes my mouth water. Serve it with the cornbread from the Top 10 list!

Corn and Bacon Fritter Cakes – I just posted about these recently. I want to eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday, topped with smoked salmon and creme fraiche. The best part is that they reheat really well. In fact, they may even be better reheated than straight out of the pan. Pop them in the oven for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees and they’re perfect! (P.S. A dollop of sour cream would make a fine substitute for the creme fraiche!)

Pizza Dragon and Chairs of Stock (Steak Bordelaise Pizza) – My brother in law goes nuts for this pizza! He’s still trying to figure out how to package it and sell it, since he’s convinced it will make me millions. This pizza is a steak dinner on a pizza crust. It takes a little time to get all of the components together, but everything can be prepared ahead of time and it’s worth the trouble!

Do you have a favorite Gourmand Mom recipe? Any other recipe you’d like to see here? Tell me about it!

Tropical Smoothies

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Apparently, when your child turns four, their inner menace is instantly activated. With this activation comes such inexplicable behaviors as hurling oneself at a moving swing, superman-style, with such force that said four-year-old flies directly over the swing, head first into the gravel. Ouch!

Pulling down one’s pants and walking around the produce section of the grocery store, butt cheeks fully exposed, is apparently another new behavior triggered at age four. True story.

Oh, the list of things I never imagined myself saying goes on and on…

Pull up your pants! You’re in the middle of a grocery store!

Stop licking your brother’s feet. 

The baby doesn’t want your underwear on his head.

You shouldn’t be eating any type of boogers! I don’t care which ones taste better.

Sometimes, the only response I can muster is Why?? Why would you do that??

But with this new mischief also comes a deeper passion for favorite things. And my four year old has a deep passion for smoothies. Lucky for him, I happen to love them too, so I’m more than happy to fire up the blender for a daily smoothie. We’ve enjoyed all sorts of smoothies this summer, but these are the smoothies which brought my son to tears. Literally, to tears. They’re really that good!

Tropical Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 2 bananas, chopped and frozen
  • 1 mango, chopped and frozen*
  • 3/4 cup pineapple yogurt
  • 3/4 cup mango yogurt
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
(Click here to see my photo guide for how to dice a mango.)

Directions

Blend all ingredients together until smooth.

The coupon for FREE Dannon Activia Selects yogurt is still available for a few more days. Get it while you can! Their new French-style yogurt comes in both the mango and pineapple flavors needed for this recipe! (Check your grocery stores’s coupon policy before redeeming, as some stores will not accept printable coupons for free products.)

Visit the Activia Selects Facebook page to get your FREE coupon now!

This sponsorship is brought to you by Activia Selects who we have partnered with for this promotion.

FREE coupon offer good 8/3 /11 – 8/15/11, up to 1 million coupons, on any Activia Selects Single Serve, up to $3.00. One coupon per household. Offer valid in the U.S only. VOID IN LA, NJ, CA. Coupon valid until 8/15/11.

Residents of LA, NJ, CA will be given a ‘$1 off 3 Activia Selects’ coupon.

Apple Pie A La Mode Smoothie and a FREE coupon!

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As you know, I love food. Food is so much more to me than just sustenance and nutrition. It’s more than just putting a meal on the table and feeding my family. It’s an experience. It’s a pleasure-inducing event. It satisfies me in a manner much deeper than just quenching my hunger. But this love of food comes at a great cost, not only to our waistlines, but also to our piggybanks.

I admit that, in the past, I have never been very conscious of shopping grocery sales or monitoring the prices of individual ingredients. I typically plan our grocery trips based on what we feel like eating or what looks fresh and delicious in the store, rather than basing our meals on sales or what we have in the pantry. This approach is deliciously satisfying, but puts our normal grocery spending off the charts. Lately though, I’ve been trying to become more conscious about our grocery spending; buying meats in bulk, planning a few less expensive meals each week, and even using coupons!

Now, couponing is something I’ve attempted in the past and never had much success with. I’d diligently clip my coupons, only to arrive at the store with a stack of savings on things I wouldn’t normally purchase anyway or things which would end up costing me more than other similar items, even after the coupon was applied. But, this time has been different. This time, I’ve started following a few couponing blogs, which have made things so much clearer. I get it now. Not sure why I didn’t get it before, but I get it now!

My Coupon Binder

I’ve learned about sale cycles, stocking up on items at their lowest prices, and matching up manufacturer coupons with store coupons and sales to get things for mere pennies or even for free. Yes, free! Why in the world have I been paying full price for toothpaste and toothbrushes when stores are giving away my preferred brands for free almost every week???  Silly, silly me!

I’ve become a little obsessed. I’ve even set up a binder to neatly organize my coupon collection. I refuse to sacrifice the quality of the foods we eat for savings, but why wouldn’t I try to save money on the things I’d normally buy anyway…money which I can put in my vacation fund for some grand, luxurious trip to a tropical locale, where I’ll overindulge in food, drink, and naps. I’ve already picked the place.

So, when I was contacted recently, by Foodie Blogroll (in partnership with Halogen Network), inviting me to help promote some new products from Dannon Activia Selects, with the opportunity to invite my readers to receive a coupon for free yogurt, I was immediately intrigued. When it comes to coupons, it doesn’t get much better than FREE!

My family goes through yogurt like it’s nobody’s business and Dannon is a brand I’ve loved since childhood. I was initially a bit hesitant about using this site to promote new products, but Dannon is a brand I can stand behind and this particular promotion gives me the opportunity to share my love for yogurt, coupons, and delicious smoothie recipes, so I agreed.

Dannon Activia, a yogurt with the added benefit of helping to regulate your digestive system, has recently introduced two new lines of yogurt. The first is a collection of smooth and silky French-style yogurts, which come in cherry, mango, blackberry, and cherry flavors. They’re also offering the French-style yogurt with fruit on the bottom in strawberry and mixed berry flavors. I’ve got to say, I’ve always been a big fan of Dannon’s Fruit on the Bottom yogurts, so I’m really excited to try these products.

The second is a line of thick and creamy Greek-style yogurts, which come in vanilla, blueberry, strawberry, and pomegranate berry. Greek yogurts are all the rage these days, and for good reason! They’re thick, smooth, and packed with protein. I haven’t had the opportunity to sample these yogurts yet, but the new Greek-style yogurts are top on my list to try!

You can try these new yogurts too! Simply enter a few pieces of information on the Dannon Activia website or Visit the Activia Selects Facebook page to get your FREE coupon now!

Now…you know I couldn’t let this post go without a recipe! One of my family’s favorite ways to enjoy yogurt, aside from straight out of the container, is mixed into smoothies. And this smoothie is a good one! So, use your free coupon to pick up some of this new yogurt and then give it a try in this fantastic smoothie which has the taste of a delicious slice of apple pie a la mode! (Dannon Activia’s Greek-style vanilla yogurt would work perfectly in this recipe!)

Apple Pie A La Mode Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 4 granny smith apples
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger

Directions

Peel and core the apples. Cut the apples into small pieces, then toss in the lemon juice. Freeze for a few hours in a covered container. To prepare the smoothie, blend the frozen apple pieces with all other ingredients until smooth. Garnish with a fresh slice of apple and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

This sponsorship is brought to you by Activia Selects who we have partnered with for this promotion.

FREE coupon offer good 8/3 /11 – 8/15/11, up to 1 million coupons, on any Activia Selects Single Serve, up to $3.00. One coupon per household. Offer valid in the U.S only. VOID IN LA, NJ, CA. Coupon valid until 8/15/11.

Residents of LA, NJ, CA will be given a ‘$1 off 3 Activia Selects’ coupon.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this post! Would you enjoy future opportunities to hear about new products and potentially receive free coupons or samples? Or should I just stick to the recipes and leave the advertising elsewhere?

Very Melony Sangria

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Well…the new windows are installed! What a difference it makes to have fully functional windows throughout the house! And I’m completely in love with the new sliding glass doors which open our living room to the backyard. At the moment, I’m enjoying a cool breeze being wafted through the open doors as a summer storm passes by. Ahhhh… The end result is well worth the week of craziness we endured.

A second batch of sangria sure helped make the week a bit more pleasant too!

I gave my second batch of sangria a very melony twist; loaded with three different types of fresh melon, soaked in melon liqueur, and finished with a crisp white wine. The result is a bright and refreshing summery beverage (for those of drinking age, of course); perfect in a tall glass filled with ice!

Melon Sangria

Ingredients

  • 1 cup honeydew melon balls
  • 1 cup cantaloupe melon balls
  • 1 cup watermelon balls
  • 1 1/2 cups sparkling water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup melon liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 (1.5 liter) bottle white wine
Directions
Combine melon, sparkling water, sugar, melon liqueur, and lemon juice in a large pitcher. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Add the white wine. Serve over ice.
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