Monday, April 28, 2014

Cooking with Pinterest.5

Here are my thoughts on the Pinterest recipes I tried last week:

Crunchy Black Bean Tacos via Six Sisters' Stuff

The flavors for this were great. Jack just wanted to eat the black beans and cheese and Daniel thought I should have added chicken (so that it would be more filling). I thought that they would have tasted better if I cooked the tortillas in butter instead of cooking spray. I saved some of the mixture and made myself lunch two days later using a flour tortilla shell and butter and I liked it a lot better. For my dipping sauce, I like to mix sour cream and salsa.

Parent Score 4/5 | Toddler Score 2.5/5

Cheeseburger Zucchini Boats via Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice 

Daniel and I both loved, loved, loved this dish. I used sharp cheddar cheese instead of Gouda in the bechamel sauce and it was still incredibly flavorful. I think that the diced pickles in the hamburger mixture really make the dish. Daniel actually thought that I had stuffed pickles not zucchini! This filling would be amazing as a pasta dish (think Cheeseburger Macaroni) or even as a pizza topping. I may have to play around with this recipe in the future, it was really that good (especially if you like cheeseburgers!). Jack was ambivalent about the dish. I think he would have liked it better with pasta instead of zucchini.

Parent Score 5/5 | Toddler Score 3/5

15 Minute Lasagna via Kevin & Amanda with Roasted Green Beans and Mushrooms via Kalyn's Kitchen

This was really easy to make. If I did the lasagna again, I would just use diced tomatoes instead of Rotel (for Jack). Instead of roasting the green beans and mushrooms, I sauteed them on the stovetop, but I still used balsamic vinegar and parmesan to flavor them. Overall a great mid-week meal.

Parent Score 4/5 | Toddler Score 4/5

Sauteed Chicken and Veggies with Spaghetti, topped with Parmesan (my own creation)

Sometimes you just have to throw together a quick meal with ingredients you have on hand. I was supposed to make a crockpot meal, but as usual I have a hard time getting it prepped ahead of time. This was a great substitute. Easy to make and everyone loved it. I guess you don't always need Pinterest to make a delicious, healthy meal.

Parent Score 5/5 | Toddler Score 5/5

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Love Where You Live: Road Biking

Last night, after dinner at our local Mexican restaurant, we decided to on a quick bike ride from our house. As we hopped on our bikes, Daniel mentioned something about a flat ride. Then he said something like "never mind." I should have been listening more closely because I was expecting a flat ride through our neighborhood...

Instead we made our way over to Shoal Creek Road which parallels Hwy 127 as it comes up the final leg of the mountain. This road is often closed when icy as well as on Sundays as it also functions as a local park. I don't know that the park has an official name, but there are signs posted along the road that say, "Park Rules."

The ride down Shoal Creek Road was fast and fun. It was great to let go and just coast as the road winded down. I was thankful to not think about anything for 30 minutes. 

After the quick ride down, we had a slow haul back up. Being surrounded my nature, it really wasn't too bad though. I think I would have preferred this ride in reverse (the fun downhill second), but then we couldn't ride from our house! 

Being able to take bike rides like this from our front door are another reason that we love where we live. We are looking forward to more after dinner bike rides! Our ride was 3 miles and took 28 minutes. Our max speed was 28.3 mph (going down) and our min speed was 3 mph (coming back up).

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Biking The Riverwalk

In Chattanooga there is a 9-mile paved trail (one way) that runs from downtown Chattanooga (at Ross's Landing) to the Chickamauga Dam in Hixson. This trail is a part of the Tennessee Riverpark (known as the Riverwalk to locals). 

Daniel had the day off on Monday, so we took advantage of the beautiful day by going downtown to bike part of the Riverwalk. We parked at Ross's Landing and then made our way across the Walnut Street Bridge to Coolidge Park in North Shore.

After Coolidge Park, we came back across the bridge and biked over the glass bridge to the Art Museum...

and then through the Bluff View Art District before proceeding down to Battery Park. We made our turn around before reaching the Rowing Center.

It was a lovely ride and Jack had a blast (he likes to go fast). Jack hung in through the first half of our ride, but passed out in his chair on the way back. Poor guy, his parents need to do a better job of not planning outings during nap time.

We look forward to biking the entire trail, but next time I think that we will probably start at the Chickamauga dam.

Our route – We completed 5.5 miles on this particular ride.

Map of Tennessee Riverpark via (click on link to see larger map).

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Love Where You Live: Signal Point

After our Easter Egg hunt on the mountain last Saturday, we took Daniel's mom, Grandmother and sister to see Signal Point.

Signal Point offers an amazing view of the Tennessee River and surrounding valley. It is a fairly easy walk from the parking lot to the view, even for a toddler and his great grandmother. 

Signal Point also has access to 13+ miles of the Cumberland Trail in the Prentice Cooper State Forest. We haven't had a chance to do portions of this hike yet, but the view alone is worth the stop at Signal Point.

Signal Point is another one of the reasons we love where we live. If you are ever visiting our mountain, we would recommend that you make a stop to see this great view.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Jack's First Easter Egg Hunt

I have this theory that at the age of 2, Jack doesn't really care what we do or don't do. Mostly he just wants to play. Therefore I don't often make a big deal about events or visits with family until the day they happen. 

He ALWAYS gets excited when we share the news, and I don't have to worry about his disappointment if things don't work out the way we planned. We have plenty of years ahead to learn how to deal with disappointment.

The point is that we didn't talk about Easter or the accompanying egg hunt until the morning we went to hunt for eggs. About 20 minutes before we left the house, I briefed Jack on what we were going to do.

I told him he would have a basket and he would pick up eggs. He wanted to know if we would "crack" the eggs after we got them. So I explained that they were toy eggs.

Daniel's mom, grandmother and sister Amy, came up to join in the egg hunt festivities. They arrived at our house just in time to head to the Alexian Inn for our egg hunt. 

Our friends, the Reynolds, were also at the egg hunt. Their two youngest girls are close to Jack's age, so they were all in the 3 and Under division for hunting eggs.

When the whistle blew, it was kind of funny to notice that the older groups of kids immediately raced off to hunt the eggs, while the 3 and Under group was caught off guard. Parents immediately started helping their little ones and snapping tons of photos. At this age it is easy to get down with the kids to take photos.

Jack knew what to do (per our talk) and immediately started picking up eggs. He filled his basket, not realizing that the eggs actually had stuff in them. When it was all said and done, he had a decent amount of eggs and we showed him how to open them up and find the goodies inside.

After the eggs had been emptied, we celebrated with cookies and lemonade.

Two day later, we attended Sunday lunch with Daniel's dad and his wife and her family, where there was another egg hunt. This time, Jack knew that the eggs had goodies, so instead of filling his basket, he opened each and every egg before adding to his loot. It was sweet and funny how he learned from the first experience.

As always, each new experience with Jack is a joy. We love to watch him learn about new activities and holidays. It was also nice that we were able to celebrate this holiday with some of our family.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Cooking with Pinterest.4

Here are my thoughts on the Pinterest recipes I tried last week:

3-Ingredient Nutella Brownies via Instructables

I have seen variations of this recipe on Pinterest and finally decided to give it a try. According to the original recipe, the writer states that since Nutella already has fat, milk and chocolate in it you don't need a ton of ingredients. Jack enjoyed helping me make this dessert (especially since I let him lick the spoon). 

The brownies turned out great. My only complaint is that they fell apart really easily.
Parent Score 4/5 | Toddler Score 5/5 

Pizza Nachos via Inspired Dreamer with Queso Blanco Dip via Seeded at the Table

The recipe at Inspired Dreamer is incomplete so I used it as a starting point. I found a queso recipe at Seeded at the Table and used some basic instructions in the comments section of the original post. I used Cotija cheese for the Queso Blanco dip and it never did get to be the right consistency that I was looking for. It tasted great, but just wasn't runny like I wanted. Daniel thought that adding chicken to the dish would make it more filling (so we would eat less of it), but overall Daniel and I really enjoyed this meal but Jack wasn't a fan.

Parent Score 4/5 | Toddler Score 2/5

Quinoa Fried Rice via Cooking for Keeps with Stir-Fry Chicken and Veggies

This was a pretty delicious (and healthy) dish. The first night I served it Jack was not interested in it (even telling me he didn't like it). When we had it for leftovers, I let Jack put soy sauce on it and suddenly he loved it. So, not sure if he loved the meal or just the soy sauce. For the stir fry, I just chopped up carrots, broccoli, onions and green peppers and sauteed them in sesame oil, then added teriyaki sauce and soy sauce for flavor. After the veggies were cooked, I cooked the chicken in the remnants of the sauce. Easy peasy.

Personally I thought there was too much quinoa or not enough eggs (or both) for the fried rice. When we ate it for leftovers I heated it up in a pan and added additional two eggs to the mixture. This consistency seemed better on night two. This would be an easy dish to do meatless, just leave out the chicken (and eggs if you don't eat eggs).

Parent Score 4/5 | Toddler Score 4/5

My version of Blueberry French Toast Bake via Pioneer Woman

For Easter Sunday, we went to celebrate with my father-in-law and his wife and her family. It was potluck style, so I made my version of Pioneer Woman's Blueberry French Toast Bake (a holiday staple for me). I used my adapted recipe, which is slightly different from PWs recipe). Also, my grocery store didn't have blueberries of regular pita chips, so I used cinnamon flavored pita chips and no fruit. The breakfast/dessert was a hit. You can never go wrong with a PW recipe.

Parent Score 5/5 | Toddler Score 5/5

Monday, April 14, 2014

First Rock Climb

According to Wikipedia, Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that is performed without the use of ropes or harnesses. While it can be done without any equipment whatsoever, most climbers use climbing shoes to help secure footholds, chalk to keep their hands dry, and bouldering mats to prevent injuries from falls. Unlike free solo climbing, which is also performed without ropes, bouldering problems (the path that a climber takes in order to complete the climb) are usually less than 20 feet tall. 

Our new house has the distinction of sitting in front of a fairly large rock face that is perfect for bouldering. It even has a crevice that is easy for little ones to master . 

I thought that it would be several years before we let Jack try to climb the crevice, but this weekend he showed some interest and Daniel let him have a (supervised) try. He did great.

Video of Jack's first time bouldering at our house.

The rock face isn't rough, there are good hand and feet holds, and the rock isn't super vertical – just gently rounded.

Video of Jack's second climb.

We have now officially exposed Jack to all of our most loved outdoor sports. Hopefully we will have many more adventures with him in the years to come.

Video of Jack telling me, "Don't worry" while he wanders around our front yard.

Family Hike at Fiery Gizzard

On Saturday we had originally planned to go on a group hike on the Fiery Gizzard Trail , but it was cancelled at the last minutes. So...