Baked Oatmeal

Back when I lived in the suburbs of Milwaukee, I used to frequent a little restaurant called Heinemann's.  One of the dishes that the (now defunct) restaurant was known for was its baked oatmeal.

At the time it was almost impossible to find the recipe but my sister-in-law worked hard to find a suitable alternative.  When she did, she carefully wrote the recipe out for me on a note card.

And then I not-so-carefully lost it.

Not wanting to admit that to her, I Googled some baked oatmeal recipes and came up with one that I liked.  I thought it came from Quaker.com, but it turns out my version is slightly different from Quaker's (so I'm not exactly sure where it came from).

Regardless of its origins, it is a delicious breakfast treat and when my cousin came for a visit last week, her daughter requested that I make it.  (Far be it for me to deny the request of a child ;)

And here is the recipe:

  1. 2 3/4 cup Old Fashioned oats
  2. 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  3. 3/4 cup raisins or Craisins--my kids don't like them so I leave them out :(
  4. 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  5. 1/2 tsp salt (optional)
  6. 3 1/3 cup skim milk
  7. 4 egg whites (lightly beaten)
  8. 1 T vegetable oil
  9. 1 T vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray glass baking dish with Pam.

In large bowl, combine first five ingredients.  Mix well.

In a medium bowl, combine last four ingredients.  Mix well.

Add wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix until blended.  Pour into baking dish.  
(I often do all of these steps the night before, refrigerate it, and then bake it in the morning.)

Bake 55-60 minutes or until center is set and firm to the touch.

My kids like it with syrup.  I enjoy it with fresh berries on top.  (Let's face it, any way you eat this stuff, it's gonna be great.)

In doing my "research" for this post, I discovered a  Heinemann's copycat recipe (which may actually be the one my sister-in-law so lovingly wrote out for me...)  You can find it here.  

(Just try not to lose it.)


Food Porn

Yesterday I hosted a little pool party for some friends.

It was a great day full of swimming kids and chatting adults .

What stood out most, however, was the food.

I made a few items and my guests brought the rest.

(They are welcome back anytime.)

I decided to make fresh lemonade for the occasion.  (Any excuse to use my new drink dispenser.)  I wanted to add a label (for no other reason than because I like to label things) so I took this little chalkboard (from Michael's, maybe?) and attached it to the cork lid with a thumbtack.

Then I whipped up these little Pinterest inspired hummus and veggie cups.  They weren't too popular, though, probably because people went straight for the desserts...

...like these chocolate chip-stuffed raspberries that my kids made.

Which went nicely with the chocolate-stuffed strawberries that I made.  (Also Pinterest-inspired.)
Scoop out the center of the strawberry, fill with melted chocolate (I used a Hershey's Symphony Bar) and refrigerate.  

And if you're going to have strawberries filled with chocolate, you should also have chocolate filled with strawberries.  Thanks to my friend Joanne for keeping things balanced ;)

In case we were feeling chocolate-deprived, Joanne also threw in some brownies for good measure.  (I'd like to note that there were *none* of these left over after the party.  And that made me a little sad.)

Gina brought along an award-winning cherry cheesecake.  Seriously, it's won awards.  Just ask her Aunt Butchie.  And my seven-year-old daughter.  (Who might have eaten it for breakfast this morning.

And my friend Sabine (aka The Tech Foodie) whipped this up.  (And by "whipped" I mean anything but.  It took her four hours to make.)  It's a rice pudding, and while it might not be the most photogenic dessert (although I actually find it quite beautiful), it is insanely delicious.  She's not currently giving out the recipe (but maybe if I start an internet campaign she'll change her mind).  

My only regret is that I didn't capture Adrianna's beautiful Rainbow Pasta Salad or my Watermelon Feta Salad.  (Which met with mixed reviews.  Apparently some people don't want Feta in their watermelon.  Go figure.  ;)

One of the perks of being the hostess is that I will be living off of these leftovers for the rest of the weekend.  

Which means I might need to host another pool party come Monday ;)




Travel Tips

Several years ago our family went on a cruise.

And as it turns out, we're not big cruisers.  (Nothing against them, it's just not our thing.)

While we didn't come away from the experience with a love of cruising, we did acquire one thing that would forever change the way we travel:  the over-the-door shoe holder .

Prior to the cruise I consulted with an experienced cruiser who recommended this as a way to keep the cabin organized.  As it turns out, there aren't many suitable surfaces for storing things on a cruise ship.  This is especially true in the bathroom.  She suggested that we use the over-the-door shoe holder as a way to keep track of toiletries, room keys, cell phones (& chargers), and pretty much anything else you can think of.

The next year, as we packed for a trip to Hawaii, it occurred to me that the over-the-door shoe holder needn't be reserved for cruises alone, so I threw it in our bag.  (It folds up flat and packs like a dream.)  It has come with us on every trip since.

Here it is on a recent trip to a Mexican resort.  The bathroom there had plenty of uncluttered surface space and this little beauty guaranteed that stayed that way.

When my sister-in-law saw our hotel set-up on a recent family trip, she wanted to know why I hadn't shared it with her sooner.  It was at that point that I decided to share it with all of you.    

And as long as I'm sharing, here's a happy little accident that I'm so glad I made: While perusing the travel toiletries at Target (how's that for alliteration?) I picked up a package of these:

To be honest, I thought I was buying wipes.  (The type you'd use if you spilled something on your clothes.)  Imagine my surprise when I reached for one and discovered that what I had actually purchased was a three-pack of "sink packets".  These are individual portions of detergent that one can use to wash clothes in a hotel sink.  If I hadn't brought them along I'm pretty sure I would have spent a small fortune sending clothes out to be laundered.  These will definitely join the shoe holder on my list of traveling must-haves.

So what about you?  Do you have any travel tips that you'd like to share?


Peanut Butter Chocolate Pizza Pie

If you happen to be one of my followers on Pinterest you might have noticed a theme within my Food & Recipes board.  The theme?  Chocolate and peanut butter.  And as much as I enjoy that combo, those pins really aren't for me.  Nope, those pins are for my husband, a certified peanut-butter-and-chocolate-fiend.  In fact, I'm seriously considering creating a spin-off board just for those creations.

So when my daughters wanted to make something special for daddy for Father's Day (something of the peanut butter and chocolate variety), we moseyed on over to Pinterest to get some chocolate & peanut butter-covered inspiration.

Since it was Father's Day (and my husband is their father and not mine) I left them to pick the recipe.  I couldn't wait to see what they chose.  Would it be this? Or thisOr thisOr this? Or this? Or this?


It wouldn't be any of them.  

(Because seven and eleven-year-olds have minds of their own.)

They decided that they wanted to make a "Peanut Butter Chocolate Pizza Pie".  

But we didn't have a pin for that.  

(Because they made it up.)  

So, it was time to get creative.

First we searched Pinterest for a peanut butter cookie recipe.  This one was repinned about 900 times so I decided it would probably be good.  You can find the recipe here.

Then we searched for a peanut butter frosting recipe and found this.  Over a thousand repins?  Yup. You'll do.  (Original recipe here.)

So we whipped up the cookies and baked them in a big pan.  We did NOT bake them long enough.  If I were to do this again I would have left them in much longer than the recipe said (b/c the recipe was for individual cookies, not one big pan).  Fortunately my husband does not mind gooey cookies.  (Really gooey cookies.)

The we made the peanut butter frosting.  (And let me just say, it deserved over a thousand repins.  Yumm-o!)

Every good pizza needs toppings, right?

After frosting the mammoth cookie, we sprinkled on the chips and, voila!, a Peanut Butter Chocolate Pizza Pie is born!

And yes.  It does taste as good as it looks.  Even undercooked.  ;)



Punch Box Revisited

One of my most popular posts to date (okay, it was actually THE most popular post I've ever written) was called "A Party Favor."  In it, I explained how I found this blog via Pinterest and how it inspired me to make a Punch Box for my neighbor's fourth birthday.  

When I wrote it I had no idea what an amazing response it would garner.  Seriously, people went nuts for this thing.  And the absolute best part about it?  Well, that's been the people who have written me to say that they wanted to make one (or that they already had).  

One of those people was Diane, the director of my daughter's preschool.  My daughter is long out of preschool but Diane and I remain friends on Facebook.  (Thank you, Facebook.)

Upon seeing the punch box she sent me an email asking if I'd help her make one for her granddaughter Chloee.  She wanted to use it in lieu of an Easter basket as a fun way for Chloee to collect some Easter loot.  It was a great excuse for us to get together and chit-chat while getting our craft on.  

Below is the finished product.  We used a Uhaul box and she decorated it with paper flowers.  (And get a load of her craft room in the background.  I seriously want to live in there...) 

But Diane wasn't the only one who was inspired.  About a week ago I received the following email from reader Sabrina Fitzgerald-Ruiz:

Thank you for the creative tutorial in the "Punch Box". I'm always looking for new ideas to spice up my daughter's birthday parties. This year she's turning the big "1-0" and I wanted to do something unique. My daughter just loved the idea when I showed it to her on Pinterest.

I wish I would have had the circle scoring tool, as I'm sure it would've been a lot faster. I ended up using a coaster to outline circles and used an Exacto-knife to cut out circles. I wanted to step it up a little bit, so I used zebra wrapping paper. I also found letters that were much like post notes that were a fun.

I was quite surprised at how much candy and toy prizes we were able to get in the lunch bags. My daughter and I enjoyed doing this together. I really hope the girls at her slumber party love it.

A Punch Box makes a great alternative to a Pinata!

Check out those pictures!  Didn't she do a great job?!  (Sabrina, I'd love to hear about the girls' reaction.)

(And for the record, you can order one of the "circle scoring tools" by following this link or clicking on the Products tab above.)

Finally, another punch box spin-off comes from the lovely and talented Amy from the blog, While Wearing Heels.   While on vacation last week I was delighted to open my ipad and find this post on her blog.  (Yes, I keep up with my favorite blogs on vacation, even if I'm not updating my own ;)

Please click on the link above to read her post.  And not just because it says all kinds of nice things about me.  (Unless that motivates you.  Come to think of it, that might be why I read it three times... ;)  Seriously, though, go for the punch box and stay for everything else.  You can also follow her through Google Friend Connect or Bloglovin'.  She's a frequent poster and her blog is full of the MOST adorable crafts.  (I guarantee you'll recognize many of them from Pinterest.)

I'd like to finish up by inviting you to send in pictures of your punch box.  If you do I'll be happy to feature them on `a casarella's Facebook page.  

Happy Punching!



A Pinterest Kind of Day

Today was the last day of school for my daughters.

My little one has a summer birthday.  Her teacher, recognizing that summer birthday kids miss out on certain rituals, invited the summer birthday kids to bring in birthday treats during the last month of school.

My daughter asked to go on the last day.

Due to new(ish) food safety rules, all treats must be store-bought.  My daughter chose to bring in doughnuts.  The pinner in me dies a little whenever I have to bring store-bought treats to school.  (So many cute cupcakes pinned and no reason to make them...)

To ease my pain I decided to hop on the Washi tape bandwagon and whip up some Pinterest-inspired Washi tape flags so I could decorate the doughnuts.

Pin found here.  Original source here.

And that made me feel all better!  :)  

(Plus, my daughter really liked them.) 

(Because apparently things aren't always about me...)

But the day wasn't over yet!

There's also another daughter and that one is now a fifth grade graduate.  To celebrate, one of her friends had a small pool party after school and everyone brought something.

Our choice?  These Pinterest-inspired chocolate graduation caps:

Pin here.  Source here.  Her source here.

 Three simple ingredients:

I simply attached a square of chocolate on to a peanut butter cup using a dollop of frosting as glue.

Then I attempted to create tassles with the same frosting.  (I never really mastered the tassles, but since people could tell what they were, I considered it a win.)

So there you have it:  a Pinterest-inspired day!

What Pinterest-inspired projects have you made lately?


Today We're Going To Party Like It's 1955

My new computer came today and not a moment too soon!  Here she is:

Now on to other business...  

Lots has gone on in the time I've spent away from the blog.  One of the more blog-worthy events was a dear friend's wedding shower. 

Had I known how adorable the shower was going to be, I would have brought a better camera.  As it stood, I only had my iphone.  Hopefully you'll still be able to tell how amazing it was despite the poor photo quality.

The bride is my former nanny, a young woman whom I adore and think of as family.  Apparently I'm not alone.  The hostesses were the bride's best friend and her mother.  Believe me when I say that the effort they put into this event was the type of effort one usually reserves for family.  

The theme was "Retro 50's Housewife." (Think Betty Draper, but happier.)  It was all very tongue in cheek but the details were perfect.

To start with, here's the table:

Let's get in there and take a look at the details, shall we?  

Each side contained a themed vignette.  The first was a "Baking Vignette":

How cute is that?  (And are you digging the runner? )

Check out the "Milkshake Vignette":

Or how about the one with the toaster?

Or perhaps sewing is more your thing?

Let's check out that vintage sewing basket a little closer:

I asked our hostesses where they got the items for the vignettes.  Some were bought (from thrifts and other stores), some were borrowed and some they already had.   

Cutest table ever, right?  Nope, not quite... Check out the kids' table:

The Instagram photo does not do it justice.  Trust me when I say it was adorable!

Each person, kids and adults alike, received a favor box filled with gumdrops:

Each one was handmade and they were all different.  Talk about a labor of love.  The hostesses took plain boxes from The Container Store and hot glued ribbon around the sides.  (You can't see the ribbon in my pictures.)  Then they glued these kitschy vintage pictures on top and embellished them with glitter and thrifted beads.  I took mine home and can't wait to find the perfect spot for it.  

Across from the adult table was this fun "Laundry Vignette."  The clothesline was filled with vintage aprons that fluttered over an old ironing board.  

Even the bathroom got a vintage makeover.  
Check out the milk glass, vintage Avon bottles and Aqua Net on the vanity.  Perfection!

And lest you think it was all about the decor, let me assure you that the food and drinks were amazing as well.  Here's a partial shot of the drink table.

(Which was covered with vintage books of course!)

And how's this for a great idea?  If you're lucky enough to own a jacuzzi-sized punch bowl, freeze water (or juice) in a bundt pan and use it as a giant decorative ice cube.  She froze berries in hers which, as we all know, is an excellent idea ;).

Lunch was the most amazing chicken and wild rice salad.  She served it with a dish of berries.  
I wanted to ask for the recipe but forgot.

I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture of the pie table.  
It would have put most Thanksgiving dessert tables to shame.

There was a lot more to the shower, of course: cute games, good company and fun presents.  In fact, I was so busy enjoying those things that I kind of forgot to take more pictures.  Oh well!

So that's it...cutest bridal shower ever!  Can't wait for the wedding  :)
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