Margarita Mama

Banana carmel bites

Posted by on Feb 24, 2015 in breakfast/brunch, eating/food, Featured, Food, Margarita Mama, Recipes | 4 comments

Snowed in? Tired of leftovers? Kids driving each other crazy?

That all sounds about right this week.

With another wintry blast headed our way, there’s only one thing to do — bake something easy and delicious.

I actually made these banana carmel bites as part of our Valentine’s Day breakfast, along with a little sausage and fruit. But these would be super as dessert on a cold night, too.

banana carmel bites

I’m still in a puff pastry period right now, clearly. It’s super easy to whip something up with it that everyone in the house falls in love with. And it seems So Fancy, a la Iggy.

I didn’t think this one out much in advance. I just looked around to see what we had that would go together, and this is what I ended up with.

banana carmel bite ingredients

Ingredients:

  • puff pastry
  • 2 bananas, cut in slices
  • Philly brown sugar and cinnamon cream cheese
  • jar of caramel
  • chopped pecans

Thaw the puff pastry on the counter while you’re getting the rest of your bidness together. When it’s just slightly chilled, right before it’s about to turn sticky, it’s go time.

Spread the cream cheese first, then layer banana slices on top. Then drizzle the carmel and top with chopped pecans. When it looks like this, it’s time to roll.

This is how we roll

After I rolled it up, I cut slices and placed them on a greased baking sheet, then brushed the tops with a little egg wash. Bake according to the puff pastry’s package directions, which may vary with the brand. These took less than 15 minutes.

Plate and top with an extra banana slice or two, a bit more carmel and a little more pecans. Sooooooo good. And perfect for sharing the love — we could all use a little more of that.

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

Greek pork skewers

Posted by on Feb 13, 2015 in eating/food, Featured, main dish, Margarita Mama, pork, Recipes, side dishes, Uncategorized | 0 comments

A hearty yet simple meal that’s sure to please a crowd is Greek pork paired with mediterranean-flavored rice and a crisp salad.

Four ingredients, and the main meal is done.

Four ingredients and the main meal is done.

Cube up a pork loin, liberally sprinkle on greek seasoning, a good steak seasoning blend and lemon olive oil. You can also do this a day ahead of time — the longer it marinates, the more delicious it will turn out.

When you’re ready, skewer ‘em up and them get sizzling on a stovetop grill pan.

Meanwhile, make a pot of rice. When it’s finished, add in some olives and grape tomatoes sliced in half. A touch of seasoning there helps, too.

Greek pork with mediterranean rice

Greek pork with mediterranean rice

Done — and delicious. Even the little girls in our house dug into this one, and that doesn’t happen every day.

What’s on your dinner plate tonight? I’d love to hear!

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

An introduction to roller skating

Posted by on Feb 10, 2015 in Activities, Ava, kid stuff, Margarita Mama, sports, Uncategorized | 2 comments

This past weekend, Ava got to roller skate for the very first time.

She didn’t exactly fly on those wheels, but she sure had a lot of fun. She immediately wanted to get a pair of skates to call her own. And to go back to the roller skating rink as soon as possible.

roller skating

Ava, gaining confidence on wheels

Fortunately, the skating rink had a passel of contraptions built out of PVC pipe and rollerblade wheels to help little ones stay upright a bit more than they otherwise would. I’m pretty sure that considerably pumped up the fun level for the group of newby skaters at the birthday party we attended.

Most of them stuck with the guides, but Ava eventually gave it a whirl without them toward the end of the party. She was so proud of herself, and I have to note that I was, too.

roller skating contraption

Ava gets an assist on her first skate

Guess what? I even got out there!

Most of the time, I have to admit I’m a big stick in the mud. I get carsick and all other kinds of motion sickness — even just looking at action on big movie screens. So a lot of things that are full of family fun, like roller coasters and zipping across the lake on a boat are pretty miserable for me. I tend to stay in the habit of sitting on the sidelines and watching everyone else have a good time.

But back when I was just a little bit older than Ava, skating was the thing to do! It’s one of those skills your body just remembers. And I’m pretty proud that I didn’t beef it and break anything like I had expected.

It was a good reminder to myself to push out of that comfort zone a little bit, just like I encourage Ava to do. I’m pretty sure we’ll be giving roller skating a shot again sometime soon.

Do something fun this week! You won’t regret it.

xoxo,
Margarita Mama

 

 

Buffalo cheese pinwheels

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Dips & appetizers, eating/food, Food, football, Margarita Mama, Recipes | 6 comments

The best thing about football season, hands down, is party food.

I tend to stick with the same winners over time — veggie tray, Rotel cheese dip, chicken wings. But for this Super Bowl, I experimented a little bit. And I have to say, I was pretty happy with the results.

Buffalo cheese pinwheels are a spicy little bite, and they come together in just about 20 minutes. Can’t beat that!

buffalo cheese puff pastry pinwheels

This snack is super easy. All you need is frozen puff pastry, a beaten egg and something to put in the middle. This time, I grabbed a container of prepared buffalo and blue cheese spread. Boom.

puff pastry ingredients

Just thaw the pastry on the counter. Then brush with the egg wash and spread on the cheese fairly evenly.

buffalo cheese spread

Roll it up, slice it and place the pinwheels on a greased baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden.

Voila, that’s it. So good. Enjoy!

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

Healthy kid lunches

Posted by on Jan 3, 2015 in eating/food, Food, Health, kid stuff, Margarita Mama, school | 6 comments

Now that the new year has begun, I’m ready to detox a bit from all the holiday treats and sweets that surrounded us the past few weeks and get back in the school-days routine.

In our house, a good part of this will include planning out our family’s lunches so that mom and dad are not grabbing something unhealthy in a time crunch and that Ava will find her meal delicious and filling. (The twins are still eating daycare-provided lunches, so they’re all set during the week.)

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

Ava would eat the same thing every single day if I let her. Her palate is generally limited to Lunchables or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with either an applesauce GoGo Squeeze or a yogurt tube. So I’d like to get her to branch out a bit.

Every once in awhile, I can sneak in a pasta salad of some kind or cut up squares of cheese pizza. Maybe even a bagel. But we could use a spark of inspiration.

Here’s a few handy tips on healthy kid lunches that QualChoice of Arkansas has offered:

PORTIONS: The USDA recommends tennis-ball sized portions of vegetables and whole grains, golf-ball sized portions of fruit and lean protein, and a pink pong ball portion of low-fat dairy. (Prepackaged items can often be a little more expensive, but I’ve come to realize that the portion control and ease of packing is a good tradeoff.)

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

PRODUCE: The great thing about fruits and veggies is they deliver lots of nutrients and they don’t require cooking. It’s best to keep produced washed and cut in the fridge so there isn’t a lot of prep work. Great options for this are: cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, berries, apples, pears and grapes. (Ava always loves her carrot sticks with a little cup of ranch dressing.)

veggie ideas

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

WHOLE GRAINS: For a crunchier side, pack multi-grain chips or pretzels instead of potato chips. Whole grain pita pockets and tortillas are also a great alternative and are easy to fill with lunch meats, salad mixes and more.

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

PROTEINS & DAIRY: Proteins come in many forms – not just meat. You could pack a  wrap or sandwich with lean turkey, or you could include a hard-boiled egg. Also, sharp cheddar cheese and Greek yogurt offer a great source of protein and dairy.

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

HYDRATION: Instead of juice boxes, include a small bottle of frozen water. The ice will keep the rest of the lunch cool, and will melt enough by lunchtime to be drinkable.

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

SNACKS: After school or on the weekends, healthy snacks can help curb overeating later.  Pack a baggie of popcorn for a 100% whole grain snack, or try almonds mixed with dried fruits, whole fruits or pretzels.

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

Happy lunching out there! And if you have more ideas or handy tips, I’d love to hear them. Please share!

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

Marvel Universe LIVE giveaway

Posted by on Dec 27, 2014 in Activities, Giveaways, kid stuff, Margarita Mama | 16 comments

Marvel Universe LIVE is about to roll into the Little Rock area, and we’ve got a family four-pack of tickets to give away!

Spiderman

The original story brings together more than 25 Marvel characters on a quest to ensure the safety of the powerful Cosmic Cube, which Thor has shattered into pieces and which his villainous brother Loki covets.

The all-ages show promises to be action packed — featuring special effects, pyrotechnics, aerial stunts, martial arts and even motorcycles.

Captain America

It’ll be at Verizon Arena from Jan. 9-11. Times and ticket information are available HERE.

For a chance to win our family four-pack, provided courtesy of the Angela Rogers Group, leave the name of your favorite Marvel character below. I’ll draw a winner at 5 p.m. Jan. 2, so don’t wait!

Christmas menu

Posted by on Dec 22, 2014 in Christmas, eating/food, family, Food, holidays, Margarita Mama, side dishes | 3 comments

As we have several branches of family to celebrate holidays with, we have forged a tradition of having a big Christmas Eve meal at our house. We get plenty of ham and turkey this time of year when we travel to see other family, and I’m from a state where beef reigns supreme. So we go with standing rib roast for what is clearly our most luxurious home-cooked meal of the year.

standing rib roast

Meat for 8 people

SimplyRecipes.com has an outstanding Prime Rib Recipe that includes gravy directions. And let’s just say that if you’re going to go this route, get more than you think you’ll need. (The leftovers make excellent with sandwiches with onions, peppers and provolone.)

There’s no need for dressing with this Christmas menu, but mashed potatoes are a must. And I’ve found that Martha Stewart is my spiritual match on this issue — no joke. I promise that if you try her recipe for Perfect Mashed Potatoes, you won’t go back. I use a ricer for mine, too. Absolutely no lumps.

On the side, we’ll have honey-glazed carrots and brussels sprouts with bacon and pecans.

prepping brussels sprouts and carrots

Veggies, ready to prep

I’ve been toying around with the carrots for awhile now and have finally figured out perfection. Cut the carrots into small coins and put into a baking dish. Then add several pats of butter, no fewer than five liberal squeezes of honey and a light dusting of salt, pepper and cayenne. Bake at 425 degrees for about 45 min.

Accidentally, I wound up this weekend with a stalk of fresh brussels sprouts so huge that it wouldn’t fit in our fridge.  I decided to jump ahead and prep them up by cutting them off, chopping them in half and steaming them for about 10 minutes. Now, all we’ll have to do is cut bacon into small pieces, cook them in a large pan, dump in the brussels sprouts to reheat and coat them in bacon fat, and add in as many pecans as we’d like. Salt, pepper, done.

I’m not much of a baker — and I usually spend my efforts there on cookies for Santa. So for dessert, I hit up Fresh Market. (Where I would hide in a corner and live, if I could. All that peaceful music, and beautiful things everywhere. It’s a dream world.)

yule log from Fresh Market

yule log, the most festive dessert for Christmas

Yule Log is my husband’s thang, you might say. It’s basically a super moist and rich chocolate cake with chocolate  icing rolled on the inside as well as on top. Big glass of milk required.

And that’s it! I hope you all have a delicious holiday meal in some form or fashion. Food is love, especially on a holiday.

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

An Hour of Code

Posted by on Dec 14, 2014 in Activities, Ava, kid stuff, Margarita Mama, school | 3 comments

I was thrilled that my sassy little bit came home last week asking to play on Code.org after Ava’s school and many others held an “Hour of Code” during Computer Science Education Week.

Hello Kitty glasses

Ava looking smart in Hello Kitty glasses

If you haven’t heard about it before, this the mission stated on the Code.org website:

Launched in 2013, Code.org® is a non-profit dedicated to expanding participation in computer science by making it available in more schools, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color. Our vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. We believe computer science and computer programming should be part of the core curriculum in education, alongside other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses, such as biology, physics, chemistry and algebra.

While that may sound intimidating, these people clearly know how to get into kids’ heads and work with them. (Note: Although there are several options to try, Frozen still rules the world.)

Elsa and Anna on Code.org

Early readers like my first-grader will probably need a little help going through the steps. And an hour is a really long time to hold a young child’s interest in anything.

But there are options for different age groups, the steps can be done in pieces and the point is really to introduce something that many children would not otherwise experience. So even just checking it out and paging through it a bit to see what happens is pretty cool.

Give it a shot!

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

Home for the holidays fashion

Posted by on Dec 5, 2014 in Christmas, holidays, home, Margarita Mama, shopping, The Promenade at Chenal | 6 comments

With only a few weeks until Christmas, it’s time to get decorating and make things warm, cozy and welcoming for family celebrations and other guests.

I’ve been out at the Promenade at Chenal quite a bit lately, and I’ve seen all kinds of things that can help finish up those holiday preparations.

The brand new Home Goods store is packed with goodies. There are so many things to fall in love with that it’s hard to choose just a few. I especially adored these boxes that could pull double duty as decor or gift packaging. They’re a steal at $5.99, $7.99 and $9.99.

Santa's Workshop boxes

reindeer wreatj

Wreaths in various sizes and prices

Home Goods barware

A decanter and cocktail shaker to covet at $12.99 and $16.99, perfect for Christmas parties involving bigger crowds

Nearby at Sleep Number — a store you might not think of dropping into — there’s some truly beautiful bedding. And my fave, a super soft cranberry-colored throw blanket that’s got a touch of seasonal sparkle.

Smart Classics plush throw

Smart Classics plush throw, $39.99

A stop into Tipton Hurst is sure to get your Christmas vibes going. Nearly every inch of the store is stocked with something beautiful, and it’s hard to choose just a few things to buy. Everything is so pretty and sparkly!

Hundreds of beautiful ornaments

Hundreds of ornaments in every color you can imagine.

Santa and snowman

Sweet Santa and snowman decor

Holiday accents

Holiday accents to fit every theme

Anthropologie is a perfect place to drop in if you’ve got company coming and you want to find a few small touches to make people feel at home.

Seasonal candles to warm up any space, $18

Seasonal candles to warm up any space, $18

Gorgeous soaps, perfect for guests, $8

Gorgeous soaps, perfect for guests, $8

Another new store, Mrs. Polka Dot, has plenty of things to round out your party setup.

Mrs. Polka Dot's Christmas collection

Just a bit of Mrs. Polka Dot’s Christmas collection. Personalized plate, $29

tea towels, bowl

Reindeer tea towels, 2 for $16, and bowl with spreader, $14

Happy shopping everyone! If you have any tried-and-true tips for making guests feel at home — or even just making your home feel like Christmas for your own family — I’d love to hear them.

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

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Note: This is a compensated post. However, all opinions are my own, of course.

The Promenade at Chenal