Why I Love My Cast Iron Skillet

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For Christmas I received a 10″ Pre-seasoned Lodge Cast Iron Skillet.  At first glance, cast iron skillets might seem intimidating and they are heavy as heck!  I have to use two arms to lift the thing!  However, it really is worth the investment if you decide to purchase one. Here are 5 reasons why I love my cast iron skillet:

  1. Easy clean up:  You shouldn’t use soap on the iron skillet because it can strip away the seasoning. Just rinse with warm water and use a washcloth and salt to scrub if necessary and dry thoroughly to prevent rusting. Very important to apply a thin layer of oil after each cleaning.
  2. Multifunctional: take it camping. Transfer to the oven. Roast, fry, bake, braising, simmer, anything!
  3. Lasts forever: True that I’ve had it about 2 weeks now, but based on reviews and the tough material, I’m sure it will take me through a few decades and then some.
  4. Retains heat: Love this! I can prepare a dish and it will stay warm longer.
  5. Wide range of recipes:  Doing a quick search on Pinterest will pull up endless recipes to use with your cast iron skillet; cookies, pizza, baked eggs, etc!

Be sure to check back next Monday about how to care for your cast iron skillet.

Tell us, do you own a cast iron skillet?  How often do you use it?

Dine with Diana: Too Good To Be Healthy Veggie Quinoa

If you’re like me, you’re scrambling around this week trying to get the kids back to a respectable bedtime routine, trying to remember where you left off at work, unpacking from holiday trips, and just generally trying to keep your head screwed on.

Meanwhile, my kids will not stop asking for snacks and chocolate. Literally. They average about once an hour. In the morning they want a snack, not breakfast. And around 9am they start saying, “Can we please have chocolate now. We haven’t had any yet today!”

Now that they no longer get their way, they go into full tantrum mode in hopes of recreating the near free-reign eating they experienced during the break when grandparents, uncles and even laid back parents were caving in at every turn.

So now our challenge is to get us all back to eating normally again with a focus on nutritious and delicious meals. Oh yah, and you know me. Fast and easy are key.

Since we’ve all been eating hearty dishes with a lot of flavor and comfort to them over the holidays, I wanted to come up with something that would give our family the same comfort feelings without being full of fat and calories.

Hubs and I came up with this amazing Veggie Quinoa dish that can be used as a side, a full meal (don’t be afraid to add meat) or as Hubs did, as a bed for our roasted leg of lamb a few nights ago. Decadent for a post holiday meal, I know, but it really wasn’t heavy at all.

The flavors, nuttiness, textures and healthy-factor on this dish all add up to perfection for getting back on track at the dinner table this week.

Let me know how you serve it!

Xo,

Diana

Too Good To Be Healthy Veggie Quinoa

 quinoa

Ingredients

  • 1 bag vegetable quinoa mix- I like Roland brand Garden
  • Yellow grape tomatoes cut in half
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • Golden raisins
  • Dried cranberries
  • Top with raw Brussels sprouts, trimmed, finely grated or shredded with a knife
    (amount of added ingredients is all to taste)

 Directions:

  1. Prepare the quinoa mix according to package instructions
  2. Toss in the yellow tomatoes, pine nuts, raisins, cranberries and mix
  3. Sprinkle top of each serving with the crispy raw Brussels sprouts

You can follow Totsy’s Chief Mom, Diana Heather on Twitter: @totsymom

No Fuss New Years Eve

Okay so most of us are guilty of doing everything last minute for the holidays simply because there aren’t enough hours in the day! From running around at work to getting everyone’s presents, we sometimes forget the other details that make a holiday party special. After strenuous planning for Christmas and Hanukkah, some of us are pooped come New Year’s Eve! No need to stress though, we’ve got a few easy tips that even the least creative of us can do!

For the Home

Who doesn’t love candles? They smell wonderful and cast a beautiful glow in any living space. These simple (and cheap!) DIY candles are sure to sparkle at your NYE party!

DIY Metallic/Glitter Candles

candlesticks 1


What you will need:

  • Dollar store candles (any color, size, shape you prefer)
  • Candle holders
  • Spray Adhesive
  • Glitter (any color you prefer)
  • Metallic Spray Paint (any color you prefer)
  • Painters tape

Directions

  1. If you simply want metallic candles, spray two coats of the spray paint, or enough until the original candle color isn’t showing and let dry overnight. I recommend doing this two days in advance.
  2. If you only want sections of colors, use the use painters tape to mark off the areas you’d like to have the candle base color show. You can get creative and create designs with the painters tape! Spray paint exposed areas and Voila!
  3. For glitter candles, pretty much the same concept applies.
  4. For full on glitter candles, spray the entire candle with spray adhesive and roll in glitter. Spray another coat and roll in glitter once more and let dry overnight. Again, I recommend doing this at least two days in advance.
  5. You can use the painters tape to section off areas of glitter.
  6. If you really want to get creative, combine both the metallic paint and glitter!

Your Outfit

 


Do sequins, but do it right! You don’t want to end up looking like the NYE ball in Times Square or a disco ball at that! From sequined dress, sweaters, skirts, shorts and pants, the possibilities are endless.

Too scared to full on sequins? Sequined flats or pumps add sparkle to your outfit without drawing a lot of attention.</p>

Sequins aren’t your thing at all? Dress up your LBD with a statement necklace or bracelet and a bright pair of pumps!

Drinks


Champagne is a must for NYE without a doubt!  Remember our Sparkling Cranberry recipe from Thanksgiving? Whip up a batch of these sugary berries and lay them in your champagne flutes and pour a little bubbly over! This recipe can be done with a variety of berries if cranberries don’t suit your fancy. Little kids and Mommies-to-be coming to the party? Substitute champagne for sparkling apple cider or ginger ale for the same bubbly effect!

Appetizer

 


Baked brie…looks complicated and time consuming, but is soooo easy!

Ingredients

  • 1 large sheet of puff pastry dough
  • Cranberry chutney
  • Round of brie (do not remove rind)
  • 1 cup of Candied walnuts
  • 1/4 of a cup Brown Sugar
  • Assortment of crackers and breads
  • Apple Slices

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. On a non stick cookie sheet, lay out the puff pastry
  3. Put the brie round on the puff pastry. Make sure it is centered.
  4. Spread cranberry chutney on the top, fold dough over top, creating a little pouch. Cut off excess dough.
  5. Top with brown sugar and candied walnuts
  6.  Bake at 350º for 25-30 minutes, pastry should be golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
  7. Serve with crackers, bread and apple slices.

Party Essential

 

This one is super easy and I guarantee takes little to no time. Confetti bags! Yes, as childish as this may sound, it’s a cute way for your guests to let loose at midnight.

What you will need: 

  • Confetti, especially “2013” confetti
  • Clear plastic cellophane bags, preferably the smaller ones
  • Colorful ribbon

Simple fill the baggies with confetti, tie with ribbon to create a little pouch, and hand them out to your guests right before the countdown and let them go crazy at midnight!  Of course noise makers are a must too!

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THE TOTSY FAMILY!!!!!!!!!!

Al Fresco with Autumn: Champagne Mojitos

I love champagne and I love mojitos. Somehow blending the two turns the standard mojito into an all-season cocktail, perfect for the upcoming New Years celebrations you have planned. Warning: this drink is a crowd-pleaser. The last time I served it, our thirsty guests kept me standing over the kitchen sink muddling much of the night away.  So do yourself a favor, and make up a large batch in advance using a solid glass pitcher to store the muddled ingredients (minus champagne).  Happy New Year to all the Totsy families!

xo – Autumn, West Coast Mom

champagne+mojito champage-mojito-b

Ingredients (makes 2):

  • 2 oz dark rum
  • 8 large mint leaves or 4 sprigs
  • 2 Tbsps sugar
  • 3 Tbsps fresh lime juice
  • 2 lime wedges
  • 6 oz champagne

 Directions:

  1. Muddle sugar, lime juice, lime wedges, mint and rum together until sugar is fully dissolved. In absence of a muddler, the end of a wooden spoon will work fine as long as your glass container is thick (mason jar/pint glass, etc).
  2. Strain into two chilled champagne glasses.
  3. Add chilled champagne, toast & enjoy!

Photo credits: alpanasingh.com & thevelvetjungle.com

Totsy’s Top 5 Holiday Pins

Happy holidays! Nothing new, but you all know that we here at Totsy LOVE Pinterest!  We are practically addicted ;-).  We have rounded up out top 5 pins for the holidays!  These are just some of our favorites, but you can enjoy the holiday season with more pins from our Tis the Season board!

5) Heart- (and belly-warming) hot chocolateLove this idea! Put whipped cream on a cookie sheet, freeze, then use heart cookie cutter to cut out heart shapes.  Add to a steamy cup of hot chocolate!

hotchoco

4) Candy cane tablescape. Perfect for the holiday season – simple and festive!

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3) Christmas tree cupcake.  How adorable is this??

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2) Winter cocktails. Our favorite? The hot toddy. Warms you from the inside out!  Find the recipe on our blog along with a few of our other favorite winter cocktails.

Glass of hot toddy with cinnamon and anise. Shallow dof.

1) Cutie holiday photo op. We couldn’t help but smile at this little snowman! Have you ever had a creative and festive photo op with your child?

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That’s all from us folks!  Don’t forget to follow and pin with us on Pinterest.

Share with us your favorite holiday pins by pasting in the comments below.

Happy holidays to your family from us here at Totsy!

Speedy, No-Cook Holiday Appetizers!

Crunched for time? Have a family that never seems to be full? Look no further! Here are some speedy, no cook appetizers/snacks that will keep everyone satisfied during the holiday rush.

Cheese & Fruit Plate

Cheese & Fruit plates are mainstays for a reason, they cater to your biggest of meat eaters and your pickiest of vegetarians – everyone can enjoy! Our favorite trick for assembling? Choose one or two of your favorite cheeses and then ask your local cheese monger which cheeses he/she recommends to accompany and balance out the cheeses you already picked. As for the fruit, we recommend a mixture of dried and fresh in a variety of different colors! Some of our faves: grapes, dried apricot, asian pear and strawberries!

cheese

Smoked Salmon Sandwich with Rye Bread, Scallion Cream Cheese and Cucumber

This is one of those appetizers that look so sophisticated, but really is a cinch to make! First, you’ll want to cut the cucumber in thin slices – put those aside. Next, take two pieces of rye bread and spread the scallion cream cheese on both. Tear the salmon into little pieces and put on top of one of the slices of rye bread, followed by a few slices of cucumber. Place the other slice of bread on top to create a sandwich. Lastly, cut the crusts and then cut into 4 squares and enjoy!

salmon

Prosciutto Wrapped in Melon 

The perfect combination of sweet and savory, this prosciutto wrapped melon appetizer will definitely be a BIG hit. All you need are three things, how easy is that!? To save yourself time, we recommend buying pre-cut melon. Cut each piece of prosciutto in half and wrap it around the melon and secure with a toothpick – voila!

prosc-wrapped melon

Chicken Salad Towers

Our West Coast Mom whips these up bad boys for lunch a lot, and trust us, she’s a great cook! Check out her recipe for her delicious, quick Chicken Salad Towers here.

chicken

Al Fresco with Autumn: Apple Cranberry Cobbler

I’m not gonna lie, this was my first crack at this recipe.  Some of my experiments turn out well, others horribly. This? As hubby and I fought over bites on our shared plate (no one beats a pregnant girl in a fight over dessert), I said:

OMG, honey, I think this might be one of the best things I’ve ever made.”

Gooey, slightly chewy, sweet with apples, tangy with cranberries and just enough lemon juice and cinnamon to kick the whole party off. I can’t recommend this dish enough, it was a total crowd-pleaser during our Thanksgiving dinner. After discussing the recipe with my Mom, we think the key is the cast-iron baking dish, a la Creuset/Mario Batali/whatever you have in your cupboard. It traps heat more efficiently than a regular glass or baking dish, and caramelizes all the ingredients so beautifully that you might catch yourself digging at the crust with a spoon while no one is watching. Only your husband is watching… and pointing, and laughing. But that’s ok, you’ll make him pay for it later.

Enjoy with love you guys, and Happy Holidays from the West Coast!

Ingredients

Filling

  • 7-8 cups cored, peeled & thinly sliced apples
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 3 Tbsps lemon juice
  • ¼ cup apple juice
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp butter, softened
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsps flour
  • 2 tsps cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt

Topping

  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 rounded tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsps cream
  • 2.5 Tbsps melted butter
  • 1 egg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Grease a large cast-iron soufflé dish like one shown below. (Note: an 8 x 10 baking dish will also work but will not produce the same chewy caramelized crust that makes this recipe so delicious)
  3. Toss cranberries and apples together with lemon juice.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the dry filling ingredients: white sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt, then add to the apple cranberry mixture and toss to coat evenly.
  5. Pour and spread the apple mixture evenly into your baking dish, and disperse small drops of the soft butter evenly over the top.
  6. In another bowl, mix together the topping ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  7. In yet another bowl, whisk together the egg, cream and melted butter and then fold into the dry topping mixture until evenly mixed.
  8. Drop large spoonfuls of the topping batter evenly across the top of the baking dish, covering as much fruit as possible. Some of the fruit will still show through! This is ok. The batter will spread as it bakes but you want some of that beautiful fruit to peek through anyway.
  9. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until top and edges are browned.
  10. Serve with vanilla ice cream…smile and enjoy!