family · food · life · reviews · through my camera lens

Celebrate Father’s day with Cheesecake!

Today is Father’s Day. It is a day to celebrate those men in your life. Today is a quiet day in our house. Richard was actually the first one up and moving. After the boys finished their chores, Richard opened his gifts. We got him things to use in our new fire pit. Now we just need them to finish up so we can have our first fire.

I asked Richard what he wanted for our meal and he choose steaks and sweet potato hash. So that is what we will have for dinner tonight. On Friday I made our desert for today. I typically do not bake on the weekends there usually isn’t time for it. So I made it on Friday. So, we have been enjoying it the last few days, oh well the thought was there.Image may contain: food and indoor

I made cheesecake “cupcakes”. I used Philadelphia’s 3 step cheesecake squares recipe, but made it in a cupcake pan.

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Cheesecake “Cupcakes”

  • 1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of butter melted
  • 2 blocks of cream cheese softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • toppings if desired ( I used chocolate chips and peanut butter chips)
  1. Heat oven to 350
  2. line muffin pan with cupcake liners
  3. Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter
  4. press mixture into the bottom of the liners
  5. mix together cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla
  6. Add eggs to mixture and mix until just combined
  7. pour over crusts
  8. add desired toppings
  9. bake for 40 min
  10. allow to cool on a cooling rack and then put into the fridge for 3+ hours

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The cheesecake in this is really tasty. The crust needs work! It did not hold together and was not sweet enough. Next time I will use a bit less graham cracker crumbs, as it was also thicker then needed.

I think the next time I will try this:

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar

I will also add more butter if I notice it isn’t sticking together next time instead of guessing it will be fine.

The chocolate chips were tasty. These were dark chocolate chips. I also liked the plain one. The peanut butter didn’t do much for me. It may have been better as a combination of peanut butter and chocolate chips.

Oh well… Richard is enjoying them and that is what counts when it is a father’s day treat.

family · food · life

Friday is show day

It’s Friday! This means that the weekend is loading.

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Today is the boy’s last day of of camp. They perform Camp Rock tonight. I still am amazed that they audition on Monday and put on their performance on Friday. This cast was students entering 5th grade and up. This puts them at the younger end of the cast. While it found them both with ensemble rolls, it is such a great learning experience for them. One of the cool/unique parts of this performance is they are having the kids play instruments. Well, those who know how to play that is… so not my boys. So, this means that their are characters who needed to learn lines, songs and memorize the music to play guitar, piano, drums and more. I give them all major kudos.

Next week, they are back at camp. This time they will be doing Peter Pan. This cast is for students entering 2nd-8th grade. They will be on the older side of this cast. It will give them a totally different experience to be on the older end instead of the younger end.  We did the same thing last year.

Tomorrow we are heading to the movies to see Secret Life of Pets 2. (I knew enough to buy my tickets ahead of time this time, read about that life lesson here) We all loved the first one and hope this one lives up to the standard set by the first one. We are looking forward to seeing some of the Disney movies that are out on the cruise. This is one of the perks of Disney Curises is they show first run movies on the ship. We hope to see Toy Story 4 and Aladdin…. hmmm Lion King opens while we are on the ship I wonder if they will show that one too??

Tomorrow I am making another RR recipe. This time is it meatballs with garlic bread. Yes, I will take pictures and share our thoughts. Sunday we are having steak and sweet potato hash, Richard’s choice for Father’s day. Oh and I’m getting ready to make cheesecake bites, yes I can share that recipe too if people are interested.

There have been some big changes to the backyard. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve got a sneak peek the other day. I will update everyone over the weekend.

Hope everyone has a great Friday

food · reviews · through my camera lens

Taco Salad with Black Bean Mix

I often get asked to share more of my go-to recipes. I never think to share recipes like this since it is just a toss together recipe. I also typically post reviews I do on the new recipes I try.

Well this one is a combo of a standby recipe for us in conjunction with a new recipe that I created. The steps in the recipe shows I made both of these pieces at the same time.

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Taco Salad with Black Bean Mix


  • 1 lb ground meat (I used turkey)
  • 1/3 onion diced
  • EVOO
  • 8oz can of Ro-tel or other tomato/chili pepper mix
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • S&P

Black Bean Mix

  • 10 oz can of black beans – drained
  • 8oz can of Ro-tel
  • EVOO
  • 2/3 onion diced
  • 1/2 green pepper diced
  • 1/2 Tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • S&P
  1. Heat EVOO in both a skillet and a pot
  2. Drop in onion (2/3 in pot, 1/3 in skillet) add salt to bring out liquids in the onion
  3. Add green peppers to pot and let the onion and peppers sweat out
  4. When the onions in the skillet become translucent, add the ground meat and let it begin browning
  5. When the onions and pepper in the pot start to soften, add the drained black beans
  6. SEASONING time… season both the pot and the skillet at the same time.
  7. Once the first side of the ground meat is browned, stir it around to mix in the seasoning and let the rest of the meat brown
  8. Add the can of Ro-Tel to the beans
  9. Once the meat is browned, add the Ro-Tel to the meat
  10. Let both cook for a bit longer, this is when I prep the salad portion

Salad can be whatever you want. Mine was iceberg shreds, carrots, celery. I then add the black bean mix, taco meat, shredded cheddar and sour cream. Richard made his in reverse: meat, beans, cheese, jalapenos, and lettuce.

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This can be switched up in so many ways. You can make it with a different ground meat. You can switch up the spices. You can add salsa to the ground meat to cook in that taste (I do this often instead or in addition to the Ro-Tel). You can use it as a salad, nachos, burrito or tacos. The other thing that I would do next time is add cilantro to the bean mix.

Oh and one other tip… freshly shred your cheddar cheese… it tastes SO much better!


food · reviews · through my camera lens

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies (without butter)

Baking is something I love to do. It is a huge stress release for me. The other day my life was kind of crazy and I decided it was the perfect day to bake… but.. I didn’t have ANY butter in the house. I didn’t want to go to the store to buy some since I knew I’d be going in a day or two to do my big shop for the week. I don’t like having to stop at the store for an item or two, I’d rather just do one big shop and cope with whatever I’m missing.

So, what do you do if you want to bake and you don’t have butter?  I know GOOGLE! I googled: What can I bake without butter and I post from Overtime Cook came up with 9 cookie recipes. I looked through the list and decided upon Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (without butter or margarine)

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Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies:

  • ¾ cup canola oil
  • ½ cup peanut butter (I used crunchy)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • chocolate chips (I just shook the bag until it looked like enough)
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Line a cookie sheet and set aside.
  2. Beat together the oil, peanut butter and the sugars and beat until creamy.
  3. Add the vanilla extract, baking soda, salt and eggs
  4. Add the flour and oatmeal and beat until just combined.
  5. Add the chips
  6. Scoop the dough onto the prepared cookie sheet using a medium cookie scoop.
  7. Bake at 375 for 9 minutes.

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These cookies were very tasty. I gave some to the workers and they ate them all up. Colby grabbed one as soon as he came home from camp and said they were tasty. He said they were too chewy for him, but I think that is before he realized they had oatmeal in them. Richard was out at a work dinner and did not get home until almost 10pm so he didn’t try them yet. But, I can see that we will be making them again.

family · life

This week of summer

The boys started their first week of theater camp yesterday. They always leave there excited and ready to go back the next day. They came home and had a bit before we were back out the door for moutain biking. Last night it POURED while they were biking. When we were getting ready to leave, I asked them if they wanted to go. It looked like it was going to storm the whole time. Colby said as long as I don’t get struck by lightning I’m good to go…. well that or as long as a tree doesn’t catch on fire and fall on me. Comments like this make me laugh. Ok dude… those are good goals to have. I’m glad you are game for a soggy ride.

They did ride and had a great time. I love seeing how much they enjoy getting out and doing things that are not typical activities.

I love that they are able to have their own fun and enjoy their own summer. Today they came home from camp and shortly after cleaning up a mess they left in the basement, completed their 20 min of educational tech (they are both doing math on Khan Academy this summer)… got to keep up those learning skills… the door bell rang. They were off to the playground with friends. They came home for dinner and were back out the door until it is time to come home and get ready for bed.

This is what summer should be… getting outside and having fun. Doing extended activities that you enjoy. Relaxing and being yourself.

I have been in and out of work the last few weeks. I went in yesterday and told them I would be back in August unless they needed me before then. I’m done. I’m ready to do me things. I am finding more time to read (I’m reading two books right now so it seems slower, but that’s ok). I have a lot of personal work things that I want to do so that I am ready for next year. I want to go and do some on-line professional development to keep up my skills. I want to do a whole year re-vamp and re-sort my book boxes to match my new order. I want to work on some projects that I have started for my teacher pay teacher account.

But I also want to slow down. I want to be able to bake. I want to go for a walk in the middle of the day. I want to be able to sit out on the new patio, when it is finished and type my blog post, read a book or do nothing.

Its summer. I want to relax and enjoy.

Tomorrow there will be a cookie recipe/review coming. Today I had the urge to bake and didn’t have butter, I googled “What can I bake without butter?” I found a recipe for oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip cookies (pictures on my f/b page if you follow me there). I’ll share the details tomorrow. I will have updated pictures of the backyard soon. Hopefully a new book review. We will see… but for now I”m going to enjoy the wind blowing in the open windows and the few more minutes before the boys come home from the playground.

family · food · reviews · through my camera lens

Buffalo Chicken Salad

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Richard and I are still working on watching all of the Rachael Ray 30 minute meals that she put out for her new re-vamped show. We recently watched he episode called: Buffalo Chicken Statement Salad. While it did NOT make me want to make a HUGE of a salad as she did, we decided it would make a good meal. So we made it, or parts of it.  You can click on the title above to get the whole recipe since I did not make the ranch blue cheese dressing that she used, but I can tell you it needed some type of cooling… oops!

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Buffalo Chicken Salad

Buffalo Chicken

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 6 cloves garlic grated
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce, Frank’s RedHot preferred brand
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, Lea and Perrins brand preferred
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or broth


  • romaine lettuce
  • carrots
  • celery
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • Dorritos… yep you read the right
  1. Preheat oven to 375 to toast up the Dorritos  (3-5 min)
  2. Remove skin and bones from chicken and cube into pieces
  3. heat a skillet
  4. melt butter until frothy, then add grated garlic
  5. Add Hot Sauce, worstershire sauce, chicken and stock to the pan
  6. Let simmer
  7. Chop lettuce, carrots and celery to your size liking
  8. Make your salad
  9. Enjoy!

You can see from the two pictures above that Richard and I made our salads in a different order. Richard also ate his carrot as a whole carrot and not cut up in his salad. I toasted but Nacho Cheese Doritos as well as Spicy Doritos, while I found this concept interesting, I’m not sure it added a ton of flavor as it was promised.

From the pictures below you will notice that Blake and Colby did not have the buffalo chicken salad. I actually purchased 2 rotisserie chickens at Costco and made one Buffalo and left the other plain. They both decided to make chicken sandwiches instead, and the obligatory 2 pieces of carrot and celery.

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Richard and I both enjoyed this dish. I would make the chicken and salad again, but skip the chips. I would also add some type of cooling item. You could make RR’s ranch blue cheese dressing if you like that kind of thing, me I think I’ll add a bit of sour cream or plain ranch, or I don’t know. But even though it didn’t feel/seem spicy to start, it got your attention as you continued to eat it!



family · food · life · through my camera lens

Strawberry Picking Time

Yesterday we headed out to the orchard. We have gone strawberry picking there every summer since we moved to PA. There is NOTHING better than fresh picked berries. This has spoiled Colby from the store bought berries.

When we found out that this year they were having a strawberry festival, we knew we needed to attend. Richard had actually never gone strawberry picking with us, as that was a mid-week activity the other years.

We grabbed two bins and headed to the fields.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing, child, grass, outdoor and natureImage may contain: 1 person, standing, plant, tree, sky, grass, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: 1 person, plant, child, tree, flower, outdoor and natureWhen we were done in the first field, we were trying to decide if we wanted to try a second or just leave. Then we notice people picking spring peas. Image may contain: 1 person, standing, tree, sky, shorts, child, grass, outdoor and natureThis is one of those veggies that you have to try fresh from the vine. This is the best way to eat peas. Raw straight from the pod. I went and found out that you could pick peas and cherries as well as strawberries. So we did! We combined all the strawberries into one container and decided to fill the second with half peas and half cherries.  Picking the cherries was a bit of a challenge, but it was fun.

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family · life · through my camera lens

Backyard update

Earlier in the week I spoke about the fact that the crew was here to start the backyard. At that time I didn’t post pictures because, well… it wasn’t interesting to see. When I posted the first time, all they had done was move pallets around and start digging up grass, boring!

Well… fast forward a few days and now there is something to see.


They spent most of the week working on the stairs. Let me tell you these stairs we designed are massive. We wanted a large top step so that you stepped out onto a landing. This will make it easier when letting the dog in and out. Plus it will just look impressive. They still haven’t finished the stairs they have two more lights to install and then put on the sandstone landing.

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They also finally started working on the wall that surrounds our fire pit. This work was done in one day! We were impressed with the scale, but it will get a lot of use.

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family · life

Summer Break is here

Hard to believe that yet another school year is over. This year found Blake in 6th grade, Colby in 5th and me in preK.

Every year has its own set of challenges. Its own learning curve. But somehow, we always come through and move forward.

This year was no different. The boys had their ups and downs. They had moments they will look back on and smile/laugh and others they want to totally forget. But you can’t forget those moments. You need to learn to learn from those moments in life. To see how much you have grown because of them.

The same for me. Each class/grade that I teach/have taught has helped me grow as an educator. Each year there are children who challenge my skills, patience and often make me question why I’m doing this…. but then I step back and say it is because of those children. The child in your room who gives you the hardest time is often the one who needs you the most. That is the child who will have the most growth, even if you don’t see it… it is there.

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So now life slows down for a bit. We get to sleep in a bit later. Stay up a bit longer. There will be days where we are busy and others that we do nothing at all. Summer is a time to recharge. We will read, watch movies, cook new foods and go on vacation. There will be times where we struggle. There will be times where we want nothing to do with each other, and other times where we don’t want the moments to end.  That is what life is… and summer is part of life.

But, one thing I can tell you… it is summer… and we are ready.