Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

The Occasional Affair | Father's Day BBQ sauce

© Andrea Berger - Fotolia.com

I’m constantly racking my brain for creative, cost-effective gifts to give. With Father’s Day quickly approaching, I wanted to come up with something different and useful that my girls could help me create. We have enough artwork to cover a few miles of the great wall; we have enough painted mugs, bowls and plates to keep Tavern on the Green up and running and enough painted pots, patio pavers and bird feeders to remain to eyesore of the neighborhood.  Not that I don’t adore and cherish each an every one of these handmade projects, but one can only have so many…

While making a list of my husband’s favorite pastimes, I kept coming back to how much we enjoy spending our evenings outside. Grilling is a big part of that. So this year, we are going to make him three different types of homemade barbeque sauce. It’s a fun activity that the kids can help with, and the gift is practical because we know he’ll use and enjoy it. Plus, it won’t clutter the front porch or the front of the refrigerator!

I’ve listed a few of my favorite BBQ sauce recipes below, each with its own distinctive flavor and style. You might enjoy trying one style you’re familiar with, and one that’s new to you. You can find a variety of bottle styles and sizes at many different retailers such as The Container Store.

Have the kids decorate a different label (a simple piece of paper that can be glued onto the bottle).  Finally, secure the bottles in a nice box among some hickory wood chips (found at most grocery stores).  The wood chips are a great packing material as well as grill starter.  If you don’t have the time or desire to make your own BBQ sauce, purchase a favorite store brand, soak off the label and affix your own for the same effect.

Here are some of my preferred BBQ sauce recipes, all from the wonderful site AllRecipes.com:

Big Al’s K.C. Bar-B-Q Sauce

By: Alan Arthur

“This is a Kansas City-style sauce that I make in my restaurant. It is sweet and smoky with a little bite.”

Prep Time: 
15 minutes

Cook Time: 
20 minutes

Ready In: 
35 minutes

Servings: 48

Yield: 6 cups


  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 4 teaspoons hickory-flavored liquid smoke
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper


  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, mix together the ketchup, tomato sauce, brown sugar, wine vinegar, molasses, liquid smoke and butter. Season with garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, paprika, celery seed, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper.
  2. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for up to 20 minutes. For thicker sauce, simmer longer, and for thinner, less time is needed. Sauce can also be thinned using a bit of water if necessary. Brush sauce onto any kind of meat during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

North Carolina BBQ Sauce


“This sauce is vinegar-based with no ketchup. It’s very tangy, very thin, and wonderful on pork, chicken, and even tofu!”

Prep Time: 
5 minutes

Cook Time: 
30 minutes

Ready In: 
35 minutes

Servings: 64

Yield:  1 gallon


  • 1 gallon white vinegar
  • 1 1/3 cups cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/8 cups ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup mustard powder
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 3 lemons
  • 2 (10 fluid ounce) bottles Worcestershire sauce


  1. Combine the vinegar, cayenne pepper, black pepper, mustard powder, salt, lemons, and Worcestershire sauce in a large pot; bring to a simmer. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Applesauce Barbeque Sauce


“Applesauce gives this sauce a nice thick texture that coats well on meat. It has a sweet spicy flavor that is excellent on chicken or pork.

Prep Time: 
10 minutes

Cook Time: 
20 minutes

Ready In: 
30 minutes

Servings: 28

Yield: 3 1/2 cups


  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 cups unpacked brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, mix applesauce, ketchup, brown sugar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and cinnamon. Bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat, and cool completely. Use to baste the meat of your choice.

Mustard Based BBQ Sauce


“This is a great version of the traditional mustard-based BBQ sauce. Most sauces are ketchup based, but in the South we prefer the mustard variation. You ought to try it at least once.”

Prep Time: 
2 minutes

Cook Time: 
5 minutes

Ready In: 
7 minutes

Servings: 12

Yield:  1 1/2 cups


  • 1 cup prepared yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • Ground black pepper to taste


  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together the mustard, honey, brown sugar and vinegar. Season with black pepper. Bring to a boil, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Pour over cooked pulled pork or beef. If you want more flavor, let the meat simmer in the sauce for about 30 minutes.

Happy Father’s Day!

~ Maury

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Quiche for Easter Morning Celebrated Gatherings

Easter is one of my favorite holidays, but if you have children it can be challenging to manage the hunt for Easter eggs and also serve breakfast all in the same morning. The following quiche recipe is perfect for a mid-morning brunch; it’s kid friendly, and easy to prepare. The hash browns form a crispy crust which is topped with a ham and egg mixture. Feel free to add or subtract filling ingredients depending on what your family likes. Sometimes I arrange asparagus spears or chopped artichoke hearts on top before adding the eggs, and I’ve also substituted cooked, crumbled bacon for the ham.

  • 1 24-ounce package frozen hash browns, thawed
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Emmenthaler or Swiss cheese
  • 1 cup diced cooked ham
  • ½ cup half and half
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Press thawed hash browns between paper towels to remove moisture. Arrange hash browns into a greased 9-inch pie plate, forming a solid crust. Brush the crust with melted butter, including top edges. Bake for 25 minutes; remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Sprinkle cheeses and ham evenly over bottom of crust. Beat half and half with eggs and salt and pepper. Pour over cheeses and ham. Bake uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until eggs are set and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. 6 servings.

If you have any favorite recipes or Easter traditions, I’d love to hear about them!


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If you’ve been married for as long as I have, you’ve come to realize that the most romantic of dates are not necessarily on February 14th at an overpriced restaurant with a prefixed menu.  Besides, how can one ever compete with the doe eyes, forced giggles, and hand feeding that often accompanies these evenings?

I prefer loud company, a hearty, well-priced meal and the genuine laughter that comes from a romantic dinner with the kids.

Romantic Valentine's Day dinner ideasTo create a fun and relaxing evening with the family, I change things up a bit by turning our living room into a five-star eatery. I hang curtains at the doorways, remove or push back most of the furniture, and bring in a card table and chairs. By covering the table with a nice cloth, lighting some candles, and adding a flower or two and some Chris Botti CDs – viola! – it’s the perfect dinner in, no reservations required.  I’ll prepare a nice Italian meal for my husband and me, and a box of my kids’ favorite mac and cheese (garnished with parsley for that little something extra). Our tradition has always included a new pair of PJ’s and chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert; after they’re all sugared up, we send them to bed a smidge early.

After the kids are down, we grab a nice bottle of wine, a couple of the remaining chocolates, and a ton of warm blankets — and head outside. While watching our breath and a few small stars, I give my husband what I call the verbal Valentine’s card. I tell him all the reasons I love him and love our life. (The memory of this lasts longer than a card).

Happy Valentine’s Day,


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On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…..

  • 12 Drummers Drumming
  • 11 Cousins-a-Bickering
  • 10 Lords-a-Leaping
  • 9 Kids-a-Shouting
  • 8 Maids-a-Milking
  • 7 Aunts-a-Meddling
  • 6 Brothers-a-Quarreling
  • 5 Golden Rings
  • 4 Sisters Prying
  • 3 French Hens
  • 2 In-Laws-a-Ranting
  • 1 Drunken Uncle

…and a Partridge in a Pear Tree!

Ahh, nothing says “holidays” like a good, old -fashioned family feud. The holidays can be tough, and not every gathering is grand –or even peaceful, for that matter. The added stress of stretched finances, packed schedules (more…)

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Appalachian goat - Photo courtesy Heifer International / Darcy Kiefel

If some of those on your holiday list are fortunate enough to have everything they need, consider donating to a charity in their name. It’s a selfless gesture that truly gets to the heart of the Christmas spirit. I believe a philanthropic gift is one of the most touching, personal presents one can give.

The fundamental logic behind most charities is to better the world for a particular cause or group of people.  However, despite good intentions, not all (more…)

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Halloween is so much more than an occasion; in our household, it’s an event!

I love anything in the name of Halloween that diverts some of the attention away from the candy and back towards the innocent shrieks and spooks of the holiday. In the spirit of playing on your kids’ imagination and curiosity, create your own friendly ghost invasion. Here are just a few simple, not-so-scary little tricks to play on your small people this Halloween: (more…)

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© Chris Gardiner - Fotolia.com

In a futile, rather weak moment I recently agreed to host six 6-year olds for a backyard campout. I think I panicked, realizing I hadn’t made good on all of my summertime promises to the kids. Or maybe deep down I wanted to be ‘that’ mom — the one others think of as SuperMom, brave and fearless. More likely it was to make myself feel better for knowing I am anything but ‘that’ mom. I’m the one who never participates in play dates, fails to come up with Martha Stewart-like crafts, writes my kids’ thank you notes for them, and always forgets to bring the camera for each and every recital. Nonetheless, I started out the evening with grand ambitions.

So here’s the story of my Midsummer Night’s Disaster. When I played this out beforehand in my head, it looked so different. I envisioned a perfectly behaved group of wood-whittling Girl Scouts. I figured we would braid hair, make S’mores and map out our favorite constellations on my newly acquired telescope. After all, I can pitch a beautiful tent, build an incredible campfire (in a little fire pit), make delectable custom S’mores, and break out a quartet of singing crickets — via a sleep machine.

But none of these things transpired. Rather it was a night of hair pulling, crying, fears of barking dogs and a seemingly constant stream of ambulance sirens and Harley motorcycles. My little cricket sound machine didn’t stand a chance amidst the racket. The S’mores were a gooey mess, and I wondered if SuperMom had ever tried to comb melted marshmallows out of a 6-year-old’s hair. The fire, as it would later turn out, did nothing more than smoke us out — giving us all a brief introduction to emphysema. And as for that beautifully pitched tent? Funny thing, I discovered that it’s not waterproof — or even water-resistant. So that’s how our evening ended: washed out in the backyard by eight.

The silver lining: I don’t think I’ll get hit up for leading the local Girl Scouts or for play dates any time in the near future. SuperMom will have to live to fight another day!


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Looking for a simpler, shorter, summer soirée?  I love the typical seasonal BBQ, but occasionally I am looking for a way to gather friends and family with less of a commitment to time and effort. So consider a sundae buffet. Invite your friends over — Pj’s and all — for a sweet nightcap and some stargazing. 

Start with a covered table and three staple flavors of top-shelf ice cream:  vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.  Put out four types of sauce; fudge, caramel, strawberry, and the much-loved marshmallow creme. The added toppings can be as simple or elaborate as you want; chocolate chips, gummy bears, sprinkles, cherries, marshmallows, cookie crumbles and chopped nuts (check for allergies) are a must! Both adults and children love this dessert-only party. For a slight variation for adults, consider making ice cream floats or malts with your favorite liquors and liqueurs.

To bring something unique to the evening, lay out a group of blankets and grab some binoculars and a telescope if you have one. Download some basic constellation maps, lay back, and enjoy exploring the summer sky.


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Whether he puts on a suit and tie or a pair of cargo pants- he is undoubtedly the single most influential person in your children’s lives. So this year, set aside the day to show him just how much his love and devotion means to you and your family. Plan a customized day around memory-making experiences.

Start by making a list of all your husband’s hobbies and favorite pastimes — as well as his most objectionable chores. Don’t forget to get the kids involved; not only will they love to be included, but their observations of dad’s likes and dislikes will astonish you. Then together, map out the perfect day for Dad. Start with his favorites for breakfast; be creative, even if it’s not your typical morning meal. Follow up with a few hours of whatever activity he likes best. If it’s golf, suit up the whole family in knickers for nine holes. Regardless of skill or age, the attempt to learn and become interested in one of his favorite pastimes will go a long way.

If watching football makes the top of the list, then jump online and order a few highlight reels of his favorite game, team or season. Then pop some popcorn and settle in by cheering or booing at the appropriate times (fake it, if you must). Round out the afternoon by relieving him of any household duties he can’t stand; taking out the trash, changing dirty diapers, or mowing the lawn. Whatever the task may be, it’s made meaningful by taking it off his “to-do” list. Ultimately, this is a day where effort counts. Spending quality time with you and the kids is what will make it memorable and a sure hit.

How are you celebrating Father’s Day this year? I’d love to hear your plans and ideas.


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This month, hundreds of thousands of kids will be graduating from school. From preschool to college, this great achievement is cause for a great celebration. I don’t think you can ever start too young or too early in encouraging continuing education. It is possibility the single greatest factor in determining future success. That’s why I’m throwing my preschoolers a graduation party this year. The theme:  career day. (This can work for much older kids as well.) I plan on hosting sixteen adorable future firemen, princesses, astronauts, veterinarians, Spidermen, teachers, horse trainers, actors, and so on, and commemorating each of their accomplishments.

We’ll take pictures and create time capsules to open at their college graduation. I will make a special card to add to the capsule, and every year I’ll write down some of the highlights and personal achievements as well as their latest thoughts about what they want to be when they grow up. We’ll sing, dance and feast on a not-so sophisticated menu, and celebrate this first important educational milestone.


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