Monday, February 28, 2011

What I Learned When I was Tired

This pasted weekend, our home was a host site for "Adventure Weekend."  They (the pre-teen ministry) bills it as a weekend discipleship for 5-6 graders.  Now that I look at the title; I've come to learn that it's code for:  an adventure for the parents! 

We're obviously slow learners, because this was our second time to host the weekend!  But with our son being a 6th grader, we decided it was the "right" thing to do!  Well, let me tell you, I have that feeling out of my system!  OK -- just kidding!  We all know I'm a strings-attached kind of mom!  This year we had 11 6th grade boys and 2 leaders!  That's a baker's dozen that descended into our home for Friday and Saturday!

The Mr. and I took our littlest cherub out of school early on Friday and met my mom 1/2 way -- that'd be in Oklahoma!  My sweet cherub had her Mimi to herself the entire weekend  . . . and that's another story!  You should have SEEN the tears we had last night at bedtime!  She keeps a picture of my mom in a zip-lock bag (I don't know why, it's weird to me too!).  But last night, she kept kissing the baggie covered picture of her Mimi and then holding the picture close to her heart!  That's a precious sight!

But back to my 11 stinky boys!  As soon as we got back from Oklahoma, we cleared out the living room where the boys would be camping out while at our house.  I'll sum things up this way:  the weekend was consuming -- but it was worth the effort!

Here are a few things I learned from this weekend:
  • No matter how different we are from each other, we're all made in God's image! 
  • We've really got a great boy!
  • There's always room for one more!
  • As long as the food is out -- the boys will eat!
Here are some pictures of the weekend:
Notice, they're in the KITCHEN!!!!!

Night-Kick Ball! 

The best way to wake up sleepy boys is to say, "Wake Up Sleepin' Beauties!"
As you are snapping pictures -- that bright camera flash works wonders!

Our weekend boys!

Their stuff all packed up and ready to go -- not that
I was excited or anything, but this WAS a
beautiful sight!  HA!

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's OK to Let the Air Out

This morning I was watching "The Today Show" when a commercial came on advertising Sesame Street Live!  OH!!!!  I remembered taking our little cherubs to those shows -- how fun it was -- and how expensive it was too!  But I thought more about how fun it was -- and how cute they were (my cherubs, that is) -- and then again, how expensive it was! 

But then I remembered what we used to do!  That's what I want to share with you!  I prefer not to think of myself cheap -- 'cause I don't really think I am.  What I do know is that we only have so much money, and I can cut corners here in order to have "full corners" someplace else.  Life is about a little give and take, don't you think! 

Back to what I used to do.  Both of my cherubs L.O.V.E.D balloons.  Not just any balloon  --- yes, the plain ones were fun, but the shiny Mylar character ones were GREAT!  One time my son got a a mylar Elmo balloon from his Mimi.  Once the balloon lost it's zip from the helium, I got a great idea!  I stuck a straw into the little hangy-downy thing of the balloon, which opened up the little air passage, and I gently pushed all remaining trapped air right out of the Mylar balloon!  I folded that sucker up and stashed it in the closet!  I did this with several balloons that were cute or fun for the kids! 

Then guess what I did!  Whenever we were going to Sesame Street Live or some other gimmicky kind of place, or even if it was a Balloon-Kind-of-Day, I'd go dig through my neatly folded up, and used but perfectly good, Mylar balloons and find one that MOST looked like it fit the occasion and I'd run right to the grocery store and have that thing filled with helium and a new curly ribbon!  Often times, the story didn't even charge me for the helium.  The most I ever paid was a buck!  A buck

We ended up with a collection of about a dozen balloons.  One day, after several years of re-use, we decided to donate them to a children's wing of a hospital so that they could brighten up a kids day!  Hopefully my tip will brighten your day too!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kitchen Work made Easy.

Is there such truth to that?  "Kitchen work made easy?"  I may be a slow learner -- but once I get it, I'm there!  It dawned on my some time ago and I had this little conversation with myself. 

  • "Self, why are you always chopping onion everyday?  I mean, Every Day!  Wouldn't it make sense to chop like a whole onion at one time and put it in a container with a lid so that it's done and it won't smell in the fridge?" 
  • "Self, you are SO smart!  What a great idea!  It makes the same mess whether you chop a bit of onion or a whole onion.  So, knock yourself out and go wild -- chop the whole darn thing!"
  • "OK -- let's see what I can put this onion in.  No, not that -- or that.  Oh, I need it to be something that will be 'the onion bowl' so that whenever I see it in the fridge, I know that's what it is -- and I don't have to always open the thing to say, 'oh!  that's the chopped onion!'"
  • "Girl -- you are SO smart!"

Seriously, this was my conversation!  So, I've kept up with it.  Matter of fact, I'm even getting really wild -- I'm chopping 2 onions at a time and stuffing them in the bowl.  Do you know how wonderful it is when I'm cooking to just find that bowl and throw in some already chopped onion to the recipe!  It is wonderful!  Really!  It's been life-changing in the kitchen!

If you're not already doing this; find yourself an "onion bowl" and chop the whole darn thing - you're going to love yourself tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Candied Corn

Made ya look, didn't I?  You were thinking the sugary orange, yellow and white stuff!  Well, as much as I love that stuff -- I think I like this even better!

This is what my sister-in-law's looked like!  Cute!

A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law had some "Candied Popcorn" that she got as a gift.  She's a teacher . . .need I say more?  Anyway, we all enjoyed it!  I kept thinking, "how would you make this stuff?!"  It was so good and crunchy and different!

Guess what!  I have something similar!  It's not exact and if when I make it again, I'll make a minor adjustment or two, but over-all, this first batch has the potential of being gone before the kids even get home from school!

The ingredients are simple and you've probably got them in your cabinet right now!  Try mixing up this little concoction and see what happens!  Wouldn't this be fun for a party, school treats, or holiday gifts?  Oh, the possibilities are endless (just wish my bucket was!).

Candied Popcorn

8 cups popped popcorn*

1/4 C butter (that's half a stick)
3 T light corn syrup
1/2 C sugar
1 - 3.5oz box jello, any flavor (not sugar free)

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a jelly roll pan with foil, spray lightly with non-stick spray and set aside. Place popcorn in an extra large mixing bowl.

Place butter and syrup in a sauce pan on medium heat. Stir until butter is melted. Add sugar and Jello and stir to combine.  Increase heat and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat so it just simmers. Continue simmering for 5 minutes. You'll start off with a mixture that's thick and as it cooks the sugar will dissolve as it heats thoroughly.

After the sugar mixture simmers for 5 minutes, immediately pour over popcorn in bowl. Be careful, it will take the first layer of skin off of you if you touch it!  Mix with a large spatula or wooden spoon until everything is well coated. Spread mixture onto prepared pan and spread out evenly.

Bake at 300 for 10 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and let cool to room temp. Then break into pieces and enjoy!

**I used microwave popcorn.  It was totally convenient.  I used 3 bags -- I think that was too much.  You can tell by the picture that not every fluffy kernal was covered -- but don't let that fool you, it didn't stop us from chowin' down on it!  I think 2 bags would be better -- actually maybe 2 & 1/2 bags.  When you make it, let me know what you think!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cheese Biscuits with my Cherub

We were out of school the other day.  While one cherub was away playing with a friend, the other was at home.  She looked through her cookbooks, found a recipe, gathered her apron and we started baking!  We had a great time trying a new recipe.  Later that day, a friend came to play and they feasted on tea and cheese biscuits! 

Cheese Biscuits

Only a Princess Cookbook would have such royal ingredients!

Place the butter, cheese, and Worcestershire sauce in a mixing bowl and mix
together well.  It will be start looking like the above picture.  Then add your flour,
salt, and cayenne pepper.  The mixture was WAY TOO crumbly and wouldn't hold
together to roll out.  So we added a few tablespoons of cream (milk would do).  Start with
2 Tablespoons and mix well.  You want your dough to hold together, sort of like a pie
crust.  If you think you need a bit more liquid, add it.  I would recommend adding just
a bit at a time so that the dough isn't too wet.

Flour your surface and rolling pin and roll out to desired thickness.
We went with about 1/2 inch thick.  We thought it was perfect.

Using a round cookie cutter, cut the dough.  We cut ours out about the size
of a quarter.  It was perfect for having tea!  That'd also be a great size to serve
along side a salad.  If you want a bit bigger -- just do it!  These biscuits are
for you to enjoy!

These biscuits hold their shape, so we just stuffed them on our silpat-lined
backing sheet!  They do bake a little "greasy" because of the cheese, but nothing
you can't deal with -- heck, that's what makes them good!
Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes or until golden brown on the tops.

I'd show you a picture of the finished product -- but they were just too good!  
I think these would do well to roll out and cut with a pizza cutter about 1/2" X 3" for cheese straws. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Artist in the Making

The other day, after making all of the decorated sugar cookies, my little cherub asked if she could have the left-over icing.  She had a plan . . .

 . . .she wanted to practice with the icing!  I showed her how to twist the bag and hold it tight as she squeezed out the icing.  She started practicing on a piece of paper; writing and drawing scribbles and swirls. 

She worked long . . .filling up the entire piece of paper with her creativity!  I think this is only the beginning!

Here was my lesson:  I was so ready to clean things up.  I had worked several hours on the cookies and when you frost cookies, your kitchen has the potential of looking like an F1 tornado swirled through. But she wanted to "extend" the mess by using the left-over frosting for a craft project, as she called it!  Much to my dismay, I gave in and gave her a bag to use.   . . .and guess what happened!  There are 3 things that come to mind:
  1. She had a great time
  2. I got to show her how to use an icing bag
  3. We got to talk as I cleaned up the kitchen and she crafted

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Marshmallow Pops!

My littlest cherub went for the homemade Valentine treat this year!  I was glad to help her do something different.  As you know, I'm not real found of the little Valentine cards that kids 'get' to sign and pass to their friends!  She decided on marshmallow pops! 

This is a very easy treat to make.  The throw together relatively quick and they are cute when wrapped individually.  I always make extra and give her a little surprise in her lunch box!  After all, what are moms for?

In case you're wondering why am I still talking about Valentine's Day -- which is so "yesterday!" -- this is a great treat for any reason!
Marshmallow Pops

Jet-puffed marshmallows, regular size
small sucker sticks (found at your local craft store)
almond bark, white or chocolate
cellophane bags

Place your stick in the center of the marshmallow, pushing all the way down,
but not through the marshmallow.  If you're really crazy, you can put 2 on a stick!

Melt your almond bark in a microwave safe bowl, stirring often, making sure
not to burn your chocolate.  Dip each marshmallow in the mixture, being
sure to cover the entire marshmallow.  Tap off excess chocolate.

Place sprinkles in a bowl or plate.  Creatively roll the wet chocolate covered
marshmallow artistically in the sprinkles.

Hold the marshmallow for a few seconds to allow the chocolate to set a bit.
Place dipped and rolled marshmallows on wax paper (or foil!).  Allow to dry completely.

Bag your treat and tie with a ribbon.  I found this cute ribbon at Michael's.
I thought it was perfect for this Valentine treat!

Monday, February 14, 2011

. . .Sitting in a Tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!

So, here it is, VALENTINE'S Day!  Whew!  I've made it through waking the kids up singing a happy love song, giving them their little Valentine's treat AND a school party!  It's been a rather un-eventful day!  HA! 

These were the darling cookies that I baked earlier last week and froze so that I could have them all cooled when it was time to frost!  I spent hours yesterday in the kitchen making frosting and tinting frosting and cleaning up my mess . . .well, sort of!  More hours of putting a layer of frosting on . . . waiting.  Another layer of frosting . . . waiting!  Another . . .well, you get the picture! 

I saw this idea on a couple of other site!  It's kind of like giving out thank you's -- as soon as you start, there is someone that you leave out!  I'm not trying to short-change any of the creative minds, but if I got this idea from you -- Thanks!  I know I saw it on Sugar Sweet Belle's site! 

For the pictures -- because that's what we really want to see, isn't it!

Wild Love Hearts!

Each teacher got a small cookie!  As in each teacher -- like even my son
said I could send them to all of his teachers! 

Little Love Bugs!
And they taste good too!

Using my favorite sugar cookie dough that mixes in a food processor, rolling the dough out to 3/8" thick, baking the cookies to just barely done -- made for a very soft cookie after adding the royal icing!  About royal icing -- I buy the meringue powder and follow the directions.  I prefer to tint with the AmeriColor gel paste, which I purchase from a cake supply store.  The website is  Perhaps it's a good place to start looking.

Hope your day was great!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cute Valentine Candy

While catching up on some of the blogs I read, I saw this recipe for very cute Valentine candy.  Leigh Ann  at Your Homebased Mom posted this very cute looking bark recipe and don't you know, I had to give it a try! 

If you don't make bark candy, then really you're missing out on one of the easiest treat there is!  It practically makes itself and it's perfect for a little treat to give to friends, teachers, or yourself!  After all, you work hard too!

When I saw this recipe, I started thinking of ALL the things you could do with this recipe -- and it's great for about any holiday you want to celebrate! 

I'm not sure what Leigh Ann calls this -- so I'll call it . . .oh, I can't come up with a cute name right now!  Maybe by the end of posting there will be something clever . . .and then again, maybe not!

Candy Bark

1 lb. white chocolate almond bark*
1 1/2 cups pretzels, broken*
1 cup candy*
14 oreos, broken*
Holiday colored sprinkles

On a wax lined (or silpat lined) cookie sheet, place broken pretzels, oreos, and about 3/4 cup of the candy on the tray.  Roughly toss together.  In the microwave, melt the white chocolate, being careful not to burn it.  Pour it over the mixture.  Spreading it around, carefully, if necessary.  It will be necessary.  1 pound isn't really quit enough -- so if your package is a bit larger, you're better off!  While the white chocolate is still warm, sprinkle the remaining candy and the sprinkles, if desired, on top. Gently press the candy into the melted chocolate.  Allow to set up until firm.  Break into pieces and package or put in an airtight container!

**Some of my observations:
  • You can use the melting disks that you might get from a cake supply store or almond bark that's found on the baking aisle.  I like the white almond bark from Aldi grocery store the best.
  • I used pretzel sticks . . .I like pretzel sticks, I don't know why . . .
  • Leigh Ann used Valentine candy corn . . .very cute, but I coudn't find it, so I used Peanut Butter M&M's . . .oh darn, there were some left over . . . that's so sad!
  •  Want to use more oreos?  That's ok -- I used 15 -- that used one row of oreos. I didn't want 1 lonely oreo rolling around in the empty row by himself . . .and I couldn't eat it . . . I had already eaten a few Peanut Butter M&M's!
  • Finally, when you break your bark, the oreo's are a little cantankerous!  Their crumbs kind of make a little mess on your pretty white chocolate . . .so now that you know that up front, don't get perturbed when it happens! 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pies in Jars

Remember yesterday, we made little cutie pies?  Remember I had some leftover pie dough scraps?  Well, here's what we did!  We made a little pie in a jar!  That's right!  We (as in my sweet girly cherub and I) took the leftover dough, smushed it together and rolled it out again to the right pie dough thickness.  I tore pieces off and we began to smush it into the jar; pressing together the seams.  We lined the jar almost all the way to the top.  Since we weren't making a "2 crust" pie, I didn't worry about saving extra for the top.  We then filled it with the yummy, ooey-gooey filling and baked it for 40 minutes!  It was YUMMY! 

When I first saw this idea, it said this was a "single serving" pie -- yeah, it can be, but it really is a lot of dessert!  Not that I wouldn't have any trouble eating it . . .it just wouldn't be in one sitting!  Last night, all 4 of us enjoyed this dessert and we were satisfied (yeah, I keep telling myself that . . . . just a bite, that's enough!)

I've copied the real directions from some website -- I don't remember from where, but her name was "April, from Albany, GA."  So, thanks Abby!  I get the impression she was a contest winner!  I think she's a winner because we have a new treat now!

Smushing the pieces of dough into the jar. 
This concept is rather simple. Instead of a large pie, you're making a miniature one.

Line your canning jar with preferred dough, leaving enough at the top for a fold-over crust.
Fill will desired pie filling (apple, cherry, pecan, peach, berry, etc.).

If you're doing a double crust, cut out a circle of dough with the jar ring (this will sit on top of the pie filling). Make slits in dough for steam release. Pinch and seal the top edges.

Jar lids can be replaced and the pies can be frozen. Be sure to thaw completely before baking.

All done!  Don't forget to put the crust almost to the top! 
If you're doing a "double crust" you'll need to let your
bottom crust hang over the jar rim so that you can pinch
the two crusts together.
To bake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place individual jars in a muffin tin. Bake 35-40 minutes or until crust is a golden brown.

Let cool about 20 minutes. These pies can be eaten in the jar or inverted onto a plate.

Here are a few tips:

  • use 1/2 pint canning jars
  • use wide mouth jars, it's easier to work with! 
  • try to find 1/2 pint jars that are "straight" on the sides.  Mine are not so I have to work with the indention.
  • We added our filling almost to the brim!  We smushed it in there
    so that it would be nice and full!
  • using the lids and rings, you can freeze!
  • you can bake in these -- remember, they're for canning, which means the glass can sustain heat!
  • put your jars on a rimmed cookie sheet or cake pan for ease of movement.  Also, I put my silpat on the sheet to keep the jars from sliding.
  • cooking time may vary, trust your instinct if your pie is done or not!

This has got me thinking of ALL the things you could do!  You could make quiche, serve individual casseroles, mini cakes . .. oh!  the possibilities!




Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cutie Pies!

These snow days can be dangerous!  It's so fun to get in the kitchen and try something new . . . as in, "eat" something new!  After all, one must sample the creation, right?  Today, I finished cutting out the sugar cookies and baking them off.  Once they cooled, I popped them in the freezer so that they would be out of the way until I was ready to frost them this weekend!  I think my cherubs will love a decorated cookie in their lunch box on Monday!  Especially my boy . . .when he pulls out his treat at the lunch table and it says, "love you!" in big white letters!  Knowing him, he will "accidentally" drop it so that it crumbles and no one will ever see my love and admiration for him!  Oh, to be in 6th grade!  How embarrassing . . .to have a mom who loves you AND who makes you homemade cookies! 

While I had the heart-shaped cookie cutter out, I grabbed the refrigerated pie crust that I've had stashed in my, well, "refrigerator" . . .since it's part of the name!  I had an idea of making little "cutie pies!"  I cut the dough with my smallest cutter and ended up with 18 hearts.  This will make 9 little pies.  Oh heck!  I'll stop talking and let you see the pics! 

Little dough cut-outs.

1/2 of tsp. of filling . . .remember, they're small!

Moisten the bottom of the top crust with a smidgen of water and press the two
pieces together.  Using a fork and let your little helper crimp the edges, sealing
in all of the yummy goodness!

Drizzle with some chocolate or powdered sugar glaze and let it set.  Don't let
it set forever, just long enough to dry to the touch and then enjoy your
hand-held cutie pie!

Not everything I try do we like!  While this sounded great . . . and I thought the filling would be yummy, the finished product was a bit too much crust and not enough filling!  BUT!  Don't let that discourage you!  Honestly, that's why I didn't tell you what the filling was!  Here's what I'll do different next time.  First, I'd use a bigger cookie cutter so that I can add a little more filling.  Second, I'll use a canned fruit filling -- something like cherry or raspberry;  a filling that has a bit more substance to it.  My filling was too ooey-gooey when it baked.  Nonetheless, we had fun!

Later on, I'll make a post of what I did with the left-over pie crust scraps!  Now, this was a hit!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Valentine Boxes

Do you remember when you where in elementary school and you would make your Valentine card box out of an empty tissue box?  We all had the same size box.  We could either wrap the box in red or white paper.  We could use a dolli or two and you had to cut your hearts out of construction paper.  There wasn't much "personalizing" back then.  It was done in class so that we could each stuff our little Valentine cards into the "X" opening on top.

Now days there is no decorating the little tissue boxes during class!  Oh no!  It's all out "Valentine War!"  Kids are sent home with the note to make a box at home and bring to school!  You know what that means!  Mommas across the country are pulling out their hot glue guns and getting crafty!  We are no longer reduced to a small, square tissue box . . .the world is now our canvas for the coveted prized of best decorated Valentine box!

The thought of this stressed me out when my little cherubs where in kindergarten!  Matter of fact, I don't even remember what  we, umm, he did that year.  But then I got smart!  I figured out that the teacher didn't really care what the box looked like -- as long as there was a box sitting on each desk when it came time to pass out those ridiculous Valentine's cards.  So, I got smart!  I had a cherub in kindergarten and one in third grade; that meant I had 2 boxes to make that year!  I decided we would recycle!  We spent time coming up with a plan . . .and a good plan . . .because this was going to be THE Valentine box that would be used from year to year!  They had to like it! 

My oldest cherub is in middle school and his box is now in the top of his closet holding baseball cards!  Which, I might add, is better than those ridiculous little Valentine's cards!  I'll scale a chair in a bit and post a picture of it for you!

My youngest cherub is still in elementary and gets to take her decorated box!  Lucky us!  Dad went into the attic and rummaged through the boxes and got it down!  We fluffed the handle and called it good!  I thought maybe some of you might like to ease your pain this year!  Make it once and use again, and again, and again! 

My camera-shy, reserved daughter showing her bucket!

For the Bucket:

1 - 5 gallon ice cream bucket
enough fabric to go around the bucket
scrap fabric, torn into strips
lettering, if desired

Clean the bucket.  Using Aleene's Tacky Glue, or other fabric glue,  paint a thin layer of glue all over the bucket.  Place fabric directly beneath the lip of the bucket, smoothing out bubbles and folding the edge under where your seam meet.  Glue the seam down with extra glue.  Smooth the remaining fabric underneath the bottom of the bucket. 

Take your ribbon and glue on top of the fabric, just under the lip of the bucket.

Using the strips of fabric that you tore, tie them in knots around the handle.

Glue the lettering on, if desired!

Umm -- you can tell by the directions that crafting isn't really my forte!  This is obviously a simple project (because I came up with it by myself!), now that you see the finished project, feel free to do it "right!"  If you can write better directions than me, I'd be thrilled to post them!

Monday, February 7, 2011

The King of Cinnamon Rolls

Medieval historians know of King Arthur and his chivalry during the 5th and 6th century.  For me, I'm not into Medieval history.  I don't know what Arthur was "King" of, but I will tell you that I know Arthur is King of Cinnamon Rolls! 

I received this mix for Christmas from Ben's mom.  I followed the easy directions -- adding just a few extra ingredients, mixing a bit, and kneading a little; roll it out and fill it with gooey cinnamon goodness, let it rise and bake.  Covered it with the abundant amount of tasty frosting and we couldn't wait to sink our teeth into these treats!  We were not disappointed at all!  Matter of fact, I've tried several cinnamon roll recipes and I do believe I have found my weapon! 

You can order this on the King Arthur website!  While you're on the website, take a look around at the recipes; it'll make you hungry!

The ingredients are simple

The dough rolled out, filled, and sliced.
Does the photo look funny -- it's turned sideways!

Yummy!  Baked and iced . . .and ready to eat!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Snow Ice Cream

A thumbs up for the great snow!

We're ready to play in the snow!

Our trek to the neighborhood school to sled.

What would the boy do -- start a snowball fight!

Her little hill was perfect!

How fast can he go!  This rocks!

After a fun time in the cold umm, I mean snow, we headed back to make snow ice cream.  While I don't have the "snow ice cream bowl" from when we were kids, we still made some of the yummy treat!

This isn't my picture,
 but isn't the bowl cute!

Snow Ice Cream

1 giant bowl of clean snow
milk, evaporated milk, 1/2 and 1/2, or heave cream

Take a smaller bowl, but large enough to stir around in.  Fill smaller bowl about 1/3 full of snow.  Sprinkle in some sugar, maybe 1/2 a cup or so, and a couple of tsp. of vanilla.  Stir until well incorporated.  Add a bit of your milk liquid that you have on hand.  Stir until well mixed.  Taste.  Do you like it?  If not, make your adjustments.  Add some more snow, a bit more sugar and stir into your mixture.  Add more liquid, if needed, to get to the desired consistency.  Keep repeating steps until you have the amount of snow cream that you need.  Serve immediately.

Obviously, there is really no recipe for this treat -- rely on your instincts of taste to make what you like.

Finally -- our washer line has thawed out!  YEAH!!!!!