Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer Feet

These are the sweet feet of my cherubs.

I remember when they were so tiny and would fit in the palm of my hand.

I remember when I would smell their sweet feet and nibble their tiny toes.

I remember their first steps.

I still love their feet.

I can tell which of my little cherubs is coming just by the sounds of their steps.

I can hear them in the night when they're coming to our room.

Now their feet wear baseball cleats and ballet shoes.

I don't nibble their little toes anymore .

But there's not much more precious then to see my cherub's naked feet!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Playdough

There is something about playdough that is fun!

Who would think that a pile of soft, pliable, mush would bring such satisfaction . . .

 . . .such creativity!



I've been making playdough for my cherubs since they were toddlers.

I used to keep baggies full of different colored dough balls . . .

 . . . and lots of tools! 

Here's a list of fun tools:
  • old cookie cutters
  • plastic knives
  • small rolling pins
  • old biscuit cutters
  • an old garlic press
  • small wooden hammer
  • plastic rolling crimper
  • popsicle sticks
  • an old melon baller
  • small potato masher
But now my cherubs are older and their interest in playdough isn't as strong as it used to be.

Which is kind of sad!

But yesterday, my girl cherub and a friend were playing and I offered to make playdough for them . . .

 . . .and they were SO excited!

They each choose their playdough color, which went a little beyond the basic color chart on the back of the food coloring box! 

In a matter of minutes they each had their dough . . .

 . . .and they played for the longest time; creating and imagining!

It's fun being a kid!

Here are some benefits of playing with playdough
  1. Helps to strengthen little fingers, hands and wrists, which improves fine-motor skills.
  2. It is an open-ended toy;  play-dough can be anything - food, animals, bowls, shapes etc.
  3. It helps to foster your child's imagination.
  4. It helps children develop self esteem; there is no right or wrong and the child has the opportunity to gain mastery over their environment.
  5. It is a great release for tension or angry feelings - squeezing, punching, poking are all acceptable if done to playdough.

Playdough

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup water mixed with drops of food coloring (as many as you want!)
1 TBSP oil

Put all of the ingredients in a saucepan; stirring well until all of the ingredients are well incorporated.  Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring the mixture.  A rubbery ball will begin to form; continue stirring until it's "playdough" like.  This won't take long.  Let it cool a bit until you can kneed it to a smooth consistency.

Let the fun begin!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Charlotte's Web Day

It's Charlotte's Web day at school.

It's a fun way to finish a great book and celebrate the end of school.

Several moms brought special "Charlotte's Web" snacks:
  • pigs in a blankets
  • lemonade
  • spider web cookies
I signed up for spider web cookies.  Because when I did that there wasn't anything on my calendar!

They're smart like that at the beginning of school!

I didn't take very great pictures . . .but didn't realize that until just now.  Of course, it's too late to do anything about that now.  Because not only are they already at school, but they're consumed too!

Oh well!  It's the thought!

Happy Charlotte's Web Day!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

M.R.E.

Not "Mr. E" but real M.R.E's.

That's what we had for dinner the other night.

Ever had one?

You'd remember it if you did.

Why?

Because the Mr. brought them home for us to try.

He thought it would be a great experience for our family.

And it was.

Not that the food was great or anything.

But it was a great time of doing something new and different.

And we also got to talk about our military and the men and women who serve.

The blessings that we have because of their diligence and commitment to our country.

And when we have an abundance of choices for dinner -- and we're sitting with our family each night -
there are many who are eating whatever they're given and are away from their family.

We are thankful for the men and women who choose to serve in the military.


The excitement of having an MRE!  My girl cherub
choose the "vegetarian" meal!

It was fun to be able to open up the MRE and spread it all out . . .

 . . .and discover there are M & M's for dessert!  This was the best part!

Carefully adding just the right amount of water in the cooking pouch
and adding the heating element is an important part of having a "hot meal."


My cherub choose chicken and dumplings for his
dinner.  He was a little weary to take the
first bite. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Best Banana Bread



My cherubs really like love banana bread.

When I ask what they want for breakfast, this is always a first choice.

Whenever I bake up this yummy bread, they come running to have a warm piece for a little snack.  This recipe is so very easy and the ingredients are easily kept on hand.  Sometimes I make it with the buttermilk glaze and sometimes I don't.  If you remember the buttermilk syrup recipe, this is extremely similar, it just makes a lot less and is a bit quicker to whip up!  So if you don't have the time or interest to make the glaze, no worries, go ahead and make the bread and grab a good book and a cup of coffee and enjoy!

Banana Bread with Buttermilk Glaze

Buttermilk Glaze

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter (one half stick butter)
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In small saucepan over high heat combine sugar, baking soda, buttermilk, butter, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Set aside until cake is baked.

Banana Bread

1 stick of butter, softened
1/2 cup of shortening, plain or butter flavored
1 1/2 cups sugar (can be white, brown, or a mix of both.  I do 1/2 of each)
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup mashed banana
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream butter and crisco together, add sugar and cream well.  Add eggs and beat until well incorporated.  Add flour, salt, and soda.  Mix well.  Add the buttermilk, bananas and vanilla, stirring until just mixed well; do not over mix.  Pour into greased 2 loaf pans or muffin tins.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until done.  Muffins will usually bake in 15-18 minutes, depending on what size of pan you're using.

While the loaves are warm, pour the buttermilk glaze over them, allowing the glaze to soak in.  Allow to cool completely before you cut yourself a delicious piece!

For an option; reserve the buttermilk glaze and serve along side the banana bread.  For a tasty dessert, slice thick pieces of banana bread and toast.  Top with a scoop of (Braum's) vanilla ice cream and drizzle the buttermilk glaze on top.

Regardless of how you eat this treat, you're going to love it!












Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lemon Bars


Picture of Lemon Bars Recipe
Oh my word!

These are the best lemon bars I have ever had.

E.V.E.R!

E.V.E.R!

This recipe, and picture for that matter, are from Ina Garten.  Maybe you're familiar with her from the Food Network.  I enjoy her recipes and this one is at the top of my favorites list.

Matter of fact, there so good that I'm going right now to whip some up to share with a friend!  Yes!  They're a hit!

No more typing, I've got to go bake!

Lemon Bars
For the crust:

1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:

6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.


Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners' sugar.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Busy Days . . . Easy Dinners

I haven't cooked dinner since last week!

Doesn't mean we haven't eaten at home.

Just means I haven't cooked anything that makes sense!

With the end of school just around the corner -- as in next week

and baseball games

and VBS meetings

and dance practices,

it's been a little hairy!

Today is no different.

I'm tired of eating weird things on the run (like pita chips and hummus or cereal or sandwiches!)

so I pulled out the crockpot for an easy dinner tonight.

If I remember to snap a picture before we run out the door, I'll show you how yummy this is.

If I forget, just trust me!

Cheesy Chicken in the Crockpot

4-6 chicken breasts, boneless/skinless
2 cans cream of chicken soup*
1 can cheese soup
a bit of garlic powder
egg noodles

Place chicken, soups, and garlic powder in a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until done.
Shred chicken with 2 forks while still in the crock. 
Cook desired amount of egg noodles and drain.
Serve shredded cheesy chicken over noodles.

If you have time, throw some veggies or a salad with it and make it a compete meal -- if not, dump your noodles and chicken in a bowl and scarf it down before you run out the door, like we'll be doing tonight!

**I use the 98% fat free soups and they work fine in the crockpot.

Monday, May 16, 2011

French Fried Onions

We all know the "French's Fried Onions" -- they come in a can and go on top of green bean casserole.

Actually, there are more uses for those little french fried onions than one can imagine!  Yes!  Beyond the green bean casserole!

And what's even better, is that homemade french fried onions are delicious!

There is a bit of a commitment if you're going to embark on this endeavor.  But the payoff is well worth the effort.

French Fried Onions

1 onion or more
oil and a deep pan or a fryer
paper sack
flour
salt and pepper
  • Thinly slice the onions, as in paper thin.  I use a mandolin.
  • Heat oil in a pan, about 3 inches deep, or heat your fryer according to directions.
  • Place a cup of flour in a paper sack and season with some salt and pepper; about 1/2-1 tsp of salt and 3/4-1 tsp of pepper.  Depending on how many onions you use, you may need to repeat these ingredients.  When I'm doing these, I always do at least 2 onions.
  • Add a small amount of the onions to the paper sack, fold sack top down tightly and shake to coat the onions.
  • Using a slotted spoon, dip the onions out and place on a baking tray.
  • Repeat the flour shaking process until all of the onions are coated.
  • Once oil is hot, drop small amounts of onions into the oil and allow to cook, stirring occasionally. 
  • Onions are done when they are golden brown.
  • Continue cooking onions in small batches.
  • Drain well.  Fried onions will keep in an air tight container for several weeks in your refrigerator.




Uses for your onions:
  • On top of hamburgers
  • On top of casseroles
  • In salads
  • In wraps
  • As a snack
  •  . . .and don't forget about the green bean casserole!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Red, White, and Blue Cupcakes

My boy cherub has been apart of the Honor Guard at school this year.

This privilege is reserved for 6th graders.

He and his partner are responsible to lower the flag every day during their week.

They were trained by the local fire department honor guard as to how to do their task correctly as well as responsibly and reverently.

Today is their end of year party with pizza and drink.

Of course, moms were needed to provide dessert.

This mom didn't mind a bit to get the request yesterday . . .and run home before picking the kids up from school and delivering everybody to their after-school-activity, and whip up some cupcakes!

Oh no!  What fun that would be!

And not just plain cupcakes with plain frosting!

Oh no!  Let's try to do something we've never tried before!

Of course!  That would be the stressful way of creating the "oh, no big deal to send treats" kind of cupcake!

My cherub gets tired of chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting.

I made yummy vanilla cupcakes with white frosting .  . . .
 . . . .with the idea of making red, white, and blue "striped" frosting . . .
 . . . since it was for the Honor Guard kids!

So, these are the cupcakes I sent this morning with the cherub.

While he was walking to the car, I yelled out, "Please tell your friends these are NOT from Kroger . . .that your mom really did make these!"

From start to finish -- just under an hour; I wasn't even late picking the cherubs up from school!  Not bad for a first attempt at striped frosting!  Even if they look a little "store bought!"

How to stripe your frosting
  • Fit your piping bag with coupler and tip
  • With a small paint brush and using icing colorant (I use Americolor), paint stripes inside the bag -- from the point of the coupler, up the bag about 3/4 of the way
  • Carefully fill your bag with frosting, and gently squeeze the icing to begin flow
  • Frost as usual
  • **Since I was using 2 colors, I made 4 red stripes, equally spaced and then placed 4 blue stripes in between the red

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pico de Gallo


"Cinco de Mayo" was nearly a week ago . . .but don't tell my family that!  We're on a "fresh Mexican food" kick!

In honor of all the good things we've had recently, I want to share with you a quick recipe for pico de gallo.


Image taken from the internet

There are lots of theories about what pico de gallo is.

Some say it's a basic salsa.
Some say it's a relish, of sorts.
Some say it's a dip.
Some say it's a garnish.

Personally, I have no opinion on the "exactness" of what pico de gallo is -- but I do know it's good and we really like it! 

Pico de Gallo

3 Roma tomatoes, quartered, seeds cleaned out
salt
1/2 of purple onion, chopped
cilantro, chopped
1/2 lime, squeezed

Quarter tomatoes and clean out the seeds.  Just run your finger through the tomato to clean it out.  Sprinkle with a small amount of salt and turn upside down on a paper towel.  This allows for the tomato to sweat a bit of the liquid out. 

While they're draining, chop your onion and cilantro.  Both of these ingredients are according to taste.  I prefer a decent amount of onion and the Mr. prefers a large amount of cilantro.  Do what tastes good to you.

Chop the tomatoes and place in a bowl where you'll have plenty of room to toss the ingredients together.  Add the onion and cilantro.  Toss well. 

Squeeze 1/2 of a lime and toss again.

Taste.  Do you like it? 
Do you want some additional salt? 
What about a bit more lime?

I add about 1/4 tsp. of salt and the juice of a whole lime, simply because we like the brightness of the citrus.

Chill until you're ready to eat!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day Treat

I love being a mom . . .

 . . .on most days!

It's hard work and it's scary to think about the huge responsibility that it really is!

I always say, "Having a baby is easy, it's the raising of children that's hard."

I have two wonderful cherubs.

If I could freeze them just as they are right now, I'd do it in a heart beat.

This is my boy cherub and he's 12.


This is my girl cherub and she's 9.

They made me breakfast in bed on Mother's Day.  The Mr. had already headed to the church and he left them to cook! 

I was treated to scrambled eggs . . .

 . . .that weren't quit done.

Cinnamon toast . . .

 . . .that had a little lot too much cinnamon and not enough sugar.

Sausage . . .

 . . .that the Mr. cooks ahead of time and freezes. So they warmed that up nicely.

And some coffee . . .

 . . .with no creamer.

And it all tasted delicious!

After they delivered my breakfast to me, they fixed their breakfast and climbed in bed with me and we ate together.

There were other treats from my cherubs -- but nothing is more valuable to me than those things that money can not buy.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

No Stains on these Pants

Confession:  if it's supposed to be white -- then I want it white.
  • Baseball pants
  • Peter Pan Collared school shirt
  • Tights
  • Napkins
  • Jerseys
You get what I'm saying and some of you feel my pain.

So, let's talk baseball pants.  I love my boy cherub playing ball.  The uniforms are cute -- a little red jersey, white pants, and striped socks. 

"It's all about the uniform," I remind him.  "Lookin' cute on the field is part of the gig!"

He doesn't go for it.

It's only a good game if we can steal bases and slide as much as possible.

We have men coaches.

They picked white pants.

Sliding and white pants don't really go together in my book.

Sliding in white pants makes for brown and green stains.

That sends this momma into laundry turmoil.

Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah! 

I have discovered THE secret for laundry enthusiasts everywhere!

See the picture below?

Get a bottle of this and use it as quickly as possible.

Save the bottle.

See the picture below?




Fill the blue bottle above with this stuff.

This stuff is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. at removing stains.

Spray this on all our stains the minute your cherubs dump their clothes in the floor.

Spray!
Spray!
Spray!
Spray!
Act like it's cheat and totally cover every last loving drop of the stain.

Fold up your soaked clothes and throw them in the laundry hamper.

Let it sit.

And sit.
And sit.

As in, let it sit for days!

Then, once it is done sitting, you wash it just like normal.

If you're really adventurous, throw in a scoop of this stuff.  You'll be doubly amazed!

20 Mule Team Borax Natural Laundry Booster & Multi-Purpose Household Cleaner

For the record, I have doing a lot of laundry this very way -- and haven't ruined anything yet.  Not to say I won't -- but as for now, this is how I encourage my neurotic need for stain free white clothes!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mango Salsa


Yesterday, it was so tempting to post some delicious recipes for "Cinco de Mayo."  But the reality is, there are a ton of recipes already out there and truthfully, I didn't have anything "new."

As a side note, my cherubs say that it's "Cinco de mayo" . . .as in short for mayonnaise!"  Gives them a real laugh!

In honor of the delicious and fresh taste of the Latin foods, I want to share with you a fabulous treat.

Mango salsa.  It's great on chips, chicken, or fish.  It's easy to make and it's healthy!  That's a bonus!

Mango Salsa

1 large ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced*
1/4 to 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 Jalapeño chile, minced (include ribs and seeds for a hotter taste if desired)
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1/2 cup), if desired.  I didn't desire it today
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice

Dice mango into a bowl.  You decide how big you want those diced pieces!
Dump everything else into the bowl and give a little toss.
Refrigerate until ready to use.

When selecting a mango, choose one that is smooth and "heavy" feeling.  It should be slightly soft when gently squeezed. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What's a Silpat

I said that with my chocolate chip cookies, I think the silpat is what makes the difference.

I've gotten this question . . . .

"What's a silpat?"

A silpat is a silicone baking mat.

That's it.

It's thin, goes right on top of your favorite baking sheet, comes in a variety of shapes and I use it for a ton of stuff:
  • cookies
  • biscuits
  • meringues
  • biscotti
  • pizza doughs
  • cheese crisps
This is what they look like



They're re-usable.  You just wash them and roll them up according to instructions and store until you need them again.

I use mine ALL THE TIME that I don't even roll them up any more!

They're not cheap and there are other brands, but I'm just saying, my silpats are amazing!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Chocolate Chip Cookies



 We think these are the best cookies ever.

There's nothing special about the ingredients.

Or the dough.

I'm not sure what makes them so good, but this is the only recipe I use!

My Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup crisco
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 TBSP milk
1 TBSP vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup nuts, chopped

In a large bowl, cream crisco, brown sugar, milk and vanilla.  Add egg and mix well.  Add dry white ingredients, combining well.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if desired.

Scoop by large rounded tablespoon and bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes, depending on desired doneness.

Cool on rack or enjoy while warm and you can barely hold it in your hand and you need a bowl to plop it in because it's so warm and gooey that it won't even hold it's shape.  Umm, that would be speaking from experience!

*I really think my "secret" to the cookies being so absolutely delicious is that I only bake them on a silpat lined cookie sheet and I definitely, absolutely, without a doubt do not over-bake them.



Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Beauty Teaches


Hydrangea head, full bloom open; gracious and unassuming. 


One bush -- many blooms.


Side by side by side on the same bush.  One coming into its own; two
express themselves with different colors.


When we stop and

look around at those things

that God has placed in nature --

What can we be taught?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cinnamon Spice Blondies

It's Teacher Appreciation Week and in wanting to do something special for my little cherub's teacher, I kept thinking of "what to make?" 

There are so many cute things out there to do -- but really what's "me" and what comes easiest are things from my kitchen!

Then, the delimna comes . . .what to make?
  • decorated sugar cookies?
  • a cake?
  • dinner for she and her husband?
  • cookies?
I could have spent hours trying to figure it out! 

But instead, I went with a new twist -- Cinnamon Spiced Blondies. 

They kind of reminded my of my cherub's teacher, who has become my friend. 
  • just different enough to be noticed
  • but still has the "basics" to be great
  • a little nutty
  • yet sweet
  • soft at heart
  • but firm when necessary
Cinnamon Spiced Blondies


Disclaimer:  not my photo

1 cup flour

1 TBSP ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg
2 tsps vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans




Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray well an 8-inch square baking pan.

Mix flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.

Mix brown sugar, butter, egg and vanilla in large bowl until well blended.


Add flour mixture; mix just until moistened.

Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.

Spread in prepared pan.  The batter will be very thick and difficult to lick off of your fingers!
Bake 20 to 22 minutes.  Allow to cool completely and cut into georgeous giant pieces and serve (or send!)


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Celebration Thoughts

We still color eggs!


She's learning to create pretty center pieces on the table.
By the way, that's edible Easter grass she's using -- thanks
to her Mimi!


Because his KK thought he needed to color his first Easter egg!
Aren't those cute stained finger something to cherish?


They're darling together -- still!


Our nephew with an giant Easter egg!  Isn't he cute!

My sweet girl cherub -- always precious.


My boy cherub -- forever handsome!

Never too old to hunt.
By the way -- they dressed themselves in their
"comfy clothes" after church!

Could this be the prize egg?

Some where easy -- some weren't!


Each cherub had their own pile of found eggs!
They had 104 eggs to find!