Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tissue Paper Flowers



These cute flowers are so simple to make.... and look really neat! Perfect for tucking into May Baskets or use as a bow on a Mother's Day gift....

What you need:
1 sheet of tissue paper (any color)
1 pipe cleaner or piece of floral wire
scissors



Directions
1. Cut tissue paper into about 6 rectangles of desired size (mine were about 5x7).

2. Stack your pieces of tissue paper. You can either have them all be the same color or stack a few different colors. Whatever color is on top will be what the center of your flower will be.

3. Accordion pleat the tissue paper working from the long side.



4. Snip a V shaped notch out of the center on each side of the folded tissue paper.

5. Wind one end of the pipe cleaner or wire around the middle of the accordion pleated tissue paper.

6. Gently separate each layer pulling upwards toward the middle of the flower.



Friday, March 28, 2008

Chocolate Chip Waffles



My kids love waffles-- I will bake up a ton and freeze them so we have them on hand all of the time. I usually make half a batch of regular waffles and half a batch of chocolate chip waffles. The chocolate chip ones are perfect for grab-and-go breakfasts on school mornings since there is no syrup required. A little blast of chocolate in each bite! Who doesn't like to start their mornings off with chocolate?

Ingredients

1 3/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
3 eggs, separated
7 tbsp oil (which is 1 tbsp less than 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cups of milk
A handful or two of chocolate chips

Directions

Sift all of the dry ingredients, except the chocolate chips, in a large bowl.
Beat egg whites stiff in their own bowl.
Add yolks, oil and milk to dry ingredients.
Beat until there are no lumps in batter.
Fold in the egg whites.

Using a measuring cup, pour batter on prepared waffle iron. Quickly sprinkle some chocolate chips on the batter before closing the iron lid.



Cook waffle for two minutes or until steam output slows down.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Little Flower Pot Goes a Long Way



My kids love to do have little "jobs". Each year, they decorate a little flower pot and plant a seed or two and then have the job of taking care of their own plant. They keep them in their rooms and are very excited when something starts growing. They take their "job" very seriously and I find them in checking on their plants and even talking to them! This year, after planting his, my 5 year old son went off to play for a while and kept stopping back to check on the status of his flower. He wanted to see if it had started growing yet!



What you need:
Any sized terra cotta flower pot (we've used a variety of sizes, but this year went with the teeny, tiny, eensy-weensy sized ones!)
Paint markers
Potting Soil
Flower seeds

Instructions:

Let the kids decorate the pots with the paint markers. We usually avoid coloring on the inside, as I don't know if the paint will affect the growth of the flowers, however, you'll see in the photo above that my son didn't listen to me and still went ahead and snuck some color on the inside of the pot. So far, the flower is growing without incident.

Fill the pot with some dirt and let the kids use their finger to poke a hole in the center of the dirt.

Place 1-2 seeds in the soil and lightly cover.

Water as needed, making sure the soil doesn't dry out.

Once your zone is ready for outdoor planting, you can move the flowers outside or even transplant them into the ground.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

TriLevel Brownies



I think I got this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens. I've had it for a while and had tucked it away in my "Later Date" file of my recipe box (okay, I don't really have that category... but I had tucked it in there and had forgotten about it until recently). I pulled out the recipe and scanned all of the ingredients-- and was happy to see that I had everything on hand (well, not the full amount of walnuts-- but enough to fulfill the need!)


Notice my two little monkey's in the background thinking they are oh-so-funny by putting bunny ears on the ingredients!

Ingredients
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 egg
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Walnut halves (optional)

Directions
1. For bottom layer, stir together oats, the 1/2 cup flour, the brown sugar, and baking soda. Stir in the 1/2 cup melted butter.

(I got the first layer ingredients all mixed up with some help.)

Pat mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 11x7x1-1/2-inch baking pan. Bake in a 350degree F. oven for 10 minutes.



2. Meanwhile, for middle layer, stir together egg, granulated sugar, the 2/3 cup flour, the milk, the 1/4 cup melted butter, 1 ounce melted chocolate, the 1 teaspoon vanilla, and the baking powder until smooth. Fold in chopped walnuts. Spread batter over baked layer in pan. (May I suggest leaving a generous amount behind in the bowl so there is something to lick when the bars are baking?)



Bake about 25 minutes more or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Set on a wire rack while preparing top layer.

3. For top layer, in a medium saucepan heat and stir 1 ounce chocolate and the 2 tablespoons butter until melted.



This color looks scrumptious!

Stir in the powdered sugar and the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. (I pulled the pan from the heat when I added the sugar cause I knew it'd be dry.)



Stir in enough hot water (1 to 2 tablespoons) to make a mixture that is almost pourable. (Mine needed about 5 tablespoons of hot water to get it runny enough to pour onto the bars. I did the first three tablespoons of water off of the heat, and the last 2 were added once the pan was back on the stove.)


The frosting spread pretty easily, but it starts to set up pretty quickly! Spread over brownies. If desired, garnish with walnut halves. Cool completely on wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 32 brownies.



Here is the instructional part again, without my pictures and tips, in case you just want to copy and paste it for printing:

1. For bottom layer, stir together oats, the 1/2 cup flour, the brown sugar, and baking soda. Stir in the 1/2 cup melted butter. Pat mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 11x7x1-1/2-inch baking pan. Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, for middle layer, stir together egg, granulated sugar, the 2/3 cup flour, the milk, the 1/4 cup melted butter, 1 ounce melted chocolate, the 1 teaspoon vanilla, and the baking powder until smooth. Fold in chopped walnuts. Spread batter over baked layer in pan. Bake about 25 minutes more or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Set on a wire rack while preparing top layer.

3. For top layer, in a medium saucepan heat and stir 1 ounce chocolate and the 2 tablespoons butter until melted. Stir in the powdered sugar and the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in enough hot water (1 to 2 tablespoons) to make a mixture that is almost pourable. Spread over brownies. If desired, garnish with walnut halves. Cool completely on wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 32 brownies.

Make-Ahead Tip: Prepare and bake brownies as directed. Frost and cool. Cover and store at room temperature for up to 1 day.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sun Catchers



Winter is lasting f.o.r.e.v.e.r ....we need to brighten it up a bit in here! Today we made sun catchers. Another super easy project that kept little hands busy for a while and gave us the little bit of color that is needed when looking out a window.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What you need:
construction paper (any color)
clear contact paper
tissue paper (assorted colors)
scissors
yarn or string
paper punch




Instructions:

Cut any shape you prefer out of a piece of construction paper. Adhere the construction paper to the sticky side of a piece of clear contact paper, making sure the contact paper is larger than the construction paper.

Cut the tissue paper into small pieces-- any shape or size. I found that pieces that were about one inch or so were perfect.

Randomly place the pieces of tissue paper on the contact paper (sticky side up), covering the inside of the shape completely.



Use another sheet of contact paper to cover your tissue papered shape (tissue papered? Is that a word?), sticky side to sticky side.

Cut around the outside of the construction paper to clean up the edges of overlapped contact paper.

Use a paper punch to make a hole in the top and hang with yarn or string.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Carrots


Here is a cute alternative to all of the candy treats that kids receive at Easter time. Easter carrots! They are so easy to make... all you have to do is fill a disposable decorating bag with Cheetos and tie with a little green ribbon. Voila! A tasty Easter snack.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Easter Bag



Today, my kids and my niece and I made cute little Easter bags out of felt. I let the kids really do them completely on their own, with the exception of me cutting the bunny shapes out ahead of time. They were fast and easy to make and the kids were so proud of their creations! Here is how we made them:

What you need:
2+ pieces of felt (one colored piece for the bag and one white piece for the bunny)
Fabric glue
sewing machine/thread
baubles for the eyes (optional-- you could also use felt)
yarn


Assembly:
Cut a circle and two ears out of the white felt.



Fold your colored felt in half and place the bunny pieces on the colored piece to get an idea of how big you want the bag to be. Place the bunny lower down on the bag so you can trim the top to have for the handle. Carefully cut along the top of the colored piece to remove a strip about an inch or so wide. This will be your handle. Now cut along the fold of the colored piece so that you end with two separate colored pieces. (Be sure to do this after cutting the strip for your handle)


Using the fabric glue, adhere your bunny head to one piece of the colored fabric. Decorate the face with the baubles and yarn as desired.



Once the bunny face is completed and dry, use a zig-zag stitch on the sewing machine to stitch the two sides and bottom of the bag, leaving the top open. I used a contrasting colored thread for pizazz.



Attach the handle with the sewing machine as well.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chunky Applesauce


This is one of my daughter's favorite recipes. It makes your entire house smell so scrumptious that you will find yourself going outside over and over checking to see if the mail came just so you can be hit with the incredible smell as you walk in your home. And if you eat it while it's still warm, it's a little taste of heaven right here on earth.

*Note* I only made half a batch in my photos-- but here is the full recipe:



8-10 Granny Smith Apples (or any tart apple)
1/2 - 1 cup of sugar (I used 3/4 cup and it was pretty sweet... but perfect!)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Peel and slice apples into small chunks/slices. If you have The Pampered Chef Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer, consider yourself lucky! Look how fast and slick it works!


Here is what the apple looks like directly after using the Peeler/Corer/Slicer (and cut in half with a knife):



Put all ingredients in crock pot and gently stir.



Cover crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until apples are tender.

(I cooked on high for just over 3 hours and it worked out just great!) Also, my friend Nancy shared with me that you can also do this same exact recipe in a pan on a stove top in one hour! Good to know for when you want it fast!

Kids Artwork


Kids artwork. What do you do with it? I've been saving stuff in a box since my daughter was big enough to hold a crayon in her wee lil' hand. In fact, just last week I went through that box and weeded some stuff out. I didn't think it was necessary to keep four of the same "marble paint drawings" that she created when she was in preschool. Or the 8 separate pieces of paper that each only had one bumpy circle drawn on it in the same shade of Robin's Egg Blue.

But the pieces that really were important-- her first drawing of a person that consisted of a head with legs coming out of it, or her essay on tigers that included illustrations, or the letters and pictures that she drew for Santa, the Easter Bunny and all of their magical friends-- those things remained in the box.

It's hard to decide what to do with kids art. You hate to toss it in the trash.... it's a work of art! But if you keep every single item that comes home crinkled and folded in their back pack, you'll soon need to rent a storage locker!

Some of the art that comes home with her gets sent to Grandma and Grandpa.... some of it is hung on the refrigerator....some is used as wrapping paper for gifts for others.... some is framed and hanging on that wall (like this great one that she made in kindergarten):

This one particular piece came home that she had painted and I just loved the vibrant colors. I went out and bought an unfinished wooden tray at a craft store. I sanded and painted the tray and then cut the painting to size, so that it would fit nicely inside the tray. Using Mod Podge and a foam brush, I adhered the painting to the tray. After it dried, I gave the entire tray two more coats of Mod Podge, to seal the painting in, and ended up with a one of a kind tea tray!

Crockpot Chicken

This is an easy, yet fabulous recipe that I got from a friend a few years ago. I make it quite often for dinner at our house. The chicken literally falls off the bone when it's done. I rarely use the wine that and just substitute with apple juice or more chicken broth instead. And I always make soup with the leftovers in the crockpot!



Maureen's Crockpot Chicken

1 whole chicken, cut up
1 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. dry white wine
1 1/2 t. seasoned salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 t. dried basil
6 carrots, sliced
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 onion, sliced

Layer veggies, then chicken pieces in crockpot. Mix seasonings & liquid, & pour over chicken & veggies. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours.
(My helper)

If desired, remove chicken & vegetables and thicken sauce with 2 T. butter mixed with 2 T. flour, cooking on high until thick. (If I'm making soup, I don't do this)

My panel of judges:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Easter Basket Cupcakes



Today we made cute little cupcakes that are decorated like Easter Baskets. I saw the recipe at Taste of Home , although they used dyed coconut on top of the frosting and I didn't have coconut on hand so just skipped that part. They were really easy to make, although our licorice ropes were to soft and they won't stay standing tall as a basket handle!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
2 cups cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
FROSTING:
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 packages (3 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon water
4 drops green food coloring
1-1/2 cups flaked coconut
Red shoestring licorice
Jelly beans

Directions: In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and orange peel. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.



In a small mixing bowl, beat butter, cream cheese and vanilla until smooth. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar; spread over cupcakes. Combine water and food coloring in a large resealable plastic bag; add coconut. Seal bag and shake to tint. Sprinkle over cupcakes.



Using a metal or wooden skewer, poke a hole in the top on opposite sides of each cupcake. Cut licorice into 6-in. strips for handle; insert each end into a hole. Decorate with jelly beans. Yield: 1-1/2 dozen.