Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pin the What On the What?

I made a spin-off of the traditional game of "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" for my daughters 10th birthday party. The girls played "Pin the Earring on the Emily" instead! I blew up a photo of her to be poster sized and we used an earring with some tape. It was a blast and the girls got a kick out of seeing the different places Emily was pierced. (Check out the one that pierced her eyebrow!)

What you need:

A poster size photo of your child (I made ours at Walmart... under $10 and it only takes 1 hour)
An earring or a makeshift earring
Post-It notes

Hang the poster on a wall or other flat surface.

Blindfold the player and hand them the earring with a piece of tape adhered to it.

Spin the player 5 times.

The player should then stick the earring to the poster, in a spot that they think is close to the ear.

(here's the eyebrow piercing, hehe)

I then ripped off a teeny tiny piece of the sticky part a Post-It note and marked where each player hit on the poster target.

Whoever is closest to the ear, gets a prize!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

September Daring Bakers Challenge-- Lavash Crackers

When the September Daring Bakers Challenge was posted by Shel and Natalie, I was thrilled to see that it was a savory challenge instead of a sweet challenge! Don't get me wrong--- anyone that knows me knows that my breakfast, lunch and dinner usually includes some form of sugar, but I was ready to try something different.

Color me surprised (what color is surprised? Orange? I like orange and not many people wear it, so that can represent surprised)... color me orange when I saw the challenge for September was to make Lavash Crackers and to also make a dip/spread/salsa/relish to go along with the crackers. Sounded tricky. But guess what? They even threw in a little obstacle of requiring the dip to be vegan and gluten free.

Now, one would think that most vegetarians would probably not have a problem with this requirement. But I panicked. I don't eat meat, but I also don't exactly eat a proper vegetarian diet. I don't supplement other healthy vitamins and nutrients and proteins and all of those other things into my meals. I just quite simply leave the meat out of my diet. I sit and eat dinner with my family and fill up on the side dishes and call it a meal.

And, I'm a picky eater, to boot. I'm not a fan of blended, earthy things. I don't like my food mixed. I don't like spices and I don't care for most vegetables that are eaten raw or in a salsa. I was feeling a little overwhelmed at the idea of creating a dip/spread/salsa/relish.

And I even had to look up the actual definitions of "vegan" and "gluten-free".

I somehow managed to come across a dip that not only fit into the vegan/gluten-free category, but also found one that I knew I would like! (Bonus!)

The challenge allowed a lot of room to express our own creativity. The recipe for the Lavash was a basic recipe and we were able to choose any seasoning, spice or flavoring that we wanted.

I choose to season my Lavash Crackers with Sesame Seed and I made a Creamy Thai Peanut Dip to go along with them. The recipe was amazingly easy. I was thrilled that I actually made it through a challenge without incident. That may have been a first for me since joining the Daring Bakers in April!

Check out my Lavash Crackers and be sure to click on the Daring Bakers page to see other completed challenges. Some of them are a~m~a~z~i~n~g!

Lavash Recipe:

The key to a crisp Lavash is to roll out the dough paper-thin. The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking. The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets.

Makes 2 sheet pans of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp instant yeast
* 1 Tb sugar
* 1 Tb vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, sugar, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. (Mine took longer.... about 15 minutes)

The dough should pass the windowpane test (where you pull off a little glob and use both hands to stretch it apart. If there is a thin film that doesn't break, it is complete.).

The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled.

Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (Again, mine was more like 2 hours).

4. Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer 1/2 the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down.

Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes.

When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.)

If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Repeat steps 4-6 with with other half of dough.

Creamy Thai Dip

¼ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine all ingredients; mix well. Makes ¾ cup

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cozy Tie Fleece Blanket

I've made lots of these blankets-- I love to give them as a gift to a new Mom to use with her new baby. I think they make the *perfect* ground cover for a little one to lay on while playing with his or her toys. Of course, they can use them to snuggle up with as they get bigger, too.

They are so easy to make-- you can literally make one in about 20-30 minutes. And they are very forgiving... if you make a cut too wide or too short or just plain messy, it's okay! It'll easily be hidden when it's all knotted up and finished. I promise.

What you need:

Sharp scissors
2 different patterns of fleece (for a baby, I use 1.5 yards of each)

What you do:

1. Clear enough room on the floor or on a table/counter so the pieces of fabric can lie flat. Allow enough space on all sides so there is room to maneuver.

2. Lay one piece of fabric on your work surface, with the softer side facing down.

3. Lay the second piece of fabric directly on top of the first piece with the softer side facing up.

4. Flatten or smooth out the fabric so there are no wrinkles or folds.

5. If necessary, trim the pieces of fabric so they are the same length and width.

As you can see, your edges don't need to be perfectly straight, but you will want them to not be obviously off.

6. Cut a 4-inch by 4-inch square from each of the four corners of your fabric.

7. Beginning at one corner, move over 1 inch and make another 4-inch long cut going up. This is where you begin to make the strips of fabric that will make the ties of the blanket.

8. Continue making cuts, 4-inches up, all the way along one side. I usually just place a yard stick along the fabric so I know how high up to cut and it also shows me where my 1-inch marks are.

9. Take both layers from the first strip of fabric that was cut and tie them together in a double-knot.

10. Continue knotting all of your fabric strips until you reach the corner.

11. Follow these instructions to do all four sides of the blanket. When you complete your fourth side, you are finished.

*** Some people like to do all the cuts on all four sides before beginning to tie. I prefer to do the sides one at a time, but there is not a right or wrong way. Whatever works for you. ***

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fall Place Mats

The leaves are changing colors on the trees! What a perfect time to make a personalized Fall place mat for your littles! We made these last year and the leaf colors aren't as vibrant as they had been when we first made them. We may have to sneak out and grab some new leaves and make another set this year.

What you need:

Leaves-- any shape, size or color
Large sheet of construction paper
Photo of child
Glue stick
Clear contact paper

What you do:

Collect leaves with your child. You may want to press the leaves in between the pages of a heavy book over night if they are curled on the edges.

Glue photo of child to the construction paper. I glued ours to a piece of solid white paper first, so that it was matted and stood out a bit.

Arrange the leaves on the construction paper in any manner you wish to do.

When they are arranged to your liking, use a dab of glue to hold it in place.

Carefully cover the entire sheet of construction paper with a piece of clear contact paper, pressing out any air bubbles.

Cover the backside with contact paper as well.

Trim the edges of the place mat with a scissors and then enjoy using it daily!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pumpkin Bread

This recipe was recommended by my friend Jenn. She said it was the only one she will ever make. When I looked over the recipe, I about died when I saw it called for 3 cups of sugar! 3 cups? Wow! But then I realized the recipe makes 3 loaves of bread, so in actuality, each loaf has only 1 cup of sugar in it. And if I get 16 slices of bread from one loaf, each slice only has about a tablespoon of sugar in it. So now it doesn't sound so bad, does it?


1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7x3 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.

Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.

Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

My friend Bean shared this recipe the other day. It is a vegan recipe, but like her, I made mine with regular ol' ingredients. They are so good.... and very rich. Your dentist will hate me for posting this recipe (or, he may love me for posting this recipe.... job security!)


1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 bag of milk chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon salt
mini muffin cups


Fill a mini-muffin pan with the muffin liners.

Microwave the half of chocolate chips for about 1 minute at in a glass or microwaveable bowl.

Stir until creamy; you might need to microwave them a little more. Make sure you do not overcook them.

Using a spoon or paint brush spread the chocolate evenly within the muffin cups making sure you fill the crevices on the sides.

Place the coated muffin cups in the freezer so that the chocolate hardens (about 10 minutes)

In a separate bowl combine the peanut butter and salt and fold in the powdered sugar.

When the chocolate cups have hardened put the peanut butter mixture into the microwave for 30-45 seconds. This will soften the peanut butter mixture, making it easier to work with.

Spoon the peanut butter into the chocolate cups leaving a little room for the top layer of chocolate.

Place the cups in the freezer for about 10 minutes to allow the peanut butter to harden.

Just before removing the peanut butter cups from the freezer, melt the remaining chocolate chips as you did for the first layer.

Remove cups from freezer and spread with another layer of melted chocolate.

Place in freezer to set.

You can either serve these frozen or keep them in the refrigerator or keep at room temperature to serve. I personally like them frozen!

Makes 24 mini Peanut Butter Cups or 12 large Peanut Butter Cups

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fall Sun Catchers

Using the same method for the sun catchers that we made last Spring, we made Fall sun catchers!

To get a leaf shape, you can either draw one freehand or you can use this template. I found the template to be a little big, so I just cut it down a tad. Every leaf is different (or does that just pertain to snowflakes?)... so if it was a little "off", that was okay.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pumpkin Cookies

Can you smell that? I wish you could... it's the smell that instantly makes a mouth begin to salivate.... a stomach begin to growl.... a smell that I wish I could bottle up and have access to whenever my heart desires. It's the smell of Frosted Pumpkin Cookies. It's a rainy day here today. A perfect baking day. The leaves on a few trees out front are starting to turn red and yellow. Fall is near. I guess I'll kick off the Fall tastebuds with Frosted Pumpkin Cookies!


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Glaze Ingredients:

2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions for cookies:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy.

I never pass up an opportunity to show off a picture of a few of my favorite things-- my little boy and my new-in-July KitchenAid mixer! I couldn't live without either of them!

4. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool cookies, then frost with glaze.

To Make Glaze:

Combine confectioners' sugar, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add milk as needed, to achieve a drizzly frosting consistency.

Everybody needs a helper like I have...

...even if he licks his fingers as he's frosting!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


The latest edition of Family Fun magazine came in the mail today. I started paging through it and saw these cute little candle holders and thought they were so cute to make to get in that Fall spirit. Halloween is just around the corner (okay, it's a big corner) but our weather has been cooler lately, so it just seemed like the timing was right to make my first Halloween craft of the season.

I haven't even finished going through the magazine-- I literally hopped up and grabbed the supplies and camera and made a little scary eye candle.

What you need:

Black construction paper
Hole punch
Mod Podge
Paint brush
Glass candle holder
Paint marker or black paint

What you do:

1. Tear a sheet of black construction paper into about a dozen small rectangles that measure roughly 1 1/4 inch by 1/2 inch.

2. Use a hole punch to add two eyes to each piece.

3. Brush a portion of the candle holder with Mod Podge, affix paper rectangle, then paint more Mod Podge over it.

4. Add the other pieces of paper the same way, making sure the edges overlap. Set aside to dry. (Mine is sitting on a medicine cup so that the Mod Podge doesn't dry onto the counter.)

5. When the candle holder is dry, use a tiny paint brush and black paint (I just used a paint marker) to add little round pupils inside the eyes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sleeping Mask

I attempted to make a sleep mask. It has potential, but I'm going to have to try it again because mine somehow ended up resembling a sanitary napkin more than a sleep mask, lol. The concept is there... now I just need to iron out some kinks. Or maybe I should just use a glue gun instead of sewing it? I took from these instructions but instead of gluing, I sewed mine with the right-sides together and then turned it out the right way. This is probably where I messed up because I lost a lot of the size in the seam. I'll have to make my next one bigger.

What you need:

Paper (for template)
Fabric (one or two different patterns)
Felt or cotton batting
Elastic (whatever color and thickness you have handy)
Sewing machine

What you do:

1. Print and cut out this template.

2. Trace the template on both the fabric you are going to use for the front and for the back of your mask.

3. Trace the template also on your batting or felt.

4. Cut out all three of the mask shapes you just traced.

5. Pin the three layers together, right sides of the front and back pieces together, with the batting on the back side of the front piece. (Clear as mud? See photo)

6. Mark where you want the elastic strap to connect.

7. Sew around the edge of the entire mask, leaving an opening on the sides for the elastic and an opening on top so that you can flip it the right way.

8. Turn your mask right side out.

9. Fit the elastic to your head and insert the elastic into the openings of the mask and pin opening closed. Top stitch close to the outer edge of the entire mask, also closing the top gap.

10. That's it!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cowboy Caviar

My good friend Angela made this and shared it (and the recipe) with me last year. I thought I would be polite and try it, even though I'm a pretty picky eater. Had I been at a party and saw this on the table, I more than likely would have turned my nose up to it and walked on by. But being the good friend that I am, I took one for the team and gave it a try. Wow! I couldn't stop eating it!

I've made it a few times and it's been a hit every single time. It's so pretty with all of the texture and color popping all over the place! Serve them with those little Tostido Scoops that are meant for dipping and you've got yourself a perfect combonation.

1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 orange pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
1 med. red onion, diced

I highly suggest The Pampered Chef chopper!

1 can shoe peg corn
1 can black eyed peas
1 can pinto beans rinsed

1/2 c cider vinegar
1 c canola oil
1/2 cup sugar

Boil vinegar and oil, then remove from heat. Add sugar, stir well and cool.

Pour marinade over diced vegetables. Marinate for at least 24 hours. Drain to serve, saving marinade to hold leftovers. Keeps for 2 weeks.

Serve with corn chips/Tostido's. The little scoop ones work beautifully for this!