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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Girl Baby Shower Cake



Sunday, August 23, 2015

Apple Pie Cookies


In the original recipe, it calls for apple pie filling. I don't normally buy apple pie filling, so I made my own. 

Ingredients: 
1 1/4 cup cold water
2/3 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups chopped and peeled apples
2 refrigerated pie crusts
1/4 cup caramel topping
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Get the pie crusts out of the refrigerator and let them sit for about 15 minutes to warm. 

Place 1 1/4 cup water, 2/3 cup sugar, and 3 T cornstarch in a saucepan. Heat the mixture until boiling and thick, while stirring with a whisk. When thick, remove from the heat and add 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. 

Meanwhile, peel and chop 5-6 medium apples. Add to the thickened sauce. 


Spread caramel sauce on the top of one of the pie crusts. Then top with the pie filling. (I had some extra pie filling. I will use that to top some ice cream later :) ) 


Cut strips out of the second pie crust and place it on top of the pie filling.


Using a cookie cutter, cut out small pies and place on a greased cookie sheet. (I had a heart cookie cutter, so I used that.)
Brush the cookie with beaten egg. Stir 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg in a bowl. Sprinkle that mixture on the top of the cookies. 


Bake for about 20 minutes, or until brown.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fresh Salsa

We love this time of the year when the vegetables are starting to ripen in the garden and we have an abundance of tomatoes. A batch of fresh salsa is gone within minutes of being made. 

This recipe is pretty flexible. In this batch I have 15-20 grape tomatoes diced, about 2/3 cup chopped peppers (green, red, yellow, and orange), 1/4 of a large purple onion chopped, 2 cloves of garlic minced, 1 jalapeno seeded and diced, about 2 teaspoons sugar, salt and pepper to taste, and about a tablespoon of lime juice. (If you don't have lime juice, add a couple of teaspoons of vinegar.) 

I don't always have the colored peppers, so most of the time I just add chopped green pepper. 

We eat the salsa with Tostitos Scoops. It is definitely a summer favorite. 


Shopkins Cake

Shopkins have become quite popular in our house this year. So when a friend asked to make her daughter a Shopkins cake for her 6th birthday, we were all excited. The kids loved helping with this cake. They helped design the cake and picked out which Shopkins to include on the cake. 



Saturday, August 8, 2015

Inside Out Birthday Party and Cake

Rachel saw the movie Inside Out and loved it! She liked it so much that she decided she would like an Inside Out birthday party. We wanted to create headquarters for her cake. This is what I came up with...Having the Inside Out characters made the cake a lot easier! I just did two 10 inch round cakes for the middle. I covered a little cardboard box with fondant and used that as the console. I added fondant controls and a memory ball to the console. The circles on the cake are fondant as well. The walls of headquarters are made from rice krispie treats that I molded and covered with fondant. It is hard to see, but the back wall has five window cutouts for the five islands. I made memory balls from fondant and stuck them on the walls. Then we made the little couch that sits in headquarters and stuck Sadness over there. 
The Inside Out photo board was a huge hit. All the kids had a great time with it. 


Using water beads, I made a sensory box of "memory ball" for the kids to play with. They had a blast with this! 

I was able to find a lot of free printables online. These two websites in particular were great: http://www.mrskathyking.com/free-inside-out-printable-party-decoration-pack/
http://www.mrskathyking.com/17-free-inside-out-printable-activites/

I found little Inside Out reusable bags on Amazon. I used those as little gift bags for Rachel's friends. I added a coloring book to the bag, stickers, candy that was the color of the 5 emotions, and  laminated door hangers and activity sheets that I laminated for dry erase use. I found Inside Out cups at Walmart that decorated the table as well. Then we added balloons the color of the five emotions to the chairs. 


The party would not have been complete without vegetable pizza! (For the broccoli pizza comment the kids love from the movie!)  This is just a package of crescent rolls pressed flat in a baking pan. Bake for about 8 minutes. Mix a package of Hidden Valley Ranch dip and sour cream. Spread that on the cooled crescent roll. Then added chopped veggies. Here I have broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. I did fruit kabobs that were the five colors of the emotions (green grapes, purple grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and pineapple).


I also found these little pictures of the emotions online at the website above. I laminated them and hot glued them to a lollipop stick. 


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Inside Out Photo Board

For Rachel's 4th birthday party this weekend we are doing an Inside Out theme. She loves this movie and the character Disgust. I decided to make a little photo board for her friends to use at her little party. 

I just used a tri-fold presentation board as the base. I drew the characters first with pencil. Then I cut out the head shapes with and Exacto knife. I used Sharpie marker and acrylic paint to color the board. We are having a lot of fun with it already by displaying the different emotions. 



Friday, July 31, 2015

Birthday Cake for Someone in Heaven

Every year we celebrate the birthday of the kids' Grandpa Dave. Here is the cake we made this year. I found this anonymous poem online and added it to the top.




Sunday, July 19, 2015

Reaction to Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

“You are a product of your environment.” We’ve all heard these words. We have all seen what this phrase actually means. But what becomes the challenge is whether or not we allow ourselves to fit this persona.




When I heard that Harper Lee produced a version of To Kill a Mockingbird many years ago that was left unpublished, I knew I had to read it. Not just for myself, but for my students that become just as attached to the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. I had to know where the lines, “Folk are just folks”, and “You never truly understand a person until you walk around in their shoes.” came from. One of the most important discussions I have with my students is the impact this book has because it is told from Scout’s perspective as a young girl. We talk about what childhood innocence means and how it changes as we get older and become influenced by difficulties adults face. So I had to see how different this book would be told from Scout’s perspective as a young woman.


When I got the chance to read Go Set a Watchman, despite hearing I would hate Atticus and the message that was there, I read it. I felt like I owed it to Harper Lee for giving me the book that not only changed my classroom and the way I approach literature, but also the way the world views this challenging time in our history.


Harper Lee wrote both of these stories, and I could not forget that. I preach to my students all the time to remember to look at the author’s background for clues: look at their lives, look at their history, and the time period they wrote these books. This book was a draft to the book To Kill a Mockingbird, so could her views really have changed that much? Or do we just allow our own views to shield the message she wanted the world to see in Go Set a Watchman?


Yes, Atticus carries a completely different role in Go Set a Watchman. However, that doesn’t change the fact that he raised Scout. Harper Lee points out that he raised her and had such an impact on her that his conscience became her own.


Because I feel so connected to Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird, was so proud of the way he handled all situations with his children, and knew I wanted the same type of father for my own children, I refuse to believe that Atticus was a bad person. I wanted to read this book to not just read the surface level problems and see why Atticus was the bad person so many reviewers made him out to be. I wanted to see past that and find the good in him, and remember that Harper Lee still set out to produce the same theme in both novels.


And, don’t get me wrong, I was equally as disappointed to know that Atticus was not the defined hero that he was in To Kill a Mockingbird. But I also know the time period this book was written. The world was not yet ready for Go Set a Watchman. It was too true to the beliefs that southern Americans stood on.  They would hang onto the surface level problems Atticus had and would miss the point Lee wanted to make. To publish a book that brought about the change Harper Lee saw, it had to hit on childhood innocence. It had to prove to people that becoming a product of your environment didn’t have to be the accepted way. The only way to prove that was through the eyes of a child. Harper Lee’s editors knew that and they helped her to see that her message could come become reality if she changed point of view.


So, to me, the change she wanted to see is still there. And Atticus can still be a hero if you allow your mind to believe that his intentions were there. He knew he had become a product of his environment, but not at the level most Americans had done... He still allowed his children to have morals and believe that all people were created equally. The way his children were raised gave them the opportunity to strive for a change the world needed to see. But in doing so, he also gave them the mind to stand up for what they believed in. Atticus believed in the law and believed in respect. But, he knew that all of his personal beliefs, especially those that had been instilled in him as a white man growing up in a very segregated south, were going to be challenged. However, instead of trying to force those same beliefs on his children, he gave them the courage to stand up for what they personally believed in. He gave them morals, and he gave them the opportunity to not become a product of their environment. He did all of this without them knowing he had racist tendencies. He wanted more for his children. He sent Scout to New York, knowing that the northern states held the same beliefs he had allowed her to obtain. He knew that she would come back some day. He knew that she would challenge him. But...he also knew that his final lesson had to be that we cannot run away from things just because we don’t agree with the vast majority. If we truly want to see a change in this world, we have to be that change we want to see. We can’t just turn our head because it seems too far out of reach. Maybe Atticus knew he wasn’t going to be around to see this change that was necessary in America. So, he helped Scout develop character, pride, and courage. And when she realized all of this, she now could help her little southern county become accustomed to the way life was meant to be. Maybe Scout was Atticus’s watchman...


I learned so many life lessons from To Kill a Mockingbird. Go Set a Watchman was no different. I refuse to become a product of my environment. Living in a very rural town, listening to students spout off about law and government like they have studied it for thirty years, proves to me that my role as a parent is so much greater than what I originally thought. The way I live my life, the things I say, the things I do, mold these little innocent children living in my home and sitting in my classroom. If I don’t teach them to respect, have courage, and treat others the way we want to be treated, then they will simply continue to become products of their environment. They have to have minds of their own. Stop hanging onto negativity and facts/history that can’t be changed and create an environment you are proud to become a product of.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”--Gandhi.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Carved Melon Fruit Bowls

I was asked to make a 2015 watermelon fruit bowl for a graduation party. Before I dug into the watermelon, I decided I should test my carving skills on some of the melons I needed to cut anyway for the fruit bowl. I turned this big honeyrock melon into a frog. It turned out okay, so I tried the watermelon. 

The trick to the watermelon for me was to use the little pumpkin carving tools you can buy at Halloween. That was the only way I could make such small cuts, especially in the middle of the zero. 

Cupcake Bouquet

My parents celebrated their 34th Anniversary today. I decided to make a bouquet out of cupcakes for them. Really, it made me wonder why I haven't done flowers like this before! Who doesn't like flowers and chocolate?! Why not put them together. 

I hot glued two toilet paper rolls together to make the handle. Then I hot glued a square Styrofoam block on top of the rolls. I used toothpicks to attach the cupcakes to the block. Then I added tissue paper around the cupcakes and stuck the entire thing in a vase. 




Thursday, July 16, 2015

Chicken Enchiladas with Ground Chicken

I usually make my chicken enchiladas with shredded chicken breasts, but we we had some ground chicken so I gave this a try. I liked this better than the shredded chicken. Keep in mind though, this recipe could be made with shredded chicken. It could also be done with beef or pork as well. 

Ingredients: 
1 pound ground chicken
1 onion, chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp parsley
1/2 teas oregano
1/2 teas pepper
1/2 teas salt
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth or water
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 clove garlic
6-8 flour tortillas
1 can enchilada sauce (I only had green sauce, but I have also used red.)
1/2 cup salsa
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown your chicken in a large skillet. Drain the grease. Add the onion, 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, parsley, oregano, and pepper. Let the cheese melt. 
Stir in the salt, tomato sauce, chicken broth, chili powder, and garlic. 

Use the mixture to fill your tortillas. I filled 7 tortillas, rolled them up and placed them in a 9x13 inch pan.  Then I dumped the remaining sauce over the top of the rolled tortillas. On top of that, I dumped the can of enchilada sauce and salsa. Then topped it with the 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. 
Bake for about 20 minutes. 


They were delicious! You could top with sour cream or eat with tortilla chips as well. 


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Inside Out Emotions Craft

Rachel loves the new movie, Inside Out. We decided to center our craft around the movie today. Her favorite character is Disgust, but she wanted to make one of each of the emotions. The boys got just as involved and created their own versions of the emotions as well. 


I started by putting purple, red, yellow, green, and blue paint on its own paper plate. 
Each kid got five small paper plates. (You could use regular size plates, but I found the small ones worked really well for them.) We passed the paint plates around to each kid and they painted their five plates, one of each color. 


After the paint was dry, we glued on google eyes. Then we drew on faces for each of the emotions with black Sharpie. For finishing touches, we added a black pipe cleaner for Sadness's eyes, crafting fur for Fear's eyebrows, and tissue paper for hair and fire. It is hard to see in the picture, but we added green glitter glue for Disgust's eyelashes. 

Matt decided he didn't want to put the hair on his, so here are his emotions with just the drawn faces. They both turned out really well. He wrote the emotions on his as well. 



Saturday, July 11, 2015

Detroit Tigers Comerica Park Birthday Cake

For David's 7th birthday, we followed a baseball theme. We went to the Tigers game this past weekend, had his friend birthday party at the Loons Game on Thursday, and he wanted a Comerica Park Cake for his birthday here. 
This cake was pretty difficult and I would do some things differently if I did it again. The front stadium is made of Rice Krispie treats that are covered with fondant. I would have done all of the sides with Rice Krispies if I did it again. For the statues, I started with a toothpick. I pushed the body part on the toothpick, added fondant legs, head, baseball hat, and arms. Then I stuck the toothpick in the cake. I cut the top of the remaining toothpick off so you can't see the toothpick. I didn't make the car out by center field. We had a Happy Birthday car, so we put that on top. The Pepsi logo is just made from fondant and placed on a toothpick. The scoreboard is made from Rice Krispies; I wrote Happy 7th Birthday, David on the scoreboard. The lights are just fondant. (I was getting tired so I only did two of these.) The people in the stands are round sprinkles I got from Hobby Lobby. 



It isn't the neatest cake in the world, but he was happy with it! 


Watermelon Volcano Experiment

The kids fell in love with the Pixar short film I Lava You (shown before Inside Out). So, while we listened to the single "I Lava You", we completed this volcano experiment. First we cut a watermelon in half. Then we dug out all of the fruit and saved it in a bowl. I flipped the watermelon over on to a baking sheet. We cut a hole out of the top of the watermelon. Then I slide in a plastic cup. We filled the cup with baking soda. The each kid got a coffee mug of vinegar. They added red food coloring to their vinegar. Then they dumped their vinegar into the volcano. 

They love any experiment with baking soda and vinegar. This was no exception. It was a lot of fun! 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Bacon Mac and Cheese Pretzel Bread Bowls

Who says you have to put soup in bread bowls?! Tonight we decided to mix it up and put our homemade mac and cheese in our pretzel bread bowls. A local restaurant (Water Tower Sports Bar in Lexington Heights) has a similar product on their menu and we absolute love it. So, we tried to recreate it at home. It was delicious. Definitely a great comfort food!



Here are the two recipes I combined: 



Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  • 2 1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese (Parmaseano Romano would probably work just as well)
  • 3/4 pound elbow macaroni
  • 3-5 slices thick cut bacon cooked or Oscar Meyer Select Bacon Pieces
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs or potato chips

  • Directions
    • Get a large pot of water boiling for your noodles. When the water boils, cook the macaroni for about 2 minutes under the recommended cooking time. Drain pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water.

    • Meanwhile, warm milk in the microwave for about 2 minutes. 

    • Melt 2 1/2-3 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, 1 1/2 cups cheddar, and 1/2 cup pecorino Romano. 
    •  Mix drained noodles and cheese sauce in a 4-quart baking dish. Stir in the bacon. 

    • Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup cheddar and 1/4 cup pecorino Romano over the noodles and sauce. Scatter breadcrumbs or potato chips over the top. 
    If you use bread crumbs instead of potato chips, drop little pats of butter across the top of the breadcrumbs.  (You don't need extra butter if you use potato chips.) 
     
    Bake at 400 degrees until browned on top, about 25 minutes. 



    Ingredients: 
    3 Tbsp butter
    2 cups hot water
    1 Tbsp brown sugar
    1 Tbsp yeast
    6 cups flour
    2 teas salt
    8-10 cups water
    1/3 cup baking soda
    2 Tbsp melted butter
    course pretzel salt

    In a stand mixer, combine the butter, hot water, and brown sugar. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Let that sit for about 5 minutes. Then stir in the proofed yeast. Add three cups of flour. I mixed that together with a wooden spoon. Then, using the hook attachment for my mixer, I added another three cups of flour, one cup at a time. 

    Place the dough in a warm oven for about an hour or until doubled. 
    Punch the dough down and separate into 8 balls. Place the balls on a greased baking sheet and cover.  Let that sit for about 15 minutes. 

    Meanwhile, put 8-10 cups of water in a large pan. Let them come to a very slow boil. 


    Add the 1/3 cup baking soda to the water. Then put one of the dough balls in the slowly boiling water. Flip it after about 22 seconds. Cook on the other side for another 22 seconds. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.


    Repeat for the remaining 7 dough balls. Then, using a sharp knife, cut an "X" in each dough ball.


    Melt 2 Tbsp of butter and spread over the top of the dough balls. Sprinkle with course salt. 

    Bake at 400 degrees for 17 minutes or until pretty brown on top. You can dig out as much of the soft inside dough as you want. It comes out very easily. 

     

    The final step to putting these together was to take out a little bit of the inside of the bread bowl. I scooped in the baked mac and cheese. Then I placed the bowl back in the oven for about 4-5 minutes (just enough to warm the bowl back up). 








    Pretzel Bread Bowls

    I have been wanting to try bread bowls for a while. So, when searching for recipes, I came across this pretzel version on this website: http://www.abeautifulmess.com/2013/10/homemade-pretzel-bread-bowls.html. They were delicious. The kids ate theirs without any filling inside. The possibilities are endless with what you could put inside. Tonight, we did homemade mac and cheese inside the bowl. 

    Ingredients: 
    3 Tbsp butter
    2 cups hot water
    1 Tbsp brown sugar
    1 Tbsp yeast
    6 cups flour
    2 teas salt
    8-10 cups water
    1/3 cup baking soda
    2 Tbsp melted butter
    course pretzel salt

    In a stand mixer, combine the butter, hot water, and brown sugar. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Let that sit for about 5 minutes. Then stir in the proofed yeast. Add three cups of flour. I mixed that together with a wooden spoon. Then, using the hook attachment for my mixer, I added another three cups of flour, one cup at a time. 

    Place the dough in a warm oven for about an hour or until doubled. 
    Punch the dough down and separate into 8 balls. Place the balls on a greased baking sheet and cover.  Let that sit for about 15 minutes. 

    Meanwhile, put 8-10 cups of water in a large pan. Let them come to a very slow boil. 


    Add the 1/3 cup baking soda to the water. Then put one of the dough balls in the slowly boiling water. Flip it after about 22 seconds. Cook on the other side for another 22 seconds. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.


    Repeat for the remaining 7 dough balls. Then, using a sharp knife, cut an "X" in each dough ball. 


    Melt 2 Tbsp of butter and spread over the top of the dough balls. Sprinkle with course salt. 

    Bake at 400 degrees for 17 minutes or until pretty brown on top. You can dig out as much of the soft inside dough as you want. It comes out very easily.