Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sugar Cookie Bars

While looking for an easy treat for my son to take to his class for Valentine's Day, I came across these:
They took 30 minutes start to finish and the kids loved them! (So much better and easier than roll out sugar cookies!) 

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
5 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla. 
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. 
Pour the dough in a greased sheet cake pan. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. (Make sure you don't over-bake.)

Frosting ingredients: 
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup Crisco shortening
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
4 cups powdered sugar
5 Tbsp milk

Whip the butter and Crisco together. Add the vanilla and salt. Add the powdered sugar 2 cups at a time. Then add the milk and whip until fluffy. Add food coloring of your choice.

Spread the frosting on the cool cookie and add sprinkles of your choice. 

Cut into bars and serve. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Valentine's Day Gratitude Hearts

Before February started, I had everyone fill out at least three hearts for each person in the family. They could write down something they loved about the other person or could write down something the other person is good at. Each day in February, I added a new heart to each person's bedroom door. (This could be used any time of the year!)

Valentine's Day Scavenger Hunt #5

Our 5th Annual Valentine's Day Scavenger Hunt. 

Scavenger Hunts are this Family’s Way
To Bring A Little Fun to this Valentine’s Day.
So Grab Your Siblings and Some Spirit, Too,
And Head Behind the Couches for the 1st Clue.

These Couches Are Comfy
And Nice for Resting.
Your Next Stop is Where
The Little Girl Likes Nesting.

Rachel’s Room is Messy
And It Needs to Be Cleaned.
So Let’s Move to Where
Lysol Wipes Can be Gleaned.

These Wipes Make Things Sparkle
And Shine With a Shimmer.
Another Clue Awaits
Where Dad Grills our Dinner.

The Garage is so Chilly
We Should’ve Worn a Hat.
But First, Check the Corner
Where the Boys Keep the Bats.

We’re Round 3rd Base
They’re Waving us Home.
The Jackpot Awaits
Where Mom Charges Her Phone!

Valentine's Day Claw Machine Box That Moves

My son has always loved the claw machine. So, we decided to try to make our own for his Valentine's Day box this year. While it doesn't actually pick up toys, the claw does move up and down. (Really the same result as the claw machines you see in the store!) 

We started by spray painting two sturdy boxes. Then we cut a large hole out of the larger box. We cut a flap in the bottom box to represent the toy drop out slot. The joystick is actually a test tube container we had from a science kit. We put water and food coloring in the test tube to make it look dark. We used modeling clay to keep the joystick in place. The press button is the circle from a used roll of duck tape. We covered that with fancy duck tape and hot glued it to the box. I found a $2 sheet of Plexiglas material from Menards. That slid right into place to keep the toys in place. 

The claw moves because of our Rule your Room LittleBits kit ( This kit has endless possibilities for the things kids can create. It is definitely worth the money if your kid is interested in circuits and creating things. We used the mechanical arm set up to make the claw move. The claw is just pieces of a wire hanger we cut and bent to make a claw shape. We hot glued and taped the claw pieces together and hung them from the mechanical arm. 

The last step was cutting a small hole in the side of the box to flip the switch on so the claw will move. 

Chocolate Banana Muffins

This is one of my favorite Taste of Home recipes. These muffins are preferred by my kids over banana bread. 

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the bananas, egg, and oil. Add to flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. 

I line my muffin tins with paper and fill. Bake at 350 degrees for about 18-20 minutes. 

Remove to a wire rack to cool. 

Chicken Gnocchi Soup

I found this Olive Garden copycat recipe online (  and altered it a little. 

4 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup flour
1 cup whipping cream
3 cups milk 
(If you don't have whipping cream, you could do 4 cups half and half or 4 cups whole milk) 
28 oz of chicken broth
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped spinach
1 cup chopped, cooked rotisserie chicken 
1 16 oz package of gnocchi (I chop it in half before adding it)

Start by melting the butter and oil in a large saucepan. Add the celery and onions and garlic. Let that cook down for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute. 

Whisk in the whipping cream and milk. Simmer that until it thickens. Add the chicken broth. Let it thicken again. Stir in some salt, the thyme, parsley, nutmeg, carrots, spinach, chicken, and gnocchi. The gnocchi will cook pretty quickly. I let it simmer for about 15 minutes before serving. Season with more salt if desired. 

Deep Dish Pizza

I found a recipe for Deep Dish Pizza in a cast iron pan and had to try it. I altered the Taste of Home original a little bit and came up with this...

3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 Tbsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil

1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 jar (about 15 oz) pizza sauce
mozzarella cheese
(any toppings of your choice)

This recipe will make enough for two crusts. You may have to add a little more pizza sauce/diced tomatoes depending on how much sauce you like. 

Start by combining 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal, 1 Tbsp yeast, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt. 
Warm the water and olive oil in the microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes. 
Add the warm water/oil to the dry ingredients. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Add the remaining flour and knead for 6-8 minutes with a stand mixer or your hand. 
Cover the dough in a bowl and place in a warm location and let rise for about 30 minutes. 

Punch the dough down and roll out into two circles. Grease the bottom and sides of your cast iron pan with oil. Place the dough in the bottom of the pan and spread up the sides of the bowl. (I only have one cast iron pan. If you don't want to wait to bake both crusts, you can bake this in a springform pan.) 

Put about 2 cups of mozzarella cheese on top of each crust.

 Mix the diced tomatoes (that have been drained) and pizza sauce. Spread the sauce on top of the cheese. 

Add any toppings of your choice. We add pepperoni and bacon. 

Then sprinkle each pizza with about a cup of mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese if you would like. 

Cover the pan with tin foil and bake in a 450 degree oven for about 30-35 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Trolls Photo Board

 Trolls, the movie, came out today. To celebrate, we made this photo board to do our own Troll's photo shoot. The kids have a blast with these! 

I just free-handed the trolls' bodies and cut out a circle for the faces. Then I painted the bodies with acrylic paint.