Monday, August 30, 2010

D is for Doughnuts

Yeah, I didn't make doughnuts last week.  I was tempted to try Pioneer Woman's recipe for homemade glazed doughnuts, but the week just ended up too busy. Another time, another time.

So yes, the letter of the week was D.  We Delivered Doughnuts to the D____ family after Corban's soccer practice on Saturday morning.  I had asked them if we could drop by with a surprise, but they had no idea what was coming.  The kids, Eliana and Reuben (almost 4) and Joha (2.5) were quite thrilled not only to get some sweet treats but also to get some time with my kids.  It was a fun little outing.  And my kids didn't mind that I bought us a couple of doughnuts to share as well.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gordon Cake

When Corban turned 4, he wanted another train cake, this time the engine Gordon (the biggest and strongest engine in the Thomas series).  Well, at this point I had a new 4 year old, an almost 2 year old, and a 6 week old.  I just wasn't up to making a BIGGER version of this cake

So I went simpler, much simpler.

I just baked two 13 x 9" cakes, put them side by side on the board, and frosted with white buttercream.  I added a blue sky with white fluffy clouds, a bunch of colored sprinkles and icing flowers and bushes, and a track made from melted chocolate, laid on top of graham cracker crumbs.  I also made the fence from melted chocolate, just piped onto wax paper and frozen until solid.  I stuck his actual Gordon engine on top for the finishing touch. 

It didn't take long, it was cute enough to make a four-year old happy, and that was all that mattered. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cheesy Beef and Rice

This isn't a gourmet meal or even remotely fancy, but it's simple and comforting and really quite good.  I used ground turkey and since I only had a couple of tablespoons of sour cream, I used some plain yogurt in there as well. It sounds a little weird, but nice things happen in the oven.  The key is to add enough salt.  I tasted it before baking (you can do that, everything is already cooked!) and it was definitely not what I was expecting.....but when I added some more salt, it went from ho-hum to very tasty.  The melted cheese on top was the final kicker.  The kids and I ate most of this in two dinners while Grant was out of if I'm going to make it while he's home and want leftovers, I'll up the proportions a bit.   

Apparently this makes a great freezer meal....I haven't tried it yet, but I'm including the directions below.
Recipe: from Heavenly Homemakers
1 cup long grain brown rice
1 lb ground beef or turkey
3 T. minced onion, or fresh chopped onion
1/2 t. garlic powder
sea salt, to taste
1 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1/3 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese - I use white cheddar - trying to avoid those food colorings!
Boil two cups of water. Stir in rice. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Brown ground beef with onion and garlic powder. Mix with rice and salt well. Stir in sour cream and milk. Spread into a casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese on top. (If not baking immediately, cover well and freeze.)
Bake at 350° for 20-30 minutes, until bubbly and cheese is melted.
To bake from frozen: Thaw casserole on counter all day. Bake as directed above.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thomas the Tank Engine Cake

When Corban turned 3, he was obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. I got inspiration for this cake from here. It was quite a process....I made a trial engine a week before to make sure I could do it!

What you need:

2 cake mixes, whatever flavor you want
ingredients to make mixes as directed on box
Buttercream frosting - I can't remember, but I think I made 10 cups or so
White chocolate
Black, blue, yellow, red, and green food coloring - actually, I used red piping gel instead of the food coloring, do as you want.
Desired candies for the train cars
1 large marshmallow
thin wooden dowels

I prepared cake mixes as directed on the box, making one of them in 2 loaf pans and the other one in 2 loaf pans and 1 (14.5 oz) vegetable can (very well greased). Fill the can a little more than half way and place upright on a cookie sheet (for possible spills) to bake. I can't remember how long I baked the can.....I just watched it and took it out when a toothpick came out clean. (sorry to not be more specific than's been 4 years!)

After all the cakes had cooled, I placed 3 loaf cakes in a row on top of oreos on the cake board to elevate them a little. The 4th loaf cake I cut in half width-wise and stacked one half on top of the other to make the cab part of the engine. The can-shaped cake was the front part of the engine. I had to trim it to fit. I put some cake scraps on the sides of the can part back near the cab to (part of where the red piping is) to copy the actual train. I held things together with dowels and toothpicks where necessary.

I frosted to look just like the train - as well as I could.
*For the engine wheels, I tinted white chocolate candy coating blue and dipped oreos in to cover.  I "glued" them to the train with frosting and added a blue M&M to each one for added detail.
*The smokestack is a large marshmallow, covered with black frosting and held on top with a toothpick. 
*For the face, I drew it on there with a toothpick and black food coloring.
*The cars I just hollowed out a little bit of the middle, frosted with different colors, and filled with chocolate covered raisins and M&Ms.  That was the easy part!

That cake took me the better part of a day, and I could barely stand the thought of actually cutting Thomas!  For the party, the kids all wanted parts of the candy-filled cars we ended up saving most of Thomas and freezing it....we ate it several months later!

Corban could not have been happier with his cake - and his friends were pretty thrilled too.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"C" is for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

In continuation of our alphabet service projects, this week we made Chocolate Crinkle Cookies to take to our friends Carl and Charlotte (and the mom of the family, Shannon).  These cookies are so fudgy and sweet with the dusting of powdered sugar, and the use of coconut oil (which is not necessary, of course, you could use just canola oil) added just a twinge of coconut flavor that I thought was wonderful.
The only challenging part is that you can't just bake up a batch in an hour, because the dough requires chilling time.  But if you plan ahead, they're quite easy and fun to make with the kids. 

Recipe:  adapted from One Lovely Life

3/4 cup oil (I used coconut oil)
3/4 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
2 cups flour
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

Mix oil, cocoa, and sugar until it's the consistency of wet sand.  Add in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each.  Stir in vanilla, salt, and baking powder.  Sift in flour and stir to combine.

Cover and chill for at least 2 hours!

Form into 1" balls and roll in powdered sugar.  Place on baking sheets covered with parchment paper.

Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes - I found 8 minutes was best in my oven.

Cookies may still look slightly doughy - don't overbake!  When the cookies are set enough to move, transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 4.5-5 dozen

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"B" is for Brownie Bites

In honor of our letter of the week being "B", we baked Brownie Bites to bring to Beth B., the secretary at our church. The girls had a blast helping me make them, and delivering them was even more fun!  The kids had never been inside the church office before and were excited to meet some of the office staff.  As we were leaving, Annika said of the secretary, who herself is a grandma, "She  was a really nice girl!"

So about the actual Brownie Bites - they were quite delicious - fudgy and very chocolaty and just delightful to pop in your mouth.  I think this recipe would be equally good just made in a 13 x 9" pan. 

Recipe: (adapted from Crepes of Wrath)

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (I used Nestle chocolate chips)
4 eggs, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark or light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 T. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

Line and spray with non-stick spray two 24-cup mini-muffin tins (I recommend using muffin cups/liners), as well as one regular 6 muffin tin.

Preheat your oven to 350° F. In top of a double boiler set over barely simmering water, or in a microwave, melt butter and chocolate together, stirring frequently. Set aside.

In a large bowl or mixer, whisk together the eggs. Whisk in the salt, sugars and vanilla. Whisk in chocolate mixture, then fold in flour just until combined, by hand if necessary.
Pour the batter into your prepared pans. Bake mini-bites for 12-15 minutes or until shiny and the brownies don’t wiggle in the pan when you shake it a bit. Bake regular muffin size for 15-18 minutes.  Cool completely before removing from the tins. Makes 48 brownie bites and 6 cupcake-sized brownies.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Elephant Cake

Birthday season is fast approaching in our house.....Annika turns 3 in September, Corban and Marissa turn 7 and 5 in October, and Ellia will turn 1 in November.

Since I love to make birthday cakes designed with each child's current interests in mind, the wheels are turning fast and furious as I plan for the coming celebrations.

In honor of that, I thought I'd feature a few more of the cakes I have made over the years, most before my blogging days.

This Elephant Cake is the first decorated one I ever made, and it was for Corban's 2nd birthday. I was just a week away from delivering Marissa at the time!

I got the recipe and design from an older issue of Taste of Home.....I can't remember which one, but it must have been from 2002 sometime. I didn't take pictures of the process.....but basically I made two 13 x 9" cakes (from mixes).
One cake was the body, the other cake was used to carve the ear, trunk, feet, and tail. Then I made a huge batch of buttercream frosting, tinted mostly a bluish gray, with a tiny section black and a tiny section left white.
I gave a light coat of frosting to the whole thing and then just piped stars over the rest of it. Since it was my first time and I really had no idea what I was doing, I think it took me like 3-4 hours. My hand was so exhausted!
I was using the Pampered Chef tool for piping, which is okay, but now I really prefer using Wilton bags and tips.

Alongside, I made peanut butter cookies shaped like peanuts......cute extra touch. I did make sure that none of the guests had peanut allergies before making them!

Corban was THRILLED with his cake....and I was very pleased at how well it turned out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chicken Salad

I love all kinds of chicken salad - this one was just a mixture of a few ideas from other recipes and based on what I had on hand. It was delicious tucked inside crescent rolls and baked for 11-13 minutes @ 375°, but I didn't get a photo of when I ate leftovers as a sandwich the next day, I snapped a few. It's delicious cold too.


1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper, or other herb seasoning
1/4 green bell pepper, diced
1 green onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup sour cream (reduced fat is fine)
1/4 cup mayonnaise (reduced fat is fine)

Preheat oven to 350°. Season chicken breasts as desired (I used Garlic and Wine seasoning from the Melting Pot Restaurant - it's wonderful!) and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until done. Cool and cut into small chunks. Add all other ingredients and combine well. Add additional salt and/or pepper if needed. Chill until serving.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mexican Casserole

My mom used to make this when I was growing up - when I was preparing to move out and copying down some of my favorite recipes of hers, this was on the list. It's easy, tasty, always a crowd pleaser. Not authentically Mexican, to be sure, but since that's what we always called it, I can't change the name now or I'd never know what I was talking about.


1-1/2 lb. ground turkey or beef
1 onion, chopped
garlic salt, to taste
1 can cream of chicken soup (or homemade)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (or homemade)
4 oz can chopped green chilies
4 oz taco sauce or salsa
8-10 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
large bag tortilla chips

Brown meat with onion and garlic salt until done; drain if needed.
In a separate bowl, mix together soups, chilies, and taco sauce.
Preheat oven to 350°.
In a 13 x 9" pan, put down a layer of tortilla chips, half of the meat, half of the sauce, and half of the cheese. Repeat layers. Top with tortilla chips and bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

"A" is for Apple Nut Muffins

We just started school this week! I love homeschooling....for lots of of which is the flexibility to do school or take off whenever it works best for us. I'm contemplating doing more of a year-round school schedule from now on, as we've discovered that the summer months here are just too hot and humid to get out and do much and we're inside most of the time anyways. It's during the spring and fall that the weather is gorgeous and the playgrounds and parks are calling to us, not to mention that's when the grandparents like to visit. In anticipation of my parents and younger brother visiting around Labor Day, I started up our new year at the beginning of August, so we'll have five weeks under our belts before a two week vacation!

This year I'm doing some preschool activities with Annika (almost 3) as she is determined to do school with Corban (2nd) and Marissa (K).

I had already bought some materials for her when one of my favorite bloggers, Laura at Heavenly Homemakers, announced the release of a preschool curriculum she had been working on for a couple of years. It sounded wonderful, and I particularly liked her idea of adding on to the "Letter a Week" concept with doing a service project each week that began with that letter FOR somebody who's name begins with the same letter. I thought that would be easy to incorporate into our activities each week and would be good for all the kids, not just Annika.

Obviously, our letter this first week was "A". Our project was pretty easy to pick....we made Apple Nut Muffins for a friend across the street, Anna (and her family). The kids suggested mailing some to my sister, their Aunt Anna....but I assured them the muffins would be less than desirable when she would receive them. (You're Welcome, Anna!)

The recipe makes a large batch so we got to enjoy some as well. They're really like a little coffee cake in a muffin shape. We all liked them a lot....and I think next time I'll substitute some applesauce for some of the butter for a lower-fat option.

Recipe: (from Taste of Home)

2 T. butter
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/8 - 1/4 t. ground nutmeg
2 cups diced peeled apples
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)

3/4 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1-1/2 t. vanilla extract
3-1/2 cups flour (I used white whole wheat)
1-1/2 t. baking powder
1-1/2 t. baking soda
3/4 t. salt
1-1/2 cups (12 oz) sour cream

In a saucepan, melt butter. Stir in the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg until smooth. Add the apples; cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat; stir in nuts. Cool.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with the sour cream.
Preheat oven to 350°.

Fill greased muffin cups 1/2 full. Spoon a rounded teaspoonful of apple mixture into the center of each (do not spread). Top with remaining batter. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Yield: 2 dozen regular muffins or 1 dozen jumbo muffins
Spoon greased muffin cups

Friday, August 6, 2010

My Girls

It's fun to re-use cute outfits on all my girls....and then to look back at the pictures of them and compare how they look alike and different.

Check out the following.....each of my girls at about 8-9 months old.




Ellia again

Funny....I hadn't realized that Ellia's hair is shorter than the others' at this age.

Chicken Alfredo

My friend Christen introduced us to this recipe a couple of years ago, when her family had ours over for dinner. I loved it and had to have the recipe. Later, when I was pregnant with Ellia and in the throes of morning (all day) sickness, Christen brought over a big pan of it to help us out, as I couldn't cook to save my life.

I'm telling you what, for one reason or another, this was the one dish that I craved. After the initial dinner that the family shared, I claimed all the leftovers for my own and ate them every day for lunch for about 4 days. It was completely unexplainable, but I just HAD to have this dish. I nearly cried when I finished the last of it. No kidding.

When my mom came to help out for 3 weeks, she made it for me also......and again I ate it for days.

Now here's a kind of funny thing. Neither Grant or I like mushrooms the first time I made this, I left them out. We both regretted it. We had no idea why, but we missed the mushrooms. They add some dimension of flavor in there that just makes the recipe extra special.

Note: Original recipe called for browning the chicken breasts in oil first - I eliminated this step to save time and didn't notice a difference in the end result.

Another note: I have made this substituting evaporated milk for the cream to make it a bit lower in fat....and it worked out just fine. But the cream way is undeniably better.

One more note: The sauce seems to kind of disappear by the time the pasta is done - but don't worry, the flavors are all there enveloped in the pasta and it is so delicious!


3-4 chicken breasts (1.5 lbs)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
28 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 T dried basil, OR 6 T. fresh basil, chopped (I used fresh from my garden!)
2 t. salt
1 cup heavy cream (or evaporated milk)
4 egg yolks
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
13.25 oz whole wheat linguine (or fettuccine)
8 oz fresh mushrooms, washed and chopped

Put chicken, onions, garlic, tomatoes, basil, and salt in the crockpot. Cook on low for 4-5 hours.
Remove chicken and shred.
Whisk together egg yolks, cream, and Parmesan cheese. Add to crockpot and stir to combine. Put chicken back in and cook on high for 30 minutes.
Cook pasta in salted, boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Drain and add to crockpot with mushrooms. Stir well and cook on high for another 30-60 minutes, or until linguine and mushrooms are tender. Add a little milk if it looks too dry.

Garnish with basil and Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blogging ABCs

This is kind of fun....I learned a bit about the sites I visit often.....maybe some of them will be of interest to you as well!

Here's the deal: just open a new browser window or tab and hit your "a" key to see what site your browser thinks you're going to visit. - One of my favorite places to find recipes - I especially like the "ingredient" search.

B- - Absolutely amazing creativity - I wish I had inspiration like she does!

C - - Where I've found nearly every fun birthday cake I've made for my kids. I can spend hours browsing their cakes. Some are just phenomenal.

D- - Grant looked up some video game questions - I have nothing to do with this site.

E- - Yes, I love to snag a win at the last second. I have to watch it, or I'll get seriously addicted to the game of bidding.

F -facebook - The greatest time-sucker ever invented.

G -

I - - I love her blog! It's one of the first ones I ever read...I think I've kept up with her for about 4 years now.

J - Knives are cool. Actually, I think my father-in-law was the one looking up knives when he was here..... we do own mostly J.A.Henckels knives, with a couple of Wusthofs thrown in there.


L - - Corban's preferred site for games.

M - - Pretty cool way to organize getting meals to someone in need.

N -

O- - nice blog.

P - - The kids like some of the games (Curious George mostly)

Q - - Just happened to visit this site a few days ago, looking at local restaurants. Never been there.....

R - - hmmm.....I like my blog!

S - - More learning activities for the kiddos, this one is a favorite of Marissa's.

T - - I love looking at food....and I've had better luck getting photos published on tastespotting than on foodgawker, percentage-wise. I actually still look at foodgawker more, but it can't compare to facebook. :)

U - - Our bank - love them. Best customer service anywhere.

V - - Bills, bills, bills.....

W - - Guilty as charged....I play on webkinz more than my kids do. Not that it's very often.....but I do love me some token balloon darts!

X - - no idea. Grant said he's never checked there, neither have I.

Y - - Another potential time-sucker - but I learned how to pipe roses for a cake I made recently from videos on youtube. And I learned how to use my homemade "Moby Wrap". And I love to watch videos of Improv Everywhere....have you ever seen them? Hysterical.

Z - nothing.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Baked Oatmeal

We try to eat a healthy breakfast every day. We usually eat whole wheat pancakes once or twice a week (I make a big batch for leftovers), we have scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and toast on Sundays, homemade oatmeal with fruit twice a week, and cereal (Kashi Go Lean) the other days.

Sometimes I like to shake things up a bit and make a pan of baked oatmeal for the kids and me.

I know, living on the wild side, what can I say?

One dish of this lasts us for two breakfasts. We all really like this version, made with raisins and brown sugar, and walnuts on my part.


3 cups regular oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup coconut oil (or butter), melted
2 eggs (or 4 egg whites)
2 cups milk
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Optional Add-Ins: raisins, dried cranberries, blueberries, apples, bananas, chopped nuts, etc
Optional Toppings: milk, whipped cream, extra brown sugar, yogurt, etc

Preheat oven to 375˚F.
Butter a 13×9-inch pan. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together. Pour into the buttered pan and bake for 25 minutes.
Serve hot with optional toppings.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...