Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Easter Cookie Cups



It's that time of year when Spring beckons me outdoors and I lose a lot of interest in baking.  I have had a lot of activities pop-up this week and was surprised with a request for a dessert to take to Church.  I remembered a little recipe idea from the March/April issue of INSPIRED MAGAZINE that my son picked up at the local grocery store. 

The cookie cups are festive and easy to make.  The only problem was that I didn't realize the cups needed to cool before removing them from the pan.  That added a little extra prep time, but overall these treats were simple and delicious.

The children all nodded their approval through frosted mouthfuls.  That seals the deal for me! 




To make these treats you will need:
  • 1 pouch Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 container Betty Crocker whipped vanilla frosting (I used a can of cream cheese icing)
  • a bag of Easter or small candies
Follow these easy directions to create your own Easter delights:

1.  Heat oven to 375 degrees.  In large bowl, stir cookie mix, softened butter, and egg until soft dough forms.  I added a little nutmeg for spice, but that is not included in the original recipe.  Shape dough into small balls; place in ungreased mini muffin cups.

2.  Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are light golden brown.  Immediately, press an indention into each with the end of a spoon.  I used my fingers, but beware that it might burn a little.  Cool completely in pan, about 30 minutes.  Remove from the pan.

3.  Spoon frosting or pipe into the cookie shells.  Decorate the cookies with candies!



I am going to use these for other holidays or special occasions.  What do you think about graduations or school functions where you use m&m's in the school colors?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

KA-BLOOM!


Today is the first day of Spring!  CELEBRATE!

We have been anticipating this day since the Christmas garlands and bulbs were packed away.  A few snowflakes here and there were a delight, but the bitter cold seemed determined to stay and refused to go away.  Freezing was the only word to describe our weather in this part of Nebraska.

The children and I have been cooped up way too much and we have been counting down the days until it was officially Spring.  To embrace the change of seasons and express our gratitude for warmer days, we crafted with flower blooms.  It brings new meaning to the phrase "Flower Power". 



"Ka-Bloom Into Spring" was our mantra as we sifted through discarded artificial flowers and dotted our glue.  The children enjoyed this simple craft.  It brightened our day and cheered everyone up!

To make this fun craft, rummage through old artificial flowers or ask at a store if you can collect bits and pieces of flowers that fall in the aisle.  This technique works really well around Memorial Day when the stores are stuffed with flower arrangements.  I save them the effort of cleaning up and collect neat blooms to use for decorations or crafts. 



What are you doing to celebrate Spring?

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Ultimate Snack Mix


Are you craving something sweet and divine? 

Do you love a steamy churro? 

Then this is the snack for you!

I am in heaven-  the house smells deliciously good.  We just whipped up this simple treat to celebrate Friday and to munch on while we watch the Olympics later today.  I originally saw this idea posted on Pinterest, but I couldn't remember if I pinned it.  So, I turned to Google and stumbled on the recipe over at She Knows' Food & Recipes .  I am glad I took the author's suggestion and doubled the amount.

The kids and I can't get enough!  It's hard to sit and type up this post, because I want another nibble.  All I can think of is warm cinnamon and sugar ...  oh my! 

So, without much ado, here is the recipe (which I doubled):
  • 1 cup cinnamon chips (I found these next to the chocolate chips and make sure you read the package carefully if you are looking for gluten free recipes.)
  • 9 cups Rice or Corn Chex Cereal
  • 1/4 butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon
Here is how you whip up this easy snack:
  • In a microwave safe dish, melt the cinnamon chips and butter.  Stir as needed.  It takes about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Carefully, stir in the cereal and coat with the melted cinnamon.  It smells delicious!

  • In a paper bag, mix the sugars and cinnamon.

  • Add the coated cereal, seal the bag, and shake.  SHAKE! 
  • After the cereal is coated evenly, let the snack mix set up and then seal in an airtight container.
  • Mmmm!
 
 
What did you make today?


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Light The Olympic Fire!


It has been cold and the children are getting a little stir crazy.  Tonight is the first night of the 2014 Olympics, so I thought we needed to embrace this global event and make the most of a frigid morning.  Plus, it is a lot more fun than breaking up a brawl over Twilight Sparkle (a beloved My Little Pony).

I am running low on supplies and need to make a trip to town, so this is a simple craft you can make from a variety of materials just sitting around the house.  Use what you have!  Tissue papers, streamers, cardboard tubes, paper cups, and more are just a few ideas to get you started.  Get creative and design your own Olympic Torches! 

Here is a list of items we used:
  • white paper to roll into a cone
  • red and yellow construction paper
  • tape
  • red and blue markers
  • scissors
To make a simple torch, follow these directions:
  • Color the white paper.  We used red and blue for the USA!  The kids loved it and we had a great discussion about our flag and country.
  • Roll the paper into a cone and tape securely.
  • Cut the pointed bit off into a rounded edge.
  • Using the red and yellow paper, cut out "flames".
  • Attach the flames inside the top of the cone using tape.  We had to use a generous amount of the sticky pieces, because the zealous children kept dropping them around the living room.
  • Voila!  You now have a torch to hold as you watch the Olympics!

During activity time, I did include a few YouTube blips of people running with Olympic torches and a few video montages of the ceremonies from London and China.  Showing the clips cinched the deal and now my house is full of little Olympians carrying torches.  I know tonight there will be a few preschoolers sitting in their farmhouses cheering for Team USA on the other side of the world!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It's A Scare!


This is my Wordless Wednesday post-  I think it is self explanatory, BUT ...

I recently went to the grocery store and grabbed a few items to tide us over-  just in case the mercury dropped and the weather turned brutal.  I was in a hurry and grabbed essentials as I raced up and down the aisles.  I wasn't paying too much attention, but I noticed something strange when I went to make dinner.  I don't know if I would have bought this package of hamburger if I would have read the price tag ...

Do you see it? 

Are you leery of those numbers?  Are you superstitious?  Would you have bought it?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sweet! ... Corn That Is!


Nebraskans love their corn. 

Every July is met with anticipation of picking the "first" sweet corn and savoring the crisp kernels buttered and salted.  It is seriously a topic of conversation among tables and cafes around this area. 

The first batch or two is a delight to husk and cook.  People boil the ears or grill them over coals.  Honestly, I can go on an on about ways to serve this grain up.  I would start to sound like Bubba from the movie Forrest Gump-  although, I would be talking about corn.  On a good year, sweet corn is plentiful and delectable.

Somehow, after the first few meals or ten, we decide it is time to start "putting it up" for the winter. 

That begins the cruel process of picking, husking, boiling, scraping, bagging, and freezing the yellow harvest.

We battle mosquitoes, mud, and the humid 100 degree temps to twist ear after ear off the stalks.  We have a narrow window of opportunity to get the corn when it is just right.  You need to wait until the silks have turned brown and the kernels are filled out-  but you need to harvest before the corn dents and begins to dry.  There is nothing worse than tough corn.

This summer a friend was gracious and allowed us to glean her sweet corn patch.  I lost count of how many bags or boxes of corn we picked.  It was a beautiful patch, loaded with sweet bi-color corn.  Many Nebraskans dream about a bumper crop like this!

After I lugged home our bounty, the realization of "putting up" all this corn sunk in. 

So...

I tackled it head on.  I assigned the boys the wonderful task of shucking the ears while I blanched ear after ear.  Then I scraped all the kernels off each cob.  I burned my fingers and heated the house to an unbearable temperature, BUT it was all worth the effort.  Nothing beats frozen sweet corn during a January blizzard or "polar vortex". 

Tonight we dined on the glorious summer treat.  Here is a new method the older Sisters down the road told me about.  I tried their ideas out this summer when my fingers were rigid from cutting kernels and my back hurt from standing.  I was about to throw in the towel, but I thought it would be worth a try.

Here is how I froze "corn on the cob" the Sister's style:

Take your ears of corn and husk all the layers, except one! 

With a sharp knife cut the ends of each ear off.

Wrap individually in plastic wrap.  I deviated here and placed them in freezer bags in batches that would feed my family.

Freeze!

When you are ready to cook them, bring a pot of water to a full boil.

Pull the husks off the corn and twist your hands around them under running water for a bit to loosen the silks.

IMMEDIATELY, place them in the boiling water and let cook to your taste preference.  I cooked ours for about 20-30 minutes, but I was also waiting for the oldest to get home from practice.

Butter and salt!!  Your ears might not be as crisp as fresh corn on the cob, but it is still a treat in the middle of January when the temperature is 20 below zero.


Do you have a fun way to freeze sweet corn?






 




Sweet c 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

9 Ways to Stretch Your Propane



Yikes! 

Have you heard the news about the propane shortage?  Here in Nebraska, we have cold winters and in our little slice of the "Good Life" we rely heavily on propane for heating our homes.

We live in a very small town with no natural gas company-  that leaves my neighbors and family to rely on electricity, wood or corn burners, or propane to heat their homes.  You can imagine the panic yesterday when I heard that propane had jumped to over $5 a gallon! 

That is almost triple of what we paid in the Fall.  TRIPLE! 

I immediately ran outside to check the levels of our propane tank.  Then I was faced with a decision-  do I call and get a minimum fill (100 gallons and $5.05) or do I wait and see what happens.  I decided to hold off, praying that the propane shortage will ease in a few weeks.

I know that there has been an increase in the demand-  even this fall propane was in short supply due to the farmers drying corn.  I am hoping that this is a short lived event and the price is being driven higher by people panicking.  As I am writing this, believe me, I am crossing my fingers for luck. 

I know that many people cannot afford an extra $800-$1,000 heating bill this month or for the unforeseen future.  So here are a few ideas to implement and try to help stretch the remaining propane in your tank:



  • Turn down the thermostat.  Sounds simple, but it will be hard to keep the thermostat at 60 degrees when Mature Nature decides to freeze us out with -30 degrees below zero winds.  The main idea is to keep the house warm enough so the pipes don't freeze and cost you even more in the long run.

  • Supplement with infrared heaters.  We have several of the infrared heaters and they keep the rooms very comfortable.  I do want to urge caution on the use of space heaters and remind everyone about the dangers they pose.  This will increase your electric bill, but hopefully it will be cheaper than a propane fill.

  • Change your furnace filters.  I don't know if this will save you a lot of money in the long run, but it can't hurt.  Filters are supposed to be changed regularly and allow your furnace to run more efficiently.  Right now, every bit counts.

  • Shut off the hot water heater.  If your water heater uses propane to warm the water, shut it off at the fuse box.  About thirty minutes before you anticipate showers or laundry, turn it back on and let it warm up.  When you are finished or have a tank of warm water, shut it down so it is not kicking on throughout the day.  Our water heater will keep water warm for several hours during power outages.

  • If you use your oven, leave the door open afterwards.  You paid for the heat, you might as well use it! 

  • Slow cook it.  Our stove and oven run off of propane-  so I will be relying more on the trusty crock pot.  Crock pots are very economical to use compared to a standard oven.  Plus, I can throw in dinner at breakfast and forget about it until supper.  It doesn't get any easier in my book!

  • Insulate windows and electrical outlets.  It might cost you a few dollars now, but hopefully it will help you keep that precious heat inside!

  • Boil water or use a humidifier to put a little moisture in the air.  The humidity will make your house feel warmer.

  • Use electric blankets to keep warm at night.  Your electric bill will probably go up, but you might be able to get a good night's sleep if your teeth aren't chattering from the cold.
Do you have any tips or ideas?  Please comment and share them-  I know we can all use a little help this winter to stretch our propane.