Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter Egg Bread



I found this recipe in an old Taste Of Home cookbook and thought I would try it out.  It smells wonderful, filling the whole house with a sweet aroma.  It looks beautiful and the eggs really pop nestled in the dough braids.  It was easy and the only complaint I have, is that I should have made two loaves instead of one large bread. 

It turned out epic-  in size and taste!  Serve this with a sweet jam or real butter.  You will have a wonderful addition to any Easter breakfast or brunch.


Here is what you need:

6 to 6 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 packages yeast
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 Tablespoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm milk
6 Tablespoons cubed butter
4 eggs-  3 for the recipe, 1 for the glaze
3 to 6 dyed hard boiled eggs
2 Tablespoons water

In a large bowl, activate the yeast, milk, seasonings, salt, and sugar. 

Add the butter and 2 cups of flour.  Mix well.

Slowly add the 3 eggs and using the kneading hook, add the rest of the flour.  You want a soft dough ball that is not sticky to the touch.

Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes- or until it doubles in size.

Knead again for a few minutes, cover, and let rise for another 30 - 45 minutes.

Turn out the dough and divide it into thirds.  When I make this again, I will divide it into sixths and make two smaller loaves.

Roll the sections into 24 inch ropes.

Braid them together and fashion them in a circle.  Pinch the ends to seal the edges.

Take your dyed eggs and coat them with vegetable oil.  Separate the braids and insert the eggs.  Tuck them around the bread.

Cover and let rise until doubled.  About 20 to 30 minutes.

Take the remaining egg and beat it with the 2 Tablespoons of water.  Wash it over the dough.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes.  Look for a golden brown and a hollow sound when the crust is tapped.

Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.  Refrigerate the leftovers.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Conscious Box Giveaway

DRUMROLL PLEASE. . . . . . . . .

We have a winner!  Noelle B. (entry 253) is our winner!  Congrats! 

I am excited to announce:

Conscious BoxConscious Box , the monthly subscription service that delivers the purest, most natural products on the planet, right to you doorstep is sponsoring a giveaway for Plain Graces readers!

One lucky reader will win a 3-month Conscious Box subscription!  That's a $59 value!

They are also offering my readers a 25% OFF discount for any Conscious Box subscription. Use code: LOVELIFE






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This is an exciting, fun opportunity to win some incredible prizes (including their Earth Day box!).  This is a giveaway you don't want to miss!

It's easy to enter using Rafflecopter and you can gain multiple entries.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cb65be2/" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway



Let's have fun! 

A Vintage Nebraska Swim


I took this photo last summer with my model sporting a vintage 1920's swimsuit by a local cattle pond in Northeastern Nebraska.  Teddy Kent, our Jack Russell Terrier, also volunteered to appear in the photos from this shoot.  I can't wait for summer to return!

Stunning Jelly Bean Tower Centerpiece


I was telling the children about Jack and the Beanstalk yesterday afternoon and we stumbled upon the subject of magic beans.  The older boys started singing a rhyme and the younger children were talking about climbing enormous bean stalks.  Naturally, all this talk started my mind churning around a fun Easter centerpiece. 

What is more magical than jelly beans?  Sugar, vibrant color, and a wide variety of tastes are only a few of the mystical traits this candy sports.  Harry Potter and President Regan both loved them-  I couldn't go wrong with a bean inspired project.  Could I? 

I thought I would concoct a tower, similar to a bon bon tree, using jelly beans for our Easter dinner table.  I don't know who was more impressed with the finished project-  me or the children!  Their eyes lit up with so much joy and it added a splash of whimsy and color to the table.  It might not be Easter yet, but we are enjoying this stacked magical goodness at every meal.

This is frugal and easy-  no hot glue or complicated templates.  The only requirements are that you can stick a toothpick into styrofoam and have a little patience.  I thought that this would make a fun birthday party centerpiece or a candy land themed party decoration during other times of the year. 

For this simple project, you will need:

jelly beans  (I used about two large bags of Starburst jelly beans, but the amount will ultimately depend on the size of cone you use)

styrofoam cone

leftover Easter grass

boiled eggs

plate

pretty glass or parfait cup





Here is what you do:

Carefully, break a toothpick into thirds and pierce a jelly bean.

Insert the bean onto the cone.  Start at the top and work your way down.  Try to mix and match the colors.

When you reach the bottom, place the decorated cone onto a plate and sprinkle paper grass around the base.  Nestle eggs around the bottom to add a lower layer.

Place the plate on top of an overturned glass to create more height. 

Voila!  You have created an easy centerpiece with little cost and no sweating was involved.

What do you adorn your dinner table with?



Adorable Easter Lilies


Every year during Easter celebrations, I love to have the children craft lilies.  These are remarkably easy and create a nice display that the wee beasties are proud of.  If you need something to keep your little ones' hands busy for a few minutes-  this is the craft for you!

To make this simple Easter craft, you will need the following:

white or pastel colored paper
green paper (optional)
scissors
pencils
green pipe cleaners
colored pipe cleaners (optional)
clear tape


Now that we have everything, let's get crafting!  Here is what you do:

Trace your hand print on one side of the white paper.  I do this so you can fold the paper and get two hand prints at one time.  Lazy, but when you cut for 10 children it saves time!
Cut out the hand prints.  I fold them into halves and cut.

Curl the finger tips back using a pencil for a guide.

Roll the palm of the hand into a cone shape.  Make sure you leave a space big enough for a pipe cleaner to fit through at the base.  Secure with clear tape.  Young children may need some help.

Cut a pipe cleaner in half.  Take a long green pipe cleaner and wrap a small piece at the top.  Curl.  I ran out of green pipe cleaners, but the children didn't mind.  These will be your stems.

Insert your stem into the cone part of the flower.
 
Add long leaves if you desire and spritz with perfume if you want "stinky" lilies.

Here is the finished product!  Display in a vase or give a bouquet to a friend.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Easy Peeping Chick Spring Craft



Are you busy baking and preparing for your Easter celebrations?  I am. 

The children have been begging for a dessert and I finally gave in to their pleas.  How can I resist their puppy dog eyes or the lure of chocolate pudding?  I used several eggs and decided to reuse their shells for craft time. 

We crafted ourselves a flock of hatching chicks!



To make these cute and easy peeping chicks, you will need the following:

cleaned egg shells
paints, dyes, stickers, or markers
cotton ball
orange triangle for a beak
black circles for eyes (I used a hole punch for easy and uniform circles)


Here is what we did:


Wash, rinse, and dry your cracked egg shells.  You can use a bleach wash if desired.


Prop an egg shell up using a pop lid, bottle cap, or similar item.


Paint the shell.  We used q-tips, but you can use paint brushes or dye your eggs.  I have even left them natural.


Take your cotton ball and add an orange triangle for a beak and two black circles for eyes.  In the past I have used colored cotton balls for spring colors, but this year I couldn't find any at the local store.


Gently place your "chick" inside his egg.  Make sure he's peeping out from the cracked shell.

What do you use leftover egg shells for?

Monday, March 25, 2013

No Fail Sugar Cookies



A friend and I were discussing the perils of rolling out sugar cookies.  We both had our share of flops and disappointments when it came to creating these versatile treats.  My beloved Great Grandma's sugar cookie recipe is touchy and depends on humidity, temperature of the kitchen, and chilling time to turn out perfect concoctions.  Conditions need to be just right for them!  So frustrating!

After a lot of disappointments, I finally discovered a simple recipe that I have yet to ruin.

We made these fun little carrot cookies during Lent, but you can use this recipe for any holiday or special day.  I use plastic baggies with the edge cut off to decorate with frosting or melted chocolate.  The children love a surprise when they get off the school bus and these always make a smile appear.

Here is the recipe:

Cream together:
1 cup softened butter
2/3 cup sugar

Beat in:
1 egg

Combine and add:
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (this is optional, but it is an addition from my Great Grandmother's recipe)

Mix ingredients until they are well blended.  Chill dough.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare a lightly floured surface.  With a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut.  Bake on an ungreased sheet for about 8-10 minutes.  I like to watch the edges and when they start to turn golden, remove them.  Let set up for a few minutes before moving them to cool.  Frost them using your favorite frosting or glaze.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Marble Painting


Mother Nature has finally pulled through and provided us with a little snow.  We have been cooped up inside and the children are needing a creative outlet for all their energy.  I went old school and decided to let them roll out some laughs by painting with marbles! 

AND NO!  I didn't lose my "marbles" in this process... 



To create these fun and exciting works of art you will need: 

*old cereal boxes or pop flats (boxes with an open top and a piece of paper fits in)

*washable tempera or acrylic paints

*plain paper

*marbles

 

Here is what you do:

 

Put your paper in the box.  Make sure it is able to lay flat.

 

Add dollops of paint to the edges of the paper.

 

Put a few marbles in the box. 

 

Shake and roll the box back and forth to get the marbles covered in paint.

 

As they roll across the page, they leave trails of color.

 

When you are finished, remove the paper and allow it to dry.



What did you create today?

 

Hot Rods In A Water Bottle



I was hired to write a selected post for Madame Deals' Water Bottle Craft section.  PLEASE go check it out-  this would be a lot of fun for Cub Scouts or a little boy who loves cars!   She has a lot of fun ideas to include in water bottle mailers and they will definitely put a smile on somebody's face.

Here is a link:

http://madamedeals.com/hot-rods-in-a-water-bottle/



Stop by and check out some bottled up fun!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Homemade Chocolate Brownies



I love the soft, thick brownies you can get in the bakery section of our grocery store.  Every bite full of chocolate is something to relish and I have been known to resort to hiding my bounty in the fridge out of the boys' line of sight.  Although I crave them, I dislike paying the outrageous price at the checkout.

Homemade brownies have never passed muster before, until I unearthed an old recipe from a forgotten cookbook.  Now I possess a homemade version that is just as good and a lot cheaper.  I can indulge the whole family and have a little more free space on the top shelf in the old Frigidaire.

What more can a girl ask for?



Here is the recipe:

1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup hot water
1 1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup walnuts

Prepared Favorite Frosting-  (Of course, we prefer chocolate!)



Cream together the shortening, sugar, cocoa, and eggs. 

Add the hot water and mix.

Then add the flour, milk, and vanilla.

Add the walnuts and mix well.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30- 40 minutes.  You will want to keep an eye on them and test for doneness using your fingers or a toothpick.

Remove from the oven.  While warm, frost with your favorite frosting.



Cool and enjoy!



Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Coconut Macaroons



THESE MACAROONS ARE AMAZING! 

I found this easy recipe in my copy of Real Simple magazine last month. I can't get enough of how the crispy coconut and sweet meringue combine into a positively sinful delicacy.  I could eat these by the handful if the boys didn't help themselves and prevent me from devouring a whole batch. 

Today, I made this batch for a bake sale and had to practice self discipline as I kept myself from nibbling on the golden mounds.  To keep my mind (and hands) off the cookies cooling on the table, I just had to share this recipe. 



This is the list of ingredients you will need:




3 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 14 ounce package sweetened shredded coconut (about 5 cups)





Here is how you make these heavenly desserts:

Heat your oven to 325 degrees and line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.  (We ran out, so I substituted with aluminum foil spritzed with cooking spray.  In the past we have used brown paper bags in lieu of parchment, but I couldn't find any in the house today.)



Whisk together the egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk until the sugar is almost dissolved and the mixture is glossy.



Fold in the coconut and stir.

Scoop mounds of the batter onto prepared baking sheets.



Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, but rotate the pans halfway through.

Cool completely and remove them from the paper.



Serve and Enjoy!