Saturday, December 15, 2012

World's Best Hot Cocoa MIx

Growing up, I never had anything but the Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa packets.  I always wanted to get the ones with the mini marshmallows in it even though by the time I got my cocoa mixed up they had almost melted away.  So, when I tasted my mother-in-law's deliciously-creamy cocoa, I had to have the recipe for the mix!

My kids often request this after they come in from playing outdoors.  Put it in a cute container or bag, and it makes a great Christmas gift!  I packaged mine up with some homemade peppermint marshmallows this year!

I have recently updated this recipe with homemade versions of the powdered Nesquik and creamer.  My kids and I like it even better than the original--it's cheaper, too!

World's Best Hot Cocoa Mix (adapted from Gloria Woodmancy's recipe in Sharon Springs United Methodist Cookbook)

1 (2.54 pound) canister Nesquik chocolate powder  (Use this recipe for homemade.  I think it took about a quadruple batch to equal 2 1/2 pounds--just use your kitchen scale!)
11 - 12 cups powdered milk
11 ounces creamer  (I have used a double recipe of this homemade creamer with great success!)
2 cups powdered sugar

Place ingredients in a large bowl (I use my huge Tupperware one) and mix well.  To serve, stir 1/3 cup mix into 8 ounces hot water.  If you use the homemade ingredients, use slightly less than 1/3 cup.

Looking for other mixes to give as gifts?  Try these great recipes:

Double Fudge Brownie Mix
Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
Spiral Soup Mix
French Vanilla Coffee Mix
Perfect Pancake Mix
Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mother-daughter Journal

I found this project on Pinterest and thought it would be a fun way to connect with Maddie.  She is the type of girl that loves gifts and secrets.  I hid it on top of her pillow the other day.  I wrote that we could leave little messages to one another and then hide it somewhere for the other to find.  I'm still waiting for it to turn up somewhere.  I asked her to use her cursive when she writes, so it will be handwriting practice for her as well!

You can download the cute labels (they have one for boys, too) here.  I decorated it by covering the outside entirely with scrapbook paper.  There's a great tutorial for doing this here.  I hadn't thought to use washi tape on the binding--I may have to see if I have any that matches. There are many possibilities for making this cute little journal, but the important thing is just to have something special between you and your daughter.

Here's another fun journal-decorating idea:  Fabric-covered Prayer Journal
Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Better-Than-Anything Pumpkin Cake

I found this recipe online the other day and decided to give it a try.  It got rave reviews from my kids.  I would say that if you are one of those people that can sometimes find desserts to be "too rich," this may not be the recipe for you.  For everyone else, please read on!

Better-Than-Anything Pumpkin Cake (Adapted from Betty Crocker)

1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice


1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 jar (12 oz.) hot fudge topping
1 container (8 oz.) Cool Whip
Heath English Toffee Bits

Heat oven to 350 degrees (325 for dark or nonstick pan).  Spray bottom only of 9 by 13 inch pan.  In large bowl, beat cake mix, pumpkin, water, oil, eggs and pumpkin pie spice with electric mixer on low speed until moistened, then on medium speed 2 minutes. Pour into pan. Bake 26 to 33 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center.  

Immediately poke cake every inch with handle of wooden spoon halfway into cake. Drizzle condensed milk evenly over top of cake; let stand until milk has been absorbed into cake, about 5 minutes.      

Microwave fudge in jar as per directions on label.  Spoon and spread over cake, pressing slightly into holes. Run knife around sides of pan to loosen cake. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours or until chilled. 

Spread Cool Whip over the top of the cake and sprinkle with Toffee Bits.  Store covered in the refrigerator.                          

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Kopykat Krispy Kreme Donuts

This post is not going to provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to make donuts.  Rather, it's a celebration that the kids and I made them, and it was a big success.  I'll try to provide a few helpful hints, though.

I had told the kids that if they did really well during school, we would take a Friday morning and make donuts together.  The kids were fascinated at the idea.  Well, a couple of weeks ago, I decided that we were going to do it.

I found the recipe here on Pinterest,  During the week, I read through the recipe several times.  I was a little nervous because I had never made donuts before,  I wanted it to be a fun project with the kids instead of getting too long and tedious.  Also, I don't own a deep fat fryer.

I was able to get up early to mix the dough.  I added about a cup extra of flour because the dough seemed so sticky.  We were able to get breakfast eaten while the dough rose the first time. 

The dough rolled out fairly easily, and the kids had a great time cutting out the donuts.  We used the second rising time to clean up the kitchen, heat oil, and make the glazes.

I ended up using a large saucepan on the stovetop to fry the donuts.  I used a candy thermometer to keep track of temperature.  This was a little tricky, and I did end up getting one batch too done.  Nonetheless, I am not going to go buy a deep fat fryer to use for the once-a-year donut-making party at our house,

We made a batch and a half of the creamy glaze recipe (link above).  We poured a third of the glaze (one half batch) into a second bowl and added about one-half cup of melted semi-sweet chocolate chips.  We dipped all the donuts in the plain glaze.  I frosted around half of the donuts with the chocolate glaze.  Of course, the kids had to add lots of sprinkles!

I had prayed that the donut project would go smoothly, and God answered my prayers.  Even though Grant would not lay down for a nap and spent most of the morning in the front pack, the donuts worked out great.  The only comment my husband made was that I should have made them all chocolate.

The day was a fun memory for me and, hopefully, my kids.  For that I am very thankful! 

Chocolate Caramel Ritz Stackers

We typically do our school work on Monday through Thursday.  Often, my Friday is spent trying to catch up on the mess from the week instead of spending time with my kids.  Also, we took a couple of weeks off at the beginning of September for a much-needed vacation to Lake City, CO.  As a result, we have been doing some school on Friday to make of for lost time.  Talk about "all work and no play"! 

I decided that I wanted to some enjoyable things with my kids instead of always slogging away on schoolwork or telling them to go play while I got something done.  Thus, "Fun-Day Fridays" were born.  We take some time on the occasional Friday to do neat activities together.  On our first Fun Day Friday, we made these tasty treats.

I found the recipe from Something Swanky on Pinterest.  I thought that the kids would really like them.  We made them in the microwave instead of the oven.

Simply place Ritz crackers on a paper plate.  Top with a Rolo (we used two Mini Rolos.)  Microwave about 20 seconds or until Rolos are soft.  Top with second Ritz cracker.  The kids were excited to have a yummy snack that they could put together themselves! 

Keep this in mind the next time you want something special that doesn't take a lot of time to prepare!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Infant Car Seat Cover

I had seen these cute covers for car seats, so I decided that I wanted to make one for Grant.  Sure, I could have just Googled the promo code and paid for the shipping on one, but I wanted to make it.  After finding a tutorial and reading the instructions several times, I thought, "How hard can it be?"

So, I went to my local quilt shop and picked out some fabric.  The car seat is gray with lime green accents, so I wanted something that would go with it without being too matchy-matchy.  I used a flannel fabric on the outside and a cotton fabric for the lining fabric on the inside.

Turns out, it was fairly easy to make, but it was not what I would call a "quick" project.  It took me quite a while to get the fabric cut and smoothed out before beginning to sew.  Also, I like the extra pop of color that the binding fabric added, but binding the edges did mean spending more time on it.  If I ever make another one, I will simply topstitch around the edge. 

I found the tutorial here.  I thought that the instructions were very easy to follow.  However, if you want to make your straps from the same fabric that your cover is made from, I would recommend buying 1 1/8 yards of each fabric.  Once I cut out the material for the cover from my yard of fabric, I did not have enough left over for the straps.  Luckily, I had plenty of binding material to make my straps from.  Also, I was not thinking when I cut my binding strips.  I just cut straight strips.  With the rounded edges, bias tape would have worked much better. 

With the project, I was able to use my new binding foot on my sewing machine.  With it, you can sew the binding on your project in one step.  I can't wait to try it out on my next pillowcase dress project.

You can find the binding foot here on Amazon.

It was chilly and windy today, so I used the cover when I took Grant to Bible study today.  It worked well, and I am really glad I was able to invest the time to make something for him.

Pumpkin Waffles

With the many pumpkin recipes being featured on Pinterest lately, I have been in quite the mood for all things pumpkin.  So, when my friend Lisa posted on Facebook that her family was having pumpkin waffles, I had to have the recipe!  I modified it slightly to make it somewhat healthier--I substituted some whole wheat flour for some of the white, and I cut the amount of brown sugar called for in half.

I thought it would be fun to cut them into pumpkin shapes to have on Halloween morning.  Here is the recipe:

Pumpkin Waffles

4 eggs
3 1/2 cups milk
1 15 ounce can pumpkin (1 3/4 cups)
3/4 cup oil
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
mini chocolate chips, optional

 Mix wet ingredients.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.  Cook on your waffle iron.  If desired, cut into pumpkin shapes with cookie cutter and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips.  Serve with maple syrup.

Note:  I had a bit of trouble with these wanting to stick to my waffle iron.  I ended up buttering the waffle plates each time I started a new set of waffles.  Next time, I may use some more oil in the batter. 

My kids really enjoyed this one.  I sampled a bit of them (I'm still trying to avoid those carbs!) and they reminded me of pumpkin bread, which I adore.  Hope you enjoy this one, too!

Looking for more great waffle recipes? Check these out, too!

Cinnamon Roll Waffles

Whole Wheat Waffles

Linking up:

Six Sisters Stuff

Or So She Says. . .

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Waffles

I love it when something that looks easy and fun on Pinterest turns out just as I expected!  I found this idea here on Pinterest.  What did I ever do before Pinterest?  I never would have thought to make these on my own!   I bought some canned cinnamon rolls on sale at the local grocery store and determined to surprise the kids with this one morning.

Just bake your rolls on your waffle iron. Mine were done when the light went off. The recipe that I referenced has tips for thinning the icing to make a syrup--I just used the frosting it as it was.

The kids were so excited.  I was happy that it worked--the cinnamon rolls did not stick as I feared they might.  As I have mentioned before, I'm not that much of a morning person, so I love quick ideas for breakfast.  We just had to wait for the waffle iron to heat up.  (My son, Evan, was sad not to be mixing up waffles, though.  He loves to run the hand mixer!) 

All in all, it was a success.  I will be sure to have canned cinnamon rolls available every so often so that we can make these again sometime!

Looking for other quick breakfasts?  Try these!

Whole Wheat Waffles--make up a batch and toast what you need in the morning!

Greek Yogurt Pancakes--only four ingredients makes preparation a snap!

Baked Mini Omelettes--mix these up and take your shower while they are in the oven!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

S'mores Bars

Today, my kids (and several cousins) were invited over to Aunt Rita's to paint pumpkins.  I'll admit, there are not many days when we get paint out at our house, so my kids were giddy with delight just thinking about it.  I was excited that someone else wanted to take the responsibility for providing paint, pumpkins, etc.  So, I volunteered to make snacks (definitely more up my alley)!

I wanted something fun, easy, and kid-yummy.  I have been seeing lots of s'mores recipes on pinterest, so I decided to pull out one of my favorite s'mores variations.  We made these for a camp-themed Vacation Bible School one year, and the recipe has been happily ensconsed in my recipe box since then.  Luckily my kids love to run my mini food processor, so coming up with the graham cracker crumbs is easy for me!

S'mores Bars

3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
4 cups mini marshmallows
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a 9 by 13 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Mix graham cracker crumbs and sugar together.  Add melted butter and mix to combine.  Press into the bottom of prepared pan.  Top with marshmallows and then chocolate chips.  Bake for 10 minutes or until marshmallows are starting to brown.  Cool completely and cut into bars.

Needless to say, these went over well at the Pumpkin Painting Party today.  There were none leftover to bring home!

I also brought sliced apples (soaked in Sprite to prevent browning) and Homemade Caramel Apple Dip.  Don't you just love fall?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ham & Cheese Pockets

We have our fair share of sandwiches for lunch.  And, while my kids are big fans of PB & J, I like to change it up sometimes with something a little different.  This recipe definitely fits the bill.  It's also quick and easy to prepare, which makes me happy, too!

Ham & Cheese Pockets

1 can refrigerated crescent rolls
4 slices American cheese (or any cheese you would like to use.  I have used provolone sometimes and also shredded)
Sliced deli ham

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease an 8 by 8 inch pan with cooking spray. Press half of the crescent roll dough into the bottom of the pan, pinching seams to seal.  Place ham on top of the rolls--I like to rip mine up a bit with my fingers so the kids have an easier time biting into the pockets.  Top with cheese slices and remaining dough.  Bake for 17 - 19 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool slightly before serving. 

For extra cheesy pockets, place a layer of cheese over the dough before you put the ham on.  You can also make these into pizza pockets.  Just use pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and some pepperoni!  One last tip:  you can make this into a 9 by 13 inch recipe by doubling it.

Hope you enjoy this one for a quick and fun weekday lunch!
Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Speedy Italian Chicken

Ever have one of those days where you discover that it's 5:00 PM, and you still have no idea what you will put on the table for supper?  Well, yesterday was one of those days.  I was tired.  I had just brought the kids home from piano lessons, and I did not feel like going online for inspiration.  I mean, I needed to get something in the oven pronto. 

I had previously made a similar recipe to this one in the crockpot.  I thought, "Why can't I adapt it to an oven dish?"  So, here is what I did:

Speedy Italian Chicken

6 - 8 four ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 jar spaghetti sauce
6 - 8 slices provolone cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place chicken breasts in a greased 9 by 13 in pan.  Pour spaghetti sauce over the top.  Place a slice of cheese over each chicken breast.

Bake, uncovered, for about 40 - 45 minutes or until the chicken is done.  I recommend using a meat thermometer to prevent overbaking.  Since I started using one, I have saved so much time and energy because I'm not constantly checking to see if the meat is done. 

Tip: after you empty the jar of spaghetti sauce, place a small amount of water inside. Replace the lid, shake, and pour the remainder of the sauce over the chicken. (I just hate wasting that extra bit, but not enough to go after it with a plastic scraper!)

My kids and husband really liked this one.  I will definitely be making it again, even when I'm not desperate for an idea! 

Cake Mix Blondies

I love desserts that you can throw together quickly but that still taste yummy.  These blondies do the trick.  My daughter, Anna, loves to help me make them.  I suppose it's because she gets to have some of the leftover chocolate chips when we are done mixing them up.

I found the original recipe here on Betty Crocker's website and modified it slightly.

Cake Mix Blondies

1 box yellow cake mix
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons water
1/3 Cup butter, melted
1 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 for dark pan.)  Grease a 9 by 13 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Stir together cake mix, eggs, water, and butter.  Add chocolate chips and stir to combine; spread into prepared pan.  Bake 21 to 26 minutes or until golden brown.
Saturday, October 13, 2012

Greek Yogurt Pancakes

Well, I have lost some weight and have been exercising more regularly.  As a result, I have more energy.  I have been enjoying finding new recipes to try out on my kids for breakfast. 

I found this recipe for Greek Yogurt Pancakes from Everyday Belle on Pinterest.  I was surprised at how light and fluffy they were.  They were so pretty that I had to take a picture.  What's more, the kids loved them.  Also, they made a small batch.  It was just enough to feed the kids so I was not tempted to indulge.  If you are planning to feed a large family, you will probably need to at least triple the recipe.  I used strawberry banana yogurt this time, but I am going to try blueberry the next time around. 

Note: when you first put the batter on the griddle, it does not spread out much, and it looks like you are going to have a really puffy pancake.  However, as it cooks, it spreads out.

Here's a link to the recipe.  Hope you enjoy it, too. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

With this beautiful fall weather, I am loving all things pumpkin right now.  My kids enjoy oatmeal, and I'm always looking for variations on our old standby's.  So, when I found a recipe for Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal, I knew I had to give it a go.

I found the original recipe here.  Since I have no desire or need to follow vegan recipes, I made some modifications to suit our tastes and the ingredients I have on hand.  My recipe fed my four kids with some left over for Mommy, so I would say it makes about three servings.

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

1 1/4 cups quick oats
2 cups milk (I used skim, and it worked great)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar

Whisk ingredients together in a large microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave two minutes.  Stir and microwave 2 minutes more or until desired consistency.

Enjoy the flavors of fall!
Sunday, October 7, 2012

Banana Snacks

Since the weather has turned cooler, I decided it was time to get out my plates with the snowflakes on them!  I just love the colors.  I also felt like being a little creative at today's snack time.  I don't know about you, but there's something about bananas and peanut butter.  Mmm. . . makes me feel happy just thinking about it.  I thought, "What about adding a little crunch to it?"  Here's what I made:

Banana Snacks

Sliced Bananas
Peanut Butter or other nut butter if you prefer
Cheerios, Rice Krispies, or other crunchy cereal

Place about a half cup of each cereal you are going to use in a small bowl.  Spread a small amount of peanut butter on a banana slice and dip into the cereal.

Judging by the fact that my kiddos were gobbling these up as fast as I can assemble them, I think we will have these again soon!  Next time, we might try with Cocoa Krispies. . .

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Shredded Beef Sandwiches

Fall, to me, is the beginning of "slow cooker" season.  With all the fun pins I am seeing on Pinterest, I'm itching to get my crockpot out several times a week.  This recipe is one that my whole family enjoys!  I have adapted it from a Taste of Home recipe.  I like to make a big batch--we use half and then freeze the leftovers for another time.  The taste is slightly different than barbequed beef, and it turns out very moist and delicious.  My kids love them on homemade buns with cheese and pickles.  See here for the recipe I use for the buns.  Instead of making 12 rolls, I make about 10 buns and adjust the baking time a bit longer.  Super quick and easy, too!

Since I have been trying to cut down on my carbs (it's been taking a while to get the baby weight off!), I just ate the beef plain, and it was very satisfying. 

Here's the recipe:

Shredded Beef Sandwiches

1 12 ounce can cola
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons reduced-sodium beef bouillon granules
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 - 4 pound boneless beef rump roast
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup ketchup

Combine first eight incredients in a microwave-safe glass pitcher; set aside.  Cut roast in half.  In a nonstick skillet, brown meat in oil on all sides.  (Sometimes I skip this step to save time.)  Place meat in slow cooker.  Pour half of the cola mixture over meat.  Cover and cook on low for 8 - 10 hours or until meat is tender.  Cover and refrigerate the remaining cola mixture.  When it's done, remove meat from cooking mixture; discard liquid.  Shred meat (see my time-saving tip below!) and return to slow cooker.  Combine ketchup with remaining cola mixture.  Heat in microwave, about 45 seconds at a time, until warm.  Pour over meat and heat through.

I used to not make this very often because I hated shredding the meat.  Then I found a tip online (see here) for shredding chicken in a Kitchenaid mixer.  I thought, "I wonder if that would work for beef?"  Turns out, it does.  Just pop the hot meat into your mixer and let it run for about 10 to 5 seconds.  Note:  I shredded the meat in two increments to avoid spraying meat all over my kitchen!  Don't forget to use the plastic guard over the bowl--it greatly reduces the amount of meat that gets on your counter. 

One last note, when reheating the beef, you may want to add a bit of ketchup.  Otherwise, it does get a little dry!  Hope you enjoy this one as much as my family does!
Saturday, September 15, 2012

Quick and Easy Tortellini Pasta Salad


If you are looking for a little bit of a twist on the traditional pasta salad, well, this is it!  I love how simple this is because you are starting with a kit, and the dressing that is supplied with it is scrumptious--it reminds me of Olive Garden's salad dressing. 

This is the sort of thing that I don't measure for; I just throw things in.  You can adjust the amounts according to your own taste preferences.  Don't have access to Schwan's?  No problem, just use frozen or fresh tortellini.  Prepare and rinse in cold water.  Then use your favorite Italian or Greek Salad dressing.

Quick and Easy Tortellini Pasta Salad

1 24 ounce package Schwan's Six Cheese Tri Color Tortellini Salad Kit

1/2 - 1 cup of each or any of the following:

     Grape tomatoes, halved
     Cucumber, peeled and diced
     Green bell pepper, diced (Red bell pepper is great, too!)
     Ripe black olives, halved
     Baby carrots, sliced
     String cheese, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

Parmesan cheese (optional)

Prepare tortellini per package directions for salad.  Add veggies, olives, and cheese and toss to coat with dressing.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.  Chill until ready to serve.
Thursday, August 30, 2012

Soft Oatmeal Bread

Here's another bread that I like to make often.  Since I use the bread machine to make the dough, it is a no-fuss recipe.   Right now I am trying to avoid dairy products to attempt to help with Grant's fussiness.  This bread contains no milk ingredients.  You can substitue sugar for the honey as well if you would prefer!

Soft Oatmeal Bread

1 1/ 4 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Place ingredients in bread pan in order suggested by the manufacturer.  Select "dough" setting.  When the cycle is complete, punch dough down.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 9 inch by 18 inch rectangle.  Starting with a short end, roll up the dough.  Pinch ends together to seal.  Place in a greased 9 by 5 inch bread pan.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until top is brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped. (My oven tends to take longer to bake on most recipes.  You may need to adjust the baking time for your oven.)
Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Walkin' the Beans"

Recently, I was visiting with a friend and her daughter about what they had been doing the day before.  With a sigh, her daughter told me that they had been working outside.  She seemed to think that whenever her dad was home on a Saturday, all they did was "work."  I told her that it may seem tough now, but those times will be good memories for her later.

This led me to start thinking about some of my own memories of childhood--when the "work" we did as a family seemed never-ending.  Things like painting the house, shingling the garage roof, and canning jam came to mind.  However, I think one of my favorite family work traditions would be "walking the beans."

I grew up on a small farm in south-central Kansas.  (Read:  more rain than what we get here in western Kansas!)  I prided myself on knowing a little bit about farming when I was dating and later married to my husband.  However, I learned that what I thought was a large field was, in fact, just a small patch in western-Kansas terms.

Enter "The Forty."  "The Forty" was what we called the forty-acre irrigated field  located a half mile south of the home place.  It was here that we planted soybeans every year.  I remember helping Mom set out the irrigation pipe and take it back up yearly.  Another time of what felt like endless work, but that's a story for a later date.

When the soybeans were small, Mom would control the weeds by carefully driving a small tractor through them with a cultivator attached.  The cultivator consisted of several rows of  large "hooks" which would uproot the weeds in between the rows.  Needless to say, inadvertently swerving while cultivating is a bad idea!

When the soybeans got bigger, cultivating them with a tractor was not an option.  So, we would walk the beans.  Mom, Dad, Todd (my older brother) and I would each walk down a row of beans about six rows apart from each other.  And, you guessed it, we would pull the weeds.  My big-acreage western Kansas farmer husband looked at me like I was crazy when I told him about this!
We would look across the rows for our enemy--velvetleaf and shattercane weeds.  When we spotted them, we would pull them up.  As a grade-schooler, I found this to be tough work.  Some of the weeds were up to my shoulder, and it was all I could do to get them to come loose.  I remember occasionally falling over as the roots of my leafy foe gave way.

So we would walk down one row and then another until the entire forty acre field had been gone over.  We battled the heat, the itchy plants, the bugs, and, for me, exhaustion and just plain being mad that I was out there in a field pulling weeds.  All in all, I think it took us about a day, maybe a day and a half to get through this chore.  It felt like FOREVER to me, though.

Time and age have a way of making things look different than they do at the time.  I remember singing crazy songs as a family while we worked.  I remember helping each other by pointing out a weed that had been missed along the way.  I remember the joy of the air-conditioned house when we went home for lunch and later quit for the day.

At the time, it was a misery to be endured.  Now, it is one of the memories I treasure.  Funny how that works, isn't it?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Maddie's Party

Since we welcomed a new little one into the family just one week before Maddie's eighth birthday, we didn't celebrate her birthday right on time.  We had a party with just family, but I told her that we would invite some friends over for a get together sometime.  Well, this Thursday was it.  With a two week old, I tried to do fun activities that the girls would enjoy, but I did not want to go over the top with time-sucking preparations.  Here's what we did.

We started with the girls making personalized bead bracelets.  I bought a little kit in the kids' craft section of Walmart for $10.  The girls had a great time.  I set out paper plates for the girls to put their beads on and taped their elastic cords to the plates so the beads would not come off of the ends.  Very little prep, and the girls had a great time with it.

Next we painted toe nails--very girly and easy to set up for.  I have lots of fast dry nail polish which I highly recommend for younger people. 

They thought we needed a picture of toes and bracelets together!

For supper, I set up a "pizza bar" for the girls to assemble their own pizzas.  I had individual crusts (made and pre-baked the day before), sauce (jarred to save on energy), Canadian bacon, pepperoni, sausage, shredded mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan.  (I would love a selection of veggies to choose from, but I don't think 8 - 9 year old girls usually go for those!)

The girls each got to make their own pizza. They loved it.  See the end of this post for the crust recipe.

Next it was time for dessert.

Then we had an ice cream sundae bar with lots of different toppings to choose from. I made 2 quarts of  homemade vanilla ice cream in my Kitchenaid mixer ice cream attachment (love that gadget!).  See here for my ice cream recipe.  Yes, I could have gone with store-bought ice cream, but I've been very excited about using my new toy.  I made the ice cream in the morning and put it in the freezer so it would be ready to go at dessert time.

We had M & M 's, sprinkles, and magic shell. See here for the recipe for magic shell. I found this on Pinterest, and my kids love it.  (Also super easy to prepare.) 

Then they all headed downstairs for the movie Dolphin Tale.  Afterward, since it was 7:30 and finally not so blazing hot, they played outside until their parents came to pick them up.

I kept reminding myself that little girls do not care what my house looks like, so I only cleaned the main bathroom they would be using.  I also had the kids pick up a little bit so no one would trip over anything.  All in all, fairly easy while still being lots of fun!

Here's the recipe for the pizza crusts:

Pizza Plus

1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water (105 - 115 degrees)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast and sugar over warm water; stir until dissolved.  Stir in oil, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough.  Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface.  Knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about five minutes.  Place in greased large bowl, turnin gdough over to grease top.  Cover, let rise in warm place 30 minutes.  Punch dough down, turn out on lightly floured surface.  Knead until no longer sticky, about 30 seconds.  Cover and let rest 5 minutes. 

Maddie and I made the dough the day before.  She got to knead the dough, which she loves to do.  (Works well for me, too, because I don't have to do it!)

I divided the dough into five pieces and rolled out personal-sized pizza crusts.  Then I placed them on baking sheets, built up the edges a bit, and pricked holes in the bottom with a fork.  (This is a great place for little ones to help out.  Anna enjoyed poking the holes for me.)

Bake at 375 for about 12 minutes, rotating between racks halfway through baking time, until very lightly brown.  They will be going in the oven again.  I stored them in a ziploc bag in the fridge until the next day.

After pizzas are put together, follow the same baking instructions as for the crusts until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Grant's Quilt

Okay, it's not the prettiest picture--I had to lay it out on the floor in my basement--but here is the finished quilt top for Grant's quilt.  In a frenzy of nesting energy, I got most of it done the week before he was born.  I just had to add the borders and sew the back for the quilt, a feat I accomplished one night when Matt had a meeting and I got all the kids into bed! 

I'm going to take it to my friend Kristy to get it machine quilted.  She owns a quilt shop and has great taste.  I can't wait to see how it turns out.  I will post an update when it is finished.

Our little Grant came two and a half weeks early on June 29th, 2012.  It wasn't that big of a surprise because our last two kiddos were two weeks early as well.  However, for some reason I had decided that he was going to be a while.  He was born on a Friday, and I had made plans to have Maddie's eighth birthday party the following Sunday.  Needless to say, the party was postponed.  I don't think Maddie minded, though.  She was happy to get to see her little brother.

Life has become a bit slower here.  Not that we are not busy, it just takes me more time to get anything done!  I feel very blessed to have a new little one around. 

It was this time last year that we discovered that our dear Isaiah had died.  I remember so clearly the shock of it.

I had a lot of trouble dealing with the fact that I was no longer pregnant, and I did not have a baby to hold.  We were due in January and I remember dreading Christmas--I was supposed to be pregnant during that time.

I prayed hard that, if it was God's will, that we would be able to get pregnant again.  I prayed for all my pregnancies, but I prayed for this one the most.  I cried out to God.  He answered.  We were pregnant before Christmas.  It was still a hard time, but I was so comforted to know we were expecting another baby.

Isaiah has a special place in our family.  He was our fifth child, and I still look forward to being reunited with him in heaven someday.  I don't know why Isaiah had to die, but I know God has been with us every step of the way.

Grant did not replace Isaiah.  He has been, however, a great blessing to our family and a reminder of God's goodness.  We have also experienced him with a new perspective on the fragility of life and the remarkable miracle that is a baby.  Thank you, God, for this little boy!

I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.--1 Samuel 1:27

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cake Mix Cinnamon Rolls

I usually don't make cinnamon rolls, but I found a recipe on pinterest for Cake Mix Cinnamon Rolls that I wanted to try.  Since we had a bake sale coming up last Saturday, so I decided to give it a go.

I found the recipe on Six Sisters Stuff.  I love their blog.  I've made several of their recipes, and my family has raved about them.  I love the idea of using canned frosting on the cinnamon rolls.  By the time I have made rolls, I don't feel like making frosting.  I will be keeping some cream cheese frosting on hand from now on!  I also added some sprinkles to these rolls because I thought it looked fun. 

Our bake sale was a great success.  We raised almost $4000 for our friends' adoption costs.  As a side note, we had 7 dozen cinnamon rolls sell within fifteen minutes after we began the sale.  I would say we could have sold at least 5 dozen more.  Something to keep in mind!
Saturday, July 28, 2012

Little Cowgirl Dress

I made this dress for my niece Abby's first birthday.  The instructions are found in my Ruffle-trimmed Shirred Dress post.  I had to post this one as well because I thought the material was so cute. 

My cousin, Kendall, posted a pillowcase dress using these same materials on Facebook.  When I asked her where she got the material, she was kind enough to get some for me from Hobby Lobby and mail it to me.  This was great since my nearest Hobby Lobby is two hours away, and I did not have to pay as much for shipping! 
Friday, July 27, 2012

Guess Whoo? Pillowcase Dress

I saw a similar dress to this on pinterest, and I just had to make one for my niece, Abby, who turned one this month.  I love the pink and green together!

For instructions on fabricating a pillowcase dress, see here.  With this dress, I did a few things differently.  I usually put a contrasting border at the bottom of my dress.  Instead, I made the casing at the top using the pink material.  Add 1/2 inch what you want the finished size of the casing to be and sew with 1/4 inch seam to your main fabric.  After finishing the sleeve holes, I folded the top down 1/4 inch farther than the finished seam on the front.  Then I topstitched on the front of the dress right along the seam joining the pink and green fabrics together. 

For the owl applique, I used cardstock to draw the pattern I wanted.  See here for my details on my applique technique.

The tie is made of fabric.  I cut two 2 1/2 inch strips of pink fabric from selvedge to selvedge.  I cut off the selvege and sewed the two strips together.  I cut this strip 1 1/2 yards long.  Then I folded the strip lengthwise with right sides together and sewed along the edge and one end.  Next, I turned it right side out, pressed it, and finished the raw edge. 

I think I could have made the tie a bit wider, maybe 1 1/2 inches finished.  I'm used to working with ribbon which is a bit stiffer. 

I'm anxious to see this on my niece Abby and will hopefully get a picture of her to update this post soon!  Until then, happy sewing!
Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Snickers Brownies

We are continuing to make items for the bake sale this Saturday.  Of course, I had to make one of my favorites:  Snickers Brownies.  The name says it all. 

My husband teases me because I think that brownies are the perfect dessert.  If we are having people over, I almost always make a pan.  Often, we have brownie hot fudge sundaes--perfection in dessert if I ever tasted it!  My sister-in-law, Steph, teases me because I almost never make a "plain brownie."  To me, if a little chocolate is good, more is better! 

Snickers Brownies

1 box German chocolate cake mix (or any chocolate cake mix)
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk, divided
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts
50 caramels, a 14 oz. bag (or buy the bag of caramel bits that you don't have to unwrap.  You can find these by the chocolate chips)

Combine cake mix, butter, and 1/3 cup evaporated milk.  Spread 1/2 of cake mixture in greased 9 by 13 inch pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 6 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt caramels and 1/3 cup evaporated milk in microwave.  Sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts over the cake mixture.  Drizzle caramel mixture over the nuts and chips.  Place small spoonfuls of remaining cake mixture over the top and gently spread with spatula.  Bake 20 - 25 minutes at 350 degrees.  Cool before cutting.
Monday, July 23, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

I adapted this recipe from the Rival instruction book recipe to work for my Kitchenaid mixer ice cream maker attachment.  It worked great.  I like the fact that it doesn't contain any eggs, so you don't have to worry about getting it cooked enough.  My kids liked it--my husband thought it was a little too sweet.  While I think that "too sweet" is a bit of an oxymoron, I may try to dial back the sugar slightly the next time I make it.  Here's the recipe:

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

1 cup milk
1 3/8 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup half and half
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups whipping cream

Scald milk until bubbles form around edge of pan.  Remove from heat.  Add sugar and salt.  Stir until dissolved.  Stir in half and half, vanilla extract, and whipping cream.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Freeze as directed.  Yield:  2 quarts.
Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pecan Coffee Cake

So, we continue to bake and freeze to get ready for our bake sale fundraiser next week.  Yesterday, it was Pecan Coffee Cake.  This is an easy and tasty recipe to enjoy for a weekend breakfast.  The recipe calls for a 9 by 13 inch pan, but I made two 8 by 8 inch cakes to sell.  I baked them for a little less time than the recipe calls for.

I got the recipe from the Sharon Springs Wesleyan Cookbook.  This has been another great recipe book for me--I have made lots of the recipes with positive reviews from my family.

Pecan Coffee Cake

1 yellow cake mix
1 small package vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream (I used plain greek yogurt)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice

In a mixing bowl, combine the first six ingredients and beat on medium speed for two minutes.  Pour into a greased 9 by 13 inch bakin gpan.  Combine pecans, sugar, and cinnamon; sprinkle over batter.  Cut through with a knife to swirl.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar and orange juice until smooth; drizzle over warm coffee cake.
Friday, July 20, 2012

Maddie's Eighth Birthday

We celebrated Maddie's eighth birthday with family on July 15th.  Her birthday is actually on the 6th, but we were a little late due to Grant's arrival.  Instead of trying to make the cake myself, I had my friend Erin, who runs a commercial baking business, make the cake for me.  I love how the fondant looks--I'm going to have to try it sometime.  Maybe next year!  Check out Erin's facebook page here.  She makes great stuff and will ship to you!  Maddie wanted a cake with a Sharon Springs Wildcat pawprint on it.  I thought it turned out perfectly.   I usually like to make the cake myself, but it took a lot of stress out of the occasion for me! 

Happy Birthday, sweet girl!
Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

The preparation for the bake sale next week continues at my house--yesterday we made one of our favorites:  Lemon Poppy Seed Bread.  My son, Evan, can't get enough of this stuff.

I got the recipe from Simply Colorado, Too, a cookbook that we received as a wedding gift.  It boasts healthier recipes.  This one uses applesauce and still is moist and delicious, so I feel good about making it.

Here's the recipe:

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

3 cups flour
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2  tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups skim milk
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. 

For the bread, combine the dry ingredients in a mixer bowl and mix well.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Beat at low speed until blended, scraping the bowl occasionally.

Spoon the batter into 2 greased 5 by 9 inch loaf pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  Cool in the pans for 5 minutes.

Whisk the glaze ingredients together in a small bowl.  Drizzle over warm bread.  Cool in the pans for 15 minutes longer.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

I made three 6 by 3 1/2 inch loaves and one 5 by 9 inch loaf.  With all the bake sale items around the house that he can't eat, my husband was feeling left out.  He got to cut into the bigger loaf, and I froze the other three.  It was a win-win situation. 

Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

Double Fudge Brownie Mix

So, the bake sale preparation continues at our house.  Today, Evan and I mixed up some Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies to bake tomorrow.  I also put together a couple of Double Fudge Brownie Mixes.  The original recipe says to put it in a quart jar, but I like to use a bag.  I think they will make a nice addition to the bake sale--something people can buy and make later.  Find the recipe here.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012

County Fair Pie

My good friend, Tanna, and her husband are adopting a little girl from Russia.  The way they have opened their hearts to this precious child has been quite an inspiration for me.  What does this have to do wtih pie, you ask?  Well, international adoption costs a lot of money, and my friends are in the midst of raising funds.  Naturally our Mom's group wanted to help.  So, we will be hosting a bake sale fundraiser in a week.  Since it's during the Wallace County Fair, I thought it was only appropriate to make County Fair Pie to sell.  I am not a person who likes fruit pie, so this pie is right up my alley--it basically tastes like a chocolate chip cookie inside a pie crust!  It is also a fairly easy recipe that comes together quickly.  With a new baby in the house, I need that kind of simplicity!

I found the recipe in my Best of Taste of Home's First 10 years cookbook.  I have found many favorite recipes in this book.

Here's the recipe for one 9 inch pie:

County Fair Pie

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (I use pecans instead)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1 unbaked pastry shell (9 inches)

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter, sugar, flour, eggs, and vanilla until well blended.  Stir in nuts and chips.  Pour into pie shell.  Bake at 325 degrees for one hour or until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

For the bake sale, I purchased three 8 inch aluminum pie pans.  I made a 1 1/2  recipe of Aunt Joyce's Pie Crust and made the crusts for the pies.  It helps to place the crust in the freezer for about an hour before filling.  This helps the crust not to slump down.

Stirring the chips and nuts into the filling!

I made a double recipe of the filling for three 8 inch pies.  Looking good already!

To bake, I put the pies on baking pans to help stablilize them.  I rotated them from top to bottom racks in the oven at 30 minutes.  The one that was on the bottom at the end needed a few more minutes to get brown enough.

I put press and seal over the top of the pie and placed it in a freezer bag with a label.  Then I popped them into the freezer to be ready for the bake sale next week.
Considering the amount of yumminess in this pie, I think that I will suggest a donation of $10 a piece for the pies. 

Hopefully we can raise lots of money for this worthy cause!

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