Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Off my plate: birthday cupcakes

October 14, 2012

Birthdays are fun. Well, if you’re getting presents. Or eating cake. Or playing games. But planning them, cleaning for them, making everything can be a pain. And the mommy blog world & pinterest doesn’t always help, with their perfect photos and drapes that match the party decorations. Really, who has time for that? Things 1&2’s birthdays come at the end of summer and beginning of the school year. Their birthdays fall during the busiest time of the year for us, with the start of fall soccer season, school, and a very busy season at work for The Cat and me.

Last year we had a great combined birthday in between the dates to accommodate The Cat’s navy deployment schedule. I did a lot of extra work to make matching everything, but with the wind (and my forgetting to take pictures), not many people noticed. But we still all had a fantastic time. So I decided to take inspiration — but not guilt — from Pinterest this year. I was going to tone down the party planning to relieve some of the pressure.

Thing 1 was heading into second grade just after her 7th birthday. For the first time we let her invite friends over to our house for her party. I hate housekeeping, so getting ready for that is always a pain. I let her pick from a few themes I thought we could support easily. She choose an art party. No problem. This was my favorite offering. Projects to make and take instead of games and favors. Little to no decoration was needed besides brightly colored Dollar Tree tablecloths covering art surfaces. And, since our weather in August is fairly nice, we’d do much of it outdoors.

The only thing left to decide on was the cake. Some years I’m rather lazy and we just buy a cake from the store. After all, you can’t really do cake ahead of time, and there are just so many things that could go wrong — and usually do for me. But in addition to paring down my party expectations, I was also trying to pare down party expenses. So I decided to make cupcakes. But that part of me that strives to be Supermom couldn’t let it go at that, they had to be decorated nicely. Yes, I could let go of table centerpieces and personalized goody bags, but plain cupcakes just went to far. I went shopping for cute liners, cake mix and a can of frosting (yes, I really was slacking on this one, eh?), and found Cake Mate Writing Icing in classic colors. Perfect for an idea brewing in my head. So, I baked and frosted a batch and — after a quick photo session with the birthday girl — turned them over to Thing 1, who very nicely included her brother. They decorated them together. I think the result was pretty cool, especially with the photo mounted on a clear acrylic cupcake topper and the silicone footed baking cups. And it took no yelling from me for the kids to behave while I slaved away for their party. That puts them in competition for best cupcakes ever.

art cupcakes

The bar had been set. When Thing 2’s fifth birthday rolled around a month later, I had to include him in party preparations. He really wanted a video game party with his three local cousins. And his sister, I had to remind him. That was a bummer, because we only had 4 controllers, but he agreed to let her partake in the festivities. There were plenty of incredible video game cupcake ideas online, but I had to remember that I’d have a pre-K boy helping me. While browsing Pinterest, I came across this one I had previously pinned as a Halloween idea. Monsters, video games…close enough, right? Thing 2 thought so. So, again, I baked (in a great selection of new foil lined wrappers from Wilton and Reynolds) and frosted and he sugared and drew and placed eyes. The results, cute as a…monster.

monster cupcakesBoth parties were a lot of fun. And the cupcakes were universally praised as cute and very nummy. And I felt so much less stress that I remembered to take some photos. Looks like we could be entering into the era of a new tradition. Lazy mom parties. This is one I think I can keep up with.


Food Friday: walking tacos

January 21, 2012

Hey ho, there Web world wanderers! My finished posts have been infrequent, but I have a bunch of drafts I’ve been working on that will be up soon. I just have to finish up the photos and decide if I should backdate them to when I actually wrote them. Ah, the difficult decisions of a blog owner. But all that is neither here nor there for you, so let’s get to what you’re here for: walking tacos.

How have I missed these? According to Urban Dictionary, they were on Letterman back in 2007. But I didn’t hear about them until last month. I read about them over on my favorite forum, SmartBuyGal, and, although details were sparse, thought it was a brilliant idea for our Nine O’clock New Year’s Eve Party. (At 9p.m. here, we can watch the ball drop on the east coast internet feeds.) In a very uncharacteristic move, I did not google it at all before the party. Simply bought some small bags of chips and taco toppings. Getting all Fritos bags was difficult, so we had a choice of Fritos, a couple kinds of Doritos, plus whatever else came in the pack. It was a hit! So much so that we’re having them again this weekend at a baby shower.

I totally forgot to take any photos at the party, but I did snap this photo (with Thing 2’s impatient hand sneaking in for his cup) a week later. The Cat was gone for dinner and I didn’t want to put a lot of effort into cooking for a hungry Thing 1 and a picky Thing 2, so we did 2 minute walking tacos by crushing up chips in a cup and adding Old El Paso Tortilla Stuffers and some nacho cheese. Quick and easy!


quick and easy walking tacos


Food Friday: Christmas goodies

December 23, 2011

I love Christmas for a lot of reasons: buying presents, getting presents, decorating, happy people, and, near the top of the list, baking and eating Christmas goodies. Yum, yum, yum!

This year, at 4 and 6, Things 1 & 2 were finally old enough I didn’t mind them helping out in the kitchen. We started out with snickerdoodles:

Unfortunately, I used the Joy of Cooking recipe, and it uses so much butter that they melted off the side of the baking stones. Refrigeration helped some, but I ended up later adding flour and what-not to bring it in line with my BHG cookbook recipe. That worked. Hooray for cookie number one finally working out!

I made a few other things: my own version of Festive Winter Bark with cranberries and pistachios in white chocolate for holiday colored bark; chocolate bark; gingersnaps; chex mix; muddy buddies; and I can’t remember what else, because my mom and I share what we make, so I forget what I did and what she did. I just remember what I else I’ve been eating: fudge, peanut butter kiss cookies, krumkake, swedish teacakes…the list goes on. In fact, tonight the kids made a new one we found somewhere online: candy cane coated pretzels. We dipped twisted pretzels in almond bark (chocolate and vanilla) and then crushed candy canes:

This was the perfect thing for them to help with from start to finish, plus they were delicious! Love the sweet, salty, minty thing these have going on.

I better get going on other Christmas things. Happy holidays!

Hump day crafts: Halloween party

November 2, 2011

It’s hard not to love Halloween. Candy, alter egos, and scaring the be-jesus out of people is all at least a little bit fun. We don’t generally go all out here, but we have a little bit of fun. This year, for the first time ever, we decided to have a Halloween party. Well, kind of. It was actually just a get together eating junk, making crafts, singing and dancing. Two get togethers. We had an afternoon one for Thing 1’s friends and an evening ‘party’ for family.

Cleaning my house is not my favorite thing to do, so I tried to set it up so we could mostly corral friends in the combined craft/play room. To set the mood, I made an entryway decoration:

I took half of a DollarTree table cloth (the other half was covering our play table to convert it to a craft table) and some black Contact paper, cut with my Cricut, of course. After applying the vinyl, I took my scissors and cut some strips, so people could walk through the door easily.

The kids did make plenty of crafts, although I was so busy running the party, I didn’t get much for photos. We did a pumpkin bookmark:

I cut the pumpkin on the Cricut, added some ribbon and let them decorate them as they pleased. (This one was my example.) We also did yarn ghost pencil toppers (based loosely on these). Oh, and sugar cookies. You just gotta decorate sugar cookies when celebrating a holiday. I’m just happy Thing 1 & 2 are getting to the age where they can participate. I was getting tired of decorating and eating them all myself. 😉

Honestly, it was exhausting, but oh so fun. I’m just glad we’ve got a year before we have to do it again.

Food Friday: Smoothies

January 28, 2011

I asked for (and got) both the Ninja Prep Master (Professional!) and a personal blender for Christmas. I actually just wanted one, but now that I have both I see the need for both. Family and individual smoothies! No, it’s not really the season, but I’ve been really enjoying these as meal replacements as snacks. I’m sure as the weather warms up we’ll experiment more, but this week, this recipe has been keeping me healthy in my personal blender (and sometimes multiplied for the big Ninja pitcher):

Hidden Carrot Smoothie

1/2 cup carrot juice
1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
2-6 ounces yogurt (I’ve been using a half of a small container of some greek yogurt I got at Costco)
Frozen peaches (I generally add 3 slices)
Other frozen fruit (I throw in either a few strawberries or a handful of blueberries)

I find this sweet enough that I don’t add any sugar, but you can sweeten if you need.

 I’m sure we’ll revisit smoothies again later (when the high finally gets above the 40s), but enjoy for now!

Food Friday: Berries!

September 10, 2010

We went to the Blackberry Festival in Bremerton for the 3rd year in a row over Labor Day weekend (sorry, no food pics), so today’s post is all about the berries. We picked our blackberries and made jam (canned and freezer) a few weeks ago. This week, it was blueberries from our front yard. Yay for blueberry bushes! Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that’s what they were the first year we were here and almost killed one of the two. But it’s starting to come back and even gave us a few blueberries.

I wanted more jam, so I decided to go with the mixed berry jam (although I want to call it triple berry). We bought strawberries (our plants didn’t put out too many) and raspberries and used our blueberries. I followed a Sure-Jell recipe, I want to say it was 1-1/2 cups smooshed strawberries and 1/2 cup (each) smooched blueberries and raspberries. Plus 100 cups of sugar. Well, more like four, but it’s certainly sweet. It was supposed to make 5 cups but we got 6-1/2.

Mixed berry freezer jam

Since the jam didn’t take all of our berries, we made triple berry shortcake. Yum! I decided to do it up right by making it at home, but took the lazy way out and used Bisquick. Heart healthy Bisquick even. Wasn’t too bad. I’ll have to make sure we do this again next summer.

Berry shortcake

Hump day crafts: beach bash cupcakes

September 1, 2010

I was busy all last week getting ready for Thing 1’s fifth birthday. It was a Hawaiian Beach Blast, and although the weather didn’t cooperate for swimming, it was sunny enough to play in the sand. And eat beach cupcakes. Here’s what we ate:

They got the nummy nod, so that’s good. Plus they were cute. I love this cricut cartridge – Life’s a Beach. It is too much fun! I got to try a lot of cuts with this project (not all shown here) and they were easier to assemble than I had feared. (So is the Hello Kitty Greetings cartridge I picked up on clearance. Will have to post some of those cards later.)

The picks are some wooden ones I picked up at Joann’s. The background “sun” is from Accent Essentials. Each has a colorful sun center on the back with a 5 (from Life’s a Beach) on it. Did I tell you how much fun these were? And flavor? Strawberry with chocolate and yellow with chocolate with caramel frosting (for the “beach) and blue sugar for the surf. You could always do crushed graham crackers for more of a sand texture, but I just ran out of time.

Happy crafting!

Food Friday: Banana S’mores

July 2, 2010

It’s grilling season here in rainy Washington — finally!! Sure I love burgers, dogs, fajitas and the like, but when the grill heats up what I’m really craving is banana s’mores!

Just like regular s’mores but with banana in place of marshmallow, I like to think they’re just a tiny bit healthier. Here’s how we do it here:

Assemble your graham crackers and chocolate on a plate or platter. I like to use dark chocolate for myself, but regular old Hershey bars are fine for the kids. Each s’more needs one cracker square on the bottom and one standing by for the top.

Take your banana(s) and cut them in half lengthwise. Leave the peel on. If our grill is already hot (from cooking dinner), I don’t bother to grease it, instead I grease the bananas to keep them from sticking. I brush a little melted butter or margarine on the cut side. Grill each side for 1-3 minutes. Carefully remove from grill and the peel. Then cut them up and put them on your chocolate and top with the other cracker. Mmmm-mmmm! Melty chocolate! Hot bananas! Num-num-num! Enjoy!

Food Friday: Pasta salad with homemade vinaigrettes

June 25, 2010

A recent article in our local daily paper inspired me to try making my first pasta salad. The article was about vinaigrettes and after reading it, I really wanted to make a summer-y pasta salad with the basic vinaigrette. I had no idea what I was doing, so I just imagined a photo that I might find in a home-making magazine. I got some Wacky mac, cooked chicken, a can of beans (kidney or whatever) and threw in some vegetables I had on hand and felt like including (red pepper and cucumber). The amount of vinaigrette in the recipe was perfect when I used 3/4 of the package, but wasn’t quite enough when I cooked a whole package of pasta.

I really enjoyed the salad, as did G’ma. Thing 1 and 2, not so much. In fact, they spit it out. Maybe if I set some aside to feed them without the vinaigrette it would go over better. Or maybe I’ll just keep it all for myself until their palates mature. Isn’t that what all great moms do?

Food Friday: Arroz con Pollo

February 5, 2010

Being a Navy family, we move around a bit. And sometimes, you have to leave things you’ve grown to love, not only people and weather, but also restaurants. We love to go out and eat Mexican food, but we haven’t always lived where there’s a good selection. One such place prompted me to fiddle with this dish trying to replicate one of my hometime favorites, Puerto Vallarta’s Arroz con Pollo.

No other restaurant has been able to match their dish to my liking, although it’s been so long since I’ve been that perhaps I’ve put it up on a pedestal in my mind. In any case, I come close enough at home now that the craving has been satisfied. In fact, I’ve been living near the restaurant again for over a year and haven’t been in to sample the original. Here’s my take:

Start with the mushrooms. I love mushrooms in my arroz con pollo! Saute in a large skillet with butter and olive oil, then remove from the pan and save for later.

Next, use a box of spanish rice. I like the rice a roni with the brown rice in it, so I feel like I’m making it just a little bit healthy. (Don’t tell me about the nutritional info and ruin the dream I’ve built.) It’s best to have one that calls for a can of diced tomatoes. Otherwise, you have to adjust the liquids accordingly to add one. Start it according to directions.

When it comes time to simmer the rice, add your cooked chicken (I pre-steam mine with cumin and other spices, but you can use any pre-cooked chicken), mushrooms and anything else you want. I often add diced green peppers, so we get some vegetables. Cover and simmer according to the rice directions.

When there’s five minutes left, add a few handfuls of shredded cheese (mexican blend if you got it!). Serve with tortillas, if so desired.

My family eats this up, and I hope yours will to!