Tag Archives: baking

Celebrating Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day will be a little different for us. We usually celebrate it by making or preparing Valentines during the day, then surprising each other with them at suppertime. Our grandma comes over for a special meal, and we end the day with a lot of chocolate.

This year, however, my husband will be working late, so the kids and I have been wondering what to do. The consensus is that we’ll have a special Valentine’s Day snack instead of a supper during the few minutes in the afternoon he can come home so he won’t miss it. And we’ll still end the day with chocolate. 🙂

There are lots of ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Find picture books at the library about St. Valentine, or look up information about him online. Share his story with your children.
  • Spend some time baking together!  Make Valentine’s Day treats from scratch with your kids. You can find all sorts of recipes to try at KidsCookingActivities.com and Kaboose.com.
  • Decorate a room in your house – Cut out paper hearts and tape them around the room. Our favorite room is our kitchen, and the paper hearts are going up all over the windows. Have the kids write messages on the hearts or the names of the people they love.
  • Create homemade cards for grandparents or neighbors.
  • Make valentines to share with the residents of the local nursing home or for children in the hospital.
  • Write a letter to a friend you don’t see very often.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Resolutions for the New Year

There are a few times each year when I feel like I can have a real fresh start — those “magical” dates for reordering life and restructuring how I do everything. One is my birthday, because I’m embarking on another year; one is the first day of the school year, which fortunately comes just weeks after my birthday, in case I didn’t get off to such a good start; and the third is New Year’s Day, especially if the fall months didn’t go quite as planned.

So each new year, I make resolutions, write out lists, develop more detailed schedules. But by mid-January, I’m usually ready for a new “fresh start.”

This year, I’m going to try something new, an idea I read in the book Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist. In one of the chapters, the author describes her tendency to pressure herself into not only doing everything, but doing everything BETTER. It was then she decided to write down a list of things she wouldn’t do — activities that, while productive and good to do, weren’t necessarily the ones SHE should be doing.  By following this list, not only did she excuse herself from activity overload, but she allowed herself time for the things that mattered most to her.

So, for this New Year, here’s my list of things I’m not going to do:

(Please note: These are all great things to do, and for that reason I usually pressure myself into doing them, or I feel guilty if I don’t. And they may be just what you are good at or what you want to do this year. Likewise, your “Do Not Do” list may have things that I enjoy doing.)

  • I’m not going to plant a garden. Okay, I have yet to plant a full garden anyway. But we live in the country and have the room, so every spring I feel like we should be planting rows and rows of vegetables. This year, instead, I’m going to concentrate on growing some cherry tomatoes in pots.
  • I’m not going to try to can my own jellies or vegetables. I have tried this one, and though many people around me like to can, I just don’t. But I don’t mind supporting the little shop down the street that sells local jelly.
  • I’m not going to landscape. I love looking at homes with beautiful yards, and I wish our yard looked like that. We even have an area beside our house that would be perfect for a flowerbed. So this year, I think we’ll throw our some wildflower seeds and just see what grows.
  • I’m not going to hang laundry on the line. Though it would save on the power bill, clothes I put on the line usually end up being left there for a day or two… or three. Then I have to wash them all over again.
  • I’m not going to clip a lot of coupons. I’ve tried couponing this year, and while I saved a lot of money, it was very time consuming for me. So this year, I’m only clipping out coupons for laundry detergent, cereal, yogurt, and pet food. Otherwise, I’ll just shop the sales.
  • I’m not going to make hot lunches. Cooking is not my forte, so I’ll save the hot meal for suppertime. After all, a good sandwich can be very tasty.
  • I’m not going to mail birthday cards to extended family and friends. While I did this one year and it was a lot of fun, the family has grown since then to 40+ people. I’ll call or email them instead.

Instead of doing these things, I’m going to enjoy more time with my children doing crafts, putting puzzles together, and playing games. What’s on your “Do Not Do” list?

Cooking Up Something Sweet

The holidays are the perfect time for trying out new recipes, especially with your children! There are simple recipes for desserts to share with friends and neighbors, as well as foods you can make to give as gifts. If holiday baking with your family is part of your plans this week, here are some websites to check out:

Families Online Magazine – This site features treats you can make with your children, including Candy Cane Cookies and Popcorn Snowmen.

Family Fun – Family Fun is one of my favorite magazines, and one of my favorite websites too. Here you’ll find recipes for advent calendar cookies, cookie kids, and dancing gingerbread people.

Dreams Alive Magazine
– On the page featuring Christmas crafts and cookies just for kids, you’ll find the directions for making chocolate coffee spoons with peppermint and a Christmas chocolate kiss tree. There’s also a recipe for gingerbread cookies in a jar, a nice gift kids can give to relatives or neighbors.

Easy Kids Recipes – While this site has a few interesting recipes posted by the author, there are many, many more on the “Cookie Recipe Contest Page.”  Just click on the link, and you’ll be directed to the 2010 winning recipes as well as 40+ other recipes to try.

Apples4TheTeacher – There are quite a few ads on this site, but once you close them you’ll find a number of tasty recipes, including chocolate fudge and candy cane marble.

NorthPole.com – You’ll find lots of recipes for baking with kids here, so many that they are divided into categories: cookies, cakes, pies, candy and fudge, breads, and other recipes.

Kids Cooking Activities – This is one of my favorite sites for cooking with kids, and they have a page dedicated to Christmas cookies too. Visit this site for the basic sugar cookie recipes for making cut-out cookies, as well as the directions for making jam-filled wreaths, reindeer cookies, and gingerbread men.

Photo by cohdra

Easy-Strawberry-Recipes.com

This past month, we’ve been to the strawberry farm twice for strawberries, once to pick them ourselves and another time just to purchase them. Even though it’s already June, fresh strawberries are still available at the farm and roadside markets. If you have extra berries in your refrigerator or freezer and aren’t quite sure what to do with them, visit the website Easy-Strawberry-Recipes.com.

I stumbled upon this clean and easy-to-use site not long ago. It’s a great resource for anyone who loves to cook and loves eating strawberries. Here you’ll find breakfast recipes for smoothies, muffins, jams, waffle toppings, pancakes, and crepes. Click on the “salads” link and you’ll find a number of fruit salad recipes, as well as ones for different types of Jello salads. There’s even a recipe for Strawberry Turkey Pasta Salad!

And, of course, there are dessert recipes listed as well. You’ll find directions for making strawberry cheesecake, strawberry cakes, strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie, and strawberry cookies. There are also instructions for strawberry ice cream and strawberry sorbet, as well as strawberry milkshakes and strawberry punch.

Often when I’m in a rush, I find myself preparing the strawberries and making the dishes myself. If you find yourself in a similar situation, just place the strawberries in your refrigerator until you have a little more time. Then, invite your children to come help you. Show them how to rinse the berries, pat them dry, and remove the caps. Choose a recipe you will all enjoy, and take them through the steps in preparing it. Show them how to mix, measure, stir, and blend. You’ll find that even young children like the challenge of following a recipe.

With some strawberries, a little time, and recipes such as those on Easy-Strawberry-Recipes.com, not only will you be able to cook delicious food to eat, but you’ll create a learning opportunity as well as make a memory with your children — and all at the same time!

Planning, Preparation, and Improvisation

bear 2This past weekend, my husband and son were out of town on a scout camping trip, so I planned out the projects to be done while they were gone. One of them was preparing for co-op on Monday. Besides the story and activity, I needed to have a snack ready — preferably one that related to Another Celebrated Dancing Bear.

Time slipped away, though, as it always does, and by Sunday afternoon all I had was the book and a plan. My plan was to have the children make their own snack: yeast roll teddy bears. I was going to try a test-run with the rolls Sunday evening — not the best time, but still, enough time.

Or so I thought. It turned out we had purchased the wrong kind of dough (already baked), and I didn’t have the ingredients to make dough from scratch. So Sunday evening at 7:00 p.m., I headed to the store where I developed a new plan. I would prepare the dough for Russian teacakes (cookies), then have the children help me bake them. While we were waiting, I’d bring out some bear-shaped sugar cookies for them to decorate.

I arrived home and went to work. The sugar cookies didn’t turn out at all — they ended up as huge blobs without any bear qualities. Some of them broke, and I didn’t have enough for the class.

I decided just to make the teacakes myself and serve them as a snack and come up with a separate craft. I thought we could make our own dancing bears from paper plates, and I found a good template online for the arms and legs. I’d leave the house early for co-op and make copies of the pattern, as our printer was out of ink. Another plan…

That didn’t quite work. I woke up early and made the teacakes. As I was carrying them in two small containers out the door, the doorknob caught the sleeve of my jacket, and I stumbled over the outside mat. Both containers flew from my hands, one opening and spilling some of the teacakes onto the ground.

I gathered up the rest and headed back to the house. It didn’t look like it would be enough of a snack anymore, so I filled one of the containers with the non-bear sugar cookies and pieces. FINALLY in the car with everyone and everything loaded up, we started down the road. Until…

I realized I had forgotten my purse!  We turned around, now running out of time to make the copies. John and I ran inside to get extra paper and a marker — I’d have him trace the templates in the car. On our way again…

But I still had no purse!  We went home again, and John ran in to grab it. We got as far as the end of the driveway, when we realized he had forgotten a map he had drawn for class!  We went back one last time, then started on our way. We arrived…

Just in time. And class went well — the children made their dancing bears, and they liked the teacakes. Besides, I don’t think they noticed I was so flustered that I couldn’t locate Russia on the map!

Cookies for Those Who Don’t Cook

cookiesjanjpgWhen I was growing up, my mom stayed home and took charge of the household. We rarely ate out, as there were eight kids; she cooked all the suppers, which always included a main dish with one or two side dishes. You would think that somehow, some of that knack for creating tasty things would have rubbed off on me.

Well, I’ve worked at it for years, even taking cooking lessons from some friends, and I have to say, cooking is still a bit of a struggle for me. I can follow a recipe, I can even make up recipes — I just don’t like to do it. It makes suppertime a bit tricky, since we don’t eat out much either.

Several years ago, however, my sister-in-law passed on a recipe that has become one of my all-time favorites. It’s a cookie recipe, and although we don’t eat dessert every night, I do whip up these cookies any time we go to a picnic, covered dish dinner, or church supper. They are SO EASY to make, and they taste so good. Here’s what you do:

Gather together:

1 Box of Cake Mix (any kind you like — I usually use yellow, white, or chocolate, but I’ve also used german chocolate, strawberry, and lemon)

2 Eggs

1/2 Cup of Oil

Anything else you want to throw in there, i.e. chocolate chips (6 oz. will do), M & M’s, peanut butter chips, nuts, etc.

In a large bowl, stir together the cake mix, eggs, and oil. Add chips, etc.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are starting to turn golden brown. It’s a little harder to tell when the chocolate ones are done, since they’re so dark already.

That’s it!  This recipe makes about 2 dozen smaller cookies, about 18 larger ones. It’s a simple recipe my kids can make all by themselves, creating cookies that are a hit everywhere we take them.