Sous Chef Sunday: BOO-NANAS

These sweet little treats are too cute to be truly spooky, but they sure are fun. They’re also perfect for little hands, both to make and to enjoy.

BOO-nanas

And what’s not to enjoy? White chocolate covered bananas? Move over chocolate covered strawberries. Chocolate covered bananas rolled in shredded coconut? Yes, please. A delightfully adorable spooky snack (or dessert) served on a stick (because everything’s better served on a stick, am I right?), hand them over.

Boo-nanas 3

And then there’s the fact that they’re a much healthier alternative to candy or other sugary, although festive, option for your little ghosts or goblins.

BOO-nanas 

BOO-nanas 2

4 bananas, peeled and cut in half
8-12 oz white chocolate
1 cup shredded coconut flakes, sweetened or unsweetened
mini chocolate chips
popsicle sticks or wooden skewers

Directions

1. Melt the chocolate using a double boiler, stirring frequently until melted and smooth.
2. Gently insert the sticks or skewers into the center of the banana through the cut end. Carefully dip the bananas into the melted chocolate, turning to evenly coat before removing from the chocolate.
3. Quickly transfer the coated fruit to a plate of shredded coconut, again turning to coat. Place the banana onto a sheet of wax paper. Place two chocolate chips onto the fruit, and gently press them into the coated fruit for eyes.
4. Repeat the steps, as needed, until all the bananas are done. Leave them resting on the wax paper until the chocolate coating has hardened.

Pumpkin & Olive Oil Pull Apart Rolls

Skip the store-bought package of buns– these soft Pumpkin & Olive Oil Pull Apart Rolls are easy enough for anyone to make. As slider buns, as your new go-to dinner date, or even dipped in a hearty bowl of your favorite soup– whatever incarnation you enjoy them in, they’re perfect. 

pumpkin-olive-oil-pull-apart-rols Read more

DIY Indiana Jones Costume

When the kids were little we bought their costumes for Halloween. I couldn’t bring myself to break the bank so we’d shop at the local Kids’ consignment shops and even Goodwill, and they always looked adorable, and they were always quite content but something about our ‘process’ was missing for me. Then when the youngest son was 3, I decided he was going as The Doctor for Halloween. The 10th regeneration, my favorite: David Tennant’s Doctor. And seeing as how I wasn’t made of money to custom order every costume component from Think Geek, the only option was to do it ourselves. And we all had a blast! The whole family got in on it.

DIY Indiana Jones Costume 3

And we’ve never looked back since. Each year we start brainstorming about a month ahead of time and then we get to work assembling everybody’s costume of choice. We’ve done a stickman, Uncle Si, God’s gift to women, Steve from Minecraft, Superman/Clark Kent, The Hulk, Kristoff from Frozen, and The Scarecrow from Batman just to name a few. One of my favorites, and easiest to throw together was Indiana Jones.

‘Hey, Lady. You call him Dr. Jones!’

DIY Indiana Jones Costume

We found khaki pants on clearance at Walmart, but they’d be easy to find at Goodwill or a consignment shop as well. For us, they doubled as church pants, post-Halloween. We found a brown fedora in the costume section. We did hit up Goodwill for the white button up, and found the awesome aviator jacket there as well (for $5!!). That’s also where we found his ‘messenger bag’. He wore a pair of brown hiking style boots and brown belt he already owned. We hot glued a twine ‘whip’ to one of his belt loops, and we completed the look with a big ass grin and some rosy red cheeks.

DIY Indiana Jones Costume 2

Wherever he went, everyone knew who he was! Which he thought was pretty much the greatest thing ever. And the whole thing cost me maybe $15 with everything being reusable and needed outside of Halloween. That’s what I’d call making it big, or as Dr. Jones so aptly put it …

‘Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.’

Despicable Me ‘Minion’ Pumpkin Tutorial

The sons have always enjoyed the Despicable Me movies, and the Minions’ antics have kept them in stitches throughout all three films. The boys even made me download the game ‘Minion Rush’ onto my tablet so they can play it whenever the mood strikes. (Just don’t tell, since the older ones might get a tad embarrassed to have their secret outed, you know since they’re supposed to be to old for cartoons and all) They have a legit talking Dave and the teenagers still can’t help but pick up and play with the fart gun (remember our families four tenets? No judging please).

Minion Pumpkin 1

So when my little bit asked me to help him make a Minion ‘punkin’ for Halloween, I couldn’t say no. Never even crossed my mind. But after I’d automatically said yes, I had that ‘oh shit’ moment all Moms occasionally have at the thought of a commitment they’ve made where they’ve bitten off more than they know they can chew. I can fake it til I make it most of the time but, even on my best day, my pumpkin carving skills aren’t anywhere near up the the standard of precision required for any of the stencils and templates I googled.

But even on my worst day, I can paint. So we kicked all thought of carving to the curb, and painted ourselves a pumpkin shaped Minion. And he was adorable. But nowhere near as adorable as the youngest son’s face when he first saw our finished pumpkin.

DIY Minion Pumpkin

minion pumpkin tutorial

Pumpkin (real or fake)
Canning jar lids
Long nails
Wooden skewer, optional
Hot glue gun and glue stick
Yellow spray paint
Blue spray paint
black and brown paint, or Sharpie markers
Black pipe cleaners

Directions

  1. Paint the top half of the pumpkin with yellow paint and let dry. It’s ok if it takes more than one coat to get the desired effect. On the pumpkin pictured we used acrylic paint and did multiple coats.
    2. Paint the bottom of the pumpkin with blue paint and then allow it to dry completely. Once dry, add a second coat if desired.
  2. Minion Pumpkin 4
    3. Take a canning jar lid and pierce a hole in the center with the tip of the nail. Tap gently with a hammer if need be, to pierce.
    5. Flip the lid so that the white part is showing and insert the nail through the hole in the center, and apply a bit of hot glue to secure the head of the nail to the lid.
    6. Apply a ring of hot glue all around the inside of the silver ring and press the flipped lid firmly to it, hold for a second to seal and then set aside to completely dry.
    7. Use a skewer, or an extra nail, to pierce a hole where you would like the center of the canning lid ‘eye’ to be, keeping in mind that the eyes form the center of the face.
  3. Minion Pumpkin 3
    8. Gently push the nailed lid into the hole, being careful not to push any of the attached bits apart.
  4. 9. Paint the black straps of the goggles on both sides of the eyes.
    10. With paint or Sharpies, color in the details of the eyes (the screw will be camouflaged by the paint).
  5. Minion Pumpkin 1
    11. For the hair, use the skewer, or extra nail, to pierce holes at the top of the head and insert the pipe cleaners into the holes.
    12. Finish your pumpkin off by drawing on a mouth.

Apple, Red Onion, & Cheddar Panini on Naan Bread

There’s nothing quite like the fresh air of the mountains, and living in Virginia we’re fortunate enough to be only a hop, skip, and a jump from the nearest range. A kind of peace comes over me and my heart is so full when I watch my boys be boys, especially the older they get. And our local (ish, it’s only 40 minutes away) orchard offers them every opportunity to embrace everything innately boyish about themselves.

apple picking 2015 7

Running up and down mountain sides? Check.

apple picking 2015 4

Climbing trees? Check. (bonus points for ones over looking or over hanging mountain sides)

apple picking 2015 3

Eating fruit fresh picked from the vine? Check.

apple picking 2015 6

Dad letting you carry and use a (very dull) pocket knife to cut your own fresh slices of fruit? Check.

apple picking 2015 5

(and obviously extra, extra bonus points for the use of sharp objects)

apple picking 2015

Every year we have a blast, and I love being able to look back on our memories forever captured in photos, but ever year we come home starving, and that’s despite the fresh cider and fresh cider donuts we gorge on while there.

This year, I dug right into one of our several bushels and had a piping hot batch of grilled naan-witches ready to serve in no time. Meltty, tangy sharp cheddar, the bite of red onion, crispy, sweet apple slices, and a bit of sass from our favorite honey mustard made this the perfect grilled cheese sandwich to celebrate one of our favorite Fall traditions.

Apple, Red Onion, Cheddar Panini on Naan Bread

Apple, Red Onion, & Cheddar Panini on Naan Bread

2 pieces of naan or other bread (use four pieces if the slices are small, I had 2 large naan pieces)
1 Apple, cored and sliced
sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
red onion, thinly sliced
your favorite honey mustard

Directions

  1. Place a layer of cheddar cheese slices on the bottom piece of naan. Layer on sliced apples, then the sliced red onion, and then top that with another layer of cheddar cheese.

2. Spread a layer of honey mustard on the inside of the top piece of naan and then place that on top of apple, onion and cheese, closing the sandwich.

3. Place the sandwich in the panini press until heated through, about 6 minutes. Cut the sandwich in half (if you’re using larger slices of naan) and serve.

Sous Chef Sunday: Monster Tongues (Marshmallow Pinwheels)

These may look gross, especially when you consider they’re called ‘tongues’, but they taste great and the kids (especially little boys- hey snails and puppy dog tails, right?) get a huge kick out of them. They’re perfect for a spooky Halloween treat, or even as a crafty snack to accompany one of our boys favorite children’s stories, I Need My Monster. Also, a great read when you’re gearing up for Halloween with its perfect mixture of scare and flair.

Monster Tongues

But, back to our tongue in cheek treat, perfect for any little monsters you may know. I haven’t met a kid yet who didn’t love these fun treats, even the ones who squealed with equal parts disgust and delight.

And they’re e a s y, a mixture of marshmallows melted and stirred into flavored gelatin, and then is chilled in a pan before being rolled up and sliced into wiggly, giggly little pinwheels, err tongues.

Monster Tongues (Marshmallow Pinwheels)

Monster Tongues 2

1, 3 oz, package flavored jello gelatin (NOT pudding), any flavor
1/2 cup warm water
1-1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

Directions

  1. Whisk the gelatin mix and warm water together in medium microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high for about 1-1/2 minutes, then whisk again until the gelatin is completely dissolved into the water.
    2. Stir in the marshmallows. Microwave everything on high again for another minute, or until the  marshmallows are partially melted. Remove the bowl from the microwave and whisk again, this time until the marshmallows are completely melted and stirred into the gelatin mixture. Pour the gelatin mix into an 8-inch square pan sprayed with cooking spray.
    3. Refrigerate for about 45 minutes, or until set. Run a sharp knife around edges of pan to loosen the gelatin from the pan. Starting at 1 edge, roll up the layered gelatin tightly, like a jelly roll. Cut the roll into 1/2-inch slices. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.

recipe adapted from Kraft

Grill Master Card for Father’s Day

Still struggling to find the perfect card for Dad or Grandpa tomorrow? This card is perfect for the grill master in your life on Father’s Day. It would also make an adorable birthday card. Super simple, and how fun are those Mike & Ike ‘hot dogs’?

 fathers day card 2

black/orange/yellow marker
paper or card stock
glue
red Mike & Ike candies

To Assemble

1. Fold and/or cut your card stock into your preferred card size.
2. Draw a black circle on the paper and color in the middle with orange and yellow to make ‘fire’. After that color some charcoal dots over top the fire with the black marker.
3. Use a ruler, a book, or some other object with a firm straight edge and draw diagonal lines across the circle to make the grill rack. Draw three lines on top of each of the candies for grill marks. Glue them down on top of the grill.
4. Write ‘Dad … The Grill Master’ at the top of the card and then your message on the inside. Done!

Carrot Cake Pudding Cups

Have you heard of Carrot Pudding? Or maybe in your family it’s called ‘Christmas’ Pudding, and it graces the table at Christmas time and even at other various holiday meals including Easter. (very confusing to a curious kid!) It’s a traditional steamed pudding made with carrots, raisins, nuts and spices. It’s like a mushier carrot cake and the flavors blend gorgeously.

 Carrot Cake Pudding Cups

Did I just say gorgeous? Gorgeous. As in it’s gorgeous outside. Bee-a-you-tee-ful. The sun is shining without a single cloud in the sky, the windows are open, and a crisp breeze is lightly rustling the curtains.

Despite my obvious case of Spring Fever, Easter is here once again so I should probably be gearing up to make this years batch of pudding. Right? But steamed pudding reminds me of something cozy and warm. And that reminds of the dark days of Winter that we just weathered for months. And I don’t want to go back just yet. I don’t wanna. But then there’s my cathartic need to create and maintain family/holiday traditions every year. Are you begining to see my conundrum?

carrot cake pudding cups 3

Then my friend Blair over at The Seasoned Mom posted this awesome idea for carrot cake snack pack pudding cups. And I was sold.

Carrot Cake Pudding Cups 4

I don’t know what it is about snack packs, but no matter how old they get the sons still seem to go nuts over them. Any recipe where I can sneak a few extra fruits and veggies into a snack that tastes like dessert? You guessed it, that’s a good day. I got to enjoy all those traditional favors without any chilly reminders. And I still technically served them carrot pudding. And best of all, it was fun. Everybody wanted to make there own. And while there’s a 50/50 chance at any given holiday whether the sons will actually even partake of the carrot pudding when offered, everybody loved these. Everybody. Even the hubs wanted to know when I’d break open the second pack and if I’d fix em up the same way.

So guess what we’re having for dessert tomorrow night in addition to our Easter bunny cake?

Carrot Cake Pudding Cups

Carrot Cake Pudding Cups 2

4 vanilla flavored snack packs
1 large carrot (or 2 small carrots), finely grated
4 tbsp raisins
1 tsp cinnamon, quartered
nutmeg and cinnamon
18-20 Nilla Wafer cookies, crushed
cream cheese frosting

Directions

1. Put your grated carrot into a microwave-safe bowl. Sprinkle on a few drops of water, cover, and microwave the shredded carrot for 30 seconds, or until softened. Set the cooked carrot aside and allow them to cool completely.
2. Stir about 1 scant tbsp of the cooked carrots, 1 tbsp of raisins, 1 tbsp of cookie crumbs (optional), ¼ tsp cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg into each pudding cup, until evenly incorporated.
3. Top the prepared pudding cup with an additional tablespoon of cookie crumbs. Pipe the cream cheese frosting on top of the cookie crumbs and sprinkle on a dash of cinnamon. Voila! Enjoy your fun & festive Easter treat.

3 Ingredient Edible Peeps Playdough

Another Easter’s almost here, and you know what that means. PEEPS! Peeps here, Peeps there, Peeps are everywhere. The hubs and the sons go nuts for these things. The hubs prefers to slit open a package and let them sit for a couple of days as he finds them quite pleasing when stale. (YUCK!) The sons will badger me incessantly if they see a package in the pantry, even though if they just patiently wait until Easter the bunny always loads their baskets up with several packages.

The past few years, I’ve seen mroe and more ideas floating around with different ideas and suggested uses for them. Last year we made Peep kabobs for their baskets. I noticed they’re now selling them in stores this year. Well this year we took it above and beyond by making this simple, but awesome edible ‘playdough’ for Son # 4. Even the older sons wanted in on this action. Although I was forbidden from photo documenting the event. No evidence and plausible deniability… blah, blah, blah. Who knows, maybe this will find it’s way to the Peep market eventually. In the meantime, it doesn’t get any easier and it’s tons of simple, sugary fun for you and the little ones to gear up for the holiday.

 peeps playdough

3 Peeps
1 tbsp of coconut oil
3 tbsp of powdered sugar, plus more for dusting

peeps playdough 3

Put both the peeps and the oil in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for them for 10 seconds, just long enough to watch the peeps “grow” with the heat. Take the bowl out of the microwave and add in the powdered sugar and stir. As you stir the mixture in the bowl, the ‘dough’ should begin pulling away from the edges of the bowl. Lightly dust the lump with powdered sugar and work out any additional lumps in your dough with your hands.
If your dough is too sticky or too oily, add more powdered sugar, and alternatively if it is cracking, add a touch more oil. Use your hands to knead the dough until everything’s equally incorporated and it has reached a malleable consistency.

peeps playdough 2

Ok, so while we’re calling this playdough, it’s actually pretty much marshmallow fondant with some added pizzazz and Easter-y fun from the Peeps. The pink ball was with traditional peeps, but we went out on a limb and gave the party cake peeps a try, and it tasted even better! This edible marshmallow dough can be used and played with just like regular play dough, but it does not store well. So if you’re getting ready to make it, be sure to have the kiddos on hand to get the most play time in with it.

peeps playdough 4

Concerned this is too much sugar? Check out this version from Still Playing School that uses cornstarch instead of powdered sugar. Coincidentally, they also make a bigger batch so it’d be great for larger quantities for multiple little ones to enjoy.

The Twinkie Cake

For years and years the sons and I would painstakingly agonize over and critique cake designs. Flavor combos. You name it, we were on it. Everything had to be just perfect for their big day! (Now they’d say it has to be on ‘fleek’ which makes me want to pull my hair out. Gah. I miss simpler days.) As they’ve gotten older, you could say there interest has waned. This past year with both the older boys, they could have cared less what their cakes looked like. They just wanted cake. And frosting. And ice cream. Because, sugar. It’s all about the sugar.

What happened to my sugar?!

Teen Dream Twinkie Cake

Well, unbeknownst to my less than interested involved birthday boy, my sugar-a-holic, I decided to meet this challenge head on. You want sugar? Mama’s got sugar! Lots and lots of sugar for ya.

teen dream twinkie cake 2

And thus the teen dream, the dream he didn’t even know he had, the cake he never knew how badly he wanted, cake was born. A heavily frosted two tier cake, studded with heavenly processed creme filled cakes of pre-packaged perfection.

Teen Dream Twinkie Cake 3

Behold: The Teen Dream Twinkie Cake. With 15 candles for our birthday boy to make a wish on. Yes, you read that right. I don’t care how old they get, they’re still gonna be my babies. And I’m still going to cover your cake in candles, light them on fire, and with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face take an annoying amount of pictures while watching you blow them out.

Teen Dream Twinkie Cake 4

So even though your big day’s come and gone I’ll still leave you with a little note. Just pretend you’re back in elementary school and it’s a lunchbox note! Except now you’re really in Tech Drawing class sneaking a peek and making sure I didn’t say anything too embarrassing 😉

Happy, happy, happiest of birthdays to my guy, my picky —–, my original little engineer, our very own little Spider man (or would it be spider monkey?). Neither of us can believe you’re 15! This is just crazy. Dad and I have enjoyed every minute of watching you grow into quite the young man, the gentleman, with the equally gentle and generous soul to match. So, go ahead with your bad self (and your suns out guns out tank top) and rock that six pack you’ve worked so hard for, because your heart of gold outshines it all 🙂 We love you and pray that all of your dreams come true, just like ours did in being blessed to be your parents.

 The Twinkie Cake

2 boxes of store-bought yellow cake mix
2 cans of whipped vanilla frosting
(4) boxes of 8 Count Twinkies
9″ baking pans, 6″ baking pan

Directions

1. Make two 9″ round cakes using one of the boxed cake mixes. Make and bake according to the package directions. From the second box you’re going to make one additional 6″ round cake. Make the 6″ cake as tall as you can in your cake pan. You want the extra height to compensate for it being a single layer. There will be some leftover.
2. After they’ve baked and cooled, find a base for your cake, such as a cake stand or a cake carrier, and frost one of the 9″ cakes on top and on the sides. Put the second 9″ cake on top of the frosted one and repeat frosting the top and sides.
3. Now it’s time to measure out the Twinkies. We had to trim them each about 1/2 inch to get the layers to match. The cuts also serve as a nice base to keep them standing as opposed to falling off/over. Once you’ve measured, make sure to trim each one exactly the same.
4. Gently press the bottom side of the Twinkie (the flat side, NOT the cut end) against the frosting so that it sticks. Be sure to be ready to do the Twinkie step right after frosting so the frosting’s still ‘wet’ and hasn’t hardened. Continue until you’ve covered the bottom layer. Once that’s done, repeat the process for the top layer. Start by placing the 6″ cake on top of and in the center of the frosted double layered cake. Frost it on the sides and on top and measure and cut the Twinkies to match up with this layer and repeat the process of pressing them around the sides of the cake. To finish off the cake, I used a star tip to make a simple, accented top. You could opt to just spread on some frosting like with the previous layer or even sprinkle some candy on top. Whatever floats you (and your teen’s) boat.