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.

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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.

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(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.

This cake was originally created by Cutefetti

Peppermint Sugar Cookie Bark

Friday the sons and I made this bark that was so freakin’ delicious I almost ate my arm off because it was attached to the bark. Shh! It happens.

With delicious sugar cookie dough center sandwiched between two delectable layers of white chocolate and sprinkled with crushed candy cane bits, it just screams ‘holiday’. It’s perfectly peppermint-y and, in my opinion, pairs best with a big ol mug full of hot chocolate.

 Peppermint Sugar Cookie Bark

Despite my childhood experiences, as I grew up I was disappointed to learn that Peppermint candies do not in fact just grown on trees. Stupid deceptive childhood board games! So until some miraculous day in the future when science can finally crack the genetic code of the candy cane tree this peppermint ‘bark’ will just have to suffice. I think we’ll survive. 😉

Peppermint Sugar Cookie Bark

Peppermin Sugar Cookie Bark

recipe adapted from Crazy For Crust

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup all purpose flour
16 ounces white candy melts or baking chocolate
4 regular size candy canes, or 12-14 mini candy canes

Directions

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Mix in the vanilla and salt until incorporated. Slowly add in teh flour, a little at a time, mixing until fully incorporated. Your dough will be pretty thick (that’s OK!), but should be smooth and all the ingredients evenly combined.
2. Cover a cutting board with a large piece of wax paper. Place the dough in the center, press it down flat, and cover it with another piece of wax paper. Roll the dough into a rectangle (about 8’x10′) between the two pieces of wax paper. I used an acrylic glass to roll mine out, but use a rolling pin if you want to be all fancy and pretty about it. Chill the rolled dough for at least 10 minutes.
3. Place your candy canes in a quart-sized ziploc bag. You can either roll them with a rolling pin to crush, or you could go with a few well-aimed whacks of a mallet. The sons love any excuse to whack something with the meat mallet. Tiny hole will appear in the bag though, so perform this operation with care, or at least on a cutting board to minimize mess.
4. Line a cookie sheet with more wax paper. Melt your white chocolate according to the package directions. Pour about half of the melted chocolate out onto the wax paper and use a spatula to spread it into a rectangle a little bit bigger than the dough.
5. Remove one piece of wax paper from the dough, place that side down onto the spread chocolate, and then remove the top piece of wax paper. Pour the remaining melted chocolate over top of the dough and use a spatula to spread it to cover the dough, making sure to meet the edges of the bottom layer to seal the dough inside. Sprinkle the top with the crushed candy canes.
6. Chill until set, about least 30 minutes, or if you’re more patient than we were, leave it on the counter top to set itself. Because the cookie dough is so moist and won’t set firm, breaking this bark apart will most likely result in the chocolate separating from the dough. We can’t have that, so it’s best if you gently cut it into wedge shaped pieces. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, but serve them at room temperature.

Gingerbread Cookie Dough Fudge

Put away your jeans, it’s time to bust out the stretchy pants. It’s fudge season again!

 Gingerbread Cookie Dough Fudge 3

Do you ever dream about food? Or more specifically, do you ever dream about a specific food? And then wake up and it’s still on your brain? And it’s all you can think about until you’re finally able to make it? That’s exactly what happened to me earlier this week. I woke up with gingerbread and fudge on the brain. It wasn’t an entirely bad way to start the day 😉 And before long I found myself making Gingerbread Cookie Dough Fudge. This fudge tasted just as good as I dreamed it would. Talk about a dream come true!

Gingerbread Cookie Dough Fudge 2

This particular fudge is especially appropriate for the holidays too since it does taste just like gingerbread cookie dough. Yes, really. It’s soft and chewy like cookie dough with the same classic flavors you’re craving. No worries about raw eggs or having to take the time to bake. No thermometer required either.

Gingerbread Cookie Dough Fudge

Gingerbread Cookie Dough Fudge

recipe adapted from Lauren’s Latest

1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
4 oz white chocolate
2 tbsp liquid molasses
1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves

Directions

1. In a large bowl, place sweetened condensed milk, white chocolate and molasses. Microwave on high for about 2 minutes {stirring every 30 seconds} to melt chocolate into milk. Alternatively, melt the chocolate into the milk using a double boiler on the stove top.
2. Measure and pour the dry ingredients into the milk chocolate mixture, stirring until smooth and evenly mixed together.
3. Pour into a greased 8×8 glass baking dish. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until set OR leave on counter to cool for 3 hours. Cut into squares and serve.

‘O Christmas Tree’ Pancakes You’ll Flip For

For both kids and the adults, Christmas morning is a culmination of all the anticipation of the holiday season, and all the preparations that got you to that moment, that makes everything feel magical. But in all the excitement of  the kids who’re waking up, parents running on fumes of sleep, spending time with family and opening gifts, you still need to eat. But, not everybody wants to cook. I still think Christmas morning breakfast should be as special as the day itself. In my case, it’s also got be quick to prepare or easy to make-ahead so I’m not stuck in the kitchen away from the rest of the family for half of the morning. This right here, fits the bill.

 O Christmas Tree! snack for the kids

Pancakes. Breakfast Sausage. Whipped Cream. M & M’s. What do all these things have in common? They all make up this fun food idea that kids will go ga-ga for.

This isn’t only for Christmas morning though. It’s also perfect for any day leading up to the big day. If you’re a morning person, you can easily have this on the table and enjoyed before the school bus arrives. If you’re anything like me and the mornings have you stuck at the cross roads between hectic and harried, no worries. This makes an awesome after school snack too. Options, I like options. 🙂

‘O Christmas Tree’ Pancakes You’ll Flip For

O Christmas Tree Pancakes

favorite pancake batter
green food coloring
M&M’s
whipped cream
sausage links

Directions

1. To make, heat a flat griddle until warm but not too hot. If you heat the pan too hot, the pancakes will brown too quickly and you will lose the color.
2. Cook pancakes, as many as desired. One regular sized pancake will make one Christmas tree.
3. Once the pancakes are cooked on both sides, cut them into quarters using a pancake cutter.
4. Layer the pancakes on a plate starting with the top and making three layers.
5. Cook the sausage links and add one, halved length-wise, for the trunk of the tree.
6. Arrange some M&Ms for the ornaments and add a whipped cream ‘star’ and you’re ready to serve.

Christmas Tree Pull Apart Bread

Are you like me? Are you filled with Christmas spirit all month long? Do you try to bring a Christmasy something into each day and/or meal for your family? Well, if you don’t I highly recommend it. If you do, you can probably vouch for how a little bit here or there, magically gets everyone in the Christmas mood. It’s like magic, and as a Mom, it’s a beautiful thing to behold. There’s no question we all love bread in th is family, and I try to have some sort of option (if it’s appropriate) with our dinners. Knowing I’m trying to slip a little holiday cheer into pretty much anything and everything right now, I figured why make dinner rolls or a plain loaf of bread, if I can put a pull-apart Christmas tree on the table?

 Christmas Tree Pull Apart Bread 1

At the grocery store, I had seen a tree-shaped cake pan, and I thought it would be pretty cool for baking bread. Then I thought about it some more and figured that I could make a free-form tree shape instead. Making and then using cheese-filled dough balls, the sons and I created a Christmas tree shape with our loose interpretation of a star on top. We needed some green and used some dried parsley flakes for that, but if you’re feeling more traditional sprinkle some rosemary on top. Rosemary’s much more Christmas tree like in texture anyway. I figured at least a few of our seems would leak filling during baking, but wasn’t overly concerned. The sons decided that it worked perfectly because our tree had snow on it too!

Christmas Tree Pull Apart Bread

 Christmas Tree Pull Apart Bread

1 can (13.8 oz) refrigerated pizza crust, or pizza dough
4 oz cream cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
2 tablespoons butter
1/4-1/2 tsp garlic powder
2-3 tbsp dried parsley or fresh rosemary
1 cup warmed marinara sauce for dipping

Directions

1. Lay out, or roll out depending on if you’re using refrigerated pizza crust or actual dough, pizza dough onto a cutting board and stretch to a 10 x 15 inch size. Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 28 equal squares. In a bowl, combine cream cheese and shredded cheese, stirring until evenly combined.
2. Add roughly one tablespoon of the cheese to each dough square. Seal the seems and then gently roll the dough in your hand to form a ball. Place the dough balls on a cookie sheet in a Christmas tree shape as shown in the picture above. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 – 17 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
3. In a small pot, melt the butter and stir in the garlic powder. After removing the pull-apart bread from the oven, brush the top with butter and sprinkle with your herbs. Serve pull apart with warm marinara sauce for dipping.