Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween!

We had a fun weekend leading up to Halloween, and a fun Halloween today! We did the traditional carving of pumpkins over the weekend...

Then this morning I thought it would be fun to make a nice breakfast and try my hand at pumpkin and ghost pancakes! I think the pumpkins turned out better than the ghosts. I just free handed these. They of course would be a lot better if I had had a pancake mold. Maybe I'll get one for next year.

I also made bacon this morning (which I absolutely hate doing). I have a hard time with cooking bacon because the grease is always spitting at me and I can never get it just right. Today I decided to try a new method - in the oven. Let me just tell you that I will never cook bacon another way. Now I won't skip over recipes with bacon in them just because I'm scared to cook it.

So here's how you cook bacon in the oven. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Place bacon on the tin foil in a single layer. Place in the oven (without the oven on) and turn the oven on to 400 degrees. Cook for 17-20 minutes or until brown and crisp. Remove from oven and transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate. Let cool and eat! So simple and I promise this works great.

Anyway, moving on. I then spent the rest of my Halloween day making our costumes for our parties... I decided to wait until today to make them because of the balloons. I wanted the helium to be fresh and to last so I picked them up this morning and put everything together while my son took a nap. I finished 3 hot air balloons in 2 hours. They are that simple. And I LOVED how them turned out.

We enjoyed a nice trunk-or-treat at our church and then joined some friends for a party afterwards. Our hot air balloons were a big hit and everyone thought they were very fun. All of the little kids loved them too, and they kept wanting to play with the balloons. I'll post instructions another day so stay tuned.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Spider Webs

Today we had a Halloween party for our playgroup at church. One of my friends and I were in charge of planning the party for the kids and their moms. One of my assignments was to bring cookies. I have been wanting to try these sugar cookies ever since I saw them on Pinterest. Mine definitely DID NOT turn out as good as the ones over at Pacific Thyme, but in order to be fair to myself this was my 2nd time ever decorating sugar cookies with royal icing.

I did however love the recipe. Almost as much as my favorite sugar cookie recipe. However, I used a different royal icing recipe because I did not want to use egg whites and I didn't have meringue powder.

Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
2 ½ cups flour

Cream butter. Add powdered sugar. Blend in egg, vanilla, salt and flour. Chill dough until firm. Roll to ¼” thickness on well-floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375° for 8-10 min. Cookies should not brown. Frost and decorate when cool. Yields ~24 cookies.

Royal Icing

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp Karo syrup
Milk (enough to make a thin glaze)

Mix thoroughly, color if desired and use to frost sugar cookies!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monster Bag

I saw these darling felt Trick-or-Treat bags over at homemade by jill. I had some felt squares on hand and thought it would be fun to whip one up for my little guy. My version is quite a bit smaller than Jill's but my little one is only 17 months old so it will hold more than enough candy for him to enjoy.

I didn't have ric rac on hand so I just cut a strip of felt with pinking shears. I made it a bit too long so Frankenstein's eyebrow is huge, but it's Frankenstein right?

This project was super fast. It took me a total of 1 1/2 hours from start to finish (and I am a really slow cutter, sewer, crafter so it can totally be done in a 1/2 hour if you are awesome)!

I am so excited for my son to use it next Monday for the trunk-or-treat at our church.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fruit Smoothie Oatmeal

I am always curious what other people feed their kids for breakfast. Most of the time when you read blogs they have these amazing recipes that seem like they would take too long to make in the morning when you have a hungry monster in your kitchen begging to be fed. Or maybe I'm the only one with a hungry monster?

Well, my hungry monster usually wants breakfast right away so I have come up with some fast, simple, and healthy breakfasts to feed him in a hurry. This concoction is what I like to call fruit smoothie oatmeal.

I promise it actually tastes a lot better than it looks!

This is such a simple thing to do for breakfast. We like to make smoothies for dinner sometimes at our house and usually I make way too much for our small family of 3. I then freeze the leftover smoothie in ice cube trays to use for our breakfasts.

On a morning that we feel like making oatmeal I will whip up a batch of plain oatmeal (aka microwave rolled oats with water until cooked through) and add melted smoothie. Just heat up the left over smoothie ice cubes and add to the oatmeal as your liquid instead of milk. This also does not need any sweeteners because the fruit from your smoothies will be plenty sweet enough. If, however, you like your oatmeal extra sweet then simply add some honey.

Next time you have leftover smoothie then try using it in your oatmeal. You will be amazed how delicious it is - and healthy. This could be a great way to get your kids to eat more fruits and even more vegetables depending on what you make your smoothies with.

Friday, October 21, 2011


After hanging my trick-or-treat banner I wanted to get more decorations up for Halloween. I just got so excited about decorating. I saw these bats over at MADE a while back and I thought they would be kind of fun and simple. I think that Dana's look a lot more realistic and exciting, but it has been fun to have these bat friends hanging out in our home.

The more decorations I get up the more I want to do. It is really exciting to see something different going on in our little eat-in kitchen (or dining room as we call it). I have a few more ideas rolling in my head, but I am not sure if I will use them this year or wait until next year to do them. It is after all only 11 days until Halloween.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I have been trying to find new and exciting ways to decorate my apartment for the Holidays. I have neglected decorating for most of the Holidays because we simply have no room to store any decorations from year to year. However, I am officially sick of the same old apartment so I have decided to come up with inexpensive, easy crafts that I can either fold up flat and store easily in a small space or possibly even throw out and re-do the next year.

My first project along these lines was this Trick-or-Treat paper banner...

I absolutely LOVE how it turned out! It is the only Halloween decoration that we have in our house, but it at least makes me feel a little bit better as a homemaker/house decorator. Plus it is making me really excited for Halloween! I am hoping that I can make some other little decorations over the next week so that I can add a bit more. Then hopefully next year I can add even more. I only have a couple of ideas right now of more things to do, so if you know of any easy, inexpensive decorations that I can add to my home then please let me know!

To make the trick-or-treat banner I simply cut out triangles from THIS template for the words, as well as a few colorful ones to border the words. Then I used a scalloped circle punch to punch circles out of coordinating paper. Then I used a hole punch to punch 2 holes on the top of each circle/triangle and fed thin, white ribbon through. For the letters I created them in Word and printed them on white cardstock. Then I cut them out the old school way with scissors because I don't have a silhouette machine and my cricut blade is broken.

Want to make your own Trick-or-Treat banner? Save the images below to your computer and simply print on white cardstock. Then cut and glue (I simply used a glue stick) them onto the paper of your choice.

Happy banner making to you all!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Amazing Alfredo Sauce

If you haven't figured it out by now this blog is not about originality, although some things are original. This blog is simply a place where I keep all of my ideas/recipes so that I can access them easily from anywhere. That way I can make one of my yummy recipes even when I am out of town and do not have my recipe book on hand. Or I can recreate a fantastic craft that I loved.

Anyway, I found this amazing recipe for Guiltless Alfredo Sauce over at Our Best Bites. It has been my go to sauce for pasta the past 4 months. I make it at least every other week. It is simple, fast, delicious, and a lot healthier than other Alfredo sauces. I love to pair it with roasted asparagus, but it is also great paired with roasted green beans, or roasted zucchini.

Guiltless Alfredo Sauce

2 C low-fat milk
1/3 C (3 oz) low fat cream cheese
2 T flour
1 t salt
1 T butter
3 garlic cloves
1 C grated Parmesan cheese

Place milk, cream cheese, flour, and salt in a blender and blend until smooth. In a non-stick sauce pan, melt butter on med-high heat and add garlic. Let the garlic saute for about 30 seconds, you don’t want to burn it.

Then add milk mixture to the pan. Stir constantly for about 3 or 4 minutes or until it just comes to a simmer. Keep stirring and let it cook for a few minutes more. It should be much thicker now.

When it’s nice and thickened remove the pan from the heat. Add the cheese, stir it up and then cover immediately. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before using. It will continue to thicken upon standing. Also, if you have leftovers in the fridge, the sauce will thicken almost into a solid. Just re-heat and add a little milk and it will be back to normal again.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Graham Cracker Apple Crisp

Here's another great Fall recipe for you! A couple of weeks ago my son and I went apple picking with some friends. We picked up a bucket full of apples and are still working on using them up. I think we have maybe gone through half of them. In my efforts to use them up I made my first ever apple crisp. And boy was it a little slice of heaven.

I searched for a recipe and found one from a website that I love, Your Homebased Mom. Leigh Anne of course has prettier pictures of this beauty on her website so go check it out HERE. I have tried many of her recipes and have always been impressed with the yumminess that comes from her site.

And of course, DO NOT forget to pair this with a delicious scoop of vanilla ice cream. Costco is my favorite brand that we can buy locally. It is super creamy and delicious. But I would recommend Blue Bell if you are able to buy it near you.

Note: I did change the title of this recipe for my own memory so that I will remember that this delicious recipe has graham cracker crumbs in the crisp. It is divine - I promise!

Graham Cracker Apple Crisp

4-6 large Granny Smith apples (I actually used Golden Delicious apples and it turned out great)

8 graham crackers

3/4 C brown sugar, packed

1/2 C rolled oats (I used quick oats)

1/2 C flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 C butter, melted

Peel, core, slice apples. Finely chop graham crackers (I use my food processor). Combine crumbs, sugar, oats, flour and spices. Add butter; mix well. Spoon mixture over apple slices.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Chicken, Wild Rice & Potato Soup

This might very well be the very first recipe I have ever posted that is actually one that is technically mine. Of course it was adapted from an original recipe, but I was the one who adapted it! I first tried the original recipe when I was a new mom and my friend, Natalie, brought dinner to us. She made this soup but it originally has mushrooms instead of potatoes. We are not a mushroom loving family so we have altered it to suit our own tastes.

Doesn't that just look yummy? Well, it's not the best picture ever, but it really is yummy! Soup just screams Fall to me. I am so happy that it has finally cooled down a bit where we live and it even rained the day I whipped this up. I have made this soup many times over the past year and it never disappoints me. Pair it with freshly made wheat bread and you have an amazing dinner.

Chicken, Wild Rice & Potato Soup

3/4 cup wild rice
6 1/2 cups chicken stock/broth
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups peeled, diced potatoes
3/4 cup chopped celery
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup whipping cream (you can also use milk)
2 cups cooked, diced chicken (I bake mine at 350 for about 15-20 minutes. Put salt and pepper on it and cover it with chicken stock/broth to make it extra moist.)

In a large pot combine rice, 5 cups stock/broth, carrots, celery, potatoes, and onion. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 35-40 minutes, until rice is tender but still chewy. In a small sauce pan, melt butter and add flour, salt and pepper; let this boil for 30 seconds then slowly add in the remaining 1 1/2 cup stock/broth. Boil for 1-2 minutes. Add cream, or milk, and then add mixture to soup pot and stir in chopped chicken.

This soup makes 6-8 servings. It is also very flexible. You can add as much or as little of any of the vegetables listed (or add mushrooms, zucchini, squash, peas, or green beans). Sprinkle chopped parsley and shredded Parmesan cheese on top to add more flavor and texture.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

I guess this week is cupcake week. I am so excited to finally get this recipe up on my blog. These cupcakes were AMAZING. As I previously mentioned I am a lover of white cupcakes. I have never liked chocolate cupcakes (or chocolate cake really), but these cupcakes are to die for. It's really the mint that does it for me. So if you like mint and chocolate together then you will definitely want to make these the next time you are craving something sweet.

This is yet another of Mel's fabulous creations over at Mel's Kitchen Cafe. I told you I loved her recipes. If there is something I want to make and don't have a recipe for I typically start at her website to see if she has a recipe for it. Her pictures are of course much better than mine so check them out HERE.

NOTE: The frosting in this recipe makes a lot. I frosted 30 cupcakes and only used about half of the frosting. If you don't want leftover frosting then I would half the frosting portion of the recipe. Or if you want to do what I did you could make mint brownies with the extra frosting once the cupcakes are gone. Also, I made these cupcakes the night before Abby's baby shower and then put them in the fridge. I pulled them out about 10 minutes before the party and stuck an Andes Mint on the top of each one. It made preparations for the party super easy.

Over-the-Top Andes Mint Cupcakes


2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Chocolate Mint Filling:
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Mint Buttercream Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons) butter, softened to room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
32 ounces powdered sugar (about 7 cups)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
Green food coloring

30 Andes mints for garnish

For the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin cups with paper baking cups. In a large bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; using a handheld electric mixer or an electric stand mixer, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water. The batter will be on the thinner side. Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs. This recipe makes about 30 cupcakes. So you may need to bake the cupcakes in installments if you only have 1 or 2 muffin tins. Let the cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack, after removing them from the muffin tin.

For the mint filling, while the cupcakes are baking, place the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a small microwave-safe bowl and heat for 1 minute at 50% power. Stir. Repeat the process until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the peppermint extract and powdered sugar, whisking until smooth. Let the mixture cool to room temperature (but don’t let it get too stiff) and pour it into a squeeze bottle or a ziploc bag (it helps to place the ziploc bag, one point down, in a tall glass while filling).

When the cupcakes are cool, insert the tip of the squeeze bottle into the center of the cupcake and press gently to fill the middle of the cupcake with the mint ganache.

For the frosting, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add the heavy cream and peppermint and vanilla extracts. Beat until light and fluffy. Add green food coloring until the color you like is achieved.

Frost the cooled, filled cupcakes with frosting (using a large star tip) or simply spread the frosting in a large dollop with a butter knife or flat spatula. Garnish with an unwrapped Andes mint and a drizzle of leftover ganache (make sure the ganache is completely cool or it will melt the frosting when you drizzle it on top of the cupcake). Refrigerate until serving.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Perfect Birthday Cupcakes {And Frosting}

Remember these yummy looking cupcakes that I made forever ago for my son's first birthday?

Well here is the spectacular recipe for them. I found both the cupcake and the frosting recipes at Mel's Kitchen Cafe. You already know how much I love her recipes. I have tried quite a few of them and have always loved everything I have made of hers. Click HERE for a direct link to the recipes on her website.

These cupcakes were absolutely perfect. I personally prefer white cupcakes and these were deliciously moist and sweet (but not too sweet). The frosting was also equally as good, if not better. I think this recipe will be my go to cupcake recipe for parties and birthdays. Give them a try - you will not be disappointed.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 for light, aluminum or silicone muffin pans or 325 for dark, nonstick muffin pans. Line about 16-24 muffin cups with liners and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix in eggs and egg yolk one at a time and then mix in the vanilla. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Combine. Add 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix. Add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Mix. Add the final 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix and then add the final 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Mix until combined and the batter is smooth. Spoon out batter into lined cupcake pan, filling only halfway or just barely over halfway.

Bake for about 15-18 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven based on the type of muffin pan you have), until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out with moist crumbs. Don’t overbake!

Remove the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely. Frost with vanilla buttercream frosting.

Quick Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

½ cup (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) butter, softened to room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
16 ounces powdered sugar (about 3 ½ cups)
¼ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a large bowl using a handheld mixer or the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat the softened butter and cream cheese together until it is light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the vanilla. Add the powdered sugar gradually and mix in fully after each addition. Cream at low speed until well blended and creamy. Pour in the heavy cream and whip until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Overnight Blueberry French Toast

For this recipe I think the picture says it all!!!

Doesn't that just look AMAZING. And it tastes amazing too. This is a definite must try in blueberry season. We still have blueberries everywhere here but the prices are definitely going up. My mom tried this recipe when we visited Utah last May. She made it knowing that she would score some major points with my husband! He loves everything and anything blueberry (I have probably said that before). So go find some blueberries (you can use frozen ones too I think) and whip this up for a nice leisurely Saturday, or Sunday, breakfast/brunch. You will not be disappointed.

Overnight Blueberry French Toast
8-10 slices french (or sourdough) bread, torn into 1 inch pieces
1 pkg cream cheese, softened and whipped with 1/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup blueberries
8 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbs cornstarch
3/4 cup water
Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange half the bread cubes in the dish, and top with cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle 1 cup blueberries over the cream cheese, and top with remaining bread cubes. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and syrup. Pour over the bread cubes. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the bread cube mixture from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover, and bake 30 minutes. Uncover, and continue baking 25-30 minutes, until center is firm and surface is lightly browned.
In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, cook 3-4 minutes. Mix in the remaining 1 cup blueberries. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, until the blueberries burst. Pour over the baked french toast.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bunting Banner Template (Printable)

PS: HERE is a downloadable, printable template for making bunting banners. I used this template when I made this baby banner for my friend, Abby's, baby shower. You could use this template to make fabric or paper banners.

I look forward to making more bunting banners in the future with this easy template. It even has two different sizes of triangles in case you want to make different sized banners. I have a Halloween banner in the works that I am excited to show off soon! Happy crafting to you all!