Category Archives: Holidays

Quick Kid Craft: Patriotic T-shirts.

patriotic shirts

This year we wanted to wear something a little different for the 4th of July, so we undertook this easy t-shirt craft after seeing a friend post a picture of her son wearing one. It takes only a few minutes apart from drying, & you can even “girlify” it with a little ribbon! I took sharp scissors & snipped small cuts in the shirt, either on the front pocket, or around the neck. Just make sure you have an even number. Thread the ribbon through & tie into a pretty knot or bow, then squeeze a little hot glue inside the knot to keep it from untying in the wash. Now, if your little girl has an abnormally large head like mine does, you may want to snip the ribbon where it doesn’t show & safety-pin it after she pulls it over her head. Didn’t think about the fact that it needed to stretch… Whoops!

Now on to painting!

What you need:

  • kid-sized white t-shirt (I got mine at Target for $5 each)
  • red & blue paint (you can use fabric paint, but acrylic is so much cheaper–usually less than 50 cents a bottle–& I’ll show you how to heat-set it at the end for the wash)
  • 1″ foam brush
  • 2 paper plates

What to do:

  1. Squeeze a generous amount of your blue paint onto one paper plate & spread it around.
  2. Place your child’s left hand in the paint, coating well. Then carefully help her stamp her hand, fingers outstretched, on the left side of the shirt. Clean off her hand &, if she’s young, let her go play while you do the rest. (By the way, 14 months may be a tad young for this craft; my little one kept squelching her fingers together & I had to spread them myself.)
  3. Squeeze some red paint onto the other paper plate & use your foam brush to paint stripes next to the handprint. The foam helps keep the stripes a nice uniform width. Paint as many stripes as you think look good!
  4. To heat-set: When the paint is completely dry, place a doubled-up paper towel inside the shirt & on top of the painted part, then iron on the cotton setting (high heat) for about a minute. Now you can wash it after they wear it!

If you’re looking for a place to wear your new shirts, how about organizing an indoor “parade” through a nursing home? That’s what we did yesterday, & it was a wonderful experience. We rounded up some friends from our MOMS Club, decorated up our wagons, waved some little flags, & played “Stars & Stripes Forever” on repeat on my iPhone with some little speakers as we marched through the halls. The residents were very appreciative of visitors, & it was a great experience for the kids! They loved marching & getting so much attention, & it was a great teaching moment about how good service can make us feel. My 4-year-old kept saying, “Mommy, they’re so happy to see me!”

decorated wagon

nursing home parade

Where will you wear your patriotic shirts?

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Simple Shamrock Sugar Cookies.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day (in a week or so) from this non-Irish (Scottish & Welsh, actually) gal!

I found this easy, kitchen-helper-friendly recipe at Better Homes & Gardens (I think) a few years ago & made it again this year for our Mom’s Club’s St. Patrick’s Day party.

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp. extract of choice (I used vanilla, but you could do peppermint or almond)
  • green food coloring (I’ve used both gel & liquid now, & find that liquid is just easier & doesn’t affect the dough’s composition)
  • 2 cups flour
  • green sanding sugar
  1. In your stand mixer with the flat paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed 30 seconds or until softened.
  2. Add sugar & salt; beat on med-high until fluffy.
  3. Add egg, extract, & food coloring. Beat well. Add more food coloring if necessary; it will look paler when the flour is added.
  4. On low speed, gradually add the flour & mix well. Divide the dough into 3 equal parts.
  5. Place a sheet of wax paper on a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet. Pour a generous amount of sanding sugar all over the wax paper.
  6. Take 1 of your dough lumps & roll it into a long “snake” 1 inch in diameter. Let your kitchen helper assist you in rolling it in the sugar to coat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough lumps. Toss the wax paper & leftover sugar.
  7. Refrigerate dough “snakes” at least 2 hours, or up to 1 week (yeah right, like cookie dough would EVER last that long in someone’s refrigerator!).
  8. Preheat your oven to 350. Remove one “snake” from the fridge at a time, unwrap, & slice crosswise with a sharp knife into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Take a few of your slices & cut them into thirds to make your “stems.”
  9. Shape your shamrocks by placing 3 slices with sides very slightly overlapping on an ungreased cookie sheet & adding a stem piece. Gently press together. Don’t forget to make a few lucky 4-leaf clovers too!
  10. Bake for about 8 minutes or until set in the middle. Cool on the sheet for a few minutes, then remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

To serve, position them next to each other on a serving dish or tray rather than piling them onto a plate like I did. They ended up looking like a jumble of circles so no one knew what they were until they picked them up. Presentation is everything sometimes!I'm Lovin' It at TidyMom
KitchenFun

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Easy Valentine’s Dessert: 6-Ingredient Molten Chocolate Cakes.

For those of you looking for a last-minute dessert idea for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, here is a molten chocolate cake that tastes every bit as fancy as the restaurant ones, but is easy enough to leave plenty of time for romance!

These beauties became a family tradition for us the first Valentine’s Day after The Munchkin was born, when we weren’t able to go out. This year we actually got a babysitter & get to go out for the first Valentine’s Day since then, so I decided to make them tonight for Sunday Dinner so I could share the recipe with you. I’m sure that My Husband The Eater minded terribly.

I think I first got this from Kraft food&family magazine. This recipe yields 4 small cakes; you can easily halve it for just the two of you, or make the full recipe & save the other 2 to eat later (though they will be less molten). I won’t judge you one bit…. since that’s what we do every year.

  • 4 (1 oz.) squares Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate (or for more richness, use 4 oz. of your favorite bittersweet chocolate)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 6 Tbsp. flour
  • whipped cream or ice cream, for serving
  1. Preheat your oven to 425. Butter or grease 4, 3/4-cup custard cups or souflee dishes. Place them on a baking sheet.
  2. Microwave chocolate & butter in a large microwaveable bowl on high 1 minute or until butter is melted. Stir with a wire whisk until the chocolate is melted too.
  3. Stir in sugar with the whisk until well blended.
  4. Whisk in the eggs & egg yolks. Stir in flour.
  5. Divide the batter equally among prepared cups. Bake 13-14 minutes or until the sides are firm but the centers are still soft.
  6. Let stand 1 minute, then gently run a small knife around the cakes to loosen them. Carefully invert them onto dessert dishes & serve immediately with ice cream or whipped cream.


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Fresh strawberry frosting for heart cutout cookies.

Have you heard of Sprinkles Cupcakes? The first time I heard of them was when they featured this recipe on the Martha Stewart Show a few years ago. Then the California bakery opened a store on the Upper East Side shortly before we left New York, & I had grand designs of doing an East Side-West Side, West Coast-East Coast cupcake taste test to see if they competed with Magnolia, but ran out of time. So I still haven’t had one of their cupcakes. But I’ve never forgotten this frosting recipe!

While I was planning a slew of projects & activities to keep The Munchkin & me occupied & sane in our tiny apartment during Three-Day Potty Training (incidentally, it worked!), I decided on cookies instead of cupcakes because I knew she’d have more fun cutting them out. I had some Pillsbury refrigerated dough on hand, which saved prep time, but honestly the strawberry flavor didn’t come out very well because of the vanilla cookies. Ideally, you’d use the Sprinkles strawberry cupcake recipe too so you really get the strawberry flavor, or if you did do cookies, add some puree or a fruity extract (like lemon or orange) to the dough. But it sure does give a beautiful soft pink hue!

If you plan to decorate your cookies with piping, rather than just sprinkles, you’ll probably want to strain your strawberry puree & add enough cream to reach your desired piping consistency. Also, try to freeze your own fresh strawberries. Buying a whole bag of frozen strawberries at the store not only wastes money & strawberries if you’re not going to be using them; commenters had stated that the less-fresh strawberries made their frosting more gray than pink.

  • about 8 medium strawberries, frozen & thawed (I think they release more juice when they’re frozen… but I could be wrong.)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, firm & slightly cold
  • pinch salt
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. clear vanilla
  1. Puree your strawberries in a food processor. (I used a blender & ended up with some small chunks, rather than a completely smooth puree.)
  2. Cream butter & salt in stand mixer with paddle attachment until fluffy. Reduce speed & slowly add powdered sugar.
  3. Add vanilla & 3+ Tbsp. (to taste) puree; mix until just blended & even in color. Don’t overmix.

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Patriotic Napoleons for Primary Election Day.

The Primaries are tomorrow here in Florida. The race has been hot, to say the least, with almost every single evening commercial break being completely taken up with campaign attack ads. Having already done my civic duty — it’s really easy to vote early here — I thought I’d commemorate the craziness with a little patriotism.

(You don’t need to explain the irony to me of using a French-named dessert… Maybe you could use this for Bastille Day this summer.)

I saw this easy Napoleon recipe on TidyMom a week ago & knew I needed to make it. I love that the thick pudding/whipped cream mixture is essentially a quick pastry cream! Her version uses raspberries & bananas, which sounded good, but strawberries & blueberries are in season here, & I have to tell you, they’re the best I’ve ever tasted. Living in the same county as the top growers for Florida strawberries, we’re getting Farmer’s Market quality in the grocery store! It’s unbelievable. So I thought I’d complement those berries with chocolate & cinnamon instead of TidyMom’s caramel & brown sugar.

That’s the great thing about this: you can do it however you want! I actually was going to do bananas too, but a certain husband ate the last one. Honestly, though, I don’t think we missed them!

One quick note: in the future, I think I’ll use puff pastry instead of crescent dough for a flakier, more authentic texture.

  • 1 (8 oz.) can refrigerated crescent rolls (or use puff pastry)
  • cinnamon sugar
  • 1 cup cold skim milk
  • 1 box (4-serving size) French vanilla (regular vanilla works fine too) instant pudding & pie filling mix
  • 1 cup prepared whipped cream*
  • thinly sliced fruit of choice (bananas, strawberries, raspberries, whole blueberries)
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • vegetable oil

*I made mine with very little powdered sugar so that it wouldn’t be overwhelmingly sweet. You could also use Cool Whip.

  1. Preheat your oven to 375. Cover a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Unroll your crescents into 4 rectangles. Pinch shut the seams that turn them into triangles. Use a pizza cutter or very sharp knife to cut each rectangle into 4 smaller rectangles, approx. 4″x2″. Place on prepared baking sheet & sprinkle each with cinnamon sugar.
  3. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden & beginning to puff. Allow to cool at least 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together milk & pudding mix until smooth & beginning to thicken, then refrigerate 30 minutes, until set.
  5. Fold in whipped cream. If you’re serving this later, cover with plastic wrap & refrigerate until ready to serve. If you’re serving immediately, continue.
  6. Microwave chocolate chips in a small bowl until melted. Stir in enough oil to thin the chocolate to where it is “drizzle-able” (pretend that’s a word).
  7. Construct Napoleons as follows: one crescent rectangle, dollop of pudding mixture, sliced fruit, another crescent rectangle, another dollop, more fruit, & one last crescent rectangle. Drizzle with chocolate. For small children, just dollop some pudding in a bowl, place a crescent rectangle in the pudding, & top with fruit & chocolate drizzle.

Get Your Craft On Tuesdays

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Valentine’s Day Soup & Sandwich.

I feel like tomato soup is just ideal for Valentine’s Day. If you’re not in Florida, where it hit 80 today, it’s still cold enough for soup in February. Plus, the soup is PINK! Could this be any more perfect? Yes, if you add a heart-shaped sandwich!

For our little family, I made a half recipe of this creamy tomato soup, with one tweak, & then served it with grilled cheese sandwiches on whole-wheat bread cut into heart shapes with a large cookie cutter. Comforting & delicious! (Oh, & lower in fat than a cream-based soup!)

Here’s how I made it:

  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 small clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 3 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped, plus additional leaves, chiffonade, for garnish
  • 3 oz. softened Neufchatel cheese
  • 3/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup
  • 1 can (15 oz.) petite diced tomatoes, undrained
  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion & garlic & saute about 2 minutes, until tender.
  2. Reduce heat to low & add paprika, basil, & cream cheese. Gradually stir in milk & soup & stir until smooth.
  3. Turn heat back up to medium & add tomatoes, stirring constantly & breaking up tomatoes further by squashing them with the back of a wooden spoon, until hot.
  4. Serve with heart-shaped grilled cheese sandwiches!

Get Your Craft On Tuesdays

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Pasta with broccoli & chicken in creamy tomato sauce.

My family just came to visit, & after a week of dining out, I was having serious grocery list writer’s block. What to make this week? Especially with Christmas falling in there too? Fortunately, I recalled one of our old favorites that I haven’t made in forever. We call it “Pink Sauce Chicken.”

(Admittedly, this is one of the least flattering photos imaginable. I’m beyond excited about the light scoop My Husband The Generous is “surprising” me with on Christmas!)

So you’re asking, “If it’s one of your favorites, why haven’t you made it in a long time?” The answer is that I got it from the Kraft Food&Family magazine, & they had the nerve to stop making one of the key ingredients. That’s the trouble with semi-homemade: you’re limited by the available ingredients.

But after like 15 minutes of standing in the salad dressing aisle with The Munchkin contentedly munching on a cookie in her green racecar cart (thank you Publix!), I found the substitute. & Pink Sauce Chicken never tasted better!

  • 6 small boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • Lawry’s 30-minute Marinade in Tuscan Sundried Tomato*
  • 8+ oz. uncooked short pasta (the recipe calls for bowtie)
  • up to 4 cups broccoli florets (we do more pasta & less broccoli)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups jarred marinara sauce
  • 4 oz. Neufchatel cheese, softened
  • parmesan, to taste

* The recipe originally called for Kraft’s Roasted Red Pepper Italian dressing. The 30-minute Marinade does a great job, but has a little less liquid in it, so you need to watch that your chicken doesn’t scorch. If you can’t find the 30-minute Marinade, look for an Italian dressing with roasted red peppers relatively high on the ingredient list.

  1. Marinate chicken in some of the 30-minute marinade for — you guessed it — 30 minutes.
  2. Cook pasta as directed on package, adding broccoli for last 3 minutes (for frozen, last 4 or 5 minutes) of cooking time.
  3. Meanhile, heat 3 Tbsp. of the marinade in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic & heat until fragrant.
  4. Add chicken; cook, covered, 5 min. to a side or until done in the middle. You may need to add more marinade/dressing to keep it from burning.
  5. Drain pasta mixture; return to pot & set aside. Cover to keep warm.
  6. Add pasta sauce & Neufchatel to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted & mixture is well blended.
  7. Coat chicken in sauce, remove from skillet, & keep warm.
  8. Add sauce mixture to pasta mixture in pot; mix well. Transfer to 6 pasta bowls.
  9. Cut chicken across the grain into thick slices. Fan one breast half over the pasta in each of the bowls.
  10. Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese.

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