Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Fat Tuesday!

It's Mardi Gras! :)  We won't be doing a lot of partying tonight (with the kids and all) but that doesn't mean we won't be having a good time today! We put our party colors on display this afternoon by making some paper bunting and a festive paper "wreath" for the front door.  And of course, no Mardi Gras celebration is complete without a king's cake!  I actually made two cakes this year; one for the family and one for my girlfriends who are coming over later tonight to make homemade laundry detergent and vanilla extract.  Yep - we are party animals! ;-)

Greta's King Cake

1 cup milk
2/3 cup warm water
2 eggs
4 1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
5 cups of flour
1.2 tsp salt

1 cup sugar
2 tbsp molasses
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter

2 cups powdered sugar
green and purple sanding sugars

1.Add these ingredients to your bread machine in the following order: milk, water, butter, yeast, eggs, sugar, flour, salt.  Start the bread machine and run the dough cycle.

2. While the dough is processing, mix together the white sugar and molasses in a small bowl.  When they are well combined, add the flour and stir until mixed.  Melt the 1/2 cup butter in a microwave safe dish.

3. When the dough cycle ends, turn the dough out onto a cutting board and slice the dough into two equal portions.  Set one portion aside and roll the other portion into a large rectangle. 

4. Sprinkle half of the molasses mixture over the rolled dough, then sprinkle generously with cinnamon.  Drizzle half of the melted butter over the sugar and cinnamon. 

5. Starting on the long side of the dough rectangle furthest from yourself, roll the dough up like a jelly roll/cinnamon roll. 

6. Next transfer the rolled dough to a baking sheet.  Bring the two ends of the roll together to form a circular ring of dough.  Pinch the dough together at the seam to seal it closed.

7. Using kitchen sheers, snip the dough ring in one inch intervals, cutting about one third of the way down.

8. Next roll, fill, shape and snip the second dough portion as described above.

9. Cover the two cakes lightly with a kitchen towel and leave them in a warm place to rise for 30-40 minutes.

10. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

11. Bake the cakes for 25-30 minutes and then ttransfer the cakes to a cooling rack for about 10 minutes.

12. While the cakes are cooling, mix 2 cups of powdered sugar with a few tablespoons of milk.  Add one tablespoon of milk at a time until a thick glaze forms (should not take more than 3-4 tablespoons of milk)

13. Drizzle the glaze over the tops of the cakes, coating liberally.  Then sprinkle the cakes with the green and purple sanding sugars. 

You can make the cake ahead of time, but it is the most amazing when it is still warm from the oven!

Silly-Face Applesauce Cups

Big-Bug is turning six this week (how did that happen?!) and so I have been spending a fair amount of time trying to think up an appropriate snack time treat to bring to his classroom on Friday.  His teacher has specifically requested NO cupcakes and no cakes.  She says anything with frosting is super messy in a room full of kindergartners (and lets not forget the sugar coma that usually follows!)  Additionally, the school district now requires ALL snacks to be store bought and packaged.  I can understand the reasoning here, but it definitely puts additional limitations on snack ideas! When I asked Big-Bug for birthday snack suggestions, he asked to take yogurt cups for all his friends. I was hesitant to go the yogurt route since it needs to be kept in a refrigerator, so I suggested applesauce cups instead.  Applesauce cups are a big deal around here because I usually just buy the big tub or make it myself in the crock pot and serve it in bowls. Big-Bug thought this was a great snack idea, so I set to work trying to make the snack presentation "fun!" 

A friend of mine had shared a cute snack idea with me that she found on pinterest where a woman had created a robot using applesauce cups, juice boxes, raisins and pretzel rods. The robot were super cute, but a little too elaborate for our needs.  I know snack time in Big-Bug's class is limited, and his teacher has told us that snack items need to be easy for the kids to manage on their own, so deconstructing a robot and opening multiple boxes/packages/straws seemed like a little much :) 

Instead I took the idea of an applesauce cup head and adapted it to make silly-face applesauce cups.  All it took was a permanent marker, wiggly eyes and a hot glue gun!   Once I decorated all 24 applesauce cups, I glued a clear plastic casserole lid to a cake board and then stacked the applesauce cups inside.  I decorated the tray with some curled ribbon to make it festive and cut six candles out of paper to glue to the back of the tray.  I attached a small paper sign to a box of plastic spoons and then topped the box with more ribbon.  Overall, I am pretty happy with the end result, and I can't wait to surprise my birthday boy in class this week!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine for the Husband!

This Valentine's Day I tried to come up with something creative to give my husband.  He normally one-ups me in the creativity department - so I was feeling pretty determined!

In the end this is what I came up with.  A homemade "classic" valentine heart with a few plays on words and accompanying gift items ;-)

The card includes phrases like "I'm nuts about you" "We're a perfect pear" "I'm lucky to have you" and "I love you a latte"  I included a soy latte from Starbucks, a bag of roasted almonds, a pear and three lottery tickets.  We have a running joke between us about Scottish oatcakes. These are something my husband absolutely loves, and I think they taste like a carboard box.  We like to tease each other about them from time to time. So, at the bottom of his card I added "now go eat some oatcakes!" and I included a take out box filled with heart-shaped oatcakes that I baked up for him.  I think it turned out pretty well :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

End of street bonus

Our house is located at the end of our dead-end street. Because of our location, we only have a neighbor on one side of our house - to the left is our one lonely neighbor, to the rear is a creek, to the right is a vacant lot/rec vehicle parking area and across the street from us is a baseball field.  One would imagine this positioning comes with the bonus of a super quite, private setting - unfortunately the neighbors two houses down are so insanely loud we had to move our boys to the bedrooms on the far side of the house so they could sleep at night during the summers (true story!)

You might think the bonus of living on the end of the street is the lack of through-traffic.  While it is true that our boys can (for the most part) ride their bikes in front of the house without concern, our neighbors in our community DO have to drive past our house to deposit and retrieve their camp trailers, boats, spare cars, etc.  So when there is traffic in front of our house, it is noisy and ties up the street for quite a while as they line up and hitch up, etc.

So what is the end of street bonus?  The ability to see people doing ridiculous things out front your living room window because they don't think anyone can see them.  Seriously, this happens ALL the time.  We are the only house with a clear view of the baseball field, we also park in our garage, so a lot of the time it looks like no one is home.  I can't count the number of times I have looked up from folding my laundry to see someone glance around, pick up a big stick and perform an elaborate javelin throw before continuing on their way.  Or a "too cool" high school boy romping around with his dog before quickly stopping and playing it cool when a car comes up the street.  Of course we also see our fair share of gross and just plain irritating things as well - the ultimate in irritation being the inconsiderate dog-walker of course.  So, so, so many times I have been tempted to stick my head out the front door and holler "I guess you must have missed this - but your dog just left a giant pile in the middle of the ball field."  So if you happen to live in our neighborhood...and you happen to have a black lab....I see you!!  ;-)