Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cadbury Mini Egg Peanut Butter Blondies

 So I realize that Easter dinner has passed and all, and it's a little late for these. I originally thought about setting these to post before Easter of next year, but then I remembered.... clearance Easter candy! So if you end up with a few bags of these after hitting Target's Easter clearance tomorrow, now you've got a plan for them! Well, a plan other than just consuming them for breakfast for the next week. Yuuuuummmmm...........

As family dinners sometimes tend to do, our Easter dinner was increased by about 10 people at the last minute. I needed another dessert, and wanted something I could do with ingredients I already had on hand. I was inspired by these Mini Egg Blondies by Bakeaholic Mama, but wanted something just a little different. I saw a recipe for Peanut Butter Blondies on Allrecipes, tweaked it a little, and came up with these tasty little guys!

Now let's be serious - how can you really go wrong when you start off like this? Cadbury Mini Eggs are my absolute favorite Easter candy. If you've never had these little babies, you really need to give them a try. So let's get started.

Cadbury Mini Egg Peanut Butter Blondies

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. chunky peanut butter
2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 c. Cadbury Mini Eggs, chopped or whole
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray.

Cream butter and sugars in a mixing bowl.

Add eggs and mix well. Add vanilla and peanut butter.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt, and add to peanut butter mixture. Top-notch baker note: This is how I "sift" my dry ingredients. Just add the baking powder to the top of the flour and stir it around a little with a teaspoon. Works for me!

Fold in Mini Eggs and chocolate chips. Oh, and by the way? These little buggers are a BEAST to chop! Next time I'm just gonna toss 'em in there whole. They kept on popping off the counter and onto the floor, and I almost had to cry at the waste. So I just ate those guys.

Bake for about 25 minutes until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool, cut, and serve! PS - These babies are rich. Slice small. And then eat a few.
Click up in my menu bar to see where I'm linking up!

Pin It!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Easy Cheesy 5-Ingredient Chicken

Growing up with a working mom, most of our meals were simple but delicious, and this was my all-time fave. I always requested it on my birthday, and continued my love affair into college, where it was an easy go-to meal to make when you had to serve something more legit than Ramen. My siblings and I called my mom for the recipe so many times that we started just calling it "can can cup," since the sauce is two cans of soup and a cup of sour cream. As an adult, I continue to love and make this dish, since it is simple, low-calorie, and kid-friendly. We don't generally use "cream of" soups, but this is one recipe where we make an exception!

Easy Cheesy 5-Ingredient Chicken
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 c. sour cream
chicken breasts or tenders (enough to fill a 9x13 pan)
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

First, preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 pan with some cooking spray.

Prepare the sauce by mixing the two cans of soup and the sour cream.

 Place the chicken in the pan and spread the sauce on top.
Bake for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size and starting temp of your chicken (you can put it in still-frozen if you want). Just make sure your chicken is done when you take it out. The sauce does tend to separate a little, especially if you're using light sour cream, so I usually open the oven and give it a little stir once or twice while it's cooking.

Serve over rice and top individual servings with bacon. We also love to serve it with broccoli since the cheese sauce is delicious on this as well!
Note: My grandma also makes this in the crockpot, if that's more your style!

Click up in my menu bar to see where I'm linking up!

Pin It!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kids' Art Area

Our Kids' Art Area was borne from desperation, not inspiration. When we moved into our new home, we had a really oddly-shaped, narrow living room, and we didn't really think we had room for our coffee table. But we wanted to keep it nearby for those instances when we needed it, or in case life turned out to be impossible without one. I decided to push it into the corner and use it for an art area for the kids. We'd keep the art supplies right next to it, and they could just go over there and create. I think it's so important that kids, when they've proved to be responsible, have easy access to art supplies, and the time and opportunity to be creative.

Many years ago, I bought this drawer storage thing for my classroom. Once I started having babies and staying at home, we used it for baby clothes. Loved being able to separate all those tiny little baby things. But we don't have babies anymore, and I realized it would be perfect for storing arts and crafts stuff! FIFTEEN different drawers! The sorting and organization options made me swoon with joy!

For anyone who is super curious about what fills all those bins, here are some close-ups of the labels on the drawers (still loving my Amazon label-maker from Christmas this year! Woot!).

And here's a little sampler picture of some of the drawers.
Since we're in a rental, we put down those interlocking foam mats under the table and chairs. Really helps especially with the play-doh. Also, I have been dreaming ever since we moved in about getting some vinyl for the walls that says "create" and/or "imagine," and this "wall art" is courtesy of photoshop. LOL Just wanted to try it out and see how it would look!
Hopefully this gets your mind going on how you could create an area like this in your home for your kids to get in there and create! In our house, the kids are welcome to use any of that whenever they would like, but they do need to ask permission to paint, and they have to clean up after themselves. Anything else, they have free reign. Believe me, I know it's hard to think about the mess, but it's so important. And really, what better mess is there to be made than art?

Pin It!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What Works Wednesday: Stair Bins

When we moved into our new home, I immediately knew I needed something for the stairs. People who are not lazy simply go upstairs or downstairs to put things away. Unfortunately, I'm very lazy and often don't feel like running something all the way up or down the stairs. Hence, more bins, creatively named the "Go Upstairs Bin" and the "Go Downstairs Bin."

Meet Mr. Go Upstairs, sitting right under our handy-dandy can crusher (?!?).

And Mr. Go Downstairs
In a perfect world, I would have the kids empty these bins every night. Sadly, life's not perfect and we're still working on getting homework happening every night. But they do get emptied occasionally, and in the meantime, hey - at least all this clutter isn't all over my living room.

Pin It!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bruschetta Chicken

Today I'm sharing a favorite recipe that was given to me by a friend many years ago - Bruschetta Chicken. This is a great dish to make for company, since it's delicious, super easy, and looks impressive! When I was fiddling around with this in the kitchen, my husband concocted a balsamic vinegar sauce to go with it, so I've included the recipe for that as well.

1/2 c. flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approx. 1 lb.)
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese (the kind my kids call "shaky cheese")
1/4 c. dry bread crumbs
1 T. butter, melted

2 large tomatoes
3 T. minced fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
*Note: I usually double the ingredients in the bruschetta topping because a love to load excessive amounts of it on my chicken. And eat it with a spoon while I'm waiting for the chicken to cook.

Optional balsamic vinaigrette ingredients: 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar, 1 T. sugar

Preheat your oven to 375. Then, get your topping ready. First, you're going to want to chop your tomatoes and basil. For a tutorial on how to perfectly dice tomatoes, go here.
Aren't those pretty? To easily mince the basil, first remove the stems, then roll leaves and chop.

Mix together the chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Let that sit in the fridge for a bit while you do the rest. Sample with a spoon periodically if you need to. Place flour and eggs in separate shallow bowls. Dip the chicken in flour, then in eggs and place in a greased 13x9 inch baking dish. Be sure to let most of the egg run off, so you don't end up with too much in the baking dish (like I have in the photo below). Combine the Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, and melted butter, and sprinkle over the chicken.
Loosely cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover, and bake for 5-15 minutes longer or until top is browned.
Then, spoon the tomato mixture over the chicken and return to the oven for 3-5 minutes or until mixture is warmed through.

My husband, who can't leave a recipe well enough alone, also made a balsamic vinaigrette to drizzle on top. For that, take 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar and 1 T. sugar. Simmer on the stove until reduced by half, then drizzle on top of chicken and tomato mixture.

Try it out and let me know what you think! Oh, and since I'm a horrible parent and don't make my kids eat what we're eating, we also adapted this by giving it to my picky kids without the tomato topping, and they LOVED it! Like a giant chicken nugget. Ahhh... gourmet cooking for kids....

Pin It!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Legendary Family Caramel Corn

This is one of those family recipes that has become so much a part of our life that it has its own stories. The time my parents made two batches to give away as neighbor gifts and ended up eating it all with friends. The time we stayed up late, imagining what it would be like to go into business selling the stuff, and I was so disappointed to wake up in the morning and find out my parents were just daydreaming. The time we tried to make it at the beach house without like half the required ingredients, necessitating a late-night drugstore run. It's that good.

This isn't sticky caramel corn - this is the classic, oven-baked, crispy kind of caramel corn. Similar in texture to the stuff in Cracker Jacks, but oh so much better. The caramel sort of dissolves against your tongue as you eat it, and it's crispy and crackly without being sticky. Mmmmmm... makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

Classic Caramel Corn
6 quarts plain popped popcorn (air popped or oil popped work best, use microwave popcorn only as a last resort)
2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1 t. salt
1 c. butter
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Prepare two sheet pans (the ones with the raised sides, not completely flat), either by greasing the pans or using a SILPAT baking mat. Get your popcorn ready to be tossed immediately once you cook the caramel. Where you've got your popcorn here is up to you. Some people have it already on the greased pans and just pour the caramel over it, but I prefer to put it in two VERY LARGE bowls, then toss it to combine, and then put the coated popcorn on the sheet pans. Either way works.

To make the caramel, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once it reaches a boil, stir constantly as you boil for five full minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. It should get a little lighter in color and kind of foamy. Immediately pour over the popcorn and toss to coat. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and attempt to let it cool down before scarfing. And try to stop before you get sick.

Pin It!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

How-Tuesday: How to Dice Tomatoes

Marrying someone who was a chef for ten years has certainly made for a lot of surprises in the kitchen over the years. One of the first things that surprised me was how he diced tomatoes - it seemed like he was throwing the whole thing away! But he explained that by leaving out the guts (my word, not his) of the tomato, you don't have extra juice seeping into your recipe. He was dicing these Roma tomatoes for me for a bruschetta chicken recipe I was making (stay tuned next week), and you don't want a lot of juicy tomato innards in bruschetta. It also just looks better and neater, and you don't end up mashing tomato all over the place (more super-technical cooking lingo, courtesy of me).

First, quarter your tomatoes.

 Then, slice out all the juicy stuff, leaving only the outer edge.
At this point, you dice those outside parts, giving you nice, neat, perfect little chunks of tomato, perfect for salsa, bruschetta, or whatever else you're making! Yum! Stay tuned for the recipe next week using these delicious tomatoes!

Pin It!

Friday, March 1, 2013

How to Speak Kid: Phrase Your Redirection in the Positive

This post is part of a series I'm starting on my blog called "How to Speak Kid," about how to talk to your kids so that they'll (hopefully) listen, do what you ask, and grow up to be pretty cool people while they're at it. I'm not promising magic, but hopefully it'll give you some new tools for your parenting toolbox. As a mother of 3 and a full-time teacher, I'm always on the lookout myself for new ways to manage behavior and understand kids!

Today's Tip: When correcting behavior, make sure you tell your kids what you WANT them to do, not just what you DON'T want them to do!

As parents, each day we have many delightful opportunities to redirect our kids' behavior. It's important to be careful that we're phrasing our redirection in the positive, so that our kids know what it is we DO want, rather than just being told to stop a behavior. A toddler, particularly, doesn't always have the developmental capacity to replace the behavior with a different one without some help. 

When you tell your daughter, "Don't run in the road!" sometimes the only phrase left rattling around in her head is, "Run in the road! Run in the road! Run in the road!" Instead, if she hears the phrase, "You need to stay on the sidewalk!" then the phrase in her brain is "Stay on the sidewalk! Stay on the sidewalk!" and she is then able to adjust her behavior more quickly when she knows what it is she should be doing. This is especially important when you're redirecting on the fly, and you're expecting a change of behavior within seconds. If you expect a kid to change their behavior that quickly, help them out a little and let them know the best way to do it.

It seems instinctual to adults, but sometimes when we say things like, "Don't hit! Stop running! Stop being rough with your brother! Don't color that wall! Don't leave your bike right there!" etc., a child simply cannot come up with an appropriate replacement behavior on their own. And that's where we come in as parents. It's not that you can't tell your kid not to do something, but just make sure that along with it, you include the behavior that you DO expect. 

I can just hear people saying, "Well, they should know what I expect!" Should they? Do they? Maybe. I don't know. When was the last time you were 3? Regardless, it's more helpful to phrase your expectations positively. Focus on the behavior that you expect and want to see, communicate that, make it a part of your daily conversation, and hopefully you'll see some positive changes! This, for me, is one of the tools in my parenting toolbox that elicits positive change most reliably. And it's an easy one. Can't beat that.

Other posts about How to Speak Kid:

Pin It!