Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chocolate Covered Strawberry "Carrots!'


I have to admit, I have a penchant for cute food. So when I saw these on Pinterest, I knew I had to make them!  I mean, the only thing that could possibly be more fun than chocolate covered strawberries are chocolate covered strawberries that look like carrots!!  I'm telling you, pure genius!


Here are a few tips so that you, too, can make these bunny-worthy carrots for Easter!

First, wash your strawberries and let them dry on a paper towel.  Chocolate does not like to cling to wet strawberries!


Next, pinch the strawberry stems toward the center to make them look like carrot tops!


Dip the strawberries into your orange candy melts, covering as much of the strawberries as you can without coating the green stems.


To make the strawberries look even more carrot-like, drizzle more orange across the strawberries to give it a lovely striated effect.


Make sure you keep an eye on them or some bunny will gobble them up!



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Photo Challenge - Beautiful Black & White


This year's vacation photos took on a new look. 
No more cute babies. No more precious toddlers. 
But my Tweens?  They're still keepers. 
Two-person stunts occupied time on the beach. 
They are so beautiful to me!





Two-Person Stunts and other Tweenage Vacation Photo Ideas


We recently returned from spring break and I was reminded, once again, how fast time flies. I remember when spring break meant getting out my camera and capturing shovels, pails and sunbonnets. Chubby fingers playing in the sand, tentative toes touching the water's edge - alas, motherhood is all about adaptation.  Just when you think you've got it all figured out, THEY CHANGE!


This year's beach vacation was all about the two-person stunt.  Apparently, there are websites and Instagram accounts dedicated to the two-person stunt.  If you were a tweenager, you would know this.  So instead of collecting shells on the beach this year, we did this.


And this.


And this.

And by we, I don't mean me, I mean them.

I just thought I'd be clear about that.



Now, for the boys who run from me whenever I get out the camera, I was still able to coerce a hand holding a beautiful shell.


And sneak a shot of the husband carrying the red bag with all the shoes…


A little reality is always good to capture on vacations, too.
Like how food is very important.
But not always very pretty!



Add in some sibling love and a gorgeous sunset


and you've got yourself a Tweenage vacation album.


And don't forget a selfie!
It might be the only photo that you're in! Ahem.




Friday, April 4, 2014

Vegetarian Confetti Black Bean Chili with Sweet Corn Salsa Muffins




The Husband has been out of town lately, so I've been cooking a few meatless meals.  To go with the 12" of snow we received yesterday (yeah, I had to throw that in!) I decided to make a nice pot of chili. Without meat. My high school son, who actually ENJOYED debate class (takes after his father) said I couldn't call it chili.  I could call it soup. I could call it stew, but not chili. I looked it up. According to the International Chili Society, Traditional Red Chili is defined as
"any kind of meat or combination of meats, cooked with red chili peppers, various spices and other ingredients with the exception of BEANS and PASTA which are strictly forbidden.  No garnish is allowed."
Wikipedia defines chili sauce as:
"spicy sauce made primarily from chili powder and/or chopped fresh chili peppers." 
SON 2
MOM 0

In response to that argument, here's what I have to say.  "I'm the mom and even though your dinner contains no meat and lots of beans and technically no chili powder, it's still delicious and I can call it chili if I want to."  I've always been good at debate like that.

He agreed with the delicious part.



I often begin my soups/stews/chili with the following:  2 cups onions, 2 cups carrots, 2 cups celery.  Not only does it create delicious flavor, but it bulks up the veggies and I'm all about bulking up the veggies.  I added Worcestershire sauce for a meaty flavor, cumin for smokiness and agave nectar to balance out the acidity.  If I weren't serving this to four children, I would have also thrown in some red pepper flakes for heat.  Know your audience I always say!



Next for some really amazing cornbread, and I say that because my kids don't even like cornbread, but they loved these muffins!


They FINALLY opened a Trader Joe's in our neck of the woods (Yay!) and this was yesterday's sample:  Cornbread mix with Corn and Chili Salsa. 




 It was super moist and the salsa gave it just the right kick.  Just follow the recipe on the box and add 1/2 a jar (about 1 cup) of salsa!  How simple is that?


Confetti Black Bean Chili
by Rachel @ Simple Girl

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cups onions, diced
2 cups carrots, diced
2 cups celery, diced
2 cans fire roasted tomatoes
2 cans black beans, drained but not rinsed
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon Cumin
1 Tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Saute' the diced onions, celery and carrots in a stock pot or dutch oven, 5-10 minutes until softened.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir until combined.  Adjust seasoning.  Simmer on the stove for 30-45 minutes. If you prefer a thinner consistency, add more stock.


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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cute Bowling Party Ideas

 
Anyone who has ever hosted a sleepover party for a dozen 10-year old girls knows this: 
A bowling party is SO MUCH BETTER!
 
When Arielle turned 11, we invited her friends to some Friday Night Bowling.
 
Advantages:
  • No need to clean the house
  • 16 friends is not a crowd!
  • Easy cleanup!
  • Mom gets a good night's sleep
  • Everyone has fun!
  • Add a few cute details and you still qualify for the cool mom award! 

 
First Thing:  Make some cute iron-on bowling T's.
Matching T-shirts are great for crowd control AND the girls loved them!
 

Michael's is a great resource for inexpensive T's. I downloaded this cute bowling design from Scrapendipity Designs on Etsy.  The design cost only $2.50 and I was able to fit two images on each iron-on transfer sheet.


I ordered these "Bowling Ball" Cupcakes from our local bakery, but you could easily make them yourself.  Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing dipped in chocolate sprinkles.  Mmmmm. I do love chocolate.  White icing creates finger holes for the bowling ball.  How simple is that?

 
White dots from an office supply store transform black balloons into bowling balls!
 
 
For party favors, glass milk bottles from Michael's are a ringer for bowling pins with the addition of a little red tape, Fill them with hot chocolate mix and lots of marshmallows!


What better way to transport them than in a milk crate!
 
 
All in all, I'd say it was a strikingly good birthday!


Monday, March 17, 2014

The Annual Green Lunch



The St. Patrick's Day "Green Lunch" started as a family tradition many years ago when the kids were little and we lived in Atlanta. #momhumor.  I made sure that I was on school lunch duty when they first opened their "all green" lunch.  I couldn't stop laughing. Tears streamed down my face when I saw their puzzled expressions. #ithinki'mfunnierthanireallyam. The big surprise came only once, but even now they still remind me, "You're going to pack us a green lunch on St. Patrick's Day, right?" #familytraditionsrock.


Happy St. Patrick's Day!

xo
Rachel

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pineapple Upside Down Cake


Life is full of surprises. Like when my 11-year old chose Pineapple Upside-Down Cake for her birthday this week. It's not your typical kid birthday cake fare.  Where's the chocolate?  Where's the sprinkles? Where's the purple dinosaur? Oh, wait. She's 11. Nevermind.

Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised.  I'm pretty sure she came out of my womb as a full-fledged 13-year old. She had attitude. She had style. We ate Chinese food together. Why wouldn't she want a grown-up, retro-inspired piece of the past?


I found this particular recipe by Paula Deen and I have to say, it had me at buttermilk. In my opinion, any baked good recipe containing buttermilk is a guaranteed winner. Despite growing up in a family that avoided butter, eggs and any other type of saturated fat at any cost, I followed (most of) the recipe. Do you see that brilliant yellow color?  That's from 2 sticks of butter and five eggs. Sigh. It really is the most delicious thing.



After creaming all the good stuff together, alternate the buttermilk and the flour mixture.


 This keeps things from getting too lumpy.


Once your batter is complete, prepare the pan.  First with non-stick spray and flour. Then with brown sugar (I used less than the original recipe.) Then with more butter.



Next comes the fun part - making that beautiful pineapple design.


 Top the bottom (or is it the top?) with the batter, half in each pan.
Another tip:  Bake the cakes on a jelly roll pan so that when if they bubble over, your oven doesn't billow with smoke from the sugary pineapple juices that have turned into a black, solid crust on the bottom of the oven. Ahem.


After the cakes have cooled for roughly 20 minutes, invert them on a serving platter, stacked two high.  I like to put parchment around the edges to keep the platter clean while I frost.  But that's just me.


Frost with Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting.  Yes, I even found a way to get my favorite cream cheese frosting onto pineapple upside down cake.

I have to admit.  
Even in the year 2014, rings of pineapple with maraschino cherry centers is still a beautiful thing!



Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Foodnetwork.com

Ingredients:

3 cups cake flour
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 20-ounce cans pineapple slices in juice (reserving juice)

Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting (See Below)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 2 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and lightly dust with flour.

In a large bowl, beat 1 cups butter until creamy.  Gradually add the sugar, beating until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time.  Stir in vanilla.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix dry ingredients.  Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup brown sugar in each round pan.  Drizzle 1/4 cup melted butter in each pan.  Arrange pineapple slices on top, adding a cherry in the center of each.

Pour equal amounts of batter in each pan.

Place cake pans on a jelly roll pan and bake for 40 -45 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool for 10 - 20 minutes

To assemble, place four thin strips of parchment on a serving platter, leaving the center open.  Invert the first cake onto the serving platter making sure that the parchment  is sticking out of the sides.  Allow time to cool.  Invert second cake directly on top of first cake.

When both cakes are completely cool, frost the sides only with pineapple cream cheese frosting.

Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick butter
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
2 Tablespoons pineapple juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Add pineapple juice and salt.  Gradually beat in powdered sugar until smooth.