Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mini Chocolate Reindeer Cookies

This was the one cookie that my teenage daughter wanted to make this year and I thought they were adorable.  Mini Chocolate Reindeer Cookies!  Due to the way life has been going this year, we took advantage of every available shortcut.

Did you know you can get chocolate cookie dough in sheets?  Cookie dough in sheets is one of my great friends in life.  Rolled out cookies at our house ranks right up there with homemade pie crust. It's best left to others. These turn out exactly like you cut them. No excess puffing or spreading!

I always keep candy google eyes in my pantry. You never know when they will come in handy!

Wishing you a Blessed Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip

Just a few more days until Christmas and I'm doing my last minute menu planning. I always like to include an appetizer/snack that includes fruits or veggies because A) It's one way to get my kids to eat their fruits and veggies and B) It's one way to get me to eat my fruits and veggies in a sometimes produce-barren time of year!

 This dip comes together in a snap and tastes great with both apples and gingersnaps! 
(And, for my SIL, Fritos! :-)

Merry Christmas!


Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip

by Rachel @ Simple Girl

8 ounce package of cream cheese, room temperature (full fat -  light comes out too runny)
3/4 cup pumpkin pie filling (not plain pumpkin!)
1 cup powdered sugar
8-ounce container of Cool Whip (can be light)

Beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add powdered sugar.  Beat until lumps are removed.  Add pie filling.  Beat until combined.  Fold in Cool Whip until combined.  Chill until ready to serve.

Serve with apple slices, gingersnaps or Fritos!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Light a Candle

While we are in the midst of the advent season, I just want to encourage you to light a candle.  When the days go by so quickly that you can't even grasp them in your hands, candles cause us to pause. When our to-do lists seem unmanageably long, candles give us a moment to reflect.

Advent candles have long been a tradition in the Christian church. They help us tell the story of the Birth of Christ. As Christmas draws near, the increasing candle light reminds us of the star that shown over Bethlehem. Our anticipation swells with each additional candle lit.

While typically placed in a round wreath, I like to change our candles a little every year to keep them relevant with our lives. This year I took apple red pillar candles and put them in vases from the dollar store.  I wrapped them with green raffia and clipped some chalkboard tags (from Target's dollar section) on each.  I labeled four of them for each of the four Sundays in advent and marked the middle one for Christmas Day. (FYI, lighting the fifth one on Christmas Eve is ok, too!)

Although my kids are getting older, they still enjoy reading Benjamin Bear's journey to the manger in Advent Storybook each night during dinner.

So pause. Light a candle. Reflect on the manger. The shepherds didn't have seven kinds of Christmas cookies. The wise men didn't have coordinating wrapping paper. But the night was holy, full of calm and peace.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

2-Ingredient Pumpkin Pancakes

Winter arrived with a vengeance.  One day I was happily raking leaves, enjoying the simple pleasures of autumn and the next day I woke up to this:   An icy, freezing, slippery blizzard. I was not prepared. I need new tires. I need a new car. My mums are buried under a fluffy white blanket. My pumpkins are frozen to the steps. I drove the kids to school watching cars slip through intersections. A long commute becomes longer. Amazon Prime becomes my friend.

This is the post I started exactly one month ago today. Winter came and it stayed. Eventually I was able to scrape the pumpkins off of the sidewalk and shimmy my pots inside long enough for them to thaw.  We got the Christmas tree up and, while I haven't started the Christmas cards yet, preparations are underway.

Even during the Christmas season, I still love the warmth of pumpkin spice.  This easy recipe for Pumpkin Spice Pancakes is perfect for every day or for a crowd.

While I would never use pumpkin pie filling to make an actual pie (doesn't taste like mom's), 
it's a great shortcut for pancakes!

Just remember 3 - 2 - 1.

Three cups of buttermilk pancake mix.
Two cups of water.
One cup of pumpkin pie filling.

The syrup is calling!

2-Ingredient Pumpkin Pancakes

by Rachel @ Simple Girl

3 cups Complete Buttermilk Pancake Mix (Like Krusteaz)
2 cups of water (does not count as an ingredient!)
1 cup pumpkin pie mix (Not pureed pumpkin which doesn't have the spices)

Mix together until just combined.  Spoon 1/4 cup portions onto medium hot griddle.  Flip when they start to bubble on top.  But you knew that.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cute Vampire Bagels

Hahaha!  I am so putting these in my kids lunch boxes tomorrow!

Plastic Vampire Teeth stuck in the center of a bagel, topped with candy eyes.

There is so much to love about being a mom! :-)



Source:  Family Fun Magazine

Monday, October 27, 2014

White Bean and Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

There are two things I love about fall.  The beautiful, radiant leaves.  And Football.  That's right. I said it.  The "F" word. It might be a surprise to some of you.  For those of you who did not know me BP (Before Perry), I will tell you that I grew up in a household void of all things football.  My dad never watched a football game on TV. We never set out a tail-gate spread before attending a college match-up. And Super Bowl Sunday meant one thing.  Shopping. (The malls are way less crowded!)

The very first Thanksgiving that said Husband ever spent with my family, my mom went all out.  She had her finest linens and china on the table, multiple side dishes in the oven and a plated first course salad.  Perry leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Where's the football game?" I had no idea what he was talking about.  This was in stark contrast to HIS family's Thanksgiving where the turkey dinner was meticulously scheduled around half-time and enjoyed by the men on TV trays in the basement.  That was his normal.  This was mine.

Over time, our lives have blended and I now look forward to Friday Night High School games, Saturday College games and Sunday NFL games where we gather with (mostly his) family, sharing conversation and great food.

Recently, my sister-in-law brought this delightful (and healthful) take on hummus. (Just be sure you use cannellini beans and not chick peas!)  The sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes and the savory garlic will keep you eating until the pita chips are gone!

Aunt Pam's White Bean and Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon onion powder
pinch of cayenne
1 3-4 ounce jar of sun-dried tomatoes, drained and patted dry
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives

Place all ingredients except the chives in a food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Before serving, garnish with chives and serve with pita chips.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars

The new neighbors just moved in.

As I learned in my time spent in The South, the best way to meet new neighbors is to bring them food.  Food gives you a reason to drop by unannounced.  Food prevents that awkward moment of silence when the new neighbors are not sure whether or not to invite you in. I mean, you can't blame them. They don't know you and haven't had time to assess if you hold the potential to be their new best friend or if you will become to them the mysterious Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird, dominating their imagination of the unknown.  

These Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars were the brainchild of my oldest daughter, Anna.  She made them for the new neighbors as a gesture of friendship and a reason to find out if they have any kids her age.

Here's a pictures those beauties.
A double stuffed Oreo encased in chocolate chip cookie dough.
Have you ever seen anything so divine?

On Friday the girls brought them over.  Nobody was home. 
On Sunday they tried again. Still no luck. 
On Monday we decided to try one to see if they were still fresh.  They tasted delicious with milk.
Tonight, Anna brought the beautifully packaged box to church. 
She definitely made points with her friends.

The new neighbors never have to know!

Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
by Anna @ Simple Girl

2/3 cups Earth Balance, room temperature
(Butter tastes good, but creates a different texture)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 eggs
1 teaspoons pure vanilla
1/1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whip Earth Balance and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Continue to beat until smooth and creamy.

Gradually add flour, soda and salt. Beat until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Line an 8 x 8 cake pan with parchment.  Spray parchment and sides.  Press 1/2 of the dough in the bottom of the pan.  Top with 16 Oreos lined up in a 4 x 4 pattern.  Top with remaining dough, pressing it until it is flat and covers the Oreos.  Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until dough becomes lightly golden.  When cool, remove the entire square from the pan.  Place on a cutting board and slice into 16 squares.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ella's Woodland Fairy Party

I believe.
In small parties. 

Now, don't get me wrong. I've had sleepovers for 15 girls and chaotic, thunderous celebrations at Chuck E. Cheese's. I have. Which is why I can tell you that a small, intimate soiree is a lovely way to celebrate the birthday of a whimsical girl. 

Four girls. Three hours. It's a beautiful thing.

Because October in Minnesota can be a bit unpredictable, we brought our garden party indoors.

A look around the house was all we needed for a beautifully set table.

Candy-coated sunflower seeds are perfectly miniature in scale.

Caprese "Mushrooms" grow from a moss-covered pot.

Berries look beautiful in flower cups.

Ella made the "Acorns" with kisses, mini vanilla wafers and chocolate chips.

Beautiful little bites.

Petit Fours with fanciful mushrooms and ferns (Grandma's Bakery).

Exquisite flower cookies (Grandma's Bakery).

A well-crafted Miniature Fairy Garden. 

And handmade tutus (Assembled by slip-knotting tulle over elastic.)

I'm so glad these girls - still want the be girls!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

KitKat Cake

When your 10-year old daughter tells you she wants to make her own birthday cake, here's what you do.  You let her. Your little mini-me might just prove to you that the apple does not fall far from the tree!  And, really, if you can't have death-by-chcolate on your birthday, when can you?

Start with your favorite chocolate cake recipe and pour the batter in two 8-inch rounds.
Lined with parchment, of course.

Use more parchment to line your cake pedestal in an attempt to keep it clean. 
Spread frosting on the first layer.

Top with the second layer and finish the outside of the cake with more chocolate frosting.

Next comes to the fun part.  Break apart 10 KitKat bars and line them up like a little fence around the cake. Make sure all the lettering goes in the same direction. If you suffer from OCD, that is.

OK, one more fun part.  Pour in an entire large bag of M&M's. 
This fills in the top and looks very cheery and colorful.

Ice cream, anyone?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pumpkin Chicken Spaghetti (Slow Cooker)

School has started and fall has arrived (did I mention that we might actually drop into the 30's tonight?) This combination means one thing.  I'm officially pulling out the Slow Cooker. The after school activity shuttle leaves no time for doing any actual cooking during the dinner hour. This is why I love my slow cooker. My husband bought me an All-Clad stainless steel beauty a few years back. Ahhh… flutter my heart. He loves me. Yes, while some girls call diamonds their best friends, it appears that I can be won over by small kitchen appliances. He knows me.

I make this family favorite spaghetti recipe at least once a month during the school year. It's about time I shared it! It's perfect for hectic days and its ease of preparation will keep you from the Taco Bell Drive-Thru!

Simply start with 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  You can use chicken breast if you want, but the thighs stay moist through the slow cooking process.  Once you try them, you won't go back.  Top the chicken with 2 - 24 ounce jars of your favorite pasta sauce.

Next, dump in a 15-ounce can of pumpkin.  I know, it sounds strange, but it helps thicken the sauce when the chicken lets go of its juices and, as a bonus, your kids are now eating a whole lot of Vitamin A!

Add some brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and oregano.  That's it.  Put the top on and walk away.

When you return from Yoga, Target, the bus stop, piano lessons, football and tennis, shred the chicken in the sauce.
Boil some noodles and you are good to go.

This sauce is deliciously thick, well rounded and loaded with lean protein. 
Perfect for a weeknight family dinner!

Pumpkin Chicken Spaghetti
by Rachel @ Simple Girl


3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 - 24 ounce jars of spaghetti sauce
1 - 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic glaze (or vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Combine ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 - 10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours.  Shred chicken in the sauce. Adjust seasonings, if necessary, and serve over pasta.