Category Archives: Food

State Fair Time: Pig Cupcakes

When I was little, the last hurrah of summer was always a trip to the State Fair.  My dad had an exhibit there, so we HAD to go so he could take his turn to clean the exhibit.  Such a burden.  It was always one of my favorite events of the year.  Even though I have always hated getting dirty, there was something very satisfying about spending a hot, sticky evening at the fair walking around looking at (and unfortunately smelling) hot, sticky animals and eating hot, sticky food like cotton candy and elephant ears then coming home to take the most refreshing bath of the entire year and going to bed feeling refreshed and ready to say farewell to summer and start a new school year on a high note.

I have not actually been to the fair for years, partly because school starts sooo early now – before the fair even starts – and partly because it turns out it’s actually really expensive to go to the fair when you’re a grown up and have to pay for your own hot, sticky food and don’t get free tickets anymore.  But still every year when August rolls around, this city girl can’t help but think of the one time of year I feel like a country girl at heart hanging out at the State Fair with all the smelly farm animals.

All that inspires me to make pig cupcakes this time of year.  I found the idea on Pinterest and added some of my own touches.  I used a strawberry cake mix to make pink cupcakes.  I frosted them with strawberry frosting.  The ears were pieces of strawberry wafer cookies, the noses were slices of marshmallows, and the eyes were chocolate chips.  To make them more “State Fair-ish” I added Rice Krispies Treats bales of hay and wrapped them with Twizzlers Pull and Peel strips.  I placed everything on a bed of Rice Krispies to look like hay.

They are fun and tasty and just right for August.  I even made these last year to take to a friend’s pig roast.  They are perfect for reminiscing about the State Fair without the hot, sticky parts – and they are not nearly as smelly as the real pigs there!

Olympic Torch Fun

The Olympics are here!  I love the Olympics.  We had fun at our house getting ready for them this week with the help of lots of neat ideas I found on Pinterest.

First, our daughter made a torch picture complete with Olympic rings and medals.  We used foil and tissue paper for the torch itself, traced her hand and arm on construction paper, and wrapped the paper fingers around the torch.  She glued on rings I had punched out of construction paper.  I thought we were done, but then she added medal stickers she found in my old box of Olympics “teacher stuff.”

Olympic Torch Craft

Olympic Torch Craft

But we didn’t stop there!  Along with out regular cookout food for dinner last night we had Cheetos in ice cream cones to look like torches.  How simple – yet cute – is that??

Olympic Torch Cheetos

Olympic Torch Cheetos

And for dessert we had still more torches.  We made cupcakes in ice cream cones and topped them with yellow and orange frosting.  Admittedly not my most beautiful culinary creations ever, but still very fun.

Olympic Torch Cupcake

Olympic Torch Cupcake

As I said, I really love the Olympics.  You might even go so far as to say that I carry a torch for the Olympics!  Ha ha.  Go USA!

Snowman Cheeseball

I found the cutest snowman cheeseball on Pinterest.  I simplified it a bit (even though it was already really simple) and made it for a New Year’s Day lunch with my family.  It was so cute I just had to share.

I used 2 boxes of Philadelphia Cream Cheese.  I rolled each block of cheese into a ball.  Then I rolled both of the balls in shredded mozzarella.  I put a few toothpicks sticking out of the top of the bottom ball for extra support and then placed the other ball on top.  I added a tiny carrot for the nose and peppercorns for the eyes, mouth, and buttons.  So easy and super cute!  Perfect for any type of January or winter party – or just to make an ordinary dinner more fun!

Curious George Birthday Party

We recently got to celebrate our daughter’s birthday with some of her little friends.  I absolutely love planning her birthday parties which have so far (lucky me!) all been based on classic children’s books.  It’s like getting to do a whole author study or mega book report in one afternoon – with cake!!  I know that I’m on borrowed time with this before she picks a theme unrelated to children’s literature, but my fingers are crossed that I can hold on a little longer – I have great ideas for both Pigeon and  Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse parties that I’m dying to use…

This year she chose Curious George (or Crazy George as she calls him) for her birthday theme.  I found lots of fun ideas on Pinterest, and came up with some of my own as well.  For food, I served Curious George fruit snacks, Gerber Banana Cookies, cutout cookies in the shape of puzzle pieces (since Curious George eats a puzzle piece in one book),

Puzzle Cookies

Puzzle Cookies

Rice Krispie treats in the shape of monkeys (I used a monkey cookie cutter and both regular and Cocoa Krispies for the heads along with chocolate chips and Twizzlers Pull and Peel for the faces),

Rice Krispie Monkeys

Rice Krispie Monkeys

and yellow hat cakes (Twinkies cut in half and stuck in cake dessert shells).

Yellow Hat Cakes

Yellow Hat Cakes

To decorate the tables, I used banana Runts and puzzle pieces in apothecary jars along with various Curious George toys I found at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon.

Curious George Centerpieces

Curious George Centerpieces

Each child had a newspaper boat (since Curious George makes boats out of newspapers in another book) with his or her name on it to mark his or her spot at the table.

Curious George Party Tables

Curious George Party Tables

The kids also had supplies to make monkeys out of construction paper and got to play yellow hat ring toss (made out of yellow cones and strips of black electrical tape).

Yellow Hat Ring Toss

Yellow Hat Ring Toss

At the end we handed out Barrels of Monkeys for favors.  I thought it was a fun birthday theme – lots of possibilities!  I hope the kids enjoyed attending the party as much as I enjoyed putting together all of the Curious George themed stuff for the party!

Snowman Pretzels

We tried a new treat this year for our New Year’s Day lunch with our family – Snowman Pretzels.  I found them on Pinterest and couldn’t wait to try them.  They were actually quite simple to make and turned out really cute!

First I cut Fruit Roll Ups into thin strips for the scarves.  I spread them out on wax paper.  Then I melted white chocolate chips in a big Ziplock Baggie in the microwave.  I cut a small hole in the corner of the bag.  I piped a dot of white chocolate onto the middle of one scarf.  Then I pressed 2 round pretzels to the dot – one above and one below the scarf – to glue the snowman head and body together.  Next I piped white chocolate into the centers of the pretzels until they were all filled in.  I put one more dot of white chocolate at the neck of the snowman and wrapped the scarf around, gluing it with the white chocolate.  Finally I added mini chocolate chips for eyes and buttons and an orange Nerd candy for the nose.  I found it works best to work quickly and do one complete snowman at a time because the white chocolate hardens fairly quickly.

The snowman pretzels turned out to be a fun and tasty treat perfect for January.

Apple Pie Apples

After our family trip to the apple orchard last week, I was anxious to make something “fallish” with our apples.  I had seen several versions of individual apple pies baked inside apples on Pinterest over the years.  Some sounded more complicated than others, so I was always nervous to try them.  However, with a fridge full of apples, I thought it was worth a try.  And they actually turned out great!

I decided to simplify things as much as possible – especially since I was not very confident the apple pie apples would turn out.  First, scoop out the insides of the apples with a melon baller.  Throw about the core, but save the rest of the apple pieces and use them to make your favorite apple pie filling.

Apple Pie Apples - Hollowed Out Apples

Apple Pie Apples – Hollowed Out Apples

Scoop the apple pie filling back into the apple shells.  Cut pie dough into quarter or half inch strips.  (Just use your favorite pie dough – homemade or store bought!)  Put the strips criss-cross on top of the apples.

Apple Pie Apples - Pie Dough

Apple Pie Apples – Pie Dough

Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Apple Pie Apples - Topping

Apple Pie Apples – Topping

Put the apples in a glass baking dish and cover the bottom of the dish with water.  Cover and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Then uncover them and bake about 20 minutes longer until the crust starts to brown.

Apple Pie Apples

Apple Pie Apples

Much to my surprise and delight my apple pie apples worked!  And they were actually really easy in the end.  We added caramel sauce to the tops to make them even better.

Apple Pie Apples - With Caramel

Apple Pie Apples – With Caramel

A yummy and surprisingly easy fall treat!

Madeline Party… or Bastille Day???

When I was little, I loved the book Madeline.  I would always check it out at the library.  As I got older, I started collecting Madeline stuff – dolls, lunch boxes, figurines…  I also loved learning French in high school.  I even considered becoming a French teacher but decided against it because my accent is HORRIBLE.  So when it came time to plan our daughter’s birthday this year, I chose Madeline for a theme with French food for the treats.  It ended up being a great theme for a birthday.  If you don’t have any birthdays coming up it would also be a great theme for a Bastille Day Party – why not???  Even if it’s not a holiday here in America, it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate when it comes up on July 14th!

For the decorations I found darling Madeline plates, napkins, cups, tablecloths, etc. online.  You should be able to find them if you Google “Madeline party supplies” or look it up on Pinterest.  I also put little yellow hats like Madeline’s on everything.  I even got a hat with a bow to use as a centerpiece on one table.

Madeline Party Decorations

Madeline Party Decorations

I found some Eiffel Tower decorations at Sur La Table and other various places.  I even had some French cafe plates from Williams Sonoma that I got years ago but never really had a chance to use before.  I also put the dolls, etc. from my own Madeline collection around here and there.  One of my favorite decorations was a rabbit drawn on tissue paper with a Sharpie and taped to the ceiling – because in Madeline’s hospital room there was “a crack in the ceiling that had the habit of sometimes looking like a rabbit.”

Madeline Party Rabbit

Madeline Party Rabbit

The food was so much fun to make.  For the birthday dinner we served croque monsieur sandwiches, fruit, and several kinds of cheese.  The desserts were all part of “Madeline’s Patisserie.”

Madeline Party Treats

Madeline Party Treats

I got an Eiffel Tower cookie cutter from Sur La Table to make cut out cookies.  I also made cupcakes topped with little French toothpick decorations from Sur La Table as well.  We had macaroons, eclairs, and cream puffs.  And of course, the birthday cake was in the shape of Madeline’s yellow hat with a black fondant bow.

Madeline Party Hat Cake

Madeline Party Hat Cake

I had so much fun with this Madeline/French theme.  I hope our little one and her little girlfriends enjoyed it as much as I did!  Whether you are planning a small birthday celebration with a few friends and family like we had or a big Bastille Day extravaganza, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too!

Star Spangled Waffles

My family always has a big cookout on the evening of the 4th of July – hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, pink lemonade, chips, baked beans, deviled eggs, homemade ice cream… Yum!!!  We really stuff ourselves!  It’s enough food to make you want to save room for it all the whole day leading up to the dinner.  So as an attempt to eliminate a meal before the cookout, we started having a waffle brunch on the 4th of July, and it is becoming a tradition we look forward to almost as much as the cookout.

4th of July Waffles

4th of July Waffles

Our menu includes waffles, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, and whipped cream.  That’s it!

More 4th of July Waffles

More 4th of July Waffles

The berries and cream make it a pretty red, white, and blue meal that is delicious and helps us get through the day without spoiling our appetites so that we can pig out to our hearts’ content at our evening cookout – as is patriotic and American!  Happy 4th of July!

Star Spangled Waffles

Star Spangled Waffles

 

Father’s Day Feast

I always feel like dads have an unfair disadvantage when it comes to their very own holiday.  Mother’s Day is in May before school is out, so kids have a chance to make cute projects and gifts for moms at school that have been carefully planned by their teachers.  Then on Mother’s Day itself, everyone takes their moms out to brunch so that the moms don’t have to cook.  No such luck for dads though – Father’s Day is in June when school is out and everyone is too distracted by summer fun to think of a thoughtful gift.

While we do always remember to make a big deal out of Father’s Day in our family, it is a little ironic that it’s the one day a year when my dad cooks the meal – although he wouldn’t have it any other way.  Ever since i was about 7 or 8 years old we have had kabobs on the grill for Father’s Day – and it’s one of everyone’s favorite meals of the year!  Our kabobs are very simple: onions, cherry tomatoes, little red potatoes, and steak.  Since it’s such a special occasion, my mom usually gets some ridiculously good cut of steak like fillet mignon that a butcher would probably be horrified to know was being cut into little cubes and slapped on the grill – but it always makes the kabobs soooooo delicious.  Totally worth the splurge for a special day!  My dad carefully builds the kabobs and then goes out to slave away over the grill to cook them.  When they are ready we gobble them up!  For dessert we have a strawberry pie – a perfect summertime meal with great summertime foods.

Last year was my husband’s first Father’s Day.  I gave him the option of doing the kabobs another time so that he could create his own new Father’s Day traditions.  But he too enjoys our Father’s Day kabobs so much himself now that he wanted to keep our tradition for himself – with one new addition.  He loves to cook and bake, so he decided that he wanted to contribute the rolls for the meal, and he made fantastic Parker house rolls.  Check out the recipe he used at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/parker-house-rolls-recipe.html.

Father's Day Feast

Father’s Day Feast

So that’s our Father’s Day.  The dads in the family work hard to cook a mouthwatering meal for everyone else.  It hardly seems fair, but that’s what makes them happy, and it is their day after all.  We are certainly a lucky family!

Summer Baking Project

Happy Memorial Day!  Summer begins NOW!  I was at Target the other day and saw something in the baking aisle that reminded me of one of my most favorite parts of summer from my childhood: Weekly trips to the grocery store with my mom.  One reason I liked going to the store with her so much in the summer is that she had me pick out one boxed cake mix each week that I would get to make myself.  So when I saw these fun summer cake and cookie mixes at the store, it reminded me of what a great idea this was and is – both from childhood memories of enjoying baking and also now from a “grown up” mommy and teacher perspective.

Summer Baking

Summer Baking

Having kids make a cake or cookie mix once a week in the summer helps them start to love cooking with fun, low stress, easy projects that usually turn out well.  It also helps them practice many, many academic skills over the summer.  Following a recipe (or directions on a box) and successfully baking a cake requires reading, sequencing, measuring, adding, using elapsed time, and even a bit of chemistry!  I figure getting to pick out a cake mix each week could even make trips to the store easier.  Even though our daughter is still too little for these summer baking projects (her weekly treat of choice at the grocery store is currently a mini post-it cube), I imagine that a kid who knows he or she gets to pick out one special dessert to prepare for the family might be slightly less focused on begging for a myriad of candy or junk food to take home.  Or maybe not – but at least it’s worth a try!  Regardless, I remember summer baking fondly from my own childhood and can’t wait to try it with our own daughter when she’s older (and has finally outgrown her post-it habit).