Archive for ‘Fall’

February 8, 2013

Rice Krispie Apples

Today is my daughter’s V.I.P day in kindergarten, and she gets to bring any treats she wants to class (without peanuts, of course). She has been looking forward to this day all year.  I was thinking we could make pink rice crispy treats since they had no peanuts, and they would celebrate uIMG_2760pcoming Valentine’s day.  We searched together online for recipes and I came across this very cute and creative recipe. First things first, I’m not going to tell you this was easy or even fun to make.  It can better be described as sticky, messy, and I think I need to say sticky one more time.  But I will tell you it was a total hit with my daughter.  And even though they really look nothing like the original picture, she thought they were pretty great.

This is a once or twice a year kind of treat (because I think I am going to use this recipe to make pumpkins with orange Jell-O for my other daughter’s birthday in October).  And I’ve got to say, they are pretty darn tasty.  Adding Jell-O to Rice Krispie treats is nothing short of a revelation.

Here is the recipe with the changes I made:

– ½ stick of butter (4 Tablespoons)

– 1 bag of large marshmallows

Put the above in a large microwave-safe bowl and warm for 2 minutes.  Stir, and if it still needs more melting time, put it in a little longer (mine only needed 2 minutes).

– Stir in one small package of Jell-O (I used Cherry )

– Add a few drops of food coloring if you want to make a specific color, like a darker red

– Once you have the desired color, pour in approximately ¾ of a bag of Rice Krispie cereal.  Add a bit at a time and stir until it is the consistency you want.  The less sticky the mixture is, the easier it will be to make the balls.

– Roll out some parchment paper.

– Spray your hands with Pam or oil spray.

– Roll the mixture into balls a bit larger than golf balls.  This is the incredibly sticky part.  You may have to wash your hands a few times in between and put on some more spray.  I was able to make about 32 balls.

– Squash the balls down a bit and use your thumb to create space for the stem.

–  Use unwrapped Tootsie Rolls for the stem. I cut green licorice to look like a leaf, but you could use frosting, green air heads, green fruit roll-ups, or whatever you want. I kind of put them together in the hole and pushed the Krispie mix around them.

– Let the apples sit for a few minutes to harden.

I know we like to trick our kids with real fruit and call it “dessert,” but this time they will actully believe you!

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November 23, 2011

The Stain-Free Way to Remove the Seeds of a Pomegranate

Pomegranates, sometimes referred to as “The Jewels of Autumn,” are steeped in tradition and symbolism.  Just looking at its crowned top, beautiful shape and skin and opening it up to see what appear to be hundreds of jewels (the arils) makes you feel like you are opening a treasure from the past.  And in reality you are.  Pomegranates were the first fruit to be cultivated nearly 4,000 years ago.  They have traveled the globe and are an important part of many cultures, religions, ceremonies, history, and art.

I have a childhood connection to pomegranates.  Our neighbor had a tree and would allow us to pick and eat many of his pomegranates.  It is probably the first fruit I ever enjoyed freshly harvested. I had no idea that in addition to enjoying its beautiful color and taste, I was also eating a nutritious super food.

Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants, have been shown to lower cholesterol, and contain not one but three types of polyphenols (which help prevent cancer and heart disease).  They also have vitamin C, potassium, and fiber (when you eat the crunchy part of the seed).  The high nutritional value has led to the selling of pomegranate juice in most grocery stores.

Buying the juice can be more appealing than buying a raw pomegranate, because obtaining the arils of this royal fruit is actually a bit overwhelming.  One wrong move and you or your kitchen wall will get squirted with its permanent dye.  Here is a method I use that will allow you to stay stain-free and make it safe for your children to help as well:

The Stain-Free Way to Remove the Seeds of a Pomegranate

* Cut off both ends of the pomegranate (with a paper towel underneath to protect the cutting surface from its dye).

* Score the outside, making slice marks just barely through the peel (perhaps 5 or 6 slits). This will help you more easily break it apart in the next step.

* Submerge the pomegranate in a large bowl of water and start breaking the pomegranate apart to gather the arils.  The fruit will drop to the bottom while the white part and the skin will float to the top.  Submerging it in the water will stop any of its staining sprays from reaching you.

* Skim the white part and peel floating on top and discard it.

* Pour the fruit into a strainer and pick out the remaining white bits.

* Place the arils in a dish and serve.   They can be eaten plain (my favorite), or served in salads, drinks, dips, or on top of desserts.

November 16, 2011

Tell the Thanksgiving Story with Thanksgiving Trail Mix

A few years ago I discovered something that was like the concept of Thanksgiving Trail Mix.  I took the idea and made it into a more chronological and complete story.  I also made a visual presentation (Thanksgiving Trail Mix Presentation) and laminated each page. The idea is to use ingredients that symbolize parts of the Thanksgiving story and add them one by one while you explain what they represent.  By the end you have a yummy treat and have discussed the reason we celebrate Thanksgiving.  We all take turns reading a part of the story and pouring an ingredient in the bowl. Once the story has been told, everyone has something to munch on while they wait for Thanksgiving dinner.  This will be our fourth year doing our Thanksgiving Trail Mix tradition, and my kids really look forward to it.

November 13, 2011

Savory Spaghetti Squash

Our good friends gave us a spaghetti squash from their garden.  To be truthful, I had never cooked a spaghetti squash, or really tried one. The name alone should have told me what it would taste like, but still I was unprepared.  It was delicious and did not taste “squashy” but rather like a yummy noodle.  Spaghetti squash screams out savory.  I tried it many ways, but putting brown sugar and butter on it was probably my least favorite alternative.  I tried marinara sauce and butter and parmesan, but my favorite was shredded cheese and real Hormel Bacon Bits (found in the salad dressing aisle).  Your choices are endless because whatever you would enjoy on a noodle, you can also put on spaghetti squash.

From a caloric standpoint, it is a superior choice to pasta.  One cup of spaghetti squash has a mere 42 calories.  Since one cup of spaghetti has 221 calories, you would be saving 179 calories a cup. The vitamins and antioxidants it contains also make it a better choice nutritionally; it is a vegetable after all.  Also, on the glycemic index scale (how the food affects your blood sugar) it is an impressively low 2 out of 100.

I have since cooked spaghetti squash 3 times, and I have determined my favorite way to cook it.

* Set your oven to 375 degrees.

* Cut the squash in half & dig out the seeds. Sometimes I cut off the hard ends first so my knife has an easier time cutting lengthwise.

(* The seeds are similar to pumpkin seeds, so you can roast them after they have dried if you would like.)

* Lay the squash in a casserole dish flesh side up, in about 1 inch of water.

* Loosely cover with tin foil and cook for 45 minutes.

* Take the tinfoil off and cook for about 30 more minutes.  This will help dry up the water. In previous attempts, although the squash was good it was watery.  I find that cooking this type of squash for a longer amount of time helps the noodle become dryer, softer and yummier.

October 25, 2011

Apple & Banana Fruit Dip

The first time I had this dip was when my friend Jen brought me dinner after I had my second baby.  I almost immediately asked her for the recipe; I really like it for the colder months when you eat more bananas and apples.  I just recently made it to bring to my daughter’s first grade class to celebrate her birthday.  Her teacher requests that parents bring in healthier birthday treats, and this is what I came up with.  This picture shows Lyla sampling the dip before I packed it up to take to school.  I made a double recipe so I could take some to a work party that evening.

Jen’s Fruit Dip

1 (8oz) fruit yogurt (you choose the flavor)
2 T sugar
1 T lemon juice
½ cube cream cheese
2 C Cool Whip

Mix the first four ingredients until well blended and then fold in the Cool Whip.

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October 19, 2011

Halloween Crafts & Music

Below is a slideshow of some ideas for crafts to do during Halloween; they may also spark some of your own ideas for family fun.

Here is our Halloween playlist we listen to as we do the crafts!

  • Thriller – Michael Jackson
  • Ghostbusters – Jr. Ray Parker
  • Addams Grove – MC Hammer
  • Purple People Eater – Sheb Wooley
  • Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Pickett
  • The Munsters – Jack Marshall
  • Witch Doctor – The Pop Royal
  • Harry Potter Prologue – Harry Potter Soundtrack
  • Haunted House – Jumpin’ Gene Simmons
  • Casper the Friendly Ghost – Original Cartoon Cast

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October 16, 2011

Monster Mouth

Genevieve made this yummy, edible, and healthy Halloween craft in her first grade class.  She wanted to make it again the following week and requested I put it in my blog, so here it is:

1) Put a bit of yogurt on a plate and use the bottom of a spoon to swirl it down flat.

2) Cut an apple and use two slices to shape a mouth.  She likes green because then it really looks like a monster.

3) Place white yogurt covered raisins to look like the monster’s teeth.

You can give it one or two layers of teeth.  I think Genevieve just likes to get as many yogurt raisins as she can. Another variation it to use peanut butter, with mini marshmallows as the teeth.  No matter how the outcome looks, kids really love it.  And it makes a pretty perfect after school snack.

October 12, 2011

Get Your ‘Pumpkin’ to a Harvest Festival

I mean really, is there any better time of the year?  I absolutely love fall and going to farms and pumpkin patches.  I know that different things are available depending on where you live, so we all can’t experience the same type of fall fun.  For example, this is the first year in my life that we have actually cut our pumpkins off the vine! Also, this is the first year that I have had freshly baked pumpkin donuts at not one, but two farms.  Here is a slideshow of some of our family’s fall adventures:

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September 23, 2011

‘Gourd’eous Gourds

It is the first day of fall and according to Mother Nature, it has arrived.  I passed a farmer’s stand on the way to drop my daughter off at preschool.  The beautifully lined-up pumpkins beckoned me to take a closer look.  I then noticed huge boxes of various squashes, some I had never seen before, and some twice the size of a watermelon.  I then came to the gourds and was blown away–they are gorgeous!  Truly, take a minute to look at the color combinations, the shapes, the textures, even the angles of  the stems.  Is there a more creative artist then Mother Nature?  Seeing these fall crops made me feel excited for the season change.  It is time to get out the sweaters, warm some apple cider, try pumpkin and squash recipes, and unpack the fall decorations.  Perhaps your decorations will include some gourds as gorgeous as these.