Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How to Make a Felt Christmas Tree

You've probably all seen the different ideas on pinterest for felt activities for kids.  Last year I decided to make this Christmas tree in an effort to keep the twins (then 18 months) away from the real tree.  They loved it and still love it this year so I thought I'd pass this tip on.  All the pieces are detachable so you can move them around on the tree. They decorate it over and over every time they walk by.  Plus we haven't broken one real ornament this year since they have some other kid friendly decorations.  Other ideas I've seen are a dressable snowman or a Nativity scene.  If you have little kids/babies and 20 minutes of free time I would highly recommend making one of these! :)

 I don't really have a ton of instructions but maybe the picture can give you some ideas!  Here's what I did though:

What you need:
1/2 yard to 1 yd. green felt (depending on how big you want it)
other colors of felt  (I used red, yellow, blue and white)
cardboard backing (I used an old box...during Christmas we have plenty from Amazon)
ribbons, buttons, fabric scraps for decorating the ornaments
hot glue gun 

Instructions for tree:
I cut the cardboard into three strips that fit behind the Christmas tree.  I used three strips of cardboard instead of one so that the tree would hold its shape but could still be folded up for storage.   Cut the tree out of green felt and attach to cardboard with hot glue. 

Instructions for ornaments:
I made a yellow star, white garland and several round ornaments.  For the round ornaments I used a 3 in. round biscuit cutter and traced the circles on felt.  Then using a glue gun I attached buttons, ribbon and fabric for embellishments.  Just make sure not to add too many embellishments or your ornaments will be too heavy and not stay on the tree.  Also if your ornaments have a hard time staying on your felt board you can take a brush and scrub the felt so that it is slightly rough.  This will help it stick better for your kiddos.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Funeral Potatoes (Freezer meal friendly!)

It was recently brought to my attention that I had alluded to a funeral potato recipe on my blog a few times but never posted it! Such a tragedy! I'm sorry to have held out on you all for so long :) This recipe comes from my Mom's friend Vicki who is an excellent cook! She was one of my church leaders growing up and I can remember having activities at her house and getting to eat her yummy food.  I think my mom first got this recipe at an activity where they learned about Christmas traditions and we've used this for our Christmas night dinner ever since! We usually pair it with pork roast and chile plum sauce (also from Vicki) and you can check out the recipe for that by clicking here! I even have it pictured with funeral potatoes.  And the blog comes full circle...

Anyway, this is one of my butteriest, creamiest recipes I have...and it's also one of my most requested! It's delicious and also great to feed a crowd. This recipe has been used for fundraisers, girl's camp, and coming soon church Christmas parties.  In fact, they are called funeral potatoes because they are often served at funeral luncheons.  They take about 5 min. to throw together and they bake up in about 45 min.  Enjoy!

Funeral Potatoes
1 bag shredded hash browns
1/2 cup butter (melted)
1 can cream of chicken
1 can cream of celery
16 oz. sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar
1/2 bunch green onion chopped

2 cups crushed cereal (I use corn Chex or Crispix)
2 T. butter melted

Combine all ingredients (other than topping ingredients).  Place potatoes mixture in a 9x13 pan.  Bake for 30 min. Stir slightly to allow the center to cook and spread evenly in pan again.  Combine crushed cereal with 2 T. melted butter and top potatoes.  Continue baking for 15 min. or until golden brown and bubbly.

Freezer Meal Instructions:

Combine all potatoes ingredients (other than topping ingredients).  Place potatoes mixture in a 9x13 pan. In a small bowl combine crushed cereal and melted butter for the topping.  Sprinkle on top of potatoes. At this point you can bake immediately or cover in foil and freeze.

When Ready to Cook:
If frozen: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Tent foil over top of potatoes and place pan on baking sheet. Cook for 1 hour 40 minutes or until heated through.  Remove foil and continue cooking ten minutes or until top is golden.
If defrosted: Follow the same heating instructions but reduce cook time to 45 minutes. Removing foil for the final 10 minutes.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pumpkin Torte

I got this recipe several years ago from my friend Connie at church. It's like pumpkin pie cake! It uses a cake mix so it's super fast to make.  It also has a delicious streusel type topping that reminds me of the pumpkin muffins that Costco makes around this time of year.  Give it a try!

Pumpkin Torte
1 yellow cake mix (divided)
1/2 C Margarine melted
1 egg

1 Can Pumpkin pie mix (the kind with spices and sugar already in it)
2 eggs
2/3 C evap milk

1/4 C soft butter
1 C. Cake Mix
1 T cinnamon
1/4 C sugar
Combine crust ingredients and press into bottom of a 9x13 in. baking dish. Combine filling ingredients and pour over crust. Mix topping ingredients until crumbly, sprinkle over the top pumpkin mixture. Bake for 45 min at 375 degrees. Serve warm or cold (I prefer cold) with whipped topping.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Lazy Day Lasagna

So I have a great from scratch lasagna recipe that I will post at some point but this is my realistic lasagna recipe (a.k.a. the one I use on a regular basis).  It comes together quickly and tastes great. Other than the ricotta it's made with ingredients I usually have on hand.

Also, I think I've mentioned before that I usually try to have at least one meatless meal per week and this fits the bill nicely.  Very filling and the kids gobble it up.  So if you're having a busy day but don't want to get fast food somewhere give this one a try.

Lazy Day Lasagna
1 package no-cook lasagna noodles (I use Barilla)
2 eggs
1 (15 oz.) container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 jars spaghetti sauce (I use Ragu super vegetable primavera)

In a medium sized bowl combine eggs, ricotta, parmesan, and 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella. Spread 1 cup of sauce on bottom of a 9x13in. baking dish.

Layer 1:  4 no-cook lasagna noodles. 1/3 of ricotta mixture, 1 cup mozzarella, and 1 cup spaghetti sauce. 

Layer 2: 4 noodles, 1/3 of ricotta mixture, 1 cup spaghetti sauce

Layer 3: 4 noodles, 1/3 of ricotta mixture, 1 cup mozzarella and 1 cup spaghetti sauce.

Layer 4: Last 4 noodles topped with remaining spaghetti sauce and the last cup of mozzarella.

Cover casserole dish by tenting foil over the top.  Bake at 375 for 50-60 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 5-10 minutes to slightly toast cheese on top. Let rest for 10 minutes and serve!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Microwave white chocolate popcorn

So my sister made this recipe for New Year's Eve about 3 years ago and while I've thought about it with fondness I hadn't ever tried to make it.  So about a week ago when I was having a girls night and needed something sweet I decided to email her for the recipe.  You'll be so surprised at how easy it is! It's so yummy...give it a try!

Microwave White Chocolate Popcorn
1 bag microwaveable popcorn (butter flavor)
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chip- melted (I used Ghiradelli's)
1 cup mini M&M's

Pop popcorn according to package directions.  Melt white chocolate chips according to package directions*. Pour hot popcorn into a large mixing bowl and remove any unpopped kernels. Add melted white chocolate chips.  Stir, making sure to coat all popcorn evenly.  Allow to cool about 1-2 minutes and add mini M&M's.  That's it! Easy!

*If your white chocolate doesn't come with melting direction here's how I do it.  Place chips in a microwave safe bowl and melt at 50% power for 1 min.  Stir and microwave again at 50% power in 20 second increments until completely melted. Make sure to stir frequently to prevent burning around the edges.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Stuffed Mushrooms

So I love stuffed mushrooms in all varieties.  Here's a quick recipe I've been using for a few years.  We use it mostly as an appetizer but they would also be an awesome side dish. Cream cheese, garlic, mushroom deliciousness!

Stuffed Mushrooms
25 medium sized mushrooms
1 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 (8 oz) block cream cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
3 T. butter
1/2 cup italian style bread crumbs

Wash and dry mushrooms and remove stems (but don't throw them away).  Mince stems and cook in olive oil over medium heat until softened (about 4 minutes).  Add garlic and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes or until garlic is fragrant.  Mix garlic mixture with cream cheese, parmesan, onion and cayenne powders.

 Stuff each mushroom cap with appx. 1 tsp of the mixture each, depending on the size of the mushrooms.  

Melt butter in the microwave and add bread crumbs.  Stir to make a coarse crumb mixture.  Dip each stuffed mushroom in crumb mixture to top.  Arrange mushrooms on a large cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees until filling is hot and water begins to form under caps. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (Freezer Friendly!)

So my family is pretty much obsessed with this recipe.  I've made it like a million times so I've decided to add it to my blog to spread the joy!  I found it on my friend Jenny's blog, What's on your Menu, but it's originally from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  Click on their website names and check them out. This was the first recipe I'd tried from Mel's but I recently tried her french bread too and it was equally good!

I've tweaked this recipe every time I made it so the recipe below is the recipe I follow now. I changed it up a little by adding some extra veggies and using already cooked chicken.  I also switched some of the directions around to keep the corn tender and such. Finally, I couldn't find just plain wild rice at the store so I just make this with Rice-a-roni Nature's way.  Since that has it's own seasoning packet I leave out some of the seasoning she included in her soup.

This soup is loaded with veggies and is super filling.  I usually serve it by itself and call it a day!  It's also my go to soup now for people who need a little cheering up :) It's awesome the next day too.  Just use a little milk to thin it back down.  Give it a try!

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
2 cups prepared wild rice
1/2 cup butter
1 sweet onion, chopped
3/4 cup celery, chopped
1 cup sliced carrots
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms (I usually just throw the whole container in)
3/4 cup flour
6 cups chicken broth (if making freezer meal- substitute 6 tsp. chicken bouillion)
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. dried mustard powder
1 (14.5 oz) can corn
3 cups cooked chicken (1 whole rotisserie chicken)
2 cups fat free half and half

Prepare wild rice according to package directions.  While rice is cooking, cut all your veggies.  In a large stock pot, melt butter and saute onion, celery, and carrots until slightly tender (about 8 min.).  Add mushrooms and continue to saute for another 2-3 minutes or until mushrooms are softened.

Add flour and mix until veggies are covered.  Whisk in chicken broth, making sure to smooth out any flour lumps.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes, until thickened.

Add rice, curry, mustard powder, corn and chicken. Heat soup through and add half and half.  Serve immediately or allow to simmer for 1 hour.  I usually make this in the morning and then put it in my crock-pot for the rest of the day.  It's great no matter what you decide to do.  Enjoy!

Freezer Meal Instructions:

Cook chicken and prepare wild rice. Combine rice, chicken and all remaining ingredients except for the 6 cups chicken broth. Instead use 6 tsp. chicken bouillion. Freeze.

When ready to cook: Add soup mix and 6 cups water to the crockpot and cook on low for 6-7 hours or until soup is heated through and veggies are tender.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bruschetta Chicken Pasta

My kids love spaghetti but sometimes I get tired of the same old recipe everytime.  So I thought back to my previous life of living in a big town and eating at restaurants and remembered how I loved bruschetta pasta at T.G.I.fridays.  So I decided to make up my own recipe for it.  I combined my bruschetta recipe with some tomato sauce, pasta, and chicken and a new recipe was born.  My kids even loved it!

A few notes about the recipe: I had originally pictured it with angel hair pasta but I accidentally grabbed the wrong box.  So the pasta pictured is spaghetti noodles but I changed it in the actual recipe below.  I also would prefer sliced garlic in this recipe instead of minced, but in an effort to get my kids to eat it I minced it up.  If you can get away with sliced garlic...do it! If you want to add a little "fancy" to this recipe you can drizzle it with a balsamic glaze.  You can check out my recipe for balsamic drizzle here. Finally, the bruschetta can be made a day ahead  and refrigerated to save time when putting this recipe together. Give it a try!

Bruschetta Chicken Pasta
3-4 boneless chicken breasts (grilled and sliced)
6-8 roma tomatoes -chopped (the firmer the better)
1/3 cup fresh basil -chopped
2 cloves garlic (sliced or minced)
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 lb. angel hair pasta (cooked and drained)
shredded parmesan cheese 
balsamic drizzle (optional)

Begin grilling chicken (and keep warm). 

Meanwhile, chop tomato and basil.  Mix tomato and basil with garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Cover and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes to let flavors mix. 

Begin cooking pasta according to package directions.

In a medium skillet, combine bruschetta with tomato sauce.  Heat and simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes. (Don't overcook the tomatoes).  Drain pasta and toss with sauce.  Top with grilled chicken, shredded parmesan, and balsamic drizzle if desired.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fall Favorites: Halloween Fun

Sorry I haven't done a new post in a few weeks.  We are still working on switching my pictures over to my new laptop so that I can post easier!  But I've been cooking up some great new recipes so look for those soon.  Bruschetta Pasta, philly cheese steaks, and pumpkin bread...just to name a few!

In the meantime here are some link to some of the recipes I like to use around Halloween.  Most of them are super easy and my kids love them every year.  As they've grown older they also get excited to help make them all too. Have fun!

Monster Taco Salad
Lil' Smokie Mummies
Ghost Pie
Halloween cupcakes kids can decorate
Chocolate Caramel Apples

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fall Favorites: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Can't remember where I got this recipe but its always a favorite. They mix up quick and are easy to bake. You just put a dollop of the cream cheese mixture in each of the muffin cups and then the pumpkin muffin bakes up around it.  So it looks fancy without a lot of extra work! And I'm all about being fake fancy!

These were not overly sweet so feel free to add 1/4 cup sugar or 2 T. brown sugar to the mix if you want it to be more like a dessert. You could also try a streusel topping like at Starbucks! The possibilities are endless!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, or to taste
1 T.  ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg + 1 egg white
3/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup whipped cream cheese (I just used regular and whipped it myself)
1 TB confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray muffin tins with nonstick spray. In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese with 1 TB confectioners sugar. If you are using regular cream cheese...whip it by itself first and then add confectioners sugar. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt and make a well in the middle. In another bowl whisk together the pumpkin puree, sugar, oil, buttermilk, egg, egg white, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredient into the dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full with batter mixture. Place a dollop of the cream cheese mixture in the center of each muffin. (I thought that I could just set the dollop on top and it would bake down in...but it worked better if I pushed the cream cheese down in the batter a little bit before I baked it)
Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into muffins comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes.