Saturday, December 13, 2014

Elf Food

Christmas is my most favorite time of year! The good cheer, lights, presents, candy canes, hot cocoa, and music make it a true winter wonderland. But for me, the most exciting part about it all is experiencing Christmas with my children.  They believe so completely in Christmas magic that, for a moment, I believe in it again too.

I have very vivid childhood memories about Christmas. I remember how deeply I believed and how excited I was in the days leading up to Christmas. I can close my eyes right now and see the colored lights lining our house, smell the candles that were always lit on Christmas Eve, hear Nat King Cole Christmas carols playing on some cassette tape, and feel the increasing anticipation as we waited for Santa to arrive at our house. We always stayed up late on Christmas Eve celebrating our childhood while making the best family memories possible. I love my parents so much for giving this to me. It was a full sensory experience that is so ingrained into me that I have no choice but to recreate it for my children. I want to see them jump for joy when they spy Rudolph's nose in the distance,  burst with excitement when they hear the ringing bells of Santa's sleigh and squeal with delight at the sight of all their presents piled around the tree.

One thing that did not exist when I was young was the Elf of the Shelf. It is such a simple idea that it is brilliant (another million dollar mommy idea that I missed out on!) I have really run away with this idea trying to make it bigger and better (and sometimes totally inappropriate.) Here are some of the fun antics:

Contrary to popular opinion Elves are not limited to the 4 main food groups of candy, candy corn, candy canes and maple syrup. They love smores but hate the idea of getting close to an open flame (elves are fearful of fire so never but your elf near the flames!) Luckily I have a solution that is so easy even an elf can do it! And really whats not to love about this...marshmallows, chocolate, cereal... oh my goodness!

What You Need:

  • 2 Cups Golden Grahams
  • 1/4 Cup Marshmallow Bits
  • 1/4 Cup Milk Chocolate Morsels
  • Handful of Red M&Ms (picked and sorted out of a bag of Christmas M&Ms)


Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and serve. Seriously, how easy is that!! 

My little elves absolutely love this! Though this elf picks out and eats all the chocolate pieces (she`s smarter than I thought!)

Food Play: Peppermint Play Dough 

It is a rainy day here and we wanted to do a Christmas craft. I scrolled through Pinterest with my 4 year old and she rejected every art activity that had paint (thank goodness! that is always a mess!) and zoned in on the play dough idea. I had never made scented play dough and was up for giving it a try. We were all out of red play dough so we couldn`t make a full on candy cane theme. Green was just as lovely though. Pop the Elf even got involved!

What You Need for Play Dough:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • food coloring
  • drops of peppermint oil

I added the first 4 ingredients to my mixer and began mixing. I than added the hot water followed by the food coloring until the desired color was achieved. Put in some peppermint oil to give it a nice elvish smell. Top it all off with a lot of glitter. The more the better!! If it feels a little tacky add some more flour.

Add in some cookie cutters and candy canes and you have yourself a play date.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hoot! Hoot! Cupcakes

I love owls! It might not be apparent to people who know me, but I do. My affinity for these creatures can be traced back to one place: Chi Omega. This is the sorority that I joined way back in college at the University of Oregon. Our main symbol is the owl. For those of you that joined a sorority maybe the thing that you love is an anchor, key, dolphin, lyre, crescent moon, or arrow. If you did not join a sorority you may have no idea what I am talking about, but stay with me. My sorority meant a lot to me back then.  It gave me a sense of belonging at a large university but more importantly it was a place to call home. I got to share my college experience with some truly amazing women.  Oh the stories they could tell about me... Oh the stories I could tell about them! But, behind every chapter house is a national organization that works to ensure that the women who join their ranks are provided a fulfilling experience filled with ideals to which to aspire and purposes by which to live their life (it isn't all social!) Chi Omega still means a lot to me.

One of the few roles I hold outside of 'Mommy' is as an adviser at the University of Arizona's chapter of Chi Omega. It has been a way to connect to the community, to meet new friends and to remain an active part of an organization that I love. Moreover, it has helped me remember that I am more than just a mother (something that is easy to forget during the formidable toddler years.) So, last weekend I hosted about 20 of the active members from the U of A chapter at my house for an overnight retreat. They are some of the brightest, most hard working, and determined young women you could ever meet... they give me hope for the future! To honor them I made some Owl cupcakes. They weren't super fancy as I used whatever I already had in my pantry. I literally just winged it. (ha! ha!)

What You Need:

box of cake mix
jar of frosting
food coloring
assortment of toppings
  • Fruit loops
  • M and Ms
  • Shredded Coconut
  • Slivered Almonds
  • Cherrrios
  • White Chocolate discs (these are the kind you get for melting)
  • Marshmallows

Preheat oven as directed on the box. 
Mix cake mix. I mixed half the cake mix with lots of red food coloring. Then, I filled each cup cake with a scoop of each color to create a marbled effect. (Chi Omegas colors are cardinal and straw hence the 2 colors. But you can do this for any color combo you desire, or not at all.)

Once the cupcakes are out of the oven allow them to cool completely before frosting.

Once frosted begin to decorate your cupcake. I used a dab of frosting to stick the M&M to the white chocolate disc (or marshmallow.) I also used a Fruit Loop for the nose and eyebrows.

I think they turned out pretty cute considering I had a very unhelpful helper at my side trying to stick her finger in EVERYTHING and eat what she could. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Ghostly Meringues

Happy Halloween!! 

I love this holiday! Everyone acts a little sillier and a but more strange.... kinda like me. Our house is decorated with tombstones on the grass, scarecrows in the planters, pumpkins everywhere, spiders all over the fireplace, and ravens lining the front gate. With toddlers I found I cannot make it too scary. I took Caroline into one of those Halloween stores and I am pretty sure it provided her with enough terror to last her a few years. She was screaming. I lost a mommy point that day. But, my youngest absolutely loved it! She wanted to be scared over and over and would just laugh. She particularly liked the zombie children pop up toys... freaky!!!!

Anyways, Halloween is here. Last night we carved pumpkins and made special ghostly treats. 

The most favorite dessert I make is a pavlova. It is perfectly sweet and has just about all the main food groups: eggs, cream and fruit. It is a meal in itself. I have had this recipe for years now. It had taken me many tries to perfect it. So rather than make you go through all the agony, I have condensed the recipe to give you a simple meringue (though the only difference between this and my pavlova is the cream and berries that would go on top.) 

What you need:
3 egg whites, room temperature
1 cup superfine sugar (if you do not have superfine sugar don't worry, use regular sugar)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar (not the egg dying kinda vinegar... pay attention!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the egg whites until satiny peaks form.

Then beat in the sugar a tablespoon at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. 

My "professional" advice here is to pay very close attention to your egg whites. If they are over beaten they will be stiff and yucky. Get your kiddos set up with a snack and a favorite show at this point so you can have 10 minutes to yourself for this!

Turn off the mixer and add the vanilla and white wine vinegar. Use a spatula to fold it all in (folding in is almost the same as mixing but you do it slowly and more carefully.)

Prepare a pastry bag with a big open tip (or just cut a hole in the corner of a plastic bag.) Fill it with the meringue (I find that if you put the bag into a tall cup and fold over the sides you can easily fill up your bag without making a horrible mess.)

To make the ghostly meringues just pipe out the meringue in circles one on top of the other; getting smaller as you build up. I used a smaller tip and created something more like mummy ghosts but, no worries, the kids get the idea and I look even more creative!! The point is just use your own creative discretion and I know they will be great. I even made a few that were flat.

Place them into the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 300 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes. Then turn off the heat and leave them in the oven for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before adding faces to your ghosts.

I then adorned my ghosts with some candy eyes and raisins for a mouth. I used store bought frosting to stick them on.

Its a ghostly parade!!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ear Wax

Halloween is a perfect time to create food that makes you gag a little bit. This idea fits the bill! Next time your kiddo needs a snack just grab a Q-Tip and some ear wax and you are good to go. Note my child's reaction when I offered her some ear wax. Priceless! And the 2 year old completely hesitated before I encouraged her to eat it. The best thing about this snack is how utterly, completely easy it is. It would make a great treat for a Halloween party or playdate! Don't miss the fun Food Play craft included below!

What you Need:

Q Tips
Handful of mini marshmallows
1 TBS Nut Butter (we used peanut butter)


Cut off one of the cotton ends of the Q Tip. Push the cut end into a mini marshmallow.

Dip the top of the marshmallow into the nut butter. I swirled it to get a nice effect!

Arrange the ear wax on a tray and serve.

Food Play Craft:  

X-Ray Hand

Put those Q Tips to work again and make a fun X Ray of your kiddos hand (of foot!) All you need is black paint, paper, Q Tips, and glue.

Swab some black paint all over your kiddos hand and make a handprint.

Dab some glue onto the cotton ends of the Qtip and fix to your dry handprint. 

Look how proud she is of her X ray!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

'Spook'tacular Treats

Halloween is a fun time of year for creatively spooky food! There are lots of great ideas in magazines, pinterest boards and Facebook on how to turn food into mummies, bats, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and spiders. I have said this before but what is it about Halloween that gets people inspired to be creative with their food?! You don't need a holiday to be silly at the dinner table. Kids love the creativity all year round! But I am happy to know that this little idea of mine for making creative food has a niche somewhere. 

By now I will assume that you have your house decorated with pumpkins, spiders and ghosts; candy corns have made their way into your treat rotation; the kids have their costumes all picked out too (if you have a little girl is it safe to say that she will be dressing up as Elsa this year?); and you have indulged in your fair share of some pumpkiny Fall beer (maybe that last one is all me!) 

To help get us all get into the witchy spirit I have compiled some past recipes that have a spooktacular theme. I also have some new ideas that I will be adding in the next 2 weeks. 

I Want My Mummy

You can make this one easier for you by wrapping slices of the dough around a hot dog and then baking.

Dragon Eggs

Trick or Treat: Bones

Trick or Treat: Eyeballs

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rainbows and Unicorns

Every morning I ask my 4 year old what she dreamed about while she was sleeping. Without fail she always says "Rainbows and Unicorns!" Ah, to be 4! Childhood is the most magical time in life. It is full of such innocence and joy that you believe anything is possible. My own childhood was filled with endless possibilities and rich imagination.

It is one of my greatest hopes that my children have the most magical childhood possible. To me, it is important that during these few short years I can foster in them a rich imagination and the ability to see all the wonder there is in life. This is the reason that I am as silly, creative and imaginative with my kids (and everybody else's kids for that matter) as I can possibly be.

Extending this type of play and imagination to their meals just seems natural.

To celebrate all those 'rainbow and unicorn' dreams I found a way to make a key toddler staple more fun and colorful! Using farfalle (Italian for butterfly) noodles adds a further dimension to the whimsy of the dish. 

Rainbows, Unicorns, Butterflies...oh my!

(unicorns not included.)

What You Need:

  • Box of noodles (farfalle are great but spaghetti is just as good... think colorful snakes!)
  • Various Food Coloring 


Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add about 30 drops of food coloring to the water (the more food coloring the brighter the color so use your own discretion here.)

Add in the pasta and cook as directed. 

I added some melted buttered and a little bit of parmesan cheese to make it tasty. 
It's as simple as that!

I cooked several colors to make a rainbow effect. 

I had my littlest one scoop out the colors she wanted. She loved all the bright colors.
The pink was the favorite (of course) but when I called the teal color 'Elsa Blue' there was no going back. If I were having a Frozen party this would be a perfect treat, just saying.



P.s I was having visions of this for Halloween by using orange and black food coloring and farfalle noodles. They would look like bats! I gotta go find me some black food coloring and try it out!!