Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Little Chef Birthday Party

My little boy turned 5 years old recently. Five! I'm sure every parent can relate to that feeling of disbelief on their children's birthdays. When did they get so big!? How did they get that old!?

Despite seeing my Sam grow up too darn fast, I love themes so throwing a kids party is a lot of fun for me. This year Sam decided he wanted a chef themed party. Actually, at first he wanted a Cutthroat Kitchen birthday party, but I figured that having a large group of five year olds cooking at my house was enough of a sabotage, so we simplified it to just a chef party. (Though a more involved Cutthroat Kitchen, Chopped, or Iron Chef party would be pretty fun for a group of teenagers or adults!)




The nice thing about a cooking party is the food is the entertainment, so you don't have to come up with a bunch of games for them to play. I ordered some plain chef hats and aprons from Oriental Trading Company for them to decorate. I like to have something for the kids to do while we wait for all the guests to arrive, and not only did this activity give them protection for clothing while we cooked, but they got to take them home as their party favor as well. The hats and aprons cost less than two dollars per kid.

I used electrical tape to secure a plastic table cloth to our floor as the decorating space. Electrical tape is what we use at the dance studio to mark off a stage area for summer camp, so I knew it would come off easily after the party.

Next we moved to the kitchen to mix up some cupcakes. Note how I covered the table with a plastic table cloth so any messes would be easy to clean up. We did the cupcakes first, so they would have time to cool before we decorated them. Hot cupcakes = melted frosting! For this age group I pre-measured all the ingredients in small containers and had them take turns adding them to the bowl and stirring. Then I put the batter in the muffin tins and put them in the oven.

Next we moved on to making our pizzas! I bought pre-made pizza dough and gave each child a piece. I set out containers of sauce, cheese, and a variety of pizza toppings and let them go for it. When they were done we put them in the oven and did presents while they cooked.  I didn't label the pizzas with which one was who's, but they were all different, so it worked out!

I'm pretty proud of my present to Sam. I've been meaning to learn how to sew for quite some time, and I've finally done it! The apron he got for his birthday is the first sewing project I've done all by myself. While it's not perfect, I think it turned out great! It's a little big, but he'll be able to use it for a long time. 

After presents we returned to the kitchen to eat our pizzas, and decorate and eat the cupcakes. I put out a few tubs of frosting in different colors with butter knifes for spreading, along with fun toppings like sprinkles, gumdrops, M & Ms, and chocolate chips. I didn't actually buy any candy either, I mostly used leftovers from Christmas!

All in all, I think the kids had a lot of fun. I know Sam did, he's asked for another chef party next year! We'll see if he changes his mind in the next 12 months.

Since in a cooking party, timing is important, here is a breakdown of the order of events. The party lasted 2 hours. At this age any gaps in planned activities were filled in by them simply playing with each other. We got everything done with time to spare.

Arrival of guests/craft (about 1/2 hour)
mix cupcakes - put in oven
make pizzas , take cupcakes out - put pizzas in.
Presents
Eat pizza
Decorate and eat cupcakes
Kids go home!






Monday, January 5, 2015

Rosca De Reyes (Mexican Three Kings Cake)

Sunday was Ephiphany, or Three Kings Day, the part of the Christmas season when we celebrate the three kings, (or magi, or wise men), visiting the baby Jesus and bringing him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Epiphany is traditionally celebrated on January 6th, but here in the U.S. at least it gets moved to the Sunday closest to the the 6th.

In Mexico, this is the traditional day to exchange gifts, rather than Christmas day, which makes sense since it is the day Jesus received his gifts! It is also a tradition to make three kings cake, which usually has a prize hidden inside. Whoever gets the prize in their piece of cake is supposed to host a party on Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, and provide the tamales and atole! Candlemas is on February 2nd. My great aunt on my Mexican side, whom we simply refer to as "Tia," (aunt in Spanish), gave me this recipe for three kings cake - rosca de reyes. It is less like a traditional cake and more like a sweet egg-y bread which is filled with fruit, similar to the German stollen or the Italian panettone.


The original recipe called for preserved fruit that you typically find in fruit cake; candied cherries, diced orange peel and citron. I tried using the citron once and wasn't too pleased, so I replaced it with diced dried pineapple this time. I also decided to replace the candied cherries with dried cherries - also much tastier. Of course I'm sure you could add in any dried fruit that you would like!

Rosca de Reyes (Mexican Three Kings Cake)

Ingredients:
1 pkg yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs plus three egg yolks
1/2 cup (1 stick) soft butter
2 cups flour
100 grams dried cherries
100 grams diced orange peel
100 grams diced dried pineapple (the 100 grams things is what the recipe says, but I just eyeball it!)
powdered sugar
cream

Directions:

Stir the yeast and lukewarm water together -set aside.

Mix together the salt, sugar, eggs and butter. Add the yeast mixture.

Add in the flour and mix thoroughly. Knead at least 6 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise for at least 1 hour.

Dust the dough with flour and mix the fruit the fruit into the dough. This is best done by hand.

Place on an ungreased baking sheet and form a ring. Add a porcelain prize or coin wrapped in wax paper. Let rise for 30 minutes.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Drizzle a mixture of powdered sugar and cream over the cake while it is still warm.

Cool and slice. Enjoy!




Friday, December 26, 2014

Kumquat Refrigerator Pie

Merry Christmas! Yes, it is December 26th, but for Catholics the Christmas season starts the night of Christmas Eve, and then continues until Epiphany which is traditionally January 6th. So Christmas is not over, indeed it has just begun! As such, you will still see me posting Christmas themed things, like this recipe for Kumquat Refrigerator Pie.

As some of you may know, kumquats are a traditional Christmas food at my house. It all started with my dad inventing Kumquat Christmas Drink back when we were kids and has grown into a myriad of kumquat recipes, including the Kumquat Marmalade we sometimes make with the leftovers. Besides the Christmas drink, this pie was the first kumquat recipe we made, as it was printed on the container of kumquats we bought. A Christmas celebration just doesn't seem complete without a slice of Kumquat Pie!





Kumquat Refrigerator Pie

Ingredients: 

1 8oz tub whipped topping
1 cup (or a little more) kumquats - seeded and pureed
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice





Directions:

Get a 9 inch pie crust ready to go. If using a traditional pie crust, pre-bake it. Graham cracker crusts work well too.

Beat condensed milk and whipped topping until thickened. Add lemon or lime juice and beat some more. Fold in the kumquats.

Pour in the pie shell.

Chill several hours.

Garnish with thin slices of kumquats.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mexican Sweets for St. Juan Diego

Yesterday was the feast of St. Juan Diego, whom my 4 year old son proclaimed as his patron saint a couple years ago. As I  have a Mexican heritage, this feast as well Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th is special to us that way as well. I like to think that my ancestors came into the Catholic Church through Our Lady. Of course both of these days are a great time to eat some delicious Mexican food!

We had tostadas again this year, and they were delicious! I do have some new Mexican recipes for you this year though. We also watched Juan Diego: Messenger of Guadalupe. CCC of America has lots of great saint movies for kids.

The additions to our Mexican feast this year were sweet ones. We made a refreshing rice and cinnamon drink called horchata as well as some Mexican chocolate sundaes with cinnamon sugar tortilla crisps, yum! Since we already had a pan of oil on the stove for making tostada shells, making the tortilla crisps for the sundaes wasn't too much of an extra step. The horchata does have to be started the night before, but it is really so easy to make.

Horchata

1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks - do not use ground
1/2 cup sugar
Water

Place 1 cup rice in 2 cups water and add the cinnamon sticks. Place in the refrigerator overnight.

Next day, remove the cinnamon and pour the rice/water mixture into the blender and process until very fine. Place back int he refrigerator for a couple hours. Strain through cheese cloth and add 2 quarts of water and the sugar.

Enjoy!

Mexican Chocolate Sundaes

Mexican Chocolate Ganache

1 disc Mexican chocolate, chopped
1 8oz container heavy cream

Bring the cream to a boil over medium heat. Add in the chopped chocolate and stir until melted. Take off the heat and let cool.

Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Crisps

Flour tortillas
oil for frying
cinnamon sugar

Cut the tortillas into quarters and fry in the hot oil until golden brown. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels.
While they are still hot, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. (my husband made a nifty cinnamon sugar shaker by drilling holes in a mason jar lid!)

  - Serve the cinnamon sugar tortilla crisps and Mexican chocolate ganache over vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

This post is linked up on the Equipping Catholic Families 2014 Saints Linkup! Check it out!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Making an Advent Wreath


An Advent wreath is a wonderful tradition, and growing up my family always had one. I probably thought that every family lit an Advent wreath in preparation for Christmas! We had it on our dining room table since we always lit it at dinner. Dinner is a great time for the family to do their Advent prayers and reflections since everybody is already together. I like to stick with what I know; I prefer my Advent wreath to be a circle, have taper candles, and be on my dining room table

I used to have a little Advent wreath I made out of items from the dollar store. I had four taper candle holders surrounded by four mini wreaths which I pushed together to make it look like one big wreath. If I couldn't find Advent candles I'd paint white ones with melted crayons. (Hint: If you're looking for Advent candles try craft stores like JoAnn Fabrics or Hobby Lobby!) However, last year my wonderful husband burnt that one down. I noticed that the candles were getting low, so I blew them out. He came around later and decided he wanted to light them. We are now down one Advent wreath and one bookshelf! We are thankful we caught it in time, it could have been much worse! We may have lost an Advent wreath, but we gained a family story. 

The good thing about the great Advent fire of '13 is that now I get to craft a new Advent wreath, which is something I've kind of been wanting to do. I started with a basic plain Advent wreath. 

From the craft store I got:

pink and purple glitter poinsettia picks
pink and purple ribbon
faux pine garland




First I wrapped the wreath with the fake greenery. I found that the garland was too big and thick to wrap around my wreath, so I cut off individual fronds and wrapped those around. It took me about eight in between each candle holder. No glue necessary, the garland holds in place all by itself!

Next I twisted the pink and purple ribbons together and wrapped them around the wreath. Once again, no glue necessary, I just tied it to the wreath at the beginning and end. 


Now we need some glue to put the flowers by each candle holder. I tried cutting off the stem of the pick, but there was a metal wire in it which made that difficult. Luckily it wasn't that hard to just pull the flower part off of the stem! I used a hot glue gun to affix each flower to the wreath.


And voila! A new Advent wreath to light as you pray and reflect to prepare for the coming of Jesus! A new candle is lit each Sunday of Advent, with the pink one being lit on the third Sunday. Just keep an eye on how low those candles get! 



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Food for the Soul

November is one of my favorite months. Yes, most of the brightly colored autumn leaves have fallen to the ground leaving the trees bare and it can get cold and gray; but there is a certain quiet, intangible beauty in those bare trees against the gray sky that I can't help but admire. I feel that it kind of goes along with the Catholic Church remembering the dead this month. Of course November 2nd is All Souls Day, but the whole month is dedicated to remembering those who have died and praying for the souls in purgatory. On the surface it can seem morbid or sad, and of course feeling sorrow over those we have lost is natural, but by praying for the dead not only are we are helping them to reach the glory that is heaven, but it also serves to remind us that we believe that there is life after death, that Christ has given us victory over the grave; and that my friends is a beautiful thing.

We made a special All Souls meal this year in remembrance of some close family and friends who have passed away in a nod to the Mexican Dio de los Muertos tradition of placing a loved one's favorite food on their grave or on an altar. We are blessed to have some of the culinary traditions of those loved ones written down, which helped make this special meal possible. Food can do so much to connect us; not only to the people around us when we are enjoying the meal, but to those we can't be with and to our past. If you have a favorite family recipe that isn't written down or you don't know how to make, don't let it get lost! Find whoever cooks it now and have them write it down or teach you how to make it!

The main dish was french fried shrimp, cited in my trusty family cookbook as the birthday favorite of my Uncle Matt who was killed in Iraq in 2009. For dessert we had a delicious chocolate pie made from the recipe of a dear family friend named Beverly who was a home economics teacher. A cookbook of her favorite recipes was made after she passed away from ovarian cancer in 2008. I have featured a couple of other recipes from her before; broccoli salad and pineapple boats. The plan was to enjoy the food with a glass of red wine as a dear priest friend of ours, Fr. Will, who passed away after a battle with cancer this September, was known to enjoy one glass of red wine with a meal every day. However with my husband on some medications from a recent medical procedure and me nursing the new baby, we decided that alcohol was not the best idea at the moment. Another time!

 Using food and other traditions to remember loved ones is a wonderful thing, however as I was thinking about writing this post I felt compelled to mention that this is not what we are doing when we celebrate the Eucharist at mass. We are not just eating some bread and drinking some wine while we think about what Jesus did for us a long time ago. The Eucharist truly is Jesus; body, blood, soul, and divinity, and in the mass we are truly present at his sacrifice. By participating in this, the Church and her people in heaven and earth are in communion, connected with each other in the most special of ways. Fr. Will was my pastor at the Catholic church on campus when I was in college; the type of place where people are always coming and going. He liked to remind us that no matter where we are, we are all connected in the Eucharist. A beautiful thing to think about whether someone we love has moved away, or has left this earth before us. As Fr. Will would say, "See you in the Eucharist!"




Uncle Matt's French Fried Shrimp

2 lbs (or more) large raw shrimp, shelled and de-veined, but leave the tails on. (I bought raw shrimp that were already shelled, de-veined, and had the tails off. No tails means no handy handle for dipping, but you also don't have to be as careful when breading. Of course if you buy raw shrimp with the shells on they will cost less, but then you have to do the dirty work yourself.)
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups dry bread crumbs ( I used panko as that it what I had in the cupboard)
Oil for frying - peanut oil is best ( I used canola since that's what I had)

Stir together the flour, salt, and pepper.
Heat oil to 375 in a deep-fat fryer or kettle.
Coat shrimp with the flour mixture (do not coat the tails), then dip in the beaten eggs, then coat the shrimp with bread crumbs (do not coat the tails).
Fry  in the deep fat fryer or kettle until golden brown (about 2-3 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp).

Serve with cocktail sauce ( or try what my husband did and serve with buffalo sauce!)


Beverly's Chocolate Layered Pudding Dessert


8 oz Oreo cookies, crushed (I like to put them in plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin, a food processor would work too)
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 stick melted butter
4 oz softened cream cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
8 oz whipped topping
1 small pkg instant chocolate pudding prepared with 1 1/2 cups milk

Reserve 3 cookies for topping.
Combine butter, crushed cookies and sugar. Pat into 9 inch pie pan.
Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, and half the whipped topping. Mix until smooth. Spread over cookie crumbs.
Pour pudding over the cream cheese layer. Top with remaining whipped topping and reserved crushed cookies. Chill for at least three hours.

This post is linked up on the Catholic Bloggers Network 2014 Link Up Blitz and the Equipping Catholic Families 2014 Saints Linkup! Check it out!



Sunday, November 2, 2014

Halloween 2014: Dalmations, Ladybugs, and Candy Corn

Happy November! The newest addition to our family, Rosemary, arrived on September 29th, so naturally blogging took a back seat last month. Isn't she beautiful?!

 Halloween was couple days ago and we had a lot of fun! We had snow here in Michigan, but thankfully the local mall offers an indoor trick-or-treating experience.

I'm a firm believer in homemade costumes. They are so much fun and inspire creativity in the whole family. The possibilities are endless even if you don't know how to sew, and believe me, I sure don't!

This year Sam wanted to be Marshall from the show Paw Patrol. Marshall is a fire fighting dalmatian pup. Rosemary was a ladybug. Yes I went against everything I just said and she is wearing a store bought costume. Taking care of a brand new baby just didn't leave with the time or energy to work on a homemade infant costume, please forgive me. Here they are together. Pardon the blurriness, now that I have two I'm learning how hard it is to get everyone to stand still for pictures!

Everyone loved Sam's Marshall costume, even if they'd never heard of Paw Patrol. I loved how it turned out too, and it was pretty easy to make! Sam even helped with some of it. 

  • Supplies:
  • White shirt and pants
  • White felt
  • black fabric paint
  • red felt
  • fire hat
  • construction paper
  • ribbon
  • glue
  • scissors
  • two pop bottles
  • red duct tape
  • black and white face paint


Take the white clothes and paint black spots on them with the fabric paint. Cut out ear shapes and paint spots on them as well. Let them dry. Tape the ears to the inside of the fire hat. We got our hat for free at a local restaurant called Firehouse Subs!

My mom sewed the vest out of red felt, but you could buy a firefighter vest at the store.

My husband made the collar out of construction paper, gluing the red background and orange and yellow fire shapes onto some white foam to make it more sturdy. Attach it to a ribbon and that part is all done.

Marshall carries a water pack on his back. My husband and Sam made it by wrapping two pop bottles with red duct tape. They even made the straps with the duct tape as well. 

Paint the face white with black spots and there you have Marshall! Of course it doesn't have to be specifically Marshall, it could just be a fire station dog as well.

________________________

For Sam's preschool treat I handed out candy corn with this cute free printable I found that uses the three colors in one candy corn to help explain the Trinity. Sam will probably be going to public school for kindergarten next year, so I have to get in stuff like this for school when I can!

Of course the day after Halloween is the wonderful feast of All Saints Day! We used some of my past projects to help celebrate, like getting to eat a piece of candy for each match made while playing the Saints Matching Game, and reading our Saints, Saints, Who Do You See? book. We also listened to "When the Saints Go Marching In," and during prayer time remembered to thank God for having the communion of saints there to help us and asked Him to help us, our family and friends, and all other people to become saints. 






Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sarah's Whole Wheat Recession Era Bread

   Oh my, it has been quite a while since I've posted anything! It was a crazy Summer and things aren't slowing down as we get into Fall. We moved into our first house, I got transferred to a new virtual school and have been working very hard getting students settled into the school year, and of course we are preparing for baby number two who is due in less than a week!

   One of the things my husband and I wanted to start doing once we were in our own place was to regularly bake our own bread. I came across a recipe online for "Depression Era Homemade Bread," and it was just the type of thing I was looking for; simple, plentiful, and cheap! The original recipe is nothing but all purpose flour, salt, yeast, and water. My version is "Recession Era Bread" as I adjusted it to make a whole wheat version and added in a stick of butter. This makes it a little more expensive, but I like the increased health factor of the whole wheat flour, and a little butter makes everything better!

  This recipe makes 6 loaves of bread and of course if you use a whole bag of each kind of flour rather than just half, you can make 12 loaves in one day; though you will need to do it in two separate batches unless you have a VERY big mixing bowl! Bread freezes very well, so just keep one or two loaves out on the counter in a plastic bag and store the rest in the freezer for later. This is a great tip for saving money on store bought bread as well. I remember going on trips to the "day old bread store" with my mom to load up on bread at low prices and sticking most of it in the freezer when we got home. Its so easy I've never understood why grocery stores have a problem with day old bread anyway.

  I've only encountered one big dilemma with this recipe: Homemade bread tastes so much better on its own than store bought, we have tendency to go through it faster! Thankfully our picky four year old loves the bread and the transition from store bought to homemade was pretty painless. In fact when he asks for sandwich he usually asks for, "A peanut butter and honey sandwich on homemade bread please!"



Whole Wheat Recession Era Bread

Ingredients: 
2.5 lbs (1/2 bag) all purpose flour
2.5 lbs (1/2 bag) whole wheat flour
3 pkgs yeast ( 6 3/4 teaspoons)
2 Tbsps salt
1 stick melted butter
6 cups warm water

Directions:
1. Dump flour and salt into a large bowl and mix together. Make a well in the flour and pour the yeast in. Pour the melted butter and warm water into the well and mix the dough.. I like to just dig in and mix it with my hands.

2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead. Place dough in an oiled bowl and let rise until doubled in size.

3. Punch down dough and divide into 6 greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Enjoy!



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Super Cake for Super Dad

Father's Day is this Sunday! I love spending time with my husband and my dad, both amazing fathers! And of course you can't forget to make sure that all the grandpas, great-grandpas, and godfathers feel the love too.

I've got a soft spot in my heart for dads, I think they don't always get the appreciation they deserve. Even as a child I remember asking my parents why they had us make Mothers Day projects at school, but not Fathers Day projects. They answered that Mothers Day falls during the school year, and Fathers Day is in the summer. Logical, sure, but I still thought it was unfair! Let us not forget how important a strong father is in the life of a child!

As an adult and a parent, I can see all the things my dad did (and continues to do) for me and my siblings much more clearly than when I was a child. He made a lot of sacrifices and always puts us kids ahead of himself. Any pain and sorrow we put him through due to our stupid teenage decisions went mostly unseen. He truly wants what is best for us and doesn't seek out anything in return. He also taught us important things like how to tell the perfect elephant joke, how to do a military style crew report before we pull out of the driveway, that milk and eggs are really moo juice and cackleberries, and not to act like nincompoops. And of course nothing can beat his amazing dance moves and rockin' fashion sense. I mean, who else could pull off his neon yellow, multi-color print vacation pants?

While my husband may not have "vacation pants," he is a great father too. I love seeing our 4 year old Sam beg for "daddy dogs" on the swing, go on camp outs with his dad, and tell his dad that he's a cool dude. If you ask Sam what he wants to be when he grows up, he will tell you he wants to be a daddy. Already Sam is living up to being "just like dad." My husband's answer to the question when he was a child was the same!

With all the super dads in my life I thought that this superdad cake design was perfect for Fathers Day last year. All my cake decorating supplies were packed up in boxes at the time, so this cake was made with nothing more than a round cake pan, butter knife, and a zip top bag with the corner cut off as a makeshift piping bag.

For the cake I used a white cake mix and added some frozen berries and bananas to it, but of course just make any flavor that you like! For the frosting I made my simple cream cheese frosting, but I use canned frosting all the time as well.

After I baked the cake, I froze it. This makes any cake carving you may do much easier and keeps crumbs under control when frosting. After the cake was frozen I cut the cake into the pentagon shape for the superdad logo, and let my son use the cake scraps and leftover frosting to make his own creation.

Then I frosted the whole cake in blue. After that I drew the outline for the yellow part with a toothpick and filled it in with yellow frosting. Then I drew the outline for the red part with toothpick and filled it in with red frosting. I alternated red and yellow dots from my makeshift piping bag for the border.

You can find more of my past Fathers Day cakes here.

Thanks to all the Superdads out there who help guide us through life! I hope that you all have a great day on Sunday!

This post is linked up on the Catholic Bloggers Network 2014 Link Up Blitz. Check it out!