Halloween Bentos

I'm a huge Bento fan and I've seen so many cute ones lately that I had to share! It's not too late to make up a spooky lunch next week!
In fact, the week after Halloween is the best time for a fun and spooky lunch--I'm hoping to lure my kids in to eat some healthy lunches and forget about all their candy!;)

Also, while you're getting recipes ready for the upcoming Holidays, you should know that Alouette and Chavrie are having a First Annual Facebook Fan Recipe Contest! The winning recipes will receive a $100 gift card from Cooking.com. It’s a great ‘starter’ contest assigned to a great food name. You can check them out here and here. I'll be working on some ideas!

Back to Bentos! Los Dragonnes has a ton of great ideas, this one is my favorite. Do you ever get the feeling your lunch is watching you??

This dastardly "Macbeth-inspired" pot of treats is from Cloud9Food. It would be so easy to add some string cheese and pieces of hot dog or olives to a bowl of soup or whatever you're serving for lunch.

Learn how to make this cutie at Adventures in Bentomaking:

Oh, do I love that Sherimiya from Happy Little Bento --she has some adorable ideas:
The "ghost" is a cut-out slice of mozzarella cheese.

It's not a bento, but what kid could resist "Monsters on a Stick" from Kellie at Little Nummies? I'm thinking you could use all sorts of tasty veggies, fruits, and pretzels to make some fun creations!

And, for a healthy and sweet treat, follow Obsessively Stitching's idea and put some electrical tape on the outside of an orange. Easy and so cute!


Mummy Suckers

These made-in-the-microwave suckers are quick and so fun to make! An adult has to do the hot sucker part, but the kids can drizzle the white chocolate "Mummy Wraps" and add eyes! I love the fact that they're cheap--less than 50 cents per batch to make.
The Gourmet Girls did a great job with these. Here were a few things I heard while they were making them...

Oh, Gourmet Girls, you are SO FUNNY! Do you have any more jokes?
OK....that's enough....:)
Microwave Mummy Suckers
makes 12

1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
Food coloring (we used orange and purple)
a few drops orange oil, if desired (or any other flavoring oil)
Sucker Sticks or Popsicle Sticks
Wax Paper
White Chocolate (candy melts, almond bark, or white chocolate chips)
Edible Eyes (or whatever you want to use for eyes--choc chips, M&M's)

Lay out sucker sticks on a cookie sheet lined with foil (shiny side up) or lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Mix sugar and corn syrup in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap.

Microwave on high for 3 minutes 15 seconds. Remove from microwave, stir with a clean spoon, cover with a new piece of plastic wrap and microwave for another 3 minutes 15 seconds.
Remove from microwave and mix in any food coloring/flavoring oils that you want. Pour 1 tablespoon of hot mixture on top of each sucker stick. Let set completely (about 2 minutes). Remove from pan and you're ready to decorate!
Lay suckers out on wax paper. Microwave white chocolate in microwave safe bowl at 30-second intervals, stirring after each until melted. Give each child a spoon and drizzle over the suckers.

Add edible eyes (or chocolate chips, or M & M's...whatever you want to use for eyes). Remove from wax paper and set on a CLEAN sheet of wax paper (so you can get rid of the excess drizzles). Let set compeltely, about 10 minutes.
Hey, I think I found our new family portrait! Happy Halloween!


Slithering Snake Suckers

Ssssssay, how would you like to whip up some ssssslithering ssssnake ssssssuckers in less than 10 minutes?
I thought sssssso......:)
Slithering Snake Suckers
Green Candy Melts (OR, you can use white almond bark or candy melts w/ a little oil-based green food coloring, see notes at end)
Trix Cereal
1 fruit roll up (for tongue)
Edible Eyes (or you can use chocolate chips)
Sucker Sticks or Popsicle Sticks
Ziploc Freezer Baggie

Lay sucker or popsicle sticks on wax paper. Cut out "tongue" shapes from fruit roll-ups (if you wait until later, your suckers will have hardened and you're out of luck!). Melt candy melts at 30 second intervals in a microwave safe bowl, stirring after each interval until smooth and melted. Spoon into freezer baggie and snip off one end of the bag (about 1/4 inch or less). Pipe out an "S" shape with one extra curve onto each sucker stick. Squeeze the bag a little more at the top to make the head shape.
Insert fruit roll-up "tongue" into wet chocolate.
Add an edible eyeball or chocolate chip and a row of Trix Cereal.
Let set completely (about 5-8 minutes, if you can't wait you can make them on a cookie sheet covered w/ wax paper then pop them in the fridge, they'll set in about 2 minutes).
Go find your little sssssssssweeties and watch these treats ssssssslither away!

Notes on Candy Melts: Candy Melts are little round wafers of Coating Chocolate, when set they are very hard, so they're great for suckers and molded candies. You can buy white or brown Candy Melts (made by Wilton) at Wal-Mart in the craft/wedding section. You can also use white almond bark (suck as Candi-Quik), available in the baking aisle of most supermarkets. You can color this, just make sure to use oil-based coloring. I get most of my Candy Melts from Sugarcraft (look up Compound Coating Chocolate, they have about 12 colors). If you have a cake or candy supply store in your town, you can most likely find them there, too.


HSM Strawberry Cream Cake

Here's our latest installment of
Birthday Cakes for Foster Kids
Contact your local agency if you'd like to get involved. We've been working with Olive Crest, they are throughout the Western US and Pacific Northwest.

General Mills also just sent us 10 Betty Crocker Cake Mix and 10 Betty Crocker Icing coupons to support our family project. Thank you so much!

So, what do you put on a Strawberry Cream Birthday Cake for a sweet and sassy 15-year old foster girl?.....
Edible Pearls...


Gold Sprinkles...
Hmmm...not enough....How about her two favorite Hollywood Hunks fighting over her on the red carpet? Perfect!
I actually printed the image on paper, laminated it, and put it on top. I would have done an edible image but I thought she might like to keep it. I'd want proof that Zac Efron and Corbin Bleu were fighting over me!;)
Now, Miss C is not a chocolate fan so I was a little out of my element. UNTIL, I came across this great recipe on AllRecipes. I tried it out and the taste was fabulous! I wish I could cut into the cake to show you a slice, but you'll just have to trust me. :) I changed up the icing to make it thick enough to pipe out, but this one is good as well.

Strawberry Dream Cake from Allrecipes
1 (18.25 ounce) package Betty Crocker White cake mix
1 1/2 cups frozen sweetened strawberries, pureed
12 ounces cream cheese
8 (1 ounce) squares white chocolate
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1/2 pint sliced fresh strawberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease two 9 inch round cake pans.
Make cake per directions except substitute the 1 1/2 cups of strawberries for the water and add 1 extra egg, (if cake mix calls for 2 eggs add 3), and 8 ounces of the cream cheese at room temperature. Beat well and pour into the prepared pans.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. A toothpick inserted in the center will not come out clean when this cake is done since it is so moist. Let cake cool fully before frosting.
To Make Frosting: Heat the heavy cream until just beginning to boil. Pour it over the white chocolate (chopped) and the remaining 4 ounces cream cheese. Mix well and let cool. Once cool fold into the whipped topping. Use to frost cooled cake and garnish with sliced fresh strawberries.
I printed a black damask on edible paper, but had a hard time with it puckering a little bit...that was my only disappointment. I have some ideas to get it better next time!

Great Job, Gourmet Girls!


Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin & Herbed Butter

The Holidays are coming up and it's time for some family-friendly comfort food!
Also, how about winning a $17,000 Family Getaway?!
I recently got this fun package from Challenge Dairy asking me to make an Entree with these ingredients...I tweaked a recipe I had on file for Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin (I had always wanted to play with it, I had thought the glaze was too dry) and the results were delicious! All the kids gobbled it up! Pork wrapped in pork....YUM...:)

The best part is serving it with herbed butter (we used fresh chives and lemon juice). It's a simple and gorgeous entertaining idea. Guess What? Challenge Butter is giving away A Taste of the West 7-Day/6-Night trip for 4 people to the incredible Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in Montana's Paradise Valley. Airfare, food, accommodations, and lots of activities are included in this $17,000 luxury getaway! Go here to enter!
Also, if you blog about this giveaway and send an email to ChallengeButter@gmail.com, you will be entered for a chance to win one of five $100 gift cards!

Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin
1 boneless pork loin, about 5 pounds
6 to 8 slices bacon
Rub Mixture:
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon beau monde seasoning (optional)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Heat oven to 350°.
Place pork loin in a roasting pan. Combine the rub ingredients and rub over the pork.
Lay bacon slices over the pork loin.
Roast for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the pork registers about 150°. In the meantime, combine the butter, brown sugar, flour, cider vinegar, and dry mustard in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and simmer for about 1 minute. Spoon over the pork and return to the oven. Roast for about 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until pork registers 160°. If you want the bacon extra-crispy, broil for 2-3 minutes, just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Serve with mashed potatoes, rolls, and herbed butter (recipe below).
The sweet and savory bacon around the spicy pork loin is such a great flavor combination! YUM!
Herbed Butter
½ c (one stick) butter, softened
2 T. chives, minced
½ tsp. lemon juice

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl.
Spoon into a pastry bag with a large star tip (I use a Wilton 1M tip). Or, if you don’t have decorating tips, simply spoon into a ziploc freezer baggie, snip an end off, and you can pipe out small circles or shapes.
Pipe out flowers onto wax paper, return to fridge to harden. Remove just before serving and set on individual plates or a serving platter. I love making these ahead of time and having them ready to serve! (Try butter mixed with cocoa powder and served with various breads. YUMMY!!)


Birthday Cakes for Foster Kids

So, our family's fun project for this year is....
Making Birthday Cakes for local foster kids!!
How cool is that?! I have been searching and searching for a local community service project that my young kids could participate in and have had no luck. Until......
We heard that there were local kids that had never had much of a birthday celebration and we knew we could definitely help out! I really admire people that are foster parents, they have such a tough job and share so much of their time, love, and talents. It's almost impossible to make every single child's birthday special. So, we have been working with our local agency and will be making a couple cakes a month--we'll feature some here for you.
This is a great family project, it's something we can all participate in! The kids can all help decorate and they have been so excited to help make someone else's birthday happy! Little H was a great helper!

If you're interested, contact your local foster agency and I'm sure you can set something up. If you live in the West or Pacific Northwest, we have been working with Olive Crest. You can contact them here.
First off is a birthday cake for Mr. C, an adorable little guy!
Of course he's never had a birthday cake, he's turning 1! He has 6 foster brothers/sisters living at his house, so we made two separate cakes. The first one is just for Mr. C, a huge fan of trucks:We bought an
Eco Truck, filled the back with chunks of chocolate cake (Betty Crocker Triple Chocolate Fudge, yum!), and drizzled chocolate ganache on top. I wish I was there to see him get into it!

The family mentioned that they once had an "orange creamsicle" cake that they loved, so we made an orange jell-o cake for everyone (Betty Crocker French Vanilla Cake mix and orange jell-o), complete with an edible picture of Mr. C driving a truck.
Happy Birthday, Mr. C!


Crab Rangoon & Peach Sauce

I recently received a few coupons from Nasoya and decided to try their won ton wraps, I use won ton wrappers all the time, especially during the Holidays for quick appetizers. So, I thought I'd share a family favorite recipe, Crab Rangoon with Peach Sauce! I was happy with the wraps, they easily came apart and didn't tear when handling or cooking. They have a GREAT entertaining recipe book that's free to download and also a searchable recipe site here.I've always loved Crab Won Tons (or Crab Rangoon), but they're expensive in the restaurants. So, in high school, we whipped up our own version and it's been a favorite ever since. I made them for Gourmet Dad when we were dating and I think it was a major factor in landing that hunk!
You can make about 50 of these for about $5, which is a lot cheaper and tastier than any restaurant version that I've had. The cold and a little tart peach sauce is the perfect compliment. Enjoy!
1 pkg. Nasoya won ton wraps (can be found in the produce section)
1 pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 pkg. imitation crab meat (about 8 oz.), found in the seafood section of the grocery store
chopped Green onion to taste (about 2-3 stems chopped up)
Garlic salt to taste
1 can diced water chestnuts, diced (if desired, I don’t use them)

Put all except wraps in mixer and mix until well blended and the crab is in small pieces. Place one heaping teaspoon in the center of each won ton skin--if you put so much in that the skin breaks when you fold them, it will explode when cooking!

Dip your fingers into a glass of water and wet two edges of the skin. Fold into a triangle and press all edges to seal. I know you can do all kinds of fancy folds, but honestly, this is faster and you can get in more filling (very important!):)

Fry in hot oil (at least 375 degrees) until brown, 30-60 seconds each side. The filling is already cooked, so you just need to make sure the outside is cooked.
1 large can peaches (packed in juice or light syrup is best)
White or Apple Cider vinegar to taste (about 5 Tbs.)
Honey or Sugar to taste

Drain peaches and set juice aside (you can save the juice if you want to add more later to thin the sauce). Put peaches, vinegar, and honey in blender and adjust sugar/vinegar until you get the sweet/sour taste that you want. Serve with Crab Rangoon and rice.


Haunted Fudge

Presenting a super-spooky Halloween Horror Story
straight from my toddler's dinner plate...

The Haunted Fudge!
"It was a dark and stormy dinner. Mom served one of her delicious 7 course meals that she makes every night (ha!). Mom said that after my veggies were gone I could have dessert. I just couldn't choke down that broccoli...and the platter of luscious fudge on the counter just sat looking at me....calling me....taunting me....I could hear it snickering 'don't you want a bite?!"...(mwahahaha!)"
I recently got a challenge from Carnation Evaporated Milk to try one of their recipes and to make up one of my own. They offered me 2 cans of Evaporated Milk and a gift card to get some ingredients. How could I refuse? I love a good challenge! In the spirit of the current season, we whipped up some Haunted Fudge, a twist on the traditional Carnation Famous Fudge.
Carnation also has a great Holiday Recipe book that is free to download, you can access it here. I love using evaporated milk, especially the fat-free version. In soups and other main dish cooking, it can really add a lot of richness without the fat and calories.

Haunted Fudge
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
2/3 c. (5 oz.) Carnation Evaporated Milk
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. mini marshmallows
1 1/2 c. (9 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12 mini Reeses Peanut butter cups
Edible Eyeballs

Line an 8 inch square baking pan with aluminum foil. Combine sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 cups marshmallows (save the remaining 1/2 cup), chocolate chips, and vanilla extract. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted. Let cool slightly while you prepare pan.
While mixture is cooling, unwrap Reeses peanut butter cups and cut into fourths.
Sprinkle remaining 1/2 c. marshmallows and chopped Reeses cups into bottom of prepared pan.
Pour chocolate mixture into prepared baking pan; refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Lift from pan; remove foil and cut into small squares. Press edible eyeballs into each piece and enjoy seeing your dessert "watching you!". Boo!
From the Very Best Baking recipe library, we picked Turkey & Cranberry Encore Salad. The dressing is fabulous and definitely a keeper for my entertaining repertoire! I think this will be a new "after-Thanksgiving" tradition at our house!
Turkey & Cranberry Encore Salad from Very Best Baking
2/3 cup (5 fl.-oz. can) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk
1/2 cup jellied or whole-berry cranberry sauce
1/4 cup Italian salad dressing

1 bag (10 oz.) mixed salad greens of your choice (about 10 cups)
2 cups (about 10 oz.) cooked turkey, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup (2 oz.) crumbled blue cheese
1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

PLACE evaporated milk, cranberry sauce and Italian dressing in small jar or container; cover tightly with lid. Shake for 1 to 2 minutes. Makes about 1 1/2 cups. (Dressing can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Shake well before using.) TIP: For a smoother dressing, prepare in blender.

TOSS greens, turkey, blue cheese and 3/4 cup dressing in large bowl. Sprinkle with cranberries and walnuts. Serve immediately and additional dressing, if desired. Refrigerate any remaining dressing.
Special thanks to Carnation and the One2One Network!

Holiday Playlist

My grandmother hasn't been doing well...to cheer her up, I rounded up a few of my musical friends and made an album of Holiday songs fo...