Fairy Dust Sandwiches

Do you have 2 extra minutes today to turn an ordinary lunch into something magical? This brought out lots of smiles and giggles.....it seems that Tinkerbell came by and took a bite of the girls' PBJ's!

These would also be SO EASY and cute for a fairy birthday, disney birthday, or tea party!

You can download and print the poem/sandwich signs I made here. Simply print, cut out, and tape on a toothpick.
The poem says:
"I was flying by and needed a rest...
What did I see but the lunch I love best!
So I took a few nibbles then went on my way.
I left you some pixie dust, enjoy your day!"

Fairy Dust Sandwiches
Your favorite sandwich
Pink icing (we used Betty Crocker cherry icing)
Quart-sized ziploc freezer baggie
colored sugar (any kind, for pixie dust)

Print and cut out Tinkerbell poem then tape to a toothpick (one for each sandwich). Make sandwiches then carefully cut out a half circle shape from one side. Put icing in baggie and snip a small piece of one corner. Pipe out "footprints" across the plate and sandwich. Sprinkle with colored sugar and place toothpick in sandwich. Serve and watch the giggles fly!:)

Notes: Little C, always the investigator, wondered why Tink left footprints when she can fly......
While I was thinking about that one, Big C saved the day and said, "She only gets so much pixie dust every day so they walk whenever they can to save it!". Nice job, Big C!


Penguin Party!

When it came to planning Little H's birthday party, I turned to one of my very favorite resources, BettyCrocker.com. They have so many fabulous birthday ideas, including instructional videos, shopping lists, party activities and games, and even invitations that can be printed from your home computer! I was trying to decide which way to go....a Fire Engine Party? a Perfectly Pony Party? Or, my favorite, Panda Bear Party. Well, for Little H it was Penguin Party or nothing! Hold on to your hats, we're packing in a LOT of PARTY in one post!:)

Fortunately, I found this adorable cheeseball on the Betty Crocker site! They also had tons of adorable penguin ideas! I began to think we might actually be able to pull this off!
For the cake, Little H wanted Betty Crocker Dark Chocolate with Vanilla icing. Good choice!
Inspired by the cheeseball, we made an igloo cake with penguin cookies. Instead of cream cheese blocks, we used marshmallows to decorate it. This cake was a snap!
I bought an igloo cake pan, however you could really just bake a cake in a bowl and use a single cupcake to form an igloo.
But, I bought the pan because it did double duty as the invitations, too!! We froze blue water in the cake pan with an invitation and a toy penguin inside (placed in a ziploc baggie). We dropped them off at friends' houses and told them to take it in the tub or melt it in the sink for a surprise. Cake? Check. Invitations? Check. Let's get on to the food!
Here's my verion of the penguin cheeseball. Definitely not as cute as Betty's but the kids loved it!
We also whipped up some rice krispy sushi for those fish lovin' penguins. Shape rice krispy treats into ovals, place a small swedish fish on top and wrap with a piece of green fruit roll-up. I used raspberry candies for the "roe" on a few pieces.
Easy and cute! These were a big hit with all the little penguins in attendance.
We also served ham/cheese and PBJ sandwiches cut out as penguins and fish (the girls gave me a penguin cookie cutter for Christmas and my friend Jean bought a fish one for the occasion!). Speaking of Jean, she did so much to help make everything, thank you!!
Blue Jello-Jigglers cut into cubes...these were "ice blocks"...
We served it all up with a table covered in rainbow popcorn! For activities, the kids each got to color and customize a grocery bag to hold all their game prizes. This kept the kiddos busy while everyone arrived.
With a little spray paint, posterboard, and craft foam, we turned a large cardboard box into a penguin! Not only did it serve as a fun decoration, the kids got to try to "feed" it by throwing fish shaped bean bags into its mouth.
Everyone had fun making her own penguin scarf. The Birthday Girl was very excited about them!
Gourmet Dad magically turned pieces of foam board into "icebergs" for Musical Icebergs. Here little A is anxiously waiting to see if her number is the winner!
A note on the "icebergs"--they were actually my favorite part of the party! Whenever I needed the kids to sit down or listen to instructions, I told them to go "find an iceberg" and sit down. They loved it! Great job, Gourmet Dad!
Penguin Bowling with a little set I found on clearance at Target...
...a strike!
Last, the kids went "fishing" by nibbling sweedish fish off strings without using their hands.
In addition to their game prizes (we wrapped every prize then let the kids open them after Little H opened her presents--they loved having their own "presents", too!), we sent home some black/white polka dot swag bags filled with goodies...
I even got crafty and made a few things for the bags, Organza Rose headbands (tutorial here) and personalized magnetic bookmarks (tutorial here).
The big question is, was it a hit? Well, a picture is worth a thousand words....
Happy Birthday Little H and special thanks to BettyCrocker for all the birthday ideas!

Betty Crocker, through MyBlogSpark provided us with VIP coupons, a gift card, and camera to document our birthday planning adventure. The opinions expressed in this post are honest and not influenced by any source. I was not compensated monetarily for this post.


Healthy Valentines Snack

I love Valentines Day but the kids seem to get candy everywhere! Here's what I made to encourage healthy snacking during this candy-crazed week.

These are great for a class party or just to have on hand for snacking. My girls loved the tiny hearts. It was a great chance to have a chat about loving our bodies and taking care of them with good foods. Peppers are expensive, so I used the leftover scraps for fajitas. yum!

Pepper Heart Snacks
Red and Yellow Bell Peppers
Light Ranch veggie dip
Small heart cutter (we used a pastry cutter)
Oven Mitt or glove

Cut off the top and bottom of pepper, remove center and unroll. Use small cutter to make heart shapes. If you're looking for a small heart cutter, Williams Sonoma used to make a great set of tiny pastry cutters. It's discontinued, but I found a similar one here.
Why the oven glove? After the first pepper, the heel of my hand hurt from pushing down. So, I put on on a oven glove and it worked like a charm! Save scraps for fajitas or pasta salad.
Serve on a tray with light ranch veggie dip. Enjoy!


Valentine Red Letter Day Ideas

We're giving away a $25 Gift Certificate to McCormick & Schmick's so you can celebrate VDay in style! Go here to leave a comment and enter.

We just received this lovely basket from McCormick, they are encouraging famlies to make Valentines Day a "Red Letter Day". Thank you! Next week we'll show you what we've whipped up with these adorable tools! On McCormick's website there are all kinds of scarlet treats and colorful crafts for you to try this Valentines Day! Here are a few of our favorites, you can view all of them here along with some tasty tips to make your family's day special.
(Click images for recipes)

Overnight French Toast
Tender Heart Cookies

And for a super fun and silly craft,
Funny Putty


Penguin Oreo Valentines

Need a cute Valentine idea?
I decided to do double duty by making these in advance for Little H's birthday party AND using them as Valentines for Little C's school class. Lazy? Maybe. Cute? Oh yes!
You can download and print the igloo valentine cards I made here--attach for serious cuteness.
Penguin Oreos
Chocolate sandwich cookies (I used double stuff oreos)
Dark Chocolate candy melts (found in craft stores or at Wal-Mart)
White candy melts
Orange Candy melts (or you can use pieces of gumdrops, starburst, or other orange candies)
Wax Paper
2 ziploc quart freezer bags
Igloo Valentine Cards

Melt dark chocolate in microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring after each. Dip oreos in dark chocolate and set on wax paper to harden (don't worry about making them perfect, I just held onto the edges, dipped them, then smoothed a little chocolate on the sides after setting them on the wax paper). When set, melt white chocolate and put in quart ziploc freezer baggie. Cut a small corner off the bag and draw rounded hearts on each cookie, seen below:
After the white chocolate has set (about 10 minutes), melt orange candy melts, put in ziploc baggie, and draw on beaks and feet. You could also use orange candies or gumdrops if you don't have access to orange candy melts. Simply snip them with clean scissors to your desired shape. Use a toothpick and a little more dark chocolate to dab on eyes (or you could use mini chocolate chips and set them in the white chocolate before it hardens).
Print the Igloo Valentines (they say "it's so 'cool' to be your friend! Happy Valentines Day!"). I set it up with two pages--print the first page then flip your paper and print on the other side. Fold at the top of the "igloo" and cut out. Be sure to leave some white space at the bottom to write people's names. Put one penguin in a baggie and attach card with ribbon.
I hope you enjoy--Happy Valentines Day!


Easy Valentine Chocolates

Gourmet Great-Grandma was a professional candymaker and makes the most fabulous fondant! She also has a recipe for a quick, no-cook center that happens to be my hubby's personal favorite. I make it quite often so I don't have to do all the work of turning fondant. Grandma, if you're reading this, we love you and have loved learning some of your chocolate skills--please don't cringe at my sloppy dipping!:) So, if you really want to "wow" someone this year, whip up some homemade chocolates! These two 'shortcut' recipes will have them made in a snap.
Almond Dreams-Gourmet Dad's all-time favorite!
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 c. softened butter
4 1/3 c. powdered sugar
chopped roasted almonds as desired (at least 1 cup)

Warm condensed milk can in hot water for a few minutes. Mix all ingredients, freeze in greased 9 x 13 pan. cut into small squares and dip in chocolate while frozen. (they become very soft and gooey when thawed). Make sure the entire square is covered in chocolate or it will ooze out. It sounds so easy but they are soooooo good!
Tip: a reader mentioned how hard they were to dip because they thawed quickly. What I do is cut off one row of the filling, put the rest back in the freezer, cut that row into squares, and dip them. So, I'm only working with 10-12 pieces at a time and the rest can stay in the freezer. Hope that helps!

Microwave Caramels adapted from Bakespace
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup Light Karo Syrup (not dark-doesn't set right)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 t. vanilla
Sea Salt (I used a pink sea salt)
Chili Flakes
Toffee Bits
Buttered 8x8 baking dish

Melt butter in large microwave bowl. Stir in Karo syrup, both sugars and sweetened condensed milk. Mix until dissolved. Microwave on high 3-1/2 minutes. Stir down and scrape sides of bowl. Microwave on high 3 1/2 minutes. You may have to adjust your cooking times by 15-30 seconds since all microwaves cook differently. Stir in vanilla. Pour into buttered dish and refrigerate until set. When set, remove from fridge and cut into squares.
Dip in melted chocolate and set on wax paper. Add a few chili flakes, sea salt, or toffee bits to the top (if desired). Let set completely.

NOTES: Jessica had a great question about what kind of chocolate to use for dipping, see comments for more info. I personally use Guittard Signature chocolate, you can use most anything. Avoid chocolate chips since they do not harden well after melting.

Now, just in case you want Gourmet Great-Grandma's caramel recipe here it is. I made about 20 batches of these for my wedding!
BJ Caramels
2 C sugar
1 1/3 C corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 C. cream
1/2 C. milk

Add cream and milk together. Add 1 c. of cream mixture to sugar and corn syrup and bring to boil. Simmer on medium low for 25 min. Add half of remaining cream mixture and simmer on medium low for 25 min. Add remaining cream mixture and bring to 237degrees or soft ball. Pour into greased pan and cool. When adding cream turn heat up so mixture is always boiling.


Superbowl Crayon Labels

I've had a few requests for Superbowl labels for edible crayons, so here they are! If you're a Colts or Saints fan, here are some labels you can download & print for your own fun Game Day treats. This is a easy treat that even little ones can make! Instructions are here. There are also lots of different labels to download here. We made these Steelers crayons last year for our neighbor...

I must say that we have a no-Sunday football watching policy in our house but we're still rooting for the Saints! Go get 'em!
I've had problems lately with uploaded files, please let me know if these links don't work in your browser.

Creamy Mango Pops

We have a winner of our Mango Recipe Contest!
The Kitchen Enchantress was chosen by the National Mango Board for her Creamy Mango Pops. Here's the winning recipe and you can see several of the other delicious entries
Creamy Mango Pops--recipe and photos from The Kitchen Enchantress
Put in Blender:
2 very ripe mangoes, with the skin and the pits removed
3/4 cup coconut milk (I used light coconut milk to reduce the fat content)
1/2 cup pineapple juice concentrate
1 Tablespoon sugar

1. Blend together until creamy and smooth.
2. Pour into frozen treat molds, and place in freezer for at least a couple of hours, preferably overnight.
3. Remove from molds and ENJOY!

These are so creamy and delicious, you'll want them again and again! As stated above, if you'd like it more like ice cream than as frozen pops, just pour into a large zip-type plastic freezer bag, seal completely, and lay flat in your freezer for at least 2 hours. When frozen, simply scoop with a metal spoon to serve!! (I think this would be great for a party!)

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...