Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Recycled Crayons {Valentine's Day}

At the beginning of my daughter's first year of preschool, I was eager to sign up to help out with the holiday parties in her classroom and to be able to send treats on those special days!  As the year has progressed and I've discovered just how much candy and junk food comes home after these parties, I really changed my tune.  I decided I really wanted to find a non-candy Valentine for her to share with her classmates.  I couldn't be more thrilled with how these turned out and I know the kids will enjoy these!  Although some of it had to be done by me, there were steps that even at age 3, she was able to help with!  She is so excited to share these with her school friends!

You will need lots of old crayons in a variety of colors, a sharp knife for cutting through the papers on the crayons and a silicon baking mold.  I wish I could be more specific on how many crayons.  I can tell you that what you see pictured in the muffin tin did about 12 crayons. . .



Start by removing the wrappers from the crayons.  I used a knife to cut down the length of the wrapper (be very careful).  In most cases, it peeled right off.  Others took a little more time to get that wrapper off.  Break the crayons into smaller pieces.  I used a muffin tin and we sorted the colors.  This was very helpful so that my daughter could take it one color at a time and we knew each crayon would have all the colors.  


 Bake in an oven proof mold.  This is a silicon mold that I purchased at Hobby Lobby for about $4.


 Place the broken crayons in the mold.  We filled the cups level with the top of the mold.

 Preheat oven to 250 degrees.


 Place mold on cookie sheet- IMPORTANT!  Place in oven for about 20-30 minutes or until crayons are melted.  Mine took about 30 minutes, but I started watching them at 20 minutes.


 When crayons are melted, remove from oven (carefully) and allow to cool.  When the crayons have started turning solid and your pan is warm and not hot, you can set them in the refrigerator to cool.  When the bottoms of the cups are completely cool, you can remove the crayons from the molds.  I had expected that these would just pop out, but they didn't.  I had to pry them out a bit.  The silicon is flexible and I had to peel the mold away from the crayon.  I did three batches of these and it was that way with every batch.  (Note:  I tried cooling the first batch in the freezer.  I wouldn't recommend this as it may result in cracked crayons!)  Cracked crayons can be remelted, but I wish I had just used the fridge to cool!


 Tip:  Be sure to put some of those bright colors (pink, yellow, orange, white) at the bottoms of the cups as that will be the front of your crayon.  I found those colors really popped against the darker colors!


 Finished product!  Fun little project!



 I put our crayons in clear treat bags with a card I made using Word on my computer- nothing fancy!



Shared on:  Clean and Scentsible:  The Inspiration Exchange

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Chocolate-Cinnamon Sundae Cake

Earlier this week, I mixed up my own homemade baking mix.  I'm trying little by little to make more things from scratch and to rely less on prepackaged/processed food.  This mix will be a great time-saver for me in the kitchen.  The first thing I tried were biscuits because typically that is what I use baking mix for.  I have a Bisquick cookbook, though, and decided to peek through it and see if I could find something sweet to whip up.  This chocolate cake looked so good so I had to try it!  In the cookbook, it is suggested to serve this with ice cream and a chocolate cinnamon sauce,  (hence the name "sundae" cake), but I wasn't prepared for that.  Instead, I whipped up a batch of my favorite chocolate cinnamon frosting to go on top!  You can find the frosting recipe HERE.  Chocolate-cinnamon perfection!



Chocolate-Cinnamon Sundae Cake

adapted from:  Betty Crocker's Bisquick Cookbook

1 1/3 cups baking mix (find the recipe HERE)
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. baking cocoa
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 egg
2/3 c. milk
3 T. butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8x8 square pan.  Beat all ingredients in mixing bowl until well-blended.  (I mixed by hand, but will try the mixer next time in order to incorporate the baking mix a little more.)  Pour into pan.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

NOTE:  I used a 9x9 pan and it only needed to bake for 15 minutes.  



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Homemade Baking Mix

Over the past year, I've tried little by little to make our meals and snacks from scratch as often as I can and to purchase fewer prepackaged or convenience items.  One of the things that I've been wanting to eliminate is the use of Bisquick.  I use it for biscuits, pancakes, shortcakes and we love this cheeseburger pie too!  There are lots of versions of the homemade mix out there, but I finally found one I thought would be good and so far I've had good results.  It was super easy to make and is easily stored in the fridge.  The biscuits I made were way better than the Bisquick version and today I even made a chocolate cake with this mix.  


 Just mix all the ingredients with a pastry blender until you have coarse crumbs.  I am storing my mix in a Zip-loc bag in the fridge.  I will be on the lookout for a container with a lid to store this in, because I know this is the mix I'll be using from now on!


The biscuits were fabulous!


Can't wait to try to this chocolate-cinnamon sundae cake tonight!  If it tastes as good as it smells, I'll be sharing that recipe soon!

Homemade Baking Mix
Source:   Food Fanatic

6 cups all-purpose flour
3 T. baking powder
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 T. salt
3 T. sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter, unsalted cut into small cubes (I used salted because that's what I had on hand- worked fine.)

Whisk dry ingredients in mixing bowl.  Cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender until you have coarse crumbs.  Be sure there are no big pieces of butter remaining.  Store mixture in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

We are snowed in this weekend and what's a girl to but try out new recipes!  This started with a recipe that a friend shared and then I just happened to discover something a little different on Pinterest.  What I came up with is a combination of the two- my own little creation!  These cashews smelled so good while they were roasting and they tasted even better! 




 
Rosemary Roasted Cashews
 
2 1/2 cups unsalted cashews
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 t. dried rosemary
a couple of dashes of ground (cayenne) red pepper
3/4 t. salt
 
In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and blend until cashews are well-coated.  Spread mixture evenly onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cube Steaks and Gravy

I'm way overdue on posting this recipe.  I know I've shared the pictures on my Facebook page.  So sorry it's taken me forever to do this! 

Cube steaks are one of my husband's favorites.  Since we were first married, I have made them on occasion, but they were definitely not a favorite of mine.  This cut of beef is just too chewy for me.  After trying this recipe several months ago, though, my tune has changed.  I've made these several times since then and the whole family loves them.  I'll be making these again tomorrow and will be adding mashed potatoes to the menu as well to enjoy with the delicious gravy that comes with this dish!  This recipe is so super easy.  I love that it slow simmers on the stove so I have plenty of time to prepare a side dish or keep ahead of the mess in the kitchen!  Hope you love this one as much as we do!


The brown gravy mix makes this recipe super simple and so delicious! 

 
I use 4 cubed steaks.


I melt a tablespoon of butter in my skillet and add in 1/2 cup of chopped onion. (I use frozen onion or onion seasoning blend- in your grocer's freezer section- one of my favorite shortcuts).  Place steaks in skillet and brown on both sides.


While steaks are browning, mix gravy packet according to directions.  Add in 1 T. vinegar and 1 T. brown sugar and mix well.



When steaks are browned on both sides, add in gravy mix.


Cover and simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes or until meat is tender.  Remove from heat and set aside (covered) for about five minutes.  I've found that this gives the gravy a chance to thicken up a bit. 




Look at that delicious gravy! 



Cube Steaks and Gravy
adapted from www.food.com

 cubed steaks
1 tablespoon butter                                                   
1/2 cup chopped onion                      
1 (1 ounce) package brown gravy mix                       
1 tablespoon  vinegar                                                  
1 tablespoon brown sugar 
 
 
 
Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and then steaks, browning steaks on both sides.  While steaks are browning, mix gravy mix according to package directions.  Add vinegar and brown sugar to gravy and mix well.  Pour gravy over steaks and lower heat. Cover and simmer 20 to 30 minutes until meat is tender. Check periodically to make sure liquid does not evaporate.  I have simmered for longer and still had lots of gravy.  ( I typically let this dish rest covered for about 5 minutes before serving, allowing the gravy time to thicken a bit. )

                           

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pumpkin Sheet Cake

I found this pumpkin bar recipe several years ago when I was needing to take something to a fall cookout.  I decided to switch out the vanilla for almond extract, but followed the rest of the recipe to the letter!  They were fantastic.  I haven't made them since that time and was so excited to make these yesterday.  I forgot just how wonderful this recipe is!  After trying this a second time, though, I decided that this was not a "pumpkin bar" recipe, but rather a cake.  A pumpkin sheet cake!!  Try this!  You'll love it!  It's perfect for those fall gatherings!  This will feed a crowd!  



 
 
 
 
 
 
Pumpkin Sheet Cake
 
Adapted from:  www.food.com
 
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used organic unbleached, presifted all-purpose flour)
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
4 eggs
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup cooking oil
 
 
Frosting:
 
11 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. almond extract
2 cups powdered sugar
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
 
In a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs, pumpkin, sugar and oil.  Add flour and beat until well-combined.  (I just used a whisk for this.) Spread batter into jelly roll pan.  (I sprayed the pan with cooking spray).  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool completely.
 
FROSTING:  In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until fluffy.  Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Frost cake and store covered in refrigerator.
 
Shared at:
 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Oven Fried Zucchini

A friend of ours brought us a zucchini yesterday.  I usually make my zucchini casserole when someone brings me a zucchini from their garden.  That afternoon, though, I happened to see someone shared a recipe for Zucchini Parmesan Crisps on Facebook and I knew I had to try them.  I tweaked the recipe a bit and changed the name because it just didn't fit.  Also, mine didn't turn out like the picture on Facebook.  These were so good though!  This reminded me of fried zucchini but on the healthier side.  These were so very easy to make and much healthier than the usual fried zucchini!  I might just have to grow my own zucchini next summer!  Hope you give this one a try!


I started by spraying my pan with some EVOO.  See that pump in the above picture??  You can get one at your favorite kitchen store or probably even at your local grocery store.  You simply fill it with your EVOO and then give it a few pumps and your ready to go.  I use it all the time.  You could also use a store bought spray as well. 

In a small bowl, I mixed the crumbs, parmesan, salt and pepper.  Slice the zucchini in 1/4 inch slices.  Spray each slice (both sides) with EVOO and then coat with the crumb mixture.  Panko crumbs don't always stick well so you will have to pat the breading down a bit.  Place slices of zucchini on a prepared cookie sheet.  Sprinkle any remaining crumbs over the zucchini to coat well.  Then give the tops a final spritz of EVOO spray to make the breading a bit crispier!   Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.






 
Oven Fried Zucchini
 
olive oil spray ( I have a pump that I add my own EVOO to, but you can buy prepared olive oil spray)
1/2 c. Panko bread crumbs
1/4 c. shredded Parmesan
1 lb. zucchini slices (1 large zucchini or 2 mediums)
salt and pepper (to taste)
 
Prepare a large cookie sheet with cooking spray.  In a small bowl, mix the crumbs, parmesan, salt and pepper.  Slice the zucchini in 1/4 inch slices.  Spray each slice (both sides) with EVOO and then coat with the crumb mixture.  Panko crumbs don't always stick well so you will have to pat the breading down a bit.  Place slices of zucchini on cookie sheet.  Sprinkle any remaining crumbs over the zucchini to coat well.  Then give the tops a final spritz of EVOO spray to make the breading a bit crispier!   Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.