Monday, February 28, 2011

Scones - not just for the Brits!

Looking for an easy, whip-it-up breakfast, brunch, or snack idea? Look no further than my FAVORITE dried cherry scones! They are simple to make and simply de-lish!!!!!
The scone process is easier than you think. Watch.....
Mix the dry ingredients together.
Cut in the butter. I do this with two knives, slicing back and forth.

Add the wet ingredients.
Stir in the dried fruit or nuts.

Shape into a ball on a floured surface, or on a Silpat.
Flatten the dough into a disc and cut into wedges.
Place the wedges on a cookie sheet.
Brush with egg whites, cinnamon-sugar, or whatever the recipe says to put on top.
Bake and Voila! Fresh and easy~
I even freeze half of them on a cookie sheet before baking and
save them in a ziplock for another day.
Here's the recipe!

Cherry Scones

  • ¾ cup dried sweet cherries
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 cups all purpose flour (I often substitute half whole wheat flour, but if you do this, add a bit more liquid.
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg, separated
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup half and half
Soak cherries in boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cream of tartar in a large bowl.
Cut in butter with a pastry blender or knife.
Combine egg yolk, sour cream, half and half, and almond extract.
Add to flour mixture and stir until soft dough forms.
Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead gently 6-8 times.
Knead in cherries until evenly distributed.
Divide dough in half and shape into two balls.
Put each ball into a 6-inch circle.
Cut each into 6 wedges with a sharp knife.
Place scones on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Beat egg white until foamy.
Brush the top of the scones with egg white and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
Serves 12

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Shoe Jail!

With 4 kids there are several pairs of snow boots, cleats, tennis shoes, school shoes, and crocs floating around. Each one of my kids has designated areas to put their shoes, but somehow they often end up in a pile on the floor. SOLUTION: SHOE JAIL.
Shoe jail is where all of the lonely, lost shoes go that have been left out. My kids can redeem their prisoners by doing extra chores, a special good deed that I see, or by paying me from their commissions (our version of allowance). They may not leave their shoes in there indefinitely. All shoes must be "bailed out" before commissions are paid on our family night.
A simple solution to a common problem!
Seen On:
Tip Junkie handmade projects

Friday, February 18, 2011

Kids + Chores + $$

I am forever in pursuit of teaching my kids skills that will make them successful adults. This is a CHALLENGING task, and one that I'm continuously re-evaluating. Our newest attempt at this involves a "commission" system that teaches the kids the connection between work and money. Dave Ramsey is a leading guru on how to handle finances, and has a personal testimony that underscores his teaching. This is Ramsey's teaching tool for kids. The main premises of the program are as follows:
1. Teaching your kids how to handle money is not the school's responsibility, it is your responsibility.
2. Pay commissions not allowance; if you work you get paid; if you do not work, you do not get paid.
3. Kids learn from their successes as well as failures, so give them opportunities to succeed and fail with their money while you are there to teach them.

Here are the nuts & bolts of this system:

*Decide ahead of time how much each child will make on commission. We decided by age and abilities.

*Decide what night of the week you will dole out commissions.

*Designate 3 envelopes for each child, 1.Spending 2. Giving or Tithing 3. Saving. Help each child divide up their money into the various envelopes and be sure to discuss each one. ie. what are you saving for? Create goals. Is there something at church you'd like to give your money to this week? My daughter sponsors her own Compassion International Child, so her tithe money goes to supporting her sponser child in Central America.
*There is a place for the kids to mark off when they have done their chores, and there is also a place for parents to list "fines," make sure these are done daily. The kids are usually pretty motivated to keep up with this because work = $.
Our kids are really enjoying having the responsibility of handling money, and it is so fulfilling to see them make good, and sometimes even sacrificial, choices. One night my middle son came up to me in tears holding out all of his commission money. I had been in a "fender bender" in the grocery store parking lot that week and Hudson wanted to help pay for it. How precious that he thought his small earnings would help fix my car. I took the offering and hugged him tight, telling him how proud I was that he was choosing to help the family. He took pride in giving what he had earned, and he also learned an important lesson in selfless living -- both such valuable lessons.

There are many "systems" out there for teaching kids about money, but for $19.95, I think this one is a great bang for your buck!


When my kids were younger, I didn't want to give them actual money, but still wanted them to be rewarded for their hard work throughout the week. We chose to do "Mom Moneys" and "Dad Dollars."
We would hand one of these out each day after chores to each child. On our family night, we would hold a "Chore Store" where they could redeem their dollars for various rewards.
They could spend their money that night (ie. $5 Dad Dollars for staying up late with Dad), or save up for bigger rewards (ie. $20 Mom Moneys may "buy" a movie at a theatre with mom).
We had fun with this system for a lot of years and the kids loved it.

**On a side note. We do not reward our kids for everything they do. There is work, pretty much daily, they have to do just because they are a part of the family. The reward systems, however, have value, add organization to the day's work, and makes work fun!

Monday, February 14, 2011

You Make My Heart SING!

I was one of those kids who made "mix cassette tapes" for my friends back in the day! I'd spend hours taping songs off of the radio, splicing them, and then putting the songs all together. It was one of the ways I showed others I loved them. This is still one of my very favorite presents... MUSIC! But seriously.... how much easier is it today to create a mix in Itunes??? This would have been beyond my wildest dreams during the "boombox" era. For Valentine's Day this year I made my kids and my husband a special mix.

I spent hours pouring over songs, since I wanted songs of LOVE from my grandparent's era, some sentimental to us, some from our childhood, some country, some pop, and some good tunes we could dance to in the kitchen. Here is what I came up with for each:

For My Kids:
Lean on Me - Rascal Flatts
Stuck Like Glue - Sugarland
Smile - Uncle Kracker
Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Queen
Come Go with Me - The Del Vikings
Say Hey (I Love You) - Michael Franti & Spearhead
Love is All Around - Wet Wet Wet
1, 2, 3, 4 - The Hit Co.
One Love (People Get Ready) - Glee Cast
Go Daddy-O - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

For my Valentine (I know there is a lot.... did I mention I LOVE music??):
Marry Me - Train
True Companion - Marc Cohn
Can't Fight this Feeling - Glee Cast
I Got You Babe - Sonny and Cher
Fire - Glee Cast
Let Me Call You Sweetheart - The Hit Co.
Y-O-U - Jonah Werner
How Sweet it is to be Loved by You - James Taylor
It Had to Be You - Harry Connick Jr.
Love is All Around - Wet Wet Wet
Always Only You - Josh Wilson
Your Man - Josh Turner
Whatever it is - The Zac Brown Band
Hallelujah - The Canadian Tenors
I Love You - Martina McBride
Make Someone Happy - Jimmy Durante
Kiss Me - Sixpence None the Richer
Your Body is a Wonderland - John Mayer
Loving You, Loving Me - Dave Barnes
At Last - Etta James
Can't Explain this Feeling - Jonathan Kingham
L-O-V-E - Nat King Cole
Plus some of the ones above I put on the kids' CD

I'm sure I missed some key songs -- let me know what I"m missing!

Here is another idea for Valentine's Day:
Cookie Decorating Sets

You can buy un-iced cut out cookies from your local bakery (you may need to special order them). Make your own icing. I like using the classic recipe: 1 1/2c. butter, 1 lb. powdered sugar, 3 tbsp. milk or cream, 2 tsp. vanilla.
Place the icing in a cute bowl. Collect some Valentine's candies in a bag and tie. A fun activity for the whole family!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Starbucks Worthy!

A few years ago we got a really nice coffee machine--a Jura Capresso. This coffee making dream can make a coffee lover out of anyone! This little number below is one of my favorite extra accessories that could be used with any run of the mill coffee to make it STARBUCKS WORTHY! It whips up milk like nobody's business with none of the mess of the steam nozzle. We use it for lattes, hot chocolate, and steamers. This would make a fun gift for the whole family!

How to Roast Chicken for any Recipe

I try to protein-pack my family's diet, so I often add chicken to whatever I'm making. For example, if I make pasta, I'll whip up this chicken and throw it in there with some pesto. Or... have you seen my Greek Salad recipe? You can add chicken to that and it makes it more of a full meal. This is the easiest way I've found to roast chicken quickly and easily. It is also very moist and tasty. My kids love it just as it is right out of the oven!
Before I start making dinner, or earlier in the day, I place frozen chicken in a 8x13. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees on the roasting feature if you have it. If not, just regular 425 will do!
I then drizzle the top of the chicken with olive oil.
I then sprinkle the chicken liberally with kosher salt (the only salt I use), and freshly ground pepper. Cover the chicken with foil and put it in the oven for 40-50 min.
Check the chicken to see if the middle is done and the juices run clear (not pink). Cool and slice or shred.

Death by Tiramisu

If you've been looking for a TO-DIE-FOR-HEAVEN-ON-A-PLATE dessert for Valentine's Day, you've come to the right place! Behold (drumroll please).......

There is an Italian chef in our town who I like to take cooking classes from whenever I can. He is simply fabulous and his restaurant is, in my opinion, hands down the best around. This version of tiramisu is my own adaptation of his original recipe. My husband actually goes down to Angelo's restaurant and picks up this lusciousness every year on my birthday (isn't that so sweet)? They expect him now-- same time same place -- I love it!

Death by Tiramisu

Coffee mixture

2 cups Strong coffee

1 1/2 tbsp. instant espresso powder

1/4 cup Brandy or Rum

¼ cup sugar

Stir coffee, espresso, and alcohol in a dish until espresso dissolves. Set aside.

Zablione Mixture

15 egg yolks

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup Marsala or Rum

1/4 tsp. table salt

Beat eggs at low speed until just combined. Place the mixture over a pot of boiling water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water (you don't want to scramble the eggs). Whip the mixture until thickened. Do not let the mixture "sit" in the bowl over the steam. The eggs will cook if not stirred continuously. Cover with plastic and set aside to cool down in the fridge.

Whipped Cream Mascarpone Mixture

6 cups of whipping cream

4 tbsp. vanilla

1 1/2-2 lb. mascarpone cheese

Pour the cold cream into a bowl. Start beating the cream slowly. If the cream is whipped too quickly, it will deflate. After 1-2 min., increase the speed to medium high until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla and mix until just combined. Turn down to low and add the mascarpone in increments.

When zablione mixture is cool, place whipped cream mixture in a big bowl and carefully add ¾ cup of the zablione at a time. Fold in from the outside gently.

Final Ingredients

2 Ladyfinger Packages

(buy the hard ones --do not buy the soft kind sometimes found in bakeries.

I like the kind that are sugar coated on one side).

chocolate chips or chocolate, chopped finely in a processor

cocoa powder

To Assemble:

In a shallow dish, dip the flat edge of the ladyfinger into the coffee mixture for 1 second, flipping quickly to coat the other side, and immediately remove and place in the bottom of a 9x13 dish. DO NOT SUBMERGE THE LADYFINGER. They will fall apart if they are dipped completely into the liquid, even if you do it quickly. Repeat until the bottom of the dish is covered. Spread 1/2 of the zablione cream mixture over the top. Top this layer with ground chocolate and cocoa powder; repeat the process again with the lady fingers going the opposite direction as the bottom layer, followed by the zablione, and topped with the chocolate and cocoa powder. Refrigerate and let set until the next day.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Homemade Hummus -- You'll Never Buy Store Bought Again!

I do not know why people are so amazed when I pull out homemade hummus. It is the easiest thing to make, and once you try it, you'll never go back to store-bought again! There is a huge difference in taste and quality -- Try it! You won't be sorry --
Just a few ingredients is all you need.
Don't forget to rinse the beans!
Puree in a food processor or blender.
Serve with veggies or pita chips.

1 15oz. can chick peas
1 garlic clove
3/4 tsp. salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
3 1/4 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. tahini
1/4 c. olive oil
3/4 c. water

Process all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Refrigerate at least 30 min. to let the flavors meld.

Decorative Clipboards

One of my favorite organizational tools: Clipboards! But how boring is a regular old brown board? After seeing a similar idea online, I decided to decorate the boards with fun scrapbook paper and give them as gifts to friends this year.
Supplies you will need: a clipboard, scrapbook paper, a sponge brush, ribbon, and Modge Podge.
1. Modge Podge your scrapbook paper onto the clipboard. Smooth with a straight sided object (I use my plastic pan scraper from my kitchen).
2. Spread Modge Podge over the top of the paper. Smooth, then let dry completely.
3. Embellish the top with ribbons and place a decorative word or symbol on the bottom if you want to really get your craft on!
4. Clip a note, a set of notecards, or a bag of goodies onto the board and give to your favorites!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gifts of the Heart for any Occasion

A few years back, the siblings on my side of the family decided to move to homemade gifts for Christmas. There were no stipulations, it just had to be "homemade" in some way. The first year, my sister & brother-in-law cut wood from the 100 year old cottonwoods where we grew up and made them into candle holders. My brother and sister-in-law wrote a fantastic poem (you have to know my bro -- he's Steve Martin kind of witty). Erik and I made homemade vanilla and some other homemade goodies. We were hooked. It was so much fun that the gifts were from the heart of people we love. It is also interesting that those are the gifts we remember! I can tell you years later what they have given me. This year my sibs hit the ball out of the park. I love their gifts so much! I thought I'd share them since I think they'd make great, meaningful gifts for any occassion.....


My sister created an album that chronicles the history of our family. She includes our grandparents family pictures, weddings, children, and any other significant information about them.

I love these old pictures of my grandmother's parents and siblings. My great aunts were some of the dearest people of my childhood. I find my children reading this book over and over. They love knowing where they come from. I really believe this helps give them deep family roots and identity.

My sister includes our families in the book at the end.
This is the last page. I love the words she chose. This is a hallmark trait of my sister, she always knows just what to say.....

Gift #2: Mitch & Sarah: The Family Cookbook
So Mitch & Sarah put together a collection of their favorite recipes and wrote a little blurb about each one. They told about where the recipe came from, special notes about how to prepare it, or what to serve it with, and sometimes pictures of the food being prepared or served. The picture on the cover also captures a moment in time, because here Sarah is pregnant with their 3rd daughter.This is one my favorite pages -- isn't my niece so cute with batter all over her face in that chef's hat??
I love thinking about this family that I love so much when I'm cooking for mine!

Gift #3: Our Gift: Personalized Subway Art (I told you I was into this Subway Art thing)

I bought some blank canvases at the craft store and painted them black and brown. My husband and I brainstormed words that describe each family and their history and life. I then used my Sillouette machine to cut out vinyl words for each canvas. I mailed one of them before I could take a picture, but here are the other two.

Part of the fun of homemade gifts is coming up with the idea. It usually takes weeks of brainstorming before I come up with something I'm excited about, and then I scurry around getting it done, but it is always worth it in the end! All of these gifts took a lot of time, but it is time well-spent and deeply appreciated by those on the receiving end!