Two great ideas!

18 May
The finished products: each one just a little bit different.

The finished products: each one just a little bit different.

Imagine that? It’s a Monday, I’ve got a post up, and I’m passing along not one great idea for you, but two!

You must be wondering what my ideas are!

Well, here’s the first one, with a little walk down memory lane along with it.

Years and years ago, when my husband and I were first married, we moved out of state for our first teaching jobs. In addition to our classroom jobs, we also took second jobs with the before and after school program in our community, which included the “vacation camps” that took place over the school vacation weeks. We needed the second jobs in order to make ends meet on the starting teacher salaries, but we were a young couple who didn’t yet have our own kids, so we had the time and we loved the activities with the kids we were in charge of. Through our jobs, we took the vacation camp kids and our regular classrooms of kids on field trips to the movies, to Ellis Island, roller skating/blading, and to our most favorite trip of all: The Philadelphia Zoo. Back then, we would lead these large groups of students through the zoo, or to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, pointing out this or that, and I’d think in my head that one day we’d have kids of our own and be doing all of these fun things with them.

Jump ahead 20 years and three kids later, and my husband is one of the co-directors of our church’s Youth Group at St. David’s on the Hill. I am his behind-the-scenes Youth Group assistant. Our kids are in the Youth Group, and nowadays I often think back to that trip to the zoo or the movies, as we take the Youth Group kids, along with our own three, on a field trip or lead them in an activity, and I see that as far as we’ve come with marriage and family, we’re still doing what we love and sharing it with kids, just as we were when we were young(er). So much has changed, and yet not much has changed.

This past weekend, on Saturday night, we were lucky to have our artist friend Kristin, of R&M Studios, lead a “Paint and Pastry Night” at our church; an event and fundraiser sponsored by the Youth Group.

This leads me to the first great idea I’m sharing with you.

If your area is like ours, you’ve probably been seeing loads of opportunities for Paint and Vino events, where there’s wine and everyone paints a picture, guided by an artist. The events are lots of fun and the pictures are always beautiful, and people are often surprised at how relaxing it is to just sit and paint a picture for a couple of hours, especially when surrounded by your friends and/or family.

Being a Youth Group, we couldn’t host a paint and wine party because our event would have children in attendance, painting alongside the adults, but Don and Kristin came up with a “Paint and Pastry” theme instead. Everything would be the same as far as the socialization, fun and relaxation through art, but instead of wine, there would be coffee, lemonade and people could bring pastries to share.

I know what you’re thinking…what a fabulous idea!!!

Me too!

A Paint and Pastry Night…adults and kids together…a fun night out for all.

And it was really so much fun. We had about 40 people in attendance, ranging in age from our fourth-grade youth on up through the adults of the parish, all working side by side. There were two sizes of paintings to choose from, either 16×20 canvases or 9×12. The scene was a beautiful sunset scene over a pier, similar to what we see around these parts in the summertime, especially. Kristin led the artists through the steps of the painting process beautifully and it was amazing to see the blank, white canvases come alive, step by step, with each one just a little bit different in the end, than the ones on either side. Each person’s own touches, made their piece unique.

Seeing the adults and kids, side by side, and seeing the blank canvases come to life, was a wonderful way to spend our Saturday night together!

Seeing the adults and kids, side by side, and seeing the blank canvases come to life, was a wonderful way to spend our Saturday night together!

Imagine TWICE as many desserts as this!

Imagine TWICE as many desserts as this!

There were *a ton* of desserts, and unfortunately I took my picture of the pastry table much too early in the evening, and it shows only HALF of what actually came in for desserts, but I am sure you can imagine the table twice as full as this!

And this leads me to my second great idea.

Last week, I shared with you the Nutella Crescents and I mentioned that I’d be making them for an upcoming event this past weekend.

Well this was the event!

As I considered what to make, I thought of cookies or brownies, and my husband suggested the Nutella Crescents because everyone loves them. My concern, however, was that each can of crescents only makes eight rolls. For everyone in a group that size to get one to try, I’d have to make many cans. I’d be spreading and rolling all day.

But then I had a great idea (my second for you today)….I cut each triangle in half to make smaller triangles, and filled them in just the same manner, just making smaller crescents. Using four cans of the crescent rolls, and two of my kids’ helping hands, they were able to bang out dozens of these delicious treats, and I have to say, everyone raved about them. They weren’t SO much smaller that they wouldn’t be enough. Rather, they were *just* enough that you could take one to enjoy and still have room on your plate for other treats.

In order to facilitate the prep of the crescents, I gave each of my two daughters a large cutting board and two cans of crescents. I put the large tub of Nutella in the middle, and gave them each the tools they needed: a serrated knife for cutting the crescents into smaller triangles, a spoon for scooping out the Nutella, and a butter knife for spreading it. As they completed them and put them onto their baking trays, I put a dab of butter onto each crescent and sprinkled the cinnamon and sugar on top.

Together we did them all in about an hour’s time and at the same time I was able to make a side dish for our dinner that night and muffins for breakfast the next morning, too. Had I been doing the job alone, I couldn’t have accomplished all of that at once.

So there are my two ideas for you: The Paint and Pastry event for a wonderful combined youth/adult event that can be rated “PG” and still be tons of fun for any group, and the halving of the crescent rolls in order to double the deliciousness of my Nutella Crescents from last week’s blog post!

I hope you have a wonderful Monday and a lovely week!

Fun Friday: Nutella Crescents

15 May
The most-requested after school snack!

The most-requested after school snack!

TGIF!

Happy Friday!

This week seems to have flown by. The weather is nice and work, school and activities are keeping us busy. Summer will be here before we know it, with school getting out in about four weeks’ time.

Not that I’m counting down or anything.

Today I wanted to share a quick and easy snack, that has quickly become a frequent request. I started making it after seeing some video floating around on social media where someone was spreading Nutella on some sort of dough, rolling it and baking it for a delicious looking dessert. I never actually got to watch the whole video, but I kept seeing it pass by and it stuck with me.

Nutella Crescents 2One day I remembered to grab some lowfat crescent roll tubes at the store and I always have Nutella on hand, so when I had a chance, I decided to see what I could come up with for a different after school snack. I spread the crescents out, spread Nutella on the inside, and sprinkled some cinnamon and sugar inside. I rolled the crescents as usual, and I sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on top, adding a dab of butter (we use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter) on top. I baked them until they were golden brown and served them.

A huge hit. I can’t even emphasize enough how much they all love these little snacks.

I’ve filled them the same way with just butter, cinnamon and sugar when I didn’t have enough Nutella for two cans of crescents, and they were a hit as well.

I mean really, what’s not to love?

These are such a simple snack. They can be made by the kids too. Anything that can be made by the kids is a plus in my book.

I’ve made these more times than I can count. I now buy the crescents on a regular basis and I’ve made them when the kids have had friends over, as well as for just us. I’m even planning to make them for an event this weekend.

If you’re looking for something quick and easy, and of course, delicious, give them a try!

Monday check-in and a teaser

11 May
A favorite photo from our day yesterday. It's a sculpture found at the beach where we walked.

A favorite photo from our day yesterday. It’s a sculpture found at the beach where we walked.

Happy Monday afternoon!

It’s been quite some time since I’ve done a blog post, and I haven’t forgotten about my blog or about my loyal readers! This time of year is so crazy for us, and last week happened to just be one of those weeks where we were both working days and also both working nights, and shuffling kids from activity to activity, supervising homework, prepping meals and all the usual stuff, there was just no time for extra typing. I expect the coming weeks to be just like that, and then we’ll be on the other side of another school year, and getting to take a breather, thankfully.

But today, I’m checking in with you all and setting up a tiny bit of a teaser for you as well, a tip about some big things coming up. (And no, our family is *not* expanding in any way!)

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and it was such a lovely day. It was low-key and relaxing, church in the morning, spending time with family and doing lots of eating in the afternoon and evening–all of my favorite activities. We got to head down to the beach for the first time this season just for a walk, and it really made me feel great. I get excited when we head to the beach for the first time, as it gives me a glimpse into the upcoming season and reminds me how much we love where we live and how much we love our seasons. Each winter we experience gives us a renewed appreciation for spring, summer and fall, and if ever there was a winter to do just that, this was it!

I can’t wait for summer. Yesterday, I breathed the salt air in deeply as we walked, I let the sun shine on my face,and I could just feel it all rejuvenating my spirit. Summer will be here before we know it.

And that leads me to my next little piece for today….a teaser.

Although I haven’t had a ton of time to blog lately, my extra hours (when I have them) have been filled with some new experiences for our family, and we’re gearing up for a really *big* new experience taking place this summer. (And I repeat, no…it’s not what you’re wondering.)

I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but just know that all of the research, hard work, prepping and pre-writing that I’m doing now will be fun for you to follow along with this summer! All though you may be missing my regularly scheduled posts now, I promise that it will be well-worth it when we catch up with you this summer!

I hope you have a wonderful week, enjoy this beautiful weather!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: 30 Minute Spaghetti with Summer Vegetable Sauce

29 Apr
Another successful meal from Liz's 30 Minute Meal cookbook!

Another successful meal from Liz’s 30 Minute Meal cookbook!

About two weeks ago, for my previous What’s for Dinner Wednesday post, I showed a recipe that Elizabeth had found in a Cook’s Country Magazine for 30 Minute Meatloaf Burgers.

At the time that Liz chose that recipe, we were at the end of our two weeks of meals, which meant we’d be menu planning again soon afterwards for the next two weeks of meals.

Liz was on top of it. She and her dad poured through her selection of recipes hoping to find one that everyone would like at least one part of, if not all of. Pasta is a pretty easy choice. Everyone likes pasta, even if they don’t like what’s on it. Therefore, she chose a 30 minute meal called Spaghetti with Summer Vegetable Sauce.

It was so delicious, and seeing the veggies simmering on the stove while Liz and Don were cooking together really made me long for summer. This meal was wonderful and Liz did a great job choosing another quick and easy meal. I know she’s got at least one more on deck for a future week.

I’m getting a bit spoiled…

Here’s the recipe for you, just as it appears in the Cook’s Country Magazine.

It was hard to wait after seeing this simmering on top of the stove!

It was hard to wait after seeing this simmering on top of the stove!

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons unsalted butter (We use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.)

1 onion, chopped

1 large summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced thin

1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thin

2 garlic cloves, minced

12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup dry white wine

Salt and pepper

1 pound spaghetti (We used linguine.)

6 tablespoons basil pesto (We made our own.)

DIRECTIONS

1.) Bring four quarts of water to a boil in large pot. Melt butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in squash and zucchini and cook until softened, about five minutes. Stir in squash and zucchini and cook until softened, three to five minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, wine, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook until liquid is reduced by half, about two minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste; cover and keep warm.

2) Meanwhile, add pasta and one tablespoon salt to boiling water and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot. Toss vegetable mixture and pesto with pasta, adding reserved pasta water as needed. Serve.

Test kitchen note: Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

One Gorilla: Giveaway winner!!

27 Apr
A beautifully written and illustrated story, with an excellent message for children

A beautifully written and illustrated story, with an excellent message for children.

Happy Monday everyone!

We only have two months of school left and we’re counting down!
Since Mondays are a rough for most of us, and extra rough if like us, you’re starting back after a week long spring break, this is a nicer way to start off the week than usual: with a book giveaway announcement!

The winner of their very own copy of the One Gorilla book is…..

 

KERRY POMFRET!

CONGRATULATIONS KERRY!!!  The book will be sent to you directly from author Joy Dey!

Enjoy your week!

Fun Friday: Breakfast cookies with peanut butter, banana and granola

24 Apr
I ended up making these two weeks in a row, and the second week I doubled the recipe.

I ended up making these two weeks in a row, and the second week I doubled the recipe.

One afternoon I was scoping the internet, looking for a good after school snack to leave for my kids when I went to work that day. I found a recipe for “Breakfast Cookies with Peanut Butter, Banana and Chocolate Granola” from the Taste and Tell blog. I had everything for it except the chocolate granola, but I had plain granola and chocolate chips. I decided to modify the recipe to work for the ingredients I had.

These are hearty cookies, perfect for an after school snack, and definitely perfect for breakfast on the run. My oldest daughter gets on the school bus by 7:00 am and can’t stomach a whole lot that early in the morning, but she’d take two of these in a bag with her each morning for when she did start to get hungry later on. Our school system has been inundated with hours and hours of PARCC standardized testing, and it often takes place first thing in the morning, so the last thing I wanted was a kid taking two or three hours of testing on an empty stomach every day. These cookies were definitely the right answer¬† to that problem.

My husband takes breakfast to go every day also, and these were a nice change of pace from a bagel, yogurt, oatmeal or cereal, which he usually eats, and if he wanted, he could save them for a snack later in the day when he’s working after school gets out.

These were such a hit, I made them again the following week, and I doubled the recipe to make twice as many. This time, when I opened the box of granola, it was a cinnamon raisin variety rather than just plain granola, but I gave it a try. Even my daughter who doesn’t like raisins, ate them without even noticing they were in there. I think it was the chocolate chips that saved the day that time.

As we’re finishing up our spring break now, we’re heading back into several more weeks of testing when we go back to school, for both NECAP and PARCC, so I’ll be whipping up a couple more batches of these cookies. I’ve been tempted to make enough to freeze, but so far there’s never been any extras left to freeze!

I hope you’ll give them a try and pay a visit to the Taste and Tell blog! Here is her recipe, along with my ingredient modification instructions.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter (I used Skippy Reduced Fat creamy peanut butter.)

1/2 cup mashed overripe banana (about one medium banana)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

2 cups Cascadian Farms Chocolate Lover’s Granola (I used 1 cup plain granola and one cup chocolate chips)

DIRECTIONS

1) Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2) In a bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the peanut butter, banana and brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

3) In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir into the creamed mixture. Stir in the granola.

4) Form balls of dough, about 3 tablespoons each. Place at least 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to slightly flatten each ball of dough.

5) Bake until the cookies are just set, about ten minutes. (Do not over bake or the cookies will dry out.)

Book Giveaway: One Gorilla

20 Apr
A beautifully written and illustrated story, with an excellent message for children

A beautifully written and illustrated story, with an excellent message for children.

Exciting news on this Monday afternoon!

Joy Dey, author of “One Gorilla,” which I reviewed on my blog just last week, has offered a book to give away to one lucky Whole Bag of Chips reader!!

How great is that? So great!

Thanks to Joy, one lucky reader’s name will be drawn from all of those who post a comment here on this post telling me why they’d like to win their very own copy of the book.

I will run this giveaway from today until Sunday, April 26 and announce the winner next Monday, April 27.

Be sure to leave your comment in the comments section below in order to be eligible for the giveaway!

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