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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!

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!

Easter Sweet Bread

3 Apr

This recipe makes three “small” loaves of sweet bread for Easter. It’s wonderful when you grill it!

Originally posted April 4, 2012

This recipe is one that takes a while from start to finish- nine hours to be exact- but if you’re game, it’s SO worth it! It is, of course, from my mom. She received it from a woman she worked with. It’s dated April 1992.

My mom makes it every year and I have made it once or twice myself. Don’t let the number of steps scare you off. If you go step-by-step it’s not hard.

Colleen DeMoranville’s Sweet Bread

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 and 1/4 cups hot milk

1 pkg. dry yeast (Fleishman’s Active Dry or Rapid Rise or Red Star)

1 egg- well beaten

1 tsp. vanilla extract (can also use almond if desired)

7 cups flour (start with between five and six and add more if needed)

one 15 ounce can sliced peaches, drained and sliced thinner

DIRECTIONS

1) Mix butter, sugar, salt an d hot milk in a large bowl.

2) Let cool to lukewarm.

3) Stir yeast into 1/4 cup warm water and let stand 5 minutes. (If using a thermometer it’s 110-115 degrees. Add 1/4 tsp sugar or whatever the package of yeast says to add.

4) Add dissolved yeast, egg, the extract and three cups of flour to the butter, sugar, salt and milk. Mix vigorously with flat wooden spoon.

5) Add three more cups of flour and then mix well.

6) If too sticky, add more flour. It almost always needs more, but not more than 7 cups. Too much flour will make the bread tough.

7) Turn out onto floured surface and knead it for one or two minutes, then let rest for 10 minutes. Add remaining flour only if sticky.

8) Knead more until elastic.

9) Put into large buttered bowl . Turn over once so it doesn’t dry out. Cover with a dishtowel or two and let it rise in a warm place until doubled. (Takes a few hours.)

10) Punch down and knead for another minute or two. Cut in half for two long loaves or in thirds for smaller loaves and divide each of those portions into three pieces (for a total of six or nine pieces.)

11) Stretch and roll each piece until long and uniform, about 12-18 inches if divided into two portions. Shorter if divided into three.

12) Use the three pieces to make a braid with each portion.

13) Pinch ends together.

14) Insert peach slices between braids.

15) Place each loaf on a buttered cookie sheet and cover with a towel. Let rise until doubled in bulk. (Takes about 2 hours.)

16) Brush each with one egg yolk that is mixed with 1 tsp. cold water.

17) Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes (check at about 20 minutes) if making 2 large loaves or less if making three smaller loaves (usually between 17 and 18 minutes)

18) Remove loaves to cooling racks.

19) Cool and then glaze with mixture of:

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla

5-6 tablespoons milk

Sprinkle with colored sprinkles or non-pareils.

This photo was taken a couple of years back when Elizabeth helped me make the bread. She was probably in first grade at the time. My point is: there’s lots of opportunity for kids to help out here. There’s measuring, kneading, braiding and more, that they can help out with.

NOTE: The whole process takes about nine hours. Start in the morning, end in the evening. Mixing and kneading takes about one hour. First rising takes about two hours. Braiding takes about a half hour. Second rising takes about two hours. Baking takes about a half for each loaf, then cool and glaze.

My mom stores hers in gift boxes (like from a department store) on waxed paper.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Chicken, Broccoli and Cheese Quiche

1 Apr
There was not one bite of this left over! It was a huge hit.

There was not one bite of this left over! It was a huge hit.

ORIGINALLY POSTED FEBRUARY 5, 2014:

Recently we cooked a big Sunday dinner of roasted chicken. I love when we have that on the menu because it automatically means another chicken meal later that week using the leftovers.

Sometimes we’ll just reheat the leftovers as is; a repeat of the meal we’d just had days before. Other times I’ll make a Chicken Pot Pie. We will make soup or chicken salad too, depending how much and what is left.

This last time we had our leftovers, I still had a single pie crust left from the last Chicken Pot Pie I’d made but I did not want a pot pie again. Although my daughter Liz swears that “Chicken Pot Pie never gets old, Mom,” I beg to differ. I’d done two in a relatively short amount of time. I wanted something different.

I thought of my single crust in the fridge and what else I could do with it instead of pot pie. I decided to make a quiche. Everyone in our family likes broccoli and eggs and cheese, so I knew a quiche would be a hit, but I had no idea how much of a hit it’d be.

It flew off the plates!

Luckily I realized I needed to write down the recipe BEFORE I filled the plate!

Luckily I realized I needed to write down the recipe BEFORE I filled the plate!

I actually didn’t have a recipe to follow, but I adapted a recipe for a Quiche Lorraine, changing the ingredients. The funny thing is, my recipe was on a plate! I have an old plate that I remember my mom having when I grew up, but I actually think that my grandmother had one too, and this one is hers from her kitchen we she moved a couple of years back.

I went along, following my recipe, but changing the ingredients to fit my meal, when I suddenly realized I needed to write it down or once I filled the plate, I’d not have the directions for baking temps and times!

Since I used the plate as my guide, along with my own ingredients, I’m putting my recipe for you below. It was SO delicious! I’d definitely make this again, and it was a great change to our usual leftover chicken choices.

CHICKEN BROCCOLI AND CHEESE QUICHE
INGREDIENTS

4 eggs lightly beaten

1 cup fat free cheddar cheese, shredded

1/3 cup chopped onion (I just used half a smaller sized onion.)

2 cups skim milk

2 cups diced chicken

2 cups broccoli (I used about half a package of frozen broccoli florets, partially thawed.)

salt and pepper to taste

one crust for a nine inch pie

Layer your ingredients into the crust, adding your liquid last.

Layer your ingredients into the crust, adding your liquid last.

DIRECTIONS

Spread the pie crust in a 9″ pie plate, creating a decorative edging.

Lightly beat eggs and milk together.

Layer your ingredients in the plate starting with your solid ingredients first.

Pour your liquid mixture of milk and eggs over your solid ingredients. Your plate will be full to the top.

My baking dish said to bake the quiche at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, turning it down to 300 for 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean, letting it stand for 10 minutes.

Our quiche took much longer to cook, I believe because of the liquid in the frozen broccoli that I used. Another cookbook I looked at had similar directions, with the second baking temperature at 325. When you make your quiche, you’ll know when it’s done; a knife will come out clean. At the end, we broiled ours on low to crisp it up a bit.

I hope that if you’d never made a quiche before, you’ll give it a try. You can really put almost anything in it, and two of my kids actually requested a spinach and chicken quiche next time, which I’d thought of, but I knew not everyone likes spinach at our house.

Enjoy!

Happy Birthday Don and Alexandra!

23 Mar

So what’s the best birthday gift *you* ever gave someone?

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 23, 2012

Today is a very special day.

Today is Alexandra’s birthday.

Today is also Don’s birthday.

That makes me the best wife ever because seven years ago for Don’s birthday at 1:22 am I gave him our third daughter.

I know, I know, best gift ever, right?! It’s hard to top that one though, so I don’t really try. I’m back to t-shirts, pajama pants and stuff like that for his birthday gifts.

Alexandra’s First Birthday 2006

Since sharing his birthday with his daughter, Don has been blessed with getting to have a Snoopy party, a My Little Pony party, a Dora party, a Purple party and this year…Hello Kitty. Technically they’re not his parties obviously, but you see what I mean.

Birthday crowns all around on Alex’s second birthday.

Thankfully, my parents have this neat tradition that they started with us where we celebrate the adult birthday parties at their house each year and we “kids” get to choose our meal and our cake. I choose….well I won’t tell you what I choose until it’s my birthday this summer. But Don chooses a totally opposite type of meal and cake than I would choose, so I guess it’s good that we each get a chance to choose our own, to choose what we like. Don chooses meatball sandwiches (made with my mom’s homemade meatballs and gravy) with lemon cake for dessert. It’s probably the only time all year we have it and he really enjoys it.

Therefore, today I thought I’d share with you the recipe for Don’s birthday cake of choice each year, the lemon cake. It’s really yummy, I particularly love the corners.

***********************************************************************************

LEMON CAKE

A cake *just* for Daddy!

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup water

2 beaten eggs

Duncan Hines Lemon Cake Mix

1 can lemon pie filling (divided)

DIRECTIONS

In bowl by hand, mix together oil, water, eggs, cake mix.

Add 1/4 can of lemon pie filling into the mix.

Put into greased 9×13 dish.

On top, distribute the rest of the pie filling.

Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

When cool, glaze with:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar mixed with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. Add a little hot water if necessary.

Happy St. Joseph’s Day!

19 Mar

Are you ready for some Zeppole?

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON MARCH 19, 2012

Are you wearing your red today? I am!

It’s March 19 and that means it’s one of my most favorite dessert holidays ever!

Happy St. Joseph’s Day to you!!

I’d personally skip right over St. Patrick’s Day and go right to St. Joseph’s Day because if it’s St. Joseph’s Day then it means……zeppole!!!

You might ask: What on earth is a zeppole??

My answer is: It’s the most wonderful cream filled, fried dough dessert in the world; kind of a cross between a donut and a cream puff I guess, although from what I understand, they have changed in nature over the years. However, the way you see them here is the way I’ve always known them to be and the way that I love, love, love them.

More than a decade ago, when we were first married, we lived in another state for a few years. That first year we were there,  St. Joseph’s Day rolled around. We went out that day, searching for a zeppole, and had the hardest time finding them. When we did, they weren’t even all that great. I was so disappointed. We’d only been there three months and I already knew we were going to have to come back. There was no way I was going to live in a place where there weren’t any good zeppole to be had.

Near us you can get a zeppole almost any time of the year, but we never, ever do, except on St. Joseph’s Day. It just wouldn’t be the same. It probably wouldn’t even TASTE the same!

I’m sure it’s no coincidence either, that my daughter Alex was due to be born on St. Joseph’s Day. She wasn’t, but still, there’s something significant in that, I just know it.

Being in city where there are just zillions of Italians, it means that there are also zillions of fantastic Italian bakeries in the area, so you can take your pick as to where you want to get your zeppole from. Everyone seems to have their favorite spot where they go each year.

Our family has gotten their St. Joseph’s Day zeppole at Solitro’s for decades and it thrills me to share this tradition with my kids.

To me it’s a really big deal to go and get them. I go to the same bakery where my family has gone forever and ever to get them. The first time I took my children there with me, I almost cried, I was so overwhelmed with the emotion I felt. I remember waiting with them in a line that stretched from the bakery counter to the door. I remember lifting them up so they could see into the back where the zeppole were being made; it looked like what I’d imagine Italy itself to look like. I remember pointing to the shelves that held trays upon trays upon trays of zeppole, all lined up in rows. It’s even magical to me how they put them into the white bakery box and tie it with string. There’s nothing like it. The zeppole taste wonderful, but the tradition and memories that go with it are such a big part of the day for me as well.

The case was full, both baked and fried zeppole, and this was only the day *before* St. Joseph’s Day.

And so, today I will again have my zeppole. My family doesn’t love them as much as I do, and I have to say, I’m glad. It means all the more for me.

I hope you’re able to get a zeppole today too! If not, I’ll be thinking of you all as I indulge.

Happy St. Joseph’s Day!

I hope you get your zeppole fix today too!

Happy St. Patty’s Day: Irish Soda Bread

17 Mar

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 16, 2012: Everyone loves a good Irish Soda Bread with their St. Patrick’s Day meal! This one was passed along to me by my father-in-law last winter and it was wonderful. I can’t wait to make it again this year. It’s probably the one and only recipe where I don’t think about subbing out the raisins for chocolate chips!!

INGREDIENTS

4 c  flour

1 c white sugar

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3 eggs

1 pint sour cream

1 cup  raisins

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Grease two 8×4″ loaf pans

Mix first five ingredients

Add eggs, sour cream and raisins

Mix until just combined

Distribute batter evenly between the two pans

Bake loaves 1 hour at 325 degrees

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