Category Archives: Recipes

apple-cookies-for-back-to-school

Back to School Apple Cookies

25th August 2015

apple-cookies-for-back-to-school

Since it is back to school time, I thought I would attempt to make some apple cut-out cookies. These cookies would be a cute surprise in your child’s lunch bag for the first day of school or a sweet teacher appreciation gift.  What teacher doesn’t like apples, especially in the form of a cookie?

For those who know me, know that I LOVE to BAKE!  I usually bake something once a week, like these delicious easy granola bars.  When it comes to baking however, I try to avoid anything that involves rolling out dough or decorating with a pastry bag.  First of all, I can never get the dough to roll out evenly and the cookies always turn out looking like lop-sided, misshapen blobs.  Not to mention I shake like a leaf, no pun intended, and was born with a hand tremor which makes decorating with a pastry bag a torture session.  I have to anchor my elbows on the table to prevent the frosting from ending up all over the place.

Having said all that, I am determined to master cut out cookies because they are so versatile…you can customize your cookies for holidays, parties and gifts.  

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During the many hours I spend on Pinterest (don’t tell Mr. Wilson), I found this tutorial from The Sweet Adventures of Sugar Belle.  She has great tips for beginner cookie decorator wannabes like me.  I used her recipe for sugar cookies, which was fabulous and really easy to follow.  Just make sure you add enough flour so that the dough is not too sticky and holds its form when you transfer it to the baking sheet.  Baking is really trial and error, if the dough is too sticky…add some flour or put it in the fridge for 5 minutes to let it firm up.

apple-sugar-cookie-recipe

This cookie recipe is great because if you follow the directions to a tee, the cookies turn out a really nice tan/pale yellow color that gives them a professional look.  No browning around the edges or uneven baking like other recipes I have tried.

I also followed her recipe and tips for royal icing which was simple and easy to make.  I found this video from Cookies, Cupcakes and Cardio very helpful because it provides a tutorial on how to prepare royal icing to the right consistency to “flood” the cookie.

I purchased all the supplies including; the piping tips, piping bags, coloring gels, flavorings and meringue powder at Michaels and scored this apple cookie cutter at Joanne Fabrics for $.50 with a coupon.

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Overall, they are far from perfect but good enough for me and my kids!  

Easy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

6th August 2015

 

Easy-chocolate-chip-coconut-granola bars

Ohhh Lala…look at all that chocolaely goodness! These chocolate chip granola bars are easy to make and super delicious. They have been a staple at my house for years and I have made them a billion different ways and they always turn out great. My kids gobble them up and ask for more before they have finished swallowing.

The nice thing about this recipe is you don’t need any fancy mixer or kitchen gadgets…so it’s great for a beginner baker or an easy recipe to get the kids involved in the kitchen. Kids love to help out in the kitchen because it makes them feel special and builds their confidence.  It’s also great for teaching math and how to follow multiple-step directions (there’s the Speech Pathologist coming out)!

Here is what you need:

Ingredients-chocolate-chip-granola -bars

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then get out a large mixing bowl and add the dry ingredients including the: old fashioned oats, flour, ground cinnamon, salt, coconut, and dark brown sugar. 

Dry ingredients

Then add the chocolate chips and try not to sample half of them. That’s my daughter Sophie who loves to help me make granola bars!

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Next you want to mix all the dry ingredients with a wisk or a fork. Squeeze any large chunks of brown sugar so that it gets incorporated evenly.

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Once combined, add all the wet ingredients.  Starting with the maple syrup and oil…..just pour it in the bowl.Ingredients-maple-syrup

Then adding the vanilla extract…don’t forget to let the kids smell each ingredient and describe what it smells like! Baking is a sensory experience!

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Then mix it all up with a fork, making sure the mixture is evenly moist.

Mixing wet ingredients

There should be no dry spots, make sure to check the bottom of the bowl.

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Pour the mixture in a 9×13 inch baking pan coated with coconut oil spray or some other baking spray. I use a non-stick pan.

Poring mixture into pan

With moist hands spread out mixture evenly in the pan, making sure to get it into the corners.  I like to pat it down firmly.  If you dampen your hands, it prevents the mixture from sticking to your hands.Patting down mixture in pan

Place the pan in your preheated oven. It should bake for about 23 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. You will know when it’s done, because your house will fill up with a wonderful aroma!

Golden brown edges

Let the bars cool for 10-15 minutes and then cut into squares. I do four rows of six which yields 24 squares. I think that is the perfect portion. Let the bars cool completely before removing from pan.

Cut into squares

Then enjoy! You won’t be able to eat just one…they are sooooo delicious!

You can't eat just one granola bar

So easy a child could make them!  Check out this link party at The Shabby Nest.

Easy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
Print Recipe
These granola bars are delicious and so easy to make! No fancy mixers or kitchen gadgets needed. Just a mixing bowl, a pan and a fork and you are ready to go. These granola bars are definitely a crowd pleaser and are approved by my three children!
Servings Prep Time
24 Squares 10 Minutes
Cook Time
23 Minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 Squares 10 Minutes
Cook Time
23 Minutes
Easy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
Print Recipe
These granola bars are delicious and so easy to make! No fancy mixers or kitchen gadgets needed. Just a mixing bowl, a pan and a fork and you are ready to go. These granola bars are definitely a crowd pleaser and are approved by my three children!
Servings Prep Time
24 Squares 10 Minutes
Cook Time
23 Minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 Squares 10 Minutes
Cook Time
23 Minutes
Ingredients
Servings: Squares
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with coconut spray or any baking spray will work. In a large mixing bowl, add the first seven (dry) ingredients. Mix well with whisk or fork, making sure to break up any large chunks of brown sugar. Then add the last 3 (wet) ingredients to the bowl. Mix well until the all of the ingredients are moist and combined. Pour mixture into prepared baking pan. Using damp fingers, evenly pat down mixture making sure to spread into corners of pan. Bake for 23 minutes or until edges become a nice golden brown color. Cool for 15 minutes then slice bars in four rows of six, for nice even size squares (see above photo). Allow bars to cool completely before removing them from pan. When removing, re-slice the rows you already cut and around the edges of the pan with a sharp knife for easy release. See above pictures.
    granola-bar-recipe
  2. easy-granola-bar-recipe
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My Favorite Trader Joes Products

31st July 2015

This summer I have three children home with me all day, which makes for some interesting outings to the grocery store. Typically I let the older children talk me into getting one of those shopping carts with the car attached to the front. Inevitably a fist fight breaks out mid-store and I have to bribe them with snacks to behave so I can get my shopping done. Meanwhile my toddler is having a fit because he HATES sitting in the front of the cart and wants to be “free” to wreak havoc all over the store.  Long story short, I DREAD going to traditional grocery stores……….

  Why I LOVE Trader Joes:

1. It’s small enough you can get in and out of there before the inevitable fist fight or tantrum ensues.

2. They have snacks and drink samples to keep the mommies and kids happy. I think my youngest child could navigate to the sample stand before he could talk, that’s how much he likes it.  Unfortunately, my kids can’t manage to get the food in their mouths so it’s usually a “Clean up on aisle three!”

3. They curate the food for you. Instead of searching for cereal in a “SEA” of cereal they have a smaller section of really good choices that are hand-selected just for you. Sometimes I feel like I have store ADD….there’s just too much STUFF!!! Trader joes keeps me focused, well for the most part.

4. The staff is friendly and always seems like they  are in a good mood, which puts me in a good mood by osmosis or something along those lines. They are great with my kids and really take the time to interact with them.

5. STICKERS!!! I have a love/hate relationship with the stickers they hand out to my kids at the checkout. I like them because it keeps them happy and quiet for the ride home.  But they can also be the bane of my existence,  when I find them plastered all over my car or to my favorite piece of furniture….explitive explitive!

>>>Here’s where I give credit to my mother-in-law for introducing me to a lot of my favorite Trader Joes products. She is a wonderful chef and baker who is always opening my eyes up to new healthy products that are delicious and make my life a whole lot easier.

Without further adieu here are my favorite TJs products:

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TJs Mandarin Orange Chicken is a staple in our house. It’s like having Chinese takeout minus the takeout. The sauce is sweet and spicy and just delicious! I serve it to my kids without the sauce because it’s a little to spicy for them. Serve it with the next product and some steamed or roasted broccoli and it’s an easy meal!

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This rice is frozen but cooks up in the microwave in just 3 minutes! I serve this with the Mandarin Orange Chicken either plain or I make my own fried rice with it. It makes life a lot easier.

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I have been making this pork tenderloin for 5 years know. I even served it for Christmas dinner one year as the main dish. I love it because it always turns out juicy and delicious unlike the huge pork tenderloins that always turn out dry. First I pan sear it, rotating it until it gets a nice crust on all sides. Then I put it on parchment paper and bake it at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165.  Serve it with my next favorite product.

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Ginger mango chutney is a sweet and spicy condiment that tastes delicious with just about any protein including the peppercorn garlic pork tenderloin (featured above), grilled chicken, steak and fish.image

Carne asada beef is awesome because it is already marinated so you just throw it on the grill without all the prep!  I use it for fajitas and serve it in a tortilla with sautéed peppers and onions and grated cheddar cheese. It is spicy though, so beware!image

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My family loves Greek yogurt and TJs vanilla and mango Greek yogurt is super creamy and delicious. My mother-in-law eats the vanilla yogurt with chocolate chips as a healthier alternative to ice cream…what a good idea!image

Cinnamon schoolbook cookies are delicious and educational. I give my kids some letters and have them try to spell out their names or see how many words they can spell. They love them! I have also given this as an impromptu teacher gift.image

My family loves hummus and it’s my little secret for getting my kids to try new veggies…because who doesn’t like something dipped in hummus! This hummus is a little spicy and super yummy!image

I think the staff places Cowboy Bark on the very bottom shelf at my store so that they can save it all for themselves! If you like chocolate, particularly sweet and salty treats this dessert is for you!image

I like my ice cream like I like my men…simple but sweet. Just kidding Mr. Wilson.

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A healthy potato chip alternative…I mean if it has quinoa it has to be healthy right?image

These are my staple baking items. I use these in my granola bars that I make pretty often.

So those are some of my favorite Trader Joes products…what are some of your favorites?