Monday, August 30, 2010

Baking Monday - Girl Scouts in the Kitchen

Today I tackled some Girl Scout-inspired cookies, Tagalongs and Thin Mints (jokingly called Left-Behinds and Slim Mints).

Naked cookies.

Peanut buttered and ready for dipping.

These were very time-consuming, especially the Left-Behinds. (BTW, the filling recipe makes about double of what is actually needed to fill the cookies ... guess I'll be making pb filled pretzels later this week ... aw, shucks!)

It's kind of misleading to compare them to GS cookies, because the cookies are much softer and don't have that distinctive crunch of a store-bought cookie. (Maybe I should make them thinner next time?) However, flavor-wise, they are still really yummy and worth a try. The mint cookies are delicious all on their own. LOTS of butter make these more of a minty-chocolate shortbread. The pb cookies are very rich ... serve with milk!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

This Week in Sewing

I dusted off my sewing machine this week to finish up some napkins and a few other small projects.

Clark got this tiny bowling set for Christmas and I've been wanting to make a something to keep it in. This was a quick little bag that went together in about 15 minutes. Love the pattern!

And remember this fabric? I finally got around to making a summer bag ... just in time for the end of summer. But now I'll have it early for next year. This took just over an hour to finish. How fun is it to sew a bag in the morning and use it in the afternoon? (Answer: super fun.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

What's for Dinner Tonight

Taking a break from the usual sweets today to talk about the savory. Tacos have been in our regular meal rotation forever. It was few years ago when I realized that homemade taco seasoning is so easy to make, now I can't believe all the years I bought packaged seasoning mixes! I'm guessing that there are many variations to be found, but this is the recipe we like. There are a lot of ingredients, so it's kind of a pain to combine each time, but I multiplied the recipe by four, so now I make a big batch will last a few meals.

1/2 c flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp cumin
8 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

To cook: add 3 tbsp mix and 1/4 c water to ground beef or turkey. Cook until browned. I also sometimes throw some salsa right into the mix too, after it's cooked.

That's it! So easy!

And to go along with tacos - also from the "I can't believe I used to buy this in a box" category - Spanish Rice. This is really, really good ... restaurant good! Browning the rice before cooking makes all the difference.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped onion
1 1/2 c uncooked white rice
2 c chicken broth
1 c salsa or picante sauce (Use a little less if I want the kids to eat it).

• Heat oil in a large skillet, stir in onion and cook until tender (about 5 min).
• Mix rice into skillet, stirring often, until rice begins to brown.
• Add broth and salsa. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes until liquid has been absorbed.

I'd also like to try making homemade tortillas ... sounds like a good thing to try this winter. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ooey Gooey Goo

In honor of our trip to the science museum this week, we did some science experiments the other day. Theo has been wanting to make a baking soda volcano, and we were unfortunately disappointed. It fizzed up a bit like soda, but not the big overflow he was hoping for. Bummer!

But ooey goo was a big hit.

We mixed cornstarch and water and it made this weird half solid-half liquid concoction.

Clark did not like it. He would nervously stick one finger in the goo, then run off to wash his hands. (Then repeat over and over.)

But Dora and Theo were surprisingly mesmerized.

They played with the goo for 45 minutes straight, and then for another half an hour before bedtime.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ice Cream Safari Road Trip!

We travelled to Ithaca for a visit to Sciencenter and made a stop at Purity on the way home.

Dora was actually a little stressed out here, because she was dealing with a drippy cone situation. I wish I had gotten a better pic of the cone, they were perfect scoop shapes ... they looked like the little cones in the passport!

Theo declared this the best vanilla of all the vanillas he has had this summer.

Clark is not a big ice cream fan, so the last few Wednesdays, he's been mixing it up by choosing a slushie insteead. I gave him the choice of a muffin or cookie today, but he went for his old standby of chocolate.

Dora the Flavor Adventurer chose Boomberry ... raspberry ice cream with blueberries and strawberries.

Theo had to draw a new, even more excited cone to show how much he loved the ice cream today.

Dora liked hers, too. I went with Sleepers Awake ... coffee ice cream with chocolate chunks. And I kind of don't want to eat anything else today as to disturb the flavor memory. (It was REALLY good!)

Two weeks from today, they'll be back at school!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Around the House

Jeff bought this book for Theo and for a while, the kids' favorite pastime was making tracings of the monsters and leaving them around the house for me to find.

This little guy was tucked under the rug in the foyer.

Dora is all decked out for the playground. Because feather boas are necessary on 80 degree days.

I bought one box of Bendaroos once, and I believe they've multiplied like Gremlins. Dora tackled one of the detailed designs.

Theo showing me that he pressed the #1 button 2001 times with his thumb.  This is the calculator that my parents bought for me in eighth grade. I can't believe how well it still works. The kids use it all the time for playing Bakugan, Monopoly or adding numbers just for fun.  It's the only calculator I've ever owned ... well, since this one, which I also used to add numbers just for fun. The geek gene runs strong in this family!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Baking Monday - Fudge Drops

It's back!!! Officially, the pool season started last week. We had just arrived home from vacation, and I did have an easy cookie planned, but then we were invited to go swimming and I didn't have time to do both. Swimming won out over baking ... apologies to BdH.

First up ... Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies.

My BIL's sister brought these to a picnic once, and I could not stop eating them and asked her for the recipe. I switched to natural peanut butter years ago, but still love, love anything made with peanut butter chips! These are one of my favorites, delicious both raw and baked. I made these as a treat for our babysitter this weekend.

I can't find the recipe online anywhere, so here you go. This recipe makes a lot of cookies ... about five dozen ... so, depending on who I'm baking for, I'll sometimes throw half of the dough in the freezer.

Chocolate PB Cookies

2 1/4 c flour
1/3 c cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 c white sugar
3/4 c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
10 oz package Reese's PB chips (I am brand loyal to Reese's ... the Nestle ones are not nearly as good.)

• Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.
• In a mixing bowl, beat butter, sugars and vanilla until creamy.
• Add eggs, mix well.
• Gradually add flour mixture, mix well.
• Add chips and combine.
• Chill dough at least one hour, scoop rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheets, bake 8-10 minutes.

Today, I made Saucepan Fudge Drops. I doubled this recipe, because a small cup of yogurt = 2/3 cup, and I didn't want to have any left over. A double recipe makes about 60 cookies.

Going in to the oven ... my mini ice cream scoop made good size cookies.

These are a nice crunchy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside chocolate cookie.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What We're Reading This Summer ...

We've always been a fan of the Elephant and Piggie books (There is a Bird on Your Head and I am Invited to a Party are my personal favorites), but this one has Clark particularly tickled this week:

I read it twice before bedtime last night, and when lights were out, he curled up in bed still giggling ("Robot dance! Hee hee hee ...") He climbed up in to my bed this morning with the book and read it to me, barely getting the words out because he was laughing so hard.

Dora's summer challenge was to read some new titles, something she resists like a plate of ketchup-covered tacos (No, she won't eat ketchup. Or tacos.) and she has really excelled, even picking out books all on her own without my suggestions or nagging.

She has fallen hard for the 39 Clues, zipping through books 1-6 in a week, and anxiously awaiting book #7. We put it on hold at the library and it's in today (OMG), so I know where we are headed after lunch. I don't know a whole lot about these books yet, there's probably some reason that they're evil, because there's a strong commercial and online tie-in. But she's loving the story.

Theo is coming off his Geronimo Stilton bender and picked up something much more entertaining for me:

Dora read the first two books to him, he and I read Fudge-a-Mania together, and he listened to Double Fudge on cd. When he's asking me to read to him during the day, I know the book is a big hit.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I've been struggling a bit with regulating video game time this summer. Our tv token system, which worked fabulously for two years, has been outgrown by the older kids. Since then, it's been them asking, me refusing or allowing with conditions, and on the worst days, endless nagging. (Exactly the routine I was trying to break by implementing the tv token system in the first place.)

I haven't wanted to set a fixed daily time limit ... because then tv time becomes an entitlement instead of a treat, and I never want to face a moment at bedtime of hearing, "Hey! I didn't get to have my Xbox time today!" (Because you KNOW it will happen. This is the same reason we don't have snacks before bedtime.)

This morning, Theo wandered in my room at 8:30, already starting his daily whining routine and gaming requests. My knee-jerk reaction was to say "Are you kidding me? The sun is barely up!", but instead, I paused for a moment and answered thoughtfully instead.

"You want to play on the computer, and I want you to have free play. How can we both get what we want?"

"Well, I could have free play for an hour, then play computer for an hour."

"How about an hour of free play, then half an hour of computer?"

"No way! That's not fair!"

"But free play time and computer time are not exactly equal. That's like saying, if I eat five peas, I should be able to have five pieces of candy."

And this is the part that took me by surprise ...

He started laughing. And laughing.

"Five peas for five pieces of candy? That's crazy."

And then ...

"Okay. One hour of play time and I can play computer at 9:39."

Added bonus: the countdown shout-outs ("Only 48 more minutes! Only 23 more minutes!") See? We got some math in today, too.

All before 9 am.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Hotcakes has been quiet, but house of Hotcakes has not. We've been busy with packing, traveling, weddings, unpacking, more packing ... with loads of laundry in between. The big kids have been at a great camp this week, and I've been prepping like crazy for our big family vacation coming up on Sunday. So ... signing out, be back in about two weeks.

Image courtesy of Zakka Life.