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Spider Cupcakes

2009-10-29 spider cupcakes-editedIt’s been a while since I’ve posted a fun treat.  Here’s my “oh my goodness, I need to make 42 cupcakes” solution for some Halloween fun.  I did not invent these, in fact a friend described to me that she was making spider cupcakes and I did a quick search on Google and found tons of variations. 

Sadly, my digital camera decided to die a sad Error 18 death this week, so this grainy photo from my phone will have to do.  Note that these are not up to Martha Stewart’s standards as my children insist on helping (can you imagine?!) and I have long ago decided that family fun far outweighs aesthetics.  Oh, and my son was quick to point out that spiders have eight legs, but as many people mentioned in their instructions, eight legs get a big cumbersome on a cupcake.  My son said spiders also have multiple eyes, but I informed him we were sticking to just two.

What you’ll need:

  • cupcakes (we made Devil’s Food — I recommend some form of chocolate so you don’t have to do a perfect job of frosting them)
  • chocolate icing of some sort (we used a chocolate fudge icing)
  • something for legs — if you can find shoestring licorice, great, we couldn’t find that so we used pull apart cherry Twizzlers.
  • something for eyes — we used M&Ms

Make the cupcakes and allow to cool.  Recommendations online varied about doing legs before or after frosting, but we chose to do them before, poking them into the cupcakes themselves.  I recommend putting them as close to the edge as possible and poking them downward (instead of at an angle) and then trimming so that the bottom hits the same point as the bottom of the cupcake.  You can cut with kitchen scissors.

After that, smooth on icing with a knife or small icing spatula.  You can just roll it right over the tops of the legs and don’t worry about icing underneath the legs (see the beauty of having chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing?)  It does NOT have to be perfect — kids will eat these in a nanosecond.  Plop on two eyes and you are done.  I personally prefer that the Ms of the M&Ms are hidden, JavaGirl insists that they are face-up.

Some people like to add candy corn fangs to the front.

Other suggestions for legs are: pretzel rods, fat black licorce (these would be fat legs that stick straight out), and pipe cleaners (non-edible, of course).

The whole family was able to get involved – JavaDad attached legs, I frosted, and the kids added the eyes.  JavaGirl was thrilled to take them to school today and JavaBoy can’t wait to take them to his class tomorrow. Seeing the pride in their eyes makes me glad I didn’t succumb to the temptation to just buy store-bought cupcakes.

Enjoy!

Fruits of Summer

fruits2I have been enjoying both the fruits of the farm we belong to and the great loss-leaders some grocery stores have been running (4 pints of blueberries for $5 – yum!).  Every time I run across a great deal, I find myself day-dreaming that I will somehow turn into Martha Stewart or Bree Hodge and whip up several festive dishes with these fruits — some jellies, pies, and whatever else  you can do with them — but it never happens.

No, our dirty little secret is that we like our fruit just plain.  Washed and raw.  Sometimes the kids will eat it in plain non-fat organic yogurt.  (I did not develop the same tastebuds they did, so I at least have to either have French Vanilla non-fat yogurt or sweeten the plain with Splenda.)  But give them a bowl of fresh fruit and my kids are happy as larks, and I keep asking myself, isn’t this what parents are striving for?  Should I mess with their love of a healthy snack by creating pies and such?   Is it okay to be “boring” and just eat the fruit fresh and not do anything more creative than a fruit salad with it?   This year I didn’t even make my dip for strawberries (see below) because I don’t need the extra calories and I figure there’s no need to get the kids started on bad habits.

We practically have to ration out the fruit in our house — JavaGirl went so wild over the blueberries that her poop turned blue.  Every time I turned around, she was trying to get into the fridge for more blueberries.  (She’s like this about broccoli, too.)  Since they entered the house, she has asked for them every meal and today I had to prove to her that I was giving her the very last of the blueberries by showing her the empty container.  They wiped out the strawberries, too.  Thank goodness for a sale on watermelons and heaven help me tomorrow when they realize I got cherries on sale!

So far, the only big plan I have for fruits is to learn to make my own jelly this year.  I realized that the jelly I’ve used in my kids’ peanut butter and jelly sandwiches has high fructose corn syrup, an additive I’m trying to cut out of our diets and thought that maybe the most economical way to have jelly in the house that didn’t contain unwanted additives was to make my own.  (JavaGirl really LOVES PB&J sandwiches!)  I even got so far as buying pectin yesterday — only to discover today that the box I bought had expired.  (And if you have any tips for me, I’d love to hear them!)

The only other big fruit plans will be in September, when we will pick apples and make homemade sugar-free applesauce (yum!) and probably one apple pie for JavaDad as those are his favorite.

How about you — are you enjoying the fruits of summer?  Do you have a particular fruit specialty you make each year?

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Totally Not Healthy But So Yummy Dip for Strawberries (and other fruit)
introduced to me by my friend Mike S.

  • Sour Cream (I have used low-fat for this)
  • Brown Sugar

Basically you mix in the brown sugar until you achieve a beige color, taste and add more if you think it needs it.  Chill. You will not believe how incredible this tastes.  Serve in a pretty bowl, surrounded by strawberries.

When Life Gives You Basil… Make Lemonade!

purplebasil2I have a LOT of basil.

I mean a LOT. My mother brought me a sprig of purple basil from my great-grandmother’s garden a few years ago and it has turned into a hedge of basil, I kid you not. It is a wonderful bounty, and I love to share it — I gave each child in my son’s preschool class a plant to start in their own gardens and I’m always offering it to passing neighbors, strangers, the A/C repair guy…

But this year’s bounty far exceeds any previous year’s and I’m at a loss as to how to use it. I’m looking for additional recipes!

I’ve made some different pestos, and so far I like the version from Andrea’s Recipes — although I have to ask — do most people toast their pine nuts first or not?

I’ve made this creamy basil pesto three times now, with a few variations on the cheese, and we like it. (The original recipe is for shrimp, but I’ve made just the sauce, and put it over rigatoni or ziti with chicken or ham and peas.)

I’ve made this lemonade and it had a nice flavor — an added complexity to lemonade you would never expect. This is the blessing of a bumper crop — it makes you try new things!

I have not yet made this version of syrup for lemonade/gimlets, but plan to eventually. (I am not a big drinker, but I’ll try a gimlet, just to try one — we have these gorgeous martini glasses we got as wedding gifts and I don’t think we’ve ever had a reason to use them!)

And I’ve made this basil chicken with rice dish, which was very good.

I would love to hear from you about your favorite basil recipes, especially if it uses large quantities of basil!

And what is YOUR bumper crop this summer?

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Learn more about how my crop started from this DC Metro Mom’s post.

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Stalking the Veggie Van…

2008-06-04_csa-first-box_0001The  JavaKids love vegetables.

I don’t know how I ended up so lucky… whether it was following my sister’s advice to feed them green beans as their first baby food after rice cereal, some sort of divine intervention, or winning some sort of genetic lottery… but many times, given the choice between some sort of junk food or raw veggies, my kids will pick the veggies.  I have to pre-wash all vegetables before storing them in the fridge because JavaGirl will break into sealed packages of mushrooms and start munching on them when I’m not looking.  JavaBoy can clear out a crudites platter at any party.

So when I first learned about community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, it didn’t take long to convince me of the benefits.  We ended up going with a very popular local one, Great Country Farms, which delivers the produce right to your door, but also allows you to go to the farm to pick additional bonus items.

We split a share with another family, which means two crates get dropped off at one house each week.  Last year the deliveries went to their house, so we never saw the delivery vehicle.  But yesterday, I happened to be behind a green van on the highway with a sticker that said GCF and the license plate “VggieVan” (or something like that) and I suddenly realized, we had spotted an honest-to-goodness Great Country Farms delivery van.  “Hey kids, look, it’s a Great Country Farms van!  They must be making deliveries!”  It was the first week of CSA deliveries and the kids were excited to see a veggie van — I suspect that their little minds were trying to figure out a way to hijack the van and get all the veggies — without earning a time-out from Mommy.

So perhaps I should not have been too surprised when I woke up this morning to a little boy jumping excitedly next to my bed at an ungodly hour…

“Mommy!  Mommy!”

“What time is it?”

“Mommy! Mommy!”

<JavaDad, standing there, looking slightly guilty, with a Diet Coke for me in his hands, knowing that this is way too early an hour to wake me up.>

“Sorry honey, I tried to hide it.”

“Mommy!  Guess what!  The veggie van came!  Our farm vegetables are here!”

Oh my!  You would have thought Santa Claus had come the way he was carrying on.  About kale, asparagus, spring onions, and strawberries.

And so begins our second CSA summer — we will pick strawberries, blueberries, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, and beans.  We’ll dig up peanuts (THAT was an adventure last year!)  We’ll ride the hay ride.  We’ll talk about all the varieties of fruits and vegetables.

And we’ll stalk the veggie van — hoping to get a glimpse of it like some kids listen for the ice cream truck.  Ah, summer.

I’m always looking for recipes for the fruits and veggies that come from the CSA and I know lots of people in the area belong to the same one — please share your favorite recipes here!  If we get enough of them, I’ll start a separate page for them.  This week I have kale, asparagus and spring onions… and not from the CSA but from my own garden I have lots and lots of basil (purple basil) to use up!

Easter Treats: Resurrection Rolls and Cookies

Not only are these treats yummy, but they are a great hands-on way way to drive home the story of Easter. Each treat ends up hollow, representing the discovery of the empty tomb — younger children will be amazed by the transformation. I do not know the original sources of the recipes, not even where I received them as I just had them as files on my computer.  UPDATED May 30, 2014: An alert reader informed me she’s learned that this recipe was first published by Wanda Long in Home Life magazine. After some research, I found this link from a blogger who says she is Ms. Long’s daughter. Although recipes are technically not able to be copyrighted, I always try to give credit where it is due, and wanted to provide the most complete info I know how to. THANK YOU to my reader for alerting me to this info!

Resurrection rolls - ready to go in the oven.

Resurrection rolls – ready to go in the oven.

Resurrection Rolls
Each item represents how Jesus’ body was prepared for burial.

·     Large marshmallows

·     Melted butter

·     Sugar/cinnamon mixture

·     Can of crescent rolls

  1. Open can of crescent rolls and separate into triangles. The rolls represent the linen wrapping used in covering the dead.
  2. Dip and roll one marshmallow (representing Jesus’ body) into melted butter. The butter represents the oils used in anointing the dead body.
  3. Roll the marshmallow in the sugar/cinnamon mixture. The mixture represents the spices used in burials.
  4. Place the marshmallow in the center of the crescent triangle. Fold and pinch the edges tight. Put each crescent-wrapped marshmallow on a slightly greased cookie sheet.
  5. Bake the rolls as directed on the package. The oven represents the tomb.

When cooked, the marshmallow melts leaving only the puffed crescent roll.   This demonstrates how Jesus rose from the dead. All that remained in the tomb were the linen wrappings.

My family thinks these are the most amazingly tasty treats!  Absolutely sugary and something you can only eat in moderation, but incredible!

Fresh from the oven -- you can see one of the hollow tombs.

Fresh from the oven — you can see one of the hollow tombs.

Resurrection Cookies

Resurrection cookies, ready to go in the oven.

Resurrection cookies, ready to go in the oven.

These are basically meringue cookies, which the original set of instructions did not explain so I did not know until I saw the final result!  I recommend pre-reading the passages in case you decide you need to edit some for the age of your audience and you may decide to read from a children’s bible instead.  You may also want to mark the pages of a bible ahead of time and nominate someone to be the bible reader or maybe take turns reading from the bible.  This is a great activity for Saturday night before Easter.

You need:

  • 1 cup whole pecans
  • Mixing bowl
  • 3 egg whites
  • Wooden spoon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Bible
  • 1 tsp. vinegar
  • Zipper baggy
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • Wax paper
  • Cookie sheet
  • Tape

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place pecans in the baggy and let the children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, He was beaten by the Roman soldiers.
Read John 19:1-3

Let child smell the vinegar.
Put 1 tsp. into mixing bowl.
Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross, He was given vinegar to drink.
Read John 19:28-30

Add egg whites to the vinegar.
Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life for our life.
Read John 10:10-11

Sprinkle a little salt into each child’s hand let them taste it then brush the rest into the bowl.
Explain that represents the salty tears shed by Jesus followers, and the bitterness of our own sin…
Read Luke 23:27

So far the ingredients are not very appetizing.
Add 1 cup sugar.
Explain that the sweetest part of this story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him.
Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16

Beat with mixer on high speed for 11-15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed.
Explain that the color white represents the purity in God’s eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus.
Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3

Fold in broken nuts.
Drop by tsp.onto waxed paper-covered cookie sheet.
Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus body was laid.

Read Matt. 27:65-66

Put cookies sheet in the oven.
Close door and turn oven OFF.
Give each child a piece of tape and seal the door.
Explain that Jesus tomb was sealed.
Read Matt. 27:65-66

Go to bed!

Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight.
Jesus followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed.
Read John 16:20 and 22

On Resurrection Morning open the oven and give everyone a cookie!
Notice the cracked surface and take a bite.
The cookies are hollow!
On the first Resurrection Day Jesus followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty.
Read Matt. 28:1-9

He Has Risen!  Hallelujah!

(Unfortunately I do not have an “after” photo of the cookies — I guess we ate them too quickly!)

Enjoy!