Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fun Food for Christmas

I've blogged before about the joy that fun food can bring to any occasion.  Holidays are a perfect opportunity to get creative!  Here are a few easy Christmas favorites...

Wilma's Holiday Tree 
(as in Wilma from the Flintstones, whose family is shown on the Fruity Pebbles box...)
(from a magazine in 2010, not sure which one...)

  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine (not spread)
  • 1 package (10.5 oz) mini marshmallows (6 cups)
  • 1 package (11 oz) Fruity Pebbles (or you could use Cocoa Pebbles, or Rice Krispies)
  • 1 container (16 oz) ready-to-spread vanilla frosting

  • Spray 13x9 inch pan with cooking spray
  • Melt butter over low heat in large saucepan
  • Add marshmallows, stirring until completely melted
  • Add cereal; mix to coat well
  • Press mixture firmly and evenly into prepared pan
  • Cool 1 hour in cool dry place
  • Using cookie cutters, carefully cut 2 of each size for a total of 10 stars
  • Spread 1/2 of frosting on tray to resemble snow (optional)
  • Use remaining frosting to attach stars, stacking largest to smallest and rotating points of stars to make a tree
  • Decorate as desired

Rice Krispie Treat Ornaments

You can view the recipe here on the Rice Krispies website where they have lots of other fun food ideas too!  Mine are obviously a little bit different as I used food coloring to make them green, sprinkles to decorate and gummy lifesavers to hold the strings.

Mini Cinnamon Christmas Tree Rolls

This recipe makes a bunch of miniature cinnamon rolls that you set up in the shape of a Christmas Tree.  There are tons of pictures and ideas on Pinterest and around the internet for this but the recipe I have used in the past comes from one of my Pampered Chef cookbooks (All The Best).  I'll update the picture when I make this next week!

  • 1/2 cup red maraschino cherries, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup green maraschino cherries, drained and chopped
  • 2 packages (8 oz each) refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • additional red and green maraschino cherries, halved for decorating tree (optional)
  • for glaze:
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons milk

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Chop maraschino cherries; set aside
  • Unroll one package of crescent roll dough on lightly floured surface; do not separate
  • Roll dough to seal perforations
  • Repeat with second package of rolls
  • Do not join dough together
  • Spread butter evenly over dough
  • Combine granulated sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over dough
  • Sprinkle chopped cherries on top
  • Starting at short end, roll up dough to make two 9-inch long rolls
  • Pinch edges to seal
  • Cut each roll crosswise into 3/4 inch slices to make 12 slices each, 24 total rolls
  • Place slices, cut side down, on round baking stone or a cookie sheet to form a tree
  • Beginning 2 inches from edge place one slice for top
  • Arrange 2 slices below with sides touching
  • Continue arranging a row of 3 slices, then a row of 4, a row of 5, and a row of 6
  • Use the remaining slices for the trunk, centering 2 slices under the last row, and last slice below
  • Bake 20-25 minutes or until rolls are golden brown
  • Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes
  • For glaze, mix powdered sugar and milk until smooth
  • Drizzle over warm rolls and garnish with additional cherries, if desired
  • Serve warm

Toilet Paper Roll Christmas Trees

I found this idea here and it was exactly what I was looking for... easy, holiday themed, had everything I needed in the house, and no mess!

What you need:
  • toilet paper roll
  • construction paper
  • scissors
  • glue stick

What to do:
  • roll green construction paper into a cone shape, cut as needed, and glue edge together
  • attach any kind of decorations you want - stickers would work, glitter, we have a tub full of pre-cut paper scraps so we used those
  • cut and attach star
  • sit cone on top of tree-trunk toilet paper roll

This is an easy project and makes a sweet little decoration.  These would be super cute for place settings on your Christmas dinner table!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Macaroni & Cheesy Chicken Baked Casserole

YUM!  I have made this recipe twice and realized today that I never blogged it.  It is so great!  It's not difficult to make (a little bit of effort required so I will not classify it as easy-peasy).  You will love it, I guarantee.  I skipped the veggies found in the original recipe because my family would prefer them on the side but you could easily add any kind of frozen vegetables you love to this casserole.

Let me know how it turns out for you!

  • 3 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (I used mini penne)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pound uncooked chicken, finely chopped (I make bite sized pieces)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons onion salt (I found I didn't have any and used 1 teaspoon onion powder and 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt instead and it turned out fine)
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese (12 oz) (you can use whatever flavor cheese you have or prefer -  mexican quesadilla was extra yummy and gave the casserole a little extra kick)
  • 1 can (10.75 oz) condensed cream of chicken soup (or better yet, use the homemade recipe here)
  • 1 1/2 cups panko crispy bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • (frozen veggies if desired)

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees
  • Cook and drain macaroni as directed on package
  • Place macaroni in 13x9 inch glass baking dish
  • In 10 inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper over chicken 
  • Add bite size chicken to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and no longer pink in center
  • Sprinkle cooked chicken over top of cooked macaroni in dish
  • (add veggies to top of chicken if desired)
  • In same skillet where you cooked the chicken, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat, scraping any browned bits from bottom of skillet into butter with whisk
  • Stir in flour with whisk until paste forms
  • Gradually stir in milk, beating with whisk
  • Stir in onion salt, 2 cups of cheese, and soup until mixture is smooth and well combined
  • Pour cheese mixture over chicken
  • Sprinkle remaining 1 cup cheese over top
  • In small bowl, place bread crumbs
  • Pour melted butter over crumbs
  • Add garlic salt and pepper to crumbs
  • Stir until crumbs are well coated and sprinkle over top of casserole
  • Bake 30 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and bread crumbs are browned
Check out the original recipe here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Toddler Mealtime Makeover

I would not classify our daughter as a picky eater but she finds something she likes a lot and sticks with it for a while... sometimes three meals a day even... until she gets bored and in the mood for something different.  We've gone through phases of cream cheese toast, cheese sticks, french fries, grapes, peanut butter crackers, blueberry waffles, muffins, quesadillas, pizza... you get the idea.  Whatever she likes, she LOVES.  It can be intense... we're talking three meals a day of her favorite food kind of intense.  I remember one day during the waffle phase we got up in the morning and found that we had run out of blueberry waffles and only had chocolate chip left.  It was not a happy moment and you better believe Daddy put on his jacket, picked up the keys, and headed to the store immediately, coming home with boxes and boxes of blueberry waffles.  Our little girl having a full belly of something she is in the mood for is important to us.

But there are times, in between favorites, when it's been hard to figure out exactly what she's in the mood for.  It's at these times that I've found that just a little creativity with some of our old favorites can bring that belly-filling sparkle to her eye.  Even the most mundane snacks and meals can become super exciting with a little creative makeover.

We serve grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the form of butterflies, ducks, stars, moons, snowmen, and Christmas trees.
Cut creatively or use cookie cutters...

We serve cheese sticks and strawberries in the form of flowers, moons, and rainbows.
Cut down the middle before slicing...

We serve peanut butter crackers in the form of spiders.
Add some eyes and legs...

We did a whole birthday party of bug themed food.
This deserves a blog post of it's own but there was butterfly pasta salad, ladybug strawberries, caterpillar grapes, snail sandwiches, etc... 

We serve fruit pouches in the form of smoothies in fun cups.
Squeeze into a cup and mix with a little bit of juice (you could add yogurt too)...

We use our cookie cutters every day.

And we have full bellies and big smiles all around!

If you or your little one is bored of the same old stuff, it doesn't always take an extra trip to the grocery store to liven things up... (sometimes it does... i.e. waffles).  Even taking an extra minute at mealtime to get creative can make a world of difference.  It has here!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sloppy Joes

Special thanks to my Betty Crocker Cookbook for this easy and delicious recipe for homemade, from-scratch Sloppy Joes!  We like to eat this on buns with cole slaw.

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • buns and cole slaw, if desired
  • Cook beef, onion, and celery in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown (8-10 minutes)
  • Drain grease and return beef mixture to pan
  • Stir remaining ingredients into beef mixture - ketchup, worcestershire, ground mustard, and pepper
  • Heat to boiling
  • Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender
This recipe makes about six sandwiches so you may want to double it depending on how many you are feeding.

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