Monday, March 25, 2013

Bunny Bait

I love making treats with my kids! It is even better if I can put it out as a holiday snack, making the house look festive to visitors. This Bunny Bait can be made using any seasonal M&Ms just come up with a clever name that the kids will love-or better yet, let them brainstorm a name. 

  • 1 bag microwave popcorn, popped
  • 6 oz. of candy making chocolates (I bought my spring colors in the bakery section of my grocery store)
  • 1 bag of seasonal M&Ms
  • Pretzel sticks, broken into pieces (my kids had a blast doing this while the pretzels were in a freezer bag)
  • colored sprinkles if you desire
  1. Place popcorn in large bowl with pretzel pieces and M&Ms. Mix well.
  2. Heat candy in double boiler OR use your microwave, heating and mixing in 30 second intervals until smooth.
  3. Drizzle melted candy over popcorn mixture and stir; be careful, the M&Ms will sink.
  4. Spread out on wax paper. Top with sprinkles. Let cool.
  5. Break into pieces. Serve (or bag them with as gifts/favors with colorful ribbon).
      Difficulty: Easy-my kids did everything but melt the candy :)
      Time: 20 minutes
      Source: pictures of spring treats

      Wednesday, March 20, 2013

      Stir-Crazy Cake

      I have never been a baker, though I have gotten a bit more adventurous since my husband bought me a stand mixer for Christmas.  Still, even those adventures have been more of the cookie-type (and the occasional boxed cake mix).  In fact, never have I ever made a cake from scratch...until this unbelievable recipe that I will continue to make again and again.  Honestly, I was initially somewhat skeptical about this cake that not only doesn't require a mixer, but doesn't even require a bowl!  All of the ingredients are simple enough, and they are all combined in the very pan in which you bake the cake.  This cake is so moist and delicious that I was afraid that I was going to eat the whole thing myself - so I shared with my neighbor and my mother-in-law, who both gave it rave reviews as well.  Had I known that making a cake from scratch could be this easy, I would have done it long ago!

      This recipe is one of the many delicious recipes that I made from Weeknight Dinners by Gooseberry Patch, which has quickly become one of my favorites.  For more of our reviews on this fantastic and family-friendly cookbook, please check out our posts for Italian Baked Chicken and Savory Onion Roasted Veggies, which also hail from Weeknight Dinners.

      We are sorry, but the giveaway for this post has ended.

      • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
      • 1-3/4 cups sugar, divided
      • 1/2 cup baking cocoa
      • 2 tsp baking soda
      • 1/2 tsp salt
      • 2/3 cup oil
      • 2 Tbsp vinegar
      • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
      • 2 cups cold brewed coffee or water (I used cold instant decaf rather than brewing a pot of coffee) 
      • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
      1. Preheat oven to 350.  Add flour, 1-1/2 cups of the sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt to an ungreased 13"x9" metal baking pan.  Stir with a fork to mix.
      2. Use a spoon to form 3 wells in the flour mixture.  Pour oil into one well, vinegar into one well, and vanilla into one well.  Pour cold coffee or water over all ingredients; stir quickly with fork until well mixed.  Do not beat.
      3. Combine cinnamon and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar; sprinkle evenly over batter.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, until cake tests done with a toothpick.

      Difficulty: I never knew making a cake from scratch could possibly be this easy
      Time: 10 minutes prep; 35-40 baking
      Source: Weeknight Dinners by Gooseberry Patch, copyright 2012

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      Wednesday, March 13, 2013

      Italian Baked Chicken

      You'd be surprised how much more kid-friendly everything becomes when you give it a catchy name-Meatless Monday or Tex-Mex Tuesday.  This catchy name also provides a handy meal template for each week's meal plan.  Using a meal plan can help you save money, save time, and save your sanity.  I found Gooseberry Patch's Weeknight Dinners to be the essential cookbook for a busy family trying to put varied, quick, and delicious meals on the table.  

      I spent a lot of time cooking meals from the Tex-Mex Tuesday and Wednesday is Italian Night sections of the cookbook.  Fast and amazingly appetizing, this recipe became my early favorite.  My husband immediately requested that I make it again.   We've had it three times in a month!  My girls loved the Meatball Stuffed Shells which incorporated their two favorite foods.

      Maybe I am a bit sentimental but I really enjoy reading the recipe introductions; they help me slow down.  The memory associated with this recipe is of a mom teaching her children to cook and plan; each child made a dish once a week. I filed that tip away for my kids-as soon as they can reach the stove controls.  This cookbook is filled with family friendly meals, time saving tips, and great bits of food wisdom.

      We are sorry but the giveaway for this post has ended.


      • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
      • salt and pepper to taste
      • 1/2 cup fat-free or regular Italian salad dressing
      • 1/2 cup margarine, sliced
      • 1/4 cup lemon juice
      • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
      • 2 t. garlic powder or granulated garlic

      1. Place chicken in a lightly greased 13 x 9 baking pan.  Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
      2. Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan; cook over low heat until margarine melts.
      3. Drizzle over chicken.
      4. Bake uncovered at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.

      Difficulty: Easy
      Time:  10 minute prep; 45 minutes baking time
      Source: Gooseberry Patch's Weeknight Dinners, copyright 2012

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      Sunday, March 10, 2013

      Savory Onion-Roasted Veggies

      How is it possible that I like each new Gooseberry Patch cookbook better than the last?  I am not sure, but our latest giveaway, Weeknight Dinners, is absolutely fantastic.  Actually, in the time since Kelly and I were sent the cookbook to review, I have made so many of the recipes that I wasn't sure which to include here first!  After some thought, I decided to start with these amazing roasted veggies, because this is a recipe that I have come back to multiple times already.  It makes a perfect side dish, as the potatoes and veggies are both included.  I have served this side with pulled pork sandwiches, sloppy joes, steak, and chicken and have loved it with every pairing.  I love these veggies so much that I have been known to eat them cold out of the fridge as a snack the next day!

      As for the book, this is a must have for busy families. It is divided into chapters that make meal prep simple: Meatless Mondays, Tex-Mex Tuesday, Italian Night Wednesday, Comfort Food Thursday, and Just for Fun Friday. Nearly all of the meals are quick and easy, and there is a huge variety in each chapter, including slow cooker recipes, desserts, soups, and more.  From the Meatless Monday chapter, I highly recommend the Spinach Stuffed Shells in addition to this recipe.  I also can't wait to share with you a recipe from the Just for Fun Friday chapter called "Stir Crazy Cake" - a cake from scratch that is mixed right in the pan!

      We are sorry but the giveaway for this post has ended.


      • 1.35-oz package onion soup mix
      • 1 lb. potatoes, quartered or cubed
      • 16-oz package baby carrots
      • 1 red pepper, cut into chunks
      • 1/3 cup olive oil
      • juice of 1/2 lemon (I used 1-1/2 Tbsp)
      • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
      • garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste
      1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet with non-stick vegetable spray.
      2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; toss to coat vegetables well.  Spread mixture evenly on baking sheet.
      3. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender and other vegetables are golden and caramelized.

      Difficulty: easy
      Time: 5-10 minutes prep, 40 minutes to bake
      Source: Gooseberry Patch's Weeknight Dinners, Copyright 2012

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      Monday, March 4, 2013

      Fruited Irish Oatmeal (Slow Cooker)

      Last year, St. Patrick's Day was on a Saturday, which made for the perfect opportunity to make some Irish-inspired food (and some green milkshakes) for my family.  I came across this recipe using steel-cut oats in the slow cooker - it was perfect!  I hit up the bulk foods section at our local grocery store (huge cost savings, especially on the mango and syrup) and threw it together the night before.  We awoke to a wonderful, hot meal that the kids loved, and you can't go wrong with the health benefits of steel-cut oats, which are rich in B-vitamins, calcium, protein, and fiber.  Plus, we had plenty of leftovers to heat up for breakfast during the week!

      • 2 cups steel cut oats
      • 1/4 cup golden raisins
      • 1/4 cup dried mango 
      • 1/4 cup cranberries
      • 1/4 cup maple syrup
      • 1 cup apple juice
      • 1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
      • 1/2 tsp salt
      • 5 cups water
      Optional toppings:
      • milk
      • chopped nuts
      • maple syrup or brown sugar
      1. In a 3-1/2 or 4-quart slow cooker, combine oats, cranberries, raisins, apricots or mango, cinnamon, and salt.  Add maple syrup, water, and apple juice.
      2. Cover slow cooker and cook on low setting for 6 hours or on high for 3 hours.  (I have actually cooked for longer overnight and it was totally fine.)
      3. Serve oatmeal with brown sugar or maple syrup, chopped nuts, and milk, if desired. Serves 8-10.
      Note: This oatmeal is great reheated or it can be frozen.  (It does make quite a bit.)

      Difficulty: very easy
      Time: 5 minutes prep, 6 hours in slow cooker