G1

The Greatest Granola

While we are on a breakfast theme here, I wanted to share one more of our favorite breakfast recipes EVER. It came from my friend Melissa @ 320 Sycamore, and was given to her by her sister Kelsey.

This one is so good that my kids will eat it for breakfast, for snacks, for whenever. And my husband will actually EAT breakfast when we have this. That is saying something.

It is very easy, and – did I mention? – is super delicious.

Ingredients:

6 c. oats

1 c. coconut

1 c. craisins (or raisins or other dried fruit)

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. almonds (or other nuts on hand)

1/2 c. flax seed or wheat germ (we use milled flax seed)

1-2 T. cinnamon (to taste – we use the full 2 T.)

1/2 tsp. salt

2 T. vanilla

1/2 c. canola oil

3/4 c. honey

Directions: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Put all of your ingredients in a large bowl and stir them together. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. The longer you bake it, the crispier it will be, so you can bake to your crunchiness/chewiness preferences.

That is it. When I shared the recipe with my mom, she mentioned that she prefers to mix the dry ingredients together first to keep things from clumping, and then pour the wet ones in. I arranged the recipe so if you would prefer to do it that way also, you can just go down the list until you hit the salt, mix it together, and then add the rest.

Also, I like to pour my canola oil in first, and then use the 1/2 cup measuring cup for the honey and just do 1 1/2 of those (to get the 3/4 cup needed). Since the measuring cup is already coated in oil, the honey all slides right out – no need to scrape.

When we made the granola this time, we used blueberry craisins. One of my favorites was when we used orange crasins – that had a nice twist to it.

See? Happy boy. Thanks Melissa – and Kelsey! :)

PC 5

Breakfast for Dinner

Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner? Seriously – I could happily eat breakfast for every meal.

Weekend dinner nights seem to be the ones that are prone to turning into breakfast for dinner here, but really, breakfast for dinner is good any night of the week.

Here are some of our favorite recipes for “breakfast foods” – be them for dinner, or for a real breakfast:

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Grandma Rock’s Pancakes (family recipe) – this batter works great for waffles as well

Ingredients:

2 c. flour

1/2 tsp. salt

2 T. sugar

1 T. baking powder

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1/3 c. oil

2 c. milk

Directions: Preheat griddle to 325 degrees. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour onto heated skillet, and flip over once there are bubbles that form, pop, and then stay “empty” (see below). Cook on other side until browned to your liking. Enjoy!

*The original recipe has you separate the eggs, put the yolks in the batter, and beat the egg whites. Then you fold the egg whites into the batter. We have found that they still get nice and fluffy if you just beat everything together for awhile, and then it is not an extra step. They still are super tasty either way.

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Homemade Pancake Syrup (from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

3/4 c. packed brown sugar

1/4 c. sugar

3/4 c. water

1/2 c. light corn syrup

1/2 tsp. maple flavoring

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions: In a saucepan, combine the sugars, water and corn syrup and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 7 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in maple flavoring and vanilla. Cool for 15 minutes. We store the remaining syrup in a container in the refrigerator.

This recipe is legit – it has the perfect consistency (in our opinion – it’s not thick like the store kind, but has a little more substance than some homemade ones we have tried), and it tastes fantastic.

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Breakfast Potatoes (slightly modified from Our Best Bites)

Ingredients:

4 medium baking potatoes (or more – we sometimes fudge on that one)

1 small onion, minced

1/4 c. salted butter

Pepper and salt, to taste (Kosher salt is great)

Tabasco sauce

Directions: Bring a medium or large pot of water to a boil. While you are doing this, cut your potatoes into bite-sized cubes. Once the water is boiling, add your potatoes and cook for 5 minutes, or until potatoes are slightly softened, but not totally cooked. Drain and set aside.

Heat a large skillet (we use an electric one) over medium heat. Add the butter. After butter is melted, add your onion and cook for 1 minute. Add your potatoes in a single layer and cook for 3-4 minutes. DO NOT STIR THEM AROUND. Please. :) Sprinkle some salt, pepper, and a couple of dashes of Tabasco. Flip your potatoes, trying to get as many to flip at once as you can. This is just to minimize your potato touching.

Cook for another 3-4 minutes and give them a test to see if they are done and how your seasonings are. You can add more salt, pepper or Tabasco at this point, if desired. If they are still not done, flip them as before, and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Repeat cycle until they are done.

*These are also legit – they are so tasty! The original recipe calls for up to 20 shakes of Tabasco – 4 shakes about does me in and gives me heartburn for the rest of the night. It is all up to your preference. We usually moderate to around 3 – enough to have a “kick”, but not so much that you feel pain rather than have the sensation of taste.

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There you go – add some scrambled eggs and you have breakfast for dinner. Enjoy!!

TAPE 3

Scotch Tape Jar Leveler

I honestly have no idea what to call this, except to describe it. Sorry. :) This is a pretty simple tip, but it has made me very happy. I usually like to credit the people that I get ideas from, but I cannot find this one. Originally, they used a note card and tape on cocoa powder. If/when I find the source, I will link it here. I tweaked it a bit, but either way could work great.

I do not do well with things that are inefficient. For example, a ROUND cornstarch container with NO LEVELING DEVICE. Who designed that? Even Arm & Hammer managed to design a little cardboard leveler into the part that you pop open with their baking soda. With my cocoa containers, I can keep things close-ish to level because there are flat parts to the container, but not so with my ROUND corn starch container.

Usually my husband is the cornstarch user – and he only uses it when he makes gravies (he makes THE BEST), and the corn starch doesn’t seem to bother him. As I was using the corn starch for the watercolors, and also for a meatballs recipe that I will post later, it drove me crazy not to have something to level my tablespoons off with. So I remembered the tip I had seen and made my own little leveler out of scotch tape.

Take two pieces of Scotch tape – one slightly longer than the width of the lid (or opening) of the container you are adding your “leveler” to, and one that is an extra 3″ or so LONGER than the first piece. Lay them sticky side UP on your counter or table.

Take the center of your shorter piece and line it up with the center of your longer piece. Then FLIP the smaller piece over on your larger piece. This will give you a non-sticky center (the part you will put over your opening), and extra length on the sides you can then use to attach your new “leveler” to your container.

Voila! A cheap precision measurement instrument!

Happy LEVEL baking….or watercolor making. :)

WC 8

Make Your Own Watercolors

I am fairly cheap. I think that can be a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that, for the most part, we live by a budget and don’t do anything crazy. The curse is that I have a hard time buying things that I know are going to get broken quickly or discarded or used unwisely. Like watercolors. Even though they are not terribly expensive, I still find myself cringing when they just become little colorful ponds for the kids to play in instead of being used for art tools.

Then I saw this idea from Jill @ Meet the Dubiens, which she found from Martha Stewart – how to make your own watercolors. Joy! I had everything on hand, and thought I should give it a go.

Ingredients

Baking Soda

Corn Starch

Vinegar

Corn Syrup

Food Coloring (Drops or Gel)

Containers

That is IT my friends. I found packs of 10 small containers at the dollar store when I was getting stuff for the light sabers – and they (obviously) cost $1.00 for the package. If you are looking for them, I found them by the mugs/ceramic plates/etc., NOT by the other reusable storage containers. You may try checking both places in your store – I’m not sure whether organization is consistent from store to store.

For one container size, you will need:

2 T. baking soda

1 T. vinegar

1 T. corn starch

1/4 tsp. corn syrup

My containers were 2.3 fl. oz. and were filled just under halfway with this recipe size, just to give you a gauge. I ended up making 8x the recipe, which gave me these measurements:

1 c. baking soda

1/2 c. vinegar

1/2 c. corn starch

2 tsp. corn syrup

Step 1: Mix the baking soda and vinegar in a LARGE bowl. Yes, as soon as my kids saw these ingredients together they knew it meant one thing – VOLCANO! So, plan your bowl size accordingly, even if doing a “single container” batch.

Step 2: Once your fizzing has stopped, add in your corn starch and corn syrup and mix well. This will give you some seriously cool stuff – Jill termed it as “Gak” or “Ooblek” consistency. All I know is that when I stirred it, it went from solid to liquid, and if I had some drip overboard that I could pick it up and it would be solid until I dropped it back into the container with its friends. Super cool.

Step 3: Separate into individual containers and add your food coloring. Jill used gel coloring; Martha used normal drops; I tried both. I think the normal drops ended up producing a better finished product as far as usability goes, but you have more color control with the gel. You may want to try both if you have them on hand and see what works best for you. Use a fair amount of color to get brighter results. The kids were great at stirring here.

Step 4: DRY OVERNIGHT. There will be a liquid left on the top when you go check on them in the morning. I just poked at the “solid” below to make sure it was firm, and then dumped the top liquid off. I figure if the bottom is solid, the liquid on the top will not do much to help things out.

I was excited to see if these would actually work – and they DID! I painted a rainbow like Jill’s daughter so I could see the colors in action:

One tip – make sure you add enough water when you are painting. We occasionally would end up with small paint pieces on the brush that would not brush color onto the paper well (see the yellow and green in the rainbow) – if you dip the brush slightly in water, it works like a charm. Just make sure you add water.

Here is a masterpiece from my 5-year old:

Pretty awesome! His colors were the ones that I used food coloring with – again, they tended to work a bit better, so he preferred them.

Since my boys did well with them and had fun, I decided to finally let my 2-year old use watercolors. She was very excited. And went straight for the pink.

She had a blast, and I didn’t feel like I had to stand over her and make sure she was using the paint “appropriately” – she could just have fun! I know how to make more (good thing too, huh). :)

And, for those of you who are curious, I washed out my son’s old watercolor container and decided to see how many wells a single container recipe would fill. Turns out, it filled an even 24 wells (the whole tray filled three times).  So you are essentially getting three 8-pack watercolor containers worth of paint for $.10 (yes, I priced it out). And you can make them from supplies at home. You could probably even do a little bit of food coloring in each well if you wanted to deal with a very small quantity and keep the “bought watercolor” look. Thanks Jill & Martha! :)

P 6

Pizza on Fridays (& a GREAT crust)

We started a tradition several months ago where on every Friday night, we eat pizza and do something fun as a family. The fun thing can be watching a movie, playing games, pulling out our original 16-bit Nintendo and having a Zelda-fest, camping in the backyard – whatever. The pizza thing is HUGE with our kids, and they have come to expect it.

Sometimes waiting for the pizza is hard. :)

We have a family motto that says: “We work hard and are honest.” My seven-year old modified it to: “We work hard, are honest and eat pizza on Fridays.” Yep, that pretty much sums up our family ideals. :)

As part of having pizza every week, we typically will make the pizza. Occasionally we’ll have a pizza we’ve bought from somewhere, but I found a crust recipe from allrecipes.com that makes it hard to want to buy a pizza, unless the day has been too crazy to want to add something else to it. It is VERY easy, and the dough is really elastic and smooth and delicious. It’s everything you could hope for in a crust. We even have kiddo helpers sometimes.

Ingredients

1 cup warm water (110 degrees F – this means it’s more like warm-hot water)

1 T. sugar

1 packet yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp.)

3 T. oil (original recipe says olive, but I usually just use canola or vegetable oil)

1 tsp. salt

1-2 tsp. italian seasoning (opt.)

2 1/2 c. flour

Step 1: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine warm water, sugar and yeast in large bowl. Mix.

Step 2: Add in the rest of the ingredients and mix. (See? I told you it is easy.)

Step 3: Knead. I use my handy-dandy kneading attachment to my hand mixer for this one. Once it is kneaded, it will have a FABULOUS texture.

Step 4: Rest the dough for 10 minutes. Then roll it out and place on a greased cookie sheet – or pizza pan.

Step 5: Top & bake for 15-20 minutes. Make sure if you use “wet” ingredients that you bake for closer to the 20 minutes or the crust will be cooked, but the middle will not be cooked through entirely. We have yet to burn the crust, but we have undercooked the middle when we’ve been impatient.

Yum. Yum. Yum. Yum. And, yes, I use cheddar cheese. It just tastes better (in my opinion).

Pizza! Hooray!

This is easy to do, and fun. What are some of your family traditions? Any fun types of pizza we should try?

Enjoy! :)

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