Tuesday, December 31, 2013

That's a Wrap!

Sorry I've been MIA.
The week of Christmas was a whirlwind of celebration, more loads of laundry than I can count, and a flight with the three kiddos to the mid-west to visit family and friends.
G-d grant me the strength to make it back on the flight, alone, with three kids.

2013 has been a great year.
One thing I hope to embrace, and truly believe, is that things work out.
They always do.  

Things have a way of working out! #Quote

Here's to another wonderful year.
My Life Planner is purchased and dates have already been put in.
I'll be back next week to share my New Year Resolutions.
You can check out last year's HERE.
And of course, thanks for following and sharing in my journey.

Let's do it 2014...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Matters of the heart

One of my friends recently linked up and the prompt was to speak what's on your mind.  
So I'm going to do that tonight.
It's finally quiet, all of my holiday gifts are wrapped.
Those beauties...

That's what this season is about-thinking of others.  
Kindness
 Who can resist the holiday spirit?
I told my co-worker recently that just walking into The Container Store made me want to wrap presents!  
It's so cheerful, so happy. 
But I had an experience recently that made me realize that sometimes instead of embracing one another, we often times work against each other.  

It was Thanksgiving, and I had forgotten one ingredient I needed for one of my dishes.  
While I hurried to gather my brussel sprouts, I came across Hankkah gelt-so I grabbed enough for one bag for each child for every night. 
I also grabbed a few items I would need during the upcoming week. 
In a rush, I quickly jumped in line at the express lane.  
I knew I had more than 10 items-but every other line was full with overflowing carts! 
No one was coming behind me, surely I would be in and out soon.  
But that's not what happened.  
I began unloading my hand basket, and a lady came behind me in line.  
I thought this was express...she muttered under her breath.  
I tried my best to ignore her, but I ended up not purchasing all the Hanukkah gelt and just getting out of there as quickly as possible.  
Angry at myself for not following the rules. 
Upset that someone spoke to me like that without knowing my situation.
Even more upset that I didn't end up getting the treats I wanted to get for my children.
I had been grocery shopping until 10pm the night before.
I have a new baby at home.
I have two other kids at home. 
I carried that incident around with me the entire day.

As we approach this time of year, it's important to think of others.
I've heard from a couple of people how depressing this time of year is. 
If you're surrounded by friends and family, be thankful!
You have no idea what is going on at home.
You have no idea what is happening in someone's life.  
Find joy in your own, and be gentle to everyone else.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday Munchies...

Seriously?!? A week went by already???

I have successfully organized a small shindig (aka the holiday party) for my work.  
It is very low-key, but I want to contribute something festive and homemade.
I love holiday themed goodies, but wasn't sure what could be made in mass quantities that wouldn't keep me up all night because G-d knows my actual holiday gifts will!  

Whenever I need an easy filler that's total awesomeness, I make puppy chow.
Or muddy buddies to some of you.
I was first exposed to puppy chow when they taught us in kindergarden how to walk through the lunch line in preparation for first grade.
Good times...

I didn't realize until I started perusing Pinterest how many varieties there are.

These two holiday versions caught my eye


Peppermint Crunch Puppy Chow 
  • 5 cups Rice Chex cereal
  • 10 ounces melting white chocolate OR vanilla flavored Almond Bark
  • 1 cup crushed candy canes
  • 1 cup confectioners' (powdered) sugar

Pour 5 cups of Chex Cereal into a large bowl. Melt white chocolate/almond bark according to the package directions. Pour melted chocolate over cereal, stirring and folding until the cereal is completely covered. Fold in the crushed candy canes.
In a large zipped top bag or covered container, add the powdered sugar. Pour the chocolate covered cereal/candy canes into the large bag or container. Seal the bag or container and shake until all the cereal is coated with the powdered mixture.
Discard excess powder. Store at room temperature up to 2 weeks, if it lasts that long!



 Holiday Puppy Chow Mix


  • 9 cups of Chex (any kind)
  • 1 bag of chocolate chips (11.5 oz.)
  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup of peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • Large Paper bag
  • M&M’s (any variety)

Place the cereal in a large brown paper bag.
In a medium, microwave safe bowl, add chocolate chips, peanut butter, butter and vanilla extract.  
Heat on high for 1 minute.  Take out and stir.  Repeat in 30 second increments until the mixture is melted and smooth.
Add in the cereal.
Add in the chocolate mixture and shake!
Add the powdered sugar and shake.
Next, lay out on a sheet pan to cool.
Once cool, add the M&M’s. 

Because peppermint seems to be the seasonal flavor, I'm going to go with the first recipe.  Seems easy enough! 
Which recipe would you prefer?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday Munchies...

You all know I struggle with lunches for Moshe.
Dairy free, nut free, seed free, and it has to be able to sit in a lunchbox for a couple of hours.  
Thankfully he is old enough to tell me what he would like, 
and he has already let me know that he does not want to be put on the hot meal plan.
As expensive as it is, I was leaning towards it for next year since lunch packing is a big challenge for us. 

I came across some meatloaf pins awhile ago, and I knew they would be a perfect lunch option.
I really worry about my kids getting enough protein-and fruit and vegetables for that matter.
Meat and chicken are definitely one dish they don't get a lot of.

How cute are these?

http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/originals/52/83/25/5283254fcc9f3dfa9b724bd9621b6fca.jpg 

To make these meat cupcakes, I just used my rule of thumb when it comes to any ground meat: for every one pound, use 1/4 cup flavored bread crumbs, and 1 egg.  I don't usually add anything.  
But you can!
 I opted to forgo the mashed potatoes on top because I knew it wouldn't stack and store well. 
However, you can always add instant mashed potatoes on to have when you heat it up.  
I made a bunch and froze!
 So far, they've been a huge hit!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Our full menorah

As I began preparations for this Chanukah, I knew the first thing that needed addressed was getting each child their own menorah. 
Even though they are too young to light their own, the beauty of seeing all 4 menorahs-I share with my husband, is truly our miracle on Chanuka. 
Three additional menorahs? 
Thank G-d...

I wasn't sure what I wanted for the kids-themed or not?
Different or the same?
Personalized or not?
Forget it all together?
Definitely not!!!

I knew they needed their own.
I knew I wanted this to last them awhile, not be a theme they outgrow by next year-say, an Elmo menorah might not be the popular choice come this time next year. 
I saw this menorah last year, and found it again this year.
I knew this was it, but it's $68 price tag seemed a bit too much to be asking for it, plus  I would need three.  

The Source for Everything Jewish 

I tried making my own version last year, but in order to get all the letters, I would have needed to buy multiple sets.  
And I just wasn't feeling the non-letter blocks, honestly.  

I started doing some research on Etsy, as painted blocks are very popular these days.   

My thinking was that I could find someone who could paint the letter blocks, but also paint the non-letter blocks into something much cuter than this.
That idea never panned out...
But something else awesomer (I know it's not a word) did!!!

I came across an Etsy site called abcblockology 

Hot Pink Glitter on White  (Sample Wooden Block Color)
Blue Glitter on White  (Sample Wooden Block Color) 
These are some of the glitter blocks they have-they have every color combination you can imagine-glitter and non-glitter!
They were incredibly helpful with answering my questions, helping me color coordinate and answering my questions.  
In the end we decided the boys' letters would alternate between blue and silver blocks, and Hannah's would alternate between the pink and silver.  

Now I just needed to figure out the non-letter blocks.  

I had the best idea to get plain blocks made, and that way the boys could paint their own! 
I thought that would be a fabulous way for them to be involved in such a meaningful task.  
They loved it!!!

For some reason I'm having major problems with picmonkey, so bear with me as you experience picture overload...















I used metal discs, which are technically known as washers to act as a barrier from the wooden block and the soon to be flame.  
I then hot glued them and bolts on top. 




I love her ombre menorah...and since she's too young to have an opinion, well, I got to do what I wanted

The plain wooden blocks, and the menorah stands, came from SpudWoodWorks
I really can't say enough about Ethan-if you need some wood work done, please contact him. I promise you won't be disappointed with his work and his customer service! 
Plus, he was so incredibly kind to provide us with a kind holiday gesture by making the stands super last minute (like, less than 24 hour notice last minute) as well as pick up the overnight shipping tab. 
Ethan rocks, I'm telling you! 

The total cost for this project was 
Plain blocks: $28
Glitter blocks:$25
Wood glue:$10
Washers and Bolts: $22
Paint:$28
Paint brushes, 2 sets-$9

That's a total of $122 for four of these personalized menorahs-the extra one was for our friend's two year old son, they joined us for this project.  
To buy four of the manufactured menorahs would have cost $272, not including tax and shipping.  
So, I saved at least $150, and I think these are much cuter, and more meaningful.  


I cannot wait for next year's Chanukah....
This year's went too fast.

And on another note, a few days ago was my first blogiversary!  
I can't wait to see where I end up next year; I never imagined how much  I would enjoy blogging and how much inspiration and fulfillment it would bring me.
You can read my first post HERE.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Munchies...Chanukah edition

Today I'm going to share with you some traditional Chanukah recipes.
The first is for potato latkes.  
Basically, hash browns.

We'll start with some traditional latkes...

IMG_3022 

 potato latkes 

http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/52/1b/81/521b81c90a502184cd38f5cda9a705e2.jpg 

And how about for some more exotic options

Who doesn't love baked apples?!?
These look delicious 

  

Mediterranean style-yummy

Mediterranean Latkes 

How awesome is this? I would love to try this-two breakfast classics rolled into one

Breakfast Latkes 

And this last one would have been the ultimate Thanksgivikah option

 IMG_0602 
Via 

Here's a recipe for a simple potato latke, however, if one of these fancy ones tickles your fancy, click on the link.
And don't forget to send some my way!

2 cups peeled and shredded potatoes 
1 T grated onion 
3 eggs, beaten 
2 T all purpose flour 
1 1/2 t salt 
1/2 cup peanut oil

  1. Place the potatoes in a cheesecloth and wring, extracting as much moisture as possible.
  2. In a medium bowl stir the potatoes, onion, eggs, flour and salt together.
  3. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until hot. Place large spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the hot oil, pressing down on them to form 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick patties. Brown on one side, turn and brown on the other. Let drain on paper towels. Serve hot!

Another traditional Chanukah recipe is sufganiyot, which means donut.  
You know I love donuts! 
Here's a classic sufganiyot 


סופגניות של פילסברי 

Typically, what you see above are the classic jelly donuts.  
However, because the tradition is to eat oily foods-because the miracle of Chanukah is that the oil lasted for eight nights instead of the predicted one, all donut types are acceptable!!!

 

תאווה לעיניים ולבטן. סופגניות של קונדיטורית שמו 

Time to make the sufganiyot in Jerusalem 
Via 

All of those pictures came from Israel-I've never been in Israel during Chanukah, but they say the donut scene is out.of.control. 
Maybe one year...
And here are some twists on a classic donut 

http://threejanejewelry.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/phpthumb_generated_thumbnail.jpeg 

Again, the perfect Thanksgivikah suganiyot 

 pumpkin-sufganiyot-4.jpg 
1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C) 
1/3 cup water 
1 egg, beaten
3 T margarine, melted 
3/4 cups white sugar 
4 1/2 cups bread flour 
1 t salt 
1 1/2 t ground nutmeg 
1 T active dry yeast
3/4 cup any flavor fruit jam
2 quarts vegetable oil for frying 

  1. In a bread machine pan add the milk, water, beaten egg, melted butter, sugar, bread flour, salt, nutmeg, and yeast in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Set machine to the sweet dough cycle (see Editor's Note for using your stand mixer).
  2. Once the dough cycle is completed, turn the dough out onto a floured board and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Roll the dough out to a 1/4-inch thickness. With a floured cookie cutter, cut into 2 1/2-inch rounds.
  4. Place 1/2 teaspoon jam or jelly in center of half of the rounds. Moisten edges with cold water; top with the remaining rounds, pinching edges together firmly. Place the sealed doughnuts on an greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled in a warm place, about 45 minutes.
  5. Heat oil in deep fryer to 375 degrees F (175 degrees C). Fry one layer of doughnuts at a time. Turn doughnuts as they rise to the surface until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from oil, being careful not to poke doughnuts. Drain onto paper towels and toss with sugar, if desired. 

To make this in a stand mixer:


To make this recipe in a stand mixer, combine all of ingredients for the dough in the mixing bowl except for the melted butter. Mix on low speed using the dough hook, scraping the dough down occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the melted butter and mix for an additional 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and allow it to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Transfer the dough to a floured surface, roll it out with a rolling pin, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Roll the dough out again to 1/4-inch thickness and proceed with the recipe.


I plan on trying out some potato latkes tomorrow, and some sufganiyot on the last night, Wednesday night.  
I have a small cheat that will come in handy, so stay tuned! 

Any Chanukah recipes you'd be interested in trying? 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The first lights of Chanukah

Chanukah is more than half way over.
As fun as it was to have Thanksgivikah, it was a mighty few stressful days.  
A lot of family functions, and my personal desire to make things awesome-sauce.  
This is a quote from my husband when I sent him a picture of the table setting for my Thanksgivikah lunch on Saturday afternoon.


"Oy vey, you're crazy."
Candy turkey tutorial can be found HERE
Unfortunately the site where I found this free printable is down right now...

The main idea this Chanukah was to have the kids create their own menorahs that they could use to light the candles with. 



I also created a felt menorah that we would add the nightly candle to. 


Although we weren't able to get a daily Chanukah project in on Friday, Saturday or Sunday because of family obligations, we were able to complete one on Wednesday night, the first night, and one on Thursday while my husband was home for Thanksgiving.  

We celebrated our first night by making candy dreidles! 
They were so much fun, so simple and brought the kids, and parents, so much joy!

 Yummy and Easy Chanukah Idea for the kids 
Via

This was super simple, intuitive, and easy.
All you need are pretzel sticks, marshmallows, Hershey kisses, frosting, and maybe some sprinkles.  
Just stick the pretzel in the marshmallow, and "glue" the Hershey kiss on with frosting.
Voila!  Excellent and delicious crowd pleaser.  

I found this last year on sale and never got around to making it.  I eventually threw it out once we discovered our garage was moldy-I didn't think that would work out too well. 
I re-purchased from Amazon Prime this year.
Here's what it looks like on the box


http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A3X01BC/ref=oh_details_o04_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 
All of our cookies and "figures" came broken, but it's the thought that counts right?!?


As you can tell, Dovy sure did enjoy the icing! 


When it comes to gift giving, I enjoy finding meaningful and cute gifts that are also practical. 
Such as these cute slippers

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AETVUC4/ref=oh_details_o05_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BUOVXKG/ref=oh_details_o05_s01_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1


Or how about this Bella Tunno chalk mats!!!
We have a lot of trips planned throughout the end of this year and the upcoming year and I know these will come in very handy!


 So far I think we've all been enjoying the holiday and getting into the Chanukah spirit. 
But I'll be sure to get a head start on next year's Chanukah decorations a lot earlier! 

Be sure to come back tomorrow for some classic Chanukah recipes for Monday Munchies!




Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Munchies...

I think everyone's feeling the hustle and bustle of this Thanksgiving week.
Add in a family wedding tomorrow night and a Chanukah Wednesday night-I'm feelin' it!  
I did all of my grocery shopping for Thanksgiving, Chanukah baking and the Sabbath on Sunday.
I don't think  I have ever seen the stores more packed!  
Craziness...I've been told I need a horn on my shopping cart and that couldn't be more true for times like those.  

Usually I'm very last minute, but thankfully I was able to plan ahead that I won't have to make any unnecessary and unplanned trips to the grocery store.  

I figured for those of you still planning your menus, why not give you a glimpse into my Thanksgiving menu and help you out!
Better now, because they won't be of any use come Monday.

We are going to my husband's cousins' for Thanksgiving.  
There will be a total of 20 of us.  
I volunteered to make a starch, a vegetable and dessert.  

Starch
Sweet Potato Casserole | Every Day Cheer 
Yup, that picture about did me in.


Author:
Recipe type: Thanksgiving & Holiday
Cuisine: American
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 3-4 cups cooked sweet potatoes (or canned yams)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • ⅓ cup half and half
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Topping:
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
Casserole
  1. Mash potatoes
  2. Mix in sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, half and half, and spices.
  3. Pour into 9×13 baking dish.
Topping
  1. Melt butter
  2. Mix in remaining ingredients
  3. Sprinkle on top of sweet potato mixture.
Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
 
Vegetable 
 
  Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Apples 
As my son says, "yay sprouts!"

1 T. olive oil
1 t. garlic powder 
1 t. onion powder 
1/4 t. black pepper, coarse ground 
1 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved 
1 medium gala apple, cored and cut into 1 in. chunks 
2 T. dried cranberries 
2 T. balsamic vinegar 
1 T. honey 
 
 Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix oil, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper in large bowl. Add Brussels sprouts and apple; toss to coat well. Spread in single layer on foil-lined 15x10x1-inch baking pan. 
 
 Roast 30 to 35 minutes or until Brussels sprouts are browned and tender.
 
 Meanwhile, mix cranberries, vinegar and honey in small bowl. Drizzle over roasted Brussels sprouts and apple; toss to coat well. Serve immediately.
 
Dessert 
 
1 stick butter, melted 
1 cup flour 
1 cup chopped pecans 
2 T. sugar 
1 (8oz) package of cream cheese, soft 
1 cup powdered sugar 
2 (8 oz) containers of cool whip 
2 small packages (3.4 oz) jello instant  pumpkin spice pudding  
3 cups cold milk
Nutmeg for sprinkling
 
 

  1. Combine butter, flour, chopped pecans and sugar and press into a 9 x 13 in baking dish. Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes. Let cool completely.
  2. Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and 1 1/2 cups cool whip until smooth. Spread over crust.
  3.  Mix pudding mixes with cold milk, whisking for several minutes. Set it in the fridge for 5-10 minutes to let it thicken. Spread over the cream cheese layer. Top with remaining container of cool whip. Sprinkle with nutmeg.
  4.  Cut into squares and serve. Keep refrigerated.

As keeping with tradition, I will be making and decorating Chanukah cookies.  When I first began, I was in undergrad, and I had a small class I would bring baked goods into.  Our Speech major class was about 25 people, and we had most of the same classes throughout the day, so it was nice to share my treats with them.  I continued the tradition into graduate school and now, I bake and leave in the teacher's lounge.  I buy the pre-made Betty Crocker cookie icing, because I think it's AH-MAZING! I then decorate with blue sprinkes, blue crystals, white pearls-whatever they have at the grocery store. 


1 1/2 cups butter softened 
2 cups white sugar 
4 eggs 
1 t. vanilla extract 
5 cups all purpose flour 
2 t. baking powder 
1 t. salt
 
 In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
 
 Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
 
 Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.
Yes, you really do bake it for such a short period of time!
 
 
 Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting from www.tasteandtellblog.com
 
Thanksgiving cannot be complete without sweet potatoes with marshmallows!  
 
Cupcakes
  • 3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
     
  • 2 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
     
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 3/4 cups milk
 Marshmallow Frosting
  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2/3 cup corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 30 muffin tins with cupcake liners.
  2. Beat the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions. Beat in the vanilla and then the sweet potatoes.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and cloves. Mix half of the flour mixture into the sweet potato mixture, followed by the milk, then the remaining flour.
  4. Scoop the batter into the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about 3/4 full. Transfer to the oven and bake until the center springs back when touched, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  5. To make the frosting
  6. In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
  7. Meanwhile, heat the sugar and corn syrup over medium heat. Heat until it comes to a full boil, then remove from the heat.
  8. Once the egg whites are stiff, slowly pour in the hot sugar mixture. Do not scrape the sides of the bowl, or you will have sugar crystals in the frosting. Beat the frosting until it forms a shiny, fluffy marshmallow frosting, 5-7 minutes.
  9. Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes. Use a kitchen torch to toast the frosting.
And last but not least, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without these


oh so cute for thanksgiving time. candy turkeys 
 Via
I made these last year and the kids loved them! They just add such festivity to the day.  I plan on making enough for all the kids on Thanksgiving, and then making a few more to use as decoration for my Shabbos table. 

Happy Thanksgivikah.
Turkey, Pies, and Dreidles Oh My!
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