Mini S’mores – Easy for little hands!

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 11.25.28 AMI looooove s’mores, but I have never had an easy time eating them. When you bite into it, the graham cracker smooshes melted marshmallow all over your hands and face. While it’s all part of the fun s’mores experience, it can be especially difficult for little kids to handle regular sized s’mores. And who doesn’t LOVE mini things?

IMG_2446FFWe had an awesome time making these. We chose to make them in the toaster oven using the broil feature. I think they would turn out even better speared on a fork over an open flame (gas range, anyone?), but unfortunately we had no indoor flames available. But the toaster oven worked great for us!

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What you’ll need:
Teddy grahams
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Chips or Kisses (It’s not a s’more if it’s not Hershey’s!)
Miniature Marshmallows

IMG_2429FFSpread out your mini marshmallows on a foil lined sheet. I didn’t grease my sheet, and the marshmallows came off the sheet fine.

IMG_2431FFPut them under the broiler on high, watching them closely. The amount of time it takes will vary greatly, depending on how hot your broiler is, and how close the pan sits to the heat. Watch them closely to avoid catching fire. It should take between 2-6 minutes to toast. You want to hit them with high heat in order to get them to toast quickly without melting into a pile of mush. These toasted in about 4-5 minutes, and were melted on the inside, but didn’t get too melty on the outside.

IMG_2435FFWhile the marshmallows are toasting, turn half of your Teddy Grahams upside down, and place one or two chocolate chips on each.

IMG_2437FFWhen your marshmallows are perfectly toasted, remove them from the broiler. Immediate place one or two marshmallows on each chocolate covered Teddy Graham.

IMG_2447FFTop it with a second teddy. Serve while hot!

IMG_2451FFThese cute little s’mores were almost mess free (except for the sticky fingertips) and so much easier to handle than the larger size. The kids loved them, and they were really quick and easy to make!

The toasted marshmallows can also be replaced by peanut butter…. Don’t ask how I know this. 😉

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My Little Pony Cakes, Part Three: Cutie Mark Cake

IMG_1044This cake is a bit different from the last 2 cakes that I posted here. I wanted to go for a simpler design that used fun colors instead of detailed decorating. Emma is still nuts about My Little Pony, and her favorite pony right now is Fluttershy. I decided to use each pony’s colors to decorate both the inside and the outside.

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The top tier was decorated with pale yellow buttercream to match Fluttershy’s coat, and adorned with a fondant cutie mark. The cutie marks were actually pretty east to free hand.

The insides of these cakes are what I was really excited to decorate. This cake is yellow and pink, with pale turquoise buttercrema to match Fluttershy’s eyes.

 

 

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The bottom tier was decorated in pale blue buttercream to match Rainbow Dash’s coat, with her cutie mark as well. I added fluffly white buttercream clouds to complete the border.

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This is my absolute favorite part of this cake. RAINBOW ICING! I love finding new ways to add rainbows to make cakes. My daughter and I love everything rainbow, so this is something we can both enjoy! To create this look, I decorated between each layer with a bulls eye pattern in the rainbow color pattern. I started with a purple circle, and piped a blue circle around that, then green, and so on. I love the effect, and will definitely be playing around with this method again!

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IMG_1051 IMG_1053   Here is the birthday girl, excited to see her cake!

My Little Pony Cakes, Part Two: Twilight Sparkle

I made this cake for my daughter for her 5th birthday while she was going through her Twilight Sparkle phase. Unfortunately I didn’t get any really great pictures of it. The inside cake layers and icing were colored to match the outside of the cake.

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These pearl beads are by far my favorite addition for cake decorating. The used to sell them in bulk at our local Meijer, but are now selling them in the cake decorating aisle. There are tons of colors! They’re sixlets (chocolates from my childhood!) completely re-designed with a gorgeous pearly outside which works great for decorating! They also make a smaller non-chocolate version (though I find those will nearly crack a tooth if you munch un-suspectingly on one in a fork-full of icing!) I’ve seen them in most stores in the baking aisle.

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Twilight was done in the same manner that Rainbow Dash was in my last post.

IMG_4185Next up: Cutie Mark Cake!

My Little Pony Cakes, Part One: Rainbow Dash

Hey readers! I haven’t had a lot of time to get back into blogging yet (the kids will be back in school soon, so I foresee lots more blogging time in my future!) but for now I still wanted to share some content. I’ve done lots of cakes in the last year that I haven’t gotten the chance to share yet, so I’m going to start with some My Little Pony cakes! My daughter and niece both love MLP, so I’ve enjoyed making the characters into cake. I love bright colors, and most of all rainbows! So here starts a 3 part series of My Little Pony cakes!

The first one I have is a Rainbow Dash cake I did for my niece.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 10.00.15 AMThe best part of making cakes for people you know is 1: you get to eat it, and 2: you get to see what the inside looks like after all that work!

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 9.56.12 AMThe trick to a good rainbow cake is getting nice flat even layers (even here mine aren’t perfect!). To get flat layers, spread the cake batter in the pan evenly with a spatula and bake at 325 instead of 350. The lower temperature keeps the cake from doming. If you do end up with doming (where the cake ends up much thicker and domed in the middle), you can even it out with icing so your entire cake isn’t domed. Add enough icing around the edges of the cake to make each layer level before adding the next layer of cake. You’ll end up with a ton of icing inside the cake, but honestly, if you don’t like icing, you shouldn’t be eating a layered cake anyhow!

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 9.55.39 AMThe fondant rainbow dash was easy enough to make. I printed off a picture of her and cut it out with an x-acto knife. I then layed that on top of my rolled fondant and cut around it. When it came to the tail and mane, I cut the tail and mane off of the picture, layed it on my fondant, and cut it out with the x-acto knife. It ended up working perfectly for me!

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 9.58.15 AM Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 9.57.02 AMFor the ruffles, I used a skirting technique I learned at the bakery I worked at a few years back. Maybe some day I’ll do a tutorial on it! So far it’s my favorite ruffle effect for cakes.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 9.56.50 AMThe rainbow was actually pasted to a cardboard rainbow shape that was stuck into the top of the cake. The clouds are marshmallows held together by icing. The also acted as stabilizers for the rainbow.

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And here it is all together. This lucky little girl is coming up on another birthday, so maybe there will be a new My Little Pony cake in the works soon! I absolutely love making these ponies into different cakes, it’s been so much fun!

Water beads : a little sensory fun!

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Have you heard of water beads? They’re polymer beads that you soak in water for 24 hours, and they expand into these fun squishy balls. I first saw them on the Play At Home Moms blog. A couple weeks ago one of my friends bought them for her kids, and then another friend did, and then another. It was like a chain reaction, once we all saw them, we had to have them! I bought mine at Walmart in the floral section (they’re usually used for flower arrangements), but you can order them from Amazon or pick them up in any toy store (they sell under the name Orbeez, and are used in a few different kids toys).

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Things you should know about water beads:

They’re an awesome sensory toy for kids. Heck even adults like them. My husband spent over an hour playing with them. Okay, so did I!

They can squish. They turn into a weird gel when squished, and can get a little messy if you smash them into the floor. So be careful!

They’re non-toxic. I don’t recommend snacking on them, but at least they’re safe for kids!

They can hydrate, dehydrate, and then you can rehydrate them again! I believe the package I bought said they can be reused for about 2 years.

A little goes  along ways. I bought 3 packages and it’s about a gallon and a half worth once they’ve been hydrated. That’s plenty for a sensory tub.

They bounce. They roll. It might be wise to put your kids somewhere that they can’t go too far. I put a plastic tub in the middle of a plastic pool in my living room, and let the kids play. It was easier to contain them.

They stay hydrated if left in a seal container with a little bit of water. After a little while they may feel slightly slimy (it may just be because they’ve been played with so much!) so it’s a good idea to give them a good rinse in a strainer every once in a while.

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You may want to be careful though! These things can be a pain to pick up off the floor. Especially if you turn your back and your two munchkins decide to start pouring them all over your floors, just to see them bounce and roll.

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Today we even threw them in the tub with the kids. Water and all. They were a lot of fun for the kids to play with! The clear ones nearly disappear in the water. I gave them a couple strainers and cups, and they had a blast for about 30-40 minutes.

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When you’re done, scoop out as many as you can with a fine mesh strainer, and then place the strainer upside down over the drain while the tub drains. This will prevent any of them from going down the drain.

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Do you like sensory play? There are SO many ways to do it. The blog I mentioned above has hundreds of posts and ideas! So far we’ve done things like water beads, dry kidney beans, sand, and a ball pit. The kids absolutely love stuff like this! It literally keeps them busy for HOURS. I’d really like to get some rice and dry corn for them to play with, too.

Toddler Muffins (can be made gluten free!)

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I came across some toddler muffins online and was inspired to make some. I didn’t have enough of the ingredients for that recipe, so I decided to invent my own. I used this Food Network Banana Muffin recipe as my base.

I love the concept of a toddler muffin. Obviously they can be eaten by anyone of any age, but you can make them in mini muffin tins, which makes them the perfect size for little hands. Also, making them in mini muffin tins gives them enough crust on all sides that they crumble less than large muffins. And the batch is large enough that you can bake them, keep half out for eating, and freeze the rest. And guess what? The frozen muffins make great chew toys for a teething toddler. And if they’re not teething, they freeze and defrost great.

What you’ll need:
1 ½ cups flour (I used my gluten free baking mix for these)
1 cup quick cooking oats
½ tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup brown sugar
4 -4 oz. jars of bananas (this is equal to 2 cups of mashed bananas, or 4-6 ripe mashed bananas)
½ cup yogurt (I used a vanilla coconut flavor which complimented the recipe nicely. Greek yogurt can be used for additional protein)
½ cup milk
2 eggs
½ tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees

Start off with 2 bowls, a larger mixing bowl and a smaller mixing bowl. In your small mixing bowl, stir together your flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In your large mixing bowl, gently beat together 2 eggs. Add in the mashed bananas, yogurt, milk, and vanilla, and mix until well combined.

Gently stir in the dry ingredients. Be sure not to over mix it! It will be a little lumpy, and you may see small bits of flour here and there, but that’s good! It will absorb into the mixture quickly.

Divide evenly into well oiled muffin tins. I used a ¾ ounce scoop for my mini muffin tins.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are a light golden color. (Baking time will vary according to each oven and how large your muffins are.) Remove from the oven and let cool.

The recipe above is a pretty basic recipe. You should have most of the ingredients in your cupboard/fridge, but if you don’t, you can always substitute! Google search any of the missing ingredients and you should be able to find a substitute that suits your needs.

Here are some substitutes I found:
Flour: Whole wheat flour, gluten free flour
Eggs: Applesauce, canned pumpkin (1 egg is 1.5 oz., or 3 Tbsp for reference)
Sugar: Honey
Yogurt: Applesauce
Milk: Almond, soy, or coconut milk

And this recipe is great for add ons. You can add nuts, diced apples, shredded carrot, raisins or other dried fruits, or anything else you can think of. Whatever add ons you prefer, add them last and gently mix them in; and remember, don’t over mix! Whichever way you choose to put it together, these muffins are ultra healthy for your little ones. They’re packed full of fiber and protein.

This recipe makes roughly 48 mini muffins (or 24 regular sized muffins).

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays, everyone! I hope yours were as good as ours!

Our Santa finally grew his beard. Emma absolutely loved gluing cotton balls on each number every day! (See original post here)

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The kids got some seriously awesome gifts this year. A certain far away Aunt ordered the kids a bounce house. A FULL size bounce house. It’s meant for outdoors, but since it’s winter, we set it up in the house! I think this summer we’ll be the most popular house on the block!

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For Christmas I made the kids a dress up box. I made some super hero masks (I found templates here), a tutu, and bought a few cheapies from the dollar store (cowboy hat, firemat hat, pirate kit, doctor’s kit, fairy wings). The kids absolutely love it! Emma likes to pile on as many things as she can. Here she is looking like Carl from the Walking Dead.

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Soon afterward she donned a pirate eye patch and hook, Wolverine mask, and bandana.

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For my goodie bags I gave out, I made salted caramel hot chocolate (here) and Chocolate Peppermint popcorn mix (here).

Of course I made enough so that I could sample it, too! Both were soooo good! The hot chocolate mix was so rich, it has real ground up chocolate and caramel in it, not to mention milk powder. I made it with whole milk, it was amazing!

I also made Oatmeal Cream Pies to send into work with Ben. It was hard to let them go! (Recipe here).

Needless to say, there was much baking and crafting going on in my house in December! I also found about a million more recipes via Pinterest that I want to make.

And we have some BIG news. But I can’t share it yet. I should be able to make a post about it within the next 2-3 weeks though!

Mini snow globe

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I saw this idea a while ago on Pinterest (isn’t that how almost all of my posts start?) You can really do anything you like with these, trees, little figurines, snowflake confetti. I had an assortment of beads sitting in my craft room from broken necklaces and other craft projects.

To make the snowman, I used 3 assorted size white beads, hot glued together. The hat was a black button an a small black bead. His little scarf is a snippet of sparkly ribbon. Everything is held together with hot glue (I figure it won’t dissolve in water) and I added glitter for snow. The snowman is glued to the lid of a baby food jar. I think my little snowmen turned out pretty cute!

It’s such a cute little craft! My kids are still a little young to help with this (with a hot glue gun involved) but I think it would be a lot of fun for kids ages 4 and up.

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