Rainbow Layered sugar cookies Parenting level Mom



It was SO nice out today. Into the 60s! I got to turn the heat off and open the windows. That’s a pretty big deal this time of year in Wisconsin. Tomorrow it will be back down to 40, so today we took advantage. Got outside for a walk and some yard play, straightened the garage, a little bit of yard work…good things all around.

This week I’ve ended up with one less child than usual, so we had a little more time to get involved in baking. So while Bug was napping, Batman and rose helped me play around with cookies.

We decided to play around a bit today and jazz up our normal sugar cookies (adapted from here). Something that seemed festive for spring and Easter, without the mess that is preschoolers and sprinkles. The result? Rainbow layered sugar cookies.

They were delicious. Buttery and sweet without being overwhelmingly so. Perfectly vanilla and soft. Even without decorating, this is my FAVORITE way to make sugar cookies. So if you’re looking for plain old sugar cookies to decorate how you’d like, STILL USE THIS RECIPE! Just skip the food coloring and go right to the rolling and chilling! You’ll love it.

I doubled my normal recipe to make it possible to get 3 layers and enough cookies. This was almost too much for my KitchenAid mixer (another reason to get the bigger one!). If you think you will have this issue, or if you just want a smaller batch, simply half the recipe and combine the dough afterwards.

After I exhausted all of my cutouts, I was left with a lot of remaining dough. I carefully rolled it into a ball and rolled it out, creating a cool swirly tie dye effect for the remaining cutout cookies. This I unfortunately forgot to take a picture of before kids and friends devoured them. Just trust me- they were cute.

Fun, right? Here’s what we did:

Rainbow Layered Sugar Cookies

4 sticks salted butter, room temperature

2 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 Tbsp + 1 tsp vanilla extract

6 cups flour

3 tsp baking powder

food coloring

Cream together butter and sugar in stand mixer until smooth*.

Add in eggs and vanilla, mixing until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour and baking powder.

Slowly pour flour mixture into stand mixer with your wet ingredients; blending until completely incorporated.

Divide dough into three separate bowls. In each bowl, knead cookie dough with food coloring of your choice (in this case: pink, yellow, and blue).

Once color is mixed, roll each dough out between sheets of parchment paper (this prevents sticking without needing to add flour) to desired thickness.

Once rolled, stack your dough colors in desired order. This can be achieved by using the parchment paper to flip one sheet onto another. Place stacked dough on a cookie sheet and transfer to fridge to cool for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pull out dough and use cookie cutters to cut out desired shapes and place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for approx 9-12 minutes, depending on thickness of cookies (mine were PERFECT at 12).

Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.   Store in airtight container.

*You may half the recipe and make in 2 batches if too large for your mixer.

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs Parenting level Mom



Can we just take a minute and talk about what a beautiful Friday it was? I didn’t even care that my dryer is still broken (no not because of my fixing skills…the part is on order). Laundry went out on the clothesline. Kids went to the zoo and ran around the yard. I got some yard work in and saw the sunshine without needing a jacket.

Beautiful, beautiful Friday.

So before I gear up to start doing all things Mother’s Day inspired, I figured I should probably finish up with the appetizer recipes from Bug’s 2nd birthday. Which brings us without any further ado to *drum roll please*………

Chicken parmesan meatballs.

OMG.

Can we talk about how great chicken parmesan is on its own? All of the comfort of a plate of spaghetti with this delicious cheesy perfectly seasoned piece of chicken…not much could improve on it.

Except to make it into a meatball.

I did this as an appetizer along with the sriracha meatballs. That being said, this would be GREAT as a main dish as well. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do!

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

1 lb chicken breast or ground chicken

1/3 c. Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

1 egg

1/3 c parmesan cheese + more for serving

1/4 c. spaghetti sauce + more for serving

2 tsp italian seasoning

salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

If using chicken breast, cut into chunks and process in food processor until coarsely chopped and resembling ground meat.

In a large bowl, mix together meatball ingredients by hand until just blended. Add more breadcrumbs if mixture is too moist.

Form meatballs by hand or with small cookie scoop, making meatballs uniform in size. Place on parchment paper on cookie sheet. Bake meatballs for 15-20 minutes or until cooked though.

Toss with extra spaghetti sauce and serve immediately or keep warm in crockpot.

Mom vs Dryer Parenting level Mom



Woke up thinking it would be a nice, easy day. No extra kids. Just my two. We were gonna do some chores, go for a walk to the park, and wait for Hubby to get home with our newest family member (we’re bringing home a new cat today that a friend can’t keep).

Of course it didn’t work out that way.

5:45 am. Go to remove the comforter I had thrown in the dryer last night so that laundry can begin. Except it’s still wet.

Uh oh.

Turn it on another cycle and confirm my suspicion – my dryer has no heat.

So much for easy.

I guess I’m feeling extra stubborn today, but I’m determined to fix it myself. My dad would come fix it instantly of course when he gets off of work. But I don’t want to wait. And, more importantly, I want to feel like I did it.

Thank goodness for Google.

So Batman and I found a repair tutorial and got to work dismantling the dryer.

I don’t know if you’ve ever taken one apart, but there’s a ton of screws. And it’s a lot dustier than I thought.

I was cruising along fine until a bracket decided to fight me. My mom got that pic in frustration. Dryer- 1, me-0.

It was quite the victory when I got the bracket I needed out. Take that heater element housing unit.

Dryer-1, me-1

And now….it’s half time. Because I need to find a multimeter to go any further. And because Bug decided she was impatient and would make a cake by herself.

But mostly because it’s supposed to be my easy day. And I want to take a walk with my kids to the park, dammit.

Back at it later. Wish me luck!

I Spy Learning Letters Parenting level Mom



4 is a fun age.

They’ve all been fun ages in their own way, but 4 has them preparing for school and starting to learn concepts like letters.

Here are some fun ways to spin the classic “I Spy” game with your child to make  learning letters fun!

*”I Spy Letters”  – This game can be played absolutely anywhere, and requires nothing! Have your child practice identifying letters on signs, shirts, and billboards, or page through magazines or books…this game is SO versatile and is one of my favorites because it creates learning opportunities everywhere. Simply say “I Spy the letter (___)”, and give your child an opportunity to find it in whatever setting you’re in. More than one kid? Make it a contest! First to find 5 correctly wins!

*“I Spy Alphabet”– This is a spinoff of the above mentioned game, and is the next level up in learning. When they’ve got the letter identification down, this introduces word sound concepts. Have them find objects that begin with certain letters- say “I Spy something that starts with the letter (___)” Help them identify what sound the letter makes if it’s a new concept, then get exploring. Looking for an A? Maybe it’s an airplane while you’re driving (GREAT road trip game!), an ant at the park, or an apple at the grocery store. Again- ENDLESS posibilities!

*Ready for more? Combine both of the above games and take it a step further!

You’ll need: post it’s
pencil/pen
crayon
                    (That’s it!!)

Write a capital letter on each Post It in pencil. Spread them out and start the traditional way – “I Spy the letter (___)”. Once they find it, have them trace the letter with the crayon. Next comes Batman’s personal favorite part- running around the house to find an object that starts with their letter. F is for fridge, B is for bed D is for dog… (poor Max!). On more than one occasion I’ve ended up with one stuck to my forehead because, of course, M is for mom!

And that’s it! Simple, right?

Enjoy!

Why We Cried Kids 7AM Edition



The following is an accurate, if not slightly incomplete, list of the reasons that tears were shed by the children in the house between approximately 7AM and 7:59AM.

1) Because mom won’t turn on a new cartoon to replace the cartoon we picked 5 minutes ago

2) Because mom can’t make my foot fit into a doll’s tiny plastic pink shoe

3) Because you had to pee

4) Because popsicles and potato chips are not a suitable breakfast

5) Because we can’t fill our teapot in the toilet

6) Because the dog is not a dragon and we are not dragon riders

7) Because we can’t hit other people with Little People

8) Because we can’t hit other people in general

9) Because mom can’t make my foot fit into a Little People

10) Because the Little People got stuck behind the tv stand after we threw it when it wouldn’t fit on our foot

11) Because our favorite crayon broke. Our FAVORITE. ONE.

12) Because we can’t do all of the science experiments right now

13) Because mom untangled me from the computer cord

14) Because I can’t drink sour milk I found in my play fridge

15) Because I want my diaper changed

16) I DON’T want my diaper changed

17) Because we’re out of oatmeal

18) Oh, we’re not out? I hate oatmeal!

19) I’m still upset about the doll shoe not fitting

20) Because I can’t splash in the dog water

21) Because I can’t put my naked butt in the window

22) I can’t put my naked butt anywhere

23) I hate pants with buttons

24) Why don’t these pants have buttons?

25) Mom made me change my milk covered jammies

26) I still want a different cartoon

27) How come she gets cheerios?

28) I don’t want these cheerios

29) This is the wrong bowl

30) This is still the wrong bowl

31 -37) see #30

38) I can’t have 45,700 new legos for Easter

39) I can’t wash my hands for 15 minutes

40) Hey! I was watching that cartoon!

…..naptime, anyone?

Little Silhouettes Parenting level Mom



Woke up to a lovely warm spring morning!

….just kidding, it’s snowing. Ick. Gotta love Wisconsin. Snow today, thunderstorms tomorrow, cold again by the end of the week. Always on our toes, I guess. We had unseasonably warm weather a week ago, and it was a delicious tease of the weather to come.

I’m looking forward to being outside. This year I want to go all out on my garden. Last year it turned out okay, but I didn’t get my fence up quick enough and the bunnies had a feast! Tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers were plentiful, but the peas, beans, and cauliflower never stood a chance. I have big plans for the rest of my yard too…ripping out some ugly bushes, putting in a brick patio and permanent fire pit are all at the top of my list. Hubby and I also plan to do a lot of biking this summer. Bug loves riding in the bike trailer, and Batman is big enough that this year we may try to put him on the trail-a-bike, just to see how he does.

Can you tell I’m ready for this weather to be done?

Today since we’re stuck inside, I thought I’d share a fun craft with you. Little silhouettes.

Aren’t they adorable? I made these with the whole group of kiddos for Valentine’s Day; the two I borrow brought them home as gifts for their families, and we hung ours up as part of a wall collage in our master bedroom.

These two are mine. Keepers, yes?

This project could not have been any easier. Here’s the how to.

You’ll need:

A camera (I used my camera on my phone for this particular project)

Printer

Scissors

Scrap book paper

Glue stick

Washi tap

A painting done by child

Frame (I used 8×10’s purchased from Target)

1). Start by taking a profile picture of your child. If they’re older they’ll probably enjoy posing for it. Bug I had to sneak up on, which admittedly took a few tries. For a while they all looked something like this-

Print the picture out on your printer. No need to get fancy, grayscale is perfect – you’ll be using the back side of the paper anyway.

2). Once ink is COMPLETELY dry, carefully cut around your subject’s outline. Pay close attention to details like wispy hairs, smiles, etc… they are what make the child uniquely them.

3). Take your chosen scrapbook paper, cutting it to size of the frame. Using the glue stick, choose your placement of the silhouette and glue printed side down. Facing up you should have plain white paper.

4). To decorate the empty space, I simply used washi tape, and a heart cut out of a painting done by the child. This is a great way to always have a piece of their art without saving every giant painting.

5) Put in frame. THAT’S IT. DONE. I told you it’d be easy!

All in all, this project took about 15-20 minutes to complete. It makes a great gift! Think Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas…so many possibilities. You can truly customize this any way you want. Use other decorations, different subjects, change the paper color…you get the idea. Make it your own!

Feel free to share your creations with me- I’d love to see how yours turn out!

Pre K-Schoolers and The Science of Pine Cones



Batman is a science buff.

Sounds strange for a 4-year-old, but it’s true. His favorite birthday gift was a Primary Science Lab set.  That boy could spend hours at the table doing ‘experiments’. And Bug loves anything her brother loves. Win-win for me!

I’m trying to keep that love of science alive, so we look for opportunities to work it in to our daily routine.  Yesterday, that was accomplished with pine cones.

Picture from uwgb.edu

My kids and I like to walk places when we can. Gets us outside, kills some time, eco-friendly, AND a good workout. How could we not, really? So yesterday we were walking to the grocery store, and on our way we picked up some pine cones.

We’d stop every time we saw some and gather two, one for Batman and one for Bug. Bug is little and just likes to hold them. Batman was on a mission though. I’d ask him questions about what they looked like, and he’d look for differences and similarities between the two. We put them all in a bag, and by the time we got back home he had quite a collection (16 to be exact.)

After our observations on the walk, we did a couple of things at home. First, he used a magnifying glass to observe the pine cones further. His idea. He loves that thing. Came in the above mentioned lab set. Then, he began to sort. Similar sizes, similar shapes. It was a great activity for a 4-year-old.

When he was done sorting, he asked if we could look them up on the computer. 🙂 Good idea, little man! With the help of Google, we read about different conifer trees in our area, and found some pictures that we could compare to help us identify what we had found.

Batman loves his new pine cone collection. There are so many similar ways to interact with your environment – take a walk and see what you and your kids can learn! They’ll grow up with a love of science and an environmental awareness, and you’ll get some great free family time in. You may learn a thing or two, as well!

Throwdown Challenger- Blondies Parenting level Mom



Go, go, go! That’s been my mantra this morning. We’ve been on the move since we got up. Batman had taekwondo testing after breakfast. He did AWESOME! He’ll have to redemonstrate his left side kick on Tuesday (he’s still a little wobbly on that leg), but other than that- he is now a little ninja GREEN belt! Such a proud momma.

Immediately afterwards, I had to rush to pick up Rose from poms. It was my first time rushing from one activity to another…**Achievement Unlocked: Soccer Mom Status** She’s with me this weekend. We’ll be off to a birthday party after nap time. On top of that, add the rushing to get a weekend’s worth of chores done before noon so I can relax tomorrow, and I’m ready for a nap myself!

So yesterday, for those of you following along, was my baking throwdown. Last night I posted the 1st contender- brownies.

They were phenomenal . Now let’s meet the challenger-

White Chocolate Blondies

Blondies don’t get nearly enough recognition. Every bit as delicious as its brownie brethren, the blondie is a little more subtle. It’s got this buttery flavor with all of the ooey gooey goodness you love. With this recipe, it’s amped up a notch with the addition of white chocolate chips. They certainly hold their own and deserve to step out of the brownie’s shadow.

This recipe has an extra special ingredient- coconut oil. Coconut oil is all the rage these days. So many great properties and uses. Add these blondies to their repertoire. The coconut oil gives a unique sweetness with an extra subtle hint of flavor, while still keeping all of the ‘buttery’ goodness you’d get using a different oil or…well, butter.

So there you have it- blondies and brownies. Who will win the throwdown and earn the champion title?

White Chocolate Chip Blondies

1 c coconut oil

1 bag white chocolate chips, divided

1 1/2 c sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 1/2 c flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350. In small microwave safe bowl, melt coconut oil and 1/2 cup white chocolate chips (about 40 second full power). Stir until combined.

In large mixing bowl or stand mixer, blend oil/chocolate mixture with sugar and vanilla until smooth. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, until incorporated fully.

In a separate small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly pour into mixer and blend until well incorporated.

Stir another 1/2 cup white chocolate chips into batter by hand, then pour into parchment lined 9×9 glass baking dish. Sprinkle additional white chocolate chips on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean. Cool before removing from pan.

Easiest Pasta Salad Ever Parenting level Mom

 

When I dropped Batman off at playschool today, he was in tears.

I’m not talking a lone tear glistening down his cheek as he wistfully glanced back over his shoulder and waved. Oh no. We’re talking full-blown freak out. This was totally new for him. Maybe he was tired from Bug’s birthday this weekend?

I knew it was going to be tough when he got up this morning. Hubby had left for work early, and Batman was in tears.

“What’s wrong, buddy?”

Batman-“Daddy *sob* didn’t say good-bye to me *sobsob* and I didn’t get to give him a hug and kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiss.”

So, we called Hubby at work and that seemed to be the end of it.

Until we got to playschool.

Besides Rose, Ari the other little girl that I regularly watch while her parents are at work. (Ari, Rose, and Batman all go to the same playschool 2 days a week). Today, while we were all climbing out of the van, Ari asked to hold my hand. So I shifted Bug on my hip and grabbed her hand. Any other day, this act would have been acceptable….

Not today.

Batman was again in tears. “I wanted to hold your hand!” He was heartbroken. No amount of reasoning or rearranging so that everyone could hold hands could bring calm to the injustice he felt was done to him. For the first time, I walked into school with a crying little boy.

Now, I know that I have been INCREDIBLY lucky to have thus far avoided a public meltdown. Batman was just not really a crier with stuff like this. So when it happened today, I was completely unprepared. We sat down at the tables in the lobby and I tried everything to calm him down enough to go to class. Hugs. Reasoning. Distraction. Flat out bribery. Nothing was working. Rose’s mom stepped in and tried to help. Nothing. The boy was inconsolable. By this point the lament had switched to “but mommy I don’t want to miss you”. Ooofta. Right in the feels. Eventually, the teacher and I were able to get him to walk to the bubbler and make his way into the classroom.

So I left. Fast. Before he changed his mind.

I felt terrible. Like I had abandoned him in his time of need. What sort of monster does that?

I knew, of course, that rationally I had done the right thing. Emotionally though? Train wreck. So I called to check on him right when I got home. The teacher presumably thought I was nuts…I only live 3 minutes away by car if I don’t hit any street lights. The verdict? He was perfectly fine. Tears and mom completely forgotten and schooling everyone on how he learned that cheetahs are the fastest land animal but peregrine falcons are even faster.

Now there’s my Batman.

Okay, so: pasta salad.

Cool, tangy goodness.

I love this pasta salad because 1) it’s delicious, and 2) it takes no effort beyond chopping and stirring to achieve such deliciousness. It’s a great dish to make while you’re running around making 10 other things for a picnic or a party. It’s pasta salad, so it’s enough to feed a crowd, and since it’s not mayo based, it’s perfect for any outdoor events where you might otherwise worry about spoilage.

The dressing that I use in this recipe is Olive Garden’s Italian dressing. It’s delicious. I buy it from Sam’s club in a two pack. If you can’t find it, feel free to sub in another Italian dressing, but this one is worth the hunt.

Zucchini and tomato pair perfectly

The veggies I added were what I happened to have on hand. Really though-throw in any damn veggie you like. When I have it, I love to throw in broccoli and yellow squash as well. Anything that’s in season or on sale, go for it. It’ll be just as fantastic.

Easiest Pasta Salad Ever

1 box farfalle pasta

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1 zucchini, quartered and chopped

1 can black olives, sliced

1 large carrot, shaved into bite sized pieces

1/4 c. +1/3 c. Olive Garden Italian Dressing

1/4 c. shredded parmesan cheese

Black pepper, to taste

Cook pasta according to directions on box. Drain and toss with 1/4 c. dressing. Cool to room temperature.

Toss pasta with vegetables, parmesan, and dressing and pepper to taste. Chill before serving.

Sriracha Chicken Meatballs Parenting level Mom



I LOVE appetizers. How could you not really? They’re the best part about birthday parties. And sporting events. And showers. And nights out. Really, anytime there’s an opportunity for an appetizer- gimme.

Every time I go out to dinner with my mom, she always asks: “Appetizer or dessert?”

Uh…appetizer. Duh. I never understood people who chose dessert. I guess I never had that strong of a sweet tooth. I can easily pass on a plate of cookies or a piece of cake. Put a tray of taco dip in front of me though and it’s all over.

So yesterday was Bug’s 2nd birthday, and due to a combination of forgetfulness, laziness, and, let’s be real, a tight pocket-book this week, I decided to experiment using ingredients I had in the house.

I had 2 pounds of chicken breasts.

I didn’t really want to cut them up into pieces or shred them into a filling. My head immediately went to meatballs. I’m Italian. I can’t help it. Start with what you know, right? I was craving spicy, so sriracha chicken meatballs sounded perfect! I’m a terrible judge of spicy though- I like it HOT. So, to appease those with tamer palettes, I decided to split the chicken up and make another flavor- chicken parmesan. I told you- Italian. It’s a right history and gene pool I’m up against. There’s no point in fighting it.

Delicious.

So since I was using what I had at home, I started by figuring out how to get my chicken to be more ground in consistency. I don’t have a meat grinder (hey Hubby- hint hint- they make one for the Kitchen Aid. Please and thank you!), but I DO have a food processor. So I cut the chicken into chunks and gave it a whirl in there. Is it technically ground? No. It’s more of a coarse chop. But who cares! It worked! And probably was a better cut of meat than would be in the ground stuff from the store. So I went with it. Feel free to just buy ground though. I would have. But I’m poor this week. Darn bills.

You could easily play around with the spice level of this recipe by leaving out the chili powder or skipping the sriracha in the crock pot step. Or amp it up with more sriracha. I would have for myself. But I had to be a good hostess and share.

Little tasty angel bites all in a row.

I didn’t want to though. They were yummy. I had them reheated for lunch today. Just as good.

I served them with ranch and blue cheese dressing. They were a hit! I made my meatballs a bit smaller than I would for regular old spaghetti meatballs since they were an appetizer. So slightly less than a small cookie scoop full. This made me roughly 35 meatballs with 1 pound of meat. Feel free to make them bigger; just give them a little more time to bake, and be prepared to have them fought over.

Sriracha Chicken Meatballs

1 pound chicken breast or ground chicken

1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

1 egg

1/4 cup sriracha sauce + more for serving

2 Tbsp ranch dressing + more for serving

1 tsp chili powder

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

If using chicken breast, cut into chunks and process in food processor until coarsely ground.

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients until just combined. Add more breadcrumbs if too moist.

Form meatballs by hand or with cookie scoop, being sure to keep them uniform in size. Place meatballs on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake 15-20 minutes until cooked through.

Place in small crockpot with 1/3 cup sriracha and 1/2 cup water. Toss to coat. Keep warm until ready to eat. Serve with side of ranch or blue cheese for dipping.

Makes approx 35 meatballs.

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