Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring into Passover and Easter with your children

Spring has always been a fun time in our home. It's a time of celebrating the new and remembering the traditions of our families.

photo credit: martha stewart dot com

This adorable candy decoration is perfect for your families Easter holiday celebration.

Tools and Materials

• One 12-inch round Styrofoam wreath form
• Five 6-inch round Styrofoam wreath forms
• 28-inch dowel, 1/2-inch diameter
• Sharpened pencil
• 1/2-inch-wide green ribbon, seam binding and twill tape
• Glue
• Flathead pins
• Floral pins
• About 25 Marshmallow Peeps of one color for flower center
• About 60 Marshmallow Peeps of one color for flower petals
• Royal Icing
• Toothpicks
• Clear vessel filled with jelly beans or other candy


1. Using a sharpened pencil, bore a hole through one side of a 12-inch round Styrofoam wreath form.

2. Insert a 28-inch dowel, piercing through to the opposite side.

3. Wrap the Styrofoam wreath form and dowel in green ribbon, securing every few inches with a dab of glue.

4. Attach a 1/2-inch-wide piece of ribbon around the outer rim of a 6-inch Styrofoam "petal" form and secure with a flathead pin. Repeat to make five petal bases.

5. Secure petals to 12-inch Styrofoam base with 2 floral pins each, creating a flower shape.

6. Decorate petals with Marshmallow Peeps, using a combination of royal icing and toothpicks to secure.

7. "Plant" finished flower creation in a clear vessel filled with candy.

photo credit: Dylan's Candy Bar

Colorful Tower of Peeps

You can't have Easter without Peeps! This colorful tower of everyone's favorite marshmallow candy is perfect for sharing on Easter morning. You can make your own or hop over to Dylan's Candy Bar and order one for your favorite little bunny!

photo credit: family fun magazine

This bee won’t sting

Tools and Materials:

• eggs
• newsprint
• egg dye
• paper towels
• birthday candles or crayons
• red and black acrylic or tempera paint
• brushes
• white tissue
• glue


1. Blow the Egg: Wash and dry the raw egg. Cover your table with newsprint and set out bowls, pushpins, and paper towels. Shake the egg to break the yolk. Next, pierce the top and bottom with a pushpin, making the hole on the wider end a bit larger. Position the egg over the bowl and blow through the small hole, allowing the inside of the egg to seep into the bowl. Set the empty egg, with the large hole down, in an egg carton to dry. Be sure children wash their hands after handling raw egg.

2. Degg-orate the Egg: Let the kids paint half of the egg, stand it atop a bottle cap to dry (use a hair dryer to speed things up), then paint the other half. Centering the face on either hole, paint on features with contrasting colors. Paint your bee bright yellow, then paint on a red smile, black eyes, and black stripes. Glue on white tissue paper wings.

3. Take Flight: Tape a long length of fishing line to the end of an unfolded paper clip. Starting at the small hole, thread the line through the decorated egg and out the large hole. To keep your flying critter upright, tape the fishing line just above the hole in the critter's back. Hang it from the ceiling or an egg tree.

photo credit: family fun

Jelly Bean Carrots: I used to make these every spring for my girls and our company, I know your children will love them!

Tools and Materials:

• Orange jelly beans
• Scissors
• Green tissue paper
• Twist ties


1. Fill an icing bag with orange jelly beans, leaving at least 3 inches unfilled at the top.

2. Cut out two 8-inch squares of green tissue paper and lay one atop the other. Pick up the squares from the center and give them a little twist so you have a cone-shaped carrot top.

3. Place the tissue, twisted end down, into the bag. Gather the bag at the top of the jelly beans and secure with a twist tie.

photo credit: a taste of home

Italian Easter Bread


• 3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2/3 cup warm milk (120° to 130°)
• 2 tablespoons butter, softened
• 7 eggs
• 1/2 cup chopped mixed candied fruit
• 1/4 cup chopped blanched almonds
• 1/2 teaspoon aniseed
• Canola oil


1. In a bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add milk and butter; beat 2minutes on medium. Add 2 eggs and 1/2 cup flour; beat 2 minutes on high. Stir in fruit, nuts and aniseed; mix well. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

2. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl; turn once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

3. If desired, dye remaining eggs (leave them uncooked); lightly rub with oil. Punch dough down. Divide in half; roll each piece into a 24-in. rope. Loosely twist ropes and tuck eggs into openings. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan; cool on a wire rack. Yield: 1 bread.

photo credit: Martha Stewart

The Tastiest Matzo House for your Seder table

Tools and Materials

• 6-by-6-by-6-inch cube cardboard box
• Scissors or utility knife
• Tape
• Matzo
• Melted chocolate
• Kosher foods for decoration


1. Begin by folding the cardboard box into the form of a house: trim 2 of the top flaps into triangles and tape the 2 uncut flaps onto it along the cut angles to create a support for the pitched roof.

2. Squeeze melted chocolate onto form. Tip: Keep melted chocolate liquefied by resting a container of it in warm water.

3. Attach pieces of matzo to chocolate-covered house form.

4. Decorate the matzo house with kosher food items of your choice, using the melted chocolate to attach the decorations to the house.

photo credit: kaboose dot com

Child Designed Passover Seder Place Mat

Tools and Materials:

• White poster board or craft foam, big enough for a place mat
• Construction paper: green, white, brown, red
• White paper
• Pencil
• Markers: yellow, orange, red and blue
• Black thin tipped marker
• Clear self-adhesive paper (recommended: Con-Tact paper)
• Scissors
• White craft glue


1. You will need something round to trace to create the Seder plate. Trace it with a pencil in the center of the place mat.

2. Use a smaller cylindrical item (can, cup, etc) to trace circles for each place on the Seder plate. One in the center, and five going around the center circle.

3. Cut the Seder items from the construction paper. Use brown to cut out a chicken leg (shank bone), white and green for the horseradish (bitter herb), green for the romaine lettuce (bitter vegetable), green for the parsley (green vegetable), red and white for apple and nut salad (charoset) and use plain white paper for the egg(roasted egg).

4. Trace the penciled circles with black marker.

5. Glue the construction paper food items to the plate, horseradish in the center, chicken leg in the upper right, then clockwise from there the charoset, lettuce, parsley and egg.

6. Draw an outline around the plate. Decorate the inside of this outline with yellow and orange markers.

7. Decorate the other circles by dotting around their outlines with orange marker.

8. Use a red marker to write the word “Passover” on the left side of the placemat and the blue marker to write “Pesach” (the Jewish term for the Passover festival) on the right side.

9. Cover both sides of the place mat with clear adhesive paper.

The Seder Plate Background:

The Seder plate is a plate of specific foods that tell the story of the Israelites suffering and deliverance. On your plate, which is in the centre of the table you will need:

1. Haroseth – a mixture of chopped nuts, wine, cinnamon and apples to represent the mortar that the Israelites used to make bricks in slavery in Egypt.

2. Parsley (dipped in salt water) – Symbolizing spring but dipped in salt water to remember the tears shed in slavery.
3. Roasted egg – another symbol of spring

4. Shank Bone – The lamb was offered as a sacrifice and then eaten on the night of Passover before the Israelites left Egypt.

5. Bitter herbs – Horseradish to reflect the bitterness of slavery

At the table there are also 4 glasses of wine . 4 of the glasses are shared by all at different stages in the meal. Each cup also represents an aspect of the walk from Slavery to Freedom:

1st cup – Freedom
2nd cup – Deliverance
3rd cup – Redemption
4th cup – Release
5th cup – Elijah’s cup – set side for the prophet Elijah

photo credit: family fun

Matzo Haystacks


1. Coconut-Almond Haystacks: Melt the chocolate chips according to the directions on the package, and stir until smooth.

2. Combine the crushed matzos, the coconut, and the almonds in a large mixing bowl. Pour the melted chocolate over the dry mixture and stir until all of the pieces are coated.

3. Use a teaspoon to dollop haystacks onto a sheet of parchment or waxed paper, or into paper muffin cups. Allow the treats to cool (about 10 minutes). Makes about 60 pieces.

4. Variations:

Dried Fruit Haystacks: Follow the recipe above but reduce the amount of chocolate chips to 2 cups and substitute 1 cup of dried fruit for the coconut and almonds. We used a mix of chopped apricots and sweetened cranberries.

Enjoy your families holidays! What kinds of crafts to you do with your children for Easter or Passover?
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

How does your garden grow?

Over the years one thing I have come to enjoy is watching my children's love for gardening grow. No matter how small a space it was, my oldest loved to play in the dirt, sow her seeds nurture them and eat the “fruits and veggies” of her labor. It was always a wonderful experience season after season to watch her in awe as her little plants began to grow.

photo credit:Enviromom

To start each year I would gather up my seed catalogues and decide which plants and veggies I would like to try this year as well as gather up some old favorites and then we would order them. I would go to our local nursery and gather up some basic start up sets for the seeds. And then we would wait until the postman would bring that special package with our new seeds. My daughter was always so happy that day and wanted to get started “immediately!”

There are many things that my girls learned from gardening, from the most basic lesson of plant germination, the lesson of importance of sunshine and need to make sure that the plants have the correct amount of water and nutrients.

Gardening is a wonderful hobby to share with your children. You do not need to dedicate a huge amount of space and if you live in an apartment you can even use containers or window boxes.

Starting the Seeds Indoors

You don’t need to be like me and order from catalogues. You can go to your local nursery which is usually stocked up at this time of year with seeds and kits to get you started.

We usually pick out a Cherry tomato as they are so sweet and juicy and can be grown in a container if need be. After you decide which packets you want to get be sure read the back of the packages to find out when to plant,(this is important if you want to start sowing the seeds with your children)how deeply to plant, (if you are planning on doing this later in the spring directly into the dirt) and whether the seeds must be started indoors.


• Purchase "starting soil", or make your own with equal parts potting soil, sand, and vermiculite.

• Place soil in egg cartons or plastic trays. For a "hot house" effect, you can purchase domed seed starter containers. Or you can be eco-friendly and reuse a container that you might have gotten rotisserie chicken in. (just make sure to give it a good wash before use)The black plastic tray is great for absorbing heat, and the clear plastic dome allows sunlight in, while retaining warmth and moisture.

photo credit: Wrapables dot com

Another child friendly way to start seeds is to use egg shells! Not only are they cute but again they are eco-friendly.

How to make an egg-pot:

• When cooking eggs, carefully crack and save lower two-thirds of shell intact.

• Wash them and let them air dry

• Fill shells with potting soil.

• Add one or two seeds.

• Water gently, put egg shells in egg carton and cover with lid. Keep soil moist but not soggy.

• It is fun to do this with grass and make it look like a little head, children get a kick out of “cutting” the hair, and drawing faces on the outside of the shells.

Here are a few other fun ideas to do with your children:

Recycled crafts Growing in Fun Containers

photo credit: recyled crafts

Take your child along to the nursery and let him or her pick out some small flower plants or seeds and plant them in a fun, funky container. Use your imagination! Anything that can hold dirt can be a planter.

Some ideas for planters:
• An old sneaker or a boot
• Small wagon or cart
• Barbie convertible car
• Wheelbarrow
• Toy dump truck
• A ball with the top cut off

For best results make holes in the bottom of whatever you’re using for drainage. If that’s not possible, put a layer of small stone in the bottom and then potting soil on top.

Grass Heads
Make a green-haired funny-face and watch his hair grow!
You will need:
• 2-liter soda bottle
• Paints, markers, googly eyes and supplies to decorate
• Potting soil
• Grass seed

1. Cut the top off the soda bottle
2. decorate with eyes, nose, mouth and ears.
3. Place potting soil in bottle
4. sprinkle with grass seed
5. apply another layer of potting soil on top.
6. Water often and expose to sun.
7. For best results, poke holes in the bottom of the bottle and place on a drainage saucer.

But whatever you choose to do one thing I am sure of is your children will really enjoy it! Let me know how does your garden grow?
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Do you know the "kitchen dance?"

photo credit: gymkhana

In the last weeks I have had a few new things enter my life and a few things come back into my life, exercise being in the later of the two. By now you know I have a “love hate” relationship with exercise, I hate going but I love the feeling I get when I’m done. I don’t know if it’s that “ahhhh” I did it feeling, or those little endorphins we hear about and I just have a much better outlook for the day…

In any event last week I had a little “revelation” when I took off my armband to sync it up and check out my “calories burned” for the day. I noticed a few things:

1. When I’m sitting and typing as I am now I might as well be sleeping or not breathing because I would burn the same amount of calories… um that means flat line… none… nil… I was shocked! Now I understand just how easy it was for me to gain weight. Again, I knew if I sat around all day and did nothing other than work it really isn’t good for me but to actually see it with a graph… Wow! I’m a visual person so it really opened my eyes! So, I know I need to get up and move around every hour or so if it’s going to be a long day on the computer. Bring in the bosu ball (yes, I broke down and actually paid money and bought one of these torture apparatus’s for home.) and do some balance exercises every so often, move your blood around. I know you’re thinking well, what do I do if I’m at an office? I can’t very well say “ok bosu time!” Well then get up and take a little walk around your office, if it’s nice outside at lunch break up the day and go for a quick walk…

2. I was also surprised, actually, almost devastated lol to see that when I was weight training with Ryan my calories expended weren’t “huge.” As much as I huff and puff like an old woman I thought for sure I’d be burning huge amounts of calories. I asked Ryan about this and he told me that we are actually working on getting my muscles in “shape” and then he went on to explain how after we build up the muscle mass in my body that will work to my advantage to burn more fat and calories. So in the long run I guess that makes sense…

3. My little trusty arm band also told me an interesting fact. On Friday, we had a little girls’ “kitchen dance party” where we hit the CD player with Season 2 of Glee and we chopped and danced and danced and danced… Something that you can usually see if you look in my window around dinner time. lol I’m thinking of doing a video post on this in the future to scare all of America! Anyhow, when I synched my armband up a day or two later, I forgot about our little “dance party” and I saw my calories burned and was like…. “What was I doing Friday afternoon? My cardio numbers were huge!” Hmmm, o yes, it was my “kitchen dance party!” You can be sure we have implemented this little shinding into our dinner prep a few days a week… So come on…

I invite you to join in the “kitchen” dance party! Send us over your favorite tunes to jump and jiggle to! I promise no judging here! And for your “dancing pleasure” our choice song of the day was Jennifer Paige’s “Crush” Enjoy!

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Monday, March 1, 2010

An 18th b-day calls for a Southwestern Fiesta!

Well considering Mister Winter spoiled my daughters 18th birthday not only once but twice with the largest blizzards that the Washington Metropolitan Area has seen since the early 1900’s… I was determined to have a celebration with her and whoever could get over to our home to help celebrate.

Taco’s with all the fixins
Mexican Lasagna
Southwestern Corn Bread
5 layer dip
Southwestern Salad
Orzo salad
Large Garden Salad

Birthday cupcakes
Fruit Salad with homemade whip cream (yummy!)
Birthday girl’s favorite dessert: Key Lime Tartlets

As usual I made enough food for an army! But the most popular items were the Mexican Lasagna and the Key Lime Tartlet’s so I’m going to share them with you!

Rachel Ray’s Mexican Lasagna

• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 pounds ground chicken breast, available in the packaged meats case (I used 1 pound ground turkey and 1 package of Morningstar Crumbles)
• 2 tablespoons chili powder
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1/2 red onion, chopped
• 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
• 1 cup medium heat taco sauce or 1 (14-oz) can stewed or fire roasted tomatoes
• 1 cup frozen corn kernels
• Salt
• 8 (8 inch) spinach flour tortillas, available on dairy aisle of market
• 2 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar or shredded pepper jack
• 2 scallions, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil - twice around the pan. Add chicken and season with chili powder, cumin, and red onion. Brown the meat, 5 minutes. Add taco sauce or stewed or fire roasted tomatoes. Add black beans and corn. Heat the mixture through, 2 to 3 minutes then season with salt, to your taste.

Coat a shallow baking dish with remaining extra-virgin olive oil, about 1 tablespoon oil. Cut the tortillas in half or quarters to make them easy to layer with. Build lasagna in layers of meat and beans, then tortillas, then cheese. Repeat: meat, tortilla, cheese again. Bake lasagna 12 to 15 minutes until cheese is brown and bubbly. Top with the scallions and serve

Emeri’s Key Lime Tartlets

• 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick butter) melted
*I didn’t make this as a pie but rather individual servings by using premade tart shells that I got from the food store.
• 2 (14-ounce) cans condensed milk
• 1 cup key lime or regular lime juice
• 2 whole eggs

*Emril uses a sour cream/powder sugar topping and I chose to make homemade whip cream which my daughter loves.

• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1 tablespoon vanilla
• 1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
*To make the shell which I didn’t-In a bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter with your hands. Press the mixture firmly into a 9-inch pie pan, and bake until brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before filling.

Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
In a separate bowl, combine the condensed milk, lime juice, and eggs. Whisk until well blended and place the filling in the tartlet shell. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes and allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

While that is chilling in the refrigerator take the heavy cream and beat it for about 5 minutes add the sugar and vanilla while beating.

Spoon a small dab onto each tartlet and garnish with a ¼ slice of lime and a raspberry.

These are so tasty you can just pop them in your mouth! Yum!! Let me know if you try either of these!
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