Category Archives: Baked things

Recent Cookie Creations

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In the past month or so I’ve done a little baking for a few events. The first was a hired gig which I normally don’t do but it was for a friend whom I am forever indebted to for her last minute help on my wedding day, almost 6 years ago, decorating my tent using wild flowers from my MIL’s field after I failed to consider that very important issue.

She needed some Peter Rabbit themed cookies for a baby shower so I whipped up these as favors for the party:

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The next day, since my kids were bummed I wouldn’t let them help on the Peter Rabbit cookies, we baked up more cookies and I brought these over to another dear friend:

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I’m not sure which I like more, the fun ice cream cones, dragon flies or the cute dogs.

More recently I made cookies for my 10 year high school reunion. Since I had so many other things to do for the party the cookies were done as quickly as possible so I didn’t do anything too fancy. It’s a good thing simply swirling two colors together looks so neat.

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Two days after the reunion my sister, who was in town from Colorado, held an Arbonne party at our mom’s house so I made some cookies of their emblem using a specialty cookie cutter I was gifted. Again, since I was mid-planning for the reunion the cookies got a quick icing job and a little sprinkle action.

Here’s the logo and the cookies

 

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I think I’m done with sugar cookies for a bit but don’t quote me on that. I always find an excuse to make more cookies!

 

Black Raspberry Cake

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Ahh, what a weekend. No major obligations. Just quality family time doing whatever we wanted. We lounged, we went black raspberry picking again like last weekend, we swam in the rain and in the sunshine, we went to a movie and watched one at home and we celebrated our friend, Lesley’s, birthday which meant I spent a little time in the kitchen.

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I was a bit heavy handed with my dusting of powdered sugar and the edges were well done but it was still a well received cake.

Since I had 5 very ripe bananas sitting in the fridge I whipped up some chocolate chip banana muffins using my favorite Cooks Illustrated recipe for Ultimate Banana Bread. I blogged about this recipe way back in 2011 for the first time and included some terrible photos to boot. You can find those terrible photos and the recipe here and I highly recommend that you give it a whirl! Sorry I don’t have any improved pictures to post for you. The 12 normal sized and 24 mini muffins were annihilated before I thought to photograph them and it doesn’t help that my camera has been missing since the 4th…so that sucks.

Anyways, I didn’t think the muffins would be enough for our little birthday get together and I felt the birthday girl needed an actual cake for her candles so I whipped up one of my favorite little cakes that takes almost no time to throw together. I was turned on to this cake originally by my sister-in-law and can’t believe I haven’t shared it with you until now. It’s a pleasant alternative to a traditional birthday cake and is a crowd pleaser.

The recipe comes from Simply Recipes and it’s originally posted as a Blueberry Cake but since I failed to thaw my blueberries, was short on time and had a fridge full of freshly picked black raspberries it was a no-brainer to take a more seasonal approach to this cake.

Have a special function coming up?  Got a craving for something berry-filled and delicious? Give this cake a try! You’ll be glad that you did, I promise.

 

Blueberry or Black Raspberry Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour plus 1 teaspoon of flour (plus more for prepping cake pan)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups blueberries/black raspberries/any other berry, rinsed and drained (if using frozen berries, thaw and drain first)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Method

1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with flour. Or use a 9-inch round cake pan, butter and dust with flour and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2 Combine 1 cup of flour with baking powder and salt and set aside.

3 Using a mixer, beat the butter on medium high speed for 2 minutes. Then add the sugar and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, a couple minutes more. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well blended. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and slowly add the flour mixture, beating until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.

4 Combine the berries with the remaining teaspoon of flour and the lemon juice in a bowl. Spoon the berry mixture over the batter.

5 Bake on middle rack in oven for 1 hour at 350°F, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully slide a thin knife around the edges of the cake to release it from the pan. Transfer the cake to a platter, berry side up. Dust the cake with powdered sugar before serving.

 

 

Banana-Sweet Potato Muffins

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See this contraption with the glowing light behind the bananas? Of course you do. DSC07159

It’s an indoor bug zapper and in a household where there is always a container with scrap food for the chickens, a compost collection bucket, bushels of bananas and other various produce on the counter along with children who just can’t figure out how to close doors and dogs that know how to open them it is a most welcome eye sore to my counter top.

Just for the fruit flies alone it’s been worth the $25 investment and as long as everyone rinses their dishes before placing them in the sink to await their turn in the dishwasher it works very well.

See those bananas that are getting pretty spotty? How can ya miss ’em?

I threw a few of them in a bowl with a left over sweet potato, added some other good stuff and voila! Out of the oven came some delicious muffins that are kid endorsed and mom approved.

DSC07162Here’s the recipe if you wanna give them a go. 5 out of 6 kids under the age of 7 loved them. My little girl was the snob of the group who would have preferred it if I simply gave her the sweet potato and banana in it’s true form not to mention she doesn’t really like chocolate chips. Little weirdo.

 

 

 

 

 

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This is her “These are delicious! I need a big one now!” look. Don’t get me started on her hair!!!

Banana-Sweet Potato Muffins

2 large, ripe bananas, mashed

1 sweet potato cooked, mashed

3 Tbsp maple syrup

1/2 cup applesauce, I used natural (if using original I’d reduce the sugar amount a little)

3 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped pecans

 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins and spray with cooking spry (they stick to the liners a little if you don’t) or just spray the tins well without liners.

2.Combine bananas, sweet potato, applesauce, maple syrup, eggs and sugar in a bowl.

3. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until combined.

4. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans if using.

5. Spoon batter into muffin tins. Bake 20 minutes for regular sized muffins, 12 minutes for mini muffins.

Happy Baking!

Colleen

 

 

 

 

 

An Unexpected Date Night

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Yesterday was Friday the 13th and there was an eerie looking full moon to boot, not that I cared or that you should care, I’m just laying some ground work for my story and figured I’d lead with that. So anyways, yesterday afternoon my oldest two went fishing with their Aunt and cousin for a while as my youngest took a 4 hour nap. I worked on my 2013 photo book until my house filled back up with the welcome chaos of children quarreling, men drinking and moms fluttering about trying to throw dinner together on the fly. So it was shaping up to be a normal Friday night until I got a call at 5pm from my MIL offering to take the kids for a sleep over.

After verifying that my husband hadn’t invited anyone over with their kids I happily accepted the sleepover invite and finished getting dinner on the patio table for my crew. Soon Grandma showed up, a few fire works were set off, remaining food was stuffed down little throats, I ran to pack the overnight bag, our guests headed home, I installed the car seats in G-ma’s car and ushered my minions into their seats, gave hugs and kisses to the cries of my youngest and sent them on their way.

It was a whirl-wind hour and a half and as my husband and I stood alone in our kitchen starring at the empty dinner plates that littered the counter and listening to the quiet that had descended so quickly upon our home we couldn’t help but feel like strangers in a place that was our own. We reveled in our new found freedom having no parental responsibilities, no babysitter to relieve at the end of the night. I cleaned up the dinner mess and joined my husband on the patio at which point I acknowledged how exhausted I was. He suggested I go take a nap on the couch while he waited for a few buddies to show up. I didn’t need convincing and as I lay there on our couch with my dogs on the floor next to me I once more reveled in the absence of or minions and noted how wonderful it felt to lay there instead of going through the bedtime routine.

Of course I didn’t sleep since that would have been a waste of a perfectly good night of potentially good times so I joined the guys around the fire pit to shoot the shit and enjoy some adult conversation. Around 9pm they left to head home to their wives and again I found myself in the kitchen with my husband just enjoying his company and his adoring stares. As it turns out, he likes me a lot. I really like dessert, so I suggested we go out and get some. We headed to Chile’s, a place we frequented back when we were still just dating. Back when it was just the two of us instead of the five of us and every Friday night was full of endless possibilities. We ordered the Southwest Egg Rolls and Chocolate Molton Cake, just like we use to, and although it was 10 o’clock by the time we finished up, my favorite guy suggested we go see a movie, again, just as we use to. So we did. Because we could.

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Despite my lack of hunger we bought popcorn and a Cherry Coke, because that’s just what you do, and as we looked around the lobby watching the teenagers and other movie-goers my husband decided to play just one game. I wish I could report that I was the girl standing next to the video game machine admiring my guy as he crushed it but in reality he got his ass kicked by the game. I laughed at him, he laughed at himself and then we went to watch the semi-funny, kinda crappy movie. By 1am we were back home, we made out a little, (yup, just like we use to) and passed out.

I got the uninterrupted sleep I’ve been desperate for and now that it’s 10:30 in the morning I think it’s time to greet this beautiful day, give my favorite guy a foot rub and go gather our minions from grandma.

Thanks for letting me brag about my awesome night. I hope you’ve had some stellar Summer nights lately too! Enjoy the weekend and happy Father’s Day to all you great guys out there, especially the one laying beside me!
Cheers,
Colleen

Rainbow Cake in a Jar

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My cousin, Jess, came to hang and my nephew was over and it was a dreary day. What better way to brighten it up than by making rainbow cake in mason jars?!?

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It was simple and fun and, despite the fact that our layers didn’t bake as nicely as the pictures on Google showed no one cared because, it was delicious.

Thanks for the great idea, Jess!

Throw this activity onto your Summer bucket list. Your kids will thank you!

Cheers,
Colleen

Beer and Birthday Parties

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Our weekend, which was fun despite the less than stellar weather, included a beer festival and birthday celebrations for our 2 year old as well as her future prom date.

DSC06887Saturday we hit up Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds Brewery. Going to a beer festival while pregnant is not ideal but hey, someone had to drive and I was the prime candidate so off to Indiana we went early Saturday morning. Dark Lord Day is the one day of the year that Three Floyds Brewery sells its famous Russian Imperial Stout and more than 8,000 people showed up this year for the event. The gates opened up around 10:15am but people began lining up at 2am to be at the front of the line to get in. However, once in you have to stand in line again to buy your 4 pack of Dark Lord. It’s beer nerd heaven where male and female beer nerds from all around bring their favorite specialty brews to share with total strangers and eat their pretzel necklaces to try and soak up some of the alcohol they are consuming but basically by 1pm there are a lot of people slurring and stumblingMom and ela. It was much more entertaining last year when I could partake in the fun and the weather was nice but hey, that’s just part of being pregnant.

We got home from the festival around 5pm on Saturday and I immediately began cleaning and prepping for our 2 year old’s birthday party the next morning.

We were suppose to have a picnic in the park for her birthday with friends and family but the cold and rain ruined that so instead I cleaned by house and had everyone over. Nothing like a little motivation to clear the clutter! I was keeping everything simple this year because the party was going to be at the playground so we just did a bagel bar with cheese sticks and a fruit salad for lunch and donuts and cookies for dessert. I was partial to the flower sugar cookie bouquets. It’s the first time I made them and they were so simple and looked cute on the dessert table. No fancy cake or cupcakes this year but the kids and adults scarfed the desserts none-the-less so I’m counting it as a win. DSC06891 (2)

DSC06901My little 2 year old was all smiles throughout her party although I failed to capture any of her delight on camera and she even kindly thanked all her guests after opening their gifts with a slurred, “Dank Doo!”

I must say that it’s nice having all our birthdays over with until December and just a handful of big events to look forward to over the summer months!

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This little guy turned two as well and was a lot easier to photograph. We went to his house in the evening for his birthday dinner so it turned out to be a great day celebrating these two cute stinkers.

Was your weekend relaxing? Eventful? Whatever it was, I hope it was fun!

Cheers,

Coll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choo Choos, Cool Whip and Cookies, OH MY!

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Whenever my kindergartener is off of school for a day we try to pack in as many fun things as possible to take advantage of the time we have together. Yesterday was no exception and I am still exhausted this morning from facilitating one activity after another but that’s A-Okay with me. It was a great day.

The kids had been jonesing to ride the Metra train again and asked to take a ride to The Choo Choo. It’s a little burger joint right off the tracks that delivers your meal via train if you’re lucky enough to get a spot at the counter. Unfortunately we didn’t get such a seat this time but we enjoyed our visit none-the-less.

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The train was packed on the way  home but a nice fella gave up his seat so the four of us could pile in. I was very grateful not to have to stand with my minions. After our 2 1/2 hour, train themed adventure I whisked them off to the gym to find my sanity before heading home for soccer practice. After practice we dyed Easter eggs using the Cool Whip method just like last year.

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Our eggs from last year turned out a lot better but that might be because I forgot to soak the eggs in vinegar. Oops! Oh well, we got a few good ones anyways and the dying only took 10 minutes, if that. I’m counting it as a win.

After shoveling some lasagna down their gullets I set the kids up to decorate sugar cookies. I just couldn’t motivate myself to decorate them with royal icing so instead I slathered on some frosting that only took a few minutes to whip up and let them get after it. They are mighty tasty with the buttery, powdered sugar frosting and piles of sprinkles and now we have some treats for any weekend visitors, like the Easter Bunny!

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Today we’re off to have more fun. We have some birthday parties to attend both before and after the soccer games and I assume there will be the usual, random Saturday shenanigans that always round out our weekends. I wonder if I can sneak in a nap…

Wishing you all a wonderful, shenanigan-filled Spring weekend!

Cheers,

Colleen

 

Let’s Talk Chocolate Cake

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Since I just filled y’all in about pregnancy #4 in my last post I figure it’s only fitting we should now discuss chocolate cake. Who am I kidding though? Talking about, and eating, chocolate cake is fitting at any time in my life but we’ll get after it here and now.

I’ve had my eye on a chocolate cake recipe that I stumbled across over at melskitchencafe.com a few weeks back. Mel boasted of a moist cake using an unconventional ingredient with fluffy chocolate whipped cream frosting. I was sold, especially since I’m so over the standard birthday cake combo of yellow cake with buttercream frosting. I bookmarked the recipe and daydreamed about it until yesterday when I decided that with Spring break over and soccer beginning we needed a little extra sweetness in our life.

The cake baked up great and flat thanks to Wilton’s Bake Even Strips that I always put around my pans. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you can check them out here. Basically they help reduce the amount of cake you have to trim off after baking to achieve level layers for stacking.

As for the chocolate whipped cream frosting, that was pretty straightforward so naturally I screwed it up. Either I didn’t let the chocolate-cream mixture cool completely in the fridge prior to whipping or my mixer speed was set too high or most likely, both. Whatever the reason I ended up with a mess, far from the fluffy chocolaty goodness I was aiming for. Mind you, it was a delicious mess but a mess all the same and I had no time to start over. That’s when I improvised and added powdered sugar until the consistency recovered enough to slather on the cake but, make no mistake, I was pissed. I’m an emotional baker.

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After dinner I served up the cake and I was pretty impressed with the cake itself. It was moist and chocolaty and it passed the test of my chocoholic husband. He even said the cake as a whole would have been great if the frosting hadn’t sucked. Love that honesty! The kids and I didn’t mind the frosting so much but I can’t wait to make it slathered in something more fluffy.

Then things got fun and I asked them to guess the secret ingredient. My son said, “Sprinkles!”

Nope, but that’s a solid 4-year-old guess.

My daughter pondered and said, “Chocolate!”

Nope, wouldn’t be a secret ingredient since the whole cake consists of it.

So then I said, “Quinoa!”

(Did you just groan at me or cheer? I couldn’t tell.)

It’s a gluten-free, dairy-free cake made with cooked quinoa that gets blended in a blender with the milk, eggs and vanilla extract. The recipe is linked above and if you have any uncooked quinoa left over from the other recipes I’ve suggested this would be a delicious way to use it up. Just don’t screw up the frosting like I did! I promise to move off the quinoa bandwagon but I had to share this adventure with you.

Stay happy in the kitchen, friends.

Love, Your Sugar-Addicted Pregger

 

 

 

Made It!

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So about two and a half weeks ago I was sitting on my butt twiddling my fingers, a little bored. Sure there was housework to be done but I figured that could wait as I sat on the couch with my little ones, or rather as I sat and my little ones crawled/wrestled/jumped all over me. It’s a novelty having mom just sit on the couch and chill. I really need to do it more often. Any who, what I was really doing was conserving my energy for the upcoming slam that included baking 9 dozen sugar cookies for my oldest friend’s wedding, 3 dozen sugar cookies for my daughter’s 6th birthday party, 1 very specific birthday cake, 3 dozen birthday party cupcakes along with a small cake for blowing out the candles/spitting all over, and 4 dozen sugar cookies for a 100th birthday celebration. I did that in 9 days. Never mind the fact that my twin and her hubby came into town for the wedding, stayed up until 2:30am both nights and boogied our butts. Basically it left me worn out but now that I’m on the other side of it all I can breath easy and smile because, well, it’s over for one and for two, everything went over very well. She here’s a photo recap of the craziness…

Below are the sugar cookies for the wedding. There were 3 dozen of each, all tied up in little treat bags and I really wish I had taken a photo of all the bags sprawled out on my table. It was a sight! I’ve included a pic of the beautiful bride, Jessica, and my oldest buddy, Mike. Last comes my favorite picture of two of my munchkins spoiling their dinner while agreeing mom’s cookies take the cake.

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Despite the bad lighting I love this next photo as well. It includes all my nearest and dearest people in the world. From left to right: My brother-in-law, Chace; twin sister, Kelly; mom, Anke; husband and kiddos; myself; and my “little” brother, Brenden. They are my happy place.

My favorite people in the world. My BIL, sister, mom, husband and kiddos and my brother.

My favorite people in the world. My BIL, sister, mom, husband and kiddos and my brother.

Thrown into the week of baking and crazy fun was my daughter’s 6th birthday on Wednesday followed by her glow party at Pump It Up on Friday. She wanted a Supergirl theme with the standard colors, nothing girly but was specific that her birthday cake be a pink angel food cake with chocolate frosting and including the Supergirl logo on it. This is what I came up with:

She was happy with the result after I explained that the Supergirl logo had her initial in it instead of the 'S'.

She was happy with the result after I explained that the Supergirl logo had an “L” for her name instead of the “S” for Supergirl.

There were 29 kids at the party... It was wild!

There were 29 kids at the party… It was wild!

A quick cake needed to be whipped up so Super Girl could blow her germs all over it

A quick cake needed to be whipped up so Super Girl could blow her germs all over it

This shot, although dark and blurry, cracks me  up.

This shot, although dark and blurry, cracks me up and shows exactly why I didn’t want her blowing out candles on the cupcakes!

3 dozen Super Lilly cookies were handed out as favors.

3 dozen Super Lilly cookies were handed out as favors.

And of course a few tropical/St. Patrick's inspired cookies needed to be made for my sister and her husband's first anniversary this past Sunday.

And of course a few tropical/St. Pat’s inspired cookies needed to be made for my sister and her husband’s first anniversary which they are celebrating back where the magic happened; The Dominican Republic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took Sunday off from baking and partying to recover a little and to clean the pigsty that my house had become. Monday I went back to the kitchen, grabbed the flour, sugar and such and got down to business. This time I was baking for a very special occasion. My Grammy’s best friend, Libby, who passed away in December would have turned 100 years old this past Wednesday and there was a big celebration at her senior apartment building in her honor. Libby was a lover of butterflies so it was a no brainer what type of cookie to bake:

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Spending the morning with some lovely blue hairs and my littlest lady who was running amok to everyone’s delight was a great way to end my marathon of baking and partying. I have quickly switched gears and am busy enjoying Spring with my minions and mutts and all the mud that goes with it!

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It’s nice to be back writing again and to have the flour and sugar wiped from my countertops!

Happy Spring, y’all!

Colleen

 

Fun Happenings in Our Kitchen

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There are a few fun and/or delicious things that have been happening in our kitchen lately. Come and take a look and maybe find a little inspiration to try some new things.

First off, I made some AMAZING quinoa patties compliments of Mel from Melskitchencafe.com. I’d post a picture of them but we were all happily stuffing our faces so the camera was far from my mind. Quinoa, if you’re unaware, is a wonderful superfood that can be substituted for rice/potatoes/pasta and is high in protein, fiber, magnesium and iron. My kids are a little less enthusiastic about quinoa but when it comes to these little patties I’ve been called “an amazing cook!” by my 5 year old and also told, “You should be a chef!” That’s quite an endorsement from a kid if I do say so myself so go check them out. We ate them dipped in ketchup and sour cream with cottage cheese and fruit for sides. It was a very satisfying, meat-less dinner.

Another awesome dish from Melskitchencafe.com that I made this weekend is The Ultimate 7-Layer Dip. It’s a little labor intensive but well worth it. It’s suppose to be an appetizer for 6-8 people but they way I stood around this dish with a few friends and annihilated it I had to count it as my dinner! Again, there’s no picture for you to enjoy but if you jump over to Mel’s site you’ll quickly fall in love with her great food blogging and be able to put a visual to this dish that I am drooling over as I type. It’s getting a little messy over here…

Pull it together, woman! Moving on…

My left-over Super Hero sugar cookies that I made for a baby shower were a fun accompaniment to the few delicious dishes I was whipping up this weekend. It was my first attempt at these aside from Spiderman and the learning curve was huge so next time I expect them to look even better.

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Much to my son’s dismay they are now all gone but I’ll soon be whipping up 10 dozen for an upcoming wedding so he won’t be deprived of sugar cookies for too long!

 

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A little non-edible kitchen fun happened when my bored son needed a little excitement. It’s the simple and always pleasing baking soda and colored vinegar reaction. He was eager to show his sister the awesome color combinations he made and of course she needed a chance to experiment with the bubbly, color fun.

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We used pink, blue, teal and yellow which combined to make this awesomeness…DSC06387

  

My daughter left her tray out over night to show her dad the next morning. Of course her little sister started playing in it and eventually learned that baking soda doesn’t taste as good as quinoa patties and 7-layer dip although it does look prettier!

As for this week, I’m going to try branching out some more with sweet and sour chicken, chicken and sweet potato soup and a chocolate flan cake all from Melskitchencafe.com.

What’s your favorite thing to whip up these days and what’s your favorite place to get great recipes? I’d love to hear about it!

Cheers to staying motivated in the kitchen!

Colleen