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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ghostly Mini Halloween Trifles

How cute and spooky are these Ghostly Mini Trifles?  These peanut butter white chocolate cups with ghosts make a great treat at a Halloween party!  The kids will go wild for them!
Serving them up in little individual cups makes them so fun too!  I love making trifles because they are SO easy and always look so pretty with the layered effect.  They're certainly impressive.  Add a little ghost on top, and how can you resist?

This trifle consists of Nutter Butter cookies, white chocolate pudding, and a white chocolate-covered Nutter Butter cookie with mini chocolate chip eyes.

They can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated, as long as they get eaten the same day.

Yield: about four small cups

1 pkg. (3.3 oz.) White Chocolate Flavored Instant Pudding, prepared
1 pkg. Nutter Butter Cookies
1 pkg. White Chocolate chips
A handful of mini chocolate chips

Prepare pudding and let set in the fridge for about 10 minutes to thicken.  Alternate layers of pudding and cookies (I put the pudding on the bottom) until full.  To make the ghosts, melt white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and dip cookies about 2/3 the way down in the chocolate.  Position two mini chocolate chips on for eyes.  Refrigerate for about 10-15 minutes, or just until the chocolate hardens.  Can store at room temperature, after the chocolate solidifies, as long as it's not too hot.  Place a ghost in each cup just before serving.

Are you hosting a Halloween party this year?  Even if not, these Ghostly Mini Trifles are such a tasty, cute dessert to enjoy during the month of October!

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hazelnut Maple-Glazed Cinnamon Rolls: October Mystery Dish

Maple-Glazed Cinnamon Rolls with hazelnuts are absolute heaven!  Perfectly sweet, with a hint of maple as a pleasant surprise.
It's time for some more Mystery Dish!  I get so excited each month to share with you the delectable creations of the group, along with my own.  And...exciting news...we've expanded!  We have some new members and I couldn't be more thrilled.

Marcie from Flavor the Moments was our gracious hostess and asked us to use three ingredients from the following list:

kabocha squash
hard apple cider
heavy cream
maple syrup
brussels sprouts

There's just something about fall that urges me to make cinnamon rolls!  It could be the cooler weather and the changing leaves, but this time of year, I just want to cozy up and enjoy some comfort food, especially those in the dessert category.  

So I decided to give the traditional sweet roll recipe a bit of a shake-up and throw in some tasty hazelnuts and a bit of maple from the syrup that typically tops my pancakes.  

I don't mean to toot my own horn...oh wait...yes I do, because horn-tooting is totally authorized when something is this awesome. Anyhow, it was a genius flavor combo, so you'll forgive me if I sound prideful.
But in return, I'll let you take the credit for the compliments that come when you make these phenomenal rolls.  :)

I have to admit that I had never eaten a hazelnut before I saw the ingredient list.  So I was eager to give them a try, and after I did, wondered why I'd been kept in the dark for so long.  They are a scrumptious nut!


Sweet Dough
1 1/4 c. scalded milk or warm water (I use warm water)
1 Tbsp. yeast
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/3 c. oil
1 egg, beaten
4 cups flour (I use bread flour anytime I'm using yeast); add up to 1/4 c. more flour if needed.  Mine didn't.

1/3 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 to 2 tsp. cinnamon (I don't really measure, just sprinkle it on)

1 c. confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. maple syrup (the kind you use for pancakes)
3-4 Tbsp. heavy cream

For the dough, add warm water or scalded milk to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add yeast, then sugar, salt, oil, and beaten egg.  Add 2 cups of flour and mix until ingredients are mostly incorporated.  Add flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing in between, just until dough begins to clean the sides of the bowl.  Be careful not to add too much. 

Place a warm cloth over the bowl and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.  Remove to floured counter and roll into a rectangle.  Spread softened butter over dough, then sprinkle with brown sugar, then cinnamon.  Roll up and pinch the seams.  I use a little cold water to help the dough stick together.  Cut into pieces (I always use a string of unscented dental floss, but a sharp knife works too) and place on a greased baking sheet.  Let rise another hour or so, until doubled. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes.

While the rolls are cooling, prepare the glaze by whisking together sugar, cinnamon and maple syrup.  Add heavy cream 1 Tbsp. at a time, until desired consistency is reached.  Once rolls are mostly cool, drizzle with glaze.

**The filling amounts are totally adaptable to your taste.  I really don't measure that part.  Just spread on some butter, then sprinkle on some brown sugar and cinnamon to your liking.

These are utter and complete bliss!  If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, I just might overlook chocolate for these Maple-Glaze Cinnamon Rolls...gasp!
They are seriously bakery-worthy!  Mmmmmm....so good!  I hope you love them too!


Check out what the rest of the group made this month!

Baked Apple Donuts with Maple Glaze by Yummy Healthy Easy Baked French Toast Casserole by I Want Crazy Hazelnut Maple-Glazed Cinnamon Rolls by I Dig Pinterest Hazelnut Macarons with Pumpkin Maple Filling by Baking a Moment Honey-Thyme Roasted Pork Tenderloin from The Pajama Chef Italian Sausage and Ravioli Skillet by Simply Gloria Kabocha Squash Curry with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Farro by Chez CateyLou Maple Glazed Fennel and Brussels Sprouts by The Well Floured Kitchen Pear Hazelnut Bread with Orange Maple Glaze by Blahnik Baker Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples, Bacon, and Hazelnuts by Flavor the Moments Shaved Brussels Sprouts Harvest Salad with a Hard Apple Cider Vinaigrette by Joyful Healthy Eats {Vegan} Orange Hazelnut Maple Cinnamon Rolls by Sweet Tooth Life

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Jump Start Your Holiday $300 Cash Giveaway!

I'm so excited to be teaming up with some amazing bloggers to bring you the chance to win $300 in Pay Pal or Amazon Cash!!  How sweet is that?!?

The holidays will be here before we know it.  They bring lots of joy, magic and wonder, but can take quite a toll on the bank account balance.  :)  So we wanted to lighten the load a bit and make it possible for one very lucky person to do some gift shopping on us!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This fabulous giveaway is brought to you by:
The Weary Chef - Hot Eats and Cool Reads - Krafted Koch Five Heart Home - Flavor the moments - Food Faith Fitness Pint Sized Baker - Dieter's Downfall - Delightful E Made Belle of the Kitchen - Petite Allergy Treats - Clarks Condensed Yesterfood - I Dig Pinterest - Memories by the Mile My Turn for Us - House of Yumm - Yummy Healthy Easy Julie's Eats & Treats - Love Bakes Good Cakes - Diary of a Recipe Collector Melanie Makes - The Bitter Side of Sweet - Life Made Sweeter Maebells - From Everyday To Gourmet - My Gluten-Free Kitchen Or Whatever You Do - Wishes and Dishes - Lemon Tree Dwelling - Chelsea's Messy Apron

Best of luck to you!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fun Holiday Traditions for Kids with Hallmark's "Once Upon a Northpole Christmas" Book plus a Giveaway!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #NorthPoleFun #CollectiveBias

It's never too early to start planning for the holidays, so I'm excited to be sharing with you some fun traditions that my kids and I enjoy during the most wonderful time of the year.  Hallmark's "Once Upon a Northpole Christmas", Snowball Cookies, and hot chocolate with peppermint candy cane marshmallow stirrers are included in our festivities, so be sure to read on for all the exciting details!
I know it's not even Halloween, but my little ones are already getting excited for Christmas!  Yes, the trick-or-treat buckets are out and ready to roll, I've stocked up on candy and the costumes are just waiting to be donned, and yet the hot chocolate, along with the candy cane stirrers and snowball cookies have already made their first debut.  Ha!  We just couldn't help it. :)
Every year, we can't wait to make our delicious hot chocolate, accompanied by some homemade candy cane chocolate marshmallow stirrers.  Don't they just scream "Christmas!"?  

Simply unwrap a few peppermint candy canes, dip in melted chocolate, let set, then pop a jumbo marshmallow on the end.  The chocolate dip and marshmallow will melt to perfection while stirring in the hot chocolate, creating a dreamy holiday drink!  Mmmmmm....!!!
Since we don't see snow very often here, we like to bring it into our home in a the form of a dessert with these Snowball Cookies.  The kids love helping me make them, and they come together in a jiff!


1/2 c. salted butter, softened but cooled
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. pecans, chopped
Powdered sugar for rolling and sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla or almond extract.  Add flour, salt, and chopped pecans and mix until blended.  Form dough into 1" balls and arrange on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately roll in powdered sugar.  Let cool completely, then roll in additional powdered sugar if desired.  Makes approximately 15 cookies.

Hot chocolate and cookies aside, quite possibly the highlight of our holiday season each year is our book advent.  Each evening in December leading up to Christmas, the kids get to unwrap a festive story and read it by the glow of the tree while in their pajamas.  Most of the books are from our collection that we've built up over the years, but the kids just beam when they get the occasional surprise of one with crisp pages and the amazing "new book" smell.  
So you can imagine the scene when the kids opened Hallmark's "Once Upon a Northpole Christmas" this past weekend.  We'll be adding it to our book advent rotation in December.

It comes with a pretty snowflake ornament that glows to let Santa know where to visit on the night of Christmas Eve.  We haven't decided who will get to put their name on it.  :)

I have to tell you about the adorable Northpole Communicator device that Santa and his elves sent too.  Each day in December, the kids get to "dial in" to the North Pole and speak to some special friends there.  The kids have been trying to cheat the system, but when they turn the knob, an elf relays a message to check back later on December 1st. :) We're working on the patience thing.  

These items from Hallmark are based off of a new movie coming out and will be launching exclusively in Walmart stores on November 1st!
"Once Upon a Northpole Christmas" is a heartwarming tale and reminder of a huge part of what the holidays are all about...the happiness that comes from enjoying family and loved ones.

It's a rhyming story about finding true joy during the holiday season, a magical snowfall, and the importance of a close-knit family.
The kids were completely drawn to the bold, beautiful illustrations and of course the cute story involving Santa and his elves and children just like them.
My son has been attached to the snowflake.  He even sleeps with it. :)  When we set up the tree, it will earn a special place there until Christmas Eve when the kids will take it to their room and set it to glow all night as a beacon for Santa and his reindeer.

We are looking forward to our book advent and including Hallmark's "Once Upon a Northpole Christmas"!  I hope you enjoyed reading about some of our family's favorite holiday traditions.  I'd love to hear about yours in the comments below!

Enter below for your chance to win a Northpole item!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Drink Me if You Dare Free Printable Halloween Tags

This apothecary jar "Drink Me If You Dare" potion is sure to be a hit at your Halloween party!  Scroll down to download your free printable tags!

We've been watching some fun family Halloween-type movies lately to get us excited for the special day.  One of them is Bedknobs and Broomsticks.  I used to love that show as a child, and after watching it again after what seems like forever, I can say that it still holds a special place in my heart.  The humor and story are just perfect.

Today's potion drink, however, was inspired by the movie Alice in Wonderland when she swallows the liquid in the bottle with the tag that reads "DRINK ME" and subsequently shrinks.  Although in this case, I told my four-year-old son it might turn him into a white rabbit.

He still partook and afterwards I had him convinced that he was a fluffy bunny, even after he saw himself in true form in the mirror.  Ha! I love my trusting children.  :) 
Beware of the bright green fizzy liquid!  Its effects vary with each individual who dares to drink.  :) 

To make this fun Halloween party drink, I used some apothecary jars with cork lids that I found in the Dollar Spot at Target.  I filled them with green soda (punch works too), and attached the tags with black and white baker's twine.

Download and print your free drink tags HERE.

How fun are these?

Easy peasy and a great way to make your party guests a little anxious!

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Spiderweb Plate Kids' Craft

I love making things with my kids, and I thought a laced spiderweb craft would be perfect to help get us even more excited for Halloween (as if we need the help). Ha!

  I'm always drawn to inexpensive, fun ways to let my kids get creative, so I thought, why not put together "spiderwebs" on simple paper plates?  
Aren't they cute?

It doubles as a decoration and, as my kids pointed out, a "play thing", because they removed the spider and started a game of "make believe".  It made me smile.  My daughter was a gigantic Black Widow and my son was a Tarantula.  The thoughts give me the creeps, but since I know they're not real, I'll live.  :) 
Here's what you'll need to make this ultra cute spiderweb Halloween craft:

Paper plates of any size (I used small)
white string
black pipe cleaners
black pom poms
small googly eyes
hot glue gun
hole punch
Begin by punching holes all around your paper plate.  Mine were a little over 1" apart, but it's hard to go wrong here.
Cut a long piece of white string and thread it through the holes around the plate, making sure they criss-cross nicely to create a "web" look.  It's fine if you don't end up using all the holes.  No worries.
The kids loved this part!

When you're pleased with your web on front, tie the ends in back and trim.
Now make a cute spider by cutting eight small pieces of pipe cleaner.  Hot glue them to the sides of your black pom pom and bend to look like legs.  Then glue on two googly eyes and admire the cute little guy.  You can either glue the spider onto the web if you plan to hang the plate, or just set him on there if the plate will be sitting flat.

It's a super fun and simple kids craft that is sure to bring a Halloween vibe to your home!

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Baby Food Jar Spider Craft

This Baby Food Jar Pipe Cleaner Spider is a super simple and inexpensive craft that the kids can help with too!  It also doubles as a fun Halloween decoration!
Aren't they cute little creepy crawly guys?  I knew those baby food jars I saved would come in handy one day.  :)  You won't believe how easy these things are to make!  You'll just need to allow time for them to dry.


Large baby food jars
googly eyes
black paint
black pipe cleaners
hot glue gun

Use the tutorial HERE for painting the jars.  You'll simply squirt the paint inside, put the lid on, and shake it all around until fully covered.  Then let dry overnight.  I like to move the jars around a bit so they don't stick to the scratch paper when the paint pools.  

Then just glue on eight pieces of bent pipe cleaner, four on each side of the jar, for the legs.  Lastly glue on two googly eyes and you're done! 
Now that's my kind of spider.  The type that doesn't crawl or land on me in my sleep.  Yes, it's happened and I still have the heebie jeebies. 
I'll be using these critters as table centerpieces at a party soon.
Happy Halloween!

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Witch's Fingers Halloween Treat

These Witch's Fingers may take you a little off-guard at first, but they are sure a tasty and intriguing Halloween treat!  
Halloween is a time when it's ok to give others a little spook.  In fact, it's kind of fun.  Though I don't get into the really gruesome tricks and treats, I enjoy the cute, creepy kind. 

Basically if my little kids would think it was exciting and wouldn't scream, cringe, or have nightmares at the sight of it, we're safe.  :)
This treat passed the kid test with flying colors.  My seven-year-old daughter came home from school and I directed her to the bowl filled with Witch's Fingers.  She looked at it, grinned from ear to ear, and grabbed a few for a snack.

Today's Halloween recipe brings to mind the show The Wizard of Oz with one of our favorite scenes where Dorothy pours a bucket of water on the very green Wicked Witch and she screams, "I'm melting!"  It's a nice reminder that good does prevail.

Anyway, let's have a quick run-down on how to make these cute things! They are seriously a cinch!


Green candy melts
Straight, long and narrow mini candy bars (I used Kit Kats)
Put your candy bars in the fridge or freezer just until the chocolate is hardened well enough that it won't easily melt while dipping.  Next, melt your candy melts in the microwave and stir until smooth.  Let cool for a few minutes, or your candy bars will melt when you start to dip them.
Use a fork to turn the candy bar in the candy melts until it's completely covered.
Transfer to a baking sheet that's lined with wax paper.  Add a peanut half for the fingernail.  Use a toothpick to make the knuckle creases.  

Let the green coating set completely.  I like to put mine in the fridge for about 10 minutes to speed up the process.  After it's set, use a butter knife to remove any messy edges.
Yes those fingernails are in need of a serious manicure, but they taste great!  Ha!

I'll be sending a bowl of these with my husband for his work Halloween party where hopefully they'll have a shot at winning the "Most Creative Halloween Food" Prize.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Best Toys and Tips for Making Learning Fun for Kids

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.  #TargetToys #CollectiveBias

Today I'm sharing some great tips for making learning fun for kids with the help of the Target Toy Emporium (available online)!
My kids would play all day if I let them.  You can probably relate.  In fact, we have a hard time working in chores because they enjoy the fun part of life so much.  :)  I love watching them having a good time, but so many times "relaxation" turns into mindless vegging and then quarreling.  

So I like to encourage them to do something constructive while taking a break from the typical demands of the day.  This comes with providing them with ample opportunities to explore, discover, and create, outside of the classroom.  In other words, I like to help keep their minds and hands busy, being productive, whenever possible!  

In order for the kids to get on board, my job is to make it fun!  The Target Toy Emporium (available online) makes my quest a cinch!

They've got oodles of great toys to select from, in multiple categories, all aimed at helping kids explore and learn while enjoying it at the same time.  

These exploratory toys work in tandem with my tips for making learning fun for kids.

1.  Make a simple craft.
Kids love art projects, and creativity is a critical part of a child's intellectual development.  My son made a paper door hanger for his room with the Melissa & Doug Wooden Animal Stamp Set.  I love that the ink is washable!
I cut out the hanger on my Silhouette and then he went to town giving it his own spin.
Now he's an expert stamper!

2.  Turn the experience into a little challenge, accompanied with lots of encouragement.

My son loves building and constructing things, so I knew he would love the Melissa & Doug (we're huge fans of Melissa & Doug, if you couldn't tell) Magnetic Pattern Blocks Set from the Toy Emporium (available online).  It came with different suggestions for use, depending on the age of the child.  

Younger kids can place a paper pattern on the board and and then place the magnetic shapes on top.  My son decided to use the pattern as a guide instead.  And then he gave it a little flair by adding orange squares for hair, because his human was a girl.  :)
He got slightly frustrated at times, trying to get the shapes to turn just like those on the model, but with mommy coaching and cheering from behind, he did just fine.  :)
He was so proud of his accomplishment!  Now he's worked his way up to the tougher samples and even enjoys creating his own designs.

I appreciate that, not only is he reinforcing his shapes and colors, but he's learning spacial and pattern recognition with this fun toy.  Possibly my favorite part was that no assembly was required, and the magnet shapes are pure genius. :)

3. Be enthusiastic and praise their efforts.
Get excited with them when they show you what they've made and compliment them on the specifics of what you like about it.  Then display it around the house for all to see!  There's nothing that makes a child prouder than knowing his or her creations are treasured.
We had a fun time browsing the Target Toy Emporium (available online) together.  I'll definitely be frequenting it, especially with the holidays just around the corner, because it's a great one-stop place to shop!

Feel free to visit the Pinterest board below for more inspiration!

What tips would you add to help make learning fun for kids?  I'd love to hear!
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