Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mommy & Me Cupcakes

I am often asked by my friends and co-workers how the heck I have time to do all this decorating and what not with a toddler running around. To this I usually laugh and respond that I burn the candle at both ends and rely heavily on a schedule.  I manage most of my decorating for customers early in the morning, nap times and at night time.  I do like to spend several evenings with my husband curled up on the sofa watching T.V. and I try my best to take a couple nights a week to do so. Occasionally I do have things that I need  get done while my daughter is up running around and you can usually find her right beside me and wanting to be all up in it.  I recently purchased this adorable cupcake set from Melissa & Doug and I  let her go to town decorating while I am doing whatever tasks I need to get done.

This set comes with 4 cupcakes, washable markers, ("icing") and birthday candles.  I also give her some of my extra fondant to play with.  She loves drawing, re-drawing and adding fondant accents to the cupcakes.   I highly recommend this product for any active toddler because this keeps them busy for quite sometime!

Yes, that's green "icing" all over her face.

The end result.
Sometimes it just isn't enough to decorate fake cupcakes and you need the real thing!  So recently I held a Mommy & Me cupcake class at a craft store.  I am a Wilton cake instructor and love that you can teach specialty classes and gear them toward a specific audience and theme.   Since my daily life is focused around a 2.5 year old I figured why not get some of her little friends together and let them go crazy playing with cupcakes, candy and icing! For this class I tried to pick simple and easy cupcake designs for the toddlers. I settled on ladybugs, turtles, rainbows, Easter bunnies, and shamrocks.  The mommies were asked to bring 8 to12 un-iced cupcakes along with a few other supplies.  I purchased several different candies, gave a few quick directions and let them get to work.  I was actually amazed at how well they paid attention and took direction. 
They practiced their icing technique.
They worked on their piping skills.

They even rolled out fondant!

TA-DA!! This was the end result after 2 hours of non-stop cupcake decorating!!

And this is me and my munchkin and only a small taste of the mess she made. This picture was also taken BEFORE all the sugar kicked in!  Needless to say she missed a nap that day and was up way past her bedtime, but it was so worth it!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quick & Simple St. Patrick's Day Crafts!

Whew!! What a busy couple weeks it has been since my last post!! I admit it, I am not the blogger I thought I would be! I have TONS of ideas to blog about and then by the time I am able to sit down for a minute and blog I crash! I will *try* to be better going forward, but I can't make any promises. This past weekend was St. Patty's day, (or is it Paddy's day?!?) At any rate I like to decorate my home up a bit for each holiday and several weeks ago a crafty co-worker of mine turned me onto these two ideas along with a little help from Pinterest. (Have I mentioned that I LOVE Pinterest!?)
I printed off this adorable subway art, framed it and hung it!! EASY!

I then purchased these CHEAP frames from the local dollar tree and pulled out my scrap booking kit and made these LUCK frames.  CUUUUUUTE!

I also wanted to make some sort of green sweet treat like the cake below, but I ran out of time. (Story of my life!)

This maker of this adorable leprechaun cake belongs to Loren at The Baking Sheet

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A month of dinner done in a day!

Yep, that's right! I said a month of dinner D-O-N-E all in one day! If your wondering how to do this then you came to the right place. With the help of some of my new 'friends' I discovered how to cook some delicious meals for the entire month in just under 7 hours. (I apologize in advance for such a lengthy post.)  First of all a little bit of background. I love to cook meals for my family but there are a couple of nights during the week that I am not able to cook dinner because I am at my second or third job.  My first job is being a stay at home mom during the day and I am also a nurse at a local hospital and teach cake decorating a couple nights a week . In addition to this I may have one or two cakes to make during the week for a customer and if I left dinner up to my husband he would only serve pizza or ravioli. So one day I happened to ask on Facebook if anyone knew of any great crock-pot/freezer meals that were healthy. A friend of mine suggested checking out one of her boards on Pinterest and well the rest is history. This sparked a whole chain of events. First I fell in love with Pinterest and actually started to understand it. I then discovered the world of once a month cooking and found a whole bunch of great slow cooker recipes and even blogs about this. (Click here for a good one.) I have always had a love/hate relationship with my crock-pot. Love that all you have to do is throw everything in it and call it a day. Love that your entire house smells like what ever yummy recipe you are making. Hate that it feels like it weighs 20 pounds and having to lug it out from underneath the cabinet. Hate that no matter how much cooking spray I use, it is still the biggest pain in the butt to clean up afterwards. Now after discovering a few tips and tricks I have nothing but love for it.

 In order to be successful with once a month cooking you have to be able to devote one entire day to this. (Believe me it is worth it after all is said and done.) I usually pick a weekend day that I know my husband will be able to tag team in the kitchen with me or with our daughter. The night before I write down what meals I want to make and get my grocery list started. (I seriously think this part could be it's on post because it is a little time consuming as well.) For each recipe that you are making you will need to double the ingredients. So basically if the recipe calls for two cups of chopped onions you will need four. (Sorry to "dumb-it down", but I like when people really explain stuff!) The next morning I get up SUPER early before the rest of the gang gets up and head to the store. (Side note: I LOOOOVE grocery shopping and when I have BIG trips like this I choose to leave the husband and baby at home for time reasons.) When I get home I start prepping everything. With the help of my husband and a food processor we slice and dice all the vegetables needed for each recipe.

This little guy makes life a lot easier too!!

We then get started on the meat.  If you are making a crock-pot meal then you do not need to cook it, but if its for a casserole then you will need to brown everything.  Then after that we divide each doubled recipe up into a labeled freezer bags along with the spices, vegetables and meat.  Like I said before this is SUPER time consuming but it will change your life!! It takes us about 6 to 7 hours from start to finish and I imagine that if you did not have a toddler running around it will take even less time.  Here is what her day looked like while we slaved away in the kitchen.

She did a little coloring.

She played with her doll house.

She had a "birthday party."
She also "helped" us in the kitchen and then she napped, oh the life!!!

Here are is a list of everything we made.  Click on the link for the recipe. 

First of all we eat a lot of chicken because I have never cared for red meat, pork or turkey and chicken is so versatile.  Secondly if the recipe calls for ground beef you can always substitute ground chicken, turkey or soy.  Last if the recipe calls for a can or a jar of something I do not put this in the freezer bag. I wait and add this along with the freezer bag of food on the morning of.    Remember that we doubled each of these recipes and were even able to triple some of them!! We ended up having a total of SIXTEEN meals and most of the time each recipe will yield leftovers for the next day.

TA-DA!!!! (Sadly I couldn't fit it all in the picture.)

Don't forget to add these Slow Cooker Liners to your grocery list.  You will thank me later when you are no longer scrubbing your pot FOR-EVER!

Finally set your freezer bag out thirty minutes prior to putting it all in the crock-pot.

 If your wondering about the cost my grocery bill,  it ran a little over $320 dollars. This averages out to be about $80.00 a week and is a DEAL to me considering the cost of groceries now!  (Keep in mind this does not include fresh fruit and I *try* to buy organic veggies when possible and I use coupons!) 
Whew, I think that is everything!!
 Please leave any questions or comments that you may have.  I would love to hear about your experience with once a month cooking or any recipes you feel like sharing.
As always thanks so much for stopping by!!