Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day Dinner Ideas

When you have kids, or if you aren't interested in battling the restaurant crowds this Valentine's Day, then you might want to make a more whimsical dinner for your family on the 14th! Here are two fun ideas to make with your kids.

Heart-Shaped Pizza! You can start with a refrigerated pizza crust, or make one from a mix like we did ... or even make your dough from scratch! Shape it into a large heart on your pizza pan and add sauce and toppings like usual. I love to add in "secret" veggies to the sauce... your family will never know they're eating a veggie pizza!

You can even add strips of pepper on top - red pepper would be particularly appropriate! - and lay it out to shape hearts!! If you cut it so each slice is curved, just two slices together should make a perfect heart! I actually didn't have any peppers on hand to try this, but we did cut our pepperonis into hearts! I just used my kitchen shears and cut a few at a time so it was a quick job and came out great! Molly (4) and Ben (1) both loved helping to make our pizza together, and they ate it up great!

Heart-Shaped Meatloaf! This special dinner has been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember! My parents always stayed home with us kids on Valentine's Day and my mom always made her heart-shaped meatloaf. Now it is fun for me to follow in her footsteps and even my husband looks forward to this special meal instead of eating out! Use whatever recipe you want for your meatloaf... but shape it into a heart. My mom and I like to fill the middle of the meatloaf with shredded cheese that will melt into pure deliciousness as the meatloaf bakes! (I also sometimes mix in secret veggies from my food processor.) The "icing on the cake" is to add ketchup to the top of your meatloaf right before you bake it! You can draw hearts or write "I Love You" or "XOXO" for an extra special touch. You can even use food dye to create pink or red mashed potatoes to serve alongside your special meatloaf!

Finally, serve a pink drink with your meal: Cherry 7-Up with extra maraschino cherries or try strawberry milk for a super cute pink milk mustache!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tissue Paper Hearts

This was one of my favorite art projects I remember doing in elementary school. I was so excited to make one with my own little girl! Here's what you'll need:

Red tissue paper squares - cut 1"x 1"
Cardstock or Paper Plate

Of course you can make any shape with your tissue paper squares, but I thought a heart for Valentine's Day would be a good beginner project for this. Start with your paper plate or cardstock and draw a heart shape. Fill in part of it with some glue, working one section at a time. Take a square of tissue paper and wrap it around the eraser-end of a pencil. I was worried that Molly (4) would have trouble with this, but she did great and never ripped a single tissue paper square! Using the pencil, press your square onto your shape so the edges of tissue paper stick out. Be sure you fill the whole shape and put each square right next to the others so there's no blank spaces!

I actually found a package of different colored tissue paper squares at Michael's, on sale for less than a dollar! You can always cut your own though - in fact, the bigger the project you want to make, the bigger the square you can use! After your project dries, carefully cut it out and you can write a special message on the back!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Valentine Memories Don't Have to Be Homemade

Who says your special crafts and snacks have to be homemade? As long as you are enjoying special time with your children, then doing anything with them is what memories are made of!

Target has some great Valentine's Day activities, decorations, and gifts in their dollar section. We found two great crafts that were fun and simple to make! One activity we bought was a kit to make three little poof ball creatures, which was really cute! Molly (4) really enjoyed their kit to make a foam Valentines Day monkey decoration. (Monkeys are pretty big around here.) I really love foam crafts for my kids because they are so colorful and lightweight enough to display wherever. This particular craft kit was great because the foam was pre-cut and had adhesive already on it. In other words, Molly could do it all by herself and she was so proud! Now that it's hanging on our wall (just with a couple circles of scotch tape), Ben (1) always says "ooh ooh ah ah!" when we pass by it, like a monkey. I would say all that enjoyment was worth a buck!

The second thing we did that day that wasn't exactly homemade, was bake up some Pilsbury cookies! Sure, I knew they made all kinds of sugar cookies with different seasonal pictures on them. But did you know they make Disney Princess ones now!? I found some at Walmart Neighborhood Market with hearts and purple princess slippers on them. Molly (4) can line them up on the cookie sheet by herself as we count out the cookies. And they were delicious!

So see? Not everything has to be homemade to be special!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Football Cake Pops

In addition to the other Superbowl activities we've done (please see my previous blog post!), Molly (4 ) and I also made cake pops for everyone! We have a Bella Cake Pop and Donut Hole Maker so that makes it quick and easy! You can also find a recipe online to make them without a maker - it involves baking a cake, cooling it, crumbling it, mixing it with frosting (yum!), and rolling it into balls. Ok, now we're at the same spot!
Now, melt some almond bark or candy coating in a microwave safe mug; the deeper the better. First dip your sticks into the melted almond bark before poking them into your cake pops. This s a good (and clean) job for your little ones! Once they are hardened a bit, dip the whole cake pop into the mug of almond bark to completely cover it. We used chocolate flavored for this part, so it would be the color brown ... and delicious. After all our cake pops were covered, I melted a small amount of vanilla flavored almond bark and put it in a plastic baggie. Snip one end and use this as a frosting bag to pipe football laces onto each cake pop.
Hey! If you made your own cake pops, instead of shaping them into spheres you can make them shaped like little footballs! And the stroke of genius amazes me. (Dripping with sarcasm...) hehe
Meanwhile, to display our cake pops and serve them at a party, Molly and I like to poke them into a green foam block for flower arrangements. You can find them really inexpensive at Walmart. First, though, we cover it with aluminum foil so it looks nice, and you can also decorate the foil with stickers or permanent markers.
Also try making these cake pops at a sports theme birthday party, end of the season party for your kids' team, or even homecoming. TOUCHDOWN!

Superbowl Snack, Craft, and Activity

The Superbowl is practically a holiday for most people: the food, the game... the commercials!! Here are a few fun ideas for you and your kids for the big day tomorrow.

Naturally I have a football shaped cookie cutter that I had to put to use this year. If you don't have a football shaped cookie cutter, you can always draw your own template on some cardboard to cut out. Simply place your football shape on the food of choice and use a sharp knife to carefully cut around it. Now... what to cut? You can make mini football sandwiches, football shaped garlic bread, football shaped pieces of pizza, football shaped sugar cookies... the list is endless. I've chosen to make football shaped slices of watermelon and try to add a touch of "healthy" to our buffet of traditional treats!

No matter what snack you serve, you can always serve it with toothpicks! Here's a quick and easy way to turn your toothpicks into mini flags to cheer on your team. Cut out two different sizes of diamonds in the team colors. Each miniature flag needs one larger diamond, about 1.5" tall at the shortest side and one smaller one, about 1" tall at the shortest side. Glue the smaller diamond onto the middle of your big one - each a different team color - and fold them in half. Fill the middle with some glue and stick in the tip of a toothpick, then let it dry. Your mini flags will look great stuck in cupcakes, cheese cubes, sandwiches or even your drinks!

Thanks to my Amazon Kindle, I found a great app for the kids to play during the boring parts of the game tomorrow: "Flick Kick Field Goal", available for Android devices for $.99. Of course you can also make your own "flick kick" game by cutting out a football from cardboard and flicking it with your fingers into your opponents' waiting "field goal" (made by holding two "L" hands together at the thumb). Enjoy the game!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cookie Cutter Bird Feeders

'Tis the season to feed the birds! Molly (4) brought home a little bird feeder she made at preschool the other day - a biscuit with bird seed on it - that we hung up right outside our front window. She was so excited to watch for birds that I decided to make more bird feeders with her. We didn't have any bird seed, but I came up with this simple idea to feed the birds!

First, I grabbed some bread from our bread box. We just used the last few slices that weren't so fresh anymore. Then, I pulled out my tub 'o' cookie cutters - I literally have over 100 and I love them! Molly picked out some cutters and got to work cutting out bread in various shapes. She poked holes near the top middle of each one with a chop stick so we can loop some yarn through it later.
We left our bread shapes out to harden over night so they were nice and crunchy. Some of the holes had shrunk so I poked through them with scissors to open them up a little bit. We strung one or two per piece of yarn and hung them up outside around our back patio. We also threw out a few extra crumbles left over from our cookie cutter shapes. Molly insisted we sneak quietly inside to watch for birds like a couple of spies! She always turns everything she does into a game!

The crumbles were the first to go, but after a couple days of waiting, we finally noticed our hanging feeders were gone too!