Saturday, March 31, 2018

Easter Preparations!

My darling princess and I prepared ourselves for Easter last weekend. And Oh boy did we have a good time!!

We had seen pictures of Easter Gardens on Pinterest earlier this month and we decided that would be a really cool thing to try. My little lovely is VERY into Jesus and I am totally okay with encouraging that. So off we went to the local Pat Catans to get some supplies. When we got there we had the pleasant discovery that Pat Catans had all kinds of craft projects for kids going on. My princess had a wonderful time crafting and looking for the next craft station while I gathered up a "rustic" saucer/plate thing, some dried moss, and a small terra-cotta pot. We also sampled some yummy chocolate melt free samples.

By the time we were finished, she had 5 lovely craft items, and we had stayed WAY longer than we had planned. It turns out that crafting for kids at Pat Catans is a pretty common thing. I'm sure my darling and I will be back, although weekly trips into a giant and fabulous craft store might not be the greatest thing for my budget!

So we came out of Pat Catans with our ground coverings, our base, and our tomb for our Easter Garden. We knew that we had enough sticks in our yard to make the crosses. And I had checked so I knew we had some leftover garden soil in the garage. But we had no large stone to put in front of the tomb. I'm pretty sure that I didn't have any in my yard either. I mean, I knew where some pea gravel was, but that's hardly big enough to roll away from a tomb. Sooo I did what any life long sinner would do. I stopped at the gas station and stoll a rock from their landscaping. 

Once home, the princess and I set to work. First I put a shallow layer of soil down in the pan/saucer/plate. Then I put the tomb flower pot in on it's side and put the large stone in front to seal the entrance. I added more soil and mounded it over the tomb. While I did this, my darling went searching for some good sticks. She decided on 6 different sticks and the I twisted a rubber band around them to make the three crosses. She then decided on where to place them. We did have a discussion on which is the best cross for Jesus and how Jesus' cross had to be in the middle.

Then she made a pathway using some cool mossy rocks from Pat Catans. They're really light, so I'm not actually sure if they are real rocks. Anyway, she made a path from the crosses to the tomb. 

Then she covered the rest of the soil with moss and we watered it so that we wouldn't have crazy amounts of dust in the house.

We then moved to the computer and picked out a good bible verse to go with our garden. 
Mark 15:46

And Finally, the princess made a sign for when I roll the rock away from the tomb on Easter morning. 
Hallelujah! He is! risen!

This was a really cool project to do with my darling girl. I like the looks of the garden and I like that it is a fairly constant reminder of what Lent is all about. It sits right on our dinner table so we have some really good conversations about Lent and Jesus' death and resurrection. Yesterday, for example, we had a whole discussion of how painful Jesus' death must have been. I think it's awesome that my little girl and I can just randomly start discussing our faith. 
There was some serious concentration...
Of course shortly after making the garden, my princess decided it was time to dye some eggs. This is great! I don't have her for Easter this year, but I do like some hard boiled eggs. And I had loads of eggs in the fridge so why not dye some? Well, except I didn't have any egg dying kits. So in the spirit of winging it, I pulled out some white vinegar and put the kettle on to boil. Then I discovered that I don't have any more of those squeezy drippy food colorings anymore. But I figured food coloring is food coloring. So I got out the food coloring I used to make her galaxy mirror birthday cake. 

The food coloring I used.
She didn't seem to mind that we weren't doing usual food colors and I was curious to see if my homemade egg dyes would work. I'm pleased with how vibrant they came out. I think we'll be doing this again!
3 rose, 2 violet, 3 royal blue, and 2 sky blue

Homemade Egg Dye
3 Tbsp white vinegar
1 cup boiling water
Some food coloring (I used a heaping knife tip full)

Stir the coloring into the vinegar. Then add the boiling hot water and stir until well combined and there are no more floating clots of color. Dye your eggs.

After dying the eggs, my funny little princess left a note for the Easter Bunny.
Michael is a boy in her class

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Recipes that aren't really recipes: Chocolate Frosting and Crazy Easy Mac n Cheese

Sometimes, the life of me as a single mom gets a little weird about food. Most of the time it means throwing a frozen casserole in the oven, or dropping something in the crockpot. Other times it means I have really random food to eat. Quesadillas are something I frequently eat for dinner when it's just me. Or a scrambled egg. Or a rice cake with peanut butter. Or a bowl of Cheerios. Whatever is quick and super easy. And cheap would be good too. I'm still trying to get a grip on having a strict budget, and paying down debt from the 2 years of Hell is taking FOREVER.

Cutest nurse EVER!!
This doesn't look good
I think she's sorry.

Last weekend I managed to break my fourth toe on my left foot in a particularly exceptional fashion. Let's just say that the toe was a casualty in the fight to save a dishrag (one of the really nice knitted ones that my mom makes for Christmas presents) from my dog. So I'll be wobbling around in a boot for a couple weeks. A boot? Who gets a boot for a broken toe? Me. Because I am an overachiever and that toe is really spectacularly broken. I even have a follow up visit for more X-Rays in 2 weeks. Who does that for a broken toe? Orthopedic specialists who are concerned about said toe healing. I am really clumsy. So my new habit of getting in some cardio at the fitness center has gone way way south. And if I wasn't so pissed off at myself for breaking my toe like this, I could do one of the one footed workout videos on YouTube. Maybe next week...I have had lots of time, then, to play on Pinterest. And socialize with my coworker friends. And that's when I discovered two recipes that aren't really recipes. 

I tried the first recipe that isn't a recipe on Friday. My 100 year old grandma got the flu and ended up in the hospital. Scary stuff, but so far she's doing ok. My coworker friend had told me about making frosting for brownies with just a bag of chocolate chips and a can of sweetened condensed milk. Both of which can be found at Aldi's as well as a delicious gluten free brownie mix. Just so you know, if you are feeling emotional and you want brownies, the time that it takes to make a batch and to make the frosting and to wait for it to set helps to calm the urge to eat the whole pan. 
I only ate one piece!
Super Fudgey Frosting 
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 bag chocolate chips

Combine the ingredients in a a saucepan and heat while stirring until chocolate chips are melted and frosting is smooth. 

Yep. That's all there is too it. There must be some sort of chemical whatsimibob that goes on because I was expecting a thin glaze like a ganache and it's this really thick, really rich, crazy good frosting. And the upside is that it's so thick and so rich that I have come nowhere close to eating the whole pan. Ok. So far I'm at a little less than half the pan...

With the success of the super fudgy frosting, I decided to try a Pinterest recipe not recipe. This time it is for a crazy easy Mac and Cheese. It's just a picture. I spent a good chunk of time looking for a place to link to and I can't find one. This was actually almost a science experiment because it's so easy I didn't actually think it would work and I wasn't sure if it would taste good.  I used regular pasta instead of gluten free. That will be a later experiment. 

Crazy Easy Mac n Cheese
2 cups milk (I used 2% because it's what was in the fridge)
2 cups pasta (I used penne because the 1lb box is cheaper than the 2lb box of elbows at Aldi)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (it was in the fridge)

Boil the milk and the pasta together. Until the pasta is cooked. The milk does not scald if you stir frequently, and the starch from the pasta thickens the milk a lot. Once the pasta is cooked, remove from heat and stir in the cheese. And it's done. 
See how thick the milk gets?

It was so easy that I got a little fancy and put it in a greased small pyrex dish and crumbled some bacon on top. I put it in the oven at 325°F for 15 minutes. Super Yummy! 
I'm so excited to eat the rest!!

It turns out that quick easy and cheap are possible! Not really great for the waistline, but if I can keep the portion sizes small.....

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hygge? Gemütlichkeit? Fondue!

SO. It's March, that means random snow storms. Pretty little snow storms. But still snow when I'm ready for my spring flowers. 

On Monday, I decided to do something different with my weekend. The darling princess was with her dad and rather than spend the weekend doing something boring like trying to advance in Candy Crush, I decided to have a cocktail party. This was perhaps not the best plan because when you invite people on Monday to come over Saturday, generally people have stuff going on. And I haven't entertained in long enough that people have clearly forgotten how much fun my gatherings are! Well sort of. Most of my friends had really legitimate excuses why they couldn't come. 

As the week wore on, I started to think about the upcoming gathering and the concept of Hygge (as explained in this fun little book that I picked up). The book explained that I should have candles. Not a problem, I have tons of random candles. The book also explained that it would be more Hygge to have a sort of group potluck where the cooking is all done at the same time at someone's house than to have pitchers of cocktails and teeny tiny little hors d'oeuvres. So I called up my friends who were coming and told them I had changed my mind and we would be having fondue! It seemed more Hygge even though it's Swiss and not Danish. And I should probably call it Gemütlichkeit because my heritage is German and not Danish. They sort of mean the same thing although it's more of a cultural thing in Denmark, I guess.

It also should be noted, that I had received an electric fondue pot as a wedding present and I had never taken it out of the box! I also had my mother's fondue pot and a teeny little crockpot called the little dipper. And it made sense to me that if I had 3 possible fondue devices, that I should make three separate fondues. And I did!! I made an unbelievably delicious Toblerone fondue (found here) that my friends and I discovered that pretty much anything dipped into it came out delicious! Grapes, apples, bread, strawberries, Rice Krispy treats, donut holes, pineapples, gluten-free snickerdoodles, giant marshmallows and teeny little skewers of blueberries, just to name some of what got dipped. Unfortunately my first try at making cheese fondue was a total fail. It was definitely stringy and globby. I'm not sure that's a real word, but it's an accurate description of my cheese fondue. Although, it was pretty good reheated on some potatoes for breakfast the next day!

And finally I made a marscapone and Calvados fondue from The Everything Fondue Party Cookbook. Calvados is kind of hard to find and it's a brandy made from apples. I had bought it for some other recipe and had to go all the way to Columbus to get it. The fondue was good. It sort of tasted like eggnog. The good boozy kind.  It was tremendous when we dipped apples in it. But it just wasn't mind blowing enough to compete with the Toblerone fondue.

We enjoyed a delicious chilled Pinot Grigio and a sweet Moscato with our fondues as well as great conversations and hearty laughs.

What I learned: I learned that making a cheese fondue takes a lot of patience and I think some practice. I also learned that I will be making the Toblerone fondue again. I learned that 3 different fondues for 6 people is a ridiculous amount of food. I learned that Walmart sells little Sterno 3-packs under where the tinfoil pans are. And I learned that I think I will either need to go to Goodwill or some garage sales and try to find traditional fondue pots. The electric one and the little dipper worked really good when I could have them plugged in, but the cords are really short and that didn't work so well for me. I might have to go buy a multi plug extension cord.