Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kid Friendly Entertaining...(sorry no treats today)

Now I’m no Martha, but recently I threw a formal dinner party and I’d like to share a few tips that helped the evening run smoothly. It was an intimate affair, only 4 on the guest list…all under the age of 13. That’s right, I threw a formal dinner party for kids. An extra special birthday celebration for my 3 girls. 

No, I’m not losing my mind (I lost that a long time ago).

The upcoming holiday season can bring guests of all ages to your table. So whether hosting a formal dinner party for some well deserving kids, or just sprinkling them in among your adult guests, you’ll need to have a few tricks up your sleeve.

Let's start with the hardware...china, silver, and crystal. Or should I say...plastic, plastic, and plastic.

Actually, I did use my good china (if you can even call it that). It has been sitting in the cabinet for 15 years. Never used. Not once, until now.  My 4 year old always asks about the “fancy” plates in the cabinet, so what the heck?! I blew off the dust and put them to use.  Now, if my china was a bit more precious, then by all means, I would have picked up a pack of plastic china (also found at many grocery or department stores).

I don’t own real silver, and flatware is hard to come by in my house. You know how dryers eat socks?  Well, my dishwasher eats forks.  There’s no other explanation! I have an abundance of spoons, but where do all of my forks go?  OK, back to the dinner…No silver or stainless, I went with plastic.  I love this stuff! Sale price -$4.99 (Wegman’s), can’t even tell it’s plastic until you pick it up.

I tied utensils with ribbon to simplify an already busy tablescape.

I’m sure everyone, at some point, has toasted in the New Year with a plastic champagne flute. I know I have. But I assure you, mine was never filled with Sparkling Cider.


On to the tablescape…

Simple is always best when it comes to kids.  But if you love a decorated table, then go for it, but keep it durable.  Which means the delicate centerpiece from grandma is better off kept for another occasion.  Kids touch EVERYTHING!

Kids and candles? Supervision, supervision, supervision!!!

Candles (unscented of course) can really set the mood, but typically, with kids, you’re better off doing without.  I choose to incorporate candles into the tablescape. In addition to having the proper supervision, I went with an enclosed flame.  My patio lanterns served the purpose and blended perfectly with the rustic fall theme. 

Not to mention, the enclosed flame stifled my son’s urge to see what burned quicker, the pinecones or the cinnamon sticks.

Place cards may seem unnecessary to some, unless of course, they serve another purpose.  

I picked up some mini chalkboards ($1 each) at A.C. Moore, attached a piece of ribbon to the frame with a hot glue gun, and tied on a piece of chalk.  Just a little something to keep them busy between courses. Tic Tac Toe, Hangman maybe?                                                                                                                                       

They make chalkboard tablecloths now too, hmmm? Could also occupy the adults when that darn turkey timer just won’t pop.  Pick up game of Pictionary anyone?

Before this post officially qualifies as a novel, I will end it with this (saving the menu for another time)… 

I added a fun twist by including some special treats tucked away throughout the tablescape. Everyone loves an unexpected surprise!! 

Ah, ah, ah, those are for after dinner! Happy Holidays! 


Have a kid friendly tip to share? I’d love to hear it!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pretzel Hugs

So much to say, so little time. Since I'm still running ragged, I'll leave you with another simple treat.

My excuse for making these is always "The kids just LOVE them!" 
Really??? Who am I kidding...

An irresistible little taste of sweet and salty. Another twist on the candy coated chocolate covered pretzel, just...bite size. 

My favorite variation is: pretzel snap, Hershey's Hug, and peanut M&M. Or maybe... pretzel snap, chocolate Kiss and a peanut butter M&M...mmmm! 

So many possibilities!!! 

Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Line cookie sheet with wax paper. Lay pretzel snaps side by side, filling cookie sheet. Unwrap Hugs and place one on each pretzel.

Place pretzels and hugs in oven for 4-5 minutes, just long enough to soften the Hug. (if using a chocolate Kiss it will take slightly longer to soften) Remove from oven and immediately place one M&M on each Hug. Once all M&Ms are in place, put in the freezer for 10 minutes (this will help set the softened chocolate). 


Monday, October 18, 2010

Open Face Nutella S'mores

When life gets hectic, simple treats are always in order...and it has been a crazy couple of weeks!

I may have made the biggest mistake of my life! Last week, I opened my first jar of Nutella. Needless to say, I bought my second jar yesterday. Hazelnut spread, no interest, doesn't appeal to me....yeah right!

There's no turning back!

Being that I'm not much of a camper, but love a good s'more, I came up with a quick and easy compromise. Spread a bit of Nutella on a graham cracker square, top with some mini marshmallows, and pop under the broiler for just a minute. There you have it, a taste of the outdoors when you don't have a campfire on hand. Not quite as messy either.  

If you like to keep it a bit more traditional, put a lid on it...


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Rainbow After the Rain

There was no forethought put into this post, so you won't find any temping recipes or eye catching photography (not that the photography on my blog is ever anything to brag about... but I'm working on it).
This activity was prompted by a sick little girl that had to miss school due to a high fever.  She came to me sobbing and said, "But I can't stay home, I will miss the Crazy Colored Cake project."  So after a lot of rest and a little tylenol, I decided that she needed a little something to brighten her day.  And honestly, after the weather we've had, we could all use a rainbow after the rain.


I grabbed a boxed cake mix (when dealing with 4 kids and food color, I'll take every shortcut possible), and the fun began.  Each kid took a turn and added something to the bowl.  For obvious reasons, the water was assigned to the 2 year old!

After separating the batter into 5 bowls, we each chose a color and got to work. Adding bits of gel coloring until we found just the right shade.  Pink.  Yellow.  Green. Blue.  Purple. 

Time to build our rainbow.  We layered the colors in two prepared 8" pans.  First purple, then blue, green, yellow, topping it off with pink.  

While the little girls sat peering through the oven window, I whipped up some buttercream.  Just a basic buttercream: butter, milk, vanilla, and confectioners' sugar.

Today the kids were the decorators.  White sparkling sugar and cherries, creative simplicity!

"The work will wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won't wait while you do the work."

Feel better pretty girl!


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Banana Bread Cookies

Aw shucks!  Eliminated in round 2 of Project Food Blog AND a rainy Monday (and Tuesday, uggh)...this calls for some comfort food.  There's nothing better than a warm slice of banana bread fresh from the oven.  So how about some warm banana bread cookies?  Mmmm, with a hot cup of coffee, just what I need!!

I used Martha's Banana-Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe minus the oats and chocolate, and with pecans instead of walnuts.  I was going for banana bread in a cookie, and that's what I got.  Soft and moist...delicious!  When reading the recipe, I wasn't opposed to the oats and chocolate, but the kids voted them out.  No chocolate? Yep, these kids make chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips.  

I'd like to keep these around, but they do go quick.  I still have some ripe bananas left...better get busy!

Banana Bread Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana, about 1 large (don't be shy)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch chunks
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (about 2 ounces), toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flours, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla; mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in oats, chocolate chunks, and walnuts pecans. 

Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown and just set, 12 to 13 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely (or not). Cookies can be stored in airtight containers up to 2 days.