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Kids In The Kitchen: No Bake Granola Bars

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My kids and I love Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, but it has recently come to my attention that these are probably one of the most unhealthy granola bars on the grocery shelf…no wonder they taste so good.  So, I decided to try to make my own granola bars at home and found a great no bake recipe to try.  The kids were able to make them with almost no help from me, and they taste unbelievable.  No more store-bought granola bars for me and my family!

Here’s the step-by-step recipe with cute pics of my kiddos in the kitchen.  Enjoy!

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No Bake Granola Bars

Ingredients:

2 cups quick cooking oats

1 cup crispy rice cereal

1/4 cup shredded coconut

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Choice of mix-ins

Directions:

1.  In a large bowl, mix together the oats…

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the rice cereal…

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and the coconut.  Set aside.

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2.  In a small sauce over medium high heat, melt the butter.

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Add the honey…

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brown sugar…

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and salt.

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Stir together and allow to come to a boil.  When the boil has reached the edges of the pan, begin timing for 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

3.  Remove from heat and add the vanilla.

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4.  Pour this mixture over the oat mix and stir everything together until oats are completely coated.

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Allow to cool.

5.  Add your choice of mix-ins.  We did cranberry white chocolate chip.  Add 1/2 cup of each ingredient you choose.  So for ours, we added 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips…

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and 1/2 cup of Craisins.

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You could add nuts, pretzels, chocolate chips, dried fruit, or candy…anything you think you might like in a granola bar.  Don’t you just love the freedom!?!

6.  Press the mix into a 9×13 pan…

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and stick in the fridge for 20 minutes.

7.  When cool, turn out onto a cutting board.  (I had to tap the bottom of my pan gently with a knife to release the granola.)  Cut the granola in 16 bars…

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and enjoy!

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I also did my own batch with salted peanuts, peanut butter chips, and chocolate chips.  It turned out very yummy!

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Hope you have as much fun making your granola bars as my kids and I did.

Kids In The Kitchen: Gingerbread Houses

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Gingerbread is a big thing in our house at Christmas.  We usually make gingerbread men and women, or gingerbread trains, or gingerbread trees and snowflakes to decorate.  When we have made “gingerbread houses” in the past, we’ve always just used graham crackers.  This is the way I made my houses when I was a kid.  It’s easy, and no baking and waiting are required.  The kids can just start decorating…which is the best part anyway!  This year, we decided to make our gingerbread houses from scratch.  It took a lot more time, but the gingerbread tasted wonderful and the houses looked great!  I hope you enjoy making these gingerbread houses with your family as much as I enjoyed making them with mine!

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Gingerbread Houses:  (This recipe makes one house)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup shortening

3/4 cup molasses

1/3 cup cold water

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground allspice

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 Recipe of Gingerbread Frosting (recipe to follow)

Assorted candy, nuts, cookies, etc. to decorate with

Directions:

Heat oven to 350F.  Grease bottoms and sides of a jelly roll pan with shortening.

In a large bowl, mix the brown sugar…

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the shortening…

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and the molasses.

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Stir in cold water.

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Add the flour and the baking soda…

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and the ginger, salt, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon.

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Mix everything together…go ahead, get your hands in there…until a nice dough ball forms.

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Press the dough into the greased jelly roll pan.  My kids got really enthusiastic on this step!

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Bake for about 15 minutes or until no indentations remain when center is touched.  Cool 5 minutes.

Now comes the fun part!  Cut shapes:  two rectangles, two trapezoids, two squares, and two triangles.  Place these shapes on top of your gingerbread, and cut around them.

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When you are finished cutting, remove the shapes to a cooling rack.

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While your gingerbread is cooling, make your gingerbread frosting…

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Gingerbread Frosting

Ingredients:

2 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup shortening

2 Tbsp. light corn syrup

5-6 tsp. milk

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl until smooth and spreadable.  This stuff is thick and works just like glue for your house.

Now, back to the gingerbread houses…

Assemble your houses using your gingerbread shapes and your gingerbread frosting.

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Let the houses stand for about 30 minutes, or until the frosting is completely set.

 

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Then, you can decorate your house with candy, nuts, cookies, crackers…whatever your little heart desires!

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Last, but not least, stand back and admire your artistic abilities.  I love my creative little kid’s gingerbread houses!

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Artsy Kids: Paper Snowflakes

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For our Christmas activity last night, we decided to make paper snowflakes to hang on the tree.  We have made these before, but we’ve never had patterns to go by, just free-styled it, and ended up with some rather “unique” looking snowflakes.  Since I have become friendlier with Pinterest, I have found tutorials for several activities I enjoy doing with the kids.  I was able to find a great tutorial for paper snowflakes with 24 different patterns to use!  You can find the tutorial here.  This tutorial is very easy to follow and really helped us with our snowflakes this year.  Although, we had to do the free-style thing, too…old habits die hard!  I hope you enjoy this little craft and maybe get some ideas for your snowflake projects.

Here’s our step-by-step:

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Paper Snowflakes

Materials:

White printer paper

Scissors

Directions:

1.  Fold paper to make a triangle.

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2.  Cut off excess paper.  When you open the triangle, your paper should now look like a square.  Refold the triangle.

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3.  Fold the triangle again.

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4.  Fold left point down toward the middle.

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5.  Fold right point over this fold.

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6.  Cut off excess to make another triangle.

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7.  Stick the triangle on your stuffed animal’s head.

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8.  Draw the design of the snowflake on your triangle.  The dark parts will be cut out.

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9.  Cut out the shape and open it up to find a beautiful snowflake!  My son was so proud of his work.

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Here is my daughter’s beautiful snowflake.

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My husband joined in the fun, too.

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This was a tricky pattern, but I thought it made a lovely snowflake.

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And, of course, we made some free-style snowflakes.

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Not too shabby for free-style, kids!  My son thought his small one looked like a frog, and my daughter designed and cut that pattern by herself…artist in the making right there!  Love those kiddos!!!

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Then, we hung our snowflakes on the tree in the playroom.

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And cleaned up the giant mess we made in the living room.

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It was worth it!  Now, have fun making your own snowflakes…and have a very merry Christmas!

Artsy Kids: Paper Chains for Christmas

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Since Christmas is right around the corner, I thought I would share some of our family Christmas fun with you.  I always try to let my children do plenty of crafts and baking around the holidays.  I’ve tried to pass down Christmas traditions and create new ones with my family.  We make ornaments, cookies, and gingerbread houses.  We watch Christmas movies, read Christmas stories, and sing Christmas carols.  We enjoy playing with our Lego City Advent Calender.  And we even adopted an Elf on the Shelf last year to add to the fun.  We have trees in just about every room in our house.  We always decorate the “big” tree together.  We put on a cute little Christmas play at our church every year.  We spend time with family, drink hot chocolate, cuddle by the fire, and eat lots of popcorn.  We always dress in our Christmas pjs and read Twas The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.  And, we always have a pancake breakfast on Christmas morning.  This list could go on and on…we really love Christmas in this house!

So, I will be posting different crafts, goodies, books, trees, traditions, and so on that I enjoy with my family every day this week.  I just love spreading that Christmas cheer.

A few days ago, my kids made paper chains to hang in their rooms.  These are so easy and fun to make.  People have been making these for years and hanging them around the house and on trees.  My mom used to make them with her siblings when she was a little girl.  I made them when I was a little girl.  And now, my children are making them.  Traditions!  Here are the steps to make your own paper chains.

Paper Chains for Christmas

Materials:

construction paper

scissors

glue

Directions:

1.  Using scissors, cut construction paper into strips that are somewhat even in length and width.

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2.  Glue the ends of the first strip together to form a loop.  Hold together until glue dries.

3.  Place the second strip of paper through the first loop.  Glue this one together to form a loop.

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4.  Keep connecting loops until your chain is the length you want it.

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5.  Hang your paper chain from the walls, ceiling, tree, chandelier…wherever you want it!

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I hope you enjoy this Christmas craft of ours!  What crafts do you do with your family at Christmas?

Dinosaurs at The Clay Center

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Have I mentioned that I love The Clay Center?  Well, I do!  And my kids do, too!  We love Earth City, Health Royale, and the Gizmo Factory.  We love visiting the art gallery, the planetarium, and watching a film on the giant screen.  And, we love the ever-changing Mylan Explore-atory.

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Currently in the Mylan Explore-atory is a wonderful exhibit called “Be The Dinosaur”.  The Clay Center pulled out all the stops on this one!

Be the Dinosaur fuses state-of-the-art video game technology with traditional paleontology exhibits that feature full-size dinosaur bones, a paleontology field station, a Safari Jeep and much more. Thanks to highly interactive simulator pods, guests can “become” an actual living, breathing dinosaur within a virtual Cretaceous Era ecosystem. Younger guests can take part in our Dino Dig, where everyone leaves with a dino-mite prize! The exhibit will also feature dinosaur artifacts and activities exploring dino defenses, size, colors and lifestyles.”- The Clay Center Website.

I enjoy all the exhibits that come to the Explore-atory, but I must say this has been my favorite.

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My kids especially loved the Safari Jeep.

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Who doesn’t love digging for dinosaur fossils?

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In this little box, you can dig up toy dinosaurs…and you even get to keep one!  My kids are big fans of plastic animals, especially dinosaurs.

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Build your own dino scene at this station.

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My, would you look at that footprint!

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We had a blast at the Dino-Morphs station where you can build a dinosaur using the pieces provided.

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We had a little too much fun putting the dinos together the wrong way.  Have you ever seen a dinosaur with a head on the front and backside?

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No dinosaur exhibit would be complete without a giant dinosaur head.

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By visiting all the stations in this exhibit, you learn about dinosaurs, paleontologists, fossils, extinction, and many other interesting facts.  You also get tips for how to play the Be The Dinosaur video game situated in the center of the room.

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This was my favorite part of the exhibit.  What can I say?  I’m a video game fan!

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My kids and hubby enjoyed it, too.  And they learned enough about dinosaur survival that they were able to keep their dinos alive for the whole game…Congratulations!  You Survived The Cretateous Era!

We really enjoyed playing at this exhibit, and can’t wait for the next exhibit “Brain Teasers 2” coming in January.  After becoming dinosaurs, we took time to play at the rest of the exhibits, and no trip to The Clay Center would be complete without a visit to our favorite…Earth City!

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Look!  It’s all decked out for Christmas!

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Oh, the hours we’ve spent in this room!  My kids could stay here forever.

I love days spent at The Clay Center…we’ll be back very soon!

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Here’s a little Christmas cheer for you.  May all my lovely bloggers out there have a very merry Christmas!

Long Time Gone

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Wow!  Has it really been that long since my last blog post?!?  Life in summer is so very busy with gardening and swimming and playing and housework and schooling and church and travel and treehouse building and…you get the idea!  Add my husband’s vasectomy reversal to the list, and things get all kinds of crazy!

Yes, we have two beautiful children who are 7 and 8, and we thought we were content with that, but God had other plans for us.  So, if it is his will, we will be adding to our happy little family of four.  Excited and nervous…are we crazy?!?

So, to make a long story short, I will be blogging, but there may be gaps in my posts.  I have so much to talk about…summer schooling stories, recipes to share, gardening tips to tell, and life events to gush about, but I can’t seem to find enough time in the day.  Stick with me, guys, I’ll work on those time management skills!

Hope you are enjoying your summer as much as I am!

Kids In The Kitchen: Thumbprint Cookies

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Today, since it was rainy and cool and we could not have class outside, my kiddos and I enjoyed class on the couch followed by a wonderful time playing in the kitchen.  We have been wanting to bake thumbprint cookies for a while, so today we did!  Oh, how I love thumbprint cookies!  They are easy to make, budget friendly, fun for kids, and so very deliciously addictive.  In fact, out of the 3 dozen we made, I think we have 4 left…thanks to a little help from our family visiting today.  I really have to get that recipe for my sis-in-law!

So, here are my little chefs demonstrating the joys of baking thumbprint cookies…enjoy!

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Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients:

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup shortening

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 egg yolk

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1 egg white

1 cup finely chopped nuts (I used pecans)

Filling of choice:  Nutella, strawberry jam, lemon curd, peanut butter…I usually mix and match, but today we went straight for the Nutella!

Directions:

1.  Heat oven to 350F.  In medium bowl, add softened butter, shortening…

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Add the brown sugar…

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And the vanilla…

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And the egg yolk.  (Save that egg white in a small bowl for later!)

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Mix with a spoon.

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Now, add the salt…

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And the flour…

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And stir some more until everything is mixed together.

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2.  Shape the dough into balls.

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Place the egg white in a small bowl and the nuts in another.  Set up an assembly line with the dough, egg, nuts, and cookie sheet.  The kids love this part!

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Dip each ball into the egg white.

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Then, roll it in the nuts.

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Place balls on an ungreased cookie sheet.  And, the best part yet…press your thumbs…

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or fingers…

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into the center of each cookie to make an indentation, but don’t press too hard. You don’t want to break the little cookies!

3.  Bake about 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Quickly remake indentations (moms, not kids, as the cookies are still super hot!).  If you haven’t already burned all the feeling from your fingers as I have, and don’t really want to touch cookies that are 350F, you can use the end of a wooden spoon to do this.  Let cookies cool slightly and transfer them to a plate.  Fill each thumbprint with about 1/2 tsp. of filling (or more if you know what’s good for you!).

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Try to wait until they are filled before eating them.  My daughter can hardly contain herself!

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4.  Last, but not least, enjoy all your hard work.  Maybe even share them with your kids.  After all, they did help.  And please, share with your family, because they can smell them and will travel to your house to steal them all.  Trust me, I know!

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