Thursday, June 30, 2011

Recipe: Crackle-Top Molasses Cookies


Archway used to make a Soft Molasses Cookie that was probably my most favorite non-homemade cookie EVER! They were BIG and soft and SO delicious!

The closest thing that I have found to those cookies, is this recipe
for Crackle-Top Molasses Cookies, found in a cookbook called "Cookies"
by Natalie Hartanov Haughton.

Here is the recipe:


********************************
2/3 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses (I use about 1/3 cup)
2 to 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I doubled that)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
(I added about 1/4 teaspoon salt...for good measure.)
About 1/3 cup sugar (set aside in a bowl)

Preheat oven to 350F (175C). In a large bowl, combine oil and 1 cup sugar. Add egg, beating well. Stir in molasses, 2 cups flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger. If necessary, add a little more flour to make a firm dough. Shape dough into 1-1/4 inch balls. Roll in 1/3 cup sugar. Place 3 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown and tops "crack". Remove cookies from baking sheets; cool on racks. Makes about 45 (2-1/2 inch) cookies. (Or, if you're like me, and like your cookies bigger, it will make about 24 3" to 3.5" cookies.)

I hope you like them!

Mama Bear

Great Uses for Common Household Items

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More Summer Reading With the Kids

Last week, we went to the library again to get some more kids' books, because the kids are ALL three loving the books we've gotten. Each night, after dinner, we try to take a walk, and then come home to a little story time before it's time for the little ones to go to bed.

I love how my teenager runs into the room and plops down
on the couch, so that he can hear the stories too.

Here are some of the books we've read recently.
"It's Quacking Time" by Martin Waddell (don't you just love the last name?)
A cute story about a little duck family who are waiting for
their egg to hatch.


"A Taste of Colored Water" by Matt Faulkner
I totally didn't expect this book. It's a great story to
read to your kids when they want to know about
the time in history where there were separate
water fountains, bathrooms, cafes, hotels, etc.,
based on your skin color. It's sad that there are still people
who value you based on your skin color. This story is a great
teaching tool, with a commentary in the back, from the author.


"The Name Quilt" by Phyllis Root
It's a book about quilts? I'll take it!
This is a fun story about a little girl who
is spending the summer at her grandma's house,
and her grandma tells her stories that come from
the names of family members, sewn into the quilt.
So good to share your stories! What great memories!

Are you reading this summer? I'd love to hear what you're reading!

Mama Bear

Grilled Monterey Jack Cheese Sandwich with a Tiny Twist

I knew I saved that Papa John's Garlic
dipping sauce for a reason!
We are nearly out of Country Crock,
so I saw these little tubs in the fridge,
and thought I could use them for
grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monterey Jack Cheese and this garlic dipping sauce???

AMAZING Grilled Cheese Sandwiches!!!!

Probably not the most healthy thing for you, but YUM!!!



Mama Bear

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How I Would Decorate my Front Porch for 4th of July


BHG

One of these days, I want to have a home that looks like this, complete
with the white picket fence, the brick walkway, the wrap-around porch,
the bell, the flag...yeah, pretty much everything!

I love this sweet front porch too:

BHG

This one looks just lovely! I really like the porch swing with
the red, white and blue cushions.

BHG

Are you decorating for the 4th of July? If so, I'd love to know what you're doing!

Mama Bear

Recipe: Apple Streusel Bars

As I was drooling over all of the yumminess on Foodgawker.com, I happened upon a scrumptious looking recipe for Apple Streusel Bars. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE apple desserts (like Apple Dumplings from Pioneer Woman--I guarantee they are like nothing you've ever had, and they are A-MA-ZING!!!!), so I thought I'd give this recipe a try.

The recipe is from Lovin' From the Oven.

Apple Streusel Bars

SWEET PASTRY:
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. real butter, softened (no substitutions!)
  • 1 egg, beaten
APPLE FILLING:
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon (I used about 2 teaspoons.. I LOVE cinnamon)
  • 4 c. (about 3 medium) sliced, peeled baking apples (I used 2 BIG Fuji apples)
GLAZE:
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • About 3 Tbsp. milk (whole milk is best)
  • 1 tsp. almond extract (I used vanilla extract)
To prepare crust, mix flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until you have pea-sized crumbles. Gently mix in beaten egg.

Spray a 9x13 baking dish
(I used a 9x9) with non-stick cooking spray. Gently pat about 2/3 of the crumb mixture onto the bottom of the dish. Preheat oven to 350 and set aside.
To prepare apple filling, combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Toss with apples and spread apples out on prepared crust. Sprinkle reserved crust mixture over apples evenly and bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes
(mine took just less than 50 minutes). When finished, allow to cool completely.

To prepare glaze, whisk together powdered sugar, almond extract, and enough milk to achieve desired consistency. Place glaze in a Ziploc bag and cut off a very small portion of one of the corners. Drizzle glaze over cooled pastry and allow to harden (you can place it in the freezer to hurry things along). Cut into bars and serve.

And the verdict is: My family LOVED them and I will DEFINITELY make them again!

Happy cooking! (Because I know you'll want to try these!)

Mama Bear

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Costco Chicken


When we buy chicken, we usually get the 10 pound bag of boneless, skinless breasts from Costco. Then, I break it up in to 4-5 different Ziploc bags, and add marinades while they are still frozen. Shown here, I have one Teriyaki, one "Taco" (which is great for chicken soft tacos or even fajitas), and two Baja Citrus. I zip 'em up and stick 'em right back into the freezer. When it's time to get it out for a meal, I'll take a bag out the night before, or that morning, and let it thaw. As it thaws, it soaks in the yummy goodness of the marinade it's been bathing in.

Sometimes, the chicken is still partially frozen when I'm ready to cook it, but that's not a problem. I simply put it in my cooking pan (9x13 metal or glass pan, lined with aluminum foil), cover it tightly, and let it cook. (You can also do this for crockpot chicken.) Generally I will cook at 350 for just about an hour...sometimes less. When they're still partially frozen, be sure to check for doneness! Chicken is NOT one of those meats that you can eat "medium rare"! But when they're still partially frozen, I do find that they retain more moisture, and end up being super delicious!

Serve over rice, or in a tortilla, or next to rice, or in a salad. However you serve it, I'm sure it will be a hit, and saves a lot of time and hassle!

Have a great day!

Mama Bear

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


This treasury is one that is chock full of lovely sweets that I would LOVE to try!

Have a blessed day!

Mama Bear

Monday, June 20, 2011

Steak Soft Tacos with Lime-Cilantro Aioli


Father's Day 2011: Steak Soft Tacos with Lime-Cilantro Aioli

This is what Papa Bear wanted for Father's Day Dinner. I also made Spanish rice and refried beans, but seriously, these tacos were a meal all on their own!

Here's how they're "built":

Start with a warm tortilla and add some cooked, chopped beef.
(We marinated our chopped steak in mesquite marinade, lime juice, cilantro and green onion.)

Then add some of the Lime-Cilantro Ailoli.
(I'm willing to share my very own recipe for this....just keep scrolling down.)


Now, spread on some yummy guacamole.

Throw on some grilled onions.
(Believe me when I say that you will ALWAYS want to add grilled onions to your soft tacos of ANY kind!)

Add some shredded sharp Cheddar (or Monterey Jack, or whatever kind of cheese you like.)

Add some chopped tomatoes...

...and a little squeeze of fresh lime, over everything.
(Sorry about the blurry lime!)

And there you have it! Get some blood-orange soda, throw it in the blender with plenty of ice, and some Coconut Rum, and you have a delicious Mexican fiesta-ish drink!

Now, as promised, here is my very own, made-up recipe for the Lime-Cilantro Aioli:

1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup light Miracle Whip (or mayo...depends on your preference)
Juice from 1 lime
A handful of cilantro (be sure it's washed, and don't worry about the stalks...
they'll chop up finely in the food processor)
1 heaping Tbsp. of minced garlic
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. Tapatio sauce (or other hot sauce)
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)

Put all of it into your food processor and blend away. You can add less or more of the cilantro, garlic, cumin, hot sauce, and salt, according to your taste. The first time I made this, I also added about 1/4 cup of fresh pineapple (for fish tacos).

Mama Bear

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Taking Pictures


If you know me, you may know that I LOVE to take pictures! I have since I was pretty young, thanks to my mom, who currently probably has about 40 photo albums full of my and my siblings childhoods, not to mention drawers up on drawers of photos that have not been put in albums since, oh, about 1985!

Anyway, yesterday, I did a mini photo shoot for a friend, of her little girl. I made a makeshift "studio" of sorts in my backyard. Wish I had taken a picture of the setup, but didn't. I secured 4 long sheer curtains on a rod, and sat the rod on the backs of two dining room chairs, and then set up two other chairs to make a little canopy with two more sheer curtains. Then I set a little white chair in the "tent", along with some toys, storybooks, and some white lace pillows.

My friend's little girl didn't want to sit for long, as she is a bundle of get up and go, but we managed to get some good pictures, and since I had the "tent" rigged up, I "forced" (because they just wanted to play outside) Preschooler Brother Bear and Princess Diva Toddler Bear to go in the "tent" and let me take pictures of them too.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE how some of the photos turned out! Those sheer curtains act as a GREAT diffuser on a bright, sunshiney day. The first three photos are of my friend's little girl, and the rest are of my little bears.













Hope you're having a great summer so far!

Mama Bear

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lemonade and Lavender: An Etsy Treasury


Right now, I'm loving the color combination of lemon and lavender,
so I created this Lemonade and Lavender Treasury on Etsy.com to showcase some
beautiful items for sale on Etsy, in these very colors.

Mama Bear

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer Reading

This summer, my plan is to read....a LOT....to all three kids. Since our 17 year old is special needs, he still enjoys me reading to him...even if it is a kid's book.

We have read books aloud since Papa Bear and I got married. We read "Peter and the Starcatchers" out loud, when it was just three of us, and we loved it.

We are now working through "The Ranger's Apprentice" series. We are currently on book four.

Here are some books that we got from the library that have been fun to read with the kids:


"Bess and Bella" is an imagination-filled story about
a little girl who is longing for a friend.


"The Web Files" is a GREAT book written in Dragnet style. My kids and I all LOVED it!
(If you find this for sale somewhere for LESS than about $8, will you let me know???)


We enjoyed "Jamboree Day" because of its colorful illustrations and fun rhyme.

"Little Flower" is the story of a pot-bellied pig who saved the life of her owner and won over some neighbors who didn't think she was as remarkable as other neighbors did. Love it!



"Tacky Goes to Camp" is a cute story, and it made me want to read the other "Tacky" books.

So there you have it. I will be sharing more books as the summer goes by. (I'm so excited because my mom keeps sending me BOXES of books that she's found at thrift stores for really, really LOW prices!!) My mom is the one who instilled in me a love for reading from a VERY early age. Seriously, my parents would read Dr. Seuss books while we were in utero! And I'm fairly certain you won't believe me if I told you the age at which I started reading.
Or the fact that I was reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books when I was in kindergarten.
(This is the honest truth!)




What are you reading with YOUR kids? I'd love to know!!

Mama Bear

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Making Homemade Ice Cream Without a Machine


(source)


Oh, how I LOOOOOOOVE ice cream. I could eat it year-round, no matter how cold it is, and especially when it's hot as blazes outside! I have loved ice cream since I was a little girl. Hmmmm, maybe that's why I have this girlish figure.

Anyway, I do have an ice cream machine. We bought a Cuisinart Ice Cream maker that we love, but it doesn't make a large amount of ice cream.

Looking around on Pinterest (my new favorite place to gaze and drool), I saw a "pin" that showed the picture above, of ice cream. Now, I LOVE chocolate chip ice cream, but only when it's done like you see it in that photo up there. I'm not too keen on ice cream with actual chocolate chips in it.

I had to find out "how to make ice cream without a machine", so I followed the link, and here is what I found: A great article on how to make ice cream without a machine!

I'm going to try this out...maybe this weekend.

How about you? Do you make homemade ice cream? If so, what is your favorite flavor, and how do you make it?

Mama Bear

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rustic Flag Sign -- A DIY Craft


At our house, we LOVE our country! My husband and LOVE the 4th of July...so much so, that our wedding was in July (couldn't get the 4th), and our colors were red, white, and blue, with lots of patriotic themed items running throughout.

Just recently, we (actually, I) re-did our guest bathroom (well, doesn't that sound lovely? it's actually just our main bath, which everyone uses.) in a patriotic theme. One of these days I will post photos. But I think this sign would fit perfectly in the theme.

By the way, the bathroom is a hit. It's more Americana than anything, and I love it! A friend used the bathroom shortly after I redecorated, and she said "I didn't know whether I should sit down or stand up!". I love it! Her sense of humor always makes me laugh.

You can learn how to make this sign for yourself at Thrifty Decorating blog.
Just click HERE.

Have fun!

Mama Bear

Friday, June 10, 2011

Making Homemade Playdough

My mom must have been the best mom ever. Among other things, she gave me a love for things homemade. Like playdough. I can remember us making playdough when I was a little girl. It smelled like mint and came in all the colors of the rainbow. I love how homemade playdough feels in your hands...so much nicer than the store-bought stuff. And if you keep it in an air-tight container, it'll last for a long, long time! Plus it's really inexpensive to make.

Since today is the first day of summer vacation, I decided to make playdough with the two little bears. Note: I have NEVER had both of them help me with cooking ANYTHING...not at the same time anyway. This was Princess Diva Toddler Bear's first time ever, to cook with Mommy.





The little ones wanted purple, so we made purple. When I get some more salt, we will make some more, in various different colors.

Here is the recipe I found to make the playdough (from Cooks.com):

COOKED PLAYDOUGH

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 Tbsp. cooking oil (I used canola)
1 Tbsp. cream of tartar
1 cup water
Food coloring (desired amount)

Mix together all ingredients. Cook mixture over low heat until thickened. Store in an airtight container when not using.

*This is NOT for eating!

Mama Bear