Category Archives: Home Ec.

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Personalize Your Baking with Fun Cookie Cutters

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I love anything that let’s you customize your projects, so when I saw these special cookie cutters from Chicago Metallic, I immediately bought the set. They are so much fun to use!

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There are three generous cookie shapes with grooves to fit the letters, which follow the same principle of old printing presses – letters get placed into the grooves backward, in order to print the messages in the right direction.

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There was more than enough of every letter. In addition, the set comes with some ready-made strips of common phrases, like Happy, Birthday, Congrats, Holiday, Welcome, From and Love You.

I had been wanting to send my college-age daughter a last care package for the year, so I celebrated the end of the school year and the beginning of summer in cookies. I used the recipe that came with the cutters, and it  made a simple, thick, buttery sugar cookie that stood up to shipping. I’m sure I’ll experiment with other recipes and sayings, because this was so much fun – and most appreciated. I think they’d make terrific cookies for holidays or any occasion. For children’s birthday parties, you could surprise guests with personalized cookies, as a simple party favor (that will surely be appreciated). For an older group, cookies could serve as placeholders.

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Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

12 Fun Family Activities for Screen-Free Week

When I speak to families about slowing down and enjoying family time, one of the things that comes up over and over is screen time. Screens dominate many of our lives, often to a greater degree than we wish. While many of us parents can attest to the addictive nature of technology, we struggle with ways to reduce it in our children’s lives.

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It is perhaps a bonus, then, that the wonderful Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has proclaimed May 5-11 to be Screen-Free Week. Sometimes this kind of added incentive is all we need to inspire us to action. More than once, parents have told me that their children’s favorite memories include episodes of family game nights by fire- or candlelight during power outages. You can create your own “power outage” by participating in Screen-Free Week. And, even if you don’t go completely screen-free, you might want to pledge an hour or so a day or night to have some good screen-free fun. Who knows? That fun might just become a habit or your own favorite family memory.

Here are 12 ways to celebrate Screen Free Week:

Make a Paper Boat and sail it in a creek, pond or bathtub.

Make a Bird Feeder. Our local birds have gone nuts for ours and we plan to make more.

Make easy Wreaths, Crowns and Baskets to celebrate May Day and spring.

Enjoy Loom and Finger Weaving. You can do this anywhere!

Keep a Moon Diary as a way of observing the night sky.

Slow your pace and have a Cloud Race.

Get a jump on summer by making S’Mores. Camp under the stars if it’s warm enough.

Start a Backyard Garden.

Bake your own Soft Pretzels. These are really easy and fun.

Play a different fun board game every night. We like Boggle, Sorry, Taboo, Pictionary, Scrabble, Mancala, Masterpiece, Monopoly and Hi-Ho Cherry O.

Discover The Joy of Quiet.

And, if you’re really missing your screen? Make your own Shoebox TV!

You’ll need:

Shoebox or a square-shaped box and lid
Cardboard tubes, from paper towels, foil or plastic wrap, or wooden dowels
4-10 pieces of printer paper (8 ½ x 11”)
Drawing materials
Scissors, craft knife and tape

Cut a large opening for the TV screen into the bottom of the box, leaving an even border of 1” or more all around.

Holding the box horizontally, cut two holes on the top, each about 2” the side and 2” back from the cut-out section. Your dowels or cardboard tubes should fit into the holes.

Cut two bottom holes that line up with the top ones.

Cut the cardboard tubes, if necessary, so that about ½ “ sticks out on the bottom and 1-2” on top.

Decide on a story you want to tell that primarily uses pictures.

Place the paper horizontally (cutting, if necessary, to fit the tube length) and draw one picture on each page, adding words, if desired. Leave at least 1” on each paper edge and at least 2” on the left edge of the first picture and the right edge of the last picture.

Lay the pictures out, left to right, in the order they will appear. Turn them over and, keeping the order, run a piece of tape down each back seam where two pictures come together.

Tape each end of the paper story scroll around a tube or dowel and roll on the back sides of the scroll, so that the paper image is at the front of the tubes and the paper is tight and sized to the box.

Place the tubes into the holes and place the lid on the back. Decorate the front of the TV, if desired.

Gently turn the tubes to make the pictures move.

Slow Tip: You can also use images from magazines or comic-books to create your story.

You can make multiple story scrolls and change them through the back of the box. In doing so, you’ll join nearly every ancient civilization in telling stories using scrolls, starting with the Egyptians, who created them on papyrus.

The Shoebox TV craft is adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ more ways to enjoy screen-free family fun.

You might enjoy these related posts from Slow Family Online:

Eight Fun Things to Do While It’s Still Summer

Six Fun Family Activities to Enjoy This Weekend

Hooray for Low-Tech Toys

Graphic: Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

Holiday and Everyday Cranberry Pear Jam

Cranberries and pears are both such delicious and evocative fall and winter fruits that I was thrilled to find a jam recipe that combined them as wonderfully as this one. It’s sweet, with a little bite, and with its wonderful color, makes a fabulous spread or gift at holiday time or anytime. Making jam is one of my favorite family kitchen projects. It combines science, tradition, and the supreme satisfaction of the entire canning process, which lets you transform fruit into jam, before pleasingly pouring it into glass jars. My simple and delicious recipe for cranberry pear jam requires only four ingredients. It comes from Food in Jars, which is a great source for all things canning. Make it before the cranberries disappear for the season.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Other posts by Suz you might like:

Stir up Some Triple Berry Jam

Stir up (or cook down) some Colonial Apple Butter

The Bond of Blueberry Jam, Motherlode blog

My Favorite Orange Cookie with Sweet Orange Glaze

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frosted orange cookie

These are my new hands-down favorite cookies to bake (and eat) – Orange cookies with sweet orange glaze from Brown Eyed Baker. I brought these cookies to barbecues over the summer and I believe they will be just as popular during holiday gatherings in winter. They’re delicious and sweet, with a texture that offers both softness and crunch and a vibrant citrus taste, even without the frosting. The frosting, which I first successfully added, complete with sprinkles, at the suggestion of my daughter Anna, gives them even more of a yummy, sweet orange taste.

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orange cookie recipe

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Enjoy with milk, coffee or your drink of choice!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Happy Summer! Easy Summer Solstice Cupcakes

Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and the beginning of the summer season, is upon us June 21 this year, at 05:04 Universal Time, or 1:04 am on the U.S.’ east coast, 10:04 pm, June 20, on the west. Throughout the Northern Hemisphere, it can be marked by Midsummer festivals, especially in Scandinavia, where people celebrate with maypoles that honor nature’s bounty and bonfires that recall the heat and warmth of the sun. Still other cultures have solstice rituals that honor the sun, the feminine and the masculine.

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, my family often attends a summer solstice celebration at Muir Beach, hosted by the Muir Woods National Monument park rangers. We enjoy a bonfire, nature storytelling and campfire songs, and a ritual walk around the fire, holding stalks of sweet flowers and herbs, and then throwing them into the fire, to greet the new season and also let go of anything that no longer serves us.

View more photos of summer solstice at Muir Beach.

An easy way to celebrate Summer Solstice, whether your gathering is a large one or a cozy one, is to make Summer Solstice Cupcakes. This recipe comes from the terrific book, Circle Round:

Just as Winter Solstice gives birth to the light, Summer Solstice, with its day that never seems to end, holds the seeds of darkness. We discover darkness in the bits of chocolate concealed inside this sunny cupcake.

1/2 C butter (one stick) softened in the summer sun
1 C sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
2 C flour, sifted first and then measured
pinch of salt
2 t. baking powder
1 C milk
1 C chocolate chips

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir in. Follow with 1/2 cup milk, then the other half of the flour mixture and the rest of the milk. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Use paper liners, or grease and flour cupcake tins. Bake for 25 minutes in a preheated 375′ oven.

Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes.

Because of the sweetness of the cake and chips, these don’t need frosting, but you can certainly add it, in a solid color or a cheery sun or flower design.

This is a great explanation of how Summer Solstice works. Happy Winter Solstice to those in the Southern Hemisphere, who are marking the lengthening days. Perhaps chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate chips are in order?

Happy Solstice to all!

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

Host a Kid-Friendly Kentucky Derby Party

I have long had a deep and unexplained connection to the Kentucky Derby, culminating in actually getting to attend “Derby” in 1983. Horse racing is a grand and beautiful tradition which caps each year with the “Run for the Roses” on the first Saturday in May and the succeeding two races in horse racing’s Triple Crown. What do I love about the Kentucky Derby? The pomp and ceremony, the hats!, the sing-along of My Old Kentucky Home, the traditional juleps and foods, the perceived smell of Kentucky bluegrass, the beauty of horse country, the dedication of trainers, jockeys and owners, the history of “The Sport of Kings”, the spring in which it occurs, the trumpets that herald the start of the race, the breathless announcers (“and they’re off ..”), the names of horses and the fact that in some places you can bet on them, and of course the race itself: 1 1/4 miles, just over 2 minutes, of blistering thoroughbred beauty.

While I don’t watch a lot of TV, I love event TV and of course, involving my family in the event in kid-friendly ways, which we enjoyed for our Super Bowl party and our Oscar party and during the Summer Olympics. There are many ways to involve kids in a Derby party as well.

Have everyone wear a fun Derby hat, the more outrageous the better. Have a few hats for those who come without one.

Dress up in spring dresses, suits with bow ties, and gloves.

Write the names of all the Derby horses on slips of paper. Put slips of paper in a hat and have everyone draw one or more to root for. If you like, add a friendly wager of $1 or so to the pot for each horse and distribute the pot based on Win, Place and Show percentages (such as 10% for Win, 6% for Place and 4% for Show.)

Teach older kids some math by displaying a board with the names of the horses and the morning odds. Discuss how those odds impact the winnings.

Make and decorate with tissue-paper flowers in spring colors or Derby-rose-red.

Everyone loves dainty, fun and kid-friendly finger sandwiches.

Make and serve yummy blueberry corn muffins.

Bake and serve soft pretzels so people can feel like they are at Churchill Downs.

Derby parties call for a classic pecan pie.

Mint juleps have been a mainstay of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century. Make kids’ versions with lemonade and mint.

You might like these other Slow Family posts:

The Roses of Sonoma

Photo Friday: Gather ye Rosebuds

Celebrate May Day with Floral Wreaths, Crowns and Baskets

 Photos: The Polo House, Now You Know, New Braunfels Feed, Boston.com MyRecipes.com, Jeffrey Snyder

12 Fun Family Activities for Screen Free Week

When I speak to families about slowing down and enjoying family time, one of the things that comes up over and over is screen time. Screens dominate many of our lives, often to a greater degree than we wish. While many of us parents can attest to the addictive nature of technology, we struggle with ways to reduce it in our children’s lives.

It is perhaps a bonus, then, that the wonderful Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has proclaimed April 29 – May 5 to be Screen-Free Week. Sometimes this kind of added incentive is all we need to inspire us to action. More than once, parents have told me that their children’s favorite memories include episodes of family game nights by fire- or candlelight during power outages. You can create your own “power outage” by participating in Screen-Free Week. And, even if you don’t go completely screen-free, you might want to pledge an hour or so a day or night to have some good screen-free fun. Who knows? That fun might just become a habit or your own favorite family memory.

Here are 12 ways to celebrate Screen Free Week:

Make a Paper Boat and sail it in a creek, pond or bathtub.

Make a Bird Feeder. Our local birds have gone nuts for ours and we plan to make more.

Make easy Wreaths, Crowns and Baskets to celebrate May Day.

Enjoy Loom and Finger Weaving. You can do this anywhere!

Keep a Moon Diary as a way of observing the night sky.

Slow your pace and have a Cloud Race.

Get a jump on summer by making S’Mores. Camp under the stars if it’s warm enough.

Start a Backyard Garden.

Bake your own Soft Pretzels. These are really easy and fun.

Play a different fun board game every night. We like Boggle, Sorry, Taboo, Pictionary, Scrabble, Mancala, Masterpiece, Monopoly and Hi-Ho Cherry O.

Discover The Joy of Quiet.

And, if you’re really missing your screen? Make your own Shoebox TV!

You’ll need:

Shoebox or a square-shaped box and lid
Cardboard tubes, from paper towels, foil or plastic wrap, or wooden dowels
4-10 pieces of printer paper (8 ½ x 11”)
Drawing materials
Scissors, craft knife and tape

Cut a large opening for the TV screen into the bottom of the box, leaving an even border of 1” or more all around.

Holding the box horizontally, cut two holes on the top, each about 2” the side and 2” back from the cut-out section. Your dowels or cardboard tubes should fit into the holes.

Cut two bottom holes that line up with the top ones.

Cut the cardboard tubes, if necessary, so that about ½ “ sticks out on the bottom and 1-2” on top.

Decide on a story you want to tell that primarily uses pictures.

Place the paper horizontally (cutting, if necessary, to fit the tube length) and draw one picture on each page, adding words, if desired. Leave at least 1” on each paper edge and at least 2” on the left edge of the first picture and the right edge of the last picture.

Lay the pictures out, left to right, in the order they will appear. Turn them over and, keeping the order, run a piece of tape down each back seam where two pictures come together.

Tape each end of the paper story scroll around a tube or dowel and roll  on the back sides of the scroll, so that the paper image is at the front of the tubes and the paper is tight and sized to the box.

Place the tubes into the holes and place the lid on the back. Decorate the front of the TV, if desired.

Gently turn the tubes to make the pictures move.

Slow Tip: You can also use images from magazines or comic-books to create your story.

You can make multiple story scrolls and change them through the back of the box. In doing so, you’ll join nearly every ancient civilization in telling stories using scrolls, starting with the Egyptians, who created them on papyrus.

The Shoebox TV craft is adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ more ways to enjoy screen-free family fun.

 Related posts from Slow Family Online:

Eight Fun Things to Do While It’s Still Summer

Six Fun Family Activities to Enjoy This Weekend

Hooray for Low-Tech Toys

Graphic: Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

Host a Valentine Tea Party

Many children adore the ritual and whimsy of both pretend and real tea parties, and this seems at no time truer than at Valentine’s Day, when we’ve made valentines for loved ones while enjoying finger sandwiches and sipping “tea”. Teas can also add ritual and fun to winter holidays, birthdays, May Day or  Mother’s Day or a summer day. Crafts are a nice addition to tea — if not valentines, then perhaps May Day crowns, or fairy or flower crafts. Games work well for tea, too (board or pretend.) Tea parties are a great way to involve multiple families or generations or to make an everyday gathering more special.

Collect teacups, saucers, and plates in advance (the more mismatched the better!) They can often be found inexpensively at secondhand stores, flea markets, and garage sales. Disposable cups can also be found at party stores, or glue small rhinestones to plastic cups with dots of glue. (Place cups on a towel so they don’t roll, glue a few rhinestones on and let dry, then turn the cup a quarter turn and glue more rhinestones on.)

You may want to have guests bring a special teddy bear or doll or invite them to dress up for taking tea in hats and gloves. The table, too, might be set with a favorite or antique tablecloth or doilies.

Tea Sandwiches

Tea sandwiches come in an endless variety to suit many tastes.

You’ll need:

Thinly sliced white bread
Sharp knife or cookie cutters
Sandwich ingredients (see below)

Cut the crusts off the bread and cut each slice into two triangles, or cut into large shapes, such as flowers, using a cookie cutter. (If using a cookie cutter, note that some sandwiches are better assembled before cutting.)

Spread one bread slice with filling and top with the second slice of bread, or serve open-faced.

Sandwich fillings to try:

Peanut butter and jelly
Cream cheese and jelly
Cream cheese and cucumber slices
Peanut or apple butter and honey or Nutella
Tuna, egg, or chicken salad
Cheese and butter
Lunch meat and cheese or mayonnaise

Looking for more ideas?
Serve open-face sandwiches (or minibagels) by spreading them with cream cheese or other spread and decorating with sprinkles. Or Substitute animal or other crackers, or cucumber rounds, for the bread to make especially tiny sandwiches.

Scones and biscuits are also welcome at tea, as are whimsical fairy and leprechaun foods.

 

 

See: How to Make: Fun and Easy Homemade Valentines

Super Food for the Super Bowl

We love to gather family and friends for fun TV viewing events. This year’s Super Bowl match up between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, February 3 in New Orleans, provides plenty of opportunities for hearty themed food to keep viewers satisfied.

Geographically Themed Food

Crab Cakes

In the Battle of the Bays, it’s the Chesapeake in Maryland that nets the crab for yummy Maryland Crab Cakes. These irresistible ones are from Paula Deen.

New Orleans chef Emeril Lagasse is no slouch in the crab cake department. His Chesapeake Bay Classic Crab Cakes use homemade mayonnaise for superb flavor. He also offers Crab Cakes with Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad. I love that combo!

Quaff some local beer with your crab cakes, such as Flying Dog, Union Craft, or National Bohemian (“Natty Boh” to the locals.)

Sourdough Bread

Sourdough bread was invented in San Francisco, and many say that because of San Francisco’s unique foggy weather, no other sourdough can quite match it. Sourdough is really fun to make with kids. Not only is the resulting bread chewy and delicious, the rising dough provides a fun-to-watch kitchen science experiment. Try this recipe for Sourdough Bread, and eat it the San Francisco way, by scooping out a “bowl” in a round sourdough loaf and filling it with clam chowder, cioppino (below, another San Francisco food), or your favorite soup.

In times past, bakers made sourdough starters (or mothers), some of which were passed from kitchen to kitchen to create the perfect bread. Here’s how to make your own  sourdough starter. Unlike the version, above, you don’t even need yeast! Learn how sourdough starters work.

Cioppino

San Francisco’s 19th century Italian fishermen gave us this dish, which is a melange of crabs, clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, and other fish gathered from the bay and served in a tomato base. You can easily make a cioppino most anywhere with fish on hand.

Grab some beers from any of a number of San Francisco area breweries and microbreweries, such as Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas,

Read about more San Francisco native foods.

New Orleans Gumbo

I didn’t think I could mention Cioppino without summoning New Orleans Gumbo. If your taste runs to the rich and Cajun-spiced, this is your dish. Serve over rice, if you’d like. Try a chicken, sausage and seafood Gumbo from Paula Deen or this New Orleans Creole Gumbo from Epicurious that features crab and sausage.

New Orleans Beignets

I’m not sure how my family came to associate doughnuts with the Super Bowl. There have been years when we’ve gone out early Super Bowl morning to the best doughnut shops to procure them. As the sweet, doughy beignet is the doughnut of New Orleans, you might want to give this Beignet recipe from Southern Living a try.

Team Themed Food

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers get their name from the miners and others who swarmed into California just before 1849, at the discovery of gold and its promise of riches. Though the Gold Rush lasted just a few short years, it swelled the non-native population of California from 1,000 to 100,000 and made a few people rich — largely the merchants and others who sold goods to the 49ers, rather than the miners themselves. Because the 49ers loom large in the area’s history and imagination, you might want to invoke them at your Super Bowl Party.

Think “Chuck Wagon style” and serve hot dogs and beans, chili, or even Sloppy Joes in pie tins, a version of which the hungry miners would have eaten around a campfire. Add sourdough bread (above), cornbread, biscuits, chips, or goldfish crackers. Wash the food down with good ol’ sarsaparilla — known in these parts as root beer.

If you’d like, decorate your table with gold nuggets — paint small rocks with gold paint or glitter glue. Decorate your table or food in Niners colors, red and gold.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are a little tougher, as far as a theme goes. The team that reportedly got its name from Edgar Allen’s poem, The Raven, might inspire a dish with small foul, such as squab, quail, or chicken cutlets, like one of my favorite recipes, Chicken Cutlets with Raspberries, from the Silver Palate Good Times cookbook. (Frozen raspberries work as well as fresh.)

And if Ravens got you thinking about Blackbird Pie, you could make your own interpretation, and create a savory Chicken Pot Pie or a sweet Lattice-Top Blackberry Blackbird Pie from Paula Deen, in which the “bird” is merely decorative. The Baltimore Ravens’ colors are purple, gold, white and black.

Football Themed and Game Food

You didn’t think we were going to leave without presenting some football-themed food, did you? No matter who you’re rooting for, these are fun for any game day.

This impressive and super-fun football snackadium from Sunshine and Sippy Cups will feed a crowd.

I offer a wonderful guacemole recipe — my husband’s! — to use in your snackadium, or as a separate dip.

Soft pretzels are another Game Day crowd favorite. Kids love to make these, too. They begin, like the sourdough (above), by waiting for the dough to rise.

Looking for unusual and tasty cheese for the big game? Try Comte Raw Milk Gruyere, Hirtenkase, Coolea, Rolf Beeler

Need sweets? Decorate gingerbread or your other favorite cookies to make football cookies.

Both sides will be able to agree on these Double Chocolate Football Cupcakes from The Baker Chick.

Have fun enjoying enjoying an American pastime with family and friends. Go team!

Looking for more activity and game ideas for kids? See also:

Super Bowl Food and Games for Kids and Families, Chicago Now

How to Make Your Super Bowl Party Super Fun, Red Tricycle

 

 

 

Photos: Sunshine and Sippy Cups, Paula Deen, Romulo Yanes/Epicurious, Pillsbury, Sunshine and Sippy Cups, Morguefile, The Baker Chick

 

Make Yummy Desserts with Tillamook Yogurt

Ever since Tillamook introduced its regular and light yogurt, we’ve been eating it, well, almost as quickly as we eat Tillamook cheese. We recently decided to branch out from breakfast and check out some of the yogurt recipes on the Tillamook site. We were very glad we did!

My mom used to make yogurt pie, using a graham cracker crust. I so associate it with my childhood summers, and have made it for my family over the years. I was especially delighted to find this recipe for Yogurt Pie made with a shortbread crust and drizzled with melted chocolate. It’s delicious and kicks the traditional yogurt pie up a notch, while still being very easy to make.

Yogurts also make wonderful bases for smoothies and shakes. The Bronson Sunrise Smoothie is terrific in the morning, after a bike ride, or after school. We also like all these Shake recipes, which can be made in a blender to create a shake or a smoothie.

Tillamook yogurt contains no artificial sweeteners, no artificial flavors or colors, no high fructose corn syrup, and no artificial growth hormones.

Click the coupon below for “Buy one, get one free” Tillamook yogurt coupons.

Read my review of Tillamook yogurt flavors.

Tillamook provided sponsorship and coupons to facilitate this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

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