Easy Tips for Quality Family Time on Valentine’s Day

I hope you are planning to spend time on Valentine’s Day with your family. Here are some easy tips for quality family time to help you express your love to others in a fun way.

  • Set out paper place mats and decorate them with a Valentines Day theme.
  • Write an “I love you” note with soap on your bathroom mirror.
  • Listen to your children with your eyes and heart as well as your ears.
  • Plan a treasure hunt by leaving little notes around the house expressing your appreciation for something others did. End with a riddle or clue to the next hiding place where they will find a candy or special memento. Have something special at the last hiding place such as a toy or treat.
  • Show your love and appreciation to others. Affirming statements such as “I love you just the way you are; I’m so glad you’re my (son, daughter, mother, father, friend)” need to be given often, not only on Valentines Day.

There are lots more suggestions for this and other special days  in Cooking Around the Calendar With Kids — Holiday and Seasonal Food and Fun. This is a fun book you can read and use all year long.

Lee Jackson
Family and Parenting Studies


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Easy Ideas For Halloween Party Food


Image by Pedro J. Ferreira via Flickr

Kids often get overwhelmed with sugary Halloween party food. Today’s guest, Kristin Hatch, offers a few alternatives that are fast and fun.

Are you searching all over the web for Easy Halloween Recipes for Halloween Party Food that are quick and easy to make, yet not too scary for your kids? It can be hard to search all those websites for recipes and forget it if you want photos, right? Now that it is getting closer to Halloween I thought I would give you some quick ideas to help you find just what you are looking for. These four recipes are more like general ideas for fun party food.

Punchbowl Hand

Fill a latex glove with water, juice or soda. Carefully tie the end closed (a bit of string or a binder clip is good for this) and freeze. When frozen solid, remove the glove and float in your punch at the party.

Biscuit Spiders

Made up a batch of biscuits following your favorite recipe or using a mix. Shape spiders by creating a golf ball sized “body” and then roll out thin ropes of the dough to form the legs. Arrange on a baking sheet and lightly brush with milk or beaten egg. If you want, you can further decorate your spiders with raisins, poppy seeds, sesame seeds or chopped nuts. You can use aluminum foil rolls under the legs to hold them up during baking. Bake following you recipe or package directions watching to make sure that smaller items are not getting too brown.

Wild Worms and Eyes

This is simply spaghetti and meatballs. Cook an unusual noodle that you do not normally serve (maybe linguini or angle hair). When done toss in your favorite red pasta sauce and place on serving platter. Add warm meatballs and serve. You can make this spookier by tossing the noodles in a dark green pesto sauce or even in a creamy white Alfredo sauce.

Rice Cereal Creatures

Now I usually shy away from doing “sweet” party food as there is so much candy around for Halloween, but if you want a fun way that kids can help with a party this is the best. Make a batch of rice cereal and marshmallow squares, only don’t press them into a pan. Instead ask the kids to help you and create goblins, trolls, snakes, anything they want. Use small candies or frosting to add details such as red eyes or stripes. Place on foil lined baking sheet and refrigerate until firm. These make wonderful items for centerpieces on your buffet or Halloween table.

These quick ideas and Easy Halloween Recipes can add some extra fun to your Halloween party. They are simple to make and you will love that your kids can be involved and help you make cool Halloween party food. You could even use these recipes for party activities when your guests arrive.

If you are looking for more www.squidoo.com/easy-halloween-recipes-for-brunch-or-snacks Easy Halloween Recipes with photos, stop searching all those websites and check out www.squidoo.com/easy-halloween-recipes-for-brunch-or-snacks Easy Halloween Recipes today.

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

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Apple Recipe Spices up Halloween and Homecoming Week-end

Assorted Red and Green Apples 2120px

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This past week-end I was the “apple lady” at a local grocery store. I got to set up shop beside aisles and aisles of apples and show off my apple cookbooks. It was the day before our university homecoming so the store was packed.

Both of the desserts I brought turned out to be hits with the customers. I gave out free samples and free recipes. A number of the customers, after sampling, then went to pick out their apples to make this over the week-end.

College students came through to sample, too (of course!). One said he was saving the recipe until his girlfriend came to town to make it. Another said they were to bring a dish to a homecoming party. They decided to make and bring the dessert I was handing out.

This is one of the recipes I made. It was provided for my cookbook,  Apples, Apples Everywhere – Favorite Recipes From America’s Orchards by the Glennie Orchard in New Berlin, Wisconsin. This cookbook has choice recipes from almost 70 orchards across the country.

Granny Smith or Jonathan apples work well for this recipe. Other varieties that can be used include: Cortland, Winesap, Rome Beauty, Braeburn, Wealthy, and Gala.

Glennie Orchard Dutch Apple Pie

For the streusel topping, combine:

1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup soft butter or margarine

Mix together with fork until crumbly. Set aside.

For the no-roll crust, combine with a fork:

1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
2 tablespoons milk

Divide in half and press into two 7-inch pie pans or pat into bottom of 9 x 13-inch pan (which is what I used).

Peel and slice approximately 8-10 medium baking apples and place on top of the crust slightly mounded. Sprinkle with:

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
Dot with 1/2 tablespoon butter, if desired

Stir the streusel mixture to break it up into small pieces and cover all apples with the mixture. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake in pre-heated 425° F. oven for 20 minutes. Reduce oven to 350° F and bake for another 50 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 25 minutes to brown the streusel. Cool.

It puffs up on baking but then settles down after it begins to cool. This pastry is good warm or cold; with or without ice cream.

I hope you have been able to take advantage of the year’s bumper crop of apples as we count down to Thanksgiving.

Lee Jackson
Author: Apples, Apples Everywhere – Favorite Recipes From America’s Orchards
From the Apple Orchard – Recipes for Apple Lovers
The Littlest Christmas Kitten
Careers in Focus: Family and Consumer Sciences

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Soup Supper Idea

Vegetable Soup for a Crowd
Image by grand grrl via Flickr

Do you need a quick meal that is filling, nutritious, and doesn’t take long to make? I want to share a soup I made for a large group at my house recently. We had a mix of older folks and younger ones. They all wanted recipes so that is always a good sign. I hope you will enjoy it, too.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 tablespoons minced garlic
3 cups chicken broth
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup mild picante sauce
1 (15-ounce) can ranch-style beans, undrained
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
½ teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika
2 cups chopped cooked skinless chicken breast
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Tortilla chips, optional
Shredded Cheddar cheese, optional
Sour cream, optional

Heat olive oil in large pan like a soup kettle or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, carrots, and garlic. Cook until onion is tender, about 7 minutes.

Add broth, tomatoes, picante sauce, beans and spices. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

Add chicken and cilantro and heat thoroughly.

Ladle into soup bowls. Top with tortilla chips, cheese, and sour cream if desired. Serves 8.

We served crackers, Dilly bread, and cornmeal muffins with it, as well as a relish assortment.

Tomorrow I’ll post the other soup we served – totally different and totally good!

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Pecan Pies Too much Trouble to Make For Thanksgiving? Try These Pecan Bars

Pecan Delight
Image by Sifu Renka via Flickr

If you want pecan pie for Thanksgiving but hate the hassle of making a pie crust, try these Pecan Bars from Amy Houts’ new cookbook, Cooking Around the Country With Kids: USA Regional Recipes and Fun Activities. Yes, you can buy ready prepared pie crust, but here is a recipe the children will enjoy making with you from start to finish.

This recipe features a delicious product, pecans,  from this great land of ours, the USA. We are thankful, especially at this season, for the rich abundance of food available.

In her book, Cooking Around the Country with Kids, Amy Houts tells about the time she went pecan picking with her friend in Memphis, Tennessee. She was surprised at how the pecan trees’ branches covered the whole area. Her friend said that pecan trees are an added bonus to have in one’s yard. “They are great for swings and offer lots of nice shade,” she said.

Here is the recipe for Pecan Bars:

1 ½ cups flour
¾ cup butter, or margarine, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Mix flour, butter, and powdered sugar with spoon or electric mixer. With floured fingers, using quick, light motions press dough into a 9-by-13-2-inch baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, children can help measure and mix filling. In a medium-sized bowl, beat eggs with a fork or wire whisk. Add brown sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and pecans. Pour over hot crust. Return to oven and bake 20 minutes more. Cool; cut into bars.

Makes about 32 bars.

To read more about the cookbook from which this recipe is taken, go to www.imagesunlimitedpub.com. Order your own copy or one for your favorite child.

Lee Jackson

Snaptail Books


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4th of July Dessert

New England.

Image via Wikipedia

As much of our country’s early history dates back to the New England states, I wanted to share a recipe from this area taken from Amy Houts’ new book, Cooking Around the Country With Kids: USA Regional Recipes and Fun Activities. Her new book just came back from design and layout and it’s looking fabulous!

I think you will believe this recipe is fabulous, too!

Boston Creme Pie

1 yellow cake mix
1 (3 oz.) box instant vanilla pudding

Chocolate Glaze:
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons hot water,

Grease and flour two 9-inch round pans. Children can help measure, mix, and bake yellow cake according to package directions. Cool.
Mix vanilla pudding according to package directions. Children can spread pudding on one cake, then top with second cake.

For glaze:
Melt butter in a pan’ stir in sugar, cocoa, and vanilla. Add 1 tablespoon water, then one teaspoon at a time until the proper consistency. Spread glaze on top, letting it drip down the sides. Traditionally, the top is glazed, not the sides. Store in refrigerator.

Makes 1 two-layer cake

Enjoy the 4th!

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Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Fireworks

Fireworks over Miami, Florida, USA on American...

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Are you celebrating 4th of July with hot dogs, apple pie, and fireworks? I think we should add in a few parades, a baseball game, concerts, and some political speeches.That is about as American as it gets on the 4th!

Americans love to celebrate the day. We sometimes forget why we are celebrating – we tend to forget that we are commemorating the anniversity of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Many children have to memorize the beginning of the Declaration of Independence which begins “When in the course of human event it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have…”.

Perhaps as adults we still remember this paragraph:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Do we sometimes take these rights too far? Does the “pursuit of happiness” mean we can do anything we please as long as it makes us happy? Do certain unalienable rights mean the right of women to end the life of their babies in the uterus? Is the right to life taken away through the courts?

Certainly it was not our founding fathers intent to go to these extremes. They believed that the foundation of a nation should begin with the freedom from oppressive government, tyrany, and persecution. Every person was to be able to have freedom of speech, of assembly, freedom from religious oppression,  and the right to bear arms. Their work to establish this groundwork has made our country a symbol of freedom throughout the world.

Freedom comes at a price. This price is often sacrifice, hardship, and even the loss of life. We thank those who make sacrifices to protect our freedom and defend our country.

May God continue to bless America!

Happy 4th of July!

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Father’s Day Strawberry Shortcake

Garden Strawberry "Fragaria".

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I want to share with you my absolute favorite strawberry shortcake recipe. This is not one of those individually wrapped bland cakes always found in the strawberry aisle of your grocery store. No, yours will be a piping hot, melt in your mouth treat, heaped with juicy, luscious strawberries.

Your Dad will want you to make this dessert again and again – until the strawberries run out…

Strawberry Shortcake

2 pints fresh strawberries

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
1 cup milk

Wash strawberries in cold water with a dash of vinegar. Swish and drain. Children can help remove stems by using a plastic knife and cutting each in half. Add about 1/2 cup sugar over berries and let stand at room temperature about an hour.

Grease 1 – 8 x 1 1/2 inch cake pan. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large bowl, measure flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening using two knives or a pastry blender until shortening pieces are the size of peas. Stir in milk and stir with fork until just blended. Spread batter into prepared cake pans. Dot with butter.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly brown and crusty.

Cut into 6 or 8 pieces. Split each piece in half on serving plate. Have butter available at table so each can spread butter on hot shortcake according to individual wishes. Then pass the strawberries that have oozed some of their juice upon standing.

Enjoy, and wish your Father a Happy Day!

Lee Jackson
Books for children, families, and parenting professionals
Check out a FR ee Recipe Sampler at:

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Dessert for Company


This is the dessert I served for my women’s group yesterday. It was the day after my birthday – the reason for the flowers. I was happy to share flowers, and dessert, with company.

The recipe is very easy and young cooks will enjoy the crunching and rolling needed for making crumbs.

Oreo™ Ice Cream Dessert

24 Oreo™ cookies,crushed

1/2 stick butter, melted

1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream

1 (15-ounce) can Eagle Brand™ condensed milk

1 stick butter 1 (8-ounce) can Hershey™ chocolate syrup

1 (8-ounce) carton whipped topping

Place 24 cookies into a plastic bag. Use a rolling pin or wooden masher to crush the cookies into rather fine crumbs. Place them in a 9×13-inch pan.

Melt 1/2 stick butter and pour this over the crushed cookies. Stir a little to distribute the butter throughout. Place in freezer for about 30 minutes.

Soften ice cream and place over the crumbs, smoothing the top. Return to freezer for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: Combine the condensed milk, 1 stick butter, and chocolate syrup in a saucepan. Bring to a low boil and then simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent it from burning at the bottom.

Pour sauce over hardened ice cream and pop back into freezer. Except the pan keeps getting heavier and heavier each time so handle with care. Freeze again for about 30 minutes.

Top with whipped topping and sprinkle a few of the crumbs from the bag over the top of the dessert. Cover with foil.

When you are ready to serve, take it out of the freezer for about 20 minutes before cutting and serving. You will have a very elegant dessert.

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Bake Your Mother Something Special For Mother’s Day

2 wicker baskets full of muffins sit on a blue...
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Get Mom’s day going in the right direction by baking her some A & B Muffins for breakfast. These are muffins without any sugar – your Mom has probably reminded you many times not to eat so much sugar. These still taste good even though they contain no sugar. Other good points: they are low in calories and you will get some nutrients from the fruits and nuts. Now you can tell her that you listen when she talks about good nutrition and the importance of the food you eat.

Can you guess what food the A and B stands for?

A & B Muffins

2 bananas mashed to equal 3/4 cup
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice concentrate, canned or frozen
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup chopped nuts
2 teaspoons baking soda

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place paper liners in 18-20 muffin cups.

If using frozen apple juice concentrate, take out of freezer and open can.

Mash 2 bananas with a fork on a plate or in a pie pan. This should equal about 3/4 cup.

In a small bowl, beat eggs with hand egg beater, add mashed bananas, oil, water, and mix.

In a larger bowl, add flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and nuts. Stir. Make a little dip or well in the middle.

Pour banana, egg mixture into well and mix lightly.

If using frozen apple juice, scrap juice out of can to equal 1/2 cup. Slowly add a little of this frozen juice to big bowl mixture, stirring well before adding more. In this way you will avoid having frozen eggs and bananas.

Stir in baking soda quickly and then mix about 30 beats.

Spoon batter immediately into prepared cups to prevent the baking soda from losing its rising power. Bake about 18 minutes, until nicely browned and toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.

Close lid on the frozen juice, place in a resealable bag, and return to freezer to be used another time.

When muffins are done, cool them on a wire rack. Serve them warm – muffins are always best served warm. However, if you have some left over, cool them completely and store in an airtight bag on your counter or in the freezer.

Set the table nicely. Cut up some fruit for a mixed-fruit cup and serve in a pretty dish. Offer a hot beverage of your Mother’s choice. Now you have the perfect start to her special day.

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