Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Countdown: Homemade marshmallows

Even though hubby and I don't usually do much for each other on Valentine's Day, I just knew I had to make these marshmallows. Okay, well actually, the truth is that I had planned on making them for him for Christmas a year ago (so two Christmases ago) then again last Christmas, but it just didn't happen.

But, it seemed like it would make a good Valentine's gift...

Now, my hubby is a marshmallow fiend. I don't think anyone in the world loves marshmallows as much as him. And, I didn't even really think people even liked marshmallows before I met him. I mean, you use them for s'mores, maybe hot chocolate and that's it, right? But, nope, he can polish off an entire bag of Jetpuffs in one sitting.

So, I enlisted the help of my trusty assistants and got to work...

Homemade Marshmallows


3 packets unflavored gelatin
1 C ice water, divided
1 1/2 C sugar
1 C light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 C corn starch
1/4 C powdered sugar

-- Add all flavorings and colorings in the last few minutes of beating.
For Cocoa Marshmallows: add in 3-4 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. If you make cocoa marshmallows, add a spoonful or two of cocoa powder to your cornstarch mixture as well.
For Peppermint Marshmallows: add in 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
For Colored Marshmallows: add food coloring in the last few minutes of beating (think colored fruit flavored marshmallows!)

9 x 13" pan
non stick spray

Place the contents of the gelatin packets into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add 1/2 C of the ice water.

Stir gently to combine and then set that bowl aside.

In a small saucepan combine: remaining 1/2 C water, corn syrup, granulated sugar, and salt. Stir mixture to combine and bring it to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and then clip a candy thermometer onto the pan.
The sugar mixture needs to remain on a simmer and come to a temperature of 245 degrees F.
This was taking a long time for me, so I increased the temperature to more of a slow boil, which got it there much faster. Just keep a close eye on it and the temp and stir occasionally.

While you're waiting for your mixture to reach the correct temp, you'll have some time to, say, put on a fun photo shoot with your pint-sized sous chef.

After the mixture reaches 245 degrees, remove from heat.
While your mixer runs on low speed, you need to slowly pour the sugar mixture into the bowl with the gelatin.
You may want to put the mixture into something with a pour spout, to make it easier to get in your mixer.

After you add the entire sugar mixture to the gelatin turn the beater speed up to med-high. Continue to whip for 12-15 minutes, adding the vanilla in the last few minutes of beating.
*If you plan to add flavoring/color, remember to do it in the last few minutes of beating.

Take this time to prepare your pan.

Combine the cornstarch and powdered sugar in a small bowl. Spray a 9 x 13" pan with non stick spray and coat the bottom and sides with the cornstarch mixture. Tap excess out and save it.

When your marshmallows are done beating the mixture should be thick and white, kind of like jarred marshmallow cream.

Using a spatula, coated in non-stick spray, scrape bowl into your prepared pan. You may have to spread it around a little, which is why you want your spatula sprayed, to make it even.

Let the pan sit at room temp for about an hour (to form a dry layer on the top) and sprinkle a couple spoonfuls of the corn starch mixture over the top. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and let it sit overnight.

When they're ready to cut, just pull the marshmallow sheet out of the pan.

Now, it's time to cut (this is a great project for the kiddos!)!
You can use cookie cutters to make fun shapes (we did hearts!) or just use your pizza cutter to cut into bite size squares. Make sure to coat your cutting implement frequently with the cornstarch mixture, because this stuff gets pretty sticky!

And, now for the fun part! You can, of course just start digging in or even prepare a nice mug of hot chocolate to plop them in. If you're giving them for gift you can prepare your packaging. We simply put ours in a cellophane bag tied with a handmade note for the hubby. You could really have fun with it, even coating them in chocolate...or how about putting them with a graham cracker and dipping the whole thing in chocolate! Yumm!

We presented them to my hubby tonight and he loved them! I had saved a few out, and we used those to put in hot chocolate (we added peppermint to ours, so they added a nice extra touch to the hot chocolate) and they were delicious!

So, I know Valentine's Day is officially over, but that shouldn't stop you from making this for the next holiday, birthday or just random Thursday (trust me, that are that good!)

And, if you do make some, link back to me, so we can see what you came up with! :)

Linking up here:
all crafts Handmade Projects & Parties ~ Add Yours! handmade projects


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine's Day Countdown: Yarn Hearts

Since Z isn't in school yet, we don't have to give out many Valentines. It's pretty much just grandparents and aunts and uncles at this point.

For the last couple years, we have been trying to come up with some unique and creative Valentine's ideas. :)

Last year, you may remember, we made pinwheels. Z and I had SO much fun making these and they seemed to be quite popular among our recipients, as well.

This year, we decided to make something I saw in the Family Fun magazine; Yarn hearts.

¼ C corn starch
¼ C water
*Yarn, cut into foot long pieces (you can use varied colors or just one color)
Heart shaped cookie cutter(s) (I used a couple different sizes)
*I don't have a specific measurement of yarn, because it's really up to you how much yarn you use for each heart, how big you want your hearts or if you use more than one color. I just cut up a bunch, and stored the leftover yarn pieces for the next project. :)

Of course, you must have a super-cute and highly enthusiastic assistant. Sorry, but this one's taken! :)

Combine cornstarch and water in a small saucepan and stir until smooth
Heat mixture over medium heat, until it's thick and translucent
Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool to the touch

Place cookie cutter on parchment paper (I used my trusty Silpat).
Push piece of yarn into the glue to coat it, then run between your finger and thumb to remove excess glue (this job is great for the kids!)

Lay yarn inside the cookie cutter

Repeat process until the cookie cutter is filled (thin layer)
With clean hands, press the yarn flat (make sure to hold your cookie cutter in place while you're doing this; again great job for the kiddos!)
Remove cookie cutter and allow yarn to dry, at least a day. Or, if you're impatient like me; put them into the oven on 'warm' or lowest temperature and 'bake' for an hour or two.

Like I said, we're going to be using these for Valentine's (we haven't finished the rest of our project yet, so stay tuned!), but there are a lot of other ways you can use them...

This is about as simple as it gets...just set next to a picture frame!

Put them all in a fun bowl or container for display!

Glue a magnet to the back, and put it on the fridge!

Or, my favorite; put it on display in it's own picture frame! Cute, right? :)

And, that's it! This is a pretty simple little project and perfect for kids. I know my little guy gets so much satisfaction out of creating things, especially if he gets to then give them as gifts!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentine's Day Countdown: Tulle Wreath

So, I know these have been all over webland recently, but maybe, just maybe, there's one person out there who hasn't seen these yet.

I decided to make a Valentines wreath, because tulle (which I loo-huuv, by the way!) just seems so pretty, and romantic and perfect for Valentine's day!

Most of these wreaths I had seen just used the one color of tulle, but then I saw this one at one of my favorite blogs, Flamingo Toes, and (even though it was a Halloween wreath) just knew I had to make a pretty multi-colored one for V Day.

You will need:
Wreath form-I bought mine at Dollar Tree (was hoping for the foam kind, but they only had these tacky wicker ones...thank goodness I was covering it!)
Tulle-About five yards each color for a regular sized wreath (Luckily for me, my Wal-Mart is eliminating their fabric department, so I scored the tulle for 50% off...wa-hoo! )
Ribbon for hanging wreath

Heart shape to hang inside or glue to outside of wreath (I kind of threw mine together and just grabbed some leftover scrapbook paper, glued it onto the back of a piece of cardboard and added some chipboard letters)
Letters for message inside heart (Cricut, chipboard, foam, etc)

Cut your tulle into 10” pieces
*And, here is my disclaimer: cut all your tulle at once. I happen to have little patience and was getting bored cutting tulle, so ditched it and went to work tying it on. Then I had to go back and cut more tulle. It was annoying and extra time-consuming, so try to put aside your ADD and just do it all at once. ;o)
Tie end of tulle onto wreath form, using a square double knot.
Make sure to periodically squish the ends together, so you won't see the wreath showing through.
Tie ribbon to top of wreath for hanging and attach your heart to inside of wreath.
*I realize didn't take pictures of the process, because I made this very spur-of-the-moment while the hubby and I were watching our nightly (the kids have finally gone to sleep!) TV. But, trust me; it really is simple, simple to put together!

That's it! It's super-duper easy and makes a really pretty decoration for your front door, entry way, fridge, etc. Of course, you can make this to suit any holiday/season or you could just make a new one for every occasion! ;o)

Pin It

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Valentine's Day Countdown: Homemade Pop-Tarts

While I'm not too big on Valentine's Day, my kids love it. To be honest, they love any semblance of a holiday, because around here that usually means crafts, cookies, decorations, etc to go along with said holiday. And, of course, Valentine's Day is no different. So, I've given in, jumped on the bandwagon and, well, here I am...

I thought I'd share some of the Valentine's fun we've been working on, and will post a Valentine's related craft, recipe every day until the big day. :o) So, here's my first one...

I first saw a recipe for homemade Pop Tarts a few months ago. Homemade Pop Tarts?? Umm...yes, please! Like everyone else on the planet, I love Pop Tarts (c'mon, admit know you do too)! In fact, during my days in the college dorms, I lived on Pop Tarts, Ramen noodles and Dr Pepper and when Colin and I were poor college students living on our own, Pop Tarts were a staple in our apartment. There was a short period of time we had them in the house for Colin (who still loves them and gets away with eating them since he cycles 10 miles to and from work each day), but once Z started asking for them, I had to ban them from the house.

Once I saw I could make my own, much healthier versions, I jumped on the chance!

And, I thought what a perfect Valentine's breakfast they would make, cut out into heart shapes.

Homemade Pop-Tarts
Source: Macaroni and Cheesecake, King Arthur Flour
Yield: 9 pop-tarts or about 6 heart-shaped pop-tarts (I used a medium sized cookie cutter)

For the pastry crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks, or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
*I cheated and bought the Pillsbury pie dough from he grocery store. It seems like this might yield a smaller batch of pop-tarts than the homemade pastry dough, so just keep that in mind.

Filling Options:
Strawberry jam
Chocolate Chips
Cinnamon/brown sugar

For the Strawberry jam filling:
¾ cup strawberry jam
*Here's where you can make it much healthier! Use your favorite sugar-free jam or your own homemade (sugar-free) jam like I did!
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

For the Cinnamon Filling
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, to taste
4 teaspoons unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 large egg, to brush on pastry before filling

Optional Glaze
½ Cup powdered sugar
1Tbl butter
1-2 tsp milk (less if using cream)
*You can add 1tsp unsweetened cocoa powder to glaze the chocolate pop-tarts or 1tsp cinnamon for cinnamon/sugar pop-tarts.

For Assembly:
1 egg, lightly beaten (to brush on pastry)
powdered sugar or flour for rolling out dough


Strawberry Filling:
In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch & water. In a small saucepan, add strawberry jam & the cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil & then simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & allow to cool.

Cinnamon Filling:
Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and flour.

Heat in small saucepan and whisk until smooth (or heat for about 1 min in microwave).

For the Crust:

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt & sugar. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dough until the mixture resembles coarse meal & the butter is the size of peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg & milk. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture & mix together with a fork until dough is evenly moistened. Knead briefly until dough comes together.

To Assemble:
Cut the dough in half. (To make the dough ahead, you can wrap each section of dough & refrigerate for up to 2 days, allowing dough to come to room temp. before rolling). Sprinkle powdered sugar on your rolling surface & then roll out one piece of dough to 1/8 inch thick, into roughly a 9 1/2 x 12 1/2 rectangle (my dough rolled out to a little less than this and it yielded the same amount of tarts). Trim the edges to get straight lines all around. Cut the dough into either 9 evenly sized rectangles or into shapes with cookie cutters. Using a straight spatula, transfer dough rectangles to a baking sheet lined with parchment. Brush the beaten egg lightly onto each of the pop-tarts.
Spoon a small amount of strawberry or brown sugar/cinnamon filling onto each (1 tsp to 1 tbsp. depending on your size). If adding chocolate chips, use about 1 tsp added to middle of pastry.
*Be sure to leave a 1/2 inch of space around the edges and do NOT overfill these as they will be messy!

Roll out the remaining piece of dough as you did the first, cutting into the same amount of pieces. Top each prepared piece of dough with another. If you are cutting out shapes, you will have leftover dough. Just keep rolling these out, so you can cut out more shapes (I ended up with a couple smaller hearts, just so that the dough wasn't wasted).
Press the seams of the dough with your fingers to seal. Press a fork around the edges of each rectangle, then prick the tops so that air can escape. Very lightly brush the tops with beaten egg.

Place the pan of tarts in the refrigerator uncovered for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Cool slightly.
Brush or drizzle glaze on and add sprinkles, colored sugar, etc.
These are best served warm, so if you make them ahead of time reheat them in a 200 degree oven for approximately 5 minutes until warm. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Linking up here:

Join us Saturdays at for the weekend wrap up party!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sick little Avalee

A week ago last Sunday (the 23rd) we were at my parents house for my dad's birthday. Avalee seemed a little warm, but we all agreed that it was warm in the house, and chalked it up to that.
We came home, put the kids to bed and a couple hours later Avalee woke up and was burning up. A check of her temperature showed at almost 100. We were all getting over colds, and I thought maybe that was the cause of it. She wasn't really fussy and after some acetaminophen, her temp went back down. The next day, she had a fever on and off, but still low grade. Toward the end of the evening, she started getting kind of cranky, and while I hoped she was just getting tired my Mommy instincts told me otherwise. Tuesday morning, when I went to brush Avalee's teeth she started crying. I looked in her mouth and noticed a couple white bumps on her tongue. She still had a fever, so I gave her some more medicine, but she didn't seem like she was in pain or even uncomfortable. She did seem a little lethargic, and after I found the spots (that were obviously painful to touch) I realized she really hadn't been eating well the last couple days. She's always been kind of a grazer anyhow, but I remembered she was doing a lot more of picking at her food and 'sharing' with everyone.
I had already committed to taking my mother-in-law to her MRI appointment, and the kids had plans to spend the morning with Grandma and Grandpa. Since Avalee seemed to be okay, I sent her over with the promise of a Target Icee after I picked them up.
After the promised Icee (and popcorn too, of course) we headed back home. Another check of her temp showed it at 100.1.
I decided to call her pediatrician's office, and the nurse immediately had me check her hands and feet for a rash, thinking it might be Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. When I told her I didn't see anything, she scheduled an appointment for the next day.
That night poor Avalee was really not starting to feel well. She didn't sleep well all through the night, although the fever seemed to be mostly gone.
At her appointment the next day, her pediatrician checked her over, and took a quick look into her mouth. She was really not feeling well, and cried through the brief five minute exam. He said she had the Coxsackie Virus, and that it could either be the HF&M Disease or Herpes (aka; cold sores) which pretty much manifest in the same way (fever for a few days than the mouth sores). He said that it would probably clear up in about a week, and to make sure she was hydrated. Unfortunately there is no medicine to 'cure' it; just Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen for pain. Of course, I was happy that it wasn't anything really serious, but also upset that there really wasn't anything we could do to 'fix' it. I could tell poor A was already in pain, and
We went to the store to grab some Popsicles and juice (which is usually a no-go in our house, so the kids were pretty excited about that...haha).
Avalee fell asleep on the way home, but woke up as soon as we pulled into the garage. I tried getting her back to sleep, but she just wasn't having it. We decided to just pop a movie in and snuggle on the couch until Daddy got home. I already had plans with my mom's group to go play bingo that night, but was thinking about staying. I just felt so bad for my poor girl! Colin finally convinced me to get out, reasoning that I probably would probably have a rough week ahead. I decided he was right (rarely happens) and made him promise to call or text me if I was needed. He gently shoved me out the door, and poor A managed a sick little wave goodbye.
When I got home, I was surprised that she was asleep and in her own bed (Daddy can be kind of a pushover when Mommy isn't home). However, about an hour after I got back, she woke up and was clearly in pain. We tried giving her meds, which she kept spitting out then tried getting her to eat something. We could tell part of her problem was that she was hungry, but after trying to eat cheese, a pickle and raisins and she would dissolve into a fit of tears. We finally got her to eat a Popsicle, which settled her down (along with what medicine actually got down) enough to eventually get back to sleep.
The next couple days were just awful. She was just in so much pain and was miserable. She was fussy and cranky (which besides the obvious reason, are actually a symptom of the illness) from the moment she woke up to the moment she fell asleep. She was so hungry, but it was too painful to eat anything. At first, she would at least eat Popsicles, yogurt, applesauce but eventually that too became to painful. Every moment of the day became a battle of her begging for something to eat/drink, me presenting her with about 10 things and her rejecting everything. She was so desperate, upset and in pain, she would just scream and throw the food item she couldn't eat. And, in between that she wanted to be held and carried around all the time. She was so lethargic that she would just kind of melt into a little puddle when I tried to put her down.
At night, she would fall asleep but refused to go down in her crib. She slept fitfully in our bed, crying, moaning and signing 'hungry' all through the night. I think I was sleeping in about two to three hour increments, waking up periodically to offer her various food which she would reject.
All of this reminded me of what it was like to have a newborn again.
And, then there was poor Zavion who was definitely getting shortchanged in the attention department. But, instead of acting out, which would have been reasonable, he really shined. He doted on his sister, bringing her drinks, taking her temp (which his own doctor's kit), bringing her books, singing her songs and so much more. He really exemplified what a big brother can be and I know Avalee appreciated it.
The rest of the week just dragged by though, feeling like weeks instead of days. The weekend arrived, and Saturday morning Avalee actually ate! She had a little yogurt and applesauce and even seem to have some energy. We decided we had been cooped up inside for days, and it was a beautiful sunny day, so we headed to a new park in our area. I made some sandwiches and packed Z's lunchbox with some other soft foods I was hoping A would eat. Of course, Avalee wouldn't eat when we got there, but did drink some of the Koolaid I brought for her. She just sat on my lap for awhile, but once she saw her brother running around playing, she just couldn't resist. She decided to check out the slides, and once she got into it, there was no going back! She went down the slide over and over than spotted the swings and couldn't get to those fast enough. As soon as she got in the swing, she got a big grin and even started acting like her usual silly Avalee (taking her hands off the chains and saying, “Look! I not use my haaands!”). After about an hour, she started fading and ended up back on Daddy's lap looking ill again. But, she had about an hour of fun time and it was awesome to see her smile again!
Later that evening, Colin and I went to see my younger sister's high school play and the kids went to stay with Grandma and Grandpa. After the play was over, I called to check in and my mom told me that Avalee ate TWO containers of yogurt and was running around and playing with Z for most of the time. And, when she did get upset for a little bit, Z was right there to take care of her, once again.
On Sunday, one week after she started with a fever, she got out of the house for a little while again to play at the park across the street. She played ball with Grandma and of course, take a few turns down the slide.
And, yesterday after we took Grandma D to another MRI appointment, we went to Target to get some diapers. Z was hungry, so we stopped at the Target cafe to get some food. She asked for a chocolate milk and drank about half (plus licked some cheese off of my nacho chips). After a short nap when we got home, she said she was hungry, so I opened the fridge and asked her what she wanted. She asked for pepperoni, cheese and yogurt. She ended up eating about 15 pieces of pepperoni, almost a full container of yogurt and three cups of Koolaid! We even managed to fit in some crafty time, and the kids got to make Shrinky Dinks. They both had SO much fun and it was great to have things almost back to normal again. :)
Today, she ate half a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, some fries and a couple bites of Z's grilled cheese sandwich (that he shared) and chocolate mik. She is still a little whiny and quick to get upset, and her sleeping is still not back to normal (she wakes up a few hours after we put her down screaming until we get her) but I think she's definitely on the mend!
The order of this week is definitely getting back into our routine (because I would love to have that spot back in my bed!), including getting the house back in order (after a week of not doing much because caregiving, there's a lot of laundry to do, floors to vacuum and rooms to straighten) and trying to get Miss A to start eating regularly again.
I'm really, really hoping the next illness (or two...or five!) pass us by, because I could really use a break! ;o)
Related Posts with Thumbnails


Pin It button on image hover