Archive | December, 2013

Long Run Breakfast: Maple Walnut Kefir Biscuits and Fruit Salad

30 Dec Maple Walnut Kefir Biscuits- Go Running, Mama!

Hey, Jenn… remember when you stated a blog and called it ‘Go Running, Mama!’ because you spent all of your ‘me’ time running?  Remember that? Do you think you should… I don’t know… actually talk about running again sometime soon!?

Fair point, Inner Dialogue. Very fair point.

Except I haven’t been running consistently since the summer because the second half of 2013 has been a bit of a comedy of errors for me.

So what’s a mother runner on hiatus to do?  Post about my husband’s runs.  Obviously.  It’s smoke and mirrors, y’all… just enough to get myself back into training mode (which is happening TODAY) so that you forget that you read the last 10 posts and thought “She should have called this blog ‘Go Make Ornaments and Cookies, Mama!'”  It’s all a clever ruse.

This weekend The Hubs had his first long run with the Team Rogue Sisson crew.  We’ve both been working with an amazing coach, Leah Soro at Enlightened Performance, for a almost two years (I like to describe myself very officially as the most infuriating runner Leah has ever had to coach) and she has pushed The Hubs to a level of excellence… not to mention the miracles she always works with me in the inevitably short period in which I focus before each race and claim I’m going to be consistently dedicated forever and ever from that point on (Spoiler Alert: I never follow through on that promise).

The only thing that is lacking with one-to-one coaching is teammates.  For me, this is is fine- I need someone who is going to help me work around toddler illness and playdates, late nights and nap boycotts, and who understands that workouts change based on whether or not I might need to push a stroller that day (Hill repeats?  During a week filled with freezing rain? With a toddler in a jogger?  It’s great to be able to send a text to Leah and get some different direction); when I need a running buddy I toss mine in the stroller; and there are no shortage of ladies I know willing to run my pace during a race.  I need the world’s most flexible way to be a coached runner- which Leah has patiently and graciously provided for me.

The man of the house is different.  If it’s on his plan, he will do it.  If there is a blizzard he will still do it, and he will probably do it better and faster than you asked him to perform.  And then he will come home and do double the conditioning exercises you asked him to do, a focused yin yoga series and foam rolling, and commence to quiz me on his appropriate nutrient intake based on that specific workout given our current elevation and a slight fluctuation in his temperature and heart rate.  And then he’ll do 100 burpees because he’s been standing still for too long.  So he’s a little serious.

In his less than three years as a runner he has made major strides, much of that with Leah’s guidance.  Joining Team Rogue is going to give him a new edge- the ability to push himself to the performance level of even faster athletes.  Peer pressure at its finest.  I don’t know if you can tell, but he’s not the kind of guy who likes to be left behind.

The Team Rogue Sisson crew was scheduled to run 20 miles on Saturday.  The Hubs is coming back from a calf injury so he said he thought he’d run 15 or 16.  I know him, so I figured that meant he would run a 10 mile warm up at 4:30 am and then decide to run the full 20 with Rogue as well.  Judging by his extreme focus and determination when laying out his gear on Friday night, the odds seemed in my favor.  30 miler, anyone?

Big training events are celebration points at our house, so Baby Bird and I decided to make a big breakfast for Daddy.  After a long run, he needs around 20 grams of protein and ideally we aim for around a 3:1 carb to protein ratio for his meal 30 minutes after his run.  Though I knew he would come home and immediately ask for bacon and eggs, I wanted to back off of the cholesterol and rely on healthier fats.  I decided on scrambled eggs, fruit salad,and maple walnut kefir biscuits.

Maple Walnut Kefir Biscuits- Go Running, Mama!

Our scrambled eggs are eggs with just a pinch or salt, butcher cut pepper, with a little olive or grapeseed oil in the pan- no extra daily mixed in.  (Last year we did an elimination diet in which we discovered The Hubs performs better when he avoids uncultured dairy) We mixed up a fruit salad with berries (high in antioxidants), bananas (potassium), mint (abundant in nutrients such as vitamin A and iron), and avocado.  In addition to the abundance of healthy monounsaturated fats contained in avocados, they also help to slow down the flow of glucose to your cells so they provide a bit of a balance to the high sugar content in fruit salads (especially if they contain high glucose fruits like grapes, date, bananas, or oranges).

Maple Walnut Kefir Biscuits were born of my love for all things drop-biscuit married to the prolific use of walnuts, grade B maple syrup, and kefir in my kitchen.  We are seriously obsessed with kefir.  I often use it as a substitute for sour cream, creme fraiche, or yogurt when cooking.  It’s a great probiotic addition to smoothies and make a really simple pasta sauce.  Plus, it’s about as toddler friendly as probiotics get.  Lifeway Probugs have been a game changer for us, Baby Bird thinks they are the greatest dessert in the world.  When she saw that Lifeway had a booth at ACL Kiddie Limits this year and were giving away free Probugs push pops, she declared it the coolest event in the universe.  She is still talking about how much she loves ACL.

Maple Walnut Kefir Biscuits- Go Running, Mama!

A maple walnut biscuit should clearly be a sweet biscuit.  Using maple syrup in the biscuits lets me cut down considerably on the sugar content, and using grade b maple syrup lets me use even less maple syrup in the sugar’s place without sacrificing sweetness or mapleyness.  Glazing the biscuits with grade B maple syrup packs an extra punch of manganese and zinc for a guy who is sufficiently sweating out huge quantities of salts and minerals on a daily basis.  Walnuts are high in omega-3s but, more importantly, research shows they may have significant cardiovascular benefits.  And a healthy heart is a very good thing for an endurance athlete.

When The Hubs returned home from his run (20 miles… underachiever) he was in great spirits and very much in need of a post run meal.  Once he hit the entryway, I heard the expected question… “Can we have some bacon?”

The answer was yes… a little… spread sparingly on a walnut kefir biscuit (in the form of bacon beer jam) and enjoyed with fruit and eggs.

Maple Walnut Kefir Biscuits and Bacon Beer Jam- Go Running, Mama!

That was an acceptable compromise.

We all sat down to enjoy a recap of that morning’s run over a fabulous breakfast.  And admire the sweet new Adidas Glide Boosts he purchased at Rogue after his run.

And, of course, to enjoy a little family core work and yin yoga.  And to discuss the carb to protein ratio in the exact breakfast portions The Hubs had just consumed.

Some things never change.

Maple Walnut Kefir Biscuits- Go Running, Mama!

Maple Walnut Kefir Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted cultured butter (slightly softened)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbs grade B maple syrup + more for glazing biscuits
  • 1/4 cup plain kefir
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • generous 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine butter, sugar and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer and cream.  Add the maple syrup and kefir and mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda and whisk well to incorporate.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing until just combined.  Gently stir in the walnuts.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto a baking sheet lined in parchment paper.  Bake for 12 minutes until biscuits are beginning to brown slightly.

Remove to a cooling rack and brush biscuits with maple syrup to glaze.

Make 12-14 biscuits.

Gifts in Jars: Bacon Beer Jam and Spicy Gingerbread Syrup

28 Dec Bacon Beer Jam- Go Running, Mama!

Let me just lead off with this- I know this doesn’t help anyone with their holiday gift giving since Christmas is now over.  Sorry about that!  In the few days leading up to the Christmas, I was far too busy finishing off gifts for friends and family to type anything up- I just figured I’d blog our food gift recipes from this holiday season sometime in January and queue them up to post next winter when I had time to take a few proper pictures and people had homemade gifts on the brain once again.  (I can’t even begin to imagine how awesome it might feel to be 10 months ahead!)

Flatteringly enough though, I’ve gotten quite a few requests from friends wanting the recipes for the gifts I made this year and it’s far easier to share them here than via email so I I’ve decided to neglect my dreams of preplanned posts in the spirit of kitchen collegiality.

This year I made a bacon beer jam adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe.  Her’s uses bourbon, but I modified it for our our kitchen using bourbon barrel aged beer (specifically Rahr & Sons Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer from Fort Worth, Texas y’all!) with spectacularly amazing results.

Bacon Beer Jam- Go Running, Mama!

Because who doesn’t love great bacon and amazing beer?  That you can spread on a warm biscuit.

Bacon Beer Jam- Go Running, Mama!

Shockingly, some people don’t love bacon and beer… even when spread on a warm biscuit.

And some of them are really great people with whom I am dear friends… which meant I had to have another homemade gift option this year.  Since the arrival of the Nespresso machine my amazing husband gifted me during my bout with mono, I’ve become a bit of a latte devotee so I decided to also make homemade Spicy Gingerbread Syrup- thin for my fellow latte drinkers and thicker for my non-coffee friends to use on desserts or pancakes.  The best part is that it is super easy and uses ingredients you already have in your pantry!

Bacon Beer Jam- Go Running, Mama!

Bacon and Bourbon Barrel Aged Beer Jam

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 cups shallots, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup bourbon barrel aged beer (room temperature, poured carefully to avoid foaming)
  • 1/2 cup grade B maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

Directions: Working in three additions, spread bacon in a single layer in a large skillet and cook over medium heat until browned, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes.  Transfer to paper towels to drain.  Remove the fat and clean the pan between each addition of bacon.  After the last addition, reserve browned bits and 1 tbs fat in the pan (slightly less if your bacon had a considerably high fat content).

Add shallots and garlic to the pan and cook over medium heat until translucent, about five minutes.  Add spices and cook one minute, stirring constantly.  Increase the heat to high and add the beer and maple syrup.  Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan frequently to incorporate browned bits from bottom of the pan. Add vinegar and brown sugar and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and add the bacon back to the pan.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces to a thick glaze.

Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse until it reaches your desired consistency.  Transfer to glass jars and refrigerate at least one hour before using.  Jam will keep up to four weeks in a refrigerated, tightly sealed glass jar.

Makes about five half pint jars.

Spicy Gingerbread Syrup- Go Running, Mama!

Spicy Gingerbread Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups organic granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbs ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • generous 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions: Combine all ingredients except the vanilla extract in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Turn down heat to a simmer and allow to thicken while simmering- 10 to 15 minutes- until it is the consistency of maple syrup. Refrain from stirring.

Once it reaches the correct consistency, turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Allow to cool before pouring into a lidded jar.

Syrup will keep a few weeks in the fridge.

Makes about four half pints.

Gifts from the Heart: Baking Soda Clay Ornaments

17 Dec Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

Looking for even more ornament ideas?  Check out our Salt Dough Ornaments and Cinnamon Clay Ornaments!

I’m pretty close to breathing a a sigh of relief because we’ve almost completed all of our homemade gifts for this year.  I grew up with a mom who could command salt dough to do some pretty spectacular things, so that’s what we’ve used for our homemade ornaments in the past.  There are a couple of challenges with salt dough though- it takes forever to dry completely so you can paint and varnish and the surface isn’t completely smooth which gives it an adorable, shabby appearance but makes it hard for a little one to decorate with anything other than a paintbrush.

This year we were getting a later start and we also wanted to get started with our gift ornaments with some other playgroup friends during what Baby Bird referred to as her “ornament play party” so I decided that we would switch to baking soda clay for this year.  Baking soda clay bakes to dry much quicker than salt dough and dries with a perfectly smooth finish- my beautiful friend Kristin who joined us with her son for ornament creation pointed out that they looked and felt exactly like the ornaments available at the ceramics studio she and I have visited with our kiddos in the past.  She is right- they have a smooth, non-porous finish with a light sheen from the baking soda that makes them look special even without decorating.

The best part is they can be decorated with crayons and markers should you choose to keep the paint packed away.  You could even toss a few dried ornaments and markers into a ziplock bag in your purse to tote along for moments when your little one needs a fun activity if you are in a waiting room or stuck in traffic.  Baby Bird and I packed up a few with some markers to deliver to the porch of a friend with a sick kiddo who had been stuck at home for a few days.  There is nothing better than a virtual playdate delivery!

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

The night before our “ornament play party” I made a batch of baking soda clay and Baby Bird and I cut lots of fun ornament shapes with our cookie cutters.  I baked them that evening so the kids would have an activity to work on while I made fresh clay for the kiddo’s handprint ornaments.

The precut, baked ornaments were a big hit and kept little hands very busy.  So busy, in fact, that I ended up sending the baking soda clay I made for handprint ornaments home with my mama friends…so I’ve been on the hook to provide step by step instructions for just what to do with that bag of clay I sent home!

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

As you can see, Baby Bird is on a monochromatic kick.

This year I decided I’d like to give handprint reindeer and fingerprint Christmas trees since it has been two years since made anything that included Baby Bird’s fingerprints.  Instead of doing relief  handprints for a second year in a row, I opted for cutting a stencil of Bird’s hand to use for the reindeer.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

I moved the cut shapes to a baking sheet lined in parchment and had Baby Bird make little fingerprint indentions on the trees-pinky finger at the top down to thumb at the bottom.  Then into the oven!

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

I started with the trees since I knew they would be my most time consuming project.  I’ve discovered that things turn out better when you paint the edges of your ornaments first.  Otherwise, you end up with a slightly noticeable border on the face of your ornament.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

Once the trees were painted and dry, I primed the fingerprint reliefs with white paint I applied wit a cotton swab so that Baby Bird’s fingerprints would really stand out.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

I let Baby Bird select the colors we would use for each fingerprint and made sure we had wipes close at hand before we started adding colored fingerprints to the tree.  Two things to know- 1) there WILL be mess when you paint on a toddler hand so prepare for it and 2) you have to work at the speed of light to ensure your tiny artist doesn’t grow weary of the project in the middle!  So be prepared.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

We worked finger by finger down the trees- we first did all the pinky finger marks on our trees and worked out way down… much easier that doing each tree separately.  Though it took considerable guiding to ensure Baby Bird’s prints made it in each proper place, she had a blast yelling “Smooosh” each time she squished her finger into the indention and left a print.  Oh, how that girl loves to smoosh.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

When I decided on fingerprint trees, I hadn’t quite decided if the fingerprints should represent ornaments or lights.  Once all the color had been applied, the fingerprinted trees looked adorable but they just didn’t feel complete…

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

So I added a “string” to make fingerprint lights which felt much better!

Once they were dry, I hung them from a drying rack outside and sprayed them with a coat of low gloss acrylic sealer.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

While the trees dried, I move on to the reindeer handprints which were insanely simple by comparison.

Paint the handprints brown.

Seriously.  That’s it.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

Once the paint is dry, spray them with a sealer and apply eyes, a nose, and a bow.

Done.  Wham, bam, Happy Holidays Ma’am!

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

I love that they feel totally different from the Santas and Penguins with gave as gifts last year, but are every bit as homespun and heartfelt!  Between these, the cinnamon clay ornaments, and the reindeer tea towels we have in progress we now have holiday gifting from the toddler locked down. Such a nice feeling.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

Baking Soda Clay

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/3 cups cold water
  • 1 tbs cooking oil (I use olive or grapeseed since we don’t keep canola or mixed vegetable oil in the house)

Directions:  Whisk baking soda and cornstarch together in a medium sized saucepan.  Add liquids together and slowly whisk into dry ingredients.

Place saucepan on a burner at med/med-high heat and stir frequently with a silicone spoon/spatula.  Mixture will boil and then begin form clumps- once you see the first bubbles reach the surface of the mixture, move from stirring frequently to constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan as you go.  Mixture will soon form a thick mass that holds its shape and will be the consistency of slightly dry mashed potatoes.

Turn mixture out into a glass bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel to cool slightly.  Once cool to the touch, turn out onto parchment and knead until very smooth.

Preheat oven to 175 degrees F.

On parchment lightly dusted with cornstarch, roll out dough to a thickness between 1/4- 1/2 inch.  Less than 1/4 inch thick will cause cracking and breakage during the drying process.

Cut dough into desired shapes.  Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake in oven for 90 minutes, rotate sheet and flip ornaments, and return to oven for 30 minutes more.

Once dry and cool paint, decorate, and varnish as desired. If painting a more detailed design, brush ornaments with a damp sponge before painting to allow better paint manipulation as paint adsorbs quickly.

Gifts from the Heart (Quick and Easy Edition): Cinnamon Apple Clay Ornaments

16 Dec Gifts from the Heart: Super Simple Cinnamon Clay Ornaments (No painting or varnishing actually required!)- Go Running, Mama!

Gifts from the Heart: Super Simple Cinnamon Clay Ornaments (No painting or varnishing actually required!)- Go Running, Mama!

Looking for even more ornament ideas?  Check out our Salt Dough Ornaments and Cinnamon Clay Ornaments!

Friday morning- the day after hosting what Baby Bird referred to as her “ornament play party” at our house- we had play plans with my good friend Laura and her daughters.  It was actually our turn to host Laura and her girls, but since she has an infant it just feels easier for her when we are on her home turf… but I’m not one to shirk my hostessing duties (especially for a mom with an infant) so we offered to bring lunch and the activity along with us so she didn’t have to think about it. Since we’re on a homemade gift making binge at our home, I offered to make some cinnamon clay to bring along so the girls could make some gifts.

We’re on a roll with ornament creation at our house because ornaments make awesome, heartfelt seasonal gifts for loved ones from the littles.  Laura and I have similar parenting styles, so I knew that she too would be into a little homemade gift making time, but I didn’t want to invade her home with the level of mess that accompanies most ornament projects so i decided that cinnamon clay was the right choice for two specific reasons- cinnamon clay requires no real additional painting or sealing and it makes your home smell amazing when baking them in the oven which is a great value add for an activity you tote to a friends house.

I like to keep our cinnamon clay nontoxic and foodsafe, so I leave out the white craft glue that many recipes add.  Ours is simply equal parts cinnamon and applesauce plus the addition of ground clove and nutmeg.  My Cuisinart Mini Prep makes quick work of mixing it up and then it only requires a few minutes of extra hand kneading to get the feel for the correct consistency.

Gifts from the Heart: Super Simple Cinnamon Clay Ornaments (No painting or varnishing actually required!)- Go Running, Mama!

Roll it our between 1/4-1/2 inch thickness and then all that is required is some cookie cutters and a straw to poke the hole for the string.  This makes a pretty easy project to give the kiddos free reign in design once things are rolled out since I don’t have to worry about depth of handprints or perfect paint jobs later on.  Baby Bird has developed a habit of making light patterns in the dough with her cookie cutters before actually cutting a shape which makes for an end design with a visually interesting texture- obviously a young van Gogh in the making.

Gifts from the Heart: Super Simple Cinnamon Clay Ornaments (No painting or varnishing actually required!)- Go Running, Mama!

You see the photos flanking this text?  That you are witnessing here is some very serious toddler art discussion time!  Though “I am making a BIG snowman!” “Well, I am making one teeny!” might not sound all that profound, but it’s something pretty major when you consider that it shows thoughtful comparison and evaluation of a peer’s work.  Toddlers are amazing little creatures!

Gifts from the Heart: Super Simple Cinnamon Clay Ornaments (No painting or varnishing actually required!)- Go Running, Mama!

Really and truly, all you have to do it transfer the cut shapes to a cookie sheet lined in parchment, punch ribbon holes with a straw, bake them in the oven (heed my ornament flipping instructions in the directions- these little suckers like to try to curl up on ou!), and call it a day while your house smells like heaven. Tie a cute ribbon around them, hang them on the tree near the lights or as a finial on a lamp et viola!  A fantastic smelling, super easy, toddler generated creation.

Gifts from the Heart: Super Simple Cinnamon Clay Ornaments (No painting or varnishing actually required!)- Go Running, Mama!

But if you get the itch to over-achieve, you can get out the fabric paint (isn’t everyone channeling 1987 at their house with a healthy stash of puff paint?) and paint a little cookie border.  Gold star for the extra effort!

Even with that little addition, these are still the quickest and easiest baked ornament craft we create at our house.  Hooray for that!

Gifts from the Heart: Super Simple Cinnamon Clay Ornaments (No painting or varnishing actually required!)- Go Running, Mama!

Cinnamon Clay Ornaments

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar free apple sauce (not chunky)
  • 1 cup cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbs ground clove
  • 1/2 tbs ground nutmeg

Directions: Preheat oven to 175 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor (a Cuisinart Mini Prep does the trick perfectly!) and pulse to combine.  Turn out onto parchment generously dusted with cinnamon and knead with cinnamon dusted hands.  If mixture is slightly sticky, knead in more cinnamon, cloves, or nutmeg to your personal preference.  Knead until clay dough is smooth and elastic but no longer actively sticky.

Roll out between two sheets of parchment dusted with cinnamon.  For best results, roll dough between 1/2 inch and 1/4 inch thickness- the thicker the ornament, the longer the dry time but the less curling.  Use cookie cutters to cut designs and a straw to punch a hole for ribbon.

Remove shapes to a cookie sheet lined in parchment and reroll the remaining dough to cut additional ornaments.

Bake at 175 in 30 minute increments, flipping ornaments every half hour.  Bake time to dry will take between 1 1/2- 2 1/2 hours, depending on thickness of the ornaments.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hand Heart Cookies

15 Dec Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

We’ve got hearts and hands on the brain at our house right now.  Baby Bird and I send lots of time talking about feelings and sharing affirmations, and it seems that hands and hearts are frequently in the rotation.

“I like your gentle hands… thank you for your caring heart… I’m glad I had your helping hands around… I appreciate your kind heart.”

These are good times, my friends.

It also makes it extra special to make our favorite cookie gifts for the helping hands in our lives since Baby Bird is becoming  hyper-aware of how kindness and helping affect her day and the lives of those around her.  Dance teachers, tutors, neighbors, and the nice ladies that give her big hugs at Daddy’s office- kindness deserves to be recognized and affirmed.

When making gifts I like Baby Bird to be as involved as possible in each step, and cookies are a pretty perfect way to engage her because she can contribute to each step.

I pre-measure all of our ingredients and let her add them to the bowl.  With a little help, she’s a great whisker too!  I even let her run the final pass of the rolling pin when rolling out our cookie dough.

And of course, her hand print creates the cookie shape for this gift.  I create a stencil of her hand and then hand cut the cookies from the dough with a knife.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

I also create a heart outline stencil.  Once I’ve cut the cookies I lay the stencil over each one, paint the interior of the stencil with an egg wash, and let Baby Bird sprinkle the stencil with colored sugar.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

We let the cookies cool completely on a rack… which is normally when Baby Bird volunteers to “help” taste them.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

Once they are cool, Baby Bird gets to decorate the cookies with cookie markers all by herself!  She is always so proud of this part because she gets complete creative control.  And she always snaps a few “fingers” along the way, so I’ve learned to make about half a dozen more cookies than we need.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

The end result is beautiful in a way that only gifts made by a toddler can be- so sweet!

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

Then we bundle up a pair of hands (right and left!) and attach a note thanking our special friends for their helping hands!  It makes a great gift for people who aren’t close enough to us to truly want a toddler made craft to hang on the tree or display in their home- but who would probably do so out of politeness- but who deserve a heartfelt gift for the way they contribute to our lives.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

Helping Hand Sugar Cookies with Sanding Sugar Hearts

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (plus some additional for rolling)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk for egg wash
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • colored sanding sugar

Directions:  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Beat in 1 whole egg and vanilla.  With mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture and beat until combined.

Divide dough in half and flatten into disks.  Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and freeze for about 20 minutes to firm.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Remove one disk of dough and let stand 5 minutes.  Roll dough 1/8-1/4 inch thickness.  Cut handprints by hand or using a cookie cutter.  Carefully transfer handprints to a parchment lined baking sheet and place in freezer for 8-12minutes.

Combine egg yolk with 1 tbs water to make an egg wash.

Remove from freezer, place heart stencil over each cookie, paint with egg wash, and sprinkle on colored sanding sugar.

Bake for 8-15 minutes depending on handprint size and thickness.

Allow to cool on baking sheet for 3 minutes and then transfer to cooling rack using a spatula.

Repeat with remaining dough.

Frosty the Cheese Man: Snowman Cheese Ball with Hand Cut Holiday Tortilla Chips

4 Dec Frosty the Cheese Man: A Snowman Cheese Ball- Go Running, Mama!

Frosty the Cheese Man: A Snowman Cheese Ball- Go Running, Mama!

It’s holiday playdate time again… that time of year when, all of a sudden, the usual tub of hummus and veggie snacks I pack for our playdate crew doesn’t seem quite fancy enough. Holiday’s call for something festive!  Toddler festive, that is.

Wait.  Let’s stop so I can clarify… I’m not in a playdate circle with a bunch of jerky moms who have lofty and unreasonable expectations about what people should contribute during the holidays.  I’m not up late at night stressing about how I’m going to impress others and hold onto my station as not-quite-Martha-on-the-verge-of-sanity.  The desire for something fancy and festive is purely my own- a self imposed joy amplifier to help spread a little extra happy during any season celebrated with a Peanuts holiday special.

Good.  I’m glad we cleared that up.

If I’ve learned anything as a mom, nothing screams holiday celebration for littles in quite the same way as food shaped like seasonal stuff.

Oranges?  Okay.  Oranges decorated like jack-o-lanterns?  OMG!

Fruit salad? Respectable work.  Fruit salad shaped like an American flag? Amazingness!

And here is my secret weapon…

Cheese ball and crackers? Tasty but a little 1950’s.  Cheese ball shaped like anything accompanied by home-baked tortilla chips in fun shapes? Totally swoon-worthy… and adorably retro-chic!

The real deal is that cheese balls are easy, economical, easy to customize flavor wise- and even easier to make into shapes (I just used “easy” four times!  Do you believe me yet?).  And a quality, fresh flour tortilla makes a killer home-baked tortilla chip that will please any toddler.  Which is why these two make up my favorite festive snack pairing… especially when you can shape them like a snowman!

Because seriously… how cute is this guy!?

Frosty the Cheese Man: A Snowman Cheese Ball- Go Running, Mama!

Even without his carrot nose, this fella is dashing!

He’s ridiculously cute, right!?

But, the thing that really elevated this from a festive cheese ball to a pile of holiday happiness on a plate is the hand cut home-baked festive tortilla chips.  That are beyond simple.  And- it just keeps getting better- fabulously engaging for little helping hands!

Frosty the Cheese Man: A Snowman Cheese Ball- Go Running, Mama!

Baby Bird loves to select her shapes to punch her “own chippies” too!  It’s really adorable to listen to her say “Smoooosh!” each time she lays her weight into a cookie cutter to cut out a shape.  There is a part of me that hope she does that forever.  A BIG part of me.

Frosty the Cheese Man: A Snowman Cheese Ball- Go Running, Mama!

If you want to turn the tortilla chip creation into an active part of your playdate and an art project to boot, you can make egg wash paint and allow your lilliputian guests to paint their own chips!

Frosty the Cheese Man: A Snowman Cheese Ball- Go Running, Mama!

We love kitchen activities at playdates because I like to see kids taking an active role in creating their meals.  As a former junior high science teacher, I worked with far too many adolescents with dangerous misconceptions and a disheartening willing ignorance towards how food is sourced, created, and prepared.  I love seeing little ones take a food project they have created to the table with proud ownership.

Of course, I could be teaching Baby Bird that cheese comes from snowmen.

Being a toddler is confusing.

At least the snacks are tasty… and festive!

Snowman Cheese Ball with Hand Cut Tortilla Chips

Ingredients:

Cheese Ball:

  • 16 oz cream cheese
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped
  • 1 tsp truffle oil
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 tsp truffle salt
  • whole peppercorns
  • 1 baby carrot
  • additional chives for scarf
  • 1 cinnamon stick (broken in two) for arms

Tortilla Chips:

  • fresh flour tortillas

Optional Egg Wash Paint (for each desired color):

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp water
  • 2-3 drops food coloring

Directions: Mix first six cheese ball ingredients until blended. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Divide cheese mixture into 3 different-size balls (1 small, 1 medium and 1 large). In food processor, pulse grated parm with truffle salt. Coat each ball with Parmesan. Arrange in line on serving plate to resemble a snowman lying down.

Decorate with peppercorns, chives, cinnamon sticks and a carrot.  Refrigerate until a half hour before serving.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using cookie cutters, cut tortillas into desired shapes.

If painting, mix egg wash paint ingredients and decorate shapes as desired.

Arrange shapes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Allow to cool on pan for 1 minute then transfer to a bowl to serve.

Gifts from the Heart: Homemade Ornaments

2 Dec Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Looking for more homemade ornament ideas?  Check out Baby Bird’s amazingly awesome Baking Soda Clay Ornaments and Cinnamon Clay Ornaments!

 

Baby Bird might be less than three years old, but we’ve helped her to establish the tradition of making homemade gifts for her loved ones (and she’s got a whole lotta people to love) each holiday season.  Last year we made salt dough ornaments with her hand and foot prints that turned out absolutely adorable.  I’m seriously sad I didn’t make a few extra for our tree!

A few days ago I got a text from another stay-at-home mama friend on a budget asking for the how-to on our salt dough ornament activity from last year, so it seemed like the perfect thing to share right here!

Salt dough is easy and inexpensive. It take a little muscle to knead it to the right consistency and a little more patience to get it to dry out fully before the painting stage, but the moderate effort required is well worth the absolutely precious outcome.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a more impressive gift project using items that exist in your pantry!

The first step is a simple one: Mix up a batch of salt dough in your stand mixer (recipe below).  You aren’t going to eat this one (although if your little one nibbles a corner during the creative process- it is non-toxic!) so you can mix like crazy without having to fear over-glutenizing the flour.

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Once everything is well mixed, turn out the dough and knead it well.  Toddlers love to help with this step even though their assistance doesn’t really help.  Who cares!  Helping hands and working hands learning to care and assist at home.

Knead until smooth, then cover with a damp towel and let it rest for about a half an hour.

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

After the rest period, I rolled the dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness on floured parchment on a cookie sheet.  The cookie sheet is totally necessary if you’re going to do little feet and don’t want those feet on your counter.

To get the best hand and foot print impressions possible, I moved the tray to the ground and had Baby Bird step hard on each foot for a footprint or get down on the hands and knees and really lean into her hand print- salt dough can be resistant at times.

Once I had the basic impressions, I cut around them with a knife and removed the excess dough.

Then, I brought the tray down the the floor again and had Baby Bird lean into her prints one more time to make sure the impressions were set deeply into the dough.

I cut holes using a straw and then they were ready for the oven!

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

It’s important to make sure the ornaments are completely dry before you paint and seal them or they will never really dry out… and could get moldy. Ewwww! (Moldy ornament does not equal beloved gift)

After the first three hours, rotate the pan as needed and flip the ornaments if the back side doesn’t seem to be drying.  After turning off the oven, I just left mine in over night in the warmth of the oven to ensure they were completely dry.

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

The painting is the fun part!  I’m sure Baby BIrd would have loved to assist with this part, but I was keen on making penguins and Santas that really looked like penguins and Santas.  If the design isn’t the important element for you then let your little one dive in!

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Footprints make ideal penguins and snowmen, while handprints are great Santas and reindeer.

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Once painted, let your ornaments dry completely.  Don’t forget to paint the backs once the fronts are dry- ornaments have a tendency to spin around on a tree!

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Once the paint is dry, hang your ornaments on a rack outside and give them a quick shot with an acrylic sealer to keep them looking lovely for years to come!

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

How happy do they look!? So happy.

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Salt Dough- The Basics

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup table salt
  • 3/4 to 1 cup warm water

Directions: Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients (beginning with only 3/4 cups water) in stand mixer and mix until completely incorporated.  Add more water- a teaspoon at a time- if needed.

Once fully incorporated, turn out onto waxed paper and knead until smooth.  If choosing to add food coloring, do so at this point by adding small amounts of gel coloring between each kneading.  Allow to rest about 30 minutes at room temperature, covered by a damp towel.

On lightly floured parchment, roll our dough to a thickness between 1/4- 1/2 inch.  Less than 1/4 inch thick will cause cracking and breakage during the drying process.

Cut dough into desired shapes.  Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake in oven until dry 4-8 hours.  After the first 3 hours, check hourly for dryness.  Rotate the sheet and flip the ornaments as needed to ensure ornaments dry evenly and completely.

Once dry and cool, paint, decorate, and varnish as desired.

#FirstontheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters

1 Dec

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

Wow… It’s been exactly two months since I managed a post.  Yikes!

In my defense, it’s been a busy period.  One of the drawbacks of being a “just for fun” mommy blogger is that- regardless of how awesome a post idea is in you mind- ideas don’t always make it to the blog when things get busy or hectic or busy or fun or busy or scary or busy or deliberately relaxed.  So in the past two months half-started blogs about why ACL is far more awesome with a toddler, a child-free NYC trip, turning 33, letting mono dominate my training schedule (or lack thereof), incredibly amazing two ingredient (for real) cookies, great uses for leftover champagne (yes… sometimes there are leftovers!), and what to do should your child have a febrile seizure have stacked up in the queue.  And each one seemed like a weird place to pick back up after a hiatus, so I abandoned them one by one with plans to “get back to them when things calm down.”

So be anxiously awaiting my post about why ACL is better with a toddler when Baby Bird goes off to college.

Sometimes it’s hard to just pick back up with a project that you’ve stepped away from- it feels a little foreign at first.  Where to begin…

With a First on the First post, right!?

It seems like the perfect place.

Except I’m totally cheating this round.  You know, because of the holiday season and toddler life and that whole febrile seizure thing mentioned above.

We were supposed to make candy canes.  Real ones.  Candy.  Copper pans, thermometers, and such.

My patience has been worn to the minimum over the past two weeks- I’m using my carefully rationed daily dose for my toddler and husband and NOT for a candy experiment that would undoubtedly mock me relentlessly on the first three trials in my last minute attempts at perfection.  So in the true spirit of First on the First pushing us to pursue something we haven’t before tried in the kitchen, I’m making my candy canes in the form of a cookie.

Not just cookies shaped to look like candy canes, but designed to taste like them as well.  Peppermint… or chocolate peppermint should you so desire.  Plus, they are far more conducive to tiny helping hands then boiling hot sugar (little hands might make them less “pretty” than they would be if just Mama made them, but I’ll take a happy toddler over flawless cookies any day!).

My first on the first buddies will forgive me.  I just know it.  We’re connected by the compassionate spirit of all holiday bakers.

We know that sometimes kitchen adventures just aren’t meant to pan out on that attempt.  The kitchen gods can be cruel.

And we know the healing power of a good cookie.

Cheers to that, dear friends!

*clink*

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Candy Canes for Cheaters- Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

For these cookies, you only need to pick two dough options to pair together.  Mix and match to suit your fancy!

Red Peppermint Dough:

  • 1/2 cups butter (room temperature)
  • 1/3 cup + 4 tsp powdered sugar
  • 6 tsp beaten egg (roughly 1/2 of an egg)
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • scant 1/2 tsp salt
  • red food coloring

White Almond Dough:

  • 1/2 cups butter (room temperature)
  • 1/3 cup + 4 tsp powdered sugar
  • 6 tsp beaten egg (roughly 1/2 of an egg)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • scant 1/2 tsp salt

Chocolate Dough:

  • 1/2 cups butter (room temperature)
  • 1/3 cup + 4 tsp powdered sugar
  • 6 tsp beaten egg (roughly 1/2 of an egg)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • scant 1/2 tsp salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Start with your first dough option.  In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and powdered sugar.  Add eggs and extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining dry ingredients.  Gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture while mixing on low speed.  If making peppermint dough, once mixed slowly add red food coloring to achieve desired color intensity.

Roll dough into a ball, cover with a damp towel and set aside.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Pick two… or go all out and double up on the peppermint so you can make both kinds!

Prepare your second dough option following the same procedures.

Portion both doughs into 24 balls of each color.  Roll each ball into a rope about 6 inches in length.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Place two ropes of differing colors together and press together gently without altering the shape.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Carefully twist and transfer to a baking sheet or cutting board, shaping into a hooked candy cane shape.  Place in the freezer for ten minutes to firm while working with the remaining dough.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Bake for about 9 minutes.  Let cool on baking sheet for two minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Makes two dozen cookies.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Eager to try your hand at legitimate candy canes?  Check out the other #FirstontheFirst posts this month: