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Archive for the ‘Just Me & the Fam!’ Category

Homemade Pretzel Bites

I was just telling some friends how busy my schedule has been lately. I am sad I haven’t been able to post much of the things on my mind but I have to stop and post about this.

While folding an endless pile of towels the other day I was also watching Undercover Boss which featured the Philly Pretzel Factory. Lets just say it was a mouth watering episode! So it got me thinking that although I am not the best cook and certainly not the best at making bread products they made it look very easy to make pretzels. I got online and found a recipe that looked simple enough for me to try making pretzel bites last night.

The dough was very easy to make using my KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook. I let it rise like it suggested and then got my son involved (after much hand washing) with helping me roll out the dough into the long strips. After cutting them into small bite size pieces they simply are dunked into boiling water for about 30 seconds, placed on a greased cookie sheet, brushed with an egg wash mixture and heavy salt and then they are ready to bake. Of course it smelled amazing but I was pleasantly suprised at how they tasted! Mine didn’t come out looking as amazing as the photo but maybe with time I can master that too. The recipe also said you can do cinnamon and sugar instead of salt but I also think it is worth trying with butter and parmesean cheese!  The recipe also has suggestions for dipping sauces. I had honey mustard on hand but my husband made an olive oil and Italian herb sauce too.

Click here for the recipe:  http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/homemade-soft-pretzel-bites/

What other spices, variations or sauces would be good on these pretzel bites?

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Rodeo Fun! Mutton Bustin Anyone?

Photo Credit: rodeohouston.comIt is RODEO time in Houston. Every year this time the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is in town for a few weeks. It usually is here during spring break so it becomes one of our day trips as a family. If you have never been to something like this it can be an all day event. Not only do they have a carnival with tons of rides, games and food vendors but there is also over 480 retail vendors with everything like cowboy boots, candy, jewelry, scented candles, furniture, clothing, kitchen gadgets, etc. They also have a kids zone with fun exhibits, rides and interactive activities. Want to see an egg hatch live? They have it! Want to see them milk a cow? They have it! Want to walk around thousands of pens full of stinky pigs, cows, horses, chickens, etc? They have it! They also have livestock auctions and competitions.

The big event is the rodeo and concert held inside Reliant Stadium. They always have a concert after the rodeo that features a headline singer or group. Although I am not a huge country music fan I am impressed with the A list of stars that have sold out shows each year like Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, and Reba McEntire. The rodeo itself includes bucking horses and bull riding, chuck wagon races, barrel races, the calf scramble, calf roping, etc. One of my favorites by far is the “Mutton Bustin”. The announcer actually puts it the best when he says “this is the part of the show where we strap our kids to farm animals and call it entertainment”. If you have never seen it you have to watch the video below. Basically it is a  child around 5-6 years old wearing a heavily padded vest and helmet  put on the back of a sheep, told to grab on to its wool, and then hang on for dear life when the gate opens. As the sheep runs across the pen the object is to see who can stay on the longest. Over the years I have seen a few kids with tears but the majority have huge grins on their faces and are pumping their fists in the air with excitement after they take that dive to the ground.

What is your favorite thing about a rodeo?

Tips for Perfect Cookie Dough

Raw cookie dough in cookie clumps.

Image via Wikipedia

After seeing this article on Yahoo today I certainly am putting “cookie making with the kids” on my spring break list! I think everyone has their favorite cookie and certainly we all want to sneak a taste of the dough even though we have been advised against consuming products with raw eggs. Who can resist? And who doesn’t like the smell of fresh-baked cookies? I mean they make candles with that scent because we love it so much!

Although the perfect cookie for me is the pre-packaged cookie dough in the store that you just pull out of the package and bake, I do sometimes venture to make cookies from scratch. Most people will have the ingredients for baking cookies on hand and these are easy ingredients to stock up when on sale or you have a coupon.

This article gives some really simple tips in the way ingredients are mixed as well as other suggestions of how to get your cookies to come out consistent and how to adjust the recipe to your personal preference for the perfect cookie. This is instructions for a basic a chocolate chip cookie dough but it also has suggestions of variations for the same basic dough so we can get creative!

Check out the article HERE and let me know what cookies you are going to be baking soon!

Making Cake Fondant: Easier than you Think!

My son is in Cub Scouts and needed to make a theme cake to bring to the Blue and Gold Banquet for his pack. This is a father and son project to come up with an idea and decorate their cake for this competition. They went over many options to go with the theme of “resourcefulness” like a pocket knife, camp fire, recycling, and a compass. My son chose a compass. Instead of trying to frost and then decorate a cake with frosting tips they decided to try fondant instead. We have a close friend that decorates cakes that advised us to go online and find a recipe for marshmallow fondant because it was really easy.

Although I can follow recipes I always worry about trying something that in my mind is hard, even if someone tells me it is easy. In the spirit of adventure I decided to jump in feet first and make this fondant. It is simply melted marshmallows, a bit of water and a ton of powdered sugar. Using my KitchenAide Mixer with the dough hook made it even more simple! I just added the melted marshmallow and water and began slowly adding the powdered sugar until it reached the consistency I wanted. I then pulled it out and continued kneading it with some additional powdered sugar until it was no longer sticky. Since we decided to do more than one color I did not add the coloring with the initial mixing. I had to separate out the dough into the amounts I needed and then put it back into the mixer one at a time adding the color. I did some additional kneading to make sure all the color was consistent with no streaks. I then wrapped each color in plastic wrap and placed them in the refrigerator as the recipe had stated (I found out later from our friend that refrigeration isn’t necessary if it is wrapped properly and will be used within a few days).

We had already made a cake which we had frozen. This makes it easier when trying to press the fondant on and around the cake. Before starting with the fondant they spread a thin layer of cake frosting on the cake to help the fondant adhere properly. For the fondant they placed it in between two pieces of plastic wrap and used a rolling-pin to roll it out thin. They cut out the pieces they needed for each part and placed them on the cake. Where corners met they were able to mold and pinch them together to make it more seamless. They also made templates for the letters and markings on the top, cut them out and placed them on the top of the cake. It was done in no time!

They had so much fun making this cake and seeing how quickly everything came together we want to do more. I think over spring break and the summer I will make some cupcakes, fondant of different colors, and get small cookie cutters and stencil templates to let my children decorate some cupcakes! We may even become adventurous and do a layered cake together.  LET THEM EAT CAKE!

To see the website for recipe and instructions on this easy marshmallow fondant click HERE.

Have you ever used fondant for your cake decorating?

Music Memories from the 80’s

Photo Credit: musicnotes.com

My daughter has a singing competition in junior high and has been searching for an “oldies” song that is from the 1980’s and older. First of all I am depressed to hear of songs from the 80’s being considered “oldies” cause that then directly refers to me as an “oldie” too!

My husband and I sat down with her the other day and started playing video’s on YouTube of the best music from the 80’s. Be warned if you ever decide to do this you will lose hours out of your day. We could not turn it off! Each song we would say “this is a good one” or “I love this song”. We would sing along and talk about all the famous groups and singers from that time, the cool music videos, or somewhere we remember hearing a song like a dance or party. We remembered when MTV actually played music video’s all day long. As we watched we would cringed at the different clothing styles in the videos not wanting to admit that was ever in style. Even worse I was trying to forget the memories of the big hair. I swear I was brain washed into doing that and I will stick to that story. I hope I have burned all those photo’s so they cannot be used against me later!

The next day my daughter was again playing music and videos from the 80’s. She said that she loves the music from “our” time and how lucky we were to grow up with such awesome music. After spending hours listening to it the day before I have to agree. There are some great songs throughout all time but the 80’s music will never die. Maybe it is because it was during my teen and young adult years but I like to think we had some music with style!

What are your favorite songs or groups from the 80’s?

When did I become a Taxi Driver?

Photo Credit: buriedwithchildren.com

I hope I never stop loving my car because I really am spending more and more time in it. Along with the other hats I wear during the day my “taxi driver” hat is being worn a lot! It appears that each year my kids grow older we find additional things that require me to take them here, there and everywhere. I swear that my seat never gets cold because as soon as I get home I am right back out the door to go somewhere else. My kids are only involved in a few school activities, clubs and our church youth group. I don’t know how other parents do it whose kids are involved in many other outside activities.

I really think that car manufacturers could make a mint on the “taxi driver mom’s” if they included a kitchen and laundry room so that we could get more chores done while on the road and waiting in the car rider lines! Technology supplied us with all kinds of entertainment in our cars from radio, navigation systems and DVD systems so why not a microwave and washer? You are probably now thinking that they do make that. They are called motor homes. Believe me I have thought about it!

With gas prices rising it is a fear of mine on how these increasing trips everywhere will play out. I go through almost a whole tank of gas a week and I basically only travel within a 5 mile radius from my home during that week. We certainly want to encourage our children to participate in a variety of activities but I do worry how families can continue to afford all these trips with higher gas prices.

On the flip side I do love the time I can spend talking with my kids and connecting with them. We enjoy singing songs and talking about the day. My car has become the place to catch up with them even more than the dinner table anymore!

How many hours a day do you spend driving your kids?

Choose Your Email Name Carefully!

As a customer service phone agent I have heard all kinds of email addresses. There are however many people reluctant to provide their current email because something they thought what cute or sexy is now embarrassing to say to a complete stranger. Most people will use their name or a nick name. Some even have emails that refer to their favorite hobby like crafts, sports, books, movies, etc. Then there are those who think that “sexyman4u”,”urluvbuddy” or even “grannygrannybobanny” is a great idea until they are providing it to someone they don’t know or even worse in a professional setting such as a job application. Most customers I speak with want their confirmation email or shipping notification for their order so they feel obligated to supply an email address. Usually there is the awkward pause and then they spell it for you like you won’t notice what it is really saying but seriously…..I CAN READ! I do like the customers that own up to it and just say it with pride and have nothing to hide.

My advise is to pick an email address you feel comfortable giving to everyone. You can certainly obtain a separate email address for times you don’t want to give out your main email. Many email providers offer a way to link multiple email addresses together to receive and view them from one main email account. There are hundreds of free email services from G-mail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AIM, and so many more if you search the internet.

This brings me to safety for our children. We have been trying to keep up with our children’s interest in technology and one thing we are big on is their privacy and security. When using the internet and other sites requiring email addresses it would be better to have an email name that does not have your child’s name in it. Have them pick an email address that refers to their favorite book, movie, cartoon character, stuffed animal, nick name, etc. Get them involved in personalizing a fun email name for themselves. If you are like us you may also want to have their password!

What do you think about email address names?