Month: April 2012

Egg carton masks

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Well, Easover has come and gone, and I’ve got a few egg cartons leftover from all those eggs. But, instead of chucking them, I decided we should have some fun. With Earth Day right around the corner, I had lots of ideas for all things reusable. And, my friend over at Tinkerlab was challenging people to get creative with egg cartons, and I had the perfect idea! The tot has been really getting into dressing up and dancing about the house, so making simple masks with those egg cartons sounded pretty good to me – and my daughter, too.

I cut apart two connected egg cups and invited the tot to coat them in paint…

Then we added a sprinkling of glitter, which is also great for honing fine-motor skills!

Once things had dried, I helped by cutting out the center of each cup, making eye holes, and then offered my daughter a selection of colorful pom poms and a bit of glue to dunk and them press on to her creation.

We found a few red feathers and I used the hot glue gun to secure them (and the glued pom poms) to the egg carton mask. To finish the mask, I popped a few holes in the sides and strung with a length of red string. If you have some stretchy elastic, that would work even better!

What’s great about this activity is you can make lots and lots of masks with all the different materials you have hanging around. Older kids can use markers to add details, younger tots can get messy slathering on paint – and more paint – and you can play around with the mask base. Individual cups can be connected together with the help of colorful pipe cleaners, or several strung in a row for something really different.

We enjoyed several hours playing with the finished mask (before it basically fell apart) encouraging my tot’s budding imaginary play skills. But, no problem! When it had finally come apart from too many put-on-and-tear-offs, we gathered together more materials and made another one!

 

Roasted sweet potato and apple kugel for Easover

 - by Sarah Lipoff

kugel

Over at our house we are prepping for Easover. That’s right. I just made up a word – and a holiday. I mashed together Easter and Passover into one wonderfully fantastic holiday focused on celebration, food, more food, and gathering friends and family to share in the food and celebration. Easover is all about the fun side of Easter, full of dyed eggs, chocolate bunnies, and maybe an egg hunt or two. It’s also about learning more about Jewish tradition and gathering together for the epic Passover meal.

You see, I was raised Lutheran, (which didn’t really go well), and my husband is part Jewish. He grew up in an East Coast Jewish family but didn’t quite make it to being bar mitzvah-ed. So, together, we are a somewhat non-religeious-but-full-of-traditions family. Basically, we’re making it up.

Hence, Easover.

While living over on the East Coast, we had the wonderful opportunity to celebrate Passover with his family and experience a traditional Seder dinner, which was really special. But, with a tot, and no family in the area here in California, we’re winging it. My mom sent a fantastic box full of Easter goodies, and the tot and I will be naturally dying eggs later today, but we wanted to include some our favorite Passover eats with our Sunday celebration.

Kugel.

If you haven’t had it, kugel is a sweet or savory dish made from egg noodles, eggs, creamy stuff, more eggs, and something sweet or savory. I decided to add my own spin on things – because it’s my own made up holiday, right? – and make a sweet, savory kugel with roasted sweet potatoes and apples. And this is so good, and really simple to toss together, perfect for whatever you’re celebrating!

Ingredients

1 lb chopped sweet potato (I used a really big one)

1 onion chopped

1 apple peeled and chopped

1 t vegetable oil

1 12-ounce bag broad egg noodles

4 eggs

1 c sour cream

1 c whole milk

Dash thyme and pepper

1/4 t salt

2 tablespoons butter

Additional sugar and salt for sprinkling the top of the kugel

How to make it

Pre heat your oven to 425 F and start chopping your sweet potato, apple, and onion. You want everything to be about a 1-inch dice, so take your time. Once things are chopped nice, toss on a sheet pan and drizzle with the vegetable oil. Pop things in your hot oven and let roast for about 15-minutes. Give things a toss and let roast for an additional 15 minutes – or until the edges start browning. After taking them out of the oven, reduce the temperature to 350 F.

kugel

While things are cranking in the oven, fill a bit stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Simmer the egg noodles for about 8-10 minutes, or until they are just cooked through. Give them a drain and let them hang out while  the sweet potatoes, apples, and onions are roasting.

Now crack those eggs into a medium mixing bowl, add the sour cream and milk, and give a whisk. Sprinkle in the thyme, pepper and salt and set to the side.

Get out a 9×13 inch casserole and lightly grease with vegetable oil. To create the kugel make a layer of egg noodles in the casserole and then top with a sprinkling of the sweet potato mixture, then layer with noodles, a sprinkling of potatoes, noodles, potatoes….

kugel

Once you’re out of noodles and sweet potatoes, evenly pour the egg mixture over the whole shebang. Use a big spoon to gently press the noodles into the milk mixture, and then sprinkle with additional salt and sugar. Dot the top with butter.

Yum

Pop your kugel into the hot oven for 45-60 minutes, or until the top starts browning. Let sit for 20-minutes before serving, or let chill in the fridge over night and enjoy at room temperature the next day – kugel is tasty hot or cold.

Happy Easover!

 

Born Wicked – Wickedly good

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Born Wicked, the first book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles by Jessica Spotswood, is definitely a romance. Full of dreamy imagery together with interesting drama, and a few twists and turns, I (honestly) couldn’t put it down. Considered Young Adult, this is the first book of three in the Cahill Witch Chronicles and it had me hooked. Sure, some of it was a bit contrived, but that’s what being 16 is like, right? First loves, social pressures, being forced into choosing marriage or joining the Sisterhood at 17, worrying about being carted off for being a witch…

The book is set in the 1890’s where girls are at risk of being accused of witchery just for being a bit different. Spotswood has created the Brotherhood; the group the girls fear that not only are in charge of taking away those witchy girls, but also selecting a husband for the un-claimed girl once turned 17. And, for Cate, this has become quite the challenge.

Our main character is a 16-going-on-17 witch. She’s the oldest of three young witch sisters that have been successfully living in secrecy. Cate’s been in charge since her mother died several years ago, and has kept her sisters’ magic – as well as her own, under wraps. But when her father decides it is time to bring in a specialist from the Sisterhood to assist the girls transition into womanhood, things start to fall apart.

And then Cate falls in love – and not with whom everyone, including herself, expects her to.

Sure, this book isn’t going to make the list of the top 100 YA fiction of all time, but Born Wicked has strong female characters that aren’t afraid to be themselves and follow their hearts. You can’t help yourself for hoping that Cate gets what she wants, and that her sisters stay safe from the Brotherhood.

Spotswood does a wonderful job of writing a book you kind of fall in love with yourself.

I’m totally looking forward to reading the next two books of the chronicles.

Check out what others are saying over at BlogHer and jump in one of the exciting book discussions taking place in the Book Club!

*Yes, I was provided a book and paid for this review by BlogHer, but the opinions are totally all my own.

Hand-painted Easter egg cookies

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Hand painted Easter cookies

With Easter right around the corner, I wanted to make something special with the tot to celebrate. When I think of Easter memories of candy, cookies, candy, a few Easter egg hunts, candy, and more cookies come to mind. Vanilla, lemon, sugar, whipped cream, and chocolate top my list of Easter goodie must-haves. We had some lovely fresh lemons, which were perfect for tossing together these wonderfully tangy cookies. And we topped them in a really special way – by hand-painting them with vanilla frosting.

Adorable.

This is just about the easiest cookie recipe to put together and inviting the kiddies to slather tangy egg-shaped cookies with edible paint is a perfect way to spend Easter together. Not up  for the baking part?  Simply pick up a roll of store-bought refrigerated cookie dough and you’re good to go.

Ingredients

1/2 c room temperature butter, cut into small cubes

1/4 c powdered sugar

1/4 c sugar

Zest of one lemon

Dash of salt

Juice of that zested lemon

1 egg

1 c flour

For one color of edible paint:

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Drop of vanilla

1-3 drops of food coloring

Water

Directions

Simply toss all the ingredients (sans the flour) for the cookies in a medium-sized mixing bowl and give things a whir with a hand mixer. Once things have come together, slowly add the flour until it’s all incorporated.

Tear off a length of plastic wrap and smooth out flat. Spoon the tangy cookie batter onto the plastic wrap in a line. Now roll up the plastic wrap while rolling the dough, (just like you’re making a play-dough snake) and twist the ends, creating a happy log o-cookie dough, just like you pick up at the store.

Place the wrapped cookie dough on a plate and place in the fridge for at least 2-hours. Or, pop in the freezer for an hour.

Preheat your oven to 350 F and lightly grease a sheet pan – or cover with a silpat or parchment paper. Unwrap your cookies and slice on a slight bias (or diagonal) about 1/4 inch thick, and place on the sheet pan allowing about 1-inch space between cookies.

Pop in the hot oven for 10-12 minutes or until the edges start to brown.

Remove from the pan and let cool before painting.

While the cookies chill, make the edible paints. It’s as easy as mixing together the powdered sugar, vanilla, food coloring, and water for each cool you’d like to make. The finished paint should be the consistency of tempera paint. We kept things simple and made red, yellow, and blue paint. And, so things were really nice and clean, I ran our paintbrushes through the dishwasher before painting.

edible paints

Once the cookies are cool, invite your child to use the edible paints to decorate the lemony Easter egg cookies. Let the frosting set and then enjoy! We piled ours up in a bowl full of green raffia alongside some plain unpainted cookies for a sunny centerpiece.

 

Happy Easter!

 

 

Dinner every night – Chicken

 - by Sarah Lipoff

We had chicken for dinner the entire week. It just worked out that way – we had chicken in the freezer, so chicken we ate. I’m also seriously feeling a bit of a pinch after getting our final tax bill. Let’s just say we’ll probably be eating cheep cuts of meats and lots and lots of beans and veggies for quite some time. And, with all the drama over pink slime this week, chicken every night was more than fine by me. While at our local market the other day picking up a few essentials (milk, eggs, chocolate…), I asked my meat guy about the dreaded pink slime. He waved his hand behind him showcasing several butchers grinding up choice bits of beef, packaging them up nice and neat, and then proudly handing the freshly ground goodness over to smiling customers.

I grabbed some and added it to my cart looking forward to breaking the string of chicken dinners…

But, it was a wonderful challenge finding a few fun new ways to make tasty chicken dinners. We had a winner with pineapple chicken, tried making foil-wrapped chicken (which was good but needed some tweaking), and simply roasted both dark and white meat  with fresh herbs and garlic. Chicken really is yummy – even with only a few ingredients.

Top row from left to right: Pounded chicken breasts dredged in flour and seared in canola oil over garlic mashed potatoes and fresh spinach, French green lentils stewed with carrots and onions topped with hot roasted chicken thighs, Pineapple simmered chicken over couscous and green beans. Second row from left to right: Ham and spinach stuffed chicken breasts with beets and garlic rosemary white beans, Foil-wrapped chicken thighs with steamed asparagus and sticky rice, Shredded steamed chicken tacos with lettuce and chopped scallion alongside carrot, celery spicy beans.