Crock Pot honey sesame chicken (part deux)

by

Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

This is a dish I posted back in 2012 and is one of my most-pinned recipes. I still make this quite a bit, although I change it up often. I was reading through the comments on the original post and realized a few of you were making it as often as I do and having some fun trying to make it even better. I still think the original is amazing, but after making it so many times over the years there are a few simple things I always do to amp up flavor. So, if you’re a regular, pay attention:

– I add a little sesame oil to boost the sesame flavor
– I add snow peas (or something green) at the end, because that’s how it is when we get it from the Chinese place. And it looks prettier.
– I add more corn starch for a thicker sauce. And I just throw it right in the pot vs. dissolving it like you’re supposed to. This is mostly because…busy mom syndrome.

So here’s a new and improved version. If you’re a regular, try it out and let me know! If you’re not a regular, try it anyway. It’s one of the best and most kid-friendly Crock Pot recipes around.

Looking for more Sweets and Eats for the Whole Family? Find Lindsay at Sugar Mama.

crock pot honey sesame chicken 2

Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken – Part Deux
Sometimes I throw in some minced fresh ginger too, but I’m not adding that below because this is not supposed to be a fussy recipe. But if you HAVE FRESH GINGER SITTING AROUND, use it!

1 1/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (thighs would be fine too)
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons diced onion
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 small package snow peas (not frozen, from the produce section)
Sesame seeds

Season both sides of chicken with lightly with salt and pepper, put into crock pot. In a small bowl, combine honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, oil, garlic and pepper flakes. Pour over chicken. Cook on low for 3-4 hours or on high 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 hours, or just until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from crock pot, leave sauce. Stir in corn starch until completely dissolved. Stir in snow peas. Replace lid and cook sauce on high for ten more minutes or until slightly thickened. Cut chicken into bite size pieces, then return to pot and toss with sauce before serving. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over rice or noodles.

Make a splash with your own bath paints

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

My kids love playing with bath paints. They’ll sit in the tubby as long as I let them and paint all over the walls and the bathtub and have a great time. But the paints run out quickly, and they’re kinda pricey…so now we make our own.

make your own bath paints

The paints only take 4 ingredients (and one is water, so that doesn’t really count). They’re simple to make up, and the kids could play for hours if I let them.

The key to getting the right consistency for your paints is how much water you add — start out by adding what I did (1 Tb), and then if your paint is still too thick, continue to add more.

Also, one word of warning…I poked around on the internet, and while most people had the same experience we did — the paints washed quickly and easily off both their kids and their tub, a few people did have to scrub. Make sure you use liquid food coloring, rather than gel colors which stain much more. And if you have a super-expensive fancy tub, you may want to test your bath paint in a small area where no one can see it first. I’m not too worried about my tub — honestly, a few rainbow stains would probably distract from the ring that goes around it right now. Same with the kids — try a little out on their hands first if you’re worried. But we didn’t have any problems at all and they play with these a lot.

make your own bath paints

Ingredients:

  • 1 c clear hand soap, or tear-free baby shampoo
  • 1/2 c cornstarch
  • water
  • liquid food coloring

make your own bath paints

Instructions:

In a large mixing bowl, combine soap and cornstarch and whisk until lumps are gone. Add 1 tsp water and stir. If the mixture is still too thick, continue adding water until you have a consistency you like. Pour some of the soap mixture into several small cups (a muffin pan works great for this part!). Add 2 drops of food coloring to one of the tins and stir. Repeat, using different colors.

Throw everyone in the tub (or in a kiddie pool outside if it’s warm enough) and paint away!

How do you make bath time fun?

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.

 

A fun Mickey Mouse themed birthday party perfect for any age

by

Joanna Venditti

posted in Life & Home

There is something about Disney that brings out the inner child in each of us, especially Mickey Mouse. When I saw that my friend that had thrown a Mickey Mouse themed birthday party for her daughter, I couldn’t stop looking at all of the beautiful photos.

Mickey Mouse dress

From Mickey Mouse topiaries, to a Mickey Mouse dress and cake, every part of this party has a little hint of magic. This theme would work beautifully for a child of any age and the DIY possibilities are endless.

Daisy and Donald Birthday party decor

Here is what Veronica Spencer had to say about throwing her daughter Rose a magical Mickey Mouse themed birthday party: “In our house, we do Disney. I grew up going to Disney World nearly every year, and when Rose started watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse it was a big deal to me. She loved the characters as much as I do, so it was perfect for a fun toddler party! The bright colours and patterns were so much fun to work with.”

Have a peek at all of the beautiful details Veronica added to Rose’s party, and her inspiration behind each element…


These jumbo cut outs were a challenge at over 3′ wide. They have glitter and gloss accents to add to the fun. I made customized sippy cups with vinyl for each of the kids. Rose still has hers and loves using her Mouse cup!


Things that work out well for parties: When everything red and white is on sale after Christmas 50-75% off! I created the tissue paper poofs and bought the lanterns thanks to some great sales I found after Christmas. I strung them across the kitchen to bring down the ceiling height a bit. I also layered dollar store plastic table cloths and stuck some white circles to the front to make Mickey Mouse pants along our island and at the dessert table at the back of the room. It made such a huge impact for a low cost!


I found this on sale (can you tell I love a bargain?!) at Target. I immediately thought of the Clubhouse catchphrase “If you’ve got ears, say cheers!”, so I added the first half of the phrase over top with paper and vinyl strung on bakers twine.


I love love love creating these jumbo character cut outs. I added glitter and gloss accents to Mickey. I dressed up the number 2 and added a cute little party hat to make it just that much more fun!


For a quick and easy backdrop that makes a huge statement, I found rolls of wrapping paper at the dollar store and hung them on our back windows. $10 in paper made for a perfect backdrop to the dessert table! I made the banner and characters myself and they looked so great popping against the vibrant background.


I made these great topiaries from styrofoam balls, A LOT of glitter, some red pots and yellow shredded filler paper, all of it found at the dollar store. I lined the steps up to the kitchen with them which set a great tone leading into the party.


For quick and easy loot bags, I used black paper bags from Michaels, some red paper, and white circles to make Mickey bags for each of the kids.


Mickey always invites people into the Clubhouse by saying “Come inside it’s fun inside!” so I knew this needed to be the sign for our front door. I made this from paper and vinyl and just loved how the matte and gloss played off each other. It was a great welcome to the party!


I had a local seamstress make this gorgeous dress for Rose. She looked so perfect at the party and just loved her pretty polka dots! And of course they paired well with her favourite rain boots 😉
Vendor credit: Dress by Inspired by JAKL


I hadn’t decorated a cake in a couple years but I really wanted to make one for Rose. I borrowed a giant cupcake pan from a friend and hoped for the best! The ears are actually Jos Louis (which my nephews loved eating) and I used white chocolate melting wafers for the buttons. I love the way it turned out!!

About Veronica: Rose’s previous parties actually pushed me towards opening my business, Oh Rosie Day. I had so much fun making party decor and got such great feedback, I decided to stick with it. I was already running my wedding decor business, Love and Found, so this seemed like a great next step for me. It’s been wonderful to get to help other families create fun and beautiful parties for their kids. I do everything from invitations and banners to jumbo character cut outs. Every day I get to do something I love and I’m so thankful for it!
If you’d like to contact Veronica Spencer to inquire about a party idea, you can email her at hello@ohrosieday.com

Mother’s Day breakfast in bed printable banner

by

Kami Bigler

posted in Life & Home

Mother’s Day is right around the corner. Are you ready? There are so many great ways to honor mom. Some are large, like a weekend spa retreat. Some are small, like a lovely bouquet. However, breakfast in bed is always a treat. It’s an easy way to get the kids in on the action, too. We’ve made this fun and pretty printable banner to greet the mom in your life right on her special day. In a beautiful script it says: “rise and shine, sweet Mother of mine”. All you have to do is print out the banner, cut it out and tape it to two wooden skewers. Then it’s ready to poke into the delicious and oh so special breakfast you made for her to enjoy in the comfort of her bed.

To show this printable in action, we made pancakes. However, they’re no ordinary pancakes; they’re the best pancakes we’ve ever eaten! I’m serious. Blueberry buttermilk pancakes with homemade buttermilk syrup. Sounds delicious, right?

mothers day printable banner

Oh man, where have these been all my life?! You can find the recipes here for the blueberry buttermilk pancakes and buttermilk syrup. I bet they’d be even better with a nice cold glass of fresh squeezed orange juice.

Here’s one more look at the pretty printable banner to stick into the pancakes (or whatever you’re family will be serving you – wink/wink).

mothers day printable banner

Click here for the Mother’s Day breakfast in bed printable pdf.

I hope you all have a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend, celebrating your special moms!

Do you have a favorite breakfast for mom on her special day?

*For more craft tutorials, great recipes, free printables, fun giveaways, and real life you can follow Kami at NoBiggie.net, or find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.


It’s National Pretzel Day! Try these soft ‘n salty pretzel bites…

by

Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

When I was 13 my mom let me go to the mall with my friend Jenny for the first time. We wore our Benetton jerseys, Reebok high-tops and packed our Liz Claiborne purses full of change and dollar bills. We scrunched our permed hair with gel and sprayed our bangs with a full bottle of Suave professional. And we wore lip gloss. Lots and lots of lip gloss.

After spending hours doing whatever we wanted, we stopped at Auntie Annie’s pretzels and got huge, buttery pretzels and two large lemonades. I can still taste it, and it became the first of many visits to Auntie Annie’s. (In fact, there’s an Auntie Annie’s in the Denver airport that I still sprint to whenever I have a layover.) That first visit made me a soft pretzel fan for life but, until today, I’d never made them at home.

Guess what? These are totally just as good. And I made them with my eight-year-old who may or may not have measured correctly and definitely did not cut the bites into perfect shapes. But (as Gwyneth would say) it’s all easy. For real.

Make dough.
Let dough rise while making lunch checking Pinterest for bathroom tile.
Roll dough into four ropes. Cut. Throw in boiling water for 30 seconds.
Bake.

You can do this. Happy National Pretzel Day!

Looking for more Sweets and Eats for the Whole Family? Find Lindsay at Sugar Mama.

homemade pretzel bites 2_2_small

Soft ‘n Salty Pretzel Bites
You can make half (or all) your batch sweet, by sprinkling on cinnamon sugar instead of salt.

3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (about half a single packet)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
non-stick cooking spray
2 quarts water
1/4 cup baking soda
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Coarse salt

Combine 3/4 cup warm water, brown sugar, yeast, and melted butter with an electric mixer. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the salt and flour and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and mixing until the dough is smooth and can easily be pulled away from the side of the bowl with a spatula, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.

Spray a bowl with the nonstick spray, add the dough and turn to coat. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Bring the 3 quarts of water to a boil in stock pot over high heat and SLOWLY add the baking soda.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope measuring about 22 inches. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites. Boil the pretzel bites in the water solution in batches of 12-15. Boil for about 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon. Place pretzel bites on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray or lined with silpat. Make sure they are not touching. Brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with the salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.

Remove to a baking rack and let rest 5 minutes before eating.

Makes 50-60 bites.

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod.

Books to read with your kids for Earth Day

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

Can I make a confession? I nearly forgot today was Earth Day. Not because I don’t care about the environment, but because, at the risk of sounding super-cheesy, every day is Earth Day for kids.

Seriously, take a child and plunk them down next to a stream, or on a beach, or in some grass with bugs, and you don’t even have to tell them what to do. They just start digging and splashing and investigating things. Your only job is to make sure they don’t hurt themselves (which is a pretty tall order, actually).

Earth Day books to read with your kids

I think, this Earth Day, more important even than planting a tree or recycling or starting a compost bin, our biggest job is to get our kids out exploring parks and trails and beaches and backyards. One of the best things we can do to help the planet is teach the next generation to love it, because people protect the things they love.

And after all your outdoor shenanigans, maybe curl up with a good book or two. Here are some great books to read with your kids this Earth Day:


Apple by Nikki McClure — a great book, especially for young readers. There’s one word on each page, showing the life cycle of an apple from growing, to eating, to composting the core, to…another apple.


Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals — read the book, and maybe start a small compost bin of your own!


On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole — when Caroline realizes Meadowview Street has no actual view of a meadow, she gets to work.


Ants in Your Pants, Worms in Your Plants! by Diane deGroat — Gilbert needs an idea for an Earth Day project! Wait ’til you see what he comes up with.


It’s Earth Day! by Mercer Mayer — Little Critter learns the importance of conserving water and energy, and thinks of ways to help the planet.


The EARTH Book by Todd Parr — a book about how to help the planet…that does its part, too. The book itself is made from recycled materials.


Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney — a beautiful true story of the Lupine Lady, who scattered lupine seeds wherever she went.


The Lorax by Dr. Seuss — before it was hip to be green, the Lorax was already speaking for the trees. (Fun fact: this was Dr. Seuss’s personal favorite of all his books)


The Circle of Days by Reeve Lindberg — not, strictly speaking, an environmental book…but saving the planet comes from loving it. Based on “The Canticle of the Sun” by St. Francis of Assissi, it’s a hymn of praise for creation. A simple, beautiful book.


Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson — tells the story of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman (and an environmentalist) to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Beautifully illustrated.

How to you celebrate Earth Day with your children? 

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.

 

Side dish SOS: Easy roasted spring asparagus

by

Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

So many nights, side dishes just don’t happen for me. At the beginning of each week I buy a huge veggie tray and it often serves as the only complement to whatever our main dish might be. (And quite honestly, sometimes that main dish is rotisserie chicken straight from the store.)

I’ve been trying to do a better job of cooking a veggie with our meals because I’ve noticed my 3-year-old isn’t eating enough veggies. And it’s probably because he thinks all veggies come in a plastic tray with a side of ranch dip.

This asparagus was a huge hit in our house this week. Carter said it didn’t taste all asparagus-y and three-year-old Cash…ate three big bites. Which may not sound like much to you, but was a friggin’ breakthrough in my mind.

Put this one on your menu next week. It’s super simple and you won’t be sorry!

Looking for more Sweets and Eats for the Whole Family? Find Lindsay at Sugar Mama.

easy roasted asparagus 2_2_small

1 pound asparagus
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons grated parmesan
Juice of one lemon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet lined with foil (to keep the mess contained), arrange the asparagus in a single layer. Toss in the olive oil and sprinkle with minced garlic and salt and pepper.

Roast for 8-10 minutes or until the asparagus is crisp on the outside and tender in the center. Toss in the lemon juice and sprinkle with parmesan. Add more if desired. Serve immediately.

Serves 5-6.

10 little tips to make life easier

by

Kami Bigler

posted in Life & Home

I love sharing quick tips on my blog. Little tips here and there that can help make all of our lives easier. I’ve rounded up 10 of my favorite quick tips from NoBiggie to share with you here.

Do you have a favorite quick tip you’d like to share?

10 quick tips for everyday life

*For more craft tutorials, great recipes, free printables, fun giveaways, and real life you can follow Kami at NoBiggie.net, or find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.


Say what? Chocolate peanut butter BANANA cookies!

by

Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

Looking for something different than plain old chocolate chip cookies? These are a fun treat that my daughter Kate thought up and asked me to figure out. She calls these Funky Monkey cookies — I think a word play on the Chunky Monkey ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s.

All three of the flavors — chocolate chip, banana and peanut butter — play well in this cookie because none are overpowering. It’s so fun to take a bite and get a little bit of each one!

These are a soft batch cookie because of the banana. Very moist and tender, but not fall-apart tender. Just like a soft cookie should be. I may have eaten a few of these for breakfast this morning because…er, BANANA?

Looking for more Sweets and Eats for the Whole Family? Find Lindsay at Sugar Mama.

chocolate chip peanut butter banana funky monkey cookies 2_2_small

Funky Monkey Cookies
There are no eggs in this cookie; the banana serves as the binder!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp corn starch
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 ripe bananas, peeled
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips

Combine flour, baking soda, corn starch, and salt and set aside.
Use an electric mixer to cream butter, bananas, and sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla extract until combined. Stir in the flour mixture just until combined. Stir in chips. Refrigerate dough for one hour up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 375F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or lightly spray with cooking spray.
Use a cookie scoop to scoop out cookie dough onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake cookies for 9-10 minutes or just until they start to turn light, golden brown on top. Let cookies cool completely on cookie sheets.

Makes 24-30 cookies.

Parties that make a difference: How to give back on kids’ birthdays

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

I don’t think we give kids enough credit.

Sure, they love their games and toys and electronics. They don’t always like to share (I’m looking at you, 2-year olds!). But they can also have an empathy for other kids that we don’t recognize. I see it just when we’re clearing out some of our toys here. I know a lot of people will tell you to get rid of your kids’ toys when they’re not around to object, but when I explain to my kids that those toys will be going to other children who don’t have any — they end up donating more than I would have. I don’t think my kids are exceptional in this. I think many kids would do the same if they were given the chance.

This is why I love the idea of charitable birthdays. What better way to celebrate your child’s life than by making a difference in someone else’s? I’ve heard of a ton of great ways to do this, but here are a few:

1.) Skip the school cupcakes. My mom is a retired kindergarten teacher. In her classroom, instead of cupcakes or treats, kids brought a new book to donate to the class. They picked out one of their favorites (check with the teacher to make sure she doesn’t already have it), wrote a little note on the inside front cover and glued a wallet-sized school picture of themselves in it. And the class had it to read from then on. It’s a fun way to get kids involved in thinking about what someone else would like to read…and frankly, with allergies and school nutrition requirements and other rules, a lot of schools no longer allow kids to bring in homemade treats anyway. This is a good alternative.

2.) Have a party activity that gives back. Our local pet shelter takes donations of handmade cat blankets — fleece blankets you simply cut and tie (you can find instructions here). It would be a simple, fun party activity for kids to make the blankets to donate. Or check with your favorite charity to see about other homemade items they need. We also have local shelters that take hand-knit items, and our local senior center loves handmade cards for their residents — there are lots of crafty things you could make at a party to donate.

Help your child give back on their birthday with these charitable ideas

3.) Skip the party favors and give away the moneyUm. Speaking as a mom of four whose kids seem to have an endless supply of little plastic toys and weirdly colored gum that ends up in someone’s hair — I’m begging you, can we skip party favors anyway? Pleeeeease? Instead, take that money and help throw a birthday party for a child at an orphanage. Many of them don’t actually know their own birthdays and have never had a party. You could be the one who gives them a great party, with a new set of clothes and a brand-new toy, but most importantly, an opportunity to be celebrated and know they are special. In return, you get a picture of your sponsored child with their new presents (and of course it’s tax deductible). Maybe even donate a few days before your child’s birthday, and you could display the picture at their birthday party? Two parties — one at your house and one across the world! That gives me chills.

4.) Ask for donations instead of presents. This one is harder, and perhaps not every kid would be up for it. But I’d say talk to your child and get their thoughts. Again, I think they may surprise you. If you throw a fun party, they could be okay skipping the presents. Or, if they can’t quit presents cold-turkey, maybe a compromise? Have the guests bring their presents, but Mom & Dad do not and donate that money. Or if Grandma usually sends birthday money, donate some of that. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing sacrifice.

Do you involve your kids in helping charities? What do you do? I’d love to hear your ideas!

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.