We have science fair and Valentine’s Day on the calendar this month. A trip to Michael’s Crafts was inevitable. We hit the store yesterday, and after we completed our lap through all of the craft and school supply aisles, a small end cap display with Valentine baking supplies happened to catch my eye. Mini paper loaf pans– with hearts! Does it get any better? Mini + baking + holiday craft all in one.
I bought the last two bags of mini loaf pans and immediately came home to make small breads and cakes. I baked this Savory Rosemary and Pine Nut Bread in 12 of the pans and a “faux” chocolate chip pound cake in the other 12 pans I had (recipe below).
We wrapped the mini loaves in 3″ x 4″ clear plastic treat bags and used a twist tie to close. I printed labels for the bags with a small heart motif, and we will be delivering these little treats to my children’s teachers for Valentine’s Day. They make a great teacher gift because they are a single serving and are easy for little people to carry to school and deliver.
Chocolate Chip Pound Cake
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 small box instant vanilla pudding
- 1 small box instant chocolate pudding
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/2 c. water
- 1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 6 oz. chocolate chips
- Stir cake mix and pudding mixes together in a large bowl.
- Add eggs, oil, and water. Beat by hand until smooth.
- Stir in chocolate chips. You can coat the chocolate chips with about 1/2 T. flour before adding to the batter to keep them from sinking to the bottom during baking. If you are making mini sized cakes, use mini chocolate chips.
- Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan. If you are using the mini paper loaf pans, you do not need to grease or flour the pans. You will fill the mini pans about halfway.
- Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. If baking the mini size, reduce baking time to ~30 minutes.
- Cool 20 minutes and remove from pan. If using the mini pans, leave in the paper pans.
- The mini paper loaf pans can bake in a temperature up to 400 degrees. They do not need to be greased. To get your bread or cake out of the little pan, you unstick the corners and pull the sides away when serving.
It’s holiday teacher gift season! I love teacher gift ideas, and I try not to repeat too many ideas from year to year. If I were not a teacher and a parent, I would not take the teacher gift situation so seriously, but I know how much I appreciate getting a small thank you from a student or family at the holidays, so I try to do the same for my children’s teachers. At the holidays, I often receive lots of home baked sweet goodies (no complaints here). Because there might be lots of cookies and candies on the way, I thought I would go the savory route for this year’s teacher gifts.
The crackers look like a Cheezit and have a similar taste but are slightly more gourmet due to the rosemary. I found THIS RECIPE via Pinterest. The recipe is easy to follow, but it is time consuming since you need to mix the dough, let it rest in the refrigerator, roll out the dough, cut, and bake. I put about 2/3 cup of crackers in each gift bag and ended up making three batches of dough to have enough crackers (twelve teachers).
In order to make my cuts even for the cracker shape, I cut a strip of cardstock paper one inch wide and used that as a guideline for cutting. I had straggly edge pieces that were not perfect shapes, and those were the pieces we ate at my house!
I printed labels on Avery 8163 shipping labels (2″ x 4″). You could use this ROSEMARY CHEESE CRACKER LABEL template and print on regular paper, cut, and tie to the bags with curly ribbon. The crackers would also be pretty in pint Mason jars or small, decorative Chinese food container boxes.
I am hoping the teachers receiving these little gift bags will enjoy this snacky treat. For our teachers who we know are dog owners, we are giving these DOG TREAT GIFT BAGS in place of the human treat. It saved me having to make even more batches of crackers!
This year, Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars have several teachers who are dog owners. It gave me a little inspiration for a new teacher gift idea for the holidays. We got out a dog biscuit cookbook and tried out a few organic dog food recipes. Most of the dog treats need to be refrigerated after baking, so we narrowed down our choices to two recipes that can be stored at room temperature when finished. (CLICK HERE to see the Bubba Rose Biscuit Company cookbook information.)
We liked the recipes that made a dough that rolled out, so you could cut fun shaped dog treats. We used bone, fire hydrant, and squirrel cookie cutters. The dough is a little sticky at first, and we kneaded in a little extra flour to make it easier to work. We tried to roll the dough about 1/4″ thick, but if you have kids rolling out the dough, you might have some batches that are thicker. Increase the baking time if you have thicker biscuits. We watched until the biscuits were browned on the edges.
There are many dog treat recipes available online. You need to know if your dog has any food sensitivities, and the dog biscuits should never have chocolate, raisins, onions, and a few other items that are toxic to dogs. Many of the recipes I found had specialty flours (we used brown rice flour and oat flour), so check your pantry before starting. CLICK HERE for one recipe from the Bubba Rose people that is similar to the ones we made. Our cookbook said it is easy to swap out the “flavor” ingredients for something similar– it did not recommend replacing the flours. For example, if a recipe calls for cheddar cheese, you could replace with provolone. If a recipe calls for ground chicken, you could replace with ground turkey.
When we are putting together our gift boxes, we are making sure there is a mix of shapes in the gift box (or bag). We are also wrapping up a few gift boxes for our neighbors and friends who have family dogs.
Miss Priss has been on a cooking bender. I think she fancies herself a future Chopped Junior contestant. I was getting tired of monitoring the kitchen with her, so we moved over to no-bake recipes. I don’t have to be by her side the whole time, and she still experiences all of the joys of cooking. She is also gaining measuring skills, the ability to read and follow directions, and learning how to clean up after herself (my favorite side benefit). She has no idea she is actually learning these valuable skills, and I am not planning on revealing this little secret.
The best recipe she has made so far is a chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream bar. I found the original recipe and directions HERE. I helped cut the parchment paper to the correct size, and I licked the bowl, but other than that, I had no involvement.
- Prepare the eggless cookie dough batter (CLICK HERE for recipe).
- Line a 9 x 9 pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper strips. Put one strip horizontally across the pan and the other strip vertically. The ends of the strip should hang over the edges of the pan. This will allow you to lift the frozen cookie dough out of the pan later.
- Press half of the cookie dough into a thin layer on the bottom of the parchment paper lined pan.
- Put two new strips of parchment paper over the layer of cookie dough and gently press and smooth the paper. Spray lightly with Pam or another cooking spray.
- Press the other half of the cookie dough on the second layer of parchment paper into a thin layer.
- Fold the parchment over the top and put a weight on top to hold the parchment paper down (you could use a tupperware/bag of dried beans, bag of frozen vegetables, or something else in your freezer).
- Freeze for 2-3 hours.
- Gently remove frozen cookie dough layers from the pan and peel from the paper.
- Put two of the strips of parchment back in the pan and gently place one cookie dough block back on the paper in the pan.
- Gently spread one quart of softened ice cream over the cookie dough base.
- Place the second cookie dough block on top of the ice cream.
- Cover with a strip of parchment. Place a weight on top (dried beans or bag of frozen vegetables again) and put back in the freezer for 2-3 hours.
- To serve, lift the cookie bars out of the pan using the bottom layer of parchment paper as a handle. Cut into squares with a sharp knife. Running the knife under hot water before using it to cut will help make slicing easier. OK– so I helped with this step too, and the cookie dough “crust” breaks very easily.
Reasons to Cook with Kids
- Math skills– fractions, adding, dividing, proportions…
- Science skills– heat and temperature, changing states of matter
- Procedures and directions– following step by step directions and seeing the cause and effect if you go out of order (or stay in the order of the recipe), developing patience and waiting for results
- Reading– recognizing and reading a recipe format as compared to non-fiction text or chapter books
- Screen free– no devices required
A new gourmet olive oil shop opened in town, and I had two sweet students bring me bottles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil at the end of the school year. The olive oil is that really good kind that tastes good all by itself with crusty bread dipped in it, which was my main plan until we needed a side dish for TheRoomDad’s latest grilling adventures. I whipped together an easy tortellini pasta salad that is delicious and summery and excellent with steak.
- 1 family sized package cheese tortellini (~1 lb)
- 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 T. balsamic vinegar
- 1 T. kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
- 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1 handful baby arugula
- 1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded (or to taste)
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add a little drizzle of olive oil to the pasta and toss gently to keep the tortellini from sticking together and let cool slightly.
- In a separate dish, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, kosher salt, and pepper.
- In the bowl with the tortellini, add crumbled bacon, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and dressing. Toss well until the tortellini is coated with dressing. The arugula will wilt slightly.
- Sprinkle Parmesan on top before serving.
- Serve at room temperature.
- I have not officially tested this, but I think the pasta salad would travel well to tailgates and potlucks and could be refrigerated.