Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Ultimate Pancake Recipe

toppings and mix-ins too!

This post contains affiliate links. Read my disclosure here.

If a food is related to cake it must be good, right? I think that is why I love pancakes so much. They can be "dressed-up" with toppings or just eaten plain (with maybe a drizzle of maple syrup). I've done so much experimenting with pancakes over the years and I think I have finally found the Ultimate Pancake Recipe that I'd love to share with you. Are you ready? Fire up your griddles and get ready to flip!

Ultimate Pancake Recipe

2 cups all purpose flour (sifted)
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons melted butter

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl whisk together the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until slightly lumpy (don't over stir). 

Pre-heat the griddle to medium high heat. Drop a pat of butter into the skillet and once melted spoon 1/4 cup of pancake batter onto the hot griddle. When bubbles appear on the surface of the pancakes, flip them over to brown the other side. A minute or two should do it. Repeat the process for the remaining batter - don't forget to melt more butter in the skillet between batches. 

Pancake Mix-Ins:

Want to take your pancakes to the next level? Try adding some mix-ins to the pancake batter. Here are some great ideas to really dress up those plain pancakes.

1. Chocolate Chips

Sprinkle mini-chocolate chips onto the pancakes after you spoon the batter into the griddle. Yummy!

2. Banana + Walnuts

Slice a banana into think slices and put the slices onto the pancake after you pour the batter into the griddle. Sprinkle some chopped walnuts over the bananas - instant banana bread pancakes.

3. Peanut Butter Pancakes

After you flip the pancakes in the griddle smear a little peanut butter of the top side that is cooked. The peanut butter will begin to melt into a perfect pancake topping as the underside of the pancake finishes cooking.

4. Blueberries

Frozen or fresh - it doesn't matter! Sprinkle blueberries onto the pancake after pouring a spoonful of batter into the griddle. If you use frozen you may have to let the pancake cook for a few seconds more than if you use raw.

5. Oatmeal + Raisins

Add 1/4 cup of instant oatmeal to the pancake batter then after you spoon some batter onto the griddle sprinkle a few raisins over the pancake. The oatmeal gives the pancake a new texture and the raisins become sweeter when cooked.

6. Apples + Cinnamon

Slice an apple into think chunks (skin on or off - your preference) and then sprinkle an additional 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon over the apples. After you spoon the pancakes into the hot griddle add a small spoonful of the apple/cinnamon mix.

7. Dried Cranberries + Flax Seed

The combination of the sweet from the cranberries and nutty flavor of the flax seed is a great compliment when sprinkled onto a pancake that has just been spooned into a hot griddle. The flax seed also gives the pancake a little crunch which is a great treat in the morning.

8. Strawberries + Pecans

Slice a few strawberries thinly and chop up some pecans into small pieces. After spooning the pancakes into the griddle add the strawberries and pecans to the pancake. Maple syrup drizzled over the top is a perfect compliment to this concoction.

9. Bacon

Use cooked and crumbled bacon and sprinkle it generously over the pancake as the first side of the pancake fries in the hot griddle. Butter + Bacon + Pancake = DELICIOUS!!

10. Butterscotch Chips

Same idea as the chocolate chips but use butterscotch chips instead. This mix in is so good with the buttery flavor of the pancake!

Alright, there you have it - the ultimate pancake recipe + 10 mix-ins to make your pancakes out of this world good!

Are there any special toppings you enjoy or mix-ins you and your family love? Share them by leaving a comment!


Thursday, April 27, 2017

10 Healthy Game Day Snacks for Kids

provide healthy snacks for your child and teammates
read about it here.

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure here.

Spring marks the kick-off to many spring sports like baseball, tee-ball, soccer, track and many other great outdoor (and indoor) activities.

Our two boys are both starting their spring baseball leagues and at least once or twice will be asked to bring a snack to share with their teammates.

When it comes to game day snacks for the kids I'm a little concerned about the message conveyed to a child athlete who just participated in an athletic event/game when sugary drinks and sugary snacks are passed out. Seems kind of backwards to me!

I get that a little treat now and then is ok but come on let's not take all that hard work and exercise and wash it down with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients!

Look around - it is no surprise that kids all over our great country are struggling with obesity -even young athletes. Seems like a great time to reinforce healthy eating is by encouraging it through healthy snacking as a team. Why not tap into the power of peer pressure and encourage the team to snack together on healthy foods.

Sugary sports drinks, or "adult kook-aid", as I call it, gets pushed so hard onto our young athletes. Look at the convenient "kid size" bottles it comes in - just making it so easy for a parent to grab and pass out to the team after a game. Have you read the label? Yikes! This stuff is horrible. From my little bit of research into these drinks they are useful for athletes who have been participating in a high intensity sport for more than 90 minutes.

Even the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that these sports drinks which are high in carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes and artificial flavorings can contribute to childhood obesity and tooth decay.

So as a parent what kind of snacks and drinks can we send with our kids to share with their teammates on game day? Well here is a quick list of ten healthy snacks and drinks you can encourage your child's teammates to eat after the big game

1. An apple with peanut butter or almond butter
source: joyfulhealthyeats

If you are in a hurry you could slice up the apples, pop them into ziploc bags and pair them with a small single peanut butter packet to go (Jiff To Go). To keep the apples from browning splash a bit of orange juice on them before zipping the bag closed.

2. Trail Mix

source: love bake read

If you have never made your own trail mix and are looking for a great recipe Love.Bake.Read has a simple and healthy recipe that is sure to please a crowd. If you are in a hurry it is easy to find single pack trail mixes in bulk from Costco or through Amazon.

3. Larabar

The Larabar is a real food option if you need to but a snack for the team. It is somewhat high in sugar but it isn't the processed sugar you would find in other snacks. The sugar is a natural food based sugar.

4. Breakfast Cookies

source: spend with pennies

I know these delicious snacks are called "breakfast" cookies but really they can be eaten anytime for a healthy energy boosting snack or for a post workout/game snack. This recipe I found is super simple, healthy and downright delicious!! You can find the recipe here.

5. String Cheese + Crackers

Now here is a snack that you can easily find in bulk - Goldfish Crackers & String Cheese. Healthy and tastes great - a win for both you and your little athlete.

6. Applesauce

I just love the little plastic to-go cups you can pick up in bulk or the squeezable pouches. This is a great way to promote a healthy snack post game time all while keeping it simple for a busy parent to grab on the way to the game.

7. Turkey Cheese Roll-Ups

source: healthysnacksforwork

This is a great snack to make ahead, pop into the fridge and grab before the game starts. Stacking the easy to grab roll-ups in a tupperware container and then passing them around to the team after the game is a great way to provide a healthy snack to the team.

8. Chocolate Milk

Who doesn't love chocolate milk? Young athletes need milk especially post workout so why not add a little chocolate to up the "cool" factor to this healthy snack. Shelf stable milk doesn't even need to be refriderated however a nice cold milk always tastes good after working out!

9. Fruit Kabobs

Source: happy home fairy
Here is a make-ahead team snack you can whip up in no time and store in the fridge until game day. The mix of fruit and color makes them look so yummy any child athlete will be tempted to gobble them up.

10. Citrus Infused Water

source: lifesanity
Mix up a big jug of this citrus infused water to share with the team! It might seem a little strange to some of the kids but one sip and they might change their minds. Some teams have those big water dispensers with paper cups for the team to use during the game. Why not add some flavor (and good healthy benefits too) to the water for the team to share. Water is the best thing you can give your child to drink before, during and after the game but it doesn't have to be plain old boring water - add some flavor and see what happens.

I hope these ideas have provided you with some inspiration as you get ready to cheer on your kids and share a healthy snack with the team. You might want to pack a few extra for siblings and friends who might be curious about these healthy (and yummy) snacks!

Maybe you have some great healthy snack ideas - yes, please share with the rest of us!! Leave a comment and tell me about it.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

DIY Mini Greenhouse Tutorial

great spring activity to do with kids!

This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure here.

Every spring my kids and I have enjoyed planting and watching our seeds grown in our homemade mini-greenhouses

Throughout the winter they collect seeds from some of the food we eat, like cantaloupe, pumpkins, apples and beans, and try to grow plants from them. We also make it a point to get some packets of seeds from the store just in case the ones we have on hand don't work.

We live in Michigan so the last day for frost can be hard to determine! In an effort to grow seeds but not let them die from a late frost we came up with a mini greenhouse to help protect the baby seeds. 

DIY Mini-Greenhouse For Kids

Here are the materials you will need:

I had the kids fill up each of the egg carton sections with potting soil then they poked their finger into the middle of the dirt to create a little hole. They sprinkled a seed or two into the hole then covered the seed with dirt and spritzed the soil with water. Make sure you don't flood the dirt/seedling.

After the seeds are planted in the egg cartons, fill the disposable tin pan with about 1 inch of water. Place the egg cartons in the tin pans and then put the clear plastic lid on.

You now have your very own mini-greenhouse!

I usually set our mini-greenhouses outside during the afternoon so the sun can warm it up and get those little seeds to germinate.

If there is a chance of frost I just bring the mini-greenhouses inside to stay warm at night.

Windy day? no problem - put a large rock on top of the plastic lid so that it doesn't blow off - you could even put a large rubber band around the entire pan + lid.

You don't need to open up the mini-green house very often since the water that evaporates will just accumulate on the lid and then fall back into the soil to keep it moist.

Once the plants are big enough and the risk of frost is not longer a problem you can start planting your seedlings into a garden or pots.

Since you used cardboard egg cartons that have been soaking inside your mini-greenhouse the cardboard by this time will be soggy and easy to tear. No need to throw away the egg carton or pull your plants out of the egg carton - they are biodegradable! Yeah!

Instead just tear apart each of the egg cups that contain the soil and seedling and plant it right into your garden.

Happy Earth Day everyone - now get out and start planting!!

** Looking for more inspiring nature projects to do with your kids?  Check out this great arts & crafts ebook on Amazon:

Click to purchase here

Included in this e-book are ten nature inspired craft projects that use simple supplies easily found around your house.  Step by step instructions and a picture of the final project are included to help you create something special.  All of the crafts in this book were inspired by nature, classical literature and the characters found within these classical books.  As you read books like The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables or maybe Alice in Wonderland and do the crafts in this e-book the stories are sure to become more memorable and truly come alive!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday Prayer

Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus to die on the cross and bear the burden for our sins. Thank you that He rose from the grave and conquered death. And thank you that through Him alone we are able to come to you washed clean by His blood. 

I pray that all would put their trust in Jesus who offers everyone this free gift - the gift of salvation.We all fall short, we all have sinned and we all need to be saved from eternal separation from God. 

Thank you that every Easter we are reminded of this wonderful gift and that the sting of death is gone forever for those who have put their trust in Jesus. 


Happy Easter Everyone!

Friday, April 14, 2017

5 Easter Ham Recipes

This post contains affiliate links. To see my disclosure policy click here

Easter is just around the corner and one of the most popular main dishes to serve is ham. I know this because my husband, who works for a large food service supplier and distributor told me so - oh and he is in charge of ordering (replenishment) this item(s) for the company. Ham gives him a headache this time of year!

We are hosting a big Easter dinner at our house and of course I will be serving ham! I've made ham before - you know the spiral sliced, glazed ham you get at the store? They are super easy and some even come with their own packet of glaze you just add water, boil on the stove and pour over the ham during the last 15-30 minutes of baking. Easy right?

Well this time I'd like to mix it up a little and try a new baked ham recipe. I've been scouring cookbooks and pinterest for some inspiration and here are some ideas I've come up with:

5 Easter Ham Recipes

Source: wonkywonderful

Pineapple Honey Glazed Ham

This is a simple recipe for a glaze that you spread on the ham during the last 20 minutes of baking. I love that it is easy and uses ingredients you already have on hand. And doesn't it just look so YUMMY!

Source: carlsbadcravings

Apple Cider Maple Glazed Ham

Real maple syrup is the secret of this recipe. This recipe suggests brushing the glaze over the ham before you start baking it, wrap it tightly in foil and then bake until the ham reaches the internal temp of 110 degrees F. Just before it is done baking uncover the ham brush another layer of glaze on and crank up the heat so that the glaze caramelizes in the higher temp. Looks amazing! 

Crockpot Brown Sugar and Pineapple Ham

I love using my crockpot - especially when I am preparing a big meal for a dinner party. Not only does it free up space in my oven for other things to cook but it makes for some juicy, flavorful ham! After 6 hours in the crockpot this ham is ready to be served. 

Old Fashioned Ham With Brown Sugar & Mustard Glaze

It doesn't get any more traditional than this for a holiday ham recipe. The combination of honey, mustard, brown sugar and apple cider create a delicious glaze. Just like your mom used to prepare ham right? 

Coca-Cola Glazed Ham With Brown Sugar & Dijon

This recipe is for a bone-in ham NOT spiral sliced ham. Using this for a spiral sliced ham will result in dried out ham and a ruined dinner! But it is an amazing way to prepare a bone-in whole ham. I've make Coke roasts before and they were wonderful so I'm sure using it for a ham glaze will give the same results. 

Next thing to think about is what to do with the leftovers (if there are any)! Don't throw away the ham bone - it makes such a wonderful base for broth that you can use in soups like split pea or bean soup. I even freeze the bone and pull it out later to cook for a few hours just because the broth is so dang good! 

Got any good ham leftover recipes to share? I'd love to hear from you - please leave a comment with your ideas. 

happy holidays,

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Power of Chocolate...A Love Story

Once upon a time a little girl was given a beautiful chocolate bunny in her Easter basket. It was covered in shiny gold foil with painted eyes, whiskers and other whimsical details. It was a treasure of all treasures! 

The little girl, wanting to savor her treat made a plan as to how she would go about consuming the chocolate bunny. A nibble to the ears one day, then the feet the next and onto the tail were part of her well thought out plan. 

Carefully she unwrapped the foil from the ears revealing the smooth shaped chocolate. Sinking her teeth into the top she nibbled away until they were all gone. 

Wrapping the foil over the exposed chocolate bunny head, she placed the uneaten portion into the refrigerator saving it for her after school treat. Off to school she bounded wiping chocolate from the corners of her mouth.

Little did the girl know that this chocolate bunny would cause her mother such irresistible temptation. While left alone at home with only a baby to care for, the mother, smelling the faint chocolate aroma wafting through the kitchen after her daughter's early morning treat, was in a state of utter despair! Her resolve, quickly waning, left her completely as she pulled open the refrigerator door, unwrapped the chocolate bunny and took her first satisfying nibble of the cold, smooth, sweet chocolate. It was decadent. 

Resolving to nibble no more, the mother re-wrapped the chocolate bunny placed it back in the refrigerator and set about caring for the baby. 

However, the temptation to take another small bite returned and she found herself once again enjoying another bite of the chocolate bunny. This routine continued throughout the day until the time came for the little girl to come home from school.  

Leaping off the steps of the bus the little girl skipped happily to her house, opened the door and headed straight to the kitchen where she opened the refrigerator door to get her chocolate bunny. Looking around the shelves for her shiny foil covered bunny the little girl could not find what she was searching for. Tucked away in the back, behind the milk was a small lump of foil covering a chunk of chocolate that appeared to be the feet of what was once a bunny. Snatching up the lump of foil and chocolate the girl raced to find her mother and ask what had happened. 

The mother looked sadly at her daughter and confessed that she had in fact eaten the chocolate bunny. Her sad countenance and repentant heart moved the little girl to forgive her mother and offer the remaining lump of feet to her to eat. The little girl crawled up into her mother's lap and the two of them shared the last of the chocolate bunny together. 

The End.

The events of this story are based upon a real life event. 
The names of the characters have been changed to protect those involved, mainly the mother!

Moral of the story - Forgiveness is powerful but HIDE YOUR CHOCOLATE!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

10 Easter Tablescape Ideas

This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure here.

Our Easter tradition has changed over the years to include a celebration with friends rather than an extended family party. A couple of years ago some close friends invited us over to their house after our Easter church service to have dinner - it was a blast!

Fast forward a few years and this Easter the friend celebration continues. We've added a few more friends and have changed locations a few times but the good food, friendship and fun has remained the same.

Our kids love it too -especially since the families we invite have kids their ages and the day is filled with friends and playing. This year is no exception. We have invited five families over this year to enjoy a good meal, spend time building relationships and playing hard (praying the weather is nice!!). Did I mention that this group consists of 16 (yep) kids!!! So of course I hope the weather is sunny so they can play outside.

With one week to go before the party I'm working on planning some of the details like the table scape, menu and kids games. Today though I wanted to share with you the amazing table scape ideas I've gathered. There are just so many beautiful ways you can decorate for spring and Easter! I also want to be sensitive to the budget so most of these ideas you could totally pull off by using what you have around the house and adding a few store bought (think Dollar Store) items.

10 Beautiful Easter Tablescape Ideas

This table scape incorporates the Easter eggs you colored (I hope) + a large chocolate bunny (which I hope you haven't already devoured!) to make the table look festive. I'm sure you could really get your kids to finish all of their veggies if you promise to let them eat the chocolate bunny after they finish! 

Did you notice those tin cans? I love decorating with empty (and clean) tin cans. I've used them in the past to hold silverware - one for forks, spoons and knives. To make them pretty I've even taped a piece of colorful scrap booking paper around the can which can be changed depending on the type of party (fall, summer, birthday...endless possibilities). 

This idea is so beautiful and powerful all on its own! If you wanted to dress it up a bit you could put a table runner under it or add some flowers and votive candles around it. This would be an easy to make DIY centerpiece that you could have your kids help create too. 

Being the practical girl that I am I can guarantee that this centerpiece would end up as roasted carrots the day after Easter! I love the organic look and the added calla lilies added to the top for an extra pop. 

Can't you just smell the sweet fragrance of hyacinths and other spring flowers when you look at this table scape? 

I think any shaped bowl filled with a little bit of shredded paper, topped with colorful Easter eggs could really make your table scape look beautiful. 

I actually used this similar idea at Christmas time only I used red candles to make it a Christmas theme, Any size glass bowl or vase looks lovely with split peas in them. If you want to make it more colorful you could add a ribbon or change the candle color. Definitely an easy and budget friendly idea. 

Such power and truth! This great Etsy shop has all kinds of table runners available  - check it out. If you like to DIY I think this would be a fairly simple project with minimal supplies or time needed. You could even do a smaller version to hang on your wall.

You know how the saying goes - "Don't put all of your eggs in one basket", well I think this should be the exception! Pastel speckled Easter eggs in an antique wire basket topped with baby's breath makes for a lovely centerpiece and table scape.

Succulents are so easy to care for and look pretty all dressed up in these cute pots for Easter. They are fairly cheap to buy so you could give small potted ones that you used as your table scape away as gifts to your guests when they leave.

I pray you have a wonderful Easter celebration with your friends and family! Drop me a note to tell me what you did for your Easter table scape - maybe you tried something not included on this list - I'd love to hear from you!


Thursday, April 6, 2017

10 Easter Egg Decorating Ideas To Do With Kids

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure statement here.

For as many years as I can remember my family and I have colored Easter eggs. My parents continued this tradition with my kids as soon as the little ones could sit up on their own. I remember my oldest holding onto the cold hard boiled egg and then dropping it into a cup of color  - she was instantly hooked and wanted more.

My mom always boiled 3-4 dozen eggs, brought them over with the egg dye and set up shop at the kitchen table. Thank goodness the eggs were hard boiled - the kids could hardly contain themselves and would DROP the eggs into the bowls or cups of dye, cracking the shells as they hit the bottom.

The eggs were always colorful inside & out!

Since my parents enjoy doing this with the kids I've used this time to sneak out (kid free) for some grocery shopping or an hour all to myself. This year however my parents will be out of the country on a vacation so the egg decorating baton has been passed to me.

I've been working hard to come up with a fun and unique way to decorate eggs with the kids and boy are there a lot of great ideas floating around cyber world (a.k.a Pinterest). Since my kids' ages range between 12 to 4 I needed to find some ideas that would suit all of their abilities but not be too "babyish"  for the older ones or too difficult for the youngest.

I thought I'd share with you my top 10 Easter egg decorating ideas I found in case you happen to be in the same boat I am and are looking for a fun or new way to color Easter eggs with your kids.

1 - Spin Art Easter Eggs

via: hello wonderful

2 - Use Rice to Dye Eggs

via: kid friendly things to do

3 - Sharpie Tie Dye Eggs

via: housing a forest

4 - Chalk Paint Easter Eggs

via: shelterness

5 - Tissue Paper Sparkle Eggs

via: hellowonderful

6 - Natural Dye Easter Eggs

via: just short of crazy

7 - Shaving Cream Dyed Easter Eggs

via: crafty morning

8 - Decorate Eggs with Melted Crayon

via: Jenna Burger

9 - Tye Dye Easter Eggs

via: one little project

10 -  Glittered Eggs

via: a little pinch of perfect

So, here you have it a list of 10 great ideas to color Easter eggs with your kids. I hope the variety will allow you (and me) to find something that will work well with a range of ages (and attention spans!). I might have to to do a few different ideas because my kids are super crafters and love trying new techniques and ideas.

I would love to hear what idea you used to color eggs with your kids! Please leave a comment and tell me what you tried.

- Erin

Monday, April 3, 2017

Ultimate Anne of Green Gables Collection

Amazon Kindle

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure here.

Did you grow up reading these wonderful stories? Maybe you lost yourself in the stories, pretending to personally know Anne as a childhood friend, defending her from the taunts of Gibert Blythe, all while secretly wishing you had red hair? (your secret is safe here!)

Anne of Green Gables has become one of the most famous characters of literature of all time! Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of the "Anne" books created some of the most endearing and unforgettable characters that have charmed and held readers captive as they read about the lives and adventures of Anne, Gilbert, Diana and Matthew & Marilla Cuthbert. 

This 11 year old girl has been the inspiration of many plays, movies and TV shows and continues to inspire readers of all ages. 

Did you know that L.M. Montgomery, a prolific writer, published MANY more stories in addition to the Anne books that are full of her writing style and well developed characters that are a treasure all on their own! 

My girls love to read so after they finished the Anne series of books, that they fell in love with, they naturally wanted more L.M. Montgomery stories to read. They were pleasantly surprised to find the many additional short stories and "off-shoot" stories all written by Montgomery to read. So was I! 

These books are timeless. TIMELESS. And well worth the time you spend reading them - I guarantee it. 

Did you know that you can get the entire collection (excluding a few books that are not yet in the public domain) plus + many of the short stories + additional stories that are offshoots of the original Anne books? Yep - the entire collection for you on Amazon! And at a super low price!

The following link will take you directly to this wonderful collection: Ultimate Anne of Green Gables Collection

Don't wait get your copy now and dive into the life and world of Anne Shirley.