Hippity Hop-pity, Easter’s on It’s Way: Easter Bunny Garden with Peeps

My Mom always sang us the “Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail” song around this time. And, between her and Grammy, we were sure to have plenty of candy, including Peeps! I honestly don’t think you can have Easter without these sugary, marshmallowy, packages of cuteness.

Yesterday, I needed to make a run for some labels at Dollar Tree and, as I expected, the Easter section sucked me in. Have I ever told you that I’m in love with the Dollar Tree? So many wonderful things only priced at a dollar. I got some extra-fun goodies for Easter baskets so it was a successful trip, especially since I managed to get the labels, which is what I made the trip for.

I also bought some peeps and some gummy carrots. I have been waiting on an opportune time to make “dirt cups” with pudding and some crushed up brownies I had leftover in the freezer for a while. The moment I saw the peeps next to the carrots, I knew it was the perfect time to put these gardens together for the kiddos.

Easter Bunny Garden with PeepsAnna was super excited and helpful with our fun little project. Thank goodness it was an easy one…. although we did have quite a bit of “dirt” on the floor.

We made the chocolate pudding together and processed the brownies. Anna got to scoop the “dirt” (processed brownies crumbs) into the bottom and top of the dishes. Then she got to top the garden off with a gummy carrot and a Peep.  You can use processed Oreos too but I needed to use the brownies and they were tastier than the Oreos I’ve used for this in the past.

Anna’s last job was to lick the bowl. I wish I’d taken a picture of her chocolate-covered face because it was adorable and disgusting at the same time!

Easter Bunny Garden with PeepsEveryone except Kate dug into their cup o’ dirt (She oddly enough doesn’t really like sweets much. It’s mind boggling that she’s mine!). Kate actually spit it out and said “Yuck, dirt!”

Even Garen enjoyed them. Ok, maybe not the Peep or the gummy carrot but he quickly ate the rest of it. The smiles and laughs made it all worth the time…and honestly, this was a pretty easy dessert/craft project. That’s the best of both worlds!

Enjoy!!!

This post is all my own opinions.  I’m not getting a kick-back from Peeps or Dollar Tree.  I just happen to be a satisfied customer.  
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Brunswick Stew- Instant Pot Style

This recipe was Garen’s request for me to make in the Instant Pot so it was the first recipe that required more than 3 ingredients. I was a little leery since I’d never had Brunswick Stew and didn’t even know what to expect. As I always do when cooking something I don’t have a go-to recipe for, I went to Pinterest. I didn’t find an Instant Pot version I liked but I did find this slow cooker version from Rosie at i heart Recipes. I used this for an “outline” and tweeked it to work for what I had and to cook in the Instant Pot.

This recipe is fantastic. Really. I can’t make it up. Garen thought it was the best recipe I’ve ever made. The littles even liked it, making it even better in my book!!!

I used the Easiest Pulled Pork Ever recipe and shredded chicken that I made earlier in the day for it. You could easily use another recipe or even store-bought pulled pork.

Here it is- Brunswick Stew, Instant Pot Style

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Pulled Pork
  • 2 Cups shredded chicken
  • 1 Red onion, diced
  • 1 Can Roasted Diced Tomatoes
  • 6 Cups Chicken broth (I substituted 1 cup for juice from the pulled pork to use what I had)
  • Frozen okra, 12 oz
  • Frozen peas, 6 oz (half bag)
  • Frozen corn, 12 oz
  • Frozen lima beans, 12 oz
  • 3 Small sweet potatoes, pealed and cubed
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 Cup BBQ sauce (I used half Rudy’s and half Sweet Baby Ray’s since that all I had)
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2-1/2 tsp Seasoning salt
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Black pepper

Instructions:

  • Add all of the ingredients into the 8 qt Instant Pot bowl (if your Instant Pot is smaller, you may have to adjust the recipe to not fill it past the max fill)
  • Mix all ingredients very well
  • Put the lid on, close it completely, and close the vent
  • Press Manual setting and set for 15 minutes. It will take a long time to get pressured because it will be almost to the max fill line. It will shift from On to the number of minutes remaining to cook
  • Once time is up, let it natural release for 10 minutes before opening the lid.  This ensures the meat is tender and juicy.
  • Open the lid. Check to make sure the potatoes are cooked completely. The meat was already cooked so the main thing is that you’re letting the veggies cook and that everything soaked up the wonderful flavors.
  • Enjoy.

Like I said, this stuff is wonderful. It’s not your typical soup/stew and I’m soooo glad Garen wanted me to try this recipe out!

Happy Instant Potting!

Instant Pot- the Easiest Pulled Pork Ever!

After the boiled eggs, I was ready to get started on something a little more challenging and Garen had been talking about Brunswick Stew for months, so I had to have pulled pork for that to happen.  Back to Pinterest I went to find a recipe.

Skip back to yesterday though….While at Sam’s Club, we found this spice rub:  Weber Smoky Brown Sugar Rub.  For a little over $5, I figured it was worth a try, so we brought it home.  As I was looking at the recipes I found for Instant Pot pulled pork, I started to think that this rub might be just the right thing for us to try out rather than making my own from a ton of different spices.

Instant Pot- The Easiest Pulled Pork EverAnd, let me tell you….I was right!  (I love being right- especially about cooking.)  It made amazing pulled pork and it was super easy.  That’s a win-win in my books.  Without further introduction….here it is:  the recipe for the Easiest Pulled Pork Ever.

Ingredients:

  • 8 lbs Pork Butt (we used two 4 lb cuts with bone):  Garen de-boned it and cut it into small pieces for me.  We saved the bones to cook with later.
  • 6 tbsp Weber Smoky Brown Sugar
  • 1- 1/4 Cup Water

Instructions:

  • De-bone and trim fat on the pork butt and cut it into smaller pieces.  They don’t have to be exactly the same size.
  • Put the meat into the Instant Pot bowl.
  • Sprinkle the Weber rub in the bowl over the meat and toss it around.  Using a pair of tongs works well to coat the meat.
  • Add the water.
  • Put the bowl into the Instant Pot and click the lid into place.  Set the vent to seal.
  • Select Manual and set time to 110 minutes.  It will start with saying “On” until it is pressurized and then it starts the count down from there.
  • When time is up, let it natural release for 40 minutes before opening the lid.  This ensures the meat is tender and juicy.
  • Open the lid.  Transfer the meat to another bowl to shred*.  You may choose to save the juices to serve with it or use for other purposes.**
  • This made a little over 8 cups of shredded pulled pork.  Using more or less meat will obviously yield a different amount.

Instant Pot- The Easiest Pulled Pork EverFantastic.  That’s what this recipe is.  I know it seems like I’m tooting my own horn but I can’t take all of the credit for it.  I attribute a lot of it to the Weber Smoky Brown Sugar (no, I’m not selling it or getting anything from this- not even free rub!)  The process of cooking and times I learned from Allergy Free Alaska.  If you can’t find the Weber rub, I’m quite sure that the rub in that recipe will work wonderfully as well.  Check their blog out because they’ve got lots of other great recipes.

Seriously, folks- don’t wait.  If you’ve not tried cooking pulled pork in your Instant Pot, DO IT.  You will NOT regret it!  Plus, pulled pork is so versatile that it can be used in a TON of recipes.  I’ll soon be posting the Instant Pot Brunswick Stew that was also sinfully good.

Shredding Meat the Easy Way

*I dare to say that I found the easiest way to shred meat today…..tender meat at least:  with my Kitchen Aid mixer.  Yes, I pulled the meat out of the Instant Pot and placed it directly into my mixer bowl.  Turned it on for a couple seconds and, wa-la:  perfectly pulled pork.  Better than I ever could’ve done myself and with WAY less time spent!  And cleaner, with less risk of being burned.

**1 Cup of the juice I used inside the Instant Pot Brunswick Stew.

Happy Instant Potting!  Stay tuned for more as I experiment….

Sweet Sunday: Easy Banana Bread

Today I had a few very ripe bananas and decided to make a little tasty treat for the family. My Grammy mailed this recipe to me when I was in college, along with $5 to buy a pound of butter and a loaf pan. Great memories and pretty great recipe too. It seems like we never end up eating all of our bananas before they get too ripe to eat, so this makes me feel better than wasting food. Waste not, want not, right?!? Plus, it makes for a great easy breakfast or snack for the kiddos. 

I cherish the note on the back. Grammy cracked and shelled thousands of pounds of pecans by hand in her lifetime. Almost every single recipe made with pecans was made with “her” pecans- she’d bag pounds each year to keep in the freezer. 

Enough reminiscing. You want the recipe, right?!? Here it is:

Easy Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3 Medium ripe bananas
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 Cup Butter, melted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1-1/2 Cup flour
  • Optional: 1/2 to 1 Cup pecans (I’ve omitted them in these photos because the kids prefer it without- personally, I think it’s better WITH the pecans)

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Prepare loaf pan or mini loaf pan (this is what I usually use- 3 out of 4 loafs) using spray of your choice. I like Bakers Choice (or something like that with flour included)
  • I put my ripe bananas in first and turn on my mixer until they’re well beaten. You could mash if you want. 
  • Add sugar, egg, and melted butter. Mix well. 
  • Add salt and baking soda. Mix. 
  • Slowly add flour. 
  • Mix and scrape bottom of bowl to be sure it’s all mixed in. 
  • Pour into either your loaf pan or 3 mini-loaf pans. 
  • If using a loaf pan, bake 40-45 mins or until toothpick comes out clean. If using mini-loaf pans (like my Wilton one pictured above) bake 30 mins. 
  • Cool slightly before removing. 

Enjoy- maybe with a little butter- because everything is better with butter!Yes, I got to enjoy my coffee for about twenty minutes today. It was AMAZING! And the mug…that’s from a Disney trip and my daddy bought it for me because I will always be his princess! Are you hungry yet? I’m trying not to go eat another slice… I keep telling myself, “It’s for the kids. It’s for the kids.” I’m not sure how long that will last. I will say that this is a very kid-approved recipe. Look at that smirk. She almost looks like she got caught in the cookie jar. Truth is- she ate Will’s slice before he had a chance. 

I hope your Sunday was as sweet as ours!

Sunday Sweets: Blonde Brownies

UPDATE: So I guess I really am blonde (pun soooo intended).  I just realized that I’ve already posted this recipe. I guess I thought it was just that good. The post is pretty much the same thing but maybe a little better photos if you want to check it out. Sorry ’bout that folks! Happy baking anyway!

This is one of my very favorite recipes. Here’s why:

  • Super easy
  • I almost always have everything that it calls for
  • Everyone loves them
  • Quick prep and cooking
  • Taste great
  • Who doesn’t like chocolate chips?!?
  • It was a recipe my Grammy made very often and it’s in one of my handwritten cookbooks from her. It originally was from Marty Henkes, a dear family friend.

Enough about why. You probably want to know how to make them. You won’t regret it.



Ingredients
:

  • 2 C Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2/3 C Butter
  • 1/4 tsp soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 C flour
  • 1 small pckg semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cream sugar and butter.
  • Add other ingredients except flour and chocolate chips.
  • Once blended, slowly add flour and mix.
  • Spread batter into greased pan. It will be very thick and it’s ok if it doesn’t go all the way to the side on the pan- it will expand as it bakes.
  • Top the batter with chocolate chips- try to spread them evenly.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  • Cool slightly before cutting into squares.

Enjoy. You better taste one before you serve them because they won’t last long and you may not get one! But beware…it may be hard to stop with just one. I actually think I may let Garen cut them next time just so I don’t sneak too many!

Overnight Blueberry French Toast

This is a recipe that I traditionally make for our Christmas breakfast at home because I can make it the night or day before and also because it’s super easy. It leaves me free to enjoy some coffee before the kids get up while it’s baking. As if that’s not enough, it’s also very versatile. You could use other fruit or even no fruit to suit your family’s tastes (or what you’ve got on hand)

Ingredients for French Toast 

  • 16 slices of day old French bread* cubed (usually about a loaf and a half for me, depending on size)
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup 
  • 1 tbsp vanilla 
  • 2- 8 oz packages cream cheese cubed
  • 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (but thawed)

Ingredients for Blueberry Sauce 

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch 
  • 1 cup blueberries 

Instructions for French Toast the night before:

  • Grease a large casserole dish
  • Cut French bread into cubes, about 1 to 1.5 inches. Put them in the bottom of the dish. 
  • Cube the 1 package of cream cheese into .5 to 1 inch pieces. Layer the pieces on top of the bread cubes, dispersing it evenly. 
  • Sprinkle 1 cup of blueberries on top of the bread and cream cheese. 
  • Repeat layering one time. 
  • In a large bowl, beat eggs. 
  • Add milk, vanilla and syrup to the eggs. Mix thoroughly. 
  • Pour egg mixture evenly over the French toast. 
  • Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. 

Instructions for French Toast the next morning:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Remove French toast from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. 
  • Bake covered for 30 minutes. 
  • Uncover and continue baking an additional 30-45 minutes or until baked all the way through. 
  • Remove and top with Blueberry Sauce. See instructions below. 
  • Serve hot. 

Instructions for the Blueberry Sauce:

  • Bring water, sugar, and cornstarch to a boil, stirring constantly. 
  • Add blueberries and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes or until blueberries burst. 
  • Pour the syrup evenly over the baked French toast. 
  • This can be made the night before too. You just need to reheat it before pouring it on the baked French toast. 


*Whenever I’m at the grocery store, I will buy the day old bread and keep it in the freezer for French toast and dressing recipes. You can use almost any type of bread you’ve got on hand. I’ve even used leftover cinnamon rolls to make overnight French toast before. 

This is a family favorite and makes a lot, so it’s great for a crowd or if you want leftovers. It freezes fairly well. I paired it with Cheesy Bacon Quiche but also sometimes do other egg related casseroles to provide some protein and even the sweetness out. 

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do! Oh, and Happy New Years Eve!!!

Repurposing Food: Strawberry Cheesecake Trifle 

This is another repurposing recipe. When I say recipe, I really mean more like guidelines for making something you need to get rid of look good. See another post for another similar trifle

I had some leftover pound cake in the freezer and wanted to fix something with it and incorporate cheesecake….because who doesn’t like cheesecake. I also had some frozen strawberries and cool whip in the freezer. And so this trifle was born. 

Ingredients 

  • Pound cake- about 6 cups cut into cubes*
  • Frozen sliced strawberries- 6 cups**
  • Cream cheese- 2 packages, 16 oz
  • Cool whip- oz package
  • Sugar- 2 cups, divided 

Instructions 

  • Mix strawberries with 1 cup of sugar. Microwave if they’re still frozen. 
  • Cream the cream cheese with 1 cup of sugar. 
  • Beat cool whip into cream cheese mixture. 
  • Cut up pound cake. 
  • Layer about half of the pieces of cake into the bottom of the trifle dish. 
  • Spoon about half of the strawberries on top of the cake. 
  • Spoon about half of the cream cheese mixture on top of the strawberries. 
  • Repeat layers. 
  • Optional- sprinkle the top with sprinkles. 

*You could use pretty much any kind of cake that you want. I will sometimes use angel food and it works well too for trifles. 

**You can use fresh strawberries if you have them and want to slice them. I was going for speed and what I had on hand. Also, it’s a really sweet dish, so if you don’t want that either eliminate or reduce the sugar for the strawberries. 

Trifles are always a hit with the kids…anything pudding-like is a crowd pleaser at our house. Add sprinkles and your golden. This was part of our Christmas menu, so red and green sprinkles did the trick. 

Again, the thing I like about trifles is that you can pretty much put anything in there that you want (or need to get rid of). Here’s a few idea variations as well.