Monday, December 17, 2012

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls

Cookie exchanges are among us! I made these easy peanut butter balls as my contribution to cookie platters for the volunteer teachers who play with and teach LE for two hours on Thursdays. She adores them and often has to be dragged away when the two hours are up.

I found this recipe on Pinterest. Though it took a long time to patiently dip each ball, these were really easy to make and don't use the oven. The nice thing about these is that you can start and stop at any point without affecting the end product.

I imagine you could speed up the dipping process by doing it the way that the original poster does it-- get a big spoonful of chocolate and use your fingers to dip the ball. I'm not keen on using my hands all over the food I'm going to distribute, especially if it's uncooked. Even with washed hands, I feel dirty doing it. That's just me.

To get around rolling the balls in my hands, I quickly made all of the balls with a small portion scoop. Then, I dipped them one by one by balancing a ball on a fork, dipping it into the chocolate,  and scraping the bottom against the edge of the bowl or another fork to remove the excess chocolate.

(Instagram phone photo)
Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Balls
Adapted slightly from this recipe
Makes approximately 70 balls

You can easily scale this down or up depending on your needs. It's wise to have some extra chocolate chips handy in the event that you run out. I used 1 3/4 bags total.

1 jar smooth peanut butter, 18 oz (I used Simply Jif)
4 tbs butter, melted
1 lb (approx 3 cups) powdered sugar
3 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1 bag milk chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao)

In a large bowl, mix together (by hand with a sturdy spoon or by electric mixer) peanut butter, melted butter, and powdered sugar. Add the cereal and stir/mix until a ball. Add more peanut butter if you need more glue or powdered sugar if it's too sticky. (I didn't need to do any adjustments.)

Scoop with a small 1 1/2 tsp portion scoop the peanut butter mixture onto a lined cookie sheet or two (parchment paper, wax paper, or Silpat all work). Alternatively, roll into a ball in your hands 1 1/2 tsp of the mixture.

In a heatproof small bowl, heat together half of each type of chocolate in the microwave. Start at one minute on 50% power, stir, then 30 second 50% power increments until it's all completely melted and smooth. (Alternatively, use a double-boiler or glass bowl over a saucepan with barely simmering water).

Using a fork or your fingers, dip the balls one by one into the bowl, scrape and drip off the excess chocolate, and place on the lined cookie sheet. Continue with all the balls, reheating the chocolate as needed.

If you desire to add sprinkles, do a few at a time so that the chocolate isn't too soft (the sprinkles will slide down) or hard (they won't stick).

Refrigerate until the chocolate is completely firm then store in an airtight container in the fridge. These can be eaten at room temp or cold. These also freeze well.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Granola Nut Clusters

It's not secret that I follow the Smitten Kitchen blog and love almost all of the recipes that I've made from there. Deb recently posted the recipe for these granola nut clusters, and I have to spread the word. I made these 5 times in one week because everyone who had them said they loved them and wanted the recipe.

I was surprised by how fast and easy these were. It only takes a food processor, 5-10 minutes of hands on time, and 20-30 minutes in the oven.  I like to save for breakfast the leftover granola that doesn't stick to the nut after baking. You could give these as neighbor gifts in lieu of sweets. I'm sure you'd be thanked!

Since I really didn't change the recipe from how it was written, I'm going to just send you to Smitten Kitchen to see how they're done.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

the first (real) snow

It snowed our first real snow of the season on Sunday, December 9. We have had a couple of days of flurries before, but this was the first snow that actually accumulated.

John took Monday off of work since he has been traveling so much lately, and we got to build our first ever snowman. The snow packed well and was the perfect type for building a snowman.

LE had a wardrobe malfunction and lost her mittens. It looks like she's holding an invisible snowball here, but I really think she was just brushing the snow off of her hands.

Fast forward a ball or two, and here's John putting on the finishing touches! Coal for the eyes and buttons, a carrot for the nose, and cranberries for the mouth. We don't live near many trees, so we don't have arms yet. We did bring home some of LE's "trees" from the tree farm; maybe we could add those in later.

Here are the proud snowman creators with the finished product. The snowman looks really cute in our backyard.

Speaking of really cute, we can't forget Hannah! She was there, too. It's not really all that easy to take photos and try to rock a baby at the same time.

During LE's nap, John went out to buy a super tall ladder to put up our Christmas lights. H and I helped (mostly moral support mixed with a little ladder support). We snapped a couple of photos with our phone.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

trimming the tree & cookies with friends

John left for a trip the day after we brought our glorious tree inside, so I set up the tripod to capture just a couple of photos of the girls and me. I wasn't going for award-winning photos here; I just wanted to document that I was, in fact, present, too! 

LE and I decorated our tree together while Hannah napped. This was the only time that she was allowed to touch the tree. Surprisingly, this hasn't even been a temptation for her.

After the last ornament was hung, LE snatched up her whole collection of nativity kings and Christmas sock monkeys (she has 4) and demanded, "Take a picture!"

We then went to my friend Monica's house for a quick cookie decorating playdate. Monica has two kiddos-- Oliver and Natalie-- whom LE adores. "Olligar" is a year older than LE, and "Nallie" is a year younger. 

In case you weren't aware, decorating cookies is very serious business.

Advent traditions are well underway!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Picking out our tree

A couple of weeks ago, we went as a family to pick out our tree from a cute little tree farm just up the road. We have always gotten table top trees in the past, so this was our first year to go cut down our own. Actually, two years ago we went to this same farm to cut down a tree. It had just snowed and was beautiful, but the crowds coupled with sticker shock scared us away.

We went on a weekday this year, and we were the only ones there, which is a good thing because we had no idea what we wanted. LE picked out this "tree."

Hannah was unsure. ;)

We continued to look a little bit longer until we found the perfect one. 

Here she is!

We made our way back to the barn.

One of us got a little distracted.

The lady there shared with us that if you have a nest fall from your tree, you'll have good luck.

We waited as the Shakee shook the loose needles and potential nests out of the tree.

Annnd, we got one! (LE doesn't care.)

John and the lady bound it up.

 And got it on the car.


Monday, November 26, 2012

how they'll remember Daddy

John left today, Sunday, in the middle of the day to catch his flight to New York for work. It was a different feeling having him leave today instead of Monday morning. 

People who know me personally know that John travels just about every week for work. Many kids grow up with a dad who is absent and tries to replace his time with gifts. That is not how our kids will remember their dad.

Even though John travels so much, he is more of a dad than most dads are who don't travel. He gives himself to our family 100% when he's home. 

Our girls are going to remember a dad who 
  • gets down on the floor to build intricate towers from Duplos. 
  • isn't afraid to be dressed up with scarves and shimmery purses ready to crown his daughter Princess Gobah of the Land of Building Blocks and Measuring Tape. 
  • throws epic parties with wooden cupcakes and made up songs. 
  • eats soup made of magnetic letters and looks up recipes online on a computer that doesn't turn on.
  • looks them in the eye with an expression of eager anticipation of what's going to come out of their mouths. 
  • flies them into their rooms having them flap their wings to get there
  • throws and kicks balls with them outside or up the stairs.
  • helps them jump over the moon.
  • shows creativity in the games they play and doesn't quash the creativity of his girls.
  • sweeps them up when they fall to give magical healing kisses or an ice pack "cold Elmo" to make things better.
  • remembers the order of obligatory songs each night and sings them as if it wasn't the millionth time.
  • helps overcome moments of shyness and fear by practicing how to be courageous.
  • cheers with pride when they do something for the first time.
  • stands by his word and follows through his promises.
  • plays hide and seek over and over. 
  • throws dance parties to homemade xylophone music.
  • greets them with excitement every time they enter the room.
  • experiences life with them in the same sense of wonder that they have.
  • loves them deeply and unabashedly.

Our girls are lucky to have a dad like John. And I'm blessed to have him as my husband.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

celebrating Christmas all month long!

This year, I somehow managed to get all of my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving, leaving the month of December for us to concentrate on things other than worrying what to give to others. Yes, I love giving thoughtful gifts, but adding that on top of an already busy month makes it less fun than just shopping alone.

This year will be the first year that LE will start to enjoy the festivities of the season. I have a calendar [almost] full of activities for every day as well as an Advent scripture-based reading to do. There are some free Jesse Tree resources that I thought we'd do, but then I came across Truth in the Tinsel, which is aimed at kids closer to LE's age. It has a daily craft and scripture reading. I'm really looking forward to it.

Image source

We will be doing Elf on the Shelf (see last year's roundup if you're doing that, too) for the first time, but with a little different twist than it's intended. Instead of the elf doing naughty antics or reporting back to Santa, she'll be a clue to what we're doing for the day. For example, if we're planning on watching a Christmas movie together, the elf will be on the DVD player reaching down to push play. Or, if we are going to do snow angels outside, LE will find the elf making a snow angel out of flour on the counter. If we are going to do a painting craft, the elf will be holding the supplies. Hopefully, the elf will be a fun game of hide and seek that LE will enjoy playing every day with the added bonus of an activity.

Here are some of our planned activities:
  • Cut down/choose our Christmas tree
  • Decorate the tree
  • Decorate coffee mugs using porcelain pens
  • Watch a Christmas movie together in Mommy & Daddy's bed
  • Make snow angels
  • Go sledding
  • Make snowman
  • Make mint scented playdough
  • Make cornstarch ornaments (like salt dough but comes out bright white)
  • Decorate Christmas cookies with church
  • Drive around to look at Christmas lights
  • Make s'mores in our fire pit
  • Decorate gingerbread houses or ice cream cone Christmas trees
  • Shop for a kid on the angel tree
  • Make footprint Christmas trees and reindeer faces
  • (Truth in the Tinsel has daily crafts that correspond with the reading, too)

Do you have a favorite tradition or activity for this time of year? Be sure to let me know if I missed something!