Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Nest Treats

These easter nests are made from those dried chow mein noodles that you probably haven't had since the early 1980s. When I went looking for these a few years back, I was surprised they were still around. It brought back some bad memories of childhood canned chow mein dinners, but at least these were the tasty part of those convenience dinners gone awry.
There are a lot of recipes with different variations of easter nest treats, but the best recipe, by far, is the one adapted by my sister from a twenty-year-old recipe. Here is a link to her blog with a better picture of the nests. The only thing I changed from her version is that I used chunky peanut butter instead of creamy, and I always make these with Cadbury chocolate eggs. As much as I love jelly beans, they just don't work as well with this recipe.

Melt 1/4 cup butter and 4 1/2 cups (1 bag) of mini marshmallows over medium heat, stirring until smooth. Stir in 1/4 cup peanut butter and 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips until melted.
 Remove from heat and stir in 4 cups of the chow mein noodles. When you stir this up, it's going to look like something went wrong. It'll be all sticky and stringy, but don't worry, it will be fine.

Dip your hands in cold water to prevent the stickies and make 18 nests on waxed paper. Leave an indentation in the middle large enough to place two or three of the Cadbury eggs. That's it! Easy and delicious.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Small Traditions

Women's World Magazine interviewed me the other day on tips for bringing families closer together and deepening bonds. I started naming ideas from my new book 52 Activities for Family Fun, and some other ideas I've come up with recently, drawn from my new-grandma status. After the interview was over, I realized almost all the ideas I felt had meaning had something to do with tradition. None of the things were big and expensive; on the contrary, they were small, sometimes silly, things.

This hit home again yesterday, when I woke up on my birthday morning anticipating the expected joys of the day: A well-chosen card from my husband (he is the master of card-choosing), Cadbury creme eggs (which I was going to buy for myself, but my daughter Brennyn beat me to the punch by sending me some through the mail), enchiladas for dinner, flowers, and a card mocking my age from my teenage son (along with a very sweet note). These are the things that cause me to look forward to the day, because they are, well, expected. Chevy's Fresh Mex and the scratch-and-sniff-better-with-age-stinky-cheese card, are, by themselves, not the stuff dreams are made of, but they are the fabric of birthdays past, present, and future.

I used to think I failed my children in the tradition area, because we moved around so much when they were small, and their lives were radically changed when I became a single mother and we eventually blended with another family, but it turns out it was a few simple traditions that I kept in tact that seemed to matter. When my husband and I traveled to Idaho to visit my daughter and her husband this Christmas, they made tortilla soup on Christmas Eve and planned cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, the two things I had always made. I was also excited that they also followed the tradition of present-opening on Christmas Eve. It was a surreal feeling, a manifestation of what she carried with her from her childhood.

Things inevitably evolve and change over the years, and that's OK. I went on a ten-mile run in the morning (which I wouldn't have dreamed of doing, ever, when I was younger) so I could afford the indulgences of the day, and also as a kick in the pants to Father Time, and I plan to do something similar every year until I can't do it any more. There's always room for new traditions, but I'll probably always look forward to those silly cards and enchiladas.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Triple Slow Cooker

 I've always been a fan of slow cookers, so imagine how excited I was when I found this baby at Target for less than $40.00. A triple slow cooker! With a traditional slow cookers, the convenience of a make-ahead dish was offset by still having to make vegetables or other side dishes at dinnertime. With this triple version, I can make the entire meal in the morning, and there is truly nothing else to do when we are ready to eat. Each pot has its own control and a wire stand for the lid. I'm in love with this thing!

 Here is my favorite meal using my new favorite kitchen toy: chicken thighs and legs with seasoning salt, green beans and baked potatoes. Did you know you can bake potatoes in a slow cooker? I was skeptical when I saw this on Pinterest, but I gave it a try, and they turn out great. Prepare them just like you would if you were going to bake them, foil and all, and put them in the slow cooker.