Thursday, June 12, 2014

Favorite Children's Websites

Favorite Children's Websites!

I decided to compile a list of my favorite and my children's favorite websites.  These are websites we visit often.  Some of them are educational and some are just for fun.  A lot of these I had no idea about when I was a teacher and I definitely wish I had!  I have gotten so many great ideas from many of these websites and I will be using them as part of my homeschool curriculum with my own kids.

We Give Books
My kids love being read to and this website hits the spot.  It's free to join and all of the content on the website is free.  There are books for different age groups and different interests.  The creators of this website do a Summer Reading Program with tons of different book options and links to specific activities you can do with your child while you're reading a book.  A lot of the books you find on the website are from popular series, such as Skippyjon Jones, Tinga Tinga Tales and the Spot books.,
Where children have fun learning to read!    Starfall

I have been using this site with my oldest son ever since he was tiny.  It's a great way to introduce letters, letter sounds, numbers and colors and it's free.  The first time I was introduced to this site was while I was taking a college course in special education and I ended up using it in my classroom on a regular basis.  So many people I know have loved this website and it's great for kids of all interests and abilities.

PBS Kids
My kids love the games, movies and coloring pages on this website.  Each of the item on this website goes along with a PBS show.

Tumble Book
Tumble Book is a great website filled with read aloud stories.  My oldest is a new reader and I love that the website highlights the words of the story as the stories are being read aloud.  Most of the stories are ones I have never heard of but are crowd pleasers.  Something I love about this website is that with a number of the stories there is a A/R point level, a grade level, a lexile level and/or a common core standard.  Activities are also included with some of the books.  This is a paid website, but I do know some libraries have paid subscriptions through their websites.

Storyline Online and Read to Me 
These premise behind these websites are very similar so I decided to put them together.  In both websites there are celebrities reading the books aloud.  There is something so funny in seeing some of the celebrities you've seen play serious roles in movies and on TV, get incredibly silly while reading a children's book.  One thing the website Read to Me has that Storyline Online doesn't is lesson plans that go along with the different stories. 

I hope you enjoy these websites as much as my children and I do!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Parmesan Broccoli

This is one my favorite new recipes.  It's definitely been a real crowd pleaser at my house.  I've always had a hard time getting my son to eat vegetables, but he absolutely loves this.  Broccoli is now his favorite vegetable.  Yay!   The wonderful thing about this recipe is that it doesn't have to be used with just broccoli.  I've replaced the broccoli with green beans and it is just as amazing. 

This recipe is definitely going to be going into my holiday recipe list. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does!

Parmesan Broccoli (adapted from Six Sisters Stuff)
2 cups broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/3 cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place all of the broccoli into a large bowl and drizzle with the olive oil.  Sprinkle with garlic salt and mix everything together.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread the broccoli mixture on top of the aluminum foil.

Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Place back into a bowl as soon as you can and mix with parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Oatmeal Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies


Apparently my love of fall is not just limited to decorating, but has also grown to include the flavors of fall.  I have seriously grown to love pumpkin.  It doesn't match my love of cheesecake, but it's up there and it's tied with anything caramel and apples.

I combined 2 or 3 different recipes to make these oatmeal pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  I love the flavor of the chocolate and the pumpkin mixed together, but these would also be fantastic with just the pumpkin flavor alone. 

Oatmeal Pumpkin Chocolate ChipCookies
2 1/2 c. quick-cooking oatmeal
2 c. flour, spooned and leveled
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
1 1/4 c. lightly packed light brown sugar
1 c. sugar
1 T. vanilla extract
1 c. pumpkin puree
2 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 and 1/2 t. cornstarch
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. (1.5 stick) butter, melted
1 and 1/2 c. chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with non-stick spray or line with parchment paper.

In a large mixing place the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice all together.

In a separate bowl, mix together the melted butter, light brown sugar and white sugar.  Mix until no brown sugar lumps remain.  Whisk in the egg, the egg yolk and the vanilla extract. Mix in the pumpkin.   Combine the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients.

Mix in the chocolate chips and oatmeal.  Allow to chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 11-12 minutes. Let stand for approximately 3 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spicy Corn Dip

Happy Fall Y'All
My absolute favorite season is fall.  I love the colors of fall and I try to decorate my house with fall colors whenever I can get away with it.  One of the things I also think of about in the fall is tailgating and watching sports.  I'm not really a fan of football (sorry, I'm more of a hockey fan) but I do love the food.  I also enjoy making a meal out of appetizers.
The other thing that goes along with fall is the cold weather and lots of activities.  My kids are in 3 different activities and add that to homeschool and life can get pretty busy so anything quick and easy is perfect.
This is one of those dips that you can make as spicy as you prefer.  I enjoy it less spicy so I used the mild rotel, but you can make it as spicy as you like.  I know some people who would love this with jalapenos or chopped up chili peppers in adobo sauce.
Spicy Corn Dip
1 can white corn, drained
1 can yellow corn, drained
4 oz. cream cheese
1 can rotel, drained
1/2 t. ground chili pepper
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. garlic
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 bag tortilla chips, I prefer Fritos

Mix all ingredients together, except the chips, in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave in 1 minute intervals until the cream cheese and cheddar cheese are melted.  Serve with chips for dipping.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Disney Princess Cake

My little girl turned 3 recently.  How did that happen?  She absolutely adores the Disney princess so I decided to make her a princess castle cake and put on all of the Disney princesses.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture before my youngest took all of the towers off of the castle. 

Keeping the kids away from the castle and not playing with the castle was the biggest struggle I had with the cake.  My youngest especially thought this castle was for playing.  She didn't quite understand that this for eating.  By the time we were actually ready to eat the cake, the princesses had been moved to several different spots.

My daughter already had the Disney princesses and they were the perfect size to be cake toppers.  The castle was made with rice krispy treats, gumpaste and fondant. The cake itself is covered in fondant.  The rocks that you see at the bottom of the cake are chocolate rocks.  They looked incredibly realistic but tasted wonderful.

It's hard to see in this picture, but the half circle portions of the grass are imprinted using a vine imprinted roller.  I thought it brought a touch of elegance and I can't wait to use that roller again.

I'm kicking myself because one thing I didn't think of until later was that I could have used small waffle cones for the roofs of the towers.  That would have saved myself a lot of aggravation from having to mold the rice krispy treats into points.  That also would have probably been easier to cover in fondant and would have created a neat pattern through the fondant.  Oh well, next time. 


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

I adore these muffins.  My kids love anything chocolate and they always think they're getting a treat when they can eat chocolate for breakfast.  The amazing thing about these muffins is that they don't have a lot of sugar.  These muffins are with unsweetened applesauce, honey and Greek yogurt.
The other thing I adore about these muffins, besides the chocolatey goodness, is that they are easy to make.  I've made these with the help of my 3 kids and even though some of the ingredients amounts didn't get put into the batter perfectly (somehow additional flour, sugar and chocolate always get added when baking with my kids) the muffins still turned out to be amazing.
Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Muffins (source: Sally's Baking Addiction)
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 large egg whites (or 1 large egg)
3/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt (or regular yogurt, plain or vanilla)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, plus a few more for sprinkling on top

  1. Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Spray 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray. Do not use liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the applesauce, sugar, honey, egg whites, greek yogurt, and vanilla extract.  Whisk all together.
  3. Sift  the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together. Slowly stir in the wet ingredients, being careful not to overmix.  Fold in the mini chocolate chips. The batter may look a little chunky.  This is alright.
  4. Divide the batter evenly amount 12 liners - fill them all the way to the top if you can. Bake for 5 minutes at 425F. Keeping the muffins in the oven, reduce the temperature down to 375 and continue to bake for 13 more minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center of one muffin. If it comes out clean, they are done. If not, bake for only 2 more minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Crockpot Enchilada Casserole

I love this casserole.  It's quick to throw together and it delicious.  The first time I ever saw this recipe was on the The Crockin' Girls website.  If you've never checked them out before I highly recommend them.  They provide videos and recipes once a week and they have a ton of slow cooker recipes on their site. 
The original recipe looked delicious, but I made a few changes to fit my family's preferences.  The original recipe had ground turkey, but I changed that to ground beef.  You could also use sausage, shredded chicken or shredded beef.  I also changed the corn tortillas to flour tortillas.  I've always preferred flour tortillas to corn tortillas, especially when it comes to leftovers, but it's whichever you prefer.  I've also used taco seasoning when I make this recipe, although I like it without as well.
The original recipe also calls for this to be cooked on LOW for 3 hours.  My slow cooker only takes about 2 hours or I find it gets burned.  My slow cooker runs hotter so it doesn't take as long as some of the recipes call for.  The cooking time will vary depending on your slow cooker.
Crockpot Enchilada Casserole
1/2 onion chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 T. cumin, or to taste (or leave out the cumin and replace with 1 package taco seasoning and 2/3 c. water)
1/2 c. light sour cream
2 c. low fat cottage cheese
5-10 flour tortillas
2 c. mozzarella cheese or Mexican cheese
1 (10 oz) can mild red enchilada sauce
Cook onion until tender and then add the ground beef.  Cook until the ground beef is cooked through.  Add the cumin or taco seasoning and water (the water isn't needed unless adding the taco seasoning) to meat mixture halfway through cooking the meat. 
In a mixing bowl, combine the sour cream and cottage cheese.  Mix in the meat mixture.  Mix well.
Spray the crockpot with non stick cooking spray.  In layers, line the bottom of the slow cooker with the flour tortillas. 
Spread half of the meat and cheese mixture on top of the flour tortillas. Sprinkle with a layer of mozzarella cheese or Mexican cheese.  Top with a layer of flour tortillas.  Cover with remaining meat and cheese mixture.  Sprinkle a layer of mozzarella or Mexican cheese on top.  Cover with a layer of flour tortillas.  Pour the red enchilada sauce on top and sprinkle with a final layer of mozzarella or Mexican cheese.  Cook on LOW for 3-4 hours.
Turn the heat off and let sit for 10 - 15 minutes to let the sauce thicken.