Saturday, November 29, 2014

Birthday Prezzie: Play Dough Kit

It's been two years since I first started making my go-to kid's birthday present, and I think I've repeated the process ten times or more. Mostly these have been in the last year as D's had school friends' birthday parties to attend. On a couple of occasions, I did something different (for a girl who was allergic to gluten, another who was allergic to dairy, and a boy), but it's time consuming to come up with a totally different gift when you're used to doing one thing. Now that we're in round two of birthday season, I didn't want to repeat the same gift, and I wanted something more gender neutral than a cupcake kit. (I realize men can be and are bakers, but at this particular age and for D's particular friend, a Ninja Turtles action figure and some candy made for a better gift.)

I am determined to avoid the time trap of Pinterest for as long as possible, so I wanted to use my own imagination. Like the cupcake kit, it's not the recipe that's original, it's more the presentation. This time around, it's play dough mix in a mason jar. The girls and I tested out the recipe this week, and it's been a huge hit. For ages, I was waiting for their gifted supply of Play-Doh to run out. I prefer homemade because there's a larger quantity, and they can actually roll out a good amount of it. Also, I wanted to gauge their ability to use cookie cutters to determine whether they can help with Christmas baking. So, they've been quite enthralled this week, and I've used it as an after-school, after-dinner or weekend activity, when I'm trying to get something done.

This gift takes a bit more running around, but less assembly time than the previous one. Here's how it comes together:

-1 large mason jar (I have a set of 12 that I bought at a garage sale for 5$, but in the summer, they also sell them by the dozen in lots of stores, for about 10$)
-flour, salt, cream of tartar
-1 tiny bottle of food colouring (from the sets of 4 they sell at any grocery store)
-a rolling pin (Dollarama sells this one for 3$)
-cookie cutters (Bulk Barn has an amazing selection, most range from 69-99 cents)
-optional: fabric and ribbon to tie around the jar lid (Dollarama, and my meager fabric stash)
-optional: tiny ziploc bag for the cookie cutters and food colouring

It ends up costing just under 8$, not factoring in the cost of driving or the ingredients. But I think the former is mitigated by picking up the components while running other errands, and the latter would be quite minimal, as those are things I keep on hand anyway. The point is, this doesn't cost me over ten dollars. What I learned following D's birthday party this year is that the price point for a kid's party gift has gone way, way up from when I was a kid. Like 20-30$. That's just not a possibility for our family.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Best baked beans

My dream baby is napping upstairs, my girls (one home sick from school) are playing with playdough at the kitchen table, and my dinner is in the crockpot. It's something I never really enjoyed in its tinned form, but I've come to love it for its convenience in its homemade form. Baked beans, babies.

Hot mess, but fun to make

After having Baton Rouge's in-restaurant baked beans on a few occasions, Hubby had asked me if I could try my hand at them. Challenge accepted. Eschewing the traditional Boston baked beans because I don't usually have bacon on hand, I found a recipe that contained ingredients I almost always have in the pantry. Over time, I've adapted it to suit our preferences.

Best baked beans

3 cups dried white navy beans
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 Tbsp salt
1 can tomato paste (156 mL)
1/2 cup molasses
2 Tbsp dried mustard

Place dry beans in a large bowl and cover with water. Soak beans overnight. In the morning, transfer beans and water to a large pot and boil beans uncovered for an hour, stirring occasionally. Watch carefully to make sure it doesn't boil over, and add more water if necessary.

Drain beans and place in crock pot. Add other ingredients and cook on high for 6 hours.

Serve on baked potatoes, toast, nachos or by themselves in a bowl. They freeze well, too.

Dream baby woke up, looks a tiny bit like me for once