Spring Cupcake Designs – 6 easy spring and Easter cupcake designs

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Easter and spring cupcake designs

To celebrate the first day of spring, I’m re-publishing my Spring Cupcakes designs, originally shared in 2013 . .

I’m not very good about decorating for holidays or going over the top with cutesy seasonal foods. But yesterday I had a wild hair and decided the kids and I should decorate cupcakes. I think it was the sunshine – it makes me do crazy things. I had fun getting creative with the kids trying to come up with fun easter cupcake designs for you. They are each 3 steps or less and EASY. We hope you enjoy them!

Step 1 – Your first step is make a batch of cupcakes. You can make them from scratch or make them from a box (like I did, there is only so much you can expect from a girl in one day).

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Baby Chick Cupcakes

1.) Frost it with yellow frosting (I used vanilla frosting with couple drops of food coloring)

2.) Dip in yellow coconut. To make colored coconut, put plain coconut in a Ziploc bag, add a couple drops of food coloring, close bag and mix it around until color coats coconut.

3.) Add two eyes. You can use dark colored candies, chocolate chips or I used frosting. Then add a beak. I used a Reeses Pieces.

I actually got this idea from my Parade magazine.

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Freeze juice in muffin pans for smoothies

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Freeze juice for smoothies

We love making smoothies with our Vitamix. But we aren’t juice drinkers – so we often don’t have a carton of fresh juice in the fridge. So I started buying juice when I found it on markdown (read: super cheap) and I’d just take it home and freeze it in muffin trays (or ice cube trays) for use in smoothies as needed! It also works great if you need juice for a recipe!

1.) Pour fresh juice into muffin pans, mini muffin pans or even silicone molds
I found it was a little easier to pour juice into a 2-cup measuring cup and then pour into molds. I didn’t spill as much.

2.) Freeze for at least 24 hours

3.) Pop out juice and store in freezer bag
To pop out I found if I just set them on the counter for 5 minutes they loosen up. Or take a cookie sheet with sides and fill with hot water (in the sink) and set your frozen muffin pans in hot water – just a few seconds! It should loosen them right up.

4.) Pop them back into the freezer and when needed, pull one or two frozen juice packs out of the bag to make your smoothie!

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What do you think? Good idea? What else could you freeze for your smoothies? 

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Basic Spanish Rice recipe in the Rice Cooker (frugal, easy)


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Rice is an inexpensive ingredient that can really stretch the number of servings you can get from a batch of tacos, burritos or fajitas. And making spanish rice in your rice cooker could not get any easier! I love that it doesn’t have a lot of sodium and MSG like a many of the boxed varieties do. Once you see how easy it is and how delicious it tastes, I think you’ll have a difficult time going back to the boxed brands.

And it’s so flexible – we had this rice with a little shredded cheese and sour cream wrapped in a tortilla for lunch today!

INGREDIENTS

 1 1/2 cups uncooked white rice (any long grain will work, I used Basmati)

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 can of Rotel tomatoes
You can buy this at various spice levels

2 tablespoons of melted butter

1 teaspoon cumin

Optional: You could probably throw in a 4 oz can of chili peppers. I haven’t tried this.

HOW TO PREPARE

1.) Toss everything into rice cooker. Give it a good stir. Close the rice cooker lid. Press the cook button and walk away until it’s done. Usually takes about 30 minutes.

2.) Fluff rice and give it a good stir before serving

Spanish Rice recipe


I have a rice cooker very similar to this one from Amazon - Aroma ARC-150SB 20-Cup (Cooked) Digital Rice Cooker and Food Steamer, Black/Silver. I also use mine to cook quinoa (find out how to cook quinoa in rice cook here).

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Construction Cake – Kid’s Birthday Cake Idea

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Construction Cake – Kid’s Birthday Cake Idea

My friend Erika posted this Construction-themed Kid’s Birthday Cake on her Facebook wall and I was so impressed I had to share it with all of you!  She gave me permission to share a picture and she shared her tips for how she made it. She started her planning with the yellow and black CAT Construction Equipment.

Basic instructions:

1.) Make two 10″ round cakes and two 8″ round cakes. Use food coloring to dye the cake mix yellow and black and swirl together. Bake the cakes per the instructions on the box and freeze them overnight. Erika found that freezing the cakes helped with the frosting and decorating.

2.) The next day, make TWO batches of homemade fluffy chocolate frosting – 1 stick of unsalted Butter, 3 Cups powdered sugar, 2/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/3 cup milk, 2 tsp vanilla, and WHIP, WHIP, WHIP!

3.) For the the base of the cake cover a round piece of cardboard with aluminum foil. Start with one round 10″ cake, add a layer of frosting on top and sprinkle top with crushed Oreos then cover with the second round 10″ cake. Basically your stacking the cake – but putting a layer of frosting and Oreos in between!!

4.) For the top part of the cake, start with one round 8″ cake, add a layer of frosting on top and sprinkle layer with crushed Oreos then cover with second round 8″ cake. Just like you did with the bottom.

5.) Dig out a small crevice from top cake to make it appear like the diggers are. . .well digging. Frost rest of cake with the homemade fluffy chocolate frosting.

6.) For the number 2 (or whatever age is needed), print out a number 2 on your computer – as big as the cake. Then cut it out and place it on cake. Sprinkle crushed Oreos over  top of cake. Remove paper 2 when done – it should be Oreo-free like the photo.

7.) Using popsicle or sucker sticks and paper you can make signs to spell out a name. Erika used her Cricut to make the letters.

8.) Finish it off with Toystate CAT Mini Machine, 3″, 5-Pack (Amazon) pushing around yellow and brown Reese’s Pieces. Instead of piping (which can be tricky) – bead frosting around the bottom edge and top with Whoppers for a decorative edge!

What do you think? Isn’t it cool? What other ideas do you have things you can put on the construction cake?

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This cake reminds me of these Choco-Rock cupcakes with worm and dirt that I posted back in April of 2012!

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Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

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Homemade spaghetti sauce recipe

Homemade spaghetti sauce is really the only way to go if you want flavor, freshness and frugality. It’s so incredibly easy and makes a world of difference compared to the store-bought-jarred-or-canned-stuff.  I whipped up a batch of this homemade spaghetti sauce last night and I think it’s one of my best batches yet.

This homemade spaghetti sauce recipe could be made in the slow cooker, but you’ll still want to cook up the garlic, onions and beef before you toss it into the slow cooker. I used a Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 5-Quart Oval French Oven, Cherry (Amazon) - but any large pan will do.

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil – 2 Tablespoons

Ground beef or turkey – about 2 pounds
I am an Alaskan girl, so I used moose meat :)

1 large onion – diced finely

Garlic cloves - 5 cloves, peeled and minced

Tomato sauce – 3 cans, 15 oz each

Diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano – 3 cans, 15 oz each

Tomato paste - 1 can, 12 oz

Brown sugar - 2 Tablespoons

Dried Oregano (or Italian seasoning mix) – 1 heaping Tablespoon

Dried Sweet Basil - 1 heaping Tablespoon

Bay leaves - two whole leaves (remove when done cooking)

Optional: Sliced fresh mushrooms (probably 12 – 16 oz), diced fresh red or yellow peppers, parmesan cheese

HOW TO PREPARE

1.) In a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat, add your olive oil. After it’s hot, toss in your diced onions and minced garlic. Cook until softened and slightly browned. Be careful, the garlic can burn if you’re not careful.

2.) Once your onions are cooked, toss in your ground beef (or turkey). Cook until it’s no longer pink. Drain any excess fat. (If the pan is hard to drain, use a turkey baster to remove grease.)

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3.) Once your meat is no longer pink and the grease drained – toss in all the tomatoes, brown sugar and spices!

Homemade-Spaghetti-Sauce-Yum

4.) Simmer on LOW for at least one hour, uncovered, on the stove top!  Stir occasionally. Simmering will reduce a lot of the extra water and enrich the flavor. I simmered mine for a few hours on LOW and think it only gets better with time.

5.) Serve over pasta with a shaving of parmesan cheese

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Frozen-Spaghetti-Sauce

Make a big batch of this sauce and you can freeze for future meals. When we want spaghetti we take the sauce out the night before and heat up on the stove top. I like to freeze mine laying flat so that I can stack them upright in my freezer (see how I organize my freezer here).

homemade-roasted-Marinara-sauce

If you are lucky enough to have FRESH tomatoes – I definitely recommend my Roasted Marinara Tomato sauce. It’s amazing and also easy. It’s great to whip up when you have a bumper crop of tomatoes in late summer!

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Slow Cooker Crockpot Refried Beans (no frying, no soaking), plus easy freeze instructions

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Slow Cooker Crockpot Refried Beans

I first made Crockpot Refried Beans last year and it was so easy, I haven’t bought the canned stuff since! I’m the only person in our house who likes them and if I open a can of refried beans on taco or fajita night, at least half of it doesn’t get used. This way I can freeze them in single servings and I think they taste better than the canned stuff any way.

Making homemade refried beans is:

a.) Healthier
b.) Tastier
c.) Cheaper
d.) Easy to freeze in smaller quantities

INGREDIENTS

3 cups of Pinto beans (Best to buy these in bulk at Winco or local co-op)
This comes out to about 1.25 pounds of beans

5 cups water

4 cups chicken broth
Make your own chicken broth in the slow cooker!

1 onion, diced finely (I used a food chopper)
I  incorporated the onions into the beans with an immersion blender. If you just want some of the flavor – just peel and quarter the onion and then remove the onion pieces before you mash the beans.

3 cloves of minced garlic

1 Tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Optional - I’ve seen recipes that add fresh jalapeños or even canned  jalapeños but I didn’t want mine too spicy, just in case the kids would eat some.

HOW TO PREPARE

1.) Rinse your beans. Spread them out on a cookie sheet and pull out all the discolored ones. You might find rocks and other random stuff in your beans (especially if you buy the cheaper beans) – so don’t skip this step.

2.) Combine everything in the crockpot. Cook on HIGH for 8 hours. Add more water if you need (I didn’t need to add additional water).

3.) When beans have popped open and are soft, they are done. Reserve a couple cups of the liquid into a separate container.

4.) Strain beans. You can either mash them with a potato masher, use a food processor or use an immersion blender. I used the immersion blender, right in the slow cooker crock and it was a cinch! Add extra water if you need to get the consistency you want.

5.) Wait until it cools. Fill Ziploc bags and freeze. I like to lay mine on a flat cookie sheet or piece of cardboard in the freezer so they freeze completely flat, then I stand them up in a box, so they are easy to find! I would use within 3 months, but they probably won’t kill you if you keep them longer in the freezer.

6.) If needed, you can add more chicken broth when you thaw the beans – they might need a little more liquid when reheated.

If you’re having a fajita or taco night – check out this recipe for Spanish Rice in the rice cooker! 

Here are other Slow Cooker Crockpot recipes we’ve recently posted:


Amazon has the Cuisinart CSB-75BC Smart Stick 2-Speed Immersion Hand Blender, Brushed Chrome  for only $34.95 (reg. $65). Ships FREE! See Amazon’s best selling slow cookers and Crockpots hereAmazon prices can change at anytime.

Have you made refried beans before? What is your recipe? 

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Broccoli and Sausage Stir Fry Recipe

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Broccoli and Sausage Stir Fry

This recipe for Broccoli and Sausage Stir Fry is one of my favorite all-time family recipes. It’s a recipe I’ve modified that my mother makes and I serve it as least twice a month, if not more. It’s incredibly easy to make – you can have it done and on the table in about the time it takes to boil your water and cook your pasta.

Broccoli-Sausage-Stir-Fry-Recipe-Ingredients

INGREDIENTS

Fresh broccoli, 1 pound – Cut to small florets

Sausages, 3-4 - I prefer chicken sausage, like Aidell’s, whereas my mom makes it with Polska Kielbasa sausage
For this recipe I used Sabahno’s Smoke Mozzarella with Artichokes and Garlic Chicken sausage from Costco

Fresh Mushrooms, 1 pound - I prefer crimini, sliced

Onion, 1 medium – Diced finely

Parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, 1 Cup - Finely grated

Pasta, one pound – I prefer Wacky Mac or Ronzoni Garden Delight, but used regular bow tie today.

Garlic, 2-3 cloves, minced

Oregano - 2 to 4 Tablespoons
Start with less – you can always add more.

Olive oil, Tablespoon

Salt, just a dash

These measurements are exact. You can add as much or as little of any ingredient and I think it still will turn out delicious.

Costco has all these ingredients at a great price. I usually buy the pre-cut broccoli florets at Costco, the crimini mushrooms, oregano (or italian seasoning mix), the sausages and the parmesan. The packages from Costco will easily get you two meals of this (and you’ll still have sausage and parmesan left over).

HOW TO PREPARE

1.) Start the process by getting a big pot of water on the stove for your noodles.

2.) While you’re waiting for the water to boil, prep your other ingredients. Mince you garlic, dice your onions, slice your mushrooms, wash/cut your broccoli, grate your parmesan

3.) By this point my water is usually boiling – dump in your noodles, cook according to directions on package.

4.) While noodles are boiling, get a large skillet (with a lid to use toward the end) and put over medium-heat on the stove top. Everything will end up in this skillet (except the noodles), so make sure it’s a big size. I use this one (Amazon: Cuisinart CSK-250 GreenGourmet 14-Inch Nonstick Electric Skillet) Add your olive oil to your skillet.

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5.) Once your olive oil is hot, add your onions, garlic and a dash of salt. Cook down the onions (2-3 minutes) over medium heat.

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6.) Once onions have started to soften, add mushrooms, cook down 2-3 minutes

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7.) Once mushrooms are softening, add sausage and oregano, cook for 2-3 minutes

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8.) Once everything is hot and steamy – add your broccoli, don’t stir, just COVER for about 3 minutes until your broccoli has turned a vibrant green and is steamed but still crunchy.

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9.) Serve over a scoop of pasta and add your parmesan cheese! It reheats great the next day – in fact, I think I even like it more as leftovers!

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Let me know what you think! I hope you like it as much as we do! Here’s a photo from when I posted back in 2011. This has always been one of my kid’s favorite meals. My son is showing off his muscles – since he’s eating broccoli and my daughter is still in her high chair. They were such babies! Time is going way too fast. . .

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Seahawks BINGO cards in News Tribune or print online

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Seahawks BINGO cards

For all you couponers in the South Sound – I know you probably have the Sunday News Tribune! If so, check out page 12 in the special Super Bowl section for six Hawks BINGO cards. What a fun (FREE) idea to incorporate with your Seahawks party!  For those of you who don’t have a paper – print your Seahawks BINGO card online here.

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And if you’re hosting a Seahawks party, check out my post for Seahawks Party ideas!

Seahawks-Party-ideas-kids

My kids are so excited. They made Seahawks “chairs” out of cardboard boxes, construction paper, glue and crayons. They also made blue/green hats and they found lots of green and blue things in their room. We are a little Seahawks crazy around here – this photo was taken at 8:30 a.m., a full SEVEN hours before the game starts. An intervention might be necessary.

If you don’t care about football or you’re rooting for the Broncos – don’t worry, all this obnoxious Seahawks fanfare will be over by the end of the day! At least until next football season. . . 

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Seahawks Party Ideas

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Seahawks Party Ideas

It’s no secret that we are hardcore Seahawks fans in our house. Just for fun I came up with a list of recipes, foods and drinks I think would be fun a Seahawks party.  I’d love to hear what your favorite Seahawks-style foods would be, too!

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Blue and Green rice Krispies

Make three (or more smaller batches of Rice Krispies) and color them with food coloring. Layer them in a non-stick pan, preferably sprayed with non-stick baking spray. Add in blue or green sprinkles or Skittles. Get the details for Seahawks Rice Krispies Treats here.

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Russell Sprout Cheesy Dip

Think artichoke dip. But with brussell sprouts instead of artichokes. In honor of Seattle’s main man Russell Wilson this gooey dip can be served with crostinis, crackers or bread. Get recipe for Russells Sprouts cheesy dip here.

 Golden-Tate-r-Casserole-recipe

Golden Tate-r Tot Casserole

This recipe is incredibly easy to make and it’s basically cheesy potato casserole, but I substituted tater tots for the hash browns. In honor of Golden Tate (Seahawks #81), I’m calling it Golden Tate-r Casserole or if you’re feeling a little feisty it can be called Golden Tate-r Kick-asserole.  Get the Golden Tate-r Casserole recipe here.

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Seahawk salad with blueberries

Watergate salad is such a very easy salad. And it’s green. Add blueberries and you have a green and blue dessert “salad.” My kids LOVE this recipe. Get the recipe for Seahawks Salad with Blueberries here.

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Seahawks Party Food – Homemade guacamole with blue tortilla chips

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Seahawks Blue Chips and Guacamole

Looking for some Seahawks party food ideas? Here’s another one for you! Blue corn chips and guacamole. You can make your own guacamole or buy it pre-made in the store (or add fresh avocados to spice up store bought!)

INGREDIENTS

2-3 avocados, ripe

Juice of one lime

Option things you can add : onions, jalapeno, cayenne, cumin, red peppers, cilantro.

Blue Tortilla Chips – My favorite are Garden of Eatin

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