In honor of the upcoming holiday, we have spent the last several days celebrating in small ways. It began Thursday on a pleasant surprise of a snow day. After spending the morning drafting up an Individualized Education Plan for a meeting at school the following morning with one of my students and one incredibly peaceful 3-hour nap session, where both girls slept at the same time (yes, I was blessed with those fabulous sleeping children, some people could only dream about… don’t worry, I feel certain my payback is coming in the teenage years). I’m calling that a very successfully productive morning. The girls and I set out to make homemade valentines for loved ones and for friends at the sitter’s house. Now, I have spent hours scouring Pinterest for the perfect craft, clever saying, and “healthy” treat. But this year, I decided to simplify it, as this seems to be the theme for my year. I wanted the valentines to be personal, with some connection to a one and three year old. So, we tore of sheets of paper from the fabulous easel my in-laws bought my oldest daughter for Christmas, and got down to business. I gave each of the girls a blank sheet of paper, washable crayons for the youngest, and washable markers for the “big girl.” I told the girls to make the paper as beautiful as possible, adding every color of the rainbow.
The girls were thrilled! They colored for a solid twenty minutes, giving me plenty of time to cut and write on each of the valentine bases. Once they were finished, I followed the craft up with some excellent bribery puff corn treats, to extend the state of contentment long enough to finish the valentines.
While the bribery worked it’s magic, I took each of the girls artwork and cut out a series of simple hearts. I then glued the hearts to the cards cut out while they colored. I love the idea of everyone they love receiving a piece of artwork they actually made. Who expects to receive a piece of art from a 15 month old? I was pretty please with the simplicity of the final product!
The girls then continued to snack as we decided Daddy needed his own special Valentine. So his was a larger version of the same style of art. One heart colored by the older in bright vibrant marker, and a slightly smaller heart colored in the softened colors of crayons. Insert sweet sentimental message and a date, and Voila! You have a Valentine created by two sweet little Daddy’s girls!
A few weeks ago the girls and I baked heart-shaped sugar cookies to deliver with the cards. Its an amazing recipe that holds up incredibly well once converted to Gluten Free, with a few slight alterations. I will share a series of my family’s favorite cookie recipes in later posts. But using the classic sugar cookie recipe of my Mother-in-law’s added to the sentimental theme that has been recently pulling at my heart strings.
Now, today is the customary closest Saturday to Valentine’s Day date night; however, my husband and I have postponed our evening out together for a week, and chose to spend the weekend home with our girls. Sometimes I feel like the days that are completely unscheduled leading to never leaving your house end up being the days you never forget. Today was one of those days. We had a simple lunch together with every food cut out with a heart-shaped cookie cutter, leaving my lunch looking a bit like a pile of scraps! But the girls loved it!
After lunch we spent a small amount of time relaxing and cuddling before heading off to naps!
I love nap time. And what mother doesn’t? It’s always a 50/50 toss up for me. I’m either super motivated to punch through as many to-do list items as possible in whatever window of time those little ladies permit me, or I find myself on the couch binge watching all of the most recent episodes of Fixer Upper. God I love Joanna Gaines. I’m a devout fan since season 1. Unfortunately, Joanna was not on my radar today. After going live with my blog, I began to think about what recipes I already love, and what a scattered mess my pinterest boards, and binder of recipes were. So today I would organize these. While flipping through recipes I loved, recipes I tried but HE didn’t love, and recipes I never bothered to make, my recipes began to looks a little less like my 9th grade English students clutter of class binders, and more like the meticulous organization I picture Martha Stewart to have. God I love her too. But in the shuffle of papers I cam across an older recipe that I made for several Valentines Days in the past. These decadent, rich Red Velvet Cream Cheese brownies are AH-mazing. Seriously, like eat-the-whole-pan amazing. So I was off to begin baking.
The smallest was the first to wake today and we found ourselves spontaneously creating a batch of my most favorite Valentine treat. I love when I get some down time with just this little lady, because it doesn’t happen too often. Her oldest sister spent countless hours helping me bake from the time she was 9 months until today. But this little crazy was slow to the draw, balancing two children precariously around a mixing bowl, and keeping my sanity was not a small feat. As she has begun to age a little it’s much easier to bake with both of them.
But today is a day for my littlest lady. So we begin by melting chocolate and butter, and mixing up the red-velvet layer of the brownies first. Once the chocolate and butter are melted in a small bowl, and the eggs, sugar, vanilla and food coloring are whipped together in a separate bowl my little assistant did an excellent job combining the two and dumping in the scoops of flour to bring our batter to it’s delicious rich consistency.
After mixing up the Red Velvet we mixed up a creamy cheesecake swirl for the top.
We then poured the red velvet into a grease odd shaped glass pan. I normally use a 9 inch square pan, but it has vanished. Literally, it’s gone.
I then swirled the cheesecake with a butter knife after dropping it in to the red velvet by spoonful (ok… one spoonful to me, one to the pan…). Then we popped that bad boy into the oven!
By this time the oldest little lady had begun to stir so the timer was set to 35 minutes (I ended up needing to bake it an additional 7 minutes, due to the weird shaped pan, and extra thickness it created in the brownies).
Once both of the little crazies were running around I began to work on dinner anxiously waiting for these Ah-MAZING brownies to cool. And I must say, that the Gluten Free Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Casserole we ate for dinner was inspired by Lil’Luna’s recipe linked HERE. It was pretty delish as well.
So… Chicken Broccoli Alfredo, GLUTEN FREE Red-Velvet Cheesecake Brownies, and artwork with my kiddos. This could be the best Valentine’s Day holiday yet! Up next: Date weekend with the hubby.
Gluten Free Red Velvet Cheesecake Bites
2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 red food coloring
2/3 c. Pamela’s Gluten Free Artisan Blend flour
1 – 8 oz block cream cheese
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Melt the butter and chocolate. Set aside. Cream together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and food coloring. add in flour.
- Cream together cream cheese, egg, sugar, and vanilla.
- Pour the red-velvet mixture into a greased 8×8 or 9×9 square baking pan
- Spoon on the cream cheese topping, swirl with a buttet knife
- Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean and cheesecake layer is set.