Gluten Free Stromboli

Gluten-free fourteen years ago looked nothing like it does today. Flours didn’t hold the rich consistencies they have today, products were not so readily available, and let’s just call it like it is: the stuff that was available? It was crap.

One of the first game-changer gluten free products we found when I was younger was this amazing invention known as Chebe original cheese bread! We still use this as a staple in our house for Stromboli and pizza crusts. There are a variety of options, but I prefer the classic cheese bread. Every year at Easter my family mass produces Easter Pizzas which are very similar to the traditional Stromboli with a slight twist. With Chebe bread mix, Stromboli becomes a quick last minute throw together meal.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

To start, you need:

  • 1 box mix of the cheese bread mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese (any kind you prefer. I use whatever is left over in my fridge)
  • 4 tablespoons of water.

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To start, add the mix, two eggs, oil and cheese into your mixing bowl. I typically use a fork to mix these first ingredients. The mixture will begin to stick together forming small crumbs.

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Oooh love some good quality i-Phone pictures! Vanessa Huey would shudder at these photos! Hopefully this summer, she and I will have the opportunity to collaborate over a few projects and you won’t have to be tortured with my “lovely” amateur phone pictures!

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Once these first ingredients are mixed really well together, slowly add the water  to the mixture and begin to knead the dough with your hands. Gradually it will stick together to make a glorious little knot of dough! I think the most amazing thing about this product is the elasticity. This is not a characteristic often attributed to gluten-free foods.

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The trick to a simple Stromboli, and those of you who can actually bake with regular flour may concur with this trick, is to line the counter with plastic wrap before laying out your dough. (As luck would have it, I opened our plastic wrap box still sitting in the drawer, and it was empty) I happened to discover that press-n-seal wrap also will work if you happen to be that person, like me, who opens the plastic wrap box only to find an empty roll STILL. IN. THE. DRAWER. I’d like to take this moment to totally point the finger at my husband. Unfortunately the reality is, it was probably my fault. No, guaranteed it was my fault.

I will show you the purpose behind rolling out your Stromboli on the plastic wrap in just a moment. If you have a rolling pin that you have used on gluten in previous recipes or baking projects, take a second piece of plastic wrap and lay it on top of the dough while you roll out your crust. The thinner the crust the better. I like to keep mine 1/8 of an inch. When the dough gets to 1/4 of an inch or thicker, it can feel gummy whenever it’s finished.

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Loving that smooth round roll, right? Well I can promise you that the second one I rolled out was much smoother; however, not photographed. Let’s be realistic, I made these in 15 minutes after work on a Thursday and top-notch photogenic food was not my first priority.

Once your crust has reached that nice thin quality, lightly spoon your pizza sauce on half of the crust and begin layering your fillings of choice. In our house we follow this order:

  • Thin layer of Del Grosso spaghetti sauce (my favorite!)
  • A solid layer of pepperoni (with extra for the little ladies to snack on while we assemble)
  • Half of a deli-meat container of smoke ham (we like the kind with a bonus storage container when it’s emptied!)
  • 5 round sliced of provolone cheese (smoked or non-smoked… we switch it up!)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of  shredded mozzarella cheese

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I don’t add any additional seasonings to the crust or the layers of filling. The meats already layered into the Stromboli add so much flavor to the final product. Hey, less is more, right?

Now the magic of plastic wrap. Using the plastic wrap as a guide, fold your Stromboli crust closed by pulling it over with the plastic wrap.

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Look at that gloriously CLEAN counter top and perfectly folded Stromboli! Carefully peel the plastic wrap back and begin to seal the edge of the Stromboli by pressing the two edges together evenly. Use the plastic wrap as a guide when transferring the completed Stromboli to a baking sheet.

*I STRONGLY recommend using a baking sheet with sides. Depending on how much delicious meat you have added, there will be a slight grease trail while the Stromboli bakes.

Poke the top of your Stromboli with a fork and place that bad boy into the oven.

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Turn on your oven light if you want to watch the magic happen. Let the Stromboli bake for approximately 30 minutes, removing it from the oven when the edges are just slightly golden brown. Let the Stromboli stand about 10 minutes before serving.

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Look at that ooey-gooey, cheese bursting at the edge. My husband willingly eats gluten-free and really likes these crusts. We’ve used these crusts to make Steak and Cheese Stromboli, Buffalo Chicken Stromboli, and countless other “empty the cupboard” Stromboli ideas.

So, if you’re in the mood for a meal that tastes like you worked on it for an hour, try a quickie Stromboli!

And don’t forget to order some Chebe Original Cheese Bread mixes for your next dinner ideas!

Cheers!

  • Whitney
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Treats on a Tuesday

With the upcoming festively green holiday, I have been searching the internet in attempts to find some fun activities to do with my girls and some cute little treats to send with the girls to the sitter. My mother is 50% Irish, and like all mothers of the 80’s and 90’s this meant dying anything possible in our St. Patrick’s day meal GREEN. We did not eat some lavishly traditional Irish cuisine, nor did we all speak with heavy Irish accents. Nope, just straight up ate all the green foods possible. And I loved it.

Since the invention of Pinterest, I’ve noticed even the less than crafty have stepped up their A-game on crafting. I had to laugh on my way to work today as I listened to the radio personalities going on and on about how no real mom makes the cute crafts on Pinterest. It must be a food stylist, or a professional posing as a stay at home Mom. Reality check Radio. Some of us do exist! We are the epitome of over-doers, those people that everyone seems to feel the need to throw the ever insulting comment, “You have too much time on your hands…” at us every chance they get. I am relieved every time I see a fellow Facebook friend post some ridiculously crafty idea he or she made online. It’s almost a relief to see someone else, like they make it OK to be crafty. Ridiculous thinking, I’m very much aware of that.

So I found a collection of cute little St. Paddy’s day crafts and  treats to share with you over this first week of March. Today I’ll start with a couple easy kid-friendly treats.

  1. Rainbow Cups

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I love this Rainbow and Pot of Gold! It’s so cute! Plus you can find all of these items easily at your local grocery store or on Amazon having them delivered right to your door! I found this one on I Can Teach My Child  I love the organized Skittles before layering the candy cups. But the Chocolate Gold Coins layered at the bottom are the kind of candy that takes me back to childhood! Using the simple 5 oz Clear Plastic Cups  and then of course topping them off with Mini Marshmallows This treat is naturally gluten free which is always a plus in our house!

Ok… Brace yourself for this next product!

2. Edible Gold Spray

Wilton has an edible Gold Color Mist Spray that can be used to turn your favorite treats into GOLD! So if you need to eat gluten-free cookies in replace of Oreoes, order  Kinnikinnick’s Chocolate Cookies and make your own gold coins for your little cuties! Genius.

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I have already ordered 3 of these. My students will be getting gold treats, my sitter’s kids will be… my nieces and nephews will be… perhaps even my parents will!

3. Lucky Charms Marshmallow Treats

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With the recent change in Lucky Charms as they transitioned to a Gluten Free product, I have secretly been reliving my childhood in the mornings. It’s still amazing to me how easy it is to access so many gluten free products these days. But with this being a fairly recent change, it’s important to make sure the packaging displays the Gluten Free Emblem

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Some stores are still finishing up selling older packages that are not certified gluten free. So shop cautiously.

I really like the recipe for Lucky Charms Treats I found on Brown Eyed Baker  She has a good balance of ooey-gooey in her treats! The girls and I kicked off the month with a batch of these already!

And if all else fails, just buy a big old bag of the Marshmallows! That’s all my girls want to eat anyways!

3. Shamrock Pretzels

The next big ticket treat that seems to be blowing up online is the Shamrock Pretzel! These are so cute and only require two ingredients:

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I prefer Gratify Gluten Free Pretzel products. I also like Glutino Gluten Free Pretzels and I know Snyder offers a Variety Pack along iwith individual purchases.

You can find a great Step-by-Step instructional article on The Spruce.

Again, I cannot stress how much I LOVE my Amazon Pantry boxes. My girls are great shoppers, but lets be realistic. What mother ACTUALLY enjoys taking a one and three year old to the store with her? No one. I feel like shopping at a store without my kids is almost like a mini vacation.

4. Fruity Rainbows

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This treat is a unique presentation for a party! You could easily adapt this to make cute little plates for your sweeties at lunch or breakfast, but I just love the fruit with a little chocolate treat at the end! My girls looooove when I sneak in a little chocolate treat to their meals. And what is better than a gold wrapped Rolo candy?! It screams Pot-o-Gold!

5. St. Patrick’s Day Muddy Buddies Treat

Who doesn’t love the good old fashioned Puppy Chow snack? When I think about Puppy Chow, I go back to my mom’s great friend and neighbor popping in to our house infrequently with random treats and baked goods she would come up with. She was Pinterest before there was Pinterest! This was one of my particularly favorite surprises she would bring over as a child. Oh Pammy, I’m drooling over your puppy chow as I type!

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This festive little twist on a classic snack follow very similar instructions to the original Puppy Chow snack mix using Gluten Free Rice Chex but adds in a couple slight alterations. Try it out following Glue Sticks and Gumdrops recipe.

I hope these 5 little festive treats help to ring in the St. Paddy’s day mood. After all… it is Fat Tuesday! Sneak one treat in today before starting your Lenten sacrifices off tomorrow!

Cheers to a very Green March!

  • Whitney

Party Like it’s the 10th Post!

In celebration of my 10th post (hey, we celebrate the small things in life!) I have decided to share with you my 10 most favorite dessert recipes I’ve tried over the past several years. Each one of these delicious recipes was found on Pinterest. I must warn you, if you are looking for healthy recipes, you should stop reading NOW. I love to cook, and love to bake even more. I have several family recipes that fall above this top ten list, but they are worthy of solo posts. So for the 10th post celebration, I will stick strictly to the recipes I have found thanks to the amazing invention we all know as… Pinterest. Along with the link to the recipe I will provide you with the specific adjustments I made to the recipe and products used to make the perfect gluten free version of each.

I am not exactly sure what I did with my life before Pinterest started. I do know that I love to pin, tend to over-pin, and I’m currently in the process of organizing my Shimmering Twig pins and trying to stick to recipes I’ve actually tried and love, or life-hacks that I really use rather than the good old theory “I’ll probably use that sometime…” I can remember thinking how many ideas I have saved and wanted to use, but never followed through with. I’m tacking this on to my new-year new-me theory: Spend Less and Value More. So without further adieu, the first Recipe:

  1. The Homemade Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake

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This recipe is almost perfectly gluten free as is, minus the cookie crumb filling. Every year for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day we invite both of our sets of parents out to the house and try to treat them to a full 3-course meal. Last year for Mother’s Day I wanted to use a dessert was so good, but involved zero work for me on Mother’s Day. My husband is an excellent cook, but not into the baking, so this project would fall on me.

When I came across this idea online, I decided this would be a great plan as I could make it on Saturday and pull it out to serve whenever we finished with our luncheon on Sunday.

The recipe calls for oreo style cookies or a chocolate cookie. My mother always keeps a stash of the gluten free Kinnikinnick cookies KinniToos around so we used a package in substitution. Otherwise I followed the recipe for the most part as presented. And trust me, it was a huge hit!

2. Fudgy Brownie Hearts with Fresh Raspberry Buttercream

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Oh my goodness! The love I feel for this recipe is unreal. I want to stand up and go make these right now. About 6 years ago I dabbled in the home-show party business selling jewelry and for my grand opening I went a little crazy on food. This was my show-stopper dessert recipe from  a farm girl dabbles. The fresh raspberry buttercream is SO. WORTH. THE. TIME. My mom came out to help me prepare for the party the night before and I think it will always be one of the best cooking with my mom memories I have. We made an unreal amount of food for the party and she really took the lead on making the butter cream for this. I feel certain she would also agree that this recipe was totally worth the time.

This recipe I followed to a T. The flour I used for these little fudgy hearts was Pamela’s Artisan Blend gluten free flour and I typically use this for everything. The large bag you can purchase off Amazon is by far the best value!

The final product was amazing and no one knew it was gluten free!

3. The BEST Chex Mix Ever

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This recipe is hands down amazing! I follow the recipe exactly and as a general rule of thumb LOVE everything Chex. If you’re ever in a pinch for a recipe, try one of the countless versions of Chex mix out there, utilizing their gluten-free cereal! I make this in bulk around the holidays and give it out in cute tins to family and friends!

4. Marshmallow Blondies

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This recipe by Cookies and Cups is wonderful! It was a great switch up from the chocolate that seems to monopolize my life! The recipe is pretty simply and straight-forward if you’re looking for sweets with minimal prep-time. The one thing about this recipe that really stands out in my mind was how sticky they were, so be sure to really prep that pan!

I used Pamela’s Artisan Blend flour and really LOVED the caramel-goey texture with the little surprise bites of marshmallows. We love using Nestle Toll House white chocolate chips and usually keep a stash in bulk as the girls LOVE snacking while we bake.

5. S’mores Dip

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THREE INGREDIENTS. TWO MINUTES. And Bam! You have this delicious dip! My second year teaching we would have unofficial luncheons at work every time someone had a baby. That year, at least six of us had babies. It was like a crazy school district baby boom. I made this for one of the teachers “shower” luncheon who was due about three months before me. And seriously… what pregnant woman doesn’t love an endless supply of chocolate to dip anything into?! Chocolate Chips, Sweetened Condensed Milk, and Marshmallow Fluff. That’s all there is to this recipe!

6. Oreo Loaded Cheesecake Brownies

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If you haven’t been sold by the first half of this post, these surely should seal the deal. Vera hit the jackpot with the fudgey chocolate, cheesecake, and oreo layered masterpieces! Again I cannot STRESS the quality of these Kinnikinnick Chocolate Cookies they are an excellent substitute for an Oreo. I used my go-to Pamela’s Artisan Blend flour again for these, and keep a surplus coming every two months with Amazon’s subscription option.

Every January we have a joint birthday celebration for my parents. This year we went with an Italian theme meal, but threw this bad boy in for dessert and trust me, it was a hit with everyone!

7. Pecan Pie Bars

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Rewind back to my pregnancy with my first daughter. The hormones during that holiday season turned me into a self-proclaimed Martha, finding countless new recipes to try baking, baking, and a little more BAKING for good measure. I am pretty sure I turned out more treats between Thanksgiving and New Years that year, than I have the 3 years that followed. One of those little holiday finds was this gem of a dessert. I love pecan pie and I love bar style desserts! Put them together and you have yourselves the perfect little Thanksgiving treat! I followed the recipe exactly, only changing the pan preparation to just greasing the pan and eliminating any foil lining.

8. Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

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It was during the same holiday season that I first met and fell in love with The Girl Who Ate Everything. This girl’s got it going on! I went back through my Pinterest boards and discovered that a bulk of my pins were recipes developed by her. She is fantastic!

I followed the recipe exactly as she explains it, and found one of my family’s and in-law’s new favorite recipes! The chef sister fully approved as well! We make this recipe at least 6 times a year in our house. It’s simple, straightforward and a great Gluten-free adapted recipe when you switch out the flour for Pamela’s Artisan Blend.

9. Red Velvet Whoopie Pies with Peppermint Filling

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This was another Pinterest find from back in 2012. My sister and I both use this cookie as a Christmas staple! There is something so Christmas-y about Peppermint and the slight hint in the cream filling is amazing! Now, usually for time sake I use the same flour for this, but in all reality the best version of flour for any type of Gob or Cake textured cookie is the America’s Test Kitchen Gluten Free Blend. They have a Pinterest page that you can also find HERE. Other than that minor tweak, the recipe is a straight forward gluten free conversion. Both America’s Test Kitchen gluten free blend and Pamela’s Artisan Blend gluten free flour are cup for cup conversions making baking that much easier! America’s Test Kitchen DOES require the additional xanathan gum along with the cup-for-cup flour blend. Refer to the book for specific amounts!

10. Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

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This tenth and final recipe was my most recent find on A Spicy Perspective, a blog I have every intention of following and really inspecting, because I was in love with this recipe! There is something so magical about the idea of Salt and Caramel combined, that any recipe with these two words in, I typically assume i will love.

And I was right. This was another simple, quick throw together recipe, that the only minor adjustment was the Pamela’s Artisan Blend flour. They were a bit tricky to cut at first, but like most ooey-goey bars, once the first one is out, the rest are much simpler.

And that, my friends is how I like to celebrate 10 consecutive posts on Shimmering Twig. Ten Tantalizing Treats to make the mouth water. I really hope at least one of these recipes brings your family the joy and comfort of a homemade treat shared with loved ones. Happy Sunday everyone.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

Winter Birthday Blues Brightened

Being a child with a December birthday, the birthday parties never involved swimming pools, outdoor pinatas, picnics with family, or the freedom that seems to come when you can let a child run loose through the yard. No, mine consisted of a few parties with friends at places like Pizza Hut or my personal favorite, a dinner of choice, a gob cake, and the best part, celebrating it with my parents and godparents. I am the youngest of three children, with the next in line being 10 + years older than me. After my sister headed off to college, my life seemed to feel very much like an only child’s.

I had a childhood friend who had a younger brother and older sister. Her family was so close-knit. I will forever remember going to her house in high school and finding them all sprawled out over the floor and couches watching movies together, never feeling the social pressures to be out all weekend with friends. I loved that, and wanted that for my future family someday. I also swore I would never have children in the winter months and give them the opportunity to have fun and exciting OUTDOOR birthdays. That being said, my first daughter was born on the coldest day in January with wind chills of minus twenty degrees. So much for that fantasy!

As I might have mentioned previously, I am a planner, an organizer, and a do-er. I love, love, love, a good themed party! My oldest daughter followed in my misfortune of having that winter birthday when all of her cousins have those glorious fair-weather summer and early fall birthdays. But I am determined to give her an amazing birthday each year that is fun and unique. I also happen to have a fellow party planning fanatic who has children in the same seasons as mine. So when I begin posting pictures of the over-the-top matchy matchy decorations, and receiving the “you have too much time on your hands” criticisms, I am immediately comforted by her equally and often times more fabulous themes. This year she provided a glorious rainbow and trolls theme (yes… I am talking about you girl!)

For my daughter’s first birthday we went with “Minnie Mouse” and as this was my first birthday planning, I could not settle for the mediocre character plates, character napkins, and some plastic table cloths. I must warn you, I was not photographing this event with the plans of blogging about it, so please take my pictures with a grain of salt.

So the pictures may not bring it justice, but who cares when you have a picture of the sweetest little Minnie Mouse ever?! This was before I got into my pretty cookie phase and felt the need to make matching sugar cookies to go with every party theme. As this was the first birthday, we did rent a local social hall to host, and it was a nice occasion but a massive head-ache to haul everything home. We scaled back on the guest lists for birthdays two and three.

snow-bunny For birthday number two, we enlisted the creativity of some fabulous fonts from my favorite font download websites and the “Snow Bunny” theme following the pink and blues for a color scheme. As I mentioned, the guest list was scaled back and the party was moved back to our 1862 newly renovated farmhouse. My husband is one of four children who are all married and have two children each, plus two parents and 3 grandparents (literally, my childhood dream) all healthy and living. My family consisted of my parents and cousin who come to everything for my children and support them in every way possible, making our home the perfect sized venue for our little snow bunny’s party.

I was pretty obsessed with the idea of a hot cocoa bar for this party including a variety of toppings from chocolate chips to caramel bits, to mini marshmallows, to Homemade Snowflake Marshmallows which were delicious!

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img_1383 And of course, our sweet little snow bunny admiring her balloons. (Feel free to notice through my kitchen window, while I capitalized on the winter themed party, it was a record breaking 63 degrees. On January 31st. In Western Pennsylvania. Perfect.)

I have casually mentioned my mother-in-laws glorious soft sugar cookie recipe that after some slight alterations, turns into a soft, delicious gluten-free delicacy. Traditionally, she uses a soft classic white icing and has a very stylized decoration with a star tip. It’s the type of cookie decoration that takes you right back to childhood, to old-school bakery style decorations, and screams “I AM DELICIOUS. EAT. ME.” I tried to replicate her tried-and true star tip decoration style with my version of gluten free snowflakes.

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I am practicing all forms of self control to not get up from finishing this post and dig into the Valentine stash of these cookies my daughters made as Valentine gifts. I will share my modified recipe of this soft cookie recipe in a future cookie series of posts.

Now, by this point, my oldest daughter had discovered the mastermind movie of Frozen so when grocery shopping I was automatically drawn to all things Frozen.  I did notice that Royal brand gelatin had a series of pink, purple, clear (very cool looking jello), and blue gelatin powder. After making my traditional twist on the classic jiggler recipe, I layered the colors to create a very Frozen inspired version of snowflake jigglers.

 

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Again, keep in mind, I was not photographing with the idea of sharing these with the world. That came after the fact.

For the cake, I mentioned that as a child, (and frankly… still today) I always requested a GOB CAKE. Mother… if you are reading this, I’m still waiting for the one for my 30th birthday…

I love the classic gob treat, and whatever genius female in my family first turned that fabulous baked good into a cake, I believe it was my aunt, I thank you! Now for a gluten-free version of the cake, you really need to have a good, rich, chocolate cake recipe. You could start from scratch creating the layers of cake, but I have actually found several boxed version that make a very rich bakery style cake when you add a few extra ingredients to the mix. For the snow-bunny theme, I stuck with a simple white icing and clear sprinkles to present as a simple “snow cake.”

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You can find the gluten-free Gob Cake recipe in a future post as well! With all of these promises of future recipes that I will inevitably have to bake to post, I can pretty much kiss all those “healthy eating” resolutions good bye! It’s fine with me though, because a gob cake trumps all resolutions in my mind.

Other than some great printables, good food, and balloons, the rest of the party was pretty simple. (Ok, I can feel you all rolling your eyes at me…)

Fast forward to our most-recent party adventure and my MOST FAVORITE ETSY SHOP EVER!!! Brace yourselves, because Shana is fabulous. She has the most creative decor, stylish ideas, and unique accessories. I wish I had a little boy in my life to party plan for. But as I mentioned earlier, we are living in a sea of girls! Girls, on girls, on girls! A series of Dad-friends who all have little girls!

Shana McGavock is so phenomenal to work with! Along with her beautiful designs, she is great with providing decor suggestions, personalizing your details, and making your little Mr. or little Miss. feel so special. The Etsy shop name is Belva June and please, if you shop, tell her Whitney sent you!

For birthday number three, Shana heavily inspired me to ask our guests to “Flock on Over” and “Flamingle” with Brielle! I mean, seriously, how can you not LOVE a three year old celebrating with flamingos?!

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It didn’t stop there, she went on to create darling individualized little signs with cute sayings like “Party like a Pineapple” which my husband insisted during the entire party was not a real saying… like he would know.

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Seriously, how can you not party like a pineapple when you have flamingo straws???! Clearly I had a little too much fun planning this party. I should also throw in a disclaimer that if you ever decide to purchase these amazing 36 inch balloons from Amazon, while the balloons are an inexpensive addition to a party, all of the helium involved in filling them is NOT.

As I get deeper and deeper into this, I’m realizing this could have been a series of three posts, but it’s all in the learning process of blogging I suppose. The wrappers and tags were all from Shana’s fabulous shop!

The cakes were done by me. I used my tried and true chocolate cake, and made a fresh strawberry butter cream filling for the center with a marshmallow buttercream on the outside. Looking back, I believe everyone agrees the entire thing should have been slathered in that delicious Strawberry butter cream. YUM.

But those straws. How could you not love those straws. I still have a package and plan to re-purpose several of these decorations for a faculty luau luncheon next month.

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There are those cookies again! I told you, cookies and jigglers are party staples with the Bargerstock kiddos. You might be wondering about those flamingo cookies. And why on earth I wouldn’t just get a flamingo cookie cutter?! My mom and I were shopping at a local mall back in the fall (yes… I chose this theme months before the party) and I found a flamingo cookie cutter, but at the last second felt I could find a slightly larger one online if I looked, so I put it back. Being the absent-minded mother that I am, having the cookie cutter in my hand registered as “oh yes, you bought that, check it off your list” It wasn’t until I mixed up and rolled out the first round of cookies that I realized, “oh wait, NO. You DIDN’T buy that.” So we rolled with it and squeezed a flamingo in, star tip style of course, the number 3.

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And so, I will leave you with these sweet cheeks and the thought that, just because you have a winter birthday, does not mean it has to be dull, gray, boring, cold, or blah. No, you can create anything if you take the time and just put your mind to it!

Or call me! And I’ll hook a sista up!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

 

Valentines Day: Crafts and Treats

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!

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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!

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Nothing like the left-over scraps of a cutie’s lunch!

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!

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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.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

 

Gluten Free Red Velvet Cheesecake Bites

2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 c. butter

1 c. sugar

2 eggs

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 egg

1/3 c. sugar

1 tsp vanilla

 

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate. Set aside. Cream together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and food coloring. add in flour.
  3. Cream together cream cheese, egg, sugar, and vanilla.
  4. Pour the red-velvet mixture into a greased 8×8 or 9×9 square baking pan
  5. Spoon on the cream cheese topping, swirl with a buttet knife
  6. Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean and cheesecake layer is set.