Last Minute Holiday Treats

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I like to give homemade treats for the holidays.  I get the cute little tins and fill them with goodies.  This year the kids handed some out to our whole neighborhood of 2 dozen houses, plus teachers, friends, the mailman, and even our pediatrician’s office.

It’s nice to have a variety of treats, but it’s a pain to make a large quantity of a lot of different things.  I kept it pretty easy this year.  I made some of The Best Cookies Ever.  They are a variation on spritz cookies, so they work up quickly.  If you don’t have a cookie press, you could always make the dough and then form balls and press them on to a cookie sheet with a half pecan on top.  Yum.  And then I made fudge and turtles.  The easy way.  And threw in some mints for good measure.

I’m not a food blogger or a food photographer.  I didn’t come up with either of these recipes, but they are so easy I have to share them.  Each requires only 3 ingredients and a few minutes of time and turns out beautifully.

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Pesto and Dinner

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Yesterday, I decided it was time to harvest my basil.  There were little flower spikes starting to appear, so I cut it way back.  I got a good armload of basil, so I decided to make pesto.

Pesto is easy.  You gather fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and toasted pine nuts.  There are many other things you can add (garlic, almonds, pistachios, other hard Italian cheeses, etc) but those are the basics.  I think I usually add garlic, but I forgot it this time.  Then you throw everything in the food processor with enough olive oil to blend well.  I never measure anything.  And I always put in a lot of pine nuts.  I love pine nuts.

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The armload of basil yielded almost five cups of pesto.  I decided to use two cups for dinner and froze the other three, separately, for later.

Here are the dinner ingredients.  Sadly, only the basil was from my garden.  Our garden space at home is limited by the big trees blocking sunlight to most of the yard.  I plan to come up with a solution when the kids are all a bit older.

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I like to have the kids help with dinner when possible (translation: Sometimes, when I’m well rested and feeling very ambitious.)  Son #1 cut up the veggies to sauté.  Son #2 helped pick all the basil leaves off the stems and wash them for the pesto.  Son #3 mostly stayed out of trouble.  Son #4 ran around half-naked and half-potty-trained.  Baby girl intermittently interrupted everything because she wanted to snack and play and have everyone’s attention.

But, somehow, dinner got made.

High protein pasta with homemade pesto, topped with Parmesan, extra toasted pine nuts, and a sprig of basil; zucchini, asparagus, and green beans sautéed  in olive oil; store bought bread with butter the kids made over the weekend.

I used to make things like this every night when we had three kids.  With five kids this is a seriously fancy meal.  We’re not vegetarian, but we generally avoid red meat and meatless days are pretty common.

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And here is a dose of reality.  I hate that most people heavily edit their lives on social media so that everything appears perfect.  My life isn’t like that, and I have no problem admitting it.  Here is how my looked kitchen when dinner was half-way made (that means without the dinner dishes!)  Some of the dishes were from the previous day.  It happens.  The rest were from breakfast and lunch.  The dishwasher was clean, but hadn’t gotten emptied yet.  And yes, there was junk on that corner of the floor (it probably fell off of the counter.)  It all got cleaned up eventually.  And I got to bed around midnight.

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I absolutely love all five of our kids.  I do not love the volume of mess, especially dishes and laundry, which they generate.

 

 

Easter Egg Pancakes

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On Easter morning I tried to sleep in a little while the boys went through their Easter baskets.  The baby was sleeping, so I didn’t want to get out of bed, but four boys with new treats require some supervision.  I got up earlier than I had hoped.

After all the goodies were cleaned up I was disappointed to learn that my eldest remembered that I had made Easter Egg Pancakes last year.  Needless to say, he wanted them again.  I gave in pretty easily.  It ended up taking an hour and a half to make the batter and the pancakes.  My husband got to sleep in (it was his turn) so I was trying to manage the four boys, keep the baby happy, and cook.  It can be a challenge.

I made six bowls of pancake batter, according to the recipe on the Bisquick box.  I’m not one of those super-perfect-everything-from-scratch mommies.  Each bowl had 1/2 batch of batter.  I think it was 1 cup of mix, 1/2 cup of milk, and 1 egg.  I used liquid egg whites, because it’s easier.  Then I added food coloring: red, purple, yellow, blue, green, and swirled.  Just because it sounded fun at the time, I decided to try to make each color of pancake a different flavor (bad decision from the time management perspective.)

To the pink I added defrosted strawberries and the strawberry juice.

To the green I added sliced granny smith apple and a little cinnamon.

To the yellow I added a mashed banana and some mini chocolate chips.

To the purple I added dried cranberries.  I wanted to do raisins, but we were out.

We were also out of blueberries, and I was running low on creativity (baby C was unhappy), so blue stayed plain.  Swirled was plain, too.

The cooking took a while, and A, the toddler, got very hungry and stared helping himself to pancakes before I finished them all.  Here’s what it takes to feed a family of seven with pancakes.  Notice they aren’t all nicely egg shaped.  This is real life and it’s really hard to make egg shaped pancakes when there are lumps of strawberry, apple, cranberries, etc in the batter.

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As shown at top, I served them a pancake of each color with maple syrup (the real stuff, of course) and a few Jordan almonds.  Because they look like Easter eggs.  And taste really good.  And I just wanted some and couldn’t get away with eating them unless I shared.

And now it’s going to end up being an annual tradition, I guess.

At least they can’t possibly remember that 4 1/2 years ago, on Halloween morning, I made them pumpkin shaped pancakes, containing canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices, with little jack’o’lantern faces made out of raisins.  At least, I hope they can’t remember.  We’ll find out in 7 months.

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