I love family. I love learning. I love food. This is simply a collection of thoughts, memories, and recipes that are a piece of me!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Parties Full Of Class.

Among all the wonderful perks that homeschooling has to offer (the list is too abundant to even start here), there are a few little drawbacks that have bothered me since the night I decided this was a calling our family couldn't ignore back when Isaiah was only days old.  I was, as I'm sure many homeschool parents are, afraid my kids would miss out on things in life.  One big thing I was always afraid they'd never get to experience was a class party.  Those were some of my favorite school memories as a child, and let's face it, it's just not the same in a "class" of just you and your two siblings.

Thankfully, we have been blessed with a wonderful co-op with lots of other kids and parents who want to give their kids those happy little memories, too.

The best thing about this party was that it wasn't me doing it.  I simply made a little treat and showed up, kids in tow.  

Mrs. Gore (Of Mrs. Gore's Diary) came up earlier in the day and set up the room for us.  It was decorated beautifully!

The kids had pizza and lots of treats.

Yeah...including these.

After they ate, they played lots of games.  First, they split into groups and tried to see who could build the biggest tower out of conversation hearts.

It took them a few tries to figure it out, but the winning team got 14 hearts high!

Next, the kids played Valentine bingo.  Always a crowd favorite among kids.

The last game, the kids used a straw to get candies into a cup.

After the games, the kids got their bags filled with little pieces of love for each of them.  It was such a fun, precious night, and as I sat back and looked around, I realized how blessed we are.

Class parties are even better than I remember them.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valentine's Day Can Stuff It.

Shhhhh...do you hear that?

It's the sound of my heart going pitter-patter over Valentine's Day!

Just kidding.  It's my stomach growling.

I'm not going to lie.  I don't love Valentine's Day.  I like it as a friend.  It's as good of a day as any to take a little time and think about love and pray for my sweet husband and be thankful that God gave him to me.

But you know what I do love?  Sweet things.  You know when it seems to be socially acceptable to stuff your face with sweet things?  Valentine's day.  ...okay, so maybe I do love that day...

For the last couple of years, I've gone bonkers over chocolate- specifically chocolate and strawberries.  A few years ago, Bird brought home the most amazing chocolates from a quaint little shop that I've become a huge fan of since.  It's this unbelievable, melts-as-soon-as-it-hits-your-mouth imported chocolate, and I was totally spoiled.  The last two Valentine's Days (is that the multiple of that term?), I have used that chocolate to make fondue and chocolate covered strawberries, and though it's maybe the best thing in the history of ever, I wasn't up for the hour trip each way to go get it this year.  You know...babies and stuff.  I decided instead to try something new.  I've been enamored with this recipe by Ina Garten for a long time now, so I thought I'd try my own little spin on it.

Now, the original recipe is made with an actual coeur a la creme mold.  It's traditionally a heart shaped mold, so that in itself would make an adorable dessert for Valentine's day.  I'm not big on buying individual little dishes that only work for one thing (it'd end up being used to drain pasta...), so I've never bought one.  Instead, I just use some basic kitchen utensils most everyone has.

What you'll need:
12 oz cream cheese (room temp)
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 lemons (this is different than Ms. Garten's recipe)
2 1/2 cups heavy cream

Let's talk about cream cheese.  Don't go 1/3 of the fat stuff here.  It's not the time, my dears.  Just remember you're going to be eating way more strawberry than you are filling.  (I'm not, but you might.)  Next, room temp is so important.  If it's cold, it's not ever going to whip.

First, whip together the cream cheese and powdered sugar until it's a creamy texture.

Stop.  Write this down mentally:  In the summer, cut open a fresh peach, sprinkle on some butter and brown sugar, grill, and top it with this mixture of cream cheese and powdered sugar.  Jeepers it's amazing.

Sorry...moving on...

The only part of the lemon we are going to be using is the zest.  I actually don't have a proper zester... for shame! It's on my list...I just use the smallest part of a cheese grater.  Add in the zest of both lemons (turns out to be about 2 tsps) and the vanilla.  Mix that in well with the creamed cheese.
If you're in a pinch and want to eat this today, this would actually be fine as it is piped into the strawberries or used as a dip..

Otherwise, add the heavy cream and beat that sucker to stiff peaks.  Taste.  Fall in love.

Again, this would work as an alternative to whipped cream for a strawberry or fruit dip...but I love the end product if you give it the time it deserves.

I set a strainer on a bowl where the bottom of the strainer will not reach the bottom of the bowl.  You can line the strainer with cheesecloth or I just use paper towels because who the heck keeps cheesecloth in their house?  Spoon the mixture into the lined strainer, cover, and let it rest at least overnight.  I purposely made mine two days in advance because the longer it sits, the better it gets.  The lemon infuses throughout the mixture, and the setup allows all the excess moisture to drain out leaving a soft cheese texture that is rich and tangy and sweet and amazing.

Once your coeur a la creme is ready, carefully take the tops off of the strawberries.  I used a paring knife to cut a good amount of the center out to make a nice little spot for the filling to sit.

Piping isn't hard, but it can be frustrating if you don't know how to set it all up.  I used a small ziplock bag with a corner cut out and the tip stuck in.  Using a glass, just place the bag inside and roll the top over to keep everything clean.  Drop in the filling and ease it out of the opening at the bottom.

Pipe the mixture into the strawberries.  Refrigerate until you're ready to serve.

They aren't chocolate, but these little guys are probably my favorite Valentine treat ever.