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Entries in Summer (34)


4th of July Healthy Eats and Sweet Treats - Part 2

Yesterday we featured patriotic fruit stacks as the healthy but yummy portion of this two-part post; today we are going to get into the good stuff; our 4th of July Sweet Treats. This tasty post is a modification of the Star & Stripes Cheesecake Shots shared on Half-Baked: the cake blog. Any cheesecake that you can pick up and pop in your mouth is great for adults and kids, and you can make it as sweet as you want by modifying the amount of sugar that you add to the cream-cheese mixture.

4th of July Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries

{modified from Star & Stripes Cheesecake Shots}

Ingredients needed:

1 8 oz. package of cream cheese-room temperature

1 8 oz. tub of Cool Whip- thawed (you can use whipped heavy cream also-you may need to add more sugar)

¼ cup of white sugar (more or less depending on your sweet tooth)

½ tsp. of vanilla

Fresh blueberries

½ package of puff pastry-thawed (this will be too much; I did not come up with a solution on how to cut it back-you could possible cut the frozen roll of pastry in 1/2 so you were only using ¼ of the package, but I am not sure how easy this will be-we just ate the extra dipped in the extra cheesecake mixture)

½ cup melted butter (if end up trying to quarter the amount of pastry you use you will only need ¼ cup)

¼ of turbinado sugar for “sparkling”stars

1-inch star shaped cookie cutter

*full disclosure: we actually used fillo dough due to me not realizing that it was different from puff pastry-this required us to have to butter each layer which was a little messy and time-consuming, you can save the time and trouble by using the frozen Puff Pastry by Pepperidge Farm


To start I washed our berries off and whipped up the "cheesecake" filling. We were short on time so I forgot to take pictures of the "before" but the process was simple. I whipped the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until it was light and fluffy. I then folded in the whipped topping until uniform throughout. I then set it aside and got busy hulling berries. To get them to stand up on the plate I cut the bottom off so they had a flat surface to rest on. I used a small paring knife to this part and it worked like a dream. You could try one of those fancy-shmancy strawberry hullers, but I like that I had control over the size of the hull and could make it a little bigger to fit more filling.

Once this was done I set them up in the serving tray per my sister's suggestion. She said it would be better to not move them once they were filled; I think it was good advice. I used a piece of blue vellum to line the tray; you could use any scrap book paper you had lying around. Scrapbook paper is a great way to make a really simple dessert look fantastic; we use that trick all the time to line cupcake displays or cake plates.

It was then time to pump them full of "cheesecake" filling. My sister does cakes and cupcakes as a hobby/side job, so she hooked me up with a professional pastry bag and tip, but you could use a ziploc bag with a corner cut off just as effectively.

Once the tray was full of cheesecake stuffed strawberries I stuck it in the fridge to chill and made the puff-pastry stars. As I stated in my disclosure, I confused fillo dough with puff pastry, so I was a little stressed when I opened the box and the layers were separated. We are problem-solvers though, especially when guests are due to arrive in 45 minutes, so I put the child on buttering duty, channeled my Tim Gunn, and "made it work".

Once we had the top layer buttered we sprinkled the turbinado sugar on top (Sugar in the Raw), punched out the stars using the 1-inch star-shaped cookie cutter, gingerly separated them and spread them out onto a lined cookie sheet. I lined mine with my Silpat; you could also use parchment paper. I did not spray it with anything since we had butter everywhere. They baked them at 425 F for about 10 minutes, and came out looking much better than I expected. The picture below shows what they looked like before going into the oven.

Once the stars had cooled, each stuffed strawberry was topped with a blueberry and star "pastry". You could also use cookie dough or pie crust to make the stars if you did not want to mess around with puff pastry or fillo dough. These 4th of July Sweet Treats were a huge hit at the party, so much so that I only got to taste one. Delicious and patriotic!


4th of July Healthy Eats and Sweet Treats- Part 1

The 4th of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. This is not to say that I do not get really excited about other holidays like Halloween and Christmas, but the 4th of July is a great time to gather with friends and family to celebrate without the pressure of gifts, baked goods, complex decorating schemes, etc. The colors and theme are already picked for you, and gatherings are usually held outdoors so you don’t have to stress about the fact that you have not dusted your woodwork since Christmas. This past weekend I hosted one such event in our backyard. Instead of making a fancy dessert, I decided to make a healthy snack and a sweet treat. Both featured the colors red, white and blue and a star-theme. Today’s post will feature the Healthy Eats portion of our dessert; check back tomorrow for the Sweet Treat.

One thing I really liked about both of these snacks/desserts (other than their tastiness) is that my daughter Maggie could assist during different stages. She is 4 so it didn’t necessarily make the preparation go faster, but it did give her a chance to work on some kitchen skills and for me to work on some patience skills.

Healthy Eats: 4th of July Fruit Stacks

{inspired by the fruit flag featured on The Kitchn: }

Ingredients needed:




2.5 inch star-shaped cookie cutter (it could be bigger or smaller-this is just what I used)

4-inch skewers

The first thing I did was cut a slice off of the watermelon, lay it flat on a cookie sheet (it keeps the juice from going everywhere) and cut the rind off. I then set the child loose on punching out star-shaped watermelon “cookies”.

This lasted about 3 minutes until I got tired of helping her get the cookie cutter unstuck (I cut the first slice to thick), and she became more interested in eating the watermelon than making stars.

I then had an epiphany that slicing the watermelon vertically would make it easier to cut thin even slices, which would make it easier to cut out stars; the star-shaped cookie cutter I used was about 1-inch thick.

It went a little faster then; Maggie supervised and I punched out the watermelon stars. When we were done we had about 28 stars. We also had a lot of scraps which I did not want to waste, so we saved them to snack on this week. (She wore the yellow hard hat you see in the background while supervising, but did not want it on for her big modeling moment.)

Once we had our stars ready to go; I sliced up some bananas, washed the blueberries and modeled for the child how to skewer the fruit to make a red, white and blue fruit tower without poking her eye out or stabbing her finger. While I organized the watermelon stars into leftover cupcake wrappers I found in the closet (some were stars-perfect!) the child worked off the cost of the mango smoothie I bought her at Target earlier that day and skewered all of the fruit towers. I was impressed. 

We served them at the party an hour later, and the only regret I had was that I did not dip the banana slices in lemon juice to keep them from turning brown. The supervisor gave them two-thumbs up, and they were enjoyed by both kids and adults alike. For the really little ones we took the skewer out before putting the fruit on their plates. These would also be cute for a patriotic brunch. You could also use longer skewers and skewer the stars sideways, alternating banana pieces and blueberries if you wanted something a little more substantial.

Come back tomorrow to check out the “Sweet Treat” in Part 2 of this post!


Tornado In A Bottle!

My son is infatuated with tornadoes. Whenever we see any type of destruction, he asks if it was a tornado. THANKFULLY, tornadoes are not as common here as in tornado alley. We do get Tornado watches and my heart skips a beat. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to make a tornado out of soda (or pop, depending on where you live!) bottles.

It is super easy.

1. Buy two soda bottles. As you can see I bought one green and one clear. It is probably better with two clear.

2. Fill one bottle with water about 2/3's full.

3. Keeping the bottle with the water upright, tape the two soda bottle necks together tightly with masking tape or buy a Tornado Tube and screw both necks together.

4. Flip the bottles so that the bottle with the water is on top.

5. Gently circulate the top bottle either clockwise or counter-clockwise until a vortex forms. It doesn't take too many circles.

6. Repeat over and over until your patience cannot take it much longer.

A little food coloring and/or glitter in the water will add to the magic.

It was literally over an hour of fun!

We also enjoyed watching tornado clips on You Tube and reading library books on how tornadoes are formed (your mouth will become dry from reading so much!!!)


Travel Bags

 Sorry about the quality of the photos, they were taken with my phone. :)

For our road trip, I made two bags, one for each day of our travel. Each bag had different items so the kids would not become bored. They worked out very well! Hopefully they will work just as well on our way home!

In preparation, I went to Target and bought a few things. I found these card packs for $1 each. I thought they were kind of fun. I also bought two brand new DVD's.

I saw these educational blocks on The Home Teacher blog. She used them on her road trip and I loved the idea. You can buy the blocks from Amazon and I did subscribe to The Educational Cube website where they have great printables to use with the blocks. I thought we could toss one block in the air and then search around for an item or word that is either the color, shape, or starts with the letter. We actually didn't get to this game yet, however, Hannah had a blast stacking them on her legs and throwing them around.

I placed books, additionally DVD's, crayons, coloring pages, and blank paper in each bag. I also downloaded and printed these great bingo cards from Oopsey Daisey.

We found it helpful to have a small blanket for each kid. My oldest tends to get cold very easy and he loved to snuggle up with his blanket while he watched a DVD. {Thank heavens for modern technology!}

If you are travelling this summer, hopefully travel bags can help!


Road Tripping!

Sorry, I haven't blogged in a bit, we are on family trip and having a great adventure! We have travelled over 1,000 miles to reach our destination of Branson, Missouri. Branson is completely different than I imagined. We are so excited to explore the farm that my husband's grandmother was born  and raised on as well as meet two of her sisters. I love family!

We started off on our road trip with a few hiccups.

One hour in, my son ended up stuffing his mouth full of food and let's just say it ended up coming back up. We were so excited to sit in Walgreen's parking lot cleaning everything up. {We are just thankful we weren't in the middle of no where.}

The next morning, we were all packed and settled into the car to get the party started, and we ended up with a dead battery. I couldn't help but laugh, it was so funny!

Thankfully, since then, everything has gone smoothly!

To prepare for our road trip, I made two "travel bags" for the kids. As soon as I get pictures, I will share. They worked out very well and both the kids travelled incredibly well for the 19 hour journey.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Sunday!

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