Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easter Basket Ideas for a Tween Boy

I always go overboard at Easter when it comes to baskets.  I mean, really overboard.  Not in spending too much money, because the items are just little, essentially stocking stuffers.  But to the point that stuff does not fit into the basket.  At all.  I have to prop up all the extras around the basket.  And I always vow to control myself the next year.  I did a little better this time, partly because I bought Bubba a bigger basket last year.  But it's mostly because Bubba is at that difficult stage.  Not difficult in attitude (yet!), but difficult to buy for.  No longer a little kid (he does still love his stuffed animals), but not entirely a big kid either (not looking forward to THAT day!).  Also difficult in that I'm not exactly sure if he believes in the "Easter Bunny" anymore.  Not that it will matter though. He'll get an Easter basket even when he doesn't believe.  I didn't believe in the bunny when I was 17, but I sure looked forward to that basket!

So even though I tend to buy too many basket stuffers on my own, I still felt like I needed a few ideas.  The seasonal section at Target wasn't much help; the items there are for really little kids or girly or just not right for my boy.  Googling "tween boy Easter basket" didn't help much either.  There were suggestions for teens (who are clearly not believers in the bunny anymore, making gift cards a big addition) or entire baskets available for purchase from Amazon, which really isn't my thing.  I finally decided to use some of the teen suggestions and added some of my own ideas, based on what I know E likes.  And I went overboard.  Again.  But I think it's fun and I hope he likes it.  It's exciting to see his face when he finds the basket (and all the accompanying overflow of loot) on Easter morning!  

If you're looking for a few last-minute Easter basket ideas for your tween boy, this is what I came up with: 
Video Games - E likes video games (what tween doesn't), so when I found a used Nintendo Pirates of the Caribbean 3DS game online for a reasonable price, I built around that.  He needed a new DS car charger (check) and ear buds (check).  Hubby picked up some Angry Birds gummy candy and a Mario Pez-type dispenser to toss in as well.
Books - My boy loves the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, so I included a hardcover copy of the first in the series.  He also likes graphic novels.  I found the Action Bible at Sam's Club, which was perfect, considering it is Easter (after all!).
Art - Ever since he used the Biggie Perler Beads at vacation Bible school a few summers ago, Bubba has been wanting to have some in his art stash to work with.  I also bought a mechanical pencil, a doodle pad, and some water color pencils for my little artist.
Summer Toys - I always used to buy bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and sandbox items for his Easter basket, but I think he's probably outgrown those.  He needs sunglasses that don't have Mickey Mouse or Thomas on them, so those seemed a natural choice!  We have always included a nice kite and I continued that tradition with a fighter plane-style model this year.
Silly Stuff - What 9-year-old boy doesn't love a whoopee cushion?  And a Superman bobblehead?  And glow-in-the-dark bracelets, for that matter?!
Traditions - Candy, of course!  I know he loves gum and KitKats.  Cadbury Eggs.  Peeps.  Life Saver Gummies.  A chocolate bunny.  And I was really excited to find a chocolate CROSS at Walmart (although now I don't know if I feel right about eating the cross...but that's another discussion entirely).  I also put a little cash in a "golden" egg.  Because money burns a hole in my boy's pocket.  I'm sure I'll get it back pretty quick when he decides to buy some Amazon downloads with it!  Oh, and a fun new toothbrush with a new kind of toothpaste.  E hates trying new toothpaste, so maybe if the bunny brings it, it will go over better.  And our dentist won't completely disapprove, either.
I also considered including an Amazon or iTunes gift card and a tennis racket, but I clearly already have purchased enough.  I also thought about swim gear, but I bought him new swim trunks on clearance last summer, he's not a big fan of flip-flops, and we have plenty of beach towels.  I've done DVDs in the past, which always go over well.  In future years, when I'm certain the bunny is absolutely no longer a factor, coupons for privileges and small treats like frozen yogurt or bottles of soda are thoughts, too.

Do you give baskets for Easter?  If so, what types of items do you usually include?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dark Chocolate Cookie-wiches (Cookie Sandwiches)

Have you ever eaten a cookie-wich?  You know, a cookie sandwich.  Like an Oreo, but with better cookies.  Soft, moist cookies.  And LOTS more frosting.  If you haven't, then this is the place to start.  Because these are scrumdeeliumptious!

Dark Chocolate Cookie-wiches
Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction and Beantown Baker
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1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
1 bag dark chocolate morsels
12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk

Place the softened butter in a large bowl and cream on medium speed.  While the mixer is running, add the sugars and cream until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs and vanilla, and cream until smooth.  Set aside.  In another large bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together.  Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing slowly.  Add the milk and dark chocolate morsels.  When combined, the dough will be thick and very sticky.  Cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours.  Preheat oven to 350F degrees.  Using a medium-size cookie scoop, scoop the chilled dough onto baking sheets.  Bake for 12-13 minutes.  Cookies will be very soft, so allow them to cool slightly on the baking sheets for 7-10 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.  While the cookies are cooling, cream the butter and vanilla for the frosting together.  In a separate bowl, sift together the powdered sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder.  Add the milk, a little at a time, as you may not need all of it to reach the desired consistency.  Beat at medium-high speed for 5 minutes.  Once the cookies have cooled completely, use a large cookie scoop and place a dollop of the frosting on one of the cookies.  Place a second cookie on top of the frosting and slowly and gently sandwich the two cookies together.  Store refrigerated in a sealed container.  Allow to warm to room temperature prior to serving.

Servings:  Recipe makes 21 cookie-wiches (42 single cookies) with about 1/2 cup of frosting left over.  You can do like my hubby and smear it on any other single cookies you have sitting around the house!
Calories:  I have no idea because I don't want to know!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Crock Pot Pea-nutty Asian Chicken

So much for my goal.  My blogging goal.  At the beginning of the year, I made it my goal to blog every week, on Tuesday, with a longer term goal of posting twice per week.  Like a real blogger.  January was great; right on target.  But then came February.  One post.  Not so good.  And here it is, almost the middle of March, and this is my first post of the month.  How is time getting away from me?  I'm not sure.  I could make excuses (and believe me, I have some!), but as my mom used to tell me, "Tomorrow is a new day."  Or today is the start of a new month.  Or a new year, for that matter.  Basically, it's never too late to change.  So let's try this one again, 'kay?

Several years ago I was in a Bunco group with a bunch of other moms from my MoPs (Mothers of Preschoolers) group.  We'd get together once a month for a girls night, with the hostess providing dinner, dessert, and snacks.  It was always a great night out, and there was always really good food.  This recipe was one I picked up from a Bunco friend.  I've tweaked it slightly, but it's still the same hearty, tasty meal that's quick and easy to throw together in the morning.  It smells fantastic while it's cooking all day long and tastes even better!

Crock Pot Pea-nutty Asian Chicken
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1 1/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut in bite-size chunks
2 Tbsp. Land O Lakes light butter
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1 pkg. fresh sliced white mushrooms
1 can (10 3/4 oz.) 98% fat free condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sliced celery
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup Jasmine rice
1/4 c. House of Tsang Sweet Ginger Sesame Grill Sauce
1/4 cup peanuts (or cashews) (optional)

Combine chicken, light butter, green onion, mushrooms, soup, celery, bell pepper, soy sauce, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a Crock Pot or slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6 hours.  Just before chicken is ready to serve, cook the rice according to package directions.  Serve the chicken over cooked rice with sauce drizzled over the top.  Garnish with nuts if desired.

Serves:  4
Calories:  433, plus optional nuts