Foodie Friday: Vanilla-Date Smoothie

This foodie post is centered around a nutritious, filling smoothie recipe that a three year-old can make – and drink – on the porch.

The days I am able to pick up Mister and Missy early from daycare, we try to do something fun. A couple of weeks ago, I decided that we’d make smoothies with the Magic Bullet once we reached home. We’ve done it before, and they love to throw ingredients in the mini-blender which is perfect for little hands, and help to mix it under close supervision.

Well this fine day M&M asked if they could play outside. Not wanting to leave them unattended while I made the smoothies myself, an idea struck. Why not bring the smoothie ingredients, which were already set aside, and the Magic Bullet onto the porch and make it out there? Sure the neighbours may think I was bonkers but then again they may just think the sound of the blender is a lawnmower or something.

So in the time it took M&M to choose their sidewalk chalk colours for drawing on the driveway, I was able to bring out all the ingredients. We were making 2 smoothies today based on ripening fruit in the fridge: one strawberry-vanilla and one vanilla-date using those sweet treats left over from a month of fasting in Ramadan. I combined two recipes for date smoothies from the Internet: Creamy Date Shake and Vanilla-Date Breakfast Smoothie to make this recipe.

Keep in mind the vanilla-date smoothie may need a stronger blender to mix than the Magic Bullet. Since we were on the porch, I used the Bullet for portability. Below is a picture of the ingredients for the date smoothie, which included honey, vanilla, yoghurt, milk and pitted dates. Luckily all the ingredients (minus the dates) were also used in the strawberry vanilla smoothie.

Vanilla-Date Smoothie
½ cup dates (pitted) – I used the big, juicy kind that originate from Iran or Saudi Arabia, found at specialty Middle Eastern supermarkets
½ cup whole-milk yogurt
½ cup whole milk
1 cup crushed ice (use more for desired smoothness)
1 tablespoon honey (optional)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Missy was in charge of the vanilla-date smoothie. Here is how it went down:

Step 1 – Set out all ingredients and plug in blender

Ingredients

Ingredients

Step 2 – Place pitted dates in blender cup

What do we put next?

What do we put next?

Step 3 – Pour milky into blender cup, add honey and other ingredients as per recipe

Pouring milky

Pouring milky

Step 4 – Blend, shake, blend, and enjoy!

Minnie Mixer

Minnie Mixer


Smoothie on the porch

Smoothie on the porch

Tips: With the dates being naturally sweet, you don’t need very much honey. For a low-fat version, substitute whole milk and yoghurt for skim, or use almond milk.

Foodie Friday: Our Go-To Granola Recipe

A couple of years ago, a fellow twin mama published this granola recipe on her blog.  I make it frequently.  In fact, my kitchen feels a little empty if we don’t have something in the granola container.

granola

Our favorite way to eat granola…over Greek yogurt and fresh fruit!

My girls always help me make the granola, and I actually let them measure everything.  My sense is that the measurements don’t have to be super precise, which is a good thing with a couple of littles in the kitchen.

Here’s the recipe the way I make it (more or less):

4 cups old-fashioned oatmeal (uncooked)

1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup whole wheat flour or wheat germ

1/2 stick butter, melted

1/2 cup honey

1 Tbsp. (or so) of cinnamon

1/4-1/2 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 250.  Mix oats, coconut, and wheat flour/germ.  Dump in butter and honey (enough to make it moist but not super sticky…add more honey if necessary).  Toss mixture in a greased 9×13″ glass baking dish.  Bake for about 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes, until golden brown.

I’ve never added anything else, but if you’d like dried fruit, like raisins or cranberries, or chocolate chips in your granola, add them after baking.

If I’m making this just for our family, I usually make 1/2 a recipe.  We LOVE this over Greek yogurt in the mornings.  (And this mama loves it over ice cream — with a little chocolate syrup — after the girls are in bed!)  This also makes a great gift (and looks super-cute in a pretty mason jar).

MandyE is mom to five-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Foodie Friday: Broccoli, Carrot, and Cheese Orzo

Ah, feeding toddlers. One of my 19-month-old fraternal twin boys will eat anything, and lots of it. The other lives almost exclusively on fruit and meatballs. One thing they both love is Carrot, Broccoli, and Cheese Orzo* – known around here as More-zo, as everyone in our household asks for more than one serving.

Aside from substantial yumminess for folks of all ages, this dish has several key benefits:

  1. Veggies are built right in.
  2. The consistency makes it easy for forks or fingers.
  3. It’s even tastier when heated up the next day.

Carrot, Broccoli, and Cheese Orzo

You will need:

  • A food processor
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled (or baby carrots)
  • 1 small shallot
  • 1 glove garlic
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Heat butter or olive oil in a large pan. Chop garlic, shallots, carrots, and broccoli in food processor, scraping sides occasionally to make sure all the pieces are thoroughly chopped. Place vegetables and raw orzo in pan, add salt, and stir over medium heat over 4 minutes. Add water and chicken broth, simmering for 15-20 minutes until the orzo is tender. Stir in cheese (I sometimes add more cheese to taste).

We serve it with meatballs or salmon. I often double or triple the recipe to have some leftovers.

*Original recipe from BabyCenter.com.

Foodie Friday: Weeknight Apple Crumble

Weeknight apple crumble. A quick solution to fresh apple pie.

Our weeknight hours are very limited. We get home between 6:30 and 7:00 and bedtime is 8:30. I try to squeeze as much quality as I can out of that time. My twin 7-year-olds and I talk about our days, discussing academics, relationships, and the international news. If I’m lucky, the girls will have liked the dinner served at childcare and I can put off my own dinner until they’re in bed. Sometimes, though, they come home without having eaten and I have to scramble to feed them before bath time.

I have a number of weeknight quick meals in my repertoire: hummus, chips and fresh fruit; turkey and cheese sandwiches with baby carrots; whole grain mac and cheese with frozen sweet corn. I can’t plan for these meals since I never know when the girls will decide that dinner at the YMCA is yucky.

On occasion, the girls will ask for dessert, and our default is ice cream. Last night, however, we had fresh-baked apple crumble. While I make a fine apple-cranberry pie in the winter, there’s no way I could whip one up in during the evening rush. Instead, on weeknights, I make a super-quick version of apple crumble

This is no healthy dish. It’s loaded with sugar and butter. However, I believe that giving in to hedonism every now and then is a good thing. I’m teaching my girls to indulge in moderation. And, as J put it the first time she tasted my apple crumble, “This is so good! The ingredients say it should taste like apple and sugar, but it tastes like love.”

Usually, when I share recipes, I at least pretend that I measure my ingredients and give measurable quantities alongside my ingredient list. You won’t get that here. Part of the way I keep this reasonable for weeknights is to minimize dishes that require washing. No measuring spoons. One mixing bowl. I pop the crumbles in the oven when I pop the girls in the bath and we eat them once the children are dry and dressed.

With no more ado, here’s my recipe:

Apple Crumble

  • Frozen single-serving pastry shells
  • 1 medium Granny Smith apple per 2 shells
  • Handful of brown sugar
  • 2 handfuls of all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • Teensy touch of nutmeg
  • 1 handful of granulated sugar
  • Chunk of butter
  • (Optional) Handful of oats
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  2. Place your pastry shells on a baking sheet. If you think they need extra support, a muffin tin should help.
  3. Peel and core the apples. Dice into small pieces. We like the pieces tiny, but feel free to do as much chopping as you have time for.
  4. Place apples, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg and one handful of flour in a bowl. Mix. The mixture should glisten. If it looks watery, throw in some more flour.
  5. Divide the apple mixture between the pastry shells. Not enough apple? Mix up some more… or just make some extra crumble topping to fill it up.
  6. Mix the remaining flour, sugar and oats (if you’re using them). I just use the apple bowl because I’m lazy like that. Rub the butter into the mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs or you run out of time, whichever comes first.
  7. Divide the crumb topping between the apple-fixed shells.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes. They’re done when you start to smell them. The apple mixture should be bubbling and the topping lightly browned.
  9. Remove children from bath and serve. Serve the crumbles to the children, that is, not the other way around.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Foodie Friday: Getting Dinner on the Table

Getting on the table can be such a challenge! Some tips for getting it simple and healthy

Recently my long-time friends and I were sharing an email thread describing our shortcoming when it comes to getting a healthy dinner on the table during the work week. We are three intelligent ladies living in different areas of the US, each with different daytime duties and schedules and yet we all have one thing in common: we feel like we are failing when it comes to seamlessly feeding our kids at the end of a long day. I’m no expert, but I did come up with a list of ideas that have made my weekdays easier. Maybe some of these ideas will help make your dinners easier too:

  1. Instead of trying to plan out five meals to cook during the week, pick three.  I have found that five is too many to put together and you can usually float two meals between leftovers and schedule changes that come up as the week goes on.
  2. Make (at least) three of the same things every week.  You can switch up little things like the starch and/or the veggie side dishes (and you can change your three meals monthly if you fear you will get board) but making the same basic things during the week will save time and will help you get into a groove.
  3. Don’t make elaborate dishes.  I’m not sure about your kids, but mine really like individual foods.  Chicken legs, broccoli, avocado, rice.  Done.  Hamburgers (no bun because they really don’t eat constructed sandwiches at this age), sweet potatoes fries, veggie.  Done.  Red meat sauce and pasta, side veggie, yogurt.  Done.  Rice, lightly seasoned black beans, avocado, pork, done.  Pizza with whatever topping we have left in the fridge.  No chicken pot pies, no stews, no chili, limited soups.  I love the thought of them, but my children don’t eat them as well as individual foods, and they take too much time and effort for little return on investment.
  4. Prep SOME things on the weekend.  I have been cutting up a batch of onions, sweet potatoes, washing greens and cutting up broccoli on Sundays.  Then I just grab and go from there depending on what meal I am constructing.
  5. Make some grains on the weekends.  Make a batch of rice and cook some noodles or quinoa to have ready to go with any meal.  You can construct a lot of meals under pressure if you have these things cooked and in the fridge ready to use.  Refill your stock of one grain on Wed.
  6. Make ONE of your weekly meals on Sunday (the one that takes the longest to cook).  Roast a chicken, cook a giant package of chicken legs, cook a pork shoulder (I cook my pork shoulder completely plain then season it for other meals later e.g.  pulled pork (add bbq sauce) or tacos (pan cook it with taco spices), burrito bowls (reheat the meat with Mexican spices add it to a bowl of roasted veggies plus rice and avocado, cilantro, fresh tomato).  Cook this beef, chicken, pork, item relatively plain then add spices later to make it work for whatever you are doing.
  7. Anything you make a batch of (e.g. chili, soup, red sauce), freeze half immediately to be used for another meal.  I found that we get board of leftovers and I was consistently throwing some foods away. Having one meal in the freezer from a previous cooking adventure can be more helpful in the future.
  8. Frozen peas can be added to any meal to round it out :)

Those are my helpful tips and how I have managed to keep meal time somewhat sane.  Feel free to add any insights that have helped to get healthy meals onto your table.

Foodie Friday: A Healthy Alternative to Thin Mints

I’ve been rather obsessed with making different types of energy bites or energy balls lately for middle-of-the-night nursing snacks.  As much as I like them though, I will be THRILLED when we don’t need nighttime nursing snacks anymore!!! (Please tell me that some day our triplets will sleep through the night!!)  I started making these little balls of goodness a couple months ago after seeing a recipe on Pinterest but have since done a lot of experimenting with various flavor and ingredient combinations.  In general, I am a “just wing it” type of cook who likes to look at recipes for inspiration but then just throws things together.  Measuring is not really something I do, which is why baking isn’t really my strong suit.  The great thing about these little energy balls is that they are “no bake” gems that are very forgiving to imprecise measuring.  I’ve only made one “I bet this would be good in here” batch that flopped and the rest have been pretty tasty. These little energy balls are pretty quick and easy to throw together, which we MoMs know is clutch because “free time” tends to come in short bursts!  I’ve made many a batch of these wearing a baby or two.

Because you now know how much I despise measuring, I hope you will appreciate the effort it took me to actually measure and write down this recipe for you!  I would catch myself about to just toss something in and then remember that I needed to measure it so I could pull this recipe together.  But for those of you out there who are creative cooks like myself, please feel free to add “ish” after all these measurements! I’ve also added notes about substitutions that would work nicely if you don’t have these things on hand.

The raw ingredients!

The raw ingredients!

We love having these for nighttime nursing and since they’re chock full of oats I think they’re good for our milk supply.  They also have a little protein to help them stick with you.  And the best part is that they are delicious!  I’ll grab one from the fridge and it feels like sneaking a bite of cookie dough without the guilt!

The finished product!  They look a lot like meatballs, but trust me, they're delicious!

The finished product! They look a lot like meatballs, but trust me, they’re delicious!

Chocolate Peppermint Energy Balls

  • 1 cup cashew meal (I find this at Trader Joes.  Almond meal also works great)
  • 2 cups oats (I use gluten free oats from Trader Joes, but any will do)
  • 1 cup oatbran (if you don’t have this you could sub oats or more nut meal)
  • 1/2  cup cacao powder (standard cocoa powder works fine too)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced dates (not tightly packed)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (can subagave or honey)
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 2 Tbs chia seeds
  • 1/3ish cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I like to use mini chips but was out when I made this batch)

Instructions: Mix all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  Put chia seeds in a measuring cup and then add water up to about the 1/2 cup line and let rest for a few minutes.  When you come back to your chia seeds they should have absorbed the water and be pretty thick and gel-like.  Add maple syrup and peppermint extract to the chia and water mixture and stir that and the dates into the dry ingredients.  It can take a bit of work to fully distribute the dates and wet ingredients.  The “dough” will be pretty dry and crumbly looking.  Mix in chocolate chips.  This is where it gets messy.  Now grab a small handful of “dough” and smush it together.  Some recipes say to “roll” the bals, but in my experience it’s really more of a smushing than rolling to get them to stick together.  This recipe will make approximately two dozen balls about an inch in diameter.  Usually about halfway through making the balls my hands are so sticky that the balls aren’t smushing well.  So I just wash my hands and come back for another round of smushing.  For those of you with older kiddos this would be a great job for your kiddos to help with!

Other flavors I’ve made include chocolate peanut butter, almond joy, chocolate almond, and honey peanut butter banana.  I’ll try to find the time to measure out the ingredients for these recipes and post them on our blog therrientriplethreat.blogspot.com.

 

Foodie Friday: Mini Master Chefs in the Kitchen

Our three year old twins are at the fun age where they want to help out around the house, and they can actually do things in a helpful way! Yesterday after picking them up from daycare, I decided to get them involved in preparing a side dish for dinner: a vegetable stirfry. Taking some of the week’s leftover vegetables like broccoli, baby carrots, zucchini and cherry tomatoes, I chose to make it Asian style with a mix of ingredients for the sauce.

Missy was in charge of washing the cherry tomatoes and zucchini while Mister took care of the broccoli and carrots. Both took their little stepstools to our double kitchen sink and washed their veggies (with some help from Mama) in their respective bowls. As an added bonus, a bunch of the cherry tomatoes and baby carrots ended up in their mouths.

Kitchen Safety

The tricky thing about the actual cooking part was to make sure both kids are safely away from the flame while I was cooking and had a task to do at all times. I would keep the knife well out of reach on top of the counter and helped them to add ingredients to the pan from a safe distance. Also, I was within arms reach of them at any point, whether they were hovering around the stove, or at the kitchen sink, or rummaging around in the pantry. Lucky for me they stayed together so I wasn’t chasing anybody around the kitchen.

Mini Chefs at Work

In the spirit of teamwork, Missy opened the cupboard I asked her to while Mister retrieved the big plastic bottle of olive oil and even helped pour it into the pan. I searched the fridge and pantry for different base ingredients to use for the sauce like soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic & ginger paste to name a few. When I asked for ‘masala’, M&M ran to the pantry to grab some spices. Missy chose the red pepper flakes and Mister got the parsley flakes.

We also added onion flakes, sesame seeds and flax seed (yes, flax seed!) to the stirfry. With every ingredient, I would place some on the palm of my hand and let them taste it. Another playful way to sneak in some fibre without them realizing it! Good thing they were tasting throughout the process because when it came time to eat the finished product, they weren’t interested!

Here are the instructions for this easy-peasy 5 minute stirfry. You’ll notice there are all approximate measurements. Since I allowed Mister and Missy to shake in the spices, a lot of the ingredients just got sprinkled or poured in!

veggie stirfry

Mixed Veggie Stirfry

Mixed Veggie Stirfry

Ingredients

  • (Serves two adults)
  • Half a bag of baby carrots
  • Half a crown of broccoli
  • Half a pint of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 zucchini, cut in long strips
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • Sprinkle of onion flakes
  • Sprinkle of sesame seeds
  • Sprinkle of flax seed
  • 2-3 tbsp of soy sauce (its salty so you don’t need extra salt)
  • 1-2 tbsp of oyster sauce
  • Sprinkle of black pepper
  • 5 dried chili peppers (optional)
  • Generous helping of dried parsley flakes
  • Sprinkle of dried basil

Instructions

  1. In deep frying pan or wok, heat olive oil then add ginger and garlic paste until they start to sizzle.
  2. Add the veggies (steam or blanch the broccoli and carrots beforehand if desired) and stir at high heat.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir continuously until coated.
  4. No need to overcook, less than five minutes and you are done!
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2Cute lives in Ottawa, Canada and is mom to 3 year old fraternal boy/girl twins. She and her hubby are quickly learning the benefits of utilizing child labour to get the simple yet mundane household tasks done. She blogs at 2cute.intiaz.com and tweets at @2cuteblog

Foodie Friday: The Very Versatile Pizza Roll

I ran across this recipe for Buffalo Chicken Garbage Bread a year or so ago.  While anything with the name “garbage” in it isn’t inherently appealing (or is it just me???), the thoughts of ooey-gooey-spicy-chicken-and-cheese were enough to win me over.  I made the Buffalo Chicken Pizza Roll, as I prefer to call it…and it was soooo good.  I loved it, Hubby loved it, and my girls would have eaten thirds if I’d let them.

Over the past year, I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit, and I’ve tried it with any number of filling options.  One of our favorite combinations is the Philly Cheesesteak Pizza Roll.

DSC_0174I use leftover meat of some sort…in this case, peppered pork tenderloin.  I dice it, along with some veggies….here, onions, peppers, and mushrooms.

Then I saute my ingredients.  For this iteration, I cooked my onions and peppers first, and then I added my diced meat and mushrooms.  Because I was using peppered meat, I didn’t season it any further.

DSC_0175Then, roll out some pizza dough.  (I use the refrigerated kind that comes in a can.)  Roll your dough pretty thin…although not too thin so that it tears when you roll it up.

DSC_0177Then spread on your filling (meat and veggies) and sprinkle with cheese.  Here, I used a blend of Mexican cheeses, as that’s what we had.  Some Swiss or Provolone would have been even better.  The original recipe calls for almost three cups of cheese, but I use considerably less, not more than a cup…just enough to help hold everything together.

DSC_0179Very carefully, roll up your dough and place it, seam side down, on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet.  Tuck in the ends of the roll.

Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes (or according to the directions on the pizza dough).  Allow it to sit for about five minutes before you slice into this deliciousness!!!

DSC_0183This basic recipe works with so many combinations, and it’s a fantastic outlet for leftover meat.  In addition to the Philly Cheesesteak version, I have made the Buffalo Chicken roll with leftover rotisserie chicken, wing sauce, and blue cheese.  And I used leftover turkey at Thanksgiving to make a turkey + onion + bacon (cooked and crumbled) + Swiss cheese roll.

(Reference the original recipe for approximate measurements.  I don’t measure the filling…if I have more than I need, I save it to go in an omelet the next day = double win!)

It seems the sky is the limit with this recipe, and the results at our house are guaranteed to garner some cheers at the dinner table.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

MandyE is mom to five-year old fraternal twin girls.  A food photographer, she is not, but she blogs about her girls’ adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Foodie Friday: Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables

Roast Chicken andVegetables(1)

Whenever I can make it work, I like to cook for leftovers. I’m a busy working single mom. We only have about 2 hours between the time we get home and bedtime, so quick dinners are my preference for weeknights, despite my love of cooking.

If I can cook a whole chicken with roasted vegetables and gravy on a Sunday, that can keep us (me and 2 7-year-olds) fed all week. We can have a nice chicken dinner, with plenty of meat left for sandwiches and other variations throughout the week. Even the cats get in on the action, occasionally being given some fatty skin as a treat.

To me, “real” gravy is the kind I make from a vegetable trivet, where I use a layer of vegetables to keep the chicken off the pan. My kids call it British gravy, since I told them it was what I grew up with in the UK. My children aren’t fans of vegetables unless they’re raw, so the roasted veggies, apart from the trivet, are for me. However, J deigned to try a roasted carrot the last time I made this meal and pronounced it, “surprisingly delicious.”

Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables

Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables

Ingredients

  • Washed whole chicken, washed and with neck, giblets, livers, etc. removed
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped into one-inch pieces
  • 4 parsnips, peeled and chopped into one-inch pieces
  • 10 red potatoes, washed and chopped into one-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped into large pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped into half-inch pieces
  • handful fresh parsley, washed and roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup white wine or chicken broth
  • (additional) 2 cups chicken broth

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Layer all the celery, the giblets, etc. and enough of the remaining vegetables in a roasting pan to provide a surface to lay the chicken on.
  3. Place the chicken on this surface.
  4. Sprinkle the chicken with 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp sage.
  5. In a bowl, toss the remaining vegetables with the olive oil, salt and sage.
  6. Tuck the veggies into your roasting pan around the bird.
  7. Place in the oven.
  8. After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 350 degrees.
  9. Cook for about 20 minutes per pound of bird.
  10. Confirm with a meat thermometer that the temperature of the meat is at least 160 degrees at the thickest part of the thigh.
  11. Remove the chicken and non-trivet vegetables from the roasting pan and tent with foil.
  12. While the bird rests, make the gravy.
  13. Tilt the pan so the juices collect against a corner. Spoon off and discard as much grease as possible, leaving the non-grease juices in the pan.
  14. Stir in the flour, scraping as much as possible off the bottom of the pan.
  15. Add the wine to the pan drippings, vegetables and flour.
  16. Heat the pan on the stove and stir like crazy.
  17. Mash the vegetables up and mix into the wine mixture.
  18. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  19. Once the mixture is thickened (5-10 minutes), strain it through a sieve, pressing as much of the veggies through as possible.
  20. Salt to taste.
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Foodie Friday: Hot Chocolate Bar

Cookie decorating party

Candy-covered snowman cookie from a cookie decorating party!

M waited until Ms Snow’s frosting had dried to eat her. The ripe age of 7 is when patience kicked in.

Every winter, some time between Christmas and the arrival of spring, my daughters and I host a cookie decorating party. We look forward to this event all year. Even as we’re cleaning up cookie crumbs, frosting and sprinkles, we’re already hatching plans for next year’s extravaganza.

Having hosted this event so many times, we’ve got the prep work pretty well figured out. I bake cookies, make and tint royal icing and transfer it to piping bags, and I put out enough candy to fill a small store in my dining room.

This year I decided to add a hot chocolate bar. I wasn’t sure whether it would be just too much sugar added onto the insanity of cookies and their decorations, but it turned out to be a great hit.

Hot chocolate bar from hdydi.com

I made a gallon of hot chocolate (with whole milk, of course. This is a decadent event.) in my crock pot. Nearby, I set dishes of marshmallows, broken candy canes (although any mint candy would do) and butterscotch chips. I also made a couple of flavoured creamers available. By the time our party was over, the hot chocolate had all been consumed and I’d refilled the marshmallows three times.

Why not try this out at your next winter event? It’s popular with kids and parents alike! You could make a smaller version of this as a special winter treat on a snow day home with the kids.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.