Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Teachers Gifts

I think it is very important to let my kids teachers know that I appreciate them.  However with six kids, that can get expensive. I have some very creative friends that do amazing things for their teachers. I know many families stop giving teacher's gifts once their kids head to middle school because the number of teachers increases. When Mike was a high school teacher, he didn't receive anything from his kids or their families. I also know that teachers sometimes receive a bunch of, well...junk.  So here is my solution - and so far I have received rave reviews from the teachers.

ALL teachers and some special support staff receive the following:

Before school or first day of school: mini survival kit that includes things like, gum, bottle of water, "mix-in" for water bottle, granola bar, pencils, hand sanitizer, sticky notes, and business card with our info and the offer to help in some way. All wrapped in a paper lunch sack.

Thanksgiving: Party favor bag of caramel popcorn.

Valentines Day: Killer Blonde Brownie wrapped in chinese take-out box

Spring Break: Lemon Bar wrapped in chinese take-out box

Last Day of School: Pint Jar of BBQ sauce

Elementary School Teachers Only: Chili and Cornbread Dinner when we attend Parent-Teacher Conferences.

I have done different things for Christmas and am still searching for the "perfect" thing.  I can tweak this and change or add things, but I like the consistency.  And I have a few teachers that look forward to receiving their goodies.  If there are teachers that don't like it, I haven't heard yet...maybe they just pass their goodies along.  I did have one teacher this past year that said she was so exciting to have my child because it meant she would get goodies.

I am not one to keep my recipes a secret, so if you click on the name of the item, you can see the recipe.

Texas Chili

Brown and drain:
2 lbs ground beef (or venison if you want to make Montana chili)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced

32 oz. tomato sauce
32 oz. diced tomatoes
4 tsp beef base dissolved in 2 cups of hot water
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp. oregano
3 dashes Tabasco sauce
32 oz dark kidney beans

Cook on low heat for several hours to allow the flavors mix.
Great served with sour cream, cheese, Fritos, and corn bread with butter and honey.

BBQ Sauce

Makes 1 Quart (2 Pints or 4 Cups for the mathmatically challenged)

2 & 1/4 cups Ketchup
1 cup water
2 tsp beef bouillon granules
1 & 1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
2 shakes Tabasco sauce (or Frank's Red Hot sauce)
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp Liquid Smoke (found by the bbq sauce at the grocery store)
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Cool to room temperature.

**Favorite use: Ribs cooked in the oven for 4 hours @ 300 degrees, covered - meat falls off the bones!

Lemon Bars

Warning: Prepare to share or you will eat the entire pan!

2 cups flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
12 Tbsp. butter
Mix together using a pastry blender and press into 9x13 pan. The dough with be very powdery.
Bake at 325 for 15 min.

6 eggs
1 cup lemon juice
3 cups sugar
Mix together then add:
3/4 cup flour.
Stir until mixed together and pour over baked crust.
Bake for 40 min.

Cool, cut, and dust with powdered sugar.

Killer Bolnde Brownies

1 lb. caramels
2/3 cup evaporated milk, divided
1 (18oz) French Vanilla cake mix, with pudding in the mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
9 oz. white chocolate chips
3 oz. macadamia nuts, chopped (reserve 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease metal 9x13 pan. Glass dries the dough.
In shallow dish, melt caramels with 1/3 cup evaporated milk in microwave. Wisk mixture smooth.
Meanwhile, place cake mix in large bowl. Add remaining evaporated milk and butter and mix well by hand. The dough will be stiff.
Refrigerate briefly, then roll out half the dough between wax paper to a 9x13 rectangle that will fit your pan, and place it in the pan.
Bake for 6 minutes.
Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts over top. Quickly pour the hot caramel over the nuts and chips.
Roll out the rest of the dough as above and place over caramel.
Sprinkle with remaining nuts.
Bake 20-25 min (26 = too long)
Cool and cut.

Caramel Popcorn

8 cups of plain popped popcorn
3/4 cup brown sugar
6 T. butter
3 T. corn syrup
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. vanilla

Combine sugar, butter, syrup and salt in saucepan over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon.
As soon as it comes to a boil, stop stirring and cook an additional 5 min.
Remove from heat and stir in soda and vanilla. Pour over popcorn and gently stir.
Bake at 350 for 15-20 stirring every 5 minutes.
Spread out on waxed paper to cool.

**Optional: stir in nuts when pouring caramel over popcorn.
**Optional: drizzle chocolate over popcorn while it is cooling.

Tooth Fairy

Yesterday was all about teeth in the Ivy Household.

Judson had his braces removed...which meant some yummy, sticky, gooey candy eating commenced.

Jarrett lost a tooth at school, which always seems more exciting than losing a tooth at home.

And one of my false teeth finally gave up holding on, which is exciting since I have been waiting to replace it for several years.

I am so thankful for an amazing dentist and orthodontist. Great people, and yes, I am the odd one that thinks of a trip to the dentist as a mini spa treatment.  I took a cat nap while they drilled, scraped and filled a tiny cavity. I know...not normal. Unfortunately, the temporary tooth is not behaving and staying in.  Just call me Capt. Jenn!  It has given me a great excuse to act like a pirate!

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Year, New Start

I am a die-hard when it comes to New Years Resolutions. Every year, I make several. They are ambitious and repetitive. They usually involve weight-loss, parenting, organization, and spiritual growth.

This year our family is going through lots of new things. We started off with Mike living in Pennsylvania at his new job and the kids and I living in Montana while the kids finish the semester off. This new year also finds us living in a hotel. It has been fun not having to clean bathrooms or make food and to swim everyday. However, it is getting very old and I am over being separated from my spouse. I am extremely grateful that we only lived like this for three months, not six!

Because of all the new starts, I decided it was time to refresh my blog and re-start. I still love Costco and hope to still shop there on a regular basis once we have moved. However, it will be about an hour away, not just five minutes down the road. And really, I am still a Costco addict, but not like I was when I started my previous blog. Besides, I want this blog to be about my family, not just my strange addiction!

Word of warning, I am random. One day I may talk about an amazing recipe, and the next my sweet children, and the next some spiritual concept I am wresting with, and the next the gorgeous dress I saw at the mall...but that is what encompasses me and my family.