February 23, 2007
Last week I had the honor of speaking with Dr. Rus on his radio show, LiveLine. We had a great time talking about Secret Ingredients family cookbooks and our own family traditions and favorite meals. Dr. Rus told me about one of his favorite memories and traditions, and it was one of the most unique stories I’ve heard…
Every year his mother would make this incredible birthday cake. She would prepare the batter and the cake pan, but before sticking it in the oven she would wrap coins in wax paper and place them strategically in the batter. During the birthday celebration the kids would get to have this great treasure hunt as they ate their cake! Of course, little Dr. Rus, the birthday boy, would get the piece with the most valuable coins. What a neat tradition!
Birthdays are an opportune time to integrate traditions. Not only is it very doable because birthdays only happen once a year, but sometimes the most simple traditions are very memorable when they are associated with an already important day.
A lot of families celebrate birthdays with a special cake recipe, and others let the guest of honor choose the theme or menu for the celebration. One of my favorite childhood friends, Sarah, and her younger brother, Paul, were allowed to choose the menu for their birthday meals. There were no boundaries. One year, I was invited to Paul’s birthday feast. The dining room table was set for a formal occasion with silver and the best china, and the entire family and Paul’s friends gathered around the table for a meal of macaroni and cheese, cheese potato chips, cheese and crackers, and kid’s fruit punch box drinks. It was great!
Here are some ideas for fun and easy Birthday traditions for children:
- Treasure Hunts are great for early childhood years. My parents used to set up a treasure hunt to lead my sister and I to our main gift. You can also incorporate a treasure hunt theme into the birthday party for guests. This is very helpful with smaller children because it keeps them occupied and focused on tasks and, of course, the treasure! (Tip: You can buy pre-made treasure hunt kits.)
- Birthday Photographs are a great way to document each birthday and for future scrapbooking projects. Try to take the photo the same each year. For example, go to a photo booth each year or take a photograph of your child blowing out the candles.
- Breakfast in Bed makes everyone feel special. Treat your children to their favorite breakfast meal in bed each year. It’s a great way to start the day and will create lasting memories! If a birthday falls on a weekday, put a special note and treat in your child’s lunch box.
- If your family has a Height Chart in your home, mark it with each passing birthday and celebrate your child’s physical growth and accomplishments of the year. This lets them know that you are proud of them and focuses on positive accomplishment.
When your children grow up, you can create a family cookbook and include favorite birthday cake recipes and photographs for the perfect gift for any occasion- weddings, baby showers, Mother’s day, and more!
February 12, 2007
We’ve all left weddings with them: a small picture frame; a chocolate bar with the bride & groom’s married name on the wrapper; even a monogrammed match box. Where do these tokens of thanks end up? Under the car seat, in the junk drawer or, yes, in the garbage (are you supposed to keep the wrapper once you’ve eaten the chocolate?).
Though they have become a standard of a traditional wedding, the wedding favor has really lost its edge over the years. Of course you could drop a few extra bucks per person on something more impressive, but is it worth it?
A wedding favor doesn’t need to be flashy or expensive. In this case, the sentiment “it’s the thought that counts,” really means something. You can say “thanks” to the family and friends who help you celebrate your big day with a small gift that “gives” forever: a recipe.
First, you have to pick the right recipe. Here are some suggestions:
- Go with something regional or seasonal: Does your family put its own twist on a favorite regional dish? Is it warm, comforting soup season, or summer grilling season? Think of something your guests will want to make the night after your wedding.
- Choose something from your wedding menu: Talk to the caterer about using a recipe from one of your menu items. Or, provide the recipe for a special wedding cocktail served.
- Get sentimental: Is there a special dish between you and your husband-to-be?
- Celebrate family tradition: Is there a traditional food associated with the wedding celebration in your family?
- Family recipes are best, but don’t be afraid to consult a cookbook: If you can’t find a perfect family recipe, visit the library or the Internet and find a recipe for one of your favorite dishes.
- You don’t have to stop at one recipe: If you can’t decide between two or three, use them all. Then, guests won’t all get the same thing.
February 6, 2007
Valentine’s Day will be here before we know it! Although Valentine’s Day is a wonderful holiday for adults to have a special moment with their loved one and to celebrate their most important relationships, it is also a great holiday for kids.
I will never forget putting my homemade Valentine’s box (a Kleenex box covered with doiles and glitter) on top of my desk just waiting for my friends to add goodies! It was better than getting a letter in the mail because of the candies, pictures, and number of cards.
Making Valentine’s Day Treats is a fantastic way to spend quality time with your kids. Not only will they be excited to spend time with you, but they will love making something special for their friends and to show off at school. This is also the perfect way to introduce favorite family recipes and cooking to your children. Use this time to introduce kitchen vocabulary words and teach proper measuring.
Here are some ideas for Valentine’s Day projects:
- Make your favorite cookie recipe. Kids LOVE decorating cookies, and they can personalize them for all of their friends. Buy small gift bags at a craft store. Put one cookie in each bag and tie a ribbon through the top of the bag. Tape a Valentine card to the top of each one.
- Kids love cake- especially cupcakes! Make a batch of cupcakes and let your kids decorate each one for a fellow classmate. Sprinkles, edible hearts, and other Valentine’s Day candy will make the cupcakes beautiful and delicious!
- For a slightly healthier option, dip apples in chocolate and cover them with red and white sprinkles. Wrap each apple in a plastic bag and tie with a red ribbon. Tie on a red heart with a cute message for each friend and classmate.
If you have any other suggestions, please share them with us. Valentine’s Day is a great holiday to teach your children about caring for others and giving thoughtful gifts. It’s also a more quiet time of year, so take advantage of it and create some special memories. Your kids will have a sense of accomplishment for creating unique gifts and will always remember your special time in the kitchen.
If you have a Valentine’s Day story about a recipe or meal, please enter our contest. Each month we give the best story contributor a free Keepsake Cookbook.
February 5, 2007
Last December ten lucky winners won free Heirloom Cookbooks in our 10 Heirloom Book Contest. Each contest participant was asked to tell a story about a family recipe or meal. We received submissions from many states and loved reading the funny and sentimental stories that were shared with us. Thank you contest participants!
The following story by Sarah of Chino Hills, CA was a winner! Not only does this story make you wish you were in a warm kitchen, but it reminds us to hold on to our memories and to document the recipes that seasoned our childhoods…
“I came onto this website for one main reason! That reason happens to be because of my Nonni’s spaghetti sauce. She passed away when I was in 5th grade and I am now in my twenties. We were very close… She lived right around the corner and was the best Nonni ever! Who else would take you out of school early to go shopping?! Nonni used to pull out the stool in the kitchen and put me to work. We would make pasta from scratch, meatballs, sauce, and of course pizzeles. When my Nonni passed away it was really hard on my mom and me. We still think about her constantly- especially around the holidays. I would do anything to go back in time and write down every single ingredient in each of her recipes, but I was too young to think about things like that.
My mom did her best, but Nonni knew best. She didn’t use a cup of this, a teaspoon of that… she used a dash of this, a pinch of that, some here, some there. It is basically impossible to recreate the splendid things she made.
I came on this website to put together as many of my Nonni’s recipes that I could, supplementing with other recipes from friends and family. The title of my cookbook is ‘Mangia! Mangia!’ which means EAT! EAT! in Italian. My mom has no idea that I’m doing this for her, but I sure hope she enjoys it!”
Do you have a funny or memorable story about a family recipe? Share it with us, and you may win a FREE Keepsake Cookbook. This contest begins on the first day of each month and continues until the very last day of the month. Enter today for your chance to win! Click here to go to our contest.
February 2, 2007
It’s Super Bowl weekend! I will never forget the cheers and screams that came from the basement each year on Super Bowl night, filling our house with excitement and laughter. My dad and his two brothers loved getting together each year- just the three of them.
While the men watched the game, my mother and aunts would gather upstairs and cook, play cards, and laugh at the commotion happening downstairs. The menu was the same each year: chili, salad, buffalo wings, chips and salsa, and peanut M&Ms.
Now I have a new tradition with my favorite group of friends. Every year on Super Bowl night we leave our significant others at home and get together- girls only! Everyone brings their favorite snack, and we play board games, laugh, and tell jokes during the game with the volume on mute… until commercial breaks and half time, our favorite part!
Does your family or group of friends have special game time snacks? If you are looking for a delicious chili recipe that doesn’t take all day but tastes like it does, try our Cheater’s Chili. I’ve also included links to other recipes that are perfect for your Super Bowl party.
30 minutes tastes like all day!
½ pack center cut bacon
3 pounds lean ground beef
4 cups chopped yellow onions
¼ cup chopped garlic
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons chili powder
4 teaspoons cumin
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 large can diced tomatoes
3 cans drained, rinsed pinto beans
1 teaspoon ground chipotle or cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
salt to taste
In the bottom of a large pot, slice the bacon into little bits and cook it till crispy. To this, add the onions and garlic, stirring a few times. Add the beef, and cook till all the beef is browned and the onions are translucent. To this, add all the spices except salt (cocoa, cumin, chili powder, chipotle). Stir a few times. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, sugar, and 2 cups of water. Taste! Add salt as needed. This makes about 10-12 cups of chili, so use about 10-12 times the salt you would use for one cup of chili. Yum! Serve with grated cheddar, crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, salsa, etc.
Other Super Bowl Recipes:
Martha Stewart’s Buffalo Chicken Wings
“Clean-out-the-Fridge” Vegetable Soup by 28 Cooks
50 Super Football Party Recipes