Easter Treat Ideas: Super Simple and Gluten Free!

Ahh….Easter Sunday in the 70’s. Those were the days…Easter bonnets and dresses bought (or made) just for the big day — my whole family dressed in their finest duds. Even before church, my Dad would take home movies of us getting into our Easter baskets and devouring Peep after Peep, foil-wrapped chocolate eggs & jellybeans galore, without my Mom ever saying “That’s enough candy!” (That’s me on the right.)

I can’t imagine letting my own kids get so sugared-up before church (for my own sanity) and I give my daughters a fraction of the candy my parents gave me for Easter, yet I still don’t see a problem with letting kids be kids and enjoying sugary treats once in a while. My family eats quite healthy most of the time, we get plenty of exercise, we take care of our teeth and we aren’t couch potatoes — in fact, we don’t even own one video game!  Therefore, we don’t feel the least bit guilty indulging in making and eating these three yummy Easter treats together. And you shouldn’t either!  🙂

We call our first treat idea “Muddy Bunnies“. We’ve all seen chocolate-dipped Peeps,
but we thought we’d take it a little further and have them sit in the middle of a pile of springtime mud (peanut clusters). All you do for this is melt chocolate in the microwave, mix in peanuts and drop clusters onto wax paper over a cookie sheet. Arrange the Peeps bunny in the middle and spoon some more chocolate around his bottom to make him part of the peanut cluster. Then add sprinkles and set the cookie sheet in the freezer to harden. We also thought they looked cute sitting in these cupcake liners:

Our second idea we wanted to try was “Chocolate Peeps Eggshells“, which turned out to be our favorite. I originally saw the idea for chocolate ice cream shells here but I have no idea why it took me so long to try it. It was so easy! (Feel free to read that article for more details, but I simplified the process a lot, which I will explain below…)

To make these Chocolate Peeps Eggshells, you will need:
•  Melting chocolate
•  Peeps chicks
•  G-free sprinkles or nonpariels
•  Small balloons
•  Waxed paper

The first thing you do is to blow up & tie your balloons, rinse them with water, dry them and set aside. (We used water balloons without any problems, but I have read that a few other people have had issues with these and recommend small, regular balloons instead. It’s up to you.) Next, clear an area in your freezer to fit a small cookie sheet, then cover that cookie sheet with wax paper and set it back on your counter.

In a small-to-medium sized microwaveable bowl (depending on how many of these you’re going to make) melt your chocolate. We aren’t big fans of white chocolate so we used milk chocolate melting disks. Clearly, white chocolate would make a more realistic-looking eggshell, if that is what you are after. We were just after taste! 🙂 Either way, you’ll want
the melted chocolate to be a few inches deep so that you can cover your balloons up
high enough.

Once your chocolate is melted and cooled a bit, just dip each balloon in, tilting it around to cover the sides until you like how it looks. Then you just set it upright on the wax paper and toss some sprinkles on it. After they’re all dipped and sprinkled, just pop the cookie sheet into the freezer for a few minutes until they harden all the way. They will look something like this:

Then you can let your kids have fun popping the balloons! Below is Lindsey (with Morgan covering her ears) just before her needle popped the balloon…

After it’s popped, you will find the shriveled up balloon in the bottom of the chocolate shell. Carefully peel the balloon away from the chocolate and you’ll be left with shells like this:

Then all you do is pop a Peeps chick inside for your finished product. Another idea is to make these into birds’ nests by adding coconut underneath the chick.

The third idea is very simple as well. We call these “Bunny Trail Pops” and we just felt like doing something different than our usual sprinkled chocolate marshmallows. We popped a stick into each marshmallow, dipped the bottom of it in chocolate, set it on waxed paper and stuck bunny candies into it, evenly with one of each color. Again, set it in the freezer to harden. These don’t even need sticks, and you can experiment with any type of g-free Easter candies…

After they have all hardened in the freezer, all of these treats can be kept in airtight containers in your fridge til they’re gone — which won’t be long!    🙂  Enjoy!

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Gluten-free St. Patrick’s Day treats: County Cork Cake Pops, Lil’ Leprechauns and Emerald Isle Cakes

It’s St. Patrick’s Day week….a busy one for families like mine who have Irish dancers jigging their way through shows well past the upcoming weekend. But as the luck of
the Irish may have it — there’s still time to make some festive green treats with your
g-free kids!

In my previous post, I shared some healthier ideas such as a veggie platter in the shape/colors of the Irish flag, and shamrock-shaped pizzas and “Dublin Dragonflies.”

Now, here are some naughty treat ideas….

We attempted to make “County Cork Cake Pops” for the first time last year. (What can I say? Part of the fun of making new things is coming up with fun names for them!)  Here are some finished examples:

3cakepops2Allow me to give you the following tips that we learned, as cake pops are not quite as simple as they say…
(1) Don’t make the balls too big. Once you dip them in the candy coating, it makes them heavy. The weight makes the whole ball slide down the stick so that the stick pops right through the top. Go for a small, super-ball size.
(2) Melt a lot of candy coating…don’t skimp or you’ll be melting it again halfway through the dipping process.
(3) Improvise. If all else fails, make something up. After too many sticks poked up through the top, I tried “blocking” the sticks with these mint nonpariel candies I had. My girls
said they looked like hats so we stuck a few other candies on and called them our
“Lil’ Leprechauns”…

LwLeps2(“Lil” as in “too little to grow beards” even though the truth was “mommy didn’t feel like making beards.”) For those of you Moms out there who are willing to take these leprechauns a lot further than I did: go for it — I could see someone adding candy hair, a beard, more detailed features, etc. I, personally, don’t have the patience or motivation. Especially since my girls thought they were cute enough at this stage.  🙂

For those extra-motivated Moms: I saw other “leprechaun pops” recently: much fancier than mine, from the ultra-creative Jill over at Kitchen Fun With My 3 Sons. So, knock yourselves out!

(4) Another idea is to try them without sticks. They’re even easier to make and eat that way anyhow! We’re calling them “Emerald Isle Cakes” but it’s another thing you can take further than we did…

cakeballsonplate2Can’t you see them as leprechauns’ pots of gold?  Maybe yellow m&m’s for the gold or rainbow nonpariels for the treasure? And shape the cake a little more so it looks like a pot? See what ideas your child comes up with for these little cuties…

cakeballsinhands2These cake balls also easier for kids to help with than cake pops. After these had hardened, I called my girls back down to hold them so you could see their size here.
(They were playing “rock star” or something at the time so excuse the get-ups.)

Directions: For both the cake pops and cake balls, all I did was to mush together what was left of a frosted vanilla cake (about 2/3 of it) from a party the day before. The cake was made with Betty Crocker Gluten Free Yellow Cake mix and Pillsbury vanilla frosting. I didn’t add anything else. Let your kids mush up the cake, roll into tight little balls, then cover with candy coating. I used Make n’ Mold candy wafers for the coating. They were really delicious. To me, they tasted just like “donut holes” that we used to eat before going GF.

If you would like to follow more detailed instructions & tips, here are a few helpful links, which I didn’t see until after I had already “winged it”:

Last, but not least, I want to share (again) this gluten-free coloring page I created for your g-free kid to enjoy. (Print from the link — not from the preview below.)Have you tried anything from my St. Patty’s Day posts?  If so, please feel free to upload a picture of your child with his or her finished product on my Facebook wall. I would love to see it!

New to this site? Be sure to see the photo album of g-free kids and g-free kids’ stuff page.
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Favorite gluten-free holiday treats, from our family to yours

Every year there are a few tried and true treats that we love to make in December. I’ve made these recipes so many times that I could do them in my sleep… Even in the midst of this crazy month, I’m always happy to whip up these goodies, as they’re easy, fun and always worth the little bit of effort I have to put into them. If you’ve been following for a while, some of these ideas will be familiar to you. Even though we’re not breaking any new g-free ground here, I still wanted to put our holiday favorites together in one post. Hopefully they become your family’s favorites as well!  Enjoy…

Looking for a g-free treat to send in for a class party?  Every year I make about 100 of these for my girls’ holiday parties in December and every year they are a big hit. They’re a go-to party treat (for other holidays, too — just change the sprinkles!) as all the kids love them and they’re allergen-free. Just poke sticks of some sort through marshmallows, dip in melted chocolate, add sprinkles and put on wax paper. Freeze for a bit to set, then refrigerate if using them soon. If you’re making them ahead of time, you can just freeze them in an airtight container and let them thaw out in the fridge the day before, or just on the counter the morning of the party. You could also use mini candy canes instead of sticks, or crushed candy canes instead of sprinkles, etc….anything goes!

IMG_9396Want a simple candy recipe that will tempt both young and old alike?
Then try our longtime family favorite “Buckeyes” recipe —
• 1 cup peanut butter
• 8 T butter
• 3 cups confectioners sugar
• chocolate chips or melting chocolate disks
(I always double the recipe which makes about sixty 1″ balls). Cream 1st three ingredients together and roll into balls. Melt chocolate and dip the balls in, then set them on wax paper. (We dip them only halfway into the chocolate: it’s not as messy as covering them all over.) Freeze them in single layer until hard, then store in fridge or freezer (depending on how soon you’re going to share them). Either way, keep them out of sight or they’ll be gone before you know it…

395137_320839607941299_819685579_nTrying to find a sweet gift idea that your kids can help with? Then whip out your holiday cookie cutters, some peanuts, chocolate chips and sprinkles. Instead of your classic, free-form peanut clusters, just melt chocolate and mix with peanuts til they’re coated, and spoon the mixture inside cookie cutters til all the spaces are filled. Then add holiday sprinkles, freeze til solid, then pop them out of the cookie cutters and put a few into a festive cellophane bag with a ribbon to give as gifts to neighbors, the postman, etc.

IMG_9392Want a quick, refreshing dessert idea to surprise your family? Then make these mini ice cream sandwiches, using Pamela’s Products cookies filled with ice cream. Get crazy and roll the edges of the ice cream in holiday sprinkles or crushed candy canes for extra color.  Any flavor ice cream and cookie will work!

icecreamsandLooking for a finger food that is sure to be a big hit? Then make these mini pigs-in-a-blanket, using Chebe bread mix (you can use their regular bread mix, cheese bread or breadstick mixes). Just make the mix according to directions, roll out and wrap pieces around GF mini hot dogs, and cook according to directions for mix. So savory and so good…if you’re lucky enough to have any left, they reheat very well, too.

401759_325149900843603_1398804214_nOr maybe you’re looking for a killer appetizer dip for an upcoming party? Look no further. Ask anyone who knows me what I always bring to parties (usually by request) and “feta artichoke dip” (said with a dreamy smile) will probably be the answer. And since I love this dip, myself, I’m always happy to comply. Please excuse the poor photo — it’s much better than it looks below, as many can attest to.  🙂

feta2Hot Feta Artichoke Dip
• 1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
• 6-8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
• 1 cup mayo
• 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
• 1 clove garlic, minced
Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients and spoon into 9″ pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Garnish with chopped tomato and green onions if desired. Serve with G-F tortilla chips.

Hope you’ve enjoyed our holiday family favorites. I have some more recipes to come soon, which are a little more time-consuming than these, but worth the time if you have it. In the meantime, if you’d like to see 27 more of our favorite kid-friendly recipes, you can download a free PDF at this link.

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Super simple g-free toffee brittle

Before Christmas last year, my Mom had tried a version of this delicious brittle (made with Saltine crackers) at church coffee hour and was instantly hooked. After she raved about it a number of times, she tracked down the original recipe, I went out and bought some Glutino original gluten-free crackers to replace the Saltines, and we got the other ingredients together. We whipped it up one night and this brittle was a huge hit over the holidays — especially with my daughter Morgan. We will definitely be making it again this month…

What you will need for this recipe (which is a good one to let kids help with):

  • 1 box original flavor Glutino original gluten-free crackers
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 2 cups of mini chocolate chips
  • toppings of your choice: toffee pieces, m&m’s, sprinkles, diced nuts, crushed peppermints, butterscotch chips, coconut — you name it!

(Please excuse the photos — we did this on a whim and I didn’t have my own camera.)

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STEP 1:  Empty the entire box of crackers onto an ungreased baking sheet,
all in one layer. Then preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

STEP 2:  In a medium size pot over the stove, cook one stick of butter and 2 cups of brown sugar together until gooey, then pour over crackers to cover them, and bake at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes until bubbly. (Watch carefully so that nothing burns.)

STEP 3:  Remove pan from the oven and sprinkle 2 cups of chocolate chips over top,
let it sit a few minutes to melt the chocolate…

STEP 4:  Then, after the chocolate chips are melted enough, smooth the chocolate layer over with a spatula and top with toppings. Put the tray in the freezer for at least an hour.

STEP 5:  After at least an hour has passed, remove it and break it into irregular pieces
with the help of a stiff spatula. Voila!  A sweet treat for any occasion!

Let me know what you think of this recipe — we call it “toffee brittle” because the taste of it reminds us of toffee, even though we didn’t use any as a topping. After you try it (trust me — you will definitely be glad you did) let me know if you can think of a better name for it. Thanks, and enjoy!

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Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies: Variations on a Theme

Here it is…the original recipe — given to me over five years ago by my friend, Lori — named as such because you need “a cuppa peanut butter and a cuppa sugar.” (plus an egg!)  🙂 This recipe makes (what many think are) the best peanut butter cookies ever — whether you can eat gluten or not!  I was hooked on these even before I had to go gluten-free, and I’ve never bothered to try a new recipe since then…

Whenever someone eats these cookies, they inevitably ask for the recipe, and are baffled to hear how easy they are to make, and that an egg can actually hold the peanut butter and sugar together. They are always amazed at how moist these cookies are, how well they hold up and just how good they taste!

The photos below will give you an idea of how versatile this recipe is…I usually double or triple the recipe, and freeze some afterwards. Yes, they even freeze well!

As shown here, I often add m&m’s or peanut m&m’s into the mix before baking…

Candy corns and Hershey’s Kisses work well, too!  Just press candy on top of the cookies immediately after they have finished baking.

Below you will see the amount of cookies you can make when you triple the recipe. For most of these cookies, I pressed 3 m&m’s onto the tops before they baked. Just make sure you watch them — if they’re in too long the m&m’s might crack. Others I left plain and others had m&m’s mixed in with the dough.

And I bet you’re wondering about those peanut butter cups in the back row… These are my latest creation, and one which I will make again for sure. I pressed some of the dough into 8 greased mini cupcake openings (it was a trial so I only made a few) and forked the edges a little. Then after they were baked (for 8 minutes) I spooned Nutella into the openings. After they had cooled for a while, they twisted out of the cupcake tin very nicely — all except one. That one, I discovered, had too-thick dough at the bottom which hadn’t cooked all the way through like the other ones. That being said, make sure your bottom is just as thick as your sides, and you’ll be all set. Instead of Nutella, you can also try filling the opening with melting chocolate, chocolate chips, a Hershey’s Kiss — or better yet: chocolate frosting as another friend just suggested. No matter how you fill them, they are the perfect kid-size peanut butter cups!  🙂

Some final tips:  (1) Let your kids help! You couldn’t find an easier recipe and the dough is very workable and isn’t sticky at all. (2) As I wrote in pencil on the recipe above, I don’t recommend forking them. Whenever I do this, they turn out too flat. Keeping your dough balls as round and high as possible when you put them on the cookie sheet to bake will give them the best shape. (3) Keep an eye on the bottom of your cookies so they don’t burn (mine are usually done in 7-8 minutes), and (4) let them cool on the cookie sheet before you try to move them. This helps solidify them so they won’t break apart. If you follow these tips, you should have excellent results!

Really — you must try these — even if you just do a single batch. You will be blown away by how good they are…  And, if you try any other variations with this recipe, let me know!

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