Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes!

I cook as little as possible and bake even less.  But as a matter of pride, I need a handful of recipes that are easy and no-fail, so I can cheerfully offer “What can I bring?” when a friend hosts a dinner party.

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes are easy!  Click here for the recipe at Chow.com, credited to Dave Lieberman.

My first try turned out great.  The only modifications I made:  I added Bailey’s to the frosting when it seemed too thick and my cupcakes were mini-size (tons of sugar in there!), baked for 12 minutes.

A fun conversation starter and perfect for any time even close to St. Patrick’s Day.

 

 

Easy Readers for Boys

Our 6-1/2 year-old son is reading now - so cool!  But it was easier to find beginner books for our daughter.

The summer before his kindergarten year, we tried BOB books.  He liked those for the sheer number of tiny books in each set.  But he preferred the stories in the Brand New Readers series, especially those about the worm, monkey and dragon.  We found those locally at The School Box.

Elephant_Piggie1But most of the credit to igniting Sam’s reading spark goes to Mo Willems.

His Elephant & Piggie books were the first to get our son excited about being able to read.  We Are in a Book!, I Am Invited to a Party!, Watch Me Throw the Ball! and I Will Surprise My Friend are favorites.

We still hear Sam cackling in his room at night as he rereads them – often using the super-soft stuffed characters to act out the stories.

Here are the others he found interesting enough to read himself, roughly in the order that he was able to read them:

Now, the summer before 1st grade, he’s reading these chapter books:

  • Roscoe Riley Rules.  Great beginner chapter books.  My daughter loved them, too.
  • Encyclopedia Brown series.  My husband loved these as a kid.  Each book is divided into several mini mysteries to solve.  Good for read-aloud, too.
  • Magic Tree House series, which we also read aloud to both kids a few years ago.

Pumpkin Pie Fruit Dip

Easy, different and addictive.
Great for Thanksgiving or Fall parties.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin pie filling
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • apple slices and/or gingersnaps

Or, to cut sweetness, increase cinnamon, decrease sugar and substitute pumpkin pie puree for pumpkin pie filling.

Directions:

  1. Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.
  2. Add pie filling, cinnamon, and ginger, beating well.
  3. Cover and chill 8 hours.

Makes 3 cups.  Awesome with apple slices.  Delicious with gingersnaps, too, but a little too sweet (even for me, a certified sugar-aholic).  I found several versions of this recipe at food.com.

Back in Stock!

Makes for very happy kids at our house on Sunday mornings!

Tips for 2nd Grader from American Girl

My 7-year-old daughter and I both like this book, Stand Up for Yourself & Your Friends, published by American Girl.