Kid Stuff for Bored Children

Kids can get so bored indoors during the winter. A nice snow may generate a sledding outing, but when fingers and toes begin to freeze it's time to come inside.

So many youngsters have electronic devices to entertain themselves, and I know some kids want to play on those all the time. They're fun, but it's not a good idea to allow a child to entertain himself for hours on end that way.

Our local schools have been closed for the past two days and will most likely remain closed tomorrow. We didn't even get snow, so there's no sledding. We got a layer of ice, making it dangerous for school buses to transport children.

I've been thinking about all those kids cooped up inside. Caretakers can make the days inside easier and more enjoyable for everyone with a little planning.

Of course, the electronic devices are here to stay, and they can be a part of a child's day. Having a variety of books available for the kids is a good idea for any day, especially bleak winter ones. Board games and puzzles will never go out of style. Cooking and crafting activities are also some things to do on a bad weather day. Most children are interested in learning something new and are eager to get in the kitchen or try a craft.

I've made a list of some of my posts with activities kids might enjoy doing when they're stuck indoors. Younger children can "help"a grown-up, while older children may be able to do many of these with some supervision from an adult. Put these in your bag of tricks and pull one out when a child complains of boredom.

1. Let them be creative -- Best Ever Play Dough

2. Cooking is always fun -- Pepperoni and Cheese Crescents

6. Kids love to bake Chocolate Chip Cookies



Slow Cooker Pork Roast

Any day is a good day for a slow cooker recipe, but Saturday is my favorite day to get the crock pot out and cook up something delicious. This recipe for pork roast is as simple as a recipe can be. Put the roast in the pot and pour the seasoning over the top, and the job is done. Roasted vegetables complete the meal. Today I used small yellow potatoes, onions, parsnips, and sweet potatoes because that is what I had. Roasted broccoli and carrots are good, as well.

But, as those YouTube girls Hannah and Kaylee always say -- "First things first"-- Don't put anything in the crock pot until there is a slow cooker liner in place. If you forget to use a liner then there will be a greasy, messy crock to wash, and who has time for that? I don't, and you probably don't, either. Those slow cooker liners are on my list of Top 10 convenience items for the kitchen.

Print Recipe

Slow Cooker Pork Roast

1 (3.5 - 4 lb.) Pork shoulder butt roast
1 (10.5 oz.) can french onion soup
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon black pepper

Rinse and pat dry the pork roast; place in slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine soup, vinegar, garlic, and pepper. Pour mixture over roast. Cover and cook on HIGH for about 4 hours or until meat tests done.



Modeling Chocolate and Monkeys

Remember how much fun it was as a kid to make animals out of clay? Not much has changed for me, it's still fun to create animals. I made some monkeys, but instead of using clay, these monkeys were made from modeling chocolate. Those years of playing with clay as a kid turned out to be a useful experience for this project.

This cake was made for a two-year-old boy who loves watching Five Little Monkeys on YouTube.  I had no idea how I was going to make a cake like this, but not knowing how to do something has never stopped me from jumping in with both feet.

I started in the usual way -- searching for and collecting ideas on Pinterest. My cake isn't professional quality, but it made the child squeal with delight when he saw it, so I considered it a success. I think it takes practice to be skillful at this. My first monkey took a lot longer to put together than the last one. Working with the teeny tiny parts was the hardest for me. I'm not sure if I had too many fingers or not enough when I tried to put those little pieces together.

The bottom portion is a 9 x 13-inch cake. The bed and pillow were cut from an 8 x 8-inch cake. The cakes were frosted with chocolate buttercream. The headboard and monkeys were made from all modeling chocolate, but the bedspread is made from 50% modeling chocolate and 50% fondant. I looked at several tutorials on how to make the monkeys. The one I found most helpful is found here.

I'm including the quick recipe for modeling chocolate, but I recommend this site for more information.

Print Recipe

Modeling Chocolate

2 pounds white chocolate (can be in blocks, chips, or candy melts)
1 cup white Karo syrup

Prepare a 9 x 13-inch pan by lining with plastic wrap, leaving a wide overhang; set aside.
In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate at 30-second intervals on HIGH. Stir well after each 30-second interval. Be careful not to overheat.
In a separate microwave safe container, heat syrup for 45 seconds on HIGH. Pour syrup into melted chocolate. Stirring with a rubber spatula, blend well. Mix until syrup and chocolate are completely blended, about 30 folds. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Pull plastic wrap tightly over chocolate. Be careful not to make indentations with the plastic wrap. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature overnight. The following day, cut the chocolate into smaller pieces for kneading. Knead in food coloring, if desired. Store in resealable plastic bags.



Now You See It

I've been baking cookies this week, lots of cookies. I think it might be time take a break, though, because I've started seeing things in my cookies that aren't really there. It's not like I saw a religious sign in a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough or anything like that. It's more like those tricks on Pinterest where someone uses a gingerbread man cookie cutter and turns it upside down to create a reindeer. Except, I didn't make any gingerbread men or reindeer. I baked sugar cookies to decorate, and I used a cute little gift package cutter with a bow on top.

After I baked them they didn't look as much like gift packages. I kept looking at them while they were cooling on the rack, and the more I looked, the stranger they seemed. Without any frosting, all I could see was Dilbert. If I only had great decorating skills, this gift package cutter would be a perfect Dilbert head. I'm not sure anyone ever has a Dilbert-themed occasion, but you never know. It might be the next birthday party craze. Frozen and Minions can't last forever.

I disguised the Dilbert-head cookies by piping a bow on top, so probably no one guessed Dilbert was in their bag of treats. I have more cookies to bake before Christmas, so I'll check out the rest of my cookie cutters and see what other illusions are lurking there.


On Winning and Losing

Some days I have such good luck. Like the day I won a Thermapen in a giveaway at nwafoodie. This is a first class food blog, and I have followed Lyndi for several years. When I saw she was giving away a Thermapen, my reaction was "wow, where do I sign up?". I've bought Thermapens as gifts, and I have heard all about what a great products they are.

I wanted one.

And then the Thermapen arrived in the mail. MY THERMAPEN. I was beyond excited. This thermometer gives an accurate 3 second reading. I have other thermometers in my kitchen drawer, but none of this caliber. I couldn't wait to try it out. A roast? Grilled chicken? Steak? It's perfect for all those things and more. Friends who know me well, though, would not be surprised to learn that the very first thing I used my Thermapen to measure was the temperature of water to proof my yeast for baking bread. I loved getting an immediate reading that I could trust.

Thanks so much to Lyndi and to Grassroots Farmers' Cooperative! We're going to be very happy together.


As happy as I am when a fun surprise like the good luck of winning comes, we all know there will be days when bad luck shows up, too. If you are a regular reader of Sugar Spice and Spilled Milk, you may have noticed I haven't posted with much regularity of late. That's because of the bad luck that parked on my doorstep. 

In October, I got the news that I have breast cancer. It is in an early stage, so it's very treatable. Nevertheless, it required surgery, and radiation is looming in the near future. One reason I refer to this as "bad luck" is that no other members of my family have ever been diagnosed with breast cancer. The doctor said I fall into the category of "1 in 8" women who develop breast cancer, seemingly out of nowhere. My number was drawn. 

Since October, much of my time has been filled with medical appointments. For a person like me who prefers to do what I want to do, this has been, shall I say, inconvenient. I suspect radiation treatments will be even more inconvenient.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.


Millionaire Pie

Pie, of course, was on the menu for Thanksgiving. All my desserts were prepared ahead, and this Millionaire Pie was one of the sweets found in my refrigerator. At holiday time when there are so many dishes to plan and make, it's nice to have an easy no-bake recipe like this one to take some of the stress out of entertaining.

Print Recipe

Millionaire Pie

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 (6 ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained
1 cup chopped pecans, optional
1 (8 ounce) frozen whipped topping, thawed
2 (9-inch) graham cracker crusts

In a large bowl, beat together condensed milk and lemon juice. Stir in pineapple and oranges. Add pecans, if using. Fold in whipped topping. Spoon mixture into graham cracker crusts. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving, or can be frozen.



Gnocchi Soup

Cravings are strange creatures. They prowl around whispering about delicious food. They are persistent and determined. A craving caused me to make this creamy Gnocchi Soup. This is a wannabe Olive Garden recipe, and it did not disappoint. Keep this recipe handy in case your cravings ask for Gnocchi Soup. My cravings are now well-fed and happy.

Print Recipe

Gnocchi Soup

1 - 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrots
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups half and half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 (16 ounce) package potato gnocchi, cooked to package directions and drained
2 tablespoons cornstarch

In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil. Add onion, celery, carrots, and garlic. Sauté over medium heat until the onion is transparent. In a stockpot, combine chicken, chicken broth, half and half, salt, pepper, thyme, and sautéed vegetables. Heat until boiling. Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes. Add spinach and gnocchi. Dissolve cornstarch in 2 tablespoons water and add to soup mixture, cook about 2 minutes longer.