Sunday, October 4, 2015

Grammie's Ginger Snaps

Only nine ingredients and a little bit of time stands between you and these spicy, sweet ginger snaps. These are so easy to pull together. My kids love rolling them in the sugar and placing them on the baking sheet. I prefer to use raw sugar to roll the cookies in - it's crunchier than regular granulated so it adds a great texture element.

The video below was made by my 11 year old - I think she did a great job - don't you?



3/4 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
2.5 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt

1 cup extra granulated sugar or raw sugar in bowl for dipping cookies


  1. Cream butter and 1 cup sugar well.
  2. Beat in egg.
  3. Mix in molasses.
  4. In another bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt.
  5. Add to the creamed mixture and mix well.
  6. Shape into 1 inch balls.
  7. Roll in sugar and on baking sheet.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
  9. Cool on pan for 5 minutes and then transer to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Harry Potter Birthday Party: The Great Hall and Honeydukes #4

So much candy!
This week I'm sharing the 4th post in my Harry Potter Birthday Party series. Today we're focusing on the Great Hall and Honeydukes - both of which were in our dining room!

If you missed the other posts, check them out:

The Great Hall

Not true to the movie but more inspired by it, we used beautiful gold tablecloths, silver and gold paper plates as well as cheap plastic goblets. I found the goblets at the local Dollarama and the cloth and plates on sale at an art store.

The glow sticks looked waaaaay better in person! The kids loved them...and they lasted for over 10 hours!
I wanted to make the candles hang from the ceiling but I didn't have a tonne of time. Instead, I bought glow sticks and hooks to hang them from the ceiling. I also hung tulle to make it more magical. I have to say the glow stick were the amazing. They looked great during the party even though it was daylight. That night my daughter had three of her best friends sleep over for a Harry Potter movie marathon, and the glow sticks were even more AWESOME.

The Great Feast

The food itself wasn't really food from the books or movies. We had grilled chicken wings, pizza pops, veggies and fruit. We did, however, give them Harry Potterish names like wicked wings, pizza pasties, fleur de la coeur fruit and herbology bites (veggies).

We served 'pumpkin juice' which was really orange-mango juice!

Gold disposable table cloth, gold and silver plates & napkins and plastic goblets completed the Great Hall Feast.

The kids devoured these wings!


Our dining room side buffet became Honeydukes!

We picked up some Martha Stewart chalk board signs and easels to write out the candy names.
These containers had chalk board sticker already attached and ready to go.

We also bought cheap tongs so the kids could get their candy without sticking their hands in the jars!

For the candy shop, I bought a bunch of cute and cheap glass containers from the dollar store and lots of candy from them too. The candy went into the containers. From Michaels and Dollarama, I bought funky labels (on sale) and we gave the candy HP names including:

  • acid pops (lollipops)
  • gringott gold bars (caramels)
  • exploding rockets
  • laughing taffy
  • love potion necklaces
  • life preservers
  • every flavour beans
  • golden snitch snacks
  • chocolate frogs
  • jelly slugs
  • forbidden forest bears

Chocolate Frogs

We made our own chocolate frogs. They are simple to make if you have the frog mold. I ordered one (two would have been better as it would have allowed me to make more at once) from The molds make quite a big frog! I melted about 2/3 of a bag of melting candy from Wilton and filled each cavity half full. I then sprinkled rice cereal in the middle and topped it off with more chocolate. I then threw them in the fridge for about 30 minutes to set. I started the process over again until I had about 24 frogs.

I also printed out Honeydukes labels and placed them on some resealable bags so the kids could 'shop' at the store and take their favourites home as part of their loot bag.

Do you love my daughter's Gryffindor coloured nails?!

They look better than this - bad lighting! Lumos!

Loot Bags

What else was in the loot bags? Glad you asked! I found the cutest owl pens at a local art store and Harry Potter magnets at our local toy shop. These with the candy bag went into our loot bags. The bags were simply brown paper bags with a customized thank you sticker attached. Adorable, don't you think?

Thanks for reading! Our next and last Harry Potter birthday party post will be all about the cake!

Monday, September 14, 2015

REESE Peanut Butter Chocolate Eclairs

Chocolate and peanut butter - is there anything better? This combo makes my mouth water just thinking about it. And Reese does it perfectly. Whether it's their famous peanut butter cup or their candies, I can't say no when they're offered up (or when I pass them in the grocery store).
I picked up my first jar REESE peanut butter and chocolate spread while I was down in Washington State last year - as soon as I tasted it (yes, on a spoon...don't judge), I wish I had bought a few more jars. It quickly disappeared and I tried to forget about it until my next US trip.

Well, now I'm happy to say that you can buy this delectable thick, creamy spread, which is full of finely crushed pieces of peanuts to give it the texture of the famous REESE peanut butter cup, in your local Canadian grocery store!

And when asked by Hershey to create a recipe featuring this spread, of course, I said yes!

After much thought and input from the family and a few test recipes, we all decided this REESE peanut butter chocolate eclair was the unequivocal winner. The kids have already asked that it be part of  our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner menus!
Eclair pastry sometimes intimidates people - don't let it! It really isn't that difficult. Make sure you use a strong spoon when you are stirring the dough - one wooden spoon was harmed in the making of this dessert! The handle broke - make sure yours is sturdy!

Pastry Dough


1 cup milk
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup flour
4 large eggs + 1 egg


  1. Place milk, salt and sugar in a sauce pan over medium high heat.
  2. Bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat.
  3. Quickly add flour in one dump and stir until dough is formed. It should be glossy and come together in a ball that comes away from the sides of the pan easily.
  4. Place back on medium heat and stir continuously until a milky white film forms on the bottom of the pan.
  5. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes (you don't want to cook the eggs).
  6. Break 4 eggs into liquid measuring cup.
  7. Pour one egg at a time into dough and stir until incorporated.
  8. Repeat with each egg, one at a time.
  9. The dough will look like a thick and shiny paste. If it is too dry, beat the remaining egg and add half of it. Set aside the other half.
  10. If you have one, place a half inch decorating tip inside a pastry bag and then add the dough. If you don't have one, simply place the dough into plastic resealable bag and cut half an inch off one of the bottom tips of the bag.
  11. Place a silicone mat on baking sheet (you may need two sheets).
  12. Starting about half inch above the baking sheet, pipe a 3-4 inch strip of pastry. Leave 2-1/2 inches between pipings.
  13. Depending on size, 12-16 eclair should be piped.
  14. If you haven't already, beat one egg. Brush each eclair lightly with egg. With the brush, gently push any dough tips back into the dough.
  15. Bake for 30-35 minutes, switch pans half way through baking if using two pans. You want the pastry to be completely dry or it will collapse. (you can take one out and open it to check if dry).
  16. Once golden brown, turn off oven but DO NOT remove pastry. Open oven door two inches and let the pastry sit for 30 minutes. This will help dry the pastry out so it's not soggy in the middle later.
  17. Remove from oven and cool completely.



2/3 cup Reese  peanut butter spread
1/4 c heavy or whipping cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter


  1. Mix all ingredients at medium-high speed for one  minute until incorporated and slightly lighter in color.
Putting filling in eclairs

  1. Cut each eclair length wise put do not cut through (like a hot dog bun).
  2. Place filling in a pastry bag or strong resealable plastic bag with the end snipped off.
  3. Pipe the filling into sliced pastries. 



1 cup Reese peanut butter chips
1 cup salted, roasted peanuts, chopped


  1. I find it easiest to melt the chips in 1/4 cup batches in the microwave (about 45 second should do it).
  2. Place each batch in a pastry bag with a very small 1/4 inch opening and drizzle on top of the eclairs.
  3. Top each eclair with a sprinkle of crushed peanuts.
  4. Let set until the melted chips have set again (about 15 minutes).

The pastries are best on the same day they are made but will last a few days in an airtight container.

Want more amazing recipes using Hershey's Reese peanut butter chocolate spread? Of course you do! Find them by following the #doyouspoon hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! 

Disclosure: I received free product samples and was compensated for this post by Hershey's Canada. The opinions expressed are, as always, my own. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Back to School Lunchs and Snacks Ideas

I've been thinking about lunch and snacks for the kids now that school is back in session. I'm sharing a few of my thoughts  below.
  • There are some incredibly talented parents out there that can create amazing bento box lunches. I'm not one of them - no time, no talent. I want healthy, easy to prepare food that my kids will actually EAT - not just a bite. I want it gone. Let me tell you, it doesn't happen often. Having said that, I do find that my kids often like little bits and bites of things for lunch - a few veggies sticks, a few crackers, a couple pieces of meat and a piece of fruit often sees great results. But of course, they go through phases - sandwiches and only sandwiches, absolutely no sandwiches, only hot dishes, o ly cold dishes...blah blah blah. If they make it themselves, they can go for it. If I make it..well, sometimes they get what they want and sometimes they don't.
  • Don't forget that left overs are some of your best friends! Any casserole can make a hot lunch the next day. BBQ chicken (or most other meats) can be transformed into a pasta salad, sandwich or fried rice for a relatively easy next day lunch.
  • Kids usually eat fast...they want to get out and play. Keep it simple, easy to eat. Most importantly give them things they will actually eat - who loves finding a lunch full of uneaten food??? If they are coming home with 1/2 of it eaten - give them less for a week and see if they are satisfied.
  • Try to have things they can choose from - feeling they have control over what goes in their lunch box may decrease the amount of uneaten food that comes back home.
  • This will also free up a bit of time for you in the morning - and who doesn't need a couple of extra minutes! Of course this depends on the age of your children and their level of maturity.

  • I'm always on the look out for new products the kids might enjoy. Over the summer, I was fortunate enough to be sent Litehouse's new Opadipity dips to try. They come in sweet and savory flavours including creamy ranch, cucumber dill, spinach parmesan, creamy cheesecake, strawberry delight and vanilla almond. We love them - they are also gluten free and have no preservatives! 
  • If you're kids like to dip fruits and veggies, I recommend giving them a try. I portion the dips out into small containers so the kids can pick their favorite dip, precut veggies/fruit or breadsticks for a school snack or lunch.

I'm always looking for new lunch and snack ideas, here are a few of mine:

  • Peanut free ideas - look here.
  • no nut granola
  • hard boiled eggs
  • homemade muffins
  • cereal and yogurt (separate containers)
  • Fruit - our favorites
    • canteloupe
    • apples
    • apple sauce
    • grapes (cut if required)
    • strawberries
  • Veggies - our favorites
    • carrots
    • celery
    • fennel
    • peppers
    • broccoli
    • cauliflower
  • chicken
  • tuna
  • salmon
  • hardboiled eggs
  • rice
  • seaweed
  • leftovers including cold pizza and pasta
  • pita
  • bagels
  • breadsticks
  • cheesesticks
  • pre portioned dips
  • granola bars
  • wagon wheels
  • fish crackers
  • homemade rice krispies

Friday, August 21, 2015

Harry Potter Birthday Party: The Games and Activities #3

Games and Activities - Harry Potter Birthday Party

Don't you love those Quidditch brooms! Originally, they were just for the Quidditch game we had planned for the back yard but then we had the brilliant idea to turn them into a craft too.

The brooms were only $3 each and we also bought duct tape in a variety of colours and patterns. We set up the broom station in the backyard. The kids decorated their Quidditch brooms by simply wrapping as much or as little tape as they wanted. We also had a bunch of permanent markers in case they wanted to write Nimbus 2000 on it. They loved it! They took them home as part of their loot bags.


After they were finished decorating, they were separated into two teams for the Quidditch match.

The goal posts were made from hoola hoops and mop broom handles from the dollar store. We simply used more duct tape to attach the hoops and handles. The screw end of the handle was pushed into the ground and they stood up quite well. We made 6 hoops and placed 3 on each end of the field.

We based the rules of the game on this post. The kids were divided into two teams. Two balls were placed on the field. There was a medium size one, the Quaffle, that the kids tried to move forward by passing to team members and throwing it through a hoop. This earned them one point. There was also a second bigger ball, a Bludger, that the kids could pick up and throw. When the bigger ball hit you, you had to freeze for 5 seconds and drop the smaller ball (if you had it). All the balls were squishy so no one could get hurt.

Finally the snitch (a yellow tennis ball) was held by an adult and was thrown in at a random time. Whichever team caught it received extra points.
For the first few games the kids played the games while on their brooms. They had to keep the brooms between their legs to keep getting hit to a minimum. But they eventually placed the brooms aside and kept playing.

We printed out banners for each House!


The brooms also served another great purpose - photos! Each child climbed onto their brooms and then jumped off the seat bench of our picnic table. After the party, I photoshopped (very roughly) a Quidditch pitch background. We sent it to the kids after the party as a thank you.  It was a great surprise for them.

From this:

to this:

Ministry of Magic Memo Game

I found this great blog that showed how to make Ministry of Magic Memos in detail. At first, I was going to use the memos as decorations but then came up with the idea of using them into a game!

We reused a huge piece of corrugated plastic board that was going to be thrown out. We simply cut out circles in three sizes - big, medium and small. Next we printed out a bunch of names of people who worked at the Ministry of Magic including Delores Umbridge, Arthur Weasley, Mad Eye Moody, Bartemis Crouch, and four others. You can find a list of employees here. Pick your faves! Finally, I printed off the Ministry logo and "Ministry of Magic Mailboxes".

The game is simple enough - just make a line (we used a broom) and have the kids throw the memos through the holes. The smaller the hole the more points it is worth. We did it as individual players but you could do teams if you sort the guests into different houses.
Flying the memos threw the holes is harder than it looks!


This one was simply a Harry Potter trivial pursuit game I found on We used it at the party but it was also a birthday gift. 

It would be pretty easy to come up with your own trivia though and save some dollars, if you don't think you'd play it much.

After all the activities were completed, we moved back into the house for food and a trip to Honeydukes! Come back to read the next post for details!

And check out our previous Harry Potter Birthday Party Posts:

Friday, August 14, 2015

Quick and Easy Chicken Pot Pie

As much as I enjoy making my own stock, pie crusts from scratch and fresh farmers market veggies, there are times when I just don't have the time...or motivation, or time or desire or time to make a pot pie from scratch! This is especially true in the heat of the summer. 

So when my daughter asked for chicken pot pie for dinner, I wanted to say no, how about ... pretty much anything else. Instead, I went the quick and easy route - store bought rotisserie chicken, store bought pie crust, some fresh and some frozen veggies, and even gravy from a package. I know, some of you stopped reading at "store bought" but for the rest of you who don't mind the easy way out on occasion (and seriously, who hasn't earned an easy night now and then), you'll love how this pot pie reminds you of the ones your mom made when you were a kid (or the frozen ones she threw in the oven). They don't call it comfort food for nothin'.


1 rotisserie chicken (3-4 c chicken)
1 tbsp butter
2 packs instant gravy powder (or 2 cups gravy)
2 c water
2 c chicken stock
2 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 c grated cheese
1 c frozen corn
1 c frozen peas
1  double pie crust, store bought


  1. Pull apart chicken into small chunks.
  2. Set aside.
  3. Melt butter in large sauté pan over medium high heat.
  4. Add onions and stir . Cook for 3 minutes.
  5. Add garlic. Stir for one minute.
  6. Add spices. Stir for another minute.
  7. Add tomato paste. Stir for 1 minute.
  8. In large bowl or 4 cup measuring cup, whisk together gravy powder, water and stock.
  9. Add to sauté pan.
  10. Add chicken. Stir.
  11. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5-10 minutes until mixture starts to thicken.
  12. Remove from heat,
  13. Add cheese.
  14. Stir.
  15. Add peas and corn. Stir.
  16. Let sit while you roll out pie crusts.
  17. Line 9 inch pie plate with bottom pie crust.
  18. Pour in chicken mixture.
  19. Quickly top with remaining pie crust.
  20. Cut in vent holes in the top crust.
  21. You may want to wrap a bit of foil around the edges to prevent over browning (but take it off after the first 20 minutes of baking).
  22. Place in oven for approximately 40-45 minutes until golden brown.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Harry Potter Party: Decorations #2
Start at the beginning here. And then  here for games and activities . And here for the food. It describes the beginning of our daughter's 11th birthday party - Harry Potter themed obviously! My bit of advice this week is to start the decorating process as early as possible. If you have an idea of the type of things you'll need, you'll be able to find good prices on things as you're out and about in daily life instead of panicking at the last minute before the party! That's how I found the owls for the Owlery and potion jars.

This post will cover our decorations for our King's Cross Station, the Portrait Hall, the Gryffindor Common Room, the Owlery, Potions and Herbology decorations.

King's Cross Station

Our front door was covered by a "brick wall". I found brick-wall craft paper at Michaels (it was in the school section - I think it was meant for bulletin boards or as class decorations) which I then taped onto 2 tarps so the kids could walk through it. If you have the time you could paint the wall on a sheet like they did here. At our party, the kids handed in their Hogwarts' Express Ticket (included in their invitation) and then went through the wall. Upon walking through the wall, the kids entered the Portrait Hall.

I just printed these off the net. 

Portrait Hall

To create the Portrait Hall we simply printed off many Hogwarts or Hogwarts-like pictures found in the movies. I found most of them on Harry Potter Wiki. Check  here for great pics.

In the same area we also posted Educational Decrees. You can find them here and just print them off.

A few owls on a window sill makes a great owlery!
(We added a few regular birds in cages but the kids didn't seem to mind!)

Our living room was a mix of areas. First, we had the Owlery. At our local Dollar Store we found a variety of cute owls - all under $5 each. We placed them on a window sill and I made an "owlery" sign to place underneath. Simple and cute!

We have a Harry Potter book with some potion labels so I just photocopied them and taped them to some little bottles for a Potions Class effect. We added food colouring to some water to represent potions.

We had potions in another window and in some glass cupboards. Most of these were jars that I already had or picked up at the Dollar Store and then filled with colored water. In a few of the jars, we placed toy spiders, worms, and other icky things we found! 

Gryffindor Common Room
The portrait of the  Godric Gryffindor,one of Hogwarts founders, was given a place of honour in our Gryffindor Common Room

The living room door also had a picture of the fat lady on it and, of course, a password was needed to get in when it became the Gryffindor Common Room.
I ordered this poster online. We used it as decoration in the Gyffindor Common Room on the day of the party but it looks great hanging in her room now.
In the room, we placed some posters that I had ordered on line, a Gryffindor Notice Board. The Board was my daughter's idea and I loved it! She wrote a bunch of notes and announcements for it and even added a few socks in case any House Elves wanted freedom!
Love this Notice Board! We found the Gryffindor crest online. It's removable and re-positionable so after the party we moved it to my daughter's bedroom wall.
Finally, we hung a portrait of Professor Dumbledore and one of his sister.

On the other side of the room was our Herbology section. I printed a bunch of plants descriptions from the books and movies and placed them in front of plants we already had. I loved the addition of the Mandrakes (which were really troll dolls found, of course, at the Dollar Store).

I found a Herbology Do's and Dont's list here that we stick to the wall above the plants.

Next post will describe our Harry Potter birthday party games and activities.