Buying a store bought cake is not something that I normally do. Store bought cakes are so expensive and I find that homemade cakes taste better. Homemade cakes also offer a personal touch to the event.
When my children were very young, I was very fortunate that my mom would make their birthday cakes for me. Here is a Cars Movie cake that my mom made for my son’s third birthday.
My son wanted a Lightning McQueen cake for his birthday. I looked around in the stores and tried to figure out what I was going to do. Then I decided to buy the car figurines from the toy section. At $12 for three cars, I thought it was a bit pricey but it was cheaper than buying a cake and then at least he would have the cars to play with later.
First we started with a 9×13 sheet cake we made. If I remember correctly, we chose chocolate, but any flavor will do. We iced the cake with homemade white icing. Since I had a Lightning McQueen car that had mud painted on the side, we thought it would be neat to create a mud scene on the cake with chocolate icing. We even smeared the icing a little to make it look like Lightning McQueen slid through the mud.
Next, we dyed some of the icing green and used it to pipe grass on the cake. My mom used the rest of the brown icing for the border.
Finally, we placed the other two cars on the cake. My husband looked online and found a Radiator Springs sign to print. He taped it to two toothpicks and inserted it into the cake as a sign.
I thought this was a pretty cute cake and it wasn’t hard at all. I don’t have any cake decorating experience and I feel that I could recreate this cake myself. Sometimes all it takes is looking around for inspiration to trigger ideas.
Do you enjoy making your own cakes?
images (c) Karen Weideman
Back in 2010, I showed you the teddy bear luau cupcakes that I made for my children’s pool party. They were cute, easy to make, and way cheaper than a store bought cake. The do-it-yourself luau cupcakes have been a top read each month since then so I thought I would show you the ones I made in 2011.
I was a little hesitant to show these because they’re not as cute or creative as the teddy bear luau cupcakes. I finally gave in to the idea that we’re all in need of different ideas, no matter how easy they are. Alligator Girl had her first sleepover and since there were just a few girls and no adults I didn’t have the pressure to produce something anything time consuming. These cupcakes were super fast and went along with the pool party/luau theme. They also tasted great.
As you can see from looking at the pictures, there are a few different styles of cupcakes. I mostly used pink and orange to decorate with but I also had a can of rainbow chip icing in the cabinet. Most kids like rainbow chip, so I used that too.
I put piping on some of the cupcakes. I found the paper toppers at the dollar store. You could probably find some cupcake toppers at an arts and crafts store or party supply store.
As you can see, these are nothing extravacant. They are simple, easy, and cute. They are perfect for a girls’ luau party sleep over.
I attended a baby shower and they had some really cute pacifier favors and pink confetti spread across the table for decoration. I thought the pacifier favors were so cute (and inexpensive) that I had to share them with you. The candy pacifiers simply consist of two Lifesaver candies and a jelly bean that are held together by frosting or melted chocolate.
You will need:
- Lifesavers (These are made from peppermint Lifesavers.)
- royal frosting or melted white chocolate
- miniature jelly beans (probably Jelly Bellies)
- Unwrap your Lifesavers and set aside.
- If you are using chocolate then you will need to melt it. Follow the instructions on the package for melting the chocolate. Please note that you should be using chocolate candy that will harden after it dries. This is the kind that is sold in most craft stores or in the cake decorating section of Walmart.
- Put a small dab of chocolate or frosting in the center of some of the Lifesavers. To make your finished project more attractive you should make sure that the Lifesaver words are facing the handle and that the jelly bean side is plain. For best results, only work with a few Lifesavers at a time.
- Attach the second Lifesaver to the first. The second Lifesaver should be on its side so that it acts as a pacifier handle. It will make a “T” shape. Hold together for a few seconds to allow icing or chocolate to set.
- As you complete these steps, set them aside to dry. After they have dried add the ribbon to the pacifier handle. The ribbon should be about four inches long.
- Add a small dab of frosting to the other side of the lifesaver (the plain side) and attach the jelly bean. Let these dry or harden. You may have to hold the jelly bean onto the Lifesaver for a minute until it sets.
You may find that you want to make the pacifier handles first, attach the jelly beans, and then let the whole thing dry before adding the ribbon. Feel free to modify the instructions to meet your personal preference.
Uses: These candy pacifiers can be spread around the tables for decoration or placed on a cake. You can put them in a bowl on the tables or spread them around a centerpiece or the base of the cake. Put them in small candy boxes and send them home with your guests. You could also have the ribbon personalized with your baby’s name. There are many uses for them.
Money saving tips: You know that I am all about saving money. Save your craft store coupons to purchase these items while they are 40-50% off. Ask your friends for their craft store coupons. If you know in advance that you will be making these you can watch the weekly sales flyers for sales on these items. Check the dollar ribbon area of the craft store for ribbon deals.
This post was originally written by me in 2009. The content has been rewritten and modified to put on my own website.
Image (c) Karen Weideman
I know I haven’t done meal plans on here in a while but I need to get back on track. I looked through the cabinets and freezer and here is a rough sketch of what we’re having.
Sunday my aunts and cousin came for a visit so we enjoyed fresh summer foods and salads. I enjoy making salads during the summer because you can eat them for several days.
Sunday: Company is here!
lunch – tuna salad and chicken salad sandwiches, pasta salad (two different kinds), fresh mixed fruit (watermelon, strawberries, grapes, kiwi, etc), chips
supper – grilled hotdogs, grilled asparagus (YUM!), baked beans, wilted spinach with roasted peppers, leftover pasta salad, leftover mixed fruit
dessert – s’mores by the fire pit
I had the tuna and chicken in the pantry from sales with coupons. The pasta noodles were free from a sale and coupon. I purchased the chips a week or so ago during a Harris Teeter sale for buy 2 get 3 free. I got the asparagus at Sam’s. I think it was 2 lbs for around $5.50. It was enough for a few meals. The hot dogs were buy 1 get 1 free and I had a $1 coupon.
Monday: leftovers – hotdogs, pasta salad, baked beans, chips, mixed fruit, grapes
Tuesday: pizza, sliced apples, wilted spinach
The spinach was purchased at Sam’s. They have a 1 lb container of organic spinach for less than $4. It’s a super deal!
Wednesday: breakfast for dinner- eggs, sausage, toast, fruit
Thursday: cheese and chicken quesadillas, Mexican rice
Friday: hamburgers on the grill, grilled potatoes, some sort of vegetable
Saturday: We’re probably eating out with some of my yard sale proceeds.
lunches – leftovers and sandwiches, yogurt, watermelon, strawberries
snacks – fruit, granola bars, ice cream, almonds
I have most everything that we needed for these meals. I purchased strawberries, 1 cucumber, a few Roma tomatoes, hotdog buns, a watermelon, a can of baked beans, 1 dozen eggs, milk, and the supplies for the s’mores (We used 1 bag of marshmallows, 1/3 box of graham crackers, and 1/2 pack of Hershey’s chocolate bars). I will also need to buy hamburger buns and possibly tortillas for the quesadillas.
Even though I fed extra people this week, I am still keeping my food costs low by purchasing items on sale and with coupons, using leftovers, and meal planning from what I have in my stockpile.
What’s on your menu this week?
We’ve been having some pretty warm weather in North Carolina but today was a little bit cooler. I decided to take the opportunity to make some taco soup/chili today. The recipe makes a big pot full so I always try to freeze half of it..
The taco soup is really easy to make and I always try to keep the supplies on hand. We like to top ours with cheese, sour cream, and serve it with tortilla chips. This will definitely make meal time easier and less stressful after a long day at work. Freezer meals save time and money.
What meals do you like to freeze?
Last year when I went back to work full-time I decided that freezer cooking would save me a lot of time. I have done a little freezer cooking before with freezing leftovers and such but now I try to be more intentional about it.
Sometimes freezer cooking depends on my level of energy or time that I have but many times it depends on sales. Whenever I see a good deal on ground beef I know that I can precook and preseason the meat for quick dinners. The same goes with chicken.
Last week Harris Teeter had their whole chickens for only $.59/lb. I went on Monday before the sale ended and purchased two chickens. I boiled the chickens, picked off the meat, and put the torn chicken into meal portioned containers. Here’s the fruit of the labor:
I ended up with enough chicken for at least four dinners. With this chicken I can make chicken casserole, chicken pot pie, chicken and dumplings, chicken enchilada chili, chicken stew, and many other dishes.
Cooking with sale items saves time and money. Do you cook for the freezer?
I know it’s not Monday, but since this weekly meal planning is called “Menu Plan Monday” we’ll keep it at that. We’ve had some inclement weather this week. Sunday night it snowed and last night it iced, so we’ve had quite a mess here in North Carolina. We’re stuck at home and I’m ok with that, but I’m missing the grocery deals this week.
I realize I have plenty in my stockpile to choose from so I’ll try to make due with that. Thankfully I have some frozen vegetables in my supply too.
Sunday - corn dogs, macaroni and cheese, and fruit
Hubby was taking Alligator Girl on an outing so I needed something easy for lunch before they left. We rarely eat corn dogs so it was a nice treat for the kids.
Monday - hot sub sandwiches, french fries, mozarella sticks, green beans
We were stuck inside all day so we wanted some fun foods for dinner. Since we were frying some things, hubby also fried a few pickles and green beans.
Tuesday - ham and cheese quiche, fruit, maybe smoothies?
We ended up having potato cakes and quiche with ham, cheese, mushrooms, and spinach.
Wednesday - chicken pot pie
I have one whole chicken left in the freezer from a terrific deal at Harris Teeter. I just happened to be in the store one day when they were having chickens for $.19/lb. These chickens have enough meat for two meals.
Thursday - chicken casserole, butter beans
We’ll use the leftover chicken from Wednesday to make the chicken casserole.
Friday - something with ground beef
Saturday – homemade pizza
We are definitely under the $35 dinner budget for this week.
What is on your menu?
Every now and then I look through my old recipes or read through some of my old article archives and think, Oh yeah. I haven’t made that in a while. That would be good! Today is one of those days. I started googling my name and found an old recipe on the web. I think it’s been about two years since I’ve made this. I still remember how good this taco recipe was so I need to make it sometime soon. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture for you. If I make it this week I’ll be sure to take a picture for you.
Slow Cooker Tex Mex Chicken Taco Recipe
With the rising price of groceries, we all could use some inexpensive recipes for our families. This is a slow-cooker recipe and it is great because it is easy, tasty, healthy, and inexpensive!
*Be sure to purchase the chicken breasts on sale as this is the most expensive part of the meal.
- chicken (I used 4 boneless breasts) – $2.00
- 1 can diced tomatoes (I used the ones with green chilies) – $.50
- 1 cup green salsa (such as the kind made by Herdez) – $.40
- 3 cloves minced garlic – $.15
- 1 cup sliced onions – $.25
- sliced bell peppers – $.75
- salt and pepper (I used Goya Adobo seasoning, which is one of our faves!)
- 14 oz can of kernel corn, drained – .50
- 15 oz can of black beans, drained and chopped or mashed – $.59
In a crock pot, put in your chicken, tomatoes, about 3/4-1 cup of green salsa, about 1 cup of sliced onions, some sliced bell peppers (if you wish), about 3 cloves minced garlic (I used the bottled minced) and salt and pepper (or Goya Adobo seasoning). Cook the chicken on high for about 3-4 hours, until tender.
Take the chicken out of the crock pot and set it on a plate or cutting board to let it cool some. Drain the juice out of the vegetables, reserving some of the liquid. Put the vegetables back into the crock pot. Add the can of drained corn and drained black beans. Cut up or shred the chicken and put it back into the crock pot. Add a little more of the green salsa (about 1/4 cup) and some of the liquid from the vegetables that you drained (about 1 cup). Stir all this together and allow it to cook for another 15-20 minutes.
Use the chicken in tacos, burritos, or quesadillas. Yummy!
We had enough of this chicken to feed our family of four and then some to freeze for another meal. I also served this recipe with Spanish rice. We topped our tacos with cheese and sour cream and a bit of fresh pico de gallo. Sorry, I wish I had a picture to share.
Last night we had some friends over to our home and we served Mexican food. This consisted of tacos, taquitos, Mexican rice, refried beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, and all the other taco fixins’. My friend asked for the pico de gallo recipe and I told her it was on my website.
I checked today to give her the link and the recipe was no where to be found. For those of you that know me, I wrote for another company for 3 1/2 years. Apparently, I wrote the recipe on their site. Oh well, just the issues that come with giving someone else the rights to your content.
I hope you enjoy the recipe.
- fresh diced tomatoes, preferably Roma tomatoes
- fresh diced onions
- fresh finely sliced cilantro (leaf and stalk)
- fresh diced jalapeno pepper (to make milder, remove seeds)
- minced garlic or garlic powder
- lime juice
- Goya adobo seasoning
- salt (optional)
Chop up fresh ingredients and place into bowl. Add seasonings. There are not specific measurements. As you can see in the picture, the main ingredient is fresh tomatoes. All the other ingredients are according to your taste preferences. Let me know if you have any questions.
*Update: After thinking about the pico de gallo it seems that we use about 6-8 Roma tomatoes, 1 medium onion, 1 jalapeno, and about 1/2 stalk of cilantro. I’d say you need to use 1 tbsp or less of lime juice. These are the issues that come with not using a recipe and just cooking until something looks or tastes good.
image (c) Karen Weideman
My kids really enjoy playing with playdough. I have found that homemade playdough is very easy and inexpensive to make. It also lasts longer and is softer and easier to mold. Today we made two batches of playdough, some “cookies”, and we also decorated our creations. Here are some pictures of our day and a recipe for you.
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1/4 cup salt
- food coloring of choice (5-10 drops)
Mix all the ingredients, adding the food coloring last. Stir over medium heat until play dough has a smooth consistency. Remove play dough from the pan and allow to cool for a few minutes. Knead until smooth. After it has cooled, place it in a plastic bag or airtight container to keep it soft.
Thrifty gift idea: Make some of this to use as an inexpensive party favor. Save frosting containers for the playdough. Decorate or cover the containers.
Another tip: When I was teaching preschool, we would multiply this recipe times four so that we would have enough for about eight kids. Also, we would make a color of playdough for each month which went along with the color of the month we were studying.