Treat yourself and kids with Custom Confections

Custom Confections
Custom Confections

Available September 1st from Capstone Young Readers, this book is perfect for budding young pastry chefs or families that just want to have some fun in the kitchen.

If you’re looking for some sweet treats to make up with your kids this holiday season and beyond, don’t miss Custom Confections, by Jen Besel.

While it’s targeted for readers ages 9-13, I’ve found more than a few of the techniques outlined in this book helpful and easily applicable to other recipes and projects for my adult sensibilities as well. In fact, many of the recipes call for playing and adapting and inspiring some delicious spin-offs. (Don’t miss the checkerboard cake and the marshmallow fondant recipes.)

Sugared flower cupcakes
Sugared flower cupcakes

So grab the kids, apron-up, and prepare for some sweet fun.

Reading Disney Rainbows this Summer

One of the many wonderful things about the Disney Social Moms Media Celebration—and there are many—is the amazing speaker lineup. The awesomeness of these impressive people from all different fields, specialities and successes are extraordinary in their own right, but then when one of them speaks directly to something near and dear to your personal heart, well, you start to believe that universe may be sending you messages.

This serendipitous situation occurred for me this last April when I was sitting at breakfast listening to LeVar Burton speak to us about reading—specifically the importance of reading to and with our young children.

LeVar Burton.
LeVar Burton.

I don’t think that was news to the parents in the room—it’s not exactly a secret—but a renewed enthusiasm cannot help but be contagious when such a passionate and dynamic expert in the field is sharing his zeal on the subject so eloquently.

My secret Mom mission this summer (and please, don’t act like you don’t have one, too) is to read more, both with and to my kids as well as my own personal reading list. I realized sadly that as life gets lived, the ebb and flow of once-favorite activities get on the ebb side too often, and summer is the perfect time to get back into the reading flow.

To assist me on this agenda, there are a few opportunities I learned about that I’m utilizing and would like to share with you.

~The first is from LeVar Burton’s Reading Rainbow itself, and features a downloadable app that gives you and your children access to thousands of titles at a click’s command. There’s a free trial that you can learn more about and download on Readingrainbow.com. Please check it out—I can tell you with complete sincerity that you cannot find a better advocate for children, literacy, and humankind in general than LeVar Burton.

~Also on that website there’s an opportunity to join a Kickstarter campaign to help bring Reading Rainbow into more classrooms. Any denomination by July 2, 2014 can make a huge difference. I just proudly donated to this beloved campaign.

Levar Burton reading  aloud--a beautiful thing.
Levar Burton reading aloud–a beautiful thing.

~Disney Jr. has teamed up with First Book to donate up to a million books to children who may not get that opportunity we take for granted at home. GiveaBookGetaBook.com is a special website where you can enter in a redemption code to download a free digital book for your family to read, and that same book in physical form to be donated to a region of the country you designate. It’s a wonderful program that will run 4/1/14-9/30/15, and those redemption codes can be found in specially marked merchandise at Disney stores, Radio Disney promotions and other retail locations and products all summer long. You can read more about the initiative on the Disney Parks blog, or just seek out one of those codes and get started sharing the gift of reading with your children and total strangers. I can’t think of anything more meaningful for a summer treat.

That time when Tim Gunn, Ariel Winter and David Arquette read books to my kids.
That time when Tim Gunn, Ariel Winter and David Arquette read books to my kids.

I hope these are a few resources that will help your Mom missions this summer and beyond.

Happy reading.

©2014 Tracey Henry

A Magical Giveaway from Kohl’s–UPDATED WITH WINNER!

In celebration of this fabulous upcoming trip, Disney and Kohl’s would like share with us some proper party attire for the kids—the new “Magic at Play” collection by Jumping Beans.

Magic at Play Collection by Jumping Beans at Kohl's
Magic at Play Collection by Jumping Beans at Kohl’s

Cute, fun and definitely Disney festive—these outfits are perfect for inside the park or out. But it wouldn’t be a party without YOU, so Disney and Kohl’s are giving one of you a $50 gift card to pick out your own fun.

My giveaway is simple and will one week run until midnight CDT 4/16/14. Just leave a comment below if you’re interested in being entered into a random drawing. That’s it.

Here’s a few of the things we purchased for inspiration…

Jumping for Jumping Beans
Jumping for Jumping Beans

Now get commenting.

©2014 Tracey Henry

****UPDATE****Thank you for all of the interest into the Disney Magic at Play Collection by Jumping Beans Kohl’s gift card! My kids certainly enjoyed their new outfits last weekend at Disneyland, and one lucky reader can sport some new duds soon as well.

As promised, from the 48 commenters, I randomly assigned each a number, and then had another person (my daughter) choose a random number. That happened to be Amanda S. as the winner of this $50 gift card.

Thanks to all who entered, and keep checking back for more winning opportunities.

Tonguespank Spice Blends

When the word, “Tonguespank,” comes through on my subject line, I am immediately intrigued. Pair it with the phrase, “NEW LIQUOR & HEAT SPICE LINE” and I’ve come home.

Tonguespank Spice Company has come up with a table spice line that does exactly what its name promises. The Liquor and Heat blends take flavor to exciting depths, and can really transform a dish into something spectacularly spicy.

The spice is unique in that it is designed to be put on after cooking, so the diner can add as much or as little as their palate desires. Perfect for foods like grilled meats or vegetables; spice blends like Smoky Bourbon, Garlic Grappa, Citrus Rum, Wasabi Sake (I’m not quite that brave yet), and Scorpion Bourbon can really make things interesting.

Tonguespank indeed.
Tonguespank indeed.

So far I’ve tried the Smoky Bourbon on grilled steak and the Citrus Rum on some oven-roasted asparagus which are admittedly timid experiments when approached with serving suggestions like, “Sprinkle on eggs, pizza, baked potatoes, chili, steaks, burgers, pork chops, barbecue, ribs, etc.” I’m excited to expand my horizons a bit.

Check out Tonguespank.com for all they have to offer and online shopping info. It’s something a little different and may change your mind on oral corporal punishment.

I won’t judge.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans

So good.
So good.

“So here, in such context, we have an assemblage of classic and nouveau New Orleans cuisine. Some might innocently call it a cookbook. And if used in careful, Presbyterian moderation, it can be considered no worse than that. If you love New Orleans, if you love food, if you savor the great banquet of life, you could—once a week, perhaps—pull it down from a shelf and wallow in some joy. And then you could replace it on that shelf, perhaps a higher one, and leave it be for a fortnight or two. No problem.”

-David Simon, Preface of Treme. 

This is one of the many delicious reasons I love cookbooks in general. They can sit for months unattended, just waiting to submerge you in adventure, comfort or Epicurean euphoria.

Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans is born of the HBO series of the same name, is more than a fan fiction collection of recipes. It’s more than a coffee table book. It’s more than a last minute souvenir at the studio’s gift shop. It is, like the preface boasts, a place to wallow in some joy.

It’s a beautifully-written, serious and irreverent book filled with a history, stories, and oh yes, recipes, from some of the world’s greatest culinary powerhouses and the actors who play them on TV.

With a tentative non-creole hand, I attempted some of the recipes. The Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin with Smothered Greens, Butternut Squash and Cane Syrup Jus, the Black Beans and Rum a la Austin Leslie, and the Bayona’s Café au Lait Pots de Crème. So far my Louisiana passport hasn’t been revoked, so I consider this success. I’d place the degree of difficulty at around the intermediate mark, but then I don’t think there’s an expectation to replicate and master every dish after a single attempt. It’s a guidebook to taste and feel your way along a culinary journey that is distinctly New Orleans.

So if you’re looking around for a holiday gift idea, or just want to throw a Treme-themed party to say au revoir in the show’s final season, they’ve written a book on the subject.

And you should cook it.

©Tracey Henry