This is my new favorite cookie.  It is for this week, anyway.  My kids and I invented cookies for a bake-off at the state fair, and this is one of the results.  One of the others we made took first place, but this one is my personal favorite.    
Contests are funny things anyway:  you'd think the best-tasting item wins, but that's not necessarily the case.  First of all, "best taste" always depends on who's doing the tasting. Or the judging, in this case.  Secondly, cookies are given a score, and in this contest, only 40% of it is from how the cookie tastes.  30% is how attractive it ('and its surroundings) are, and 30% here was 'creativity', which, like taste, is very subjective.  

This cookie was dreamed up by a daughter who loves key lime pie, and wanted a cookie that tasted like it.  You'll have extra frosting; you can make a half batch, or it can be frozen, or used to frost cupcakes, or spread on graham crackers... or eaten on a spoon!
My friend who dislikes frosting, likes this  frosting.
Creamy Lime Pie Cookies 
Makes 2- 2 ½ dozen

Graham Cracker Sugar Cookie:

¾ c. granulated sugar 
½ c. butter or shortening or coconut oil
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 sleeve graham cracker, finely crushed (about 1 ½ c.)
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 c. flour
¼ c. limeade concentrate, thawed.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cream shortening and sugar, add egg and vanilla.  Add cracker crumbs, salt, and baking soda; beat well. Mix in flour. Drop by heaping spoonful on lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake 7-8 minutes.  Let cookies cool two minutes, then brush with the limeade concentrate.  All of it should be gone once all cookies are brushed.  Cool completely before frosting generously with Creamy Lime Frosting.


Creamy Lime Frosting

1 cube butter
2 c. powdered sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
1/16 tsp. salt
4 drops green food color, optional
¼ c. limeade concentrate, mostly thawed
8 oz. cream cheese, still cool, cut in 1” cubes

In a medium bowl, combine butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and green food color.  Beat until fluffy.  Add limeade concentrate and whip the mixture.  Add cream cheese, a couple cubes at a time, and beat until mixed thoroughly.  Beat on high until light and fluffy, but don’t overbeat or it will go runny.



 
 
Mmm.... bacon, eggs, and toast!   

Or not.

Toast:
Pound cake, sliced and toasted.  Then buttered.

Eggs:
The white:  I used some quick frosting  (1 cup powdered sugar, 2 tbsp. melted coconut oil, a bit of vanilla, and enough milk-- any kind-- to let it softly hold its shape.)  Other options include nearly-melted commercial vanilla frosting, stirred sour cream, stirred vanilla yogurt, or stirred Greek yogurt.
The center is a dried apricot, plumped in hot water for about 20 minutes, then blotted dry and shaped by hand to look more round.  I stuck a whole almond inside to make the 'yolk' stand up better.
To make the 'yolk' look more wet, I brushed it with a little bit of corn syrup.

Bacon:
Today I found some natural fruit rolls that I'd not seen before.  I bought some, and found that rather than being the smooth, flat rollup I expected, it was full of different thicknesses in the stripes the machine put down.  This enabled it to pull off in strips to eat.  And it resembled bacon!  One roll yields about four  1 1/4" wide strips, which I cut using a pizza cutter.   Make them ripple a bit when you put them down.
 
 
To make cookie pops like the photo above, set the unbaked cookie on top of a craft stick before baking the cookies.  Be sure to cover at least 1 to 1 1/2 inches of the craft stick; press down gently on the dough.  

This recipe makes about two dozen, 3" round cookies.

Soft Sugar Cookies
1 stick butter (1/2 c.), softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1/3 c. buttermilk, kefir, OR sour milk (add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice to fresh milk to make 1/3 c.)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Cream the butter with sugar; beat in the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Combine baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour; stir in to the other ingredients.  Grease or spray a cookie sheet.  

Put half the dough on a flour-sprinkled counter top.  Sprinkle a little flour on top to prevent your rolling pin from sticking, then roll about 3/8" thick.  Cut out with cookie cutters or canning jar rings.  (I used a ring from a regular-sized canning jar.)

 Bake for 7-10 minutes, depending on size and thickness, until  light golden brown on edges and underside.  Cool completely; frost with your favorite frosting if you like. 

This recipe also makes a great base for a Cookie Pizza.

To make the rose leaves, sprinkle some sugar on a flat surface, roll a gumdrop flat, a little bit at a time, flipping the gumdrop often so it stays coated with sugar as it flattens.  Trim with a knife or scissors.
 
 
Here's a simple way to make a frosty cape for an Elsa costume.  My daughter and I are delighted with how it turned out:  so dainty and elegant!  You'll need one full-size sheet of paper, a can of white spray paint, and fabric.  For my 6-year-old's costume, I bought 1 1/3 yards of 60" wide nylon tulle, pale turquoise color.  Sheer nylon tricot or sheer chiffon would also work, and be less prone to ripping.  (No, ours has not ripped yet.)

Lay out the fabric and fold in half lengthwise, so it's 60" long and half the width you bought.  Cut 4-6" wide scallops along one narrow end.  

Fold the paper and cut out a simple six-pointed star.  Mine was about 4" across.  I reinforced the paper (now my stencil) and helped it lie flat by running 2" wide packing tape in a square around the snowflake.

  Spread the fabric on top of something clean that you don't care if paint gets on.  Darker colors under will make it easier to see the white paint.  In my case, I spread this on the lawn; we have a frosty decoration on it until next mowing!

Spray into your stencil, focusing on the center first, then spraying the points.  Continue until you have all you want, occasionally stopping to wipe excess paint off the stencil (the grass was good for this, too). 

Once the snowflakes are sprayed, 'frost' the edges and scallops of the cape by spraying along the edges.  

With some silver glitter glue or silver sparkle paint, draw on the snowflakes. Add some smaller ones made with only the silver.    Let dry completely.
 
 
The fastest, simplest S'mores ever!  My 6-year-old had a blast making these nearly by herself.  If you have a toaster oven, you can make just a few and hardly heat the kitchen up at all.  Even a big batch doesn't make your whole kitchen hot, or make you smell like campfire, or have the neighbors wondering what's on fire.  
If you use GF/CF chocolate chips and GF grahams, these are also a gluten-free, dairy-free treat.

For a big batch, you will need:

1 cup chocolate chips (milk chocolate or semisweet, you choose)
one 10-oz bag regular marshmallows
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (I used precrushed ones) OR 4-5 crackers, crushed
Also:
A cookie sheet, an oven with a broil setting, and a sheet of parchment if you want the easiest cleanup.

Put the oven rack in the highest position.  Dump the chocolate chips into a microwaveable bowl; I used a Corelle cereal bowl.  Microwave for one minute; stir.  If it's not quite melted, microwave 30 seconds more; stir. Repeat if needed, but once you get past 2 minutes it overheats and clumps.  (You can rescue it by stirring in 1-2 tsp. oil.)

Dip the bottom half of a marshmallow into the chocolate, then dip into graham cracker crumbs.  Place on cookie sheet, at least 1/2" apart.

Turn the broiler on and put the marshmallows in.  If you have HI and LO options, here's what happened in my oven with them:

HI:  browned at 35-40 seconds.  Centers were still firm.
LO:  browned at 1 1/2- 2 minutes.  Nearly the whole marshmallow was now melted and gooey.  

Either way, watch these things closely!   Don't walk away for even a few seconds or they may be black when you get back.  Flaming marshmallows over a campfire in the dark may be entertaining, but they're not nearly as amusing in the house!

The marshmallows ready to be broiled.
 
 
My 11-year-old daughter had decided she really, really wanted some Frozen dolls.  However, having used all her spending money previously on a couple plush My Little Pony toys, the ones we found were way out of her price range.

She flipped through a girls' sewing book, spent a couple days thinking about how to possibly make the dolls instead, and came up with this plan:  find a picture, use it for a pattern, sew two identical pieces together, color, stuff, and stitch closed.

We used plain white knit fabric from my fabric stash so the doll would be softer and a little more forgiving, stuffed it with plain old fiberfill For the Anna doll, we used this coloring page 
Elsa:  in her coronation dress, or with one hand out.  (The one hand out was pretty tricky to turn right-side out, but it worked.)

You'll need a picture, 1/3 yd of fabric (for 11" high dolls, but you'll have enough width for 4 dolls!), needle and thread, sewing machine (optional), a handful or two of fiberfill, and some non-water-soluble markers  (we used a combination of Sharpies and fabric markers).

1- Resize the picture to make the size doll you'd like. 
2- Add 3/8" all the way around the picture*, for a seam allowance, and cut this paper pattern.
3- Pin onto a double layer of fabric, and cut this out.
4- Unpin the pattern from the fabric, take ONE of the fabric pieces, put the pattern piece behind it, hold it up on a window, and, using a Sharpie or fabric marker, trace all the lines you'll need to color later.  Draw in the facial features, neck, dress design, etc. Invent what the back should look like, for the second fabric piece. :)
5- Put the right sides (drawn-on sides) together, and sew 3/8" from the edge, almost all the way around.  Be sure to backstitch when you start and stop!  Leave 2" open.
6- Turn the fabric right-side out, stuff with a handful of fiberfill.
7- Turn the raw edges of the opening inward, and stitch closed, knotting well at both ends.  
8- Color your doll with the markers, front, back, and sides.

*On the coloring pages, the necks are too narrow to pull the rest of the body through when turning the fabric right-side-out after sewing, so shoot for a finished measurement of 1" wide, and just draw the neck the width it should be.

She had a lot of fun marking these- so much that she also made Kristof and Olaf the same way.  

The only question she has left is how much of the ink will survive their first trip through the washer and dryer!

 
 
Warm, chocolatey, just sweet enough, high fiber, and with little pockets of gooey melted chocolate chips!   My sister-in-law posted a similar recipe on Facebook.  It sounded delicious and had very little added sugar.  The original recipe called for applesauce instead of oil, but I'm a fan using healthy fats alongside carbohydrates so that my kids and I aren't hungry again an hour after breakfast!  It helps you process the fiber in these, too.

Chocolate Fudge Banana Muffins - makes 12
(can be gluten-free and dairy-free)

3 medium bananas, very ripe, mashed (about 1 cup)
2 eggs
1/4 brown sugar
1/4 c. oil or melted butter (I like coconut oil in these)
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/3 c. oat flour (or you can use all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
chocolate chips, optional (1/4- 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.  
Whisk together eggs and brown sugar.  Mix in the oil, cocoa powder, and vanilla.  Mix the dry ingredients and add to the wet.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide between the muffin cups; bake about 17-23 minutes, or until the top of a muffin springs back lightly when gently pressed.
 
 
These are fun.  We made them as a little homeschool science project.  EVERYONE in the family thought these were awesome, and we had enough to give a couple to some of my son's friends who are fascinated with rocks.  My next-door-neighbor, the Webelos Scout leader, pointed to a pile of broken rocks on her sidewalk.  "This,"  she said, "was what we did so the boys could feel like they might find a geode- we gave them hammers and rocks from our yard.  We should have made these instead!"

They'd love them too.

These would make some amazing and unusual Easter eggs, too:  make a bunch the same size and wrap two halves together to form a ball.

Edible Geodes
Crystal-growing solution (Rock candy syrup)
1 ½ c. sugar
½ c. water
Mix the two, heat on high in a small saucepan, and stir until the sugar completely dissolves.  Add several drops food color if you want, along with ½ tsp. flavoring (optional). Let cool a bit while you make the rock shells.

Rock Shell (Marshmallow Fondant)
8 ounces marshmallows
2-4 Tbsp. water
1 lb. powdered sugar
¼ c. coconut oil or shortening

Mix marshmallows with 2 Tb. water in a microwave-safe bowl, heat for 30 seconds in microwave.  Stir.  Microwave 30 seconds more, stir. Repeat until it’s melted and smooth.  Add the powdered sugar and mix with a spoon and then with your hands.  Spread 1 Tbsp. coconut oil on clean counter, knead the fondant on top adding more coconut oil when needed.   When smooth and stiff, take half of it and set aside.  Take other half and knead in ¼ c. cocoa powder to make fondant brown.  Roll out ¼“ thick.  Roll out the white half to the same size and stack them on top of each other.    Line a few bowls with aluminum foil, sprayed with nonstick spray.  Cut a piece of the two-layer fondant to fit, and line a bowl with it, with the brown side touching the foil.  Repeat until you run out.   Trim off any fondant that is beyond the lip of the bowl, using scissors.  Set aside.

Pour the sugar syrup into the fondant-lined bowls.  Let them sit, undisturbed, for at least a day (or 2-3 days for bigger crystals).  When ready, break the surface and pour off the syrup. Turn the geodes upside down to drain for an hour.  They’re ready! 

 
 
Bonus- this fudge can be made dairy-free and still have that creamy, melt-in-your mouth text ure!

This week in Joyschool I taught the kids about the process of making chocolate.  I had a library book that had pictures of each step, from cacao tree to wrapped chocolate bars, and I brought hands-on things, as well.  They got to see, smell, and taste bits of roasted cocoa beans (didn't like them!- it's like eating unsweetened chocolate but crunchier.), see and smell cocoa powder, see, smell, and have cocoa butter rubbed into their skin, we melted and molded chocolates (cute little Easter shapes).... and then made this baggie fudge.  If you're making it yourself or have careful children, a single bag is fine, but for this group that includes a few 3-year-old boys, I double-bagged it. :)  This could be a fun Family Home Evening activity AND treat. 
Our batch was made using the coconut oil and coconut cream, since 3 of the kids can't have dairy.

I had brought walnuts in the shell to use in the fudge, but the kids had so much fun cracking the nuts first and eating the bits inside that they were all gone before the fudge was ready.  It's good fudge either way!

Baggie Fudge
1/2 c. coconut oil or butter, softened or melted
1/2 c.  cocoa powder
1/3 c. coconut cream, OR 1/4 c. water and  1/2 c.  nonfat dry milk powder
a pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla 
1 lb. powdered sugar (about 4 cups unsifted)
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Put the ingredients in a gallon-sized ziptop bag.  Put this bag inside another bag if  it seems like a good idea.  Squish, knead, or pound the bag until everything is well mixed.  (Giving the kids 30 -second turns seemed to work the best- and gave them practice counting.)  

Once it's mixed, squish the mixture into a rectangular shape near the top, making the rectangle about an inch narrower on each side than the bag.  Put the bag on a cutting board or similar surface.  Cut down one side of the bag and across the bottom with scissors. Cut fudge into squares, or use small cookie cutters to make cute shapes.  Makes about 1 1/2 pounds.

If fudge is a little too soft, let it chill in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to firm up.



 
 
This is a great fresh jam to eat fresh. It also freezes well, so is a good freezer jam.  Since the berries are not cooked and there's not enough sugar to help preserve it, its fridge life is fairly short.  If you're keeping it in the fridge, try to use it within about a week.  If left too long, it will get moldy (you'll know if it does!)   But it's SO GOOD fresh!  My eight-year-old made a batch two nights ago; we ran out yesterday.  I made another batch this morning, and between spreading it on our pancakes at breakfast, and using it on warm bread this afternoon, it's gone again!

Pectin-free Strawberry Freezer Jam
1 pound strawberries, washed and hulled (green parts pulled off)
2 Tbsp. honey (or to taste; use any sweetener you prefer)
2 Tbsp. chia seeds, OR 1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds

Mash the berries with a fork, or chop in a blender until they're the consistency you want.  Stir in the honey (or other sweetener) and the chia.
 After this sits for about half an hour, the chia (or flax) will gel as they absorb the extra liquid.  Keep refrigerated or frozen.

Makes about 2 1/4 cups.

Come to think of it, a drop or two of orange essential oil would be really, really goo